Dear Jordan Spieth’s Mom and Dad:

 

picstitchDear Mr. and Mrs. Spieth:

Thank you.

You have restored dignity to the game of golf.

You have demonstrated through your son’s actions and demeanor that it is in giving that we receive.

You have reminded the world that there are givers and there are takers. Be a giver.

You have reminded the world that there are many Ellies who need love and need to be understood.

As a mom of five who not only competed in golf in my youth but also currently have sons who compete in the game it is refreshing to see a golfer come along who simply “gets it” – for all the world to see.

Parents are never really provided much in the way of feedback. I speak for most of the world when I say this:

You are just what the world needs to see in parenting.

Thank you.

 

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Your Attention Please. [Case Study: Jewel Food]

[Note: This is a post that was written two years ago and was updated following the news announced yesterday about Jewel’s new coupon app.] “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver I have always noticed … Continue reading

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children? (Second time around.)

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) that were “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday: at 7:00 p.m. Lecture by NYT best-selling author Ron Lieber on parenting teens.

For my grade schooler:

Monday:  at 6:30 p.m. Sports banquet (with child).

Wednesday: at 7:00 p.m. 7th grade informational Springfield trip meeting (with child).

Thursday: Nothing. (Thank goodness: the kids are out snowblowing the neighbors’ driveways!) ….but you get the point.

Not included in the above list: regular sports practices and activities, parent work meetings, etc.

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…or attend an informational meeting on the Springfield trip even though I’ve attended it already for 4 children…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

Shouldn’t we be home? That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued. Moreover, although I love my computer, I am sometimes tethered to it simply to pay attention (read: not MISS) the important school to-do’s that now come via computer to the mom’s email.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

Thanks, but No “Thanks.”

You’ve given your precious time to a Millennial. Waiting for a “Thank You”? Good luck.

Thanks

 

 

It’s time to take matters into your own hands.

 

 

 

I learned the hard way. “Go to school” on me! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

True story: a few years ago my mom casually mentioned to me a year after the fact that one of my children (plus a few friends) never really thanked her for some substantial time she had invested in them. She wasn’t being rude – but clearly my mom was bothered.

On SO many levels I had missed the “teachable moment” that we all desire as parents, bosses, mentors, etc. Furthermore, the millennial offenders are just fantastic kids! (After all, 3/5 of my kids are millennials). They are our future.

So, here’s how I have solved the problem:

I ask.

That’s it.

“I’ve given my time to you. This is what I expect in exchange.”

From now on, each time I help someone (particularly a millennial!) whether it is in a job search, a resume review, college recruiting support, etc. I use it as an opportunity to explain my expectations. Crystal clear. I am no longer waiting. I do not want to be disappointed. I do not ever want to have the feeling my mom did. Rather, I have chosen to take the matter into my own hands and use it as a chance to “shape” someone in a positive way.

Here’s what I asked of a very capable young woman recently for whom I offered to write a college letter of support:

1) Please alert me as to when I need to complete my letter. (Note: timelines need to be her responsibility, not mine.)

2) Please follow-up with the school to be certain they have received my letter and it is appropriately in your file. (Note: I am asking her to “own” the process.)

3) Please write me a handwritten thank you note. (Note: while it seems so obvious, it’s not. These kids have SO many means of communication. They need to understand that the world is noisy. Stand out with a handwritten note. Period.)

4) Please let me know as soon as you hear of an acceptance, denial or deferral (Note: I am asking her to keep me in the loop; I have invested my time and merit inclusion of information.)

5) Please keep me posted over the next few years. I have taken my time. I care about you, your school career and probably even your post-college career. (Note: while she probably does not even realize it, I am “coaching” her for how to interact when she begins job prospecting. Further, to the extent that she really does keep me posted – it is likely that I will somehow help her!)

6) Lastly, please remember that “in life” there will be people who help you get where you are going. Please treat those people as “people in your life” and stay in touch. Drop them a line every so often. Send a Christmas card. Whatever. (Note: The important thing is that the gift of time comes with a responsibility. I gave her my time. If she plays her cards right, we can have an amazing relationship.)

Postscript: The young lady was denied admission (early admission) to the college she so desperately sought to attend. Not even a deferral. She and I have communicated a few times since her deeply disappointing news. It is my hope that she takes my “advice” and stays in touch. Trust me: if she does just that I would be thrilled to help point her in a direction, introduce her to possible internships, and even help her land a job after college, etc. [After all, she already successfully completed steps 1-4 with terrific success!]

Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Say thanks.

Over 50? Have an MBA? The New World of Work: Get Over Yourself.

James Janega of ChicagoBlueSky, part of the Chicago Tribune,  posed this question with a subsequent article, “What predicts success at a startup?” Education? An MBA?

Not really. Or so he determined through various interviews of founders. Even better, he coined a great term: “humble agility.” In my opinion, Janega nailed it.  What exactly IS the value of an MBA? More importantly, though, what does it take in this day and age to have success at a startup – or better yet – be a successful worker? I just turned 50 – so I am gearing this post to my age group.

For what it’s worth, I have segued in and out of the workplace as my husband and I raise our kids. I have had many roles over the years from co-founding a start-up to working in traditional, Fortune 1000-type to venture-backed fast-paced startups. I also have always worn a business development and sales hat in each role I have undertaken. I prosper in growth mode.

Today there is a new world order. In my experience, these are the rules:

New rule:

  • Be Humble. No one really cares whether you have fancy credentials (e.g. an MBA or Ivy League diploma). What employers really care about is your willingness to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. The days of having a secretary or analyst or even office space seem to be gone; as in not returning. For the startup world, anyways.
    • My experience: I have a Kellogg MBA for which I am forever grateful. That being said, the best preparation one can get for the ability to roll up one’s sleeves  is good, old-fashioned sales experience. If you’ve ever had to sell/work on commission in order to pay your rent, then you will understand. Why? It’s humbling. As for rolling up your sleeves? If you are a parent you might have an advantage. Why? It, too, is humbling. I’ve spent years rolling up my sleeves. That’s what moms do. As for the MBA? It does come in handy for a mom who segues in and out of the workforce as I have over the last 25 years. I view it as my insurance policy or certificate of authenticity. My conclusion: sales experience + parent  (+MBA as a bonus)= good combo for long-term employability.
  • Be Agile. Be willing to roll with the punches – (and they’re moving really fast.) Stretch yourself.
    • My experience: The world is moving fast. You have a choice to either watch it speed by or try to hop on board and learn along the way. Read. Practice. Our children will have +/- 13 careers in their lifetime. We cannot sit around with an old-fashioned mindset.
  • Continuously learn.
    • As Michael Moe often cites in his GSVCapital reports, “people need to continuously hone their skills to evolve with market demand. We describe this trend as ‘KaizenEDU’, drawing on the Japanese term for ‘continuous improvement’.” Try new tools. If I hear one more person tell me that they “don’t do social media”?! Really? How will you ever know the right questions to ask if you don’t have any first-hand experience??
  • Embrace youth. Be willing to work with employees much younger than you are, whetherGenx’ers,Millennials, or even teens – embrace it!
    • My experience: whether helping my college-grad daughter’s friends secure employment or working for a boss 15 years my junior – forget about the ‘experience-is-better’ adage. Sure, in life I have plenty of experience. In work I have plenty of experience. I also had assistants and analysts complete tasks for me in my “old life”; today, the younger kids are digital natives. They have good ideas, great technical skills and quite often – very disruptive and new ways of looking at old problems. Do not begrudge them; rather celebrate their youth!

In summary – and this is tough to swallow:

Get over yourself.

Go to school on me: once you do, it’s an awful lot of fun..PLUS You’ll be able to keep up with the Joneses in a whole new way!

 

Why My First Tweet Said: “finally.”

In honor of its 8th birthday, last month Twitter set up the ability to find a user’s first tweet. If you are on Twitter, it is fun to see.

My first tweet:

My First Tweet

Why on earth would it say “finally”?

Here’s why. Crystal clear. I had worked full-time at Jones Lang LaSalle in consulting until I had my fourth child. Stayed home. Had a fifth. “Worked” at home as a mom but stayed current on all things business, still loving startups, entrepreneurs, etc. In addition, I had a few board and advisory roles. In early 2010, before Google made their offer to buy Groupon, I literally drove down to 600 West Chicago Avenue to sit in Groupon’s lobby to see whether I’d be too “old” to work there! I could see that they were going to be big..and I was ready to go back to full-time work and be part of the changing landscape. I so vividly remember sitting with my old HP12C calculator trying to “back into” Groupon’s revenue model! To make a long story short, I ended up landing a job at Plum District, which satisfied my desire to be in a rapidly growing company and not hide – but rather benefit – from my experience as a mom.

What did “finally” mean back in January, 2011? Here’s what it meant:

I am finally back in the game.

I am finally rolling up my sleeves to jump back in to the crazy frenzy of a venture capital backed start-up in the newly developing space of “daily deals.”

I am finally going to embrace ‘all things social’ even if I have no idea what I am doing.

I am finally going to adapt to the “new” way of doing business: working remote, embracing every social tool required for “social selling” such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, mom blogging community, Twitter parties, social media contests, daily deals, etc; affiliate links; widgets, no phone calls (rather, schedule gmail invites via calendar), onboarding, echosign, docusign, the resumator, Salesforce, Chatter, Intacct, people as dispensable and peers hired and fired with very short runways, churn on steroids, blogging for Patch, manual pivot tables, ExactTarget, dashboards,  Zendesk, webinars, stand-ups, all-hands, customer acquisition, screenshots, Compas, GAN (Google Affiliate Network), Radian6, Klout, social capital, gamification, data analytics, videos, and much more! Phew.

I jumped over the hurdle to get to the other side.

And it feels great.

Finally.

Why I am Taking My 13 Year Old to Hear Mark Cuban

My son was thrilled when I told him his early birthday present will be a ticket to hear Mark Cuban speak in Chicago at 1871, Chicago’s tech innovation hub. NOT the usual birthday present. Why Mark Cuban? Because we love to watch Shark Tank. [To those of you who were unable to obtain a ticket for the sold out event I am sorry to have this one seat taken by my son. I hope you’ll understand why.]

What are the “teachable moments” from Shark Tank and Cuban? Observing the importance of:

  • Telling your story (What makes it good? What makes the founder and his or her company investable?)
  • Math:  (Quick: what is the company being valued at if the entrepreneur is offering a 10% stake for $250,000?!)
  • Tenacity (Often times a founder ‘sticks with it’ in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.)
  • The importance of listening (It is shocking to see how frequently entrepreneurs ignore the advice of the 5 experts sitting in front of them!)

and lastly,

  • Good old fashioned hard work pays off.

My son is “hungry”. Maybe not the I’m-going-to-change-the-world-with-my-disruptive-idea hungry. But hungry to work. He sets his goals and works to accomplish those goals. He currently has his eyes set on buying a certain type of fishing rod (he  loves to fish.) He picks up any job he can to earn money – nothing fancy: snow blowing, mail collection for people on vacation, babysitting, lawn mowing, etc. He runs all of his correspondence from his iPhone – I have nothing to do with it. He has learned the importance of customer service both from providing a job well done…and an occasional job not well done. I have been awakened at night when he realized he had forgotten to bring in the neighbor’s mail and to let me know that he planned on walking to get it..in the dark…in his pajamas. Nothing glamorous about forgetting; just another lesson learned.

I’d like to think that Shark Tank, Mark Cuban and the other sharks had something to do with my son’s will to take ownership of work. It is my hope that we will get a chance to say thanks to Cuban for being part of a movement to make hard work and corresponding results “cool.” 

Hard work is cool. Especially cool for kids. They are the future of our country.

My “Stay Smart” Quest: 7 Tech Lessons Learned in 2013 + 7 Goals for 2014

Lessons learned in 2013:

1) Following/learning from/watching Gary Vaynerchuk (aka @GaryVee) is worth every moment. And it’s free. I think he is a marketing genius and is one of the few people who seems to “get” it.

2) Learning to code is important. Duh. It’s where the jobs will be. It’s what our kids need to understand.  If there is one thing to teach your children – start talking about computer code. Learn about toys like Goldieblox, or apps like Tynker, Scratch, Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, etc. Don’t believe me? Have a daughter? Check out  Girls Who Code.

3) Taking the time to learn to improve your digital literacy (and even code yourself) is worth it. OK – maybe not learn to code – but learn the language! In my quest  – or even mandate – to “innovate myself” I just “finished” taking Skillcrush 101 How to Get Started in Tech. For what equated to about $6/day I enrolled. [In retrospect, my move was not perfectly timed as far as the calendar goes: Oct 21-December 6th…when running a household of 7, hosting 16 for Thanksgiving and prepping for Christmas – a different month might have been better..but I really did not want to wait!] Several online places offer some free coding or courses for a fee: codecademy and general assemb.ly, coursera, and, of course, Skillcrush. In my opinion, the founder of Skillcrush, Adda Birnir, is someone to watch! BTW, Skillcrush uses Mightybell as its community platform (similar to Chicago-based Big Marker) – working in a community platform is a learning experience in and of itself~

 4) TRYING is still the best way to see whether a new technology makes sense. Don’t just read about something new: try it. When peers in my Up n Running group suggested I try several time-saving apps I did just that. As it turned out, Mosaic is now one of my “go-to” apps to create photo books from the camera roll on my iPhone. Even my kids have started using it and creating gifts for their friends. Cost per book: $25.

5) USE Twitter lists – it saves time. I think the lists are the absolute best feature of Twitter. I have spent some time creating several lists and my personal “required reading” every morning comes not only from my go-to news sources but also my Twitter lists.

6) Try something new..and be willing to pay for it. I bought a one month subscription to TheInformation. Why? I want to “try before I buy.” The world is noisy. I read a lot; the firehose of information is coming at me – I am trying to simplify by going digital..but I still like print, too. When I received my Chicago Tribune renewal notice and saw the price increase – I immediately was willing to try spending $ on The Information. Why? Because I hope to “swap out” some expenses (maybe I’ll unsubscribe from the Trib and be willing to pay for a different form – or even type – of news.)

7) Unless I make change a habit it will not happen. When my sister turned 50 last year and we went on a yoga weekend (I had never even done yoga OR meditation) I returned refreshed and willing to change my patterns to include meditation. That lasted only a few months. I tried meditating each morning before the kids awoke. No luck – I found myself praying. And thinking. In my most recent email from Lift I was reminded that 1) I need Goals Beyond Habits  and 2) Finish Lines  – I guess if I want to impact a certain change and make it a habit, I really need to “own it”!

In conclusion, to me, it is all about leveraging myself to save time. We all know time is our most valuable resource.

Goals for 2014:

1) Continue to follow/learn from/watch @GaryVee and I will read his latest book (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)

2) I will re-take/review my  Skillcrush material, which is still available to me from prior enrollment – this time, I will sit with a friend and learn together. While I am not committing to building a site per se, I did learn through my Skillcrush class that I am not good at learning technical material sitting alone at my computer.  Thankfully, I ran into a friend who took the same course: this time we will sit together to review the material!  

3) Install 1Password on my computer. Our Up n Running group reviewed the various options for secure passwords and concluded that 1Password is worth the $.

4) Increase my security/identity theft coverage – especially after the Target breach. Whether through Identity Guard or others, I will make it a priority.

5) Get on Snapchat (reluctantly) It’s where kids are spending their time…which means it is where brands will start to be. I need to understand firsthand how brands are using social.

6) Improve my Hootsuite use to save time.

7) Last and most importantly: continue to stay smart; (stay Up n Running) by reading about/curating and trying new technologies, apps, platforms. Reading includes but is not limited to private equity/venture capital reports, blogs, print and online news sources, local magazines, etc. If I do not “own” my skill set no on else will!

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children?

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday, November 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

For my grade schoolers:

Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. [Not on the actual calendar..but you get the point.]

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

This year: enough head scratching. I am not going. Sorry. I happen to be incredibly lucky: there are  fantastic schools in our neighborhood; more importantly, the administrators, school boards, etc. are not only super-qualified but also really nice people and often friends of mine. But I can’t do it any more. I need to be home. That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

Have YOU Ever Gotten a Retreat From Tory Burch?

Several months ago I woke up to this text.

TBtex

Oh my goodness? Did I win some sort of contest?! Did my husband surprise me and give me a retreat weekend with Tory Burch, a woman whose business acumen I really admire?! How thoughtful. [Frankly, I didn’t even realize there was a Tory Burch retreat for businesswomen or mothers.]  I happen to be fairly impressed by Tory Burch the brand. The woman, too. She built a very successful company and, since its inception in 2004, she has not only built a desired and recognized brand but also become a millionaire in the process. Her former husband and business partner, Chris Burch, recently launched C. Wonder in New York and is trying his hand at building a brand without her. Between prior marriages, they have a combined six children…and unfortunately a very messy divorce.

The day prior to receiving the aforementioned text I was sitting in the airport reading the Wall Street Journal waiting for a flight departure. When I turned the page I saw a full-page highlight of Tory Burch, WSJ Startup of the Year (“SOTY”). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the WSJ was beginning to feature startups and chose to highlight various entrepreneurs and mentors.

Tory Burch

Clearly Tory Burch was on my mind.

After hours of trying to figure out the ‘surprise’ I burst out laughing!!

THIS is what my friend was referring to in her text:

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.24.33 AM

A RT.

A RETWEET!

I laughed to myself. I guess I should have been “happy” that Tory Burch “retweeted me” but to be honest – I was merely doing what I like to do: celebrating others’ success. In observing on and offline behavior I mostly look for beauty. Beauty in good times – but also in bad times. There’s beauty all around us – you just need to look for it. In reading  about Tory Burch and tweeting a picture of the WSJ/SOTY feature, I was merely trying to celebrate and share one woman’s success. I know that her success has come with a price – but isn’t she like any other female (or male) in the world: trying to figure it all out? Cute that my friend called a RT “‘cool”. I think it’s much cooler, though, celebrating success and knowing that each woman (and man) out there shares a common bond: we are all doing the best we can! That’s cool.