Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Pause After The Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

5 Somewhat Surprising Spiritual Reasons To Play The Lottery

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

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

What you say?

That's right. A spiritual exercise in allowing. 

This is what I mean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Celebrating My Mother At 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 Tips For An Effective Presentation

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

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

So what makes a good presentation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Confession And A Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

12 Signs You Are Not Keeping Up In The Digital Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Here are 12 signs:

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

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

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