Combining football, business & money into an expert personal brand: A chat with Kristi Dosh

Fall is almost here in my part of the world. Warm sweaters. Pumpkin Spice lattes.  And of course…football season! If you know me, you know I’m a huge football fan, both college and pro. I would never call myself an advanced expert, but I know the game, can recognize many ref calls, and, when my husband wants to wind me up for an amusing rant, he’ll bring up the Wildcat formation (while exciting to watch, people can’t just go around playing any position they want to, IMHO)

Whether you, too, are a football fan like me or not, you will love today’s post. It’s about sports, yes, but it’s also about how to create an expert personal brand to launch blogs, books and speaking opportunities. We’re talking with Kristi Dosh, ESPN’s sports business reporter, an attorney, public speaker and author. Kristi is the founder of, a website dedicated to the financial side of collegiate athletics. Kristi’s latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires: How College Football Builds Winning Colleges launched this week.  She also has another book due out next year: Balancing Baseball: How Collective Bargaining Has Changed the Major Leagues. Kristi is a frequent guest lecturer in sports management and law programs.

We crossed paths through HARO for a freelance article she wrote. And I’m so glad we did, as she combines two things I love: business and sports. Read on to see why she wrote a book about the business of college football, and for your own brand and business, how she not only became an expert on this topic after being an attorney for many years, but how she promotes this personal brand effectively (hint: targeting is key!) 

RS: Welcome Kristi! What made you decide to write a book about the business of college football?

KD: In the early days of my sports media career – the ones where I wrote for free for Forbes and anyone who would have me on their blog while simultaneously practicing law full-time – I became fascinated by financial statements for college athletic departments. Math was never my favorite subject, but I found out pretty early on while covering the sports business that numbers can tell a story. And the story I was reading between the lines of athletic department financials was nothing like what I knew about college football from years of being a fan. In early 2011, I wrote a six-part series for SportsMoney on Forbes about the finances of every public school in the six “automatic-qualifying” conferences. Those posts received more views and feedback than any other posts I’d ever written, and I knew something was there. At that time, no one was writing about the business side of college sports on a consistent basis, and fans were becoming interested in what was going on off the field in these athletic departments earning millions from television contracts. Seeing the interest and realizing there was a gap in coverage by the sports media, I began to seek out more stories about the business side of college athletics, particularly football. It wasn’t long before I realized all I was learning from my research and visits to college campuses for facilities tours and sit-downs with athletic directors was changing the way I viewed college athletics. I knew not every fan would have that opportunity, so I wrote the book as a way of sharing everything I’ve learned with fans.

RS: How do you become an expert on a topic like this?

KD: First, I think it helped that I chose a topic where there was a gap in the coverage by traditional media. It’s sort of like when you’re developing a new product – you want something that fills the white space.

Next, you have to commit 100 percent. I made learning everything I could about the business side of athletic departments, and writing on what I learned, a part-time job in addition to my full-time job that was paying my mortgage and student loans. I started a blog called so that all my writing on this subject would be in one easy-to-find place. Then I committed to writing on that site every single weekday. Between the launch of the site and the day I quit writing for the site to join ESPN, I posted 133 blogs in 175 days. In fact, I believe one of the reasons I ended up at ESPN was because their college football writers were linking to my blog on a weekly basis. On top of that, I was promoting myself to radio stations around the country as an expert on the matter by sending them blog posts pertinent to their market.

RS: How do you market yourself as an expert?

KD: I think self-promotion comes more naturally for some than others – for better or for worse, it comes pretty naturally to me. That being said, I think anyone can learn how to do it. Most importantly, you have to create something you can show to people to prove you’re an expert, whether it’s a blog, a book, a podcast – anything that illustrates your knowledge. Then you have to present that knowledge to the right people. This is where I see many young bloggers get off track. They inundate more senior writers on Twitter, LinkedIn and email with every post they write. My strategy was to carefully select who I targeted so as to give myself the best chance of having that person look at my work. For example, if I wrote about the finances of FSU’s athletic department, I was going to try and get it in the hands of beat writers who cover FSU and local radio hosts and producers. It didn’t make sense to me to send it to a national writer when it’s more of a local interest story, or to send it to someone who doesn’t cover the team regularly. Obviously getting a national writer to tweet out your story or reference it in his/her own piece is amazing exposure, but you can’t just send those people everything you write. Instead, I’d watch for them to write a piece that something of mine tied into – then I’d send them my piece. In the end, I found the most effective way to get other people to help you is to find a way to help them do their job better.

About  Saturday Millionaires:

Saturday-MIllionaires-BookLast year Football Bowl Subdivision college football programs produced over $1 billion in net revenue. Record-breaking television contracts were announced.  Despite the enormous revenue, college football is in upheaval. Schools are accused of throwing their academic mission aside to fund their football teams. The media and fans are beating the drum for athletes to be paid. And the conferences are being radically revised as schools search for TV money. Saturday Millionaires shows that schools are right to fund their football teams first; that athletes will never be paid like employees; how the media skews the financial facts; and why the TV deals are so important. It follows the money to the heart of college football and shows the real game being played, including debunking 6 myths most people have about college football programs, such as: Myth #2: Supporting Football Means Degrading Academics and Myth #5: A Playoff Will Bring Equality to College Football

Check out Kristi’s great new book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (print & digital editions for both). Follow her on Twitter for more insights and news.

Your turn: What area of expertise do you promote in your brand? Why did you choose that area: skill, passion or something else? Please share in the Comments below. Or just let me know your favorite football team you’ll be cheering in this fall!


Ouch! 7 ways to deal with criticism

As many of you know, this summer I’m on sabbatical as I take a 5-week summer acting congress with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), one of the most renowned theaters and actor training/MFA programs in the country. Alumni include Annette Bening,, Denzel Washington, Elizabeth Banks, Anika Noni Rose and countless other working actors whose faces you’ve seen but whose names you may not know. Even Blaine from Glee is a Youth Conservatory graduate.

We are now in our last week and it’s been an amazing experience: creative, intense, exhausting, lively, moving. I have 15 other people in my “company” and we are like a band of brothers, spending sun-up to sundown together, exposing our most vulnerable selves and exploring expression via our voice, bodies and minds as we work to become better storytellers.

Invited to completely let go and try everything out in order to get closer to the true art of acting, we are also naked and exposed. Failures happen. Frustrations mount. And inevitably, we are forced to confront criticism.

Thankfully, our instructors are some of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. They’ve worked with some of the greats and I take everything they say to heart. Plus, I am the sort  who craves feedback like a sugar addict on a juice cleanse. But sometimes, negative criticism can sting. Especially when you completely put yourself out there – as you do with your business, your art or your work.

So how can you respond? Here are 7 ways you can cope with criticism:

Breathe deeply, open your ears and listen:

Easier said than done, but put aside your indignation for a second, take a deep breath and actively listen to the feedback.  When you feel yourself slipping into your inner monologue of anger and despair – while the person is still talking – focus your mind on the words they are saying. Taking notes while you get this feedback can help you slow down and really hear the feedback so you can improve things for next time around.

Have a good cry:

I don’t recommend doing this while you are actually receiving the criticism for three reasons: One, it prevents you from practicing Tip #1. Two, if they are a nasty person, you don’t want to give them the satisfaction. Three, if this is a professional situation, it can make the critic very uncomfortable and no matter what he or she says, they will always remember you as The Crier. If you must cry (and we’ve all been there), wait until you are alone and let the tears flow. I know this can be hard, especially when you feel wronged or misunderstood, but try. And then once you’re alone, enjoy the cathartic release. Once you clear the pain physically from your body, unclench your muscles and sniffle away the last of the sobs, your mind will be clear enough to play back the feedback and find the gold.

Argue your case:

I don’t recommend this one…and this is coming from someone who has tried on several occasions. First, the person criticizing you may not give a fig what you think and so you are just wasting your breath. Second, getting defensive means you are not taking in what the person is saying to gain any sort of benefit out of it. And third, the person could be a boss, valuable client or a VIP decision maker who can make or break your career and it’s best not to burn bridges. Of course, if someone is stating outright lies, you should defend yourself but do it with facts and have an adult discussion, not a tantrum. Or better yet, as I have done in the past, go away for a bit, consider the criticism and draft a “reply” of sorts, walking the person through your thinking. You may not change their mind, but they (and others who hear about it) will respect you far more for playing it cool. Nothing good happens when you let your temper get the best of you in the moment – trust an Italian redhead on this one, please.

Consider the context:

For all of us in this summer acting program, we understand we are here to learn and the teachers are here to teach. That’s what we’re paying for. If we can’t take criticism along with praise, then what the hell are we all doing? The point of the program is to attempt, finesse and improve, and no one can do this in a vacuum. Same goes if you get negative customer, client or audience feedback. Appreciate that someone is taking the time to tell you how you can make things better and also acknowledge the relationship – you are there to serve them. They have a right to tell you how they think you did. Learn from it and improve for the next time.

Understand the agenda:

Often people criticize in a very blunt and hurtful way and it can be anything but constructive. It just feels like they personally hate you and want to watch you die. This stings the most, especially when you’re not expecting it. But as with the tip above, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture. What’s this person’s angle? Are you a threat? Does keeping you down elevate them? Or maybe this person uses fear and negativity as way to exert power, as a previous manager of mine did. At first she made me so angry, I’d cry (not in front of her – see  #2) When I realized this, I started to take her critiques with a grain of salt, throwing out the crap I thought was her own baggage and taking in what made sense. It actually helped our relationship. Or perhaps the critic has a certain communication style born out of personal tragedy or hurt. Whatever the case, consider the critique’s source and make sure you understand what’s in it for them before you take everything to heart.

Don’t dwell on one bad review:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen great online reviews and received kind emails about my books, but then I let the one Negative Nellie nag at my soul. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s JUST ONE OPINION. Instead, look at the aggregate, not the extremes, and see if there are nuggets you can find for delighting people even further next time. Even the casting director we’re working with, who is pretty damn direct with feedback, always adds that this is just her personal aesthetic, and that doesn’t mean other casting directors would have a problem with a piece being performed a certain way. At least we know with her there is absolutely zero B.S. which is powerful and useful to us. If it helps, create a Feel Good folder and put all praise and compliments in that folder. When you find yourself dwelling on that one low presentation score or bad online review, start reading those Feel Good items and snap yourself out of it.

Do something:

If the critique is useful and you’ve considered the source and the context to be valid, I don’t recommend you do nothing with it. Denying all feedback and continuing to do things the same old way is not a recipe for growth. Many people feel most comfortable wrapping themselves up in their cocoon of self-delusion, but try to find the takeaway in what critics offer up. You may find that something you intended did not come across as you’d hoped so you need to be clearer. Or that you overlooked a minor detail that you now understand makes a big difference. In my acting program, I’m learning that the emotions in my head are not always translating into clear viewable actions for the audience. So now I know I have some work to do. See how you can Implement the valid criticism you get into real action steps and make your work/art shine even brighter.

No matter what the situation, always view negative feedback as a chance to improve and grow. Never use it as an excuse to quit. (Tweet!)

I invite you to try one of these the next time you’re slapped with the criticism stick and see what transpires.

Have you ever received negative criticism? How did you react to it? Any good tips or tricks for how you made it work for you? Please share in the Comments…you never know when your experience can help someone else!

The secret to differentiating your brand? You.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde (Tweet!)

What makes your brand, business or creative endeavor uniquely you? 

When we’re insecure teens, it seems easiest to just copy someone else. At that age, originality is just too risky.  Or is it?

Let me take you back to 1988. My best friend and I were inseparable. Whether it was busting out dance moves to Whitney Houston’s latest hit, swooning over teen heartthrobs (she: River Phoenix, Me: Kirk Cameron – before he went all oddballs) or taping our own version of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies (hopefully lost forever), we found comfort in our shared interests and tastes.

But the scandal that threatened to rock our friendship? We bought the exact same denim miniskirt jumper.

I admit, it was adorable when she bought it and naively thinking it would fun, I went and bought one, too. It fit both of our lean frames to a T. But she was not pleased at all and as you can guess, the inevitable happened: we wore it to school on the same day. Now granted, out high school teemed with more than 2000 students, but still….she didn’t speak to me for a whole day, which back then felt as long as the Civil War.

And I realized I had messed up.

In trying to take a short-cut and simply copy her style, I failed to cultivate my own identity – and ended up coming off like a first-rate tool.

What works for someone else may not work for you. Either it’s not at all believable, or it just looks desperate and sad. Just think about all the Apple lookalike ads you may have seen for sub-par (and not as cool) technology. But the inverse is also true: what works beautifully for you may be laughable for someone else to even attempt. (Tweet!)

You need to walk your talk and authentically deliver what you promise. How do you do that? By embracing and owning who you authentically are. It’s your story. Only you – with your perspective, experience, world view, sensibility, taste, emotion and intelligence – can tell it the way you  tell it.

While visiting the UK, I caught a news program on an MSNBC-type network. The pundit shouting at me sounded an awful lot like Rachel Maddow, who I happen to like. But it was a sad attempt to mimic her success – down to the cadence and tone with which she spoke. It was clear she was trying to replicate someone else’s success rather than create her own.

Why do we think it’s easier to copy someone else rather than break new ground? Why do we feel that our story is not as valuable just because others have told something similar? If we all thought that way, another book would never be written, another painting never created, another innovative clothing design ever produced. (Tweet!)

Can you imagine? “Well, we all have enough shirts in the world, don’t we? No need to design another one.” Please.

When working with my branding clients, our process always starts with the unique spin, strengths, perspective and benefits they offer that no one else can, regardless of if they offer something that thousands of other people do. No one else can do it like they do it.

That is how you build a breakout brand  – find your uniquity and let it shine. I mean, there’s tons of branding strategists out there, right? But you’re here, now, visiting moi. Thanks for digging my unique style!

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

7 lessons learned while writing my book…and what they can teach you

Ever wanted to write a book?

When I was six, I wrote an elaborate children’s story about a family of mice who vacation at Disneyworld. I detailed their quaint village, their quirky personalities and every road trip adventure they encountered along the way. I never quite finished the tale, but relished the creative writing process. Explains all the poems, unpublished essays, and Chapter One’s sitting on my laptop, gathering dust.

Do you have an unfinished opus about your expertise sitting on your laptop? How about the next Harry Potter or crime thriller?

Fast forward 34 years: I have now authored two books and published several print and online articles.  And these seven valuable lessons I’ve learned may help you with your future screenplay, non-fiction best-seller or literary novel.

  1. Discipline your muse: Sorry, folks. Inspiration doesn’t always just “strike” especially when you’re on deadline. I used to write only when I literally couldn’t stop the ideas from tumbling out of my head.  That doesn’t work well when you have a launch date or an expectant publisher. I thought the muse would simply strike at her own whim and I could just lazily wait for her arrival– when, really, she often comes when you discipline yourself and consistently sit down to write. Make your writing schedule realistic like I did and break it up into doable chunks (i.e., this week, I’ll complete the outline. Next week, I’ll focus on chapter one.) If you sit down and just start writing, just like showing up to a job, some days you’ll produce brilliance and others you’ll produce crap. And if you need to take a break one day, take it. Ditch the guilt and then get back to the work tomorrow. The more you produce, the more you’ll finesse, tweak, explore, hammer out, invent, – and the more likely those “A Ha!” moments will come. It’s a probability game. The more you do, the more chances you’ll find gems in the work.
  2. Commit out loud: If you’re working on a book, you’re working on a book.  That means people need to understand your schedule may be different, you might not be at your spouse’s beck and call and you may have to pass up on certain activities. How do you make this happen? Not by hiding your writing in the dark of night, but by sharing your goal with the people in your life. State your intentions out loud so you not only force yourself to commit but you set others’ expectations of your time and attention. If you treat your writing as a hobby, to be done only “when you have time” or “feel like it” (see #1) it will never get done. Added bonus? You can find support, cheerleading and maybe even a few proofreaders along the way.
  3. Get comfortable with feedback: If you wither and die when someone gives you constructive criticism, get over it or go home. No one is perfect and every writer will tell you that good writing is re-writing. You need objective outsiders to review your work, especially professional editors and proofreaders. What may make sense in your own head could leave readers scratching theirs. My editors (rightly) questioned my chapter order, whether a story really made sense or not, where I was repeating myself. Just like your brand needs an objective audit, same is true for your book. But make sure you are seeking out feedback from trusted experts (professional developmental editors, etc.) or readers in your target audience and not merely changing course according to the whim on any old critic who comes your way…which brings me to #4…
  4. Picture your reader: Just like with a brand strategy, it helps to identify your actual reader. Not only will this help you effectively market the book, it prevents the writing from becoming a tangled mess. You absolutely need to be clear about for whom you are writing and what they will get. Branding Basics was written with small business owners, non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs in mind. I had a very clear picture of these people and this guided the wording, explanations and analogies that I used. I wrote Rebooting My Brain for both women struggling to overcome a life crisis, as well as brain injury caregivers and survivors. I pictured them in my mind as I typed.  What questions might they have? What information would they want to know? What would move, delight or inspire them? This ensured my memoir became something universal, useful and valuable for others.
  5. Prepare for diverse reactions: This one was a shocker. Turns out, the people I thought would be most excited by my book writing expressed passing interest (if that) and others who I thought wouldn’t give a damn became my best cheerleaders. At first, it really irritated me and, honestly, made me very sad and unsure. Here I was, doing something that absolutely petrified me, and it was like certain people close to me were not even acknowledging it. Recognize that writing a book is an art form and not everyone “gets” artists. Some don’t know how to respond, some may think you’re nuts, others will drool with envy and still others will admire you beyond belief and support you full throttle.  And by support, I mean even just simply remember that you’re holed up writing and ask you how it’s going from time to time.  But I finally learned that my big dream was big to me and people are usually just doing the best they know how. They have their own lives to live and dreams to pursue and may not even realize how deeply their reactions (or non-reactions) are hurting you. If certain people in your life don’t engage for whatever reason, that’s kind of not any of your business – you have work to do. Throw expectations of other people’s reactions out the door, write the book because your soul has to, needs to, and be humble and grateful to those who openly support your dream.
  6. Prepare for self-doubt….often: At every point in my book writing process, for both books, I doubted myself. My expertise, my knowledge, my ability to tell a good story, whether people would care, whether they would judge me. You name it, I thought it. This is natural when you follow a dream. Someone once said that if you’re scared, then you know you’re doing the right thing. Every writer has at one point during the writing process thought, “What the hell am I doing?” But if you believe in yourself, your knowledge, your story – and never lose sight of the value it will provide – that will help you stay the course. Post up inspirational notes, talk to other writers, find an online writing community and surround yourself with people who will prop you up (or take you out for vodka tonics) when the doubt attacks.
  7. It’s your story…TELL IT! One day while writing Rebooting My Brain, my heart sank as I scrolled through title after title of “aneurysm survivor” books on Amazon and I thought, “What can I possibly add to this conversation? Some of these people are overcoming way worse long-term disabilities than I am. Plus, I’m not famous or anything so who will care about my story?” One of my dearest friends emailed me, “Maria, Eat, Pray, Love was just about a regular woman who got divorced and took a trip. How many books have been written about that? It’s all in how you TELL it, in your voice, which makes it a story people will want – and need to – read.” Bless her wise perspective. And the countless emails I’ve received thanking me for all my books have done for them is all the proof I need that she was right. No one can tell a story or share wisdom the way you can and you just may touch someone in a way no other book or story can. Don’t think your story isn’t valuable because the plotline has been done. If that were true, people would never write another new book again. Put your unique spin on it and just believe.

Which piece of advice resonates (or scares you) the most? If you’ve written a book, what additional advice would you share from your own lessons learned? Please share in the Comments!

How to finish: 5 tips for making wild dreams come true

It’s February, which means about 80% of your New Year’s goals are already shot, right? Why is dreaming up our big ideas so much easier than making them happen? Today’s insightful guest post from entrepreneur and content marketing expert Betsy Talbot will change all that.

When you embark on a big project for your business, even one as essential (and fun!) as branding, it’s easy to get lost in the details and spin out of control. Either your list of actions or decisions grows so big you can’t possibly finish it (so you don’t even start), or you make a serious dent in the list but run out of steam before you finish.

It is frustrating to be gung-ho about something important and watch it wither away to apathy or outright frustration before it is finished.

My husband Warren and I are pros at getting things done. It has always been true, but it is even more so since we first had the idea to travel the world in 2008. We eventually made our journey into a lifestyle media business called Married with Luggage that we kept for many years (we retired it to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures), and we created books and videos to show other people how to create the life they really want from the life they already have. We challenged ourselves personally and creatively to do new things, publicly and privately, and we mostly succeed.

I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing because people notice these things, and we get this question a lot via email and in person:

Why do we accomplish so many of our personal and business goals while other people struggle to even get started on theirs?

While we’d like to think it is because we are superhuman (only because we could then justify wearing shiny costumes and capes), the answer is much more practical.

In fact, it consists of just 5 basic steps which I’m going to share with you today. Tip #1 is…

1. Goals have deadlines

In our book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, my husband Warren and I wrote that a dream without a deadline is already dead. This is true if your goal is as big as a trip around the world or as small as making one sales call per day.

After you’ve determined a goal, whether it is to move, start a side business, paint your house, save money, get a new job, or lose weight, the first step is giving yourself a finish date. Without it, you won’t push yourself to get it done, no matter how much you want it. The status quo and routine of life is too comforting, too hard to break out of, without a specific reason to do so.

When we start a writing project, the first step is to give ourselves a publish date. From the very first word of the project, we know when it is due and how many words have to be written each day to make it happen. When we decide to travel to a new destination, we pick a date to go/arrive. We may leave a lot of details open after we decide to do something, but we never shrink back from a deadline.

The action of setting a date propels you to begin the work to make your goal a reality. (Tweet this!)

2. Take action on dreams every single day

You can’t really be part-time about your goals and dreams or you’ll never reach them. Many people think life is changed by big steps, huge events, and giant milestones, but the truth is that big, lasting change happens in the tiny steps and choices you make every single day. The cumulative effect of those small steps is what brings about the milestones and big leaps everyone around you thinks happened overnight.

Before we left on this journey in 2010, we sold a few possessions every single week for 2 years. Creating Craigslist ads isn’t glamorous, but it took this daily attention to decluttering to free us up to leave (and pad our bank account at the same time).

Now we use the same strategy to carve out time to write books, set up an editorial calendar, manage our websites, edit photographs, practice languages, exercise, market our books, and contribute to other websites. We also make time to connect with our friends and family around the world every week. Most people think we’re on permanent vacation, but it is because we do these essential things that we continue to live a life of travel and experience.

You don’t get something for nothing.

The small actions you take on your goals every single day are a better predictor of overall success than your perfectly drafted plans or good intentions. (Tweet this!)

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new or make a mistake

When you want to accomplish more things, it means you’ll be doing more. It may sound simple to spell it out like that, but people forget. And when the things you want to get done are new to you, you are bound to make mistakes.

Warren and I screw up regularly, but we typically don’t screw up twice on the same thing. The key in all this new activity is to learn from what works as well as what doesn’t so you continually improve as you go. When you eventually become good at one thing, it opens up space in your life to become a beginner at something else.

When we were in Peru we signed up for our first multi-day trek. We had zero experience other than walking, and we came very ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the journey. We were wet and tired every single day – we didn’t even bring rain gear during the rainy season! – but we learned a lot. Since then, we’ve become pros at trekking and do it all over the world.

The key is to never stop making mistakes because it means you’ve stopped trying new things. (Tweet this!)

4. Know how to take negative feedback

Opinions are like asses: everyone’s got one. And sometimes the person giving you his opinion is an asshole. But getting things done requires a certain amount of rubber to your skin. You will always have critics, even when you do amazing things (Campbell’s Soup says thousands will lose jobs after Betsy Talbot selfishly cures common cold! Details at 11.). Sometimes the feedback is justified and you can learn from it, making you or your project better, and other times you’re going to just have to let it bounce off.

The key is divorcing your personal feelings of worth from feedback on your endeavors, both good and bad. Failure or mistakes on a project do not equate to failures or mistakes as a human being. This is also when you discover that some people will love what you are doing for the exact same reasons others hate it. You will never please everyone, and knowing this from the start will help you keep moving – and learning – when negative feedback starts.

When you can step to the side and view feedback in a more objective way, it allows you to glean the lessons and discard the trash quickly and productively. (Tweet this!)

5. Track actions and results

Whether you geek out like we do with a spreadsheet or you journal your progress creatively with video or art, staying on track with a goal requires tracking. If your project is longer than a day, you will forget what you’ve done, the brainstorms you had for what to do next, or the ideas others contribute along the way. Tracking also keeps you from veering off into unnecessary tasks as your attention wanders.

Weight Watchers has built their entire business around tracking food and calorie intake daily and weighing weekly. Athletes keep track of their personal best performance times so they can improve. Project managers track everything from software development to building houses.

We keep track of the metrics on our website, Facebook page, and book sales, learning what works and what doesn’t. We track our pitches to other websites, radio, and magazines. We monitor our daily writing counts when working on a book. We make a list of all the things we want to see/eat/do when we arrive in a new location so we won’t forget.

It can be as simple as a small notebook or as elaborate as a software program.

You’ll reach your goals faster if you know what to do, when to do it, and what happens as a result of doing it. (Tweet this!)

How you can get more things done

Whether you have one big dream in mind or just want to accomplish more of the small stuff on a regular basis, these 5 habits will create the perfect environment to make it happen. We work these habits every day, and they have given us a life we once only dreamed of. (In fact, that’s why we never had it before: we were only dreaming!)

  • Set a firm deadline
  • Take daily action on your goals
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes and trying new things
  • Learn from negative feedback (and ignore it when there is nothing to learn)
  • Track your actions and results

Betsy and Warren Talbot show people every day how to make their biggest dreams a reality with practical, step-by-step advice that works. Check out their book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, to find out how you can make your wildest dreams a reality. (EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s fantastic!) 

Which one tip will you put into practice today to make your dreams a reality? Tweet me @redslice and let me know!

How to make and keep friends….without the playground. A conversation with Shasta Nelson

As I get older, I’m fascinated by friendship and how it evolves over time. Since moving several times in my life and leaving a corporate job for solo business ownership, I’ve also had to learn to cultivate new friends and “work friends” in a whole new way.

I’m excited to announce that a new friend in my life, Shasta Nelson, wrote an amazing book – Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends— which hits bookshelves this month. As the founder of, a women’s friendship matching site in 35 U.S. and Canadian cities, she is one of the foremost experts on the subject of healthy female friendships. Shasta can frequently be seen in national media, speaking about how adults can develop effective friendships.

Whether you’re currently looking for new friendships for work or play or you want to strengthen the ones you have—Shasta’s book is a treat. I sat down to talk with her about the role of friendship in our personal and professional lives.

RS: Welcome Shasta! Why did you call the book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen?

SN: Many of us wish we had a few closer friends but we tend to want those friendships to just happen, the way it felt like as a kid of college student. Those friendships seemed to just happen automatically without us having to be all that intentional. The title of my book reminds us that we can create meaningful adult friends. It’s less about us waiting around for the right person and more about creating the right friendship with those who are around us.

RS: In a world where we are all increasingly busy, are friendships a nice-to-have or a must-have?

SN: Without a doubt, they are a must-have. The health benefits of close relationships are too numerous to count– everything from lower stress and fewer colds to increased happiness and greater success in our personal goals. If we feel like we have a circle of supportive friends then we recover from surgery faster, increase our odds of surviving breast cancer, and literally extend the years of our brains and hearts. Research has shown that if we feel disconnected then it is twice as damaging on our health as being obese and is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Building up healthy friendships is a non-negotiable for those who value their health.

RS: How can entrepreneurs, especially women, nurture and cultivate their friendships when, so often, the friend/work colleague lines get blurred for them in particular?

SN: I say let the lines blur!  Work is still the number one place where we make friends and for those of us who own our own business or work from home, we definitely still want to use our work as a connection point with others.  But it’s more important to understand what those friendships are and what they are not.

In my book, I talk about 5 different types of friends; the 2nd being what I call Common Friends, those friendships where we have one thing, such as work/business, holding us together.  This can look like scheduling a lunch with two fellow business owners every month, joining a local mastermind group, or participating in an active networking association.  Our goal is to be as consistent as possible with our chosen connections so that our sharing can become deeper and more meaningful within the area of shared commonality.

There are two common mistakes that are often made in this Common Friends circle.  The first one is minimizing the significance this group of friends can have in our lives. It’s easy to think that if we can’t see ourselves becoming best friends with these women that somehow there’s no point to investing in these friendships. This is such a hugely important area of friendship as these friends understand our business, know what it feels like to be entrepreneurs, and can provide us introductions and resources  – and many of our  closest friends can’t always support us in this way.

The second mistake is to do the opposite and actually start believing that this circle of women is also our group of best friends. Many women get their feelings hurt when they leave a job and none of their former colleagues followed up with them. That is because the friendship was built on having one thing in common–work– so when that one thing ends, so does the friendship. Friendships must be developed, not discovered, which means that moving these women from the 2nd circle to the 4th or 5th one takes consistency, intimacy, history, and an expanding of what we share when we’re together.    Some of the women from your business group may eventually become your closest friends, but that is part of the process I talk about in the book to help move women into the friendships that matter most to you.

RS: Why should people read this book?

SN: Much is written and taught about romantic love and parent-child relationships. We buy armloads of books on these subjects that feel so urgent and life consuming. Yet, when it comes to our friendships—relationships that will outweigh in quantity the number of kids and spouses most of us will have—we tend to take a much more laid-back approach. We end up just hoping that we’ll meet the right women, at the right time, and both know the right way to act. While some of us have seen good modeling of healthy platonic friendships, the vast majority of us are left hoping that it just comes intuitively, as though we should know how to make and keep good friends. Few of us have been taught what we need to know. This book not only offers the steps to creating meaningful friendships, but provides a helpful way to constantly evaluate and better understand our friendships as we go through life.

To learn more about Shasta and the book, please click here. To snag your print or digital copy, click here.

If you own your own business, work at a small start-up or work from home, what one tips do you have about making and maintaining friendships? What has worked for you? Are your business colleagues also your friends? Please share in the Comments!

Ahoy! 4 lessons for success learned while sailing the ocean

When people do something audacious and almost unimaginable, I tend to soak up their wisdom. They are the brave, after all. The bold. The ones who dare step off the cliff and test how deep the water really is while the rest of us bask safely on shore.

Wendy Hinman is a writer friend of mine who has lived an extraordinary life. She sailed the Pacific with her husband for 7 years, returned changed and wiser, and has written a book about her adventure, Tightwads of the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey. Today’s she shares four lessons about life and success learned on that ocean voyage. Enjoy….

You can do amazing things one day at a time.

If someone had told me years ago that I would sail 34,000 miles over seven years on a small sailboat, I’d never have believed it.  But I didn’t do it all in a single day.  I covered those miles one day at a time(Tweet!) And that’s how you can reach your goals: in little steps, that quickly add up to significant milestones. The same was true when I wrote my book.I began by writing a scene each week for my writing group–a little story or anecdote about the challenges we faced while sailing. They made suggestions, and before long I had enough to fill and shape a full-length book.

Some of the most satisfying things in life come from overcoming challenges.

People often dream about kicking back and relaxing, but it’s often the biggest challenges we face that make us feel the most alive. I learned the rewards were richer the harder I had to fight for them.  Making landfall after 21 days of non-stop sailing was a big deal, and I appreciated the place I’d reached even more because it was hard to get there(Tweet!) I relished the lush vegetation, the rocky spires that jutted into the sky, and the cool waterfalls all the more.

If you don’t push yourself, you don’t know what you’re capable of.

We faced countless challenges and many moments we thought might be our last.  We faced storms, typhoons, reefs, broken equipment and some shady characters whose intentions were uncertain at best and tested our resolve and endurance in rough conditions. Some days I doubted I could take any more. (Tweet!) On our last passage, after more than 46 days of non-stop sailing–not seeing another human being besides my husband for over a month and a half–a storm drove us offshore for another three days.  I didn’t think I could take another moment.  But given no choice, not only did I survive, I accomplished something few others ever have.

It helps to keep a sense of humor.

After ten days sailing in horrible weather, waves crashing over me, the boat interior damp and mildewy beyond belief and a sewage problem the CDC would have quarantined, I was thoroughly miserable.  But I reached a point where I grew bored with my misery. Bundled up in the cockpit under an avalanche of saltwater, it occurred to me that I would face this for several more days, whether I liked it or not.  My attitude could make the difference between misery and happiness.  I began to notice the absurdity of my situation and from that moment, though I still faced horrible conditions, I found myself chuckling, imaging how I would describe it to friends afterward.  Stepping out of that moment mentally helped me see it objectively as temporary and survivable–mere discomfort in the grand scale of life. I’ve realized the toughest situations make for the best stories, (Tweet!) so I try to think about them from the perspective of a writer with new-found “material.’

About Wendy: Wendy Hinman is the author of Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey, about her 34,000-mile voyage aboard a 31-foot boat with her husband, Garth Wilcox, to whom she’s still married and still happens to like. Wendy Hinman’s stories have appeared in a variety of publications.  One of them was published in the anthology, We Came to Say, and another won a Solas Traveler’s Tales award for best travel writing.

What has a memorable travel experience taught you about success in life or at work? Please share in the Comments below, as we’d love to know!

Top 5 Networking Tips from a Pro

How-to-Networking-EffectivelyNetworking. (cue groaning)

Ah, not too many words inspire such dread in a business owner. Images of fake smiles, business cards being shoved in your face and rubbery chicken lunches abound.

Yet in today’s New Economy, where so many folks are building dream businesses and personal brands, networking is a vital part of our marketing plan -and our brand. Whether face to face or screen to screen, it provides a host of benefits – and can even be, dare I say, fun?

Meet networking diva and consultant Sandy Jones-Kaminski. She’s the author of I’m at a Networking Event—Now What???, the #1 pick on the 2010 Business Book Wish List. As the principal consultant of Bella Domain Media, she shares practical advice and professional insights about LinkedIn, personal branding and effective networking via webinars, keynotes, workshops, and by facilitating in-person networking events called Pay It Forward Parties.

I adore her and her book’s a treat: very practical, actionable and even entertaining. I first met Sandy – wait for it – in the elevator on the way to a Seattle networking event. While the event itself left something to be desired, meeting Sandy drove home an important lesson: you can find great lasting connections in the most unexpected places if you are open to it.

Today, she dishes on some top networking tips, how to use social media for networking – and where to wear your nametag.

RS; Hi Sandy! Thrilled you’re here. What does “networking” really mean? Do we have to network with people we don’t like, just because of who they are or can we stick to folks with whom we make genuine connections?
SJK: Well, the definition of the word “network,” according to The Oxford Dictionary, is a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes. So, networking can be defined as the efforts to create this group and each of us can choose the people we want in our group or network. The only people worth having in your network are those with whom you would be happy to exchange ideas, resources, contacts or knowledge.

RS: What are 5 tips you have for getting the most out of a networking event, including any etiquette tips you have?

  1. Don’t take networking too seriously. It can and should be fun. Relax, take the pressure off yourself and focus on what you can offer others.
  2. Take a proactive approach and get off the couch or out from behind your screen and get out there. You eventually have to meet people to know if you’ll really connect with them, and the more people you meet, the more likely you are to find the “right” people for you. (It’s almost like dating, isn’t it?)
  3. Improve your outlook and your fortune will change. If you have a negative outlook on networking, you’re probably sabotaging your chances at truly connecting with others. Try approaching networking as an act of service within your community rather than simply expecting to find the elusive new client or opportunity.
  4. Keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum if you’re at an event where it’s being served. Being relaxed is good, but having your buzz on and then acting inappropriately is not a good way to be memorable.
  5. Be polite and considerate because good manners never go out of style or go unnoticed. And remember, nobody likes a one-upper. A networking event is a time to be non-competitive and social in a professional yet friendly way.
  6. Bonus tip: The right side is the RIGHT side to wear your nametag!

RS: How can we use social media more effectively to network in the virtual sense?
SJK: My favorite use of social media is mostly as a follow-up tool. I use social networking tools like LinkedIn to send those “It was so great to meet you and I hope we can stay connected,” messages after meeting someone at an event or presentation I’ve given. And, I also use it as a way to identify people I’d like to potentially add to my network. I find people on Twitter or via their LinkedIn or Facebook company pages to get a sense of them or their biz before making a point to meet them in person at an upcoming conference or live event.

Net-net: To build community, attract new clients and grow your business, you need to include networking in your marketing plans. And you can engage in both online and offline networking to get to success.

Why I kicked my Bucket List

This is an excerpt from my new book, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life (2012, Avail in Kindle and Paperback). I invite you to apply this to your life…and your business. Enjoy!

It seems “bucket lists” are all the rage these days, and the trend cropped up even more in the year following my aneurysm. Coincidence?

I’m not sure if this term had been around for a while or debuted with the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman film of the same title. Regardless, it kind of irks me that it is swirling around everywhere, like shallow buzz about the latest hot handbag or must-have designer. While I love self-help and motivational goal-setting as much as the next gal (yes, I read Eckhart Tolle, so back off), I’m always leery when it takes the form of a blind fad. Shouldn’t those themes be much more consistent and ongoing throughout our lives?

As the one-year anniversary of my brain hemorrhage passed, I was still trying to figure out what it all meant―and if it really meant anything anyway. Successfully distancing myself from the immediate recovery of the event―which was all about getting back to daily living―I entered this second phase of more thoughtful contemplation around the whole thing. Why did I survive? Why is my recovery going so much more miraculously than someone who has three children relying on her? If it was not “my time” yet, than what the heck is it I was meant to do here? What am I not finished with?

Small questions these are not.

Answers abound. Paul, who truly understands how lucky we are but is not a spiritual guy, will tell you, “This happened due to the genetics of a combination of weak vessels and high blood pressure that runs in the family. You are okay now because we got you to the hospital in time and the doctors were amazingly skilled. End of story.”

Or maybe it’s just as simple as what a sassy old friend of mine said when we met up for dinner after not seeing each other in person for over ten years. She had followed my story and progress through our online journal and social media updates and was dying to catch up with me. Her playful theory?  “Maybe you are still here so that on this night, in this city, we could catch up over dinner and you can entertain and inspire me.” I kind of like that answer.

Which brings me back to bucket lists. I feel in today’s renaissance of enlightenment, we are just putting too much darn pressure on ourselves to “live our best life.” I am all about going after what you want, not waiting, and experiencing all you can experience. But in my life, the adventures have happened pretty organically.

Sure, goals are great things. But when they start to consume you, to make you feel like you are less of a person if you don’t accomplish them, that’s where I have a problem. Tweet this!

My recovery was all about being gentle with myself, setting realistic goals, and not overwhelming myself with too much. I think this is a good way to live, brain injury or not. So rather than some of the more lofty bucket lists out there that seem to taunt and stress many of us―and make us feel like we are not doing, being, or seeing enough―mine became a simple bucket list:

  1. Ensure you have at least one person in your life who understands you, accepts you for who you are and who makes you laugh. Just one will do. It could be a lover, parent, sibling or friend. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, make it your mission to find him or her.
  2. Spend at least one night of your life falling asleep to, and waking up to, the ocean. Wherever that might be.
  3. Next time you are on a plane, bus or train with a rambunctious toddler or fussy baby, try to make the child smile. Just once. See how it makes you feel.
  4. Call one long-distance friend a week. Not email. Phone. If you can’t call, write a handwritten note.
  5. Adopt a pet once in your life and give it a happy, loving home.
  6. Say thank you to every bus driver or cabbie when you get off the bus or out of the cab. You never know how much that might turn around a bad day for them.
  7. Once a day, ask one clerk, be it barista or cashier, “How are you doing today?”
  8. Have one dinner outside on a warm summer night with friends, wine, candles and great conversation.
  9. Each time you talk to a family member or a close friend, say “I love you” at the end of the conversation. You never know if it might be the last time.
  10. Every year, make one trip to a place you’ve never been or somewhere out of your comfort zone. This could be another city in your own country, a foreign country, or it could be based on accommodations: if you are a hotel person, go camping. Try it for perspective.

My injury forced me to slow down and focus on the moment. It was not just a Hallmark card platitude, but a necessity. My goals became much less lofty but much sweeter.

What’s on your Bucket List, for your life or your work? Please share in the Comments!

Using your book to do good

Today marks the official print launch of my most recent book, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life.

(cue crowd roar)

In celebration, I’m offering some fabulous launch goodies for those who purchase between now and May 8. You’ll get bonus content plus some fabulous goodies, including free book previews, discounts on books, a communication course and a self-assessment on how you think + life-saving information from The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Thanks to Ingrid Ricks, Wendy Hinman, Melody Biringer, Michelle Tillis Lederman, Jen Mueller and BAF for their generosity. Check out this link for more details on how to claim your booty.

The book’s gotten great raves on Amazon as well as the most recent review in The San Francisco Book Review. I’m so honored by the outpouring.

I talk a lot about stories here on this blog and in my work. But some may wonder why I chose to share this personal story with the world. Truth is, there’s a deeper calling to this book than just accolades and sales.

We all have stories to tell – with our business, with causes we love, and with our own experiences. But instead of looking at your story as “all about you” it’s time to think of how it can contribute to the world.

I admire companies like Starbucks, who is using their clout to change the role of for-profit companies in how it gives back to the world and changes the social agenda. See their recent initiative to create jobs. Or Tom’s Shoes, who gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair they sell.

From the minute I started Red Slice, I thought about how I could use my work to do good in the world. And I’ve helped non-profits I believe in with both money and pro-bono time, which feels wonderful.

And so, with Rebooting My Brain, I’m trying to do even more.

My mission with this humorous and heartfelt story was to educate others about the effects of brain injury and inspire anyone who is yanked out of their life by crisis. I’ve gotten emails and stories from many people touched by brain injury who thanked me for writing the book.

During the month of May, 10% of all net sales will go The Brain Aneurysm Foundation, the world’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to providing critical awareness, education, support and research funding to reduce the incidence of brain aneurysm ruptures. So now people can enjoy the book and help a worthy cause.

And, I’m donating eBook copies to Worldreader, an organization that improves literacy in the developing world by providing access to e-books.

Many of you who read this blog have books as well. I encourage you to find ways to use your book to help worthy causes. Donate a percentage of sales, get involved with Worldreader, put on a book event for charity. Yes, it’s expensive to publish a book – in time, sweat, energy and money – but I truly believe that the more you tie in a giving element to your for-profit ventures from the beginning, the richer and more successful you can be.

Please spread the word about the launch! (Click to Tweet) There’s goodies in it for those who buy between May 1 and May 8. And goodies for a larger cause throughout all of May.

Thanks for your support!