Let’s talk about stress, baby

Most entrepreneurs and professionals downplay the effect of the various demands on their bodies. We seem to thrive on short deadlines, fulfilling last minute requests, and challenging assignments. Stress? Glorified fuel of the high achievers, is in constant supply thanks to permanent wireless access to the matrix. We deny, deny, pushing our limits until our body shuts down to its most elemental form, rendered childlike pounding our fists on the desk asking why, why and crying to the Gods to give us a break from our ambitious state and pleasing personalities…  A growing body of evidence suggests that we on average experience over 14 stressful events per week. Chronic stress caused by taking on too much has been linked to serious health issues such as depression, chocolate cravings, diabetes, heart disease even Alzheimer… so the bottom line is this, each person must find a way to reduce sources of stress on an ongoing basis, which can no longer be “cured” by a soothing massage or a few days off on a mountain top. Hence it should be accepted as a public health issue, not just a yuppie state of mind. Scientists studying work-life balance can measure the amount of stress-related hormones, cortisol and adrenalin, released following a situation we feel is out of our control. These released in high amounts over a long period of time can affect all of our systems, including nervous, circulatory, digestive, muscular and skeletal, shortening our lifespan, not to mention our moods. McGill University research teams recently published their findings about the impact of daily stressors on our health, clearly showing how stress could become the key reason we seek medical attention. On that note, I am off for a few days working on solutions for my series of articles on work-life balance at evancarmichael.com so I’d like to thank my precious clients and collaborators for providing good grounds for this study and reminding me to appreciate every day of this lifelong journey… Here’s to reaching the ideal balance of productive action and proactive rest, of living to striving and enjoying the beauty of  everyday life and relationship along the way. Some daily stress management techniques to try include enjoyable exercise, yoga, meditation, healthy alkaline foods, water, and my personal favourite, hugging your pet and your loved ones for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Harvesting loyalty by planting integrity

Recently we had the chance to visit one of our favourite places in the US, the beautiful town of Stowe, Vermont. What keeps us coming back for almost 18 years now is the heart warming welcome from the innkeepers, and the time they invest in catching up with us year after year about their family, sharing their town’s progress and latest must-sees. We love the quaint village’s authenticity, its unique shops (no chains), Austrian architecture, mountain scenery and multicultural restaurants with impeccable service. (Thank you Jean Drolet and team from the Innsbruck Inn).

In a former job, I was asked to help tourism businesses harvest this “loyalty” seed, a smart focus since retaining guests and clients is more efficient and profitable from a marketing standpoint than attracting new ones year after year. The key is to foster your Word of Mouth from satisfied clients.

Which led me to think about all these “loyalty cards” in my wallet… Is offering a free goodie after the 10th one really keeping us loyal for the right reasons or just creating habits everyone else can also offer? Considering the membership points, rewards, air miles and so on in many industries; what if the quality of the service or work and sense of recognition was enough to harvest customer satisfaction without the gimmicks?

A happy customer who feels he or she has been treated not only fairly but with extra care will be your very best ally in your sustainable growth. Going the extra mile and creating a sense of belonging will be your very best time investment, as long as it is planted from integrity. The easiest way to ensure long term viability for any business is to genuinely look after your loyal customers and also value your strong partners or suppliers who allow you to perform at your very best. A little show of appeciation (even a bottle of wine!) can then crown your partnerships!

Oh the good life…

What I watched on my summer vacation instead of TV every night

In life, there are only two choices… Either you make progress, or you make excuses. These words stare at me daily from my office wall, gently haunting me every time I want to delay an action or decision. I am reminded that if today did not bring anything new, it will have been for a lack of focus on my goals and objectives, since you can ALWAYS make progress by at least learning and searching new solutions. Progress does not have to involve major accomplishments but rather simple steps in the right direction: certain days I give myself a break and let my body heal or find a solution on its own time with some “meaningful” rest. As in rest like you mean it, to quote author Martha Beck, referring to a snoring lion pride after an unsuccessful hunt. Not every day can lead to breakthroughs, yet every day can bring enlightment and wisdom. There is beauty and joy to look for, and there is life to appreciate. Buddha himself has said “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Although this may have been written in year 500 B.C., the sense of purpose (and sense of humour and irony!) was ever present in our lives. Inspiration is all around us, in each other, in nature, and determination to get it right is our own choosing.

So which will it be today?

Let it be progress for the planet, your happiness, your health…  and wishing you blessings as you (and we all) fall and learn even more valuable lessons!For me lately it has been about new goals for work (new writing assignments! better organization and decluttering!) health and fitness (overcoming periodic energy slumps! scheduling more workout time in my day!) and balance (more play and down time this summer for the cottage life, sunsets, concerts, yet improved productivity!)

One more quote I came across this week was from author Lawrence Bixby: “Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase. When you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too.

Salutations and a personal word of thanks to you for taking the time to drop by (& to Ginger Sprinkle for quoting me) and wishing you all the best until next time! Never give up.

Gratefulness leads to shared success

Look up for inspiration

Good morning, just a quick note to express my gratitude to my regular client base for the great projects I had recently the honour to collaborate on: Umbro soccer (or FOOTbaaalll!), Teva beach sandals, Gentek building products, Brandsparks, Tommy & Lefebvre website, 360 athletics 2010 catalog, Tre Stelle cheese ad campaigns, Head skis and Tyrolia bindings certification updates and brand new websites, Brooks running shoes and the Rock N’ Roll marathon series, the Bauer Hockey Skills Challenge, Outaouais Tourism press releases, a special feature section for Le Droit newspaper and so on. Thank you for these fun (and sometimes challenging) mandates, I love to expand my area of expertise with each new assignment. Looking forward to new projects later this summer, and getting back to writing assignments for various magazines and complete another chapter on the “book project”.

Stay healthy and well, thanks for your support and interest.

Attempting the ridiculous leads to the miraculous

Businessman and pro triathlete Brendan Brazier in Ottawa

Save the ocean efforts lead by Christie Brinkley

If not miracles, I believe thinking out of the box often leads to unforeseen decent results. This is what the world needs now to solve the oil spill which is really a global problem, not just one company’s failure but an entire industry’s and eco-system we are all a part of. May the curious, odd student (or lovable nerds, geeks) come up with a solution to a billion dollar problem and turn into heroes! Go underdogs! Supermodel turned activist Christie Brinkley’s online profile is filled with new ideas to save the beaches and our oceans with a growing fan base, with everyone from kids to Kevin Costner getting in on the brainstorming.

After a glitch, I had to rework my blog which led me astray for a few months attending to other priorities and urgent writing assignments. But I realized I missed this! I met and spoke to a few amazing entrepreneurs in the last few months, including Canadian triathlete turned mogul Brendan Brazier who was in Ottawa launching his new power protein Vega and his latest book Thrive Fitness at Market Organics. The CTV camera crew was on him and I also had the chance to ask him what made him start a supplement business in such a fierce global market. Shy yet very well spoken, he explained “Well when I was training I could never find the right plant-based totally vegan  blend so I started making it at home myself, which then led me to meet with a team of people involved with distribution of Maca and we developed a new formula with all the right nutrients for endurance athletes.” Ambitious to say the least, Brendan’s formulas have won many innovation awards and are now sold throughout many countries, his books are best sellers, and he became an in-demand speaker to environmental groups as well as health and wellness seekers.  The Thrive Diet book is based mainly on clean vegan eating with organic ingredients and simple recipes, not solely store-bought supplements. Our interview was very informative and inspiring to mix your passions with your business or career goals, and we wish him much success on his journey to help others achieve peak state with sustainable, allergen-free products. Win-win!

On a personal note, I will be “off the grid” recharging and writing on the beach with a pencil and notepad (remember those?) in the next few weeks. To my beloved clients and partners, you know the dates and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can; in the meantime you can reach my colleagues for urgent requests. Cue the steel drum holiday music

Great tips to work less, achieve more… and live a little in 2010!

Happy New Year everyone, it has been a very busy productive start already at 5 Star Communications. Who wouldn’t change a thing or two to make life easier? I thought I’d share the latest article I just published to an entrepreneurial website* as a preview on this blog:

If only we had more time, our resolutions would materialize sooner…right? If results are based on actions and resolutions are mere words with hopes and a prayer, then we all need to find efficient ways to put more actions in our days…and communicate a little less – (I love Elvis’ A little less conversation, a little more action song when I work out for this exact reason).

Aim to accomplish 1 thing per day. Pick your top project, closest deadline, task that has been staring at you in the face and just complete it. No interruptions, no email notifications, no meetings. Ask yourself constantly – Is what I’m doing just busy work, or am I getting closer to my goal? Then reward yourself for a job well–done and enjoy a guiltless hour of relaxation or exercise. It makes it easier if you work for yourself but even the most conservative of bosses value results over attendance these days. You are also worth more healthy and well rested than overtired and sick any day.

Learn to love leftovers, for lunch and dinner. We discovered this simple tip has profound benefits such as time-saving, money-saving, environment-saving and calorie-saving… what’s not to love? When preparing a meal, cook double the recipe and cut back on your meat portions for that evening. You will instantly have delicious food to pack for next day’s lunch and tomorrow’s dinner will take a few minutes to prepare with some fresh veggies and salad. My husband who is in sales and on the road most of the time realized packing his lunch saved him at least 30 minutes a day of not running around and waiting in line, and over $300 a month. Plus, his pants are now a size smaller and he never complains about how tasty his lunches are! He chooses to use that found time doing things he loves and funding them with his extra cash. No need for special diet foods!

Apply the 80∕20 rule. The Pareto efficiency model was a prominent part of the bestseller The 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferriss. Much of our work days are wasted on the token few customers who represents the least profitable part of our business. His book recommended focusing one’s attention on the 20% that contribute to 80% of the income and none of the headaches to save considerable time, going as far as firing the rest to create more quality time for yourself and get better results (read profits). Similarly, Parkinson Law states that Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, it’s good to create a feeling of shorter deadlines in order to free up time for the things that matter. Accomplish more in less time and you will relax more!

Cut back your sources of information. Do you really need to be aware of all your acquaintances status on Facebook? Have you ever really felt out of the loop if you skipped a few days away for these networks? This “social not-working” habit needs to be drastically cut to the bare minimum, assuming you are in your prime working years of course. Same goes for surfing the Net and television; how many ways can you hear the same story, when most reporters and networks access the exact same source? Pick 30-minute information and entertainment time slots in your day and stick to them with a timer if you have to.

Reading noteworthy blogs can be informative of course… this coming from a person who makes her living in the communication field… Tips to be applied with a grain of salt, of course!

*For more on this topic, and other articles see www.evancarmichael.com

Energize your networking

Office parties, Client appreciation days, professional association holiday cocktails, … ‘Tis the season for networking and getting a leg up securing next year’s contracts and being ready for opportunities. Cheers!

I just mailed my Christmas cards and sent a few token gifts to cherished clients and partners, without whom I wouldn’t be here. Much gratefulness to you all, and to all a very healthy and happy Holiday Season!!! New goals and resolutions for 2010, we made it this far, don’t give up now.

Somehow when I get those corporate cards with barely a live person’s signature at the bottom (Like the one today I received from my bank!), I wonder why they even bother at all. Many will choose to send a nice Holiday email and that’s OK to save on time, even good for the environment and your finances when you have thousands to account for. But a generic wish won’t deliver a very good response… Keep your heart in the right place and go the extra mile for those select few who mean a lot to you and tell them in your own words why you care about keeping their business and value their loyalty! And of course this goes for every service provider you take for granted. A sincere Thank you is often the best gift!

Hopefully things will slow down a bit next week and the next, so far contracts are piled up high for the next 10 days and new writing assignments are coming in… In a world of deadlines, most of us would like not to feel dead at the end of the line :-)

Please feel free to share your own life balance tips, rituals and how you keep your energy flowing! Namaste!

Sisters are doing it for themselves…1-2-3!

There was a time…when they used to say, that behind every great man, there had to be a Great Woman. Well those times may still be true (if he’s lucky), but that woman is also busy running her own career goals, personal aspirations, keeping in touch with her girlfriends, taking care of her family, inspiring others, volunteering and oh yeah – that bucket list. How does she balance it all –atop her stylish heels? 

In the past couple of years, I noticed a growing trend of empowering women groups and retreats, where the feminine energy flows in supportive good cheer. My personal experience attending two Ultimate Girls Getaway this year yielded more results and brought me a lot closer to the positive lifestyle I aspire to; I meet like-minded women from all walks of life and backgrounds, many with wonderful success stories to share. Find out more about Nadja and daughter Veronica Piatka’s personal successes on all fronts, including launching a food company which became an international phenomenon and inspiring other women to believe in their million-dollar ideas or simply in themselves (Nadjafoods.com). Lisa McKenzie launched Deserving Divas and more recently, www.SupremeSocialMedia.com, to help entrepreneurs and individuals become the conversation and claim their place in the sun on social networks and beyond – her and intuitive coach Lisa Lajoie were featured at Connect the Dots for women in Ottawa. Vered Haiun does it daily, thanks to her new local charity to help communities get fitter and feel better about their bodies, she also runs Latitude Fitness in Pierrefonds near Montreal and Renaissance of the Goddess workshops. I loved Monica de Liz new description of fat. Fabulous, Attractive and Trendy. Now there’s power in those words that can carry over into anyone’s catwalk! Her business platform is self-esteem for today whatever your body image, disguised as style workshops… There are countless wonderful women like them out there and it’s time to interview them and ask how they keep it all balanced and not lose themselves in the mix. My sister, when she’s not too busy being a top corporate lawyer in Montreal, also enjoys the business networking events for women, such as Guru Nation with organizer bedlamentertainment.com from New York to Toronto, focusing on leadership and furthering your career with your life, not one without the other…

So today, even though it’s still a few minutes shy of cocktail hour, I want to raise a glass (or cup) to all these FABulous wonderwomen out there and share my admiration! It would certainly make for great stories in my book… Once I take the time to write more exclusively for that cherished ongoing project!

Since when is good Karma a “Secret”?

Where did October go? No matter how crazy our life  gets, it is always the perfect month for good deeds. Our Chelsea RepFest group donated $500 for the local kids with the proceeds of the last sample sale so thanks to everyone who came out, and this month is also Cancer awareness month. A colleague and a friend’s mom are both battling a form Leukemia and are staying strong with a positive attitude. Seems like many people we talk to these days are going through a tough time. If your situation and your own health  allow you to give back, Just do it! I have always believed that good karma is no “Secret”, despite what all the new age books say. No matter what life force you believe in, there is no denying the positive energy that comes from giving from the heart. Many would say the rewards are almost selfish since the giver (of time, empathy, or any form of help) is the one that reaps the most benefits. If you are looking for great causes, you could support the upcoming 24 hours of Tremblant at http://www.24htremblant.com/ski/en/ or through the event links of www.tremblant.ca in December or get involved locally. May you be happy, may you be healthy!

Special sample sale event this Saturday Oct. 3 2009

This post is just special insiders info on the CHELSEA REPFEST, in case you are in the Ottawa area this Saturday. Those in the know would never DREAM of missing out on the one of a kind sporting goods and apparel sample sale happening this Saturday October 3rd, 2009, from 10 am until 4 pm (come early, the inventory runs out early afternoon…) – Location is the parking lot of 38, Scott road in Chelsea, Qc, right across from the National Capital Commission Visitors Centre. This is not a store but a private sale from all the independent sales agents in the area who need to liquidate their own samples. With everyone trying to save a dollar, these special events are too good to be true…