Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It’s a "Human" Thing: What We Give We Will Get Back In Business

It was a busy Friday. There was nothing “chillax” about the end of the week. 

My to-do list had been surmounting: the resulting of splitting energy and focus between a personal family matter and my professional commitments. The week had been a roller coaster. There were moments of complete satisfaction met with moments of stress—pleading with people on the phone, pondering futuristic thoughts and trying to dodge my involvement in a matter that had nothing and yet everything to do with me. My anxiety level was through the roof.

And then, I discovered it. (I often joke that I am a marketing MacGayver but apparently I am any-life-situation-you-can-throw-at-me-MacGyver). There was a transaction that had gone wrong. I had the best of intentions but I made a slight boo boo and I had to fix it. Only rather than being able to fix it right away (within a day), it would take me 5 days of stressing and worry.

My old boss used to drill in my head, "numbers don’t lie." 
No they don’t, especially if you have the wrong number’s for a direct deposit. To fix things, I start calling, tracking down the money, trying to redirect it. I'm told to "send a fax" and quip to myself, "who the hell sends a fax anymore?" 

Every single day last week, I was calling, calling, calling someone, somewhere. There were operator number’s, delays, compliance. All this "human to human", phone contact can be overwhelming for an online entrepreneur. I was waiting on someone in all day meeting. Of course I laugh some more. "Who attends ALL DAY meetings anymore? Shouldn't this woman be on her computer screen?"

Flash forward to snail mail saving the day. I have a check overnighted to me. It comes, and my faith in humanity is restored thanks to USPS. But my excitement is short lived. The check is rendered to the wrong party. I'm told not to worry, that my big bank will save me.

Only I show up after calling customer service (which says I will have no problem), and the first person I encounter at the branch says they can’t help me. And I panic. And I plead. And then I meet Sue.* 

I explain, I emphasize, I stress to her that this is my fault which is why it has to be fixed. I don’t screw up ANYTHING for my clients, I refuse to screw up for my family. 

Apparently Sue* is a higher level manager than the first woman I encountered. Sue* doesn’t have all the answers yet but she doesn’t turn me away either. We sit down at her desk. I am in a busy branch of the bank off Sunset Blvd. And all of the sudden, it just comes over me. I start to cry. No sobs, no weeping. Just endless tears rolling down my face followed by my body shaking. A part of me is in shock that I started letting it out in a freaking Bank of America of all places. This was the very place people picketed, it's not a therapist's office--IT'S A BANK! 

Sue* doesn’t look at me like I have three heads, she doesn’t say, “Get a grip. This is Bank of America and we don't care about YOUR problem. In case you haven't read the news, we have a ton of customers with challenges.” 

Instead, with the most respect and dignity, she hands me a tissue and says she will be right back. She retrives a bottle of water for me. And then, she proceeds to solve my problem. Big business with small business, not big business vs small business. 

She gets it. 
I am a human being. She is a human being. 
I am struggling and I need help. 
This is what business is all about--being of service, solving problems, supporting one another in our day to day lives. 

It’s not a business thing, it’s a human thing! I wasn't just a dollar sign, Sue* would not stop, she would not be satisfied, until I had a solution and felt better. She went far above and beyond what a damn job training manual instructed her to do. 

I could not stop thanking her for her compassion. I asked for a supervisor or the name of someone to send a letter of recognition to and she declined and simply said, “I’m just happy I could help you.” 

We should ALL be so lucky to do the same for our customers. 
Do the same for them. Do the same. 

There was no glory, no big pay out or a plaque in Sue's* honor. There was one simple gesture bestowed upon me in a time where I needed it most. And it was enough to remind me that it’s not about big vs small, or neighbor vs neighbor or return on investment. If you always strive to give and help and truly pull people up in business, you will get that same respect and honor bestowed upon you when you least expect it but very much so need it.

*name has been changed for the story.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

What's Keeping Your Soul Sewn Together?

The long black dress. Not little. Not formal. Simple, black cotton. First spotted in Midtown Manhattan near Grand Central Station. I had been walking for about 40 plus blocks and stopped just beyond the New York Public Library. (The one where Carrie gets stood up by Big on her wedding day).

I noticed my reflection in the window first. I looked tired, worn out and yet, energized by the city. Next, I saw the window displays with beautiful clothes--summer outfits adorned with bags worn by mannequins with awkward poses. That's when the long black dress caught my eye. There was a sign in the window, $12.00. The store was H&M.

It had been nearly 5 months since I made the decision to be bi-coastal. With that decision came two rents, my recurring car payment back in LA, subway fares, groceries double the price. Living between two cities wasn’t a matter of budgeting, it was a matter of sacrificing. And that long, black $12.00 dress was tapping into my temptation bone. I justified all the places I could wear it. “Black goes with everything.” It wasn’t so much the $12.00 I was resisting. I had learned a new responsibility about discipline, sacrifice and money and I didn’t want to throw those lessons down the drain with one impulsive purchase. Just then, my inner lawyer started another side of the debate.

It’s $12.00. 
You have been working SO HARD. 
For crying out loud, you are walking from 14th street to 71st to save on subway fare! 
You’ve been eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner for a week. 
Go ahead, get the dress. You won’t regret it.

I was in and out of the H&M store in a flash, long black dress in tow. As my imagination served correct, I would wear the long black dress the very next day. It made me feel ultra feminine and slight hipster. 

A few months later, I would wear the dress on top of a peak in the British Virgin Islands for a Goddess Circle with a powerful intuitive and amazing group of women. I would then wear the dress to Florida to visit my grandparents. And that’s when my $12.00 treasure almost went to the long black dress graveyard.

We’ve all heard the term you pay for what you get so my long black cotton dress, through it’s physical trips and travels and those trips to the washing machine, had started to come undone. Actually, it was one of the straps that held the dress up. It was clearly becoming unattached and I panicked. I already had enough challenges with trying to grow a business and make it in two cities--I certainly didn't need to flash anyone. 

Just then, I remembered, “Hey, my grandmother used to sow. I am here with her now, perhaps she can help me.”

My grandmother was 81 years old. Aging had made her very depressed and sad at the loss of her independence. 

I will never forget the smile on her face the morning we sat at the breakfast table chatting. Inspired by my BVI trip, I was playing UB40's cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." My aunt had come in with the long black dress and asked my grandmother in Armenian to sow it for me. I don’t speak Armenian, and my grandmother was aware of the fact. Perhaps my aunt asked her in Armenian in case she declined. Maybe she’d be embarrassed. Within a few minutes, she had her sewing kit out. That's when the huge smile grew across her face and an even larger smile grew on mine.

My grandmother wasn’t just sewing my strap back together. She was leaving me with her touch, always, right there to the left of my heart, always within reach anytime I looked at or would wear my long black dress.

I don’t believe I had the long black dress packed with me on March 8th, 2012, when my grandmother died. It’s hard to recall that period in time, and what I was wearing. Similar to how I had felt that day on the corner of a busy street in Manhattan, I knew the time would be another lesson in responsibility, sacrifice and discipline.

Almost a year after that, April 19th, 2013, I stared at the long black dress hanging on a door seam. My father had been in the hospital for over a week and I would wear the dress to feel my grandmother's spirit with me, to feel her strength, to remember her smile through yet another difficult time. Only the responsibility and discipline were far greater. 

I would have never known, some 3 years prior, that this darn $12.00 dress would become a metaphor for life. For learning how to treat yourself to something you want, for rewarding yourself for defying the need for daily instant gratification. For remembering that even as people pass, their imprints on our soul, the lessons they’ve instilled in us, the morals they have left behind, do not.

So, I hope every single one of you that reads this finds that one possession or two in your closet or jewelry box. The one that most people think or assume serves you on a materialistic level. But it’s that one piece or possession that reminds you how far you've come and that you deserve to be rewarded. To be strong yet nurturing. To be able to sacrifice and also learn to acknowledge ourselves in the same instance.

To long black dresses, to little black dresses, to rewarding discipline, hard work and sacrifice and last but not least, to keeping our souls sewn together no matter what may happen in life.

What's keeping your soul sewn together? 

Want to keep up with my adventures in entrepreneurship? Looking for a little advice on marketing, mentorship and making it happen for yourself? Perhaps you just need a little nudge to create content, connections and communications. I welcome one, I welcome all. So come on over and join me at Facebook.com/jaclynmullenmedia

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Priority of Pressure

I’m tired. It’s only Tuesday. There are 1,000 other things on my mind aside from blogging.

How many emails do I still have to answer?

I need to revise and update those two reports.

My throat hurts.

I’m still jet lagged.

And this, well this is the loudest “thing” I keep hearing over and over and over.
Why do I feel like I’ve hit a plateau? Who am I right now?

Because, sometimes in entrepreneurship, other things take precedence. Because sometimes we are doing enough to propel us forward.

Because maintenance in entrepreneurship vs “being in full throttle mode 24/7” is better than burning out, not having any clarity and closing the doors on your business as fast as they opened.

The pressure is good for you.

That’s the cliché. And while that may be true to varying degrees, the pressure can also prevent you from clear, concise actions. The pressure can prevent you from accepting that every great leader was once where you are today.

Questioning themselves.
Learning as they go.
Confused on how or if they are ever going to get “there.”

And when you reach that point of being pulled in 327 directions, that point where you are feeling as though you are in the exorcist and your head is spinning and you want to walk away from the keyboard and screen guess what you are supposed to do to survive? The very next item on your to-do list.

That’s right. You read correctly.

Quitting, walking away and stalling won’t serve you any good. So, even though it may be a challenge, even though you may be in need of space and a break (things I recommend you give yourself) just look at the next item on your to-do list—be it blogging, emailing a prospect, finishing a report, paying a bill—and push yourself to power through.

The pressure is good for you when you know how to push past your resistance and stretch just a few more feet than you were willing to do before. The pressure is not good for you when you allow it to shrink you down to size, to compare your path, brand, messaging, you name it to everyone else’s, to not allow you anytime whatsoever to process and grow.

Photo credit: Brittney Castro, www.financiallywisewomen.com 

No athlete, major or minor league, sets out to maintain the same record. There is always the pursuit of achieving just a little more than the prior accomplishment (due to pressure) and then, well then there is rest and recovery.

Some weeks, you just gotta stop pushing, forcing, focusing, examining and worrying that you are never going to get "there" and really surrender to the idea (although you may not agree or like it one bit) that you are EXACTLY where you’re supposed to be. 

Signing off to practice what I preach this Tuesday night,

The Jaclyn of All Trades 

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