Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On The Radio

One of my most favorite parts of the journey I've taken in the last several years is all the great new people I've gotten to meet, on-line and off-line, who share similar interests.

One of those people is Lori Randall Stradtman who I heard speak last year at BlogWorld. Lori is an expert on social media and is currently writing a book entitled, Online Reputation Management for Dummies. Who won't want to read that?

I was honored when Lori invited me to be on her radio show, Literary Social.  Which is where I am today. So stop over and listen for a bit. I get to dish with Lori about self-publishing, selling, The Secrets They Kept and going for what makes you happy.

p.s  I dare you to be able to figure out which voice is from New York City and which from Georgia!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Signs

The signs are there if you stop long enough to pay attention. For my advice on how to know if its time to leave your job, please click here to read my first of what I intend to be many, articles on The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Good Enough

I admit it. I watched the Whitney Houston funeral Saturday afternoon. I even hit record in case I missed something. I'm not sure what drove me to turn it on. Probably the same thing that has driven me to watch other televised memorials. A morbid curiosity to uncover how a life filled with so much potential could end so soon. Or perhaps just the writer in me that never tires of story, true or fiction.

In any case there I found myself. Lying on the couch with a cup of coffee tuned to CNN.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was surprised that Kevin Costner was invited to speak. What surprised me even more was the depth of what he said and the clues he gave to what went wrong.

Whitney, he told us, was worried about being good enough. Which upon first hearing makes me laugh. Inarguably she had one of the most legendary voices of our time. How could she not know that she was good enough? How could she even worry about it?

But she did. With all of her fame and her celebrity status she worried about the same things we all do. Doubt and fear transcend race and socio-economic status as does that question of being good enough.

Smart enough, thin enough, fast enough, strong enough, talented enough,  lovable enough, to be deserving.  The prize could be the record contract, the book deal, the guy, you fill in the blank.

Her fears of being enough seemed to lead her to a dependence on alcohol and drugs as a way of coping and that led to her untimely death. For many of us, our fears of being good enough lead us to not even try for our prize.

We all saw her genius and talent, yet she worried it wasn't enough. Maybe in her reflection we can see our own.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The First Step

The first step is so @##**/ #\ hard. Anyone who tells you it's not, is lying. Especially when it comes to the really important stuff. The stuff that is going to make the big differences in your life. The stuff that you know is for your own good.

I've taken a lot of first steps so I speak from what I know.  Historically before those first steps, there is seemingly never-ending talk about whatever it is I want to change. Sometimes to the point where even I can't listen to me anymore. I've become so miserable and so repetitive going on about what is not right and what I want to change and that I am going to do something, someday soon,  that I've bored myself. It's usually just about this point that I make a move. That is, when I haven't waited long enough for the Universe to intercede.

That's what happened when I was downsized in 2008.  I knew I was done with 9 to 5 corporate life long before the pink slip, but I was too scared to do anything about it. I didn't like where I was but it felt awfully safe and comfortable to sit still and not take that first step down an unknown road.

Intellectually I knew that once I pointed my toes in the new direction and lifted a foot I wouldn't be able to stop moving. That's what happens when you are on the right path. It is as though a great gale force of wind is at your back propelling you forward and there is no stopping you.

Think about what happens when a baby takes their first steps. They struggle, they fall, they lose their balance as they attempt to do what they were born to do.  But once they get going there is no turning back. They are, literally, on their path.

2012 will be a year of big change for us all. According to the numerologists, it is a 5 year which translates into fearlessness, change, joy and freedom. So my questions to you:
What will your change be this year?
What will you take your first step towards?

And because I am so passionate about change and about people living lives they love, and because I know from my own experience how hard it is to move towards that,  I have created something brand spanking new.  I am offering a  75-minute, one-time consultation  in which we will explore what exactly is stopping you from taking your first step to whatever is next for you. 

Is it your fear of success or failure, of money or lack of time?
Do you think its too late to make a change in your life?
Do you believe you don't really deserve to earn money and be happy at the same time?
Do you know you want to do something different but haven't a clue what that is?

It's what I like to think of a baby step before a big adult step.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Different Kind Of Giving Birth

When I first read my dear friend, artist and fellow writer,  Suzi Banks Baum's request for guest posts for her "Out of the Mouths of Babes" project I felt ill equipped to write anything having to do with mothering. Mostly because I am not one. But something called to me that particular Saturday morning and when a writer finds words flowing, she must put them to paper, or in today's day and age, open a new Word document and get to it. Besides, Suzi reminded me I had a mother, and that was enough to get me in the conversation.

So I invite you to click this link and stop over to her beautiful website, Laundry Line Divine and read what I have to say about a A Different Kind of Giving Birth. But be forewarned, she has so much good stuff going on, you may linger there for a while. In fact you just might be inspired to submit a guest post of your own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

They Won't All Love You

One of the hardest adjustments I had when I first became a manager was adjusting to the fact that not everyone was going to love me. In fact they may not even like me.

Up until then that is what I strived for. As a salesperson, one learned to go out of their way to make sure they were liked. After all no one was going to buy your wares if they didn't like you first. Even back then, in the late eighties, when the world was less cluttered, there were still a lot of media choices. Being likable helped.

Now that I was a manager, I was told not to worry about whether I was liked, as long as I was respected.  I was going to make decisions or be responsible for enforcing someone else's decisions. To think that every single person affected by my choices was going to be happy, was not just unrealistic, it was impossible. It took adjusting, but I got used to it. And the stronger I felt in myself as a professional and as a woman, the easier it became.

That is not to say that I wasn't tested. That young girl inside of me who just wanted a sense of approval by  making everyone her friend could still make an appearance. She still does. I am still tested.

Sometimes it is on a sales consulting project. Sometimes with a potential new coaching client. But the times that really test me are when it comes to reviews for my novel.

I've been lucky. Most of the reviews so far have been beyond favorable, enough to make me certain I am indeed a writer. But every now and again I get what I consider a mediocre review,  3 stars instead of 4 or 5. Or a few days go by and the Like button on Amazon hasn't moved. And I am back there. Not understanding. Unsure of my self-worth in this new place I've chosen to stand. Longing to feel the approval of being liked. Being tested. Remembering what I was taught. Remembering what I would tell a client.

They won't all love you. They won't all like you. Strive for respect.

The Kindle edition of The Secrets They Kept is on sale for just $.99, now through Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spreading A Little Love

I'm feeling love in the air. Do you feel it too? It's that February thing. Valentine's Day. A spot of red hot warmth in the middle of the cold, dark winter. That promise that love lives, not just in the green of spring and summer, but in the gray depths of what can sometimes seem the cruelest of months.

Love, I have learned, is not just about the taking. It's also about the giving. So I've decided to spread a little love your way this month with a special offer. For a limited time only I am dropping the price of the Kindle version of The Secrets They Kept to $.99. Yes, less than one dollar! Starting now. Only on Amazon. Only for the Kindle edition.

Spread the word. The love will last longer than the price break.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Managing Expectations

The headline of the article in the print edition of Wednesday's New York Times Business section read "Sales Miss Forecast at Amazon." The online version was more pointed. "Amazon's Revenues Disappoint." Judging by the number of Amazon boxes I saw delivered on an average December day to my West Side building, I found this difficult to believe. So I kept reading.

Once into the article you find that their revenue for Q4 was up 35% at a staggering $27.43 billion. But Amazon's showing was considered "poor" because it was off nearly a billion dollars from what analysts were expecting. This apparently caused shares to "slump"in after hours trading on Tuesday by $18 from a high on Tuesday of $194.44.

No doubt these kinds of reports combined with the press spreading the news made for an uncomfortable work day at Amazon with people feeling bad about "disappointing" and worrying about how they were going to make up the shortfall and from where.

But from my outside the corporate confines perspective, all I can think is how absurd this is. Where have we gotten to in our society that we are disappointed because $27.3 billion dollars in quarterly revenue in  a snail's pace recovering economy wasn't $28.3 billion. What has happened to the word reasonable when setting expectations? And isn't this why so many of us feel like failures?

We set the bar so high it becomes unreachable. And when we don't make it, we feel like we have disappointed and failed, when the thing we have failed at most is acknowledging just how far we have come.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

9 Tips For Using Email

As I was saying yesterday, your email says a lot about who you are and how you interact with others. You can gain a customer or lose one. Deepen a friendship or splinter it. It’s your choice.

If you find that your email is getting the better of you, here are 9 suggestions to put you back in control.
  1. Check it at least 3x a day and act on it. My preference is to sit down at my computer in the morning, before lunch and at the end of the work day, set my timer and give my email my full attention. 
  2. Respond immediately or send it off to someone who will. The rule for paper was not to let your hands touch anything more than three times. In technological terms, don't scroll over and read something more than three times without acting on it.
  3. Get a smartphone and have your email accounts sent to it.  And don't forget to use it. You don't have to wait until you are in front of your computer to read an email .
  4. Organize your email. Separate the importance stuff from the newsletters you can’t seem to live without. I use Apple’s Mail Preferences which allows me to set up rules for my email. This enables me to send email directly to folders I have set up. For example, I have a folder for Shopping Newsletters, which prevents my Daily Candy from competing for time with a potential client. I have a folder for my Inspiration Newsletters which is where I collect all those inspiring daily quotes  I like to read. I have one for News of the Day that gets my NYTimes and WSJ updates. This keeps my main email inbox clean for the important stuff that needs my immediate attention. 
  5. If you are so “busy” and so inundated that you can’t find the time to manage your email, you need to take a look at what exactly you are so "busy" with. Your problem may be bigger than your email. It may be your time management. 
  6. Use spell check. And then proofread spell check. If the content is really important, forget about the trees for a moment and print it out before sending. It is amazing what typos and inconsistencies show up when you are reading from a piece of paper that you won’t catch on your computer screen. 
  7. If it’s a really important communication, let it sit for a while and reread before hitting send. Especially if it is something that has you emotional. Think of it as soup you are preparing, that needs time to simmer before it is ready to be served.
  8. When replying to something that has a distribution list, slow down before you hit send to make sure it's going to exactly who you want it to. Because once you hit send you can't take it back.
  9. Remember this is email. You are putting more than your important words in writing. You are putting you in.  And with the click of the forwarding tab, your message can be sent anywhere to anyone, with or without your knowledge. Take the time to make sure it is leaving the impression you want it to.

 Do you have tips to add? What do you consider email best practices?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Your Email Habits May Be Saying About You

I write a lot of emails. Every day. Sometimes they are to complete strangers I’d like to do business with. Sometimes they are to people I know really well. Sometimes people I know not so well. Sometimes I am responding to a reader of my blog or someone who wrote me a note just to say how much they loved my novel. Sometimes I am asking for something.

I’m not one to let my inbox pile up. It goes back to my early days in sales when I was taught to act on a phone call or letter immediately because it could mean money. It was a way to build relationships. My response time made the statement that I cared, enough to not let them wait. It was a chance to make an impression. Like the clothes you wear, the choices you make in hairstyle and eyeglasses, the way you shake someone’s hand when you meet them for the first time, I was taught this was a window to my personality and a barometer for whether they might want to do business with me.

We don’t have a lot of chances to make impressions into today’s virtual world.  Email is one of those opportunities and yet so many throw it away. They use it carelessly, never considering the message they are sending is also one about who they are. Think about it.

  • We use texting symbols like u instead of spelling out the whole word and forget that spell check does not know if you meant here or hear.
  • We ignore people we have never met as though they are something that got caught in the spam filter.
  • We ignore people we know because we are too busy to deal with them or their issue. We accidentally hit reply all when we only wanted one person to receive our message.
  • We write like we speak, often off the cuff and without forethought, forgetting we are putting this in writing without any idea on whose desk it might ultimately land. Then we wonder how we got into so much trouble. 
  • We let it pile up until we really are too busy to get through it all.
  • We lie and say we never got it, underestimating the sender who has already started to notice that you are the only one who never gets anything they send.
  • We wait just long enough to answer to imply to the sender they are really not that important.

Before email, we relied on the telephone or perhaps a letter typed on real paper that was proofread for typos and put into an envelope with a stamp on it. Of course now we worry about killing trees, and the telephone, well that is so yesterday. But making an impression is not.

How you respond to my email tell me about who you are and how you do business. 
  • A high level executive for a major corporation who emails me back the same day or even forwards my email to one of her lieutenants  with a copy to me, tells me that person stays on top of their business and probably their life. It also insinuates that they really care enough about their company to know that I might have something worthwhile to share. I might be wanting them to buy something from me, but I am also a potential customer for them.
  • The newly minted best-selling author whose talk I attend and write a complimentary follow-up email who takes exactly one year to reply thank-you to me says scattered and thoughtless and makes me wonder why they are even bothering now. They missed their opportunity to gain a repeat customer for their next book.(this is a true story!)
  • The friend who takes days to reply to my email, but then harasses me with texts and phone calls when I don’t immediately respond to theirs implies self-importance.
  • There is the person who disappears in the middle of the email thread. That’s like hanging up the phone on me in the middle of a conversation.

I could go on but, I have email to answer.  Just remember whether this is business you or personal you, your email habits are a statement of who you are.  The question is, what impression do you want to leave?

Tomorrow: 9 Tips for Using Email