The Beauty In Our Tears

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Do we deny our greatness by seeking happiness?

Life is an uncomfortable string of events seasoned with a mix of people, some who comfort us, teach us, hurt us, and some who love us. There are moments of joy and happiness, but these are unsustainable. Although we all seek an ongoing sense of bliss, perhaps the only disservice greater than seeking happiness, is in finding it. The people who accomplish big dreams are the ones who turn their heartache, pain, and tears not into happiness, but into a tangible external result. Read more

This is What Beautiful Is

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I think as women, we spend our entire lives trying to figure out what beauty is. Who doesn’t want to be beautiful? We all do. Unfortunately, we spend too much time looking in all the wrong places. We look for it in Cosmo. We wonder if that’s in on the fashion runway. We can’t help but to flick over to the beauty pageant on TV.  And we even search for it in our own mirrors. We never do find beauty in any of these places because it simply doesn’t exist there. So we keep searching. Beauty is elusive.

Last night, I found myself at a private dinner with ten other women. We had our own glassed in room overlooking a magnificent golf course, with a cozy fireplace in the corner, a four course dinner, and plenty of wine and good conversation to last all night. I wasn’t looking for beauty last night.  I really wasn’t looking for anything. I was there to socialize, relax, and have fun. It was there, while we were eating cheesecake and sipping coffee, when I looked up and unexpectedly found the elusive treasure so many of us spend a lifetime seeking; I found beauty.

In the most fortuitous of situations, a dinner party, just the right brush strokes all came together at once as the conversation turned to our dreams. A masterpiece had been created; beauty had been revealed. The seven hallmarks of beauty as I observed them last evening are as follows:

Selfless – One woman’s goal was to figure out how to pay for her step-sons college. She was brought to tears as she contemplated how she could afford the $40K to $50K a year it would cost for him to go after his dream. Her stepson. So beautiful. Another woman talked about how she has prolonged her career change because of an overwhelming sense of obligation to the people she serves. Beautiful women are the kind who don’t just look at their big dreams and say “What’s In It For Me,” but rather they examine their dreams and say, “What’s In It For Everyone.”

Scarred – One woman bravely pointed out the scars from her recent surgery, the physical ones and the emotional ones. We were all brought to tears when she shared what she had gone through and how it has taken a toll on her life. “I want to feel normal again,” said this brave soul. Beautiful women do not bury, hide, and cover up their scars. Beautiful women expose them.

Endurers – For everything that was shared at the table, there was so much more that wasn’t. There were women fighting custody battles, families fighting cancer, and marriages on the brink of failure. These women know how to quietly bear their cross for the long haul. They will endure until the time is right to ask friends to come in and help carry the load. There’s beauty in emotional strength.

Collaborators – Beautiful women lift one another up. They invest in the dreams of one another. They raise their hands and offer guidance, support, and ideas. Beautiful women utilize their voices to make connections for others, to open doors, and to make dreams happen for the people around them. The village. The team. The wolf pack. The community. The lion’s pride. Beauty is in not allowing others to travel alone.

Truth Tellers – Beauty is anyone who can say the truth; the dirty, scary, messy, heartbreaking, truth about life. I envy this kind of bravery. It’s so much easier to let the real truth go unsaid, because nobody would be wiser. Any woman who can say to her friends, “I’m confused, I’m lost, and I am sad,” is my absolute hero. Because, here’s the truth. We all are. Most of us are just too afraid or ashamed to expose it so we can get some help.

World Changers – Beautiful people have an innate desire to change the world. More than half of the women at the table are writing books. They have been through downright awful life events; the kind that beat you to a bloody pulp. These women have had chapters in their lives that they would absolutely never want to relive. But they will relive it all, in the pages of their books, because by doing so others will never have to.

Rebels – Perhaps the funniest part of the night was when each of the women confessed to having at one time broken the law. Yup, a couple of them even ended up in prison cells at one time. These women look a lot like business leaders, role models, moms, teachers, and artists; but deep down, every single one of them is a rebel.

As I was reflecting on the evening with these women, I was taken back twenty years to one of my favorite movies, The Breakfast Club. “Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us….In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each of us is a brain….and an athlete….a basket case….a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club.”

And so I close with this…a letter to anyone who has ever searched for beauty….

The world is going to see us as they want to see us…. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. We are moms, business people, role models, artists, and teachers.  But what we all are….what we really are to the core…we are selfless…we are scarred… we are endurers…. we are collaborators….we are truth tellers….we are world changers….we are rebels.  What we all are is beautiful. Sincerely Yours, The Dinner Club.

How to Work a Room Like You Own It

 

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What most people don’t know about me is that I’m a closet introvert. Given the choice between sitting in my favorite chair and reading books by myself for 4 hours or pivoting around a cocktail event full of strangers making new friends by the minute, I’d choose the books. Those that know me would hardly believe it because where you will find me 3 or 4 nights a week is arduously working a room somewhere out amongst Boston business elite.

I am shy by nature, but I realized long ago that achieving my dreams and building multi-million dollar empires would require a few necessary skills, the most essential being the art of conversation. If you have big dreams, you will need assistance achieving them. You will need friends, acquaintances, employees, clients, and vendors; you will need people. The only way to keep a plant alive is to water it. The only way to keep a relationship alive is through communication. They never teach you in grade school how to make new friends. I suppose it’s assumed that you will figure it out. If you are like me, you do eventually find a way, even if it’s years later when the universe has plopped you into a room full of strangers bearing cocktails with no life ring in sight.

As the saying goes, your net worth is a byproduct of your network. And so, I’ve made a living by networking with people, many of them strangers at the beginning. I will always be the girl who prefers to be curled up somewhere in my pjs reading a book, but now that I’ve mastered the fine art of working a room, I’m equally comfortable in any room, anywhere, building my empire. Here are my 7 simple strategies for working a room like you own it.

  1. Be Curious: The most important quality you must possess when entering a room full of people you don’t know is curiosity. Instead of focusing on how many cards you will give out, focus on a room full of totally cool people with diverse backgrounds, amazing stories, and different personalities. I approach people at networking events like I am interviewing them for an article. I ask what they do for work, how they chose their profession, what’s their favorite book, whether they have a family, their biggest obstacles, you name it. One of my favorite books of all time is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie where he points out that if you spend all of your time getting to know everyone else in the room, you will soon find that you become the most interesting of them all.
  2. Be A Magnet: I love when I walk into a room and people come over to me to start conversations. Therefore, I look for ways to create an ice-breaker for others. The easiest way to do that for me is with shoes. If I’m going to an event where I will not know a soul, I make sure that my sole’s are amazing. In other words, I won’t wear plain, black shoes. No, the best conversation starters are cool shoes, because all you have to do is walk in the room and within minutes a fellow lover of fashion will make her way over to compliment them. I’ve made countless new friends over a stylish pair of Choos. Of course, the fringe benefit of this is that I can calculate the ROI on my best shoes.
  3. Confidence Matters: Head up, shoulders back, and have some swagger, please! Walk around like you are someone people should want to know. This means that you cannot stow away in a corner with a cocktail while you hide from the masses. The only thing worse than going to a networking event that you don’t want to be at is to actually go and not get anything out of it. If you are in the room, have the confidence to walk around and introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m Stacey, what brings you to the event?” And the conversation is off and running.
  4. Have a Game Plan: Rarely do I ever enter a networking event totally oblivious as to who will be there. If it’s a larger event, I might call and ask for the guestlist in advance or I’ll visit the social media page of the event to see who’s attending. With just 10 minutes of quick research you can determine in advance of the event who you want to meet and how you are going to do it. When you introduce yourself to someone and you’ve already researched them, you become a much more interesting networking companion. Do some due diligence and plan your networking strategy prior to entrance.
  5. Work the Check-In: If you extraordinarily shy, call the host of the networking event prior to and ask if you can work the check-in table. This gives you a leg up because now you get to meet people as they come in. Make sure to memorize 3-5 of the guest names so that when check-in duty is over you are off and running to make some deeper relationships. You can then go re-introduce yourself to the ones you remember and start a fresh conversation.
  6. Be Present: When having conversations with anyone, be present. Listen. Hear what is being said. Keep your eyes focused on the other party. I hate when I’m having a conversation with someone and I have to remind the other party what I do three times or when I catch them looking behind my back for someone more interesting to talk to. Therefore, no matter who I am speaking with, no matter how interested I am in the subject matter we are talking about, the person I am with at that moment is the most important person in the world to me.
  7. Introduce: If you did own the room, you’d know everyone in it, and you would introduce them to one another. If you want to own any room, you need to start making connections by having conversations. Then, as you meet new people, do not be shy about introducing people you just met to one another. When you find people with similar lifestyle interests, in similar businesses, or even two really cool people you think would like to know one another, make the introduction. The fastest way to expand your own network is to expand everyone elses.

Just like most things in life, networking takes practice and it gets easier over time. Please remember this, most of the people there are just like you. They too are uncomfortable in the element and the easiest way to make them more comfortable is to walk up and start a conversation.

6 Beautiful Traits of Women Who Run Kick Ass Businesses

I’ve spent more than twenty years of my career building my real estate empire (always in fabulous shoes of course) and I’ve come to learn that the traits needed for women who wield power in business are a bit different than the traits required for men. We girls bring emotions, femininity, community, and style to the businesses we build. So, what are the 6 beautiful traits of women who run kick ass businesses?

Confidence: Women who act like they know their stuff are always taken seriously. It’s important to note that confidence and cocky are opposite ends of the spectrum. Confidence is about being sure of your personal value proposition as well as the solutions you bring to the table, while also being open to listening to new ideas or suggestions. Confidence is about knowing your stuff but having the intellect to realize that you don’t have all the answers.

Cooperation: Often times, women in business, are extremely good at juggling many balls in the air. Not only are they managing priorities at the office, but many also have to shuttle kids between sports and pack school lunches each the morning. It’s for this reason, I find that women are often times much more open to taking help and cooperation from others. Women who run kick ass businesses realize that not only does it take a village to raise a family, it takes one to run a company too.

Mentorship: Women who run massive businesses usually have great mentors and they make great mentors too. These are women who find successful entrepreneurs who have blazed the trail already and who are willing to offer guidance to those who are looking to do the same. As Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Small businesses may be built alone, but empires are built by people helping people.

Creativity: There’s an art to building big, beautiful businesses, and as such it takes a creative mind to think outside the box. Creativity is a must when it comes to making ends meet on tight budgets or tapping into invisible resources to achieve your dream.

Empathy: Women who lead big businesses have empathy. They not only listen to what is going on in the lives of team members, they do their best to really understand, and to feel what they are feeling. Empathy is required because in every human interaction, there are two conversations taking place; the dialogue on the surface, as well as the undertone of conversation that is detected through emotion, body language, and nuances of tone and voice pitch. Building empires isn’t about having lots of employees, it’s about knowing, understanding, and feeling them.

Quiet Resilience: The best entreprenettes are the ones that can take a punch. They can get knocked down over and over in business, and they just keep getting back up. Building and leading a business takes guts, determination, and thick skin. The road to success is rife with disappointments and failures. Achieving the dream often comes down to one’s ability to keep getting back up. While men must be resilient in business, women must garner it quietly. For women, not only is it necessary to keep getting back up, but to do so without complaining about the pain.