Estranged (A-Z)

Having become a stranger, of one who formerly was close, as a relative, friend, lover, or spouse

I was faffing about with my Kindle Unlimited searches, trying to find something new to read (one of my goals for 2015). The beauty of paying a flat fee per month for any number of books is liberating, because if the book is rubbish, I can just return it. I found this single and was drawn in by the cover; I read the blurb and was hooked. Reading Estranged blew me away. It’s a first-person account of growing up in a middle class family in a middle class town, except Jessica Berger Gross also endured verbal & physical violence at home, which she kept a secret for years.

“…at the age of 28, she realized that her family was so broken it couldn’t be put back together, and so she irrevocably cut ties with her mother and father. As she soon learned, however, such a choice could not be made without calling into question her own essential goodness and morality.”

I love how she explores these ideas of goodness and morality in various ways, and how she tries to make sense of, and peace with, the choices she makes. It’s an interesting topic I’ve seen crop up in one shape or another across various blog posts & comment feeds recently, but I don’t think any of us have taken the steps Jess took. Without giving too much away, the last part, where she’s exploring the morality and consequences of her choices, really hit home for me.

If you’re looking for a quick read, Estranged is £1.49 on Amazon UK, $2.21 or $3.16 on Amazon Canada.

Give Your Idea Life 101

There is a happy place between paralysis by analysis and doing without thinking. In fact, doing without thinking is arguably riskier because you can waste time and money making mistakes which could have been avoided with some good spadework beforehand.

Before you launch your product at the world, start by running through this checklist:

  1. Identify similar offerings & research if they have have struggled commercially. Find out why. Are you about to make the same mistakes?
  2. Will you be competing against a more established company in this space or not? If not, why not? What do they know?
  3. Talk to a knowledgeable adviser about your target audience, distribution channel, or business model. Are there invisible risks?
  4. Map out the process for a single transaction of your product. How will your target audience hear about your product? How will they buy it? How will you handle a problem with the product?
  5. Research the competition. Look at financial statements for companies in your product area. How do they generate revenue? What was their initial outlay? Are you missing an element to compete? Do you have a realistic estimation of what it will take to get to market?
  6. Create a proposition for how you will make money, and describe it to a savvy friend or trusted adviser. Ask them to take your proposition apart! It’s not easy hearing someone poke holes in a long-held vision, but it will help you perfect it.

And then read this incredibly inspiring article about the Shake Shack, which went public today on the New York Stock Exchange!

If you want to read some more, here’s what I’ve got on my Kindle (some are free with my Kindle Unlimited subscription!):

Almost-New Year resolutions

I was so going to post yesterday. I really was! And then I got stuck into reading (decadence!) and researching and as my daughter succinctly put it,”Yeah, you got distracted and lost track of time.” Busted! (I didn’t add I was watching her Sea Monkeys get jiggy; I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a grandma soon!)

Anyway, back on track now….

I don’t really do resolutions. I do ideas of resolutions. It’s easier for me to stay focused on general concepts than one specific thing. It’s kind of how I cook, knit, craft…I’m always adapting (but I don’t mess with baking recipes). I’ve been inspired by all the great blog posts this month about resolutions, so here are some of my favourite ideas for this year….

Stick with the coaching: I’ve been working with the most amazing coach for the last 9 months. She’s made me dig deep & work through some really uncomfortable issues that I could easily have avoided for the next 20 years! But she’s also made me recognise my triggers, my values, my strengths. I can’t recommend her enough! (If you want her name, Contact Me; we use Skype for our sessions, so she is well equipped for international clients)

Catch up with friends & loved ones (face-to-face, if I can): we moved back to London almost 2 years ago, leaving behind good friends. Facebook & Twitter & emails help, but they’re not actual face time. My back-up plan is to send random I’m-thinking-of-you postcards because it gives me an excuse to indulge my stationery habit.

Use Yes & No with a bit more conviction: as a consultant who works on contract, turning down opportunities might mean that no one will ever ask me to do anything ever again! Ridiculous. Get ready to hear I’m-delighted-you-want-me-to-consult-but-I-am-fully-booked-until-(insert date)-Let’s-talk-again-then. Stretching myself thin just results in nasty panic attacks and a half-ar$ed job done. I will learn to say Yes to foods I haven’t tasted before, new coffee-shops, new sports…anything to step outside  the self-imposed barriers. Continue reading

People like pictures

 Coherence around a clear vision leads to a successful output

Remember that strategic planning meeting to discuss how the product/service fits into the overall vision? Remember the Powerpoint presentation and the talking? There was some sort of shared understanding of the current Reality and how the output was meant to improve the vision. Could you recollect the exact aims of the meeting after a week or two? Go on, fess up, did you use a fair mix of education and guesstimation to come up with what you thought you should be doing towards achieving the vision? Did your team-mates do the same? Thought so. This independent thinking probably resulted in a disjointed set of actions, potentially leading to a total departure from the vision. I’m kidding. Not really, but this is worst-case scenario.

From my experience in start-ups & small businesses, it is easier to maintain a steady flow of conversation, to confirm or negate what was agreed at the meeting, shortening the time-frame for ‘recalibration of vision’. In a large company, composed of multiple teams, the potential for nonconformity is much greater, and the time to catch & correct (re-calibrate) is greater.

“People like pictures, ergo Pinterest!”

A visual model is a powerful tool to counteract the memory fade. Our working memory can only hold 7 ± 2 ‘chunks’ of information, so we extend our intellectual abilities with models. They provide a mnemonic aid that enables us to see complicated relationships and easily move between various mind-sized groupings of things.

Truncate your Powerpoint presentation and structure the meeting with ‘doing’ activities  – build a visual model together through storyboarding, sketching, or other forms of creating. The model will encapsulate the vision, and help answer the question, “Why are we doing this?” It goes against the top-down authority mandates and requirement document rulebooks. It capitalises on the opportunity for buy-in & positive engagement from the people ‘on the ground’, and develops a sense of ownership in the strategic direction of the company.

As companies wade through increasingly nebulous product & service challenges, creating rich storyboards & building processes around clear diagrams could increase the prospect of delivering a successful product or service to market.

Communicating with my child

It is widely acknowledged that good communication skills help us to solve problems successfully and maintain good interpersonal relationships.

Communication with others begins at birth, through verbal and non-verbal output. I remember my baby girl used to stick her finger in her ear to tell us she was tired and due a nap. Our communication skills continue to develop through childhood and into adulthood, and as a mother, I want to make sure my child is equipped to express her needs, wants and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.

As an only child, her frame of reference has not including sibling banter, and she’s had to pit herself against two fairly outspoken parents. Knowing this, I took the time to get down to her level when talking to her, I would sit her on my lap when I was correcting her, or discussing her behaviour, and try to make it as safe as I could to say what she needed to say. None of this came easy. As a full-time employee that commuted long hours, my nerves and patience were pretty stretched when I had to tackle these issues. Yeah, I yelled a few times (and felt wretched afterwards, as all parents do!). But for the most part, I truly attempt to keep our chats calm and open – I’m playing the long game and I need to know she’ll still be talking to me when she’s a teenager!

I usually let her know how I’m feeling about a situation, and then let her respond. Something like,”When you did this, it made me feel/made me wonder…” and she has a chance to explain why she did or said something. Sometimes she’ll say,”I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act on it”. I respect that boundary (unless someone is in danger, when all bets are off).

Recently, we instituted a journal (we got the idea from here). We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes, if she’s too mad to talk, she’ll write, and it calms her down. She leaves it by my bedside, and then I’ll read and respond. It works for us. It teaches her that communication is a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.

We’ve stuck to a few simple rules to help us:

  • Think before you speak
  • Don’t shout or speak in anger
  • Speak clearly
  • Tell the other person how you feel – use “I feel” instead of “You did/said…”
  • Say all you want to say, but take turns
  • Listen carefully
  • Hug it out!

And of course, we make time for dates, where we hang out, drink tea & eat cake. Mmmmm – we cake!