Last year, I left my corporate life in New York City behind in a vow to give myself one year to design my dream job. Shortly thereafter, I took off on a 9-month-long social experiment, in which I would circumnavigate the globe by couch-surfing exclusively through my social network. Seventeen countries, four continents, and over a hundred encounters later, I have learned that I am not alone in my quest to earn a living while traveling the world: there are so many people out there right now who are making it work.
Liu Qiangdong, better known as Richard Liu here, is already a billionaire. At the 7-Fresh grocery store in Beijing, not far from Liu’s JD.com, there’s this fruit stand that looks awfully similar to anything an American would find at a Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods. It’s organic. It’s small farm friendly. But here at 7-Fresh you can scan a barcode and find out where the apples came from, thanks to a blockchain system they’re running. Meanwhile, over my head is a small assembly line of green shopping bags filled with online food orders. It’s the Jetsons. I don’t think they have this at Wholefoods………….
As of 2016, there were approximately 28.8 million small businesses, which accounted for 99.7% of all U.S. businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. That’s a tremendous economic force that is fueling the country’s growth and framing opportunity for more entrepreneurs and freelancers to join the ranks. Even with positive signs that point to the ongoing growth in small businesses, challenges remain. For those already operating a business, the National Small Business Association found that growth can be slowed by economic uncertainty and limited access to credit…….
As we look toward the future of work, it’s becoming more important than ever for companies to understand the needs of their teams, and to build solutions and products to help serve them—whether that’s through training, healthcare, or other investments. At Walmart, we’ve been very deliberate about investing in our associates, particularly over the past three years as we’ve thought about new ways to improve their lives and careers. Education is the latest iteration of that commitment. Between historically low unemployment rates in the US and innovative technologies reshaping jobs, all businesses have a lot of work to do—both in terms of recruiting and upskilling ……..
Getting someone to want to do something can be tough if you know they’re not going to want to do it, so you need to make them believe it was their idea. This is a common instruction, especially for salespeople, but it’s much easier said than done. You have to look at planting ideas in the same way you’d look at solving a mystery. Slowly but surely you offer the target a series of clues until the obvious conclusion is the one you want. The key is to be patient, because if you rush through your “clues” it will be obvious. If you take it slow, the idea will form naturally in their mind all by itself…..
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Can your company’s content pass the “no-logo test”? When I work with digital strategy clients who are struggling with content marketing, I always ask them to take the logo test, inspired by this excellent Content Marketing Institute article. You should try it, too.
To do that, copy and paste articles you’ve written, along with articles from your competitors, into Word documents. Print out the documents and lay them side by side. Now, can you identify your content from the competition’s without the aid of any logos or company names? If your content lacks a distinct voice and tone, it won’t stand out.
I get it: When you’re first getting started with content marketing, even publishing a blog post every few weeks can feel like a major victory. But once you work out the mechanics of content ideation, you should put in the time needed to create content that brings your brand to life. Why? In a world drowning in digital clutter, content marketing is most effective when you provide a clear, distinct viewpoint that’s beneficial to your target audience.
What’s the secret ingredient that elevates generic content to a brand-building masterpiece? Your brand voice.
“Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity,” brand strategist Dima Midon told me in a recent phone interview. Midon, who founded the brand strategy and digital marketing firm TrafficBox, is an expert in all things SEO and search-engine marketing. He also knows that these digital strategies are incomplete without a solid branded content foundation.
“From startups to global businesses, the organizations with the best content strategy are those that create content reflective of their brand’s unique personality and then use this content to build stronger relationships with prospects and clients,” says Midon.
Branded content has exploded in popularity over the last five years. For clients and customers, reading branded content — in general — is far more interesting and relevant than a marketing ad. “Branded” means content that’s informative, interactive and entertaining and brings value to a reader’s day. Thanks to social media, such content can catch on like wildfire, rapidly reaching a far wider audience than a standard marketing message.
Vision, voice, and value: Bringing branded content marketing to life
As the name implies, “branded content marketing” needs to be grounded in your brand’s identity. If your content can’t pass the “logo test,” it will be just another of those generic pieces daily bombarding your target audience. To make your content stand out, bring your brand identity to life with three steps:
Define your vision. Your organization likely has a mission or vision statement, company goals and core values. Consider how the content you create will reflect this mission, goals and values. Then align this vision with your customer’s needs. Every piece of branded content you create should apply your company’s unique perspective and expertise to problems your customers face.
Example? Consider the “Open Forum” American Express sponsors, to provide small business owners with the “insights, inspiration and connections” they need to grow their business. While topics range from money management to team building, every piece of content Amex publishes here is dedicated to advancing its vision of helping small businesses thrive.
Define your brand voice. A distinctive, unwavering brand voice is an essential component of successful content marketing. While you may have a very clear idea of your brand’s voice, ask yourself, is everyone else at your company on board with this voice, too? Brands, like people, need to prioritize certain traits, to build a reputation. Scattered messaging and inconsistent brand voice can confuse your audience.
So, take time now to codify brand voice and guidelines. Many B2B companies, for example, seek to strike a balance between professionalism and accessibility. They want to be viewed as subject matter experts without sounding too technical or complex. Consequently, the corresponding brand-voice guideline might emphasize the use of clear, concise language that avoids technical jargon.
Example? MailChimp’s brand voice is a great example of how a B2B company can strike this balance. The company isn’t afraid to show a little personality with the use of cultural references and colloquial phrases its customers can relate to. Consider the clever Sherlock Holmes reference for the website’s 401 error message, below.
Your own brand guide needn’t be lengthy: Voice and tone can be covered by just a few guidelines. (I’m a fan of MailChimp’s voice and tone guide, available free as part of its master Content Style Guide.) What matters most is that you codify these guidelines so there is a single set of rules for everyone working on content at your company. From the work of freelance writers to that of marketing directors, your company’s content marketing will reflect a consistent brand voice.
3. Define your value. Branded content is beneficial not only for defining the buying vision in your favor but also for reminding existing customers about how valuable your offerings truly are. From case studies to white papers, how can you create content that helps existing customers maximize the value of your offerings? Perhaps you can spotlight a new offering or provide tutorials for advanced features. The key is to use your branded content to move from a transactional relationship to a customer-centric one that delivers real value.
Example? The enterprise software company SAP has nailed this mission. While many of its products and services seem technically complex to the average B2B decision-maker, the company’s white papers expertly explain the importance of digital transformation in accessible layman’s terms. Most importantly, this content is never a “hard sell” for SAP, but instead subtly reminds customers about the valuable benefits SAP can present as a strategic partner.
Rather than sending marketing material to customers touting your “top of the line products,” then, send them branded content that explains how to use your products to solve their problems. Content that maximizes perceived value strengthens your brand and drives customer retention.
Content marketing is an essential B2B marketing strategy that’s continuing to gain in importance. According to HubSpot, B2B marketers allocate 28 percent of their total marketing budget to content marketing. But before you too jump on this bandwagon, be sure your content is aligned with your brand vision, voice and value. Doing so will ensure your content is impactful, relevant and worth the investment.
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I spent 18 years in corporate life that had some great high points, but also a number of very significant challenges that turned into full-blown crises. These serious crises included sexual harassment, gender discrimination, chronic illness, narcissistic bosses, financial hardship, toxic colleagues, unethical leadership and more.
When I look back now, I see that my entire corporate career was riddled with repeating challenges that were not, in fact, random. I didn’t understand why at the time, but the truth is that these crises seemed to follow me wherever I went, no matter the job. I’d ask myself, “How can this be happening again? Why do I continue to have terribly challenging leaders, bosses and work cultures?”
After a brutal layoff in the days following 9/11, I reinvented my career, and became a marriage and family therapist, and later, a women’s career and leadership coach and writer. I began to research extensively — both quantitatively and qualitatively — the full array of challenges I was seeing in front of me that were, in fact, serious professional crises that women face regularly. I felt compelled to understand more about why women are experiencing these crises so frequently, and how to bring new, effective solutions to the table.
In 2007, as I was doing research for my book Breakdown, Breakthrough, the findings indicated that 7 out of 10 women studied were experiencing at least one of the 12 hidden crises I’d identified , and on average, they were experiencing 3 at the same time. Eleven years later, in the work I do with women now, the surveys my clients have filled out reveal that needle on these crises has not yet moved.
In earning a master’s degree in therapy, my eyes were opened about what we’re really going through when we experience these chronic, repeated challenges. I learned how our personalities are formed in childhood, and the ways in which we learn to cope with stress and pain are often not healthy or productive. I learned too about how self-confidence and self-esteem and our ability to advocate for ourselves can be crushed by family and cultural programming, especially when parents and authority figures don’t understand how to raise and nurture children effectively so that they can live self-reliant, independent lives based on their own authentic values and ideas.
And I learned this: The chronic challenges we face as professionals are most often not random, and not about our “careers.”
If your serious challenges (or more aptly put, “crises”) repeat over and over again, no matter what job, career or relationship you pursue, or what employer you sign on with, then the problem is most likely not the situation itself but how you are seeing yourself and operating in the world, and what you expect for your life and believe you deserve. And it’s your boundaries as well, and what you find acceptable and tolerable.
How do we address these challenges so they never repeat again?
It’s a journey that takes time and effort, not a quick-fix, but there are key steps you can take today to stop in your tracks, understand what’s happening for what it really is, and take empowered action to change it
The first essential step is to assess if what you’re experiencing is a chronic crisis or just a rough patch. In other words, is it an incident or an issue?
People will tolerate the intolerable for far too long in their lives, often because they can’t discern if what they’re facing is just a hard time or a true crisis.
Below are the 12 most common crises thousands of working women (and many men) face today that are often misunderstood as just temporary situations when they’re not, along with what you need to look more closely at to begin to resolve this challenge. These crises fall under four key categories: empowerment with self, others, the world and what I call your “higher” self.
The top 12 professional crises:
Empowerment with Self:
1. Suffering from chronic health problems that won’t abate: Failing health — a chronic illness or ailment — that won’t respond to treatment
Look closely at: What is your body saying that your lips cannot?
This may not seem like a “professional” crisis, but it is. For instance, I experienced four years of chronic, serious infections of my trachea which doctors simply couldn’t understand or help. But from the minute I was laid off from my toxic VP role after 9/11, the infections vanished. They simply disappeared. Why? Because I had spent years not speaking up for myself or saying what needed to be said, and was so exhausted and stressed every day that my body was trying to communicate what my lips couldn’t.
2. Experiencing a loss you can’t recover from: Losing a position, role, relationship, loved one or facing another loss or setback which you can’t overcome.
Look closely at: What parts of yourself or your life experience are you grieving the loss of?
When we lose something that fed our self-esteem, such as a job or a relationship, it often devastates us in a way that we don’t recover from. And that’s because we’ve overly-identified with that one thing that gave us self-esteem. In other words, we lost parts of ourselves that we now need to regain.
3. Failing yourself, and losing your own self-respect and self-acceptance: Chronically behaving in ways that make you feel ashamed of or let down by yourself
Look closely at: Where exactly have you given up your power in life, work and relationships, and how are you behaving that is beneath you, and hurting yourself and others?
If you look at how you’re behaving both personally and professionally, and don’t like or respect who you are any longer, it’s not about your job or career. It’s about how you’re operating in the world.
Empowerment with Others:
4. Failing to speak up and stand up powerfully for yourself: Contending with a crippling inability to speak up — unable to be an advocate for yourself or others, for fear of criticism, rejection, or punishment
Look closely at: Where you learned (most likely in childhood) that it wasn’t safe to speak up for yourself, and defend what you need, want and believe.
An inability to speak bravely for what you need and want is a problem I work with clients on literally every single day of the week. If we can’t communicate what we need in a powerful way, we’ll lose more than just opportunities. We’ll lose everything that makes us who we are.
5. Facing repeated abuse or mistreatment: Being treated badly, even intolerably, at work — and choosing to stay
Look closely at: How old is this issue of being manipulated or mistreated, and what are you afraid of losing if you leave?
If you were manipulated in childhood by parents who gave you only conditional love and demanded that you be a certain type of person to be loved (especially if you had narcissistic or emotionally manipulative parents, teachers and authority figures), you need outside therapeutic help to support you to heal and thrive beyond those crushing lessons that this manipulation taught you.
6. Getting crushed by unrelenting competition: Feeling like no matter what you do it isn’t enough, and you’re sick to death of trying to prove your worth
Look closely at: Why “winning at all costs” has become a regular part of how you’re living and working, and what the true costs of that approach have been in your life.
If you can’t feel any level of comfort or joy at being collaborative, inclusive, or accepting – and feel you always have to be “on top” — it’s time to explore if at the root, you simply don’t feel good enough and where that came from.
Empowerment with the World:
7. Feeling trapped by financial fears: Remaining in a negative situation solely because of fear of money
Look closely at: How you’re relating to money, and what your money story is and has been.
It’s astounding how many people will stay in demoralizing and unsatisfactory conditions simply because they’re too afraid to take even one small step to explore improving their situation, because of their intractable money fears.
8. Wasting your real talents: Realizing your work no longer fits and desperately wanting to use your natural talents and abilities differently
Look closely at: Why you believe that you’ll go broke or destroy your life if you pursue a new direction where you can leverage your real talents.
I’d be very wealthy if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen, read or heard people saying that to pursue a new, more fulfilling direction will make them go broke and lose everything. It’s simply not true, if you pursue career change in the smartest, more effective way possible.
9. Longing to be of help in the world, but feeling your job won’t allow it: Knowing in your heart that you’re meant to do something meaningful and purposeful that helps others, but not seeing any way to make that happen
Look closely at: What do you think it takes to impact the world? Do you assume it has to require tremendous ability, money, or time? Can you reframe that (as so many others have) that you can start making a small impact in the world with tiny, powerful actions that are doable in your life, one step at a time?
We can make a difference in the world in many ways, perhaps through our work, but also through our volunteering, hobbies, or contributing our time and effort to a cause that matters. Where can you be of use to the world today?
Empowerment with your higher self:
10. Everything is falling apart all at once: Experiencing pain, hardship and suffering in not just one domain of your life but in many, and it’s extremely hard to manage all the struggle in a functional way.
Look closely at: The degree to which you are and have always been connected to struggle, and in some ways feel more “comfortable” in struggle than in ease, and where that connection came from.
I’ve worked with hundreds of professionals and leaders over the years who seem to be more “comfortable” when things are hard, painful and chaotic. When life eases up, they sabotage it because easy and joyful seem somehow “wrong.” Until you can get to the bottom of why struggle and pain feel better for you, and can let go of your need for it, struggle will be a regular part of your life experience.
11. Striving unsuccessfully to balance life and work: Trying — and failing — to balance it all, and feeling like you’re letting down everyone and everything that matters most
Look closely at: What are your top life priorities, and how comfortable are you to honor those fiercely and confidently, starting today?
I’m a mother with two grown children now, and I’ve lived what so many parents have experienced – the deep challenge of striving to be the parent or caregiver they dream to be, while simultaneously making a significant impact in their professional lives. I’ve found too in coaching women who need and want more balance and control, that it’s all about identifying with eyes wide open your highest priorities in life, then mustering the boundaries, bravery and determination to pursue those priorities without hesitation and regret.
12. Doing work you hate: Longing to reconnect with the “real you”—and do work you love
Look closely at: Why you believe there are no feasible ways to shift your professional life to a direction that will be more fulfilling and rewarding for you.
Your career is within your control, but so many people today have abdicated their own control and power, staying stuck for years or even a lifetime in work that demoralizes them.
If you’re facing any of these crises, have hope. Thousands of people have engaged in the internal and external work to shift out of these crises, and dramatically improved their lives and careers. There’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.
Regardless of whether or not you are subject to the estate tax, it is essential to have a current will and related documents. I recently wrote two articles on the sticking points that can cause well-intended adults to delay the execution of their estate plan: Choosing an Executor of your Estate and Naming Potential Guardians for Minor Children.
Another common consideration is determining the appropriate time for children to have access to their inheritance. Although my focus here is on distributions from trusts created by a will (testamentary trusts), these considerations also apply to trusts created during your lifetime (inter-vivos trusts).
A major distinction between your will and lifetime irrevocable trusts is that; during your lifetime your will can be regularly updated to reflect current thinking, while amending or changing provisions within a lifetime irrevocable trust will generally be more restrictive and often require a statutory solution (decanting), where possible, or having to seek permission from the courts.
Generally, distributions can be discretionary, mandatory or event-driven. For most (with high confidence in a trustee), I recommend a combination of allowing for both mandatory and discretionary powers to make distributions – assuming the facts and circumstances allow for it.
The most common distribution structure we’ve seen over time seems to include mandatory distributions at specified ages – i.e. ages 25, 30 and 35. This could mean that one-third of the principle is distributed at age 25, one-half of the balance at age 30, and the remaining balance distributed at age 35.
Prior to or between mandatory distributions, the trust can provide that the fiduciary has the power to make either fully discretionary distributions or distributions under some “ascertainable standard,” such as for the beneficiary’s health, education, maintenance and support (HEMS). The power to distribute can be very broad (absolute) or narrow – the HEMS standard is a statutory standard that lies somewhere in between and may provide certain tax protections.
I find it interesting that clients with young children often initially choose ages 25, 30 and 35, only to then stretch out the ages of mandatory distributions as both they and their offspring age. This implies that any initial confidence the parents had in their children’s ability to handle large sums of money early on (e.g. age 25) dissipates as the distribution becomes more imminent and, perhaps, the monetary sum increases.
A common alternative is to allow for a portion of the principal to remain in trust for the beneficiary’s lifetime, while granting current beneficiaries the power to appoint future beneficiaries (e.g. descendants). Putting aside one’s choice of ages of distribution, I favor a hybrid approach that combines some mandatory distributions with the ability to make discretionary distributions for assets in continuing trusts. To me, this approach stands out for its flexibility and asset protection benefits.
Specifying only mandatory distributions or event-based distributions (i.e. earning a degree, marrying, passing drug screens, etc.), greatly reduces the fiduciary’s flexibility. As a fiduciary for many estates and trusts, I often see inflexibility as an unnecessary impediment to a more successful plan particularly when a beneficiary’s life circumstances change.
For example, recently a beneficiary with a medical degree finished his residency and chose to specialize in high-risk surgery. As a trust provides a significant degree of asset protection, I would have preferred that at least a portion of the principal remain in trust for the beneficiary’s lifetime. This would have been most beneficial to the beneficiary given his exposure to potential future liability due to his choice of profession.
Of course, decisions with respect to trust distributions include both the principal (as discussed above) and the income that is generated by that principal. It has been common to allow income distributions at age 21 or some other age. However, it should be noted that when an estate plan is designed, you may be unsure of the ultimate size of the children’s inheritance, thus requiring mandatory income distributions (or principal distributions) that may lead to very large distributions at relatively young ages.
An alternative approach can be to designate an income stream in today’s dollars, and then build in a cost of living adjustment to account for inflation. Even better, perhaps, would be to allow for income distributions to simply be at the discretion of the trustee. By giving greater flexibility to the fiduciary, distributions can be made based on the requisite need at the time.
Overall, there is not a “one size fits all” solution to these situations. It is of paramount importance to invest the appropriate amount of time, thought and care when drafting these documents. Doing so will help to lay the groundwork for more favorable outcomes later in life that ultimately better reflect the grantor’s initial intentions.
Whether in business or your personal life, feelings of unworthiness can hamper your ability to shine. When we don’t perceive ourselves as worthy, we tend to self-sabotage and avoid going for (or asking for) what we deserve.
My good friend, entrepreneur Ed Mylett, shared an idea with me that I thought was extremely powerful. He described different things in our lives that have a thermostat: our financial success, weight and especially our self-worth.
The premise is simple. Even if your self-worth increases or decreases a few degrees, or you experience a tremendous change over time, you will eventually revert back to whatever your internal success thermostat is set at. This begs the question: “What can I do to raise my internal thermostat?”
1. Provide value and feel valuable.
The first and best way to improve your feelings of worthiness is simply to provide value to others; be kind to others as well as to your future self. Be of service, which means providing value with no expectations of receiving anything in return. It contains the requirement that you give unconditionally. Giving with expectation, as my friend Bob Proctor says, is trading and not real giving.
It’s essential to have both focus and intention on what we want, in order to get it. And it’s difficult to manifest what you want without being of service to others. Providing value by being of service creates a void that the universe will fill for you.
Giving not only makes you feel good, but this altruistic act is contagious. Giving makes you happy, makes the person who receives happy, and even those who witness giving become happier.
A study tracking 2,000 people over a five-year period, found that those who described themselves as “very happy” were the ones who volunteered 5.8 hours per month, on average. Providing value for others made those individuals feel valuable themselves.
2. Keep your promises.
Part of being of service is keeping promises that you make to yourself, as well as what you promise to others. Living up to your promises builds trust from others, and confidence in yourself, which leads to a better perspective of your worth. When you set achievable goals and put plans in place to meet them, you’ll experience a higher rate of success and simultaneously turn up your worthiness thermostat. You need goal setting (and promise keeping) to be a consistent, persistent behavior, which will then allow you to enjoy the pursuit of your potential by creating objectives and meeting them.
One of my favorite examples to demonstrate this idea involves working out. Many people try to go “all in” immediately on new exercise regimes. I take an alternative approach. I set the bar very low at the start.
The first day that I started working out, I made a promise to myself that I’d put on my workout shoes. That was it. But, that first day, not only did I put all my gear on, but I actually ended up doing 30 minutes of cardio and stretching; I felt great afterward.
The next day, I wanted to increase my progress. I set a goal to put on all my workout clothes. But, once again, I made it to the gym and overachieved even more.
By keeping simple promises like these, and then going above and beyond, you not only build confidence in yourself but also your ability to follow through. You feel good that you are an achiever, and you feel worthy and capable of even greater achievements.
3. Accountability means knowing you’re worthy.
Living with accountability is yet another way to improve your feelings of self-worth. Accountability gives you the power or control over everything in your life. Accountability means that you don’t live in a world of blame, shame or justification. Rather, you take on all challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.
People who are accountable ask themselves two questions when those challenges arise:
- What did I do to attract it to myself?
- What am I supposed to learn from it?
The tendency of people to go “below the line” stems from the impulse to defend their ego. But, in reality, they’re just avoiding accountability. Going below the line is a guaranteed way to lower your thermostat.
Whenever you can, invite others to help keep you accountable. Whether it’s a spouse, a coworker or a coach, ask them to make sure that you stay on track with achieving your goals.
If you cannot find a group or someone you trust to help keep you accountable, keep track of your words and actions yourself. Journaling is an effective way to do this. Just make sure to be honest with your evaluation of your performance.
4.Raise your thermostat.
If you want to make a lasting improvement to your self-image and raise your thermostat of worthiness, embrace the principles of service, keep promises you make to yourself (as well as to others), set realistic goals that you can achieve, but keep raising the bar. Finally, take charge of your life by being accountable and living above the line of blame, shame and justification.
These strategies are well worth your time if you want to build your self-worth, feel like you are deserving, and consistently, persistently, rapidly attract the great things that are coming your way.
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