Friday, May 29, 2009

Nothing You Say Is Neutral

...We are all of us preachers, in private or public capacities. We have no sooner uttered words than we have given impulse to other people to look at the world, or some small part of it, in our way. -- Richard Weaver.

Richard Weaver was born in Asheville, NC, and is one of the very few nationally-recognized Southern rhetoric scholars. He actually spent most of his professional life at the University of Chicago, teaching English Composition to freshman, an important, but not exactly thrilling task.

What I want to share about Weaver, whom I greatly admire, is that he, and many other communication scholars agree that language is never neutral. If you speak, there is a reason behind that decision. If you ask someone to pass you the salt, it is because you seek acquiescence to your desire to salt your food.

Even people who use a lot of words to say seemingly little, seek something (perhaps attention?) through their chatter.

The trick is to notice is whether the words indicate the entire meaning. Remember words make up only 7% of the message and not all people are congruent in their use of words. That means that they say something, but mean something entirely different. As in, "I'm FINE!"

Last Saturday, on our day at Coquina Beach, I told our crew, "We're going to the bathroom, in the car." What I meant to say, great communication coach that I am was, "We're going to the place where the bathroom is located, in the car." As Mark Twain said, there is much difference between lightning bugs, and lightning.

If you're not clear about a message you're receiving, ask for clarification. And if you're not sure your message is being properly received, you need to clarify for your audience.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

11 Excellent Reasons to Invest In Yourself

You can invest in yourself in any number of ways. I have invested serious $$ in my doctorate, but I think the ROI (Return on Investment) on my coaching program has been even higher, or certainly faster to show results. I also invest in a nutrition program of Chinese herbs put out by Sunrider. I feel stronger and have my blood sugar on an even keel when I drink my daily Nu-plus, Vita shake, and Calli tea.

You could also invest in weekly therapeutic massages, monthly days of beauty, maid services, take-out food, designer clothing, a personal stylist....whatever suits you.

Whatever your investment plan for yourself, just start somewhere. Here are just a few reasons you will reap rich rewards.

1. You are always a bull market. Always. In expected and unexpected ways you reap positive returns.

2. You teach your children how to invest in themselves.

3. Everyone around you feels your expanded self respect, and treats you accordingly.

4. It's fun.

5. There is no better way to grow older than by getting smarter and well cared for.

6. Your service to others is multiplied.

7. You connect to new and more positive people.

8. Since no one is coming to rescue you, you might as well do it yourself.

9. Investing in yourself, whether nutritionally or not, strengthens your immune system.

10. It becomes so much easier to stay in that place where you're at your best.

11. It makes your personal magnetism even more powerful.

What's your investment plan for yourself? This is where you are your own personal investment advisor; no one knows you better than yourself. The key is simply to get started.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Confidence Comes in Many Colors

People are always asking me how they can present themselves more confidently. I'm told some version of, "I'm normally confident, but when I have to speak in front of a group, I totally freeze."

And I usually say something like, "I totally get that."

But, getting confident is not a technique, it is really a healing process of which greater confidence is a result.

You can be a confident extrovert, introvert, or like me, a confident ambivert. Confidence operates on a different plane of existence from that of being talkative, or the life of the party.

Think about why people fear public speaking. As someone who attended my leadership talk at Joyner Library pointed out, it's the fear of being judged that gets us.

Logically, you know that you can't please everyone all the time. And really, you don't even want to do that. Remembering that truth in your heart takes practice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confidence Is Money In Your Bank Account

Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right. --Henry Ford.

Fact: You don't have to be a flaming extrovert to be confident. You don't even have to be, or to have been, a good student.

Believe me, getting good grades does not correlate with confidence. It could even be true that people who graduate from college "Thank the Laudy" instead "Magna Cum Laude" are are more confident in themselves. When you get out of school, most people could NOT care less about your grades. And that's the way it should be.

I get a real kick out of working with certain clients who, like me, were excellent students. You probably know by now that getting good grades does not even correlate to being smart.

I enjoy so much seeing them blossom into authentically confident people by drawing on their inner resources they forgot they possessed.

Getting good grades is mostly a matter of pleasing the teacher. That's why girls tend to be better students in school, and why boys tend to do better in business. (Sorry if that offends anyone; that's the reality I see in the classroom and out.)

Remember when you were six and if someone asked you if you could draw, dance, sing, or tell stories, your answer would something like, "Duh....of course I can."

Getting your confidence back is something like remembering that feeling when you were six and your only career challenge was deciding what you wanted to do with yourself. That confidence is still in you, just gotta coax it to surface again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

In memory of all the brave soldiers who felt the fear and defended our country, anyway.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Identify Your Personal Brand

Garr Reynolds, of PresentationZen, writes that a brand is a promise. A good brand is obviously one that keeps its promise. What do you promise? What makes you different? That is the message of a personal brand. Tom Peters recommends keeping it to about 15 words.

Are you more Granola...or Peach Daquiri? Are you more Urban Outfitter, or Neiman Marcus?

Getting clear on your personal brand helps you communicate what you're about more easily and effortlessly; it even begins to be more obvious to those around you.

What's your brand like? What are you good at? What things catch your eye or your attention? What do you like to talk about? How to you like to help people? What do people seek your help for? What do you like to have done? Get out your pen and paper and start writing!

Here's one exercise to help you define your brand.

Finish this sentence 20 or more times: I could....

Another tip is to write out 20 things you enjoy.

My promise is to get my clients more confident in their presenting, and that confidence ripples into every other part of their lives as well.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

You've probably heard that more people fear public speaking than they do death. Curious, don't you think?

Part of growing up usually means not being afraid of anything...especially if you go to college. We're far too rational to be afraid of public speaking, of getting married, of having children, or starting a business. The result is we are incredibly talented at developing excuses to disguise (sort of) our fears.

I've come to realize that as long as we don't recognize our fears, they sabotage us at every turn. Conversely, merely recognizing that we have "irrational" fears, and naming them, is the first step to weakening their influence over us.

BTW, this works with other fears, too. It's just that communication in my thang.

So, the next time you feel anxious, worried, unduly concerned, tight stomach, icky, or in any way not relaxed, see if you can identify an irrational fear that's lurking in your mind. It's totally normal; it's also holding you back.

Don't try to convince yourself that being fearful is stupid, you only want to excavate exactly what it is that you dread, what you think may happen to you. Bringing up stuff from your unconciousness is not difficult, just a bit tricky. That's why the good therapists get paid big bucks.

Remember that your goal is to always feel relaxed. That's when you're at your best. Simply notice if you're not at ease, and play the detective to get at what's bothering you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Strength - Values Communication Connection

Dr. David Hawkins' Power vs. Force articulates in depth the relationship between our pysical strength and our values. His research confirms what Plato and Aristotle taught about the universal attraction to the values of beauty, love, truth, and justice. I just love it when current research confirms the truth of ancient wisdom - makes me feel even more connected to those sages.

Hawkins' research supports what we innately suspect to be true, that there are some emotions, feelings, actions, and reactions that raise our energy levels, and others that do the opposite. We touched on this briefly at the recent Presentation Wow Workshop. 

The following list of words is scientifically proven to raise your level of energy; they're straight from Power Vs. Force, by David Hawkins, MD, PhD. The simple act of reviewing this list before composing a presentation, or even an email, can help you communicate more effectively.

High Energy Word Bank:

attentive, accepting, admitting, aesthetic, agreeable, allowing, appreciative, approving, attractive, authoritative, aware

balanced, beautiful, being, believing, brilliant

candid, carefree, challenged, charitable, cheerful, cherishing, choosing to, civil, concerned, conciliatory, confident, confronting (not harassing), conscious, considerate, constructive, contending, courageous

defending, democratic, detached, determined, devoted, diplomatic, doing

educating, egalitarian, empathetic, encouraging, energetic, enlivening, envisioning, equal, essential, eternal, ethical, excellent, experienced

fair, fertile, flexible, forgiving

generous, gentle, gifted, giving, global, gracious, grateful

harmonious, healing, helpful, holistic, honest, honoring, humble, humorous

impartial, ingenious, inspired, intentional, intuitive, inventive, inviting, involved

joyful, just


leading, liberating, long-term, loyal

merciful, modest

natural, noble, nurturing

observant, open, optimistic, orderly, outgoing

patient, peaceful, polite, powerful, praising, principled, prolific, purposeful

receiving, releasing, reliant, requesting, respectful, responsible

satisfied, selective, serene, serving, sharing, significant, sober, spontaneous, spiritual, steadfast

tender, thoughtful, thrifty, timeless, tolerant, trusting, truthful

unifying, unselfish

valuing, virtuous


There you have plenty of words you can access to raise your own energy level. By doing so, you automatically  raise the level of energy of everyone who interacts with you. 

One of the famous lines from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is stated by Portia, when she claims that the virtue of mercy benefits both the merciful and the recipient of mercy. She compares the value of mercy to that of a gentle rain. Likewise, your positive communication benefits you, and those with whom you communicate.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tale from a Newbie Dog Sitter

In case you're wondering who's the manly toy poodle in the above photo, it's Prince. We have approximately 2,948 photos of him, if you'd like to have your own copy, simply email Mixonian. :-)

Recently friends asked us to dog sit their white dog, I don't know which is his breed. He's kind of like a white Schnauzer. He is approximately the same height as Prince, but much heavier, and about 10 years older.

I thought it would be great for Prince to have a playmate while Webster's family was vacationing in Spain. Four days into dog sitting, nobody's made any friends.

Prince and Webster are so incredibly worried that the other is getting more than himself; they've made themselves sick and absolutely unbearable.

Both are fairly well trained (Webster more than Prince) and yet I had to clean up pee and poop all week-end. And throw up.

Not only is the other dog's food much tastier and better, the other dog's water is also of superior quality.

And certainly the other dog is getting more attention, or at least better quality attention.

Sharing toys is out of the question, even if there are far more toys than one dog can possibly play with at one time.

I'm having flashbacks to when my kids were toddlers.

Just imagine if we are like still that? Do we get so worried about not getting what we're entitled to that we can't enjoy all the good things around us?

When someone is ready to learn, the teacher always shows up. Sometimes the teacher has four legs, and sometimes two. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Asset Management: Caring for Your Confidence

You probably have no idea how valuable is your confidence in yourself. Most of us don't. Strengthening your confidence is a major part of what I teach in Presentation Wow workshops.

Confidence means you take more calculated risks, like striking up a conversation with a stranger at Starbucks. Confidence naturally correlates positively to having more rich experiences. Self confidence is truly like having money in the bank. Ask your friendly Human Resources professional if you don't believe me.

FACT! Confident people ace job interviews and other interpersonal encounters. 

Here are a few thoughts on this asset I want to share with you.

1. Just like the stock market, confidence can be up one minute and down the next. Some people's confidence is more volatile than others'. The first step to having more confidence more of the time, is to realize that it's a source of strength for  you. Obviously you have more control over your confidence than you do over some of your other assets, like your 401K, to name one example.

2. Confidence in yourself is not arrogance or selfishness. Actually, arrogance is a major sign of a lack of confidence, same with selfishness. 

3. Here is what authentic confidence clearly looks like:

- Not dependent on getting approval from others.

- Working in a relaxed manner.

- Able to make decisions quickly.

- Not paralyzed by fear.

- Realize that life has its ups and downs, and neither lasts forever.

The value of your own confidence is amazing. Don't forget to take care of it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What It Means to Respond Creatively

One of the things you learn in PhD-land is to begin a discussion by defining the terms. Remember former president Clinton's public query into what "is" really meant. Such is the nature of intellectual work. :-) Yeah, right.

Going into your week-end, getting into the work that is not your job, I thought of putting out what it means to respond creatively to life. Creativity is not being artsy-fartsy, unless you really want to wear a beret and ripped clothing.

To respond creatively is to be open to new ideas, new people, and the world in general. It means letting go of some of your assumptions about everything. To be creative is to trust yourself a bit more and not to cling so tightly to being "right" all the time.

One thing I've learned is that you can do all the right things, and still not get the result you wanted. Doing the right things for the wrong reasons is a good way to experience major frustration. I used to be the kind of person who would go on a diet, and gain weight. I've learned to maintain my ideal weight, and haven't been on a diet in decades. That requires going deeper than sticking to a particular meal plan.

The ancient Greeks saw creativity as presence of the Divine in humanity. That's why a lot of teaching on creativity draws on spirituality.

People who practice creative living feel more alive. They experience life as leaders (not the ordained type, just real leaders) instead of victims.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quick Start to Better Decision Making

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself. --Cicero 

You may want to make sure the teenagers in the house don't see this blog post. It's about trusting yourself, and heaven knows we can't trust teenagers.

Well, actually teens, like the rest of us, tend to get into trouble when they depend too much on what other people (the bullies, the "cool" people) are pushing. Teens are just too immature to see that this peer pressure is simply the result of other people's fear-based agendas. We're way beyond that....right?

I used to ask 50 people what they thought I should do before making a decision.

Then I realized what the heck do they know about what's inside me?

It's easier and faster to correct what seems to be bad decision than to recuperate from indecision. 

The time when you want to seek advice is selecting a mentor. One person who's done what you want to do.

Another possibility is asking someone you trust to help you think through an issue. I do this with both of my sisters. (One of the two I adopted recently, my mom doesn't know her yet.)

BTW, I highly recommend seeing 17 Again. I think the adults get more out of it than Zac Ephron's fans do. It's about making decisions, appreciating people, and of course, a love story.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Little Story About A Troll Named "Fear"

Let me confess something.

I don't really like talking, much less writing, about fear. You could say I'm fearful of it. ;-)

But lately I've realized how fear does its damage to a much greater degree when we try to pretend it's not there instead of dealing with it. It's not that the fear always goes away completely, but you can manage it so that the troll shrinks in size and his power is weakened.

This post is not about today's fear, it's about the fear that makes us settle for far less joy, over the course of a lifetime. I think it's the same fear, though.

Let's pretend that you have this extreme fear of sickness. 

Step 1. Little Johnnie has the sniffles.

Step 2. You see yourself and your family as being in serious danger of getting seriously ill and then going broke from paying the resultant medical bills. Johnnie's symptoms are evidence that you are correct in your fearful assumptions.

Step 3. You react to this fear by reading the latest news on all illnesses,  you ALWAYS have your hand sanitizer in your purse, and protect your children as much as you possibly can by keeping them away from germs. You are convinced that you and your family are extremely susceptible to germs. Some people say you're paranoid, but what do they know? You'll show them!

Step 4. Before you know it, Johnnie's sniffles have developed into a flu, and now your husband feels puny. Your fear is further reinforced. You become more paranoid, I mean careful.

Step 5. You start taking your children to the doctor's office on the first sneeze, and while there, they catch an infection from a sick child in the waiting room.

Go back to step one and repeat as often as needed.

Does being afraid of illness make you more prone to being sick? There is an undeniable body-mind connection, but I'm not sure if we can draw a permanent cause-effect conclusion. However, the fearful mom in our little story is giving illness, which is something normal in a family's life, a disproportionate power. The power you give to fear comes from the joy/happiness you could be experiencing.

Take a look at one of your trolls and see if he's causing you to reinforce the very thing you're afraid of.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

17 Small Details Add Big Value

You're all too well aware how value-conscious we've become lately. A lot of low-end businesses are doing well, as so many people down-size, or downscale their lives. However, adding value doesn't have to mean cutting prices. Competing on price only is really not fun, or sustainable.

Adding value can be just that - making an item, a service, or an experience more valuable. That means more lovely, more fun, more interesting, more flavor, more helpful, faster, or better.

You probably add value to your life without realizing. Take a moment to think about how you, and your buddies do add value to your personal and professional lives.

Ways we add value:

- Wrapping a gift.

- Changing the numbers on your house to ones that are better designed.

- Using the services of a graphic designer for your business cards and other presentation materials.

- Writing a blog.

- Writing a note of appreciation on nice paper and mailing it.

- Decorating your cubicle or office.

- Displaying original artwork.

- Taking the time to make your message shorter.

- Putting an attractive sticker on outgoing mail. (Stickers are not just for kindergarten!)

- Translating your product or service.

- Taking extra good care of your body.

- Social graces (aka good manners.)

- Incorporating a health awareness program at work. (Admittedly not such a small detail.)

- Learning more about investment opportunities.

- Learning any skill, or how to use any technology gizmo.

- Introducing people to each other.

- Keeping your car clean.

How do you add value? Let us count the ways!

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 Steps to Thinking Big and Living Grand

by Entrepreneur Ali Brown

I know what it's like to think that the lifestyle I want is out of reach. Just 10 years ago, I would lie on my bed in my tiny 400-square-foot studio apartment and flip through magazines, wishing I could have the luxurious lifestyles I read about. 

Despite that negative, nagging voice in my head that reminded me I could barely afford rent, I'm now living a beautiful life I created for myself from scratch. Instead of moping around an apartment I can barely afford, I now have the means to travel and to inspire others. Last year I took a solo retreat to Maui, and this year I vacationed at an exclusive beach resort in Cabo San Lucas. 

How'd I do it? By deciding not to settle for being average and thinking BIG. Changing your mindset can be a challenge, but the rewards are well worth the cost. Here's how you can get started...

1. Eliminate negativity. This includes negative self-talk, too. Why would the universe bring you a better life if you don't appreciate what you already have? Show gratitude for everything in your life now. Those seemingly bad days happen for a reason, so whenever you find yourself thinking, "I can't do this" or "that's impossible," reframe it as the opposite. "I can do that, that is possible..." You owe it to yourself to give yourself the love and support you need to succeed. 

2. Document your dreams. Earlier this year, I wanted to manifest a new house, so I listed all of the qualities in my dream home: a 3-car garage, workout room, walk-in closets... (Don't censor yourself! Anything is possible, even if it seems silly now.) I also bought some real estate magazines, cut out pictures of homes I love, and created a collage. I'm constantly updating my "dream board," which is now proudly displayed in my new house! 

3. Surround yourself ONLY with supportive people. I only shared my house dream with friends and family I knew would support my decision. (NOT those prone to phrases like "Are you crazy? Who do you think you are? Ms. Trump?") Your true friends and family will be happy to share in your dream. If you don't have anyone else to support you, then it's time to make new friends - join a networking group or a mastermind. 

4. Decide, believe, and watch for clues. It's not enough to make a decision to work towards your dreams. You must also truly believe in them! Don't worry about HOW your dreams will manifest themselves. Watch for clues, and the HOW will find you, perhaps in the form of a new business partner or a new client. But remember that the dream comes before the HOW. 

5. ACT on opportunities when they appear. Action involves risk. You might have to hire more people to help with a new client. You'll need time to research that prospective business partner. Or figure out how to hire that amazing new mentor. But it's up to YOU to take action when the path is revealed. The universe is supporting you, and each step will bring you closer to your dreams. 

© 2009 Alexandria Brown International Inc.

Online entrepreneur Ali Brown publishes the award-winning 'Highlights on Marketing & Success' weekly e-zine with 36,000+ subscribers. If you're ready to jump-start your marketing, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your FREE tips now at

Friday, May 8, 2009

For Grads, Moms and Grad-moms: 9 Random Thoughts on WOW Living

Happy Graduation, Class of 2009!!!! Happy Mother's Day!!!

Mixonian's experience leads her to recommend the following, most of which she tries to put into practice herself, most of the time. These are not in any particular order. There are SO MANY distractions one can easily lose sight of the underlying life purpose, or mission.

1. Writing down your dreams gives you more probability of transforming them into reality. Plus it's good therapy. Clear thinking follows clear writing.

2. What you commit to something as nonnegotiable, your health, for example, your priorities automatically shift. You don't notice it for a while.

3. If you're striving and struggling to make something work, possibly it's not meant to be, for you, at this moment. You may achieve that goal in an unexpected way that is actually better, at a later time. Remember the advice from the 12-Step program, "Let go, and let God."

4. Your nonverbal communication trumps your words 93 to 7. If attitudes don't match the words, you're in deep doo doo.

5. Taking risks is essential for any kind of growth. Also makes life more interesting. And, you can't live without taking risks anyway, just accept that.

6. Your feelings do not need to define you at all time. Look at your emotions as an outsider, trying to identify the triggers. If you're down and out, determine how long you're going to stay there. Then climb out.

7. Baby steps. Taking small actions trumps heroic gestures.

8. Value yourself. Invest in yourself: mind, body, and spirit. That investment actually pays off because it lowers your stress level, so you slow down those negative reactions -- overeating, overshopping, high blood pressure, etc.

9. Have fun. Fun doesn't have to be a Popsicle, it can be vitamin water, Martha Stewart magazine, or take-out from your favorite Thai restaurant. Do this even when it's not Mother's Day.

Escaping Negative People

The respected business speaker Jim Rohn used to say that we are the average of the 5 people with whom we spend the most time.

When I remind my children of this, they roll their eyes in the hopelessness of having to spend so much time with their parents and siblings. "No wonder," they comment. ;-)

The idea of being careful about the company you keep is not new. Similar advice is found in ancient writings from most cultures. What isn't really spelled out, is how to drop negative people from your life without feeling like a jerk.

Here's some extremely helpful insight on this important issue.

First of all, there are negative people to whom you're absolutely stuck - through marriage or through blood. You do not have to sever all ties with your family. Those people are your teachers and you want to figure out how to be with them, without being pulled down by them.

That is your very important life lesson.

It's probably tougher escaping relationships with needy negative friends and acquaintances; you know they need help. And "nice' people always lend a hand....right?

Well, if you're a trained therapist, feel free to help everyone you can in your practice. The rest of us do not need to spend our life force bucking up people who are attached to negative behaviors or thought patterns. Unless you're a psychologist, your support may be encouraging them, or enabling them to stick with what's comfortable, rather than what's in their best interests.

I dropped such a "friend" last year. She was always feeling down, not doing much of anything, and would be classified as a card-carrying member of what Zig Ziglar calls the "Ain't It Awful Club." After spending any time talking to her, I always felt drained.

I simply stopped returning her phone calls.

Did I feel guilty? A little bit. But I always remember my favorite light bulb story:

Q. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. The light bulb can't be changed unless it wants to change.

That's true for all of us. Teachers always show up when we're really ready to learn something. And as any professional educator can attest, teaching people who really don't want to learn is pretty much a contradiction.

While you can raise your energy level, you're never going to have an infinite supply of life force. Spend on relationships, things, and experiences that delight you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Sure Way to Appreciate Your Assets

At our house, we awoke to the beautiful sound of rain falling. That's really a magical way to start the day, even if it does mean traffic may be a bit more challenging than usual.

The word "entrepreneur," as you know from its tricky spelling, comes from French. It originally meant to transform something of lower value into something of higher value. Like fixing up an old home, restoring an old desk, or learning a new skill.

That's the really exciting part of life - to appreciate people, things, and situations with a fresh perspective. That's what investors do. Investors either look at an existing company, or a person's business plan, and determine whether they can appreciate its value.

To appreciate is to see the value in. You can appreciate what is, and you can appreciate what can be. Both are habits and require an intent to appreciate.

That's what teachers do. We appreciate our students. Not that they always appreciate our appreciation. ;-)

The opposite of appreciation is taking for granted. I know you hate when others take you for granted. Feeling unappreciated hurts at a deep level; but then again, appreciation starts with yourself. The way you allow others to treat you reveals your own level of self-appreciation.

Recently I had a bad experience at a doctor's office. After 2 hours of getting no service, I went to another doctor's office and got my problem resolved immediately. But, I had to pay extra at the second doctor's office, whereas the visit to the first doctor was included in the price of the treatment I had already paid for. But I value my life and my time enough to spend an extra $31 to solve a problem.

Later, I took the trouble to express my dis-satisfaction with the first doctor. They were appropriately apologetic.

Look with investor-eyes at your day today. See what you can appreciate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stories that Reveal the Real You

Self-instructed scholar Kenneth Burke contributed many concepts to the study communication in general, and to specifically literature. One of his ideas is called the "representative anecdote." You can also call them stories that explain you, or explain someone else.

For example, I have many representative anecdotes related to Hugo Chavez, authoritarian charismatic president of Venezuela. My favorite story that explains him is the following. In January, 2008, Chavez decreed a new time zone for Venezuela, exactly one half hour off from the pre-existing time zone. Their time zone used to be the same as East Coast time during daylights savings time; Venezuela is west of the U.S.

So, what do you imagine the benefit to the country would be to have a time zone, all its own, one half hour off from what it used to be.

Well, the given reason was that it would help school children not have to get up in the darkness. (????) Exactly.

Chavez changed the time zone because it was easy, it affected everyone who lives in and deals with Venezuela, and because he could. He performs random acts of authority almost every week, just to remind everyone that he can.

So what story explains who you are?

One of my favorites is the time when I was five years old and I cut the electrical cord connecting a lamp to the wall, which was turned on at the time. I wanted to see what electricity looked like. I was scared, but felt the fear and did it anyway. I got the shock of a lifetime, and was told that I ruined my mother's sewing scissors.

What anecdotes tell your story? Not the stories about when you fulfilled other people's expectations, the good daughter or dutiful husband, but the ones where you really did what you wanted to do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Make Your Self-Value Grow Today

In my last coaching session with Christine, she casually remarked that it seemed to her that I easily put other people on exalted pedestals, while playing down my own expertise and value. Ouch. Did I tell you that, in my experience, coaches are not warm fuzzies?

But then again, no one could say I was being selfish, right? Isn't being "selfish" the worst insult?

No one I know spends her every day at the spa, getting daily massages and beauty treatments. I imagine those ladies exist somewhere, but my buddies all work extremely hard serving others in one capacity or another. Some of them get a lot of money for what they do, and others not so much.

Spending time at the spa does not necessarily correlate with value allocation. But most definitely, if you value yourself, other people in your life will follow your lead. They will either value you as well, or step into the background.

If you appreciate yourself, good things happen. You can give more, perform better, break negative patterns in your life and live from a deeper level of contentment.

By consistently burning the candle at both ends, failing to take special care of yourself, people assume, not that you're waiting for a rescue, but that you actually enjoy being a masochist.

Here are some things I do to remind myself that I rock:

- Get enough sleep.

- Take time to walk almost every day.

- Shop at a nice grocery store.

- Relish the scent of handmade candles from Pacifica candles.

- Attend chamber music concerts.

- Bring take-out food home. (Conversely you could bring a homemade lunch to work.)

- Take time to goof off.

None of these tactics are going to break the bank. What can you do today to value yourself?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Your Imaginary VA/PA

My brother from India visited me this week-end.

Well, he's not actually from India, but he's been there at least a dozen times; that makes him my local India expert. He has a three-sentence title on his business card to explain that he is Chief Technology Guru at his company, which just goes to prove you never know what little brothers are capable of accomplishing. Quite naturally, I wanted the scoop from him on subcontracting to an international virtual assistant.

Tim Ferris talks about getting VAs to do your work in his book, The Four-Hour Workweek, and The Onion has a hilarious video clip on the topic on youtube.

For a fun and thought-expanding way to get your week started, I came up with this exercise. It will help you see how you can free up some time for fun stuff, my personal favorite being doing nothing, and may even inspire you to hire a local PA for 3 hours a week. That's how Christine Kane started with her PA - three hours a week. There are people who would love to earn a bit of extra spending money.

Keep in mind how much you're making per hour yourself, and how much you want to earn. A $50,000 annual salary is roughly equivalent to working $25/hour for 40 hours a week. However, if you're earning $200,000 and working 80 hours a week, you're making $50/hour.

This is to get you thinking outside your concept of what is normal. As my son puts it, "Mom, why would anyone want to be normal?"

Things your VA/PA can do for you:

- Communicate your event to the press.

- Fill your car with gas and get it washed.

- Make trip reservations.

- Drycleaners, grocery shopping.

- Merchandise returns.

- Walk the dog, change the kitty litter.

- Chop vegetables.

- Grade certain assignments.

- Look for stuff on Craig's list.

- Post office.

- Call your mom to say you're not going there for Christmas this year. (Yes, Mom, I will be there, this is just an example!)

- Return and fetch library books.

- Take pet to the vet.

- Look for an apartment to rent for your next vacation.

- Set, move, and cancel doctors' appointments.

- Gift shopping, gift wrap.

Wealthy people have been using personal assistants for years, now it's accessible to almost anyone. How much is your life worth?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Redefining Real Leadership

Whether you voted for Obama as president, or someone else, you may have this sneaking suspicion that the guys whom we elected to represent us in Washington really don't know what they're doing.

Bills are passed that no one reads, no one knows who is getting the stimulus, how we're going to pay for it, what has happened to the billions given to the privileged companies, and life goes on.

Employees are laid off, pay checks are docked, and retirement funds look only slightly less anemic than before.

In case you haven't noticed, the traditional leadership paradigm isn't working anymore, if it ever really did.

The new leadership paradigm is this: The people who have the courage to show up in their own lives as leaders, are the ones to follow.

Real leaders are not the elected politicians.

They're not perfect.

They're not ordained.

They don't have the right degrees.

They're not cheerleaders.

They're not licensed by your state to practice leadership.

They're not playing the role of rescuer.

They're not into blame.

They simply show up every day, take responsibility, and keep moving forward. They know what they want, and what they don't want.

Real leaders show up, do what they need to do to move forward and take care of themselves. Try it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Material That's Not on the Final Exam

Sometimes I share some really important life lessons related to communication, public speaking, writing, or listening. Inevitably a student will ask, "Is that gonna be on the final?"

While this questions tempts my inner ogress to emerge and respond, I remember that it's just a product of their 13+ years of conditioning in that institution known as "school."

Here's an example from the Communicating at Work by Adler and Elmhorst textbook:

One method for giving every member's ideas an equal chance to be considered is the nominal group technique (NGT). (The method's name comes from the fact that, for much of this process, the participants are a group in name only, since they are working independently.)

That is the kind of material usually found on the final exam.

Now, could it be possible, that people who read this blog, attend meetings, and work for a living, are able to work effectively without knowing what nominal group technique is?

This example shows the limit of what a college education can do to really prepare a person for a productive and fulfilling life. It's also why I prefer to teach in workshops, where arbitrary academic regulations do not play a role.

One more thing about material that's not on the final exam. It's also stuff that may not be represented in your annual evaluation -- consider how have you already made the planet a better place.

- People you've helped in one way or another.

- Trash you picked up that wasn't yours.

- Contributions of time or treasure to important causes.

- Encouragement to others.

- Art created by you, or your children.

- The times you've made people laugh.

- The really important knowledge you've shared.

- The meals you've shared.

As you know, the best is what's not on the final exam. Don't let other people's rules and regulations shrink you.