Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life is not static. I’m not going to wake up one morning, look around at all I’ve done and say, “I’ve arrived. Now is the time to enjoy this place as it is.” But it seems that many of us spend our lives working toward that day. We plod through life enduring each day thinking, “Once I get promoted, once I pay off my debt, once I get married, once we have kids, once the kids are out of diapers, once soccer season ends,” and the beat goes on… Meanwhile, we accrue life experiences and breath-taking moments that we look back on with nostalgia and sometimes a sense of outrage with oneself. “How could I have been in that moment and NOT realized how special it was right then?”

Sure, you probably enjoyed the moment, we usually do. Maybe it was something big like earning your graduate degree while working full time and raising two kids. You walked on that stage with a big smile on your face, shook the Dean’s hand, proudly posed with your diploma, had a great party with family and friends afterward; it was a big deal. But did you give the moment the credit it deserved in that quiet space where you erase all regrets about yesterday and push aside worries and plans for tomorrow and just immerse yourself in the feeling of pride, accomplishment, excitement and hope that the moment offered right then and there? Most likely not until after it had passed.

Or what about those moments in life that aren’t so headline-monumental, but still meaningful when looking back? For me it might be something like sitting on my best friend’s couch, sipping a good wine and listening to her tell me about her decision to stay at home and care for her son. In that moment of sharing and intimacy, I realize that I have a friend who trusts me to understand her deepest thoughts and fears despite our different life circumstances and paths. I understand that it’s not all about being the Maid of Honor in her wedding or godmother to her son, it’s a connection we have that surpasses the symbolic parts of friendship and is there even when we don’t talk for three weeks. In that moment I realize that THIS is life. And life is good.

How can you not enjoy the moment when a cat wants to snuggle on your chest?

So as I continue on the journey of my life, taking completely unexpected detours and encountering unplanned forks in the road, I try to enjoy the scenery as it was meant to be enjoyed. After all, that’s half the fun of a good trip, right? Even as I make big decisions that change everything, there will never come that moment when I look around, exhale with relief and say, “NOW it is done.” Because I truly believe that when that moment arrives, it will be my last exhale. And I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way, when I really think about it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Six Lessons Learned in 3 Short Months

My financial coaching business was legally incorporated as Kelley C. Long Consulting, LLC, on June 16, 2009, and in the three short months that have since ensued, I’ve acquired a lifetime of knowledge and lessons about hanging out my own shingle. If nothing else, it has offered quite the study on Kelley C. Long and what she can and cannot do.

As I’ve spoken with other budding entrepreneurs, and even those that have moved on to being officially classified as “experienced business owners,” I’m relieved to know that most of the lessons are not particularly unique to me. But since I am frequently asked how it’s going and have trouble condensing it into a 10 second answer, I thought I would compile a few of the things I’ve learned to date and share with my readers.

First, I do too much: This is probably not a newsflash to my family and close friends — I’ve always had a tendency to get involved in every cause that caught my interest although I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps it’s my inability to pay attention to one thing for very long. Or maybe it’s more attributed to my acute awareness of the limited amount of time I have on Earth and wanting to try it ALL. Whatever the reason, it’s all started coming to a head lately and I’ve had to make some tough choices.

My 7-day to-do list recently included tasks ranging from writing an article about money, mentoring 1st-graders, and organizing a fund-raising gala to rehearsing for my church music ensemble, attending a continuing education seminar and promoting recycling to bars and restaurants. None of which paid a dime. Yep, I do too much.

Things were different when my bi-weekly paycheck was coming from The Man – I could keep that train going with a little effort during office hours, then spend the rest of my time pursuing other interests. But now that the food in my refrigerator is in direct proportion to the amount of time I spend working, I realize that despite my current life situation (not married, no kids yet, no mortgage or car payment… in other words, free as a bird) I really cannot do it all.

So how do I decide which activities to step away from as gracefully as possible and which to continue to strive toward? I’m starting with a holistic evaluation of my personal values coupled with the impact of my participation (or lack of, as the case may be) to help prioritize. But I admit that this may be the most excruciating realization of what being an entrepreneur really means.

There are a gazillion opportunities to make money. I can’t pursue them all: This realization can be easily summed up with one word: focus. As you’ve probably deduced from the first lesson above, focus does not come easily to me. Friends have suggested many great ideas to me regarding where to take my business — a class of people who could benefit from my services or a marketing idea or even a plan for collaboration. I’ve quickly learned that if I try to do them all at once, none of them will work regardless of their realistic merit. Each day offers more clarity into the most effective and engaging ways for me to evolve my business if I just focus on a select few ideas at a time.

I’ve also learned that the second time I try something is usually the most accurate predictor of whether it is sustainable. Too often the first go-round of an idea or event is well-received and seemingly successful, but it turns out that a lot of it had to do with novelty, people being nice and my own excessive optimism. Trying something a second time is the most telling to me as to whether it is worth pursuing long-term.

Everyone wants a piece of the guts: While leaving the rat race and striking out on my own seemed a natural progression of the journey I’ve been on since hitting the reset button two years ago, the headline, “I Quit My Well-Paying Corporate Job and Started My Own Gig,” sounds a lot braver to those who have not been along for the whole trip. Whether they are lauding my idea, envious of the ability to do it or looking for a ride on the coattails of something new and different, I’ve been flattered by some of the previously-uninterested individuals now taking a keen interest in what I’m doing. However, I’ve quickly learned to reel in my high need for approval in lieu of spending too much time with people who really just want a piece of the action.

This may sound like I will only spend time with people who can promote my cause, but it is really the opposite: I have had to learn how to distinguish those that only want to promote THEIR cause from those who are truly seeking a connection or with whom there is an opportunity for synergy. By evaluating different relationships, I’ve been able to deepen those that work and filter out those that don’t.

Working until 2:00am is no biggie when you can sleep until 10:00: I used to look with pity upon friends and contacts who worked outside traditional working hours, responding to emails on Sunday night or giving presentations on a Wednesday evening, thinking that it must really suck to have a job that requires such a time commitment. Now I realize that when you have a job that fulfills a deeper purpose and is an extension of skills and talents that come naturally to you, it is not a painful thing to work. Getting work done after dinner can actually be relaxing to me, as I know that I won’t have to scramble in the morning to get started. And it makes those leisurely lunches with friends all the more rewarding, knowing that I’m not limited to accomplishing tasks within “office hours.”

Money really doesn’t buy happiness: I had a pretty good grasp on this before I left my cushy salaried job, but there’s nothing like reality to drive the lesson home. On the surface it is nerve-wracking to look at my checking account and see that the balance is less than my monthly rent payment. In the past, this was no big deal as I knew a payday was coming that would fill the gap. With the uncertainty of when payday is to come these days, I’ve had to take a chill pill about having a large bank balance to fall back on. While it was nice to have $20,000 in the bank with a regular paycheck covering all my bills, I can confidently say that I am much happier with my day-to-day life despite having to dip into my savings to make ends meet as I get things off the ground. Because after all, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard. And right now I’m spending each day doing things that I never would have been able to do had I not taken the risk of becoming my own boss.

“Roller coaster ride” is understating it: Before taking the leap to make it on my own, I consulted several self-employed friends who I respect and admire. Each of them advised me that starting and running a business is equivalent to a roller coaster ride. Since I’m a big fan of putting my life on the line by racing at breakneck speed in a small car down a tiny steel track, I felt ready to hop on the ride of my life.

But not even the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point could have prepared me for the elation of the highs or the despair of the lows. I have a policy about sharing my moods with people to whom I’m not speaking on the phone or sitting with face-to-face — I simply don’t broadcast such news via social media. But I will share that I have had my fair share of moments when I looked myself in the eye and asked, “Kelley, how the HELL are you going to make this happen?”

Luckily I am blessed with a strong bench of back-up optimists to whom I can reach out for encouragement and reminders of why I did this in the first place. And I’ve also maintained a line-up of realists to keep me on track when I want to rest on my laurels too long after a victory. They encourage me to celebrate the good times, but also to ride the wave of elation toward continued accomplishment.

In summary, I regularly tell people I feel like my life is a vacation since launching my practice. Not the kind where you lay comatose on a remote beach trying to convince yourself that you’re really ok with your job and the unrelenting chaos of “real life,” but the kind where you spend each day experiencing moments that change you for life.

Perhaps you’ve climbed a mountain on a vacation — a task that has moments of total pain and discouragement, but by pushing through to the summit, you found it well beyond any negative experience in getting there. Or you’ve explored a foreign city surviving language barriers, strange food and times of pure panic when lost in a rough neighborhood, all outweighed by the feeling of triumph and accomplishment at the resilience and strength gained from not only making it but having an experiential reminder of how wonderful life really is. THAT’S the kind of vacation I’m talking about.

I have the freedom to look at each opportunity that interests me and creatively explore ways that I can participate without worrying about violating any corporate codes or getting tangled in red tape. This also requires a much greater deal of trust in myself, faith in the universe and personal accountability, which can be a momentous struggle at times. But so far I find it worth it and only hope to spread the message of encouragement to each person I meet to really listen to their intuitive voice and live life like it’s the only chance we have. Because after all, we only get one ride…

So now you tell me: Are you living the life you imagined you would be living when still a dreamy-eyed child? If not, what’s holding you back from pursuing the life you really want to live?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quandary - Red, Pink or Blue???

So I have a minor dilemma. CincyChic, a local online publication for women that is quickly revolutionizing how businesses market to women in the Cincinnati region, is putting on a brilliant women's health event next week (June 25- 27) called Red, Pink & Blue. http://bit.ly/5qo05 


My dilemma is, which do I want to support the most? Red - for women's heart health, which directly affects me due to a hereditary blood clotting disorder I have; Pink - for breast cancer, of which my Mommy is a 9-year survivor (Thank you Lord for her healing!!!); or Blue - for diabetes, which also afflicts my precious mother? I had to pick which color when deciding which section I would sit in for the hip and exciting fashion show to take place ON the Purple People Bridge. (yes, that's right, a fashion show on a bridge spanning the mighty Ohio River... only CincyChic would come up with this. Love it!) 

I ended up picking blue because of the three health issues, this is the one that seems the most difficult to get under control in my family. And because it is also probably the issue I know the LEAST about!

Anyway, if you're in Cincinnati next weekend and looking for some fantastic events, consider checking out Red, Pink & Blue. There are several free lunch'n'learns, a Health Expo and other educational opportunities. Not to mention the creative fashion show on Saturday night! The video link above gives more info, and it looks to be a great time!

See you there!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dynamic Divas Inaugural meeting

I started my day today in the best way possible: with 9 dynamic, entrepreneurial, collaborative, creative, inspiring women! In a moment of alliterative thinking, I named us the Dynamic Divas and I think it will stick.

The original thought in bringing such energy and power together in one room was twofold: first, to give each of these wonderful women a chance to network with one another and exchange ideas and second, for me to selfishly absorb some of the brilliance simply from being in the room with such role models.

Our time together proved to be fulfilling, empowering, helpful, motivating and left us all desiring more time together! It was the perfect demonstration of the power and caring women have toward each other and the difference we can make with concentrated effort.

My vision for such groups going forward is to provide a regular forum for women of like minds (in this morning’s case, all women with businesses to run) to share, commiserate and help each other. My role as facilitator will be defined over time – I just know I love the energy and opportunity to be a part of it all.

As we began the conversation, it naturally led us to discuss as a group such topics as Twitter (about half of us are on Twitter and the other half still curious), being the bread-winner and/or sole financial provider, finding ways to delegate non-essential tasks in order to have 5 minutes of “me time,” and dealing with being a career woman PLUS all our other traditional female roles (mom, chef, maid, wife, girlfriend, etc.) As one woman expressed a frustration and/or need, another had the perfect suggestion to solve it – we all left with more than we came with!

I’d like to take this chance to send a public thank you to everyone that took time out of their busy schedule today in order to contribute to the Dynamic Divas inaugural breakfast: Jana Alverson www.lynnmcinturf.com/pages/meetourteam.htm, Debba Haupert www.girlfriendology.com, Val Jacobs http://tinyurl.com/kw9995, Krista Neher www.themarketess.com, Monika Roberts www.redkatblonde.com, Neysa Ruhl www.neysaruhl.com, Amy Scalia www.cincychic.com, Erin Schreyer www.sagestone-partners.com, and Stephanie Wallace www.blackbookemg.com.

Looking forward to our next meet-up and growing the group!



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Winners Walk Tall finale

I know it sounds cheesy and insincere when a volunteer tells you that they get just as much out of the volunteering as the recipients of the service, but today I’m going to be one of those people except I am anything BUT insincere.

Today was my last visit of the school year to the first grade students at Roselawn Condon school as a Character Coach for Winners Walk Tall. http://www.winnerswalktall.org/ I promised the kids a special reward for good behavior this week, and couldn’t wait to deliver on that promise!

A typical WWT lesson involves me revealing a character-building lesson printed on bright paper that I keep in my pink hat. I invite two students up to the front to help me read the lesson to the rest of the class. Examples of lessons we’ve covered include, “Shake Hands with a Firm Grip, Look People in the Eyes and Call Them by Name with a Smile,” or “Manners Matter,” or “Dream Big – the Sky is the Limit,” or my favorite, “Be Kind to Our Environment – Go Green!” We discuss what these things mean and how they apply in everyday life and why they make us winners. As I leave the classroom each week after group hugs, it is usually to chants of, “Miss Kel-LEY… Miss Kel-LEY!” I glow as I walk down the hall…

So today I switched it up a little for our last week and will treasure the day forever. After a quick review of the lessons throughout the year, I proceeded to call each child up to the front to be presented with a certificate of completion, customized with their name and signed by Yours Truly. As I called each name, the other students cheered wildly. The winner of the moment shook my hand (all with a firm grip!) and we posed for a photo. They were so cute about it – this little certificate means a lot to seven-year olds! Many were very shy, but I could see how they enjoyed the attention.

After each winner had received their accolades, I took my hat off to reveal a picture of my cat, Miles, fresh from the kitty salon and shaved down. I showed it to each student, explaining that this is what Miles look like after a hair cut. Then I asked, with a touch of drama, “Anyone want to see what he looks like with his hair grown out?” And the crowd went wild! I brought Miles into the room and gave each child a chance to pet him. 

I hate to think of how many allergic reactions are kicking in now!!! Of course we posed for a group shot before I left.

Anyway, it was a blast to share this special day with these darling children, and Miles was calm, patient and as sweet as ever. I have a feeling today was MUCH more about the volunteer than the recipients of the volunteering!!! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fit tips

While I did not actually write these tips, I find them to be quite useful and you will certainly hear me quoting them while I lead my Urban Iron fitness classes. Read on, ladies, for some myth-busters on working out! (I don't know the original author, but this was copied from Urban Active's Monday Motivator - a weekly newsletter for Urban's fitness instructors)


Lifting lighter weights will make your muscles more defined and toned. FALSE!

Muscle responds to overload. If you lift heavier weight with sufficient intensity, you will create more microscopic tears in the muscle. When the muscle recuperates, it will become tighter and stronger.

However, your supplemental nutrition must support your workouts. Reduced body fat is what creates the “lean and tight” look, not high reps (15 plus reps). Reduced body fat is a result of efficient weight training, proper amounts of cardiovascular exercise and nutrition that places one in somewhat of a calorie deficit (less than maintenance). That’s how you get defined and toned!

A lot of cardio is the most efficient way to lose body fat. FALSE!

Excessive cardio will strip muscle and body fat. This is definitely not the most efficient method to lose body fat. Once you begin stripping muscle tissue, your body becomes less efficient at burning body fat. Muscle is metabolically active, which simply means it stimulates the metabolism.

For each pound of muscle you put on your body, you will burn up to 50 additional calories per day. If you strip muscle tissue, all you accomplish is sabotaging your efforts to efficiently reduce body fat. The PROPER amount of cardio to accomplish your goal is what’s necessary!

A woman will get muscles as big as guy if she lifts heavier weight. FALSE!

This myth never seems to die. A woman has approximately one third of the testosterone of a man. Unless she is on anabolic steroids, growth hormone or other enhancing drugs, a woman will never achieve the muscular size of a man. However, she can get a degree of muscularity that makes her lean, toned and tight.

Muscle weighs more than fat. FALSE!

If I place one pound of muscle on a scale and one pound of fat on a scale, they will both weigh one pound. The difference is in total volume! One pound of muscle may appear to be the size of a baseball; one pound of fat will be three times the size and look like a squiggly bowl JELL-O.

The best way to lose fat is to eat very few calories. FALSE!

Always consider your body from the inside out. Your body’s main objective is to survive. It doesn’t care if you want to lose body fat. In fact, it would prefer to increase fat in case of famine. Internally, the body has no idea that it’s the year 2003. It could still be 10,000 years ago for all it cares. Survival is its number one objective.

If you eat very little (less than 1,200 calories), the body perceives an emergency and will accommodate you by holding onto stored body fat. As well it should, because it has no idea when it will be fed again.

The infomercial that has that cool looking, easy-to-use abdominal machine will help me to get a flat stomach. FALSE!

The infomercials barely mention nutrition when attempting to sell their miracle ab machine of the month. Nutrition is a huge component of attaining a flatter stomach! The key to a flatter stomach is proper nutrition, resistance exercise to increase muscle tissue and cardiovascular exercise to burn additional calories. Sensing a theme here? Its all about balance and consistency.

Monday, May 11, 2009

10 Tips for Staying Fiscally Fabulous

I recently had a request for a copy of the 10 Tips for Staying Fiscally Fabulous that I presented at the Recessionista Swap n' Shop in March, and thought that perhaps I would share it with readers as well. Enjoy!

Top 10 Tips for Staying Fiscally Fabulous                                                                                 

Recession-proof ideas for remaining fashionable without blowing your budget

1. Go Faux in Style

When purchasing trendy items that may only be worn once or twice before going out of style, seek out the bargains. Faux leather handbags or inexpensive accessories can be found at discount retailers that look very similar, if not identical to the real deal found on fashion runways. Save your hard-earned dollars for other fabulous purchases!

2. Invest in the Basics

Go ahead and splurge on timeless wardrobe classics in neutral colors, such as well-fitting black slacks or a seasonless trench coat. These items can be worn again and again as the foundation of your wardrobe. Mix them up with differing accessories and trendy items to stay in style. By spending a little more on quality, these items will last several years.

3. Dress for Success

A little black dress can easily go from office to happy hour to evening wear with a simple change in accessories and/or hair style. Plus, it is only one item and offers countless different looks depending on what accessories it is paired with. Find 2 or 3 knee-length solid-color dresses in fits that are flattering to your figure, and you can have a whole week’s worth of outfits or more!

4. Can the Credit Cards

If you can’t afford to buy something with the cash in your account, don’t even think about reaching for your plastic. Some stores will give you a discount for using their card, then allow you to pay the balance right there – this is a smart way to save some extra money. But if you aren’t able to pay the balance right there, it is not worth the 5-10% savings on your bill. By design, discounts often end up being paid back to the retailer in interest and fees.

5. Diminish Debt by Maximizing Minimum Payments

If you’re only paying the minimum balance due on your existing credit card debt it could take you up to 8 years to pay off the balance, depending on how much you owe. Discover what it feels like to live debt-free sooner by paying more than the minimum due. Even paying just $5 more per month makes a difference.

6. Recycle and Refresh Your Wardrobe with Resale

Clean out your closet and make some quick cash with gently-used fashionable items. Take those items you‘re no longer wearing to a consignment shop and receive some of your investment back. Resale shops pay you up to 50% of what they are able to sell your items for, sometimes paying you when you drop the clothes off.

7. Stay in Season with Color

Determine the season of your skin, hair and eye color, then stick to your season’s palette when purchasing clothes. For example, if you‘re an autumn, you‘ll look smashing in oranges, golds, browns and olives. But pastels will only wash you out and will end up hanging unworn in your closet. Springs, on the other hand, glow in pastels and should avoid the fall colors.

8. Beef Up Beauty Treatments

Extend the time between expensive beauty treatments with some expert tips on maintaining your manicure and hair color. To prolong the life of a natural nail manicure, put a top coat over your color at least every 3 days – this simple step could give you up to an extra week! Postpone the next fill on your acrylics by massaging oil into your cuticles and nails every night. This will keep your natural nails from separating from the acrylic and keep them on your nails longer. And if gray roots give you grief after even 3 weeks, ask your colorist if she will do an interim coloring just along your part, allowing you to go closer to 8 weeks between full color treatments.

9. Skip the Soda

Try ordering water with lemon when dining out rather than ordering a Diet Coke or Iced Tea. Most restaurants now charge upwards of $2 for a soda, which can end up being 25% of your total lunch bill! Save the beverage indulgence for cans at home or the office, and you will also experience some added health benefits from drinking more water.

10. Java Justification

If you simply can’t bring yourself to give up the daily $4 latte, at least try bringing your own mug. Many coffee shops give a discount for bringing your own, and it saves all those extra cups from their landfill destiny. A 10 cent discount each day for a month will save you enough for a free latte, and Mother Earth will thank you as well.