Category Archives: Personal

13 Reflections From 2013

As we close yet another year this week, reflection is a natural emotion for many of us. I thought of writing about lessons I’ve learned this year, or 14 business tips for 2014, or even sharing once again my likely-to-be-half-fulfilled resolutions, but I think I’ll simply share some personal and professional reflections from my year. Whether they become guiding principles, shared insights or merely tips of what to do – or not to do – for you, likely depends on your own situation as you enter 2014. In any event, I hope they prove to be helpful in some way or another. As always, thanks for reading.

13.  There is no fair fairy – I grew up with my mother telling me this. I hated it. But she’s right. Life simply isn’t fair, and you’ve got to learn to deal with it. Sitting around comparing the haves with the have nots doesn’t do much to change this fact. Instead, I’m trying to stay focused on what my blessings are, while at the same time recognizing things that aren’t going well, and creating plans to change whatever I can.

12. Two of the most screwed up things about America are our legal system and our health care system. Given the Obama Care challenges, I don’t think I need to explain the latter too much. But quite simply, health care should be something we work hard to ensure everyone has. I’ve seen too many unemployed friends struggle with no health care this year, or insurance agencies denying claims for people who really need help, and have faithfully paid into insurance month after month, year after year for decades – only to be denied help when they need it most. It’s quite despicable, actually, and it isn’t new. We need to work together to fix this longstanding issue in countries worldwide.

I loved law class in college. I dove into it with vigor, enjoyed arguing cases and received an A.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve unfortunately been exposed to the intricacies of our legal system and the unnecessary billing of lawyers who jack up hours doing things they don’t really need to do. In addition, the entire “innocent until proven guilty” idea is a nice concept but they fail to mention that you have to come up with the money to prove your innocence. This is one of the reasons the rich get richer. They can afford to drag you around the legal system with appeal after appeal – even after you’ve won – and ultimately, you could run out of money and end up unable to defend yourself. If you’ve ever had to answer an interrogatory, you also know how much time and money is wasted – again, increasing bills for items that may never come into play in a case.

11. Divorce sucks. After a painful two-year separation, mine was finalized in early 2013. There’s no getting around it – it sucks. Even if you are the person who initiated the divorce, it still sucks. No one goes into a marriage planning this as the exit (at least no one I know) – but sometimes it’s the only way out of something that went South in a way that you never imagined. The only advice I have is to listen to yourself. Do a LOT of soul searching before making this decision, if you’re the one initiating it – actually, even if you’re not, and you’re the one being left, do a lot of soul searching. Take a sabbatical if you can, read Crazy Time, find a good therapist, and realize you’re not alone. Remember, everything gets better with time. It will never feel quite right no matter what – divorce is, after all, the death of a dream and a life that will not be. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy again, but you will likely always feel that loss – even if you’re so angry right now you can’t imagine ever feeling that way – trust me, it will always be a loss.

10.  I’m definitely getting old – I know this not only because of my age, drooping eyelids and new wrinkles, I know because I no longer care about reading celeb rags like US and People, I don’t watch reality TV, I get queasy on roller coasters and for the first time in my life, I have to really try hard to lose weight. But on the positive side, I am nicer to myself and others, I care less about getting everyone’s approval, I accept where my life is, I focus on the positive and am able to let go of the negative (most of the time) more easily than before. I appreciate the insights and internal peace that getting older brings to me.

9. You’re never too old. I read an article this year about entrepreneurs who began new careers or businesses at older ages. Folks like Arianna Huffington, who started Huffington Post at the age of 54, and Sam Walton, who was 44 when he started Walmart. My mother went back to college in her late 40s (I had classes with her!) and my grandfather, who just turned 90 in November, continues to tell jokes, remember birthdays, walk around with no problems and generally be an amazing man. These examples and more inspired me to try some new things near the end of this year – I met with two book publishers, I opened my heart and faced my biggest fear to become a part of the RAINN speakers bureau, and I took on several new career challenges, some of which are not yet public. I may even grab a copy of Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40, although since I’ve owned my first business for 15 years and counting, I don’t really consider myself a “late” bloomer – more of a “constant bloomer” because I always want to try new things. I’m hoping 2014 will be the year several of my new adventures come to fruition.

8. I still have a lot of work to do. I still have to work really hard to not let my problems overwhelm me into thinking everything is bad. I have to push myself to stand up to wrongful situations and negative people, and I have to learn to budget better. But that’s what life is – always improving and learning and moving forward, right?

7. Not everyone is capable of true love. You may not agree with me, but I feel like I finally understand the true definition of love. People are mostly inherently selfish. We want to do what we want to do, go where we want to go. Having a relationship or becoming a parent means compromise. And truly loving someone means that you put them first – that their needs always come before yours. Always. Some people simply are not capable of this. They may care for others, and act loving, but at the end of the day, they put themselves first and that is not love.

6. Being a parent is the most difficult job I’ve ever experienced. I love my boys! I do everything I can to make them feel loved, confident and important. It isn’t always easy because kids are selfish. They are self-centered. They want what they want, when they want it. It’s our job to teach them how to be responsible and loving human beings and to discover the joy of being good to others. But man, it is hard! Especially when they are ungrateful, or they get angry over silly things and call you “the meanest Mom in the world.” This happens. Usually it’s when they don’t get something they want – and although you know they don’t mean it, it still stings. And it also stings to watch them struggle through hard times – some of which are the natural rituals of growing up. You know they have to go through some of these things, and you can’t do it for them – and it’s hard to see them struggle and not be able to fix everything like you could when they were three. But it’s also the most rewarding and amazing job I’ve ever had. I pray every night for their protection and grace, and I thank God for the privilege of being their mother. I hope every parent sees it this way – and that they recognize just how blessed they are to be a Mom or a Dad.

5. You have more faith than you think you do. You might not consider yourself a religious person, but every day you are likely showing faith in one way or another by the choices you make. If you have been heart broken and choose to love again, or you keep driving when the gas tank is on “Empty,” or you borrow money promising to pay it back, or you start a company or take a new job. You don’t know how the story ends – you’re just taking a leap of faith that it will work out. I had a conversation with a family member recently about trust. He’s been hurt pretty badly in love, and he came to the conclusion that no one is trustworthy. It would be an easy train to jump on for most of us, but I have to believe that people are trustworthy most of the time (with some exceptions). We just make mistakes. All of us have made mistakes. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust again. I think we have to focus more on holding ourselves up when things go wrong, vs. avoiding ever being vulnerable. Vulnerability is a part of life – personal and professional. Even at work, you’re making yourself vulnerable if you offer a new idea, right? Just learn to accept that things aren’t perfect – but we can still have faith that in the end, things will somehow work out anyway.

4. Just ask. It’s amazing what can happen when you speak up and ask for what you want. Thank you to those who said “yes” this year – I’m pretty blown away by your kindness and support.

3. If you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas — and they ride with you wherever you go. When I read this Chinese proverb in a recent article about negating toxic people from your life, I thought “Whew, easier said than done.” I’ve spent the last few years of my life ending a lot of relationships. It’s been hard, and at times very sad, but it’s vital to recognize when you’ve surrounded yourself with people who make you feel bad – and to step away from those people.

2. Let it go. Man, people are angry, huh? In the last week alone I’ve dealt with two incidents of road rage – and I don’t even commute every day, and it’s the holiday season! (And no, it’s not due to bad driving on my part – only one incident involved me at the wheel and was in dead stopped traffic.) Why are people so angry? Is someone pulling one car length ahead of you really worth blowing your top over? Is holding that grudge from five years ago doing anything to help you feel good? Like the adorable song in the movie Frozen says, just Let. It. Go. We’ve got one shot at this life thing, so spend your time trying to focus on the positive, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember you can’t control everything either, and when you let go a bit – it can be very freeing.

1. I am so blessed. 2013 certainly hasn’t been my favorite year. I’ve faced a lot of personal and professional challenges and heartaches. I watched, along with many of you, our beloved city of Boston become a place of terror, and had to come to grips with the fact that nowhere is safe from the evils of bad men. I’ve experienced a lot of loss. I have had to go back and fight battles that I had already won but which my foes would not drop. And yet, I know how blessed I am. I have two wonderful, funny, healthy sons who I’ve grown closer to as they grow up. I have a new puppy – in addition to my existing two pups – who is hilarious and sweet and reminds me every day that happiness can be found in the simple moments of life (like watching a puppy bounce all around your house). I am loved. And I am strong. I haven’t lost my faith and – naively or not – I believe 2014 holds great promise for renewal. I hope yours does, too.

Worth The Wait

Remember Waiting?

All the buzz around Snapchat and its decline of Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer has caused quite a stir. But I’m not here to offer another analysis on whether it was a smart move or not. No, there are plenty of those articles written by people much smarter than I. Rather, I’m looking at the concept of the app and the demographics of the audience gobbling it up. I was reminded that Snapchat’s young Millennial users have “never known life without the Internet,” and thus, rarely a life with wait time. Hence the reason Snapchat – with text and photo messages that disappear in a few seconds – is so popular with this crowd. Everything is here, now. Blink – and you miss it.

I’m getting old, I know this. Because all of this news made me think about what a valuable lesson (multiple lessons, really) it was for me as a teen to learn to wait. Waiting is hard. And that’s what makes it so good.

Unlike today’s instant gratification, give-it-to-me now generation, my generation had to wait.

We waited for remote control TVs (my brother used to torture me if I didn’t get up and turn that dial for him).  We waited for real home cooked meals, prepared by parents who we had to wait for to arrive home from work (in the days when people didn’t work 24/7), and we had to wait for everyone to sit down at the table before we could eat. We ate together and everyone waited – and talked – for everyone else to be finished before asking to be excused.

We had to wait to use the phone. And when we finally got our turn, we had to wait for it to dial as it went around…..and around…. and around…  seven whole times before a connection was made!

We had to wait for our MTV. But it was totally worth it.

We had to wait for Casey Kasem to go through 40 whole songs to tell us every week what the Top song was. And we had to wait – two fingers on each the “record” button and the “play” button – for our favorite songs to be played so we could make a crude copy for home listening. On our boom boxes. Otherwise, we’d be waiting forever for the tapes (not the gift wrapping kind) to arrive in our local record store. Yes, I said record store. They were cool.

We had to wait to go shopping. At a store. For me, living in Wyoming as a teen, the closest mall was three hours away! No online shopping – which was probably a good thing for my folks.

We had to wait for mail. The kind that arrives in a mailbox on the street and has letters from people who wrote them. On paper. With ink.

We had to wait for photos. Yes, seriously. We took them, having no idea what they looked like and then we had to go drop them off at a store and wait, like, a whole week to get them developed. They were on this thing called film. And when we finally got them back, we couldn’t crop and edit and get rid of our red eye. Tragic.

We had to wait for movies. To arrive in theaters. Where we had to wait in line to buy tickets!

We had to wait for the coolest, latest books and posters, which we ordered through Scholastic school fundraising. And the day your shipment arrived in class it was so awesome! Because we had been waiting!

And I remember the biggest “waiting” lesson of all that my parents taught me. To not rush everything – to enjoy the wait. Because half the fun is in the anticipation. Before you know it, it’s over.

With instant access, gratification, delivery, results – what do today’s kids wait for? Do they know the feeling of anticipation, patience and reward? And if not, how will it affect their adulthood? Do they appreciate what they have because they get everything they want on demand?

I know I struggle with this in raising my children. They have little patience and short attention spans. It amazes me sometimes how they are constantly thinking of what’s next instead of enjoying what’s happening now – because they don’t want to wait even one minute for something they’re in the middle of.

Waiting is good. Does anyone else remember this feeling?

The Things They Say

Yesterday was the first day of school for my sons. At the end of the day I interrogated them like all good Moms do, including questions about girls.

“So, are there any cute girls in your class?” I asked my new third grader.

“Nope. There are no cute girls in the whole school.” he replied.

“Really?” I say. “Why, they won’t allow cute girls in?”

“That’s right,” he replies. “So Mom, you can’t ever come to school.”

Oh, this kid is good.

#40 of #365LifeLessons – Get Back Up Again

My beautiful son, you are entering middle school in exactly one month and three days. It will be a time of great change and great challenge for you. I won’t embarass you here with what I really think, but suffice it to say that you will need to learn to get knocked down, and get back up again.

This lesson in life will never end. Even now, at 42, I have to heed it. Yesterday was a tough day. I took some time to wallow in the way that I do – slow songs, dessert, a few private tears – but today I got back up again, I dusted off my knees and I got back out there. It’s what you do – you get back up again.

Remember:

  • Time really does heal most wounds
  • Things always get better, even when you feel like they never will
  • When we’re down, the only way to look is up
  • Rely on those who love you in both the good and the bad times
  • Talk about issues with someone you trust – don’t internalize it
  • God does not give us anything that we cannot handle
  • Middle school – and who  you are now – does not define you, I swear!
  • Be true to yourself and be good to yourself – and demand that others are, too

Vince-1

Part of the Series What I’ve Learned, What I’m Learning – #365LifeLessons

#39 of #365LifeLessons – Be a Good Sport

Michael Jordan was undoubtedly an amazing basketball player. But you know what made him even better? His attitude about his team and his understanding that regardless of how great an individual he was, he was better with his team.

I’ve got two points today about being a good sport, inspired by the video below form MJ.

1) As awesome as HE was, MJ always focused – and still does here – on the TEAM. We could all use some of that mentality – how do I help the TEAM win? What’s my role in making the TEAM amazing? Who won? Who lost? The TEAM. If you’re focused on the ME in TEAM – at work, in sports, at school, at home, etc. – you don’t get it. (If you’re my sons reading this, I hope I raised you to totally get this video.)

2) Be respectful, always. As an individual, display respect for your coach, your teammates and the opposing team – even if you lose. Work hard and don’t cheat. Accept your losses as gracefully as you celebrate in your wins. Be an example as you go. Never forget where you came from.

As a society, we need to push harder to cultivate and demand respect and behavior from ANY athlete – from grade school to the pros. If we didn’t tolerate and cover up bad behavior just because someone’s a good athlete, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing sad news stories like the one coming out of Boston today. I’m sure Hernandez displayed some bad behavior or anger management issues along the way that should have been addressed before it resulted in what, allegedly, is now murder.

Our society has become so obsessed with winning that we’ve forgotten what true greatness means. Greatness is natural, not forced. Greatness is inspiring, not intimidating. And greatness is what you will achieve if you follow the right path.

Part of the Series What I’ve Learned, What I’m Learning – #365LifeLessons

#38 of #365LifeLessons: Life Isn’t Perfect, But @SteveTobak Says It Can Be Successful – And Happy

My last blog post over the weekend was a facetious response to a conversation happening on my Facebook page. The conversation centered around how open one should be on social media – should we treat it like a holiday card and pretend that everything is always good – only posting the highlights of life? Is it okay to admit when we’ve got troubles? Why do people Vaguebook? With the cross of business and personal relationships, the opinions vary.

I’ve been asked many times – especially in interviews about being a female entrepreneur – how I manage to be so open and honest with some aspects of my life while also running a business. I remember at a conference a few years ago, one woman said she really admired how I talked about having kids – as though admitting that fact would be hazardous to my career. She said it inspired her to open up to clients “a little” and admit she has children. (That issue is a whole other blog post topic.)

Like everyone else, I’m just trying to live a balanced life. I don’t have all the answers and a lot of times I need inspiration, too. I found this interesting list of Six Ways to Be Successful & Happy, including “Quit trying so hard to get somewhere; Build Real Relationships and Do One Thing at a Time” by Steve Tobak at Inc Magazine. I thought it was a fascinating list, one which fits into the theme of building both a successful work and personal life. Consider it today’s lesson.

What I’ve Learned, What I’m Learning – #365LifeLessons

37 of #365LifeLessons – Finding Your Passion

Finding your passion can be, believe it or not, hard work (especially for work). Start with making a list of things you enjoy & things that make you happy. And remember, these things can evolve over time. It’s better to make a conservative living doing something you love than to be wealthy doing something you hate. Here’s someone who says it a whole lot better than me, by the way: I Can’t Get No (Job) Satisfaction

25-36 of #365LifeLessons – Music, Exploration, Apologies

25) They say business isn’t personal, it’s just business. But when it’s such a major part of someone’s life, it is indeed personal. Remember this both when you’re employer and employee, and act accordingly.

26) Learn to say you’re sorry but don’t be overly apologetic (you know those people who say “sorry” about everything they do… yuck.)

27) Explore before settling down. There’s always time to settle down.

28) Pack light and bring a credit card.

29) Learn to play the guitar. It can bring you solace when you’re alone, entertain a group of friends and warm up a campsite, a party or even a date.

30) Send her flowers for no reason at all.

31) Call your Mother weekly. 😉

32) Plan to learn a new skill every year. Even if you never again apply it.

33) Create something with your hands – a tree house, a go kart, a desk, a house… something that will always make you proud when you look at it.

34) Learn how to be alone.

35) Write it down. Visit it again in a few days, months, years… you’ll be amazed at your perspective.

36) Don’t keep up with the Joneses. It’s a boring game that no one ever wins.

What I’ve Learned, What I’m Learning – #365LifeLessons

23 of #365LifeLessons – Never Stop Seeking Education

I never understand folks with such big egos that they think they already know it all. NOBODY knows it all. There is always more to learn. And learning is awesome – it keeps you interested and interesting. (A few ideas: salsa dancing, photography, hiking, surfing, painting, snowboarding, building a treehouse… you get the picture.)

What I’ve Learned, What I’m Learning – #365LifeLessons