Finding Your Voice, Really?

Second Story

I recently spent some time talking with a woman who wants to find her voice. She has stories. She has something to say. She’s not quite sure what those stories are or what she really wants to say.

I know exactly what she means, and I know how creative writing can help her. I know that she will feel fed and encouraged and challenged by a group writing experience. I know she will emerge more confident, more whole, changed for good.

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Personal Brand: What’s In a Name?

Faking Balance by Lela Davidson

A few years ago I attended a large social media conference. As is my habit at these things, I crammed in as many sessions as possible on any topic that might make me better/faster/stronger. I wanted to learn everything I could about SEO, affiliate monetization, and MOST IMPORTANT: personal branding.

Because who are you, really, in this millennium, without a personal brand?

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What I Know For Sure About Writing

second story writer's workshop

I didn’t start to practice the craft of writing until I was thirty years old. But I’ve always been a writer.

Before I could call myself a writer, I wrote. Mostly lists, long letters, and plans. Some stories. I made up a cast of pretend friends, and I talked to myself. Still do. Thank you, bold new world in which I can believe that others believe I’m on some unseen device and not actually engaging with the imaginary characters in my head.

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Lead a Charmed Life

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My daughter finds four leaf clovers. Anywhere she goes, she can walk up to a patch of clover and find a four leafed one. Sometimes she’ll find a fiver or a sixer, as she calls them.

It’s rare, this gift for finding the exceptional clover, but to my daughter, this is an ordinary act. She is baffled that other people cannot see the special specimens.

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I’m Not the Best at Anything, Just Like Madonna

not the best

I’m obsessed with Madonna lately because I got to see her in concert this month. I’ve been a casual fan, at best, over the years, but I’ve always admired Madonna. I’ve actually lived by a quote of hers since 1991. These words have shaped me, encouraged me, set a path for me to follow. The quote represents a quarter century of influence.

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3 Ingredients for Accomplishing Any Ridiculous Goal

I am conflicted about ridiculous goals. I believe in them, and I admire people who set them, but I admit to erring on the side of achievable goals. They make me feel better, especially when I cross them off my list. But ridiculous goals are definitely where the money is, where the excitement is, where the fun is.

I have some experience with ridiculous goals. How else could I have transitioned from Certified Public Accountant to best-selling author? (New York Times, I’ll get you yet.) How else could I lead a hyper-talented editorial team to create the #1 country music and lifestyle media property in the whole wide world? How else could I be the primary laundry caretaker for two teenagers, a husband, and a dog?

Ridiculous goals. That’s how.

Ridiculous or practical, the mechanics of accomplishing any goal are the same. And they are not complicated. If you can follow a recipe, you can achieve your goals. You would have to be living under a rock for the last 30 years to have missed the over-abundance of literature (do we call it literature?) on the subject of setting and achieving goals. It’s simple: Set a date, break big dreams into small steps, take action, measure, repeat.

It’s the take action part that most people miss, but that’s another topic for another day.

But before you make the list (or spreadsheet), before you have dates in the calendar, you need some basic ingredients. There are only three: Vision, Skills, and Network.

Those working together will get absolutely anything done.

Vision

This one is tricky, and there are two pieces. First, what do you really want? What is the end goal? Second, and I think more important, is the vision we have of ourselves. Are you the person who will accomplish this particular big thing? Are you the person who will rise above the challenges and circumstances? Are you the person who will persevere when the shit gets tough?

Skills

Let’s assume you know what you want and you’ve convinced yourself you’re the one to do it. Despite your fancy spreadsheets (or humble lists), your committed intention, and your dutiful action, if you do not possess the skills to accomplish your goal, you won’t get very far. Invest in your skills, Invest in understanding what skills are require to get a particular thing done, and then invest in acquiring them. Whether or not you achieve your goal, the skills you build in the process are yours to keep. Warren Buffet famously counsels that this is the best investment anyone can make:

Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.

 

Network

Never underestimate the power of groups, and never give up just because you don’t have the right network, YET. Some of us are born into certain networks, or we acquire them by school, work, or social association. Most of us have to artfully assemble the right people to help us reach our goals.

This year I encouraged my daughter to participate in local year-long fundraising program for a national charity. I wanted her to participate in the program so she would learn to combine the three key ingredients: Vision, Skills, and Network.

I wanted her to see herself as the kind of person who commits and follows through, who steps out into a challenge, an uncomfortable task, an unknown situation, with grace and confidence.

I wanted her to develop the planning and scheduling skills she would need to complete the programs. But mostly, I wanted her to learn how to ask for money, because as I see it, that’s an incredibly valuable skill.

I wanted my daughter to nurture a network with the other girls from different schools and towns.

I’m pretty sure she’s just in it for the dress she will wear to the ball at the end.

That’s okay. A girl’s got to have a goal.


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson speaking

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs.

In Celebration of Awkward

Awkward Lela Davidson

My sweet friend Sarah did not post this picture after I spoke at the NWA Technology Summit in November. Instead, she came up to me giggling and asked to take another picture.

“It makes you look really short,” she said. “Like, you-don’t-have-a-torso short.”

I mean, CLEARLY I’m bending over. But, yes. Awkward.

The thing is, that image was the least awkward part of the day. You can tell by the look on my face that I’m happy here with my friend. I feel good, which was not the default of the day.

I beat myself up badly before, during, and after I speak to a group. It doesn’t matter how many people talk to me afterward. It doesn’t matter how many encouraging notes I receive. I literally lost sleep the night after this talk, going over the parts of it where I stumbled, or said something maybe I shouldn’t have.

And don’t get me started on the drama of trying to get dressed for this event. Because it was super Chamber of Commerce, but also super tech. So what– graphic tee, jeans and a blazer? White House Black Market take me away.

Posing like the queen of the munchkin parade was low on the list of things that bothered me that day. My glasses look cute in this shot. Is there anything more important?

This all happened way back a million years ago in November. A few days later I got a reminder that I was not alone in my awkwardness.

That same week two of my heroes were super awkward.

First, Sheryl Sandberg was practically heckled when she encouraged the alpha males at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to lean in to supporting women as peers.

Ouch. Those boys tried to bring her down a peg, that was clear, so much so that their cadet leader scolded them afterward for their poor treatment of their guest. But who can blame them? It’s their job to bring her down a peg, right?

Maybe Sheryl lost sleep, too. And maybe she obsessed over that dress. (Such a great dress.) Or maybe that part is just my issue. Bottom line, Sheryl was not smooth. She was real. And therefore vulnerable.

“Look,” she told CNN. “I could have gone to a million places where they would have loved me. But, I didn’t.” Later she added, “Societal change and cultural change is not always comfortable.”

We’ve got a long way to go, baby.

The same week a friend sent a clip of Madonna’s performance in Stockholm. It was the day after the attacks in Paris. Madge gives a heartfelt monologue about how we need to shine light in the face of all this darkness, to be the light.

Damn, is she awkward. Just absolutely not smooth.

Aren’t we all so lucky that these two amazing women, my teachers, my role models (don’t act like Borderline didn’t change lives) can show us their awkwardness? Because if they in their power and privilege can’t be awkward, how can we feel okay with looking like a circus attraction once in a while? But they can, so I will.

Won’t you join me?


Books Make Great Gifts!

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Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.

 

Image: Sarah Hood