Friday, March 29, 2013

Your vacation is what you make of it

It was a comment that Peter, the taxi driver made as he was driving me to Fort Myers airport after a wonderful one-week break, that made me realize that my attitude this trip had been different. 

He was telling me about a twenty-something who had come to Florida for some sun, and was sorely disappointed because while the sun was shining, the wind was blowing hard, making it chilly.  Consequently she hadn’t spent the time on the beach that she’d planned, and totally bent out of shape, she whined all the way to the airport.

Now it is true the weather wasn’t its usual glorious self, but hey, compared to the winter we’ve had this year, anything over 12 C, seems balmy to me.   Vacations, like anything else in life, are what you make of them and this year I went south with a changed mindset.

1.              The weather is immaterial.  In the past, I would have been like our young friend, and totally bummed out if I didn’t get my share of rays on the beach. But this year, my focus was on the break, getting away from work and most importantly, visiting with my cousin.

2.              Switching off from email is essential.  I had decided at the outset that I wouldn’t check email and I am proud to report I didn’t.   And you know what, it wasn’t as hard as I thought, all of which speaks to the need to take a break, because without the reminders of work, you can more easily unwind. 

3.              Urgent is a matter of interpretation.  Usually I would leave an out-of-office message giving a forwarding email so that if a matter was urgent, someone could be contacted. But I’ve found in the past that people make contact because they want an immediate answer, not because it is urgent.  So for seven days, Company of Women was offline and to my knowledge, nothing disastrous happened.

4.              Selective shopping.  OK.  I will fess up – I love to shop and normally that is one of our fun activities when I am down south.  However, my cousin had hurt her leg, which made walking distances difficult and so we couldn’t shop as much as usual.  But that was fine, as instead of wandering aimlessly at the stores, I was much more discerning on what I wanted to buy and where we went to shop.

5.              Budget.  Because I can see (and buy) lots of treasures and “have-to-haves,” I set myself a firm budget this year, and as my father would say, “when in doubt, out.”  So I stuck to what was practical, would be put to good use rather than some of my more frivolous purchases of previous years.

6.              Buy local.  Because I don’t take time to shop much when I am at home, I saw stuff that I liked and could easily get in Canada, so I decided to wait and get it locally, rather than carry it back in my luggage.

7.              Relax and read.  Now this isn’t a new direction, but for me the measure of a good holiday is how many books I manage to read – this year 4.5.  Not bad.

I don’t know about you but I am often a tad tetchy before I go, that’s actually my clue that it is time to get away.  So folks should be pleased that I have returned in a better frame of mind.  I am back, all mellow and chilled out, and not so willing to get into the fray once again, but it will come.  

But maybe the 24/7 ability to stay in touch with my business has to go, otherwise my business owns me, rather than the other way around.  What about you?  Who owns who?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We missed you

I have always believed that when programs or services are offered for free, they’re not valued, and recently I learned, I was right.

Together with two other organizations, we were hosting a breakfast event in Toronto. In two short weeks of promoting the event, we had a sold-out crowd of 168 women, or so we thought, and a waitlist of a further 47 women who wanted to attend.

Clearly a popular event, and the fact that it was free and breakfast was included, I am sure added to the attraction.  We used Eventbrite so it was easy for women to register as with a quick click, they were all signed up.

However, reality on the day was quite different.  Half the women didn’t show up.  Now that may not sound much when you say it quickly, but if you do the math, that’s 80+ women.  Fortunately some keeners on the waitlist did come along in the hope of getting in, and we welcomed them with open arms.  After all, we had more than enough food.

Now, to cut people some slack, it was the Monday after the clocks changed, so getting up in time for an 8.00am start was a challenge.  I know, because I had to leave home at 5.30 (really 4.30) to get there in time to set up registration.  It was also raining and the first day of March Break.

 I also suspect that people also thought that we wouldn’t miss one person – trouble was 79 of your sisters also thought the sameJ    And granted some people were sick or some pressing business issue had come up, but they let me know ahead of time. 

My recommendation for next year – charge a nominal fee – that way people have some skin in the game and are more likely to show up.

It was too bad, because we had close to 90 women there ready to network, and there was some thought-provoking discussion and dialogue on the issues.  

So next time you think no one will miss you…you could be wrong.  They will.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Don’t be alone when you own

So often, women who start their own businesses, no matter how small, find themselves isolated in their decision.  Family and friends don’t seem to understand the time, commitment and all-consuming passion that is needed to succeed in the world of commerce and feel that pursuing a profession would be a much more honorable and financially beneficial undertaking.

That can make your business choices somewhat lonely and for those determined to succeed, means you must be even more focused on achieving your goals, despite the opposition you may feel or worse, total denial by loved ones of the path you have chosen for yourself. It is hard when those nearest and dearest don’t get what you have decided to do and where you have chosen to focus your energies.

Not only does it make it difficult to share your challenges, but there seems little interest in anything to do with your business, to the point that you don’t talk about it, which is hard when that is where you spend all your time and energy. It is almost as if you don’t exist.  Bottom line, you have to rely on yourself – which is not necessarily a bad thing -  because at the end of the day, the only person who truly cares about what you do, should be you.

Here’s a few pointers to overcome that sense that you are alone.

  • ·      Surround yourself with people who do believe in you.
  • ·      Connect with other women who are on similar paths, as you can support each other.
  • ·      Stay focused on what you want to achieve.
  • ·      Build a network of business owners with whom you can work and form business alliances.
  • ·      Develop affirmations and repeat them daily so you start to believe in your own potential.

Because, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to do so?  All of us have times of self-doubt when we question our sanity and ability to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. 

But you don’t have to go it alone.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Prime time

It’s my birthday and I love all the celebrations planned which will last for more than a week as I get wined and dined by family and friends. Perhaps it is because as someone who first had cancer at 39, I take each year as a bonus and I am just pleased to still be here to celebrate.

I realize as I get older that I am supposed to stop counting the years but you know what, I am pretty proud of reaching this milestone of 62.  I mean when I think of my mother at this age, she seemed old, a real senior citizen. Not me.  Like many women of my age, I still have lots I want to do and achieve.

Reaching this third chapter in my life, I’ve been reflecting on exactly how I want to spend my time. There was a point, to be honest, when I considered retiring, of selling Company of Women and “sailing off into the sunset”, but you know what, that’s not what I want to do, it was more what I thought was expected of me when I turned 60.

And therein lies the truth.  Sixty, sixty-two -- they are just numbers.  Many of my friends have chosen to retire or semi-retire, and good for them, but that’s not for me. As reality is, no matter what your age – it is essential you be true to yourself.   I cherish and welcome the opportunity to explore new horizons. To stop working would feel like an amputation, like I would be cut off from the world I know and love. Clearly I have some work to do on my identity, because I am not my business.  I guess I am still a work in progress.

Like many women, I used to care far too much about what other people thought, but as I’ve got older, I’ve realized that this crone has some wise words to share and maybe I need to speak up more, say what I think and share the wisdom I have garnered, sometimes the hard way, from living my life.

So stay tuned, as I truly reach my prime. Who knows what this third chapter will bring.