• When What You See Counts More Than How You Look!

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    Paperweight Glass Eyes, Courtesy allproducts.com

    As I sit in the eye of Hurricane Irene, I have a few moments to reflect on a world turned upside down in the past seven days.  Earthquakes, a powerful hurricane and a barrage of doctors’ appointments – all in a week’s “holiday” for this senior living in northern Virginia and on the coast of Maine.

    Amidst the wobbly joints, and patches of old, sun-baked, skin spots needing to be zapped to ward off skin cancer, I was stunned to learn that my eyesight has actually improved.  I had to ask the doctor to repeat that twice. Then, when the news finally sank in, I thought, “What an extraordinary metaphor: as we grow older our life experience actually does enable us to see better.” We see new options, we see what works and what doesn’t because we have lived both. That kind of experience cannot be forced. It evolves over time and is our most valuable asset. Our challenge, if we should wish to continue working or to begin a whole new entrepreneurial career, is to convince others who may stumble over how we look at 50, 60, 70 and more years, is irrelevant because of our unique perspective wrought from all those years of living and working. The convincing cannot be done through telling. Rather it is best “told” through the sharing of that experience so others, too, without as many years under their belts can see more clearly.

  • Sidewalk Wisdom!

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    If  you’re genuinely interested in taking a new path in life, one of your first steps should be to read Portia Nelson’s little gem of a book, There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk.

    Born in Brigham City, Utah, in 1920, Portia Nelson became a Renaissance Woman. Her name was originally Betty Mae Nelson. She grew up in humble circumstances and was the youngest of nine children, four of whom died before she was born. Her grade school friends nicknamed her Portia after a popular radio soap opera ”Portia Faces Life.” Little did they realize how prescient their naming would be.

    When she died in New York City in 2001, her obituary praised her as a “beloved singer, songwriter, actress, and author. She was best known for her appearances in the most prestigious 1950s cabarets, where she sang an elegant repertoire in a soprano noted for its silvery tone, perfect diction, intimacy, and meticulous attention to words.

    She was one of the most popular cabaret singers of the 1950s, the era when such New York supper clubs as Bon Soir and the Blue Angel featured glamorously gowned singers of sophisticated songs. Besides singing the finest torch songs of Kern, Porter, Gershwin and the other greats of popular music, she would rescue neglected songs from oblivion, introducing audiences to such forgotten gems as Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell’s ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ and Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Nobody’s Heart’.”

    The actress Jane Russell, a lifelong friend who was the first to encourage Portia to sing, commented, “Her lyrics were sung with such understanding that you felt you’d heard a poem sung.”

    Nelson was also a prodigious songwriter. One of her most famous compositions, ”Make a Rainbow,” was sung by Marilyn Horne at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural ceremony. Her acting career included playing the indomitable nun, Sister Berthe, in the film version of The Sound of Music. ”

    Her best-known writing is this “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” from her book, “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk,” originally published in 1977 and reissued in 1993:

    Chapter 1
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost… I am hopeless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find my way out.

    Chapter 2
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in the same place.
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter 3
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it there.
    I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
    My eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter 4
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter 5
    I walk down another street.

    As valuable as this advise is about not doing the same things over and over again, I still think one of my favorite Portia pieces is this poem from the very beginning of “Sidewalk:”

    I don’t know what I want sometimes.
    But I know
    that I want to know
    what I want.

    I know that once I know what I want
    I will be able to get it.

    Of course, I may not want what I get
    when I get it…
    But, at least
    I’ll know that I don’t want that!

    Then, I can move on to something else
    I don’t know if I want.

    That’s progress!


    I wonder if she ever read Shel Silverstein’s, Where the Sidewalk Ends?

    I think she would have like it!

  • Entrepreneur Is Not A Job Title – It Is A “State of Mind”*

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    Courtesy of cafepress.com

    *Guy Kawaski nailed it in his 2004 classic book, “The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything,” where he said, “Entrepreneur is the state of mind of people who want to alter the future, to create a service or product that makes the world a better place.”

    “This book,” Guy writes, “is for people in a wise range of startup endeavors:

    1. Guys and gals in garages creating the next great company

    2. Brave souls in established companies bringing new products and services to market

    3. Saints starting schools, churches and not-for-profits

    because when it comes to the fundamentals of starting up they are more alike than different. The hardest thing about getting started is getting started.”

    But don’t think this book is a collection of platitudes. It is one of the most hands-on, no nonsense guides on the market.  It contains fresh insights, practical tips, case studies, exercises, and mini-chapters tailored to meet specific needs, in addition to the no-holds-barred strategy chapters. If you want a “feel good” read, this is not for you. If you want a honest book that makes you think, this is for you.

    This book is not just one long note from Guy. It is filled with quotes and anecdotes from those who have thrived and those who have not. It even has footnotes you will want to read, as well as additional recommended resources at the end of each chapter.

    One of my favorite sections is Guy’s FAQs – not “Frequently Asked Questions” -  but even more importantly “Frequently Avoided Questions.” These are the questions which any entrepreneur must answer if he or she stands a chance of succeeding.

    Perhaps my favorite chapter in this gem of a book is the final chapter: “The Art of Being a Mensch.”  “Mensch” is the Yiddish term for someone who is ethical, decent and admirable. Guy says, “the three foundations of menschhood are helping lots of people, doing what’s right, and paying back society – simple concepts that are hard to implement.”

    Guy and his book are the manifestation of menschhood! This is a must read for anyone thinking about making their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

    PS – If possible try to secure a hardcover copy of this book. The jacket art was created by Adam Tucker, winner of a design contest sponsored by Guy Kawasaki. It’s a great jacket, but what is truly original is that other entries are printed on the reverse side of the jacket.  It’s a fascinating snapshot of conceptual design.

  • Artist or Biologist: Career Switching Made Easier

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    Courtesy www.stuffintheair.com

    Whether you are looking for a new line of work because the old stand-by has become boring and meaningless or because you’ve been laid off and can’t find work in your “field,” a new career may need new strategies to find and secure it. You may be attuned to approach a recruiter or to diligently scour job titles in the want-ads with unrestrained vigor, but we respectfully recommend you redirect your energy. If you’re eager to use your existing skills in different ways and are not sure where to begin, go to an online job board such as CareerBuilder.com – not to find the job of your dreams but rather how to translate your experience and job skills into new career options. Skip the job titles and go directly to the “key word” search engine. (This by the way is the same way any employer or recruiter worth his or her salt, will scan online resumes.) Using CareerBuilder.com’s “key word” search engine, type in “Art” and just look at the variety of companies that pop up: insurance, banking and financial services, healthcare, retail, auto companies, and even the Art Institute!

    Type in “Biomedical Research” and, among the zillions of medical hits, you’ll find the A & E Television Network! You get the picture. Your skills may fit in places you never dreamed of – or maybe you have thought of them but figured you were not a good fit.

    Next you can “narrow your search” via Category, Company, City and State. Narrow is the operable word if you are looking for the same old same old kind of job, but since you’re not, skip the actual job postings they offer and take some time to scroll through all the options under “Category” and “Company.” Don’t jump in to the “City” and “State” options yet, even if you think you’d like to relocate in New Mexico. You’ll be amazed to discover how some of your finely honed skills can be applied to unique and exciting new careers.

    Still flummoxed… Stop and read Studs Terkel’s classic book, “Working.” Terkel interviewed hundreds of American workers. Men and women from every walk of life spoke with him, telling him of their likes and dislikes, fears, problems, and happinesses on the job. The book is a manifestation of Terkel’s belief that our work is a search for “daily meaning as well as our daily bread.”

  • Reinventing Salt and Ourselves

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    Courtesy Everydiet.org

    This blog post, Three Tips for Reinventing a Product, by Teri Evans in Entrepreneur.com is about salt. Yes, who would have thought a staple such as salt would need reinvention, but then how many of us 60+ year-olds gave much thought to “reinventing ourselves” 2 or 3 years ago?

    Teri says, “Many aspiring entrepreneurs have attempted to reinvent products, from cupcakes to pizza to coffee, which are considered commodities. Some have met with astonishing success — Starbucks being a notable example — while others have fallen flat. So what are the important ingredients in a successful reinvention?”

    Teri offers The Meadow, an artisanal salt shop with locations in Portland, Oregon and New York City, as a case in point.  Teri cites three ways in which the The Meadow’s owners Jennifer and Mark Bitterman, transformed salt into a gourmet entity, noting, “While their reinvention is specific to salt, the strategies they implemented to transform the perception of a commodity can work in just about any business.”

    I’d add an extra pinch of salt to their successful recipe. You, too, are a commodity and each of these 3 strategies is equally essential to the business of creating and marketing the sauce of your “reinvented” self.

    1. Tell the story behind your product. Mark Bitterman was enjoying a trip to France when he discovered artisan salts during a savory French meal — and it’s a delightful story he shares with customers time and time again. Creating an emotional one-on-one connection through a story, while weaving in the history of artisan salts, has kept foodies coming back. The Meadow also dishes salt stories and recipes on its website and blog, Salt News. Mark also has an award-winning book on the subject: Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes.

    2. Create a shared experience around the product. Aside from recounting salt tales to customers, the Bittermans bring foodies together in a shared experience by hosting salt tastings at its shops. Previous events have ranged from unique sweet-and-savory pairings to events designed with the culinary professional in mind. The Bittermans have learned that if you bring customers together for a shared experience, you’re more likely to create an emotional attachment to your product, which can breed loyalty and boost sales.

    3. Introduce the product to industry influencers. The Meadow doesn’t advertise and instead relies on word-of-mouth marketing to build credibility among its foodie customers. One way it has done that is through winning over some top chefs of upscale restaurants, which have not only raved about The Meadow’s artisan salts, but also become product evangelists.

    Bon appetit!

  • What’s Wrong with This Picture?

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    Courtesy doclounge.net

    Is Justice truly blind and applies equally to all, or does it sometimes peek and tip the scales when it’s politically expedient?

    President Obama, the Compromise Czar, held our admiration for a time as he successfully navigated his way between Scylla and Charybdis, other wise know as the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but his most recent compromise/concession regarding Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau not only tips Lady Justice’s scales, it knocks them right out of her mighty hand.

    This past Friday, July 15, I listened to a video posted in the NY Times in which Elizabeth Warren was talking in a very calm level-headed manner about her work to set up the bureau amid heavy opposition. The posting provoked many tweets such as this clearly unbiased one, “My politics don’t really align with Elizabeth Warren’s,” the tweeter said. “But I sensed that she had a legitimate interest in trying to, at a minimum, improve efficiencies.”

    I thought, “How reassuring to hear a Republican express support even though his ‘politics do not align’ with hers.”

    Then, just two days later on July 17th I read (also in the NY Times) Former Ohio Attorney General Picked to Lead Consumer Agency by Binyamin Appelbaum.  Appelbaum wrote that President Obama had announced that he would nominate Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “The decision to pass over [the 62-year-old] Ms. Warren — who conceived the bureau, championed its creation and orchestrated its establishment for the last year as a White House adviser — reflects political realities. Her candidacy was passionately supported by liberal members of Congress and consumer advocacy groups. But she never won the full support of the president or his senior advisers, particularly the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, in part because of her independent streak and her outspokenness, which at times put her at odds with the administration.”

    “Independent, outspoken, at times put her at odds”… Rather than a negative critique, it sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. Lady Justice, it’s time to secure that blindfold and maybe hold your nose because “today’s political realities” stink!

  • Business and Life in a Shopping Cart

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    Courtesy of The New York Times

    Whenever I think about work and our different work options, I remember this extraordinary story “The Death of a Fulton Fish Market Fixture,” by Dan Berry, published in the NY Times in 2010.

    The “fixture,” a woman named Shopping Cart Annie worked the slippery halls of the Fulton Street Fish Market for decades.

    Courtesy PhotoBucket.com

    Established in 1822 and named after steamship inventor, Robert Fulton, the market was located near the Brooklyn Bridge along the East River waterfront Lower Manhattan until 2005, when it moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx. In its 170 year run in Lower Manhattan it was the most important fish market in the United States.

    Berry writes,  “Annie would doing anything for a buck: hustling newspapers, untaxed cigarettes, favors, those pairs of irregular socks she’d buy cheap on Canal. She’s submitting to the elements, calling out “Yoo-hoo” to the snow and the rain and her boys…. Making her rounds, running errands, holding her own in the blue banter, she was as much a part of this gruff place as the waxed fish boxes, the forklift-rocking cobblestones, and the cocktail aroma of gasoline, cigarettes and the sea.”

    “She cleaned the market’s offices and locker rooms and bathrooms. She collected the men’s ‘fish clothes’ on Friday and had them washed and ready for Monday. She ran errands for Mr. DeLuca, known as Stevie Coffee Truck…. She accepted the early morning delivery of bagels. She tried to anticipate the men’s needs — towels, bandannas, candy — and had these items available for sale. She clutched the handle of the shopping cart she used to hold wares and provide balance, wearing a baseball cap, layers of sweaters, and men’s pants, navy blue, into which she had sewn deep, leg-long pockets to keep safe her hard-earned rolls of bills.”

    No one knew Annie had another life. In the 1940′s she was a beautiful model who wanted to be an actress.  But she left those aspirations behind when she left the east coast and bicycled across the country to Alaska with a boyfriend who would later become her first husband. That marriage did not work out and she married a second time. She had four children, but domestic life was clearly not her forte. Nor was the bar or record store she managed. At some point she returned to New York City and took up her post at the fish market.

    Annie was not homeless. She had an apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. She loved her children and grandchildren and saw them frequently. She sent them money orders and used clothing whenever she could – which according to Berry was often – boxes of clothes from different charity stores and money orders frequently totaling $4000 a month. She was also  “mother” to many homeless women on the streets of Lower Manhattan. Her family kept trying to persuade her to give up her life at the market, but she never did.

    Her daughter said, “Work was her life.”

    But I think Annie might have said, “she missed the point.” It was not just any work for Annie; it was her work at the Fulton Street Fish Market. She had been beautiful, had always been loved. Her life could have been easier, but she chose another option. She had fun, made money and gave most all of it away.

    Annie died in her sleep, surrounded by friends and family. When she reached the pearly gates, she probably called out a hearty, “Yoo-Hoo!” to let all the fishmongers in the sky know she had arrived. I know, when I listen carefully, I can hear that echoing “Hoo.”  I look up and see Shopping Cart Annie looking down, as she says, “Yes, I mean Yoo! You don’t have to follow my path, but you do need to find a path of your own and follow it.”

  • Happy Independence Day!

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    Photo, courtesy of TravelDK.com

    Greetings loyal followers!  I return – after a 9 month gestation period filled with moving from Maine’s seacoast to the rolling hills of Virginia to full-time+ work in the nation’s capitol.  After 4 children, 9 months seemed a fitting gestation and, as with each child-birthing, there were aches and pains, brilliant insights and – always -  joy in the moment of deliverance.

    Work is a vital aspect of my life’s journey. Being proactive is my standard modus operandi.

    I listened when Herminia Ibarra said in her gem of a book, Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, “Act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection. Start by changing what you do. Step out. Try different paths. Be attentive to what each step teaches you, and make sure that each step helps you take the next. Only through interaction and engagement with the real world do we discover ourselves.”

    Equally prescient is this comment from one of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, whom I quoted in my very previous posting,  ”Lucky people create their own luck!”

    Savvy Senior that I am,  stepping boldly along new paths comes naturally but, I must say, navigating the DC Metro’s escalators and color-coded trains was not nearly as complicated as the corridors and culture of a new office place.

    Map, courtesy of transitplanner.com

    I will share the tales with you in the weeks and months to come, but for today, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, the most important lesson for you to remember is – the workplace is not a Democracy!

  • Why Hunting for a “Great” Job Will Hurt Your Career

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    Courtesy, iStockPhoto.com

    Notice the emphasis on “Great” as you read this interesting twist on searching for meaningful work at Bnet.com, CBS’s interactive business network.

    The article was written by one of our favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk. She advocates taking a job – any job – if you are unemployed because, “lucky people create their own luck… For the unemployed, that means taking almost any job. People get lucky at work – someone mentors them, a big project lands in your lap, you catch a huge error and save a lot of money. But no one gets lucky in a job without actually being in a job.”

    Her five reasons why you should immediately stop searching for that “great” job and take almost anything that comes along sound reasonable, but can you really count on any old job? And that “almost any” trips me up. I’d like to hear what would qualify as an absolutely no way job. Would you want to begin bagging at the supermarket, for example, if you were not interested in working your way up that food chain? But then, I suppose we should not discount the possibility of hearing about a great opportunity more akin to your aspirations while bagging the broccoli. And the chances of that are??? Food for thought!

  • When “You Are Special” Is Not Enough

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    The advice about the “Intersection of Life and Work” is often rich on Penelope Trunk’s “Brazen Careerist” blog, but this week’s posting, “Time Management Is Not About Tasks,” is particularly insightful and practical.

    It’s all about the art of time well spent and constructive criticism vs vapid compliments.

    And don’t miss her reference to Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matters, a fascinating book by Samuel Culbert, professor at the UCLA school of business.

    Trunk does not blog on a fixed schedule. She says, “I post when I have something to say that may be of value to my readers.” I feel much the same about my blog and appreciate your patience through my sometimes lengthy gaps in publication and the fact that you do come back to read what I have to say.

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