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Gratitude Sunday

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I am grateful for:

  • My husband
  • Good friends and afternoon barbecues
  • The end of summer

 

You Can’t Unlock and Nurture Your Talent Without Support

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My greatest strength as a communicator is I’ve learned to trust my own inner wisdom and allow that to come through in my communication. When appropriate, I use structure to support this. The effectiveness comes from a combination of practical tools and inner wisdom.

As I grew up and gravitated toward reading and then writing, some of my best memories are of discussing works of fiction with my father. He always listened, took my opinions seriously, and never tried to convince me he was right and/or I was wrong. He asked  questions to get me to go deeper into the material. He  answered my questions and helped me understand whatever it was I couldn’t understand.

He would also help me with my English papers. He would look at what I had written and talk with me about what to improve. I would rewrite, he would look again, we would talk again. One  clear memory is of him bringing me back a pretty significant paper (I was in early high school) and saying: “okay now. This is “C” work. We’ll bring it up to “A” work.” I remember feeling so excited! I could not wait to hear what he had to say and rework the writing up to our high standards!

I operate in much the same way today (though my dad doesn’t read my drafts anymore)

The sad thing is though, after leaving home, going to college, going to law school, and for years after beginning my career as a lawyer, that natural ability (inner wisdom) dimmed, weakened, and shut down. For years.

I entered the world of full time work after college, at a law firm in downtown Las Vegas. It was here that I first learned that yelling and screaming was an acceptable form of communication in some offices. After two years there I went to law school.

During the first five years of my legal career, there were no mentors. Little support. The nature of my job threw me into the deep end of this field called “litigation” and expected to sink or swim. That was normal – and when I got stressed or scared, I attributed it to weakness on my part. Most of my writing sucked during this time. In my third year of being a lawyer, one boss told me “this brief is unreadable. Get it out of here and don’t come back until it’s readable.”

Two things about this guy:

  • He was a gifted, brilliant attorney, especially in the court room
  • He cared about his employees.

In his mind, he was showing me tough love, which would make me a better lawyer. And he was right. The brief I gave him did suck. It wasn’t even the best I could do at the time – I was so stressed out, afraid, and defensive that part of me had stopped caring. Thing is, no special wrath had been directed toward me. He criticized all the lawyers harshly. It was the way it was. And since I had been raised to be a responsible, independent woman I figured this WAS how it was. I had to go through each day not knowing what I was doing, getting yelled at around every corner, and figuring out on my own how to improve.

It wasn’t until I changed jobs and was into my fifth year as a lawyer that I experienced what it felt like to have a senior lawyer mentor me. I submitted a brief to him that was sub-par at best. I knew it. And I could see from the look on his face that he knew it. I braced myself to be yelled at.  I had grown so used to being yelled at and condescended to that I not only thought such behaviour was normal – I thought it was acceptable. I thought it was up to me and me alone to improve my skills with little or no guidance.

He didn’t yell. He took a deep breath and invited me into the conference room. Closed the door. And proceeded to talk with me about the brief. Went through it page by page, analyzing what I had written in the context of the motion that was before the court, and the case as a whole. Told me what needed to improve, and why. With reasonable, compassionate feedback, I turned that “C” level brief into an “A.”

My inner wisdom, dormant for so long, began to slowly wake up

I spent seven and a half years at that job. Thanks to one attorney who was willing to teach me (starting with calling me out on my subpar writing) the art and science of being a good lawyer, I experienced many shining moments with clients using my natural communication talent and legal training that would not have happened otherwise.

In 2006 I got the courage to leave the legal profession and strike out on my own. That has been a series of epic ups and downs, that I will perhaps write more detail about in future posts. The core of that story is in my Ted-style talk: How Great Stories Inspire Action.

The “moral” of this post

We can’t unlock and nurture our talent as communicators without support. We can’t tell our stories in ways that matter without support. As online entrepreneurs and business owners, writing is one of the most important things we DO.

Even though I was raised with loving support to excel in what has become my career of choice (writing and speaking), I (like we all are) was vulnerable to outside forces. I was raised with a strong sense of personal responsibility and independence. I was extremely capable. I am also a highly sensitive person (which I didn’t learn until more recently).

As a result, in a profession known for it’s “shark like” behavior, I took a lot of things to heart that I would have been better served brushing off. I absorbed a lot of harsh criticism (much of it well meaning) that stayed with me, sometimes for years. I became a shell of my former passionate self and most of my interactions were based on stress, fear and defensiveness.

Have you ever tried to go it alone for too long without support? Have you ever believed that seeking and receiving support would make you seem weak? Tell me in the comments.

 

Can a Quote REALLY Change the Way You Think?

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INSERT QUOTE HERE

I came across “60 Quotes That Will Change the Way You Think”  in my Twitter stream (a great place to curate content by the way). My first thought was: “Seriously?”

I used to be INTO  quotes. They felt good to read. Felt good to post. Simple to share. They get “action” on social media. A lot of my friends were posting them. Business coaches I admired were posting them. Look back in my Facebook feed a couple of years and you’d see a lot of them.

Until . . . resentment crept in. Things weren’t going well in my business. For awhile things sucked, in fact. I became afraid to write and felt sure I on my way to epic failure. I resented seeing quotes everywhere. Stopped posting them. Became irrationally annoyed at those to did post them.

QUOTES WERE LAME.

I WAS LAME.

Wait a minute, what did I have to do with it?

Yeah right. Only everything.

Over the next couple of years, I made changes in my life and business. Got new support. Hung out with new people. Things got better. I started liking quotes again. I mean, hell, there’s a topic on this site called quotes!

Can a Quote Really Change the Way You Think?

A quote by itself, ABSOLUTELY NOT. That notion is silly. Simple-minded.

Context makes quotes matter — and when something matters to you, THAT has the potential to change the way you think.

I was originally into quotes because they showed me what was possible. Quotes from famous people (especially famous writers) validated some of my own views. Made me feel smarter. Or, in some cases, less like a weirdo.

That all went awry when, in the context of “growing my business” I spent too much time thinking. Idealizing. Telling stories without taking action.

A quote by itself is just a quote.

A quote in context has deep meaning and incites change WHEN you act on whatever it is about the quote that inspires you. Changing the way you think isn’t enough — if all you do about it is think.

I happily and sparingly use quotes in my work

The quotes I share publicly have deep meaning for me, within the context of my work, life and story. Because I’m acting on my dreams more now than ever before.

Quote Steinbeck

This quote  has deep meaning for me now that I’ve found my speaking voice and crafted a TED-style talk about story. 

Quote the alchemist

This one means a lot to me because it encapsulates the feeling I get when I think about my triathlon story, and now my business story. It’s so simple. So basic. So true. Because I’ve lived it.

What’s Your Take?

I don’t believe for one second the general, blanket statement that a quote can change how you think. It takes a lot more than reading a quote and getting inspired to truly change how you think.

AND I sense my views on this subject are narrow. There’s more to this than I’m willing or able to see right now. What am I missing? Has a quote alone changed the way you think? I’d LOVE your take on this. Please comment.*

*I moderate comments to avoid spam — once I approve you, you should be able to comment freely as long as you use the same email address.

 

3 Ways To Unblock Yourself So You Can Write Better Content

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Some say there’s no such thing as “writer’s block.”

Those of us who are committed to and have a real, personal stake in our writing know better.

I attribute writer’s block to Resistance 

The sooner you acknowledge and agree (with yourself) on a plan to manage Resistance, the sooner you will see breakthroughs in your writing. The kind of breakthroughs you can expect to experience via consistent Resistance management are:

    • A sense of deep accomplishment and confidence that only comes from acting on something important to you. 
    • A living, breathing audience who hangs on your every word. Okay, not at first. The more willing you are to PUBLICLY write in your voice, develop your point of view, and help people solve their problems, the more your audience will take you seriously. And eventually hang on your every word. 

Easier said than done. Writing takes Drive. Discipline. Dedication. Enviable attributes that, on too many occasions in my own life, I convinced myself I didn’t have.

Bullshit!

I have drive, discipline and dedication IN SPADES. So do you. Chances are you’ve been in business for awhile and are already successful. You just wish the pesky writing Resistance would exit your life. Forever.

It won’t.

Here’s What To Do

 1. Admit you have a problem.

Because you do. It’s the universal, human problem that surfaces when we’ve committed to something important. I recently heard Seth Godin give a talk. He talked about exactly this: Resistance:

 . . . we cannot defeat the voice in our head. When the fear shows up, we cannot make it go away. If you try to drown it out . . . it’s not going to work. What works is dancing with it. What works is welcoming the fear into your life, and saying ‘thank you for letting me know I’m onto something, let’s dance about this.’ Because when the Resistance, the lizard brain starts to freak, and you persist knowing it’s still going to freak, it will lose its enthusiasm. It will realize it can’t shortcut you. People are constantly looking for reassurance. People want to constantly be told everything will be okay. They’re trying to make the fear go away. And the right thing to say to that person is ‘you’re right, it’s probably not going to work. It’s entirely possible that you will get onstage and your slides will fail, and people will laugh at you, and the speech won’t work. But the fact that that voice is in your head means you are about to do something important. Not about to jump off a building, that’s dangerous. You’re about to do something important. So dance with it. And look for it . . . . what I want to do with my work is find a place where it’s scary. And dance with that fear. 

 2. Get uncomfortable

When I first started training for triathlon in 2007, I had no idea what it felt like to be uncomfortable in a way that would eventually remodel my body, mind and spirit. Yup, it was that profound. It was also Painful. Humbling. Terrifying.

Writing in a way that advances your goals, that sets you apart because you stand for something, is uncomfortable. At times terrifying. Definitely humbling. Painful. That’s how you know you’re onto to something great. The right kind of “uncomfortable” builds you up. In fact, I would argue it’s the only way to build up.

 3. Get Support

Any writing system needs to include these three elements*:

  • Write
  • Edit
  • Publish

 *Depending on your subject matter and who you’re writing for, you’ll at times include research as a first step.

 A simple system. Not always easy.

As with anything that you really want, that you’ve committed to managing Resistance against, that you’re willing to get uncomfortable for, you need support. The great thing about this is that support can take any form imaginable.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Accountability: texting or emailing a friend that my writing for the day is DONE
  • Feedback: Sending the most important (or scary) pieces to a colleague for feedback before hitting publish
  • Commitment: Committing publicly to a writing goal and following through (which means you publish)

The importance of support cannot be underestimated! Get it. Now. 

 

Your Story Isn’t About You

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“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.”

John Steinbeck

I heard this quote recently. At a speaker series where the topic was Storytelling in a Digital Age.

The speaker was forgettable.

The quote leaped from his talk into my heart and struck me as the perfect iteration of something I’d love to say.

We all have our personal story.

As we come from it and use pieces of it to relate, persuade, connect . . . we must realize . . . it’s not about us. It’s about the listener. The reader. The audience.