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!