The F-Word You Need to Succeed

The F-word you need to succeed

Entrepreneurship is simple, not easy by any means, but simple. The more questions I ask, the more women I talk to, the more entrenched I get into my own business, the more I realize that creating a business can be summed up with a few key words. One of those words is focus.

Focus

When creating or running a business, your first focus should be on your mission. What are you trying to accomplish? You should have a clear statement of your intent. For instance, my mission is to educate, empower, inspire and support female entrepreneurs in creating financially, intellectually and emotionally rewarding businesses.

Why is a mission statement important? So you have criteria in which to:

  • define your ideal client
  • evaluate all your opportunities,
  • create your brand
  • coordinate your marketing efforts to reach your ideal client,
  • design all your products and services

Everything that I do in my business falls under one of the four categories: educate, empower, support and inspire.

Defining my mission statement was actually the easy part. Lately it’s been my day-to-day focus I’ve had problems with. It’s easy to get caught up in things like worrying about money or get sidetracked with stuff that doesn’t effect your bottom line (i.e. fancy office space when you could work at home) or taking course after course on various topics. Not that any of these things are bad, per se, but when you are just starting out, your focus should be on making sure you are adding value by solving some sort of problem and finding the people who have that problem and are willing to pay for it.

Let’s look at a couple of these distractions individually.

  • Money – I’m not discounting the fact that money is one of the reasons we create a business. After all, part of my mission is about creating financial success. But part of the planning process of a new business is to have a financial cushion. That means either starting your business part-time while you’re still working full-time or having enough in savings you’re willing to invest in yourself and your idea. Money’s been a top distraction creating my business but I realized that when I am focused on my lack of income, first of all I am focused on scarcity, which creates a desperation mindset. Since I believe that we all emit energy, this negative energy attracts only more negativity. Creativity doesn’t do well in such an environment and closes me off to new possibilities as well as people who could help. Second, thinking about money takes my creative energy away from creating value (i.e. products and services), which is what’s going to make me money!
  • Courses – My inbox is full of people hawking their courses – everything from creating podcasts to using video to create a six figure income in three months. While I’m a big fan of learning, I’ve become more discerning about following my own path and choosing what works and feels best for my business. I still read tons of books and take courses but they need to fit my criteria. Be aware if you are signing up for every course you get an email for. Sometimes it’s an avoidance tactic. The best education is getting out there and doing it. There is no way you are going to know everything you need to know before you start your business. As I’ve said before, not knowing is the path.
  • Fears – Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, so many fears. Often when we are avoiding something it’s because we are focused on our fears. The best thing to do is get them out in the open and address them. Fear of rejection was my biggest fear but I learned to stop focusing on me and focus on how I could be of service. Fear of failure is another one. Failure can be a terrifying word. Quit using it. You didn’t fail, you got feedback. Failure is a dead end while feedback is information you can use to move forward.

I’ve come up with a little trick to get me back on track when I lose focus and start worrying – I have three questions I ask myself:

  1. What did I learn? How will I apply it? Who can I teach it to?
  2. What value did I add?
  3. Who did I connect with?

These questions remind me that learning is a vital part of building a business. Adding value keeps me focused on activities that are the core of my mission: empower, educate, inspire and support. And at the heart of a business is connecting with others – even those that aren’t your ideal client.

What are you focusing on?

 

 

 

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

When you have three meetings in a day and in each of them the same word comes up, you take notice.

That word was authenticity.

I like Miriam Webster’s definition of authentic:

true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

It doesn’t surprise me at all that each of these meetings were with women.

I don’t think being authentic is something men worry about. I could be wrong as I’m not a man, but I know women of my generation were told, subtly or not, that to succeed in the workplace we had to be more like men – dress more like them, don’t be emotional, etc. One of the women I talked to told me she was advised to dye her naturally blonde hair darker to avoid looking like “Barbie”, the implication being no man would take her seriously. Can you imagine? She went darker but now that she owns her own business she proudly displays her beautiful blonde mane.

In her book Leaning In, Sheryl Sandberg, points out that success in the traditional workplace was often contingent upon a woman not speaking out but fitting in. We often compromised our goals for our spouses and children, sometimes willingly to be a stay-at-home mom, other times to avoid conflict because, as Sandberg notes,women are discouraged from advocating for themselves.

The point is many women my age have been socialized to play a role because being ourselves wasn’t good enough. When you get to the mid-century mark though, have raised your kids and accumulated enough life experience and time is closing in on you, you get real. Suddenly, you have no patience for all the bull, the drama or squandering time working towards someone else’s dream while yours withers. I think that is why so many women (of my generation) are  building their own businesses, because we’ve been told (subtly and not-so-subtly) that to succeed we can’t be ourselves. I spent decades thinking something was wrong with me so I tried to “fix” myself. Denying my true nature made for some very difficult, unhappy, unfulfilling years. Once I accepted myself, aligned with my strengths and values, a peaceful calm took over me. As a business owner I get to be who I want to be.

For me, being authentic has been a discovery process. I made certain assumptions about myself. Since I started my entrepreneurial adventure and realized the only person’s expectations I had to live up to were my own, I’ve surprised myself. Having suppressed or tried to change my true nature for so long , I’ve learned that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. This was inevitable but it’s been eye-opening.

For instance, I learned that I’m a lot more social than I thought. And I have a deep desire to take what I’ve learned and help others achieve their dreams. Of course there were hints here and there but I was too worried about getting approval and trying to “fit” in or do things the way the “experts” instructed that these gifts didn’t have the space to shine. Now that I’ve come to accept and, dare I say love and honor, my unique qualities, they’re bubbling up to the surface.

Building a business is tough. There is a lot to learn, challenges to overcome and fears to face but the reward for your perseverance is your own little universe where you write the rules according to your values and get to express your talents.

That, my friend, is living an authentic life.

 

 

What It Takes to be an Entrepreneur

What it takes to be an entrepreneur

I’ve been studying and interviewing female entrepreneurs and I’ve noticed some common themes.

In no particular order, this is what I’ve found:

Passion

Starting your own business is hard. Period. Whatever you are doing, make sure you are passionate about it. Why are you doing this? If it’s just for the money, trust me on this, it’s not enough to keep you going through the tough times. Did I mention there will be tough times? Being passionate about what you are doing will help you overcome the obstacles and give you the motivation you need to carry on.

Clarity

When I started my coaching business my mission was to “help everyone achieve their dreams!” It was a grand idea but the problem is, it’s so vague. You need to know what need you’re filling. Is there a gap in the marketplace? Is it a need to express your talent? And you need to know who has that need and is willing to pay for it. You should be crystal clear on what value you’re providing and who your ideal client is.

This will help you in a couple of ways. First, you can quit wasting your time on people who don’t want what you have to offer. Instead of talking to everyone, you can target the people who see the value of what you have to offer and want it.

Second, it makes it a whole lot easier to talk to others about what you’re doing. I used to hate going to networking events. I either got tongue tied or I could see their eyes glaze over and I knew I lost them. When you are passionate about what you do and you can specifically talk about the value you bring, people are a lot more receptive. You’re enthusiasm is contagious.

Support System

It is so much easier when you have supportive people in your corner. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I got a running partner that I realized how important it was. Many women I’ve interviewed or read about had supportive spouses who not only provided emotional support but were willing to jump in and lend a hand. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it could be another family member, friend, coach or mentor.

Learn as you go

I recently wrote about “Not knowing is the path.” I used to have this belief that I had to know it all before I could begin. I now know that part of the journey, the exciting part if you ask me, is what you learn along the way. Sure, it means having to step outside of our comfort zone and that’s why so many people don’t do it. But as I’ve said, the entrepreneur’s journey isn’t all about building a business, it’s who you become in the process. You don’t have to know how to be an entrepreneur to start. You just have to be willing to learn.

Ask for Help

Along with “learning as you go” is not being afraid to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help because we think we’re suppose to know it all and asking makes us appear weak, but guess what? Most people want to help and won’t look down on you for asking. As I’ve mentioned, there are things you need to learn so start asking questions.

Don’t be afraid to invest in experts such as lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. They can help you shorten your learning curve and prevent costly mistakes.

Know Yourself

Know what you like and don’t like to do. Know what you value. Know what your strengths are. Know what skills you have and what skills you need. Know what usually trips you up (fears, self-limiting beliefs) and strategies you’ve used to push through them in the past. Self-knowledge goes a long way in helping you determine what you want to create such as what business model to use (subscription base, brick and mortar store, online retailer, etc.

Believe in Yourself

I didn’t believe in myself for the longest time. I literally thought there was something wrong with me and was constantly trying to fix myself by trying to be more like other people. This turned me into a cranky bitch because I was constantly at war with myself.

After working with a coach, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me (other than the usual human frailties…) What a huge relief. Once I stopped fighting my true nature and accepted myself as the unique person I am, I was able to see all that I had accomplished. And if I was capable of learning how to walk, read, write, drive a car, knit, cook, etc, then I was capable of doing anything else. And so are you.

Sweat Equity

There’s no way getting around it. It will take action, aka hard work, to create a business, especially if you have a limited budget. You’ll probably be doing most, if not all the work in the beginning but learning your business is a good thing and worth the time. This is why it’s important to be passionate about what you’re doing. It will help keep you motivated and get you over the bumps.

If you look at this list, none of it is insurmountable. Whatever dream business you have, with creativity, clarity, passion and hard work, you can make it happen.

Why You’re Stuck and How to Get Unstuck

I just finished reading Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. It’s about creating learning organizations but there were a lot of concepts that can be applied in multiple ways. One of them is creative vs. emotional tension.

When you break it down, building a business is nothing more creating a plan that breaks everything down into a series of steps or goals. The advice is to start with the end in mind and work backwards. And this is usually where I hit my first roadblock. I’m the master planner but I failed miserably at execution. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. How can I want this so bad yet repeatedly get nowhere.

A goal is defined as the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. Goals are something we strive to achieve. There is this gap between where we are now and what we want to achieve at some future date. This gap creates tension. There are only two possible ways for tension to resolve itself. We can change or pull reality towards our goal. This is creative tension.

The other possibility is that we allow reality to drag our vision down. This is caused by emotional tension. Emotional tension has come in the way of a lot of dreams and caused the demise of many goals.

Creative tension is a positive force. When we hold our goals and ultimately our vision, front and center, we tap into our creativity and explore options to bring our vision to life. Robert Fritz says “It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.” We use creative tension as the fuel to generate the necessary change to achieve our goals, pulling us toward our vision. It’s about learning how to expand our ability to bring our goals to fruition. In essence we grow into our goals.

However, the discrepancy between our goals and our current reality triggers emotions. In the beginning our enthusiasm is high. We’re committed and excited. But when things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like them to, or we encounter challenges or fears, these emotions can turn to anxiety, discouragement or hopelessness.This is emotional tension. In an effort to alleviate this tension, we fall into the trap of watering down or abandoning our goals in order to relieve it. We’ve reduced our anxiety but at the cost of our vision.

How can we effectively use creative tension to reach our goals and can we eliminate or at least neutralize emotional tension?

To effectively use creative tension, requires only three things.

  1. You must have a compelling WHY. Why do you want to achieve this? It needs to be inner driven – something you truly want, not something you think you “should” have or do because that’s what your mom, spouse, friends, etc. think. Also, you need to make sure it’s POSITIVE – what you want, not what you don’t want. Senge points out that most adults don’t have a real vision. When asked what they want, most will talk about what they want to get rid of. He had one teenager observe “We shouldn’t call them ‘grown-ups’, we should call them ‘given-ups.’” I’ve been trying for decades, literally, to create a successful business. I can’t tell you how many different things I’ve tried and I would quit or lose interest. (Not all of it was a bad thing. I did learn a lot about myself and what I didn’t want and revised my plans.) At one point I tried to talk myself into giving up. I argued if it was really worth all the frustration and disappointment. My already shaky self-esteem was taking the hit for each failure. Why not just let it go, suck it up and get a job and “live for the weekend” like the majority of the population. But I couldn’t do it because my reason why was too compelling. I had a vision for my life. I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule, pick projects that interested and challenged me and work with people who inspired me. I wanted to make a difference. My why kept me going. I may have fallen but I picked myself back up each time.
  2. Focus on what you want and imagine you’ve already achieved it. This will activate your creative powers. It will energize and excite you. You’ll feel motivated, you are creating your life instead of just reacting to it. In Dan Baker’s book What Happy People Know one of the 5 characteristics of happy people is personal power. Personal power is the feeling that you have control, that you can influence the direction of your life. Tap into that by staying focused on what you want, acting as if it’s already come into being.
  3. Do something that will move you towards your goal. What you want isn’t going to appear out of thin air. You’re going to have to take action. Pick something, try it and if you don’t get the results you want, try something else. Don’t make the mistake I did. When I tried something and it didn’t work, I would try “harder”. You know what the definition of insanity is, right? I thought if it worked for the “experts”, and it didn’t work for me, then I thought I was the problem. I wasted a lot of time when I should have just moved on to something else. I put way too much trust in the “experts” instead of trusting my own instincts.

It’s that simple but needless to say, it isn’t easy. We live in an instant gratification world and our ability to handle discomfort is weak because, honestly, we rarely exercise it. We think discomfort is a sign that something is wrong with us when in fact it’s a normal fact of life. Avoiding it only reinforces our inability to tolerate and push through it. The enthusiasm we had when we started begins to wane. It causes stress and anxiety – emotional tension. Our focus shifts from our vision to our discomfort. And we want relief.

Whether we want to believe it or not, we are not rational, logical beings. We are emotional beings. Our emotions are indicators of our thoughts and our thoughts are formed by our beliefs. We are often unaware of our beliefs yet they drive all of our behavior.

To further complicate matters we treat these beliefs as TRUTHS, unchangeable facts when the truth is, they are nothing but habits of thought developed over time from our family upbringing, religion, socio-economic background and other experiences. The most important thing I learned in my coaching training is we have a choice (another characteristic of happy people) – we can choose what we want to think and believe. (Self-hypnosis is just retraining your brain to have different, hopefully more productive, habits of thought.)

This was an exciting revelation for me and being the introspective, self-help geek that I am, I delved deeper into the subject. What did I believe? Where did this belief come from? Looking back at my childhood, I realized I turned out pretty damn good given my family’s dynamics. Instead of being down on myself, I congratulated myself for making it this far. It was a liberating experience.

However, in order to eliminate or neutralize emotional tension, you don’t need to:

  • psychoanalyze your childhood,
  • know why you believe what you do,
  • you don’t even have to know what your hidden beliefs are.

All you have to do is ask yourself three questions.These three questions will help you get unstuck.

  1. “What am I feeling?” While most of our beliefs are hidden in our subconscious, our feelings are very apparent. We all know what it feels like to be motivated, frustrated, empowered, helpless, inspired, disappointed, happy and sad. Positive emotions fuel creative energy and inspire action. Negative emotions constrict it. Our brain has 3 parts: the primitive brain handles our survival instincts, our limbic is our emotional brain used to build social bonds and the neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic, reasoning and creativity.  For goal setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience  stress – emotional tension – the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every Single.Time. It’s going to do everything in it’s power to bring back safety. Hence our desire to cave in to emotional tension.
  2. Is this feeling (and the belief behind it) helping or hindering me in achieving my goals? Does it make me feel good? Am I excited? Energized?  Are my creative juices flowing? If not…
  3. What thought or belief would make me feel better while also helping me achieve my goal? Deciding to sleep in rather than get up early and exercise may make you feel better in the short term but it’s not going to help you achieve your goal to get in shape. In fact, it often has the reverse effect in the long run because we broke our commitment to our self and it reinforces self-limiting beliefs. Ask yourself “What mental state would be most productive in this situation? And which version of reality will help me get there?” You can choose! How empowering is that! You can change the narrative, you can rewrite your story. You are now the creator of your life.

Again, the process is simple but it isn’t easy. It requires vigilance in keeping our eye on the prize – why we want it and being aware at any moment what we are feeling and reframing our thoughts.

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction

My knowledge of the Law of Attraction comes from three books I recently read (in this order): Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn (Grabhorn wrote her book six years before The Secret came out), The Law of Attraction, the Basics of the Teachings of Abraham by Esther and Jerry Hicks and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention.

Grabhorn’s book was a good introduction to the concept, less “woo-woo”. The Hick’s book helped fill in some of the missing holes. It definitely requires you to open your mind a bit more, but by the time I read it, I was receptive to its message. Dr. Dyer’s book only mentions the law of attraction once but after reading the first two books it was obvious to me what it was about. He comes at it from the perspective of intention, citing Shaman and eastern religious philosophies.

Grabhorn’s book was the first published, followed by Dyer’s and then Esther and Jerry Hick’s book (their book was the catalyst for The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which I have not read but I did see the video.)

The Cliff Notes version of the Law of Attraction is this: You get what you focus on.

The concept is that we are all made up of energy. Energy vibrates at different frequencies and like a tuning fork (or magnets) like attracts like. Our thoughts and beliefs create energy in the form of our emotions and it is these feelings that determine how we’re vibrating. When we feel good, we are vibrating at a high frequency. When we feel bad we are vibrating at a low frequency. So the key is to direct our focus to the things we want – that make us feel good – so we’ll attract more of it into our life. It’s remarkably simple – in any situation all you have to do is pay attention to how you feel. If you feel good, you’re on the right track. If you don’t, then you need to redirect your focus or reframe your thinking until you do.

Is it easy? Hardly, because we’ve become so conditioned by habits of thoughts and false beliefs that it is hard to tap into that pure feeling of joy. Most of us have been brought up to focus on the negatives. Think of how many times we heard the word “no” or “don’t do that.” when we were children. And it continues into adulthood. We tend to think about what we don’t want (I don’t want to be fat) or what we lack (I wish I had a better job). Even when we do focus on what we want, we don’t believe we can have it (I want a Porsche but…).

This is hardly new stuff. It’s been written about by all the major religions. The great Greek philosophers talked about it. More current (and still popular) contributors include James Allen’s little tome – As a Man Thinketh – written in the early 1900’s and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

I’ve noticed it in my own life and I’m sure you can bring up examples too. I can think back to my last fender bender. It was raining and the thought going through my head was “The road is slippery, I hope I don’t slide into a car” and guess what I did – slid right into a car!

It’s taken me awhile to be receptive to the Law of Attraction. First of all, some might view it as “airy-fairy” stuff. “Sure,” you might say, “all I have to do is wish I had a million bucks and it’s going to be delivered to my door by some genie on a flying carpet <eye roll>”. And reading the Hick’s Law of Attraction is going to require an open mind because the Abraham they are referring to in the title is a collective of beings channeled through Esther Hicks. Don’t let your skepticism keep you from reading it.

But the underlying message does make sense. Admit it – when you’re in a good mood it seems like everything is going your way. And when you wake up on the “wrong side of the bed”, you just can’t seem to catch a break, it’s one disaster after another. You wonder why you bothered getting up.

Applying the law of attraction is simple. All you have to do is figure out what you REALLY want and focus on it. You can tell if you are doing it right because you will feel good. If you feel bad, then you are focusing on a don’t want, lack of or some other negative thought/belief. Change your focus or reframe your thoughts until you feel good. You don’t have to monitor every single thought you have, you don’t have to examine why you have these thoughts, all you have to do is be aware of how you are feeling.

Here’s the thing many people miss, this isn’t about wishful thinking, you do have to take action. Creating is a verb, after all, and the whole point is to deliberately (as opposed to by default – which is a huge portion of the population) create the life you want. The creation process begins in our heads – we must think it into being, we must see it, visualize it and expect that we’ll get it and then we will be inspired, guided or led to take perfect action. Through our vibrations we will draw the people, events, things, ideas, etc into our life so we can create what we want with ease. “Action that comes from the feeling of inspiration is action that will produce good results,” according to Abraham in The Law of Attraction. In Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting, Grabhorn writes “Does this mean we stop doing? Of course not. We just substitute inspired doing for wasted doing by stopping our constant knee-jerk responses to everything…Action becomes a joy instead of a ‘have to’.”

When we work from a negative perspective, when we are desperate, needy, angry, etc. any action we take is like trying to climb uphill pushing a boulder.

So what does this all mean in terms of creating a business?

The big takeaway for me is to be very clear about what you want and focus on it. What kind of business do you want? What problem are you solving? Who do you want to serve (your ideal client) and get as specific as possible. Only when I was crystal clear on what I was trying to achieve with my business (my vision and mission) and who my ideal client was (it took me over a year of working at my business to figure all this out) and focused solely on that, did it start to grow.

What has been your experience with the law of attraction? I’d love to hear your opinions, comments and stories.

#DreamBigBus and Meshell Baker

#DreamBigBus Meshell Baker

Meshell Baker is travelling around the country in a bus (technically it’s an RV…) that says in big bold letters: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s part of her #DreamBigBus Speaking tour.

My first encounter with Meshell was at a National Association of Professional Women meeting in Austin, right before the launch of her tour. As the Congruency Catalyst, (“Congruency is just a fancy word for alignment,” says Meshell). Meshell’s lives, eats and breathes VISION. To quote her website:

“Why vision? Because it is one of the most powerful developers of clarity, confidence, and courage.  Nothing GREAT is ever achieved or accomplished without a minds-eye view what is possible, in the face of what “appears” to be impossible”

I had a chance to talk to Meshell recently and after we overcame some audio issues (on my part) she oozed presence and charisma. Our talk was not long enough by any means. Meshell is not a woman who is at a loss for words. She has a clear vision as to what she was called to do. She explained to me most of society operates on a Do-Have-Be basis. Do something so you’ll have something so you’ll be something. According to Meshell, it should be: Be-Do-Have. Become the person you’re created to be FIRST then anything you do will be more purposeful and enjoyable and then you’ll have experiences and a life that is amazing.

Meshell’s vision is very clear, “I help people become unwaivering, unapologetic and uncompromising about who they’re suppose to be and how they are called to do it.

That’s bold! But you know what, we need more of that kind of boldness. Over 70% of Americans say they are disengaged or hate their job. In Meshell’s former life as a sales rep she had all the trapping of having “made it”, a six-figure salary, three day weekends, a home, etc yet she was miserable. And she looked around and noticed that everyone else was miserable too! We weren’t put on this earth to slave away in a cubicle most of our lives, reserving the weekends for our “real” life.

Meshell’s message is very clear and it’s very important. What are you called to do? Are you doing it? Why not? Are you living your life as a “gift and a blessing” like Meshell? I know my perspective and priorities have shifted since I started pursuing my dream. Maybe it’s because at my age I don’t feel like I have time for the B.S anymore. Your mortality can be a wake up call for you to get real. Continuing down a path of boredom and mediocrity was no longer an option for me, but it shouldn’t be an option for anyone.

Meshell Baker #DreamBigBus

If you’ve always had a dream, now is the time to do something about it. If you don’t have a clue, thinking “purpose” and “vision” aren’t for you -the only thing that’s calling you is the couch and a chance to binge-watch the latest craze on Netflix – it’s time to reconnect with your passion. Maybe it’s buried under years of stress and pressure to conform or make a living, but trust me, you have it. We all do. It’s time to go on a treasure hunt and find it.

 

If not you, who? If not now, when? Time is not guaranteed.

Meshell walks her talk. “My motto is you’ll be better off for having met me.” I know I am and have no doubt the hundreds of people she’s connected with would say the same thing.

To learn more about Meshell, her vision work and the #DreamBigBus tour, visit her at http://meshellrbaker.com/

 

Ditch the Elevator Pitch

Ditch the Elevator PitchI was at an event not too long ago, talking to a woman and asked her what she did. She laid her elevator pitch on me. I pressed her further on what it meant.

“So exactly what is a ….?” To which she repeated her elevator pitch to me.

“Yes, but what does that entail?” Again, she gave me a reiteration of her elevator pitch. It was obvious my questioning, which was really just curiosity, was making her uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to articulate her services beyond her elevator pitch. She was beginning to sound like a parrot and if I was a potential client, she wasn’t instilling a lot of trust in me. She couldn’t even explain to me what her title meant. I was distracted by another person joining our circle and she took that opportunity to get as far away from me as possible.

Everyone tells you to have an elevator pitch but if you really want to have a meaningful conversation, arouse curiosity and interest and not sound like a desperate used car salesperson, you need to quit telling people what you do and show them. Engage them.

Here’s an example of a conversation I had at a recent event:

Fellow attendee (FA): “So what do you do?”

Me (M):”I’m the Entrepreneur’s Midwife.”

Brief pause here. I’ve called myself a career coach, business coach, entrepreneur coach, etc. I can see their eyes glaze over and the conversation stops COLD. Not what you want. I came up with the Entrepreneur’s Midwife because midwife is a good analogy for what I do – help bring your vision to life – and it also arouses curiosity, enough to keep the conversation going.

FA:”I used a midwife for my second child. Do you know so-and-so?”

M: “I’m not that kind of midwife. I’m an Entrepreneur’s midwife.”

FA: “What’s that?”

M: “Let me ask you a question – Do you love your job?”

FA: “Yeah, I like my job.”

M: “So if you won the lottery you’d continue doing what you’re doing?”

FA: “Oh Hell no!” (Laughs)

M: “What would you do then?”

FA:”I’d pay off my bills, get a swimming pool and buy a Porsche.”

M: “Those are things you’d have. What would you do?”

FA: “I’d take a vacation.”

M:” Let’s fast forward a bit. You’ve won the lottery and you’ve taken some time off to decompress, pay off your bills and buy some toys. What would you do with all this free time now that you didn’t have to worry about a paycheck? What are you passionate about?”

FA: (thinks for a bit) “I love dogs. I would start a no-kill shelter, buy a couple of acres they could run around on. There would be an on-site vet. OH! Maybe I’d set up a visiting dog program for nursing homes or children’s hospitals.” (She’s really getting into it, as she starts talking faster, letting the ideas fly).

M: “Now you got the idea!”

FA: “Of course I would take cats too! And maybe retired circus animals? Give them the chance to spend the rest of their days roaming free instead of penned up and performing.”

M:”Why aren’t you doing this now?”

FA: “Because I haven’t won the lottery!”

M: “Well, as an Entrepreneur’s midwife, I help you expose and remove your ingrained and subconscious self-limiting beliefs, thoughts and habits, such as you need to win the lottery, and adopt a mindset that frees you to pursue your no-kill animal shelter.

One of the top five regrets of the dying is they wish they had to courage to live a life true to themselves, not what others wanted. We are all here to expand and grow into our purpose, whatever we decide that is, but most people shrink, settle for less and stagnate.

Do you feel like you’re growing or do you feel stagnate?”

FA: “The only thing that’s been growing on me is my waistline…”

M: “Les Brown said the richest place on earth was the cemetery because it’s full of unfulfilled dreams – books that were never written, songs that were never sung, business ideas that were never realized. I don’t buy into the ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’ philosophy. We are creators and our biggest creation is our life, that’s why I specifically work with women who want to start a business. Entrepreneurship is more than just building a business, it’s about who we become in the process. At its heart, it’s about creating your life on your terms.

Once you accept and truly believe that what you want is valid and doable by clearing out false beliefs, I have a system that takes you through all the steps to make your dream a viable business.”

After she asked me what an Entrepreneur’s Midwife was, I could have simply said “I help female entrepreneurs bring their vision to life and life to their business.”  The conversation would probably have ended there. She could have thought “that’s great, but what does it have to do with me?”

I made it about her, not about me. I asked her to tap into her imagination, connect with and get excited about her dreams. When she came up with her excuse (“I haven’t won the lottery”), I pointed out an alternate reality – her dream was not only possible, but with my system, probable, not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

I didn’t belittle her dream, I encouraged it! As Carrie Green says in her book She Means Business

“…there was a light that had been switched on, the knowing had entered their lives…”

Once you know, you can never un-know. I had sparked her desire. Whether she would pursue it or not was up to her.

That’s the power of showing over telling!

After the event she came up to me and asked for a business card.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Journey – From Passion to Non-Profit

 

Young Journey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to “inspire young people worldwide to be lifelong learners eager to contribute to society through project based workshops and community events.” I had the pleasure of meeting the founder, Jaha Wilder at a recent Texas Business Women’s meeting. When I heard she had been running Young Journey since 2000 I knew I had to talk to her because that is quite an accomplishment.( I learned it was nothing compared to the adversity she faced as a teenager.)

Jaha is Swahili for dignity – how great is that? My parents were lazy in the picking-out-a-name department. A cursory search said Lynn means “ruddy-complected”. That’s inspiring (not!)…but I digress.

Jaha grew up in east Austin, in a large, musically-oriented family(she’s the youngest of 10). Her experience as a young girl, taking free classes at Rosewood Park eventually came full circle. “I lived with what Young Journey is.”

Young Journey is a real world model for the children that participate. It gives them ownership of what they are doing while instilling a work ethic and providing character lessons while letting them know how valuable they are. Here is an example of their work. They are currently working on a short film and the kids are involved in every aspect from writing, production, marketing, etc.

However, she didn’t start out with grand dreams of starting a non-profit. Instead, she took to the road as an entertainer. After deciding the entertainment business wasn’t for her, she saw how the lower income kids lacked support, their needs were not being addressed. Using her passion for music and lyrics, she wrote a CD called “Young Journey Children’s Music”. Her sister told her to take it to the schools and eventually it grew into the performing arts, media and sports program it is today. Young Journey is in three states – New York, Texas and Tennessee.

We talked a lot but there are several key points Jaha brought up that I believe are pertinent to starting any kind of business, whether for- or non-profit.

Follow your passion.

First, follow your passion. While Jaha describes her position as a “quadruple full-time job”, she said it “unfolded” naturally. She just pursued her passion for music and kids. While it wasn’t always an easy road, she admits that her biggest obstacle was getting past herself (preaching to the choir!)

Young Journey had been in operation for four years before she pursued 501(c)3 status. She’d been stubbornly resisting that step. But through the summer it took her to do the paperwork to set up her non-profit and all of the other challenges, what kept her going was the children she was serving. “It’s challenging, that’s why people want to give up.” When you follow your passion you have a powerful “why” to get you through the rough times.

Jaha said, “Whatever you love will help somebody, don’t do if for the money.” We don’t need to have Mother Theresa aspirations. Jaha proves that everything can provide value, like her music, in unsuspecting ways.

Be clear,  specific and commit!

It’s important to form your vision and articulate it. “We need time for it to unfold in ourselves first. We need to be clear about what we are doing” and why we’re doing it. We need to be committed to it – if we aren’t committed, why should anyone else be? “But as you move forward, you begin to attract the people you need” and who need you.

Collaboration not competition

This brings up a good point. When people come into your life that can help you, it’s important to ask how you can help them. Collaborating with people is a win-win and can go far in helping your realize your vision. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Ask, don’t tell.

The program grew because Jaha asked the kids what they were interested in. How many of you ask your clients what they want or need and then develop products/services to meet them? Or do you fall in love with your idea without asking if there’s a market for it, investing a lot of time and energy on something that’s a bust?

There is a difference between buying and selling. Buying is willingly purchasing something you want or need. Selling is attempting to convince someone that they want or need your product. No one wants to be sold.

Talk to your clients or prospective clients, get to know their goals as well as their problems. Put more time into researching their pain points instead of selling your products. When you do they will buy from you. When you show an interest in them, they become invested in you.

Good Advice

I asked Jaha what advice she has for women that want to start their own non-profit:

“Do it! My father said ‘Just do it’ long before Nike. Just start doing something everyday, even if it’s small. Learn something about the industry as often as possible and surround yourself with positive people. ‘Get rid of the dead weight’, my aunt would tell me.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the resources at hand. It will come. Just go and HAVE FUN! Enjoy what your doing and learning. Reflect on what you’ve achieved. Remember to be a model, not just to the youth but to each other. Work together and support each other.”

Learn more about Young Journey at www.youngjourney.org.

 

 

 

 

What the heck is Psycho-Cybernetics?

What the heck is psycho-cybernetics?

I happened to pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer a couple of months ago. It says on the cover that it has helped millions find greater self-esteem and fulfillment and the premise of the book is “by expanding your self-image you expand the limits of your talents and capabilities.” Bottom line is when you develop positive inner goals you will be able to create positive outer goals. It asserts you’ll never change your behavior until you change your self-image.

You may wonder why I read these books if my focus is on helping entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about marketing, business plans, financials, etc? While those are all important to a business,what I’ve discovered is none of that matters if you can’t get past your own fears and self-limiting beliefs. That is why I spend so much time learning about how we think and exploring our mindset. The first step to creating a successful business is believing you can.

Much of what the book said resonated with me. As a coach, I think the most valuable part of my training was becoming aware of and questioning the validity of my own thoughts and beliefs. We tend to live with them as if they are unchangeable truths, when in fact, we can choose to change them at any time. But the problem is most of us are unaware of what we think and believe because they’ve become so ingrained and habitual. So we react instead of respond and get tripped up by our own negative thinking or as psycho-cybernetics would explain it, a poor self-image.

What does psycho-cybernetics mean anyway? Maltz believed the mind/body connection regulates our self-concept or image. Cybernetics, according to Wikipedia, is “an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities … Cybernetics is used when a system displays a closed signaling loop – a ‘circular causal’ relationship. The action in the system creates a change in the environment and that change is reflected in the system and triggers a system change.”

In English, cybernetics refers to an automatic guidance system. Maltz believed that our brain and nervous system function as a “servomechanism” or goal seeking device. According to Maltz, it is our self-image that determines whether we are successful or not. And what determines our self-image? Our thoughts and beliefs. We always act in a way that is consistent with our self-image.

Like computers (but so much more complex), our brains follow whatever directions we give it. We have a conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind looks at its options and chooses the one it sees best. When it makes its choice, all other options are eliminated at that moment.

The subconscious mind will move in the direction and do whatever the conscious mind tells it.

Our experiences, upbringing, religion, socializing, schooling, etc have all played a huge part in creating our thoughts and beliefs. Through repetition, those thoughts and beliefs have become ingrained and habitualized in our subconscious. Problems in our self-image occur when we internalize negative thoughts and beliefs and we are unable to move beyond them. We think we are bad at math, hence any other options cease to exist so our subconscious mind follows orders – bad at math. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point.

Psycho-Cybernetics is about becoming aware of these habitual patterns of thought and self-limiting beliefs and reprogramming your brain for success.

Psycho-Cybernetics consists of six steps:

  1. Program yourself for success.
  2. Imagine your way to success
  3. Relax
  4. Set goals
  5. Use negative feedback for course correction
  6. Disinhibit your personality

Step one is about being aware of our thoughts. Are they serving or hindering us? Does the belief that you are bad at math serve you when you are trying to look at the financials of your business or do they hinder you, resulting in overspending, low margins, etc. Negative thoughts and beliefs equal negative outcomes.

Our thoughts and beliefs aren’t unchangeable truths. You have a choice. Your subconscious mind will follow whatever you choose, good or bad.

What do you do about those negative thoughts? Maltz offers CRAFT – you become aware and challenge the negative thoughts/ beliefs and replace them with positive ones –

  • Cancel the negative data (actually say “cancel” out loud),
  • Replace it with a positive thought,
  • Affirm your new image to yourself,
  • Focus on the image of a successful you and
  • Train yourself for lasting change (acting as if).

Visualization is also a powerful tool used in psycho-cybernetics. Our brain can’t distinguish between a real or imagined event. By visualizing a successful outcome, you are, in essence, training your brain. Athletes do it all the time with mental rehearsal. It’s the ol’ “fake-it-till-you-make-it” concept.

Programming yourself and imagining success is essentially bringing your thoughts and beliefs into your awareness and challenging those that aren’t serving you and creating a new vision of how you want to be, rewriting a new script, telling a different story, through visualization.

The next step is to learn to relax.The whole point of these books is to take control of your life and create it on your terms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to think clearly or creatively when we are stressed. We actually have three brains. One is our primitive brain – it operates strictly on instinct, one is for emotions and the neo-cortex is what gives us our distinct advantage over other primates. It’s all about higher reasoning and critical thinking. However, when we are stressed, our primitive brain takes over. We are in survival mode. We react, we’re operating on instinct. It overrides all critical thinking. There’s no time for that – we’re in danger.

Managing stress is imperative to being able to achieve our goals.

The key to a lot of modern day stress is to understand most situations are neutral. It is our response to it that creates stress. We also tend to take ownership of problems that aren’t ours. 

Can you depersonalize the situation? Mistakes or problems do not define you. Do not identify with your disappointments. There is a big difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a failure”. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

What’s a guiding system without a target, right? Goals give us direction, otherwise we’ll just be drifting along like flotsam in a river, at the mercy of the current. It’s important to choose goals that are yours – not what your parents want, your spouse, your best friend, etc. (I specifically address the goal setting process in my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It). Goals force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone so take small steps. Give yourself time to grow into your goals. And while you should have a plan, remain flexible and take consistent action. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t get caught in the trap of “trying harder”. You didn’t make a mistake, it’s not you. Consider it feedback and do something different. Keep moving forward.

My take on psycho-cybernetics is when we quit buying into our negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, productive ones, we are on the path to achieving our goals.

 

 

 

 

3 Tools to take action on your goals

3 tools to take action on your goals

What percentage of people do you think achieve their New Year’s resolutions? 50%? 33%? 12%?

It’s actually 8%. I’m not surprised. We sincerely want to quit our bad habits, pursue our dreams and be our best selves, but when it’s time to work on our goals, why are we suddenly compelled to clean out the vegetable drawer – or is that just me? Our intentions are good but our follow through, well, sucks.

To make matters worse, when I set goals I think I have superhuman powers and put unrealistic demands on myself and my time – who needs sleep? I never questioned this approach and each time I felt like a failure because not only did I NOT reach my goal, I barely got started.

I thought I lacked discipline but the problem wasn’t me, the problem was my approach. I didn’t need iron-clad willpower, what I needed was a system that took me from planning to DOING. Action is the only way to build momentum and create new habits and I’ve discovered a few tools that helped me move through my fears and resistance to reach my goals.

But first, I’d like to talk about how our brain works. Our brains have 3 parts:

  • the primitive brain handles our survival instincts,
  • The limbic is our emotional brain and is used for building social bonds.
  • The neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic and reasoning.

For goal-setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience fear or stress, the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every. Single. Time. It’s going to do everything in its power to alleviate that stress. My unrealistic plans triggered some fear and my primitive brain reacted, thus the overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. I needed a subtler approach so my brain worked for, not against me. The tools that work for me are: break it down, the 5 minute plan and low expectations.

1. Break it Down

In my previous process, to use a writing analogy, I tried to jump from never writing to a finished novel overnight. It’s like expecting a baby that just learned how to roll over to start running. I was depriving myself of the learning opportunities in all those little steps and the habits and confidence they built. I finally realized that achieving a goal means growing into it, one step at a time.

2. Commit to 5 Minutes

The 5 minute plan is a another great tool to overcome resistance. I actually thought I could work 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week and another 16 hours on the weekend to work on my goals, in addition to my full-time job and everything else life threw at me. And I wondered why I couldn’t get started! Then a coach suggested I turn it down a notch and start with 5 minutes. It seems counter-intuitive, What could I accomplish in 5 minutes? Never mind that I wasn’t accomplishing anything before

Here’s the thing, getting started is often the hardest part and 5 minutes is ridiculously easy and non-threatening (remember that primitive brain?), that it was easy to commit to. And if you know Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Five minutes is usually all I need to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling.

3. Lower Expectations

The final tool is lower your expectations. Now, I’m not saying lower your standards, always do your best. Just accept in the beginning your best might not be all that good. But in order to improve you have to practice. I read about a pottery teacher that did an experiment. He told one class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they made. He told another their grades would be based on one pot. The class that was graded on quantity actually produced the best pots. Why? Practice! They were focused on the process while the one pot class was focused on the product. In the beginning quantity is more important than but will eventually lead to quality. It’s the process, all that practice that matters, not the product, which is just the end result. So quit worrying about how good it is.

Pursuing our goals is gratifying but the path is seldom easy. It’s good to have some tools that we can use that work with our brain to get us started as well as get us back on track if we slip into old habits when the novelty and excitement of our goal wears off. When you are having trouble getting started I challenge you to apply breaking things down, the 5 minute plan and lowering your expectations.