Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking Intention To Task

Intention is defined as a thing intended; an aim or plan. I've always preferred the word intention to goal when plotting my course. A goal implies focus on a specific object and suggests that we are standing on a football field and playing by someone else's rules instead of our own. Intention for me is the next step towards what I desire to create. And I like the sound of that better.

But whether intention or goal, nothing manifests without steps taken. I can intend all I want but if I do nothing, nothing is created. My favorite example is that of writing a book because it is such a clear one. You can intend to write a book,  or set the goal of writing a book, but if you don't write a page, all the good intentions and goals setting in the world will not produce the book.

Which is why I like to take intention to task. Every week. I take a look at my big intentions and I drill down to task. I ask myself these questions.

  • What three things will I do this week that are directly related to my bigger intentions? 
  • What three things will I do today that will have an impact on those big goals?

And when I catch myself wondering why I am doing what I am doing at the moment, say taking a wander on FaceBook, it helps to stop and ask myself how this is benefiting my big intention for the day, the week, or the year. If I can't draw a direct line or even an indirect line of its impact, it's my signal to go do something that will.

What is your larger intention today?
What three things will you do to further that intention?

Note: If your intention is to commit to real change and you are ready for a coach to hold you accountable click here for more information or email joanne@joannetombrakos.com. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

50 Shades of Envy

I admit it. I am jealous, hexed, completely thrown off balance. Out of seemingly nowhere, an erotic trilogy surfaces that serves up a great big seven figure advance to the author. Seven figures! The fantasy number for any would be or already published writer out there. The one you think is only possible if your writing reaches to that high level of literary distinction that will allow your books and your name live into perpetuity, like Emily Bronte, or William Shakespeare.

At least that is the way things used to be. No more.

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is not that kind of writing. Nor is that of Amanda Hocking, another recipient of the seven figure prize. I doubt we'll find that in the memoir of Amanda Knox when that is published. Or in that of Andy Cohen, the 40 something  Bravo executive whose memoir also landed him a number with seven digits. And don't get me started on Sarah Palin's $1.25 million advance. But that is the way things work today. If a corporation thinks they can make a lot of money really, really quickly they'll advance. Good writing is secondary to the equation. ( Note that in the case of E.L. James and Amanda Hocking both were already selling books like crazy and Amazon bestsellers before a Big Six publisher even considered pulling out their checkbook to write a number with that many zeros. But that is the subject of another blog.)

Don't get me wrong. I liked Fifty Shades of Grey. Enough to read the second in the series, Fifty Shades Darker. Last night I dove into the third, Fifty Shades Freed. And I've recommended it to my friends. Do I think it is great writing? No. But for its genre it is very well done and rather addictive and I'd like to think that once Vintage Books, a division of Random House, gives it a real edit, it will read a bit smoother than it does now.

Was it worth the $9.99 I paid for an e-book? Absolutely. This is entertainment reading, a chance to escape into a fantasy world that makes you laugh at the absurdity of it at the same time you turn the page to find out what will happen next.  And for the record, I am not a suburban housewife, though the trades will tell you that is the only group reading it. There are many, many urban singles and working mothers who are staying up late with Christian Grey. Rick Santorum take note. As one of your colleagues said, sex is popular, as is reading about it.

But back to my jealously. It's created a bit of writer's block.

Questioning what I am writing and why I can often struggle over one word when self-editing when others can repeat the same adjectives page after page, as if they have never read it twice and rise to the top of best seller list. Is success in anything...be it writing or a business or a traditional career path, not about honing skills but more  like the lottery? You buy a ticket and you play to win but it's anyone's guess whose got the right combination of numbers. Today it's E.L. James. And while I am envious, her success also offers hope. She wrote what she wanted to, she wasn't afraid to put it out there and the Universe has responded with a resounding seven figures. Or at least Vintage did.

What do you think about the extraordinary success of 50 Shades of Grey?
Have you read it? 
Do you think it warranted a seven figure advance?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Other People's Maps

We live in a world where we like to be given the best route to get somewhere we haven't been to before. We type in our starting and ending points to Mapquest, Google Maps or those electronic GPS devices that cars newer than mine come equipped with. We assume they know what's best.

But they don't always. Too often they take us the more complicated and more crowded route.

I live in Manhattan. I consult Mapquest and Google Maps when I am driving somewhere new. When you live in this town no one needs to tell you the best route to the Lincoln Tunnel or the Triboro (oops..RFK) Bridge. But that's how those directions start. And they are consistently ridiculous. If I was so brave as to experiment with them, I would be late for wherever I was headed.

So what makes me think the rest of the directions will be any better? There has been no human interaction, no discussion as to new detours or delays that are unique to the day. No one asking me if perhaps I do want to take a more scenic route.

There is no one best route to ANYTHING. Yet too many of us don't want to create our own road maps. We want someone else's prescribed path for getting somewhere,  hopefully in the shortest amount of time possible. We want some automated voice to tell us how to do it. We assume they know better. We don't want to think for ourselves.

Directions are good. Technology affords easy access. But the map is only to get us started.  Whether it is driving from the Upper West Side to Vermont or looking for a new job. We can't follow  blindly and without question. We need to use our instincts and not be afraid to try it our own way, even risk a detour or getting lost.

Other people's money is great for starting a business but not enough to grow it. Other people's maps are great for getting out of the gate but won't get you where you need to go without you steering the wheel.

Do you take the prescribed route or are you adventurous?
Which do you think is better?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Women Creating Change: My Conversation with Gloria Feldt

     I met Gloria Feldt at an 85Broads event not long after I first left corporate America. I admit to being a bit in awe that I was getting to eat breakfast with this nationally renowned activist sitting across the table from me. I'm still in awe, but what I discovered that morning is that Gloria is as real as the rest of us. She's powerful, she's passionate, and she knows her stuff. A teen mother from rural Texas, Gloria served as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood from 1996-2005. Today she continues to work towards the betterment of women's lives as an independent commentator on women's issues, politics, media and leadership. She teaches at Arizona State University and serves on the board of the Women's Media Center. Her must read book, No Excuses, 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power has just been released in paperback.
     When given the opportunity to sit down and chat with her I was wise enough to accept. I am honored to share with you my recent conversation. 

A key concept in your book is about changing the meaning of power for women. Can you elaborate?
     Women resist their power in part because we have borne the brunt of the most negative aspects of power for millennia.  Power has been defined as the power over something or someone. I urge women to redefine power in their own minds as the power to—power to accomplish good things in this world, power to thrive as an individual and the power to help others, to make life better fro yourself, your kids, your community, your world.
     Power over is from Mars. Power to is from Venus. Power over is oppressive. Power to is leadership. See what a difference it makes to define your terms?

I like the Mars and Venus analogy!

The idea of a powerful woman is still a frightening prospect to many men. And to some women. Why in 2012, do you think that still is?

     Perhaps you have seen the old Dilbert cartoon: “Change is good. You go first.” Men who are insecure may fear the profound changes that have come from the moves to equalize gender power that you and I regard as simple justice.  This is because they hold the old, outdated “power over” hierarchical model of power in their minds, as opposed to the expansive “power to.”
     Some women might also fear loss of the comfortable safety of rigid gender roles, and the freedom from responsibility to make their own choices. 

You are one of the most well-known and respected feminists out there. How would you define being a feminist today? Is the definition any different than how you would have defined one in 1972?

     Thank you ! 
     The fact that sexism remains rampant in media and cultural norms if not laws should tell us that the job of feminism isn’t finished. Nor are we post-anything. But we are in a new phase.
     Twenty or thirty years ago, women might have thought they had to become men (metaphorically and in their behaviors and even dress) to succeed. Today, it is clear that the world needs what women have to offer--and women are more comfortable being authentically who they are. We learn and get stronger in the doing.
     Feminism has become a dominant social value. Who in 2012 would dare say that girls shouldn’t be educated and aspire to be the CEO rather than the secretary?  I believe this is an amazing moment for women, a hopeful and historic moment—if we make it so. It’s time for women to step up, stand in the power they have, and lead their own dreams. And to understand that change won’t happen by itself. Just because there’s a trend doesn’t mean it will continue without conscious action.
     For example, women’s numbers in Congress went backward in the 2010 elections because women failed to step up and support those who won in swing districts in 2008. That’s what happened after 1992, the last time an election was dubbed “the year of the woman.” In 1994, those women who had tipped the scales stayed home, and we got the Gingrich revolution and many steps back in women’s equality. The 2012 election is upon us and it’s a new opportunity for us to make it The Year of the Woman. Will we do it? The answer is in our hands once again. That hasn’t changed.
     To me, feminism is social justice, and I wouldn’t change the definition. 

 In your book you argue that nobody is keeping women from parity except themselves. Yet recently we’ve seen a renewed effort on the part of a segment of our population to quell our reproductive and health care rights. Can you offer your insight?

     I’ve been thrilled to see women break open so many doors during my life, and my decades of activism. But at the rate women are going, it’ll take 70 years to get to parity-and not just in politics! Women hold only 18% of top leadership roles at work too--and that’s not fair, or good for men, women, a balanced family life, or even companies’ return on investment according to McKenzie and Company’s analysis. Yet in spite of cultural barriers that arguably do remain, from the boardroom to the bedroom, no law or structural barrier is holding us women back now, except ourselves.  It is easier to become co-opted by a little success and not hold out for the whole package. Sometimes it is even easier not to have choices. But is “easy” the same as fulfilling? Not to me.
     There are many reasons --external barriers of discrimination and internal barriers of fear and insecurity--but there are no excuses any more. The doors are open; we have to walk through them.
     For example, in politics, women can now raise money as well as men, are more trusted by the voters, and are clearly as capable of putting together strong campaigns. Still, women candidates face media sexism and scrutiny that can be daunting. Hillary Clinton’s cackle, cankles, and cleavage for example. When did you hear a media commentator say about a male candidate that he couldn’t win because voters wouldn’t want to watch him age?
     And what about Rush Limbaugh’s latest outrageous, sexist statements about a young women who merely asked to state her opinion about the need for insurance coverage of contraception?
     This is hardly new.  The opposition to reproductive rights is what it has always been—a desire to control women’s lives through controlling their bodies and their sexuality. The abortion issue has always been just the tip of a much larger ideological iceberg. As we can now see clearly, the opposition also extends to contraception which most people thought was an entirely settled matter, since 99% of Americans use contraception at some time in their lives. 
     Even with all that, the only way to make the change is to make the change. Hillary did that and as a result it is becoming increasingly clear to people that leaders can have breasts and wear turquoise pantsuits. When women run they are now as likely to win as men, but young women are 50% less likely than men to even think about running for office.
     So we have to take the leap. You can’t win if you don’t run. You can’t get the job if you don’t apply or the salary raise if you don’t ask. You might not always get what you ask for, but that is one of the things we need to learn. Being told “no” isn’t the end of the world. Try again.

Many say the Feminist movement, has been invigorated because of the banter and rhetoric of people like Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh. Do you agree?

     Yes,  it has been invigorated, but in the breech. It’s great to get angry and get active to oppose something, but we are missing a big, bold agenda to aspire to. I hope that the energy generated by the Limbaughs and Santorums will be used to fuel the next wave of feminist legislation and advocacy for positive changes in society, to “fight forward,” not just to “fight back.”

 Personally my blood starts to boil when I see the pictures of these all white, all male juries discussing birth control. It’s reminiscent of the Inquisition and the Salem Witch trials.  I get so crazy I can barely breathe. What power tool or tools would you suggest women like me can implement in those moments?

     I’d say Power Tool #2, “Define your terms—first before others define them for you” is hardest but the most important here because we have yet to define power on our own terms. We react rather than setting the agenda. I think the current spate of legislation aiming to be equally in-your-face to anti-choice legislators—like requiring a man seeking Viagra to bring his partner in to attest he is impotent and give permission—are one sign that some people are waking up to this.
     And then Power Tool #7: “Create a movement” to get together with your sisters and supportive brothers to make the change you want and leave the retrogrades in the dust.

One of my favorite power tools is “Know Your History.” With women’s history not being taught in the schools, we have generations being raised thinking the freedoms we have today have always been there. Yet it was only 1920 when women were given the right to vote. What can we do to demonstrate how fragile our progress really is? Or have the recent events over who has the right to make decisions concerning a woman’s health and birth control choices brought it all to light?

     I’m so glad you like that power tool! It’s the most often ignored, and therefore we keep having to relearn its lessons.  May I refer you to my ForbesWoman.com post on the importance of knowing our history, and of learning and teaching it proactively since it usually isn’t taught in school?

You write about 9 ways women can embrace their power. Do you have a personal favorite?

     Like my children, I love them all.  But if I had to choose, I’d probably say “Embrace Controversy.”  Because I have had so many wonderful experiences with riding into the wave of controversy and using its energy to propel me or my issues forward. Controversy is a teacher, it gives you a platform, and it forces people to clarify what they think. Which in the end is the only way sustainable social or personal change is made.

If every woman who reads this test-drives just one tool today, which would you offer up that can have the most impact?

     Depends on her needs. That’s why there’s a whole toolbox full!

 To wrap up a la James Lipton… 
      What is your favorite word?           Audacious.
What is your least favorite?            Can’t.
What sound/noise do you love?    My grandsons’ voices.
What sound/noise do you hate?    Too-loud television.

One more question…If you had only six words in which to write your memoir what would they be?

    Convictions to action, love to manifestation.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Interested in learning more tips and power tools that have worked for other women? Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Into The Zone

You've probably been wondering where I have been. My blog has been quiet in the last week or so. This goes against all the rules on the care and feeding of a blog. But sometimes there is no choice. Especially when you are a writer working on a project of more, than say the typical 300-750 words in a blog.

Bigger projects consume and require a writer to get into the zone. Which is where I have been. Working on a tiny book in which I will share the many tips and tricks I have for managing your time efficiently and with output. And if that sounds a bit too business like for you, don't think for a moment that I do not figure out ways to do that with pleasure. Or that this pamphlet size book will not be fun and entertaining. It will. But it will also be helpful. At least that is my intention.

So essentially where I have been is walking the walk of this new book and employing one of my time saving tricks to implement when working on the big stuff. The presentations, the proposals, the books. The trick is to shut everything else off and employ triage when necessary. Essentially  that meant I  put  the big project of this very small book ahead of all else and neglected some other stuff.

This blog being part of that "stuff". Yes, there was guilt. And fear I would lose my readers. That is what all of the "rules of blogging" posts out there will try and convince you. Consistency, consistency, consistency.  But rules as I like to believe, are made to be broken. Especially if they are taking you off task.  Not to mention that  Seth Godin confesses he has broken many supposed "rules" of blogging. And look where that has gotten him! More followers than most of us bloggers dare to  dream of having.

So I broke a rule, dove into something I am pretty passionate about and now I am back. The little book is not quite finished but the work to do on it now allows me space to write some other stuff too. For now.

PS. I'm also posting this on a Sunday. Depending on who you are talking to, not necessarily the best day to get readers to your site. Tuesday supposedly is the day of choice. Oh well! I never did like to follow the crowd.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Hat Collection

I've always loved hats. Put a hat on and my personality shifts. The white Nike baseball cap I wear for walks in the park lends a different air than the men's style fedora I might wear out to a restaurant and never take off. There are the big, wide brimmed straw hats for the beach, the black cashmere french beret pulled down to cover my forehead, the bright red bubble hat inherited from my mother or the very practical woolen cap whose purpose is only to keep my ears warm on a cold, snowy day.

I collect hats the way I collect jewelry and scarves. They're items that never go completely out of style. You can stow them away and forget about them until you notice that the one  Harper's Bazaar is touting as the season's  new must have is already in your closet.

In fashion it has always been acceptable to own a variety of hats, but in work not so. We are ingrained at a young age to decide what our work hat is going to be. We look for one that fits us properly. That we like not only the way it looks, but the way we feel when we wear it. We are told by the end of  sophomore year in college you must choose one that will last us for life, a seemingly impossibly long time to live with just one option.

But things are changing. The world is not so linear and clear cut. Most of us will wear multiple hats over the course of our careers due to our own choice or the one someone else makes for us.  What I notice lately is how many of us wear more than one in any given week.

I have my author hat which is slightly different than my writer hat, depending on my project. My blogger hat. My business coach hat. My sales consultant hat. And those are just my work hats. Some weeks I change my hats on an hourly basis, forced to pause to not get confused where and who I am supposed to be.

I am not alone. A few weeks ago I attended a women's luncheon. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, everyone took notice that not one person was doing just one job. Everyone had their own individual hat collection.

It's the way of the world now. Part of what is occurring as our economy shifts away from this big corporate model that insists upon pigeon holing people.

Having a collection requires more work, more skill and adaptability. There are few days when you can just go through the motions and wait for the clock to say 5 so you go collect your paycheck. The trade-off is discovering how much more fun it is to find that there is more than one style that feels good, fits and yes, works!

Do you have a work hat collection or are you wearing just one?
What's on today?