Thursday, January 12, 2017

Out of the mouth of babes

Last week I attended Matilda.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Roald Dahl’s story, it is about a little girl who has the misfortune to live in a home where the parents couldn’t care less about her and who attends a school where the principal feels children are just maggots.

Not much of a life for a child.  You will be pleased to learn that there is one character, Miss Honey, who does take a caring interest in the child.  But in one of the Matilda’s songs, she has a strong message for all of us. 

Here’s just some of the lyrics:

Just because you find that life's not fair, it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.
Just because I find myself in this story,
It doesn't mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying I think that it's OK,
And that's not right!

Interesting.  An important message for any of us who may be feeling stuck, who see no “light at the end of the tunnel.”  As Matilda says, if we do nothing it won’t change.

As we start a new year, what changes could you make?  As Matilda says, just because life seems predictable, doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to the ending you think is written for you.

Following extensive research, Amy Vodarek and I are finishing off our book Good Enough? which is coming out this Spring. After connecting with over 350 women, we’ve learnt more about how and why women suffer from self-doubt or feel an imposter, all of which holds them back from realizing their potential. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Many of the women described digging in and making new and often difficult choices. But one’s for the better. It means we have to reflect on what is happening, both past and present, ask ourselves tough questions and look at small steps we can take to change the situation and take charge of our lives.

Because as Matilda says, to stay stuck, is not right.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Go big or go home... maybe not

I recently received a long email from Leonie Dawson explaining why she was clawing back her business.

Since 2009, this creative Australian entrepreneur has built a successful global business but instead of owning her business, she’s found that it owned her.  

She’d grown the business organically with one strategy/product/project leading to another and it all worked.     

But not for her.

Leonie talks about being totally taken over by OPO (other people’s opinions), which led her down a path of exhaustion, burn out and frustration as she was no longer doing what she loved.

I applaud her for having the courage to step back and reflect on what she wants out of life.  Not only that, she’s shared what she is going to do and why she is taking such drastic steps to refocus, to simplify her business and get back to her original mission.

So often we can find ourselves on a path we never planned to take. I remember in the One Red Lipstick project interviewing a successful young entrepreneur who when faced with a large, business-changing contract, chose to turn it down. 

It wasn’t the right time for her or her young family and as she reflected on her skill set, she was an entrepreneur, not a manager.  She didn’t want to be managing a large team which she would have needed if she’d moved forward.  Instead of a creative enterprise, she would have built herself an empire and that was not what she wanted.

Yet in North American culture, the mantra is “go big or go home.”  But maybe not.

In his book Small Giants, Bo Burlingham, shares stories of successful business owners, who have chosen to be great instead of big.   He interviewed business owners who had rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals.  Goals like being great at what they do, creating a great place to work, and making great contributions to their communities.

Burlingham calls this route “the road less travelled” and it could be that those on that road, catch more of the scenery and are less exhausted when they reach their destination.

As you enter 2017, I encourage you to look closely at your goals.  Bigger isn’t necessarily better.  Take into consideration why you started your business in the first place.  Revisit your mission.  Give yourself permission to tailor your business to suit your lifestyle and your family, and ignore the pressures around you to make more, do more.

Remember this is YOUR business.  Own it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three words to live by

I suspect I am not the only one to be glad to see the back of 2016.  While there were a few personal highs – like the launch of my publishing company and a wedding party reunion, there were a lot of lows and some, like what’s happening with our friends south of the border, continue to be worrisome.

But I am an optimist by nature, and you have to focus on the best and on what will be positive in the year ahead. 

Many years ago I stopped doing New Year resolutions. Frankly they were a waste of time, as after the initial commitment, I forgot all about them.  Instead I started to come up with three words that I wanted to live my life by in the year ahead.

That strategy has worked well for me.  So drum roll please…. the words for 2017 are Listen. Learn. Love.  (I like alliteration).  Let me explain why those words as each has several reasons for being chosen.

Listen.  It is important to listen to those around you – your colleagues, clients, family and friends.  When you listen, you learn more and can be more effective as a leader.  But I also want to listen more to myself  - to trust my intuition and act on it, and to listen to my body when it tells me that I am working too hard.

Learn.   With starting a new business, there is a lot to learn and I want to be open to that learning, as I strive to be the best I can be.  So often I learn lessons the hard way, and even if that’s how I grasp the information, I want to pay attention and act accordingly.   I also want to remember and learn from past experiences, and say “no” when I need to, instead of trying to please everyone.

Love.  I only want to work on what I love to do, hang out with people that I like and love, and who in turn value and care about me.  I also want to spend more time with the people that I really care about and love deeply like my family and close friends.

These words are probably no different from previous years but I believe they are more intentional.  I almost feel this will be the “year of me.” After the deaths of family members and friends last year and other disappointments, I am determined to live my life in a way that matters most to me.

What words would you choose?  Reflect on your past year and focus on what you want for 2017.   Then make it happen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Look at the View

I have been re-visiting some old favourites to add to our resource list for the Good Enough book, and came across this small, tiny gem A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.

I’ve always been a fan of Anna Quindlen after hearing her speak at a conference in Chicago.  At that time, she’d just finished writing Living Out Loud and she shared the story of how one of her readers had contacted her to say how disappointed she was that Anna had chosen to send her children to child care. 

As Anna joked how on earth could she have written her book with her kids underfoot?  I loved how she was real and practical.  This was back in 1988, a time when being authentic had yet to be valued.

As I opened the book I read the inscription from a girlfriend who’d bought it for me for my birthday back in 2002.  So much has happened since then - starting Company of Women, a double mastectomy and a move to the farm.  What hasn’t changed is Anne and I are still good friends and the message in this book still rings true.

Anna Quindlen observes that we all have so much, yet we take it for granted.  It is not, as she shares, until something drastic happens in our lives – in her case the death of her mother at age 40 – that we realize how fragile it all is.

Quindlen talks about what she is proud of in terms of her parenting, marriage and friendships and ends each description with the same line “I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.”   It’s that simple

Life is made up of moments she shares, it is not a dress rehearsal, so we need to enjoy each day as it comes, pay attention to the small things like the way the sun shines on the snow, the freckles on your child’s face.  Enjoy the wonder of it all.

One of her biggest lessons she learned was from a homeless man she met on the beach.  It was freezing outside, with the wind whirling around as she talked to him. As they looked out at the sea, she asked him why he didn’t go to a shelter.  His reply?   “Look at the view.”

When was the last time you looked at the view?  When did you last notice the small wonders around you?  It seems like a timely message as we gather together to celebrate the holidays. 

Look at the view.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

'tis the season to give

As we inch our way towards Christmas, I seem to be in party mode, with lunches here, dinners there. And inch may be the appropriate word, as I can feel the inches being packed on as I eat my way through the holiday season.

But that aside, what I am enjoying is spending time with friends, some of whom I haven't seen for some time.  It has been wonderful to catch up, share a few laughs.. and a few drinks as we get ourselves into the festive mood.

Relationships have been all important to me this past year, not that they weren't before, but I have come to realize that it is my relationships that feed me, but like a garden, they need to be watered from time to time if they are to survive. And sometimes what you thought was a flower, was in fact a weed.  Then you have to decide if it is pretty enough to stay or should be removed.

Several friends and family have lost a loved one this year, making this Christmas especially hard, and my thoughts and virtual hugs are with them, as I am not nearby to do so personally.  The firsts are really hard - the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first anniversary.  

So as we gather to celebrate the season, let's remember those for whom this is not the wonderful time we have come to enjoy ... and yes, expect.  Let's take a moment to reflect on what it must be like for the refugees who have made Canada their home but are far away from their war torn country where they still have family; the homeless who are outside in this bitter cold weather, and those who can't give their children the Christmas they would like because they just can't afford it.

Donate.  Drop a few dollars into the Salvation Army kettle as you pass by at the mall. Be generous.

Wishing you all a happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

2016 - Lessons learned

My year at a glance...

 I think I started 2016 in retirement mode.  I’d just turned 65 and it seemed time to hand over the reigns and with that mindset I started the year looking at transition, at moving on.   But that was not to be  and now as 2016 comes to a close, I’ve got my mojo back and am raring to go for another season. 

Life is fragile.  I learned this at the beginning of the year when our 32 year old nephew-in-law died of cancer.  Far too young and far too soon.  

We wrapped up the year with the sudden death of my colleague and friend Diane McGee.  Both deaths serve to remind me that life is short and to focus on what you want to do.

When it is important, people show up.   On the worst snowstorm of the season it was the launch date of the One Red Lipstick book.  We had 80 people registered and four speakers who were travelling a distance. Over 60 folks turned up, as well as all four speakers.

Be a role model.  The message behind One Red Lipstick is that we need to step up and be role models for the generations behind us.  We often don’t realize the wisdom we can share.  I’ve since signed up to be a mentor in a couple of programs.

People come into your life for a reason. Pay attention.   Learn what you need to learn, give what you can give. Enjoy the relationship and make the most of your time together.  

Never say never.   I had declared to myself that our conference (the 10th) would be my last one.  Well that lasted about a day after the event and then I got into gear to plan the conference for 2017.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Especially when you start a new business.  Launching Full Circle Publishing has been an exciting and humbling experience. It’s not easy to be back in the beginner’s seat.

Be careful what you wish for.  Full Circle Publishing was to be my “retirement” project – something I could do from anywhere and which I could manage in terms of size.  In three months we have published five books, with more in the wings.

Smiling can take you a long way.  On our trip to Nova Scotia we received such great customer service.  People took an interest in you, smiled and were happy to be helping you. 

Read the small print.  When you go over documents quickly you can miss important stuff, which can cost you money. And it did.

Laughter is good medicine.   By co-incidence we had our best man and bridesmaid staying with us in time for our 44th wedding anniversary. We spent an amazing weekend together.  I don’t think any of us have laughed so much in years.  By far the highlight of the year.

Be pragmatic.  When your plans fall through, while disappointing at the time, you need to come up with Plan B and move on. Wallowing in what could have been doesn’t get you too far.  Plus who knows, maybe Plan B is better.

Delegate. It’s not all about me.   I am excited about 2017 – we have some new programs in the works.  I’ve learned this year to delegate and I intend to do more of that in the year ahead.  It’s only taken me 14 years to realize I don’t have to, nor should I do everything!

That’s it.  A month by month take on my year. 

It’s been a busy one – and the one constant is relationships, because it’s the relationships we have with our family, friends, colleagues and customers that can make or break our businesses.