“If someone followed your life and took 24 hours of film of everything you do for a day and they edited that into a one-hour documentary… the editor could decide to make you look like the worst villain ever or the greatest hero ever… it depends on which parts of your day he puts into the documentary” my friend Raul Aguirre over dinner in Buenos Aires

This video is about a Paradox that we must come to terms with in order to live a full human life. I’ve made it in Montevideo, Uruguay on a trip here to teach Leadership Communications at the IEEM Business School (part of the University of Montevideo).

We need to find a balance in our lives between the forces of external and internal success, between intentional, goal-directed living and a sense of peace within. The paradox – is that these are two forces that clash. How do you find the right balance?

I’d welcome your help on Balance between Ambition and Peace

I need your help- how do you find this balance? Do you have this balance? Do you ever lose control to one side or the other… and how do you recognise this and regain the balance in your life? Thanks… trying to regain this balance in my own life…

If you liked this, you might also like to see my recent video on Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life (an Exercise).

This is a guest post by Inna Alexeeva, CEO of PR Partner, an IESE Global Executive MBA graduate and an expert in helping leaders work effectively with the press.  Here she shares some tips for leaders in preparing for media interviews.

How to speak with the Media

Inna Alekseeva at a recent media event

Giving an interview to media is stressful for most people. The speaker’s knees shake, he keeps adjusting his tie or watch-band, he stutters, coughs or repeatedly touches his ears – nervousness shows itself in many ways. Even those who deliver lots of interviews and prepare them thoroughly still feel nervous. In this column, I will tell you about some steps to overcome the fear.

Know How to Introduce Yourself

“conversation starts with an introduction where “I” cannot be omitted”

Where I live, in Russia, it is not customary to speak too much about oneself. Many people are used to hiding behind the collective “we” and never speak for or about themselves. However, a successful interview in the modern world is an open conversation filled with references to first-hand experiences. And any business conversation starts with an introduction where “I” cannot be omitted.

You must learn how to introduce yourself in front of a camera (even if you never give TV interviews). Record yourself and watch the video critically, assess your appearance, speech, gestures, tone and tempo of your voice. I would recommend preparing and memorising a 30-second self-presentation that consists of the following:

  • Speaking for 10 seconds about your past, with a brief an account of your work experience
  • 10 seconds about your present, what are you doing now
  • 10 seconds about the future, your plans

Such a self-presentation is easy to use in interviews, at press conferences or during a broadcast (if appropriate). Make it a rule to start any public communication (a press briefing or an address to employees) by introducing yourself and your company. Don’t be too modest.

Prepare three stories

“It would be great for each of the company’s speakers to have 3-5 simple, clear stories about life in the company”

There is no need to tell jokes. Think of the simplest, commonplace stories related to yourself and your company. For example, how you came to work for the company, how a leader hired an employee for the first time. It may be a story about mergers or takeovers or about the last company’s acquisition that will be easily remembered by the audience. Remember the story, write it down, put aside your piece of paper, tell the story in front of the camera, and then watch yourself. What would you like to change? Tell it again. And again. You don’t have to make anything up, just give an account of what has really happened.

I would like to share a little trick with you. If you often have to give interviews in an office, put up an art print or photo on the wall that will suggest the desired topic to the audience. For instance, while looking at Picasso’s Dove, we can talk about peace, environmental protection, the importance of negotiation, etc. It will be a trick up your sleeve. You can buy a set of 100 art posters from the MIF Printing House. They will certainly trigger interesting associations.

It would be great for each of the company’s speakers to have 3-5 simple, clear stories about life in the company. Each story should take no more than three minutes.

Employees, colleagues, partners, journalists and other target audiences will know your stories, remember them, and contact you for further details if the need arises. This doesn’t mean in any way that you will be using only these stories for 20 years of participating in public debates. Your story portfolio will expand as you become aware of the stories happening around you. 

Put Clear Structure in your Interview Content

Do not write down the complete text answering all questions beforehand. In Soviet times, students at schools and universities were asked to prepare abstracts that were subsequently presented in front of the class. Secretaries typed speeches for leaders verbatim, exactly as dictated. Nowadays, less than 10% of speakers use prompters and most leaders rehearse and deliver speeches spontaneously.

Of course, having a sheet of paper with a prepared speech for an interview within reach gives us more confidence, but if we want to have a greater emotional impact and create an atmosphere of trust, we’d be better off forgetting about it. We do not confess love with a piece of paper. We do not apologize with a piece of paper. And a piece of paper will not help us become a good speaker.

Three to five key points are enough for the entire speech. I suggest creating associograms (also known as mind maps) to remember everything. An associogram is a schematic drawing that consists of the main topic of your interview  in the middle and 10-12 arrows with tips (sub-topics) that come out of it in different directions.

Let’s say you would like to talk about charity at your company. The following arrows will come out of the word charity: funds, money, employees, plans, achievements, etc. When a speaker looks at such an associogram, it is easier for him or her to remember which sub-topics they have missed and which are yet to be mentioned.

This will make your speech natural and spontaneous and you won’t have to frantically recall what you wrote yesterday.

Use Numbers and Facts

If stories are a way to listeners’ hearts, numbers are a way to their minds. Infographics for interviews could contain numbers, percentages, basically anything with digits. If you’ve got no ideas whatsoever, you can always compare your national indicators with the foreign ones or track interim changes, or make a forecast. Look for consistent patterns and share them with the journalist.

Rehearse your answers to likely questions 

A good 15-minute TV interview will take between 3 to 30 hours to prepare. You have to rehearse your answers at least three times.

Ask for feedback from a friendly PR person.  If you need, reach out to me!

Encourage your PRs to be honest. I think it is obvious why getting feedback may be helpful. It helps you to correct your mistakes faster and grow as a speaker.

Keep giving interviews and talks!

Maybe today your interviews are not so great, but the more you practice, the more thoughtful and effective the speeches you make in front of the camera, to the company’s employees or in the studio will become.

  1. A parents’ meeting at a primary school,
  2. a speech at a sports club,
  3. congratulations to school teachers,
  4. toasts at weddings and birthdays — you should use any chance to speak in public, not only media interviews!

Schedule 52 speeches for any reason a year (one a week), and I can promise you that, in just 12 months, you will become a very good speaker! 

Recommended Books for an aspiring speaker

5 services for great presentations

  1. Prezi
  2. Haiku Deck
  3. Sliderrocket
  4. Slides
  5. Powtoon 

4 services for colorful infographics

  1. Piktochart
  2. Visual.ly
  3. Easel.ly
  4. Google charts

About Inna Alexeeva

Inna is CEO of PR Partner, a leading Russian PR agency.  She is a graduate of the IESE Global Executive MBA. She is the winner of the Russian Ernst and Young Business Women 2015 Competition in the Brand Management, Advertising and PR category.

Winner of the 12th RuPoR PR Person of the Year Award for public relations development. The author of more than 200 media publications. Co-author of the book High Сaliber PR: How to Make a Top Manager a Star (Mann, Ivanov & Ferber, 2008). Author of Training Top Officials to Work with the Media, Secrets of Effective PR, 100% PR: Reboot, and other training programs. Her clients include Shell, Audi, Coca-Cola, UniCredit Bank, Autodesk, Sberbank, Russian Railways, Sistema Joint-Stock Financial Corporation, Rostelecom, RussNeft, Beeline, AES, Kazakhmys, Konica Minolta, Vozrozhdenie Bank, AVON and SAP.



This video is about Leadership development. I find that leaders worry about the training for those around them… but who worries about the training for the leaders?

What should Leaders be Learning?

The 7 Key Skills of a Successful Business Leader

At Vistage, we believe there are 8 major areas that Leaders need to be working on:

  1. Inspiring a Shared Vision
  2. Leading and Letting Others Manage
  3. Knowing your Numbers
  4. Attracting and Retaining the Right People
  5. Creating and Retaining Customer Loyalty
  6. Watching Emerging Trends, Risks and Opportunities
  7. Taking Care of Yourself

Where can you Find Inspiring Leaders in Continuing Development?

This video is about the 4 seasons of nature, and the 4 seasons of our life.

Farmers understand the seasons – they don’t plant in autumn and try to reap a harvest in winter… they know that spring is for planting, summer is for nurturing and autumn is for reaping.

In our own lives we have these seasons. If you can recognise the seasons of your life, you can keep a better perspective and clarity about what you are seeking to achieve.

Stay strong… and remember: all winters come to an end and spring, the window of opportunity will come again.

I mentioned Brandon Dempsey’s blog post: How to cautiously and successfully reap the rewards of your hard work

Billionaire Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest and best-performing hedge funds.  Recently, Ray published his lessons in his book, Principles.

Here’s the opening paragraph of Ray Dalio’s book…

“Before I begin telling you what I think, I want to establish that I am a “dumb shit” who doesn’t know much relative to what I need to know. Whatever success I’ve had in life has more to do with my knowing how to deal with my not knowing than anything I know. The most important thing I learned is an approach to life based on principles that helps me find out what’s true and what to do about it.”

The Number 1 Hurdle to your growth and potential?

Closed Mindedness.

Closed Mindedness is not knowing that you don’t know (and not taking deliberate steps to overcome this natural human state).

You must learn to be Open Minded.

Here are some cues that will tell if you are Open-Minded.

  • Open-minded people are not angry when someone disagrees, Close-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged.
  • Open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong, Close-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions.
  • Open-minded people always feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes, Close-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others.
  • Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong, Close-minded people lack a deep sense of humility.

Read more about Ray Dalio and the dangers of Closed Mindedness on Carmine Gallo’s column on Inc magazine.

Question for you: Who is the person that challenges you and your strategies? Who helps you see new perspectives? Hit the comments down below and I’d love to hear who and how 😉

This is a short excerpt of the full interview that I came across over at the NY Times corner office page.  I loved the spirit of Jay Walker's answers...

Jay Walker on Why Leaders Don’t Always Make Good Managers

Let’s say I came to work for you. What should I know about what you’re like as a boss?

You don’t work for me. You work for you.

I would correct you right out of the box. My style is not to perpetuate a false illusion that you work for me. You work for you. You get up every day and you come in here because you want to be here. We’re not having a discussion about who’s in charge. If you have a better idea, great. Let’s hear it.

I wouldn’t try to encapsulate a set of rules and regulations to say here’s how I do things. But I will tell you that I’m highly collaborative and interested in the best thinking. If you can express yourself well, that’s good. If you can’t, that’s a big problem.

My style would be to say: What are you trying to accomplish? How are you going to do that? How can I help you? You might say: “Jay, what I need to succeed is for you to never talk to me. Just send me emails. And I’ll deliver in spades what you want.” Then I’ll say, “O.K., let’s see if that works.”

Like any entrepreneur, I’m highly adaptable. You work with what you’ve got, not with what you want. And what you’ve got is often an incomplete set of facts, an insufficient amount of capital, an insufficient amount of knowledge about the key things you need and insufficient people to do that job. Other than that, welcome to the job.

How do you hire?

If you haven’t failed, that’s a big problem.

I’m looking for the things you would expect — people who are thoughtful, passionate, adaptable and who have failed, preferably two or three times. If you haven’t failed, that’s a big problem.

What is your single best interview question?

there is no room in the rowboat for somebody who can’t pull the oar

Tell me how you’re going to make a great deal of impact on our organization, and how you’re going to make us both a lot of money. In a small firm, there is no room in the rowboat for somebody who can’t pull the oar, because everybody else has to pull that oar.

What career and life advice do you give to new college grads?

It’s all about adding value above your job description, not just doing the job. You’ve got to exceed that by a substantial margin if you really want to get ahead.

The No. 1 thing that young folks often misunderstand is that they use money as a scoring system for the desirability of the job, which is understandable when you graduate with $200,000 in college loans.

But the fact is that you’re going to do much better financially if you find a job where you love what you’re doing, even if you have to create the job yourself.

The second thing I tell them is you need to start learning. They haven’t learned anything. Most new graduates think they’re ready for their career, and they’re not. They need to start with a clean sheet of paper. You need to start reading more, not less.

You’ve got all this stuff to learn, and by the way, you’ve got to learn it in a dozen fields, not just the one you’re working in, because it’s all about cross-pollination. It’s all about taking good ideas in other areas and bringing it into your area.

It’s all about adding value above your job description, not just doing the job. You’ve got to exceed that by a substantial margin if you really want to get ahead.

Other Good NYT Corner Office Interviews

Each week, Adam Bryant talks with top executives about leadership. Follow him on



I'd love you to leave a comment and tell me the answer to this question: Who is the most enthusiastic person that you know? 

Thanks, Conor

Last night, I asked a retired inspector of schools: “What makes a great school?”

His answer… “Music.”

He said that infallibly he would find a thriving musical scene in every great school that he had visited.

When you are surrounded by enthusiastic people, you are willing to take risks and learn; brave tries are celebrated. When you are surrounded by cynics and apathetic people you don’t take risks and any effort at bravery is laughed at and mocked.

On Friday I attended the YouTube Creators day in Barcelona. It struck me just how powerful a room full of enthusiastic people can be. There was no cynicism and no apathy. All efforts at Learning, trying and courage to take risks were celebrated.

Making movies #YouTube

A post shared by Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) on

PS My own answer is: Florian Mueck (http://www.florianmueck.com/florian/)

Last week’s blog post (Do you have inspiring goals?) triggered a wonderful response in emails and comments. I had many questions. A common question was about how to begin to find a purpose and define a vision for your life.

This video shares a tool I found 8 years ago that had a major impact on my life over the 2 months after I first did the exercise:

If you are reading this via email, check out the video on the blog here: How to find your Purpose

Did you do the exercise?  How did that work for you?  Let me know how this goes…

Download a quick template for this Purpose tool…

Continue with this line of ideas by reading Meaningful Contribution or Start with the End in Mind or What do you want? 

Write stuff down.

I say it over and over again. I repeat myself. My blog is an extension of my habit of writing down ideas.

A short pencil is longer than the longest memory.

Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest invention, since it made history possible. Yet it is a skill most of us take for granted.” Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing.

Check out how to begin with a journal, or hear what Jim Collins has to say on the writing process.


Here’s a simple idea:

Plan a life you would like to have.

If you love your life now, stick to what is working. If you don’t love your life right now, change something.

Use your Imagination first

Are you aiming at the right thing (or at any thing)?

Start by describing in detail the life you would like to have. How is your health? How is your social life? How are your relationships with family, friends, mentors, colleagues? How are you contributing to the universe? How much are you earning? How are you finding meaning for your life?

I’m not everything I could be and I know it. There is a better way that I could be and act in this world.  I can imagine a better way.  It is best to be inspired by living in your imagination for a while before you decide to give the next 20 to 30 years of your life to pursuing the goals.

Nobody reaches the top of Everest by surprise

Nobody who climbs Everest reaches the summit by accident. It has been a plan in their life for years. They have worked on their fitness, their skills, their finances for years to reach this moment on the summit of the mountain.

It takes disciplined effort to succeed in life. It is hard to find the motivation to maintain disciplined effort (especially when I have netflix, facebook, twitter, newspapers etc to compete for my attention).

Where can I find the motivation to maintain this disciplined effort?

Write your goals down.

That is it.

If you are not excited by these written goals, then they are not your goals. You have written them down in the hope that someone else might be impressed by your goals. There are not your goals and you are a moron to try to live your life in the hope that someone else pays attention and is impressed by what you say you would like to achieve. You will fail.

If you are happy to show your goals to everyone on the internet, they are not your goals. They are written to impress.

If you are embarrassed about your goals, but deeply excited by the tiniest idea that you could actually achieve them – now we are moving towards goals that come from inside of you.

How to begin Writing down your Goals

Who is it that I want to be in 3 years? If you can define this and you really want to be this person, then you are going to find quite a bit of the motivation to maintain disciplined effort.

If you keep your objectives all vague and foggy you can guarantee not to fail in a specific way. A lot of people do not write down specific future goals in a clear way because they are scared of having to actually do the work or face the possibility of clearly failing.

If a game is not fun, do you keep playing?  Are your goals and the process by which you pursue these goals fun?  If yes, keep playing.  If no, change the goals or change the process…  but write down the aims and the rules by which you decide to play.

Start with the Small Things

Start with little things that you can fix.

If your desk isn’t tidy and it is slightly irritating, tidy your desk.  If your computer is dirty and the screen is covered in guck, clean it.  If the room that you are in is a mess, throw out the rubbish.  These little things constitute 50% of your life.  The objects and rooms you interact with every day are important.  Get the rubbish out of the way.

Tell your head: “I’m going to make this place better for 5 minutes”.  Go.

Continue with this line of ideas with Meaningful Contribution or Start with the End in Mind or What do you want? 

PS Thanks for sticking with my rant today…  it was a reflection for myself after spending a day spinning my wheels and avoiding difficult tasks 😉