What’s Holding You Back?

 

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We don’t all strive for greatness.  Some people are content to just put one foot in front of the other.  Getting through the day is important, but it that all there is?

I think that most of us can agree that we need to do a better job with keeping all our plates spinning.  There’s a lot of buzz about work/life balance, but let’s face it; most of us struggle with the juggle.  Special shout out to career minded grown ups with little munchkins at home.

It’s still self-doubt that trips us up in the end.  The negative talk we generate in ourselves can really stifle our dreams.  Like any new habit, resolving to stay positive takes a while to get the hang of, and even longer to make it stick.

There are a million and one excuses and victim statements that keep us from leading the kind of life we want.  We don’t have enough education.  We don’t have enough money.  We don’t have a significant other.  We don’t like our job.  We’re too tired, depressed, angry… whatever.

Are you happy thinking about the reasons you can’t live the life you want?  Or are you ready to actually get started working towards some life goals?  Do you have a clear picture of where you’re going?  Maybe you’re on your way.  If you are, reach down and help the next guy up. We all need encouragement.

This week, try to identify and remove one negative self talk tidbit from your life, and replace it with a new positive affirmation.  If you think it sounds corny, keep doing what you’re doing.  If you’re interested in positive change, give it a try.  It’s free!

-Cat

Quotable Quotes

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I’m not sure why he came to mind tonight, but he is a person that I treasure in my memories.

I graduated from high school early, when I was sixteen years old.  The only way you could do this at the time was to take Summer School English.  Senior English was always British Literature. I had taken a lot of English courses, even English electives, throughout high school.  But, nothing in my education remains with me like the Summer of Mr. Meehan.

The students in this class couldn’t have been more different from one another.  People graduating early, people repeating the course after failing.  I befriended a girl that was pregnant after her Junior year. Going to high school while pregnant just wasn’t done back then.  So, we all had different reasons for winding up in Mr. Meehan’s class. Because it was Summer School, it was a concentrated course, every day for three hours.

He was a big fan of Marshall McLuhan, and was fond of reminding us that “The Medium is the Message”.  He loved photography.  He was devoted to his wife, and talked about her often.  But, one of the things I loved most about the class was that every day, everyone had to bring in a “Quotable Quote”.  So, here were teenagers from all types of backgrounds, finding meaning through words every single day.  I did not understand how powerful that was at the time.  We would start class by going around the room, sharing a quote.

Mr. Meehan retired in 1995 from teaching.  I looked him up online, and found his obituary from 2007.  It was on a Washington Post archive page, sandwiched between two ads for a Jeep Renegade.  Ironic… the medium is the message.  I’m not sure how he would have felt about that.  He did have a great sense of humor.   There were lots of students who poured out their hearts in the guest book on his obituary.  So, I know I’m not alone when I say he played a big part in my education and love for language, words, literature, and quotable quotes.

Here’s one for the road:

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.  – Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Goodnight, Harry *

-Cat

Considering Corporate Culture

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I was putting my thoughts together for this article, and I thought I would do some field research.  I asked someone for one word that came to mind when they think about “Corporate Culture”.  Their one word was “integrity”.  I thought that was encouraging, and went on to ask the next person.  Their one word was “corruption”.  Hmmm.  I stopped there.  Granted, I could have included some more research. But I think that the first two answers gave me an indication of the scope of attitudes towards “Corporate Culture”.

So, is the use of the word “culture” a rhetorical device, or does it have actual meaning in the business world?  Nobody would feel comfortable saying that their company really doesn’t focus on culture.  Everyone wants to think that it’s a very big deal in the workplace.

Corporate Culture is based on a set of common “core values”.  These may be expressed in the company’s mission statement, which is given as a handout to new hires.  How much actual time in management meetings is spent talking about core values on an ongoing basis?  Isn’t it more likely that the conversation turns to shareholder value? 

Values clarification exercises are critical to personal self-improvement. This is the process through which core values are identified and used as a guide to behavior and actions.  They must be revisited from time to time, and adjusted as necessary.   I just can’t picture executives sitting in the boardroom discussing values clarification.  They are more likely discussing ways to increase growth and revenue.  That’s not a problem.  It’s the way business works.

Another facet of Corporate Culture is shared attitudes and beliefs. How do we come together on beliefs and encourage diversity all at the same time?  I understand that this means corporate beliefs and not personal beliefs.  I know that in the business boat we all have to row together to get anywhere.  I’m just saying that in this climate, we can’t count on people to separate personal from professional.  People don’t want to set aside their differences.  They will cling to their uniqueness, even if it means that they’re not as “successful”.

And… do we profit (pun intended) if we all think and act alike?  Does that get us to the goal faster?  Consider that it takes all kinds of people working together to really make a dynamic difference!  Yes, we all have to move towards the goal.  Are there different ways to get there? Is there a benefit to taking the proverbial road less traveled?  Does somebody know a shortcut?  Or is the direct route best?

Enter the “team builder”!  Team builders are always fun, and help you learn something about other people on your team.  I think that they are beneficial to the team, and they keep meetings from being boring. They may be quick exercises, off site days, or even corporate getaways. They can be invigorating, and help employees approach work with a renewed gusto.  Team builders are touted as one of the best ways to build culture.  They’re awesome, but do they increase focus on core values?

Communication is key to building culture within an organization.  If you can go a step beyond that, and actually connect with people on a human level… even better!  Listening to people increases their feelings of self-worth.  It’s natural that your team will perform better, together and as individuals, if they feel valued.  As a leader, if you want to teach empathy to your team, be empathetic.

Culture makes a difference to every aspect of a company.  It affects the hiring process, training, and employee retention.  It will affect the way your customer service initiatives are carried out.  It can determine the landscape of the work environment.  And… bonus!  It will affect your earnings.  Be a company for which people want to work.  Attract and keep quality employees by considering, reviewing, and living your culture everyday.

–  Cat

Are You in Love With Your “STUFF”?

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I was listening to a podcast today about “minimalist living” and all the joy it will bring you.  That got me thinking about us crazy Americans and all our “Stuff”.  People are into designer handbags, brand name shoes, and fancy cars. I’m not really interested in a lot of that.   Maybe we’re too materialistic, but I don’t know if I could swing a stuff free life.

I love to watch the Tiny House shows on HGTV.  People want to live in a 200 square foot place with a baby and two dogs.  People want a tiny house, but room for 6 kayaks, or 13 surfboards.  People want a tiny house with entertaining space.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve yelled at the television “It’s a TINY HOUSE!”  Can we really let go of our stuff?  Could you lead a minimalist lifestyle?

Years ago, I read a book by John D. Freyer.  It’s called All My Life For Sale.  It’s an interesting read about a project that John did.  In Phase One of the project, he sold everything… everything he owned on eBay. In Phase Two, he spends time traveling all over the world to visit his stuff. 

The woman in the podcast today, Genevieve Parker Hill, is the author of Minimalist Living: Decluttering for Joy, Health, and Creativity.  She talks about how her family experienced a house fire, and lost all their possessions.  Through this journey, she learned that relationships are important, not stuff.  So was the house fire a blessing or a curse?

Friends of ours, who always had a big home, with lots of wonderful stuff, decided to live in an RV and travel around.  I wonder if they went through stuff withdrawal at first, or did they just make a decision and flip the switch?

I would say that I’m in the middle on the scale of stuff crazy people. My husband is definitely into stuff.  He’s not a hoarder, but he is a serious collector.  He keeps it tidy, and doesn’t break the bank.  That’s all I care about.  Honestly, I think I’m more about the acquisition of stuff, and lose interest in a lot of it after the fact.  That’s sounds horrible, but I believe it’s true. 

So, pause and think for a minute.  Where do you place in the rankings?  Are you the keeper of the stuff, or a sensible purger from time to time?  Do you think you can do it?

– Cat

Networking

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I attended an event at the local chamber of commerce today.  It was about networking and it made me think of the importance of good old face to face meetings… remember them?

I know that we’re supposed to use all this technology we have at hand, and I have to admit that it’s great. Social media, blogging, websites, webinars… all good stuff.  But, there’s a lot to be said for getting to know someone’s handshake.  It’s kinda cool to see their facial expressions.  To laugh together at something funny, as opposed to typing “lol”, or my favorite “Hahaha”.

So, there is a ton of information out there about networking.  The presentation I went to today was very informative and enjoyable.  I was, of course, networking at the networking presentation.  lol

Years ago, I was reading about networking, and I loved this piece of advice.  Don’t network by talking about yourself.  Network by listening and asking questions.  The premise is… If you’re interested in other people, they will find you interesting.  That is, ask them about their business.  Follow up with a question about what they just told you, or a general business question.

I’ve found this to be true, for the most part.  Of course, you want to answer questions, but focus on listening.  Yes, your elevator speech is important.  But not as important as using your active listening skills when they are giving you their elevator speech.  After all, you already know about yourself.

Something I picked up today that I thought was great.  When you’re at a networking event, you might be feeling weird about talking to people you don’t know. Notice the person that’s off to the side, feeling awkward like you, and talk to them.  You’ll both feel relieved, and you won’t have to worry about interrupting a conversation.

Think of ways to be a matchmaker with people who you meet. Introduce them to each other.  Consider strategic pairings… power partners.  Once you’ve met people who can complement each other’s businesses, put them in touch.

How do you feel about networking in person?  Is it a thing of the past, or does it still have value in today’s business environment?

-Cat

Coming Home

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It’s just about time to start thinking about making arrangements and plans for Summer vacations… if you’re the planning type.    With a mild winter here in the mid-atlantic states, it feels like Spring already.  We went away this past weekend.  Not a huge vacation, just a long weekend getaway.

It always feels good to take a break.  There’s an old saying of UK origin, “A Change is as Good as a Rest”.  It’s unclear who said this first.  Some think it came from Arthur Conan Doyle, and we know that Winston Churchill said it.  Anyhow, that applies to our weekend adventure.

I’ve taken a little time off from my day job.  We went to Williamsburg. We like to go there, and we visit at least once a year.  We have our places we like to go, our meals we like to have, and our shops we like to visit.

Have you ever wondered why it seems to take no time at all to get to your vacation destination?  It takes forever to get back home again.  Is it the excitement of getting away that distracts you, as you travel towards your vacation destination?  Are you just over it all on the way home?  Is it just me, or does everyone experience that?

I love to go away, but you know what I love even more… coming home. No matter how nice a place is, or how much you enjoy it, there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.  For me, there is a certain contentment I feel with my life and my home.  I certainly don’t get to see my kids or grandkids every day, but I miss them more when I’m away.  It’s kind of a vague feeling of not being accessible, I guess.

As my writing business grows, it occurs to me that I can do this anywhere.  I work remotely, and this weekend I was able to accept and work on assignments on the fly.  It is exhilarating to have that freedom.  So much so, that it doesn’t even feel like work to me.  I am passionate about writing, and enjoy the varied assignments I’m lucky enough to work on.

So… If you follow my blog, and wonder where I’ve been, all is well.  I’m just writing to build my business.  I love this blog, though, so bear with me while I get things organized.  We’re about to discover all the mysteries of the universe!

-Cat

The Lost Art of Customer Service

When I was considering my blog topic for tonight, I thought that I should write about something more personal.  The thing is… I take customer service very personally.  These days, you can buy or sell anything on-line.  They are converting to order taking robots at McDonald’s.  I saw a vending machine with iPads and iPhones in it.  Is customer service dead?  Are we programmed not to care about our buying experience anymore?

I spoke with my prescription drug company recently.  I had a credit card on file with them.   They could charge whatever medication they sent out, rather than sending invoices to pay.  So, my credit card was compromised, and had to be replaced.  When I saw that I had a balance with them, I called their customer service to straighten it out.  Of course, I get the automated menu.  I’ve learned what to say when they ask you to state why you are calling.  I just say “customer service” repeatedly, and it gets you to a human faster.  Bottom line… you have to trick a machine in order to speak with someone.

I told the representative about my card.  I let them know that I was calling to pay my balance and add the new card for future payments.  He says “Okay, I’m going to try to add that card.  Usually, it doesn’t let you change cards if you have a balance.”  I asked him “Well, how will I pay my balance if you won’t take my new card information?”  That stumped him for a minute, and he put me on hold so he could speak with his supervisor.  Then he came back on the line, and the two of them had decided that they would work it out for me.  Wow!  I’m pleased to report that all is well now, but what a cluster!

I had a beautiful online experience recently with a company called Brighton.  I purchased a lanyard from them that I really loved.

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So, when it arrived, ahead of the expected time, it was in a box, with a heart shape cut into it… beautifully done.  I opened the box, and it was wrapped in two shades of tissue, and tied up with a gorgeous bow.  When I opened the ribbon, there was a card enclosed.  It had my first name on it, thanking me for my purchase and sending me good wishes.  It was hand signed by someone.  Classy!  I would buy from them again in a heartbeat.  Why? Because I felt appreciated as a customer.

This is the thing that’s hard for machines to do.  They really can’t express gratitude for your business.  They can’t help…  they can just refer you to another source, usually a website.  If I wanted to talk to your website, I would have logged in.  There’s a reason I called you instead.

In this world, your business can stand out by delivering a great experience.  If people didn’t notice in the past, they do now.  It almost takes you by surprise when someone is pleasant in their work these days.  I look for those places to do business with.  It’s proven that people will travel farther, and pay more, for the experience.

What are we thinking?

-Cat

Side Hustle

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That’s what Urban Dictionary calls it.  Your part-time job, alternate income stream, consulting, or in my case, freelancing.  What do you call what you do… aside from your “day job”?

A lot of people who I work with during the course of my day have something else that they do on the side.  These are people that make a good income, but want to develop something of their own.  We can be so creative, and the ideas that we have are so varied, that at times, they can support one another.

My passion is my freelance writing.  Most of the work I’ve been doing is in the B2B sector.  That means that my Side Hustle is to help your Side Hustle grow and prosper with business writing.  So many people have a fear of writing, or they know that it’s not their strength.

There is such a need now for business writing.  Do you have a website?  Of course you do!  How’s the content working for you?  How are you driving people to it?  Do your emails hit the mark?  What about your bio… or your direct mail campaign? Your social media marketing?  It can all be overwhelming, and to worry with all this stuff while you’re trying to do… what you are trying to do… can be too much.  It’s easy to get mired down with the details of it all.

Maybe you’ve managed to turn your passion into your “real job”.  If you’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit.  There’s nothing more rewarding than going to work everyday, doing what you love, in a business that you created.  Most people think that being a business owner means having a ton of money and spare time.  In most cases, I’d say nothing could be farther from the truth.

Owning a business, and developing it into a successful venture, is hard work.  My oldest son, and his wife, both have businesses. He builds custom furniture, and she’s a photographer.   My youngest son has a side hustle as well, working as a videographer and video editor.  My daughter in law bakes and decorates cakes on the side.  Like my writing, these jobs provide a creative outlet.  A little extra cash never hurts, either.

What’s your passion… your side hustle?

– Cat

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Football Team

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So… here it comes!  It’s that time of year again.  Let’s be distracted from politics for a few minutes.  Let’s talk non stop about the teams, the halftime show, the commercials, and all of the other hoopla surrounding – THE  SUPER BOWL!

This is actually a lonely two weeks for me.  I have nothing relevant to talk about.  Last year around this time, my coworker, Nate, asked me who I liked in the Superbowl.  I told him that I didn’t care.  He then asked me who my favorite football team was.  I told him that my favorite football team was “Art and Music”. He seemed puzzled by that.  When I went on to explain that I preferred art and music to football, he looked even more perplexed.  I told him that I wasn’t into sports.

My first husband loved watching sports on TV.  I wanted to like it.  I tried to like it.  I pretended to want to try to like it.  It didn’t work out for me.  When I left him, he told me how great it was to be able to stay up all night and watch the game.  He didn’t have to worry about ruining someone’s night, making someone cry or be angry.  I told him that was okay.  I didn’t have to listen to it, watch it, or have it wreck my plans, or waste my time.  In other words… it worked out for both of us!

I hit the jackpot in my current match!  His favorite football team?  You guessed it… art and music.  What a world of difference!  We never talk about sports, we don’t watch sports, and we don’t plan our life around sports.  He will sometimes watch golf if we’re home and it’s on.  I’m okay with that… it doesn’t make much noise.  True fact – before I wrote this post, I asked him “Hey, the Superbowl is this Sunday, right?”  He responded by saying “How should I know?”  I Googled it.  It’s this Sunday.

Is it in our genes to watch sports?  I never watched sports growing up.  My Dad’s trophies are more for the chess team and debate team.  I grew up with two sisters.  None of us played sports.  My family encouraged my love of art and music.  It wasn’t until I started dating my first husband that I learned about TV trays for Thanksgiving.  I have four grown kids.  My oldest loves his football.  My second son isn’t really into it. My third son hates sports.  My daughter can take it or leave it. 

I made all my kids play sports when they were growing up.  I see the value in it, and wonder if I would have been better off for playing when I was young.  By the way, I loved watching my kids play.  My boys were all pretty athletic.  My daughter was the first girl to complete a season of football with the Boys and Girls Club in our area. Other girls had come out in August to practice, but had not played once the season started.  I remember the first play of the first game Catie was in.  She got knocked about ten feet out of her cleats, and landed squarely on the ground.  After that, she developed tenacity and coping strategies, and didn’t fall for that again.

I love to go to a live sporting event.  There’s so much to see, and it’s all happening at once!  I just don’t want to devote the time it takes to follow it on TV.  I get it, I’m just not into it.

I hope your team wins this weekend.  I know mine will!

– Cat