Friday, September 28, 2007

The Art of the Compliment: Learn It, Apply It

When it comes to your career, don't underestimate the power of genuine and specific compliments. I try to make it a practice to offer them up often...and I'm not talking about the fake, dripping-with-shallowness kind.

What you need to do is be observant. Intentionality is key. As you go through your day, think about the people you talk to, listen intently to conversations, watch the way people work. Did your supervisor say something particularly inspiring or powerful at the last department meeting? Did one of your co-workers do an outstanding job on a recent project? Did your administrative assistant decorate for the last office party with pizazz? Tell them!

Other ways to master the art of the compliment:

1. Pass it on. This is, by far, the easiest way to start the art of complimenting. Simply, listen for when other people say nice things about (not: to) someone and then pass it on. Example:

Conversation around the water cooler...
Co-worker: I was so impressed by Anne's presentation this morning. She's just so articulate and has such composure.
You: I agree

Later that day when you stop by Anne's office...
You: So-and-so was just saying how articulate and composed you were this morning.
Anne: Thank you. I was so nervous about that presentation.
You: I just wanted to pass along the compliment.

2. Take Keith Ferazzi's advice. Give a "drive-by" compliment. Send your compliment to the person's boss for optimal effect.

3. Be critical (in the good sense of the word) and intelligent on the job. If you're known as an honest and analytical person, your compliments will mean even more because people will know they're not just fluffy sentimentalism.

(Photo by: Aaron Gustafson)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why I Only Read 8 Blogs a Day

About a week ago, I did a "productivity analysis." Essentially, I looked at the number of "awake" hours that I have available in my day (7 a.m. to 11 p.m. - that's 16 hours per day, 112 hours per week) and then proceeded to outline all of the things that I do within those hours.

My time fell into the following 13 categories:
1. Spending time with my husband
2. Playing with my daughter
3. Reflection/Prayer/Personal Growth
4. Exercise
5. Work
6. Writing
7. Grocery Shopping & Meals
8. Kindness/Gratitude/Service
9. Cleaning
10. E-mails
11. Blogging
12. News articles
13. "Me" Time

I then broke down my day in hour-by-hour segments to create a "Master Schedule" (thanks to Melissa Garrett, a fellow blogger and writer, for giving me this idea).

This exercise allowed me to look into my life from an outsider's perspective. I decided that I spend too much time on blogging - and that I need to increase my productivity in this area.

Blogging has been beneficial for me - I've received job offers, free products to review, and, more importantly, I've made valuable connections and relationships. Those things said, I think other things in my life yield greater return for my time so I need to be careful how much of my time is spent blogging and reading other people's blogs.

So I cut down my blogroll drastically and now have 8 blogs* that I read every day:
1. Brazen Careerist
2. 5 Minutes for Mom
3. Ode to Umbrella Moments
4. Growing a Life
5. Baby Cheapskate
6. Melissa Garrett
7. Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder
8. Writer Mama

*Note: My list of blog favorites seems to be constantly changing so I really should say these are my top picks of the month.

I also have another list of blogs that I read weekly - every Wednesday, but I'll save that list for another day.

What blogs do you read every day? How do you ensure that you don't spend too much time in the blogosphere? Write a post on your blog and leave a link in the comments. Or just post your thoughts here.

(Photo by: paulworthington)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Getting Serious about Writing

I'm planning to "turn up the heat" in moving forward with my writing career. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to create specific goals for sending out queries to magazines and newspapers - as well as for submitting a non-fiction book proposal. I am also going to think about the possibility of joining (or starting) a writer's group and registering for a writing conference. Any tid-bits or tips from other aspiring or famous writers would be greatly appreciated!

(Photo by: athena)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Starting a Business (Maybe I will, Maybe I won't)

I met with a woman yesterday who recently started her own writing business. It's called Advantage Writing. She basically does the whole gamut when it comes to writing - resume writing, copy writing, indexing, and more.

I asked lots of questions and she told me how to start a business - log on to the City of Tucson website and pay the $45 fee. Then, license your business name in Phoenix - and kaboom - you're in business!

Many of my closest friends and family members know that I've considered starting a business many times in the past few years.

Business Idea #1
The one that came closest to actually reaching fruition was my idea for a scholarship consulting business. As a high school guidance counselor, I have ample experience in the area and I absolutely LOVE it.

BUT I'm not sure if that's "it" because I enjoy dispensing that information for free to motivated students and anxious parents in my life.

Business Idea #2
Then, there's writing of all kinds - my specialty and my passion. Writing is what I do - whether or not I'm getting paid for it. I don't know how to not write. I just do - I think about writing, I talk about writing, and I write - all day long.

BUT I'm not particularly fond of editing and proofreading. Yes, I'm good at it. I know the ins and outs of grammar. I know where to put the commas, which adjectives deliver the most pow, how to create a killer introduction. But there's something tedious and non-creative about going over someone else's work.

So, when it comes to writing, I think I'll stick to my own freelance writing - working on my book, sending queries to magazines, and enjoying the creative [Emphasis on create] process.

Other Ideas
Then, there are my other two ideas (that might actually go somewhere):
1. speaking at various conferences, retreats, school functions, and events.
2. planning events (think: conferences, expos, and retreats, NOT weddings)

Or Maybe I Won't Start a Business...
Or, I might throw all business ideas out the window and start up a non-profit instead. I grow weary of the business world.

Hence, my husband and I had the following conversation over dinner last night:

Scene: I had just returned from a business mixer at a swanky little golf club, complete with hors d'oeuvres and door prizes and 30-second elevator pitches.

Me: (Sigh) The business mixer was so...

Husband: Boring.

Me: Yes, and superficial. I wish we could come up with a way to make billions of dollars so that we could just go around and help lots of people...maybe start a non-profit...then, we wouldn't ever have to go to business mixers and networking nights.

Husband: We will.

Me: You know how I have crazy, hair-brained ideas every once in awhile and decide that I should go to medical school or enter corporate America or become a lawyer?

Husband: Yes.

Me: Remind me to not go the corporate America route.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wordy Wednesday: one of my favorite poems...

Tonight, I could blog about business or my career journey or being a mother. But I'm tired and I have so much to do. And I want to take a nice "poetry break" over hot tea.

The following verse, entitled "Burnt Norton," is the introduction of the first section of the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. It always reminds me to treasure time because it is "eternally present" and "unredeemable." I don't want to look back and wonder "what might have been."

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

(Photo by: yugoQ)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weigh In on...Getting Paid to Blog

Lately, I've been investigating several websites that claim to bring companies and bloggers together. Essentially, bloggers sign up and can choose products and/or websites to review on their blogs and get paid for it.

Here are just a few of the companies out there that offer this type of arrangement:

On one hand, it seems like an exciting and viable option. I'd happily write reviews of products in exchange for monetary compensation or even the product itself. IF the item up for review is relevant to my blog's purpose and my passions.

On the other hand, it seems like this arrangement might bring down the quality and credibility of blogs everywhere. I've been to my fair share of blogs that feature WAY too much advertising - both explicit (banner ads) and barely subtle (in posts themselves). The last thing I want is for my blog (or for the blogosphere, in general) to become just one big advertisement.

What's your take on these companies? Weigh in!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Many a false step was made by standing still." - Fortune Cookie

Time is my most prized and precious commodity - and I strive to protect it vehemently.

I often analyze the minutes that make up my day and scrutinize the value of my activities. Am I investing in what matters most? Am I living life fully? Am I giving my heart, soul, and mind appropriately?

These questions are probably what prompt me to not watch TV and to not attend home sales parties (think: gold canyon, mary kay, etc.). These same questions remind me to play with my baby, to hang out with my husband, and to write thank you notes.

I've been browsing through Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek over the past few days. Although I don't necessarily agree with his entire outlook on life, his experiences intrigue me because he has managed to pack so much into his not-yet-thirty years. He's traveled the world, started several companies, danced tango professionally, published a NY Times best seller, and learned multiple languages. This "do it now" attitude speaks to me. I totally understand that passion, that spark, that fire - and I want to embrace it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Best Movie I Saw Last Year (this may come as a shocker)

Last night, my husband and I watched High School Musical, starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. I checked it out from the library and we decided to watch it rather reluctantly. We were expecting something exceptionally corny since it's the favorite movie of our 9-year-old next door neighbor and almost every kid that we know (from elementary to high school).

But that is precisely why we decided to watch it. Who can ignore a TV movie that has been seen by nearly 200 million viewers worldwide?

We were pleasantly surprised by the energy, the innocence, the vivacity, and the the positivity of the film. Sure, the song numbers were a bit cheesy and the storyline was predictable. BUT the songs were catchy, the choreography was mesmerising, and the casting was exceptional. AND, even more importantly, the themes of the film were universal and uplifting...try new things, have the courage to do something outside of the status quo, say you're sorry when you mess up, show kindness, I could go on.

The film so perfectly captures the essence of what high school should be - fresh, innocent, fun, full of friends and new experiences. It also successfully and ingeniously portrays the budding romance between Troy and Gabriella as being beautifully awkward and wholesome.

Noticeably absent were bad language, violence, and sexuality (implied or explicit).

Although I genuinely enjoyed watching the film, I couldn't help but think about what made this movie a blockbuster hit. Tweens and teens everywhere don't unite on most movie preferences, but this one was different.

I think the reason lies in a desire that every tween and teen has, but one they can't always express. To have a high school experience that is devoid of the clutter of broken homes, bitter and oversexualized relationships, and pressure to "stick to the status quo." To have a high school experience that is young, fun, and free - one where a budding romance might occur, the kind where a kiss on the cheek is about as far as physicality goes.

Whatever the reasons, I'm proud to join the adoring fans and I will gladly chime in with my 9-year-old neighbor to say, "I LOVE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I remember 9/11

I had gone to work before 6 a.m. I walked from work to an early morning class on Northern Arizona University's campus in Flagstaff, Arizona. I walked in and noticed the hallways were crowded. Some people were crying. Others looked shocked, white, silent. The TVs were on. I asked what was going on. "You haven't heard?", no one in particular said in an echoey tone. I looked at the TV...goosebumps...chills...fear...Tim.

I called Tim - he was still in bed. "Turn on the TV." He did. Silence. Eyes watering. I couldn't believe it. Then, the second plane collided. The images. The smoke. The people running, crying, wailing, wondering.

I walked into my philosophy class. The professor turned off the TV. He said we'd go on with class as usual. He lectured on Aristotle or Socrates - something that I couldn't pay attention to, something I knew I wouldn't remember. Something about it felt wrong - us sitting there, listening to the Ph.D. orate about things that didn't matter.

After class. Headed to our little apartment in married housing. Hugged Tim. Called family. Tried to think about if we knew anyone in NY.

Stories began to circulate. Todd Beamer. Let's roll. Sacrifice. Pregnant wives and little children and husbands left behind.

I'll never forget. The smoke. The tightness. The courage.

(Photo by: wallyg)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Business Idea #3: Career-Themed Scrapbook Supplies

On Saturday morning, I stopped in at a local scrapbooking store to pick up a few supplies for my daughter's baby album.

One of the sections of my scrapbook will include pictures of when I brought my daughter to work with me (from 4 months old to 8 months old). I was hoping to find some cute "business-themed" scrapbook stickers and papers...briefcases, business suits, laptops, cell phones, bulletin boards, planners, desks, office chairs, copy machines, you get the idea.

I looked for a short while. Then, I asked an associate. She said they didn't carry anything like that. Instead, she directed me to the "career" items - all of which featured doctor, nurse, and police officer-related items.

When I got home, I searched online and realized that this is a niche market that I could certainly develop since the pickings are slim-to-none. It seems like this would be a fun side project. BUT I'm just not sure how to go about creating a scrapbook line. Business-savvy!

(Photo by: Paul Watson)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

One year ago today...

I was in the greatest pain of my entire life. I was trying to breathe - taking warm showers, sitting in varying positions, holding on for dear life.

Just when I thought I couldn't go on - wonder of wonders - a little life emerged.

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Her rose-petal lips, her button nose, her deep blue eyes, and her soft flawless skin amazed me. At one glance, I knew I would do it all over again for her.

It is, perhaps, one of the world's greatest ironies that such great pain can bring such great and incomparable joy.

I am forever changed by her presence. She has brought new and glorious colors into my life and I will never be the same.

Happy Birthday, little one!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wanted: A Local Writing Group that Isn't Weird

About six years ago, I attended a writing workshop that was hosted by the local community college. The average age of attendees was probably 45-50. Most of the attendees wanted to write novels. Most were a little on the strange side and were probably introverts by nature.

I definitely felt a little out of place. I wanted to write non-fiction. I was young. I was a socialite, active in my community and ambitious in my career.

Ever since then, I've hesitated to get involved in a writing group. I'm always afraid that I will end up in a hole-in-the-wall place on the shady side of town with a group of free-spirited romantics.

But I keep reading about authors who say that writing groups were their savior. And so many trade books echo that sentiment. They say, "Be in a group of people who can keep you accountable, get your creative juices flowing, remind you about deadlines, and encourage you in your goals."

It sounds nice, really, but I have so many reservations. How does one go about finding a group of normal writers? Will it be a useful or futile use of my time? What if somebody steals my ideas (juvenile, I know...)?

I went on Flickr and searched "Writing Group" and found the picture above. I know. They look like they are quite normal people - having fun, sharing insights, etc. So, there's gotta be groups out there like this...

Somebody, convince me.

(Photo by: Bud the Teacher)

Monday, September 3, 2007

More on Fringe Benefits - how to keep your employees happy...and healthy

The exercise and diet choices of your employees are a personal matter. You certainly can't control how much Pepsi your secretary drinks or how much your colleagues work-out at the gym...or can you?

Healthy people are happier people. They are less depressed and less sick - and, in turn, usually live a lifestyle that promotes health for their entire family. As a manager or CEO, you benefit when your employees make good fitness and dietary choices - and it doesn't hurt to encourage [and model] the desired behaviors you want.

Try this...
A. Partner with a local gym to offer free or discounted memberships to employees. If you want, put conditions on the offer. For example, it's only free if they go to the gym three or more times a week.
B. If you have space, consider adding a gym and/or cafeteria and/or walking track on-site at your company.
C. Have a local bagel shop or healthy eatery drop by in the mornings or afternoons to sell healthy snack options (bagels, fruit cups, yogurt, trail mix, etc.).
D. Give all employees pedometers and create some kind of competition so that employees keep track of the number of steps they take per day.
E. Let employees leave one hour early once or twice per week IF they can show proof that they went to the gym or exercised instead.
F. Put together a company team for a local marathon or race.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

No-Iron Business Attire

I'm always on-the-lookout for classy, stylish business attire that I don't have to iron or dry clean.

Thanks to a special article about "Travel Business Wear" on, I just discovered the "commuter" suit separates at Lands End. The website claims that these suits can be washed and worn without ironing.

I'm curious if these garments really hold true to their claim and, if they do, why more companies don't make similar items.

How to Make a Job Offer More Enticing (and how to keep your current employees happy)

All organizations (from banks to schools to coffee shops to law firms to police departments) want competent, creative, committed colleagues to join - and stay - with their organization.

So, how exactly do you attract and keep the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the creme de la creme?

Maybe try this:
1. Offer relationships. People want to work with people they like - people who are positive, fun, friendly, non-gossipy, successful, forgiving, kind, high-achieving. The more you hire people that fit into this category, the more you will attract the kind of people you want. Be selective - especially of leaders and especially when you're starting a new division/department/business.
2. Offer service opportunities. People want their work (and their life) to mean something, to count for something bigger than themselves. Why not host organization-wide service initiatives? Or give employees a personal day that can be taken specifically to complete an individual service project.
3. Offer professional development and mentoring venues. These can be formal or informal. Pay for part or all of your employees' tuition at a local college or university. Pay for conferences: in-state and out-of-state. Have on-site trainings and workshops (perhaps even a full-fledged conference) throughout the year. Host "Career Advice and a Slice" sessions where you give pie (or pizza) and have speakers that address various career topics.
4. Offer fringe benefits. Go above and beyond just vacation days and a 401K plan. Try other fun benefits that will cause a stir in the community. Offer flex-time work arrangements, modified schedules, and work-from-home options. Give employees a "birthday day." Put together an "all-company-read" wherein everyone reads the same book. Be creative. Be spontaneous. Your hair-brained ideas will probably help you in your hunt for the best.