September 2009


HARO – Help A Reporter Out

This is a fantastic source for information and also a wonderful tool for promoting yourself or your business.

The way it works is this. If you go to http://www.helpareporter.com/ and sign up, you will receive emails about twice a day each weekday. The queries are all from writers and journalists who need information to fill out a story they are working on. If you have knowledge on that subject, you simply send an email back to that particular query and share your information. Often they will quote you and put a link back to your website (if you have one). This has happened a number of times for me in regards to my organizing and cleaning experience.

Recently I had the opportunity to request information in a query. I’ve just sent it off, but I’m excited about what responses I will encounter. Best of all? The service is completely free!

Think about the applications for a moment. You may have decided you want to start your own Personal Finance biz and are wondering what exactly people need or look for. Ask the question! “What top three questions would you ask a financial advisor?” Then sit back and watch the responses come in. It can serve as the basis for the services you later offer. You can craft your website around those questions. You could even write an article that addresses several of the concerns and then use it on your website, in advertising or submit it to a local newspaper for publication!

The same goes in the opposite direction. Read over the HARO queries each day, and respond to the categories that make sense to you. I once saw a query for parenting advice, my pet subject after teaching parenting classes for seven years, and I responded back and was quoted in the article!

You don’t have to be a writer, you just need experience and/or an opinion. And most of us have an overabundance of opinion to share!

Life change means grabbing reins and taking control – of your daily life and of your destiny. One of the ways we can do this is through gaining (and sharing)  information. So think about it, and ask yourself, “What can I learn or teach others today?”

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I had hoped the argument would go away once I had one book written and done. But it didn’t.

Perhaps because I self-published instead of searching for and securing an agent it continued to feed the fear.

That I’m not good enough.

Despite being told by scores of people, many of them not related to me or even my friends, that I write very well…still I remain conflicted and anxious.

Inside my brain the debate rages on. It’s a full-out argument in those gray folds. Voice #1 is calming explaining that, “Just because somebody said I wrote well doesn’t an author make.”

Voice #2 is desperately whispering, “I can do this, I can. See, I’ll prove it.”

The rejection from my first query came in on Thursday. Rejection #1: “We are sorry, but we don’t think we are the appropriate agents for your inquiry.”

I close my eyes for a moment, stop myself from ferreting out each word and obsessing over the hidden message behind it. They didn’t say I sucked, or that I was hopeless, they said they weren’t the right agents. “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’ve been dumped, and we didn’t even get to second base!

Despite my best efforts I feel rejected and it stays my hand for a day, two days. I write nothing.

I force myself to address a new query letter. Voice #2 is firm, if quiet, “You must keep trying. You must keep the faith. Even if you receive thirty rejections, don’t give up.”

Voice #1 pipes up as I carry the envelope to the mailbox, “You’re sending that new query letter to who?! The International Creative Management agency? Are you high? They deal with star talent!”

I push the red flag up on my mailbox as the second voice counters, “So they might say ‘no’… so what? We’ll try again and again and again until we find the right agent.”

My stomach roils as I read a list of veritable “Who’s Who” that are represented by the agency in question. A small, thin thread of hope blossoms, a dreamy-eyed “what if” hits and I am transported by the vision of the possible.

I savor it for a moment. Smile at the thought of being in the company of giants…Steve Martin, Patricia Cornwell, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen, and more.

I know that it will hurt when the rejection comes in again. But maybe, just maybe, it won’t.

Meanwhile I’ll keep dreaming, and writing, and working. I’ll keep my hope, try to power through those moments of doubt when Voice #1 is so strong and so loud. I’ll listen for the quiet calm of Voice #2. I’ll keep submitting my query letters, honing my craft, and believing.

And you know what?

In whatever you choose to do, so…should…you.

I wish I had written this article, because it is GREAT! This coach is right on target as she discusses personal power and how powerlessness leads to failure. It is all a state of mind! Read the article and then ask, “How can I change my state of mind?”

Personal Power:
Living From the Inside Out
by Laura Belsten, PhD, MCC

Lao Tzu, famous Chinese philosopher living over 2500 years ago, stated that the biggest problem in the world is that individuals experience themselves as powerless. Powerless individuals feel helpless, negative, lethargic, frustrated, resentful, and often live in fear, enslaved by circumstances they perceive as beyond their control.

The opposite of powerless is an inner awareness, an internal state of being we refer to as “personal power” in the emotional intelligence field.

Personal power is an inner awareness that makes us feel in control of our lives. It is an inner knowing that we can achieve our goals, a calm conviction about who we are and our ability to get the things we want in life.

Quiet Confidence

People with a highly developed sense of personal power have a quiet self-confidence that they can set the direction of their lives, and they do. They are able to distinguish among circumstances over which they have some control and those they do not. They define themselves from the inside out (for example, their internal self talk includes messages like “I am a capable person, I can manage this setback, I’m good at managing conflict, I’m creative”)

The biggest barrier to success in almost any endeavor is powerlessness, negativity, helplessness and inertia. Mahatma Gandhi had no army, never held or accepted political office, never used violence. He was a small, frail man, yet he defeated the armed might of the British Empire, driving the British out of India without firing a single shot. How did he accomplish this?

Personal power. Personal power can move mountains. Personal power solves problems.

Dr. Laura Belsten is Dean of the Graduate School of Coaching, Master Certified Coach (MCC), and a national leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence. Personal Power is one of the twenty-four key competencies of the Emotional Intelligence Profile. Learn them all!

For me, my powerlessness faded slowly after I quit my job and started my own company. Since 2005, my personal power has been growing and growing and GROWING. At this point, it shows no signs of slowing down and so many people comment on it. Imagine how different you can make your life by changing your mind. Isn’t it high time you started believing in yourself?

I was eleven or twelve the first time I attended a school dance.

I remember being so excited as I fretted over what to wear, and what to do with my hair. My mother actually allowed me to wear makeup and had applied just the tiniest bit of eye shadow and lipstick. She smiled at me and curled my hair.

Looking back I realize now that she had tried to warn me, that things don’t always turn out like you see on television and in the movies. I was imagining a magical evening spent dancing with boys, laughing and enjoying myself, and she was remembering the reality of them, the awkwardness and the nervousness of boys and girls alike.

“Don’t be sad if the boys don’t want to dance,” she counseled, doing a final fluff on my hair. “Everyone is shy at things like this.”

I didn’t really pay attention to what she was saying, all I could think about was how fun it would be to dance and finally have boys look at me and pay attention to me. I had on my cute new jeans, with the ballerina shoes appliqued on the back. They were pink satin. My top was a beautiful red-purple velour, gathered and tucked at the shoulders.

It was 1981 and I felt beautiful.

I practically flew out of the car when my mom dropped me off and ran to find my friend. I only had one, but that was enough. She looked nervous too, all awkward angles and knobby knees. We were both in that weird, half child, half adolescent stage. Nubby little breasts and long, stick legs and the beginnings of acne. Suddenly, looking at her, I didn’t feel so beautiful any more. I was just another wallflower, the one no one really liked to hang out with, the one always picked last at sports, never the one that boys looked at.

What had I been thinking? I had actually convinced myself that tonight was special. I had dared to dream that the rules in full force during the day did not apply and that, like magic, I would dance at the ball like Cinderella.

We stood there, terrified grins plastered on our faces and watched the boys, looking away the minute they looked at us. We merged with others into packs, outcast pack here, popular packs over there and the dance floor remained empty.

Hours later I was sitting at a table alone. My one and only friend had managed to find a boy who wanted to dance with her. I sat alone and hated myself for believing in magic, for being so stupid, and for being so plain-looking. I would never be the girl that all the boys wanted.

I glanced up and was startled to find my stepfather standing in front of me, he smiled at me and said, “Hi beautiful, do you want to dance?”

I looked up and did the first thing that made sense to me at that moment. I burst into tears. They were body-wracking, soul-crushing sobs. They didn’t stop, not once, during the hurried trip back to the car. They didn’t stop during the ride home with a stop to drop off my friend who looked confused and worried about me.

I was devastated. I had held such hope, such a naive certainty that things would be different that night.

Instead it would be many, many years before I felt comfortable in the presence of others. Years before I could laugh and not give a damn whether I was beautiful or just okay-looking. Decades before I would feel at ease in a crowd or be able to hold my own in conversations.

I’m older now. A lot older. I stand up in front of groups and teach classes regularly. I’ve self-published my own book. I’ve even been on the radio. I’ve got the perspective, the distance and the experience that will save me in the weeks to come.

You see, today I put together a query letter for the first book that I hope to have published through an agent. I looked carefully for the excerpt I wanted. I read, re-read and edited the query letter over and over. I packaged it all in an envelope and put extra postage on it just in case. It’s sitting here, on my desk, and after I type this I’m going to walk out to the mailbox and set it inside.

It’s kind of like asking the agent if they would like to dance. And I’m afraid that they’ll say no. But I can’t let that fear stop me anymore. I can’t stand in that little outcast’s circle and pretend to be having a great time when all I want to do is dance.

And even if the first agent doesn’t want to dance with me, I’ll smile, and say “thank you for your time.” And then I’ll ask someone else to dance. And another and another and another.

And one of these days, I’ll dance like I dreamed about dancing when I was twelve years old.

And you know what?

It will be worth the wait.