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Archive for August, 2009

I'm Sorta Over "Authenticity"

August 31st, 2009

Authenticity
noun 1. genuineness, purity, realness, veritableness
noun
2. accuracy, truth, certainty, validity, reliability, legitimacy, verity, actuality, faithfulness, truthfulness, dependability, trustworthiness, authoritativeness, factualness

Collins Essential Thesaurus2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2005, 2006

Five  years ago, when I first got into the world of life coaching, the words “authentic” and “authenticity” were fresh  and new. I found them so liberating – they gave me permission to discover and then be mflamey true self.

And in that way, I still love – no – wallow in the very idea of purity and realness as the very best way to exist on this planet.

But now, the word is everywhere. And I do mean EVERYWHERE. I heard it last night on a commercial for a cell phone. Still not exactly sure how a cell phone ties in with authenticity. But who can blame them for trying to add it to their marketing? Everyone else has.

And I admit – I use it, too. But I think I’m going to stop. Every sales page I read uses it, lots of tweets use it, many blogs and blog posts use it. It’s become a marketing word. And even worse, I’m seeing courses popping up on How to Use Authentic Marketing. Has authenticity become a commodity; something we buy, sell and trade?  Or worse, is it now a card in our marketing deck?

Somehow that just seems wrong. And it turns a beautiful, powerful word into something ubiquitous and, sadly, mediocre.

So, I am open to suggestions. What word or words can I use in place of “authentic” or “authenticity” that delivers the same message?

Tesla: My Escaping Mediocrity Car

August 26th, 2009

I first heard rabout the Tesla when I watched a segment on it on 60 Minutes last Fall. For reasons that will become obvious, it instantly became my dream car.

I’ve been a fan of electric motors for ages. We even own an Oxygen scooter that I love. They are so much more efficient and help release our total dependency on oil.  But electric cars have always been SteslaO limited. Until now.

Here are the very sexy specs on the Tesla Roadster Sport:

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS
Acceleration 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds
Range 244 miles EPA combined city/highway
Top Speed 125 mph
Charging As short as 3.5 hours for a complete cycle (partial cycles are faster)

In short, it is sexy and FAST – not exactly adjectives associated with electric cars.  Oh and did I mention, it is designed and manufactured in the Silicon Valley?!! In short, this car is all about Escaping Mediocrity.

Recently, I got to actually sit in my dream car. (You have to understand. I live in Alabama. Not exactly the mecca of forward thinking automobile choices. So it was a very BIG deal.)

My friend Jamie Sandford (@jsandford on twitter)  who works for Southern Companies, got his hot little hands on one and had it on display at Social South.  I wasted no time in hustling myself AND the Young Turk downtown so I could take a gander.

I have to say that in real life, it did not disappoint. In fact, it only made my obsession worse.  (No, I did not get to drive it or even ride in it, but that is another story.) Pictures simply cannot do it justice. As someone I know said, “It is sex on four wheels.” Still, I did have my picture snapped while sitting in it and quickly changed my avatar on Twitter, which continues to create QUITE the stir.

I’ve even chosen a theme song for my new love and me. :-) Tesla Girls by OMD

And then…..this guy who was taking video while I gabbed away to Jamie about the car, was actually someone official who posted the video online. YIKES!  But I’m willing to let you take a peek at it so that you can get a taste of just how HOT this car is.

Tesla Roadster electric car on display at Social South

I have set my intention to ride this car into the sunset of my Escaping Mediocrity Adventures!!

And now I’m wondering if any of you have chosen THE thing you most want as part of your personal adventure?

Re-Arranging My DNA

August 24th, 2009

Martha Beck is a genius. Well – I realized that is stating the obvious, but I have a point to make. You see, five years ago I was lucky enough to be personally trained by her in the skills of Life Coaching.  At the time, you didn’t meet a life coach every two feet – in fact I didn’t even know what it was when she offered it to me.

But I digress.

Martha taught and trained me using one of my favorite tools – metaphors. She and I are both natural story tellers, so metaphors come easily and naturally.  As you can probably tell if you’ve read anything I’ve written here. :-)

As I am working on this journey to Escape Mediocrity, many of her metaphors roll around in my head. And yesterday I remembered one in particular that seems quite fitting as I finish up my time Walking The Grid and consider moving out into The Great Big World.

Goo

cocoonI clearly missed some important points in science class. Somehow, I thought that when a caterpillar climbed up into its cocoon, it just sort of shrank, sprouted antennae and grew some wings before emerging as a butterfly.

Nope.

Caterpillars spin their cocoon, climb into it and seal it. Then they COMPLETELY BREAK DOWN THEIR DNA. That’s right – they disintegrate into goo. In fact if you break open a cocoon mid-way through the metamorphosis cycle, that is all you will find inside – goo.

So, they break down their DNA as a caterpillar and then re-arrange it into the DNA of a butterfly. HOW exactly that happens is simply beyond my comprehension. But this is the part I like to remember: to become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to be Goo first.

I think the same kind of thing happens when we start to escape mediocrity. We have to go through the Goo Phase so that we can re-arrange our DNA into that of whatever it is we are becoming.

This metaphor makes me happy because it applies anyone who is trying to break out and become something more. It applies to budding entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who want to shake up the way they do things, individuals who feel pulled to a bigger game in life, anyone really who is taking BIG risks to be more of who they are in this world.

Notes From The Field

Having been in the Goo Phase more than once, here are some things I can tell you about it:

1) To Escape Mediocrity and become something and someone more, you (and probably your business) are going to butterflyhave to re-arrange your DNA. I don’t know any other way to do that other than passing through the Goo phase.

2) You can’t rush it. Rearranging DNA takes however long it takes.

3) It does not feel very good. Face it, being goo feels like, well, being goo. Stop fighting it.

4) Don’t let anyone crack you open mid-metamorphosis. a) all they will see is goo and b) you’ll probably have to start all over again. Neither of these are very encouraging.

5) It helps IMMENSELY to have people around you who are either going through it or have been through it to encourage you when you just can’t take being Goo one more day.

I’m betting some of you have been through the Goo Phase a time or two as well. What are some notes you have on getting though it and emerging from your cocoon as a butterfly?

Escaping Mediocrity Recommended Reading: F2 The Firefly Manifesto REMIXED

August 19th, 2009

So if you’ve been following along recently on my business and my life, you are up to speed on the fact that I am “walking the grid”, recovering from a major setback. (If you haven’t been following along, you can quickly catch up by reading Failing Sucks and Cake.)

fireflyOne major part of my Grid is reading  things that inspire me and make me feel better – smart, capable, hopeful, etc. So when I was watching my tweetstream the other day, I lunged at Jonathan Fields’  link to his newly released F2 Firefly Manifesto: Remixed. I read Jonathan’s blog, Awake At The Wheel,  regularly so I knew whatever he had written would be fantastic.  I just wasn’t prepared for HOW fantastic.

If you are desperate to escape professional (and personal for that matter) mediocrity and think it is impossible in today’s economy, sprint HERE and download this manifesto NOW (and don’t bother continuing your reading here – you can come back).

Still here? Ok – I’ll tell you why I like it so much and why it is Oh-So-UN-Mediocre.

1) It’s not full of links selling stuff. Nothing irritates me more than reading free documents that HINT at solutions – but to actually get them, you have to buy this ebook or that coaching program. The ideas and solutions Jonathan offers are right there, in the manifesto. And if you want further reading you can go to his blog or read his book.

2)It is practical and actionable. Sometimes I see manifestos that are long on theory and short on action steps I can take right now. Jonathan’s manifesto gives readers TONS of ideas and “Nine Renegade Actions To Take Today.”  My favorite is “Choose Your Renegade Path” where he says “With rare exception, making a great living doing what you love isn’t a matter of ‘if’ anymore, it’s a matter of ‘how’. Yes, even in this economy. “

3) It doesn’t ignore the reality of our current economic climate. I have grown so weary of the words “recession proof” and of hearing some gurus say that our mindset is all it takes to steer clear of the impact of today’s unstable marketplace. Jonathan does not pussyfoot around about what is REALLY happening – businesses are closing, people are losing jobs and new jobs just aren’t plentiful. And then —- he offers hope in the face of this reality.

Here is the definition of success Jonathan invites all of us to try on for size:

Will this career choice allow me to:

-Spend the greatest amount of time

-Absorbed in activities and relationships that fill me up

-While surrounding myself with people I cannot get enough of, and

-Earning enough to live comfortably in the world.

Jonathan not only believes that this is possible – he knows HOW to make it possible.  So, if you haven’t yet, go HERE and download your free copy of F2 The Firefly Manifesto: REMIXED. And, as always, I really want to know what you think about it, so comeback and tell me, ok?!!

Cake

August 17th, 2009

Cake has deep soul healing properties. And I’m not just talking about EATING cake.  Actually, the eating of cake can be pretty mood-altering, but it is at the bottom of the list of the kind of magic I’m talking about.

Let me explain.

I come from a long line of women who bake cakes when the going gets tough.  As a child, I remember visiting my spinster aunt who led a very simple life and  – at times I feel certain – a challenging life. She lived in rural south Alabama, didn’t drive and kept house for my aging and ailing grandmother. Oh and did I mention there wasn’t a lot of money?

But no matter what was happening in her world or when I showed up, there was always fresh cake under a beautiful old cake cover on the counter of her farmhouse kitchen.

My brothers and I used to laugh because her cakes weighed SO MUCH. I can still see her at the kitchen table – butter, flour, sugar and eggs stacked around her – making a cake from a recipe scrawled on a stained and torn index card. Or, if she was feeling daring, she would try a new recipe out of a ladies magazine.

Now that I am an adult, what I’m beginning to understand about my aunt is that the ritual of baking a cake – and baking it well – grounded her. It helped her stay sane when the world around her felt like it might be more than she could manage.

And since I am “walking the grid” trying to stay sane and grounded myself, I decided to take a page from my aunt’s book and bake a cake from scratch over the weekend. To use the word “soothing” to describe the experience is such an understatement but I am at a loss for a better word.

First is “the story” of the cake I made. I originally chose Miss Prather’s Pound Cake because it is the Young Turk’s favorite. But as I read through the recipe in the Sparta Cookbook, my head filled with memories of this vibrant woman who’d known me since I hit this earth. Her house always smelled of good things to eat and I cannot remember a time that she did not have some story to share that made us both howl with laughter. Her presence was as delicious as her cooking and I never tired of either.

She died of pancreatic cancer two years ago. As I read through her recipe – remembering the specific notes she’d given be about beating the egg whites (STIFF peaks, Sarah, STIFF!) and laughing that she’d forgotten to write down when to add the sour cream (so like her), I felt the comfort of her fill my kitchen. Nothing like that kind of love to calm a troubled spirit.

Second is the actual mental process of making a cake. There are some kinds of cooking that I do that don’t require my full, undivided attention  – or at least not for very long.

This is not the case when I am baking a cake – especially a southern cake from a southern cook’s recipe. My entire focus is engaged as I measure, sift, beat, whip, stir and fold my way through each ingredient and each precise step. There is something almost zen-like about the state of mind I get in – so soothing and quieting to my restlessness.

And finally there is the smell that filled my entire house as Miss Prather’s Pound Cake baked in the oven. There was a warmth, a comfort,  a child-like happiness that filled me up when that scent surrounded me like a blanket. I felt completely grounded.  And I am so glad that smell is still lingering around here. :-)

For those of you who are “Walking The Grid” with me (and there are a number of you based on the comments I got on the blog post!) I am adding Miss Prather’s Pound Cake Recipe below. I encourage you to try it. The worst that can happen is you will have the very best pound cake ever for dessert tonight!

Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 scant c. sugar

1/2 lb. butter

6 eggs (separated)

3 c. flour sifted 3 times

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 8 oz. carton of sour cream

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Sift flour and soda 3 times. In a separate bowl, cream butter and then add sugar. Stir in sour cream. Alternate adding egg yolks and flour mixture while beating. Set aside. In a separate bowl, add salt to egg whites and beat until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold into cake batter. Bake in well greased and floured pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Failing Sucks

August 12th, 2009

We’ve all heard it from the guru’s right? “Take big risks!” “Fail early. Fail often.” “When you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”

And for the most part, I agree with these sentiments. The only problem is, no one ever talks about how much failing SUCKS and what to do about it so you CAN pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Here’s the thing: as entrepreneurs we pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Of course we are risk takers – how could we work for ourselves if we weren’t? So when we take a big risk – everything in us is on the line. Which works out great if the risk pays off.

But what about when it doesn’t pay off?

I recently lived through this experience and I am here to tell you it can be gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I wanted something very very badly. I thought I had my bases covered. I put all my chips on the table – my smarts, my heart and my soul – and I hoped for the best.

But it didn’t work out. Not only did it not work out, it blew up spectacularly in my face. And it felt horrible.

Prevailing advice is that I should have been able to shake it off, get up and keep on trekking. And I’ve been able to do after many failures – trust me.  But this time I just couldn’t. My heart was too heavy and my spirit was busted. But I also knew I had to choose between moving forward somehow and throwing in the towel.

Walking The Grid

Photo by Simon Scott

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but when I find myself in situations where I really don’t know what to do next, where I feel like I am grappling in the dark, where my heart just isn’t in taking one more step, the phrase “just walk the grid” always comes to mind

I have a feeling that I’m not the only person out there who struggles to find a foothold after failing and I’m hoping this idea might offer some help.

The whole premise of walking the grid is based on two things: 1) some structured routine and 2) keeping things very very simple. Each person’s grid will look different, but here are some pieces of mine to give you some ideas:

  1. I walk – every single morning. Whether I feel like it or not. In fact, the less I feel like it, the more insistent I am about going. 30 minutes minimum – longer if I can.
  2. I check in with a trusted friend or colleague every day. Not the same friend or colleague every day because I want to keep as many of those as I can. Sometimes I talk about what’s going on with me; sometimes I can bring myself to actually inquire about them (when I’m walking the grid, I can be kinda self-centered).
  3. I reduce my commitments as best I can. Getting back to full speed takes time and energy and I want to give myself as much of that as I can.
  4. I write first thing every morning. Dumping out what’s bothering me onto paper helps keep it from eating away at me all day. (And a side benefit is I usually get a really great NEW idea while I’m writing – eventually.)
  5. I try to eat well and not survive on coffee alone.
  6. I give priority to working on the projects that make me feel really good, really smart and really talented. Same goes for people I talk to.
  7. I read books by authors who make me feel better. My favorites when I am walking the grid are Julia Cameron, Martha Beck and Anne Lamott.
  8. I nap a lot. (Ok – I nap a lot anytime I can. Walking the grid just gives me a really good reason.)
  9. I cry. Yes it’s true. If the experience is heart-wrenching enough, I’ll probably cry more than once. And don’t say it’s just because I’m a girl.
  10. I take small actions. As soon as I can I take small baby steps toward something that feels like it might be right. Baby steps feel simple and doable. As they accumulate, though, I find myself creating forward momentum once again.

Sometimes I can zip through walking the grid in a couple of days and I’m good to go. Other times, it may take me weeks or even a few months of walking the grid to feel like I am on solid ground.

Failing isn’t permanent and the fact that I failed to get something I really wanted doesn’t mean that I am a failure. But taking the time to acknowledge that the experience was painful is a gift of respect I can give myself.

What are some simple, structured ideas you would add to The Grid?

Guest Video Post: Elizabeth Potts Weinstein

August 10th, 2009

Today, my friend and colleague Elizabeth Potts Weinstein (@ElizabethPW on twitter) launches a very cool and very free project called Live Your Truth. She interviews 24 entrepreneurs (I’m one of them) about living and working in full truth and authenticity. I’ve already gotten access to mine the morning and am super excited about learning from every one of the rockstars she interviewed!

As part of the Kick-off celebration, I asked Elizabeth to put together a guest video post on her vision for Escaping Mediocrity. And, in true Elizabeth style, she knocked it out of the park!

You Were Not Born to Be Mediocre by Elizabeth Potts Weinstein:

Getting Your Bearings

August 5th, 2009

Like all good adventures, preparing to Escape Mediocrity takes a little (notice I said a LITTLE) preparation so that the journey actually leads somewhere meaningful.

One of the most critical orienteering skills I ever learned was to get my bearings  – especially if I was about to head out into someplace I’d never been before.

So, I learned to take a deep breath and look around me. I learned to notice details – which way the wind was blowing, where the sun was, how long the shadows were, in addition to the landmarks like buildings or trees. I’d look at a map or a chart and figure out where I was in relation to it.  All these things grounded me in EXACTLY where I was.

Once I was very clear on where I WAS, I could then set my compass and set my course for where I wanted to GO.

So what does my hiking lesson have to do with Escaping Mediocrity?

We need to get our bearings. That means taking a good hard look around at reality and acknowledging it for what it is – reality. Noticing the details of who we are and the people, places and things in our lives – and accepting them. 

There was a time in my life when I refused to do this. I preferred the ostrich approach thinking that if I stuck my head in the sand and didn’t acknowledge it, that would help. Thankfully, I’m older and wiser now.

Here’s what I know about accepting reality and getting my bearings: Accepting reality doesn’t mean I have to embrace it or even like it; it just means I acknowledge it and I don’t fight with it anymore. AND I get critical information by taking in exactly where I AM – information that will actually help me get where I want to GO.

So here’s my Escaping Mediocrity Challenge for you today: plant your feet firmly in reality, take a good look around, acknowledge and accept what is.

Congratulations – you’ve got your bearings. Ready to set your compass and strike out on adventure? Me too!

It's All About Choices: What Matters Most?

August 3rd, 2009

This is a tough question to answer, isn’t it? What I am learning very quickly though, is that if I want to leave mediocre behind, I’ve got to get REALLY GOOD at knowing what matters most to me!

I am sure if I asked you what mattered most to you in your life or your business, you would be able to tell me very quickly. But, if I watched you throughout your days, weeks, months, would the way you prioritize your time truly reflect what matter’s most to you?

If you are like most people, there is so much competing for our attention that it is easy to get caught up in the “tyranny of the urgent” putting out fires and rushing from thing to thing. Then we are left with a feeling of disappointment or emptiness because we haven’t truly focused on our heart’s priorities.

A few ideas for helping you find your way to What Matters Most.

1 – Make a list of all the areas of your life: Family, Personal, Spiritual, Physical Health, Career, – general categories will do just fine.

2 – Write down one single personal, heartfelt priority in that area for you. For example, under Family, your singular priority may be to be to have a happy, cheerful home. A Physical Health priority might be to exercise in some form or fashion three times a week. Yes I know there’s lots to choose from, but for the purpose of this exercise, choose the one priority that speaks to your heart.

3 – Have your list of priorities? Great! Now for the next week, every time a choice must be made about how you spend your time, I want you to consult this list. If it does not fit under one of your priorities, I want you to take a minute to evaluate it. If you feel compelled to do it, are you willing to forfeit another priority on your list in order to do it? So often we “think” something is a necessity when it really isn’t.

4 – Now that you’ve developed a more conscious attitude toward your time commitments and how they reflect your priorities, use this new found knowledge to help you get to What Matters Most and leave the Urgent But Unimportant behind.

This is not a foolproof exercise. Really it is just a way to help you make choices (one of my favorite words!) about what matters most to you. It is also a way to help you become more conscious about how you spend your time.

If you find that the way you spend your time is in conflict with what really matters to you then you have some decisions to make. You can either change what matters to you or change how you spend your time. That sounds simple I know, but those are really the only available options.

When I do this exercise – and I do it fairly regularly – I often find that what I am devoting the lion’s share of my time to has nothing at all to do with what matters to my heart. Then I face to challenging but doable task of re-aligning my time with my values. Sometimes the choices are difficult, but the reward is a happy spirit and a fulfilled heart. And that is what makes this life worth living!