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“Yeah, Sure” Isn’t Good Enough

 

I live a damn fine life to be able to say that more often than not, my clients become friends. So, how did I meet today’s guest author? Well, I met his lovely wife, Maddie, first. She’s a badass for a living and we sat down and contemplated ways to amp her bad-assery to eleven (and from what I’ve seen from her lately, she said to hell with eleven and went right to thirteen. Did you hear that? Spinal Tap just became irrelevant.) Anywhoo, her husband came to me for a Buy Me Coffee session about six month later. He was ready to leave the corporate world behind and pursue his MUST. He’s now in the midst of my latest round in the GSD Mastermind and if it’s possible for me to have a couple crush, I have it on The Kertays. I see love, challenge, openess, frustration, affection, and dear all chocolate dieties in the heavens of the sweet world, they tell me that the love I’m waiting for is worth waiting for.

So without further adoo, I introduce you to Dr. Les Kertay. He’s here to talk about why “yeah, sure” is bullshit.

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As an inveterate optimist, I am starting to believe that the notion of radical consent – “yes means yes, and only yes means yes” – is making a difference in the culture. The movement has been criticized as too legalistic on the one hand and as not radical enough on the other, but all in all it seems like a good idea and about damn time. It’s not that hard really: you own your body and your space, and I get to enter that space if, and only if, you say “yes.”  Simple.

If I enter your space when you haven’t said “yes,” let alone if I enter your space with some evil notion that you really meant “yes” when you clearly said “no,” and you get to – figuratively and, if necessary, literally – kick my ass. Simple.

But I’ve been thinking that maybe we aren’t going far enough. Maybe “yes means yes” ought to apply to life.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a friend who has a pretty good idea, and he and his partners wanted me to be a part of it. It was flattering to be invited, and they clearly were looking for talent that I could provide. Maybe, if they got their shit together and developed an actual business model (oh details, details) we could all make some money at it. I listened, and found myself thinking, “yeah, sure.”

Yeah sure. Makes sense. Sounds good. Ok. Uh-huh. Fine.

Probably because my friend called a couple of days after I bought Erika the most expensive cup of coffee in the history of ever, what happened next is that I noticed that “yeah sure” felt, well not bad exactly, but limp, bland, lame. I could picture myself working on this project half-heartedly, and so my work would be half-assed, and eventually my give-a-shit would break. Even if everyone else thought I was doing good work – and they probably would because I’m good at what I do – I would be disappointed in myself.

So instead of saying “yeah sure” I said – wait for it – “no.” I told my friend the truth, which is that they need someone committed, someone all-in, someone who could throw themselves into the project and make exciting things happen. I told him I could hear his enthusiasm and would support it any way I could, but I wasn’t the guy to help make it happen.

Even though I’m leaving corporate life and need to find projects that will provide an income, I left money on the table. I said no.

The most interesting thing was that I felt good, in fact I felt great. Saying no I felt free, solid, whole.

It struck me then that  “yeah sure” isn’t the same as “fuck yeah!” – and “fuck yeah!” is the only thing good enough.

What if life required radical consent, so radical that even “yes” wasn’t good enough? What if life required “fuck yeah!” before we invested our hearts and minds and time and money?

There are some things in my life that would stay, for sure. But there’s a lot that would go. Fast. I find myself wondering what would fill the space left behind as I cleared all the clutter.

I’m guessing that a lot of people will read this and think some nonsense about how idealistic it is, how impossible it is to live that way. How sometimes we have to do things about which it’s just not possible to say “fuck yeah!”

Taxes, dishes, and taking out the garbage come to mind.

I call bullshit. Of course it’s impossible to only do things about which we say “fuck yeah!” So what? That’s just one of those lies we tell ourselves to hold back from ever demanding more of ourselves and our lives: “Since I can’t have it all, I won’t have any.” Oh that makes sense.

So here’s an idea to try: next time you find yourself thinking “yeah sure,” take a pass. Find a positive way to say, “no thanks” and keep looking until you find your “fuck yeah!” When you find it, and only when you find it, jump on that mother and wrestle it to the ground and don’t let go for anything.

Don’t settle for “yeah sure.”

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dr-les-kertay-erika-napoletanoLes Kertay is a husband, dad, psychologist, and all around geek. He’s been in business long enough and successfully ridden the waves of change often enough to have reinvented himself a time or two, or forty, having gone from private practice to corporate leader to solopreneur consultant and coach. Nothing interests him more than this: whatever it is that you want to do or be, do it. No shortcuts, no magic, no pretend, no bullshit – just show up, dig in, and do the work it takes to be your best you. Learn more about him on his ever-evolving (and delightfully so) site at LesKertay.com.

“Grandma Had the TV On and Was Quietly Crying”

guest blog JFKLast Saturday morning, I was in Calgary. I was short on sleep, but yet I was still up at 5am local time that day to run the outline of the talk I was about to give — my last speaking engagement for 2013. I’d showered and put hooker dust all over my face. With a few minutes to spare before I had to head downstairs, I picked up my phone to glance at email. I saw an email from my mom with the subject line “Nov. 22, 1963” addresses to me, my brother, and sister. I clicked.

I don’t think I moved a muscle for the entire time I read her email. Soon, all that perfectly placed hooker dust was streaming down my face in a dark and smokey course of tears. Definitely not how I thought my “smokey eye” would turn out.

When my mom came to visit me in Colorado this summer, we went to see Lee Daniel’s The Butler. After, it was the first time my mom and I talked about what it was like to grow up in such a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. Isn’t it funny — and sad — how we forget that there were darker days behind us? I think it’s even more sad that we rely on history books to tell us the facts when there are perfectly good human beings (like moms) standing in front of us who can tell us more about history than any book or film.

So I emailed my mom and asked her if I could post her email as a guest blog today — the 50th anniversary of the assasination of Preseident John F. Kennedy.

I’m glad she said yes. This is mom’s second appearance on my blog (the first being a widely popular blog about The Birds). And I do hope not the last.

*****

With all the extra news coverage of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination in the news and on TV lately I thought I’d write to you a little bit about what it was like at the time.

I was a junior in high school in the fall of 1963. It was cold and snowy outside. I had just gone to my next to last class of day – American History (how ironic) and the bell for class to begin had not yet rung. A couple of students not in our class ran into the classroom and told our teacher, Mrs. Oliver, that they had heard on the radio in the school office that President Kennedy had been shot. She did not believe it and shooed the students out of the room. The bell rang and class began. We were studying the beginnings of the Civil War at the time and had to take our daily “pop” quiz over the previous night’s homework. About two-thirds of the way through class, about 2:10pm, the school principal, Mr. Radtke, came on the PA system and announced that the President was dead. He asked the entire school for a minute of silence and not a sound could be heard except for the static crackle of the PA system. He then announced that school would dismiss early that day (and that we would not have school on Monday) and that buses would be arriving within 10 minutes. He also announced that any of the Catholic students in the school had the opportunity to go directly to St. Patrick’s Church if they so desired. A lot of students walked to school so a couple of extra buses were provided for them to be driven to their church. (A side note: the majority of the town where I went to school was Italian Catholic. I lived seven miles outside of town in the country. Most everyone out there was Protestant.) The rest of us got on on normal buses and headed for home. I was weird how quiet the bus was; almost no one talked. It was Friday, Nov 22, 1963.

When I got home, Grandma had the TV on (black & white of course with an about 12-inch screen) and was quietly crying. I sat down on the sofa next to her and watched the (primitive) coverage of the events in Dallas. I remember watching Walter Cronkite in his newsroom passing along information as it was provided to him. As always on his nightly newcast there was a picture of President Kennedy on the wall behind him. We watched as someone from the news staff took black tape and put it around that picture. Usually the tv did not stay on for long periods of time at home but it was on almost constantly from Friday through Monday.

When Grandpa came home from work he had not heard the news. His car did not have a radio and no one at the workplace was allowed to have radios at work. He couldn’t believe what had happened and sat down to watch the TV. I actually saw tears in his eyes that night – something I had never seen before. We just had sandwiches for dinner that night as none of us really cared about eating. We watched the news and finally saw the President’s casket removed from Parkland Hospital to a white hearse for the drive to the airport and loaded into Air Force One. Jackie Kennedy looked totally broken and her blood-soaked pink suit was heart wrenching. Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office and became our new President. His voice was barely audible and I thought it was awful that JFK’s widow had to stand next to him and watch with her husband’s casket only a short distance away.

Sometime in the evening it was announced that the probable assassin had been captured and was in police custody in Dallas. We saw Lee Harvey Oswald surrounded by police being taken for interrogation. He looked so small and insignificant and smug.

We watched until Air Force One arrived back in Washington, DC and the casket was unloaded from the plane and put into a hearse with Jackie as a passenger. The hearse went to Bethesda Naval Hospital for a brief autopsy overnight. The casket was driven to the White House, I think it was Saturday morning. The flag-draped casket was carried into the White House by an honor guard and placed on a catafaulk. The honor guard stood at attention at all times between this point and the burial. (Normally an honor guard stands facing outwards from the casket but Mrs. Kennedy asked that they face inwards so the casket would not look so lonely. – this from Walter Cronkite.) We watched her bring her young daughter Caroline to the casket and both touched the flag and Jackie kissed the flag-draped casket.

The next day, Saturday, the casket was moved to the Capitol Rotunda to lie in state until the funeral. People had been lining up outside the Capitol all night to have a chance to walk through the Rotunda and view the President’s casket. They kept coming all day Saturday and Sunday.

From Friday evening through Monday I also listened to my radio. It was so eerie when there were no news bulletins. The radio stations all played very somber music interspersed with “Hail to the Chief” and the National Anthem.

On Sunday we were all watching TV when Oswald was brought out to be transferred to the county jail. Although he was surrounded by police as before we saw a man rush up to him and fire a gun. We later learned that he was Jack Ruby. He was tackled by the police and dragged to the ground. Oswald was rushed to Parkland Hospital and later died there. Sometime later the story was given out that Ruby had killed Oswald so Jackie Kennedy would never have to go through his trial and have to relive everything.

Monday was really rough. It was the day of the funeral. Grandpa had to go to work as usual, but Grandma and I watched TV from the beginning to the end. (Prior to this time I had only attended one funeral.) We saw the honor guard bring the casket out of the Rotunda to the waiting caisson. They secured the casket to the caisson and took their places surrounding it. The procession started to move off and Jackie stood on the steps of the Capitol with her two children. (Everyone has since seen the pictures of John Jr. saluting as the procession started to move off.) Jackie and the President’s brothers Robert and Ted joined the procession behind the caisson and walked to the Cathedral. The other dignitaries followed behind. Drums played during the entire procession.

The funeral seemed very strange to Grandma and me. Not being Catholic we did not understand the meaning of bells ringing and incense burners being swung. Grandma tried to help me cope by making little jokes about all the bells, but we both still cried. It was amazing to me to see all the representatives of foreign governments that were in attendance at the funeral. Many of them had just been names I read in the newspaper or heard on TV but this really made them real to me.

The funeral procession left the Cathedral and again moved slowly down the Washington streets to Arlington Cemetery, drums still beating. The burial service was spooky with cannons being fired and the President’s casket being lowered into the ground until the top of the casket was even with the ground. Then Jackie, Robert and Ted lit the “eternal flame” that burns at the grave site.

The one thing in the funeral procession that had an enormous impact on me was the riderless horse with boots turned backward, signifying a fallen leader. I had never seen anything like this and every time I have seen this scene since when other former Presidents have died I cannot keep from crying.

President Kennedy’s funeral took place on Grandma and Grandpa’s 24th wedding anniversary: November 25th, 1963.

When we returned to school on Tuesday after the President’s funeral our history teacher, Mrs. Oliver took the time out of our strict schedule and talked with all of her classes about what had happened and what it meant to all of us and the nation as a whole. She let us speak our minds and hearts and I know she helped all of us understand everything much more than we had the week before. I don’t know if she ever knew the impact she had on us that week and I wish I could go back and tell her how much she helped us cope.

When we became seniors the following September and started working on our yearbook someone found a picture of the American Flag flying at half-staff over the U.S. Capitol building. We took that picture to our yearbook photographer and asked that he enlarge it and put a caption on it of “November 22, 1963”. He did that for us at no charge and that is one of the things that our class presented to our school at graduation. That picture is still mounted on the inside wall of the school today and is one of the first things that anyone entering the school sees. It will be a constant reminder of one of the saddest days in modern history only eclipsed by the events of 9/11.

Sometime over that weekend between Friday and Monday I wrote a poem (long since lost) about the death of our President. Grandma wanted me to send it Mrs. Kennedy and I finally did. A few weeks later I received an envelope with a black border with “Jackie Kennedy” on it. Inside was a thank you note for the item sent (generic and pre-printed with her signature) but it was surprising to me that I got anything back at all. I think it was in the spring that an announcement was made that all of the cards, letters and other items sent to Mrs. Kennedy after her husband’s death were going to be stored at the Smithsonian. I know my poem was nothing great but it said what was in my heart.

There are a lot of events that shape who we are but a President’s assassination is something that is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. I think all of us young people were changed by that day in Dallas, hopefully for the better.

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Since this is the place I put every guest blogger’s bio, I’ll do the same for my mom. Karen Jensen is my mom. She’s amazing. Born in upstate New York in the Fingerlakes region and raised around Canoga, Seneca Falls, and Penn Yan, she atended both Syracuse University and Texas Lutheran College. She then joined the Air Force, met my dad, and went on to add the title of “mom” to her name, bringing my older brother, myself, and younger sister onto this great big blue ball (all kicking and screaming, I’m sure). She went on to earn her MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, raising three kids in the process. While I’ve never seen her cape or invisible plane, I’m quite sure she’s a superhero. She’s now retired and lives in Houston, Texas and has a middle daughter who wakes up every day knowing she won the Mom Lottery.

Guest Post: Failure Turns Me On (meet Mike Hrostoski)

mike hrostoski guest blog

Last week, I was sitting on a catamaran in the Dominican Republic (please — don’t feel sorry for me) when this stunning, shirtless man walked up to me.

This is about where I swallowed a brick of air the size of a footlong Subway meatball sandwich, mostly because stunning, shirtless men never walk up to me unless I happen to be either (A) blocking the way to the bar, or (B) blocking their way to the hot blonde on my right.

Imagine my surprise when a completely terrific conversation started with one of the most solid and purpose-driven human beings I’ve been graced to meet as of late. He was so clear with his vision and ability to see that I told him I had to have him on my blog. The ladies would swoon and the dudes would give out metric shit tons of high fives. And underneath it all, there would hopefully be a message.

Well, I knew there would be a message. And he knocked my Hanky Pankys off last night when he sent in what you’re about to read.

And — tune in until the end. He’s giving away FREE copies of his book (and he genuinely wants your thoughts) and if you’re in NYC, you can hang out with him this Friday.

I’m honored to introduce you to…Mike Hrostoski.

Have a guest post of your own to submit? I’m getting through them. Gradually. Submit yours here.

*****

I’m good at a lot of stuff.

I’m a fairly decent writer, I’m a brilliant coach, and I throw spectacular parties.

But everything that I am today, I owe to my parents. My parents gave me so much love, time, and attention when I was young that I had no choice but to be special.

When I was four years old, my Japanese mother would play this memorization game with me. She’d write down 20 numbers on an index card, let me study it for a minute, then ask me to recite the numbers back to her.

Then she’d have me recite them back to her backwards. Then she’d take the first three numbers and put them at the end and I’d recite those.

I don’t know if Asian kids are good at math or if Asian moms are good at teaching math. Needless to say I was pretty fucking good at math.

The funny thing though, the world rewards being good at math.

I was put into the G.A.T.E. (Gifted And Talented Education) Program when I was in first grade and got a better education than the kids who didn’t test into it. I got lots of awards and recognition for my grades. I got full scholarships for both my undergraduate degree and my MBA.

But I also got gifted a heavy dose of perfectionism.

Real fucking heavy.

I was devastated when I got second place in a city-wide mathematics competition in eighth grade. I’ll never forget the kid’s name who beat me: Daniel Bartlett.

When I got a C in a PE class in high school I had a minor existential crisis. I found a loophole though in the rules and retook the class and turned it around to an A. Then I graduated as our class valedictorian.

When I got another C in college I freaked the fuck out again. This time I decided to stick with it and would only graduate with a 3.80 GPA. Gasp! My 4.0 GPA was shot.

And then in my MBA program I did everything “right.” Class President, the top 15% of our graduating class, and every possible honor on graduation day.

I was addicted to perfect.

But the downsides of perfect are many.

For example, I was so busy “being perfect” in my MBA program that my relationship with my girlfriend of four years disintegrated to nothing.

I would have all sorts of weird stress related illnesses and weight fluctuations.

I drank a lot. A whole lot.

And I had the need to be the “best in the room” so much that I did it at the expense of others.

My entire life’s purpose revolved around being the smartest, most accomplished, or highest performing person in the room.

And then my mom died. Two years and five months ago.

And if you’ve ever experienced a major loss in your life, you know that perfect isn’t an option anymore when someone you love passes away.

Just making it out of bed becomes a major victory.

The things that used to matter to you become so trivial that you judge yourself for ever even worrying about them before.

And then you realize that life is short and fleeting and precious and that you’ve been playing it way too safe all your life.

So you take some crazy fucking leaps.

Six months after my mom passed away I left my six-figure corporate job without a clue of what’s next.

Two months after that I sold everything I own and started traveling full-time, for the sole sake of being too sad to stay in one place.

Then through a stroke of luck, I met a lot of influential people who took me under their wings and showed me what this whole entrepreneurship thing is about.

Exactly two years ago I was sitting in an office in New Jersey working a job that I didn’t like but I didn’t know what else to do.

Now I coach high performing men and help them live the life of their dreams. Several of my clients are the people whose blogs I used to read when I was sitting in my office pretending to work.

But the sole reason why I’m really here and not still in that desk is this one simple fact:

I Became Addicted to the Feeling of Failure

No longer was I the perfectionist doing everything for his mother’s approval or for the approval of others.

I was a man on a mission.

And I realized that all of my life I had been playing it safe. Yeah, I was good at school and I did everything that I thought was “successful.”

But I was a coward in most other places in my life.

I didn’t kiss a girl until my senior year of high school because I was so terrified of girls.

I didn’t move out of my parents’ house until I was 24 because I was such so afraid of the outside world.

I wasn’t honest with my true feelings and desires with women, so I got what was handed to me: 100% of my relationships were ones I didn’t want to be in.

At the age of 27 I moved away from my hometown of Tucson, AZ for the first time for graduate school. I’ll never forget hugging my mom goodbye, crying into her arms because of how afraid I was to be leaving my family.

And at the age of 29 I moved into an apartment by myself for the first time in my life. Most people do this a decade earlier, after they move out of the dorms. Not this guy.

But every time I took a chance, I was rewarded with something bigger and better.

And then when my mom died, I started to chase my fears 24/7. I started chasing the feeling of being scared, instead of avoiding it.

You see, for most of you who are “good at doing stuff,” I have a hunch that you’re playing it way too safe. Yeah you make a lot of money or you have a successful business, but are you pushing the limits in every area of your life?

Are you fully open to love?

Are you speaking your truth in every moment?

Are you making the world a better place through your words and actions?

Are you really, really, really totally fucking fully open to love?

Because when you taste death, that’s all that matters.

Love.

Not some fancy accolades, a million dollars, or your name on a museum.

Just love.

All that fancy stuff won’t bring my mom back. It won’t bring Jason back. And it won’t bring Daniel Bartlett back.

That’s right, that kid who beat me in the citywide eighth grade Mathcounts competition. I found out that he passed away several years ago and it broke my heart to think that I held a decade long grudge against a guy – a guy who was no longer here — just because he was smarter than me on that day twenty years ago.

Nothing matters except love.

And finding that mind blowing, soul nourishing, full body orgasm inducing, fills-your-heart-so-much-it-fucking-hurts type of love takes a lot of work.

And a lot of failures.

And in this moment, I can truly say I LOVE failure. It turns me on.

I ENJOY when things don’t go as planned now. Because usually everything goes my way all the time. So when it doesn’t, it almost makes me giggle.

So what are you waiting for?

Fail hard. Especially if it’s for love.

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PS – I wrote my first book in August. By all means it’s a huge failure already. I’d love to know what you think about it.

PPS – I’m also creating The Conference For Men, a weekend of accelerated growth for 300 amazing men. If you know an amazing man in your life that should be there, please let him know about it.

*****

mike Hrostoski failure guest blogMike Hrostoski, The Men’s Coach, helps high performing men master their relationships with their women and their work. And he’s on a mission to make the world a better place one man at a time.

After the sudden passing of his mother, Mike left a lucrative career in human resources and took a full year off to do things that filled him with joy. After spending 2012 doing hundreds of hours of pro-bono coaching and traveling 12,000 miles across the United States doing volunteer work on a summer volunteer road trip, he launched his coaching business and operates it from all over the world. He’s been a digital nomad since February 2012 and has spent 2013 traveling and working across three continents, eight countries and dozens of cities.

He regularly pours his heart out onto the Internet at hrostoski.com.

Guest Post: Would You Like Fries With That? (Meet Amber Hott)

amber hott fries with thatEarlier this year, I gave a small talk and then Get UNstuck workshop down in Denver. After the workshop, a bubbly young woman waited patiently in the wings to speak with me. Turns out, she loved funny things — and this was long before my decision to pick up and move to Chicago to study at Second City. Not long after, she sent me a beautiful thank you note for my talk that evening.

So I invited her to be my guest at the upcoming Kathy Griffin show coming through town. We went. We had a grand time.

We’ve stayed in touch — and today, I’m delighted to introduce you to the sheer fucking splendor that is Amber L. Hott.

Have a guest post of your own to submit? I’m getting through them. Gradually. Submit yours here.

*****
I was 27 years old and working at Burger King. In walked a regular. I smiled and with a joy that could only come from anywhere but there and said, “Good Afternoon! Welcome to Burger King!” He smiled back and replied, “So when you were a little girl did you think you would grow up to work at Burger King?”

I desperately needed that shitty job that I commuted by bus to and from, totaling 4 hours on a bus a day. I smiled again and gave him some bullshit about how I liked my job. Oh yeah, I liked dealing with assholes like him. I liked how customers on a regular basis treated me like the scum of the earth because of my occupation. I liked being judged as unskilled because of where I worked. I liked serving up big helpings of diabetes to little kids. I liked cleaning shit, in its literal form, out of the play area. I especially liked being paid $8.25 an hour.

I felt like a failure.

What this asshat didn’t know was that I got pregnant at 15, my mother abandoned me at 16 and I married an abuser that was seven years my senior at 17. I had three kids by the time I was 21. I had every reason to fail.

At 22 I was fighting depression. A doctor who I had never met before, after asking a few questions but still not really knowing anything about my life, misdiagnosed me with a mental illness that I didn’t have. I believed him with devastating consequences. After placing me on five medications I became someone else. Someone who loathed herself because she wasn’t herself anymore and she didn’t know how to be the girl she used to be. I had no short term memory. I was tired all the time. I had massive weight gain, ADD, anxiety so bad that I had constant tremors and was too terrified to take a shower unless someone else was in the room. By 26 I was divorced, hungry and homeless. I had every reason to fail.

Fast forward to today. I have been off all psychiatric medications for over two years. I’ve had multiple doctors tell me that I was misdiagnosed and never had anything beyond severe depression. I’m halfway to my college degree. I don’t work a shitty job because I’m my own boss. I’ve become a comedian, a theatre actress, a writer and a producer. Yeah, I get paid to do all that fun shit, and I have more doors opening from the last 3 years of hard grueling work. I love myself. I love who I have become and I love who I am growing into. I have a tremendous support system and I have a voice in my community. I take my strong female presence everywhere. I didn’t fail.

So when that 65 year old, wrinkly, shriveled man with 4 teeth and stringy greasy gray hair judged me for working at a fast food chain that he ate at almost daily, he didn’t realize that it was a major fucking accomplishment because two years before that I couldn’t take a fucking shower, let alone hold down a job.

While he goes home alone to his TV knowing he’s nearing the end of his life and has nothing but a shitty attitude and a social security check to show for it, I have my youth and my entire life ahead of me still. I’m only 30. I’ve moved on and am making a difference in my community. He’s choking down another cheeseburger.

So what’s the point of all this anyway? There are a couple points.

I’m sure that nobody reading this would ever act like that asshat above, but just in case I’m wrong, knock it the fuck off. You don’t know the story behind the woman taking your order, or the man that’s digging through the trash. They are still human beings with worth and value, and most importantly, feelings. Even if your shit smells like dew covered lilies on a crisp spring morning, it’s not okay to walk around with the goal of making people feel bad about themselves. You might see someone struggling today but that doesn’t mean they will always be struggling and it certainly doesn’t make them unimportant or unworthy of kindness.

And to those struggling, you’re not always going to have situations conducive to living your potential. It might not be your fault. Maybe it was something you were born into. You have to fight. When you can’t see making it, fight. If I can go from “mentally ill” to hungry to homeless to running my own life and helping put food on the table by turning ideas into actions and investing in my community, surely where ever you are, you are not destined to stay there. You have importance. You have worth. The world needs you.

I had every reason to fail. But I didn’t because I’m special. But here’s the best part; I’m no more special than you. So when everything’s dark and you don’t know how you’re going to make it, take another step forward. You can do it because you’re special and important.

*****

amber hottAmber Hott considers herself a Colorado native. She is currently studying psychology and holistic health and should graduate with her first degree in 2014. She is also a stand-up comedian, actress and PTSA mom. Amber is a liberal/feminist/hippie and isn’t afraid to be controversial. Check her out on Facebook at The Hott Comedy Experience.

Why Your Personal Life is Killing Your Brand

linda esposito killing your brand

Today’s guest post is from Linda Esposito, a long time Redhead Writing community member. Say “oh haiiiiiii” and steel yourself away for a wild ride through your YOU problem. Next week, you’ll meet Jayme Yarrow, one funny-as-hell stand-up comic that I met while at my recent stint at Second City. Buckle up yer shit.

*****

I bet you’re pretty good at what you do for a living–be that sell widgets, offer kick ass career coaching, or design vibrators that can help her engage her G-spot and double as a dildo.

But what goes on behind closed doors when the MacBook Pro shuts down?

If you’re more comfortable during the hours of 9-5, or 11-7, if you’re a ‘trep, you may be leaving money on the table when it comes to your livelihood.

Believe me, I know. 

When You Can’t Breathe

I wasted precious emotional energy in grad school, on jobs, and during my psychotherapy training. I knew I wanted my own private practice to undo all the fuck-ups caused by my clients’ crack-ass parents, plus be my own boss. But something was holding me back…

It wasn’t my rookie credentials, or the fear of putting up a website, or narrowing my clinical niche. I knew I could learn what I needed in order to build a viable business.

The lesson that came too late however, was how to stand up for myself in my relationship. I knew how to teach others to establish boundaries, how to say ‘no,’ and why it makes sense to walk away when someone emotionally abuses you.

In theory, anyway.

I was capable of rational thought when I was calm. I planned out the scripts in my head for the next time me and my partner went at it like two fat housewives in curlers during Black Friday at Walmart.

But when the emotional thermometer rose, I reverted back to lashing out, or swallowing my feelings. I became BFF with Sara Lee Chocolate Cheesecake. At least she never complained about my consumer debt.

It was like living separate lives.

By day, I was building my therapy chops and gaining valuable professional experiences. By night I was miserable and stuck. For the first time in my life I entertained a flight of fancy: If one googles ‘cyanide poisoning,’ is it traceable…?

Truth and Bloodstains

My “Fuck-This-Shit-O’clock” epiphany came while eating lunch at a quaint outdoor cafe in downtown Los Angeles. I looked around and saw vibrant people: Business-types, techies, and ladies who lunch. I envied their energy and gusto.

My eyes were burning from lack of sleep, and my slacks were wrinkled. I looked ahead five years and asked myself how many more restless nights, silent meals, and psychological arm wrestling matches I could endure.

I wish I could say I walked away after the last bite of my bleu cheese and red pepper quiche.

The important thing is that I eventually left relationship dysfunction–the biggest creativity killer and energy thief this side of normal, IMO.

In doing so, I opened the doors to self-confidence, innovation, and most importantly, emotional well-being. Three characteristics essential to any business model, and kick-ass brand. 

And not to sully the house with Sigmund Freud, but if you don’t have mental health, you don’t have shit. 

Maybe you’re struggling, too. Perhaps your partner doesn’t get you, and complains about the hours spent online.

I know–It’s hard to justify when the cash isn’t exactly flowing.

  • But why is your self-worth tied to money?
  • Why is okay to wake up with a knot in your stomach more mornings than not?
  • And most importantly, how would you spend your emotional energy if you weren’t squandering it on someone who doesn’t value you?

I’m not advocating that you get all hasty and walk away. I don’t know you, or your background, and all of the details that got you where you are right now. And I’m sure-as-shit not the expert in all things that are other people’s situations, if you’re not on my couch. I’m just encouraging you to get clear. And to befriend the truth.

Yeah, I know the truth can be a bitch. But so is snapping at your kid, and neglecting to walk your dog because you’re exhausted after working twice as hard as necessary in your relationship.

Here’s the rub: Your business and your personal life are intertwined. That’s human nature. As much as we try and leave our home life out of the office, and vice versa, there’s going to be an overlap. But there’s a big difference between seeping into, and bleeding all the way through.

And blood stains, am I right?

Calling It

Once I walked away from relationship dysfunction, I walked into a healthy private practice I was proud of. I was clear about the clients I would accept, and which ones I’d pass on. I decided how to handle late arrivals, what my rates would be, and whether I’d offer couples’ counseling (fuck no).

The experience felt real. And real is the new black – to hell with orange. And if that isn’t a sexy brand in the making, I don’t know what is.

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Linda EspositoLinda Esposito, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, CA. She’d love to help you get from anxiety to Zen (awwwyeah). Get on the list, and get something here!

Trust Issues — a Guest Post by Jay Baer of Convince and Convert

jay baer guest post trust youtilityI’m delighted to welcome Jay Baer of Convince and Convert to the RedheadWriting Community. What follows IS some Useful Sh!t — the role trust plays in the ultimate success of your business.

In 2013, the “Edelman Trust Barometer” found businesses were trusted by 58 percent of survey respondents globally. This is up from 53 percent in 2012. Put in a somewhat more strident context, this means that for every ten of the potential customers you’re trying to reach with your messages, more than four don’t trust you.

Those odds aren’t great but there’s a way for you to reach more clients and potential customers.

Trust has a huge impact on marketing success.

This lack of trust in businesses has been an issue for at least a decade. In the United States, 44 percent trusted business in 2001, and 45 percent in 2012. In other major economies that have marketing mechanics similar to America’s, the data is even more frightening, with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany trusting businesses at a 32 percent rate in 2001, and 31 percent in 2012.

If half of your potential customers (at best) are distrustful of your business, that’s a problem. Because trust matters. A lot. Edelman finds that when a company is distrusted, 57 percent of people will believe negative information after hearing it just one or two times. Conversely, when companies are trusted, 51 percent of people believe positive information about the company after hearing it just one or two times.

“Trust has never been more important as a corporate asset, and it needs to be managed for people to believe the information you’re putting out,” says Amy Treanor, executive vice president of Edelman Square, the division of the firm responsible for the Trust Barometer. Companies of all sizes and types can and should take steps to buttress their trustworthiness, and in the most recent version of the research, Edelman published “The Six Building Blocks of Trust” to help clarify how trust can be built. They found that what might be considered the base elements of trust, such as financial performance and accountability, are merely table stakes in a much more nuanced game.

“To really be a trusted enterprise,” Treanor says, “you need to focus on the more societal and engagement activities: transparency, employee engagement, listening to your customers, and putting them ahead of profits.”

“Attributes that have risen in importance to build trust are more engaging, external-facing behaviors and policies that ultimately contribute to personal satisfaction (“treats employees well”), customer satisfaction (“listens to customer needs and feedback”) and the greater good (“has ethical business practices,”places customers ahead of profits” and “has transparent and open business practices.”

The sixteen attributes to building trust from Edelman’s summary fall into five categories: engagement, integrity, products and service, purpose, and operations. The most important of these attributes is engagement. Engagement is further broken down to these pieces:

  1. Listens to customer needs and feedback
  2. Treats employees well
  3. Places customers ahead of profits
  4. Communicates frequently and honestly on the state of its business

The good news is that you and your company can earn more trust with Youtility.

Youtility is marketing that is so useful, your customers would pay for it.

But they won’t have to pay for it. Using social media and digital content, you can reach your audience by being useful. Offering directions, instructions or just plain old answering questions for people helps them solve their immediate problem. Making your company useful without expectation of an immediate return is in direct opposition to the longstanding principles of successful marketing, and that’s a good thing.

Let’s look at the engagement piece and how you can boost these with social media and in your organization.

  1. Listen to customer needs and feedback: Listen on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ with tools such as Google Alerts and Mention.net. Respond to questions, offer suggestions and be a part of the social landscape.
  2. Treat employees well: Zappos has a fantastic approach with their employee program which translates to their stellar customer service and reaches each customer they have. From Tony Hseih, CEO and founder of Zappos, ““Zappos is really just about delivering happiness whether it’s the customers or employees.”
  3. Place customers ahead of profits: “Starbucks is focusing on great coffee and the experience in their stores. Their CEO has developed a game plan to continually enhance the Starbucks experience. Starbucks has put their customers before profits, which is the correct way to do business.
  4. 4. Communicate frequently and honestly on the state of its business: Dust off your company blog and get an editorial calendar set up. Plan your social media posts and tweets to coordinate with your blog articles and layer your communication.

Youtility is real-time relationship building. You’re either sufficiently useful at any given moment, and thus can connect with the customer, or you’re not. Companies that know how to do this connect with people, earn trust and ultimately have a relationship with their customers that will translate to trust and sales. Being a Youtility can move the dial on the trust barometer. Are you ready to start making some changes?

Excerpted from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer. See YoutilityBook.com for other resources.

Youtility Excerpt:

Youtility Trailer:

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jay baer convince and convert headshotJay Baer is a hype-free social media/content strategist and speaker, and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of Convince and Convert and host of the Social Pros podcast. He’s fun to follow on Twitter and if that’s not enough, hook up with Convince and Convert on Facebook.