Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Red Robins, Gawking Geese and A Brand New Season

by Karen D. Swim

I walked across the room to sit on the couch with my laptop when the sight of the tree caught my eye. A robin flitted in and out of the branches now bushy and full with its red blossoms. "When did that happen" I wondered. When did the barren branches become full and vibrant? I had watched in Fall as the leaves fell and had gazed at them in winter longing for the renewal of Spring. How had I missed an event I so eagerly anticipated? What thoughts had consumed me and prevented me from noticing the delight of rebirth?

“Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives.”--Unknown

I looked beyond the tree to see what else I had missed. The mallards and geese gently floated across the pond each movement making soft ripples in the water. The grass, no longer brown was vibrant and green and a puppy leaped around in circles with glee.

I continued looking out the window drinking in the peacefulness of the day as I thought how that tree is similar to life. In our lives we can go through a barren season when nothing is blooming and winter seems to have you in her grips. We are aware of every snowy day as we hold on and push through the mountains. Yet, we sometimes miss the subtleties that alert us Spring is on the way. We awaken one day to find that it has arrived and as swiftly as the winter appeared, renewal has now arrived.

This month I endured my own winter season - the flu, the tragic death of my 27 year old nephew, medical issues with other family members, financial challenges, and on and on. Each day held the promise of Spring as we huddled together to brave the storms of winter. And as I looked out the window yesterday, I knew with certainty that my Spring had arrived too.

I could throw off the garments of winter and delight in the lightness of being unfettered. Although there are still seeds to be planted, watered and nurtured, this only heightens the joy of the new season.

If you are in your own winter season, take hope today that Spring does come. It may not arrive with a loud pronouncement and it may even be a little late, but it comes, yes it does come.

Have you endured a winter season? Are you going through one now?

Photo Courtesy of Art Poskanzer,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Look Mom No Hands! Dealing with Risk in Business

by Karen D. Swim


©Dimitrios Kessaris |

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."--Ray Bradbury

Risk is inherent in business. In fact, a certain amount of risk is necessary in business to achieve reward. Whether you are an employee or business owner you had to take a risk just to get started.

Risk is defined as the hazard or chance of loss; the degree or probability of chance of loss. The two components of risk are uncertainty and exposure. Without both components you do not have risk.

So now that we have an understanding of risk, what do we do about it? The first step is to recognize that risk exists. Once you have identified, measured and monitored risk you can manage it.

"Creative risk taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity."--Gary Ryan Blair

Risk does not have to induce fear. When effectively managed risk is not only allowable but encouraged.

Measuring Risk

To measure risk, identify all of the key activities in your business and the risk of those activities. Consider strategic, legal. financial and operational activities. Is there a risk for consumer demand to shift? Do you produce products that may fail? Are there external political or legal risks? You can conduct surveys, brainstorm with your team or trusted advisors, and research industry benchmarks to assess risk. Once measured you can monitor the risks and identify if the risk has increased.

Managing Risk

You have four choices when managing risk:

  1. Accept the risk
  2. Transfer the risk
  3. Reduce the risk
  4. Eliminate the risk.

You can accept risk by default or decision. Business Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, Property Insurance and Medical Malpractice Insurance are all examples of transferring risk. You can reduce risk through planning. This could mean things like modifying a product launch date, making tweaks in your business strategy, or enhancing your payment process with additional controls.

Finally you have the option to eliminate the risk entirely. You may decide that in light of your overall business goals the risk is not worth it. Or perhaps you eliminate the component that presents the risk.

Risk planning does not have to be overly complicated, but should not be avoided. Identifying risk also leads you to identify opportunity - opportunity to improve and/or enhance your business. Planning puts you in control of the risk. Like the skydiver who assesses the risk, plans for it and jumps anyway, you too may find yourself flying through the clouds with butterflies in your stomach and a smile on your face.

Have you thought about risk in your business planning? Why or why not?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Planning, Failing and Java Beans

by Karen D. Swim

It is not even 12 noon and I am already on Plan C for my Monday. Plan A was a carefully thought out, high powered day filled with charging through my to do list and checking off tasks with glee. Plan A required a full night of sleep on Sunday and an early start. Plan A fell apart at 7 am this morning.

Plan B was to put the blog post off for a couple of hours, charge through the most important task on my to do list and then rest if necessary. Plan B was history by 8:30 am. Plan C was to get some rest (better to get a late start with renewed energy than to drag through the whole day), awaken refreshed and proceed with Plan A.

Did I mention it's not even 12 noon? What does all of this have to do with you, your life and your business? Well, absolutely nothing. Think of this post like a Seinfeld episode, it's a post about nothing, or rather the mundane things in life that sometimes make for good humor.

Actually this post may have a point. A few weeks ago, Darren Daz Cox commented that the whole point of having a blog is to be personal. So Daz this one is kind of for you. While many cringe at the thought of being personal, equating it with spewing projectile vomit in public, allow me to offer my insight.

Being personal does not mean that you are required to share the titillating details of your life. Your blog is not a confessional, unless of course that's your thing. However, no matter what your blogging purpose may be, readers do want you "to keep it real." Dry boring facts without personality may inform but they will not engage. If you don't believe me, check out what CopyBlogger had to say on the subject last week.

Blogging is a contact sport, and requires a willingness to get up close with readers. Let your personality and style show up in your content, and be willing to engage readers in discussion.

If I had WordPress this would be classified as Way Off Topic. So bear with me today, I'm human and tired. Tomorrow is a new day and if everything aligns perfectly, my post will actually have a point.

How is your Monday going?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Student 'Twitters' his way out of Egyptian jail

James Karl Buck helped free himself from an Egyptian jail with a one-word blog post from his cell phone, which read "Arrested." It is a miracle that authorities did not confiscate his phone upon arrest. I learned of this story on Twitter from @NadineTouzet. I urge you to follow James on Twitter, @jamesbuck and join the efforts to find and free his translator. For all those who wrote Twitter off as a waste of time, this story illustrates why twitter has become a hot social media tool. Twitter is about people and community. It is a tool that enables us to reach out and connect with others. The topics range from the serious to the mundane, in other words just like life.

read more | digg story

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fierce Friday: Running The Race

by Karen D. Swim

I waved to my hubby and set off to line up for my very first marathon. It was a nice LA morning in March and I could tell it would be a warm day. I found the starting area and excitedly took my place. It was getting close to starting time and a guy around my age fell in step next to me. He smiled and we exchanged greetings.

He asked, "Is this your first marathon?" "Yea, how about you?" With a smile of accomplishment he answered, "this is my second I ran Honolulu in December with the Arthritis Foundation and this time I'm raising money for the AIDS Foundation." "Wow, that's really great." "How long did you train?," he asked. "I've been training for 2 1/2 whole months!" With his head slightly cocked and a sympathetic look, he responded, "Our training program was 6 months." "Six months?!"

He looked at me as though searching for something, "Where's your water bottle?" "Oh, I read they would have water here." "Well, they will at every mile but it's good to have your own. Did you bring GU?" Wrinkling my nose, I responded, "GU, what's that? I brought was my cell phone and lip gloss."

"What pace are you running?" he asked with a hint of rising panic. "Pace? Well we told my friends that we would meet them for breakfast." With a sympathetic look, he hugged me, "Just run with me honey, I'll take care of you."

The stranger stayed with me for the first 7-8 miles talking and offering tips. We were separated by the massive crowd of 20,000 runners when I spotted my husband in the crowd and ran toward the sidelines to report my progress. Luckily that day I encountered many other kind souls who helped me as I prodded toward the finish line.

"It takes a community to maintain a human." --Earon Davis, Gaia Community

I discovered that as you're running your own race you don't have to run alone. As you pursue your goal there will always be people who are willing to help. Some may be at the starting line like you and others may have run the same race many times. Some will run with you for a mile or two, some may get you to the halfway point and others may run with you the whole way.

Here at Words For Hire, Fridays have been designated "Fierce Friday" which we celebrate by giving a shout out to fierce people who inspire, encourage and motivate. On this fierce Friday, I'd like to thank those that have run with me thus far on this writing / blogging journey.

Joanna Young has been a mentor, writing coach and friend. Through Joanna I met Amy Palko, who has become a special friend that always has a healthy dose of encouragement and a square of chocolate.

Joanna also introduced me to Yvonne Russell who graciously extended the opportunity to to write my very first guest post. I met Ellen Wilson as we navigated Elance. She is smart, funny, honest and has become a great friend that inspires me to stay on goal. The Men With Pens have not only offered personal support, and helpful hints but they have graciously shared their community of friends.

As you run your race, you are not alone. Whatever your pursuit I guarantee others will run with you. And of course, you can always come here for a word of encouragement or hearty cheer.

How about you, who have you met as you were running you race? What impact did that have on you?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finding the Strength to Lace Em Up Everyday

by Karen D. Swim

Laouging baby shampoo

© Svetlana Shapiro |

“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” -- Zig Ziglar

No matter how passionate you are about your goals or how good your intentions are, you must fan the flames of motivation daily. Robyn McMaster offered this insight in response to yesterday's post: "Goals are extremely important to me because they help me keep my eyes on what I want to accomplish. When I put a picture of that near my computer or I write it out as a one line poem and put it there, it helps me sift past those things that would take me off the tracks."

Robyn knows a thing or two about goal setting and motivation as she is the Senior VP of MITA Brain Based Center.

Sometimes we fail to accomplish a goal and we blame it on a lack of discipline. In fact, it may have simply been a failure to renew motivation. Have you ever started a fire in a fireplace? The flames burn brightly and the heat engulfs the room but eventually the flames will flicker and die and the room will once again grow cold. To keep the fire going you have to add more wood.

I am highly visual so use visual cues to motivate you everyday. For example, when I embarked on my weight loss journey, I used a big wall calendar to mark my progress. I covered the walls of my work out room with pictures and posters of my favorite athletes. I taped motivational quotes to the dashboard in my car. On my runs, I carried 26 laminated scriptures in a wrist band carrier. I would pull one out every mile to encourage me to keep going.

If you are more of an auditory learner, try listening to motivational tapes or music. Load your IPOD (I really must get one of these!) or burn a CD of things that inspire you.

Read, watch, listen and talk to those that inspire. Head over to Brain Based Biz , Joyful Jubilant Learning or 6 Weeks for a bit of inspiration. The key is to do something everyday that will stoke the flames of motivation.

You may believe you are not disciplined or have an inability to focus. I am here to tell you that is not true. ERASE those negative thoughts from your mind. You simply may have been playing the game with the wrong equipment. You have accomplished things in life. As you think back on your accomplishments, what worked for you? What made that time different? I believe your answer may be that you cared enough about your pursuit and equipped yourself daily to achieve it.

My goal is to meet more people like those who read this blog. I am not pursuing X amount of readers so that I can feed my ego. I like getting to know you, hearing your thoughts, rants, and witticisms. I learn from you and am challenged by you. Why wouldn't I want to multiply that by reaching out to even more people just like you?

If your goal happens to involve a life changing decision, Robert Hruzek's two part post on the subject is a must read.

How do you stay motivated? What are your tips and tricks? Please share so that we can learn from one another.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Running Your Own Race

by Karen D. Swim

Yesterday, many of you shared your own goals and thoughts.

Adrienne Van Houten is headed on a fabulous cruise but upon her return plans on hitting Curves. "My goal is not a set weight amount to lose, but to stick to it and make it work for me."

Ellen Wilson had a small goal of getting film scanned yesterday but offer remarkable insight about goals. "Sometimes if I look too far into the future it freaks me out and I can't get anything done. Or I get depressed. Or both!"

Amy Palko is finishing her long-held goal of attaining her PhD and offered these thoughts: "Now that it's coming close to the time when that goal will be achieved, I'm having to sit and reassess precisely these questions of what it means to me. And it's a difficult answer to articulate. It's tightly bound up with pride, ambition, career opportunities, skills acquired. But it's also taken on something new, as the achievement of this goal will now allow me to move on to set some new goals, and that's what I'm getting really excited about!"

Andre Blackman has a passion for the health of others as well as his own. "I've started back into the gym just so I can feel a little better about myself as well as maintain my health. Had a wake up call not too long ago and it's time to stop playing around!

I also have goals about transforming the way we all think about our health in this Digital Age - this post is exactly what I needed to read today!"


Goals give our lives structure, a reason to keep moving forward. Like the mile markers in a race, goals tell us where we are and how far we still must run.

In a marathon there are hundreds, or thousands of runners lining up for the same race. All will start in the same place and all will cross the same finish line. However, the journey from start to finish will be as different as the reasons and training plans that got them there.

Runners may finish in 2 hours, 4 hours and some may take 8 but for all that finish the victory is the same. Crossing the finish line is the completion of a goal no matter how long it takes you to get there.

We can draw inspiration from others who have accomplished similar goals, but we all must run our own race, and in our own way. By all means get a training plan, learn from others who have walked the same road, but adjust as necessary to fit your unique needs and style.

On my first trip to a running store I stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt like a Clydesdale among a herd of gazelles. I was not long and lithe, and had not been running for 20 years. I had just started getting in shape and could aptly be described as chunky and spunky. Yet there I was lacing up my sneakers just as they were and training for a distance that many had run. My enthusiasm for my goal was not dampened by others who had done it better and faster. This was my goal and I would finish it.

Whatever your goals are pursue them with enthusiasm. Lace up every day and take a step as you make them happen. Don't be discouraged if you find yourself at the back of the pack, just keep moving, you'll get there. And if you're a front runner, run your race! Don't be held back by the conventional wisdom of others, it is your race, own it!

Have you ever been discouraged from pursuing a goal? How did you overcome the challenge?

Photo Credit: Brownpau,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting to the Starting Line - What Running Taught Me About Goals and Wants

by Karen D. Swim

Lose 10 pounds. Write a book. Have a successful business. Travel the world. Go back to school. Buy a house. Retire early. Become a millionaire. Run a marathon.

Do any of these "wants" sound familiar? We all have them, that desire to do something, be something or go somewhere. We may even have a long list of wants, and we may have titled it "Goals." Why do we accomplish some things on that list while others languish? How do we move our "want-to's" to goals and then accomplishments?

"If the Lord had meant for man to run, he'd have given him four legs or at least made him late for a bus." --Red Smith, Sportswriter

Not many people want to run 26.2 miles just for the sake of doing it. Those who do may not always make it to the finish line. I mean let's face it, what possible sane reason would you have for deliberately choosing to train for months and then spend a perfectly good Saturday or Sunday running for 3 or more hours for a lousy t-shirt and race swag?

Training for and running a marathon requires commitment. If all you have is "want-to" you may not make it to the starting line let alone the finish line. Desire without meaning only has the power to get you started. You may last for a week or two but one day desire will simply not be enough to get you out of bed.

Goals are "want-to's" with meaning on their bones. Ah but not just any meaning will do, it has to be meaningful to you. Do you want to write a book? Run a marathon? Lose weight? Develop a $1M business? Gain 1000 followers on Twitter? Have 35,000 people subscribed to your blog?

All of the above may be perfectly good want-to's but now you must ask: Why? When the goal is achieved, what will that mean to you? Is that meaning so vivid, and so significant that you're ready to make sacrifices to attain it? Do you simply want it because your mentor, husband, friend, or guru said you should want it? What does not attaining it mean to you?

I ran my first marathon because I did not want to die. More specifically I did not want to die too soon or worse live long but with a plastic baggie filled with prescription medication. The image of being old and sick motivated me to change my life. I had never run one mile let alone 26.2 and honestly I didn't even know enough to understand the goal I set. I only knew that I was running for my life. When desire waned, meaning carried me on.

"A goal properly set is halfway reached." -- Abraham Lincoln

This is not a magic formula for attaining goals. It is however a method that will allow you to choose the wants that really matter enough to you to pursue. Will you have challenges? You bet! Is it possible to fail? Absolutely! However, meaning gives you fuel to recover and try again.

As you review your own goal list, have you set goals or desires? Is the goal big enough, meaningful enough and vivid enough to risk failing in order to achieve it? As you look past on past accomplishments, what made the difference for you?

Photo Credit: © Dawn Hudson |

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Long Hot Race

by Karen D. Swim


It was August and the Hawaiian sun had risen with a searing determination to melt away my resolve to finish this marathon. The white hot pavement threatened to melt my sneakers with each step. I looked to the left at the cobalt blue ocean and found not one ounce of comfort in its beauty. What good is a scenic marathon when you are hallucinating and close to sun stroke? I glanced at my wristband that had the names of my honored teammate, one of my best friends, a brother-in-law and my husband. I breathed in the hot muggy air, ignored the leg cramps and ran on.

The Maui Marathon was brutal but I crossed the finish line. I've racked up a lot of miles on the road and in life. Some of the miles have been under my feet and others have tread right over me. The lessons learned from the journey have been a huge help to me in business.

"Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible." --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Goal setting, discipline, the value of a support team and managing disappointment are just a few of the lesson with business application. You can run a few marathons of your own (and if you're up for it, I totally recommend it!) or stay with me this week as I share from my own successes and failures. You may not run the same way, distance or speed but I hope that I can spare you a few blisters on your own run.

Please join me this week and share your own thoughts. This is a place where input and ideas are welcomed as we all learn from each other. Just like a marathon, we all come to the starting line with our own reasons for being there. We've followed different training plans, and pre-race rituals but none of that matters as we line up and wait for the race to begin.

Photo Credit: Flickr, flyingpanther

Friday, April 18, 2008

Perseverance Completes the Meal

by Karen D. Swim


The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places. ~Author Unknown

This week we have been exploring the 5 Essential P's of Business, which is my recipe for business success. We have discussed passion, purpose, promotion and personality. Our fifth and final ingredient is Perseverance, and appropriately falls on Fierce Friday.

As we stir the pot and prepare to feast on a thriving business I invite you to pull up a chair and smell the aroma. Perseverance enhances the other spices and brings out the full flavor of this recipe.

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. --Henry Ward Beecher

According to Webster's, Perseverance is steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Challenges, disappointments and obstacles are a given in business and life. You can choose to find a way through, around or over them or you can simply quit. To stand and fight through difficulty requires you to channel your inner Rocky and persevere.

Katherine Reschke made an astute comparison this week between the Wall that marathon runners hit during a race to the challenge of being in business. Having run a few marathons myself I can say that the comparison is right on target.

The wall in business may be market conditions, internal issues, barriers to growth or even naysaying family and friends. When you hit the wall remember your passion and purpose, and persevere.

When I have encountered The Wall in marathons I remember my purpose (usually raising money for a cause I care deeply about), and the long hard weeks of training that got me there and I simply refuse to quit. So far the strategy has worked for me and It will for you too.

The beauty of perseverance is that the longer you endure the stronger you become. When you fight your way through one challenge it gives you confidence and experience for the next one. You learn that you are capable of far more than you believed.

If your article has not been published, your blog has not yet hit a traffic milestone, or you have not landed that first big client, readjust your strategy if necessary but do not give up.

If you need a shot of inspiration, check out the fierce women over at The Boss of You or get a boost of living audaciously from Amy Palko. Whatever you do, don't quit!

For the five P's that will power up your writing, visit Confident Writing. Joanna did an excellent audiocast this week on the subject.

Wishing you fierceness and power!

Photo Credit: © Chrisharvey|

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Punch it Up with Personality

by Karen D. Swim

purple cow Our pot is really beginning to boil now.  We've added passion, purpose and promotion to our business recipe.  Today we're going to include a pinch of personality.

What is personality? The dictionary defines it as "the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others." Your business personality is an intricate part of your company brand. Small businesses are often infused with the personality of the founders.  It can be difficult to maintain "small company personality" as a company grows. As you add employees and layers of bureaucracy, the personality can get diluted, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Google is a great example. Google has maintained a distinctive personality as they have grown from a company of two to a multi-national conglomerate.

In the crowded beverage field, Jones Soda Company has a personality that stands out from their competitors. They're not just selling soda but doing it with a style that's all their own.

Personality gives your business a "face" that enables customers to separate you from all the other faces in the crowd.  Many business owners are afraid to give their business a touch of humanity for fear that it will detract from their professionalism. No matter what business you are in, people like to buy from people. Infusing your business with humanity enables you to create deeper connections with your customers.

Adding personality is as simple as being true to the character of your business.  Be bold and different by being unique. Everyone may be selling widgets but no one will sell them exactly like you.

What are your thoughts? Is your business personality visible to your customers? Have you used personality as a marketing advantage? Are you afraid that personality will hinder your business growth?

Photo Credit: juliaf, Flickr

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Promotion is Essential to Business

by Karen D. Swim


This week we've been stirring up a pot of business success. We've added a heaping serving of passion to keep the flames burning and a cup full of purpose to keep things under control. Today we're working with that tricky ingredient, promotion.

Without customers you're just twiddling your thumbs or spending all day on Twitter (but that's a post for another day). To gain customers you have to promote your business. However, we are not talking about marketing brochures, ad words campaigns or direct mailers. All of those things generate leads but at some point you have to sell your business.

According to my friend and Business Coach, Paula Crutchley, most entrepreneurs struggle with the sales process. "I have discovered a common thread throughout my coaching business and that is many entrepreneurs dislike the art of selling – and it is an art." Paula coaches business owners helping them to develop a natural style of selling so that they can sell their vision and ideas to customers,investors and future employees.

I was in Sales Management for a great part of my career. I loved developing business, making presentations and closing deals. I still love selling. If a customer agrees to meet with me by phone or in person, I'm confident that I can close the deal.

However, I am very uncomfortable when the promotion is a little more personal. I am very shy about asking people to read my blog or promoting myself to speak or host workshops for which I am perfectly qualified to do. Does this sound like you?

So how do you overcome a fear of self promotion? The first step is to realize that promotion is not pushy. We often equate self promotion with aggressive, self centered behavior. We've all encountered someone who mistook pushiness for promotion. It is time to change your perception.

Close your eyes and think of something that you want or need? Now, imagine that someone you encounter today (at the dry cleaners, office or even a friend) has what you want or need and they don't say a word. Would you be upset to learn that they withheld the information? Now imagine your potential customers feeling the same way.

Promotion may feel a little uncomfortable at first but with practice you will become a top notch promoter. Of course if you need help or support, give me a call. I've got pom-poms and I'm not afraid to use them!

Did you ever struggle with promotion? How did you overcome it? Are you a master at promotion? If so, what tips and tricks can you pass along?

Photo Credit: © Brunoil |

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Inbox Heaven - I Have Arrived!

by Karen D. Swim
Tonight, I have achieved inbox nirvana, yes that much rumored but desired state of zero messages. I began this journey thanks to Nick Cernis and his Inbox Heaven post. Tonight, I am enjoying ending my day with an empty inbox. Yes, tomorrow I will awaken to new messages but tonight I am reveling in the sheer joy of an empty inbox.

Do you want to achieve Inbox Heaven? Head on over to Nick's blog and use his step by step tips. I'm living proof it works!

Have a great evening and please stop in tomorrow for the third P in my Essential Ps of Business recipe.

P is for Purpose

What is the purpose of your business? Many years ago Peter Drucker said the purpose of business is to create a customer. That answer remains true today as customers are the lifeblood of your business, but it does not fully answer the question of why you are in business.

"Purpose is what gives life a meaning." --Charles H. Perkhurst

Purpose is the reason for which something exists; an intended desire or result; to set as an aim, intention or goal for oneself. To do something on purpose is to do it by design or intentionally. I think of purpose as the framework in which you operate. Purpose in short gives you a focus.

When I first started in business I carried a little note in my wallet that said "Freedom." As I struggled to build a portfolio of clients and establish a relationship, there were times when I questioned why I was doing it all. Why had I walked away from Corporate America with its fancy titles and fat paychecks to struggle to make ends meet? I would pull out that note and read "freedom." The note reinforced my purpose, my aim and intention for being in business. My purpose then guided every business decision as I sought to stay on course.

Your purpose connects you in a deeper way to the reason your business exists. Yes, you want to make money and to do so you have to create customers but why do you want to make money? Answering this question is essentially defining what is most important in your life. Is it freedom (financial, time, of expression)? Your family? Is your business purpose also your life purpose?

Defining your purpose provides you with a compass that you can monitor daily to stay on course. It is worthwhile to clearly identify your reason for being. Write it down, post it on the wall, save it as your screensaver. Check in with your purpose as you wrestle with business decisions. Your purpose serves as the guidepost for every decision you make.

If you want to keep the hot flames of passion burning, define your focus. Only you can answer the question: What do you want and what are you willing to give up in order to attain it?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Essential P's of Business

by Karen D. Swim

"Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul, if either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.”--Kahlil Gibran

Do you watch any of the cooking shows? Cooking shows make everyone feel as though they can be a gourmet chef. Great cooks unveil the secrets by revealing the ingredients and instructions for putting them together. I especially enjoy recipes with no more than 5 ingredients. This week, I'll be sharing my recipe for business success and just like my favorite cooking recipes there are only 5 ingredients.

I call my recipe the The 5 Essential P's of Business. Each day I'll discuss a different ingredient. Like any great recipe there are other touches that you can add to make it your own.

The first ingredient is Passion. The dictionary defines passion as a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. Communications Coach, Speaker and Author, Carmine Gallo believes that passion is what makes a great communicator. In a 2005, Business Week article, he wrote that the hallmarks of a passionate communicator are "a willingness to share that driving sense of mission -- and a burning faith that others will embrace too."

Passion is the fuel that motivates you to act. It is the enthusiasm driven by an absolute belief in your business value that will enable you to communicate with others. Without passion you will not only lack the motivation needed to sustain you long term, but will have difficulty convincing others to buy from you.

Does passion ever wane? Yes it does! The bright flame of passion can be snuffed out by overwork, stress, administrative issues or plain old life issues. When you find that business has become a chore, it may be time for a break.

Take some time to recharge your batteries and reconnect with your core passion. Critically examine your business and the day to day operations. Are you spending time on tasks and activities you do not enjoy? Have you become overwhelmed with administrative issues? Has the business gone in a direction that doesn't align with your vision?

I've been there. Every day became a chore. I procrastinated on projects until the last moment. I was working endless hours and began to wonder, "Is this it?" I took a weekend off to clear my head. I took a hard look at my business and decided to make changes. I eliminated "energy vampires" (people that suck you dry) and focused on my high value, ideal clients. I lightened my load and increased my income. The changes helped me get my business groove back and I was once again able to effectively market myself.

I learned the hard way that without passion, it's just work!

Are you passionate about what you're doing? How do you keep passion burning? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fierce Friday - I Did It My Way

by Karen D. Swim

"Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way"

Lyrics, My Way, Frank Sinatra

This song was recorded in 1968 but singing it today makes me feel like I can go out and take the world by storm, on my own terms.

The blogosphere is glutted with "me too" content. Landing pages, ebooks and blogs all screaming the same message in the same way. Yet, there are still those that may operate in a niche but are doing it in their own way.

Penelope Trunk is a career columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules For Success. Her Brazen Careerist blog breaks from the pack by shamelessly sharing career and life advice. Trunk has boldly shared the details of her life in forums traditionally reserved for business only.

Angela Stevens blogs about life and she does it on her own terms. She is not afraid to tackle tough topics and does not shy away from sharing her thoughts and beliefs. She is gracious, funny and fierce. A recent post about Blog Snobs and Slobs had me checking my layout and attitude.

Amy Derby is the voice of Write From Home. Amy is not trying to set the blogosphere on fire. She has a successful writing career and blogs for passion rather than traffic. Her writing is sometimes in your face and often liberally sprinkled with raw language but always honest, and powerful.

The beauty of each of these women is that they don't care what you think. They don't need anyone to agree with their opinions or choices. They are confident enough to follow their own voice. In a world of posers afraid to take risks, Penelope, Angela and Amy are fiercely doing it their way.

Have a fierce Friday!

Photo Credit: Buzia, Flickr

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fame is Fickle

by Karen D. Swim


They're coming, they're coming! Lady in Orange, Lady in Orange, can I have your autograph? Over here, will you sign my program? You were so good, I loved when you...

It was the back entrance of a small theatre in Hollywood, California, across the street from the famed Pantages. I had just finished my first stage performance as The Lady In Orange one of 5 leads in "For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn't Enuf."

Celebrities had turned out for the performance and snapped my photo in the dressing room. People were clamoring for my autograph and I was heady with the experience.

The reviews were good and a planned two performances extended to a year long gig. Yet here I sit today without an Emmy or autograph seeker in sight.

My brush with small time fame taught me the danger of falling for the hype. How easy it is to believe only the good reviews and to soak up the attention lavished upon you by strangers. Luckily, my faith, friends and family kept me grounded. They reminded me to act because I enjoyed the art form and to ignore the illusions that came with the territory.

Today, our culture seems obsessed with fame. We elevate our public figures to cult status even as we pursue our own 15 minutes in the spotlight.

I have watched with a mixture of amusement and horror as bloggers, authors and business leaders have gained a following that rivals Oprah. I celebrate their success but wonder if "followers" are doing them a disservice. Are we allowing them room to fail, to make a mistake? Have we pressured them to always have the answer? Have we ceded them too much influence over our opinions and choices?

"Well if he said it, it must be true," exclaimed a follower of the current "It Man" in the blogosphere. Have we become so lazy that we no longer critically examine things for ourselves? Do we blindly trust the famous simply because of their high visibility?

Are we capable of forming an opinion contrary to the herd?

The herd mentality scares me. I am all for learning from others and supporting their success. My hope is that we do not yield our own critical reasoning to the herd. In doing so we risk becoming a vanilla blend of sameness. What do you think? Have we gone too far?

Photo credit: Matt Gilluley, Flickr

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Embrace the Fear and Leap

by Karen D. Swim


In my morning email was my daily post from Peter Shankman which encouraged us all to "do something today that scares us." Peter is a skydiver and I can think of few things scarier than leaping from a plane. His words resounded in my head as I considered how to embrace the fear today.

Fear when allowed to reign supreme can prevent you from breaking through to the next level. Fear can manifest in what Ellen Wilson calls the predator known as "editor." It's that little voice that says, "You can't do, say, be that!" Fear can also be sneaky and will masquerade as the voice of reason attempting to dissuade you from your purpose with logic, "if you write off topic, you won't create stickiness," or "no one else is doing that, are you sure it's a good idea?"

The enemy of fear is action. You crush fear by acknowledging it and moving forward anyway. With voices in your head and butterflies in your stomach, you jump (not tiptoe or take a tiny step) into the abyss of the unknown. You may miss your target, you may fail but you will always learn from taking action.

What scares me? This scares me! How Not to Write has even come up with a formula called The Suckage Quotient which aptly describes the daily battle to write in spite of "totally sucking at it." Yet, so many of us do it anyway, sucking be darned! Every press release, article, blog post and assignment convince me I have no business calling myself a "writer."

However, every press release, article, blog post and assignment have fueled my desire to learn more, write more and grow. Ah, the sweet things I would have missed if I had listened to fear.

Today, I've taken another jump and I'm sure I'll survive the fall. What about you? What scares you? Is there an idea that's rattling around longing to break free? Will you take a dive today in spite of fear?

Photo Credit: Igor Jeremic, Flickr

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Last Lecture

by Karen D. Swim

Have you achieved all of your dreams? If you knew you were facing the end of your life, what would you do? What life lessons would you pass on to those that you love? These are all questions that Professor Randy Pausch has faced and answered.

Randy Paush is a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Randy stepped onto a stage on September 18, 2007 to deliver his last lecture, entitled 'Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." The lecture was taped and via YouTube reached people around the world with its message of hope.

On April 9th, Randy Pausch will be interviewed by Diane Sawyer. Don't miss The Last Lecture: A Love Story for Your Life.

Randy has written a book with Jeffrey Zaslow, " The Last Lecture. The book goes beyond the lecture and is an inspiring read from a man who truly understands the meaning of living life with joy.

What final words of wisdom would you offer? Are there items still on your life wish list?

Monday, April 07, 2008

5 Tips to Manage Your Business When Life Happens

by Karen D. Swim

A recent bout with the flu followed by a family tragedy served as not so gentle reminders that life does not always go according to plan. As a business owner, you don't have the luxury of crawling under the covers and wishing it all away (well at least not for very long).  Here are a few tips that will help you when life interrupts your good intentions.

  1. Assess your current workload and identify anything that is truly urgent.  Are there deadlines that really cannot be moved? Are there specific tasks that are time sensitive? If you have the time, energy and resources, take care of the urgent and put everything else on hold.
  2. Get support.  If you do not have a partner or support team, you may need to get help to manage the interruption.  You can hire a virtual assistant for a few hours to manage client follow-up, or administrative tasks.  For specialty work, consider reaching out to colleagues in your industry.  You can outsource jobs to colleagues to keep the workflow going and customers happy. 
  3. Move deadlines.  Time has taught me that most client deadlines are flexible.  Don't be afraid to ask.
  4. Give yourself some flexibility.  Whether dealing with a short term illness or a family death, allow yourself room to breathe.  it is difficult to predict when you will be back up to full speed.  Give yourself space to take additional time if needed.
  5. Communicate with a plan.  Depending on the situation you may find the need to let your clients know what is going on.  While most people are sensitive to life needs, they also want to be sure that their business needs are met. Unless the client is a friend, keep your explanation simple.  For example, "John, due to a family emergency I will be out of the office next week but Dana will make sure that the designers continue to work on your project and I will be checking in daily on the progress."

Life happens for all of us.  To navigate a crisis, plan for them when times are good.  Get a back up support team in place and test them out with small projects when things are going well. A little pre-planning will come in handy when your master plan is interrupted.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fierce Friday!

by Karen D. Swim

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” --Dr. Martin Luther King
Forty years ago on this day Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated at age 39. The day before his death he delivered the now famous “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech. His speeches are as powerful and relevant today as they were 40 years ago. We have made tremendous progress but there is still work to be done in order to achieve his dream of equality for all.

On this fierce Friday it is that work that moves me with a greater urgency. We cannot grow complacent in our successes. We cannot ignore the need for us to continue to stand together in unity and fight for positive change.

The day before his death, Dr. King delivered words to solicit solidarity for the striking sanitation workers.

“Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we've got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We've got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”

With a chorus of raised voices we can be a fierce voice of change. With that in mind, today’s Fierce Friday woman is Author, speaker and writer Dayna Steele. Dayna is the founder of. Smart Girls Rock , an online community for girls who want to make their mark in science, technology, engineering, math and business.

In her own words: “For years, parents and relatives of young girls would come into The Space Store, the e-commerce operation Dayna founded, and comment "This stuff is all so cool, now where can I go to get something for a girl?" Dayna was always quick to point out that the astronaut flight suits, space toys and science experiments were just as much for girls as they were for boys.”

I discovered Dayna via LinkedIn a few months ago. I emailed her and promptly received a passionate response. Dayna is truly a “smart girl who rocks!”

As we go through this week let us stand together, celebrating successes and working together for change. Please share your successes and struggles so that we can stand with you.

In closing I offer you Dr. King’s final words of his mountaintop speech:

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”

Photo Credit: Pan-African News Wire File Photos, Flickr

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Good People Day 2008

by Karen D. SwimGary Vaynerchuk sounded the clarion call asking everyone to support Good People Day 2008. Now, typically I am not a trend follower but being a fan of both good and people, I decided to participate. Gary’s idea is to take a break from talking about monetization, controversy and the typical internet fodder to celebrate all that is good in the cyber communities.

The internet can sometimes resemble a monster’s ball. To the untrained eye, it is a mash up of porn, street vendors and 24-hour streaming surrealism. There are however, good places and good people that provide entertainment, information and yes, even a healthy dose of inspiration.

Allow me to introduce you to two good people you may not have met, Amy Palko and Maya Walker.

Amy Palko is a good person and her goodness is reflected in her site, Lives Less Ordinary. Amy has made it her personal mission to help us embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. Her brilliant photography and warm posts provide a brief respite from the noise and chaos of the day. I have gotten to know Amy through Twitter and am proud to call her a friend. She is smart, funny and generous, a truly good person.

Maya Walker’s blog, Womanity celebrates the beauty, power and passion of women. In her hands, even the mundane becomes a compelling piece of inspiration. Her writing never fails to astound me and leave me in awe of her incredible talent. Maya is a gracious, beautiful woman who is always willing to lend a hand. She generously shares resources, information and is quick to offer support or a kind word.

No less good and no less important in my book are the authority bloggers who generously share their knowledge to help others succeed. I have personally benefited from their insight, and kind words of support. So thank you, Joanna Young, Men with Pens, Her Royal Fierceness, Connie Reece and Brad Shorr for showing me the way, letting me be part of the conversation and providing a guidepost that inspires me daily.

Finally, I would like to wish good person, Sheila Scarborough a very Happy Birthday!

Happy Good People Day!

Photo Credit: mortimer?, Flickr

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

5 Ways Your Blog is Like a Bra

by Karen D. Swim
A whopping 85% of American women are wearing the wrong bra size! How could so many women get it wrong and what does that have to do with your blog? Stay with me as I show you 5 ways that your blog is exactly like a bra.

  1. One size does not fit all. Not only are all bodies different but our own individual bodies have differences. One side of your body is stronger. One leg may be slightly longer. Well, you get the picture. As such, you have to shop for something that is the best fit for your size AND your differences.
  2. You have to accommodate change. A bra band has more than one hook. Over time the garment will give and you will need to adjust the hook. When buying new, the bra should be comfortable at every level. In the same way, choose a blog that not only fits that first hook but one that will also feel good when you need to move it over a hook or two.
  3. There is more than one measurement. To get the right bra fit, you measure cup and band size. You must also adjust the shoulder straps to get just the right fit. Your blog has a number of elements that you must consider – content, categorization, graphics, comments, sponsorship, sales message, profiles and more. You may choose a blog that fits one area such as an easy to upload content system but fails to fit your other needs such as a user-friendly layout or the ability to categorize posts.
  4. The right fit can change your entire look. A properly fitted bra changes the way your whole body looks. A proper fit means that everything you layer on top will look better. Of course, when you look better you also feel better. A good fit will enable you to approach your audience with confidence and authority. The right blog fit benefits your entire brand. You will feel more confident and your content will improve. For proof of this visit Joanna Young's blog. A great blog got even better with a re-design and Joanna went from Confident to Authority.
  5. A professional fitting can make a big difference. Experts advise a professional bra fitting at least once per year. Your body changes and what fit last year, may not fit this year. A professional has the expertise to bring about improvements that you may have missed. Putting together a blog must be easy, right? Sign up for an account, add a few touches and you have a blog. However, a professional can point out areas you may have missed and never would have considered. Consider a drive-by consult to see if your blog is the right fit.

If you find yourself, like me wearing the wrong blog, there is hope for both of us. In coming weeks, I plan to seek professional help from those witty Men with Pens and get myself a proper fitting blog. How about you does your blog fit? What changes do you need to make?

strong> © Pavel Losevsky |

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I Pity the Fool

by Karen D. SwimIn case no one has clued you in, today is April 1, 2008 better known as that celebratory day of jest April Fool’s Day, All Fool’s Day or Taily Day. The origins are unclear and though there are cultural variations, it certainly is a day for laughter.

In my circle the tomfoolery actually began yesterday. I’ve always considered my friends a bunch of jokers and this time of year, well they’re in their element. So if you have not yet been pranked or punk’d beware the day is young.

Today is also the beginning of National Poetry Month. Robert Lee Brewer is running a poem a day challenge. To sign up visit the Poetic Asides Blog at Writers Digest. If reading is more your thing, hop on over to Poem a Day, and enter your e-mail address. You will then receive a poem per day in your email inbox. To start the month off, I’ve copied below one of my recent favorites.

As We Are So Wonderfully Done With Each Other
By Kenneth Patchen

As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies

O my lady, my fairest dear, my sweetest, loveliest one
Your lips have splashed my dull house with the speech of flowers
My hands are hallowed where they touched over your soft curving.

It is good to be weary from that brilliant work
It is being God to feel your breathing under me

A waterglass on the bureau fills with morning…
Don’t let anyone in to wake us.

Do you have a favorite poet or poem? Do you write poetry?

Remember that laughter and poetry have something in common, they’re both good for the soul. Enjoy the day!

Photo Credit: Sebastian Niedlich(Grabthar), Flickr