Top 3 Biggest Lessons For An Entrepreneur

I’m close to the 5th anniversary of starting my own business and that’s a huge milestone for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how far I have come… about my successes and the good times AND all the mistakes I’m grateful I made because they’ve made me and my business better.

Here are my three biggest lessons (because that’s all mistakes really are, IF you’re paying attention):

1. Not asking for help. Part of this was just being cheap. I made excuses then about not being able to afford help, but that revealed the deeper issue — FEAR. I was afraid to admit I couldn’t do it on my own (which I falsely believed was at the core of owning my own business) and I was afraid I wouldn’t make enough to pay my own personal bills, much less anybody else. So I tried to do everything on my own – even my quarterly tax reports! In no known universe should I have EVER been doing any kind of bookkeeping to that level. All that did was steal far too much time and energy away from what I should have been focused on. My time and my energy are essential to my business thriving… but I was constricting that with all the heavy lifting and frustration of the day-to-day. Now, I consider finding and engaging help as a mission-critical investment. Currently, I have 5-7 people supporting me at any given time and I could easily grow that number (and probably will) in the near future.

2. Not charging enough for my services and expertise. And to be honest, I still struggle with this one as my business and I grow. Understanding and knowing your value is at the core of what I teach my clients on all levels… because to me, it’s the core of having and creating success. If you understand what’s special about who you are, what you do and the value it brings to others, then you’ll always know what your work is worth. Your unique combination of qualities is what differentiates you from the next person, even if they provide something similar. Once you figure that out, it’s easier to set your rates or pricing for your products that makes sense for you and your marketplace. It’s a continual process as you grow and change but after you do it the first time and see the results, you’ll get better at it.

3. Not starting sooner. I’ve had ideas for businesses for YEARS… at least 10 years before I actually incorporated my current business. But I never acted on them… partly because I didn’t think I had the skills for entrepreneurship, partly because of fear that they weren’t really viable. While I believe everything happens as it should, when we’re ready and I have no regrets, I wish I had tried some of those ideas when I got them. Knowing what I know now, I could have pulled off at least one of them while I was working full-time and I would have learned the first two lessons sooner. But mostly I wonder, what they could have become?

And these are only the top three… I share them in the hopes that you avoid them and learn the lessons I already did, so you’ll have the energy for the mistakes you’ll make and learn from. To me, this is just another step on my journey living in Fearless Authenticity… it takes vulnerability, strength and tenacity to look at yourself, know and admit you screwed up, then choose to do something different. And that’s what it takes to be better at whatever you want to be — person, leader, salesperson, co-worker, business owner — and see more success as you define it.

Here’s to celebrating the imperfections along the way!

Harnessing Emotions in the Office

I was honored to be the emcee for the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Soldier Field recently. As I reflect on that gorgeous day, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to be able to support causes that are near and dear to my heart while doing what I love, on-stage or on-camera.
I had a really emotional moment on stage that day and it got me thinking about emotions in the workplace and how my approach to it has changed over time. The loss of my father is still very raw and present in my heart and mind and I started crying during the Promise Garden ceremony… a tender moment of the program where we honor the reason why we walk. It was TOUGH.

I have spent 30-some years talking to and performing in front of people. I give robust and personal keynote speeches on a regular basis and I think it’s fair to say that there’s an expectation to always hold it together in public (and especially on stage), no matter how challenging it might be. At least that’s the expectation that I have had for myself for quite some time.

People at the walk were super supportive. I looked out into the crowd and saw so many people smiling knowingly, sending love and crying along with me that it felt good to share my experience. Their empathy and kindness was soothing, cleansing and even empowering. That’s when I realized again for myself the thing that I remind my clients of oftern — that emotion fuels response in all of us.

I think we, as women in particular, may overcompensate in the other direction, thinking that emotions have no place at work. Clearly, some emotions are inappropriate, disruptive and unproductive, but if you think about the people who really are the best leaders, they lead with passion. Passion is an emotion and there’s nothing derogatory about that word. A great leader will express their joy or displeasure about something and that’s what motivates action and gets a response. And I think it’s time that we ALL do that more.

I talk about authenticity with my clients and with my audiences all the time. And I will continue to shout this from the rooftop: there is SO much value in bringing our whole selves as well as our experiences to our work.

Of course, there will inevitably be times when you should say, “I need a moment.” That’s healthy and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in taking a break to regroup. There will also be some people or groups you’re just not going to be vulnerable with for any number of good reasons. That’s absolutely fine. Check your fear, but trust your gut. When you do, you’ll know the right situations where it could really move things forward for you.
I know that for me, there have been many times where I have held things in for far too long… it’s so draining and has never really been worth it. In the past few years, I have had colleagues and work friends say that they’re glad to see more of me and that they love how I’m sharing more facets of who I am. That’s affirming. I’m not looking for validation but those moments confirm to me that I’m adding more value to someone else’s experience by doing so. Vulnerability and empathy build trust and foster stronger relationships.

So, going forward, here’s my message to you.

Do not be afraid to show your emotions (reasonably and only when you’re comfortable) because it will help build connections you didn’t know were possible. Our success is in who we are. Not just what we do. It’s also in the way that we do what we do… emotions are an essential part of that and your future successes. And that’s all authentic and truly fearless!

Simplify Everything: Relationships

Many of my clients who come to me for help in finding more success through better professional communication skills realize that when they start showing up with Fearless Authenticity at work, they start to do it everywhere… and that helps them navigate ALL their relationships better, too.

Why? Because the core of any healthy relationship — whether it’s with colleagues, employees, friends, family or loved ones — is good communication. But so often our communication becomes muddled, misunderstood or even hostile, leading us to feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. This is where simplifying everything comes into play.
I’ve made simplifying everything in my own life a priority because I want to enjoy my life with as few complications as possible. You can’t avoid them all, but I got to the point where I realized a lot of that is my choice… so my goal is to only choose things in my life that best serve me, my well-being and my goals for the future.

And we can absolutely do the same thing with our relationships.

Someone on Twitter recently asked me, “I love the idea of simplifying my life, but I REALLY need to simplify my relationships… how do I do THAT?”
My response was a little saying that has served me well — “Wherever it’s flowing, that’s where I’m going.”

Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with this too (just ask my exes! LOL) I have fought the flow SOOOOO many times in my life and let me tell you — it NEVER works out. Whether it’s friends, work relationships, boyfriends, or the mail carrier… if the conversation, connection or vibe is not flowing or feeling right, pay attention and really think about what’s going on and what that means for you. Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for in that relationship to begin with and how you can better communicate what you want, respond to what’s going on, and choose the experience you want to have.

We talk a lot about our relationships and what we want from other people… but we talk less about our own choices, what we contribute to the situation and how our energy mixes with others. Sometimes relationships bring happiness, calm or inspiration. Other times, it’s toxic or has an energy that you can’t even identify. You just know that it mentally drains you. And I know you know what I’m talking about. Do not underestimate the importance of that feeling and what it’s telling you. We always have the power to choose what we want or need… and it usually boils down to just three things: choosing to stay in a situation, asking for it to change or leaving the situation.

No choice is wrong. Just be aware of what you’re choosing. And if you’re choosing that for yourself or for the other person. Recognize that we are all at different places at different times. So, always give respect and remember that kindness always wins. Meet people where they are and if you cannot, leave them where you found them. You can always pick it up again later if it is meant to be.

Here are a few things I’ve done to simplify everything in general that I think totally apply to relationships as well:

  1. Acknowledge what you want, need and how you feel
  2. Only choose what supports those things
  3. Be HONEST! With yourself and everyone else
  4. Commit to letting things go… heal and release anything that no longer serves you
  5. Use your best resource—your voice— to ask for what you want

It all really comes down to how people make you feel. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people never forget how you make them feel.” Being purposeful, deliberate, and fearless in how you make people feel (and how you LET them make YOU feel) is what gives you power.

Procrastination – Don’t Put Off Reading This!

You would think that after all my years working in TV and radio, with multiple daily deadlines, I would be well-organized, always-on-time, and have a completed to-do list. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong! I am a (sort-of) proud card-carrying procrastinator.

Dozens of articles online discuss the different kinds of procrastinators there are – I saw at least 6 types — from “The Avoider, or “The Pleasure Seeker,” to “The Crisis Maker,” and “The Perfectionist.” So what kind am I?

What I find for me, when it comes to procrastination, and why I put off doing something, is that it is usually a task that I am not good at, something that I am not confident doing, something I find unpleasant, or something I just don’t like. So consequently, I am “The Avoider.” I would rather avoid the work than risk being judged, making a mistake, or being uncomfortable. And what does that really boil down to? Fear!

We’re all afraid of something but when I talked with a friend recently about how hard life is and that we need to stop making it harder – naturally, procrastination came up. She’s “The Crisis-Maker,” putting off work to the last minute because she likes the adrenaline rush she gets when she makes deadlines with just moments to spare. She worked in TV news for 25 years so it was a daily occurrence for her and she fed off the feeling. Now, it causes more anxiety than euphoria.

After our conversation, I got to thinking about how I best handle procrastination.
My solution is this:

  1. If I can afford to, I pay somebody else to do it. This frees up time for me to do what I am best at. In all likelihood, I can find someone else that might actually enjoy the task that I loathe.
  2. I try to do it and learn a way to make it easier for me, or perhaps even more fun. Whether it’s getting an app or getting some help from a friend that understands it better than me or can do it more efficiently, the task becomes a little more palatable.
  3. Bonus time! Sometimes, I will even give myself a reward for having done the task and done it well. Sometimes you have to treat yourself like a child to be a productive adult.

What is your solution? Do you break down your big projects into smaller tasks? Or maybe set a time limit for certain jobs or duties you dislike so that you know you can take a break when the alarm goes off? Or do you pull a friend into your pain to make you more accountable so you have someone who will help keep you on task? I’d love to hear your secrets to lowering your stress by prioritizing instead of postponing!

That Unsettled Feeling

I’ve been having this unsettled feeling lately. I figured out the why but it made me think about that feeling in general because usually I get it when it’s time for me to move on something.

I first felt it not long after I started my broadcasting career in Chicago. I was getting antsy. I felt like I was already stalled out. I wasn’t going anywhere, and I wasn’t gonna go anywhere, and I wanted to negotiate a better deal or find a better job. I tried to find an agent to help me but I was turned down. So I hustled on my own, getting hired full-time for a top Chicago radio station.

Some years later, after I’d moved to television, the feeling returned. I was getting to the end of my contract at NBC5 and I decided I didn’t want to renew. I’d been at the station for five years and had achieved my goal of being on-air every day. I was doing morning traffic and entertainment, along with a host of special projects all year long. But I knew it wasn’t all I wanted for my future self.

Right at that same time, Hurricane Katrina devastated my home state of Louisiana. Family and friends lost their homes and livelihoods in mere moments. I realized that you could work hard your whole life and it could be wiped out without warning. I knew then that my gut feeling was right, I really did need to leave my job, because at that point, I was just working for vacations. I’d been looking online at trips to Hawaii every free moment I had. I thought Hawaii was the answer, but really, I was trying to escape because I had accomplished everything I’d wanted to do at the station and was bored. I left NBC and freelanced in Chicago until I finally got my dream job of hosting my own TV show on WCIU-TV.

All that to say that I used to use the feeling as a premonition but now I draw on it as research. When I get that unsettled feeling, I think to myself: where is this coming from? What was happening when it started? When you answer those questions, they’re going to tell you much more than you might expect. Whether it’s work-related or maybe a relationship or friendship is making you uneasy, if you do the work, you’re going to realize you can’t ignore it. The time has come to move forward, to the side, or to change completely.

I’ve noticed more and more as we get older, that our souls want more and more to align with their purpose and I am the last person to tell you to ignore it or push it to the side. When you feel unsettled, it means that you are meant to do more. Don’t just “live” with this feeling because that’s not living your life, fearlessly, authentically.

Change is hard. That’s where those feelings come from. You can’t change what’s going on around you, until you start changing what is within you. It can be tough because maybe you were just hitting your stride. You think to yourself, “We were doing good, why do we have to go and change things?” But at the end of the day, it’s the only way you move forward and that’s what we do as human beings. We rarely stand still.

If you get that unsettled feeling too, do some investigating; you have to be bold enough, brave enough to say to yourself what you really want and then take the leap!

Networking: Relationship Building With A Purpose

I’ve been thinking about us “getting back to normal.” We’re going back to school, our offices, attending church or family gatherings, and even some special events. After nearly two years of isolation, networking has got to be on your mind. Especially if you’re looking for a new job or in the process of making a transition in your career. You’re probably out of practice, and I realize you may not even remember what steps you need to take to be successful. Professional career advisors have dozens of tips on how to present yourself at these events (eye contact, listening, researching the guest list, etc.) but that’s a blog for another time.
Making personal connections can be intimidating for even the most extroverted of us but it’s important to remind yourself that networking is just professional relationship building with a purpose. I gave this piece of advice to a mentee of mine and it has worked out pretty well for her so far so I’m going to share it with you. Here is how I feel about networking:

Think less about what somebody can do for you and more about what you can do for them.

Seems simple enough, right? It works for just about anybody. It was my daddy’s secret; he was a brilliant networker, making friends everywhere he went. He could talk to anyone anywhere.

Daddy always said, “Strangers are just friends you ain’t met yet.”

He listened to everyone he met and reflected back to them just what they needed. He could see what was inside other people and instinctively knew how to serve them, giving them a sense of love and belonging. Isn’t that what any of us want?

So whether you’re networking up or across, think about what you can offer them. How can you foster a feeling of community?

And remember, when you network across with people who are at the same level with you now, there’s a chance you could be colleagues with them down the road, or they could hire you as they rise through the ranks. Obviously, you always want to work to build relationships at networking events (any event really); keep gossip and rumors to yourself! A valuable relationship could be hiding behind every table with a nametag and a sharpie on it.

When you offer someone help, and truly know what you have to offer that can make their life easier, it makes all the difference in the world. And that’s what Fearless Authenticity is about – serving your audience so you can build your community.

Think about all the solutions that you need in your life; why not offer that to somebody else?

What a gift to give.

Happy networking!

How to Simplify Everything

In my efforts to live more authentically, I have tried to slow my life down and bring more order to my crowded schedule but of course, it’s a challenge every single day! In addition to my 30+ years of work in radio and television, I’m a public speaker, panel moderator, virtual events host, and business coach (not to mention, daughter, aunt, friend, and colleague). And obviously, I am not alone. Every day, I talk with at least one person who can’t find enough time to check even a few items off their long to-do list. They are CEOs, middle managers, organization leaders, and small business owners who are overwhelmed and sometimes paralyzed to make decisions. When you have 1000 things on your mind at work (along with personal stuff like family, friends, exercise, staying healthy, etc.), it’s incredibly hard to even think much less make a tough decision. So how do you fight through the all the noise and bring a semblance of order to your day? The first thing I do is ACTIVELY SIMPLIFY EVERYTHING.  Here’s how:
  1. Acknowledge what you want. Acknowledge what you need. Acknowledge how you feel. Sit down in a quiet place, set a timer, and think just about these things. Write them down. The “feel” may be challenging because it may conflict with what you want or need. 
  2. Choose what supports those things. Is it saying no? Is it asking for help? If there is a conflict between those three (what you want, need, and feel), learn to prioritize and then make your choice.
  3. Be honest. This is an exercise that you’re doing with yourself. There is no point in trying to convince yourself of feeling one way or another. There’s no judgment here. And that includes guilt. Sometimes when you actively think about how you feel or what you want, guilt bubbles up, because your choice may not lend itself to what you actually need.
  4. Commit to letting things go. After you commit to it, celebrate it! Remind yourself of what you’ve been able to do by letting go.
  5. Ask for it. Whether it’s hiring actual help or just asking a friend for support. Maybe you need a colleague to help you stay accountable to your goal. All you need to do is ask.
  6. There certainly is no definitive cure for feeling overwhelmed or frustrated; it’s different for everyone. But organizing your thoughts can be the place to start. I guarantee the process will help you learn to know your true self and reveal your authenticity … leading to a more productive and peaceful life.
Do you have a secret to simplifying your life? Please share!