How to Set Boundaries…and Break Them.

We’re always talking about boundaries.

How to set them.

How to think outside of them.

How to break them.

So which is it? Set them or smash them?

It’s both.

Setting boundaries is key to getting more done. When you know who you are, and what needs doing, you can focus. And that means saying no to the wrong opportunities, clients, relationships that don’t serve your purpose.

Setting boundaries enables you to go after the life you want.

But….we also can’t let boundaries box us in!

Setting a boundary that cars can’t cross the double yellow lines in traffic saves lives.

But, setting a boundary that you can’t go talk to that VP you really admire because that’s just not the way we do things around here helps no one.

To make change, invent, or ignite, we have to question certain boundaries. We have to cross them and see what’s on the other side. It could be better. If boundaries exist around people, or your work, or heck, your dreams – you owe it to yourself to step through. 

How do we reconcile setting boundaries with smashing them?

We must ask: Is it a healthy boundary? If I set my schedule to get offline at 4 pm so I can pick up my son from school and spend time with him, that serves me. That is something that energizes me, gives me quality family time, and enables me to come back stronger and recharhed for my clients the next day.

But if I put up a boundary around becoming friends with my clients, who does that serve? I want to work with people I enjoy, and people I enjoy often become friends. You can dance the line between work and personal if you’re just open and honest. This also is true for corporate types. Some say, “Keep your personal life out of your work.” Which is true, to some extent, but it doesn’t  mean we have to keep your humanity out of your work! You don’t park it at the door.

Get to know your work colleagues. Understand their lives. Check in. Then, when it comes time to collaborate, innovate, or invent, there is trust there. There is mutual understanding of each other’s lives outside of work. You can understand where someone is coming from, and build from there. It doesn’t serve you to set this boundary because it stops you from collaborating and  effectively with and trusting each other. 

When I was in corporate, I did my best work with a team of people I was close to. People I would work with all day and then go out for drinks with at night. We trusted each other. We could brainstorm crazy ideas without fear and create amazing marketing campaigns. We could adapt quickly when things went wrong during a global roadshow and trust each other to get someone to the airport on a moment’s notice. We had each other’s backs. We got each other through and delivered amazing work.

When you are pulled into creating a boundary, be sure it’s one that serves you. (Tweet This!)

That makes you and your work better, not worse.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Say No…But Try it This Way

No Trespassing Signs

As a business owner, or even just a busy executive or changemaker, the best skill you can master is prioritization. Since you can’t clone yourself and you do need to sleep (and perhaps see your spouse every once in a while), the art of saying no is a powerful tool in your arsenal.

Work and life are all about choices. You can say yes to more of the right things–the right projects, clients, people–ONLY IF you say no to others.

As an organization, your brand strategy can be a great compass to keep you on the right path and not get distracted by inefficient investments, bad advertising opportunities, new social media platforms, or other shiny objects.

Further, your organization’s (or personal) mission, vision and values can keep you focused and moving forward.

Learning to say no is just as important as saying yes. But be sure you’re saying NO in a positive way. (TWEET THIS!)

I’ve seen many entrepreneurs in recent years swing so far the other way down the “learn to say no” track, that they make it impossible (and frankly, unpleasant) to do business with them.

You can say no with respect. Offer them a path forward if possible. “Wow, that sounds like an amazing project and opportunity. Unfortunately, I’m unable to help with it right now. Here are some other folks who might be able to work and I’m happy to make an introduction.”

You can say no with empathy: Some rules can be broken because…life. It’s not “making exceptions” – it’s being understanding. “My usual policy is that meetings cancelled with less than 24 hours notice require payment in full. But that is terrible about your daughter being ill. I hope she’s doing okay. You’ve definitely got a lot on your plate. Why don’t we go ahead and reschedule this for free this time- but I won’t be able to squeeze this in for another month. Does that work for you?”

You can say no with kindness and collaboration, rather than assuming ill intent or that someone is trying to take advantage of you. Not everyone is your mortal enemy so take it down a notch. Instead of:

(Huffing) “Well, it’s my policy and you did sign the contract so you knew this was an issue!”

Don’t confuse being unreasonable and aggressive with being professional. 

How about: “What can we do together to remedy the situation while still staying true to the contract terms in Section 1B?” (and then go make sure that section of the contract is bolded and requires initials in the future!)

And if you decide to say no with this phrase “Nothing personal.” there are kind tones and aggressive tones. Remember, only 7% of your communication comes from the words you say. Non-verbal communication is everything, and that includes your tone of voice. As my mother used to scold, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Usually before sending me to my room.

It’s super important to have boundaries, clarity, and conviction. You definitely don’t want to say yes if something is not the right fit, you don’t have time to do your best work, or you run yourself ragged. That’s not fair to the other person who needs you to be all-in. But…show some grace when you say no and you’ll not only still be able to prioritize or stick to your values, but you will also create a positive personal brand for yourself. 

Try not to take “setting boundaries” so dangerously far that you build a wall around yourself that no one can–or wants to– scale. (TWEET THIS!)

Photo Credit: Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash.

How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

Has a leadership coach or self-help guru ever said to you, “You have all the answers inside of you; you just need to listen?” 

Upon hearing this, I usually roll my eyes. 

Please, I’m a smart cookie. If my intuition or whatever tried to speak to me during this crossroads, I would tell myself, I’d have heard it by now. But I’m still lost as to what to do. I’m still floundering. So she must not be speaking my language. 

But at a retreat a few years ago seriously changed my tune. Here’s what went down: 

I attended a women’s weekend retreat in Calistoga, California. Hosted by my lovely friend, speaker and author Shasta Nelson, this was about getting away, diving deep and learning how to listen to that quiet little voice that (seemingly) speaks a foreign language to me. 

Fueled by prompts, deep questions and fun exercises, we did a lot of journaling. Some of it was led by out guts, some of it was more thoughtful. We used words and images to wake up our inner wisdom and get it talking. Some of the work didn’t make sense at first….until it did and the insights cracked open right in front of me. 

While I’m not a “woo woo” kind of gal, I have to admit: it worked. 

The topics I journaled about, the images I was unknowingly drawn to, the words that popped into my head–they all pointed me to the same conclusions for how to spend my year.  True, some of these themes had been marinating for months, but I still craved clarity and direction. It dawned on me that I already had direction, but lacked  the confidence and permission to do what my soul was crying out to be done. I was too wrapped up in other people’s expectations and self-invented pressures. Doing the work shed those layers and forced me to face the core truth, with flashing neon lights pointing me in the right direction. 

I think I actually heard my soul huff in exhaustion, “Finally! She gets it!” 

What I uncovered is less important than how it was revealed. Like a lightning bolt, I finally got it. When people say, “You have all the wisdom you need inside of you,” all they mean is that… 

When you take the time to journal, or ponder, or use your gut to find images or words that speak to you (for whatever reason), themes will emerge.  (TWEET THIS!)

And you have to parse out and pay attention to those themes. While I was guided by activities and prompts all weekend, in the end, no one led me to these conclusions but my own subconscious. There was no therapist, guru or teacher spoon-feeding me these ideas. No one else but me came to those conclusions in my own heart and mind. 

This, my friends, THIS is what they mean by tapping into your inner wisdom.  

So how can you as a leader or entrepreneur, do it, too? I’m clearly not an expert, but here’s what worked for me: 

  1. Write down your thoughts. Yes, not everyone likes to journal, but you can’t believe the power of getting the slush and mud out of your head and onto paper. Feeling angry for no reason? Write it down. Have a daydream or desire? Write it down? Want to feel a certain way, even though you’re not sure what action it takes to get you there? Write it down. A sentence, a paragraph, a word, Whatever. If writing is not your thing, perhaps use simple one-word descriptors or images. The important thing is to get the chaos out of your head so you can examine it and find the patterns. It’s amazing what your subconscious is trying to tell you, but like a toddler, it can’t always find the right words, so it needs your help. 
  2. Find some quiet: Your wisdom is struggling for to speak to you: you just can’t hear it above the constant noise in your life. Turn off the phone, shut down email and go for a walk, sit by the beach or just lie on your couch with a warm latte in your hand. We try so hard to numb our confusion with external distraction that we can never discover what our body and intuition yearns to reveal. Maybe we’re scared. Maybe we’re lonely. But finding the quiet is essential to hearing the small voice inside of you. I have a rule of never listening to music while I walk my dog by the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. I spend that time listening, dreaming and pondering in silence. It is truly a delicious luxury. 
  3. Share your journey: This one can be especially scary. But sometimes the best insights can come from hashing it out verbally with someone. Open up about your fears, dreams, and dilemmas with a trusted friend and as you do, you’ll find your own truths will reveal themselves as you talk it out. Introverts may not love this idea, but as an extrovert, I can tell you that some of my best ideas have come from talking things out. Forcing yourself to verbalize your desires and challenges (especially if you hate writing, see #1 above) helps you to clearly focus on the real issues. This is why talk therapy works so well. Try connecting in person with a confidante and instead of dishing about our latest Netflix obsession, spend time sharing what’s coming up for you in terms of direction and desire. You may surprise yourself. 

Want some help crafting a juicy and delicious brand story for your business, or finding just the right words to intrigue your audience? Take a look at what we can do together and let’s chat! 

Your Dream is Not Dead Yet

About two years ago, we had our new house landscaped, front and back. We’re talking major overhaul.

One of the plants our designer had recommend was a Pride of Madeira. It’s a bold, big, round plant commonly seen here in Northern California that can quickly get unwieldy if not properly maintained. But when it is properly loved, the purple conical flowers look so lovely amidst all that green.

We planted two in the backyard and two in the front.

The backyard ones quickly consumed the yard and, instead of offering up their lovely purple cone-shaped blooms, simply grew into unwieldy large green bushes. My husband tried pruning it the way he’d read about online, but nothing seemed to happen. We decided to rip those out and replace them with other options, as well as one of the ones in the front that was quickly threatening to take over our neighbor’s driveway.

There was one in the front, however, that we left along the side of the driveway. My husband worked on it when he could. But two seasons passed with no purple blooms. And it was just too big. We read that our big mistake had been not pruning these plants often enough in the beginning. The green leaves took over, hogging vital nutrients the purple flowers needed to bloom. My husband made a few attempts on this last surviving one, but still…nothing.

“Rip it out,” I begged my husband. “There are no blooms. You tried to prune it, but the flowers are just dead. They won’t come in now” I thought it must be beyond saving and didn’t want this big green monstrosity in the front yard anymore.

And then…..

This past year, my husband tried one more time and really hacked at it. It looked anemic. But, finally, as it overnight, huge purple blooms spread across the bush. It was stunning. (See photo above)

The plant wasn’t dead yet. It just wasn’t properly nurtured.

The lesson here is not to keep banging your head against the wall in futility about a dream or a goal. The lesson is simply this:

Don’t give up on your dreams and goals before they are given the proper chance to bloom.  (TWEET THIS!)

Take a look at all avenues and be honest with yourself and what you’ve done to achieve them before you decide it is no longer viable. We gave half-assed attempts at nurturing this plant and too quickly said, “It’s done. It’s over.” That was on us. And saying things like, “I’m too old” or “I’m not smart enough” or “I don’t have the right connections” are simply excuses, not realities.

Before you give up on your business, book, or big idea, remember: Your dream may not be dead yet. It might just need some extra loving care and the right nutrients before it can bloom.

Photo credit: Maria Ross

The one thing successful entrepreneurs all have in common

Guess what every successful entrepreneur and business owner have in common?
The key to their success is not merely:
  • More funding
  • Innate marketing and sales ability
  • The right connections
  • An Ivy league education
  • or, even the BEST quality product, service, or offering (though that sure helps)

No, what they all have in common….is that they know when to ask for help. (Tweet this!)

Richard Branson, the genius behind Virgin, advises entrepreneurs to not shy about asking for help, like he did:
“I reached out to people who possessed the skills I lacked and asked them for help.”
Marie Forleo, internet marketing expert and community builder, shares that “everything is figure-outable”, her mantra for building her empire:
“If I don’t know how to do something, I’m pretty sure there’s someone else on the planet who does. I Google. I pick up the phone. I ask for help from everyone I know.” 
Howard Schultz built Starbucks as an ambitious dream…and even rejoined the company to to right the ship when it started going off the rails. His secret?:
“One of the most undervalued characteristics (of success) is being vulnerable and
asking for help.
You’re amazing at what you do. You have such value and talent to offer.
But if you’re still struggling with how to build a breakout brand….how to clarify your value, attract the right ideal clients and customers, manage your marketing overwhelm – or promote yourself with more grace, ease and authenticity so that you can reach your goals…
Ask me for help. 

Here’s how you can ask me for help! Let’s spend 90 minutes together hashing out your marketing plan, brand strategy, promotional challenges or more in a Brand Booster Session. Click here for details.

Photo credit: Climate KIC, Unsplash

Fix It!

06.07.16FixIt (Blog)

“Fix it, Mommy!”

My two-year-old repeats this refrain at least twenty times a day. It could be about his toys, or his socks falling down, or some milk he spilled.

“Fix it” doesn’t always mean that something is broken. What he actually desires is for something to work the way it’s supposed to, or be within reach or simply look tidier.

Many times, entrepreneurs or freelancers think their business is “broken.” No one knows who they are. They can’t stand out. They are not attracting the right clients, resulting in nightmare projects or people who haggle on price. Or they are not attracting ANY clients. They can’t get email signups, their sales inquiries are few and far between  – even though there is a lot of goodwill for what they do and they have built a solid reputation.

I never promise to “fix” anyone’s business. No one can do that for you because that’s a big, complex question. If you want to pay $20,000 to some guru who promises that they can, well, proceed with caution.


Because it’s not about “fixing.” Most of the time, I find that clients are offering real value, bold creativity and fabulous wisdom. Nothing is inherently broken.  They’ve got amazing talents, content or wisdom to share with the world.

What they actually need is clarity, because their message or offering is so confusing, the beauty of it gets lost in a less-than-stellar elevator pitch or overwhelming home page copy.

What they actually need is focus, because they are chasing every new shiny promotional object, praying something will work. And most of the time, they are chasing the wrong things that will never work. Once you focus on your ideal customers, where they are, and what they need and focus on doing a few activities really well, you will see great results.

What they actually need is creativity, because they are so busy grasping at everything that the creative well has run dry. The passion is gone.  I’ve so been there, believe me! They are cranking out soulless guides or bland social media posts or boring blogs (if they even have energy left to do these things) that lack the unique and strong voice I can instantly hear when they tell me why they do what they do.  All this busy-ness results in burn-out, not new customers. With my guidance, they reignite their spark to discover that the experiences, stories and passions that they are discounting are actually their greatest brand strengths.

You don’t always need “fixing.” What you may need is an infusion of clarity, focus and creativity. (Tweet this!)

If your business is not where you’d like it to be right now, I’d urge you to stop for a moment. Take stock. Perhaps, like my son, you simply want your business to work the way it’s supposed to, or for your goals to be within reach or that your efforts are more streamlined and tidy!

See if any of these three culprits is actually to blame before you try another tool or switch directions yet again.

Image credit via Flickr

6 Simple Marketing Time-Savers

5.31.16WaystoReduceMarketingTime (blog)

How can I get all of this done?!” is one of the most popular brand and marketing laments I hear from small business owners and solopreneurs.

We all know that marketing and promoting our business can take a lot of time. Time we just don’t seem to have if we want to also have a life.

First and foremost, crafting a strong, clear brand strategy before you start punching through your marketing to-do list can save you BOATLOADS of upfront time…not to mention money, headache, mistakes and dead-ends. You essentially draw the map before you embark on the journey so you know you’re heading in the right direction.

But even then, just writing a blog post or creating a newsletter or preparing a slide deck…..from idea generation to content development to the technical nuts and bolts, it all takes so much time!

Marketing can be exhausting and a total time-suck. This is coming from….a marketer. (Tweet this!)

Maybe we would all have more fun with marketing if each task didn’t take so damn long!

Here are 6 simple but effective marketing time-savers:

  • Create in batches: I schedule “content creation” times on my weekly calendar to work on blog posts, new course materials, or even a new guide. If I don’t do this, I’m distracted throughout my entire week as ideas hit me, or as I use it as an excuse to escape other tasks I should be doing! These times are sacred and I treat them like a client meeting You can focus on cranking out more than one thing at a time and get ahead of your calendar. If you blog weekly, set aside one day every 3 months to create your blog posts all in one sitting. And when those ideas hit you in the shower or while you’re trying to do something else? Simply jot them down in your phone and tackle them when your designated creation time comes.
  • Schedule in advance: My go-to tools are BufferApp to pre-schedule social media posts, WordPress to pre-schedule my blog posts – plus Facebook’s native scheduler within my brand page, as Facebook HATES when you use 3rd party scheduling apps and reduces your post relevance in their algorithm, meaning less people see it in their feeds. Scheduling in advance frees up your time and mental energy. You cross something off your to-do list once every so often and then you’re done.

Related to this, schedule ANY task you need to do on your calendar. I live by this. When it’s on my calendar, I know I have set aside time to do it – and I don’t worry about it at all until that time comes!

  • Create a text-only email newsletter: Being a brand queen, I adore fancy, beautiful email templates. And it makes sense to use visuals if you show products or need to evoke a mood. But, for me, a) it takes more time to create, find images or deal with crazy formatting and b) my audience often reads my emails on their mobile device, which means text is best for reading on the go. My emails still look nice and neat with formatted text, but there are no fancy headers or imagery. When I switched to text-only emails several years ago, I not only saved a ton of time, but my emails became more like intimate letters to friends (like, you know, ACTUALLY sending an email to a friend!) and audience engagement went up. Just sayin.
  • Set a timer for social media: The ultimate time-suck. Even if you follow #2, you still need to get in and interact with your audience on social media – It’s social after all – which possibly means falling down the rabbit hole and linking all over the place for hours on end. Simply set a timer and pop in for 15 minutes every other day or some other interval that works for you. Put this time on your calendar like a meeting if you need to. And make sure you don’t go over your 15-minute mark!
  • Use an online scheduler: If I could get back all the time ever spent trying to schedule a meeting with someone over email, I’d probably add three years to my life. No joke. When you work for yourself, this can easily take 20 emails and 2 hours of your day. Some folks pay assistants for this but you can do it yourself. Investing in Calendly was a game-changer for me. TimeTrade and Doodle are other ones (Doodle is great if you have multiple people you’re wrangling into a meeting).   While not a “marketing tool” per se, can I just tell you how much more time I have for marketing now that I use this?!
  • Outsource: I know this one can get tricky if you are on a budget, but hear me out: If you bill your time out for $100 an hour, isn’t it worth spending that hour on a paying client rather than on updating your website, setting up your email newsletter, writing copy or finding and resizing social media images? What small tasks add up to a big headache for you? What tasks only need your final blessing, not your involvement, to be successful? I posted some outsourcing resources for you in this blog post.

Crave more time-saving tips, sanity savers and realistic goal-setting approaches to avoid getting crushed? Check out: The Juicy Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management: Advice on How to Wrangle Your Calendar and Slay Overwhelm, available right here!

Image Credit via Flickr