Living Without Regret

LiveWithHeartMomWhen it comes to the end of your life, will you look back with regret or gratitude?

Unlike other tasks you may be able to put off, the thing about regret is that you kind of have to plan for this question right now. You know, since you’re currently living your life.

Life is not a dress rehearsal, people.

My mom, Elizabeth, passed away on January 30, 2016. She was 85 years old. She died rather suddenly for someone who has been ill for a long time with heart failure. In the end, it was, oddly enough, not her heart issues, but pneumonia and then a hospital infection that turned into sepsis, which sealed her fate.

She passed away surrounded by family and especially her faithful husband of 61 years, my dad. Before she left this world, she knew her four kids were successful, healthy and loved. She knew her grandchildren. And yes, she even got the chance to see my baby boy, the last grandchild. Her life was full of family, friends, travel, and love.

We should all be so lucky.

I think mom’s only true regret was never having had the chance to go to college. When her youngerbrother ditched college to join the Navy, it was not even a realistic notion to use the money for my mom. What did girls need with a college education, thought my Italian immigrant grandparents? Mom even told my brother a story about being scared when, as a young girl, she almost lost some library books, “ I mean, I was petrified. Mom didn’t even think girls needed to be reading in the first place.” Can you imagine?

She married at 24, but mom still worked. She was a legal secretary/office manager for many years before her kids came along later in life and the worked part-time off and on, focused on raising her family.

I always thought my life was so different from hers. Part of that was by design: My mother wanted me to have all the educational opportunities she never had. She wanted me to stand on my own two feet and not have to rely on any man for anything except love.

But when she made sacrifices for me, I don’t think she realized just how different it would make our lives. I was a single girl focused on my career, living in the city for many years. I broke off an engagement in my late twenties and didn’t get married until my early thirties. I moved far away from home. I had adventures (and misadventures) my mom probably never imagined.

I rebelled so much against the traditional path that my mom, deep in her heart, would have liked me to follow. While she wanted me to have all the opportunities, in the end, I believe she wanted me to choose her path simply because she knew how happy it made her. When I didn’t, she wasn’t sure what to make of me. I wanted to follow my passions and I thought she just couldn’t relate. But, boy, was she proud.

Now, I realize how much her life was the lesson I needed all along. I see now that Mom followed her heart. She lived with few regrets. (Tweet)

She may not have blazed career trails or invented things to live her passion. But, that is because those were not her passions. Hers were different and, yes, she pursued them with gusto. She went on an epic cross-country road trip with my dad before they had kids. She enjoyed Caribbean cruises and Canadian casino bus trips. She traveled to Italy several times and kept in constant touch with family there, helping us kids forge relationships between our generation of cousins as well.

She read (voraciously). She went to every social gathering, party and picnic. She led clubs and volunteered at PTA, standing up to the administration on policies that she thought hurt her kids.

She cheered on her favorite football teams. She cooked giant holiday feasts and crowded as much family as would fit around the table.

When she couldn’t have kids after years of trying, she never gave up hope. Then she had my brothers in her late thirties, a ridiculously late age back in 1966. And then me, six years later, at age 42. She hustled. She got me and my older brother into acting as kids and shuttled us all over Manhattan. She knew exactly what we all wanted for Christmas–and I have no doubt shopped for and wrapped most of it herself

She raised a family and gave us a magical childhood of simple pleasures: boisterous holidays, family vacations, a modest summer house in Mastic Beach, Long Island (seriously, NOT The Hamptons!), full of lazy summer afternoons spent reading, feeding swans, swimming, and boating–no camps or video games! And, of course, warm summer nights where fireflies lit up our games of Tag in the backyard.

She moved from NY to Ohio in her early fifties to start a whole new life when my dad’s company relocated us. She nursed both my grandmother and my great-aunt in their ailing old ages until they each passed away.

My mom’s health was deteriorating over the past few years. It was always a tightrope when I returned home from visits there. Would this be the last time? One can never be sure. So it was always, “I love you” before every parting, at the end of every phone call.

I stayed home a little longer than usual this past Christmas, a full week which then got extended due to cancelled flights and bad weather. Maybe the Universe knew?! I made sure she got to watch my little one play in her living room for a few hours. She was not the most talkative or “herself” in recent years but it was enough to be in her presence, making small talk. I gave her an extra big hug and kiss upon leaving, and made sure my one and a half year-old son did the same. “Say ‘I’ll see you soon, Nonnie’,” I encouraged him. She loved hearing him say “Nonnie” in that sweet little baby voice of his.

Did Mom have other regrets? I’ll never know for sure. But in the last few weeks, I’ve realized that her life was one big adventure of enjoying the people and moments that mean the most. A life I always thought so different from mine. And yet…. she followed her own passions just as I want to follow mine. Exactly the kind of life I want as well. One big adventure. Soaking it all in.

No regrets. Just love.

So I ask you: Today, at this moment, are you setting up your life to do the same? Are you launching that business, writing that book, taking that trip, or simply spending time with the people who matter most?And remember, like my Mom, living a life without regret is not about “living hard” or doing crazy, epic things, either, unless that’s truly what calls to your soul.

Are you following the passions close to your own heart or simply living a life others say you should have? Are you measuring your success with someone else’s yardstick?

At the end, when it’s all said and done, no one will care about your course launches or “six-figure business” or book deal or social media followers or marketing to-do list. My mom never had any of those things and she could have cared less. She was just fine.

In the end, are you going to have no regrets, just love?

How Starting With No Gets You to Yes

Start with No (blog)

I’ve got a confession to make. The past few months have been full of angst for me over a simple and tired question you’ve most likely faced yourself:

What do I want to do when I grow up?

Now, I realize this is ridiculous coming from a 40-something wife, mother and business owner who seems to have it all locked down. I mean, seriously, shouldn’t I be all grown up by now? Surely publishing books and working with amazing clients should be enough, right? Let’s just coast into retirement.

Except that’s not me. And if you’re reading this, I don’t think it’s you either. While I love it all, I am always looking to the next horizon, challenge, and creative endeavor. Right now, I’m retrenching to figure out what my next book, project and evolution of Red Slice is going to look like. Basically figuring out how I can find my new passion while still serving my audience.

Part of being a changemaker and rockstar is that you never settle. You’re always itching for the next big adventure and passionate about that crazy idea that the world needs.

Whether it’s on a global scale or in your own backyard, passionate people crave “newness.” And with that comes constant evaluation, analysis and action. A churning restlessness to peek around the next corner.

But how do you get to that elusive answer? Especially if you have many different interests, passions and “slices” to what you want to offer.

Here’s a trick:

Start With No.

Sometimes placing parameters around what we don’t want to do, say or be helps us whittle down to the core of what makes us tick. Instead of trying so hard to pick something in the vast whitespace of possibility, box yourself in a little bit and back into the answer.

What don’t you want your business to look like? Which brand do you least want to emulate? What type of clients drain your energy? Which customers are not a good fit for you? What topic do you not want to write about? What product or service do you hate the idea of selling?

When you’re not sure which road to take, pare down your choices by asking which way you don’t want to go. (Tweet this!)

I discovered the value of this many times when trying to decide what to have for dinner. My husband and I often get the bright idea to go out to eat or order in, which inevitably leads to…

“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”

We’ve discovered that if we start with what we’re not in the mood for, we’ll land more quickly on what we are in the mood for. We back into the answer.

Next time you’re floundering to make a decision or find your next step, try starting with no.

What decisions have you made by narrowing down what you didn’t want in order to get to what you did want? How could this technique help with your next moves for your business or project? Please share below in the Comments!

Image Credit: Tripp via Flickr

Stuck in neutral? 4 ways to reboot your business and rekindle your fire

Ah, the first blushes of entrepreneurial love. The romance! The energy! But what happens when the passion fades and the reality of demanding customers/clients, overwhelming marketing options and painful tasks (QuickBooks, anyone?) creeps in? Suddenly, your business becomes a grind and you find yourself working harder for less reward, less return…and less joy. Your once appreciative and dreamy-eyed business starts angrily demanding more of your time and energy – but in return, rewards you with the wrong customers, a weak profit margin and just doesn’t take you salsa dancing or wine tasting anymore.

I’ve been where you are. I know what it feels like to have your business success lead you down the wrong path. How choices innocently pile up – each one seemingly rational – paving a perfect road to discontent.

So a few years ago, I took a step back. I sought the objective counsel of colleagues, a wise coach and a wondrous wordsmith and tweaked my business model and messaging – core brand elements. I started doing more of what I loved and ditched what wasn’t working. And you know what? My heart (and success) soared.

If your business (and heart) feel stuck in neutral, here are 4 ways to reboot  – and check out my big announcement at the end on how I can help…

  1. What do you hate doing? STOP IT! If your business offerings have kept piling on so you can simply cater to every single need under the sun, you need to take stock and simplify your business model. What activities bring you the most joy? Do you love teaching and strategic planning but hate detailed tactics? Then start doing more workshops or retainer projects  and don’t offer hourly project work. Do you love doing massage and energy work but hate giving facials? Then cut down your services list. This also translates into how you talk about yourself (i.e., maybe you’re no longer a “full-service spa” but a “body care studio”)
  2. Play with pricing or packaging to attract the right customers/clients: You may find that the people you are attracting pay little but demand a lot, offering little profit margin in the end. How about adding more value/quality to your offerings and increasing your prices to deter more budget-conscious folks and attract a more affluent market? Or offer a tiered set of products or services to give more cost-conscious folks a self-service option, while freeing up your time for deeper, higher-value work that you adore.
  3. Revisit your messaging: Take a good, hard look at your web copy, company descriptor or even job title. Are you saying you do everything for anybody? Are you too vague and not focused on clear, crisp benefits? Does it sound boring, even to you? This could either a) be attracting the wrong type of work or b) confusing the prospective people that you really want. Remember, when you try to create a brand that is all things to all people, you end up being nothing to no one. Detail out your ideal customer or client and only focus on content, services or products – and the appropriate messaging – to attract those people. Don’t worry about pleasing (or offending) anyone else but that target. Trust me, they’ll be fine without you.
  4. Audit your visual brand: OK, this one may require an investment to make some changes. Based on the people you really, really want to attract and the kind of work you really, really want to be doing, is your visual branding way off base? Do you need to modernize your colors, select bolder fonts or change out your imagery to better appeal to those people? I once consulted with someone trying to attract high-powered Alpha-male executives – and yet her website was all pastel colors and flowery script fonts. She was beating her head against the wall and wondering why those powerful male executives were not hiring her. She needed to update her look and feel to match her new offerings and target clients. Side benefit? Updating your visual look and feel might also get your heart racing with pride again about your business and give you a new opportunity for some word of mouth buzz.

With these tips, you can shift out of neutral and into overdrive again. In a good way, of course. Don’t drive yourself crazy. OK, I’ll stop with the driving metaphors….

Photo credit: Vincent O’Keeffe, Flickr

Has business boredom ever happened to you? What actions do you recommend to reignite your business – or your own personal passion? We’d love to hear so please leave a Comment below. Your wise words could help someone else!


Why me? Why NOT me?

In our personal lives, we ask the first question a lot: Why did this tragic event happen to me? Why do I have to suffer fools? Why does it always rain when I forget my umbrella?

But as professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs and executives, we bring this same attitude to work with us:

Why would anyone publish my book?

Why would anyone buy this product?

Why would new clients sign on with me?

Who am I to change the way companies buy software?

Why would I start a business based on passion instead of profit?

Here’s my question back to ‘ya: Why not you?

I have always felt this question deeply on the personal side. After all, why should you NOT be the one in the car accident/struck down with an illness/caught in  the rain? I suffered a brain aneurysm and almost died and not once did I ask, “Why me?” What makes me so special that it should be someone else suffering instead of me? Asking “Why me?” seems to me an incredibly selfish and fruitless waste of time.

What if you upended the question and asked “Why not you?” Just think about that. Why shouldn’t you make money pursuing your passion? Why shouldn’t you be the one to transform the way cupcakes are made? Why shouldn’t you publish your great story for others to read? Why shouldn’t you offer a unique service that no one has ever done before? Why shouldn’t you create a racy brand in a boring category? WHY. NOT. YOU?

Asking “Why not?”  instead of  “Why?” instantly changes the conversation. It goes from self-doubt to birthright; from impossible to completely realistic; from “I could never…” to “Damn straight, I will!”

Take the chance. When others say, “Who are you to change things?,” say, “Why shouldn’t I be the change maker?” When the industry seems to demand that all the players look and sound alike, ask, “Why shouldn’t we build a unique, quirky brand?” Southwest Airlines, Apple, Virgin America, MOO, DRY Soda – all of these companies had execs who didn’t ask, “Who are we to rock the boat and create such a radically different brand?” They had execs who created the brand they believed in and asked, “Why the hell not?”

What is your artistic work manifesto? Yep, you need one….

Run, don’t walk and pick up a copy of Seth Godin’s latest delight, Linchpin. It’s a super easy read with a powerful message – and you need this message whether you run your own business or work for someone else. It is absolutely changing (and validating) how I approach my work.

Seth is essentially calling us to “be artists”: whether you are a product designer for Apple or a waitress.  It’s not about the slog of punching a clock, or working for the man, or putting yourself on autopilot until 5 pm. What the world needs now are creative problem solvers. They are the ones who will achieve job security because they will make themselves indispensable. They will not be order takers, but change makers who innovate in countless ways big and small without being asked or “paid to.” He talks about our cultural shift from an industrialized workforce to an artistic workforce.

The beauty of this is that it applies no matter what your job. Bringing artistry to your work does not mean you have to work in paints or clay. It is the barista who sees you coming and immediately has your regular coffee drink ready at the bar, thus delighting you and starting your day off right. She may be working for $9 bucks an hour, but she has just made herself indispensable by being an artist. Is it in her job description to do this? Heck no. But her passion to make you happy, to overdeliver, to humanize the transaction has now created a loyal customer – and I would bet, given her more back in return in job satisfaction and appreciation.

We’ve often heard the phrase, “If you’re going to be a trash collector, be the best damn trash collector you can be.” There is nobility in that. And the world needs more of it.

For me, it comes down to caring about your work and being the best (blank) you can be by creating, problem solving and innovating. if you have a knack for taming angry customers and turning them around, that is an art. if you can lead a meeting effectively so all attendees leave motivated, aligned and clear on direction, that is an art. If you can brighten every person’s day who steps on your bus, that is an art. You can change one person’s life, viewpoint, mood or business by acting in this way. You can change the world.

Thinking about all of this, I wanted to see what my own artistic work manifesto would be. My personal and business mission is “To engage, inform and delight.” But what does that really mean day to day? Here goes –and would be interested to hear what yours might be as well:

  • I will delight clients by articulating their mission and brand in exactly the way they desire, so they get goosebumps and shout, “Yes! That’s it! That’s is what I’ve been trying to say and could never find the right words!”
  • I will care more about their business than even they might by always giving honest and candid feedback – even if that means extra work or losing the account.
  • I will touch and inspire every partner or client I work with by showing passion, energy and kindness during our time together. I will treat people well.
  • I will connect people that can help each other just because it’s the right thing to do, not because I get anything from it.
  • I will teach others how to think about their business as a mission that enriches lives in some way and not just a widget-producing factory solely after profits  – and I will show them that passion and profit are not mutually exclusive.
  • I will surprise people by remembering their interests or our conversations and send them an article, press lead or whatever just to show I care.
  • I will seek to work with clients who are passionate about their business and avoid those who I can clearly see will suck the energy out of me and my team. This will keep us positive, motivated and give us “mindspace” to delight the clients who are worth it – even if this means less money for the year.
  • I will continue to write and tell stories that inspire, provoke thought, inform  or even just entertain, whether on via my blogs, my books or my speaking engagements,


What is your artistic manifesto? Please share in the Comments!

Art + Social Media = Fabulosity (and Marketing Genius)

My good friend and videographer, Philip, sent me a clever social media campaign that I am just now getting around to sharing with all of you (yes, trying to get myself more organized in 2011).  Have you heard of the musical group Belle & Sebastian? They have a sort of a “folksy pop” vibe about them, and maintain a cult following throughout the world.

For the release of their album in August, they did a fun social media campaign that not only engaged their fans, but generated buzz and probably made their SEO rankings zoom off the charts by asking fans to create photo content. The best brand campaigns are the ones that ask your fans to do something (show their loyalty and commitment), promotes your business (what you ask them to do creates buzz for YOU) and creates beautiful content that can be repackaged with the tribe (that’s just my own personal vote.).

Their new album was called Belle and Sebastian Write About Love. When working on art for the album, they captured this image of a hip chick writing the record name in chalk in secluded spots in Glasgow:


Write About Love by belles glasgow Photo credit: Belle and Sebastian

So they launched a social media contest, via Flikr, to ask fans to do the same thing (write the album name in chalk in the towns where they live) and upload their photos. Winners would be used in their online TV show, and others would win trophies for “the most striking, scenic, artistic or funny contributions.” Here is the contest page and you can see some of the wildly different, yet artistic and fun entries they received. This insight into the “art” of their fans also probably gave them some valuable intel of their customers.

By doing this fun & spontaneous contest, Belle and Sebastian increased their tribe engagement and loyalty, creating an event that caused people to “check back in” and see how the entries were looking, offered incentives for really putting thought into the entry by offering prizes fans would cherish, and turned their tribe into a slew of field sales reps, promoting their album from here to kingdom come. For every one photograph, imagine the onlookers wondering what the heck each entrant was doing when they came upon them writing the band’s name in chalk and snapping pics?

The moral? Get creative with social media as it can have more arms and legs than you think. The other moral? Promotion does not have to be icky and sleazy. It can actually produce something artistic of which your fans can be proud and which can make them ever more loyal to your message.

Challenging our platitudes and renouncing the ‘war on work’

Danielle Laporte wrote this amazing post apologizing to the 9 to 5 crowd and all her pre-conceived notions about the type of people they are: robots, zombies, bored out of their skull. In it, she includes a remarkable TED talk from Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs that you simply must carve out 20 minutes to hear. His articulate, spellbinding and intellectual talk illustrates the need to question the ideas we have everyday: about innovation, safety, “following your passion.” “We’ve declared war on work” he says. We have done injustice to how we portray working people, or 9 to 5-ers, or those without the gumption to start their own business or invent new things.

He says we get lulled by Madison Avenue in that we deserve to have more free time, easier work lives, more technology, more innovation. He says that has caused a “marginalization of certain types of jobs.” His honest admission to “getting a lot wrong” is refreshing and that perhaps we need a “PR campaign for work, for skilled labor.”  Whatever happened to the nobleness and necessity of our blue-collar jobs, the ones our Grandfather’s had, the ones that built our infrastructure? Well, his theory is that these jobs have been victims of this war, and are getting a “bad rap.”

I was especially moved by his statement that “following his passion” was some of the worst advice he’s ever received; that sometimes “passion” just won’t pay the bills. And he’s right, to some extent. We celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and so-called lifestyle, but it may not be feasible for all of us. And it certainly would not be feasible to have a nation of independent workers all following their passions with no one to build roads, pick up road-kill or take care of our trash – or from a desk-job perspective, corporate accountants or government administrators.

Instead of renouncing these jobs and lifestyles as meaningless or “less than”, we should be finding ways to celebrate them and cultivate innovation and new ideas within them. Plenty of 9 to 5’ers lead happy, fulfilled lives contributing to their workplace, their colleagues and their communities. They are not necessarily “selling out” or “settling.”

We’re all trying to make things easy for ourselves. There are people out there who will show you how to make millions of dollars on the Internet, how to only work 4 hours a week, or how to take 6 months to dwell on your own thoughts, fears, and passions without ever taking a real step anywhere. Maybe it’s time to simply just get on with things  and get to work, in whatever forma that means for you.

What do you think?