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Archive for October, 2009

Status Quo? REALLY?

October 28th, 2009

As most of you know, I was at BlogWorld in Las Vegas two weeks ago. And if you’ve been following along, you also know that most of my learning happened OUTSIDE of the conference rooms (See “5 Remarkability Lessons I Learned from Alex“).

All day yesterday and this morning, one particular conversation I had keeps replaying in my mind over and over again. Because it deeply disturbed me.

I was standing in a group of pretty well-known, talented, successful people (they were EVERYWHERE) and someone asked me how Escaping Mediocrity came to be. And I shared about the day I woke up and realized that every one’s stuff, ie sales pages, newsletters, squeeze pages, offers, tweets, etc. looked alike and decided that there had to be a better way to do this online thing. (If you are interested, you can read my whole post about it here).

And one of the well-known, talented and successful people looked at me and said, “But if it works, why change it?”

I was speechless.

Now again, please hear me on this. I am all about learning from successful people and not reinventing the wheel. But cookie-cutter imitation? Maintain the status quo? REALLY???

So I started thinking about “prevailing wisdom” and examples of how it was DEAD WRONG.  Here are a few I came up with:

1) The earth is the center of the universe. flat_earth

2) The earth is flat and if you sail to the end of it, you will fall off the edge and into a pit of monsters.

3) There is no cure for polio.

4) There will never be a widespread need for personal computers.

5) No one will pay a premium price to have letters and documents overnighted.

You get the idea, and I am sure you can think of more. (In fact – if you do, please share them in the comments.)

My point is that if we settle for “prevailing wisdom” and maintain the status quo, what does it get us? Nothing. Actually, it’s worse than nothing. It gets us locked into mindless autopilot, doing the same “safe” things over and over again. We become unwilling to push ourselves and take risks. Why? Because we are AFRAID.

What if it doesn’t work? What if we look foolish? What if no one likes it? What if people laugh at us? What if we fail?

In the interest of transparency, let me just say that I have a) put myself on autopilot and b) let the prospect of the above questions keep me there for a very long time. So I get how powerful that gravity is.

But I am simply unwilling and, truthfully, unable to to accept prevailing wisdom and maintain the status quo just because it keeps me safe.

Does that make me an anomaly? Actually, I don’t think it does. My closest friends and colleagues along with you – the members of my tribe – show me how to do risky, scary things every single day. And for that I thank you.

But I am curious. Do you think that accepting prevailing wisdom without question and imitating (and by imitating I mean the cookie-cutter variety) the big-shots of your industry is the best path to success?

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Doing Stuff I Don't Want To Do

October 26th, 2009

So today I have to do stuff I don’t want to do. Yes, I know it is a shocker that escaping mediocrity one adventure at a time involves the mundane business tasks of bill paying, bookkeeping and general administrative tasks that keep me on top of my business operations. And so that I make sure this stuff gets done, I always designate Monday as my Admin Day.

I meet with my staff, pull out the paperwork I need to tend to and generally handle the behind-the-scenes affairs of my business. No coaching calls, no interviews, no distractions.  And for the most part, that works well.

Except when it comes to my bookkeeping. Which I have an incredibly strong aversion to. In fact, I think it is safe to saystuff I don't want to do that I would rather scrub toilets than tend to it.

Ah, but if I want my business to support my adventures, I need it to function. So, tend to it I must.

Fortunately. several years ago my mentor Martha Beck taught me an amazing strategy for dealing with things I don’t want to do. Today I will share it with you – just in case there is something on your list you are procrastinating about. :-)

Using myself as an example, here are the three questions I ask myself when looking at this most unwelcome task:

1) Can I bag it?
So often I think we have things on our lists that really don’t have to be done – at all. For some reason, we like the feeling of a super-human to-do list, though. So, think about whether or not your task MUST be done or you would just like it to be done. Sadly for me, my bookkeeping must be done, so on to the second question.

2) Can I barter it?
If it must be done, does it have to be done by me? I know two neighbors who trade baking and gardening. Each gets to do something they LOVE and still get both tasks done. In my case, if I were so inclined I could probably trade some coaching for help with my bookkeeping. Because I really don’t want to do that, I AM willing to trade some cash for the help of a professional. In the end, though, there are still some pieces that only I can do. So that brings us to the third question.

3) Can I better it?
Since the task must be done, and it must be done by me, how can I make it as pleasant as possible? Here’s what I do: I keep a special box for my billing paying supplies – a pen I like, envelopes, stamps, etc. so I don’t have to go scrambling for these things. I sit in my very favorite place (today that will be in the rocking chair on my front porch). I play music that I love. I get a fab snack. And I get a reward when I am done ( I learned this from The Young Turk and Pepper The Dog).

I know these questions over-simplify things a bit, but they really help me get a move on the stuff I don’t want to do.

Of course, I’m curious to know how you get the stuff done you don’t want to do, so please share. :-)

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ingorrr/ / CC BY 2.0

Letting Myself Be Seen

October 21st, 2009

I was thinking last night about what I wanted to write about today (yes – I still write my posts real time instead of writing a bunch and scheduling them) and at the same time was gripped by a sad heart because I was missing my friends from BlogWorld in Las Vegas.

So I decided to write about that. Not necessarily them specifically or feeling sad – more about how important it is to have friends who really see you.  What do I mean by “see”?

My friends see me for who I am and who I am capable of becoming. They see my faults, weaknesses and shortcomings. They see my strengths, my assets, and my talents. They tell me the truth. They call me on my b.s. They see me in the best light – even when I can’t do that for myself. They believe in me. In short, they see all of me and love me anyway.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

Friendships like this a very rare and they require some things of me that are scary. I have to be willing to show up, tell the truth and be incredibly vulnerable. And I have to risk having it all blow up in my face (and yes, that has happened). But I’m willing to run that risk because, truthfully, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without having them in it.

And in case you are wondering, they make my business a  better business for the same reasons they make me better a better me. :-)

If you already have friends like these, cherish them. If you don’t, I encourage you to find some. Don’t spill your guts too early or all at once – that scares people. Instead, slowly step closer and share a little, then a little more and then a little more. Not everyone while be able to see you. Don’t take it personally. It just wasn’t meant to be.

But I can promise you this: if you take the time to cultivate friendships like the ones I just described, your life will be enriched beyond measure.

Five Remarkability Lessons I Learned from Alex

October 19th, 2009

As most of you know, I was at BlogWorld in Las Vegas last week. I learned SO much – mostly because the “in the hall” networking was so amazing.

You know who I learned a lot from, though? A guy who is not on Twitter or Facebook, doesn’t have a blog, and for all I know doesn’t even have an email address. His name is Alex.

Alex is a private driver in Las Vegas and I was lucky enough to become one of his clients while I was there. I saw Alex A LOT over four days, so I got to observe how he does business in a remarkable way. Here are the top five lessons I took away:

1) Have the right friends in the right places referring clients to you. I found out about Alex from the woman who drove my hotel’s shuttle bus (another remarkable individual). She overheard my friends and me complaining about all the money we’d spent on taxi cabs the night before. She said, “Oh – cabs will rip you off. Let me give you the name and number for my friend Alex. He is a private driver, he drives for me and he will take care of you.”  Later in the afternoon she actually introduced us to Alex personally – which upped our comfort level on calling him later.

2) Be extraordinarily polite. Alex was driving us to meet some friends and we were yapping so loud and so fast we

"Hey Alex. It's Sarah. Can you pick us up?"

"Hey Alex. It's Sarah. Can you pick us up?"

could hardly hear our own selves. Alex said, “Excuse me. I am so sorry to interrupt your conversation but we are approaching the MGM and I want to make sure I drop you off in the right place.” When we arrived he said “When you are ready to go home, call me right as you approach the doors. They won’t let me stand but I can whip around and pick you up immediately.” Which is exactly what he did. When is the last time a cab driver was that polite?!

3) Remember the small things. Whenever we arrive anywhere, Alex hopped out of the Escalade and opened both doors for us. We mentioned feeling dehydrated and needing water, he went and got us bottles of water and set them up in the console of the back seat. Low jazz or classic rock n’ roll music was always playing in the car. And he asked every so often, “Is the air temperature in here okay for you?” Oh – and he was always professionally dressed, even at 2 in the morning.

4) Be selective about your clients. Alex doesn’t drive for just anyone. You pretty much have to have a personal referral to even get his name and number. Any when your referral sources (see #1) are pre-screening for your ideal client, only the very best will actually call you. (And yes, I am now one of his referral sources. I am EXTREMELY protective of Alex, so unless I really know you well, I won’t send you his contact information.)

5) Charge reasonable rates. After all this raving about Alex, you might be thinking “That’s great but private drivers in Las Vegas are expensive.” Alex actually charged LESS than cab drivers. But you know what? I called him every time we needed to go anywhere for three days. In fact, it became quite the joke because I called him and said, ‘Hi Alex, this is Sarah. Can you come pick us up?” so many times.  I also gave his name and number to two people who also used him exclusively during BlogWorld.

Bonus Lesson: Great service + reasonable rates = all the business he wanted.

So you see, lessons on being remarkable, on being so much more than mediocre,  can come from anywhere if we are paying attention.

Curious to know who taught you this week. :-)

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

October 14th, 2009

Mission: Escaping Mediocrity

As most of you know, I am in Las Vegas with my own personal mission of escaping mediocrity with my partners in crime, @AllisonNazarian, @ElizabethPW, @CarlaYoung and @LeesaBarnes. It’s going to be EPIC.

While I’m away, I thought it would be fun for you to have a mission, too. :-)

Your Assignment: Creating an escaping-mediocrity adventure of your own. It can be large (like jumping out of an airplane) or it can be small (like making cookies from scratch). The point is to do something – anything- out of the ordinary.

Write about it, or better yet, make a video of it and post it in the comments below (yes you CAN submit video comments, which I think is WAY cool).

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

———————————————————————————

Welly yippy. It seems that since we picked up and moved the blog, my comment system isn’t working. :-( So, I am going to post two videos below so you can see what the tribe has been up to in creating their own adventures.

The first is from Leigh Caraccioli @fleurdeleigh

And this one is from Kevin Vandever (@kevinvandever)

This Escaping Mediocrity Thing is Kind of Messy

October 12th, 2009

I had a whole different blog post planned for today. One that would set just the right tone for my new blog/new brand. You really would have liked it.

But, as you are probably starting to see, very rarely do things actually go as I plan them and today was no exception.

Just as I was about to begin writing my mesmerizing post this morning, I realized that there were still a number of things I needed to clean up after the move. Things like fixing my Aweber box in the top right corner which wasn’t working.  Like re-directing the link for Feedblitz over there to your right.  Like changing the feed links I had in various and sundry places all over the web.  Like remembering exactly how it was I set up my blog feed onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (spent an hour re-tracing that). Like making sure the comments were visible and working .

Lots and lots of loose threads that needed to be gathered up before we could officially say we were all moved in to this new domain.

Oh – and did I mention that today was a school holiday so the Young Turk was home all day? And that I am preparing to leave for a five-day trip on Wednesday?

There was a time not so long ago when all that would have thrown me into a full tizzy punctuated by an exceptionally bad mood.  I would have engaged in trying to force things to happen the way I wanted them to happen with all the self-will I could muster. Not a pretty sight to behold and I really don’t recommend as a productive course of action – because it isn’t. Productive I mean.

Today, I chose a different way, a calmer way, a saner way. And a way that actually got the end result I was after.

When I realized all that had to be done before I could post, I quickly made two list: 1) Things I had enough skill to take care myself and 2) Things I had no business trying at home.  The first list was a lot shorter than the second list.  So you know what I did? Instead of trying to figure out how to do things that could seriously break my blog (ie inserting html code into a very particular design), I asked for help.help-button-300x225

That’s right. I reached out to the two people I knew who knew how to do this complicated back of the house stuff and asked them if they had time to help me. And guess what? They both graciously agreed to help! Amazing how that works. And now my blog is fully functional (unless something else crops up – which is entirely likely).

The moral of this story is transformation is messy (see the Goo post if you need a refresher on that) and it is a whole lot easier to get through if we ask for help from good friends along the way.

**This post is dedicated to @Lazarus2000 and @tumbledesign – two friends who went way above and beyond the call of duty on my behalf. I am forever grateful.**

Trusting My Instincts

October 7th, 2009

It’s official. Today is the day that The Maverick Mom blog becomes the Escaping Mediocrity blog. (Well – there is one more thing to do which to move the whole blog over to the new domain which may have happenedleaping by the time you read this. But I just couldn’t keep this a secret anymore!).

Those of you who hang out here regularly won’t be totally surprised. I’ve been moving in this direction for months, adding the new tagline and shifting the theme. This is just the natural next leap.

And yet again, I’m going against all marketing wisdom. Changing the name of my blog, changing my domain name – it’s just not strategically prudent. And yet, here I am – doing that. It’s risky, but you know what? That’s okay with me. Running against the grain, doing things I’m “not supposed to do”, risking professional suicide – all that has worked out pretty well for me so far.

And besides, following my instincts – wherever they may lead me – is the only choice I give myself now.  That is what I’ve learned over the past year – and it seems that there are lots of people out there who are ready to do the same. And that makes me happier than I have been in a long, long time.

Let the games begin!

Expect the Unexpected

October 5th, 2009

I have a full plate this week. Opportunities and projects are everywhere and require my full, undivided attention. I had each day all planned out.

Then the Young Turk woke up this morning with a 100 degree fever.

There was a time when this sudden change in plans would have sent me into a tailspin of trying to do everything I “needed” to do and still take care of a sick child. I stressed myself out and didn’t accomplish much of anything very well.

My guiding question was always “How can I get it all done?”  Needless to say, all my juggling and scrambling put me in a bad mood and I am certain my child did not feel particularly cared for.  When the day was over, we both felt crappy.

Fast forward along the road to escaping mediocrity and I am happy to say I now use a whole different guidance system when dealing with the unexpected – especially when the unexpected involves my child. Wanna know what it is?!

“What will make my life taste the sweetest today?” tastes sweet

The question gives me instant clarity on the person I want to be. I can do the few critical tasks that must be done by me, have a quick phone call with my VA, re-arrange the rest of my commitments, and then spend the rest of the day being Mommy.

For me, there is no sweeter taste in life than cuddling up with my son, smoothing his hair, retrieving the requested cool rag or cool drink, working puzzles and looking at picture books.

Does it stress me out that some of the things I really want to get done aren’t getting done? Of course it does. But my time as a much needed Mommy is short and there are no do-overs, so I am willing to quell the compulsion to “do it all” so that I can do this one thing well.

And, when he is well enough to go back to school, I will work like a madwoman. :-)

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