How we shift

Last week, I experienced a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks like no other. For the first time in twenty years, I vacationed with a leaderless family. It was a bittersweet feeling; much to my enjoyment, I was not in control, but my mother-in-law, undoubtedly the leader of my wife’s family, passed almost one year ago. Her presence was still felt as my wife and her family and I gathered to celebrate her life and delight in her memory.

I came to the conclusion that Americans isolate themselves from others and their environment. Although this was not the first time I realized this, it was the first time it became firmly entrenched in the second half of my life.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I both took a new assessment – called a Core Values Index (CVI). Because I now thoroughly understand it myself, we will be using this assessment as part of our toolset for clients of onCOREventures in the near future.

Love. This four-letter word is one of the most sought-after and sometimes one of the most feared terms in the English language. Within this assessment, it is referred to as Merchant energy, but I prefer to use the “L word” because it evokes stronger emotions. It is this powerful entity that is my primary driver in life, according to the assessment.

As I burned out of my corporate Life 2.0 experience, I shut the door on many relationships, and I have not replaced them.  Because love is such a major influence on my actions, the diminishing of these relationships is tough to swallow.  Though this is a dark alley, it has helped me to get in touch with two primary issues for men, particularly in the second half of life:

  1. What masks did I wear in the first half of life?
  2. How do they affect the way that we show up in the second half of life?

In the past, I relied heavily on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in looking at my own life choices.  When I was 39, I took the MBTI for the first time and I “tested” as INTP.  This assessment uses a series of questions to determine preferences – and is said to not change significantly.  The key word is significantly.  In looking back at my scores in the past – my “I” score, which indicates a preference for Introversion as opposed to extraversion, was very close to being “E,” or Extraversion.  My “T” score, which indicates Thinking over Feeling, was very close to “F,” or Feeling. Lastly, my “P” score, which indicates perception over judgment, was also very close.

I am currently in a second coach-training program from IIN (Institute of Integrative Nutrition) so that I have a better grounding in the effects of food and nutrition on mood and health.  As part of that program I took the MBTI again – just for “grins” – as they say.  My results were ENFJ.  Perplexed, to say the least, I “stumbled” on the CVI, which indicated that, my core values were much more in harmony with the ENFJ preference than the INTP preference.

These were slight changes in three of the four indicators, but the difference was that I was “extremely” intuitive versus sensing, so that did not move across the 50% mark and shift to “S”.

It makes sense to me that these indicators shifted as I shifted.  It also makes sense that as I removed my “corporate” mask, I show up as more authentic to my true persona.  For me, this has major implications on my second half of life.

However, today I want to speak on gender roles.  INTP’s like to keep to their options open, they see things as shades of grey, and they look to the big picture. This certainly describes how I lived the first half of my life in corporate senior management. It was fitting at the time, especially as a man; there are many more female ENFJ’s then males, and there are many more male INTP’s than females. However, that was not fitting with my core value system, which is how I shifted to the ENFJ identity.

Did this “shift” occur overnight for me?  Probably, but it was at least five years before I left corporate.  In fact, the major reason that I left corporate was because I stopped keeping my mouth shut.  I now understand what removed the filter, so to speak.  As a result, I lost the agency power of being a senior vice president, with all of its perks  and financial prosperity.  Although, it was a breath of fresh air; for I was finally able to remove an uncomfortable, incompatible mask.

This mask contained all of my corporate relationships, which does not seem out of the ordinary for many successful men. Friends in this working zone often attach themselves to the position. The moment we lose that power, we also tend to lose those companions as well if we are honest with ourselves. If we want to maintain these relationships, we feel the need to live a lie.

In my case, my isolation allowed me to get in touch with the way I value love and relationships, both of which are “feminine values”.  This shift led me to coaching others – a pursuit that follows my values and makes me feel truly onCore with my life.

I have begun to form new friendships and relationships that are rooted in my true self. For example, I am on the board of the International Coaches Federation – Pittsburgh chapter.  I am responsible for marketing, and I am actually the only male on the board.

From my own life long conditioning, it is my assumption that the other board members see me as a former senior executive offering my marketing experience and expertise, and while I can draw on that experience some , it is not the primary driver for me any longer.

I am in the organization and on the board for collaboration and support from like-minded people that I have a common profession and value system with.  There is major opportunity to show up in an authentic fashion for me in the second half of life, because the majority of the women on the board are in the second half of their lives – or approaching it. They are all shifting as well, so we all have the opportunity of crafting new ways of being.

My desire is not to lead now from my own vision, but to foster relationships and cooperation. The fact that people look to me for leadership and vision is a plus, it is easier then to show up and be egoless.  And in the second half of life, women are often seeking to assert independence and their own agenda in a more direct fashion.  There is room for both genders in organizations and in our family relationships to redefine ourselves and enjoy approaching life differently.

For more information on the phases of life, and how men and women shift in the afternoon and evening of life please request our free eBook.

Home Again

Home sweet home. That was my initial thought as I arrived at the ocean last week. And I was to my Life 2.0 home, in a setting that combined my Life 1.0 environment. But Life 3.0, that age of the evening of life, is not like the age of growing up, or the age of responsibility for others; it is the age of the forest dweller.  For a discussion of the phases of Life please request our eBook.

It turns out, the stress of last year got the best of us; as we fought with loss and disease in our enchanted forest home, I had forgotten how magical of a place our Earth is. Is that not the purpose of vacation? I think it is.

I did not have my residual ear issues go away at the outer banks. I did not feel a deep connection to the surf. I was not inspired by the sun and the salty air. I was, however, living in the moment most of the time. But no more so than I can at home, if I choose to.

For the first time in our fifteen trips to the Outer Banks, we did not bring home a memento of our vacation. We did not buy a Christmas ornament. We did not bring back shells, or stones and I took very few pictures. Made no deep plans. For once, we simply relaxed. Walked on the beach, rode bikes and enjoyed some much-needed family time.

The ways in which we spent our time at Nags Head was not the only thing that had changed; for once, I did not “project perfection” on this place. The vast, multi-million dollar oceanfront beach mansions no longer called my name.  The traffic was of the same caliber as the Hampton’s. The seclusion and openness of the beach was replaced with the same noise and congestion that pushed me away from Long Island many years ago.

I was surprised by my own perspective. I was aware of figments from the past, but focused on staying “in the now,” which I unfortunately found to be filled with people on “the Great Escape” that Americans try to fit in to one or two weeks a year, ourselves included.

I realized that my wanderlust had diminished, which is the opposite of what most people my age feel. I attribute it to my extensive travel in Life 2.0. It made me cognizant of my utter fascination and absolute satisfaction of this enchanted environment in which I live.

I left my home thinking that the environment was toxic. I returned home knowing that it was my actually thinking that was toxic. Toxic Thinking.

The challenge for us in Life 3.0, is to remove this “toxic thinking”. We developed these thinking patterns through the fulfillment of responsibilities in our past, whether it was through compromises or reactions to others. To enjoy the evening of life, we have to stop dwelling on and trying to relive the past, and enjoy the now. For me, I’m happiest with what I do when I live in the moment.

While I was on vacation, one of the things that I stumbled on was a planing in retirement blog entry that seemed to be tailored for people in their twenties and thirties. It was written with the optimism and the naïveté of youth, projecting that they would want to continue their present careers into the distant future. They pointed to a quote from an eighty-year-old doctor who had the attitude of a young, hopeful man. His desire to continue to love and work was made apparent. It reminded me of our own desire to help people near his age live, love, and lead in the second half of life. We applaud both the blog writer and the doctor that she quotes.

That doctor was living an onCORE life; it is my hope that young people are on that same path. In fact some of my clients have engaged with me as their coach because they want to do just that in the first half of life, rather than wait until the second.  Perhaps they realize that the division between the first and second halves of life is not obvious until the day they die. Why wait until the second half? Why not just be onCORE from the start?

Many boomers stepped away from trying to live an onCORE life and started “playing possum” like the old Carly Simon song of that name. The song says something to the effect that you used to be so radical, and now you’re just playing possum and taking the easy way out.

At one point, I was radical, but I stepped away from that after Ronald Reagan was elected as president. My idealism survived Nixon, but after the country rejected Jimmy Carter, I took the blue pill and entered the matrix. I took the easy way out, which, it turns out was not being onCORE, and not really the easy way out. Most of my generation did the same. We became materialistic and valued expensive clothes rather than the person wearing them.

So, if you maintained your values as you when through Life 2.0, well done! If not, then do not fear; what I write will resonate with you. I hope that the people in life 2.0 today will choose wisely and be true to themselves. I hope they stay on course for their lives and not have to make major corrections.  They can certainly look to the formerly idealistic, dual-luxury-car-driving Boomers to see where the path of being dishonest to oneself can lead.

But that is not my experience. My experience is that in “playing possum,” I have created a heap of toxic thoughts that my mind is begging me to abandon.

Bloom where you are planted, as the old saying goes. I came to the realization this week that it is not where you are planted that makes the difference, but it is your attitude. In order to bloom, you must relinquish toxic thoughts. Despite my altered view of the shore this year, I was able to learn more about myself through the experience. It also made me appreciate my home: home sweet home.

 

Remedial

It’s 1 AM. You’re lying in bed, unable to sleep. Your body is still, yet your mind is racing with the stress from an overhanging problem in your life. You try to swat away those pestering thoughts like a flea, but you just can’t seem to put your mind at ease

In the weeks leading up to vacation, I had begun to lock and load on three or four topics as they came up. Instead of releasing thoughts that came into my head, I would hold onto one or two and constantly think about them until I was confused and frustrated. To someone that values awareness and has been on a personal spiritual journey, this was surprising: I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it.

What is meant by practicing awareness? It is different for everyone based on his or her personal journey. For me, I need to watch how I respond to those who push my buttons. This is one of the things that I spend a lot of time on with my clients. In this way, it is becoming aware of destructive patterns in our lives and releasing the negative responses that we have. This is not reacting, but rather taking a moment to identify our feelings and mute the antagonistic echoes of our past.

For example, if you are a big Penn State fan and a coworker hates Penn State, you might be triggered into smarmy behavior by that coworker making a comment about pedophiles in sports. A well-dressed, attractive woman might be provoked by a comment about her looks from a man gawking at her and staring at her breasts. Thus, it is not necessarily what is said, but how and by whom it is said that could be the stimulant

These triggers often take us into earlier forms of consciousness that cause us to act like victims or lash out at our verbal attackers. But there are other self-destructive behavior patterns.

They say old habits die hard. Frustrating myself by trying to solve the unsolvable is one of my tendencies. These so-called problems are what has driven the psychotherapy industry for years, and made Oprah and Dr. Phil millionaires.  Why am I so remedial in my approach to life?  Why do I keep making the same mistakes?  Is it because I fixate on the same thoughts?

Sometimes we need to just let go and free ourselves from the prison of negative thoughts. We all have issues that we revisit time and again as we live our lives. For example, the notion that a “man” cannot be an artist was bestowed upon me as far back as I can remember. As a boy that wanted to channel his artistic side, this left me with gender angst and fear of chasing that dream. Coupled with that toxic thought pattern was, “You are just like your mother; you never finish anything.” At the time, this complete discouragement sank my artistic ambition like the Titanic.

The scar of abandonment never faded after my mom died when I was eleven. I developed a fear of desertion that formed the perfect storm as last year ended and this year began. I regressed to past ways of life and tossed away everything I had learned.

In this last year, my wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and activating that distress within me. I took on the role of caregiver in our family. I was launching a coaching practice, which is not art, but a largely feminized industry. As a result, I found myself triggered by these old thinking patterns. Once that happens, it can be hard to turn back.

So what do you do? Meditate. Ask the questions and live the answers. The answers come to us though moments of synchronicity, not out of our own heads. Others bring them to us. We do not have to find our own answers; they will find us. But we have to be open to allowing that to happen.

This is particularly important for people in giving professions. People in these roles are expected to have the answers. We don’t have answers; we know what questions to ask others to enable them to seek their own solutions. But we do not have to be asking ourselves questions all of the time. It is okay to just be, and to dream. For me, however, I must be careful to not dream the impossible dream. Because for me, anything that I see as impossible, becomes a challenge to be solved by my egoic mind.

While all things are possible, some dreams have a higher return than others and take less effort. We transform the world one person at a time. I have to remember that that means that I transform myself one thought at a time. I can choose to let thoughts go. With fifty thousand a day, why hold on to one fifty thousand times. The next thought could be an idea that cures cancer.

Vacation – Road Trip

The ocean does not just make up the majority our planet; it makes up part of my soul as well. It is a magical transformation: the salty air nourishes my body and frees my breathing, allowing me to center almost immediately.

It seems like recently the environment of where we are living and the toxins stored there take my breath away. Literally. I hope to determine on this shore vacation if the toxins are my own manifestations, or that of the physical environment. Or perhaps they are my own projections of unresolved issues from my past in Life 2.0.

Timing can be a curious thing. In May of this year, I inhaled a significant amount of pollen and dust from the environment around my home. This occurred as my wife completed her treatments for breast cancer. Did this trigger a subconscious desire to get sick, just so I could be taken care of?

I also find it curious to know that to myself and others, I am not an “inflammation patient.” Despite suffering from inflammation since infancy thanks to dairy and genetically altered modern wheat festering within my body, as well as environmental toxins in Pittsburgh and other inland cities, I do not consider myself to have a disease, although this condition kills millions prematurely.

However, my wife and others that have grown cancers are forever labeled as “cancer patients.” We can always characterize ourselves by these trials and tribulations. Ultimately, inflammation responses in the body produce a disease that we can allow to define us, but I refuse to do that. At the end of the dark tunnel of disease, there is a light, which can actually teach us a thing or two.

When I was six I had pneumonia, and through the “miracle” of antibiotics, I was healed. At eight, I had my tonsils removed, and through the “miracle” of surgery, I was healed. At twenty-eight, I had a ruptured appendix, and through the “miracles” of surgery and antibiotics, I was healed.

Over the years that I lived in Pittsburgh, and then on airplanes, and then again in Pittsburgh, through the “miracle” of antibiotics three to twelve times a year for forty years, I was healed. I also had the pleasure of tossing down steroids a number of times in order to reduce inflammation. What is the common element in all of these diseases? Inflammation.

As part of my continuing journey, I removed wheat and dairy from my diet in 2012, and my health, specifically my inflammation levels in my body, drastically improved. That sinus-infection-free year-and-a-half of my life was well worth the sacrifice.  And suddenly I had no need for “miracles”. Or so I thought.

So, on June second of this year, I found myself with an ear infection. Three antibiotics later and one dose of steroids later and I was almost symptom free. Key word: almost. The symptoms eventually returned. Proving to be a stubborn condition, the inflammation would not budge.

Refusing to let this uphill battle seize my life, I sought help from a naturally gifted healer: my chiropractor, who is able to tune into her patients at an energetic level. Taking it a step further, I also visited an acupuncture practitioner. With their help, my body began to heal itself and drain the fluids caused by my body’s natural inflammation response.

Hopefully, this week at the shore will put an end to this disease once and for all.

In Life 3.0, we do not have the ability to ignore our bodies any longer. In my case, I was born and raised on Long Island, and my body is used to the salty air and humidity of that environment. Unfortunately, I was also given dairy at birth and I am allergic to caisson – the protein in dairy.

We have a choice when we reach this stage of life. We can be defined by the labels of the disease, like cancer, or like the outcomes of chronic inflammation – including conditions like adult onset diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and a plethora of other ailments, or we can change the way we eat and live to be on core with our own bio-individuality.

This blog entry is the first in a series of entries that will deal with how I use the food that I eat and my primary foods of career, spirituality, relationships and exercise in Life 3.0. Each Saturday, I will post a personal entry about my Life 3.0 experience.

Some will be reflections extracted from my gratitude journal that I started in December of last year as my wife began her cancer treatments and we changed our lives. For the most part, the entries will be current accounts of what’s happening now.

For now, I leave you with a question: When are you? I tell my clients to ask themselves three questions in order to center themselves for meditation. Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? The implicit answer to when am I, when we are centered, and when we meditate, is now.

With the stress of disease, I found that I am often not in the now, but in the drama of the past. Or wishing for a future. In truth, we only have the now. And for those of you with an illness, or living with someone with an illness: you are not your disease. You are beautiful. As another Fred in Pittsburgh always said, “I love you just the way you are.” Be now here and not nowhere.

The Turn

Six months ago today, I posted my last blog entry prior to this one and this one is different from most of my previous posts. This one is personal. I have not been in contact with you recently.

The reason for that is that my wife, Melinda, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer last October.  As a result, we made major changes in our lives. The biggest two involve what we eat and how we live.  Part of that resulted in me putting my practice expansion on hold for most of the last six months.

How we live is probably the key to the rest of this blog entry, so lets start with that.  I had just finished a coaching training program and was in the process of signing up clients who were looking, as I was looking, at second half of life ventures that would fuel their needs well into their eighties. The thinking was that if you are doing the right thing, you can do it for a lot longer than just sixty-five.  With the prospect of life to one hundred this made perfect sense.

And then my wife, someone who was in “perfect health” was given news that caused us to question whether there would be a second half of life.  So we started to live in the moment.  Our moments.  Not our children’s moments, or our referral network’s moments, or our community’s moments but ours.  We watched and did things that made us laugh.  Melinda changed positions at work, we recommitted ourselves to exercise and we started a joint daily gratitude practice.

From a nutritional perspective, we started eating only whole foods. Organic if possible. We thought we were following Michael Pollan’s recommendation of “eating food, mostly plants and not a lot” before, but now we have become zealots.  I enrolled in a second coaching training program, this one from IIN – the Institute of Integrative Nutrition – so I could fully understand the effects of diet and lifestyle on how we look and feel.

I am sharing this with you now, because as a result of these actions, Melinda and I have changed the focus of our jointly held business – onCOREventures. While I still work with executives and professionals who want to design a life into their eighties or longer that is onCORE with who they are, I am now helping them be much more focused on their lives to make sure they are healthy so that they can enjoy their venture for as long as they want.  With obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer affecting more and more people as they enter the second half of life, this is the “ante” for the game in what I have often called Life 3.0.  As they say in games of chance you have to pay to play.

Recently, I received my accreditation as a professional coach from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and now that I am substantially through the nutrition components of the IIN coursework, I have been certified to see clients in the health and wellness space as a health coach from IIN.  I was already qualified as a coach, but now have more tools with which to assist my clients.

So, in addition to workings with clients looking ultimately at their Life 3.0 ventures and adventures, I work with people in an awesome, six-month program to bring more energy, fewer cravings and a reduction in their waistline to their lives in a fun and sustainable way. We like to refer to this approach as post modern nutrition – we help clients ease great tasting, new food into their lives in order to crowd out old, junky food that was causing poor health.

I say we, because after a successful combination of radical homemaking and great allopathic care, Melinda is cancer free and she just completely finished IIN and is accredited by the AADP – American Association of Drugless Practitioners. While she is still working in a great career as a Business Analyst, Melinda is seeing a select client base to help them become healthy and balance the needs of career and family. We believe that someone walking the talk is a good fit for many people that have to juggle multiple priorities in life – and frankly – who doesn’t?

Well in Golf, the turn comes after the first nine holes.  Yesterday I completed the first half of the IIN program – and it is also the completion of the turning on the pivot point that I discussed in my entry six months ago and the beginning of our new integrated direction.

Pivot

When creating onCOREventures, we decided to follow the teachings of Eric Reis describes in “The Lean Start-up”.  Our understanding of that teaching is to build the minimum viable product, test it in the market, and based on that test, decide to either pivot or preserver.

We work with people in the second half of life to define their on core venture. We thought this meant helping those people to build a business. After all, there are 12 million so-called encore entrepreneurs out there according to a Met Life study from last fall. In working with our target market however, we have found that the second half of life it is really all about wellness.  People over fifty are succumbing to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in record numbers.  While life expectancy is increasing and focusing on the potential of living to 100 is something to consider, we firmly believe in the importance of the quality of the lives we live, regardless of how long that life might last.

My own training is through iPEC and I am very happy with the core energy coaching training that I have received.  I have now decided to enroll in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition program as an added educational component. Though much of the IIN techniques overlap my existing skills, I believe in the principals and goals of the organization. Joshua Rosenthal, IIN founder, teaches the concept of “Primary Foods,” comprised of Career, Relationships, Spirituality and Exercise. We have already embraced these as core components in our methods of Discovery and Launch of onCOREventures regardless of individual focus or goal.  We have always talked about ventures as a way to describe whatever it is that we do in the second half of life, but somehow I always felt that most of these would be some sort of “business” launch.

It turns out now, having walked that walk, not so much.

I am not the same person that I was in the first half of life…and I thank God for that.  I am no longer driven by the same motivators. Family and Spirituality are not “options” for me now. They are present and relevant every day, as my body reminds me how fragile life can be. So too, concepts of wellness, food, and exercise are suddenly infinitely more important.  Career, while still somewhat interesting, has become a distant fourth place. In this, I suspect that I am not alone.  My current clients seem to be telling me the same thing, we are still the people were in some ways, yet with new priorities, we do things differently now.

There seems to be an almost childlike appreciation for the possibility of doing things differently.  More clients seem to start out saying “I never am able to…..” and then stop to correct themselves, finishing with “I have not been able to ….yet.” As a coach, to see this transition on a global scale is nothing short of fascinating.

So, our focus is still on helping our clients to launch the life that they were born to live, but that is probably not going to involve the steps to “go to market” with a business. We see ourselves helping clients to understand and change the way that they show up, how are they are living in relationships, what are they eating, how are they exercising, how they are centering ourselves, and finally how are they are approaching their “career”.  In the second half of life, that career might be watching grandchildren so that adult children’s lives are better, or creating a writers group for other old new writers, or helping to bring farm products to the table of local homes, or teaching people to cook foods that do not come out of the freezer or boxes or cans. These are the new non-traditional, yet so very traditional from a larger perspective, ways of being for older generations that have the wisdom, the patience, and the interest to spend their time giving back to and helping others as their way of contributing to society and caring for themselves.

What does that mean to what we offer to our clients? Nothing really.  I had coffee the other day with a colleague in the Pittsburgh Coaches Association, David Goldman, who is a leadership coach. He described coaching as like the Olympic sport curling, coaches prepare the path for our clients to follow.  David helped me to realize that he and I are in two different but related spaces. He helps businesses that are started, some of my clients might create business that he can then help.  I met him thinking that we were friendly competitors, each in the same supportive professional association, yet left realizing that we were also referral partners in two different spaces.

I help people figure out their path for the second half of life. In a way, this is what I have always done uniquely well, helping to define the undefined. In the first half of my life, I did this through the creation of technology, then in the creation of photography, and now I do this through helping my clients to create the life they were born to live. AT LAST!

Coaching Works

As a member of the Pittsburgh Coaches Association, I will be joining a demonstration of coaching techniques at PNC Park on Wednesday November 14th at 4PM as part of the second annual “Coaching Works” presentation.  There will be many coaches present demonstrating different coaching techniques.  Why should you care?

According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching as an institution is expanding, and breakthroughs are becoming stronger and faster.

People feel more accountable to their coaches than to others because clear goals are set. This accountability leads to the goals being obtained. When clients make a commitment to their coaches, and to themselves, they feel more responsible for making something happen. They do not want to disappoint their coach whom they understand to hold their best interest in their intentions and mindset.  Additionally, just the prospect of having to “own up” to someone you respect about not achieving your goal due to inaction or complacency is enough to get the gears going. The ethics of the ICF prohibit the coach from having any agenda other than the client’s own best interests, even to the point of requiring disclosure of any incentive that the coach has in recommending any other service. This means you know the coaches “agenda” at all times.

Studies conducted by the ICF have shown that social pain is the equivalent of physical pain in its impact on us. Think about that when you consider staying in a job that causes you social pain every day, or in your current relationship that might be holding you back. Does that mean that when you hire a coach you are guaranteed to change your job or your partner?  Probably not. What will change is how you show up in your relationship or at your job, which changes how others interact with you.

Skeptical? Great! We encourage intelligent, critical, observation and making decisions for oneself! Come to Coaching Works and see just how easy it can be for change to occur.  There will be three, 10 minute, laser coaching demonstrations during the event, interspersed networking time with coaches and others. Come on out and enjoy some great food and beverages while visiting eleven coaching specialists in one-on-one sessions.

When you visit, please pay particular attention to the laser coaching demonstrations. Coaching does not have to be a long, laborious process.  It is not therapy. It does not seek to understand the past, but to understand how the past is preventing you in the moment from moving toward the future that you choose for your life.

For more information and to register visit the PCA website.

Getting Well

What does getting well have to do with launching an on core venture?  Everything.

In the second half of life, the behavior patterns we established in the first half start shouting at us. This takes form in issues such as Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, Obesity, Depression, Boredom, Fatigue, and so on.

We believe that the first step in defining your second half of life vision involves getting into the best physical and mental shape possible.  This allows for the energy and clear focus needed in order to determine how you can – as they say in the Army- be all you can be, or as we say – become oncore. If you are beginning to suffer from the effects of the above list, you must learn to get well, not just rely on dealing with it through coping patterns, but get truly well.

Our approach to helping clients figure out what they need to do begins with an assessment tool. This tool allows us to point out examples of what one of our clients calls “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.”  From there, we use a combination of techniques that allow you to come up with your own path to wellness.  We also have a partner network of people we trust that can help you in areas where you might be stuck.

Coaching is not therapy. We do not care where you got your Stinkin’ Thinkin’ patterns. We care about getting you past it so that success becomes attainable. As I listened yesterday to young parents at the children’s museum in Pittsburgh, their advice to their kids to be careful and not to wander away or talk to strangers is not designed to make them afraid of networking in twenty years, or even to go to parties.  It is designed to stop their children from getting hit by a car or keep them away from shady looking characters that might be out to hurt them. This is common sense 101, yet many people have twisted the well intentioned lessons of childhood into the limiting barriers of adulthood So, if you are still blaming Mommy for your thinking patterns, please see a therapist. If however, you are ready to move past your limiting patterns and beliefs; then coaching holds up a mirror to help you understand these thought patterns, teaches you how to improve them and raise your energy levels.

What is important now is what you do with the thought processes that no longer serve who you are today or who you wish to become. Stop stuffing food or alcohol into your body, stop leaching energy into other various control dramas, all because you feel badly from fear and other energy drains.

There are many ways to get well.  Eat real food – not stuff in boxes and cans, exercise appropriately, meditate, practice yoga, get a physical from your doctor, use well sourced nutritional supplements to help alleviate diet deficiencies,  get your spine into proper alignment with chiropractic care, have massages to release toxins from your muscles, drink adequate amounts of water, get enough sleep and create work life balance. The list goes on and can sometimes be daunting; remember that we are here to help you navigate a true path to wellness.

For the next few weeks, we will feature a practitioner in each of these areas as an example of where to go to get information on any of these specific components of getting well.  And if you suddenly realize looking at the list that you have no idea of how to do any of those things, please reach out to us for a free session to get started.

Referral Marketing

When I first started networking for my new business I was clueless. Needless to say, this grated on my nerves as it clashes with my mask of being an expert. So, I set out to rectify the situation in short order.  I started talking to experts about establishing networks which would help promote my business. One said that I needed to have a variety of gimmicks to push my offering.  He suggested that I go to many different BNI chapters as a guest and recruit them into a mastermind group.  Anyone in or associated with BNI, the world’s largest referral marketing organization,  would cringe at this type of suggestion.  Others talked about going to meet-up groups and chamber meetings and collecting business cards as I practiced my elevator pitch about coaching to each of them.

These ideas and several others that I won’t waste space on here are utterly worthless in my mind.  I ended up hiring a coach who is expert in building referral marketing networks.  I did this because I wanted time compression and I trusted her approach.  Interestingly enough, she was speaking at a PCA (Pittsburgh Coaches Association) lunch meeting on networking. This, in effect, means she was doing exactly what my first example suggested in terms of allowing someone to kick the tires through my mastermind group. At least however she was not subverting the BNI meeting process to get clients.

Building a referral marketing network takes time and I believe it should be integrated into your social media and Internet marketing campaigns and work collaboratively with your overall strategy.  In my last two blog entries, I have talked about how those two activities can work.  They work really well with building a referral network.

In his book about building referral networks, Ivan Misner the founder of BNI, describes a copy written process for building a referral network.  As a member and leader in my BNI chapter, I encourage you to read the book and follow his advice. The key thing to consider is getting your core referral network to understand what your new business is all about. You must be able to describe it to others and to get those folks to “sell” you to others simply because they know, like and trust you.

I am sure that you, like me, have hundreds of people you are connected with on Facebook, Linked in, and other social media networks. Plus you have the ability to build pages to your company on Linked in and on Facebook, as I have done.  But the point here is twofold; these connections can be a good picture of your different type of networks (i.e. your information network, support network and referral network).  Knowing which of your hundreds of partners fit into your key stakeholder groups in each type of network is key.

For example, you can use Linked in to put together mailing lists of your different types of partners.  So, if you have twenty to thirty key referral partners and perhaps five or so core network partners who you work closely with (because their clients are also your target market), you can easily keep them informed of your new offerings, enabling them to better “sell you” to those clients.

Why would they help you by doing this? Very simply, because it gives them an excuse to talk more with their clients. This is an opportunity to discuss what is going on in that client’s life, what their concerns or frustrations are, and what they’ve been up to lately. This conversation oftentimes turns into a new business opportunity for your referral partners making it a win-win situation they will be happy to repeat.

The best referral relationships are the partners that are needed all of the time by your clients.  For example, I help people create new business ventures.  They all need to build referral networks, they all need Internet marketing, and they can benefit from social media, printing services, direct mail, and accounting or banking services. So, my referral network includes offerings that all of my clients will need as they grow their business.  And each of them provide something that either I can’t or don’t wish to provide myself. As such, they become natural extensions to my offering.

Some referral partners can be very aligned with what we do.  For example, let’s say that a potential client of mine is operating a business that she wants to get back onCORE to what she envisioned when starting the company.  We look at her financials over the last three years and build a model of where her business is going.  We look at seven key numbers for how her business is functioning and determine that she needs more leads coming into to remain viable.  As she works on strategies to improve her business, she will most likely benefit from the expertise of a marketing company. I work as her coach and advisor, but the marketing firm can help increase her leads. Taking this example one step further, I have several referral partners within my network that provide marketing services. My client has the option to choose one of those services that I can recommend or do the research on her own to make the most informed decision that is best for her business.

In another example, the same client might be working first with the marketing company who does not have the toolkit to do what I can do with her financials and her desire to get back onCORE with her beliefs. They are stuck in the sales process and not sure where to go next. The marketing company, as a referral partner of mine, might suggest that the client work with me to figure out how to pay for and track programs such as what they are offering to her business?

Business gets done by referral more often than not. If you are new to creating a business yourself and new to marketing it through referral networking, Dr. Misner’s 2012 book The worlds best known marketing secret (co-authored with Mike Macedonio, Julien Sharp and Jeff Morris) is a good first resource, particularly the section on building your referral network. If you’re ready to take the next step and need more information, contact us to learn more about how you can start building your social-business-referral network. If you are interested in an awesome coach who can help you build your referral network let me know and I will introduce you to her.

Search Engine Optimization

Say “What’s your SEO strategy?” to most new business owners and the invariable response is best likened to a deer caught in the path of an oncoming truck’s headlights. Many people think they can get away with a one-time SEO activity, when an on-going strategy is what is really required.

To set the stage for this topic, I wil describe my initial foray into the world of SEO.  Before you begin to even think about SEO, you need to be clear on several items. You must clearly define “who” your ideal customer is. This involves understanding their profile, what they do, their age, hobbies, likes and dislikes. Try to build personas for them. Have conversations with real people like them. Once you have a clear picture of your ideal client, figure out how much of that market is on Facebook. You can use the Facebook Ad tool to find out how many people are in a city, state, zip code, or country. This tool provides an instant updated view of the Facebook community and if you think that Facebook is only being used by kids…well then you have been sleeping for the last three years. Likewise if you think that Linked-in is where the real business gets done and not Facebook…think again.  I believe that people engage with Facebook and their “egos” engage with Linked In. Personally I would rather engage with as much of my clients or potential clients as possible and not just their “business self”.

Still asking why Facebook?  Because you can create a Facebook page for your business for free. No web-hosting and no web designer required. The process is free and only takes a few minutes to set (once you have your strategy defined that is). You can share the new page with your existing Facebook friends and you can leverage the site to find information to push to your target market using Twitter or Google Alerts. I will re-iterate…all of this is FREE. You can become the expert on what your target market is looking for and republish that information to them in just minutes each day.

What does this have to do with SEO you ask? Your free Facebook page is exposed to the Internet search engines, just like a website.  The words that you use to talk about the interesting things you find are picked up by Search Engines. This is why knowing what SEO words resonate with your target market is so important.

To figure out what keywords work for you, employ the Google Adword tool to find out what SEO terms are used by your target customer. Start using those words in your posts and reposts.  Remember to stay on brand, be authentic, and have some fun. Watch your weekly site stats to see how many people you are reaching.

It took six months of work to get my website to the point that it is now and it is still only a working prototype with almost no traffic.  I promoted my Facebook page one week ago and more people have interacted with it in the last week than have been to my website in the last thirty days.  My website traffic was tenfold higher the day I promoted the Facebook page thanks to traffic driven to the home page link on FaceBook.

Why is this the case? In my research on Encore Entrepreneurs using Adwords, I found that no one is looking for that information.   According to one survey, there are 12 million potential Encore Entrepreneurs out there; but if you search for the term in Adwords you get just 36 monthly searches for that term as opposed to 7.4 million searches for “small business”.  So, while people might intend to grow up to be an EE someday, they are not currently looking for that in their search engine.

More interestingly, I work with people to look at retirement in a revolutionary way. One would think that boomers would be all over that…NOT! Zero! Nada! However, “Retirement New” generated 135,000 monthly searches.  It is not about what we call something, it is what the market calls it that matters.  Back in the 90’s, in a product management role, I struggled with defining the market. Now it is at our fingertips, we simply have to use the tools we are given.  To play with Adwords just go to Google,  sign in with your ID and set up a free account, then get started.

So, before you hire someone to tell you what you need for SEO, do some research. Remember, the best thing about all of this is that the Google and Facebook tools are free.  It costs you nothing and there is no commitment. You can always hire someone later and armed with this knowledge, you’ll make better decision on who to hire and what to expect. This brief blog post is certainly not meant to be a complete description of what you need to do but it is designed to point you in the right direction. If you want more information, consider attending our upcoming seminar for much more details, tips, tricks and planning tools. If you take just one thing away today, let it be this: SEO is a process that must become part of your overall marketing toolkit. It is not a one-off project that can be completed and then forgotten. As a business owner it is critical for you to understand and be involved in the ongoing process.

We will be doing a seminar series on the three pillars of marketing for today’s star-ups including the topics of Internet Marketing, Social Media and Referral Networking monthly. To get on our newsletter list and stay informed about upcoming events, send an email request.  Next week we will talk about referral marketing for your start-up business.  If all this is old hat to you and you are still stuck drop me an email, I am networked to a number of SEO experts and Internet Marketing Mavens that will be happy to help you out.