Sam Horn - Intrigue

Thursday, March 30, 2006

George Mason Coach is a Genius with Words

If you're a Final Four fan, you're already familiar with the "Cinder-fella" story of this so-called "commuter college" basketball team beating fomer NCAA champs and #1 ranked UConn to make the semi-finals of this year's college basketball tournament to be held in Indianapolis on Saturday night.

Their unlikely win captured everyone's attention because people love David-beats-Goliath stories of underdogs toppling giants against all odds.

What has POP'd out of this story for me though is not just the sheer joy of these "overlooked" players and their rabid fans going to the Big Dance . . . it's Coach Jim Larranaga's ability to say the right thing at the right time.

A clip on ESPN showed him prepping his players for this weekend's matchup. He told them, "I don't want to hear anything that's not positive coming out of your mouth."

This is a coach who practices what he preaches. When UConn came back in the final seconds to tie the game and force it into overtime, George Mason's players could have lost hope. Their coach could have yelled at them for blowing their lead and chastised them for losing concentration in the final minute.

Instead, Larranaga gathered them in a huddle and said, "Fellas,I want to tell you one thing. There's no place I'd rather be right now than here with you guys playing this game. You lapsed on defense for five seconds, so now we have to beat Connecticut for another five minutes."

The George Mason players promptly went out and did just that.

Why? Because their coach focussed their attention on their DESIRED behavior vs. their DREADED behavior.

My ConZentrate book points out that the mind is literal and does what it's told. Instead of registering conceptual, contradictory words such as "Stop" or "Don't," it cherry-picks and zooms in on words that conjure up images. It can't register the opposite of an idea; it imprints and produces what it "hears."

What does this mean for you? When golfers tell themselves, "Don't hit it in the lake," guess what the mind hears? Right, "Hit it in the lake." When tennis players tell themselves to "Stop hitting off your back foot," guess what they're focusing on? When a coach tells his or her players, "Don't choke," what mental image is planted in their mind?

Yet, before every Super Bowl, you see NFL coaches claiming solemnly, "We can't afford any turnovers. I've told the team, 'No fumbles.'" Yikes.

As we move into spring and many of us head for the links, courts, diamond, pool, or playing field, keep this in mind. Tell yourself and your players what you WANT to do vs. what you DON'T want to do. Use words that focus your mind on your DESIRED vs. DREADED performance and you and your team are much more likely to play your best.

Like to learn how to set up the peak performance state of flow called ConZONEtration? Visit to buy an autographed copy of ConZentrate. Billie Jean King said it's, "full of practical advice on how to gain the mental edge so you can fulfill your potential and perform your best."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Invent a Trademark-able Term to "Own" a Topic

So, I'm in Toronto to present POP! to the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and I'm reading the local newspaper.

What POP!'d out? An article featuring an invented word that names a cultural phenomenon that's getting a lot of press and that was part of the plot of the #1 rated movie this past weekend, "Failure to Launch."

The trend is that thousands (millions?!) of 20-somethings are returning home to live with their parents. There are a lot of reasons for this -- including that many can't afford to live in the style to which they've become accustomed and their moms still do laundry and cook hot meals.

The problem is, there are many "topic experts" about these "boomerang" kids. Boomerang is too generic a word to "own." If you're an infopreneur, you don't want to be one-of-many, you want to be one-of-a-kind. When you're one-of-a-kind, there is no competition.

Ian Pierpoint achieved just that by coining a Half & Half word that combined the yin-yang aspects of these 20-somethings. They're half adults and half adolescents. They're ADULTESCENTS!

Voila! When you invent a new word, you don't just have a clever title; you have a trademark-able term that is yours and yours alone. You can now build a buisness empire that generates income for years to come. You can license people to teach your proprietary methodology. The media will seek you out for interviews because you've pioneered a unique approach to a ubiquitous topic.

For more information on how to go to the head of your class by inventing a trademark-able Half & Half term, buy Sam's 3 hour POP! CD series at

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who POP!'d Out at the Oscars -- and Why

The most notable person at this year's Academy Awards was not super suave Best Supporing Actor winner George Clooney - this generation's Cary Grant. Neither was it lovely Keira Knightley - stunning in her burgundy Vera Wang gown. It wasn't even Best Actress winner Reese Witherspoon's "I just want to matter" acceptance speech.

It was self-deprecating, first-time Emcee Jon Stewart, he of TV's Daily Show fame.

Stewart anticipated the "Prove yourself to me" attitude of the in-house and at-home audience and mocked his supposed last-choice status with an amusing opening montage with former hosts bowing out of Master of Ceremonies duties, e.g., Billy Crystal and Chris Rock in a pup tent (shades of Brokeback Mountain) saying they were "busy right now."

He then cemented his "just glad to be here" approach by skewering himself with, "Tonight is the night we celebrate excellence in film, with me, the fourth male lead from Death to Smoochy."

This was a classic "poke fun at yourself before other people do" gambit that accomplished its purpose of winning over the audience.

What's that got to do with you?

Will you be speaking to a group that is questioning your credentials? Are you hosting an event in which the audience is likely to have their mental arms crossed?

Instead of taking umbrage at their lack of respect, it can be smarter to show humility and a lack of hubris.

Spoofing yourself is a time-honored way to neutralize objections. It has worked for everyone from Ronald Reagan ("I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I will not exploit for political purposes my opponent's relative youth and inexperience") to Ben Affleck (anticipating the ribbing he'd receive for his recent "Bennifer" breakup with Jennifer Lopez, he started his Saturday Night Live appearance by holding up t-shirts with possible new love matches including BOprah and Benyonce'.)

Art Buchwald said, "I learned early in life that when I made people laugh, they liked me. This is a lesson I will never forget."

Wise man. Next time you face a resistant group, show you have a sense of humor about yourself, and audience members will be more likely to laugh with you rather than at you.

Want specific Fun Fu! responses you can use to defuse tense situations? Visit and check out Chapter 2 of Sam's Tongue Fu! book (St. Martins Press) to discover how you can handle hassles with humor rather than harsh words.