What Are You Thankful For?

Happy Thanksgiving from Aleweb Social MarketingIt’s Thanksgiving Eve, and my social newsfeeds are filled with people sharing what they are most thankful for. As I look back at where I was a year ago and contemplate all that has happened since, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

This time last year, I was functioning under the crushing weight of grief that comes from losing a loved one. My fiance, Frank, had died just a few weeks earlier, and I was still trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning and having to remind myself to breathe whenever fresh waves of grief came crashing in.

They say that, in order to appreciate light, there must be dark; and to know good, evil must exist. I’ve learned that the same is true for joy. To know true happiness, not just contentment, but unmitigated joy, one must also be familiar with sorrow and grief.

Last year at this time, my life had shut down. I went through the motions, making Thanksgiving dinner, but soundlessly crying throughout the meal as I sat with my family; feeling fake as I tried to live a life I had no interest in participating in.

Reflecting on where I was then to where I am now is like seeing the difference between night and day. There are no similarities.

Toward the end of December, I realized that I couldn’t keep going on that way. I’d gotten through Thanksgiving, Frank’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday and Christmas, but just barely. I knew something needed to shift, and that the way I was living my life was not the way he would want me to be.

I gave myself until the end of the year, deciding that on January 1st, I would pick myself back up and begin again. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It was simply a new start.

I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew it was essential. Frank had died. I had not. The one thing I would not do was waste my life. I would make however many days I had left count for something. I had no idea what that might be, but I knew it was within me. With Jeremiah 29:11 ringing in my ears, I began looking for God’s plan and purpose for me, asking Him to reveal it to me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

One thing was clear to me going into my relationship with Frank. If I wanted a healthy and genuine relationship, I would have to keep the walls down. I’d spent most of my life erecting walls to keep the hurt, pain, disappointment and anger out. But those same walls blocked joy, peace, excitement and connection from coming in.

When Frank died, I didn’t have the strength to erect walls again. While their lack made me vulnerable to the grief I felt, it also presented me with the experiences I wanted most in life.

As I ventured into 2012 without him, I had no idea that this would be my Year Without Walls. But allowing those walls to remain down has allowed me to tap into genuine authenticity, not just in myself, but in allowing myself to remain open to others.

It has also enabled me to listen for other people’s stories more. My life became so much more real to me as I experienced such extremes of emotion that it reminded me of a passion I’ve always had. I love other people’s stories. Whether they are presented in a movie, a book, at a networking meeting, or over coffee, I love to learn what others are passionate about, what makes them unique, and to watch as their story continues to unfold.

So, what am I thankful for this year? I’m thankful for loving deeply, for my friends, family, and friends who are like family, for all the new people I met this year, and for the accomplishments of this past year as well as the new opportunities that lie ahead. And I’m thankful for having someone to share it all with.

The connections, relationships and even partnerships that I have been blessed with this year have been a direct result of living with myself authentically, accepting and acknowledging my grief, but granting myself permission to live again. The result has been a more beautiful, rich and connected life than I ever had before, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear your story.

We Wrote a Book — And the Miles It Took to Get There!

The Character-Based Leader - Tara Alemany https://alewebsocial.comWhen the idea was first brought up early in 2011 for the Lead Change Group to write a book, we had no idea what we were getting into. There was some thought that with a large group of contributors, we could go from concept through writing, editing and publishing in three or four months.

Ultimately, twenty-one of us got on the bandwagon and committed to the project. As time drew on, some of the original participants had to drop out due to other constraints on their time. But the vision persisted and the project moved forward.

No one in their wildest imaginings could have anticipated that this project would ultimately take over 16 months to complete.

Can you imagine the consequences of a project at work that took 4 or 5 times longer than the planner had anticipated?!

Of course, none of us had the luxury of working on the project full-time. We all had other responsibilities, and progress was made much like that of a fire brigade. Each of us took as much or as little responsibility as we were able at any given time, and pitched in to the best of our abilities. When we needed to drop out of the line for a time, that was completely understood and respected by the rest of the team.

That’s the thing I love the most about my fellow Lead Change Authors. We made every effort to share one vision and use one voice, supporting a core belief that character-based leadership matters.

Individually, when we expound on what that means, you will get different responses, because each one is filtered through the lens of our own beliefs and experience. But in the end, we all believe that character-based leadership matters, and it matters significantly enough to spend countless hours dedicated to nothing more than birthing a book.

Today, this book has seen the light of day. And like the proud parents we are, we’re busy celebrating its launch, enjoying thecongratulationsof friends and family, feeling a bit tired, shaken and very relieved.

It’s been a long road to reach this point. It took more effort and heart than any of us ever imagined. Yet, now that we’re here, it all seems so very worth it.

What we’ve created is a book that’s inspiring. We’ve each made each other think in new and different ways about what it means to be a Character-Based Leader, and I hope that what we’ve shared will make you stop and think too.

What would happen in the world around you if you applied more character to your leadership? If you mentored your followers in more meaningful ways? If you reached out to help the people around you find their own way in the world?

What we’ve given you inThe Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time is a sampling of our own experiences. It tells of the strengths and weaknesses we’ve identified in ourselves as we’ve tried to become the changes we want to see in the world. We are flawed at times, but striving to improve.

It is my hope that as you read this book, you will be inspired by what we have shared to make your own difference in the world, in whatever way you are uniquely suited to do.

If you want to learn more about the book, you can purchase it on Amazon. If you’re interested in helping us promote the book, we have a Resources page filled with tweets and status updates we’d love for you to share. And if you’re interested in reading a free sample chapter, that’s available here.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Book Review: Uprising by Scott Goodson

Publicists will tell you that if you want to gain visibility for your brand, you should tie it into relevant current events. Make your message timely by clarifying its connection to news-worthy topics. It’s the only real way to get the media’s attention.

However, in Scott Goodson’s book Uprising: How to Build a Brand – and Change the World – by Sparking Cultural Movements, he shows you how to flip that paradigm around. Rather than tying your brand, book title or product to a naturally occurring news topic, create your own by starting a movement.

He emphasizes that he’s referring a “movement” with a little m, not a “Movement” with a big one. As he puts it:

These “movements with a small m” may involve, say, a group of passionate activists, creative types, or even rabid consumers of a particular product. When these people band together around a shared passion or idea and try to turn it into something bigger and more significant, they’re not necessarily trying to change history or to change the world as we know it. They’re just trying to change the world (or some small part of it) as they know it.

Following in the footsteps of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment (Guy wrote an endorsement for Uprising), Scott shares the concept of creating a vision that builds into a story as your movement grows. It has to be something that captures the attention of an individual and draws them in, enchanting them because of a shared affinity for the subject.

For example, the vision may be to promote kindness. The only real prerequisite for participating in a movement is passion. To spark a movement, it has to be something that you, and others, can get behind. People have to feel strongly enough about it to want to collectively do something. It is passion that transforms an idea into a movement. As you spark that movement, you can tie your brand, book or other product into that story by being the narrator, sponsor or an active participant.

The author goes on to explain how marketing models are shifting. Technology has played a role in this, but so have shifts in our social conscience, interests, etc. Today’s marketers need to “ditch the pitch” and figure out what people care about and how they can be part of that conversation. This transition to movement marketing is not without its risks. But Uprising does a good job of clearly outlining the steps required to build and maintain a strong and effective movement with your brand securing trust and value to the consumer in the process.

Scott’s writing is clear, easy to follow, and filled with excellent examples of both large and small brands that have made the transition to movement marketing. It provides actionable advice that you can apply to building your own brand and sparking your own movement. If you’ve read Seth Godin’s Tribes and Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, and are looking for further ways to be inspired, this book should be next up on your reading list.

 

Disclaimer: A free review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, McGraw Hill. No further compensation was made or promised.Additionally, no affiliate links were used in this post. Aleweb is based in a state where we can’t be Amazon affiliates. Darn!

Forging Into the Future — 2012

2012

When I outlined at the beginning of last year how I was going to meet my goals for the year, this is what I wrote:

…accomplished by focusing for the next few months on the specific areas of sales (pricing, fulfillment, etc.), product development (for residuals), and website upgrades (for greater visibility, lead capture and establishment of my expertise). These will then serve as part of the launch of my (paid) speaking career.

To put it a bit more concisely, my aim was to shift my focus to speaking more. The necessary ingredients I saw for this were a product to sell, a platform for visibility (namely, my website), and a mailing list to work with.

This required migrating my website from one platform to another in order to make the changes I felt were necessary. Check! That’s done.

It also required creating a product that could be sold. Although a bit late, since it was finished January 5th this year, check! That’s done too. The first of many to come…

I felt (and still feel) that “selling” is a skill that I just don’t have. But I did engage with some great sales mentors to learn what I could, and I’m happy to report that you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s just going to take some time and patience.

So far as building a mailing list goes? Well, I’m working on that right now, participating in the Self Improvement Gift Giveaway! But I don’t want just any old mailing list. After some introspection, I realized that I am, and always have been, a wordsmith. I love writing and speaking, working with writers and speakers, and many of my clients are one or the other, even though I wasn’t targeting that specific demographic. So, moving forward, the list I am building is for writers and speakers, and the solutions I am offering are intentionally meant for them.

To be able to complete this transition into a niche market, my focus is necessarily becoming more myopic. My goals for 2012 take me deeper into this niche of dealing with authors and speakers, with a micro-niche of working in the Christian community. Product development and building my mailing list are both huge components of that. But I’m also spending time on developing a coaching program, as well as expanding my speaking platform.

So, here are my priorities for 2012:

  • Increase my client base, moving more and more into the niche I want to establish myself in. Speaking engagements and product development will shift more and more into this market to establish my expertise. Increasing my client base in those areas will also require me to increase my connections with others serving that same market. So, I anticipate expanding my network by 5 new contacts a week to increase my client base by 2-3 new clients a month.
  • Work smarter, not harder! I’m still living in a world where I’m the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at the same time as being the CEO and Janitor. It’s hard to flourish in any of those roles when I’m trying to do them all at once. So, the plan here is to recognize the responsibilities of each role, and set aside a minimum or 2 hours dedicated time every week to function in each of the necessary capacities, while getting rid of those things that I, specifically, do not need to do through elimination or outsourcing. It also means offering more group services (coaching, masterminds, speeches, etc.) and on-demand products.
  • Develop more products! Ensure that I have a residual income that supplements what I receive from speaking and client work. This means developing a library of recorded webinars, eBooks, books, recorded teleseminars, etc. that clients can browse and order from. Ideally, I want to offer at least one new product every other month this year. It may also entail doing more affiliate marketing than I have done in the past, and it certainly means more actively promoting the materials I already have.
  • Speak more and get paid for it! This is the ultimate goal. While I use the other steps above to create a wider platform that establishes my expertise, this is that I ultimately love doing the most. Through speaking, webinars and teleseminars, I plan to reach an audience of at least 1,500 new people this year.

As you’ve been planning the year ahead, what are your priorities for 2012? What do you need to do to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but make sure they’re measurable and in line with your goals!

Learning From the Past — 2011

2011A recent blog post by David Risley caught my attention. He shared “5 Failures and Take-Aways From 2011 [A Retrospective].” It got me thinking about what lessons I had learned from 2011.

It’s always nice to think “Oh, there were no failures. Everything went perfectly according to plan!” But that’s only for some dream world, not the everyday, real world of business.

Thankfully, at this time last year, I was part of a mastermind group, so had the accountability of stating my goals for the year in clear, concise and measurable terms. After all, isn’t that what goal-setting is all about? If we don’t know whether we met them or not, what’s the point of setting them in the first place?

My main “radical goal” — that goal that was a stretch, but not impossible — was a monetary goal that I fell short of by 32%. Ouch!

But that monetary goal was to be the direct result of “doing the things I am passionate about; teaching, strategizing, training, speaking and connecting.”

So, how did I do with those things? Well, I participated in two failed collaborations, each of which would have created a broader teaching platform; but one collaboration lacked vision, and the other didn’t receive enough time and attention. At the same time, a third collaboration among 21 writers resulted in a book that’s being published in March 2012. So, that was a huge success in my mind.

I spent much more time this year watching trends, and being at the forefront of bloggers writing about them, which was great for building my readership. So, I count that as a success. However, when I analyze what content my readers consumed most, it was my book reviews and not trending topics that interested them the most. So, that’s something I’ll need to take into account in setting my editorial calendar for 2012.

I did take on more clients, which created a broader training platform. But I didn’t leverage my time well, since it was primarily one-on-one training classes that I ended up doing. The lesson there? I’ll always be limited in how many people I can help until I offer group-training opportunities. So, to take Aleweb to the next level, I’ll be offering group coaching starting in 2012!

While I spoke fewer times in 2011 than I had in 2010, the size of my audience was the same since I spoke at larger conferences than I had the year before; more people, less work, greater exposure. Seems like a step in the right direction!

One significant lack that I noted early in 2011 though was that I was missing out on a huge opportunity by not having a product for sale at the conferences. That’s an issue I have already addressed in the first week of 2012, so that I won’t repeat that same mistake this year.

The connections I made in the course of 2011 were deeper and more significant than the year before. The unanticipated side effect of that was that when I experienced a personal tragedy in the latter half of the year, my online community provided support and assistance that I had no right to expect or even anticipate! That was a huge blessing to me personally.

While my main “radical goal” for 2011 wasn’t met at all, the foundation needed to accomplish it has been well-laid. So, the successes desired for last year may have fallen short, but I’m well on my way to meeting them this year! And I still have some neat feathers for my cap from 2011 too, despite the failures, which I choose to view as “learning experiences…”

As you look back on 2011 yourself, did you reach your business goals? If not, do you know what’s yet needed to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but be sure to note your successes as well as your failures!