How to learn to sell yourself – in spite of yourself!

5 Tips to Get You Into Sales Mode

“I can sell anything but when it comes to selling myself, I am hopeless!”  Ever heard anyone say that, or even said it yourself?

Arguably the most important thing we might ever sell is our own skills, expertise, professional services, etc.  Looking for a new job, contract, outlet for selling your services or products – how much of that is really about selling yourself?

I believe people buy what you are selling not because of what it is, but because of who you are and why you are selling it.

I have been selling something most of my life.  As a child, I was recruited by my horse dealer Dad to sell horses to everyone from the young teenage girl who showed up with her parents and their cheque book, to rough and tumble loggers from Quebec who came to buy draft horses with large trucks ready to load them up.

As a newspaper reporter and then communications person, I either flogged the idea of a story to a potential subject, or cajoled a media outlet to interview the actors and athletes who were my clients.  In the Olympic and major event world, I sold multi-million dollar sponsorships and broadcast rights – sometimes with little more than a promise that we would pull off this outrageous idea and they would get their money’s worth.

When I moved on to selling my own services as an executive coach, CEO advisor, workshop leader – you got it, more sales!  Does that make me good at selling myself?  Not always, but I have picked up a few tips over the years about how to make a good sale – one in which I don’t feel like I am a snake oil salesman and that it is truly a win-win for me and the buyer.

Here are my tips:

1.    Believe in it, or don’t sell it – the times when my sales efforts have fallen completely flat are when I really didn’t believe in what I was selling.  I have tried, on occasion, to convince myself that since everyone else seems to believe in an idea it must be just me, therefore I can get out there and sell it.  Nope, does not work.  People will see through that in a nana second.  Same holds true when you are selling yourself – believe in yourself and your ability to do the job and project that.

2.    It is not about what you are selling, it is about what the buyer is buying!  Ever been in the room when someone was trying to sell something so hard, but it was obvious that it was not what the buyer wanted to buy?  As brilliant as you might be at extolling the virtues of you, your services or your product, if you are not thinking about what the buyer is actually looking for, you are unlikely to make the sale.

As an example, in the Olympic world, we learned that we could talk about the benefits of an Olympic sponsorship until the cows come home, but if we could establish an emotional connection between the executives of a company and the idea of supporting the commitments and accomplishments of the world’s athletes, we were much more likely to make the sale.

This does not mean that you necessarily adapt yourself to what a potential employer or client is looking for, but it does mean that you interrogate yourself as to your “fit” with what the buyer wants.  Do they truly just want someone to take orders and not initiate – and that’s not you – then maybe you are not selling what they want to buy.

3.    The buyer is buying you – that is not crass, it is a fact: people buy from people.  You could try just riding on your CV and your credentials but in the end the person across the desk wants to know what kind of person you are and whether you can work together.  Let that person shine, in your authentic manner.

One of my best jobs resulted from being hired by a fabulous woman who tops my best mentors ever list.  When she hired me she said:  “Apart from the fact that I think you will do the job well, I also think we will get along.  Every day I face opposition from external politics, outside competitors, you name it.  I want to work with someone I can get along with.”

4.    Remember to close the deal! – many potential deals have never seen the light of day because someone did not close the deal.  You may have a terrific conversation with a potential buyer but if it is not clear where things go next or how the loop is closed, you may end up without the job or contract.  Is that only up to the person doing the hiring?  Nope!  As the seller you have a role to play according to what is appropriate in the situation.  If it is not clear what will happen next, some questions you might ask: “I would love to understand the next steps in our discussion please?  What can I do to advance this discussion to the next level?  Can I give you a call at the end of the week to find out where you are at?”  (And then don’t leave the room without establishing a time in both your schedules.)

5.    It isn’t over until it’s over – even if you think you have effectively closed the deal, things can drag on.  No confirmation phone call, no contract flowing into your Inbox, silence at the other end.  What to do?  Create a call to action, without sounding desperate or that you are panicking that there is no deal. “I haven’t heard from you and I want to ensure I hold the time in my calendar to do the work” or “I haven’t heard from you and I am wondering if there is any additional information, references etc that I can provide to help with your decision?”

A question that frequently comes up is: when do I give up?  It may have been days, weeks or months since you heard from the prospective employer/client, but when do you call it quits?  My suggestion is that you don’t call it quits until the person on the other side actually says its over.  Their silence or non-response may be an indication that they think it is over, but for whatever reason they are not communicating that to you (highly unprofessional but it happens).  Or it may simply be that the person is mired in other priorities or waiting for a third person to make a decision.  Back to point 5 above: create a call to action, preferably with a deadline.  I would really like to hear from you by October 31 so that I can make appropriate plans.

There are great books, programs and tools on selling techniques – take advantage of them by all means.  But remember: YOU are a big part of the selling equation!

Happy selling!

Changing it up in September – 5 Tips on Being the Change You Want

September 15, 2016

Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Put into the context of our lives as they intersect with our careers, what the heck does that mean?

I readily admit to struggling throughout my career to see whether anything I was doing was really changing the world for the better. As a journalist, I didn’t uncover the great scandal and write the expose that put bad people out of business. In the arts, I didn’t discover a hidden genius and promote her into a spotlight of recognition. In the major event world, I often tussled with whether events I worked on were making the world a better or worse place.

Gandhi’s further statement helps: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.”

That is an easier one to get my head around: the idea that in remaking myself, which I see as a lifelong work in progress, could make a change.

With September upon us – a month we often see as the true beginning of a new year – it is perhaps worth taking stock of how we might be the change(s) we want to see in the world. Here are the tips from Mahatma Gandhi that resonate for me:

  1. Changing your outer world does not work unless you first change your inner world.
    Quitting your job and moving to another one, won’t necessarily give you the change you need. Just like deciding to “retire” and live a different life of some type, won’t work unless you have made the internal changes that will give you a new way of looking at things. In either case, you may just be dragging along all the baggage you had from the previous situation, arriving in a new physical location but with the old way of looking at things. Recipe for disaster.
  2. You are the only one with your hands on the controls.
    “Nobody can hurt me without my permission” said Gandhi. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can certainly control how you react to it. You can choose to go into hysterics, react with abnormal calm, or simply process it and move on. Understanding that you are the only one who is the boss of you is an incredibly powerful muscle that gets stronger as you exercise it.
  3. Action trumps everything.
    “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching” said Gandhi. In other words, just do it! In the business world, there is much discussion about what brings the most success: strategy, execution, culture of an organization, etc. In my world, thoughtful (and sometimes not so thoughtful) action has reigned supreme. It may be the wrong move, you may need to course correct (even repeatedly) but move! Enough talking or you may end up as another mentor of mine once described: “That guy is all hat and no cattle!”
  4. Hang in there.
    Here’s what Gandhi said on this one: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” And ain’t that the truth! In this world of instant gratification, we can be too quick to give up on our dreams, on making the changes in our lives that we want. Hang in there – it is a marathon, not a sprint.
  5. To thine own self be true.
    Invoking Shakespeare here, but the above is also one of my mother’s favorite pieces of wisdom. Gandhi’s take on it: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Trying to achieve this can be easier said than done. There is a veritable bear pit of bad behaviors that we can fall victim to. Telling people what they want to hear instead of what I really feel is one that I need to safeguard against. But how can you make change if you are not owning up to being authentic?

Like I said, I am a work in progress on being the change I want to see in the world. But the greatest pleasure – and satisfaction that I may finally be doing something that makes at least a tiny dent in forming a better world – is working with others to help them make their change. Let’s talk!

Happy September!

p.s. Want to read more about our upcoming Designing Your Third Chapter! workshops?  Click here

 

DESIGNING YOUR THIRD CHAPTER

August 17, 2016

LIMITED SPACE !  REGISTER BY SEPT.16, 2016.

Whistler, BC – October 27-29, 2016
Open to couples and individuals
Led by: Linda Oglov with presenters Janine Guenther,Lorraine McGregor and Robb Lucy .

Banff, Alberta – November 3-5, 2016
Women only
Led by: Linda Oglov, Lorraine Moore and Loretta Smith, with presenters Janine Guenther and others to be announced.

 Who Are These Workshops For?

Anyone approaching or in their Third Chapter (aged 50-75), looking to be strategic and self-reflective about what they want this important chapter of their lives to be.

  • Men or women who are still occupied with successful careers and/or raising a family who may be looking to change their career path for the Third Chapter
  • Anyone seeking inspiration, guidance, clarity, ideas on charting their path forward.

Timing/Fees:

  • October 27-29 (Thurs 5 pm to Saturday noon) – Whistler, BC
  • November 3-5 (Thurs 5 pm to Saturday noon) – Banff, AB
  • Fees: $945 for individuals; $1600 per couple, plus GST

About the facilitators and presenters:

Linda Oglov:    CEO and Executive Coach; former Olympic and Major Events Marketing Professional www.oglov.com

Lorraine Moore:  Author, Management Consultant, Executive Coach www.acceleratesuccess.ca

Loretta Smith: Entrepreneur, Business Strategist, Leadership Coach  www.genesis-em.com
Janine Guenther: Portfolio Manager /Investment Advisor, CIBC Wood Gundy  https://www.cibcwg.com/web/janine-guenther/who-i-am
Robb Lucy:  Author, Legacies Aren’t (Just) for Dead People!;  www.yourlegacysmile.com
Lorraine McGregor: Business Strategist, Performance Coach Spirit West Management  www.spiritwest.com
 

For more information

Visit: www.oglov.com/third-chapter.php

E-Mail:
linda@oglov.com

Phone:  604-288-7031

Click here to read more!
Hope to see you either in Whistler or Banff this Fall!

Linda Oglov

Heart or wallet? Which Legacy is yours? Tips to help you kick start your life legacy planning

June 2016

“There are two types of Legacy” says Robb Lucy, author of Legacies Aren’t (Just) for Dead People!, and a presenter at our next Designing Your Third Chapter workshop. “Legacies from your wallet, and Legacies from your heart. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to create Legacies from your heart; Legacies that will stir your soul, connect you to more people, and frankly make you happier.”

“Most people think Legacy is just about money” says Lucy. “Even the financial services industry admits they hijacked the word Legacy and made it theirs. We are going to wrestle ‘Legacy’ out of their white knuckle grip and show that creating your Legacies makes life so much richer, much more than just leaving money to the kids.”

Robb is a writer, producer and connector who lives in Tsawwassen with his wife Kim. His career began with six years as a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He then formed his own company, producing mixed media for corporations and governments, and moved on to produce content that now gets kids exercising and smiling in classrooms around the world. He spent 25 years on the local, national and international boards of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and helped develop non-profits in literacy, sports history and cancer awareness. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“Most people hear about their mark on life, their Legacies, from their eulogist” Lucy says. “A little late I say. I want to know what my Legacies are, and I want to enjoy them, Now!”

Several years ago Lucy said life blind-sided him. He and his wife lost their first child, and there were no more to come. Then both his parents died. Then one morning the doctor called and told him he had cancer. “All of this got me thinking: what could my Legacy be?” said Lucy. “I’m not rich. And even if I was, who’s going to get it all?”

“I started researching, questioning, and wondering. What really is a Legacy? Does it have to be about money or fame? Will I only know what mine is when everyone at my funeral nods in agreement – ‘yup, that’s his Legacy alright’.”

Over the course of the next few years, Robb set out to explore what a Legacy could be, how to build them, and what their benefits are. His book is the result; an entertaining and enlightening read, packed with practical tips and simple formulas to help the reader build many fulfilling, life affirming Legacies.

Robb’s presentation will take you to a place where you understand what your Legacies can be… with you saying “I can do that!” It could be a tiny legacy, like a community garden… or a large legacy, like an international charity.

Whatever your Legacies are to be, Robb knows the time to start is Now! Here are Robb’s top tips to kick start your Legacy planning:

1. Values – They drive us, and they will drive meaningful Legacy creation too.
2. Talents and Skills – the ones you have… and the ones you want to have. Legacy isn’t just about giving to others. It’s about growth… and the smiles that brings.
3. Dreams – With the raw materials above, these dreams become real. And they are the Legacies that you enjoy, Now!

These days Robb shares what he has learned about Legacies with a broad international audience through his book; by creating mixed media Legacy records for clients; and through his workshops. Recently his book was the basis of a continuing education course he offered at Simon Fraser University. Robb will offer a 2-hour workshop at our next Designing Your Third Chapter workshop.

You can see more about Robb and his book at www.YourLegacySmile.com
Have a great summer everyone!

Linda

Have you hit the peak moment of your career yet? 5 Tips on knowing when you have arrived

May 2016

Have you already passed the peak point in your career?  Or is it still ahead of you?  Even more significantly, how do you know if it is behind you, ahead of you or perhaps right in front of you?

I was recently part of a small, warm celebration of former colleagues marking the 30th anniversary of Vancouver’s EXPO 86. Lo those many years ago, we had been part of the staff that put on a World’s Fair that attracted 22 million visitors over the course of 5 ½  months in 1986.

Understandably, it was a peak career moment for many people.  There was the rush of being part of something so big, so global.   The opportunity to be part of a group of people that included those that were hand-picked for their unique skills, those that got there because of who they knew, those that were already event gypsies (or later became so) – and somehow all mushed together into an extraordinary team that put on an extraordinary event.  Heady stuff!  No wonder many of the staff and volunteers still mark their EXPO 86 experience as the high point of their career 30 years later.

The anniversary gave me pause to reflect on what actually makes a career highlight.  When your job is attached to words like World Exposition, Olympics, World Cup World Tour of (fill in the blank for any number of bands and other performers), there may be an expectation that that job is as good as it will ever get.  Maybe you continue to find ways to keep working on those events and it gets better and better, and then again maybe the first gig was the best one or even your only one in that world.

Not everyone – in fact, the majority of those creating and living careers – don’t have their stars hooked to major events.  Their careers are linked to the financial services industry, mining, green energy, education, medicine, or any number of other “real” jobs.  Whereas the major event industry tends to have a life compressed into a few single digit years, most people’s careers are more of a slow burn that starts with education, evolves into early experience and makes it way through a series of highs and lows over the course of 20-30-40 years.

Whether your career is on the more traditional scale or wild and wooly, how do you know when you have actually hit the peak point?  Is it when you are making the most money ever?  Or when you have the most people reporting to you, or when you are simply feeling like you are running on all cylinders, nothing can stop you, you are on fire!  Maybe it is simply when you are having the most fun, loving the people you are working with.  Or maybe a career is like mountain climbing and the peak always seems to be ahead of you.

As ever, I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these questions but here is what I have observed over the years – perhaps with some tips that may help you identify the peak of your career:

All that glitters is not gold – the big shiny events and projects are fun to work on and sometimes there is personal career gold along the way…and sometimes it is just glitter.  Glitter can blind you for a period of time so it does not sustain a career – but here’s the thing, neither does gold!  Whether you define gold as financial rewards or a big title, or in some other way, it tends to be fairly fleeting.  A sustained career peak of solid gold is a rare thing.  If things like money and title define your peak, then enjoy those things while they are happening.  The trick?  Figuring out how to turn those riches into something that does sustain you not just through a career, but also through a life.

The race is run at many different speeds – in my observation, slow and steady can win the career race but sprinters can do just fine!  Some people shoot out of the gate early, run a fast and successful career race and then do fabulous other things with their lives from personal achievements like travelling the world to making a difference in other people’s lives.   Watch those people and observe when their “podium moment” really was.

You can always get what you want – I subscribe heavily to the belief that all we are given is time and the raw materials to make the life, and career, that we want.  The thing that I see people struggle the most with is working out what it is they actually want.  If the only raw materials you have to make dinner are eggs and butter, chances are that you will make scrambled eggs.  If you have a pantry full of all sorts of culinary delights, the question of what’s for dinner can be much more complex.  Similarly, your career can simply be made from what’s readily at hand, or you can zero in which of the many delights in front of you that will be most fulfilling.  Either ways, you have the ability to decide on what the best career meal of your life will be.

Sometimes there is no TV coverage – if you are standing somewhere on a podium, accepting an award while a roomful of people and millions of others watch on TV (ok, on Facebook!), then chances are that may feel like the peak of your career.  And maybe it is.  But I am reminded of a peak moment in my career that was realized as I leaned wearily against the wall of a hotel elevator, all alone and with really no one else in the world who knew that this was a peak moment for me.  No one else needed to know except me.

Yes, it is about the people – solitary moments of glory aside, our lives and our careers are very much about the people we share them with.  Can you have a career peak when you work with people you don’t like, don’t respect or have nothing in common with?  Maybe but it is less likely.  We are social, competitive, collaborative beings who like to bask in the acknowledgement of others.  But that can simply be the quiet words of thanks or recognition from a co-worker, a parent or the person who really liked the vegan wrap you just made for them.  There is a somewhat tacky saying that gets posted on walls of all descriptions:  It is hard to soar like an eagle when you are flying with turkeys.  Harsh but true.  Trick is to figure out how you can be an eagle and not one of the turkeys.

 
I wish you many great career peaks – those that you can savour because you have already hit them, those that are yet to be scaled, and most of all those that might be right in front of you.

What does “be the best you can be” actually mean? 3 Tips on what it might mean to you

April 2016

How can you not want to know more about a woman who lightheartedly calls herself The Feel Good Lady!  That’s Tina Thrussell, the Calgary-based instructor who will lead a Nia session at our Designing Your Third Chapter workshop in Banff, May 12-14.  

Tina’s website tells us she is a lot of things:  Inspirational / Motivational Speaker; Facilitator (of seminars, workshops, retreats, and healing sessions); Nia® Teacher; Writer; Personal Wellness and Success Coach; Trilotherapist; Quest Master; Master Hugger and Lover of Life!  (www.tinathrussell.com) 

 “I laugh out loud as I realize it’s taken me 50 years to get honest with myself,” says Tina. “Whether it’s noble or not, my playful spirit, that delightful, joyful sprite that I’ve held hostage for so long, is now free to be.  I’m here on this big blue planet to feel good, to live life passionately, joyously, playfully…. and to share my belief that everyone deserves to feel this good.”

While Tina’s professional offerings are varied, there is an underlying current based on the intrinsic value and sheer joy of physical movement.  And yes, the older we get the more important it is to ensure those body parts are moving.

Nia is the art of movement, a cardio-dance workout that initially stood for  Non-Impact Aerobics. Nia is a health and fitness alternative that emerged in the ’80’s, evolved to include neurological integrative practices and teachings, incorporating the energies of 3 dance arts, 3 martial arts and 3 healing arts.   A practitioner for many years, Tina has been teaching Nia since 2007 and says her students are attracted to the dance-based movements to uplifting music.

“It is working out without feeling like you are working out,” says Tina.  “At the end of a class, people will often realize they are sweating and wonder when that happened!  Nia works for all ages – it’s not about getting the steps right, it’s about keeping the body moving.  And it’s fun!”

Tina and her husband co-founded Best U Can B Inc in 2003 and have been steadily evolving the business ever since.  What’s on the horizon for Tina in her own Third Chapter?

“More of the same – plus MORE,” says Tina.  “We are currently refocusing our work and will soon be announcing our very exciting new directions.”

I am looking forward to Tina’s session on Nia at our Banff workshop.   Here are Tina’s top tips on what being the best you can be might mean for you:

1.    No matter what age you are – MOVE!  The benefits of movement, not only for your physical well-being but for your mind and soul, are well documented.  You can be in your 80s or 90s and still get yourself into a Nia class or some other form of regular movement.

2.    Stop taking yourself so seriously!  Here’s what Tina says about herself: “After a long, intense (and disturbingly serious) journey of self-discovery, self-awareness and self-improvement throughout the turbulent river of my life, I’ve surfaced with a delightfully refreshing outlook.  “Oh, stop taking yourself so seriously!  Live a little!”  “.

3.    Make it a daily practice.  Whatever form of exercise you choose, weave it into your daily life.  Tina promises to provide our workshop participants with tools to take away that will help this process.

Hope to see you in Banff!

For more information: Email linda@oglov.com or lorraine@acceleratesuccess.ca  or register on our website: www.oglov.com/registration-third-chapter-Alberta2016.php 

What can we learn from a Million Dollar Consultant Inductee and Burning Man Aficionado? 5 Tips on entering your Third Chapter from a woman who is both and more!

March 2016

My colleague Lorraine Moore sees a seamless fit between being one of the newest inductees into Alan Weiss’ Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame, and her love for attending the annual Burning Man event in Nevada.  Not only that, but she sees her love of a diverse lifestyle as something that will carry her into the Third Chapter of her life with grace.

“I think of myself as someone with energy, passion, experience – but also someone who has had to make unexpected detours in life and still managed to find my path again,” says Lorraine, who is President of Accelerate Success and runs this highly successful global business from her home base in Calgary, Alberta.  Lorraine is my partner in hosting the Designing Your Third Chapter workshop in Banff, May 12-14, 2016.

“I am excited to participate at our workshop with a group of accomplished women who may still be going hard at their careers, may be emerging or still in the midst of caring for children or grandchildren – but who want to take a moment out of all that and take a look at what they want the Third Chapter (aged 50-75) of their lives to be.”

Lorraine will have lots to share with the group.  If the early part of her career is impressive – as a member of the executive team at TD Bank, she led the largest financial services merger in North American history; as a TransCanada Pipeline exec, she led the successful first phase of Keystone pipeline – the more recent stages have picked up even more steam!

Lorraine founded Accelerate Success in 2010 and creates unprecedented outcomes for organizations and individuals. Her seminal work in inspired leadership delivers game-changing outcomes. A thought leader in strategic speed, innovation, and executive performance, Lorraine is sought out to contribute to the transformation of companies and individuals. Her global client base includes organizations such as Enbridge, BHP, Telus, KPMG, Brion, Cofely Fabricom, University of Calgary, Garner Corporation and others. Lorraine chairs two MacKay CEO Forums in Calgary with participants from more than 25 national organizations.

She is the author of the forthcoming books, Feet to the Fire, How to Exemplify and Create the Accountability That Creates Great Companies, and 360 Degree CEO.

Along the way, she has been a wife for 30 years, mom, step-mom, daughter, sister, auntie and major contributor to her home communities.  She loves travel with her husband and all things wild and wonderful, including attending Burning Man, the annual gathering of tens of thousands of people in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where she indulges her passion for art, music, theatre and diverse cultural experiences.

Arguably, Lorraine has laid the foundation for setting herself up for a great Third Chapter.  Here are her tips for going into that chapter:

Make lifelong learning a commitment – Lorraine is continually setting her sites on higher learning goals.  As one of the newest inductees into Alan Weiss’ Million Dollar Hall of Fame, the citation sums it up:  “(Lorraine is) an example to all of us in committing herself to lifelong learning and the continual creation of new ideas to help others to grow their practices and enrich their lives, engaging her clients, colleagues, and audiences with her enthusiasm, wit, and innovation.”

That commitment is not going away.  Lorraine has many ideas about where she wants to grow and learn, plus she is excited about the learning opportunities she hasn’t even identified yet!

Redefine being a grandparent – “I met a woman recently who is still going strong with her career well into her 60s.  One of the things that her health and situation enables her to do is, as each of her grandchildren turns 12, they are offered a trip anywhere in the world they want to go.  How cool is that?!  Instead of just being available for babysitting, this grandmother creates an experience that her grandchildren will never forget.”

Figure out what “giving back” means to you – with a longtime track record of giving to her community, Lorraine is now contemplating what giving back will mean in her Third Chapter.  Right now this includes fund raising, not for profit director roles and hands-on volunteering at a respite facility for newborns to 12 year olds. Lorraine and her family also donate a portion of her revenues to charities. She will attain her ICD.D accreditation in June. “I am not sure what the next stage will look like but we are so blessed, I will continue to seek opportunities to give back in a way that draws on my gifts and experience.”

Leave a legacy – Lorraine’s take on this:  “a lot is said about leaving a legacy, but I truly want to figure out what that is going to be for me.  To get at this, my plan is to explore this topic with others, to read, to learn and reflect.”

Listen to other women’s stories – “I don’t have all the answers to what the Third Chapter of anyone’s life should be, including mine – but I know that the key lies in the opportunity to reflect, hear other women’s stories and collectively take away some of the anxiety about what that chapter will be.”

What do you want your obituary to say? 5 Tips That Might Point You in the Right Direction

While it may seem like a morbid thought, influenced by the recent loss of another dear friend, in fact I have been thinking in very positive terms about what I would hope my obituary might say.

Life and death are givens. The only influence we have over our life now is what is ahead of us. What may someday be written about our life before this point is not under our control. But I hope there are many chapters ahead for all of us and I believe we have the opportunity to help shape those chapters.

When I think of the inspirational people who have lived this chapter ahead of us, it is not just Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa, great as they were, who inspire me but the people who took the life they had and LIVED IT. Being a planner, I love to hear about what people are doing to plan for the life they want. Sure we can plan for a particular life and then get hit by a curve ball, but why shouldn’t we be the architects of our own future?

Over the past year, along with several other talented people, I have developed and delivered a workshop called Designing Your Third Chapter for people aged, or approaching, 50-75. This workshop has been a real pleasure because of the people who have shared their stories, their dreams for adventures ahead, and yes what they want their obituaries to say.

The woman who plans to continue her very successful career in the world of finance, but thinks that someday she would like to design shoes inspired us. Or the person looking to sell the business she founded and create a new way of being for the community she lives in. Many people seem to want to continue to work and be engaged in the business world – but maybe doing something completely different than what they now do.

As you mold the ball of wax that is your personal, family and business life, here are some thoughts that might help shape the obituary that will eventually be written:

1. LIVE TODAY – got something you want to do? What are you waiting for? If you wait until everything is 100% perfect, it may well be too late. If you wait until you retire, until you have enough money, until it stops snowing or raining…the train may have left the station and you may never catch it!

I would like my obituary to say something like: “Linda never missed an opportunity to take that trip, eat that piece of carrot cake, or hike up George Hill with a friend.”

2. CREATE THE LIFE YOU WANT – I read this great line recently: if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it. I often write about how we all have choices – we make them and then there are consequences, good and bad. But the thing I am reminding myself is that your view of the life you want needs to be updated every now and then. Still stuck on the idea that the life you want involves a big house and garden, or to live in a particular location? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.

Possible line for my obit: “In her early years, Linda created a life of travel – living and working in several countries from Asia to Europe. Later in life, she enjoyed the peace of her Pender Island garden and the sunshine of San Miguel de Allende. And then! She shook it up a bit and……(chapter still to be written!).”

3. BEING BUSY IS NOT NECESSARILY SERVING YOU WELL – man, you can avoid a lot of things by being busy. “Would love to do that, but I am just too busy” or “I have too much on my plate – couldn’t possibly (fill in the blank)”.

Being busy is not at all the same as being productive. Some of the most successful top executives that I know are the ones who work hard, but have the ability to switch it off and focus on their family and themselves. They don’t feel the need to constantly check their devices, work until midnight every night, never get time to fit in that workout. I would argue that because they are not always busy, they are more productive. Busyness is not something to aspire to – but achievement is.

Here’s what I hope my obit would NOT say: “Linda was a hard worker.” Rather I would hope for: “Linda achieved much in her life but her priorities were always her loved ones.”

4. IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF, NO ONE ELSE WILL – it is not other people’s job to love you, it is yours. It is like the message we get on airplanes: secure your own mask before assisting others. It is hard to get ahead in this world if you don’t love yourself. Self-confidence – or the appearance thereof – is a HUGE part of achievement. Not feeling the love for yourself today? Fake it until it kicks in. Someone else giving you grief over how you are showing up in life? Too bad, let them accept how you are, or move on.

Not sure how this part of the obit might read but maybe: “Linda believed in self respect, as much as she believed in respect for others. Her self respect slipped on many occasions, but she always (usually?) found it again.”

5. SURVIVAL GOES NOT TO THE FITTEST, BUT TO THOSE WHO CAN ADAPT – Life can change in an instant. One minute you are a healthy, strong person out in the world, the next you are not. One minute you are at the top of your game, the next you are not. One minute nothing seems like it will work out, the next it all falls into place. In my experience, the trick is not just surviving the down times, but adapting to the new realities – be they good or bad.

Would that I be so lucky as to have my obit read: “Linda rolled with the punches. When life dealt her a nasty blow, she picked up and carried on. When her world was full of sunshine and apple blossoms, she went out and rode her bike.”

Reading these possible lines for my obituary, I realize I have a lot of work to do if I want them all to be true!

What are the choices you are going to make in 2016? 5 Tips on Setting Your Course for the New Year!

I have long thought that one of the saddest things is a person who either truly does not have choices, or perhaps worse, does not see the choices they do have. Unlike the Syrian refugees adrift on the Aegean Sea who had only one choice, which was to flee their oppressive regime by whatever means they could, most of us are blessed with a multitude of choices. And for that we should be grateful each and every day.

We are each a product of the choices we have made over the course of our lives. We have made good choices and bad choices, but there is no rolling back the calendar. We have only future choices and, as the saying goes, if you want a different result, make a different choice.

In my own life, I have made choices that mean I am not as rich as I might be, or that I don’t have certain people whom I once loved and respected in my life anymore. But I have also made choices that led to pursuits and accomplishments that I could never have imagined, and introduced me to people who provide unexpected richness to the fabric of my life.

How was I to know that I would find incredible satisfaction in executive coaching because I made a choice to leave the Olympic marketing world? That choice was based on a desire for something different but I really had no idea that it would open up the space for a whole new line of business.

While I have made decisions that led to not having certain people in my life anymore, others have chosen not to have me in their lives. Those choices usually come with a fair bit of pain, but they too open up new possibilities.

So with the start of 2016, I am thinking a lot about the choices I want to make this year. As my life and career tick along, I am acutely aware that I am blessed with the good fortune to be able to make choices. It is not always easy: I have never really been paralyzed with making decisions, but I am a work in progress when it comes to training myself not to second guess my choices!

Here are the key choices I am going to make in 2016 and what I am going to do to make them happen – let me know if any of these work for you:

1. Happiness – I choose to be happy in 2016 and I understand that means that sometimes I need to work at it. As the great British philosopher Bertrand Russell said in his book The Conquest of Happiness: “Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit. … Happiness must be, for most men and women, an achievement rather than a gift of the gods, and in this achievement, effort, both inward and outward, must play a great part.”

My commitments: I am going to make choices that support the goal of happiness and I am going to work at making them work. Inward: I have long talked about trying meditation as a means to banish negative thoughts – so I am signing up for a meditation course! Outward: I know I wear my mood on my face and body. The simple act of smiling goes a long way for me – I will consciously remember to do that.

2. Risk – nothing of value has come to me without an element of risk. Not for me the safe choice, the predictable choice. I don’t know if you have more to lose when you get older or less, but I will continue to choose the riskier path. As an example, will I go with the tried and true workshop that is sure to make money and influence people, or the riskier new workshop that is unproven and risks being either a dismal failure or a great success? You guessed it!

3. Change – this often goes hand in hand with risk, but sometimes it is a choice unto itself. This is one that is harder as you get older. I like my comforts, my routine, but I also know change is another key element in my wellbeing. I commit to making at least one big change this year that will rock me out of my comfort zone and maybe surprise me – for better or worse!

4. Success – I don’t care if I am at an age where it might be considered that all my successes are behind me, I choose to have more! I want to have more successful days than not; more successful relationships, than not. I know that 2016 won’t be a road paved only with successes but as Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Hence my commitment is to courage.

5. Action – this is a hallmark of my existence and I will consciously make choices that are geared to movement. Physical movement: a commitment to my personal trainer, yoga, walking and cycling. Psychological movement: see points 1-4 above!

Would love to know what choices, big and small, you will make in 2016? Please share and if you are looking for someone to hold you accountable to those choices, I am happy to do that!

My sincerest best wishes for a fabulous 2016!

Do you really shut down over the holidays? 5 Tips to help you unplug, chill out and enjoy!

There were not many days in the year when my father, a horse trader by trade, actually took time off, but Christmas Day came pretty close. He always said that when you had responsibility for living breathing animals – sometimes upwards of 100 horses – there was no such thing as a day off.

But on Christmas morning, ideally a sunny bright wintry day in Ontario, after the chores were done at both farms, Dad would take me and my sisters and brothers (whoever happened to be old enough at the time) to my Uncle Cam and Aunt Bessie’s kitchen. Aunt Bessie was an amazing cook, the house always smelled heavenly and the treats were truly divine.

We rarely took off our snowsuits and boots. Instead, Dad would proclaim “no, no we can’t stay” and we would sit with snow melting on the newspapers on the floor as over the course of the extended visit, we peeled off layer after layer in the warm kitchen. Over the course of an hour or so, pleasant Christmas greetings were exchanged and we kids stuffed as many goodies into us as we could, we would suit up again and depart. Home to a big mid-day Christmas meal that my mother had been working on since the early hours of the morning – no day off for her either! After some opening of presents, we would be back in the barn for evening chores.

This may seem like it would barely qualify, but it is the closest I remember to my Dad actually taking time off. There might have been the odd few hours by a summer lake or nap in the chair in front of the TV, but not much real shut down and chill out time. This took its toll on him, and his family, in many ways but one of the most notable was that when he got into his older, so-called retirement years – he had no idea how to relax, pursue any interest other than work and really did not have many friends. Sad results of a life lived in which he never really lifted his head from work to see what else there might be.

Do you truly shut down and turn off over the holiday season? Today’s equivalent to my Dad’s experience might be that you take some time with the family, but you still slope off to knock off a couple of emails or sneak a peak at that report that someone sent you. While we might be able to recite the benefits of truly going to shut down mode, not just temporary “sleep” mode, we can easily slip into full on work mode particularly since it is so darn easy with the technology at our fingertips.

I am as guilty as the next person of being a slave to my iPhone. Plus I love the work I do so it does not feel like a hardship to pickup a file and do some work after a bit of down time. But if you never completely shut it off, work permeates your life and after a while you can’t really tell the difference between on and off.

So here’s how I am truly going to OFF over the holidays – might be something in here that resonates with you:

1. From electronic hearth to wood-fired hearth – NO electronic devices will pass before my eyes each day of the holidays (Dec 24-Jan 2) – except for a designated half hour in the morning to ensure my world has not fallen apart (like that is going to happen!). Instead, the wood-fired hearth will occupy my time with a book – a REAL book! – in hand. Love my Kindle but it is an electronic device – back to the paper pages!

2. Take that snow suit off and stay awhile! – I will fully commit to time with family and friends. I will not be partway in the door or dashing from place to place. Emphasis on quality of time, not quantity.

3. Reflection qualifies as down time – there is never enough time in our day to day lives for true reflection, so I am going to set aside time for that. No forms, no self-help books, just quiet reflection on where my life is going and what I want out of 2016.

4. Someone else’s desperation is not my desperation – I knew someone who worked for a CEO who would go in to the office every Christmas Day and fire off a fax (in the days of) to his senior team. Some team members would actually see it and respond – all so they could demonstrate that their commitment was so great, they would even respond on Christmas! Someone else’s desperate need to prove how busy and important they are is not mine.

5. My down time has equal or greater value than my work time – I know I will be happier, more productive and prosperous in the ways that I want to be prosperous if I turn off, shut down and chill out.

Happy Holidays everyone and here’s to a great 2016!

Linda

PS – watch for announcements of new workshops in my January newsletter! Partnering with some great folks to deliver a Designing Your Third Chapter workshop in BC, Alberta and Ontario! More soon!