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Turkey, Tea, McKenna and Me

Here it is again. I love this holiday, not because I love turkey, although I do love me some fried turkey (and the ginger tea that comes after eating too much fried turkey!) I love Thanksgiving because I love the power of gratitude. If you’ve read any of my writing, you know that. This day is the perfect day to give thanks, to share your gratitude and to reflect on what you’ve given to others as well.

In that very same spirit, I want to share with you. This year, I’ve been given a lot of great and not so great opportunities. In the great, I’ve rejoiced both silently and out loud with friends and family. In the not so great, I’ve done my best to move forward trusting I would learn yet another important life lesson and then be granted the clarity and wisdom to share my learnings powerfully with others.

Not listening to my intuition, taking a job I wasn’t sure about and then seeing that spiral into suffering and regret—to put it bluntly—sucked. Mainly because I had been in that precarious position before so I was pissed at myself for being there again. BUT, if that hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t made the choice I made to take that job, I don’t know that I’d be in the position I’m in today.

Today, I’m an honest to goodness entrepreneur. I’m building something that is mine. I’m the boss. If I succeed, it’s on me. If I fail, it’s on me. I like that. I respect it. I thank it for toughening me up and pushing me. I’m grateful to it for knocking me down sometimes so that I can practice getting back up.

I’ve had success publishing a handful of articles in kickass publications. I’ve worked with and continue to work with amazing and creative entrepreneurs who inspire me with their work and devotion to uncovering their purpose and building a brand based on meaning and passion. I’ve been granted research and strategy projects that paid thousands of dollars but more importantly allowed me to speak with people from all over the country. I’m so grateful for all of this. But to tell you the truth, the one thing I’m most grateful for didn’t earn me either of the two crucial things every entrepreneur seeks—exposure and money.

Back in October, I found myself declaring my desire for a dog. So I signed up with a few organizations that look for short term foster parents and replied to an email from one of them a few days later. Fostering seemed like a good solution for a never before dog owner. I could test it out, see how it went and then make a decision from there. You know, the same kind of approach we often take with starting a new business or relationship. This approach is totally safe and comfortable and lacks any commitment, so it gives you a great excuse to get out. “I was just trying it!”

You can definitely try out a business or a relationship. You can keep your options open and wait for something better to come along or just go ahead and nix the whole thing.

Two days after picking up McKenna, I learned you cannot do that with a dog. I fell in love quickly and without much debate. All of a sudden, there was this living, breathing thing that was scared and shaky and counting on me to make everything OK. I had to come up with solutions to problems, super uncomfortable and borderline gross problems I might add, like fleas, worms and digestive issues. Yet, I still loved her, likely from the very first time I saw her. I wasn’t going to give her back and essentially throw her away. So I adopted her. I committed to her for the rest of her life. It only took two days.

I’m not telling you this to gross you out with her poop issues. I’m sharing this experience so that you (and I) can learn the lesson here and apply it to our businesses.

Your business is also manifested from a desire and it too comes with numerous challenges and issues. They are probably far less gross than those associated with a rescue dog yet just as uncomfortable and maddening.

So often in business and life we give up too soon. We avoid going “all in” and doing what we must to make it work because commitment is scary. I’ll go as far as to say commitment can be absolutely terrifying.

I have no idea what I’m doing with my new little girl. But I’m learning as I go, and I’m making choices for her based on love, not fear.

I wish you so much love on this holiday. Be good to yourself today. Do one thing to nurture your life and business and then give thanks to yourself for all that you do for others.

Oh, one last thing. This is McKenna just in case you were wondering …

Thanksgiving gratitude

 

On Discipline and Consistency {Why I love Long, Boring Plane Rides}

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I started writing this on a US Airways flight to Texas. Unlike my favorites, JetBlue and Virgin, Us Air has no inflight entertainment. That means I had exactly 3 hours of staring at the tray table in front of me. Or I could choose to be productive via my trusty MacBook Air. I chose the latter and worked on a few program I’m refining (more on that soon) and then this post.

I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or anything of the sort but if I’m being honest, I have difficulty focusing from time to time. I’ve talked about my solutions for this before, but it seems distraction has been rearing its ugly head more than usual lately. I want some inspiration. I need some discipline.

For me, the inspiration part, as you probably know by now, comes from travel. It comes from seeing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things. Newness inspires me. Hello Dallas and Austin!

And then there’s discipline. That’s tough. I used to be super disciplined. I was the girl on the dance team in middle school and high school who would practice for hours each night so that I would excel. That discipline paid off for a while until laziness started to creep in. I thought I could get away with not giving 100%. And I did for a bit. Until, one day, after enough laziness and apathy, the whole thing fell apart.

I kind of hate it when things fall apart. Don’t you? That whole excelling at something seems much better to me.

So these days I have to mentally and physically combat my laziness. I have to set a timer for uninterrupted work, or park myself in a coffee shop with my headphones, or call my coach, or get on a plane with no inflight entertainment … But my point really isn’t about how you do it. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is actually doing it. Even if it’s just one important thing that gets accomplished that day. Laziness takes a nosedive and you get to feel proud of yourself.

Doing the work is hard. But that’s OK. It’s in the doing that we shine, grow and prove to ourselves what we are made of. And I am a BIG fan of proving things to yourself.

So strive to do the work consistently and with faith that your time will be worth it in the end. This is what I’m working—discipline and consistency. Join me?

 

 

Is eBook Theft The New Identity Theft?

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A few weeks ago I found out someone had stolen my eBook and placed it on Amazon for sale. How did they do that, you ask? They pretended to be me. Brooke Rothman was selling Brooke Rothman’s book—only it clearly was not me.

The next 12 hours were rough. I barely slept. I cried. I felt massively violated. If you’ve read my book, you know it’s quite personal. It contains my stories, excerpts from interviews I conducted and my creative exercises. Better yet, the eBook didn’t just show up on Amazon US. It showed up on Amazon Canada, UK, India, Denmark, and Japan. Yep. Japan.

You can only imagine what I dealt with in those first few hours of this eBook theft awareness. It was a bit of shock mixed with thoughts like the following, “I want to find this person and smash a frying pan in his face.”  (Sorry if that’s violent, but it’s honestly what I thought at the time.)

Then I got over my disappointment in humanity or whatever that was and got to work. When something “bad” happens, you have to turn it around. You have to find the humor. (My book was global!) And you have to help and inform other people. I truly believe this happened to me for a reason. {Tweet it!}

This next part is important so if you read nothing else in this blog post I want you to read this. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

How to Protect Your Work

  1. The first thing I did was to start the process of officially registering my book with the US Copyright office. Some people will say that your work is copyrighted the moment it’s created. Maybe that’s true but after speaking to a copyright lawyer, I don’t think it can ever hurt to have official documentation. In my opinion, the $35 is worth the peace of mind. Register your property here. http://www.copyright.gov/eco  (Quick disclaimer: I am still in the process of getting my copyright approved. In my opinion, the system is a bit archaic and the communication is poor to non-existent. However, I have faith the road blocks I’m encountering will be dealt with and this will be resolved soon.)
  1. Register your book with Amazon and get an ASIN. ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It is unique to every book so if you have this, it will most likely be harder for people to steal your work. The person who stole my book had an ASIN number so I’m still waiting to see what will happen once I repost the book myself on Amazon. Don’t make the same mistake I did and allow someone else to get there first.
  1. After your property is launched, scan the web for illegal distribution frequently. I happened to have googled my name and the name of my book. Otherwise, I might never have known this was happening.
  1. If you find something amiss, write a DMCA takedown notice to the publication where your work has been illegally posted. Companies should comply with this request as part of United States copyright law.

To be clear, this should not stop you from creating and putting your stuff out there, but I wanted to give you the heads up to be vigilant with your work. Do a little more research than I did when I put my book out there and follow the points outlined above. I can’t promise this will keep your work completely safe, but I do believe it will help make the process smoother.

 

Stealing Your Copy [Tricks of the Trade]

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I imagine most of us have those Oh Crap moments when we sit down at our computers or with our notebooks and pens (if you’re old school like me) and attempted to write content. It really doesn’t matter what it is—content for websites, product packages, sales materials or blogs or newsletters.

Creating something from nothing is daunting and can paralyze you before you write even one word. 

I remember as a young strategist the first time I sat down to write a creative brief I nearly had a heart attack. It was my job to craft this ever-important document that would inform and influence an advertising campaign, and I had no clue how to begin. No bueno.
 
Know what I did? I looked at old briefs written by strategists for other brands and copied as much as I could. Then I filled in the gaps and tweaked what I needed to for it to make sense. The first brief I wrote wasn’t a masterpiece, but it also wasn’t a total flop. Over time I got better at writing briefs, and now I can create one out of thin air. But that wasn’t always the case. I had to start somewhere, so I started by cheating off my peers. Thankfully there’s no detention in the advertising world.
 
Just the other day, I led a big brainstorm for one of my clients. We needed to come up with several potential claims and messages for his brand. First we looked at what our competitors were saying. That was good to know but not particularly mind-blowing or catalystic. So we decided to look outside our category and into everything from liquid plumbing to organic cosmetics to automobiles to energy drinks. We looked at their websites, their packages, their social media and their product reviews on Amazon. When it was time to come up with ideas for our brand, we literally stole, or stole and then tweaked, what all those other brands had to say. Granted we didn’t steal everything. We created brand new copy as well, but the exercise of stealing and tweaking undoubtedly acted as our catalyst for creation.
 
So yes, I recommended strategically stealing your copy—especially at first and especially if your resources are limited. Over time you’ll get better at crafting content. But in the meantime, don’t feel guilty.

If you really think about it, most everything, including what we think of as innovation, is a rip of something else. {Tweet it}

Steal. Then tweak. Then create something new. 

 

How to Focus Like a Laser

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Photo via Mark Hunter

I began writing this post while sitting on a runway waiting for my plane to Nashville to take off. The pilot had just made the announcement that our plane was #27 in line for takeoff. Translation? We would sit on the runway for over an hour. The good news? The delay gave me time to write without distraction and implement what I like to call, “Laser-like Focus.”

When people ask me how I’ve accomplished everything I have over the last few years, be it branding myself, writing my book, or getting to the next level in my career, I basically tell them this: 1) Clarity 2) Focus 3) A bit of assistance from the universe. 

A laser is a beam of pointed energy. It’s nearly impossible to point your energy when you are not clear about what you are doing or why. This is why clarity is the first step. We become distracted and start spinning our wheels when we are not clear. As soon as you find clarity, you ignite your drive and the second step, cultivating the ability to focus like a laser, becomes a whole lot easier.

The third step isn’t really so much of a step as it is the result of clarity and focus. My favorite book, The Alchemist, tells us, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” But you have to make sure you really know what you want.

When we are unclear and wishy-washy, the universe doesn’t know what to do and so, it does nothing. {Tweet it!}

There are, of course, specific actions I take that make it even easier for me to focus:

Blocking Time
I have a full-time job, teach a class at Miami Ad School, and get on at least four coaching calls a week. It can be a lot. I set aside about half a day on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays to write blog posts, prepare for my class, and take coaching calls. The other parts of my weekend are for relaxing or socializing, though I often prefer to socialize during the week as it requires less pointed energy after a long day at the office.

Limiting Unproductive Distractions
My favorite place to work is a coffee shop because I can’t watch TV, can’t clean, and since I don’t want to be rude to the people around me, can’t chat to friends on my phone. I put on my headphones so I can listen to my music and plug away for 3-4 hours at a time. I’ll take mini-breaks to grab food or a beverage but other than that I’m focused on my work the whole time.

Enlisting the Help of Coaches
Right now, I have two main people I turn to for coaching. One is a business coach and one is more of a personal coach who also helps me with professional dilemmas. Coaches know your goals. When you lose focus, they point it out to you and get you back on track.

Reward Systems
I reward myself with a nice dinner, a night out with friends, or a few hours of Hulu after a good day’s work. If I worked sun up till sun down, I would go insane and the work would certainly suffer. Play and relaxation are important. They keep our brains fresh and our hearts happy.

Deadlines
This is arguably the most crucial of the list. Whether it is part of a full on action plan or a simple to do list, you must set specific deadlines for yourself and your work. You must also write these deadlines down so you can refer back to them as needed. Otherwise, if you are a procrastinator and prone to feelings of overwhelm, you will freak out when you have to do everything last minute or you just won’t do anything at all. When I designed my website, I had a specific deadline to have the necessary assets up. I needed the images and content in place by my attendance at a seminar in July so that I could send the people I met at the seminar to a legitimate website. This deadline is the main reason I was able to design the site, write the content, find a photographer, and complete a photo shoot in less than two months.

The people I coach often laugh at me each time they get off course or start telling me long-winded stories because I immediately redirect them by shouting the word “Laser!” They laugh because they know I’m calling them out on their sort of BS, (which we all have by the way) and then they are back on task at hand in seconds. The next time you feel distracted or out of focus, imagine a person you trust yelling “laser!” in your ear. But don’t make yourself wrong or give in to feelings of guilt for wasting time or feeling lazy. Rather, shift your attention back to motivation and pointed energy and get on with it.

 

Walking the Walk (How Not to Be Full of Crap)

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Photo by Caminando de Suiza

I’m a wee bit frustrated at the advertising and marketing world at the moment. Everywhere you go you hear sermons about being authentic and having integrity. I’m a strong proponent for these two things, and I’m rather irritated by those who simply are not practicing what they preach.

Now granted from time to time, we all screw up. I’ve found myself not acting in accordance with advice I’ve given others. It happens. We’re human. But once we realize what we are doing, we have to make better choices.

If you are an entrepreneur, small business, or non-profit please pay attention. If I’m thinking these things, most likely your target is too. If you have a brand, or are preparing to launch a brand, I want you to ask yourself something:

Am I full of shit?

Sounds a bit harsh maybe, but ask it anyway. What’s your first reaction? Yes? No? I’m not sure? In marketing, we talk a lot about something called, “Reasons to Believe.” Simply put, these are the reasons why anyone, especially your target, should believe anything you have to say. Often Reasons To Believe include information on your brand’s ingredients or features, heritage, benefits, affinity and so forth. This is all well and good but we marketers, creatives, account people, and strategists (yep myself included) have forgotten to ask a major question.  

Are our brands (or the brands we work for) walking the walk? If not, we’d better stop using the word authentic right now. {Tweet it!}

I’m flabbergasted every time I look at a “social media” agency that hasn’t updated their social media in several months. Or the agencies that claim to be “digital” but have websites that look like there were designed 10 years ago. Or the healthcare and beauty brands that maintain they are good for you even though their products include carcinogens and other hazardous ingredients. It’s unclear why these companies aren’t being called out more often, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is not to make the same mistakes they are making.

If nothing else just ask yourself the question from time to time, Am I Full of  Shit? And if the answer is yes, step up and force yourself to take actions to change that until you can say with 100% authority, I am not a phony. I am walking the walk.  

 

Putting Yourself Out There is Scary. Do it anyway.

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I was thinking about how many ideas never meet the light of day. How many books never get written and published? How many companies never get created? How many potential relationships never get the chance to ignite? I can’t even imagine.

Of course there are many reasons for this—fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown … Yet the common relevance is always fear.

What sort of people publish the books, create the companies, and speak to the strangers on the street? Are these the people of have no fear? I think not. I believe they are, as researcher and storyteller Brene Brown says, the most “wholehearted.” They are the people who take the risks despite the fear they feel. They understand the value of putting yourself out there.

The people who put themselves out there are the ones who have learned that vulnerability and courage are the keys to living a life of which you are proud. {Tweet it!}

These people understand opportunity costs. They get that if they don’t put their ideas and their work out into the world, the world will never benefit from their unique gifts. A perfectly crafted sentence is shit if nobody reads it. So they write the sentence as best they can and then they share it—imperfections and all.

I can’t think of a better group of people to emulate than the wholehearted. Today, I’m taking a lesson from them and officially announcing my new blog. Also, in a few weeks I’ll release my free guide that will help you learn to really love your life and tackle the negative thoughts that create a less than ideal reality.

You can sign up to receive my free guide that is chock full of wisdom from the people I admire most as well as creative exercises that will help you dig deep and breakthrough the things that hold you back. (To sign up just enter your name and email into the blue bar at the top of this page or below in the green box.)