Friday, February 21, 2014

In searching for my platform, I found myself again

These days everyone talks about having a platform.  What’s your platform?   I have to say I’ve been struggling with mine.

One friend suggested I think about what people most thank me for which did help narrow it down… a bit.  Usually I get thanked for the introductions I have helped people make, the connections established or just for what I offer at Company of Women and sometimes the support and encouragement I have given a would-be entrepreneur.

“Networking” was the conclusion at the end of this conversation, but you know, that just didn’t sit with me.  Partly because unfortunately networking still has a negative connotation and is frequently done badly.  Did I really want to be associated with this?  I don’t think so.

I needed to spend more time noodling that one.  Then I realized what I do, and what I have been doing all my career – is build community – be it mothers, teen mothers, abused women or entrepreneurs.  That’s my platform, community builder.

Or so I thought.  It is strange how the universe will provide the answers, if you are willing to listen and are alert to the messages.  In an interesting conversation with a woman from Atlanta, we started to talk about net-weaving, a word that really resonated with me.

In fact, when I first started Company of Women eleven years ago, I intentionally used tapestries in my business card, on the website and our promotional material.  I felt it symbolized what I wanted Company of Women to be – the intertwined threads making a beautiful fabric, representing how when we weave our threads together, we make a much stronger fabric.   Even our newsletter was called Tapestries, with the tagline of weaving wisdom and warmth into the lives of women…

Now I know some of you may be thinking P U L E E Z E – shoot me now, but you know what it worked back then and I still think it works now. Everyone wants to belong to something greater than themselves.

Now after a few years we got rid of the tapestries, albeit gradually, and probably not fast enough for my webmasters who I suspect thought it was, correction I was, over the top.

Reflecting back on all this, made me remember that just prior to starting Company of Women I was in California where I found and bought a pin and poem called the Weaver Woman. At the time I thought it was a good omen, given the journey I was about to embark on.

Despite our recent move, I was able to find it – no mean feat I tell you, but suddenly I feel I have come home. Isn’t it strange how we think we have moved on, evolved and yet in my case gone full circle back to who I was meant to be, and probably always have been, but I just didn’t know it. 

Here is the poem.  What do you think – does it resonate with you?

Weaver Woman

Wise weaver woman weaves, the fabric of life
A thread for each creature, a thread for each plant
A thread for the elements, that enliven the dance
A thread for spirit, a thread for sharing
A thread for balance, a thread for caring.

Cycles shape the pattern from death to rebirth
She is weaving a fabric of life for Earth
So precious – so fragile – so easily torn
So connected is all of life, all belong.
Let us help her to weave it, not tear it apart
With our choices, our voices, our actions, our heart.

Lela Florel

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Close encounter with "death"

Have you ever heard of "the beach ball of death?"  Sounds serious doesn't it?

Well that has been my week.  My computer has been a bit of a prima donna for a while now, only allowing certain emails to join us, but this week, she said "enough."

Apparently when you get that colourful little ball twirling incessantly on the screen, it means your hard drive is close to full, and it cannot take another file, email or document.  Who knew?

Well I do now.  In fact, there have been times this week - a speaker cancelling and a venue bumping us - plus the usual barrage of emails, that I've felt my hard drive can't take too much more either. Actually bouncing a beach ball somewhere in the sun has much more appeal than sweating it out in my home office.

So - tomorrow the computer goes to get fixed, and I am going to treat myself to a reflexology session.  Seems to me that my computer and I are on similar paths, and it's time to stop, take a break and start afresh next week.

As for the beach ball, I get to play with one for real in March.  In 34 days, not that I am counting. And no, the computer is not coming with me.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Forget Year of the Horse. It is Year of Me

Why is it as women that we are prone to putting our own needs last?  Is it our childhood upbringing or just part of our DNA as women.

With the start of a new year, I’ve been asking women what they want for themselves this year.  Given I work mainly with small business owners, I expected to hear about growth plans or how they were going to delegate more, or do business differently. 

But no, the overwhelming response has been the wish to transfer the focus from others to themselves.  Forget Year of the Horse, this, according to the women, is the Year of Me.  Tired of juggling all the tasks on their lists, trying to please everyone; they have decided to please themselves.

And good for them.  However, old habits are hard to break and our families and staff are used to us being “on call.”  It may therefore have to be a gradual process, rather than switching overnight to being “all about you.”   What you don’t want is to go too far the other way and become self-absorbed.  That doesn’t work either and will create friction   at work or at home and more likely than not, sabotage your plans for fun.

As one woman suggested, make a list of all that irritates you, tasks you would like to delegate to someone else, or eliminate all together. Just because it has always been done, and by you, doesn’t mean it always will be.  Letting go of perfection and the need to have it done your way, will free up your time and energy. 

Part of the trick, I think, is to schedule time -  for yourself – start with just a few hours a week to do something just for you like getting your hair cut, meeting friends for coffee or dinner; or pursuing that hobby that you loved but have neglected.  Don’t have any hobbies?  Reflect back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.

For me it is always sitting with a good book where I can escape and forget about where I am and what I have to do.  I love mysteries and I think in another life, I’d make a good detective.  So what works for you?

One of the challenges is getting over your guilt.  We are so programmed to be doing stuff for everyone else, that sitting down, with our feet up reading a book seems decadent and wrong.  But as someone who is a beginner at this, trust me you can get over it, and feel so refreshed as a result. 

Just like the hamster on the treadmill, going round and round.  Break the cycle.  Stop, open the door and get out. Even if you won’t do it for yourself, think of your children.  You are a role model of how it works, or not. Show your daughters that it’s OK to take time for yourself.  Let your sons know that they can’t expect their partners to always be on call and need to respect their need for space, for time alone.

You work hard and are entitled to a break. So cut yourself some slack, step out and make a date with yourself.  You’ll find you are in good company.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Do you want my money or not?

Recently I had a big challenge paying my invoice to one of our website hosts.  You’d think they would want your money, rather than putting you through so many hoops to get the bill paid.

The problem started because I have not been getting all my emails, including their invoice, so when they didn’t get paid, they disconnected the site.  Fair enough, I guess. But I only happened to find out by chance, and then the fun began.

When you phone, you are given three options, one of which was to pay your account, but they ask you to do it online.  OK, but I can’t remember my password and when I tried my usual one, it didn’t work.  All of which means that I can’t log in.  Yes, I can click forgot password, but they can’t email me the password, because their emails are not getting through.

So I turn to Live Chat for assistance, three times.  Each occasion I get referred back to the website, and advised to get a ticket number, which you receive once you’ve logged in… but remember, I can’t do that.   

An hour later, my morning suddenly going from bad to worse, I phone again.  I am told all the lines are busy and to leave a number, and of course, the ticket number and someone will call me back.

Whatever.  All I want to do is talk to a live person, pay the bill, and move on.  Does anyone want my money?  It would appear not.  Eventually a live person phones me, he asks me again about our username and password.  Now we got this site eight years ago, can you remember your passwords from then?  I have a hard time remembering the one I came up with yesterday. Plus nothing about our account had stayed static – new address, new email and new credit card number and in fairness, I can see that this could seem suspicious, but I am wanting to give them money, not take it away.

Day 2 – we are still trying to sort this out and meantime,  my website is still down.  I have to re-register from another email address and receive the information, advised to log in and then I can pay the bill.  Guess what, the links don’t work.  We are back on Live Chat and Customer Support. Now we did get it sorted, but I had to come up with three, yes, three security questions that will be asked each time.  It’s like getting into Fort Knox.

All of which flags for me that if we want people to stay with us, to remain loyal customers, we have to make it easy for them to pay.  If you have to go through all this just to pay a relatively small bill, you start to question whether it is worth it.

So note to self – first I better remember the answers to my questions and somewhere safe write down the password, otherwise next year we could face the same challenge, and I am not sure I want to play this game again.