Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Confessions

I've been saving up my confessions [obviously when you're as perfect as me you can't expect to have failures every single week, amIrite?]

  • I'm starting a new job! That's not really a bad confession. In fact, I cannot tell you how excited I am for this opportunity to learn and grow from the smartest businesswoman I have ever met! I'm also nervous as all get-out, but it's that really exciting, good nervous when you know something is going to happen and it's going to be awesome (positive thinking for the win!). 
  • via GIPHY

  • At the bus stop recently, everyone was commenting on how much my oldest had grown because his pants were looking so short on him and I was all I KNOW! He is getting so mature and sprouting up so quickly. Then he got home from school and I realized he was in his LITTLE BROTHER'S JEANS! He hadn't grown even a centimeter. [extra confession: this is not the first time I have sent one of my kids to school in the wrong clothes. What is wrong with me!?]
  • I quit Diet Coke. This is a big one for me because I LOVE DIET COKE more than life, to be honest. But I realized I was most likely addicted to it. I would find myself almost unbearably agitated and angry until I had a sip of DC. I could literally feel myself calming down as I took my first sip. That scared me enough to decide to quit it cold turkey. The first week was absolute hell, but it got a lot easier. I haven't quit caffeine, but I have noticed I consume a lot less on a daily basis (coffee and maybe a non-herbal tea in the afternoon). 
  • via GIPHY
  • I love America [mostly for their grocery stores!]. Why, oh why, can't we get Keebler Coconut Dreams in Canada? Why, oh why, can't we get International Delight Sweet Cream in Canada? Even their American cheese strings taste better (according to my kids). I was excited to bring home a good grocery haul but sadly it was decimated in the first week we were back from our epic road trip. Ah, the struggle is real. 
  • Speaking of...we took an EPIC road trip to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan (right by the Wisconsin boarder). I will confess that I was petrified of bringing my kids on an 11 hour car ride and then staying with virtual strangers (who are now family). I stress at pizza like nobody's business for a good week leading up to the trip.In the end? They were freaking AWESOME and made me want to pack the car and go on another adventure right away. They weren't perfect but they were good. They were really, really good. It made me so thankful for their continued maturity and growth [and that this parenting thing does seem to get a teeny tiny bit easier from time to time]. I've totally got this parenting thing, right?

Friday, April 1, 2016

How to find your tribe and make collaboration work for you

Long title, real advice.

In my last post I talked about why collaboration (working with others to achieve a goal or many goals) is the key to having real success (however you define that) online. I cannot stress how much I believe that to be true: any and all of my online "successes" have come from relationships I have established or partnerships I have formed.

However, collaboration - finding the right people that you want to support and who want to support you in turn - is not easy. It sounds like it should be easy, but it truly isn't. There will be lots of bumps in the collaboration road once you start down the path. You will meet people who you think are perfect to collaborate with and they will let you down. You will have "big breaks" that turn out to be nothing like they were sold to you. You will feel like you are putting in all the work and someone else is reaping rewards. How do I know? I've been there. Way too many times.

But here's the great thing (and this is based off my personal experiences with success and failure). If you approach collaboration correctly - as a mutually beneficial 'business' transaction - even the not so great collaborations will turn into great experiences for you that help to propel you forward toward your goals. 

I guarantee there will be bumps in the road and disappointments but I also guarantee that if you continue to approach collaboration professionally and with the mindset that it needs to be mutually beneficial you will see huge rewards. 

So let's get you started...

Choose a project (projects!) to collaborate on
First of all, let me ask you a question: what do you want to achieve? I'm going to challenge you to make a huge list of goals - I really love handwritten lists that allow you to put out everything (I mean reach for the stars!). Once you have that list put it away. A few days later pull it out and highlight a few items that are reasonable to achieve with a little bit of help (also known as collaboration). 

Find a potential tribe
Everyone is going to go about this in a different way, but the steps are similar no matter who you are and what your goals are:
a)     Determine what you want to achieve from any collaboration
b)     Determine what you bring to the table
c)     Determine who would help you reach your goals but also how you could help them reach theirs – this is the tricky part but is so important. SO IMPORTANT. When I have a goal, I like to start by trolling my own social media and blog. I look for who comments, who likes, who reposts, who interacts. Then I look to my existing circle. Do I have friends who blog or engage in similar social media topics as me?Do I have acquaintances that may have similar goals and interests? Put together a list (seriously, I love lists) and make it as lofty and realistic as possible! 
         “Date” potential collaborator(s)
      Once you establish WHO you may want to collaborate with,  you need to figure out if a) they are willing and b) it's a good partnership. Like any relationship (friendship or romantic), take the time to figure out if a  collaborative partnership will work by being honest, open and realistic.
a)     Define your expectations (will you post each other’s blogs, retweet each other, reach out only when you need assistance, create vlogs together? Be very clear on what you hope to achieve together.)
b)     Define your parameters (what is NOT ok with you? what is NOT ok with them? What are your deal breakers?)
c)     Work on a non-essential project together (create a link up, a topic you both blog on and share, etc.). Do something that doesn't necessarily have money attached to it to make sure you are comfortable and work well together.
d)     Establish trust and honesty 
 Create your “tribe”
 Once you've found your collaborator (or group - don't rule out a team of people that support    
 and lift up each other!), make it work for both of you.
a) Clarify “ground rules” for your tribe- use your previously established expectations (which you've already done by now) and clarify what is expected from any collaborator. Is this on a project by project basis? Will there be an expectation around sharing each other’s work? Will there be multiple people included in this “tribe” or is it limited to one or two partners? Be especially clear and specific on what you need and want but also be open to changing and shifting expectations as necessary!
b) Establish a space for your tribe- use a closed or private Facebook group (of Google doc) to interact with each other, throw out ideas, suggest projects to work on, and ask for help.
c) Start supporting – remember that any good collaboration takes time and the more you put into the more you will get out of it! Become stars at making each other shine and sharing the spotlight with each other.

The truth is that there is no exact science to making a collaboration or partnership work, but it is worth putting in the work to find the right people and lay ground rules for supporting each other. When you have support it will not only improve your online exposure but it will allow you to feel more confident in what you can bring to the table when pitching brands, establishing new contacts, and branching out into uncharted online territory! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Collaboration: The key to growing your blog & social media presence

{Or maybe better titled} Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

I stumbled onto the power of collaboration by accident but, boy, am I glad I did.

In 2009 I began a “mommy” blog. I was a new mom, alone, scared, clueless, and in need of an outlet. I knew nothing about blogging but I knew I wanted a place to give voice to my life. And then, I got hooked on blogging and I wanted other people to hear my voice and read my words. The more people read my writing the more I wanted them to read. So what was the problem? I had no idea how to spread my ideas. 

Enter collaboration.

I’m not quite sure how I got this idea in my head, but I decided to start emailing blogs that I liked and asking them if I could write a post for them. It was a total bust- no one even responded – but it got me thinking. Why couldn’t I collaborate with others to help us all grow? I had an audience (small, of course, but dedicated and growing!).Why wasn't anyone else interested in working together so that we could both grow and grow and grow!?

My first true realization of the power of collaboration, however, came quite by accident. I stumbled onto a collaborative blog called UrbanMoms. Although I had been turned down so many times before, I decided to send them a piece for their consideration. Guess what? They liked it. They liked it enough that they asked me to write for them.

For the next two years we collaborated - UrbanMoms published my blog (called "Mom Without A Map") and amplified my reach and in exchange, I promoted and represented UrbanMoms and their other bloggers online. This collaboration brought me more traffic, more recognition, and more opportunities than any other single thing I did on my own before or after that. 

Where did the power come from? It came from collaboration! 

I had a group of like-minded individuals in UrbanMoms that supported me. Everyone was talented, hungry and dedicated. All the writers/bloggers (keep in mind we didn’t know eachother personally) commented, retweeted, engaged and uplifted each other. We celebrated and commiserated. We worked together and it was incredibly successful. It probably wasn't until I had stopped writing for UrbanMoms for a few years that I realized that the consistent support of other like-minded bloggers was the cornerstone of my writing, blogging and social media 'success'. 

The internet is noisy place. 

There are hundreds of thousands of voices (some of them very much like yours, if we are being honest) that are trying to be noticed. There are "experts" who tell you that blogging is about a beautiful website and Insta feed. There are a million "how to make money on social media" posts and videos, there are a hundred thousand people all trying to do what you're doing: capture an audience and hold on to them.

So if the internet is a crazy noisy place, then being a lone island, working on every idea alone and putting more effort into a perfect site and Insta feed creating your own good content and supporting the good content of others is exactly the wrong thing to do.

At this very moment, if you want to begin to develop a voice that is heard and cultivate an audience that grows, then you need collaboration.

It's worth saying again: If you want to get noticed online find your tribe (your people; like-minded supporters and go-getters who you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with) and support the heck out of each other. 

This is not the time to horde ideas or go it alone. 

Here’s an old story that many of us have been told again and again – we’re all at war and only the strongest survive. That’s not true when it comes to growing your online presence- cooperation, collective action, and interdependency are the key to success. 

Those who find the greatest success do so by pooling resources, working together, and relying on others to grow, learn, create and ultimately succeed. We are wired to share and nothing proves this more than the power of collaboration.

Ok, so have I sold you on the idea of collaboration yet? I sure hope so because it's the biggest game-changer out there. 

But the trick is, how do you FIND your tribe? How do you determine what you want to ACHIEVE from a collaboration? What are your GOALS? 

Let's talk about that and more in my next post, but first I want your ideas! Have a good collaboration story? Has collaboration changed the way you live on line? Tell me about it in the comments or on any of my social pages! 

[after all, commenting and engaging is a form of collaboration, isn't it?...]

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Mom Who Sits on the Bench

See that bench? It's where I sit. 

Every Sunday my kids and husband go skating and I sit on this bench and watch them. I sit here when my kids take skating lessons as well. And when they're playing baseball and soccer and karate. I sit on the bench when they're at the park and bouncing on the trampoline. 

I'm a ever-present bench sitter.

I've spent my life wishing I could participate in athletics. Believe me when I say I have tried and I have tried hard. I tried soccer and gymnastics and basketball and volleyball. I tried tennis and golf and skating and cross-country. I joined a curling team and failed miserably. I joined cheerleading and didn't make it out of two practices. 

It's not that I have a physical need that does not allow me to participate. It is that I physically cannot keep up. And because of that playing any sport feels like torture to me - it is never, ever fun and it is never, ever easy for me to do anything that requires even the most basic athletic skill. 

If I told you that I've been a runner since I was 19, and then you saw me run, you would laugh. You would think I was joking because I channel a 2 year old who has just learned to walk/run while I'm moving. I always look like I'm about to topple over (and I have, more times than I care to admit). I'm a mess, and yet I have been trying to be a "runner" for years. I've never gotten better, no matter how much I run. In fact, I had a running coach for an entire year and my time and form did not ever improve (that running coach, who I paid for by the way, said he had never had a client who tried less than I did. I can't tell you how demoralizing that was for me). 

If I told you that games like foosball are hard for me because they require hand-eye coordination you would probably not believe me but it's true. I was once on a date at a bar when my date insisted we play foosball. I felt physically sick because I had tried before and knew I was going to be a mess, but I liked him and didn't want to make a fuss. He destroyed me in the game (I don't think I scored once) and then proceeded to go on and on about how he can't stand girls who are too prissy to try. Needless to say we never went out again.

What bothers me is that people, much like my running coach, automatically assume that I'm not trying when I am a disaster at anything that requires athletic skill or coordination. People say "get up and try", "of course you can't play you never try hard", and (my personal favourite) "why don't you put your best effort in?".  But what they don't know is that I do. I try so, so, so hard when it comes to sports and athletics and have tried for so many years. 

Those are just two examples - I could write a novel on the number of times I tried my best at something even remotely athletic and was told it wasn't good enough. 

So why do I tell you all this? Maybe deep down I want some sympathy or something, but I also want to give a bit of a reality check. 

There's a huge shift in expectations put on parents to participate in athletics with their kids. We tell parents they need to be present and active with their children. And, be honest, we judge those parents who are not. 

We've all seen a parent on the bench. We've all seen a parent taking pictures from a waiting area, or saying no when their kids ask them to join in. We've all seen a mom who stood in the warming area when the rest of her family skated, or a dad who stood on the sidelines when his kids were bouncing away on a trampoline. We have all seen it and we have all judged. 

So, maybe take a pause when you see a parent who isn't participating. Maybe assume that for that parent - the one who is sitting on the sidelines, even at the park - athletics are torturous and maybe even physically impossible. Maybe the sheer act of being there with their kids and supporting and encouraging them with their presence is the absolute best they can do. Maybe they're spent a lifetime much like me, trying so hard and never being able to keep up. 

Give them some grace, cut them some slack, and assume that they are doing the best they can do. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday Confessions: The Potato Cleanse Edition

I'm back and here with one confession...

  • I'm on a Potato Cleanse. Somehow I convinced my husband to do this cleanse with (not quite sure how I did that) and we are on day 3. The cleanse is comprised of potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes, with some non-starchy veggies thrown in for variety.  I will admit that I've been super hangry and downright grumpy during the first few days.  I'm pretty sure it's my body revolting and turning me into the Incredible Hulk on the regular. Anyway, hopefully day 4 is easier. I've done cleanses before and somewhere between day 4 and day 5 is the turning point where the anger calms down and your body settles into its new way of eating.
  • The point of the cleanse? I'm quitting sugar, wheat, fats and dairy. All at once (#beastmode). I've had an awful diet of late and it's just time to clean it all up and get back to eating more real food and less processed food. 
  • I also want to prove to myself that I can do it:) If you're interested in how I'm doing, I'm vlogging every day! Check out the first 3 days:

  • Wish me luck! I really want to make it through 2 weeks and see if a plant-based cleanse really makes a difference.