Mastermind Mentoring for Women

“Own the room. Stand in your own power.”

“Women tend to personalize when things go wrong. (Conversely, give away the credit when things go right.)”

“In small international business ventures, women are less likely to reinvest in their business.”

This was the conversation I walked into at the NYU Alumni Day today. I left my other workshop on Creativity a little early when the psychoanalyst’s powerpoint broke down (and he did not seem that creative with what to do beyond his prepared presentation.)
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So I crashed the Stern business school workshop on masterminding mentoring for women.

Here’s an example of a workable way to get a new job: Meet with the new company and let them know, “I’m thinking about what to do next.” Jennifer Gootman advised. She asked them, “What do you need? This is what I love and what I bring. What is it I can do for you?” This came from her reading of Lean In.

Marisa Santoro was also on the panel and shared her productivity secret. It is three-fold:

  1. time management
  2. self-care
  3. systematize

On number 2 she said when you take time for self care, “magical things happen.” Also, “have five power friends.” And a time management tip: stay off Facebook.

Karen Rubin said take small steps. “Take the next step.” This helps build up confidence. She was starting a coaching business and asked her friends, “Do you know anybody who might want coaching?” Even though it was hard, she did it. It got easier. “Push yourself beyond your comfort zone.”

Rubin also said — and I love this — given two groups: the smartest and the most diverse, the most diverse group always makes the best decisions (not the smartest.) And she said that what millennials are looking for are the same things that women are looking for (i.e., to be parents, sane hours, etc.)

Interesting. I never went to business school. But on my NYU reunion day, I get to pretend I did. Inspiring!

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Twenty-five Seven – Getting Published

 

my kids sleeping. when they were little.
my kids sleeping. when they were little.
  • Sleep in
  • Flip through a magazine
  • Lay by a body of water
  • Write more
  • Chat on the phone

This reminds me, I wrote an essay — a  tribute to sloth in an overachieving culture wherein I advise you to:

  • do less
  • stay off the grid
  • aim low

This appeared in this weekend’s Times Union commentary section. Proud.

Maybe if I had a second extra hour, I’d spend that time querying other magazines and newspapers with my funny, short essays.

I sent that essay to the newspaper as part of my challenge to query 7 places in 7 days. I may challenge myself with that again. But maybe in November, because in October my challenge is to post every single day. And besides that, I’m a little lazy.

Need. more. coffee.

This post is in response to the Daily Post:

Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

Something Good About to Happen

I have had this uncanny sense that I’m about to experience some miracle.

Is it the onset of summer? A time of less work? I have been freelancing, leading workshops, substitute teaching, tutoring and working my ass off. Okay, I wish I worked my ass off, just a little — not that my ass is too big — but well, you know, metaphorically.

And then, there’s the work of family life — the endless meals and maintenance that my three teenagers and disabled spouse require.

But two of my darlings will be in summer camp and one will be on a school trip to Botswana soon. And my husband will be on a fishing trip in Canada. So, maybe it’s just that — soon, for a couple of weeks, I will have less responsibility. I will be free. I can watch what I want on TV. I won’t have to work so hard.

Maybe, it’s the longer days and the light. The birds are definitely chirping when I wake in the morning.

Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.
Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.

I can ride my bike everywhere and I am always happy on my bike.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel lighter in spirit. I just know that something good is about to happen. And I wonder what it is.

 

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Presentation Skills

One of my recent ad hoc jobs has been assisting in the Columbia University graduate business school, coaching on presentation skills and strategic messaging.

I don’t want to give away all of my tips and tricks. But here’s some of what I’ve learned and taught.

  1. Plant your feet to make a point
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Breathe
  4. Be prepared, but not memorized
  5. Put it in a story form
  6. Show the benefits to your listener
  7. Use emotion

Let me explain what I mean by all of these. I’ll use myself as an example.

  1. Plant your feet and make your point. Don’t wander around. Don’t fidget with a pen either. I need to remember this. I’m a passionate person, and so I like to really emote! That’s fine (see #7). Sure, move out from behind the podium, but move on the pause, and stop when you speak. Plant your feet. You can move as you think. But stop when you talk.
  1. Look ’em in the eyes for several sentences. Six (?) years ago, when Hilary Clinton was
    Barack Obama
    Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

    debating Barack Obama, I noticed Hil scanned the crowd as she talked. Her eyes hopped from person to person. Not Barack. No, he spoke several sentences to one person, then moved his gaze to another person. Like #1, don’t wander – not even with your eyes. Fix your gaze on one person. Make sure they get your point and then focus on another person’s eyes.

I sometimes look up when I’m thinking. I do that on the pause. Then, I have to remember to look down and make eye contact when I talk.

  1. Breathe. A breath brings inspiration. Take time to think things through. I tend to talk fast. And so I get breathy and soft-spoken. When I take time to breathe, I’ve got fuller authority. I’m more centered. When you’re making a presentation, take time to inhale. Then, speak on the exhale.

4. Know your stuff. When I’m watching Shark Tank, I can tell that people who have memorized their whole pitch. If they lose their place, they’re lost. They only really need to know the salient points – their numbers, their benefit to the user, their unique factors. They don’t need the verbatim script, they need to speak just the basics.

5. Make a story. Everyone loves a beginning, middle, and end. Put your presentation in a story form — perhaps, a context of overcoming great odds. Or making the story about a heroic journey. You were lost and now you’re found. These story types are so primal and so inspiring. Everyone loves a narrative arc.

6. Show the benefit. I realized people were a bit self involved the first time I had skin cancer. I blogged about it. In conversations, people would ask me, “Does this mole look like yours looked?” People weren’t asking, “How are you feeling? What’s the latest?” No, they were telling me how they were feeling. All people are basically self-interested.

If your presentation is relevant to people, they will be interested. If you can help people learn about themselves or help them make money, then they’ll be into your presentation. I love inspiring people to learn about themselves. It’s why I love coaching writing.

7. Emote. Don’t be afraid to laugh, cry, admit that you don’t know something in your presentation. It’s all part of the human experience. People will remember what you say when you are passionate, but they may not remember your dry facts and figures.

Give yourself away. Go deep and don’t be afraid to be human. Get real.

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Cleaning the Closet

Wallpaper - Hyacinth, pattern #480 - 1915-17
Wallpaper – Hyacinth, pattern #480 – 1915-17 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been decluttering my apartment — but I’d rather be in Paris.

I hired a home organizer, the Clutter Whisperer, and bribed a girlfriend, Barbara, to help me declutter my stuff. My brother and sis-in-law helped a lot too.

“The 1970s called, Mary Beth,” my bro Brendan said. “They want their chair back.”

I cannot do this kind of spelunking alone. Or without some humor, apparently.

Cynthia, a.k.a., the Clutter Whisperer, whom I found years ago on Craigslist, gave me some advice: purge your books and your clothes. I like her nonjudgmental approach. She said I’d do well in a big old farmhouse rather than a NYC apartment. That’s nice. I’d do better with a backpack in Europe too.

In my defense, as I tell my mother, “City apartments don’t have garages, basements, attics, big closets, cars, or home offices.” I know. I know. We have museums and parks. And I’d take them any day. I like experiences way better than things. But I have to get rid of the things so that I can have the experiences.

I thought when I left my job a year ago, I’d stay on top of my family’s stuff. A family of five just accumulates. And with Chris’s Parkinson’s, he’s a bit slower to help or initiate decluttering.

Also, I’ve been way more interested in my biz and my freelancing work than in home-centered activities.

I have excellent taste. I’m good at noticing (and sometimes making) beautiful things, I’m just not good at showcasing them or bidding them farewell (as in kids’ art projects!)

When working on my closet Friday, Barbara offered me this quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” Tall order. As I cleaned the closet, I found:

  • a journal from my raft trip on the Rio Grande in 1992
  • Hi8 tapes from the kids as toddlers
  • an orange tank top with the price still affixed (LOVE orange, but often wear the basic NYC black!)

These things were all kind of beautiful and kind of useful. The “kind-ofs” get me. I hang on to “kind of.”

I am asking the kids to join me in the purging of books and clothes.

I feel like contacting Gretchen Rubin. In her book The Happiness Project she talks about the joys of decluttering and, even, gasp, keeping an empty shelf. I’d like to do that. I’d like be a minimalist. I’d like to escape to Europe.

Right now, I’m traveling through my daughters’ seventh grade papers, going back in time. And if I’m lucky, I’ll recycle the past and move into the present, perhaps even experience a park or museum today.

My MOOC

I have been taking a MOOC, a massive open online course, offered by MIT Media Lab. Every Monday morning, along with, like, 24,000 people, I listen to a lecture and chat on a back channel about creativity.

Last week, Alan Kay, one of the founders of the personal computer, was a guest lecturer.

The subject of that class was BIG ideas.

On a Google Plus side conversation, I went off on a tangent and found this link Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from.

“An idea is a network,” Johnson said. And this: “Chance favors the connected mind.”

I love that MOOCs spark serendipity and digressions. MOOCs are a means to an end but they are not the end. MOOCs also must ignite  real life encounters.

I dig Johnson’s TED talk for he values the coffee house vibe and the slow brewing nature of good ideas. Good ideas are not a sudden AHA! Good ideas slow cook. Good ideas need many cooks to throw in stuff for the soup.

Good ideas need to get together, face to face, to ferment. I signed up for this MIT media lab with Mitchel Resnick because a real life friend Emily Miller recommended it. Honestly, I’d probably get even more out of it if I met people face to face to discuss the big ideas.

In my own way, I am doing that, trying to make IRL face time creative ideas happen. I’m putting together a slew of writing workshops and weekend retreats.

My next afternoon workshop is The Story of Your Life in Jamaica Plain, Boston, on Sunday, March 24th, 1 to 4:30 pm. ($25 registration fee goes to the food pantry.)

P.S. Here are a couple of pics of my afterschool creativity students. They took on a project I learned about on the MOOC —  the spaghetti challenge!

Given 20 pieces of spaghetti, a bit of tape, and a bit of string, how tall could they make their structure and top it off with the marshmallow? You can see how kids feel pride when they make stuff and are encouraged to be creative and playful.

And you can see how the girls won the challenge! Girl power!

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Fixing the Problem

What problem does your business solve?

My friend Jolain told me that when she started her clothing line years ago, her goal was simply to make beautiful clothes. She said that wasn’t enough.

“A business has to solve a problem,” Jolain said.

When Kelly and I launched our new biz, we figured offering first-class writing workshops at non-luxury prices would answer a writer’s problem.

A writer’s challenge includes the need to:

  • be a part of a community
  • get published
  • find a sanctuary for dangerous writing
  • make time for writing
  • nurture creativity and beauty in a society that overlooks the arts.

Our biz does all that.

We use Field Notes to keep score when we play cards.

This morning I listened to a podcast about traveling salesmen (at Field Notes Brand, a company my brother co-founded). Ron Solberg praises the tenacity and brilliance of the early traveling salespeople who often sold books. And the customers appreciated how the salesmen delivered news, as well as products. They liked the free samples.

“The trick really was volume, the number of stops you make,” Solberg said.

And more winning advice: “Take advantage of the moment.”

In a sense, when I started the biz, I wanted to make and nurture beautiful writing the same way Jolain wanted to make beautiful clothing. But I am learning to sell as well as to create.

As a small business owner, I need to sustain my biz, so I must do both sales and art. And for both, I need to value beauty, tenacity, hard work, and being in the moment.