Friday, July 30, 2010

Cracking The Code On Business Casual

If you are like me the phrase "business casual" conjures a picture of pleated khakis and a golf shirt, neither of which I would  be caught dead in. That term cropped up often in my corporate life, whether  on a memo for "casual Friday" or an off site meeting.  If was followed by "Jeans OK" I relaxed a bit. But mostly it caused me to break out in a sweat over what I was going to wear.

The definition is pretty clear if you are a man.  No tie, the dreaded khakis, sports coat, and for those really daring men, perhaps sockless as long as those feet are tucked inside an expensive pair of loafers. Definitely no sneakers and a pressed, pulled together look. But how does this translate for women?

I'll tell you it doesn't. In the post Mad Man era, this to me has always been one of those unspoken reminders that we women are relative newcomers to the business world and femininity has little place.

My closet never contained  "business casual" mostly because I never really figured out what that meant for women.  I had my work clothes, the suits and dresses that I collected that fit into my fashion mantra of look good and feel good with style. Then I had my play clothes, that for the most part would be looked upon as too distracting at a conference table.  So when "business casual" cropped up on the menu I mixed and matched some concoction that fit in with my mantra and made me feel  "casual".  There is no doubt that the longer my seniority and the higher up I went on that corporate ladder, the more I pushed the conventional envelope. I had, after all earned it.

When  I saw "Attire: Business Casual" on the agenda for a seminar I attended yesterday I felt that old famaliar twisting angst in my stomach. If I didn't have a lot in my closet that fit the bill when I was in the corporate world I have less now. And as a Personal Coach, Author and Blogger who works from her home "business causal' might mean yoga pants and flip flops.

I struggled until I found something that would work with temperatures hovering near 90 in NYC and worries about how high the air conditioning might get. I read a feature in  The Times on how New York women dressed to deal with the heat, but none of the suggestions would be deemed appropriate in any office I worked in, business casual or not.  I went with my fashion mantra, what I felt good in, was comfortable, looked pulled together and stylish and perhaps stretched the limit of what others might deem appropriate. If I am reinventing my business life, I can reinvent how I dress for it.

But I did giggle when I saw the speaker hit the stage, the same one who had written in the clothing attire suggestion, a self made millionaire, stood in a sleeveless magenta dress with a plunging neckline and strappy sandals that would be deemed worthy of Carrie Bradshaw. Clearly she too has struggled with what the term "business casual" means for women.

The bigger issue is that even in a new century  what women should or should not wear in business remains unclear and controversial, something that is not true for men.  For me what I wear is a statement of who I am, how I am feeling on a given day and where I am off to, business or otherwise. I dress  to please only myself with the caveat that I am pulled together and wearing clothes that fit well. Or as my friend Lori Sutherland,  soul stylist and founder of Dame Lori Ltd  says in a way that taps into "the essential life force spirit within each of us." 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Read Fiction

Yes, I confess to being a novelist. Yes this may sound self serving, but bear with me and read on. If you really want to shake things up and inspire your most creative thoughts read fiction.

If you think this only applies to aspiring authors you are wrong.

Story is where ideas are created, dreams hatched, inspiration launched. Story lets us escape and observe in fictional characters how we want our lives to be or don't. We look at the characters we read about and we ask ourselves if  they live lives we aspire to or  we fear if we are not careful we will be fated to their same doom.

The convention when we want to shake up our lives with the goal of rejuvenation or reinvention is to reach for the non fiction shelf, to wrap our hands and our minds around good old concrete dos and don'ts, take a test or two that might reveal what our logic refuses to offer and start analyzing.

I offer that sometimes the surest cure for creative block, whether you are a writer literally creating the next scene for your character or an entrepreneur looking for an innovative way to grow your business lies in the pages of that novel that you think too frivolous an expenditure of time to sink into. We are all writing the story of our lives. Fiction shows us how.

Story has become underrated in a world of memoirs being written by people who have not yet lived a whole life combined with reality based television. But story is the secret elixir. Try it on and let me know what happens.

Note: This blog was inspired by the first pages of The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tides Do Turn

There I was, huddled under my blue striped umbrella, covered in sunscreen,  not sure why I did not pack it up and call it a weekend. It was too hot. Even in the shade. Even for me. Blistering hot. The only breeze was a warm one.

But I didn't, because this is where I wanted to be. Close to the edge of the water with the crashing of  the ocean waves as my soundtrack, offering me a comfort that all is right in the world. No matter how crazy things seem at any given moment, the sound of white caps leaving their mark on the sand soothes me.

Besides, I was convinced that something was going to shift and that stifling hot air would turn cool. The breeze would miraculously become refreshing and breathing would be easier. And I would get the sort of lazy Sunday I had wished for.

I relaxed, I read, I enjoyed where I was and I reminded myself that in the depths of January I would long for this heat.

And then something happened. I felt a coolness envelope me, as though I had just passed the open door of an air conditioned store on a hot city street. The tide had changed. The wind seemed to shift direction. The breeze became cool. The sun was still strong and the day I had envisioned to end my weekend had materialized.

And that's what can happen when you know you are where you want to be. Even though it might not look exactly as you had pictured, on a moment's notice something shifts and there it is before you. The story in your head becomes the story you are living.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tales of Reinvention: Karen Fitzgerald

Karen Fitzgerald has been an actress and singer for twenty five years. Her tale of  reinvention includes launching her own company, Flying Free Productions and adding writer to her list of credits. Six years ago she left the New England suburbs for the island of Manhattan to begin her life anew after a twenty five year marriage. I had the pleasure of seeing Karen perform her one woman show Hot Mama Mahatma at the Midtown International Theater Festival on Tuesday. We caught up after the show and I got to ask her some questions about her reinvention journey.

Did you choose reinvention or did it choose you?
I have been reinventing my whole life. I was born  to reinvent, literally.  November 2  is  astrologically the day of transformation. But the defining event in this reinvention was my divorce. I had a lot of fear at that point. As I talk about in my show, I did alot of prayer, a lot of journaling. I found the quieter I got, the more my own intuition kicked in. First it said sell your house, then it said you would move someplace bigger. I got an invitation to a birthday party in NYC just around the time I needed to decide where I would move to. Turns out I was staying in the apartment across the hall from where I now live! The woman who lived here just happened to be at that party and her move coincided with my need for a new residence. Things like that happen to me all the time.

Where did you get the idea for your scripts?
The quieter I got the louder my inner voice got. It said write, the film script, the TV pilot and of course Hot Mama Mahatma which is my story, or as I like to say, Eat Pray Love, run amok!

Has your past experience prepared you for this?
Everything I have ever done is tied to my writing. My acting gave me a sense of story sequence.  Both shows have to do with recovery. I was nineteen when I took my father to AA.  I believe that when you get to your destiny you start to see how everything you have ever done before is linked. Life is like a tapestry. You look at the backside and it is a mess, odd colors, totally random strings, all chaotic, makes no sense. Then you turn it over and see this beautiful design, all planned, every color and every string woven perfectly to create this intricate, beautiful image, your life!

What has been the biggest surprise?
I think in one of your blogs you wrote that magic is underrated.  Magic for me is really miracles. I used to worry all the time, but prayer showed me how to surrender. And when I learned how to do that one miracle after another unfolded.

What has been the biggest obstacle?
To remember to pay attention and notice the guidance when it shows up.

What has come the easiest?
To do the work, take the actions. Learning to release the worry and learning to trust.

Do you have any regrets?
I sometimes wish I had been wilder when I was younger but then I see that is what propels me forward now.

What do you love the most?
I love transformation. I like watching other people get there. That is why I wrote this show.  I have also been a keynote motivational speaker. I like showing people  that if I can do this, then you can too.
Besides that I love my children Chris and Lauren the most.

What do you miss the most?
My life now is amorphous. Then it was more structured, there was an expectation that each day would be the same in a good way, a comfort in the perceived stability. Now I feel like I am walking on trust. I think it was Edwene Gaines who said you walk out on a branch and you hope the tree is going to grow under you.

What advice would you give others shaking up their lives?
To do it!. Get really quiet whether through prayer, meditation, reading, journaling, whatever works for you. Ask for guidance and then listen for the answers. And seek out support.

You can follow Karen Fitzgerald on Facebook 

Tickets are still available to see Hot Mama Mahatma! this Saturday July 24 @2:30
 and Sunday July 25 @7.  For tickets  
I highly recommend it! It is laugh out loud funny, and it will also make you pause and get quiet for a little bit, just in case you're planning on doing some reinvention soon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Being A Chameleon

In my early days of radio sales, the range of our client base went from a downtown advertising agency a la Mad Men to a suburban used car dealership on the fringes of where our signal reached. How you approached each client shifted from the way you spoke to what you wore to the appointment.  I was told that if I wanted to succeed I had to be a chameleon.

I didn't know if I liked that advice. A chameleon sounded unauthentic to me, perhaps even a little slimy. After all a chameleon is a lizard. It is its  unusual ability to change colors that distinguishes it from other lizards.

But I was not settling for anything less than success so I got pretty good at being a chameleon. I  assessed a situation and determined how best to approach it with my focus on making the sale. I stopped questioning whether that was authentic or not and viewed it  as a role I played, as though an actor on a stage. It felt right, it felt comfortable and it was fun. Over time, the scope of the roles expanded to include managing the people reporting to me and those I reported to.

And then something happened. There was no inciting event. But what started to shift was how I felt in those roles. It stopped being fun.  I started to question what I never had before. I started to feel unauthentic. And those roles that had once been so effortless became difficult.

At first I thought it was because I was just tired of being a chameleon. That it was unauthentic and I was exhausted from pretending it was.

But it wasn't. It was just an early warning sign that it was time to change, that other roles were looming on the horizon for me to step into. I have three work roles now. Personal Coach, Novelist and Blogger. They each require a different way of me being. In my coaching I must still rely on my chameleon skills because every client is different and not one approach will best serve them all. The only thing that is consistent across the board is me stepping into that role from a place of authenticity.

Being successful in every aspect of your life requiring honing the skills of a chameleon. Everything is changing every day, not just the colors around us. That requires assessing and deciding how best to approach. But you have to be coming from a place of authenticity because if you're not, in this interconnected digital world we live in, you'll get seen quickly and not in the way you want to. Plus it is not nearly as much fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Do You Believe In Magic?

Magic is underrated. We don't put much weight on it. Magic does not seem to have as much rhyme or reason to us as a spreadsheet does. It requires surrender to the unseen as well as faith. You can't touch or see magic and you certainly can't download it onto your computer screen. Or can you? If you believe in magic that might be possible.

Our information on overload world drums it  into our head that we must look at the facts, we must do the research, and base  our plans on what we come up with. It's gotten worse since the computer invaded the desktop. There are now a dozen ways to look at the same information with the click of a key.  We take the elaborate conclusions reached from  a software program that someone designed to do a calculation to be the corporate bible. We point and say, there it is! That must be the way! We discount magic but we never discount what the machine told us. We forget to think and we forget to believe.

I am not advocating not doing the work. If I don't write I don't get published.

I am not suggesting to forgo research and data. If I don't know my market, no one will buy my services.

But I am suggesting that we have to remember to look at the forest and not just the trees. The trees themselves are important. Without them there is no forest. But it is the forest in its entirety that emanates the magic, those patches of  fresh grass and pink and yellow flowers in between that popped up out of nowhere, even when someone told us the ground was not suitable.

If you want to shake up your life, whether a minor renovation or a complete overhaul, in the words of Tug McGraw, "Ya Gotta Believe." When he coined that phrase in the 1973 baseball season no one imagined that the  New York Mets would go from last place to first and win not only the division title but the National League pennant. For Tug and the Mets it was about believing they could become champs. The statistics were against them, but it didn't matter. They created magic because they believed.

This might sound too supernatural for many of you but I recommend pondering it a while. Choose to believe in some force bigger than yourself,  besides your computer and the non stop bad news emanating from the Internet, the newspaper and television. Do the work and surrender to the magic. And let me know what happens.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tales of Reinvention: Dana Ostomel

Dana Ostomel is the Chief Gifting Officer for Deposit a Gift, an online cash gift registry site
This innovative new web based business takes the concept of a bridal registry and expands it to almost any event. 

Dana left the Corporate world in late 2007 after nearly a decade developing integrated marketing solutions for major brands  including Snapple, Century 21 and Mastercard to found Deposit a Gift.

The gift registry site went live this past December to rave reviews. Here's what I learned from my conversation with Dana.

Did you choose to reinvent or did  it choose you?
It was really a combination of both. In November of 2007, two months before my wedding I was downsized. I tried to find some freelance positions but it seemed everyone was looking for permanent employees. I wasn't ready to go back. At one point I was offered a really good job that I seriously considered taking, but when I remembered it would be another office with beige walls that would require a suit every day, I turned it down. At the same time we lost the apartment we thought we were going to buy.  I had the idea for Deposit a Gift for awhile. In fact I acquired the URL for it in January 2006. I talked things over with my husband. We had no debt and no kids, plus the money from the apartment. We made the decision to go for it, live on his salary and for me to launch the business.

Tell me about Deposit a Gift. It sounds like an on line desire list  for any event from a birthday to a wedding.
Deposit a Gift is an on line cash gift registry. It takes the concept of a bridal registry and expands to almost any event that might require a gift, from a baby shower to a graduation, bar mitzvah or retirement party. Our clients get to customize their own website complete with an individual web address.  It allows their guests to step inside their world. It's interesting because when there is an activity listed, like a trip, they go first. It seems gift givers like the idea of giving  the gift of an experience. They can contribute cash in any amount towards the items our clients list. We made every effort to make it  easy to use and as transparent as possible.

Where did you get the idea for a cash gift registry?
The idea had been percolating for a while, but my own experience getting married informed my decisions. I heard comments from people, like all the good gifts were gone so we didn't know what to get you, or we saw you like that brand but the bowl was gone already so we got you something else they make. This eliminates that, plus gift givers can contribute to a trip or a new addition to the house if that is what the client desires.

How has your work and education experience prepared you for this?
Again, my own wedding gave me hands on experience. Plus my background in marketing and advertising have proved invaluable for the business side. I had never built a website, but I knew how to manage a project. My corporate job had taught me how to look big picture, but still manage the details.
I created my own mood board, a collage of what I wanted the site to look like that helped tremendously working with my web designer. Plus I'm a networker. I 've been networking my whole life. You have to be able to network to set out on your own. Connections are everything.

What has been the biggest surprise concerning your reinvention?
I didn't know how hard it was going to be.

What has been the biggest obstacle?
I had to work in secret until the site  launched. Not being able to discuss my project was hard.   I was redefining myself without a title. I had always had a title.

What has come the easiest?
The project management part. I'm a great multi-tasker.

Do you have any regrets?
No, I really love it!  Plus I am very fortunate to have my husband supporting me every step of the way. He grounds me and reminds me of all I have accomplished when I forget to recognize it.

What do you love most?
I like that all my work is for me and the business. I really love my lifestyle.

What do you miss most?
Before the launch I missed having a title. but it all helped me to grow without a structure and a chain of command to give me feedback. Maybe I miss the social aspect a bit. That's why I try to make a workout class in the middle of the day.

What are you most proud of?
The actual launch in November 2009. It took almost two years. A lot of people would have given up. My husband always reminds me of that.

What advice would you give others contemplating shaking up their lives?
Surround yourself with like minded people. You cannot be around people who are negative for the sake of it. Be tenacious, have a good work ethic, those are qualities that cannot be taught. Enable yourself. Use your resources. I am a big believer in the informational interview. Get others to share what they've learned. Make connections.

Creating a Deposit a Gift website and registry is free. There is a 7.5% service fee of the total gift purchase balance which the creator can decide who pays for. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Art Of Pressing Pause

Breakdowns are inevitable. They are more than just a bump in the road. They usually occur when the journey has gotten so bumpy that you're starting to get nauseous. However they can also happen when you think there is only smooth sailing ahead, when out of nowhere a giant pothole  looms in front  and before you can swerve the car, you are inside of it with no clue how to get out.

A breakdown can be the signal for a Reinvention. But they are also part of Reinvention's journey. You don't get to go for your passion without having to pull off the side of the road to take a moment every now and then.

There are those who advocate never slamming on the brakes. They prefer to muddle on, without clarity of thought and  thick with the exhaustion the breakdown caused. They believe there is no gain without pain. For them the work is only about pushing ahead.

I'm not one of them.  My experience has been pushing forward when you can't see straight  only results in  walking in circles. Sometimes you have to press  pause  and take a moment to get clear.

What do you do with that moment?

Breathing is always a good start. It is very underrated but it is amazing how a few simple deep breaths can bring you back from the edge. Writing out my rage and frustration also benefits as does a particularly strenuous workout at the gym. A manicure or a silly TV show that makes me laugh or a call to a member of my cheering squad is a great antidote.  I am a big fan of trying to find not only the humor in the mess, but how you can turn it around to serve your purpose.  That doesn't work for everyone. The trick is to find what it is  that lifts you up and away from the situation so you can gain perspective.

How long to pause?

That depends on the severity of the breakdown and how well you learn to hone this skill. I recommend setting the timer, twenty minutes, an hour, the afternoon. But once you get the hang of it, the gift of the pause button is that it gives you a perspective and a chance to remember the reason you have chosen the path you did, it clears the energy, and allows you to look at something from a new angle. Then you can dive back into the work, only this time instead of trying to push that car out of a sinkhole, you are pulling it from above with the aide of a tow truck. And pulling is so much easier than pushing. Except of course when its the pause button.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Gratitude For Willis Carrier

If you live in the North East and have not taken a moment this week to thank Willis Carrier you should . He is the man who is credited with inventing the first modern air conditioning system in 1902. The genius behind the cool air blowing through our homes and offices that has made the last few days bearable.

If you're as old as me you remember when air conditioning was considered a luxury. It was an option when you bought a car that you paid extra to get.  Schools had fans, usually near the teacher's desk which most likely she had bought herself.  If you were lucky enough to have an air conditioner at home, chances are it was only in one room of the house. In our case it was my parent's bedroom, a noisy, clunky apparatus protruding from the casement window that I begged to stand in front of. I'd argue that one of the reasons so many of my generation fell in love with the movies was that the price of a  ticket came with air conditioned comfort.

Until the late 1950s  this modern day miracle was limited to the workplace with the goal of increasing productivity. Yes we can thank Corporate America, greed and all,  for the rapid expansion and development.

It's hard to imagine getting along with something we now expect to have and to be working properly no matter what.  Especially this week.  But then  the world moved a lot slower before things like air conditioning. You didn't have to worry about getting so much accomplished in one day, so if the heat slowed you down, it was OK. People understood.

Now we take it for granted. Like so much else in our high tech, fast paced world, in which there is   a constant din of yelling and finger pointing  about all the things we think are so wrong, all the things that need to be fixed,  how bad everything is that we forget to take time to be grateful for something as simple as air conditioning. We lead pretty cushy lives but we forget that many of us had grandparents like I did, who crossed the Atlantic in a crowded ship that did not serve happy meals much less provide air conditioning.

We marvel at the miracle of the Internet and high speed communication yet a little over a hundred years ago something we consider so basic today was just as much a miracle.

So thank you Willis Carrier. My unit has been humming along this week, providing me relief and keeping me cool. I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tales of Reinvention: Karen Quinn

Karen Nedler Quinn is another of the growing group of Corporate Expatriates. Karen's first novel, The Ivy Chronicles was published in January 2005. That was followed by three more, Wife in the Fast Lane, Holly Would Dream and The Sister Diaries.  This July is the debut of Karen's first work of non-fiction, Testing for Kindergarten. I had the opportunity to sit down recently and ask Karen a few questions about her latest project as well as the process of Reinvention.

Sometimes we choose to reinvent and sometimes it chooses us.  You've been reinventing for a while now. What was the defining moment that made you take this turn towards non fiction?
Testing for Kindergarten was unfinished business. When my son Sam was three we discovered that his problems in school were not due to capability but to an ear problem. He could not hear properly. He did terribly on his IQ test and we were told he would never get into private school. Fortunately for us my mother had a PhD in Early Childhood Education and knew what to do. She was able to give me exercises to work with Sam every night. A year later he took the test again and got the highest score in the class!

That experience inspired me to co found Smart City Kids, a company dedicated to improving every child's chance of acceptance to the school of their choice. I left Smart City Kids  and used my experience with Sam to write my first novel, The Ivy Chronicles. But always in the back of my mind I wanted to take what I had learned and make this information available to other parents. The resources I write about are more than just prepping for a test, they are about getting your child ready for Kindergarten.

Where did you get the idea for the board game for Testing for Kindergarten?
I had a desire to create a workbook to go with the book. However my publisher was not ready to commit to that so I came up with the idea of a board game. I wanted to make this a fun learning experience for kids. I took all the things Sam loved when I was working with him  and made it into play. It's an IQ Fun Park complete with the beach, the farm, the toy store and space babies.

Is there an on line or video version?
I get that question alot and the answer is no. Part of what makes this work is the time a parent takes with their child plus you cannot assess IQ without hearing a child talk.

How has your work experience and education prepared you for this?
It actually inspired it. I tutored children at one time, although I do not recommend tutors. I think it puts too much stress on the child.

What has been the biggest surprise concerning your reinvention?
The biggest surprise is that I am still reinventing. Smart City Kids was the first phase which took me to The Ivy Chronicles. I thought being a novelist was it, but the reinvention just never stops.

What has come the easiest for you?
The gift of leaving Corporate America is that I get to pursue projects I am truly, passionately interested in. That's the easiest. This book was easy, because I was in my pleasure the whole time.

Do you have any regrets?
Only ones that have to do with buying New York real estate!

What do you love the most?
That every morning I do not have to take a subway or drive to an office. I waste no time in commuting and I don't have to get dressed up every day.

What do you miss the most?
A regular paycheck. That everything I do depends on me. I miss having people around to talk to although I do not miss the politics.

What are you most proud of?
That I turned myself into someone I never expected or thought I could be. I never thought my novels would be considered for movies. I surprise myself with all the cool things I get to do and discover all the things I never knew I could do. It's fun to recreate.

What advice would you give to others contemplating shaking up their lives?
If you have an idea, just sit down and do it. Even if you don't know how, don't think, just do the work. If you're still working full time and only have an hour a day, use it. Create a community of like minded people. Attitude is very important. You need to surround yourself with your cheerleaders.

Testing for Kindergarten is available today. The game version would be out next month. Karen invites parents of young children to come to her website and sign up to get a free test prep Question delivered to their email boxes every day and/or sign up to follow her new blog, The Baby Ivy Chronicles.
You can follow Karen on Twitter at

Note: In the interest of full disclosure Karen Quinn and I are members of the same community of six cheerleaders. We  check in on each other formally once every two weeks and never hesitate to reach out for an emergency 911.  Karen's path inspires my own. I am very excited for her newest project to hit the marketplace!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

After The Fireworks

According to the Oxford American Dictionary to discipline oneself to do something is to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way. 

Discipline is key when you are creating, whether it is a new novel, a new business or getting in gear to find your next job. But it all disappears like a display of fireworks in the night sky on the 4th of July when you take a break. 

Breaks are important. Critical in fact for any work you are involved in. But if you are like me, as disciplined as I can be, after a few days away, there is a lot of walking in circles before I can focus again.
Like this morning. I treated myself to a long holiday weekend filled not just with company of good friends, lots of sunshine, the beach and yummy food, but to a break from writing and from the addictive world of social networking and the Internet.  Away from it all, I made lists of projects I wanted to start and all those to dos that needed to be done. I felt inspired and fortified and anxious to get back to it. But today I'm sitting here surrounded by those papers watching the morning fade. 

I'm a self starter. I always have been. It is an important attribute in the world of sales, one that I get to make good use of as an authorpreneur and coach. But having that skill and honing it doesn't make days like today disappear. They show up uninvited and torture my reinventor mind.
The trick is to figure out what one little thing you can do to break through the dam that seems to have been built during your break. As a sales person, it was often as simple as making one appointment and getting the hell out of the office. For someone looking for a new job, it might be as simple as picking up the phone and following up on your last three interviews. 
Photo courtesy of Nancy Moon Public Relations

For me this morning, it was opening my morning pages document, the one where I write from a stream of consciousness to see what comes out or as one former writing teacher called it dreck which I believe is Yiddish for garbage. This is what I got this morning. An idea for a post. You might still consider it dreck but for me it was a baby step to get back into the discipline of creating after those fireworks.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Work Never Ends

Our culture is big on goal setting. We strive towards that goal thinking if only, if only and when I get there it will all be different.  Then I won't have to work so hard at it anymore when the real truth is arriving at the goal is just the beginning.

I started the process of reinventing my life two years ago. I lived in the delusion for quite a while that eventually I would arrive at a reinvented life as if it were my stop on the subway. I would be home. But as it turns out, reinvention is a work in progress and if I do it right, will continually be so.  I will tweak it and add to it and continue to make it better for tomorrow than it is today.

The same is true of independence. This weekend we celebrate our country's birthday. In 1776 the United States officially separated all ties from what was considered the tyranny of England. Accompanying that was a document known as the Declaration of Independence. One of the most famous quotes from that paper is the following:

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

A powerful statement at that time and one that has served as the foundation for the freedoms we have today.

Except that Declaration was not the end goal. It was just the beginning. The document  was written by the committee of five who happened to be all white men. It did not include those new found freedoms for women nor for men who were not white. Declaring this country's independence was not the end but the beginning.

This photo was on the front page of The New York Times yesterday.

I was struck by the circle of faces surrounding Elena Kagan, all white men, grilling her with questions based on their concerns that she may be hiding some deep dark secret that might make her unfit for the bench and undermine their freedoms.  In response to Senator Tom Coburn's  "absolute fear" that Americans are less free than they were 30 years ago Senator Amy Klobuchar offered this response. "Were we really more free if you were a woman in 1980?"

The answer is no.  Freedom is another of those things that is not a destination, but a journey. It has been 234 years since the beginning of the concept of freedom in this country. We've fixed that part about "all men" to include all people, but we are still on the journey.  And on this July 4, 2010 we are still evolving. If Elena Kagan is confirmed she will be only the 4th women to serve on the Supreme Court in a two hundred plus year history. No woman has yet to hold the highest office in this nation.

So yes, there is still tweaking to do. More to add. The process continues, the goals arrived at become sign posts along the way. But the work never ends. Not for reinvention. Not for freedom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

I've always been a good promoter. It comes with the territory when you spend as many years in sales and the advertising world as I did. But it was usually for someone or something else. Rarely myself.

However, things change. As an authorpreneur with a growing coaching practice, I am learning that self promotion is necessary and can actually be fun once you take the shame out of the equation.

I  learned the art of bragging in the first class I ever took with Regena Thomashauer. Regena would use the analogy that you meet a man at a cocktail party and he could brag unashamedly about his golf score to the point you might believe he was ready for the pro circuit.  Ask the woman next to him what she does for work and in a rather small voice she might mention her latest book was just selected for a Pulitzer Price, qualifying  that it's really no big deal.

Women more than men have clung to the idea that we  live in a meritocracy, where good work will be rewarded but more importantly noticed. I learned that to be a myth. That without speaking up and bragging about our achievements, we might never get noticed or worse passed over because someone whose work wasn't as good had a louder voice.

It's more important than ever that we get past what Kelly Watson calls the myths of self promotion in  a recent article at ForbesWoman. There are a lot of big voices out there in our 24/7 world. There can be no shame in self promotion.

It's not an easy thing to do. When my detox tech series was published as a column in ForbesWoman last week I thought nothing of posting it on Facebook and Twitter, but when it came to sending an email to my non social networked group of friends to brag about it, I had to take several deep breaths and wait for the combination of cultural and familial messages that had been embedded in my psyche that this was wrong to do passed  before I could hit send. Old habits, die hard, but they must die.

For anyone who is reinventing, starting their own business or looking for the next move in their current career, shameless self promotion will serve you well.

In this month's Oprah Magazine, Donna Brazile says this on accepting compliments. "I thought acknowledging praise meant you were arrogant, but I've learned that knowing your strengths enables you to make use of them."

And that is what I think is key about self promotion. Learning what you are good at, owning it,  believing it is worth sharing and letting it be known.