The Liberty of the Ad Lib

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Did you see what I did there?

“Liberty”…

“Ad Lib”…

Get it?

OK. I have to admit. It is a bit of a stretch. At least from a literal standpoint. The “lib” of “ad lib” doesn’t stand for “liberty.” It’s actually the short form of the Latin phrase ad libitum.

Ad libitum literally translates to “at one’s pleasure.” There’s no “liberty” in it at all. Our word “liberty” derives from the Latin word liber. In Latin, liber and libitum mean two different, albeit not wholly unrelated, things.

The Latin liber means “free” or “unrestricted.” You can easily see how we get “liberty” from Continue Reading “The Liberty of the Ad Lib”

This is What Public Speakers Can Learn from Aristotle’s Greatest Mistake

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Spoiler Alert: I can only reveal once you fully appreciate the useful parts of Aristotle’s idea.

Have you ever had to – or will you ever have to – speak in front of an audience? It could have been (or be) an audience of one hundred or an audience of one. In either case, you may have noticed what happens when you’re in the audience watching other people speak. Sometimes you enjoy the presentation, sometimes you’re bored to tears. And it’s not based on the nature of the subject.

Here’s why.

Most speakers employ some variation of Aristotle’s Model of Communication. While roughly based on his Treatise on Rhetoric, it does not directly incorporate the persuasive tools Aristotle outlines in that classic volume. Indeed, neither does it involve the five canons of rhetoric, although this makes more sense since Cicero identified them centuries after Aristotle’s death.

Still, despite the lack of these important communication components, there’s another, more important, reason why Aristotle’s Model of Communication often fails. To best grasp the reason for this failure – and how to either avoid it or take advantage of it – you need to understand why this model has been both popular and effective.Continue Reading “This is What Public Speakers Can Learn from Aristotle’s Greatest Mistake”

Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?

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They say the world is made up of two types of people. They’re wrong. The world consists of three types of people, but two of those types get all the press.

Journalists like to frame issues in a binary fashion – one side against another. That’s simple. It’s black and white. It’s A versus B. Reporters don’t do this because they can’t handle the complexity of multiple opposing points of view. They structure their stories as a duel between competing interests because readers find those stories easiest to digest. The audience finds such pairings quite familiar. Literature is replete with examples: Ahab vs. Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, and Bambi vs. Godzilla, to name a few.

It’s not just drama. Philosophy often has an attraction to complimentary combinations. We see this most markedly in the Taoist notion of “dualistic-monism” as expressed in the Continue Reading “Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?”

Deeds, Not Words

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you think that title might sound heretical coming from a wordsmith, just wait ‘til you read the rest of this column.

Say what you will about former Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone (I never thought he was cut out for the job), but he did leave one indelible mark in my brain: “Don’t confuse effort with results.” This was one of the bromides that he posted on the walls of the Ralph Wilson Fieldhouse for all his players (and Bills fans) to stare at. In a nutshell, it’s what Yoda told Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

We’re all told to try our best. That’s fine. But we need to accept that it’s not good enough. When you try something, the result is you either succeed or fail. That’s all there is to it. There is Continue Reading “Deeds, Not Words”

Summertime Stargazing

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the July 5, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

 

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259I love the summer. Longer daylight hours means we can do a lot more. It also means, after a good day’s work, we can still spend some relaxing time with our family and neighbors.

Sitting on the porch gently taking in the sights and sounds of nature and our community, we savor the twilight of the day. The last lick of sunlight long since set, we slowly mellow with the sky. Our light conversation goes as smoothly as the transition from dusk to dark.

It is this time of day I enjoy the best. Surrounded by close comrades and all the chores done, I can now look heavenward. For some reason, I still get a kick out of finding the Continue Reading “Summertime Stargazing”

3 Critical Points Every Great Speaker Must Address

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Every speaker wants to know the answer to this question: How do I make my presentation more effective, more memorable and more exciting for the audience. Aristotle said it best in his book The Art of Rhetoric (ca 350BC):

Podium

Pathos – A passion for the subject.

Logos – A thorough knowledge of the subject.

Ethos – The acknowledged credibility to comment on the subject (requires Pathos and Logos).

Every aspect of speaking must address at least one (if not all three) of these areas. I hope to tell stories of how I used these in the many successful presentations I have offered to appreciative audiences.