15 Powerful Life Lessons I Learned from My Mother

16 Feb
Lessons from my Mother

Me and my mother, 1984

I was 16 when my mom passed away. I don’t remember much about her and often the tough memories cloud my mind over the good, but nevertheless, I still reflect. February 13, 2014 was the 15th anniversary of her passing and now is the perfect time to do that reflecting. Here are 15 things I’ve learned from her that I take with me everyday.

1. Give, give, give

My mom was a giver. Getting a gift from her didn’t require a birthday or holiday or even an A+ on a test. Whenever she shopped, she thought of others, and would never leave a store without a gift. She’d give her own jewelry to my friends, send cards to those she hardly knew, and made sure to always give her time and energy to my school and extracurricular activities.

I believe she found joy in giving to others more than anything else. She seemed to live for our smiling faces and thought nothing of getting something in return. Perhaps all she wanted in return was our happiness. That was her greatest gift of all.

2. Give it your all

My mother directed high school plays as if they were Broadway musicals. She would go bigger and better each time. There couldn’t be enough glitter and glamor. Starting at age three, I was on stage dancing and acting with my mom in the wings, cheering me on.

She pushed me to do my best and perform like I’ve never performed before. There was no such thing as rehearsing too much. I believe that’s why I’m so driven and passionate about everything I do in life. She’s constantly in the wings, pushing me into the spotlight and telling me to go for it.

3. The show must go on

No storm, no sickness, no big hurdle could stop my mom from making something happen. Once she put her mind to it, she was 110% in. It goes back to the mentality of show business. No matter what, the show must go on. Today, whenever I think about stopping, I remember that I can do it and I must do it. Keep going until the curtain closes.

4. Dress to impress

My mother could have a 103-degree fever and she’d still put on her best dress and walk out the door with her head held high. She knew that if she showed weakness, others would feed off of it. Everything had to be perfect. I push myself everyday to get up and face a new day with vigor and excitement. If I am excited about each and every challenge, those around me will be just as excited, too.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Perhaps she didn’t mean to teach me this, but when you experience a major loss in life, everything else seems inconsequential. I remember as a teenager finding it hard to understand how other teenage girls could get so upset over trivial things like curfews and boys. I was forced to be wise beyond my years, but I felt that if I put life into perspective, many of the small things would be no sweat at all. Even 15 years later, I think about that to avoid stresses over minute things.

6. Persevere

If my mom wanted something, she went for it. She found my dad and got him. She wanted a masters degree and got it. She wanted to raise her family in a great area, and she got that, too. Her passion and drive were some of her most admiral traits. I think about my passions and how I can push myself and others to do great things and break down barriers. If my mom could do it, I could too.

7. Blaze new trails

Compliance wasn’t in my mother’s vocabulary. Sure, she wanted to please my grandmother, but she wasn’t about to sacrifice her big ideas and desires. My grandmother wanted her to become a teacher, and my mom did. My grandmother wanted her to marry Jewish, and my mom did (twice). But my mother found ways to grow and experience new things in life that my grandmother never dreamed of. She had a vision and passion for the way she wanted to live her life and I believe she achieved that. I’d never want to leave this earth thinking that I didn’t do that, too.

8. Family first

No matter how tough things got, my mother always put her children first. She quit her job to raise us and worked hard to keep me and my brother happy and healthy. She was dedicated to us more than anything else and loved us unconditionally. As a mom with my own family, I think about this everyday. I question my every move to make sure it’s exactly the right step for my son.

9. Go lay in the sun

Lessons from my mother

1990 Macinac Island vacation

My mom always had a great tan and that was from her beautiful olive complexion combined with her love of the sun. She could sit on a lounge chair for hours baking in the Las Vegas summer heat and love every minute of it. Meanwhile, my brother and I have my dad’s fair and freckled complexion, so hats and sun tan lotion were big staples on our family vacations.

This great memory of her leaves me with one big takeaway: relax. Amongst all the stresses and craziness in life, sitting in the sun with a good book is the best way to just forget it all. We all deserve this. We all need this.

10. Go dance

My mother loved to dance. I remember my parents dancing in the kitchen as Willie Nelson played in the background. My brother and I would dance too and we’d all end up laughing. 15 years later, I’m still dancing. I think about the fun, little things I can do to have a good laugh.

11. Have animals in your life

We always had dogs. The most we ever had was four Maltese at once and we hardly had fewer than two. I’m sure my dad kept the (not-so-small) quota on the animal population because my mom would have had 20 dogs and cats if she could. Animals are a big part of my life and my Border Collie, Cooper is focus in our family (I blog about him often).

12. We live on

My mother believed in reincarnation. It’s reassuring to think about loved ones living on. I think about my mom often in a positive, happy place by my side. No matter what we believe, it’s all about the passion for your beliefs.

13. You always have support

1994 Disney Vacation

My, my mom and my brother on our 1994 Disney Vacation

It’s tough to be a mom without having a mother. I see my friends asking their moms for help and I sometimes wish for it, too. But I’ve learned to look beyond that. I have an amazing mother in law, a dedicated husband and a strong support system. We can’t focus on what we don’t have because that doesn’t allow us to open our eyes to what’s front of us.

14. Perfection is not always realistic

The extreme need for perfection led to my mother’s demise. It affected her physically in the end. As children, we learn great lessons from our parents in terms what to do and what not to do. In this case, while I strive to have her passion and dedication, I know that 100% perfection, 100% of the time is not realistic. We can’t always be going to the extreme.

15. Never stop writing

My mother was a writer. My old house had countless notebooks filled with her stories and poetry. Her creativity was inspiring. I’ve always loved to write. I got that trait from my mother. I write for myself and I write for my job. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to have that opportunity. I will never stop writing.

Why Social Media is the Best Motivator

8 Feb

social media motivationThe power of social media goes beyond connecting, sharing, amplifying and creating. It is a powerful motivator. Here’s how.

Competing

A few weeks ago I started using the Fitbit Flex to track my steps and boost my activity. I made my results public so I could compete against friends and openly share my progress. This pushed me to keep going and I surpassed my goal of 10,000 steps in the first few days, and even reached 16,000 steps by my second week.

Sharing

I typically post to Facebook five or more times a week, but recently I went days without sharing. Friends and family started asking if I was all right. “We haven’t seen any new pictures of your son lately. Is everyone OK?” The fact that I use Facebook to connect and share, results in a need to keep it up.

Connecting

I’ve been on LinkedIn more often than Twitter lately, as my new connections view my profile, send me messages and share content that interests me. With more of a focus on social media in the professional world, it’s critical to have your social profiles updated and representative of who you are.

Creating

Social media is all about sharing the content you create. I love writing, but before social media, my work would sit in journals in drawers or in Word docs on my hard drive. Now that we write in a world where people can see and share our work, I am motivated to create more and ensure it’s the best it can be.

Learning

Before the Internet and social media, we’d learn from books, teachers, mentors, friends and family. While this still holds true, we now have access to more books, teachers, mentors, friends and family than ever before and can find answers to questions with a few clicks.

Changing

Social media’s influence goes way beyond just you and me. 140 of the largest online charities saw a 35% in online charitable funding in one year due to social media. (Check out this infographic to see more.) This means that social media has the power to change the lives of people all over the world and it starts with a little motivation.

How has social media motivated you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

5 Motivating Tips about the Fitbit Flex

30 Jan

Fitbit Flex TipsIt was time to track my steps. I have been monitoring my daily jogs, my calories, my GPS location, my time at work, my son’s height and weight and many, many more quantifiable aspects of my everyday life. Much of it was tied into social media so all my friends knew this information, too. And so, with the growth of fitness and tracking technology such as Fitbit, tracking my steps was a logical next step.

I wanted the Fitbit Flex when it came out last May. It had a wristband to keep you motivated, tied into social media with amazing gamification, and was one of the top-rated pedometers on the market. But at the time, there was a 6-8 week wait and a hefty price tag for something I wasn’t even sure I’d love. Needless to say, it was a hard step to take.

About eight months later, I won a Fitbit Flex off eBay in a matter of hours, had it in a matter of days, and paid far less than the original price. (A great example of how the fast evolution of technology works in our favor.)

I’ve had the Fitbit Flex for about a week now and as most of today’s buyers, I felt 110% prepared for it due to my overly-diligent research. I thought I knew everything from specs to battery life and all the tips and tricks from the now-veterans of the device.

I was wrong.

As a Southwest 747 takes me to Chicago, I write this post and think about how I’ve enjoyed this past week. I’ve learned a ton. Here are my takeaways if you are thinking of going on this step-by-step adventure.

 1. Get your steps in early

The first few nights, I was literally walking around the house trying to get the last 500-1,000 steps to meet my goal. (My husband’s eye-rolling was prevalent as I took my dining room table laps.) Besides looking crazy, I was driving myself crazy. Start your day off with a walk or jog to get a few thousand steps under your belt. Then, do little things throughout the day like walking during conference calls, using the bathroom furthest from your desk and drinking from smaller water bottles so you have to get up and refill often. These little things add up to major steps and in combination with your morning workout, you’ll reach your goal by the end of the day.

2. Get social and competitive

At first I was nervous to publically share my steps. What if I ranked dead last? At first, you will. The leaderboard uses your weekly average to rank you, so the first week will put your smiling avatar in a spot that’s not so happy. However, if you start crushing it on day one, week two will look very different and it will only go up from there. This is motivating, fun and addicting as hell.

3. Set activities

Tap your Fitbit until two lights display (usually about five taps). This initiates an activity, such as a workout. When you’re done, tap it multiple times again. This helps you track the length, timing, calories burned and distance of your activity. The Fitbit wants you to do at least 30 minutes of activities a day, so this is another great motivator.

 4. Set goals to your needs

The Fitbit automatically gives you a 10,000-step goal and a 30-minute activity time. This is a great baseline, but if you surpass it — or if you can’t quite get there — adjust it to your needs. Don’t be afraid to downgrade or upgrade. This is all about YOU.

5. Know the basics to get the most out of your device

Doing your research before making a purchase is smart, but oftentimes we stop there. We don’t read the manual or learn the ins and outs ourselves.  Something as simple-looking at a Fitbit Flex is more complex than I imagined. But the good news is it’s intuitive once you get to know it. Remember some basics such as:

  • Download the Fitbit app and sync it to your Fitbit device right away. This enables you to see and track your progress, compete, join groups, etc. You don’t need the dongle for this.
  • Tap it two times to see your progress. Five lights means you met your goal so without even looking at your app, you’ll see your progress. Once you meet your goal, this feature goes away.
  • Tap it about five times to set an activity. This includes sleep. Note your Flex will recognize when you’re being active without you prompting it, so don’t worry if you forget to do this before a workout.
  • Set battery notifications. The Fitbit Flex lasts about five days, so set a reminder, mark your calendar, or use the notification feature on your Fitbit Flex account to ensure every step is counted.
  • There is no clock. The Flex’s display is limited to five lights. There is no clock, no calorie counter, and no fancy visuals. If you’re looking for that, consider the Fitbit Force or the Fitbit One.

At the end of the day, reaching and surpassing your goals is up to you. Let a device help you get there and with the social and competitive tie, you’ll have fun making it happen.

Do you use a device like a Fitbit Flex? Share your learnings here.

What Border Collies Can Teach You About Community

19 Jan

Border CollieThe list of reasons why we adopt dogs is endless, and it typically starts with companionship. I have a seven-year-old Border Collie named Cooper, and he is not only my buddy, work-from-home coworker and exercise partner, but he helps me experience a new world of community. Here’s how.

 

Social Sharing

Border Collie CommunitySharing pictures of our pets online is as common as baby photos and selfies, but when you use a relevant hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and now Facebook, other like-minded users can engage in your photos as well. For my dog, I use:

  • #bordercollie
  • #dogsofinstagram

Using specific hashtags, such as the dog breed, combined with popular hashtags for that platform (#dogsofinstagram) results in new connections with similar interests.

Facebook Groups

Border Collie Appreciation Facebook GroupThere are Facebook groups for just about any topic, but the Border Collie Appreciation Facebook Group is a classic example of a community. With nearly 10,000 members stretching across the globe (most Border Collies are in Europe), the group is always active. There are photos, videos, questions, and discussions.  No where else could I see, hear and learn from so many Border Collie owners.

I recently posted a photo of the Border Collie calendar I got for Christmas and one member of the group shared that their dog was featured in it. Now I know Mr. October. More than just the fun of it, it’s where people grieve over lost pets, ask questions about pet health, get ideas and tips, and more.

Meet Ups

While the online world is a growing place for communities, they still thrive in the flesh. There’s a local agility group with dog disc competitions where I can see other agile dogs (many Border Collies) and meet their owners. From training to practicing to mingling, these in-person events offer a great experience for me and my dog. After all, our dogs don’t use Facebook, so get them involved in a community, too!

Of course, other breeds take part in communities. Pugs have a big Meet Up scene. Check out this video of their Meet Up in LA.

How has your dog encouraged community?

How a Stranger on a Train Changed My Outlook on Failure

11 Jan

Metro North Railroad is my ticket back to Connecticut from New York City. The ride to New Haven is about 90 minutes, and typically, I spend it working, listening to music, reading or desperately trying to fall asleep.

This past Wednesday, I took the 10:10 PM train home after an all-day company event in midtown. I was ready to crash and mentally preparing myself for the long train ride home.

Boarding Metro North is a strategic endeavor. It’s open seating so you must choose your location wisely. Too far forward or too far back and you’ll have a long walk on the platform. The middle of the train is wise, but there are many bathroom cars.

Finally I found a spot that was relatevely open and bathroom free. I wrestled out of my coat and scarf and threw myself down in a seat.

“Tired?” asked a young, 20-something sitting across from me. He was wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and a mohawk combed to one side.

“Yes.” It was at this moment that I could engage in further conversation or plug in my earbuds and zone out for the next hour and a half.

I travel a lot and one thing I’ve learned is the best way to pass time is to have a good conversation. It beats listening to the same tunes, reading the same books or trying to finish that deck you’ve been working on for hours already.

So I chose to let the conversation continue.

“What were you up to today?” He asked, leaning forward and genuinely interested in my upcoming response.

I told him about my time at the conference, how I work for salesforce.com, and how it was another great event. Then I asked him the same question.

“That’s cool, I know Salesforce since I build apps. I just came from a meeting where we decided to end one of our startups. The app just wasn’t getting the return visits,” he said nonchalantly, “But that’s the life of building apps. Some work, some don’t. You live, learn and move on.”

I learned a lot about the world of building apps on that train ride and while I work for (and have worked for) companies that build them, I’ve always been on the hurry-up-and-wait-and-then-market side.

He then went on to tell me about a few new app ideas running around in his head. He was excited by them all, as if the tough day’s events never occurred. He wanted my reaction, was open to discussion and dove right into the next app idea as we passed town after town.

It wasn’t so much his knowledge of apps that intrigued me during that ride, but his outlook on life. He was hard-working but carefree, smart yet open to learn, funny yet stone-cold serious when it came to his passions.

Here are my takeaways from that experience.

1. Failing is fine

We all work so hard to succeed, but it’s important to recognize the failures. Without that, you can’t grow.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about failures with complete strangers

In other words, share your failures and much as you share your successes. This transparency and openness will only feed great conversation and ideas.

3. It’s OK to suck at your passion

While this kid has built great apps (he’s created a few that I use), he was OK with the fact that he wasn’t always great at it. He talked about his successful apps as well as the terrible ones as if he was proud of all of it.

4. Look at what’s next

Once you’ve experienced and addressed that failure, it’s time to move on. Look forward to new opportunities and what’s to come. Take your learnings from the past and apply them tomorrow.

I never got his name and we parted quickly once the train doors opened, but I will never forget the great conversation (and blogging is a great way to remember it all). Now I’m ready to address my failures and succeed more than I ever have before. Are you?

7 Ways to Relax Before the New Year

29 Dec

relaxation tips2014 is next week and while this is typically time for days off, sleeping in and eggnog overload, it is never as relaxing as it should be. Seeing family and friends, cooking, cleaning, traveling, decorating our homes and taking care of our kids are just a few of the ways we spend our time this busy season.

The good news is there are many ways to relax this time of year (you just have to find them). Here’s what I do.

Play Games

Yes, paying attention to nothing but mind-numbing games, from Candy Crush to Monopoly to Grand Theft Auto 5, is a break from everyday stresses. I download a few on my iPad every month or so and I recently got a Playstation 3 for hours of great, de-stressing fun.

Get Outside

Spending time outside and enjoying the fresh air is a great way to relax. I like to go for a walk around the neighborhood, take a hike or find somewhere to go sledding. No matter if you live in a cold or warm climate, you can (and should) get out of your house.

Take Pictures

With friends and family all around, now is the time to take pictures of the new memories you’re creating. But that’s not where it ends. Take an hour to walk around taking pictures. My husband loves to do this with his professional camera, but I have just as much fun using Instagram and my iPhone. It’s relaxing to focus on nothing but the subject in front of you.

Spa (at home)

I can’t always afford a day at the spa, but it’s easy to replicate the experience at home. I get the sample and small-size spa products at CVS or online. Then, I grab an hour to dedicate to a bath or a mini facial. This is a break that’s good for your brain and your skin.

Act Like a Toddler

When I play with my toddler, I think about nothing but him and the next silly face I’ll make or the next turn I’ll take as we run around the house. We have a giant tunnel (featured above) that we crawl around in for hours. I think I burn more calories in that thing (and laughing about it) than anything else.

Exercise

I love suiting up for a run in the mornings to kick off my day. When you exercise, it’s hard to focus on anything else, so your stressful thoughts disappear. Afterward, you’ll enjoy the relaxing feeling of your warm, stretched muscles.

Write

I always say that blogging is a great way to relax and share your ideas and thoughts. It lets you be creative in a way that you control. Find time to write in a journal or blog. There’s plenty to write about with all the new memories you’re making this holiday season.

What other ways do you relax? Share your thoughts and hope you have a happy and healthy new year.

12 Content Marketers to Follow on Twitter this Holiday

15 Dec
Me, Jeff Cohen and Hunter Boyle at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013.

Me, Jeff Cohen and Hunter Boyle at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013.

Social media, conferences and even our daily jobs pave the way for us to meet and interact with some amazing people in our industries. I’ve been lucky enough to travel for conferences and meetings this year, which opened the door for handshakes and conversations with people I admire most.

While the list of amazing content marketers is vast, this holiday I thought about the people I’ve known via Twitter, yet had the honor of meeting in person for the first time this year. Those interactions were unforgettable and so, whether you meet them in person on not, I recommend starting the conversation with a Twitter follow. Your holiday will be even brighter with the minds of these 12 people.

So grab some eggnog and your smartphone, because in no particular order, here’s the list.

Michael Brenner

Michael is not only a smart content and social media marketer, but he is excited and open to conversations about the industry. I’ve followed him on Twitter for years, so to meet at Content Marketing World 2013 was a true highlight. Follow Michael at @brennermichael.

Dianna Smith (Irreverent Sales Girl)

The Irreverent Sales Girl may be a salesperson, but she knows content marketing. We’ve been working together this year, and it was great to meet at Dreamforce 2013. Dianna is tapped into what salespeople need to do their job well and shares these insights with content that’s straightforward and helpful. Not only is she smart and passionate about her work, but she’s a lot of fun. Follow her at @isalesgirl.

Doug Kessler

I’ve seen Doug’s work in the world of Slideshare, and despite living across the pond, Twitter enabled us to like and share each other’s content. When I met him at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013, I was excited to hear him talk about those projects and gain insight that went far beyond reading his work. Follow him at @dougkessler.

Tim Washer

You’ll get a sense of his wit on Twitter and hearing him speak will certainly bring that to life. I had a chance to get to know him at MarketingProfs B2B Forum this year, and hearing his stories — from acting auditions to life at the office — was insightful and hilarious. Follow him at @timwasher.

Kyle Lacy

From tweets to webinars to in-person meetings, 2013 was a year of new conversations and collaboration for me and Kyle. He is just as smart and idea-centric as his tweets and definitely worth the follow at @kyleplacy.

Jeff Rohrs

I met Jeff in person before following him in Twitter, and now we can follow up and have future conversations online and off. He has many tweets stemming from his new book, Audience. Check him out at @jkrohrs.

Ann Handley

Ann is known as the Queen of Content Marketing, and I completely agree. From Twitter, to the stage, to in-person conversations, Ann is always full of stellar content ideas. She is helpful, smart and so much fun. Follow her at @annhandley and @marketingprofs.

Jay Baer

Jay’s phrases, such as, “always be helping”, are becoming the mantra of content marketing. He knows how to tweet, present and discuss this concept better than most. I had the chance to chat with him at Content Marketing World over the music of an 80s rock cover band. Classic. Follow him at @jaybaer.

Jesse Noyes

After meeting Jesse at Content Marketing World 2013, I learned that he doesn’t just understand content marketing, he lives and breathes it. I’m honored to collaborate with him and recommend you start some conversations with Jesse both online and off. Follow him at @noyesjesse.

William Tyree

Like the Irreverent Sales Girl, William is a successful content marketing salesperson. I worked with him this year and got to meet him at Dreamforce for the first time. It was great to chat about the work we’ve done together and what’s to come. Tap into his ideas, writing and knowledge by following him at @williamtyree.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden always brings fresh, exciting content to the table. I met him at Content Marketing World and enjoyed the time to regroup on the content we’ve created together. Follow him at @leeodden and @TopRank.

Hunter Boyle

Hunter and I connected at Content Marketing World and then MarketingProfs B2B Forum this year. Besides following him on Twitter for the great photos of AWeber’s in-office slides, he’s a content marketer, with smart ideas and blog content. Follow him at @hunterboyle.

There’s a long list of marketers I hope to meet in 2014 and no doubt it will be another exciting year. Share your favorite contacts on Twitter, the marketers you met this year, and those you look forward to meeting in 2014. Happy holidays and hope it’s full of great content marketing!

Note I have to make a small shout out to Jeff Cohen for the great photo and for always giving me the content marketing ideas and boosts I need. We didn’t meet for the first time this year, but he’s always at the top of my list.

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