Monday, April 19, 2010

Success is Achieved By Developing Our Strengths, Not By Eliminating Our Weaknesses

I am on a constant self-improvement plan and happy to be. I can thank many people for this. I’ve been blessed to have fantastic family, teachers, professors, managers, and friends who believe in the value of teaching. Mostly, I have to thank my parents. I am blessed to have grown up with loving parents who constantly motivated me to be the best “me” I can be. I don’t have children, nor do I plan on making any booger breathers any time soon, but I have to imagine that it’s damn near impossible to find that perfect – balance if you will– of praise, motivation and encouragement to improve.

Knowing where to improve is always important. But – there’s a catch. It’s also so important (maybe even more so) to know your strengths. Knowing your strengths enables you to have confidence. You need confidence to WANT to be better – a better person, better at your job, a better spouse… just… better.

Last summer, with a few other WS+B colleagues and with the help of a great book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, I helped coordinate a marketing workshop focused on discovering your strengths. This lesson I have brought with me and I do my best to apply it in all areas appropriate… which just so happens to be all areas.

It’s a shame but as a result of too many managers, teachers and society being fascinated with negativity, most people become all too familiar and fixated on flaws and spend their lives trying to repair them – while their strengths lie ignored. Ask someone what their strengths are – I bet they won’t be able to answer OR they will become uncomfortable or embarrassed. When did we decide it was embarrassing to be aware of what we’re good at?

There are so many areas to check if you’re unable to Iist your strengths. Are you getting proper praise at work? At home?  Do you love what you’re doing? Do you know what you love?!

I enjoy teaching Zumba classes and can honestly and without embarrassment state that I am becoming aware that I don’t totally suck. My classes are growing, I am getting recruitment phone calls from other fitness centers, my pay is increasing, my students are losing weight and I am making friends. I am aware of these variables and it is making me feel good. I am aware that this is a strength of mine. I am aware that when I feel happy and healthy, I am productive and strategic. When I am productive and strategic, it benefits all other areas of my life.

This subject has also been brought to my attention because we are nearing “self-evaluation” and review time. I know it is important for me to list areas I need help in, areas I need to improve on and areas that I feel need attention. But – you better believe your Zumba toned ass that I am going to let you know where I feel I am a rock star.

On another note:

Sorry for the delay in posting – I spent all last week in Atlantic City with colleagues attending the Atlantic Builders’ Convention on behalf of WithumSmith+Brown. It was a slightly different show than the “Association of Governmental Accountants” show I am used to. Although a smaller show than past years, the value was still there. I spent all of my energy networking with various construction professionals. There was no time to catch up either because my best friend (who lives the farthest away) was in NJ and I had to meet her! (Even if I looked and felt like the crypt keeper.)

There is a lot to catch up on this week. I was so excited to get in this morning to see a few fresh copies of the “Healthcare Financial Management Association” newsletter the Garden State Focus sitting on my desk. They published an article by me on “wellness in the workplace” .. a subject I am quite passionate on.  It’s not posted online yet, but it will be. Oh - and I added another class to my line-up... check it out in the right border.

I will be sure to share it when they do! Because I wrote it. And because I think it’s cool.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What Is Important in Life is Life; Not the Result of Life

Fact: Life is going to smack you up no matter how color-coded and organized your life is.

Today’s blog is based upon a problem that I have always had… keeping it in perspective. It is extremely difficult keeping perspective when life smacks you with a problem that appears to be insurmountable; so big that you are sure it will be the end of you.

I ride the Expedition Everest that we call life daily. The events I experience radically change my perspective where one moment I feel on top of the world and the next moment, an incident will reverse my positive perspective into negativity, panic and chipped nails.

In addition to “Watching the big mouth” on my “Sarah Leddy Construction List”… “Taking a step back” falls very near the top. By questioning and understanding my perspective, seeing the greater reality and being committed to a long-term vision, I have been trying to manage my efforts to keep it in perspective. This is much easier said than done, especially speaking for myself. Recently, I’ve had another perspective encounter that I’d like to share with you.

I’m very fortunate to teach private Zumba lessons to a professional company in the same business complex as WithumSmith+Brown. This company (BRILLIANT company that cares so deeply about the health and wellness of their staff) hires me to come in at the close of the work day and provide a romp-shaking Zumba class. We push aside the tables and chairs in the meeting rooms and get well.

On these days, I wake up, (and in the chaotic blur that is my morning) get ready for the work-day and pack my Zumba duffel of the things I will need that evening. Most days I am successful. But no matter how color-coded and organized I am, there are times something goes wrong. I pack knee socks, forget sneakers, accidentally add a Spice Girls jam to the playlist or forget to start the crock pot. WELL, it just so happens, that this particular day I forgot the sports bra. Ladies, you know what I’m sayin’. AND – on this particular day, immediately following my private class, I was subbing for an instructor friend at a brand new gym where I had never taught before. Great.

Warning: PG-13 activity ahead.

Men, I don’t pretend to empathize and understand your baseball cup mishaps. I’m not going to say I get why it’s so uncomfortable to ride a bike. But, you need to believe me. It’s damn near impossible to jump around without one of those bad boys.

Usually, my work-day leaves me scrambling to finish something around the time it takes to get ready to teach my class. So, of course, I leave a 10 minute window to get changed and to head over. This was when I noticed my unfortunate uniform situation. So I throw on everything but and scurry back into work, (into Corporate America with my neon pink pants) lock myself in 'Dear Collections Manager Debbie Massa’s' office and panic down the list of extensions of every female colleague I have ever spoken to. Needless to say, no one had one to lend. At my last resort and with 2 minutes to spare, I dug through the marketing closets only to find WithumSmith+Brown branded running shirts, sweater-sets, pens, mugs and calculators.

I’m whining. I’m panicking. I’m breathing heavy. I’m sweating. I’m embarrassed. I’m frustrated. I show up next door decked out in my normal Zumba uniform… layered in running shirts, sweater-sets and freakin’ ponchos. Immediately I start blabbing on about my “disaster” and begging for an extra sports bra. I’m talking – and I notice that everyone is especially quiet today… something’s… not… right.

It was at that moment, that I learned 2 days before; one of my Zumba students had a terrible accident. One of the 38-year-old secretaries for this company had an accident at home and passed away. This woman, this woman engaged to be married, left behind two children and many other loving family members and friends. This woman, this woman two-from-the-right in the second row with the beautiful brown hair who smiled through every class, had passed away. With no warning to anyone. A tragedy. My prayers and love go out to this woman’s friends and family.

Step back: I didn’t have a sports bra.

There are bigger problems. There are always going to be bigger problems. It’s so important – for YOUR benefit but also for those around you – to understand your perspectives and to take a look at the bigger reality. (I am doing my best to listen to this advice.) Making a commitment to do so will keep your thoughts and feelings in perspective and you will benefit. This particular event has reminded me to be fully concentrated on keeping things in perspective. This can mean your job, your friends, your family, your hobbies… just about anything.

Although it was a terrible way to learn a lesson, you can only live and learn and take the experiences you have to become a better person. And isn’t that the goal?

Until next time, keep it real.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Under Construction

Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves. - Adrienne Clarkson

Sometimes I have to remind myself (and others) that I am always under construction – on purpose. My career is a work in progress, my relationships with friends and family are a work in progress, my home is a work in progress, my body is a work in progress, my beliefs are a work in progress and how I feel about myself is a work in progress.

Sometimes having a vision session let’s me explore myself and opportunities that might be available to me. Even though I do talk to myself often, (Really, Sarah? You’re admitting that?), writing this blog is forcing me to take a look at certain areas in my life that I wouldn’t normally. Even if not many people are listening – I’m forced to talk. And I’M listening.

I always consider “closed-mindedness” one of the biggest shames. How can you close yourself off from learning? How can you WANT to believe that you already, truly do know everything? I have learned not to shut off from being exposed to other talent. It’s true; you can rise no higher than your lowest opinion of another.

I have to admit – there are times I believe I know everything (who, me?!) Most of these times occur at home and result in a very uncomfortable night on the living room couch… (I really do need to work on my big mouth). Nothing good ever comes from behaving that way. Not at home, not at work and not around friends. I do my very best to surround myself by incredible talent as I find that it betters me.

My friends and family leave me motivated every day. Some are teaching children the English language on the other side of the world, some are educating the world (me included) about a very serious and rapidly growing auto-immune disorder and lifestyle change, some are running marathons, some are knee-deep in half dissected cats on their way to being nurses, some are fighting for justice and some Merengue Marches are just so much better than mine. If I wasn’t always “under construction,” what would I be doing?

These thoughts came to me as I registered for two very important “Sarah Leddy Construction Projects.”

This June, I will be joining my industry colleagues as I attend the 21st Association for Accounting Marketing Summit held in Washington, DC. Here, I will be attending workshops on strategies for business development, refocusing your firm for the rebound, niche development, client retention, branding and more.

Two months after that, I will be making friends and dancing through a Salsa and Merengue Mashup, Belly Dance Arabian Nights, Brazilian Carnival and Caribbean Heat workshop at – you guessed it – the 2010 Zumba Convention.

All areas of my sometimes crazy, enjoyable, educational, baffling, hair-pulling but totally-worth-it life are constantly under construction. I may not walk around decked in yellow warning tape but hopefully this will help explain the socks. Until next time friends.

How do you work to improve your groove?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

If You Want It, Have It

“To get something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” – Unknown Sarah Leddy (Hey, I’m an adopter.)

I recently crossed this quote sifting through my streams of tweets. What simple wisdom for a complex life.

There seems to be a common theme amongst many of my family, friends and business colleagues today. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s cabin fever. I bet you can relate. Many people I’m surrounded by are feeling stuck, bored, frustrated or in a lull. Some aren’t completely unhappy with their current lives or jobs, but are just questioning that there’s something of greater significance out there. It could be new adventures, new connections, new relationships, new careers, new hobbies or just new opportunities. It’s healthy to question and I commend you for doing it.

The truth is, you’re not going to get any of these things doing what you have always done. I bet you’re your own worst enemy. “I’m comfortable.” “I’m too busy.” “Maybe when the economy picks up.” Get out of your head. All of these things are within your reach.

If you know me at all, you know that I do not use, nor do I understand clichĂ©’s of any kind. (Don’t put all your eggs in one basket? First of all, I’m not pushin’ around two shopping carts. It’s hard enough walking straight. If I start taking my eggs out and shoving some in my basket, some in my pockets, some in my handbag and some in my nose - I think there’s a much better change they are going to break. My nostrils aren’t very big.) … I digress … I have to use one or two sometimes. There’s no better time than now and it’s never, ever too late. How’d I do?

This past November of 2009 I was working full time for as I am now. I was planning “Client CPE” events, developing our Government Services and Real Estate Services niches and supporting two offices in their various marketing practices. OH, I was also planning a wedding for the next month. I was busy. Busy being a professional, a fiancĂ©, a daughter, a friend, an aunt and a crazy lady. But something was missing.

It was that month; I decided to get certified to teach Zumba. I had been taking the classes to shape the girlish figure for the big day and recognized how I felt each time I showed up for that class. I knew what I wanted and soon, showing up wasn’t enough. I had never been a professional dancer, I had never been a fitness instructor, I had never instructed classes of any kind and I had never worked more than one job at a time. I had to challenge my beliefs of what I was capable of and I had to let go of the fear I had of investing in something new. Investing. Future…

This one decision has had an immense ripple effect on my life. This one decision has transformed my attitude and my energy. My energy gets applied to everything I do in life. (Family, WithumSmith+Brown, my friends, my hobbies, my health.)

It is today that I ask you to challenge yourself to get what you want and have never had. As my favorite actor once quoted, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

Although scary, I do promise it is worth it.