Top 10 Diva Do's and Don'ts: Home Improvements Projects for Women

Guest blog by Norma Vally

1. DON’T wear loose clothing while performing home improvement tasks. Loose-fitting garments can get caught in power tools, especially saws—a potentially life threatening situation.

2. DO know where the main shut-off valves for all your utilities are located. Women need to know how to turn off the main power sources for the gas, water and electricity in their homes. This is critical in an emergency.

3. DON’T be stymied by a lack of upper body strength. For example, women can gain leverage by extending the length of a wrench—thus requiring less brute strength—by adding a long piece of metal pipe over the wrench’s handle. “Back in Brooklyn, we call that pipe a ‘persuader,’” Norma says.

4. DO mark your project materials before cutting them. The old adage goes, “Measure twice, cut once.” Norma takes it a step further, “Whenever possible, mark instead of measure is even better.”

5. DON’T buy cheap tools. Investing in good tools upfront will save you money in the long run since they won’t need to be replaced. They’ll also save you a lot of aggravation— and not being aggravated is priceless!

6. DO know which direction to turn screws and other fittings. The general rule is, “Right tight, left loose.”

7. DON’T be embarrassed to ask for help from the staff in home improvement centers and hardware stores. They are often retired trades people and can offer a wealth of information.

8. DO organize your work space and keep it clutter-free. Clean up as you work to keep the area safe and free of potential hazards, especially anything that you can trip over.

9. DON’T forget to bring along any old parts that you may be replacing when you go to the hardware store. Norma says, “It’s much easier for you and the sales staff to find replacement parts when you bring in an example of what you’re looking for.” If you can’t bring it with you, try to find a serial or ID number from the original part.

10. DO unplug your power tools when you’re adjusting a part or changing a blade. “Just turning the tool off isn’t enough,” cautions Norma. “Accidents can and do happen, so be sure to always unplug your tools.”
 

Marketing Conversations and Conversation STOPPERS

Guest blog by Nina Ham cppc, lcsw

Where many marketing conversations get off-track are the ones you have with yourself, before you even pick up the phone or initiate the handshake. As independent professionals, usually at the helm of solo businesses, we sometimes find ourselves facing daunting internal obstacles as we try to begin our day’s marketing activity. With no one in our office-of-one to help with a confidence booster, an important resource to have in our self-management toolbox is a means of submitting the negative self-talk for an internal Second Opinion.

Let’s imagine you’re about to pick up the phone to follow up on a promising contact you met a few days ago. You recognize that the clammy hands gripping the phone are a sure sign that Fear of Rejection is in charge. You’ve convinced yourself that the voice about to answer your call is just waiting for an excuse, any excuse, to hang up. What to do? Time for a Second Opinion! 

The Department of Second Opinions draws on that part of yourself that knows enough to question the self-defeating voices by asking, “How real is this?” Buttressing its wisdom is the recognition that a conversation underlies every marketing activity as sub-text, a conversation that’s usually unspoken. While we may tend to think of marketing as telling people what we do, in fact all our marketing activities implicitly ask a question: “Do my services have potential value to you?” When Fear of Rejection is in charge, the door slams shut on any potential conversation. “Do my services have value?” “No!” End of conversation. But what if you stay in the (unspoken) conversation and wonder, “What are they actually saying no to, and why?” They could be saying no to having the conversation now, or to a perceived misfit between their needs and your services, or even to the person they couldn’t say no to 10 minutes earlier!

Viewed in this light, the imagined door slamming shut in your face shifts to a swinging door. Even if it shuts, you’re likely to come away with useful information about the needs of this prospect, or about how to better position your services for your target client. Even if it shuts on him or her as a prospect, you’ve gotten the word out to one more person about your services.

Another conversation stopper, particularly seductive for service professionals: “I Can’t Sell Myself”. This one actually negates any conversation from the outset, presuming instead that rather than talking, you have to convince or even manipulate the prospect. A Second Opinion might point to a more promising line of inquiry such as: How do I quickly and accurately inform myself about my prospect’s needs and present my services as an effective solution?

Shifting the internal voices – abandoning the conversation-stoppers or door-slammers and instead framing a question - gives you a good chance of getting off on positive footing for the actual conversation. It’s very helpful to remember that even if the prospect says no, this doesn’t have to be your last opportunity. When you relax into the conversation, into listening and asking as well as telling, you may hear an interest or need that has no direct connection to your services but provides a basis for staying in touch. This will indeed have been a successful marketing conversation! Good luck.

What You Need to Know About Your Parents

Guest blog by Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass
Author of I'm OK, You're My Parents: How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?--Cicero

The key to handling your parents is understanding them. Sometimes, especially when they are annoying you, the very idea of that is repellent. You don't want to understand their motives; you want to grumble about them, shrug your shoulders helplessly about how impossible they are, assure yourself that they're crazy. 

That's a completely natural reaction, but it's not useful. The only way for you to improve your chemistry with them is to know what forces shaped them. Just as you are shaped by your past (the humiliation of having your heart broken by that achingly beautiful girl in junior high school, the jubilance of overcoming a learning disability, the pain of your parents' divorce), so too are they people with a past every bit as poignant, surprising, and important as yours. You need to know that history in order to: 

...understand that when they try to manipulate, control, or demean you, they are often acting out dramas from their past that have little to do with you; 
...formulate an effective way to deal with them based on their vulnerabilities, sore spots, and "points of entry"; 
...develop empathy for them so you no longer feel threatened by them and can relate to them as an adult; 
...find common ground that will make it easier for you to create a more meaningful relationship, a relationship of equals. 

How to Dig Up the Dirt...It Can't Hurt to Ask 

As you read this, you may be thinking, I couldn't possibly just come out and ask my mother about her childhood. That would be too embarrassing for her . . . and for me. But you may be dead wrong. Your parents may be much more open to direct questions than you think. Many of my clients judge their parents' approachability by their own childhood standards of privacy, fear, and taboo. Because their childhood was scary and full of family secrets, they assume that their parents will be shocked if asked about their childhood. 

But these two things are not necessarily related, especially not in your parents' minds. Many parents enjoy answering questions about their childhood. To begin with, they're getting older, and as the human brain ages, it tends to favor long-term memory. That means your parents may now remember, perhaps fondly, details of their childhood that they thought they had forgotten. Also, if your parents are the types who demand a lot of attention, asking them these questions will help satisfy that need. They probably enjoy talking about themselves (Who doesn't?) and will be flattered by your interest. You may be surprised at how quickly and fully they open up -- provided that you deal with them skillfully. 

Tips

Choose a comfortable setting for this discussion, a place where they will not feel defensive. 
Think about what kind of interaction they handle best -- are they better talking "off the cuff," or do they need time to organize their thoughts and words? 

Be gentle. 
Be nonjudgmental. 

If it will help draw them out, be willing to share some of yourself. Major caveat: be sure you don't one-up them, bring up uncomfortable things from your childhood that involve them too directly, or monopolize the conversation. Remember, this is about them, not you. 
Ask follow-up questions. Don't let them drop an intriguing detail and then move on. If your mother says, "It was really hard for us because my parents were so poor and there were six kids," you reply, "That must have been tough. What was the hardest thing you remember about being poor?" 

Gently dig for stories, not just impressions. Specific anecdotes tell the important truths. Your father may say his own father was a disciplinarian, but what did that mean? Try to elicit a story that demonstrates how strict your grandfather was with your father. Remember, the story he chooses to tell is the one that is the "money," the one that will tell you a lot about what discipline -- or lack of it -- means to your dad. 
Probe for the opposites. If your dad just talks about negatives ("My mother was very cold; she never said she loved me"), ask if there were positives too ("Did you have any surrogate-parent types in your life? Did you get love elsewhere?"). If your mother only speaks in glowing terms ("I was a superstar in high school"), gently ask if there was any downside ("Did you feel a lot pressure to perform?"). 

How to Get the Ball Rolling 

Always begin with a neutral, nonthreatening observation or question. Then steer the conversation toward the topic you're interested in. 

Here are a few opening gambits you might adapt to your situation. 

"Dad, I've always been jealous of how well you X (shave, cook, organize the bills . . . ). Did your father teach you that?" 
"Mom, I was looking through some old photos of you and Aunt Jean, and you guys looked so cute and happy in your poodle skirts. And Grandma looked so young and proud. Were things as happy for you back then as they look?" 
"You know so much about the Civil War, Dad. Were you interested in it when you were a little kid. No? Then what were you interested in back then? What were you like back then? It's hard for me to imagine. I'd love to have met you then. What were you like as a kid?" 
You may find many keys in their childhood. Perhaps you don't have the expertise to analyze all their answers like a trained therapist (Her mother yelled at her a lot, so that's why she sometimes pulls that martyr crap with me), but you can reflect on their answers, and that may give you innovative ideas on how to deal with them. Many clients who delve in earnest into their parents' pasts find a cache of unrealized dreams and aspirations: a father who dreamed of being a professional athlete until a knee injury sidelined him forever; a mother who wanted to go to college but wound up pregnant at seventeen. You may think that you're the only one who had your dreams thwarted, but maybe that's not true. Be careful -- you may discover that your parents are much more like you than you think. 

Here's a good example from my life. My father was a navy pilot during World War II, stationed in the Pacific. After the war, he and two friends wanted to stay in Hawaii and start a small cargo-shipping company, but my mom, who'd been raising my older sister at her parents' home on the mainland, didn't want to move that far. Dad was an easygoing guy and agreed to come back to New Jersey, but I know he always wondered what would have happened if he had stayed in Hawaii. That little company his pals started became one of the biggest in the Pacific Rim. 

Disappointment colors people's lives and can have a profound effect on their families. It can be painful to find out about such things, but it's crucial that you do so if you ever hope to see your parents as fully realized beings. 

Knowledge of their past will give you empathy for them. You may find that their childhoods were much more similar to yours than you thought, that they echo the chilliness in your youth or the overpowering expressions of concern that made you feel smothered.

Or you may be surprised to find that their impressions of their own childhood are in direct conflict with what you've heard from other family members or what you experienced in watching them deal with your grandparents. (I've had many clients whose parents describe their own childhood as idyllic, though the clients themselves remember volcanic fights between the parents and the grandparents.) 

This is all grist for the mill of your empathetic imagination. Remember, just as you want to be respected for your memories of childhood, they too are heavily invested in their childhood stories, despite the fact that those memories may not be entirely accurate.

As you explore the past with them, you may even find buried clues that will help you help them get in touch with some of their more tender, vulnerable memories and experiences. 
Copyright © 2004 Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass

Laughing Through The Apocalypse

Guest blog by Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass
Author of I'm OK, You're My Parents: How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day if I did not laugh I should die. --Abraham Lincoln

Laughing is probably the last thing you feel like doing when your parents are driving you insane, but that is precisely the reaction you should have sometimes. Throughout the ages, much humor has been derived from the antics of bumbling dads, meddling mothers-in-law, and overindulgent parents of all sorts. Think Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Woody Allen, Philip Roth. From Sanford and Son to Meet the Parents and The Royal Tenenbaums, relations between adult children and their mothers and fathers have been a rich topic in popular culture. There is good reason for this: almost everyone periodically finds themselves in situations with their parents that walk the line between harrowing and hilarious. 

One of my clients, a top executive at a huge entertainment company, brought his mother to the Grammy Awards. After introducing her to some of his colleagues, he brought her over to say hello to Mariah Carey. His mother took one look at the singer's gown -- cut down to her navel -- and asked in a voice tinged with disapproval, "Do you work for my son?" 

"No," said Carey. "I'm an entertainer."

"I'm sure you are, my dear," said his mother, turning on her heels. 

Did you laugh when you read that? I certainly did when my client told me that story. He was mortified by how his mother had acted, and I was trying to be sympathetic, but I couldn't help myself -- a little guffaw just slipped out. And you know what? When he saw me laugh, he started laughing too. In fact, we both laughed so hard tears came to our eyes. I still smile now every time I think of his five-foot-two-inch mom in her spangly pantsuit giving Mariah Carey the cold shoulder. 

My point is that learning to see your parents' foibles -- and your sometimes overblown reactions to them -- as humorous, at least on some level, is healthy and extremely productive. Seeing that your life resembles a not-ready-for-prime-time reality show can be as efficient as the SWAT explosives unit at diffusing any bombs your parents throw at you. 

And learning to laugh to yourself at your parents -- yes, it's something you may have to learn -- will also provide you with great material to share with friends and family. That's important, because telling funny stories about your zany parents is a good way to drain the drama and heartache out of your dealings with them. And that's a giant step toward putting it all in perspective and eventually dealing with your parents in a sane, strategic manner. 

With whom should you share such stories? Well, for starters, your Second Opinion will enjoy hearing you talk about your parents with humor. He or she already knows the players and what's at stake, and -- if you have chosen your S.O. carefully -- will be overjoyed to hear that you are dealing with the conflict in a less loaded way. Everyone loves a good story. There is no greater tension reliever than being able to transform an annoying interaction with your parents into a ruefully funny story to tell your partner as you both lay in bed at night. The person you love probably has heard his or her share of horror stories, listened to you complain endlessly, probably with good reason, about your burden. If you can occasionally rework the drama into a comedy, it will make listening to your complaints much easier the next time around. 

I realize that recasting the drama between you and your parents into a comedy is not always easy. Laughter requires distance. Unless you put some space between yourself and the situation, learn to float above it and look down at the dynamics from a safe place, you will not be able to appreciate the inherent humor, however black, in the situation. If you allow yourself to be stuck in the role of victim, you will feel threatened and angry instead of bemused and in possession of a good story for your friends. 

Imagine your family as a sitcom. Even though you may react to that suggestion by saying, "But the things that go on between me and my parents aren't funny; they're tragic," remember that, on paper, the friction on Everybody Loves Raymond, or All in the Family, could have been tragedy, too. The guilt in those shows is thick and unwieldy, as are the insults and humiliations. But the writers work hard to tap into the universality of suffering, which can be funny in a poignant, human way. They tried to find the humor in misplaced pride, in petty self-interests, in love gone awry. That is how I want you to view the friction between you and your parents, at least from time to time. What role would you play? What actors would you cast as your mom and dad? What would your character do differently? What funny lines would you give yourself? Where would the laugh track chime in? 

You might also create a parental humor support group with some friends and swap tales of your parents' silly behavior. Avoid complaining; concentrate on the nutty narratives. Not only will such sessions alleviate an unbelievable amount of stress, but they will show you that you are not alone. They may even show you that some people have parents even crazier than yours. 

Humor can exist in the most painful and difficult of situations. In urging you to find the humor in your situation, I am not suggesting that you mask your darker feelings -- merely that you not be overwhelmed by them. The key is to accept that your parents can be simultaneously annoying (or humiliating or sad or manipulative) and funny. And that you can sometimes be funny or at least light-hearted in your response to them. 

There is a big difference between manufacturing humor (it will always feel phony and hurt more than it helps) and cultivating it if even the faintest whisper of humor lurks in any situation. That is a gift that will last you for many years. As Mark Twain said, "Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand." 

Copyright © 2004 Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass

Female Friendly Erotica

Guest blog by Nancy Madore
Author of Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories For Women (Erotic Fiction) 

In these times of sexual openness and honesty, more and more women are revealing that they are not satisfied sexually. This dissatisfaction has opened up a whole new industry for treating what we now call sexual dysfunction. Women in huge numbers are coming forward with a wide range of sexual problems, and there are all kinds of statistics being gathered in relation to what this means. I read somewhere that possibly as many as 70% of women suffer with some kind of sexual dysfunction. Not surprisingly, to me at least, was the discovery that these dysfunctions manifest themselves most often in the form of lack of desire.

This new wave of sexual dysfunction awareness is particularly satisfying for me. I have always wondered over the supposed indifference women appear to have towards the media's presentation of sex and sexual material. To my mind, sex in the media more often than not appeals to men while ignoring women almost entirely. It seems to take the position that sex is for guys, and women are only involved to please them. The most offensive thing about this, for me, is women's silence about it.

Officially, no definitive connection has been made between women's sexual dysfunction and our culture's presentation of sexual material. But this lack of corroboration doesn't dissuade me from my opinion that the most common sexual dysfunction complained about by women, lack of desire, is most certainly linked to the way sex that is presented in our media. It is a natural deduction once you put together the facts we do know. We know, for example, that women and men are sexually stimulated by different things. And it also generally agreed that women need to feel sexy in order to enjoy sex. With just these two factors in mind, how is it possible that a woman wouldn't be turned off by images and ideas that either alienate her or put her down? 

Years ago, when I first noticed the negative effects this kind of media was having on me personally, I started filtering what I exposed myself to. I can truly say, for example, that I haven't looked inside a beauty magazine in over twenty years. I am also choosy about what I will spend my leisure time watching on television. Nearly all advertisements are totally off limits, and I've noticed that companies selling women's products are the most abusive. Without these negative influences, my own 'dysfunctions' have long since disappeared.

The irony here is that men are actually far less discerning than women in regards to sexual material. They are just as likely to find one sexual stimulant as effective as another. What's more, their sexuality tends to be more readily active even without the overabundance of stimuli and, finally, there is no potential harm to their libidos when the stimulant is directed toward the women (quite the opposite, in fact). So in appealing to women, the media has a wonderful opportunity to double their audience and entertain both genders at once. HBO's Sex in the City was a great example of this. Most of the men I know liked this show as much as women did. For advertisers, this kind of thinking could bring about a tremendous boost in sales. For some reason, they are hung up on the idea that women will buy more products if they are made to feel like they are not good enough without the products. I think their wrong about this. But it is really up to women as individuals to make a statement to the industry through their buying. If the advertisements for a product make you feel bad about yourself, why would you buy it?

Part of the problem is one of habit, but the other part is of ignorance and laziness. Most advertisers and writers appeal to men because it is simpler. They don't know how to appeal to women. Women are undeniably more difficult to excite sexually than men are. It takes more finesse and sensitivity. One of the biggest differences between men and women, for example, is that men seem to prefer visual stimulation, while visual stimulation can actually act as a deterrent to women, especially when it is presented in a way that intimidates them. It is intimidating and off putting for women to be faced with images that are unrealistic and unnatural, especially when those images are presented as superior. It threatens their sexuality to be faced with the concept that they are not, and could never be, truly sexy. One of the more obvious examples of this is the Victoria's Secret commercial that asks, "What is sexy?" and proceeds to present images of unnaturally thin women whose bodies have been surgically augmented so that they have curves in the "right" places. I would like to mention to whoever wrote that commercial that I personally know women who have suffered with years of depression and isolation and yes, sexual abstinence, because their bulimia did not make them feel sexy. I also know it was not considered sexy by their boyfriends and husbands. I could also tell you about women who suffered terrible repercussions and health issues from implant surgeries gone bad. These things are not sexy in the least, and frankly, I find it a bit arrogant of this company to suggest that they are an authority on what is sexy. From their commercials I am confident that there is nothing they could offer me in the way of lacy undergarments that could repair their thoughtless damage to my self image were I to actually believe their advertisements of what sexy is. Needless to say, I don't shop there. But unfortunately, scores of women do flock to their stores to try and capture this illusive "sexy" that they, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, actually have had in their possession all along. The products sold at Victoria's Secret could bring out and enhance a woman's natural sex appeal, but it cannot produce it. Instead of browbeating women into thinking something is missing without their products, Victoria's Secret might sell even more products if they were to encourage women to simply enhance that unique part of themselves and have a little fun with it. I know that I would be more interested in seeing what they have to sell if they presented it that way to me.

The media overall is obsessed with presenting sex as if they were re-inventing the wheel. They want to project an image or idea that is better than anything real life has to offer. This translates to many women as there being a deficiency within themselves. I will agree that women are far too influenced by the media, but I can't for the life of me understand why women are buying products from companies who do this. Still, I strongly believe that these companies would sell even more products if they took a different approach.

In my first book, Enchanted; Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women, I conducted an experiment on this by intentionally leaving out all visual images of my female characters. I did this for several reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to focus on erotic behaviors and sexual fantasies-and not on appearances, especially stereotypes. Besides this, I wanted my readers, who I anticipated would be women, to be able to imagine themselves in the staring role. I wasn't certain that it could be done. Almost every type of sensual material I have found, from porn to romance novels feature, as their central focal point, a heroine that is, more times than not, over the top in physical perfection and/or performance. This has always acted as a distraction to me, so I thought perhaps it might be the same for others. And as it turns out, most women who have read my book did not even seem to notice that the images were missing. Even more surprisingly, men who read the book have told me that they did not miss the visual images either, and that they found the stories exciting without them. I found this remarkable.

The most obvious characteristic of erotica that is designed for women is that the subject matter appeals to and interests them. That is why in Enchanted; Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women, each fairy tale is re-written around a popular women's fantasy. In my next book, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, each princess overcomes a common sexual dysfunction. And yet, as straight forward as writing for women may sound, it presents a challenge. Sexual fantasies and dysfunctions alike can be extremely complex and contradictory. I found, for example, that many women take on a submissive role in their fantasies. This can become a paradox, though, even for the women who is fantasizing this way. After the fantasy, she can suffer with feelings of guilt and shame over the things it gave her pleasure to fantasize about moments before. Quite naturally then, there is bound to be censure when someone else entirely puts those fantasies down on paper. It has become more accepted since Nancy Friday's books, but even so, there will always be offense taken when a woman is portrayed in any way as being subjugated. Interestingly, my research revealed that dominance, when dispensed in an effort to please, is one of the most liberating experiences a woman (or man) can be subjected to. The submissive is generally the coveted role. But even more to the point, how can women be empowered sexually if they truly can't 'let go' in the bedroom? This is just one example of how it takes a thoughtful, careful hand to write to women, and even then there will be some women who are offended. My worst critics were feminists, and I found it perplexing that women would be so critical of a genuine, thoughtful effort on their behalf, while completely cowering under the open disregard for them in other aspects of the media. I suppose the effort in itself opens one up to critique. The idea is that women can help the evolution of a true sexual revolution for them by showing support for efforts to achieve it. 

Writing female friendly erotica is most certainly a challenge, but it could be very rewarding for writers and advertisers alike to tap into this market. Now especially, as more and more is learned about sexual dysfunction in women, it becomes apparent that there is actually a need for erotica for women. Doctors are already saying that erotica can be a wonderful tool to help get women in the mood. 

In closing I would like to say that I personally think that calling lack of desire a 'sexual dysfunction' is, in and of itself, a lack of understanding of women. Once again, we are being compared to men. Women are not machines, and the combination of forces working against women's sexual health, along with the everyday stresses of life, make it really more normal for women to not be in the mood than otherwise. It should be expected that women would need to relax and encourage the mood to achieve it, thereby taking charge of their sexual life and any 'problems' therein. 

The MAGIC Remedy

Guest blog by Dr. Natasha Valdez
Author of Vitamin O: Why Orgasms are Vital to a Woman's Health and Happiness, and How to Have Them Every Time!

There’s a pretty popular saying that “love is a drug”—and people also often think that sex is just that, especially good sex. But that’s definitely not where we’re going here. Because there’s a huge difference between what a drug does for you and what a vitamin has to offer. 

Whether prescribed or recreational, a drug treats a symptom. It alters things for a limited time, and then there’s a crash—and another dose is needed immediately. There may also be unwanted side effects. Now a vitamin, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach to a situation. You don’t treat a symptom with a vitamin; you use it to help build a foundation of good health. A vitamin is essentially a supplement in a much larger system of smart choices, an important element within a larger context. A vitamin enhances. Its benefits are layered and far-reaching, not just a zapping of a targeted pain or other element. 

Especially in the case of Vitamin O, it’s something you can take as much as you want to take, without any worry of toxicity or buildup in your system—because Vitamin O is all about release. Add regular doses of Vitamin O to your regimen, and the results will benefit you for life. As the proven healing and revitalizing power of sex and orgasm is revealed, we’ll see without a doubt how orgasm is indeed the “magic remedy” to heal and restore us, and to build a foundation for better overall health. 

Forget Echinacea. Did you know that having sex just once a week can boost your immunity by 30 percent? Imagine the benefits of getting down and dirty three, or even five times a week! We all get rundown from time to time. But turning the situation around is easy. There’s absolutely no reason to suffering any of this when the solution is as easy as taking a daily dose of vitamins! Here’s why: 

Sex burns calories—about 100 for an average 30-minute session. That’s actually more than tennis! And when you “work out” in all the right positions, think about how successfully you can tone your tummy, thighs, and even your tush. 

Studies have proven time and again that having regular sex boosts the body’s production of essential hormones like phenylethylamine which speeds the metabolism of fat. On top of that, it also curbs those killer cravings for crazy foods you know you should not be eating. It regulates your appetite so you don’t feel hungry when you’re not. And if you’re overeating because you’re bored, I’d say sex is more fun than a sandwich or sundae, any way you stack it.

Another hormone that gets released in your system when you have a good release is dehydroepiandrosterone, which is purportedly an anti-aging “potion.” Its production has been noted to promote more supple skin, meaning bye, bye crow’s feet! It is also currently being studied as a substance that possibly combats depression and eases symptoms associated with menopause.

One of the more interesting studies was done on body fat. Researchers at the Washington University School of medicine found that women who were given supplements of dehydroepiandrosterone lost 10.2 percent of their body fat. Great! But you don’t have to pop pills to get what you can have a lot more fun making. O is the kind of vitamin that’s just as beneficial to make as it is to take!

Regular sex also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that, tying in with the above, is believed to quell junk food cravings. But it’s bigger than that. There’s a whole wealth of studies that credit the production of serotonin with a decrease in depression—or, more like it, a lack of serotonin leads to depression. Why? As a neurotransmitter, serotonin hits various receptors that regulate emotions; when there isn’t enough serotonin hitting these receptors, depression, anxiety, panic, and other unpleasant emotions result. 

Anything that helps release this substance into your system is a good thing. Diet and exercise can play a role, but neither of these has a direct line to serotonin release like having an orgasm does. 

So we’ve seen how regular sex and orgasms can help make you thin, young, and happy. Now let’s look at how it can make you healthy.

To ward off colds, we swallow huge amounts of orange juice and other fluids. We dose up on echinacea and zinc. And if, God forbid, we do get sick, we bloat ourselves with chicken soup, and then stumble around as we drug ourselves up and dry ourselves out on anything from over the counter that promises relief. And to think we could save ourselves all this grief by just allowing ourselves to have regular orgasms!

Studies have now uncovered that having frequent orgasms actually raises levels of the antigen immunoglobulin A in our systems, the antibody expressly responsible for fighting off colds and flu. In fact, women who engage in regular sexual activity have been found to have one-third higher levels of immunoglobulin A. What would you rather have, sex or a flu shot? Think about it!

And think about this, the other side of the coin. If you’re not having regular orgasms, you’re not getting the benefit and boost of these high immunoglobulin A levels. So not having orgasms—not having enough good orgasms—can actually make you sick. Another excellent reason to make sure you get your daily dose.

Studies have also shown that women who had sex at least once a week were more likely to have more regular menstrual cycles. Also, it’s been shown that regular orgasms also reduce cramps and the severity of them. 

Having more orgasms means having higher levels of estrogen in your blood, which translates to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, overall better cardiovascular health, and much less bad cholesterol in your system. 

Orgasms are also good for sleeping! Sex exerts energy, and the more into it you are, the more energy you expend. But “sex¬ercise” aside, orgasms themselves relieve tension, which helps us get to sleep and stay asleep. The relaxing of the muscle tautness that increases as we anticipate release helps relieve all those nasty, annoying tensions you trap in your nervous system over the course of a day.

After orgasm, in women, the blood pressure starts to gradually decrease, promoting relaxation, along with the calming, soothing release of all those wonderful endorphins. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, why drag all that drama to bed with you when you and your partner can work it out together—or just yourself! And if you’re feeling too tired to have sex—maybe it’s time to break that vicious cycle once and for all.

One of the greatest tonics a woman can take to seal in her good health costs nothing, can be achieved with or without company, and has benefits well beyond the initial pleasure it provides. With this knowledge, you should be wanting and working at having at least one orgasm every day.

Return to Beauty: Old World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin

Guest blog by Narine Nikogosian
Author of Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin

It’s no secret that women want to look and feel beautiful. I created Return to Beauty to pass on the wisdom I’ve learned in my twenty years as a professional aesthetician. Beauty is much easier than we think! Your radiance doesn’t require expensive lotions or toxic potions, only simple skincare recipes made from fresh ingredients in the comfort of your own kitchen. For instance, did you know that pumpkin slices under tired eyes can refresh your look for a big night out?

When I was young, I would go with my grandmother and mother to the local salon and watch them receive facials. Then I would come home and experiment on my own face, creating concoctions from whatever fresh ingredients (vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy) were in our kitchen. Some recipes were a success – some were a mess!

As I grew older, I added my love of astrology to skincare, creating recipes based upon the various needs of each sun sign. (Gemini skin needs apricots, walnuts, and extra relaxation. Cancers need a lot of pampering and hot baths.) Then I invited my friends over for beauty treatments. Thus began my lifelong affair helping people fall in love with their own radiance.

I am fortunate to treat some of the most naturally beautiful faces in the world. Women of color have supple skin that ages gracefully, so it’s important to take good care of it. To help prevent skin problems, such as clogging pores, I always remind my clients to keep their skin clean and use non-invasive products. The Cabbage Milk Cleanser recipe is perfect for cleansing without drying effects. If your skin tends to run normal-to-oily or oily, then it’s important not to over-moisturize.

Your skin also has different needs for each season so your regime should reflect changes in the weather. During the dry cold winds of fall, my Creamy Cantaloupe Coconut Face Mask pampers delicate skin. If cloudy weather dampens your mood, a warm bath with the Voluptuous Vixen Decolté Mask makes everything soft and bright again. If it’s hot and sunny - a dab of Avocado Eye Crème does the trick.

Learning your own skincare needs is a great way to empower yourself. It’s easy to stay youthful, radiant, and happy all year long.

Are All Diets Unhealthy?

Guest blog by Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D
Author of Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions

Want the short answer? Yes. Now, you may be thinking, "If I don't stay on some kind of diet, I'll just blow up like a balloon. I need to be on a program just to keep control of myself." But consider that any kind of dieting involves a diet mentality, which ensures failure, encourages you to ignore hunger and satiety signals, and promotes a negative relationship with food, because you have to give up "forbidden" foods and, often, eat foods you don't really like. This inevitably results in giving in, which often means bingeing and feeling terrible about yourself. So, though this idea may sound radical, we firmly believe there is no good diet.

By "diet," we mean the conscious restriction of the amounts or kind of foods you're allowed to eat for the express purpose of losing weight. A diet is something that you go on when you want to change your body, and go off once you've reached a certain goal. Though we certainly do endorse consuming a wide variety of healthful foods, paying attention to portion sizes, and thinking twice before eating a lot of foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition, we don't recommend following any kind of plan that tells you what, how much, and how often you should eat, without regard for your body's hunger and satiety signals. And we definitely don't recommend any eating plan that you go on and then go off.

Although it may sound surprising, the negative effects of dieting also hold true even if you aren't following a formal diet but still think like a dieter. If you count grams of fat, opt for high-protein foods while shunning carbs, rely on "safe" foods, beat yourself up for eating "bad" foods, consciously or unconsciously undereat (which can trigger overeating later), use diet soft drinks or coffee to quell your hunger, or decide what you can eat based on what you've already eaten today, you're dieting. 

The Physical and Psychological Effects of Dieting

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you go on a diet, all you want to do is eat? Even if you weren't particularly concerned about food prior to dieting, all of a sudden you become obsessed with it. You find yourself preoccupied with what you'll have for your next meal, whether you can have a snack, what others are eating, or even what you'll allow yourself to eat tomorrow. What's going on? 

The mind and the body are inextricably linked, and never is this more apparent than when you go on a diet. Geared to survive during feast or famine, both body and mind switch into survival mode when the food supply is radically diminished. While the body turns down the metabolism and becomes a "slow burner" in an attempt to hang on to every single calorie, the mind gears itself to one overriding purpose: getting food. The result? Suddenly, you may find yourself clipping recipes, planning menus, cooking elaborate meals or dishes for others (neither of which you'll eat yourself), or even dreaming about food at night. The message is clear: Your body wants food, and your mind does, too.

After a few days of extremely restricting your food, you'll probably become more depressed and anxious. Although this may be due to changes in neurotransmitters like serotonin, it may also occur because you are depriving yourself of things that are very pleasurable that aren't replaced by anything else -- leaving a pleasure void. You may suddenly prefer to spend more time alone -- it takes too much energy to deal with others -- and your self-esteem may start to drop. Unfortunately, the more depressed, anxious, and isolated you become, the more you'll obsess about food. 

Some people can hold out longer than others, but the result is eventually the same: a binge. You eat something you "shouldn't," which makes you feel as if you've blown it. So you let go and eat. During the binge you feel relief -- at last you can relax and do what you've wanted to do all along. But you may also feel as if you're in a trance and can't stop yourself. It's almost as if your body has developed a will of its own; it's going to feed itself whether you like it or not. As a result, you can end up eating more food in one sitting than you ever did when you weren't dieting. 

Are you crazy? Absolutely not. This is a normal, even healthy reaction to a period of semi-starvation, a reaction that made good sense during primitive times. After a period of famine, it was natural and necessary for our ancient ancestors to overeat. They needed to be able to take advantage of a feast when they had the chance, because the food supply was uncertain. To make this possible, their appetites increased after a period of famine. So the same amount of food that would have satisfied them during times of plenty left them feeling hungry after a period of semi-starvation. The same thing happens to you when you restrict food. Suddenly, you develop the urge and the capacity to binge, and you no longer feel satisfied after eating what you used to consider a normal meal. In short, restrictive dieting can trigger binges and leave you hungry even after you've eaten normal amounts of food. This is true for most Runaway Eaters, and even for those dieters who do not develop Runaway Eating problems. 

The psychological consequences of dieting were clearly illustrated in a classic study of the effects of semi-starvation done in 1950 by Ancel Keys, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota. In the study, 36 healthy, young, psychologically sound males were observed over a period of 1 year. During the first 3 months, the men ate normal amounts of food; during the next 6 months, they were given half as much food; and during the last 3 months, their food allotment was gradually increased. During the semi-starvation period, the men became preoccupied with food and constantly talked about it, read cookbooks, clipped recipes, and daydreamed about eating. When a meal was served, many took an inordinately long time to eat it, trying to make it last. Over time, the men became extremely depressed, anxious, and irritable. 

Once they made it through the period of semi-starvation, the men ate nearly continuously, with some indulging in 8,000- to 10,000-calorie binges. The men reported that their hunger actually increased right after meals, and some of them continued to eat to the point of being sick without feeling satisfied. Although most of the men finally reverted to normal eating patterns within 5 months of the study's end, some continued with their new patterns of "extreme over consumption." 

We see these same patterns in dieters: the preoccupation with food; the anxiety, depression, and irritability; the tendency to go off the diet and eat more than one would have in the pre-diet days; and a propensity toward bingeing even after the diet has ended. 

My Journey to Wealth: How I Rode the Bull Right into Wall Street

Guest blog by Natalie Pace
Author of The ABCs of Money

I Went from Copper Miner's daughter to Golden Girl, from divorced and desperate to dream come true. You can do it too!

Bucked off (the Bull) and overwhelmed!
When I got hit with the sledgehammer of divorce and the challenges of providing a home for my son, being the breadwinner and the nanny and the chauffeur, et al., I thought, "Teaching! I'll be home for my kid after school, and I'll make decent money." How naīve I was. When you consider teachers don't get paid to be at school early, or to stay late, or to grade papers into the middle of the night, my babysitter was earning more per hour than I was.

Within two years of teaching, I was so far behind on my bills that the county was threatening to put a lien on my one asset -- my condominium -- to collect the property taxes I owed. My credit card debt had blossomed into a nuclear waste dump that I stored on the top of my refrigerator - so toxic that it made your eyes bleed just to pass by. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck, and I could only approach the nuclear fallout of which bills to pay, which companies to plead with and which to completely ignore on the nights when my son went to his father's. How could I have let things get to this point? What kind of world expected me to work all day just to provide basic necessities and then criticized me for having a latchkey kid who turned to drugs or video games for comfort? 

When I stopped my whining and complaining and blaming others and gnashing of teeth, and focused on possible solutions, they seemed relatively simple. I needed to earn more and spend less. 

Within a few weeks, I landed an executive-level position at a nationwide phone company. It was a small office owned by a friend of mine. Initially, the position was on a trial basis, but within a few months, under my operational direction, the company was out of the red and into the black. The salary was double what I earned as a teacher, and the hours, though longer on paper, were much less in reality.

At the same time, the wonder of investment cycles began to work in my favor. In 1998, at the time of my divorce, I was locked into that home that I couldn't afford and couldn't sell. It was only a two bedroom, so I couldn't even rent out a room to help make up the difference.

Burned for nine years by my first major real estate investment, I turned my eye to Wall Street. You could have thrown a dart at a wall full of stocks and found a winner in 1999, and cocktail parties were abuzz with people touting their gains. 

Bull Run!
In August of 2000, I met with a certified financial planner. I will call him, Steven Snappy. He had been referred by my bank and had a set of impressive initials after his name -- NASD, SIPC, and so on, which lent him credibility. I sat down, feeling as though I was in good hands. He served up a pie chart telling me that if I tossed my real estate profits into a bowl of mutual funds, I'd churn up a minimum of 12 to 15 percent return. If, that is, I also dumped in an additional $500 a month, which was the minimum amount I could commit to.

"12 to 15 percent," he said, behind a cupped hand, "is very conservative." (Never mind the fact that I'd have to give up eating to afford the $500 per month.) His mutual fund brochures which he proposed to put all of my money into, which I still have, boasted up to 43 percent returns on funds anchored by AOL, Global Crossing, and Enron, to name three. These brochures quoted returns from March 2000, at the stock market high, something Mr. Snappy neglected to tell me, even though our meeting occurred after Nasdaq had already tumbled about 40 percent, dragging those gains into the gutter.

Snappy became impatient with my questions. It was perfectly easy to see from his charts that the mutual funds he was recommending were amazing, he insisted. By diversifying, I would be protected from the fluctuations of any one sector. How hard was it to see this? Besides, he was making a huge, unauthorized exception for me by lowering the minimum buy-in. If my money sat in savings, that was less than inflation. We were talking ten times gains in upside potential. Just what was it I didn't understand? (If you ever hear someone talking to you like this, remember s/he is a salesperson, not an investment genius, and run.)

There I was -- a professional woman in sharp new clothes with a pen poised to sign a slew of documents I didn't believe in because I wanted some sleazy salesperson to approve of me. Think fast, Natalie.

I left that day without signing, using the lame excuse that I was late for work. Snappy was exasperated with me but that didn't keep him from continually calling and nagging me to sign the documents. I was too busy researching P/Es, PEGs, Debt/Equity ratios, and the 10-Ks of my favorite companies to spend time offering him more ridiculous excuses. (Thank God for the ignore option on my cell phone!)

By the end of 2000, the markets tanked and the recession deepened. So instead of throwing away my life savings on Snappy's "big winners" -- Enron, Global Crossing and AOL -- my investment chugged along at 4 percent interest in a certificate of deposit.

Confidence: My real Cash Cow!
When I did invest in the stock market in August of 2001, I tripled my money in just four short months -- without shorting. I can remember only a handful of times being that elated over money -- when I bought my first car, when I purchased my first home, and when I tripled my money in the stock market. It's better than winning the lottery!

Since then, I've had extraordinary gains in the markets, including having 70% winners in my monthly stock report cards in 2008 -- another year when people lost a ton of money. And I was able to found and become the majority shareholder in my own financial news company -- all of which led to my new book, Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is.

I'm thrilled I didn't invest my money with Steven Snappy, but the most important gain I received that year was confidence. When you have nagging doubts, remember: it's your heart begging for more information. Trust that your uneasy spirit knows something. By prospecting into the heart and soul of your concerns and educating yourself to answer those concerns intelligently, you will start on your path to financial wisdom. Knowledge and information are better strategies for decision-making than blind trust in a stockbroker/salesperson, or anyone for that matter.

Build a Better Nest Egg with 6 Easy Sound Strategies for 2009

Guest blog y Natalie Pace
Author of The ABCs of Money

The stock market lost 38% in 2008, but if you lost more than 20%, your problem wasn't really the stock market, it was the design of your nest egg. Storms occur in markets, as they do in the real world, but your home shouldn't be flooding every time it happens. 

You know intuitively that your retirement plan doesn't work. Your nest egg has drowned twice now in the last eight years. You were elated with your returns in 1999 and then devastated when your assets imploded during the DOT COM bust of 2000-2002. Same thing when Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 14,000 in October of 2007, only to drop below 8000 in 2008. If you had a healthy fiscal plan, your nest egg wouldn't be sinking all of the time. 

And contrary to what your financial advisor may be telling you, the markets returned only 4% over the last ten years, not 12%. That was less than a percentage point above Treasury Bills, at 3.3% annual gains, with a whole lot more risk.

Sound Nest Egg Strategies:
Rule #1: Always keep a percent equal to your age. 

Modern Portfolio Theory, the cornerstone of a healthy nest egg, has been around for half a century and Harry Markowitz, the economist who wrote it, won a Nobel Prize in 1990. Many financial professionals are paid on commission to sell you mutual funds, so, if you weren't protected from the 2008 financial crisis, chances are that either 1) your guru just didn't know the theory, or 2) s/he wasn't paid to employ the theory, or 3) s/he had bosses who pushed sales hard and couldn't employ the theory, or 4) s/he was dumb enough to think s/he could outthink a genius Nobel Laureate.

Grade Your Guru
You wouldn't hire an architect whose buildings flood in a storm. Since there are so many ìprofessionalsî and ìpunditsî who are spouting off -- when in reality they drowned their clients' nest eggs in 2008 -- it's your job to take charge and design a better dream life. As TD AMERITRADE Chairman Joe Moglia says, "Nobody cares more about your money more than you do." 

Bears get lucky in bear markets. Bulls get lucky in bull markets. Sound nest egg strategies work in any market!

HOW TO GRADE YOUR GURU

Add up your losses. If you lost more than 20% in 2008, your guru isn't making the grade.
Check your allocation. If you didn't start 2008 with a percent equal to your age SAFE in Treasury Bills and/or high-rated bonds (GM, Fannie, etc. DO NOT QUALIFY), your guru isn't looking out for your best interest. 

MY GRADES
NEST EGG: 
The pie charts and strategies outlined in Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is saved Bill (a handyman) and Nilo (an office administrator) Bolden's nest egg, while Nilo's bosses lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since employing my strategies, they haven't lost anything.

TRADERS:
Before I give you the details on my track record this year, which was outstanding, please note that novices have no business trading individual stocks in this financial storm anymore than beginning surfers should race into the jaws of a tsunami. Don't trade individual companies in 2009 unless: 1) you know how to buy put options and have had a few years of successful trading long and short, and 2) are willing to take your profits early and often. Obviously, if you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to focus on sound nest egg strategies first and education second -- perhaps at my Get Rich and Enrich Retreat. (Check out the banner ad on the home page at NataliePace.com for more details.)

70% of the companies I featured in my 2008 monthly article and stock report cards were winners. Of those winners, more than half (58%) were shorts, i.e., companies that we expected to go DOWN in value. 

ACT NOW TO GET IN GREAT FISCAL SHAPE!
Blind faith lost you a lot of money in 2008. 2009 is poised to be another stormy environment in stocks, which means that if you don't pull your head out of the sand and get a better dream life plan, you're going to be get buried. 

My Golden Nest Egg Formula
ALWAYS KEEP A PERCENT EQUAL TO YOUR AGE SAFE. Treasury bills are the safest investment today. (High-rated bonds, money markets and CDs are traditionally and will be again in the future.)

DURING RECESSIONS, OVERWEIGHT 15-20% ADDITIONAL INTO SAFETY. Cash is King in a recession, i.e. not losing is winning. You will not be stuck overweighted in cash forever. If the markets continue to drop in 2009, as they are poised to do, you'll be glad you employed this defensive strategy. And you will have cash to invest, while those around you are scrambling to hang on and/or are forced to sell low to cover basic needs. 

REMAINDER IN YOUR NEST EGG SHOULD BE DIVERSIFIED INTO 10 ETFS. You will find detailed pie charts in Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is.

EMERGING INDUSTRIES, NOT DYING COMPANIES. General Motors and Ford Motor Company combined are worth less than one-tenth of Toyota Motor Company's $102 billion. It is not just that Ford and GM have more expenses. GM and Ford lost market share this decade because their gas guzzlers were far less popular than the fuel-efficient Prius and other Toyota models. 

KNOW WHAT YOU OWN, i.e., not mutual funds. The top mutual fund holdings in the U.S. in 2007 included some of the most poorly run companies, including General Motors, AIG, Fannie Mae and Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. ETFs allow you to target sections of the stock market by size (small, medium and large), style (value and growth), industry (gold mining, clean technology, international, biotechnology, etc.) and more. 
DON'T TRADE. If you don't know how to take your profits early and often and/or if you don't know how to buy put options, do not buy and sell individual companies at all in 2009. (Own companies you love in ETFs where you are more protected from the price fluctuations of any one individual company.) 

If you used this 6-step formula and rebalanced only once a year (say in January), you could have captured your gains in 2000 at the NASDAQ high. Likewise, in January of 2008, you would have captured your Dow Jones Industrial Average gains before the major fall-off and redistributed. Identifying where your gains are coming from allows you to increase your assets and redeploy your holdings back into a sound, dream life blueprint – which is a combination of Modern Portfolio Theory, ETFs, common sense and basic investing recipes. 

Mayday! Asking for help is Universally Dreaded-but it's a Skill You Can Learn

Guest post by M. Nora Klaver
Author of Mayday!: Asking for Help in Times of Need

Do you resist asking for help-until it's your last resort? 

Join the crowd. 

Our fierce independence is creating a culture of need-and unprecedented isolation.

Attendance at club meetings is down 58 percent, involvement in church activities has dropped as much as 50 percent, and simply having friends over to the house has decreased 45 percent. Meanwhile, one in four people say they have no one to confide in-and most everyone reports overwhelming levels of stress at home and on the job. 

The good news?

You can learn to ask for help. But first, you've got to figure why you don't, why you should, and how you can. 

Why we don't ask for help 

Asking for help is so frightening that, even when faced with death, some of us will still not ask for that helping hand. To overcome this dread, you've got to debunk some common cultural myths-and face your fears: 

Myth: Asking for help makes you look weak or needy.

Reality: There's no shame in turning to others in times of need. In fact, 
it's a sign of strength.

Myth: Asking for help signals incompetence-especially at work.

Reality: Seeking help at work shows others that you want to do the job
right-and to develop and learn. 

Myth: Asking for help can harm relationships.

Reality: Healthy relationships are about give-and-take-not just give. 

Myth: Asking for help puts others in an awkward position.

Reality: It's human nature to offer help when you see someone in
need-and it's no different when others see you in need. 

Myth: Asking for help might lead to rejection.

Reality: Even a "no" response offers the opportunity to learn more about
yourself-and your relationships.

Myth: Asking for help means the job might not get done right. 

Reality: Refusing to ask for fear of losing control maintains the status
quo. Let go and give your helpmate a chance to shine. 

Myth: Asking for help means you'll have to return the favor.

Reality: Help freely given comes with no strings attached-other than
a simple and sincere thank-you. 

Myth: Asking for help just isn't the American way. 

Reality: Independence and self-sufficiency are admirable qualities that lead to success. Still, all great enterprises-including our
nation-were built on mutual support and teamwork.

Why we should ask for help

Mastering the "Mayday" call can ease and enhance your life and career in a variety of ways. Asking for help: 

* Deepens connections
When someone answers your call for help, it strengthens the bond between you-or creates the potential for a new relationship. 

* Reduces stress and restores energy
Getting help can save you time and energy, simplify your life, and improve your work-life balance. 

* Reminds you that you're not alone
Everyone needs help at times. If you're the type who endures hardships with grim determination, you'll discover you don't have to go it alone.

* Gives happiness to others
Don't you feel good when you help someone else? Letting others help you gives them that same opportunity.

* Leads to personal growth
Taking risks, learning to trust, and finding out that others have got your back are just a few of the lessons you'll learn. 

* Allows the pleasure of surrender
Being out of control can actually feel great. Once asking for help gets a little easier, you'll relish the experience of letting go. 

* Reminds you that you're worthy of support
You deserve a hand as much as anyone else. When someone comes to your aid, it reinforces that message. 

* Lets others shine
Seeking help gives others the opportunity to reach out, contribute, and try something new.

* Clarifies relationships
Mayday calls reveal the strengths and limitations of relationships-and provide important "aha" moments. 

* Solves problems
Don't overlook the original reason for the Mayday call: You're in trouble and need help-help that could potentially change, or even save, your life.

How we can ask for help

Too many of us would rather go it alone when help is right there-just for
the asking. Here are ways to reach out with comfort and confidence:

* Practice. 
Building your Mayday muscles requires regular exercise. Challenge yourself to ask for help three times a day-every day. 

* Go easy on yourself.
Self-care is the new self-help. Be compassionate with yourself-and remember that you, too, are deserving of help.

* Cast a wider net.
Expand your list of helpmates. Look beyond the obvious-family and friends, and co-workers-and add some new names to the list, starting with someone who's been in your shoes. 

* Plan the time-and place.
Talk to your potential helpmate as soon as possible. Pick a convenient time for him or her, and do it in person-and in private. 

* Be specific.
Articulate your needs. Clarify what you're looking for-from terms to timelines-though be careful not to micromanage. 

* Listen differently. 
Be attentive to the subtle cues behind a general "yes" or "no" response. Is your potential helpmate willing-or reluctant? 

* Use the "three thanks" rule.
Don't flub the thanks. Express your gratitude three times-when the agreement is struck, when the need has been met, and when you next see your helpmate. 

Ask early, ask often

No one is immune from needing help, even in today's go-it-alone culture. So, take a risk and "make the ask"-early and often. It just may change your life!

Greasing the Path to Success: Finding the Confidence to Step Up to Key Moments

Guest post by Nana Ham cppc, lcsw

Whether it’s making a prospecting call to a promising business contact, giving an informal “elevator speech” to a networking group, or attempting to close a transaction, there are certain key moments when putting your best-dressed foot forward really matters. Some of life’s fortunate people seem to be naturally at their best finding confidence under pressure. The rest of us have to learn. 

Confidence matters. 
Few would argue that developing confidence is a good investment. You’ll be more comfortable and therefore more motivated in your marketing efforts. It’s difficult to sustain an effort over the long haul – a requirement, for successful networking and marketing – if we’re miserable doing it. Furthermore, marketing and branding experts tell us that confidence is the #1 reason people buy what they buy. Where do they get confidence to try the product or service for the first time? From you, from your confidence in what you offer.

Confidence on command. 
Let’s say you have to make an outreach call to someone who can potentially refer you business. Stomach butterflies are on a rampage. You’ve scripted the call, but your voice is still flat with anxiety. How do you suddenly summon confidence? Confidence is like one of the body’s involuntary muscles. You can’t make it fire on command. It either fires or it doesn’t. But the smaller muscles around it, contributing to its tone and strength, are voluntary. You can help yourself build confidence by doing the small things. You probably already have a repertoire of quick-fix confidence-builders that work for you. From my years of helping people grow, here are some of my favorites. 

Practice
Talk about your product or service, with strangers as well as acquaintances. Do it again.
Do it frequently, whether “successful” or not. Keep the interval between short.

Don’t let being awkward stop you
Create a temporary “no fault” zone, where you goal is to do it, not do it right.
Remember: the pool of potential contacts is infinite. There’s plenty of room for practice.

Let timing help
Capitalize on confident or successful moments to create more of them.
There will be days when you’re under a cloud. Don’t try then. Letting yourself off the hook today breeds confidence that tomorrow will be better. 

Tough love
Act “as if” 
Just do it
Protect your environment from negativity: call a temporary moratorium on friends or family who may be envious or skeptical of your endeavor

Seek inspiration
Rub shoulders with someone who has exuberant confidence in you
Read some inspiring quotations
Read testimonials from your own clients
Watch a squirrel leap through space from a secure branch to an untested one

Quit being mean
Make a quick list on paper of the 5 confidence-sabotaging voices in your head. Quote them verbatim, and give each one a name.
Send them all out for a beer, and while they’re gone, make the call

All of these suggestions are simple and even simple-minded. They’re ways to develop the internal muscles that in turn will support the success we’re reaching for. After all, if you’re to grow into a new level of success, you will need more than good ideas and hard work. You’ll need the internal muscles to support it. Confidence is one of those qualities that can seem to vary with the weather. Very few of us are born for success any more than we’re born to bench press three hundred pounds. For most, the daily work-outs, coupled with an attitude that gives generous credit for perseverance, are what qualify us to have that golden ring. I’m cheering for you!

Women and Business

Guest post by Nan Langowitz is Co-Founder and Faculty Director, Center for Women's Leadership; and Associate Professor of Management, Babson College, Wellesley, Mass.

In the last five years, the number of woman-owned businesses has increased by 14% and the number of women owners of family businesses has increased at more than double that rate, by 37%. Not only is the phenomenon of ownership by women worth noting but the outcomes for these woman-owned firms point to new ways of creating value that may be worthy of emulation. Much has been said about the differences in leadership styles among men and women. Recent research by the Babson College Center for Women's Leadership looks at those potential differences among family firms and points to woman-owned family firms as an emerging new model for success.

The Babson College/Mass Mutual report, Women in Family-Owned Businesses, shows that woman-owned family firms are more productive, diverse, and philanthropic than those owned by their male counterparts. 

The woman-owned businesses we looked at operated in the same top five industries as their male counterparts-manufacturing, wholesale, retail, service, and construction-- and have relatively the same average revenue size--$26.9 million in 2002-yet the following differences were exhibited in a number of areas critical to firm performance and organizational and
family cohesion. Our research found that woman-owned family firms:  

Do more with less. They are nearly twice as productive as firms owned by males. This means that female owners use organizational structures and create company cultures that result in more effective efforts by their workforce.

Give more thought to succession planning. Family firms owned by women are more likely to have chosen a successor chief executive. Overall, 39% of family-owned businesses will experience a leadership transition in the next five years, yet woman-owned firms are more than 20% more likely to have named a successor CEO. 

Nurture female leadership. Woman-owned firms have more women CEOs, more women on their boards of advisors, and more women family members employed full-time in the business. They are also more likely to select a woman as their successor CEO. 

Have a vested interest in sustaining and growing their family firms. Woman-owned family firms have a 40% lower attrition rate of family member involvement and experience greater pride and loyalty to the business; and agreement with its goals. Female family members also reap
benefits. Woman-owned family firms are nearly three times as likely to employ more than one female family member full-time.

Demonstrate a deeper commitment to philanthropic causes than male-owned firms, with a greater proportionate emphasis on philanthropy, specifically favoring community and educational needs.

Female owners are clearly adding value to their family enterprises, with striking differences in their firms' performance and organizational characteristics. From a competitive standpoint, these women owners may be the new management gurus to watch. 

Reprinted with permission from Women's Business November 2003
 

Top 5 Maxims about Business Partners and Money

Guest post by Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog!

They say that "love is blind," and that often applies to women entrepreneurs in taking on a business partner. They become so enamored with the prospect of working with a partner that they lose sight of whether this person makes business sense. A successful business partnership has to address both things: partnership and business. As a woman business owner, and advisor to many more, here are the top 5 things to keep in mind about money . . . and partners: 

1. If you're not earning enough, get out. If you and your partner can't afford to live on what the business generates, you may have to face that what you're doing, how you're doing it, or those with whom you're doing it isn't working. 

2. Corollary to #1: Know your needs as they grow and change. When I had started an earlier business, I was single. By the time it ended, I was married and actively trying to get pregnant. These changes in lifestyle also changed my perspective on work, available time, and income needed. 

3. Become financially literate. If you're reading this, literacy isn't an issue. But few of us are taught to read numbers and financial statements. Pay close attention to P&L reports and balance sheets - and seek outside guidance to fully understand what they tell you. Not looking at them is tantamount to sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "la-la-la" as loudly as possible to avoid facing whether your business partnership makes sound financial sense.

4. Don't let friendship obscure business. This is an Achilles heel for many women business owners. We want to be able to nurture a friend/business partner through tough times. It's in our nature. But when the nurturing takes on a financial dimension (say, a business partner wants to take more than her fair share out of the business), you have to set boundaries. Otherwise, you risk foregoing your salary, dipping into credit lines, or suffering an unfair tax burden. 

5. Uncover your partners' "money mindsets." How do your partners handle their personal finances? Are they in debt? Have they ever filed for bankruptcy protection? Do they pay their creditors timely? These are clues to how they will handle financial dealings with you. How do your partners talk about money? Are they optimistic and prosperity-conscious? Or is there an undercurrent of "I'll never make it"? One of my former partner's favorite phrases was "I'm so broke, I can't pay attention." It took me quite a few years to realize how that mindset influenced everything she did.

Business partnerships are like marriages. Money is the main reason they break up. So be absolutely sure that you and your partners share the same attitudes toward money and financial goals. Because at some point, a business partnership has to be about business to be profitable.