5 Disruptive Technologies for Entrepreneurs

Emma Bailey is a freelance writer and blogger who covers current topics in business, finance, home technology and issues pertaining to the environment. She lives and works in Chicago, IL.


Life as an entrepreneur can be richly rewarding, but it's rarely easy. Launching and growing a business requires a tremendous amount of work, and it often means juggling a litany of responsibilities. Wearing so many hats at once can make for a chaotic and taxing work environment, but fortunately, modern technology is here to disrupt all of that. Here are five essential technologies that promise to streamline your efforts and help you spend your time more efficiently and effectively.

The Internet of Things

It's been the subject of endless hype in recent years, but the Internet of Things really can change the way you do business. By outfitting all manner of everyday objects with smart sensors and wireless connectivity, the IoT has the power to revolutionize the way you do business. Smart sensors are capable of collecting an extraordinary volume of data, generating insights on everything from product supply chains to end consumer usage patterns.

Gathering contextual data through the IoT is also tremendously valuable when it comes to sophisticated audience segmentation, allowing you to deliver highly personalized and precisely targeted marketing to get your products or services in front of the right people with just the right messaging.

Digital Assistants

AI-powered digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home have already proven to be a hit with home users of smart home systems, but they're highly useful in the world of business as well. Digital assistants, like their human counterparts, are very useful for managing busy schedules, taking quick notes, handling communications and much more, all with simple, hands-free voice commands.

Need to order some supplies for your business? Alexa or Google Assistant can order them in just a few seconds.

Want to host a conference call to make sure your team is on the same page? The Echo's Conference Manager skill can have you up and connected in moments. Time is a precious resource for entrepreneurs, and digital assistants provide a number of ways to free up more of it in your daily schedule.

Cashless Payments

Cash may still be king, but the simple reality is that it's not very convenient to use. The most successful entrepreneurs have a knack for boosting efficiency and removing friction points for both themselves and their customers, and going cashless is a great way to do just that. It's no secret that easier payments for consumers lead to greater conversion rates, and that's especially true in the digital space, where more and more purchases are made from mobile and smart devices. The further you can progress toward frictionless transactions, the more you and your business will benefit.

Hybrid Wireless Technologies

Everywhere you look, wires are disappearing. It seems that everything in the modern world now operates wirelessly, but this comes with a problem: a proliferation of wireless standards now exist, and they don't necessarily play well together. Hybrid wireless technologies seek to empower communication between these disparate wireless standards, including Wi-Fi, 4G cellular, Li-Fi and more. By taking advantage of these hybrid technologies, you can connect with, gain insights into and meet the needs of your customers more quickly, more efficiently and in all new ways. If you have a mobile workforce, you can also empower them to perform better with a stronger and more versatile wireless infrastructure.

Automated Software

Creativity is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship, but the repetitive and monotonous tasks involved in day-to-day business operations has a way of stifling that spirit quickly. To alleviate that monotony, you can use the power of technology to automate many of your business' routine tasks. IFTTT, which is shorthand for “if this then that,” is the gold standard for automation, allowing you to create an almost endless variety of recipes that trigger specific actions according to pre-set rules. IFTTT can be used to control everything from social media accounts to office software, so the only limit is your creativity.

Additional software solutions, including tools such as HubSpot, Slack, Needls and others, make it possible to automate many of the repetitive tasks involved in marketing, scheduling, sales and communications.

The ability to properly leverage technology has always been a key to success as an entrepreneur, and with the massive potential of modern technology to disrupt traditional business models and practices, that's truer now than ever before. By understanding and taking advantage of the five technologies detailed above, you can improve your efficiency, reduce your stress levels and deliver better performance.

Emilie Davis | Dancing Toward A New Dream

I'm excited to share this guest post with you today. I met Emilie in Lexington, VA — I got to be what we call in our church her visiting teacher, where I was her mentor, for about a year. She is an alumna of Southern Virginia University where my husband teaches!


The problem with writing personal blogs is that the person you are when you write them may not be the person you are when you publish them.

For far too long I have been attempting to write a blog post about my desire to become “better”–a more productive, more aspiring, more motivated, more…something…person than I have been in recent years. Yet each time I think I've finally expressed exactly how I feel, I change.

It's exhausting.

Whether for better or for worse, I am unable to remain the same person today that I was yesterday.

My long-suffering husband takes my “better” aspirations in stride. It is not uncommon for our Sunday nights to go a little like this:

Me: I need to be better.
Hubby (wise man that he is): I think you're great.
Me: Yeah, I know you do, but I know I can be better.
Hubby: Ok. What would make you better?
Me: I should get up earlier in the morning. The book I'm reading this week talks about how getting up even an hour earlier in the morning will help me find focus and accomplish more.
Hubby (enthusiastically supportive): Count me in! I'll wake up an hour earlier with you.
Me: Great! This will be the week that defines our future. I know it will!

Monday morning always dawns brightly; birds are singing as I spring from my bed, pull out a to-do list and start checking things off. By 7am I feel like this will be my best day ever!

And then the kids wake up. And life happens. And I'm exhausted by noon and just want to curl up on the couch watching Netflix until the kids get home from school. On Tuesday I wake up fifteen minutes later (but neglect to wake my husband), and by Thursday I'm back to square one.

So much for productivity.

I used to be great at being great. Type-A, 4.0 GPA, student body president, valedictorian of my small liberal arts college, I thrived on having too much to do in too little time. Most days now I feel like I have too little time, too much to do, and an even longer list of things I should be doing (but don't).

So why am I not better? I know I have the capacity to be better. I have even identified the problem areas and devised possible solutions. I just don't follow through.

I've come to the realization that my problem isn't that I'm failing; it's that I'm managing.

I'm doing ok. My kids have clothes, the bills are getting paid, and I'm kinda fulfilled in my work. Life is not bad. It's ok. Is that really so terrible?

My “yearning for greatness” (as my inner Anne Shirley likes to call it) will not be silenced, despite the fact that most people I meet tell me they think that I'm doing pretty well. I do need to give myself some credit: I'm a work-from-home entrepreneur, devoted wife, and, most importantly, the mother of 4 small children. Living the American dream with a minivan and everything.

In my heart/soul/conscience I can feel that I'm designed for greatness, and yet for much of my “adult” life I've felt that I'm in a holding pattern. Yes, it's true that I have been busy, but I could stack bricks all day and be busy. Without a plan or a purpose those bricks will never make a house; they're just a pile of bricks and a waste of time.

I'm not in any way trying to discount motherhood or the feelings of fulfilment that come from doing good work in my home. I love my children, I'm glad to be a mother, and I know that they have made me a better, more self-aware person than I ever could have been on my own. But, at the end of the day, I know that my kids are watching me and are affected by all that I am and all that I do. Without dreams of my own, am I emulating a well-lived life to them? I would hate for them to believe that they must pick either a loving, caring home with a family OR the pursuit of dreams that give them a sense of worth and fulfilment.

If I can reflect both, my hope is that they will not sacrifice family for success, or vice versa.

A while ago I found a video recording of myself telling my high school English class what I wanted to do with my life. Watching it, I was fascinated by how confident I was (despite a truly awful haircut). Since it was an exercise in public speaking I was making half of it up as I went along, but my conclusion stated emphatically that I would make a difference in the world. Even if it was on a small stage, I wanted to leave the world a changed (and hopefully better) place for having been here, and I would have no regrets. And the most amazing thing is that I KNEW that I could do it.

That is the star that I'm chasing.

I know it's not fair to compare myself now to the single and care-free woman I was fifteen years ago, when my goals were easily outlined for me by a collegiate-minded society (4.0 GPA! Graduate with honors! Participate in absolutely everything you possibly can!) but it's hard not to. I was really good at running that race…but what do you do once you've crossed the finish line?

I need to find a new dream, and it terrifies me. But living without a dream terrifies me more.

You see, I've met people without dreams, who've become accustomed to what “is” and shy away from thinking of what “could be,” and I don't want to be like them. The individuals that I admire are always moving towards something–step by step, changing their position until they find themselves where they want to be. Once they get there, they pick a new destination that wasn't visible before. It's like a dance…and swaying to the music is not nearly as much fun as waltzing across the room.

Ultimately, will any of this make me happier?

I hope so.

Because I dearly love to dance.


Emilie Davis is a writer, speaker, and creative partner with LinkHouse Consultants. She lives in Virginia with her four children and a husband that somehow manages to make her laugh every day.

Michelle Gill | Color It Forward

A few months ago Michelle Gill, founder of Color it Forward, reached out on Linkedin to share her story. I found it compelling. I hope you do too. 


I spent my childhood in hair salons. My father co-founded a well-known salon in New Jersey and, in its hey-day, it was THE place to get your hair done.  In fact, a TV show was recently made about the salon…I won’t mention what it’s called…ok, I’ll give you a hint…it ends with “licious.” I learned at a very young age that hair, makeup and appearance is a past-time that many people in society take very seriously, and spend a pretty penny on.

This bothered me.  At 12 years old, it actually angered me, because I saw all these vain, wasteful people, caring and losing sleep over a single split end, a long bang, an inch of grey hair. Clearly this would not be my world. I was embarrassed, and when conversations with friends led to “What does your Dad do?” I would respond that my dad was a realtor.

 

I went to college 12 hours from home and immersed myself in the grunge scene of the early 90’s, determined never to be involved in that business. Ironically, I was referred to as the “Yankee Barber” because I gave $5 haircuts on Tuesday nights in the common area of my University of Kentucky dorm. I justified it meeting a need, as supply and demand. But the business was in my blood.    

A decade later, married and seeking an exit from the corporate world, I found myself in an adult cosmetology program and, soon after, a licensed hairstylist. Huh?

What I didn’t realize all those years ago is that hair, and appearance, and having a put-together exterior has everything to do with how we carry ourselves, and even think about ourselves. The job of the hairstylist goes beyond split ends and grey hair…it’s allowing a person to put her best-self forward, confidently and beautifully. There is a definite psychology about it, and I couldn’t have realized this without completely immersing myself in the business of beauty, and then looking even deeper.

In 2013, I had a client who was re-entering the workforce after 14 years at home with kids, and she was completely paralyzed with fear, feeling like the furthest thing from a professional working woman. A mom of three, she’d lost all confidence in her abilities and appearance and was consumed with how she was perceived by others. That same year, I had a client ask for an appointment for a blowout the morning before she was to appear in court across from her soon-to-be ex-husband and abuser of 12 years. Faced with enormous stress and anxiety she knew that if she looked good, she could sit up straighter, she could look him in the eye, she would be strong and confident. Though these two women faced different situations, they had needs in common that were met by a hairstylist: connection, dignity, and the power that comes from healthy self-esteem.

Our physical appearance plays a role in how we see ourselves and how we are treated in society. Studies have shown that  in terms of job prospects and the labor market, more attractive people are not only more likely to find employment but they also earn higher incomes. We can go all the way back to our ancient human ancestors, where better looking individuals were more productive, more fecund, and brought home more food.

Color It Forward originated in a lightbulb moment where I realized that I only have two hands, but with 80,000 salons in the U.S., surely I can find other professionals who see our craft as an opportunity to lift women. We’ve created partnerships between social service agencies and beauty industry professionals. We’ve developed a network of salons around NJ that will do hair free-of-charge, and I continue to work behind the chair with clients who have stories to tell.  Women are smiling, and interviewing, getting back in school, getting apartments, sitting tall in court and leading children the way a mother should.  In two years since Color It Forward’s inception as a not-for-profit, we have played a part in over 250 women’s stories of recovery and redemption. These women continue to be the inspiration and the energy behind CIF.

First Deliberate, Then Disrupt: 5 Tips to Leave the Cubicle Life Behind

Recently Beth Kotz reached out and asked if she could contribute to my blog. When she shared what she'd written, the answer was ‘Yes. Absolutely.' There's some great advice in here!

Are you feeling stuck in a rut? Tired of waking up every morning and dragging yourself off to a nine-to-five job that isn't fulfilling? It's a situation that can leave you feeling drained, depressed and stagnant as a person, but it's also a situation that's within your power to change.

Disrupting your life to escape a dead-end job isn't easy, but if you're willing to fully commit, the tips below can help you break out of the vicious cycle and start forging the life you've always wanted.

Do Some Soul-Searching

Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. It's an aphorism that everyone has heard at some point, but there are two problems: what do you love, and how do you turn it into a job? Before you take a leap of faith, it's important to do some reflection and plan your next move. Whether it's an aspect of your current job, a personal hobby or something you haven't done in years, the first step is finding something that fills you with passion.

It may be tempting to restrict yourself to things that are financially convenient, but now is the time to break away from that thinking. The truth is that, with enough creativity and hard work, you can find new ways to monetize nearly anything you're truly passionate about doing.

Build a Financial Cushion

Of course, the reality is that money may not come right away. In order to succeed in escaping the rat race, you'll need to prepare yourself financially. First and foremost, that means working to pay off credit card debt or loans. Striking out on your own is difficult enough, but being burdened by debt can make it nearly unmanageable.

First, take careful stock of your current budget and search for any unnecessary expenses that can be eliminated. Any money you're able to free up can be used to pay down debts more quickly. Once your financial house is in order, you can begin to build the savings you'll need to sustain yourself while you work to realize your dreams.

Put in the Work

In the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” Pursuing your passion is not easy. It will require a great deal of hard work, dedication and perseverance, but the reward is undoubtedly worth it.

You may need to take extra hours at your current job to build your financial cushion more quickly. You may need to go back to school in your spare time to prepare for a new career. You may even wish to embark on a new venture while you're still working your day job. So long as you're willing to do whatever is required and attack each day with passion and persistence, success will eventually come.

Look Before You Leap

Once you've put together a road map and got your finances in order, the next step is planning your exit. Take some time to consider what might change when you quit your job – health insurance coverage, retirement accounts and stock options or bonuses especially – and plan out how you'll deal with each before you submit your notice.

This may involve buying your own health plan, rolling over or cashing out a 401(k) and exploring your ability to exercise any stock options. If possible, you may also wish to delay your exit until after annual bonus payouts. But once your plan is in place, it's time to make your great escape.

Keep Your Courage

Millions of people dream every day of leaving their jobs and pursuing their dreams, but most of them are stopped short because they simply can't muster the courage they need. The truth is that there's no ideal time to make your break, no easy button to avoid the growing pains and difficulties that always come with such a monumental decision. It's simply a matter of identifying the changes you need to make, committing 100 percent and sticking with it, wherever it may lead. Lean on friends and family for support. Speak with others who've made similar decisions and learn from their experiences. Above all, keep your courage and keep pushing forward.

We only get one life, and staying stuck in a rut as a matter of personal or financial convenience is a poor way to spend it. If you aspire to break out and take back your life, the tips above will have you well on your way. It's all within your grasp if you're bold enough to take the chance. Now, there's only one question left – are you ready to create the life you were always meant to live?


Beth Kotz is a business writer and contributor to Credit.com. She has also been featured as a writer and editor for numerous blogs in the energy, entertainment and home verticals.

Dan Negroni | Want to change how you do business? Connect with millennials

The following is a guest post from Dan Negroni, author of Chasing Relevance: Understand, Engage and Maximize Your Millennial Workforce.


Millennials. Like it or not, they will make up most of your workforce in the next ten years. This portends a big problem for countless companies: a huge disconnect between millennials and boomers/Gen Xers in the workforce.

We send emails; they send snaps. We put our heads to work and do what we’re told; they opt to work remotely and creatively. The differences aren’t small; they are costing companies billions of dollars. 60% of millennials will leave their jobs in less than three years. Companies must address and understand this disconnect so they can disrupt outdated working models and adapt to the new way. Here are three ways to connect with millennials so you can disrupt your old model and write the future!

1. Lead with unwavering transparency

Millennials wear their hearts on their sleeves. They tweet their opinions, Instagram their feelings and write Facebook statuses about who they will vote for and what causes they believe in. Technology has disrupted the way we communicate and has given millennials a voice 24/7. Your company must be transparent with what your mission is. Your why should be everywhere: in your office, on your website, on your Facebook page, etc.

60 % of millennials say ‘a sense of purpose’ is why they choose to work for their current employer, according to a Deloitte survey. If your company isn’t authentic and transparent on all fronts (social media, in person, online), this is hurting you. Be upfront about what your company stands for so you can actively connect and communicate with your millennials. 

2. Establish a relationship and provide feedback regularly

Millennials grew up with technology enabling them to get feedback and responses at the snap of a tweet. They don’t just want feedback—they expect it. However, they’re scared to ask for it. A poll by Gallup revealed that only 19% of millennials routinely receive feedback and only 15% of millennials routinely ask for feedback.

A huge reason for this disconnect is due to a lack of connection in the first place. You must be present and start the conversation. Make yourself approachable. Text them, Snapchat them, or Facetime them. Act in a way that’s relevant, which lets them know you care about them. This will strengthen your relationship and allow you to connect better.  

3. Ask more questions

Both of yourself and of your team!

  1.  Does your management team have an open door policy?
  2. Are you always available to help guide and lead?
  3. Do you ask for feedback about how you’re doing and can improve as a leader?

By regularly asking questions, you keep yourself accountable, committed and prepared for possible changes in the workplace. In order to address issues and prevent disconnection, you must first become aware of your own blind spots and weaknesses. Ask!

By asking questions and inviting your millennials to provide feedback you create a two way street. You empower them to ask questions too. You become more approachable. Exhibiting humility and vulnerability by acknowledging that you don’t know everything, makes you appear less intimidating and friendlier. Asking great questions leads to getting great answers. It creates win-win situations and opens the way for new ideas and innovation to move forward.

The root of all disconnection stems from communication—or a lack thereof. You must adapt to disruptive technology and be transparent with your mission in person, online and via social media. Get to know your millennials and give them feedback on a regular basis. Ask them questions and communicate often via texting and even just popping your head in the office. This is how we can connect with our millennials, bridge the generational gap and become disruptive companies that create real impact!

chasing revelance

 


Dan Negroni is the author of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage and Maximize Next Generation Leaders in the Workplace.

Jenette Clay | It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon: Dealing with chronic childhood illness.

I was a shell of my former, confident self.

That winter, three of my children exhibited symptoms that I now know are related to Lyme Disease. Prior to that winter, most of my experience as a mom had been with healthy, robust and happy children.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria of the Borrelia genus.

The symptoms range from pain and lethargy to joint swelling and recurrent fevers, as well as a range of neurological problems and depression. By the time my children were diagnosed, their Lyme was chronic, meaning the bacteria had moved from their bloodstream to find lodging in other parts of their bodies. Chronic Lyme, is notoriously hard to dislodge once it has a chance to take hold.

In the midst of our struggle to diagnose our children’s pain and neurological symptoms, my father-in-law died suddenly, and my friend lost her four year old daughter to cancer. She was just six months older than my youngest.

I can still see her daughter Chloe, giggling in a tire swing with my three year old, blond curls flying out behind her, just weeks before her cancer diagnosis.

Within three months she had died.

That whole year, I had a hard time enjoying my beautiful little girl without mourning for my friend who loved (still loves) her little girl as much as I love mine. Often, when I held my three year old, I felt like crying.

No matter where I laid my eyes I thought of sickness or death.

I wrote this poem in the middle of that year wanting to have my family and friends understand the depths of my depression and anguish.

psalms

Photo Credit

My Psalm (of Sorts)

O Lord, my Spirit cries out to you,

My body is a mausoleum for a dead soul,

My home a mausoleum for hope long passed.

Yet I know you are mighty to save,

compassionate and great in kindness to all who place their hope in You.

I look at my sweet baby, trembling at what may lie ahead for her.

Will she grow to be a young woman, then suddenly be struck with sickness like her sister?

A dog hurt many times,

Recoils at a hand reached out in kindness,

So my heart recoils from beauty and hope.

So helpless are we.

Frail

Dust

Perplexed; no “Captains of our fate.”

O Lord save me from myself and my fears.

Refresh me for the sake of my family, and for Your name sake, may I not bring shame to Your name. Let faith, hope love and peace overflow into our lives and from your Spirit.

There were days I prayed for my children to be healed, tears streaming down my face, hiding in the pantry so that my kids wouldn’t see me crying. I researched hours, everyday, desperate to figure out what was wrong with my kids. Other parent’s stories of seeking a diagnosis for their children haunted me.  

One good friend reminded me that I needed to be a warrior for my child. I was angry at her for putting that on me because I felt so scared and frail. She was right, but all the research and effort were too much and too intense. I was burning out.

Someone else encouraged me by saying, “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon!”

That made me angry as well. Who wants to be told that their struggle is a marathon? We all want to power through our struggles in a glorious burst! Who wants the long hard slog of a marathon when you are dealing with sickness and pain?

So I continued my frantic research, as I cried, and prayed more.

We took our children to doctors and specialists, and others prayed and cried with us as we hit brick walls in our search for answers and my daughters suffered from the pain of Lyme in their joints, their backs and their heads. It was so hard to express to family and friends what we were going through because they had never been through anything like that before. Neither had we.

And I prayed.

At some point my husband and I realized it was a marathon and not a sprint.

We held hands and talked about living in the moment with our kids through sickness. We discussed ways we could enjoy life together, now, not looking to the future for our lives to somehow restart again after everyone was well.

I also limited my research about my children’s sickness to fifteen minutes a day, and spent more time sitting with them and enjoying them..

I opened a Pinterest account just to Pin pictures that were beautiful, no information about sickness, only beauty and things that made me smile.

I appreciated them as they were, even as I prayed for them and cared for them. I wasn’t trying to cure them all of the time. They stopped being my projects and returned to being my children.

It’s not a desperate sprint to get them well anymore, it’s a steady marathon of fellowship with them in the midst of our suffering and our joy and healing – however long it takes.

And what of all those prayers?

It’s part of my faith to believe that not only is God fully aware of our situation, but that he mourns with those who mourn. If God is aware of our situation and is able to change it, then He must not be rattled by it. And I don’t need to be rattled by it. I choose to trust Him in the midst of this marathon:

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

How have I seen God working good in our lives? This is the fruit of what we’ve gone through:

  • Less judgement and more compassion toward people with chronic pain and mental illness.
  • A sure sense of the mercy of God when life is easy and when it seems unbearable.
  • A stronger faith and resilience through very difficult times.
  • An appreciation for the mysterious complexity of our bodies.
  • An understanding of, “Who of you by worrying can add a single day to your life?..,” Luke 12:25

Ways I’ve changed:

  • I’m grateful to be able to feel thankful.
  • I’m more patient. Losing my temper and being sarcastic isn’t worth the stress it causes others.
  • I’ve become a freelance writer to help pay for medical expenses. I’m good at it and I enjoy it.
  • I listen more respectfully to my older children and leave room for disagreement in our relationship.
  • I’ve examined what God’s promises are, and realize health and wealth in this life aren’t guaranteed in the Bible, but God’s grace is.
  • I understand that some of God’s promises are reserved for the time when this life is over, and that requires faith.

James, in the Bible, says to the church in Jerusalem, “ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

One day in 2013, I don’t remember when, I added this line to My Psalm (of Sorts),

You have transformed this mausoleum into a house of praise and thanksgiving. Your peace guards our hearts and minds through Christ.

We have been disrupted but not forsaken. That is everything to me.

It give me the courage to run this marathon well. It gives me the hope to encourage my children to dream in the midst of this illness – to put wings to their dreams through prayer, strategy and perseverance.

This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and, by God’s grace, we will run it well.

If you have further questions about Lyme Disease, Lymedisease.Org is an excellent source for more information. Also, consider watching this documentary series called Under Our Skin.


Jenette Clay is a freelance writer of podcast show notes and blog posts – improving the online presence of small businesses through written web content. Grateful wife of one and mom to many. You may connect with her on LinkedIn, on Twitter or on her website MyWordsforhire .

 

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter | Why I love writing resumes

Below is a guest post from Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, one of only 50 master resume writers, who has crafted more than 1,500 career stories. I first met her on Twitter, and subsequently, hired her to rewrite my bio. I documented my experience here and here.  I'm excited for you to hear her own story of how she came to write resumes.

***

I've always loved the blank page, awaiting expression.

Labeled shy in kindergarten, I remember swirling my imagination into watercolor. In high school, I won several essay and poetry contests for conveying pictures with words. My mother, an avid reader, was my greatest source of encouragement.

In elementary school, I was fortunate to view the world from an airplane.  My father's TWA passes took us on family trips to England, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Hawaii. Each new place provided fuel for my written musings.

In college, I earned a bachelor's in Writing-Journalism emphasis, wrote and edited for the daily campus news and was the features editor for a local Retirement & Leisure News publication.

An aging college professor, his face engraved with a road map of journeys, who loved the architecture of words, taught my favorite exposition class. My ideas, spilled onto the blank page, were met with equal amounts of correction and encouragement.

And my passion for words grew.

resumes
From Corporate Career to Bootstrapped Startup

After graduating college in 1986, I honed my writing, marketing, communications, public relations and project management abilities via a number of office jobs, before exiting to bootstrap my start-up in 1997.

Initially, I sold services as a corporate writer, including marketing / copywriting for individuals and small businesses–and resumes.  In response to one of my ads, the owners of CareerTrend hired me to manage their resume clientele.  The people I met and the stories I got to tell were invigorating, the original owner a wonderful mentor. One of my early clients was a former CIA agent turned private-sector lawyer.  His stories were cloaked in mystery and intrigue, my ability to convert his past into a future goal, fulfilling.

I loved the entrepreneurial lifestyle, the freedom of being my own boss, and the quiet act of writing, daily.

CareerTrend Emerges

In 1998, I had the opportunity to purchase the CareerTrend portion of the business. I rented a brick-and-mortar space in Greater Kansas City, and began to build the business through intense resume industry study and conference participation, including public speaking, volunteering and committee leadership, learning resume writing vocabulary and strategy, and hours of in-person networking.

In recent years, while I've remained active as both a professional industry member and volunteer, I've evolved the business of writing resumes into a 100% virtual entity. I have also dived into the deep-end of blogging. As I empty my own soul onto the page. I'm better learning to tell the multi-faceted stories of my clients.  Through a collaborative process, we pry open the doors to the dusty archives of their souls, decompress their stored files, crafting resumes that bring their past and present work into the future.

resumes

Photo Credit: lifehack.org via google

Glorious Solitary Writing

I know a resume has a job to do, including, and especially, helping my clients land their dream jobs; I love their glee when they first read what I've written about them. But I do this because I love the writing, the rhythm of people's stories, and spending time alone in my office on the banks of Lake Texoma, Texas: the comfort of a breeze, fishing boat engines that hum along and my dog at my feet, the conversations that beckon. Perhaps with the CEO of a multinational or the start-up executive who is off to their next adventure. With each client connection, I am transported from my little cabin on the lake to experience worldwide adventures, taking flight across the waves, across the globe.

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Andrea Densley | Surprise! I Didn’t Die

The following is a guest post from Andrea Densley, singer, songwriter, and empty-nester mother of six.

Prepping for cancer surgery would not normally have been on my To-Do List for the production of my Christmas album.  Call the music arranger, procure song licensinghave a needle biopsy…. I was planning my life — not my sickness, and certainly not my death.

The album was my first, only four songs, but my first album!  It was a personal thanks offering for relief from years of medical challenges and also my heartfelt celebration of Christmas. My gift.

I’d had surgery to remove my thyroid and a nodule of thyroid cancer. During the surgery a nerve was damaged and my left vocal cord was paralyzed. I’m a jazz singer who suddenly could only squeak out a handful of musical notes and had a barely audible speaking voice. Life had been a roller coaster of depression and anxiety. Now with trauma to my voice—my instrument—I felt like Alice, free-falling down a rabbit hole into a strange, unpredictable world.

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After two years of therapies, my specialists concluded that the damage was permanent. I scheduled a procedure to graft a healthy nerve into the damaged area. This wouldn’t repair or improve my paralyzed vocal cord but it would firm up the surrounding muscle and provide support for the healthy vocal cord to work more easily.

Medical evaluations preceding the procedure revealed a new suspicious nodule snuggled next to the nerve of my healthy vocal cord. This cancer nodule indicated yet another surgery was required. With my doctor’s reluctant agreement, I postponed that extra procedure. I was already overwhelmed by the years of dealing with my damaged voice, the struggle with depression, the hectic pace of raising my family and the up-coming nerve graft surgery.

It was a success! Recovery was speedy, and I was able to sing again! During a holiday event in November of 2011, I felt strongly that I wanted to make a Christmas album before the next fall. But I also knew that surgery to remove the new cancerous nodule had to be scheduled, and that my voice—even breathing—was again in jeopardy. Was there time to create a small EP (extended play) album before the surgical deadline?

I’d never produced an album, and had slight resources to finance the project. I prayed; I wrestled down my anxiety, enabling me to negotiate with musicians and engineering professionals. The looming appointment for surgery provided a powerful catalyst. The Christmas album would be tangible evidence that I’d done my best with the talent I’d been given, and which I felt had been miraculously restored—in case things didn’t go well with the cancer procedure.

Fall of 2012 found me completing my Christmas EP, preparing for the holidays and for surgery. Post-surgery, my surgeon was beaming; the process had gone better than her best-case scenario. The day after surgery I could still speak, sing, and most importantly, breathe on my own!

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As time passed and my scars healed I realized I didn’t have an ambition for what came next. I’d been focused on doctors’ appointments and physical difficulties and cancer and finishing the album. I’d been steeling myself for a potentially bad medical outcome, even expecting one. I’d never fully considered what to do if everything went well and I became healthy.

Surprise—I didn’t die. My voice is stronger than ever. I feel effervescent every day. My cyclical depression is under control thanks to medication and self-care. Part of that self-care is to formulate, as Whitney Johnson would describe it, my own “disruptive trajectory” for the next adventure. Subtle innuendo from family and mentors, false media messages, inferences drawn from religious culture had all melded into a personal “glass ceiling” of self-doubt. My perception of age and income limitations had undermined my longing for a professional music career. Now I know that the judgmental voices in my head have been more powerfully discouraging than anything directed toward me by peers or professionals.   

I am going to lift this great dome of overhead glass, like the lid of a secret launch pad. My dream is to inspire others with my music. The exact path remains to be discovered, but I believe that there can be flight for all of us.

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Andrea Densley is an award-winning singer, fashion designer and empty-nester mother of six who is impassioned about holding fast to hope. She is a performing jazz artist in the south Puget Sound region of Washington State and loves public speaking and creative dreaming.

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Baby Upended Sarah Elkins’ Life, In a Good Way

The following is guest post from Sarah Elkins about having her first baby.  Sarah lives in Helena, Montana, and likes to teach people to find their stories, organize them, and share them across platforms. You can connect with her here.

When I was pregnant with our first son, we were living in Washington DC and my commute was an hour each way; I went through the process to get high level security clearance, including a polygraph, when I was five months along. I hadn't planned to get married and I had no intention to have children. All of that changed when I met Bob.

I can be impulsive… which is why I asked Bob to marry me after dating for eight months. When we had been married about three months and I watched him teaching his 6 year old niece to fish, I suggested that maybe we should have a baby after all. My husband was cautiously happy; after all, I had insisted I didn’t want children before that moment. And then we were pregnant. I had a plan to continue my career as a Peoplesoft consultant and gave my boss my due date as the beginning of my four weeks of maternity leave.

babyPhoto Credit: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

Some of that background may explain my recurring dream throughout my last trimester:

I was pregnant with twins. When they were born, one was much, much larger and heavier than the other. The larger one was so big that when I was trying to hold both babies, I would drop the bigger one. When I dropped him, he would be fine, with no injuries. Sometimes he wouldn’t even cry. Each time, people around me would be horrified, with terrible, unforgiving expressions on their faces. Their looks told me I was an awful mother, a failure because I couldn't care for both of my babies at the same time.

It was such a vivid nightmare that I would wake in a sweat, crying into my pillow. It took me having the dream a few times each week for about three weeks before I was able to analyze it and stop the dream from returning.

I believe dreams are our subconscious way of dealing with potential experiences. Our subconscious mind is powerful, observing things our conscious minds simply can’t. The subconscious is almost prescient, based on what it observes, which is why it can offer up these dreams, to prepare us for our future.

When I finally interpreted my dream, it stopped. One of the babies was my job, my career, and the other was our living, breathing baby. I never figured out which one was the larger twin that I dropped in my dream. The dream was my fear that I couldn't be a great mom and still have a great career. I feared that I would fail in one aspect or another, there was no balance.

babyPhoto credit: Larry Jacobsen via Flickr

My fear – dropping my baby – was that not only would I fail in one area of my life, which is terrifying to me, but that I would be judged for it by others around me. Once the dream was interpreted, I stopped having it. That doesn’t mean the fear disappeared; it means I became actively conscious of it and took steps to mitigate it. I hired a great nanny, was gifted a high-end breast pump by my mother, and set internal boundaries between work and family. All of those things helped relieve my fears, probably because my perceptions of motherhood and career were nothing like reality. How could they be?

This was my first baby; I had no idea what to expect.

When Jacob was five weeks old, I went back to work part-time, working on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday each week. Because of my hour commute, I was away from home for just over 30 hours. I hired a wonderful nanny. The cost of the nanny and my student loan payments took up almost my entire paycheck. The first week I went to work after having Jacob I cried all the way to work all three days. My breasts painfully filled with milk and I’d have to go straight to the nursing mothers’ room to pump.

I told myself it would get better as I drove home to him each evening. It didn’t improve. I was still crying to work on the second and third weeks. By the fourth week, I returned home on Tuesday evening and with the baby demandingly latched on to nurse; I told my husband I was ready for something new. We needed to live in a place where one of us could stay home, at least for more hours each week. This arrangement simply wasn't working. That same week, Bob was offered a job in Montana. He accepted. Four weeks later, I found myself in a 24 foot moving truck with a 20-foot car trailer, a dog & cat in the car on the trailer, and the baby seat between us in the cab, on our way to our next adventure.

It was truly a huge surprise to me that having a baby would change my priorities so dramatically. I knew I would love him; I knew I would give him everything I could to keep him happy and healthy. My image of my future, at least my immediate future, changed at some point between my third trimester and when I went to work. I cannot pinpoint the change; it just happened.

baby-bathingvanessapikerusselPhoto credit: Vanessa Pike Russell via Flickr

I could say I don’t regret our move and my decision to stay home part time to raise our children, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. It has been a struggle to come back to a career here in Montana. When the boys were little, I taught computer classes at the local college and started a business, going to homes and offices and teaching people how to more effectively use their own computers. When I was ready to return to a more regular workplace, I couldn’t get an interview. The first job I was offered was as a mid-level administrative assistant; my salary was half of what I was making a few years before in Washington DC. I knew I would take a step back; I didn’t realize it would be a decade backward.

What I do not regret is the time I’ve had to spend with our children. Living in a small town in Montana has been a unique experience with learning opportunities and adventures around every turn. Our children are confident in any environment, indoor or outdoor. They have had adventures in the mountains, on rivers and lakes, and in big cities all over the world; and they come back to a place where they can walk or ride their bikes by themselves all over town.

Would this be the right move for you? I couldn’t begin to tell someone else to do what I did. But if you are crying on your way to work after leaving your baby with a nanny or daycare, perhaps it’s time for you to consider your next adventure. Don’t wait. In ten minutes your baby will be 18. Trust me.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy:

A Dream I Didn't Know I Had by Sara Elkins
How My Mother Helped Me Launch My Writing Career by Susan Cain
I Dream Because My Mother Couldn't by Cali Yost
The Next Wave of Feminism by Elizabeth Keeler
In the Messiness of Life, What's Fair to Employers?

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Jenn Chloupek | My Why It Matters

I first met Jenn Chloupek in Washington D.C. when I spoke at the NextGen Government Summit.  We've since exchanged a number of e-mails — and I invited her to guest blog.  Here's her story.

Why do you do what you do? How often have we asked ourselves that question, only to answer, “I want to advance my career” or “I want to provide for my family.” While those are important external factors that drive what you do, they are only a small piece of what motivates us. Finding your internal motivators provides the inspiration for what you do, and sometimes reveals barriers to your success. This all begins with finding out your “Why It Matters.”

My “Why It Matters” had such a profound impact on my life that I wrote a book about it. Why It Matters helps you reflect on your deepest motives and determine what drives you — simply stated, it is a distilled phrase that represents you. It helps answer the question, “Why do I do what I do?” For me, it is to prove my worth. Every new attempt to prove my worth comes with excitement, and fear. But luckily, that fear is overcome by support.

My husband Larry is my biggest cheerleader and inspiration. In fact, how we met started with inspiration and awe. Both of our families own beach houses in Ocean City, Maryland and, while mine would sit on the porch drinking “beverages” or eating delicious desserts, we would see this man running back and forth, up and down, absolutely killing it on the stairs. As we sat around eating, we knew we had to meet him.

My father introduced himself to him on the beach and what began as a friendship became much more. After discussing what we both wanted in a mate and an invitation to your everyday trip to the Finnish Embassy, that inspirational, fit man proposed to me on that same beach we met and the rest is history.

Now, he is set to retire this year. What I didn’t share with you about that fit man is he had his leg amputated as a child after a bout with bone cancer. But this doesn’t stop him from running countless marathons and setting Guinness Book World Records while doing it.

WhyItMatters

His “Why It Matters” is to police. At first, he viewed it as policing what his body could and could not do. After our relationship started, it was no longer a bad thing, but rather the motivation to prove he could do it.

We now give speeches together throughout the country. I share that he is the inspiration in my life, pushing me to start running 5Ks to 10Ks, to half marathons and now full marathons. He shares I am the inspiration in his life to not give into limitations. He always ran 5Ks, but anymore was too strenuous on his upper body. After seeing me run a full marathon, he started running 10Ks and now we are running full marathons together. We both found our “Why It Matters,” acknowledged and grew from it, and provided support and encouragement to each other’s, leading to success. I live with this example and support in my life, and what a blessing it is to have it in my midst!

This entire discovery of our “Why It Matters” sounds pretty straightforward, but it does take an extensive journey of self-discovery to find those internal motivators, and that deep dive can be scary. You are opening yourself up and examining yourself in a way that can leave you vulnerable. However, stripping those barriers leads to understanding the elements of your core motivation, which in turn, leads to the ultimate personal satisfaction – the ultimate importance. Proving my worth is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and helps me focus on decisions throughout the day. It guides me as Larry’s wife and mother of two boys. It drives me to compete in marathons and build my coaching practice.

Is finding your “Why It Matters” a disruptive process? Yes! It certainly was for me. I once had a girlfriend tell me, “You try a lot, you do a lot.” I think she was actually complimenting me, but I took it as a negative. Do I try to do too many things? I guess I do – maybe because I’m trying to prove my worth to myself too! Looks like I’ve still got some work to do, but I believe that daring to find your “Why It Matters” is a journey that leads to your ultimate personal satisfaction. You won’t regret it!

About Jennifer:
Glass half full marathon runner, leadership coach and lifelong teacher Jennifer Chloupek is the co-author of “Why It Matters – The Sherpa Guide to What You Are Looking For,” centered on a concept she developed working with her executive coach colleague, Brenda Corbett. Chloupek is dedicated to helping people discover and become their best selves. This book marks her debut as a business writer.


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