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“Born This Way” is Key to Your Success

Saturday, 18. February 2012 12:44

What’s the best thing about you? Do you know?  Are you a yarn spinner, a good listener, an idea person, perhaps good with your hands?

Knowing what you are good at and putting your talent to good use is one of the most important secrets to success and fulfillment. This assumes that whatever your natural gifts are, you feel good when you use them. Although that is not always the case, it usually is.

In short, the more you can find a way to match your abilities to the way you spend your time (both in and out of work); the more your joy quotient will rise.  It may not be easy – sometimes you may be in a job or a relationship that is just not a good fit for you.  For example, if you love people and work all day alone at a computer, you may need to reconsider your career choice or your job.  Or, perhaps you can find a way to add dimension to your work situation, by serving on a committee or acting as a liaison.  If you can’t employ your talents at work, can you find a sufficient outlet that fulfills you in your free time?   With some creative thinking, you can often find ways to interject the things that you love into your life.  And when you do this successfully, you’ll know.  You will feel more alive.

However, there are ways to get derailed.  Sometimes our assumptions about roles, should-do’s, and ought-to-do’s get in our way.  Until you can identify those negative thought patterns in yourself and work through them, you may limit your joy and your effectiveness.   If you feel stuck, try questioning your assumptions and your perspective.  If you spend all your time wondering, ‘How should I be acting,’ in any given situation, rather than enjoying how you are, it’s going to be hard to relax and flow.  Most of us are at our best, when we can be who we are –so how can you get there?

Here are some questions to help you get started thinking about this:

1) What is it that I am good at, and enjoy doing?

2) Do I currently employ those skills in my life, if so, where, when and with whom?

3) If not, why not?  What thoughts prevent me from doing so? (Some examples:   “I have to act like a boss,”  “I make more money doing this job than I would working at what I love,”  “My boyfriend doesn’t like it when I spend time doing my art,” “I better crack a joke to launch this speech even though I am the worst joke teller ever,”  and on and on.)

4) Then pick one small thing you are willing to change that will allow you to be more of yourself in any given situation.  (e.g., “I will try collaborating rather than giving direct orders at the next staff meeting,” or maybe, “I’ll use a touching quote to launch my talk rather than a joke.”  Maybe you need to take a class in something you love and start migrating toward a different career.)

5) Once you try your one small action, assess and experiment. How did it go?  Do you need to correct for something and try it again?  Can you add-on or repeat your last action?  Keep building and see where it takes you.

6) Repeat as needed.

In short, get creative and ask yourself how you can use your talents as the cement that holds the bricks of your life together in a pleasing pattern that serves you.

Most of the time, no matter what your circumstances, you can find a way to bring your talents to bear, and you, and others will be glad you did.

With that, I leave you with inspiration from a popular Lady Gaga song, “Born This Way.”     Also at

Category:Career & Finance, Self Actualization, Wellness | Comment (0) | Author:

Tips for Charitable Giving on Purpose

Thursday, 10. November 2011 14:08

Although charitable giving is always in season, the holidays and the end of the tax year bring donations to the forefront.  If you doubt me on this, check your mail.  Mine is full of solicitations from many worthy causes.  A part of me wants to donate to everything.  But at the end of the day, unless you’re Bill Gates, you and I have to prioritize what we give.

So how to decide?   Here’s a process I use that may be helpful to you:

  • What’s your budget?
    • How much will you give?  This is a decision impacted by your income and your situation. Additionally, the tax benefits of charitable donations may be one of the determining factors to consider.  You may want to talk to your accountant or do more research to get facts about tax deduction rules for charitable contributions.
  • What kind of allocation do you prefer?
    • Will you go deep for one major cause, or spread the wealth to support several organizations?
  • What really matters to you?
    • What causes or issues affect you most deeply? In my case, I’m drawn to the causes that make me mad (e.g., I can’t stand that such injustice persists) and those that bring me to tears – (identifying with the pain of those who suffer).  Additionally, I make some “pay-it-forward” gifts of gratitude, for example, to my alma mater (that enabled me to prosper in the world), and to the hospital that took care of my infant son when he was ill.  I also like to support friend’s charities throughout the year, especially those that involve running, biking or walking unbelievably long distances.  Those events are especially win-win for a wellness maven like me, as I like to encourage my friends to get out and exercise. So, I earmark some dollars in my giving budget at the beginning of every year to handle those opportunities.

In short, there are any number of criteria you can use, so choose what works best for you.

  • Which organizations make a difference most effectively?
    • I research organizations to which I give.  Even if I like what they do, I want to know that they leveraging their resources effectively so that the people in need get the most help. Are they responsible, accountable? I usually start with the organization’s website.  Another terrific, free resource for evaluating and identifying nonprofit organizations is  They list tons of information (including financials) about nonprofits all over the country and it’s easy to use.

They also offer a handy dandy tip sheet if you want another resource for this “Giving Season”.   Download it here GIVING SEASON TIP SHEET – or get it directly from

Whatever you decide to do, best wishes for a wonderful season, and thanks for giving!

Category:Career & Finance, Creativity & Fun Stuff | Comment (0) | Author:

Tips for Making a Career Change in a Tough Economy

Friday, 7. October 2011 13:59

Maybe you have a job, but you don’t enjoy your career. On the other hand, maybe you’ve lost your job and you can’t bear the thought of going back to the same old stuff.  It’s a tough economy. Should you make a change now?  How?

Nicholas Lore

Nicholas Lore,  author of the bestseller Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success shared his insights about this topic in a recent interview with me.  Take a listen to the interview to benefit from 30 years of his coaching experience.

Click here to download…

In the meantime, here are a few highlights from our discussion:

  • Don’t delay designing your future career just because of the economy. At the same time, it’s good to be practical. Keeping a job that pays the bills until you determine your best career fit is a smart idea.  If you’re out of work, you may need to seek another job in your current career area to earn income while you create your new path.  Regardless of your employment status, it can take two months or more to explore not only what you want to do, but also what fits well with your skills and abilities. If you prepare yourself, you’ll be ready to make a switch when the economy improves – or even sooner – when that great opportunity suddenly arises.
  • Face your fears. The biggest hurdle most career changers face is their own internal dialogue.  You have the power to manage your fears by investigating them and transforming them into actions.   Listen to the interview to hear more about Lore’s perspective on this.
  • Create a vision and become a career detective.  Use online resources and books  (my professional opinion is that Lore’s offerings are terrific) or a career coach to help you get insights and determine not only what you desire, but how your abilities fit in the world, and what actions you might need to take to enable your next move.
  • Don’t let circumstances rule your world.   For example, Lore finds age doesn’t matter. He has countless happy clients who prove that you are never too old to do what you love (within reason – after all, becoming a rock star at 60 may be possible, but it’s pretty unlikely).  Even if your intended field is shrinking, Lore says that when you really want something and you have talent for it, you can find a way to make it happen.
  • Build your network. One of the best ways to change careers is by developing relationships with decision makers who can possibly hire you into your new field.  Once you’ve decided what you want, creative marketing and networking can land you the job.
  • Go for it!  Lore contends that if you only have one life to live, don’t settle for a career that’s not as big as you are.

For more information and free resources, check out Lore’s awesome website and his coaching company, The Rockport Institute, founded in 1981.  For a DIY approach, look into Lore’s two worthwhile books, Pathfinder and Now What?  The Young Person’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career. If you already own a copy of Pathfinder, take note, an updated edition is due out this winter.  Personally, I can’t wait.

In the meantime, best wishes for career happiness and much success.

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Celebrating a New Beginning

Saturday, 1. October 2011 16:32

Today, I want to share with you an exciting beginning, the launch of my new website, The Project Coach, and my new blog, Project U.  I decided to create this identity when I realized that much of the coaching that I offer is around “projects” – life projects, work projects, wellness projects – and creating solutions that have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  While I will continue to blog here at 7 Layer Living, The Project Coach blog, Project U. places greater focus on career management and how to get things done, (what Martha Beck groupies would call “Square Three” coaching topics).

I decided to launch on October 1 in honor of my son, Spenser, who would have celebrated his 20th birthday today.  Sadly, he did not live to be a year old due to major heart complications, but his short life taught me a great deal about what I truly value. Spenser woke me up to a spiritual path and to the realization that in every day, there is always an opportunity to be grateful, especially for the gift of life itself.

While I miss Spenser deeply, I choose to remember him in celebration.   May you too  find meaningful ways and reasons to celebrate daily,  not only your life, but  also the lives of those you have loved and lost.

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Five Tips to Make Your Office, Well, Productive

Wednesday, 15. June 2011 14:04

Armed with a few simple concepts, you can create an office that reduces stress and improves your productivity according to Linda Varone, an award winning home and office design consultant.  Restaurants, retail stores and hotels have spent tons of money on research to figure out how to best use their environments to get consumers to behave in specific ways. Varone says it’s easy to take lessons from them. In our interview, Varone talks specifically about the tricks retailers employ, and how to use their insights to improve your home or corporate office. If you want to learn Linda’s tips, give a listen by clicking or downloading below.  I’ve summarized some of the key points in this post, but some of the best details are in the recording.

MP3 File

Here’s a summary of the five principles Varone suggests you can use to affect your workspace. One of the key principles is to match your space to your work style – for example, are you creative and active or more contemplative in your work?


Bold colors pull you outside of yourself and encourage you to move around while softer colors support analytic or focused work.  Varone points out that color isn’t just for looks, it actually transmits energy.


Keep lighting soft for focused work.  Don’t depend on overhead lighting to meet all your work needs.  Varone recommends keeping a table lamp (not a desk lamp) on your desk to bring light closer to your work.  Desk lamps, unlike table lamps, tend to fatigue the eyes. Listen to Varone’s interview for more details on the how’s and why’s of this.  She says table lamps are less important for physically active workers, while craft or fine work may require a task lamp in addition to an overhead light source.  In all situations, Varone recommends you choose warm or soft light compact fluorescents to avoid a harsh, cold feel.

Indoor Landscaping/Connection to Nature

Nature brings peace and balance into our lives, so don’t forget to add a little nature to your workspace.  If you have the option, move your desk next to a window to allow for natural light and to get a view of the sky or some greenery.  If that’s not possible, try a potted plant.   She says it will make a difference.


This is more of a personal preference; but here are some suggestions. For focused work, try playing quiet music that is slow and harmonious, like classical music or jazz.  Another alternative is to play a CD of nature sounds, or, if it makes sense, open your window.  On the other hand, if you engage in physical or routine work, louder, more upbeat music (with tempo variations) like pop, rock, disco or opera could be more conducive to wellness.


Keep the temperature moderate; too cold or too hot may make it difficult to focus.  At a shared corporate office, this may be difficult to manage, so consider having a fan or an extra layer of clothing nearby, just in case.

If you’d like to dig deeper, take a look at Varone’s book, “The Smarter Home Office: 8 Simple Steps to Increase Your Income, Inspiration and Comfort” or visit her site at .  Varone’s  been helping people add warmth, energy and comfort to their spaces since 1991, using a unique combination of the style of interior design and the insights of architectural psychology.  You can contact her at 781-643-8697.

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Get Unstuck: Reframe the Question

Tuesday, 7. June 2011 12:40

I loved this post from Seth Godin’s blog today!  He is a master of getting to the point using few words.  When you are facing a “problem” can you pull it apart into component pieces?  Are you asking yourself the right questions so you can solve the real issue and get unstuck? It can be done, and it makes life a lot more fun.   Here’s Godin’s short but sweet piece:

Which of the four are getting in the way?

You don’t know what to do

You don’t know how to do it

You don’t have the authority or the resources to do it

You’re afraid

Once you figure out what’s getting in the way, it’s far easier to find the answer (or decide to work on a different problem).

Stuck is a state of mind, and it’s curable.


Visit Godin’s blog for more pearls of wisdom



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Interview Tips: How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

Monday, 2. May 2011 3:57

“Tell me about yourself” is a typical job interview question that causes fear and loathing in many job candidates. In my experience, the underlying question that the interviewer really wants you to answer is, “Why should I hire you for this job?”  The “tell-me” question provides an excellent opportunity for you to craft an answer that illustrates how your skills and experience make you an excellent fit for the open position.

Here’s one example of how you might answer the “tell-me” question. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a new products job with a company known for its creativity, you might say, “I’m a creative problem solver, and it seems that whatever I do – at work or at home, I brainstorm at least 10 different approaches to solving a problem.  Then I figure out which one will get me the best results.  So, for example, when I launched X product, my two top tactical choices were Blah 1 and Blah 2.  I ended up running with Blah 2 because, even though it had never been done before, after I ran some data, I believed it would reach the younger target users in meaningful way.  That approach increased sales 8%, well above the target 5%. I love getting results in new and different ways; it’s fun for me.”

Get the idea?  You can add more details or give another example of your creative problem solving style. In any event, be sure to answer with confidence and enthusiasm and prepare beforehand. Know as much about the company and with whom you will be interviewing prior to your meeting.

My second recommendation is to have a few different answers ready for this question and craft your answer according to the interviewer in the room and the company culture.  Please note that I am not suggesting that you make things up.  That is never acceptable!  However, you can vary your response based on your experiences.  Using the same answer with each interviewer is always an option, but consider that different people at the hiring company may have different interests and skill levels in your area. For example, if you are interviewing cross functionally (e.g. you are seeking a marketing position, but you are talking to all senior management), the CFO may be just as interested in your ability to be financially responsible as he or she is in your marketing expertise.  Or, if you are interviewing with a savvy tech person, versus an old-school banker, you may want to choose an illustration that speaks more directly to that person’s skills and interests.  Knowing your audience is not manipulation; it’s smart communication.

Want to be more memorable with your answer? Scott Ginsberg , aka “The Nametag Guy,” wrote an article on website giving ten creative angles you can use to answer the “tell-me” question in a memorable way. He suggests:

  1. “I can summarize who I am in three words…”
  2. “The quotation I live my life by is…”
  3. “My personal philosophy is…”
  4. “People who know me best say that I’m…”
  5. “Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” (My note: This can be dangerous – make sure you know what the hiring company will find if they try it,  and that it illustrates what you want them to know!)
  6. “My passion is…”
  7. “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…”
  8. “If Hollywood made a movie about my life, it would be called…”
  9. “Can I show you, instead of tell you?” Then, pull something out of your pocket, or show a   portfolio that represents who you are.
  10. “The compliment people give me most frequently is…”

I like these openers if you feel comfortable using one of them and if the opener allows you to achieve your ultimate goal:  communicating effectively to your interviewer that you are a terrific fit for the position.

For more career resources, check out   Free registration gives you access to basic services and some good articles. Based in New York City,, Inc. is a privately held company offering premier online job search destinations and content for the $100k+ sector of the employment market.

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Tips for Leading Excellence and Innovation

Friday, 18. March 2011 14:40

Here are two excellent resources that when woven together, create a powerful primer for leading excellence and innovation.  The first is a video by Daniel Pink about motivation, (thanks to Peter D. for sharing this with me!) and the second is an article from the New York Times about the extensive and thorough internal work Google did to determine how to create better managers.  

In short, Pink believes that flourishing organizations have a purpose model:  they empower their team, and combine challenge and mastery with making a contribution.  These organizations understand that to motivate employees beyond  basic tasks, autonomy is required.  In his video, Pink sums it up with, “They treat people like people”. 

According to the New York Time’s article, Google’s research found that what employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.  (Hmm, sounds to me  like reinforcement of Pink’s thesis to treat people like people.)  

Furthermore, Google  found that people typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them. The first is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters. The second is that they don’t really like or respect their co-workers. The third is they have a terrible boss. In fact, Google found that a manager’s impact on employee performance and how they felt about their job was greater than any other factor. 

So, if you want to understand  more about  motivation and leading innovation, check out Daniel Pink’s fun and informative video.  To learn how to implement some of these concepts in your supervisory role, check out Google’s list for eight good managerial behaviors, which I copied from the NYT’s article and listed below in the order of importance.   Enjoy and happy leading!

Google’s Rules

1)      Be a good coach

  • Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive.

2)      Empower your team and don’t micromanage

  • Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice.  Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3)      Express interest in team member’s success and personal well-being.

4)      Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented

  • Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it.
  • Help the team prioritize and use seniority to remove road blocks

5)      Be a good communicator and listen to your team

  • Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information
  • Hold all hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team
  • Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6)      Help your employees with career development

7)      Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

  • Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy.
  • Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8)      Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team

  • Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed.
  • Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Here’s the link to the full New York Times Article: for your reading pleasure.

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Six Secrets of Successful Leadership Communication

Thursday, 3. February 2011 12:40

Laurie Schloff

After 40 years, I’ve learned through experience that effective communication enables successful living. Nevertheless, I’m not an expert, so I asked Laurie Schloff, nationally recognized executive communications trainer and coach, (and author of two popular books – Smart Speaking and He and She Talk), to share her Top Six Secrets of Effective Leadership Communication with me.     She offered many interesting insights in her interview, which you can listen to below.  

MP3 File


 Here’s a summary of  a few key points from the interview that I found especially compelling:

Being an effective communicator becomes increasingly important as you progress in your career.  At a certain point, technical expertise is expected and  leadership success is measured by your ability to motivate and inspire others.

Good news!  Anyone can improve his or her communication skills, even if public speaking terrifies you!  There are tools that most of us can learn to help us improve.  It all starts with awareness of how you communicate and the impact you are having on others, so practice self-reflection and ask for feedback from your trusted friends and associates, or visit with a coach.  Schloff also suggests that practicing and preparing for communication events helps build confidence.

Don’t forget, communication encompasses more than just the words you say.  It also includes the content of your message and non-verbal cues like posture, behavior and even how you look.  The sound of your voice also has impact.  For example, ask yourself, do you speak clearly and enthusiastically or do you tend to mumble or speak in monotone? 

Here are Laurie’s top six secrets of effective leadership communication.  More details and tips are available in the recording.  

  1. Value good communication
  2. Employ a communication philosophy, or mission statement
  3. Turn your philosophy into action
  4. Be a role model by creating a positive communication culture
  5. Mentor and train others in your organization
  6. Create accountability for upholding established communication guidelines

Here are her top five DON’Ts for good leadership communication.  Again, give the interview a listen if you’d like more specifics and implementation tips.  

  1. Don’t be a jerk
  2. Don’t hide
  3. Don’t  just  notice the negatives (Give 3 positives for every negative)
  4. Don’t be unclear with your message
  5. Don’t think everyone is like you:  vary your leadership and communication  according to the needs of person(s) with whom you are communicating 

For more information, contact Laurie  via e-mail at or call her at the Speech Improvement Company at 617-739-3330.    Visit the Speech Improvement Company  site  to find webinars and other communication resources  and to learn more about  in-person and remote coaching. 

Much success to you in all your communication endeavors!

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What’s the Deal with Coaching?

Sunday, 12. December 2010 19:12

So what is coaching anyway? I recently read a brief, well written article on Executive Coaching by Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, professional coach, author  and  PhD in organizational psychology  that I believe applies beautifully to  all kinds  of coaching.  To answer the question “what is coaching?”, I’ve included some highlights from his piece in this week’s post.

 “When it comes to defining coaching, the International Coach Federation (ICF) states that coaching is about “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, ” according to Woodward. He also interviews two nationally known executive coaches in the article, Dr. Relly Nadler and Dr. Marcia Reynolds.  

Nadler, executive coach and author of Leading with Emotional Intelligence, says that coaching is about “bringing more depth and focus to particular challenges,” and that those in leadership roles often need “a thinking partner for support and guidance” when dealing with complex people issues. Nadler clarified that “coaching is not a makeover” and is not intended as a way to make wholesale changes in one’s character or personality.   

Executive coach and author of Wander Woman, Reynolds, told Woodward that she has “found that coaching is more about defining the goal than finding a solution. People start by telling me what they want. But what they really want is tied to having more of or less of something important or threatening to them.” In other words, their struggle is partly about first defining the challenge. “Once their true goal is on the table, the solution is obvious. The sudden, new and amazing solution to a problem arises when you shine a light on the truth.”

Both Nadler and Reynolds agree that coaching boils down to one simple concept: accessing a “thought partner”.  As Reynolds points out, “most people already have the answers to their problems. It’s just that the problems are masking what they really need to solve.”

Woodward’s article concludes with the idea that working with an executive coach is about bringing clarity to an issue and then developing a plan of action to tackle it.     He closes by saying, “We are all victims of living in our own heads and at times we all need help getting perspective. It’s not easy to evaluate ourselves, which is why there is so much value in having that thought partner bring perspective to our internal conversations.”    Thanks to Woodward for his excellent article and insight.  Read his full article here.


If you are interested in coaching, check out my  two new  KICK START gifts you can give yourself or gift to someone you know and love: KICK START Resume Review and Career Coaching and KICK START Get Fit and Well. More details here.

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