You have probably heard the phrase, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Some of you may live by that mantra. Others may feel the fear and let it paralyze them, never taking risks, living a life of safety and complacency. Fear is a natural emotion that we all feel at times, and that can keep us safe when facing danger or something that we are ill prepared for. Fear can prompt us to do more research when embarking on a new venture, and it can serve as the impetus for better planning. But fear can sometimes also stop us dead in our tracks, serving as a barrier to personal and professional growth. Is there a happy medium? Yes!

The Intersection of Fear and Excitement

When clients come to me for coaching around specific issues that they want to do or try but fear is holding them back, I almost always coach them around the intersection of fear and excitement. Let me demonstrate.

Think about something you would like to do, try, or embark on that you haven’t yet because fear has reared its ugly head. For one reason or another, you have fear around trying this activity, doing this task, or embarking on this journey. It makes no difference whether it is personal or professional. It could be as big as starting a new business, changing jobs, or relocating, or a smaller undertaking like startin g a blog or trying a new hobby.

Now, see if you also have excitement around trying this task, activity or new journey. Can you answer yes to the excitement part? If so, great! If you were to look at this potential undertaking as a pie, how much of your reaction and emotion around doing it is fear and how much is excitement? In order for you to overcome the fear, there has to be some excitement to balance it out! And if excitement is a bigger piece of the pie, even better. You will be able to move forward with more confidence knowing that your excitement will help guide the way and cancel out some of the fear.

What if the fear is an overwhelmingly larger piece of the pie than excitement? Does this mean you are doomed to stay stuck forever? Not necessarily. You may not have done enough research or due diligence to get excited about it yet. Excitement often comes when we can start to actually “see” our dreams and future plans take shape, and that can take more time to work out in our minds before the excitement sets in. But if you never feel any excitement about this undertaking and fear is the big black cloud hanging over this, chances are, it is either not the right path for you… or your fear is too large to overcome at this time. So then, what do you do?

Do a Trial Run

You can do a trial run of your undertaking but in a way that feels safer, and perhaps smaller. For example, before opening your business, spend some time interning or shadowing a professional that does what you want to do for a living. This will give you a taste of what it would be like to be a business owner doing that work be fore you actually start it. Likewise, if you want to write a book, but fear keeps holding you back, start by writing a blog or a series of articles. Usually, doing a smaller version or trial run of the undertaking will quell some of the fear and get you pumped up!

Just Do It

In the words of the popular Nike advertising campaign, just do it! Yes, I mean it. Just close both eyes and dive into the deep end. Or in my case, keep your eyes wide open and hands on the wheel, as my fear was driving over bridges. I love to drive and have been doing so since my teenage years. I drive long distances and cover a lot of miles for speaking engagements and personal travel. However, for years, I was afraid of driving over bridges. Strangely enough, I am not afraid of heights, but something about bridges just freaked me out. So what did I do? I drove over a lot of bridges! It helped allay my fears, “conditioned” me to get used to it, and realize I can do it successfully. Doing the actual activity that I was afraid of took a lot of the power out of the fear that I had been giving to it. The fear got less and less until one day I was driving over a bridge a few years ago and realized I no longer felt the fear.

Did I develop excitement about driving over bridges? I wouldn’t go that far! But I did get excited about where driving over bridges could take me. I have become a huge fan of road trips and take them often.

So, what would you do if you could overcome your fear? Figure out if your pie includes at least equal parts excitement and then take a big old bite out of it and dig in!

So, you are searching for a new job?  Perhaps you are making a voluntary career transition.  Maybe you have been laid off, or worse, fired.  Regardless of the reason for your job search, one fact remains true: if you are conducting a job search, it is vital that you take an organized approach.  Managing your job search is just like managing any other major project.  You must create an infrastructure that allows you to operate in an efficient and productive manner.  A successful job search requires forethought and action.  Here are some tips for conducting an organized job search.

1. Declutter and Pre-Purge – If you are embarking on a job search, it will be difficult to do so if your physical space is covered in clutter with piles of papers everywhere.  Take some time to declutter.  Purge any unnecessary items, file papers that you need to keep, recycle junk mail, and get some order back into that space!  It will be easier for you to concentrate on your job search without all of that chaos and clutter around you.  Just be careful that you don’t spend too much time decluttering that you start using it as an excuse to procrastinate with regard to your job search.  A few days should suffice.  

2. Create a Job Search Schedule– Let’s face it – searching for a job is hard work!  If you are still employed while you are conducting your new job search, be prepared to have an extremely busy schedule.  If you are currently unemployed, realize that you do, indeed, have a job – conducting a job search!  Create a job search schedule that gives you ample time for all of the activities you need to focus on in order to succeed: resume and cover letter preparation, surfing the web for jobs, networking, interviewing, follow-up, etc.  Block out time in your calendar for job search activities and treat that time as you would any traditional work commitment.  Be consistent in the amount of time you spend each day and week on job search activities so that you keep your momentum going, and don’t lose focus and miss valuable opportunities.

3. Get Your Gear in Order– Update your resume, cover letter, references, and writing sample (if applicable).  Ask for letters of recommendation and testimonials from previous or current supervisors, co-workers, and professional colleagues.  Get some nice new stationery, and stock up on print cartridges for your printer.  If you want to use an outside source for printing, some local printing shops will copy resumes for free during an economic downturn, so ask around!  Be sure to have a computer with high-speed Internet access.  An all-in-one machine for printing, copying, faxing and scanning will also come in handy during a job search.

4. Create Job Search Central– Set aside space at home (or wherever you will be conducting your job search activities) and make it job search central.  Keep all of your job-search related supplies in that location, which will make it easy for you to find them when you need them.  This will also help you to get into job search mode when you are in that space.

5. Create a Job Search Paper Management System– You may be acquiring a lot of paper in your job search: resources, articles, sample resumes and cover letters, business cards of networking contacts, contact-us-later or rejection letters, etc.  To the extent that you can maintain these items in a paperless fashion, go for it.  But if you have to maintain hard copy paper, be sure to create a job search paper management or filing system, to be stored in your job search center.  Keep it simple and use whatever system makes the most sense to you for ease of use (binder, portable filing bin, traditional filing cabinet, etc).

6. Plan Job Search Activities– Plan out job search activities on a daily basis, such as phone calls to make, resumes to send, online applications to fill out, informational interviews to conduct, etc.  Write down your job search activities as calendar items, to-do’s, or tasks so that you take them seriously and treat them as measurable goals.  Be realistic with regard to what you can reasonably accomplish in one day, but also challenge yourself!

7. Track Job Search Activities – Organizing your job search involves keeping track of all information and communications.  Keep a record of where you sent your resume and when, whom you have spoken to, when interviews took place, etc.  This information will prove vital when deciding when to follow-up with leads.  You can track all of this information using a calendar such as Outlook or Google, or an online tool such as JobFiler.com.  Whatever tools you use, it is important that you be able to track the status of your job search.

8. Manage Job Search Email – In today’s world, much of your job search will likely be conducted by email.  Therefore, before you even start your search, whittle down the amount of email in your inbox so that you can hyper-focus on your job search emails, which will add up quickly.  Create folders within your email system using categories that make sense to you, such as Companies Applied To, Contacts Submitted Resumes To, etc.

9. Polish Your Online Profiles – If you are conducting a job search in today’s market, you would be remiss not to develop an online presence on social media sites, especially LinkedIn, which is the most “professional” of the social media sites and can essentially serve as your online resume.  But also consider other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  The opportunities are endless for employers and contacts to find you online.  You may even have your own website, e-zine, or blog.  Maybe you post articles on various article-marketing sites, or serve as a guest blogger on other blogs.  If you maintain profiles on any of social media sites, or have any type of online presence, be sure to polish your profiles so that they promote the image you want potential employers and contacts to see.

10.  Change Your Greetings – Change the message that greets callers for any phone number that you plan to use for your job search so that it sounds professional, and conveys the information you want callers to hear.  Be prepared, not embarrassed!

11.  Stay Positive – The longer a job search takes, the more chance you have of becoming negative about it.  Try to maintain a positive attitude to the extent you can by monitoring your progress and staying active in your search.  When the going gets rough during a job search, many people take a back seat and give up, which is counter-productive.  Try to stay focused and make valuable contacts that are likely to lead to a job.  However, don’t be all consumed by your search for a job!  Maintaining some balance in your life at this time will serve you well.  Get adequate sleep, eat well, see family and friends for pleasure, and make time for exercise.

Organization is one of the single most important things you can do to keep your job search manageable.  Just like being organized helps you improve any other area of your life, home, or work, it will also help move along your job search in quick and efficient fashion and with less stress.  It may even wind up being the key to finding that dream job you always wanted.

thank_youThe words “thank you” are among the most powerful in almost any language in the world. Think about how amazing they feel to say and to be the recipient of. People say thank you when they want to express gratitude, bring someone joy, acknowledge someone’s hard-working effort, or reward them in some way. The words are simple, but create an impact on the recipient. And… on the person saying them!

Yes, research shows that the greatest benefits of gratitude may actually be experienced by the person who expresses the gratitude, not by the recipient. Indeed, an article in Psychology Today cites several research studies measure the power of gratitude. People that regularly expressed gratitude slept better, were more positive and focused, had more energy and increased attention. Pretty cool, huh?

kitchen_tableThis week, people in United States of America are celebrating Thanksgiving. A holiday with gratitude at the center. I happen to love this holiday. It is fairly low stress compared to many other holidays, and allows people to basically come together to enjoy a nice meal, good conversation, and express their gratitude for all the things in their life, and about each other, that they cherish. But sometimes saying “thanks” at dinner feels forced. Here are four exercises from the Greater Good Science Center to help get the genuine gratitude flowing.

The thing is, gratitude is not a one-day event. It should be a daily event. Yes, it takes foresight, and for some people a little effort, to make it routine. But when you commit to gratitude as a daily part of your life, you will experience the positive benefits that research has discovered are a natural result of gratitude.

I am thankful for my husband Sean and living in the beautiful state of California!

I am thankful for my husband Sean and living in the beautiful state of California!

Whether it’s something that you say out loud to the people in your life, or maybe something that you say privately in a journal, expressing your gratitude will have a powerful impact.

So let me start by practicing what I’m advocating. I want to thank you for being part of my life, professionally, and for some of you, personally. I appreciate you being part of my community, and allowing me to share my articles, tips, and advice with you through this ezine. I am truly grateful for you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

“Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Be imperfect and have compassion for yourself. Connection is the result of authenticity.”
~ Brene Brown

road_to_successIf you ask most people want they want for their career, business or life, often the word Success comes up at some point. Indeed, many of us want to be successful. So what stops some people from being successful but not others? A whole host of things. It is often said that success leaves footprints. I do believe that there are certain patterns that successful people follow — taking action, being focused, making bold but calculated risks, finding a support system, and staying positive to name a few. But there are also some serious saboteurs that often get in the way of success. They cause (and are often caused by) doubt, fear, lack of confidence, and negativity. They come disguised as 3 blocks that try to stop you from moving forward and being successful.

1. The Perfection Trap

The Perfection Trap is what causes you to second guess yourself at every turn. It is often disguised as a strength (“I have such high standards.”), but in reality can be a manifestation of procrastination, lack of confidence, or fear of failure or success. The Perfection Trap is in some ways the Great Western disease: “I’ll be happy when I …” (fill in the blank!). Many people wait until everything is “perfect” to move forward with their ideas, insights, strategies, interests and passions. Unfortunately, the waiting game goes on and on because the stars are never perfectly aligned. In the meantime, what happens? Life (and often success and happiness!) pass you by.

Win Borden said, “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” Stop waiting until everything is perfect! Life your life now. Pursue your dreams, follow your passions, launch your business, apply for that promotion, ask that special someone out on date… whate ver it is. You probably have “enough” already under your belt to take a step in that direction. Remember, done is better than perfect. (For more on this topic, check out my article Done is Better Than Perfect at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/2012/03/16/done-is-better-than-perfect/).

2. The Comparison Trap

The Comparison Trap is often right there waiting to attack. It is the voice in your head that says, “I could never do that” as you look at others’ accomplishments, successes and happiness. It forces you to look outward for your definition of success. You look at others, measure yourself against them, and then think you are less than. When I work with a client, I implement a rule that he or she must follow: No negative self talk! You’d be surprised how difficult it is for many people to adhere to it. Words are powerful, and negative self talk always puts you in a losing position.

The world is filled with a sense of competition. Women tend to compare themselves to other women in so many areas: physical appearance, parenting, relationships, and business. Men tend to compare themselves based on material possessions, status, and money. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with everyone else! Use what others’ do as a model, sample or template, but, make it your own. Otherwise, you will just spin your wheels trying a little bit of everything, but mastering and enjoying nothing.

The problem with the Comparison Trap is that it is completely false. No one stands in your shoes. You are the only you. And the trouble with someone thinking they can get ahead of you is that you’re assuming that they can walk in your shoes. And this reminds me of something that the actress Judy Garland once said: “Be a first rate version of yourself, rather than be a second rate version of someone else.” An original is better than a copy every time.

3. The Impostor Syndrome

comparison_trapThe toughest critic will often be you. There’s a theory called the Impostor Syndrome that many successful people suffer from. It’s where you feel like a fake even if you have the education, training and experience to be successful at what you do.

Jodie Foster has talked about it freely in some of her interviews. She said that every time she would go on a movie set, whether as an actress or a director as her career progressed, she felt like an impostor and was worried that she’d be “found out.” And this is coming from an accomplished performer since she was a child, and a celebrity by most people’s standards. But it doesn’t matter. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t see that celebrity. She didn’t value herself the way others valued her.

We so often judge ourselves harshly because in our own minds, we aren’t quite there yet. We tend to focus on what we have not accomplished yet, what remains to be done, what goals we have not yet reached. Try to remind yourself of what you have already accomplished, how much you have already grown and changed, and the goals you have met. It is often on the journey to becoming who we are that the true growth takes place. The term authenticity is often used these days (some may say over-used). I think being authentic means taking ownership of your true value, including all that you bring to the table, while humbling yourself enough to admit that you still have some steps to take on your journey. That doesn’t make you an impostor. It makes you human.

When you put in so much time and effort to get organized, the last thing you want is to backslide and wind up back where you started. The good news is that you can stay organized once you reach an organized state of bliss (or even a semi-organized, “it’s better than it was and I can live with it state”!). All that is required is active maintenance. Oh no, you think – more work! Yes, but remember, it is a lot easier to stay organized than it is to get organized.

Maintenance Should Become Second Nature

Organizing is a way of life that requires maintenance and ongoing effort until it becomes second nature. Think about something you do everyday, like brushing your teeth, for example. You just do it, right? It is a habit, something that comes naturally to you. You don’t need reminders, checklists, alarms and prompts. But imagine you just started brushing your teeth today. It is an entirely new grooming activity that you are now required to do. You may need a prompt to remind you to do this new activity. But after a reasonable amount of time, you would naturally incorporate this new activity into your routine and would no longer need reminders. You would just do the activity automatically. In order to stay organized, you need to slowly incorporate maintenance of organizing systems into your daily routines. After awhile, you don’t even think about it anymore, you just naturally maintain your systems.

Develop Simple Maintenance Routines

Integrate a daily and periodic maintenance program into your routine, but keep it simple. You’ve heard the old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Well, it goes a long way if your goal is to maintain organizing systems. Put things away at the end of each day at home, and at the office. If you start something, complete it if possible. If not, put the project items off to the side so that they do not become clutter in your way. If you use up the last of an item in the house, replenish it (at work, give notice to whoever stocks the supply cabinet). If you open something, close it. If you take something out to use it, put it away when you are done. Make this “finish it” policy a rule that all users of the organizing systems follow.

15 Minutes a Day Keeps Clutter at Bay

Want to maintain an organizing system? 15 minutes a day keeps clutter at bay! Once you’ve created an organizing system that works, take 15 minutes a day to keep it that way. If it needs much longer than that, chances are it is too complex of a system, or you are still in backlog mode with too much clutter. If so, then you need to focus on continuing to declutter and setting up simple, user-friendly organizing systems.

It is entirely possible that some areas of your life will be in maintenance mode while others will still be in the process of getting organized. That is expected. While you are getting organized, you will naturally finish some areas before others. For the areas that are already organized, use your maintenance routines. For the rest, keep plugging away! You will get to maintenance mode if you hang in there, I promise.

Don’t get caught up in the actual amount of time. 15 minutes at work, and 15 minutes at home, is an average. Some people need much more time to maintain their organizing systems, some need much less. It depends how many organizing systems need to be maintained, how complex they are, how many users are involved, whether someone is sabotaging the system by not cooperating in maintenance efforts, etc. Use 15 minutes as a benchmark to measure your maintenance efforts against.

Some people do their maintenance in the morning (washing dishes from last night’s dinner, choosing outfits for day, planning their schedule on their calendar, putting away files no longer working with, etc.), while others do it at the end of the day before they leave work and before they retire for the evening at home. The right time to maintain organizing systems is when it is easiest for you and you will actually do it. If you decide to maintain systems at the end of the day, be sure to finish activities at home and at work 15 minutes before you close shop, in order to leave enough time for maintenance.

Exercise: Schedule 15 Minutes a Day

Schedule in a recurring appointment on your calendar that prompts you to do 15 minutes per day of maintenance of organizing systems at home and at work. Remember, maintaining an organizing system should become second nature, like brushing your teeth everyday. But it may take time for it to become a habit, so be patient. Meanwhile, 15 minutes a day will help keep clutter at bay, and maintain your orderly new life!

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2010. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

new_websiteMy team and I just completed a revamp of my site. We got rid of some old stuff and added in some cool new features. And I am loving it! Hope you do too.

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Grab a cup of coffee or tea (or even better, a glass of wine!), and check out the new and improved site. Poke around.

Read some cool articles and blog posts (and while you are there, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed for updates). Watch some videos in the cool new Video Gallery. Check out the Online Store. Claim your valuable free digital toolkit. Share the site with others. Interact, comment and stay awhile.

videosThanks for your continued loyalty as a member of my business community. I so appreciate you!

XO ~ Lisa

 

If you are ready to receive techniques, coaching, inspiration and direction on how to get LOTS of writing completed this fall, then the aptly-named event, *30Articles in Just 30 Days,* is for you! Take a look at the website where you can get the details and register for this special upcoming program

I have learned myriad ideas from Meggin McIntosh over the years and I know from experience that this class is one that will more than deliver on her promises!

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Lisa_and_Monica-NAPO-3I just got back from co-presenting a pre-conference session at the 2013 National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference in New Orleans. My fabulous co-presenter was Monica Ricci. We had a blast presenting the workshop, “Speak Up! Crafting and Delivering Killer Presentations.” There were about 36 attendees, and the workshop was 4 hours long. And the workshop was a real hit, thankfully, but that’s not the main point here. What is the main point is the story behind the workshop and how it came about.

Monica served as Moderator of the popular Ask the Organizer Panel at the NAPO Conference for years. 10 years to be exact. In 2010, I had the distinct honor of serving as a panelist under Monica’s moderation. I was smitten. Okay, that may sound strange, but when I meet someone who is a great presenter, a smarty pants, has a killer sense of humor, and a great sense of style, I take notice. So, we became buddies. Little did we know what the future would hold.

The following year in 2011, I was selected to be the Moderator of the first-ever Golden Circle Ask the Organizer Panel, which was made up of organizers that were Golden Circle members, but would be presented in front of all conference attendees. Monica stayed in her role as Moderator of the traditional Ask the Organizer Panel. And so we worked side by side, taking photos together, sharing ideas and notes about our respective panels, and enjoying our roles.

Lisa_and_MonicaIn 2012, we both served as Moderators again, but this time both panels would have pre-submitted questions, which was never the case in the past for Monica’s panels. So we worked even more closely together as my Golden Circle Panel functioned by having pre-submitted questions only. Apparently, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks when the “old dog” (you know what I mean… not talking age here folks!) is a pro. Monica knocked the panel out of the park even with pre-submitted questions and was able to go out with a bang as that was her last year serving as moderator. I had one more year left to my 3-year term as Moderator.

My good friend and colleague, Andrea Bowser, was hanging out with Monica and I in 2012 and commented to me afterwards how it was too bad we would no longer both be serving as Moderators. She suggested how cool it would be if Monica and I teamed up to co-present something together at the conference in the future. Lightning struck! I contacted Monica and the rest, as they say, is history.

We submitted a pre-conference session on speaking, which seemed only natural as we are both professional speakers and have served in that role at the NAPO Conference for years. We prepared for months via Skype and phone, and really enjoyed the process. We created all content together, organized the presentation, and timed it out. We then split up the sub-topics, each taking ones to present, so that we weren’t talking over each other too much (we are both talkers so were concerned about it getting too chatty!). We wanted it to be interactive, so added in exercises, stories, and role playing.

Monica shared that she had never co-presented before. This was news to me!! I felt honored that she trusted me enough to team up together, and was hoping it would go really well.

And it did. It was an absolute blast for us to present, and our attendees, thankfully loved it. We are humbled by the rave reviews, and are thrilled that the attendees are all pumped up to get out there and speak more, and speak better.

Lisa_and_Monica-NAPO-2The moral of this story is that you have to go for it! Set your sights on something and make it happen. I could have dismissed Andrea’s comment and not approached Monica. Monica could have said no, especially given that she had never co-presented with someone before. NAPO could have rejected the proposal to present. But the stars aligned. In some ways, it goes even farther back than that. Monica could have held a grudge that she had to share her Moderator role with an interloper (that would be me!) when I was selected to take over the Golden Circle Panel. But she didn’t. She embraced the change, welcomed me to the inner sanctum, and became my ally. That decision and attitude led to the two of us becoming partners in crime… a dynamic duo. And I for one am not only grateful for it, but look forward to what the future holds. Look out world, here we come…

“How committed are you?” This is the question I asked the participants of Speak Up: Crafting and Delivering Killer Presentations that I co-presented with my colleague and friend, Monica Ricci, as a pre-conference session at the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) 2013 Conference held in New Orleans from April 17-20. We were entering the 4th hour of our half-day workshop, and I was introducing the last module of our program, called Expect the Unexpected. But to fully grasp the meaning behind my question, I must back up and fill you in on what I am now calling my Planes, Trains and Automobiles experience (okay, sans the trains if we are being technical!).

Lisa_at_NAPO_table

All of the materials for my Expo table were in my carry on bag.

I set out to travel to the NAPO conference early morning on April 16th to ensure that I would arrive the day before my workshop, which was to start at 8:00 am on April 17th. Ah… the best laid plans. I packed a large suitcase as I was to be on business traveling for 10 days in the Southeast, first to New Orleans to speak at the NAPO Conference, and then to Tampa to speak at a law placement conference. I dutifully paid my $25 checked baggage fee on American Airlines and was on my way. Usually, I would put my presentation outfit in my carry on bag, but that was filled with materials for the table I purchased as an Exhibitor at the NAPO Expo & Marketplace. (This was my first lesson learned… always pack your presentation outfit in your carry on no matter what!)

At first, things seemed great. I sat next to two very friendly and interesting people for the first leg from Sacramento to Dallas, where I was to connect to a flight to New Orleans, putting me in the Big Easy by late afternoon. But when we landed in Dallas, the pilot announced that we could not “park” the plane as American Airlines’ computer system had gone down and they had no directions as to how to proceed. We then sat on the tarmac for an hour waiting further direction. Eventually, we found out that it was system wide, and not just in Dallas. Apparently, there is no back up plan for when the computers go down, except to wait for them to come back up. As a productivity expert, this incensed me as I started going through in my mind the procedure that should have been in place for this type of scenario. After an hour, they started taking people off the 7 planes stuck out on the tarmac and brought us to the terminal via buses.

As soon as I arrived in the terminal and saw what a mess it was, in terms of how many people were stuck there and how many flights were delayed and canceled, my first reaction was to rent a car to get to New Orleans. I checked Google Maps on my iPhone and learned that it was an 8.5 hour drive. Ouch! I had woken really early to get to the airport so was a bit sleep deprived and worried about making that drive alone. It was now about 2:00 pm on Tuesday, April 16th and I calculated that I wouldn’t arrive in New Orleans until 11:00 pm at the earliest, as there was no way I could drive that long without stopping.

Twiiter-travelSo, I waited. And waited. And waited. And I tweeted on Twitter, and posted on Facebook to keep my friends, family, clients and followers apprised of the situation. A reporter from NBC News emailed me and asked if she could interview me about the situation. She had seen one of my tweets. I complied and the next thing I knew, I was on the phone filling her in. Her story went to print a few hours later, unfortunately before the “real” story unfolded. When her story went to print, it ended with me getting ready to board a 7:00 pm flight to New Orleans. Ah, timing is everything. That’s not what happened. No indeed!

At 7:00 pm, we were advised that our crew had gone “illegal,” which we found out meant they had left the airport. Okay… so when will the next crew arrive, we asked. Not until tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. What? Excuse me? It is only 7:00 pm, we have been here for 6 hours waiting, almost all other flights have taken off or been rescheduled, but for New Orleans, there were no flights going out that evening. That was the harsh reality. In that split second, I had to make a choice. I went up to the desk and very clearly and loudly, but politely asked if they would re-route us onto other airlines. The American Airlines agent said that it was not their responsibility to do that and the next flight was the one the next morning. That was our only choice. I mentioned that I had to present at 8:00 am the next day, so that was unacceptable. I was told to go out to the customer care desk and wait on line with others. I saw the writing on the wall. There was no hope with getting a flight that night. So I turned around, looked at my fellow passengers and said “Who wants to drive with me to New Orleans? I have to be there in time to present at 8:00 am?” A woman stepped forward, and we started planning out the trip. Then two more women (a couple that had just been married in the state of Washington after being together for 25 years — this was the first day of their honeymoon!), and a man.

View of sun rising over Mississippi River from my hotel room in New Orleans after my "all nighter."

View of sun rising over Mississippi River from my hotel room in New Orleans after my “all nighter.”

The 5 of us quickly rallied. We rented a car, decided who would drive the first leg, navigated out of the airport (it felt so good to be out of that airport after 6+ hours!), stopped for provisions for the long drive and to charge cell phones quickly, and introduced ourselves and shared why we were heading to New Orleans. All of them were from the Seattle area, and two of them even had a mutual acquaintance back home. Yes, they were total strangers and I was taking a big chance, but they seemed pretty normal, and “stranger antenna” wasn’t beeping, so I had a suspicion it would be okay. I sent a text to my husband, who was of course, nervous and asked me if the man seemed normal (I realized later he never went to sleep until I was at the hotel in New Orleans to make sure I arrived safely and to call and text me every few hours to stay in touch!). Winds up that he and I spent the most time driving and talking in the front seat, and he spends his life helping people that need organ transplants. Talk about a nice guy. (Please refrain from jokes about how he was planning to kill us and steal our organs — I’ve heard it many times already since I told this story!)

The ride was long, but thankfully flat and with perfect weather conditions. It was dark and desolate, but that also meant hardly any traffic. After my turn at the wheel, I was forced to sit on the hump in the middle of the back seat because I was the smallest. Between that uncomfortable position, and the fact that one of the drivers was, let’s say, not the smoothest of drivers (she had many cans of Red Bull to keep herself awake, but that also made her a bit jumpy!), sleep was out of the question. Not a wink. I wound up being in charge of the music, which we accessed from my iPad because every station between Texas and Louisiana is either religious or honky-tonk country, and none of us had a taste for either. Pandora’s Motown station fit the bill, kept us awake, had something all of us knew and could bee-bop along to, and seemed appropriate as this was sort of a Big Chill experience in some ways.

Lisa_and_Monica3We drove by Baton Rouge, which I had visited last year with my husband when he interviewed for a veterinary residency position at Louisiana State University (we wound up in Davis, CA, a lovely town, but I digress). I had never been so happy to see a familiar place!  A little after 4:30 am, we arrived in New Orleans. I was dropped off first based on my hotel location and the fact that I was presenting in a few hours. Bless their hearts! (This, I learned, is a pretty typical Southern phrase, and one that you say in earnest, but often times, out of sarcasm too!).

By the time I checked in and got upstairs to my hotel room, it was just about 5:00 am. I was to be standing in front of a room full of people that paid to attend the pre-conference workshop I was co-presenting in 3 hours. I had no luggage (it arrived at 7:30 am the next day), which meant no clothes or toiletries. Thankfully, my amazing colleagues came through for me, and I was brought a dress and shoes to wear, which fit perfectly I might add (I posted my clothes and shoe sizes on Facebook, with a plea for clothes back at the airport hours earlier when I saw the writing on the wall!). The hotel gave me a toothbrush and I borrowed other toiletries from my very understanding roommate that I woke up when I arrived. What about my undergarments you ask? Nothing is open at 5:00 am, and even if they were, I was not about to roam the streets of New Orleans looking for underwear. So, after I showered, I not only dried my hair with the blow dryer, I also dried my underwear! (I kid you not.)

Lisa_and_Monica

Ready to present in my borrowed dress and shoes with Monica Ricci.

My co-presenter had a plate of breakfast food waiting for me in the room when I came down to present, which I gobbled up, along with a mug of hot tea. Then it was 8:00 am and time to begin. Despite having left my home in California more than 24 hours before, having no sleep, and dealing with the stressful travel events that unfolded, the show had to go on. Adrenaline kicked in, and I was ready to go. I stood before the group in someone else’s dress, another person’s shoes, my own (now clean and almost fully dry!) underwear, and thankfully, my own jewelry that I wore on the plane and happened to match my new outfit perfectly. I had my notes for the presentation in my carry on (and in my head as we had prepared for this for months), and my co-presenter had the slides ready to go on her Mac already hooked up to the projector.

We decided not to share my ordeal with the audience up front as we didn’t want it to pull focus. We thought it would have much more impact if we brought it up during the last section, Expect the Unexpected. Which brings me full circle to the question I asked the participants: “How committed are you?”

I did not intend to ask that question. But, as I stood in front of them, all of a sudden it seemed quite clear that this was the crux of the matter. Whether it is making a speaking engagement, or anything else in life that matters, the issue becomes how committed are we. There are many challenges we face, some bigger than others. We are constantly forced to make decisions. We often think of giving up. I certainly thought of it many times during my harried travel experience. I could have stayed overnight in Dallas and taken that flight the next morning, and told NAPO, my co-presenter, and the participants that I just couldn’t make it. Luckily, my co-presenter could have presented the entire workshop without me. But I did not want to let her down. I also did not want to let NAPO down who had chosen me for this role. I definitely did not want to let the participants down who had paid good money, and taken time out of their busy schedules to attend this workshop and expected it to have not one, but two, presenters. And I also did not want to let myself down. I was looking forward to this, and had the power to make it work. I was committed in every sense of the word.

Monica and I a few days later when I moderated the Ask the Organizer Panel - in my own clothes and shoes!

Monica and I a few days later when I moderated the Ask the Organizer Panel – in my own clothes and shoes!

And in the long run, that commitment not only affected me, but so many people around me. They rose to the occasion, helping me arrive safely, dressing me, feeding me, supporting me, and letting me know that I could do it, and they were there to help. That meant a lot to me and proved that when we are committed, it not only helps us, but has an amazing domino effect too. Word spread about what I went through to get there and how many people helped me in so many ways. It became bigger than just one person experiencing a Planes, Trains and Automobiles ordeal, and overcoming it. We felt like we were all in it together. And the participants of the workshop felt that they were important and mattered.

In the end, that may have been the most important lesson for all of us. Commitment is contagious.  It is much bigger than just the one experience or person. It creates a commitment wave that spreads wide and goes deep. And for that, I am grateful. I will gladly learn that lesson again, even if it means no sleep, driving overnight with strangers… and yes, blow drying my underwear!

For years, I have been contacted by professional organizers looking to purchase solid Done-For-You Business Foundations Templates. Well, here they are! And at special Introductory Rates that I am offering at the NAPO 2013 Conference in New Orleans and online on my website until May 31st.

These business templates are what every organizer in business needs. They provide the foundation of a well-protected business legally and financially. They make it easier to operate your business, and to sell it someday as the business is “blueprinted” through the use of these templates over time. Designed by a professional organizer, attorney, and business coach/consultant/strategist, they are field tested and will save you from having to reinvent the wheel, copy something from the internet that is not applicable and will, therefore, not hold up in court, or spend tons of money on an expensive attorney that doesn’t understand the organizing industry.

business_contractThe full package includes a Client Agreement Template, Independent Contractor Agreement Template, and Operations Manual Template, along with detailed instructions, bonus articles on key issues, two audio programs for you to go deeper into learning and customizing, and a Business Expenses Excel Spreadsheet! All templates are delivered to you digitally in PDF to preserve the formatting, and Word so you can make them your own and customize.

In addition, I am offering a special upgrade at the time of purchase only: Add on a Strategy Session with me to customize any of the templates or ask questions for only an extra $150 (that’s $50 off the regular rate of $200!).

For those going to Conference:

  • Please stop by my Marketplace Table in the Expo Hall to say hello and purchase the Business Foundations Template Package. It will be delivered to you digitally by email, so you don’t need to worry about carrying anything home with you!
  • If you think this product is a valuable contribution to our industry, please consider reflecting that by voting for it in the Organizer’s Choice Awards (ballots are due by the end of the day Thursday, April 18th!).
  • special_offerThe Package is being offered at special Introductory Rates at Conference, but for those that can’t join me live in New Orleans, you can get the same deal on my website until May 31st while the Introductory Rates are in effect. Visit https://www.lisamontanaro.com/store/products/businessfoundations/ to order online any time.
  • I will be raffling off a free 75-minute Strategy Session at Conference so be sure to drop your business card (or name and email address) in our collection pouch at my Marketplace Table to win a Kick-Butt Business Coaching Session with me (a $200 value).
  • I will be launching the Bold Business Moves 6-Month Mastermind Program for experienced entrepreneurs ready to take their business to the next level, and the 12-week Powerhouse Success Entrepreneur Group Coaching Program for newer entrepreneurs who want training and coaching at an affordable rate. More details will be available at my Marketplace Table and in the weeks following Conference, so be sure to stop by and check your inbox in the weeks after Conference for all of the details and registration, so you don’t miss out!

Looking forward to seeing many of you in person in New Orleans!