Surround Yourself with Successful People

15665wbf2I was at a conference last year with about 300 people who were fired up to learn, grow and succeed. What energy filled that room! EVERYONE I met was looking for ways to improve themselves and to suck the proverbial marrow out of life! And the success that these people were looking for was not just about money. The facilitator encouraged putting heart and soul into life and living your passion. Attendees exchanged countless hugs over the course of the week. The experience of being with so many vibrant people with common goals made me realize that once I returned home, I had no one in my primary circle of friends who is like this and who could support me in my growth…or even understand it.

So this year one of my goals became to build my “posse” by finding an assortment of like-minded people who can help me to grow personally and professionally. I have heard it said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Think about who those five people are in your life and decide if they are helping you to realize your goals and dreams.

To determine who you need to add to your mix of friends and acquaintances to support your success, you need to know what success looks like for you, both personally and professionally. Each of your goals or personal visions may be supported by different types of people…but for now we’ll focus on business success. Here’s what I am up to:

1) After the conference I referenced above, I participated in a series of group coaching sessions with folks from the workshop. I was assigned an accountability partner and, nearly a year later, we still check in with each other weekly. We discuss our success on our goals for that week and what we want to achieve in the coming week. This helps to focus me and move me toward success.

2) Several months ago I joined a book group that focuses on life changing books. This is a group of people who want to grow and experience life more deeply.

3) I have decided that I want to become a better public speaker and have greater confidence speaking off the cuff, so I am joining a local Toastmasters group. These skills will help me personally and professionally.

4) I want to join or form a business mastermind group.

In each of these situations, I will have the opportunity to expand my network of successful people.

Take Action Challenge: Think about whether you have people around you who can support your success toward each of your business goals. Do you have at least one group of like-minded people with whom you affiliate? If the answer is no, consider where you would find such people and seek them out.


Perspectives on Persistence and Success

persistence-successI’ve been considering how important the quality of persistence is to having a successful life, both personally and professionally. For several months, I’ve been implementing a number of business strategies to become more visible and to reach out to people for networking. This fulfills not only my mission to find new and interesting work, but also my intense desire to form deeper relationships.

Most of the time when I reach out, there is no immediate “win” when measured solely in terms of business revenue. These efforts could be viewed as failures, but I choose to dwell on the many personal wins: connecting for coffee with a former client…giving someone the nice feeling that I was thinking about them…offering help in the form of a referral to someone I just met. When I view simply making a deeper connection as a win, I can consider each contact I make as being successful! Last week, I had a double win. I reconnected with a woman who was interesting to me, and whose organization was appealing to me from a work standpoint. I had a new project within days! My persistence paid off.

Success coach and author Jack Canfield says in his book, The Success Principles, that “Persistence is probably the single most common quality of high achievers… No matter how hard it seems, the longer you persist, the more likely your success.”

I recently recognized that I have a completely different persistence personae when it comes to work than I do when it comes to my personal life. I am more easily discouraged when I reach out to someone in friendship personally and it does not come to fruit. I have times when I give up frustrated that I will never find what I want (ever tried online dating?). I am taking note of that self realization and will try to shift my attitude and behavior accordingly.

Take action challenge. What challenge are you facing in your life right now, and how can you persistently overcome it? Cosmetics empire founder Mary Kay Ash said,”When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Can you brainstorm a way around, over, under or through your roadblock or challenge?

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

Searching for professional meaning

ss45026Periodically I have an overwhelming realization that I am not fully connecting my passion with my work…that I have some bigger purpose in life, still undiscovered…or maybe just ignored for the safety of a reliable income. While I enjoy the work that I do (graphic design, writing and photography) I often think about how I could be using my talents to bring about meaningful change in some capacity. This feeling may be a hallmark of hitting your 40s and 50s. It’s no longer about how high the ladder goes, but about making sure the ladder is leaning against the right wall to begin with. Or as a friend of mine recently put it upon returning from a two-month sabbatical in Korea, coming down off the ladder and recognizing that life CAN be a meandering path if you are willing to listen to your heart.

At one time the dream for me was to quit my corporate job and start my own business. Eleven successful business years later, I want more. I know intuitively that I want to get satisfaction – even joy – out of each waking, working moment, but I am aware that my activities do not always support my intentions. To some degree many of us are guilty of putting our professional and even our personal lives on autopilot. We drift along when the waters are smooth, only turning our attention to certain activities when the waters get choppy. Now is one of those choppy times for many of my friends and colleagues. People suddenly start nurturing their network, re-evaluating their skills, questioning their employability. Will they get laid off? Are they employable elsewhere? Will they lose the big client? The question of work that has deeper meaning seems to have less relevance when we are in a position of desperation.

There is never a bad time to focus on the call of your heart. It you have a professional or personal aspiration that is somewhat unconventional or has less potential for income, be sure that you are still taking steps toward that dream even as you review the want ads or search for clients that pay the bills rather than fire up your heart. If you want to write a book, commit to writing a page a day or writing for two hours every Saturday. If you would prefer to get off the fast track and work in the non-profit sector helping others, develop relationships by volunteering on boards of directors of organizations that you care about. Want to lead fishing expeditions when you retire? Start planning one a month now and develop a clientele. It is a daunting task to head in a completely new direction from nothing, with no contacts or experience. But if you’ve been dabbling at your passion all along, the pink slip could be a blessing in disguise…and you just may have more courage to go in the direction of your heart.

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

Do You Really WANT to Get Out of Your Box?

set your imagination freeBeing “Out of the box” is something that many of us aspire to. It is associated with innovation, creativity and freshness. A quick search on uncovers dozens of books with out of the box in the title. What is it that actually creates a box around us? In what ways does the box serve us and in what ways does it become limiting?

Truth be told, most people stay nested safely inside not just one box, but many boxes for most of their lives. Can you identify your boxes? A box can be a routine. A box can be a job. It can be a relationship. It can be a mentality. Some boxes provide safety and comfort, while others limit our thinking and the possibility of becoming a closer version of who we are intended to become.

My job as a writer and graphic designer requires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, but it can be a HUGE box. It is a box that I usually love with a passion…but when I find my backside parked in a desk chair for 8, 9, 12 hours, I start to feel the walls of my box a bit more and I wonder about ways to feel less confined and more inspired. Photography and art directing photo shoots is a nice beak from my desk “box.” Sometimes I ask myself, Why do I have to sit at my desk all day long? What if two mornings a week, I worked from the café or at the picnic table in the park? Why do I have to work 9 to 5? Maybe another schedule would suit my body better and I’d actually be more productive in fewer hours?

I know quite a few people who are concerned about keeping their jobs during these troubled economic times. Some of these people may even have a dream tucked away to do something really big, like take time off to write a book, or travel the world. If you lost your job tomorrow, would carrying out your dream be possible? Or would you feel so bare without your box around you that you would spend your days panicked and searching for a new box? Clearly finances can put us in a box. I challenge you to think about what you would do if your current boxes were suddenly stripped away. Would you have the courage to go in the direction of your dream and try it on for a while?

I have been asking myself that question this week. I anticipate that my business will be off by about 25% in 2009. What will I do with that extra time? Should I spend it looking for work that simply may not be available at this time due to client budget constraints? Or should I view it as a gift of time to work on the book of photography that has been in my heart and mind for the past two years?

Take Action Challenge: Think about the boxes that you are in at this time. What keeps you there? Is the box a comfort or a prison? If you removed fear and panic from the equation, could you leave your box behind?

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

Growth: What have you done for yourself lately?

It is easy to become stagnant if you aren’t pushing yourself to engage in new things. I have engaged in a number of new activities this past month with an eye on marketing myself in different ways AND not becoming a dinosaur. I started this blog and a photography blog because I feel I have something to offer and because it imposes a discipline on me to write and to think differently. I joined Twitter where I am starting to build a new network of people who could possibly use the services of my graphic design business. I took on a different role on the board of a professional organization and am reaching out to my professional colleagues in different capacities.

I had no idea at the outset what the results would be of these new activities. I’ve met several new and interesting people through Twitter. I’ve had people from around the world reach out to me because of my photography, including a chicken farmer/photographer in rural England. People I’ve known for years have expressed curiosity about my photography, including a friend who asked me to take pictures of him. And I have had some interesting and fulfilling conversations.

These new activities are leading to personal growth and an expansion of my network. They have also taken a lot of time, so I am not certain that I will be able to continue all of these activities indefinitely, but the lesson that I take away is to be open to new things.

Take Action Challenge: What can you try that is new or has the potential to foster growth, personally or professionally? Can you volunteer for a new role in a group of which you are already a part? Have you ever considered blogging in an area that you have expertise? Is there a new piece of software that has the potential to make your life better? Try something new and share your results.

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

GOALS 5: Just three little words

I’ve written several entries on goals in the past two weeks. I promise to move onto some new topics, but this being January 1st, it seems apropos to cover goals from just one more angle. Yesterday I saw the movie Yes Man starring Jim Carey. The basic premise is that a bored-with-life guy runs into an old friend who is a disciple of saying YES! to everything because an attitude of YES opens you up to new experiences. Saying Yes leads Carey into out-of-the-box behaviors, new places, a better job and interesting relationships. (It is an otherwise fairly lame movie, but there are a few Carey belly laugh moments.)

This morning’s blog from social media expert Chris Brogan suggested choosing three goal words to shape your life for the year. These words can guide your actions both professionally and personally. I want to work with the idea of easy-to-remember words guiding your success. YES is a little too broad (and it got Jim Carey into as much trouble as good), so I am choosing words that will help me focus on areas in which I need to grow. My words for 2009 are: Focus, Posse and Care.

The more I do, the harder it becomes for me to FOCUS on what really matters – the things that are going to take me where I want to go. I am the parent of two teens. I run a business. I have clients to satisfy and deadlines to meet. Like many of you, I also receive at least 100 emails a day. Lately I have added a few new activities to my plate that are not at my core. I started a photo blog. I am exploring Twitter. While I am interested in these activities, I need to be careful to keep my eye on the ball. If I don’t focus, I could spend the whole day at my desk on email, facebook, etc., and never actually get around to billable work. In 2009, I will focus on putting first things first. I will set daily goals and accomplish those before I get to secondary activities. My goal word FOCUS will also remind me to be fully present in other areas, especially my relationships. Whether talking to my teens, a client or a friend, my FOCUS on the needs behind the words will build my relationships.

I worked with a life coach Phyllis Sisenwine and she said to me, “Don’t be a Lone Ranger. Get a POSSE“. I have definitely been known to be a lone ranger. I can do that has been my guiding motto, both professionally and personally. I don’t like to ask for help. This mentality has led me to do projects many women would never tackle, from tiling floors to power sanding…from refinishing furniture to laying a stone wall in the garden. I do all of these things myself because I don’t like to ask for help. Frankly, I like to watch men operate power tools. I like it when the cleaning lady spends four hours removing my dirt so I don’t have to. I like it when my accountant mails me the completed tax forms to sign. I have become pals with a stone mason who finished the incredible long dry-laid stone wall that I started. This year, I am going to FOCUS on building a bigger POSSE so that I can say yes to things that give my life more meaning.

Finally, I would NEVER be accused of being a person who doesn’t CARE. I have boundless love for the people in my life, but lately there hasn’t been as much of me to give because I haven’t spent enough time in self care. And when I don’t feel cared for, I start to resent the care I shower on others. Resentment is not a feeling I want to experience. Caring for myself allows me to care better for others. It’s like the safety instructions on the airplane: Put your own mask on first before helping others. I am going to look for ways to better CARE for myself, so that I have the energy to extend myself to others.

Take Action Challenge: What three words could guide you to a happier and more productive life, both personally and professionally?

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

GOALS 4: Well What Did You Expect?

New Year’s Resolutions. Right around this time, after the excesses of the holidays, many of us decide to become a better person. We want to take better care of ourselves by eating right and exercising more. And we don’t stop there. We are going to reunite with old friends. We are going to grow the business, or take that class we’ve been meaning to take in order to build our skills. Each one of these resolutions is completely doable IF we are willing to make changes.

Today while I was swimming my laps, I thought long and hard about the huge banner that hangs over the pool at my club. It says, Before you can accomplish something, you have to expect it of yourself. This is an exceptionally easy statement on the surface, but over the years that I have seen that sign, it has given me much to think about while I swim. That statement applies to my business, my exercise, my relationships – everything.

But let’s stick with the exercise example. I love to swim, When I swim, I feel better. I look better. It is in line with my goals. I know it is the right thing to do for my body. I am very keenly aware that when you don’t have good health, there is little else that matters in life. Still, in the last few months I let myself fall out of the habit of swimming. Work was exceptionally busy. I am a single parent and have significant demands on my shoulders. But quite frankly, these are excuses. Very lame excuses. I find time to eat. I find time for social activities. And you better believe that if I had a heart attack, I’d find the time to go to the ER and could rearrange my schedule for visits with the cardiologist. The truth is that I CAN find 60 minutes three or four times a week to spend at the club. I simply wasn’t expecting it from myself.

Take Action Challenge: How does the above statement apply to you? What is it that you want to accomplish, and in what ways have you (or have you not) expected it from yourself? What do you have to change or give up to make time for what really matters… for you to start living the life you expect for yourself?

© 2008 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC