Women Rock like a Rocken’ RockStar

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A few weeks ago I had the honor and privilege to keynote at  the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council in the Woodlands, Texas.
The theme of the event was, “Women Who Rock.” The previous year they had my good friend and Houston Rock Star, Dayna Steele keynote, so I new I had some big shoes to fill. More than 450 women attended this fantastic luncheon with the purpose of supporting the United Way Women’s Leadership Council Young
Mother’s Daycare Scholarship. Since the theme was Women Who Rock, my Rock like a rocken’ RockStar story was the perfect ending for their conference. I was psyched!
 

I was enjoying interacting with the attendees, and was especially have fun with Ms. Retta Bobo, discovering that we both have great taste and the exact same glasses frames- IMG_2686

When Retta took the stage I was thrilled that she was the first speaker. She opened saying that we were there to support the Montgomerycounty United Way and break the cycle of poverty and dependence through education.She then told her story sharing the difficulty of having an infant while trying to finish her college education. The cost of quality daycare is one of the greatest obstacles young mothers face if they want to continue their education.

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Then the two scholarship recipients spoke and brought the audience to tears and amazement as they shared their stories of love, passion, challenges, determination and achievement. One of the women said it best, “The daycare obstacle was the 20-foot-tall cement wall standing between me and my education, and the daycare scholarship crumbled that wall.” She is now studying nursing at Lone Star College and hopes to continue her education by completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees to become an anesthesiologist.

 

When it was my time to speak, I took the emotion and the inspiration from the scholarship recipients I delivered my message, sharing that we just heard proof that it is how we face our challenges that matter. I said, “Through our coming together today we can see that we are not facing any of these challenges alone. And that it is vital that we encourage, support and elevate each other. “

The conference title, Women Who Rock, was right on, not only for the attendees but  for all women. Women are not small, we are not insignificant, and we are not “less than”- we are ENOUGH! Actually, we are more than enough, and the world needs to see more of us. More of our inner awareness, more of our self confidence, creativity, youthfulness, open-mindedness, more of our feminine spirit and our wisdom.

Because as women we all ROCK like  ROCKEN’ ROCKSTARS!

 

 

Millennial Women Have Landed!

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of speaking at several women’s conferences and I am excited to announce that, “Millennial Women Have Landed!”

Millennial women (AKA Gen Y ages 21-35) are redefining what success looks like. This generation of women feel they are defined by what they do –  blending their work/careers and their personal lives. They are embracing “The Slash”: Career (banker)/yoga instructor/dog-walker/loving wife and mother/preschool volunteer/weekend gourmet/blogger/and so on!

Pew research tells us that Gen Y women are enthusiastic, optimistic, and ambitious. So, Hats off to you Boomer women for paving the way and to you Gen X for telling the world what’s important to women. Millennial women have reaped the benefits and are showing up “In Charge”.

She Left Cleveland before LeBron’s Announcement…She never looked back!

 

When times get tough, motivational speakers like to quote famous people, with the hope that we give our audiences the strength and the courage to move forward. So, when my sister Patty made the decision to move to Dallas after living in Cleveland, Ohio all of her life I remember sharing these brilliant words-

“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney.

and… it was good advice-until LeBron announced that he was returning to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers.  Watch and learn – Patty is amazing and I’m so happy she is in Texas!

Rejections Hurt! Turning a rejection into a positive.

Before I began professional motivational speaking, I have to admit, I had very thin skin. Rejections devastated me.  But today, rejections are  a (sad to say) big part of my life.  Fortunately, I have learned over the years how to turn a rejection into a positive.  Here’s my Lesson from the Road – Turning a Rejection into a Positive.  Enjoy

Don’t Overcommit! Overcommitting Is Blindsiding Your Success

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What’s that one thing that if you completed, it, the results would bring you more happiness, satisfaction, money, or fame? Maybe, it’s getting that project management accreditation, realtor license, taking Spanish 4, or signing up for Keynote Speaker, Crystal Washington’s webinar course on marketing through social media?

Honestly, we all know what we should be doing in our free time, but many of us have filled our plates with so many other obligations that we don’t have the time to do what is necessary to get ourselves ahead. We simply overcommit.

 

 

 

Overcommitment can get in between you and your dreams. (Check out my Why We Overcommit video)

Last week, I heard  National Keynote Speaker, Ron Karr from the National Speaker’s Association (not to be confused with the other NSA) speak on attaining our goals, and he mentioned distractions and time wasters that get in our way and our success. Ron shared that he has two questions on his office wall, and he lives by these each day:

Question #1: What does success look like to me—right here, right now?

Question #2: Do my actions support it?

The reality is that, when we say yes to too many things, we run the risk of not having time for those things that matter most to us.

Here are a few things to think about before saying YES to that next volunteer situation or project:

  • Is this activity in alignment with my vision of success?
  • Will it get me to my goal or take me away from it?
  • If I say YES to this, what will I be saying NO to? (Think: will it take time away from my family, exercise time, study time, writing time, etc.)
  • Do I realistically have time to fulfill this commitment properly and on time? (You don’t want to overcommit and run the risk of disappointing people [for instance, your boss], damaging trust, or hurting your reputation.)

It’s when we get really clear and focused about what it is that we most desire in our lives that we will be able to find the clarity, courage, and guilt-free confidence to say no to the requests, invitations, and even the opportunities that come our way.

If you find yourself rushing around all the time, stressed out, and overcommitted, it’s time to purge some of those obligations. It’s time as they sing in Frozen to “Let it Go!”

Women, It’s Our Time to Speak!

It’s really great when women speakers are showcased, honored, and praised.  I have presented at many conferences where I am the only female speaker and I am excited to see that Kelly Swanson put the time into sharing 12 diverse and successful FEMALE motivational and business speakers journey’s to success.Women, it’s our time! It’s time for us to bring our spirit, energy,wisdom and new perspective onto the stage and change the world!

Take the time to read Kelly’s blog post and get some great advice.

and…

If you are looking for a truly gifted speaker, comedian, storyteller, and motivational speaker be sure and look at Kelly’s website.

 

 

Pushing Yourself to the Edge

Being a motivational speaker makes me more introspective than most. I spend a great deal of time analyzing my behavior and then naming it (the branding expert in me takes over!)

This has been my year to live on the EDGE! Every November (I’m a Scorpio) I go into a contemplative mood. I spend the month looking back over what I have discovered, achieved, and changed over the past year. This year was my year to get PHYSICAL (Yoga, Zumba, Body Pump) and I pushed myself to the edge! The Edge is a lot more fun than the middle and if I keep it up I’ll be getting Younger Next Year!

Productivity – No Pain-No Gain!

In this Lessons from the Road, Karen McCullough (Me) talks about success in reaching our goals.  Productivity often depends on our attitude and our involvement and desire to reach our goal. Sometimes we get a little lazy and we don’t put in the effort. Studies show that  we achieve our goals faster when there is a little negativity and even some pain involved when we fail to reach our goal.  OUCH!!!! Watch and find out!

Distractions-Distractions-Distractions- Productivity Come to Me!

abc8a43716ec230f321a45d8_168x126I am addicted to reading articles on productivity – maybe that’s because as a self-employed woman working exclusively out of my home office I need all the help I can get to stay focused and keep motivated. With the flexibility to set my own hours, I have discovered that I am not restricted to a regular 9-to-5 workday. Instead, I enjoy mixing it up, like hitting the morning exercise class circuit, maybe having lunch with colleagues, and then working well into the night. This blending my work-life and my life-life into a new uber-flexible lifestyle provides me with a huge amount of freedom – which is great, except for that on flip side, I also need to have a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

And that’s why I need to read a lot about productivity.

Like many of us, I can easily get distracted and pulled away from my work. Take for example, I could be sitting at my laptop, maybe in my kitchen, and right in the middle of a sentence I get an overwhelming urge to get up out of my seat, go into the bathroom and to check out which of my two new blushes looked better on me: Apricot Sheen or Pink Raspberry? Hold on … yup, Apricot Sheen wins hands down.

Because I can get pulled off course at the drop of a pin, I need help from the experts, so I am constantly reading blogs, articles and the latest research on productivity – which ironically can eat away at my productive time if I go down one too many rabbit holes, but I am hoping it will all pay off in the long run.

Here are some recent findings

This week I discovered that we are more productive when we remove distractions – kind of obvious, but you might be surprised just how many things can be distracting.

For example, I should be in my office writing this article right now and not in the kitchen, which, as we have already discussed, is full of distractions. How many distractions can you find in my kitchen? (see end of blog for answers)

Sunny beautiful days also offer lots of distractions, which may be why we are more productive on yucky, cloudy days and why the rain turns us into super-human productive machines.

Keep the distraction theory in mind when you are organizing your office for optimal productivity. Turn tables and desks away from the windows, and put a photo a cute kitty cat, your adorable children or a line of fluffy ducklings, as your screensaver. Researchers have discovered that cute images actually enhance our mental focus. (This is for real)  If you stare at a cute image for about 90 seconds a day you can sharpen your focus and reduce your error rate.

 

Finally, before you start turning the thermostat down to subzero (take note here ladies) studies show that we are most productive when the temperature is set at 77 degrees. Temperatures below 72 actually dampen our productive spirits.

Consequences vs. rewards

When we are taking productivity, consequences win.  Remember the saying, “No Pain- No Gain”? Well, research suggests that we are more productive when there is a little pain involved, since one of the ways we get into action is by setting consequences for ourselves. Writers and artists who often suffer from creative blocks are experts in the practice of consequences. Because they operate under strict deadlines, they have often  look for serious ways to motivate themselves to be productive, and some have been known to make deals with them selves using  punishment if they do not meet a deadline.

 
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Listen to one of my favorite podcasts where author Oliver Sacks was struggling to finish a book and he could not more forward. He was stuck, and after all else failed he decided to impose a deadline on himself that could be fatal…he finished the book.

Why does this work? We are programed to have an aversion to loss. Take the study of 150 Chicago public school teachers. University of Chicago economist John List divided the teachers into two groups and told both groups that their bonuses would be directly related to their students’ test scores. Teachers in group A would receive their bonus at the end of the year if the students’ test scores improved, while teachers in Group B received their full bonus in September, with the agreement that they would return it if their students’ test scores did not improve. Group B’s test scores came out higher than Group A’s by about 7 percentage points. I found this very interesting and a really good insight into our behaviors.

So now we know – we can boost productive behavior by setting consequences and eliminating distractions. That means …

hold on a second, I just want to go see how I would look as a red head. If I’m not back to work in 5 minutes I owe you 20 bucks.

 

How many distractions did you find in my kitchen? There are at least 10. How about: (1) plants need watering, (2) dirty dishes in sink, (3) time to rearrange the spice drawer, (4) check out the grout between tiles – scrub, scrub, (5) gratitude time – got to send thank you note for flowers, (6) did i return that library book? (7) do I need more coffee filers – what other groceries do I need?, (8) when is the last time I cleaned the oven?, (9) how do you think those cabinets stay so white?, (10) snack time! Did you find more? Leave a comment your best distractions!

 

A Shot of Energy- How to Raise Your Happiness by 25%

“I can live two months on a good compliment.” Mark Twain

I just received a handwritten note from a client thanking me for a recent keynote presentation and sharing with me  some of the positive remarks received from audience members. Wow! Now that’s a piece of snail mail that’s worth opening! It is at touching moments like these that I can’t help but smile, and I naturally stop and notice how truly grateful I am for the kind of work I get to do. And I am especially grateful for the amazing clients (and you know who you are) I am fortunate enough to work with. At these moments, right now, my heart is full of joy.

 

Right now. But…last week?

Last week nothing like this came in the mail. Last week the phone did not ring. Last week my heart was full of fear and reaction. That smile I have today is fleeting. So, here’s my question-

“How do I keep the joy?”

The ups and the downs in my business are a way of life. A bureau calls and requests a hold a date (joy!), but then maybe a week or two later they call back and cancel the hold because the client went in another direction (not joy). In my world – and I bet in yours too – praise and rejection go hand in hand. The challenge is – which one will I let linger? To be honest, these days the “not joy” feeling has been overstaying its welcome, and I am ready for a change. I want to shift my fear, negativity, and overall whininess towards a more positive focus.

 

I spent the morning doing a little Googling and I stumbled onto Brené Brown’s research exploring the relationship between joy and gratitude. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame (and she’s awesome). She said that before she did this research on joy and gratitude she believed that people who where joyful were grateful for the good in their life. But that was not exactly the case. Rather, after her 12 years of research she discovered that when it comes to joy there is a BIG difference between occasionally, almost accidentally, feeling grateful and actively, routinely PRACTICING gratitude – people who actively practice gratitude (think keeping a gratitude journal, writing thank you notes, sharing gratitude with others, etc.) have more joy in their life.

 

Another researcher, Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at University of California, Davis, found that when you practice gratitude on a daily basis you actually raise your overall happiness by 25%! From his work focusing on the psychology of gratitude, he confirms that the best way to actually practice gratitude is to put your positive thoughts on paper to concretely, purposefully affirm goodness. He shows that there is a strong correlation between gratitude and joyfulness, and when you practice gratefulness daily you will increase positive outcomes, happiness and an overall sense of well-being.

Hey, I want more of that! So instead of waiting for that next great note to arrive in the mail, here are some tips on how to actively practice gratitude on a regular basis:

1.  Commit to it! Be intentional that you will be grateful. It’s amazing how we can quickly turn nearly everything into a negative. A recent example of this: April 15th I get hit with a double wammie- I have to pay the IRS not only my taxes for the year we are filing but I also have to pay my estimated tax for the year we are in.  A few weeks ago I was so grateful for receiving  a fairly substantial check from my mortgage company explaining to  me I had an overage in my escrow account. Hurray!!! Tax money come to me- but…  when I went to  my writing the check to the IRS I found myself ungrateful-self complaining that I had to turn my beloved escrow check over to the IRS instead of taking a vacay…Think Grateful!

2. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Don’t make it too hard…get a notebook and start each morning or end each day  jotting down 4 or 5 things that you are grateful for and do it every day. No fancy notebook, no computer program required.

3. Start writing thank-you notes and mailing them.  Dr Roizen (Oprah loves him and his Dr. Oz’s partner/co. author,  and chief  of Wellness at the  Cleveland Clinic) revealed that he writes two thank you notes each evening before going to bed.  It is a ritual that he has integrated into his life that helps him end his day in gratitude.

4. While we are on the “Thank You’s” say it more often and when you say it mean it...  try texting your kids a thank you and see what happens- (TY 4 MakeN U R BED AML)

5. Take a gratitude walk with no distractions. No phone calls, texts, no audible.com, not podcasts,no NPR, just you and maybe your dog…for me Wally, and let nature take over as the gratitude flows out.

5.  Incorporate gratitude into morning exercise routines- Stay in your downward-dog a few seconds longer and think about what you are grateful for… and I be a lot of it will have to do with your flexibility and energy.

Wally McCullough

6.  Create a family ritual. Every Thanksgiving we go around the table and share what we are thankful for.  Why not add this ritual to your daily life. Before your family begins the evening meal share with each other something good that happened that day.

7. While you are at it Tell Me Something Good and keep looking for the Silver Lining.

Please add other tips to help up create our gratitude practice.