Thursday, December 29, 2011

What is this, as you say ... boredom?

One thing I don't think I ever will understand is boredom. I hear people talk about being bored. I see them tweeting and Facebooking about it. I kind of remember feeling bored when I was a child. But, in all sincerity, I have never in my adult life experienced this boredom. I can't imagine running out of things to do, places to go and people to see. But, if that day ever comes — and I doubt it will — I will read. I could read and read and read, and then read some more. I never realized what a luxury reading is until I had a full-time job, and kids, and all the housework (ugh). Oh, and I'd write more, too.

See, I just enjoyed the heck out of 12 work-free days. (Well, almost work-free, anyway.) During this glorious 12-day span I started and finished my Christmas shopping; spent quality time with my children; visited with friends and family members I don't get to see nearly enough; exercised almost daily; cooked delicious well-balanced meals; cleaned my boys' room (a MONUMENTAL triumph); filled a lawn-and-leaf-sized trash bag with clothes none of us were ever going to wear again; watched a few movies; and read magazines (!); and other fun stuff, too. Today, it's back to work, which of course is why I'm blogging again. LOL. Anything to put off the dreaded cold calling. Ooh! But first thing this morning I did make what might have been my last internet ad campaign sale of 2011 — bringing my grand total for the year up to nearly $70,000. I feel really accomplished for that. Woo-hoo! Let me not jinx anything, though, because there is a chance I could close on another by the end of the day tomorrow. I'm just not getting my hopes up, as I'm not expecting much from this two-day holiday work"week."  

So, why is it that I'm counting down to the weekend? Because, for me — at least for now — work is not life. What I experienced in the 12 days before this one was life. Work is a necessity ... something that must be done because life costs money. There was a point in the past when work meant a lot more to me ... when I was super-excited about a feature story I was working on or a magazine I was developing ... or when I truly was passionate about raising money for a worthy cause. But, with motherhood something changed. Not to say that I don't get fired up about work anymore. It is nice to get out and meet new people. I'm glad to be learning new information and acquiring additional skills. Plus, there is a certain feeling of exhilaration associated with making sales. But you know what? It's nowhere near as exhilarating as introducing classic Scooby Doo episodes to my toddler, seeing the excitement on my 9 year old's face while he plays his new Xbox 360 with Kinect, or listening to my 11 year old recount the events of the Percy Jackson book she's currently reading. That's the truth, y'all. Still, I try to do an outstanding job, take pride in what I do and do care about my customers, because that's just how I am.

Still, you know what freaks me out? When I hear new mothers exclaim that they cannot wait for their maternity leave to end so that they can get back to the office. They are going crazy, they say, being "stuck" at home with a baby all day. Really??? Well, to each her own. I can understand the need for adult conversation and mentally stimulating activities. I would have no problem finding ways to fill those needs that do not involve full-time employment, thank you very much! And, you know what irks me? How all the articles in parenting magazines and books like What to Expect When Your Expecting try to address the choices mothers make. It always reads something like this: After the baby comes, do you want to return to work full time, work part time or be a full-time mom? Um, hello. What about all of us who have had to work full time because the cost of living is astronomical and we need health insurance benefits? Surely I'm not the only mother in the world who felt like a Nazi work camp resident being forced to relinquish my baby to virtual strangers while I pulled eight-hour shifts at an office across town. (In truth, I could not fathom doing so, so I arranged for extended maternity leaves and/or compressed work schedules and spent every lunch hour nursing each baby for the first year.)  

Someday I may rant about how a culture of full-time working mothers contributes to many of our nation's ills. But, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. So, I guess I'll shut up now and get to work.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just say no!

Once again, I'm pressed for time, so I'll keep it short and sweet. But today, I'm on vacation, so my schedule is filled with fun stuff like shopping, meeting old coworkers for lunch, taking my toddler to see Santa, and picking up Mom from the airport!

Today's lesson is about saying no ... how it's okay to do so, and how when you do, people will respect you more. Salespeople — and all kinds of people — ought to appreciate this one, because its a big problem. Here's the deal: I don't know if it's because I live in the South, and here our culture tends to tell us to be pleasant all the time. Or, maybe people took Thumper's mother's advice to heart. (Watch Bambi again if you don't know what I mean.) "If you can't say nothin' nice, then don't say nothin' at all." Okay, yeah, I can see how this applies in many scenarios. But believe me when I tell you there are few things more annoying than being ignored. If you don't want what I'm selling, and I call you, email you, text you, Facebook you, PM you on Twitter, message you on LinkedIn (and I likely will do more than one of these things), please reply and say something like this:

Thanks, Lisa, for taking the time to tell me about your services and for following up, but I'm just not interested. OR, you might say you aren't interested at this time but to contact you again in six months or next year. It's really that simple. And, if you offer the REAL explanation for why you aren't interested, it can actually help me and my company know how to better serve people like you in the future.

Believe it or not, I don't really know what to do with no response at all. I wonder, "Did she get my messages?," "Did I somehow offend him?," "Are my products crap?," "Was my sales pitch poor?," and any number of other obsessive thoughts. Also, please don't tell me yes, have me spend hours preparing paperwork, and then when it's time to sign the contract tell me you can't because you have to go to the emergency room. (True story. And it doesn't explain why still, months later, I can't get ANY response from you.)

To review: Saying no isn't a bad thing. It can be a helpful thing. Ignoring is an annoying and potentially hurtful thing. That is all. Now, on to my fun. Have a great day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

People are strange, when you're a neighbor

Okay, I have like five minutes to blog (precluding kid emergencies, computer crashes, power outages or natural disasters). Let's see how I do,

As the heading suggests, people are strange. And, I'm not just talking strangers, I'm talking about people we know even. Case in point: Someone left a kitten on my doorstep yesterday, WITH a bowl of tuna ... you know, to keep it there. Whoever it was must have fled just moments before I arrived from a morning meeting. Thank GAWD I made a sale at that meeting. (A good sale, that included both Google and CityGrid campaigns!) Because I spent a good chunk of the remainder of the day trying to place it in a good home, while I should have been working. I figure whoever committed this horrendous act of abandonment knows me. Call me cynical, jaded or whatever you want, but I find it difficult to believe this was a random act. See, I love kitties. It's pretty well known among "friends." I have two cats, a dog (German Shepherd) and a bunch of pond fish, plus, of course, three monkeys. I've harbored other creatures, too. In short, I'm maxed out. I simply cannot care for another living thing.

In the end, I placed this sweet kitteh boy in a loving home, thanks to Facebook — my favorite communication tool. Still, it's a perfect reflection of the kind of callousness I deal with on a daily basis. By no means am I a religious person, but I do firmly believe in the Golden Rule: Treat your neighbor and you would like to be treated. A deeply empathetic soul, I always try to put myself in the shoes of others and consider how I might respond in different situations. I can honestly say, I can't imagine — regardless of my situation — placing the burden of a homeless kitten on another, against their will. I wonder what would have compelled someone to do this, and I am at a loss. But all is well. If I had more time. I'd compare this to my sales world experiences. Like I said, I'm pressed for time. So, I'll save it for the next post.

Don't get me wrong. I am a happy and compassionate person. I wasn't all that put out by yesterday's episode. But I do wish more people would do the right thing, think before they act, and not expect someone else to take care of their problems. Just sayin'.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday, Monday ... Can't trust that day.

Just as soon as I bragged about Mondays in my PJs I realized this is one of those Mondays when I'm actually going to have to get dressed and go somewhere. When you work in sales and someone wants to meet with you, you meet with them whenever and wherever they say. And, that reminds me of something that happened last week. I was, you know, stalking a business owner acquaintance on Facebook, as I'm known to do. It's this guy I've sort of known for years but not all that well, but I know his wife, and our toddlers go to the same Mother's Day Out program. So, what I'm saying it's he's someone I surely would run into sooner or later around town. It's harder for those types to avoid me. (Well, I say that, but you'd be surprised.)

ANYWHO, I sent this guy a message requesting a meeting, and he agreed. So, I went to his place of business and sat down and talked with him for about an hour. (It doesn't have to take that long, but apparently some people actually enjoy talking with me.) He decided to buy one of my Internet advertising campaigns, and after we did the paperwork he said something I found funny. He told me, "You know, when I agreed to meet with you I didn't really think I was going to be interested, but now that we've talked I really am!" That really got me thinking. I think there are a lot of people out there like this guy ... people who would be interested in what I offer if only they'd take the time to listen to what I have to say. I wish more people would agree to meet with me just to humor me (LOL) and then discover that what I've got is actually worthwhile. I think I'm going to tell this story to the folks who refuse to let me in — that is, IF I can even get them to tell me no. (More commonly, I simply am ignored). We shall see how that goes. The bigger lesson, which I touched on in my first blog post, is, of course, to keep the door open. If someone wants to meet with you, do it! You never know what you might learn or how your life may be enriched by the experience. (This is a general rule, and there are exceptions. For example, never accept a meeting invitation from Celine Dion, Nancy Grace or the Grim Reaper.)

Okey-doke. I didn't really have time to blog today what with all the getting dressed and going to meet with a business owner I've got to do. Plus, it's cold calling day! (Hooray.) But once I get something in my mind it nags at me until I get it out. Happy Monday everyone ... every last one of you six followers I've got so far, one of which is me! =-D

Friday, December 9, 2011

And now, for the moment only I have been waiting for ...

Once upon a time I was a professional writer. Flash forward to now, three kids and a big mortgage later. What have a learned? We live in a society that does not value writers. Now, don't get me wrong. Are there writers out there who make a good living, who have profitable careers as writers, and who aren't miserable doing so? Sure. I hear these people exist. I see celebrated journalists taking the media by storm. I see bestsellers on the shelves of the surely-soon-to-be-defunct bookstores. Hell, I'll admit, I even know a few folks who seem relatively happy and somewhat "successful" in writing careers (although I'm certain none are paid what they're worth, and many have other jobs to supplement their income). But mostly what I see are talented writers taking jobs as teachers or marketing directors as a means of payroll improvement, if that's any indication of underpayment in the field. I see them going back to school for different, more lucrative degrees than English or journalism. I see them moving away from my fairly affluent mid-sized city to larger markets where pay scales are better. Seldom do I see them rising to a level of income, without taking one of these other routes, that's suitable to support a family. I'm sure occasionally a writer gets that big break that propels them into — not luxury, mind you — but comfort. But I don't know those writers. Those writers are the stuff of dreams and legends; and, frankly, I grew tired of toiling in Hell, waiting for the dream to happen.

So, what did I do? I crossed over to the dark side. That's right. I moved into sales. But before you judge, let me explain. Yes, I am now a pariah in modern American society. I am one of those people who has the nerve — no, the audacity — to call you and ask for an appointment. I want, desperately, to show you my wares (well, my virtual wares), and you avoid me like the plague, which is kind of confusing for me. After all, I don't want your firstborn child. I don't want your life, your youth, your knowledge or your ideas. I mean you no harm. In fact, I want to help! Truth be told, I could never, EVER, sell anything I didn't consider a good product that actually HELPED people. I'm not REALLY a salesperson. I'm an actress playing the part of a salesperson because it's better than being a writer, and that's the only other thing I know, besides being a mother, and a person, just like you.

I've joked (only half joked, really) about forming a nonprofit called Down With People. It would be sort of like Up With People, if you're familiar with that, only the skits and songs would be about what assholes people are instead of all the uplifting, empowering stuff. Because let me tell you, my friends (who surely are the only people reading this), people ARE assholes, especially to salespeople. Even people who used to seem nice are assholes when you're in sales. Not all people, mind you. If all of them were, then I wouldn't make any sales at all, and I'd have lost my job months ago. But many, many people are. When you're a salesperson, they think it's okay to ignore you. They don't return your calls and emails. They even lie, making up the most preposterous excuses for not meeting with you. It's surprising, even full-on weird, how people who seemed nice before, are cold and evasive. And, then you run into them at the grocery store. Yes. I spend much of my time these days in The Twilight Zone. So, why? Why do I do it?

I work from home. I don't have to show up to an office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later) like I used to. Yet, I get a salary, plus commission on sales, and benefits. (Take THAT, my writer friends!) On Mondays, I usually can work in my pajamas, making cold calls to set up meetings for the rest of the week. Before you get too jealous, though, understand that making cold calls is something like standing naked on a stage while people (some of whom you know casually and will see at the grocery store later) hurl tomatoes at you. NOBODY likes a cold caller. People will say ANYTHING to avoid meeting with you. You're lucky if you get past the gatekeeper. Occasionally you get hung up on. It sucks. But, again, I might be in my pajamas. My toddler might even be watching Dora in the next room. So, I grin and bear it. Okay, Sometimes I grimace and gnash my teeth. Rarely, I cry. But you get the point. I get to be at home. I can put a load of laundry in and start dinner whenever I want. I can greet the air conditioner repair guy, receive the UPS package and hang out with my dog, so ... you know ... I deal. The rest of the week I can set my appointments whenever I like. If my 9-year-old has an event at school, I just don't make an appointment at that time. And if my middle school student calls claiming she's sick (again, when I think she's probably not really), I can pick her up, bring her home and go about my business ... no clocking out, no boss to tell. It's cool.

But before you call me a slacker, let me make it known that sometimes I'm up checking email at 6 a.m. And, often I'm doing paperwork at 10 p.m. Much of the time, I don't take a real lunch. I have a lunch meeting, or I scarf down a bowl of cereal or leftovers from the night before while preparing for a 1:00 meeting. Or, I might be so busy I don't eat at all. So, it all equals out. I work a good 40 hours. It just isn't confined to the typical 8 to 5. (Whatever happened to 9 to 5, anyway?) For me, it isn't a matter of being preferable. At this point in my life it's the only thing that's doable. I have friends — maybe even some of you reading this now — who work traditional full-time jobs, raise children, maintain relationships with your spouses, keep a decent household, and you're fine with it ... maybe even HAPPY with it. If so, kudos to you! I mean this very sincerely. I admire you! You are amazing! But it's just not for me. With three children, including a toddler, I cannot even fathom braving the daily grind anymore the way it used to be. Even now, with a flexible schedule, I don't feel like I keep up with everything well ... the job, the kids, the marriage, the pets, the housework. I'm in over my head! But I make it work the best I can, and I'm extremely grateful for the many blessings bestowed on me in this life. I don't feel sorry for myself, and I don't criticize anyone for making different choices than mine. Everyone's different, and that's okay.

So, why have a launched this blog? Because I'm a writer. Duh! =-D I miss writing. It's what I love. It's what I know. It's not only that, though. I want to remind people to be kind. More than anything else since becoming a (dreaded) salesperson, I have realized how callous human beings can be. So often, they're too busy and too focused on what they already believe, what they KNOW, to let others in ... to connect with other human beings ... to learn something new. Let me leave you with this thought: If someone wants to meet with you — whatever the reason — accept the invitation. You just never know what doors it might open. They may have something to offer that can help you, and if not you personally, then someone else you know. You may realize you have something to offer that helps them. You may even make a new friend. (It's happened to me!) Besides, what do you have to lose? Maybe 15 minutes of your precious day? For expanding your circle and enriching your life, it's a small price to pay.