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!


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!


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.


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?


The Changing Face of Marketing Options for Small Business

Stick around long enough and you begin to see patterns in everything, particularly in the changing face of marketing options for small business.

In his book Youtility, author Jay Baer speaks of the long-time marketing strategy called Top of Mind Awareness, or TOMA.  “When America had three major TV networks, it was easy to reach people with a single commercial,” Baer states.

The Media Challenge

But the TV market has changed, as stats from Baer’s book show. Consider the #1 TV shows over the last 4 decades, and the percentage of American households with TVs that tuned in:

1977: Happy Days (31.5%)
1987: The Cosby Show (27.8%)
1997: Seinfeld (21.7%)
2007: American Idol (16.1%)
2011: Sunday Night Football (12.9%)

The interesting thing in these numbers is not which show is #1 in any given decade, but the slow decline in the number of people “tuned in” to the #1 show. It’s not that we are no longer watching TV. We are, in fact, watching more TV than ever – but over hundreds of channels, and often viewing more than one screen at a time.  That makes it harder than ever to gain attention – and as Baer says, “You can’t promote to people you can’t find.”

The Solution

Throughout his book, Baer stresses the solution to the fractured media landscape and ultra-short attention span of entire generations is Youtility: Massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.

The strongest points, in my view, are these:

  • If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you may create a customer for life.
  • You have to understand what your prospective customers need to make better decisions, and how you can improve their lives by providing it.
  • Use Social Media to promote your useful information first, and your company second.

And the most important point:

Being useful must be part of your company DNA.


Attraction Action

My good friend Terry Bean, founder of Unetworked – where he masquerades as Magneato Man – recently wrote a post about putting “Action” into “attrACTION” in the MCC+ Discussion Area, based on his extensive study and practice of the Law of Attraction. Always fascinated by the etymology of our language, I went to Ernest Weekley’s “An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English” for the low-down.

The English word “Attract” comes from the Latin attrahere, which means “to draw.”

Now, I am excited to consider that we can view “attract” from two perspectives: “to draw” as in “to draw it toward us,” which would be the “magnet to nail” image Terry uses in his branding, AND “to draw” as in “draw this picture.”

Terry said it well: When we visualize what we desire, we give additional power to the thought.

And I add: When we draw the image – on paper, with a pencil, I mean – that power grows even stronger, because we are putting our body into it, and that triggers stronger brain reactions.

Think you can’t draw, or have no artistic talent?  Slap a piece of tracing paper over that fancy car ad in the magazine and sketch the contours. Then fill it in with whatever bright, beautiful colors and intentions you choose.

Oh, and remember, that if you think you can’t, you can’t, so decide that you can and then go do it.

I’m making a commitment right here and now that I will hand draw / Illustrator draw a minimum of 50% of the images for my 3rd quarter vision board… anyone care to join me?

The Dropout Hall of Shame

So there you are, loaded with years of experience, capable of way more than most in your field, and every job posting you see that fits you to a “Tee” lists some sort of degree as the first qualification.

And, that would be the degree – any degree – that you don’t have.

Throw your discouragement out the window. You’re actually in great company.

Here are the top six on my list of current-day dropouts:

  • Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after six months, saying “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or how college was going to help me figure it out.”
  • Peter Jennings,  top news anchor on ABC, flunked out of 10th grade and went to work as a bank teller at age 16.
  • Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., dropped out of college at 19.
  • Bill Gates was 10 points away from a perfect score on the SAT. He dropped out of Harvard College after two years and never went back.
  • Steven Spielberg was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University in Long Beach.
  • Simon Cowell, TV producer, dropped out of school at the age of 16.

And then there are the Degree-less from History:

  • Henry Ford never completed high school.
  • Andrew Jackson, 6th president of the United States, never went to college.
  • John D. Rockefeller Sr., the first American billionaire, was a high school dropout.
  • Andrew Carnegie, one of the first mega-billionaires in the U.S., dropped out of elementary school.
  • Thomas Edison joined the railroad at the age of 12.
  • Benjamin Franklin had less than two years of formal education.

If they could succeed, so can you.

Einstein once said that he was no different than any other man except for one thing– that he never gave up, and stuck with a problem till he solved it.

Ray Bradbury, the gifted author of Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and so many other brilliant novels, said “I never went to college. I went to the library.”

Now please, go to the comment box below, and leave your thoughts. There’s also a box you can check if you’d like an email notification when a new post is added to this blog.


The Joy of Adversity

For those who haven’t learned how to be two places at once, and thus missed Linda Angér’s talk at the MCC Birthday Bash and Leadership Expo, here is a transcript…

Your feedback is requested – Thanks!


My name is Linda Anger. I am one of the founding members of MCC, and the founder/president of The Write Concept, a 10-year-old marketing communications company based in Rochester Hills, and I’m here today to speak on the Power of Perseverance.

I can stand here and tell you the platitudes – you’ve heard them a million times. What I really want to share with you is the value of drawing strength from facing the adversity inherent in perseverance. Success, in my book, is not about coming through a challenge unscathed – because adversity isn’t a obstacle to “get around” – it is a part of our life.

I believe things happen FOR us, not TO us… I repeat: things happen FOR us, not TO us. I know that every single thing that has occurred in my life, no matter how positively or negatively I perceived it, happened FOR my ultimate benefit. I hope that 6 minutes from now, you will understand what I mean.

The first story I want to share with you is the tale of Matt Weinstein, a workplace humor and team building expert.  Matt was a self-made and quite wealthy man. One day, while cruising Antarctica on a Russian ice-breaking vessel, he got a satellite call from his wife, who said “Bernie Madoff has been arrested. His entire fund was a scam.” In that moment, Matt Weinstein went from a self-made and very wealthy man to a self-made and virtually penniless man. In January 2009, he said “What we came to understand was that Bernie Madoff stole all of our money – but it was up to us to make sure he didn’t steal the rest of our lives.” What an amazing catalyst that experience was FOR Matt Weinstein and his wife. They refused to allow the Madoff madness to happen TO them, and saw the ultimate benefit in their lives. THAT is the basis of Perseverance.

I ask you – when was the last time something you perceived as negative became a blessing in your life?

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers, and even Bloomsbury – the small house that finally purchased the manuscript, told her to get a day job.  She was in the midst of a divorce, her mother had just died, and she was living on government subsidies. She ignored the naysayers, kept on writing, and wrote herself into a $15 billion dollar brand.

How much of a deaf ear do you turn to the naysayers in your life?

Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute, and author of the book “Three Cups of Tea,” tells the story of a mullah in Afghanistan who refused to allow education for girls in his village. It took Mortenson 8 years of conversation and thousands of cups of tea before the mullah relented and allowed 1 girl to go to school.

Would you have the patience to stay with an unlikely prospect for eight years? Would you?

We have become a culture addicted to fast food, instant response and gratification, but Mortensen says “Anything truly important is worth doing very, very slowly.”

Who among you feels comfortable in saying you know me fairly well?  Would any of you say that I was shy, distant, and most of all, a negative thinker?

I didn’t think so, but I will tell you that for the first 23 years of my life, that was the absolute truth.

At the age of 12, and again at 15, I was subjected to experimental bone surgery that only served to make the perceived problems with my legs worse.  For all those years, I was told in many ways – subtle and overt – that I would never be “normal” and shouldn’t bother trying to do any of the things the other kids did without thinking. I was “Different,” and “Different” was not a good thing. For the first 23 years of my life, I believed it and let it rule me. I couldn’t see, at the time, that it was a blessing for me.

Then came the day that a friend challenged the “victim” mentality I was trained to carry. He laid down a challenge I couldn’t refuse – I was determined to show him that he was wrong, that I was physically incapable of doing what he challenged me to do. I surprised myself and did it, and I loved it. That young man’s insistence on getting me out of the psychological straitjacket I wore for so many years changed the course of my life forever. I thank the gods for his persistence – he was the one who taught me to drink deeply of every opportunity, and never substitute “I can’t” for “‘I’m afraid to fail.” It was one of the greatest things that ever happened FOR me.

From the time I started writing stories at 9 years of age, I was told I could never earn a living as a writer. But I have, inside the corporate world for several decades, and as as a small business owner, for over 10 years. That’s Persistence… and trusting that the Universe will always conspire in my favor.

12 years ago, my house burned to the ground. When all you have left is your life, you quickly realize that “stuff” doesn’t matter, and you become far more persistent in pursuing the things that do matter, like – friends, and Wisdom,  your capacity to love, your willingness to give of yourself.

For the better part of the last year,  I’ve been conquering cancer. Many of you have been with me through this journey – and it is your part in it has made cancer an amazing blessing that happened for me. My gratitude to each of you is boundless.

For those who can’t fathom how cancer could be a blessing,  I invite you to contact me and we’ll talk.

My doctor and my chemo nurse tell me they have never seen anyone come through cancer and chemo as cheerfully and uneventfully as I have.  I told them what I learned from Aimee Mullens, a parolympian who holds world records in the 100 meter dash, and long jump. She once said, “Opening ourselves to adversity, dancing with it, is natural and useful. No prognosis can be as powerful a determinate as WILL.”

No prognosis can be as powerful a determinate as WILL… and I’ve determined that I am and shall remain a cancer Conqueress.

I ask you: what role does WILL play in your life so far? and, I tell you: no matter how outrageous or scary it seems, when you can see and feel your dream in your minds eye – leap like your pants are on fire!

This amazing universe will surely catch you.

I came here today to talk about the power of perseverance… to honor the unstoppable spirit of Terry Bean in his vision of building the best networking group in Michigan…. he’s succeeded, as this day proves.

And I leave you with this:

Sir Edmund Hillary, the famous explorer, said,  “It is not the mountains we conquer… it is ourselves.”

Another wise person said “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”

And finally, the saying from the Chinese that has been my mantra for many years:

“Those who say a thing cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

My name is Linda Anger, from The Write Concept.  THANK YOU for your attention.

Now go out there, and make your day magnificent!

The One-Word Difference

When William Shakespeare penned Romeo’s famous line, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, he invoked a universal truth —how you perceive a thing is more important and more powerful than the name you assign it.

Most of the time, that is.

But as Frank Luntz, head of the Luntz Research Companies in Washington, D.C. points out, choosing one word over another can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived.  In his book Words that Work, Luntz shares statistics and insights from the political arena that also apply to the business world:

“… by almost two-to-one, Americans say we are spending too much on welfare (42 percent) rather than too little (23 percent). Yet an overwhelming 68 percent of Americans think we are spending too little on assistance to the poor, versus a mere 7 percent who think we’re spending too much.”

As Luntz points out, welfare is assistance to the poor. The difference in public response is in the positioning and phrasing. Welfare has a negative connotation. Assistance to the Poor sounds compassionate and charitable.  His results were similar in a survey regarding taxes to further law enforcement versus taxes to halt the rising crime rate. While the terms essentially point to the same thing, one was viewed as increased administrative costs, and the other as achieving a desirable result – making our world safer.

Back to Business

How your customers view your product or service is directly related to the words and phrases you choose to use in marketing and advertising, just as public opinion is swayed by the conscious word choices of politicians. According to Luntz, for example, accountability trumps professionalism and responsibility because it is the only one of the three that implies enforcement. Learn to weigh the impact of your words and designs carefully, and you’ll soon find that attending to Shakespeare’s question, What’s in a name? can make a difference in your sales, and help you turn thorns into roses.