the art of the possible

Image on my first vision board

I was sold on the concept of vision boards, dream or treasure maps, whatever you want to call them, since I first heard about them over a decade ago.

I believe in the Law of Attraction – that you draw into your life what you think about. When I was looking to get a new car and wanted to drive a RAV 4 like a friend had, all I saw on I-95 were the unbelievable numbers of RAV 4’s out there.

When my friend Betsy showed us her vision board with a guy on a horse and she explained that she was looking for love at the time, rather than finding an equestrian, she met her future husband, a Sagittarian.Sagittairus

The Universe works in mysterious ways, but it does deliver that which you focus on and define. On my first vision board, in the upper left hand quadrant was the image above. I was attracted to this woman’s engagement in her creative work. I wasn’t sure what it meant in terms of a vision, but I looked at this image daily for months.

Not long after I’d posted my board on the wall of my office, I had breakfast with a colleague. As we were talking about our businesses and future plans, he said, “Jane, you should run a mastermind group for creative women.” I had never put together my skill set and the market I wanted to reach as succinctly as my friend did over coffee and pancakes.

Within a year, I had begun a program, my first intensive, year-long, mastermind group called Jane Pollak’s Arts Forum, affecitionately known among its members as JPAF (jay-paff). I had an extraordinary year with women who took their creativity to levels beyond their imagination – from retired art teacher to exhibiting, award-winning painter, from surface designer to a designer of collections, etc.

What knocked me out was at a session where one of our members had the spotlight. As she was laying out her work on the floor for us to see, I felt a tug on my heart and a flash of recognition. “Hold that pose,” I instructed Malene Barnett, so I could take the shot below. My intuition had recognized my heart’s work before my mind could define it.

And then another image popped up from another creative woman I know, Jeanine Esposito. Look at them then and now.

Ready to make your own vision board? Join me on December 7 at 6pm in Westport. Click here for the details and to register. Your future depends on it.

Malene Barnett - Then

Malene during JPAF days

Malene now!


Jeanine Esposito at work

Jeanine now as Founder, with husband Frederic Chiu, of Beechwoods Arts


Did you buy it?

When I saw a Facebook posting of this old letter, I read through to the end, based on my esteem for the person who’d posted it. My immediate reaction was, “I’m not buying.”

There was something about the too perfect coffee stain that made me suspicious. I typed ‘letter about transistor radio’ into my search menu and found out, via, that this fake humor piece has been floating around since 1992.

The reason I’m sensitive to the subject of authenticity is a comment I received on a personal essay I shared with my fellow classmates last week. “I don’t believe you,” one reader wrote in the margin.

Ouch! It happens that the story I told is 100% true, but clearly, something in my telling raised the coffee stain effect in him. I will go back and see what felt contrived and rewrite it. I don’t love how blunt he was, but appreciate that he shared the impact of my piece.

My younger daughter has been reading my submissions and offering brilliant edits and suggestions. In particular, she said, referring to a quote I included by her older brother, “Did he really say that?”

I told her that I’d made it up because it sounded good for the piece. “You can’t lie, Mom,” she instructed. I rewrote it, and it was better.

What I’m slowly coming to appreciate is that the rawest, most real experiences, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, are the ones I savor and remember. (Have you seen the movie Brooklyn where changing into bathing suits on the beach becomes heartbreakingly memorable?)

Every time I shampoo my hair, I think of a journalist who wrote in an article about how she used a fine pointed Sharpie to label her bottles of hair product with a large black S for shampoo and C for conditioner so she could identify them without her glasses while showering. That I can believe, especially since I have done exactly the same thing myself. shampoo and conditioner

Now which of these images and stories will stay with you?

Leigh Scott with Vision Board AND Timeline

Leigh Scott with Vision Board AND Timeline

As Leigh Scott gave a group of us a tour of her warm and welcoming farmhouse last month, she took extra time in the master bedroom where her vision board graces the wall opposite the bed.

Good thing she allowed us time and space to process what we were witnessing. You can see from the photo, she and her husband have a vision that is huge. There was a lot to absorb.

Not only was it physically massive, but also, across the bottom of it, was the chronology indicating when each of their visions would be realized. As Leigh got to late 2015, she pointed to the farmhouse image on her poster that closely resembled the exact structure in which we were standing.

What lies ahead on her vision board for 2016 are illustrations of permaculture, a farming practice Leigh has been interested in for as long as I know her. Living on her new property will allow her to participate in this way of life.

I am a strong believer in vision boards and the process of creating your own future. I’ve been designing and mounting these visualization tools for more than a decade. They’ve worked for me, helping me renovate my home, find new love and career opportunities.

Just last month I got to hear Diana Nyad speak, in person at the Wilton Library. She’d been on my board since I moved to New York.Diana Nyad on vision board

You can do this on your own by going through magazines, page by page, and clipping out photos, words and phrases that speak to you, catch your eye or imagination, then pasting them onto a large piece of poster board or mural size, like Leigh’s.

My experience is that most people find greater success doing this in a group setting. Which is why I’m offering a Manifest Your Vision workshop for my final event of 2015. I hope you’ll join me by clicking on this link and registering to come.

Please check out ten other Remarkable Women I’ve worked with:

Read 10 stories of fearless entrepreneurial women and be inspired


Lorne Michaels

I’m a fan of Marc Maron’s podcast and recently heard Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live fame re-state “done is better than perfect” in two sentences that could only be said by him.

“We don’t go on because the show is perfect. We go on because it’s 11:30 Saturday night.”

I love deadlines for that very reason. They give us a fixed time to stop trying to make something right. My gremlins have a way of minimizing my abilities and talents to the point that I can become paralyzed. Hearing the greats, like Lorne Michaels, state the same thoughts as I have is comforting.

While leading a mastermind group yesterday, one of our members saw a curious-looking set of folders in my tote bag. “What’s that?” she asked.accountability folder Sandy and me

“My accountability commitments,” I told her, then explained that three times a week I am on the phone with my goal-buddy checking in on our self-assigned goals. Those scheduled conversations get me over the humps of fear, perfectionism and ‘ooh, shiny’ replacement projects.

My work doesn’t have the rigidity of weekly performances with live audiences. But, like any of your businesses, we have projects that become forcing mechanisms to keep us moving forward.

What checkpoints have worked for you before your Saturday nights at 11:30?

Michelle Weber

I’m at Google, using their free wifi, and learning stuff about wordpress and adwords so I can make my business grow.

So far, a couple of hours in, the most memorable, informative and inspiring talk was just given by Michelle Weber on blogging.

Here’s what I want to share with you:

  1. Blogging is not marketing. It’s a conversation and doesn’t end when you post. It begins then.
  2. Here’s a list of highly bloggable ideas:
    • commentary on current events
    • stories from staff and constituents
    • less-filtered personal reflections
    • news roundups
    • profiles on other people and orgs
    • behind-the-scenes looks at programs
    • photos
    • vignettes from events
  3. The goal of blogging is not selling. It’s connection.

My favorite takeaway, which is a question I get often – how frequently should you blog. Here’s what Michelle said:

A healthy blog is like a healthy colon. It’s more about consistency than frequency.

Put that in your belly and digest it!

Diane Ripstein greeting crowdsI had the good fortune to not only see Move on the Cha Cha’s Sunday night with a group of close friends, but also to know the creator and star of the show–Diane Ripstein.

Diane had shared her dream with me many years ago of one day performing at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. That’s history now. She gave a month’s worth of her one-woman show in the summer of 2014. Next on her bucket list was New York City. She got to check that off this week after three performances of her original production.

Over the summer, she dressed up as one of her characters, Bubbe, and took videos of her around the city inviting people to come and see her at UNITED SOLO this fall. She filled the house for all of her performances. Several of us from Connecticut came to see Diane last weekend. We’d gotten to witness bits and pieces of her characters as they were being created.

Nothing prepared me for the stellar execution and dramatic impact of seeing Diane on stage with the lights and sounds amplifying the emotional story she told.

fans of Diane RipsteinHere we are that night–her biggest fan club–sharing her joyful after-theatre celebration.

Congratulations, Diane!

And speaking of Remarkable Women…

Read 10 stories of fearless entrepreneurial women and be inspired

Diana Nyad Wilton Library

Diana Nyad at Wilton Library

You know how they say, “Don’t try this at home alone” ?

That’s good advice, particularly when it comes to changing your perspective. Do you ever get into a funk and think there’s no way out of the mountain you’re facing?

Happened to me already this week. I’ll be reading a personal essay in my Sue Shapiro class tonight and am filled with fear and dread over the feedback and advice I will receive. What if they tear it apart? How will I make it right? Sale-able? The prospect of criticism has me reeling, and I haven’t even gotten my copies made yet.

But, I got out of my house last night and had my perspective drastically changed. I went to hear Diana Nyad speak at the Wilton Library, thanks to the generous invitation from my friend Amy. For those of you who don’t know, she’s the woman who, at 64, swam from Cuba to Key West–100 miles in shark-infested, box jellyfish-filled waters.

jane's vision board 2015

My vision board – Diana Nyad in heart area

Her story made me think twice about the dangers of receiving feedback on my writing. I sprung to my computer this morning to type up my final draft for tonight. Incidentally, Nyad’s image (from behind) is on my vision board.

At my Remarkable Women’s Workshop Monday night, October 26th, we’ll be looking at challenges from a variety of perspectives. I will coach the women who attend to look at what’s holding them back from their own excellence. Diana won’t be there, but there will be a roomful of other supportive women willing to validate, inspire and acknowledge your mountains and options.

Please register right now and join me on Monday.

Professor Sue Shapiro

My writing colleague Kathleen Frazier recently had her beautiful memoir Sleepwalker published by Skyhorse Publishing. She has been giving readings at many public events, but I chose the one at St. Mark’s Bookshop a few weeks ago because Kathleen mentioned that I should meet one of her mentors, Susan Shapiro.

Sue organized the event at St. Mark’s on behalf of four of her published authors–men and women who had been students of hers. Each read a passage from their newly published work. Then Sue talked about the process of getting published and had the authors share their experiences of getting book deals. It was highly informative, incredibly inspiring and motivating.

Not coincidentally, Sue offered a course starting the following week entitled Instant Gratification Takes Too Long. It’s a 5-week course and costs $500. Her goal for us: Publish a great piece by the end of class to pay for the class. Each of her panelists had had that experience, whether through the Modern Love column in the Times or Kathleen’s piece that came out in Psychology Today where an agent found her.

I, too, want to have my work seen by an agent or editor, so I signed up.

Tonight is Session 2, and I am already over the moon with the class. At Session 1 Sue handed each of her students a 1″ thick volume of published articles by people she’s taught. Each class emphasizes a genre of personal essay–op-eds, personal stories, regional pieces. Then she goes around the room hearing our ideas and masterfully tweaking them to guide each student to their most relevant story line. It’s fascinating to watch her at work. It’s as educational to listen to her guidance to others as it is to have her discern what my best story line should be.


I love her style, her clarity and her boundary setting. Everything needs to be turned in as hard copy. She tells you what contact info to include and where. She’s available for questions through email, but maintains a 9am – 5pm writing schedule which she’d like you to respect. And she makes it clear that if a piece you write gets sold for over $1000, she would like dinner, preferably sushi.

This kind of order helps me to do my best work. She’s not there to be my friend, but to get me published. You will be the second to know when that happens.

Would you like to read about some other remarkable women? Click the image below to get my free ebook filled with their inspiring stories:

Read 10 stories of fearless entrepreneurial women and be inspired

Bad Energy Environment

I rarely use this forum to rant, but after attending and presenting at an unnamed event recently, I have to get some stuff off my chest.

I paid for the opportunity to speak at a holistic trade show based on an esteemed colleague’s positive experience. She’d had a good turnout for her talk and signed up several audience members for her services after she presented.

The show I agreed to participate in was not in the same location. Can you hear your realtor’s mantra here-LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION? The one I spoke at was in Fort Lee, NJ, a hop, skip and a jump over the GW Bridge. Seemed like a worthy destination, but the energy of the hotel and everything approaching its entrance was, how can I put this delicately…gross.

The facility itself is part of a decent chain, but leading up to that address were three motels in a row that looked like this image. I could feel my good energy draining out of the soles of my feet.

When I got to the ballroom area where my talk would be, I quickly recognized the organizer and went up to her to introduce myself. I was one of 9 speakers at the event and had had lengthy correspondence with her about logistics and placing a full page ad in the program. Turned out, I was the only one who had made the $100 investment. It featured a photo of me and copy about my website and services.

“Hi, Paula,” I smiled. “I’m Jane Pollak.” I waited for a moment of recognition. None was forthcoming.

“And you are…?” she asked blankly.

“I’m one of your speakers,” I filled in.

“Oh,” she said consulting her spreadsheet. “Yes, you’re in the blah-de-blah room at 1:15pm.”

She had promised a screen so I could show a short video clip. I’d brought my laptop and projector. When I asked her where the screen would be, she pointed at the beige folding wall on the side of the room and said, “That’ll have to do. There’s no screen.”

I walked around the trade show, hoping to be inspired by the quality of vendors and professionals, but felt more of my spirit disappearing bit by bit.

Maybe the speakers before me will be exciting, I hoped. I took notes to capture the ineffectiveness of the two I heard. Phrases like “this could kind of be” and “they heal certain things” and “people have reported that they’re more fulfilled” set the hairs on the back of my neck on end.

While my friend, the recommender, had had 30 attendees in her audience, I had a grand total of nine, none of whom resembled any of my clients. Their expressions were vague, barely making eye contact with me. One gentleman, who came in with about six minutes remaining in my speech, stayed after as I was packing my things.

“Why do you think parents do that to their children?” he inquired, referencing a line I mention in my closing story about my mother’s insistence that no one would ever pay for one of my pieces of art. He then invited me to speak at his meet-up group on toxic parents. His smile revealed no teeth, but he was a Ph. D. from an Ivy League school. I asked if he had a business card. He offered me a sheet of paper with his credentials on copier paper.

Normally, at an event that I’m participating in, I would stick around, meet more of the people and thank the organizer. After this one, I just wanted to get out of the building.

What did I learn? I had a sense early on that this would not be at the level of professionalism I am used to and desire. I could have trusted my gut, forfeited the small fee I’d been charged and written it off completely. My companion that day, who made the whole thing even tolerable, mentioned that he had visited the organization’s Facebook page. He noted that there were 900 invited guests and only 17 had accepted the invitation.

I was glad he told me that after I’d already left.


I hailed a taxi on a cold and rainy Friday morning. I was leaving town for the first session of my newest Mastermind Intensive.

I had a chatty cabby.

“Where are you heading?” he asked when I told him to take me to Grand Central.

“To Connecticut.”

“What do you do there?”

“I lead a group of women,” I replied.

“Oh, are you a tour guide?”

Kinda, I thought to myself.

Last Friday I conducted the first session of a yearlong program with 8 remarkable women business owners. The opening exercise I led them through was for them to envision themselves a year from now: what they’d achieve, how it would feel, how much money would be in the bank and how many customers, accounts or whatever they’re counting they would have. The excitement level set the tone for the rest of the day.

My job is to get them to that vision during our time together.

During my brief ride in the cab, I learned that my driver was 75, that he’d never really been in love, but there was this woman he met at the Art Students League whom he was now sweet on. He went on and on about how the value of the taxi medallion had gone from $1 million to $800,00 and that cabbies are defaulting on their loans because of the competition from Uber, etc. and that it’s all the Taxi and Limo Commission’s fault.

Made me think he needs a group where he could process all this and be empowered like the women I work with.

I’m so grateful to be leading women who are positive, forward-thinking, successful and pro-active. I’d be thrilled to take them anywhere, but starting with their futures is exciting for right now.

Would you like to meet some of the remarkable women I’ve worked with in the past? I tell their stories in my free ebook. Click on the image below to get your copy:

Read 10 stories of fearless entrepreneurial women and be inspired


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