DWTS, Sadie Robertson, Up and Elephants?

The judges on Dancing with the Stars got it wrong this week!  Mark Ballas and Sadie Robertson performed a waltz in the characters of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, from Disney Pixar’s Up, for “movie week”.  The dance was fCarl and Ellieun, told the story in a short period of time, was perfectly performed, (to my untrained eye) and received 8’s across the board.  What?  If any of the dances in Week 3 deserved perfect 10’s, this was it!  Then again, I may be biased, Up is my favorite movie.

Up was the first movie that we took our daughter to see in a movie theater.  I have to admit, that we picked it because it was the only “kids” movie playing in the local theater and I really had no idea what it was about.  I remember the sequence at the beginning of the movie, when they fell in love, built huge dreams together, grew old together and then, POOF, Ellie was gone before any of their dreams had come to fruition.  I’m glad the theater was dark.  I came for what I thought was going to be a cute kids movie, and then BAM, within the first ten minutes, my biggest fear was being played out right on the screen by animated characters.  Those feelings came back as I watched Sadie and Mark dancing on Monday night.

I don’t think that I am alone.  We all create and fashion dreams as big as elephants, and that is a good feeling, but then we realize that elephants can run a lot faster than you would think, especially when being pursued.

From the moment you create your “elephant”, it takes off running in the other direction.  The first thing you need to do is move towards it.  This is where most of these animals get away and disappear over the horizon.  We doubt our preparedness and our capabilities and do not even give it a go.  Take the first step, whether you are ready or not, it will be worth it.

Once you move toward your dream, get it to stop running.  If you chase after the elephant in a passionate, yet haphazard manor, you will run out of stamina and he will keep moving farther away.  Be passionate, but have a plan. Thinking about the moment you catch him is not enough, but this is where most peoples passions lie.  Be passionate about the plan, focus each step, and make sure everything that you do moves you closer to him.  I have met a lot of people that work very hard to obtain their goals, but never move forward.  This is because their work is not harnessed into the constraints of a plan, so what they actually do is a lot of “busy-work” that has little effect in moving them closer to their goal.  Insert cliche here:


Have you ever noticed that elephants, as big as they are, are always seen in herds?  Do you know why that is?  Protection.  Take a hint and get your own “herd”,  create a true Mastermind Alliance.  Surround yourself with people that are intent on helping your reach your goals, and in return, be as passionate to helping them achieve theirs. When you get to a point in your plan that doesn’t make sense or you can’t figure it out, bounce it off your Mastermind.  It is amazing, when two or more minds come together for one purpose, the solutions that it produces.  No matter how great we see ourselves, each of us has weaknesses and faults, a mastermind alliance can help you strengthen those areas, so you can focus on your individual assets in which you excel, propelling you towards your goal.

Lastly, and most importantly, when your are in your struggle to catch that elephant, remember you are on an adventure and enjoy it.  Very few people realize that it is not the dream that gives our lives meaning, it is the journey we take to get to there.  When you realize this, that elephant will stop in it’s tracks, turn around and will walk over to you, gently.

To your online success,

Jim Neal



Breathe Deeply

The ancient Greeks used pneuma to indicate both œbreath and spirit and that’s not just a coincidence. The advice to take a deep breath when feeling stressed has help us for years because it’s been shown to reduce blood pressure and stabilize the sympathetic nervous system as you increase the oxygen in your system.

A number of current fitness options emphasize deep, regulated breathing along with physical movement, such as yoga, tai chi, and chi gung. Joining a fitness class isn’t necessary to reap the benefits of stress-relieving breathing, however. You can practice breathing exercise throughout daily life to invigorate your body and mind.

Here are a few tips to relieving stress through breathing techniques:

  • Go deep
    To maximize the benefits of relaxation breathing, be sure to use your diaphragm and breathe deeply. This can be done by envisioning that you’re sucking in air through a straw. Your stomach should push out as your lungs fill with air. If your shoulders are moving instead, then you’re breathing shallowly.
  • Slow down Silently count slowly (1-2-3-4) while breathing in, hold your breath for another four counts, exhale fully while silently counting again (1-2-3-4), and pause for another four counts before breathing again. Repeat this series for about a minute (five to six times), and then return your breathing to its normal rhythm. You should feel calmer and more peaceful right away.
  • Add value
    While engaging in these breathing exercises, meditate on a strengthening word or phrase, like peace or power, that contains a value or characteristic you would like to feel. Repeat this silently with each breath taken and released. As you breathe, focus the breath, envisioning it cleansing and releasing tension from head to toe. Continue for three
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Daring to Take the Unclear Path

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost 


In her TEDxConcordia 2011 presentation “The Unclear Path,” Tara Hunt discussed the challenges of being an entrepreneur – and the unbreakable spirit entrepreneurs must possess to face and conquer seemingly insurmountable odds. 

According to Hunt, true entrepreneurs are “all in.” It’s less of an employment status and more of a mindset. Entrepreneurs eat, sleep, and breathe their dream. They pour every minute of every day into making their business survive and succeed because if they don’t, they will go “stark raving mad,” as she puts it.  

“I don’t believe that entrepreneurs can be made,” Hunt said. “It’s not something that can be learned. Sure, you can learn how to run a business. You can learn sales. You can learn operations and coding and everything that goes on behind the scenes. But what you cannot learn are those fundamental and innate characteristics that prepare you for the roller coaster of the unclear path.” 

The three fundamental characteristics to which she refers are:

  • Delusion – In pursuing her dreams, Hunt said she’s faced years of her parents regarding her with a questioning look of concern because they regard the world so differently. Nevertheless, when Hunt found others – by the hundreds and then thousands – who likewise had different perspectives on the world, she began to soar and to feel comfortable in her own skin. There’s much merit to staying true to your desires, even if you have to face doubts from strangers and loved ones alike.
  • Desire to change the status quo – Entrepreneurs dream big dreams, wanting nothing less than to change the world around them, to pioneer a way to make life better. Exactly what the end goal is may shift along the journey, according to a study by INC Magazine. This inevitably leads to unpredictable outcomes, the natural consequence of pioneering uncharted waters. “Instead of nailing down a clear goal and barreling towards it, entrepreneurs ask questions that lead them towards answers,” Hunt said.
  • Sheer and utter audacity – the ability to take risks and the arrogance to believe you can. In her presentation, Hunt quoted the Apple Think Different campaign: “Here is to the crazy ones. The misfits. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”

“At the end of the day, entrepreneurs choose an unclear path not sanctioned by mainstream society,” Hunt said. “We need to be delusional, audacious people with big dreams just to carve out a life in a world we don’t ‘fit’… because no matter what, the unclear path is the only one we can rock.”



Following Up with Finesse

An old adage says that 80 percent of success is just showing up. But how do you accomplish that other 20 percent – particularly following a networking event like a tradeshow or membership meeting? What comes after collecting a stack of business cards – and handing out plenty of your own, of course – to turn new acquaintances into useful business resources?  

The follow-up is easily one of the most crucial steps in the networking process. There’s a certain window of time in which you can reconnect with those you’ve just met to show your proactivity and willingness to invest time and effort into a new business relationship.  

How do you make that important next step? Here are some ideas for following up flawlessly:

  • Be organized – Upon returning to the office following a networking event, take time to prioritize your new stack of business cards by those with whom you want to follow up within 48 hours, those you plan to contact within a week, and those to whom you’ll reach out in a few weeks. By breaking up the sometimes daunting task of following up into manageable pieces, you’ll be able to take on the challenge with confidence.
  • Plan with goals – Set a measurable goal for following up, such as getting three face-to-face meetings (whether that be over coffee or lunch, or merely in the office) out of each networking event you attend. Remember, in today’s connected world, there are a plethora of communication channels you can use in following up. Put some thought into which method will connect best with that individual and how you want to present yourself.
  • Look for cues – Treat networking like going on a scavenger hunt, gathering personal clues and cues all around. People love to talk about themselves – particularly about their children, pets, or hobbies/interests. Find the common ground when you meet new people – and then remember and reference it when following up. Did he mention an upcoming trip? Respond with a suggested restaurant or tour book. Did her son have a baseball game? Ask about how the game went. Show a genuine interest in them, not just in what they can offer you business-wise. Jot down talking points before calling, or draft an email and then come back to it after a few hours before sending. Be sure to put your best foot forward.
  • Prepare for any response – Keep in mind that despite your most valiant efforts, not everyone to whom you reach out will respond in kind. It could be that they’re not interested in fostering a relationship; it could simply be that they’re too busy and don’t have the bandwidth to invest in a new relationship at the moment. Don’t get discouraged. If they don’t respond to your first contact, wait a week and reach out via a different medium. If that doesn’t take, then perhaps try once more, but beyond that, let it go. Your paths may cross again at a better time for your contact. Also, when making a meeting request, be sure to ask in a way where “no” is a viable response for them. Providing that level of ease right off the bat shows professionalism and confidence that are the building blocks for a successful business relationship.


    Optimize Your Networking with 10 Tips

    Building a network for success takes more than knowing a lot of people. The best networkers are those who genuinely care about the people with whom they interact. As you get out and meet new contacts for your network, be sure to incorporate these 11 tips to build real connections and friendships that will pay off down the road. 

    1. Be Genuine – Remember that networking is all about building trust and relationships with people. Focus on the other person and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Simple acts of service and sincerity can do wonders for establishing a friendship.
    2. Find Common Ground – The most efficient, effective way to connect with a contact is to emphasize a common ground. Do you have any mutual friends? Have you ever traveled to his or her home state? Are you both Giants fans? Picking up on similar interests or experiences is a surefire way to put people at ease and drum up a conversation naturally.
    3. Keep Goals Clear – What are you hoping to accomplish at networking meetings? Clearly defined goals will help you select the right meeting. Some groups focus on learning, making contacts and/or volunteering.
    4. Get Out There – Visit as many of the groups that spark your interest as possible. Many groups will let you visit a time or two before joining, which gives you a chance to assess their tone and attitude. Do they seem supportive? Is the leadership effective?
    5. Volunteer – Taking on volunteer positions in organizations gives you both visibility and a way to give back.
    6. Go Beyond Basics – When talking with new people, ask questions that go beyond who, what, where, when and how. Open-ended questions show a genuine interest in learning from the other person.
    7. Be Resourceful – The ability to connect people with the solution to their needs is powerful. When people know they can turn to you for a resource, they’ll remember you and be more likely to refer you to others in their network.
    8. Know Yourself – What sets you apart from others in your industry? Clearly understanding your personal brand is key to showing others why you’re in the market in the first place.
    9. Speak Up – In addition to knowing what sets you apart, you should be able to articulate what you’re seeking and offering. This helps to move beyond the realm of “How can I help?” into real connections.
    10. Follow Through – Your actions reflect upon those who provided you with referrals. Show respect and honor for these helpful contacts by being reliable and conducting business in a timely manner.
    11. Follow Up – Give a personal touch to a new contact by calling or sending an email to express that you enjoyed meeting them. Ask if they’d like to get together again to share ideas of how you can help them and vice versa.