The 4-Letter F Word

In 2012, I recorded a few of my speeches with the idea of making them available on my speaking website for anyone that wanted to hear my message. But after all this time I still haven’t listened to them. It’s not that I can’t stand my voice, but it is weird to hear–sometimes they play first automatically when I launch my iTunes on my computer (sorted as “Artist: Daree Allen”).

I’ve been working with a marketing consultant for the past few months, but now the talking is done. I need to start doing the grunt work: cold calls and other tasks to implement my marketing plan.

The last edits of my book were completed earlier this month and now its time for me to approve the final text and begin layout. That means finality (no more text changes without a hefty price). No turning back, and no “I forgots.” And this is the point with my first book where my layout person quit (even under contract).

I’m afraid.

Audio and video editing is such a time-consuming task, especially when you’re not terribly good at it. I have literally been trying to avoid this for months but the time is come.

I don’t like calling people I don’t know and trying to convince them that I’m good at something. That’s why I no longer pitch or freelance.

I never feel like my writing is never perfect when it’s time to submit it; in hindsight, there’s always something else I could have at it or should have done differently. I know that I’m going to get some criticism from book reviewers and others who think I should have done things a certain way (even though I asked for help and advice on the front end but didn’t get it).

I’ve been letting that ugly four-letter F word get in the way for far too long.

Fear.

fear-liar

It has paralyzed me. It lies about me and tells me things about myself that aren’t true. It makes up stories about what is going to happen that haven’t  happened before, and may never happen at all.

But I have to just do it.

fear-inaction

There are lots of people that like my voice. They want to hear what I have to say. Someone NEEDS to hear what I have to say. Couples will have better relationships because of what I wrote. Teens will not go down the wrong path because of my testimony.
I’m going to feel so much better when I’m done. The antidote to conquering fear of the unknown is to just get started.  I’m going to try to think of it as steps instead of a big project. Hold me accountable to finish. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What thing have you been fearing for a while but you’re going to tackle? An unpleasant confrontation? A breakup or cutoff that needs to happen? Make that move, and you let me know how it goes,okay? Then we’ll hold each other accountable.

Take that, Fear. You no longer have any power over us.

Now let’s get started.

Columbia Pictures' After Earth (2013)
Columbia Pictures’ After Earth (2013)

Goal Call (March Edition)

Source: Vetta

Of all the groups and organizations I’ve been exposed to or joined since my relocation, none of them have focused on the business side of what I want to do as a professional speaker, freelance writer, and soon-to-be author. That all changed in the past few days.

Speaking Up

As a member of three Toastmasters clubs, I have plenty of opportunities to speak to and mentor folks who are interested in building more confidence with their abilities in public speaking—I actually have a new mentee who gave her first speech this week, and I’m proud of her. Most people I encounter in these clubs have the goal of enhancing their skills in new ways, say, as a trainer or in a sales or PR position where interacting with people publicly is a given. At a recent meeting we gave the agenda to speaker visiting us from another club, who is also a professional speaker and member of the National Speaker’s Association in Georgia (NSA GA). I was so glad to meet someone from NSA, because it has been a goal of mine for a few years of mine to become a professional speaker–I have topics and I’ve spoken in for many conferences and programs, but it’s all for free.  She graciously invited me to an NSA GA meeting, and gave me a card to attend the morning session for free (which I did last weekend).

Upon arrival, I recognized her and a few other people who are also Toastmasters. I’m really excited about networking and being mentored by speakers who are in the business. The way another fellow dual Toastmasters/NSA member explained it to me, Toastmasters is about the ability to speak, whereas NSA is about the business of speaking. And your girl Daree wants to get paid!

Chatting Up

The inspiration doesn’t stop there.  I also decided to attend a networking/mixer event last night called “Talk & Taste.” Each event has a different theme, and the theme of the yesterday’s was, “The Writer’s Edition.” If that wasn’t a goal call for me, I don’t know what is. The event was for a good cause, with proceeds going to the Leadership Academy of 100 Black Men of America, DeKalb County chapter. I didn’t know anyone there, but I started chatting up folks from the parking lot! I was also glad that I brought my last 15 business cards with my old VA information on them so I can start fresh and anew. I also brought along my new Android phone, which I had just received an hour before I heading to the event. It allowed me to “check-in” to the venue, tweet about it, and take pics much more efficiently than my old joint.

It was awesome to have a room full of knowledgeable people–authors, publishers, and marketing professionals–great resources for a person like me on the verge of finishing her first book. A few authors had displays with their work; we talked, ate, exchanged cards, and got information. I always make it a point to write notes on their cards and connect through social media before the night is out, and I was able to do just that. And not everyone was an author, but everyone there had something to offer that I could use or contribute to in some way. Now I have new local contacts that I never had before with opportunities for us to help each other (networking is not one-sided): marketing and promotions, internet radio, womens’ entrepreneurial workshops, and exposure in local magazines (I plan to contribute ads and articles). Even make-up artists (your girl needs to update her headshot since my hair is gone J.) Clearly a great 2 1/2 hour investment (and since I registered online so my cost was only $5).

Speaking of time well spent, the event was scheduled from 6 to 9 pm, and my neighbor kept my daughter for me since the venue was less than 9 miles away. I planned to leave before 9 so she wasn’t up too long after her bedtime, but then the raffle was announced. Despite the turnout (which I heard was larger last time when the weather was colder), only 18 tickets were in the fishbowl for the raffle. The odds of winning something were great. I didn’t know what the prizes were until the raffles began: each of the four authors gave away their books, the venue (5 Seasons Brewery) gave away certificates for some of their menu items (either for catering or individuals–I didn’t catch that), and the grand prize was an Amazon Kindle wireless e-reader. I don’t know why, but the small crowd was relatively subdued about the chances of winning of Kindle, but I wasn’t. I love brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries, and I am not sold on reading books from a device instead of holding one in my hand, but I hit my high-pitched cheer when they drew for the Kindle– and I won it. (Several people were taking pictures of all the winners, so if I get one that they took with my crazy facial expressions, I’ll update this post with it.)  Yay me!!

Who knew I’d get two cool new devices in one day? But I have a good feeling that the contacts I made that evening were priceless.

Goal Call: The first quarter of 2011 is almost over. How are you doing with your goals? Have you been able to connect with people who have been successful in your area of focus? What can you do to reach out and create or rejuvenate your professional network?

What’s It Worth to You?

Source: Cultura

I have the privilege of knowing and befriending quite a few entrepreneurs since I relocated last year. Talking with one of them, whom I will call “Keisha,” I was reminded about how little value some of us place on quality and supporting Black-owned businesses who produce quality.
Keisha makes and sells her own jewelry line, and it is affordable. However, she has told me numerous times about her customers that frequently question her prices and are always looking for a discount.

Continue reading “What’s It Worth to You?”

Living On the Next Level Up – Seize the Day Recap #2

Courtesy of JohnMaxwell.com

Former pastor, author, and leadership guru John C. Maxwell’s speech was one of my two anticipated highlights of the Seize the Day event. His speech was entitled, “Living On the Next Level Up.”

Continue reading “Living On the Next Level Up – Seize the Day Recap #2”

“Live Full and Die Empty” – Seize the Day Recap #1

Discover Your Power Voice - Courtesy of LesBrown.com

The first speaker for the Seize the Day event last week was motivational speaker and author Les Brown. This post will summarize some of the points he made in his presentation, mostly in his words, but categorized by topic. (Any comments or clarifications I have are shown in parentheses.)

Continue reading ““Live Full and Die Empty” – Seize the Day Recap #1″

No One Is Unreachable

Is there a connection you need to make, but the person seems to be inaccessible? You CAN reach them. It’s as simple as sending a message to your contact in their preferred method.

Now granted, this preferred method is not always so simple, and may not be easy to find. You can always start with their website or social media page. But I’ve found that most of the people I want to reach, I can contact them directly, and if not, they have listed a way to reach their representative (agent, etc.) on their website.

Because of the nature of Twitter streams, the person may not catch your query on your first try (and ideally, you should develop a relationship with the person before diving in and asking them for something that primarily benefits you, such as a book endorsement or a guest post.

I have this “can-do” attitude about reaching people because I have forced myself to overcome the fear of rejection. As a budding freelancer, I’m not going to get clips (for free nor for pay) if I don’t speak up.  No one’s going to come along and offer me anything that I really want (unless they’re a good friend who knows what I’m looking for, or a mind reader). I actually believe that if I want to talk to President Obama directly, I can (don’t roll your eyes—I know it would take a while, but I CAN). And I’d love to. But first I’ll tell you what I’ve already done.

I’m a technical writer by day, but I’ve got a book I plan to publish next year for young adults.  I’ve also been eyeing some major magazines I want to write for as a contributor. So I hit up several well-known authors and players in the publishing industry last winter (around Christmastime!) and ALL of them responded and were willing to have me interview them, even though I didn’t have “a name” or a special place I knew I would publish the work. It was a privilege for me, not to mention very unselfish and gracious of them–they’re all very busy but made to talk to what I then considered “little old me.” (This is the resulting award-winning article.)

Getting Noticed

I’ve got several people I would love to endorse my forthcoming book, and a few would I’d love to write a foreword for it. But I’m not going to just pop up and say, “Hey, I love your work? I know you don’t know me from Adam, but could you stop what you’re doing to read my book, and give me a quote to endorse it so it will sell faster?”

That is not a good look.  When someone comes up to you with a generic, thinly-veiled “buy-my-product” pitch, it’s a turn off.

But if you market yourself the right way, it’s kind of like politics–when you see enough signs on the road with candidates’ names, you remember them name even if you don’t personally know those people. Here are a few tips that worked for me:

  1. Participate in conversation wherever your desired contact is active. Get involved with online and/or in-person networking. Don’t be afraid to let your personality come through (err on the conservative side in the beginning though). And please, use a good picture of yourself too.
  2. Consider the person’s brand (what are they known for, and what causes do they support), then use your good common sense to determine whether that person is a good contact for the project you’re seeking their help on.
  3. Provide the person with value in some way. (Check out Dave Navarro’s excellent, free workbook about networking with A-listers for all the details).
  4. Ask, and you shall receive. (If you don’t, switch a bit and keep trying.)

Meeting With A Mentor

Daree and Denene

11 months ago, I interviewed an author I highly respect, Ms. Denene Millner How did I get the interview? I sent her a simple message on Facebook and asked. Did we have any mutual friends to introduce us? No. I simply asked to interview her, sent her some questions, and she responded in kind. I even Once I moved to Atlanta, I let her know and she offered to meet me for lunch, which I was honored to do. She is a sweetheart! There we discussed some friendly things, parenting things, and political things. She also let me pick her brain a bit about publishing/writer things and it was great.

The moral of the story? No one is totally out of reach, but regardless of how popular the person whom you have your sights set on, you’ll need to start early. There may be only six degrees of separation (maximum) between you and your desired contact. Don’t wait until your situation becomes such that you needed this contact “yesterday.”

Who are you trying to reach, and to what end (that is, what are you trying to accomplish with this contact?) Have you had success with this method or another one?

Seize the Day!

Yesterday I attended a wonderful event called “Seize the Day,” in which 11 speakers discussed business, motivation and personal empowermentover 8 hours. The presenters in order of appearance were Les Brown, Tom Hopkins, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Phil Town, Ben Stein, Laura Bush, Than Merrill, John Smoltz, John Maxwell, and Terry Bradshaw. This post is not a full recap, but I will mention some highlights.

As a Toastmaster and aspiring professional speaker, I arrived eagerly anticipating the speeches from Les Brown and John Maxwell. However, I took notes on all* the presenters–not just what they said, but what they did. Some of these nuances are things I would have changed, and some are things I’d like to emulate in my own future presentations. Therefore, in this post, I’ll give you a list of quotables and speaker evaluations.

Continue reading “Seize the Day!”

What NOT to Wear

Woman with afro putting on her heels

No one should care more about your appearance than you. Surely the most important opinion of your looks is your own, but first impressions DO count in many situations. Some situations this is especially called for are job interviews, meeting new people, first dates, and so on. You WILL be judged by the way you look, like it or not.

Your image really suffers when you wear clothes that don’t fit. Like it or not, we judge people based on how they look—partly because if we don’t know someone, we have to start somewhere, and it usually starts with first impressions. But even if people know you, some impressions are just not up to par with representing the image you want to portray and putting your best foot forward—especially when it comes to a job interview or a public appearance where impressions mean a lot.

You can look good no matter what size you wear—whether it’s 4 or 24. More and more clothes are being made to accommodate all kinds of sizes and shapes of girls and women. But I shake my head sometimes when I see how some people wear jeans that don’t cover their behinds (ugh—the saggy jeans!!!), or shirts that don’t cover their bellies. Please take a little pride in yourself (and everyone who you may run into in public) by acknowledging some basic principles of dressing excellence.

Your shirt is too small if:

  • The buttons are holding on for dear life, pulling the sides of your shirt so far apart that you can see Os down the front of your blouse, not to mention your bra underneath.
  • You can see the skin on the bottom of your stomach. Not cute. (If you have rolls or a “pooch,” don’t accentuate them with a tight shirt.)
  • The armholes are rolled up in your armpits, so the entire hem of your sleeves is not visible.

Your pants/jeans do not fit if:

  • You can see your ankles while you’re standing up (your pants are too short)
  • You can see your crack when you’re standing or bent over (your pants are too small, or you may need a higher rise)
  • You have to lie on your bed, jump up and down, or hold in your gut to zip up your pants.

 

Undergarments:

  • Your bra creates breast bubbles under your shirt (your bra is too small and you probably need to go up a cup size—get a proper bra fitting in a fine department store
  • You can see your bra or panty lines through your clothing (invest in Spanx or another quality shapers to smooth rolls, lift breasts, and eliminate panty lines)

 

In general, if you have to squeeze into it, it doesn’t fit.

 

If you need more help to get rid of those pesky unworn, ill-fitting items, tomorrow’s post will explain how to purge your closet.

Take Back Your Time!: How to Start Unitasking in 8 Steps

The scattered piles of books and papers on my floor, across my desks, and on top of my dressers makes it clear that I have too many things going on at once. Because I can’t process all of it in an orderly fashion, this clutter is also transferred to my mind, which leads me to procrastinate or just give up.

I have a variety of interests and personal goals. I am involved in an active set of ministries at church, work full-time, do public speaking and freelance writing and above all, am a single parent of a little one, and I’ve started a new business I’m excited about. With all I’ve got going on in my life, and without giving priorities to my tasks and goals, everything becomes an overwhelming glob of to-dos. Something has got to give.

cluttered bulletin board
Courtesy of John Lawton

When crunch time comes along, we find out what the real priorities are in our lives. We’re all so busy, but busy doing what? Saying “Yes” to too many activities and too many people leaves no room for “me” time or family priorities, and we get worn out. Are ALL of our obligations really THAT important? Do we know when to say “No”?

Don’t have to wait until you “get around to it.” Decide now, from this day forward, that you will STOP MULTITASKING.

 

1. Multitasking wastes time because it slows you down.

Our minds can’t handle too many demanding things simultaneously. I’m not talking about combining little tasks such as running the washing machine while you watch TV or skim a magazine, or listening to an mp3 while you exercise. I’m talking about productive, cognitive tasks that require you to concentrate and process information, whether it be reading, writing, or driving. Think about it: you really can’t check your email and do your homework at the same time. You can have both in front of you while you take turns studying, and then take breaks to read emails. Switching back and forth between tasks is not efficient. You cannot truly multitask because your brain does not process information that way.

 

Continue reading “Take Back Your Time!: How to Start Unitasking in 8 Steps”

Moving On Up

What do you do when you’re seeking a promotion at work and you’re in a comfortable position while others are struggling? Do you leave things be (stay quiet and don’t rock the boat), or do you speak up and ask for what you’re worth?

I’m blessed to say that I’ve been employed at the same firm full-time for over a decade, fresh out of college (I was hired less than two months after graduation). I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in that time.

Humble Beginnings

I started as a junior technical writer in a Maryland office just outside of DC at age 22. I had a Bachelor’s degree in technical communication but no telecommunications knowledge. In just one year, my mentor and manager saw to it that I was promoted to Information Developer (a mid-level technical writer).

During the time I worked in MD, the technical publications team grew from a staff of four (I was number 4, but the others were temps) to 15. The company grew too fast, and layoffs ensued. I lost count of how many layoffs I have escaped since 2000 (including some last month—it’s amazing how the work keeps piling up while the funding dies off). In the meantime, continued to perform and train new hires. My manager encouraged me to take advantage of the company’s tuition assistance program, so I earned my Master’s in two years while she worked on her Bachelor’s.  It was also during this same employment streak that I bought my first house, got married, gave birth to my daughter, and got divorced. Basically, I grew up while working here.

When I returned from maternity leave in September 2003, my manager had changed. Manager #1 still worked in an office a hundred feet away from mine, but I no longer reported to her. Manager #2 was in NJ, and flew down to meet us, but I only saw him once. This began my experience of working for people I almost never saw in person.

Working Alone

In June 2004, I separated from my husband and moved to Virginia with my daughter. I worked from a tiny office with two desks, where technicians and installers would come and go. The manager of that office arranged to allow me a key to the office, and the vacant desk. I had my equipment shipped from Maryland and pretty much worked in isolation. I endured a big transition—not only the new state of Virginia, but missing my friends and co-workers in Maryland, coping with a marital separation, and becoming a single mom

In September 2004, I received a letter from Corporate and Human Resources, stating that the office in Maryland would be closing, and my job would end.  I was being laid off—I wasn’t able to dodge the bullet by moving to Virginia (or so I thought). I started planning to move and look for work. I went to Maryland in November 2005 to train the writer from India who was taking over my work. There was a very different air in the building at that time, as everyone else was training their successors as well.

Looking for work did not take long. In January 2005, just a couple of weeks before my lay-off date, I was hired at a temporary agency in Virginia Beach. They placed me at a well-known managed healthcare company for a 3-month assignment. Two weeks after I started the job (and still employed at the other company with very little work to do), my manager held a conference call with myself and the other remaining writers in Maryland.  His news was that we would be retained after all! We all had the option of working from home now that the office was closed. Since I wasn’t losing my job, I put in my two-week notice with my temporary agency and the healthcare company—two weeks after I started.

Continue reading “Moving On Up”