Thursday, December 31, 2009

Boy, Does Time Fly!

I remember being about 13 or 14 and I was talking to my mother about how I couldn't wait to drive. She laughed and said the words that I hear often in my head now. She said, "You are in such a rush! Time seems to pass so slowly for you. You can't wait to drive, then to graduate high school and then go to college. You just wait and see. After you get around 25 to 30, you are going to be surprised at how quickly time flies."

She was right.

It seems like just yesterday, we were all hording water and contemplating whether we should take all of our money out of the bank in anticipation of a possible Y2K disaster. Here it is 10 years later. We are a full decade into the new Millennium. Who would have thought? Where did the time go?

As we go into 2010, let's make a promise to cherish those around us and stop and smell the roses. Play with the kids and the grandkids. Get off work early and do something fun. Watch a sunset. Time flies and before you know it, it will be gone. So let's enjoy what we have, while we have it. Right now. The past is over. Tomorrow isn't here yet. All we ever really have is today. Think about it. There is a reason it's called the present.

Oh, yeah and one more thing...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Review

The week between Christmas and New Year's is filled with The Year in Review stories. What were the biggest songs and movies and TV shows of the year? Who had the best year? Who had the worst? What stories got the most attention?

When I do my goal setting workshops, I always start by having people do their own personal Year in Review. What happened this past year that was good? Maybe you found a great job or fell in love. You could have stopped smoking. Maybe you made some significant revelations about your life. Maybe you welcomed some wonderful new people into your life. Maybe you removed some not-so-wonderful people from your life. Or maybe you just found a hairstyle you loved. Big or small, there were a number of great things that happened this year and now it's a good time to acknowledge what worked, what went right.

In my workshops, I spend twice as long on what went right as I do on what went wrong or what didn't go as expected or planned. We tend to overlook the good and focus on the bad.

The bad things - the disappointments, the failures, the losses -seem to always be right in front of us, in the forefront of our minds and on the tips of our tongues. The good - the successes, small victories, the happy moments - aren't on the surface. We have to dig for them, sometimes very deeply.

As we prepare to go into 2010, take a little time to commend yourself for the things you have accomplished this year.

Celebrate you.

Oh, and next Monday, we'll be starting a whole new series: Win In 2010, where we'll be looking at what you can do to reach your goals in the new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Here is wishing you the Merriest of Christmases.
May your holiday be filled with love
And loads of memories and special moments.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do It Anyway

A few weeks ago, I tried to tear down some of the myths around positive thinking. I want to revisit that idea one more time. Being positive is more than a thought or a feeling. Let me explain.

Overall, your thoughts should be positive. This is true. However, being positive doesn’t mean that you will be immune from fearful, doubting or even, downright negative thoughts. It does mean that you should be aware of them so that you can work to counter them and lessen the impact that they have on you. As you move closer to your dreams and forage beyond your comfort zones, it’s only natural to face some opposition. Be prepared to combat those thoughts and move beyond them.

But most importantly being positive is NOT a feeling. You have goals. You have dreams. You have steps to take and plans to accomplish. You have a lot of work to do! And, you need to do that work whether you feel like it or not.

The difference between a true champion and everyone else is that a champion pushes beyond the feelings and does it anyway. He gets up and runs when it is cold outside. He might feel like sleeping in but he does it anyway. The writer doesn’t feel like writing today, she feels blocked, but she does it anyway. The dieter doesn’t feel like having the sensible meal, she’d rather have something deep fried or covered in chocolate, but she eats the sensible meal anyway.

A surefire way to not progress on your goals is to let your feelings be your guide. Being positive means more than just warm, fuzzy thoughts and hyped up emotion. It requires consistent actions and enough discipline to do it anyway.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Selling Your Cow

Ladies, I’m sure, after discussing the birds and the bees with your mother, the conversation turned to livestock. “Why should he buy the cow, when he can get the milk for free?” She asked. Basically mom was saying that a man wouldn’t value you if you just gave it away. However, a lot of us are giving it away. Every day. I’m not suggesting we are all a bunch of strumpets, harlots and hoes. In fact, I’m not even talking about sex. Allow me to explain.

I pride myself on being a generous person and a good friend. My friends know they can count on me for help anytime. I have another good friend, Lindsey, who has the same philosophy. She called me the other day and she was extremely frustrated! The problem is that she’d taken this generosity of spirit into the business world and it was costing her. In fact, often the line between friend and colleague is often blurred and when it gets that way, she (and I) tend to operate in friend mode.

Recently a colleague needed help on a project. Lindsey jumped into action. She wrote a press release for her, helped her develop a press list, lined up several vendors, scouted locations and even made calls on her behalf. She never got a dime.

My friend and her friend/colleague were coming from different places. Lindsey was coming from small and peaceful place called Friendship Island where inhabitants naturally do for a friend with no expectation of payment. The colleague was coming from bustling Business City where you get what you negotiate. She had asked Lindsay for help with one thing and she helped. Then came the next request and the next. Lindsay did them all with a smile and a “No problem.”

But, I asked, “Why would she buy your cow when you’d given so much away for free?”

Lindsey, and I, and probably you need to start valuing our services. Stand up for yourself. Even if money is not involved, stand up for your work, your time, your space. Set your boundaries. I know I’d been reluctant to do that in the past, but then I realized, most people who are asking you expect you to negotiate and even think that you might say no. When you don’t, they are more than happy to take that cow.

Next time, I suggested Lindsay do two things:
1) Set a price for the cow, be it cash, barter or some other arrangement.
2) Get the full scope of the project and then state clearly exactly what you can do.
3) Stick to your guns. If they ask you to do more than you stated, you have the right to say no. If you agree, set a new price and new boundaries for the additional work.

Remember, the people drinking the milk love a free cow, but that milk isn’t free from the cow’s perspective!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down with O.O.P.

As a trainer, and now as a life coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide array of people. From entry-level employees to front-line managers to executives and CEOs, I’ve trained and worked with them all. No matter what their job title or income, I’ve noticed when it comes to making real and lasting changes in their lives, all of them face the same hurdles.

Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution to lose weight (New Year's is just around the corner) or a vow to finally quit smoking, we all face the same challenges. However, there are some very simple things we can do to overcome these formidable obstacles.

Often the changes we want to make are pretty major. Giving up a pack a day habit or losing 75 pounds is no cake walk. Yet, at the same time, we make it larger than it really is by focusing on the big picture – the really, really BIG picture.

“A pack a day is 20 cigarettes. Everyone knows that a nicotine addition is one of the hardest to overcome”
“75 pounds is a small child! That’s a whole lot of weight.”

We get exhausted just thinking about it! As a result, we never quit before we ever begin, rationalizing that it’s just too much.

There is an old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” People who have never heard the joke think of all sorts of elaborate answers but the truth is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. That’s the same way that you lose weight, or start exercising or stop smoking. You do it one pound, one workout or one cigarette at a time.

Let’s say you want to start an exercise program. The reason you haven’t started is that it’s just so expensive. After all, you need the gym membership, the new fancy tennis shoes and of course some new outfits to go with them. It would be great if you could also get a hold of one of those ab-crunching whatchamajigs you saw late last night as you watched Saturday Night Live (while munching on some potato chips). If all those things fell into place, then you could work out.

Likewise, you might put off starting that diet until you have removed every bad food from your pantry and replaced it with its healthy alternative, joined a weight loss program and invested in a fancy new scale.

The truth of the matter is that you’ll never have everything in place and if that’s what you are waiting for, you’ll always be waiting.

The thing to do is to start where you are with what you have. Wear some comfortable clothes and shoes and start taking a walk around the block. Invest $15 or less in an exercise DVD (Walk Away the Pounds is a great one to start with), and walk, tonight.

Let’s say you get over the overwhelm and the need to overhaul and you actually begin to work towards your goal. And then, it happens. You have a bad day. You reach for that Krispy Kreme or that cigarette or forget about going on that walk. The next day, you are frustrated and disappointed. You messed up. Now, you ask yourself, “Why even bother?”

As you plan to achieve your goal, you should also plan for setbacks as they will occur. It’s not a matter of if but when. This is not pessimistic but realistic. The thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself but firm. Yes, you made a mistake but it’s not the end unless you decide it is. Forgive yourself and get back on plan as soon as possible.

Over the years, I’ve learned that regardless of the kinds of change you want to make, the secret is to approach it slowly and instead of making big, sweeping changes, make small incremental ones.

Want to go back to school? Then take it one step at a time. Research your schools, fill out your applications, and make an appointment with a financial aid counselor. Each of these mini-goals makes the task of getting an education a lot less daunting.

Looking to lose weight? A week at a time, make one substitution. Replace that sugar 20 ounce soda with a diet one or water. If you do just that and nothing else, you can lose over ten pounds in a year. The next week, replace the chips with low-fat popcorn. Trade in the fried chicken for broiled, you get the picture.

Finally, if you want to make lasting changes, commit to the long haul. All real change takes time, so give yourself the time you need to succeed.a

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don't Tolerate It

Abuse in any way shape or form is wrong. Be it physical, sexual, emotion, verbal or otherwise. Just about everyone knows this and will rally to the aid of anyone they know who is being abused. Yet, there is one form of abuse that is still acceptable.

We often engage in patterns of abusive thoughts and emotions when it comes to ourselves. We call it ‘pushing ourselves’ but, truth be told, many of us take it a step further. Some of us take it a step too far. We berate, talk down to, and abuse ourselves.

I can speak about this because I did this for many years. “I’m so stupid.” “I can’t believe I did that! What kind of idiot does that?” Or “No wonder you can’t find a spouse/get a promotion/etc…” Since I would eventually get back up and dust myself off, I convinced myself that this kind of abusive self-talk was okay. I convinced myself that it was helping me.

It took me years to realize that the opposite was true. I could rebound faster without the emotional beat down. I could get beyond my setbacks and shortcomings with love for myself.

One thing is clear. When you are in the throes of emotion, clear thinking is next to impossible and that’s when you need it most. It is possible though to drown in a sea or frustration or get lost in a thick forest of discouragement. In fact, things seem a lot worse when a lot of negative emotion is attached. And when you are feeling bad anyway, the very last thing you need is to feel worse.

I still have feelings of discouragement and frustration. I still make mistakes. Those things will never change. But what has changed is my response to them. I feel the emotions but I try not to add to the situation by piling a whole lot of negative self-talk on top of them.

I try to replace the reactive self-talk with proactive questions.
“Okay, I messed up. What can I do next time to keep this from happening again?”
“What can I learn from this?”
“What did work in this situation? And what can I do differently the next time?”

I would never tolerate abusive language and behavior from someone else, it was time to stop tolerating it from myself.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Karyn Cooks: Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies always remind me of Christmas. I have not made this recipe yet, but it sounds yummy and since it is the season, I will be making them soon. Tins of cookies also make great gifts!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar 1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
additional sugar
Microwave chocolate and margarine in large microwavable bowl on high 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir 1 cup sugar into melted chocolate mixture until well blended.
Stir in egg and vanilla until completely blended. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375'F.
Shape dough into 1" balls; roll in additional sugar.
Alternately, roll out to 1/4" thick and cut with cookie cutters.
Place, 2" apart, on ungreased cookie sheets. (If flatter, crisper cookies are desired, flatten balls with bottom of drinking glass.)
Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Myth-Busters: Independence

From the time we are born we long for independence – we want to walk on our own and ride the bike without the training wheels. As we get older, the images of independence change – driver’s license, living on our own, surviving financially without those convenient calls home for cash. We want to do it all and we want to do it all on our own. But independence can only take us so far.

The quest for independence omits one important fact – we can’t possibly do it all on our own. We don’t have the know-how to do it all. We don’t have the resources to do it all. We don’t have the time to do it all. Any kind of real success is going to take help. We need other people.

This is not a sign of failure or lack; it is an admission of truth. It is an acceptance of who we are and where we want to go. As soon as a business begins to grow, the business owner knows that he’s going to need help. He can’t be responsible for generating all the sales, making all the sales calls, handling all the manufacturing, juggling all the accounting and fiscal responsibilities while, all the while, holding the vision for the company and its leadership.

Not only can he not do all of those things, he can’t possibly do them all well. He recognizes the need for a talented sales person or a bookkeeper with a knack for numbers. By hiring people who have those talents, he’s free to focus on what he’s best at.

In high school and college, students move from teacher to teacher. The science teacher/professor is not the one to go to for English composition and the English professor probably isn’t the best source for questions about calculus.

Yet, we are often unrealistic when it comes to our own capabilities and we tend to beat ourselves up when we need to reach out and ask for that dreaded ‘h’ word, help.

In many aspects independence is enough, however, if we want to reach beyond what we are individually capable of, we need to strive for interdependence ­– a state where independent people depend on one another. My strengths augments your weaknesses and vice versa. My passion and interest compliments yours.

Together we can do things that would have never been possible on our own.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Karyn Cooks! Chicken and Pomegranate Salad

This recipe is courtesy of my cousin Donna. She made this for me once and I immediately fell in love. The mixture of flavors makes it just pop. It's healthy. It's tasty. And, it's perfect for the holidays. With the red pomegranates, it looks beautiful on a table. I've taken it several times as my contribution at a holiday potluck. It looks positively festive.

Now is the time to make it because pomegranates are in season now and will be out of season shortly after the holidays end.

Pomegranate Chicken Salad

2 Pomegranates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 pound cooked chicken breast meat, cut into 1" chunks
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 chopped apple
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder (optional, but I use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, raisins, chicken, almonds, apple, celery, parsley, green onion, and curry powder.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Pour into the chicken mixture, and mix well.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you want to save time, you can sometimes find the pomegranate already seeded in the produce section.

This recipe was originally on the POM Wonderful site. They currently have an updated version of it on this site but this was the original.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Day for Giving Thanks!

Like the name says, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. And today, as you enjoy your fabulous feast surrounded by family and friends, you will probably agree that we have a lot to be thankful for. It’s easy to be thankful on Thanksgiving. However, we have to find a way to take that gratitude into the other 364.25 days of the year.

There is always something to be thankful for. It’s so easy to focus on things that are not going right or on the things that we don’t have. Even though it’s harder, we have to make the effort in those times, to remember that there are a significant amount of things that are going right (often more than is going wrong). And for those things, we should be thankful.

I talked to a young man the other day who really and truly thought that every single problem he had, and would ever have, would be cured by money. There are so many things that young man could have been grateful for but the only thing he could see was all the money he didn’t have.

He couldn’t see that he had his health, a sound mind, supportive friends and family. He had his youth; he had a future ahead of him. He had nice clothes on his back and a home to return to at the end of the day.

When I mentioned these things to him, he just brushed them off. The clothes weren’t the ones he wanted. His home was still with his family and he was tired of them. He thought having health and a sound mind were laughable. Besides, he didn’t have a car; he had to ride the bus.

Most of us do the same thing. We don’t appreciate what we have because it’s not exactly what we want. We live in a state of perpetual covetness and longing. We wonder why she got the job. We agonize over why he seems to ‘get all of the breaks.’ We look at the happy couple on their wedding day and think, “Why isn’t that me?” What a way to live!

Gratitude isn’t settling for less. You need to continue to work towards your dreams and your goals but enjoy where you are and what you have right now. Gratitude is the key that will release you from a number of stressors and frustrations. That same key also unlocks a secret source of happiness and contentment. When you lose the frustrations and the complaints, you lift a weight off of your chest that makes room for more gratitude and all of the goodness that comes with it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mythbusters: The Myth of Positive Thinking

As a coach and a trainer, I truly believe that a positive attitude is the key to success. It's the strong foundation to which sustainable success is built on. We have to be positive thinkers. But when we talk about positive thinking, I think it helps to clarify what is and isn't positive.

Delusional thinking is not positive thinking. Positive thinkers looks at the facts and the issues and take it all into account as they devise a plan for overcoming obstacles. Delusional thinking ignores the reality and the facts and insist on keeping everything rosy when it is not.

When a positive thinker encounters a major obstacle like cancer, they belief they will beat it. However, they also investigate traditional and experimental treatments. They look at the research, they get other professional opinions and they proceed accordingly.

A delusional thinker thinks that the cancer will just magically disappear. If they can believe enough, it just might work. After all, they are being positive!

Positive thinking will not prevent problems. It is not a guarantee for an effortless cake walk. A lot of people assume that if they are positive enough, things will just magically fall in the place. They visualize their positive thoughts going before them and make the rocky roads smooth, filling the potholes along the way. Not true.

Positive thinkers have problems. What is difference is the approach. They don't assume the position of helplessness, apathy or frustration. They respond proactively, looking for other options, possibilities and opportunities. Positive thinkers are human. They have bad days and bad moods. But they don't dwell in those moments. They are able to move on and up quickly. They rebound.

Finally, Positive thinking means absolutely nothing if it is not followed by positive action. You can think all you want about a yummy Chinese Chicken Salad but if you want to eat that salad, you will have to make it, go get it or get someone else to make it or go get it. You have to act. Thinking about it alone will not make it so and it doesn't matter how positive your thoughts are.

Positive Thinking - Proactive Action = Dreaming
Go ahead and be a Positive Thinker!
But be more than positive.
Be real!
Be proactive!
And take action!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A for Attitude

Recently, I started volunteering for a job readiness program. I’ve been dealing with a lot of my own struggles and I felt it was time that I got out of my own box and out of my own head and did something for someone else.

On my first day, I observed the first session for a new class full of job seekers. One of the first things the instructor said was that if they were going to be successful, they’d have to have the right attitude. And that attitude was one of professionalism and a willingness to do the work.

A man sitting next to me balked. “Attitude?” he said. “What does attitude have to do with anything?”

The instructor responded, “Attitude is everything. Your attitude determines your behavior. And your behaviors determine what you do.”

A positive attitude is critical to any real or lasting success. Your attitude is the canvas that your life is painted on.

So exactly what is attitude? Well, it’s more than emotion or a feeling. It’s more than positive thinking.

Your attitude is your overall outlook. It’s how you view a situation. It deals with how you see yourself and how you perceive others. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean that you are always happy but a positive attitude does mean that you will get back up sooner than later after falling down. A positive attitude is one where you accept that you — and not a partner, job, economic downturn, political party or society — has the ultimate control over your life.

A positive attitude doesn’t come from a place of helplessness. When it encounters obstacles it doesn’t throw up its hands and declare defeat. Instead it puts its head down and gets to work, finding another way, looking for other options and sometimes even creating opportunities.

Attitude fuels belief. Consider this. You can’t have a positive attitude and negative beliefs. It just doesn’t work. You can’t have a positive attitude that says ‘anything is possible and then believe that ‘nothing good will ever happen’ for you. If yours is a negative attitude then it will be difficult to have positive beliefs come from it.

Beliefs fuel action. If you believe in persistence, then if one door closes, you will continue to push forward because you believe that you will eventually get that open door. If you believe that nothing good can happen for you, then as soon as that door closes, you will take that as proof of your negative belief. And chances are you will not find that open door.

It all starts with attitude. And you, … not anyone else has the power to create your attitude and the power to control it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Revving Up for the Holidays!

We are less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving. There is a lot to look forward to: big, yummy holiday dinners, parties, shopping for gifts, decorating, seasonal music and the list goes on. But for many people, the holidays bring just as much stress as they do satisfaction. So, it might be a good time, before we get caught up in the midst of things, to take a moment and prepare for the not-so-nice aspects of the holidays.

We are technically out of the recession, but for a sizable number of people that fact hasn't caught up to our realities. In the midst of tight belts and tighter budgets, it is inevitable that some changes to traditional holiday spending might be in order.

Scale Back: Does everyone on your list need a gift? This especially applies to all of those acquaintance gifts. Little things can add up to a lot. When it comes to adult family members, consider skipping gift exchanges all together or possibly doing a Secret Santa with a spending limit.

Lower Expectations: When it comes to teens and older children, you might want to explain that Christmas might be a little different this year. It might not be possible to get everything on a long list but ask them what they would like the most or in a specific monetary range.

For many this is either the best part of Christmas or the worst. The key here is to have a clear plan for those relatives that might try your patience or push your buttons.

Make It a Team Effort: Pair up with a sibling, cousin or friend that will be attending the same family function and lean on each other for support. Things immediately seem better when you realize that you aren't in it alone.

Set Boundaries: Who says you have to stay at the dinner all-day and well into the night? If you aren't hosting dinner, plan on leaving a little early. Let people know what is off-limits before hand, if possible. If you are dealing with unemployment or a recent divorce, let several supportive family members know that you would rather not talk about it. In fact, engage members of your team to help you out if those touchy subjects come up.

The key is to have a plan - whether it is a spending plan, a plan for handling family or for not eating too much at the company party - if you think it through in advance you will be able to avoid a lot of sticky or stressful situations, or at least get through them with less drama and damage.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Be a Giver

We’ve all heard that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But we live in a world where many are ruled by their wants and desires. When that adage comes up people think, “Yeah right, I’d much rather receive a flat-screen plasma television set than to give one away.” But there is some truth to this. There is a lot of truth to this.

Back in September, I lost my day job. It was completely unexpected. While I didn’t miss the job itself, I did miss my co-workers and I missed my paycheck. I get unemployment but it is not nearly as much as I had been making. Plus, I bought my first-house last year.

The first few weeks were fine but then the fear, the frustration and the anxiety set in. Add to that the admonishments from both friends and family that I, as a life coach, I should be beyond feelings of fear, frustration and anxiety.

But I pride myself on being honest and, honestly, I was scared and I felt like a fraud for being scared. Maybe they were right. If I were any kind of coach wouldn’t I be able to snap my fingers and banish these emotions in an instant? Shouldn’t I be able to be 100% positive all the time?

To make matters worse, I was alone. I live alone and that’s fine but with no job to go to, I was alone all day every day, all day. It was maddening. It was like being in solitary confinement. I had full days to dwell on my problems, my situation and myself. I would spend days operating on little to no sleep. I knew I needed to do something but I wasn’t sure what.

I reached out to a friend and she suggested that I find volunteer. It would get me out of the house and, if I found an organization that was a good fit, it would give me an opportunity to use some of my skills. “You can’t let your talents go to waste sitting at home,” she reasoned.

I didn’t hesitate. That night, I went online to Volunteer Match and I did a search on local non-profits. Jacob’s Ladder, a local job readiness training program, came up. It sounded perfect. I called the next day. I met with them later that week and started volunteering that next Monday.

I’ve been able to use my training expertise, my life coaching skills and what I know about job searching and interviewing. I have helped people with applications, resumes, getting professional clothes and interviewing. I have been able to help the students in the class become more proactive, develop workable goals and see things from a variety of different perspectives.

I have been giving of myself, my skills and my talents. It is, and continues to be, an amazing experience. While I have been giving, I’ve been receiving so much more. My outlook immediately improved. I began sleeping again. For the first time in weeks, I felt like myself again.

I also came to realize that feeling those feelings doesn’t make me any of a less effective coach. It makes me human. And now, I even believe that these kinds of experiences might even make me a better coach. I was down; but I didn’t stay there. I found a way to get up and I know that I can help others do the same.

However, my turn around started when I started to give.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gut Check

There is the heart, there is the head, and then there is the gut. When I make my best decisions, I’m usually going with my gut.

My head tries to be rational and logical. It’s like Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” When I’m using my head, I’m writing lists of pros and cons. I’m thinking about the consequences. My head loves a logical argument and can be persuaded by the bottom line. It likes it when things are clear and final and most of all, when they make sense.

My heart is sensitive and emotional. It easily gets swept away. Like a sailboat, it goes whichever way the emotional winds are blowing. I can be swept away with love or fear or resentment or any number of intense emotions. It all depends. My heart loves strong and passionate feeling. It likes it when the emotion is so high that it almost takes my breath away.

But my gut is that mysterious feeling in the pit of my stomach. Unlike the other two, I’m still not sure how to convince it. It knows what it knows. It feels what it feels. And it has an uncanny track record of being right almost all of the time.

Of course, ideally, the three arrive at the same conclusion. There is no certainty quite like the certainty that comes when head, heart and gut agree. But when they don’t, I’ve learned to go with the gut.

When my heart is head over heels, but my gut tells me to proceed with caution. I tread lightly.
When my head says that the cons far outweigh the pros, but my guts says there is still something wrong. I step back instead of just jumping in.
But when my gut says it feels right, even when it doesn’t seem logical or when it isn’t the sexy and passionate thing to do, I make my move.

Of course, it’s taken me a while to get to this point, the seductiveness of the heart and the precision of the head can be hard to resist but they just haven’t given me the same consistency and reliability of my gut (and I have the heartaches and missteps to prove it).

When in doubt, go with the gut check. You won’t be disappointed.

Today's image is courtesy of

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who’s the Boss? YOU Are!

If the events of the past year have taught us anything it’s that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to employment.

I’ve seen people who felt secure and thought that it couldn’t happen to them, have it happen. I’ve seen people stay in jobs that no longer suit them or meet their needs because they are scared to even try to find something else. I have seen people put their heads down (like ostriches) and refuse to even acknowledge the firings, layoffs and downsizing going on around them. Hope is the only weapon in their arsenal.

These people are thinking like employees and in the 21st century that sort of thinking is as outdated as it is detrimental. Even if you never want to own our own business, even if you enjoy the benefits, consistent paycheck and workday routines that come with working for someone, you still need to look at yourself as a business owner. Your business is the business of you.

At its most basic level, you are offering your services in exchange for pay and benefits. It’s just that simple. Your job is to make sure that your services are services that an employer wants. That’s what an interview is. A company is sampling a number of similar products (applicants) to see which one they like best and which will fit best in their company.

You need to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to set yourself apart … even if you are happy where you are and are not looking for a job. You don’t know when you will be looking, so you should always be honing your skills and recording your accomplishments. Besides, these are the same skills that will help you when it’s time for your annual review or when you are up for a promotion.

So what does this mean for your everyday life? What has to change? Probably not much. But keep these things in mind.

1. Write Your Wins: Try to do this as they happen. Think of how difficult it is to prepare for your annual review when you have to remember all of the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead, keep a little document in Word where you can list your accomplishments as you go. Got Employee of the Month? Jot it down. Did you exceed your sales goal for the quarter? Make a note of it. Did you take a record-setting number of calls in one month? Write it down. This will come in handy when preparing for a review or when you are updating your resume.

2. Become a Sponge: In training, a sponge is someone who is in class to absorb as much information as possible. Take every opportunity you can to learn. Take as many classes, seminars and workshops as possible. Definitely take advantage of any training you can get from your company. However, be open to investing in a class or two on your own if need be. Always keep your skills current.

3. Act Like a CEO: It’s not up to your company to take care of you. The only person who will act in your best interest is you. Place your loyalty and your dedication where they belong, with you and not with your company. Give your best at the job you are in; but do it because it’s in your best interest and not because that’s what the company wants. If you see a better opportunity, don’t be afraid to take it out of some misguided sense of company loyalty. If you need a better opportunity, don’t be afraid to look for one and make a move if you find it.

No go ahead and take your place in the big corner office of You, Inc.!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myth-Busters: Multi-Tasking

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” - Lord Chesterfield

Obviously, Lord Chesterfield didn’t live in the 21st Century! Americans love to multi-task. We have to because we are busy, busy, busy! We drive while putting on make-up and talking on the phone. At work, we reply to emails while on conference calls. We return phone calls while walking on the treadmill. With the aid of a little technology, we can do it all! But can we? Consider the following.

* A study by the University of London Institute of Psychiatry found “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.”

* Researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions in the workplace and found workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.

* And we’ve all encountered the multi-tasking driver who’s either wrapped up in his/her cell phone conversation or texting.

Times may have changed but our brains have not. The problem is the more you multitask the more difficult it is for your brain to switch between tasks. It takes time for your brain to make the switch … the same time you think you are saving. Your memory is also negatively affected by multitasking.

So what’s a busy person to do?

Do It Anyway: Multi-tasking works best when you are working when at least one of the tasks is inconsequential and doesn’t require too much thought. Checking voicemail or returning a call while walking the dog. You can write your to-do list while you are on the train. You should be able to use the treadmill while chatting on the cell phone. However, if the task is important or requires effort or attention, then it requires your focus…

Find Your Focus: Take small amounts of time to focus on a single task. Spend 10 minutes reading and returning emails. Devote 20 minutes to writing the proposal. You will be surprised that a dedicated focus will actually improve your productivity.

Tame the Technology Tiger: It is okay to temporarily turn your ringer off. Believe it or not, most calls aren’t urgent. Also close your email application so those annoying notifications don’t pop up every time you get an email. Instead, make a commitment to check your email at the top (and maybe bottom) of every hour or maybe after you finish each focused time period.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Critical Eye

Over the course of my life, it is mind boggling to think of how much television I’ve watched. And I don’t think that is a bad thing. In my career and in my personal life, I’ve found television to be a strong unifier. I’ve used it create connections and to break the ice with people.

If I had kids, I wouldn’t be one of those parents who never let their kids watch television. I have fond memories of everything from Conjunction Junction to The Love Boat to What’s Happening. But times have changed.

When I was growing up, there were a handful of channels to choose from. Cable came along and gave us more choices but even that was nothing compared to what kids have to choose from today. With television standards becoming more and more lax in regards to language, sexuality and violence, it’s important that parents take an occasional look at what their children are watching. But this is the real world and the truth is that parents can’t always be there to police the television, or the computer for that matter. So it is just as important, if not more so, for adults (parents and others) to teach kids to look at what they watch, as well as what they listen to and read on the Internet, with a critical and questioning eye. In fact, all of us, adults as well as kids, could benefit from that.

Take one of the most popular trends in television today: reality TV. Many of these shows promote a lifestyle or a set of values that is misleading at best and dangerous at worst. Shows like Survivor and The Apprentice reward people for being manipulative and calculating while shows like MTV’s Sweet Sixteen and The Hills promote lavish lifestyles that even the stars often can’t afford.

The average American earns $885 a week (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Working as a paid intern, as the girls on The Hills do, you’d be lucky to make that much. Yet, they often spend more than that on the handbag they carry in one episode.

The stars of My Sweet Sixteen routinely spend over six-figures on a party. As the sons and daughters of singers, actors and rappers, they can afford that kind of opulence; but most of the kids watching can’t.

As I said, banning television, or music or the Internet, is not a realistic option in today’s society nor do I think it’s a good idea. However, I do think that these kinds of shows give you a great opportunity to engage in some realistic talk with your kids.

Let them know how many hours an average intern making $10 an hour would have to work to afford a $500 pair of sunglasses, not to mention up to $2,000 a month for rent and a car payment of over $600.

When that Survivor or Apprentice contestant gets rewarded for double-crossing his opponent, it might be a good time to talk about the consequences for unethical behavior in the real world.
When people on television fall casually in bed with one another, let them know that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Remind them that there are consequences involved in all of your actions.

You can’t always be with your kids but the knowledge you give them will stick with them even when you can’t.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Navigating Through the Negative

On the path to success, you will encounter naysayers, doubters and people who will try to shoot you down. They will offer unconstructive criticism. They will question your commitment or your abilities. They may even actively try to sabotage you. But it’s not what they do that matters, it’s what you do that will make the difference.

When this happens to you – and it will if you are trying to do something different from others around you, it pays to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Is there anything positive I can take from this situation? This question is particularly useful in the face of unjust or unfair criticism. Just because it is unjust or unfair doesn’t mean that there can’t be a nugget of truth in it. Look for that nugget. If you find one, great. If not, keep your head up and keep going.

Is this worth a response? When it comes to criticism and comments from close family and friends and even those who aren’t close to us, our knee-jerk reaction is to defend ourselves, our choices and our actions. But is that always the best way to go? When it comes to people who are dead-set in their ways and beliefs, is it worth it to defend your position? Is defending yourself really the best use of your time, your energy and emotion?

Is there away to avoid this situation in the future? Consider putting some distance between you and this person. If they are family or close friends, you might not be able to do this or even want to, however, you don’t necessarily have to share your dreams and your progress with them. If it is an acquaintance, do you have to interact with this person at all. Finally, consider having a discussion with this person at a later time – once emotions have cooled and some time has passed.

Here is a case in point: I recently had what turned out to be a very contentious phone call with a business associate. It became clear after almost 10 minutes that we simply weren’t going to come to a consensus on the matter. When we ended the call, I felt we were done - agree to disagree and go our own ways. The next morning I received an email from him. He reiterated his points and accused me of not being committed to my career as a coach.

My knee-jerk reaction was to rattle off an email in the same condescending tone that he took with me. But I put some thought into it first.

Is there anything positive I can take from this situation? I read his email and there were one or two things that he mentioned that I could be doing to further my business.

Is it worth a response: This is a man I haven’t had contact with in over six months. He’s criticizing me with no knowledge of anything I’ve been doing during that time. Secondly, the only purpose of the email, from my perspective, was to engage me in a dialogue that was not going to be productive or positive. I decided not to respond to that email.

Is there away to avoid this situation in the future? Certainly. I set up a rule so that any emails from him automatically go to my junk folder. I also deleted him as a contact from Linked In.

Had I gone with the knee jerk reaction and responded with a catty email, I could have easily seen a back-and-forth that got increasingly nastier and nastier. Feelings would have been hurt, egos bruised. Emailing and getting emotionally would have taken a lot of time, wasted a lot of emotional energy and taken my focus off of the work that I needed to do. I decided that it simply wasn’t worth

It’s your dream. It’s your life. It’s yours to enjoy and it’s also yours to defend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weakness as Strength

How we define terms makes a difference. Anthony Robbins once shared a story about a man at one of his retreats who felt like a failure. This man was a CEO, making millions a year and living a life that would seem enviable to most. Yet, his definition of success was so specific and so rigid that since he hadn’t attained every aspect of it, he felt like a failure. Instead of enjoying all that he had, he spent most of his time agonizing over what he didn’t have.

Like many of us struggle with definitions of success and failure, I want to talk about another pair of related words that people have trouble defining, strength and weakness. How we define those two words can have a huge impact on others like success and love.

If we were to play word association with the word strength, you’d probably come up with words and phrases like: independent, powerful, getting things done, emotionally solid, in control, a leader. Likewise, a word like weakness would conger up images like: dependent, cracks under pressure, needing lots of help, becoming a burden, overly emotional, a follower.

But to me being strong is a little more complicated than that. Sometimes strength is admitting that you need help or that you have a weakness (or issue) that needs to be addressed. How many people do you know who have sacrificed marriages, relationships with children, employment opportunities or maybe even their health (physical or mental) because their definition of strength said that being strong meant that you never needed help?

Well, is it strong to watch relationships crumble, and opportunities dry up? Is it strong to watch your health deteriorate when you had in your control the ability to seek and get help? Is it strong to watch the people you love walk away because you can’t show vulnerability? I maintain that seeking help from others, acknowledging weakness and sometimes showing emotion and laying your cards on the table are the strongest things you can do.

I had a friend in college, who I believe could have benefited from professional help. She came from an impoverished and emotionally abusive background and that upbringing colored all of her relationships and decisions. She attracted the wrong men. Her feelings of inadequacy forced her to drop out of college. Her inappropriate reactions at work cost her several jobs. Yet to her, getting help was tantamount to admitting failure and showing weakness. How much stronger could she have been, how different could her life have been if she had shown true strength and sought the help she needed?

Sometimes strength is being that solid leader, but strength is also knowing when to be a follower and knowing when to ask for assistance.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gift of Goodbye

At church the other day, the pastor mentioned something he called, The Gift of Goodbye. Basically, some people do you a favor by leaving. I had never thought about it that way but it’s true.

Some people, and some situations, do us a favor by saying goodbye. It might be painful at first but later, after time has begun its healing, we see that the goodbye really was a gift. When we see how things turned out, we can wipe our brow and feel satisfied that we dodged a bullet.

However, sometimes I think that we need to initiate the goodbye. Even if it’s a gift we give ourselves, it’s still a gift. I once had a friend who dragged me into a lot of negative situations. And when I looked at our relationship, I realized that it was overwhelmingly more negative than positive. Yet, I remained her friend, and a close friend at that, out of loyalty and because it seemed like “the right thing to do.”

Finally, after one more serious incident, I’d had enough. I initiated the goodbye. It felt good. One day, months later, my father asked me how this friend was doing. I told him I didn’t know and that I had ended the relationship.

He told me, in so many words, that I was wrong for doing what I did. I explained however, that I didn’t end our friendship out of anger or spite and that I didn’t hold on to any feelings of bitterness or anger. Simply put, we were different people with different priorities and different ways of communicating and handling problems. I wished her nothing but the best but the best thing for me was to initiate the goodbye.

Knowing when to let go and mustering up the strength to do it is a critical skill that we all need to develop. It's not about giving up easily or throwing in the towel. It is about knowing when enough is enough. It is about recognizing when it's difficult or detrimental for something to continue.

It takes knowing yourself. It takes courage. It takes maturity.

The gift of goodbye is one of the best gifts we can receive and sometimes give.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dress Rehearsals

There is some truth to the saying that there is no dress rehearsal for life. This is the Big Show. However, there are some times where we can have an opportunity for a dress rehearsal.

There are some situations that are completely unexpected: a car accident, a heart attack, receiving life-changing news from a close family member. Still there are others that we think we can plan for but still have a lot of unexpected twists and turns … marriage, divorce, birth of a child, a new job.

There are some situations, though, where we can reasonably expect certain actions and conversations and for those we can prepare. We can have a dress rehearsal.

As the holidays approach, many of us will be going home for a visit or having family come to us. Family is almost always complicated. An overly critical parent, the sister who loves to laud her success over your head, dealing with your cousin’s precocious kids, we can prepare for those events by rehearsing in our heads how we will respond.

We can think about what we can say when the inevitable critical comment comes or the cutting snide remark. We can figure out who are allies will be or we can plan for a graceful exit.

Maybe it’s something simpler, like staying on your diet at the office party or at dinner with friends. Think about what you plan to eat or what you will say to the happy host who will insist that you have dessert.

A little pre-planning, or thinking things through, can make the actual event go a lot more smoothly.

Take advantage of the dress rehearsal and make your actual performance that much better.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stepping Out Of Your Own Way

As a coach, as things happen, I always look for the lessons in everything that happens. Releasing my eBook, has shown me a lot! One important lesson I’ve learned is that in some cases, I’m my own biggest obstacle.

I have submitted press releases electronically all over the country. The procedure is to submit the release and then follow-up with a phone call. The phone call is the part I dread. I’m not a big procrastinator but there are a few things I tend to put off and this was one of them.

What’s the big deal? I don’t know but when I think of pitch calls, I think of the person on the other end thinking of me as some sort of telemarketer – and you know how people treat telemarketers. So before I even pick up the phone I have vivid visions of rude producers and guest contacts. I see in my mind people hanging up on me or just showing a stunning level of disinterest.

Plus, I had some rather big names on my list, and when I thought about calling those big national shows, I got intimidated. Who am I to sit on a stage that has been littered with celebrities and household names?

There was little doubt on that Monday morning before I started making my calls that I was in the wrong frame of mind. If I was going to start out feeling defeated, then what was the point. So I thought about it some more and actually came up with some answers to my own self-defeating questions.

What if people are rude? It’s a possibility but it’s the job of the producer to find good content for their shows, so most of the people will probably hear me out. Besides, if one is rude that doesn’t mean all of them will be. The rude people will be in the minority.

Who am I? I’m Karyn Beach and I have a great, quality program that I’m offering that will truly help people save time and reduce stress. People need to hear about this!

Why should I be a guest on a big-time national show? I’m passionate about my product and because when I’ve done television and radio in the past and done very well as a guest.

After I thought about it, I wasn’t thrilled about making the calls but I was in a much better mindset about it. I was ready.

And do you know what? That day, I didn’t encounter any rude callers. In fact, I mostly got voicemails, but the people I did speak with were open and receptive. By the end, I was actually having a bit of fun!

Coming up with answers to your most negative questions and rebuttals to your most defeating comments can make a huge difference in how you approach your obstacles and overcome them.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Climb

For me, hiking is like a form of active meditation. When I lived in Maryland, I found a park with a trail that I loved. It was 5 miles long and winded down around the Patapsco River.

At first, I would only do the first part of the trail, but one day I decided to go the whole 5 miles. I made my way down by the river. It was beautiful, quiet and scenic. There were very few people on the trail, so as I walked, I really had time to enjoy the peacefulness of just being in nature.

Well, as with most guided trails, every once in a while you come to a tree with a marker, my marker on this trail was just a white stripe on a tree. When you see a tree with two stripes, it’s a sign that the path is changing directions, a quick glance to the left or the right will reveal another tree with a single white stripe that you follow to continue on your trail.

So I’m about 4 miles in. The river is to my right. To my left, the woods gave way to a hill, as I walk, I notice the hill on my left is getting steeper and steeper. In fact, I can see the deer prints on the steep hill where deer appear to have slid partially down the hill.

I said to myself, “Thank goodness, I don’t have to go up there.” Well, about 100 feet later, I come across the dreaded double stripe; I could not go any further on this trail. To my right is the water. Can’t go that way. The only possible way I can go is left, up the hill. Slowly I turn to my left and there, midway up the steep, deep, hill, there it is – the lone stripe letting me know that THIS is the way I have to go. I said to myself, “Oh, s**t.” It wasn’t easy but finally I made it to the top grabbing on to trees, branches and occasionally thick tree roots along the way. At the top, as I had several times on the climb up, I had to stop and catch my breath. The good part is that once I got to the top, the hike was almost over.

I continued to walk this path about once a week and I truly enjoyed it. But from that day on, whenever I got about halfway through I began dreading the climb up what I affectionately called Oh S**t Hill. Each time I walked the trail, I had that miserable climb in the back of my head and each time I struggled to make it to the top.

One day, all of that changed. Midway though the walk, I got a nagging pain in my thigh. I tried to walk it off but couldn’t. At one point, I wanted to turn around and go back but I was so far along that it would have taken me even longer to go back the way I’d come.

On this day, when I saw my old friend OSH, I didn’t look at it with dread. This time, I looked at it with relief. This time, that hill didn’t represent a difficult challenge; it represented the only thing standing between me and the end of that trail. I took a deep breath and started to climb. I climbed harder and faster than I ever had before and as I reached the top, I realized I hadn’t even lost my breath. I was back at my car in about 10 minutes.

The hill hadn’t changed. I hadn’t changed. But, what it represented in my mind did, and that made all the difference. The hill stopped being an obstacle. It stopped being a problem. It actually became something I looked forward to.

Changing the way that hill looked to me made all of the difference.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Get Some Satisfaction

The latest news reports say that the recession is over. While that may be true on paper and in theory, it’s another story in our everyday reality. Lately, I’ve had a number of clients and friends who are extremely disappointed in their current employment situation. Some are lay-off survivors who have endured pay cuts or pay freezes, the loss of work friends and a marked increase in workload. A few have found work but due to the lack of available positions took jobs making significantly less than what they were accustomed to or doing work that pays the bills but doesn’t really appeal to them.

The average worker works over 8 hours a day and commutes about 50 minutes a day. Add to that the time spent getting ready for work, decompressing from work and preparing for the next day of work, you see that the majority of the work week is spent at work or in work-related activities. We see our coworkers more than we see our children, significant others and friends.

Basically, we spent too much time at work to be miserable. And workplace misery rarely stays at the office. It makes the commute home with us and we end up snapping at the kids, arguing with the spouse and pushing away from the friends. It’s a vicious cycle. But how do we stop it?

Lay-off survivors and underemployed professionals hear the recession mantra all the time, “Be lucky that you have a job.” “At least you are working.” There is some truth to that but in and of itself it is rarely enough to get us through the day.

So what can we do take those lemons and make a satisfying lemonade?

Scavenger Hunt: As a kid, scavenger hunts were fun. We looked everywhere for hidden goodies and secret treasures. Do the same at work. Looking at your work tasks, look for a few tasks in your workday that you enjoy and can look forward to. Focus on those and not on the things you dread.

Don’t Dwell in Hell: Speaking of things you dread, try not to focus on those. Keep work in perspective. It’s something you do, it’s not who you are. This isn’t the 1950’s, you won’t be working in one place for 50 years and then retiring to a pension and a gold watch. The job you are in now is a bridge to something better. Success at your current job will pave the way for success at the next one.

Break on your Breaks: Working though your breaks on a regular basis is a recipe for burnout. Get away from your desk, office or cubicle for those 10 to 15 minutes. Use at least have of your lunch break to do something crazy like … eat lunch. Mentally, you need that time away. By taking just that 10 minutes to take a short walk, get a cup of coffee or a glass of water or just to talk to your work buddy about Hell’s Kitchen, you will return to your work with a stronger focus and a more relaxed demeanor.

Use Your Rearview: As you pull out of the parking lot at the end of the day, glance a couple times in your rearview mirror. Watch as your workplace fades into the background. The background is exactly where your workplace belongs at the end of the day. Don’t take your work woes home with you. Use your commute time to refocus on home. Even if you will have to take work home with you, put some space and time between the end of work and doing your work at home.

Change Your Attitude: Obviously an attitude of gratitude, being grateful to have a job, will only get you so far. Have an attitude of excellence with a clear focus on the future. If you want out of your current job, then master it. Do the absolute best you can. Concentrate on giving the best service to your customers, your coworkers and your boss. Focus on doing the best you can has clear benefits for them but there are also clear benefits for you. Taking your focus off the negative and on what you can do puts you in control and improves your attitude. It’s the definition of a win-win.

Finally, keep your chin up. This too shall pass … and when it does you will find yourself in a much better place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When Bootylicious Wasn't

Back in the spring, I was asked to participate in a project about women and self-esteem. Each woman was asked to contribute a short essay about her experiences grappling with her own self-esteem. Since this is an issue I'm very passionate about, I didn't hesitate to share my story. I felt, with today's blog (see above), this was the perfect time to share this piece.

Growing up I was 'lucky.' I was smart and funny and had the privilege of going to a great school. Of course, for years, I was the only black girl in my class - a drop of chocolate in a sea of vanilla. I stuck out. And matters only got worse around the 7th grade when I could add curves to the growing list of things that made me different from my classmates.

Hips . butt . thickness . blackness. It belonged to me and me alone in the Class of 86. It was hard not to feel self-conscious. I didn't get that same look in my Jorache jeans. And my curves didn't suit Calvin Klein very well either.

While no one commented to me directly, it was hard not to feel a little out of place when my petite classmates complained about being 'fat' and the horrors of having a 'big butt'. Frankly, I didn't see any butt when I looked at them . But when I turned around it was a different story.
I tried to starve myself throughout high school. I actually wanted to be anorexic. I hated the fact that not eating made me sick. If only I could lose that butt!

Over two decades later, after years of agony, I have finally come to a place of not only self-acceptance but self-love. My curves are mine and I wouldn't trade them for anything. And what's funny is that fashion has finally caught up with me. Bootylicious is a good thing now. Women actually pay to get tanned and to get their lips plumped.

And the other day, I experienced the ultimate victory when I saw a product I'll never need . butt-padded panties for the booty-impaired.

The curvy girl gets the last laugh.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Lucky

What does it really mean when someone is considered lucky? Does it mean that nothing bad ever happens? Does it mean everything always works out the way they hope? We wish people good luck. Some people carry good luck charms. In fact, there is a whole subsection of superstitions dedicated to what you can do to improve your luck. So short of throwing salt over your shoulder and not breaking mirrors, what can you do to get lucky?

I think luck starts with attitude and expectations. ‘Unlucky’ people like to say how unlucky they are or dwell on how often things don’t work. Whereas most of the people I know who are considered lucky focus on the positive, they think and talk about what is going right. They look at the future with optimism instead of ominous dread.

If you are ‘unlucky in love’, could that have something to do with your attitude about love? Are you expecting more ‘bad luck’? If so, should you be surprised when you get it?

I think lucky people also have more resilience. When they’ve applied for 99 jobs, they continue to put their resume out there, instead of taking time out for a pity party. They look at what isn’t working and dare to make changes. They tweak the resume, brush up on their interview skills, they do something about the situation.

Finally, in my experiences, most lucky people exude a positive energy. You can actually feel it when you are in their presence. Energy attracts like energy. These are people you want to be around and to me that is the key to luck. People and things are drawn to them because of their attitude, their resilience and their spirit.

Lucky people hold on to the positive and then act on it. Lucky people aren’t just thinkers or wishers or dreamers, they are doers.

Want to change your luck?
  • Be positive
  • Be optimistic
  • Be resilient
  • Be a doer

Watch how your luck will change!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How To Feel Pretty

A couple of years the Dove Organization, which runs The Campaign for Real Beauty, surveyed 3,000 women globally. Astoundingly, only 2% of those women considered themselves beautiful. I thought the same thing you are probably thinking right now. Beautiful sets the bar really high. What about cute, attractive or pretty? With other, less loaded words, the results weren’t much better: 9% went with attractive and 7% identified themselves as good-looking or cute, 5% were pretty.

The only two words to garner more than a 10% response were natural with 31% and average with 29%.

I know there is a lot back story involved with these numbers. As women, we don’t want to come across as vain or conceited, and I think that plays a significant role in why we shy away from words like beautiful and, to a lesser degree, pretty and attractive.

But, there is an underlying perception there as well, and that is that a lot of us just don’t feel attractive. We don’t, as the song from West Side Story says, “Feel Pretty.”

Growing up, as one of the few black girls in my class, I didn’t feel pretty. In fact, I felt down right ugly. A fact that was reinforced by several boys in my class who during gym in Middle School made sure I knew that, at least in their eyes, I was “black and ugly.”

I wrestled through high school, college and through my 20’s with this stigma. I even stood up a great guy in college because I just couldn’t believe that he would want to go out with me. I certainly couldn’t see anything good about me and I couldn’t see how anyone else could either.

When I look back, it pains me to see how many years I wasted settling for less because I didn’t feel or believe that I was worth, or deserved, more.

Then, one day, I guess you could say that I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I decided to work on my self esteem, really work on it. With time and a whole lot of effort, I realized that the ‘black and ugly’ seventh grade duckling with the braces and bad hair cut had become, in her own way, a swan.

Here is what I did:

I asked. I asked my closest friends to name something about me that was attractive. They told me I had a beautiful smile and happy, animated eyes. They told me I had a nice figure. They liked my smooth skin.

I looked. I looked in the mirror and at pictures of myself and slowly I began to see those very things. “You know,” I said to myself, “Years of braces paid off, I do have pretty, straight, white teeth. I do have a great smile.”

I was honest. I was honest in assessing that even with the eyes and the smile and the yada, yada, there were still some things about myself that I wasn’t crazy about and might never be crazy about but that was okay. Everyone has things they aren’t crazy about, even supermodels.

I focused. I focused on what I liked about myself and slowly, those positive things, and not the things I didn’t like, were where I focused my thinking.

I looked beyond. I looked beyond the physical. When I asked my friends what they found attractive in me, they went beyond the physical and I realized that I needed to do that too. Listening to them, I found that my dedication as a good friend, my sense of humor, and my willingness to help made me just as beautiful as a smile or bright eyes. And that to truly embrace my beauty I had to embrace the total package … inside and out.

So do I think I’m beautiful? Honestly, I’m part of the 98% that would not use that word to describe myself. But I will take cute, pretty or attractive. : )

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go Karyn! It's Your Birthday!

You know that song September by Earth Wind and Fire. The first line is “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” Well, I do! Okay, I don’t remember the exact night in 19-ahem when I came into the world, but I’ve made a point in remembering that day ever since! Today is my birthday!

I know people who don’t make a big deal about their birthdays. They like them to pass without any fanfare or even any major announcements or acknowledgement. Not me – I’m sure many will blame the only child in me but I absolutely love my birthday. I don’t need expensive gifts or big parties but I do like to celebrate my day! Major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and The Fourth of July belong to everyone but my birthday is my special day (okay, I share it with Ricki Lake, funny guy Bill Murray, cutie pie Luke Wilson, and country singer Faith Hill).

Here is a list of reasons why people should make at least a little deal out of their birthdays.

10. Some places let you eat for free on your birthday (and a free meal is always a good thing).
9. You’ve made it though another year and a lot of folks weren’t that lucky.
8. You are officially a year older but you don’t look any older than you did yesterday.
7. If the hubs/wife or significant other forgets, you can milk a few more free meals out of it (I’ll say it again, a free meal is always a good thing).
6. Name another occasion where you can get people to sing to you.
5. Cake
4. It’s like your own personal New Year’s Day! Make new resolutions. Set some goals.
3. You could score some nice gifts, or at least a few gift cards or funny e-cards.
2. You can act as silly as you want and use your birthday as an excuse.
1. No birthday? Consider the alternative.

One thing I never do on my birthday is work. As you read this I’m either:

Sleeping in.
Eating strawberry covered pancakes.
Dancing to my special birthday mix CD.
Somewhere watching a funny movie.
Getting taken out to dinner - which makes free meal # 2 ;)
Digging into my birthday cake
Singing in the car on my way home.

It’s my birthday! Do something ridiculous!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Service with a Smile ... Goes the Extra Mile

I’ve worked in customer service. I’ve trained customer service. And, like all of you, I’ve been on the receiving end of all sorts of customer service. So I can say with certainty, things tend to go better when you are nice, polite and professional. Sure there are occasions where that might not be true but those make up the exception more than the rule.

Many people, unfortunately don’t get that, they come off demanding and condescending and intimidating. Some times that works but more often than not it doesn’t. I once worked at a high-end hotel known for their customer service. As Customer Service Reps we were given some wiggle room when it came to handling complains. We could comp a night or two or have a special basket sent to a room without getting management approval first.

When people were nice and professional and respectful to me, I would go out of my way to accommodate their needs. On the other hand, when people were rude, abrupt and hostile, I was professional, to be sure, but I wasn’t bending over backwards to be extra helpful.

When I teach customer service, I explain to the representatives that a good customer service helps them as much as it helps the customer. For example, you are on the phone with a particularly difficult customer. Finally, you are able to end the call. Immediately afterwards, the phone rings again. Guess what? Your tone of voice is still the same as it was when you were talking to hostile guy! Since people respond to vocal cues and nuances on a gut level, the caller responds in kind with a slightly hostile and defensive tone of her own. Before you know it, what could have been a simple call is fraught with tension and strain.

If you are giving customer service, being polite and professional benefits you because it helps you to keep your emotions in check and when you are in control of your emotions, you are less likely to experience a lot of negativity and hostility. When you are the customer service rep:

  • Use the 10 second time out. If you find yourself in an emotionally escalating situation, put the caller on hold and take a couple deep cleansing breaths and a moment to calm yourself. Then return to the call. Don’t leave the person on hold though! That could make a bad situation worse.
  • Wait. Wait a minute or so after a difficult call before picking up the next one. Give yourself a chance to calm down and get the ‘attitude’ out of your voice.
  • Empathize. Remember, people are calling you because you have been trained and you have access to the information they need. Don’t expect people to know everything you know or to have done everything you think they should have done. You are the expert. Walk them through your process.
  • Give the play-by-play. Let people know what’s going on and what you are doing. Eliminate the long awkward pauses. “The computer is slow today.” “Please give me a moment while I research your account.”

However, there are a few tips for the customer who has to call customer service.

  • You are angry at the company not their representative. Most of the time, we don’t get to speak to the person who messed everything up. We are speaking to the person we hope can solve our problem. Unleashing your wrath on the unsuspecting person who just happened to answer the phone will not help the situation; it will only make it worse. Be polite.
  • Save the Sarcasm. It comes off poorly when you are face-to-face with someone and it sounds even worse over the phone. Condescension and a bad attitude will not help you win over the customer service rep. You need them as your ally and not your adversary.
  • Intimidation is not the method. Fear and threats are often used by people intent on “getting results.” On occasion, the bullying method actually works. More often than not, it doesn’t. It just leaves all parties involved frustrated and upset.

When it comes to customer service specifically and just dealing with people in general, a taste of honey goes a whole lot further than a gallon of vinegar.