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Archive for the ‘Uncommon Living’ Category

Trusting My Instincts

October 7th, 2009

It’s official. Today is the day that The Maverick Mom blog becomes the Escaping Mediocrity blog. (Well – there is one more thing to do which to move the whole blog over to the new domain which may have happenedleaping by the time you read this. But I just couldn’t keep this a secret anymore!).

Those of you who hang out here regularly won’t be totally surprised. I’ve been moving in this direction for months, adding the new tagline and shifting the theme. This is just the natural next leap.

And yet again, I’m going against all marketing wisdom. Changing the name of my blog, changing my domain name – it’s just not strategically prudent. And yet, here I am – doing that. It’s risky, but you know what? That’s okay with me. Running against the grain, doing things I’m “not supposed to do”, risking professional suicide – all that has worked out pretty well for me so far.

And besides, following my instincts – wherever they may lead me – is the only choice I give myself now.  That is what I’ve learned over the past year – and it seems that there are lots of people out there who are ready to do the same. And that makes me happier than I have been in a long, long time.

Let the games begin!

Expect the Unexpected

October 5th, 2009

I have a full plate this week. Opportunities and projects are everywhere and require my full, undivided attention. I had each day all planned out.

Then the Young Turk woke up this morning with a 100 degree fever.

There was a time when this sudden change in plans would have sent me into a tailspin of trying to do everything I “needed” to do and still take care of a sick child. I stressed myself out and didn’t accomplish much of anything very well.

My guiding question was always “How can I get it all done?”  Needless to say, all my juggling and scrambling put me in a bad mood and I am certain my child did not feel particularly cared for.  When the day was over, we both felt crappy.

Fast forward along the road to escaping mediocrity and I am happy to say I now use a whole different guidance system when dealing with the unexpected – especially when the unexpected involves my child. Wanna know what it is?!

“What will make my life taste the sweetest today?” tastes sweet

The question gives me instant clarity on the person I want to be. I can do the few critical tasks that must be done by me, have a quick phone call with my VA, re-arrange the rest of my commitments, and then spend the rest of the day being Mommy.

For me, there is no sweeter taste in life than cuddling up with my son, smoothing his hair, retrieving the requested cool rag or cool drink, working puzzles and looking at picture books.

Does it stress me out that some of the things I really want to get done aren’t getting done? Of course it does. But my time as a much needed Mommy is short and there are no do-overs, so I am willing to quell the compulsion to “do it all” so that I can do this one thing well.

And, when he is well enough to go back to school, I will work like a madwoman. 🙂

Finding Your Voice

September 30th, 2009

I believe we were all put here with a unique mission in life. We have a message to share that no one else on the planet can share. We each have a voice like no other.

Photo by felly1000

Photo by felly1000

And in a world that is dominated by “more of the same”, it is all the more critical that we each find this voice, this
message, this mission and share it. So today, I’m going to give you a few ideas for finding YOURS!

Start by asking yourself this question:

‘What has happened in my life, good or bad, that a) I feel compelled to share and b) would be the MOST useful to others?’

Make sure you write down knee-jerk response(s). Whatever comes up for you in response that question is part of your unique message and offering whatever it is that comes up for you in that answer is one of the easiest roads to creating a mission for yourself and a voice others will want to hear.

Once you have your compelling answer to this question (it doesn’t have to be right or perfect) we are going to start weaving it into a story, or a Parable, that you can share with others as you talk about what you do. Your parable will create a connection with your tribe that has a depth and a richness that will be riveting.

See, there was a path that led you to want to do what you do – and people are interested in that. Telling people your story – how you got to where you are and why you are doing what you do – makes them feel connected to you. It helps them get to know you, learn to like you, and trust that you are who you say you are. (And you know that most people only engage with people they know, like and trust, right?)

To give you an idea of what I mean, I will share my parable with you. Because my calling, my mission, my voice is in a completely new place, it’s a work in progress – here’s the current draft:

My name is Sarah Robinson and perhaps the best way for me to explain what I do is to share a defining moment in my life.

About eight years ago, I quit my job-twice. What is significant about the fact that I quit is that it was supposed to be my dream job-the pinnacle of my professional life. I was hired to turn an organization around-and I did it. I increased revenues 250% and created a luminous community reputation out of one that was riddled with negativity. We became one of the top organizations people chose to support. And I did it all in less than two years. I was so proud. BUT, I had a boss I simply could not please. No matter what success I brought to the table, she told me about what I wasn’t doing. No support, no recognition-just negativity. I became over-whelmed and exhausted.

Oh-and my personal life began to suffer as well. No one wanted to around me and honestly I had nothing positive to offer. Finally I decided that the heart and energy I was pouring into my “dream job” wasn’t worth the price I was paying. So, I quit. Then I was promised that it would be different-I would get what I needed. Well that lasted about 2 days, so I quit again, this time for good.

I was heart-broken. Everything I had dreamed of and worked for was an empty disappointment. If my dream job wasn’t it, what WAS it? Even though I had no job lined up, no real idea of what I was going to do-I just knew that there had to be a better way to work and to really live and I went looking for it.

That is the moment that led me here today. I set about learning and studying how to create a way of working and living that allows me to be exactly who I am and gives me deep sense of satisfaction and success in all areas of my life.

As a result of these experiences, I decided that I would dedicate the rest of my professional life to helping others escape the mediocrity of doing what we are “supposed” to do by sharing all that I’ve learned.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas and inspiration for uncovering your mission and message and putting together your parable.

So give it a try! Don’t over think this – just write from your heart.

My Mother the English Teacher always says “The secret to good writing is re-writing.”

And if you feel so inclined, I would love for you to share any part of your answer or parable here – because I KNOW you are all up to amazing thing!

100% Money-Back Guaranteed to Help You Escape Mediocrity

September 28th, 2009

One of the most common questions I get via DM or email goes something like this: “How can I escape mediocrity when I feel so stuck, so confused, so depressed, so overwhelmed, so [fill in a similar adjective]?

First let me say that anyone who puts themselves out there- even those who appear to be INCREDIBLY successful – knows what this feels like. So if you find yourself in this space, cut yourself some slack and know that others have come before you and gotten through it.

How to get through it can take many forms and people far greater than I have written entire books on this very subject. But today I am going to propose a different kind of “cure” if you will. One that does not involve a lot of internal work or even external work – on yourself anyway.

And this cure is GUARANTEED to shift your outlook and your thinking, that I can promise you.  And it is one of the most powerful tools in my personal arsenal for escaping mediocrity.

What is this powerful, 100% money back guaranteed cure?

Find someone who is in worse shape than you are and go help them.

Radical isn’t it?!

And believe me, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for not trying this cure.

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have the energy.”

“I need to stay focused on my own business.”

Etc., etc.

To which I respond, “Well, then you must be content with the way you are feeling. Good luck to you.”

Why do I believe so strongly in helping others? Because over and over again I see these kinds of results in my own business/life – and the businesses/lives of those who embrace the strategy:

1) When I help someone who is in worse shape than I am, I immediately have a shift in perspective on the ACTUAL size of my problems.

2) When I stop staring at my own belly-button for five minutes, all kinds of solutions start presenting themselves.

3) I am a big believer in the karmic boomerang. I’ve never EVER seen it miss.

Need ideas for a place to start helping? I’m so glad because I have a GREAT suggestion!

Starting at midnight PST tonight, September 28, an organization near and dear to my heart, 12 for 12k, is pulling off a 24 hour tweet-a-thon for the non-profit Doctors Without Borders.

From their website: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.

Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care or natural disasters.  MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need.

For ways you can help Doctors Without Borders through this tweetathon, check out this page.

Even if this event/non-profit isn’t for you or if you read this post after the event is over, I hope you will choose someone, somewhere, to reach out to and offer your help.

It’s a complete game-changer. I promise. 🙂

Now It's Your Turn…

September 16th, 2009

I spend a lot of time thinking about you. Seriously. I re-read the smart, funny, brilliant and vulnerable comments you’ve written in response to my posts and am simply blown away by how willing you are to share so much of yourself here. Truly amazing.

Today, my part of the post is going to be very short. The real meat will be in your responses (well, that is where the real meat ALWAYS is, isn’t it?!).give

You are invited to share a link to your very favorite Escaping Mediocrity resource. This could be a blog post you’ve written, or a vlog post you’ve made, or it may be a link to something someone else has put together that truly inspires you on your journey of a lifetime. It can be about business, life or anything else.

To make it meaningful and helpful to everyone, there are just one simple boundary that I’d like to ask you to observe:

No overt selling or blatant self-promotion. I’m going to check every link that is posted and I will waste no time in hitting the delete button. 🙂

That’s it!

As always, I can’t wait to learn from you. 🙂

The Care & Feeding of a Tribe

September 14th, 2009

(Sometimes, I start writing a blog post thinking it is going in one direction, and then it hijacks my idea and goes somewhere else entirely. This post is a perfect example of what I mean.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tribe lately. Mainly because I’ve realized that I simply could not do what I do everyday without them. Oh – I suppose I could for a little while, but my tribe makes it so much more fun, so much more worthwhile and so much LESS scary.

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, defines a tribe this way:lit drum

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For million of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. . . Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.” (Pages 1-2)

When I first shifted the focus of this blog to “escaping mediocrity on adventure at a time”, I knew that this undertaking was WAY bigger than anything I could do alone. And I knew I needed a tribe around me if I was going to be able to sustain the vision.  What I didn’t know, was exactly how to get one. And truth be told, I still don’t.

As I’ve said many times here – and on Twitter – I am very very blessed to have somehow connected with other like-minded people who are as tired of the status quo as I am. And I’ve actually had people ask me what “formula” I used to build such an amazing group.

Formula? Really?

Can you put “publicly saying things that scare you out of your wits and hoping someone else understands” into a formula? Or “creating meaningful conversation with and between others” ? Or “telling others they made you laugh so hard Coke came out your nose” ?

If you can, you are much better mathematician than I am. Cuz I simply don’t know how to plug that into an A + B=C kind of equation. And even if there were such an equation, I wouldn’t want it.

Why?

Because this tribe is made up of real, live human beings who are dazzlingly individual and intricate. Why on earth would I want to trivialize you by trying to wrap you up into some neat kind of package?

And anyway, if I tried to describe to someone else how the tribe here is developing, it would sound something like this:

Well, first, you put up a blog thinking you know what you are going to talk about. Then about six months into it, you realize that that isn’t what you are going to talk about – you’re going to talk about this other thing. And no – you can’t get any market research ahead of time on the audience or the demand because there isn’t any. So then you start writing blog posts that scare the sh*t out of you. And you tell a few of the friends you’ve made on Twitter about them, hoping that they will feel enough pity that they will show up and at least READ what you wrote. And when they do read and take the time to comment, you replybecause their comments are so much MORE intelligent and witty than what you wrote in the first place.  Oh – and in between writing these posts and hoping someone will read them and replying to the comments they leave, you get on Twitter and laugh a lot and introduce people to each other and try to help where you can.

So for those of you wondering about my magic formula – there it is. Good luck trying to duplicate it. Even I can’t duplicate it (if you DO figure it out and make some money on it – send me a percentage, ok?).

Now – because I ALWAYS want this blog to be useful and, as I’ve said, you are all WAY smarter, savvier, and funnier than I am – I want to ask  you a question. If you were trying to tell someone how to build and maintain a tribe that you wanted to be a part of, what is the #1 thing you would share with them?

As always, I can’t wait to read your comments!!

Tesla: My Escaping Mediocrity Car

August 26th, 2009

I first heard rabout the Tesla when I watched a segment on it on 60 Minutes last Fall. For reasons that will become obvious, it instantly became my dream car.

I’ve been a fan of electric motors for ages. We even own an Oxygen scooter that I love. They are so much more efficient and help release our total dependency on oil.  But electric cars have always been SteslaO limited. Until now.

Here are the very sexy specs on the Tesla Roadster Sport:

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS
Acceleration 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds
Range 244 miles EPA combined city/highway
Top Speed 125 mph
Charging As short as 3.5 hours for a complete cycle (partial cycles are faster)

In short, it is sexy and FAST – not exactly adjectives associated with electric cars.  Oh and did I mention, it is designed and manufactured in the Silicon Valley?!! In short, this car is all about Escaping Mediocrity.

Recently, I got to actually sit in my dream car. (You have to understand. I live in Alabama. Not exactly the mecca of forward thinking automobile choices. So it was a very BIG deal.)

My friend Jamie Sandford (@jsandford on twitter)  who works for Southern Companies, got his hot little hands on one and had it on display at Social South.  I wasted no time in hustling myself AND the Young Turk downtown so I could take a gander.

I have to say that in real life, it did not disappoint. In fact, it only made my obsession worse.  (No, I did not get to drive it or even ride in it, but that is another story.) Pictures simply cannot do it justice. As someone I know said, “It is sex on four wheels.” Still, I did have my picture snapped while sitting in it and quickly changed my avatar on Twitter, which continues to create QUITE the stir.

I’ve even chosen a theme song for my new love and me. 🙂 Tesla Girls by OMD

And then…..this guy who was taking video while I gabbed away to Jamie about the car, was actually someone official who posted the video online. YIKES!  But I’m willing to let you take a peek at it so that you can get a taste of just how HOT this car is.

Tesla Roadster electric car on display at Social South

I have set my intention to ride this car into the sunset of my Escaping Mediocrity Adventures!!

And now I’m wondering if any of you have chosen THE thing you most want as part of your personal adventure?

Escaping Mediocrity Recommended Reading: F2 The Firefly Manifesto REMIXED

August 19th, 2009

So if you’ve been following along recently on my business and my life, you are up to speed on the fact that I am “walking the grid”, recovering from a major setback. (If you haven’t been following along, you can quickly catch up by reading Failing Sucks and Cake.)

fireflyOne major part of my Grid is reading  things that inspire me and make me feel better – smart, capable, hopeful, etc. So when I was watching my tweetstream the other day, I lunged at Jonathan Fields’  link to his newly released F2 Firefly Manifesto: Remixed. I read Jonathan’s blog, Awake At The Wheel,  regularly so I knew whatever he had written would be fantastic.  I just wasn’t prepared for HOW fantastic.

If you are desperate to escape professional (and personal for that matter) mediocrity and think it is impossible in today’s economy, sprint HERE and download this manifesto NOW (and don’t bother continuing your reading here – you can come back).

Still here? Ok – I’ll tell you why I like it so much and why it is Oh-So-UN-Mediocre.

1) It’s not full of links selling stuff. Nothing irritates me more than reading free documents that HINT at solutions – but to actually get them, you have to buy this ebook or that coaching program. The ideas and solutions Jonathan offers are right there, in the manifesto. And if you want further reading you can go to his blog or read his book.

2)It is practical and actionable. Sometimes I see manifestos that are long on theory and short on action steps I can take right now. Jonathan’s manifesto gives readers TONS of ideas and “Nine Renegade Actions To Take Today.”  My favorite is “Choose Your Renegade Path” where he says “With rare exception, making a great living doing what you love isn’t a matter of ‘if’ anymore, it’s a matter of ‘how’. Yes, even in this economy. “

3) It doesn’t ignore the reality of our current economic climate. I have grown so weary of the words “recession proof” and of hearing some gurus say that our mindset is all it takes to steer clear of the impact of today’s unstable marketplace. Jonathan does not pussyfoot around about what is REALLY happening – businesses are closing, people are losing jobs and new jobs just aren’t plentiful. And then —- he offers hope in the face of this reality.

Here is the definition of success Jonathan invites all of us to try on for size:

Will this career choice allow me to:

-Spend the greatest amount of time

-Absorbed in activities and relationships that fill me up

-While surrounding myself with people I cannot get enough of, and

-Earning enough to live comfortably in the world.

Jonathan not only believes that this is possible – he knows HOW to make it possible.  So, if you haven’t yet, go HERE and download your free copy of F2 The Firefly Manifesto: REMIXED. And, as always, I really want to know what you think about it, so comeback and tell me, ok?!!

Cake

August 17th, 2009

Cake has deep soul healing properties. And I’m not just talking about EATING cake.  Actually, the eating of cake can be pretty mood-altering, but it is at the bottom of the list of the kind of magic I’m talking about.

Let me explain.

I come from a long line of women who bake cakes when the going gets tough.  As a child, I remember visiting my spinster aunt who led a very simple life and  – at times I feel certain – a challenging life. She lived in rural south Alabama, didn’t drive and kept house for my aging and ailing grandmother. Oh and did I mention there wasn’t a lot of money?

But no matter what was happening in her world or when I showed up, there was always fresh cake under a beautiful old cake cover on the counter of her farmhouse kitchen.

My brothers and I used to laugh because her cakes weighed SO MUCH. I can still see her at the kitchen table – butter, flour, sugar and eggs stacked around her – making a cake from a recipe scrawled on a stained and torn index card. Or, if she was feeling daring, she would try a new recipe out of a ladies magazine.

Now that I am an adult, what I’m beginning to understand about my aunt is that the ritual of baking a cake – and baking it well – grounded her. It helped her stay sane when the world around her felt like it might be more than she could manage.

And since I am “walking the grid” trying to stay sane and grounded myself, I decided to take a page from my aunt’s book and bake a cake from scratch over the weekend. To use the word “soothing” to describe the experience is such an understatement but I am at a loss for a better word.

First is “the story” of the cake I made. I originally chose Miss Prather’s Pound Cake because it is the Young Turk’s favorite. But as I read through the recipe in the Sparta Cookbook, my head filled with memories of this vibrant woman who’d known me since I hit this earth. Her house always smelled of good things to eat and I cannot remember a time that she did not have some story to share that made us both howl with laughter. Her presence was as delicious as her cooking and I never tired of either.

She died of pancreatic cancer two years ago. As I read through her recipe – remembering the specific notes she’d given be about beating the egg whites (STIFF peaks, Sarah, STIFF!) and laughing that she’d forgotten to write down when to add the sour cream (so like her), I felt the comfort of her fill my kitchen. Nothing like that kind of love to calm a troubled spirit.

Second is the actual mental process of making a cake. There are some kinds of cooking that I do that don’t require my full, undivided attention  – or at least not for very long.

This is not the case when I am baking a cake – especially a southern cake from a southern cook’s recipe. My entire focus is engaged as I measure, sift, beat, whip, stir and fold my way through each ingredient and each precise step. There is something almost zen-like about the state of mind I get in – so soothing and quieting to my restlessness.

And finally there is the smell that filled my entire house as Miss Prather’s Pound Cake baked in the oven. There was a warmth, a comfort,  a child-like happiness that filled me up when that scent surrounded me like a blanket. I felt completely grounded.  And I am so glad that smell is still lingering around here. 🙂

For those of you who are “Walking The Grid” with me (and there are a number of you based on the comments I got on the blog post!) I am adding Miss Prather’s Pound Cake Recipe below. I encourage you to try it. The worst that can happen is you will have the very best pound cake ever for dessert tonight!

Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 scant c. sugar

1/2 lb. butter

6 eggs (separated)

3 c. flour sifted 3 times

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 8 oz. carton of sour cream

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Sift flour and soda 3 times. In a separate bowl, cream butter and then add sugar. Stir in sour cream. Alternate adding egg yolks and flour mixture while beating. Set aside. In a separate bowl, add salt to egg whites and beat until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold into cake batter. Bake in well greased and floured pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Failing Sucks

August 12th, 2009

We’ve all heard it from the guru’s right? “Take big risks!” “Fail early. Fail often.” “When you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”

And for the most part, I agree with these sentiments. The only problem is, no one ever talks about how much failing SUCKS and what to do about it so you CAN pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Here’s the thing: as entrepreneurs we pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Of course we are risk takers – how could we work for ourselves if we weren’t? So when we take a big risk – everything in us is on the line. Which works out great if the risk pays off.

But what about when it doesn’t pay off?

I recently lived through this experience and I am here to tell you it can be gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I wanted something very very badly. I thought I had my bases covered. I put all my chips on the table – my smarts, my heart and my soul – and I hoped for the best.

But it didn’t work out. Not only did it not work out, it blew up spectacularly in my face. And it felt horrible.

Prevailing advice is that I should have been able to shake it off, get up and keep on trekking. And I’ve been able to do after many failures – trust me.  But this time I just couldn’t. My heart was too heavy and my spirit was busted. But I also knew I had to choose between moving forward somehow and throwing in the towel.

Walking The Grid

Photo by Simon Scott

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but when I find myself in situations where I really don’t know what to do next, where I feel like I am grappling in the dark, where my heart just isn’t in taking one more step, the phrase “just walk the grid” always comes to mind

I have a feeling that I’m not the only person out there who struggles to find a foothold after failing and I’m hoping this idea might offer some help.

The whole premise of walking the grid is based on two things: 1) some structured routine and 2) keeping things very very simple. Each person’s grid will look different, but here are some pieces of mine to give you some ideas:

  1. I walk – every single morning. Whether I feel like it or not. In fact, the less I feel like it, the more insistent I am about going. 30 minutes minimum – longer if I can.
  2. I check in with a trusted friend or colleague every day. Not the same friend or colleague every day because I want to keep as many of those as I can. Sometimes I talk about what’s going on with me; sometimes I can bring myself to actually inquire about them (when I’m walking the grid, I can be kinda self-centered).
  3. I reduce my commitments as best I can. Getting back to full speed takes time and energy and I want to give myself as much of that as I can.
  4. I write first thing every morning. Dumping out what’s bothering me onto paper helps keep it from eating away at me all day. (And a side benefit is I usually get a really great NEW idea while I’m writing – eventually.)
  5. I try to eat well and not survive on coffee alone.
  6. I give priority to working on the projects that make me feel really good, really smart and really talented. Same goes for people I talk to.
  7. I read books by authors who make me feel better. My favorites when I am walking the grid are Julia Cameron, Martha Beck and Anne Lamott.
  8. I nap a lot. (Ok – I nap a lot anytime I can. Walking the grid just gives me a really good reason.)
  9. I cry. Yes it’s true. If the experience is heart-wrenching enough, I’ll probably cry more than once. And don’t say it’s just because I’m a girl.
  10. I take small actions. As soon as I can I take small baby steps toward something that feels like it might be right. Baby steps feel simple and doable. As they accumulate, though, I find myself creating forward momentum once again.

Sometimes I can zip through walking the grid in a couple of days and I’m good to go. Other times, it may take me weeks or even a few months of walking the grid to feel like I am on solid ground.

Failing isn’t permanent and the fact that I failed to get something I really wanted doesn’t mean that I am a failure. But taking the time to acknowledge that the experience was painful is a gift of respect I can give myself.

What are some simple, structured ideas you would add to The Grid?