The Purpose of Weekends

 

My weekends mean a lot to me. I use the week to push myself and the weekends to unplug and get perspective. I am a big believer in balancing fun with work so I am now taking more time to do things for myself, catch up with family and friends, etc. But I think that the weekends can be just as important, sometimes more than, the general work day. I recently read an article called “14 Things Successful People Do On Weekends.”  There is some really good advice there are what to do on weekends. Here are a few more that I have personally cultivated:

1. Reflection — I like to reflect on the week – what went well, what didn’t what I didn’t accomplish and then move forward. Reflection is key for me but its important to reflect and then follow it up with action.

2. Work Differently — I have always been one that believes more in productivity than being busy. That said, if I spend the entire week working I want to use the weekends to work differently, smarter. That work can be putting more attention towards fitness or honing my expertise in another area. But the point is to constantly cultivate all the different parts of yourself, not just the professional one.

3.  Take a break — Take some needed time out for yourself. Make ure its meaningful.

4. Do something new — Each week, I try to meet someone new, experience something new, etc. Try to do at least one new thing, or take one new risk every week.

How do you spend your weekends?

 

 

 

Relationships 101

 

As I work to achieve both my professional and personal goals, I realize more and more how much simpatico there is between successful business practices and achieving success in one’s personal life. In particular, to create mutually beneficial and significant relationships in both your professional and personal lives, the rules are more or less the same. These are some of my best practices garnered from both the good and bad experiences that I’ve had. I believe some of the most important things are:

1. Being social is everything — Put yourself out there. Bring your best self to whatever you do. From a professional standpoint, so much is social media and technology based now. Just because we cannot see the person behind the post or the tweet does not mean we can abandon our humanity. Its perhaps even more important to be social. This one is hard for me because I am so introverted. Nonetheless, I realize how crucial it is which is why I put myself out there so much.

2. Practice integrity – I define integrity as the balance between your words and your actions. Do they match up? If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you make plans with someone, don’t break them unless its absolutely necessary. Be on time. I’ve had problems in the past with procrastination and the like. Its important to not make a pattern out of being late or irresponsible. I recently read this really great article about what to do when you’ve angered someone. The writer states that even though you may have had a good, legitimate reason for being late or missing a date, the person waiting for you only experiences the consequences of your being late, not the events that led up to you being late. The principle of integrity is such an important one and should be the foundation of any relationship.

3. Make an effort – When you try, it shows. I find that when trying to build a professional or personal relationship, going above and beyond in a meaningful, authentic way is often appreciated.

4. Be a giver — Its true that some people are givers and others are takers. But giving (within reason of course) is a good practice to develop. There’s a great deal of conversation and research I see now being published on this very issue.

5. Observation is key – While its true that sometimes you can’t predict when a person is unhappy or angry, a lot of times there are signs. Be clued in to non-verbal cues.

6. Establish boundaries — Be clear on the nature of the relationship and what is expected of each person, party, etc. Repeated boundary crossing is never ok.

7. Little things matter — Things like etiquette, thank you notes, etc. never get old.

8. Remember — Remembering little things like birthdays, names, etc. shows you listen. Always a good thing.

9.  Be self-aware – Know your strengths & weaknesses and act accordingly. Knowing what sets you off, what you’re good at, what your weaknesses are, etc. can better able you to handle the ebbs and flows of any relationship, professional, personal or otherwise.

10. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Then fix it and move on – The only thing worse than making a mistake or having an error in judgement is pretending like it didn’t happen, avoiding it or lying about it. Fess up to it, do the best you can to fix it and then continue.

 

Do you find that there are noticeable parallels between good business and personal relationships? If so, what are your tips?

 

How do You End Your Day?

 

 

For me, what you do before you go to bed, is just as important as what you do when you first wake up. I’m a morning person. Generally, I’m up by 6:30am. And feel most productive when I have finished at least a 1/3 of my to-do items before noon. But given the amount of stress that I’ve been under lately, I’ve begun to take some time to myself at the end of each day too. I evaluate how the day went, what progress was made and make plans for the following day. Lately, I’ve become more intentional about establishing 5 or 10 minute rituals for myself that ground me and really cause me to think about my most immediate needs and how I will achieve them. And also, allow me to think deeply about if the actions that I am taking are bringing me closer to my “ideal life.” What rituals have you created for yourself? How are you bringing yourself closer to achieving your goals, dreams?

Learn Something New

 

When I turned 30, I made the decision to devote a portion of each new year of my life to the craft of learning at least one new skill.  This year, by December 31st, I plan to be at minimum highly proficient in spoken and written French and have a deep knowledge in building websites. During this process of learning at least one new skill a year, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Namely, how I best learn new things, how quickly (or slowly) that I can learn and how to best utilize this new information moving forward.

I heard about Timothy Ferriss a few years ago. The author of several successful books, most notably The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4 Hour Chef, he mainly discusses the process of learning something new, particularly how to learn something new in the shortest time possible with the most efficacy. I am a big proponent of the idea that you should never stop learning, especially something new.  I have a ton of new things that I want to learn. The things on my short term list would be: Spanish, coding, how to swim, krav maga, and the tango.  What are the new skills that you would like to learn? What best practices have you learning that anyone can apply to learning something new?

Spring Reading List

BOOKS

I usually have a reading list a mile high of books that I’d like to read: classics that I’ve never gotten to (see: Ulysses or Oliver Twist), critically acclaimed   novels that every writer and wannabe alike seem to have read (The Corrections or Infinite Jest), books recommended to me by others (Give Me Everything You Have or How to Be a Woman), etc. With most of my time going to professional or personal obligations, one of my favorite past times — reading — is something that I unfortunately have had to put on the back burner. This Spring, however, I will be doing a fair amount of traveling and will have some down time. During that time, there are a few books that I’ve moved up on my list that I hope to get a chance to read. They include:

1. The Great Gatsby — This is the book that I am reading now for two reasons: in anticipation of the movie to be released on May 10th and in preparation of my book club discussion this Sunday. I haven’t read this since high school so I am enjoying re-reading it.

2. Blog, Inc. — I’m perpetually intrigued with how people have managed to turn passion (and side projects) into profits.  I’m hoping to gain some new insights from this book.

3. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil — I heard about this novel after reading a NYTimes interview with Katherine Boo. I’m a fan of her writing and a recommendation from her goes a long way with me.

4. Pushback: How Smart Women Ask — And Stand Up — For What They Want by Selena Rezvani — I heard about this book after reading a post on Jezebel. I’m particularly interested in learning about best practices regarding negotiation.

5. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior — Kingsolver has been a very successful writer doing something a lot of writers haven’t been able to do —  establish both critical and popular success. A few posts back, I blogged about reading books included on the New York Times top 100 list and this book is one of them.

6. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus — The premise of this book sounds super interesting — an epidemic occurs in which the voices of children have become suddenly lethal to adults. An incredibly original concept, I’m really interested to see how Marcus brings this world to life.

7. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schultz — This was another book recommended by Katherine Boo. Also, I have read some of Schultz’s other work and find her to be a fine writer. The premise is also interesting to me — why do people have a desire to be right all the time?

8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed — I saw an interview that Strayed did with Oprah and become intrigued. Similarly, the book has gotten so much press that it peaked my interest.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale — I’ve never read this book. Given the current politics surrounding reproductive rights, I feel like this book is a prescient, timely choice.

10. Plutocrats: The Rise of the Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland — I’m interested topics regarding wealth and the wealthy. I’ve heard a lot about this book and want to give it a try.

What’s on your reading list? Happy Reading!

In Difficult Times…

 

Those who know me know that know I am currently going through one of the most difficult periods of my life.  My mother’s seriously ill and my finances are tight, all of which converged as I began launching my first business.  It’s amazing how one minute life can be great and one phone call can change all of that. As a result, for the last 6 or 7 months, I have been forced to respond to my new circumstances in improvisational and creative ways. Nothing stays the same. This much I know. But when life happens, your response is crucial. I’ve had to learn how to not just cope but thrive amidst very difficult circumstances.  Here are a few of my best practices for making it through an extremely tough time when there seems to be no end in sight:

1. Prioritize self-care. When I’m stressed, its very difficult for me to eat well, especially several times a day. I subsist on coffee and maybe a small snack per day. But this is way too little and not healthy. Its of paramount importance to prioritize your health while going through a stressful, difficult situation. In not maintaining your health, you compromise your ability to fully make it through your current circumstances.

2. Take a moment each day to express what you feel. Every day, I cry. I take a moment to myself to just release what it is that I am feeling. But I only give myself 10 minutes to do so. Whether, its in the morning or at night or sometime during the day, I do it. And then move on.

3. Do 10 things every day to move yourself forward. You have to fight for the life you want. Life may look different after bad news, but you have to push through it. Staying busy has really been a godsend for me. Doing 10 things every day that will take my life into a different place, has allowed me to take some sort of control.

4. Celebrate small victories.  It could be a hello or a kind word or basically anything. But being present in the moment to acknowledge the good and the positive is an excellent strategy when it seems as if life has thrown you bad lemons.

5.  Exude the opposite of what you feel. In other words, the more anxious, worried and sad that I feel, the happier, friendlier and more generous I have decided to become.

6. You may not choose what happens to you but you can choose how you will respond. Early on, I made the explicit decision to choose to learn from these experiences and that this sort of thing happens to people every day. I am no different than anyone else.

7. Surround yourself with a support system. The only thing worse than going through this would be going through this alone. Don’t walk through something like this by yourself if you don’t have to.

8. Have faith. I have leaned quite heavily on my own faith during this time. As many do when things are not good. But I don’t think this caveat applies to just the religious. I think having faith in that life happens to everyone and that life is series of ebbs and flows can be a powerful realization. Things can be great, things can be miserable. Know that this too shall pass.

The above video is an interview with comedienne Tig Notaro. Her career is on the rise, thanks to a resounding endorsement from the formidable Louis C.K. But before all the recent accolades came her way, she experienced the following: a bad breakup, life-threatening pneumonia, her mother’s death, and then being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a double masectomy.  Yet Tig managed to survive it all.

How you respond to difficulty has a huge impact on how you will move through it. The choice is yours.

 

 

 

Be (More) Interesting

 

It will make a significant difference in everything you do. Be (more) interesting. Interesting can take different forms. Find what is authentic to you and makes you stand out. Hone in on that. Perhaps you’re funny or slightly mysterious. Maybe you are deeply intuitive or a bit eccentric. Whatever it is that makes you tick, use that and make yourself more interesting. If there is one thing that will kill any sort of relationship or interaction, its being a bore.

You should know by now that Marie Forleo is one of my all time fav success stories. As an entrepreneur, she has established a platform that’s inspirational, eclectic and open. The above is a video she did with “fascination expert (I love it!) Sally Hogshead. Sally makes the point of saying that everyone has the ability to be fascinating. One tip is to start with something external. Perhaps its a cool or vintage piece that you can add to your ensemble that will be a conversation starter. I’m currently growing an afro. A huge one. Make yourself interesting externally someway while crafting your inner diva (or divo). Be (more) interesting!

 

That Pesky Little Thing Called Self-Doubt

 

We’ve all been there. Whether its before a major life change, trying something new, or even thinking about stepping outside of your comfort zone. There is this thing called doubt.  Self-doubt to be more specific. Self- Doubt is a relative of fear, insecurity, and disbelief. It causes us to question ourselves and our ability to embark on the next step. I know that in my own life, professional, personal and otherwise, self-doubt and I have been intimately acquainted. I’ve had moments where I’ve questioned my ability to be an expert, start my own business, or try something new. And I can see, looking back, how self-doubt has kept me from fulfilling my true potential. Moving forward, I have made a conscious decision to put myself first and have faith in my ability to achieve whatever I set my mind to.  Sure, its not easy. But I think its important to examine the role that doubt and its relatives play in our lives. Its natural to experience moments of frustration and fear when thinking about moving outside our comfort zone. But if we don’t move outside our comfort zones every now and then, how do we truly ever understand the depth and reach of our potential? Below are a few of my favorite quotes from famous people on how they deal with self-doubt:

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” — Khalil Gibran

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

“People who fail to achieve their goals usually get stopped by frustration. They allow frustration to keep them from taking the necessary actions that would support them in achieving their desire. You get through this roadblock by plowing through frustration, taking each setback as feedback you can learn from, and pushing ahead. I doubt you’ll find many successful people who have not experienced this. All successful people learn that success is buried on the other side of frustration.” — Tony Robbins

“When in doubt, do it.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” — Paul Tillich

“For every seed of doubt, create an action plan.” — Angela Jia Kim of Savor the Success

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” — Honore de Balzac

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” — Norman Vincent Peale

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”  – William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”  – Robert Hughes

 

Living in the Moment

I am the face of NOT living in the moment. I’m always thinking about the future, trying to learn from the past, and scrambling to complete things in the present. The fact of the matter is is that each day, each moment that we have is unique and special and we will NEVER get it back. Because of this, I’ve been much more intentional about how I spend my time, who I spend it with, and making sure that I handle business at home first and then commit myself to creating experiences, in the moment, that will help shape the person that I am supposed to become. It’s hard to do this. Especially when you have the pressures of life knocking at your door every day. So, I have created a few tips that I use of make sure that, each day, I am living in the moment.

1.  Every day, start up a conversation with a stranger. It sounds crazy and frankly, it can make an introvert like me nervous as hell but I think this is a good way to live in the moment by engaging with those in your space. Even if its just a brief hi, how are you with a genuine smile, engaging with those near you in an authentic, natural way is a great tactic for living in the moment. Besides, you never know who you will meet!

2.  Be intentional but not rigid. Being intentional is very important for me. I am a compulsive goal setter and I supplement those goals with to-do lists that are designed to draw me closer to my goal. But I think its really important to not be inflexible. I think staying resolute, hard-working and determined are important but also remaining open to possibilities and a change in plans is also crucial.

3. Be generous. I am learning that there is no down side to having a generous spirit. Helping people, in ways that are appropriate and genuine, offering advice, showing up, being available, these are all traits that, I feel, are returned to you ten-fold. Now generous does not equate to naive but living with a gracious spirit is a wonderful way to live in the moment.

4. Ditch perfection. I used to be so obsessed with perfection that nothing ever got done! Now I’m over it. I just do the best that I can do, make sure it adheres to the quality standards that I have devised for myself, and then I move on!

5. Make time for YOU. Self-care is crucial and critical. Not just exercise and proper diet but monitoring the stories that we tell ourselves. If you want to achieve greatness, you need to take care of you first. Although our days are busy and we want to take care of everyone else, take at least 30 minutes to give yourself a pedicure, meditate, drink a glass of wine — take time each day to do something that gets you off, that tells you that you love you. Build a relationship everyday with yourself!

6. Journal. This is something that I admittedly, have just started doing again. I recently went back home to Louisiana and I found my journals from back when I was a teenager. I really valued reading my thoughts and feelings at that time in my life. Journaling is a great way to chronicle moments in your life. And its also fun to revisit journals at a later time.

The above YouTube is a video from one of my all time favorite female business owners, and a friend in my head, Marie Forleo. Above, she and actor John Pais share a few tips for living in the moment.  Its not easy but I promise, its worth it!

 

 

Finding My Inner Diva

Yesterday evening, I read a very interesting article over at the Wall Street Journal called “Why Divas Need Make No Apology.” The article deconstructs the meaning of “diva” into both negative and positive traits. In contemporary pop culture especially, diva seems to take on a slightly derogatory meaning. It tends to describe someone who is demanding, arrogant, and always needs to be the center of attention. But this article posits that “healthy divas” have a great deal of traits that others could learn from. Firstly, they always demand their worth and never settle. Secondly they advocate for themselves and others. Thirdly, they are hard workers who believe in themselves and exude confidence.

There is a fascinating anecdote in the article where a comedian describes an article that he read:

“Dan Nainan, a 31-year-old comedian in New York City, says he became more assertive and inflexible a few years ago, after reading a newspaper interview with a call girl. “She said that when she charged $500, men treated her like dirt, so she upped her price to $3,000, and now men treat her like gold,” he says. “That really opened my mind.”

I included the most recent commercial by pop superstar and diva Beyonce above. Whether you are a fan or her or not, Beyonce knows how to command an audience and she knows her worth. As I push through to the next phase of my personal, professional and financial lives, I’m going to find my inner diva. And release her!