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Lean In and Listen: The Success Story of Despina Zangas

Success stories: we all love to hear about them.

We use these stories to motivate us, to inspire us, and to help us know how to find our own success as well!

And it’s the nitty, gritty details we want to know. How much do you hate to hear about someone getting their big break on their first try?

I know I do.

I want people to have moments of doubt, times of struggle, obstacles to overcome.

That’s real life.

Despina Zangas is the epitome of a success story. Why?

1. Her Success Didn’t Come Easy

Despina worked for her success. She zigged, she zagged, made power moves and connections, and came out on top in the end.

Despina always knew that she wanted to go into something creative and she made it happen. After school she landed a career at The Toronto Sun. Her work in digital advertising was a great learning experience, but she needed room to show off her creativity.

“After that I found out about digital design and got really excited about that so I started working at a company called Passport Online and that’s where I had a lot of opportunity to work with big brands like LCBO and British Airways and a lot of radio stations in Toronto. Eventually I became a creative director there.”

After that she started a position with a company called Internet Marketing Associates, but her need to grow couldn’t be stifled and before long she was planning on spreading her wings on her own and started her own design firm.

“I did that for about 10 years and I absolutely loved running my own design firm but I found that it had it’s limitations and I knew that if I wanted to grow, if I wanted to go to the next stage, I really had to partner with somebody who kind of understood the path to growth. So I partnered with my current partners Randall Craig and Ashish Malik and together we form 108ideaspace.”

Despina shows that the leap to a new job isn’t scary, it’s an opportunity to grow and work towards your dream job!

2.  She Learned Something From Every Job

Despina took something with her from every single job that she worked at. If she didn’t like a job, she still used it as a learning experience and grew her repertoire of skills and understandings.

“At The Toronto Sun I learned that even though your goal is maybe to create something beautiful, it’s really all about the client. That taught me a lot about working with different industries, really thinking about what they want, and not necessarily what you want,” she shared.

From her job at Passport Online she learned about the power of having a love for what she does. “I really learned about being passionate and maintaining integrity in design and I think I gained a lot of respect with clients because they saw how passionate I was for what I did for them,” she shared.

Before going off at her own, she used her time at Marketing Associates to learn about how to eventually run her own companies. “There I kind of learned about management and leading people and process, and really the importance of encouraging creativity within your staff.”

3. She Knew her Limitations

The reason Despina picked her current partners was because she wanted to be with people who understood the path to growth. Despina had her own business but she knew that if she really wanted to reach all her goals that she would need to bring other people in and work together. Instead of taking on an “I can do it all” attitude, she happily brought others in to work as a team with her.

“What’s so funny about us is that we all compliment each other and I think that being a woman in this company has actually benefited me because men can be more direct and I kind of take that softer approach when it comes to our clients so it’s actually worked to my advantage,” she shared.

4. And She Lets Others Lean on Her

As a successful woman with a great network, Despina still saw that other women have issues doing the same. She heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s bookLean In and immediately felt inspired.

“When she talks about women not having self-confidence, when I read it I was like “yeah this is not something that I necessarily feel,  but it’s something that women tend to feel.” I really related to the concept of leaning in and and standing up for what you believe, and not being afraid because women are so afraid to proceed with things and just move forward. That’s what really resonated,” she shared.

That was all it took for Despina to work to create Lean In- Toronto with other inspiring women like herself. Now they have monthly meetings that feature networking events, speakers, and even more networking so women can meet possible mentors and future business partners, get inspired, and truly lean in together.

“I really wanted to connect with other women. I wanted to share our experiences. I tend to be a very social person. I love meeting people and I love meeting people from different walks of life and not just my industry necessarily. Lean In-Toronto actually started through networking- it’s absolutely something that you need to do,” Despina said.

Now she’s been able to watch Lean In-Toronto grow as it’s gotten more and more attendees to it’s meetings, and she’s met more and more inspiring women.

As a woman who has found so many successes in her life, she is definitely someone whose story we should all lean in and listen to. Especially when she shares her parting message:

“Trust yourself. That’s one of the issues that I had maybe in my 20s. Even when I knew it was right I would doubt myself. I wouldn’t proceed with things because I thought ‘Maybe that’s not the right way to go.’ Now as I’ve gotten older I feel that I’m making these right decisions. Just go with your gut and know that what you’re doing is probably right. All those stumbles you have along the way: they’re absolutely great because they’re learning lessons. They help you.”

If someone as successful as Despina is telling me to make mistakes I’m going to listen! Take that ladies as a free pass to push past your insecurities, trust your gut, and find your own success. Hopefully one day women will be leaning in to hear your story too!

To learn more about Lean In-Toronto visit http://leanintoronto.com.

Why Women Love Money

Gold digger. Fashionista. Socialite. Debutant.

Women have commonly been called names that suggest their obsession with money. Furthermore, we’ve often seen a hot woman with an older man and thought one thing: “he must be rich!”

It’s a bad rap for women.

It wasn’t that long ago that women were expected to be homemakers. To never handle the finances. To ask for an allowance to buy necessities.

Now we’re making our own money.

We have our own careers. We buy our own homes. We take care of ourselves.

No longer are we seen as needing a man to take care of us. We take care of ourselves.

According to Forbes, a historically high number of women are not only earning as much as their husbands, but more.

So why are women so money obsessed, as we’ve been branded in the past? We’re now seen as more career driven and have put off the age of getting married and having children, and we do it all for money. It’s not all about the money, it’s about something else.

1. It’s About Independence. Back when women were expected to be homemakers and weren’t even allowed to get jobs they used to get married as early as possible. There was no chance for independence because they needed to find someone to take care of them.

Now that women are making their own money they don’t need to get married so young because they don’t need anyone to take care of them. Making our own money has allowed us to be completely independent. That’s one reason why money is so important to us. We decide who we marry and why, instead of looking for a man who can “take care of you.”

2. It’s About Freedom. Imagine having to ask your husband to be able to buy an outfit you wanted. Even worse, imagine being told no.

A certain amount of freedom comes with being able to spend your money on what you please. You don’t have to justify anything to anyone, it’s your money and you can spend it however you’d like. No longer do women have to ask for an allowance, they have the freedom to make their own decisions.

3. It’s About Knowledge. I’m sure you’ve heard this story before: a woman who doesn’t make any money lets her husband take care of the checkbooks. She doesn’t know how much money they have, she doesn’t know what their bills cost, and she doesn’t know where the money goes each month, or even what comes in. One day she finds out they’re 100K in debt, with their house mortgaged, and everything they ever had on the line.

The most important thing when it comes to having your own money is having the knowledge that comes along with it. You know how much money you have and you’ll want to know how much everything costs. Knowledge is power and you won’t want to hand over your money without the knowledge of where it’s going.

4. It’s About Equality. Marriage is supposed to be 50/50 but when someone holds the power, the scales are tipped. Money creates an equality between men and women.

Don’t believe me? There are countless stories out there of men being put off by their wives making more money than them. You don’t think that a man wouldn’t want a couple of extra dollars coming in? They would, but they’d prefer it be from them. It’s a power thing.

5. It’s About Time. We are sick and tired of the way things have been in the past. We know that it’s about time that we started to prosper the way that we’ve seen men do. We’ve been waiting so long to break out and show our true earning potential that we’re ready to see it finally happening and don’t for one second take it for granted.

Every couple, every woman, every person has their own situation going on. We all find our own grooves and place importance on different things. There is no argument that a stay at home mother isn’t putting in her share of work. We applaud every woman who leaves their job behind to take on the hardest 24/7 job that anyone has ever had. Leaving that job behind, or even leaving it for maternity leave is hard because it takes us out from a place where we can exercise our right to earn money and find the specific kind of independence and freedom that our own money brings us.

To all of those people who have branded women as money hungry, they were right. We are money hungry and we plan on making our own money. Now that we’ve seen what it can bring to us, I doubt you’ll see women going back to early marriages to become homemakers again.

Are You Working Too Hard for Your Money?

When entrepreneurs set out on a business venture, they often face pain, frustration, and immense difficulty.

In fact, the younger a business is, or the earlier one is along the business cycle, the greater the difficulties.

These difficulties are responsible for a specific set of problems most business owners encounter. They include lumping all customers into one category, trying to maintain too many products or services, and “promiscuous” marketing. As a result, entrepreneurs have trouble making their business an “ELF” business – easy, lucrative, and fun.

When it comes to customers, business owners often fail to distinguish between the various categories of clients and customers. In their scramble to get their business off the ground, entrepreneurs are tempted to see every dollar of profit they make as equally valuable.

This is not the case.

Not every dollar is worth the effort it took to make it. Neither is every customer worth retaining.

This may be shocking to hear, especially if you come from a background where the customer is always right. In order to better understand this concept, you must consider the time and effort it took to earn the dollar in question.

According to marketing expert and Profit Alchemy founder Bob Serling, there are four major categories of clients you as a business owner will find yourself dealing with.

1. The Hyper-Productive Client or Buyer. These people buy often, anticipate your products eagerly, admire you, and actively promote your business and products to their friends and family.

2. The Productive Group. Folks in this category buy less frequently, however they are easy to maintain as loyal customers.

3. Neutral Customers. Often they buy only once from your business and have a tendency to return and request refunds more frequently.

4. The Damaging Buyer. Bob describes these customers as jerks: they are rude to your staff, have a sense of entitlement for condescending to buy your product, and demand special treatment. They also have a tendency to misuse your products or services and then blame you.

Bob’s advice is to get rid of these customers, which not only poison you and your staff, but take considerable time and effort to make them happy. Bob’s advice is to identify and focus on your clients that spend the most and require the least effort. This will ensure that you are delivering more value to the people who are actually in a place to appreciate your efforts.

In short, freeing yourself up from petty and negatively minded customers will give you the time you need to invest into your true fans and supporters.

However, it is best to avoid damaging customers in the first place. To do this you need to consider your marketing strategy. Before the Internet was around, business owners had to be very careful with their advertising and marketing strategies. For example, direct mail marketers had to actually spend their own money on expensive postage and shipping fees in order to reach prospects. The Internet has fundamentally altered this by making communication dirt cheap, which has brought about the rise of “promiscuous” marketing.

Promiscuous Marketing is when an ad or ad campaign reaches a very wide audience, irrespective of said audience’s ability or desire to pay for the advertised product or service. Because the cost of communicating online is so low, many marketers are tempted to reach out to vast numbers of people in an effort to draw people to their brand.

Unfortunately, this brings in many people who do not truly need or want your product or service, which might cause you problems as you struggle to meet their needs, or simply poison relations. To this end, your marketing needs to be targeted towards a specific niche or market that you have identified in the course of your research.

In addition to targeting too many customers, business owners also offer too many products. In a recent study conducted by Smuckers Jelly, two tables with assorted jellies were set out at a supermarket. One table was laden with some 30 flavours while the other sported six. The table with fewer choices outsold the one with many by a factor of four.

Another example: the famous project management website Basecamp used to offer no less than 20 various products. Taking a closer look, co-founder Jason Fried discovered that 75% of his products were making little to no income. He then conducted a radical restructuring of his business which involved cutting down the number of services to six.

You might want to consider implementing something similar in your business. This will reduce the confusion customers feel when faced with too many choices and enable you to dedicate yourself to your top performing products.

Stress and frustration in business is difficult to avoid, particularly if you are just starting out. Every entrepreneur’s dream business is where she can do what she loves on her own terms at her own pace. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process more enjoyable. Keep in mind the following when you venture out:

1. Not Every Dollar is Equal. If it’s taking too long to get, chances are there are places where it can be made more easily.

2. Seek Out the Right People. Make sure to do your research and go after the people who can afford and appreciate what you have to offer. This will save a lot of heartache on both sides.

3. Don’t Confuse your Customers. Identify the core set of products and/or services your clients require and focus on providing the best possible experience with the set.

4. Don’t be Afraid. Have the courage to eliminate damaging customers and products. Holding on to them will only hold you back and distract you from your future goals and aspirations.

5. Challenge Stereotypes. Is the customer always right? While that’s up to you to decide, and each particular person and situation is different, it is a good idea to keep an open mind.

Fact or Fiction: Making Friends with Your Bank

In the course of our lives, we form many relationships – with people, ideas, places, possessions and institutions. Strong, weak, somewhere in-between, fun, and not-so-fun relationships are inescapable.

One of the most important institutions in our lives is our bank. It’s the place we trust with our hard earned cash, borrow from, and sacrifice for in the form of monthly fees. They can be unbearably frustrating.

At first glance, the idea of having something as personal as a relationship with a huge and faceless corporation may seem odd. However, upon closer inspection we can find many similarities between the relationships we have with our spouse or friend, and our banks.

As with any relationship, there are ups and downs when dealing with banks. There will be spurts of elation and pits of depression. Although many people would be inclined to define their relationship with their bank as painful and unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of ideas you can put in practice to alleviate stress when managing relations with your bank.

Form a personal connection To do this, we need to shift our thinking.

Try to see your bank as composed of human beings. Once you realize that you are dealing with people, things will be considerably smoother. Make friends with the tellers, financial advisers, and managers at your bank – get to know their names and keep in touch. This may be more difficult at a larger bank, but quite manageable at a smaller branch.

Making friends at the bank will help the folks remember your name and story. This is always beneficial when negotiating for a better deal as people tend to be more helpful and sympathetic towards their friends.

Ask for it If you are struggling with high fees or you think you should be getting a better deal, the best thing to do is just ask. You lose nothing by asking your bank for better rates. Your bank needs your business and will likely be open to compromise to retain you as a customer. It all comes down to this: nothing will change unless you make the first move and break the ice.

Keep demands reasonable That being said, it is also important to keep your demands reasonable. You definitely want the best deal possible, but relationships are a two way street and you can’t leave the other party with no room to maneuver.

Negotiate with the aim to satisfy both parties. Never try to get too much done in one session or argument. Break down your demands into smaller, easily achievable requests. Keeping your demands reasonable ensures they are more likely to get met.

Understand your rights While you’re wrangling with banks and other financial institutions, make sure you know your rights as a consumer. It’s a good idea to always read the fine print as well as brushing up on any relevant legislation. Find out what you and your bank can and can’t do and be sure to let the bank know when they’re not playing fair. Always seek assistance if you have trouble deciphering the rules and regulations governing banking activities – it can be very difficult going up against these organizations on your own.

Weigh alternatives If you find yourself unable to settle with your bank, do yourself a favour and shop around for a better deal. Banks are always eager for new customers and you might very well receive a juicy deal for transferring.

Make sure to conduct research into a bank’s past practices and the way they are known to have treated their customers before. Feel free to cite other banks’ deals to your own for concessions. If this doesn’t work, you might want to consider parting ways with your bank.

Cultivating a strong and healthy relationship with your bank is not only doable, but indeed highly beneficial. Just as with the people in our lives, it can be easy to yell, snap and get frustrated. Unfortunately, this damages our bonds with other people and gets us nowhere. Frustration with your bank is natural, but thankfully it is something that can be managed and resolved.

5 Reasons You Need Process Confidence to Lead and Succeed

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”—Lao-tzu

You may be asking yourself how the father of Taoism could have anything to teach you about succeeding in business. The truth is, while Lao-tzu was never a CEO, he was on to something about long-term success. He understood that each single step is important. Each step is imperative to the success of the process.

Every leader has the responsibility to turn vision into reality. Between vision and reality lies the process—the path to success. You need skills and confidence to stay this course and overcome obstacles. You need confidence not just in your abilities, but in the process itself–to trust that the steps you and your team take are what you need to succeed, so you don’t get anxious, frustrated or lost.

Many people don’t understand the importance of this. Even corporations are often led astray by their own leadership hiring process, which can cause them to fail. When recruiting new leaders, people don’t see beyond the vision, thinking that’s all it takes. They don’t see the long and winding road, the grit and determination necessary to get from here to there. Maybe it’s time to start hiring the doers: the ones who turn dreams into dreams-come-true.

And, here’s why:

1. Success is as much about the how as the why.   Everyone has reasons why they want to do something. Now ask them how they’re going to do it. Funny how silent people get.

I’ve seen it often in my work: once you get to the steps of actual implementation, the level of confidence and conviction goes down. Way down. Especially as the realization sets in that it takes a great deal of patience and resources to get from start to finish.

2. Everything important is a process.  Even leadership and teamwork. Your company is made up of methods—ways of delivering the dream. How can you have a successful company if you don’t have faith you can develop and execute these processes well?

3. People have no clear direction without it.  If you’ve been following banking, US car manufacturing, health care, or Wall Street, you understand that process plays as important a role as people in any organization. It is the infrastructure that puts thoughts into motion. Process is the what, where, when and how. Think of the workplace without them. Total pandemonium, yes?

4. Process doesn’t just impact corporate confidence. It’s about consumer confidence too. Now, think about your favorite brands, and your experiences with them. It’s not just what they promise, it’s how they deliver. For instance, I’m doing research on flights to Europe right now, and have gotten a lot of feedback on many of the airlines. Brand loyalty is firmly attached to the delivery process: ticketing, customer service, seating, in-flight assistance, on-time takeoff and landing. Process confidence has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. We want to be sure that brands deliver what they promise.

And this leads me to the final point:

5. Process turns promises into results.  No leader can succeed without it. Process is the second jewel in the crown of execution, bridging the gap between people and strategy. Leaders can dream and strategize all they want. At the end of the day, outcomes are the only things that really matter.

In this rapidly-changing world of work, process needs to be understood more now than ever before, and cannot be taken for granted. Even the best leaders cannot perform or produce without confidence in the methods that will take them and their teams to success.

I urge you to read, re-read, and digest these five reasons you need process confidence. If you emulate faith in your company and your team, the process will thrive. If the process thrives under your leadership, your company will succeed. Take care in every single step you take, and your journey will thrive for over a thousand miles.

Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

**Edited for repurpose by Avery Page, writer for Goddess Connections publication Women Who Run It.

How to Get New Clients Without Wasting Time

We get it, the work day is usually a blur.

How often does the day fall away from you and before you know it it’s 5pm, time to move onto your next job at home?

You have to now worry about running errands, doing laundry, taking care of your family, and finally, yourself.

When your head finally hits the pillow, it doesn’t take long to find yourself drifting off to sleep.

That is until your eyes shoot open. You’ve missed something on your to-do list again. How could you have even found time for it?

Time is something that many of us don’t have in abundance, something which you will probably relate to as a entrepreneur. Having so many demands on your time can cause a whole host of problems, whether it is serving dinner a couple of hours too late, or letting new business endeavors slip by the wayside.

Some of these issues actually breed even more problems. Take new business for example – if you never have time to find new clients, your source of income will slowly dry up. That’s not something any of us want to have our families deal with.

Therefore it makes sense to ensure that these issues are tackled head on before they have a chance to make trouble further down the line. Of course, you don’t want to spend too much time doing any one thing in business, so it is all about finding the right balance. It makes sense to put your focus on finding new clients first, and then to figure out how to best spend your time on your business once that critical task is handled.

In order to help you on your way, we have put together a few suggestions for how to get new clients without wasting too much time to make it happen. You will need to decide which methods are right for your type of business, but hopefully these ideas are ones that will work for most of you.

Social media If you aren’t on the leading social media websites yet, it really is time you caught up for the sake of your business and family.

Some of the best connections can be made through Twitter, LinkedIn, and even sites such as YouTube, Instagram,and Pinterest. You will need to post relevant and engaging content, as well as take a few minutes out here and there to connect with those in your network. People don’t like seeing too many messages about sales, so be respectful of this too.

Google Think about all of the times you use the search engine Google to find something online, whether it’s a piece of information or a product. Do you think it would be useful to have your own services or products listed here so other people can buy them?

There are some online IT courses available which should provide you with the basic skills to improve your website and make sure you’re showing up on the search engine. Doing a course online will allow you to increase your online marketing savvy on your own schedule. Do some research to find some courses that could work for you!

Word of mouth Sometimes the best business can come from referrals, so it makes sense to continue putting in a great deal of good work with your existing clients. Alongside this, you should make sure that all of your friends and family know what you do, just in case they happen to know someone who needs what you specialize in.

If you are doing some brilliant work for clients, get them to shout about it through case studies and testimonials which you can put on all of your marketing collateral going forward.

We know you’re busy and we know that building your client base is a time consuming endeavour, but it’s also your life source. There are great ways to build your base without spending all of your precious time doing so. Innovate the process to work for you and show your true entrepreneurial edge!

**Edited for repurpose by Taylor Brown, Associate Editor of Women Who Run It.

Redefining Success: What Your Body Has to Say An Interview with WWRI Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine By David Cohen

The word “success” is often defined as having a good career and a respectable family. For women, this can also include playing, working, and achieving in a man’s world. You could almost say that beating men at their own game had become the norm for women. However, these norms are starting to be challenged.

A new generation of women is maturing who are telling their mothers they will not do things their way.

It makes sense then that David Cohen of The Boomer Business Coach would want to talk to Women Who Run It’s Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine. At The Boomer Business Coach the main goal is to help baby boomers do a business they love, and do it successfully. Fiona Fine is the pinnacle of this, and so David Cohen invited her to be interviewed on his Lives Lived Well Teleseries.

Author and speaker Fiona Fine has been through a lot in her life. She has a degree in engineering, has been married twice, and has gone through three car accidents plus two major concussions from other accidents over the span of 30 years.

The Accidents At seventeen, a few weeks into studying engineering at university, Fiona experienced her first car accident. It caused her considerable pain, as well as started the damage to her immune system.

“Yet I didn’t change – I just kept pushing and driving myself through it all,” recalls Fiona.

She pushed through her five year engineering program to graduate as a Mechanical Engineer – one of 35 women in a class of almost 1000. Yet this severely impacted her health and collapsed her immune system which just couldn’t keep up to the stress.

Over the next 15 years Fiona worked in her career of engineering, CAD/CAM and then ultimately in IT corporate headhunting – all male dominated industries. In 1995, she had her second car accident. This one left her disabled for a period of time before she figured out how to become the first person in her industry to tele-commute so she could continue to work. “Making money was what I was good at above all else.” she said.

“Yet I still didn’t get the real message,” says Fiona.

Finally, following a third accident, Fiona finally got the message that she needed to reframe how she looked at life, and how she managed her health and personal life. She began to realize that her definition of success was warped and required change in order for her to go on. She began this process by tapping into her body and psyche and figuring out how to harmonize her mind body and spirit. “Up until that time, my ego mind was the largest muscle of my body.” she admits.

Marriage Being a young alpha woman, Fiona had pre-planned her life out in detail. At 17, she already had the vision of herself in her engineering career with two kids and a husband – all before the age of 34  “because that was how society still encouraged us as women to think” but could see no further she admits. Life mostly started out by fitting the plan.

At 28, her first husband fell hard and fast in love with her. She was different than the other women he had dated. “Brains times beauty is a constant and you changed the constant” is what he told her and it was shortly after a trip to Italy and only 6 months of meeting her that he asked her to marry him. All she could say was “Oh, sh#t” – evidently thirteenth times. She couldn’t say yes…

“He asked me, ‘if you love me why wouldn’t you want to marry me?’ And so I got married because I didn’t have a good answer,” she said. “I didn’t understand that you can love and not be ‘in love’. He was a good man yet he was not the man for me.”

The marriage lasted less than two years.

“He wanted out,” she shared succinctly with David Cohen on his show. She dove back into her career and in that timeframe also had a second major car accident. Life was a continuous challenge yet about that time she met another man and went back into a 10 year relationship.

Yet history was repeating itself, and in 2007, Fiona left the relationship. She considered herself “successfully divorced for the last time,” cleaned up her health (again) and felt confident and ready to date. Nevertheless, she found the concept of reentering the dating game difficult to wrap her mind around. This was where she got one of the best pieces of personal advice from one of her male best friends:

“Even if you love pizza, why on earth would you want to eat pizza every day of your life?” he said.

In a nutshell, his advice was to go out and have fun! Explore what made her happy and what she really desired to create in her life and how she wanted to live and love – on her terms!

Thinking back to her first relationship, she remembers the societal expectations that influenced her decision.

“It was society saying: ‘this is a good man’.”

“Yet every year I was putting myself away in a smaller box.”

What the body has to say She found that in the pursuit of success and competition in a male world, she had denied so many aspects of her femininity. All of her time had been spent trying to fit into a mold created by society and it was hurting her – literally. The harder she went after her goals, the bigger an accident or “growing experience” was required to slow her down.

It’s not that there were no warning signs. Fiona is frank about the fact the her intuition and body were sounding the alarm very loudly that she was moving too quickly and pushing too hard/too often.

“I honestly believe that our bodies speak to us – if we listen. Whispers at first, then grumbles, then often full a out assault which is the cause of much ‘dis-ease’”.

But it’s not just about learning to listen to your own body. Fiona emphasizes the need for women to interact with each other and speak using their own voice. According to her, there are three major periods in a woman’s life when women do not seem to communicate well and share what works/what doesn’t in their lives: puberty, child rearing years, and again during menopause.

This idea drove Fiona to create two online publications for women to advocate, support and connect with other women: one on women’s leadership (the one you’re reading right now!) and the other on dating and relationships.

Ultimately, while Fiona figured out the hard yet conscious changes she needed to make in her life, it took her many years filled with pain and difficulty to get there. Her mess has become her message and has also created the spectacular life she leads now. She doesn’t want other women to have to learn things the hard way but to listen to the whispers in their own lives. She wants every woman to be a B.I.T.C.H (a Babe In Total Control of Herself). She wants this so much that she wrote a whole book on the subject (found here). Babe In Total Control of Herself is Fiona’s guidebook for women just like her who want to find the same success she had.

Fiona’s advice is to change the focus in our lives from “doing” to “being”.

“A life that is not one of self-awareness is not worth living,” according to her paraphrase of the Socrates quote. “We need to know ourselves to create our best lives.”

Life is made of choices and changes that mesh with each other in often unpredictable ways, and it is okay (and often mandatory) to step back and say “I don’t know why” or “I don’t know how to…”. Indeed, slowing down to give your body and inner spirit a chance to talk to you will probably do more for your career and personal development than constantly sucking it up and toughing it out. “We push ourselves so hard and it is often in our later years that we realize we never had to- slow is smooth/smooth is fast.”

Our minds and bodies are not machines, and we cannot and should not conform to norms and expectations if they harm us. We rob our lives of authenticity when we forget that our lives are meant to be an expression of our true selves as individuals.

Drawing on Fiona’s inspirational story, there are many nuggets of wisdom to be extracted that can help us reclaim our lives.

1. Are your jobs or goals hurting you? Does your body physically ache from your job? Perhaps the stress is unreasonably high. These are signs that you might need to make some changes.

2. Are you trying to fit in? It’s not a good idea for your self-esteem and self-expression if you’re adjusting your life according to what you see other people doing or find yourself trying to conform to stereotypes.

3. Redefine success It just might be the things you are neglecting most of all- your health and well-being.

4. Do not disregard challenges in your life If overcoming them is coming at too great a price, the difficulties might not be worth your time.

5. Set boundaries. Define your limits. Know what you can or can’t do. Know what you desire to create in your life – how is it you want to live not just what is it you are looking to cross off the list.

Say it With Me: I AM THE BOSS A Day at the I AM THE BOSS Conference

What does it mean to you to utter the words “I am the boss”?

Does it refer to status? To power? To responsibility?

To me, it means the freedom to play by my own rules, instead of following someone else’s.

Not everyone gets the chance to be the boss, but everyone can, if they want to.

I know that sounds like a whole lot of Indians and no Chiefs, and I probably would have agreed with you…that is until I attended Carolyn Dickinson’s I AM THE BOSS conference.

This one day event aims to inspire women to create their own path in life, to finally be able to utter the words “I am the boss.”

Over the course of the day attendees watched as Carolyn interviewed a panel of inspiring women who have found success in their own lives, women just like you and I whose passion and determination sent them from middle management, to the top. The panel participates in a Q&A session midway through the day, and the day is finished off with keynote speakers and trainers who share their vision, their journey, and their inspirations with the crowd.

So who were these inspiring women that we all stared in awe at as we held on to their every word? Well there was Odette Laurie…

As a business coach for entrepreneurs who want to build a multiple six or seven figure business and teacher of mindset marketing and money strategies, she knows what it’s like to fight for her dream.

“I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to struggle. I also know what it’s like to be successful. They need a leader,” she said.

She knew it was important for women to attend I AM THE BOSS because “as women we do it all by ourselves. We stay at home and we try to build a business behind our computer, but you’ve got to get out in the real world to see what real women are doing and learn.”
That’s why Odette, an already successful entrepreneur wanted to be a part of I AM THE BOSS, an event that tells women that “we’re blessed with the opportunity to have babies but that does not mean we have to stop our life, and that doesn’t mean we have to stop the train that gets us to making money …You can have both. It’s tough, but you can do it,” shared Odette.

Then there was Mary Engel…

A management coach who works with middle managers to help them improve the quality of their lives, they’re productivity, and get the careers that they dream of.

She saw this event as a great opportunity because “an event like this gives women an opportunity to be inspired, to get a lot of clarity. I’m finding that the speakers have so much experience in the areas that I’m currently experiencing challenge in that it’s almost like looking into a crystal ball, seeing what to expect, and being able to answer those questions before you even get there.”
Her real clarity comes when discussing the topic of being a working mom. “A lot of us grow up with the belief, the unfounded belief, that to have a career, and be a great mom, and be a great wife, is impossible. Or that somehow we have to trade off one for the other and so we start making decisions that will sabotage any particular one of those things. So I think it’s important to understand that you can have all three, that they can be really great, and not to worry that you’re sacrificing in one area because there are ways to actually figure out how to work all of those,” she shared.

And there was Wendy Crystal…

A future mom about to pop, still sitting on the panel, and working a booth as the owner and founder of her own cosmetics company.

Looking at her you know that she has drive, but what did she wanted the women to take away from that day? “Determination and believing in themselves and knowing that failure and feeling fear are not things to be feared. They are things to actually motivate you and push you forward to be successful.”

But the real inspiration that day was I AM THE BOSS’s founder Carolyn Dickinson….

Carolyn went from a stressed out new mom at a complete loss of how to get her career back, to an entrepreneur with her own website appropriately titled “Supermom Entrepreneur”, to the creator of her own women’s event, I AM THE BOSS.

Her work has inspired countless women and she tirelessly labors for her love of helping women succeed.

“I always feel like I’m recommending these people. I take pride in that,” she shared. Which is why she hand picks all of her speakers, and it shows. “I have only heard ‘we love it, we’ve gotten something from it.’ That to me is all I want ,” she said. “I’ve had five people personally come up to me and go ‘this is not a typical women’s event,’” she continued.

Besides the obvious benefit of having people love the event, she works so hard to find the right because she said, “We are creating an environment, that to me,  is like having a big family over and we’re all kind of chatting and helping and supporting each other.”

In the end, the work of Carolyn, her team, and everyone involved in the I AM THE BOSS conference led to an event that was welcoming, inspiring, and a must-see for women everywhere. It’s certain that women took away so much from the day, but what did Carolyn really wanted them to take away? “Whatever they need.”

For more information visit: www.supermomentrepreneur.com


The Fundamentals of Money Management in Turbulent Times

The year is 2014. The United States is increasingly decriminalizing Cannabis, Toronto crack- smoking Mayor Rob Ford visited a rehabilitation facility, and Vladimir Putin stands strong against protests in his anti-gay laws. While these stories and more have kept us on our toes all year, something else has lingered underneath. Something that has perhaps kept us on our toes for what has felt like forever. That something? The markets.

The markets are going crazy these days: commodities, gold, silver, the stock market, real estate.

How can you keep up?

What should you do?

Any change in the world condition can make the market react either positively or negatively. Osama is killed and the market goes up. The President makes a speech on Libya and the market jumps. A new poll comes out and the market dips. Seems like just about anything can set it off, driving the indexes either up or down.

There is even a new computer program that is being talked about to help in making stock market predictions based on twitter tweets. It is said that they can determine the “mood” of the masses by analyzing millions of tweets and that will help them predict market conditions. Market intelligence gained from tweets…it’s a sad day when much of anything that is tweeted can be considered “intelligence.”

Yeah, I know, I tweet too and I have thousands of followers (you should be one) but I do my best to give a 140-character nugget that actually offers something to help you do better, be better, or at least cause you to think. I don’t tweet the typical “I’m hungry” or “I’m sad today” like some folks do. (Eat a damn sandwich or keep your lousy mood to yourself, I’ve got my own crap to deal with!!!)

The problem is that people actually pay attention to these temporary fluctuations in the market and try to time their way into making money by jumping in or out based on what’s going on in the moment. They are constantly reviewing their portfolio to see where they are day by day. They get upset or sometimes even elated by the daily changes that take place. Then they want to buy or sell and are on the phone to their broker or worse, trying to handle it all by themselves like they are smarter than everyone else in the financial world.

Don’t do that.

Investments should be based on trends and track records and those things take time to develop. And unless you are a seasoned investor and really know what you are doing, don’t try to time the market to make money. The odds are not in your favor.

Market fluctuations are based on emotion. Money has no emotions but only reacts to the emotions of people. That’s why we see all the craziness going on in the markets right now; people’s emotions are running high for many reasons and the market is reacting to it.

The key is to not play into the market fluctuations by letting your emotions dictate your financial strategy. These fluctuations make no difference to the average investor. These fluctuations are temporary, while your investment strategy should be long term.  And remember, emotional decisions are not often your best decisions in any area of life, but especially when it comes to money. When you buy or sell stocks based on emotions, or when you are in a panic, rarely will you make a good long-term financial decision.

Your financial security is a long term strategy, so get back to basics. The same old boring fundamentals for financial success still apply regardless of what is going on:

  1. Have a cash cushion equal to six months of your expenses.

  2. Before you even consider investing, make sure you have all high-interest debt, like credit card debt paid off. People often ask my opinion about good investments with high yield.  I always ask if they have a credit card balance. Since the average credit card debt per household is still about $7500 and the average interest rate is about 14%, I remind them that the fastest way to get a 14% return on their money is to pay off their credit cards. Again . . . do not invest a dime until your credit cards are paid off. It’s DUMB.

  3. Make sure you are spending less than you earn… Which around 40% of people still aren’t doing.

  4. Have a long term strategy for financial security. Work with a qualified financial adviser who knows you and your situation and will help you achieve your long term goals. Prosperity is a process and a slow one at that.

And by all means, do not panic when you see temporary fluctuations in the market. Take a deep breath, stay calm and stick to your plan – and if you don’t have a plan, get one.

Remember, don’t let the emotions of the crazy world around us dictate your financial strategies. Calm down and relax when it comes to your finances, and the markets will too.

Your Mommy Brain, Your Money Brain And Feeding Both

Six years ago, Alison Stuckey had lost her ability to dream: her husband was a victim of the 2008 financial crisis and she was moving towards depression. She had finally transitioned from working nine-to-five after 5 years and adjusted to being a mother. But there was always something missing in her life.

Alison began to realize that she was caught up in societal expectations and this was not working for her.

“We look at what our parents and their parents did. This just isn’t working anymore. It’s a different time,” Alison confessed.

The most difficult part for Alison was stepping out of her comfort zone. Leaving the world of nine-to-five was a major challenge. Alison’s reason for leaving the corporate world so many people inhabit was that she had to be there for her children, not to mention that she could never find a spot for herself in this environment.

Alison defines herself as “first and foremost, a mom and a wife,” her family is the most important thing. Following the birth of her first child, she felt that she was being forced to make a choice – to sacrifice either her child or her job. She chose her child, then children. Unfortunately a single income is not enough to support a family in a large city and Alison had to consider returning to a job and workforce after 5 years.

Around this time, she was approached by a university friend and jumped at the opportunity to start her own business with Arbonne, a health and wellness networking marketing company. The new opportunity offered the flexibility she needed to focus on the most important aspect of her life – her children.

“I needed to be there for my daughter. She needs her mom around. I can’t even imagine what she would be like as a person if I wasn’t there,” Alison shared.

It wasn’t easy starting over – Alison experienced considerable self-doubt. Confidence came gradually from certain realizations and primarily from personal development.

“I was terrified. Would it work? Could I do it? All my fears surfaced. But I always knew I was capable of so much more than I was doing. There was always this thought in the back of my head that there is more for me out there. More I have to do in life.”

Helping her through this was the way she viewed failures. Alison does not look at failures as standing alone, but at the way someone deals with them.

“I look at them as a positive as opposed to a negative because it’s really the way you deal with them that determines what your future is going to be,” she said.

The best part of leaving a nine-to-five existence, Alison says, was the flexibility that came with it. She could set her own schedule and expectations.

“If somebody’s sick, I don’t have to call my boss and ask for time off. I usually give myself the time off,” she laughs.

She also enjoys being in control of her future.

“No one else is dictating my future. I am in charge of it and it will be whatever I make of it. I am not under somebody else’s control, working to someone else’s expectations,” Alison said.

Regarding expectations, Alison rails against stereotypical societal expectations and norms.

“There are so many things being thrown at us: our kids, our careers, even our physical being; be this way, look this way, weigh this much.”

Her proposed solution is to reclaim our lives.

“We really need to be our own person, especially as women.”

With the flexibility and freedom her business allows, Alison has found time for both her family and an incredible career.

“I set an example for my kids, especially my daughter, that I can be successful, building an amazing business that is going to be a legacy for them, and also have presence in their life, to be there for them when they need me.”

Alison’s advice to women is to connect with successful and positive women to discover the path they took through much the same circumstances. Embodying the entrepreneurial mindset, Alison says that if you can dream it, you can do it.

“The only thing holding us back is ourselves,” she shared.

While she’s not certain of what she will do in the future, Alison has her eyes on the big picture.

“We are all put on this planet for something great. I still haven’t determined exactly what that is, but I know there is something bigger I want to do.”

Speaking about her business, Alison views it as a gateway enabling her to do other things.

Indeed, Alison seems to be continually discovering herself.

“I realized recently that I want to start a charity and it is going to have a women focus.”

In short, it is clear that there is no clear path to success and in fact, no single path to success. A well-paying nine-to-five job may very well be one person’s idea of success, while Alison finds it a compromise disrupting her life.

While the details will vary for everyone, there are a few bigger ideas that we all can apply to our professional lives. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you pursue success:

1. Don’t let society tell what you should be and how to get there Do what you want and be what you want. Live your dream.

2. Set your own expectations Only you know what you want to be in life. Through self discovery you will figure that out.

3. Move out of your comfort zone Challenge yourself to do better. Always.

4. Keep trying The most successful people in the world have failed many times and kept trying new methods and approaches.

5. Learn from your mistakes Don’t brood over them for weeks on end, instead absorb the lesson and move on. Improving.

6. Decide what’s important And focus on it. Prioritize and devote more time to the activities you truly value.

7. Get help Connect with people who share your concerns and be inspired by their stories.