fingernails

I spoke at a Young Alum conference at Mount Holyoke when I was a young alum now. One of the panelists offered us a memorable self-care quiz:

“Show me your hands.”

Go ahead. Look at yours right now. This is totally confidential.

Are you happy with how they look? Are your nails polished? Are they chipping, need the cuticles tamed? Clean?

Simply by looking at her friend Sue’s hands, she was able to tell if Sue was taking care of herself. This small detail speaks volumes and can be a clue as to how well we’re caring for ourselves. Others can’t see if you’re sleeping well or eating properly. But this tell-tale aspect of our public persona can be revealing.

jane's nails  I’ve had ‘mani/pedi’ on my to-do list for about 10 days now. I ended up clipping my own nails and putting on a top coat of nailtiques which I use to strengthen them. I’d had a mani/pedi while in Austin at the end of last month. I’m due, but can’t seem to put myself first for the hour or more it will take. I removed the metallic gold (!) I opted for on my toes in Texas, but have left them unpolished and in need of a trim. Fortunately, it’s not sandal season here…yet.

Now that I’ve outed myself on some needed self-care, I’ll look on my calendar to see when I can squeeze me in.

How about you? Any confessions today?

exclamation point sign

Leaving Hamilton College after his interview and tour of its campus, my son and I drove away just as a thunderstorm was clearing. “Mom, look! A rainbow,” Rob pointed through the windshield and upwards.

“It’s a double!” I replied excitedly.

“Do you think that’s a sign?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” I nodded and grinned. His 15th reunion is coming up this spring.

He knows me well enough now to barely need to ask. Hiring a caretaker for his new son nearly two years ago, he told me that the referring parents’ names were Anne and Rob, exactly the same as his and my daughter-in-law Anne’s. “I’m sure you’re going to say it’s a sign.”

Again, I simply smiled. They’ve had the most wonderful woman tending Owen since they interviewed her.

One of my New York City friends has a business making signs. “It’s very simple and straightforward,” he explained. “A sign has no depth. It’s intended to give information quickly and succinctly. And it has to be perfect.”

Who are we to question what we see on our journeys? The nay-sayers can call it coincidence all they want. I’ve heard coincidence called God’s way of remaining anonymous. I choose to notice and give high regard to the signs in front of me and my clients.

Do you need a burning bush? What has been put in your path lately? I’d love to know.

 

As per your recommendations, here is the cropped version now featured on all my social media sites.

I don’t remember how this started, but someone told me that all of my social media photos should be the same. When I asked my newsletter helper which image I should choose, she suggested that I ask my friends and family. In other words, 2015-speak, put it up on Facebook and let the masses decide. “Crowdsource it.”

“Huh?”

Eager to check this updating task off my list, I posted these three photos for feedback. It’s been over four years since the last ones were taken. It was time.

I got over 125 comments. Most of them were a generous:

  • “You look great!”Jane against Ashley WEB
  • “The top one!”
  • “Love the smile.”

There were 40 votes for the one with the print top and taxicab in the background. Eighty-five votes for me in the purple (eggplant, aubergine…) suit. The purple wins.

I got equally confident votes for both:

  • “Hands down–the top one!”Jane Waist Up with TAXI - WEB
  • “The taxi says New York!”
  • “F@*# the shoulds!”

Besides all the wonderful attention I received, a colleague, Janet Granger emailed me asking for an interview. She has a new consulting business helping Baby Boomers be more digitally savvy, and wanted to feature me as a savvy Boomer. I accepted! I’ll post a link to our interview as soon as it’s live.

Thank you, ALL, for your interest, input and consideration. I couldn’t have done it without you.

This one got only 2 votes.

This one got only 2 votes.

mastermind room

My newest mastermind group started in midtown yesterday, and I found myself with six of the most dynamic, creative and inspiring women I know. While confidentiality is key to the success of the group, I can tell you that they all nodded in hearty agreement when I shared my thesis for success:

You need to be around people who aren’t pretending that everything is wonderful.

Everyone has issues. And even though this is a business group, it’s important to NOT disregard the emotional component of our lives. Whether it’s relationships, finances, health or feelings of invisibility, bringing these into the light of day helps to diffuse them so you can focus on the work at hand.

Often, these intimate groups are the only place some businesswomen have to even mention what’s flickering in the background.

Once aired and acknowledged, the sparks fly. Covered up, buried, or disregarded, issues fester, grow and metastasize.

Here’s to saying what’s true for you and moving forward. The saying goes, “you’re only as sick as your secrets” whether it’s personally or professionally. Let ’em rip and carry on.

The goals set yesterday are inspiring and growth-producing. My favorite response to a suggested goal is, “Really?!” followed by a huge grin and a look of joy. Really!

I’ve never met Madie Hodges, but I like her already.

As the Community Manager for Kabbage (which I’d never heard of until she introduced herself), she’d found my blog on the internet and reached out to suggest a topic for my posts: “How can entrepreneurs use their tax refund to grow their business? What items do you think they should put on their shopping list? Coaching and consulting?” (This is where she got my full attention.)

I’m more interested in analyzing how to connect virtually than in promoting Kabbage, but am happy to mention them as the catalyst to this message. It’s juicier and more interesting a subject. Don’t you think?

What did Madie do to get my attention?

  • She addressed me by name vs. Madam, which believe it or not, happens frequently.
  • She said, “you seem to really understand what it takes for businesses to succeed” – Flattery. It works. I received a similar pitch from a website that helps people in their career advancement and was asked to post about job interviews. Not my realm. Helping small business owners succeed is.
  • She introduced herself concisely and with a specific request: “I thought a fun twist would be using a tax refund to jump-start growth.”
  • She made an offer, if I were interested, to send more ideas.

I responded immediately that I would write something and mention Kabbage. A few days went by, and I had not posted yet. Madie followed up with a gentle reminder and encouragement: “Do you have a posting date in mind? I’d love to put it in my calendar so I don’t miss it. I can’t wait to read what you put together.” Note the positive, warm messaging.

My intentions were so good, but writing about what to do with your tax returns doesn’t fly to the top of my to-do list. This morning, in my inbox, was this message: “Wink, nudge, giggle. Hope you had some fun while out of town!” I had let her know I’d be in Texas for a few days and would write the piece when I returned. I want to please someone who shows this much interest and takes actions to make something happen.

I hope you’ve gleaned as much about social media networking here as about how to use your hopefully large tax return to grow your company.

If you’d like more help in that department, go to Kabbage. If they hired Madie, they know what they’re doing.

race runners swift urgency

Do you ever compare yourself with someone else? And attribute a higher grade or extra credit to those whom you perceive as better, faster, or more successful than you?

I do. All the time.

That’s why I was so relieved when I spoke to my coach (after a long hiatus) who calmed me down, brought me back to my square 1, and reminded me that I’m not in a race. “Your urge has become an urgency,” she said, which led to a greatly needed exhalation.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

In my office developing a retreat, working on my memoir or coaching a client, I’m at peace and feeling blissful. Then, I’ll get an email, see a Facebook post or read an article that puts me into a tailspin. That I’m not there yet. My memoir is not on the New York Times Bestseller List. Funny that I should concern myself with that since it’s not even written yet.

Seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s segment on CBS Sunday Morning helped me to identify and also to relax. He had randomly picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton several years ago and devoured all 700+ pages of it. Midway through his reading he wondered why no one had yet made a musical out of this man’s story. Not just a musical, but a hip-hop musical, then busied himself for the next six years to create one. Hamilton opened to rave reviews at the Public Theatre and is moving to Broadway in July. Miranda is not even rushing its opening to try to get into the Tony race for Best Musical. He’s taking his time.

I call this genius. Not only coming up with the idea, but more important, bringing it to fruition and not being blindsided by urgency. Sticking with your urge is one of the hardest aspects of soul proprietorship. I believe that our urges, our inspirations and the coincidences in our lives/businesses are divinely given. They feel different. At least mine do. I feel a sensation in my body, like a spark. Energy.

What often happens is that the energy is sapped by things like, oh, comparing oneself to the competition or anyone I perceive of as ahead of you.

The solution? Stay in action. Our gremlins–those voices that say very loudly, “You’re not enough!”–get very quiet when we’re busily engaged. Mine are particularly adept at coming out when I think I’m engaged with…social media.

My main job, your main job, is to remind yourself to stick with your urges. Bring them to fruition. Resist the temptation of “oohh, shiny!” and stay with the everyday work of respecting your inner wisdom. I have many people in place, like my coach especially, to remind me of that biblical adage:

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Make the most of your time and chance. They will come.

trustI took a significant step in the mischief department. I fired the professional who gave me the assignment.

A moment of background for those of you new to this conversation. I had reached an impasse in my business a month or so ago and asked a very successful friend (I’ll call him Mark, though not his name) for a recommendation. Mark has had a lot of activity in his business and is thriving.

He referred me to Janet (not her real name). I made an appointment with Janet who charged me a whopping $450 for her intake session of two hours. After that, she explained, sessions would be $250 each, a hefty amount, but one that I was willing to pay for valuable insights and guidance. I did not see this as a lifelong commitment, but an opportunity to get out of the trough I was in.

I thought our initial session went well and that she sized me up accurately. She gave me the provocative assignment to do something mischievous daily as a means of flexing a muscle I would need if I were to step further into a more glaring spotlight of attention. We had two more sessions at $250 each, so I was surprised when the charge came through as $600 instead of $500 for our time together.

I promptly sent off an email inquiring about the $100 overcharge. “I’ll call you,” Janet responded. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of conversing with her on the matter. It seemed very straightforward to me and required only a simple apology and refund. Instead Janet asked me why I didn’t wait until our session to ask her about it. She explained that because Mark had referred me, she’d given me a discount from the $700 she normally charges for the first double session.

This was news to me as I had no knowledge of this pricing or that she had given me special consideration. None of that had been mentioned in our initial calls and email. In fact, I would not have signed on at that price. Also, she explained, her rates had gone up to $300 per session since we began a month or so ago.

This pronouncement went right to my gut. Uh-oh. There goes my trust.

It so happens that I was with very good friends in Florida when this transpired, so I got to run it by them. “This feels off to me,” I said. “How can I trust this person under the circumstances?” They validated my sentiments and mentioned a wonderful therapist we had all benefited from back in Connecticut. I called Gloria (not her real name) who was delighted to set up an appointment with me.

When I got back to NY from my quick stay in Sarasota, I heard from yet another inspiring woman whose workshops I’d attended many years ago. After seven years on a personal exploration journey, she has relocated to rural Massachusetts and is offering sessions by skype. I’d already called Gloria, but reached out to Cathy (you guessed it, not her real name) and told her that her email was a day too late, but that I was glad she was back and available again.

The very next day I received a message from my coach who has been through a daunting health journey and had been on hiatus from her practice since last June. She wrote that I still had one session I’d paid for almost a year ago and would I like that time with her or a refund.

I jumped at the opportunity to talk to her again. We had our call on Monday afternoon, and I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be with whom I want to be working.

It felt like a miracle. I needed help. I went to trusted sources. I trusted my own inner wisdom in rejecting one practitioner. And the perfect match presented itself.

The through line here is action: asking for help, showing up, and trusting your gut.

But wait! There’s more. I had reason to call Mark (the friend who’d referred Janet) today on an unrelated subject. “Funny you should call,” he said after we’d addressed the reason I’d phoned him. “Janet called me out of the blue and said that ‘Jane is very angry with me.'” Just in case I wasn’t 100% clear on what my gut was telling me, the fact that this therapist had not mastered Confidentiality 101 further substantiated my decision.

Jeff Seaver – Guest Expert – Social Media

My Mastermind Intensive, aka the Bolders, had the privilege of listening to Jeff Seaver of Seaver Interactive talk about what social media is and isn’t. He was our guest expert last Friday. We were riveted by his humor, his candor and the enormity of his knowledge on the subject.

His gorgeous handout included Seaver’s Two Rules of Social Media Marketing: AUTHENTICITY and SERVICE. He encouraged us to give it away, which is contradictory to the ‘monetize it’ voice that competes for our attention. Through illustration, he helped us to understand the benefits of this generosity using himself as an example and how his career has escalated through giving away his knowledge, and then being hired over and over again.

The main function of social media is to engage in conversation with your audience. Jeff made it seem so simple. At the core of it all is your brand. He gave our group a great suggestion. “The worst one to say what your brand is is YOU. Have others tell you what YOUR brand is.” We are too close to our products and services to really understand how the general public perceives us. Better to have customers and colleagues describe how they perceive your company.

He also drove home the importance of storytelling. After all, that’s how we learn and how we remember. Using social media to tell your story is an opportunity to engage your audience in ways that most others aren’t. Keep it personal. Be sure there’s conflict (who doesn’t experience that?) and redemption. Most important, Jeff added, “Only the heart touches the heart.” Get real, personal and be genuine. People remember.

The old adage holds here, even digitally. People want to do business with people they know and like. Using blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are new means of creating those relationships. The cost and risk are low. To get the best results, give of yourself and your experience.

Henry Blodget

Henry Blodget – Co-founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider,

 Jonathan Landman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section

Jonathan Landman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section

“You’re here under false pretenses,” Jonathan Landman told us on Saturday afternoon in his opening remarks for Cornwall Conversations which was billed as:

 “the future of media and communications by two people who should know: Jonathan Landman, editor-at-large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section, and Henry Blodget, co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider”

on the Cornwall Library website.

“We should know,” he continued, “but we don’t. No one does!” Which set the tone for the conversation that followed.

In their remarks, which flowed easily between the two experts, here were the take-aways I found most interesting:

  • No one knew that twitter and Facebook would not only change journalism but become journalism.
  • That print publications today are ‘basically litter’ and ‘guilt-inducing’ as newspapers pile up as reminders of the dead wood being used daily to produce them.
  • There’s a big difference between ‘hits’ and ‘reads’. A ‘hit’ is the equivalent of walking by a newstand and taking in the headlines. Those numbers are counted, but aren’t the same as intentionally reading the full article. This data is difficult to mine and interpret.
  • Millennials get 50% of their news on their mobile devices, 20% on computers and 0% via print media.
  • Both were in agreement that America loves cats.
  • The reality is that reading about our involvement in Irag does not pay the bills. Cats, however, do.
  • In the same way that it incorrectly predicted that radio would eliminate newspapers and that TV would eliminate radio, the internet will not eliminate anything.
  • The Internet is the richest, most creative means for journalism that has existed.
  • Re truthfulness in today’s online reporting – “There are two billion fact checkers out there the moment you publish anything.
  • “You can immediately edit your words. In print, words can never be fixed. Online, you can fix it forever.
  • The rate of errors is the same today as in the past. E.g. Wikipedia vs. The Encyclopedia Brittanica – about the same number of errors, and wiki’s can be edited.
  • Photos used to be expensive to reproduce in print. Online, they’re free. People LOVE pictures, and they are worth 1000 words.
  • In addition to cats, we love lists. “21 Ways to…” etc. gets more opens than a “how-to” which is considered boring and can be read anytime.
  • The Holy Grail in publishing is how to offer a manageable amount of information to keep the public reasonably informed.

One or two members in the crowd bemoaned the state of communications today and speculated at what the youth of America may be missing out on. Wisely, Jon Landman said, “Nostalgia is a very dangerous thing.” Many, in support, agreed that our children are better informed today than we Baby Boomers (and older) ever were due to the large number of sources at their fingertips. “You have to have faith in people,” Blodget concurred.

“We are still in a period of enormous experimentation,” Landman added, which makes this an exciting time to be a witness to historic changes happening daily. Blodget declared this the “new Golden Age for journalism.”

 

 

Jane in chair leadingI thought I’d open the kimono a bit today and share my own process when I’m working on a big project. What has my attention these days, well, for over a year, really, has been a memoir. It keeps shape-shifting, but it’s moving forward, which is the main thing.

Here’s how I stay on track.

Number 1 – I take courses. I started with Ann Randolph’s writing class at Kripalu last June. Immediately after that, I made the decision to begin my memoir.

Number 2 – The first thing I did after her class was to hire a writing coach. After 3 months of working with the awesome Kate Brenton, I signed up for an Advanced Memoir class at Gotham Writers Workshop. That was ten weeks worth of writing, critiquing and being critiqued (ouch) with the inspiring instruction of Cullen Thomas which I followed up with another 10 week session that will come to an end on the 19th.

Number 3 – I read other people’s memoirs* to better understand the form.

Number 4 – I find support.

Last July I formed a writers group by inviting three amazing women to try out a session together. I sought them out. Over the course of the previous year in New York City, I’d had my antennae up. When one woman I’d met mentioned that her publisher had given her a due date for her memoir, I made a mental note. I became friends with woman #2 and learned over dinner that she teaches writing at the college level and had a manuscript tucked in a drawer. Jotted that down in the memory bank. And fabulous friend/woman #3, I found out, is an editor for a notable publication and also served on a prestigious jury for a major book award. Tucked that info away and then approached the three of them with an invitation to my place with writing samples by each to be read and listened to in the privacy of a quiet room in my building. We’ve been together now for nine months now and celebrate and deeply encourage each other.

I know what it takes to keep a big idea or project going. I love creating this momentum for myself and equally love creating these structures for others. Please join me this spring and get the support you need if DIY isn’t your thing, but working on something really important is. My in-person and virtual Mastermind groups are starting in late March. Click here for the scoop.

Some of the memoirs I’ve read recently and highly recommend:

  1. The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch
  2. Even This I Get to Experience – Norman Lear
  3. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
  4. The Kiss – Kathryn Harrison
  5. You Deserve Nothing – Alexander Maksik
  6. Long Road to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  7. Brother One Cell – Cullen Thomas
  8. Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
  9. Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett
  10. Ithaka – Sarah Saffian
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