Monday, December 30, 2013

Why I Am Not Making Any New Year's Resolutions for 2014

It's been years since I've made a New Year's Resolution. I gave them up long ago. Mostly because I hate the word. It's not very sexy or inspiring or very motivating. It implies doom. Which has everything to do with why they don't work.

Resolving to do something sounds very patriarchal. Rigid. Without flexibility.  In other words - fated to failure. Which is what happens with most people who make a list of resolutions in January. By Martin Luther King's Birthday they don't even know where they put the list.

I've written about it here before. 

I am not a fan of the word goal either. Goals are for the football field. They imply the only way to get somewhere is by following a specific set of rules. It's almost 2014. We've seen the changes in the last few years - most of which have happened with vision and intention and by breaking the rules.

Don't get me wrong. I am cleaning house. Straightening out the loose ends of 2013. Getting clear on what I want 2014 to look like. Change is good. A clean page on the calendar. A chance to create something new. To look at the world and my life from a fresh perspective.

I'll be working on my vision. I'll allow myself not just to see it but to feel it fully in my body. That's one of the secrets of those who manage to create a lot. They let themselves feel it in every cell of their being. That's how they stop themselves from getting in their own way.  I've already started my list of intentions. And then I'll have another list of what steps I can take that will help me to bring it all to fruition. 

I'll reread the blog I wrote last January The Five Things You Should Know Before You Write Those Resolutions and I'll follow my own advice. 

But I won't resolve and I hope you won't either.

Wishing you all the best year yet!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Why I'm Done With Christmas

It happens every year. Barely halfway through the month of December and I am done with the whole holiday thing. I am already plotting January. Keeping a list - not of what I have to do this month or what I want for Christmas - but of what I want to do in January. 

I wake up each morning not counting the days until Christmas but the days until my calendar reads 2014.

I am done. Done with the throngs of tourists who have come to enjoy my city. The ones who are never told the dangers of walking four across the sidewalk holding hands or suddenly stopping at the top of the subway stairs to have a look around. I am done with having to hold my purse a little closer to me when navigating the crowds or wondering if that seemingly lost person who is asking me for directions is really lost or setting me up to steal my wallet.

I am done with angry people in the stores and ridiculous answers when I ask a question. Like the woman in Trader Joe's who when I asked where the canned pumpkin was told me they were out because it was a seasonal item -looking at me like I was asking her in July. I am done with the liquor store marking up all their prices and keeping the less expensive yet quite drinkable wines out of sight. And I am done wondering why it seems all my friends on Facebook don't seem as done as I am.

I get to this place where I feel like Ebenezer himself and have to struggle to remember what it was I always loved about this holiday.

My memories overflow with twinkling lights and snowmen made of Ivory flakes. Candy cane cookies sprinkled with crushed peppermint and a house full of family and friends. The mystery of who Santa Claus really was. Presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied up with green and red ribbons. The smell of pine filling the room. Watching White Christmas for the umpteenth time and still being enthralled. Love and hope and possibility permeating the air. That feeling that something magical was about to appear at every corner.


There it is! That is what the lure of this holiday always was for me. True I was raised to believe in Jesus and know that this is supposed to be the celebration of his birthday. But the message that was always the clearest for me was not that of religion - but that of magic. 

Of possibility. 

Of believing in what everyone else wants to tell you cannot or should not believe in. 

Christmas was never supposed to be about the business we have made it to be.

It's not Christmas I'm done with. What I'm done with is getting caught up in what others want to make it be. At least until next year.

With best wishes for a magical holiday season!
See you in 2014!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

6 Reasons Asking Is Risky Business

Asking is not something that comes naturally to me. It wasn't how I was raised. I was raised to stand on my own two feet and to figure it out for myself - whatever "it" was. If you asked you were imposing on the other person. And that just wasn't a nice thing to do.

Which made learning to ask a client for the order that much harder for me when I first started selling.

I learned to get past my reluctance. I had to or my selling career would have been short lived. But it wasn't easy. And the dirty little secret is - I still have moments when asking - for help, for the order, even a question - is the last thing I want to do. 

But I do. Because I know if I don't I'll never know the answer and I'll never move from the spot I'm in.

That doesn't mean it's not risky. For example - 

1. I'm taking the chance I might not like the answer. I've lost track of how many times I have not asked a question because I didn't know if I wanted to hear the answer. 
2. I don't really want to hear a no. No is a tough word. No sounds so final. No. No. No. Yet the truth is a no is so much better than a maybe  - which is the answer you're getting when you don't ask. Maybe is limbo. It's nowhere land. With no at least you know where you stand.
3. I think I'm imposing. Old learning dies hard. I still sometimes think I'm infringing on someone else's space when I ask.
4. I risk being perceived as pushy. No one wants to be thought of as pushy - except of course the person who really is and doesn't care.
5. I think the person knows what I want already. I've made this mistake a thousand times - and whether it's been personally or professionally I've learned that no one can read my mind. If I don't ask I don't get.
6. I think asking is for the weak or ignorant. A strong person doesn't need help. A smart person already knows the answers. When the truth is it takes more courage to ask that not to and smart people get smarter by asking.

While I have learned how to ask - easily and with grace - there are moments when my stomach still does flips, my mouth still goes dry or my hand starts to shake before I make the call. But I do it. Because if I don't I'll just never know what would have happened if I did.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

What I Don't Want For Christmas

I've adapted quickly to most technology. I sit before a 21-inch iMac. My smartphone is rarely out of reach. My iPad comes with me to most business related activities. But there is one thing you can rest assured you won't see me in anytime soon and that is Google Glass.

Wearable technology is hot. No question about that. Nike's Fuelband debuted in 2012 and continues to be a prototype for innovative marketing and customer engagement. Sony just launched a Smart Watch 2 and rumor is that Apple's iWatch concept will combine Nike Fuelband with iOS Apps.

The latest in wearable tech is the news that  Microsoft is working on the Smart Bra  (yes - you read that right) which uses sensors to measure a woman's emotional state and detect when she might be gearing up to overeat. 

(Note to Microsoft - Fascinating technology but we women generally know when our emotions might be triggering our over eating and an alarm sent to our smartphone is not going to stop it from happening!) 

Now back to those glasses.

I got to try them out when I was at BlogHerPro

This is what I noticed. 

They made me dizzy.
Everyone who was wearing them had their eyes rolled towards the ceiling and off to the left where the screen sits.
Consequently no one was making eye contact.
They pinched.
They look ridiculous.

There I said it.
They look ridiculous.

No one mentions the style factor. Everyone is too caught up raving about the technology. But I am here to tell you there is nothing whatsoever fashionable about what someone looks like wearing Google Glass. 

Which is just one of the two big reasons I don't want a pair for Christmas.

The other is that I am too connected for my own good as it is. I have enough trouble keeping my gaze away from my smartphone. I don't need to be wearing the temptation on my eyes. 

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Danger of Content Sounding Like A Sales Pitch

Have you noticed how it seems everyone is trying to sell you something?
All day.
Every day.

It gets tiresome.
Especially this time of year.

Email solicitations.

Sponsored Facebook posts.

Interstitial ads that you have to sit through before getting to where you wanted to go.

Commercial breaks on TV and Radio that include five advertisers in one pod.

Direct mailers stuffing your mailbox.

Pop up ads at the bottom of that FREE phone App.

It's hard not to shut off and stop listening to the noise.

Which is what most of us do. 

According to McKinsey until some trigger sets us off on the path to purchase we are pretty much not paying attention to anything

Which is the big challenge for marketing in the digital age. To create that trigger so we start paying attention.

Content marketing is today's first pick to set the customer journey in motion.  As Jay Baer, author of Youtility Marketing says "Content is the fire. Social media is the gasoline." That's how today's word of mouth referrals work.

But you need to be careful. 

Content is not a sales pitch. 

Yes, a call to action at the end of a blog post is a good idea. But a call to action is not necessarily a sales pitch. It could be something as simple as asking people who like what you wrote to share it.  

The danger occurs when every blog post starts out as good, useful, perhaps even thought provoking content and quickly turns into a pitch to get you sign up for something that costs money.

The result - your message as an authority gets diluted.  

The one we get is that what is most important to you is making money. Your message is merely the vehicle.

I will never dispute that making money is important. It is after all, the end game to all this marketing. 

But when everything sounds like a sales pitch it's not content marketing. 

It feels pushy. 

It gets annoying. 

It sounds inauthentic.

It creates distrust.

It's so last century.

It's not even a very good sales pitch. 

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gratitude Needs No Holiday

Don't get me wrong. As far as holidays go, Thanksgiving ranks among my favorite. There is no pressure to buy gifts. No religious affiliation. No preparation besides the actual meal.

Thanksgiving is easy. It's about sitting around watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, pretending football is of any importance and eating more food than you usually do - without guilt. Not that I usually sit around or watch football. But that's beside the point. The point of this holiday is about giving thanks.

It dates back to 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast but it was not until 1863 in the midst of the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving to be held each November.

My point is that we shouldn't need the excuse of a holiday that comes but once a year to express our gratitude.  

It seems to me this should be an every day occurrence. We should listen to the wisdom of Deepak Chopra who advises that gratitude is the doorway to abundance. Or listen to Regena Thomashauer who will tell you unacknowledged good turns to shit.

We shouldn't need an excuse but apparently we do. 

We've gotten so conditioned to always look for what's missing that we forget to acknowledge what is sitting right in front of us. From the big stuff like the generous pay raise to the little stuff - like holding the hand of someone we love.

We forget.

So we need the reminder. We need to force ourselves to sit still long enough, our bellies stuffed full of turkey, mashed potatoes and pecan pie and say Thank-You.

I am grateful.
For all I have been blessed with.

For my friends and my family
For the work I get to do
For wonderful clients
For fabulous students that keep me on my toes
For my readers
For this incredible city I get to call my home
For the gift of waking this morning to a new day full of possibilities
For sunshine and blue skies
For rain pelting against my window pane

See - this is what happens when you take the time to be grateful. Once you get started it feels so good - it's hard to stop!

Gratitude does not need a holiday nor should it. But I am most grateful it has one. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mark your calendar! I'll be reading my essay from An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Voice To Motherhood along with the editor and creatix of this wonderful book, Suzi Banks Baum on December 5, 2013 on the UES. Hope to see you there!!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Where I Was The Day Kennedy Was Shot

It would be my stage debut in a Friday morning assembly in which my fourth grade class would perform our play. The premise was that a martian comes to earth and an entire school class goes on a trip to Mars. A far fetched idea in 1963. A man had not yet landed on the Moon much less considered Mars. But a clever and funny idea for a fourth grade school play at P.S.186

We were off to rehearse when we were interrupted. The voice came through the PA system. Our principal had an important announcement to make. 

I wasn’t happy about waiting. I liked rehearsals. I liked we got to finish the work part of the day and go to the auditorium where I could practice my lines. 

“We must be home before 3 O’Clock!”

I had landed the part of the teacher, most likely because I was the tallest of anyone in the class. But I didn’t care. I had a part. It was exciting. I practiced my lines incessantly.

We all stood behind our desks, our chairs already on top of them, waiting for whatever announcement was so important to interrupt the flow of our day. Announcements were reserved for the morning after the Pledge of Allegiance, not for the afternoon. 

Then we heard the voice of our principal, Mr. Poliakoff.  He said something  terrible had happened and we were being sent home. 

“The President has been shot.” 

But that couldn’t be! He had to be wrong. Presidents didn't get shot. Not in America. Yes, I knew Lincoln had been shot, but that was something for a more barbaric time. Not now. Not in modern day America. 

He told us we were to go directly home and we were to stay there. Mr. Poliakoff emphasized directly. We were not to stop anywhere.

No one said a word. Including Mrs. Axelrod, a petite, slim woman who wore high heels and silk stockings with seams that always stayed straight. 

Mrs. Axelrod was different than the other teachers in the school. She seemed to really like her job and her students. She dressed more fashionably,  favoring straight skirts and silk blouses that always managed to stay tucked in. And she smiled. A lot.

Except for now. Now she wasn’t smiling. It reinforced what we had heard the Principal say. Something terrible had happened. Something unfathomable. 

I watched her wipe away a tear from behind her cat eye glasses before she gathered herself and told us to line up in size place order and get ready to leave.

The quiet with which we were ushered into the halls, down the stairs and out of the school was eerie. The kind of quiet I  would experience years later as an adult on September 11, 2001 walking up Sixth Avenue among herds of people. Faces numb. In shock. Not wanting to believe. 

I found my little brother waiting for me outside of the red brick building that stood at the corner of Little Neck Parkway and 72nd Avenue. He had that look that everyone had. Scared. Something bad was going on and it was more than any of us understood how to process.

 We didn’t walk home. We ran.  Along with all the other kids in the neighborhood. In and out of the complex of two story garden apartments that made up Glen Oaks Village, a haven for a post war generation raising their kids. No one really sure what had happened or the enormity of the event that would shape all of our lives.

She was waiting for us. At the door. As were all the other mother’s in our court. They all had that same look - one I had never seen on an adult before. 

Fear. Real fear. 

They were trying to hold it together. To be strong. This generation that had lived through WWll, the war that was supposed to end all wars, was now faced with the news that the President had been shot. The young, handsome President with the beautiful young family who was supposed to represent Camelot. Shot. In our own country. On our own soil. 

The television was on when I walked in the living room. It was never on when I came home.  And it stayed on. 

Life was already different.

I still remember the look on my father’s face when he walked in the door. The big man with the enormous smile and hearty laugh never looked so serious. He headed for his chair and sat in front of the polished blonde wood of the big Crosley television console that was the centerpiece of our living room, moving only  to empty the ashtray overflowing with cigarettes or fill his glass of scotch.

I sat next to my father on the floor - watching. It made me feel safer. I kept looking up at him for some reassurance that it would be okay. We would all be okay. But I don’t remember getting it or even if it was there to give. 

What I do remember most about that day and the ones that followed was that television. It was the first time it was on non-stop and the first time I was glued to it.

When my mother decided I had watched enough for one day my father told her to let me be.

My mother wanted to protect me from the hours of televised coverage and my father wanted me to feel it. 

We were watching history. But we were living it too.

November 22, 1963 signaled the beginning of a turbulent time in this nation's  history in which there would be riots, more shootings and a daily death toll scrolled on the  evening news - lest we might forget there was a war going on in Vietnam. 

    It was the first time in our nations history that television held our collective hands through a tragedy. In many ways a glimmer of the digital age was set in motion. 

   For me it was a day that fifty years later I can still remember in minute detail and when I allow myself - still evoke fresh emotions. It defined the rest of my youth. It was my first brush with the undeniable. Bad things can happen in the world. And sometimes there is nothing we can do to stop them. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What I Really Want

Monday was my birthday.  I woke up at 4AM. Not on purpose. It just happened. Maybe it was the sound of the wind and the rain pounding against my window. But maybe not.

In any case I found myself far too awake to linger in the cozy warmth of my bed. So I didn't. It was, after all, my birthday. And as usual when things don't go completely with my plan, I appease myself and assume there is a bigger reason for why things are in disarray - one that a power greater than little ol' me has not yet clued me into.

Maybe I was supposed to be up so early so I had more moments to savor my special day. To think. To enjoy. To respond to the 150 + Happy Birthday messages I got from my Facebook "friends." Or perhaps this was just the Universe - along with a dozen or so real people reminding me I have not been writing as much as I like to - or need to.

So I made myself a cup of steaming water flavored with a wedge of fresh lemon and turned on the computer. I'd like to tell you that what I did in the darkness before dawn was open up  one of the assortment of writing projects I store on my hard drive. But I'd be lying.

I started with that modern day distractor and often time waster we call email. There was one from Deepak and Oprah. It was not to wish me a Happy Birthday.  It was the link to their latest 21-day Meditation Challenge I've been participating in.  The subject of the meditation - on my birthday - was "What Do I Want?"

That was an awfully big question so early in the morning. One that made my stomach hurt.

I considered going back to bed and waiting until the sun was up. But I was too wide awake.

So I stared at the email and I pondered how to answer the question.

Let's face it -  it was well suited for my birthday and perhaps the reason I had woken up so early. To give me extra time to come up with an answer.

What Do I Want?

- A house on the beach. Not near the beach. On the beach.
- My next book to make the best seller list
- To write that book.
- Before that - to get the proposal finished.
- Before that - to start the proposal.
- That very overpriced Vince Leather Trimmed Puffer Coat I  saw at Bloomingdales on Friday.

I could go on. And on. And on some more.

Those lists are easy.

But I know better than to think that  Deepak and Oprah were asking because they were planning an episode of her favorite things and wanted to surprise me. 

The question was bigger than the material things. Not that finishing my next book is necessarily material. But this question was bigger than that. 

So - What Do I Really Want ?

Whether it's about work or play the answer came clear.

To love and be loved.

Deepak told me my heart knew the answer.

He was right.

And I'm grateful to have woken early enough to give the question the thought it deserved.

What about you? What do you really want?

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Before The Smartphone

The other day I was gifted with some free time between appointments and wandered into the lobby of the W Hotel on Lexington. 

It was after 5 and hard to find a seat, even on a Tuesday. It was even harder to find one person who was not distracted or occupied with an electronic device. 

Including me. 

In fact if not for the very noisy party of twenty sitting far too close to me I might not have looked up from my iPad to notice. 

But when I did, it made me sad.

I started longing for life before smartphones and iPads when the battery I most worried would run out of juice was not the one in my iPhone.

I felt nostaglic for an era when a  pack of cigarettes sat next to my drink  in a hotel lobby bar instead of a phone. And I never even smoked! 

I remembered fondly when I would have unexpected free time - like this - and I would just sit and let my eyes wander the room to see who might be interesting to talk to instead of scrolling a screen reading about someone else's life and wondering why mine didn't seem to be measuring up. 

And then it hit me. 

I still can. 

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Somedays It's Out Of Your Control

I think being an entrepreneur is one of the few things you can do where you can be busy all day long and at the end of it have no idea what you have done to move the needle. 

I've had a lot of those days since that damn Mercury went into retrograde.  Those in the know will tell you it's been exceptionally hard for people. A lot complaining about exhaustion and intense emotions. 

I admit to being one of those people who believe in planetary influences. I understand energy and how sometimes it flows and sometimes it doesn't.

But that does not make me feel any more satisfied when I hear that maybe the reason I  have no idea what I have done to move my business is because of something out of my control. 

Yes, I admit it. Deep within me lies a control freak.

All those years of selling ingrained this idea into my head that there is always something I can do to move things in the direction I  want them to. That me - only me - has the ability to make something happen by controlling every move.

Only part of that is true. I do possess the ability to create - but not necessarily by controlling every step. 

Yes there are things you can do and should do and if you were working with me I could give you a long list of techniques to grow your business. 

And then there are those things you are driven to do - if an entrepreneur - hopefully from deep within your soul. 

But you still can't control it all.

You never will.

There will always be days when every moment is filled and things spin in unforeseen directions, at the end of which you have no idea what it all meant.

At which point the only option is to surrender and trust that a power greater than you sees the bigger picture. 

And be thankful Mercury straightens itself out on November 11.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Twitter Is My Favorite Social Network

Twitter goes public today. Of course, you'd have to be living under a rock not to know that. Pundits on and off line are offering predictions for what it's really worth

My unscientific opinion is a lot.

But I'm biased. 

Twitter is my favorite of all the social channels

People who don't know Twitter don't see it for all it offers.  Their impression is that it is nothing more than a repository for Kim Kardashian to justify why she makes so much money or Anthony Weiner to tweet pictures of parts of him we'd all rather not see.

I was reluctant at first, too. I wasn't quite sure what to make of tweeting when I first joined - almost five years ago - but eventually I was won over. Which if I think about it - is how most of my great loves started. 

Twitter is a challenge - which is ironically one of the things I like about it. Limiting me, a verbose Greek to 140 characters or less (120 for pros who want to be retweetable) is never an easy task. 

But that's just part of the fun. 

Twitter is -
-a source of news and information
-an easy way to keep up with the trades and/or influencers       
-a source of insight into almost anything from pop culture to digital marketing
-a place to voice an opinion - uncensored
-a place to listen to others opinions 
-a place to make new connections - globally
-a place to learn more about the connections you already made
-a great resource for prospecting new clients and learning about them 
-a venue to amplify an event
-a channel to meet other people at the event
-a place to ask a question and start a conversation
-unfettered by intrusions in the sidebar (at least for now)
-a great way to start a conversation or spread one
-a way to start movements

That's just some of why it's my favorite. I could go on.

But let's face it. Those financial types could care less why I like it. They just want to know how it will make money.

The trick will be to keep it likable and to make money while not annoying users in the process.

We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime if you want to follow me on Twitter click  here.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Happens When You Take The Shades Off

I wear sunglasses every day. Every season. They keep the sun out of my eyes as well as the wind.  They block all the nasty things that can fly into your eyes when you live in New York. Soot. Dirt. Dust. Falling objects from buildings. 

Yesterday I didn't.

didn't plan on it. It looked overcast when when I left my apartment. And I was in a rush. So I forgot to take them out of my purse.

A few blocks later, the sun came out. 

The reds and oranges of the leaves that had fallen to the sidewalk appeared more robust than usual. The sky a more vibrant shade of blue. People looked a bit more alive to me.

It took me a few blocks before I realized that my world was looking brighter not just because of the sun, but because I was without my protective eyewear.

I started to reach for them. To cover my eyes with the tint of my lenses that shields me from those unexpected flying objects and the not so friendly rays of sun. 

But I didn't.

It hit me that they were also distorting how I view the world.

I continue walking, feeling a bit naked without those shades but also reminded how the slightest bit of change in routine can color the way we see everything.

And vowing to inject more of that into my life.