Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Reading

The drawer to my grandfather's secretary desk would not shut today. The prayer book my father carried with him during his time with the 34th Division of the 133rd Infantry in WWll was causing the problem. It seems this passage, tucked inside the pages, typed on tissue thin yellowed paper, was eager to be read today, Memorial Day.  The passage is from The Strange Woman, written in 1941, by Ben Ames Williams  about another war.

In honor of all those who fought and fight now that I may have the privilege of writing this blog without fear. Thank you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 80/20 Rule In Cyberspace

I attended the BEA this week virtually, via Twitter feeds. One of the tidbits I picked up was a tweet that quickly made the rounds.  7% of books generate 87% of book sales and 93% of all published books sell less than 1000 copies each. I found it interesting the speed in which this was retweeted.  I can only assume that people found this information astounding.

I didn't. And I am still a virgin to book publishing.

I come from the world of sales where I learned early on that no matter what you are selling, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your account list. I was taught that most of your attention needed to be on that 20%. I also learned not to ignore the other 80%. The smaller numbers add up and you just never know when an account from the  80% might break from the pack and move into the 20% group.

The idea is not new. It is called Pareto's Principle after the man who first noticed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. In simple terms a few are vital, many are trivial.

Pareto's idea is more than 100 years old. What I am curious about  is how those numbers might shift as we push further into the new frontier of cyberspace.

The publishing houses support the 80/20  rule. If you are Dan Brown you can expect a lot more promotional support than if you are me, first time novelist with no track record. I already expect a limited budget from the editor who takes a risk on me. And I haven't been offered a deal yet. But that is OK. Because I have a sales background. I know how to market. I understand it is not enough to just be a good writer anymore, you need to be an authorpreneur. You need to be a social marketer.  And we now live in a world when even the "trivial" masses can use the power of cyberspace to be influential.

While I admit to a fantasy of having a stellar New York Times Book Review,  I also understand we live in a world where just about anyone with a blog can review your book. While any review can go viral, the weight a good or bad review from a big name newspaper  once had will never be as influential as it once was.

Moving from books to movies, if I had paid any attention to the reviews coming out on
Sex and the City2 I might not have gotten up early Thursday morning to attend a 9:30AM showing. If I had listened to all the panning that was going on I might have denied myself the two hours and twenty seven minutes of being in the company of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, who to me, are like hanging out with my best girlfriends.

I wasn't sure about the whole Abu Dhabi thing. But after seeing the movie I saw it's purpose. The direct contrast from the world I live in where anyone (including the 80%) can express an opinion and dress and walk as they please to one in which I would be required (by the 20%) to wear a burka and keep my opinions silent  makes perfect sense for a story line that has been from the beginning about women breaking out of the traditional mold and being heard.

Cyberspace gives us all more equal footing to be heard. Whether we are in the 80% or the 20%.  As  Carrie would say, I just can't help wondering, will the lines dividing us  start to blur?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pink Slippers On The Reinvention Runway

Last August I wrote a series of posts on my advice to those receiving the dreaded "Pink Slip." It's almost a year later and while I believe the economy is starting to turn for the positive, I also think those pink slips will continue for a while longer.  Corporations like to use difficult economic times as a justification to restructure, reorganize and weed out those they couldn't see a way to get rid of before. They're not quite done yet.

The question is what to do if one comes your way.

I, as always, have contended that the "Pink Slip" does not have to be dreaded. It can be the beginning of something much better if you allow it.

And if you follow my advice # 4  and  #8 you may want to check out this free discussion at NYU Stern on June 9,  "Seeing the Silver Lining in the Pink Slip- From Pink-slipper to Entrepreneur."  According to the event details this panel believes as I do, that the pink slip can open the door to doing what you really want.

Whether you are fearing the pink slip, hoping for one or just interested in hearing how others have taken the leap to do something different you might want to check it out. If nothing else you will not only be following my Pink Slip advice #3, you will be surrounding yourself with like minded individuals.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time to Reinvent: Warning Sign #7

A friend calls you for a favor. His son wants to get in your business. He asks if you'll meet with him and talk. You know you should say no. You almost say no. But you don't. You agree. Because he is your friend and his son is a nice kid.

You promise yourself to be on your best behavior and support this young man's enthusiasm. You are supposed to be  encouraging him.  You tell him you could give him thirty minutes. You look at your watch. Two minute warning. You are almost done.  Is there one more question he wants to ask?

Yes. He reminds you that you said repeatedly  how important it was to love  your work  and to feel true passion for it. He asks you if you are still passionate about what you do.

You stumble. You try not to answer. He doesn't need to know. But the words comes out anyway.
NO. Not any more.
His reply is to ask you why you are not doing something about it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Do You Do When You Hear The Word No?

How do you react when someone tells you no?

Do you stop in your tracks and turn around?
Do you use it as an excuse to stand still and do nothing?
Does it make you think someone else knows more than you?
Do you feel as if you've been handcuffed and are helpless?
Does the word frustrate you?
Does it make you think you are wrong?


Do you start strategizing how to turn the No to  a yes?
Does the sound of the word energize you?
Are you happier with a No than a maybe?
Does it bring on a surge of creativity?

Does hearing no make you wonder why not?
Do you believe that all it takes is one big ocean wave to wash it away?

How do you react ?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When Temporary Inconvenience Signals A Pause To Be Grateful

There are some things I am not sure I will ever get used to working from home. Like these days when the building decides to shut off the water from 9:15 until 5 to work on the plumbing infrastructure. I used to crumble up those notices they slid under the door because I could. I would be  at the office all day. By the time I got home the problem would be fixed and the water would be running out the faucet again.

But now my office is at home. So today I had to make sure I was up by 6:30 and out for my Park walk with enough time to come back and shower before the water ran dry. I had to remember to fill extra pitchers with water. And every time I go to the bathroom I have to remember not to flush. For someone with problems remembering that's alot not to forget!

It's easy to find all this annoying. To wonder why it takes a whole day to fix the plumbing. Or why there wasn't more notice so I could have arranged time out of the home office. Or why it seems they are always working on the plumbing.

But instead I find myself pausing in gratitude. We lead spoiled lives.  We take for granted modern day luxuries like plentiful running water and indoor plumbing. We expect things to be fixed in record time and allow for little that might delay our schedules.

So each time I don't flush the toilet today, I am taking a moment to be grateful that most days I have one that I can flush as much as necessary. And each time I fill my glass from the pitchers in the refrigerator, I am grateful in knowing that even if I ran out, getting more is as simple as a trip to the Deli. Today I am grateful for the simple things that aren't so simple for others.

What are you pausing in gratitude for ?

Friday, May 14, 2010

When Taste Transcends Age

When I started selling radio in 1983 the demographic most clients were interested in targeting was Adults 18-49. There was an unspoken assumption that when someone turned 50 they lost their ability and desire to make a purchase.

I didn't question it then. I was too young. All I cared about was that my country music radio station delivered a  good rating and I got bought and earned my commission.

The world's changed a lot since the media landscape was comprised of only print, television and radio.  But that sought after demographic remains 18-49.

Now I question it.  Alot.  I am past the upper limit of that target. I confess I still make purchases and they are often ones that hardly fit into what  the media planners seem to think  my taste is.

Take last week when I stopped in to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of The Carrie Diaries. For those who have not heard,  Candace Bushnell has published a prequel to Sex and City.  It is the story of Carrie Bradshaw's senior year in High School. Harper Teen is the publisher.  Teen as in Young Adult. That's who the book  is aiming to reach.  I really stretched out of the demo on this one when  I, on the other side of fifty, bought a copy. For me.

And I read it. Every last page. Not to mention that I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any fan of Carrie Bradshaw.

I think Candace Bushnell did a wonderful job creating the adolescent version of Carrie.  While the story is of high school love and angst,  anyone who is in my demographic knows that while we might grow older,  the venues, dress and amount of money in our pockets change,  but the issues never really go away. The only thing that shifts is how we deal with them.

So yes,  I liked it and I am hardly the pre teen target.   And yes, I will go to see Sex and the City2 when it opens even though all the advertising for that movie is being targeted for the 18-49 set.  And I will buy the DVD when it comes out to add to my collection. I have  every season of the show and the first movie. I find that when I am feeling a little blue, nothing is a better happy pill than an episode of Sex and the City.

I am a fan, one that transcends what is considered the traditional buying target and perhaps an exception to the rule. But maybe not. Maybe you have your own example of what you will go out of your way to buy that you know is being targeted for someone much younger. The world's changed since the days of three network television stations and no Internet.  So have people's buying tastes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trying To Remember

I forget a lot. In fact I have been wanting to blog on this subject, but I keep on forgetting to post. No kidding.

I never used to be like this. For years I attributed it the age of information overload. That my forgetting was a survival tactic against the implosion of data  I received on a daily basis in my Corporate life. Too much information coming in, meant letting go of the less important stuff.

It's gotten worse since I left Corporate America. Yes, I've gotten older too, but the fears of  forgetting something important Corporate life drums into you, the implication it might be life threatening and the fire drill craziness when something was forgotten is gone.

In theory  having a schedule that I create should mean less forgetfulness.  But it doesn't work like that. I forget. Every day. Several times a day. I can't be more specific because I forget how often it happens.

I write lists that I forget to look at. I set alarms in iCalendar and when the alarm goes off if I am not sitting in front of the computer I forget what I set it for. I keep pads of paper and pens all over the house in anticipation of a thought that enters my mind that might slip away if I don't record it quickly. I lose myself in the middle of a sentence, walk into a room and cannot remember what I went in there for and am constantly looking for my glasses. Usually they are on top of my head.

I've gotten pretty good at letting go of my anxiety around forgetting something important. My Corporate years taught me that no matter what I forgot or how much I worried about remembering to get it done,  everything that really needed to get done was.

The part I really don't understand is why in another  email influx from my approaching JHS reunion, I managed to remember that in the ninth grade I got a detention charge for "incessant giggling" yet I have to strain to think about what I did last Tuesday.

At the time I was written up I wasn't sure what incessant meant. I haven't forgotten since nor have I forgotten the joy of giggling. Which is a good thing, because with all this forgetting going on, laughter comes in handy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time to Reinvent: Warning Sign #6

According to Hugh MacLeod 90% of corporate life is feigning interest.

You're feigning 100%. 
It might be time to reinvent.

Visit if you'd like to buy this or other Hugh MacLeod prints.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fear of Blogging

Some days I am afraid to blog. I am worried where my words might wind up. I agonize whether to comment on a stranger's blog or post a tweet that I have no idea who is going to read. I get spooked wondering how what I have to say will sit with the reader.  Some days I am uneasy with this entity we call cyberspace.

Cyberspace is a new frontier. And like the Wild, Wild West it does not have a lot of rules.

The plethora of new forums in which to speak our opinion, whether it is your favorite new lip gloss or how you feel about the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court are vast.  More people can be heard in more places. That is a good thing.

But what I don't think is so great is the lack of integrity with which some people speak their voice.   They are careless with their language, freely using words like "idiot" and "stupid", "slamming"  what or who they don't like instead of expressing  their opposing opinion with thought and substantiated facts. They forget what it means to be polite. They write without thinking first.

There are no rules for speaking in Cyberspace. I'm not sure that's necessary. The manner in which you make your voice heard is a personal choice. But there are pledges. I made mine with the  folks at Blog With Integrity. 

Most days I love cyberspace. I delight that I can connect across the globe from the comfort of my home office. I revel that I can write a blog, publish when I want to and hope that it will make at least one person, somewhere, think about something they wouldn't have otherwise. I like that I can read other blogs,  engage in a conversation with strangers and reconnect on Facebook with my friends from the first grade. I adore that if I have a question I don't have an answer to I can Google it and in minutes I have new information.

And then there are the days I am afraid  I might be the subject of someone's personal attack. That someone might slew a string of stinging words in my direction, not at my opinion, but at me because of what I think or write.  But I do anyway. It's good practice. As Allison Winn Scotch discusses in  a recent blog  it's part of what a writer signs up for when putting themselves in the public domain.

There are days when I am timid to put my voice out there. Today is not one of them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Mother's Day Plea

A very dear friend of mine had a desire to be a mother. The more traditional ways of giving birth weren't working. But her desire was so strong that she made the commitment to adopt. That was almost five years ago.

I remember quite clearly the process, the paperwork, fingerprinting, social worker visits and letters of recommendation that she had to endure just to be considered a candidate. It seemed incongruous to me that in a world where in some states you can go into a retail store, buy a gun on a moment's notice and go on a shooting spree,  that wanting to rescue an orphaned child from a life in an institution could be so cumbersome.  But that is the system. And for a mother in search of her child, there is no price to big to pay.

In early 2007 she got word from the orphanage in Guatemala that they had a child for her. A little girl who had been abandoned at birth and had just turned two. I remember the look on her face as she told me, the joy as she discussed the arrangements she had made to go and meet her.  My eyes filled and I could barely talk. I knew in that moment she had found her daughter. She had given birth.

It sounded so easy.  After almost a year of filling out tedious paperwork, waiting anxiously to be approved, in just one month she was a mother with a daughter.

But it wasn't. International adoptions, glamorized by celebrities leave out the reality of the ordinary citizen.

As all this was happening a lot was changing politically in Guatemala.  The year went on. Every time she thought she might get to bring Nicole home, something happened to delay it.  On January 1, 2008 almost a full year later, the Guatemalan government took over a private adoption system and changed the rules.  There were at that time 5000 in process adoptions, all of which were supposed to be grandfathered in.

It still wasn't done. In fact it had gotten harder. It took eleven more months, endless determination, a series of coincidences and  some divine intervention for her to get her daughter out and home to New York. Nicole had just turned four. Almost two full years more of living in an institution when she shouldn't have had to. The picture below shows Nicole still in the orphanage holding a white bowl and a stuffed animal in the other.

Their story is one of the easier and  happier ones.   There are still 900 children living in Guatemalan government run orphanages separated from their parents. 900 children who have met their mothers and fathers, who recognize them as such, parents who love those children as only parents can, who sit and wait and pray to be together. Two of those children are the boys in this photograph, Gerson and Elviz, biological brothers when they were 5 and 3. They are now 7 and 5.

The Guatemala 900 has issued a Mother's Day Plea and invites you to sign this petition that will be presented to the First Ladies of the US and Guatemala to take immediate steps and get these children home. Please take a moment to help and please pass this on so others might as well.

I look at Nicole, who a year and a half later is a happy, well adjusted child living in a warm, safe home with plenty to eat, a mother who could not love  her more if she did give physical birth to her and a wonderful life to look forward to. Those 900 children, girls and boys like Gerson and Elviz  deserve the same.

Online petition - Guatemala 900 Mother's Day Plea

Monday, May 3, 2010

What If Working For "The Man" Was Working For "The Woman"?

There are a lot of things that will catapult one to reinvention. But when it comes to career reinvention, especially for us Corporate expatriates, most will agree that the idea of working for "the man" ever again brings on a raging headache and nausea. 

Anyone who chooses their career as their point of reinvention experiences stress. The fears of failure, the financial worries, the self questioning.  They might talk about, but it rarely shows on their face, at least not the way you or they remember it did when they held that corporate job. I'll let you in on the reason 
reinventors are generally such happy people. The stress of ever working for  "the man" again is far greater than the stress of recreating their lives.  They are doing what they want to do, their way, on their time schedule. What makes them smile, that look they have that makes you wonder if they had a face lift since the last time you saw them is because they are no longer working for "the man." 

What I want to know is why we call it working for "the man" and not for "the woman" ? And if we did, would there be as many of us willing to flee the steady paycheck and health benefits?

If working for "the man " is no longer gender specific and refers to the Corporate structure that creates cultures based on driving stock prices, managing with a sharpened pencil, eliminating waste  and making sure those in control get big bonuses, why is it when I write working for "the women" it sounds so much less ominous?

There are a lot of women running  corporations now, enough to warrant their own list of the most powerful in Forbes. But it hasn't been that long.  Things really only started changing in this country for women in the 1960s. Fifty years is a speck in time when you consider we are now living in the 21st Century. Not long enough for us to stop referring to it as "the man."

This morning I watched a video of Eve Ensler  at TED  on the subject of Embracing Your Inner Girl. She talks about how we are all brought up, men and women "not to be a girl". It got me thinking maybe that's it. Maybe that's the very simple reason we say it's working for "the man".  And maybe if as she says we all valued the girl gene in us a little more, it wouldn't sound so ominous. Maybe we might even start mixing it up and call it working for "the woman."