Building Confidence

There’s a chance that you might be a fairly confident individual. On the majority of occasions, you are able to manifest the needed courage and strength to speak up and say the hard stuff to a room full of strangers. Most times, you have the guts to dive in and take a risk to go for that new demanding position they just posted.


However, at some point in your life, a situation will occur that requires an extra heaping dose of confidence. Maybe you have just come off a disappointing experience or you’ve become comfortable (a little too comfortable) in life. The point is, when you dig down deep in the well, nothing will come up. And this will scare you.


So, what can you do to boost your confidence?


Let go of that experience when you failed

Everyone has experienced that one epic fail that rocked their world.  You know, the one that made you want to stay in bed for a month and never go back to interacting with humanity. The one that truly devastated you and made you question your worth to society. The majority find a way to move on, make sense of the situation and find meaning in the fail. Some even use the fail as a way to find passion and energy to perform even better in the future. However, there are a few that lug this “fail” around with them wherever they go for the rest of their lives, using this experience to define who they are. If you see yourself in this, recognize that this past fail maybe influencing your present, which then simply becomes part of your future. Make a conscious decision to let go of this experience and move on.


Think back to your most powerful moment

Everyone has at least one experience in their past where they felt confident, strong and powerful. You know, that one time where you were able to say and do exactly the right thing at the right moment. Acknowledge that this experience is proof that you can be the confident person that you aspire to be.  Visualize every detail of that experience and the emotions that you felt from the beginning to end. Play it in your head like a movie that you are watching over and over again. This is your reminder that you are a capable, courageous person.


Say “yes” to challenges

I was having a conversation with a woman the other day about a new exercise she was going to try. It was her friend’s idea to attend this class and she wasn’t looking forward to it. In fact, if her friend wasn’t pushing her, she would not be attending. I reminded her that it’s important to try new things and get outside her comfort zone. You say “no” to new things because the fear of failure is overpowering. The fear of “looking stupid” or “not being the best” influences your decision. Every time you back down and say no to trying something different and new, you take a little chip out of your confidence. Maybe you don’t notice daily, but over time, saying no and giving in to “that uncomfortable feeling” zaps your power. Start saying “yes” and learn how it builds your confidence and makes you feel as if you can tackle just about anything.


View your loss of confidence as a temporary situation. Your brain is wired to easily point out where you have failed, and less good at reminding you of all the many times that you have overcome great odds and soared. Push yourself to focus on the numerous experiences that reveal how courageous you truly are.


Making Change Happen

image change picI was working out at the gym recently when I spied a new piece of cardio equipment. I noticed a few people trying it out and I was curious as to what I might be missing. Finally, I worked my way over to check it out. On my way, I passed one of the employees and I inquired about the machine.


She informed me that she already had used the new equipment and had stayed on this “climbing apparatus” for 70 minutes. Well, if she could do it, so could I. As I journeyed toward the machine, I came across a few other people that had tried it out. They all reassured me that it was very hard. I got snapped in and quickly started climbing. Within seconds, I felt myself struggling to catch my breath— it took all my willpower to stay on for 2 whole minutes. When I got off the machine, I was shaking and gasping for air.


I made it through a whole 2 minutes of climbing. Now, what irritated me about this experience was that I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I bike long distances every weekend and I have built up my endurance. Yet, I struggled to make it through 2 minutes!


I decided that I was capable of much more than that first try. Two days later, I got on the climber and told myself that I was not getting off until it hit 5 minutes. A couple of days after that, I told myself that I was going to make it 10, and so on, until last week, when I made it through 45 minutes on that evil machine.


Now, how did that happen?


Along the way, people would come over to assess my progress. I would listen to their multitude of rationalizations as to why they shouldn’t and wouldn’t work out on this particular piece of equipment. In other words, they had excuses to not take action.


There’s a reason that I’m sharing this story and it’s not to impress everyone with my physical prowess. I don’t think that this experience is much different than anything you attempt to take on in life. The first time you try something new can be quite difficult and to be honest, failing miserably is not a good feeling. I’m betting that you’re a lot like me and you like to feel confident and comfortable in what you attempt in life. However, the key to making it to the other side is being willing to walk through the bad feelings.


You see, the individuals that I witnessed trying it out and never going back could not get past that uncomfortable feeling. They were not able to wait it out for those good feelings that finally kick in when you make it to 45 minutes. They could not see past RIGHT NOW.


And there you have it. Whether it’s a potential career opportunity at work, a new diet that you need to adopt, or the thought of a career switch, the future can look quite unpredictable and downright uncomfortable. However, if you can just acknowledge the way you feel, WHY you feel the way you do, recognize the rationalizations for what they truly are (excuses), and STILL push through the uncomfortable feelings, you’re going to achieve your life goals.

Open to Opportunity

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Last week, I was attending a full-day seminar with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. Although I was unsure if the topic would hold my interest, I knew that I would pick up some “nuggets” that I could use in my life. I also looked forward to the training event since I thought I would see some of my old co-workers. As I scanned the room, I realized that I didn’t know a single person other than my old friend. The large room was filled with mostly empty tables and almost all of the attendees were crammed into the back half of the space.


We registered and walked to a table at the front of the room since we both decided that we would be easily distracted in the back. When I sat down, I noticed two women that were sitting together at the table behind me.


10 minutes into the seminar, the trainer started the first activity. She asked us to find a partner that we weren’t seated with and perform the first exercise. My friend jumped up and joined a woman sitting alone at a table. I turned around, stood up with a smile on my face and said to the two friends sitting together, “Would one of you like to join me at my table?”


They both stared at me and said, “NO”.


I turned back around, shocked by the tone in their voice and their firm NO response.


I didn’t personalize this NO that I received. I wasn’t hurt that they didn’t want to be with me. I instinctively knew that the NO had absolutely nothing to do with me. I knew that the NO had everything to do with them.


I was disappointed by the women’s inability to open themselves up to a new opportunity.


Now, you might be wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of this. So what, they wanted to sit together and enjoy each other’s company. However, it IS a big deal and I’m going to tell you why.


Everyday, you are bombarded with situations, problems and issues in your life. Most of the time, you handle situations in a manner that is familiar to you. You have found patterns in your life that work for you and it is easier if you stick to those patterns and habits. When you do this, you probably make life easier for you in the short-term. You feel safe in these patterns and find comfort in them.


However, you are making life harder for you in the long-term. Moving to another table and meeting someone new might seem like such a small thing. However, it might be a pattern in your life to avoid uncomfortable situations. Each time that you get the courage to move to the next table, you build a little more muscle that makes you more RESILIENT. Each time you do something uncomfortable, you develop a little more grit to tackle what gets thrown at you in life. Each time you stretch yourself personally and professionally, you open yourself up to new opportunities—some that you didn’t even know existed.


Building resilience all starts with one small move.





imagesstressI have a weekly ritual that I haven’t changed for 15 years. I make out my grocery list Sunday morning and do my shopping later that day. I never deviate from going to my favorite store that always has everything I need. One of the reasons that I’ve stuck with this store is because I know that checking out is consistently fast.


Anyway, one week, while I was checking out, I noticed this woman working two lanes down. She was ringing people up and talking to them the whole time. There was an energy about her that made her special. She didn’t take the smile off her face and she ended the experience by singing a little song. Not only did the customers seem happy by the time they left but it was apparent that the other workers loved her too.


Four days ago, I needed to run into the store to pick up a few things for dinner. When I came to the checkout lanes, I scanned to see if my favorite worker was there. I spotted her working two lanes down, doing her job with a smile on her face. I proceeded to get in the lane and wait for my experience. However, the person ahead of me was having some difficulty with her order. Many of the cashiers crowded around to try to help as the situation turned into a long process. I questioned whether I should pick up all my groceries on the belt and move them to another lane, but I didn’t want to lose my chance to spend time with my favorite cashier.


The whole snafu probably took 10 extra minutes but it felt like much longer. I watched my favorite cashier keep her composure and handle the situation. I realized that at times, I was feeling frustrated but I reminded myself to have a little patience and let the feeling pass.


When it was my turn to be rung up, she brightly greeted me and started a conversation. As we continued to talk, she thanked me for having so much patience. She shared that she really had to work on her attitude while attending to the previous customer. I admitted that I also had to focus on keeping calm and not getting frustrated. The exchange ended with us laughing a bit and she eventually pulled at my hand, encouraging me to join her in song about her store. I walked out in a really great mood.


When I was driving home, I gave thought to the whole experience. Being a cashier at a grocery store was probably not this woman’s dream career. However, I’ve never met anyone that seemed to have such a great time at work. I believe her comment about working on her attitude had much to do with it. She wanted to enjoy life and live in the moment. She was capable of finding a way to ride the waves and look on the bright side, even when things didn’t go her way. She was aware of her thoughts and feelings and how that translated into her behavior.


It was obvious that she made the best of life even when it wasn’t perfect. This resilient woman CHOSE to live a vibrant, happy life. The effect on others was incredible.


I hope that I get to see her the next time I go shopping.



Inner Struggles

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I was working out on a new piece of machinery at the gym when a man startled me by asking a question. “Are you watching the T.V. on this channel or do you mind if I change it to something else?” I assured him that I didn’t care because I was busy focusing on my workout and reviewing the notes in front of me. You see, I’ve realized that if I review notes for presentations while exercising, I internalize the information more effectively. I’m not sure why it happens, but my brain seems to work more efficiently during a workout.


As he started his exercise routine, he apologized again for changing the channel and he began to chat. It all started with asking what I was studying. I explained to him that I was reviewing a presentation and workshop that I was giving in the next few days. We began to discuss my business and he shared the trials and tribulations of his own career. One thing led to another and he began to tell me about his family. I asked him a few questions and I continued to listen.


As we kept talking, he began to get choked up with emotion. I was stunned to see that our conversation had taken that turn, but I continued to listen. I sensed that he was having difficulty accepting a recent turn of events in his personal life. I relayed my own similar situation and what I found to be the important piece that I could draw out of the experience. I recognized that he again began to get emotional and had tears in his eyes two more times during our talk.


Earlier in the conversation, I described my business teaching resilience and accepting change. He was fascinated and laughed that his company might be interested in the program. Since I was finished working out, I informed him that I was going to run out to the car and get my business card so he could connect with me. I hurried back in and handed him my card. We talked for a minute before he thanked me profusely with a smile on his face and awkwardly gave me a hug.


When I walked out, I thought about what had just transpired. Judging from his appearance, I would have never guessed in a million years that he would show such depths of emotion and feelings. Judging from his demeanor, I would have never considered that man to be someone carrying such a burden.


Many of you go to such great lengths to give the appearance that you’re not struggling and everything is great in your life. The rest of us help you in this charade by keeping our distance and not asking how you’re really feeling. Maybe we really don’t want to know. Maybe because it’s more work for us— it takes more energy and we have our own problems to handle. In this busy world, it’s easier to keep to yourself and just get through another stressful task on your to-do list. We have important stuff to do, or so it seems at the time.


However, if you’re really interested and sincere about giving back in your community, it’s possible that it’s easier than you think. It’s not always about joining another board or donating more money. Just open your eyes to what’s going on around you and get to know the person next to you. They just might need your help.


Reaching Out

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One trait that a resilient person has is the ability to stay involved and reach out to others during the low times. When you are struggling in life or going through a crisis, it’s quite easy to go inside yourself and spend time thinking.  Actually, it’s easy to spend way too much time thinking and overthinking, mulling things over.  You can become consumed with your thoughts and begin to descend into a negative spiral.


On the other hand, when you’re in this position you can make a point to fight this ingrained habit and change your behavior.


A couple weeks ago, I was coming back from Florida on a very early Monday morning.  The whirlwind of a weekend had included my son’s college graduation in Ann Arbor, where I stayed for less than 48 hours and then flew out to attend my nieces wedding in Marco Island. As you can imagine, by Monday morning at 6:00 AM, things were beginning to catch up with me. As can be expected from modern transportation, the trip back home would take all day.


If that wasn’t enough, I had an important keynote presentation to give the very next morning. Feeling exhausted and stressed while thinking about my impending commitment, I pulled out my notes to study.  To be honest, my head wasn’t in a good place as I focused on my work responsibility. I looked up from my notes and realized that the hurried professional woman I had noticed at check-in would be sitting next to me.


I tried to focus on my presentation notes like I had promised myself, but then quickly changed my mind.  Out of the blue, I reached out to the woman next to me.  I asked her where she was going and if she lived in Florida.  We began to talk and I quickly became engaged in the conversation.  She shared that she had served in Congress, had raised a family and continued to travel to Washington to work as an attorney.  We told stories about our careers, our children and life.  Before we knew it, we were in Atlanta and we were both searching for our next connections.


Ann had no idea how bad I needed to sit next to her that morning.  She did me a favor by engaging me in conversation and letting me take my mind off my own work to focus on her.  I say she did me a favor because I know that she had work of her own that she probably hoped to accomplish that morning.  And it doesn’t end there. When I got home later, I told my husband about meeting her and he inquired whether I had asked her to speak to my women’s group, 85 Broads— I totally forgot. I emailed her and told her that if she ever got up this way, we would love to have her speak. I truly didn’t expect an email back.


I was wrong. I got a long email back about how she would love to speak and how she had so enjoyed the conversation on our trip.


Let me recap what’s important about this story.  I was feeling stressed and anxious and focusing on myself was not aiding me in the preparation for my event the next day. My ability to recognize this as an issue was key.  I was able to change direction, reach out to someone else and be involved. In the process, I made a fabulous new friend and expanded my world.


The next time that you’re in a similar position at work or in your personal life, resist the urge to go inside your head and get lost in your own pain.  Issues often become much bigger and more muddled in your head.  Make an attempt to reach out to the people around you— it will help you move forward in life.


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I worked at my desk for way too long and I couldn’t concentrate anymore.  On top of that, it was 85 degrees outside and I was itching to enjoy the beautiful weather.  I decided that I would go for a quick walk to clear my head. As I walked outside the front door and looked around, I marveled at the front yard. It was as if I was seeing it for the first time.


I noticed that there were some weeds cropping up in one of the flowerbeds, so I decided to delay my walk and take care of it.  I looked around and noticed the lush green grass and the flowered trees. As I neared the front of the house, I spotted it.  There, in the middle of a nicely manicured bed, was the biggest weed that I had ever seen. It had a very thick stem and a large yellow flower. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the flower/weed was at least 5 feet high. If you’re wondering if I’m confused and that it really was a flower, I can 100% assure you that it was a weed.


As I stepped over to the gargantuan weed, I wondered how I had missed it for so long. Much to my dismay, this 5-foot behemoth was not hidden behind bushes.  This flower/weed was not obscured from any vantage point in the front yard.  How was it possible that this weed went unnoticed by me?


I grabbed it and yanked hard, pulling it out of the ground. I ceremoniously carried the weed to the trashcan and threw it out.  On my way, I looked around to see if anyone was watching me.  In my mind, I wondered how many neighbors had obviously noticed the weed and were taking bets on when I was going to finally do something about it.


As I went for my walk, I wondered how I could have left my house numerous times during the day and driven back into the driveway without ever noticing the obvious. I mean, it was HUGE and in plain sight. I decided that the reason that I didn’t see the weed was because I didn’t want to see it.


As humans, we are wired to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. If you think about it, everything in life comes down to these two things.  Let me tell you a secret— I don’t like working in the yard.  To me, it’s a pain. I’ve been putting off planting my flowers and other yard work for sometime now. As I thought honestly about this, I realized that I hadn’t noticed the obvious because it was painful for me.  I avoided looking at the yard at all costs. This way, I didn’t have to feel any pain or discomfort and could go about my life. Yes, this sounded like denial to me.


As I faced the music, I made a commitment to change this negative pattern.  No matter how much progress you make in handling issues in a proactive manner, now and then, you can easily revert back into negative patterns from your past.  So here’s you’re wake-up call— is there something in your own life that you’ve been conveniently avoiding?  Are there some weeds that you need to attend to in your own garden?


I have faith that you’ll take the steps to move forward in your life.



Taking Responsibility

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I was driving to meet a client the other day when a memory popped in my head.  It’s funny how that works— I had forgotten all about the experience and then out of the blue, it was there again.  So much had transpired on my family’s ski trip in British Columbia that I guess it had slipped my mind.


It happened on our third day of skiing.  The three of us were getting ready to take the ski lift up for another run.  A woman a few chairs ahead had difficulty getting on the ski lift and dropped one of her poles in the process.  As we got onto the ski lift, the operator asked us if we would take her pole up and give it to her.  Of course we said yes, and I grabbed it to take it up.


The first thing that my husband said to me was, “Be careful and don’t drop the pole.” As you can imagine, that comment didn’t sit well with me. Of course I was going to be careful— I wasn’t a child.  He offered to hold it but I refused to give it to him.


About ¾ way to our destination, I moved around on my seat and got my legs in another position.  They were cramping from the non-stop exercise.  As I found a more comfortable position, I watched the extra pole fall many feet down and into the deep snow.  I had forgotten in that second that I was holding a third pole.


The three of us stared at the pole as it dove into the snow and then both my husband and son looked directly at me.  I felt pretty stupid. I quickly reviewed my options to remedy this situation but I came up empty.  I messed up and I felt terrible. Moaning about it for the rest of the ride, I was taking full responsibility for the situation.


Yes, my family understood why I felt bad, but they questioned whether I was taking the responsibility thing a bit too far.  They reminded me that it was the woman who had initially messed up and that I was being a Good Samaritan by trying to help.  When we got off, we told the worker what had happened and he said not to worry about it.


As we skied down the mountain, we decided to take the exact same run and ski lift back up.  On my way down, I still couldn’t shake this feeling of responsibility. I felt really, really bad.  When we got on the ski lift, my worst nightmare happened. The woman with one ski pole was in the chair in front of us.  She proceeded to complain loudly about the idiot that had dropped her pole.  She was angry and upset and went on and on about the situation.  I slouched down in my chair, praying that she didn’t know the idiot was sitting right behind her.


Often, the message in my writing is one of taking responsibility for your own actions and decisions in your life.  However, it’s very possible that you can take this responsibility thing way to far.  In fact, you can take it to the point where the other individual no longer has to take responsibility at all. I find myself guilty of this on occasion and this situation is a very good example.  When you don’t let others take their fair share of responsibility, it thwarts their ability to grow and learn in their own life.


Take your fair share and leave the rest where it belongs.















What Really Matters

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The pressure is on.  Everyday, I hear moms and dads talking about their kids and the stressors that they’re continuously facing in today’s competitive world. They need to excel in school, on the athletic field, and in every arena possible to be able to someday compete in the workplace. There’s no room for B’s on a report card—there’s no room for 2nd place. There’s no room for anything but spectacular, or else they won’t get into the college that they want.


While parents are focused on supporting their kids to accomplish these goals, it’s very possible that they’re missing the point.  There are some pretty important skills that young men and women need to be happy, healthy and successful in life that don’t get much attention.  But let’s be realistic for a moment— eventually you will graduate from college and need to live a life.  You need the skills that will help you navigate the world effectively.  This is where I feel a lot of today’s parents could use a refresher course.


So, whether you want to hear it or not, here are a few skills that I find valuable beyond a college degree from the right school.


Knowing how to write a good thank-you card.

My son relayed to me that he had received a Starbucks gift card from his aunt while at school.  He told his roommates how he needed to write a thank-you note for his gift and they were confused.  Not one of the five had ever written a thank-you for receiving a gift from someone. He found this shocking. I found it shocking that all my yelling over the years had really sunk in.  Knowing how to be gracious, considerate and have a grasp on proper etiquette in your professional and personal life is a skill that makes you stand out.


Being able to say you’re sorry when you’re not really responsible.

I still remember when my son came home, upset from his summer job. His boss had yelled at him, right in front of customers. He tried to calmly explain to him the real situation and how he wasn’t responsible, but the boss wouldn’t listen.  It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t his fault. I agreed with him it wasn’t fair, but this was real life.  Sometimes, in a job and in life, you’re not responsible but you have to take responsibility anyway. You have to say you’re sorry, when in fact, you don’t feel that you’ve done anything wrong.  It’s called “doing what you have to do to keep a job”.  Frankly, it’s also an important skill for your personal relationships.


Being willing to make mistakes and survive the experience.

It’s not easy to watch someone you love make mistakes. However, think back to your own life. When did you learn the most? It’s probably when you messed up in some way.  It’s when you got into trouble, made a poor decision and disappointed your parents and self.  Your life was severely impacted.  You felt pain for the mistake yet you experienced how you could rise above it and life could still be OK. Young men and women need this experience to learn, to become better people and to know how to survive bad experiences. Don’t take this away from them by trying to make it all “right”.


Being able to advocate for “you” in an appropriate manner

I’m referring to the ability to defend, advocate and speak up for yourself in your personal and professional life.  This skill is imperative to your future success and happiness. There will be numerous times in your career where you need to be able to sell and market your abilities. There will be numerous times in your career where you’ll need to defend your actions and speak your mind.  Your ability to handle these situations diplomatically, yet firmly, will impact your future positively.


These foundational skills just might make the difference in a highly competitive marketplace.

Knowing When to Fold

I was listening to a friend talk about her career the other day.  She told me that she was content in her first job right out of college when she decided to make the leap to a new position.  Within the first two weeks, she knew that she had made a huge mistake in this move.  Despite this realization, she stayed for another 4 years at this company. Why did she stay? She told herself that she needed to persevere and keep trying harder.


If you want to be a success in life, you need to try harder. You need to be inspired to push more.  You need to hold on tighter and never let go.  Just keep pushing yourself and keep trudging forward in your goal. I’ve read countless books, articles, and motivational sites that push this concept.


Is this truly the answer to finding success?


Not always.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to fold your cards and reassess your place in life. Take a step back and get in touch with your honest self.  As for my friend, she realizes now that she was trying to make something work that was never going to work.  She felt that quitting after one workweek showed weakness and that the strong thing to do, the right thing to do, was to persevere.


This really resonated with me.  I’m the queen of motivation and pushing forward in life.  That’s wonderful in most situations, but I can think of a few instances where it didn’t quite benefit me.  For example, there was the time I stayed at a certain job that was so incredibly wrong for me that it was obvious to everyone but me.  I fought the urge daily, thinking that it actually made me a stronger person to fight this urge.  I believed that I would persevere and rise above as the winner.


I didn’t. It was a romantic thought but definitely not based in reality. I wasn’t listening to my honest self. If I had listened to my honest self, it would have been screaming back at me to “exit as quickly as possible”.


This doesn’t only happen in your career. This happens in your friendships. At some point in your life, you will hold on to a friendship that is way past its expiration date.  At some point, you will realize that the friendship is imbalanced and not functioning well. Despite this fact, you will try harder and harder to make it work. You will take on more responsibility than you should and try desperately to breathe life into something that needs to be let go.  You will convince yourself that the right thing to do is to try harder, because that’s what strong people do. That’s what motivated, successful people do.


You’re wrong.


I don’t even want to get into intimate relationships.  I’m sure that you’ve had the experience where you’re working much harder than your significant other to build the relationship. You probably convinced yourself that it’s the honorable, right thing to do.  It shows strength and reveals your character.


You might be wrong again.


What I’m trying to say is that having perseverance is a respectable trait. Being strong and refusing to back down to your competition is admirable. However, there are going to be certain times in your life that it really doesn’t apply.  It calls for you to stop battling and take a step back.  Dig down deep inside and check in with YOU. Maybe the best thing for you to do is cut your losses and move on.


Sometimes it shows even more strength and success if you just walk away.