A Cry for Help: Requesting Caregiving Support

“All that I need
Is to cry for help
Somebody please hear me
Cry for help
All I can do
Is cry for help”

–A Cry for Help, song & lyrics by Rick Astley

The year was 2012: my partner was 53 when health issues began creeping up on him. It first started with an diabetic ulcer, which he chose to ignore until it became almost too late.

The second emergency progressed until he could barely walk. It took me over 6 months to get him to the hospital with the threat, “Either you go NOW, or I’m moving out! I’m not going to watch you die!” December 29, 2014 he was admitted to the hospital. The result: emergency surgery to repair a ruptured disc. His prognosis wasn’t good: paralysis or death. Again, he waited until the last minute to take action.

During that time, my partner and I often discussed his health, his progress (or lack thereof), my concern for his well-being and my ability to assist. Choices needed to be made. His decision was to do what he could with the time and finances he had. With an intense hatred for the health insurance industry, his choice was to wait until catastrophic insurance kicked in to take care of medical needs. Tough love kicked in and I mentioned that I couldn’t build a business and care for someone who couldn’t care for himself.

Also during this time, I consulted with friends and family on how to help. Against my partner’s wishes, I informed family members of health updates, medical procedures, medication compliancy, and, most importantly, my need for help!

While I received verbal support and appreciation for all I was doing, there was no offer for help—either financial or physical. I tried to get everyone to rally together to let him know we love him and want to help, but I couldn’t get anyone to rally.

By March 2016, he was in so much pain and couldn’t work anymore. He was relying on me more and more and had failed to mention that he was behind in rent.

My panic skyrocketed!

It was time for serious intervention so I called his closest friends and siblings. In tears. Desperate for help. Most were unable to help, but offered their sympathy and understanding despite me saying I had to leave him. I received some unexpected financial support, which helped with the immediate crisis. Still, I made a tough decision as to my own well-being and business, which were seriously suffering.

Then I called his adult children, who up until this point were grateful for my involvement in his life, even though they weren’t too fond of me. That’s when all hell broke loose:

“I thought you loved Dad! Now you’re leaving him?”

“What kind of a person are you for abandoning him? You are a wretched, selfish person!”

Of course, these comments were filled with much more insulting words and phrases.

I was devastated. I questioned my worthiness, my abilities, my future. And I wasn’t even married to him.

“Why must we hide emotions?
Why can’t we ever break down and cry?”

–Rick Astley, A Cry for Help

The result: I told him of my conversation with his friends, siblings, and children. I told him I was moving out, of which he wasn’t pleased, but he understood. He took action to apply for financial programs and disability services. He purchased tools to assist with daily living. He maintained regular doctor checkups and is now consistently keeping up with his medications. I am eating, sleeping, feeling better, and back to focusing on my business. We are still ‘a couple’, but living under different roofs.

Before you find yourself in a similar black hole, here’s the advice my partner and I discussed on how others can cope:

Keep family informed. The caregiving recipient may insist others don’t need to know everything, but it’s important they know what’s happening, the progress, any complications, and updates. This will prevent accusations of, “Why didn’t you tell me that sooner?”

Seeking help. It doesn’t need to be around the clock, but visits during hospital stays, important work meetings, or offering the caregiver a weekend getaway is a must for the caregiver’s wellbeing.

Put feelings aside. You may not like a family member or vice versa, but constant animosity only intensifies the situation.

Avoid criticizing the caregiver’s attempts to help or request for help. If you disagree with a method, discuss it with those involved. Name-calling and back-stabbing build a wall that helps no one.

Ask the caregiver what they need. Time, support, and finances are the biggest caregiver’s needs, but as mentioned above, sometimes all that’s needed is time away. Or a shoulder to cry on.

Ask the caregiving recipient what they need. The recipient may have certain wishes too. Get clear on whether or not that person seeks or wants assistance and find a compromise to accommodate both. This is TOUGH!

Seek out resources. With family caregiving on the rise, more resources are becoming available to help. You can help the family caregiver by doing the research for him/her!

Acceptance. Be aware that there is only so much you can do as a caregiver. Do what you can but know that you can’t force people to participate, comply, or help.

As with all things in a relationship, communication is the key to success. For caregiving to be a success, open the discussion with family before the need becomes a reality.

Kristen

A Different Family Reunion: Moving Past Heartache and Disagreement

It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye
–‘The Living Years’, song & lyrics by Mike & the Mechanics

Is there anything that gets you thinking about your own life more than a funeral? Last week I attended a friend’s funeral and compared the planning lessons learned from my father’s funeral.

While planning is a top priority to reduce stress and allow time for grieving, another overlooked necessity is overcoming family discord.

Every family has issues. Every family has someone that has fallen out of favor or holds a grudge against someone else, for whatever reason. At the time of the grudge-inducing event, emotions are high, tempers are short, and pride is set in stone. While peace is attempted, it often fails and carries on for years, even decades.

At my father’s funeral, I had an opportunity to repair my relationship with my brother Bill, after 40 years of silence. All I know is that when I was 13, I stuck my tongue at him and I haven’t been forgiven. At the funeral I hugged him, told him I missed him, and promised to call when he got home again. I felt optimistic that the years had melted the pain and we could return to being brother and sister. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. He never answered my calls. He eventually sent me a message to quit bothering him because he wasn’t interested in talking to me anymore.

As we get older, we’re often driven to re-examine our relationships.

  • Do we miss someone?
  • Do we need to apologize to someone?
  • Do we need to forgive?
  • Are the issues that initiated the anger still important?
  • Do the years melt the discord away?

My story is no different from yours or anyone else. We try. We keep on trying. We don’t give up. Maybe a few more years is needed.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say…
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
–‘The Living Years’, Mike & the Mechanics

Instead of waiting and wondering, start now. Attempt to make peace while everyone is still living. If you keep trying, it’s better than the regrets of, “I wish I would have apologized before he died.”

What first step can you take?

Kristen

Helping a Parent Downsize: Simplify the Process to Maintain Sanity

“The best things in life aren’t things.” – Art Buchwald

Downsizing is one of those life events you hear everyone else talking about, but when it suddenly enters your family circle, it often comes as a shock.

December 2009, my 72 year old father fell, suffering severe traumatic brain injury and paralysis. My mother, 70, was suddenly alone in a 3-level home, with 8 large rooms, 3 bathrooms, and 2 acres of land to care for. It became overwhelming in a matter of weeks which initiated phase one of her downsizing.

My family is among the growing population of those engaged in downsizing activity, whether due to health, financial, or other reasons. Whatever the situation, it’s an emotional, energy-draining time for all involved. If you are helping a parent downsize, here are several tips to make the process easier.

Start with goals

It’s a huge undertaking to weed out years of accumulating all those beloved things. Establish a plan before you begin.

  • How much time do you need?
  • Who is available to help?
  • Who can contribute labor, resources, or finances?
  • What services will you need to help?
  • Where will your parent go once downsizing is complete?

Family assistance

Family members are spread across the country (and further) and may not be readily available to help. Involve everyone in the planning process and request their feedback. When can each one visit? How much is everyone willing to contribute—physically and financially?

Before

Who gets what?

Before you donate, recycle, or throw away anything, begin with an inventory review. Every family has something of sentimental or monetary value and it is best to establish who wants what in advance to reduce or eliminate family friction. Once treasures have been claimed, move across the family tree. There may be a college student, a newlywed couple, a divorcee, or new parents that may need the items your parent is eliminating.

Hire experts

House cleaning crews, yard care providers, and handymen are experts that can help with various tasks. My mother hired a cleaning lady who helped pack boxes for donation

Find volunteer help

Community, church, or scouting groups may offer volunteers to pack or haul donated items. Make sure they are reputable service providers to avoid theft or other problems.

After

Recycle, donate, and throw away

Recycling: many cities and states offer a wide range of recycling services. Earth Day events (occurring in April) offer opportunities to recycle and donate a vast assortment of items. Search your area to find local recycling resources.

Donation Centers: schools, churches, homeless shelters, animal shelters, nursing homes, non-profit organizations, and civic organizations have an ongoing need for donated items. Contact these for their latest requests. My mother donated her baby grand piano to a local nursing home. The nursing home was ecstatic to receive such a gift and Mom was thrilled to find a happy home for the piano.

General Advice to help parents downsize:

  • Gentle, steady pressure is best. Getting angry or demanding will cause harm, create tension, and slow progress.
  • Work within a parent’s physical ability: the process is emotionally & physically draining. Help set goals and offer to help as often as possible.
  • Let parents make as many decisions as possible. They’re already emotionally involved; giving them the lead will lessen the heartache.
  • Get out of the acquisition phase and into the thinning phase sooner rather than later. Discuss with parents will acquire their stuff or what they would like done with it once they are no longer around. This is a good exercise for all of us.

Downsizing a household will stir up a lot of emotions for everyone involved, but the sooner you discuss the process and plan, the easier it will be when it occurs.

Are you or a parent downsizing? What were your experiences? Do you have suggestions to add?

Kristen

Retirement: A New Vision for 50+ Entrepreneurs

Growing old isn’t for sissies. –Bette Davis

It was a short-lived dream: graduate high school & college, find a corporate job, work for 30 or more years and then retire. From there, kick back on a sunny beach or a mountain vista and visit the grandchildren on their birthdays.

My parents groomed me for this version of retirement and I pursued it with intense determination. However, the economy, reality, and change forced everyone to rethink ‘the ideal’ vision. Dreams of beaches and mountain tops fizzled as many of us were tossed into survival mode. What options were available at that time?

  • More education? Reality—too expensive.
  • Oddball jobs? Reality—not enough to cover bills, plus FIERCE competition.
  • Entrepreneurship? Reality—risky, but a possibility.

I chose the latter, as did many of my peers. According to the 1997 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, roughly 15 percent of new entrepreneurs ranged between 55 to 64 years old. That figure grew to 24 percent in Kauffman’s 2016 Index.

This time period also saw a surge in caring for elderly parents while our adult children moved back home. Many of us survived by cashing in some or all of our retirement funds.

Results:

  • We’re embarking on new career paths of our own making. According to the Intuit 2020 Report: Twenty Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade, 46 percent of the work force will be freelancers by 2020.
  • Family members are moving in. Another report by Housing Perspectives states that multigenerational living in the US will increase by 46 percent over the next 20 years.
  • We’re recouping the retirement funds sacrificed for survival. Although finances are a concern, we’re happier, less stressed, and have more freedom as we build our own business opportunities.
  • We’re establishing a new vision for retirement: We’re encouraging entrepreneurship for our children and grandchildren.
  • Innovation programs and services are growing across the country to assist and encourage entrepreneurship and economic development.

It’s been a tough decade, but we’ve emerged with new plans, goals, and visions. What are you doing to redefine your retirement?

Kristen

Tired of 2nd Place? Step Out for Business Success

“The only thing that is stopping you from where you are to where you want to go is your comfort zone.” – Dhaval Gaudier

When I was 8, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my introverted nature: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach.

And I finished 2nd. Often.

It saddened me that I rarely took first place, but looking back, it made sense: #1 got all the attention and the spotlight; #2 was soon forgotten.

That mentality continued for the next 30 years until I became an entrepreneur. Suddenly, my fear of standing out and being the center of attention battled with my desire to be a successful business owner.

It was time to step out: out of my office, out of my comfort zone, out of my fears. Sound like something you need? Here are 5 Step Out practices to implement now.

STEP OUT 1—Attend events: Seek out the events that will build your brand’s awareness and attract your ideal audience (attending targeted events eliminates the awkwardness of feeling lost or out of place). Seek out people that will help put you in contact with ideal people as well.

STEP OUT 2—Introduce yourself: present your elevator speech then ask what issues they face related to your business (attention is on them rather than you).

*HINT: You have a solution to their problem. This is an information-gathering moment and you don’t have to be loud and flashy to do it.*

STEP OUT 3—Listen: listening is one of your strengths as an introvert. Get the conversation started with relevant questions then…listen. Let them talk. Present your solution.

*HINT: people want to be heard and want someone to LISTEN. Be that person and you’ve stepped into the coveted know-like-trust realm*

STEP OUT 4—Follow-up: now you have information to nurture the relationship and build yourself as a subject matter expert. The follow-up gives you the introvert-friendly way to do that. Let your content marketing plan do the heavy work:

  • newsletters
  • blogs
  • emails
  • social media
  • new platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope

All of these can be performed anywhere on the planet—including your quiet zone. Share everywhere. Explore new platforms. Be creative and experiment.

STEP OUT 5—Seek opportunities: regardless of where you are on the introvert-extrovert scale, the greatest growth comes from reaching out. There are people and organizations that are looking for experts to fill their schedule. Be the first to respond.

  • Offer to sit on a panel discussion in your expertise
  • offer to present at an industry-related event
  • reach out to podcast hosts to become a guest
  • volunteer to speak at a school, networking event, or professional organization

Yes, this is a huge undertaking for introvert business owners, but it’s a moment in time that carries a lot of weight toward business success. Start small, but start now! Step out for that moment then build from the results.

Kristen

Business Plans: the New View for Acquiring Loans

When I started my freelance writing business in 2008, my early projects included business plans, resumes, and cover letters. At that time, more was better and a lengthy, detailed business plan was considered the gold standard.

I recently attended a national bank’s presentation on Funding Options for Small Business and one of the panel presenters stated that those gold standard business plans were now detrimental to the process. The reason: lenders want the facts. No need for fluff, graphics, or dissertation-quality business plans.

Then what makes a loan-worthy business plan? Keeping it simple and precise! Here’s what lenders are looking for:

Executive summary

  • Describe the business that’s being started.
  • How will it be managed & operated?
  • What is the business owner’s experience that will make it successful?
  • How will it be marketed?

Operation & systems:

  • How will the financials be handled? QuickBooks, paper, accountant?
  • How will spending be tracked and reported?

Financial plan:

  • 3 years of projected income—during the 1st year, break down income and expenses monthly; 2nd & 3rd year can be yearly projections.
  • Where is the money coming from? Where is the money going?
  • What factors will affect the net profit?

Projecting this information isn’t easy, but the overall purpose is to be realistic and honest in your expectations. Make your projections attainable to avoid unnecessary stress. Following this format, a stress free business plan can be generated in 6 to 10 pages; less than that gets questionable.

The second half of the lending process remains the same. Your lenders will examine personal and professional tax records to get an overview of your financial history. Proof of income is needed to gain a loan, and collateral may be required.

To expand a business requires money so the more prepared you are and the precision with which you prepare, will make the process easier for everyone. Talk to banking specialists, business experts, and utilize the resources available to make the process simpler for you too. Your business plan is your first content piece to get your business rolling.

Kristen Edens

Cashing in Your 401K for Your Second Act? Think Again.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity: In 2012, almost a quarter of new businesses were started by entrepreneurs 55 and older, a spike from 14 percent in 1996.

Why this spike?

Many of us grew up with our parent’s view of the American Dream: attending college and graduating with a secure job at a top corporation. We were to be the envy of the neighborhood and the pride of the family. However, that vision was tough to realize. We could give the appearance of success and contentment on the outside, but inside was a different story:

  • The job was too stressful
  • The job was stagnant
  • Competition was fierce
  • There was no room for growth
  • We were restless

Similarly, the 2008/2009 recession left many older employees laid off and unable to find new employment. After a year or two of failed job searches, most pursued their own business ventures.

However, desperation played heavily into the need for employment. On the heels of that desire, was the need for capital to fund our entrepreneurial pursuit—and the new American Dream.

But another question emerged: should we take on a small business loan? Many 50+ entrepreneurs already had debt—mortgage, automobile, student loans (most likely their children’s student loans)—and were hesitant to take on more debt.

Understandable. Especially when retirement was 5 to 10 years away and we still wanted to live that dream.

Another big issue: impatience! We’re over 50! We still have visions of some sort of retirement dream and we’re spinning our wheels on what that will be. We want it now and because of that, we are tempted to make hasty decisions…

…like cashing in the 401K, IRA, or other savings plan. As the Entrepreneur in Action blog writer for Missouri SourceLink, 7 of the 9 second act entrepreneurs I interviewed in the last 2 years have turned to their savings to fund their business.

The appeal:

  • Readily available
  • Involved a large, tempting sum
  • No debt
  • The potential to earn it back

Sounds ideal, right? BUT—consider these points first:

  • Do you have other streams of income to balance the risk?
  • How will this decision influence your financial goals?
  • What will be your revised financial growth plans for the future?
  • What will you do if the business fails?
  • Penalties can account for 30% of the funds available if this option is taken.
  • Are you willing to accept these risks?
  • Are you prepared to work as hard, if not harder, than when you worked in a corporate setting?

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s critical to break through the emotional fog. On the plus side of your vision:

  • You have identified a product or service need
  • The potential to build something to call your own is real
  • You have the chance to live life your own way: stay at home with family, no more commute, flexible work hours, etc.

Do the PROS outweigh the risks?

When in the throes of new business excitement and the emotion kicks into high gear, step back and consider your options.

Unlike during the recession, banks are now willing to work with new and small business. Talk with lending officers. Lots of them. Get the facts and seek the options.

Before cashing in your savings, speak with a financial advisor. There are alternatives available that could be applied to your business that don’t carry as much risk or penalties.

Consult others who have cashed in their savings. Listen to their stories, ask their advice. Make an informed decision.

It’s tempting to dip into that magical money pot, taunting us to spend now, but step back, take a breath and weigh all the options. There are several available to help pursue your new American Dream.

 

Seeking Work/Life Balance? The Family Phone Tree May be the Place to Start

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” ― Jana Kingsford

You are a busy person: you juggle client calls, appointments, and projects on a daily basis, sometimes simultaneously. Similarly, you field random calls and requests from family members that range from rants, venting, or general (unimportant) information. Yes, there is the occasional emergency, but the likelihood of a true emergency tends to be low.

Most often, family calls are predictable, based on plentiful past experience so when their call arrives in the middle of the work day, we’re faced with a few options:

  • Answer immediately because it’s always a joy to speak to this person.
  • Answer immediately because this particular family member rarely calls and it could be critical.
  • Cringe and decide: do we answer knowing the call is a false alarm?
  • Let the call go to voice mail because we’re working in our business.

When was the last time you pressed your way through a company’s phone tree system? These automated recordings are designed to efficiently direct us to the most knowledgeable or helpful person to handle our need. While they are an annoyance, and I’m not convinced this is efficient for us as the caller, there must be some time savings for the business. Following a recent series of distracting calls from various family members, I wondered how this system would work with the family. Would this feature simplify the work/life balance for a business owner wedged in the Sandwich Generation? Here’s how mine would sound:

Hello my dear Family Members. I’m sorry I cannot answer your urgent call at this moment, but I’m involved with clients at this time. Listen to the following options to best serve your needs. Please listen to the full menu as our options change frequently.

  • Mom/Dad, press 1
  • Spouse/partner, press 2
  • Son/Daughter, press 3
  • Sibling, press 4
  • All other family members, press 5

(You will need to personalize your family phone tree for best results.)

Beyond the first level of categories, there would be some similarities. Here is how I would define level 2:

  • Press 1 if you are calling because someone won’t eat their dinner.
  • Press 2 if the family member won’t complete their chores.
  • Press 3 if another family member is annoying you.

You’ll also need to include additional categories for each group:

For your parents (in my case, my mother), I need to include:

  • Press 4 if this is a news flash about April the Giraffe
  • Press 5 if this is regarding the latest political gossip
  • Press 6 if you are worried about something

For your partner/spouse, include:

  • Press 4 if you want to discuss what to have for dinner
  • Press 5 to compare the latest story from our children
  • Press 6 if you want to tell me details about your latest World of Warship battle

For Son/Daughter, include:

  • Press 4 if you are complaining about work
  • Press 5 if you are venting about life in general
  • Press 6 if this is a request for money
  • Press 7 if you are seeking advice which you plan to ignore

For those that receive the rare call from extended family members (cousin, aunt, estranged family member), this signifies something potentially critical, so it’s wise to answer immediately.

Regardless of which direction the person-in-question blunders through the family phone tree, they must record their message, which will then be queued in order of pre-determined urgency. Then on a break, you can address the issues in order of importance.

There are many joys to being a business owner and working from home, but dealing with family members is one of the darker sides of business ownership. It’s best to treat with love, patience, a bit of humor, and the family phone tree. Would such a system improve your quest for work/life balance?

Perhaps there’s an entrepreneur out there who recognizes this need and is building a prototype now!

Kristen Edens

What did you want to be when you grew up?


A doctor? A fireman? An actor? An astronaut?

That question catapults us back to our youth, often with a smile, recalling our youthful answer to that question. Now that we’re a few decades older, have you pursued your childhood dream of becoming a…? What twists and turns got you to where you are now? What obstacles, doubts, or fears did you have to overcome? Or are you still pursuing your goal?

At age 8, I knew I would be a writer. It started with journaling my dreams and progressed to fiction writing: science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and romance. I played with several niches without specializing in one. With Dad’s encouragement, I pursued anything related to writing with the intent to be a writer ‘when I grew up’. When it came time to enter college, Dad asked, “What are you going to study?”

“English and writing.”

“That will make a nice hobby, but it isn’t something that will support you,” he debated.

The argument continued for 2 years. While I attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Dad lovingly, and with the best intention, signed me up for courses he thought would lead to a stable career: chemistry, biology, computer science while I filled the electives with anything related to writing.

At the end of my second year, still an undecided major, Dad once again sat me at the kitchen table and gave me the ultimatum, “You have two weeks to name a major or you’re out of college.”

Those were the most stressful two weeks of my life. On the chosen day, I faced Dad across the kitchen table with Mom sitting between us. “Well?” he glared.

“Writing,” I mumbled, on the verge of tears.

“Try again!”

“Exercise Physiology.”

The look my parents gave me was unforgettable. If I hadn’t been so frightened, I would have laughed.

“What the hell is ‘exercise physiology’?” there was a distinct sneer in his voice.

After I explained the extensive medical and science background involved, the career opportunities, and income potential, Dad roared, “No daughter of mine is going to sweat for a living!”

I cried. Dad cussed. My brothers fled the house. Mom waited for the right moment. “Bill, dear, she fulfilled your requirements. So which will it be—writing or…exercise physiology?”

By 1986, I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Medicine at BGSU, and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology at Utah State University in 1990.

However, it took me until 1999 to get a job in my ‘chosen’ profession, with a 45-minute one-way commute over a mountain pass (no kidding), working 3 days per week at a dollar above minimum wage. In my off hours, I secretly wrote: stories, articles, resumes, poems, anything to keep my desire-to-be-a-writer alive. I was a niche-less wonder, but enjoyed it all. As Dad predicted, it became a nice hobby. I submitted fiction stories with occasional success, but never gave up. I was still determined to become a writer.

A window of opportunity opened while attending the Cache County Fair. A friend had a booth promoting his fly-fishing shop and was asking passers-by to enter his tagline contest. Intrigued, I read the existing entries added mine, and won. Because of the overwhelming response to my tagline, he asked me to write catalogue descriptions and a brochure. The big bonus: he offered to pay for my writing! Up until then, I had been writing for free, believing ‘free’ would get my writing ‘out there’. That experience became my first entrepreneurial pivot, with a new focus on copywriting.

The second, and scariest opportunity occurred in 2008. I quit the hospital job to pursue writing full-time. I was on the verge of divorce and needed a sustainable income to support myself. By 2009, I still wasn’t making enough to comfortably support a gnat, but the home life was no longer tolerable. In the midst of the economic recession, with no job, and only $729/month as income, I divorced, left the state and moved in with my cousin. I was terrified, heartbroken, and desperate.

Unaware of the true economic impact, I applied to jobs, but soon learned no one was hiring, especially a 45 year old, unemployed exercise physiologist with an outdated degree. Down, but not out, I cast all of Dad’s wisdom of a ‘stable career’ out the window and buckled down as a copywriter.

With my cousin’s help, I built a website and learned the basics of social media. I cussed and cried as I struggled with all the technical intricacies of owning an online business. Writing jobs began to pick up and I was becoming known as the outsourced writing expert for microbusinesses.

Yet the growth didn’t stop there. While I built a business, I also struggled with extreme social anxiety. In my early days as an entrepreneur, I dreaded networking and promoting myself, but knew it had to be done. What had started out as hours of ‘parking lot panic’ before an event, developed into blogs about how to overcome our fears in order to grow a business. The blogs led to offering a series of one-on-one sessions to teach ‘Social Success for the Quiet Entrepreneur’ at a local co-working space. The sessions filled up fast and I soon received requests for private coaching.

Over the last 8 years, I have learned that pursuing our goals isn’t as scary as thinking about it. We paralyze ourselves by the what-ifs, that we never take that first step. Additionally, I listened to, and believed, others who told me my ideas wouldn’t work. When I refused to believe it any further, I took a leap of personal faith. Whatever would happen, I had to trust that something would happen, and that I would be a stronger person for it. What has emerged is a joy of writing, solving content catastrophes for my clients, and an opportunity I never expected: encouraging introverts and others to pursue their own opportunities.

What did I want to be when I grew up? A writer! Did I expect to write for businesses? To become an introvert coach? To own my own business?

NO!!

However, I’m enjoying it all because I accepted the challenges and pursued them as far as they could go. The added bonus is the thrill of discovering what’s yet to come.

What’s your entrepreneurial/growing up story?

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler

Introvert to Impromptu Presenter: How Do I Do It?

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.” ~ Susan Cain

What’s it take to run a successful business?

For me, as an introvert, I needed to develop social confidence. That meant attending public events. Lots of them. In my first 3 years of business, I attended 3 to 5 networking events, within a 150 mile radius, per week. When my confidence wanes, or when I get too comfortable, I add more to my agenda.

This week I attended my first Medici Magic Meetup sponsored by the Medici MediaSpace, a new co-working space in St. Louis. Upon entering the room, several pairs of eyes turned to greet me—always an anxiety-inducing situation for an introvert. However, I implemented my GOYA strategy for a successful event, which included the dreaded saying hi to everyone in attendance. Individually.

Next, each of the 15 attendees were offered a moment to introduce themselves. When my turn came, with heart rate and blood pressure soaring, I introduced myself as:

A content development service which attracts clients and guides them through the sales funnel, plus an introvert coach to help introverts achieve their social goals.

Next, we were briefed on Medici’s event format where the audience chooses the discussions. No longer one to let my social fears hold back opportunity, my arm fired into the air, terrifying my brain into whipping up a topic before I was called on: Content Creation: Where are you in the Sales Funnel?

Throughout the first 4 mini-presentations, I listened, participated, while putting together an on-the-spot discussion. With 20 minutes left in the 2 hour meetup, Josh Levey, a co-founder for Medici, pointed to me and said, “I want to say first that you are the most fun introvert that I ever met!” (Thank you, Josh!) I stood, anxiety returning once again, and shared a quick story about being an introvert, my 2-hour parking lot panic and my reward system of chocolate. The crowd enjoyed my story and I noticed a woman, in the back, with a bright smile directed at me. My presentation went well, I received great questions, replied with solutions, and concluded with a call to action.

The result:

  • Several attendees and I had extended conversations
  • It was suggested I do a Ted Talk about my introvert experience—an opportunity that I would never have considered <2 years ago!
  • I arranged an interview for the Missouri SourceLink
  • I’ll be an upcoming guest on the TLC Radio show
  • I provided an introduction for one of the attendees

As I was heading to leave, Theo Clark of TLC Radio, called me aside and introduced me to the woman with the bright smile: Brittany Blount, executive assistant and radio producer with TLC Radio. As a fellow introvert, she was eager to ask me, “How did you do it?”

Again, I was flattered. I shared that I still experience anxiety and it’s an ongoing process to accomplish my goals. Then she asked, “How long did it take you to get over it?”

“It’s not something you’ll be totally rid of nor will you want to,” I explained. “There is strength and joy in solitude, thriving in our own company, and working in a quiet environment.”

With pen and paper ready, Brittany was ready to catch every nugget:

  • Acknowledge and accept your introvert tendencies; that includes the anxiety in social situations. Practice at home, in front of the mirror, and if you are comfortable, in front of family members.
  • Recognize your weakness: which part of a social situation is hardest for you: convincing yourself to attend? Introducing yourself to others? Entering an existing conversation? Exiting a conversation? Once you identify that, ask yourself what it will take to move past the fear.
  • Practice & prepare; have your tagline, elevator speech, and answers to potential questions memorized. Know them so well that you can present without freezing or Filler Words.
  • Go with a goal: what do you wish to accomplish from this event? You are there for a reason, so have your goals memorized so you don’t flee when the discomfort appears.
  • Make the situation about others: start by saying hello and asking them to share what they do. Then listen. But be ready, they’ll ask you the same question.
  • Reward yourself: not before, not during. After! Have that reward waiting for you in the car or at home.
  • Relax: even with your reward and the satisfaction of reaching your goal, you’ll be exhausted. Find a quiet place. Block off noise, people, and distractions. If that’s difficult for your family to understand, let them know you need some undisturbed time alone.

Getting to where I am now isn’t easy and requires ongoing practice, refining, pushing past self-doubt and sometimes tears. What keeps me going is the desire to solve content catastrophes for my clients—making the client my priority. With time, patience, and understanding, you can do it and remain true to yourself.

To learn more about my GOYA Strategy and introvert coaching, call me at 314-856-5747 or write me at kris@kristhescribbler.com

Kristen Edens
An introvert in business