Book Review: The Little Book of Big PR by Jennefer Witter

The little book of big PRA  must-have for entrepreneurs who want a guide on how to use PR. With so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know what to do first. How do you reach out to the media? What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” for interacting on social media? What are things you should know about building a brand?

In The Little Book of Big PR, Jennefer Witter shares her expertise in a style that’s simple enough for beginners, and expert enough for established business owners looking for quick tips.

Witter runs her own agency and knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dealing with the media. Unlike some “experts” who give very generalized information, she isn’t shy about speaking candidly about missteps and how to avoid them. She also includes case studies to show what other have done.

Chapters include, Selecting a PR Agency, Social Media, Self-Branding, Media Relations, Speaking Engagements and Networking. There’s something here for every business owner to learn from. Deceptively simple, this book packs a huge punch when it comes to understanding the world of PR.

Entrepreneurs, particularly solopreneurs who are juggling it all on their own, would particularly benefit from Jennefer Witter’s words of wisdom. (Received a review copy.)

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

confessions of a recovering perfectionistRecently I was a guest on a podcast where we talked about how hard it is to surrender control and get into your flow.

We also discussed the need to do things perfectly — or not do them at all. Lots of us get stuck in that place. It’s what we fall back on when we’re afraid to move forward.

Perfection is all about fear and insecurity. For instance, if I do things perfectly, I won’t be judged. But I can  judge someone else’s efforts because, well, I’m perfect, damn it.

It’s like when people preface a remark by saying, “he/she’s not perfect, but…” Duh. Can’t they just like someone without feeling the need to add a disclaimer?

It’s like saying, I know that person isn’t a perfect human being, but I like them anyway. Please, don’t do that. It sounds insincere, and like any back-handed compliment, it really isn’t a compliment. First, tell me who is perfect, and we’ll go from there.

Perfectionism can stop us from doing the things we love. Unfortunately it also allows us to  hold others to a high, unreachable standard without taking any risks ourselves.

“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

Years ago I was in a class where I had to design a layout for a magazine. I froze after I presented the initial design and received praise from my professor. The horror! As soon as that happened, things went downhill.

What if it didn’t come out the way I pictured it? What if the professor hated it? Wouldn’t I be ashamed after setting those high expectations? Yes to all of those.

So, I procrastinated right up to the night before the assignment was due. Then I quickly threw something together and turned it in. I got a less than sparkling grade, and I deserved it.

But you know what? I consoled myself by saying, if I’d only started sooner, the project would’ve come out great! The end result was I got to beat myself up for not doing the work, while pretending that the work would’ve been perfect, if only. Perfection by proxy.

“Beauty and ingenuity beat perfection hands down, every time.” – Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine

After a while I became my own worst enemy when it came to getting projects done. If my sewing projects didn’t have perfect stitches, I’d throw everything out. If I couldn’t find the  perfect words for my short stories, I’d write and rewrite and rewrite into infinity.

Meanwhile, I remember writing one story in few hours. When I finished, I submitted it to a magazine and sold it. What was different? It was a new market for me, and I had no idea what would go over. So I wrote down my story, edited it, and sent it in. There was no hand-wringing and second-guessing involved. Done. I was prepared for any outcome without expectation.

Once that happened, it was proof that my perfectionism was hiding my fear. Fear of succeeding, fear of failing. Yes, fear of success too. Because if I was successful, I’d have to repeat that success again and again. Then what? Suppose my perfection wasn’t perfect enough to maintain the success?

See what a trap it is?

Perfectionism was a trap that stopped my forward movement. A place to hide where I could sneer at others who weren’t as perfect. Meanwhile, they were getting things done.

“It is failure that guides evolution; perfection provides no incentive for improvement, and nothing is perfect.” – Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist

The voice of resistance usually hides behind perfectionism. Check out The War of Art by Steven Pressfield for more on that topic and this book too: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

Be willing to fail and make a mess. Out of the mess, the ideas can grow. Failure really is part of the process of creating. It’s not just a feel-good idea from a motivational poster. It’s true.

Spending hours editing, revising and working on my writing finally taught me that perfectionism is a trap. Years ago I stopped myself from finishing my writing projects  because the end result always had to be perfect. Now I know it’s a process — often a very tough process. But it’s worth it.

“I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.” – Yohji Yamamoto

 

Love the cracks and the stains and the screw-ups. Get your hands dirty. Be willing to let your heart break. Stop reaching for some detached, perfect state that doesn’t exist and never will.

Let go of perfection and free yourself so you can do your work.

Copyright © 2016 Deborah A. Bailey

Book Review: What She Knew by Nadine Galinsky Feldman

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What She KnewWhat She Knew by Nadine Galinsky Feldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liz Nabor is at the top of her game in the finance world. Not only is she incredibly successful, but she’s been able to rise in an industry where the old boys club is not exactly welcoming. Unfortunately the financial meltdown of 2008 is looming and the Madoff scandal threatens to reduce her high-powered life to ashes.

At first I thought Liz was terribly naive not to see how some of her most intimate relationships were not what they seemed. But as the story unfolded it became clear that she’d stopped herself from seeing what was obvious in hindsight. Just as many people made investments that seemed too good to be true, Liz also charged ahead, not looking into the manipulations happening around her.

Pretty early on I guessed how things would unfold in Liz’s personal life. Though there were a couple of surprises that kept me guessing as to how things would finally play out. Liz manages to stay true to herself, while coming to terms with her past. Her growth does make her more sympathetic, and gives a face to the countless people who were caught up in the purges of the financial industry during that time.

The author did a good job of giving the reader a look at what was going on behind the scenes. Not only was it a good story, but it should serve as a cautionary tale as well. (Received a review copy.)

Amazon link: What She Knew

Why it’s Time to Walk Away from Other People’s Drama

Why it's Time to Walk Away from Other Peoples Drama“Few of us write great novels; all of us live them.” ~Mignon McLaughlin

Do you spend a lot of time being influenced by someone else’s drama? Are energy vampires draining you and leaving you exhausted?

Life can be challenging at times, but all drama all the time is not required. If someone in your environment is always coming to you with their problems, their negative viewpoint or the latest episode of their personal soap opera don’t be pulled into their story.

How we live our lives can’t be determined by outside events – or people. If we allow that to happen, our sense of self will always be directed by what’s going on outside of us. We will be in permanent react mode instead of setting our own pace.

Are you living from your core beliefs and feelings, or are you always riding on a roller coaster of emotions, pulled along by outside events and people?

You make the choice.

Copyright © 2010 – 2015 Deborah A. Bailey

Why it's Time To Walk Away from Other People's Drama | Soul of an Entrepreneur blog

 

Excerpted from Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life.

The Balance between Writing Fiction & Non-Fiction

Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your LifeWriting fiction and non-fiction has always been a balancing act for me.

My first “real” job was as a catalog copywriter for JC Penney. I wrote about women’s fashions and toys.

Imagine having to come up with 1 or 2 sentences of copy to describe an item–including all the selling points that a customer needs to know. And it had to be engaging, not just a list of descriptions.

Making every word count ensures that you eliminate fluff and a lot of useless filler. It taught me how to write very lean, which served me well years later.

After several years in catalog copywriting, I changed careers into IT, which is about as far away as you can get from writing copy.

During my time as a programmer, I didn’t write any fiction, or non-fiction for that matter. When I was a child, I’d written tons of stories, poems and even song lyrics (which still surprises me to this day). But after I went into IT, I put my creative writing on hold for a time.

In the corporate world, my “voice” had to be more formal. Usually the “passive” voice is the way people there communicate. No direct statements that can come back to haunt you later on if anything hits the fan. Passive voice is a perfect match for corporate, but unless you want to put your readers to sleep, I wouldn’t recommend it for fiction.

Making the leap between non-fiction and fiction can feel like a leap across a canyon. Ultimately I started taking classes so I could sharpen my writing skills and learn how to structure short fiction. Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales

But still, it was tough to let go of all the business writing rules I’d absorbed. When you document systems, usually you’re explaining how something works. Sometimes for a technical audience, sometimes not. No embellishment. Just straight facts.

What helped me bridge the gap between those two writing styles was to start a blog. Posts from that blog went into my first book, Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life.

By that time I was also writing and publishing short stories. So, once my first non-fiction book was out there, I was ready to start working on a novel.

My first published novel, Hathor Legacy: Outcast was rewritten about 3 times, but each time through, I stripped away more of the layers standing between me and my fictional world. I had to be vulnerable when I wrote fiction. Getting into a character required me to see through their eyes. No way would I be able to maintain my distance and still make a connection with the character’s thoughts and feelings.

If there’s one big difference between fiction and non-fiction, that’s it. Distance. Writing for business requires a certain formality. You don’t get the same thing with blogs (but you might depending on the author and the audience). But with fiction (at least with genre fiction) you have to be willing to get closer. If you do that, the reader can too.

Going back and forth between a story world and “reality” isn’t as difficult if you do it regularly. Writing is one of those things that has to be done all the time. That’s how you get better. No matter what it is: short, long, non-fiction, fiction, poetry–just write it. Go with it.

Once you’re writing all the time, you’ll find it’s not so much about striking a balance as it is finding the flow. But in order to get there, you’ve got to keep writing.

Copyright © 2016 Deborah A. Bailey

Originally published on the Author Deborah A Bailey blog.

The Struggle is Real: Is it Fear of Success or Fear of Failure?

The Struggle is Real: Is it Fear of Success or Fear of Failure | Soul of an Entrepreneur blogSometimes you can be in love with the struggle. It can ignite your desire to work harder and to push when all you want to do is give up.

It’s like when you’re lifting weights in a gym; when you go to the edge of your endurance you get to the point where you have nothing left. That’s the point where the breakdown happens that leads to the rebuilding.

Over time you can feel yourself going longer, having more energy to push through. I’m not talking about pushing too hard and burning out. That’s a different thing entirely. I’m no stranger to that.

Being a workaholic is probably the only acceptable addiction. The one you can talk about openly without someone either wanting to call the police or stage an intervention.

But after a while the struggle can get to be enjoyable. It can get your adrenaline flowing as your stress levels surge. You’re going against the odds. Getting it done. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

Always pushing and never giving up. You can fall in love with the struggle. when that happens, it’s hard to let things flow. Because if there’s no fight, something’s missing.

“Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement.” ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

I’ve had that happen with my writing. When I write, and I’m in the flow, it feels great. It doesn’t feel like work. Or how we think work is supposed to feel. Painful. Awful. Exhausting. Without a doubt writing can be that way at times when you’re reaching for something and can’t get it on the page.

So if you’re working on a business idea. You’re all excited and stressed and ready to put it all out there. Putting in time and money and whatever else you’ve got. Priding yourself on what you’re willing to do to get it done.

What happens if you get to a place where you don’t have to struggle?

What if you can get into a mode where you can, for the most part, get things done without running yourself into the ground. Without skirting the edge of your endurance?

“Go all the way with it. Do not back off. For once in your life, go all the goddamn way with what matters.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Either though experience, or getting help or gaining knowledge, you’ve arrived at the place where you’ve reduced the need for constant struggle. There’s still effort, but things get done with less drama and exhaustion.

What happens when youLindsayHenwood_unsplash achieve the goals you’ve set.

You’re on the top of the mountain. You’ve done it. Now what? Where do you go from there?

When you’ve achieved the thing you’ve been giving all your energy to –what then?

Sometimes the love of the struggle…the getting…is stronger than the desire for the having.

Where are you on your journey? Are you putting off reaching your goals because the struggle feels so much better?

Copyright © 2016 Deborah A. Bailey

Book Review: Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks

VentureMomVenture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks by Holly Hurd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks by Holly Hurd, founder and CEO of the online marketplace VentureMom.com, is a valuable resource for moms looking for support before (and during) their business launch.

Starting with the five commonalities that all successful ventures have in common, Hurd breaks down the steps and includes assignments to guide you through the process. She also includes success stories so you can see how others have done it.

The book shares information to help you set prices, develop your brand, how to set up your marketing and social media, among other things.

It gives details on setting up both product-based and service-based businesses, so there’s something here for every interest. If you’re looking to start a business while balancing a family and other commitments, Venture Mom is a must-have guide to doing it right. (Received a review copy.)

Amazon link: Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks

How to Keep Working When You’ve Got the Winter Blues

CGreenblatt_unsplashWhen the holidays are over and the New Years celebrations have died down, it’s back to the usual day-to-day activities.

But this time of year comes with a twist for me.

Usually it starts around October when I’m anticipating the time change for daylight savings time (someone please tell me why we’re still doing this?) and suddenly it’s getting dark at 4:30 eastern.

Here on the East Coast the weather gets colder and the trees lose their leaves—everything is stark and grey, without color. Even the sky. It’s like going from bright Technicolor to  black, white and grey.

I love color and light. A lot. It gives me energy. For a long time I never understood why my mood would change during the winter months. But I’d go into a depression and sometimes be stuck in it until spring.

Once I found out what the deal was, it was a revelation. My issues had to deal with the lack of light. From that point on I made sure to do things to help me through: more light, more color and more exercise. Along with those things, less sugars (to avoid the sugar crashes), mediation and lots of reinforcement.

If I get a running start in October, usually I can get through it without falling into an emotional hole. And that hole is not the place to be. It’s like being sucked into an abyss at its worst points.

Once that happens, it’s easy to get stuck in the worse addictive behaviors — or to tune out completely and detach from my normal activities. Of course if you’re showing up at a workplace everyday, your symptoms might be alleviated somewhat. But when you’re working from home (and probably spending large amounts of time alone) it’s tough to stay on track.

But what really pisses me off is that this is called a disorder. It also has its own stupid name: SAD. Seasonal Effective Disorder. Really? Who the hell really thought naming a thing like this, SAD?

Not only are you feeling like shit, but the name of your so-called disorder is just as depressing.

Let me clarify. I don’t consider what I go through as a disorder. Yes, I like light and color. Yes, I prefer to see it all the time, not just 6-9 months out of the year.  I’m not broken. I just need certain things and I’m not getting them. That’s how I choose to see it.

So, I’ve learned to compensate by doing healthy things to keep me going so I can have the energy to get my work done.

Here are some suggestions:

*Get a light box or add more lights to your environment.  A friend of mine recommended full-spectrum light bulbs and I’m using them in my home office.

unsplash-Tongle*Buy fresh flowers or postcards or other items to add a touch of color to brighten up your home or workspace.

*Exercise is a great way to lift your mood. If you can’t get outside as often, use online exercise videos or DVDs. Or create your own routines.

*Meditate in the morning and evening to clear your mind and get focused. If you’re feeling down, positive self-talk will get you going and help to release anxiety.

*Don’t hesitate to meet with a health professional if you feel it’s necessary. There is help out there in many forms, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that you can’t manage this on your own.

One more thing: limiting your exposure to  negative environments (and negative people) can go a long way.  Now is the time for extreme self-care, so don’t be stingy with it.

Copyright © 2016 Deborah A. Bailey

Book Review: Recipe for Success by Abigail Steinberg

RecipeForSuccess by Abigail SteinbergRecipe for Success: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market by Abigail Steinberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever thought you had the perfect food product to bring to market? Dreaming of your product on the shelves of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s? Well before you take one step, read this book.

“Recipe for Success: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market” by Abigail Steinberg is characterized as,”a shelf-help book.” And it certainly covers all the questions you might have if you’re thinking of getting your product out there.

Steinberg starts out with “bringing your food to market” and introduces her example, Michael’s Perfect Pickles as a way of showing you what is needed. She’s a senior executive in the natural foods industry and she’s also offered her expertise to companies. So, she’s the perfect person to give you the real deal on what to do for the product launch and beyond.

The book covers topics such as, owning your retail shelf space, partnering with distributors, FDA approvals, what you need to know about brokers and how to manage trade shows. She wraps up with information on whether you should sell once you get to a certain point, or expand. As she states in the conclusion, her desire is for you to learn from her hard-won experience. She says, “the natural foods industry is important because it can change the way we eat, clean and consume for the better.”

Creating a product can be an important game-changer, but in order to make sure of its success, you have to understand how the system works.

If you’re an entrepreneur with a strong desire and a great new product, make sure you add Abigail Steinberg’s book to your library. The more you know, the more you can ensure your success in the marketplace. (Received a review copy.)

Amazon link: Recipe for Success: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market

Why that Terrible Job is Actually a Blessing: The Sequel

Why that terrible job is actuall a blessing: the sequel by Deborah A BaileyOops, I did it again.

A couple of years ago, I was caught up in a contracting assignment that turned into the job from hell. When it ended, I decided to write my first novel. That was a good result of a bad situation.

Fast forward three years later and I have four novels published. So yes, you could say I was inspired to finally stop procrastinating and get moving. But unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson.

After spending most of my adult life as an employee, I can honestly say it’s not easy to get out of the employee mindset.

Not to mention that getting regular checks – as one does when they’re on a W2 – works very well. The light and gas company doesn’t want to hear that your check will be late because it’s been three months and you weren’t paid for your freelance work yet. Or that a client stiffed you, or a project fell through. It seems easy to just go back into the workplace and get a few dollars.

Which brings me to my most recent fun and games. After seeing an ad for a short-term writing project requiring a combination of technical skills and marketing, I sent in my resume. I got an interview and was offered the assignment. Things seemed great for a time.

My own office, a supportive manager, nice people on the team. What was there to hate? Interesting work, and the potential for an extended assignment. Minutes from home and work hours I was able to choose.

Then, everything changed. In true Game of Thrones fashion, the department head did not live to see another day. Or rather he lived, but his position didn’t. One day I went home and all was well, the next I heard he was not coming back. The end. With that, the entire department was axed and the team was left to figure out what had just happened.

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” -Junot Diaz

Of course there was no plan – like what should everyone do next? No announcement – lets just hope no one notices that we’ve vaporized the entire department. And a whole lot of industrial strength shade being thrown my way as the leader of the new regime assumed her throne.

Businesswoman.Meanwhile, I was a contractor with no power at all. And as with any takeover, the people tied to the old regime become marked for destruction themselves.

It’s always lovely when people smile at you, but you can see in their eyes they wish Star Trek phasers were a real thing – and they could set theirs to disintegrate before pointing it in your direction.

Though I was kept for a while longer, and paychecks are never a bad thing, the frustration of not having meaningful work got to be a bit much. And let’s face, it, formatting word documents and putting commas into articles (or taking them out) is about as interesting as watching paint dry.

I was there to do something I do quite well: write. But when you work in a company that doesn’t value what you do, it’s best to move on.

“Always be smarter than the people who hire you.” – Lena Horne

So what have I finally learned from my side trip through corporate hell redux?

For one thing, though it can be hard to run a business and keep the cash flowing in a positive direction, there are times when the alternative is more toxic. I’m past the point of having to prove that, in spite of my work history, experience and writing samples, that I actually have the skills to do the job (especially when some people are determined not to accept that fact).

Is that too much to ask? Evidently yes for some people. But I thank them for the experience of finding out once and for all that I have to stay away from corporate. There’s nothing wrong with getting paid so you can carry on with what you have to do, but if it messes with your sanity and frustrates the hell out of you (which also messes with your work) find another way.

“Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Don’t keep drinking the poison then wondering why it makes you sick. Just accept that it’s sickening and be done with it. Move on. Find other alternatives. Make it work in a way that won’t drag you down into a hot mess quagmire.

I’ve let corporate be the fall back because its familiar. Unfortunately, it also sucks. Which is why I left in the first place. So why keep repeating the same experience and expecting a different result? That’s the definition of insanity, if I remember correctly.

“Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value. The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth.” – Criss Jami

But it’s over now and the blessing is I’ve finally learned that you can’t keep repeating what doesn’t work and hope that one day it will. Accept that it won’t and move on.

It may be more challenging for me to press on without my familiar fall back, but that’s how I’ll grow. In fact, I’ve already grown because I don’t fit into that world anymore. It’s taken me a while to finally accept it, but I do now – and that is the real blessing.

Copyright © 2016 Deborah A. Bailey