My Favorite Things About Spring

I decided I wanted to write a post about my favorite things about Spring because I feel like as I’ve gotten older I’ve despised Spring for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Allergies – I never had this problem growing up, unlike my brother Chris who suffered horribly growing up. But as an adult, holy crap it’s awful. It seems the only thing that works for me is Flonase, and even that I can only do every other day because it gives me nose bleeds. I mean, it’s a beautiful time of year but it wreaks havoc on my allergies.
  2. The weather is unpredictable – rain one day, 75 degrees another, 45 degree mornings and then 70 degrees mid-day. I know, I know, dress in layers…but come on!

So, those are a couple of things I don’t like about Spring, BUT there are many more great things than bad so I thought I’d round them up.

  1. Though the weather is crazy and unpredictable, when we do have those 75 degree days, and almost warm evenings it’s a hint of summer nights to come and it always gives me a nostalgic feeling of summer evenings when I was a teenager.
  2. Some of my favorite holidays are during the Spring and Summer. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, mom’s birthday, countless friends have birthdays during these months as well – it’s just a time to celebrate others.
  3. Travel! I seem to travel more during these Spring and early Summer months. It’s a good time to get out of town and hangout by a pool.
  4. Mani and pedi colors move into those bright happy colors (at least for me), not so much of the purple, black and reds, but bright and light pinks, and pedicures are more frequent ūüôā
  5. Concerts! I’m a huge music lover and it’s the time that music festivals, and summer tours are beginning to launch. This year, just like last, I will kick-off summer with the BottleRock Music Festival in Napa over memorial weekend.
  6. That’s the other thing! 3-day weekends! We go from having a ton of time off during the holidays to just trudging through the workdays and weeks. The warmer months introduce 3-day weekends a plenty.
  7. Your skin warms up and if you’re like me, so does your hair! I’m pretty fair complexion, and as I get older and freak out about being in the sun, I am gradually whiter and whiter every winter (hahah) but the natural warmth your skin color takes on during the warmer months is always nice, and naturally my highlights grow a little brighter too.
  8. It’s lighter out longer! Does anyone else agree that it should always be light out until 7pm? I mean, it just lightens everyone’s mood! Though, don’t get me wrong, I feel like it takes me 3 months to get used to losing an hour, but it’s worth it!
  9. There are baby animals everywhere! Little baby birds, baby squirrels – it’s the cutest and how can you not appreciate Spring for that one thing alone?
  10. Everything is green! If you get enough rain – which we hadn’t in many years – but have in the last couple, then you have a tiny bit of time to enjoy rolling green hills before they quickly turn brown during the summer months. It’s not long, but it’s enjoyable while it’s here.
  11. No more being sick! I mean, a spring or summer cold is still common, but bye bye flu season and all that other nasty stuff that is floating around during the winter months.
  12. Windows can stay open all day and night! I have to admit, I’m one of those people who will leave my windows open even just a crack until I can barely stand the cold any longer, so when you can leave them open all day and night for that spring/summer fresh air it’s amazing!
  13. Outside activities…and I don’t mean running, biking etc. outside, I mean one of my favorite outdoor activities which is wine tasting. I live very close to wine country that I think only locals know about (Livermore Valley), and it is one of my favorite things to do. Granted, I will go wine tasting whether it’s storming rain or not, but it’s so nice to pack a lunch and sit on the grass in the sunshine, drink your wine and visit with friends and family. Day drinking anyone?
  14. BASEBALL! I’m a huge Oakland Athletics fan (you read that right, I live in the Bay Area and I am NOT a Giants fan, it’s all about how you’re raised right?) Anyway, Spring indicates that baseball is back and whether you’re heading to Spring training in Florida or Arizona (which I’ve done many times), it means opening day is around the corner, and there is nothing more relaxing to me then sitting in the ballpark on a mild evening or a warm spring day and watching some good old baseball, drinking a beer and eating a hot dog.
  15. It’s wedding and baby season! I have to admit, this is the first year in a long time that I don’t have a wedding to attend this spring, but there’s plenty of babies being born! I guess that’s how it works, right? Weddings galore in your twenties, and then booth the babies start like 5-10 years later. Either way, it’s a reason to see friends and again, celebrate!

What are some of your favorite things about Spring? I’d love to read them!

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Self-Care – What is it and what does it mean?

What is self-care? With all of things I go through, work frustration or relationship sadness or frustration, I find comfort in self-care. I have even suggested it as a way to cope with a break-up to some of my friends. It really makes a difference. For me though, the definition of self-care is taking that time to pamper yourself – get your nails done, an extra long pedicure, or a massage. For some people, that may just be part of their regular self-care routine and it isn’t extraordinary and therefore might not make them feel better, which prompted me to think about other aspects of self-care. I broke it down into physical, emotional, personal, social, spiritual, and practical self-care. I will caution this by saying, I am no expert, these are just my opinions on how you can take care of yourself when you’re not really feeling like yourself.

Physical self-care

This encompasses your basic physical needs. Sometimes, if I’m angry, going for a run is the only thing that will make me feel better. Maybe my mind is running around in circles and I’m overthinking something (shocking!), and yoga is the best way to re-center myself and clear my mind and chakras.¬† Pampering your body and just simply doing what feels good is part of physical self-care as well. Does a massage help you relax and work things out in your head? Or maybe help you not think about anything at all? For me, when I have a multi-day migraine a massage is the only thing that can clear it up.¬† Having a pedicure that is like the deluxe edition – hot oil etc. – will often be my go-to when I’m not feeling so great. Identify what works for you and have no hesitation in taking those steps to make yourself feel better!

Emotional self-care

This is identifying the best way to process emotions in a healthy way, figuring out what your good coping mechanisms are. Does meditation help you? There are so many great guided meditations on YouTube. I highly recommend exploring that option, not only will it help you think about something else, but these meditations will guide you back to the right train of though in case your thoughts go astray – which is likely to happen while meditating. Spirituality is also a good way to process emotions in a healthy way – if that is something you believe in and practice. Also, don’t be afraid to feel your feelings…just don’t live there for too long. I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with a really good ugly cry. But have it, be in it, and then wipe your tears and say, “that felt great, but I can’t live here.” If another way of coping emotionally is seeing your therapist or calling a friend who is just a great listener, then by all means confide in those people as well!

Personal self-care

Some activities in the personal self-care area can be getting to know yourself in a different way. After a really bad break-up, I decided that I needed to shed some relationship weight so I got a trainer, signed up for a half marathon and discovered a new part of me who really enjoyed going to the gym, and wasn’t intimidated to grab weights and workout on the gym floor with others. It really helped me get out of my funk and begin the path forward. Trying new things – so I haven’t necessarily been a “cook,” and my mom would make fun of me in high school and college because I basically had no desire to cook – so who would want to marry me?! Anyway, with the introduction of at-home delivery of fresh produce and recipes I have discovered how much I enjoy cooking. It’s something I look forward to, and is very satisfying in the end. I’m one of those people who love to follow instructions and have an end product, so BlueApron is a great new thing that I’ve tried and enjoyed. Spending time alone is another personal self-care option. For some people this might be a bad idea, but if you have children or are involved with your family a lot, have a really busy social life, spending some time alone might be just the thing you need to reset and recharge. Making time for hobbies you enjoy is another personal self-care item that I think is often thrown off to the side. If you love to write (like me!) or draw, paint, read etc., then do it and make time for it! It really is a therapeutic task. Last but not least, have goals for yourself. Especially if they can directly relate back to self-care. Are your finances stressing you out? Set a goal to set aside something simple like 5 bucks a week. It will help feel like you’re making progress.

Social self-care

For some people this might not work. But, not getting enough social interaction is also a bad thing. I have realized how important social self-care is now that I work from home about 95% of the time. Even if it’s just getting out to run to the bank, it’s good! But in the same token, social interaction can be a little toxic with some people and that’s where having really good boundaries is important. I’ve talked about my issues with drawing boundaries in past blog posts, and I still struggle with it, but ensuring that someone isn’t going to drag you down with them, or impact how you feel personally is so very important. Create those boundaries and hold them to it – it is good for YOU!

Spiritual self-care

I talked a tiny little bit about this when we were discussing coping mechanisms, but if you are spiritual it’s important to take self-care in that area as well. If you’re confused about your beliefs, take the time to really figure it out. Read books about spirituality and prayer. I have found that many of the fellow bloggers that I follow frequently share books they are reading on prayer or their beliefs, or some of their bible study groups, so that is a way to engage in spiritual self-care.

Practical self-care

So this is doing things that are practical, but very much impactful. Getting your finances in order, completing chores…I feel so accomplished when I do really mundane things like vacuum the stairs, or clean the bathroom. For the short period of time it takes to complete those tasks, you can enjoy the result for multiple days. Of course, something else that lands under practical self-care is to set healthy work boundaries. Now that I work from home I have moments where I think – wow I haven’t stepped outside in 10 hours. If healthy work boundaries means stepping outside to go for a walk and clear your head, or checking your last email at 6 pm and not again until the next morning, then amen to you because that is a very practical self-care thing to do – and something I need to practice myself. Healthy work boundaries is also an area I struggled with in the past. Sometimes it’s hard when you become close friends with the people you work with to identify where your boundaries are – so take some time to really think about it and see what works for you and you work relationships.

I wanted to write this blog post, as I mentioned before, because I truly think self-care is important. As I began to write about it and search around a bit. I found that there were multiple ways to self-care, so I hope that by my sharing this you are inspired to start treating yourself to some self-care. Likewise, I hope that it reinforces the importance of continuing to treat yourself with the utmost care and consideration.

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FabFitFun Spring Box Review

I believe this is my sixth FabFitFun box. It’s $49.99 per quarter and you receive full-sized samples. I absolutely love it. I also receive a monthly BirchBox, but those are really just sample sized, so the flip side of this is if you really like something you got in your FabtFitFun box, the good news is you have the full sized product…the bad news is if you don’t like something then you’re either stuck with it, or on the flip side you can give it to a friend who might want or like it – which I have done in the past. I don’t have to keep it and figure out what to do with it if I don’t need it – I can give it as a gift to someone else who might love it.

Dove exfoliating body polish

I generally like Dove products. I’ve been using Dove deodorant for as long as I can remember – it’s the only thing that doesn’t irritate the skin under my arms. And, I think I would use more Dove products if I was a bigger fan of the way they smelled. I don’t think they smell bad per say, but I think it just doesn’t agree with me. Anyway, clearly that’s just me being a weirdo, but I wanted to definitely give the Dove exfoliating body polish a chance. Plus, anything to exfoliate my skin while we are in full on winter/spring things are blooming, etc. stage of the season. Couple of things: 1. The packaging was deceiving. FabFitFun is almost always full sized products – not sample size. So when I ripped open the packaging I was surprised to find that the packaging on the front – which looked like a cream jar – was a farce! I opened the back up to find a foil wrap to open next. I peeled that back and voila there was the product. So needless to say, I quickly realized I was going to need to use the entire thing in one shot (there was no way to securely close it after I opened it). 2. It is very grainy feeling. You know when you have the body washes or face wash that have the beads in them? Yeah, that’s what this felt like texture-wise. I’m not generally a fan of that, and I know that it is possible to have exfoliating cream that goes on smoothly (I use the skin exfoliate from European Wax Center). So, I had to make sure that any that hadn’t gone down the drain, or had ended up on the shower wall somehow was additionally rinsed because I could feel the exfoliating beads on the floor of the shower.

OK – enough about the packaging and how it felt. If I didn’t have those two gripes, oh and the smell (so basically change the whole thing! Hah just kidding) I would say it was a good product. My skin did noticeably feel softer when I got out of the shower, having done what I’m sure it was supposed to. I will also say that having an exfoliate that you can use in the shower makes for a lot of convenience (the one I use from European Wax Center you can only use on dry skin – however you can see a NOTICEABLE difference in that you are actually pulling up the dead skin – gross, I know). Anyway, if you’re looking for something that exfoliates pretty well and that you can use in the shower – and you don’t have all the other weird gripes I have – then I say go for it. I will personally not be purchasing that product.

57 Physique Massage Roller

This roller massage is a dream! My nieces think it’s hysterical and fun to use as well, but I really do enjoy it. I’ve been on a bit of workout hiatus but I’m looking forward to putting it to good use a day or two after a hard workout to workout some of soreness I always feel. Another great thing is that FabFitFun also includes a little newspaper/magazine that explains how to use the products in your box, which means for the massage roller they outlined a number of ways to massage specific parts of your body. Definitely need to file that one away!

Dermelect Cosmeceuticals Makeover

If I’m being totally honest, I probably won’t use for a long time. I get my nails done like clock work every 2-3 weeks, and I usually get gel manicures. However, there are times where I take a break (I think it’s good to take a break every once in a while and give your nails some time to air out), so when I’m taking that time I’ll explore using the dermelect cosmeceutical makeover. When I do I’ll let you know what I think!

Anderson Lilley Sunset Collection Candle: No 15 Fresh Linen Candle

I LOVE having candles in every room so when I saw there was a candle in my FabFitFun I was really excited to check it out. For me, a good candle smells clean and/or fresh (not like food or drinks bleh), and lasts a while! I will burn a candle all day long if I’m going to be in that room that long, so as you can imagine that means if it’s a bad candle it will burn very fast – which is frustrating. As a tip, I usually get my candles at HomeGoods, TJ-Maxx, or Marshalls – you can find HUGE candles that smell heavenly for under 15 bucks! And most importantly, they always seem to last a very long time – which makes me happy.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit here. So, this candle smells SO good. It also came in this adorable brass colored tin container which I will have to figure out how to reuse at some point, and most importantly I have been able to burn this candle for several hours with minimum burnout. I’m excited to have this candle hang around for a while!

Free People Eye Mask

I took this with me while I was in Austin, Texas for work. I figured this would be the perfect place to use it with all the traveling and the reprocessed air that I would be taking in, which for some reason always makes my eyes puffy. It is a vegan leather eye mask that features a removable, non-toxic cooling insert to keep you feeling and looking refreshed. Luckily I had a mini fridge in my room so I was able to get the mask to cool a little bit and use it. I love it and will definitely use it going forward.

Ettika Day Dreamer Tassel Earrings

I’m 100% on the fence about these earrings. I realize that tassel earrings are really trendy right now, but I haven’t quite figured out how to style these. I’ve put them on a few times, but didn’t feel like it worked with my outfit and took them off. I will try again, and maybe it’s something that might look cute with a summer dress or something like that, but we aren’t quite into summer yet, so this will have to wait for a real review.

Rachel Pally Reversible Clutch

I love this purse. I don’t know how FabFitFun does it (I mean, I know I had to fill out a preferences form so they could get to know me and what I like), but I’m always so surprised at just how spot on they get my style. This purse was one of those things. I have loved bird of paradise plant. I just think it is so pretty, and just makes me smile when I see it. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the reversible purse with a tropical pattern that included bird of paradise! Can’t wait to use it once the weather gets a little warmer and it feel more appropriate to carry (SO much rain in Northern California these days – though needed, it’s just been a lot over a couple of weeks).

ISH lip statement pallette 

Well…I did not like this lip selection, unfortunately. I tried every single one of the 12 options and they just didn’t look right with my skin. The lucky person who got their hands on this slightly used lip palette? My 6 year old niece who loves to play dress up. It made her day!

Korres Guava Body Butter

In complete honesty, I absolutely DO NOT need another lotion, BUT I do really like this one. It is a really good hydrating lotion and kept my legs soft all day. Also important to note, it smelled like vacation! What i mean is that it reminded me of Hawaii for some reason, and who doesn’t want that reminder?? Anyway, I recommend it and I’m pretty excited to continue to use every day after I shower.

Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion

I have to say, I really like this facial lotion. I’ve tried thicker lotion, thinner lotion, astringent type facial “lotion” so I was happy to find that this one was somewhere in the perfect middle of not too thick and not too runny. I like it a lot, and in general like Murad products so this was definitely a win-win. How things will go over time while using it, obviously I don’t know yet, but I do like it enough to continue to use it until the bottle is out.

Bando Hot stuff tumbler

So, this item was an add-on. FabFitFun has this great option for subscribers where they open up a time period where you can add-on additional items for a lower price – and this is also the time that you can choose some of your samples! Which I think is a great option as well. Anyway, depending on the time of year – for example at Christmas time I did some add-ons and gave them as Christmas gifts! Or, in cases where I think I may be in need of something and FabFitFun happens to have that item then I’ll add it on! I recently began working from home so the need for just one nice single coffee tumbler had come about. I had been thinking about getting rid of the crummy ones that I had been using every day for the past 10 years and purchasing one cute tumbler that I could use on the days that I was going to be traveling into the office. Queue the Bando hot stuff tumbler!

First impression is that I love the color. Also, it kept my coffee warm for the 45 minute drive I had into the office, also a plus! The only thing, and I think this was most definitely user error, was that I had pushed the lid shut, but didn’t twist the lid. So, the first few sips were spill-free, but then as I got closer to the middle/end of my coffee it started spilling down the front of me. Like I said, user error. Once I realized what I did wrong I haven’t had the same problem again. Bottom line is that I really like the tumbler and will be tossing all my other tumblers in the recyclce bin!

Whish body butter and wash

I just in general love the Whish brand. Their lotions always smell amazing, and a little goes a long way (which is good because Whish is not a cheap brand by any means). This was also an add-on for under $20 and having purchased Whish products in the past I knew that getting the body butter and wash as a bundle for that price was worth it. I’ve only used their lotion or body butter so I was excited to try the body wash. The body wash, along with the body butter, had a very clean scent to it. Not too strong, and not that of floral or sweet…just clean, which I like! The body wash, similarly to their lotions, a little went a long way. The body butter smelled the same as the body wash, and is thick enough that I felt like it was hydrating my skin – especially during these winter months when my skin is extremely dry. Again, a little goes a long way and I like that even though the lotion is thick it absorbed quickly enough that when I put on my leggings I didn’t feel like I was taking any of the lotion off – don’t you hate that? Anyway, I recommend the body butter and wash for sure!

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Dry Shampoo Round Up – My Recommendations

Many of my readers may know that I recently changed companies and my role is now almost strictly working from home, which is great! But what this has also brought to my attention is the need to not wash my hair as frequently as I used to. You may think eeww that’s gross, but in actuality it’s good to not wash your hair every day, and I was guilty of that most of the time. So, now that I’m working from home I find myself – yes showering every day – but not washing my hair as frequently. However, I battle having greasy or dirty looking hair after the end of day two, so I began the hunt for a good dry shampoo. Because I had no clue where to even start, I figured I would go through my endless number of samples I have in my laundry room closet, and wouldn’t you know, I had six dry shampoos to try! And so, it began.

Kevin Murphy – Fresh Hair

I am a Kevin Murphy user in general. It is the brand that the salon I go to carries and so it’s a product I’ve been using for a number of years. I have never been disappointed with a Kevin Murphy product, and I can safely say that I am still very satisfied! I received the dry shampoo as part of a kit – I think I had purchased a wash and rinse and the dry shampoo came with it. Anyway, I love it! Keeps my hair feeling dry and not oily, and was easy to style once I applied the dry shampoo. A plus, it smells fantastic – as does all Kevin Murphy products. I highly recommend it. Here is a link to it if you’d like to learn more:¬†here

Oribe – Gold Lust Dry Shampoo

I am also a huge Oribe fan, and use their dry texturizing spray so I was very excited to see the sample for Gold Lust Dry Shampoo show up in one of my Birchbox orders. I have to say though, I was disappointed. It actually left my hair feeling more oily and¬† dirty. This is something I absolutely cannot have…especially if I already showered and chose not to wash my hair. It could simply have something to do with my hair personally etc., but for me it was a no. I have linked it here in case you’re interested in checking it out yourself.

Living Proof – Perfect Hair Day – Dry Shampoo

I loved this dry shampoo! I had never used Living Proof products – did you know that Target is carrying some of their product now too? Click here to check it out. They don’t carry the dry shampoo yet (I checked), but there are a few products. Anyway, I first saw this used in a tutorial by Brighton Keller.¬†I love her blog and her IG account. I had been interested in exploring dry shampoos so when I saw Brighton’s tutorial on IG I was excited to see what she was using. Turned out she was using Living Proof, Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo! So, you can imagine my excitement when I found that I had it stashed in my box of samples! I loved it! I would say that it is a close tie with Kevin Murphy. It kept my hair feeling clean, not looking oily and smelled fantastic!

R+Co – Death Valley Dry Shampoo

I have to admit I hadn’t really used this product, and I’ve received a number of hair samples in my Birchboxes but hadn’t gotten around to using any of them. So, when I started looking through my box of samples for dry shampoo I was excited to give it a try. It can be found here.¬†So, unfortunately I was not that impressed with this dry shampoo. For one, it was cold when it was applied, and stayed cold for a little bit which I found very strange and didn’t like the way it felt, and if didn’t make my hair feel clean. It smelled great, but didn’t do the job that Living Proof of Kevin Murphy had done. Again, it could just be my type of hair – very fine and prone to getting oily fast – so this is just me, but I will not be purchasing a full-size version of this.

amika – Perk Up Dry Shampoo

Next up was the amika – perk up dry shampoo which can be found here. Smelled great, and didn’t leave my hair looking oily, but it did leave it feeling softer than the Kevin Murphy and Living Proof dry shampoo did, which was off putting to me because super soft often relates to oily for me – especially with such fine hair. Anyway, it didn’t make my hair any oilier than it was, but I also didn’t feel like it kept it from looking that way. I have come to realize that when you spray the dry shampoo on your hair, often it’s best if you can actually see the product on your hair (i.e. sprays on as a white-ish color). I feel like that is a good marker that the dry shampoo will last and keep my hair from looking dirty. Anyway, if you don’t like it when dry shampoo makes your hair feel dry or look dry, then amika is probably for you. My hair felt extremely soft as opposed to a dryer feeling some of the other dry shampoos often give you.

Klorane – Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk

So, this dry shampoo came in my Fab Fit Fun box from I believe the winter box. I loved this (and even have it my hair now on day 3 of no washing). Klorane can be found here. Klorane claims that it’s dry shampoo absorbs oil in 25 seconds flat, and I believe this! Instantly my hair goes from looking dark and oil to refreshed. I love it. My only complaint is that it doesn’t really smell like anything, but for some people that may be desired. It adds a natural tint to your roots that surprisingly matches pretty spot on which I think is why it takes it from looking dirty to fresh and clean.

So, that is my dry shampoo roundup. I hope you found it helpful! I can say with confidence that I will be using Kevin Murphy and Klorane until I run out (they are full size products), and I already used all of the Living Proof sample, so when I’m fresh out of my existing dry shampoo I’ll have to decide which one to purchase. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what you think! I’m only one person, and a person with fine blonde hair so what worked for me may not work for all!

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Book Review Part Two: The Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea

This is part two of my book review of Grace Killelea’s “The Confidence Effect.” If yo haven’t read part one, definitely take some time to read through it. Where we left off was discussing Killelea’s 4Rs of Success. This second installment will discuss her take on understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the Confidence Effect.

We will start with relationships. According to Killelea, the first tool in moving from competence to confidence involves understanding and mastering the power of relationships. This is often an area people think they should navigate alone, but according to Killelea, the fact is that powerful relationships can greatly enhance and accelerate our ladder to success. I know that I keep saying I love the message Killelea is trying to convey, but folks…it’s so true! We often think that the work place is no place for relationships (and I’m not referring to romantic relationships), but legitimate connections with the people you work with. Killelea considers this “the power of relationships.” Our relationships are connected to our networking abilities, which she considers one of the “secret ingredients” to becoming confident to the core.

Many women form fun, lasting, and friendly relationships at work that don’t necessarily contribute to their growth as potential leaders but do promote their physical and emotional well-being. This is healthy and good. It enhances our experience at work. I most definitely can relate to this, and at times to a fault. I have a number of very special relationships I have made at a number of my previous places of work, and while they didn’t all necessarily benefit me in terms of promotion etc., they gave me an emotional sense of worth at work, which at times can be very lacking when it comes to your day-to-day activities and deadlines.¬† According to Killelea, these powerful relationships come in many different forms:

  • The team member who supports, challenges, nurtures, and enlightens you
  • The manager who drives you to excel
  • The peer who supports, encourages, and aids your desire for personal and professional growth
  • The mentor who continually questions and challenges your choices, often with a positive result
  • The people you trust who tell you the truth
  • The leader who inspires you
  • The powerful allies and sponsors who can open doors and provide you with opportunities

I have always been brought up to kill people with kindness…no matter what. I have even been criticized at work for being, “too nice.” But, you know what? People have nice things to say about me. I haven’t been labeled unapproachable or someone who always says “no.” That is extremely important to me, because it better reflects exactly who I am outside of work. Here is one of the main reasons why, because you never know – peers become managers, managers become leaders, and team members get promoted, shifted, downsized, or move on to different organizations or companies. According to Killelea, the larger and more powerful your network, the more dynamic, changing and powerful you become as you grow along with it. And, consequently, the fewer relationships you’ve fostered in and out of the workplace, the fewer resources you’ll be able to draw on in times of need.

The next topic is something I personally experience and believe is so important: mentors, sponsors, advocates, and champions. It’s important to note here that these are not one in the same, but indeed have different roles they play in your life. EVP and COO of Cox Communications, Jill Campbell, insists on the matter of mentors versus sponsors, “People talk a lot about having mentors. I think that’s important. But I think it’s equally important that you have a sponsor. Women tend to think that their work is going to get them there, but they’ve got to figure out somebody in the organization that is going to take notice of them and who says, ‘Wait a minute! What about Jean?'” According to Killelea, identify advocates and develop an authentic relationship with them. The key here for me is the word “authentic.” Don’t choose someone to be your sponsor because he or she is a director or a VP and can help you climb the latter. In actuality, that person probably won’t want to give you five minutes because 1. they are generally very busy people and 2. they will pick up on how un-authentic or authentic you truly are.

I have someone who began as an advocate for me while he was a director, and my boss, and who eventually became my mentor as he moved into a higher leadership level of VP. We established an authentic relationship that to this day means very much to me, and while he advocated and helped me move through my career, once he stepped into a busier and more demanding role he became my mentor and someone I could come to with work-related issues or tough decisions I knew I was going to have to make. He is that person who will ALWAYS give it to me straight. I came to him one day very upset because I had gotten some feedback that I felt was completely erroneous. He put it into perspective for me. While he didn’t agree that the feedback I received was 100% accurate, he did want me to think about it in a way of, “what if a tiny bit of it was true?” Then what? While I was surprised by it, I also understood what he was trying to do. Everyone needs someone like that in their professional life.

Killelea says that advocates are at tables that you are not, and they can open doors for you. They can speak on your behalf, and really fight a battle for you or get in front of you, when you would never have the opportunity or you don’t know the opportunities that exist. An example I have of the importance of an advocate was during a scary time where layoffs were happening. I lost all of my team during that layoff. Only two of us were left standing, and we were reorganized onto other teams. I was also brand new to that team (only about 3 months) so I felt even more vulnerable to losing my job than most. When I realized I was OK and I was staying I had to leave the office to get some air. I had never, and have yet to experience this since, but literally it felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. On my way out of the office to go for a walk around the block, I ran into that person I described above. He asked me if I was OK. I told him yes, but that I had lost all of my team and had been moved to a new team. He told me that when he saw the plan for layoffs the first thing he asked was if “Nikki was going to be OK.” He told me that if I had been on the layoff list he would have figured out a place for me on his team. That meant more to me than anything…especially given the day I had been having. That is an advocate (BTW he was still at the director level – remember, I mentioned that he moved from advocate to mentor for me over time).

Simply put by Killelea, relationships strengthen your network, and in turn, your network strengthens your organizational brand. Remember, all of your workplace behavior reflects on your brand. The stronger your brand, the stronger your confidence level – real and perceived. Killelea says to think of your brand as as the unwritten – but undeniable – “echo” that remains after you leave the room. So, ask yourself:

  • What is left behind for people to remember?
  • What is the impression that remains long after you’re gone?
  • How did you treat people?
  • What did you say?
  • How did you say it?
  • Whom did you say it to?
  • How was it received?

For women especially, how you treat people and how proficient you are in your current role is what really helps determine how strong – or weak – your personal brands may be. Killelea explains that a good place to start building those relationships is also through LinkedIn, which has become such an important platform to have as updated in real time as possible. Killelea also points out that many times women think they’re networking when, in fact, they’re not – so Killelea has a basic definition: IPO: Information, Power and Opportunity.

Information – Networking is first and foremost an information gathering – and giving exercise. If you’re socializing, great, but don’t call it networking. If you come away from a social, business, or marketing event and know nothing more than you did when you arrived, then you’re not networking. Collecting a handful of business cards is not networking.

Power – Power comes from knowledge, which is why all three of the IPO components are so vitally important to your networking activities.

Opportunity – too many women all think that opportunity will magically waltz into their cubicles and whisk them away to the corner office. They believe the world is “fair,” they will be promoted. Fact is, opportunity is waiting to be discovered around every corner, in every new relationship, and at every meeting.

Killelea says that one of the many misconceptions about networking is that it requires a stern, stiff, and well-rehearsed elevator speech with which to introduce or “sell” yourself. When in fact, IPO – information, power and opportunity – is the fuel that jump starts new information and cements new relationships. Be genuine and your authentic self and the rest will follow when it comes to networking, plus you’ll be more comfortable and not feel like you’re selling a version of yourself to someone.

Another section of the book I found useful was about delegation. Working hard is not the answer. For too many women, working hard seems to be the answer to everything, as if by doing everything, all at once, by ourselves, we can prove we’re worthy of that promotion, raise, or corner office. According to Killelea, in having this perspective we may overlook those team and subordinate relationships that can help us achieve more with less. Learning to delegate allows you the space and the time to lift your head among the crush of work to build your brand and network.

Something that strikes me, and I often see happen, and as Killelea points out, as we move into more senior roles, the work should become less tactical (operational) and more strategic (high-level leadership). This is true and all find and good unless you delegate and then quickly step in to micromanage. This happens I think frequently and unconsciously with women, however we have got to let the reins go! A good delegator, does just, delegates, and then if it looks like it’s going south and the person needs some help, then it’s time to step in and help right the situation. Help is the key word there, not yank it from that persons hands and take it over to fix it yourself. Fail fast, but give your team the chance to do it first. According to Killelea, true delegation relies on trust: trusting team members to do the job to your standards even when you’re not there to micromanage them every step of the way.

I could go on and on about how great this book is, but then you wouldn’t have to go read it yourself, so I’ll wrap things up. As I mentioned in my first installment of this review, I had picked the book up at a time where I don’t think I was in the right head space to receive it. I think that books such as Killelea’s really have to come to you at the right time, but I hope that just by reading this blog post you have a good taste of what the book has for you. It helped me think introspectively, as well as take a look at and examine how I may come off to others. I was able to take inventory of where I am now, how I got here and the people who helped me along the way. I encourage you to do yourself a favor and read it for yourself (and take notes), it’s well worth the time!

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Book Review Part One: The Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea

A little over a year ago my former company’s employee resource group brought Grace Killelea to the office to speak with a group of employees during a lunch and learn. She was coming to talk to us about her book, “The Confidence Effect” –¬†Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success.¬†I have to say that she was very motivating and I thought her message was important and spot on, however I don’t think the message was appropriate for me at the time. I was going through a rough spot at work – I had a couple of curve balls thrown my way at the time that were really stretching me as a professional and was helping me frame where I thought I needed to go next in my career. In all honesty, when I grabbed her book on my way out of the session with her, I tried to read it on the way home on the train that night and just couldn’t open my mind enough to absorb it. So, I shelved it and thought I would get back to it eventually.

Well, fast forward to about a month ago. I decided to pick it up, and wouldn’t you know…many things about my professional life had changed. I was in a different role – same company, but I was also in the process of interviewing with a new company for a position that would grow my experience exponentially. So, when I picked up the book to finally read it, while I had a lot going on (more than when I tried to pick it up the first time), my head space was somewhere very different.

I have enjoyed reading the book so much, and again found myself actively reading Killelea’s book, highlighting up a storm! So, similarly to how I reviewed All the Single Ladies, I will review the Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea – and have broken it into separate blog posts. Essentially, what¬†The Confidence Effect¬†aims to do is, “shatter this “good girl” conditioning, and provide the practical tools you need to showcase your qualities and skills – without being cocky or annoying. Instead, you’ll draw from your core of competence to build a professional brand that attracts attention, resources, and promotions.”

Killelea starts the book by discussing the idea of moving from competence to confidence. I think this is so important. As women we may have more competence than any other person in the room, but do you have the confidence that is just as important? According to Killelea, “In order to be truly confident, it’s critical to understand the delicate relationship between competence and confidence as they apply to your workplace brand as well as your leadership potential.” She emphasizes that both are equally important, but for too long women have relied on competence rather than confidence to show off their kills. This is important to think about because, similarly to my previous book review I did, we find ourselves at a point in time when there are more women in the workforce than ever, yet we remain woefully underrepresented in leadership positions at the top, or for that matter even NEAR the top. To reinforce this, according to the Center for American Progress, “Women…hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs…and since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. And yet, women have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that they have based on their representation and early success in higher education and in the entry-level workforce.” This should not be news to any of you, and I have to say I have been fortunate enough to have strong, powerful women leaders that I have reported to or who have run the company or organization I was working in, but still we see this under representation year after year.

According to Killelea, what she has discovered along her own personal journey to authenticity, leadership, and career satisfaction is that competence is absolutely critical to success. You must be good at what you do. You must exceed expectations. I couldn’t agree with this more. If you can show someone you are competent and capable of doing a good job, that is the one thing that could end up mattering more to your boss than anything else. However, according to Killelea, competence is only half the equation. You need to combine it with confidence to truly crack the code.

So, what is confidence in this case? The definition is different to many people, but one of the best definitions Killelea shares is one that Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book¬†Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know¬†(Harper-Business, 2014), provide a definition of confidence. “Confidence is not, as we once believed, just feeling good about yourself,” they write, “If women simply needed a few words of reassurance, they’d have commandeered the corner office a long time ago. Perhaps the clearest and most useful definition of confidence we came across was the one supplied by Richard Petty, a Psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. ‘Confidence’ he told us, ‘is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.'”

So what does it mean to possess the Confidence Effect? I mean, it is the title of Killelea’s book after all. According to Killelea, it means confidence to the core – the place where we’re the most powerful, the most authentic, the most self-reliant, and the most connected to our skills and abilities. This is striking, because as she says, it is the place where you are the most powerful. I love this. Of course possessing the confidence effect is the place where you are the most powerful – when you are confident in your convictions and who you are there is no stopping you. It also means you are the most authentic (love this). Authenticity is so very important and in my experience it is the one characteristic¬† you can detect in someone immediately, which I also believe connects directly to whether you can trust someone.

Killelea developed the Confidence Effect over more than 30 years of experience working with women and found that we often question our own competence, feel like we are under a microscope, and perhaps even feel unable to meet the demands of leadership positions. I feel like this is equivalent to the way some of us look at ourselves in the mirror – criticizing and not confident about your hair, weight, skin etc. It’s unnecessary and can become completely debilitating in some ways. As a result, according to Killelea, we miss out on building the relationships and workplace brand that can put us where we want to go and give us the confidence we need to take risks, believe in ourselves and perform to our potential. However, confidence is not enough. You also have to have gravitas.

According to Killelea, gravitas is the presence we feel deep down inside. Without an air of gravitas – which is the sense of weight and “grit” deep in our guts – it’s hard to feel the confidence we need to lead: to lead ourselves, our teams, our divisions, and ultimately, our organizations. It lends an air of credibility – of gravity – to our actions. It adds weight, depth, and character to our personalities, and it allows us to temper our emotions with data, analysis, and proven delivered results. So, according to Killelea, if women are not showing up confidently, proudly, and ready and willing to lead, if we’re not raising our hands or stepping forward with that grit and power behind us, then typically, the organization overlooks us and promotes men. You might ask why, and hopefully this doesn’t offend any of my male readers – but it also shouldn’t come as any surprise – men tend to exhibit those traits even if they’re not as competent. Men just generally show up, stand out, raise their hands, take charge – even take command – regardless of whether they possess the skills such leadership positions demand.

How many of you have seen this? The male counterpart who enters the company as an analyst, and within a year is promoted to senior analyst, a year from that supervisor, then maybe a year or two from that to manager etc.? We’ve all seen it. But, was he actually qualified for it? In some cases no. He just made sure to always add something to the meeting, especially if there was a member of leadership in attendance, he raises his hand and asks questions – whether a good question or not, he still asked it – and¬† is always finding something to talk to your VP or Director about in the kitchen. This person may not even produce that much work but everyone knows him, thinks he is engaged because he always asks questions and takes the time to interact in the hallway. That guy gets promoted over the woman who keeps her head down and works ten hours a day, but isn’t known by name or face because she doesn’t ask questions or engage during meetings. I have to admit, I am at times guilty of this. I’m an observer by nature and I will never say something just to say something. I would rather have all of the information before I raise my hand or ask a question. It’s what makes me, me. BUT, occasionally you have to step out of that to be noticed.

To help with this hesitation that I know I’m not alone in possessing, is from Ines Temple, President and CEO of Lee Hecht Harrison, Peru, shares, “I learned some mantras years ago that I repeat to myself when I’m in certain situations. They are, ‘I am strong, I am able, and I am calm.'” This is spot on. Anything you can say to yourself or do that will reset or derail the negative train of thought or the hesitation of not feeling worthy enough is a must. Find a mantra, or borrow Ines’ and reset that train of thought.

According to Killelea, success is about striking the right balance between competence and confidence, and confidence alone won’t cut it. Bravado, bluster and popularity alone won’t get you where you want to go. So, remember that guy I mentioned earlier? He might begin climbing the ladder, but he won’t make it to the top. Those supremely confident men and women who, despite their gravitas, simply don’t execute. They don’t deliver, they don’t delegate, and most importantly they don’t meet deadlines. They use emotions rather than facts and logic and as a result, they are incompetent.

So, how do you “show up, stand out and take charge?” Killelea has the 4 Rs of success for this:

  1. Relationships: We can’t go it alone, nor should we try. Relationships are at the center of The Confidence Effect because they allow us to network in a way that accelerates both our personal and career growth.
  2. Reputation: How you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. Reputations, like respect are earned. The book shows you how to let what’s inside out so that you can show more of your true authentic self at work – and everyplace else.
  3. Results: If we are to believe in ourselves and allow others to believe in us, we must deliver results. Confidence is like a mirror we hold up to reflect our accomplishments; the more we deliver, the more confidence we have.
  4. Resilience: Finally, we must have the big picture in mind to weather the storms, rise to the challenges, and avoid the potholes and outright roadblocks that are part and parcel of our ultimate journey to success.

I want to break these down a tiny little bit because I agree with them so much. For example, relationships – this is so true. We really can’t do it alone because the ability to create and maintain relationships is at the heart of success. People who I have made good relationships and connections with, whether I consciously did or not, have proven to be beneficial in my career. If someone enjoys you and feels like they have a good connection with you, they will remember that forever and you will be the first person they think of when they need to fill a position or need a thought leader on a topic that maybe you know a lot about.

Reputation – isn’t this everything? Someone’s career can end because of a bad reputation, or in some cases not even start! Killelea says how you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. This is so true! If you respect yourself enough to be proud of who you are and what you do – i.e. your reputation – then that will radiate to your coworkers and leaders as well.

Results – I think this is important. I recently wrote a blog post for work on a topic that while I had a lot of notes on, I hadn’t quite become an expert on. But, my VP believed that I could write that blog post, she provided me feedback, and ultimately I was able to deliver a great result because she believed that I could deliver it. This meant everything to my confidence and my ability to jump feet first into a topic or project that I might not know EVERYTHING about.

Resilience – This is the part where you have to have the big picture in mind. If you can understand clearly what the end result of something is, you can get through the fire drills and roadblocks that might try to derail you. I think this is my biggest takeaway because sometimes we really can get bogged down in what we are trying to accomplish in the moment, and the things in the way of that, as opposed to looking at the big picture and realizing that despite the roadblocks you are still making progress toward the ultimate goal. This will help you rise to the challenge and ultimately succeed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed part one. The next installation will be about understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the confidence effect.

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Adulting: Leaving Behind a Place I’ve Called Home for Almost Eight Years

I am a very loyal person. I’m a loyal customer, friend, sibling, daughter, spouse (to someone eventually hah!), and employee, so making a decision to go, to break up, to do something different, go somewhere different is often an anxiety riddled thing for me.

I was presented with an opportunity that I really couldn’t turn a blind eye to. Someone I had worked with some years back reached out because there was an opening on his team. He said I was the first person he thought of and wanted to chat with me about the role, if I was interested. Now, I had been pretty actively toying with the idea of looking for a new position externally, but nothing was really moving in that direction for me – quite frankly folks, it is very competitive and cut throat out there these days – so, I thought “sure, might as well hear what the position is all about.” I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on it at first. I was really having a hard time understanding from our conversation what the role entailed, and I was coming to the conclusion that this would definitely be a growth role for me because, while I am fully capable of learning and doing the job, I also didn’t have some of what they were looking for on my resume.

So, feeling like I was probably not going to be that great of a fit, but still having a little part of my intuition telling me to at least talk to the hiring manager, I said sure – give my info to your boss, I would love to speak with her. Boy am I glad that I did! She really broke down the role for me, explained how the team worked, and outlined expectations for the role. Not to mention we just had a fantastic conversation. She too worked at my company for a number of years and we had many people in common. She told me that she likes to hire people that her current staff know well and have worked with in the past, and that she definitely wanted to have me come in for an in-person interview. She warned me she was moving fast, so the in-person was set up for the following week.

This all fell during the holidays, which are generally pretty quiet for me work-wise, so I was able to take advantage of some of the time I already planned off, to take the phone calls and have an in-person interview. It all seemed to fall into place almost too easily. Generally, in person interviews have me so anxious and nervous. I actually compare it to the build-up I feel before running a race – it’s like 2-4 hours of your life, you can do it. It may sound ridiculous, but it works for me, and applies just the same to psyching yourself up for a job interview.

Anyway, the in-person interview went really well, 3 hours total – 3 people, 1 hour each, and then I was on my way. Within a week I had a phone call from the hiring manager with what I think was seeking reassurance that I was indeed interested in the position, and if they were to make me an offer that was desirable and in my pay range (which I had previously given them), that I would accept. Another week later and I had a verbal offer, and a formal offer followed less than 24 hours later. Like I said, she wanted to move quickly, and quickly we were moving.

My anxiety was a mess leading up to waiting for an offer, then subsided for about 2.2 seconds and catapulted back up upon accepting because, now I’ve got to tell some of my best friends, and mentors that I’m leaving. I explained this to someone by comparing it to breaking up with someone who literally does not see it coming at all. The shock of a lifetime.

Making this decision was not easy for me. I will often put my feelings aside for someone else’s happiness, I will also often times sacrifice things for the better of a relationship, friendship or family, so making this decision felt oddly out of my comfort zone. I was about to say, “I’m going to do this for me. For the advancement of my career, for my savings and future investments…for me. Not for anyone else.” I ultimately accepted the offer and then promptly told my boss that I was giving him my two week notice. That was the whole “breaking up with someone who doesn’t see it coming thing.” He didn’t see it coming…poor guy. But he understood the offer I was getting and that it was a really amazing opportunity.

I have to say, everyone has been excited for me, sad – but also very excited for me. I’m letting go of a lot my daily routine: coffee every morning at about 9 a.m. with my co-worker, lunch a couple times a week with my group of buddies, the occasional check-in with my mentors, and the happy hours and vent sessions over bottles of wine that have come to be part of me and my social life. That is all going to be changing. I’m not just leaving the company I’ve been with for almost 8 years, but I’m leaving some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I’m leaving San Francisco – which is with both enthusiasm and a bit of sadness – my commute in is absolutely awful on the train every morning. I’m trading in going into an office every day for working from home about 90% of the time. It’s going to be a VERY big change for me, but one I think is necessary, because as I have thought about making this big move and change, I realized that it’s been a very long time since I have really shaken up my life – for better or for worse. I’ve generally stayed in my bubble of friends, travel with the same people, go out with the same people – which don’t get me wrong is totally fine, but I would say I haven’t shaken life up in about 5 years so it’s definitely time.

I accepted a position at a different company on their digital grid marketing team. As some of you know, I have been in the energy industry for about 8 years, so in terms of jumping into a new industry, I at least won’t have that learning curve. But, this new role will really round out my experience and take me into the marketing field where I can be challenged and learn new things. I’ll be managing social media marketing and events management for the team. All things I know I am capable of doing and excited to embark on.

I had to realize that in both relationships and work, we can grow so complacent and not even realize it sometimes, so taking this leap is huge. It’s massively scary but also really exciting. I will miss everyone from my company, and many of those people I will see even after I leave – I have made some seriously awesome friends for life which is a priceless thing and something I will always be thankful for.

So, my words to you and words that I am borrowing from one of my favorite retail owners (Evy’s Tree), “do scary things.” You only regret the chances you didn’t take, so cheers to just going for it and I’m excited to share the journey with all of you!

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