From The Publisher
Pleasure of Your Company
Like most professionals these days, my mailbox and inbox are overflowing with invitations to attend lots of meetings, gatherings and special events. Mostly, these invitations come from friends and associates. And, it doesn’t matter to me if the requests come by phone, via email or on a beautifully designed and printed card; each of them always puts a smile on my face.
The truth is, I love when opportunities arise that allow me to connect and keep up with those I care about. I love knowing what they are doing, and I love being present to see them do it. I also love the fact that someone thought of me and requested the “pleasure of your company.” Admittedly, that gracious little phrase gets me every time! When I receive personal invitations, I do everything in my power to respond promptly and courteously (with an RSVP) and in the affirmative — and then, God willing, I show up! I want to stay engaged with my friends and support them and their special interests. And, why wouldn’t I? My friends do the same for me! Often and big time!
However, like most professionals, I’ve gotten used to receiving invitations (to a variety of events) from people or groups I either don’t know or have no obvious connection to. I used to wonder, “Why me?” In the old days – when I was dumber than dumb – I simply tossed the “mystery” invitations aside and moved on to other things. Rarely, if ever, did I give them a second thought, like that all-important one — “maybe this could be a great opportunity!” But, over the years, I’ve grown and evolved and learned a whole lot about the joys of connecting with new people and exposing myself to the unexpected. I know now that “talking to strangers” is fun and, sometimes, life changing. I was reminded of this recently when a brand new subscriber to Houston Woman Magazine — another very busy professional woman — sent me an email and asked if I could meet her for coffee. Of course, I could, so we set a date.
We got together several days later. We met not knowing if our visit would be long or short, if the topics of mutual interest would be light or heavy. And, of course, we met not knowing whether this was the beginning of a new friendship or the only time we would ever want see each other! As it turned out, the woman and I really hit it off. A one-hour meeting turned into more than two and, over several cups of coffee, we shared stories about our childhoods, our parents, our children and, yes, business and our beloved work. We talked about being self-employed and why we had first chosen to go out on our own. We talked about the positives and the negatives.
We talked about the changes we see ahead. Though our fields could not be more different, we found ourselves sharing ideas and offering suggestions. We found ourselves being exposed to some new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. Throughout it all, we laughed and sighed — like old friends — about the challenges of the future and how we would meet them. Like I said, “talking to strangers” is fun and, sometimes, life-changing. Beverly Denver is the publisher of Houston Woman Magazine.
From The Publisher
The other day, I came across an article online that asked this question: Are you dreading the autumn doldrums? Immediately, I thought, “Are you kidding me? Autumn in Houston is awesome! Who among us would not be looking forward to the upcoming season?”
Curious to understand where the author was coming from, I opted to read his (very long) piece. According to him, some people suffer from post-Labor Day blues and need help getting over them. Why? Because Labor Day marks the end to “a more relaxed schedule, swimming pools and family trips.” And to make matters worse, “there are no three-day weekends during the fall to look forward to.” Between now and Thanksgiving, he says, there’s nothing but work!
Because of this, he contends, some people find themselves grumpier than usual; a dark and gloomy cloud of negativity actually hangs over them. Apparently, this can be serious!
There is a solution, of course. These folks can move to Houston — bask in the glory of H-Town — and enjoy the upcoming season as much as the rest of us here!
When I think of autumn in Houston, I can’t help but smile. I love the cooling temps and playful breezes. Both are invigorating, and both inspire me to do things I just can’t do in the summer.
For example, after Labor Day, I love walking into my clothes closet, de-cluttering and making room for new sweaters and skirts and knee-high boots. At the same time, I love being able to pass along items I no longer want or need to those who do.
After Labor Day, I love dressing up more often and joining friends at fundraisers benefiting my favorite charities. I especially love the ones that have unique themes and dress codes that call for creativity and vivid imaginations. Which, in Houston, means, “Wear anything you want!”
After Labor Day, I get to watch a lot of football games – some at Rice University, some at the University of Houston, some at Reliant Stadium! And, many others on TV — with best friends and big plates of food sitting nearby.
After Labor Day, I love becoming one with the festival crowd. For a long time, I was a routine visitor to the Greek Festival and Italian Festival and, every year, I looked forward to going to each of them. Then, Houston grew and evolved and so did its fall offerings. Now, it seems, the city calendar is jam-packed with festival fun. Perhaps, there are too many festivals to go to them all, but one can try. And, I do!
After Labor Day, I love thinking about the holidays and shopping for gifts. Seems I always find more things I want to buy for myself. But, no matter. Shopping is a good thing. It keeps our economy booming, and we all need to do our part!
After Labor Day, I always feel rested and refreshed, energized and enthused! I appreciate this most when it’s time to go back to work. I wake up each morning eager to get to the office and on with my day. I find myself saying “yes” to more projects and taking off early far less frequently. Knowing there’s a stretch of time without three-day weekends keeps me focused and productive.
For me, the best days (labor or otherwise) are the ones of autumn. And, all of those still come after the official holiday.
From The Publisher
Choices and Change
Recently, I read an article on the psychology of human behavior. Its author challenged readers to write down all the choices made in any given day — from breakfast to bedtime.
She said, “To change one’s life, one must be mindful of the choices one makes.”
It made sense to me, so I was happy to do it. In fact, I thought it might even be fun.
I chose to track my choices on a Monday, to rise early and hit the ground running. That morning, I jumped out of bed and into the shower. Without thinking, I put on some “publisher” threads and a trendy, new pair of high-heeled shoes.
There was no time to get to the gym. Or, was there? Suddenly, I realized: I had gotten dressed without even considering my need for routine exercise. Another choice made —out of habit — so I made note of it.
For breakfast, I ate a nutritious meal: two eggs, a sausage patty, a little bit of oatmeal and blueberries. The choices were in keeping with the “diet” I’ve been on for some time now. The one, by the way, that has helped me shed many unwanted pounds and inches! Proud of these choices, I wrote them all down. Then, expressing my delight, I added a Smiley Face.
By the time I reached my office – at 9 a.m. – a dozen or more choices were already penned to paper. I decided not to comment on any of these choices, knowing at day’s end there would be plenty of time to review and reflect. Another choice made.
At 10:30 a.m., the phone rang. It was Sally, a long-time friend, calling to see if I could meet her for lunch. She had taken time off from her job, so it was a good day for her. I wanted to see her, but I also wanted to make best use of Monday. Another choice to make, and I was being mindful of it! Thus, I passed on Sally’s invitation; I suggested another day and time to get together, and plans were made. I made note.
During the rest of the day, the opportunities to make choices continued. Many had to do with choosing to be distracted or not.
Example: Should I check and respond to emails as quickly and often as I like or commit to dealing with them only two times per day?
Another example: Should I continue to answer my own phone (as is my habit) or allow my assistant to do that for me?
Another example: Should I address the short-term needs of our business right now or carve out time to focus on its mission and long-term goals?
Many times, I found myself thinking, “Which choices are best? Which ones do I make with intent? Which ones do I make out of habit? Which ones result in positive outcomes? Which ones have negative implications? Which choices call for change?”
Alas, being mindful of all the choices I had to make that day — and writing them all down — was just too much! It was far too distracting! By 3 p.m., I gave up on the exercise and continued my day – as usual. Head down, doing what must be done!
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about that day and my attempt to track my choices. I’ve reviewed and reflected and read between the lines. And, yes, I’ve come to a conclusion.
By focusing on big choices – like eating nutritiously or eliminating unnecessary distractions – the small choices become easy and habitual.
And, only out of habit, can one create change and a whole new normal!
From the Publisher
Do Overs and Second Chances
Not too long ago, I had the rare opportunity to spend a wonderful three-day weekend at home. I had no deadlines to meet or commitments to keep. After a long period of work, work, work, there was (finally) some quality time available — for me!
All started out well. On Thursday night, I went to bed early with plans to catch up on my beauty sleep.
But, at 6 a.m. on Friday, my internal clock went off. Before I knew it, I was out of bed and in the shower. It wasn’t until the initial sprays of water struck my face did I stop to think, “Drats! I meant to stay in bed until noon!”
After that eye-opener, I headed downstairs. I put on a pot of coffee and turned on the television. I listened alertly — like a soldier awaiting orders — for the local weather report and late-breaking news.
As is my habit, I also turned on my Powerbook and checked my email. I found 200 new messages in my inbox. I opened none of them. Instead, I reminded myself I was “taking a break” and put them all in the follow-up file. So far so good.
But, before I put the laptop away, I decided to log into Facebook— just to send a few birthday greetings and change my status. Happily, I posted, “Off-duty!”
But, then, the endless stream of cute and clever postings and alerts from Words With Friends distracted me. I was well into my third cup of coffee before I realized I wasn’t sitting outside on my pretty balcony, communing with nature (as I had planned).
So, I picked up my Mac and moved toward the sunshine. The wireless connection appeared to be extra strong out there, so I stayed online. Seconds later, I had already logged into Twitter to see what was trending.
“Wow!” I thought, “So many cool things to think and tweet about!”
So, I posted my thoughts on several of the topics of the day. Then, I re-tweeted some favorite posts of those I follow and replied to ones that demanded response. It took awhile.
I was about to shut down my laptop and get on with the long-awaited relaxation, when I remembered something.
Social media experts had been telling me for months I needed to update my profile on LinkedIn. Only because the connection was so very strong right then, I thought, “I might as well do it now!”
For nearly an hour, I tried. But, updating a profile on LinkedIn is not easy. Finding just the right words to tell my story and better reach those I want to do business with demands strategic action. Not exactly what I wanted to do on my day off. So, I decided to work on the update later. (I opened my Google Calendar and noted it as a task for two weeks out!)
While looking at that calendar, I spotted a few “Must-Do Tasks” that had not been accomplished. Of course, all were work-related and truly needed to be completed immediately. Drats!
So, I did what any “self-respecting” entrepreneur would do; I dealt with the tasks.
Before I knew it, I had been online for hours, missed breakfast and lunch and totally wasted more than half of my first day off. Drats, again!
Clearly, distractions had gotten the best of me! But, no worries! I’ve been self-employed for a long time, and I know all about do-overs and second chances. That night, I went to bed early and slept well. Knowing I can always try again tomorrow — or the day after — helped!