Seize the Opportunities this Fall

This time last year, I was about three months into my new lifestyle on Mount Desert Island, Maine – something we’d dreamed about and planned for years! That was the “upside.”

ChagrinedThe “downside” (if you can really find a downside to finally living in your vision of paradise!) was that my business revenues were at less than half of where they had been just three years earlier.

This was not primarily due to the move, mind you, but rather to the fact that the industry “basket” into which I had placed all my “eggs” (homebuilding) had been decimated by the economic realities of the day.

And while I had been slowly repositioning my business to serve a more diverse clientele and to focus on social media, online, and email marketing, the months-long process of preparing for and actually making the move did take away from my business-building (or, should I say, rebuilding) activities.

What’s Around the Bend?

After catching my breath by spending much of last Summer as a bit of a tourist in my new hometown, in the Fall I began in earnest to rebuild and re-brand my business.

Fast forward to August 2011, (more…)

How Are You Doing at the Quarter-Mark?

This week marks the point at which we have experienced one-quarter of what the year 2011 has in store for us.

So, as far as 2011 goes, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really make New Year’s Resolutions for this year, preferring instead to create intentions every week throughout the year that will help me to continually share a sense of kindness, fair play and ethics with all the people I come into contact with in my business. That came about partially because I had not followed through on using a really neat deck of cards I’d purchased over a year earlier, called “The Professional Guidance Cards,” and partially because I’d had a really unpleasant and disturbing encounter last year with someone who can only be described as unprofessional, mean-spirited and egoistic. It was not the first time in my life that I’d had to deal with someone for whom the world existed solely to revolve around their whims, of course, but it had been some time and I’d forgotten how disconcerting and disruptive a situation it could be. That experience pushed me to think – hard – about the kinds of people I want to be associated with and how to incorporate more of them into my life (and minimize contact with those who see others as somehow less worthy and who seem incapable of conceiving of a win-win scenario).

Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have noticed that a full quarter of the year had passed, had I not been publishing my “Make a Difference Monday” posts on this blog since Week 1 of 2011 (see the tab above). As long as winter was, it still doesn’t seem possible that we are a quarter way through the year already!

But here we are, and I would have to say I’m feeling more satisfied with my business and my work life because I’m finding it easier to manifest the intentions I’m setting for myself on a weekly basis. I think, too, the enhanced satisfaction has to do with the fact that my intentions are not about “making more money,” “getting new clients,” and things that relate directly to “increases” for me but, rather, they are about sharing strategies with others and leading by example to get to a place where everyone benefits.

How about you? Did you set yearly goals, or something broken down into smaller “chunks”? I’d be interested to hear what’s working for you, how you set it up to give yourself the best chance of success, and what you’ve got cooking for the next quarter of the year …

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last December 11, I posted an entry in this blog in which I announced Tim’s and my plans to pick up stakes and live a life of freedom and travel and writing and photography – and work from wherever life happened to take us. The reality – as is almost always the case – turned out to be just a bit different than what I originally had in mind. But 2010 has been a year of self-discovery and dream fulfillment, nonetheless.

In retrospect, despite the planning and logistics involved, it all seems to have happened while in a walking dream. Would it be a cliche to use the word “surreal”??

We did, of course, sell our home in New Jersey – in 32 days! – almost record time, based on the economic realities of the day. And with just five weeks between signed contract and scheduled closing, we did manage to find a place to live – 600 miles away – in just five days flat, and sell / donate / give away a lot of our excess “stuff” before packing up the moving truck and heading Downeast.

I know … it all sounds so easy, right?

But here’s the previously “untold story” of the big move …

I don’t mind admitting that I had a near meltdown on the actual day of moving. I was so exhausted, and although it LOOKED and FELT like we had been making outstanding progress during those five weeks, the reality of June 2nd was that “WE ARE NEVER GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!” (<<< That’s me wailing at 12 Noon)

Our “leaving the driveway” time had been set for 8 AM and somehow we found ourselves still emptying our Master Bedroom closets and packing up my jewelry in mid-afternoon (how could we have forgotten our clothes and my jewelry???) …

Felix, my traveling companionThe cat had been sedated since 10 AM (we still had hopes of leaving before noon, at that point), and I was casting sidewise glances at his pill bottle myself by 2 o’clock.

Throughout the afternoon, I was still running back-and-forth to our next door neighbor’s house to beg and borrow more boxes (the thousand I bought at Lowe’s not having been sufficient … don’t ask), and I was finally reduced to stuffing the remainder of our things into big green Glad trash bags. If stress were measured on a thermometer, my temperature would have been 212 degrees.

At one point, I begged Tim to just throw the mattress down on the living room floor and “Let’s just leave tomorrow morning!” Cooler heads (OK, Tim’s) prevailed, and we pushed on. I don’t think I’ve ever been more physically and mentally fatigued, although Tim had to be suffering more than I, as he did the lion’s share of the physical labor, in 90+ degree heat and humidity, no less.

Finally pulling away at 4 PM – Felix and me in the Eos and Tim piloting the can’t-fit-so-much-as-another-paperclip-in-here U-Haul – off we went to meet our future. I didn’t cry … OK, well, maybe just a little … but it was all over before we hit the New Jersey Turnpike. And no one knew (until now) except Felix, and he’s the most loyal cat in the world. (You never heard any of this from him, right?)

Owing to the late start, the original plan of a straight drive through was now out of the question. On the third check-in attempt (since the original plan did not include a stopover, I never looked up “pet-friendly hotels”), I decided it would be easiest to just sneak the cat into the motel, which we did. The next morning, he refused to eat the drugged food (loyal AND smart!), so we proceeded undrugged and uneventfully on to Bar Harbor. Well, except for the rain. Thankfully, I had gone ahead and hired people to unload the truck at our new place, after watching Tim struggle through loading a 17-foot moving truck virtually by himself for two full days. Those people were a Godsend, because by the time we arrived, we were just spent – the wind had gone completely out of our sails.

So, after dreaming about it for 21 years and putting every last waking moment of five weeks’ time into moving, we were home, and the main thought in my head was, “Oh my gosh … this is REAL!”

SeinfeldDespite the stutter-step of a 12-days-delayed closing and the very real threat that it would never happen at all (yes, AFTER we were already all settled in Bar Harbor! – but all’s well that ends well, I suppose), the hubs enjoyed (to paraphrase George Costanza), “The Summer of Tim” (c’mon, Seinfeld fans, you know what I’m talking about). This I happily participated in, since it entailed a lot of soaking up the bright sunshine and basking in seaspray along the rocky coast, living mostly like tourists in our new hometown, pursuing our shared interest in photography, and me with my laptop, hard(?) at work in the Adirondack chair on the front porch – every so often glancing up at the peak of Cadillac Mountain and pinching myself to see if it was all real. Yes, it was an idyllic existence that, quite literally, combined business and pleasure – with a decided emphasis on pleasure.

Fall brought on the inevitable realization that I needed to bring “break time” to an end and return to business in a serious way. Luckily, my part-time siesta did no long-term damage to my business or my professional reputation – on the contrary, this entire odyssey seems to have rekindled interest among some of my earliest clients while garnering new supporters, followers, and fans. This whole “following my dreams” and “living life on my own terms” thing seems to be resonating with a lot of people! In my heart of hearts, I think I knew it would.

Lately, however, the uncertainties of renting vs. owning have been weighing on us. Having been homeowners for our entire marriage, we’re finding it a bit disconcerting to have the end of a lease hanging over our heads. And a year goes by a lot faster when you’re counting down the months to potential homelessness. So, now we’re trying to decide: longer term lease or purchase a property here as a home base?

We still plan to travel some, hopefully beginning next year. The transformation of my business to being totally portable is complete, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I’ve taken on several new clients and secured a couple of contracts with previous clients since moving here, and the new business model is working really well for all concerned. So, in that sense, I am “living a life untethered,” as I originally planned. But what a long strange trip it’s been!

Horseback on BeachAs I look back on this year, my wish is that those who may be inspired by my crazy, ongoing story decide to grab the reins of their own life and ride on!

Yes, it’s a leap of faith, but if you don’t have faith in your ability to make your dreams come true, who can do it for you?

Consolidating Multiple Personalities

It must happen to a lot of people, I think … that time in your “social” life (i.e., your online presence) when you ask yourself, “Who am I?” One day you wake up and find that you’ve embraced social media and the world wide web to the point where you’re a member of virtually every “next big thing” online community, having collected online identities and passwords like a CIA agent in deep cover.

And, I don’t mind telling you, it had become something of a logistical nightmare, trying to keep my “business” side segregated from my “personal” side from my “photographer” side from my “street smart observations on life” side. So recently I decided to just let all the facets of my personality and interests mingle again, and you know what? I found that more people responded to my posts and wanted to interact with me! So I came to the conclusion that it was finally time to consolidate at least a couple of my multiple online personalities. 🙂

My decision was helped along by the fact that two of my domain names were expiring later this week as was the hosting on another in early December, so the timing was good. (Sometimes we all need a little extra kick in the pants to do what needs to be done!)

So I decided to go with a more memorable domain consisting of nothing more than my name. I think this new approach will help “tell my story” better than any of my previous incarnations. In addition to bringing clarity to my clients, prospective clients, colleagues and friends, I feel this change already bringing more clarity to my vision for myself and my business for 2011 and beyond, as well.

I look forward to sharing more of myself with you here – not only online and social media marketing insights and strategies, but also other interesting, entertaining and fun stuff, too.

So … please bookmark this page because by the end of this week the website will be offline permanently. This new site incorporates both and my blog, I’ll continue to have a personal profile and a business page on Facebook; still deciding what to do about my multiple Twitter accounts, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to combine the website and the blog – can’t have my business colleagues searching and unable to find me!

You can use this email address to reach me.

July? It’s July? Are You Kidding Me??

Somehow all of June went whizzing past, and here we are staring down the barrel of the Fourth of July! (Well, hopefully not down the barrel – sounds like a fireworks display about to go very, very wrong) … but I digress …

Getting a signed contract on our New Jersey home took only 32 days, which might be cause for panic in some quarters (“OMG, we sold the house! Where are we going to live? How are we going to get it all done? The closing’s in just 6 weeks!!”), but Tim & I had a plan, you see.

We had met with a builder/Realtor® in Bar Harbor not once but twice – the last time being just 7 months ago – and I had been in touch with him via phone and email all throughout the time we were preparing our house for sale and while it was on the market. Our plan was to rent one of his 8 available brand new townhomes, right across the street from and with a full view of Hulls Cove on Frenchman Bay. So I called him as soon as we got the house under contract to say we were ready to sign a lease … only problem was, he had just rented the last unit. After 18 months of having units available, he had literally signed the last available lease the prior week.

This – and what happened next – in and of itself merits a full chapter in my [future] book, but let me sum it up thusly: In my long, long list of “What Not to Do When Relocating” is an item in bold with a large, red asterisk next to it that says, “Don’t – I repeat DON’T – wait until May to try to secure a year-long rental in a summer resort area.” As obvious as that sounds as I type it, it did not occur to us that this could be a problem until we had solicited the help of no fewer than 4 REALTORS®, scrutinized 58 MLS listings (hoping that maybe one or two of them might consider renting their properties to a responsible, mature couple with one very well-behaved cat), contacted almost a dozen rental property owners, and completely traversed the second largest island off the United States’ East Coast in search of something – anything! – that would keep us from becoming one of the homeless. Much of what we saw made homelessness seem like a viable alternative.

On Day 4 of our 5-day house-hunting excursion, I sat on the edge of the bed in our room at the Acadia Inn, dejected and wondering, “What have we done??”

And then a miracle happened. One of the REALTORS® (the one who’d emailed me the 58 listings, bless her) mentioned that her broker had a townhome for sale that she had been prepping for weekly summer rentals but she would consider offering it to us on a one-year lease. [Cue the heavenly chorus] But (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) … there was a requirement that not every lessee would be amenable to. Well, at this point, we figured we’d better go have a look because it was, quite literally, our last hope – we were leaving in 36 hours and had completely exhausted every option we’d had.

Long story short, we took a look at this 5-year-old in-town beauty, realized it met virtually all of our criteria (OK, admittedly, at that point our “criteria” had been downgraded to “fully enclosed against the elements / working heating system / carpets that don’t squish when you walk on them / plumbing that has been updated within the last 65 years”), and, after a very late morning breakfast of wild Maine blueberry pancakes, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it!”

So, from the 5th of May to the 2nd of June, we boxed, bagged, sold, donated, tossed, and gave away the contents of an 8-room house, somehow paring it all down to what could fit on a 17-foot U-Haul truck and into a 5-room townhouse.

The actual details of how “Moving Day” became “Moving DAYS” and how we got the non-traveling cat here is another story for another day, but suffice to say May was a “lost month.”

June, on the other hand, was … another lost month. Unpacking, buying furniture to replace some of the too-large pieces we had to get rid of, making the new place feel like home, and – oh yeah – working all conspired to consume the month of June. So much for blogging, restarting my eNewsletters, ramping up new my eCommerce site, and all the things I thought I’d do after “settling in.” I guess that’s all starting now.

Welcome to July!