Leadership Series

My life hasn’t been by chance. My hopes and dreams and work ethic weren’t genetically handed to me… well not entirely. Who I am today is because of amazing people that have come into my life, either physically or spiritually, and deeply impacted me, motivated me, and challenged me to become more. Please join me in this leadership series as I recognize the top leaders who have made me, me.

Each week, I will celebrate a new leader, show gratitude for what they have added to my life, and highlight the characteristics I try to emulate.

Because everything rises and falls on Leadership.

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IMG_2418Part of my job is to meet 10 new, extraordinary people everyday. Simple and Awesome. Sometimes I will meet these people through social media, other times while I am working out, and then others while I am just running errands and doing my day. As a new momma, doing my day can sometimes get condensed or cutout. But today, I set out with intention to go run some errands with L. The intention: fabulous. The execution: less than fabulous.

I think the second reason that parenting is one of the most challenging jobs in the world is because you have NO idea what you’re doing. There is no confirmation of what is right or wrong. You consult 15 people and you will get 15 different answers. All you have is your intuition. I’m currently reading the book, Blink, right now and while intuition can be spot on, it can also be questionnable when the only thing to confirm if you’re getting it right or getting it wrong is a happy baby or a crying baby. When you state it that simply, the answer seems clear, but even then, we question ourselves.

I might have the coolest kid on the planet. She’s adorable. Smart. Playful. Funny. She likes social settings and new people. She’s easygoing as long as she doesn’t have crap in her pants or is hungry (are you easygoing with crap in your pants?). Buuuuuuut, at 3 months old, she refuses to sleep if you aren’t near her. I don’t know how she knows, but she does. She can be in the deepest siesta and you will put her down and her eyes will pop open. So, for now, she sleeps with us, and naps are best if she’s held. And if this happens, she’s a dream sleeper! But  sleep being one of the most controversial and opinionated baby topics leaves you open to question, doubt, and criticism… So I question myself constantly, look for other solutions (try them. Fail.). Then if you consult anyone. Oh lord. Just don’t consult anyone. At least not anyone you know. If they don’t have kids, they might think the solution is way easier (I definitely did pre-baby). If they have kids and have an easy sleeper, then you are a failure. Or they don’t have an easy sleeper and you feel somewhat relieved but then they must be doing something wrong. Then there’s the “experts.” And everyone thinks that you are an overprotective parent that just needs to put the kid down.

So today, I did. I went against my gut. Decided to head out during naptime, let her sleep while driving. We don’t really have a hard and fast schedule yet anyway. It’ll be ok. Big Mistake. My sweet little angel was mortified. It was as if I betrayed her and let her sleep outside in the rain, never to return. Tears, wails, and heaving sighs. We didn’t make it out the front door.

And while many will be reading this, judging, thinking that they may know best. They simply don’t. Because in reality, no one understands my baby, knows her cues, can read her emotions, recognize her signs that she is ready for the next big girl step better than I can. According to my daughter, we have an agreement. I nurse her and snuggle her during naptime. I used to snuggle her for all of naptime. These days, she understands that we snuggle most of naptime, but that she can also finish out 30 minutes or so in her rock’n’play. This is what we’ve worked toward and she’s cool with it. And at some point, when she gives me a sign that she is ready for the next step, we will make another agreement. She might get scared. She might feel unsure. But, I will validate her and support her, even challenge her when appropriate.  No sneak attacks. No manipulation. No pulling the wool over her eyes. That’s just not how we do things.

And I will learn to trust my instinct and forget the naysayers.

So for now, I will finish my workday meeting 5 more extraordinary people via social media. Maybe it will be you. Or maybe you might want to introduce me to someone new.

Love Your Life, Momma

Personal growth is inherent in our business philosophy, so much so, that it’s become second nature to me. If there is something that I need to get better at, I simply need to study it, and GO. No wallowing. No complaining. Just recognize your lack, without judgement, and simply grow.

So, of course upon becoming a Momma and incorporating work back into my life, I began to scour the literature and mommy blogs for inspiration and tips on doing the working momma thing. Even more preferable is the entrepreneurial/leadership momma thing. Not only did I find very little on the topic, what I did find was your typical momma gripers. I read one blog that listed this woman’s Perceptions  and Reality of a work-from-home mom. Her so-called perceptions were that Work-at-home-moms (WAHMs) had time freedom and whimsy but (HER) Reality was that working from home was challenging and stressful. But upon reading this, I kept thinking, isn’t she looking at the glass half empty??

Since being pregnant, I have regularly processed the notion of “Having it All,” a common phrase used to describe a working mother. Over and over again, I go back to how silly it is. Because before children, I didn’t have it all. I didn’t have my child, I didn’t always go where I wanted to go or do what I wanted to do. There were conflicts in my schedule or I had bigger goals that were more important than immediate pleasure. But it was always a choice. My choice. And it is no different now. I made a really big choice to be a parent and take full on the responsibilities that come with it. In Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean Inshe claims that the phrase is simply insulting, because you would never ask a man if he “has it all” when referring to work and family. There’s probably even less literature and support for men on the topic. Hmmm…

So here’s the deal: Is being a parent hard? Sure. You literally have to relearn how to do everything you’ve spent most of your life perfecting (perfecting, for my fellow perfectionists). Is it worth it?? A thousand times YES! You wanted the kid, right? But isn’t life hard? Or allow me to re-language that…, doesn’t life present challenges everyday? Yes! And it’s your choice to get better, to change your outlook, and to become more.

While my journey through motherhood has been short, while I only have one child, and I am far from an expert, I do know that motherhood is no different than any other life situation. It does not excuse excuses, it does not limit our opportunity, and it certainly is not a platform for pity. It’s one of the greatest opportunities we are given. And if you also have the opportunity to work or build a business or be a leader in your community, you are only further blessed.

So here is MY REALITY, My Momma Vitamins for the Soul, Life Lessons of a Working/Work from Home/ Entrepreneurial Mom (WWHEM):

  1.  Everyday I get to wake up and see my little girl smile and laugh as she’s excited to start the day. Nothing can take that joy from me.
  2. There are some days that I am so tired and my body aches and I might even cry (ok, I’ll probably cry at some point), and in that moment I have a choice. 1) Cry in self-pitty, or 2) Turn on some personal development, have an extra dark tea (a little extra caffeine in the breastmilk is better than a lotta extra stress… in my humble opinion), cry to get it out, and get better.
  3. Sacrifices come with great rewards. When a baby starts crying while I’m having a meeting or trying to get work done in my home office (or even better, the situation that happened at this very sentence is my husband bringing her to me to eat and instead she wants to play and laugh…), again, I have a choice… Time-wasting Baby –OR– Feel eternally grateful to have the opportunity to have her with me! To see her laughs, to satisfy her needs, and to watch her grow. While it might feel a little hectic going from one thing to the next or shuffling baby and clients, in my opinion it’s better than working full-time and dropping off at day-care (complete and total love for any momma working full-time and taking their child to outside care… this is just my scenario).
  4. Be OK with your new reality. Who cares that it’s taken me 3 months to read Lean In, or that I need a pedicure like nobody’s business. I’ve been giving love to a new human. I probably won’t get everything crossed off my list. And further, my list will probably become shorter than it used to be. It’s ok. Prioritize, don’t quit, and celebrate your accomplishments.
  5. Don’t sacrifice your health. Put your oxygen mask on first! Make healthy meals a priority, get your workouts in, ask for help when you need a break. And when you take that time out for you, enjoy it mindfully and lusciously!
  6. Be present. Or at least the very best you can be. When you’re working, focus on work. When you’re with the babe, focus on the babe. I’ll admit, there is a small portion of my brain that is always on the babe. But rather than let that portion be guilt-ridden, I let it be filled with gratitude. Rather than beat myself up for being distracted, I marvel at the fact that there is a piece of me operating outside of my body; it only makes sense that a piece of my brain follows.
  7. Be selective with the company you keep. It’s not just for you now, it’s for your child. Steer clear from the negative. And steer clear from the ‘woe is me’ mommy dialogue. It’s disempowering for women. Find company that will empathize, but build you up and make you stronger.
  8. Be OK with failure. It’s how you know you are on the path to success.
  9. And like Jim Rohn says, “If you don’t like how things are, change it. You’re not a tree.”
  10. And if nothing else… Choose to Love Your Life, Momma.

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Top 21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Days as a Parent

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since this sweet pea was born. The days are short and the nights are long and the time is flying by. It’s not a cliche when they say that it changes so quickly. And in this short period of time, I have learned so much about myself, her, and being a parent. It’s so important for me to take it all, grow and learn with her each day, adapt, and make the best decisions for my family.

So here are some of my great life lessons in my first 21 days.

  1. Baby Blues should be more like Baby Bipolar. One minute I am smiling deeper than I have ever smiled, the next I am in tears of complete amazement and wonder, then I am laughing at her coos and farts, and then I am crying from pure exhaustion. In any given day, I am the strongest and weakest person I have ever met.
  2. Newborn pictures should be taken in the first 48 hours. That’s when they are asleep and adorable. I can’t wait to get ours back. Rumor has it there isn’t a single shot of her by herself where she isn’t wailing. Oh the joys!
  3. Every day is different. I remember when I got puppies and as a naive puppy owner I would swear that my dog was so smart, knew every command, and was potty trained after two months. The same is true with babies. People ask if she is on a schedule yet and that’s comical. If you think that the same thing happening two days in a row is a schedule, then we have lots of schedules! I hear schedules can’t really kick in until about three months. Truth? I am a schedule person so will welcome that as soon as it’s feasible.
  4. Babies have an opinion a BIG opinion! I am an avid researcher and read lots of books on various parenting styles and reviews on baby gear and while some would suggest that your child will have an opinion, I thought, “OK, sure, but they can adjust,” or “They’re babies. How big of an opinion can they have.” From everything from co-sleeping, to the stinkin paci, and a few baby gear items have proven that it doesn’t matter how much research do, or that am the mom. This kid gets to weigh in on every decision and I am a fool if I think I am the one with the final say!
  5. There is no such thing as a good baby. I have a GREAT Baby! She is the most adorable kid out there, loving, strong, inquisitive, strong-willed, but also stubborn (uh, dad) and impatient (yup… that’s me). She’s a talker too. So in the “good baby/ bad baby” scenario, ours can cry and while that can be hard and tiring and confusing. She is not a bad baby!! We’re just simply figuring it out.
  6. I like to work. I didn’t think that I would work at all for the rest of 2013. I gave myself full permission to clock out. But it’s way more fun to send a follow up text or email to a client or check in with the team rather than go on a Netflix series bender while killing breastfeeding time.
  7. Parenting truly is the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s funny because this warning that everyone tells you doesn’t come for no reason. It’s not the no-sleep thing. Yeah, that sucks. It’s the complete emotional investment in your child’s well-being and not always being able to deliver. It’s devastatingly difficult and I can see why this will only get harder as they age.
  8. There really is this secret/not-so-secret mom’s club. I didn’t get it. I sort of resented not being a part of it. I didn’t understand why my friends with kids were slightly distant. And while I don’t want that to happen with my current friendships, there is just a very special bond with your friends that are going through the same thing, around the same time. Not everyone can understand the importance of topics like thumb-sucking (good self-soothing technique or bad long-term habit) or are interested in exploring the major complexities of newborn reflux. While not glamorous, these are the single most important details of your life and hearing from your most trusted friends who fully feel the same, make everything better!
  9. Breastfeeding is worth it.
  10. Most of the help is needed after the first 10 days. That was my first breaking point. I literally just said on the 9th day, “well this isn’t so hard,” with my mom and husband there to help with everything. I was sleeping about 4 hours per night, completely in a fog, functioning off 100% adrenaline. And then the adrenaline went away, sleep deprivation kicked in, and my awesome sleeper, woke up and wanted to be heard…
  11. Single moms are Gods in my eyes.
  12. If you come across a slightly grumpy, not so patient person in the grocery store, they could be a new parent. Empathize and get out of their way.
  13. While I have been a high-functioning, multi-tasker that likes to be very productive, I have to be ok with accomplishing nothing “significant” other than, you know, sustaining life. I can start lots of tasks, but they very often get interrupted (like writing this blog) and may or may not complete it by days’ end.
  14. I am beginning to eat the same thing everyday because it’s quick, easy, and meets my dietary requirements (B: oatmeal with Formula 1, MS: Shake, L: Sandwich or salad, AS: Yogurt Parfait, D: Chili, soup, healthy casserole… tea, water, water, water… er… a glass of wine… not everyday I swear)
  15. Great communication skills with your partner prior to baby is ESSENTIAL! Patience goes down drastically, everyone is craving just a moment to themselves, you are both tired, and “No, she doesn’t like it like that anymore, she likes it this way,” may come into play. Your partner is your co-captain not the opposing team.
  16. After one attempt at Target with a fussy baby and needing to nurse in public, not knowing what to do, I have slight PTSD of leaving the house. I am confident this will pass.
  17. I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder… but in reverse. I swear I should be able to fit into that top or those pants. Surely my chest and hips are not that much larger. While this is comical now, I hope that my body changes before it’s no longer funny.
  18. Jack Johnson Children’s Station on Pandora has become my new favorite, followed closely by Lullaby.
  19. There is no single feeling in the world greater than your sleeping infant on your chest. I work very hard to stop what I am doing and embrace those moments. I know they are fleeting.
  20. My life has never been more complete than with this amazing human being in my life. I am so blessed to have the privilege of being her mom. I am trying to never take that for granted.
  21. Having it all is a choice. While there are times where I may want to be in two places at once because I am missing an event, that is absolutely no different than any other part of life. Having it all is a state of mind and Big Picture kind of stuff. If you let yourself get lost in the immediacy of what that means then you will never have it all anyway.

What is Maternity Leave for an Entrepreneur?

Last week my husband and I finished our final prenatal class. This one was the Part II in our Breastfeeding Class. I believe the eloquent title was Express Yourself. Cute. All about the amazing world of pumping (expressing your milk, for you non-preggers). I am definitely a breastfeeding mom but given some of my independence issues and my struggle with sharing my body while pregnant, I know I want the option to pass off baby to daddy with a bottle when mommy wants to go to the gym, have a glass of wine or just take a break. Plus, I know he really wants the bonding time to feed her and I want that for them too. But I found out I am not your typical pumping mom. I don’t have to  pump. Sitting in this room with all of these working moms really made me so grateful for my life. We had the mom returning to her law school program two weeks after delivery, the mom that was so ready to begin her breastfeeding supplement regimen of fenugreek before the baby arrived for fear that her supply would dwindle, the mom returning to work full-time 8 weeks later (with the dad convinced they would need to supplement with formula), and the yogi mom, probably most closely related to my situation, that would need to leave for a couple of hours for a class. We spent time talking about how to work with (maybe battle, in some cases) your daycare providers so that they will feed the baby at the right times and in the right ways to not give too much nipple confusion. We chatted about the regimented pumping schedule and the nooks and closets you could hide in during your lunch break to pump. My heart ached for these moms. The pressure. I know I would constantly feel a race against time if I had immediate demands to return to an office.

I remember even when I was a therapist thinking how the heck am I going to do this? As a therapist, if you don’t see clients, you don’t get paid. And if you take an extended period of time off, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant to your clients and having to rebuild your caseload. There were some perks because I could still see a full-time caseload and only be in the office part-time… but still… the money…

Since becoming pregnant, I have been grateful to skip through the chapters and the weekly checklists on informing your employer and shopping for daycare. However, as an entrepreneur, I have had to fight my own battles. Different battles. The battles between myself and my boss (myself). So much of how I define myself and my self-worth is tied into my work. Learning how to let some things go and delegate others has been a major obstacle. The only person I have needed permission for any maternity leave is myself. I think many times it would have been easier to just submit my necessary paperwork to a boss.

I worked my normal workload- 60+ hours, leading 2 Fit Camps, seeing clients, working at our nutrition club, etc, up until about 20 weeks. At that point, my first trimester symptoms hadn’t really seized, burpees were becoming awkward, and I was just tired. So I changed my work up, reduced my hours, and started to let go of some of my responsibilities. I think so many of my hormonal mood swings were tied into this. I resented having to do this. I felt bored, sad, and I missed my team!! I didn’t know who I was because at that point, I wasn’t yet someone’s mom. I was just the pregnant woman who needed to reduce her stress and prepare for becoming a mom. And although I knew I should’ve loved and embraced that opportunity, I didn’t. Hindsight it was good for me, my team, and completely necessary groundwork to prepare everyone for the baby’s arrival but it was an internal struggle with myself.

Now I am FOUR WEEKS AWAY (holy crap) from my due date and I am still uncertain about what this leave will look like. Sometimes I say I will be completely removed for the rest of 2013. Sometimes I think a bit longer. Other days I think, no way. I will do plenty of correspondence from home and be back in the game ready to go. But here is what I have learned. I don’t actually have to decide anything right now. I can have the baby and play it by ear. I can see how I feel and how she is adjusting. I can wait until I’m up for it. I can learn what it means to be a working mom at our pace. I have options because of the residual income we have built in only 2 years!

When I was a therapist, I used to talk with my clients about designing an integrated life- one where their work, their family, their interests, were all woven in as one. It sounded beautiful in philosophy. Little did I know that I was simply designing the philosophy for my life.

On Being an Entrepreneur

My husband and I like to talk shop. Our business is still our baby. We live it, love it, breathe it, and cry about it almost daily. So even when we are out on date nights or going for an evening stroll, our business tends to be a major topic.

One thing we have been reflecting on a lot is business and entrepreneurship in general. You see, our business isn’t normal. There are many people in our company that are starting from scratch (where we all start) and shooting up to mega incomes in 4 years or less. And when I say mega, I mean MEGA. Take your definition of MEGA and triple it. YUP! Anyway, we 100% saw ourself on that path. Maybe not the tripled MEGA but definitely the doubled mega in 3 years. We are two years in and unsure if we will hit it (but aren’t slowing down anytime soon).

That income opportunity isn’t normal and we often have to remind ourselves of that when we talk shop. Prior to health coaching, we both owned our own business. I walked away after one year, he walked away after 4 years. And in that time, we weren’t even close to what we have developed to date. We reflect on our trials and our tribulations. We both started businesses with no structural support in place, no formal business education, and very little self education. We are both fight-to-the-death kind of people and probably would have eventually figured it out-ish. In our current business, we’re very fortunate of the support that we have in place and all of the skills that we have learned without knowing or intentionally learning them.

In our evening chats, we know others that are in business for themselves, going into business, or thinking about entrepreneurship. We admire those for the tenacity and passion. But I think we also send a lot of empathy and well-wishes out to them. Growing your own business is hard. You have to have thick-skin, passion, and the most crystal clear WHY before you even open your doors. You have to defy the naysayers, develop yourself everyday, LEARN, be ok with failure, and most importantly be patient with nothing but faith. Only then, do you have a chance at success. And again, our current business is simple!

Everyday I am grateful for being self-employed. It’s been a crazy journey and definitely not one that I envisioned for myself but we are getting through the humps and really starting to see the other side. The true American Dream. And the incredible part is that recently it’s been recognized more and more. Something that we definitely didn’t expect at this point. But the recognition really must go to those that have paved the way for us. We’ve had it very easy in our business. But for those going out on their own, here are the lessons that C and I take away – 1) Have a support structure in place. Find a mentor that has been successful in business to call on. 2) Read and self-educate like it’s your job. It is. Become a better human being and your business will become attractive. 3) Don’t quit. Give yourself 2 years to keep your head above water, 4 years to get by, and at 7 years enjoy your income and benefits of entrepreneurship.

It may not be easy, but it’s SO Worth It!