Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

Beyond Business: Why Socializing is Not Just for the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us.

Dane-Buy-Local-Dec-2014-EventThere seems to be a celebratory business networking event to attend every night of the week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the second week of December my party of choice was the Dane Buy Local holiday social, a gathering of local business owners in Madison, WI.

For many of us at that event, the operating word was “social.” It struck me that most of the people I spoke to, though originally met as business contacts, have become friends. For most of the evening, I felt like I was gabbing with my girlfriends, just like I would at a birthday or Halloween party at one of their homes (which I have attended). We talked about relationships, personal growth, families, health … and, well, even a smattering of business (but not much).

This sort of socializing was not what I ever would have predicted when I first became a “businesswoman.”

When I first started my business, I thought I needed to keep my communications to business. But it wasn’t long before I learned that revealing my personality and just the right amount of my personal life in my communications created relationships that drew people into my sphere. Here’s what Joan Stewart, media consultant and author of the online newsletter, “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week,” says about the subject:

On sites like Facebook and Twitter, the social networking conversation should include your personal and business lives. Sharing information about things like your pets, hobbies and special interests will endear you to those who are following you. When the time comes to use these sites to discuss a new product, your followers will be more receptive because they’ll feel they already know something about you.

Revealing personal information endears people in person too.

More and more, in my networking meetings and coffee dates, I share about my personal life: my quirky beliefs in astrology, my uncharacteristic interest in reality TV, my dietary choices, and my relationships. I have yet to have anyone respond with anything but delight that we were able to share on a deeper level than they expected.

The same goes with clients. My biggest fans and repeat clients are people I’ve talked to about personal topics, not just their writing projects. It’s human nature to trust and want to interact with people who know us for all aspects of our personalities and lives.

I’m not planning to post a profile photo of me and my Chihuahua any time soon (even if I do acquire one, which is very unlikely). But I will likely keep talking about kale, The Bachelorette, and maybe even conversations with my mother, for the foreseeable future. Woody Allen quotes and pictures of my family will show up on my Facebook page. And while I’ll talk business at networking events, business will most definitely not be all I talk about.

Life is so much more fun and engaging this way! And at this time of year—and really all year ‘round—that’s what it’s all about.

Introducing: LinkedIn’s New Home and Profile Pages

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On Thursday, December 11th, LinkedIn® started rolling out its latest Home and Profile page design changes. For those of you who aren’t yet seeing the redesign when you log in, you can email LinkedIn® to get a sneak peak at SeeNewHP@linkedin.com.

Home Page

Across the top of your Home page you will now enjoy instant access to the most important information regarding your account, including a quick link to your profile page, your stats and your Keep in Touch feed.

Directly below this section, you will find the latest news and updates from Pulse. You can even sort your Pulse feed by the most popular or most recent.

You will then see your regular feed of activity from your groups and connections, aesthetically revamped for quick connection identification, content preview, following, joining and connecting.

Throughout your news feed you will notice suggestions by LinkedIn® regarding connections you might like to make and jobs that might interest you.

Profile

LinkedIn has updated all profile pages to automatically appear in edit mode when accessed by the owner of the profile. After all, when we visit our own profile page, it is usually to make edits, so LinkedIn® is saving us a step! To see your profile the way a connection would see it, click the “View profile as” button.

In this view, you will notice a new option at the top of the page. Similar to Google+ or Facebook, you can choose to view your profile as a connection or non-connection (or a connection who is not logged into LinkedIn®) would.

LinkedIn’s suggestions for including additional sections are now located directly below the top portion of your profile. This information used to appear in the right-hand column in Edit Profile mode.

Old:

 

New:

Your notification setting are also now available in the right-hand column so that changes to your profile can easily be hidden or shared with your network with the click of a button.

Note the redesigned sections. For example, Recommendations no longer have 2 access points, but one.

Old:

(Profile mode)

(Profile Edit mode)

2013-06-20_1017

New:

LinkedIn’s new streamlined design was created to enhance our experience as members and will likely be further enhanced in the future based on our response to these updates.

I hope you enjoy the new changes. They are certainly presenting challenges to me as the author of a book about LinkedIn®! But look for updates in the 11th edition of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile, still slated for release in January!

Preview of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile 11th Edition – New Features for College Students!

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how-to-write-a-killer-linkedin-profileThe 11th edition of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile will be published soon (projected January release date!), and one of the new additions is a guide to LinkedIn® for college students. At this time of college admissions fervor, I thought it would be appropriate to reveal this section especially for my blog readers!

LinkedIn® For Students and LinkedIn® Youniversity are two of LinkedIn’s newest features. If you’re one of the 39 million college students on LinkedIn®, or if you’re considering becoming one of them, you will get value from my newest appendix, which addresses some features you may have not realized were available to you. Enjoy!

LinkedIn® For Students & LinkedIn® Youniversity

LinkedIn® for Students is filled with videos and tips on the most effective ways to use LinkedIn®, from building your personal brand to getting an internship.

  • Available videos cover a variety of topics to get you started with networking, discovering your career passion and prepping for interviews. You’ll also find checklists and tip sheets for building your student profile and utilizing LinkedIn’s Alumni tools.
  • Student Jobs 101 provides tips for optimizing your LinkedIn® profile, approaching the college job hunt, and applying for internships and entry-level positions.
  • Jobs for Students and Recent Graduates is LinkedIn’s search engine for internship positions and jobs for recent graduates. Search by industry for a list of positions that may interest you.

LinkedIn® Youniversity is designed to help students find the perfect college. It’s a one-stop hub where you can communicate with other students, advisors and future classmates.

LinkedIn YouniversityHere are just a few of its features:

  • University Rankings – Find out which schools are best rated in terms of placing new graduates. Read how LinkedIn® attains these ratings in LinkedIn®‘s Official Blog article, “Ranking Universities Based on Career Outcomes.”
  • University Finder – Just tell LinkedIn® what you want to do and they’ll show you the top schools for that industry career.
  • Field of Study Explorer – LinkedIn® takes your field of study (based on your profile) and lists the top business and connections for you.
  • Decision Boards – Create a pin board where you can keep all of your top picks from your University Rankings, Finder and Field of Study tools in one place, plus get start conversations to get advice from people you trust and respect.When you select a preferred university and/or field of study, your Decision Board will appear on your profile page. Visitors will then have the opportunity to help you make your decision based on their experiences.55

For more information on how to use LinkedIn® Youniversity, read LinkedIn® Official Blog article, “Social + Data = Better Decisions for Students.”

I would love to hear how you or your college student children are using these new LinkedIn® features. And if you don’t have my book yet and you want to know how to optimize the value you get from LinkedIn® as a job seeker, business person, or student, just go How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile. If you purchase the book in PDF format, you’ll receive unlimited lifetime updates!

Finally, if you’d like me to address a particular LinkedIn® topic you don’t see covered in my book or blog, just email me at BrendaB@TheEssayExpert.com with your suggestion. The answer to your question might be featured in the next edition!

4 Tips for Writing Effectively, Concisely and Truthfully

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On November 20, I was featured in the article English Essay Tips from the Experts, a compilation of writing tips from several experts. These tips are valid for anyone writing any type of letter or essay. Remember them as you compile holiday letters and college application essays in the upcoming weeks!

#1: Think First. Write Last.

Sometimes when people don’t like writing, the actual problem is that they are having trouble thinking. Frequently I’ll work with a client on an essay the person has been struggling with for weeks. One client this past week, for instance, had been through seven revisions of his law school application essay and still wasn’t satisfied with the result. What he needed was not writing help so much as a conversation with a coach who could focus him on a strategy and theme that worked. He needed help thinking. As soon as he had his new outline, he rewrote the essay, completed two revisions, and finalized the essay in just one week.

Erin Brenner, a publishing professional, copyediting professor and editor of copyediting.com, makes the important point that writing is the last step in the writing process. First, the writer must gather and organize information; once those steps are taken, writing can be a breeze.

#2: Stick to the Point!

Another challenge for writers can be going on tangents or including unnecessary details. Test prep expert Alexis Avila cuts to the chase on this issue with his tip that any “sentence that doesn’t fit under Thesis / Evidence / Transition” can be cut from an essay. Of course, to know whether a sentence fits under Thesis / Evidence / Transition, you need to be clear about what the purpose is of each of your paragraphs! So Tip #1 from Erin Brenner is part and parcel of this one.

#3: Active Language Wins

Do you ever get the vague feeling that your writing is too wordy but you’re not sure exactly why? I believe the first place to look is at passive vs. active construction (e.g., The car was moving fast down the street vs. The car sped down the street.) Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl, points out that the use of “of”—especially when it follows a “tion” word—can give you a clue about what to change. If you wrote something like, “The creation of paper snowflakes took the children hours” you would do well to change it to “The children spent hours creating paper snowflakes.”

See the difference? Feel free to use this trick in your holiday writing!

#4: Tell the Truth!

This tip from me—Brenda Bernstein, The Essay Expert—makes writing a lot easier for anyone who thinks they need to “sound good.” If that’s you, stop it! Instead, tell the truth about your struggles and pain if that’s what you’ve been dealing with. And then tell the truth about your victories. No one is interested in how you’ve always known what you know now; we want to know how you grew.

When I get to my clients’ real stories, they inevitably express a sense of relief and gain energy to start writing. People who were stuck suddenly can’t wait to start putting words on paper.

Did these four tips give you a boost in getting started, or continuing, a writing project that has been stymieing you? Do you think you need a different type of tip to get you on track? Please share below!

Texting and Driving? Stop Doing That. For Real.

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This weekend I participated in a workshop in Soft Addictions. I expected to focus most of my energy on my sugar addiction, which has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. While I did spend some time and energy examining that habit, a different addiction came to the foreground as the weekend progressed:

Texting While Driving

Woman sending text messages while driving.

In the workshop, we were divided into groups of six. When I admitted to them that I texted while driving, one of my group members looked at me with a heartfelt gaze and said, “Stop doing that. For real.”

Later in the weekend, I found out that he texts while driving too—as did every one of the six people in my group.

According to www.textinganddrivingsafety.com, if you’re traveling at 55mph and take your attention away from the road for 5 seconds (the minimum amount of time it takes to check your phone), you will travel the length of a football field without looking at the road! Texting while driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely. In comparison, dialing makes a crash 2.8 times more likely and talking or listening makes a crash 1.3 times more likely. And while 34% of American drivers say they have texted while driving, I’m sure the number is much higher.

In my workshop this weekend, at least two out of 35 participants had been in car crashes which were their fault and had resulted from their texting while driving. And at least one of them did not stop the habit.

I started to get real about my own addiction to texting while driving and the true level of risk I’m taking every time I do it. And when it was time to choose one of our addictions and write a “Dear John” letter to the addiction bidding it farewell, I chose texting while driving as my target.

Here’s the poem:

Texting while driving, you kept me connected.
I’m addicted to you. It’s like I’m infected.

Despite all the stories of death and of gore,
My phone seems to call to me… LOOK AT ME MORE!!

Well, starting right now, I choose to connect
To my learning brain rather than gadgets electric.

I’ve got options – like language CDs. Books on tape.
That message that dinged me? It simply can wait.

I yearn to connect… but for that I must LIVE.
And texting while driving? You’ve just gotta give.

 – Brenda Bernstein, November 14, 2014

On the way home from the workshop, I called a friend before starting to drive. When I hung up the phone, I saw that I had emails and messages I could read if I wanted to. I noted my impulse to pull down the menu that would allow me to read my emails, and, instead of checking the messages, checked the impulse. It felt scary and good.

If you are a fellow driver while texting, please take a good look at what you’re putting at risk: not just your own life, but the lives of the drivers and passengers around you. Especially as the holidays are approaching—a time when many of us will be driving to see family and friends—let’s make a commitment to kick one of our most dangerous addictions, and DRIVE SAFE.

Overwhelmed? There’s a Way Out

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Last week I received for my review and editing an 84-page document from the company implementing my Infusionsoft program. The document consisted of poorly-written drafts of multiple email messages that will be going to both customers and writers at The Essay Expert. The messages cover situations such as clients who have not turned in their questionnaires; people who fill out a contact form and don’t respond to our calls; assignments of clients to writers; and much more.

The language in the emails was too informal for my company’s brand, and there were spelling and grammatical errors in pretty much every one. Not a single email was written in a way that I would want it to appear to my clients. Although my assistant had done some editing on the document already, there was a whole lot left to do.

How would you feel if you received an 84-page document like this to edit? Does “overwhelmed” describe it sufficiently?

For me, “overwhelmed” was a fairly accurate description, which I identify as a combination of anger and fear. As I went through the first 15 pages, however, I began to realize that I did not have to be overwhelmed by this project – at least not now. Patterns began to emerge in the errors that had been made, and I suddenly had a big insight: I could delegate editing this document back to my assistant! I wrote a list of four tasks for her that, once completed, would make my job a lot easier.

My feeling of overwhelm suddenly subsided, and although I might experience it again when I receive the next draft, I have reduced my stress level significantly.

The feeling of overwhelm has, no surprise, surfaced in my business before. I experienced it when I started getting dozens of LinkedIn invitations per week and “had to” respond to all of them myself. I experienced it when I was entering my own bookkeeping data. I experienced it when I was posting my blog article to WordPress every week and finding images to insert. I experienced it when I was creating screenshots for my e-book. And I experienced it while organizing my leads and conversions each month, pulling from multiple email folders to create a complete list.

In every one of these cases, I managed to let go of doing the task myself, figure out what I was doing so that someone else could do it, and hand it over. None of this was easy for me, as I am rather controlling and want things done right. I had to make a shift in thinking from “I’m the only one who can do this” to “I can teach someone else how to do this.”

The benefit of successful delegation has been my freedom. My business has grown, and yet I have more time to do things I want to do for myself: cook, do yoga, spend time with friends, and concentrate on my personal growth.

I am now regularly on the lookout for signs of overwhelm because I know that it means it’s time to expand, let go, trust, and create freedom in a way I might not have believed was possible.

Where in your life are you experiencing being overwhelmed by a project? How can you enroll others to make it look more doable? I’d love to hear about the challenges you’ve experienced, solutions you’ve implemented, and any new ideas you have for approaching big tasks so you can thrive.

Do you aspire to live a stress-free life? You might want to reconsider.

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STRESS.

Just the word brings on a quickening of my heartbeat, a tightening in my chest and upper back, and a narrowing of my brow. These are the signs of stress for me. When my stress level gets really high, I might feel a pulse in my left temple that is alarmingly out of my control.

Stress is not a comforting or comfortable feeling, and when experienced on an ongoing basis can literally kill.

But is stress inherently a bad thing? It turns out it’s not.

Stress raises our levels of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that prepare us for reacting under an imminent threat. This response is useful not just for escaping from a physical attack, but also for handling non-life-threatening challenges that come our way.

For instance, I am historically a high performer on standardized tests. I have pulled scores that surprise me as being significantly higher than my practice test scores. Believe me, I felt plenty of stress when I took the SAT, the LSAT, and the New York Bar Exam. It was stress that made me focus intensely, work fast, and think more clearly than I ever would under everyday conditions.

I feel stress every time I give a presentation or even write a blog article. Stress has helped me in multiple job interviews. Stress somehow got me, as a 13-year-old gymnast, to earn a medal in my “worst” event (vault) at the New Jersey State Championship – and to win the competition in my age group. Stress pushes me to perform.

I never thought I would say this, but… I would not want to give up my stress!

However, since there are inarguably negative health effects to persistent stress, it’s worth looking at how to take a break from stressful episodes. I think this is where things like exercise and meditation come in. If I did not have my daily yoga and swimming practice, I might never get a break from my anxiety-ridden daily life. Hugs help too (they release oxytocin, which helps our heart cells regenerate).

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., in a TED Talk, noted that how we manage stress is key to how harmful or helpful it is. If someone views stress positively, that person is likely “to be less stressed-out, less anxious and more confident.” Stress can help us with solving problems, tackling challenges, and bouncing back from failure.

Not only that, but if someone views stress as helpful, their physical response actually changes! In particular, their blood vessels do not constrict, but instead stayed relaxed. That difference, compounded over time, could easily be the distinguishing factor between an early heart attack and living into old age.

McGonigal recommends that we become aware of our negative thinking, so that we avoid defaulting to drama and jumping to unsupported conclusions. The support of friends, family, and colleagues can be key in this process.

I historically have viewed some of my stress as positive and other as negative. My commitment now is to spin it to positive as frequently as possible so I can live a long and stress-managed (not stress-free) existence.

Do you experience stress as a positive or negative influence in your life? What techniques do you find useful for managing stress? Please share below!

[This article was inspired by John H. Ostdick’s article, “The Upside to Stress,” published in the May 2014 issue of Success Magazine.]

The Upside of Change: No More Automatic Group Member Connections on LinkedIn

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On October 1, 2014, LinkedIn unceremoniously eliminated a widely relied-upon function: the ability to connect with anyone with whom you share a group, without needing to know their email address.

Before October, if you wanted to connect with someone on LinkedIn with whom you shared a group, you would see a dropdown that looked like this:

Now, the dropdown is one item shorter:

While some LinkedIn members are postulating that the loss of automatic group member connections is a technical glitch that will be resolved, I’m assuming for now that it’s a permanent game changer.

LinkedIn experts have recommended for years that you join the maximum number of LinkedIn group (50) so that you can easily expand your network. This reason for group membership seems to have disappeared.

Or has it?

The fact is, the people in your groups are still pre-filtered for shared interests and so you might still want to make the effort to connect with them. Just because you need their email address doesn’t mean you have to give up on building your network! Groups are still a great place to interact with valuable contacts, share information, and ask and answer questions. You can still do all that!

The elimination of the automatic group connection feature might actually have an upside. Let’s say there’s someone in a group you want to connect with. What should you do?

First, look in their Contact Information section or their Summary for their email address. If you find it there, you can easily enter it when prompted. Next, if you know what company they work for, Google them at their company. Or Google anyone at the company and you might be able to model your new contact’s email address on someone else’s. For instance, if you find an address like JaneSmith@Company.com, you can guess that your contact’s email address is JohnBrown@Company.com.

If those options fail, you now must send an actual *message* to the person! It’s free though. There are two ways to do this:

Option #1

From Discussions, click on the member’s photo or name link to see that member’s activity.

You will be taken to that member’s group Activity summary page. Click the “Follow” drop down menu on the right and select “Send message.”

Option #2

Go to the group page and click on the number of members at the top right of the page.

Search for the member you want to message.

Then click the “Send message” link under their title.

Your message might read something like this:

Dear John, I was impressed by your contribution to the discussion in the Job Hunt group about HR practices in pharmaceutical companies. I would love to speak with you further about this topic and would be honored if you would provide me with your email address so I can send you an invitation to join my network! I would be happy to arrange a phone call as a starting point.

Yes my dear social-media-savvy, you might have to interact with another human being before adding them as another number on your connection list.

What I’m suggesting is that LinkedIn may have done us all a favor by forcing us to work a bit to connect with people whom we don’t really know even though we share a group. What do you think about this idea?

Remember again that group membership is valuable for many reasons, not just for ease of connecting with group members. Smaller, more local group in particular provide a forum for you to become a thought leader in your niche.

If you participate enthusiastically enough, it’s likely that other people will do the work of finding *your* contact information and send you requests to connect, rather than the other way around!

What do you see as the impact of the “loss” of this connection feature? I’d love to hear your opinion.

9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

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how-to-poseOn July 10, 2014, Social Media Examiner quoted me in their compilation article 9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips From the Pros. Since I often receive questions about how companies can use LinkedIn for their marketing efforts, I thought it would be valuable to share this post with you. If you are a job seeker, all but the first of these tips apply to you!

Here’s what you’ll learn about strategies to boost your LinkedIn marketing:

  1. Use LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to build credibility and exposure. Use LinkedIn’s analytics to make sure you’re getting sufficient value from your investment. (I have not used this feature but it might be the right strategy for some businesses.)
  2. Add Rich Visual Content to Your LinkedIn Profile to spice up its look and feel!
  3. Implement Influence Networking (Build real, personalized, ongoing relationships) to stand out from your competitors.
  4. Offer Value in Discussion Groups (Provide quality content to prospective buyers) to establish thought leadership and trust.
  5. Optimize Your Personal Profile (How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile is a great start for this!)
  6. Tag Your Connections in Posts using the @ symbol followed by the person’s name.
  7. Focus on Small, Local Discussion Groups to make the biggest impact with your discussion participation (this was my contribution to the article!)
  8. Develop Relationships Instead of Adding Connections, through both your personal and company pages.
  9. Don’t Treat LinkedIn Like an Online Version of Your Resume – instead, be creative with your presentation of what you can do for your customers. Sell yourself based on the problems you can solve. (If you are a job seeker, you might be thinking you need to have an online version of your resume. But you can take a creative approach rather than create a carbon copy on LinkedIn. Consider what will sell you the best to a prospective employer and write your profile that way!)

For expanded information on each one of these points, check out the full article at 9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips From the Pros.

And if you’re a small business looking for ongoing LinkedIn marketing support, please contact us at teesupport@theessayexpert.com. We have experts we can refer you to!

Lessons I Learned from a Suicidal Arsonist

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On Friday, September 26, I set out to travel from New York City back home to Madison. I dutifully arose at 4:00 a.m. to meet a car service, arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Boarding went smoothly and we left the gate. I looked forward to a 10:36 a.m. landing in my hometown after 3 days at a conference in Denver and a week with my family and friends. I had wonderful plans for Friday evening and Saturday.airport-delay

Then the announcement came: There has been a fire in the Chicago air traffic control tower. All flights in and out of Chicago have been delayed.

The guy across the aisle from me began cursing and waving his fists around. I resolved to take the news better than he was taking it. After calling United twice and spending an hour on hold, I managed to get rebooked through Atlanta. But when I landed in Atlanta there were three voice mail messages advising me that my flight to Madison had been cancelled, and one informing me that I had been rebooked on a flight the next day through Washington D.C. I would, if all went as re-planned, arrive in Madison at 9:12 p.m. Saturday night.

The punch line is, I made it home. But there’s more. Throughout this adventure, I learned or was reminded of some valuable life lessons. Here are some of them:

  1. One person can truly make a difference.
    That guy Brian Howard who set a fire in the Chicago air traffic control tower was one single man who managed to paralyze air travel across the country for two days. I’m guessing he also affected security measures at air traffic control towers throughout the world. Yet so many of us sit around thinking we can’t make a difference. What are the extreme positive acts you could take to change something you want to change?
  1. Surrender to what’s so.
    When faced with the prospect of spending the night in Atlanta, I was not thrilled. But since all flights to Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago and pretty much all areas surrounding were cancelled, I decided the best plan was to surrender. I got on a line for customer service, hoping there might be a hotel voucher for me if Atlanta was my only overnight option. An hour later I was at the counter, having had some lovely conversations with other stranded travelers, and discovered that there were no more hotel vouchers remaining, and that my flight to D.C. was that very night. Suddenly I had a new reality before me, and I accepted that one too. It’s amazing how much my stress level went down when I dealt with what was so instead of wishing it were another way!
  1. It’s good to have friends everywhere.
    Through a combination of college connections and my dance community, as well as other life adventures, I have built a network of friends and family in almost every major U.S. city (and some overseas cities as well). Drop me in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Tucson or Tel Aviv, and I will have a friendly place to lay my head. When I discovered I would be in Washington, D.C. for a night, I started calling friends, one of whom, my college buddy Sara, was happy to put me up for the night. I had not seen her in about 10 years, so it was a great treat to spend unexpected time with her. Not only that, but she had kale in her fridge, a blender, and a free pass to her gym which we used to attend a class together Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon we swam together in an outdoor pool, well after any such pool in Madison would ever be open. I also saw a high school football game that was highlighted on Fox 5 Friday night! I was well taken care of. And I got on a deep level that I have led my life well to be able to call on so many people to help. Of course I would do the same for all of them.
  1. Talk to strangers.
    In the customer support line and on various airplanes Friday and Saturday, I met some other waylaid travelers. It was good to connect with humanity. They put my situation in perspective, and helped me out by watching my bag while I went to plug in my phone, whose battery was on its last legs. One woman guided me where I needed to go in D.C. to get to the suburban Metro stop where I met my college friend Sara. I noticed I felt fairly upbeat given the monkey wrench that had been thrown into my life, and on one of my plane rides I identified why: I was talking to strangers!

In an article I read on the plane in Success (which is quickly becoming my favorite magazine), I discovered that a social science study by researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, Michael Norton, Ph.D., showed that “talking with strangers can be at least as important to our daily happiness as talking to our close friends and family.” Norton confirmed this to be true regardless of personality type. I know it is true for me! I always feel more energized when I connect with the people around me than when I retreat into my shell.

On Saturday night my flight departed from D.C. on time and landed in Madison 30 minutes early. My housesitter Mariah picked me up and drove me home, where I arrived fairly exhausted yet grateful. I slept well that night, knowing that I am well-loved, resourceful, connected, and able to handle the challenges that one suicidal arsonist threw in my direction.