Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

AARP, The Magazine, has a 2-page spread in their June/July issue featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on their What I Know Now page. Here are some excerpts from the article I found particularly worth sharing:

Lily: Everything I’ve experienced has gone into my material.

Jane: I’m not someone who dwells on regrets, but it was a terrible mistake sitting on the anti-aircraft [gun in Vietnam]. It was wrong.

Jane: It never occurred to me in 70 years that kindness was important in a relationship. Fascination, sex appeal, intelligence, yes. Why aren’t we taught that kindness matters?

Jane: I get anxious. I worry that I’m not good enough.

Lily: What did Pablo Casals say? In his 90s, he still gave the same answer when someone asked why he continued to practice cello every day. He said, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

I am always moved when I read about highly successful people expressing the same feelings that I have, making similar choices and humbly admitting their errors and their fears. I consider it a gift. I’ve been told by more than a few colleagues, “Don’t show them your weaknesses.” But more and more, I believe it’s a gift to share what’s true for me so that someone else can feel less alone as I did after reading this interview.

oscar graphic About once a week I receive an unsolicited request from a business owner or company that finds my blog material compatible with their message–someone who wants to contribute a guest post or insert a link into my text. Mostly, I decline.

I’m very protective of YOU, my readers, and want to maintain your interest and loyalty by staying on task with my message.

Last week I heard from a company and immediately thought, “Ding, ding, ding!” Here’s something that is so timely for me, surely others out there will appreciate and benefit from its message. August 1st is National Girlfriends Day sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection with the emphasis on getting women’s health in order.

Just a day or two before receiving the invitation to promote this cause, I’d had lunch with a good friend in the city. At the end of our meal, she leaned across the table and said, “I have a funny request.”

“Go for it,” I replied. It’d be hard to surprise me, I thought.

“Would you be my colonoscopy buddy? I want to schedule one soon and need a friend to be there when I’m through to escort me home.”

Unbeknownst to her, I’d just received a memo from my doctor letting me know I was due for my own exam. I had still been married at the time of the last one, so a default driver was in place. Things change when you’re divorced (or widowed, or single) and her request was touching and timely.

Is there a check-up in your future? Take the risk of reaching out to a girlfriend. She may need you more than you know.

hands receivingLessons are coming at me so fast and furiously these days, I’m surprised they’re not labeled so I can keep them in order. If today’s was, it would be entitled: How to Receive

Much to my chagrin, I’m being offered seats on busses and subways more and more lately. My inclination is to say, “No, thanks. I’m not that old. I’m doing fine. It’s only one more stop.”

Until I heard someone remind me, that if someone offers you a gift, take it.  Saying ‘no’ won’t reinforce the generosity in the giver’s heart. Accept the gift, and let go of your pride.

I’m speaking primarily to myself. If anyone out there can also benefit, I’m thrilled.

Today I made a request of someone to help me with my memoir. It’s finding its form and needs some professional guidance. I know one woman, for whom I have the utmost respect, who I wanted to hire for that work. I called her today, proposing that I pay her a sum for her to help me get it into order.

“I would like to do this for you for free,” she responded. “You’ve been a good friend, and I’d consider it a privilege to help you in this way.” (I’m paraphrasing because I was so gobsmacked I can’t remember exactly what the words were.)

I accepted the offer and will meet with her later this week to turn over a 2″ thick manuscript. I have to remind myself to breathe in order to take in this level of generosity.

For years, decades really, my response would’ve been, “No! I have to pay you. I can’t accept this!” And then I noticed that I was getting fewer and fewer offers of kindness.

I’m watching that trend turn around and know that the difference is my attitude. How to receive? Say “yes.” It’s that easy, and will make a difference to you, the giver and the world.


Creative Mastermind Spring 2015

Creative Mastermind Spring 2015

I was listening to a podcast that is relatively new for me called the Unmistakable Creative. Srini Rao is the host. One of my entrepreneurial mentors, Terri Lonier, introduced me to this informative and intimate series a few months back, and I’m loving it.

Yesterday I heard Srini interview Jen Louden, a personal hero of mine, who single-handedly started the self-care movement which is so widespread, no one even realizes that someone was the first to name it: Jen.

There were many take-aways from their conversation, but the one that hit home particularly was the value of the Mastermind. Jen has been in one for years and attributes much of her professional development to the wisdom and encouragement she receives (and gives). I was in one for almost 20 years and have recently become part of a 3-woman forum here in the city which met last night. I heartily concur with the necessity of this component to a successful business life.

Plus, my first NYC-based Mastermind, one of several I lead, ended on Monday after 7 sessions. Here are the beautiful, creative and generous women who participated both in person and virtually. Those smiles are testimony to not only their deep affection for each other, but also for how happy they were with the results of their time together.

I reminded each of them of the goals they’d committed to in April and how far they’d come in three short months–well beyond expectations.

I want to echo Jen’s appreciation for and recommendation of the Mastermind concept. We need other people to reflect back to us our own glory and path in this world, our unique gift.

I’m grateful to be able to hear this message spoken so eloquently through media that is non-traditional. Jen’s message strongly echoed my sentiment that it’s NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. If you need to hear that articulated in a way that will touch your heart, here’s the link to Finding the Thread of our Deepest Desires.

melissa petro

Melissa Petro – Memoir Instructor at Gotham Writers Workshop

In my final class at Gotham Writers Workshop this week, my very smart instructor Melissa Petro, gave us the rundown on getting published. Among the crowd in the room, we listed nearly 40 magazines we might pitch with our articles.

Melissa reminded us, “Know your market!”

When asking Elisa Balabram, a small business coach and classmate, whom she might pitch, the response was “Inc.

Ink?!” Melissa inquired, thinking it was the tattoo (check out her amazing tatts in the photo) periodical (acutally, it’s Inked).

Elisa and I caught eyes as we share a passion for women-owned small businesses. “I-N-C,” we spelled out, almost in unison.

Melissa gave us a huge smile and a nod of recognition that, indeed, we knew our market. And that it was different than hers.

If you’re interested in getting your non-fiction published in magazines, Melissa is offering a Pitch Party in July. You will walk away with a polished cover letter and a ton of inspiration.

Read the rest of this entry »

With Sarah Saffian at celebratory dinner on our last night in Iowa

With Sarah Saffian at celebratory dinner on our last night in Iowa – Barbara Henry Photo

Photo by John Langfeld

Old Capitol Iowa City Photo courtesy of John Langfeld

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, mostly for the opportunity to write for a few hours daily, read other’s works and spend time talking about what makes writing worthy of publication. The two words my instructor, Sarah Saffian–author of the beautiful memoir Ithaka–kept coming back to were: entertaining and enlightening. Inform the reader and keep her interested by virtue of the words you choose and the order you put them in. Sound easy?

Try this, which was our 4th assignment: Describe yourself using an object to convey your essence – 300 words. *Mine is below.

The week also offered a chance to meet other writers, both in my workshop and during the 11am classes which featured different teachers daily.

My class of 12 represented three continents–the US, Europe and Asia. The writing was definitely entertaining and enlightening. Here we are with the title of our class to remind us to Get Over Ourself!

Courtesy of Ann Turner

Courtesy of Ann Turner

I’ve now completed three 10-week sessions at Gotham Writers Workshop, plus this week at the Festival. It’s time for me to get over myself and write the damn book!

I just came back from Staples where I bought a ream of 3-hole paper and notebook dividers so that I can print out what I’ve got so far and see what shape it’s in. Even put some order around it.

One of the things Sarah reminded us about, and had multiple quotes in support of, is that writing is terrifying.

If there is a writer who is not filled with fear and trembling as he begins and begins and begins, he has to be an amateur. ~ Alfred Kazin

She also included in her handout a cartoon by David Sipress from The Funny Times picturing a woman behind a desk with a manuscript in her hand (an agent) speaking to an eager would-be writer sitting opposite her. The quote is:

I love the way you weave together the stories of your abused childhood with these delightful recipes for muffins and scones.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of room in between these two quotes for us to write and write and write without taking ourselves too seriously.

This was my submission for Essence:

*You, My Friend, have passed by it on the shelf several times because, even though it’s hand-crafted and of finely grained wood, brighter shinier objects have caught your eye before you’ve had a chance to notice it.

Now that the other items have been removed and toyed with, you see it.

Something about this fine oak box, carved ornamental flowers on each side, attracts you now. You pick it up and run your fingers over its contours and consider it. How well-etched each leaf is, how singular each petal. The smooth, sanded surfaces bordering the intricate designs contrast the raised shapes and offer respite.

On one side is a patinaed brass arm, bent like an “L”  with an ivory knob on the end, held in place by an ebony stud.

You turn the device and music plays. You knew to expect that from your ordinary jack-in-the-box, but the piece that comes out of this one is softer, less tinny than its counterparts. As you turn the crank, you listen to a song you’ve never heard before, yet you are attracted to its notes instantly. It’s familiar and still entirely new to your ear. Its melody calls to you.

Although you know what’s coming, you understand that if you cease your part of the game, it won’t go on without you. You continue to wind the lever as you get more and more excited, waiting for the climactic moment ahead.

The song ends, the lid opens, and out of the box springs an energized countenance of softness, color and expression. There is no clown face, nor the polka-dotted starched coil of cotton you had expected.

No. From this box bursts forth something else–a satin wrapped, periwinkle form, with a face of porcelain crowned by black and silver coiled threads. You don’t want to push it back down into that box.

Rather, you cherish the moment, savor your find and hold her dearly to your heart.

Jenn T. Grace Professional Lesbian

Jenn T. Grace
Professional Lesbian

Yes. You read that right. It’s on Jenn’s business card and all of her educational materials. She helps people, brilliantly in my experience, become allies to the LGBT community, particularly in the business world.

I bought two of her books, But You Don’t Look Gay… and No, Wait…You Do Look Gay! whose subtitle is the wisdom behind her efforts: The 7 Mistakes Preventing You from Selling to the $830 Billion LGBT Market.

In a non-judgmental, fact-based conversation, Jenn explained to my Mastermind members the demographics, buying power and brand loyalty of this enormous market. More important, she gave us tips and strategies for how to show interest in and support of LGBTs.

She gave us an interesting exercise before she began speaking. On a sheet of paper numbered 1-8, she invited us to write down the labels/characteristics, that define us. As she put it, what makes you, you? Not one of us included ‘straight’ on our lists. The conversation engaged rapidly after that. I’ll leave it to you to pick up Jenn’s books for the importance of that distinction.

I’m grateful to have a variety of experts come and address the outstanding women who meet with me monthly to focus on their business growth. We were truly fortunate to have Jenn’s enlightening subject matter to inspire us in June.

Iowa Summer Writers Festival Workshop

I know that I need to take time away from my day-to-day life to get perspective, try something different, and ‘change the walls’ as one friend says. That’s why I signed up to attend the Iowa Summer Writers Festival way back in mid-April when the weather was still upon us, and I wanted to have something to look forward to.

I leave Saturday. The class I’ve enrolled in, Get Over Yourself! Rapid-Fire Memoir, begins Sunday evening and is a weeklong intensive.

I set money aside each month for travel and education. It’s a treat for me to think about how and where to spend that chunk. When I got an email about the upcoming Iowa program, and had recently watched an episode of GIRLS with Hannah attending school in Iowa, the deal was sealed.

While there, I’ll be writing daily for hours each morning, attending my class each afternoon, and participating in Festival activities, readings and other forms of entertainment in the evenings. What I won’t be doing is checking emails, worrying about meals, marketing or miscellany. For one lovely week.

I intend to return home restored, invigorated and inspired.

I will bring all that good renewed energy to my next big thing. I’m offering a retreat for women who also want to get perspective, try something different and ‘change the walls’ for a day. We will meet on July 23 from 10am – 5pm. The day will include:

~a guided journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, time journaling and sharing, and play for the sake of creating new awarenesses~

This isn’t up on my website…yet. So if you want the early bird rate ($295–it goes up to $350 on June 23), give me a call (347-878-6096) or shoot me an email (jane@janepollak.com) with your intention. There are only 10 spaces, and four of them are already filled.



Have you ever dreaded making a call to complain about a service or product and feared that not only would you not receive satisfaction, but that you’d feel you wasted your time in the effort? I forced myself to dial up the help department at SendOutCards. It’s a company I’ve been involved with for many years now where I’ve had a decent experience, but not Nordstrom level.

I’d sent out a card to the fabulous women who attended my winter retreat in February inviting them to get first ‘dibs’ on my summer retreat. I wanted to touch their hearts and created a collage of their images that looked like this:

Winter Retreat Participants

Winter Retreat Participants

But, fortunately (or not), one recipient texted me and also sent me the image of what (I thought) I’d sent. “I just got your invitation in the mail and what a wow you created! I am thinking though that the card didn’t come out quite the same way you designed it. Kind of like when you send flowers to someone and you never know what they look like when they arrive.”

Botched Card

Botched Card

You can see, it was not as intended. Fortunately, this group has a private Facebook page where I got to post a copy of what it should have looked like. Amazingly, these very generous souls thought I was trying to be artistic and liked the funky factor.

When I sent this image to Tammy at SendOutCards, she gasped. “We will refund your points (price per card) and expenses (the cost of postage) and extend 70 courtesy points to you as well for the mishap.” I was completely thrilled.

She’d never seen anything quite like this happen before and was going to check other cards that went out on that date received by less responsive/awesome (my word choice) recipients. We did agree that Mercury Retrograde may have played a role.

I was going to drop it because my audience was so kind and understanding and saw the original intent displayed. But I’m so glad I followed through and took care of the issue. No bad taste in my mouth for SendOutCards. Quite the opposite! I can’t wait to design another batch for my summer retreaters this July!


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