Inspiration From Space

The other week I was in need of some inspiration. I couldn’t pinpoint what was keeping me from zooming ahead. Maybe it was the pollen in the air clouding my judgment and slowing me down. Whatever it was, I was struggling.

20170413_130907_001Then I looked to space — specifically to astronaut Leland Melvin, who was speaking to a group of scholar athletes being honored at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars awards luncheon.

Within a few short paragraphs, I was ready to soar. He opened with “whatever you do, you can always reinvent yourself if you are a life-long learner.”

He talked about pulling from those things that inspire you. For him it was books such as “Curious George” and “The Little Engine That Could.” Later it was tennis, a chemistry set and even an old bread truck that he and his father converted to a camper.

From those inspirations, Leland became the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space. He served as a mission specialist operating the robotic arm on two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station: STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009.

These all became part of his story and journey. He shared, “Life is not about the destination, but about the journey.” While on the journey, he said it’s important to also help others find their way.

In the end, he urged the audience to “Keep rising.”

I may not serve on a mission to space, but I’m inspired to meet my deadlines!

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Accountability Meeting Didn’t Go Well – Or Did It?

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My writing chair has been empty but thanks to my accountability partner, I have a writing schedule once again. 

My last accountability meeting did not go well.

It was all my fault as I was not accountable. At the prior meeting I said what I was going to do and then I didn’t.

I seriously contemplated calling my accountability partner and asking for a pass on the meeting. But that defeats the purpose of the meetings.

We met, and my partner wasn’t mean about my lack of progress. Just the opposite – she was encouraging. We discussed why I had not met my goals. It wasn’t about making excuses, but rather about finding a way to get me back on track.

I explained that I had had a productive few weeks in other areas. I organized a statewide conference, coordinated a national board meeting and hosted friends. Of course, sometimes we deliberately get busy to avoid what we need to do. Fortunately, that was not the case. These were long-term commitments and I was more than willing to honor them. I did, however, miscalculate how much time I would have for other endeavors.

As part of my conversation with my accountability partner, I scheduled my future writing days. Setting aside specific days and times works best for me. If I simply say that I am going to write three times before our next meeting it seldom happens. When I block the time, it always happens, in part, because I have a set time and so I will say no to any requests made of me made during that time.

In actuality, my meeting did go well. My partner and I discussed what didn’t work and how to address those areas moving forward. I’m looking forward to sharing my progress at our next meeting.

Making Summer Work

20140727_180844Memorial Day weekend has passed, which means summer is in full swing. Some years I find myself asking in September, “Where did summer go?”

I miss weeks at the Jersey shore or in the Poconos. Now, I’m more likely to take vacations in the spring and fall, but I find it’s important to not miss out on the pleasures of summer.

I also need a tiny bit of structure in the summer or I’m likely to let the long summer days pass me by without having achieved anything. While I’m all for relaxation, I don’t want to be a slug (no offense to slugs).

Here are some tips on how to make the most of summer:

  1. Learn a new skill. This summer I’m spending more time working on my personal website and one for an organization of which I’m president. I’m learning through trial and error and asking lots of questions. I hope both sites will be better for my effort.
  2. Explore new places or take a different route in your neighborhood. I get my wandering in by foot. I’m challenging myself to walk 10,000 steps each day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It equates to about one million steps. I find it’s more fun to get the steps in when I’m exploring a city, a garden or a new neighborhood. I did the same thing last year, and had a blast reaching my goal.
  3. Work toward a goal. It could be decluttering your home, running a marathon or, in my case, working on a book. I recently finished the first draft of a quasi-travel book. Several people are reading it and providing feedback. Soon it will be time for the rewrite and shopping it to agents. In the meantime, I’m at work on a mystery.
  4. Read a book (or two… or three). I love summertime reading. I keep a stack of paperbacks for the pool and beach (ones that I don’t care if they get splashed). It’s also fun to read a classic I overlooked in high school or reread one. I’m leaning toward The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck or Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. The summer also will feature books on self-management and leadership, including You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. And I can’t wait to read my friend Adriana Trigiani’s book, Kiss Carlo.
  5. Enjoy the season. Summertime is about grilling out, eating watermelon, catching fireflies, going to a baseball game and visiting a Farmer’s Market. Make your own list and have fun crossing them out. Or toss the list and find a hammock!

5 Steps to Prepare for a Media Interview

Capture5I spend my days responding to media inquiries and prepping individuals for media interviews. Having done this for more years than I care to admit, I’ve learned a few things. Here are five of my top tips to prepare for an interview:

Know the angle of the article before you agree to the interview. I never give an interview or arrange for someone else to be interviewed unless I know the topic. If it’s related to a crisis, I already know it’s going to be slightly hostile, and I plan accordingly. But even if it’s completely cordial, it’s important to know the focus. And, if possible, ask for the questions in advance.

Collect background information. I always find out about the news outlet, as well as the reporter. This includes looking at recent stories, finding out what makes the reporter tick and finding out how stories are handled by the outlet.

Prepare your answers. Whether the reporter provides questions in advance or not, you should always develop your own list of anticipated questions – both the good and bad – and determine your answers. What are the main points you want to make. When the story runs, what is the one point you want to get across? If you anticipate some tough questions, how can you pivot to the points you want to make?

Provide background on your organization. Also, be willing to provide background on your organization or your subject matter. Don’t assume the reporter has had time to conduct the necessary research. If you provide this information, not only do you make your organization look good, you make the reporter look good.

Conduct a dry run. Interviews are not easy. Schedule time to have someone play the role of reporter and ask you questions. Then practice giving your answers. You don’t want to over rehearse, but you do want to be comfortable answering the questions.

5 Steps to Networking Success

dscf2419My colleagues and I were deciding what time to head out to a luncheon workshop that includes networking. I opted to arrive early, and it had nothing to do with punctuality or finding a parking space.

As an introvert, it’s easier for me to be among the first to arrive at a networking event. That way, I can spot others arriving and easily approach them. We connect and have a conversation. It’s much more challenging for me to wade into a large group and network.

Here are a few tips for successful networking:

As I shared above, arrive early.

Stand out. Have your elevator speech ready, be professional, and be memorable. For years, when people asked what I did, I said that my job was like being an air traffic controller. I then explained what I meant. In my current job, I like to wear a lapel pin of our mascot, which always leads to conversation.

Listen more than you talk. If you ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers, you will learn about the person, and they are more likely to remember you because you listened. Too often, we ask a question, and instead of listening, we are thinking about our next question to ask or what we are going to share with the person.

Aim for quality, not quantity. When I first started my career, I was all about collecting business cards. Those cards do me no good, though, if I can’t remember whose card it is or in what context I met the person. If I’m at a lunch event, I may only leave with one card. At a conference, I may leave with seven or eight. I make it a point to note something I learned about the person on the back of their card.

Follow-up. One of the reasons, I write notes on a person’s business card is because I like to follow up with the person within a month of our meeting. I try to share information that I think may be of value to them, further cementing our networking opportunity.

To Succeed, Choose What Is Essential

I was commiserating recently with a colleague about busyness. We each expressed how we had agreed to do things that have filled our schedules. I asked rhetorically, “Why do we do these things?” She didn’t hesitate to answer.

Her response, “We get ourselves into these things because of passion, energy, and a need to ‘do it right.’” She also said the activities probably filled a need to be needed. Ironically, another friend had recently come to the realization that she almost always said yes when asked to serve on a committee or take on an assignment, in large part, because she liked feeling needed. Once she realized that, she also realized she could say no.

I admit that one of the challenging areas in my life requires much attention, but it also is an area for which I am really passionate so I didn’t feel comfortable saying no to the request.

Fortunately, I was reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown when I was asked to step into the role. The wisdom from the book helped me to set parameters, and I know there is an end in sight. That is important because time spent on this project is taking away from time I’d like to devote to writing.

McKeown asks his readers whether they have ever found themselves majoring in minor activities. His point is that through Essentialism we learn how to get the right things done. If we aren’t the ones prioritizing our life, someone else will. I’ve become much more adept at saying no. It’s a powerful word.

I’ve shared how I’ve scaled back on movie nights and even stopped playing volleyball, something I have enjoyed for decades. Volleyball is a huge time commitment. I have to drive to the club, play for two hours and then drive home. If we aren’t playing particularly well, I don’t even get a good workout. I realized I could take those three hours and use two of them for writing and one for the gym. I set my priorities.

Following McKeown’s book, I made an individual choice on how to spend my energy and time. The choice, though, also involved the “reality of trade-offs.” In other words, I couldn’t have it all or do it all. The result was no volleyball.

McKeown writes, “Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do.”

What changed for me was more time for writing. I’m about to finish writing the first draft of a book. That’s a huge win for me. I’m not even focused on the rewriting, editing or pitching of it. I simply want to get the first draft finished.

I chose to focus on writing, and soon I’ll have a manuscript.

That was essential to me.

 

7 Nuggets of Career Advice

The other week I was fortunate to hear from four leaders in higher education. All four also were women. I’m not sure if that really mattered, but the event was billed about hearing from women leaders. And they did share challenges they had faced as women advancing in their careers.

Their stories resonated with me, and I took away several lessons.

Take advantage of opportunities. One of the leaders said she didn’t necessarily have a career path, but she took advantage of opportunities, particularly the ones that excited her. She noted that paths always opened up new opportunities.

Say yes to the right things. One leader said she sometimes has problems saying no. “Perhaps it is a fear or a belief that it might close off some opportunity,” she said. She has learned, though, that only individuals know what they are trying to achieve. Her advice? We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want.

We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want. 

Follow your passion. You know what you love so talk about it and share it with others. Believe in yourself and be open to the next opportunity. Another leader urged audience members to discover what brings them joy.

Don’t set limitations. One leader said she had to give credit to how she was raised – specifically, without limitations. Consequently, she believed she could do whatever was important to her.

Find silver linings. One leader said that when something is negative, she thinks about the negative from multiple angles and tries to determine what could be positive or good about the situation. As she put it, “It’s a mind game that gives me a better perspective.”

Be strong. As a leader make deliberate choices about with whom you surround yourself. The leaders also encouraged amplifying the voices of women in the room in an effort to bring men and women into the conversation as co-equals. And don’t allow yourself to be pushed off to the end. One leader said she was at a conference and the last speaker (a male) had a plane to catch. She was asked if she would switch, and she said no, noting that he should have arranged his flight schedule according to when he was slated to speak.

Be open to mentoring or mentoring others. Find a mentor who will push you and provide you with different perspectives. If your mentor is just like you, “one of you is dispensable,” noted one of the leaders. Find someone with who you can have extensive conversations and talk in detail about your goals.