Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Things That Can Happen When You Don't Know Where You're Going

When I was still trying to figure out this next phase of my life I went to a book launch by a man I had never heard of before. The book was called World Wide Rave and the author was someone named David Meerman Scott

I was quite taken with David, his story and his perspective on what he referred to as the new rules of Marketing and PR. He had worked for large corporations and had been fired from them. So we had a lot in common. 

I started to follow him on the social networks and became a regular reader of his blog. I learned a lot from David. He has always impressed me as one of the few marketing gurus out there who actually walks the walk. He doesn't just preach engagement and sharing, he practices it. He has a no gobbledygook rule that I have adopted. To say his thinking helped to form my own on how to use digital tools to brand and sell is an understatement.

In one of those synchronistic twists of fate that first meeting was at the Kimmel Center at NYU - several years before I joined the adjunct faculty. 

When I first started to teach Digital Marketing  and was in search of a textbook, the only thing that I found that could come close to being a comprehensive overview of what marketing in a digital world looked like was his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR.

I let him know and made both his book and his blog required reading. 

David has a new book.  As part of his research he solicited ideas on perspectives on selling from his readers. Needless to say, with twenty-five years in sales and sales management to my credit, I had a lot to say on the subject so I sent off an email.

David responded and said he wanted to do a phone interview.

That was a year ago in September. I remember hanging up the phone and trying not to get too attached to whether that interview would actually make it in the final draft. Instead I exercised extreme gratitude that a handful of years after first meeting someone whose work impressed me so, my story might even be considered for one of his books.

I guess my gratitude worked because I am honored to report back that I am in the book! 

I have no idea what I said - I'll be back to you after I get my copy - but David tells me my story is perfect. The official publication date of The New Rules of Sales and Service is September 2, 2014. 

In the meantime, David is practicing the marketing methods he preaches and offering this great slide presentation to give you a peek at what you will find in the book. 

When I started this part of my journey back in 2008 I had no idea where I was going. What I've discovered along the way is that as long as you're willing to put one foot in front of the other and keep yourself open, you will meet the people you need to meet, you'll learn what you need to know and you will never cease to be amazed at the synchronicity of it all and the delightful surprises that will occur. 

Like being quoted in The New Rules of Sales and Service

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Tribe Of Origin

Mom, Dad, me and my brother.

I grew up in a tribe. The nucleus of my tribe was my father and mother and brother but it extended far beyond the four of us.

Mom was one of seven children and Dad one of five. This tribe I was born into included their siblings, their spouses and their children. Being Greek, that also meant the tribe extended to include the cousins of our cousins as well as close friends of my parents.

Imagine a less exaggerated version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you have a typical gathering of the tribe. Lots of food, music, dancing, laughter, people talking over each other and a love so strong you could almost see it in the air.

According to the definition Seth Godin uses in his seminal book, Tribes, "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea."

Our connection was our Greek blood lines with roots in the villages of Apidia and Kalamata in the Peloponnese region of Greece and to Crete -  as well as a desire on the part of our immigrant grandparents to keep our ancestral culture strong and alive. 

Seth Godin's definition continues:  " A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate."

When we were young it was easy to communicate. With the exception of one of my mother's brothers, both sides of my tribe lived between Brooklyn and Queens. Family gatherings were not limited to Christmas and Easter, to weddings, christenings and funerals, but were every day occurrences. Someone was in the neighborhood, they stopped by - no appointment or “play date” necessary. Last minute phone calls to see what we were up to and if we could come over for dinner were welcomed and not seen as an intrusion. 

Community and the idea of tribes were not trendy words reserved for marketing circles with the underlying intention of how we will make money. They were organic at a time, no one used that word to describe customer growth or the kind of vegetables they bought. 

It was just about family. 

The belief of my tribe was that in the end, there is no substitution for the connection of family - those people who get who you are with just a look in your eyes, who tell you what they think when you are not asking, and who will love you and stand by you no matter how many mistakes you make.

That was then and this is now. Lives take flight. People move in different directions. Our families take different forms. Stuff happens. The tribe splinters.

There was a time during my teenage and young adult years when I was okay with that. I wanted to get as far from my core tribe and my Greekness as possible. I was in search of me and I thought that as long as those connections were as strong as they were I was never going to find the person I might be.

Today I cling to them - even as I feel them slipping through my fingers. Today I understand that those connections are the foundation of who I am.

Within the last two weeks, I have lost two aunts. My Aunt Jean was my dad’s youngest sister and the last of his siblings. My Aunt Helen was married to my father’s brother. They were both strong women who loved and respected me and part of the now dwindling “village” of aunts who made their mark on my life.
Aunt Jean holding me at my christening. Aunt Helen looking on.

One of the key tenets of this tribe has always been that no matter how far away our lives get from each other, we all show up to support in these moments. It is not questioned. It just is what our tribe did, what it always did. It was the way we were taught. 

We show up for our parents, our grandparents, for the ancestors that laid the groundwork that took us to today, for each other and for ourselves. The gathering of the "tribe" in their honor reinforces the values they stressed - of family bonds, community, and unconditional love.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Yet through it all I found solace in the faces of my extended family who all showed up to pay their respects. Amidst  the hugs, the faded photographs of a world that didn’t include cell phones and computers, the sharing of memories and recollections of moments I had forgotten I felt a sense of being home. I was with my “people”, my original tribe. The ones that remember stories about me or my father or my mother that I don’t. The ones who look at me and still see the young girl who lives inside.

I couldn’t begin to count how many other ‘tribes’ I have been a part of to date. But that tribe - my original tribe is the one that no matter how far away I might get from it, I am always welcomed and always loved.

In the death of my two aunts I’ve experienced so much sadness, it’s difficult to get out from under. The only way I know is to focus on the gratitude I have - for the richness that each contributed to my life and for the “tribe” I was raised as part of that they helped to create. 

The tribe has splintered along the way,  no doubt, but its roots stand strong. They are at the core of who I am today. For that I am forever grateful.

RIP Aunt Jean and Aunt Helen. May your memory be eternal.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I Don't Do Enough Of

There are a lot of things I do not do enough of. I don't exercise enough. I don't pick up the phone enough to call my friends as much as I text or email. I don't visit museums enough. 

Most importantly I don’t write and read enough.

The definition of enough is nebulous -  “as much or as many as required.” What is enough for someone  is too much for someone else and too little for yet another. Which means that while I may think I don't do something enough - from where you sit it may look like exactly enough.

Enough is a judgment call. While I like to think I don't judge, I do. Mostly myself, for not doing enough.

Over time I've learned to recognize the symptoms of not enough for me.

I know I am not writing enough when my soul feels hollow. When there are words caught in my throat and my energy wanes. When I feel I am not being heard and I know it is because I am not  saying anything. When all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch something mindless on television - including the commercials.

I know I am not reading enough when I am left uninspired and disconnected and when I can't or don't  write. Reading used to hex me into not writing until one day it began to inspire me to write more - to be as good as the author whose book I finished and sometimes to recognize that - yes - my writing is just as good as theirs. 

My writing does not yet garner enough income to pay all the bills. Yet being the operative word. But when I am busy with my other stuff -  the stuff that does pay the bills, I label reading to be a luxury I have no time for. Writing is something I start fitting in as opposed to prioritizing.  While I am aware on some level that I am not feeding myself enough of the fuel I need to be my best and most passionate self, the dance sustains itself. 

Until something happens to break the pattern.

I read. 

And when I say read, I don't mean Facebook posts or Tweets. I mean books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Like the one I just finished by Claire Cook. 

I mean reading something that matters.

I've followed Claire's path since I left corporate. For a long time I wanted to be Claire. Even though Claire’s married with two grown children and living in Atlanta life and writing is nothing like my own. 

I wanted to have Claire's success. I aspired to have my novel made into a movie and walk the red carpet. 

I no longer want to be Claire. I want to be me. But I would still like that success. Yet it won't happen - it won't have a shot in hell - if I am not writing.

Every time I read Claire’s very simple formula for turning out as many novels as she has (which she very wisely repeats throughout the book in case you are not paying attention) I heard the little aHa in the back of my brain.  Two pages, every morning before anything else. Times Roman. 12pt. Double spaced. Seven days a week.That’s roughly 500 words of which I have already exceeded here.  Not that hard to accomplish if one is disciplined enough not to let Twitter get in the way.

It's not like I had never heard that before. I have. I've done morning pages. I read The Artist’s Way. I know the power of discipline. In fact I have written about it in my own book on creating time. I also know that discipline to what is most important to fuel our souls - requires discipline.

Claire's book did not tell me anything I did not know already. Yet that did not make it any less worthwhile to read. Books like this one are meant to inspire and remind you of the things you've let yourself forget. Just like the characters in her novels do - the easy, breezy beach reads that transport, make you smile and just when you least expect it make you go aHa!

Claire inspired me to start today writing first - before anything else. Right here in this Starbucks on Broadway and 63rd Street, as the morning crowd forms around me.  She reminded me that reinvention - like just about everything else in life is not a destination but an ongoing process of tweaks and turns and is not for the faint of heart. Most importantly she made me see that somehow in this crazy, circuitous path of reinvention I have created these last years, of late I have not been doing enough of the things I love and crave and need to sustain myself the most. 

It may not yet be enough (there goes that word again) to pay the bills, but it is necessary to fuel my soul and free me for what does. 

Claire's latest book and first non-fiction is Never Too Late: Your Roadmap To Reinvention. An inspiring and anecdotal account of her own and continuing journey of reinvention, complete with good advice and useful tools. #recommendedreading