This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What are they saying about you?

The National Speakers Association convention ends today in Phoenix, Ariz. The speakers, members and others, including myself, have been posting tweets about the sessions and events throughout the week. Fun to read, some really make you think. You can find them at #NSA09 on Twitter.

As I'm going through my own branding process, thinking about who I am, how I want others to see me--and learning to accept my not-so-perfect parts--I'm reading the "tweets" and was stopped by this one:

"Reputation and's what people say about you in the restroom on convention breaks!"

Who said that? I've heard it before, but this time it came from Colorado-based speaker Gina Schreck, who, even in real life, teaches audiences in byte-size lessons.

Funny that she wrote that. It made think of the guy at this convention who has been passing out his business postcards to whomever and wherever he can leave them. Apparently, his specialty is Power Point presentations, and I guess he really wants as many people as possible to know that. But there are appropriate times to promote yourself, and there are inappropriate times. My first encounter with him wasn't a good one.

I was volunteering with a friend at Friday's Cavett Institute, when in walks this guy after lunch with a stack of his postcards. He sets them down on one of the decorated tables in the back of the room where I'm standing, asking me, "Is this where you put your cards?" I quickly tell him, "No, this is for giveaways." He insists he's "giving" his cards away and leaves them there and goes to sit down in my seat that I offered him because the room was by now full.

Beside the fact that he didn't listen to my answer after he asked his question, the tables at the back of the room were not meant for just anyone's business cards and promotional materials. They were stacked with member books, products and business cards. Every year, NSA members donate valuable materials for the Cavett Institute students so they can get the most out of their learning experience before the actual conference begins. The tables were for "member" recognition, not the participants' in the classroom. The tables were filled with gifts from speakers who've worked so hard to get where they are that they want to share what they've learned, hopefully to make things easier for the new members who join. They've earned that right. These tables were not set up for students to honor themselves.

But this guy chose to ignore my "no," which I saw as arrogant on his part. To place his postcards amongst the bounty, if you will, lent him an air of credibility he's not yet earned. My friend who was also volunteering suggested removing the cards, but in the spirt of NSA founder Cavett Robert, I knew the only thing to do was to leave them there. Would anyone take them? Not likely. Would anyone really care that they were even there? Not likely. So what's my point in telling you this story?

Well, you can imagine there was a discussion about this in the convention hallway. My first impression of the guy was not a good one. I saw him as pushy, self-serving, and none too pleasant. And I felt bad for thinking these things, but I'm human, and that's what we do. We take note of first impressions. And we make them. In light of what Gina Schreck noted while at this year's conference about reputation and brand, it's probably a good idea if you knew what people were saying about you in the hallway.

So, what's your first impression going to be?

When perspective matters

As we stood near the cottonwoods on a dirt trail, bordering a wide creek bed, I laughed at what I saw as my boyfriend's weak attempt to let loose in the wilderness.

In our khaki hiking shorts, our tank tops and boots, backpacks filled with water bottles and snacks, sweating in what was turning into a mid-day summer sun, my boyfriend and I were hiking in Sycamore Canyon (a wilderness area in central Arizona's Verde Valley) when we arrived at a wide clearing. The sun beamed over our heads as we walked into the open space to see Sycamore Creek off to the left, the continuing trail about 50 feet ahead. The water looked so inviting, and I was so thrilled to be out there that I ran out into the center of the clearing and yelled up into the sky.


Raising my arms, I yelled again, even louder, "AHHHHHHHHH!" It felt good to release that energy. So I turned around and urged my boyfriend to do the same. But he nodded his head.

"C'mon," I told him, "Just let loose." But he wasn't having it.

Me, intending to convince him, kept prodding him until he finally cried out in the tiniest voice, "ah."

We hadn't yet walked a mile, but it was as if he had no energy. "ah." Just like that. No rebel yell. No excitement. Nothing but a little half-hearted peep.

"Is that it? Is that all you've got?"

He looked at me as though he couldn't understand.

I wanted more. I wanted him to feel what I was feeling. Out there in the wilderness, visiting this place I'd never seen before, anticipating the long walk ahead, not knowing what we'd see, I felt a freedom and excitement. I wanted him to feel it, too.

"Are you kidding? C'mon. Give it all you got. Yell as loud as you can. Just for fun." Please!"

I'm pretty sure I saw an eye roll before he turned away from me, so I didn't think I'd worked my charm. But all of a sudden, I heard it.


He yelled so loud and so long, I jumped back; he'd startled me.

Then, he just stopped and said quietly, "You can expect the black bears to come after us now."


Oh, he was just joking. But this is bear country, and I hadn't thought of that. I just wanted him to yell, to relax. I hadn't thought we'd be disturbing nature by yelling out into the wilderness. I just wanted to have fun.

I hadn't considered a different perspective.

But that's what I'm thinking about this week as I deal with a client's dissatisfaction with my work. It happens. We can't please everyone. And sometimes we take jobs for the wrong reasons, or sometimes we agree to work with someone but the fit doesn't quite match. I wanted more from this job than the client did. I thought the job required more work than he really wanted. Truth is, it was his perspective that mattered here, not mine. And my approach caused a disconnect. I wasn't happy because I was frustrated with how much work was involved. He wasn't happy because I was taking too long. And neither of us were really communicating that.

So how can I avoid this in the future? I'm thinking pre-questionnaire, longer initial interview, avoid e-mail communication and stick to the phone. I'm thinking there must be a solution to deal with what might be an uncomfortable situation at first that is sure to turn into worse later.

So I polled Twitter to see what other writers like me might do in order to approach a client that turns out not to be the right fit.

Heather Boerner says she has a simple solution. She just gets too "busy" and raises her rates to scare them away. But you might not want to try that while you're working with them. So Alycia de Mesa thinks including a cancellation clause in the written contract is a good idea.

Because we own our own mistakes here, we take responsibility for our own choices, and we are learning to be accountable, I'm certainly not upset with my client for reclaiming his work. I think I might have done the same thing if I were in his place. In fact, I might have done it sooner! And, thankfully, I learned a few lessons to pass along to you:

Consider the enjoyment factor
If you're in business for yourself, you get to pick and choose the projects you take on. That's your luxury. If you agree to do a job, and it becomes something you don't enjoy, you should first make the most of it. Complete it as best you can. Don't put it off. Get it off your schedule sooner, rather than later. But if the project becomes difficult to manage in some way, it's best to pick up the phone and talk to the client to discuss how you should proceed. Chances are, if you're not happy, the client's probably not happy, and you can agree to part ways amicably.

Pay attention to perspective
When you agree to do a job for someone else, make sure you're clear about what they want. Can you deliver that? There may be good reason why they want something less than what you think they need. So make sure you can separate yourself enough from the job, recognizing it's not yours. Unless they're hiring your for your consulting services, you must provide only what they're asking for--even if your best advice tells you the job needs more.

If you've ever worked with a client who doesn't seem to be the right fit, or if the work turns out to be nothing more than struggle after struggle, what's your perfect solution? Is it possible to reach the same level of perspective before you sever the ties? What's worked well for you?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The paths we must take

I can't tell you that I ever dreamed I'd write a travel guide, because I didn't. It wasn't a dream I can remember ever having. In fact, I never expected to write a book.

I didn't think about that until I started riding my bike. And the book I thought I would write then had nothing to do with least not in the touristy kind of sense.

The book I dreamed about writing, and will write next, had to do with the journey in my head. That will be my BIKE LESSONS book. But it's not time for that one yet.

Despite the 35-page proposal I wrote for what I can call my dream book now, that work morphed into a travel guide. Not physically. But by coincidence, perhaps serendipity.

My BIKE book idea didn't take off when I thought it would, because, I know now, it wasn't yet time. I was given a different choice. I met people, by circumstance, who led me down a different path.

And I must admit, it's a path I'm glad I took, because I have always wanted to travel all parts of Arizona. Because of that, my natural instincts took over, and I knew exactly what to do to get a completely different proposal off the ground. I included in it places I have always wanted to visit: Tubac, Lake Havasu City, Greer. And I did visit all of those places.

The other trips taken for research for the travel guide involved places I'd never heard much about before--Aravaipa Canyon, Page Springs, Young. I was open to exploring them, because they included a history or amenity or peculiarity that seemed interesting to me and, based on reading about them ahead of time, worthwhile. Aravaipa Canyon is a lush and remote region of the Sonoran Desert that is relatively unknown. It's a place for backpackers and birders and people who don't mind hiking in a stream bed. It sounded intriguing, and I was invited to go by friends unexpectedly. Page Springs? That visit involved another invite, and I learned what was once not much more than ranchland is now a place ripe with vineyards. And Young? It comes with a very remote piece of Arizona history that wasn't very pretty at the time but is quite attractive now.

At some point, I realized this travel guide was the exact path I needed to take in order to get to the place I needed to go. My BIKE book awaits. It is patient. And I am learning to be.

I recall some hesitancy as I moved forward with the Arizona travel. I was driving places I'd never been before, using maps I'd never held, looking for signs I'd never seen. It was all so new. What I understand this book to be about now is preparation. Preparation for a bigger project. It came with quite a huge learning curve. And I made it to the end. Such a good feeling when I consider all that it took to get here. It helped me build a confidence I will need for the next book, for my dream book, which I expect to have a far greater impact.

The amazing thing to me is that I now realize different people approach the same place differently. I have written a book that is similar to what others have written. But no two people will ever see it quite the same. Some of the places I visited would never make a list of 1001 places you should see before you die, but they are all beautiful just the same. They all have their own story to tell. And I'm glad I am now able to be one of the story tellers.

While researching and writing this book I learned yet another important lesson: The paths we think we want to take are not always the ones we need at the moment. But if we keep moving forward, the paths we must take will appear when we are ready to see them. When they do, it's then time to make a choice: take it or turn away.

The next time you cross a path you're not sure you should take, maybe because it takes you where you weren't expecting to go, how will you know what to do? Do you think there is a right or a wrong? Share your thoughts. Perhaps you have some insights we haven't yet heard.

(The above photo of the West Baldy Trail near Greer, Arizona was taken in June 2009 by Jackie Dishner.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When one brand equals more than one you

As I go through my branding process, educating myself on what message and image I want to share with the world, I realize my eclectic interests (writing, speaking, mountain biking) can prove to be a challenge.

What's new?

That's what we do here. We talk about life challenges and how to overcome them. Nothing, I realize, is undoable, unshakeable or unfixable. So I'm in the midst of figuring out how to combine all of my career interests (mountain biking as a career only in the way in which it helped create my BIKE philosophy) into one logo, one motto, one identity. And I know it's possible. I'm just not yet sure how to do it effectively.

I'm working and believing in the combo meal. I don't want to be supersized. But I want you to know if you get the writer, you get the speaker--and you get the mountain biker, too. I'm all of those rolled into one person, one personality, one woman.

But sometimes, it makes life confusing. Have you ever felt like this, as if you're being pulled in so many directions, that your skills far outnumber the time you have to use them, to make them worthwhile.

This past year, I must confess, I had to let the speaker part of me go. She had to go sit over there while the writer in me worked on her book over here. I let her out a few times, but now she's got some catching up to do. And the new author needs a rest.

Does that mean it's about balance? I think maybe it is. Each of the three interests I mentioned are interests I continue to enjoy. I don't want to give any of them up. I do want to know how to help them all work together cohesively. So that's what I hope the branding process will create--one person, one image, one logo.

If you're undergoing your own branding process, what challenges are you facing and what are you doing about it?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Authors: on finishing a long-term project

Well, I did it

I really did write my first book. Backroads & Byways of Arizona really is going to be published.

You've heard this before here, but now it truly and officially is complete on my end. I just sent the final proof copy (with a few minor edits) back to the publisher for printing. They responded with relief over the mistakes I caught, and I'm told I can expect to see a real copy in my hands by August. But, as they ran behind on the schedule as it is, I am thinking I'll see it in September. It's going to be on the shelves in October. You can already pre-order the book at places like Powell's bookstore online and also at Borders, Barnes & Noble and (Search for it under my name or the book's title. The link above is to an Arizona-based independent bookstore, Changing Hands.)

I'm feeling such a myriad of feelings. They fall somewhere between relief (Thank goodness that part's done!), elation (Wow, I wrote a real book! And it includes all my own photographs!), fear (Yikes, what if I made a huge error and didn't catch it?), hesitation (Will my readers like it, find it useful?) and worry (I hope the editor takes care of all the edits correctly.). Back and forth I go from one of those feelings to the next. It's been that way since I turned in the very first edit. We won't go into the feelings I had during the writing process, especially the end of it. Those are not fit to print here. But I've been bracing myself for each next step since, just moving forward in the process as best I could.

Curious to know how other other authors have felt at this moment, the moment when they, too, finished their long-term book project and turned it in to the publisher, I asked a few authors on Facebook and Twitter. Here are their responses:

  • Brette Sember, author of Bad Apples: How to Manage Difficult Employees (Adams Media) and more than 35 other books, says about her first one, "I think I was nervous about what people would think of it, scared it wouldn't be received well." Long past those feelings now, Sember says she feels relief when she's completed another book project. She can actually feel "excitement to move on to the next."

  • Andrew Hayes, a writer in the United Kingdom, says it was a bit weird after he finished his book, The Edinburgh Historic Walking Guide (Available next week, you can pre-order it now!) and turned it in to the publisher. "Perhaps surreal is the right word. I never thought I could accomplish such a task as writing a 50,000-word document in three months." After such intensity, relief set in as he realized how much time had passed. " wasn't until I saw the sample cover that I realized the reality of the situation. Success!" Now he says he "can't wait to get started on the next one." It's a walking guide to Amsterdam.

  • If you were Dara Chadwick, author of an important new book out this year, You'd Be So Pretty If, which explores the mother-daughter relationship and how it affects body image, you'd feel quite the mixture: pride, fear, relief (there's that word again), "and something I can only describe as bittersweet." She explains why she felt all of this: "Pride because, hey, I just finished a book--and not only that, but it was MY book: my idea, my passion, my project from start to finish. Fear because it's a deeply personal book and a subject I care about. How would others respond? Would they understand what I'd written? I felt relief because signing a book contract was the biggest professional commitment I'd ever made and I'd met my commitment." The bittersweet feelings resulted from the fact that her book really was about her relationship with her now deceased mother. "She really would have been so proud," says Chadwick, who was also sad to say goodbye to the process of writing the book itself, adding, "Letting go of my 'baby' was difficult."

  • Relief seems to be the common theme amongst authors, as Illinois-based Annie Logue, who wrote the Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies book for Wiley (published this year) felt that, too. "And now? She says she feels "like I need to start working on all the things that I put off while working on the book."
Have you written a book or worked on a long-term project which left you feeling at some point during the process that maybe it would never end? You know it took persistence to pull you through. You had to believe in yourself and what you were doing. If you've got a long-term project going on now, even if it isn't a book, maybe you can relate to what all of us here have experienced. Eventually, you can expect to see that sense of relief set in. And it's a great accomplishment, as Sam Greengard, author of Finding the Work You Love, says. But most of all, it's pretty damn cool to join the ranks of the published authors worldwide. I think I'll rest on that feeling, at least for today.

Tomorrow, I have work to do.

So much for relief, right? What do you think?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Question of the Day!

Based on recent news--of those who have died, been caught cheating, and other things shocking--which of these people would you want to interview...and what kinds of questions would you ask?

A year from now, I'd want to interview Jenny Sanford. I'd want to ask her three things:

_What were the first words you said to Mark after he returned from Argentina and you knew he'd been with his supposed "soul mate"?

_Do you remember those words now?

_What did you do to move past that initial pain?

How about you? Who would it be and what would you ask? Post your thoughts here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Obstacles in the news

Turning obstacles into opportunities.

Based on the recent news--Michael Jackson dies and may have done himself in with some kind of anesthesia, leaving behind a legal swamp of concerns about his children, debt and finances for the family and lawyers to sort out; Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) announces an affair, as does Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC); there is talk of a sex video involving former presidential candidate John Edwards and the woman with whom he is expected of having a love child; Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) announces she'll step down from office this month, just halfway through her first term; and the least newsworthy, in my opinion, Jon & Kate Gosselin are getting divorced--it seems there is a lot of need for this right now.

Consider, for a moment, that there are real live families involved in each of these circumstances. The stories behind the "news" stories--all of which, for the most part, are none of our business--are tragic. All I can say about them? Given the time needed, I hope the families involved work everything out to their satisfaction.

But it does make me think. I have lived and survived through many of these types of situations. I know many others who have also. None of us likely wanted to have to deal with the pain or the shame. But it was what it was. We had to find ways to cope.

I used my bike, for one, and it was a very important part of my healing. But a bike won't work for everyone.

To turn an obstacle, such as the death of a father, the betrayal of a husband, or the break-up of a family for whatever reason, into an opportunity is not an easy thing to do. It requires:
  • the slow adjustment of attitude,
  • some kind of compassion for yourself and others,
  • a lot of patience,
  • belief in yourself,
  • and the rebuilding of trust, among other things.

And what does it mean, anyway, to turn an obstacle into an opportunity?

For me, during the time I spent dealing with a betrayal of my own husband, turning that pain into something that was no longer painful meant I had to be able to see beyond the tragic circumstances.

Turning your obstacles into opportunities can can be as simple as that. At the very least, it's where you must start. Without that kind of faith--and I do believe it is a spiritual faith--you could very well stay in the fall.

Here, we do not stay in the fall. We get back up. We brush ourselves off. And we figure out the next move. We decide we can--and will--do that for ourselves and for those around us who care about us. In our own time, of course. No one else can determine that but you.

So if I were advising any of these families above, I would tell them if healing is to be in their future, they should start first with the understanding that, if it does not involve death, the tragic part of the circumstances need only be temporary. You can move beyond it.

With faith--wherever you may find it--you can begin to move your burden further away from you, one step at a time.

With faith, with the ability to see beyond a misfortune, you'll be able to do things such as:

  • Look for books and information that may help you understand your circumstance and the people involved in it with you.
  • Look for ways to avoid hiding under the covers, even if it means watching black and white movies long into the night, just so your mind is focused on something other than your personal pain.
  • Take a walk or ride a bike, allowing yourself to work off some of the stress. Maybe not for very long at first. But if you keep at it, you'll have the energy to push yourself harder.
  • Reach out for help, realizing you are not alone in your grief.
  • Do things that sound off-the-wall, overambitious, or out of character to to others. It doesn't matter. If you think it'll work for you, then that's what you must do.
You might try, for instance, taking an improvisation class or applying to law school. I did both of these things, and I chose them for one reason--I needed to rebuild my self-esteem. Anyone faced with tragic circumstances needs to do that, because tragedy affects who you are at your very core. It can turn your view of life upside down, and you need to find ways to right it.

If you think standing up on a stage, in front of strangers, and acting as if you are a monkey climbing a tree won't do anything for your self-esteem, you'd be wrong. If you make yourself take part in silly things like that, or crazy things, like take the LSAT (exam to get into law school) while you're in the midst of a painful divorce, you will certainly be on your way to recovery. It's brave to test yourself in this way. Be brave. Show yourself you have it in you to be brave, to force yourself past a difficult moment in life. Think beyond the norm for you.

And as far as these two things above go, you can't fail. Acting, which is what improv is, is more like play. Who fails at play? There's no right or wrong there. As for the LSAT, you might not get the best score on the test (if most of your time spent studying involves tears), but it's not a test you can fail. You can do poorly on it, and you might not get a score high enough for the school of your choice, but so what? You don't fail it. And the diversion from what else is going on at home is good reason to chose to do the extraordinary. No matter the outcome. It's actually the diversion that's important.

At least that was my excuse.

What I'm saying is that what's happening in the news to these public figures and/or celebrities is happening to us regular people as well--daily. Though it all seems so ugly as reported in the news, we'll likely never know if there's a positive outcome to these stories. The happy endings of sensationalism rarely plays out in the news, but hopefully there will be that. For you dealing with yours or for someone you know who is, just know this: There are ways to turn what might seem like a challenge too tough to bear into a challenge to overcome.

You just have to find it for yourself, experiment with different coping mechanisms: reading literature, signing up for classes, attending workshops, therapy, journaling, riding a bike...

It will, indeed, take a belief in yourself, just the tiniest at the first. It will take time. And it will take two now all-too-familiar words. But within the realm of your own definition, you can do it...

Beat it!

(By the way, I did not link to any articles about the stories/people mentioned above, because haven't you read enough about them already?)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

You can pre-order my book!


Found this link today, Powell's Books, where you can pre-order my book, Backroads & Byways of Arizona. Click on it just to see the cover--it's beautiful! The book will be out by Countryman Press in October. But why wait? Order now and save a little!

Thanks for stopping by!