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Archive for December, 2010

More and Less in 2011

December 29th, 2010

I’ve decided to use two questions to guide 2011. Not just the year, but the month, the week, the day – heck even the hour. Wanna know that they are? Of course you do!

Question 1: What do I want more of?

Question 2: What do I want less of?

Once I answer these questions for myself, then I can set about creating “More of” and “Less of” with the precision of a swiss watch. If I don’t answer these questions, I’ll just wander around, thinking general thoughts and creating general results. Pretty mediocre I’d say.

So, for 2011, here are a few answers I’ve come up with.

I would like more:

- Time with family and friends
- Focus on the work I find most meaningful
- Healthy food and drink
- Facebook knowledge
- Exercise
- Good books
- Fresh air
- Ease and contentment

I would like less:

- Stress
- Fast food
- Mindless entertainment
- Disorganization
- Stuff

I’ll keep adding to these lists and make them more granular for short spans of time. I’m thinking they will act like a compass – keeping me pointed in the right direction no matter what else is happening around me.

What about you? What do you want more of and less of in 2011? Would love it if you would share in the comments!

The UNMediocre Don't Slack Off

December 27th, 2010

I know – it’s the holidays. Both of my children are out of school. My house is a wreck of post-Christmas celebrating. I have a TON of non-work things to do.

BUT.

If I want to rise above the mediocre with my business, I have to blast out of the gate come the first of January. Which means that somewhere between the tenth load of laundry and riding bikes with The Young Turk, I am:

- Writing (you’ll know what it is I’m writing a bit later. Don’t want to spoil the surprise!)

- Putting together the details of my 2011 live event in Atlanta.

- Crafting a sign up page for something fun and free for you.

- Immersing myself in the TEDx how-to’s so I can organize TEDxRedMountain.

- Putting together my “Year In Review” to share with the Tribe.

- Breaking my vision for 2011 into action items for each quarter of next year.

I know – it sounds like a lot. It isn’t really. It just means I give up vegging in front of the television when all the turks are asleep in bed. It means getting a little extra help from my favorite babysitter. It means coordinating with Papa Turk so we both have time to get things done.

In short, it requires some effort and a little sacrifice on my part.

To me, the payoff will be worth it. I will be at the top of my game when January 1 rolls around instead of running to play catch up.  Once it starts, that running never stops and can last an entire year. I know because I’ve done it.

So, here is my challenge for you: What one, two or three things can you put some time into this week so that you blast into 2011 at the top of YOUR game? Would love it if you would share in the comments. :-)

Plans – Busted Apart

December 20th, 2010

“We’re sorry, Mrs. Robinson, but we cannot allow you to accept donations for the orphanage in Russia.”

And with that, Paypal wrecked the Escaping Mediocrity Russian Orphanage Project.

You see, Paypal says I can create a “Donate” button too raise money for my favorite charity – and allowed me to do so.  BUT after I created it and so many of you generously donated to the project, I started getting emails about “requirements”. The short version is I either need to be a 501(c)3 or be sanctioned by a US non-profit and be able to provide proof of that fact.

I faxed them. Twice. They lost the fax. I kept asking them to find it and read it. But they didn’t. I kept saying, I am raisingmoney directly for an orphanage in Russia. They don’t have the internet and I doubt they have letter head. They just kept sending me the list of requirements. Again and again.

(Don’t get me started on how POORLY they’ve set up communicating with their compliance department. They’ve clearly set it up for their convenience, not the convenience of their customers. This matter could have been settled in about 30 minutes instead of a week.)

Finally – yesterday, I got this email:

Hello Escaping Mediocrity,

Unfortunately, access to your PayPal Account will remain limited.  For
security reasons we do not close accounts with limitations.  At this point
you can refund the donations received and have the contributors donate to
you by another method.

Sincerely,
Alyson
PayPal Compliance Department
PayPal, an eBay Company

So they played the ultimate trump card. Do it our way because we are holding your Paypal account hostage. Awesome customer service don’t you think?

See – here’s the thing. If Paypal had made all this clear on the front end before I ever created the “Donate” button, none of this would have happened. I would have found another way. But they didn’t. And then, when their lack of clarity caused this mess, instead of working with me as a partner in the mess, they just pull out their muscle.

In order to ransom my Paypal account, I will begin refunding donations tomorrow. There is no way to get this put back together in time for Christmas, but don’t worry – it WILL be put back together. Too many little ones are counting on us.

Oh – and don’t worry. You all acted in good faith, so your names are still in for the book drawing and you will get your $50 coupon code once I straighten out this mess.

#sigh

The Great December Book Giveaway

December 14th, 2010

I did this back in October and it was so very popular with all of you that I’ve decided to do it again this month – with a twist (of course!)

In just a sec, I’ll tell you the seven nine TEN books that are up for grabs in the giveaway. But first, here’s how you get your name in the pot:

1. Leave an intelligent comment. Which means it has to say more than “great post”. And, in the end, I am the judge of what qualifies as intelligent. Do this and you get ONE ticket in the drawing.

2. Make a donation. For every $5 you donate to my Escaping Mediocrity Orphanage Project, you get ONE ticket in the drawing. Plus there are some bonuses that go along with that.

Donate $10  – 2 tickets and your name and a hotlink to your site listed in my thank you post.

Donate $25 and you get FIVE tickets in the drawing, the above bonus and a $50 coupon code you can use anytime during 2011 on anything I put up for sale. Of course you can always donate more and get more tickets!

If you’ve already donated (and thank you so much for that!) your tickets are already in the pot. :-)

Ok – ready to know what I’m giving away?!

1) My personal copy of Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity. You can read what I think about it and why it REALLY matters to you here.

2) My personal copy of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business by David Siteman Garland. Read my review here.

3) My personal copy of Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business by Barry Libert. I plan to do a full review of this book soon but it is a killer resource for companies who want to build a deeply connected social community like Apple, Etsy, AmexOPEN and Zappos have built.

4) It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons in Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar with Janet Goldstein. If you want to learn how to build an amazing team and an unparalleled culture, this book is a must read.

5) Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott. It’s no secret that I think most “best practices” are pretty lame and mediocre. This books give you an alternative approach for leading your company (even it is just a company of one!) to greatness.

6) My personal copy of Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier. I love the tagline on this book – “Stop doing busy work and start doing work that matters”. That’s really all I need to say about that. :-)

7) My personal copy of Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less: The fine art of limiting yourself to the essential….in business and in life. To escape mediocrity, we’ve got to know what is essential and eliminate everything else. Makes for light travel. :-) This book will show you how.

JUST IN >> Rebel Brown is generously offering a personally signed copy of her book, Defy Gravity, as part of the Great December Book Giveaway! As a growth expert, Rebel helps managers and leaders shed the weight and drag that are holding their companies back and propel their business to high-velocity growth.

NEW BULLETIN: My friend @BarryMoltz is adding a copy of his fab book on delivering stellar customer service – B-A-M! Bust a Myth: Delivering Customer Service to the giveaway.  Wow! Whomever wins this is gonna rack up!

YEAH – ANOTHER ADDITION! >>> Connie Dieken is offering up a copy of her new book AND 3-CD Audiobook Set – wow! Talk Less, Say More: How to be more influential and ignite positive responses.

So there you have it. December’s Great Book Giveaway. And by the way – these books make great gifts for that hard-to-buy-for entrepreneur on your list. :-)

Now get busy! Leave a comment below and, if you are so moved, make a donation to my Escaping Mediocrity Orphanage Project. The deadline is NOON EST on Friday, December 17.

(And P.S. To keep my holiday sanity in tact, this is a “winner take all” kind of thing.)

Looking After Helen, a Christmas Story

December 13th, 2010

My friend John A. wrote this. He often sends out stories like this.  He has a wonderful point of view on life in the very small, very southern town we both grew up in. I’ve known John A. all my life. (And I call him “John A.”) In fact, I’ve known everyone in this story all my life.

Miss Rowland taught me how to sew when I was a little girl. She also taught me Bible verses in Spanish. I’ve known John A’s older brother Tom since forever. The Chief of Police “Simp” was good friends with my daddy til the day my daddy died. Lori still helps me with my banking. And Aunt Connie and Uncle Knud have known me and loved me since before I arrived on this earth.

So I want to share this story with you because I think it is so wonderfully told. I also want to give you a glimpse at the place “from whence I came”. This is the world that birthed me. These are the people who shaped my young life.

And I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.

And so……

Looking After Helen, A Christmas Story

Helen Rowland would have been 93 last week. I think about Helen, sometimes.  When I pass her house on Bruner Avenue I think about her. I think about Helen a lot in December.  I probably wouldn’t give her a second thought if we hadn’t found Helen dead in her house, two Decembers ago.

I got a phone call at my office, late afternoon on December 2, 2008. It was Police Chief Simpson.
“John, this is Simp”,He said. “Don’t some of your people look after Miss Helen Rowland?”
“That would be my Aunt Connie and Uncle Knud, Chief. They look after Miss Helen, and so does Lorie at the Bank, and few others.”
“Well, Lorie and me are down here at her house. She won’t answer the door. You think one of ya’ll could come down here and see if she’ll answer?”, Chief Simp asked.
“I guess so, I’ll try to get a hold of my Aunt, too. Helen might have gone off somewhere, Chief, or she might not want to answer her door. She does that, you know.” I replied.
I called my Aunt and left a message. My brother, Tom, and I drove to Helen’s house.

Helen lived in Evergreen most of her life. She was college educated, creative, and articulate. She could play the guitar and violin. Early photos show that she was a very attractive young woman. She lived with her parents until they died.  There was talk of a man, and a relationship that went wrong, and her attempted suicide.

Circumstances, or maybe something organic, had made Helen crazy. She was not dangerous crazy, but she was unpredictable. There were periods of paranoia, and Helen was an obsessive hoarder. She collected mountains of junk from which to make things.  Her white hair, even as an old woman,  was worn in a 1940s ”Veronica Lake victory roll” style. She dressed in blouses and long dresses she sewed. In warm weather she wore sandals fashioned out of clorox bottles and pipe cleaners. Helen had a bed, but slept on an old door set between two chairs.

Helen would disappear from Evergreen for periods. Her trips, and odd appearance made some call her “Gypsy”. Children called her “The Turtle Lady”. Helen would catch box turtles.  She’d sewed costumes and created characters for the turtles. She entertained children, and adults, with little turtle tableaus.  Helen did errands on her bicycle, with her long dress, long white hair, and a straw hat. Some people called Miss Helen “The Bicycle Lady”.

Helen grew crazier as she got older. There were only a few people whom she would allow to look after her. Whatever her rationale, she was good at picking her close friends. She trusted Lorie, who works at the Bank of Evergreen, to help her with money matters.  Lorie, and her husband, Mike, lived close. They would check on Helen every few days.

Helen loved my Aunt Connie and Uncle Knud. Connie and Knud, in their late eighties, are substantive, genteel, and dignified people.  Their involvement with a difficult, mentally ill old woman might seem incongruous.  Yet, they spent time with her, bought things she needed, and even drove her to neighboring towns to buy used guitars and violins. My Uncle, to cheer Helen, once pretended to play a ukulele while  she played violin and sang.

Helen could be difficult. She got mad at Connie and Knud for buying her a small, much needed refrigerator. It was black. She wanted a white one. They had it painted white so she would use it. They tried to get Helen to eat better. The last few years of her life she consumed mostly Hershey bars and milk.   It would have been easier leave Helen to social workers. Connie, Knud, Lorie, and few others maintained their involvement with Helen for many years.

Tom and I pulled up to Helens house.  The  tiny stucco cottage was about  25 feet by 20 feet. Chief Simpson and Lorie were already there. Tom and I weren’t sure why we were there, except  as proxies for our Aunt and Uncle. Tom and I knocked and yelled through the door for Helen. She didn’t answer for us, either. We were afraid to kick the door in, in case Helen was simply refusing to come out.

Aunt Connie arrived about rabbit dark. She called out to Helen. There was no reply. Aunt Connie said she had a bad feeling. She told us we needed to try to go in through a window.

I had a crowbar. The Chief and I  pried open her side window.  We stuck our heads through the window to call out to Helen. We knew instantly, from the odor, that Helen was inside, somewhere, dead. The Chief went through the window, found Helen’s body, and yelled for somebody to call the coroner and the funeral home. Chief Simp unlocked Helens door and came out. He said she’d been dead a couple of days. “Her fists and arms are all drawed up tight on her, like maybe she had a heart attack”, He said. All we could see was the corridor between giant stacks of debris she’d collected over the years. Past the entrance was blackness.

We all got quiet. Nobody knew what to say. Lorie started crying.  Connie put her arms around Lorie and said,” you cry all you need to, Lorie. Its sad. You cry for me some,too.  At my age the tears don’t come as easily as they used to”.

The contents of Helens home and back house would fill 9 dumpsters. It yielded dozens of new bibles, still in their shipping boxes, old bibles with each reading carefully dated, newspapers dating back 40 years, and tons of junk. There were several thousand dollars stuffed into nooks and crannies, and decades  of Helen’s obsessive daily journals written in shorthand. Only a few things were salvaged, or given away. The rest, including her journals, got buried in a dump.  The old houses are still there, and the metal sign that says “Rowland”. Somebody will buy the lot and push down Helen’s house.

Helen was buried next to her parents.  The preacher who performed the service had never met Helen.

About a dozen people showed up. Included were a couple of neighbors, a nephew from far away, and Helen’s friends that looked after her.

Most of the physical evidence of Helen’s existence is gone, or will be, soon. What remains are some remnants of a true goodness a few people quietly gave to a lonely, difficult, crazy old woman. The remnants can be saved, and put together to make something….

Merry Christmas, J.A.N.
December 12, 2010

Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper (and Why It Matters to You)

December 8th, 2010

David Garland (known on twitter as @TheRiseToTheTop) just released his new book, Smarter, Faster,Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business.

There’s lots of great stuff I could say about this book. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s witty (not the same thing as funny). And it’s got a TON of great, practical tips and strategies in it.

And there are already a ton of great reviews out there that you can Google.

But here’s why it matters to YOU, the tribe of people who are taking a stand and making sh*t happen: Open it to just about any page and you will find something you can implement, right now, this minute. Not later, after you feel like you have your act together. NOW.

And I’m all about now.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Interviewing people is an amazing way to a) learn a ton and b) grow the profile of your blog, podcast or whatever it is you are building. Everyone knows that right? What everyone doesn’t know is EXACTLY how to go about landing those interviews – especially with high-profile people who seem unreachable.

- On pp. 104 and 105 you will get not only the strategy for landing the interviews, but language you can use for crafting your email to potential guests. BAM! Excuses be gone!!

- After you’ve created AMAZING content for your blog/podcast/webcast/online television show (the fact that it is amazing is a given because, well, because I just know it is), what must be on your website to ensure that your message and your ideas are spreadable to those who are waiting to hear them?

Pp 121- 122 gives you a bulleted checklist of eight ( I like that it is only eight. Keeps me from getting overwhelmed.) things you’ve got to think about if you want your site to be the backbone of the amazing work you are up to. These aren’t hard things. They don’t require a master’s degree in tech geek.

For example – #1 on the check list is “What is the FIRST thing I want people to do when I come to my website?”  Not a complicated question, but one most people never answer. If you can answer it and make it easy for people to do it, you will be ahead of 98% of the internet crowd.

- And probably my very favorite is the list of Rookie Mistakes when attempting to expand your network on social media. They make me laugh a) because I’m pretty sure I’ve made them all and b) I see so-called gurus making them all the time. I’m going to share them with you because I think they are really REALLY important – hope David doesn’t mind!

- Follow Bad Models

- Share Irrelevant Details

- Brag All the Time

- Forget to Talk Shop

- Spend All Day on There

- Being Overly Formal

- Obsess Over Small Picture ROI

This list, along with its mirror list “Characteristics of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs on Social Media”, will keep you busy taking action on the right things to expand your network for a good long while.

So if you’re done hearing yourself talk about the THING you know you are meant to do and you want practical stuff to do right this minute, I highly recommend scooting on over to Amazon and checking it out!

Help Them Escape Mediocrity

December 6th, 2010

HALT! DO DONT DONATE!!

Because I am not working through a US umbrella organizations AND because I am sending money to an entity oversees, Paypal will not allow me to collect donations for this project using their system. A longer blog post is forthcoming.

For as long as I’ve been an adult, I’ve chosen a holiday project that made a real and specific difference in the lives of people who need it. I’ve provided Christmas – and I mean ALL of Christmas – for a family of 7. I’ve stocked the kitchens of families enrolled in a program to get them off of welfare. One year, in lieu of gifts they didn’t need anyway, my entire family got letters from me describing the specific gifts I gave specific individuals in need.

I’m not saying this to say how great I am. Just wanted you to know how deeply this passion runs in my veins. :-)

This year, I have a very special project in mind. One that is so near and dear to my heart that I touch it ever single day. And I don’t think any of you will be terribly surprised. :-)

My 2010 Holiday Project is providing for the orphans we left behind in Russia the day we drove away with The Mini Turk.

They need the basics. They need the things most us take for granted each and every day. Good, healthy food. Clean water. Clean, warm clothes. Shoes. Socks. Medicine. Diapers. And I want to see that they have what they need. (I have other, bigger plans to help them as well, but I’m still ironing out those details.)

We’ve stayed in touch with our translator who lives in the same city as the orphanage. I will Paypal the money I raise to her and she’s agreed to play “Santa”.

I can’t offer you a 501(c) 3 letter so you can take a tax deduction. I don’t have a seperate charity I’ve set up for this. There’s just me, paypal, and your faith in me to do what I say I’m going to do.

Here’s what I will offer you in return:

- Everyone who makes a donation of any amount will get listed in my thank you post, complete with a backlink to your blog or website.

- Everyone who makes a donation of $25 or more will recieve a coupon code from me for $50 that you can use on anything I put up for sale during 2011. Lots of stuff is coming down the pike, including my live event in the fall, so you’ll have lots of opportunities to use that.

Help these small lives escape from the mediocre world in which they find themselves. Every little bit counts.

And thank you. :-)

Love,

Sarah

P.S. My paypal addy is [email protected]

UPDATE: So Far we’ve raised over $325 for the orphans who live at the Mini-Turk’s former home. THANK YOU!!

US Residents can contribute using this:


Canadian residents can use this:


Busting the Rockstar Myth

December 1st, 2010

I LOVE sharing awesome bloggers with you and today’s guest post is SO on target for what we’ve ben talking about here. My very favorite parts of Pace’s posts are the drawings she makes. They make me happy. :-)

This is a guest post by Pace Smith of the Connection Revolution.

Think of someone you consider a rockstar. It could be an actual rock star, a famous author, a pro soccer player, a successful blogger, a spiritual leader — whatever. Pick an actual person, then read on.

The Rockstar Myth is that they are in a different league than you.

The Rockstar Myth is that there is a vast, gaping chasm between you and the rockstar.

Do you think any of these things about the rockstar you chose?

“The rockstar has some advantage that I don’t have.”

“The rockstar is luckier than me.”

“The rockstar didn’t have as many responsibilities as me.”

“The rockstar can do it because he or she is self-confident and motivated.”

“The rockstar was born to be a rockstar, and I’m wasn’t.”

Well, I’ve got news for you. That’s BULLSHIT.

A rockstar is just a normal person who’s had a lot of practice at becoming a rockstar.

There’s no gaping chasm separating you. It’s just a long, uphill slope.

It’s not an easy journey, but you can take it one step at a time. You don’t need to leap across any chasms. You don’t even need to run. You can go at your own pace. You can take lots of little baby steps toward rockstardom.

What’s one baby step you could take today?

Pace Smith is the co-leader of the Connection Revolution, where she teaches people how to change the world through connection. Pace and her partner Kyeli are proud to announce their latest creation: 52 Weeks to Awesome, an e-course consisting of 52 baby steps toward rockstardom.