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I was such a novice when I first walked into the doors of the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) 20 years ago. I didn’t even knew what the word networking meant back then. A colleague had mentioned that there were other women business owners in the Fairfield County area, and would I care to join her for one of their meetings.
In my youthful arrogance, having been in my own business for about 10 years at that time, I thought, “Sure, maybe I can teach them a thing or two.”
It’s only when we enter new arenas that we get to see what we really know. For one, I had no idea how to go up to a group of women and introduce myself. I was incredibly shy, but fortunately had a business name that attracted attention. “What exactly is An Egg by Jane?” I got asked over and over.
I learned that each time I replied and took note of the listener’s expression, my description (i.e. 30-second commercial which I’d also never heard called that) changed and improved. I got to define what I did and for whom.
The thing I most valued about EWN then and now is meeting women who could help me in business. From our membership I created my own Mastermind Group that is still going strong today, found graphic designers, computer instructors, marketing consultants and communications experts who have continuously helped me grow my business. I’ve also attracted clients from our midst, many of whom have become lifelong friends.
It’s always an honor to be asked to speak at any organization, but it’s particularly rewarding to be invited by the network that fostered my growth. Some of my earliest public speaking opportunities came through EWN when I spoke on panels and at morning roundtables. To have the honored spot for an evening event is truly a cherished dream.
I hope to see a lot of familiar faces on Tuesday night and would love it if you would join me then. I’ll be sharing the lessons I’ve learned in my 30+ years in business, plus answering questions from the group that they’re dealing with on a daily basis in today’s marketplace.
One lesson I included in the first edition of my book Soul Proprietor was how important image is. I remember looking up EWN in the phone book (that’s how long ago that was) and seeing an address on the Post Road. “Wow!” I thought. “Real estate on the main drag of Westport, CT. This must be a sizable organization.”
Turned out the address was a Mailboxes, USA postal box (before these were ubiquitous), but it got me to the next step of the relationship, and that’s what creating a big appearance can do for you. Once we met, a fancy address was less important that the quality of its membership, which I’ve enjoyed for all these years.
She’s the author of The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life, and a great speaker. She presented some astonishing facts–that Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, and that we’re heading toward a world where there are more walkers (as in the metal kind) than strollers!
Marci shared some of her own story. I had read her columns in the NYTimes where she was a highly paid (by her own admission) freelancer. And how, in 2008, she was shockingly let go despite the popularity of her blog. In publicly sharing that story in the Times, she received an outpouring of response signaling her to investigate this trend–figuring out what to do next– more deeply and leading her down the path of Encore Careers.
That’s a smidgen of the day’s events. Read more about BA50 on their website.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve been invited as a guest speaker on a cruise this November. This has long been a goal of mine–to vacation and work at the same time, which I encourage every lifestyle entrepreneur to do as well–figure out ways to incorporate your desires, like travel, into your worklife.
I’ll be telling you much more about the cruise soon, but wanted to share an article I wrote for Lois Grasso, the woman who is putting this week together, particularly for holistic practitioners. I believe it’d be great for every soul proprietor as well. I submitted this piece for the cruise’s website.
Have you ever had a great idea, felt enthusiastic about making it a reality, gotten off to a rousing start and then fallen off the cliff? Did you say daily? Yeah, me, too.
Here’s what it can look like. You meet with a colleague for coffee where you brainstorm ways of working together. Your combined positive energy fills the place as you sketch out your business model on a napkin, estimate the dollar values you’ll bring to the party and even consider how you’ll spend the millions you’ll be earning as a result of these efforts. You shake hands, slap high fives, pack up your equipment and part company.
And nothing happens.
Oh, but it does.
An unseen force creeps in, unseen and unbidden, and begins the process of sabotaging your best efforts.
A little voice inside your head whispers, “I don’t really belong in this partnership.” “He’s going to discover what an impostor I am.” “What was I thinking? I can’t take on another project.”
You don’t pick up the phone to follow up. You carry around the weight of indecision and procrastination. Time passes. The enthusiasm and energy of that meeting diminishes and fades away. Sound familiar?
I call this spiritual vandalism.
Something entered your mind and heart that had nothing to do with the initial spark of enthusiasm and commitment. Left untended, that negative energy takes on a life of its own. It’s intangible, but present, and saps you of your drive.
There is a concept in criminology called the Broken Windows Theory which feels like a ‘real world’ parallel to spiritual vandalism. From Wikipedia:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani took this model to heart and made sure that graffiti was removed from subways; he cracked down on public alcohol consumption and fare evasion as a signal of zero tolerance.
What if, instead of succumbing to your negative thoughts, you immediately took action and combated your gremlins and saboteurs with positive steps in the direction of your vision?
I’ll tell you what will happen. They will disappear as quickly as the Wicked Witch of the West melted when water was poured on her. These vandals are emotional and spiritual bullies who love to keep you stuck. I know because I’ve had them all my life, but have built up my spiritual forces to combat them daily.
Here are my two winning strategies for eradicating these thugs from your life:
- As soon as you recognize you’re having a ‘vandalous’ thought, take an immediate action. Pick up the phone, do the next thing on your list, move a muscle—change a thought.
- Shine the light of day on the hooligan. Call a friend and report this monster. “I’m having a bad thought and just wanted to share it with someone who cares about me.”
I’d love to tell you that they’ll disappear in time, but they are relentless. They will continue to pop up and thrive in an atmosphere of neglect. Your spiritual awareness and heart are the antidote to this kind of vandalism. Keeping up your daily practices of meditation, prayer, random acts of kindness and interdependence with others is a healthy prescription for vandal-less living.
Often I get passionate about an idea, then make it bigger and bigger so that evenutally it becomes impossible to make any progress. Then I use “failure” as an excuse not to try anything like that ever again. Telling my husband about it, I explained it like this: when building a fire, it’s smart to get rid of the old ashes, light some crumpled-up newspaper, then put some twigs on. After the twigs have caught, put on some small logs. When the small logs are burning nice and hot, then larger logs can be added. All too often, I plunk a large log onto the newspaper shortly after it’s caught fire. The flame is snuffed out and I say, “see, it didn’t work” and then sit in the cold, pouting. So in keeping with my analogy, I’m going to sit and watch my twigs burn for a while.
Our next session is on Friday at noon (EDT).
I take notes at most events I attend, mining for gold to pass onto you, and also because I immediately forget so much of what I hear! When I transcribe these words, I highlight what I found most important and save it in a document.
Last week’s Women’s Summit provided definite keepers. I enjoyed Kay Koplovitz’s talk and have this quote to share:
Sometimes naivete will take you across borders you shouldn’t cross.
I can’t remember the title of the course on satellite transmissions she caught sight of and was transfixed by in her early 20′s–definitely not a subject that would have attracted my attention. But Kay was riveted by the subject matter of those waves that send images to our TV’s from outer space way back before ANY of us even knew about satellite dishes. She was also a mega-baseball fan and arranged the first satellite televised game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. She had a signed contract with George Steinbrenner (speaking of borders you shouldn’t cross…) and was tickled to be such a pioneer. Until the next day when baseball’s Commissioner Bowie Kuhn phoned her to cease and desist.
After a back and forth gambit about the rights she thought she had, she offered Mr. Kuhn to trade possessions–his baseball games for her ability to display them worldwide. He invited her in to talk.
My mouth dropped open at her courage, knowledge and naivete. Who did she think she was to go up against the likes of Bowie Kuhn?! I even went to the microphone to ask that out loud (in different words). How did she have the courage and know-how to pose such a question?
I loved her response to me.
I’m paraphrasing: When you know what you have to offer and listen really carefully to what you’re being told, the answers are there for you to hear.
She knew she had something of value and that baseball could benefit from it. She did make a deal, and that relationship put her on the map and gave her a seat at the table. She got my vote.
It’s the day after the Women’s Summit at Bryant University where I was on a panel entitled Success Strategies for Creative Entrepreneurs. As much as I wanted to give back with this presentation, I was also there to be inspired and refueled, which I was, particularly by Arianna Huffington and Kay Koplovitz.
Here’s a brief taste before I transpose my notes over the weekend:
Arianna uses the phrase “the obnoxious roommate” to describe the voice that lives in her head. She describes those negative messages we all give ourselves in the guise of a gremlin or “roommate;” that voice, she says, is more draining than actually doing the work. Her own voice has become strong, she said, because she began practices like getting a full night’s sleep and meditating. “Now the ‘roommate’ only makes guest appearances.”
“Only make new mistakes,” she urged us. Most women want a guarantee of success, but she recommended giving up the idea of perfection. It is not of this world.
More to come…
I’ve just begun listening to My Beloved World by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and am already enthralled. I wanted to share a quote from the preface that I believe will engage you and make you want to read this volume as well:
The idea of my becoming a Supreme Court Justice–which, indeed, as a goal would inevitably elude the vast majority of aspirants–never occurred to me except as the remotest of fantasies. But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire [bolding and emphasis are mine]…And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.
When I recently coached a group of artists and inquired about their goals, one at a time I probed them for the value, the ‘thing’ that would create the ‘will to aspire.’ It was exhilarating to be a part of this exercise, asking questions, noticing the responses and digging deeper for that big wish–the large format camera, the light-filled studio space, the time to focus just on jewelry-making–that would fuel the artistic process.
Once that stirring is identified and acknowledged, the next steps become self-evident and the day’s quality is being fulfilled.
I started my Soul Proprietor Coaching Program on February 1, have held two sessions with the entire community and two group coaching sessions so far.
There’s buzz going on in our private Facebook area and comments being posted as our members begin to take on the challenges I’ve offered.
My sense is that it’s well-received, but only when I read the feedback do I gain a clearer picture of my impact. Are you like that?
In our virtual world, what’s the best kind of response for you? Until I hear from my participants, I feel a bit on edge as to whether or not my message is being transmitted.
Today I posted the challenges I put out to individual members, like writing a letter to existing clients announcing a price increase, networking proactively (i.e. soliciting time with the people you really want to meet), editing a LinkedIn profile, and immediately began hearing from my members. I also got excited to read all the exciting things these soul proprietors are taking on. I feel inspired as well.
I concluded my Soul Proprietor Community call on Friday by giving the group the homework assignment to read (or listen to) the legendary Acres of Diamonds story first popularized by Russell Conwell a hundred years ago.
Every time I hear that true account, I’m re-invigorated to look at the gifts currently in my life and work harder to develop those rather than seeking unknown treasures which may be far afield. One year my mantra was “Mine what you have.”
Before I could send the links to my assistant to post on our private Community Facebook page, I received an email message with the subject: Acres of Diamonds – Reclaiming an Old Idea. If you read this linked story, you’ll see the immediate re-inforcement I received within 24 hours of my session that underscored the message I want to share.
“What an amazing coincidence!” I marveled. Until I had my “Doh!” moment when I realized I had to submit my email address to download the link for the pdf version.
You know, though, that even the simulation of a sign created the identical feeling in my body that it would have had it actually appeared in my inbox unsolicited. Our minds are that powerful. I’m choosing to stick with the positive, elated and uplifting sensation I felt in that moment–as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction–rather than dismiss it as a function of an auto-responder spewing out a message. As always, we get to choose our responses to everything.
Doreen Birdsell, my good friend and mentor, was on a mission. She wanted to enter the Toastmasters International Speech Contest and needed to have three more speeches under her belt in order to qualify.
Doreen had recently (within the last six months) joined a local Toastmasters club in Connecticut and is currently a snowbird in Sarasota, FL. Most clubs meet only once every two weeks. Did I mention that she had only two weeks to deliver these three talks?
That did not stop Doreen. Toastmasters is an international organization. She discovered that there are six clubs in Sarasota, so she emailed every one of them to get on their rosters. Normally, only members of a particular club get to deliver speeches at club meetings. Doreen requested that they line her up as a guest speaker.
The organization rallied behind her efforts, and one club president even reached out to other clubs a little further afield that Doreen didn’t even know existed. One of the clubs she solicited called her to say they had had a full roster, but someone had dropped out, and would Doreen still be available to speak. She got all her slots arranged and then had to prepare the three talks. No small feat.
Each Toastmasters manual speech (when you join the organization, you receive an educational manual with instructions for delivering everything from an icebreaker–self-introductory talk–to a motivational speech) requires dedicated preparation. Besides having a beginning, middle and end, each talk needs to have a call to action for the listeners. And then there’s rehearsal time. This did not stop Doreen.
From the very first time I met Doreen over 15 years ago, I was mesmerized by her ability to capture a thought and hold her audience’s attention, whether it was just me or a group of listeners at a meeting, and hold that space with her timeless, inspirational message.
In those two weeks, Doreen delivered her three speeches, won ribbons for each of them and went on to compete for a place in the International Speech Contest. She came in second this year, but will surely go on to not only earn her slot next year, but show up bigger and better. I predict (you read it here first!) that she will be a Toastmasters International Champion one day.
If you’d like to hear an example of Doreen’s message and style, click here.