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My awesome husband Tony and I have been asked a lot lately why we decided to open not one, but two stores… in “dead” downtown Chambersburg, PA of all places. This question is typically posed by people who haven’t been downtown in over 10 years and who still hold the opinion that nobody in their right mind would ever want to open a new business in our downtown area. And the fact is, I personally have always hated downtowns. The one-way streets, the parking, the lack of good restaurants… I was someone who complained any time a business event forced me to venture into the downtown… of any town I’ve ever lived in.

Until now.

One fundamental thing changed in my life that made me embrace our own downtown area. It wasn’t that I discovered a love of parallel parking I never knew I had (yes, that was sarcasm). It wasn’t the fascination I have for the beautiful alleyways and seating areas that grace the spaces between downtown buildings. The fundamental change was… ME. I decided I’d had enough moaning and complaining from myself that there’s “nothing to do” in Chambersburg or that downtown has a stigma of being run down and unsafe. In fact, I decided that unless I tried to do something about it, I gave up my right to complain. I made a choice to change my perspective. And in that choice, I embraced the power to help bring the change.

Tony and I spend a lot of time brainstorming how we can make our town better. In fact, we spent our first wedding anniversary taking photos of various areas downtown and studying other nearby downtowns; even interviewing people to ask them what they loved about their downtown areas. We frequently brainstorm ideas for our existing businesses, new businesses we want to open, thoughts for committees we’re involved in, and even huge projects beyond our current means that we’d love to see come to fruition in our town. And beyond brainstorming, we’ve decided to do something about it. We’ve joined the committees. We’ve opened two stores. And we’ve decided that unless we’re willing to DO something about the “lack” of what our town has to offer, we give up our right to complain about the way things currently are.

The fact is, there have been some awesome people working extremely hard for years, against the grain of naysayers and has-beens who either want things to stay the way they “always have been” or aren’t willing to do what it takes to secure the money for massive, necessary change. And even swimming upstream in this raging river of negativity, they’ve made progress. Some may perceive this progress as small, yet without it, we wouldn’t have such an amazing foundation prepared for growth. As even more forward-thinking people with vision buy up the buildings, renovate and encourage business owners like ourselves to invest in the future of the town, the foundation they have painstakingly laid over the last several years has become the solid, stable ground for those of us with vision to build upon.

The purest definition of insanity is to do things the same way and expect a different result. And this is what the “naysayers” and “has-beens” have been doing. The same thing… Yet in the next breath they complain that “downtown is dead” or “downtown has nothing to offer.” I would love the chance to take one of these people by the hand and escort them around the town I have adopted as my own, and show them not only what has already been accomplished, but help them envision the amazingly bright future I know our town can have.

I think differently in part because I’m not from around here. In fact, I’m not really from anywhere. I’ve never had a home town, so I don’t have any frame of reference for what a downtown should be like. And sure, I may get flack for that. Yet it also means I don’t know how, nor do I bother, to necessarily play by “the rules.” In many cases, I don’t even know what the rules are. What I do know is, I chose to be here. And I choose to invest my time, money and energy into helping make downtown Chambersburg the incredible experience I know it can be. I choose to call Chambersburg, a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, HOME. And because of that choice, I take ownership of the power I personally hold to help change the way others may perceive downtown to be. And because my husband, I, and several of our business friends are taking massive action toward positive growth, I personally will not allow those who refuse to take any action the right to complain about it in front of me.

A long time ago Tony and I discovered the secret to creating what we want. And that was the realization that in any situation, we have the choice to complain about the way things are and the problems we see or be a part of the solution. CHOICE is such a powerful thing! We’ve chosen to be a part of the solution. In my opinion, until the complainers are willing to get off their “better-than-thou” horses and put their time, energy, and money where their mouths are to make this potentially amazing little town a must-stop-at destination, they hold no rights to complain about the way things are or the people they think “should” be doing something. It could be as simple as supporting downtown shop owners or as complex as buying and renovating a building. It’s all about making the CHOICE.

It’s time for those with vision to take a stand for our town. It’s time for us to band together and not only see the potential, but also do everything in our power to make that potential a reality. Will it take time? Yes. Will it take money? For sure. Resources? Absolutely. Tenacity? Yep. Change? YES. My question to those in resistance is, has there been anything worthwhile in your life that did not take any time, money, resources, tenacity, or require change? I bet the answer to that is, “No.”

It’s time for our community to get off their complaints and do something. Get involved. Join with those of us who believe in downtown. Attend the events put on by our awesome Downtown Business Council. (There are a lot of them and they are tons of fun!) Support your local shops… DOWNTOWN. Take a walk around the square and appreciate the beauty of the fountain and the relaxation of the benches in front of the historic courthouse. Check out the town’s fascinating history at the Heritage Center. Get an amazingly tasty crepe at Brussel’s Cafe. Stop in for a new-to-you read at Northwood Books. Appreciate the murals and artwork created by talented local artists scattered around various building walls. Grab a cup of coffee at C&C. Head to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and get your fresh veggies for the week (and kombucha from UnDone!). Stop by Olympia Candy Kitchen and pick up some chocolate for that special someone (or yourself). Grab unique gifts for an amazing woman in your life at The Gift Enclosure or celebrate that meaningful occasion with something that sparkles from Ludwig’s or Gartenberg Jewelry. Check out the unusual and creative art at The Foundry and The Garage. Dress yourself for success with tailored apparel from Lyons & Company or a complete ensemble at Here’s Looking at You. Put on the finishing touches with Merle Norman Cosmetics. See a show at Capital Theatre. Get medicinal teas for what ails you from Gardens by Grace. Pick up that last-minute birthday gift for that one-of-a-kind kiddo at Toy Box Gifts & Wonder. Try a tasty stuffed avocado at Square1. Stop by Gypsie for something never before seen and surprise the person who “has everything.” Take a selfie in front of the Stargate or Hogwarts inside Nerdvana Outpost. Grab dinner at Bistro 71 or check out a new restaurant further down Main St. Downtown has so much to offer… when was the last time you ventured on an adventure of discovery?

Because we downtown merchants are banding together, doing something, taking action to make our town a fun, safe place to hang out, shop, and eat. And if you’re sick of complaining about how things “have been” and are ready to join forces with those who are working hard to make the town awesome, take a risk and jump into a committee… get involved… open a restaurant or store of your own. Buy a building, renovate it, and create something amazing. If I’ve learned anything in my dozen+ years of successful business, I’ve learned that with great risk comes great reward. And only by putting a STOP to the complaining and taking action can positive change actually occur.

I’m the outsider. And I’m called to be a catalyst… one, I hope, of many. We are the ones to light the passionate fire of change. The ones to bring influencers together to create something awesome, instead of settling for how things have been with struggling to “just get by.” It’s time for a powerful, blazing mindset shift. It’s time to see the beauty that is our town, to embrace it and all its potential, and to empower it to become something amazing. This town has been rebuilt from ashes twice. It’s time to make that extensive amount of work worth the vision of those whose blood, sweat, and tears rebuilt it! Not just for your kids or grandkids, but also for YOU. I implore you to give up your “right” to complain and come be a part of the solution!

P.S. If you’re not located in or near Chambersburg, what can you do to be a part of the solution for your town?

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*Warning: This post contains some grown-up language and might make you angry. In fact, I hope it does. I hope you get so mad at yourself that you take action and start valuing the gifts you’ve been given, who you are, and the purpose for which you’ve been placed on this Earth.*

(Disclaimer: I’m all for helping someone pro-bono if you feel led to do so. I do it often myself. In this post I’m talking about giving in to those who say they can’t afford to pay you anything or just want to “pick your brain” over coffee… not those you feel deep in your heart that you should serve.)

***

I felt like a really mean person the first time I ever said, “No, I won’t ‘have coffee’ with you” to someone who wanted to meet up to “pick my brain…” especially when she accused me of being selfish for wanting to keep my knowledge to myself and said, “Well now that’s not very nice.” (Her exact words were “that’s not very Christlike” to which I really wanted to respond, “Funny because I’m not Christ” but I digress…)

I answered her with, “It’s interesting you’d say that, as I feel it wouldn’t be very nice of your boss to refuse your paycheck after you did several hours’ worth of work for him, and yet this is exactly what you’re requesting of me.”

She stopped. Stared. Wasn’t sure how to respond or what to say. So I, sick of being asked this same question a dozen times in that month and having the big mouth that I have kept going:

“You really think I came to know what I know for free and therefore I should just give it away to anyone who asks out of the goodness of my heart? Let me enlighten you to some truth. I invest an average of $20,000 per year on my education. This includes hiring coaches, consultants, attending conferences, investing in trainings, and more. And you… you think sooooo much of yourself that you’re entitled to all that money I’ve invested over the years for the price of a cup of coffee? Call me when you’re ready to take yourself, your business, and my expertise seriously.”

That made her really mad. She huffed and puffed, said how she was going to tell everyone about me and make my business super successful (I was already earning almost six figures at the time) and how now she was going to tell people I’m “too hard to work with.” I’d just told her she felt entitled, which no human I’ve ever met will readily admit to being even if they act like it, and that basically she was an ungrateful bitch just wanting to take advantage of me and my “kindness.” OK, so maybe I really did think that. But here’s the thing…

I am SO FREAKING TIRED of people thinking they can pick YOUR brain for FREE. I mean, who do they think they are, to deny your family the right to eat? Because THAT is what it comes down to… they think they’re soooooo worth your time that they expect you to give up your knowledge, your expertise, and your financial investment in yourself just to “help them out,” and that if you “help” them they’ll shout from the rooftops how awesome you are and your business will just blow… up.

SORRY CHARLIE, that’s NOT how this works.

Because no matter how much they say they’ll tell others about you and what you do, they’re literally just trying to find a way to pick your pocket. And the more you let people pick your pocket, the less income YOU will have, which if you really think about it can come down to the food on your family’s table. And do you really think they’re going to follow your guidance and advice if they have no skin in the game? Do you really think they’re going to make progress and see dramatic life change if they’re too lazy to pony up anything to pay you even remotely what you’re worth?

And don’t even get me started on those folks that expect you to do work for them or coach them, then say, “I promise to pay you when some money comes in.”

IT. WILL. NEVER. EVER. EVER. HAPPEN.

Why won’t it happen? First, because you’ll probably feel guilty asking for the money… But primarily…

Because people with this mindset are cheap ass vultures, that’s why! I don’t care how nice and sincere they seem. I don’t care if they don’t come across as a victim at first… if they say “I can’t afford” and then launch into a sob story about “all my bills,” that IS playing the victim. They’re looking for you to give them a handout. If they’re asking to pick your brain or have coffee or whatever just to get your feedback on their situation, business decisions, life, or say they’ll pay you later for a job they want you to do, they are vultures. They’re only out to pick pick pick at you until there’s nothing left of you to give those who do value your time enough to pay for it. And once they’re through with you they’ll find someone else to pick at.

What happens when YOU have nothing left to give because they’ve picked you clean? What happens when you see their name pop up on your screen and you immediately feel that sinking pit in your stomach because you’ve started to resent giving in to them? What happens when you give to them so much they start expecting more and more of your time and you feel obligated to give it, even if you don’t have it left to give?

How can you even help them if the entire time you’re resenting them?

Here’s a little factoid: People will always find the money for something they want. ALWAYS. Just look at the cars they drive. Or the stuff in their house. The phones they use. The jewelry they wear. The extra curricular activities they enroll their kids in. The FACT is if they want it bad enough, they will find a way to pay for it. Always.

Just ask the couple I used to be friends with on Facebook who would post photos of their dinners out at high end restaurants (mostly nice steak houses) every day, then suddenly they posted a plea to their friends to help them pay their electric bill because it was going to be shut off. They somehow found $700/week to eat out for several months on end, but couldn’t find a few hundred dollars to pay their electric bill? I unfriended them as soon as I saw a photo of their baby girl with the text, “Help! We don’t want the lights to turn off for our baby girl.” Next thing you know their sob story worked, their electric bill got paid, and they went right back to posting fancy steak dinners again.

PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS FIND THE MONEY FOR WHAT THEY WANT. They just have to want it bad enough.

Now let’s shift the discussion a bit… WHY are you even considering giving away what you do or your talents for free?

Here’s why…

Because YOU haven’t woken up to how much YOU are worth. You see your own gifts as cheap at best, or even worthless. You take your own talents for granted so much that you’re projecting that onto all those people who keep asking to “do coffee” with you… and attracting more of them.

Once you stop looking in the mirror and seeing your SELF as cheap, stop taking your unique talents for granted, and recognize the AWESOMENESS and WORTHINESS staring back at you, you’ll carry yourself differently. People will stop asking you for coffee and start asking how they can work with you. You’ll stop attracting those who just want to pick your brain and start attracting those who ask how they can pay you for your program or service.

This transition is as much about you as it is about your response to them. You will always have a heart to help others. And that’s totally fine. You SHOULD want to help others. It’s even OK to do some pro bono work every now and then. But QUIT acting like a damn CHARITY. You are in business. Unless you’re a registered 501c3, business means for profit. Money isn’t evil and neither is expecting people to pay you what you’re worth. After all, food, clothes and all the basic necessities of life cost money. So when people ask you to work for free, what they’re really asking is for you to run around hungry and naked so they can eat and be clothed.

If what I just wrote doesn’t make you start to think differently, how about a little guilt trip… If you get into a habit of working for free just because you really want to help people, who’s going to feed YOUR kids? How are YOU going to provide for YOUR family? And what happens after you invest all of this time into people and they still don’t take any action on their own, and they stay in the same place they were when you started helping them? Is it helping or is it enabling?

Wake up. Take ownership of your own awesome. Charge what you’re worth. Don’t compromise. Expect potential clients to put some of their own skin in the game. Quit going out for coffee and set boundaries with your conversations. VALUE YOU and what you have to offer enough to charge for it.

Once they have some skin in the game (i.e. pay you actual money), take action, and your service or advice changes their lives, then they will shout from the rooftops how amazing you are. And THEN you’ll have a REAL business and have the ability to make an even bigger difference in your world!

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Kristen Joy's Blog by Kristen Joy - 4M ago

NOTE: If you’re an adult that was bullied as a child… this story is for you. I understand, and I hold you virtually through your self-discovery of your own greatness.

***

She sat at the kitchen table staring at the object in front of her. The ivory white handle, polished to a shine. The silvery blade glistened as it reflected the ceiling light. Darkness, much like the darkness of her heart, spread out from the edges of the table beyond… seemingly to infinity. A tear slid down her cheek as she thought about what she was about to do.

Months of terror passed through her mind. A whirlwind of thoughts and regrets flooded through her entire body as she shook. The tears fell faster.

“Why did we even move here?” She asked herself. “Don’t they know this was the worst decision they have ever made?” She asked of her parents.

The ultra-sharp chef’s knife gleamed in front of her. Her mom was always good about keeping her prized knives sharp. The girl’s eyes ran down the blade and marveled at its craftsmanship. It would hurt, yes. But she’d read enough books to know the faster and deeper the cut, the shorter the pain would be before… darkness… the end… hopefully peace… unless…

She had been warned. Heavily warned. What she was about to do was the most selfish thing anyone could do, which meant an instant trip to Hell. No passing “Go,” no collecting $200, just straight to the depths of fiery pits and damnation… forever. She had decided this was a risk she was willing to take. Her fingers wrapped around that smooth handle as she thought about why this was worth doing.

She was smarter than most of the other kids. This wasn’t ego, it was just a fact. She easily got better grades and qualified for honor’s programs without even trying. Yet she was denied entrance to those programs because, well, she was told it was because her family didn’t have the money to buy her way in. She watched those who walked down to collect their rose, pin, and certificate for the elite program and tried to smile and be happy for them. Those who made worse grades than her and didn’t even qualify for the program, yet bought their way in. It was unfair, but she tried to be happy for them regardless. Deep inside she seethed in anger.

Then there was the band director, the only person in the entire school that seemed to like her. She was a musical prodigy, and he got her out of the most despised of all classes—Health—to play in his upper grade band. It was a time she relished, being away from her hateful classmates who would tip over her desk, poison the class pet with her markers, steal her homework, deface her books, and blame her for it all. That one time each day was her brief respite from the evils that surrounded her. And as soon as it was over, she was vulnerable to the abuse once again. Shaking, she tried to hide in the bathroom as long as possible, but even that wasn’t a long-term solution to stay safe.

The principle’s office became her haven. At first she thought she was constantly in trouble for the things the others did, as she was called there several times per week and made to wait in front of the secretary’s desk. She learned to bring a book to read, as she realized after the first few visits she may be waiting a long, long time (or what seemed like a long time to her 12-year-old mind). Finally one day she asked the principle why she kept having to spend so much time in his office. The secretary’s eyes shifted and she nervously said something about filing and left the room. He looked at me and said, “It’s for your own safety and I’ll leave it at that.” She would find out later about the death threats they found…

Which brought her mind to two of the most recent events… the pool party and the fire. She remembered being underwater, which was nothing new to her. Growing up near the ocean, her mom often called her “my little fish” as the water became her second home. Then there was the feeling of hands on her, which she dismissed as being bumped into by the other kids in her class. She looked up through the water and saw a shadow of adult legs walking by and realized she needed to breathe. She couldn’t push her way to the surface. The shadow legs paused, and right when she started feeling nervous, whatever was holding her down was lifted. She wouldn’t find out until she was grown and spoke to one of those very kids that those hands were intentionally holding her down, attempting to drown her… and those shadow legs saved her life. Yet somehow as she let the vivid memory play back, she did know.

The fire was the last straw. It had just happened. The police and fire department came out and said it was probably her fault that the shed caught fire. One more feather in the cap of her wrongs… Thankfully they were home and the fire department got there in time to put it out. They said if they had waited ten more minutes, the fire would have engulfed the house, as it had already begun to melt the siding. She shook in fear. If her mom had not woken up and seen the weird light outside their bedroom window, they would all probably be dead. Again, her fault… But then she and her parents discovered evidence of arson in the light of day. Just one more in a long line of attempts to end her life. Yet nobody believed the attempts were real, or that kids really wanted to harm her, because what kids would do that? “They’re just kids being kids.” In their minds, they’d be bullies… maybe. The kind that would call her names, “bump into” her desk hard enough to make it “accidentally” fall over… maybe. But murder? No way.

The knife gleamed in front of her. Clearly it wasn’t worth fighting anymore. Everyone she knew wanted her dead, so why not grant their wish? The sharpness of the knife taunted her… reminded her how much she hated needles. “This will be much, much worse,” it said. “You can’t go through with it because you’re a coward,” the voice in her head whined.

Slowly she pressed the knife against her left wrist, imagined it dragging across… imagined the mess her parents would find… imagined the relief the town would feel that the bane of their existence was gone… and fear of pain overwhelmed her. She slowly stood up, walked to the knife box, put it back, and walked zombie-like back to her room where she sat on her bed for the next who-knows-how-long staring at her hands. The tears fell. She wasn’t strong enough. She was exactly who they thought she was. Pathetic.

That moment haunted her for the next 26 years. Not because of what she had been about to do, but because of the cowardice of not being able to follow through with it, even in the tiniest attempt. The fear of failure, pain and, well, to be honest… Hell, kept her from acting that day. And for the next 26 years, deep down inside, she saw herself as an utter and complete failure for not being brave enough to even try to take her own life. Which somehow made her a failure at everything.

Until now.

Her life actually turned out to be pretty awesome. Through ups and downs along the way, she paved her own path as an entrepreneur through the tangled brush of traditional jobs. She married the man of her dreams, who supported all her crazy ideas, and they began to build an incredible life together. She got involved in her community, found her place and finally found home. Her voice got stronger as she sat down with that little, scared girl sitting at the table caressing the shiny blade of that knife and told her that she was amazing, would touch thousands of lives, and had to live. She held that little girl and they both cried through the pain, the grief, and the realization that it wasn’t cowardice that made the girl put the knife back after all…

It was bravery.

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I feel like I’ve been crying practically nonstop for the past 16 hours. The tears started with anger, frustration, and mega doses of fear. Now as they slowly cascade down my cheeks to splash on my keyboard while I write this, they’re tears of relief, gratitude, and dare I even go there… maybe joy?

For you to understand the depth of my past few hours, I have to go back to 2003. My ex-husband and I were asked to help a man start a publishing company. The “boss” was highly successful and wanted to get in on the ground level of this new technology called “print on demand”. Not knowing anything about publishing at the time, but having always loved books and writing, I agreed to help start the company. I quit my corporate temp job and threw myself head first into this brand new world.

Fast-forward about nine months and I was managing well over a dozen authors, stretching my new marketing muscles, and suddenly we stopped getting paid. He told us he had a job with his primary business that fell through and he would catch us up on pay the next week.

The next week came and went. He left the country for a business trip… and the first month of no pay passed by. At this time we started scrounging, quite literally, for food. We were already in the process of building a house and suddenly found our savings quickly depleted. We immediately started looking for other work.

Five resumes went out each day. Then ten. Then fifteen… and the rejections poured in. I heard statements like, “You’re overqualified because you have a college degree.” And, “I’m sorry, but we’re just not looking for someone like you right now.” In the meantime with nothing else to do, we kept working to build the man’s publishing company, in the hopes that he’d use the money we brought in to pay us.

Three months of no pay, hundreds of resumes and a hell of a lot of desperation later, we finally decided to quit and start our own business. The “boss” told us that paying his mother’s $3,000/month mortgage was more important to him than making sure we had money for groceries, and then he threatened to sue us if we started our own publishing company, even though we never signed a non-compete agreement. I remember getting in his face and screaming, “Go ahead, you’ve already taken everything from us, what else could you take? Our debt? Go for it—I QUIT!”

After we left and started our own company, some of the former authors (who weren’t getting any answers to their phone calls) tracked us down online and we agreed to re-publish their books for them as long as we re-designed everything so it was fully under our label, at our expense… Then the old “boss” threatened to sue us again for “stealing” his clients. I determined to be a success in spite of his antics.

Meanwhile, our school loans were still in deferment, we used credit cards and checks from credit card companies to pay all our bills in our new house, and thus began a long, hard year and a half. We only ate because my mom bought our groceries each week. The internet and electric was only paid because we used credit card debt. And when we met with a financial counseling service, they said we were doing everything we could and there was no help… or hope… they could give us.

It was then that I swore an oath that if I ever had employees or contractors, I’d never be late paying them. In fact, when I did finally get another supplemental job, in my interview I told my boss-to-be that if she was one day late I’d walk out the door and she’d never hear from me again. There was one time in the couple of years I worked for her that she was going to be late on pay, only because the book keeper was on vacation… so she hand-wrote me a check. I then swore to be like her when I became a boss.

Fast-forward to today and my husband Tony and I have three very successful businesses… and I discovered even successful businesses aren’t immune from mistakes. Last night a $9,500 “mistake” that was no fault of mine sent my world into a spiral. In-between phone calls to multiple banks to figure out what happened and how to fix it, I found myself on the floor in front of my desk in a full-fledged panic attack… the kind I haven’t had in almost two years. I was finally facing my deepest fear

While I used to suffer from chronic anxiety (more on this in another post), I’d just started to feel a turn… a shift… almost a lift-off for my businesses. Yet there was this little voice telling me to pay attention to an emotion that kept creeping up, usually accompanied by the thought, “I will never be like him.”

Did you know that if you focus so hard on not being like someone or doing something, you’ll practically will it into existence?

And that’s exactly what happened. It took a $9,500 “mistake” for me to wake up and listen to that voice. To realize that no business was immune to the same mistakes that he made. I realized my focus on not being “him” didn’t keep those mistakes from making me just like him. He didn’t start out malicious. He started out with an honest mistake, and didn’t have the foundation of integrity to do the right thing, then took advantage of us when he saw we’d stay on and work for free.

I thought I’d forgiven him. Thought I’d moved on, built an awesome new life, and was ready to see all my dreams fulfilled. Yet in the back of my mind this one nagging thought said, “This is going to ruin you if you don’t pay attention. You will lose everything you’ve built and worked hard to achieve.”

So after a chat with my coach, my best friend, and a very very long talk with my incredible, supportive husband, I allowed those tears of fear and anger to dissolve into tears of realization and gratitude.

So to you, the man that screwed me over all those years ago, THANK YOU. If I could go back to my younger self and tell her how what YOU did set her on the path to the most incredible life she could ever have dreamed of, I would.

To the person that made the $9,500 “mistake”, THANK YOU. If it weren’t for you, I may have self-sabotaged myself right out of my biggest dreams. Because of what you did, my stubborn self finally listened to the fear and anger I had buried so deep inside me… and faced it head on.

You may have huge dreams and goals and wonder why you just can’t get closer to achieving them. You may also have that little voice creep up every so often and give you whispers, hints of something you think is entirely un-related to your dreams. My wish for you in reading this post is that you listen to that voice before it becomes a 2×4 covered in nails swung into your head. And if you had a heart breaking experience or tragedy in your life, look back at it and ask, “How did this circumstance contribute to who I am today?” You may be as surprised as I was at the connection you find.

The man who didn’t pay me for three months forced me onto a solid path of entrepreneurship. It’s because of him that The Book Ninja exists. If he hadn’t set me on this path, I wouldn’t have made over $1.5 million in the publishing niche in just the past few years. I wouldn’t be starting other businesses like our toy store(s), using the knowledge I gained from the ground up building The Book Ninja. I wouldn’t be providing jobs to families. I wouldn’t have helped thousands of authors’ dreams come true. I wouldn’t have built a solid foundation to launch my new brand, The Business Ninja. Frankly, I wouldn’t be the success I am today if that man had continued to pay me on time and kept me employed.

I can finally say with confidence that I am grateful for what he did to me. It’s taken me 15 years to see it, and due to who it made me today, I wouldn’t change a thing. Now I can finally heal, put aside this part of my own self-sabotage, and build something amazing. And I give you permission to do whatever it takes, even cry like a baby for a full day, to heal and build your own amazing life.

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Since I was four years old I’ve wanted to be a pilot. I still remember my first “solo flight” when I visited grandparents… and the Captain gave me my first set of wings. Of course, you can’t fly alone as easily as I did back then, but it was too late anyway… the flight bug bit me.

Several years ago I met a special lady in an elevator… I had no idea who she was, just that she was carrying one of the coolest Snoopy bags I’d ever seen. I complimented her on it… and when we walked into the room of the event I was attending everyone stood up and applauded. I tried to hide my embarrassment that I had no idea who she was… and I’m pretty sure she thought it was cute in that I didn’t bother to try to be anyone except myself around her, even after the room cheered and I discovered it was Jeannie Schulz the window of “Sparky”, Charles Schulz.

To be honest, I mostly ignored her speech about Peanuts and all things Sparky. It was when she talked about being a pilot that my ears perked up. After the event I waited for the swarms of people begging for books to be signed to die down before I approached her. I told her how I’d always wanted to be a pilot, and started to grill her with questions. She lit up like a siren on the car of an over-anxious police officer finally getting to chase someone after a long day of sitting on the side of the road watching passers-by. It was then I realized, everyone had asked about Sparky. Everything was about him, and Peanuts. And all I cared about was this woman who flew… and who I later found out also took trapeze lessons.

We stayed in touch over the years and every quarter she sends me her copy of the women’s pilot club magazine, Ninety-Nines once she’s read it. I’ve read some, skimmed most, and kept all of them (along with all her fun, hand-written personal notes) After a year or so I got the chance to take a Diamond DA20-C1 up for a spin. Not realizing it until later, I actually did the take-off solo… and the instructor beside me said I was “a natural” as we practically buzzed the Sears Tower (with permission) and flew over Navy Pier in Chicago.

That was it, if I wasn’t bit so bad before, now my skin crawled with flight bugs. I just had. To. Learn. How. To. Fly. I began researching flight schools, and at the time my business was just starting to take off… and it was never enough. So I put the dream off for a while… always there in the back of my mind.

Fast-forward about five years and my business became ultra successful, I married the ultimate man of my dreams, we started several more businesses together… and within the past year I fell into a big mindset trap. I started to tell myself, “either or”. Either I could hire another employee or I could set aside money for flight lessons. Either I could pay the contractors to build the addition on our house or I could save for flying lessons. Either I could buy inventory for our new toy store or I could start taking flight lessons.

It got to the point that I started pushing fear of flying on myself in order to talk myself out of my dream. I got nervous when I flew commercially across the country. The tiniest bit of turbulence would result in my heart racing and me grasping for my husband’s hand (if he was there) even though I knew the science behind turbulence. And I started to tell myself, “There’s no way you’ll ever learn to fly, it’s too scary.”

This morning the “ah-ha” hit me like a ton of bricks. I was afraid to fly, afraid to take lessons, thought it was too complicated or too hard, all because I wanted an “out” from my dream. I wanted a good excuse so when my friend Jeannie asked me why I haven’t started lessons yet, I’d have a good reason. A really good reason rooted in fear… and cloaked in the guise of survival.

And the “either or” mindset led to look at every bill, every exchange and every new business decision (especially any that cost money) as costing me… my DREAM.

OUCH!

This morning for the first time in over a year I asked myself, “So why can’t I have BOTH? Why is this an ‘either or’ scenario? What’s so bad about achieving ALL my dreams, no matter what those dreams are?” And this afternoon I unexpectedly got the next edition of Ninety-Nines in the mail, along with an update letter from Jeannie accompanied by her signature hand-written note, and I broke down in tears. Talk about perfect timing. Here was this woman I considered a friend, and I didn’t even know she had recently lost the house she and Sparky shared since 1980 in the Sonoma County fires. This woman who still looked at the bright side of everything, the side of “I not only CAN have it all, I DO have it all.” This woman who believed in my dream enough to keep sending me this magazine when I haven’t written her in almost a year… after her home burned to the ground.

Inspired by her, I logged onto Google and started searching for the closest flight schools. I found one that looked promising, and discovered the investment through them was half what I expected to pay for my license. And they had a flexible option for busy business owners to get this… achieve their dreams of flight. I don’t know how it will happen or even where the money will come from when there are so many other things going on right now demanding a piece of my bank account… but what I do know is, however it happens, it WILL happen. The dream has re-awakened.

If you have a dream you’ve let die, or one you’ve shoved under a rug in a hole in the floor somewhere hoping to forget, pull it out, dust it off, and ask yourself, “What is my first step?” Maybe it’s doing a simple Google search. Maybe it’s hiring a business consultant like me to help you get started. Maybe it’s grabbing that domain name for a related product idea. Whatever it is, take action and do it.

Tell me in the comments what your dream is.

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Ever since this article was published about Amazon laying off 58 workers at their North Charleston self-publishing services, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen authors panicking all over social media.

And before you freak out, let me ask you one question… Would it really be smart of a major company, whose foundation has always been books, to amputate one of their legs that their company stands on?

In case your eyes are huge and you’ve started to hyperventilate, the answer to that question is NO.

No company in their right mind would do that! Now, would a company choose to get back to their roots, because one division they opened later isn’t earning the profit they hoped it would?

Absolutely!

And that’s exactly what Amazon is doing. In case you’ve been living under a rock and still don’t realize this, Amazon owns CreateSpace. Back in the day they bought a little book printer called Booksurge, revamped that entire company under the new brand of CreateSpace, fixed some serious quality control issues, then added self-publishing services as the demand for professional editors, cover designers, and the like increased.

Then all of a sudden “independent publishers” (aka: vanity/self-publishing service providers, etc.) popped up everywhere, giving CreateSpace and other big author service providers a literal run for their money. And it seems like now, CreateSpace has finally had enough of dwindling profits, and they’ve gotten smart and decided to go back to their roots of offering book printing services.

This means you can still print your book with CreateSpace!

This means CreateSpace is NOT closing and NOT going out of business! (Yet…)

This means you don’t have to freak out anymore! (YAY!)

CreateSpace makes a lot of money off authors. And it still remains to be seen if they will eventually blend with the new “KDP Print” program… which is a topic for another post.

For now, rest assured that your book is safe, you can still print with CreateSpace, and you can still easily use their portal to get your book on Amazon.

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In Part 2 of this series last week we looked at what some of the most powerful Jedi Masters in the Star Wars universe had to say and how it relates to you as a writer. In this final installment, we’re going to dig deep into some of the lessons I’ve learned writing my own books… including a quote from our all-time favorite “villain” Darth Vader. Enjoy this final installment in this series!

9. You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting. ~ Shmi Skywalker

Human nature may never change, but human interest does. The topics you read and enjoyed 20 years ago aren’t the same as the ones you read and enjoy now. If you’re a writer of non-fiction, it’s especially important to be aware of current trends, new discoveries, and different perspectives.

For example, the subject of food will always be a topic of interest to people; but the kinds of foods that should go into a healthy diet can change based on new research and studies. The importance of possessing good communication skills is timeless; however the means through which we communicate advances along with technology.

So, if you want your book or blog to be relevant to readers five years from now, make sure your content is “evergreen”—not subject to change. On the other hand, there’s definitely a niche for writing that covers current trends, events, and views; and if you’re interested in covering popular topics, you have to stay on top of change and deliver in a timely fashion.

10. Who’s the more foolish; the fool, or the fool who follows him? ~ Obi~Wan

Do your research. Take the time to vet your sources of information, whether you’re getting online advice or training for becoming a successful author or you’re pulling quotes off the internet for your newest blogpost. To have credibility as an author, you must ensure your sources are credible and accurate. What are the credentials of the person you’re quoting? What kind of studies and research are you referencing, and where and when were they done?

To be successful as an author, make sure you are following the advice of people who are already successful in the field. What is their track record? How many books do they have published? Do they get good reviews? Are there reliable testimonials for their training courses?

There’s a lot of great resources out there to help you in your writing endeavors; but there’s a ton of crap out there too. Know the difference!

11. I’m rather embarrassed, General Solo, but it appears that you are to be the main course at a banquet in my honor. ~ C3PO

And sometimes things don’t quite turn out the way you expect. Maybe you didn’t follow all the steps that should have been followed when you published your book. Suddenly you’re getting bad reviews on Amazon because of bad Kindle formatting, or—because you didn’t want to spend the money on professional proofreading services—there’s 14 glaring errors on the first two pages alone. Now, instead of accolades, instead of being the “guest of honor,” you’re being roasted by the critics.

One thing we cannot change is the past. Okay, so you messed up. Remember the thing about your focus becoming your reality? If you beat yourself over the head with your mistakes, you’ll never get anywhere. Take the focus off what you did wrong, put your energy into correcting it, and then move forward. Even professionals flub up at times, and maybe even achieved the status of “expert” because they learned from their mistakes, made the necessary changes, and kept on going.

12. Someday I will be the most powerful Jedi ever. ~ Anakin Skywalker

Great, kid! Don’t get cocky. ~ Han Solo

In time, with practice and persistence, you might become the most powerful author or Authorpreneur ever. And if not the most powerful, then ranked among the best. That’s great! Just keep in mind that “success” can be powerfully intoxicating, and if you’re not careful it has the potential to take you from hero to zero in a hurry.

Quick! Off the top of your head, can you name any authors, musicians, or actors who were “one hit wonders?” Someone whose book, song, or movie became a best-seller and then no one ever heard from them again? What happened? Where did they go? If I thought long enough and hard enough I could come up with a few names, I’m sure. But for the most part their names elude us because they stopped producing. Maybe they thought they could ride on their success indefinitely—we’ll never know.

We can learn a great deal from this: if you want to continue being successful, you have to keep producing. Fans won’t stay fans forever, and readers will move on to other authors if you don’t keep fresh content coming.

13. I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan… The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master. ~ Darth Vader

You’ve arrived. Congratulations! You’ve got a few hundred (or thousand) followers on your blog. You’ve published 11 books and 18 journals, and have dozens of good-to-excellent reviews. You’ve been a guest on several podcasts. Now think of the possibilities.

If this is just where you want to be, that’s great! But if you want to take your career or business to another level, consider teaching others. You’ve established the credibility, now you’re in a position to make a difference. Share your knowledge and expertise in whatever subject you’ve been writing about.  Continue to learn and grow and touch the lives of those around you and of those you may never meet. True Jedi masters never keep “The Force” to themselves; they turn it outward for the good of all.

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In my last post (Part 1 of this series), I took a look at four famous quotes from our most beloved franchise, mostly having to do with belief in yourself, starting small, and not underestimating the power of beginning. Now we’re going to look at a few quotes by one of our favorite characters, Yoda… probably the wisest of all in the Star Wars universe… and some of the other wise Jedi Masters.

5. Do. Or do not. There is no try. ~ Yoda

Part of your success as an author or Authorpreneur is determined by your mindset. If you go into something always “leaving the back door open,” you’ve already told yourself that you’ll probably fail. Think of it this way; if the love of your life proposed to you by saying, “Well, let’s try this marriage thing for a month and see what happens,” would you enthusiastically say yes? Or what if you asked your sweetheart to marry you and she responded by saying, “Sure! We’ll give it a go for six months and then decide if we want to continue”?

There’s this little itty-bitty thing called commitment, and its essential to your success in business as well as in marriage. Do things always work out? Is success guaranteed? No. But if your mindset is non-committal right from the get-go, your chances for success drop dramatically.

6. “Fear is the path to the dark side.” ~ Yoda

Are you afraid you might not succeed, that people won’t like your writing, books, products, or services? Are you worried they might not like YOU? What if your beta readers (the friends and family members you recruited) offer so many suggestions on what to change that the wind is taken out of your sails? What if you get a less-than-stellar review? What if you just don’t have what it takes (whatever that is)?

YIKES! You MUST get past your fear or else you’ll be caught in a never-ending spiral of self-doubt, discouragement, and failure. Choose to be courageous. Courage is not the opposite of fear; courage is doing what needs to be done in spite of your fears.So what if your mother-in-law hates your book! Smile, thank her for the input, and shrug it off. So what if your story doesn’t place in the national writing contest you entered. So what if you get a 1-star review that seems to take on a life of its own among the two dozen great reviews you got.

Having your ideas turned down or challenged by other people doesn’t determine your worth, creativity, or ability. It could mean a lot of things. Yes, it could mean your writing needs more polish (and take that into consideration). But it could also mean that you pitched it to the wrong audience, or the literary critics are looking for an established name or a different perspective. Don’t let fear keep you from “doing” your dream.

7. Be mindful of your thoughts Anakin. They’ll betray you. ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi

People really are the sum of their thoughts. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between fact and fantasy when it comes to self-talk. What you say about yourself becomes the truth. So people who say, “I can’t” are just as correct as are people who say “I can.” Therefore, if you say you’re not creative, then you’re right. You’re not. Until you start believing it. If you keep reinforcing the idea that you’re “always a day late and a dollar short,” your subconscious mind will act on those beliefs.

Obviously, saying “I am a millionaire” 18 times a day won’t make it so. But telling yourself, “I have everything I need to be happy. I have abundance,” and then focusing on the talents, abilities, and blessings that you DO have will get you out of a “scarcity” mindset quicker than anything else!

8. Remember: Your focus determines your reality. ~ Qui-Gon Jinn

This goes right along with #7 above. Can I take a moment to be blunt? Do you want to be a published author, a successful entrepreneur, an achiever? Then start acting like one. Get your focus off your mistakes and shortcomings and put it on what you are doing right. The only moment you have within your grasp is the one right here, right now. So forget about all the wasted time and missed opportunities, and change things from here on out. Decide that you are a GONNABE, not a wannbe. It will make all the difference in the world.

Get ready to explore even more ways to become a Writing Jedi Master in Part Three!

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