Business Etiquette

“Business Etiquette” is defined as the polite conduct expected among peers, colleagues and others as a means of creating and maintaining harmonious co-existence in the professional world. It’s about the expectations for business behavior we hold as a group.

We adhere to these codes of behavior in business for several reasons, one of which is the care and feeding of our personal brands. Break the rules, and you run the risk of offending the very people who keep you in socks and underwear.

Often, rules of social etiquette carry over into the business world, such as table manners, dress code and how long you stare at a person’s business card before you stick it in your pocket.

We often take the excellent business etiquette of others for granted, but boy, do we notice when someone breaks the rules. I’ve noticed quite a few violations of polite conduct lately:

  • Not returning a colleague’s phone call within 24 hours, or ever, maybe.
  • Not responding to an email, if even to acknowledge receipt of it.
  • Failing to stick to the :30 second rule your hostess established for your self-introduction at a networking event.
  • Attempting to sell your wares at a networking event without having paid for exhibit space, or before you’ve established a warm connection with the person you’re talking to.
  • Not allowing the other person to speak during a phone conversation. Every time you try to butt in to ask a question plays havoc with cell phone reception.
  • Making someone feel like an ass publicly or while in a meeting.
  • Failing to respect the cultures of other countries while doing business.
  • Being consistently late to meetings.

The list of the rules of etiquette has expanded quite a bit since everyone got a mobile phone. Don’t have it out during meetings or meals. Don’t use it in tight, crowded spaces like grocery lines or elevators. Don’t take a call when you’re with another person.

Let’s always be striving to show respect for one another. Breaking the rules of business etiquette means single handedly contributing to the misery of others.

Do you have any favorite examples of poor business etiquette?

 

Your Audience is One

I was one of 300 TEDxWilmington fans who had come to see more than two dozen experts, scientists, adventurers, visionaries and survivors  share their “ideas worth spreading” with a crowd of enthusiastic, open minded individuals.

It was an inspiring lineup: a horse whisperer, a retired circus aerialist dangling upside down from the ceiling on a strand of white silk, a scientist with a new hope for humanity, a South African woman committed to saving the critically endangered white lions, and a Swedish female entrepreneur who had weathered life’s storms to launch a successful tech company.

I’m sure what the speakers saw as they gazed into the dimly lit, cavernous space before them was a mob of blurred faces, the open space punctuated by the sound of the occasional muffled cough. It was quite a different experience from weeks of rehearsals in a brightly lit dining room when no one but the dog was watching.

Waiting backstage to go on, several speakers were nearly paralyzed by fear and self doubt. The clipping on of their microphone by a stagehand was tantamount to being wired up for execution.

What they didn’t realize was that the only person out there was me. Actually, 300 people who called themselves “me.”

Each storyteller spoke directly to me and me only, occasionally catching my eye and then moving their

gaze and body in a different direction, to speak directly to another me, sitting rows away across the chasm.

A young man from the British Virgin Islands told me in vivid detail what it was like to clutch his young child to his chest, quite willing to die to protect her, as a raging hurricane blew his house into vicious, flying bits. Another man described for me what it was like to row across the Atlantic Ocean and endure near starvation, near collisions with giant ships and 20-foot waves.

When the scientist left the stage to go and mingle, she was surrounded first by one me, and then another, each expressing their love and admiration for her idea worth spreading — that there was a medical breakthroughs that will change the face of medicine forever.

So, a message to those of you who have an idea worth spreading but who have fear about standing on the worldwide stage, try and remember: It’s just me and you out there. And I’m all yours.

 

 

 

 

Part One: Will I Make It?

Death by a Thousand Cuts

I was laid off from my VP marketing job when I was late in my mid-50s. I worked at a community bank that was positioning itself for sale, and to cut expenses, guess who was the first to go?

Right. The marketing department. We’re marched to the chopping block in uncertain times, which for me is about every four years. I have the scars to prove it.

I was just six months shy of qualifying for a pension and being fully vested in my stock options. The bastards.

This was a common occurrence in my professional life. I’m a risk taker who accepts positions that offer the most challenge. I like to watch things grow because of the rain I make. I didn’t see it as “rolling the dice.” I saw it as, “the greater the risk, the greater the rewards.”

And when I set a goal, I’m relentless until I achieve it. Which is good and bad, depending on how you look at it.

I saw myself as a courageous hero on a quest for the impossible dream. I was Dana Quixote, savior of the underdog. It was both romantic and foolhardy. I worked with tech startups, fledgling community banks, struggling ad agencies and others who needed a big boost in lead generation and brand awareness.

Well, they got it. And after four years, I “got it.” The axe, that is.

In truth, even when I nailed it in my marketing and PR roles, I wasn’t able to control the company destiny. I picked bad horses. Plus, the world can be a hard place.

So here I was, in my late 50s, divorced, penniless, no prospects, and seriously depressed. Thank goodness for unemployment insurance, which allowed me to pay rent for the next six months.

Before I had taken this last VP marketing job, I had been unemployed for almost two years. (The previous job was for a startup with a mission I really believed in.) I did hundreds of interviews and applied for hundreds more with no success — death by a 1,000 cuts.

Clearly, it was ageism. There’s no doubt about it — and I’m writing a speech about it for diversity conferences because it’s an awful fate to endure if you’re looking for a good job, and people have to stop being in denial about it.

Additionally, I had 25 years of experience in executive positions, so I was judged as “overqualified.” Oh, and I’m an aging woman. Have I mentioned that one?

During these two years of high stress unemployment, I went through my entire savings. Unable to continue to pay rent, I moved to my sister’s (bless her) and continued my relentless job search.

While I sought management positions that fit my qualifications, I also applied for anything that would earn me a paycheck. Waitress. Car sales. Executive assistant. Reporter. Pizza delivery gal. I did score a temporary job in the women’s sportswear department at Macy’s during the holidays, but other than that, nothing. No matter what I applied for, I was rejected because I was “overqualified.”

But at last, I got that bank VP marketing position. Was I picking a bad horse again because I was desperate? Yeah, I guess so.

It lasted four years, and I truly believe that if they hadn’t laid me off, I’d still be there. I was a tired soldier by that point, and a regular paycheck was just what I needed. I figured by day I’d work the paycheck job until official retirement, and at the same time, write mystery novels in my spare time.

The job was right up my alley, and I managed a very talented team. We did a lot of great stuff that moved the needle on deposit and loan growth. And then, on that fateful Friday at 4:00 p.m., the CEO called me into his office.

“Dana,” he said, “you are a victim of your own success.” The rest was wah wah wah, wah wah.

I took this layoff as a death sentence, and I wept, really hard, for about five minutes. And then, something in me snapped. A little voice said “I’m free!”

Next week, “The Only Choice Left.”

5 Important Protocols for Speech Rehearsal

How many times have you rehearsed a speech by mumbling the words to yourself while flossing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror?

There are many important steps when preparing for and delivering a good speech, whether you’re giving a 12-minute TEDx talk or a 60-minute keynote. The most critical part, however, is the way you rehearse.

Here are five stages of the rehearsal process that the big stage professional speakers use to prepare for keynotes:

Rehearse Out Loud — It’s a Speech!

When you’ve finished writing and polishing your script, put your pen down. Now it’s time to make your speech an audible and visual embodiment of your thoughts. No more “reading it to yourself.” Read it aloud every time you practice, even before it’s memorized. The words of your script are a whole lot different on the page than they are coming out of your mouth!

When you first start reading aloud, you’re going to discover awkward phrases and sentences that make you trip over your own tongue. Edit your script accordingly so that the words flow more naturally. You’ll also get a sense of which words to emphasize and where you should pause for maximum dramatic effect.

AND, muttering your words under your breath while you memorize and rehearse doesn’t count. If you feel self conscious by practicing out loud, don’t worry — you’ll get over it! I used to be embarrassed to rehearse in front of my dog.

Rehearse Standing Up

While you’re memorizing, stand up. Engage your whole body when you speak — your arms, your legs, how you get from one place to another on the stage. When you memorize standing up, your words and body movements become ingrained, like muscle memory.

The most exciting speeches are given away from the podium. As a great speaker, you are a performer who connects with the audience body and soul — without dependence on Powerpoint slides and physical barriers.

Rehearse in Front of a Video Camera

When/if you rehearse in the front of a mirror, you’re not seeing what you actually look like to others. Your reflection is what you see. Moreover, you’re more uptight in front of your own reflection because rather than feel what’s going on with your face, you’re posing to please yourself and then judging the way you look.

Try rehearsing in front of a video or computer camera instead. You’ll get a chance to see yourself as your audience will see you. You’ll notice any unconscious quirks you have (we all got ’em), what your face is saying, how you’re moving your body, and opportunities for saying things differently or how you can move your body to display more confidence.

Rehearse for Many Hours

If you’ve spoken before, you’ve learned that limiting yourself to a couple of quick rehearsal sessions before your presentation is a terrible thing to do for yourself. Typically, your lack of preparation is obvious to the audience and often shows up in the comments of audience evaluation forms. I winged it for years, and noticed I was getting comments like, “Too much rambling,” and, “Ran out of time.”

The more you prepare, the better your speech will be. And the more you speak, the more highly skilled and entertaining you become. TEDx speakers often report having rehearsed 50 hours or more for a 10-minute talk. Professional public speakers rehearse every day. That’s true of any great skill, isn’t it?

Rehearse in Front of an Audience

You’ll never know how well your speech affects the audience until you have rehearsed in front of an audience. Before you give your “real” speech, do yourself a huge favor and perform it in front of live human beings. If you can, do this rehearsal in a space that’s close to the type of space you’ll be speaking in. When I’m in the final rehearsal sessions with my TEDx speaking clients, I actually put down a red, circular rug and we rehearse on a local stage. Of course, your living room is fine if that’s the best option.

I use a lot of humor in my speeches, so for me, it’s absolutely imperative to have a rehearsal audience to see if my jokes work and whether my content makes sense. It’s wonderful when your test audience laughs at your jokes and understands your material. It’s a drag when they don’t, but now you know what to fix or cut out.

I wrote a passage for a speech once that followed Professor Harold Hill’s cadence when he sang, “You got trouble, my friends, right here in River City,” from the classic musical, “The Music Man.” Everyone knows and loves “The Music Man,” right? After I performed it in rehearsal, several audience members asked me, “What’s the music man?” So I cut the bit.

If you can’t gather a large group of people to watch your rehearsal, consider having a speaking coach or speaker mentor be your audience — they will be objective and honest on your behalf and guide you to being even better.

Good luck, and have fun!

5 Ways to Lose an Audience

Has your appeal to large audiences been trailing off lately? Are you getting fewer and fewer “likes” or “shares” on your content — none, maybe? Ugh. We all struggle with it.

We can blame changing algorithms, insufficient SEO, and the ever increasing shrieking noise of the online marketplace. But if your sales have been flat since Q1 2016, then consider something else — you, yourself may be to blame.

There are lots of ways to attract an audience, but there are even more ways to drive them off. I call them “audience repellents.” Here are five that I see most often:

(1) Bragging and Humble Bragging

Whereas, “bragging” is a self-inflicted wound, and “humble bragging” is pouring lemon juice on it.

We don’t like braggarts at a cocktail party, so it stands to reason we don’t like it from businesses, either. Humble bragging is bragging online about your business accomplishments, but pretending to be modest while you’re doing it.

A business humble brag usually starts with the words, “We’re just thrilled to announce that…,” Or, “We’re so humble and honored to have…”  

We all like attention for our business achievements, but when bragging is the main substance of almost all of your public interaction, and you feel you have to brag to get people to notice you, you become repellent in the minds of your audience.

I don’t think perpetual braggers are deliberately trying to turn people off.  You might think that your audiences will be impressed and even love you MORE. But actually, the OPPOSITE is true!

There is a Harvard business study that proves that people dislike and lose respect for companies and individuals who brag, and especially who humble brag. 

So, lighten up on bragging and opt for achieving “3rd Party Credibility.” People believe what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself. Send out a press release so that the media can make your announcement. If you’ve won an award from an entity, let the entity make the announcement on your behalf. Hide it on your website somewhere.

Just resist the urge to run out into the town square and shout, “Look at me! Look at me!”

(2) Failure to Connect and Engage

You can visit many social media business pages, websites and posts and see nothing but brags and self-serving sales messages, as if social media itself was created just so marketers could advertise for free. You will also observe that there’s not much of an audience there, either.

To attract an audience, you need to make the bulk of your communications strategy about delivering the information they want, not what you want. If someone’s not interested in you as an organization or as a solo professional, they certainly won’t care about your sales agenda.

(3) Failure to Understand Your Audience

I learned this the hard way, back when we were trying to make our rock band famous. More often than not, in order to pay the rent, we had to play gigs to please audiences who were more into hearing Top 40 music than any of my original tunes.

Once we were booked as an opening act for David Brenner, and his audience comprised the blue hair casino crowd who lived for Frank Sinatra and yelled “turn it down!” when their grandkids had the radio on.

Anxious to show off on a big stage, my band played mostly our original rock tunes. After each one, all we got were golf claps. But when we played “The Rose” at the end, back then a top-of-the-charts ballad, we got a standing ovation.

There’s something to be said for “givin’ ’em what they want.”

(3) Giving Up too Soon

It takes time, and lots of repetition, to get people to notice you. Unless, of course, you’ve just landed a jet in the Hudson River without killing anyone.

And by time, I mean months, even years. There was a saying long ago: “Just when you’re getting sick of your own messaging is when people start paying attention.”

Keep your communications frequent, relevant to your audience and consistently value-driven.

(4) Your Website Isn’t Media Friendly

Never forget that the “media” is one of your most important audiences. The people most likely to tell others about you and give you mass exposure are journalists, editors, TV producers, radio talk show hosts, podcast hosts, and thousands of bloggers. They’re always looking for experts to interview.

To research your company and judge whether you’re credible, they’ll look at your website. If you don’t have an online press room providing the kind of information a journalist needs to do his/her job, they’ll probably blow you off. Either that, or they’ll search LinkedIn for your leadership’s LinkedIn profiles. No LinkedIn profiles?

They will move on to another company or expert who has their act together. It wasn’t you.

(5) Failure to be Passionate about Your Brand

An audience-attracting brand regularly expresses genuine  passion for something greater than itself. 

Apple has a passion for beautiful design. Nike is passionate about athletes. Harley Davidson is passionate about freedom and adventure. Ben & Jerry’s is passionate about the earth and the environment.

Get your positioning team back together and commit yourself heart and soul to ONE ideal you can stand behind. Your passion is a magnet for people who share your values, because it inspires trust and a sense of loyalty.

A business without authentic passion resorts to humble bragging.

I am thrilled and honored that you have read this post.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-Itis

This might be another dumb human story. It’s certainly something we all have in common. Maybe it’s even hard-wired into our DNA. The problem is, it can cut us off at the knees without our ever knowing it.

It’s called, “We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-itis.”

It hurts us because it blocks us from greater possibilities. It keeps us blind to solutions of problems we didn’t know existed. It certifies our ignorance. Some people are aggressively assertive that they know something, when they don’t.

It affects our business in negative ways. It insults the experts. It limits our options.

And there’s no cure — as far as I know. Because we don’t know we’re missing anything. It’s insidious. Cruel. And, it’s not our fault.

Case in point: Figuring I could record my songs by myself at home if only I had the right audio equipment, I purchased Pro Tools, a high quality audio recording software often used in professional music studios. I loaded it into my Mac.

I thought this would be a cost-effective solution. I wanted to be able to get ideas down immediately, especially the choirs of voices or tsunami of strings that often ran through my mind. Thus, like any consumer, I wanted fast and easy. I knew there would be some learning curve, but had confidence I could master it in a short amount of time.

Keep in mind, I’d had NO previous audio recording training. I had produced tracks in sound studios for years, but never touched the audio mixing board. The board (to me) looks like the cockpit of an alien space vessel.

Ha! The Pro Tools screen on my Mac also looked like an alien ship’s dashboard. I was in big trouble.

Enter my friend, Jim Salamone, of Cambridge Sound Studios in South Philly. He’s produced some of the greats: Grover Washington, Jr., Bon Jovi, Teddy Pendergrass, and many more. Jim and his producer/engineer, Todd Mecaughey, have forgotten more about music production than I’ll ever know.

So, I asked Jim and Todd if they would tutor me in the art of Pro Tools sound recording. Bless their hearts, they were so patient with me, but I learned through them that you can’t fly a jet without hundreds of hours of training.

Jim told me this happens a lot in his line of business. People underestimate the huge amount of expertise required to work magic in a recording studio.

People also underestimate how many hours of preparation it takes to do a truly wonderful and inspiring TEDx talk. They underestimate the difficulty of writing a book — a GOOD one. They underestimate the hours of preparation a consultant does before they walk in your door. There are many examples.

I want to live in a world where people concede they don’t know everything, and where they show automatic respect to the professionals and experts who have mastered their crafts.

I welcome you to weigh in and share any experiences you’ve had with people who underestimated the width and breadth of your experience and training.

3 Ways to Spot an Untrained Speaker

Being able to speak well in public is an acquired skill that takes years, and tons of trial and error, to master. And the quest for mastery never ends. The professionals say they’re always learning and improving, and most claim to have coaches and colleagues to keep them at the top of their game.

It’s easy to spot a trained professional. They don’t use notes, they’re at ease on stage, their content is engaging and full of well-told stories, and they finish on time.

It’s easy, too, to spot someone who’s never received speaker training. Here are three:

Nervous pacing or freezing

An inexperienced speaker moves unconsciously on the stage through pacing, rocking back and forth, moving sideways by crossing one leg in front of another, etc. Others stay rooted to the spot.

The Cure — Long before memorizing your script, read your speech aloud at your dining room table and mark places in the script where movement will add drama and emphasis to what you’re saying. As you rehearse and become more familiar with the material, you can make continual improvements. Every movement you make is in service to your message and is well practiced.

Not using their voice as an instrument

Good speakers modulate their voices and deliver their speeches as if they were telling stories to first graders around the campfire. They’re loud, and then soft. They pause for emphasis. They don’t rush. They make the audience feel. An inexperienced speaker’s voice is devoid of emotion, difficult to hear and often unconnected to the material.

The Cure — A great speech is a performance that entertains the audience. As you plan your movements at the kitchen table, you should also be marking up your script to indicate where you’ll be loud or soft, where you’ll pause for dramatic effect, where you’ll smile, and how you’ll move your hands to illustrate what you’re saying. You’ll then practice on your feet, rehearsing your speech over and over until it is a part of you.

They read their Powerpoint slides

A good speaker doesn’t turn to look at their slides, and doesn’t rely on a slide’s bullet points to deliver the presentation. We’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. The prevailing wisdom is to use as few slides as possible to make your point. None of them should have bulleted lists. Use charts, images and illustrations to reinforce your ideas.

The Cure — You make Powerpoint slides as an extra way to engage your audience and explain complex information, not to give yourself a cheat sheet. Always ask yourself, “Do I really need that extra slide?” or, “Do I need slides at all?”

 

My TEDx Talk Transcription

Delusional Self Promotion: The Bridge from Ego to Empathy

If you’re a business communicator in the digital age, you know more than anybody how important it is today to connect with, and deliver real value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.

 

Unfortunately, this guy didn’t get the memo. You may have run into this guy during your business travels, and you soon realized that he wasn’t there to connect with you, no. The only thing he wanted to do is sell you something.

Now if you haven’t met somebody like this guy, I’m going to paint you a little picture. This is a true story, starring me.

So, I’m at this networking event. I have to admit, I’m not that comfortable networking. I’m an introvert, but I can do it when I need to, and I know how important it is. But it needs to be a comfortable thing, and this guy looked really friendly. So I summoned up all my courage and I went over to him, and I extended my hand.

His name tag said “Sam.”

“Hi Sam. How do you do? My name is Dana.” My handshake was firm and confident, like it’s supposed to be. But his handshake was like sticking your hand in a rock crusher, and he broke every bone in my hand. But he didn’t notice I was wincing because he wasn’t looking at me — he was looking through me, scanning the room for his next victim.

Well, this made me really uncomfortable, and I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go to the emergency room, actually. But instead, I stuck it out, and I decided to talk to him some more because I was fascinated by this point.

“So Sam, what do you do?” I remember him giving me some kind of 30 minute spiel. He didn’t talk about a product or service. He rather he talked about himself a lot. I smiled, and I nodded, and I seemed to be very interested, and I reflected back, “Oh yeah? How many? Yeah? Wow.” We exchanged business cards. Then I drew in some breath so I could tell him about me, and what I do. But before I could get the first word out, he turned and walked away. He walked away from me. From me! I was flabbergasted.

Don’t you know, like a few days later, I got an email from this guy addressed to, “Dear friend,” trying to sell me something. I hit the delete button so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

You know, if people like Sam treat people face-to-face the way he treated me during that awkward face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online where people like this have access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push themselves out everyday to potentially 10,000 people or more. When he’s really hyped up, he blasts email into your inbox, which forces you to hit delete, delete, delete, which could lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and not a little bit of loss of faith in the future of humanity.

You see Sam, which rhymes with spam, is a taker. He doesn’t give back. He talks, blah, blah, blah. He doesn’t listen. The only thing Sam is interested is in advancing his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being or just a means to an end maybe.

I’ve pondered this kind of behavior over the years, he’s not the only one. There are other people like him. I wonder, do people like that stay in business? Did he even have any customers who weren’t friends or relatives? I see it all the time. There are so many people who go into business, and all they talk about is themselves. Blah, blah, blah.

But I’m going to give him some slack. This is what people are taught. They’re taught that aggressive self-promotion is the way you’re supposed to grow a business. But you see, that’s old school thinking. Times have changed. Of course with every change, there is a little bit of chaos, some confusion, and a whole new set of challenges.

For example, there is more noise circling the globe than there has ever been in history. Yet we as business people still have to find a way to cut through that clutter and convey to people that we’re the best people to do business with. But we have to tread lightly because we don’t want to seem inauthentic.

Another challenge is it takes time, real time, to get people to know they can trust you. But the waiting makes us anxious. I mean, we have bills to pay, right? So we slip into default mode, which is shouting our promotional stuff from the rooftops again, 24/7, 365, “Me. Me. Me. Me.” It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey. If I can just shout loudly and often enough, customers are going to just jump right into my lap.” But the harsh reality is today’s consumer is immune to that, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If you really want to attract attention to yourself in this digital age, you’ve got to think and communicate in a whole new way. It might seem counter-intuitive, but believe me, it is so much more effective for achieving your business goals.

Now I don’t … I hate to be the one to say this. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t want to sound like the school yard bully, but you need to know — Nobody cares about you! But you know who they do care about? Themselves, right? It’s human, it’s natural. We’re built that way. We can’t help it, and we all think that we’re the center of our own universe.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be cared about, right? So now we’re thinking, “Well, how do I promote myself and have people care about me and show them that I care about them in return?” Well, here’s a little hint, something to think about; the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more people crave real, heart-felt human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not some faceless corporation. We decide if a business is trustworthy by how sharing its experts are, and how much we feel they care about us, and the community, and the world. That’s where the E-word comes in –empathy.

Demonstrating empathy is one of the most important ways to show people that you care. It’s about sharing, exchanging ideas, it’s about listening to them, it’s about understanding their pain, it’s about solving their problems, it’s about treating others better than you treat yourself. Don’t focus solely on yourself, you don’t have to do that. Just stop drinking your own cool aid, spit it out.

Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Make them laugh, tug at their heartstrings. Model for them how to lead safe, happy, healthy lives. Every time you can, tell a great story. Empathy and value are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age, and I have a vision that if we can all change our mindset away from “me, me, me” to “you, you, you”, fewer businesses will fail, and greater goodness will expand into the universe.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every business has to decide that, too. So let’s choose the light.

Hey Sam, are you listening?

Thank you.

To view this TEDx talk on YouTube, click here.

How One Big Thing Changed My Business

I did a little hibernating over the holidays to de-stress and rethink my professional life.

After my TEDx talk in November, a tsunami hit me — extreme fatigue, anxiety, self-doubt, and genuine confusion about what I was supposed to do next in my life. Doing a TEDx talk is a tough act to follow.

I let this ride for a few weeks, just letting it be. I didn’t resist it, just fell into it like a trust exercise. I’ve lived long enough to know that these kinds of episodes usually result in epiphanies. A big “aha!” moment was coming, and it was being processed at the deepest level of my subconscious. All I can do at times like these is to wait patiently until the answers bubble up from within.

Well, did they ever.

The reality is that I’ve been working so very hard over these last few years, toiling in the mines, wrestling with bears, conquering fears and making mistakes. And you know what? Much of it just wasn’t fun anymore.

My deep, inner voice told me to relax and have faith. It assured me that I was going through the necessary self sculpting and chipping down to the essential me, a peeling off of layers and the unplugging from the matrix.

Letting that stuff go was painful. I was molting — shedding the outer shell to make room for new growth, Michelangelo at a block of marble, “chipping away all that wasn’t David.”

And that’s okay. Well worth the trouble, I’d say.

Another epiphany was, strangely, a productivity tip. All the business books I’ve read over the past two years said that “focus” was a common attribute among successful people. It meant staying with one task until it was complete, instead of doing what I usually do: make a to do list, check emails, start a project, go get coffee, clean up my desk, start a different task, check emails, check Facebook, do laundry, write down brilliant ideas, write a blog… and then, voila! It’s dark outside, and I haven’t made a single step toward my vision.

So here’s what I’m doing now, and it’s making a huge difference in what I’m accomplishing each day. Using my planner, I break down visions and goals into manageable tasks and schedule them out into daily sessions (or small bites). Then, I set the timer on my phone for one hour and give myself to work on that ONE thing for the next sixty minutes. I allow nothing to break the bubble. When the timer goes off, I can either keep going if I’m in the flow (which happens a lot if I’m writing), or move onto something else after a 15-minute break.

My favorite thing is I’ve allocated one hour every morning for reading. My second favorite thing is the most important things are getting done, better and faster.

What I’m saying is nothing new. This is simply my testimonial in praise of the method.

Surrendering to change, and focus. What an extraordinary, pleasant way to start the new year.

From My Heart in 2017

Anyone who knows me is aware of the specific and numerous challenges I’ve survived to be where I am today.

But really, who hasn’t?  Everyone reading this email has endured challenges, torment, heartbreak and disillusionment. When I was younger, I thought the universe had singled me out for special punishment. It’s a silly and self-centered illusion.

Truth is, every human lives through heart-wrenching experiences. Deciding whether to live or die is what matters. And when you choose life, you realize you’re “allowed” to pursue your heart’s desire — if you’re willing and able to do the work.

I’ve thrown away the need to judge or compare myself with others. Instead, in this chapter of my life, I’ve decided to do what my inner nature compels me to do, as wild as I want. And in 2017, I feel as if I’ve removed a few more restraints. In 2018, I’m going to let the horses out.

Today is the last day of 2017. If you’re consciously “aware” and if personal development is your lifelong quest — and if you see your business or career experience as a part of that quest, realizing that the two are inextricably intertwined (i.e., you can’t leave your soul at the door when you walk to your desk), then 2018 is going to be an amazing year.

Why do I say this?

  • Major cultural shifts are changing the way we do business. It’s forcing us to re-evaluate what’s keeping us stuck and re-invent our business models and personal brands.
  • We have more freedom than ever to try new things when we communicate with the world. Can’t write? Make a video. Can’t video? Take pictures. Not a photographer? Do a podcast. Can’t podcast? Spend more time engaging in social media. Then there’s the “thing” that hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Entrepreneurs are realizing that in order to survive, one ought to have multiple streams of income. This enables one to dig deeper into the trunk of their inherent skills and abilities and find ways to monetize them.

Whoo hoo, right? Will there still be let-downs, fears and failures? Sure. It’s part of the package.

Here’s a good plan for 2018: Hold tight to your vision. Put one foot in front of the other, knowing persistence is the key. Hang around people who are smarter than you. Embrace/explore new technologies to remain relevant. Understand that success is a marathon, not a sprint. Make healthy living a priority. Read a lot. Don’t compare your progress to others, and don’t care what other people say about you. Be your true self, quirks and all.

I’m so happy that you are in my life. Thank you for your goodness and support. It’s a privilege to witness your success. Here’s to another year!