20 Life Lessons I Learned in 20 Years While Running a Business

This post was originally shared on my work website, but I wanted to share here as well.  I have been a media consultant for 20 years. Reflecting back, here are some life lessons I picked up along the way. 

Here’s a list of 20 life lessons I have gained from my years of owning a business that can be applied to so many part of life.

  1. Partner with smart, reputable, trustworthy colleagues, vendors, and clients.
  2. Targeting customers remains the same, even if the technology has changed. The hype may get an initial response, but it’s the quality that keeps people coming back.
  3. Be honest.
  4. When you end a project, always try to do it with a handshake. You just might meet that client again working for another company.
  5. Keep learning.
  6. Be curious. I ask a lot of questions, and it often inspires further conversation.
  7. Actively listen. Take a breath. Then respond.
  8. Read a few days worth of your emails before you send them out. Are you sending them out with a positive tone or starting off all your emails with the negative? (I literally changed my email tone after monitoring them about 10 years ago).
  9. You will make mistakes. Admit it when you do.
  10. If you are stuck, walk away. I resolve a lot of issues when I shut my computer and go for a walk.
  11. It’s okay to say no to a project, especially when your gut tells you to.
  12. Check your emails at specific times each day. Otherwise, shut it off. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be without the distractions.
  13. It’s easy to get comfortable working alone. Face-to-face meetings can inspire change and a new direction.
  14. Have a schedule. I find that time blocking my day (Using the Best Self journal) has improved my focus and productivity immensely.
  15. Try something new.
  16. Keep reaching. What’s your goal?
  17. Most people really don’t like networking events. Do it anyways; set a goal beforehand. Someone may become a future colleague or customer.
  18. Be flexible.
  19. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to clarify, if you don’t understand.
  20. If you are bored on a regular basis, it might be time to change what you do. Or how you do it.

And remember that if you have a stressful phase, sleep on it, as a fresh day and mood awaits you.

The journey continues.

Cindy

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Jardin du Luxembourg en Hiver

My last afternoon in frigid Paris I walked all through the Luxembourg Gardens, taking pictures.  So many of the pics I found online were taken the other 3 seasons. I found it to be peaceful.  There were other people walking, talking, exercising, playing, reading, laughing.   fullsizeoutput_f7d1

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one of my personal favorites

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Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?

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The journey continues.

Cindy

P.S. If you want to use any of these pictures, please ask first.  And credit me.

 

15 Random Things I Learned in Italy

Just a few choice memories from my recent trip to Rome and Florence, Italy, with a couple of my travel photos. There are also a few tips for travelers included.

  1. I will no longer skip over the Italian wine section at home. I have a much better appreciation for Italian wines than I did before this visit.
  2. Many key museums here are far less expensive than in the US. Why don’t we let children go free here in the US? Note that it often helps to buy tickets ahead with a set entry time. And skip all of the obnoxious hawkers at the front of every tourist destination.IMGP6087
  3. Limoncello is considered a digestive aid. It is often given freely at the end of the meal. I had it served as a shot, on the rocks, and sipped. Room temperature or iced, it all tasted splendid.
  4. Using a printed map can be challenging in older cities that are not set up on grids. (Ie. like Chicago or New York). Having some phone data can help you find your way.
  5. Keys were my nemesis before this visit.–no longer! I worked a lot of very fussy keys in the two flats I stayed.
  6. Wash cloths and tissues can be hard to find. Bring your own.
  7. Renting a “first floor flat” often means walking 1 to 2 flights of stairs before you reach that flat.
  8. The doors. Huge. Heavy. A presence.IMGP6145
  9. I can get a lot accomplished working remotely, as long as I don’t need phone calls. No distractions wherever my office was.
  10. The many “cuts” of the meat in the window is appealing to shoppers, but that I can do without.
  11. For the cheapest meal in Florence, grab an aperitivo. It’s a flat fee for one drink (make it a special one!) and unlimited buffet of delicious food.
  12. Gelato can be eaten at any time of day. And found on every corner.
  13. Churches abound around every bend. It is NOT obligatory to visit every one, but pick a few. They are inspiring, humbling, surprising, awe-inspiring, or forgotten.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes. There are a lot of uneven steps and many sites to see.
  15. Finally, if I wasn’t a pushy bitch before this trip, I am now! You have to be, with all the groups clogging sidewalks, tour and tchotchke hawkers, people trying to sell, sell, beggars, distracted walkers, and potential pickpockets.

The journey continues.  Cindy

Solving My Hunger at the Food Pantry

Last January, I marched. The Woman’s March in Chicago was an uplifting, exhilarating experience that you can read about here. This year, with my arm in a sling, the inability to zip any jacket, and intimidation of being jostled in big crowds, I had to forgo it. I still stand in solidarity with those walking, and I was both envious and invigorated seeing photos of my friends and family who participated in different cities around the country.

Instead, I spent last Saturday morning volunteering registering participants at a local food pantry.  Those who come to this local mobile food pantry are so diverse–many ethnicities, families, individuals, neighbors, regulars, first timers, shy, welcoming, speaking many languages.

They came for the groceries to feed their families, a hot meal, book giveaways, free health clinic screenings and flu shots by Franklin-Rosalind medical students, companionship. I saw some people who volunteered and then collected their food donations the end of their shift.

There is hunger in every community.  1 in 8 people in the US struggle with hunger—a pretty staggering statistic—according to Feeding America.

One of the things that hit me hard was how many elderly people came out on a snowy morning to accept a donation. Some of Eastern European descent reminded me so much of my grandparents. If they were alive, would they have food in their house? And if there were this many here, how many hungry senior citizens are sitting at home, housebound or ill? I wanted to ask them their stories.

So please give food, time, money to your local food banks. There is need all year round—not just at holiday time. Feeding America lists a network of food banks across the country.

And here are few local organizations that can use your help:

Greater Chicago Food Pantry

Northern II Food Bank

St. Vincent de Paul, Lake Zurich IL

After my morning of giving back, it warmed up enough that I could go for a walk in my neighborhood. And I wore my pink knitted hat, sending my energy to my fellow humans marching around the globe.

IMG_8998 The journey continues. Cindy

7 Simple Hacks to Increase your Productivity

Note: I posted this on my business blog. But I thought this might be useful information for for my readers here. And Yes, after a couple months break, I’m back again.

The last month I have spent a lot of time reflecting, prioritizing, and slowing down.

I had surgery for a torn rotator cuff and bicep right before Christmas. Four weeks later I’m still in the sling and expect to be for several more weeks. I can type and write again with both hands, but the recovery process is exhausting and painful. I need to be much more organized to accomplish my daily goals, both professionally and personally.

Here are a few ideas that have helped me stay on track. Hopefully, they will help you increase your productivity each day:

  1. Block your time every day, Create a schedule for your entire day. This can include time for projects, creativity, meetings, lunch, working out,etc. You will be amazed at how being held accountable for your time decreases the wasted space. I was already on my second 13 week Best Self Journal, which had already started to transform how I approach each day. (More on this in a future post, after I finish my second journal).
  2. Schedule more challenging projects for when you are most productive. If you do them in the morning, then you avoid the procrastination bug in your mind until that work is done. And if you need extra time, you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
  3. Check your email just a couple times a day, at set times. It will allow you to focus on your current work. A University of California at Davis research study shows that it can take up to 25 minutes to refocus your attention every time you get interrupted. That’s a lot of time! The other advantage to this is that people learn to become   accustomed to your response time.
  4. Make a list. Whether you do it in a daily journal like Best Self, Evernote, or a notebook— or any combination of these— keywords can remind you of the small tasks that you might forget to do.
  5. Pick up the phone— set up scheduled or standing call times. On complicated projects, I find that one 10 minute call can resolve an issue quicker and with less frustration than 20 emails.
  6. Take a break. Research shows that you should take a break between projects, to eat, to work out. I often find that while away from my desk  I have my most creative ideas.
  7. Show gratitude. Expressing thankfulness at the start and end of each day Is a positive and expanding force. It makes us remember the small moments.

I’ve have consciously practiced each of these ideas over the last month,. I find that each one has helped me be more productive, proactive, mindful, and satisfied at the end of the day. I hope to continue to engage in each of these practices throughout 2018, not just while I’m in recovery.

The journey continues. Cindy

A Tale of Two Train Rides

As I stumbled to my usual spot on the track to wait for the train, a small huddle of people was already there. Every. Single. One had an invisible barrier surrounding them that screamed “do not interact with me”. Every. Single. One was wearing headphones and staring into their cell phones. No communication with those surrounding them, no laughter, lost in their screens. It looked so lonely. I joined the growing mass, just watching, my phone and headphones still in my bag. Not one person made eye contact, smiled, nodded a greeting. Wow, what a depressing way to start each morning, I thought. At that moment, I was glad I only occasionally made this trip.

Some mornings are tough. We are tired, stressed, taking a few minutes to catch up on social media, read through emails, make weekend plans. But we did this before phones and communicated with others.

Creatures of habit, people seem to ride the same train car each ride. So I am fairly certain some of these people see each other daily. What connections lost, matches unmade as people avoid each other?

After my meetings ended midday, I caught a non-rush-hour train out of the city. The woman who sat across from me was about my age, and she pulled out the novel “ My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman.

“That is one of my favorite books,” I told her.

“ I am about halfway done,” she replied. “ I don’t usually like mystical books, but I like the relationships in here.”

After we talked a few more minutes about the author’s other books, I told her I didn’t want to disturb her reading time. She didn’t care. We spent the entire ride talking about books we liked , styles we didn’t, our book clubs, and gave each other reading recommendations.

I admit that if I rode the train daily that I probably wouldn’t want to talk to other passengers each ride, every day. I know my head can be buried in my computer or book on many rides. But, after disembarking that train with a new list of books to read typed into my phone, I thought about how much more satisfying the commute was home after having an enlightening conversation.

I felt a little lighter, and my companion still had 20 minutes longer to read her book.

The journey continues.

C