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Offense is the Only Strategy You Need for Success in Business

If you’re anything like me, last week’s pre-season games put a twinkle in your toes. Football Sundays are near and the anticipation of a new season is very exciting! How will the new recruits gel with the vets?  What impact will trades have on offense? Defense? So many unanswered questions!

With Patriot’s QB, Tom Brady, suspended for four games the team’s offensive line will have to work harder than usual to get points on our scoreboard.  Defense’s role does not change much

Speaking of offense…

Recently I spent an afternoon at a local Boston high school on Career Day discussing the idea of working for yourself.  I sat on a panel with seven professionals – librarians, philanthropists, creative professionals, and military professionals – but the students seemed to only have an interest those who were self-employed.  The room grew quiet when the caterer, the graphic designer, and the writer spoke.  The Q&A sessions had one central theme – how to be a successful entrepreneur.  The students did not ask much about how to start a business; they wanted to know how to keep it operating.

There are a host of incredible opportunities for young people who want to become entrepreneurs, right now.  In addressing the students, I wanted to make sure the budding entrepreneurs got the answer they were looking for.  We needed to talk about the one mistake that could keep their businesses from being a success.  Choosing to play defensively when you’ve won the coin toss may work for your favorite NFL team but it rarely does in the business world.

In football, the offensive line sets the tone for the play.  They plan for a desired outcome and work toward it.  A strategic offense makes a great defense.  As the play unfolds, you react to threats to your offensive game.  In similar fashion, your strategy in business should not be one of reaction, but of action.  When the bad times eventually roll around a great business plan had the foresight to see it coming.  Develop your skill set. Do not allow your weaknesses to limit you.  You cannot just be a defensive player; you have to start with your offense.

Always be ready to make adjustments.  When the season – or fiscal year – ends, and your team has suffered injuries you take time to re-evaluate things.  The strong offense makes time to regroup and move forward, resisting the urge to rely on one player’s strengths and abilities.

Every business is different but successful ones share something in common.  They play offensively.  Football players know exactly what they should be doing for each and every play that is called. A good offense has already memorized the play book before heading into the game. Ultimately, as an entrepreneur, you need to decide how your offense should operate.

Look ahead to all the possibilities of what could happen.  Money will not always be flowing and external factors will play a role in your success or lack thereof.  Be ready for every possible outcome. Don’t lose sight of what is ahead.

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Here’s Why “They” Can Keep Their Advice

As an emerging entrepreneur you will find that you are in constant search for new information. The pursuit of that knowledge can be confusing, if not carefully vetted.  I have learned a great deal since I began chasing my entrepreneurial dreams – both about the world of business and about myself.  The decisions I made have continued to inform my future in business, because the lessons I learned from them go further than any piece of advice I’ve gotten. Despite the hard times and occasional misstep, I wouldn’t alter the course or change any of the experiences I have had.

When I am asked about my ordeals, my advice to budding entrepreneurs is simply not to take the advice of others. That’s right. Forge your own path. As a potential business owner you need to learn not to worry about what other people will think, early on. The people who will try to advise you along the way, may believe they have your business’s success in mind. The truth is, advice is often a determination of what is the best from that person’s perspective. It is the choice that they themselves would make, given their anxiety level and risk tolerance.

If you want to be a successfully entrepreneur, you need to define your goal and what you would like to learn from launching a business, implement it, and then analyze and iterate accordingly. If you continue this cycle of creating things and then analyzing them, you will understand that building your products is something you can get better at, and your products will constantly improve. Keep changing, experimenting and analyzing the results.  Always be in a state of mind of learning and improving not only your product but also yourself and your team.

The best opportunities for personal growth happen when we make our own decisions and our own mistakes. The people who want to do business will do so because they see the value of your services. Your business will begin to thrive when your customer base can trust the quality of your product, the way you present yourself professionally. Neither of these things can be perfected by taking the advice of someone who is not at your side, experiencing the same things you are.

Others have lived a different life from your own path. They are far more qualified to give advice to their former selves, because they have learned from their own mistakes. Being informed by past mistakes is most adept at helping you avoid future ones. In taking advice from others you rob yourself of what could be a critical learning experience. And in the end, you’re the only person responsible for your life.

“It’s time to grow up. Say goodbye to Peter Pan.”

I was 28 years old when my co-worker, the Retirement Consultant, said those words to me.     When I laughed at her likening me to Peter Pan it was because I knew my mortality was real.  Setting up my retirement plan was the first step I had taken in planning for my future Peter could be a child forever, but one day I’d be a senior citizen.  I never wanted to be a working senior citizen.

At that age, I had been out of college and working full time for four years. I held three jobs in that four years and not once had I taken the initiative to plan for my future. I focused on the bills I need to pay now, the vacations I want to go on, the shoes that would be cute with the dress I have my eye on. Each obligation more pressing than the money I would need 40 years from now.

Still, I was often nagged by a little birdie; a co-worker who was opening hers, a friend in finance. I always had my reasons to dispute those voices. Not even the fact that I worked in Human Resources, where the opportunity presented itself every day, was good enough reason.

Finally, one week my reasons lost their relevance. I realized that the soles on new shoes become worn, the dress is rarely as pretty as it is on the mannequin, the vacations eventually become pictures on social media and the memories fade. The bills….the bills never quite go away but retirement age? It draws nearer by the day. And as each day passes, I was losing an opportunity to save.

Friday I sat down with the retirement consultant at work. Together we laid the excuses to rest; I set up a 403B. As we talked over next steps and plan options she said something very important.

“It’s time to grow up. Say goodbye to Peter Pan.”

Peter-Pan

That statement instantly struck a chord in me. Those few words made what I was doing clear as day; saying goodbye to the idea that I would be young forever.  Seven years later I have since changed career paths, lifestyles, and made more impactful choices about my life.  I am adulting. I have said goodbye to Peter Pan but there will always be a little bit of Tinker Bell in me.

According to Wikipedia, “The extremes in her personality are explained in the story by the fact that a fairy’s size prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time, so when she is angry she has no counterbalancing compassion.”  Tall, and far from a fairy, those personality extremes are all me… compartmentalizing to avoid Peter Panning while adulting.

7 Things I Learned from Attending the ASJA Conference

ASJA Conference

April 24-26 the American Society of Journalists and Authors hosted their 43rd annual writer’s conference in NYC. This year’s Expanding Your Reach conference was designed to help writers do just that – with workshops that range from “Sassy Sentences and Wicked Good Prose” to “Podium Power: How to Give Speeches to Promote Your Books and Boost Your Income”. Having attended the conference, I left NY with a wealth of knowledge that I am happy to share with you all.
There were a wide variety of topics to choose from on the schedule. Some of the workshops I chose to attend were directly related to my goals as a freelance writer, others not so much. But overall, I found that no matter what the topic at hand I found a new tool for my writer toolkit. I live tweeted several of those gems on my Twitter account. You may also check #asja2014 for other perspectives.

The list below is comprised of all the things I learned that seemed to echo throughout the day –

Personalize: Whether it is a pitch letter, letter of interest, or a book query you need to ensure it is tailored to the recipient. Include details about their previous works or the works of their company. Google the person you are addressing the letter to – do they have a dog they adore? Ask how the dog is adjusting to doggy day care! The more personal the context, the more likely they are to respond.

Look Forward: Don’t bother repeating what is already being said. Understand trends and how your writing is connected to those new exciting ideas. When your writing uses examples of past events/situations connect them to a present idea or future trend.

Google +: Social media is a great tool to use in order to remain connected to your audience and provide content. But let’s face it, Facebook is fading fast. One of the fastest growing social media outlets is Google +. If you do not already have a Gmail address get one and use it at least once per day to engage with your audience.

Be Authentic: People need to feel connected to you as a person in order to consider buying what you are selling. What is your message? Does it reflect who you are as an individual? What makes it relatable? Are you a viable subject matter expert?

Build an Email List: Stay in front if your audience. If you give them the opportunity to forget about you, they will. A weekly, or bi-weekly, email is a great way to both educate and remain in touch with your audience. It also gives you an opportunity to expand your reach without even trying – if you provide great content they will undoubtedly share that email within their networks.

Learn to Accept Rejection: You have to be okay with someone turning the page, or closing the window. Not everyone will love what you’ve written. “In six hours, there might be a different story that appeals to them” – @amyrushlow.

Your Excitement is Contagious: Be excited about the things that you are writing! When you are passionate about your subject matter, readers are more engaged. This advice applies to your pitches as well. If you go to editors with really great pitches, whether they are picked up or not, they will keep you in mind when future opportunities arise.

The wisdom to certainly doesn’t stop there. For access to all the audio from the conference subscribe to the ASJA mailing list.

On Keasha Settles and Finding Purpose

Mark Twain is credited with saying The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you realize WHY you were born.”  I believe there is an internal restlessness that comes with waiting for that second day.  Often, the restlessness we feel because we are uncertain of our path is easier to identify that your actual purpose.  In fact, I imagine it is a lot like a parent waiting for the birth of a child; but I am not a mother so I don’t know that for certain.  What I do know is that the day is the first domino to fall in a serious of steps toward your destiny.

When it comes to our own lives, many of us are driven by the desire to succeed.  Whether the success we aspire to is in our personal relationships or in professional lives – what need to do in order to “get there” is always in our mind’s eye.  In a recent video entitled “How to be Successful” Tyler Perry said “When something is for you there is a feeling that is deep down inside of you that will not allow you to let it go”.  Tyler released the video in response fans who have asked how he has accomplished his achievements.  

There are undoubtedly times, in each of our lives, when your truth isn’t a clear picture.  In those times, it is fairly common for people to admire the successes of others and hope that they can apply that wisdom to their own journey.  Keasha Settles did as well; she grew up adoring the kind of romance her parents shared and desperately wanted it for her.  Several times within the story, she was so focused on the fairy tale ending that she lost her footing; it is easy to lose your balance when you are walking in someone else’s footsteps. 

But by the end, she managed to follow that voice within and began to walk in her own truth.  She hadn’t gotten there with the person she thought she would have, or on the path her parents had followed; but that “feeling that is deep down inside” wouldn’t allow her to let that prospect of true love go.  For her, the key to finding her way in love was learning not to ignore that internal voice.  In realizing her truth, she changed the scope of the rest of her life.

There is a certain amount of poise in ordered steps; you must hold your head high and look straight ahead because if you look down you will stumble. When you finally begin walking in your truth it is a lesson in faith.  If you do not truly believe that you will succeed then you won’t. If you do not believe that something greater than you has brought you this far, you will go no further.  And if you start your walk in someone else’s shoes, your feet will soon tire – it’s uncomfortable.

I Am Your Father

It was in a conversation with one of few people who may be able to help me find answers, that I realized I do not know my father.  And through that revelation that I came to understand how little my mother must know about him.

“Was he born in Boston?” he asked.

“No. Honduras. Or Belize? The verdict is still out.”

“But not Boston? You’re 100% sure about that?”

“Well…no.”

We both paused for an awkward silence; I imagine he was as still as me, quietly holding the receiver to his ear.  I sat still, a moment longer, hoping he could not hear my heart fall into the soles of my feet.  I wasn’t sure.

Full disclosure, I am unsure about most things pertaining to the man whose grave I have been trying to find for the past five years.   My father.

My only certainty is that my father supported us financially, provided for us, and spent a great deal of time with us as a family.

In my eyes, he was what everyone around me led me to believe he was – a “good father”.  Maybe in the 80s all you had to do was show up – kind of like my college Spanish class where 70% of the grade was participation.  In comparison to many of the fathers who didn’t acknowledge their children or support them, he was indeed a great father.  Having had friends with fathers they did not know, fathers who were in jail or another country, fathers who were a running joke…

“There goes my father” she’d say as she pointed out a random commuter.

“For real?” one of us gullible friends would ask.

“Could be” she’d huff and we’d laugh collectively.

Mine was a real and tangible person; a pager number I could dial and get an immediate response, a Santa, a Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny all rolled into one. He took me to petting zoos, taught me how to play dominoes, and did the dad things that were required of him.

Imagine my surprise when, through that conversation, I realized I don’t know my father any better than the child of an absentee father knows theirs.  Where was he born? Who were his parents? What was his relationship with the wife he remained married to while courting my mother? Who are my siblings? Where do they live? Heck, I still don’t know.

I am 100% sure it is time to find out.

A Soon to be Favorite…Out of the Mouths of Babes

Using your voice and story to educate others is something I’ve become more passionate about over the course of this journey.  When I learned about Out of the Mouths of Babes my spirit wouldn’t let me forget about this organization. The idea of a young adult Huffington Post makes it hard for me to sit still!  I had to tell my virtual world, and I know that it will make you guys feel the same way. This movement to empower the youth voice is worth sharing and voting for!

“Out the Mouths of Babes is a social enterprise and student news website, content aggregator and blog for youth and young adults ages 10-21 (a Huffington Post for young people). It aims to provide youth the opportunity to share and partake in news, opinions and observations that reflect on and impact their generation.  Students have valuable insight and perspective about our world, and deserve to have the platform to be heard and hear others. For youth and young adults ages 10-21, opportunities to publish their unique perspective on a shared, public and targeted forum don’t presently exist.”

To learn more about Out of the Mouths of Babes, watch the Education Week interview with Brandon Greene here.  Love them long time? Follow them on Twitter @OutTMob!

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