Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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When you are “aspiring” …

Yesterday, I wrote about my response to the aspiring author who wanted my advice on how to write a book. It was quite simple. Start the book. Finish it.

Have the dream, do the work. This advice applies for anyone who aspires to do anything different, whether the dream is to write books or be an astronaut. What good is a dream if it stays locked in the imagination? That’s just fantasy. Forget your fear and just take the first tiny action step that turns an idea into reality. If you need to get more education, sign up for a class. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, go get career counseling. Just do something to get going.

Life change sometimes seems so huge and unwieldy that we are paralyzed to take the first step. Stop seeing it for all of its enormity and see it as a series of very workable, manageable steps that you can knock off, one at a time, until your dream is complete.

A book is a great example of what I am talking about. There is no book until you start it. So, start! Just write one page. Don’t get caught up on perfection, but write the page. The next day, write another. Do another page every day and, in about a year, you’ve got your book done. You don’t write a book in one sitting. You do it one step at a time — one page at a time, one word at a time.

The manager at the Goodyear where I go happened to see some of my books in my car when I went in for an oil change and he asked if I was an author. He told me he was working on a novel, then described the plot, which I thought was really good. Every time I go in there, I ask how it is going. He always has a huge progress report. He spends all of his lunch hours in the library. He forces himself to write at least three paragraphs on an index card, which he will type into his computer when he goes home at night. He’s got more than 500 pages written! And, he has done it three paragraphs at a time. See? Just take it a little bit at a time.

That’s the formula for making any change in your life. Don’t overwhelm yourself and be your own biggest naysayer. Just analyze what it will take to make your dream come to life, write down the steps and do them one at a time.

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Advice for the aspiring author…

During the Q&A portion of my keynote yesterday, I was asked what advice I had for an aspiring author who wanted to write her first book.

“Start it!” I said.

“Anything else?” she asked.

“Finish it!”

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That’s about the size of it. Anyhow, back to my very spontaneous advice of “START IT!” and “FINISH IT!”

People get so stopped up because they think they have to write the perfect piece of literary prose. Well, I give everyone permission to write prose that sucks. Just start, get something going, then clean it up later. Go for quantity, not quality, then edit like hell once you have finished a draft. When I was working on my novel, Mermaid Mambo, I went through periods when I couldn’t seem to get anything out of my head. I was uninspired. Then I read the book, No Plot, No Problem! which told me to stop sucking my thumb and just write a massive amount of words every day, for editing later.  Author Chris Baty‘s theory is that you write, write, write without worrying about quality, then quality will emerge. It is a theory that I now ascribe to. Just keep moving forward.

In that novel-writing process, I did produce a few sections that I would never want anyone to ever see, but they were easily deleted. Because of Baty’s advice, I finished the book.

I constantly meet people who tell me they want to write books. They ask me for advice and I always tell them that, if they will just write one single page a day, they’ll be done in a year. And, I tell them to buy The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents. The publishing industry will give you brain damage, if you let it. Those books tell you the truth and guide you through the maze.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

The Great Depression of 2008

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Well, what is it today? Russia’s going to wipe out Georgia, and talk radio says we are on the brink of World War III. The economy is in the crapper, and talk radio says we are on the verge of a depression. Frogs are dying and global warming is real and so earth is about to bite the dust and…

What is going on here! Seriously, if you pay attention to the news or the pontifications, we are all on the verge of extinction, killing humanity with either our brute force, greed or stupidity. Are we on the verge of a depression? NO! WE ARE IN ONE — and it’s our attitude.

You can’t listen to all of this bad news without it affecting your psyche and behavior. People are afraid they are going to lose their homes, their jobs, their retirement dreams, their security. And, those fears are so powerful that, in so many cases they are real. Positive attitude can’t save your job when your company is going down. It can’t pay your mortgage when you are sinking faster than you can swim. But, attitude is your key to resiliency in tough times.

None of us like feeling out of control, but the world really is spinning these days. Know in your heart that you are strong enough to counter your obstacles with courage and creativity. Don’t let fear paralyze you. It’s paralyzing enough people, but you can steer your way through these hassles because you know you will be okay. You’ve got friends, family and spiritual support. You also have your own strong self to drown out the voice of fear and uncertainty.

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Senior executive with a senior-level inferiority complex

I once met a bank executive who, after telling me most of her life story, confessed her biggest secret.

She’d never gone to college. She had a high school diploma – nothing more.

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Now I have met plenty of people with PhDs who I would never list among the world’s most highly functioning people, so I never base a person’s ability to contribute to this world on their educational track record. One of the best editors I ever had as a journalist never went to college. One of the most short-sighted and nasty individuals I ever met was a Harvard professor.

But there was that bank executive who had an office high atop a very nice office building, and a very impressive title that put here near the top of her bank’s hierarchy.

“I’ve always felt like a failure because I don’t have the education,” she said.

She told me she’d been invited to speak to business students at a local university, but she declined because she was intimidated. She figured they knew more about business than she did, considering that they were college students.

Incredulous, I asked her what the hell she was talking about.

“I’ve never even been to college, and they are juniors and seniors! I have nothing to offer them.”

“How did you find the confidence to get as far as you have?” I asked.

“I just worked hard and kept getting promoted. I think they needed a woman…”

So sometimes your career gains speed and momentum despite everything you think or do to sabotage it. Does her story illustrate that I am wrong about thoughts manifesting success, because obviously, the bank exec’s self-talk shouldn’t have manifested much of anything. Or do we need to go deeper?

I could tell she was sincere when she confessed her insecurities to me, but I knew two things. First, something was driving her success other than her company’s need for a female in a high place. She was not a stupid woman — that was evident — so talent and ability counted plenty. But, what would have happened if she’d totally rewritten that negative story of inferiority that she kept playing inside her head? If she could have gotten beyond that negativity, I am absolutely convinced she could have achieved even more.

There is a lesson in this for all of us. All of us have insecurities. We need to put them in their place.

The Missing Link

When your mother is very ill and your heart is breaking, you want an e-mail like the one my close friend sent me. It was filled with hope and support and love and friendship.

I never acknowledged it.

When I called her to talk, she asked if I were angry. Why hadn’t I responded?

I hadn’t responded because I never received the e-mail.

I know of at least ten e-mails that haven’t gotten to me in the last few months. Those are the ones I’ve found out about and been able to rectify. What worries me are the ones I don’t find out about. Kind words from friends or well-wishers. Inquiries about speaking opportunities. How many people think I have snubbed them when the culprit is some technological glitch?

Then I start to wonder how many e-mails I’ve sent that have gone unacknowledged. I assumed they just ignored the e-mail. But, maybe they didn’t even get it.

If it’s a personal e-mail, this kind of mess-up can really hurt feelings. If it is a business e-mail, it can hurt the bottom line. I wonder what we can about it, short of everyone having to r.s.v.p. within 24 hours for every e-mail, which is ridiculous, or just getting rid of e-mail altogether and resorting to good old human contact. That is also ridiculous because none of us has time for that anymore.

Let me know at . I’ll write back.

If I get the e-mail.

Conflict avoidance…

I know a lot of us have a problem confronting those who undermine us or flat-out knife us in the back. We’re afraid that, if we say something, our words will be distorted, spread around and used to hurt us even more. So, we remain silent.

Silence, of course, suggests you condone what happened.

If you are afraid to directly spell out the crime, you can always resort to my secret method of confrontation. Once something has happened, just go up to the person who did it and say, “I know what you did.”

The person gets all out-of-sorts and starts demanding details. “What? What did I do? What are you saying?”

You respond, “I know what you did. I am not going to engage further, but I want you to know you did not get away with it.”

Then, walk away. It is so beautifully effective and absolutely simple.

Is it as good as a direct confrontation where you spell things out and put everything in the open? Generally not. But sometimes, you end up in conflicts with gossippy people who will continue to damage you if you engage. Just know that it is an option.

What Mom taught me about perspective

“Fawn,” my mother said. Her eyes brightened with recognition, thrilled by the surprise visit. “I’m so happy…”

That was an extreme moment of clarity from a once brilliant woman who has faded into the fog of Alzheimer’s and has been in a nursing home now for three years. She’s not doing well this week — she has the MRSA infection throughout her body and we’ve gotten a mixture of reports from her caregivers. They range from hopeful to dark, and there is a thread of seriousness and worry that connects them all. This is a tough time, and it confounds me because she seems healthy on the outside.

My mom had a major stroke in 1992 when she was 66 years old. The signs of Alzheimer’s appeared eight years ago. My father took care of her until he literally wore his back out and we had to let her go to a nursing home three years ago. It is a place where she is happy and feels safe.

I don’t think anyone would have imagined she would have willed her way into her eighties, but that is what she did. Instead of becoming depressed over her loss of independence and mobility, she embraced life fully, finding joy in everything she did. I think of that all the time, because I sometimes get so wound up in the demands of the day that I forget how meaningless those hassles are.

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Mom can’t communicate much, but she can communicate love. That is what has kept her going and has filled her life with more meaning than most able-bodied, fully-alert people have.

I’d like you to meet her. She’s the most amazing woman I have ever met. This short video tells you a truly inspiring story.

Regarding Woman v. Woman conflict…

You have GOT to see this…

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Indulging an old passion

I always tell people to know their passions and indulge them.

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When I was in college, I studied journalism and photography. When I got to my first newspaper after I graduated, I had to make a choice between being a reporter and being a photographer. Reporting won. But, all these years later, I love capturing the moment with my camera. So, here are a few shots from my Alaska gallery that I shot while on a cruise two weeks ago. That old passion for photography still lives in me.

And here is a shot taken of me just enjoying the whole experience:

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A glimpse at the real world, 2008

I’m looking for tenants for a lovely four-bedroom home that I purchased out of foreclosure and renovated recently. Interest in the house has been intense and immediate, and I’ve shown it so many times now that I am exhausted.

Every single person, save one, is coming out of a foreclosure or bankruptcy. I am seeing, up close, what the economy is doing to good, decent people who happily thought they were living their version of the American Dream, only to find they had to escape some kind of financial nightmare. I don’t judge them at all, especially since seeing the kinds of people I have been meeting as they try to pick up the pieces and rebuild for themselves and their families. These are good people with bad problems.

These are heartbreaking times for Americans who are truly struggling. I often tell people that it is in these moments of self-definition that we find our greatest opportunities to define ourselves and create our greatest successes. That may seem way too Pollyanna to say to someone who has just lost a home or has suffered the indignity of a bankruptcy, but I believe it so strongly.

You can either submit to adversity or overpower it. It comes down to mindset. There is more than enough bad news to convince you that the timing is bad, the economy is in the tank and the future is bleak. If you give energy to the negativity, you will fall victim to it — just like most people. But, if there is an amazing amount of opportunity and good fortune available to those people who keep moving forward, ignoring the bad news and zooming past those people who just give up.

free striptease Yes, there is serious trouble in our economy.

Yes, people are losing their homes and jobs.

Yes, we all feel pain every time we pay these gas prices.

But, the world has not stopped. There is still opportunity and fortune available for those who push past these obstacles and keep envisioning real success.

The message that has been most heartening from some of the potential tenants I have been meeting is that the finality of a foreclosure and bankruptcy is followed by a sense of relief. They have unburdened themselves. They are free to start over and succeed again.

I wish them so many great things.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

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