Friday, May 30, 2008

I Believe In You

by Karen D. Swim

Photo credit: Flickr | darkpatator


Today I want to give to you a gift that has meant so much in my own life - the gift of belief.

My all time favorite teacher was Mrs. Lorna Hart. She was my first grade teacher and had a profound influence on my life. Mrs. Hart was the first adult other than my parents who truly believed in me. I always made good grades, but Mrs. Hart nourished my love of learning and filled me with confidence to keep reaching even higher. She set her expectations high and I rose to the challenge.

She did not believe that I was perfect. She did not believe that I would never fail. Like my parents she believed that I had the ability to keep moving forward, growing and learning along the way. Belief gave me the courage to eliminate "I can't" from my vocabulary. It gave me confidence to continually test the limits of capabilities. Her belief rubbed off on me and I began to believe in me too.

Over the years I have been blessed to have other people come along just when I needed the reinforcement to give me the gift of belief. Before I declared "I am a writer," someone else said "You are a writer." Those words echo in my soul every day giving me the power to pick up a pen and practice my craft. Having someone tell you that they believe "you can" is the ray of light that causes the bud of your talent to come into full bloom. A whispered encouragement can cause your heart to soar and restore your confidence.

"If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."--Mahatma Gandhi

So, today I want to shine the light on you and tell you that I BELIEVE IN YOU. I believe that you can start that business, write that book, make that career transition, get that promotion or run that race. I believe that you are good enough, bright enough and strong enough to boldly go after your dreams. I believe that NOW is your time to shine and you will seize the opportunity. I BELIEVE IN YOU.

How has belief or the lack of belief impacted your life? Can you recall the first person who truly believed in you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Post About Nothing

by Karen D. Swim

This is a post about nothing. Seriously. There are no neatly bulleted or numbered lists telling you how to, when to, or why to. Do not look for the deeper meaning because there is none. This is not a gimmick or cheap marketing trick to get you here and then wham surprise you with a brilliant post that moves you to tears. It really is about absolutely nothing. Nada baby, zilch! So don't say I did not warn you.

Most people are familiar with the oft quoted 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want) but one of my favorite verses is "he leadeth me beside still waters (quiet waters in some translations), he restoreth my soul." When I think of still waters, it immediately fills me with a deep peace. The stillness here I believe refers to internal as well as external. In my mind the still waters is a place of deep restoration and tranquility, a place where nothing is happening.

In our fast paced world, we don't leave room for nothing. Children who are doing nothing are given something to do. In the workplace, doing nothing could be grounds for termination. Even our conversations have to be about something.

One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.--Ariel Durant

Yet, doing nothing has its merits. Seinfeld was a show about nothing, or rather the mundane, everyday that makes up our lives. You know the stuff we miss because we're too busy doing something.

In those nothing moments, my mind is allowed to roam free. My senses become more attuned to the world around me. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. Inspiration is allowed to flow freely and my creativity is sparked. Nothing seems impossible when I am doing nothing.

If it has been awhile since you did nothing, join me by the still waters today. We can do nothing together.

I would absolutely love to talk about nothing with you so please spark a discussion by posting your comments. If I'm out doing nothing, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Backward is the New Forward

Progress, noun: 1) a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage: the progress of a student toward a degree. 2) advancement in general. 3) growth or development; continuous improvement. 4) forward or onward movement

While the dictionary includes "forward" as the direction of progress, onward can be lateral or even backward.

“We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”--C.S. Lewis

When I was a child, my mother would hang clothing on the line to dry when the weather permitted. I would always beg to just put them in the dryer but my mother insisted it was a waste of energy.

I abandoned my mother's ways when I left home too busy and progressive to bother with a clothes line, that is until I got married. I bought a clothesline and hung the clothes to dry outside on nice days because as it turns out mother was right.

Progress is not defined by the speediest course of action but the most prudent. Albert Einstein said “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." Einstein may have been on to something.

Many are opting for simplicity, abandoning cars for bicycles and McMansions for independent living. We are going organic and green and railing against the forces that remain staunchly rooted in the status quo. Progressive thinking has led us to the realization that moving forward means stripping some things away.

Writers seem to have an inherent grasp of this concept. We have embraced technology but we also hold on to the tried and true. We use our computers but still carry our moleskins, notebooks or like Melissa Donovan our Watson Guptill Fickle Writer. We may buy the executive desk but often abandon it for a spot in the garden or the small table in the corner where the light hits just right.

The Kindle and audiobook are mere supporting players in our reading repertoire for we still love the weight of a book in our hands and the sound of a turning page. We see the complex but appreciate the mundane. Our stories are often not about the technological prowess of mankind but simply mankind. The writers eye sees through the maze of detail and is able to ferret out the steps that will get us to the goal, in whatever direction they lead.

What are your thoughts on progress? Have you ever moved backward to advance? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Bigger Picture

by Karen D. Swim

"I have seen the bigger picture and I can't do everything and have everything. "-- Dr. Miranda Bailey, Grey's Anatomy

The Bigger Picture does not always come into focus all at once. Very often we only see fragments at at time. The pieces do not fall into focus until we take a step back and examine them with our attention on the whole rather than the detail that makes up the whole.

We can become so enmeshed in the detail that we no longer notice each piece until we are so worn out and worn down they shatter around us. The pieces were never meant to be the focus, yet we become obsessed with the minutiae and lose sight.

To focus on the bigger picture we sometimes have to let individual pieces go. The process can be painful, as we realize that sometimes we must let go of things we love for things we love more.

So what is the bigger picture? Although your picture may vary, we all share five common traits.

  1. Time is finite. All of us are given the same 24 hours each day. No one can bargain, pay, or earn more time.
  2. We are mortal. Our time on earth will one day end.  We do not have forever but we do have today. 
  3. We are human. We cannot do everything and have everything. We try but something will always suffer.
  4. We don't need all the pieces to see the bigger picture. The pieces may change over time.  Some may move to the far end of the board as others take center stage. The big picture dictates the pieces you bring into focus not the other way around.
  5. There's always a bigger picture. Always.

After losing my husband, I struggled with my bigger picture.  Marriage made it easier to stay focused, balanced. It was an anchor of sorts that kept me from drifting too far. As a widow, I took on every piece that came my way without any focus on the bigger picture. 

Life changes - children growing older, job changes or just the process of aging and wanting something different - may shift our bigger picture. Those same changes can also serve to remind us of the bigger picture.

As for my own journey, I learned that my purpose in life really did not change. The core of who I was created to be, do and give to the world is not dependent on a single piece.  With the death of my husband, my pieces shifted but the bigger picture remained intact.

How about you? Do you ever lose site of the bigger picture or purpose? Tell us about it in the comments and anything else that's on your mind.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fashion Your Own Style

by Karen D. Swim

dreamstime_4591582Several years ago I sat visiting with a friend on a hot, lazy August day. As we sat laughing and chatting, her 8 year old daughter emerged from the back of of the house and struck a fierce model pose. She was wearing boldly patterned shorts in colors so vibrant that it felt as though I was peering into a kaleidoscope. She had paired the shorts with a striped top in an entirely different color pattern. My friend beheld her daughter as she stood there smiling, and cried, "You can't wear that!"

"Sure she can," I responded. "Alex, honey, you can pull off anything with the right attitude!"

My friend and I exchanged laughter and Alex went out to play wearing an outfit that entirely reflected her style.

This 8 year old knew something that many adults have not yet learned. Finding your own style may mean fusing different elements to create something that is uniquely you.

fusion In physics when you fuse two light elements they form a heavier nucleus. This is accompanied by the release or absorption of energy. The power that fuels the sun and the stars is nuclear fusion.In fusion cooking you combine widely differing ethnic or regional ingredients, styles, or techniques, such as French Thai. The results can be an amalgam of taste and textures that are bold and flavorful.

Whether you are a writer, accountant or fashion designer you can blend together wildly different elements to create something that reflects you and your individuality. Ellen Wilson wrote a post on unleashing your own personality this week that perfectly illustrates this point.

You don't have to follow a straight line to get to your journey. In fact you can do the whole route on a windy, twisty road with stops along the way. Valerie Gonyea, refused to be boxed in by traditions. This accountant turned recruiter has conducted her career entirely her way.

As you continue to move forward on your journey, do it your way. Mix it up and try different elements to create something entirely different. Just remember to hold your head up high, smile and know that you are better at being you than anyone else can be!

Have you experimented with blending elements in any area of your life. Tell us about your experiences and results in the comments section.

Photo Credit: "Strange Fashion Child" ©Rebecca Abell,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

3 Proven Methods to Drive Away Your Customers

by Karen D. Swim

Are you looking for ways to alienate your customers? Do you want to achieve brand visibility by being the most reviled in your industry? Well if this is your goal, I have just the solution for you!

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it would begin charging $15 for the first checked bag. This in essence means that there is no free luggage, at least not on American. However, kudos to them for being the first U.S. carrier to charge for all checked bags. Go American!

You too can be just like the airline industry. Listed below are 3 proven methods to drive away your customers.

  1. Treat your employees badly. When employees are undervalued they will respond by handing your customers as gently as a sack of rotten garbage. Don't worry if you are a solo practice with no employees, you can eliminate the middle man and offer rotten service directly.
  2. Ignore a problem until it gets so big that you almost have to shut down your entire operations, causing a delay to every customer you are currently serving. This one method alone can not only drive away customers but crash your entire business.
  3. Cut back on expected services, lay off staff and raise your prices. Now this method is absolutely priceless. I get chills just thinking about the repercussions.

Airlines have been so successful with these strategies that customers are all buzzing about how to avoid flying with them. Analytical customers are even questioning if the new policies are discriminatory.

The real beauty of their plan is that I suspect it has been in the making for years. Is it possible that these major businesses failed to make internal changes to sustain leadership and now conveniently blame their failure on the economy?

Do you have surefire tips for driving away customers? Share them in the comments!

Disclaimer: No customers or employees were harmed in the writing of this post. Please do not implement these tactics. This post is meant as a tongue in cheek lesson of what not to do. The author takes no responsibility if you choose to disregard this warning and try this at home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Three Tactics for Managing Roadblocks On Your Road to Success

by Karen D. Swim

Photo Credit: © Elena Elisseeva |


You're tooling along on the road to success confident of where you're headed when you encounter the dreaded roadblock. What do you do?

This month we have been focused on moving forward, but what do you do when your journey is interrupted by those awful orange cones? Below are three options that will help you navigate the roadblocks that hinder your progress.

Wait it Out

Orange cones in the road may only signal a temporary road closure. As you idle your engine and wait, review your purpose for the journey and your directions to get there. Use the break in the action to renew your energy and enthusiasm or attend to other minor tasks are you wait. Check the oil and fluids, kick the tires and make sure you have enough air. When the road crew removes the cones you will be ready to move on with confidence.

Take the Suggested Detour

Detours keep you moving but may add a few extra miles to your journey. Don't view a detour as a setback but a continuation of the adventure. You may discover things along the suggested route that you otherwise would have missed. When I worked in Corporate America my company decided to centralize all of marketing to New Jersey. I didn't want to move (suggested detour) and I opted not to accept offers from the other companies that sought me out (suggested detour #2). Instead, I chose to take time off from work to do nothing (alternate route of my choosing).

Take an Alternate Route of Your Choosing

Choosing my own route turned out to be the best thing that could have happened in my life. I had no idea where any of the roads would lead but trusted that still small voice that said "turn off here." Roadblocks can be a divine signal leading you in a different direction. If the suggested route doesn't feel right to you, plan your own alternate. You may even decide to change your destination entirely, like I did.

As you move toward attaining your goals you will eventually hit a roadblock. Do not allow those orange cones to distract or discourage you. You will get to your destination, perhaps a little slower or by a different route, but you will arrive.

Please join and add to the discussion. What tips do you have for do handling the roadblocks in your life?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Above the Noise

by Karen D. Swim

Are you struggling to be heard in a noisy market place? Do you feel like even if you yelled at the top of your lungs no one would notice or care? It may be time to sing at night.

In 2007 a report found that birds in noisy urban areas began singing at night in order for their melodies to be heard above the clamor of city life. Researchers at Sheffield University studied robins in and around Sheffield and discovered that the robins adapted the time of day they sang in order to be heard. The report joins a growing body of evidence that birds are changing their behavior to adjust to modern life.

Our world is noisy. In every industry there are a multitude of choices and it seems everyone is delivering their message and attempting to be heard. Whether you have a blog, book, product, service or are in the job market it seems that millions of people are already out there singing at the top of your lungs.

The robins are not singing to attract or please people. Robins sing to attract other robins and to ward off rivals. In the bird world they are among the earliest to join the chorus at dawn and the last to fall silent at dusk.

"Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings."--Victor Hugo
It can be downright discouraging believing that you cannot possibly be heard above the noise. Rather than give up, consider the robins. You don’t have to sing your song at the same time of day or even in the same pitch as your competitors. Adapt to modern life just like the birds by finding and singing your own tune at your own time.

Photo credit: | Kerri 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Power of A Moment

by Karen D. Swim



Brief encounters can pack a powerful punch. This is the thought that ran through my mind as I watched the big fat raindrops fall from what had been a beautiful clear sky.

It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect Saturday. I ran errands enjoying the easy tempo of the day. The sun began to fade behind the clouds and the sky darkened. Just as I entered the long drive of my development, huge drops burst forth from the sky. The winds grew high and the drops fell hard and heavy. And then as suddenly as it started, it ended.

I reached my door with canvas shopping bag and noticed that the door was drenched with water, and the dirt from the garden had scattered around the walkway. In less than a minute the brief thunderstorm had transformed the landscape around it.

Like the thunderstorm, our thoughts, attitudes and actions impact the landscape and people around us. As we rush about through our days we may forget that we are connected to the world and people around us. Every small encounter has an impact. In other words we matter, so our words, actions and attitudes matter too.

In less than a minute we can transform ourselves too. In a moment of stress, taking a minute to breathe deeply and focus only on the rise and fall of breath can lower your blood pressure and calm your mind. A minute enjoying the world through your child's eyes can give you a new perspective. As I entered my house I renewed my determination to be present and to relish each moment.

Each moment does count, what will you do with yours today?

Join the discussion and share your thoughts! if you like what you read, I'd love it if you would add the blog to your reader. Thanks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tips for Managing Your Energy When the Battle Grows Fierce

by Karen D. Swim


This morning I opened my devotional and the following words jumped off the page and opened my still sleepy eyes:

Each of us must decide where we're going to put our energy when the battle grows fierce.

The headline was particularly meaningful this week as I have read and listened to many others who are feeling the strain of keeping things in balance. Yvonne Russell wrote about managing the noise level in a Web 2.0 world and Wendi Kelly blogged about managing the multiple priorities in our lives. The demands for our time and attention seem to be growing at a rapid pace. We have to treat our energy as a precious commodity. As Ellen Wilson wrote this week "It pays (literally, because that is the currency that gives all the goods we need for survival) to think about how you spend your precious energy."

So how do we pick our battles? How do we choose where to put our energy?

Keep your Eyes on the Prize
The answer in my morning devotional was to keep your eyes on the prize. We're all in a race but what are you running for ultimately? Take some quiet time, shut off the noise and list what's most important to you. Are your day to day actions aligned with your guiding values? Your values, your purpose are your constant gut check as to where, how and with whom you spend that precious commodity known as energy.

Just Say No!
Women in particular seem to have a hard time saying "No." We want to support, nurture, do and help everyone but there's not enough of you to go around. I've learned to say "No" but even I still experience those times when I say "No" but feel guilty about it. This can be especially difficult when if time and and energy permitted you would say "yes." If you struggle with saying "No" learn to not give an immediate answer. Distance yourself from the pressure of the situation by saying "I'll have to get back to you," or "I have to check my calendar." Follow up by politely but firmly declining. Remember that YOU own your time. It is yours to spend as you please. You do not have to explain your reason for saying no.

Shrink your World
When my husband was diagnosed with cancer I became a full time caregiver. My world became smaller out of necessity. My husband was obviously my top priority. I also continued running and training for a marathon, stayed connected to friends and my church family. I had to narrow my focus and ignore everything else. Sometimes you have to prune your life. In planting, pruning removes the non-productive, diseased or unwanted. When you properly prune plants and trees it enhances the health, strength and beauty. Pruning your life can produce the same effect and is a practice we should all engage in periodically.

You do not have to read every blog post, accept every invitation or join and participate in every social media forum. Choose your battles based on your ultimate prize, your body, mind, soul and loved ones will thank you for it!
How do you manage your energy? How do you make the tough decisions?

Photo: Yuri Arcurs |

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

by Karen D. Swim

Dusty camps littered with tents and the eyes that seem to long for hope haunt my thoughts on this day. The people of Darfur are suffering and there is barely a whisper of protest and support from the International Community. While I know that there is suffering in all parts of the globe, I wonder how we can ignore 2.5 million people who have been displaced.

For five years the conflict in Darfur has raged on, leaving in its wake widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Various estimates indicate that 200,000 to 400,000 people have lost their lives. The Sudanese government has been escalating its attacks. On May 4, a Darfuri school was bombed killing at least 13 people, including 7 children.

Commercial trucks bearing food from the World Food Program were hijacked forcing the U.N. to cut its rations in half. Human rights organizations indicate that malnutrition is a concern in many areas of the region.

Are there no tears left for Darfur? Has the world turned its back on this genocide? We have failed Darfur miserably. After the May 4 bombing, it took the international community more than 48 hours to respond. Almost one year ago, the U.N. approved a peacekeeping force for Darfur. To date, less than a third of that force has reached Darfur.

You can support Darfur by making your voice heard. Amnesty International has local groups worldwide who have united to help Darfur.

United States citizens can email or print a petition to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging the US Administration to put an end to the devastating violence in Darfur by getting UN-AU boots on the ground with everything they need to protect civilians.

There are also countless organizations such as Save Darfur that are working to bring about change. I urge you to get informed, and then get involved. Darfur is running out of time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Assumption is the Feast of Fools

by Karen D. Swim

As a teen I often quoted the familiar phrase "a-s-s-u-m-e makes an a** out out of you(u) and me." I have no idea where the turn of phrase originated or even why I said it so much, but as an adult I still fancy the simple message. Assumption can be good or bad. Being taking up into heaven is the good kind of assumption. Assuming power can also be good. If anyone wanted to assume my financial obligations well that would rock too. Assumption is bad when it is arrogant and pretentious.

I had a boss once who screened potential sales candidates by driving by their homes. If they lived in an apartment, she would not hire them. If they lived in a home that was "not nice" or in a "bad neighborhood" she also would not hire them. Her logic being that a successful sales person would own their own home in a "nice" neighborhood with acceptable curb appeal. Would you agree with my former boss?

My boss' assumptions were based on her value system and personal measure of success. This is where we can all get into trouble. By failing to expand the prism of our perceptions we risk becoming a horse's patootie. What if the salesperson was renting because they had made a conscious decision to donate 50% of their income to a children's charity? Or perhaps that person owned a home in another location and kept an apartment to avoid a commute. What if the salesperson owned the entire building? Could they have purchased a home in a less than desirable neighborhood that was on the verge of revival?

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”-- Orville Wright
The human race is diverse. There are cultural, gender, generational and individual differences. It is risky to assume facts not in evidence. Assumptions can hinder your personal growth, relationships and even impact your professional life. We must be willing to look past the top layer to discover the complexities that lie beneath. We are cheating ourselves and others if we hold on to a narrow world view where we expect everyone to be just like us.

How can making assumptions about the actions and comments of others affect the facilitation of a group? What are the cultural implications?

Photo Credit: © Brian Dunne |

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ease On Down the Road

by Karen D. Swim

All this month we've been talking about moving forward. Last night as I reviewed the events of the day I found myself singing "Ease on Down the Road" from The Wiz. I have not thought of or heard the song in a number of years but it is a happy song and a great road tune.

Unlike the characters in the Wiz, at the end of our road there is something far better than the Wizard. Put on your dancing shoes or if you're like Brett Legree, go barefoot and sing along as you dance on down the road to your destiny!

Do you have a song that gets you moving down the road?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Before You Move Forward, Clean House!

by Karen D. SwimI have been planning a blog move for a couple of months now. Planning to move my blog has not been unlike planning to move from your home. I have had to view potential new homes (blog platforms), put in offers (for domain names), manage financial details, research and hire professionals to help me move. Finally, before physically boxing up my belongings, I have had to evaluate what is truly important.

No one wants to pack up unnecessary junk and take it into a bright shiny new place, yet so often we are unable to let go of things we no longer need. I had cleared away some things but still had items, which I was not sure if I should keep or let go. This past weekend Amy Palko and Joanna Young swept in like the crew from the show “Clean House” and helped me sort the trash from the treasure.

A move forces you to reevaluate your possessions in a new light. You only want to spend time packing and bubble wrapping the things you really want and need. Books, bobbles, furniture and clothing that filled your home suddenly seem better suited to donate to charity or simply throw out.

Moving forward can feel labored and difficult when you are carrying boxes filled with things you no longer need. It is difficult but essential to retire those things, which have outlived their usefulness. We must also clear out the emotional and mental clutter. We leave behind old attitudes and thoughts as we pack up the moving fan and relocate.

Moving is hard work but becomes harder when we over pack. Taking the time to clear away the junk is well worth the effort. When you do the hard work in advance you can then move forward to your new destination with confidence knowing that you’re only taking what you need and nothing more.

As you move forward this month, are you holding on to things that you no longer need? What is preventing you from letting go?

Photo Credit: gesika22 |

Friday, May 09, 2008

Strap on Your Heels and Take a Step Toward Your Dreams

by Karen D. SwimImage courtesy of Eliza Petrol Patent Peep Toe

"The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet."-- Lao Tzu
We have reached the end of the week which means it is Fierce Friday! What have you done to make your dreams happen this week? It does not matter if your dream is one mile or ten thousand miles away, you will never get there if you don't move. As you look out over the horizon you may be overwhelmed by the number of miles that must be covered. So quit looking over the horizon. No matter how much you look and agonize about what has to be done, you still have to move to get there. The journey begins from beneath your feet.

Yesterday Timothy Carter wrote that today is the time for action. Not tomorrow, or next week, but today. Today, you can take a single step. That single step will empower you to take another and another and soon your single steps will bring you to your destination. The first step can be the scariest but also the most powerful. When you take that first step you own your dream. Feel the power baby you are making it happen! It is not a pipe dream but a vision and you have taken the first step of your jouney.
When we are sure that we are on the right road there is no need to plan our journey too far ahead. No need to burden ourselves with doubts and fears as to the obstacles that may bar our progress. We cannot take more than one step at a time.--Orison Swett Marden
Jen Knoedl took a step and rocked the house! Read about it here. She could have given herself a thousand reasons why her dream was impossible but instead she moved. Erica Ortiz is passionate about her dream of racing Top Fuel. She needs money to make her dream happen but she has not let it hold her back. One tip at a time she is moving toward her dream. You can help Erica by making a donation. Single steps will get Erica to her donation, and they will get you there too.

Erica would probably tell you that you can't race if you don't get in the car. So get in the car already and start your engine. Better yet, get in the car in a fierce pair of heels. We'll meet you at the finish line waving the flag in your honor. I'll be the one holding the lip gloss.

What are you waiting for? What's holding you back?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Forward Momentum Begins With Standng Firm

by Karen D. Swim
Photo Credit: Kimba, Flickr

As the mighty winds blew and the rains beat down, a Father grabbed his young daughter and stood her in the doorway in the hall. With his hand upon her trembling shoulder he looked into her eyes and said, "Daddy has to leave but I want you to stand right here. Do not move, no matter what happens. Her little heart beat faster as she drew strength from her Father's voice. Nodding her head, she squared her shoulders and stood.

Through wind and rain she stood. Debris scattered around the house and she stood. The storm finally ended and still she stood. A police officer picked his way through the debris and crossed what had been the threshold of her home. Spotting the little girl, his eyes grew wide, "Honey, how did you survive this storm?" The little girl declared, "My daddy told me to stand right here and not move."

Before we can move forward toward our goals we must be able to firmly stand our ground. Like the little girl, we have to find that place where we can stand with confidence when the winds are raging and the rain is beating on our roof. We must stand when the voices within and around us try to move us to the left or to the right. You don't have the credentials to do that. That sounds risky, are you sure you aren't making a mistake. The economy is bad. Be sensible, keep your day job and do this on the side. Yeah, you know the voices. The well-meaning friends who want the best for you. The colleagues who are just trying to spare you from making the biggest mistake of your life. Your own fears, doubts and insecurities. But, before you can move forward you have to learn to stand.

When I got the idea to start my business, I was newly widowed and broke. We had lived off our savings for 3 1/2 years while I stayed planted by my husband's side. After my husband's death, I briefly took a job but volunteered to be laid off when the company needed to cut back. Jobless and sorely in need of cash I devoured books from the library on starting a business. I read, took notes, and wrote plans. I dressed in layers, wrapped up in blankets, ignored my growling tummy and excitedly planned the launch of my business.

I was cold and often hungry but I was certain of my place. I was standing firm while the winds howled outside my door. It was crazy to start a business while mourning the loss of my husband and with no money. Why not just go back to my nice cushy job in Corporate and do this on the side? Yes I could have followed conventional wisdom, but I knew where I was supposed to stand and refused to be moved.

I was neither brave nor stupid, or maybe I was a little of both. I didn't know how I was going to accomplish my dream. I didn't even know what direction to head. I did however, know where I was supposed to stand until I had the answers.

I am not advising anyone to take the same route I took. I am simply encouraging you to find a place where doubts and fears (yours and others) cannot huff and puff and blow you down. Look within and find that place that you need to stand and then stand firmly. When you do take that step forward, your legs may still wobble but the ground beneath you will not be moved.

What about you? Are you standing firm or being tossed around? What is keeping you from moving forward?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Business Writing Bad

by Branden R. Williams, CISSP, CISM

Have you noticed that most of the business writing you read is hard to understand? Or that the author did not run a simple grammar or spelling check? Complain if you must about Microsoft Word reminding you to use active voice and pointing out all your sentence fragments and verb agreement. Word’s spell check feature is good for creating a document without spelling flaws; but a perfectly spelled document can still be difficult to read or understand.

“Step 1: Extinguish the precipitous rubescent LED-based luminosity.”

The Thesaurus wants to be our friend. His content is like crack—your first synonym is free. Instead of using the word “hint” you find that “clue” is a much better match for your writing. It’s a win-win (or as Michael Scott learns, a "Win-Win-Win"). Once you are hooked, the Thesaurus starts charging for finding synonyms. No, you don’t slip a twenty inside the pages of the Thesaurus, close your eyes and speak the word you need a synonym for, and the book magically falls open to a page written for you. Instead, the cost is much higher—your career.

Companies have developed a poor vernacular that removes the readability from memos, e-mails, policies, and other internal documents. We’ve all read language like what you see above and wondered, “Why can’t they just say ‘Turn off the solid red light?’” This is a major problem with writing in business. Often we write to try to sound smart; but instead our readers toss our writing in the garbage because they can’t understand it. Murky, jargon-laced writing does not make you smart, it makes you difficult to understand and ultimately an ineffective communicator.

William Zinsser highlights writing for business in his book “On Writing Well.” He says, “Managers at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking.” It’s easy to use jargon, but hard to write in a manner that everyone can understand. Simple writing is usually the result of laborious rewriting and revising. Write (and rewrite) to a tenth-grade level and watch the clarity in your writing rise above your peers.

The other writing problem I often see is simply the abuse of our language. I’m not talking about the minor bruises from ending a sentence with a preposition, or adding ‘ize’ to any noun or adjective to make it into a verb (can we PLEASE stop that). I’m referring to the bludgeoning caused by poor sentence construction, overuse of passive voice, and cluttering phrases such as “due to the fact that” and “it should be noted.” Microsoft Word’s grammar check can only do so much. Reading your writing aloud can catch much more.

One way to remove the excess clutter from your sentences is to remove words and see if the sentence changes meaning. If the words are required to keep the meaning the same, then leave them in. Otherwise, use that delete key! Zinsser says that he hates writing, but loves rewriting.

The moral of this column is to take the time to ensure that every word plays its part in the end, just like a composer scrutinizes every note in his symphony. Better writing output shows that you care about your legacy. Just a small amount of time spent learning the language will demonstrate your utility and ensure you a spot at the top!

About the Author:

Branden R. Williams is an Information Technology and Strategy Leader sought after by the world’s foremost corporate executives. His rare combination of technology and business expertise have gained him respect and recognition among global top named clients and industry insiders. To learn more about Branden and his expertise visit his website.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Before You Move Forward, Be Still

by Karen D. Swim
© Krzysztof Korolonek |
There is a point where in the mystery of
existence contradictions meet;
where movement is not all movement
and stillness is not all stillness;
where the idea and the form,
the within and the without, are united;
where infinite becomes finite,
yet not losing its infinity.--Tagore
Standing outside with a cup of tea in hand I lifted my face to the sun enjoying the warmth of its rays. A soft breeze caressed my face and lifted my hair. The silence of the day was only broken by birds chirping overhead as they carried twigs and blades of dry grass to build a nest for their young. I lowered my face from the sun and allowed the stillness of the day to infuse me with its peace. I realized that this was the first time in a long while that I had not been in motion.

April was a month of movement. My mind, body, senses, being were in a constant state of motion as I responded to the events of the month. Even as I slept, my mind was active and often my body twitched in fractured sleep. Yet, all of the motion had not moved me forward. Confronted by barriers personal and professional, my kinetic energy had failed to move them. But now in absolute stillness, I was finally in forward motion.

As I look back on April I now realize that it was not an unfruitful month but a necessary stop in a year that has been filled with movement. Now, I am ready once again to move forward pursuing my purpose and passion with renewed energy. May will be a month of purposeful movement and one I intend to share with all of you.

This month I want to choose purposeful action that will help me to move forward in my pursuit of my goals. Measured steps that are thoughtful but powerful as they propel me in the direction I wish to go. How do we take those steps? How do we concentrate our actions to achieve our goals? Is it possible to eliminate unnecessary steps? These are all questions and topics I'd like to explore in the coming days.

If there are questions and topics that you'd like to explore please share them with me. And of course if you have an idea for a blog post, guest posts are always gratefully welcomed.

Consider this your personal invite to pull up a chair and pop in throughout the month. If you like what you're reading, I'd love it if you'd pass it on.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Is it Social or Is It Business?

by Karen D. Swim

Welcome to another edition of Fierce Friday! Here at Words For Hire, Fierce Friday is a day that we spotlight and gain inspiration from fierce women (and sometimes men) and discuss issues that impact women in business. Today, hot off the blogosphere is a new study that determined that when it comes to social networks, women like to socialize but men are all business.
read more | digg story

Perhaps it is the Election season that has everyone thinking along gender lines, but lately there seems to be no shortage of mars versus venus debates. Are women more social or do men simply socialize differently? Deborah Micek wrote a thought provoking article in which she asserts that women have an advantage over men in the Web 2.0 and new media markteplace.

Women are good at bonding. Forming connections with other women seems to come quite easily for most. You can sit next to a perfect stranger and in a 15 minute conversation learn all about their family, job and where they got their hair done! We are good at socializing darn it and we should not make apologies for this gift!

How do we use this natural gift in business? The new media marketplace is all about engaging others and creating genuine connections. The old web was all about information, but we suffered information overload. The new web demands authenticity and genuine connection...if you want to win. Women like Rosa Say understand how to merge genuine connections with business promotions. Ross refers to the process as "tooting sweetly." Tooting sweetly stands in stark contrast to blowing your own horn. We toot sweetly by engaging and sharing value rather than using tools such as Twitter to blast our URLs.

Deb and Rosa show us that we are not only capable of shining in this new marketplace but we can excel in it. So go out this Friday and leverage your gift to toot your own horn, but do toot it sweetly!

What do you think about the gender differences in social media? What has been your experience? Are you socializing or doing business when using social network tools?