Sunday, July 25, 2010

Focusing on Gratitude

I write about gratitude quite a bit. It's important to me. I think it's life changing.

These first few months of learning to be an insurance saleswoman have been pretty stressful and I know the next few months are likely to be stressful as well. When life is extra-stressful, I find it ESPECIALLY important to focus on gratitude.

So everybody knows that I work a 12-step program for eating and dieting issues. I'm all out of the closet with that and it feels good and a little bit frightening to be so open about it here in my blog.

I know from past experience that when I've felt vulnerable, afraid, weak, tormented or just plain overwhelmed -- gratitude has been a saving grace. Gratitude has kept my attitude in check. Gratitude has saved me from resentments. Gratitude has saved me from self pity. Gratitude has saved me from doubt. Gratitude has -- on numerous occasions -- saved my back.

The wonderful thing about gratitude is that you don't have to come by it naturally. It is a trait that can genuinely be fostered. Sponsors I've had in my 12-step work have helped me to practice gratitude.

I've been a little bit depressed over the past few weeks about some of the things that I am not. I am not making much money yet. I am not a super-star insurance saleswoman. I am not a fabulously organized business woman. I am not extremely confident with my sales communication skills.

You get the picture. The list could go on. There are so many ares where I can improve.

But I believe those areas will improve in the future if I focus on gratitude instead of self pity and uncertainty. In fact if I do focus intentionally on gratitude, I believe that I can realistically end each of the "not" statements I listed, with a truthful and optimistic YET!

For the next thirty days I am committing to start each day by writing a list of 20 things for which I am grateful. Every day for thirty days -- 20 gratitudes to start the day. I invite you to join me in this practice if you feel you could use a bit more positive energy in your life.

Here is a list for today... I am grateful because:

1. I am not at war. I am not a soldier in military battle.
2. I have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
3. I have a car that has no major problems and needs no big repairs (this is a big gratitude after driving older vehicles that broke down frequently for a number of years).
4. I have six older siblings who love me.
5. My 17-year-old cat, Lucy, is feeling better and apparently may live for quite a while longer -- maybe a year or two, even.
6. I have an interesting new career and work with some great people.
7. I have the opportunity to learn more about health insurance and I am receiving some great training about insurance and insurance sales through the company where I work.
8. I was able to arrange to buy a computer system and signing pad for $400 barely used. If I had purchased these items new they would have cost me $675.
9. I have great friends and family who love me.
10. I live in Michigan -- one of the most beautiful places in the world.
11. I am very healthy for a person my age.
12. I have a great dad and I was raised by two parents who loved me.
13. I learned to play a fun card game called Speed last night. A nice 13-year-old taught me.
14. I have excellent eyesight -- especially for a person my age.
15. I know how to sail.
16. I can swim!
17. I have good books to read.
18. I have groceries!!!
19. I have fresh blueberries in my refrigerator.
20. It's summertime!

Standing up to Stigmas

It's a little embarrassing to admit to the world that I have an eating disorder; I participate in a 12-step fellowship to deal with that eating disorder, and that I'm not cured yet. I'm still a work in progress.

But not to mention this aspect of my life as I blog about my career transition would seem to me like a major omission. Dealing with my eating disorder is a significant part of my life and the attention I pay to this area of my life has quite an effect on everything else I do.

Mind you, I was fat and not at all in any sort of twelve-step recovery during my most successful years as a journalist -- when my stories were being picked up by the Associated Press and Gannett News Service wires on a weekly and sometimes almost daily basis. During those years of my life I vacillated between 220 and 264 pounds. When I found the twelve-step recovery way of life for dealing with my weight, eating and dieting issues in 2001 I was thinner than I had been in years, weighing in at about 205. I am 5'10" tall and my figure is shaped like an hour-glass, not an apple or a pear, so I carry my weight well. Even during these years when I was morbidly obese and at risk for all sorts of major health catastrophes, I didn't exactly look like someone who was a heart-attack waiting to happen.

Even though I was much less healthy emotionally and physically when I was morbidly obese, I felt less stigmatized professionally than I do today when I admit I work the 12-steps to deal with this problem. Even though millions of people throughout the world work 12-step programs today for alcoholism, drug abuse,debting, gambling, eating, codependency, smoking cessation, family relationships and other issues, there are still some stigmas attached to the fellowships. Out of respect for our tradition of anonymity, I don't mention which 12-step eating program I participate in (there are several -- graysheet, overeaters anonymous, food addicts in recovery, food addicts anonymous, to name a few).

The fact is, 12-step recovery is pretty normal nowadays. I speculate there may be more American families today who have members who work 12-step recovery programs than there are families who have no members in 12-step recovery programs.

Before I came into the fold of the 12-step food recovery community I tried just about everything except stomach stapling to lose weight and keep it off. I was in and out of diet clubs and gyms like nobodies business. But nothing worked. I haven't found perfect serenity with 12-step recovery but I can tell you that my eating life today is drastically improved from what it was ten years ago. Sometimes I feel as vulnerable as Oprah, though, with the whispers. After losing more than 100 pounds slowly over a period of about four years I have gained and lost about thirty pounds five or six times in the past five years.

I am not sharing this information about my eating and dieting recovery as a means to recruit others into the 12-step fold. Not at all. One of the keys to the program is attraction rather than promotion. We don't believe it's effective at all to try to recruit people to join 12-step fellowships. They must come to the solution on their own.

Rather, I just felt like defending the 12-step way of life a bit because I felt like I was a bit vulnerable in my post yesterday when I admitted about my Friday night problem with cookies and potato chips. But omitting that personal detail about my week would have felt somehow like a let down to my readers. I promised to report the good and bad of getting back on my feet again financially. Dealing with the eating issues are part of it.

Sometimes when I mention this 12-step lifestyle choice I have made I feel like I hear whispers. I do hope those whispers are mostly in my imagination. Certainly, though, there have been a few mummers within my own family -- and some interesting comments. People tend to wonder when I will grow out of this 12-step thing -- or at least when I might have greater and more consistent success. I mention I participate in the 12-step recovery not just because of a desire to be brutally honest. Also, I have found it's pretty hard to avoid questions. People see me eating specific amounts of specific foods and invariably have questions. Avoiding the questions is an art in itself and can be more exhausting than just telling the truth. People these days are obsessed with what others are eating or not eating. They see me using my scale. They see me fitting into size eight jeans -- and then six months later having trouble zipping my size 14s. Other types of 12-steppers can keep their business to themselves more easily than those of us with eating and dieting problems. Our problems and our behaviors related to our solution are pretty visible and attract fascination and inquisition.

It does seem a bit funny to people who don't have this condition, I know. It seems a little bit strange that I weigh and measure my food -- even at restaurants. It seems a little bit funny that I make all these phone calls to other people in the program and that I attend about three meetings a week. It seems a little bit funny that I read from the 12-step recovery literature every day, write on a topic of recovery and call my sponsor to read to her what I wrote about AND specifically commit every single ounce of food I will be eating in the next twenty-four hours.

It seems like so much work. It seems like so much trouble. But honestly, it is nothing like the troubles than happen when this condition goes untreated. Binging on foods such as Oreos and Pringles is no party. The first few bites are yummy. But the next few bites are horrible because true compulsive eaters such as me know there will be no closing up the packages. There is no end in site. The compulsive overeater won't be able to stop eating a package of cookies or snacks until the package is empty. The idea of eating a few cookies or chips is just a fantasy for us. We're not able to stop. We feel sick inside emotionally and physically but we just can't stop eating those goodies once we start.

Are we crazy people, we 12-step-food program participants? Are we people about whom society should be suspicious? Not at all. We are facing our problems and actively working to overcome them.

Many Americans will not face the problem of compulsive overeating and will eat themselves into early graves -- some of them will manage their households and businesses quite effectively even as they eat themselves to death. They will be less present emotionally, professionally and physically for the challenges that unfold each day than they would be if they were not eating compulsively -- but many of them will get by quite well with the day-to-day.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, in 2008 Colorado was the ONLY state in the nation with less than 20 percent of its population stricken by obesity. In 2008 32 states (including Michigan) had more than 25 percent obesity and six states in the U.S. had more than 30 percent obesity.

These figures alone are startling. What's even more disturbing to me is the alarming rate at which the obesity trend is increasing. In 1998 just seven states in the nation had more than 20-percent obesity (Michigan among them). In 1998 no states had an obesity rate of 25-percent or above.

So who are we to worry about most -- those of us who participate in the 12-step eating fellowships or those who don't? I am not suggesting the 12-step way of life is the only way to deal with compulsive overeating, bulimia and anorexia -- or that every person who is overweight is a compulsive overeater. There may be other methods that are effective for some people. And I accept that there probably are some fat and happy people in the world who have no desire to change their eating habits. The 12-step fellowships are designed for people who have a desire to modify their behaviors but cannot do so by themselves no matter how hard they try various diets and methods. The twelve-step way of life is for people who need a solution that is spiritual, physical and emotional.

The twelve-step way of life affords me a treasury of tools for dealing with everyday challenges -- some related to eating and others not at all related to eating. This way of life helps me to become more honest, more bold and more responsible. I think it's great. I'm extremely grateful for it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Things First

I ate mint Oreos and Pringles for dinner last night. I had forgotten to pack a lunch and hadn't brought my scale with me in my car. So when I got home at about 5:30 p.m. I was starving. I had a headache. The half-eaten package of mint Oreos was just sitting there on the counter. Nobody was around. Dinner.

To most people that doesn't sound like a horrible activity. It isn't as though I killed someone. It isn't as if I took heroin or drank myself into a wild frenzy. Heck, I didn't even drive anywhere! I was going to go out but there were tornado warnings and lightening. So, I just stayed in and ate half a package of mint Oreos and a canister of Pringles potato chips. I like Pringles. I have a food scientist friend who did an internship with a guy who was on the team of ten people who spent several years of their lives figuring out how to put potato chips into a can. So I have a remote and somewhat nifty tie to Pringles.

As a compulsive overeater, I can probably think of a fun and zany and remote connection with any food to be honest with you. Food facts and diet facts are somewhat of a specialty of mine. I was never really overweight by more than ten or fifteen pounds until I was in my middle twenties. But to keep my figure, I started dieting in kindergarten, imitating the diets of my teenage sisters -- drinking diet sodas and eating diet jello and making Weight Watcher's pizzas -- a slice of bread with katchsup and a slice of cheese toasted in the oven. It doesn't sound healthy today but in the 1970s it was considered to be diet food. By Junior High School I was on diet pills on and off. But my favorite method of keeping my weight down was starvation. I had anorexic friends who became so skinny they had to go into the hospital and I envied their willpower. I could never go that far. I could starve myself for several days in a row but it always ended in a binge. Often I would pass out before the binge.

In 2001 I finally realized I had an eating disorder. I was a classic "food addict." I was addicted to eating and to dieting. None of it worked for me. I needed help. I found help with a 12-step food recovery program. Since then I have found much serenity in 12-step food recovery programs. But I've never found complete recovery. I've never been able to go year after year after year without eating compulsively -- without making crazy eating decisions like I made last night. Actually, the 12-step philosophy maintains that food addicts don't actually recover completely. We find a daily reprieve from our problem by working the tools and traditions of our program.

It is said to be simple but not easy. But to be honest with you, I don't think it's all that simple, either. I think it's hard. I don't envy the people who I know who are recovering drug addicts or alcoholics, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want to trade problems with them -- not ever. But I do envy the simplicity of their programs. It's simple. If you are an alcoholic, you don't drink. If you are a food addict, you must eat. Typically you must eat three to four times per day. Many of us weigh and measure our food according to food plans that are designed uniquely for us by nutritionists. But not all food addicts do that. Some don't weigh and measure at all. Some follow a one-size-fits all food plan. There are a few different 12-steps food programs that each have different one-size-fits all plans. I know of three different 12-step programs with three different one-size-fits all plans. I have tried all three of them. I know people who have long-term recovery in each of the three programs -- people who have not eaten or dieted compulsively for ten and twenty years. And the people who belong to each of these fellowships think their fellowship is superior. Many think their way is the only effective way to overcome the food and dieting problems.

Nowadays there is a new movement afoot in the 12-step food recovery community. I think it's called "Primary Purpose." From what I understand, these people don't weigh and measure their food -- at least most of them don't. They work the steps very rigorously and focus more intently on taking a daily inventory. I guess they e-mail a 10th step inventory to their sponsors every night. I know food addicts who are working this program and they like it. I thought about trying it out myself.

But my sense is, it isn't a new version of the 12-step eating program that I need. But what I need is to really commit myself to working the program that has worked best for me in the past.

So I called for help today. I took out a phone list of people who work their 12-step eating recovery programs with the method that has worked for me in the past. This fellowship has a number of bulimics and anorexics as well as garden-variety compulsive eaters such as me (people who can't eat just one and not want more and more and more and more and more and more...)

I prayed before I started dialing. I said God, please hook me up with someone who isn't too crazy and give me the willingness to work with this person. The first person who picked up with the phone (her name began with a B.. I just started at the top of the page with the A's) said she wasn't available. But she said she knew of two people who are available and they work strong programs.

I thanked her and took their numbers.

Within a few minutes I was in touch with the first person who she suggested. The woman was attending a parade in rural Michigan. It was loud. She took my call anyway. She said yes, she would sponsor me. So, as of this moment, I have a new sponsor. I am looking forward to it but I also feel nervous. She doesn't do it the way I have done it in the past. My first sponsor in this particular branch of the 12-step eating disorder community was so particular that she would be upset if I didn't call her on the dot. I mean she would express frustration if I phoned two minutes early. I could never seem to get my clock to match up perfectly with her clock. Despite this extremely particular attention to detail, I got a lot out of the relationship. She was a good sponsor. I learned a lot from her. But it only lasted for ten months. Then I decided to eat some cookies or something. Once you have three "slips" you can't continue to work with the same sponsor anymore. It's just a rule. The idea is that there is some kind of breakdown in the relationship and it just isn't working. I think this is actually a very good premise.

I don't really know much at all about my new sponsor except that she is available and that she apparently likes rural parades. She works things quite differently than some sponsors that I have had in the past, though. She wants me to call her during a range of time. We selected 4:30 to 5 p.m. She doesn't work in the summer and wouldn't be available until after 9 a.m. I am very busy by 9 a.m. in the morning. We will just talk for fifteen minutes on the phone each day but I have to say I am a little bit nervous about the phone call range instead of having a specific time to call.

But I am turning that over for today. I want to work this program. It really helps me in every area of my life.

What does this have to do with my Poor Journalist Getting Down to Business series? What does this have to do with my new career as a saleswoman? Absolutely everything. It's like when you get in an airplane and the stewardess tells you that you have to put on your mask first before you can help the person next to you -- even if that person is a little child.

My eating recovery program is like my air mask. I need it. If I don't have it, things in my life go awry quite quickly. Carrying extra weight around just doesn't feel good. It's uncomfortable. But even worse than the discomfort of carrying around extra weight are the emotional and mental highs and lows that are associated with not eating correctly.

I'm ready to abstain from compulsive overeating one day at a time with the support of my new sponsor and my 12-step community. I'm really grateful to have this program to turn to, actually. So many people have serious medical problems that don't have a solution. There's no cure for compulsive overeating. But there are solutions in the 12-step community. I am happy today to be living in the solution.

No yummy cookies or cupcakes or treats in the world taste as good as the solution feels.

People who do not have this problem and who have not spent time living in the solution sometimes think that those of us who follow twelve-step eating programs are exaggerators. They think we should just get over it. Even some of my close family members who have watched my struggles and experienced my recovery think I can be extreme. It bothers one of my sisters to death that I weigh my milk on a kitchen scale. She insists it is not the correct way to measure milk. It doesn't matter, though. It's how I was instructed to do it, so it's how I do it.

With all 12-step programs, the key is surrender.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It's working.


It's been a low week for me with my 17-year-old cat seemingly near death a few days ago, with a mild but slightly frightening flare-up of my Multiple Sclerosis, with general discombobulation that resulted in me locking my keys in my car and, on a separate occasion, locking my phone in my car and misplacing my keys in the most random place (After four hours of house cleaning they turned up in a bag that belongs to my roommate. They were not dropped or put in it but just sort of got skooched into the remote and random location during a string of set downs and pick ups that occurred throughout Tuesday evening on a bench by the front door).

Everything seemed broken this morning. I doubted I would be able to sell anything this week. I felt depressed and somewhat beaten. Not ready to give up, mind you; as many of you know, I was raised by Lion's fans. I don't give up -- not ever. I refuse to give up. I'm just ornery and hopeful that way. It works for me. But I felt like jumping back into bed until Monday, pulling my freshly-laundered quilt up to my neck and reading something -- maybe even something a bit sordid, like a couple dozen paper-back romance novels or something, anything to deliver me from my feelings of uselessness and self pity.

But it must become very dark before we see the stars. Somebody very wise said that first, and much more eloquently than I just did. But I can't remember who or where and I suppose it doesn't matter.

What matters is that today is the day that I decided to keep walking through doors even though I didn't feel the teeniest bit like a person who had a cup that was even a third full.

But I walked anyway. And it only took one door to restore me to happiness.

The business owner was busy. I sat and chatted with the staff for a minute. We talked about travel, newspapers, pets, politics.

I set a date with the business owner to come back and nail down the enrollment details (that date is Monday). And then I noticed I'd locked my keys in my car for the second time this week.

Eye Yie Yie!!!

I walked back into the store. A man who is apparently somehow related to the business owner (who just minutes before told me wonderful stories about his travels in China and Tahiti) offered to take me to the police station or to a garage to see if we could find someone to unlock my car for free. He took a look at it and figured out he couldn't do it himself. I had the grace to take him up on his offer. It was so obvious he just wanted to help. He wanted to be kind and useful. As I suspected, there were no free offers to get my keys out. A State Police Sergeant called a towing company and they met me at my car about twenty minutes later.

Meanwhile I sat inside the business with the owner, a staff person and this man who is seemingly a relative of some sort, possibly not a husband, since the relationship wasn't stated, perhaps a brother.

It was revealed to me then that three other people from the company I work for had been in to try to earn this new business owner's business. The last time I had stopped in, there had only been two in addition to me and the business owner told me then that I had been chosen -- largely as a result of my effectively written note congratulating her on her soon-to-happen grand opening.

She lifted her leg in the air as if she were playing kickball after telling me about the others who had come in.

"That's it." She said. "I told them we're doing business with Patty. If anymore of them come in here, I'm gonna kick them out of here."

Yay! This is what we call branding in the sales business. When there are hundreds of people who sell your product you have to stand out. You can't be like plain ketchup. You've gotta be Heinz or Hunts. Otherwise, you'll never make it.

She brought her foot back down to the floor.

"I told them Patty's our girl."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Les Brown is the man.

I went to hear him speak today at a Yes Network event. What a story! What a force. The man is so down-to-earth and hilarious. I remember listening to him on the radio in Detroit when I was a girl sometimes. Today he is a multi-million dollar motivational speaker, prostate cancer survivor, former Ohio State Legislator. And my favorite thing about him: The man wants to look young but he's allergic to hair dye. So he blackens his hair with mascara!

You gotta love that!

Anyway, I am totally out of any funk I experienced this week and ready to go gettem'.

I am grateful to be on a great team with a great company living in a great state in a great country on a great planet within a great solar system in a fan tab u liss galaxy.

And all that stuff.

Thanks for the love y'all!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time Blocks

I'm trying out a new calendar method this week. No calendar system or day planner has ever satisfied me. They tend not to have enough hours -- or to have too many options for viewing. I can never figure out what to put where. They make me feel more discombobulated than organized. I haven't enjoyed the palm pilots and pocket organizers, either. I like something with paper pages. I'm old school that way.

So, I decided to keep it simple. I wanted a calendar with room to write that spans from 5:30 a.m., when I typically get up, to 9:30 p.m., when I'm typically getting ready for bed.

I looked for something simple like this with lots of hours in the day and couldn't find it anywhere. So I bought a 99-cent one-subject notebook at Walgreen's. It's bright green. I like green, makes me want to go -- and it's a relaxing color, something you can tolerate with your morning coffee.

I drew lines down the center of the first thirty or so pages. The first column is labeled at the top of the first page, Monday, July 19. The second column, also on the first page, is labeled Tuesday, July 20. The left margin of each page lists the half hours of the day: 5:30a.m., 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, etc. The homemade calendar pages run Monday through Sunday. Sundays have an extra column with "notes from the week."

I made tabs for the beginning of each week with bits of yellow sticky notes. Some people might laugh at my calendar. That's OK. It was a very peaceful and reflective hour I spent making my homemade calendar just the way I like it. It felt very good. I kept thinking -- It's MY TIME, why shouldn't I organize it just exactly the way I want to? Why should I be confined to the categories on someone else's calendar?

Chuckle if you will, I like my little calendar and it's cut-up-Post-it tabs. I think this is going to work out great for me. What will the business owners think? The more I am around small business owners in this new profession of mine, the more I see that small business owners are quite a bit like me. They are exactly the types of people who would create their own calendars! I like it. I like them. I like me. It's a very happy situation.

I am my father's daughter in this respect. He owned a small manufacturing business for most of my childhood and teenage years. He marched to the beat of a different drummer. He was creative. He took risks. He invented stuff. He had patents. I like that about my dad. I like that about me. Honestly, I just LOVE my new calendar.

And I promise to keep you posted about how it works for me.

Oh, and by-the-way, I've decided not to put all the business cards I get on lead sheets and hole punch them and put them in binders like many agents do. I did buy a hole puncher and some binders. But I like the method I've come up with for myself better. I'm going to tape business-owners' cards to large index cards, write notes about my contacts with the business owner and his or her employees on the index cards, group them in batches and store the batches in large ziplock bags.

I tend to work with a larger lead pool than other agents who I know who are just starting out. It seems I make more approaches than many agents. I like cold calling. It generates tons of cards.

Some people might find my 99-cent calendar and ziplock business card groupings a bit crude. I consider the homemade calendar and ziplock card packs to be an efficient use of my time and money.

Friday, July 16, 2010


RATS! I didn't hit Fireball today.

But guess what -- I'm still walking with dignity. I'm not slinking around like a failure and dragging my tail between my legs.

Oh wait, I guess I don't have a tail! It's been such a CRAZY BUSY week, I didn't really consider that fact when the image of me NOT COWARDING AROUND like an ashamed animal came to my brain.

I'm a success today! I feel great.

And I feel great because I'm loved and I worked my tail off (oh wait, back to that tail issue... I admit, I never really had one to begin with... you get the picture...).

Seriously, I put the pedal to the medal; I faced my fears; I got up early and out the door every day this week; I worked late every evening; I serviced existing accounts; I paid my first claims; I won the business of three very professional and respectable small businesses owners (enrollments for those accounts will happen in the weeks ahead); and I wrote a few policies (OK, so one of the policies was a policy I wrote on myself... but I wanted it. I needed it and I got paid premium on it; so it counts). And today, the very last day for me to achieve my fireball, I hustled! No kidding, I was hustling up business at 7:30 a.m. today. I wrote a policy at a very difficult account. The enrollment conditions had been horrible. I was only able to see two out of twenty people. And one of them bought a policy today. Additionally, I sold a direct policy to a guy at a corporate business and I have a few more opportunities for cold market direct business on the hook.

I'm a saleswoman. No joke. I feel like a saleswoman and a business owner today.

The Blessed Mother may not have led me to the sale of twelve policies today like I thought she might be going to do. But she did lead me to much greater self confidence, to greater independence as a business owner, and to greater faith that I can do it and I am on the right path.

It was a wonderful day! I felt loved and protected all day.

And last but certainly not least, I received a check and a cashier's check in the mail from my sister. AND these donations to the Patty Maher Insurance Agency were not only extremely generous but also lovingly packaged within a beautiful card that had... drum roll... FOUR ROSES... on the front! My sister happens to have a devotion to the Blessed Mother also. She doesn't read my blog very much (not unless I post a link to her Facebook wall. She hasn't yet figured out how to negotiate the blogosphere) and, I am pretty sure, knew nothing of my friend's mother's vision of the Blessed Mother and roses. The card from Blue Mountain Arts had "The Tale of Two Very Different Sisters." My sister wrote in the card that she had had it for about three years and just felt that this was the time to send it.

The card my sister sent touched me more than anything else that has happened this week. It was incredibly healing to me. My sister and I have had our differences and sometimes those differences have felt irreconcilable. I thank God today that our family is stronger than differences and that this sister is in my life.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Blessed Mother wants me to hit FIREBALL

I believe the Blessed Mother wants me to hit my fireball tomorrow -- and that she has something afoot to pull this off!

Seriously, it seems a little crazy that I think I'm going to hit Fireball given that I've got to sell about a dozen policies tomorrow to make that work -- and so far I've never sold a dozen policies in one week, let alone in one day.

But I believe the Blessed Mother is the Mediatrix of all Grace and that she intends to work this out for me somehow.

Why do I think this?

I'm not just a crazy Catholic woman. There have been a number of signs this week to lead me to keep having faith. There have been an uncanny number of signs -- NO sales. None. Zip. Notta! Zilch. You get the picture.

Tuesday after sitting for hours at an enrollment and not getting the opportunity to talk to one person (the owner,who said I was not allowed to speak to any employees while they were on the clock, not even for five minutes, led me through a labyrinth of hallways and doors into a dirty lunchroom where not a single employee came during his or her break). I felt discouraged. The business owner had seemed cooperative when I asked to come into the store. I had spent a lot of time preparing for the enrollment.

Discouraged at the outcome of that endeavor, I called the mother of a friend of mine who is studying to be a priest and I asked her if she would mind praying for me. She invited me to her house. I told her my troubles. She took my hand and prayed for me. When she was finished praying she told me she had a vision while she was praying for me. In that vision, she said, she saw the Blessed Mother handing me a rose. I told her that was interesting because the day before, Monday, I had learned that if I hit my fireball this week, I will receive a bunch of roses from Aflac. She said that was interesting, and maybe that was why she saw the Blessed Mother hand me just one rose but then in the background she saw more roses, a bunch of roses. She said maybe that had to do with the fireball.

Today I was scheduled to return to the enrollment location that had been so unsuccessful on Tuesday. This time I took our district sales coordinator with me. She is an excellent saleswoman and we both expected she could have an effect on the business owner, get his cooperation. It just didn't happen. He wasn't cooperative. So three more hours in the week were wasted -- and the time I spent preparing for today's enrollment, too.

My district sales coordinator suggested I go talk to this guy who owns a furniture business. He had seemed interested in three of our policies but had wanted to talk it over with his wife. I went to see him as she suggested. He said his wife said not at this time. He said that's a good thing because she says no when she means no, so this means that she will do it at some time, just now.

About this time I noticed a Catholic calendar hanging behind the furniture salesman's head. I decided to tell him about the roses and the fact that I need to hit fireball. I told him that I understand if he is not ready to do business at this time, but can he suggest anybody else? I asked him if he would just consider whether he has a friend who might have a business with ten or fifteen people, someone to whom he could refer me some business. He didn't know of anybody with that many employees off the top of his head but he did give me the names of some of the owners of neighboring small businesses.

I went into a garage of some sort next to talk to the guy who runs it. I told him the furniture salesman had referred me and that I really need to sell about a dozen policies before 4 p.m. tomorrow. He said he really wasn't in the market but he appreciated my situation and he invited me to write down my name so he could refer me to people if he thinks of anyone. As I was writing down my name I saw a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My friend who is becoming a priest studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. I have a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus next to my bed. It is an old-fashioned depiction of Jesus that I love. My mother had it. My grandmothers have it. It's very old-school Catholic.

I said to the garage owner. "I see you have the Sacred Heart of Jesus! You must be Catholic!"

He said, "No, I am not Catholic. Jim Monaghan brought that in here. He comes in all the time."

Jim Monaghan is the brother of pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, of course. I have met Jim Monaghan on a few occasions. He sometimes stopped in to order Masses when I worked as a secretary at Christ the King Catholic Church after losing my job at the Ann Arbor News and before starting my career with Aflac. I know Jim Monaghan has a HUGE devotion to the Blessed Mother because he frequently spoke of her when he stopped by the office -- and because once, before I had run into him as the Christ the King Secretary, I was standing in line at Busch's Grocery Store with bunch of Holy Candles with the Blessed Mother picture on them. He was very happy to see me buying up all the Blessed Mother candles and he said some words to me to encourage me in my faith. I did not know at that time that he was the brother of Tom Monaghan. I just thought he was a guy who loved the Blessed Mother.

So, of course, I told the garage owner if Jim Monaghan happens to come in tomorrow to give him my number and tell him about my desire to hit fireball -- and to mention that I am the former secretary of Christ the King since he will probably remember me. The garage owner told me he would do that. I thanked him and set off to go to the pawn shop across the street that he referred me to. The garage owner told me they had about five or six employees over there.

So I went in to the pawn shop and the owner told me, once he found out what I was there for, that he was "not interested." I asked him "Can I please just finish my story?" He told me I could. So I told him about how I had been a journalist and now I am a saleswoman but I am not all that good at being a saleswoman and I have so much to learn and how I have to hit fireball tomorrow. I told him if I do hit fireball I get roses but if I don't hit fireball, they kind of look at you like someone who should consider another career.

He told he he had no problem with me asking his employees if they were interested but they were only open for another half hour. I asked him if I could come back at 9 a.m. tomorrow when they open and he said that would be fine. So I have that scheduled for tomorrow.

The furniture salesman also asked me to go see the guys at this motorcycle repair shop. I did not strike it off with the owner of that shop. I used the same conversational approach with him that I used on the man at the pawn shop but I didn't realize that I was getting on his nerves. He wasn't saying anything. And then suddenly he looked at me and said: "You need to leave NOW!" I felt really bad. I said, "I'm sorry, have I irritated you?" He said:"Yes. You need to leave now!" I should have just left then, I know, but to be honest with you, I was pretty flabbergasted. I had been very polite to him and wasn't trying to sell him but only to get referrals in the neighborhood. "Can you tell me what it was that I said that irritated you?" I asked. I thought I saw steam come out of his nostrils and ears at that moment. He was already sun burned which is why, I guess, I hadn't noticed his face getting red!

Of course, I got right out of there then and apologized to the motorcycle mechanic for irritating him. One of my best friends in college had become a Harley mechanic and later a BMW mechanic. As far as I know, he still fixes motorcycles. I just hadn't expected to be so irritating to a motorcycle mechanic. I guess this one hasn't read about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, though. I suppose he wouldn't appreciate it if I dropped that book off to him as a little apology, either!

As long as I was in the neighborhood, I thought I might drop in at a hair salon I had visited in the past. The owner wants to get Aflac when she hires a staff but at the moment it is just her. I thought I would drop in and see if she might be interested in getting a policy for herself for now. I told her about my fireball and my goal. She was very friendly but couldn't think of anybody who would be interested. She said, "I will pray for you when I get home tonight, though. I can do that!"

I told her THANK YOU so much! And then I told her the story about the Blessed Mother and also the story about Jim Monaghan and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She thought that was very interesting! She told he she cuts the hair of Jim Monaghan's ex-wife. And on top of that, she cuts hair for a whole bunch of nuns I know from a few different orders. She knows a whole bunch of people who go to my church. Also, she has a sister who is in remission from cancer. I told her I would pray for her sister when I say my rosary tonight and I thanked her for her willingness to pray for me to get my fireball.

It's just too much coincidence. And I don't really believe in coincidence. The Blessed Mother is up to something! I will keep you posted.

Seriously, call me right away (734-686-1165) if you are willing to hear a direct presentation tomorrow about a cancer policy or an accident policy or a dental policy... or if you know a small business owner who will consider letting me drop in tomorrow to write his or her employees short-term disability policies. Aflac is 100 percent employee funded.

Ok.. that's about it. I guess I'm ready to say my Rosary!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Thanks and Seven Ums

Today I attended my first Toastmasters meeting and it was extremely helpful! I was invited by my friend and "Poor Journalist Gets To Business Fan" Kristin Echternach. Not only was the meeting helpful and fun, but Kristin very thoughtfully brought a magazine to the meeting for me with an article that she thinks will help my sales career based upon what she has read in my blog. I was really touched by the invitation and the magazine (which I plan to read before I got to bed last night). I have to claim this as a great victory in social networking. As a former newspaper journalist who misses the smell of wet ink and the sound of the press rumbling, I complain about blogging and facebook quite a bit. But I have to claim this as a real victory in social networking! I know Kristin a bit from swing dancing. But I haven't been swing dancing in more than a year. I also had the pleasure of sitting at the table next to hers at the wedding of some mutual friends of ours last summer. But outside of that, I've never hung out with Kristin before. But because of social networking and blogging, she was able to really extend a hand of friendship to me and help me with my career and personal development goals.

Yay Kristin. Yay Social networking! Yay for blogs! I'm very happy with the new media today.

And in addition to Kristin's help I also received some tremendous help this week from my childhood friend Patty Snoblen who is a librarian in Jackson. Patty used her librarian skills and found me some great leads! She sent me wonderful stack of pages of leads in the mail and I received that yesterday! Wow! Thank you, Patty. I used to swim in Patty's pool when I was a kid. In fact, I learned to swim in Patty's pool. I learned to dive there and do dolphins and play Marco Polo. We had a ball in Patty's pool. It was on the property of the Tawas Motel which Patty's parents owned and operated. Her mother generously let Patty host wonderful sleepovers for the girls in the neighborhood and we would stay up late watching the Twilight Zone and raiding the pantry after swimming all day and night. It was a glorious life having access to the Tawas Motel pool!

Until I established a Facebook Account about two years ago, I hadn't seen or heard from Patty Snoblen in YEARS. Her family moved away before we started high school, even before we started Junior High School, I suppose.

So, social networking and blogging isn't all bad. It's mostly good, actually! I still feel I prefer writing at the Google Blog, although I feel a bit sorry that I've apparently upset the Open Salon editor, Kerry Laurerman, by leaving Open Salon. He dumped me as his Facebook Friend after I quit blogging on Open Salon. I think Open Salon is mostly a good thing. But I just feel more comfortable blogging this Poor Journalist series here in Google. On the other hand, if it hadn't been for Open Salon and the attention I received from being an Editor's Pick, I wouldn't have even started this series. So, I do feel a little bit bad about leaving Open Salon. It was just a lot to keep up with socially. You are expected to read and comment on your favorite's blogs. I don't have time for that. In addition, there are all sorts of funny battles in there. I just don't like the fighting. It feels like combative therapy. Maybe someday I'll have space in my life for combative therapy. No kidding. I think it has its purpose. I'm not being sarcastic here. But today isn't that day.

I also want to thank the many, many, many wonderful people who read this blog -- and especially those of you who comment. I am sorry that I have such trouble adding favorites and commenting here in Google. I hope you don't feel unappreciated at all. I value each person who reads this series sooooo much! Seriously, you cheer me on and inspire me. It's wonderful! I couldn't do this without you, no kidding.

So, about the ums... One of the best things about Toastmasters was that I had the opportunity to give an impromptu speech tonight. It was 1.52 minutes, perfect length. But it had SEVEN ums in it -- according to our grammarian (a bald thirty-something man in a plumber's t-shirt). Already an opportunity to um improve on an um bad um habit! I have a bit of an overconfidence problem. I don't notice these areas where I need to improve. So I appreciate the opportunity to work on this stuff! If I become a member -- and I think I will -- I will have to pay 10 cents for every um with a 50-cent cap. I had the most ums tonight by far. I think the next-most-frequent-um-sayer said the expression just two times!

So, I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

AND I am extremely happy to report that I secured three new small businesses as groups. A restaurant (which happens to be my favorite place in Washtenaw County for breakfast) a dog grooming place, and a used clothing store.

I also gave away stuffed ducks at two of my current groups today. One goes to the son of a policy holder. He jammed his toe playing sports and went to the doctor for x-rays and treatment. The other duck goes to a woman who tripped on her patio and injured her hand. She had to have stitches and went to the emergency room. I sat with her for a few minutes and showed her the claim forms and how to fill them out. She really liked the stuffed duck I gave her. It has sunglasses that she can push up on top of it's head when he's inside.

I like giving the ducks out to people who have claims. I think it's a nice way to do business and I think I will keep up this practice. In addition, all those notes I dropped in the mail were apparently quite a hit. During my follow ups today two people mentioned them. In fact, the doggie boutique owner told me she decided to do business with me because of the note she received. She has had two other Aflackers stop in and try to get her business but she told them she has decided to do business with me because of the note and because of the fact that I paid attention to her dogs. Seriously -- she has two adorable little dogs. My thank-you-note also was very well received by the owner of a slightly larger business. It's a manly business. They do heavy lifting work and things like that. He isn't ready for Aflac yet. He's an immigrant for one thing, and just getting prepared for National Health Reform. But he will be ready to do business sometime in the future. And when he does, I know he'll do it with me.

Thanks everybody for the kindness! My kind blog-readers are teaching me gratitude!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good Day for Ducks: NOT

After our awesome third quarter kick off at Aflac's state headquarters in Lansing Monday, I was ready to knock 'em dead. At six thirty tonight while I was limping through a working class neighborhood in a cool black summer dress and a pair of three-inch soft spot shoes (comfortable and yet still quite stylish) after a twelve-hour day with zero sales, a woman hollered across the street to me.

"Take off your shoes! How far do you have to go?"

"Not far," I said. "These shoes are comfortable. It's just the heavy computer in my purse that I'm lugging around that's making me limp."

"You shouldn't wear those shoes."

"They're cozy," I explained. "Soft spots." I started crossing the street toward her porch. I could see she had a cane beside her porch chair and that she looked to be in her fifties. "I'll show you. Do you know about Aflac."


"I'll come show you." I was in her drive.

"You need to wear better shoes next time you're out walking around like this," she said as I plopped onto her porch. It was the perfect height for me to sit on without having to climb the stairs to a chair. I didn't feel like climbing any stairs, actually. I was beat.

"These are comfortable shoes. See. Squishy." I pressed my toes into the soles.

"It doesn't matter. It's the heel. You need to wear flat shoes. Wearing shoes with any kind of a heel is what gives you varicose veins."

I thanked her for the advice and inquired if she wanted any Aflac. She didn't. Her husband just took a pay cut. They have insurance through his work.

I went to twenty-eight houses. I talked to 18 people. I gave two presentations. I sold zero policies. But some people took my cards and said they were going to join my Poor Journalist Gets to Business fan club on facebook. I'll have to check to see if they did or not.

I am tired now... very tired.

I had a flop enrollment today and I had big hopes for it. The problem was the business owner wasn't on board totally, I guess. He wasn't requiring the employees to spent five minutes with us so they could get educated about what we do. So I sat there in the lunchroom and waited and nobody came to enroll. Nobody. In the future I will have to set things up better with the employer. They have to understand that my time is valuable too and if we are bringing Aflac in, I need to be able to see the people. Otherwise I'm just sitting there in an out-of-the-way room twiddling my thumbs for a few hours and nobody has any idea what we have to offer. What we offer is important. It saves people's houses. It saves their cars. It can save their lives. No kidding.

This is the second enrollment I have had that has gone this way. This employer had fifteen employees and I didn't see any of them today. The other employer had twenty employees and during a the four-hour period I sat and waited, I saw two employees. Neither of them bought a policy. I even offered cupcakes to that group. At least I didn't give away a bunch of food and get zero business this time. It's all about getting the business owner to agree to satisfactory enrollment conditions. That's what makes it or breaks it for a voluntary insurance agent. So, in the future, I really need to work on explaining to my business owners the importance of Aflac and how it can help the employees. If they can understand that, they will cooperate in letting me talk to each person.

I won't hard sell anybody. I wouldn't do that. It's just educating them about the value and the opportunity and giving them the information. If anybody fell off a roof or was injured in a car accident or got an illness and had to be off work for six weeks -- and the business offered them our insurance products and they were never properly educated about what was being offered, it would be really bad! My district sales coordinator is going to work with me on speaking to business owners to get optimal enrollment conditions in the future.

Today when the enrollment flopped, I decided to try going door to door to just see what I could do. I did canvassing door to door for clean water action and I was very good at raising funds for that organization. I didn't have success with the door-to-door sales but I did meet some nice people and give them my cards. Some said they will tell relatives about my business.

It wasn't the best use of my energy, I don't think, going door-to-door, even though I always like meeting nice people and hearing about what's going on in a neighborhood.

But I am really on the wire this week. I need to sell about $10,000 more in premium this week so that I can hit fireball. Most people who make it with Aflac hit fireball. Most people who don't make it with Aflac don't hit fireball.

I want to make it.

I need to make it.

I'm grateful tomorrow is a new day.

Bullet proof positivity, that's what I need to stay focused.

Oh -- and did I mentioned it was thundering all the while I was walking around the neighborhood knocking on doors to sell insurance? Yes. It was thundering -- and raining a bit, too.

Good day for ducks I guess.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pyramids and fence posts

One of the best things about the friends we have in our lives for many years is that we knew them when. So when they give us advice we can more realistically evaluate the merit of that advice.

If we've been friends with a person for several years, we know -- when they start spouting off about any situation -- whether they've walked the walk or if they're just talking the talk.

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch with an old friend who gave me some really great advice for breaking out of my sales slump. She's walked the walk and I've watched her. In fact, I had no idea she'd broken through to success with sales. She doesn't seem to have the financial urgency that I have because she has a professional husband and I think he makes a pretty good income. So I'd no idea things had started clicking with her and her sales job.

To be honest with you, I really didn't expect my friend's sales job to work out based upon some conversations we had six or eight months ago. I just didn't expect that she had it in her to become a sales star. I figured she could earn a little money at it if she kept at it. But I didn't expect, based on our conversations. that she'd get really good at it. And, in fact, I sort of thought she had more-or-less stopped trying and had been just working for the organization she is with for some sort of educational experience -- like maybe she would move into another area -- marketing, management, something other than sales. But I'll be damned if this old friend of mine hasn't come into her own as a saleswoman! Dang! I'm proud of her and also inspired. She's a more quiet and academic person than I am. She doesn't seem like a sales person at all to me. But she's selling stuff, quite a lot of stuff, actually, -- in Michigan, in the recession. And this is all new to her. She hadn't been in sales before this. I think it's pretty cool that she's making a go of it and it inspires me to press on.

She told me I needed to identify who my clients are and focus all of my energy upon doing business with them. She said she has found sales is like a pyramid. She has found that at the bottom of the pyramid, and where she had been spending a ton of time, are the potential clients who don't know anything about the product, who don't know if they need the product and who may or may not have the resources to buy the product. Most everybody fits into the bottom of the pyramid. Then she identified there was another level in the pyramid closer to the top, closer to the sale, but still not where the sales would happen. This section of the pyramid is full of clients who understand the use for the product and understand the need for the product but do not have a means to pay for the product and have not necessarily considered a plan for using the product themselves. At the top of the pyramid are the customers who understand the use for the product, have a plan in place for how they might use the product, and have some money in place to buy the product.

She said she started focusing exclusively on that top section of the pyramid and she found she stopped wasting time. She sold bunches and bunches of the stuff she sells in one month. She looked across the table at me very seriously.

"You need to figure out what kind of people are at the top of your pyramid and focus on them."

It was an Ah Ha moment. A week or so ago an economic developer friend of mine who has been reading my blog sometimes told me I needed to avoid swinging at fences and start focusing on hitting some home runs.

I didn't know what he meant. But after listening to some sales CDs I thought he meant I needed to spend more time building relationships with my all of my leads -- sending them little notes, giving them phone calls, etc. I thought I needed to court my potential clients as if I were a young man who wanted to be in a romantic relationship. The economic development expert didn't say that; Tom Hopkins, the guy on the sales CD said that. I was just trying to make sense out of the "swinging at fences" thing. I told my friend who recently has become successful in sales about my new note-writing approach..

She said the problem is, you can waste a lot of time courting everybody. You need to really focus in on your target clientele and try to do business with them exclusively.

I thought about who my target clientele is. I've narrowed it down considerably. I don't want to say who it is -- because that would give away my secrets to competitors who might be reading this blog.

But the idea was very helpful.

And I am grateful for the direct advice from someone who has very recently walked this walk.

Feeling a bit of panic

That's how my British friend, Elizabeth, would say it, understated to the point of hilarity. I don't have quite the British knack for expressing that I'm just a wee bit full of panic this morning attitude with wit and charm.

I spent all day putting together a cyber sale yesterday and thought I was offering some great items that people would really be interested in purchasing -- especially the people who are my friends and family because I was thinking they would see the value in my super cool things, certainly! But after about eighteen hours, I guess, not one person had inquired about making a purchase from my little cyber sale at!/album.php?aid=195017&id=364775722055&ref=mf

I've been feeling a wee bit embarrassed for putting My Favorite Things in a sale. Sometimes I feel the panic of "What Will My Friends Think of Me?" I didn't think of myself as a charity seeker. I felt more like I was having a virtual garage sale without the garage. But I woke up at 6:30 a.m. this morning and haven't been able to get back to sleep. I'm feeling something like a homeless person standing at the expressway on ramp with a sign that says "Will Work For Food!"

I feel just a wee bit unseemly and also afraid that I may not sell anything.

But I take consolation in knowing that I am not the only one who is in this boat in this economy.

The one person who wrote me back immediately when I sent out e-mails notifying friends of my cyber sale was a downsized New York Times staffer who I met through the blogosphere. Great guy, extremely talented. I thought things were a little better for him and I thought he might be interested in my outsider art.

He wrote back to say he would take a look. But he is in exactly the same boat. He and his family have been selling off possessions on E-bay.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Favorite Things, A Cyber Sale!

Here is a link to My Favorite Things, a cyber sale:!/album.php?aid=195017&id=364775722055&ref=mf

Yesterday I posted that I would put together a little opportunity for my friends and fans to become delightfully engaged with the ownership of some of my very, very favorite things.

Nothing I offer is junk. I offer only top noch art and literature samplings in this sale event.

Thank you very much for dropping in at the link above to see the things. I know you will enjoy them just as much as I do.

If you would like to inquire about something, just message me on Facebook or write me at

Thanks so much for following the Poor Journalist series. I am committed to doing the VERY VERY best I can to meet my goal and keep you all informed throughout the process.

You're the best!

(The pictures were taken with my camera phone, not the best quality. Please don't let that deminish your enjoyment of this cyber window shopping opportunity.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Independence and My Favorite Things

I've never been quite normal.

I think this is a good thing -- but I suppose the jury's still out on that one.

At the core of my being I have an aversion to situations or people I believe to be undemocratic. I can't stand being around them. I crave freedom. During the summer between fourth and fifth grade I used to sit on the back porch with my mom and dad and watch television. Our back porch had many tall windows that opened out and the cool breeze and scent of pine wafted into the room. It was just glorious, sitting out there with my folks in my pajamas on those summer evenings watching our favorite shows -- The Democratic National Convention (we were rooting for Udall but were wooed by the zany Carters and, most especially, Jimmy's sweet smile)and this wonderful made-for-television series about Thomas Jefferson that was on every single night for a whole week! While my mother and father and I soaked in the spirit of democracy through our rickety old television set that received only CBS and NBC, my five teenage siblings were off on dates and mischief, my brother, Tommy, two years older joined us on the porch sometimes but generally was more interested in reading comic books and playing his drum set in his room upstairs.

Probably most fifth graders' idea of bliss isn't watching politics and historical fiction shows about the founding of our democracy and the authorship of the United States Constitution. But like I said to begin with; I've just never been quite right.

I suppose I came out of the womb a little abnormal. I must have; because when I was just two-years-old I broke my own arm during a gloriously stubborn expression of independence.

I had to go potty. We had a colonial home with bathrooms upstairs and in the basement, not on the first floor. Being that I was only two-years-old, my mother wanted to hold my hand while I was going up the stairs to get to the toilet. She was afraid I might fall. That hand-holding arrangement was not satisfactory to me. I wanted to walk up the stairs MY WAY I wanted to do it MY SELF. I sat down in indignation while my mother was still holding my hand. My little radius bone broke. I had the little plaster cast to remind me of this incident for many years.
My mother, who always got a kick out of my independence streak saved that cast for me and gave it to me in a little bag with some kindergarten drawings and childhood poems when I left the house to go to college.

I wasn't able to go away to school until a year and a half after I graduated from high school (Because I didn't have the money and because, having been more interested in the social aspects of school than anything else, I graduated with a 1.97 grade point average. Seriously, I had been such an academic misfit in our little public school system that by the time I graduated I pretty much thought I was an idiot. But working as a waitress all through the winter in my northern-Michigan hometown proved intolerable. I pretty much begged my way into college with tears and the whole nine yards. And again, miraculously, I was the first in my family to get a bachelor's degree. It took me six or seven years, I suppose. But eventually, I did it.)

I guess my mother saved that silly little plaster cast for me because she wanted me to remember my roots, the sort of daughter she had raised (incidentally, there were no report cards or math papers in that little bag of items my mother saved for me but there was a wonderful crayon drawing of a policeman in pajamas that I created at the mere age of three!).

As I've grown older, I've become more and more willing to ask for help and delegate. But I still like doing it my way. Always have, always will. We have opportunity here in the United States; we really, really do. I've always been aware of that and felt sort of responsible to try to make the most of it -- to get the most freedom possible for myself and others.

That's why I am reporting to you that I am not exactly discouraged about the fact that the poor journalist sold only one measly little insurance policy this week despite her heroic efforts.

The Poor Journalist (aka ME!) learned some things! Actually, I learned quite a few things (psst, writer friends: I think that change in person worked, don't you? This is the sort of thing we can do now with blogs given that we have no editors... but I'm open to your opinions, of course!).

And I have decided that DESPITE the fact that I have only $57 left to my name, a $40 phone bill and a need to buy gas and a few little food items, I am not DISCOURAGED! Nope. I refuse to go there. I have made a commitment to this project. I have decided on Aflac Supplemental Health Insurance as a product because I genuinely believe in it. I know I will be able to sell it -- and pretty soon, too. I am coming along with regard to my product and sales knowledge. I'm growing. I'm listening. I am willing. I'm learning from my mistakes.

I will not give up. No kidding. If it means selling insurance from a homeless shelter or literally living in my car -- I will not give up. Don't be afraid. I don't think it will get that desperate; I really don't. But the fact is, I'm the sort of person who really loves to be self sufficient. So if I found I really couldn't pay my rent, it actually might be more amenable for me to live in a homeless shelter than it would be to free load off of somebody. I have crashed on a few couches for a week here or there since losing my job as a journalist in 2005. But to do something like that for a whole month would be unbearable -- well, that is unless it was done through an organization such as couch surfing. Honestly, I don't think I will get there. But after the week I have had, it is good to remind myself that I have so many options before I will get to a point where I am willing to give up on my goal.

No kidding, I live in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Seriously, our homeless shelter is like luxury quarters compared to what many people live in in other parts of the world. They feed you. They let you stay for ninety days and during that time they support you with finding other low-income housing and provide you with all sorts of social services. I don't think I will ever end up there, I really don't. The weather is actually great now in Michigan for one thing. I would probably camp out somewhere before I ever did something like that. No kidding, I would do that before I would give up on my goal. I would live in my car or at a homeless shelter. I actually had a friend who did that in college. He lived in the woods in a tarp under a tree because he couldn't afford to live in the dorms. Extremely smart guy. Way too smart for Central Michigan University but he had just gone there for a year to kill time after finishing up his bachelor's in biochemistry and physics at Alma College in three years. One of my very best friends in college, this guy. Seriously, I've always been attracted to oddballs with a stubborn streak and a vision. I guess I am one.

Which leads me to the decision that I have made!

I am super excited about it!!! Please jump on the happiness bandwagon and don't feel sad about it. I know some people feel sorry for me. Don't! I am so glad not to be tied to a $10 an hour secretarial job. No kidding. This is the better way! It's a little nutty sometimes but it is the better way!


The next right thing for me as a newbie saleswoman is to sell my stuff since I have no options for taking anymore personal loans. I could borrow more money from my 80-year-old father whose health is failing. But I am just not willing to do that again. Instead, I am cleaning house....

Tomorrow... Saturday... I am going to unveil a cyber opportunity for my friends and family and any other interested parties. I am extending to the dear humans on this earth (drumroll) an opportunity to become delightfully engaged with the ownership of some of my favorite things!

In other words -- I'm having a Cyber Garage Sale!!! Right here in my blog. ETA Noon with additional items to be added later in the day as they become priced and photographed.

Seriously, my stuff is some of THE BEST most WONDERFUL and MOST QUIRKY STUFF around. And I'm just not attached to it anymore. Not at all. I love it, don't get me wrong. But it will tickle me to death to allow others to own it now that I'm embarking upon this new chapter of my life. I'll be making lots of money in a year or so. And then I'll be taking lots of trips -- and I'll acquire different cool quirky stuff.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gratitude Works

A few weeks ago an old friend who had an extremely successful career in economic development e-mailed me to suggest: "You have a certain energy and can spend a lot of time swinging at fences. I think you should focus on hitting some home runs."

Something like that. I don't remember it word for word. And it was the only advice this sage had to offer despite the fact that I wrote back to say, "certain energy? What KIND of energy? Fences? What fences? Could you please me more specific."

Nothing. He didn't really respond. Except he did say eventually something like, "You'll focus on a number of small successes and then eventually you'll have bigger successes."

I think success in business is very much linked to overcoming fear and developing confidence AND (this is extremely important) approaching each day with an attitude of gratitude.

That sounds a little bit silly, doesn't it? An "attitude of gratitude." It's true, though. No doubt. I'm very certain I'm on to something with this gratitude stuff. The nice thing is I didn't go looking for gratitude. It found me quite organically. It found me just yesterday, in fact, with respect to my sales business.

Gratitude found me at lunchtime while I was munching some canned green beans and rice with some chicken lunch meat and cheese. Yep, this is the lunching fare of a new business woman. The green beans were pretty good, too. Green bean tips, they call them. I bought them in a can for forty five cents at the Save A Lot. I had attended a funeral at 11 a.m. It was the second funeral I attended in six days. Funerals have a way of making me appreciate my life as it is with all its bumps and bruises and canned vegetables.

Yesterday evening it was so hot. So I enjoyed the air conditioning and started writing notes to people who I would like to do business with in the future or to people with whom I already have done business. I enjoy note writing. It's how I roll as a former journalist. I say little specific things that mean something to me and, hopefully, mean a little something to the people who read the notes. I inherited this from my mother, I suppose. She was quite a sweet note writer.

I guess I did about twenty notes last night expressing gratitude and a desire to do business. It felt really good, writing those notes. I felt like I was taking ownership and responsibility of my leads.

I plan to really treasure the business cards I receive when I go out prospecting. Those business cards belong to "my people." Those people who are in business are people who I really respect. It just sort of struck me yesterday that nobody is the least bit obligated to do business with me. It's not like I thought they were obligated, don't get me wrong. But suddenly I just had this wave of appreciation for everybody who will consider doing business with me.

It's a very nice feeling -- that feeling of appreciation.

I think I'll carry it with me into this day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Atilla and Me

If I'm going to make it as a saleswoman, I have to get people to say yes or no. The I'm not sures will kill me. They are killing me.

So I went in search of a book that was recommended to me by the secretary at our regional sales office. She heard me talking about this problem in another room. She got up and came in and told me, with a gleam in her eyes that told me she really understood my problem, "Patty, you should read 'The art of closing a sale." I looked for it. I couldn't find a book like that at any of our local stores. And I have to admit, I still have a few library-fine issues to clear up so I'm not borrowing books at the moment.

I went to my favorite used book store in Ann Arbor, The Dawn Treader (they have bumper stickers at the cash register that say "I'd rather be reading Jane Austin"). The bookstore clerk took me to the section where the book would be. I didn't find it. But I did find Leadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun and, I must admit, I just couldn't resist it.

Ok everybody. Seriously, no more missus nice guy! This week it's going to be Atilla and me and I'm planning to do some damage!

Happy Fourth of July and peace be with you and all that stuff.

But seriously -- it just can't be all butterflies and kittens. That gets me the appointments. It doesn't sell anything.

Yikes! It's a little frightening to think of having such a bad guy for a mentor but I just new when I held the book in my hand there was something to be learned from Atilla.

A blurb from Ross Perot on the cover proclaims it's a great book. I never liked him all that much to be honest. Somehow I just never wrapped my brain around the idea of a billionaire populist. But hey, really, if you sit and think about it, Ross Perot did accomplish quite a bit for a man who was born with such ears. And you had to appreciate THAT about him at least. I'm not being mean. I'm serious. He was obviously picked on quite a bit as a child. He must have been. Why else would he constantly mention his ears?

One thing I am swearing as I take up this reading project (it's a small book. I'll be done by Monday.), I'm not going to start acting like a man. I'm keeping my lipstick and everything as I try things that are Atillaesque. I say this because it is a really manly book. It begins with four full pages of promotional blurbs and each blurb is from a man. Not ONE blurb from a woman!

So, I might not exactly aim to be like Atilla. But I do want to know how he did what he did -- and how this might inform me in my quest to learn to close a deal.

Here's a quote from the preface that led me to think the book might have something useful for me:

"Few, if any, of his subordinate chieftains shared Atilla's dreams of world conquest and a Hunnish homeland. These chieftains had to be convinced, their objections listened to and overcome."


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reuben Eaters and Khristine Elliott

This morning I attended the funeral of my friend and former paper newspaper colleague, Khristine Elliott, in Battle Creek. Kristine would have turned 41 tomorrow. It was one of the most beautiful funerals I've ever attended as it truly celebrated her quiet, quirky and dignified life. It inspired me to live.

I've lost too many loved ones to breast cancer and each time I've seen someone die from this horrible disease I've been amazed by the grace of the women who were suffering.

With Khristine, I had no idea she was suffering with cancer. I haven't seen her in years and we reconnected through Facebook about two years ago. She didn't post all that often but when she did it was typically something related to her eight-year-old daughter, Madi, who looks like a miniature version of Khristine. When she commented on my posts, she always had something sweet and supportive to say. I was shocked when I learned Monday that she had died. Tuesday I felt sad and depressed all day, recalling how sweet Khris had been to me a decade ago when I'd lost my mother and a close friend to breast cancer during an eighteen-month period.

I am thankful to have known Khris. Thinking about her life and how she made a difference to me and so many people has me thinking about kicking my life up a notch -- like shifting my heart-speed into fifth gear.

Being a saleswoman isn't easy at all - not for me it isn't.

My former colleague Bob elbowed me in the pew before the funeral started.

"How's that project going?" he asked.

"You mean the blogging?"


"You mean the whole sales thing?"

"Yeah. How's that going?

"Well. I've sort of switched locations. It's MEAN out there in the blogosphere," I whispered.

He looked a little disappointed.

"I'm going to finish it. I mean I am committed to finishing it. I'm just on
Google now. Open Salon was too intense... the Cyber Daggers."

Bob is still an editor at The Battle Creek Enquirer.
He nodded.

"I'm not a good saleswoman."

"I don't know how you do it," he said.

"It's hard!"

"I had to try to get donations for the Reuben-eating contest in Marshall," he said. "I couldn't believe how hard it was."

The funeral music started then. Mass was beginning. It was so sad and beautiful. It seemed sort of weird to be talking about fundraising for a Reuben-eating contest with a newsie who I hadn't seen in ten years right there at Khristine's funeral.

But you know, it seemed perfect, too.

I think Khistine was smiling down on that conversation.

Her uncle pointed out that there will be a big birthday party for her in heaven tomorrow. I like to think about that. And when I do, I'm going to ask her to intercede for my sales career. This saleswoman really could use the help of another saint in heaven.

Khristine, we love you.