Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Setting Yourself Apart From Your Competition

People want to be heard, feel like they belong and know that they matter — regardless of whether or not anything is in it for you.

Setting yourself from your competition is easier than you think. Paradoxically, it means thinking of yourself less.

Originally published October 2012

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Building Trust Online

There's a myth floating around that says that in order to be successful online and build trust with potential clients, you have to spill your guts about every aspect of your life.

Fortunately, this isn't true. Multiple studies have shown that trust increases more with predictability than it does with an increase in self-disclosure.

If the current trend of keeping it (overly) real and out-authenticizing each other leaves you uncomfortable, you're not alone. Yes, people want to connect with you on a personal level, but oversharing and TMI actually turns them off.

Oversharing can even build distrust, particularly if you're openly discussing your spouse or kids in an embarrassing way. When a potential client sees this, the thought process tends to be: "If they're willing to talk about their family this way  their most important relationships  then what will they say about me?"

Want to use social media effectively to build more trust with potential clients? Show up more often. Be real. Set boundaries.

Originally published March 2012

Monday, October 20, 2014

Creating a Better Life

Routines determine your life, so it's necessary to choose good ones. Here are three that have profoundly changed my life for the better. Simple (sometimes easy to justify not doing because they're "too simple") yet effective:

1. Morning pages. I've written about this practice several times before: first thing in the morning write three pages of whatever spills out of your head onto the page. The point is not to make sense, the point is to get it onto paper. The size of the pages doesn't matter. The size of your handwriting or cursive vs print or whether you prefer to type doesn't matter. What matters is the doing. You actually have to do this — sit down and write — for it to work. With morning pages you'll find you have more creativity, more margin mentally and emotionally, more clarity to focus on what's important. Almost every good idea I've had has started in cursive.

2. Listen to positive influences. Seth Godin blogged about this and I'll second it: make this a habit and you'll find that it works. I am an optimist, but I am not a Pollyanna. I do not believe in glossing over real problems or sweeping them under the rug in the name of "staying positive." I relate to people with real problems in their lives because that is real life (I have no time for made up drama). I also believe that what you put into your mind is what you get out. So listen to truth. Listen to things that give you the tools to choose optimism over cynicism, things that help you see the silver lining. Life has difficult and dark seasons, but grey skies aren't the whole picture. It's important to strengthen your heart and mind to choose real joy regardless. Choosing joy doesn't happen by accident, it is a cultivated habit.

3. Eat breakfast. This habit is certainly not a new idea. I made eating breakfast (not just coffee) daily a new year's resolution last year, and now I'm not sure why I ignored this piece of advice for so long. Everything that people said would happen, happened: I have more energy, my mind is sharper, I lost weight almost immediately. I'm including this one here because it's so obvious that it's a healthy habit (breakfast is good for you? No kidding!) and yet I willfully skipped it for years.

We all have a million excuses for not setting up healthy habits and routines in our lives and the excuses are all lame. (Don't believe me? Why exactly don't you drink enough water? Say it out loud. Yeah, that excuse is pretty lame.) You don't have to drastically change your life and fill it with new routines overnight. Just pick one to start. I'll give you a hint: the one you're resisting the most will probably be the most beneficial.

Originally published July 2013

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Must-Have Trait for Leaders

If you're the first to always throw cold water on ideas — either yours or those belonging to others — it's time to stop and seriously ask yourself why.

I don't advocate giving false praise or telling everyone their idea is fantastic when it's not. There is, however, a serious difference between giving warranted, beneficial feedback that someone may not want to hear and shutting down an idea before it even has a chance to start.

Getting into a pattern of throwing ideas out before listening to or examining them is toxic. Keeping an open mind is something that the best leaders and the most creative artists have in common.

Originally published June 2012

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On Generosity and Raising the Bar

There is a woman who has written more than 25 books and makes her living as a professional author and as a writing professor at a university. She was up for a literary award and lost out to a another writer -- a young author new to the scene who won the award for her very first book. The older author nursed her grudge through the event, cycling through jealousy, self-pity, and even anger. That award was rightfully hers! She had been in the industry for decades! Who was this nobody who came along and took the award after just one book? She hadn't yet paid her dues like everyone else!

After the event, the younger author approached the older one, stuck out her hand in introduction and asked, "do you remember me?"

The older author confessed that she did not.

The younger author replied, "You were my writing professor in college. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I took your class. You were the one who inspired me to pursue a career as an author. Thank you so much -- I feel alive when I write, I love my life, and I owe that to you."

The older author was taken aback and, of course, immediately felt guilty about nursing any animosity towards the younger writer. This person she had felt jealous towards only a few moments before was crediting her for her success.

Working to leave the industry better than you found it will almost always come back to benefit you. Raising the bar creates more room underneath.

Originally published February 2012