Category Archives: Personal Smarts

Will Borders Pay Authors for Books?

The recent announcement that Borders will delaying paying some of its vendors means that Borders won’t be paying some of the very people who create the products—BOOKS—that Borders sells.

 http://detnews.com/article/20110101/BIZ/101010322/Borders-delays-vendor-payments

When the news first hit that Borders financial trouble had continued to deepen and that some vendors shouldn’t be expecting checks in the near future, Borders stock plunged 22% on the last day of trading for 2010 in the stock market.

 http://www.marketwatch.com/story/borders-stock-plunges-as-crisis-deepens-2010-12-31

 What’s this mean for authors and publishers? First, be bloody careful who you sell your books to on consignment. The great majority of bookstores sell books on consignment—you sell and send to them at a discounted rate; they, in turn, pay you if sold, eventually. If they don’t sell, they send your books back. Hopefully, in a re-sellable condition (the savvy author/publisher puts that in writing up front). The financial problems of Borders is not new news … it has been in the book news circuit for years … most of us thought they wouldn’t make it through 2010. But, in the consignment business, deaths can be prolonged. For small press publishers, who are using distributors and wholesalers to rep their books to the bookstore world, make sure you have a discussion about the viability of their key accounts—Borders is certainly one. Start doing some homework. Google bookstores and bookstore chains that carry your books—information is on the Internet, a click away. If you are selling direct to a book store, Google away. Shorten your payment schedules—none of this six-month nonsense for returns. Remember, if you, as an author/publisher, desire to have your books in the bookstores, it’s your job to drive buyers there to buy them. Check on inventories. Make sure you are getting paid. Will Borders pay authors/publishers for books? Time will tell.

The Wrong Fit

 Have you ever been in a situation where you know that it could have been avoided? It usually comes from a wrong fit.

 People often ask what groups I speak for. My response is always—it’s better to ask what groups I don’t speak for. Puzzled with my response, I continued—I don’t speak for Teachers, Attorneys, Government … and Men After Dark. Simple.

 Teachers often talk when speakers speak; it just too much work proving one’s self to the legal beagles; government has a couple of strikes—sometimes it’s a challenge to get paid and the energy level that is generated from a government employee is rarely higher than a stair step; and the men, will the men are best having a humorist or sports celebrity speak during evening hours versus someone what wants to delete conflict in the workplace like yours truly.

 Too many times, things don’t work out because you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t say yes, when in your heart, no is the better answer.

Limping Leadership

What happens when a team, a group, a company or an organization loses its vision, its organization, it energy, its leadership and/or its passion? Simply, it dies.

Some deaths are sudden. Most are prolonged, and can be agonizing.

Gumblings and complaints about the leadership or management (people who don’t care–people who don’t appear or seem to be invested in the company or group–people who really lack organization experience–people who fail to connect–or people who don’t know that they are the wrong fit).

Concerns about apparent visual declines in surroundings or methods of communication (magazines or newsletters decline in quality, or disappear; emails are nothing more than a bunch of words without some type of catchy graphic; management/leadership fades into the background; physical surroundings begin to look worn or tired; or sponsored events become a minor reflection of yesteryear).

Too many leaders within the company or organization don’t really lead; they act as parking attendants.

If you are a member of a group or organization that appears to be limping along, what should you do? Nothing is not your answer. If this is your employment–dusting your resume is a good idea; re-evaluating what you do and where you want to do it; IDing what other companies employ people like you or produce the product or services that you are so good at creating; go to the CEO and let them know you’ve got a killer strategy (if you do) to add to the value and profitability of the company; move on.

Association–profits and non-profits typically die or limp along for years when a powerhouse leader or board moves on. These organizations usually have a high degree of turnover–their bylaws mandate it. And that’s the problem. Unless each new team of leadership is as strong, as visionary and as organized as its predecesor, the limp factor becomes engaged. If you are a member of such a group, you are going to have to have a serious discussion with yourself. Ask: are you getting anything out to belonging to the group … hanging with the members, any benefits that it has that you can’t get elsewhere, what? If you really can’t think of any, than it’s time to move on as well. Don’t renew your membership.

It is painful to watch a company or organization that you care for or have been deeply vested in begin to implode. Painful.
With that said, when it’s over, it’s over. Grieve, but move on and find new life. Don’t become a parking attendant.

And that, is a very good thing.

October Snow … Trick or Treat?

Twelve years ago August, hubby John and I moved into the home that we had built in the Metro-Denver area of Colorado. That October, I had a speaking gig in Salt Lake City and another one a few days later in New Orleans. We were schedule to pass through Denver with a one day stay over before heading back to the airport and New Orleans.

That didn’t happen. Mother Nature delivered a wallop of a pre-winter storm. Our home that didn’t have any houses (yet) across the street or next door. The snow buried it–we couldn’t come home! A not so nice Trick!

United Airlines decided to sent us to Chicago to eventually connect with our flight to New Orleans with a layover of a day before heading down to New Orleans. And it was a great “day off.” Walked a bit of the Chicago strip along the lake; had a fabulous meal and slept in. A terrific Treat!

This October, it was deja vu. John and I had just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in AK–my speaking took us to Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Nome. All terrific groups. We saw so much, learned a lot and meant some incredible people … not to mention one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten at Simmons & Seafort in Anchorage. And, we were glad to be home.

Mother Nature did her thing and two feet of snow dumped in our neck of the woods–almost as if saying, you need a day off. And I did. Nothing like the house being buried 12 years ago, but enough to say–stay put, have a pot of tea, read a book … and you can go to the office in a day or two. Halloween Eve Day, shovels were out to get the walkway ready for our neighborhook Trick or Treaters.

Sometimes things come your way that seem like a pain in the tush and burden; and they turn out to be a reprieve from the very routine you need a timeout from.

And sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses; in our case, the snow.

Happy Fall.

Next Moves for Boomers …

To retire, or not to retire? For the Boomer generation (1946-1964), just what is retirement?

If you are a Boomer, most likely you’ve noticed a few changes.  

Some are physical … you creak, might not be as flexible as just a few years ago, may be thinking about joint replacements and have noted that the body doesn’t respond like it used to. 

Financially, most Boomers realize that they won’t retire as their parents traditionally did; that they probably don’t have enough money set aside; that the pensions and retirement programs that they had counted on, may not have the payouts originally projected; and that they can opt to start collecting Social Security on the early payout feature.

Most Boomers don’t want to stop working.  What’s being redefined is how they work. If you are post 50, how you view your career today is probably a tad different than you did 20 years ago.

If the Boomers want to keep on working, does that spell bad news for those who want to move up the corporate ladder?  Will the aging Boomers block the “kids” from the executive suite?

Boomers are looking for options.  According to AARP, over 75 percent want to keep working.  New adventures will beckon—many will leave corporate America behind (opening the doors to those wanting to move up) and join the ranks of the self-employed.  Of the five million Americans over 50 are self-employed … accounting for 40 percent of the self-employed workforce.

Retire or Not to Retire? The real question is, if you are a Boomer, do you have the right stuff to become an entrepreneur?

The Right Stuff includes:

Knowing what you are passionate about.

One of the best-selling books of the previous decade was Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.  So it goes with entrepreneurship. Before you jump the corporate ship, take advantage of career assessment tests and short courses offered through facilities such as the community college. Maybe you already know … you’ve been doing it as a hobby for years.

Knowing what your real skills are. 
Most of us take for granted the things we do on a routine basis… including sales, marketing, negotiating, responsibility for a P&L, and customer service.  All are critical in the launching and success of a business.

Creating a smart team.
When you first start out, you may be a solo act.  It doesn’t mean that work in a hold.  You will have a team … and most likely, many on your team are also soloists.  A good bookkeeper, someone with a keen graphic eye and a gift of words are ideal early connections. 

Every community has groups that focus on the entrepreneur… some are female oriented, some male, others with no preference.  Whether it’s the Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, NAWBO, BPW, Leads, eWomenNetwork, there are hundreds and hundreds of members within each that just may have the link/connection/answer you are looking for. 

You find them by showing up and getting involved.  The Denver Business Journal identifies many of them in the Calendar section weekly. The perfect mentor is just around the corner.

Make sure your Market is really a Market
If the work you are passionate about is similar to what you left in the corporate world, your previous employer may be interested in engaging you as a consultant. The Internet is a huge resource in tracking down the needs and wants of potential clients. If you aren’t savvy in searching techniques, this would be a good time to hone your skills.

Money, Money, Money
You need to have money—money to live on as the business develops; money to spend in developing and marketing the business; and money to take care of the unexpecteds.  Have a six month reserve set aside, outside of your monthly personal and business operating needs.

Many businesses start today with a computer, Internet connection and a phone. Costs are minimal.  Costco’s Executive membership for $100 offers a variety of services for the small business, all designed to save money—from credit card processing to small business health and dental insurance.

Don’t spend a fortune when you don’t have to in growing your business.  A PO Box could work just fine as your storefront and costs a few dollars a month.

Former President John F Kennedy said, “There is risk and costs to a program of action … There are far more risks to a program of inaction.”  If you do what you love, there’s a market for your product/service, go for it. The entrepreneurial bug may just be for you.

When is Too Much Skin, Too Much?

Last month, I flew to San Diego for a speaking engagement.  Waiting for my luggage, I glanced around the airport and thought I had arrived on the production sets of Dancing with the Stars and Melrose Place. 

The women’s range of dress was anything but just plain pants and a shirt and shoes.  Nope, there were sequins, bangles, bobbles and doo-dads hanging everywhere there wasn’t skin and where there was actual material, it was so tight, the question was why bother?

My eyes were taking in what seemed like a tad too much skin, accessorized with gizmos and gadgets that would be more appropriate for a Halloween romp.

In the car rental van, a young woman sat across from me in a blouse cut so low that sultry would be a conservative description. Talking in a typical cell phone voice, everyone within 10 feet heard that she had just landed, was picking up her car and that she would be in the office for the marketing meeting in about 45 minutes.

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  No one wants to wear a lot of clothes. But when is dressing not enough?  And what is appropriate and not appropriate in the workplace? 

I’m not sure what kind of marketing meeting my van companion was heading to, but I do know that there are some common sense dos and don’ts when it comes to dressing for work.

Here’s 13 items to avoid sabotaging your career:

Cover up the cleavage.  Plunging necklines don’t belong in 99 percent of workplaces. Cocktail types of establishments are exceptions.  Wear a tank top or camisole to conceal the plunging shirt.

Camisole Tops.  You can get away with wearing the ones that are on the stringy side, as long as there is a cover-up type of blouse, sweater or a light weight jacket worn over it.  If it’s a plunger, sew it up or leave it at home—an over shirt isn’t going to help.

Low Pants.  Tattoos may be your pride and joy, but the office doesn’t need to view them every time you move. Ditto for the belly button.

Pants that Drag.  Along with the low riding pants are the ones that are so baggy and drag on the ground.  Who said that tattered cuffs were classy looking?

Belly or High Cut Shirts.  As with tattoos, your abs could be your best feature, but shouldn’t be on display for all to admire.  Leave them to be exposed at the office volley ball competition or the pool.  Untie the shirt or get one that actually goes below your waistline.

See-Through and Sheer Shirts. If you are really serious about your co-workers and managers being serious about what you have to say and contribute, wear a jacket or coat. You need to block the general body area from the flimsy factor if you want attention paid to what you are saying.

Shorts. Unless you are working a resort, shorts don’t belong in the workplace. Some women’s suits have long shorts with them that cut above the knee, but … leave them at home.  They are cute if you have the legs, wear them socially.

Open-Back Dresses and Tops.   Open backs are great when the weather is hot, but let’s face it; most workplaces have some form of air conditioning.  Others don’t need to be distracted by a bare back—leave it for dancing under the stars. If you must wear it, put on a jacket or sweater.   

Mini and Micro-Mini Skirts.  Why anyone would think that an oversized swatch designed to cut off at the top of ones thighs would be suitable for the workplace is beyond me.  Yet, women show up every once in awhile in them. Don’t. Sure, they are cute … but not in the office and only on young girls without a nano-ounce of fat or cellulite.     

Chest Hair.  Button up.  Exposing hairy chests at work doesn’t work.  

Black or Dark Underwear.  Only with dark clothes; otherwise your co-workers will have a field day viewing your body movements under your light colored outer clothes.

Flip-flops. Perfect for your day off, the weekend, the lake and other casual places…but not work…and definitely not the Whitehouse.  If you have feet problems, and who doesn’t at times, there are classy looking sandals, open-toed shoes, clogs, even Crocs would work in some workplaces.  

Odors.  We all have natural body orders.  Assuming regular bathing, don’t over due perfumes, colognes, lotions and the like.  You may be making your co-workers, and customers, sick.

If you want to be taken seriously, it starts with presentation.  Yours.  Sloppy, seductive or smelly doesn’t shout professionalism.

Face to Face in the Digital World

This summer, I became an Empty Nester.  Before the 21 year-old grandson moved out, I was fast-forwarded into the teen world of communicating.

“What’s for dinner?” he text messaged from his bedroom to my kitchen. “Open your door and find out,” I fingered and thumbed back.  “What’s the weather like outside?” “Look out your window,” was my reply.  Of course, mine was all spelled out; Frank’s was text abbreviated. Spelling is an option for the electronic cowboy.

When is the last time you came across someone who didn’t own some type of electronic gadget that allowed them to communicate with someone else remotely?  Even when there’s just a short distance between them?

Texting and Tweeting have become the norm.  Even when people are in the same room or at the same table, electronic waves cross back and forth. For those of you who aren’t Tweeting yet, it comes with Twitter, the fastest method of short communicating electronically out there today.

Author Susan RoAne says, “Communicating today is like the restaurant fare of Surf and Turf—you need to be able to surf and use the Internet, be technically adept with use of the gizmos and gadgets of technology and have online skills.”  Her just released book, Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal touch in the Digital World (Touchstone/Fireside) is chock full of how-tos, dos and don’ts.

According to RoAne, “Today’s business leaders look for people who are socially adept and ready to offer a real-time handshake, a smile, an interesting conversation and an intelligent presentation.”

That means that the gizmos and gadgets need to be out of sight once in awhile and that the savvy person in the workplace gets to communicate the old fashion way: face to face. 

Be wary of the person who plops their BlackBerry next to the water glass next time you have lunch. Granted, they could have a make it or break it deal ready to pop at any time and they need to be on the alert.  But, and it’s the common “but”—there isn’t a make or break it deal on the horizon.  The PDA has become an appendage that they can’t leave home or the office without.

That gadget, ready to spring to life at an impulse’s moment, will silently dominate the space on the table, in your pocket, wherever. The owner is rarely fully present in your conversation. Better to turn it off and put it away until the gathering or meeting is over.

Whether you are meeting with a colleague, attending a lunch or business meeting, the weekly staff meeting or just visiting a friend, all of us need to know how to interact, how to behave, and how to connect with others. In public.  

In our electronic world, according to RoAne, “Face to face communication has taken a backseat to cell phones, texting and tweeting.” She admits that she, too, can send a photo attachment via her Treo, but communicating directly, in person, is at the head of the class. 

Her many tips include:

§  Let technology enhance—not dominate—your personal and professional life;

§  Learn the best ways to connect: email vs. phone vs. face-to-face. Do it simply by asking the person you are connecting with which is their preferred method;

§  Develop the art of small talk and learn how to transition from small talk to big talk at the appropriate time; and

§  Learn how to handle office and personal politics with savvy and grace.

I travel extensively with my speaking and consulting business—my BlackBerry is in my pocket, out of sight.  I have to stay connected. It’s business. 

It’s easy to respond back with a short and quick email, which I do … but so much better if I dial the phone and at least connect via voice.  If appropriate, face to face time is set up.

Remember, the electronic world is just that… distant and well, electronic.  There isn’t the personal or chemical connection that meeting and interacting that face to face communications brings to the table. The experts in communications will always tell you that visual and tones are key ingredients in communicating … in other words, you need to hear and see others once in awhile! 

Emailing, Texting and Tweeting might do in a pinch, but to close the deal, never underestimate the power of being present.

It’s not so much about YourSpace or MySpace … it’s about OurSpace and TheirSpace.  How will you know what TheirSpace and OurSpace looks and feels like unless you can be in it, in person?

What’s Important to You?

Winter will be here in a few months. Imagine being in a car that is stuck in snow—you forward and reverse the gears, hoping to jimmy yourself out of the rut. The wheels are in motion, your car isn’t.

Are you like your car—living a life where there’s action, but no real movement, or completion of task?

Is there just not enough time in the day to get done what you want to do—within or outside of work? Do you ever feel that you have too, too much on your plate to handle? With day light savings ending soon, do feel that you might lose an hour in your day?

According to Jeff Davidson, author of The 60 Second Organizer (Adams Media, www.BreathingSpace.com), “Everyone has 168 hours a week. One way or another, everyone fills them.”

He further breaks down what the cumulative amount of years you spend doing various activities. “Any activity consuming 30 minutes of your day, consumes a year of your life. During a work life of 48 years (from ages 22 and 70), an activity that you engage in for an average of 30 minutes each day consumes one complete year of your life: (½ hr in 24 hours) = (½ yr in 24 years) = (1 yr in 48 years).”

Now, 30 minutes doesn’t seem like much, and if you are like the average employee, you kiss-off almost two hours a day just at work—it’s called shirking… anything from phone chats, idle chatter among co-workers, computer games to surfing the Internet. Home could add another two if you consider TV time.

Using Davidson’s formula, you could see that poof…four to eight years of your life…your productive life…has passed you by. You’ve ambushed yourself.

With this new perspective, you can take steps eliminate activities that don’t fit with what you where you want to go or be. It means you must take control—look for new ways to accomplish your goals and be willing to question your routines.

Sabotaging Routines, Rituals and Gottas

If you feel that you don’t have enough time in the day, the question is: what are you so busy doing? What are your routines, rituals and gottas?

You may have a morning ritual of reading the paper before leaving for work—instead, could you listen to the news in your car on the way to work and skim the paper in the evening for other items that you missed?

You may routinely open every piece of mail that comes your way—could you just dump all the junk mail over the trash and not open any of it? How often do you really act on the sales pitches that fill most mailboxes?

You gotta get to this meeting or start a new project or go to this event…you know the gottas. We all face them throughout the week, almost beating ourselves up in completing some superficial task—truth be told, it really is no big deal if it is bypassed.

What’s Important to You?

If you feel that important tasks are shortchanged; that you have to do everything yourself; that you have stacks and stacks of “to do” items piling up; that you can’t get anything done because you are interrupted all the time; or that being late is now your new operating system, then it’s time to do an assessment: what is important to you?

If you know of anyone who has experienced tragedy or a life threatening illness, it’s not uncommon to see changes as they come out of it. Why? Choices…they’ve made some during and since their experience.

Two of my children have died—one as an infant, the other as a teen. Both affected me profoundly…and in different ways.

I learned that the dust will be here tomorrow…my kids may not. Goodbye perfect housekeeping.

I learned that it was a heck of a lot more fun to be silly and laugh and play in the dirt. Goodbye perfect manners and decorum.

I learned it was more important to be vulnerable and be present for family and friends. Goodbye putting up a front when it doesn’t really manner.

I learned that I only had 168 hours in a week and clearly, I could influence how they would be filled. It’s about choices…what are yours?

Start with Prioritizing

Choices come with clarity with prioritizing. Create a file in your computer for Choices—or get the old fashioned paper and pen. Think self, spouse, children, marriage, family, work, financial, health, recreation, lifestyle, education, friends, environment, global, politics, enrichment, etc. Anything and everything that you’ve have some interest in, put it down.

Now, probe a bit. With a second pass, do some things seem not so important? If so, delete them from your list. Are some things similar enough that they can be grouped together? Group them. Some people assign numbers or color code their groups—do what works for you.

Warning: everything can’t be critical…everything can’t have the same level of importance. If you do that, you set yourself for total frustration and failure.

Your priorities will most likely change over time. They are usually based on your personal needs and desires. Revisit what you’ve written—tweak it when appropriate. Whether you do it daily, weekly, monthly, etc., you find yourself getting more in control of your life and your work…and reclaiming part of the 168 hours that were lost.

What Happens if Something Happens to You?

Everyone should have a durable power of attorney—a legal instrument that tells adults who may have to step in on your behalf what you want.  Powers of Attorney are needed for the unexpected—accidents, life threatening illnesses, paralyzing strokes and weird events that occur in society that no one wants to happen to them and their loved ones.  But, they do happen, and they happen every day. 

Consider the news in my morning paper— it’s a heartbreaking story of a young mother who went to the hospital to give birth to her second son.  Normally, a joyous event for family and friends.  This turned into a family feud. 

The mother experienced an extremely rare blood problem at the birth and went into a coma after the doctors pumped over three times her normal blood amount into her via transfusions.  The woman went from critical to a vegetative state in a fairly short period of time.   

Enter the family.  The husband was in shock.  They had been married less than a year.  He kept praying for a miracle and wanted to keep her alive.  Her sisters wanted to pull the plugs and cease tube-feeding her.  Eventually the court was involved.  The woman was only 40 years old.  She died after 8 months of being kept alive. 

What Should You Do? 

First of all, determine who you truly trust, someone who will act as your “voice” in an emergency—a backup if you can’t function, are in an accident or become very ill suddenly.  This person can be your spouse, friend, adult child, or a parent.  Talk to them about the unexpected.  What do you want done to maintain your life?  Do everything possible, no expense spared?  Pull all the plugs if your medical team declares you in a vegetative state?  Somewhere in between?  What? 

I promise you, they won’t relish your discussion, but it’s one that you will never regret initiating.  Tell them what you want done if you become incapacitated in any way.  If they are willing, give them your power of attorney now. In writing. Your age doesn’t matter—everyone needs this backup. 

Health Care

For health care, you need a special form.  It will vary from state to state.  You can drop by any hospital and pick up a healthcare durable power of attorney packet that’s right for your state.  Or you can write to Choice in Dying, 200 Varick Street, 10th floor, New York, NY  10014-4810 or call 800-989-9455 for a packet for your state to be sent to you.  It’s free. The website is choices.org. 

It’s a good idea to name two stand-ins for you, one may not be around if any accident occurs and a critical decision has to be made.  It can be a family or non-family member (and sometimes it’s a smart thing to have a non-member involved—when tragedy strikes, emotions ride high.

To avoid any inaction or delay, either one should be able to act alone on your behalf.   

living will should also be completed.  It expresses what medical treatments you want (and don’t want) in case of a life-threatening emergency.  You can find information online, pick up forms in a stationary story, and hire an attorney to draw one up, even buy a book to help you out.  If married or have a partner, he or she should do the same.   

Make sure your personal physician, spouse and family members know what your druthers are.  Give a copy to each of your signed documents and any time you make changes, update copies to them as well. 

If you aren’t sure what you want done if you become incapacitated, you can create a springing power of attorney.  It only comes to life if you become disabled and can’t act for yourself.  Your springing power of attorney will define what that means.  It will read something like this: 

I shall be deemed disabled when two physicians licensed to practice medicine in my state sign a document stating that I am disabled and unable to handle my personal affairs.  If this happens, _________, my spouse, will handle my affairs.  When two physicians licensed to practice medicine in my state sign a document stating that I am able to handle my affairs again, ___________ (name you used to handle your affairs) will no longer serve as my power of attorney. 

A durable power of attorney is really another form of insurance and should be reviewed every four to five years.  If you decide that you want to change it, including the person who would act on your behalf, inform them, both verbally and in writing. Destroy whatever copies you had made previously and substitute new ones. 

Your Money $mart Tip

Hospitals routinely request that you complete a durable power of attorney if you are admitted.  This is one of the records that you want to review annually to make sure it says exactly what your intent is. 

Stress Busting in the New Millennium

I confess, I love the Holidays but I hate shopping-just about any kind of shopping that demands my physical presence in the midst of a zillion other people. Which is somewhat odd, since I speak to 30,000 plus women and men a year and I enjoy that. What gives? 

To me, a shopping mall excursion is equivalent to be stuck in traffic for three hours. Both rank high on my stress meter. Some people push and shove (tailgaters and cars weaving in and out that can easily cause an accident); some people are rude (horns, verbal comments and interesting hand gestures); and some are just plain oblivious to all around them (c’mon, move that vehicle dude). To top it off, finding a salesperson to ring up your purchases becomes a major challenge (So, where’s the cop to move this mess?).

What’s it all mean?-simply that stress is at work. You begin to build up the steam-“Damn, I’m going to be late . . .again,” “Who gave these idiots a license to drive?” and “Where’s a cop when you need one?” are all common internal declarations. Stress is simply an internal response to an external happening-many that you can’t control.

Resisting Resistance

When your buttons are pushed, three emotions usually surface-concern or worry, anger and resentment. Those emotions are triggered by the event that created the stress. Beneath your emotions, you may be–

– Concerned that the idiot driving the car will endanger you or others; that it’s drivers like him who cause the traffic messes in the first place and that because of his stupidity, your life (and others with you) may be endangered. Someone’s going to get hurt or hear and see language and gestures that are just not appropriate to nice folks’ ears and eyes.

– Angry and ticked because you are following the car rules of the road and other cars are driving in the outer non-lanes to get to the front of the congestion.

– Resentful that others don’t embrace your sense of responsibi-lity and accountability as you do when on the road, including the cops for not being timely in unsnarling the mess.

Pushing the Buttons that De-Stress You

Stress doesn’t disappear overnight. Here’s what you can do to put your stress button in pause, than reverse:

– Realize Most Resistance is Futile. No matter what, there are dozens of things you encounter every day that just are. You can’t stop someone else from making hand gesture demonstra-tions across the lane, tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic. Let go.

– Prioritize and Simplify. Learn to say no-if traffic is a stress creator, do all you can to avoid any rush hour driving. And ask, “Do I really need to go, or can I handle it with a phone call?” Focus on what issues and concerns are really important and which are not.

– Re-evaluate your Lifestyle. Which parts of it enhance what-ever you do and which distract from what you do or who you want to be?

– Refocus and Adjust Personal and Career Expectations. Are you doing what I would call “the right fit” with both personal and professional endeavors? Or, are you doing what you are doing, or staying in a relationship, because it’s just easy and you can coast?

– Shift. Change is the continuing mantra of the millennium. Are you?

– Time-off. Everyone needs a sabbatical now and again. When was the last time you took time off to think, probe and explore who you are, where you want to do and what methods you can take to get there? Vacations don’t always have to be for entertainment purposes.

– Get More Training. Stagnating guarantees mediocrity, and in most cases, the eventual pink slip. What are you doing to stretch and grow in what ever you currently do? Part of your training regime must include the wide world of e-commerce and the Internet.

– Seek Professional Input. The most successful and confident people have sought professional help from a variety of counselors and therapists throughout their careers. If you’ve got a problem, there’s someone out there that can help refocus and assisting you in the path to resolution. Ask for help.

– Adios. Today’s economy is strong. If you are in a position that is the pits, is toxic or just doesn’t zig on your career path, move on. It’s a rare person I’ve met that has regretted leaving churning waters. Most regret not getting out sooner.

After writing this column, do I feel less stressed out? You bet. . . I’ve learned to pop in a tape when ugly traffic hits-I either go for laughs or learning. I pay no attention to the hand gestures and vocal challenges and realize the cops are probably stuck in the same mess I’m in. Shopping? Catalogs and the Internet have become good friends.

Is There a Book in You?

Data shows that reading books is not the way to spend a leisurely afternoon for the under 25 age group. Should authors, and publishers, throw in the towel? Not unless you want to kiss off a bunch of money.

According to the Book Industry Study Group (www.BISG.com) book sales are seriously underreported. In their study, “Under the Radar,” reports that approximately 63,000 publishers with annual sales of less than $50 million generate aggregate sales of $14.2 billion this past year. This is serious money.

Is there a book in you? Will the creation of one enhance your present career? Could one lead you in a new direction? Could you actually make money if you published a book?

The answer to all that is a huge yes. Most people have fantasies of writing a book—be it for children, a great novel, how-to, business or any of the genres that are out there. They just don’t know how to get the ball rolling.

You can write a book and try to get it published by a New York publisher. You can also look at alternatives. Here in Denver, you are in luck. It’s the home of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (www.CIPABooks.com) with over 350 small publishers and authors and CIPA has its annual College next month, March 27-29. Disclosure time: I’m a past president.

Denver author Mary Jo Fay (www.MaryJoFay.com), is a prime example of how self-publishing can turn your career and your life, completely around.

Fay had always wanted to write a book but was overwhelmed thinking about the typical road to publishing. Thirteen weeks after attending her first CIPA meeting, her first book was published. She thought she’d met her life’s goal. Little did she know that it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Now, four years and four books later, she has a Google presence in many languages. With an expertise in difficult relationships and how to find healthy ones, her clients are as far away as London; has sold the book rights to the Egyptian market; has a screenplay with a former Ron Howard producer that is tied to one of her books; and is working with a TV production company in Hollywood about a documentary on childhood sexual abuse. Whew!

“I had no idea the path that self-publishing would lead me,” says Fay. “From my first little book about the confusing relationship we all have with ourselves, Get Out of Your Boxx, to the latest on finding healthy love, The Seven Secrets of Love.

Or take Denver’s morning personality Dom Testa (www.DomTesta.com). Dom co-hosts the Dom and Jane Show on Mix 100 Radio in Denver. He’s also the author of the Galahadseries of books for young adults.

In 2004, he published a young adult novel, Galahad 1: The Comet’s Curse, targeted at the late-elementary/middle school audience under his own publishing imprint. The book became a state best-seller and won multiple awards including the Grand Prize from Writer’s Digest. Suddenly Dom had the distinction he was looking for.

“I’ve been working with schools and libraries for more than 15 years,” he shared. “The writing workshops and assemblies for young adults were well received, but marketing was a challenge. Every business needs a spotlight, something to draw attention and provide a distinction. Galahad did that.”

Dom has become so skilled, that the key publisher in sci-books has taken over the Galahad series with more to come.

Instructional designer Elizabeth Yarnell’s (www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com) career took a 180 when her award-winning book, Glorious One Pot Meals was published by her own press two years ago. Today, you call her an author, publisher, and speaker.

She’s not a professional chef and has no culinary training. But she is an inventor and created a unique method of cooking that has been patented. And she wrote about it.

Yarnell says, “There is no doubt that having a book gives me credibility I wouldn’t otherwise have in my career. If I hadn’t gone ahead and independently published my book, I would still be trolling for agents and publishers, still hoping to share my words with the world but stifled by contrary big business interests. My book provides extra income and has opened the door to move forward in other fields, including hosting a TV show.”

When Rhonda Spellman (www.ARTOSpress.com) published her first book, she felt like David facing a world full of Goliaths. She’s now working on book three, In Search of a Better Truth, the Mystery and Magic of Asperger’s Syndrome which was created after her son was diagnosed with Aspergers and her quest to understand the issues around the disease.

Her discoveries led to new, innovative programs that have changed thousands of lives. From that, she created her disABILITY Awareness program that is being embraced by schools.

Animal Behaviorists Suzanne Hetts and Dan Estep (www.AnimalBehaviorAssociates.comhave found that their books support their credibility, increased their visibility, attracted more customers to their services and make money. Their publishing arm, Island Dog Press, has created Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy and Help!  I’m Barking and I Can’t Be Quiet.When the American Animal Hospital Association saw their work, they asked them to write, Pet Behavior Protocol.

All of these authors, and now publishers, have experienced growth in their careers through having a book. Self-publishing from years ago looked like, well, self-publishing. That has all changed. The books being produced by the guy down the street are probably printed and designed by the professionals that the New York houses use.

The good news is that you can too. If you are interested in writing or publishing a book, CIPA College will make a difference.

Hey Mom … I’m Home!

When I speak publicly, there is one subject about kids that always pops up.  What’s a parent to do when they move back? 

I first respond in a kidding manner—Sell the house and get one that is too small for them to move back to/stay in.  This comment always gets a big laugh from my audiences, and some have commented to me that they wish they had thought of this a long time ago.  

Today, over 50% of adults under 26 live under the same roof as their parents.  Some never left home; others have re-appeared on their parent’s doorstep, bags in hand.  And, some bring their own children in tow.  Ironically, this often happens just about the time parents have settled into a peaceful existence that offers them time for themselves—at last. 

Boomerang Kids

You did your job as a parent taught them how to fly the nest and now life has broken one of their wings.  Now, they want to come home.  One of the most common reasons that kids boomerang is immediately following college graduation.  The perfect job hasn’t been found yet, or they might have decided to pursue a graduate study program. 

Surveys of young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 show that 50% plus of them live with their parents.   And depending on which studies you look at, between 30 to 40 percent adult children return to living under their parent’s roof at least once. 

Hello Mom, I’m Your New Tenant

Most people know that there really isn’t a free lunch anywhere, and that includes your boomerang kids.  Coming home shouldn’t mean a free ride or vacation time from being an adult.  

But, some kids do ask to come back home.  The reasons are myriad; the “6-Ps” didn’t take, the roommate vamoosed, a marriage has failed, a job was lost, illness took its toll.  The kid is wounded in some way and wants to lick these wounds under your roof.  And then, your life changes again if you say Yes.   

One of the biggest mistakes, related to me by parents of boomerang kids, is that they haven’t set guidelines for the new life with their adult child under their roof.  And, it’s tough to do.  These “kids’ are used to their autonomy by now and don’t respond to parental authority in the same way they used to.  And, this kid may be a parent to one or more children.   

Additionally, when your kid announces “Mom, I’m coming home” there is often the stress of immediacy involved.  They need (or think they need) your help NOW.  You may be tempted to react emotionally in such a situation and take them in your arms and put no parameters on the move-in.  Don’t do it!  They can have your unlimited love and emotional support in their time of need, but not your unlimited or unrestricted financial support. 

Some kids solve the problem(s) that brought them home and some really never had a problem in the first place.  But the fact is that they are living in your home now.  The rationale may then become — why leave a great, comfortable place, why take on another possibly problem roommate, where else can I get such a good financial deal that I get from Mom and Dad?   

Granted, moving back home can be hard on your kid, her grand life style is gone.  She has to move into her old room that still has the flowered wallpaper and the stuffed animals of yesteryear.  These issues are light, when considering the ones that you as parent are forced to deal with in redefining the relationship with your now, very adult child.  Sticky issues pop up in the area of privacy, sex, life style and money. 

Before They Move In

The best formula for success is to hammer out the guidelines and the agreements you will have with your kids, before they officially move in.   Talk over the following issues with your adult kid and make a contract (you may want to put it in writing and sign it):

¨            What is your financial situation now and what do you anticipate it to be over the next few months?  If the kid is unemployed, what is being done to find new work must be discussed, and re-discussed weekly.   

¨            What options do you have, if any, for living accommodations besides the parental residence both now and in the future?  Your home may not be the best choice after all. 

¨            How long do you need to live at home and when can you leave again?  Pin this one down, i.e. is it two months from now that they will be gone, no matter what. 

¨            What space in your home will you to surrender to your adult child?  This is a crucial question.  You like your life as it is and this is your home now.  Don’t give them carte blanche, even if they bring your grandchildren home with them.  You want them to be comfortable, of course, but not so comfortable that they want to stay forever. 

¨            What will you charge them for living in your home? You must keep the reality of life in front of your adult child by charging them for rent and food, even if they have to pay you back at a later date.  This doesn’t mean that you should charge the “market” rate for rent — be reasonable.  Consider either a percentage of present income or a sliding scale, in case they get a raise or better job.   

A side note when parents get paid rent and the tax implications: The IRS considers this to be under the same roof and with parents only and, you are not required to declare, as income, any rental money received from your child. By charging for living expenses, they will be more eager to spend their money on their place and will do it, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

¨      What household duties will you require of them while they live with you?  They must help with the extra work they create and should not be “on vacation” in your home.   This is not the “old days”; they will not get paid for the required duties.  For example, you have every reason to expect them to keep their areas in the type of condition, that were normal for you (i.e., their use of your guest bath requires “apple pie” order at all times).  Be specific if you expect them to assist you with any cooking or house cleaning activities.  If they don’t do it, don’t do it yourself.  Consider hiring it done and charge it to their account. 

¨            What about expenses other than food and rent?  You are not an ATM.  You may have an unemployed kid at home or some emergency could arise for an employed kid that he can’t cover.  Keep a ledger of all money expended and let them know that these are loans that are to be paid back within a very short period of time and, before they treat themselves to any new toys or entertainment. 

¨            What are the rules about phone and automobile (if applicable) usage?  If your kid will be living with you for more than month and they are working, you could have them install their own phone line, at their own cost now and in the future.  If they use your automobile, they must share in all costs — insurance, car payments, gasoline and repairs.  Or you could look at the lowest rate for a rental car and charge him a reasonable per diem rate.  Guaranteed, this will get his attention. 

¨            What about your kid’s kid(s)?  You will be sorry later if you don’t set rules at the outset in this special case of grandchildren living in your home.  Don’t become a full time baby-sitter and learn about your child’s parenting philosophy — hands off are usually best.  But if the grandchild is out of line a lot of the time, your philosophy should take over, it’s your home and your sanity, after all. 

¨            And finally, what time do each of you need alone in the home?  You both need your space because you both have been used to it.  Set times for each of you to entertain friends at home without the other present, you need your life and they need theirs. You know your rules for behavior of guests in your home; your adult child’s friends must adhere to them too. Do you allow overnight stays? — your choice not theirs. 

Managing Their Money During a Financial Time-out

When queried about their reasons from returning to the homestead, most kids will respond — money.  When they do move back home, promises are made to you and to themselves that, in a very short period of time, they will be back on their feet and ready for living on their own again.  It all sounds good, but it is easy to get side tracked.  You both want to avoid turning a short term move back into a long-term stay.   

I’m sure that their move back home — whether it was welcomed with open arms or reluctantly allowed — was not done under the auspices that they would be allowed to redirect their money into “fun” endeavors.  If this occurs, a not so gentle reminder should be forthcoming from you.  Tell them you agreed to a temporary stay and that a pass on expensive hair-do’s/haircuts, weekend trips, dinner out and the like is expected from them.   

Sit down with them and get a firm grip on a financial plan of action as was suggested earlier in this chapter.  Believe it or not, parents who charge rent and require their kid’s contribution to routine household expenses are doing the best thing possible for these move home kids.  They are once again encouraging their kid’s future independence, both financially and emotionally. 

If your kid comes home and brings bill collectors home with him too, refer him to CCCS (Consumer Credit Counseling Service) at 303-627-9179.

 

In this effort to get them back out on their own, don’t overlook the possibility of “sweat equity” or bartering.  There are ways for them to live rent-free and these can be very much in line.  For example, if your daughter is going to law school and is also working part-time at a law firm, she may be covering her tuition, health insurance and personal expenses.  She can do some chores around the house or the yard in lieu of paying rent.  And pat yourself on the back that she is paying her own tuition and other expenses. 

When kids suddenly are relieved of the obligation to pay for their own living expenses, amounting to many hundreds of dollars, they might begin to “treat” themselves to more goodies than they could afford when they were on their own — entertainment, clothing and toys.  It’s time, parents, to blow the whistle.  They moved back because they needed a financial time-out.

The Great American Juggle … Careers and CareGiving

Deep into your Monday morning routine, you are silently grumbling, “Where is Martha?

We’ve got a major project to complete and present at the end of the week.”  Magically, your phone rings with the missing Martha on the line.

Martha is not so cheery; her call is loaded with bad news.  Over the weekend, her aging mother fell and fractured her hip. Her siblings expect her to be the front person for care, after all, they live in other states.  She tells you that she will carry her laptop with her and stay in contact to assist with the project.

Being empathetic, you wish her and her Mother well, but your gut says this is not good—she is basically out for most of the week; you’ve got a deadline looming; Martha’s input was/is critical to the success of the presentation and the odds are that you are now a solo act; and, that this could just be the beginning of major demands on her time and energy.

Time and Money

Katherine Carol is a business and organizational coach and consultant who works with companies by helping them focus on what matters most ( www.tangoresults.com ).   Based in Denver, she states, “Caregiving costs for employees adds up to big bucks.  Martha is the “typical” caregiver—a woman in her mid-forties and employed who will spend 18 hours a week caring for a family member.”  Carol also adds that one in five caregivers provides “constant care” or at least 40 hours a week, nearly two-thirds of caregivers are working full or part-time, and over half have had to make adjustments in their schedules including taking time off, coming in late, dropping back to part time and quitting work.

CareGivers.com reports that there are 22.4 million US households involved in family care giving The total un-reimbursed expenses for all these caregivers are in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion and the lost wealth will be nearly $700,000 in that individual’s lifetime as a caregiver. This lost income results in fewer contributions to social security and reduced contributions to pension funds.

What is not figured into this is the increased medical care for caregivers as the toll of stress-related illness adds up over time. It’s huge—unpaid care giving for ailing adults are estimated at $200 billion per year.

Workplaces lose productive time from valued employees who were reliable and able to give that extra push when necessary to get jobs done. The challenge becomes how to create stable and predictable supports while providing answers in an unpredictable cultural and personal crisis.

The Stress Factor

 Last summer, my beloved Heart Mom died.  Joyce was the primary caregiver for several years when husband Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Not wanting others to know that he had it, or how much home life was deteriorating, she bore the great burden of his care.  She avoided any discussion about his condition, often making excuses for it.  Family members begged her to get help.  I distinctly remember a phone call with her when I told her that I feared that the stress would take her before it ever did him.  A year before her death, she finally got some help when he turned violent and the situation couldn’t be ignored.  Bill was placed in a facility specializing in Alzheimer’s.  It was too late.

Do you know a caregiver? My guess is that most of you do, or have known someone in this position. You know them by the circles under their eyes, and the sense of isolation and foreboding floating around them as the cloak of hopelessness covers their broad shoulders.  It’s common for them to deny, as Joyce did, that things are tough and sometimes overwhelming.

Chances are, all of us in our lifetimes will experience either being the caregiver or being the cared for, even if for a short while. So, what do we do? We deal with the reality and we get busy preparing for the inevitable.

As business people you are good at planning; you just have to figure this new scenario into your strategic planning. What if a key person is out for an extended time, or frequently has to miss key appointments? Katherine Carol recommends for employers to—

  • Cross-trained or build teams designed to cover for each other.
  • Look at employee benefits to find ways to ease the economic impact

on the employee.

  • Be willing to do some job carving.
  • Determine if there non-essential activities another employee can handle

so that the employee’s talent remains focused where it is needed at all times.

For you, don’t put off having “the” family discussion so that the responsibility of care giving doesn’t fall on one family member. Also—

  • Build your support network—someone to “care for the caregiver”
  • Have a confidant that you can talk to about the stress of care giving.
  • Create a care-giving plan so you can better manage your time, paid

Caregiver’s time and the needs and desires of the individual who needs

the care.

  • Do some exploring—are there other career options that are less stressful?
  • Could you start a small business or do your work out of your home?

There are no quick fixes.  It does mean doing things differently than before. It does mean negotiating with employers, even your staff, to meet your needs and reach their goals.

It is good to care for and honor our loved ones; it is a gratifying journey that forces us to grow in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. And, if you are the caregiver, taking care of you.

Goals and Happiness are Linked

Myth: You Don’t Need Goals To Be Happy or Successful.

Reality: The Road to Happiness and Success is Paved With Goals!

More than anything else, people seek happiness. And, while happiness itself is sought for its own sake, goals such as health, beauty, spiritual growth, money, or power are valued because we believe they make us happy.

Can you consider yourself happy or successful without goals? Yes, but it’s only a temporary hit. The pursuit and achievement of a goal actually goes hand-in-hand with happiness and success. It’s part of a completion factor.

True happiness and success don’t happen on their own. Ever. Not by chance, the luck of the draw or the good luck fairies. They are not the result of good fortune or random choice. Happiness and success do not depend on events, but rather, on how you interpret them. They are not something that money can buy or power command.

Happiness and success are uniquely individual. Comparing yourself to someone else is a dead-end proposition. Think of the wicked step-mother in Snow White. She set herself up for failure every time she demanded: “Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” 

By comparing herself to Snow White, she guaranteed humiliation, stress and unhappiness for herself. The only way she could measure up was by disillusionment. 

Who or what are you comparing yourself with? Your best friend? Someone within your workplace? Someone with money … lots of it? What about the movies, TV, etc?

Happiness is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately. How do you prepare for happiness? The answer is simple: Set your goals and objectives that will make you happy.  Not your friends, your spouse or partner, not your kids, society or the neighbors. Just you. Period.

Anything and Everything Counts!

Dark Clouds Can Surface

Withheld news feels like bad news. 

Even perfect families hit a few potholes along the way.  We adults often attempt a classic cover-up—at all costs, keep bad news from the kids.  Sometimes, even our spouse or partner.  The reality is, family members have extrasensory perception . . . they can feel the dark cloud vibes in the air.  No matter how you try to fake it, they know something is up, or wrong. 

When bad news hits—a job loss or cutback, a death, accident or critical illness—it is normal to try and protect your loved ones from the news and its possible impact.  Is it good to attempt to keep it from them?  Probably not.  They know you too well.  They can sense your anxiety, fears and concerns.  It’s as if they can see and hear through walls and doors. 

Years ago, I went through a devastating business loss.  A partner had stolen several hundred thousand dollars from one of my accounts.  Needless to say, it changed our lives.

 At the time, my kids ranged from 12 to 16.  I told them that things didn’t look good and that there was a possibility that we could lose our home.  They were also told that no matter what, I loved them and would make sure that there was some type of roof over our heads, and that there would be food and heat and that they would have sufficient clothes to wear.  The basics of life. 

I promised to answer any questions that were asked.  My family was told not to make demands—that I needed all the energy I could muster during this difficult time.   In the end, we lost all material assets—our home, investments, even my business.  We were broke. 

Because I told my kids what was happening, there was support, even encouragement, from my closest rooting section.  We were in it together—we were a team with a goal for survival and surviving together. 

When Bad News Hits

If you are facing a sticky situation—a reduction in pay, potential layoff, money problems, or possibly someone you care for is critically ill or has been injured—call a family meeting.  Your concern should not be, do you let your family (or friends) know how bad it is? Rather, it should be how do you let them know? 

Tell them the truth to the degree that each can understand for his or her age.  Do it sooner, rather that later. If your news involves a work or money problem, assure your family that you love them and will make sure that there will be ample food, heat, sufficient clothing and a warm bed to sleep in.  If money is an issue, tell them everyone needs to cut back, no frills allowed.  And, when it is over, if it is, call another family meeting and let them know you, and they, survived.   

If it’s something that hangs around, let them know you are hanging in there, give them a mini-update based on what their age can understand and absorb. 

It’s your turn.  Get out your pencil and identify problems and issues that may be creating a cloud over your household: 

What problem(s) do you need to talk with your family about?

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How did they react?

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How do you plan on letting them know what happens?

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Your Final Money $mart Tip 

There is a difference between being wealthy and being rich.  Wealth is all about money.  Being rich is how you live your life.  Even when money seems on the short side, you can be incredibly rich.