Life Lessons

Handling a Professional Setback

setbackSetbacks; we all experience them at one point or another. Professional setbacks or personal – the emotions you feel may be similar. They range from sadness, anger, regret or uncertainty; just to name a few. But, this post is not about dwelling on the setback. It’s about how you react to one and how to move forward. For the sake of a business blog, let’s focus on professional setbacks. An example of a professional setback could be losing a high-paying, long-term client. In the moments after the break, you may feel upset, nervous; heck downright panicked. Here’s the thing, it’s just a moment. And, moments are fleeting. Here’s some advice (tried and true advice, by yours truly) on how to deal with a professional setback.

  1. Accept it – in all its terrible glory. Cry, scream and shout. It’s okay to do that. Setbacks suck. Allow yourself to experience your emotions. It's important to understand I am not giving you permission to dwell on it. Experience your emotions and then move on.
  2. Understand it – once you have given yourself time to work through your emotions, understand why it happened. Most times, a setback has nothing to do with something you did. Yes, sometimes it does. Understand how and why it happened. This is important.
  3. Plan for it – now that you have screamed and cursed and understand why the setback happened, you can put a plan into place to avoid such a setback in the future or at least help soften the blow; should it happen again.

Now, let’s go back to the loss of the high-paying, long-term client. Sure, this may very well happen again with a future client. However, by accepting the initial setback, understanding why it happened, you can now put a plan into place to ensure a full practice or consistent interest in your services. Perhaps marketing efforts were less than stellar prior to your setback. Now, by consistently marketing your business, you can keep your marketing funnel full; and thus lessen the fear of losing a client.

Remember, when one door closes, another one is right around the corner – open and letting in a cool refreshing breeze.

Paying it Forward

bear1Last month, I announced my latest venture as an Independent Consultant for Usborne Books & More. Reading and childhood literacy are two things I am super passionate about. Over the last few months I've been able to utilize my knowledge and business savvy to help promote childhood literacy. This week I will be hosting a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Central and Northern New Jersey and hope to donate 60 teddy bear/book sets for the children and families that use their facilities.

Ronald McDonald House provides a "home away from home" for families of pediatric patients who travel to Central and Northern New Jersey for medical treatment.  Comfort these children with a hug by donating a Cuddle Bear set to a child at the New Brunswick Ronald McDonald House.

As a former pediatric patient myself, I know firsthand how meaningful a gift such as this can be when you are sick and scared. 

Usborne & Kane Miller publish exceptional books for kids. Books offer comfort, entertainment, education, and most importantly hope for the future. Usborne Books & More will match the funds raised for this book drive by 50%; allowing us to raise even more for Ronald McDonald House of Central and Northern New Jersey!

A donation of $25 dollars will provide a Cuddle Bear book and accompanying plush bear to 1 sick child and his/her family. Through Usborne's 50% match, $1,000 in donations will sponsor books for 60 children!

If you are in a position to donate, you can learn more about the fundraiser here: YouCaring.com/cuddle4ronaldnj.

You would also be helping if you simply help me spread the word on Twitter, Facebook and with your friends or family.  Thank you!

Evolution of an Entrepreneur

Evolution of an entrepreneur is an interesting thing. Many of my associates, of whom I’ve stayed in touch with over the years, have grown and evolved.  It is fun for me to look back to see how far they’ve come.  Some branched off into new business directions, while others have left the world of business ownership completely. Their evolution reminds me of how far I’ve come, as well as, the twists and turns my own journey has taken me. Way back in 2008, I started my first business.  I was younger, new at running a business, and if I am being honest, not completely confident in my skills. In fact, back then, I lived and breathed the motto, “Fake it until you make it.”  I did that for the first year of my business.

Then a funny thing began to happen, I started getting better – with many things – from closing deals to managing projects and everything in between. I started a podcast and connected with people all over the world. Shy by nature, this was a huge step for me!

My first podcast, A Virtual Perception, led me down a new path, into the wonderful world of podcasting. Eventually, I began offering podcasting assistance as a service.  I loved it (and still do!).

Over the course of the last seven years, I’ve travelled many different roads and have even taken a few detours along the way. In fact, for a while, I took a major detour by taking a full-time job. It was not a decision I regret, although I did question it at first. The decision meant closing up shop for a time and that weighed heavily on me. But, it was the right choice.  I’ve come to appreciate the job, the people and the connections I’ve built.

Stepping back into the world of entrepreneurship was interesting. There were two main differences this time around:

1. I had a direction - I knew exactly what services I wanted to offer – digital media management and podcasting support.  In 2008, I just kind of threw things at the wall to see what would stick. I realized, I could not (and should not) be everything to everyone.

2. I had a business name and brand – me. I decided not to hide behind a fancy business name or spend the time trying to come up with a catchy concept. Authenticity is important to me and I felt by having my business name simply be “Darlene Victoria”, it was an extension of that. My clients know exactly who I am and by visiting my site and blog, can determine exactly what to expect when working with me.

If you are considering entrepreneurship and feel like you are lacking confidence or too scared to start, just stop. Stop it. Confidence will come, it won’t come overnight, but it will. It took me seven years to feel comfortable in my own shoes. Stay the course (it's okay to take a detour or two); in the end you’ll come out being a better, brighter and more confident entrepreneur. Still unsure? My e-book, The Inspired Entrepreneur's Guide has an exercise that helps you build confidence. Check it out here.

 

Faced with Fear, What Do You Do?

Fear can be a very stabilizing emotion. When afraid, most will go to great lengths to avoid their fear.What about if the fear is of the unknown? Let’s say you have a dream to become a business owner, but you are afraid of the what-ifs - “What if I don’t know what I am doing?”, “What if I suck?” or “What if I fail?” All valid fears, but are they valid enough to keep you stabilized? Should they stop you from trying? I have a story to share with you about fear.

One recent afternoon I was exploring my area for photography sites; driving along back roads full of farms, horses and mountains. It was a very peaceful drive. Looking for a place to stop, I stumbled upon an old mill. This mill was built back in 1826. It was an amazing spot for photos!

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After snapping a few shots of the mill itself, I noticed a tunnel. It was adjacent to the mill and was a long, dark and very scary looking tunnel. The sign next to it stated it led to a trail.

Let me tell you this, I have an irrational fear of dark tunnels. I close my eyes on any and all haunted house rides, even the very cheesy ones at carnivals. I hate the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel. I even close my eyes when going through tunnels on train rides at amusement parks.  I am one big baby when it comes to tunnels.

I stood about 400 ft away from the entrance of the tunnel and took several pictures. After all, I am a photographer and the tunnel could potentially make an interesting shot. As I was finishing up a man and his son came out of the tunnel. Dad had a fishing rod in one hand and the hand of his son in the other. It was a very sweet moment to witness.

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It made me question my rationale. Do I dare venture into the long, dark tunnel to see what is on the other side? I thought. I looked behind me and then in front of me, towards the tunnel.

Nope.

I decided it was not worth the risk. What the risk was, I really don’t know. Instead I ventured to a spot nearby and took several wonderful photos of a roaring rapid river bed.

After spending about 30 minutes along the riverside, I decided it was time to head home. As I was leaving, I passed the tunnel again. A man in a wheelchair had just come out of it; from the other side, from the unknown. Do I dare? I looked towards the other side….all I could see was a very old stone wall. Was it worth it? The photographer instinct and my curious nature started to lure me forward. Am I really going to do this? I thought.

I looked around and then in front of me again… what am I afraid of exactly? I thought. What could possibly be on the other side that was so terrible? I realized in that moment, it wasn't the other side that was scaring me. It was the tunnel itself. It was the steps leading to the other side.

The infamous tunnel.

One step, that is all it takes, right?

I took that step. Then one step turned into two steps and then I was running! Like Forest Gump, I ran!  I was in the tunnel. The sound of my feet hitting the wooden boards echoed around me. I was almost to the end now; the brick wall was still all I could see. As I reached the other side and came out of the tunnel, the sun greeted me with warmth. But, that was not all that greeted me.

Before me was the most amazing sight of the day, a waterfall. My breath caught. I realized had I let my fear get the best of me, I would have never – in a million years – known what beauty lay on the other side. Because I faced my fear – the fear of the tunnel – I reaped a glorious reward. Nature, in all its glory stood before me.

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So I ask you, what is holding you back? If it’s the fear of the unknown, how will you know what will truly be if you don’t take the first step. Your glorious reward could be waiting.

Let’s play devil's advocate for a moment.. because fear is a crazy thing. Let say I had gotten through the tunnel and it was just a swamp on the other side. An icky, mucky and smelly swamp. Who cares? So what if the view sucks when you reach the other side… you faced your fear. You got to the other side.

You did it.

That’s what counts.

When you are old and gray, sharing stories about your journey with friends and family, will you be the one telling a story about the time you faced a fear and succeeded (or failed) or about the time you ate a tuna fish sandwich at your cubicle and then went home?  Which one sounds more appealing to you? I know which one I would choose.

Life is all about growth, pushing limits and living.  One step is all it takes.

Photography: A Life Lesson

Once a week, I spend some time outside, taking photos of nature. I make it a point to be in the moment and become one with the environment I am shooting.  It sounds so silly, I know. It wasn't always this way. In fact, when I first started taking photos, I simply pointed and clicked at whatever I thought looked cool. Until one afternoon when my perspective changed.  It was a cold day, having just snowed a few days before. I was driving around my town, looking for scenes to photograph when I came across a deserted playground at the edge of a frozen lake.  A playground covered in snow with a sheet of ice as the background seemed cool enough to me. I pulled over and started taking photos. Slide covered in ice, click. Docks stretching out to the frozen lake bed, click, click, click.  As it turned out,  those photos didn't come out that great. What happened next was truly magical.

I walked back to my car. It was an isolated area. I was a little spooked. Because of my trepidation, I was hypersensitive to the sounds around me or should I say the lack of sounds around me.  I looked over my shoulder as I approached my car, I heard trickling water. I remember thinking, where was that coming from? I had looked around me. To my right was the lake, obviously frozen.  I looked to my left. A bunch of trees and a big ridge of snow. The sound was coming from behind the frozen ridge.

It took me a moment, but I soon realized the trickling water was a stream! Snow, frozen lakes and drab looking scenery had been my photography subjects for weeks. A trickling stream of water? I couldn't believe my luck!  I raced towards the ridge. It was steep. Very steep.  I stared towards the top, still in the isolated area, with my camera hanging from it's strap around my neck.

Here's how the thoughts formed in my mind, as I tried to decide what my next move would be.

Do I dare?

No, it looks too dangerous.

But, but it's a stream!

What if I climb to the top, fall, break something and get hurt?

After debating with myself for a few seconds, I decided the risk was worth the reward. Anyway, I would be careful. Very, careful! I carefully and slowly climbed up the ridge and peered over. At first I didn't see the water, although the sound was very loud now that I was atop the ridge.

Finally, I had found it! It was, indeed, a stream. It wasn't much though, a very small body of water enclosed by snow and ice. I started snapping pictures like crazy. None of them came out good. In fact, because of my excitement many of them came out blurry or crooked.

However, I learned the most valuable lesson of all that day. If I just stop, look around and focus on my surroundings, a whole new world of surprises would appear right in front of me.

My view of the world is slowly starting to change.  I find myself looking at the people, places and things around me with new wonder and appreciation. To quote my favorite movie from the 1980's, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once and a while, you can miss it."

I wish I had started paying attention much sooner.

Darlene Victoria 2.0

You may have noticed an onslaught of content being produced by me over the last several weeks. Along with my productions, you may have detected an attitude adjustment. Let me just say that the two are deeply connected. I am a positive person by nature - a glass half-full kind of girl. If you know me, that's no shock to hear. What may seem shocking is that sometimes I fall short of that and can be a huge grump. Hey, I am human. I refer to those grumpy times as "Exorcist Darlene", because it's the complete opposite of my usual nature, it's like I truly am possessed. There is a reason. Let me explain.

A little over a month ago my world was shaken up a bit. I found myself left wondering, "What's next?" The answer at the time was, well produce something. Produce anything, just do something creative!

Growing up, anytime I was sick or sad or felt really down, I turned to creativity. There was a time, while sick at home as a teenager, when I created movies on my VHS camera (they will NEVER see the light of day...while hilarious, they were extremely embarrassing). I also wrote a lot and my first business idea was born.

Back to the here and now: as soon as I turned to doing something creative, I was forced to take a long hard look at myself. Why was I being such a grump and why when I turned to creative work, did my attitude change?

That's when I realized there was a correlation between the "not-so-nice Darlene" and the creative work I was (or in this case, was not) doing, as well as, finding ways to do the things I love throughout the course of the  day.

Creativity makes me happy. It allows me to express myself, but more so my hope is that my work will make at least one person smile or make their day brighter. That's where I thrive, helping people and making their day better, in some small way. Creativity (for me) = happy. It's as simple as that!

I started piecing myself back together, one creative project at a time. I had turned a corner. Darlene 2.0 was here, a happier, more focused and inspired me. I was open to people again and to opportunities.

Later in February, I got some good news. Had I been in a different head space, I may have reacted differently or may not have even gotten that good news to begin with. You get out of life what you put in, didn't you know? With my new focus, I reacted positively.  I am happy with how life has unfolded over the last month. Turns out, shake ups are good.

I continue to strive to take a few creative action steps each week. The steps keep me grounded and in positive spirits.

If you are finding yourself in a slump or feeling like you are possessed by Oscar the Grouch- take a look within and determine what is missing. Then, figure out a way to get whatever it is back into your life..pronto!

It's me, again

It's been quite some time since I posted something on my blog or on my website. So first, "Hey, how are you doing?" Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let's get real. I haven't posted in a while for a few reasons. The main reason being that I wanted to take a step back from posting on the web. My husband and I are looking to start a family and as a future mom, I just felt like I needed to take a step back from sharing (and sometimes perhaps over-sharing) with essentially the whole word. I still feel that way, but I think I've also lost a little bit of myself over the last several months and attribute that a lot to suppressing my creativity. I stopped writing.

I stopped podcasting.

I stopped volunteering.

It's not all bad, of course. I started going to the gym a lot, continued running and threw myself head first into starting a family with my husband. Get your mind out of the gutter, we are adopting. Not bad things by a mile. In fact, all three of those things do make me happy! But, I am predominantly a "right-brain" kind of girl and also someone that likes to help others. Podcasting, writing and volunteering were my outlets for doing just that. I guess life just got the best of me and time for all of those things got pushed to the side. I know once baby is here, that will happen yet again, of course.

However, I feel like I need to get some of that mojo back. Which is why I decided writing via my blog worked for me in the past, lets give it a go one more time...with feeling. We'll see how things go.  Don't expect my posts to have any kind of theme or schedule. In fact, some days they may not even make sense.

This is me taking another stab at writing and being creative. I will do my best to write for you as that's the main point for having a blog. I hope you want to come along on this new journey. It should be an interesting and enlightening one.

 

Top Secrets

Facebook is all a flutter with…“XX number of things you don't know about me,” updates. I have no real idea why, probably another one of those viral private messages going around. Since I am not a cool kid, I truly have no idea!   I decided, “Why not make a few unknown things about me blog post?”   So here it goes:

    1. In 2007, I was *this close* to going to culinary school in New York to become a pastry chef.
    2. I can be overly dramatic.
    3. I am very shy in-person. But, give me a microphone at a Karaoke Bar and I’ll belt out a tune like no tomorrow.
    4. I admire both of my brothers for their artistic ability. One draws like nobody’s business and the other designs and builds the most amazing homes and home improvements.
    5. I never really wanted to be a hair stylist growing up, but the idea of it was still cool. I often tried to mimic my mother’s talent for hair design by chopping off all of the hair on my Barbie dolls. I also "colored" one of my Ken dolls' hair (brown) with a magic marker. I had one blonde Ken and one brunette Ken. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
    6. I am easily amused.
    7. I am a book nerd. I’d much rather read a book than play video games, watch tv or anything else people do for fun.  Reading is fundamental. I love it.
    8. I love ice cream. Not just love. I mean I LOVE ice cream. Vacations are not vacations without ice cream. Dinner is not dinner without dessert. And, dessert has to be ice cream.
    9. I am very comfortable with technology, the internet and computer software. But, I still have trouble using the television remote.

Being happy and present "in the now"

A few weeks ago, as I was getting prepared for vacation, I had an epiphany of sorts. Actually, I finally decided to be at peace with my life and to be grateful for the here and now. Easier said than done. Let me explain. In 2008 I had started my own business. It was a major accomplishment  for me. Having my own business was something I had always dreamed of and when I turned 30-years old I stopped dreaming. I started doing. Having my business opened so many doors for me, allowed me to learn new skills, meet amazing people (of whom I still stay in touch with today) and even helped me find a passion for podcasting. Who knew?

Two years into my business I was offered an amazing opportunity working full-time for one my then clients. Actually, it must have been written in the stars or something, because it was an offer from my first and favorite client. I know you shouldn't say out loud that you have a favorite client, kind of like, you can't say you have a favorite kid. We can just keep it on the down low. Ok? All kidding aside, I really liked the work this client sent me and working with the other individuals that did business with the company made me feel like I was making a difference somehow. So it was an easy decision, in a sense, to accept the opportunity.  It's now three years later and I am still with the company. Awesomeness.

The funny thing is - for the last 3 years - I've secretly questioned if the decision was right for my professional growth. The question continued to be at the forefront for the longest time, as I watched many of my business associates achieving great successes by leaps and bounds.  Part of me wondered, could I have been that successful if I had stuck with my business? Am I a sell out? A worry-wart by nature, the thoughts really started to take a toll.

In fact, I found myself trying to think of products, books or podcasts I could produce to try to achieve some kind of level of success similar to that of my business cohorts. Keeping up with the Jones' is never a good thing, at least I believe so. In fact, I am usually the first person to tell someone to "March to the beat of their own drum."  Alas, there I was ignoring my own advice.

Then two weeks ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am freaking happy and I am successful. It may not be the same type of success as my old pals and associates, but it is success. I truly enjoy my job and the people I work with day in and day out. That in and of itself spells success.  In addition to that I have a few hobbies that keep my creative side happy and fulfilled. I am active, healthy and love my family and husband dearly.  Basically, I had my very own self-aware wake-up call. It was actually pretty darn amazing.

Sure, I still have goals I'd like to accomplish.. but they are my own goals and have nothing to do with measuring up to the success of others. Speaking of which, to all my business pals that have grown by leaps and bounds - my hat is tipped off to you. You are amazing, I am absolutely happy for you and cheer you on any chance I get.

This post is a reminder to take a look at your life, be grateful for all of the good things and know it's ok to be happy for those things. Everyone has their own definition of success, if you are stacking yourself up against someone else right now, stop. Be happy and present in the now. You owe it to yourself to do so.