The Failure Files: When Self-Sacrifice Goes Too Far

Too much self-sacrifice ends in burnout from freedigitalphotos.net

Digging deep into our failures is an exercise in discomfort. As mentioned in my first entry for The Failure Files, to learn from our failures requires us to deeply examine them in order to learn from them. The more I dig, the more uncomfortable I become. This week I explore self-sacrifice.

I recently found a note from 1997 in which I outline several steps to become a better person. Perhaps it was Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues, written in 1726, that inspired me to write my own version. Twenty years later, however, my revision demanded excessive self-sacrifice and limitations. None of which would be healthy for anyone.

In my youth, I liked being the one people looked to for help and solutions when life was in turmoil. I could feel others’ stress and wanted to avoid it. As a result, I helped however, whenever I could. When I didn’t, for whatever reason, those offended by my decline to help called me selfish. Avoiding that label became a weakness. The result: I was taken advantage of. Repeatedly.

Too Much Self-Sacrifice

Failure #1: Spreading myself too thin/too much volunteering. For a long stretch of time, I was volunteering for 9 causes. Only one was fun, the rest were guilt-induced by other people or entities. Every time a request came my way, I responded. Because of my good girl status and discomfort around negative vibes, I didn’t want to rock the boat. Unfortunately, the cost benefit analysis was too high. My time, energy, and well-being suffered.

Recovery: Limit volunteering. Avoid guilt or peer pressure.

I very rarely volunteer and when I do, it is only after serious self-examination and availability. I never give a response right away and let myself and the person requesting my time a day or two to thoroughly examine the situation. Just because I was asked on the spot doesn’t mean I’m the ideal person for the task. It also does not require an immediate response. If there was pressure to provide an immediate answer, my answer would be no. It became very similar to dealing with annoying telemarketers.

Lessons Learned

  • Examine the task in question.
  • Ask yourself if this is something you truly believe in.
  • Ask yourself if this will enrich your life or stress you out.
  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Let go of guilt.
  • Ignore peer pressure. You are no longer in high school.

You are entering a phase in life where you have freedom to create the life you want. Use this opportunity to make everything you do valuable and meaningful to who you are and your pursuits. Any activity you pursue must enrich YOUR life, not drain or guilt you.

Keep in mind, not everything will advance you as a person or a professional. When it comes to professional activities, be cautious that it doesn’t drain your energy budget as well as your financial budget.

What failure makes you cringe? What growth has occurred from those experiences?

Kristen

Adventures in Outsourcing: Virtual Assistant

animal-1298790_640There are days I look in the mirror and expect to see an octopus-like creature with eight or more arms. As a business owner, mother, grandmother, partner and all the other titles associated with being a certain age, I need those extra arms to get things done.

I have only two arms.

I’ve been in business for almost 10 years and at one point, I think I was keeping up with the tasks of owning a business. Then more clients called for another arm. More managerial tasks required another arm. Business growth and rebranding needed an arm. Caring for my granddaughter needed extra arms, too. Everything was growing faster than I could keep up with.

Something had to be done. So I altered my schedule to create a morning chipping plan: attack emails and all related tasks first thing in the morning. Before long, that one-hour segment turned into 4 hours, then 6, then more. The email list became almost manageable, but other tasks suffered. This wasn’t a good strategy.

After reading Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker, I formulated a plan. Ducker recommends outsourcing administrative tasks overseas, however, I chose to stay closer to home. I reviewed my business budget and the positive impact hiring a social media marketer had for my business, then reached out to Jennifer Tamborski and Lisa Smelcer of Virtual Admin Experts:

“Hi Jennifer, this is Kristen. HEEELLLPPPP!” (It’s funny how my outsourcing calls begin this way!)

“How can I help?”

“I’m not sure. I’m floundering between keeping up with email, contacts, clients, marketing and maintaining a writing schedule. When I focus on one, the others add up and vice versa. I’m caught in an administrative whirlpool and I’m unable to swim out of it.”

As with Mich Hancock of 100th Monkey Media, Jennifer understood my problems and comforted me by saying, “That’s a common problem. I can help.” Jennifer listed all the tasks she could manage and we established an email management plan in November 2015. With that task off my shoulders, I began chipping away at the other running-a-business tasks while coping with email server and website technical issues, and underlying family intervention.

I needed more, but I knew this would dip into an uncomfortable cash-burn phase, where I’m spending more than I’m earning. I consulted my accountant who assured me the business could sustain this activity for a specified time and that the results would be beneficial for me and my business. In essence, she had confidence where I was floundering.

With that boost, I signed up for the mid-level VA package from Virtual Admin Experts May 2016. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but I’ll report on my progress in the near future.

What are your outsourcing fears? What was the first task you outsourced? I’ll be sharing more of my outsourcing adventures throughout the year so watch for more. Please share with others who are ready for an adventure in outsourcing!

Kristen Edens

Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business: making midlife better!
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Content Development for Cash-Strapped Entrepreneurs, part 4: Hot Content!

ID-100139079Over the last month, I’ve shared experiences and wisdom on content development for small business owners, in the following segments:

Building a list
Choosing a communication method
Evergreen content

In this segment, we’ll discuss what to do if you find a hot piece of curated content and want to share it with your followers NOW.

In part 2 of this series, I had recommended choosing a monthly or quarterly newsletter to get over the hump of starting a content habit. So if a great article crosses your radar and it’s another month until your next newsletter, you have the option to send it out as a special report, but IF it fits a few criteria.

Ask yourself these questions:

• Does it tie into an upcoming event you are promoting or involved in?
• Is it pertinent to your readers now?
• Does it highlight you, your business or something you are involved in?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then send it out now. You won’t need a detailed e-newsletter or wordy intro; just the basics will do. The subject line is where you’ll really need to shine. Here are a few subject line suggestions:

• Free preview of upcoming session:
• Just released:
• Big News:
• Hot off the internet presses:
• A sneak peek:

Choose one of these teasers and hint at a snippet of the article yet to come. Teasing your reader will spark interest and inspire open rates. In the body of the letter, offer a brief intro, such as:

Hey Bob,
With my upcoming webinar on Content Development scheduled for next Wednesday, I thought you’d be interested in my interview with Entrepreneur Buzz on 10 Content Obstacles Business Owners Must Overcome. You’ll get a quick peek into content development and come away with an extra 10 tips! If your friends struggle with content creation, share this email with them, too.

See you next week!
Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler

Include links to landing pages and the article, podcast, or whatever you want to bring to your readers’ attention. Keep it short and sweet, and include a call to action. If it’s immediately meaningful to your readers, then it will make a good ‘special report’. If the hot article doesn’t fit the above criteria, save it for your next newsletter.

Content development is one of those necessary evils for a successful business, but taken in steady steps, it will become a solid habit. The challenge is to get started.

If this still gets you stumped, contact me at kris@kristhescribbler.com and I’ll talk you off the content ledge!

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business

Image courtesy of pigdevilphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Progression of Entrepreneurship: I Want to…I Should Have…I Will!

One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others S. Miles fdp.net 11.15a
would want you to be, rather than being yourself.
–Shannon L. Alder

I WANT TO

The year was 1982. I graduated high school, got a part-time job at the YMCA and started college that fall.

That was the norm ‘back then’ (is 30 years that old?) For many of us, our parents trained us for that goal; it was the vision of success. Wanting success for ourselves, our children, and to make our parents happy, we followed the laid-out path, even if we had a desire to pursue another direction (I wanted to be a writer). Anything hinting of entrepreneurialism was taboo. So we attend college for 4 or 5 years, graduated again and found a full-time job with paid vacation and health insurance. Then, in order to climb the corporate ladder (another expectation), we returned to school for an advanced degree (I got my master’s degree in 1990 in Exercise Physiology). We got married, got a job, and raised a family, teaching the same vision of success to our children.

I SHOULD HAVE

By our late 30s and early 40s, our children are older and not as reliant on us. Our career has plateaued and we still don’t have the finances to branch out to pursue our dream—children are expensive! We promise ourselves to work the day job until we save enough to start a business. We strive for someday. However, our children are prepping for college and they need financial assistance from the First National Bank of Mom & Dad. Or perhaps health, divorce or other family matters pull us from our goal. So the money we were secretly saving is redirected elsewhere. Bit by bit, our want-to becomes a ‘should-have’.

Then 2008 arrives. Most ladders are destroyed and we are either laid off, downsized, or beyond grateful that we still have a job, even if it meant a severe pay cut. Our parents are retired so they have no advice to share other than a few memories from The Great Depression.

I WILL

We’re now faced with a hard truth: the vision that worked for our parents isn’t working for us. As employment uncertainties loom, our want-tos and should-haves are resurfacing with renewed hope. Rachel Hankerson, founder of PROOF Tags, and Bradley Thomas, founder of The Art of Changing Your Life, are examples of entrepreneurs who resurrected their ideas after losing their jobs. To read my story, click here.

While the recession impacted many people, it also inspired governmental, educational and non-profit entrepreneurial programs. Startup assistance, incubator programs, economic development programs and much more are developing to help entrepreneurial-minded people and to revitalize the economy. With these resources, the new phrase is: I will.

Entrepreneurship is now encouraged and is ‘cool’. That means your someday is now!

What’s your story? How are you implementing your want-to? Share below. I often include stories in future blogs, so you may be the next one I contact.

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(photo image courtesy of Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)

 

Punching through the Comfort Zone: Unexpected Rewards

S. Miles fdp.net 10.25.15Last week I experienced another bonus as a result of stepping out of my well-built comfort zone. I attended the IdeaBounce 50+ sponsored by the Skandalaris Center. Entrepreneurs are invited to present their idea to a team of judges. Each participant has 2 minutes to pitch their idea and winners receive $100 and breakfast with the judges.

What attracted me to this IdeaBounce was that they were calling entrepreneurs over 50 years old. My plan was to make contact with the judges, who were key people in entrepreneurship, second-act careers, the Center for Aging and other significant areas, to promote my Grandparents in Business blog. I did not intent to present; it required advanced registration, which I avoided because, well, I still have introverted tendencies surging through my blood. So I sat in the back and watched in comfort from my seat.

Eight brave, pre-registered ‘bouncers’ presented their ideas. When the chosen 8 finished their presentation, the host opened the floor for an Open Mic idea bounce. These participants would receive comments and feedback regarding their idea.

At first, the audience was hesitant, but not me. My hand went up—and so did my heartrate! I was the second of five to present and I shared my new blog and developing community.

The rest was a blur. I returned to my seat and blended in with the rest of the crowd. My heartrate settled back to normal and I was pleased with my results—I DID IT! I was eager to receive the judges’ comments.

After the presentations were complete, people mingled and a few asked for my business card. I joined the others in the main hall to await the IdeaBounce winners. Minutes later, the crowd silenced as the host, Stacy, announced the winners. Of the four chosen, I WAS ONE OF THEM!! Stacy pointed to me and waved me forward. I reached out to receive the judges’ comments and she instead handed me instructions to the judges’ breakfast and a sheet to fill out for my $100 check.

Really?

“I’m just here for the judges’ comments,” I said.

Stacy and those surrounding me laughed.

The breakfast was the following morning and I didn’t care what it would take to attend, I was going to be there! It was the ideal opportunity to meet and learn about the judges, what they did for senior entrepreneurship and how I can better grow my business. Conversations and connections were made that otherwise may have taken much longer to build if I hadn’t poked my hand through my comfort zone.

What can you do to break out of your comfort zone? In what ways have you already done so? Share with others and comment below.

p.s. it’s quite a high to step out on a limb like that. I still experience the euphoria from knowing I can do it and I DID. Take similar chances for you and your business!

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(photo image courtesy of Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)

Tech Phobic? Ask a Millennial for a Quick Fix

While attending a Venture Café session sponsored by Kathy Bernard of WiserU, she had been tussling with the David Castillo Dominici at fdp.netvisual system for her presentation. The small room of attendees shrugged their shoulders when Kathy asked if anyone knew how to fix the solution. As she clicked and was about to forgo her slideshow, a group of youth entrepreneurs entered the room. They observed Kathy’s struggle to figure out the problem and from their body language, these millennials were on the verge of taking the situation into their own hands.

Then one of them spoke up and said, “Just use the remote.” An instant later, Kathy handed the remote to one of the young men and she instructed his friend to take over the keyboard. In less than 15 seconds, they tipped, tapped, and clicked her screen into submission.

The rest of us applauded. I piped up and said, “I need you to do that for my electronics.” Those standing next to me nodded in agreement.

From that point forward, my mind was composing this blog and the lessons learned in that 5-minute experience:

  • We all have something we can learn from each other.
    • Kathy learned from the millennials on how to get her AV equipment to work
    • The millennials learned how LinkedIn can be helpful for their goals
    • Both learned their skills are helpful to the other.
  • Mentors come from all ages, backgrounds and experiences.
    • There is no status quo in business; be open to anyone and anything—you’ll learn a lot and enjoy the process.
  • There is an expert for EVERYTHING—and they’re closer than you think.
    • From networking meetings, to attending a public, private or online event—someone has an answer. Be brave enough to ask. Be ready to learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone older or younger than you for assistance.
    • No one is going to judge you. Your entry into heaven will not be blocked.
    • You’ll save a lot of time and headaches looking for the answers.
    • My daughter recently asked me for help with her resume—and survived. She found out I did know a thing or two about writing.
  • Satisfaction is high
    • Whether you ask for help or offer a solution, it’s a good feeling all around. Seek it out!

What can you do to help others? What expertise, skill or service comes easy to you but is a headache for someone else? That’s the inspiration for entrepreneurship. It’s in helping that brings the greatest rewards!

What would you add to these points? Comment below.
Kris the Scribbler

(photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net)

And Suddenly Children Move Back Home, part 2

“Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home.”DSCN2653
—Bill Cosby

Last week I shared the shock of receiving the call from our adult child requesting to move back home. We’ve had no chance to experience empty nest syndrome and, therefore, no chance to wish for them to be closer—not moving in, just closer.

But you said yes. Now reality strikes.

Let’s review:

“I’ll get to see my grandchild daily!”

So true. You’ll see her happy moments. You’ll witness her first step, her first tooth, her first, “No!” You’ll be there when she’s cute and when she’s sick. You’ll pick up those nasty toddler germs faster than she can throw a tantrum. On the flip side, you’ll get special grandparent moments once in a while.

“Family dinners”

You’ll try this several times before you realize you get as much grumping from your adult child as you do from your grandchild. Your child may fuss about setting the table, but your grandchild will be happy to help. Just prepare yourself for a thin coating of toddler mystery-juice on your silverware. As for healthy meals, you’ll fast get tired of the twenty-something cuisine: pizza, ramen and Progresso soup. You’ll also tire of preparing a healthy meal that goes ignored and under-appreciated.

“Babysitting Schedule”jesadaphorn at fdp.net

Forget your work schedule. Especially if you have a home office. You can talk yourself blue explaining that you have specific work hours and that you will not stray from them. You’ll even lie and say you can’t because you have meetings away from the office or client calls. It’s okay—they won’t believe you anyway.

“Rent Money”

Payment is late. Often delivered with a grumpy face. Any request for chores is met with scorn and, depending on the day, “I just paid rent. How about you use that money to hire a cleaning service?”

“Specific Work Hours”

You’ve got them, but they are modified daily to take advantage of quiet times, sleep schedules, emergency babysitting, delivering the toddler to daycare, Urgent Care, etc. You become the queen/king of efficiency amidst disaster. Instead of Monday through Friday, you’ll be taking care of business on weekends or late at night.

“Rent money return”

You still want to be super-parent, but unexpected and unplanned expenses will arise:

  • buying a car seat
  • paying to have the car cleaned after a nasty vomit explosion
  • emergency childcare coverage
  • paying for co-working space during deadlines

I call them ‘inconvenience fees’. It helps diffuse the frustration.

The toughest challenge is to get your child to understand that you DO love him or her and you DO love your grandchild. Yes, you are grandma/pa, but you are working! You have a strict schedule whether at your home office or at a location outside of home. Stick to your schedule and your goals and continually remind your child. They’ll understand.

Someday.

What are your experiences? Share below and share with your friends!

Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business

photo image 1: a small portion of my basement
photo image 2: courtesy of jesadaphorn at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Entrepreneurship: Finding the Way amidst Uncertainties & Unknowns

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness Dan at fdp.net
of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” ~Alan Alda

My entrepreneurial story began in early 2008. After 8 years working as a part-time exercise therapist, I chose to quit my job. With a 45-minute one-way commute, earning $9.54/hour (with a Master’s Degree), and gas prices between $3 and $4/gallon, my time, resources, and enthusiasm had fizzled. I chose to pursue the career I always wanted: writing.

Another big step toward building a business occurred mid-2009 when I filed for divorce after 19 years of marriage. As I contemplated my options, I was emotionally unaware of the economic crises. Similarly, my children, both in their late teens, were experiencing their own growing pains and adjustments. With emotions high and uncertainties everywhere, I chose to pursue a new beginning in another state. While it was a CRAZY thing to do, it was also an emotional, heartbreaking, tough-love, necessary action to take for the benefit of me and my pre-twenty-something, grumpy, know-it-all children.

That’s when the true economic situation hit me. I had moved out of state. I was unemployed. And I was unable to get a job. YIKES!

But, there was good to be found in my emotional rubble:

  • I moved into my cousin’s house—rent free—as a permanent house sitter.
  • I had alimony that was just enough to pay my living expenses.
  • I had a roommate who shared remaining expenses.
  • I was resourceful.
  • My parents taught me how to make do with what I had.
  • My grandparents taught me how to make do with what I didn’t have.
  • I was determined to succeed.

The not so good:

  • My grandfather died one month after I moved to Missouri—July 2009.
  • I had a seizure Thanksgiving Day 2009.
  • My dad fell down the stairs in his house eight days later, suffering severe and permanent brain damage.

It was a painful 6 months, but I emerged with lessons learned and a plan.

Following my move and inability to get a job, I started researching possible writing jobs and discovered the Freelance Copywriter Success Summit. I was immediately interested but there was a problem: $499. However, during a bike ride (my clear-the-brain meditation and speak-to-the-universe time), I contemplated how I would pay for this week-long course. The answer came from my grandfather who had willed me some money. It was enough to pay for the class! An added bonus: there was enough money left over to pay for my business website, Kris the Scribbler.

In my desperation to find a job and build a business, I spent A LOT of time applying and interviewing. Several weeks after the Copywriting Summit course, the universe intervened again and I had a seizure. That put an immediate stop to all the traveling. That left one thing for me to do: write.

So I wrote. A lot. With the help of social media, I landed my first writing job without leaving the house. I made $685 in one month. While not a boon, I learned that what I wanted to accomplish was possible FROM HOME.

The next discovery came following my dad’s fall. With dad in a nursing home, my mother was distraught and needed help. My brothers were unable to take time off from work so that left me to travel. However, with driving restrictions due to the seizure, the option was to fly or take the bus. My mother paid my airfare which was much cheaper for her than home health care. From this came the discovery that I could write anywhere. I was no longer tied to a specific workplace, office or schedule. I could go where needed to help family or I could find a location at a park, a coffee shop or a library.

Lots of discoveries were made between 2008 and 2010. Lots of lessons, mistakes and stories came from this, too. Grandparents in Business developed over time, but that’s another story, so stay tuned.

What’s your story? What challenges or obstacles have you encountered or ARE you encountering as you pursue your dreams? Share below! If it seems impossible or you feel overwhelmed, remember these three things:

  1. You are not alone.
  2. You CAN make it happen.
  3. The Universe is working in your favor.

Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business

(photo credit goes to Dan at freedigitalphotos.net)