8 Technological Tools to Improve Your Business

Many of you will probably laugh at me while reading this article! But that’s okay – you probably should, because I admit that I sometimes still live in the Stone Age. You see, I am a self-proclaimed “Technological Idiot,” and I have no problem with it. Many people love to make fun of me because of that – especially my kids. I’m not that old, but I am a creature of habit. So that means I don’t usually seek out technology if I can avoid it. But sometimes, I am either forced into it, or I have a strong enough curiosity that will lead me to learning the basics of something.

So I am going to tell you about some of the technological things I have learned to use that have actually made my life better. For those of you who are like me and prefer living in the Stone Age, here are some of the things you can try that you might think are cool too (once you learn how to use them):

1. Skype

When I was a kid, I always wondered if one day, we would have video phones. Well, fast forward a couple of decades, and here we are! From Skype to Facetime, we have video calling now. Honestly, I was forced into using it. Someone contacted me and wanted to interview me for their Internet web show, and they used Skype to do it. So I had to learn. But I’m so happy I did, because now I use it all the time. It’s not that difficult, and I have met so many people I have done business with using it (virtually, of course).

2. Video editing

The world seems to revolve around videos these days. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform, you know that videos can go viral. But I wanted to use videos to teach people. But I knew I couldn’t rely on hiring someone to do all my editing, so I had to learn it myself. And honestly, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it! You can have a lot of fun tinkering around with any video you create.

3. Touching up photos and using Photoshop

It also seems like people take a lot more photos than they used to – mostly because they do it with their phones. But if you’re like me, you end up with a lot of bad ones, or at least ones you want to fix. Whether you want to fix them because you have to, or just for the fun of it, there are some cool things you can do to edit photos. And Photoshop can do wonders for your pictures too. But just like editing videos, there is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

4. Power Point

Several years ago, I was still using transparencies in the classroom on an overhead projector. Until one day, a student said to me, “do you want me to teach you how to use power point so you can convert your lecture notes away from those overheads?” It was at that point that I knew I had to get out of the Stone Age. I was way behind most professors with the use of technology, but once I learned to use it, I can’t believe it took me so long.

5. iPads

I thought iPads were cool, but I never had any desire to have one. But as time went on, I saw how other people were using them. It could be a “phone,” a word processor, a camera, a video camera, an audio recording device, and many more things. Plus, it’s a lot easier to carry around than a lap top – especially when you are traveling.

6. Smart Phone

Okay, now I KNOW you are laughing at this one! But I actually resisted getting a smart phone for many years. My friends really had a field day laughing at me for this one! But it was only when I realized that flip phones would not be around forever that I actually broke down and got one. And they are very cool! According to research, 64% of the people have smart phones, so I guess I am not the last person in the country to get one, which is shocking!

7. Maintaining a YouTube account

Because I wanted to do short, “Motivational Monday” videos to share on social media, I knew I had to have a YouTube account. I had learned how to edit them, so now I needed to learn how to maintain a YouTube account. As with most of the things I have discussed, it takes some time to figure it out, but once I did, it was freeing to know that I can now share my knowledge with the world on the internet.

8. Creating a video class

I figured that since I was getting so good at making videos, I might as well try to create a whole class. So, that’s exactly what I did. But it was also difficult for me to figure out how to do it on the platform I was using. However, I eventually figured it out. After much blood, sweat, and tears, I finally created a whole class that hopefully will help a lot of people.

While most of you were probably giggling at me reading this (honestly, I am too), maybe some of you are “technological idiots” like me. And if so, I hope I have encouraged you to get out of your technological comfort zone a little bit and see how learning new things can actually benefit your life!

4 Tips For Working At Home

By Jolie Miller

If you’re one of the millions of people who hope to work from home in 2015, we’ve got some tips for you.

Last week, we showed you how to set up your home workspace for maximum efficiency. Today in the second article of our Work From Home series, we’ll help you figure out how to structure your day.

Establishing routines will make all the difference between crazy days in which you get little done and productive days in which you accomplish a lot with few interruptions. Even a company that’s skeptical of work-from-homers has to appreciate productive workdays!

These are the three questions you should ask yourself when setting up your workday routines:

1. Find your Einstein window.

We all have times of day when we’re “on it” and times of day when we’re not at our best. Figuring out your window of Einstein-like brilliance is key to structuring your day. (See Finding your Einstein window from the lynda.com course Managing Your Time.)

If you’re a morning person who needs to get things done first thing in the morning (like I do), then block out the first hour or two of your daily calendar to make sure it stays focused with no interruptions. For me, 7:30-9:00 a.m. daily is a meeting-free zone when I review our customer feedback from the day before, work through emails and special projects, and organize my day. If everything after 9:00 becomes a free-for-all (it happens; you know it does), then at least I had my hour-and-a-half of super-productive time.

2. Decide on break and lunch plans. 

When I first started working at home, which was only a five-minute drive from my office at the time, I still met up with colleagues for lunch on telecommuting days. It kept me connected socially and helped me address some of the questions easier dealt with in person than email.

Give some thought to whether your breaks are going to be time for errands or house chores or perhaps a walk or video-game break. And are you planning to eat in or get out?

There are no right or wrong answers here. I like the solace of being home all day doing my own thing for about a week—and then I need human contact again by way of lunch dates. Others thrive on the variety of one “out of house” appointment a day to stretch the legs and shift mental focus. Get to know yourself better by trying on different routines here and seeing what frequency and type of breaks and lunch plans work best for you.

3. Let your colleagues know when they can count on you to be around.

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One of the advantages of working remotely is we can all be there in our pajamas in different time zones getting things done. But with that comes the tricky logistics of time-zone management—sometimes even across continents. Early in my career, I’d sometimes have calls across five time zones in a single day; I put clocks for different time zones up in my browser so I could always see what was happening when.

No matter what time zone you’re in, send an email to your team and key stakeholders and let them know your working hours. If they’re scattered across regions, make sure you build at least part of your day around being available to them. I used to start my days at 6:00 a.m. Pacific time because most of my authors were on the East Coast.

Once your colleagues know your hours, make a point of actually being around during those times. If you promise availability from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a lunch break around noon, then be reachable via email, chat, and phone when you say you will be.

Similarly, if you know you’re going to be gone picking up your kids from school between 2:00 and 3:00, then let everyone know that, too–and adjust your available hours accordingly so your coworkers have access to you for a full workday.

Note: It’s helpful if large, remote-located teams keep a central team calendar where everyone can track who’s where and when (ie. taking time off or traveling to other locations).

For more tips, watch Enhancing Your Productivity on lynda.com.

4. Have a few go-tos for slumps and stress.

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We all have those restless moments when we realize we’ve been staring at a screen or working on the same project for too long. Then there are those days when just one more email from that one person threatens to send you over the edge.

Decide in advance a few recharge activities you can jump to when you need to get your energy and focus back. This could be anything from a walk to a Sudoku puzzle, from folding laundry to listening to music.

When this happens at the office, we can get up from our desk and go chit chat with or vent to a friend for 10 minutes. You need to figure out what the equivalent solution is when you’re at home.

Get some practical coping tips from our 21-minute course Managing Stress.

5. Draw lines around personal time.

There are 24 hours in every day and we spend roughly a third of them working, a third of them sleeping, and another third attending to our personal lives. Keep it in perspective as much as possible.

I’ve been terrible about this in the past and paid the price of too little sleep and too much stress, all to pack in a few more work hours each day. My new motto is: Work today so you can work tomorrow. Put in just the right amount of time today so that you can come back the next day ready to work—rather than too exhausted to think.

If you share the house with another family member who works at home, you really need separate spaces and a noise buffer between you. Having your own rooms is obviously best, but it’s not always possible. So figure out an easy system for signaling each other when you need no interruptions. For example, you might put on a hat or headphones.

Equally important: Know when you both need to quit working in order to have plenty of “you time” so that having your desks in the house doesn’t get the better of your life.

Want more tips on keeping your professional life out of your personal life? Check out Balancing Work and Life and Finding Work-Life Fit on lynda.com.

Setting up a few simple routines will take you a long way toward productive, balanced days at home. And don’t forget: Working at home is a privilege. So make it count.

Use your time as productively as possible and then don’t hesitate to go out and enjoy the other things that make life complete.

***This article was originally published on Lynda.com and it is re-published here with permission. Please visit Lynda.com for more great career advice.***

Top 3 Beliefs Women Carry That Sabotage Work-Life Balance

By Nicole Coope

In an earlier article, I shared Work-Life Balance is possible, as learned from my elementary girl self on the see saw. However, I continue to read articles that state, peace in both our professional and personal lives is impossible. So before I go off on another “it is possible” tangent, let’s be clear about the most prominent beliefs women carry that sabotage work-life balance.

Belief #1: “Having it All – I have to choose one or the other to achieve balance”

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Drew Barrymore stated she learned very quickly that “work-life balance” does not exist after the birth of her child. She could no longer work 50+ hours on the set of a movie and still manage to nurse and nurture her newborn. “Having it all” implies an extreme swing of the pendulum of equilibrium, either a full time career or motherhood – imbalance. The balance she once experienced in her professional and personal life changed because her priorities changed. “Work-life balance exists in finding the balance between the two so that women such as Drew Barrymore, can still enjoy promising roles as an actress while still enjoying the throes of being a new mother. If we define our lives by the extreme swings of the pendulum, then life will be grossly out of balance and the stress of such a life will manifest mentally, emotionally, and physically. Work-life balance requires compromise, finding unique ways to still enjoy the people, activities, and values in your life.

Belief #2: “Knowing it All – I have to have all the answers”

An issue that commonly comes up for women struggling with the ability to find balance in their professional and personal life is the belief that “I am supposed to know it all…I should have all the answers”. And if we don’t have all the answers or know it all, then we are burdened with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, shame, and unworthiness. Have you ever wondered, “What kind of mother am I because _______(fill in the blank)”? Maybe your child is not doing well in school, or you can’t figure out how to get your child home from school without sacrificing your work hours, or your teenage child clearly needs your attention but you can’t find any more hours in the day. If we were supposed to KNOW all of the answers to these questions, it would have been a part of our DNA, a natural instinct, like food, shelter, and water. But it is not. I believe we were designed with a need for others, a need for help, and guidance. When you take a moment to look around, we are surrounded by a world of resources and answers: Internet (aka Information Highway), teachers, mentors, family members, books, blogs, and so much more. If we were truly meant to figure it all out for ourselves, then there would be no need for phrases such as: “It takes a village to raise a child”, or “without counsel, plans fail but with a multitude of advisers they succeed.” Work-Life balance requires seeking help from other people or resources to answer our most difficult questions.

Belief #3: “I’m all alone – This problem is only mine”

One of the greatest mind tricks of this generation is convincing us that we are all alone in our struggles, issues, or concerns. In fact the shame or guilt of such situations or predicaments often prevents us from sharing the reality of our situation with family and friends. Did you know the best resource for how to manage a family of 3 as a single mom is another single parent?! Even the single moms who appear to have it all together had to start somewhere. I would bet money on the fact that their early years looked just like the phase of life so many women are currently in. It would be easier to work through the hoops of bankruptcy if we could share with another woman who had walked through the same financial difficulty. If we think we are alone, we will remain isolated and that much farther away from finding peace in our lives. Work-Life Balance does not mean you have to hide the struggle of your situation and figure it out on your own. To achieve the life you desire, you need to lean on the support of those closest to you. Why not start with the women or people in your community that have already crossed the bridge you are standing on?!

On a Personal Note

Like many Americans, I have a significant student loan debt. I used to be ashamed to talk about it because the whole point of going to school is to learn new skills so that I could earn a significant income and quickly pay back the loan. The fact that I am 10 years out of school and still carrying the debt often made me feel embarrassed or insecure about my skills. How can I be a good counselor/coach/financial therapist, if I still have debt – completely discrediting myself?! Although my goal was to be debt-free (pendulum swing), I could not figure out how to do accomplish the goal without sacrificing my time with my family by working 2 jobs (pendulum swing).

Last month, I decided to find out if there were any other working women in my situation on Google. I was shocked by the number of success stories of women and couples who eliminated large student loans or credit card debt. I wrote pages of notes on how these amazing people, who were not high profile financial experts, were able to pay off their loans in record time without sacrificing time with their family. Walking through this personal situation, I found peace restored and life coming back into balance because I realized:

1.) I am not alone – sharing my story is better than isolation and guilt
2.) I do not know it all – answers are all around me (seek and you shall find)
3.) I cannot figure it out on my own – ask for help, specifically, from those who have been in similar circumstance
4.) I cannot have it all – work-life balance requires compromise, and finding ways to meet my desire to be debt free with my need to have time for my family

Take a moment to ponder, what have you been struggling with in your life that you have not yet figured out? In what area have you kept yourself isolated because you felt too ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty to share with others out of fear of being judged? Now is the time to come out of hiding, look for answers, and seek the support of those around you, so that you can experience peace and balance in this key area of your life.

3 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Dreams

By Amanda McPherson

Something inside of you is saying that you want more…that you have more to offer the world. But, the thing is, it just stays there—sitting stagnantly inside that head, that heart, that gut of yours…

Why?

Here are three ways you may be sabotaging your dreams:

1. You are waiting to feel “special”

Here’s the deal, the people who are out there living their dreams are special.  Yep,that’s right.  They were born with this super fantabulous specialness chip, and you simply didn’t get. Sorry. You’re out of luck.

How ridiculous does that sound?

When we look at the people who we admire; the people who are using their unique gifts in a way that fills them up and makes them shine from the inside out, we aren’t looking at some kind of alien from the Planet of Specialness of which we don’t belong.  Those people don’t have anything you don’t have —except maybe the realization that they didn’t have to be “special” before they started pursuing their dreams.

Take the pressure off of yourself to be “special” and allow the flawed, imperfect, brilliant, unique, authentic you to put one foot in front of the other.

2. You think you’re “lazy”

A mentor of mine once told me, “I don’t believe in lazy”.  She went on to explain her belief that there is always something deeper behind a person’s laziness— Maybe it’s a fear of failure. Perhaps it’s disbelief that you really can be happy; or that you deserve to be. Or, maybe, you have no tolerance for the discomfort and hard work that comes with leaving your comfort zone.  The next time you blame your “laziness” for not pursuing your dreams, I encourage you to look deeper. Examine it.

Don’t let yourself believe in lazy.

3. You don’t want to be an acorn

You’ve probably heard the analogy about how every beautiful oak tree once had to start out as an acorn. But, I mean, who the heck wants to be an acorn?! We want to be beautiful, big, strong oak trees, darnit!

I am going to take this opportunity to practice what I preach about vulnerability and share something with you—I would love, loooove, loooooove to be sitting on a couch across from Ellen someday (yes, as in DeGeneres). You know, just us girls. Chatting like old pals about spreading kindness, empowering women…saving the world…yada, yada, yada. Whoa! That’s some serious Oak Tree dreamin’, right? Sure, I’ll admit it. I have some big dreams. But, if I put that kind of pressure to succeed on every word I write or speak,I’d be paralyzed.

You have to be willing to be an acorn.

Tonight, being an acorn means sitting home on a Saturday night to write this post. Other days, being an acorn means submitting my writing to a publication and having it rejected. And, some days, this little acorn gets watered and fed by hearing that my words helped someone in some way.

It’s okay to have big Oak Tree dreams.  But, you can’t skip being an acorn. And, honestly, you don’t want to because it feels pretty darn good.

So, what is holding you back from pursuing your dreams? I really hope you’ll take the time to search for the answer to this question.

The world is waiting to receive what you have to offer.

How To Be An Inspiring Leader

By Dr. Carol Morgan

So you’re the leader of a team now! Congratulations! Perhaps you’re a brilliant computer programmer, but if you suddenly got promoted to be a manager; you will need an entirely different skill set. Great leaders have good social skills, and they are adaptable. Here are 11 more things you can do to make sure you are the best leader possible.

1. Listen Effectively

Organizations value communication. But some leaders think they “know it all,” because they are the “one in charge,” so they don’t have to listen to their team members. However, this creates a negative atmosphere. Everyone wants their voice to be heard. So when your employees talk to you, lean forward, look into their eyes, nod, and then reflect back what they say to you. For example, if a team member just told you that a customer is angry and she is frustrated and confused about how to deal with him, you can paraphrase back to her and say, “What I hear you telling me is that you don’t know what to say to this customer to make him happy, and you would like my help. Am I correct?” This helps the employee feel valued.

2. Be Honest

Lying  or withholding information does not create a productive atmosphere at work. Everyone has an instinctual feeling and knows when they are not being told the truth. So if a leader lies or is not completely forthcoming with vital information, this will make his/her employees uncomfortable. When the team members aren’t comfortable with their leader, their performance decreases. So make sure you are open and honest with every person you lead

3. Have Confidence

Just because you are a person in power does not mean that you always have confidence in fulfilling that role. But remember, if someone hired you to manage other people, they must have faith in you! So have faith in yourself, too! You can do it. It all starts in the mind. Act like a leader. Think like a leader. Treat people with respect, and they will treat you the same. Have a “can-do” attitude. When your team sees your confidence, they will feel safe with you as their leader.

4. Be Direct and Specific With Your Language

Ambiguity does not get the job done. For example, if a team member asks you how to accomplish a task, don’t just say, “Oh I trust you. Do what you feel is best.” Instead, give them specific information. Say something like, “I would be happy to help you. What I would like to see is for you to first get all the sales statistics together. Second, merge them into pie charts, and then when you have that done, please write up a 3 page report and give it to me by Monday. Do you have any questions? And feel free to talk to me any time if you need more support and guidance. My door is always open.”

5. Lead by Example

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” Words are empty. People really do believe your actions over your words. So if you want your team to be superior employees, you need to be a superior leader. If you need them to stay until 8:00 every night for a week to get a project done, you better be there by their side.  Employees emulate their leaders much in the same way that children emulate their parents. So make sure your behavior is what you want to see in your team members.

6. Plan Ahead

Procrastination, anxiety and feeling rushed does not make for a productive team. So make sure you look to the future and plan everything ahead of time. While some people can work under pressure, others cannot. Make sure you share the plan of action with your team members and show them the timeline you need to follow to accomplish your projects. When everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them, they feel secure and more willing to get the job done.

7. Inspire Them‒Don’t Force Your Team To Do Things

People do better work when they “own” what they are doing. In other words, when people are forced to do something, they will resist. So it’s important to give positive encouragement to your team. Tell them how important their work is to the project and that you have faith in them. Even if you know it’s a task they won’t enjoy doing, make sure you keep it positive. Also, give them the option of choosing which assignments they feel they are passionate about and capable of doing.

8. Show Appreciation

Doing great work is wonderful, but if someone doesn’t feel valued, then they will not want to continue to give their best effort. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, even in the workplace. So make sure you thank your team members regularly. Thank them for their timeliness, staying late to finish a project, for their creativity, for inspiring other team members, or for winning a contract. Notice and acknowledge all of the accomplishments, both large and small.

9. Be Positive

A great leader creates a healthy and happy team community. The best way to do this is by being positive. Don’t play into negativity. For example, if a team member says, “We’re never going to win over this customer, it’s impossible.” Don’t agree with them. Respond with, “Let’s not get negative about it. Anything can happen. We just need to figure out a way to handle this problem client in the most effective way possible. Let’s have faith about this. I know you can do it. We’re going to help you.” As the leader, your employees look to you for guidance about which direction to aim their emotions.

10. Think About Your Team’s Needs

People are not just employees. They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, friends, mothers, fathers, etc. In other words, they have a life outside of work. A great leader recognizes this. It will be common for some of your employees to need to take the day off because their child is sick and has to stay home from school. Be compassionate. Acknowledge that they have other life commitments. When they feel like you understand, they will be more likely to give 150% effort when they do come to work.

11. Be Flexible

A sign of a great leader is being able to adapt your leadership style to your individual team members. For example, maybe your team member, John ,needs to be told exactly what to do or else he will accomplish nothing. If that’s the case, you should be more directive and authoritarian with John. However, maybe Jane would be insulted with that kind of style. She performs best when the leader allows her to express her creativity and lets her be self-directed. The best leaders are flexible and adjust their style for each employee.

Bottom line is this: you can be a great leader. You just need to learn how. It’s not difficult, but if you keep these 11 things in mind, you will soar.

7 Ways To Be Persuasive & Easily Get What You Want

By Dr. Carol Morgan

Does this photo look like you when you don’t get what you want? Do you become aggressive or argumentative? If so, keep reading.

We all like to get our way. I don’t know one person who doesn’t. But how do we make that happen? As you may have guessed, I don’t suggest emulating this toddler in the feature photo – unless you want to get what you don’t want. 

We all use persuasion every day, whether we know it or not. Getting someone to comply with what you want them to do can take place in many different contexts. You can persuade your significant other, your boss, your client, or even give a persuasive speech or presentation. Regardless of what context you are applying your persuasive skills, there are some useful strategies that can help you get what you want easily.

1. You need to give your “audience” what they want and desire.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “what’s in it for me?” And I’m sure most of you reading this have thought or even said it yourself! We all have. Let’s face it: we’re all inherently self-centered. If something doesn’t make us happier or our lives better, we are not very interested in it. So in order to persuade your “audience” (whether it is an individual or an audience of 1,000 people), you need to tell them how it is going to benefit them. You can’t just focus on yourself or they will tune out. If you focus on helping them achieve their wants and desires, they will be ready to sign on the dotted line.

2. Don’t require the “audience” to change too much.

Human beings are not only self-centered‒many of us are lazy too! Anyone who has made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise more knows how difficult it is to change your habits or your lifestyle. Plus, it is much easier to persuade people on simple things (“Here! Try this new hot fudge sunday!” or “This new toothpaste is great! You should try it!”) rather than deeper convictions (“Hey! You should switch religions!” or “I love the president, but you hate him. Vote for him anyway!”). Audiences need to be exposed to a message multiple times before they even consider changing their attitudes or behaviors.

3. Make your audience like you.

Let’s say you are out at a furniture store to buy a new couch and love seat. A sales person comes up to you and starts up a conversation. You had already picked out your couches, but the sales person really annoys you. He smells bad, talks too much, and follows you around yammering on and on about nothing. Even if you were just about to whip out your credit card to buy the furniture, you might just want to make your escape to get away from the sales person. You might even do that and try to find another store that sells the same couches‒I think you get the point. If your audience doesn’t like you, they’re not going to buy into what you say. Be nice, friendly, and connected. Make sure you think about the impression you’re giving off at all times.

4. Make your audience trust you.

Would you vote for a political candidate who you didn’t trust? Would you lend money to a friend if you didn’t think she would pay you back? Of course not! People are more easily persuaded by others that they trust. That is one of the reasons Oprah has the “golden touch.” If she recommends a book to her audience, it automatically becomes a best-seller. Why? Because they trust Oprah! They trust her opinion, so they will automatically do what she says to do. So in order for you to get people to do what you want them to, you need to gain their trust as well.

5. Use emotional strategies to persuade them.

One of the easiest ways to persuade someone is to use emotion. Great examples of this are the television commercials that show the starving children in third world countries. They ask you to donate money to them on a monthly basis so they can have clean water, food, clothes, and schooling. The visual images are very sad, and so it makes people want to give money to help them. Even in personal relationships, we use emotion to persuade. However, you have to be careful doing this. Sometimes it is not ethical if you use guilt to manipulate someone on purpose. But appealing to positive emotions like love, happiness, belonging, or togetherness is a great way to get your “audience” to agree with you.

6. Use logic to persuade your audience.

Not everyone is an emotional person. Some people might be turned off by overly using emotion to persuade them. So it’s important to remember to use logic sometimes, too. If your “audience” is one person, try to assess their personality as best as you can. See if they seem to appreciate logic and rationality over emotion. But if your audience is a large group of people, you will have a mixture of different people. So the best thing to do is to combine logic with emotional appeals. That way, you will likely influence everyone in some way.

7. Use your personal qualities.

If you are an expert on the topic, make sure the audience knows. Dress the part. Look the part. Act the part. Be dynamic. Be engaging. Your audience will be much more persuaded if you give them reasons why they should pay attention to you. People are very easily persuaded by people they know or respect. That is why advertisements use celebrities so often. They are recognizable, and many people will buy a product simply because that particular public figure is telling them to. So selling yourself is key to persuading others.

Sometimes persuasion can be easy. Sometimes it’s difficult. But if you keep these 7 tips in mind, you will be very successful in getting what you want.

3 Things That Stop You From Starting Your Own Business

By Tom Rubens

What was your dream as a child? Maybe it included owning your own business. For many people, it does. If you are one of those people, what has been holding you back? Why haven’t you acted yet? I have coached many entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen several themes emerge. I would like to share the top three “obstacles” that most people let stop them from venturing out on their own:

1. Fear

Fear is frequently the first demon that rises up to stop us in our tracks on the way to our dreams. For some of you, the fear of failure is overwhelming … almost paralyzing. You are so busy replaying the story in your head about how you can’t afford to fail, but then that leaves you stuck with the belief that failing at something makes you a ‘failure’.

Not true.

The truth is that not reaching outside your comfort zone might be the surest guarantee of failure. Ironically, the fear of success is sometimes even more powerful than the fear of failure. Perhaps you are tied to your current identity as someone who just got dealt a bad hand in life. That’s who you are and how you show up in the world. Success would really screw that whole story up for you, wouldn’t it? If you actually pulled yourself up and succeeded – on your own – you’d have to change your whole belief system. You’d have to become someone with whom you are totally unfamiliar.

2. Not Having the Money

This is the most commonly stated reason that most entrepreneurs give when they face the challenge of starting their own business. I’m not buying that. Fear, lack of self-belief, and the absence of structure, strategy, and clear intention keep more potential success stories on the sidelines than lack of money ever could.

3. Lack of Self-Confidence

Of course, this is tied to your self-belief. It is very difficult to fundamentally change what you believe to be true about yourself, and also how you think the world works. Negative self-image – whether it comes from your weight, your looks, your current financial situation, your kids, or any other de-energizing stories you tell yourself, is a tough hole to crawl out of.

Even if you are reasonably confident in yourself and willing to take a chance on your entrepreneurial dream, if you don’t have a structure in place to implement the strategies needed to be successful in your chosen field, you are going to struggle mightily to make your business work. If you come from a work environment where strategic planning and organization were not part of your skill set, you will need to acquire those skills if you want to truly rise above your competition.

So, let me ask you a question. How would it feel if you had the tools to overcome your fear of failure? Or success? What if you were able to walk arm-in-arm with courage, towards just the things you used to fear the most?

If you could adjust your self image, so that you actually loved and admired all the things that made you uniquely you, do you think success would be a bit easier to access and maintain? Yes. It would.

Do you think that if you had a clear picture of what a successful business looked like, and an easily implementable structure that you could follow to keep your business running smoothly, that you could move far beyond your current state of financial and personal affairs?

I’ve given you a little taste today of what you need to work on to achieve greater success in your business and your life. These are some of the problems I solve for my coaching clients on a regular basis. Business is business, and the skills you need to succeed are the same whether you are baking cookies, manufacturing semiconductors, or selling dietary supplements.

Are you ready to step up your game? Let’s go.

 

Top 5 Tips For Being A Successful Solopreneur

By Maura Desimone

Being an entrepreneur, and more specifically – a solopreneur – can be challenging. Here are 5 tips for success when you’re in business for yourself, and by yourself:

1. Manage Your Time Effectively.

With the world as your oyster, the tremendous amount of flexibility you have can be daunting at times. The key is to develop a schedule. Schedule in all those things you want or need to do: self care, client meetings, work time, business development time. Whatever it is you want to include in your life, add it to your calendar. Often, I schedule self-care time and tell clients I have meetings (they don’t need to know). The most important asset you have is yourself. Taking care of yourself will make your business more successful.

2. Seek Out Professional Networking Groups.

The agony of finding a good business networking group is s-l-o-w and time consuming. It took me a few years of searching to find one that fit my needs. I sat through many dead end coffee groups and Chamber meetings until I stumbled across my beloved Women In Networking Group. I’v been a member for 9 years now, and it has been a huge gift to my life and my business. I’ve developed incredible friendships, learned great business practices, and found invaluable resources that have benefitted me both personally and professionally. A quality business networking group is a powerful resource for any business trying to grow. It connects you to to other professionals on a routine basis and creates an environment of comradery in a sometimes difficult business climate. Being part of a supportive professional group helps you see things in a different light and can help you out of many difficult situations.

3. Realize Your Weak Spots.

Success relies on knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. In the areas where you’re weak or need some extra help, don’t fight it, just go with it. Use it as an opportunity to break out of your bubble and find some resources. Once you identify your key areas of needed resources or support, you’re halfway there. Then when the need does arise you will have some options, you’t won’t feel the need to freak out and lose your work time, you’ll have it handled and be able to keep the business running smoothly. Whether it’s child care, accounting or legal advice, a little planning goes a very long way.

4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Change.

Otherwise known as, “You’re the captain of your own ship.” This is one of my favorite sayings of all time and comes from my kid’s preschool teacher. It’s as effective for preschoolers as it is for adults. One of the best things about working for yourself is your ability to figure out pretty quickly what’s working and what isn’t. If something isn’t working, instead of trying to pretend it is, just change it. Concede, move on, try a different approach. Ask someone else their opinion if you’re stuck. But the bottom line is that there’s absolutely NO reason to get stuck. You have the power and ability to make changes – whether big or small – for your business. So just do it!

5. Give Yourself Permission.

The saying goes, “Life isn’t about how many hours you work, it’s how you spend your time.” Or something like that. The absolute best part of being a solopreneur is being able to take time off when you want it or need it. Go for a walk, go to the beach, take a trip, go to your kids play, visit a friend, take your dog for a walk. It’s all the little things in life that add up to being happy. I believe the happiest workers are those who have space in their life to do these little things that add up to big meaning. Studies have also shown that we are more productive if we don’t work all the time. So get out there, breathe some fresh air, unplug for a while and come back to work ready to make things happen. I guarantee it works.

The life of a solopreneur can be very rewarding. So keep these 5 tips in mind, and you’ll be both happy and successful.

6 Things to Remember if People Try to Kill Your Dream

By Carol Morgan, Ph.D.

Not everyone will understand you or your dream. Some people will mock or criticize you. Others will tease you. Some people may even avoid you. But does that mean that you should listen to them and give up on your dream? Absolutely not! If you always wanted to own your own business, be an actress, or change careers, then just do it! Don’t let other people’s negative opinions prevent you from going for it!

Here are 6 things to remember if people try to kill your dream:

1. You <might> want to listen to them.

Sometimes people seem like they are criticizing when in fact they are simply offering some advice based on experience. It is wise to listen. That doesn’t mean that you have to follow what they say, but gathering as much information and opinions as you can is actually a good thing. Being open to advice will allow you to be flexible with your strategies to achieve your dreams. Maybe something they say will help you in the long run.

2. Talk to them.

Many people aren’t used to talking through their problems when they have major disagreements. But this is a very valuable way to clear the air. When you begin the conversation, do it non-judgmentally. Say something like, “I get the impression you do not think me pursuing my dream is a good choice. Am I right? I would like to talk to you more about it and explain why I am so passionate about it.” Refrain from becoming defensive and approach the conversation with a “team” mentality instead of a “me vs. you” mentality.

3. Thank them for their opinion.

Instead of getting defensive when people criticize your dream, thank them for their opinion. This will disarm them. People do not expect kind, loving words to be directed back at them when they are purposely trying to tear you down. So when you thank them, say something like, “I appreciate you sharing your opinion with me. It gives me something to think about. However, I am still passionate about pursuing my dream, so I will take your advice into consideration in the future if I need to do so. But for now, I’m going to continue on.”

4. If that fails, then stop talking about your dream with them to avoid their negativity.

If talking it out doesn’t work, then you are not obligated to go out of your way to talk about your dream with them. If the topic ever comes up in conversation, you can gently remind them that since they are not supportive, you would rather not talk about it. If you continue to be exposed to their negativity, it can affect you–but only if you allow it to. Simply avoiding the topic might be the best option with some people.

5. If worse comes to worst, then you may have to sever ties with them.

If you can’t talk it out or successfully avoid the topic, then you might have to completely stop seeing them. Obviously, this depends on the type of relationship. It is not likely or advisable that you sever ties with your parents or family. However, if it’s a friend or a co-worker, perhaps having their “naysayer attitude” out of your life for good might help you stay focused on your dream.

6. Don’t quit!

Always remember this: do not ever give up!! Don’t buy into other people’s negativity or believe that your dream is unreasonable. Anything is possible! You will find a way to happen when you work for it. Make your plan, keep your passion, take action, and then you will definitely make your dreams come true some day!

4 Reasons Your Business Shouldn’t Be The ‘Shy Kid’

By Maura Desimone

Is your business like the shy kid in class?

Remember the shy kid in class? You don’t? Yes, that’s my point. The shy kid doesn’t leave an impression. The shy kid doesn’t talk much. The shy kid doesn’t share many thoughts. The shy kid flies in under the radar, usually because there is a certain amount of pain and discomfort in interacting with others. The shy kid is the wall flower who just blends into the background. I know this well, because I was always the shy kid in class.

Obviously, I’m not talking about interpersonal relationships – I’m talking about your business. But the end result is the same.

So here are 4 reasons why your business shouldn’t be the ‘shy kid:’

1. Being the ‘shy kid’ isn’t interesting.

As I’ve grown and evolved, I’ve decided it’s not that interesting to be the shy kid anymore. And since I’m a business owner, being a shy kid doesn’t pay the bills. Or even allow me to run a business. So the shy kid got put to bed, and in its place I developed a personality for my business. The personality of my business is called my brand.

2. ‘Shy kids’ don’t have a definite ‘branding.’

A brand is a business tool that defines who you are and what you do. Depending on the type of business you have, your brand may include certain graphics, typography, colors, music, flavors, ideals, etc. The ways to define your brand are really endless. One of the most common ways people brand their business is by developing a logo design. The logo design will include specific type styles, colors and sometimes graphics. All of these elements give visual indications of what the business is about. They help to define the personality of the business, which makes the business more memorable.

3. Your target market won’t find you if you’re the ‘shy kid.’

Whether your business is only one person, or if it’s thousands of people, it’s still the same concept: The whole reason to develop a brand for your business is to make it easier for your target market to find you. That’s why there’s such tremendous value in developing your brand – your business success relies on it. Strong branding helps your market find you and remember you. Having a strong brand will create greater sales in your business.

4. ‘Shy kids’ don’t have personality and don’t make many ‘friends.’

A business that has no personality isn’t memorable and doesn’t get much business. Think about those business cards you sometimes see that are on flimsy white paper with a few lines of black text on them. Do you ever remember what the business is about? What they’re offering? Do you want to keep their card and learn more about them? Probably not. They just disappear into the background, just like the shy kid in class.

So don’t let your business be like the shy kid in class. Get out there. Find your market and share your message with the world. Your business will thank you for it!

When You Build Your Confidence, You Understand These 5 Things

By Dan Munro

Most people have low self-confidence, but yet they never do anything about it. I was one of them until 5 years ago. Now I want to give back what I have learned.

In my coaching career, I have come to realize that everyone already has what they need, they just can’t access it due to confidence barriers in their heads. These barriers include our inability to overcome feelings of fear, doubt, and discomfort.

So come with me and take the steps toward higher self-worth today, because it will be a step away from the boredom and impotence of a life half-lived.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned:

1. Everyone else is scared, too.

You know that voice that keeps you up at night? The one making you doubt yourself, the one preventing you from making moves? Yeah, everyone else hears it too.

There is no such thing as being “fearless.” Anyone who claims otherwise is either psychopathic, deluded or just full of it.

“We all have a story playing in our head; the ‘I’m not good enough’ story.” – Dr Russ Harris

It plays continuously in the background, and has no association with logic, reason or evidence. Sometimes it’s loud and it’s all we can hear, other times it is blissfully drowned out by positive thoughts. Either way, it is always there. And it’s there to stay. Unless you decide to change your story.

2. There is no such thing as a pain-free life.

“Life is suffering” – Buddha (apparently)

Continuing on from point 1, pain is also a crucial part of life. The pursuit of happiness implies that there is some magical stage of life you can get to which will be pain-free. Pain is the natural by-product of experience. Think of all of your favorite activities, relationships, and experiences. There is always some sort of pain involved.

Try to re-frame pain. Think of it as the reference point for joy, meaning, and fulfillment. You simply cannot enjoy life without knowing what the opposite of enjoyment is. You can’t appreciate something unless you can understand the inevitable tragedy that it will one day be taken away.

You don’t have to enjoy pain, you just have to accept its presence. Welcome it like you would the burning feeling you get lifting weights. It is a necessary part of our experience in order for life to have meaning.

3. Happiness is just a temporary feeling.

I often jabber on about the pointlessness in pursuing “happiness.” Building confidence will open your eyes to something very important: happiness may never be a permanent state.

Again we come back to the ‘points of reference.’ Life is a rich tapestry of emotion, each with its benefits for our experience. There is peace in sadness, there is confidence in fear, and there is passion in anger.

All the emotions you think of as “bad” are far from it. By definition, happiness requires other emotions to exist. You cannot be permanently happy, as it would eventually just end up being the worst state you can possibly experience: BOREDOM.

4. People do not ‘have’ status, you give it to them.

People tend to look at others as either better or worse than themselves. Depending on the situation, you are either The Man/Woman, or A Loser. There is a system in your mind that compares you constantly to others.

This leads always to seeing some people being seen as above you. You will cower, bow and scrape to those who you see as better. This might include people you are attracted to, your bosses, socially confident people, and anyone else whose presence makes you feel like either withdrawing or showing off.

Confidence building will make you realise the truth: we are all the same. People are only better than you when YOU think they are. Best to just stop comparing altogether.

5. Slavery is mindset, not a situation.

People mostly think of themselves as “free” because they are not technically slaves. In fact most people are either slaves or prisoners. I have met very few people in my life who I consider to be “free.” Sometimes I’m not even sure I am free (but I’m definitely getting closer).

What is the definition of slavery? Being owned and controlled by someone else.

What defines being a prisoner? Being in a place where you cannot escape.

If you feel you cannot talk back to your boss because he will fire you, then you are technically a slave. He owns you. And in a more practical sense, he exchanges money for your time. If that is not completely of your free will (i.e. some part of you believes you MUST accept it and you cannot walk away at any time), then you have the mind of a slave.

If you feel like you can’t pursue your passions because of your restrictions and obligations, then you are a prisoner. You have put up walls around yourself. Your life cannot be escaped, and your limitations dictate your options.

Slavery and imprisonment can only happen inside your mind.

Prove to yourself that there are no limits. Ask yourself “If I could do anything, or be anyone, what would that look like? What would need to change in my life? What would I have to do differently?”

Then act on the answers to those questions.

To Stop Being Used By People, Do These 5 Things

By Dr. Carol Morgan

There are many people in the world who confuse love with helping people. Not that the two can’t go hand-in-hand. They do, and they should. But at what point does the ‘helping’ people  turn into being used?  There is a very fine line between being loving and becoming an enabler. So if you find yourself feeling like other people are just sucking the life out of you without giving anything in return, take a moment to look at  your actions.

For example, I know a family who is going through a difficult time. Their adult child has gotten into trouble with the law and is currently in jail. And now the adult child is expecting her parents to not only bail her out of jail, but also to pay for a good lawyer so she doesn’t have to spend 3-15 years in prison. And they probably will. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here on the outside thinking, “This is how she got there. No one has ever told her ‘no’ – she has never had any consequences to her actions. She has a sense of entitlement and didn’t appreciate anything they did for her.” I know that may sound harsh, but I know the family well enough to be pretty confident that I’m right. And now the poor family is facing selling their house and/or downsizing just to afford her impending legal fees.

So that got me thinking about: (1) Personal responsibility and (2) Being used.

This story as an extreme example of these two very common problems. If other people don’t take personal responsibility and expect you to take up their slack, then in my opinion, you are being used. Sure, it’s nice for us to help people out and do things we don’t have to do just because we are being helpful and loving. That’s beautiful. But when it be comes a habit, a pattern, and an expectation from the other person, then I think that turns into being used.

So if you suddenly discover that you are getting used, what can you do to stop it? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Here are 5 things you can do:

1. Say NO.

I know you’re thinking, “Duh. Thanks for that secret, unknown piece of information.” Yes, it’s obvious. But is it easily done by a lot of people? NO!!! Put yourself first. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Only say yes if it feels right and good.

2. Tell them why you are saying “no.”

Usually, when you explain things, people will have a better chance of understanding and agreeing with you. Even if they don’t agree with you, at least they know that you have your reasons and you’re not just saying no to be mean.

3. Be nice but firm in telling them no.

You don’t have to go off on a rampage and tell them what a selfish loser they are. You can tell them that you hope they get what they need, but you are not the person who will provide it for them. Wish them luck! (with sincerity … not in a nasty way).

4. Stick with your ‘no’ – don’t change your mind.

Don’t ever, ever, ever go back on your ‘no!’ If you do, they won’t ever believe you again when you say no. Say it and mean it!! This is one of the most difficult parts for most people. But you can do it!!

5. Tell them that you will have a better relationship because you say no. You will not resent them anymore.

They may not know that you have had resentment building up inside of you because of their actions. So tell them!! And let them know that this is a blessing in disguise. From now on, you will be able to let go of the resentment and have a much happier, honest relationship with them because you have drawn your boundaries.

If you don’t take these actions to stop getting used, then you have no one to blame but yourself. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”

The real message here is to love yourself enough to say “I refuse to let you use me one more second!!” Keep in mind that  you will be doing them a spiritual favor by teaching them that they need to give and not just take.

Drawing the line and standing your ground is not selfish. It is called self-love. In fact, it’s the tough-love that everyone needs in the long run.

5 Habits To Change To Be ‘A Better Me’

Let’s face it. Becoming a better version of yourself takes effort! That’s probably why a lot of people don’t bother. I know I can relate to how hard it is. For example, I grew up in a family who hates to exercise. And I mean HATES it. On top of that, we didn’t exactly pay attention to eating high quality, raw, nutritious food. Not that we ate junk – that’s not what I mean. But we ate ‘normal food,’ which now (decades later) is known to be not the healthiest thing you should eat (think processed food).

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I KNOW how difficult it is to change your habits. I try to eat healthy. I try to exercise (I’m sure my family just read that and had a heart attack!). Well, I go through my phases where I exercise moderately … very moderately. But it’s a struggle. I can always find some reason (*ahem* … okay … EXCUSE) to slack off on working out.

We all have our ‘bad habits.’ Yours might be smoking, drinking, procrastinating, or eating too much pizza. We all have our vices. But change starts with awareness. You can’t change what you don’t recognize. So take a look at this list. Do you see yourself in any of these habits?

Here we go …

1. Complaining

We live in a word of complainers. Really – we do! It’s almost like the school system had classes in it. Okay, okay, obviously that’s not true. But what is true is that we live in an incredibly negative world. I teach classes about the media, and a well-known motto in the news industry is “If it bleeds, it leads!” In other words, the more sensational (and negative) the better! Think about the “Jerry Springer Show.” Why would that show have survived decades on the air unless people liked watching all that negativity?

2. Living “Unconsiously”

There are a lot of people who don’t live consciously. What I mean by that, is they kind of go through life with blinders on. They don’t ever look in the metaphorical mirror at themselves and see their behavior for what it really is. For example, I saw this show once called “I Consume 30,000 Calories a Day” (or something to that effect). The people on the show literally did not know they were eating that much. It’s hard for the average person to fathom that they weren’t conscious of it, but they weren’t. They were sleepwalking through their eating habits until someone had to wake them up and point it out. It may not be your eating habits, but there may be some other behavior(s) that you are not noticing or acknowledging.

3. Not being “Present”

Texting. Phone calls. TV. Internet. Distractions. I could go on and on about what takes our attention away from being mentally and emotionally “present” with other people. I have heard parents say that their teenagers and their friends sit around in a room together but they’re all texting other people on their phones. Really? Why bother even being in each other’s physical presence. They might as well just go home and text each other from there. The best thing you can do for another person is to show them you care by being “present.” And that doesn’t include texting other people when you’re with someone else.

4. Being Selfish

I know that human beings were programmed to be selfish – it’s a survival mechanism. If cavemen weren’t the first to snatch up the last of the food, then they might starve to death. But this behavior has manifested into bad social behaviosr. No one likes a selfish person! I teach my students that it’s best to have a balance between “Self” and “Other.” You shouldn’t completely ignore your own needs and wants, but you shouldn’t ignore other people’s either. Having a nice balance seems to work out well if you can find a way to achieve it. However – one note. BOTH people have to have a balance. One person giving and the other one taking (all the time), does not make for happy relationships!

5. Being Late

I know a lot of people who are chronically late. And while some people may think they’re doing it to have a power trip, I tend to think that a lot of people who are late just either (1) have a really bad sense of time, (2) aren’t aware of how their lateness negatively impacts other people. I can’t tell you how many times I have waited over an hour in restaurants for friends to show up thinking, “Well, this is a waste of my time. I could have been doing something productive for the last hour instead of waiting for this person!”

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list by far. It’s just a start.

Remember that no one is perfect. But the difference between someone who is trying to be better – and someone who is not – is making an effort to change. And as I said earlier, change starts with awareness! So I promise you that I will keep working on my eating and exercise habits … if you promise me that you will work on whatever habits you need to change. Deal? 🙂