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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Vincent O’Keeffe, Flickr

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


8 unexpected places to find your next client or customer

It’s simple.

If you solve a pressing problem or have a story to share that moves, ignites, provokes, heals or amuses people, you can find your tribe. The first step is that you have to really believe in what you’re selling. In fact, don’t think of it as selling. What is the mission behind what you do? I don’t care if you’re writing a book, offering massage services or developing enterprise software. Why do you do what you do? What will others gain from it?

That’s what is interesting. That’s what gets people hooked.

Now, take that mission, that story, and bring it to these 8 unexpected places to capture your next client or customer. Or better yet, think of it as “to capture your next client or customer’s imagination.”

  1. The elevator: Not just the networking luncheon or conference itself, but the elevator. Classic place to engage one on one. Often, people are feeling a bit of trepidation going into a big conference hall or luncheon alone. So start the conversation with one person while you’re both trapped in this big metal box.  This is how I met one of my favorite colleagues with whom I exchange business referrals. In the span of one minute, she and I connected based on our passions and missions – and even found out we both had written books.
  2. LinkedIn groups: I posted a comment in an Indiana University alumni group once and a week later got an email from someone, saying he liked what I’d written and asking to chat about his company’s current project. Really. It was that simple. Same thing with another group recently, where someone contacted me after I posted a helpful comment. Of course, make sure your comment is insightful, adds value without asking for anything in return and related to what you do. That helps.
  3. Guest blogs: Reach out and share your expertise with others in related fields. Who really resonates with your brand? Who rocks your world? For whom do you think you can be a missing puzzle piece and add value to their community? Make an effort to guest blog at least once a month and this will open you up to so many more potential clients or customers.
  4. Your butcher, baker, candlestick maker: So often, we tend to separate our personal lives from our professional lives. For the longest time, I didn’t reveal to anyone outside of “work situations” that I had written a book about how to create a brand strategy. I thought they might not “get it” or wouldn’t care out of context. Why? That’s just stupid. Why not tell your massage therapist, your Crossfit buddies or your local UPS Store owner what you do for a living? You’d be surprised at how often people whom you think would never be interested in your business actually know someone who needs what you’ve got. Margit Crane, ADHD Coach and co-founder of Good Enough Parenting threw a fit with a restaurant and the owner called to apologize. After talking a bit, he hired her to be an ADHD Coach for his family
  5. Personal business transactions: Selling your house. Buying a car. Renting event space for your teen’s graduation party. Why not talk up your business to someone with whom you are already engaging in contracts? @ywpresidente, CEO of social networking start-up hub site,  tweeted me that he turned the guy across the closing table for his house into one of his best clients.
  6. Vacation: While we often let our hair down on vacation and try to do as much as we can to unplug from our work, there are times when an unexpected opening may present itself. Be prepared – and make sure you are always keeping your personal brand in mind, even when “off the clock.” Kelsey Foster, a dating coach and author, found a new client while dancing with her cousin and a Michael Jackson impersonator in Vegas at 4 a.m.  Some people came over the chat with her and – boom – she gained a new client.
  7. Random bump-in: Publicity expert Nancy Juetten had a chance meeting with someone she had worked with before at a natural foods market.  After catching up, she said, “Call me next week to chat about a project” and offered her card. Nancy followed up, and they worked together for several years. ALWAYS remember to follow up!
  8. Volunteer committees: Writer Tina Christiansen worked on a convention committee for a car club. The committee chair was also president of a company and, after getting to know each other, they hired Tina and became her very first client.

If you believe in what you do and why you do it, client/customer opportunities are everywhere. Be prepared! (Tweet!)

Where have you unexpectedly met a future partner, client or customer? Got a crazy story to share about how this came about? Please share in the Comments!

My big summer risk revealed…want to join me?

I have a scary admission to make to you today, dear reader. (Deep breath)

I share this because I think it’s important for us to shake things up every now and then. To wake up those parts that lie dormant by virtue of routine or comfort.

And…I’m sharing this before I even know if it’s going to actually happen. Also important. The more shots we take on goal, the more chances we have to score…isn’t that what they always say? It’s not authentic to simply shout out to our tribe each red-hot, blazing success: we have to also celebrate the nail-biting attempts we make so that none of us has the delusion that it’s all so easy. That’s just irresponsible. And it’s a lie. (Tweet this!)

First confession: I got rejected by a literary agent. One I adore. We hit it off like wildfire when our short consult turned into a 90 minute gabfest of laughter, sass and shared understanding.  We were both saddened by it. And she sent me the most heartfelt and useful rejection I’ve ever gotten in my life. Bright side: we bonded, and I’m convinced we will work together at some point. I’m sure of it in my bones.  The connection we made inspires me to want to make that happen.

But you have to pick your creative butt up off the floor and shake it off when these things happen. I have other irons in the fire this summer. “Passion scratches” to itch.

And so….

This June, I hope to take a five-week sabbatical from consulting and speaking. I’m applying to San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre’s Summer Acting Congress. I was thisclose to applying in 2006 and 2007, confident my company would support me in taking the time away (A lovely young opera singer co-worker took a similar artistic summer leave to attend a music program not once, but twice – with full top brass support). But it just wasn’t the right time personally.

Now, I’m working for myself. I’m back in the San Francisco Bay Area. My husband fully supports the idea of recharging my creative mojo. So the time is right. After last year’s book launch, I don’t have a new book in me just yet and so I need another artistic outlet of self-expression and storytelling.

Am I scared? Hell yes. Not only about possible rejection, but about the unknown. Health-wise, I’m also a little concerned about the grueling schedule. Since my brain injury a few years ago, fatigue and stamina are still issues and making my own schedule has been a savior. But I’ll be on someone’s else’s clock from 9-6 pm, Monday through Thursday – plus any outside rehearsal time. Can I handle it? Will overwhelm and anxiety creep in, tipping over the plates I’ve balanced so precisely to adapt to this new health realty?  Maybe. Who knows.

I told my husband, “What the hell? I’ll try and if it’s killing me, of course I’ll stop.”

Why am I doing this? For no reason other than to recharge, change my scenery, reframe my thinking and explore possibilities. Maybe it will just make me a better conference speaker. Maybe I’ll find new indie theatre projects. Maybe I’ll want to pursue directing. Or maybe, Scorsese will find me, fall madly in love with my acting and cast me in his next Leonardo flick.

Point is….you can’t find new opportunities to explore if you don’t ever leave your room. (Tweet this!)

So I invite you to join me. What makes you squirm? What mountain do you think to yourself, “Oh, please! I’d never be able to climb that. I’m just not that kind of person?” Can you find a way to stare down the fear, stand up straight and march forward? Maybe take that class, book that trip, reach out to that long estranged friend, start writing that book, or open that business you’ve always wanted. Need help or inspiration getting started? Check out my good friends’ Warren and Betsy Talbot’s killer program, Dream, Save, Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers

Photo credit: Alaskan Dude on Flickr

What big gut-wrenching, face-slapping, mojo-moving risk will YOU take? And just imagine, for a moment, what might you find on the other side?


Which idea should you start on next? A handy worksheet for you…

Do you find yourself drowning in great ideas but unable to implement any of them because you’re either paralyzed by choice or you’re too stuck on fighting today’s fires?

Yeah, me too. Creativity is awesome until it starts to overwhelm you. (Tweet this!)

Today’s guest post comes from Michelle Nickolaisen, creator of Bombschelle. Michelle makes systems/productivity/organization/all that incredibly boring sounding stuff incredibly NOT boring so that you + your biz can reap the rewards.She’s worked with six figure business owners behind the scenes and helped them take their business to a new level without stressing out about it. She also teaches, consults and helps organize product launches.

Michelle believes that “organized” and “creative” can co-exist in perfect harmony. Read on for her practical advice on combing through the ideas in your head and determining which ones can/should be actioned:


One of those problems-that’s-kinda-good-to-have is the problem of too many ideas. On the one hand, it’s something of a blessing to have all of these ideas zipping around your head like hyperactive kittens with a ball of string. On the other hand, it can also be headache inducing and give you the paralyzing fear of not knowing which idea to start on next. If you’re paralyzed, you’re not taking action; and if you’re not taking action, those ideas don’t end up doing any good.

How do you pick one idea to start on next? For those of us who have this problem, it can be incredibly difficult to put one on the backburner. We want to work on everything at the same time and create amazing things, but that’s not always possible (and can often just lead to not finishing any of the ideas you’re working on – especially if you’re not a meticulous planner).

The secret is to look to your priorities to show you which idea to work on next. This might be fairly obvious and sound like a great idea, but can be hard to carry out in practice. So instead of just telling you that and leaving you hanging, I’m going to show you a process for figuring out what, exactly, your priorities are right now, and how that fits in with the ideas running around in your head.

Go ahead and download this worksheet to help you with the process, and grab a pen & paper. (Alternately, you can just write through this without the worksheet. Whatever floats your boat!)

Write down all of your current ideas that you’re having trouble choosing between. You don’t have to write down the idea in intricate detail, but enough so that upon referring back to this, you’ll know exactly which idea you were speaking of. After you write down all of your ideas, go back through, and for each idea write down two things:

  • What you’ll get from working on the idea and bringing it to fruition. Money? Pride? Fun? Respect? Two or three of these? Whatever it is, write it down.
  • An approximate estimate for how long it will take you to complete this idea. Be realistic, but try not to give yourself too much wiggle room. Think about your current and upcoming commitments, how much free time and energy they’ll leave you, and how flexible all of these things are.

After you finish that, set it aside.

We’re going to zoom out now. Think about what you want to be doing, how you want to feel, and what you want to have in the next one, three, and six months. (Otherwise known as your goals – but thinking of it in these terms can bring things into super-clear focus.) Write this down, in detail.

Look at what you wrote down, and pick out the common threads – usually there will be two or three. These are your top priorities for the next several months. Now, keeping these priorities in mind, skim back over your answers for what you’ll get from working on each idea. And then figure out which idea matches best with your current priorities – and can be completed within the next 1-6 months. If there’s more than one idea that suits the requirements, choose the one that you’re most excited about, or that you can finish first – this’ll build momentum that can transfer over into working on your other ideas.

(Of course, it is possible to be working on more than one thing at once! And many people do it incredibly well. If you’re one of these people, you can use this advice to help choose which idea to make your top priority, letting the others take more of a “back burner” status – working on them when you have the time, energy, & inclination to do so.)

In the meantime, you need to do something with the ideas that you aren’t working on at the moment. Part of the reason we can have such an inordinately hard time choosing one idea to work on is that we feel that by doing so, we’re abandoning the other ideas. If you do something that ensures you can come back to those other ideas later, you’re a lot more likely to be able to commit to working on this one idea for now. The best way to do this is to just take your descriptions of the ideas that you’ve already written and store them somewhere – whether online or off. They can be the start of your idea garden, and you can add new ideas as you come up with them.

In case you missed the link above, you can download your worksheet here. And follow Michelle @_chelleshock

Photo credit: Lamantin on Flickr

Can you relate to drowning in good ideas? How do you decide which to choose? Which one insight did you glean from this article? Please share in the Comments!

8 must-read blogs to boost your business & brand

There’re waaaaayyyyy more than 31 blog and newsletter flavors out there, tempting readers with deliciously satisfying business and marketing wisdom. I don’t have to tell you – you’re reading one right now (which I hope is one of your faves).

But I’m often asked which are the tastiest ones I follow that help me with my own business and brand. So today for you, I’ve rustled up my top 8 blog and newsletter picks that I allow to invade my own inbox so you can check them out and see which ones will turbo-boost your brand, business or life, in no particular order:

  • Convince and Convert: This daily dose of smart and sophisticated social media news goes beyond mere opinion or playfulness. Jay Baer is one of my favorite people whom I’ve never met and he bills himself as a “hype-free” social media expert, which he is. He showcases interviews, guest posts, reports, case studies and the latest on how companies big and small are connecting with their customers, measuring success and using social media to grow their brand – and their sales. I even get something out of the studies and stories he shares about businesses much larger than mine, because it reveals the latest tools and trends. This is a guy with whom I could sit and have a beer (plus, he lives in Bloomington, Indiana, home of my alm mater IU, so I know he’s good people) – and he’s the real deal when it comes to dropping some knowledge bombs.
  • Heinz Marketing: Matt Heinz is a sales and customer relationship demon. He works with companies on sales enablement, lead generation, and customer relationships to accelerate sales and revenue growth. His blog, Matt on Marketing, is full of practical insights and I also subscribe to his newsletter (one of the few which I do).  Plus, I know Matt personally and he’s a sharp, nice guy to boot.
  • Savvy Sexy Social: Amy Schmittauer is a bubbly, snarky, hilarious online marketing princess who creates fun and informative videos for entrepreneurs and small businesses on how to build a strong online presence. Her videos are full of practical, easy to follow tips to make sense of doing business online – including advice on media outreach, content creation, and editorial planning. Amy is a video content creator working with brands to develop interesting informational vlogs (or “video blogs”) to share with their audience. and she walks her talk: delivering her own engaging and powerful advice in bite-sized video chunks. If you want to sell online without feeling slimy (if you’re part of my community, I pray that’s a “yes”), check her out.
  • Ali Rittenhouse: Ali’s an online business coach and trainer, helping women entrepreneurs build a digital emprire from their own laptop, just like she did. She demystifies tech and helps entrepreneurs embrace it to build their brand, business and revenue. As an “online enthusiast and digital diva,” she’s even taught me a few quick tricks on how to make my website look even better through her many free training videos.
  • Jamie Living: OK, while this is less about business building per se, Jamie Greenwood Dougherty helps rockstars on a mission get their body on board to create the life and business they want. Her content is all about taking better care of your physical and emotional needs so you can accomplish your most ambitious goals. YOU are your business’ most important asset and Jamie never lets you forget it.  You won’t get very far taking care of customers/clients if you can’t take care of yourself and Jamie’s sassy advice has even helped me and my husband improve our game and tackle more challenges with more energy. Her humor and passion shine through every blog post, and her emails are like little presents in my inbox.
  • Alexandra Franzen: I first worked with Alexandra a few years ago on some of my clients – as well as my own brand messaging – and was awed by her wordsmithing wizardry. A writer by trade, Alexandra is now a sherpa of self-expression and her following is huge (and well-deserved). Her weekly emails are like powerful poetry, full of musings to improve your messaging, work relationships, and self-confidence. All without being too woo-woo or preachy. I always score at least one wisdom-filled nugget from her weekly posts that I can immediately apply to my business (and my life). And (squeal!) we finally get to meet in person this May. Alexandra is “soul food” personifed.
  • CRAVE: Looking for a dose of entrepreneurial wisdom and a network of stylish business women right in your own city? CRAVE’s got you covered. You can sign up for your city’s newsletter and discover events, workshops and role models right in your own backyard. Offering business resources, advice and tips, the CRAVE newsletter includes guest posts from entrepreneurs who are out there, making things happen. Melody Biringer, CRAVE’s queen bee, is a dear friend devoted to promoting women-owned  businesses, as well as a serial entrepreneur in her own right, having started at least 23 businesses….and counting.
  • Melissa Cassera: Melissa turns business owners and entrepreneurs into PR rockstars – and she has a blast doing it. This woman knows PR like the back of her hand and is full of great advice to demystify media and make your brand a star. I recently met Melissa personally and besides having our Italian heritage and love for acting in common, you immediately feel her passion for business shining through. She preaches that you need to love your business if you want to get the attention of others – and the press. No one is more passionate about your business than you are and she gives great DIY advice for how to score with the press, sell yourself and build your brand.

Photo credit: Timtak on Flickr

Tweet the love! 8 must-read blogs to boost your business & brand via @redslice

Your turn: What do you read as a go-to blog/newsletter for business and brand advice? Besides moi, of course! Please share in the Comments and include a link for all of us so we can get some love.

3 tips for business success on – and off – the golf course

Sure, golf and business go together like peas and carrots. And today, more and more women are taking the game by storm for business and for pleasure. No longer the domain of rich white men and plaid pants (cue joyful montage to Caddyshack), the game is changing to be more inclusive, stylish and accessible. My friend and past client Elizabeth Noblitt, is the fashion stylist and founder of Shi Shi Putter, the premiere online resource for women golfers who play like their style depends on it—on & off the golf course.

Today she shares a guest post on 3 ways to ace your business performance on the golf course. But methinks you could apply these lessons off the course as well: 

Closing deals on the golf course is a main objective for most business people who play the game.  Just like the beginning to any relationship, golf is about compatibility.  You are spending five hours with someone to see if you like them, trust them, and want to invest in them.  It could be the longest date of your life, depending on how it goes.  Here are three tips to make sure you ace it.

Be on Your Best Behavior.

In addition to the official rules of golf (of which there are hundreds), there is also an unwritten code of conduct, the basis of which is respect.  Be courteous to those in your foursome and those playing around you.  If you aren’t sure ask a friend who golfs or get a lesson on etiquette before you play.  Here is a great video with a few basics.

Be Stylish. 

You don’t have to be Tom Ford stylish, but don’t show up wrinkled like you just rolled out of bed.  Call the club ahead of time to learn what their dress code is; they are more than happy to help.  While following their rules is important, I think it’s more important to be yourself and not forget your own style.  (Tweet this!) If polos make you look boxy, don’t wear them; find a different collared shirt.  Being successful depends a lot on confidence and it’s hard to rock it when you feel like a dork.

(Extra tip:  When you are purchasing new golf clothes, be sure to try them on for fit.   Take a practice swing and bend down to see how the garments fit in those situations.  You don’t want to be water cooler talk the next day because you shared a little too much skin on the golf course.)

Have Fun. 

In a nutshell, be the person your associates and clients want to play with again.

About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Noblitt is an avid golfer, seasoned event marketing professional and fashion stylist. She founded Shi Shi Putter in 2009 to redefine the game of golf, with a confident blend of beauty, grace and fun. If you would like 1:1 help to look and feel your best on the golf course (and on the street), email Elizabeth at Follow her @shishiputter

Your turn: What tips do you have for mixing business with your favorite pastime, be it golf, cocktailing or tennis? Do you close deals or build relationships this way? Please share in the Comments!

12 things you will never regret saying in business

We all have had that moment when our mouth moves 3 milliseconds faster than our brain. Often, the heart has bypassed the brain’s filter completely and as you say something, you can almost literally see the words flying out of your mouth in slow motion but can’t stop them and stuff them back in.

As a fiesty redhead, this has happened to me way more times than I care to admit. With age and experience, I can honestly say it’s getting better. But tell that to the sassy 8 year-old who walked out of a TV commercial audition for a new snack cracker only to exclaim loudly to my brother, “God, those were soooooooooo gross!” – with the casting agent and client walking right behind me sporting  nervous smiles and shocked expressions. Yeah, not one of my finer. more tactful moments.

But I came to a realization in recent years that there are just some things you will never regret saying in business. You will never want to take them back and, however uncomfortable it may feel at the time to say some of these things, the regret would be in not saying them:

  1. You’re right. This seems like a great idea and offer. Let me think it over before giving you my answer, ok?
  2. I adore working with you, too! Let’s just make this official and put it in writing, so I’m sure I can deliver exactly what you’re expecting and we’re on the same page.  Protects you and me.
  3. I’m sorry. How can I make it right?
  4. That’s a really good way for us to go. Or, another option we may want to consider is….
  5. It would help me serve you better and ensure I’m delivering on my end if you overcommunicate rather than undercommunicate. I don’t mind multiple emails or calls if it means we can be successful.
  6. Let’s set up a weekly status call for this project. Sometimes, voice is easier than going back and forth on email.
  7. I would love to help you with this project but I am just too overcommitted right now and would not be able to give it the attention and care it deserves. Here are 3 other people who may be able to help you out.
  8. Please
  9. Thank you
  10. You’re welcome
  11. How can I support you in your efforts?
  12. Great job!

Photo credit: dno1967b on Flickr

Want even less regrets? If you’re in Seattle on April 23, please join me for a special workshop with the Puget Sound Business Journal: Building a Buzz-worthy Brand on Any Budget, 9-11 am. Click here for details (hurry, space is limited!)

Your turn: I know you’re dying to share your own bit of hard-earned wisdom with us, so please tell us below what phrase you have never regretted saying when doing business.  Or is there a deadly phrase you have regretted saying that led to bad consequences? Please share in the Comments below!

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!

4 powerful business lessons from James Bond and Skyfall

James Bond…entrepreneurial guru?

I recently saw Skyfall,, the latest installment in the Bond franchise and it was incredible. Not normally a Bond fan, I loved Casino Royale, wiped the awful Quantum of Solace from my memory, but thoroughly enjoyed this latest turn. The characters were complex and flawed, the performances brilliant, the pace lively and Daniel Craig does wonders for an expensive suit. I left the theatre like I’d just gotten off a roller coaster. My husband – a native Scotsman – even dared admit, “I have to say that Daniel Craig can now be crowned the best Bond, even better than Connery.” Blasphemy! But very true.

That said, our favorite Secret Agent can also teach us some powerful business lessons. So strap on your Rolex submariner, put on your X-ray sunglasses and climb inside your tricked-out Aston Martin as we review Bond’s best advice:

  1. Stick to the basics: We’ve grown accustomed to Q loading Bond up with spectacular gadgets before each mission. In Skyfall, we watch with delight as Bond confronts his age by meeting the newest Q, a young techie hipster that wouldn’t look out of place at Apple’s Genius Bar.  One assumes Bond will get some sort of iPod mets Kinect device or some Google-developed driverless car. But no: Q simply hands Bond a Walther PPK, which is a small automatic pistol, and a  tiny tracking radio. Even Bond is surprised but it turns out that’s all he needs when in a pinch and Q mocks him by saying something like, “What? Were you expecting another exploding pen?” In our age of the next new shiny object coming out every 5 minutes, it’s easy for entrepreneurs and business owners to forget the basics and get lost in the glitz. But often, it’s the old, simple secrets that make the best weapons for your business success: building your brand strategy before throwing away money on tactics, delighting customers, collaborating in person over coffee, providing quality products/services, delivering what you promise.
  2. There’s always a way through: Many scenes in Skyfall leave viewers thinking, “Oh, he’ll never find a way out of this one!” And then, of course, Bond continues to chase the bad guy onto a moving train, escape an island run by a madman and outsmart an evil mastermind and all his henchmen with just his wits, resourcefulness and resolve. No matter how bleak it seems, no matter how much you think you’d stop running or surrender, Bond shows us that ingenuity can help you see every problem in a fresh way. If you are facing business challenges, step back and look at the issue from another angle. If sales are down, should you offer a new product or service, or adjust your prices? If no one is reading your blog, can you clarify your brand value or find other avenues to promote each post? If prospects don’t know who you are, can you partner with someone else for more exposure? There’s a million ways to look at a problem and a million levers you can pull before you throw in the towel.
  3. Stay calm under pressure: There’s an awesomely sexy scene in Skyfall where Bond crashes into the passenger car of a speeding train. As the surprised onlookers gawk, he maintains his balance, straightens up, adjusts the cuffs on his impeccable suit and proceeds to walk through the train car calmly as he continues chasing his man. That’s grace under pressure.  When things hurtle out of control, customers demand attention and you are juggling 637 things at once, how do you respond? Do you handle everything calmly and get the job done, or do you freak out or run and hide? It’s up to you to tame the chaos and say no to things that prove distracting.
  4. Control the conversation: Towards the film’s climax, Bond realizes he’s constantly one step behind his nemesis. Bond is reacting to, rather than controlling, the conversation. He sets a trap and then lures the baddie to his turf where he can now proactively make the moves he wants to make and keep his enemy off-balance, rather than vice versa. Sometimes, in business, we react to the everyday fires and demands that others are making on us, rather than keeping our eye on the ball and charting a clear course to our mission. We end up slaves to a to-do list, rather than making time to achieve our long-term vision. We need boundaries: not checking email every second, or making sure people know we only return phone calls between 3 and 4 pm, or whatever system works for you. Get your strategy sorted first and work towards that before you let the seemingly urgent but ultimately less important demands on your time take over. Change the conversation to the one you want to have.

Any other business lessons that Bond (or other movie heroes) have taught you? Please share in the Comments below and get some link love back to your site!