A New Kind of Resolution

A New Kind of Resolution

Decades ago, when we were young and eager for success, my friends and I challenged each other to set the most unachievable New Year’s Resolutions and actually attempt to achieve them.

Patti, a fledgling singer/songwriter, vowed to write a Billboard top-ten hit.
Greg, an early adapter of the fitness industry, promised to create a yoga center for the stars.
Leslie, Chuck, and Vince set excessive salary goals for their next job searches.

And I’d be spending my days huddled over the typewriter, pecking out NYT best-sellers one after the other.

You probably guffawed your way through that list, even if you had similar resolutions of your own back in the day. According to Forbes, 80% of people abandon their resolutions by February—so why should this year be any different?

Maybe the issue isn’t the challenge of “keeping” a resolution.

Maybe the issue is the type of resolution we set.

John Lennon famously wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” which should give all of us cause to consider whether we want to spend our days focused on the future, or being “in the now.”

These last few years—dealing with COVID restrictions, political unrest, and the general ups and downs of daily life—I’ve had some time to give that quote and a few others some thought. Maybe attempting to regulate how I behave or what I consume is of less importance than some other things.

Meister Eckhart, the 13th Century German philosopher, said, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”


What if, instead of barreling into the day intent on accomplishing as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, we decided to slow down, and let each experience of the day come at us as something new? What if we asked ourselves, “How would a total stranger view this situation, and might that make a different for me today?”

I am quite clear that this is no easy task, and it flies in the face of what many of us have been taught all our lives. But what if asking What if? opened up new possibilities for us or those around us?

Maybe instead of a New Year’s Resolution to be or do more, we should make a resolution to do or be less. “Today I won’t respond to anything without first considering the opposite approach to the one I held yesterday. Today I will play a mind game with myself.”

That could be far more interesting and life-changing than “Today I will do 10 more reps of each exercise,” or “Today I will cut my calorie intake by 10%.”

The quote that got me thinking the most is this: “Every year you make a resolution to change yourself. This year, make a resolution to BE yourself.” (author unknown).

It’s not easy to be yourself, surrounded as we are by hundreds of marketing messages for products, and the constant pressure to conform to fashion in looks and behaviors.

It’s not easy to be yourself.

But what if you gave it a try?

Even if it’s just till February first.

When ‘Ordinary’ is Enough

Everywhere we turn we are immersed in a world that tells us we must be bold, stretch beyond our limits, do whatever it takes to be an extraordinary person living an extraordinary life. If we don’t, we’re doing ourselves a disfavor, selling ourselves short.

The zen teachers say the way to enlightenment is to “chop wood and carry water.” I’ve given this considerable thought over the last months, and I’ve come to understand something:

If you can’t find peace in the ordinariness of your everyday life, you won’t find it by moving to Tahiti, buying a new sports car, or trading in your current spouse for a new one.

This understanding has three parts:

Part 1: Ordinary is Enough.

I’m happy to “be” an ordinary woman, going about my “ordinary” day – tending to my body, mind,  spirit, and family in ordinary ways, practicing ordinary tasks and processes in my business. I’m content with who I am and what I do, and am, these days, striving to simplify in any way I can. It is amazing how little we really need.

Part 2:  Ordinary is Not Boring.

Giving ourselves over to the ordinary – to washing dishes, changing sheets, mowing the lawn – brings moments of release and realization. Years ago I wrote a blog post titled “My Now and Zen Kitchen” that speaks to this phenomenon. Slowing down, stripping away the noise of advertising and the pressure of keeping up with the latest whatever, brings a level of peace and calm that is anything but boring – this is the space where creativity brews and thrives!

Part 3:  Ordinary People can and do live Extraordinary Lives.

There is no contradiction in this statement. When we are content with what we have and do, when we are no longer striving for more or bigger or better, our energy patterns change, opening the door to our dreams – and beyond that door is where extraordinary things happen.

How do you get to a place inside where Ordinary is enough?  Can you spare five minutes? Oh, yes, you can.

Sometime today, take yourself to a place where you can be undisturbed – even if you have to leave the office to sit in your car. Sit still and quiet for 5 minutes, focusing on your breathing. As thoughts bubble up – the distractions of “this is stupid, you should be doing…” let them go. Stay focused on your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. When your mind wanders, and it will, just be aware of it and go back to breathing in, breathing out.

If the car thing isn’t your thing, forgo the dishwasher and wash your plates and pans by hand. Focus on the motion – that “soap on, soap off” motion. Feel the slipperiness of the suds on your hands, see yourself washing away the leftovers and scraps of your day.

As you continue to find ways to slow down and let the ordinary things of life be enough – even if it is just for five minutes at a time, your life will change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this  topic, and your experiences!


How to choose a blog type

A well-planned blog can make a huge difference for an individual or a business. But how do you know what type of blog will work best for you or your company?  Here are four blog types to consider before you get started:

A How-To Blog

Become a Hero by helping people understand how to do stuff . . .
Here, actual writing is limited – it’s more a matter of collecting and sharing material others have created. Show people how to solve their problems and where to go after they’ve visited your site.  Always give credit to the folks whose work you are sharing – gain written permission whenever possible, and make sure it is clear that the “how-to” is theirs, not yours.

A Storytelling Blog

Generate interest in your business and services with real-life stories . . .
You’re often told to ask your clients and customers for “testimonials” – short blurbs about what a great job you’ve done. Sadly, few people know how to write a testimonial that “works,” and even fewer people actually read the testimonials strewn across a website. But you can create a story about your customers/clients and the success that came from your interaction. Then it becomes a human interest story to which people can relate – and that is the type of “testimonial” that attracts attention.

A What’s Happening Now Blog

Perfect for creating a well-linked (and well-liked) news resource site  . . .
If your world is all about what’s happening around the world, a “what’s happening now” blog makes sense. You don’t have to write much, just gather info from other sources, report on them, perhaps add a bit of commentary and links galore. Just make sure your sources – and their sources – are credible.

A Personal Blog

Build a following as a thought leader. . .
Pondering a famous quote or concept in a weekly blog goes a long way in establishing your credibility as a thought leader – one of the golden few people want to follow. A personal blog differs from the other three in that its style is conversational, where the others are more professional. Consider carefully the persona you wish to project and the audience you wish to attract.  Be even more careful in the topics you choose to cover.


Love the Lemons in Your Life

Image of lemons on a lemon treeWe call the bad things, the dysfunctional things “lemons.” We say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” meaning throw a bag of sugar over it so you don’t see the dysfunction, the mechanical failures, the sourness of your situation.

Lemons grow in warm climates, their juice sour and acidic – much like the emotions we experience when things that we perceive as “bad” happen to us or around us. But that sour taste, that lip-puckering tartness, can play another role – an amazing role – if we embrace it. Lemons are teachers, messengers, angels sent to reshape us. Welcome them, love them, and squeeze out every bit of juice they offer.

I was handed a life-sucking lemon – a diagnosis of Stage 3C uterine cancer – in July 2009.  Over the next three years, I lost my business, my retirement fund, and in the end, my home. I tell you it was awesome – because the destruction of those years led me to the life I live today.

I could have viewed cancer as a death sentence, but chose instead to turn myself into “Lindiana Jones” on a wild and dangerous adventure that would prove my tenacity and strength.

After the radical hysterectomy, I could have handed my life over to my oncologist.  I didn’t, opting instead to do my own research on treatments and creating – with my oncologist’s hesitant agreement – on a plan that worked for me instead of the standard protocol.

I could have isolated myself to avoid infection or, even harder to endure, the fears of family and friends.  I didn’t do that, either. There were weeks during the year of chemotherapy that I was relegated to home with dangerously low blood counts. The rest of the time, I was out as often as my energy level allowed.

I chose to turn the most sour year of my life into a positive, life-affirming experience. It wasn’t easy, but this is what I learned:
When life gives you lemons, find someone with vodka, and throw a party.


How My Company Came Back From the Dead

Image of a bridge with post title

It was July 3, 2009, almost Independence Day – a day I celebrate four ways: as an American, the mother of an American Government professor, a single woman, and a small business owner.

It was almost Independence Day when the biopsy showed I had uterine cancer. Over the course of the next three years, I would come to realize just how deeply dependent we humans are on each other, and how my tendency to be fiercely independent would be tested.

I had owned and managed a successful copy writing and graphic design company for the better part of nine years on that day. I worked with Fortune 100 companies, regional nonprofits, and hundreds of small businesses across SE Michigan. I and my company –  The Write Concept, Inc. – were well known and well respected.

Fast forward past radical surgery, a year of chemotherapy, and two more years of exhausting residual side effects, and my business would have been in the morgue had that “fiercely independent” side of me not risen from its chemo stupor, demanding immediate action.

Resuscitating a mostly dead business requires strategy, energy, and patience. Many of my previous clients had changed jobs or retired; some had gone out of business in the economic downturn. I had to study and adjust to the dramatic technological changes in the marketing arena, update my social media skills, and reconnect with my network. Slowly, things began to happen, projects and revenue came in, and my friends and colleagues celebrated the 14th birthday of The Write Concept in March 2014.

The truth is, every small business goes through life cycles, and you must be on guard every day, filling it with life and energy, to stay strong during the downturns – and they do come – whether it is a slow season, or for a challenging reason such as cancer.

Four Things that Brought My Business Back to Life:

  1. Self-determination. I knew that I could have no doubt of success, that if I was not convinced of success, or depended on a “safety net” of any sort, I would fail.
  2. Good People. I aligned myself and partnered with those I knew would support me and my business, and I turned a deaf ear to the naysayers – especially the “little voice” inside my own head.
  3. Give Back/Pay it Forward. I’ve always been into social entrepreneurship, doing all that I can to promote and support my network. Whether you call it karma or the law of reciprocity, sooner or later what you do comes back to you in the same manner in which it was given.
  4. Tending to myself. Working 12-16 hours a day did not make me a champion. It made me ill, short of temper, and less effective. I created a new schedule for myself, which includes eight hours of sleep, time for family, and time for the golf course.

What are your tips/suggestions for breathing new life into a nearly dead or failing business? Share them here, please!


Finding Peace Despite Social Media

I love Facebook. I love the casual interaction with business clients and friends, and keeping up with family in other states and countries. And over the last two years, I’ve made peace with the downside of Social Media – the negative side of the public forum. My father used to remind us, as young adults, that politics and religion were topics to avoid in social settings. Apparently that advice is not universal and mostly forgotten in cyberspace.

In the year before the 2012 presidential election, I was frequently agitated and angry by the increased number of negative political and religious posts on social media, from both sides of the aisle. When I lost sleep for two nights over the level of hatred spewed by one “friend” in particular, I made a commitment to not “like,” “comment,” “share,” or otherwise engage in ANY political or religious posts or discussions online for the rest of the election season.

It brought me joy to just zip past most of the messages on Facebook, and by the end of the election, I had committed to maintain that commitment indefinitely. The last two years have been far less stressful as a result. I have unfriended a few people whose posts are always political, preachy, spiteful and exclusionary. I have focused on connecting with those who are positive, upbeat, expansive, and inclusive. I read posts that uplift, or those asking for real help. I admit that I have broken my rule two or three times in the last two years, but I don’t see that as failure. I see it as learning.

Some days it is hard not to respond, like today when I saw the post about the “Christians” who insulted the Hindu priest invited to give the opening prayer at a session of the U.S. Senate, screaming their own prayers in an attempt to override his voice.  There have been days – and today was one of them – that I typed a response equally as insulting as the post that hooked me.

The Chinese say:  “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

Thankfully, the “little voice” inside poured a dose of commitment down my throat, which instantly caused me to highlight and delete my words, then forgive myself for the intensity of the response I wanted to send. It feels good. It feels like growth, like peace.

Through Social Media, I’ve learned how reactive I can be, how quick to judge or respond without forethought. By swearing off interaction on two popular Social Media topics, I have settled into a softer, calmer place with a clearer handle on my own life, and the things that really matter to me.


One of “Those” Days

image of a woman pulling her hair outHaving one of those days, darling? You know what I mean – one of those frustrating, exhausting days in which everything you had planned is blown out the window by the things you didn’t anticipate?

The kind of day when you needed only to focus for one good hour to complete an important project, but the phone rings, the computer crashes, or the one person you desperately need to consult has left on vacation? The kind of day in which the faster you go the farther behind you fall?

Any street-corner guru will tell you: what happens in your life is not important. Hate your job? Not important. Dumped by the love of your life? Sorry, not even close to important. Diagnosis: Cancer?  To this I can personally and emphatically say, “Not important.”

That same street-corner guru (who happens, just like you, to be my brother) will tell you: What matters is the way you respond to what happens.

Look, my friend –I made it through radical surgery and nine months of chemotherapy by conducting little experiments just to amuse myself, and refusing to attend the pity party. You’d be surprised at how people react to a bald lady singing out, “Good Morning!” as she race-walks down the hospital hall at 6 a.m., grinning like the Cheshire Cat, morning after morning.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., one of my long-time favorite American authors, said, Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I, myself, prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

So when the day is long, your schedule has been tossed and torn by the winds of change – when you think nothing could be worse than getting what you got, or not getting what you wanted ­– turn your mind around, and give yourself a good belly-laugh.

There’s less cleaning up to do.


Clarify Your Marketing Efforts

We must manage so many things as a small business owner – inventory, people, accounts, sales, and of course, marketing.

Too often, we get bogged down in thinking we have to cover all the bases, stretch our marketing budget and time across all the avenues. We build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. We buy ad space and send out flyers through our local Chamber of Commerce. We generate e-newsletters, press releases, blog posts. And in the end, we are exhausted emotionally, physically and financially by trying to do it all, and do it everywhere.

It’s time to stop doing it all and start doing it smart.

Three steps to defining a framework for your marketing efforts:

  1. What is your intent?  Go beyond a sales goal – “I want to make money” is not enough. Is your intent to motivate people to a specific action? To educate, influence, or entertain them? Why do you do what you do? My intent in promoting The Write Concept is to help business owners and nonprofits develop marketing communications that are clear, concise, and motivating – to move minds with “words that matter.”
  2. Define your own results.  What do you really want from any particular activity?  Again, if it is “to sell stuff,” you are selling yourself short.  You may determine that reaching a “friend” list of 5,000 on your Facebook page is a worthy result. One of mine is to increasing my blog subscribers by 5% each month. Define a result you wish to achieve – a small step towards a bigger goal. Pick ONE social media outlet to start, and focus your energies there. You can expand to others as the results prove appropriate.
  3. Build your strategy. Look at your intent and the result you wish to achieve, and determine what steps will get you there. For me, a first step is being consistent in writing blog posts that matter – blog posts that help people be better in their communications. Tied in with that is making sure I am consistent in posting links to the posts on the social media outlets of my choice – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

It boils down to this: decide on a purpose, the results that will show you your efforts are “working,” and the steps you will take to make it happen. Then get out there and do it.


3 Tips for Better Blogs

Sharon looked me straight in the eye and said: I hate blogging. I don’t know what to say. It takes me forever to write two paragraphs and they end up being nothing but a bunch of blah-blah marketing statements. But I know I have to do it to stay competitive.

Owner of a small consulting business and responsible for “everything,” Sharon echoed a sentiment I hear almost daily: Blogging is a piece of the success pie, and it has become a huge challenge for those not trained as communicators.

What can you do to make your blog better for your readers AND better for you as the producer?  Here are three tips to get you back on track:

1)  Focus on the Goal of your Blog.  Is your intent simply to keep your name Top of Mind with your customers and prospects?  Are you focused on Lead Generation, website traffic, or building your reputation as an information hub?

2)  Remember What Drew You to Your Industry.  Way back when, on the day you started your company or made the decision to take a job in your current industry, you were excited about it. There was something that thrilled you, that satisfied you beyond just the paycheck. What was it? What emotion did it trigger? Find that energy again, and write from that place. It might be helpful to create a list of the reasons you started and the dreams you had about your career.

3) Tell stories. Stories pull the reader into an experience, and the more they see themselves in that experience, the more willing they will be to keep reading and remember you when they need your product or service.



7 choices for Success and Significance

I bought this little book — Seven Choices for Success and Significance (How to Live Life From the Inside Out) — when it was recommended to me in 2011. It may be small, but it’s full of power and wisdom from a man who started with nothing and became a huge success.

image of "7 Choices Book"The author, Dr. Nido R. Qubein, came to the United States from the Middle East when he was 17, with just $50 to his name and little knowledge of the English language.  Today, he is the President of High Point University in North Carolina, and Chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company, with 225 stores in 43 states. Read his accomplishments here.


Dr. Qubein states that the choices we make determine the person we become, and the seven choices included in this little volume are obvious at first, then become profound in his interpretation.

In the introduction, he speaks of the koi fish – the simple Japanese carp:

“If you put a koi fish in a fishbowl and give it food and water, it never grows to more than two inches in size. But, if you put it in a pond it grows to a foot in size. The koi fish grows proportionately to the environment in which it lives.  So must we, if we are to succeed and live a life of significance.”

The Choices

I’ll speak here of the first two choices:

#1: Choose Transformational Patterns, and 2#: Choose Energy Management over Time Management.


Transformational choices, Dr. Qubein states, are those that change the direction of our lives, and put us on a path to success and significance.  “The people I admire most don’t live their lives by a ‘TO-DO’ list,” he says, “They live their lives by a ‘TO-BE’ list.”  To be more generous, more patient, more learned, more reasoned.

Choosing energy management over time management: If you focus on time, Dr. Qubein says, you can be held back by transactional things. “I think in terms of energy,” he states. “Is this activity worthy of my energy?” We are like batteries;  we all have 24 hours each day, but if we fizzle out after five hours, the other 19 don’t matter.

Focus, Dr. Qubein says, on activities that contribute to the greatest value in your life and do more of them.

The final point Dr. Qubein makes is this: Success is secular. Significance is spiritual. Success focuses on tasks and goals. Significance focuses on purpose.

What choices will you make today?