city of Montreal

When You Don’t Speak the Language

My husband and I recently vacationed in Montreal for a week. You may know Montreal is a bilingual city, where residents speak both French and English. But make no mistake about it, their first language is French.

Signage around the city is primarily in French. Conversations happening around you are in French. The restaurant menus are in French. (Many also have an English version, but you have to ask for it.)

Montreal may very well be the most European city in North America. Which is why many tourists from other parts of North America choose to visit. It’s a much shorter flight to Montreal than it is to Amsterdam or Paris or Brussels – only an hour and a half on a direct flight from Washington, DC. And if you love road trips, you could even drive there.

Not surprisingly, my high school level French was a bit rusty. However, I felt good that I could still understand some words and phrases. Oh yes, that says, “please wait to be seated”!

It was all fun and games for the first five days. Then we started getting tired. Averaging 17,000 steps a day trekking from one end of the city to the other will do that to you.

It occurred to me as we were exploring one of the underground malls, upon leaving a book store where every single book and calendar and decorative object with a phrase was in French. This reminds me of my semester abroad. I lived in a city where the first language was not English. My friends and I traveled around to other cities, where again, the primary language spoken was not English. It was unexpectedly and incredibly refreshing to finally arrive in London and hear English spoken and see street signs you didn’t have to slowly and consciously translate in your head.

networking outsider foreigner It wasn’t just physical tiredness. There’s a mental tiredness that comes with immersion in a foreign culture.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, there’s a similar tiredness you can feel from putting yourself in business or networking situations where you aren’t comfortable. After attending two or three networking events where you stand around feeling lost and wondering how to “speak the language,” you’ll experience that same sense of outsiderness.

If that’s the case, why on Earth would you put yourself in such a situation? There is exactly the question my husband asked when I shared the recollection about those study abroad months.

Because that’s how you grow. It’s good to put yourself in uncomfortable places and experience different cultures. Sure, it’s often difficult. But just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth it!

If you’re building a business or a career, your ability to network is crucial to your success. You don’t have the luxury of staying in your warm, safe cocoon for very long before you start seeing ugly consequences.

I get why you’d so desperately want to though! It’s much more comfortable to stay home and browse #scaramucci on Twitter.  You’re at least guaranteed a few laughs.

The good news is there are always steps you can take to make the experience a little less stressful. Baby steps. Start with learning at least the basics of the language. Whether it’s French vocabulary or where to put your name tag when you’re at an industry association luncheon. With a bit of fundamental training, you’ll feel a tad less inadequate. The more you practice, the better you become.

Pretty soon, you’ll feel empowered by that Berlitz training or Zen Rabbit Quick Start Program and you’ll travel to foreign countries or show up to networking events ready to converse fluently.

Hope you found something of interest or value in this article! If you’re considering transforming yourself into someone who is fluent in business networking, let’s chat for a few minutes. It’s easy to schedule a time with me through my calendar here:

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Making Up The Truth

Have you ever come to a conclusion about something – decided on a truth – that wasn’t true? You later found out you made it all up in your head?

attending networking eventsOver the weekend, I made a delicious butternut squash soup. My husband was in the middle of working on something, so I brought some over and just offered him a taste. Later in the evening, I asked him if he’d eaten any soup. He said he thought I made it for some reason other than for us to eat. Um, what? Why would I be making it if not for us to eat?

I didn’t say not to eat it. Somehow he concluded that because I’d only given him a taste from my bowl and not delivered unto him his own bowl, this soup must not be for him. Sometimes making up stories in your head serves you and sometimes it doesn’t. Are you making up truths and assigning meanings that aren’t even remotely accurate?

Recently I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic,” which I highly recommend! In it, she telattending networking eventsls about an encounter she had at a book signing for her best-selling “Eat Pray Love.” A woman came up to her and thanked her for writing the book. She said she could really relate to the part where Liz talked about her abusive husband and the book gave her the courage to leave her abusive marriage as well. Liz was stunned because nowhere in her story did she say her husband had been abusive. There hadn’t actually ever been any abuse in her relationship at all. But somehow this reader “saw” a part of the story that didn’t exist. As it turned out, the woman’s made up story served her well and led her to leave a dangerous situation.

Are you seeing things that aren’t there?

Many times however, we see things that aren’t there, take action based on those assumptions and those made up stories don’t serve us.

Several years ago, when I was running Zen Rabbit Baking Company, I was looking for a contract bakery to make the Gratitude Cookies for me. I spent months researching and calling every bakery in the state of Florida, to no avail. I believed my baking partner had to be in the same state where I was. There wasn’t really any logical reason for this belief; it’s just what I assumed to be true. Once I changed my perspective and opened the door to believing something different, a mutual contact introduced me to the perfect baker in West Virginia.

What do you tell yourself about your business that may or may not be true? What stories are you making up about going to networking events, about talking to people you don’t know, about what other people might think? And what would happen if you simply made up new stories – stories that work more in your favor?

What if you created a different story?

Maybe you could feel more comfortable starting conversations with new people if you believed they have been waiting to talk to you for weeks. Ok, they didn’t necessarily know they wanted to talk with you until they actually meet you, but once you get into a conversation, they realize you have information they’ve been needing. I don’t know what info that is. Maybe you don’t either, right away. But you can still see yourself as an important messenger.

And your job at this event is to strategically and intuitively seek out the people who either have info for you or you for them. Yes, I said intuitively because intuition (or guidance from a higher power) can play an important role here.  It leads you to someone you didn’t know you needed to meet.

attending networking eventsThink for a minute. Have you ever been at a party and gotten into a conversation that delivered exactly the message you needed at that moment? Or met someone who became an important person in your life through a chance encounter? These crazy wonderful meetings can only happen when you’re in the “right” place. So you have to put yourself in the places or circumstances where they can happen. They do not occur when you’re just sitting on your couch watching cat videos.

Back to the original premise of making up meanings. Can you change the meaning you assign to attending networking events and make them less intimidating and more fun? If you need help with this endeavor, schedule a 15-minute “Let’s Chat” call with me and let’s see if I can be of service.

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But Why?

Scampi the cat

Like most parents, my mom endured and answered a million questions from her curious child. I wanted to know as much as I could about things that interested me so I could make sense of my world. Why do I have to practice piano? If a train is going from Pittsburgh to Denver at 80 mph, why does it matter how long it takes the train going from Miami to Boston? Why is it not okay to feed the cat the apple cinnamon oatmeal I don’t want? (She LIKED oatmeal!)

At my first job after college, my new boss was challenged by all my questions. She saw them as a test of her authority. But really, my questions were – mostly – genuinely about learning. Why do you do registration this way? What if we organized the newsletter like this? Wouldn’t it be better to send the mailings on Mondays?

As you get older, you tend to stop asking questions. You think you already know all the answers. Or you don’t want to do the work to find out the answers. Or you don’t want to know the answers. Those are pretty much the top three reasons you stop asking. Unfortunately, that’s also why you stop learning important information that can not only help make sense of your world, but also make your world better.

Start Asking WHY Again

Why are you working at THIS job, or providing THIS service to your clients today? Is it because you LOVE what you’re doing? If it is, then ROCK ON! You are one of an elite group. More than likely though, you’re doing what you’re doing for some other reason. What is that reason?

No doubt, you’ve heard the “life is short” refrain a million times. And you get it, intellectually. Yeah, wow, Prince was only 57! Holy crap, George Michael was only 53! Maybe it hits home a little more when it’s your mom or a close friend who passes. But when do you get to the point of really taking action? When do you stop wasting hours on Facebook, stop driving an hour a day to a job that’s not fulfilling, stop hating yourself for skipping the gym in favor of kale chips and Cabernet on the couch watching “Dancing with the Stars?” And start asking the questions that get you closer to your bliss?

A New Year

Ask the right questions in the new yearIt’s almost New Year’s Day and lots of people are talking about setting goals and making changes. Breathe deep. Ah, the fresh scent of a new year! Oh, but wait, the 2nd is still kind of a holiday. I’ll start on the 3rd. Oh, but then it’s my birthday. I’ll start on the 8th. Ack, then it’s MLK Day, the Inauguration, Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and so on.

The truth is you can decide to change any day of the year. Pick a day and start! And if for whatever reason, you’ve got to start over again three days later, then start over three days later. Keep starting until you get past starting. You gotta be bad before you can get better. So at first, focus on being bad. Gradually you can move up to “not so bad” and “not as bad as I was when I started.”

Inspired by my friend Tracy, I started a new weight training program in early July. Tracy came to my gym and showed me all the exercises she was doing and made sure I was using good form. For hip thrusts (which are great for the booty), she loaded the bar with 120 pounds. “Ok, start with that,” she suggested. Um, no I don’t think so, Ms. Universe. Help me, I can’t move this bar! The most I could do was 80.

Over the past six months, I’ve only gotten up to 100. Tracy is doing 215! So while I’m not able to go as heavy as Tracy, I can at least say, “well, I’m not as bad as I was when I started.”

Ask the right questions in the new yearBack to my point of asking questions and getting yourself to doing something you love. WHY are you providing this service? If you’re a financial adviser, is it because you love helping clients reach financial freedom? Or because you don’t know what else to do with your life? If you’re a leadership coach, is it because you love seeing your clients unlock their potential and reach new levels in their careers? Or is it because corporations will pay you big bucks to come in and work with their people?

Why are you living your life this way?

Whatever thought you JUST had, right there, in response to that question, that is NOT why. Yeah, yeah. We all need to make money to pay the bills. But that is your excuse. Your rationale. That is not why. Try again. This time let the real answer come out. If your answer is not some variation of “I’m afraid,” “I don’t know how to change it,” or “I’m not sure what I’d rather do,” you’re not being real.

How would you rather live? Keep asking questions and keep digging for your answers. You don’t have to climb an entire 25,600 step stairway all at once. Just take the first step. Keep going tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Eventually, you’ll uncover and learn a few things, you’ll get to your real and useful answers.

Is this a wishful thinking exercise? Not if you want your life to have meaning, to feel worthwhile, to feel fulfilling. You want your world to make sense? Stop settling for what you have and allow yourself to have more.

Life IS short

My theory is that when we get to the last moment, no matter if you’re 15, 53 or 105, you’ll look back and it’ll all seem like one big, long day that went by really quickly. I want to have made an impact, for my life to have counted for something. If you want the same, what questions are you going to ask to get yourself there?

If you’re already on the path of providing a service you’re excited about, but are challenged by the ability to create and develop relationships with potential clients and referral sources, check out The Quick Start Program. Learn how to find the right people, start productive conversations and maintain ongoing channels of communication.