The Things I Carry by Alex Rister


The “Things I Carry” project has been really inspirational.  My favorite “Things I Carry” so far was Chiara Ojeda’s elegant deck.  View it here.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the ten things I carry with me, and after a lunch with my superteacher BFF, my “Things I Carry” emerged.  As opposed to creating a deck of slides, I thought I would write an article on the ten things I value the most in life and carry with me on a daily basis…

SERVICE.  I’ve always been committed to service.  I’m not sure where this value came from, as neither one of my parents ever volunteered when I was growing up.  However, a huge part of my middle/high school and college experience was about giving back to my school and to my community.  Since then, I’ve always made time for work, school, and volunteer activities.

A GOOD BAUBLE.  My jewelry collection is pretty out of control because I firmly believe in the power of a good bauble.  I always feel more confident with a great pair of chandelier earrings or a nice chunky watch.

WORK.  I’ll admit it; I’m a workaholic.  I work 50 hours on a light week.  I also like to work in my off time, so “work” is something I value and carry with me at all times.  Whether I’m running three miles, volunteering for an organization I care about, or sweating it out while working in the yard, I really do enjoy hard work.  It’s fun!

A CAT MENAGERIE.  I’m a cat lady.  I am “mom” to 3 precious cats: Sailor, Lily, and Sparks.  My husband and I also feed 3 outside cats though only one is my sweet baby: Bailey.



THE WORD “YES.”  This does get me in a lot of trouble.  I immediately say “yes” to everything… often without thinking.  Great ideas, new plans, and possibilities are exciting to me.  However, I find that I am exhausted at the end of each day because I say “yes” to everything and everyone.  I also sometimes accidentally double-book because I want to do too many great things at the same time, which leads me to the sixth thing I carry…

CALENDAR.  My Lilly Pulitzer calendar is my favorite.  I prefer a hard copy of a calendar as opposed to something on my phone or on my computer.  This helps me stay organized despite a thousand appointments, activities, duties, and errands.

SALTED CARAMEL ANYTHING.  I have a sweet tooth, and I love salted caramel anything: brownies, froyo, etc.  The ultimate is a salted caramel Nutella brownie.  Heaven!



EDUCATION.  My learning-centered, research-based education has meant the world to me.  I earned an A.A. in Communication from Chipola College, a place that taught me the importance of balancing schoolwork and leadership.  Pursuing a B.A. in English from the University of Florida was a powerful experience, and I feel so fortunate to have attended one of the best schools in the nation.  I also earned my M.A. in English from UNF, and I’m going back to school for another M.A. in Communication.  One day, I will earn a PhD in Communication.  I can’t wait!  Teaching and learning are a core part of who I am, so I will always take classes as well as teach classes.

MY BUSTED WORK LAPTOP.  It’s currently rocking an external keyboard because I work so much that my center keys don’t function properly.  A few months ago, my poor laptop was so overused that the screen came unhinged from the keyboard.  I had to send it to the Mac doctor for about six months, and after getting it back, it only took six more months before the most recent keyboard issue.  My laptop is a champ!  She might be hideous and beaten up, but she is the best.

REAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE.  In one of the best personal decisions I’ve ever made, I deleted my Facebook two years ago, and, along with it, a lot of baggage.  After giving up Facebook, I found that I had to work a bit harder to nurture a real life circle of friends.  It is definitely more difficult to call someone to find out how they’ve been doing as opposed to stalking their Facebook wall.  However, deleting my Facebook account really shined a light on the honest, real friendships and relationships in my life.  I’m so thankful to carry my husband, my family, and my best friends with me where ever I go.  Love them <3

I haven’t decided whether or not to turn this into a deck on Slideshare… Stay tuned :)

What things do YOU carry?

Things I Carry by Chiara Ojeda


The “Things I Carry” project has really taken off!  I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I carry, but I haven’t been able to come up with my list just yet.  The project really does ask us to step back and think about the physical objects but also the ideas and emotions we bring to the table as leaders.

Speaking of leaders, Chiara Ojeda has designed a gorgeous yet simple deck.  What I love most about this deck is its elegance.  The repeated dotted lines, clean graphics, a few personal pictures, and pastel colors stand out to me.  I also like the repeated “{ }” shapes around words and phrases.  Check out Chiara’s project here:


If you want to see what Chiara does with the things she carries, check out her blog here.  Follow her on Twitter here.

Who has written or designed your favorite “Things I Carry” project?  Chiara takes the cake for me!  Share your favorite deck or article in the “Comments” section.

Things I Carry


Calling all thought-leaders!  LinkedIn has partnered with Slideshare to come up with something fresh and exciting.  According to their Slideshare page, “LinkedIn’s influencers shared their tools for success. What are yours? Share them here. Make sure to tag your presentation ThingsICarry” (Source).  I’ve already seen amazing articles written on LinkedIn from leaders such as Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, Vivian Schiller of NBC News, Jennifer Dulski of, and even Richard Branson!

This infographic was an interesting visual representation of what’s going on over at LinkedIn:


What I loved most about this project was the Slideshare spin: a few of my favorite designers added beautiful slides into the mix.

Marisa Wong came up with the concept, so be sure to check out her “Things I Carry” presentation first:


Next, check out “Things I Carry” Slideshare presentations from other superstars: Emiland de Cubber, Jonathon Colman, and Ruchi Garg.

What are the things YOU carry?  Will you be participating in the “Things I Carry” project?

8 Beliefs About Life… and Public Speaking: Part Two


Catch up on the first half of the article containing the first four beliefs here: “8 Beliefs About Life… And Public Speaking: Part One.”  Geoffrey James’ four final beliefs about life that we can relate to public speaking are essential to conquering our presentation anxiety.

The fifth mantra James says we should repeat to ourselves is, “What I say reinforces what I think, so if something is about to come out of my mouth that doesn’t serve my purpose, I should simply keep my mouth shut” (Source).  I teach a public speaking and presentation class to business students, so I’ve seen a nervous breakdown or two.  These usually happen on speech day while a student is waiting to present.  Students can actually talk themselves out of presenting by engaging in negative self-talk.  Both thoughts and speech should be positive; otherwise, you can give into your lizard brain and allow your nerves to control you.  While you are waiting to present, it’s best to go over your speech in your head.  This helps you focus on the task at hand: delivering a strong speech… but it also helps you to stop thinking negative thoughts.

James’ sixth belief is, “I am responsible for my own happiness, so when other people are unkind to me, it reminds me to be kind to myself” (Source).  We can use this belief to help us with a speech that doesn’t go over as well as it could have with an audience.  Perhaps an audience member was offended by the presentation and says as much.  Maybe audience questions are a little confrontational.  If your speech doesn’t go over as well as you planned it, and if your audience is unkind, you must still be kind to yourself.  This rarely ever happens, but it could if the presenter doesn’t properly prepare or accidentally misspeaks in his or her presentation.  Keep in mind that as long as you are honest, authentic, and sincere when dealing with audience members who heckle, you can feel confident in your presentation at the end of the day.


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Seventh, James says we should believe, “There are five magic words that make even the most difficult business situation easier to handle. Those magic words are: ‘Do not take it personally’” (Source).  We have to remember, alongside belief six, that a presentation is out of our hands the moment we begin speaking.  The presentation is designed for the audience, so the audience determines whether or not the speech resonates with them.  We have to take our audience’s needs into consideration above all else in order to plan a successful speech.  However, even though the audience is important, we can’t take their reactions personally.  What if, instead of feeling pathetic and terrible about ourselves, we can work to take constructive criticism from an audience into consideration without taking it personally?  It is difficult, but if we can learn to do this, we can push ourselves to be stronger presenters and stronger people.

Last, but not least, James suggest we keep this in mind: “While there are situations (such as a death in the family) where strong emotions are appropriate, most business situations are not worth even an ounce of misery” (Source).  Again, it’s important to remember that even if your presentation falls flat and doesn’t connect with anyone, we must pick ourselves up and try again.  The outcome of a speech should not determine whether or not we are miserable that day/week/month… It’s just a presentation!  Putting the speech in perspective might just help us overcome our fear and push ourselves into exceptional speaker territory!

What beliefs could you add to the ones in James’ article to help us with overcoming our presentation anxiety?  How do you keep your fear in perspective?

8 Beliefs About Life… and Public Speaking: Part One


Geoffrey James is one of my favorite contributing writers on’s Leadership section.  His most recent article is called “8 Beliefs That Make You More Resilient,” and we can apply these 8 beliefs to public speaking and presentation.

First, James says we should believe that “[t]oday’s success can breed tomorrow’s failure if I let success make me complacent about staying motivated and moving forward” (Source).  When it comes to public speaking, we must never be so self-satisfied after one speech that we forget the hard work, preparation, and practice that it takes to be a successful presenter.  To be a superstar presenter means continuously moving forward, pushing and growing; otherwise, that one successful speech might be your last!

James’ second resilient belief is, “I learn more from failure than from success. Failure renews my humility, sharpens my objectivity and makes me more resilient” (Source).  Although I remember what it is like to successfully deliver a speech and have that positive audience reaction, I also learn from my terrible, boring, failed presentations.  These help me learn!  Clearly, I know what it takes to make that one successful speech successful.  It’s those failed speeches that make me work to uncover the mystery of how, why, and where I went wrong… and what I can do to turn things around next time.


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Third, James says we should believe, “Goals that contain the phrase ‘I’ll try…’ are self-defeating. If I want goals that truly motivate me, I use phrases like ‘I will’ and ‘I must’”(Source).  When it comes to presenting, students will often say to me, “I’ll try to get over my fear.”  Those students struggle because they don’t have the proper mindset.  Instead, they should say, “I will conquer this anxiety of speaking in front of a crowd” or “I am going to do this.”  The defeated mindset leads us into James’ fourth belief.

James’ fourth belief encourages us to embrace our fear: “What holds most people back is fear of failure, but if I don’t take action, I’ll fail by default, so what have I got to lose?”  (Source).  No one enjoys public humiliation.  Since the primary reason people don’t enjoy public speaking is because of that fear of failure on a large scale in front of a large audience, we must definitely understand that this fear holds us back from success and from greatness.  The fear of public speaking is so paralyzing that we may refuse to stand up and present our ideas in front of others.  However, we can understand our lizard brain and work to reframe those negative emotions and feelings.  If we keep repeating beliefs #3 and 4, we can reshape the way we view public speaking.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of “8 Beliefs About Life… And Public Speaking” containing the final 4 beliefs from James’ article!

Seth Godin on the Changing World of Work



In this interview, Seth Godin talks about the end of the industrial age, an end to the putting your head down, doing what your told, going to work and being an average worker mentality.  I love his idea that people who are “average” doing “average work” are going to be replaced; it really gives me hope that all the innovative, dynamic people who really work hard will be rewarded somehow.

My 2011 in Review


2011 was the best year of my life, and it’s because this was a year of so many wonderful firsts.  This year, I purchased my first house and my first car with my husband, Mitchell.  I joined my first gym and found that I truly love exercising, especially running, yoga, and Zumba.  I began writing my first blog, got my first Orlando library card with home delivery (!!!), and, for the first time, spent my afternoons reading exclusively nonfiction.

Image Credits: Books; Car; Door; PensYoga; Zumba

Through these firsts and others, I’ve grown significantly as an employee, wife, family member, volunteer, and friend.  I’ve learned things about myself that surprised me.  Little discoveries included my ability to successfully take on new leadership roles such as Chair of Public Relations for the Junior League of Greater Orlando and my ability to become a better public speaker, motivator, and teacher.  Buying a house led me to discover that I love gardening.  Buying a house also led to the adoption of our third little baby, Sailor.  Blogging opened a whole new world of wonderful people and ideas.  2011 was truly a year of firsts and discovery, so to sum it up in one word, 2011 would have to be all about growth.

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If 2011 was a year of growth, 2012 will be a year of pursuit.  In 2012, I will celebrate my 10 year high school reunion, and the new year rings in with it a sense of urgency.  For those of you who have already celebrated your 10 year class reunion, you know what I mean when I say “sense of urgency.”  Life is passing by much more quickly than I anticipated, and I have so much left to learn and to do!  Because 2012 is closing in on me, I plan to pursue many things in the new year: career, education, marriage, friendships, leadership positions, and health and happiness.  Most importantly, I want to keep pursuing a more meaningful understanding of myself as well as presentation, communication, and design.

What one word best describes your 2011?  What is the one thing you hope for most in 2012?  Please Tweet me your response!  You can find me at @alexrister1.

Inspiration: Choice


In the past, I’ve posted RSA Animate videos based upon Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms speech and Iain McGilchrist’s discussion of the divided human brain.  This week, let’s take a look at another terrific animated video from Professor Renata Salecl.  The video is called “Choice,” and Salecl examines why choice causes anxiety, guilt, and – paradoxically – indecision as opposed to freedom.


Since we are facing an election year, I think Salecl’s speech is really important.  If she’s arguing that choice prevents social change, what in the world are we going to do about the terrifying conditions we’re in?

Salecl’s powerful content makes us take a closer look at capitalism.  Our American economic system is praised because people have the power and freedom of choice; it’s a great thing!  But if we feel worse about ourselves when we make a choice, I wonder if there is some merit to eliminating all of these choices we have.  As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his TED Talk (you must watch it here), do we really need 6,000 different jars of spaghetti sauce in the grocery store?  We’ll never be happy with the one we picked!  Look at our divorce rate (nearly 50%) compared to cultures with arranged marriages… Now, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t be free to marry the person we’re in love with, but we’re never satisfied with that husband or wife because we’re never satisfied with our choice.  There’s always something better out there.

Can we ever learn to make ourselves happy with our choices?  Is capitalism to blame?  What are your thoughts on Salecl and Gladwell’s ideas on the power of choice?

Conan O’Brien’s Farewell Speech


Conan O’Brien is an amazing example of dynamism and energy when presenting.  He is also a refreshingly honest, naked presenter, and an example of his ability to connect through sheer naturalness can be seen in his goodbye speech during his final show on NBC:

Here is a transcript of the amazingly classy and heartfelt Farewell Speech:

“Ladies and gentlemen, before we bring this rodeo to a close, I think a couple things should be said. There’s been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can’t say about NBC. And this isn’t a joke. To set the record straight, and this is true, tonight I’m allowed to say anything I want.
(Man laughs)
Um, and no it’s not a joke, but thanks sir.  Tonight, I really am allowed to say whatever I want, and what I want to say is this:
Between my time at Saturday Night Live, The Late Night Show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I’ve worked with NBC for over 20 years.
Yes, we have our differences right now, yes we’re going our separate ways, but this company has been my home for most of my adult life.
I am enormously proud of the work we’ve done together. And I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.  I really do.
(Audience applauds)
A lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind, and I’ll be honest with you, walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
Um, making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world.  I absolutely love doing it and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium.  I will fight anybody who says I don’t, but no one would.

But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment.  Every comedian, every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and for seven months, I got to do it. And I did it my way with people I love.  I do not regret one second of anything that we’ve done here.
(Audience applause)
And yeah. And I encounter people when I walk on the street now who are just uh who give me sort of a sad look. I have had more fortune than anybody I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we will find a way to make it fun.  We really will. I have no problems.  And, I don’t want to do it on a 7-Eleven parking lot.
(Audience laughs)
But whatever, uh, finally I have something to say to our fans:
This massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming for me. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy outrageous creativity on the Internet uh, the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain…
(Audience cheers)
It’s pouring! It’s been pouring for days, and they’re camping out to be in our audience.
Really, you…Here’s what all of you have done. You’ve made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So to all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life.
And all I ask is one thing…and this is…I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch…please do not be cynical.  
I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality.
It doesn’t lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.  
But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.  I’m telling you.  Amazing things will happen.  (Audience claps) I’m telling you. It’s just true.
As proof, let’s make something amazing happen right now.
Here to close out our show are a few good friends, led by Mr. Will Ferrell.”

Transcript Source

We can learn so much from the delivery of comedians.  We laugh at and love these funny men and women because of their ability to connect with us in a meaningful way… or sometimes in a silly way.  Studying and learning how to build that connection is absolutely essential to being a true, natural presenter, and Conan O’Brien is the perfect example of this.