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Posts tagged ‘books’

Discovering the Positvie Impact of Groups: Lifestyle Business Insider

I don’t do groups. In fact, as a child my mother decided one day that I should go to group counseling because my father was an alcoholic. Before anyone gets any ideas about this presumed tragedy, my parents divorced when I was three-years-old, I lived with my mother who had sole custody and was a working trust fund baby, plus I had an older brother who lived with us and lots of family friends creating a rich support system. It wasn’t a difficult life. As for my dad, he was very much around, involved in my life, and my parents remained good friends. Sure, he was absolutely an alcoholic, but the effect that had on my  life was practically nonexistent. He was a jovial drunk and no one had any illusion that he was a responsible adult, including me, whether he was sober or not. So, expectations were always quite low as far as “parenting,” but he was a fun playmate! He worked, too. He was a prolific professional artist, a muralist mostly, and revered well enough in all the right circles for most of my life. There really wasn’t much to complain about, honestly. So, picture me in group with a bunch of kids who were literally going through hell with their alcoholic parent(s)–many suffering abuse, financial hardships, neglect, embarrassment and shame… whereas my dad would drink way too much scotch and get up and sing with the band at the Yacht Club, and everyone thought he was the life of the party. He never tried to drive drunk with me, so safety wasn’t an issue. He might have a slight hangover in the morning that would delay our planned trip to the beach that day, but that was really the extent of my suffering.

Needless to say, I didn’t really participate in group. I just sat there quietly. It was all rather uncomfortable hearing the other kids’ stories–I felt like a fraud. I hated “group.”

That was my first experience with groups: negative, misfit, outsider, and self-conscious are words that come to mind. “Groups” meant other things to me later in life: group projects in school, where I tended to do most of the work; group assignments at work, which tended to follow the same patterns as school; team-building group exercises, team breakout sessions, and shared accountability management systems–please shoot me, it’s so awful!! My friends, colleagues and employers all would joke that “Daphne doesn’t play well with others.” Instead, they’d just give me impossible problems to solve and incredibly challenging tasks to figure out, and I’d hide away in a closed room eventually emerging with the impossible solved. Then, we’d all gather teams together to execute the strategies.

Then, one day I’d met my match. A woman far smarter than me! She was an absolute lunatic–impossible for most people to work with, mean, temperamental, petty and hands down BRILLIANT! She became my best friend and mentor for about 11 years. While everything I said about her is absolutely true, it’s also true that she was the most encouraging, generous and supportive mentor and teammate imaginable who gave me every opportunity to grow and learn and implement anything I wanted to do. Most importantly, she believed in me more than even I did, and I’m pretty cocky! She pushed me in every area of my professional life until I exceeded a standard I didn’t even realize I was capable of achieving. I can’t say that she taught me everything I know–instead she kept challenging me and held tireless faith in me until I learned and applied every professional skill I currently hold. Many of these skills she doesn’t have herself. For her, it wasn’t about her trying to turn me into a clone; it was about pushing me to become my best me. After more than a decade, I began achieving consistently at very high levels, and we both knew that I was now soaring on my own. What started as a brutal form of mentoring and coaching eventually shifted to just brutality, however. The pain crescendoed, and there came a time when there was nothing left to learn in that space, and the abuse was no longer followed by a reward. It was just painful and empty. It was time for me to move on–we agreed. And so it ended. And every day I’m grateful for the full experience. Was there an easier path to take to get me where I am today? Nope. I’d have been too hard-headed to come this far without all of that.

Yet, I still never learned to work well in groups, exactly, but I learned how to lead many groups of people and project manage like a champ! Mostly, I learned how to work exceptionally well with an equal or better-skilled partner. This was a huge breakthrough for this loner!

After a couple more years, I stumbled into the life and work of yet another extraordinary person–just as dynamic and brilliant as the one before, but minus the mean streak and abusiveness and who was also far more successful. Up until now, I’ve always had a mentor in my life, and this other extraordinary person normally would have become my next–wickedly smart, extremely successful businesswoman and entrepreneur… She’s everything I’d want to learn from next! But, we never allowed a mentoring relationship to form. Instead, we entered into our relationship as a partnership of equals, each bringing different skills and expertise to the game, and every challenge, frustration or dispute we’d have within our working process was always approached with this incredible level of mutual respect and love. Occasionally, we’d even openly discuss this wonderful phenomenon. Four years we worked together, almost inseparable though she travels often, without one real argument. There was one enormous problem, however. After four years of creating exceptional work, only two out of 10 large projects were fully completed and launched (though many smaller ones were wildly successful). Everything else was abandoned for one reason or another after getting 60% or even 75% complete. I always blamed her for either stalling projects (sometimes due to legitimate conflicts of interest that would arise) or just never scheduling ample dedicated time to sit down and finalize them with me. I could only get so far on my own–using her ideas and vision–because this is her brand and life. I actually need her to help me polish and complete. I’d voice concerns from time to time, even get a little annoyed and frustrated. She always avoided discussing it… So, I of course assumed she understood and agreed with my point of view, hence the avoidance. Right? Wrong! It appears she’d been blaming me for these unfinished projects this whole time, and two huge arguments erupted as a result. We’re working through this, I’m very relieved to report, but not without some difficulty and a few hard blows along the way.

Believe me, I no longer blame my partner solely for these unfinished projects. What I am doing is gathering up all I know about her and infusing it in the works on my own to reach a finalized stage. That’s not to say that she won’t join with me to polish it pre-release, but I’m going rogue to get to the finish line, because I’ve learned that this is what these projects actually needed all along. I needed to be bold enough, and have enough faith in all I know about this person, to dive in and create the final works. That takes a big set of brass ones to do–to make grand assumptions about someone’s life and opinions, but the bolder I am about doing this, and the more committed I become to this vanguard process, the more confident I become in knowing that this was the missing link all along. This was absolutely the role I was meant to take, but was too timid to shoulder up the responsibility previously. And, yes, I have her blessing. We never had an issue with trust–she knows I know her stories, her heart and intentions–we just struggled furiously with each other until I chose to take a wildly ambitious path. As unusual as this is, it’s gorgeous how it’s all working out!

Still, without launching any of these large projects I’d created, my cash flow is not what I had originally anticipated, to say the least. So, I picked up other freelance clients and maintained others I had planned to phase out, helping me get by as I still work towards finalizing then launching all of this work I’d started. I’ve been frustrated, lost, overwhelmed, feeling isolated and abandoned, and even a little despondent at times, but I never gave up–I knew not to do that. And, here enters the theme of the “group” once more…

Stephanie Frank, an esteemed business coach whom I became acquainted when I first decided to work on my freelance career full time about 5 years ago, started a Facebook group called “Lifestyle Business Insider.” Look, I’m a big fan of Facebook–I socialize on it, debate on it, spread ideas there, tell stories there… instead of being a substitution for real-life, it’s been a brilliant extension of real life for me, and has had a wonderful positive impact on my business. I am also a member of several “professional groups.” Most are fine, but the one Stephanie developed is extraordinary! While I continue to grit my teeth and plow through the completion of these projects, most importantly a specific book project with two additional co-authors, I have been able to share some of my professional struggles, successes, stories and goals with other pros. There’s an eclectic mix of people from varied backgrounds, expertise and levels of achievement on their journey, and though this group is rather new, the feedback, support, sharing and resources presented have been incredibly beneficial! I think I’ve fund a “group” where I actually fit in–I’m not the smartest person in the room here (and I never want to be), instead there’s a beautiful, equitable level of give and take that I believe is creating a synergy far greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m still holding my beloved beast (this big book project) dear to my heart and nearing the end, finalizing the first complete draft of the manuscript next month. Though it’s been an incredibly difficult time, there’s never been a doubt that it’s an absolutely worthwhile journey with an astoundingly worthwhile colleague, partner and dear friend.  And this group, just being able to share with the group, ask questions and give feedback and process in this space has helped me to plow through some really tough barriers. I’m so grateful for each member, and of course Stephanie.

I’ve gone from being a complete misfit in awkward Ala-teen groups and bulldozing my fellow students throughout high school and college group projects, to finally being able to lead teams and work with a partner… and now I’m fully embracing a group of dedicated peers and professionals who join together in a virtual space to support one another, share resources and experience growth. I’m blessed, and I think I’m starting to like this whole “group” concept!

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My Psychedelic Cat (Short Story)

My Psychedelic Cat, Part 1
(A Short Story)

As soon as he heard the clinking of ice cubes in the near empty highball glass behind him, Eliot’s head pulsed in time with the percussion to an explosive clash, flinging his hand above his head to catch the diamond cuff-linked wrist of the menacing middle-aged noise-maker who winced in pain when Eliot’s claw clasped unforgivingly, cutting off his circulation. The highball glass fell to the overly-polished teak wood floor, sending shards of glass in a kaleidoscopic display underfoot of too many gleaming and sparkling dark shoes. And all the senseless and grating chatter was silenced by the first crack of the glass and replaced by the frantic pace of the hired help in the background ushering in the clean-up crew. The host, too dizzy from a high gin buzz to react, and the hostess too numbed from Xanax to bother lifting her head off of the red velvet arm of the sofa. It was late. But not late enough for parties such as these to end. Just late enough for all of the degradation of the wealthy to show through their pasty masks, and the banal plainness of their true characters to step forth and begin their first authentic introductions past midnight, or later.

Eliot decided to leave, and he made his way through the obstacles of countless uptight mannequins robed in formal wear and through the double stained glass panel doors, the size and weight of tall forest trees, swinging on easy hinges. His lungs inhaled an herbal infused smoky frigid winter breath, and his sense-recognition kicked into overdrive. He pivoted left, swayed his head in snake-like elegance and emerged as an apparition to the boys, appearing at once through the smoke-filled valet caboose. Without a word, he pulled up a stool to take his turn at the bong pass. Not that a bong was necessary what with the intoxicating fog of a half-hour’s worth of exhales and the smoke billowing from the lips of about a half dozen young men. But the ritual is part of the experience, bestowing a deeper meaning than even the high, representing times past and innocent suns dancing in clear skies and upon summer-tanned lakeside thighs. As he clutched the hand-blown glass bong of pale blue adorned with pillows of white, and his inhale stretched his lungs to full capacity, holding for an exact count of thirty, then exhaling effortlessly with a gaped jaw, he closed his eyes waiting patiently for the next round. He stuffs two 100-dollar bills into the basket in the center of the table—his philanthropic gesture for the boys’ kind hospitality. He could afford to be generous. He owed this and a hell of a lot more back to the world for all it has given to him. The bong came back around, and he gasped for the smoke as a guppy lay flopping on a dock longing to breathe. Again. Now, a count of forty followed by the slow-streaming unwanted exhale. He nods his head at the boys, reflecting glassy eyes in unison.

He removes his own keys from the valet board, and begins strutting ever so slowly towards his car, distracted by a set of enlarging headlights and the small green reflection on cat’s eyes just up ahead. Disturbed by the inevitable end that is sure to manifest within seconds and feeling the full extent of his powerlessness of this soon-to-be lost life, he begins walking towards the upcoming scene of a very sad occasion. And screeeetch! Shreeeek! It’s done. Old Sammy the beloved tabby is no more. Eliot decides not to progress any further and instead hides in the shadow of a large tree examining the goings on as a few unexpected tears well up and drip down his cheeks, which he wipes swiftly away. From the driver’s side of a silver BMW unfolds a youngish and very tall gangly man in an awkwardly-fitted and obviously rented tuxedo. His shoulder-length dark hair is a bit stringy, hanging around his angular face. He stands staring at the squashed mess that once was a cat and scratches at his patchy beard, which is too short to be intentional. He turns back, folding himself again inside of the car, turning the wheel, bouncing up over the curb and onto the circular garden surrounding an ornate limestone fountain, glowing in soft a light that lies just before the front lawn of the estate. He parks there, under another large tree, then makes his way with freakishly long strides carried by stork-like legs with a black leather guitar case swung onto his back.

Eliot is intrigued, and decides to leave the poor cat. After all, he’s dead now. Nothing can be done to reverse this misfortune, and he did live a long, luxurious life, even by a cat’s standards. He winks and says a silent, Goodbye Old Sammy, my friend, to the loving cat that always greeted him fondly upon every visit to the estate. Perhaps the only authentically friendly face you’d ever find around these parts. Oh, he’ll be missed. He’ll be missed dearly. Eliot turns and follows back to the party, after the stranger with the guitar.

The stranger enters through those remarkable stained glass doors and makes a bee-line for the intoxicated host, Eliot’s father, who seems to come alive at the gleaming aura beaming from the stranger’s smile. He shakes his had vigorously and leads him to the parlor, and as they make way through the guests, Eliot’s dad actually looked excited, gathering the crowed to follow after them, saying, “This is Badou, Tallon Badou! He’s from South Africa—the Ivory Coast! Come, and hear this. You won’t believe your ears!” Even Eliot’s mother arose from her Xanax-induced coma, rising off the edge of the velvet sofa to revel in her husband’s delight and proclamations.

And so Badou began to play his guitar and sing and tell stories of decadence, obscene excess, war and injustice, greed and depravity—things hey could all relate to in myriad ways. And then he sang of skinny dipping in lakes on the moon and sniffing on stardust, licking the spicy trails of comets and taking trips through wormholes to new universes where gleeful aliens danced in bright waves of light.

As Badou played, the crowd packed into the parlor, and not one soul was outside of that room. Shoulder to shoulder they swayed and tapped their pointy toes, hummed and fixed their eyes upon the performer. And swirling colors of spectrum light incantations playfully petted the heads of each spectator, beckoning them ever farther, deeper into the magic of the bizarre world that was unfolding before them.

And they all danced and laughed and dreamed. And the walls transformed to puffy clouds that transported them above the Earth. They laughed and twirled and the music turned into something no longer audible—it manifested into being, you could feel it. Like the fabric of crisp linen bed sheets, you could feel the sound and be shrouded in it and play with it like warm ocean waves splashing against your skin, and you could dive into it, like a pool of colorful plastic child’s balls. And they did all of that. And Eliot watched. And they all glowed warm auras of moonlight. And Badou played his music.

And Eliot wondered when the last time was that any of them had dreamed—really dreamed of things never before imagined. If they dared, they might find themselves far less dull, he thought. Far less dead inside than he knew them to be. Maybe even alive.

And as enchanted things are, they go. So this was no different. Badou’s music came to a close. The cloud descended, the music ended, and the afterglow on all the faces of all the men and women dripped from their chins and arms and fingertips, like a haunted ectoplasm of pale pink happiness, it melted off of them, and their weary frowns returned to their rightful places. And things were once gain exactly as they were to be, as they always were unfortunately. The crowd applauded with exuberance and their plastic smiles shifted beneath their steady noses violating the statuesque botoxed cheeks that hate to be bothered with damn smiles.

Eliot feels a stirring in the pit of his stomach. It has quickly augmented to a deep burning. Hs nerves were unsettled at first and now it’s as if the rage of a thousand abused and banished souls have taken refuge in the pit of his gut. He feels something snap, literally snap, like a green twig in his brain, and his eyes blaze fire. He blinks and finds the calm needed o breathe again. And a cool, mad creature has become him.

Eliot sees Badou walk carefully through a crowd of praise and adoration with his guitar slung onto his back once more. Badou thanks his host who slides a wad of big bills into his palm and continues his slow journey out the door. But something makes him pause once more. A deep pain radiates from his side and down his leg—too sharp and agonizing to even make a sound, he falls to his other side, instinctively try to escape from the vicinity of the trauma. It’s still there. Wet, hot to touch and gut-wrenching. He can’t breath. He lifts his had to grab at his throat to find it covered, dripping in blood. Eliot sees blood pouring out of Badou’s side, and he looks down to view a sterling silver dinner knife, with deep red blood souring its tip clenched in his hand. Eliot drops the knife to the floor. He shuts his eyes again only opening them when he feels a warm, strong hand soothingly gripped around his shoulder. He opens his eyes.

Badou is standing in front of him, as healthy as the day he was born, holding Eliot’s shoulder. “Hey man,” says Badou. “You look like you just saw a ghost, huh? You okay?” Eliot nods. Badou gives him a friendly pat and smiles a gleaming happy grin, a great dichotomy it seemed in this place of misery. Eliot succumbed to the contagion and smiled back.

Badou finally made his way out the door and towards his car, silently noticing Eliot following close behind. This time Eliot truly was wielding a knife, and Badou could he soft sobs whimpering from him. Badou continued to his car. Suddenly, Eliot lunged at him with the dull blade, and Badou caught his arm, struggling with him to the ground, near where Eliot saw Old Sammy lose his life. But Old Sammy wasn’t there. Instead, a crushed Heineken bottle rested before his raging eyes when Old Sammy himself, came up rubbing against the wrestling men, butting them hard with his loving head and shaking their bodies with his loud purr. Eliot immediately rolled off of Badou and onto the grass. Old Sammy was now between the two men, cleaning hi face. Smiling. Badou hopped up onto the hood of his car looking down at Eliot, “Friend, what the hell is your problem?”

Eliot began to sob, “I thought you killed my cat.”

“That cat?” Badou pointed to Old Sammy.

“Ye-es,” Eliot screeched out through his tears.

“Why would I kill that beautiful creature? Why, friend, would you think I killed your cat.”

“I thought you hi- hit him with you ca- car.”

Badou sensing the danger was gone, hopped off of his car next to Old Sammy, scratching him gently behind the ears, “No, friend. A beer bottle. And it retaliated. I could use some help changing my tire if you think you’re up to it.”

And Old Sammy watched then wandered off. Eliot and Badou took a look at him as he sauntered back into the garden, and his tabby fur began to lighten to a strange translucence, then took on an electric glow of pastel lighted colors as a fiber-optic fantasy in psychedelic patterns. “Did you see that?” Eliot asked Badou.

“I’ve seen that and a whole lot more, friend. What matters is that he’s let you see that now. And now, you have to decipher the meaning.”

“The meaning of what?”

“Exactly.”

//

Just finished reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “CRUSH IT!”

Gary Vaynerchuk puts his story out there–in every way imaginable. People refer to him as everything from brilliant and a powerhouse to a thought leader. Sounds like publicity hype? Don’t worry, there are a few out there who find him to be loud and crass, too.  Truthfully, he’s a little bit of all those things, and that’s what makes him great! My opinion, he’s on-fire passionate and that passion is contagious–he spreads it on liberally to anyone who cares to pay attention. Not only is he passionate–he’s knowledgable. He’s knowledgable about his trade: wine, and he’s equally if not more knowledgable about his audience and how to connect with them in a meaningful way. This shows in everything… EVERYTHING he does. Watch him on winelibrary tv, read his Tweets, his book, watch him during an interview or best yet, watch him speak in public.

Gary Vaynerchuk

If you’re not familiar with Gary yet (I’m a little surprised), check out some of his sites: http://garyvaynerchuk.com/; http://tv.winelibrary.com/;  http://vaynermedia.com/ http://crushitbook.com/

You may have noticed the fact that I have not yet mentioned that Gary is best-known for being a social networking rockstar. This wasn’t an unintentional omission. I’m getting to it, I promise. In reading “CRUSH IT!,” it provides very clear steps and recommendations on how to develop a brand, cashing in on your passion, and using the web and social networking platforms. He would know, he’s done it with a level of mastery that outshines most anyone’s. He also nows which mediums best suit his particular style and recommend other styles Yet, while the book is very descriptive about methods and platforms–I believe the greatest value in the content isn’t in those chapters. It’s the stories. It’s Gary’s stories that connect with you, that bring you inside his world and offer you the privilege of seeing the world, for a moment, through his eyes. These stories also project Gary’s sincere commitment to motivate you, the reader, to work to spend your life doing what you love. Put your family first and your work second. Hustle and CRUSH IT!

I realize that this may sound a bit more like a marketing post than a book review. That’s okay. I assure you that while I follow Gary on Twitter, I do not know him, and I am not necessarily even endorsing his book. Really, I’m not. Because “CRUSH IT!” isn’t for everyone. It’s not for the guy who thinks “good enough” is perfectly fine. It’s not for the person who enjoys going to work in an office everyday and doesn’t like to stand out from the crowd. But, if you’re reading this blog, “CRUSH IT!” probably is for you. Just my guess.

Truthfully, not everyone is cut out to do what Gary does. He talks a lot about DNA and being true to yourself. Personally, I know my DNA. Neither of my parents worked for other people for very long. Most of their life they were free agents, creating opportunities, networking and making things happen for themselves, their family and community. I realized that I was living waaaay out-of-synch with my DNA for a long time. Far too long. And this wake-up-call lead me to where I am now, working my tail-end off to design, create and live my next chapter in life. For more about this, please check out www.expatwannabe.wordpress.com.

But that’s me. Sincerely, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur at all or even cut out to develop a personal brand to boost their value in their industry and job market. I will say that if starting a business doing something you love has you researching the web late at night, following and commenting on blogs on a subject you love, if you have a deep passion that you love to talk about or write about, and you find yourself thinking and dreaming about fulfilling a dream, an ambition, you’ll want to buy a copy of “CRUSH IT!” Who knows, it might inspire you to write a blog post that sounds a bit like a marketing piece, too.

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