Monday, September 27, 2010

Motivational Mondays- 9.27

"No matter how unfair life seems or how often you may have failed in the past, you can still change and improve your life. And not only change, but grow into the best, most authentic version of yourself that you can's time to stop feeling that the odds are stacked against you and time to start stacking the odds in your favor!

- Bishop T.D. Jakes

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writer Spotlight: Pamela M. McBride

What kind of writing do you do?
I do a lot of freelancing, and typically I write about career management topics and military life. I do write other things, but that's the majority of what I do. I have become an expert in both those areas because they've both been a part of my life all of my adult life for the past 20 years. And they also have been my professional interests as well as my passions.

"Work It Girl! The Black Woman's Guide to Professional Success" was the first book I had written, and at the time, I didn't know anything about writing a book so I was really starting from scratch. I've never had a class in writing or anything like that, never majored in anything related to writing in college. I had been a career counselor for a lot of years at the time, and I was introduced to someone who was a writer, and we just started talking. We really hit it off, and it was a really casual conversation one day. It was:
"We should write a book together."
"Oh, yeah, that'd be a great idea!"
"What should we write about?"
"Well, let's write about managing your career, a guide for black women."

And that's really how the whole project started...we did all the research needed, plus I had that area of expertise from being a career counselor...I've been in the career management field now for over 20 years...When we wrote the book, "Work It Girl," we used that phrase to mean using your talents, skills and abilities to get what you want. That was the whole idea of it. We had written 10 chapters in different areas...It covers a lot of things for a lot of people.

The other book, "The Mocha Manual Guide to Military Life," was actually somebody else's idea. For a long time, I said I wanted to write a book specifically for military spouses, but I hadn't done that. I hadn't really even been thinking about it at the time it came up. But the opportunity came where someone had the idea, and they wanted my expertise because basically, it's a part of a series of books, and the person didn't have that specific background but wanted to write about military life. So for me, it was just a wonderful way to partner with someone, to be able to do the project...and being able to write it in the same tone as my first book-- very down-to-earth, sister-friendly-girlfriend; it gives advice, but it's not preachy or teachy. It tells the stories of real-life people who have been there and done that, what they've done to get through it, what things worked for them, what things didn't. It was really a personally written book in that the reader feels like, "I know exactly where this is coming from," and this holds true for both of my books. It was very important to me to be writing the way I might be talking to somebody who was a very good friend of mine.

How did you become interested in writing?
Actually, what happened was, I was working as a career counselor living in North Carolina because I've been a military spouse for 22 years almost. We moved around a lot. [At] one job that I specifically had in North Carolina, a lady I worked with came into my office and said, "Hey, look at this article I had published in the "National Business Employment Weekly," and I read the article, and I thought, Hmm, I could do that! It didn't seem like this big, complicated thing. And she said, "Well, if you want to write an article, I can show you how to write a query letter and tell you a little bit about how to go about it and see what happens." I said, "Sure, let's do it." She showed me, we talked about it, and I got a nice query letter for an idea...The person [I sent it to] was very interested in me doing the article, and I did, and it just went from there. I just kept writing query letters and kept getting the really good feedback so that's really how I got into the freelance writing because at that time, it was for a supplement for the Army Times which means it was in "Army Times," "Navy Times," "Airforce Times," "Marine Times" and sometimes the "Federal Times." I really got hooked because I was passionate about the topic, I knew what I was talking about, I really like to have fun, talk to people and write in a way that's comfortable and entertaining but informative...I branched into other publications like "Essence," I did a cover story for "Black Enterprise," I wrote for "Upscale," lots of different publications. I really got the hang of it to the point where I started writing about things I wasn't even an expert on...I had several assignments a month for years from those publications...that's how I started off as a freelance writer.

I don't know that I really decided to [write a book]; it just kind of happened...but staying with it, I think, has to do with me sharing my passion and helping people get what it is they want by using what they already have. That's important to me...[Also], I really like puzzles, so to start off with an idea and come up with this many tips or that much advice or a great slant to an article, anything like that, and then to put it together, to interview a few people, do my own research and then write something that seems like people would really enjoy reading, it's that putting together the whole puzzle into a finished product. And it's very interesting because for a long time, I thought I would never write a book because the freelance writing that I write for magazines, what I like about it is it had a start and end. It was over, move on the the next one, and I wasn't sure if I could write a whole book, but it happened, one little step at a time, us doing our research and that kind of thing. I guess never say never.

What do you love most about your career?
I think probably since it is not my main source of income, it's not how I earn my living, it gives me the freedom to write what I want to write or not take an assisgnment if it's something I can't do. I don't have to feel pressured to it if it's something I don't want to do. It allows me to be creative but in a helpful way. I love the fact that there's so much to writing because I write for different publications; I write for "Operation Homefront Online" where I mainly end up writing career management types of articles for military spouses, and I also write for, which is similar in topic. [Additionally], I write a column for a county newspaper, and it's called "Work It Girl!".

What's the most stressful aspect of it?
The most stressful thing about it, I think, is when I don't have the time to write that I really want. I would love to be writing so much more than I do. And that is stressful. The other piece is that I always seem to feel like I'm not creative enough when I'm writing it, and sometimes, that tends to be stressful because I can be sort of perfectionistic about it so I'll keep on, and then keep on, then keep on, and I probably could've finished a long time ago, but I just keep messing with it.

How do you deal with writer's block?
I usually will switch my approach. If I'm blocked, and I'm working on something specific, and I just can't get what I need out of it, I can't get it down, I can't get it right or if I'm just stuck on that particular article, then I just have to leave it alone. I have to walk away from it and come back. Or I get online and do some reading of different articles and kind of relax my brain a little bit, and then something seems to kind of jump back into my mind. Sometimes, I talk it through with someone. I'll call someone up I really trust, and I say,"Hey, okay, this is what I'm doing..." and then allow them to give me some input or an idea or tell them specifically what I'm stuck on, and they can usually come right off the top with something that kind of gets me going again. One of the other things I think hinders me from writing is I really like the process of the research. I really do like the research piece of it where I get to talk to so many different people, the telephone interviews, things like that...but sometimes, I research, and I research, and I research, and I do way more research than what's really needed to finish the piece. So I really have to watch myself as far as that is concerned because I do love the process of learning whatever it is I'm writing about.

What are some of your career goals?
I've [recently] started a blog...It's called 'Pamela M. McBride-- The Work-Life Diva'. There's a section for "Work It Girl Wednesdays," there's another section for "Military Mondays" and a third one called "My Sentiments Exactly"; anything that doesn't fit into [the other] two categories can go there...Another goal when it comes to writing: I would really like to go ahead and start working on my third book, and this time, I don't think I want to partner with anyone on it...I have a couple of different ideas that I've been fleshing out. One of them is still sort of in the career management area; the other, I'm thinking is in the parenting area.

I've got a few speaking engagements I'm in negotiations with right now. I just wound up several this summer, so I'm working on my fall schedule now.

Do you have advice or tips for aspiring writers?
People say, "Well, I really want to be a writer; what should I do?" I have one word for that: Write. Successful writing, I think, is more about discipline than it is about necessarily the talent of writing. If you can write everyday, then you have ideas...I have an idea book that I have on me about 99 percent of the time, and if I don't have it on me, I pull out my Blackberry, and I put it in there. But what I like to do is, first thing in the morning (this is the best time for me; for other people it could be a different time), I just write. Sometimes I have something I want to write about, sometimes I don't. It's just like journaling almost, and some days, I just don't have anything to write, and I really don't want to write. That's when I start off with, "I really have nothing to write today. I'm really not in the mood for this..." [When I first started writing a column in Hawaii], it was the first time I could just write about anything I wanted I started journaling, and what I did was whenever it was time for me to work on my column, I would get that journal, and I would flip through it-- page by page-- until something stood out to me that I could work from. That's how, every single month, I wrote my column: from something throughout the month that I had written down already.

I think that that is probably the most important thing people can do: Write and set goals about a project when you get a project. Once you have a project, you have to set goals because it's almost never going to be just sit down and do it. Most people who are writing, even if they're writing for a living, [have] so many other things going on, and you're never just working on that one project and [have] nothing else going on in your life. To have those writing goals, whether it be to write for 10 minutes a day or whether it be to interview three people this week, it doesn't really matter. It just needs to be specific, measurable goals that you can check off the list.

The other piece of advice...[is] reading. I think it's really important because it can help you with writer's block. It helps expose you to different things, the trending kinds of topics. You can learn from reading. When I wrote my first book, we learned how to do all that by research. I had a copy of "Writer's Market," and I read that thing like you wouldn't believe. And some things, I read over and over in that book, but it is what helped me know what I didn't know. And when there were things that I knew I needed to know, I'd go research it a little bit further, so it gave me a nice place to start from. I also read, and I still do, "Writer's Digest." That gives a whole lot of insight, a whole lot of ideas, it gives techniques and all kinds of stuff that comes in handy. You have to see life through the eyes of a writer. When you see things that spark just a little bit of interest, jot it down because it may be something you want to explore later.

I think having the passion [is also important when it comes to] writing. One of the things I learned very early on from my research when we were doing the first book is that people in the publishing industry have difficulty with authors because they either want to write and not go out and do speaking engagements, book signings or things like that. Or they don't really pay too much attention to the writing because they like the part about going out and doing those things more. I think the best writers, based on my research, are those who are willing to do both. Even if they don't like one part or the other as much, you really have to do both because, I really hate to say it, writing is probably the easy part. It's getting out there and selling...that's probably harder than actually doing the writing itself. So be prepared for how that's going to happen down the road. What things are you willing to do? What kind of money are you willing to spend? What makes you comfortable? What doesn't? Who is your target market? Those kinds of things are really going to become important when you actually finish the book, then the real work begins.

For more info about Pamela and to purchase her books, visit her website,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Motivational Mondays- 9.20

Motivational quotes to inspire you.

"...Your circumstances are what they are. And in those circumstances, whatever they may be, you can choose to find empowerment and positive possibilities."

"What you get is what you see. Choose to see each day, each moment, each situation as an opportunity to move forward, and that's exactly what you'll get."
- Ralph Marston

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More

Happy Friday, ya'll!

I don't know about you, but I would love to work less and do more-- even though I love what I do. In his book, Stever Robbins, author and successful entrepreneur, gives the nine steps to doing so. I was able to read the first two chapters (which you can download here).

One thing I really enjoyed was Stever's writing style; it's like he's having a light-hearted but informative conversation with you. His humuorous personality really comes through, and I found myself chuckling a lot.
Anyhoo, the nine steps are:
  1. Live and work on purpose.
  2. Stop procrastinating.
  3. Conquer your technology.
  4. Cultivate focus.
  5. Stay organized.
  6. Don't waste time.
  7. Optimize!
  8. Build stronger relationships.
  9. Leverage!

So chapter one is about living on purpose, and it helps you identify your ultimate goals for every situation. According to Stever, the number one principle is "stop doing stuff that doesn't help you reach your goals." He goes on to give real examples of this with a real person, and he provides tools to help you make sure your actions line up with your bigger goals. For instance, he talks about creating a Life Map where you ask yourself, 'What would be a fulfilling life?', and you create this map for each aspect of your life (i.e., career, family, friends/social life, etc.). Additionally, Stever gives great examples with detailed charts showing you exactly how to do it.

Like I mentioned above, chapter two is stop procrastinating. There was an 'a-ha' moment for me in this chapter (hopefully, I'll listen lol): Stever talks about how it's a habit that he brushes his teeth daily and does his laundry once a week. Even though laundry is not that important, and brushing his teeth is important, he treats both tasks equally because they're habits. *light bulb on*

"Habits are actions we streamline to the point where they're no longer a decision, they're just something we do. They don't require thought, so we don't procrastinate. We just do them. The easiest way to overcome procrastination is to make things habits...establish a habit by making it regular."

I absolutely loved this, and I think it's a fantastic way to look at and deal with procrastination. He also gives examples of potential habits we could develop such as checking and responding to email only at specific times, working out and grocery shopping. Additionally, he provides methods to help prevent procrastination such as self-bribery and using other people (or accountability partners).

In just two short chapters, Stever gives fabulous advice and tips to get you started on working less and doing more. I really enjoyed what I read and will definitely be using these tips in my own life.

For more info about Stever, the book and to find out where to purchase, check out the website, Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivational Quotes- 9.13

Motivational quotes to inspire you.

"It isn't sufficient just to want- you've got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Friday, September 10, 2010

5 ways to beat burnout and stay motivated

Even if you love what you do, you might experience burnout and feel un-motivated at times (trust me, I do). Here are five ways to fight burnout or stop it from happening it in the first place:

1. Accomplish in increments. It's easy to get burned out by the everyday grind when you're just concentrating on a big goal someday. Article author, Jeffrey Tang, likens it to driving toward a mountain in the distance: You can drive for hours, but the mountain doesn't appear to get any closer. So you need to give yourself a way to gauge and record every little step forward you take. You can do this by:

  • Getting a journal, calendar or notebook. Writing things down is key.
  • Determining milestones on the journey to your goal. For instance, if you're writing a book, you could regard each chapter or each 1000 words as a milestone.
  • If the milestones aren't obvious, create them. Tang gives the example of training for a marathon. Instead of starting out at your highest distance, begin at a shorter one and work your way up slowly.
  • Track your milestones in an easy, visual way.

2. Train your muse. According to Tang, inspiration is like any other skill. It might start off unreliable, but it can be trained and cultivated into something you can count on. The best way to train your muse is immersion, surround yourself with things that inspire you and reflect your goals. To become a better writer, I read a lot. I also use vision boards as muses. The more your inspiration becomes a part of your life, the less likely it is to leave when you need it most. So be creative.

3. Work less. Reduce the amount of energy and time you spend working. If you have sick days or vacation days remaining, take advantage of them. If you're self-employed, force yourself to work fewer hours daily-- even if that means declining new projects. Keep in mind that working less doesn't mean you have to slack off or get less done; it does, however, mean that you:

  • Get rid of unnecessary tasks.
  • Take strategic breaks.
  • Stop multitasking.
  • Seek help from others.

4. Define success realistically. There's nothing wrong with having big dreams and ambitions. However, if you're always frustrated by lack of progress, it may be time to step back and analyze your goals. Ask yourself: Are these goals achievable? Are you holding yourself to a practical timeline?

A good way to do this: On a sheet of paper, write your big, ambitious goal. Then write down at least 10 specific, concrete steps that will allow you to accomplish that goal; make sure you're as detailed as possible. If you can't come up with practical steps to get from Point A to Point B, that's a sign that you need to redefine your goals or reconsider they way you're pursuing them.

5. Get more sleep. (I'm a firm believer in this lol). You have to make a conscious decision to get enough sleep, and like any other good habit, it takes time to cultivate.

For seven more tips, check out my source, How to Defeat Burnout and Stay Motivated.

Feel free to share any tips you have below!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Motivational Mondays- 9.6

Motivational quotes to inspire you.

"If there's something you want to be or do, the best way to become that thing is to actually take steps toward it, to move in that direction. Don't just talk about it, but do something. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Just take a small step in the right direction every single day."

- J.D. Roth

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to Improve Your Concentration

I don't know about you, but from time to time, I have a hard time focusing and concentrating on things I need to do. In fact, it's something I've been struggling with for the past couple of days. To try and resolve this, I decided to look up some info to see what might help.

I found this fabulous article, 5 Tips to Improve Your Concentration, that I thought I'd share. In it, Sam Horn, author of ConZentrate, gives five FOCUS tips to help us concetrate better no matter what we're trying to do.

F= Five More Rule. According to Horn, there are two types of people: those who've learned to work through frustration and those who wish they had. Starting today, if you're in the middle of a task and you feel like giving up, just do five more. Work five more minutes, read five more pages- whatever the case may be. You know how athletes develop physical stamina by pushing past the point of exhaustion? You can build your mental stamina by pushing past the point of frustration.

O= One Think At a Time. There are times when we feel scatter-brained, and we think about the little tasks we need complete instead of focusing on what we actually need to be doing at the moment. Instead of telling your mind not to fret over another, less significant priority (which will cause your mind to think about it anyway), give your mind one task with start-stop parameters. So, for instance, say you keep thinking about how you need to write down all the money you spent this week when you should be writing an article. Tell yourself: "I'll think about the money I spent after I'm done working this evening. Right now, for the next 30 minutes, I'll give my complete focus to finishing this article." And if you still can't get it out of your head, write it on your to-do list; that way, you're free to forget about it until later.

C= Conquer Procrastination. If you don't feel like concentrating, or if you're putting off a task you're supposed to be working on, your procrastinating! (But you already knew that, right?). The next time you're about to put off a responsibility, ask yourself three questions:
  • Do I have to do this?
  • Do I want it done so it's not on my mind?
  • Will it be any easier later?
The questions can give you the motivation to mentally apply yourself. How? They bring you face to face with the fact that the task isn't going anywhere and that putting it off will only add to your guilt, and it will occupy more of your mind and time.

U= Use Your Hands as Blinkers. See your mind as a camera and your eyes as its opening. A lot of times, our eyes are "taking it all in" and our brain is in "wide-angle focus." We can actually think about a lot of things at one time and function efficiently. For example, think about when you're driving, messing with the radio, paying attention to your surroundings and looking for your exit.
Need 100 percent concentration? Let's say you're preparing for an exam; cup your hands around your eyes so you have "tunnel vision" and are looking just at your material. Putting your hands on the sides of your face blocks out surroundings; they are literally "out of sight, out of mind." (Think about what that means). If you use your hands as blinkers each time you want to narrow your focus, you teach your brain to change to 'one track' mind and focus on your command.

S= See As if For the First or Last Time. Frederick Franck said, "When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking everything for granted." The next time your mind is a million miles away, take a look around you and really see your surroundings; lean in and really look at a loved one you tend to take for granted. Doing those things will allow you to be in the 'here and now' and be fully present.

What are your tips for focusing and improving your concentrating? Leave a comment below : )

Source; Photo Credit:
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