Don't be afraid to stand out.

Don’t be afraid to stand out.

You can’t run a business, even the smallest of businesses, if you can’t promote that business. And if you’re like many people, selling yourself can feel…icky. Like, so icky you don’t do it.

This doesn’t bode well for your business. Sure, you think it’s pushy, rude, obnoxious. And it’s doubly hard because when you own your own business, separating yourself from it is like trying to separate the dancer from the dance, as they say. And it’s one thing to promote a big cause or someone else, but promoting yourself? Ick.

In a recent column on DailyWorth, I wrote about how conflating your self worth with the worth of what you offer is big trouble (“You’ll Never Get Paid What You’re Worth, and That’s OK”). It’s not only childish, but unproductive, because you risk either never getting paid or never finding anyone who can afford you. Neither works.

As with most things, the resistance to self promotion is purely psychological, and has more to do with your ideas about self promotion than what it actually is or can be. I attended a meetup here in Manhattan held by Taylor Jacobson and Tara Padua of Teampossible that dealt directly with this issue.

Now, I don’t have a real fear of self promotion (let’s say I’ve gotten much better), but even I thought, hmm, should I even GO to an event on self promotion? Seems indulgent. But I’m glad I did, and I’m sharing some of that wisdom with you. There are many people who find that they need to promote themselves and their business, luckily there are many ways to do this from online marketing on social media to something small such as Personalized Sunglasses that have their businesses logo on it, self-promotion is nothing to fear.

Following are the questions that Taylor and Tara used to guide us through the workshop, and I found them helpful. So, try asking them of yourself to help diagnose and get past your self promotion-itis:

(Rather listen? Easy. Listen below and subscribe to my channel on Umano.)

1. What do you think of great self promoters? Picture someone who’s really good at self promotion. She’s killing it, actually. What judgments come up about that person? Don’t filter, just say it. “What a media whore,” “She’s so self-absorbed,” “He’s full of himself.” Go on. I’m sure you have more. Maybe you’re envious, jealous, resentful, or wistful. (“I wish I had the balls to do that,” etc.) That doesn’t mean those things are true, necessarily, but the point of this is to catch your judgments by the tail. While shameless self promoters elicit a major eye roll from me, sometimes, they also make me feel like I should up my game.

2. What are you afraid people would say about you if you were better at self promotion? Note, they may not be the same things you said above. My fear is that if I were to excel at self promotion, others would cease to see the value in what I have to offer; they’d only see the sell; that my desire to sell would appear to eclipse my desire to help, motivate, or inspire. It’s also ironic that I might think self promotion would cause a loss of credibility—since the better you are at it, the more cred you actually have. But this fear is troublesome because it means that in order to be “real” or “authentic,” then, you have to stay small and not tell anyone about what you do. WRONG.

3. What story do you tell yourself when someone doesn’t buy what you’re selling? Ah. This is a good one. What DO you think when someone doesn’t bite on a pitch or when she goes with someone else? I have two responses: “I suck,” and “They’re stupid. F@$! them.” This way of thinking may make you feel good in the moment, but there’s a bigger problem there, stated brilliantly by marketing strategist, Daniel DiGriz, founder of madpipe.com. He said,

“If everyone who passes on you or says no to you is dumb, then you can’t improve, because you’re saying there can’t be smart people who disagree with you.”

Yes. Burn that into your brain. Go back and read it again. This is a huge pitfall—because this belief keeps you from becoming smarter and better; it keeps you stuck. You don’t have to think you’re the best to be worthy and valuable, and you don’t win by never being wrong. This is an egoic pitfall, and a real problem for your business (not to mention your love life). Because if you hinge your ability to self promote, and by that I mean communicate your value, based on the idea that you must be perfect, or the best, then every time you hit an obstacle or rejection, you throw your whole sense of worth and purpose into question.

Self promotion doesn’t mean you inflate your ego or pretend you’re something you’re not. You don’t have to win a popularity contest. You must know the value you offer, and know that it’s worth sharing with other people. You owe that to yourself and to everyone else.

(Read: Why to embrace the haters.)

 

Click here to learn more about Bench. I'm a new fan.

Click here to learn more about Bench. I’m a new fan.

I never considered myself a DIY kind of girl: I don’t hang my own shelves or put up preserves; I derive no greater joy from painting a wall or doing my taxes than paying a professional to get it done right the first time.

But what I do have is a control problem, and letting go of that is difficult indeed, especially when I feel I should be doing myself. And that gets in the way when you have a business to grow, not just run. I might have deluded myself into thinking I did it to save costs, but I know my ego plays a bigger role. Fact is, I’m losing money by doing it all, or waiting to get “around to it,” and you are, too.

This month I took some big steps in the direction of delegating some stuff, and I’ve already been feeling the benefits. In fact, a chunk of it I did this week alone. I’m feeling pretty awesome about it. (Note: These are NOT paid sponsorships. Just my take.)
1. Automate your scheduling. I know, I know. When I first got those emails that enjoined me to book a time with them, I was turned off, too. But you know what? I need to get over it and so do you. This kind of delegation, in which you a) put a system in place to do it, and b) let someone pick a time based on what you have available makes sense. It just does.

This resistance you feel (or at least that I did) is cultural, emotional, as if the other person is the pope and you need to kiss their schedule. But you know the alternative is? Having five email chains going with different time slots that you have available, but then those slots get filled by the time someone wants it, and oh, who was that other person who wanted to meet with me? It’s a waste of time, confusing, and inefficient and leads to miscommunication and mismanaged expectations–not an option.

These days I use Acuity Scheduling. Easy, reliable, right on my website.

2. Hire a bookkeeping service.  I’d been wishing for a while that I had someone to hand all this stuff to, and say “you figure it out.” But I feared the cost would be prohibitive, and that it would be too “hard” to explain it all to someone. And that I technically “could” do it. Just as I technically “could” run a marathon (another thing I’m happy to delegate).  When I saw an ad for Bench on Facebook that showed bookish young hipsters who swore they really liked doing it, I was like, ok.

I did the free trial, where they walk you through one month’s worth of your business statements. For a small business with less than $10K in monthly expenses, you pay $135/month. TO NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I love the simple interface, and the fact that you get a dedicated person who learns your business and you can email your receipts to the account directly, and they wrap it all up in a bow and send it to your accountant.

My response? “Now, where is that credit card…” Sign me up.

 

3. Outsource tasks. I’m putting together, for the first time, a newsletter, basically because I’ve done zero to reach out or build my audience in a real, consistent way. So dumb. What was holding me back? I have all those contacts to go through in excel and ugh, it’s such a time suck. Enter: Taskrabbit. There are lots of other services that can do administrative stuff (Fancy Hands I have used and liked, but you have to commit to a monthly fee, and I haven’t tried Elance yet but may). While Taskrabbit is usually for in-person, local stuff (moving, cleaning) I used it to hire someone to go through and clean up spreadsheets, check for duplicates, etc. DONE in a day. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

I’ve also hired people I know to other things, like:

  • Edit the Solopreneur show (airs here Tues @ 4p). I like doing it, but having someone else do it gave me back 6+ hours/week (and my entire weekend).
  • Stir my social media pot and get posts up more consistently;
  • Handle operations for getting my newsletter up (coming soon! Sign up by putting your email in that little box–it won’t be a lot, maybe twice a month).

What has this yielded? More time for the things I want to do, and which yield me far more in terms of building my own business:

  • Met up with 1-3 new contacts a week;
  • Attended at least one networking event each week, which has expanded my network and inspired me with ideas and people to reach out to;
  • I have nine—NINE—interviews for Solopreneur in the can.
  • Been able to do some focused work on my own branding efforts;
  • Redesign and relaunch my website with a designer;
  • Read!
  • Write!

You can’t think big when you’re in the weeds, and you cannot scale if you don’t give stuff away. Think of it as an investment in your systems, in your network, and in yourself.

Watch the segment on this very topic. Click my face.

I help people become better presenters of their own ideas. It’s what I do. And the brunt of that work has less to do with technique (saying “um” too much for example) than it does psychology. Because once you feel more confident, it’s amazing how all the stuff that falls away.

I know this for sure: What keeps you from owning the crap out of your brand in the media is a twofold fear:

  • You’re afraid you don’t know enough.
  • You’re afraid people won’t agree with you.

You know enough. I promise. In fact, you may know too much (talk to me about coaching doctors who know way, way too much). And you should always be learning more. But this idea that your head is a big bag you haven’t jammed with enough stuff yet? That is not true.

As for whether people will all agree with you? Yeah, that’s not happening. And let me save you some time: If you are seeking to build a media brand for THE sole purpose of getting people to like, approve of, and agree with you, then GET OUT NOW.

Look, I want people to like me, too. I feel all the feelings. But the way to get past the fears (which hinder your message), you have to make some mental and behavioral shifts. Here’s what you’ve got to do to kill it in the media.

Don’t have time to read? Listen instead (and subscribe to my channel on Umano).


1. Tap your inner expert.
Don’t be cowed by the idea of being an expert. Because if you have a demonstrated area of expertise, you are an expert. There will always be others who know more, are more accomplished. But there’s only one you. To be an expert, you need to start acting like one.

You may be a very bright and successful physician, but if you can’t nail the skills it requires to be a media personality, it doesn’t matter what letters you have after your name. That means you need TWO skill sets: Demonstrated expertise, plus the ability to distill and communicate it in a simple, compelling fashion. And by the way—there are more experts than there are folks who can kill it in the media. And producers are always looking for great new talent.

You have no letters after your name? So what! Neither do I, and I’ve been on Dr. Oz more times than I can count. I’m a known entity there and someone they trust to present information well, period. The media is an echo chamber and so that lady talking about how to pair a shirt with dress slacks is an expert because she decided she was. That’s it. The challenge isn’t what you know, but how you communicate it that makes you media material. You want to be an expert? Start acting like one.

2. Care more about changing people’s lives than their opinion of you. When I started doing more media, Gail Blanke, an in-demand author, speaker, and expert I admire said that the key to communicating powerfully was to focus on the message. Many of the schoolteachers I know are shy, and hardly spotlight seekers, but not in front of a classroom. That’s because they’re driven by what they want those children to learn, more than anything else.

I tell my clients: If you’re not out to change my life in some way, you’re wasting your time and mine. Focus on that urgency, on that mission, above all else. And so will they.

3. Don’t just give information; stand for something. My colleague Hank Norman, cofounder of 2 Market Media, is a real hothead about this. If you don’t have an opinion, than nothing you have to say matters. Because information is so accessible, I don’t need just more info—I need to know why I should care. So if you keep striking out with all your statistics, it’s because you’re not giving the media enough to bite into. You’re soft-pedaling, trying to “appeal” to the most people. You want more attention? Alienate a few. Trust me.

So, raise the stakes. Tell me what happens if I don’t do what you think I should. Take a counterintuitive position, and avoid saying what everyone else says. (See how I did this and turned the tables in a recent interview on CBS). Great ideas are worth fighting for. And if you aren’t willing to put skin in the game, then why are you in this to begin with?

(Watch my video on some key pointers for speaking in the media.)

Watch Solopreneur every Tues @ 4p on the Whatever It Takes Network.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.41.10 PM

Don’t hate on Valentine’s Day.

It’s easy to pile on poor Valentine’s Day. And if it makes you feel any better, a rather small slice of the population is really psyched about it.

If you’re single, chances are you roll your eyes, flip couples the bird.

If you’re in a long-term relationship, maybe very long, this holiday makes you nostalgic for the days when romance was new, before either of you peed with the door open, and when you had time or interest in having sex more than once a month.

Then again, if you’ve just started dating someone, Valentine’s Day is too much pressure. What if he thinks it means more than it does? What if it doesn’t mean enough?

And if you’re one half of an unhappy couple, this Hallmark holiday hits a nerve: Another year of not being in the relationship you always thought you’d be in. You may suffer a bout of brief, intense existentialist grief.

Basically, the only ones doing what you think the holiday is about (roses, chocolate, sex) are, if we want to get technical, people in the first 12 to 18 months of their relationship, who are still trying to impress each other, and guaranteed to get laid. Or, those blessed to be in one of those wonderful relationships where the magic burns for years. They’re rare, but they do exist.

Anyway, look, that’s not a LOT of people having sexy time today.

Valentine’s Day is not an exclusive club; it’s a holiday to celebrate love in all its forms, from the short, sexy bursts to the long, mellow partnerships, to the kinds of love we share with people we’re not dating. (Check out this study on how just being kind and loving to people at work is linked with improved productivity.)

But of course my heart is with the single people who see red at Valentine’s Day, and not in a good way. Here are the things I recommend you do and NOT do today:

1. Don’t hate. It’s not only pointless to hate on a holiday; it’s disingenous; like saying you hate money just because you don’t happen to have any. Don’t pretend that of all days, today you “hate” love because Valentine’s Day ruined it for you. C’mon. (That’s like “hating” gifts because you’ve had a few bad Christmases.)

If you like this post, you're going to love this workshop. Try it for $1. For reals..

If you like this post, you’re going to love this workshop. Try it for $1. For reals..

>>DO: Take a risk. You want something exciting? Try doing something exciting. One Feb 14th, I wrote a note on a cocktail napkin on slid it across a cafe table to a handsome thing. I never heard from him. Don’t matter. It was thrilling and empowering and kind (because though he never called, don’t tell me I didn’t make his day). I felt…romantic, without anything else having to happen. (Also: Read why you should be getting rejected more.)

2. Don’t go out with your girlfriends and dance in a circle. Sure, it’s fun. But the dopiest thing ever is when a bunch of single ladies who would like to meet potential mates do the one thing that will ensure they don’t: Turn in the lady wagons. Who-hoo! Girl power! No. This is dumb. Don’t form a big resentful clot in the middle of the room, telling dudes to talk to the hand. Why act like men suck, when, if we’re being honest, you’d like a nice one?

>>DO: Go out to meet people. If you’re smart, you’ll go out with just a few friends or, if you travel in a gaggle, split off and mingle. Or, forget the girlfriend outing altogether, and do something really bold: Go sit at the bar by yourself just long enough to enjoy a glass of wine. Remind yourself that you’re open to what may or may not happen.

(Afraid of getting rejected? Here’s why you should seek it out more.)

3. Don’t text your recent ex. I shouldn’t have to explain this. But, no matter how it ended, if you broke up within the past six months, steer clear. Of course, unless he has come back with a dozen roses and wants you back, and you’re happy about it. But if you both ended it for all the right reasons, going back now for a moment of comfort could cost you more later. (Read why you should unfriend your ex.)

>>DO: Go on a date with a stranger. Yup. I promise you, there’s someone online who’s free tonight. And don’t give me this crap about how it seems desperate. You can drop a line in the water and see if you get a bite. You don’t have to meet The One. But you can go out on one date with one new person, and say that on Valentine’s Day, you made an effort, and you had a reason to put lipstick on.

The moment when you’re headed out the door and the night is nothing but potential—that’s fun. And romantic. And brave.  And way better than a margarita-sodden rendition of “I Will Survive.” Again.

 

 

If you like this post, you're going to love this workshop.

If you like this post, you’re going to love this workshop.

There are two reasons why you loathe dating: You’ve been out of the game too long, or you’ve been in it too long.

When you’ve been out of the game, you’re wary and wily and nervous as hell, because you think there are new rules, and you don’t know them.

If you’ve been IN the game too long, you think you’ve seen it all, and you haven’t had any luck (maybe because you’re relying on luck?), and either everyone else sucks, or you do.

Talk about a lose-lose situation. Because you can’t win: Either you’re not good enough, or no one’s good enough for you. And if you want to believe one of those things, or maybe even both, then you will be stuck, forever and ever, in that tidy little prison you’ve created for yourself.

Fact: The world is teeming with people. Single people. And many more become single every day.

Fact: Most of them are not psychopathic crazies who will stalk and kill you.

Fact: You are lovable, deserving of love, and yet you also do things that keep other people from getting close to you.

(On the run and want to listen instead? Your wish is granted:)

Tough Girl: A Case Study

I know a woman I’ll call Agnes who is tough, sassy, and sexy. She has no problem finding men who are interested in her, and yet she’s never really had a boyfriend. She’s been “seeing” this one guy we’ll call Mike for a few months. Though you wouldn’t know it, because NO ONE in her life has met him. She doesn’t invite him out in a group, but stops by “later”—and until very recently, had never stayed the night. They’re basically stuck in booty call city. And she is the mayor.

She asked me recently about a situation in which he was vague with his texts and she thought he was being “weird.”

“He’s being weird? YOU are being weird!”

I couldn’t help myself. But it was true! And she knew it. She had been treating him like a hookup and then wondering why he wasn’t exhibiting relationship behavior.

Um, because he didn’t know they were in a relationship, maybe? She hasn’t given him an inkling that she cares for him, wants people to know him, wants to, I don’t know, be seen in public with him?  I told her, “You have trained him to not expect much from you. So why should he give you anything?”

So instead of doing the guy pile-on, I came down pretty hard on her. Because while she may come off tough and sexy, I see right through that because I’ve worn that tough-girl facade before. (Read: How feminism f’d up my dating life.)

And, by the way, I wasn’t giving her a hard time because what she’s doing is “wrong” or that she should want or be something different. I came down on her because her actions aren’t getting her what she wants.

You want more from him? I said. Start treating him differently. You can’t treat him like a whore and wonder why he’s not acting like a boyfriend.

My point is this: It’s easy to think guys are the problem. But guys are pretty simple. The reality is that what you do, for a myriad of reasons, has often more to do with what you’re trying to protect than what you want. Often, because you’re afraid of what you want. Or more to the point, you’re afraid of being rejected, of being hurt, and all the things we spend our lives trying to avoid.

The catch-22 here is that the more you try to protect yourself, the less able you are to have what you want. Because loving requires risk.

(WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF PROMO)

So, yes, I created a workshop (“Stop Hating Start Dating”) precisely to address this and other issues that plague the modern dater. And it has nothing to do with apps or texts—those are part of dating, but they’re the puppet show that we use to enact our fears and expectations. You must address those first.

So if you want to reframe and reinvigorate your dating life, and own it in a new and empowered way, check it out.

It’s seriously low-risk—you risk $1. If after 3 days you’re sick to death of me and want your money back, so be it. We can still be friends.

(And by the way, it’s not just for ladies. It’s gender neutral in theory and application. But let’s face it, chances are, here as everywhere else on the planet besides the financial district, there are three ladies to every one dude.)

You don’t have to be in a formal relationship to have sex. After all, it may be a while til you find someone you want to be in a formal relationship with, and chances are you’ll want to have sex sooner than that. Sex is a vitally important part of living–and it’s crazy to think you have to wait around for some Perfect Person to have it. Some people looking for sexual gratification don’t even look for it from a physical partner and instead prefer to get their kicks from online porn like the cam girls on Babestation – babestation.tv/girls/preeti-young.

I’ve enjoyed lots of safe, consensual sex with very cool people I wouldn’t call boyfriends, but we liked each other and we both knew what was up. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you like. And if you’re really smart, you’ll also learn to recognize when you’re saying one thing but feeling another.

It wasn’t until my 30s that I let myself off the leash a bit to explore no-strings sexual intimacy. A lot of it was fun; some of it wasn’t. But it revealed something about my own intentions that I’d done a good job of hiding: In some cases I wanted more, and was settling for far less.

For instance: A few years back, I engaged in a brief fling with a man I met online–a handsome, together dude whom I thought could make a solid hook-up buddy. He was in the throws of a breakup, and though I admit it was a sketchy situation, I was “ok” with it because in my mind, I just wanted sex, nothing more. The first time he left my apartment after having untamed sex on my sofa, I felt a rush of excitement, and then a little while later, I felt meh. The experience, while fun for that moment, didn’t have any real staying power.

I’ll try anything twice. So we hooked up another time—and at this point he was single, having officially called things off with his girlfriend. And then he mentioned he’d been on a few dates with someone else. I was shocked by my own response: I felt surprised. Hurt. Because I realized right then that he had no intention of taking me out to dinner–and not because he “couldn’t” but because either it didn’t cross his mind or it did and he passed.

Hooking up, in this case, was a closed loop. This was what I asked for, wasn’t it? No-strings sex? I was making a jump in logic that lots of girls do–that hooking up was a short-cut to having someone like you, when this wasn’t at all what was happening. I figured he would come around. Nope. (Read more about why hook-ups will leave you hungry.)

Then I realized the most important thing of all: I didn’t even really like the guy! He was good-looking, sure, but he wasn’t all that nice or caring or interesting–and not all that interested in me personally. I was so concerned with what I thought I wanted, and what he thought of me, that I forgot to ask, Geez, do I even want this guy in my life? And the answer was so clear when I finally listened: No.

So what was I doing here, exactly? Exactly.

I never saw him again, and there was nothing to miss. But what I learned here was invaluable: I saw a chink in my tough-girl façade. And I see yours, too. The pseudo-feminist affect you use when you say you just want to get it on and then get on with your life without getting “too attached” isn’t believable. It runs counter to your wiring. It’s pretending you don’t care so that you ward off the risk of getting hurt. Show me someone who’s too busy to be loved, and I’ll show you someone who’s afraid of not being lovable.

(Read more on how feminism f’d up my dating life.)

Now, I don’t think everyone needs to be or should be married, and committed relationships can be negotiated in many ways. You may go through many phases: Perhaps a few good years of monogamy, followed by a few years of unattached fun—as well you should. But avoiding real intimacy and connection as a Life Strategy, and choosing people whom you’re not crazy about, on purpose, to share that with? That’s not a plan for getting ahead. That’s a strategy for avoiding the greatest fear of all—fear of loss.

There’s this misguided feminist idea that to be truly free/strong, you have to be able to treat men the way men sometimes treat women–like used toilet paper. Misguided being the operative word.

You want to call yourself a feminist? Conduct your life from a place of power. And that means being in control of your choices, but also being open to the risk that comes with being emotionally vulnerable. Recognize that wanting to love someone doesn’t make you deficient or weak, but it does mean being brave in the face of potential loss. Because no one can promise eternal love, or guarantee that you won’t get hurt. A mature adult knows this full well and loves anyway. Avoiding any attachments to self-preserve is to operate from a place of fear—the opposite of power.

You don’t learn what you don’t do. So if you want a relationship, now or ultimately, you have to practice really connecting with people, and that may mean having sex, but that also means sharing a meal, exploring other stuff together.

Anyone can keep herself busy with something disposable. It takes an empowered, confident woman to engage in something that’s worth her time, and to put herself in the riskiest position of all—to have something she can’t bear to lose, even if, at some point, she must.

Parts of this essay appeared on yourtango.

Screen-Shot-2015-01-20-at-4.25.35-PM-150x150There are a zillion and one things you have to do. And that I have to do. I can’t even think about it all. But I do believe knowing what NOT to do is just as important. And when I master that, I’ll let you know. Here are ten things to stop doing. It’s a start. 

(Watch the full video on my show, “Solopreneur” on the Whatever It Takes Network.)

1. Stop settling for crap food. I don’t just mean cut out the soda and wing dings. I mean stop eating food that sucks, period. I once again decided it was a good idea to zip out to this Thai restaurant in my neighborhood for a quick curry. And I’ll say one thing: They’re consistent. Consistently bad. I go in with high hopes, and leave feeling yuck, every time. Why do I continue to do this to myself? Whatever way you slice it, I lost $30 on food that kinda just straight-up sucked. I’m not doing this anymore. I am not going there again, and I pinkie swear to you right now.

What places do you go to or food do you buy out of habit, just because–even though you know it’s not great? Why is just average, meh, good enough…good enough? It’s not. I have no business dropping a ton of dough on food on a night I’m being lazy, but I’m pretty sure I could have done way better.

(On the run? Hit play below to listen to the story read to you.)


2. Stop wearing clothes you straight-up don’t like. Take this shirt for instance: A simple, perfectly fine boat-neck, batwing type shirt I picked out and paid for years ago. There is literally nothing wrong with this shirt. Except I put it on, and then I take it off and it rarely sees the light of day. I can’t give you one reason why I can’t stand this shirt, except I can’t. And so I keep it in wardrobe purgatory, but never make it 10 minutes with it on. It’s not ugly; it’s not uncomfortable. But I hate it, and loathe it, like a person who never did a thing wrong to you but you just can’t stand. I’m done. I’m done with this shirt. I’m never wearing it again.

If you’re like me, you have oodles of clothes that you also never wear but can’t think of a reason to part with. Here’s a reason: You don’t f’n wear it!! You don’t! You know it, I know it, and the item of clothing knows it. If it could break up with you and leave you for someone else, it would. But it can’t, because it’s a shirt. Donate it. Get it into someone’s hands who will appreciate it.

3. Stop booty calling your ex. If you’re single and genuinely want to be in a relationship with someone, you’ve got to be open to it. And that means ok with being out in the cold a bit. If, at the first chill, you run to that guy (or girl) who’s always good for a tumble, you’re going to have a harder time meeting someone new. It’s not their fault. But it is yours. When you beat a path to someone’s door out of sheer habit and comfort, and not for any other reason, you fail to plow a new path. Yeah it takes work. Yeah it’s scary. But as long as you have this ex or f’buddy or whomever it is you call when times are lean, you won’t make space for someone new.

4. Stop saying you don’t have time. Ok, so this is a sneaky way of telling yourself to do something. But truth is, what you keep saying you can’t do on account of being “busy” is usually something you’re afraid of doing (and yet you know you want to). And yet, you keep not doing it! Not having time is a ruse. I know that if I want to get something done, for reals, I can get up earlier. I can stay up later. I can find ways to get creative with the time I do have. So say you don’t want to, say you’ve changed your mind. That’s fine. But if the reason you’re not (dating, sending in a proposal, doing more writing, meditating, or exercising, insert other thing here) is because of time constraints? That’s not true and you know it.

5. Stop worrying about stress. You know why? Because the more afraid you are of stress, the more harmful an effect stress has on you. Kelly McGonigal, in her very famous TED Talk, “How to make stress your friend,” cites a study of in which 30,000 adults were asked “how much stress have you had this year” and “do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?” The people who experienced a lot of stress had a 43% risk of dying—but this was only true for those who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.

It’s true! In fact, the people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view it as harmful had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, even among those who had little stress. The researchers estimated that over the 8 years, 182,000 americans died prematurely…from the belief that stress is bad for you.

6. Stop working for hours straight and expecting to be productive. You can’t do it. You’re not designed that way, and you can’t continue to spend energy without renewing it. Do your work in spurts, ideally 25 minutes at a time with a 5 minute break in between, if you use the Pomodoro Technique.  At the very least, get up every 1.5 to 2 hours and move around, drink some water, shift your attention, talk to someone.

7. Stop watching shows just because they’re on. Note, I didn’t say “stop watching TV.” First of all, what is “TV” anymore? You can and should consume great content in any form or venue, and at any time, that you wish. There are so many great shows, programs, series, that you should only spend the time you have to watch on stuff you are absolutely 100% engaged in. Forget the rest.

8. Stop comparing your own life to your Facebook feed. Social media is a psychological mood ring. Except that the lousier you feel, the better other people’s lives look. So go on there with the goal of engaging with people you like and love. But don’t spend hours scrolling when you’re feeling down about your life. You’ll feel worse after. (Don’t believe me? Ask science.)

9. Stop hanging out with jerks. Since we can safely assume you don’t believe you have the time you need to do what you really want, why are you hanging out with these jerkbags? And by that I mean anyone—old friend, new love interest, colleague—who makes you feel like crapola after you spend more than 15 minutes with. They drag down your energy, depress, bore, and annoy you. Or worse, they make you feel flat-out bad about yourself and what you’re up to.

10. Stop trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. Doesn’t matter what stage or phase of life you’re in. There is today, tomorrow, and the next day. And you’re only ever right here, right now. Your next move is to figure out what you want to do next, not forever. The idea is not only daunting, it’s near impossible to plot or plan for. You can’t! Because you don’t know how or where “the rest of your life” will go. So plan a few steps, sure, take a risk. These are things you can do. But you don’t need to know what “the rest” will be. Part of the fun is finding out.

Watch “Solopreneur” on the Whatever It Takes Network (new ones every Tues @ 4pm!)

 

How do I know if a guy is lying? Is there anything you can tell me about body language or other red flags? I want to be sure he doesn’t have a wife or a girlfriend, or an ex that may resurface in his life. I’m always very upfront and direct about asking, but I have no way to know if they’re telling the truth before it’s too late. Help!

Short answer: You can’t.

Look, body language experts will tell you that certain facial tics, gestures, or behaviors can raise a red flag, the key being inconsistencies between what a person says and does (saying no while nodding yes, for instance). When I think someone’s lying to me, I usually pick up on a smarmy or uncomfortable vibe. And I’m usually thinking of ways I can stop talking to this person, not whether or not I should consider him as a life partner.

However, your question is telling—and says more about you than it does about any dude in question. Because right now I’m not as worried about a guy with a lingering ex as I am about why you assume someone is lying to you out of the gate. It tells me you’ve been hurt before and you’re out to prevent that from ever happening again. Which as you know, no one can guarantee.

You’re leading with a negative bias—suspicion, doubt, and defensiveness. New people, to you, are guilty until proven innocent, and instead of being curious and interested about a guy, you’re doing a stop-and-frisk. I don’t need to tell you how unsexy this is.

I get the sense that you see your “upfrontness” as a noble thing and that he should act in kind. Wrong. Frankly, when you’re first getting to know someone, what he’s doing or has done is none of your business. Of COURSE he knows you wouldn’t like it if you knew he’s kinda seeing someone else, or that his ex texted him last night that she wants him back. That’s why he’s not telling you—and it’s not your business to know. Not now. Are you a woman looking to meet a man, or are you the Truth Police? Because being clearing house for n’er-do-wellers is a losing position.

“But I just want to be sure!”

You can’t be. There are women who fall in love with men, marry them, and find out 20 years later that these guys have three other kids and another wife across town. That’s the extreme, of course. But the promise you want, that someone you care about won’t lie to you, is something no one can make.

And to insist that you don’t want to get involved with any man with even a whisper of a woman in his recent past? Trust me you don’t want that guy. A man worth having is going to have been loved by others before you, and there may be others in the wings. And if you’re busy trying to play Exterminator of Past Loves, he’s going to catch that drift early on, and who wants that? You’re setting a dangerous precedent. No man wants to come home to a TSA pat-down every night.

(And I’ll remind you that a man who needs the truth beaten out of him is probably not worth the trouble.)

You add that you want to know before it’s “too late.” What does that mean, exactly? When is too late? Before you’ve had sex? Rented the reception hall? Been married for 50 years and have six grandkids? By “too late” you imply that there’s a “before” (or risky time) and “after” (when he’s past security). There is no such timeline because being invested means there’s always a chance you can get hurt.

What would happen, and humor me here, if you went in assuming that, whatever this guy has going on, he’s interested in you right now? What if you unburdened yourself of the task of going through his prior history and spent more time being curious about and interested in him? Because I believe you are losing yourself in a checklist of Things To Find Out About this Bastard and not tuning in to the man himself.

I took a hard-core self defense class years ago where I learned that once you master the skills, your whole bearing changes. You’re no longer terrified every second that a rapist will hop out of the bushes any second, and more tuned in to your surroundings. And because you’re more self assured and carry yourself as such, you’re also less likely to be the victim of a violent crime.  In other words, unchecked fear prevents your intuition from doing its job.

Same applies here: When you can be relaxed and confident and assume that the person you’re meeting is a good guy, you’ll be more open to the clues that tell you otherwise. This is what dating is, by the way: a willingness to risk trusting someone new in a way that leaves you vulnerable. If you’re not willing to take that risk, then you’re not ready to love someone.

 

 

If you work for yourself, you can call yourself whatever you want: an entrepreneur, a solopreneur, creative professional. But there’s one word I want you to stop using: Freelancer.

Take it off your business card, your website, stop referring to yourself that way. Why? Because freelance is low-rent. A “freelancer” is someone a company calls in to cover their bases—and save money. Because it’s cheaper than having a full-time employee, simple as that.

A freelancer saves the company money and fixes problems—and that’s fine—but in order to value your own business more highly, you’ve got to promote yourself from freelance…to consultant, this could make you even more valuable if you have something like a small business SEO and some other much-needed skill.

That’s right. You don’t have to be some Harvard MBA grad working in a think tank to be a consultant. Not at all. A consultant is someone a company invests in to address an issue they don’t have the resources or skill set to handle on their own.

I used to think “freelance”—particularly “freelance writer,” was so sexy. It meant: I can work for anyone, and do anything I want. I’m not committed to anyone! Yes—and guess what? They’re not committed to you, either. You’re on a list of other freelancers. You may be beloved, sure, but you’re replaceable, too. It’s not unlike romantic relationships: Sure, it’s fun to date a lot, date around, no commitment. That can be sexy, too, for a while. But after a while the one-offs can be less fulfilling, and you stand to reap far more from a relationship in which that person knows and wants YOU, not just “someone.”

The difference here is that as a solopreneur, you can have more than one significant client, and in fact, you should. Because if you just have the one, you’re going to be very dependent, and very much like an employee (sans benefits).

freelancer

Stop calling yourself this.

You may know freelancers who make lots of money, and have good businesses—no doubt they do. Some may say you can make far more as a freelancer. Yes—but not just because of the role you play. The illusion that you make “more” as a freelancer is not because you’re worth more to the company, but because you are in fact worth less—they don’t have to spend money on your benefits, on setting you up with an office or equipment, nothing. That “extra” money you make as a freelancer isn’t extra at all; it’s what you need to pay taxes, as well to cover all your other needs that fall onto your tab as a self-employed professional.

But that’s not why I’m telling you to stop calling yourself a freelancer. I’m telling you that because I want you to see yourself as more than just a hired gun (or lance, as it were, since that’s where the term came from, actually—mercenary soldiers whose swords would serve the highest bidder).

Because in this market, freelancers aren’t competing for the highest dollar, but the lowest one. And that’s a lose-lose for you. As a solopreneur, you are always looking for new opportunities that can grow your business and your income—no doubt. If you don’t know what a solopreneur is, check out this solopreneur definition! But a freelancer is not in control of it; a freelancer is always “hungry,” and always available, and the people who hire freelancers know that. I want more for you. I want you to be sought out, not sitting there by the table like a labrador, hoping for someone to throw a scrap your way.

A freelancer says, “I’m here if you need me!”

A consultant says, “I have what you need. And I’m worth every penny.”

Watch the Episode!

Watch the Episode!

This is more than just about money, by the way; it’s about the value you bring to the table. You’ve worked hard to be as good as you are, and so you need to communicate that value. And it starts with recognizing that you’re not just someone a company or client reaches out to when they’re hemorrhaging on a project, but because they want and need the best.

Watch “Solopreneur” on the Whatever It Takes Network. Tuesdays at 4pm.