Friday, February 25, 2011

Never Too Old For Adventure!

One of my pet peeves is when people tell me they are too old for something. Too old to learn to ski, to stay out past midnight, to fall in love, to change jobs, to lose weight, to get in shape, to wear a bikini, to have wild, crazy sex.

Back when I was selling, if a prospective client said they really liked our station but they just didn't have the money, we knew we had not uncovered the real objection. Buying is never about having the money. If you really want something, whether it is an ad schedule on the station or a new pair of Cole Han boots, you'll find the money.

I say the same thing holds true for using age as a reason not to do something. If your choice is not to do it, give me the real reason. Maybe you're too scared, maybe you're afraid you'll fail,  but don't tell me you're too old.

And if you need a little proof let me introduce you to  Shari Nedler. Shari is the mom of my friend Karen Quinn, author and founder of Testing Mom. Right now Shari is off on a cruise around the world. By herself!  In fact as of today she is somewhere in Tasmania.

How old is Shari? As a girlfriend of mine who grew up in Alabama used to tell me, a true Southern woman never tells her real age,  so we'll pretend Shari is a southern girl. Suffice it to say, if she is old enough to be Karen's Mom, she is old enough to be mine and that qualifies as not as young as we all used to be.

But I digress. Shari had planned this trip with her boyfriend Marvin, a man she met after Karen's Dad passed away. They set sail over a year ago and not too far into the trip Marvin got sick. They had to go home and not long after Marvin passed away.

Shari initially had no intentions of taking this cruise again, much less traveling by herself. But she had what  I like to call a lot of appetite. That desire won over those, including herself who might have said she was too old to be taking a cruise around the world by herself.

Although she's not really alone. Karen and her brothers are joining her at selected ports. And Shari is blogging her adventures. If you'd like to keep up with Shari you can subscribe to her blog through RSS. She'll remind you everyday that you are never too old, for anything, especially adventures!

Do you think you are too old to do something? 
Or do you defy what others say and not let age stop you? 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh The Noise Out There!

It's really noisy out there. So noisy that it's hard to get much of anything done unless you shut it all off.

The Middle East, in which it seems a new country a day is added to the list of unrest. Wisconsin, in which Democrats are on the run to prevent a quorum vote so the Republicans cannot take away the Unions right to collective bargaining.  Republicans everywhere forgetting the reason they got control of the House in the Fall was to create more jobs and get the economy going, not eliminate them and get sidetracked with attacks on Planned Parenthood without actually understanding the good this organization does.

Then there is a rumor the federal government could shut down if a spending bill is not passed which is almost as rampant as the one that Dancing With The Stars, with a penchant for signing on Republicans with no real stardom but lots of bad choices (think Tom DeLay and Bristol Palin) has offered Christine O'Donnell a slot to compete for the Mirrorball trophy.

It makes my head hurt just to write about it. But I had to. I have been off trying to get work done. I needed full concentration so I kept myself away from anything but the headlines, even this blog. I needed the time away without distraction. I needed to get things done.

Until today.

Today I am catching up. I am back.

Is it there too much noise out there for you?
How do you manage it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Will

It's not often that I get my hands on a book that I cannot put down. The kind that makes me push everything else aside until I finish. But that is what happened when I picked up The Long Run.

The truth is I didn't pick up the book. It was given to me at an 85Broads breakfast last week at which the author Matt Long spoke. I didn't know much about Matt's story save the blurb that came with the invitation. Matt was a runner. He was also a firefighter. Matt was the one who got hit by the bus during the NYC Transit strike in 2005.

I had a vague recollection of the story. I was still working at NY1 News then. It was one of those stories that had the newsroom talking, that I as the sales director would watch repeated over and over as it unfurled in that quintessential NY1 way. An illegal transit workers strike and now a tragic accident connected to it.

But the only other thing I knew about Matt's story was that Janet Hanson had read it and was taken enough to get him to come speak Thursday morning.

Looking at Matt, save a bit of a limp you would never know a bus had run over his body just five years ago and that he had been given a 5% chance to live. Well pressed and fit he looked like the typical sucessful NY businessman.

But there is nothing typical about Matt. Before the accident Matt had been a marathon runner qualifying for Boston and an Ironman triathlete. He was a firefighter with a degree in business who owned three bars in Manhattan, the most successful, Third and Long.

His excellent physical shape gave his body the strength to fight off death. And then there is his spirit.  When you hear him speak and then read his story, it is very apparent that this is a man who loves life and believes he can do whatever his mind sets itself on.  Matt had no intention of limiting himself to being a survivor. He was going to run again, no matter what anyone told him.

Matt is an inspiration to us all, not just to those who have suffered life altering injuries or illnesses. So many of us give up on some dream or goal we have because someone else tells us we can't have that. We don't believe in ourselves enough to feel the possibility. We sabotage ourselves by avoiding what we need to do to make it happen.

Matt Long saw the end result. For him it was running the NYC Marathon again. He took the steps necessary. He enlisted the support and guidance of experts in the field. He surrounded himself with his very large community of family and friends. He kept his fears and doubts at bay and the naysayers far enough out of reach to have their way with him. He did the work. Three years after the accident, in November 2008, Matt crossed the finish line.

Matt's life revolves around inspiring others with his story. He founded the I Will Foundation dedicated to helping those who have suffered life altering injuries or illnesses.

Their home page reads:

no longer will I wish...
no longer will I want...
from now on...
I will.

I think that about says it all.

What end result can you see in your future?
What will you do to make it happen?

Monday, February 14, 2011


I found myself in conversation about boys, love and online dating with the 25 year old nurse practitioner in my dermatologist's office last week. A stunning young girl with a  couple of fancy degrees and a complexion worthy of working for a dermatologist I have to say I was a little taken back when she told me she was on Match.  Yes, the stigma associated with online dating has gone the way of rotary phones. But she's only 25.  At her age shouldn't it be as simple as walking down the street for her to meet a guy?

She scrunched up that beautiful face of hers as she told me it's really hard out there. I agreed with her. It is hard, much harder for her generation than it was for mine. Life was slower then.  Technology was not as big a part of our lives. If a guy took your number you waited at home for him to call you or you might miss him. You didn't go out with your girlfriends with your phone in your purse.

People had to talk to each other more if they wanted to connect. They had to leave the house and go to  parties instead of flirting in their pajamas in front of a computer screen. People were forced to  pay attention to their surroundings and see if someone interesting might be standing next to them instead of listening for the sound of a text, email or call emanating from a purse. They had more questions to ask on a first date because there was no on line profile to read in advance. There was no GPS, no 4Square or Twitter  that could allow you to find anyone, anywhere. There was no Facebook to check relationship status and photos of where he was when not with you.

There isn't as much privacy anymore. Worse there isn't as much mystery. And personally, I like a little mystery in my romance.

It's harder for her generation than it was for mine. But maybe it's always harder when you're 25.

At 25  you are just starting to realize love doesn't necessarily come as easily as we'd been told it would. It's that time when you still want to believe in storybook romance but are starting to see those perfect loves only live in prose.  It's when you start to worry you may never meet that one great love to last a lifetime.

I wanted to tell her it would all be OK.  I wanted her to know that real life love gets messy and that's OK. That means you're really loving and really living. That love comes more than once if you keep your heart open. Each time it's different and often better. Some loves last a long time and some a brief second. Some leave you hurting for a while but they always leave you hungering for more. I wanted her to know love happens unexpectedly and never when you force it. That once you've loved someone they will always keep a little piece of your heart, that there is no age limit on love and it rarely looks the way the world tells you it's supposed to.  I wanted her to know there is no one way things are supposed to look.

I wanted her to know there is so much love to have and give beyond romantic love. Parental love, family love, the love of really great friends, and if you are extraordinarily lucky the love of your work.

But I knew that she would have to live the years to understand what I've learned. And I knew at her age, I wouldn't have wanted to hear any of it much less believe it.

So I left her with the best advice I could. What I wished someone had convinced me of at 25. That until you really learn to love yourself, the parts that are easy to and the parts that are more difficult to embrace, until you can really stand in a place of loving you, of looking in the mirror and noticing what is right instead of what's wrong, you can never fully love another person. She told me that's what her therapist told her.

Happy Valentine's Day !

What have you learned of love?
What do you wish someone had convinced your younger self?
Is it only experience that teaches us?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Using My Strength

I've been a gym rat for a long time. I don't pretend to enjoy it. I really do. When I am lax I miss it. Only other gym rats understand. It's an addiction of sorts, but of the best kind.

I worked out with a trainer for a long time. Pre-recession, back in the heyday of my corporate stay when disposable income was aplenty. I like to think I learned the "proper" way to workout and that I am strong.

So when one of the trainers in my gym made mention to me that he liked the way I trained I felt pretty good. And when he offered a free session to train with him, who was I to say no?

Being the life long student that I am I know that no matter how well versed we think we are there is always something new to learn. And when he said there was one or two things he could show me to improve upon what I was doing, I had no doubt there was.

What I wasn't expecting was the great big metaphor on my life he would deliver.

"You are very strong. You're just not using your strength as well as you can." 

So that was cause for pause. Because you see  (1) he was right and (2) this was not just about my workout routine.

As I was trying to concentrate on what he wanted me to do, my mind was racing with how easy it is to repeat out of routine. Do the exercises without really doing them. Getting just enough results that we know we are doing well but not stretching to our full potential. What Gay Hendricks calls living in the zone of excellence but stopping ourselves from leaning into our zone of genius in his book The Big Leap.

"Are you OK?"

I think it was the look on my face that made him ask. I nodded yes, and mumbled that he had me thinking about more than squeezing my gluts tighter while swinging the kettle ball.

I left feeling like I had really worked out. And the funny thing was that we had done less than what I would have done on my own, just more efficiently.

Do you know what your strengths are?
Are you using your "strength" as efficiently as you can?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Some days all the noise hexes me. The tweeting, the Facebook posts, the YouTube videos. All that self promotion that is at once a benefit to leveling the playing field in this new interconnected on line world we live in and an annoyance. What is real and what is made up?

Some days I get hexed. I start comparing myself to what others are doing.
How did she get that book deal?
How come his blog got picked up by the Huffington Post and mine didn't?
Does everyone really need to voice their opinion about everything?
Isn't tweeting that you actually managed to find ten minutes to meditate a contradiction of statement?
Or do you just think it's cool to tell people you meditate even though you clearly don't fully understand what that means?

Some days even when I shut all the noise off I can still hear it in my brain as if my internal computer pressed the repeat button and it got stuck.

Some days I get hexed, thrown off my own course by the spell all this constant chatter has created.

I am frozen in my tracks. I get no work done. I feel helpless in how I will be heard about the noise. Does it mean I have to start saying stupid things and making sure they go viral? I hope not, because in that case I will never be heard.  Not that I promise to never say anything I might regret, but it is not my style to spew falsity and to speak just for the sake of hearing my own voice.

Some days I get hexed and  my only recourse is to take a tip from Thoreau and create my own little version of the woods he went to live in. Except instead of Walden Pond I bundle up and head for the Reservoir. Cell phone off. No iPod buds in my ear. No texting. No tweeting. Just me, the quiet and the oasis that is Central Park.

Do you get hexed by all the "noise" out there?
Do you think there is too much "noise"?
How do you differentiate between what is real and what is made up?
Do you think you have to say "stupid" to be heard?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Some days it's all so hard. Fill in the blank for "it".

Your job is difficult.
Writing the book is taxing.
Starting your business is grueling.
Trying to get the new funding is onerous.
That Pilate's stretch is arduous.
Your relationship is wearing you thin.

Some days it's all so tiring that  I for one just want to go lay down on the couch and wait until the hard part passes.  Curl up with a trashy magazine or the remote, a big cup of tea and a blanket and linger.

Except I rarely do that. Most of us don't. Guilt gets in the way. We keep pushing. And we wonder.
Why is it so hard?  
Should it be?
Is the exhaustion we are feeling a sign maybe what we're trying to do isn't right? Or is this just simply the resistance that Steve Pressfield talks about or the "lizard brain" as Seth Godin calls it trying to sabotage us?

That answer is rarely easy. Most of the time it is the resistance to that  next level we are reaching for. That's part of the deal when you choose an unconventional life. It's also the reason why so many opt for a more conventional route. Happier does not mean easier.

But this is where so many of us get tripped up. We bail out because we think things are supposed to be simpler. We live in an On Demand world and so we wonder why is this not happening on demand? We're not making the progress somebody thinks we should be making so we press the button on that remote to  switch to the next screen.

Sometimes it's not the resistance. Sometimes it is time to change the channel. But how do we know that?

I'm not sure there is an easy answer. But I think it  involves pressing the pause button instead of stop and engaging in the underrated activity of breathing long enough to get out of your head and back into your body. Then listen. Your body will tell you what to do next. It might be as simple as writing a blog.

What do you do when it all seems to get too hard? 
How do you tell the difference between resistance and wrong?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tales of Reinvention: Joanne Lekas

Joanne Lekas is a certified professional dog trainer and the owner of Happy Dog Behavior Training.  She offers private, in home training sessions as well as group classes throughout the Greater Boston and Cape Cod area. 

On January 28 she, in partnership with Alan Grazioso launched Puppy Coach 101 a quick and easy video based dog training reference App now available through iTunes. 

Once a successful IT sales consultant, now the owner of a thriving new business, Joanne is a Reinventor. 

Sometimes we choose to reinvent ourselves and sometimes it chooses us. What was the defining moment that made you take the leap?

I knew for a while I was done with IT software sales but wasn't doing anything about it. Then I was laid off.  At that moment I didn't know what I wanted to do. Only that I wanted it to be something I loved, was good at, interesting, and flexible. The one thing I knew for sure was that it wasn't going to be another job selling software. I wanted it to be totally different,

How did you get to dog training?
People knew I loved dogs. Many suggested I become a dog walker. But that did not appeal to me. Then in a passing conversation someone suggested dog training.  I'm not sure exactly what made me but I jumped in with no master plan and no research. I was lucky to land a job as an apprentice. But it didn't click right away and I wasn't initially convinced that this was for me.

But something kept pulling me to continue.

I found this five day teacher training workshop in upstate New York. That was when  it all changed. I came back enthused and certain that I was on my path. I had a moment that week where I realized that I had always wanted to be a teacher, it had always been in the back of my mind. I just never knew what I wanted to teach. It was that workshop that got me clear. I wanted to teach dogs and their owners.

Tell me about your business.
About  75% of my business is private in home training for the new puppy, from general obedience  to specific behavior issues. The rest is group classes. Essentially what I am doing is  teaching the owners to communicate more effectively with their dogs. If the owner and their dog  have clear consistent communication  their relationship is a good one.

I like to use the analogy  that it's like teaching a dog English as a second language. When I was a kid my grandparents did not speak English. Because we couldn't communicate that well,  my relationship with them was never close. For an owner and their dog to have a good relationship there has to be clear, consistent, positive communication.

How has or hasn't your work and education experience prepared you?
My background has helped on many levels!

The kind of sales I did involved educating. I had to present to large groups and capture their attention, not unlike what I do running a puppy class. It was also a consultant sell which involved asking a lot of questions, which is exactly what I need to do when a there is a real behavioral issue with a dog. Then there is the marketing of myself and my business to the pet store owners, the veterinarians, dog groomers and boarders. This is a big referral business.  Lastly, there is the follow up which is inherent in any good sales person. It is also very helpful after a session for both the owner and the puppy.

What has been the biggest surprise concerning your reinvention?
How natural this is for me, how easily I get the behavior I want. How quickly my confidence grew. Overall how good I am with the dogs!

What has been the biggest obstacle? 
The biggest was the learning curve.  I read everything I could get my hands on, attended every workshop and seminar I could find. It's a fun business but also serious. If not done properly a dog could develop serious behavioral issues. Early on I referred out the most serious cases until I felt more confident in my knowledge. I continue to learn. Understanding what goes on inside of a dog's mind and how they think is a fascinating and on going process.

As for the business itself, I think more of a challenge than a obstacle was getting a steady stream of clients. Now that I have developed a good, solid reputation that is much easier.

What has come the easiest transitioning out of corporate life?
I'd say one of the most enjoyable parts is getting up in the morning and not having to rush out the door. Being able to set my own schedule because I am my own boss.

Any regrets?

What do you love most?
That I am making a difference with people and their dogs.  I know it might sound corny but when I get an email back from an owner telling me how much they learned and enjoyed the session and what a difference I made with their dog, that really makes my day.

What do you miss most about the Corporate world?
Back when the business was still fun there was a thrill to closing a big deal.
Plus knowing when the next check was showing up.

Do you think anyone can reinvent their life?
In theory yes.  But you need the conviction, determination and passion of your desires.  Sometimes this is part of a master plan, sometimes not, but these qualities are essential.  Then you need the means to begin.  So in practice this is not always easy.  Sometimes financial constraints and family obligations make this more than challenging.  But there is always a way to pursue your dreams on a small scale
to start.  The first step is to explore your options.  A life change can seem so daunting and unrealistic.  But with technology today you can go online and start to research and explore and this can often open the door as to where to start.

You mentioned conviction, determination and passion as necessary qualities. Can you elaborate?
Of course.  Passion is key because you have to love and want something enough to
motivate you to take the first step.  This is where a lot of people get stuck.  They don't know what they want, they just know what they don't want. This is where professional coaching can help provide guidance!

Thanks for the coaching plug!  Can you tell us what are you most proud of to date?
Besides the difference I am making with owners and dogs, it would be the launch of Puppy Coach 101, an App for iPad, iPhone and iTouch.

An App for dog training?
Yes, it's designed for the new puppy or dog owner. The App is very easy to navigate and gives the basics of dog training. While it is by no means a substitute for a professional trainer it does allow for easy, portable, reference.

How did that come to be?
Another random meeting. I was at my Yoga class in the fall of 2009 talking passionately about dog training and this guy overheard me. Alan turned out to be a filmmaker and wanted to talk to me about a project. There was talk of a TV project which then turned into this video based App.  It took almost a year to get to our January 28, 2011 launch.

What advice would you give others contemplating shaking up their lives?
Don't wait forever. It you are passionate about something find a way to pursue it even it's part time for awhile. You want to be doing something that makes you want to wake up in the morning !

Happy Dog Behavior Training serves the Greater Boston and Cape Cod area.  The Puppy Coach 101 App is available anywhere you are iTunes accessible.  

Note: In the interest of full disclosure Joanne Lekas is a member of my big fat Greek family. She is my cousin, my friend and as close to a real blood sister as I have.  And yes, we have the same first name. It's a Greek thing!    

Friday, February 4, 2011

Choosing Happy

"I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude." 
Judith M. Knowlton via Gloria Feldt

I received an email this morning from an old friend.  He remarked that I seemed to be doing quite well and reflected a happy person's views in this "sea of negativity." I remember him from the decades ago we were in each other's daily lives as one of those "happy people." He had a vibrant energy with an easy laugh and a why not attitude.  He was fun to be around. Which accounts for the large circle of people that were drawn to be in his presence.

People like him always made me want some of whatever they had going on.  You see back when I knew my friend I was not one of those happy people.  I can see that look you're giving me now. How could that be possible?  It's the same one I get when I tell people I once had weight issues. But it's true.

I  wasn't that happy even though I got pretty good at pretending. As the child of depression era parents I grew up with a "make the best with what you have" attitude. Which meant I got very good at rationalization. Yes on the surface it all looked pretty shiny. But inside it  didn't always feel right.

This was long before I understood energy, personal truth and the power of something as simple as breathing. So my core felt like a giant log jam that I couldn't find my way out of.

Back then I didn't understand I could choose happiness.  I didn't understand the fine line of  difference between gratitude for what is and trying to make the best of a situation I didn't want. I didn't get that gratitude is simply an acknowledgment of the good that has already shown up in one's life. And unlike making the best of something which for me was twisted with the fear  I was stuck with whatever that was forever, gratitude for what is allows you dream of what will be. And to believe it is possible. It's very simply a step towards it.

A mind shift if you may. A choice.

In this "sea of negativity" perpetuated by media voices more concerned with complaining than doing, with doom than hope, one of the simplest thing we have control over is how we choose to be. We can be happy or not. We can believe in positive change or stagnation. We can smile or we can frown. We can look for the good or the bad. We can believe we can control our thoughts and our attitude or we can believe we are victims.

What do you choose?

Note: In gratitude for my dear friend's note  and for Gloria Feldt's perfectly timed tweet which both arrived this morning and without which I have no idea what I would have blogged about !

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Groundhog Day And Desire#32

In the depths of this tundra like Northeast winter where one snow filled day is starting to run into another, I anxiously awaited news from Punxsutawney yesterday. I don't care if it is myth and without scientific finding.  I, like many others, wanted Phil to tell us spring will be early this year. I wanted some indication that a day would come soon when I could wear something on my feet besides my snow boots.

And that little groundhog  delivered more than good news. He sent a tiny ray of hope that the seeds of all we've been planting this winter would be blooming sooner than later.

It got me to thinking about my personal garden and that list of 101 desires and intentions I wrote just one month ago. I needed to take a look at it. Keep it fresh in my mind. If not, like the character in Bill Murray's 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, I know I will find myself repeating what was instead of creating what will be.

I read the list again. Some of it made me smile and some made me anxious that not enough progress has been made so far. Those little knives of self sabotage that scream, how is that ever going to happen? The panic that maybe you are reaching too high. The kind that instead of spurring you into action makes you want to freeze dead in your tracks.

Being a coach doesn't mean you never have your moments. But for me it does require  asking myself what would I tell a client to do in a moment like that. The answer was easy.  I would tell them to reread the list. I would tell them to breathe each one in as if it was already manifested. I would suggest finding one thing they could do right then and there and take a step towards it.

I read Desire #32. To dance more. 

It was that easy. One dance break and my day shifted. My list of intentions became possible again. A new green bud emerged in my garden. And I had unknowingly feed another desire. #41. Trust more.

Does your life resemble Groundhog Day?
Are you ready to do something about it?
What seeds are you planting in your life today that will bloom this spring?