Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shameless Plug

I love New Year's! It's a new beginning and a new start and there is a real feeling of optimism in the air. That's why people set resolutions, or at least that's why I think they do. They want to make the most of the fresh start the New Year affords them. But then, something happens.

In doing a little research I found that less than half of people (about 45%) make resolutions. A generation or two ago, that percent was has high as 88%. So what happened?

Resolutions, like the road to Hell, is paved with good intentions. But good intentions don't often lead to real results. So by the end of the month, many people have given up on their resolutions. Don't believe me? Try going to a gym in mid-January. It's packed! By mid-February, you have no problem getting on your favorite treadmill!

There are three main reasons why resolutions don't stick.

Lack of a game plan. Losing weight. Stopping smoking. Getting a new job. All of these are possible but none are plausible without a real plan, a strategy. Even something as simple as spending more time with the kids or the hubby won't happen without some planning.

Lack of motivation. Some resolutions make the list just because you think they should be there. For example, smoking. You know it's bad for you. You know you shouldn't do it. So you make a resolution to stop it. There's one problem ... you still really enjoy smoking. More importantly, if you are honest with yourself, you don't feel like going through the enormous tasks of stopping. So you give up for a hot minute and then you start again.

Lack of discipline. To me, this is also related to motivation. They say discipline is what keeps you going when the initial enthusiasm wears off. The ability to "just do it" or "do it anyway" is discipline. To me, it's easier to maintain discipline when you have a goal that motivates you.

I've developed a 90-minute seminar called Feelin' Fine in 2009! In less time than it takes to watch a movie and for less than it cost for dinner and a movie, participants can hang up the phone at the end of the call, and have three goals they they are excited about achieving and a plan to make it happen.

Check it out for yourself at
Feelin' Fine in 2009.

Make 2009 your best year yet!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beyond the Mirror

As a trainer, I work with all types and I enjoy almost all of them. Every once in a while, I get a student who truly rubs me the wrong way. There was one employee in particular, who I would dread every time I saw her name on a roster. Smug, condescending and very sarcastic, when she was in my class, it was a struggle to maintain a positive and upbeat atmosphere.

A few days after one of my sessions with her, I was in a store and had to make a return. I was having a bad day and apparently the sales clerk was too. I completed the transaction and as I walked through the parking lot, it occurred to me, I had acted as smug, condescending and sarcastic as my dreaded student!

I was mortified. The behavior that I found so ugly and repulsive on her didn't look any better on me.

Those opportunities to see ourselves in others are rare but they can also be priceless. If we are open to them, they allow us to see how we appear and the effect that we have on others. If sarcastic downer chick could have such a profoundly negative affect on me, is it possible that I could have had that affect on others? It was truly a moment of truth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

King Kong and the Unbearable Possibility of Falling

When I was a little girl, about seven years old, we went for a trip to New York City. It was fun. It was exciting. And when we got to The Empire State Building, it was terrifying. You see, in my mind, that was where King Kong lived and if we made it to the top, we wouldn’t be making it back down. I was panic-stricken. In fact, I was so scared, that 33 years later, when I rode the elevator back up to the top of the Empire State Building, my inner child experienced a little bit of that panic all over again.

When you think about it, a lot of us experience that sort of fear – fear that feels crazy and irrational and all too real. What terrified me wasn't the reality of riding up to one of the city's tallest structures. What terrified me were the possibilities of what could have been. I could have been whacked off the building by one of Kong’s hands and hurdled down thousands of feet to my death. Maybe he would have done a Faye Rae and held me in the tightening grip of his primate paws. Maybe he would have chewed my head off (I didn’t know gorillas were herbivores at the time).

A co-worker of mine had to fly to our home office last week and make a five-minute presentation. All the bad possibilities ran though her head: what if she said the wrong thing, or didn’t include the right information, what if they asked her questions that she couldn’t answer? Even though she was prepared, she was still a bundle of nerves and anxiety. However, none of her fears came to pass.

Imagination is neutral but we often use it to focus on the possible negative outcomes like getting killed by an oversized ape or flubbing a major presentation. We see those things so clearly and so vividly. Yet, we can also use our powers of imagination for good. What if my co-worker had used her imagination to focus on giving a great presentation? What if she replayed over and over, people giving her their rapt attention and congratulating her after her presentation was done? What if I could have made friends with Kong and been the one to tame him and make him my friend? Think of all the nerves and anxiety that could have been avoided.

There is a statistic that says 95% of the things we fear never come to pass. And if we manage to live to see another day then the 5% that do come to pass can’t be that bad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comfort Food for the Soul

Macaroni and Cheese, mashed potatoes and down here in the South, fried chicken, are the quintessential comfort foods. They offer comfort not just because they taste good but because they are surrounded with memories of simpler times – before the traffic jams, bills, multi-tasking and long work days took over our lives. Times when your days were filled with bike rides, games of tag and hide and seek and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Now, more than ever, we need comfort, but I’m interested in looking at other places to find that comfort because too much comfort food can lead to some very uncomfortable and tight fitting clothes!

We need to seek out comfort throughout the day and find ways to distress.

In the car: I fill my CD player with music I love. In fact, one co-worker got a good laugh out of me when she pulled up next to me as we were leaving work. I didn’t even see her but she definitely saw me dancing and bopping my head to Maroon 5! Sometimes it’s upbeat songs, other times it’s more mellow and subdued, on occasion it’s even been a book on CD, but whatever it is, it makes for a much calmer commute.

At work: I use music at work but, since I have the luxury of having an office with a door, sometimes I just close it. Maybe it’s because I grew up as an only child, but the solitude alone for me can be comforting. Taking walks at my break is also a great way for me to relax on the job.

At home: My home is my sanctuary and just being there for me is comforting. There are some days that all I have to do is walk through my door and I instantly feel better. Playing with Marty (my toy poodle) is comforting too. But at home, nothing beats a nice warm bubble bath!

With our busy lives we have to make time to comfort ourselves and soothe our own souls. It’s not a luxury. It’s a priority. In fact, it’s a necessity. If you don’t have the time, make it. Just 15 minutes a day can be enough. Get the kids and the spouse to work with you. If you think about it, they have a vested interest. If you are happy, they are happy.

So what are you going to do today or at least some time this week to comfort yourself?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Curb Level Aspirations

Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with a young man in my neighborhood who doesn’t have any respect for boundaries or for other people. Without going into too much detail, the police have been called twice. I now am forced to walk my dog with a leash in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other while constantly looking over my shoulder.

When the police asked me to press charges, after the second incident, I did. Several people applauded me for taking a stand but I also got several responses that were unexpected and disheartening. I “shouldn’t be so eager to put another young black man into the system,” they said, as they sympathetically attempted to argue his side. Basically, since I wasn’t raped or beaten, I should cut him some slack. I don’t agree.

People should be accountable for their actions. The fact that there was a second incident more egregious than the first after the police had been called once already said it all to me. He has shown absolutely no remorse. In fact, he seems to think he’s entitled to trespass on my property and violate my personal boundaries.

I am not without compassion, but compassion shouldn’t be expected, it should be earned. What’s sad is that so many people assume that this boy can’t do any better and that he deserves a second, and a third and a fourth chance. I wonder what it would take for them to side with me? A severe beating? A rape? A murder?

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it is true. No one rises to low expectations. I expect more from my neighbor. I expect him to act with courtesy and respect. I expect him not to engage in inappropriate behavior. I expect others to stand by me and demand more from this young man.
As a community, we have to demand more from ourselves and from each other. Life is hard. In some cases, it’s downright tragic but none of that gives people carte blache to act like a fool. It is not okay to violate another person. It is not okay to help yourself to someone else’s property. If we want more for ourselves, if we want more from our families, if we want more from our communities, we have to demand it and accept nothing less.

Young black men (or any men) don’t have to go to jail. It is not inevitable – neither is a life of crime or a life colored by poverty and despair.It’s not easy but we can overcome. As Obama would say, “Yes, we can!”

I hope my ordeal with this young man is over. I hope he learns several lessons from all of this. I hope he learns to have respect for other people. I hope he learns that there are consequences for every action – good and bad. I hope both he and his parents take this as a wake-up call and see this as an opportunity to do and be better. I hope this is the last time his name is uttered by the police.

I hope he sets his sights higher than the gutter and higher than curb level.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stealing Your Joy

Things are going well. Work is going fine, maybe you just got promoted. Your relationship is on solid ground. The kids are alright. Life is good. You’re appreciating and enjoying this smooth patch because at some point, things could change. Right now, though, you’re good; but not for long, if some people can help it.

Sadly, there are people who won’t share your happiness. Even worse, there are some people who will actively try to sabotage it. The saying misery loves company is tragically true. They will try to replace certainty with doubt, planting nasty little bugs in your ear: Are you sure he’s working late? They say feigning concern about your marriage.

They grit their teeth when you talk with pride about your child’s latest achievement. The offer you cake and fried chicken when you are losing weight or complain that you are too thin when you reach your goal.

Maybe they don’t talk to you at all. Maybe they talk about you to other people, complaining, nagging, gossiping about you to anyone who will listen.

Trying to change them is useless; so why try? The best way to defend yourself against these killjoys is to maintain a safe distance and create a buffer zone around you by surrounding yourself with those who want to share your joy and not steal it.

The holiday season is upon us and unfortunately, some of these killjoys might also be kin! If you can, still create that buffer zone. Another thing you can do is make it a game. Killjoys love to push your buttons, so when they start pushing, you start smiling. See how many times you can deflect their negative arrows. Heck, it might even be fun.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Up Good For Great and Saying Goodbye to a Very Dear Friend

About a week or so ago, I wrote a blog about the difficulty I have saying no. Well, I’ve started integrating that word into my vocabulary. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been worth it.

Whenever, I talked about taking items off of my plate, I talked about the smaller things. There was one big thing however, that I couldn’t even bear to think of parting with, although, my gut told me that I should. DivaSoulSista is a website I started 5 years ago to write movie reviews. I love movies. I love writing. It was a natural progression.

I designed the site. I created my own logo (and trademarked it). For the first three years, I even wrote all the reviews (then my friend Thomas joined me). It was and is my baby. But it takes a lot of time (seeing one to two and sometimes three movies every week) and lately it’s been taking on more expense as well – expenses that I pay out of pocket.

Right now, however, my strong desire, my passion, is to focus all my efforts on my coaching – being a better coach and growing my coaching practice. Yet whenever I sat down to think of the different projects that I needed to dump, there was one, I couldn’t bear to even think of, DivaSoulSista – my baby.

It’s been five years of my life and the creation of an incredible body of work. I’ve made lasting friendships through my site. It has been there for me consistently as I moved cross-country and back. DivaSoulSista has always been there for me - like a real sister.

But I did it. I picked up the phone and I called Thomas and told him that we’d put our last reviews to bed at the end of this year. The site will remain up and all 500 reviews will be available but we won’t be adding new ones.

I’m not saying 'goodbye', I’m saying 'sabbatical'. Hopefully, once I get my coaching growing and moving in the right direction, I can return to DivaSoulSista with the budget and the renewed energy I need to make it what it should have been and to build it up, but for now, I can’t.

I’ll be honest. This was difficult and I have shed my share of tears over it (I’m shedding some right now). As hard as it has been, it’s also been a big relief and I’m excited about what the future holds. Making the big decision was empowering and gave me the impetus I needed to get rid of a ton of other smaller stuff.

I feel lighter. I’ve looking forward to this immediate future and what it holds. I’m also looking a little further in the future and when I do, I see a little DivaSoulSista peeking out from around the corner, but for right now, she’s out of sight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Need to Clean My Closet

Before you get all ready for some tantalizing confessions, you should know that I really do need to clean my closet – not the metaphorical closet with the skeletons (not too much there ... and what is there is pretty dusty) but the real one, the one with the clothes. And the shoes. And the purses.

I’m pretty organized. Okay, I’m very organized. I am a list-making, planner-carrying, organized fool. I moved into my new house on the Saturday before Labor Day. By the day after Labor Day, every box had been emptied and broken down. Everything had been put away and I had even hung the pictures. I am organized.

But then there is the closet … and the car. I hate that nagging feeling of needing to do this.

Think about how draining those things you should do but haven’t done drain you. Every time you walk by the guest bathroom, and think about that broken towel rack. When you open that desk drawer and can’t even find a pen in amidst all the clutter, it drains you. All these little unfinished and undone tasks drain us of our precious energy.

Think about how great it feels when you’ve done that spring cleaning or when you finally fix that leaky faucet. That’s us reclaiming our energy. Taking care of the little things can make a big difference.

As soon as I get back home (I'm in San Diego as I write this), I'm going to tackle both the closet and the car!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No!

As I burned the midnight oil, for yet another night, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was overloaded. My plate is piled high. My cup is running over. There is no more room at the inn!

Ironically, I did a mini-workshop back in September about The Power of No. I talked about harnessing the power of no to take back control over your life. I talked about saying no to new responsiblities. I discussed delegating and spreading out tasks. I even said that some times you have to say no to things you like and enjoy so you can spend your time on the most important and most relevant tasks.

I had a very receptive audience. They really listened to what I had to say. Two months later, I wish I had. I am simply spread too thin. And the hard part is that everything I'm doing is something I love or truly enjoy: coaching, promoting my Feelin' Fine in 2009 teleseminars, my movie review site, my editing responsibilities for the P3 Power Boost magazine, prepping and researching for my next teleseminar and e-book, contributing articles to several magazines, this blog, and I know there are a few things I'm forgetting. As much as I am dreading it, I know I need to say no. Something has to give and if I don't so something what will give is me.

So over the next week or two I have some hard decisions to make. As much as I hate to see something I love go (or at least get placed on the backburner), I'm also excited. I am looking forward to having a little less on my plate.

Cheryl Richardson calls this process giving up good for great. While a lot of what I'm doing is good stuff, by putting it aside, I'm making room from something truly great and who wouldn't be excited about that!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change is Now

The American people overwhelmingly voted for change. And they got it in the form of the nation's first African-American president, Barack Obama. With the economy in shambles, the mortgage crisis still underway, the war in Iraq, and volatile gas prices, he's got his work cut out for him.

It is historic and unprecedented that he not just won but won in a big way. Yes, he is African-American; but since we only make up 15% if the population, he needed more than our vote to win. He won over whites, Hispanics, old and young, Red Staters and Blue Staters. The excitement in the air is palpable and for many of us too young to remember JFK and MLK, this is the first time we have felt this.

Obama can give us change at the highest levels. He can work on the economic crisis. He can try to bring our boys back home. He can help us start seriously considering and investing in alternate forms of energy to lessen our dependence on foreign oil ... but he can't do it all.

We have to meet him half-way and allow the spirit of change to help us make some necessary changes. This is the part that no one wants to hear. Obama can work on the economic crisis, but we have to work on curbing our spending, cutting our debt and saving some of our hard earned cash.

Obama can try to fix No Child Left Behind and he can work on putting more teachers in the classroom, but we have to make sure that our children are learning and doing their homework. We have to make sure that they are going to school and participating in the process.

Hopefully, Obama can make good on his promises and make real change. Yet, he cannot do it alone. From a political perspective, he'll need the House and the Senate to make that happen. And, in a real and practical way for true and lasting change to take place, it's going to take all of us. Each and everyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Play Well With Others

In high school and college, I knew some people who were very smart, very book-smart. They could ace a test and write a great paper. There hands were perpetually raised with that "Oh, oh! I know! I know!" look of smug satisfaction on their faces. They were wonderful performers in an academic environment.

But I was never sure how they would perform outside of the safety of school. For one reason or another, I always felt something was missing. They lacked that social grace and ease that makes networking success a must. Some were too rude and abrasive. Yes, they might have been right, but the way they came across, they'd alienate everyone around them ... including those who were on their team.

Others were too shy and bashful. If the question didn't have an obvious and straight-forward answer, they were paralyzed. They thrived in the black and white nature of science and math. They excelled when they knew exactly what the teacher wanted. But life isn't that clear-cut all the time. There are questions with tons of possible answers. There is almost always more than one option. So what happens then?

I know a guy who is an expert in his field. Recently he was fired. He was blindsided. Yet, those familiar with his situation weren't at all. He felt secure because he was 'the expert' but his people skills were abysmal. You don't call a corporate initiative 'stupid' while on the phone with the people who put the initiative together. You don't routinely snap at subordinates and superiors alike. You don't walk around with a perpetual scowl day-after-day and not expect consequences.

Book smarts are great, don't get me wrong. But they have to be tempered by a good old-fashioned dose of street smarts and business savvy. That is a winning combination.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Let It Go and Leave It

I was talking to a friend of mine. He was frustrated because he wasted his weekend sleeping. He slept all day Saturday and all day Sunday. But as I continued to talk to him, it became clear: he didn't sleep the weekend away because he was lazy; he slept the weekend away because he was dog tired!

He was recently promoted and is routinely staying at work until ten or eleven at night trying to get every little thing done and he is exhausted. I tried to give him a couple of tips that could help regain control of his life and restore some much needed balance.

Since he has an hour's drive home, I suggested that he use that time to decompress. Play a favorite CD, listen to a book on tape or just drive in silence. As the physical distance between my friend and the job increases, so should his stress level decrease.

He told me that the main reason he stays so late is so that he can completely finish everything on his plate. I correctly sensed that he's afraid of having things fall into the cracks if he leaves them until later. What I suggested, is that he do a brain dump at the end of the day, and write out everything that needs to be done the next day before he leaves work.

My last suggestion was to do something relaxing each evening. It could be a hot bath and shower, watching a favorite TV show, surfing the net, reading a book or just talking to a spouse or a friend. When leaving work, it helps if you have something to look forward to.

What other tips can you think of to help my friend reduce his work stress? I'll pass them on!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama, McCain, The Big Picture and The Little Guy

I live in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the great things about my new home is that they make it very easy to do my civic duty. I voted early yesterday. And it was a beautiful thing.

This election season has been all about the big races – presidential (of course) and the races for the House and Senate. However, I think a lot of new voters will be surprised to find, when they step into that polling booth, that there are a number of other races going on — races that they probably haven’t heard a thing about.

The truth of the matter is that it’s those lesser-known races that will have the biggest impact on the average voter. Want better schools? You will get better and more immediate results by working with the school board than with the president. Your mayor, city council members and police are the ones who will defend your neighborhood. Commander-in-chief has the whole nation to worry about. If you are concerned about justice, pay attention to the judges you elect. The fact is, the closer you are to the government, the more direct impact it has on your life. These are the people who can affect change. Yet these little local races are the ones we pay the least attention to.

Kind of sounds like life doesn’t it? We pay attention to the big and the flashy while overlooking the smaller things to us that make the biggest impact. You want to impress your boss’s boss when he visits from the corporate office but have no qualms with treating your co-workers like crap … even though they have a more direct impact on your everyday work life.

It plays out in every area. We go all out to celebrate an anniversary, but can’t be bothered to spend a regular evening with our spouse or even really listening to them when they talk about their day. We go all out with toys for the kids at Christmas but then we don’t make time to play with them during the year.

Years later, when you look back over your life, you might remember those anniversaries and Christmases but its those little moments, the encouraging hug at the end of a bad day or that game of hoops you played with your kid that will be remembered and truly cherished.

In elections and in life, little things mean a lot.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lose The Excuses: "I Don't Have the Money"

Money woes, money woes.
We watch money come,
Then we watch it go!

Outside of time, the biggest set of excuses that most people have concern money. Money can’t buy happiness or love (as the Beatles once sang); but let’s be honest, it can make some things a lot easier and managing it correctly can alleviate a lot of stress.

Having more money would make goals like buying a home, starting a business or returning to school possible. More money means more opportunities. Having more also can mean breathing a little easier. Your heart won’t race when the phone rings. You won’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering how you are going to pay on your credit cards and your car by the end of the week.

Money woes, especially in today's economy, are real and are definitely challenging but they are not insurmountable. To quote Dr. Phil, you have to start by ‘getting real.’ I know, believe me I know, how easy it is to live in denial. If you don’t know the depth of your debt somehow it seems easier to manage. But nothing could be further from the truth.

If money is what’s stopping you from reaching your goals, you have to get real and you have to get creative. For goals like home ownership or college, money is a reality. Find out where you are financially right now by boldly confronting your bills and finding what you owe. Then you can make a plan, if you can’t do it on your own, enlist the help of a financial planner whose job is helping you reach your financial goals.

You will have to start small but those small changes will yield big results IF you stick with it. Getting creative is just that. Think of non-traditional ways you can begin to reach your goals.

Can you take classes at the community college? Are there any one-day seminars that fit your budget? Can you go over to the college and find out what books they are using in the classes you are interested in and buy a used copy? Is there someone who is working in your field who you can work with as a mentor?

For a home, investigate grants and loans and first-time buyer programs, talk to several realtors and mortgage loan officers to find out about buying a home with as little as possible down.

As a business start-up, find ways that you can start small. Can you find college kids or recent grads to help you? What business grants are out there? Have you made an appointment to talk to someone at SCORE? They are a group of retired executives you can go to for free to discuss your business.

For other goals like getting in shape, losing weight, learning how to cook, taking up a hobby, money, or the lack thereof, is an excuse. Start where you are. Use the Internet, use the library, use your friends as resources to help get you started.

What creative ways have you found to get around the obstacle of not having enough cash?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Road I've Traveled

In my newsletter this month, I said that I didn't have many regrets and I don't. But, I did have one pretty big one ... and then something amazing happened. It went away. Yes. It did. Just like that!

I always wondered what would have happened if I would have made the decision to just stay in Cleveland. I could have possibly married my college sweetheart and had a couple of kids. When I would see women who had that kind of domestic setting, I would feel tugs of envy and tinges of regret. "Maybe, I should have..." I would say to myself.

Last Christmas I went home for a visit. While hanging out with a good friend, we made a stop by her sister's house. Her sister had it all - the hubby and the nice home and the beautiful kids. She was exactly the kind of woman that sparked thoses tugs and tinges within me.

I asked her how she'd been because we hadn't seen each other in quite a while (years). And she talked about the husband and the kids and the job and she seemed truly happy. And, I was truly happy for her.

As we prepared to leave, I had an epiphany. In that moment, I realized, that if her life had been my life, I would have spent years in quiet desperation. I would not have been happy. I probably would have driven myself crazy!

I realized that the road frequently traveled wasn't the road for me. I'd been on the right path - my path - all along. I thought about all the amazing things I'd seen and done and the insane variety of people I've met that never would have been possible living day-to-day in a suburb of Cleveland. Yes, I still want the hubby and the kid (not plural!) but I need to have that in my own way in my own time.

At that moment, I literally felt the weight being lifted from my shoulders and I knew that I would never again feel those same tugs and tinges. I can appreciate someone else's path without wishing it were my own.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What I Know, Part 2

7. Not All Friendships Are Forever: Some friends are in your life for a reason or a season and when that reason is no longer valid or that season is over, so is the friendship. I've learned to appreciate my former friends for what they brought into my life and then move on - without bitterness or hard feelings - but with love and fond memories.

8. You Can't Get Rich Quick or Have Success Overnight: If you talk to those who have gotten rich quick you'll see that it took a lot of time and that overnight happened over many nights and usually many years!

9. Knowing What You Want Is Half The Battle: There is a song that says, "You can't get what you want, til you know what you want." If you don't have a goal, you can't reach it. The other half of the battle, once you know what you want, is working consistently towards getting it ... when you feel like it and when you don't.

10. You Are Your Own Business: Even if you don't have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, you are in business for yourself. You provide a service to the company you are working for and they compensate you for it. The company will not hesitate to let you go if it's in the 'best interest of the business', so you should be prepared to act in the 'best interest of your business - you.' Be loyal to yourself and your future, not your company.

11. Get Advice From the Experts: I love my father dearly and if I need personal advice, I will not hesitate to call him. However, if I need real estate advice, I go to a good realtor. If I need tax advice, I go to a good tax person (or several). And I don't go to anyone without doing my homework first. Before I go to the tax man, I'm going to do my own research and learn as much as I can about taxes and my situation. I will confer with the experts but I'm not going to leave my business in anyone's hands without being informed.

12. You Can't Change the Past or Predict the Future but You Can Control the Present: What has happened has happened. We've all made mistakes, we've zigged when we should have zagged or leapt without looking. A lot of times, we think that life would have been so much better, if we had only made the other choice. As far as the future, some people are so paralyzed by the thought of making the wrong decision that they don't make any decision at all, often staying in miserable or mundane circumstances because of it. What you can do right now, is control what is going on right now. You can't change the past but you don't have to continue to relive it. You can't predict the future but what you do right now will impact that future. Right now is all that there is and all that matters.

So there is the dirty dozen. What I've learned in half a life (that is if I live to be 80!). What sage advice would you add to this list?

Monday, October 6, 2008

What I Know, Part 1

As the two regular readers of this blog already know, I've recently celebrated another birthday. Over the years, I've made some good choices and some not-so-great ones. Yet, the mistakes and the choices I have made have brought me to where I am now and that's not a bad place. Who's to say if I would have done things differently, they would have turned out better. Who knows?

Which brings me to the point of today's blog, I asked myself, what have these past two decades taught me? What wisdom have I gained with age? Here are a half dozen things that I've learned.

1. You Aren't Defined by Your Words But Your Actions: You can say anything. It's what you do that counts. Don't call me your friend and then suddenly disappear in my time of need. Don't talk about the virtues of family when you barely speak to yours. I've learned to be polite when people 'talk'. I nod and smile and let all those marvelous words in through one ear and right out the other. All the while, I'm watching people's actions because that's the true test of integrity and that is where real character lies.

2. Speak Up: When I was younger, I let a lot of people get away with a lot of things because I wanted to be nice or because I was scared of what people would say or because I didn't want to rock the boat. Well, my niceness was taken for weakness man times. So I learned to speak up. I don't raise my voice. I don't need to curse. I don't get all neck-twisty but if you cross me, you will know it. If you mistake my kindness for weakness once, you won't make that mistake twice.

3. It's Okay If You Don't Like Me: I was a pretty popular kid. As I grew older, I expected everybody to like me. If someone didn't like me, it really did hurt my feelings. I realize now how ridiculous that was. Not everyone will like me and I may never know why. It might not doesn’t have anything to do with me. Regardless of the reason, it's okay. I don't need to impress you. You don't have to like me. And guess what, I don't have to like you either!

4. Be The Person You Want to Attract: This goes for friends and co-workers as much as it does for a romantic partner. If you want loyal friends, be a loyal friend. If you want honesty in your relationships, you need to be honest. If you want laughter and joy, you can't be sulking around depressed. Like attracts like.

5. Be Real with Yourself: I can't afford the luxury of self-delusion. When I first started gaining weight, I actually thought that the dryer was shrinking my clothes! I also thought that my money problems would magically disappear if I just 'made more money.' Well, after more than doubling my just out of college income and gaining over 50 pounds, I had to get real. I was fat and managing money, not making it, was my problem. That was real. Once I was able to accept the truth, I could do something about it... it had nothing to do with the dryer or a FICO score, it was me.

6. Be Real about Others: If he couldn't be faithful to his other women, he won't be faithful to you (even if he swears on a stack of bibles that he will). If your boss has gone back on his word with others, eventually he'll go back on his word with you. If you've caught someone in a lie before, don't be surprised when they lie again.

What wisdom have you gained with age? Do tell!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Uncle Johnny Syndrome

I love my Uncle Johnny, I do. The last time I saw him he said, “If somebody would just let me, I could solve all the world’s problems.” And, he really thinks he can. The credit crisis, crime, educational issues, he can do it all! During a family dinner, we discussed African-American women and the pool of eligible men. He said, “If Black women can’t find men to marry, then they need to go to the prisons and find a man with potential.” My dad almost choked on his chicken in response to that one. Uncle Johnny is also an expert on home buying, taxes, the upcoming election and suitable hair styles for women.

Incredibly, he is not usually the most reliable when it comes to advice on anything. Through trial and a lot of error, I’ve learned that if I need advice, I need to get it from an expert and not rely on the Uncle Johnny’s of the world (and there are a lot of them). So now, if I need advice on buying a home, I talk to a realtor. When I need legal advice, I find a lawyer. I go to a tax man for tax advice.

If we are truly committed to leading a life of happiness and satisfaction, we need to surround ourselves not just with people who can support us emotionally, although that is essential, but with people who have the know-how and the expertise that can help us make the right decisions.

And Uncle Johnny, I go to him when I need a good laugh or a lively conversation. He’s good for that.

What's the best, or worse, advice you've received from an Uncle Johnny?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Live and Learn: Email Madness!

I sent an email to someone and inadvertently caused a lot of drama and, although the recipient will not agree, that was not my intention. What makes my error particularly egregious is that I, of all people, should know better. As a corporate trainer, I instruct people on a regular basis on the costly results of email faux paus. So I’m writing this as a cautionary tale to you and as a refresher to me.

I broke just about all the rules when I wrote the email that lit the fire that ended what was becoming a nice friendship. I was a little bit perturbed when I wrote it and then I wrote it in a sort of tongue-in-cheek tone which ended up as more of a foot-in-the-mouth. I broke the rules and I’m paying for it.
Cardinal Rule #1: Never send an email when you are experiencing a negative emotion (even if it's just a little bit): Save it as a draft, delete it, better yet, right it in Word and then save it. You may say some things that you regret (I know I did).

Cardinal Rule #2: Sarcasm and humor are very hard to interpret in an email. I thought my email was kind of cute, pissy, but kind of cute. However, it came across as anything but cute. In retrospect, I can understand where the problem started. Email has none of the nuance of tone of voice and there is no body language to be interpreted. It’s just your words and, without the tone and body cues to come with it, those words come across as very strongly. Your intention often gets lost in the reader's interpretation.

Cardinal Rule #3: Just like your words come across very loudly in an email, at times those little smileys can make a bad situation worse. If you have to resort to smileys to communicate the ‘tone’ of your email, you are better off picking up the phone and calling. I am 90% sure this person would not have gotten so upset with me if he could have heard my tone of voice. It would have been very clear that I wasn’t angry or hostile.

Cardinal Rule #4: Once you hit send, it’s gone. You can’t get it back (the recall feature in some email applications rarely works). You can’t control who the message is forwarded to or what edits are made to your original email. I cringe as I think of that email being passed around to goodness knows who.

Cardinal Rule #5: Don’t hide behind email. Because there are so many ways your message can be interpreted (or misinterpreted), sometimes it’s better to just have a discussion – face-to-face or over the phone – even if it’s kind of awkward.

The chances of this person reading this email are slim-to-none, but I am truly sorry that an email ended a friendship.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting It Together

I'm a Virgo and Virgos are notorious for being organized, efficient and logical. While I’m not always logical, I am nothing if not organized and efficient.

One important facet of living the life of your dreams is getting a hold of your time. We spend too much time on inconsequential time wasters. Time spent looking for lost items, time spent mindlessly in front of the TV, even time you spend on other tasks like cleaning and preparing meals can be put to better use.

So I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite time savers and organizational tips. What you will love about this list is that there is nothing on it that is difficult or that will take up more time. And yes, I do do these things.

Never Lost, Always Found: I have a place for the things I use regularly. It’s a place that makes sense. Next to my door, there is a small stand with a single drawer. When I walk into my place, my keys go on top. Inside the drawer is the dog’s leash. Sounds simple, but by putting my keys and the leash in the designated place, I don’t waste precious morning time frantically looking for my keys AND Marty doesn’t spend precious time with his hind legs crossed!

Keep it in the Closet: Get undressed while standing in the closet. Dirty clothes go immediately in the hamper. While you’re in there, hang up anything you can wear again.

Kitchen Economics: Wash as you prepare the meal. Waiting until the end guarantees that you will have a sink full of pots and pans and who wants to do all that work after dinner? Often times, when one part of the meal is done, you can reuse the pot for the next dish.

When possible, store leftovers in reusable microwaveable dishes so you don’t have to reheat in another pot.

Dishwashers make everyone’s life easier, yet, no one likes to empty the darn thing! The worst part for me was sorting through all the silverware. Then I realized the silverware holder comes in sections. So now, I put all the small spoons in one section, larger spoons in the next and so on. Emptying the dishwasher is a lot faster now.

Mail Madness: I open the mail while standing over the trash can. All junk mail goes immediately into the trash. As do envelopes and extra papers I don’t need.

Paper Clutter Cure: I went to the drugstore and purchased a few cheap colored two pocket folders. They are labeled: Take Action, File, Bills and Read. Anything that requires me to do something (make a call, complete a form) goes into Take Action. Things like bank statements and insurance info, goes into the File folder. When I thumb through magazines, I tear out the articles I want to read and put them in the Read folder. Every couple of days, I look through the Take Action folder and tackle an item or two in that folder. When the file folder gets thick, that’s when I make use of mindless TV time and file while I watch. If I’m bored over the weekend or going somewhere where I have a wait (doctor's office, oil change), I grab an article out of the Read folder and read it.

What are some of the little things you do to stay organized and on task? I'm always interested in new tips and tricks!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Birthday Blessings and Birthday Blues

Today is a ‘milestone’ birthday for me. I am now 40 years old. It’s definitely a glass half-empty, half-full affair. As I enter my fifth decade, I would have never guessed that I would be never-married and childless (half-empty). At the same time, I am now a home-owner. I am debt-free. I have meaningful work that I love. And, I’m the proud pet parent of Marty, America’s Favorite Pooch (half-full).

I was talking to a friend about the half-empty part. She said to me, “But, you are a life coach!” True, and I realize this is a case of “physician heal thyself.” And I am working on it. Being a coach doesn’t mean that I don’t have issues. We all do. I guess for me being a coach means that I’m a person who continues to seek answers - a person who constantly and consistently seeks opportunities to grow.

In the meantime, I’ll celebrate my health, my friends and all the glass half-full. Focusing on the half-empty part won’t help me get it filled but being grateful for all the blessings that I have definitely will.

Friday, September 12, 2008

You Might Have Just Dodged a Bullet

When I graduated from college, with a degree in journalism, I got a job offer for an entry-level job at a major news agency. Full of youthful ignorance and a healthy dose of arrogance, I turned it down.

As a result, I spent the next year and a half trying to get my foot in the door. When I finally did land at a local AM radio station, I was working for next to nothing. It was humbling to say the least.

Almost 20 years later, my family still talk about how great my life would have been if I had only gone to Atlanta. I’d be a major news anchor. I’d be married. I’d have a great family. And basically, my life would have been one long and magical walk in a beautiful park, on a bright sunny day.

Or would it?

Maybe my arrogance saved me from a worse fate than a year of menial jobs. Maybe I saved myself form an abusive relationship or avoided a terrible accident. I don’t know. I’ll never know. And, that’s okay.

We like to look at the path we didn’t take and romanticize it. “If I had taken that job, my life would be so much better!” Or, “If I had married the other guy, I’d be happier.” We might think to ourselves, “If only I had gotten that scholarship…” or “If I had moved to Los Angeles when I had the chance…”

The truth is that we will never know if things would have been better or worse. But painting that unrealistically rosy picture of the path not taken is a recipe for regret and frustration.

If you believe in God, karma or, even fate then you probably believe that things happen for a reason. Every decision I’ve made has lead me to where I am right now and the same for you. To tease yourself with dreams of what might have been or what you could have, should have or would have done is to perform an unnecessary form of mental torture.

Instead of ruminating over the past, look at where are now and figure out what the next step is. Yesterday is gone; but you can still do some with today and impact tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Help Me With My Positive Playlist

I read the book The Secret over a year ago. I've been doing vision boards ever since. And, I have to say, I've seen some of those visions come to pass. I had money on my board. Several months later, I auditioned for Millionaire and two months later, I had taped my episode. I had a vision of a new car. I got that too. I just moved into a new house that was also featured on my vision board.

Now, I'm working on what the book referred to as a Secret Shifter - something that can shift your mood when it's less than productive. I have a few songs, but I can use some help selecting a few more.

Here's what I have so far ... and why.

Magic (Robin Thicke) - This song is about the power of your thoughts and how we all have the ability to create our own 'magic.' All I got is concrete all around me, but I can see the countryside. You can be rich when you’re poor. Poor when you’re rich. It can be raining and I can make the sun shine.

Be Optismistic (Sounds of Blackness): The title says it all. As long as you keep your head to the sky. Be Optimistic!

Gotta Get Up (Jill Scott): If ever there was a Monday morning song, this is it! She wants to stay in bed but she's gotta get up. I'd rather chill at home. I'd rather lay alone. It's true, but I got to work. I don't wanna go. I wanna play today. But what can I say. Bills to pay. I just can't get comfortable doing nothing! That last line is my favorite :)

Make It Happen (Mariah Carey): This is one of her earlier songs and it tells the story of her determination as she tried to make it in the business. Still I had to keep on going, never knowing. If I could take it, if I could make it thorugh the night. I held on to my faith. I struggled and I prayed. And now I've found my way. If you believe in yourself enough and know what you want, you're gonna make it happen.

You Can't Get What You Want (Joe Jackson): Back in the 80's, I was addicted to MTV. Joe Jackson was a cool British singer and sang the truth with this one. You can't get what you want ... til you know what you want.

You Gotta Be (Des'ree): This song is full of good advice. Listen as your day unfolds. Challenge what the future holds. Try and keep your head up to the sky. Lovers, they may cause you

What other songs should I include? I'm open to almost every style of music!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Oh Those Negative Nellies!

It would be great if we could wave a magic wand and get those critical, complaining, never-satisfied Negative Nellies stranded on their own island (a la Lost). Sometimes it’s easy to get rid of that negative influence – especially if they are an acquaintance or a not-so-close friend, but what do you do when you are related to the Negative Nellie or when the Nellie is a co-worker on your team? That’s a little trickier.

Here are some tips for handling the Nellie:

Maintain an Assured Safe Distance: When you are driving, it’s best not to get too close to the car in front of you, if they stop suddenly, you might hit them. Staying a safe distance behind gives you a buffer, in case the driver does something unexpected. Do the same with the Nellie. When you have to be around them fine, but when you don’t, don’t seek out their company.

What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You: Keep that Nellie on a strict need-to-know basis. If they don’t need to know it, don’t share it. This is especially true for those who are going to be super-critical, nosey or gossipy. Also, keep the friends and acquaintances of the Nellie on a need-to-know basis, as well, since they are usually the ones keeping the Nellie up-to-date on all your activities.

Keep Your Enemies Far Away: Sun-tzu, the ancient Chinese general said “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Maybe that is true in military terms but in real life, that’s just silly. If you can’t trust them, keep them far away. Don’t make it easy for the Nellie to stab you in the back or get ammunition to use against you.

Become a Teflon Don: This one takes some doing, but when the Nellie starts in on you – criticizing you or bringing up past mistakes and old hurts, learn to let it slide right off of you. If you are going to see them, rehearse what you will say and do when they start to bait you. Have a friend or family member on standby that you can turn to for support.

Drink Heavily: Just joking.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Busy Isn't Always Effective

As a trainer, I often send out emails regarding classes and schedules and I know for a fact that a number of my co-workers don’t bother to read them. They say to me with pride, “I don’t have time to read that stuff. I have a job to do.”

It may be a day or two later, but some of these very busy people will contact me, and they will ask questions that I have already addressed and answered in the email that they couldn’t be bothered to read.

Being busy is not the same as being effective. The irony is that these people waste time by trying to save time.

Busy people are devoted to multi-tasking. They write e-mails while on a conference call. They return phone calls while trying to read a report. How effective is it when the calls takes twice as long to make, the email is riddled with typos and time is wasted reading and re-reading the report because they weren’t paying attention?

As my mother would say, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it again?”

It sounds like heresy but you get more accomplished if you focus on one thing at a time. Take 30 seconds to read the email. When you are on a critical call, be on the call and not doing something else. If you have a document to proofread, proof read it.

Complete your tasks sequentially and don’t waste time by jumping back and forth. Every time you stop one thing and start another, you lose time shifting gears and regaining your focus.

If you must multi-task make sure one of those tasks is very simple: talk on the phone while stuffing envelopes or doing some light filing. I often return phone calls in the early evening while I’m walking my dog. However, if both tasks require your attention, set aside a block of time to complete each one.

Be better than busy, be effective.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lose the Excuses: "I Might Fail"

That’s entirely possible – but, so what? In fact, it’s inevitable. At some point you’ll binge or have that piece of cake. You will splurge and go over your budget. You will roll over one morning and sleep in instead of working out. You’ll smoke that cigarette. Does any of that means you have failed?

When I was 26, I moved to Phoenix. I had visions of palm trees, warm weather and a snow-free existence. I also thought of myself as a modern-day version of the mythical Phoenix, rising up from the ashes as an incredible new creature! It sounded so nice! So I moved there, sight unseen, with no friends and no job. I managed to find a job and a get a place but I hated both of them. In fact, the Phoenix of reality, was nothing like the Phoenix of my dream. I moved back home nine months later.

I had been home for a month when I went over to my aunt’s house for dinner. My uncle pulled me aside and told me how disappointed everyone was with me. I had so much potential but I was failing. After all, I only managed to stay in Phoenix nine months, not even a year!

I responded by asking how long I would have had to stay to make him happy? A year? Maybe two? I told him the way I saw it, I hadn’t ‘failed’ at all. I moved to a city I’d never been to before almost all the way across the country. How many people would have taken a chance like that? If anything, Phoenix was a success because I took a huge chance and I made it work. I found a place. I found a job. I made friends. Maybe Phoenix wasn’t for me, but it taught me a few lessons (at least visit a city before you move there!) and it gave me the confidence to know that I can take care of myself no matter where I am.

Change the way you look at what you call ‘failure.’ If it teaches you something about yourself, if you learn something from it, if it reveals to you something that takes you in another direction; then it cannot be a failure.

So what are you waiting for? Lose the excuses! Go ahead and get started knowing there is no failure where there is growth or truth.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Take My Advice and Just Quit

Yes, you read that right. I said, “Quit.”

“But,” you say, “You’re the life coach?”

Yes, I am and I’m telling you again to quit. Stop the merry-go-round. Call it a day. Get off the horse. Throw in the towel. Realize that the dog just won’t hunt. However you want to do it, I want you to just give up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about staying the course and follow-through but there are some instances where that is not the right course of action. In fact, I can think of two good reasons (not excuses) to quit.

The first is when the goal you are trying to reach isn’t your goal. If you are saving for a house because everybody told you that you had to purchase a house and not because you genuinely want a house; then it isn’t your goal. If you don’t want it for yourself, you won’t make it a priority, and it won’t get done. Others goals for you don’t’ have to be your goals.

The second instance is when it is your goal and you want it, but you just can’t get it together. You’ve had several ‘false starts.’ You intended to save $500 over the next three months. But the car broke down and that was unexpected; then you forgot that your car tax was due; finally, it was the holiday season, and you spent way too much on gifts. Now, you’re beating yourself up pretty bad.

So take a break.

We writers do it all the time. After we write, we step away from the project for at least a day or two (many times longer). Staring at the same page over and over and over again, makes you lose perspective. In writing and proofing, it means you will miss typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. By stepping away, you can come back and read your material with rested and fresh eyes.

Give yourself some downtime. Don’t even think about the goal. Eat what you want. Smoke the cigarettes you want, do a little shopping. After your break, you can return to your goal with fresh eyes. Once you’ve rested, you can ask yourself some tough questions: What parts of your plan worked? What can you do to avoid those false starts the next? Then and only then are you ready to get-going again on your goal.

Be warned. A break implies that you will return. If you tell your boss you’re taking a break, you can’t just up and leave. You are expected to return. It’s the same with the break. Take it but come back to the goal. If you don’t your break has turned into an excuse… and you know how I feel about excuses!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I used to have a very bad habit of beating myself up. If I didn’t meet a goal I’d set for myself or if I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped, the negative voices would start. “Goodness! And people actually think you’re smart.” “You can’t do any better than that?” “Just look at you!”

Then, I was talking to a friend after a particularly bad day and she said something remarkable. She said something that literally changed my life. She said, “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you wouldn’t have any friends.”


She was right. I go out of my way to be positive and kind to my friends, co-workers … and even strangers, but I was unable to extend that same basic courtesy and kindness to myself.

It was at that point that I started really observing how I talked to myself. It was shocking and I knew it had to change. So when the negative self-talk would start, I’d start talking back. “No, I’m not an idiot.” “I made a mistake, these things happen.”

On several occasions, I even broke out the pen and the pad and wrote out what I liked about myself or all the reasons why I wasn’t an idiot. And it took some time but it began to work.

I can’t say that I never have a negative thought or that I never throw myself a good old fashioned pity party, but it happens now a lot less frequently and when it does happen it doesn’t happen for as long.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

First Class Treatment

I was in Montana for work all last week and I flew back to Charlotte last night. It had been a long day and by early evening, the only thing separating me from home was the four hour flight from Salt Lake City to Charlotte. I sat on the aisle in the first row of seats in the Coach section.

I had a perfect view into First Class where there were two very pleasant and attentive flight atttendants for the handful of VIP passengers. Those in First Class had drinks before take off and just in general seemed to be having a good time being showered with extra attention. Meanwhile, just one row and a flimsy blue drape away, I sat in Coach among the crying children and cramped seats. I watched while they had snacks in First Class, more drinks and a nice hot meal with real silver and glassware.

And I waited in Coach, with over 70 people, who were also being served by two flight attendants, for almost two hours just to get a soda and pay top dollar for a cold fried chicken sandwich. When I asked for one of the Margaritas they'd been promoting, I was told they didn't have time to make one for me.

It occurred to me as I sat there eating my sandwich that we tend to treat our loved ones as if they are riding in Coach. Like those Coach flight attendants, we are often spread too thin with too many things to do and too many people to serve. No time to do anything extra.

Yet every once in a while, it would be great if we could treat those we love to a little first class treatment. Run a hot bath for the hubby after a hard day. Give the wife a day off and treat her to dinner (or cook it yourself). Spend an evening with the kids doing something they absolutely love. Go get manicures with your best friend.

Believe me, a little first class treatment can go a long way.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Life on Purpose

Earlier today, I participated in a tele-class on finding your life’s purpose. There were hundreds of us on the call. In his introduction, the leader said something I found remarkable. Not everyone wants to know what their purpose is. Why wouldn’t you want to know why you are here, having this experience? Why wouldn’t you want to know what it is you are supposed to do or how you are supposed to contribute?

He gave two reasons. Some people are content to go through life from day-to-day, never realizing and never caring about doing something, or being something more than what they already are. Others are scared to know their purpose. If they knew it, they would have to act on it. Not knowing means not doing.

For those who want to know their purpose, the major obstacle to finding it can be summed up in one word: fear. As long as we fear our purpose - what it could be, what it could mean, what it would require of us and what we might have to sacrifice to get it - we’ll never know it.

Personally, I feel strongly that coaching is part of my purpose. I am passionate about it. Whether I’m working with a client, writing this blog, coordinating a workshop or a tele-class, I truly love what I do and I know that I've had a positive impact on the lives of my clients. I feel that has to be a part of my purpose.

I’m looking forward to delving more deeply into uncovering my purpose.

What about you? Have you found your purpose or your passion? Do you feel that kind of quest is even relevant to your life?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Michael Jordan Wants You to Lose the Excuses!

My friend and fellow blogger Kim Crouch sent me a link to a new Michael Jordan Nike commercial. The basketball legend and one of the greatest players in the history of the game has a commercial that talks about the hard work and discipline it took to make "Michael Jordan."

Success is never without failure. MJ was cut from his high school team sophomore year. Yet, that failure made him work harder. He didn't use it as an excuse to give up. He used it as a motivation to get better.

Likewise, every overnight sensation took years to get there. Talk to any 'one-hit wonder,' and they'll tell you of the years of bad auditions, all the songs that didn't become hits and playing to audiences of one.

People who have experienced success aren't people who never failed. They are people who made a different decision after they failed. They decided to get up and try again, and again and again.

Want a dose of motivation: Check the video out for yourself.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Taking a Dump

Life is good! And it’s also very busy. I will be out of town for work for a week. I’ve got coaching to do, two websites to manage, a few deadlines to meet and I’m moving at the end of the month. I’ve been running like I crazy woman and right now, I feel like it’s catching up with me.

So what is my plan for tonight? First, I’m going to do what I call a brain dump. I’ll pull out my trusty planner and write down all those to-do’s that are racing through my head. I always feel better after a brain dump. Getting those ideas out of my head and on to paper gets rid of that nagging fear that I’m going to forget something.

After that I’m going to do … nothing. Well, actually I will do a couple of things. I’m going to take a long bath, write in my journal and maybe get some reading done or find something good on television.
If I tried to work tonight, I don’t think I would get anything done tonight anyway. I’ve learned that when I’m tired and I try to force myself to work, I end up stressed and frustrated and unfocused. Any work I do accomplish will take twice as long and end up half as good.

So this evening, I will relax and tomorrow, I’ll wake up rested and ready to go.

Now … I’m going to go take that dump!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lose the Excuses: "I Don't Have Time"

Time. I know. I know. You don't have enough of it. Between the kids, the carpool, the job, the commute, the cooking, the cleaning, the in-laws, the neighbors, the dog, and the cat, there simply isn't any time left for you. Or is there?

Let's say, it's 9:15 on a Monday morning. As you sip your coffee, you review your week. It's packed. Meetings to attend. Presentations to make. Reports to complete. Interviews to conduct. There are kids to carpool. Practices to attend. A recital. A game. A birthday party to plan. A networking event you helped coordinate and a potluck that popped up at the last minute. Plus there is shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, church, other family obligations, cars that need to be serviced and the list goes on and on. Every day this week is full and that includes the weekend!

Five minutes later, the phone rings. It's Stacy London co-host of What Not to Wear. Instead of bringing you to New York City for a week, she's coming to your town tomorrow. And, it gets better, instead of giving you a $5,000 shopping spree, she's coming with $10,000. The catch is that you have to do it tomorrow and they need you all day.

I'm willing to bet that you would find a way to make it happen.

You would delegate. You would enlist the help of co-workers, husband and even kids to move some of that stuff off of your place.

You would say no. You would turn down the offer to help with another potluck for work. You would tell another parent that you could not do the carpool this week.

You would focus. You would get twice as much work done in half the time by minimizing the interruptions and cutting out a lot of the small talk and extra fluff.

You would get organized. You'd pull out the planner and get busy rescheduling, planning, and coordinating your days.

You might even change your schedule. You would be willing to get up a little bit earlier or stay up a bit later to get it done.

The fact of the matter is that you would make it happen because the end result - a $10,000 shopping spree is important to you. Not doing it would not be an option.

Are the things you want important enough to you? You can start delegating, saying no, getting organizing and focusing right now. If it's important enough, you can find the time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Domino Effect

I was talking to a good friend of mine earlier today and she was riding high on a wave of confidence. Over the weekend, she overcame a major fear. She'd been taking swimming lessons with her son and during her last lesson, she told her instructor that she wanted to jump off the diving board.

Diving was something she had never tried, in fact, the idea of just swimming in the deep end scared her. Yet, before she knew it, she was standing on the board looking down into 11.5 feet of water. Then she did it. She literally 'took the plunge'.

She dove in and when she came back up, she did it again and then one more time after that.

Two days later at church, she got a ton of compliments on how good she looked. She called me today and told me with pride how she aced an interview she went on.

I could hear the confidence in her voice. She talked about her good couple of days and I pointed out to her that it wasn't luck. It was her own doing. She took the plunge and overcame a major fear. It was that pride and that confidence that her fellow churchgoers saw beaming from her. That confidence and those compliments as well as all the hard work and effort she's put into her job search, fueled her interview.

What she is experiencing is a positive domino effect.

Most people see a domino effect as a negative - one bad thing happens and then another and another. But it works in the positive as well. One good thing can lead to another good thing and another good thing after that.

My friend has a lot to be proud of because she took control of her situation. She didn't have to jump into the deep end but she did. She could have let the frustration of a protracted job search get to her, but she plugs away everyday always looking for new opportunties and ways to improve her portfolio, her resume and her job search techniques.

The hard work is starting to pay off and as all of these good dominoes start to fall, I can't wait to see what is in store for her next!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You Get What You Permit

Every parent and teacher knows that if you reward bad behavior, it's more likely to happen again. So you ignore the tantrum and dole out the time outs when little Johnny hits his sister. It seems so easy with kids.

As adults, we forget this valuable lesson. Out of college and looking for a job, I worked as an appointment setter for a realty company. Patty was the superstar agent. She didn't even consider representing a home that cost under a million. One evening, an agent called and wanted to view one of her homes. I refered to the file for that property and set the appointment.

Flash forward to 10:00 p.m. I'm at home and the phone rings. It was Patty and she was livid that I had made the appointment. She berated me. She questioned my intelligence. She was rude and ugly. Before I could get in a word, she was done and she slammed down the phone.

I called her back. I explained that I had followed her instructions and that calling me at home at night was inappropriate.

That Monday at work, I started cleaning out my desk. I knew I was going to get canned! LOL! Patty walked in and do you know what she did? She complimented my blouse. I never had another problem with her.

Patty acted that way with people who allowed it. Impressed with her sales record, the rest of the office cowered in fear. They let her talk to them anyway she pleased, and she did. You get what you permit.

I couldn't change the way she treated them; but I could confront the way she treated me.

That was a pivotal moment in my life. It's the moment when I began standing up for myself and demanding to be treated the way I should be treated. Among other things, that means:
  • You are not allowed to yell at me.
  • You are not allowed to lie to me or be dishonest.
  • You are not allowed to waste my time.
If you do, I will call you on it. That doesn't mean that I will be loud or rude or angry but I will say something. Keeping quiet and just going with the flow, says to the offending person that what they did to you was okay and you have given them the green light to do it again ... and again ... and again.

You've permitted it, you better believe you'll get more of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Zooming Out of the Zone!

I just returned from a fabulous cruise. It was my first and I had a blast. I think part of the reason my trip was so amazing was that I made the conscious decision to do some different things and go boldly outside of my comfort zone.

Normally, on a vacation, I rest, shop, maybe go out to a nightclub and do some sightseeing. Since this was my first cruise, I decided to make it a cruise of ‘first’ – or close to firsts. I am not afraid of heights but I’m not a big fan of them either. Nor, as a life-long non-swimmer, am I a big fan of water, but when looking at a list of activities to do in Key West, parasailing sounded like fun.

Another excursion that caught my eye was horseback riding. Now, I have ridden before, but not since summer day camp in the 3rd grade, so I counted that as a ‘first’ too – my first time on a horse as an adult!

The parasailing was an adventure. Out of all the people on the boat, only six of us signed up for it. And, all of us were women! There were two pairs of friends and Doris, another solo sailor. She and I paired up. When we got to the boat, there were six other people from another cruise ship that had docked. And our daring dozen set off.

It started with a beautiful and relaxing boat ride. Our guides were two handsome and charming men. They took us up two at a time. I won’t lie, watching people go from the end of the boat straight into the air with legs dangling, gave me a few moments of pause. Before we knew it, it was time for Doris and me to head up. With lifejacket on and harness secured, we were off!

Up in the air, it was truly magnificent – the water, the sky. It was quiet. There was a gentle breeze. And, any fear I had evaporated almost immediately. Doris and I agreed that it was definitely worth the cost of the excursion and then some. Our brief 10 minutes went by quickly and on the way down, they ‘dunked’ us in the water before they brought us in. Amazing!

The next day, it was horseback riding. Talk about fun. I convinced my sister and her friend, my step-mother, and my aunt and her husband to come with me. We were all outside of our comfort zones! My Aunt Linda - known for her impeccable make-up and hair, and flawless nails - had never ridden before, but she was up to the challenge. We rode for about two hours in the heat – laughing and joking as we listened to stories about the Mayans. It was truly a memorable experience.

Oh, and it wasn’t a first but I karaoked. Okay, I have done that before (twice actually) but it was the first time I’d ever sung anything in front of my family, outside of grade school choir. I sang on the first night and actually made it into the Talent Showcase we had on our last night aboard.

My trip was so much richer and so much more memorable because I took a few chances. I don’t think I’ll ever do a vacation, the ‘old’ way again. Now that I’ve gone outside of my normal zone, I’ll be looking for other opportunities to pull a Star Trek and boldly go where I haven’t gone before!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Relax, Relate, Release!

I am headed to Miami! I'm meeting up with family and we are taking a cruise. It will be my first. Some people who know me might think that I'll have one eye on my cell phone and one hand on a keyboard while I am gone. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I take a break, I really take a break. I will not be carrying my laptop and I will have my cell phone but it will be turned off 95% of the time.

Technology can be incredible. As a single woman, I like having a cell phone with me when I am driving at night or walking an isolated park trail. I enjoy staying in touch with people via email and the ease and convenience of the Internet.

BUT ... I have a theory that all this technology has an ulterior motive ... to keep us working all of the time. Think about it. I can check my work email at home. My co-workers know my cell number. I can even set up your computer to work from home. Blackberrys, IPhones, laptops, it never ends.

But it should. When I am on vacation, I am unavailable. It's that simple. I don't want to talk about work. I don't want to think about work. I want to cruise. I want to parasail. I want to walk on the beach. I want to take a horseback ride through the Mayan ruins. I want to dance. I want to eat good food. And guess what? That is exactly what I will do.

Work isn't going anywhere. The job, the blog, the business, the website, will all be waiting for me when I get back. And when I do get back, I'll be better than ever because I will be rested, relaxed and rejuvenated!

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

You know you love the rush! Careening downward on that rollercoaster or flying down the mountainside while skiing. It's truly an incredible and exhilariting feeling. But when you are careening down the path of disasterous thoughts and improbable what-ifs it doesn't feel quite so good. In fact, it's pretty nauseating.

You get called into the boss's office. There were some problems with the report you submitted. Thirty minutes later, after a number suggestions, revisions and criticisms, you leave with your tail between your legs.

"I'm skating on thin ice," you think as you gather your stuff and head home for the day.

"What if I get fired?"

As you pull out of the parking lot and start the drive home, you also start the mental free fall down. By the time you get home, you've lost your job, your house, your spouse and have developed a serious alcohol problem. All because you had a discussion with your boss. Visions of food stamps and homeless shelters dance in your head as you pull into the driveway.

But wait a minute! Is it really that bad? Of course not. It wasn't a great meeting; but you didn't get fired. In fact, you got some valuable information and feedback and you know what to do better next time.

When you find yourself perched at the top of that slope, stop yourself before you start by asking yourself how likely all of that terrible stuff is it to happen. How likely is it that you will be fired? If you are fired, what is the likelihood that you will not be able to find any work at all? What are the chances that you would become homeless or that your spouse would leave you? As you start challenging the assumptions, you will find that the likelihood of all that other stuff occurring decreases.

Another techique involves just asking yourself better questions. Instead of "Why Me?" ask, "What can I do differently next time?" Instead of asking "What if I lose my job?" ask "What can I learn from this?" Focus on the positive and proactive things you can do to change the situation for the better.

Save the slopes for skiing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Promise Keeping

Chances are, if you have a deadline to meet at work, you'll do whatever you have to do to meet it. Stay late, come in early, and put lesser projects on the back burner because there are consequences to be paid if you don't come through. If you promised your child you'd be at the big game or opening night of the play, you would find a way to make it happen. But what about the promises you make to yourself? Do you take those as seriously?

Probably not. Maybe because there is not another person involved. There is no one else relying on us. We are willing to endure extra pressure, stress and inconvenience when we have to answer to someone else.

When other people are involved, there are consequences. If you didn't complete that work assignment, you could be reprimanded, written up or even fired. And, no parent wants to be the cause of that look of disappointment in their child's eyes. But what are the consequences when you don't come through for yourself? Often there are none.

With no consequences, it's easy to not follow-through. For a long time, I promised that I would get up early and work out. But I didn't. It was easier to sleep in. The payoff of exercise was not immediate but the extra half hour of sleep sure was!

A lot of time, the things we promise ourselves aren't the fun things. I mean, look at the first three letters of diet. And doesn't exercise sound a lot like exorcism? Handling finances? Stopping smoking? None of these things has an immediate payoff.

So what can we do? We have to create a payoff. For me, it was a simple as writing down 'Exercise' in my planner. I'm crazy about my planner! If I write it down, I have to do it. I hate getting to the end of the day and not having everything on my list crossed off. And crossing exercise off my list felt good.

Another option that works for me when it comes to things I need to do but aren't crazy about is my kitchen timer. I set it for 15 minutes or 30 at the most. I'm not crazy about cleaning but I like the results. So when I really need to clean, I set my timer for 30 minutes. I can do just about anything for a half hour. At the end of a half hour, I give myself the option to stop or I can set the timer for the original time or less and keep going. Breaking it down into manageable chunks of time really helps when it comes to completing unpleasant tasks.

Whether it's exercise, saving money, smoking, losing weight or even finding a job, the results are usually immediate. So you have to find some way to create a payoff in the short term. Using a list, giving yourself a small reward, working with a friend who can act as an accountability partner are all ways of getting you over that first big hurdle.

Once you clear that first one, you will begin to see results - you'll start losing weight or inches, you'll start feeling better without the cigarette or you may see your savings begin to grow. When you see the results, the payoff, it's easier to stay motivated and stay the course.

But it all starts with finding a way to make those promises to yourself mean as much to you as the promises you make to everyone else.