Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

2nd September 2007

How can you avoid Miss South Carolina Teen USA debacle?

Poor preparation leads to poor performance.” Would you prepare and practice hard when you don’t need to or would you rather take your chance when the need arises? We all know the story of Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA (2007), whose mangled response to a pageant question has become an internet sensation.

The question was simple -

“Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”
“I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so, because, is that some people out there, in our nation, don’t have maps, and I believe that our education, such as South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere like, such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here, in the US should help the US, or um should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future, for our children.”

Do people make such mistakes? Everybody does – at parities, at work, in a group of friends … but just not on National Chanel. Is it pardonable? Sure yeah, we are all humans and she is just an 18 year old teen unable to handle the pressure. Would I ever like to be in her shoes? Oh, GOD forbid! Like her, sometime all of us are in a situation where we get ONE SHOT and there is no second take. So what do you do?

You PREPARE when you don’t need to. I want to start my own company sometime in near future and i want to be able to sell myself, my ideas and my products to clients or investors. I will be in her shoes – i will get only one shot most of the time. So how do i prepare? For starters, how about ToastMasters?

Its an international club that offers a proven way to improve your communication skills. By participating in a fun and supportive Toastmasters group, you’ll become a better speaker and leader and gain confidence to succeed in whatever path you’ve chosen in life.

My debacle like Lauren Caitlin’s:

I am a member of a local Toastmasters’ club in phoenix. During our session, the “Table Topic Master” (a role assigned to someone) can ask any random question to anyone in the audience (mostly members). So one particular day, i was asked the simplest question – “Preet, Can you share your favorite joke with us.” I was not there mentally when he called my name. By the time i reached the podium, i had blanked out. After a few seconds of silence, i could come up with only ONE joke but it was inappropriate for the audience there. My mind could not break out of the grip of the ONLY joke that poped-up but couldn’t tell. After mumbling garbage for 1 min (minimum time for which one has to speak), i went back to my seat, RED. If it was on national TV, i would have been popular than Lauren by now. Looking from another lens, thank GOD this happened. Now i am better prepared for this question and more so for such situations when i could be caught off-guard. What a perfect way of preparing and training myself in a safe environment, for some unknown time in future, at a time when i don’t need to.

So my friends, prepare when you don’t need to. Kudos to Lauren for being so brave and taking the stage. Most of us who laugh would shiver sayin’ their name in front of 20 people, let alone millions.

Update [18th Sept, 07]: Opportunity struck my door to be a comparer/Emcee in front of about 400 people on 15th Sept, 07. Find out how i performed and what i learned here.

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posted in personal-development |
26th August 2007

Only consistency and persistency backed by strong desire can beat talent

Of course you need talent to achieve success. But what if you think you don’t have as much talent or experience to achieve your goals?

It took Steve Jobs and pool of talented team to create a buzz for iPhone and send the share price of Apple soaring by 7% in Jan 2007. It took a pool of talented engineers with decades of experience and numerous hours to design and produceGeorge Hotz iPhone. But it took only 500 hours for George Hotz – a 17 year old teen to be the first one to have unlocked the iPhone so that it can be used with any wireless network (not just AT&T) and send Apple’s share prices up by 3.2% on 24th August 2007.

How could this have been possible? Was he more talented or experienced than the team of engineers at Apple? I doubt that. Only combination that can supersede talent is consistency and persistency backed by dominant desire. defines ‘consistent’ as “constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc.” and ‘persistent’ as “refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately.”

George bought an iPhone on 29th June and unlocked it by 22nd August. He spent over 500 hours to achieve this. That isGeorge Hotz Energy Drinks over 10 hours/day working towards just a possibility in mind. He and his friends thrived on energy drinks to get through this period. So for consistently 50 days, he spent 10 hours every day on persistently googling and applying trial and error techniques to unlock the iPhone. The important point to note here is that the backbone for his consistent and persistent effort was a DOMINANT DESIRE – the starting point of all achievements. His dominant desire was to have an iPhone that he could use on his T-Mobile family plan. Simple? I don’t think so… every cell-phone literate human being in world wanted to use this “thing of beauty” – the iPhone on his or her wireless network. But very few had the desire dominant and strong enough to make that a reality. One of them, infact the first one was George Hotz.

Often we have trouble in working consistently and persistently towards achieving our goals – loose weight or start own business or get a professional degree etc. etc. Culprit, is usually the lack of strength in your DESIRE. To change the outcome, focus on changing the intensity of desire – how ‘bad’ do you want to achieve your goal; how hungry you are for success, how much does it hurt you for not being at your “destination” with passing day? Ignite your desire (pain or want) more and your work ethic will automatically reach a a level that is needed to achieve your goals.

Checkout George Hotz blog and read his 10 steps to unlock the iPhone. Great work George!!

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posted in personal-development, success, young achievers |
22nd August 2007

Do you test your values and beliefs?

Last week was the grand finale of “So you think you can dance”. Show’s host Cat Deeley asked the first runner up, “Danny what did you learned from this show?” And he said, “I realized that I love to dance.” I was intrigued by his answer because:Danny Tidwell
- He started dancing when he was 10 years old.
- His mom, Denise Wall has a dance studio. His brother Travis Wall dances professionally.
- He studied Ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and floor gymnastics. Studied the classical ballet technique with the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. and stayed there for 2 years.
- He has performed in musical theater and in public functions as a dancer.
I thought by now he would at least know whether he loves to dance or not. Or had he become so comfortable doing what he does everyday that he didn’t know he really loved it.

I believe it is not until we are tested hard that we realize what we like and dislike, or what we stand for and what makes us give up. When our values and beliefs are tested, that’s when the truth is revealed. Till then status quo is maintained and we just put our lives on cruise control because it’s easy and comfortable.

There are people who have been self-employed for years and when asked, “do you like to be a businessman?” they’ll say, “Yes. But I don’t have any personal life, there is no security…” Most of these “but-businessmen” don’t know the answer to the above question. They are on cruise control and have no idea whether they like it or not ‘cuz that’s the only thing they know and are comfortable with it.

Then there are people who are employees who want to be businessmen and are not satisfied with their jobs. When asked, “would you like to be a businessman?” they’ll say, “Yes. But its risky, I don’t have money…”. Most of them know that they dislike their job but don’t want to get off cruise control and so never change or become uncomfortable to test their beliefs and values.

Then there are those who put themselves in situations where their values and beliefs are tested often and sometimes in a big way. They give their all – become uncomfortable, change and get off cruise control, mostly to realize and become sure that “this is what I always wanted to do” (like Danny) and sometimes to realize “this is different from what it seemed and I don’t want to do this anymore”. But in any case, they are now more sure of what they like or dislike cuz the strength of their beliefs and values has been tested.

Now there are people who graduate from previous group and become part of the elite group who know where they are going. Most of them believe in principle of “When you are coasting, you are roasting.” And so they are always challenging and changing themselves.

So if you are just tired of coasting or not sure that you like what you are doing or want to do something different than what you are doing now, TEST yourself.

So you think you can dance?
So you think you are (or can be) a good businessman?
So you think you enjoy doing business?
So you think you can be rich?
So you think you can teach?
So you think you can loose weight?
So you think you can run long-distance?
So you think you love adventure?
So you think you wanna be a doctor?
So you think you can be a good parent?
So you think you wanna be a good speaker?
So you think you can be a balanced person in life? …

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posted in personal-development |
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