Monday, December 31, 2012

5 Things You Should Know Before You Write Those New Year's Resolutions

I love a clean sheet of paper. I love to make lists. I love to commit to writing what I want to change up in my life. I think it is a great and necessary first step to making it happen. So you would think I would be a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m not.

I have my reasons.  For starters, I don’t like the word.  Which is why my list is labeled Intentions. I also don’t think it needs to be the New Year to experiment with change. I think change is necessary to growth and that is a year round activity. But that’s just me. And I tend not to fit into the norm.

Most people will make a list that will be doomed before they finish it. It might even be the same list they wrote last year and the year before that, only now on a fresh sheet of paper. They'll tuck it away someplace safe. Maybe even for a few days they'll act on it. Half way through the year they'll wonder why nothing changed. 

Here's what they needed to know before they started:

1- Don’t call them resolutions!  Resolution is a terrible word. It’s so clinical and unsexy. You’re doomed to failure before you start. Plus, it implies that whatever you were doing before was a big problem that you are now going to re solve. That does not sound like fun, and let’s face it, if there is not a way to have fun with this, why bother? 

2-Experiment with the word intention. Intention has no fixed outcome. You can intend to do something differently. You can intend to create something new. And by intending instead of resolving you allow the Universe to intercede, perhaps delivering up something that is even better than what you originally wrote down. 

3- Remember that true change requires discipline. Yes, discipline. Not a very user-friendly word in our culture. But if it is a 2013 that does not look like 2012 you want, you are going to have to exert some discipline.

For instance, if one of your resolutions/intentions/desires is to expand your business network then put aside at least one hour a week to go and spend on LinkedIn.  Set the timer and don’t get up until  it goes off. And then do it again, next week. 

4-Don’t forget to check your progress. Most of us will forget where we stored the list before Martin Luther King’s Birthday rolls around much less what we wrote on it. If you’re really intent on making some changes in 2013, you need to revisit that list periodically and see how things are going. Set up a schedule of reminders. 

I’ve become a big fan of a program called GoodtoDo that allows me to schedule recurring ToDo’s. This year I will set one so I can check in every month on how I’m doing with my intentions. The beauty of the program is that you don't have to worry about remembering to check in. Through the miracle of technology the program will remind you automatically on the day you told it. 

Let’s face it, in this 24/7 information on overload world we live in, we will all forget, no matter how important or what our age. In fact, it is often the things that we want most to change that we subconsciously push to the back of our mind.

Hold yourself accountable. Or enlist the help of someone or something else. Like GoodtoDo.

5-Read your list out loud. Preferably in the company of a living, breathing witness. Check in with yourself. Can you feel the rightness of your intentions? Are they coming from a true desire you have or what you think you should be doing?  If they make you nauseous, is it the good kind that lets you know you’re on the right track and headed towards something good? Or is it the kind that is a warning signal to you that this isn't really what you want on your list this year?

Now go to it! Make that list. Check in on it every month and let me know how it goes. Happy New Year!

Happy new year 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Day The World Did Not End

"All roads lead here, and this is where all worlds end"

The first time I heard the world was scheduled to end I was thirteen.  I had just met a Jehovah’s Witness. Up until then my world according to religion was divided amongst my own Greek Orthodox family, the Jews who were predominant in my neighborhood and the Catholics who went to Our Lady of Snows. I didn’t know much about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed or how it compared to the way I was raised. So I was rather jarred when my new acquaintance told me that according to what she was being taught the world was going to end in seven years.

Seven years! I was bit terrified. When I did the math I was even more afraid. If my simple addition was correct the world would come to a screeching halt somewhere around my twentieth birthday. As far as I was concerned I had not even begun to start really living my life much less be prepared for the demise of it.  And then there was the question of what was going to happen to all of us if it was really going to end. It was all too much for my young and impressionable self, so I took the subject to the one person I was sure would make me feel better. My father.

I still remember the look on his face. Apparently my fear amused him, because he broke out into a big smile, laughed before taking another puff on his cigarette (my father was always smoking) before he pulled me into one of his famous big bear hugs and laid some truth on me.

“Honey, don’t you worry about a thing. They’ve been saying the world was going to end in seven years since I was your age!  And it still hasn’t happened.”

My father had a way of assuring me like no one else ever has. I marched back into school the next day and announced to said friend that she was wrong and my father was right. So there!

She didn’t want to hear any of it, which I didn’t really understand at the time. It seemed to me that an assurance the world would keep on spinning past our twentieth birthdays was good news.

That experience taught me three things.
  1. There would always be doomsayers and they would never be interested in why their theory might be wrong.
  2. It was wise not to befriend them.
  3. A little humor and a smile is very reassuring.

It also colored the way I took in all the brouhaha that has been percolating around the Mayan Calendar ending today. If you’ve done your homework you know the “world ending” interpretation was a whisper down the lane version of the world as we know it. You’d know that December 21, signals the end of this Mayan calendar and the beginning of another. You’d know that many believe, as I do, that is the start of a new world order in which masculine and feminine energies will be in balance, and that is a good thing because if you haven’t noticed they’ve been out of balance for about two thousand years.  That we are on the cusp of the promise of a more beautiful and enlightened future.

But even if I didn’t know all that I still carry around my father’s assurances from so long ago.

“Honey, there will always be people saying things like that. There are always people who want things to go wrong.  You just keep smiling and remember it will all be okay.”

I imagine that right this moment, now that we've made it through to the other side of today, someone is concocting up the next dire prediction.

I won’t be listening. Instead, I’ll focus my efforts on what I can do to help create that better new world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not My Holiday Gift Guide

Today I was going to post my holiday gift guide. The one in which I would remind you all about the books I've written and the coaching programs I offer that make great holiday gifts and how buying from people like me supports small business. But I couldn't bring myself to hit publish. It felt too soon to go back to business as usual. At least not publicly. Not after Friday. Not just yet.

I've been quiet since then. I haven't been doing much of my usual social media thing. But I have been reading and watching. I obsessed with CNN's coverage for much of Saturday. I'm like an addict when these tragedies occur. I find myself unable to press the off button on the remote or even to change the channel. I shed tears for children and adults I never met.  I felt the collective anguish of so many others. I tried to make sense of something that will never make sense. And it was only when I realized I had seen the same interview three times that I managed to pull myself away from one medium and move myself to another.

I read the Facebook posts and the Twitter feeds. People weighing in on their sorrow and their feelings about gun control and how we deal with mental illness in our society. But I continued to refrain from posts of my own.

Not that I don't have a lot to say about gun control and mental illness. Or about some of the outlandishly insensitive statements made by the many who did choose to make their feelings known.

I was simply unable to find any words that seemed adequate. I still can't.

I cannot begin to fathom what those children and adults who were murdered went through in their final moments, nor those who witnessed it. No amount of empathy can come close to replicating the emotions of the parents and families who have lost their loved ones to horror and need to now try to figure out how to move on. 

What is easier for me to articulate is that I am struck, once again, by our inability to stop and pause, to take in the enormity of a situation like this and to demonstrate a modicum of sensitivity. To be quiet. 

Instead we fill the band waves with endless conversation and posturing about what needs to be done and what should be done to prevent this in the future. 

We don't stop. We don't pause. We don't allow ourselves to feel the magnitude of such a tragedy. We spew whatever we feel like the next day on the social network of our choice. We vent our rage, our disbelief. Some just ignore and before taking a breath are once again tweeting pictures of the Christmas cookies they just baked, offering up the ten reasons to dump your man or how to have a "killer book signing." To say I found that offensive and insensitive is simply an understatement.

Which is why it felt too uncomfortable for me to hit publish on the cheery holiday gift guide post I had ready to go without acknowledging what happened in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.

Not that I don't want you to buy my wares. I do. I have a business and a living to earn, but I did need to press pause and reflect. At least for one more day. It seemed the right thing to do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

So Good To Do

When it comes to time management I am all for simplicity. I am not a fan of adding another App or complicated piece of technology into the mix for the purpose of managing work flow. We have enough new technology crowding our overloaded brains already. To me it seems inane to add one more for the purpose of managing all the rest.

To really streamline things, I believe in mixing things up with as many old fashioned methods as possible. Hence, my predilection to managing my work load with the aide of a non-digital, hand cranked kitchen timer.

But I am about to make an exception. I am a Good Todo convert.

When I first heard about it I dismissed it without even taking a look for the reasons I already mentioned. Not that I don't believe in to-do lists. I do. The simple act of writing down what needs to be done, eliminates worry and frees up genius for the art at hand. Paper and pen have worked for me, especially since any electronic programs that I had tested out only seemed to complicate things and take up more of my time.

But when my friend Nancy Moon tells me I must look, I listen. Not only does she run a top notch PR and Social Media firm, she is always one step ahead on what's new and cutting edge in technology. She's never steered me wrong. So when she wouldn't stop talking about how much more she was accomplishing because of this one little program, I had to take a look. No matter how much I might resist.

And am I glad I did.

Good Todo is an online to-do list that helps you to empty your email inbox and improve your productivity. 

There are several great features:

  • Most importantly, it is easy to maneuver. You do not need to know how to write code to use it.
  • It will sync with all your devices so if you are out to dinner and remember something you want to add, you can do it from your phone and know it will appear on your desktop in the morning.
  • You can create a to-do for future days
  • You can manage your to-dos by categories, so you separate personal from business or however many you need  for your work flow. I added one for Christmas this month to address all my holiday to-dos. 
  • If you don't get to something today, it automatically rolls over to the next day.
  • There is a place for notes about a specific to-do. I created a category for Blogs in which I keep track of the blogs I want to write. The notes section is a great place to capture the snippets I want to include in that blog. Once the blog is ready I redate the item for the day I am going to put it in the cue to be published.
  • You can forward an email to your to-do list. This is probably one of its coolest features. If you get an email that you don't want to act on immediately, you can forward it to your to-do list and label it for the day you want to work on it. And you don't have to worry about it getting lost in the clutter.

There are a couple of little hitches that I came across. For instance I discovered that for the devices to sync you have to push the refresh tab. I was clued into this by the creator, Mark Hurstwho rather impressively responded immediately to my email when I told him of my problem. He also informed me they are continuing to work on improvements.

There is a free trial plan. If you have more than 10 to-dos a month you'll need to sign up for the $3 a month plan. Reasonable and by me, definitely worth it. 

There are very few things that will really "change your life" so don't expect this to. But what it will do is help you to manage your to-do list more productively and with greater ease.  At least that's what it's doing for me.

For more information and to sign up visit Good todo 

For more ideas on how to create more time for your life, pick up a copy of It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life

Friday, December 7, 2012

How To Stop Wasting Time Worrying

I come from a long line of worriers. Part genetic (my mother) and part cultural (being Greek). I grew up surrounded by people who considered it an art form, complete with a set of worry beads to hold while performing their craft. My grandfather would sit in his recliner for hours, his thumb moving the beads back and forth while the strand was draped around his hand doing nothing but worrying. I have no idea about what. Like most men of his generation he was not a man of many words. 

My mother inherited his obsession. She tells me that she was born with two worry birds, one sitting on each shoulder. Lucky for her she married my father, who didn't worry about very much. It was a good balance. He tried to get her to stop. He would tell her not to worry so much. She would tell him she couldn't help herself. It was a dance they did their entire marriage. 

I had a front row seat to see how much time could be wasted worrying. The evidence was right in front of me that worrying would not change a thing. You can't stop anything from happening by worrying. Nor can you make anything happen you are worried won't.  You would have thought I would have learned not to worry at all. To be more like my father.

Some days I am. But as I said, this worrying thing is in my blood. It can sneak up when I'm least suspecting. And if it gets me in its claws, well, I can lose a whole day.

So I'm always looking for tools to help when that happens. 

Tools like The God Box.

The God Box is the title of a memoir in which the author shares her mother's gift of faith, love and letting go.  Mary Lou Quinlan's mother kept a God Box for years, a collection of notes to God on behalf of family, friends and strangers in which she would ask for help without expectation. Instead of worrying, she would write it down, drop it in the box and let it go. Or as I like to say surrender to a power greater than herself.

When her mother died, Mary Lou uncovered ten God Boxes stuffed with little pieces of paper that spanned the last twenty years of her mothers life, offering a wealth of insight into her mother as well as herself. It's a wonderful story I highly recommend,  as long as you have a big box of tissues next to you and no where to go until the puffiness from all the crying subsides. 

I had the pleasure of hearing Mary Lou speak the other week. The God Box, it seems, has taken on a life of its own. There is a website, The God Box Project, a play, and yes, even an App if you want to create your own God Box and don't want to kill a tree in the process.

It doesn't surprise me how this has caught on. Whatever your image of a higher power is, God, Goddess, Buddha or Allah, surrendering your worries to them by writing on a slip of paper, asking please and thank you, is a wonderful symbolization of release. By doing this, you feel like you've done something when really all you've done is delegate it. The worry bird is off your shoulder and in the hands of someone who might actually be able to do something about it. I think that's pretty efficient business and what I consider a true time saver

Yes, if you are wondering, I have started a God Box of mine own only I call mine my God and Goddess Box. I believe they work better together than alone.

For more about Mary Lou Quinlan and The God Box Project go to:

PS. The God Box, like most books, mine included, make great holiday gifts!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Are You Choosing The Words That Will Get You Noticed?

Choosing the right words is essential to telling a good story. The right combination has the power to influence. If we do it correctly, words afford us the ability to create exactly the visual we want the receiver to have in their minds. 

In 7 Reasons You Need A Vibrant Digital Profile, I told you why it was important to make yours robust. So it stands to reason that the words you use to describe yourself be selected carefully. 

You might be considering a word like "creative". You assume this makes you unique. That it puts you on the short list of potentials for whatever the searcher was looking for. Who doesn't want a truly "creative" individual on their team? How many really possess such an attribute? This word, you are certain, will make your profile shine a bit brighter.

But alas, you would be sadly mistaken. You see "creative" qualifies as an overused buzzword. As do other seemingly sought after attributes like "effective" and "motivated." That is according to LinkedIn's just released 2012 List of Overused Profile Buzzwords.

Every word on this list is a good attribute. They're the kinds of qualities that a prospective employer or business connection would want you to possess. They're also the obvious choices.

And in the wild and crowded planet on which we live, one in which it is increasingly hard to be found, whether you are a person or a brand, obvious will not get you noticed.

So if everyone is using the same words, and they are all reasonably good words, how do you distinguish yourself? Do you simply check the Thesaurus and look for replacements?

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's career expert suggests that you "Show, Don't Tell."

I'm all for that. Writers live by this maxim.  If they don't you won't keep reading. 

So do revenue producers. Anyone who has ever sat in a sales meeting has heard their managers reiterate, time and time again, that they don't want to be told you are going to get the deal.  They want to see the signed contract.

Apply that premise to your profile by not simply stating that you are "a problem solver" and "innovative" but by backing it up with authentic and hopefully interesting examples. As Nicole suggests you can use the Links feature and direct the reader to a website or article that substantiates your claim. 

I think another good place to do this in your Summary section. Instead of just listing off these tired old, overused buzzwords, tell your story in full sentences, including illustrative examples of your tangible accomplishments. The whole point is to make your profile more interesting and make you jump off the page as a real, breathing, vibrant human that the reader will be pulled to call in for a meeting.

In the words of The Bee Gees, it may sound like "it's only words." You may be thinking it doesn't really matter if you include timeworn ones  in your online profile. You may convince yourself that no one really cares.

But they do. In this very competitive and noisy online world we live in, words are often all we have to "take your heart away." 

Or to make your digital profile to stand out from the crowd. 

Click here if you missed my post on ForbesWoman last week, 7 Reasons You Need A Vibrant Digital Profile 

Click here if you'd like to sign up for a  Digital Profile Makeover.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Not Just For Dummies

I confess to being a life long information junkie. Before the online world imploded with sundry sources from which to gather information, I read two newspapers a day and a stack of magazines a month. Which is probably one of the many reasons I took to the social media landscape so easily. I suddenly had access to more information than I could ever dream. Easily. Plus I had a real fascination as to how all these tools had an impact on a brand.

The result is that I know enough about social media, digital marketing, and online branding to be considered an expert.  But in today's world where it seems as if every day someone is introducing a new technology deemed to be the next great thing, it can be hard, even for the experts, to keep up.

Which is one of the things I love about Online Reputation Management for Dummies. Even someone like myself, who knows her way around the virtual world, can learn something from the book.

If you've been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for all this online "stuff"  to go the way of the horse and buggy, the mere mention of managing your online reputation probably terrifies you. But if you're also smart and still interested in earning a living it is most likely starting to get it through your resistant head that it is time to get with the program.

The question is where to start? 

You can sign up for a Digital Profile Makeover with me. And you can get yourself a copy of Online Reputation Management for Dummies. My suggestion is a print edition although it is also available electronically. The reason I suggest print on this one is that it is the kind of book you are going to want to make lots of  notes in the margins. More importantly you will want to keep it readily accessible to your computer when you try out the author's easy to follow instructions on how to do things like set up your Google Alerts and use AdWords for keyword research.

Online Reputation Management for Dummies is comprehensive and informative. It is loaded with countless tips offered in user friendly language. You can buy the book on Amazon and other smart booksellers.

Lori Randall Stradtman is the author as well as Creative Director and Founder of Social Media Design. You can follow her on Twitter @Lori_Randall or Facebook @Social Media Design.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Practice of Gratitude

I believe in the practice of gratitude. I believe if you don't make time to acknowledge what you have, you're never going to make room for all that you would like. Which is pretty contradictory to the Greek superstition I grew up with where you were encouraged not to acknowledge your good fortune. The folklore invoked a fear that if you did, you'd put the curse of the evil eye on it, and you'd be left with nothing.

That gives you an idea of why it took me so long, not to mention a lot of work, to get through my thick Greek head the importance of taking time on a daily basis to be grateful. I'm talking about getting specific. Finding ten gratefuls in your life and writing them down. Better yet, sharing them with someone else.

Some days it's easier than others. But I've learned that it's when the challenges are the greatest, and we have to really dig within to find them, that we surprise ourselves with what we come up with. I've also learned that the more we practice it, the easier it is to find what in our lives we have to be grateful for.

May Your Thanksgiving Be Stuffed With Gratitude! 

Please note that you, my readers are listed in the list below.

My Gratefuls: Thanksgiving 2012

To create your own word cloud visit Wordle. It's really easy and a lot of fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

6 Tips To Remember When Negotiating

Any sales person worth their paycheck will tell you that negotiation is the most fun and exhilarating part of the sales process.

Two sides meet. We assume they want to reach a deal, one they can both feel good about. They go in knowing what they want, in order of importance. They'd like to get everything on their wish list, but they know that a good deal is going to involve compromise. So they come prepared knowing what they are willing to give up. Good negotiation is about building relationships, so if they're smart they leave their egos at the door and try to find something, even when it's hard, to like about the other side.

I've always been a big believer that if you know how to sell and you get really good at negotiation you can be successful in almost any  endeavor. Because really, all of life is about compromising and striking deals, whether it is how to not fall off a "fiscal cliff" or deciding with your significant other where to go for Thanksgiving Dinner.

With this "fiscal cliff" looming before us, not to mention lots of holiday events worthy of serious compromise on the horizon, I thought it appropriate to offer a quick refresher on the subject.

  1. Your job is get a deal done. It is a reflection of you. In the world of sales, if you don't know how to get a deal done you don't get to keep your job.
  2. Keep things simple. The more complicated things get the less people will be willing to concede, mostly because they don't fully understand or will worry you are trying to pull something over on them.
  3. Always think Win-Win. No need to get greedy. The best negotiations are when both sides feel good about the outcome.
  4. Negotiation is compromise.  A good negotiator will always ask for more than what they want. Expect that. Know your boundaries in advance. What's most important to you and what you are willing to concede on.
  5. Be reasonable. Don't bring your ego to the meeting. As hard as it might be, try to understand the other side's perspective. Part of good selling is building relationships
  6. Negotiation is a game.  Don't get so serious that you are have blinders on to possible solutions.  Bring a little levity into things. Laughter breaks up negative energy and is often just what is needed to break through a tough spot and get back to the business at hand.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why I Will Vote Tuesday And You Should Too

There is only one thing that makes me crazier than when I hear a woman claim she is a Romney/Ryan supporter. It’s when a woman says she may not vote. Actually it makes me crazy when anyone tells me they may not vote. Ask the Greek on the corner of Broadway and 62nd Street who owns the coffee cart where I buy my Christmas tree every year.

Friday morning when we were catching up on how we made it through Sandy, he interjected how he had a fight with his wife that morning. He told her he was so mad that there wasn’t enough aide getting to his neighbors, he wasn’t going to vote. She kept telling him he had to. I did the best I could, telling him she was right, reminding him that if Romney gets elected it wouldn’t be an issue to get angry about because there would be no aide to get there. Ever. There would be no FEMA. Romney would get rid of it.  By the time I left him I made him promise he would vote. He said yes, but refused to look me in the eye. So I’m not convinced he will. But I did start to worry about something other than Sandy and the destruction and upset she has left in her wake.

I started to worry about people voting. Which is unusual because as a rule, I am not a worrier. I prefer to trust and turn things over to a power greater than myself. But when I do worry, I write. And today it is about why you should vote.

I can’t profess to understand why any woman would cast a vote for a man who represents a party that does not support women’s rights, one who changes his opinion more often than he changes those expensive shirts he wears. A man who reminds me of that charmer with a nice smile we’ve all fallen prey to at sometime in our lives. The one who will tell you anything you want to hear. Until he gets what he wants and then he is back to his old ways.

In the case of Romney, we can’t be sure what those ways are, he changes his views so often. But his party doesn’t nor does his Vice Presidential running mate. They are clear that they do not support women’s issues. They think they, as policy makers, should determine what a woman should do with her body. Forcibly. They think we should all do what their God says is moral and right, even if ours might be saying something different. They claim to believe in less government intervention, except when it comes to a women’s body. They say they want job growth and a balanced budget yet they made their priority for the last four years that President Obama not be given a second term.  They are the party of hypocrisy.

But to not vote at all. To not exercise our right as free citizens in a democratic society.  That to me is the most immoral act of all.

So yes, I will vote on Tuesday.  And I will vote for President Barack Obama.
  • I will vote because I can.  In 1912 just one hundred years ago, women were not allowed to vote. Which meant my grandmothers did not have the option as young women. They would be angry with me not to.
  • I will vote because I’ve been given a voice. I will use it. We all complain when we are not heard. A vote is our chance to exercise that voice.
  • I will vote because my vote does count. And so does yours. And the next person and the next. Collectively we make a difference.
  • I will vote because apathy is not an attractive quality. Thinking my vote will not make a difference is a cop out. It does and it will.
  • I will vote for all of our daughters, nieces, sisters and every generation to come. As the Dalai Lama has said, it is Western Women who will heal the world. That can’t happen with people in power who want to set women back fifty years and suggest placing an aspirin between ones knees as an effective method of contraception.

If you are a woman or as Nicholas Kristof stated so well in The New York Times, one of  “the men who love them” you should be voting too.

If you live, like I do in the areas hit by Sandy, it may not be as easy to fit in your day.  But that is not another excuse not to vote. It’s another reason why it is so important.

Vote Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Note: A version of this article also appears on The Huffington Post

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Pause After The Storm

This morning I got an email from Bloomingdale’s with the eye catching header, “ Just In: Coats You Can’t Live Without.” I’m aware enough to know that email was preplanned and already in the cue to be sent. That whoever prepared it had no idea that it would go out and be received at 9:30AM, the Tuesday morning after Sandy brutally wrecked havoc through the Northeast, hitting among others, three different states I have lived in.

Still, I couldn’t help but wince. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the people without electricity or running water, whose homes had been destroyed, some of whom the storm cost them their lives.  Who at the moment are living without so much of what we consider in 2012 to be modern day necessities. People, who if they had power and access to a computer right now, might like me, find such a solicitation a bit offensive.

Bloomingdale's was not alone. There was more in my inbox. News of the Kardashian sisters enjoying a sunny outing in Miami, an invitation to treat myself to a new skin cleanser, and one who knowingly sidestepped the storm and offered a cooking lesson and promoted a new cookbook.

Did they really think that while the winds were howling past my window last night and I worried about the crane next door swinging into my building and when my mother would get her electricity back, I was also thinking I needed a new skin cleanser and maybe a new recipe? 

I know. Life goes on after the storm. There is money to be made. Let’s move on. Get past it. Blah, blah, blah. I was once a sales director and now an entrepreneur. I know the lingo. But seriously, even the NYSE took a break today!

Now I'm about to suggest something radical here. So make sure you are sitting down.

Instead of starting to pretend a history making storm is not a big deal and start peddling our wares again before the last drop of rain falls, perhaps we all just take a moment to express some gratitude and put the sales pitch on hold. If you're feeling really wild and crazy, give it the whole day!

I know. Really drastic, right?  To suggest, to stop worrying about the money, albeit briefly, and say thank-you for what you got? 

I, personally, am humbled with gratitude today. For a safe, warm home that is not knee deep in water. For a hot shower. For power. For Internet access. For my fail-safe, old-fashioned land line. For my brother going to get my mother today.  Most importantly I am grateful that at this moment everyone I know and love is safe and well. 

We are a nation with short term memories. We like to forget the bad stuff as quick as we can and get back to the business of making money. We are fed the dialogue as marketers to take advantage of every situation, no matter what, not pausing to think, that maybe we should, for just a moment, think and do the right thing. We don't stop enough to appreciate what is. And we have a lot to appreciate.  

If Hurricane Sandy left me any lesson, it was a reminder of just how lucky a girl I am. I’m going to seep in that today, before I start peddling my wares again and or go worrying about a coat I just can’t live without.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

5 Somewhat Surprising Spiritual Reasons To Play The Lottery

I'm fairly certain that most financial experts will tell you there are better things to do with your dollar than buy a lottery ticket once a week. They will tell you the odds and how they are stacked against you. Those odds are estimated to be 18 million to 1 in single state drawings  and 120 million to 1 in multiple states. Pretty steep. They will suggest you put that dollar in an investment fund and when you have enough dollars to buy a share of stock to do that instead. They will tell you it's silly. A pipe dream. They will tell you to get real. Whatever "getting real" means.

While all of their suggestions are good ones, I am going to suggest that buying a lottery ticket can be a spiritual exercise in allowing and abundance.

What you say?

That's right. A spiritual exercise in allowing. 

This is what I mean.

1- The purchase of a lottery ticket is an opportunity to seep in possibility. After I buy my ticket, I take that little piece of paper in hand and pause, for just a few minutes and allow myself to believe, really believe, without censure, that anything and everything is possible. Yes, even something as far fetched as winning the lottery.  In a world where we are flooded daily with all the reasons we can't do or be something, that's a nice place to visit.

2- Buying a Tuesday ticket for the MegaMillions is an opportunity to feel the vibration of abundance. Most of us prefer to wallow in the vibration of scarcity. Here's a chance to indulge in the vibration of abundance. Think about what you might do with those winnings. Maybe a  shiny new Mercedes convertible or a five-bedroom beach house that you can hear the ocean from.  If you can't even dream what that life with more cash than you can spend would look like,  lottery or no lottery winnings, chances are you are never going to realize it.

3- This is your reminder that you have as a good as shot at getting what you want as anyone else. Statistically, the odds might be against you winning, but those chances are also just as good as anyone elses. No one has an advantage when it comes to who wins a daily drawing. It is that random. Statistically speaking.

4-Your small purchase is a big old statement to the Universe that you want to win.  That you believe it is possible for you to win.  Something.  And, that you are willing to take whatever steps you need  in order to make it happen. Hence the message, you gotta be in it to win it.

5- Your dollar is paying it forward. Giving generates the flow of abundance. The prize money is just part of what the Lottery is about. The New York State Lottery's mission is to earn revenue for education. So is California's.  In Pennsylvania it is for senior citizens. Your dollar may not bring you a winning ticket, but it is helping someone, somewhere.

Of course if all you are doing is buying lottery tickets and nothing else you are better off putting that dollar to use somewhere else, like your bank account, instead of experimenting with a little spiritual zen. Realizing your dreams requires faith and a belief in magic. But it also requires doing the work and taking steps. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Celebrating My Mother At 90

My mother celebrates ninety years today. She’s asked me to keep it a secret. To tell people she is only eighty-nine. For some reason she seems to think this sounds better. I beg to differ. No surprise there. I am her daughter after all. We are supposed to have our share of disagreements. And on this one I stand firm. I think ninety sounds pretty fantastic.

My mother contests she never thought she would live this long. Neither did I. She had two near fatal illnesses under the age of twelve. And then there was the fear of cancer. Her mother had died when my mother was just seventeen, a tragic loss to breast cancer at a time when there was no such thing as Breast Cancer Awareness Month much less a breast cancer survivor.

When I was a young teenager I was convinced that my life would parallel hers, which meant that I too would lose my mother when I reached the age of seventeen. I never shared my fears, instead lying awake at night in my twin bed with the yellow and orange flowered bedspread she had made for me, counting how much time we had left together.

What I didn’t know until years later was that she had harbored the same fear. She told me, not that long ago, how she would write away for every piece of information she could find on how to prevent the dreaded disease.  Until my father made her stop. He told her she had to relax and stop worrying so much.  She was going to be okay.  He was right. She was going to be okay. And one October, many years into the future we would be celebrating her ninetieth birthday.

My mother is the reason I live the life I do. That alone is cause for celebration.  Her fierceness and independence was how I learned to walk the path I have chosen. She was always a forward thinker, reading up on what’s new and willing to try something different. She embraced the multitude of change that has spanned her lifetime. She taught me kindness and to look out for those less fortunate than us. She has never forgotten her roots, the second and middle daughter of seven children born to Greek immigrant parents, she lived through a real Depression, a World War and great personal tragedy. And yes, her family had at one time benefited from government help through food stamps.

She taught me to love the written word, reading to me every day from a giant book of stories and nursery rhymes until I could read myself, how accessorizing is the key to a good sense of fashion style and that cooking and baking were arts as well as demonstrations of love to those you prepared them for.

And when Dad died far too young, my mother was the one who sat me down the afternoon after the funeral and told me life would go on, that as hard as it was to imagine, I would be happy again. She helped me to understand that death was a part of life we could never escape and we must learn to be accepting of it. At the time I didn’t buy into it. But ultimately she proved what she still likes to remind me. A mother is always right.

Our roles have reversed in recent years. She looks to me for help now. She asks me what to do. She is the one to call me when she is worried or concerned or needs help with something. I am the one who takes her shopping instead of her taking me. I am the one baking her favorite Greek cookies instead of her surprising me. I remind her what she needs to do.

She tells me constantly how proud she is of me and how grateful she is for what I do for her. She doesn’t know where I get my calm from and how I do all I do. She says that now she learns from me.  And while I know that is all true, I am still learning from her.

This gift of her long life has been a gift to me as well. She’s lived long enough that we have gotten to work through our mother-daughter “stuff” and really like each other. I have had the rare opportunity to see the woman she didn’t share with me when I was growing up. The one who wasn’t always so brave and strong and knowing, in control and independent. The one who was also vulnerable and at times fragile.  The side she hid from her children so we could rely on her strength.

So once again she is teaching me. She is letting me see the woman she reserved for her closest friends. She is demonstrating for me the beauty in vulnerability. That it is not something to protect oneself from, but instead one of the greatest acts of courage and strength.

My mother is one of the strongest people I know. As she likes to remind me, she had no one to teach her.  It was just how she learned to survive. I am more fortunate. I have had her to lead the way. And I am so grateful.

So while my mother thinks we should keep this birthday quiet, I am not listening. I am celebrating her and the great fortune I have had to call her Mom.

Happy 90th!
Kourambiathes are Greek cookies baked for celebration.
These are not in the traditional shape, nevertheless, they have been baked with love.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 Tips For An Effective Presentation

Learning to give an effective presentation is probably one of the most important skills you will ever need. Yet the idea of standing in front of a room makes most of us a bit unhinged, especially if the group who is listening is a crowd of more than one.

Some of you may think making presentations is something other people do, but not you. Never. Not your thing. But if you think about it, you're always presenting something. Your wares. Yourself. Sometimes formally. Sometimes spontaneously.  It's a skill that translates into everyday life. It makes sense to get good at it.

So what makes a good presentation?

When I was asked to speak to a group of sports management majors at NYU in a workshop on Public Speaking last week, I made my list of what I think is most important.

1-Learn to tell a good story. The best speakers are nothing more than really good storytellers. They engage and connect with their audience. You never feel they are speaking at us, but to us.

2-Know your stuff. Inside out. Don't pretend to know it. Really know it.  Know your competition's stuff as well. Understand that spinning facts to your advantage does not mean outright lies.

3-Keep it simple.  We're all so overloaded with information today, if someone is not clear and concise with their content, we are going to tune it out. I call it systemic ADD.

4-Pause. We're all so afraid to stop moving, the last place we consider it is when talking. Yet used effectively, there is nothing better than a moment of silence to keep a crowd engaged.

5-Learn to speak without props. We're all a bit addicted to the razzle dazzle. Yet the most effective speakers don't need a PowerPoint behind them or a video intro. They are the true showstopper. Their story telling skills are good with or without the special effects.

6- Know your audience. Have an idea of who you are speaking to. Try and pull them into your remarks. If you can figure out a way to relate to them they will relate to you.

7-Smile. A real smile. A genuine smile. Not one that looks contrived or faked. One that comes from knowing your stuff and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin.

8-Eye Contact.  Personally I never trust anyone who can't look me in the eye. Making eye contact is not easy in a large group, but it is also not impossible.

9-Prepare and Practice. You don't ever want to look like you are reading. It's boring. It's a sign you don't know your material that well. Practice. Especially for the really big presentations.

10- Be yourself. Have fun. If you're prepared and know your stuff this is easy.  If you're not, the audience will wonder who you are.  Kirstie Alley said it brilliantly a few weeks ago on Dancing with Stars, "I can only be the best me I can be. It's the one thing in the world no one else can be."

To see what these tips look like in action, I used the speech Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention. He is a master story teller, smart, articulate, personable, at ease, passionate and genuinely enjoying himself. The bar he sets is the one anyone wanting to learn how to be an effective presenter should strive to reach.

Let's see if anyone comes close in the next series of debates.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Confession And A Warning

I haven't been blogging as much as I normally do or I would like to. Today was the day I was going to do it. Sit myself down in the very expensive Herman Miller Aeron chair I invested in when I first embarked on life as a solopreneur. The one  that is supposed to make it more comfortable for my bottom to stay in one place for an extended period of time, set my famous egg timer and get to it.

But I strayed. Every time I opened up Safari and logged into my blog I had to endure the latest headline of the moment flashing across CNN. Politics. Politics. Politics. The Polls say this. The Polls say that.

And I realized why I hadn't been blogging. It wasn't that my chair is really not comfortable. It is. It wasn't that I had nothing to say. I always have something to say. Sometimes it just makes more sense than others.

It's that I've been trying to stay away from commenting on what I think about the incessant commentary. The drama of the political theater. All those people saying ridiculous things and acting like they have divine insight into what the outcome of this election will be, when the truth is the only powerful source most of them are connected to is their bank account.

I've been trying to stick to my subject matter. The stuff of living and working as a solopreneur with a post-corporate view. But I confess. I cannot. If this blog is going to thrive on new content in the next month, my political viewpoints are going to sprout up. That might make some of you happy. And others not so.

But I have to. Especially since my opinion will never be counted in a Poll. You see I don't answer the phone if I don't recognize a number. Just to prove my point I broke my rule this evening.

The phone rang. I saw it was an 877 number but I picked it up anyway. Just in case, one of those 'poll of polls' was actually going to ask for my opinion.

It wasn't. It was a solicitation for money. But if it had been a poll  this is what I would have said.

One debate does not make a President. Especially when the best of show is someone with multi-personalities and opinions that change as often as he does his nicely pressed shirt.

And then I would have asked why so little is being said about  the glaring omission of women's issues in the debates. How can a conversation include health care and not bring up women?

Of course, my marketing background knows that even if I did answer the phone, the kind of questions asked leave no room for open-ended answers, much less my questions. Which is just one more reason for me to express them here.  And of course, on Election Day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

12 Signs You Are Not Keeping Up In The Digital Age

The easiest way to stay stagnant and make yourself less marketable is to resist change. There is no argument that there has been a lot more to resist in the last few years than I  can remember in my lifetime. The speed at which technology has transformed our lives seems to have gone into overdrive. Trying to keep up with it all can be exhausting, frustrating and seem like a part-time job. But keep up with it you must.  That is, if you want to continue to be a vital contributor to your world.

My exit from corporate life coincided with this shift. I started blogging when it didn't seem like everyone had a blog. I admit that I was surprised at the number of new friends and business connections  there were to be made through these digital platforms. It was hard at first to put myself out there, but once my toe was in the water, I saw the value and the benefits that followed.

Which is one of the many reasons I'm always amazed when people tell me they are looking for a job and they have not considered using LinkedIn. Or when I meet someone who walks like, talks like, sounds like the savvy entrepreneur or business person and when you Google them, you can't find anything. Just as disconcerting is when you find the blog they were so passionate about and there hasn't been a post in six months.

The digital world is an asset to be used in building your personal and professional brand. For the most part, this is free stuff.  Why not keep up?

Yes, I still believe that at the end of the day people want to deal with people. But in order for that to occur, it is increasing important that you become digitally savvy. 

How can you tell if you are letting yourself slip behind in these digital times? 

      Here are 12 signs:

  1. You still don't have a LinkedIn profile
  2. You have one but you haven't updated it in a year. 
  3. You have one but refuse to include a picture.
  4. You think social networking is a fad and it will pass.
  5. You don't really believe the company you applied for a job with, the one you want so much, is going to  Google you.
  6. You've never Googled yourself.
  7. You think an on-line presence is an invasion of privacy, so you refuse to participate. 
  8. You think your refusal to opt-in will make all this social networking go away.
  9. Radio is still your primary source of news.
  10. You still don't text.
  11. You really believe someone you don't know will take your phone call.
  12. You have an on-line presence but don't know about privacy controls.

Do you have others to add to this list?
Please comment below and tell me!

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