happy womanI had the sublime pleasure of being invited to participate on a field trip to Winterthur yesterday organized by a friend in the publishing industry. She generously added me to her guest list which included three additional women, all major players in that field (before they retired or moved on to newer ventures) hence their flexibility to go on a midweek excursion.

For me, the day was simply research.

On our Amtrak ride to Wilmington, I sat next to a former creative director who told me in no uncertain terms that our hostess is the happiest woman she knows. I nodded in agreement.

Carol Schneider, #1 Happy Woman, had gotten passes for us to see the Downton Abbey exhibit there because one of her current author’s wrote To Marry an English Lord. It’s on sale in the gift shop during this exhibition, and going to see the show made sense. Carol made it into a party, which is what happy people do–share the wealth.

Carol secured her second fabulous publishing post at Workman, but also prestigious group, after retiring from the earlier career. Since she works only a few days a week for Publisher #2, she spends much of her time working at her passion which is creating scarves from vintage kimonos. I own a couple, and they are gorgeous. Contact Carol for her upcoming show schedule in NYC: carol@carolschneiderdesigns.com

carol schneider scarves

Carol Schneider’s Scarves and Accessories

She also has sons and grandsons whom she sees regularly.

This happiest woman enjoys a longterm love relationship and spends her weekends in Connecticut.  She travels regularly, sees all the latest shows and movies, enjoys dining out as well as cooking and entertaining.

Have you ever thought about who the happiest person you know is? Personally, I’d like to share that honor with her and nominate myself. Second, anyone?

jane at downton abbey exhibitDownton Carol S

violinist at Grand Central

Susan Keser performing at Grand Central Terminal

You see creative types trying all sorts of ways to get attention in NYC–laying out armloads of prints on tables along Times Square, quartets of young men calling for everyone’s attention on a subway car and then performing an outrageous gymnastics feat, or the standard ‘by permission’ performances in subway stations with appropriate signage advertising the group.

Occasionally, I fish in my wallet for loose change or a buck, but that’s the exception.

Last week, though, I saw an act in Grand Central Terminal that got a wholly different response from me. I actually took $15 out of my wallet and gave it to the performer for one of her thumb drives.

Here’s what she did differently and right:

  1. Played amazingly well.
  2. Dressed the part–Impeccably groomed, wearing a simple black outfit calling attention to her music, not her apparel.
  3. Great signage. It said what she was performing at the moment and which CD or thumbdrive included that piece.
  4. She had a tip ‘jar’ for those who may not have wanted a lengthier version, but did want to show appreciation.
  5. She let the public know how else they might hire her should they want to book her for a live performance.

Now think of what it takes to do something like this. Lots of preparation. Courage – to stand there for hours while hundreds, if not thousands, of people walk right by you. Planning and strategy to have everything anyone could request, stored in a portable device that could be easily wheeled around NYC and offers easy access. Nothing spoils a sale more than fumbling around apologetically while searching for the requested item. This woman was smooth as silk.

I’m thrilled to share her talent and professionalism with you. Susan Keser – Concert violinist with 35+ years experience.

http://www.newyorkviolinist.com/

I had written to Susan to ask her about her performance. Her response was extremely informational and helpful to any potential buskers out there. Here it is:

  1. In order to perform at Grand Central Terminal, one must be a member of Music Under New York (MUNY). To get into MUNY you have to audition.  The lower level dining concourse is a special “spot”, because the performer is required to keep the volume very low and the hours are very restricted (8:00am-10:00am only).
  1. As for how successful my time there was on that day, October 30th: It was about average. As most performers will say, there are good days and bad days.  In this case, it is all about who happens to be walking by and whether or not they like what I’m doing or not.  In general, New Yorkers are much more receptive to my music than tourists. The tourists pretend like they don’t understand what’s going on and just walk away from me without showing their appreciation.  The only time they get actively involved is when they see New Yorkers supporting me.
  1. I would definitely recommend performing for the public this way (it’s also known as busking, I believe). I began doing this during my younger years in Europe and got hooked on it. It’s quite a different experience from sitting on a stage as an orchestral musician, which I also did for 25 years.  In order to perform like I do in public, one has to develop a very high level of concentration, the ability to block out distractions and go into the music completely.

angry driverApproaching the West Side Highway exit for 42nd Street, I felt the energy of New York City, its pulsing beat merging with the honking horns and cacophony of people thronging the sidewalks. I was thrilled to be bringing my daughter into the city for her first Broadway show.

Traffic was particularly heavy as I drove up Eighth Avenue cruising for a parking garage. This was taking longer than I’d thought. It was almost quarter of two, showtime.

I spotted an outdoor lot midway between 47th and 48th Streets, a short walk to our destination. I joined the queue, fourth car from the front. Not too bad. Except that the particular proprietor here was taking his sweet time with his current customer. Didn’t he see the line of cars waiting for his attention?

And there’s this guy, dilly-dallying away, joking with the patron at his make-shift office as he handed her the ticket for her parked car. He cordially waved good-bye to her then moseyed up to car #2 where he leaned in, chatted up that driver, big smile on his face.

Does this man not care about making a profit? What about customer service? Can’t he see me there? Not even an acknowledgment, you know, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” He gave no notice of me sitting behind the wheel of my encumbrance—the obstacle between us and the orchestra’s overture.

Again, he took his bloody time helping the woman two cars ahead of me. I could feel my pulse quickening, my jaw tightening and my patience level shrinking.

“What’s taking so long, Mommy?” Laura asked from the back seat. “This guy doesn’t know how to run a business,” I retorted testily.

It was now 1:52pm and my stomach was in my throat. I detest being late. Especially when any decent place would have had two attendants at least. I needed to give this moron some business advice.

Finally, at 1:55pm, it was my turn. “Jeez, Mister,” I said, trying to suppress my rage. “Could you pick up the pace?”

“Ma’am,” he replied, “Don’t let your lack of planning become my emergency.” With that he took my keys, gave me my ticket, then moved to car #5. From his response it was clear that he’d attended a better self-help school than I.

I seethed over his remark through all of Act 1. “Mommy, what did he mean by that?” Laura questioned me at intermission, seeing how shaken I was. “What he meant was that if we had left the house earlier we would have had plenty of time to get parked and get to the show.” I knew I shouldn’t have answered when the caller ID had read Mother.

“Was that right, Mommy?” asked the innocent voice of youth.

I pondered her question during Act 2 planning out the message I wanted to give Laura and the one my gut was giving me. That still small voice within was whispering, “He was right, Jane.” I slunk back to the parking lot, Laura in tow. “I want to apologize for my rude behavior earlier. You were right, and I’m grateful to you for telling me so.”

“God bless you,” he replied gently. I could actually feel that blessing as he opened my car door for me that afternoon.

Cullen Thomas - My Memoir Instructor

Cullen Thomas – My Memoir Instructor

I want to learn and grow. Still, in my seventh decade.(That sounds really old, doesn’t it?!)

Which means putting myself into a learning environment, like the Gotham Writers Workshop, where I am thoroughly enjoying the memoir class I’m enrolled in.

This is my instructor, Cullen Thomas, author of Brother One Cell, an amazing memoir of his time spent in a Korean prison from ages 22 – 25. He’s a terrific guide for the dozen of us who meet every Wednesday from 7-10pm, inspiring me to read a list of recommended volumes, magazine and newspaper articles, and even watch the Noam Chomsky documentary called Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? which I can only pretend to comprehend.

Last Wednesday night I was ‘in the booth’, which meant that all the other writers dissected the 25 pages of manuscript I’d handed them the week before and gave me their feedback.

I own up to pushing my way into the Memoir II class without having the prerequisite Memoir I. Since I’d already written two books, blogged for six years and been married to an English teacher for decades, I felt qualified to skip that step. That said, I have found myself a bit short on the writers’ vocabulary being used in the critiquing discussions–like creating a major dramatic question (MDQ, even) for instance.

Mostly the feedback was extremely positive. In order to get over the couple of painful criticisms, I thought I’d share three of the highs and lows with you.

BTW, I don’t think my memoir is for everyone. If you haven’t done any self-examination in your life, it may be out of your comfort zone as I leave no rock unturned in looking at my own behavior and its ill-effects on me and everyone around me. Anyway, here are three gems that will help me get over myself AND keep me right-sized:

  • It reads like a friend complaining to another friend. [Ouch, that was the worst.]
  • Too favorably biased [helpful critique of my describing a marketing piece I’d had developed for my eggs as ‘well-written’]
  • Great paragraph, love how you capture those very telling moments and how you connect them to your own behaviors. I think people are reading memoirs for validations like these. [my favorite]

Tomorrow night is Session 5, halfway through the class. I’m already anticipating how I’ll continue on come January. I need structure, colleagues and deadlines. What’s keeping you on track these days?

(BTW, I took this photo particularly because I loved Cullen’s t-shirt. Under Shakespeare’s image is the quote: This s**t writes itself.)

 

 

 

 

masked faceLast night I dreamt that I was on my way to my memoir class and was crossing the campus (it’s actually housed in a skyscraper on 8th Avenue) on a snowy afternoon. I couldn’t get my footing and kept slipping backwards as I was trying to walk towards the building. I seemed unable to get there, not making any forward progress.

Hmmmm. Any symbolism there? My unconscious dreamt up a scenario that played out all of my fears and made memoir writing into a cold and unwelcoming place. Fortunately, I woke up from that reverie, acknowledged my creative unconscious and got back to work reading through all the comments I received on my submission last week.

While everyone is in a dress-up mood for Halloween, have you thought about what mask or outfit you might choose to put on or take off this year? The one that says SUCCESS or FRAUD? How about WRITER or MUSICIAN?

In your heart of hearts, you know what’s coming next for you. Really, how many people are 100% satisfied with the status quo? We’re always thinking one career or life move ahead, right? So, what’s on your agenda to claim in 2015?

Whenever you’re about to declare–internally or externally–your next goal, there’s fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success. How will I accomplish this? What if it doesn’t work out the way I thought it would? What might I have to give up if it actually does? Consciously or unconsciously, these play out in your mind.

I’ve got a bag of tricks and treats to offer those who know what calling is next and are stuck, struggling or simply need support in claiming what’s theirs. Join me on Monday night at my Remarkable Women’s Network to unmask your secret project in the safety and joy of a roomful of like-minded thinkers.

Bryan Mattimore’s Book of Creative Thinking

My Mastermind Intensive met last Friday and had the privilege of hearing Bryan Mattimore’s expertise on the subject of innovation and creative thinking. He’s the author of Idea Stormers and a long-time business associate of mine. He graciously accepted my invitation to inspire 8 remarkable women business owners and share lunch with us.

Inspire us he did! Using his own creative process as an example, he told of an experiment he self-imposed to come up with 21 big ideas (for business growth, but it could apply to personal as well)  in 21 days. To warm up for this exercise, he made a list of 70 ways to expand a business, bought magazines on a huge variety of subjects, and then read through them through the lens of his newly generated list.

He shared a term I’d never heard but had experienced: Principle Transfer. It means that you get an idea in one place and apply the skills, knowledge, etc. in a different arena. Using Eli Whitney’s cotton gin as his illustration, you could see the lightbulbs going off in everyone’s minds as ours expanded with the possibilities of this practice.

The benefit of this kind of rigorous challenge is that your inner critic gets quieter as you pursue the assignment. The assignment also gives you a way to hyper-observe and problem solve. As with Bryan’s technique called The Worst Idea, what you most want to do is take the pressure off of getting it “right.” This is enormously freeing.

Bryan also contributed a copy of his book to our group. Since we’re in the process of naming ourselves, he inscribed it to The Whatchamacallits.

The conversation on our private Facebook page has been flying back and forth as we allow ourselves to come up with the worst names ever for our extraordinary community. We’re laughing, creating and fully engaged.

We are all grateful for Bryan’s visit and generosity. Thank you, Bryan!

Debbie Roth Fay’s book on presentation skills

Don’t ask me why, but I keep my baby book (yes, from when I was a baby) on the lower shelf of my bedstand. Maybe it’s the memoir class I’m taking that has me reviewing my history, but this morning I came across my report card, hand-written my Miss Major about me as a 6-year old. “Jane is very sensitive,” it reminded me.

The reason I bring that up in regard to Debbie Fay is that she is the woman I’ve had coach me on my presentation skills for the past several years. There are few things in life as delicate as coaching a speaker. As you probably know, it’s the #1 fear of people in this country, ahead of death and spiders. It requires the gentlest, kindest, but also the most insightful and professional level of expertise to do well.

Which Debbie does.

Her brand new book, NAIL IT, on the subject is available starting TODAY! Not only do I congratulate Debbie, but also encourage you to plug into her wisdom, tools and strategies for nailing it–every time. Even though I’ve been a professional speaker for nearly two decades, Debbie helped me understand concepts–how to speak notes-free (!) and trust my own abilities in a way I’d never known before.

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in presenting like a pro, order her book today.

joyful woman senior

This could be YOU living your values

At my next Remarkable Women’s Network event the focus will be on radical fulfillment. Sounds like a lot to accomplish in two hours, right?

But it starts very simply by identifying what’s really important to YOU.

Easier said than done. How many times this week (year, decade) have you sat down to consider what YOU really value? Anyone?

Here’s a quick quiz you can use as a warm-up. Put these 6 values in order of YOUR priority, #1 being what you value most:

  • Tradition
  • Elegance
  • Collaboration
  • Personal Power
  • Service
  • Health/Well Being

How long did that take you? Were you in any doubt?

What did you like about this exercise? What didn’t you like about it?

I picked six random but unrelated values from the worksheet I’ll be using on November 3 when I’ll ask you to select your top 5 values from a lengthier list.

But for starters, these six were varied enough to get you thinking. Is my aching hip keeping me from volunteering at the animal shelter? Is my attitude around asking for help interfering with my deep desire to collaborate with others? And more important, if so, what can I do about it?

Is what you do every day reflective of your #1 value? And if not, what great project have you been putting off that would fulfill you beyond your wildest dreams?

That’s the focus of the night. What better way to meet women you feel aligned with than to sit down amongst each other and discuss your values in a fun and safe environment.

I’ll be sharing a coaching tool that is so transformational that after being introduced to it in 2006, I’ve been wheat and dairy free ever since, a personal health goal that has impacted everything else in my life.

Come join me on Monday, November 3, as I lead this session to explore an unrecognized value that may grant you access to your deepest desire.

 

 

This is my 800th blog post.

How I’ve fit all these into my life over the last 6 years is worth thinking about. Especially today when I find myself nearly topic-less, and with time on my hands. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I’m not that busy. Blasphemy! Right?

I don’t have anything I have to do today. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say that. I tend to keep myself fully engaged.

I have a short list of projects waiting for times like this to fill in the gaps–trying a new recipe, packing up and storing my summer wardrobe, mining my journals for quotes and ideas.

Working on my memoir had been one of those time fillers. That’s moved onto my primary list of projects though. Since I just completed a chapter and sent it off to my writing coach, I find myself in this lull.

Talking this over with my wise accountability partner Sandy, she suggested I blog about it. “Not many people are comfortable being NOT busy. Why don’t you write about that?”

I am delightfully comfortable in this space. I saw it coming on my calendar after a super-busy week at the end of September. So I made plans.

  • This afternoon I’ll visit a good friend in Connecticut who I haven’t seen since leaving for my trip around the world in late January.
  • I’ve scheduled an eye exam on Wednesday since it’s been 3 years since my last one. That meant finding a new provider in New York City and scheduling the time to find the new location.
  • I just arranged a visit to my friend’s sukkot for dinner on Friday to honor her holiday and our friendship.

These are meaningful, fulfilling and sometimes necessary (the eye exam) items that often get pushed to the back burner when I’m more fully engaged.

Here’s how I look at it. There are so many things I want to do and don’t because I’m too busy. Rather than manufacture busy-ness for the sake of being like everyone else, I’m taking this time to do all the things that feel like rewards now while my calendar allows. I know I’ll get very busy again, although I don’t know exactly when.

I love the (very shortened) story from Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel.  The patient prays to God to be saved. One by one, his doctors come to see him in the hospital. “No, no, no,” he tells them. “God is going to save me.” He dies and meets God in Heaven. “I thought you were going to save me,” he said. To which God replied, “I sent you the oncologist, the radiologist and the surgeon, but you turned them away.”

If God is giving me these lovely gaps in my schedule, I’m going to take them and enjoy every minute.

 

NancyWilliams pdf09212014112133 - CopyI met Nancy Williams following my heart. With my new intention to spend more time involved with 1:1 networking meetings, I was delighted to be introduced to Nancy by a mutual friend.

Through that introduction, Nancy approached me via email inquiring about the use of my ‘banned words’ which she discovered by browsing my website articles. Nancy used my materials in a talk she gave at a large conference over the summer. I love sharing ideas, and her expansion of this one delighted me.

As we continued to communicate virtually, a bond was forged, and we met a few months later. What a connection! Through the intimacy of a shared lunch, we discovered mutual interests and ideas that may never have surfaced at a larger event.

My banned words are a series of stand-up tent cards I bring to all of my group meetings. It creates awareness of what I call ‘minimizers.’ I display them in order to discourage their use. Whenever I hear amazingly successful businesswomen use these words: try, just, little, should and can’t afford, I shudder. We downplay our own enormous accomplishments by applying these adjectives to feats like creating an art catalog, presentation or article for the press.

You’ve heard them all, but probably don’t react because they cause a subliminal shift in perception. Your mind begins to discount the value of what you’re being shown or told.

I love the way Nancy used this information and re-named them Discouraging Voices. She even elaborated on a few and expanded their impact. Zoom in on her article. Well worth it!

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