Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Focus the Secret to Success?

I’m on vacation this week and if you know me well, you know that it is hard for me to “relax” and “do nothing”. When I have downtime, my mind goes into overdrive and begins listing and categorizing all of the things I should be doing. As frustrating as it is that I don’t seem to have the chill-out gene, time off does provide me with a certain kind of soul searching that often results in realizations that I don’t encounter in normal day to day life.

This week I’ve had success on my mind in a big way. I’ve been thinking about where I’ve been, where I want to go, what I’ve accomplished and what is left on my long list of life to dos. I had a bit of an “aha moment” when thinking back on some of proudest achievements in life thus far. I realized that each of those moments was the product of months and in some cases years of immense and intense focus. Running the Houston Marathon was preceded by nearly 6 months of training and preparation. Graduating with my bachelors took careful and strategic planning over the course of those jam-packed three years.

Those successes didn’t just happen; they were the result of schedule incremental preparations that happened well ahead of the actual accomplishment. Those successes also didn’t happen simultaneously. This part of the realization is important because sometimes I think we as women try to do everything all at once, so much so that studies show we outperform the guys when it comes to multitasking. But this broad approach has the potential to leave us feeling like we aren’t accomplishing anything, just getting by in all aspects of life.

I took it a step farther in my pondering and thought about extreme cases of success in the sports and celebrity world. Think of someone whose success you admire, and most likely they’ve devoted a large amount of time to what they are known for. This seems true for Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps who are known for their athletic ability, but it is also true for sillebrities (not a typo, a word I made of for celebrities that shouldn’t be… silly celebrities) like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. How many hours do you think Paris has spent partying in the LA social scene? That shows her commitment to being a successful paparazzi target.

In all seriousness though, I am taking this realization and applying it to my everyday life. There are a few things I want accomplish this summer and instead of trying to do it all at once, I’m going to set aside a month this summer to focus on each of them. I’m hoping that this strategy helps me when trying to decide where I should spend my time, and also will create a type of deadline before my focus needs to shift to other projects.

My approach may not create a perfectly balanced lifestyle and that really doesn’t worry me. My concern is doing what works for me and a good indicator of what will work in the future is what has worked in the past!

In case you are wondering what my projects are and what my schedule is for the next couple of months here goes:

June: Focusing on making our house a home

July: Focusing on our health and building better habits

August: Focusing on choosing my thesis topic for school

What are you focusing on this summer? Set a goal, focus on it and ”live the life you’ve imagined”!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Find Your Summer Confidence

It seems like this time of year it is all too easy to focus on our flaws. Instead of obsessing over the negative this summer, commit to making the most of your assets and follow these simple tips to feel more confident when you are enjoying your summer activities!

Move a Little

Have a lake day planned with your pals? Get up a little early and go for a jog or do some yoga. Taking the time to work out, even if only for 15 minutes, on the day of a swimsuit clad event will make you feel more confident when the moment comes for you to bare that bikini! Spending a little time to take care of your body will make you happier and more confident in those summer outfits that usually involve showing a little more skin.

Get a Pedi

Nothing makes a pair of summer sandals pop more than a bright and fresh pedicure. If you have an hour and $30, treat yourself to a professional service. If you are pressed for cash, cuddle up on the couch with a good movie and do it yourself! The tricks to a good at-home pedicure are 1) take your time, 2) use a high quality products and 3) don’t forget to clean up your cuticles and use a good thick moisturizing cream.

Bronze Up

Nothing says summer like perfectly bronzed skin. There are several ways to achieve that golden glow, just make sure you are getting in the safe way! Self tanner, bronzing gels and powders are all good alternatives to damaging direct sun or (God-forbid) tanning beds. Looking to really stand out from the crowd? Pair your perfect tan with a white or bright colored outfit!

Pick a Signature Summer Do

Your summer look should celebrate your natural beauty. Check out magazines and the web to find an easy summer do that doesn’t involve 30 minutes of your time and a super hot hair dryer. Nothing is worse than breaking a sweat before you’ve even left the house. Whether it’s a Hunger Games inspired braid, the Pinterest sock-bun hit, or a perfect ponytail, picking an easy summer do that still makes you feel pretty is a necessity for staying confident in the heat.

Downsize your Routine

Summer beauty should look and feel effortless. A full face of makeup is not what summer is all about and isn’t very realistic for summer time activities! Try pairing your beauty regimen in the hotter months to include a lightweight foundation, a little bronzer, some water-proof mascara and a pretty lip-gloss. Not only will your natural beauty shine through, but think of the time you will save with your new mini routine!

Choose a Summer Scent

Watermelon. Suntan lotion. Lemonade. There are certain things that just smell like summer! Just like you put away your winter clothes and pull out your summer wardrobe when the heat hits, it is also a good idea to switch up your scent depending on the season. Look for something lightweight and airy that makes you happy when you smell it!

Okay! Now you are ready to enjoy your summer with confidence and style. Send me pics from your summer fun days!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Most Timeless Accessory: Exceptional Etiquette

True or False: I strive to behave appropriately in most situations.

If the answer is true… keep reading for some thoughts and ideas on etiquette from Diane Gottsman.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Diane, an expert on all things etiquette, at a dinner put on by the Texas State McCoy Business School/MBA program. She spoke about the do’s and don’ts of business dining and I learned so much from her presentation. Diane has graciously agreed to have a discussion with me about a few 21st century business etiquette topics!

Who pays the bill?

I’ve always been taught that the customer NEVER pays. And if I have to go to extreme measures to ensure I end up with the tab in hand, I’m not above it. I’ve been known to show up early to meals with especially generous customers to prep my server ahead of time or slip them my card. While this may seem like a small detail, paying the bill is an expression of respect for the business that your client gives you and simply the polite thing to do. In social situations, I’ve heard that the general rule is that whoever extended the invitation is usually expected to pay. Personally, I don’t stick to this strictly. For instance, I wouldn’t expect for the birthday girl to pay for my meal at her birthday celebration at a local restaurant. The larger the party, the less likely the inviter is paying the bill in a social situation, at least in my circle of friends.

Diane weighs in: I agree Rachel, the customer is your guest under most situations (unless he/she is also your neighbor and you have been invited out to dinner with their family!). Socially, the standard rule is the person extending the invitation pays but good judgment also prevails under those circumstances. If you are invited to a birthday party for two and the only other attendee is the birthday girl, arrive early and take care of the check…Happy Birthday.

To hug or not to hug?

This is an interesting topic and one that may surprisingly depends heavily on your geographic location. My general rule for this is that in business, I don’t hug unless the other person initiates in an effort to preserve the personal space and comfort of others. As a woman in business, I never want to appear weak or present myself in too friendly or sexual of a manner to my male cohorts. That being said, I would feel impolite to decline the hug of a colleague or customer, so I usually reciprocate if the effort is made on the others’ part.

Diane weighs in: Watch the other person's body language. If you observe that your best client is greeting you with her arms extended for a warm hug, do the same as you would not want to offend her. Although a firm handshake is the most professional greeting, the rules get murky when long time clients become friendly and familiar. Allow your client to extend their hands for the hug rather than initiating the hug first.

What is “business casual” and what is not (and why should I care?).

As a manager, I have my own opinions on the topic of “business casual”. My personal thought is why would I or anyone on my team ever dress down when there is an opportunity to dress UP? I would much rather be on the upper end of the acceptable scale of clothing options in any situation, whether business or personal. Dressing in a clean, thoughtful and professional manner is a great way to advance your career and create meaningful relationships with the people you do business with very quickly. If you take good care of yourself and your appearance, it sends the message that you will also take good care of your customers and responsibilities.

In my opinion, business casual IS: Clean, pressed, lint-rolled, tailored, well-fitting, vibrant, black or muted (as long as not faded), modest, flattering and most importantly event appropriate.

Business casual is NOT: Jeans, flats, skin, cleavage or reverse cleavage (aka plumber), flip-flops, t-shirts, ill-fitting, anything you couldn’t wear a normal bra with (one shoulder, strapless).

Diane weighs in: I couldn't have said it better, Rachel. "Business Casual" is certainly not wrinkled clothing, ratty jeans and sneakers unless you happen to work in an environment where you are required to dress down due to the nature of the particular job. Khaki pants, starched shirt and a jacket hanging from the back of the office door in case a customer drops in is the acceptable norm for men and a nice pair of slacks or skirt and a cotton or silk blouse is the standard for women. If jeans are the norm in your business casual office environment they should be a dark wash, free from holes, starched, not frayed and certainly not super "Skinny" or "Jeggings".

What’s in a name?

One of the most important keys to making a place for yourself in any group of people is having others know your name. Additionally, one of the quickest ways onto someone’s list of favorite people is to learn their name quickly and use it often. The sweetest sound on earth to any given person is the sound of their own name. So call people by name as often as you can, and when you mean someone new, introduce yourself with first and last name. Do you really want to make an impression? Stick your hand out, offer a firm hand shake coupled with some confident eye contact. If you follow that combination with a sincere question or comment, you are likely to be remembered in a positive light and succeed at making a lasting and positive first impression.

Diane weighs in: You are a wonderful student Rachel and I can tell you were listening at our session!

More Questions for Diane:

What is etiquette really all about (I remember you saying at the dinner that it is all about making others comfortable and putting them at ease with your own behavior and confidence)?

The way we treat others is "telling". Building relationships does not just happen and great conversationalists are not born with the skill. In order to put your best foot forward you must make an effort to put others at ease. It's important to be interested in the other person and show respect to those with whom we come in contact. Lack of confidence shows when you are boastful, arrogant or intolerant of other people. Etiquette has very little to do with perfection and everything to do with the way we treat other people. We all have awkward moments, it's a matter of how we handle these moments that sets us apart from the rest.

If you could tell the world one thing about etiquette, what would it be?

Money does not buy class - genuine effort (notice I use the word "genuine") and training are necessary to be the best person you can be.

How can I use things I learn about etiquette within my group of friends and coworkers (You mentioned that people need to worry about themselves and not correct others which I thought was a great point)?

The minute you criticize another person you lose your personal power. Acting in a manner that shows deference and respect to others is the ultimate goal. Treat others as you would like to be treated and don't miss an opportunity to learn new skills as you grow both personally and professionally.

Finally Rachel, it has been my pleasure to be a part of your blog and I am honored that you asked for my input.

My very best to you,


The pleasure has been all mine! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Success and Her Evil Twin

So much of success is deciding what you want to succeed at. It doesn’t sound that hard, but there is something intimidating about turning internal desires into actual goals. Real goals, said out loud, written in black and white, posted on Facebook. Why is it so scary to go on the books about what we want out of life? One thing that holds many of us back from pursuing our goals in life is the fear of failure.

We can all think back and remember a time when we failed at something if we are being honest with ourselves. Unfortunately those happenings can hold us back from going after what we want to achieve in life. One way of moving past a disappointing experience is by looking for what we can learn from the situation to help us in the future. This outlook makes it possible to acknowledge what has already transpired, and transform it into a positive lesson that just might ultimately help us succeed in the future.

In a way, success and failure are forever related. Many great success stories begin with a string of malfunctions. Alternatively, any failure can be built upon to create a great success.

For me, success is seizing every moment I have been granted and always making an effort to do my very best. My ultimate goal is to continually grow and become the best possible version of myself while doing all I can to help the people in my life achieve their full potential. Cheesy as it may sound, I truly believe in the talent and overall wonderfulness of my friends, family and colleagues. If you are reading this, you likely fall into one of those categories and I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I am honored to be connected to you and inspired by you more than you know.

What is your secret to success? Please share it!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tourista Tips: Traveling in Comfort and Style

If there is anything I've learned while traipsing around the country these past few years, its that there is definitely an easy and a hard way to travel. Since it is the time of year when many people pull out their suitcases, pack up their stuff and head out on vacation, I thought I would share some of my favorite travel tips with you. So in no particular order, here they are:

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Now before you chalk this up to boring "everybody knows that" advice... read on. Buying water once you make it through airport security is what most of us have resigned ourselves to due to post 9/11 security measures. This means spending upwards of $3 on a 16oz bottle of water and creating unnecessary waste. Consider buying a refillable water bottle and filling it up at the water fountain or airport coffee shop once you've made it in! I haven't bought bottled water in quite sometime and I feel good about not adding plastic to our landfills.

Another hydration trick that saves me on the road is drinking coconut water! It is a great "recovery" beverage for after workouts or after a crazy night out.

2. Pack Dresses, Yes. Travel in Dresses, No.

Recently I was traveling to Las Vegas for a work event and decided to go in a day early to lay by the pool (tough life, I know). Because of my relaxed mood, I decided to wear a super comfy, yet chic maxi dress for my flight. Bad move. When I got up to the TSA agent she informed me matter of factly that I would need to be patted down "Because you are wearing that dress". And pat me down, she did.

On the other hand, I love packing dresses for travel because it makes things so easy! A dress is a whole outfit in just one piece, which leaves room in your bag for other things. I wear dresses about 90% of the time for work for that very reason, but the same holds true for vacation. You get to feel girly, put together and comfortable all at once!

3. Scarves Big and Small

This wardrobe staple is my secret weapon for travel for several reasons. First, a big colorful scarf can turn jeans, flip flops and a white t-shirt into a stylish travel ensemble. Don't ask me how, it's scarf magic (hmm... maybe there is something to this since most magic acts involve scarves!). Secondly, airplane and auto travel are known for fluctuating temperatures- it's hot, it's cold, it's hot again! A big, lightweight scarf doubles as a wrap or even a blanket should you get chilly while en route to your relaxation destination. Lastly, a small colorful scarf tied to the handle of your suitcase makes it much easier to identify in the baggage claim area. I also bring a small scarf to any convention I attend for work because we usually all receive a bag upon arrival and you can imagine how easy it is to get them mixed up!

4. Car Rentals for Dummies

A few things I've learned when renting cars on trips:

-Don't get the VW Beetle, your suitcase wont fit. Just trust me, it wont.

-Don't forget to gas up before you return the car or they will REALLY stick it to you!

-When you are getting gas and you don't know which side the tank is on there is a TINY little arrow on your gas gauge that points either left or right. This tip changed my life! Speaking of tips...

5. TIP!

Tip your bellman, your cleaning staff and the shuttle driver to the parking garage. Trust me, its worth it. If not for the karma alone, do it for the service. I've been known to leave a few bucks and a note for the housekeeper requesting extra pillows or towels. I've also been known to slip the shuttle driver a $5 along with a desperate plea to make my car his first drop in the lot after a long trip!

6. Talk to Strangers

I know mom said not to, and always keep your safety your #1 priority. That being said, you meet some pretty interesting people in airports, on airplanes and bellied up to hotel bars. Hearing other peoples "story" is a really great past time and is an awesome way to learn about the rest of the world and see a different perspective!

7. Embrace "Found Time"

When it comes to traveling, and actually life in general, waiting is just a reality from time to time. The only tip I have for making waiting more tolerable, it to adjust your attitude. You can't control the traffic, you can't control Southwest's flight schedule but you CAN control how you react to it. So turn up the tunes and belt out an oldie or stroll through the airport Starbucks line (yes, again, we wont tell) and enjoy NOT being in control for a few minutes. You might even like it (we wont tell that one either).

8. Smile and Say Thank You

Take it a step farther and ask people how there day is! Being nice to others while out on the road has made my travels much more pleasant and dare I say convenient? And often, there is more in it for you than just the warm and fuzzy feeling you get. I've been upgraded to a better room simply by chatting up the hotel employee checking me in. That wasn't what I was after but I definitely didn't turn the perk away! Another tid bit I should mention is that if you want something specific, like a room close to the elevator or access to the executive club, just ask nicely and nine times out of ten, people will accommodate (especially if you've been nice and just asked them how their day was, just sayin').

9. Pack Smarter, Not Harder

When packing follow these three simple rules for keeping your load light and your outfits cute:

- Pick your shoes then work your outfits around them. This helps conserve space because shoes take up space and weight in your bag and if you are flying you really want to keep your bag below 50 lbs to avoid fees for overweight luggage.

- Pick a color scheme and stick to it. For me in the Winter and Fall I do a lot of black and in the Spring and Summer I usually stick to a tan/nude color pallet. In both cases I add color to the mix with my tops, scarves and other compact accessories!

- Pare down your beauty regimen as much as possible. Just bring the necessities and purchase travel sizes whenever possible. This will keep your bag light, and the hotel bathroom counter clutter free!

10. Frequent Traveler? Collect Your Perks!

If you travel frequently, it is well worth your while to chose companies that you enjoy doing business with and remain loyal to them whenever possible. I'm a big fan of Southwest for my air travel and Hilton properties for my lodging! Not only do I earn some pretty fabulous perks for my loyalty (can you say "A-List"?), but I also know precisely which seat I prefer and exactly what to expect when I open that hotel door! These little things give life a little bit of predictability which can be comforting when you spend a lot of time away from home.

I hope these tid bits help you enjoy your travels, whether they be for pleasure or work, or a little bit of both! Happy journies! If you have a travel tip I haven't mentioned, please post it as a comment!!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait... and Wait... and Wait

I've been obsessing about this L.A.M.B. tote bag for OVER a year. Its original price was $295 which is just too much for my lil ole budget. I've been watching it slowly get discounted for months and could never bring myself to take the plunge/bite the bullet and buy the thing. Well all for good reason because I came across it again today on clearance for $79... but what does that little red sign say? Take an additional 50% off of clearance? Why yes, I think I will! Scored it for $38! Sorry, but I had to brag about this one!

So on a similar note, I've been daydreaming about this DVF wrapdress since July (see my earlier post) and I just came across it for less than half price on and in my size! It just came in the mail today and after trying it on I've determined it to be my best online purchase of all time. I can't wait to wear it!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Less is More and Other Half-truths

Because of my recent closet downsizing, I have started living by the "less is more" mantra when it comes to my wardrobe. For instance, what is a better purchase- ten $4 tank tops that will fall apart after the third wash, or two $20 tanks that feel like butter on your skin, fit perfectly and last forever? Over the past couple of years I have been converted to believing the latter. And the most surprising result of this change is a sense of luxury and indulgence I feel when I am dressing, packing or fussing over my wardrobe. I don’t require the quantity of items I once did to get enjoyment out of dressing and creating outfits. Even more surprising is the fact that I actually spend less on shopping trips these days, purchasing fewer items but spending more time considering each piece that makes it into the increasingly tight knit family of my wardrobe.

All of that being said, I thought it would be fun to start a running list of the items I think every gal needs in her core wardrobe. Here is a hint, if something is on this list, I would consider it justifiable to spend a little more for better quality, a fabulous fit, and a basic that will outlast trends and crazy washing machines. And in no particular order here are my first three:

A Nude Heel (well actually two, one for each foot)

Because of my extensive work travel, nude heels have become my best friend. They go with EVERYTHING, every color, every silhouette which means I only have to pack ONE pair of shoes. They elongate your legs by blending in to your skin and not breaking up the line of your leg. I’ve worn the heck out of two pairs this year. One a nude patent pump, and another peep toe pump. I talk about nude shoes so much with my friends (I have an obsession) that one of my girlfriends just bought me a pair of Franco Sarta’s she found on clearance at Marshalls! I think it’s the first time I’ve ever gotten shoes as a gift but I was thrilled!!!!

A little known secret to buying comfy heels is that if you get one with a small platform (I’m talking .5 an inch or less) it will dramatically increase the amount of time you can survive strutting around in those babies!

Dark Wash Jeans

The right cut depends on your shape and your preference. My personal favorites are a very slim boot cut. If you get them dark enough and pair them with the right items they can be work appropriate if your industry will allow it. They can also easily transition into a surprisingly glamorous evening outfit, almost passing for a sexier version of the basic black pant.

The key things to consider when choosing a good pair are the following:

Length- Are you planning to wear with heels or flats? I’ve decided it’s worth it to have pairs specifically for both. I hate it when I ruin a good pair of long jeans by dragging the hems all over the world when I’m in flats.
Material- I prefer a thicker, tightly woven, low or no stretch material. I find they hold their form better and don’t stretch out after a wear or two if I’m on the road. Again it depends on your preference and your lifestyle.
Rise- Butt cleavage isn’t sexy. Ever. Period. Make sure the back of your jeans doesn’t dip to inappropriate lows when you sit, bend, lean, stand etc.
Wash- I know I said dark is best if you were only going to have one great pair of jeans, but there are a lot of variations of wash that would fall under “dark wash”. I find that I prefer an even wash without a lot of “sit lines” on the front, and without much “fake wear”.

The jeans in the photo above are Joe’s Jeans brand. They aren’t cheap, but I found a pair very discounted at a Neiman Marcus Last Call in Houston and have been wearing the hell out of them every since.

Soft T-Shirts

Comfy, cozy t-shirts is one area where I don’t believe “less is more” all the way. I think its good to have a bit of an array of colors to suit your different moods and needs. However, I am a firm believer in “stocking up” when you find something that you love. For instance:

I have fallen in love with “Thread for Thought” tees. They are super soft, made of organic cotton, and only about $10 each. Check out their killer website I wear these to sleep in, to work out in and with jeans to travel. They are very long so I never have to worry about overexposure (see above under “rise”). The deep V-Neck cut is very flattering and highlights the face. This particular cut is very slim and figure flattering as well! I can’t live without these.

Whether its my brand or another you discover for yourself, having a few super soft, cozy tops in your wardrobe is like the adult version of a comfort blanket. And if you pick one in the right color and fabric, you might even manage to feel both comfortable and sexy!

More wardrobe essentials coming soon!!

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