Make 2017 the Year of YOU!

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Make 2017 the Year of YOU!

We all do it. We make ourselves promises on New Year’s Day. Many of us, myself included, fail to keep those promises. I think we fail because we put too much pressure on ourselves. We fear failure.
But what if instead of “promising” we just made a conscious effort to just do what we know we need to do based on the results we want to achieve.
I don’t know about you, but I am certain that I have access to the resources to make an educated decision for choosing an implementing a course of action.
When we move from promises to simple action, we eliminate the pressure of the promise and the fear of failure would be gone. It’s all a mind game. And just like an animal smells fear, the mind responds to what we fear by manifesting it.
My goal for 2017 is to bring you speakers and workshops that emphasize our personal empowerment to make the right choices for ourselves, our businesses and our families.
We’ll start on January 10th at Blue Heron Pines Country Club with with access to health and wellness options presented by a panel of local experts at Blue Heron Pines Country Club with “New Year, New You.”
We’ll follow that up on January 25th at Ramblewood Country Club with a look at our business health. Todd Cohen, international speaker and author, of “Everyone’s in Sales, Stop Apologizing, will examine the sales culture.
For more information on both events and to register, click the links below.
January 10th “New Year, New You–a Health & Wellness Symposium

January 25th “Everyone is in Sales–Stop Apologizing”

Until then, I wish you a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous New Year!

 

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What I Learned from Trump’s Victory

believe-in-yourself-and-you-will-becoming

Let me say this right upfront–I did not vote for Trump. I just couldn’t. Not that I disagree with his goal of getting people back to work and strengthening the country’s position in the world–but because of the hate that seems to surround his vision and my personal concern for woman’s rights.

But this isn’t a column about politics; it’s about examining how Trump won.

Donald Trump was unflappable in his belief in himself and his mission to “Make America Great Again.” He never faltered, even when media blasted him, people spoke out against him, and when media polls showed him losing the race. He never showed signs of fear and indecision.

He made a plan and worked his plan….because he believed he knew his audience. Trump manifested what he believed he would become…President of the United States of America.

We hear a lot about manifesting one’s destiny. We saw it in action in this election and will continue to see it in Trump’s actions. In fact, the original term “Manifest Destiny,” dates back to the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable. Seems fitting to recycle it under the Trump White House.

This isn’t new for him. His books, “The Art of the Deal” and “Think Like A Champion,” both talk about having the right mindset for the job and that “winners see problems as just another way to prove themselves.” [personal note: Yes, I have read and own both of these books]

How many of us in business, when faced with negativity, can hold onto our belief in ourselves, stay the course, and work the plan.

I know I have struggled with confidence. I visualized my goal and then I cut the legs out from under myself by doubting my ability to manifest the results. But I am done with that self-defeating belief system.

If nothing else, this election taught me that you have to continuously reinforce the message internally and externally that “I am worthy. I believe in myself. I can and will manifest my goals and dreams.”

If you believe, others will feel empowered to believe in you, too!

Marilyn

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Glass Half Empty?

half-empty

So are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person? My answer? Well I always wanted to be the glass half full person, but sometimes it seemed like there was a crack in my glass–as quickly as it started to fill up, the leak began. Recognizing that this was not moving me toward a positive outcome was my first step towards changing it. Sort of step 1 in my 12 step program to success!

Step 2: Admitting that it has had limited me

Step 3: Recognizing the triggers (fear, insecurity)

Step 4: Understanding the reasons

Step 5: Accepting that it is up to me to change

Step 6: Making a commitment to change

Step 7: Setting an outcome based goal

Step 8: Identifying alternate responses/actions

Step 9: Creating opportunities to succeed

Step 10: Surrounding myself with positive people

Step: 11: Refocusing my energies towards my goals

Step 12: Start fresh with a new glass and start pouring until the cup runneth over with success!!

So with my new glass, I raise a toast to all of you who are empowering yourself to move towards the positive by refocusing your energy, surrounding yourself with positive people, and creating opportunities to succeed!

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Standing Ground

stand-your-ground

As part of the rebirth of my Empowering Connections Speaker Series, I revisited and reconnected with a core group of women who had always been cheerleaders to me and each other. The women of SJWN (South Jersey Women’s Network) meet every Wednesday morning at the Shore Diner in Egg Harbor Township.

As we went around and introduced ourselves and gave our 60 second commercial, my dear friend and fabulous photographer, Donna Andrews (Donna Andrews Photography), shared a lesson learned from her very busy and productive summer photography sessions.

Donna relayed the story of a client’s increasing requests for services that, had she provided, would have cut steeply into her profit margin and diminished her brand.

What we often don’t think about as consumers is the amount of work that goes into creating a finished product and that business owners create a set pricing schedule based on that total package.

In this case, Donna, who is an artist first, uses photography as her medium to express her art–whether it be Alaskan wildlife (where her love of photography was born) or the family portrait that captures the love and devotion shared by generations.

Her artistry doesn’t end when the camera stops clicking. And that is what, as consumers, we tend to overlook or downplay. The truth is, some of her most artistic and time consuming work comes as she works with the images to produce those timeless photos we can’t wait to display on our walls.

To ask her to just “put the photos on a CD and we’ll do the rest” is not what she offers. She offers the complete process that includes editing and enhancing the photos into those works of art to be hung on the wall.

Anything less is not what her brand represents. Asking her for less is not really negotiable.

But yet, as consumers, that’s just what we do. We constantly ask more for less, or in this case, just a portion of what the package includes.

She stood her ground and client was thrilled with the final result. Yes, they paid in full for it, but in the long run, the result was worth the price.

Donna stood her ground and stayed true to her brand.

As business professionals, are  you standing your ground, or are you letting the pressures of competition and the fear of lowered revenue, lesson your brand?

Think about it and then rethink your strategy.

You stand your ground and you perform your art. That’s what the artist does. The artist is about perfection-Mike Tyson

 

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Flush Your Fears

empc10-26-16event

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Don’t Let Difficulties Define You

Don’t Deflect-Accept

You are not a victim. Something in the change of actions taken by you created your situation

Break it Down

Whether personal or career related-find a coach or a mentor that can break down the steps to see how or where you went wrong

Crank it Up

Don’t become the story–Tell your story so others can learn from your lessons

Get Down to It

Move on passed and find the new journey

 

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Of Newspeak and Urban Wars

give peace a chance

For years I have been a fan of author J.D. Robb (a Nora Roberts pseudonym) and her “In Death” series of books that begin in the year 2058. When I started reading these books, the year 2058 felt far away, as did Orwell’s 1984,  back in the early 70’s when I first read it.

1984 as with  J.D. Robb’s series, aside from intergalactic business ventures and some futuristic household items, share an all too real connection with the world as we know it today.

Government “newspeak” and “big brother ” may have seemed far-fetched when George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. Today both are taken for granted. And “thoughtcrime” seems to be imminent.

Robb’s “In Death” series features Lieutenant Eve Dallas, in period of time called post Urban Wars and takes place in New York City. The Urban War, also called Urban Revolt,  was defined as a “violent period of urban unrest” that ended in the year 2020.

It is important to note, that the  Urban War was not contained to the United of America.Per the story, it was also happening in Europe, as well.

In Witness in Death, published in 2000, Robb wrote “At election time, city officials made lofty speeches about revitalizing the area (Alphabet City), made stirring promises to fight the good fight against neglect, crime, and the general decay of the ailing sector of the city. After the elections, the entire matter went back in the sewer to rot and ripen for another term.[15]

When asked if she thinks of the Urban Wars when watching TV, she replied, “I have thought of the Urban Wars a few times when watching the news. A little bit scary.”-Nora Roberts, December 13, 2005.

That was sixteen years ago. Today with the recent violence in Orlando, Dallas, in Paris France, and today in Baton Rouge, LA–I can’t help but believe that the Urban War has just begun…for real.

Something has to change!

I can only hope and pray that we do not witness the mass death and destruction of the Urban War that ended in 2020, as depicted by J.D. Robb.

“All we are asking, is to give peace a chance…”

Note: Some information above was gathered and quoted from the website Wikiindeath 

 

 

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The Who, What and Where, When, How and Why of Business

In public relations, the most important part of a press release is the lead. You need to succinctly present the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of the story, in a manner that catches your audience’s attention.

The same holds true for your business. You need to be able to answer these questions before you leap into action.

  • Do you know who is your target market?
  • Do you know what your target market needs?
  • Do you know where you fit in the marketplace?
  • Do you have a timetable for when you expect to reach your goals?
  • Do you know how you will reach your target market?
  • Do you know why you are doing this…what is your personal motivation?

I learned this the hard way. A “serial entrepreneur” as business coach once called me, I was quick to leap before securing my landing…the foundation of the business

It is not the writing of a business plan but the execution of that plan, that determines your success. Plan the work (but plan it realistically-unrealistic plans can lead to let down and failure)…then work the plan.

  • Knowing your target market includes doing the research to understand the demographics, the potential reach, the trends, and the marketplace
  • What is your unique selling proposition? Does your target market need and is your product or service filling a need, creating a new need, and what differentiates you from the rest of the “need fillers” out there?
  • Understanding if you are a little fish in a sea of opportunity or a big fish in a local pond.
  • Setting a timetable for milestones in your business will allow you to see ongoing victories, keep you motivated towards your goal and give you a measuring stick for how you are doing. It will help you determine at what point you may need to staff, tweak your marketing, to ramp up your sales process.
  • Today we have a plethora or marketing options.Your target market and the research you have conducted will determine where to market your product or services. Flooding the market with advertising and hoping something sticks, is throwing money away.
  • And for me, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: Why am I doing this, do I understand the risks, and do i have the dedication to ride the highs and lows of the journey?  If you cannot quickly and concisely answer these questions, you might need to take a step back and work on yourself before you work on your business.

If you need help answering any of (5) “W’s” and ( 1) “H”,  let’s talk! Give me a call at 609-238-0077.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Image Everything?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

Lately I’ve really come to hate my mirror. It doesn’t even matter what angle I use, I still see an image that is less than flattering to my ego. This hits me at my very core.

Okay, I recognize that this is a personal problem and that I have at my fingertips a network of trusted resources to seriously address many of these this issues.
I grew up with tight, frizzy, curly hair (before the Afro was popular) and was always on the pudgy side (I still remember my pediatrician saying “all potatoes and no meat—ha! Now I’m equal portions of both!) Even in the 60’s skinny and straight hair was what girls saw as perfection.
But other than health, why does it matter that I am no longer the same size 12 that I was 5 years ago? For that matter, why do I care that my husband has long, and sometimes unruly, hair?  Here’s my ego saying, “I want him to look a certain way so people take ME seriously when we are out together.”
And why, when I struggle to pay bills each month, I find the money to color my hair, get my nails done and buy new clothes?
And let me share this secret with you…your image of yourself…it is everything! But it is not so much about your body as it is about your mind. How you feel about the way you look can alter the way you feel, the way you present yourself, the clothes you chose to wear, the people with who you interact, and the confidence in which you go after what you want. It is a struggle that you can win without altering the outer picture, but by readjusting the inner picture.
At Empowering Connections, LLC we talk a lot about the tools we need to grow our business. That those tools are not stand alone items. We take a more holistic approach: healthy mind, healthy body, healthy business. At our events, speakers will share their knowledge, ideas, and experiences that help sharpen  the tools in your toolbox, whether it be for personal growth or professional growth. We are all a work in progress!

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“Big Girl Panties”

When I read the title of Stephanie Evanovich’s first book, I thought..”now there’s title I can relate to”–considering my pant size was in the double digits. What I didn’t expect was the journey I took to empowerment while reading her book.

Even though my wedding was less than a year away and my asthma was acting up, I was still eating junk food and packing on the pounds. I had forsaken the gym for the television set, downloading books on my Kindle so I could  lay around reading, and eating late night snacks. I had also stopped networking. Boy, was I unhappy with myself.

Downloading books on my Kindle wasn’t bad thing. In fact, that is how I found Stephanie Evanovich. Her book popped up as a suggested book that I might like based on past purchases. I read the preview, purchased the book and then sought her out on Facebook and sent her a message introducing myself.

And she wrote back!! I was so excited that I invited her to be a speaker for my Empowering Connections Speaker Series…this was in August of 2014 and I wasn’t even sure if I was actually going to launch it.

She said, “Jersey girls need to support each other and I’d love to speak.” Next she set me up with her publisher, Harper Collins.  I was in too deep now to turn back…and so Empowering Connections Speaker Series was born.

As I read the book, I found I really did relate to Holly, her main character. By 1 am that night I finished the book. And I sent her this FB message: Well, it’s a little after 1am…I just finished your first book! I couldn’t stop reading until it was over. First, I want to thank you for voicing so many of my own fears and insecurities…not all of them, but at least the ones concerning my weight. So many of her private thoughts echoed in my head. And second, and why I am absolutely sure I want you to be my first speaker, is because your words empowered me. I am seen by my friends as a strong woman, and most would say they couldn’t care less (other than healthwise) what I weigh or what size I wear. But for the past year, my mirror has mocked me. I just started to work with a spiritual therapist to get passed it. Holly’s training with Logan gave me desire to push myself, too.

A good fiction book is like that–you start with the goal of being entertained and you learn about yourself along the way. Turns out, the story is much the same for authors. Most don’t start out being book authors. It is the proverbial fork in the road that leads them down that path.

That is definitely true in Stephanie’s case and I am thrilled to invite you to An Evening with Stephanie Evanovich (yes, Janet is her aunt) on March 31st at the Atlantic City Country Club from 6:30-8:30pm. She will share her journey from actor to parent to author and all the challenges and successes in between. By the way, Stephanie followed up Big Girl Panties with her second novel, The Sweet Spot, which will be on sale in paperback at the event.

And of course, by the time I finished the book, the phrase “Big Girl Panties,” no longer refereed to size, but maturity and confidence. I was no longer afraid to put them on, instead I ready to step into them!

To learn more about the event on March 31st with Stephanie Evanovich, and to register, click this link: REGISTER HERE

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In Like a Lion

March is known to come in like a lion and go out as a lamb. But March is also Women’s History Month and the only lambs are the women who sacrificed everything to brave the wilderness of equality.
So it only seems fitting that our guest speaker this month is Sara Canuso, president of Women That Influence. Sara will be sharing, 3 Steps to Ignite Your Mindset, Power & Influence at Valleybrook Country Club on March 10th from 6:30-8:30pm.
I feel so blessed because all my life I have been surrounded by women that influence, starting with my mother. Growing up I thought I never wanted to be like my mom. Now I thank my lucky stars that I grew up to hold the same ideals that she lived by.
Today I had the honor and privilege of helping one of the first professional women that influenced my life. She came into the Atlantic County Housing Recovery Center to sign her grant to rebuild her home that was destroyed by Super Storm Sandy. Catherine was one of three owners of GraphicData…and the only female. Back in the 80’s, the printing industry was predominantly run by men. She was fierce and strong when needed, and nurturing and loyal to her employees. With her help, I grew strong, too.
In fact, I’ve been fortunate to work for a number of successful and influential women. When I was Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, I worked for and along side of two amazing women, Debra DiLorenzo, President and CEO and Kathleen Davis, Executive Vice-President. From these two women, my strength took on a new dimension–confidence.
But there is no doubt that beside my mom, Sandra Yancey, Founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork, was the woman that had the most profound influence on who I am today.
I dedicate Women’s History Month to these and many others who were brave enough to let their voices be heard.
     Which make me realize, I was wrong earlier…those women were not sacrificial lambs, they were the LIONS and we can still hear them ROAR!
Looking forward to getting together on March 10th at Valleybrook Country Club so we can celebrate YOU and the Women That Influence in YOUR life!

Thank you,
Marilyn

Don’t forget…Click here to register for our March event!

Tuesday, March 10th
Valleybrook Country Club, Blackwood, NJ
6:30-8:30pm Buffet Dinner included
$35.00pp pre-registered
$40 at the door
Market and promote your business with a Display table for only $20 more!

 

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Guardian Angels

I remember the first time I thanked a Guardian Angel. I was driving home from work at the Oxford Valley Mall. I was close to home…on the Roosevelt Blvd. in Northeast Philadelphia and getting ready to cross over from the center lanes into the right lanes. After looking for oncoming traffic, I pulled out to merge into the lane, and out of nowhere a car came screaming at me and just missed me.

That’s when I looked up to the sky and said, thank you Dad. My dad had passed away recently and I just knew he was there with me. That was 1987 and since then, my mom also passed away.  I believe they are both watching over me–because that’s what parents do.

However, I never really “believed” in the spiritual world in a larger sense, never heard of Spiritual Guides, and never experienced a reading.

And then I met Milton Byron, who I now call Magical Mystical Milton…and very soon, my husband.

We’d only been going out a short time—he still knew nothing of my family or special places in my life.  I was living in a condo in Cherry Hill and he came over to visit. I was working on my computer in my office (aka, extra bedroom) when he started to describe a white house with green awning. Granted, that could be many buildings, but when he described the gas pump in the driveway, I nearly fell out of my chair.

I knew exactly what he was talking about–my Uncle Aaron’s house in Imlaystown, NJ (blink and you’ve passed it as you drive through the area).

I loved my Uncle Aaron and Aunt Selma… and I loved their house. We spent many holidays there and when my mom had back surgery when I was seven years old, I stayed with them for a while.

That was a magical house for me….my dream home. And here was Milt describing it to me. And then he starting giving me messages from my mom. I couldn’t stop crying.

This changed my world and it opened up a window to new experiences. All of a sudden I started meeting others like him–each sharing a piece of me through messages from the beyond.

One of those people is a beautiful spirit in her own right, Colleen DiGiacomo, known as Colleen St. Michaels to the public. Because Milt is too close to me to work on any personal issues, I turn to Colleen for insight, for guidance, and for a sense of being.

It is truly my pleasure to invite you to experience her spirituality at the next Empowering Connections Speaker Series event on February 17th at Ron Jaworski’s Valleybrook Country Club. For more information and to register for “An Empowering Evening with Colleen St. Michaels,” click here.

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Getting Healthy…Again

So I really wanted to title this, “Why are all the Bachelorettes Skinny Bitches?,” but I thought that might not bode well with spam filters!

Yes, I admit that I watch this Reality TV show. But don’t let that define me…I just can’t help myself…it is so NOT reality.

Not everyone carries extra weight. Some work really hard to keep it off.  I admire them. But if you are like me, weight is not your friend. This is a true story: I was at a family wedding back in September. I was all dressed up, and while I knew I had put on more pounds on than I’d like to admit, I still thought I was looking hot…lol

Well, the photographer, also a family member, sent me a picture of myself saying, “I’ve never seen you so big. This is not healthy. Please lose weight.” Now you may think what I originally thought…WTF?” Until I looked at the picture and saw what she saw.

That was my REALITY. So I joined the gym…again, started counting carbs…again, and started losing weight…again. I’ve been on this road before and I always promise myself I’ll stay on track.

But when I lose my way, it is good to know that I have people who care about me, resources I can reach out to, and places I can go, to get back on track.

kathleen baumgardnerOne of those friends is Dr. Kathleen Baumgardner, CEO of Health Goals Chiropractic and Life Enhancement Center. And now she can be a resource for you and her practice a place for you to enhance and empower your life!

Join me at the launch of Empowering Connections Speaker Series, New Year….Are You Ready for a NEW YOU? featuring Dr. Baumgardner on January 20th, 6:30-8:30pm at Journey Cafe in Audobon, NJ.

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Long Time Comin’

It’s been a long time since my last post….funny how easy it is to jump off a bandwagon when something new and shiny comes your (my) way. Okay, maybe not so funny.

But I never took my eye off the prize…creating a space to share thoughts, ideas, create events and empower people to connect to their own strengths and dreams.

So I figured why not make this my 2015 New Year’s resolution—get my Empowering Connections Speaker Series up and running. I am happy to say that the first will be on January 20th, 2015 and will feature Dr. Kathleen Baumgardner, CEO of Health Goals Chiropractic and Life Enhancement Center.  To learn more or to register, visit http://www.eventzilla.net/web/event?eventid=2139046018

I also miss writing, so with this renewed spirit, I will use this space to share my thoughts and insights, and maybe repeat some short essays from the past that still have value today.

My thanks to all who visit. Your comments are always welcome.

Marilyn

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Noah’s Ark for Business

So, who’s Got Your Back?

If you live in the northeastern part of the US, or it seems anywhere on the east coast, you’ve heard or said…”where’s the ark…its been raining 40 days and 40 nights!”
It got me thinking, what would I take with me, as a 21st century businesswomen, on my ark?
I’d take two computers, two printers, two cell phones, two generators, two sets of legal pads and pens….but what about people?
Well I’d certainly take two of my best girlfriends (who else would you complain to when your hair is all frizzy because of the rain!)
Let me tell you about a program that eWomenNetwork, Inc.,  launched a few years ago called “Building Your NOAH.” It was created to help their managing directors build stronger chapters.
The goal is for each chapter to have at least two representatives for every industry: two accountants, two marketing specialists, two financial planners, two event planners, two florists, two computer specialists, two skin care specialists, two…you get the idea.
But do you get the idea behind it? It’s about creating opportunities for alliances, partnerships and resources. Let’s face it, not everyone  works well together and not every service is identical just because it sounds the same.
Alliances and partnerships become your back up plan, your go to people, your measuring stick of accomplishments. They help you build a stronger ark. They’ve got your back!

 

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Building a Strong Team—Gratitude is Key

Who Have You Thanked Lately?

A lesson learned is often at the expense of others. If you are lucky, you are forgiven and both parties walk away smarter.
Such was the case this week when I was reminded that no matter how seasoned and professional a person is in their industry, everyone needs recognition for a job well done.
I also heard about an employee meeting a friend attended. The employees were concerned about some new procedures being implemented and the response from management was “If you don’t like it, there are plenty of people looking for work. I am sure we can find a replacement for you.” OUCH!
It got me thinking, how many of us take for granted the very people who help us grow personally and professionally.
In order to build a strong business, you need a strong team surrounding you–from employees to vendors; from clients to business alliances; from volunteers to friends and family.
Every last one of these individuals is integral to your success. Doesn’t matter if they are compensated for their support, they need/deserve recognition that their efforts are appreciated.I always try to say thank you whenever someone does something for me. It could be something that they are expected to do
Gratitude is simple. It can be verbal or written. It can be a special lunch just to say thanks.
No one should be taken for granted.

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Ride the rail to the finish line…become a business jockey!

Can You See the Finish Line?

Last weekend, on a sloppy, muddy course, I watched an unknown horse, an unknown trainer, and a savvy jockey win the biggest contest in the horse racing industry–the Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird (the horse) was the underdog going at 50-1 odds.
Do you sometimes feel that you are operating at similar odds? That the course is muddy and you can’t get a solid grip? That your vision is so blurred that the finish line is no longer in view?
How did they do it? First, the trainer, Chip Wooley, had a true sense of belief and trust in the horse. He had an unbridled passion for the sport. And he had something to prove–he was the long shot.
The horse, well, he was a supreme animal with a winning lineage. But it was the jockey that won the race by adjusting his course, clearing his vision and he “riding the rail to the finish line.”
The jockey, (Calvin Borel), despite the odds, believed in himself. He was committed to working towards the goal by using his proven skills and talents. He never gave up. And he never lost sight of the finish line.
Together–trainer, horse and jockey, they formed the perfect alliance built on trust, passion and the ability to keep a clear eye on the finish line.
Who are you building alliances with to reach your goals? It’s obvious the trainer could not achieve his goal without the horse and the jockey. Do you know who your business needs as key alliances? Are you working to create these relationships?

originally published in June’09

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Is Your Business Suffering from the Groundhog Day Syndrome?

 
I bet you know what I mean…the feeling that everything you are doing, you’ve done before. Bill Murray said (perhaps screamed) it best in the movie Groundhog Day, “It’s always February 2nd and there is nothing I can do about it!”
     When I get that feeling, I generally go into escape mode–as my former employers and boyfriends can attest.        
     So what can you do in your business to get past “February 2nd”?
—Shake up your routine–rearrange your daily activities
—Expand your business products or services
—Hire an assistant to help with the “day to day” stuff
—Take clients to a new venue for a meeting (it is so easy to go where “everybody knows your name”, but sharing a new experience can actually build a relationship
—Ask for more or different responsibilities

—Stop and smell the roses…okay that sounds hokey, but gratitude can influence your attitude. 
 
Well, since it is February, let me say, “Happy Groundhog Day…may it only happen once a year!
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And the Beat Goes on…

So it’s been about 8 months since my bankruptcy was approved. During those 8 months there have been a number of life changing challenges.

In February, I experienced a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) which is also known as a mini-stroke. It came out of nowhere. One minute I was making dinner, the next minute I was staring at my left arm wondering why it had fallen down by my side.

Milt’s police training immediately kicked in and he had me counting backwards, reciting the alphabet and touching my nose with my finger. All good until I tried to touch my nose with the left hand…no response.

911 was called and the ambulance and EMS team arrived shortly. Took my first ride in an ambulance and for the first time ever in my life (other than birth), I was admitted as a patient into the hospital.

Life is funny…when I got up to my room, we knew the nurse on duty. She and Milt worked together years ago in a health club. And she was on duty when Milt had his TIA back in 2006. It was a good sign!

Even funnier…I liked the food!Seriously, even on a low salt, low-fat, low cholesterol diet, I actually looked forward to my meals!

My roommate was a bit nosy and talkative, but she had a good heart and we got along fine.

Turns out my blood pressure was good but my cholesterol, which was under 200, was a bad mix of high LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol). This is an important distinction. Even though my total was 183 (well below the 200 mark, so I hadn’t been concerned in the past), it was still bad news. Lesson learned.

There was a noticeable but not worrisome amount of plaque built up in the carotid arteries.

And the MRI showed something totally unexpected, a Cavernous Vascular Anomaly (I remember picturing this big hole in my brain–thinking I finally had an excuse for my forgetfulness!) While it did not seem to be related to the TIA, it was something to be monitored and it ruled out taking aspirin as a daily precaution for future stoke or heart attack.

After 3 nights and 4 days at Shore Memorial Hospital, I was released with a prescription for Crestor and a commitment to eat better, go to the gym more and take back my health!

I made follow-up appointments with the neurologist, neurosurgeon, and the cardiologist.

And then the bills from the ambulance, the EMS, and the hospital all rolled in. Another lesson learned the hard way–if you are going to pay for insurance, make sure it covers all the basics including emergency and EMS expenses ($2400 out-of-pocket expense!).

It also doesn’t fully cover out-patient radiology (MRI or MRA) which my doctors requested. Another $1600 of out-of-pocket expenses—those are on hold as I research options with my insurance company.

On the bright side I have lost close to 10 pounds since I was released from the hospital, I’m wearing clothes that have been hiding in my closet for way too long and I’m working on getting “my sexy back.”

And the beat goes on…

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The Tissue Box (part six of my banruptcy story)

I’m not real good with authority figures. I either get intimidated or defensive. A lawyer, I was raised to believe, is a person of authority. And now I needed one.

Thankfully I know a lot of nice  lawyers. One happens to be on my Leadership Team  at eWomenNetwork, so when I decided to move forward with the bankruptcy, I reached out to Lynda Hinkle. However, bankruptcy is not  one of her many areas of expertise, so she referred me Ira Deiches,  a bankruptcy lawyer in Haddonfield. That’s how good networking works…you don’t take on something that is not your strength, instead you defer and refer.

So, I gathered up all my papers and I went to meet with Mr. Deiches. His office was five minutes from what was still “my” condo at that point-but I came up from Atlantic County where I was living, to meet with him.

What I remember most about that meeting was the tissue box. He asked me a couple of questions and the next thing I knew I was a blubbering, crying, pathetic mess. Mr. Deiches said nothing; he just handed me the tissue box.

This quiet gesture  soothed me. Bankruptcy is traumatic but a good support system can do wonders.

Bankruptcy can be mind-boggling, too. Chapter 7.  Chapter 11.  Chapter 13. Did I want to re-organize, did I have a lot of assets, did I need a clean slate? Was it business or personal…or both?

I sat and listened to him. And I wrote down every word he said–I wanted to become educated in the process and take ownership of my decisions.

Leaving his office I felt I knew what I wanted to do. By the time I got home, all the information became a jumbled mess in my head. I sat down with my boyfriend Milt and I realized I was on overload. Too much emotion and too much information to handle at once. Next time Milt was coming with me. A second set of ears was needed.

After two more meetings with Ira (we were now on a first name basis–after all he knew my life story!) the decision was made to file Chapter 7  for both my personal finances and business finances. The personal and the business were intertwined by the collateral on my SBA loan. And the credit card debt in the company name, also carried personal liabilities.

There was a huge sense of relief…there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

But there was no way around it; the condo in Cherry Hill was history. And while I’d let go of  a lot of the guilt that was holding me back, I really didn’t want to let go of the condo–it was my security blanket.  It was supposed to be my retirement money. Now it was just gone.

I made mistakes and now it was time to pay the piper.  The tears come and go, but I am clear that I had no choice. And I am thankful that bankruptcy, no matter how personally painful, was an option for me.

Now is the time to look forward for new opportunities, not look back at lost possessions.

Still, a tissue now and then is understandable.

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Help From Beyond (my banruptcy story part 5)

So I’m at the lowest of lows…my bank account is empty and so am I.  My self-confidence is all but gone.  It’s been two years of struggling and juggling. And I hate what I have become. Worse, I fear what has to be done.

My friends would tell me to meditate. Picture a garden and a cabin…Go towards the cabin…Relax….Let Go…  Well, I’ve never been good at letting go. The few times I tried, I’d find myself in a garden right out of a horror movie. Instead of living growing organisms, I’d see black, decaying flowers.  Not good for calming the soul…

I do need to back up a bit in this story and tell that it is not all doom and gloom.  I have the love of a man that makes me smile, laugh, and who gives me strength.

But not even he could save a sinking ship.  Part of the reason that my cruise business was going under was the recognition that the passion that ignites me at work and in life was elsewhere.

For the majority of my adult life I either belonged to or led organizations that helped people grow their business. In 2008 I returned to my core passion and bought the rights to start a chapter of eWomenNetwork in Southern New Jersey.  eWomenNetwork’s  purpose is to enrich and empower the lives and businesses of women entrepreneurs AND to help them reach their full potential and accomplish their dreams.

I love what I do and I love our members. They have been the real support system for me during these past two years, whether they know it or not.

But there I was, month after month, standing before these women and feeling like an impostor. How could I lead when I had no idea where I was going?

And then something amazing happened. It’s March 2010 and I’m on the phone planning  an event in Atlantic City, “A Night of Spiritual and Energy Healing.” I’m talking with one of our members and a featured speaker of the event, Lisa Monahan of Bridging Energies.

In the middle of this conversation about logistics, Lisa stops me and asks, “Is there something of father’s near you?” My response, “Yes, my mom and dad’s wedding picture is my screen saver and I always wear his high school ring.”  Lisa says, “he wants you to know that they are proud of you; that you should not feel guilty about letting them down; you have not let them down. They love you and want the best for you and you must do what you need to do. They are behind you, supporting you.”

Now Lisa had no idea what I was going through. I hadn’t shared it with many people at that point. Tears streamed down my face and I experienced a sudden sense of freedom. I thanked her and cried for another 30 minutes. Tears of appreciation. Tears of love.

The next day I called a lawyer.

Reality bites…but at least I’m moving forward.

Compelled to Share….the next installment of “My Bankruptcy Story.”

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Emotional Barriers to Cleaning the Slate (my bankruptcy story part 4)

By 2009 it was clear that I was headed for difficult times. A missed payment here, a late payment there, and interest rates that soared from 4.7 or even 11.2 to 28-29%. I lived off my credit cards so that whatever money I did make could go towards paying my home equity and SBA loan monthly payments.

But in reality, I wasn’t even able to do that. I was using the SBA money to pay the SBA loan…it was cannibalistic and I knew eventually that all the money would be eaten up by the monthly payments and credit card debt.

The cruise business was barely dog paddling in the water. It was more like a ship in a raging storm overwhelmed by swells then popping back to the surface for a moment only to be swallowed again by the waves.

Worse than that, my passion for the industry was at low tide.

And still my ego would not let me even contemplate bankruptcy. Nor would my sense of ethics–I just didn’t understand how anyone could run up debt with a promise to pay and then walk away from that responsibility.

My parents instilled in me a strong sense of integrity. One of the reasons I fought the idea of bankruptcy for two years was because I couldn’t get past the idea that I would be reneging on my promise to pay. I took out loans and used my credit cards in good faith. It just felt contrary to everything I believed in, and against my sense of integrity. It felt wrong and I felt guilty.

Plus I felt like a failure. Like I let my parents down.  I would have to give up my condo that I had previously paid off with the money my mom left me when she passed (my father has passed in 1987). This was the most difficult part — knowing I would  lose  something that was so attached to me. It also was the loss of my future security that my mom was so adamant about, especially since I am not married and have no children of my own. But I had used it as collateral for my SBA loan and home equity line of credit and there was no other way I could ever pay it off.”

I was sick from indecision. I was stuck in the mud of failure and I was fighting against the only way out.

Next: The breakthrough

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