My first ten Ever Better Podcast guests are dynamic men and women who live inspiring, joyful and daring lives. They shared their personal practices for continuous improvement and I’ve captured their key takeaways below. You’ll find links to their podcast episodes so that you can readily learn more about each person and their practices.
Before I dive into the ten practices, I want to thank my guests who shared their life journeys and insights.They live throughout the U.S. from California to Virginia.They have diverse backgrounds, yet they have great similarities in their approach to their lives, careers, and their relationships. They’ve made amazing leaps in their personal and professional lives, and continuing to get ever better runs through everything they do. My gratitude goes out to Deborah Williams, Nathalie Nozile, Jesse Mejia, Connie Inukai, Anne Meador, Dan Horowitz, Gregory Berg, Laura Zam, Mark Neidig, and Cheryl Wood.
Practice One: Never Give Up
Never give up on something that you believe in and is important to you. Keep working, thinking, and talking about what you’re trying to do, and eventually things will come together. Your outcome may not be what you expected or what you most hoped for, but giving up will short-change your experience and your potential outcome. You may need to pivot and take a different direction, or walk away from a no-win situation, but to completely abandon a dream, a goal, or a business because it’s gotten too hard will result in future regret.
Deborah Williams, my first podcast guest, discussed challenges that she overcame by never giving up and taking on her challenges one day at a time. Her real estate investments had become a significant financial drain. She was facing a divorce and suffering from clinical depression. Read below to learn how she persevered.
“It was just this horrific time of self-doubt that I had to get through. I just had to live through it, and I had to come out the other side. What I came to realize, then and later, was it made me so much a better person. It made me so much stronger and tougher. I turned lemons into lemonade in the end, because I wasn’t going to give up. If anybody is struggling with stuff, that’s kind of my best piece of advice. You get up every day and you say, I’m not going to give up. I am not going to give up. I may have a bad day today, but I’m not giving up on this. I’m not giving up on myself, because if you do, the other people win.”
Practice Two: Live and Work With a Mission
Practice two is live and work with a mission. I feel most fulfilled and happiest with I’m working with a purpose. SOS Children’s Villages is an international nonprofit that I worked for that provides long-term homes to orphaned, abandoned, and foster children around the world, and I loved helping to make a difference. In fact, my coworker used to joke with me about how I smiled while sitting alone in my office working.
Through this position I met Nathalie Nozile, my guest on episode two. Nathalie grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in Haiti. She’s now an attorney practicing in Florida, helping children and families in need, and as the Jolie-Pitt Legal Fellow in Haiti, she helped to create adoption laws that are now protecting vulnerable children. Nathalie shares why her mission is helping children and families in need.
“What keeps me motivated is the fact that I think was brought up to see people who were doing, who were working on behalf of children who were not their own, especially the SOS mothers. I saw people who dedicated their lives to helping those who couldn’t help themselves. I’ve always been very grateful for that, and so that has kept me motivated to kind of be a lawyer who works on behalf of the most vulnerable, be it children or women or any other type of vulnerable population.”
Practice Three: Hone Your Craft
Jesse Mejia, my third guest, talked about the importance of improving through practice. He first joined Toastmasters in 2008 to develop his public speaking skills, and is now a professional keynote speaker. Learn about his journey to become an award-winning public speaker below.
“I enjoy public speaking; I have fun with that. Some men enjoy football, some men enjoy soccer. I enjoy speeches, so I joined Toastmasters, the local downtown Detroit chapter. We had a humorous speech contest. I gave “Dancing Like Pinocchio” at the club level, and I lost. I was bummed out, I was hurt, but I realized where my speech could have been stronger. Then I chose to leave General Motors in Detroit to work for Volkswagen in the D.C. area.”
“I’m at VW and living in Washington, D.C., and I once again sought out Toastmasters. I kept on working, and working, and working my speech. The humorous speech contest came along again. I revamped “Dancing Like Pinocchio,” and I competed again. But this time I did well. I became a district champion, and I won four levels of contests, where I eventually became a district champion. “Dancing Like Pinocchio” was my springboard and gave me the confidence to say, I believe I can be a professional speaker. That’s when I joined the National Speakers Association.”
Practice Four: Don’t Stop at One Career
Most of my guests have had more than one career. It’s not that they whimsically decide to start over. They worked hard, and in most cases found great success and satisfaction from a first career. Through following their interests and their aptitudes, they landed in a second, third, or fourth career.
Connie Inukai, my guest on episode four, retired from teaching at the college level and reinvented herself as an inventor. As she told her story, it was clear that she always fostered her children’s entrepreneurial interests and had created a network of people who could help her to pursue her own ideas. Connie described how bringing her invention, the Tip ‘n Split to market, and how that launched her second career.
What were the stages of bringing the Tip n’ Split to market? Well, the first stage was getting a design. Then my former husband worked on the algorithms, how to make it work. Then I had to find a manufacturer, and now I’m trying to find an investor.
Practice Five: Build Community
Gathering like-minded people together in-person, virtually – by Skype or other means, can lift up everyone involved. Community members can lean on each other when they need a boost, wisdom, or to share great news. For many years, I was vice president of my neighborhood association because I believe it’s important to help build community where I live, work, and play.
Anne Meador, my guest on show five, created the Working Woman Entrepreneur podcast as a first step in developing a community of women entrepreneurs, many of whom are also working full-time jobs. She just took the second step of creating the Working Woman Entrepreneur Mastermind community that will enable these same women to get to know each other beyond their podcast interviews. Here’s Anne describing how she’s building community.
“The podcast, I feel, is just a stepping stone for me and the Working Woman Entrepreneur Community, because that’s what I’m trying to build is a community. I would like for it to be and I plan for it to be a two-way community or a twenty-way community, a forty-way community for interaction back and forth. I want to inspire and I want to help women gain the freedom to live the life that they want to.”
Practice Six: Follow Your Interests
I create Ever Better podcasts because I’ve been an avid podcast listener for many years, and was looking for a way to share positive, inspiring messages. After meeting several podcasters at Camp Good Life, and learning more about what happens behind the scenes, I recognized the vehicle I’d been looking for was already very present in my life. I followed my interests and the Ever Better podcast was born.
Dan Horowitz, my guest on episode six, followed his interest in meteorology and it led him to a rewarding career in “all things digital.” Here’s Dan’s story.
“Ever since I can remember, four or five years old, everybody wanted to be a fireman, a policeman, or a doctor. I always wanted to be a weatherman. I don’t know whether it was seeing hurricanes when I was really little, or big snowstorms, or whatever, I’ve just always been super fascinated by meteorology and by the weather. I remember staying up to watch snowstorms rolling in, waiting to see if it was going to stick on the ground. I still do that. I’m such a weather geek!
The funny part about the weather is that it led me into this career, which makes no sense until I tell a really quick story. I was at Indiana University for college, and I needed to take science classes. Of course I took a meteorology class. I met with the teacher after two tests who told me, ‘You’re screwing up the curve. You’re so much further ahead than anybody else. Do you have the test ahead of time?” I said ‘No! These are just so easy.’ I ended up getting a minor in meteorology, so instead of taking two science classes, I ended up taking six or seven.
The only way that you could get the data, like satellite maps was to use Internet clients because there was no browser. It was before Netscape. I learned the Internet from the ground up because I had to, to get weather data. Then of course, as Netscape came along, I learned how to make little websites. That’s how I eventually got a job with Fleishman Hillard because they needed somebody who understood something about the Internet and could help clients build websites. That’s how I got my digital start, and it’s all thanks to the weather.”
Practice Seven: Create and Share
Make something of your own, with your voice and your message that reflects your values, and then share what you’ve created. This allows you to help others through your point of view. That’s what I’m doing with the Ever Better Podcast and it’s one of the topics I discussed with Gregory Berg, my guest on episode seven. Greg is a multimedia story-teller who produces the Life on Purpose Podcast.
In his podcast episodes, Greg frequently discusses valuing the freedom to produce content of importance to him and he shares this message below.
“It’s an amazing time that we live in, where the gatekeepers are no longer the ones who decide what the options are. For the history of western civilization, there were gatekeepers that basically decided what the public got to listen to, watch, read. You had to go through a publisher as an author, you had to go through a television station as a video producer, radio stations had to play your music if you’re a musician. Now we live in this amazing time where the choices are endless, both as a consumer and a producer.”
Practice Eight: Incorporate Rituals Into Your Life
My guest from episode eight, Laura Zam, uses the concept of canonical hours to organize her day. She follows an established schedule, but incorporates spirituality and mindfulness into even her most mundane activities. Here’s what Laura had to say.
“I live a very ritualized life, and that’s how I keep my energy up. I was quite taken, some years ago, with the canonical hours. It started in the early Christian church, and it was a monastic practice where the monks would pray at certain intervals every day. I’m not Christian, but I fell in love with this idea of breaking up one’s day. It took some years before I had my time free enough in order to construct my day exactly as I wanted to, but now I live my own canonical hours.
I break my day up into sixty- or ninety-minute segments. During those blocks of time, I have a very specific thing that I’m doing, a very specific goal. As an example, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., that’s when I do my e-mail. From 5:30 a.m. until 7:00 a.m., that’s my first writing block. After this block, I have this other time for, you could loosely call it prayer, although sometimes I’m just taking a break to make a cup of tea. But sometimes I’m taking a half an hour to meditate and do yoga.”
Practice Nine: Say Hello!
Mark Neidig, my guest in episode nine, has lived in the Gambia and throughout the U.S., and builds a community around himself every where he goes. He starts by saying hello. He now lives in Orlando, Florida, and recently sang in a back-up chorus of Barry Manilow for the second time. Is he a professional singer? No, but he enjoys performing and loves to meet new people. On the podcast he told the story of how he solved a problem with his television by putting up a sign in his new condo building asking for help.
Within minutes, someone knocked on Mark’s door and was able to provide the help that he needed. This person then invited Mark, and his wife Deb, to a party where they were surrounded by people very involved with the arts in Orlando. Within a few months, Mark joined a choir and the board of Orlando Arts. Because that group is known and trusted by Barry Manilow, they were invited on stage. A similar scenario played out for Mark a few years earlier, when he moved to Washington, D.C. and first sang back-up for Barry Manilow.
Like Mark, I also speak to people wherever I go. Starbucks, on the Metro, in the elevator, and at conferences. Because I project a friendly attitude, people often say hello to me first. In fact, I met one of my best friends, Alyce, while riding the Metro in Washington, D.C.
Here’s Mark explaining his practice of saying hello.
“I say ‘hi’ to everybody. I stop everybody. I converse with just about every single person that I come in contact with. Every town we’ve moved to, I haven’t known a single person. You saturate yourself in your community, and you find people that are like you, or you find people that are near you, and you begin the process of finding out what makes them tick, why they’re there, what things do they like to do.”
Practice Ten: Talk to Yourself
As I interviewed my guests, all of whom I consider successful, I found that they work at projecting confidence. A common practice is using affirmations or self-talk.
Cheryl Wood, my guest on episode ten, talks to herself to get pumped up before delivering a keynote speech and this led her to found a highly successful conference. She had a practice of saying, “Okay, Cheryl, playtime is over, let’s get to work.” That habit led her to create the “Playtime Is Over Women in Business Conference.” Here’s Cheryl describing how she cheers herself on.
“I actually have pom-poms that I use in my speaking presentations and I literally cheer myself on!” Because hey, if I’m not going to cheer for me, who is going to cheer for me? I use the power of personal motivation, personal affirmations. I talk to myself about accomplishing whatever I’m setting out to do in that moment. No matter how scary it might seem, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to be the best at it.
I just kind of do a little rah-rah cheer for myself. I tell myself, Cheryl, you can do this. I just get out there and I do it. I tell myself, I’m only as good as my last performance, so every performance has to be amazing. I can’t afford for any presentation or any speech to be just half-way done. It has to be my A-game every time.”
After hearing Cheryl describe her practice, I realized that I do something similar. I subscribe to Seth Godin’s inspiring daily blog and often read them out loud to motivate myself. Here’s one of my favorites. “The only way to become the writer who has written a book is to write one. The only way to become the runner who has just finished a run is to go running. You might dread the writing or the running or the leading, but it’s the key step on the road to becoming. If it’s easier, remind yourself what you’re about to be.”
So what are you going to say to yourself today, and what will you do for the rest of this day, or tomorrow or next week, for that matter? Whatever it is, make sure it will take you at least one step closer to being what you want to be.