Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Letter From My Future Self as I Begin Life Coach Training

Last weekend, I traveled about an hour north to the town of Petaluma to begin my journey of life coach training. Just two days after getting home, there is still so much that I am wading through ... emotions, learnings, feelings, excitement.

Instead of trying to describe all of that, for this week, I'm writing a letter to myself as if I were able to travel a year into the future, and see what will happen over the next 12 months. This is a letter from my future self.

Dear Paula,

It has been a year of following your dream. It's one that started, honestly, so long ago. One that started back at UC Santa Barbara. You knew then that Religious Studies captured your heart. At the time, it was what you called an "academic" interest. Perhaps it was, but I think we both know now that it was a love of story, of longing to unlock what moved people to find their purpose.

After graduation, you found a job doing phone service for a mutual fund company. It paid the bills, but after two years you were drawn again to return to school and this time, you went to Yale Divinity School. It was a marvelous two years; and sure the academics of the place were amazing, but it was the people, it was taking classes like Pastoral Counseling, Performance of Biblical Text, and Religion and Media that delighted you. And your role as a Community Life Coordinator, and working in the Admissions office that you loved.

So looking back now on this year, it is no surprise that it has been one of total amazement for you. You've dropped that veiled idea that your love of religion and all things inspiring is academic, and embraced helping others find inspiration, helping them tap into their true being. You've recognized that you have a true love, and a talent for helping. For inspiring, for leading. You have fallen in love with coaching, and been inspired by the 30 ladies that were in CCTP with you.

In the last year, you became a certified life coach. You put in over 60 paid hours of coaching to do this. You planned three retreats. One of which was your first FULL weekend retreat with two other leaders that you hosted, organized, led. It was an event of so many lessons for you, and one that felt like you'd come home to what you were meant to be doing.

And here's why I'm so proud of you ... living this year that you'd declared to be one of "No Toggle." With that weekend retreat, with your coaching, you've stepped in to a zone where you truly live out your values, your joy, your love, and your beliefs. You've recognized that the last 20+ years led you here, to a place where you can use the education, leadership, and your own religious beliefs to inform and provide strength for you in a profession you love. And one you feel born to do.

What else has come of this year? Your "No Toggle" zone included family and friends, too. You've had more time with Sean and Zoom and your extended family. You've followed your heart and surprised yourself, doing more of the "small things" that make you happy. You followed a "capsule wardrobe" and were delighted at the actual freedom that gave you. You finished the master bath, the yard looks amazing, and your kitchen cabinets are finally painted. You and the family celebrated your parents' 50th wedding anniversary together. And loved every second of it.

And, you finally, lovingly released the role and title of project manager. That chapter is shut and you are pleased. It has been a great lesson to learn to let go of something as defining as that. And, even with leaving that role behind, you've seen that you can make a living doing something else you love.

Mad props, little friend. We both knew you could do it, and yet, I'm so proud of how it all turned out.
Crazy love for you!
Future Paula

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Poem: When Your Life Becomes Your Own

Excuses take so many forms.
so many truths that we don't want to face
     out of comfort, complacency, a means to cling to mediocrity.
when you go silent, it is like sleeping
playing along
playing dead
never creating a storm.

When does complacency seep in,
     through the other cracks?
soothing in its non-activity
     it's laziness
     it's lack of drive and
     nights of macaroni and cheese.

Where is the line?
When do you wake up?

Is it out of frustration, boredom
    or perhaps
    a desire to suck the marrow out of life
    to shake the overbloated, pasty, bleary-eyed trance?

When do the lights come on,
when does fire burn,
when are you truly present?

To show up
to love.

It is then that my life becomes my own,
and then that you will change the world.

    even in your perceived "smallness,"
    your words
    your thoughts,
You are needed.

The world is asleep, dark, cold, lonely
until we awake, face to the sun, stretching,
breathing new life into the unsung promise of your greatness.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Pinday Party: Share Your Best Pins and Inspiring Stories

Welcome to the first Wednesday Pinday Party! This is a Linky and Pinterest party where you can share whatever you've been working on for the last week. I'm a fan of supporting other bloggers and small business folks, and I love to see the cool stuff that other people are working on.

Wednesday Pinday Party on Welcoming Spirit

Wednesday Pinday Party Rules

- You can link up just about anything you want from crafts to recipes, a favorite photo you've taken, or free ebooks you're offering.

- Please follow the Wednesday Pinday Party Pinterest board.

- Visit at least two other pins on the linky and pin some of their inspiring content to your own boards. Be sure and leave a comment and use the #pinday hashtag to let them know you found them via the party.

- Please note that one image from your blog may be used to promote this party and help promote your blog. I'll give you a heads up before I feature you!

- I would love it if you could give us a link back (not essential, but you get extra love from me if you do.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tiny Biz Tuesday: Small Business Goals Sheet for 2015

For today's Tiny Biz Tuesday, I proudly present a small business goals sheet! This little powerhouse takes a very mindful and intentional approach to planning out the year. With questions like "how do you want to feel," it also brings some new ideas to setting goals.

When I go out on my own as a entrepreneur at end of this year (or next) as a life coach, I want to make sure I keep the reason I started this journey in view, and want to be mindful in why I'm doing what I'm doing. Making the jump from a full time project manager to a self employed coach is a big step, and I'm betting there will be days that I need to remind myself of why I did it.

You can sign up to download the sheet by click here, or on the image below. And maybe you'd like to join in the conversation about being a Tiny Business? We've got an awesome, chatty group of folks doing just that over on "The Hustle" on Facebook:

Small Business Goals Sheet

So what are your goals for this year for your business or blog?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Double Edged Sword of Marketing

I'm in the midst of changing my life, and working hard to become a life coach after fifteen years of working in advertising agencies. One morning this week, I had an aha moment when I woke up, drafting this on my phone before I even got out of bed.

Double Edged Sword of Marketing

You are not what advertisers say that you are

You have to get over that flawed thinking and realize your own greatness before you can market yourself.

They've broken us down (by saying we are not enough and don't have enough) so we will buy their product but it goes deeper. When we believe those messages, or at least don't question them, advertising has worked to slowly wash us with messages that keep us comparing, judging, and desiring something other than what we have. We are given a steady dialog of "not enough."

How could we even begin to break free?

And as entrepreneurs, how does this impact our world view?
Or our view of our own personal worth, the worth of our business?

We stop listening and start believing in ourselves.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tiny Biz Tuesday: What Small Businesses Can Learn from Big Advertising Campaigns

Our Tiny Biz Hustle group is talking a bit about the mechanics of a large scale advertising campaign this week. I found this great post about the "10 best ads of all time," and I gotta say, this one is right on the money. I might add the original Apple Mac advertisement, but otherwise, I'd say yes, those are some of the most iconic, memorable, and best executed campaigns in history.

One more I'd add though is Mastercard's "Priceless" campaign. I know you know it. It launched in 1997, and it's been in use for 18 years. The formula is this (and I'm totally making this example up using a gratuitous shot of my own son, Zoom):

 Airfare to LAX: $300
Entrance to the Happiest Place on Earth for a 2 year old: $0
Iconic mouse ears: $15
Seeing your child's sheer joy of riding the teacups for the first time: Priceless

You get it. You know it. You might have even written your own version of this ad at some point.

So why does the Mastercard ad work so well, and why would I argue it's one of the best campaigns to date?

1. It follows a Simple Formula

It's a formula (3 things that you pay for, ending with an experiential moment that is labeled as "priceless.") that works for a lot of different situations and demographics. It sets up a simple story that we can understand, and the word priceless offers a satisfying resolution for the reader. We've come to expect and anticipate the priceless tag. It's satisfying.

What's also impressive about this formula is that it can be used with various situations; it can be serious, humorous, informational, and apply across a myriad of topics from family events, sports, cooking, vacations ... it has endless applications.

2.  It has a a Simple Message

In essence, Mastercard is telling us that while money is the means to get to our dreams, it is not the most important thing. It's the "priceless" event, memory, or situation that matters. And, by offering the message, they are insinuating that Mastercard can help pay for these special events.

3. It's Aspirational

A credit card has the challenge of not selling an actual product, but offering a service. So, unlike a shoe company that can show images of their sneakers, they have to find something else to focus on. They can show images of the card itself, but that can have limited applications in advertising (there's only so many static images of credit cards that people want to see).

And, in essence, they make their money by getting people to sign up for a card, or by having people use their card more.

The great way to get people to sign up for a new card or use the card? Show amazing scenarios of people "like you" that are enjoyed "priceless" moments that were brought to them because they were able to fund some of the experience with a credit card. They've tapped into an emotion, one that runs deep, and makes us want to experience that thing, too.

4. It's Ownable and Recognizeable for the Mastercard Brand

Perhaps its because of the fun, puzzle like nature of the campaign, people took to "priceless" quickly, and it led to it taking on a life of its own. As Avi Dan observes in his Forbes article, "In a sense “Priceless” became a viral, social campaign years before there was a social media."

Much like the campaigns of "Got Milk," and "I'm Lovin it," Mastercard had tapped into something that became a phenomenon on its own. As a campaign, "Priceless" stands on it's own, and has inspired many spinoffs (both serious and satirical).

The cool thing is that spinoffs only help to solidify the validity of the campaign, because each time someone presents the formula in a spinoff, or just the tagline of "Priceless," they are spending time with the Mastercard brand (myself included). And, subtly reminding those who see the spinoff of the original brand as well.

So what in the world does this have to do with a small business? Why spend so much time with these big campaigns?

I love the Mastercard example because it really does highlight what a good advertising campaign does, and these lessons can inform what a Small or Tiny Business should look to do with both their business plans and marketing plans. Let's break this down.

1. Big campaigns are clear on their objectives.

These big companies do a lot of work to come up with very clear objectives around a campaign. For many, it's to raise awareness about the brand itself. If we're looking at what a Tiny Biz is trying to do, the lesson here is to be clear on what you want to achieve. You can only go after success if you have defined what it looks like.

2. Successful campaigns present "brand attributes" that resonate with potential customers.

If you're running a Tiny Biz, it's good to think about what image you want to put out into the world. What are your brand attributes? Are you or your brand aspirational? Serious? Funny? Pick three attributes and use them. As we see with Nike and McDonalds, present an image, a feeling that you want your potential customers to feel when they think of your brand. Picking some attributes will help people identify with you.

For example, Ellen DeGeneres is humorous, inclusive, generous, and contemporary. I like this, and to put this into ad agency speak, I like that she "executes" on those "brand attributes." She's pretty upfront about WHO she is and WHAT her brand stands for, and so if you were to tune in to her show for the first time, you'd know pretty quickly what to expect.

Think about how you can use this for your own brand, or for that of our business. What attributes define you? You need to get specific about this and then start using them to inform how you present yourself to the public.

3. Sticking with a successful campaign over the long haul creates consistency in the mind of the customer.

The other reason people return back to Ellen, or to Nike, is because they know what to expect. I know what Ellen stands for, and it resonates with me. And in turn, she creates a daily show that is consistent to what each of us has come to expect of her. If she changed that formula drastically or suddenly, or didn't stick with a consistent kind of content, her audience would not know what to expect.

If you're a Small or Tiny Business owner, consistency is important.
From a customer standpoint, it's hard to remain loyal to something that doesn't have a consistent message or product or offering or theme.

Additionally, customers may take awhile to "get to know" your brand. If you're offering a service, they might need a while to understand what you're offering, and if you're a coach or consultant, it may take a while to gain the trust of those customers. Offering a consistent brand image, and aligning your brand with specific attributes, emotions, and topics can help potential customers become more comfortable with an eventual purchase.

Phew. So that's my take on what small businesses can learn from big campaigns. What do you think? Any favorite campaigns? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! :)

*this post is not an advertisement nor an endorsement for any brand mentioned here, nor am I getting any compensation for this post. The views are my own, and based on 15 years of working in advertising on a major credit card brand.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Free E-Course to Help You Find Balance in Your Life

Over the past couple of months, I've been working on something I'm pretty passionate about. It's a free five day e-course, focused on helping you identify your priorities, and then defining balance in your own life.

Finding Balance E-Course

* indicates required

This course came out of the work we led on our October retreat. We spent a whole day going through exercises that helped our participants narrow down a list of what's most important to them. In turn, that list got reworked in a couple of different ways, allowing each person to identify the things they want to keep in their life, and ultimately helped them to define the top things for them to keep doing.

Along the way, we talked about things we might let go of, or say no to. Saying "no" to things is an important step in finding and maintaining balance.

I'll say upfront that this is not easy work. It takes making time for reflection, for digging deep, and for getting honest about what YOU want for your life, and what you want and need to keep in your life.

That said, there's also no better time to tackle these things.

What you'll get from signing up:
- an email every day for five days
- a link each day to a new, thought provoking worksheet for you to download and keep that I created just for this course
- opportunities to join in a larger community conversation as you go
- prompts to journal and brainstorm on your own

Here's a peek at why my own first brain dump looked like the day of the retreat. I wrote this list out in front of our participants as an example of everything that was stuck in my brain that day, on my never-ending mental to-do list. It's not fancy, and I didn't use a filter on what I put on the list. As it hit my brain, I wrotie it.

This is where you'll start, with a brain dump of ALL the things are you're balancing.

As a side note, I've already done the thank you notes from our wedding, and gotten my windshield wipers changed. I've started writing and blogging more. Even just getting the first step done offered me more brain space and the ability to take a look at a few of the things that I need to tackle.

I encourage you to start, right now! We got such great feedback that day that I knew I HAD to share these exercises with you.

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

Oh, and P.S. "Nose" is the name of our fish. Just in case that line made you do a doubletake. Zoom named him.