What Level Do You Live On?

As we wind down the year, and especially during this season of giving, not only is it a great time to take stock of how we met our goals on a business level, but also on a personal level. It's also the time of year to be calibrating those goals for next year.

It's important to set both business goals and personal goals.

But sometimes it's hard to decide or understand the importance of what kind of goals will help move us along in our lives.

I often wonder how many people take time out of their busy lives to contemplate the ultimate goal. Where they really want to be, what truly is important in life to achieve.

Some people get stuck on certain levels. This happens mostly because they are not aware of creating a path through life. There's an importance to setting goals for many aspects of life. It's easy to stagnate at a certain level simply by ignoring important aspects of life while in pursuit of other levels.

Let me explain. I remember years ago while I was still traveling around the world and sailing, I was working with non-profit organizations and teaching teenagers a myriad of experiences on boats, from scuba diving to environmental education. I was taking a break and visiting my father in Rockville when he said, "You know, you live your life at the highest level of the pyramid." He proceeded to explain to me the five levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Just as a quick overview, Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who introduced this concept in 1943 in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation. The gist of it was that Maslow envisioned human motivation as a pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom, as the foundation and self-actualization at the top.
  • First we must fill our Physiological Needs - Food, water, air, sleep, and warmth. Without achieving these everything else is secondary.
  • The next level is Security Needs - this is comprised of money, job, health, secure neighborhoods and a roof over your head.
  • Once these are fulfilled needs such as Social Needs begin to take priority - the need for love, friendship, manifested through involvement with social, religious and community groups.
  • This kind of involvement leads into Esteem Needs - these needs encompass self worth, a need for social recognition and acceptance.
  • But the highest level of the pyramid is the one that interests me the most. Self-Actualizing Needs. People who are operating on this level have shed concern for what other people think, and work toward their purest potential. They are self aware and begin to work on a level not only for themselves but for others. Not because they are seeking approval, but because it's part of full-filling their ultimate potential.
When my father said I lived at the top of the pyramid, he meant that he saw someone who was no longer concerned about what other people thought. I was living in the moment not conforming to the traditional expectations and completely immersed in experiencing the world moment by moment.

Because of these world and life experiences I developed a deep empathy for others, and was always on a quest on how I could help or do good for others. Not for the approval of others, but for the sheer experience of giving.

When you give of yourself unconditionally you get back 10 fold. But it's not always a quantifiable item you get back. And really those are the best kind.

I have to admit though, it's not always easy to stay at the higher levels of the pyramid. When we get involved beyond our needs to our wants we can get stuck in the lower levels. Missing the point of the possibilities of progressing to the higher levels. Please don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with focusing on the levels which involve security and social needs. But once you experience what it's like to shed some of the baggage that goes along with these levels;
  • The petty bickering
  • Concern with what other people think of you
  • One ups contests in business and friendships
  • Gossip
  • Keeping up with the Jones
You start to get down to the root of what really makes you happy. Your higher cause if you will. What makes you truly tick. I've found these moments sitting on a rock near a river in Lesotho, sitting on a beach during a lightning storm in Australia, sitting on the bow of a sail boat at anchor under a star-filled sky.

I've found that joy talking about all the possibilities of life with teenagers while sitting in a trampoline on the bow of a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, seeing how people improve their lives by educating themselves about crops in coffee fields in La Paz Honduras, seeing the sense of discovery in the face of a child in poverty with a camera in their hand documenting their life in the city dump in Guatemala City.

I find that joy again as I get involved with projects and people who are giving of themselves to help others. More and more since I've been able to break away from the rat race of an office cubicle work which I experienced briefly. I'm able to get back to that place where I can figure out how to give back. Which for me is what is ultimately fulfilling.

So it's that time of year to take stock of what you are doing, where you are going and where you want to be. And it may be helpful to examine what level you live on, and where you think you might want to go.

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Epic Change: Small Donations Create Cumulative Effects In The World

I can't believe it was just one year ago that I was arranging Tweetsgiving in Virginia Beach with my friends Sonya Schweitzer and Karen Clements at Gordon Biersch. It was a wonderful evening of positive energy for an amazing cause to help build schools in Africa through Epic Change, a 501 (c) 3 organization, while giving thanks for all the things we have in life.

I'm grateful that we were able to be a part of building schools and libraries in Tanzania Africa last year.

This year has been a whirl wind. First starting Blue Gypsy Inc, then moving to Northern Virginia. Time flew by as I hopped back and forth between Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia while creating the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest. The Bluesfest is now moving in the direction to become an ongoing way to give back to Habitat for Humanity SHR and the Natchel' Blues Network.

Now it's already Thanksgiving again. This is a special time of year for me. Not only because it's a time to reflect, give thanks, and be grateful for all the things I have in life, both relationships and the ability to achieve my goals, but also because it's my father's birthday. Dad's birthday always falls somewhere on or near Thanksgiving. He's been such a positive influence in my life, not just as my dad, but as my mentor.

Three years ago I started the tradition on my father's 70th birthday of giving a nice donation to a worthy cause.

On his 70th I made a donation to the Food Bank so that other families could enjoy thanksgiving meals, something many of us sometimes take for granted. The growing number of people who are depending on the Food Bank in this current economy is staggering. To contribute to a Food Bank nearby you can go to Feeding America.

Last year for my father's birthday I made a contribution to Epic Change, the organization who started the tweetsgiving initiative, a global celebration of gratitude and giving. Because of timing this year I wasn't able to actively plan a tweetsgiving. If I were in Virginia Beach right now I'd be heading off this evening to the Geekette's Fun'd'raiser. Sonya and Karen are planning an event tonight for both The Geekette's Club, and for ForKids two amazing local non-profits helping women and children.

Just last week I was saying that I need to decide on an organization to make my annual donation to for my father's birthday.

Isn't it funny how things come into your life for a reason. I was at the airport looking for a book at a small news stand kiosk as I took off on my vacation to Dominican Republic. As usual nothing jumped out at me until I saw The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Recently I'd seen an interview with the author and knew it was the only thing on these shelves I had any interest in reading. This amazing triumph of the human spirit over adversity during famine and hardship in Malawi Africa reminds me how important my annual contributions are in honor of my father.

As I read about the true story of William Kamkwamba, and his struggles for education in Africa I know that I don't just have to be a passive observer. There are so many ways that we can give back to help with education in Africa. Through Epic Change you can make a donation as I did last year to help build schools in Tanzania. There are so many more great organizations as well. Another charity I'd like to get involved with is Room to Read building schools across Africa and Asia. The Central Asia Institute is another powerful force in education across Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While trying to decide which charity to choose, I did a little bit more digging and now I've found this year's cause to donate to for my father, Moving Windmills.

Moving Windmills Project supports Malawian-run rural economic development and education projects in Malawi, with the goals of community economic independence and self-sustainability; food, water and health security; and educational success. Moving Windmills Project is inspired by the story of William Kamkwamba, a remarkable young man from a remote village north of Malawi’s capital city. Forced to drop out of school due to lack of funds, William turned to self-education and, after seeing a picture of a windmill in a textbook, decided to build one to power his family’s home.

So now, in addition to making my Food Bank donation and my donation to Epic Change. I plan to make a donation to Moving Windmills as well.

Each small donation to any of these organizations is cumulative. There is none too small. It will all add to the whole which creates amazing changes for people.

As I look around me there are so many great people and organizations doing great things to help create change; to help ease the burden around them on many levels. I am thankful to be a part of that. For me it's hard to pick just one cause. And as I work toward starting my own non-profit I ask myself do I have to choose just one cause? How can I create a non-profit that raises funds for many organizations already in existence doing great things? This is one of my missions for 2011 as I move forward toward creating something to assist with other amazing organizations doing great things.

I don't need to re-create the wheel. I am thankful that there are so many organizations out there that give back. Perhaps my real mission is bringing all of those resources together in one place where people can all help create change.

Thanksgiving is always a great time of year to reflect on these ideas, and move forward. Okay now I'm off to go make a donation...or two....or three....in honor of my father.

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What Do You Think Of Random Friend Requests From Random Strangers?

When I was a kid I liked to pull things apart and see how they worked. That meant that I had stuffed animals that had their little sound makers taken out of them, and ballerina music boxes that no longer played swan lake.

I just like to know what makes things (And people) tick.

One of the things that makes me go hmmmm the most in Social Media, is the random friend requests from complete strangers who don’t explain themselves. I understand that many people use facebook for social networking...I do too. But when I come across someone I want to know, who I haven’t met before, or even someone I’ve met in person at a social networking event...99% of the time I put a little personal note in letting them know how they know me, why I know them, or why I’d like to connect with them.

I think this is a common courtesy.

You don’t just walk up to a stranger on the bus and say I’d like access to personal information about you, just because. That’s kind of what you are doing when you request someone’s friendship on facebook with out explaining why.

However sometimes I just go ahead and accept people’s friendships as I did recently. At the beginning of the day a request came in from someone who knew 4 other people I did..... By the end of the day this person was friends with 30 people I knew.

And already I’d received an annoying gaming request, something equivalent to Farmville.

So I decided to do some dissecting. I sent a private message.

So XXXXX, today you sent me a friend request, and I refrained from asking why? I often do wonder why people randomly send friend requests to total strangers with no explanation.

Throughout the day you've gone from knowing 4 other people I know to now 30.....all I can tell from your profile is that you like playing games on fb...and in fact sent me some kind of game request....(which by the way I don't play online games on fb)

Just trying to understand the point of your amassing of friends on fb. Would love some insight. I find it interesting and would love to get a little idea about it.

The only reply: The more friends on FB, the more to share gaming with. I take it you don't play games.

Okay to me that’s just annoying then, you just want to play anonymous games with people, really that's why you are randomly asking to be friends? So I sent the following reply.

No actually I don't game, and the interesting thing is, that as I see the people you've friended, half of them are busy business people, or social media and marketing people that I suspect do not have the time to game on fb either, and about a quarter of them are businesses that also don't play games online. So I'm curious how you choose whom you are going to send friend requests to.

(Please know that all these questions are just so that I can understand the logic and perhaps write a blog post about it)

I'm a firm believer in using facebook as a social networking tool for business and that's why I sometimes accept the friend requests of people I don't know.

Do you think you'd be more likely to get people that will be of the same mindset you are for using facebook if you were to put in the friend request field that you are interested in gaming and if they are too then you'd like to be friends?

Just curious?

And the reply.... a typed: no reply, please don't reply back.

Oh I'm sorry I think I hurt the gamers feelings with a logical question. I don't think my question was rude, and after all, the dialogue was opened when the request was sent from the other side. If I'm going to be bombarded with game requests, I will return in kind by bombarding with questions to understand this human's reasoning. Was I prying into this person’s privacy with my questions? Was questioning their reasons wrong?

Why do you request a stranger’s friendship on facebook? And do you think it’s necessary or even desirable to tell people why you want to be friends? Really just like with the gamer, I'm curious.

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November: Two Powerful Days of Reflection

In November there are two very powerful days of reflection. One just passed, Veterans Day. And one coming up in 10 more days. Thanksgiving. The following video drives home some powerful points to reflect on for both.

These are secular holidays. These are days that effect all Americans and have so much to do with how we came to survive in this land, and how we continue to do so thanks to those who make sacrifices for our freedoms.

Thanksgiving is a no brain-er. It's gotten enough marketing over the years that it's a household event in every home across the nation. Most everyone has a turkey to celebrate, gets together with family, and talks about giving thanks for the important things in life.

I can honestly say that until recent years, Veterans Day didn't have as much of an impact on me.

As a kid it was one more day off of school. That was cool! And as a young adult it probably passed often without any ceremony or moment of reflection. No more days off, a lot less PR, and most importantly I think I, like so many Americans, was so removed from Veterans that it didn't have a direct influence on my life. I was very distanced from anyone who served and I didn't realize the full ramifications of what veterans have gone through, and how they've impacted my life and my freedoms.

My own personal epiphany happened about 5 years ago.

I never had much direct contact with anyone in the military until I met Chris, and his amazing family with a long history of serving in the military, for our freedoms. A member of his family has served in just about every war we've gone through to create the freedoms that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving. And that many take for granted. I'm reminded every day of the sacrifices that our veterans go through when I see Chris dressed in his uniform every morning.

When I hear about the hardships his friends are dealing with away from families, newborns, wives and lives as they head off to Iraq and Afghanistan, it reminds me that they are doing this for me. And for people like me.

Until meeting Chris this never effected me, but often I'll see men and woman in uniform and I get a lump in my throat. Because now I know better. Now I am aware.

Being with Chris over the past 5 years has been an awakening of understanding and compassion toward our troops and what they go through. The following video from Ex-Con's Thanksgiving apology to the troops drives home the point that not everyone immediately realizes where our freedom comes from or what it means to have men and women sacrifice for us on a daily basis.

But when we have that epiphany it can be a powerful moment. It can be a turning point for some and a way to look into ourselves and ask, "What kind of difference can I make? Many people out there are sacrificing for me, doing something for me. What can I do to give back?"

This is worth a watch. What are you thankful for? Do you see places in your life where you already give back to others like the soldiers do for us? Is there more that you'd like to do?

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Ya Gotta have A Plan: Goal Setting and Business Planning

To expand on my last blog post about creating a vision, the end of the year is always a good time to examine goal setting techniques, business planning, and creative visualization.

This is true both for our personal lives and for our business lives. And the techniques are surprisingly the same.

There are a couple of key points to include when creating business and personal goals for yourself. This is part of the road map to get from where you are, to where you want to be.

On a personal level, you can't just say I want to be 40 pounds lighter by the end of next year and then "Throw positive energy up in the world" and hope things will change. Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE proponent of positive energy!

The same thing goes for business planning. You can't just say, "I wanna be a billionaire, so fricken bad." (thanks Travie McCoy) There has to be a plan!

If you've read past posts from me, you know that one of my strongest beliefs is that positive energy creates positive thoughts, positive thoughts create positive ideas, positive ideas create positive actions, and positive actions create positive results.

But look at that formula. There are several steps past just positive energy and becoming a billionaire or skinny. You need to progress through all those steps in order to achieve that goal. In order to get to the end goal it's important to spend time developing a road map: a plan. There needs to be a directed flow of that positive energy.

So we all know with the weight loss example above you can't just simply put positive energy into the universe and change your body. You need to create the road map for success. First create the framework of the plan that will lead to success. Those elements may include.
  • Getting off my butt and exercising more
  • Eating healthier
  • Drinking more water
  • Gauging the effects of what I'm doing and making adjustments (Weighing and measuring yourself)
Okay so now you've jotted down a list of things you have to do in order to achieve that weight loss goal. Does it stop there? (I hope your answer is no)

Those are the thoughts: Now you need the ideas. How am I going to get there....

Getting off my butt and exercising.... Will one day a week make a difference? Will 3 days a week make a difference. And even more important if you jump right in to a 6 day a week workout will you loose your steam before winning the race? What do you need in order to move forward with this plan?
  • You could join a gym and go to classes 3-5 days a week
  • Commit to 30 minutes a day of walking (outside or on a treadmill)
  • Dust off the exercise videos and get up early 3 days a week and put on your spandex
I'm sure there are many more ideas to achieve this goal that you can add to the list.

This may just be the beginning stages of fleshing out our plan. These examples may be followed by....for the first 60 days to start forming better habits, then I will add more. By creating the whole plan in your mind and on paper. You begin to solidify that visualization of the idea. The more detailed the plan the more easy it is to follow. And also the more you break it down into manageable steps, the less likely you are to give up on it before reaching the target.

Do the same thing for the next element of making it to your end goal.

Eating healthier and drinking more water. That can be a pretty arbitrary goal. It's important first to identify what it is that you are doing that's not working and then figure out how to change it. So some of the steps to eating healthier may be as follows:

  • Write down what you are eating (Be honest with yourself)
  • Research or find an expert to help look at your current diet
  • Start making adjustments accordingly

Only with the knowledge of what you are doing, can you start to adjust that and make the changes necessary to help change for the better. One of my favorite quotes really hammers this point home.

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." - Anthony Robbins.

Finally it's important to test and measure your results.

If we stick with the weight loss analogy, then it's easy enough, you get on the scale, and you take a tape measure and check things out from time to time. But with any goal setting you need to know when and how to measure results. Do you get on the scale everyday expecting to see change over night. (Some of us do, but it will probably be a frustrating endeavor) Likewise do you only weight yourself once a month? This may not be often enough because you aren't fine tuning those adjustments that may need to be made in your diet and exercise to reach the end goal.

This is always the toughest. The measuring and reporting. The not frustrating yourself if you don't see changes immediately. So in the case of most goal setting, you can, and should, create mini goals. With the weight-loss scenario you can say 1 pound a week, 40 pounds 40 weeks.

If you are trying to get rich you can say one new client per month. (And of course you have to have the plan on how you are going to procure that new client)

This is just one way to take an idea from energy and vision through execution and fruition. But don't forget to add the dedication, the positive intention, and the willpower to do it. You can create plans all day long, but if you are waiting around for someone else to do it for you, or for it just to happen to you, it's likely going to stagnate.

By reading your plan once a day or at the very minimum once a week, and reminding yourself that the intention is to stick to these goals, then you will achieve your vision. Whether it's achieving weight loss, increasing your client base, becoming a billionaire, or even becoming famous, have a clear cut path to get from point A to point Z.

Notice I didn't say point A to point B. All too often people jump from the idea to the end without putting those important building blocks in place to create the solid foundation necessary to reach their goals.

The secret to success is taking the time to identify those critical building blocks, and to put them in an order of priority. It will only make the plan stronger and more complete in the end. Remember, the more detailed you can be in the visualization, the more likely you will be to achieve that goal.

What is your goal?

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Don't Know If You Noticed But.....

I took about a month off of blogging, and clammed up on tweeting as well. I'm not going to lie, the bluesfest took a lot of energy out of me. Doing it all was exhausting and I've taken the last month to regroup.

The Bluesfest went from vision to reality because I set a goal for myself to do it, and then progressed through the process of visualizing it, and creating it. While it was an amazing experience it was a huge learning curve and needed a lot of positive energy and focus in order to make it happen. I am pleased with the outcome. We had 350 people come out for the event, we grossed over $14,500 and fun was had by all....other than locking my keys in the trunk of my car at the end of the day I was very happy with the culmination of my vision, and I am moving forward to make this an annual event.

After the event was over, I pulled back, regrouped with my current clients to make sure I was putting forth the effort they deserved, and I've also taken on several new clients. Since the art of lead management is a time consuming process I allowed social media to fall by the wayside a bit. I needed to find a way to get some balance. It was a bit of a social media break....other than facebook, but even there I wasn't my usual chatty self for the past month.

There have been a lot of stresses, both work related and home. Some of that stress has been released with the success of the first annual Blue Gypsy Bluesfest, and the fact that we've finally re-rented our home in Norfolk.

Now I'm getting back into the swing of things, and beginning to set some goals as 2011 approaches.

I've got a lot of new things going on besides new clients going into the new year. They should make for some good lessons learned. And some interesting things to write about. Some of the highlights are:
  • I've started to create Wordpress websites for small businesses, on small budgets
  • I'm working on starting up a non-profit to do fund raising events for charities
  • I've taken over a Meet Up: The Woodbridge Ladies Get Up and Get Out Meetup
  • I'm doing some marketing and branding for small businesses, on small budgets
These are just a few of the things I'm adding to my plate for the coming 2011. With these new projects and ideas, new goals are being formulated.

Here are a couple of great goal setting exercises I used to teach teens and I think it's pretty effective:
  • Visualize in detail your goal
  • Write it down on a slip of paper that will fit in your wallet in as much detail as possible
  • Make another copy of it and put it on your mirror
  • Read your goal to yourself once a day and envision what it will feel like when you achieve your goal
This is not just goal setting but utilizing creative visualization to achieve your goals. But now here's the harder part. You can't just think about it and visualize it, you have to put positive energy and actions behind that goal or it becomes only a wish.

With energy and effort you will reach your goals. Getting toward the end of the year it always becomes a great time to think about the upcoming goals for the next. Start thinking! Start doing!

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