Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Dream Crasher #2 – When You Have Too Many Dreams to Choose From

This is the second in a series of the most common obstacles I see when pursuing goals and dreams.

Dream Crasher #2: Too many passions and good ideas to choose from. These are my early morning drinks and pretty metaphorical for my natural life and work approach. Can anyone relate?

Like many entrepreneurs and business owners, I am multi-passionate and I don’t liked to be boxed neatly into a category. (We can talk about why personality tests are flawed on another day.)

Like water, coffee and smoothies, I embrace seemingly contradictory ideas – like doing good and making money do not have to be mutually exclusive. And similarly to my morning drinks, I tend to have an over-abundance of potentially earth-shattering project ideas daily.

The problem is that unless you’re a consultant whose job it is to brainstorm, it’s pretty difficult to grow a business, social enterprise or non-profit if you’re chasing new ideas all the time.
Here’s what I have found in my own life and with clients: if you can’t choose, it’s almost always because you don’t have enough information. And that is a very fixable problem. Here is the short version of how:

1. list out your biggest dreams and goals (no limits).
2. complete a reflection exercise to explore or try-on each. Usually one or two rise to the surface. Take action on those. For a free worksheet with specifics what questions to ask when *trying on* your dreams, enter your email below so we can send it to you.

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11 Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

photo cred: lauren-mancke via unsplash

No matter how meaningful your work, everyone feels stuck sometimes. Here are research-based quick, easy actions for getting past the inertia and taking action when you are feeling stuck. Pick one when you are resisting moving forward or are generally stuck on what’s next.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a task list for your day (or week) the evening (or weekend) before. In the morning, go through your list of to-dos in a mechanical way. Nothing to think about. No decisions to make. Look at your list and do it.
  2. Don’t worry alone.* If you cannot get out of your own head or past your resistance, call a friend who believes in you. Make a pact with someone who will be there for you, with an ear of support. Promise to always answer calls from one another and to only take a few minutes.
  3. Take a shower. There is actually science behind this method. A shower enacts cornerstones of creativity including: dopamine release, relaxation, and distraction from decision making. Some creatives/innovators are known to take several showers a day when in the middle of a project.
  4. Exercise. Go for a quick walk. Try an interval app. Jog in place. Do 20 jumping jacks. Stand in mountain pose.
  5. Take a micro-action daily. Break down your to-do’s into steps that seem ridiculously easy. This is the most effective way to break free of inertia.  
  6. Clear out a drawer or quit an activity. Clearing physical space or your schedule can clear your mind and energy too.
  7. Use the power of morning pages. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, suggests starting each day with a written braindump – no agenda, no worrying about how it sounds. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write over and over again.” I’d say start with one page and see if it helps free your energy.
  8. Know your goal. Remind yourself every day where you are headed and WHY. Write your BIG goal and your WHY down everyday. If you are unclear on your goal, download this exercise from Reclaim Your Dreams to get started.
  9. Read every word of The Art of War.  In his book Steven Pressfield focuses on how to move forward on creative projects and work through resistance.
  10. Start with thanks. Begin every day with a list of one to three things you are super grateful for.
  11. Rest. Don’t quit. We all need a break so step away from the computer and take a nap or grab a cup of tea or….you name it.

*Thanks to Dr. Halowell via Marie Forleo for this gem of a quote.

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Money Matters

“Invest in yourself. It will pay you for the rest of your life.” -Aristotle

Courage and Confidence Challenge #9

Money matters. Think about the messages your daughter receives about money both in the media and at home. Earning it. Investing it. Making lots of it. We know the media does, but consider how you subtly or indirectly tell her that she can depend on others (like a future husband) to take care of her financial needs? Is earning power a factor when she considers her future? Today make sure to frame earning money as a path to freedom, empowerment, and the opportunity to make a broader difference in the world. This isn’t about greed or doesn’t mean giving up on a dream. In fact, the goal is the very opposite! It does mean making choices that assume she is responsible for her financial well-being. If you need more direction, start with education by checking out The Daily Worth and Amanda Steinberg’s accompanying book, Worth It: Your Money, Your Life, Your Terms In addition to helping empower women financially, Amanda is a serial technology entrepreneur and an inspiring role model.

Here’s Why

So many reasons why. For starters, statistically, women are more likely to spend time on budgeting/expenses than investing, more likely to feel anxiety around investing, less likely to ask for raises, less likely to consider financial impact when making career decisions, and less likely to feel confident around making sound investment decisions.

Anecdotally, I can share countless stories of how economic disempowerment plays out at every life phase. There was the mom who suggested her 13 year old daughter consider a “flexible” career path – i.e., let’s set the vocational dream bar low and think about how you might work part-time once you have kids before you even start high school.

And the teenager who thanked me for saying, “making money was a good thing” because she thought it was selfish and felt guilty about considering finances when dreaming about a career path.

Or the messages everywhere telling girls to focus on marrying an ambitious person rather than being the ambitious person.

And finally, I also see how it plays out on the other end of vocational life…women in their 60’s and beyond who feel handcuffed (still) by work that they dislike or don’t know how to step back into the workforce. Let’s empower our daughters to invest in their careers and their financial well-being from the outset. Much more to come on this topic from The Brave Core.

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Looking and Standing Up

This is my favorite maple tree and I almost forgot to look up and notice it this season.

Every year it’s one of the last to shed its leaves; even in rainy autumns manages to fire up our front yard with orange and red. But this year I’ve been so engrossed in my thoughts….thinking/worrying about my kids’ future…my future …our country’s future…the earth’s future that I almost missed my favorite fiery maple tree.

That took me aback because forget to look up and you miss out on the fall leaves, a writing idea or a meaningful project that needs time, catching my dog before he ruins another blanket (wait, not that), and most importantly, connections with my people …a conversation with my 87 year old Mom, a laugh with a sister, and all the firsts and lasts that life is filled with – especially as I watch our kids grow into teens and adulthood right before my eyes. 

Almost missing the blazing tree that I pass – daily – hit me hard…because sometimes if you don’t look up, it’s too late – at least for a season, but maybe forever.

So this is what I’ve decided fellow activists, worriers, dreamers and givers. I am taking time to breathe and look up more.

I can look up and stand up and fight for what I believe, for our country all in the same day. Reality is, it’s all going to be alright or it’s not. Either way I also embraced the beauty that was right in front of me along the way.

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7 Quick Fixes When You Are Stuck

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Yesterday was one of those days where I planned to tackle one strategic essential (but not urgent) task and ended up getting little nothing accomplished. No matter whether there were several one or two valid reasons or not, having days like that isn’t good for business and doesn’t feel very good.

The good news is if you struggle or feel stuck sometimes too,  you are in good company. Every successful entrepreneur and creative that I know describes a similar struggle with this thing called resistance. We all have those moments or weeks (yes, some stagnate for much, much longer than that) when movement seems slow, progress feels non existent or when we procrastinate our time away.

After yesterday, I decided to make a list of the quick (research-based) fixes I use to make a little progress, especially on the toughest days, so that I have them ready for next time:

  1. Walk away from the computer. Take a shower. Go outside for a 5 minute walk. Make a phone call. Drive somewhere. Take the dog for a walk.
  2. Pre-empt procrastination by creating a to-do list the evening before. Take a few minutes in the evening (yes even when you are tired) and write down the one to two tasks you want to work on. Remember it takes 2 to 10 times longer for the average person (you are anything but average) to complete a task than the time they estimate.
  3. Write down your goal. Are you clear on your company or professional goal and mission? Obvious, maybe for you, but write it down anyway along with why you are doing it. If your goal is long term (more than 12 months out), then write down an interim goal for this year.
  4. Get support. Most entrepreneurs, companies, and individuals that I have worked with could eventually get the job done on their own. The key word being eventually. Although you may be able to figure it out on your own, it will be easier and more fun if you surround yourself with an abundance of support – friends, colleagues, professional consulting and coaching help, etc. DO. NOT go it alone.
  5. Habit wins over willpower every. single. time. Small steps taken over a long period of time will yield results. Have a few habits and stick with them. My morning typically goes like this: drop my daughter off at school (won’t be doing that much longer as she will have her license shortly), pick up my mobile order from Starbucks, run/work out), walk the dog, write. My day starts early so I am sitting at my desk by 9 or 9:15 to write. I save all my meetings, email follow up, and project work for the afternoon because those tasks are easier for me to get done. Confession: Yesterday, I sat at in the Starbucks parking lot after picking up my coffee, and got worked up about the upcoming Presidential election by reading social media posts. The presidential election is important and I value social media as a communications method regarding big issues, but nothing would have changed if I waited until after writing or after lunch to get a pulse on the latest news.
  6. Microsteps are the magic sauce. When you have your one essential, important action you plan to work on for the day, break it up into small, ridiculously easy micro steps, especially for those hard-to-do, high procrastination tasks. And when I say ridiculously easy, I mean that. Writing a report? Open Word and create a new document may be the first item on your list.
  7. Get strategic. If your procrastination is habitual and has prevented you from making progress for weeks, months or longer, it may be time to look at the bigger picture and making sure you are heading in the right direction. Resistance is par for the course when heading toward something that is important to you so I am not suggesting quitting, but check in with yourself (or get professional support if you need it) and intentionally consider whether you are heading in the right direction.

Those are some of my favorite tools to move forward when I am stuck. Now it’s your turn. Write down what helps you feel unstuck and use one of the techniques next time you are in a funk.

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Five Traits of Dreamers Who Do

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Action expresses priorities. -Aristotle

I have worked with many women and also researched what characteristics and actions result in growing toward successful goal attainment. It is no surprised that no matter how varied the person or goal, there are common traits and actions that separate those who move forward on their dreams and those who don’t. Here are my top five favorites:

  1. Identify a clear vision or specific goal. Know where you are headed and why. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dreamers have a mega vision to change the world or start a multibillion dollar company (though some do). But it does mean that their actions have a measurable end in mind. In general, goals are best set within a twelve to eighteen month timeframe and should be measurable. So, even if your vision is to end world hunger, think about what you can accomplish in the next twelve to eighteen months to that end. Sometimes women that I have worked with have are interested in developing a skill, like writing. In those examples, the goal is focused on a regular practice (like writing a blog daily or writing 500 words a day).
  2. Take action. Obvious, right? Without action, a dream won’t happen. Period. Taking consistent, imperfect micro action is the best antidote for fear and inertia. Trying “stuff” out before feeling ready requires a choice not to be derailed by mistakes.
  3. Keep your to-do list short and focus on your goal first. There will be many sparkly new ideas, goals, and projects that will vie for your attention. Keeping your list of goals really, really short will give you the time and energy you need to focus and make progress. For every week, identify one to three actions that will move you closer to the outcome you desire.
  4. Know what is meaningful to you. Successful {re}claimers love (or at minimum like) the work they are committed to. But, more importantly, they believe it to be meaningful and important. Passion can develop over time when invested in something where the results matter to you.
  5. Connect to a tribe. Dream seekers don’t go it alone. Mutual, concrete support through setbacks and successes is a non-negotiable must have. Find a friend, a mastermind, a group, or coach. You will increase your likelihood of success exponentially.

Take 5

How about you? Is there one non-negotiable trait or action that helps you to reach your goals?

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo

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For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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7 Reasons Your Start-Up Isn’t Working (and How to Fix it)

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Many of the women in the Reclaim Your Dreams community start entrepreneurial ventures. Starting a business can be hard (even when it is your dream), but for many of us the freedom, meaning, and financial upside make it worth the risk and challenges.

As I look to 2017 and my personal and professional goals, I have been considering what mistakes companies that I have worked with make (never me, my execution is flawless) as they move toward traction-point. Not always, but my experience is major issues pretty consistently comes down to not addressing the following fundamentals. (Interesting that these same principles apply to other goals too.)

  1. Unclear vision. Know where you are going. Being firmly committed to providing a product or service that provides benefit to a particular customer is always the starting point. Write down the answer to these three questions and you will have the start of your vision. What’s your product or service? Who is your target customer? Why is it important (beneficial, life-changing, impactful, etc.)?
  2. Bad idea. Evaluate your idea and ensure that it is providing significant value to your target audience. Every day I drive through a small town center. Among the flourishing storefronts, I have seen many business failures. For the most part, it’s been painfully obvious from the moment that they opened their doors (even to my kids – who would do there?!) that the owner did not have a viable business model. Business success is not guaranteed, of course, but you can reduce your risk of failure. Start by completing some baseline market research. Also drill down on a revenue and expense model to ensure that you will be able to make a profit.
  3. No short-term goal. Research shows people achieve goals when they are no more than eighteen months away. Beyond that, know what action you are going to take today. I love big visions, but every business needs short-term goals as well. What are the goals of your business in the next six months to one year? I recommend three goals: a revenue, give-back, and organizational.
  4. Doing too much. Focus is non-negotiable, especially if you are bootstrapping your business. It may feel counter-intuitive, but the more you hone your focus the larger your market opportunity. Commit to one product or service to a very targeted customer and expand from there.
  5. Poor business development plan. Let your customers know that you exist and why! Build it and they will come is a nice idea, but who is they and how will they know you exist? Many business owners avoid selling because they don’t like to feel sales-y.   Your job is providing information to your potential customers and it’s up to them to determine whether or not it’s beneficial.
  6. Not hitting launch on your imperfect product. No action. No progress. The new business model favors businesses that are willing to launch imperfect products. It’s easy to get derailed by unimportant tasks or the next shiny idea to talking about your plans. Once you know your goals for the year and have a plan, start every single day with essential micro steps that will move you toward that goal. If the unexpected happens, hustle like a motha and figure out your Plan B for staying on track.
  7. No support. Bootstrapping a new venture can be a lonely endeavor; know who your go-to business peeps are. It’s a better alternative than wringing your hands or hiding under a blanket eating a pint of ice cream when you encounter an obstacle or make a mistake.

You may need to adjust and rework, but address these issues one step at a time and you will increase your likelihood of success tenfold!!

Take 5: Write down your company vision and/or your six to twelve month goal.

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5 Ways to Hustle Like a Motha’

untitled-design-2The word hustle is often used by online marketers to describe the relentless hard work of moving toward a vision or dream. When I read the bravado on this topic, it annoys me. Not because I judge ambition. I love and respect ambitious and hardworking people (including my own)! But I know what the hustle looks like when you have kids or are a caregiver (and/or are working a full-time while starting your dream business) and it doesn’t look like most of what I see online.

Recently, I made my perfect Monday hustle plan on Sunday evening including a check in call first thing Monday morning with a colleague that is my writing buddy who helps me keep on track with my writing goals.

Great structure and accountability habit, right?! …Except my son was running late for school (which he never is) and missed the bus. We planned to speak a little later than usual…but her mom, who is in the early stages of dementia, needed to be taken to an emergency appointment. (Backdrop…my colleague also has two teens and runs a very successful acupuncture business.) Early afternoon then? Well, typically, but my daughter was sick and had to be picked up from school. Although my husband works from home, he was at a meeting in Boston.

When you are responsible for other humans, hustle can feel disjointed some days even for those of us that have the luxury of working from home and have supportive partners to share the load. (The woman that waited on me at Starbucks this morning is not as fortunate.) The rhythm may be different and the pace even a little slower than you would like sometimes, but it is doable to make the professional progress you desire in the midst of it all. I have done it in my own life and have witnessed many other women (including some of you) doing it too. Here’s how I hustle like a mother:

  1. Know your goal, why it’s important to you, and write that sucker down.  It sounds trivial but this is the most important step. Without clarity of purpose, there is always a reason to not get something done. Exceptions are more the rule in life. The question I always ask about my goal is “how can I get this done despite my current circumstances?”
  2. Narrow your focus by quitting. I hate this one because I want to be helpful all the time to everyone. Last year I learned how critical it is to narrow focus to one or two specific goals for the year. Even dreams need to be prioritized. I rarely say an immediate “yes” to anything anymore. For example, I wouldn’t have grown a technology practice to seven figures, started the What’s Your Brave project or written Take 5 for Your Dreams and Reclaim Your Dreams if I hadn’t resigned from almost every volunteer commitment I had (and the list was long). This is hard for me; I still feel guilty about it sometimes. But I was replaceable – and I mean that in the kindest way; when it comes to volunteering/work, we all are.
  3. Plan your one non-negotiable action the night before. And I mean ONE. I make the day’s plan the evening before, know what the one non-negotiable priority for my day is and chunk that out into one to five essential micro steps I can accomplish to get there. 
  4. Focus on values. I don’t want to hire out picking up my sick daughter and my colleague wants to take care of her mom. Now that my kids are getting a little older, I see these moments as opportunities to connect rather than interruptions and distractions, but I also have vocational goals that I feel called toward and I am not willing to sacrifice those either. Now I know my values. I don’t need to clean my house or lead volunteer committees, but I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can and move forward on my vocational dream.
  5. Practice self-compassion. (Or alternatively, a who-cares attitude about stuff that doesn’t matter to you.) It never doesn’t always look pretty and my house is kind of a mess, but I am learning to keep it in perspective. 

Did I hustle that Monday in the midst of it all? You bet, though not at the time or in the way I prefer. Rather than putting my goal off until the next day, I asked, how can I get this done now despite the changes in my schedule? Later that day, I went for a quick run which always stimulates ideas and wrote in my car. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but it was done.

How about you? How do you hustle like a mother?

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4 Actions You Can Take While You Are Working *Only* for the Money

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My job is soul-sucking.

It’s not the first time I have heard this phrase from someone that is miserable in their work. Many people that are deeply unsatisfied and unhappy at their jobs describe an oppressive (and sometimes hostile) daily existence including: a lack of trust in their co-workers or management, feeling pressure to perform without support (or sometimes active sabotaging), political game playing such as others taking credit for their work, experiencing subtle or overt sexism, finding the work meaningless, boring, or in some cases morally bankrupt, etc…

Others say they feel as though they are not living up to their potential or want to be involved in work and people that matter to them. At some point during the conversation, I usually ask:

So why not quit?

And the response:

I can’t afford it.

This is smart response. Financial security and taking care of your family are meaningful reasons to stay at your soul-sucking job temporarily. If timing is your choice, I never recommend quitting your current position without a transition plan and an understanding of what’s next for you.

Sometimes though, especially for those in high-paying and/or prestigious positions, the conversation leads to staying because of the importance of maintaining a certain lifestyle.

Reminder: A few weeks of family vacation where you worry about your work often, that beautiful house where you can’t sleep without medication, or weekend’s where you feel depressed and exhausted…is not much of a lifestyle.

Whether you are at a soul-sucking job or simply want to do something bigger or more meaningful, there is a third option. Stay while you plan your escape by:

  1. Saving. Reduce or alleviate the financial risk of making a big shift. Reduce your expenses, get a second job, support your spouse in working, or start a side gig. Most people that are unhappy at work feel that they do not have any other choice but to stay. Without some level of financial safety net, the risk and anxiety of leaving your job may be too significant.
  2. Dreaming. There is zero risk in dreaming about what you want. Carve out even five minutes a day to explore and be intentional about your work and life dreams by asking yourself the big questions. Reflect on what it is most important to you in the next phase of work and life.  With the right questions and process in a short time you will see patterns and a direction emerge. Reconnect with your dreams first and then get very practical about what is feasible and what would be a financially profitably way to approach it. Here are a couple of questions to get you started. Remember these are brainstorming exercises, so no filter and no right or wrong answer. This is between you and you.  Your answers may range from specific and small to visionary to vague: If time, money, or the opinion of others were not a factor, what goals and activities would you pursue? What issues, causes, and problems that need solving have you been particularly drawn to.
  3. Taking micro steps. Don’t stop with dreaming, because without action (and eventually a plan), you won’t make progress. Once you know what you want, then start making a list of infinitesimal, doable steps you can take toward it.
  4. Finding something meaningful in your work now. Bringing more of yourself into your life can help. Try one of these every day: write down one way in which you are contributing in a positive way to your company; start the day by recording one thing you are grateful for at work; reach out consciously to someone at work with a kind or encouraging word; go outside at lunch and breathe the fresh air; or brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas to help your company that would also fuel your own passions.

How about you, what one small, infinitesimal step can you take to begin toward work that is meaningful to you?

 

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