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When I received the invitation to see Scarlett DeBease‘s holiday-decorated home, I knew I had to accept.
Scarlett has been my image consultant for many years. She’s come to my home over and over again, but I’d never been to hers. Her husband, Jack, takes Christmas very seriously and uses his inordinate design sense to create magic in their already sumptuous home. Scarlett wanted to share the finished product and issued an invitation for last Friday.
I had a conflict as I lead my Soul Proprietor Community coaching call by phone on the first Friday of each month at noon. Squeezing a trip to Westchester by train within a brief window of time was going to be challenging.
“Make your call from here,” Scarlett generously offered. She gave me a choice of three spaces to conduct the call which requires my computer’s dashboard, good light, a place to take notes and either wireless service or a phone line. She made it all possible. I accepted, took an early train, made the call at noon, then relaxed and enjoyed the tour (and I did get to see her closet which was a total example of someone walking her talk: inspiring, meticulously arranged and immaculately neat) and the party.
I can’t say enough about how spectacularly gorgeous their home and Christmas decor are, but here’s a sampling that will give you the flavor of the experience. In the accompanying photo, Scarlett and Jack are standing in front of a beautifully mounted collection of Christmas cards, jauntily arranged so that you can easily take in the colors, designs and messages of each. “These are all the cards my mother has sent me over the last 25 years,” Jack told me. He’d not only saved and cherished them, but also displayed them in a place of honor at the entrance to the living room. I got goose bumps all over my body hearing this thoughtful man tell me this.
Talk about the spirit of the holidays!
I want to offer a story and a solution.
I was sitting at my desk yesterday before leaving for a hectic afternoon of coaching and meetings. I call the MTA to find out how to get the 30-day deal on my EasyPay card which can’t be inserted into the machines. Of course they’re experiencing high call volume, so while I’m on hold, I begin creating a personalized holiday card that includes a photo. Since the image is taking awhile to upload, and I’m still waiting for a human voice to pick up my call about my MetroCard, I start going through my inbox of 73 messages, many of which require a focused response.
Are you exhausted just reading this tale of busy-ness? I’m sure you can top it with your own. But, it’s not a competition, and surely no one wins.
A client told me on our recent call that she’d read an article about 10 ways to make your life easier around the holidays. One tip was to turn off Facebook and twitter on your phone.
I had an alternate solution. Don’t read articles about saving time.
In fact, make a decision to stay focused on one thing at a time and CHOOSE what that one thing is. I came up with this tip after feeling so discombobulated by my own earlier behavior.
Julie Morgenstern, the queen of organization, says that opening emails early in the morning opens up a different drawer in your brain. Yesterday it felt like there were three drawers open with wrinkly clothes hanging out, i.e. a mess. Just for today, turn everything off except the one task you’re working on. Complete it, and move onto the next one.
Blog complete. Check.
I have a several accounts with Wells Fargo Bank including one that allows me to use ‘foreign’ ATM’s without incurring an additional fee.
I used to think that the fee was only what the competitor’s bank charged for my use of their ATM–as much as $3.00 per visit. But, a month ago I found myself with little cash and the need to get some in a neighborhood that was Wells Fargo-less. I remembered that special card, popped it in for my cash withdrawal, pushed the OK button acknowledging the $3.00 surcharge, appreciating that as a valued customer it would be removed from my the transaction by the time it reached my account.
It was not removed. To add insult to injury, Wells Fargo charged me an additional $2.50 for the ‘foreign’ transaction.
After many phone calls that made me feel less like a platinum customer than I already did, it was resolved. I had been issued the cards in Connecticut, and the New York City banks were not recognizing my special status. Wells Fargo generously, and wisely, refunded my money and explained that if I opened a NY-based account specifically, I could approach ‘foreign’ ATM’s three times a month free of charge. I partook of that agreement.
I had held onto that new card for awhile when I began getting notices that I should initiate it by using it or calling in to have it confirmed. I didn’t really need cash in any outside neighborhood, but figured I’d give it a shot to begin the process. But then I hesitated. Are they (Wells Fargo) just going to reimburse me the $2.50 per transaction for using a ‘foreign’ machine? Will I still be charged the $3.00 fee from the competitor? I hate using an ATM to just get out a small amount of money and paying percentage-wise a larger amount. I don’t mind losing $3.00 if I’m taking out $300, but resent it if I’m only withdrawing $60 to test the system.
This took up space in my head for at least a week. I didn’t want to spend any additional time going through a phone chain to ask that question, and the website is hopeless for finding out that specific piece of information. I finally got tough with myself and thought, “Here’s a $3.00 investment in banking knowledge. Once I do this, I’ll know.” Sure enough, I withdrew $100 and accepted the $3.00 fee at Chase.
The good news was that when I did my daily online accounting the next day, I saw that the $3.00 fee was reversed by Wells Fargo, and there was no additional fee added. The transaction cost me nothing. And took me a week of stewing and fretting to even attempt.
Now, if you can’t indentify with this on some level, then my hat’s off to you. Because every (truth-telling) entrepreneur I’ve ever spoken to has allowed this kind of pre-meditatitive thinking to stall action on things way more important than a $3.00 bank fee. Not knowing the answers is a scary place to be, but inaction is an even more frightening location to operate from.
Now, if I would just take my own advice more often. I know the answer to analysis paralysis. It is ACTION. Do something and get a result. Then move on from there.
All progress is a matter of baby steps. What millimeter action forward do you need to take today?
I’ve had accountability partners, aka goal buddies, for years. It’s what keeps me on track on a daily basis.
I also have a Mastermind group that I’ve been part of for a couple of decades. That’s a monthly accountability structure for the bigger things I want to achieve in my business.
Add to my support systems a coach to whom I speak twice monthly. She’s where I sort it all out and remember what’s important to me and why I do what I do.
It’s the goal buddy relationship that offers the dailiness of entrepreneurship for me. The others are the bigger, wider views. My goal buddy is the on-the-ground, day-to-day ‘combat’ colleague and ally for getting it all done.
What I’ve illustrated here is the sheet (actually a manila folder) I use to track our commitments. I write down hers and mine with a check box next to each to house that satisfying gesture of completion.
If you enlarge the image you can see the variety of tasks we commit to each other–some as simple as ‘organize family receipts’ or others more demanding like ‘develop first three topics’. What’s important about organizing family receipts is that NOT doing it–sorting through my annual collection of personal purchases–was taking up way too much room in my brain. Sometimes our commitments to each other are as menial as that one, but need to be done.
Here are some questions and answers for establishing a successful goal buddy relationship. Between the two of you work out these pieces of the connection:
- How often do you want to check in with each other. My current goal buddy and I usually speak 3x per week. I had one partner with whom I spoke each weekday first thing in the morning to state our goals and around 5pm to acknowledge completion of them.
- Who calls whom? We switch off with each call. I’ll call her today at 11am. She’ll take the responsiblity for our next appointment on Monday afternoon.
- How long are the calls? Usually 5 minutes, sometimes less if either of us states at the beginning, “This’ll be just a quick check-in today.” Sometimes we chat for 15 minutes.
- What do you choose as goals? We both have a working knowledge of the other’s business and visions. Ninety percent of our goals are right on course with creating the futures we each desire. Ten percent of the time, like organizing receipts, the goals are set to get rid of obstacles blocking our creativity.
- What’s the benefit of having a goal buddy? As I mentioned earlier, it’s having someone to talk to regularly (isolation is a huge issue for entrepreneurs) to get through the dailiness of life. Left to our own devices, who wouldn’t rather watch the next episode of Girls or Downton Abbey? Being held accountable by someone you respect and admire is a beautiful thing. You might cut yourself the slack, but you’d never want to disappoint your cherished collaborator.
- How do you find a goal buddy? Ask around. You want someone as committed to her visions as you are. Water seeks its own level. Try on a partner for a week or a month and then re-evaluate. You’ll know quickly if it’s working or not by your progress, your happiness level and your gut.
The reason I’m writing this blog post today is because someone in my Community asked me if I could recommend anyone to her. As I was reviewing my notes from my Mastermind Intensive, one of our members needed to find an accountability partner (same thing, by the way) as her goal for our next meeting. I thought about these two women and what a great match they’d make and offered it up to the two of them. The one who asked first was thrilled and upped the ante by asking, what’s the best way to work this connection. Hence this article.
I committed to my goal buddy that I would do a run-through of my 2/1 coaching lesson for my upcoming Soul Proprietor Community by tomorrow morning at 9am when we check in with each other.
Since making that commitment yesterday, I have filed my tax returns, ordered theatre tickets, arranged a lunch date for my son’s birthday, confirmed breakfast plans with my daughter and granddaughter, blogged about my process, responded to emails and spent a few minutes on Facebook.
In actual preparation for that goal, I did take my notes down off the wall and arranged them onto sheets of paper in the order that I want to refer to them. That required a nap.
I know that I will have rehearsed once before our early call tomorrow, but I won’t pretend that it’s my go-to activity, even though it is the most important work I’m developing. I need a forcing mechanism–that call with my goal partner–to give me an artificial deadline. This way I’ll be 100% ready when I go live in two weeks.
I’m not worried about it. Just observing my behavior. One of the points I intend to make during that call is what I’ve heard described as the highest form of spiritual development (i.e. what I strive for every day): non-judgmental awareness.
“Ah, look at that, Jane. You’re putting other things in front of this activity that will give you great peace of mind once you’ve worked on it.”
I’m heading off to a meeting now knowing full well that when I get back, I will do my first run-through, with my recording device on, so I can experience having talked this through. It will most definitely get easier after that, and I will continue to commit to rehearsing again and again.
What’s different about my procrastination process at this point in my career is that I can be a casual observer to it and not a harsh critic of it. I wish you that peace of mind in your own procrastination behaviors.
The most challenging part of my move to NYC was getting out of my three-year auto lease. My son-in-law told me about Swap-a-lease dot com which gave me a good head-start. I didn’t know it was even possible to do such a thing. Registering on Swap-a-Lease and finding a buyer was the easy part.
Getting through the Toyota Financial Services paperwork, for someone else to assume my lease, was a Herculean task. Everything had to be a ‘wet’ copy. No faxes or scans allowed. The new owner and I had to wait for snail mail to deliver envelopes from Iowa to New York and the Boston area where he lives.
In addition to the overwhelming paperwork hoops, the clock was ticking on my CT registration which expired October 30. Now that it’s all behind me, I can say that I took a calculated risk after trying my hardest to get temporary plates.
I showed up at the DMV (this ranks on my list below getting root canal) on Saturday, October 27 with all the appropriate documentation. I knew there’d be a long line on a Saturday morning and waited patiently for 45 minutes to get to the head of it. Upon arrival at that desk I thought, “This isn’t so bad.” Then, the DMV worker handed me another set of forms, which I filled out and returned (gratefully without having to wait in line again). At this point, when I thought that the final step would be to receive the temporary plates, he gave me a slip of paper with this message:
Welcome to Norwalk DMV [and a very large number]
Please have a seat [no punctuation mark]
Your number will be called shortly.
By 11:15am they were up to D641 and only 3 numbers in that D sequence had been summoned. I needed to be in CT to attend the wedding of dear friends that day. The couple had asked that guests arrive at 11:30am. I thought two hours at the DMV was generous. I bagged the wait and went off to a most glorious wedding celebration. I figured I’d find my way back to CT on Tuesday (they’re closed Mondays) and breeze through a weekday crowd.
Then came Hurricane Sandy.
Roads, bridges and businesses were shut down. Thinking I’d have a few days grace due to an Act of God, I put it out of my mind. We were still waiting for paperwork from Iowa, so I wasn’t going to be able to make the swap yet.
Oh, I forgot to mention one other piece running parallel to the leasing ordeal. There was a very small dent on the side of the car. At Toyota, when I brought the car in for its final servicing, they said it would run me $350 to repair. Really? The dent was the size of a quarter, but I was committed to giving the new leaser a car in perfect condition and made arrangements for its repair.
The day I was going to move to NYC there was a note on the windshield of my car. Yes. That day. The last day I would have parked it in a public place–my apartment house’s garage. It was from the mom of a 17-year old girl apologizing for the scratch her daughter had put on the driver’s side of my car (the opposite side from my dent) when she was pulling out of an adjacent spot. The mom was honest and gracious enough to leave her cell phone number. I’m very appreciative of that, because whoever created the $350 dent did not extend me that courtesy. That new “scratch” repair was estimated at over $700.
This teenager’s mother said that her ex-husband, the girl’s dad, would take responsibility for whatever costs were incurred. They didn’t want to involve insurance companies, understandably, with such a young driver. She said that she’d text me his contact information and did.
You know how you can give a contact a nickname? Remember now, this is her ex-husband. Well, I’ll share her nickname for him a little later in this entry.
Because I was knee-deep in moving boxes, emotions and the physical requirements of my move, my generous and everloving boyfriend drove my car to his neck of the woods and handled the repairs–locating the best price, dealing with getting the payment from the girl’s dad, and having someone follow him to and from the body shop so he could leave the car while it was being worked on. Dave reported to me how easy it was to speak with the ex-husband, aka father of the car denter. He was totally compliant and asked to receive the estimates by fax; he’d send off a check pronto. That was a Friday. By the next Friday, after several phone calls, no check had arrived at the body shop. Gratefully, the body shop did the work anyway, because Dave assured him that I would be ‘good for it’ if the dad stiffed us. Saturday’s mail, no check.
After the wonderful, celebratory wedding on the 27th, we had a delightful dinner at my good friends’ home in Stamford. I was regaling them about the car situation, the mishap and the delinquent dad’s payment. My friend Dick, a lawyer, said “Say your lawyer told you to turn it over to the insurance companies from here on out.” I’d never thought of that. The second dent put the repairs well over my deductible. I thought, if I needed to, I would bring out the big guns.
I needed to.
The next morning, Dave received an email from the ex:
Glad we got a chance to talk this am, let me know your girl friend’s thoughts on sharing a small portion of the cost. If this went to insurance it would have taken way longer to resolve, making your lease return difficult. Sorry you are in the middle, if you want me to email her directly I would be happy to do so, I look forward to hearing back, thanks again,
Still no check of credit card payment to the auto body shop.
I called upon the wisdom of Dick and said “No.” And that, on the advice of my lawyer, I would now turn it over to my insurance company. Here was his immediate reply:
You have lawyers! As a I said I am paying him today.
And he did by credit card over the phone on a Sunday. BTW, his ex-wife’s nickname from him when she sent me his contact information is: The Evil One.
The final chapter: The new leaser hadn’t been able to get to DMV to get new MA plates for the car. The original plan, to meet halfway in Springfield, MA wasn’t going to work. I made the decision to deliver the car to his door, remove my plates (which had now expired) and have him put me on the next Amtrak train to NYC. I was willing to wait at the train station for however long, grateful that this leg of the journey was complete.
The exchange was peaceful and harmonious, and he drove me to the 128 Station, a little closer to NYC than the South Boston one. I dashed out of his car, went to the counter to buy my ticket and was told the train was on the platform right now. I made it on, relaxed back into my seat and let out a huge sigh of relief. It felt like a gift that the doors of the train were open and welcoming me aboard after a very hard job completed.
I’m thrilled to be done with car payments, insurance, being aware about gas prices and sitting in traffic. Yes, I’ve traded this in for subway fares, crowds and being out in the weather, but I’m ready for the new experiences and glad that this saga is over.
I had a great send-off by good friends in CT, and a warm welcome from family and friends in NYC. I received MetroCards, guidebooks for non-tourists, flowers and invitations for upcoming events.
But this morning, I received the most creative and welcome gift I could have imagined. A colleague who has lived on the Upper West Side for many years offered to meet me at the Amsterdam Avenue Branch of the NY Public Library (I’m sure I would have overlooked this resource for months if not years) for a walking tour of her favorite places.
With each shop visited I became more and more excited about my new environs. I’d peeked into places, even made some judgments about them, but this woman’s detailed tour opened vistas for me I may never have discovered including the organic department and cafe (2nd floor) at the Fairway Market, the housewares section of Zabar’s, her vetted favorite dry cleaners (for price and service), where to get the best color copies, as well as who had the best deals on generic cotton balls. I want to know this stuff, but would never have thought to ask.
Although I’ve taken the 79th Street Boat Basin exit off the West Side Highway hundreds of times, I had never before entered this riverside eatery. I now have the menu and got to experience a tantalizing glimpse of what watching a sunset from there will be like.
In addition to garnering all this delectable information with a hands-on, feet-on-the-ground tour, I got to enjoy this woman’s company and receive an inspiring view of her lifestyle choices (we share similar taste in movies–she was returning a copy of Take This Waltz which I’ve been dying to see) for nearly two months.
I have so much gratitude for all the gifts I’ve received. This morning’s treasure hunt was no exception. And all within walking distance of my new apartment!
“There is no work/life balance the way it’s portrayed,” were the opening words of relationship expert and author Dr. Patty Ann Tublin, the third speaker in the Insights from Entrepreneurs series presented at the Westport Library last night.
I had arrived early to ensure a seat, so was quite surprised that there were only a sprinkling of attendees compared to the standing-room-only crowd when Doug Bernstein, of Melissa and Doug, spoke last spring.
“I did research and found out, it’s all nonsense,” she continued. I heartily agree, but tell that to all the women I meet who are still striving for the Holy Grail of ‘having it all.’ Dr. Tublin’s solution is to reconcile–bring opposing things into harmony.
She spoke primarily about the major considerations for moving toward balance – Money and Time. Time, she said, is the key ingredient to success. It’s the one commodity that ‘cannot be printed by a government agency’ and is doled out equally to us all.
As she explained it, her life philosophy or mantra is, “Figure it out” which has the inherent and positive implication that there always is a solution.
Because of the small crowd size, the Q+A part of the evening was lively and personal and added an extra spark to an already stimulating event.
Many of my clients make public offerings and work hard to fill a room. It gives me pause that as venerable an institution as the Westport Library, with all its resources, drew only a dozen folks to this event. No judgment, just noticing…
How’s this for synchronicity? I appeared on WTNH early Saturday morning proclaiming the importance of taking time off, with intention, from your business.
This morning, I received this email message from my Virtual Assistant:
Thursday while working at my desk I experienced severe chest pain and nearly fainted. I phoned 911 and was taken to the hospital. The symptoms indicated I was having a heart attack. I was admitted to the hospital where I underwent a number of tests and was released Friday afternoon. The good news is that I didn’t have a heart attack but the bad news is the stress test revealed I need to start taking my health more seriously. This was a wakeup call for me.
I will be making some changes to my schedule to improve my health. While I will continue to maintain high standards of service to you, I have to start setting reasonable expectations for myself. This means I need to consistently start taking breaks, giving myself time to do my work at a normal pace and taking real vacations. I haven’t had a real vacation (the kind where you fully unplug from work) in more than 10 years. Mine have always been working vacations or long weekends. I’ve been fooling myself thinking that was ok.
She then informed me of her schedule moving forward–i.e. She set clear boundaries around her work and personal life and when I could expect my work orders to be completed (which I fully support and respect).
I asked my VA’s permission to share her message, which she promptly gave in the hope that it might help another compulsive non-vacation-taker.
As I said on the TV clip, don’t wait for the Universe to force you into a vacation. Now’s as good a time as ever to schedule your day, week or month off so you can restore your body and your mind to its full capacity.
Good, if you said “yes,” then you’re old enough to appreciate the lyrics I’m referring to as I approach 64. My birthday is next Wednesday, July 4. I’ll have reached that landmark age immortalized by the Beatles back in 1966–the year I graduated from White Plains High School. Actually being a 64 year old was unthinkable then. Voila, here it is.
This is a great time to take stock, especially since I’m about to leave for vacation and sign off for a month of rest, relaxation and renewal.
At a meeting yesterday someone mentioned enjoying life in the moment, not waiting for ‘someday.’ It reminded me of my friend Beth Spatz who became a mom a few months before I did. We shared our daughters’ infancies over tea and lunches. Beth invariably served these delicacies on her fine china and used her sterling silver flatware as well. “What would I save it for? This way, every meal is special.”
It was a concept that was foreign to me, but I quickly adopted as making total sense. Why wait? Why not use all of our best stuff now?
I don’t mean squandering resources. But I do mean enjoying life in the present moment. For me, this is a daily exercise in contentment and serenity.
I can easily have my head turned, as I did after a phone call yesterday. The young woman I spoke to was researching coaching as a profession and had gotten my name from a mutual friend. She is enrolled in an 8 week program that costs $2000. She mentioned that there were 2000 women similarly enrolled. By my calculations, that would be $4,000,000 for the proprietor of the program. My gremlins leapt to the front.
I immediately got into my not-good-enough, I-should-have-mastered-social-media-by-now-and-then-I’d-be-getting-2000-enrollees mode. My body became tense, my heart started to race and I felt a sense of disappointment and anguish.
Until I put my Soul Proprietor cap on and talked myself down from the ledge. Compare and despair, I remembered. “Jane, you love your life. You personally know and care about every client you work with. You have everything you need and want. You lack for nothing. Stay where you are, in this moment of peace and happiness that you’ve created for yourself.” Breathing helps a lot at this point, which I remind myself to do. Inhale. Relax. Exhale.
I also remind myself of the last lesson in my book. Lesson 101: Success is enjoying what you’ve worked hard to get and recognizing you’re there.
What I have accomplished with my work and life is my own definition of success. I know what I want to be doing. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I am doing it. I recognize that I have what I want. As simple as that sounds, I don’t know many people who have achieved this.
If this message rings true for you, I’ll be back delivering it on August 1. I hope you have a wonderful July. Assert your independence in a joyful way, and celebrate the fact that we live in an amazing country where we have the freedom to do just that.