Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Moving Day!

Written by Karen D. Swim

Happy Wednesday! Well, this blog has moved. If you typically access this blog from the tab on my website, I have not yet updated the navigation. Please bookmark our new address. Although I have talked about this move for quite some time, the execution has not gone as planned. Thank goodness for MERRY tips! The move and brand new design were to happen simultaneously. However, I could not bear the frustrations any longer, so last night I picked up and moved (with help from my awesome web host!).

So, no Men with Pens pretty custom design (yet) but commenting will be easier and I will have comment luv (yippee). I was so excited last night I woke up at 3 am and watched the news! Yea, bad idea, but the 3 am ABC news is very interesting, kind of BBC mixed with Good Morning America mixed with carnival. Hmm, this could explain the later dreams about Bette Midler.

I'll be back tomorrow to hit you with the happy stick in the blog's new space. I'll be sure to update you on how to keep subscribing too, one of the many things that must be figured out today.

Have an awesome day and if you've got wordpress tips, I'm sure to be asking lots of questions on Twitter or Plurk today!

Peace and love,


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making MERRY from Failures

Written by Karen D. Swim

Are you familiar with the sound effects that accompany total failure? It sounds a little like this...did you hear it? Exactly, it is so silent you can hear dust move across the floor.

Public failure can be especially difficult. There is no covering it up when you blow it while others are watching. Yet, it's not often humiliation that stings the most, it is our own heartbreak when our results don't live up to our expectations. The reel of negative self talk plays in a never ending loop. My MERRY tips have helped me to hit the pause button on the torture tape and move on.

  1. Mourn the Loss. Yes, it is a loss! To deny what you feel only prolongs it. I give myself a specific time period to mourn the loss. I find that 6 1/2 minutes works magic. I can cry, brood and feel sucky and then it's time to move on.
  2. Examine your Expectations. Were your expectations realistic? There's a fine balance between aiming high and setting yourself up for utter disappointment. The balance lies in managing your expectations. Aim for the moon, but if you land in the stars, celebrate your accomplishment rather than mourn your failure.
  3. Re-evaluate your motive. If you launched a product to make a zillion dollars, land on Oprah and party like Diddy with no thought of the end user and their benefit, well your profits may fall short of expectations. Yes you rock, but you must rock with purpose.
  4. Roll up your sleeves and learn. Failure teaches us tremendous lessons if you're willing to learn them. Perhaps the results fell short of expectations but there is much to be gained from the experience. Be willing to honestly examine your process, preparation and attitude. Take notes and use what you've learned to continue to move forward.
  5. You're not done yet! So you bombed, it's not the end of the world. I can prove it, you're here reading this post aren't you?

So there you have it my MERRY tips for recovering from failure. How do you move on when something has not gone quite as expected? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Belief + Preparation = You Taking the World by Storm

Written by Karen D. Swim


Actress, comedienne, and author Mo'Nique exudes confidence. She has overcome barriers and created her own reality in a town where that is not easy to do.

So, it should come as no surprise that while mindlessly flipping channels I stopped to hear her share the secret to her success. I expected to listen in for a few minutes but finger on the remote I sat transfixed for the next half hour rapt with attention.

I feasted on the meal of her wisdom and now I'd like to share a few morsels with you.

Belief + preparation = any d*** thing you want!

Talent is meaningless without belief and preparation. There are many great novels tucked away in bottom drawers, canvases shoved into the corner of basements and songs never heard all by people with tremendous talent. When you believe that you deserve success, you will prepare for it. In fact you will prepare relentlessly knowing that you will make it. And when that break comes, you will be happy but not surprised because you believed.

My big break came not when the big deal came but when I decided it was my big break.

The book deal, promotion, award, appearance on Oprah, and huge check are not what will define your success. Your success begins within, when you decide you are worthy enough to have it.

When they speak of me of course I want them to say, she was funny, or she was a great actress but most importantly I want them to say I stood for something.

Fame, fortune and even wealth are window dressing. Living with integrity and standing for something has a lasting impact on the people you will touch in this lifetime. Go out and grab your success but make it count for something bigger than you.

Do you believe? What are you doing about it? Share boldly in the comments.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Inspiration

Words and Photo - Karen D. Swim

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."--John 1:16, New International Version (NIV) Bible

I am painfully aware that I cannot live one day withoutGod's grace. Today I am thankful that the supply of unmerited favor is not finite. Grace has given me more than I ever deserved or could ever earn in a lifetime. The knowledge of grace bows my head in humility and fills my heart with thankfulness.

Grace enables me to look upon others with a compassion that comes from the knowledge that we are all in this race together. Imperfect creatures faced with the same 24 hours in a day to strive to be better, to do better. Grace humbly reminds me that I am not worthy to judge your perceived faults for I have many of my own. Grace encourages me to reach across the divide and extend the hand of friendship, understanding and love.

As I pour from the cup of grace, it is continually refilled from the source that will never run dry.

Yes, today I am so very thankful for grace. Are you?

P.S. I took this photo several years ago in Maui with a disposable camera. It is a triumph that my thumb does not appear in the photo, so please extend a little grace as you view it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Are you a commitment phobe?

by Karen D. Swim, Photo: Jeff Belmonte,


”Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans.” --Peter F. Drucker

Do you have a fear of commitment? According to, "Commitment phobia is the fear and avoidance of having to commit, particularly to relationships." The site offers a commitment readiness test to help you assess if you are commitment phobic or "ready to take the proverbial plunge?"

Commitment phobia is not exclusive to relationships. You may fear making a commitment to yourself. You will not invest the time and resources in your goals and dreams because you are not quite ready to take the plunge.

Commitment to yourself requires a willingness to accept change, and that can be scary. However, change is necessary as standing in the same place, doing the same thing will yield the same results.

"The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt." --Rollo May

Commitment moves your "I Want" to "I Will." When you are fully engaged, losing is no longer an option. Tiger Woods did not delay surgery because he wanted to win the US Open. He made a firm commitment, stating his intention to win the US Open.

Melanie Roach captured the #1 one spot on the four woman 2008 Olympic Team. Melanie has a full life as the mother of three small children under the age of six, one of whom is autistic, owner/operator of a gymnastics training facility with over 500 students, wife of fourth term incumbent Washington State House of Representatives legislator, and Sunday school teacher! Yet, she committed to her dream of making the Olympic team and made it happen.

As in relationships, commitment does not come without bumps in the road. You are certain to hit some speed bumps along the way. Work through them and keep moving forward. As you move through challenges you will find that your commitment will deepen. Do not fear the challenge, fear quitting!

Are you willing to take the plunge for YOU today?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gone Fishing!

Words For Hire has gone fishing (metaphorically not physically) but will return tomorrow with the catch of the day. Got any fish tales of your own to share? Feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What Song Are You?

by Karen D. Swim

Musical notes

What song are you today? Are you a lilting melody with haunting string accompaniments, or a stately, solemn piece with a repeated bass? Perhaps, you are a symphonic harmony building to a crescendo, or a song with shifting moods and busy texture.

What song does your family hear when you greet them at the breakfast table? What song do you play when you stop at the morning coffee shop? Are you a hard driving bass line with raging guitar chords as you make your daily commute? When you arrive at the office, is your greeting Vivaldi or is it humming in angry dissonance and tortured angst?

I rose this morning a song of praise, counting my blessings and rejoicing at the start of a day. My lips dripped sweet melodies as I greeted those I encountered. The soft sweet melody rose to a resounding crescendo of CAN, WILL, BELIEVE as I reviewed my goals for the day. With the sounds of belief firmly implanted, a rising drumbeat transitions me to a heart pumping, energy charged beat that screams Let's Get It Started!

What tune are the chords of your life playing?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Achieve A Lot with Just A Little

by Karen D. Swim

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."
-- Vincent Van Gogh

As we begin the second half of 2008, it is a good time to evaluate and adjust if necessary. In considering my own journey I realized that the only thing separating me from achieving all that I want is “a little.” The path from average to great is only a little farther away. Consider the impact of just a little.

  • Adding a mere ten minutes to a run can burn an extra 100 calories.
  • Ten dollars a month can prevent a child from starving.
  • You can develop a new habit in 21 days.
  • A dash of salt can season an entire dish
  • Making one more sales call at the end of your day can help you win President’s Club.
  • A basketball team can win a game by one point.
  • You only need one publisher to accept your book.
  • Tiny mustard seeds grow into shrubs three or four feet high.
  • A tiny variation in a single gene determines how acutely you feel pain.

What impact would a little extra effort have on your business, your life? Would your family benefit from one hour of your focused attention? How would one extra rep impact your workouts? Would one additional client per week make a difference in your business? Could a tiny change in your budget help you meet your financial goals?

What about you? Can a little go a long way in your life?

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Divine Slap on the Head

by Karen D. Swim
Photo: Ian Britton,

For the past week my truck has been doing community service. As such, my only transportation has been my two feet (you don't even want to know what happened to my bike!). My typical errands are roughly 5 miles. Normally I enjoy the additional exercise and the good feeling of being environmentally friendly. Yesterday, however, I was not feeling quite so gracious. I strapped on my backpack and headed out in the hot, humid weather. One mile into my errands the internal conversation began:

I really wish I had my truck. What was I thinking? Stupid pinecones, don't they know people walk here. Geez, trim your hedges it's like a forest out here. I wonder if I look fat in this shirt. This heat is really going to destroy my hair. Hey, wild bunny..oh man is that dog poo?

I got to my first stop,sweaty, cranky and in no mood to go on, but I had no choice. I started my internal grousing again.

It's hot. Man, how much further. Oh man it's hot. I'm tired, no you're not tired,this is nothing. Is that a...

My litany was interrupted by the sight of of someone heading my way. I spotted the pink sponge rollers first, and then took in the elderly woman in a sleek wheelchair. I perked up as our paths drew closer. We smiled and exchanged greetings and then with a hearty smile she said: "I wish I could walk." Oomph! Talk about a divine slap on the head. I continued on and uttered to myself, "I can walk, and for that I should be thankful."

I quickened my step as I asked forgiveness for being such a petulant brat. I had two legs able to carry me on 5 miles of errands with a sack on my back. The woman in the wheelchair reminded me that I was indeed blessed to be able to walk.

I continued my errands with renewed gratitude for the many gifts in my life. My eyes were open to the people and places I passed along the way, and the journey was much faster with a better attitude. I even took the long way home.

While I am in no way proud of my bad attitude, I am thankful for the gentle reminder to count my blessings.

Today's post is a bit of a departure from the typical Fierce Friday fare. However, I believe true fierceness is tempered with humility and thanksgiving. If you have had a tough week, I invite you to let go of what went wrong and focus on all the ways that you are blessed. Your list of blessings will far outweigh your list of annoyances.

Thank you for reading, commenting and continuing to inspire me to be a better person.

What was your most memorable or recent gratitude lesson? How did it impact you? Let's learn together. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I Learned from Bullies

by Karen D. Swim


I am firmly convinced that the little boy who took my milk money in first grade is either a CEO or a convicted felon. Hopefully, he channeled his alpha tendencies in a positive manner and is a CEO, but the latter choice would not surprise me!

We all knew bullies growing up. Heck, some of you may have even been that bully. Not all bullies asserted their authority physically, some were geniuses at mental torture. Others reigned their kingdom with superior skills and an authoritative tone. Yet, looking back I learned valuable lessons from each and I believe became a better person as a result of my encounters with them. So, without further ado, my bully hall of fame and the lessons they taught me.

Joaquin (First Grade Bully)

Joaquin was a tough little kid who ruled the school yard with an iron fist. He took my milk money for weeks before I gained the courage to tell my parents. When my mom came to school and personally advised him to leave me alone, he suddenly became just another first grader. Lesson learned: Bullies are tough, but moms are tougher!

Leticia (Grades 1-6)

Leticia came from a big family and she was loud and bossy. She ruled the tether ball court and we all patiently awaited our turn each day allowing us to kick our butts. Leticia was not unstoppable but her confident attitude led us all to believe that she could not be beaten.She was allowed to wear her hair and clothing styles that my mom forbid for me, which added to her standoffish cool. We went on to become great friends. Lesson learned: The right attitude will make people sit up and take notice, that and a cool hairstyle.

Alexis (Middle school)

Alexis was the quintessential teenage mean girl! She hated me and found new ways to torment me almost daily. She befriended another mean girl and together they were Evil and Evil personified. What incited their hatred? A boy of course. I have a permanent bump on the back of my head courtesy of Alexis. I later learned that the torturous duo each came from less than ideal homes. Lesson learned: Bullies are often acting out their own internal pain. Be empathetic, don't take it personally and when they come near you run like the wind!

All of these bullies and the ones I later encountered in Corporate America taught me strength. I learned to stand up for myself and not allow others to walk over me. I learned that fear was my true bully not people. Leticia also taught me to aim beyond my comfort zone. Because of her, I practiced tether ball at home every day preparing myself to beat her. I may not have become a world class tether baller but I did stretch myself to new limits.

What about you? Did you encounter bullies on the schoolyard (or in the workplace)? What lessons did you learn? The comment box is open and all are welcome!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Riding the Wave of Imagination

by Karen D. Swim, Photo: Juria Yoshikawa,

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."
-- Albert Einstein

Children are quite inventive. A spoon can function as a microphone, drumstick or magic wand. Blankets and chairs can instantly be transformed into a tent in the wilderness or a fort requiring protection from the bad guys. In childhood we give free reign to our imagination and allow ourselves to be catapulted as far as our minds will take us. And then we grow up.

Imagination is: 1: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality 2 a: creative ability b: ability to confront and deal with a problem : resourcefulness c: the thinking or active mind : interest (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Imagination unleashes possibilities not yet seen. Children are able to do this effortlessly as their logic has not yet fully developed to hinder the process. As adults we imagine but often reason it away with logic.

Imagination however leads to innovation which is one of the keys to business success. Giving free reign to your creative senses can help you solve problems and challenges in your professional and personal life. With imagination we can find breakthroughs and inventive solutions. If only we are willing to exercise the mental muscle that asks "what if?"

Another benefit of imagination is hope. Imagining what could be gives room for our dreams to grow and restores hope in our potential. We see ourselves and our surroundings from a different perspective when we let go and take a magic carpet ride over the horizon.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to imagine without censure? I triple double dog dare you to let your imagination run free today. There's room in the sandbox (also known as the comment box), come in and tell us your stories. Imagine the possibilities!

somerights20Photo licensed through Creative Commons, some rights reserved. Please do not copy or distribute without attribution to the photographer.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Footprints in the Sandbox

by Karen D. Swim

This weekend I had the opportunity to catch up on blog reading, and I'm so glad I did. My friend Nadine Touzet, wrote a guest post for The Passion Project Blog which discussed Where You Go to Discover Your Passion.  Nadine shared that childhood memories offer a multitude of clues about your passion.

The post inspired me to dig for treasure in my own childhood, and I discovered that my passion for the written word has been a constant presence in my life from early childhood.  I have memories of reading Shakespeare with my dad, climbing trees to read a book, making my imagination come alive with stories and poring over the dictionary with excitement wanting to learn every word.

My first day of kindergarten Mrs. Sonnenberg stood at the door to greet her new students, many clinging to their parents in tears. I was normally shy but on this day I strode up to my new teacher and with a huge smile announced: "My name is Karen Denise Wilson and I know how to write it too." I launched into a litany of my other reading and writing skills as my mother gently ushered me into the classroom.   I later learned my mother was surprised (and amused)  that I never shed a single tear and was all too ready to take on this school thing without her!

All of these memories validated (for me at least) that indeed we are born with our unique seeds of greatness. We are blessed with those special traits, characteristics and talents that make us unique. Sometimes we go off track and must find our way back to that child who will remind us of who we were truly meant to be. Over the next several days, we will take that journey together. We will retrace our passion footprints and revisit the lessons learned in the sandbox. I look forward to your comments, suggestions and stories as we share a few laughs this week.

What about you? Can you recall vivid clues to your passion from childhood?  Please feel free to share in crayon or ink. All discussion is welcomed. :-)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Be Unstoppable!

by Karen D. Swim

IMG5It was one of those days. My cell phone began ringing during my yoga workout interrupting my desperate attempt at achieving balance and peace. Each call brought news that tightened my body into knots of tension - car problems, client problems, lost invoices - and so on and so on. At this rate, I would need a boxing workout with a sparring partner to get back on track!

I managed to regain a sense of calm but the entire day unfolded like a conspiracy to drive me insane. At 7:30 pm I threw in the towel and half collapsed on the couch. I was exhausted, my neck hurt, and my hair looked funny but I was calling it a day. I mindlessly flipped through a magazine, my eyes too tired to even focus on the text. I flipped a page and saw bold black letters set against a gray background that read UNSTOPPABLE. I sat up and simply stared believing the message was meant just for me. Today, I felt far from unstoppable. I looked and felt like a train wreck but somehow the words had penetrated and got me thinking.

There are days when I do feel unstoppable. At times it begins with an external event, such as a great run or workout, a client project that went well, a trip to the hair salon or those shoes that make you feel like a million bucks that triggers internal feelings of absolute fierceness.

As I read the word, it ignited my desire to be unstoppable every day. I want to be a force for change in my own life. Hand me that cape because I am going to conquer the world! wonderwoman3

Challenges, distractions and annoyances should not change the course of your day or focus. Rather those things should come up against the impenetrable force field of your positive power and disintegrate at your feet. Bad hair days, broken cars, checks that really are not in the mail are no match for the unstoppable man or woman. We are fierce, and we are unstoppable!

What are your tips for being unstoppable? Speak your mind in the comments.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Take a Laugh Break

by Karen D. Swim

When was the last time you laughed so hard your tummy ached and tears flowed from your eyes? If your answer is "today" good for you! However, if it's been a few days or even a few months, then I invite you to share a laugh with me today.

Unlike children, adults do not routinely collapse in giggles. Allow me to share a few logical reasons you should laugh well and laugh often. Many studies show that laughter has positive health benefits. Laughing:

  • reduces stress
  • lowers your blood pressure
  • elevates your mood
  • boosts the immune system
  • improves brain functioning
  • protects the heart
  • connects you to others

and a good laugh has been shown to have aerobic benefits equivalent to 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

Laughter is great medicine and best of all it is free and accessible to all, so go ahead and have a good laugh today and everyday.

What tickles your funny bone? Have you found yourself laughing less lately? What can you do to add humor to your life? Let's share a giggle or two in the comments.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Are You Ready to Get Lucky?

Push Button For Luck

by Karen D. Swim, Photo credit: kamaru,

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.--Seneca

The Detroit Pistons made it through 82 regular season games and won a spot in the playoffs. Reserve Guard, Lindsey Hunter had been inactive for most of the season but he too would participate in the playoffs.

Like his teammates Hunter wanted the team to become the 2008 Champs. After all, at 37 this could be his last season. He wanted the ring and they now had an opportunity to go all the way. When the time came, Hunter was ready. Physically and mentally prepared, he sprang into action and energized his team at crucial moments during the series. He showed no sign of rust from lack of playing time, in fact he looked better than most of the starters who had played all season long.

Are you ready for opportunity? If the phone rings today and you are asked to give a presentation for the biggest client you've ever landed, are you ready? If offered a chance to exhibit your work, are you ready? If your boss quits and you are suddenly in line for a promotion, are you ready?

Far too often in life, even if we are technically ready, we are not emotionally or mentally ready. We make excuses as to why we cannot seize opportunity when it lands on our doorstep. "I don't have enough experience." "Well, I would if..." "I just don't know if I'm ready for that." Any of these sound familiar?

" prepared in season and out of season.."--II Timothy 4:2, NIV Bible

Perfect alignment rarely, if ever happens. You have to be prepared in and out of season when opportunity comes your way. If called into action, are you ready to bring your "A" game? How do you get prepared? You practice. Lindsey Hunter practiced all season long to play mere minutes at the end of a long season. You have to train your mind, body and skill set as if every day you will be presented with your shot at the championship. Look deep within your soul and ask yourself what you really want. Are you ready to have it?

It's fun to share, so please join in the discussion and share in the comments!

Monday, June 02, 2008

I Am an SOB!

by Karen D. Swim


Yes, you read the title right, I am an SOB, Liz Strauss said so! I was honored to be named by Liz as a Successful and Outstanding Blogger(SOB) last week.  How do you earn the right to call yourself a Successful Blog SOB? In Liz's words:

"They take the conversation to their readers, contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger."

However, this post is not an excuse to toot my own horn (c'mon you know me better than that, right?). This morning before I sat down to write, I read Joanna Young's post on Gratitude.  It was the perfect complement to my thoughts today and for the month ahead.  Joanna writes:

"Gratitude shapes your language and your world.  Regular practice in writing with gratitude gets you writing about what's good, but also what's real.  It's a powerful form of affirmation.  The more you write this kind of stuff the more it becomes what's 'normal' to you; it influences your language and your beliefs.  It starts to shape and create your world."

I agree with Joanna. Life is never perfect, yet even in the midst of challenges we can walk in gratitude. Choosing to be thankful changes our perception. We are able to see beyond the problem or challenge to the potential and possibility.  Problems are only as big and consuming as we allow them to be.

The SOB honor is meaningful to me because at its essence it embraces gratitude and giving back. Liz Strauss is the blogger we all aspire to be.  She is one of the industry's leading blog writers but she generously extends a hand to bring others to the top too.  Liz has a passionate commitment to create connections online and offline.  She not only talks it but definitely walks it. Thank you Liz for lighting the way and modeling excellence.

Liz's nod is an affirmation of my own purpose and encourages me in my mission of creating connections. However, I could not do this without all of you dear readers.

I am so thankful for all of you taking time to participate in this community. I look forward to hearing from you and learning from you each day. You have made blogging a passion not a labor. I look forward to the second half of this year. It is my hope that our connections grow stronger and that we expand the circle of community. Again, I say thank you.

How important is community to you? What makes you feel part of a community?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.