Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Gift of Fear

As part of my "Be Strong" project, I’ve challenged myself to read at least one book a month dealing with an aspect of inner strength such as confidence, communication skills, working with difficult people, self-knowledge, willpower, etc. My February read was Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. I chose this book after Maria of Redirecting Chaos recommended reading it in the comments of previous posts not once, but twice

What is The Gift of Fear about?
Gavin de Becker, a security specialist based in Los Angeles and the founder of Gavin de Becker and Associates a private security firm whose clients includes Hollywood stars and government agencies, has written a book exploring how fear is a gift that can be used to keep us safe. The book explains how we can spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:
Gavin de Becker’s intention in writing the book was to share factors his company considers when identifying and predicting violent people and their behaviors in simple to understand terms. He achieves this by including powerful real life stories that left me chilled knowing these examples actually occurred.

I am highlighting some of the major lessons I learned from this book:

He provides potential warning signs to watch for when confronted by a stranger or manipulative person. He calls these survival signals:

  • Forced Teaming. Shown through the use of the word “we” a person tries to pretend he has something in common with you and that you are both in the same predicament when it isn’t really true.
  • Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate them. Niceness does not equal goodness.
  • Too many details. When people lie, even if what they say sounds credible, it doesn’t sound credible to them, so they keep talking.
  • Typecasting. Always involves a slight insult and usually one that is easy to refute. For example: “You are probably too snobbish to talk to the likes of me.”
  • Loan Sharking. Offers assistance, but is always calculating the debt. The fact that you owe a person something makes it harder to ask them to leave you alone.
  • The Unsolicited Promise. This is one of the most reliable signals. It shows nothing more than the speaker’s desire to convince you of something. Ask yourself why does this person need to convince me? For example” “I’ll just put this stuff down and go. I promise.”
  • Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept the word no.

“No” is a word that must never be negotiated and was the most important lesson I took from this book. The person who chooses not to hear the word “no” is trying to control you. Don’t trust them. If you let someone talk you out of the word “no” you might as well wear a sign that reads, “You are in charge.” (Pg. 62)

A woman alone who needs assistance is actually far better off choosing someone and asking for help, as opposed to waiting for an unsolicited approach. The person you choose is nowhere near as likely to bring you hazard as the person who chooses you. (Pg. 63)

Never show fear:
Threats are never spoken from a position of power. Whatever power they have is derived from the fear instilled in the victim, for fear is the currency of the threatener. (Pg. 109)

Persistence only proves persistence:
It does not prove love. The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled. (Pg. 196)

Women should never explain why they don’t want a relationship:
Mr. Wrong will challenge each reason she offers. Instead women should make it clear they have thought it over, that this is the decision and that they expect the man to respect it. (Pg. 199)

The problem with restraining orders:
Many batterers find intolerable the idea of being under the control of their victims, and with a court order, a woman seeks to control her husband’s conduct, thus turning the tables of their relationship. (Pg. 189)

Worry is the fear we manufacture – it is not authentic. (Pg. 286)

Anxiety, unlike real fear, is always caused by uncertainty. (Pg. 291)

Bottom Line:
The Gift of Fear may be the best self-help book I’ve ever read and is most likely going to be one of the most important reads of my strength challenge. It includes much more than the items I’ve highlighted above i.e. listening to and trusting your intuition. One thing I know for sure, I will never look at a person who challenges my “no” the same way ever again.

Have you read The Gift of Fear?  If so, what were your thoughts? Do you have any future books or topics suggestions for my "BE Strong" Reading Challenge?

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to Pull Myself Out of a Rut?

For the past several weeks I’ve been in a rut. I'm behind at work, despite working six Saturdays in a row. My reading pile isn't dwindling and I haven't been able to keep up with this blog. Plus, I am running out of ideas for my strength and email challenges. On a particularly low day, I emailed Marcy of (Don’t Be) Too Timid and Squeamish asking for advice. I’ve been reading Marcy's blog for a while and am impressed with how she continues to push herself out of her comfort zone as she takes on a series of challenges.

Here is our conversation:
Marcy I am working on a strength challenge - trying to become a stronger person in my fiftieth year and I’ve begun to feel stagnant. I’m buried in lousy weather (seriously this is the winter that will not end here in Wisconsin), preparing boring spreadsheets at work, cleaning, thinking about preparing my taxes and the tendonitis in my elbow that flared up before the holidays is still causing me grief.

When you are feeling down how do you keep pushing yourself forward with your challenges?
I find I do pretty well with short or medium-length goals, like if I have a 5K or other goal like that two months out or six months out. Then I make a plan and work toward it. Right now I am preparing for a "Fitathlon" that a friend convinced me to do, so that is keeping me motivated.

I am not as good at staying motivated for the long haul. I do walk each day, though. I wear a pedometer and always make sure I get at least 10,000 steps a day, so I like being sure that I will get at least a little exercise every day. I also like playing tennis, so that keeps me active for a lot of the year.

I really don't have any great tips for getting out of a rut. I think trying to set small goals until I create some good habits is what usually works for me. Maybe you could sign up for a fitness-related event and prepare for it with a group? I think some gyms set up classes along those lines.

What motivated you to become less timid and squeamish?
I have always been introverted, but I noticed that more and more I was turning down social opportunities and saying "no" to trying new things. I was stuck in a rut and wanted to find some way to motivate myself to do more things. I also wanted to do more writing and find an audience for my writing. I started the blog (Don’t Be) Too Timid and Squeamish. At first, I pushed myself to do more things, and I soon found that taking on new challenges became easier as my confidence grew. I tell more about it in this video log if you're interested: Why I Blog.

What makes you feel strong?
Mentally, I feel strong when I push myself to do something that I feel timid about. Physically, I find myself going back again and again to the good old push-up. I have done them on and off since completing a challenge to do 50 consecutive push-ups (it took me six months to work up to it!), but when I am doing them regularly, I feel strong.

What do you do or see others doing that detract from strength?
I am guilty of procrastination. I intend to do something and somehow months go by. I think that's why my "101 things in 1001 days" list has been so powerful for me. There is a deadline, so instead of a "someday" list or a bucket list, I feel motivated to do the things. My blog helps with that too because I am always looking for the next thing to write about.

I see others doing the same thing that I am often guilty of: having a goal, but not starting to work toward it, or starting and then abandoning it without giving it enough of a commitment.

Of the adventures you've written about on your blog, which one was your favorite and why?
My favorite adventure that I've written about on my blog was definitely traveling alone to Costa Rica. It was the time when I most clearly realized that I had grown and changed since I had started my blog. I never would have even aspired to taking a trip on my own before that. In fact, when I put "travel alone at least overnight" on my 101 Things list, I just pictured staying in a hotel one night in Boston or something like that.

Thank you Marcy, this has been a big help. My problem is I set a big goal, but have allowed myself to fall back into an old familiar pattern -mainly procrastination. I need to set a few small goals to help get back on track.  Since our conversation, I’ve decided to see a doctor about my elbow, I selected David Allen's book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity as my next read, I joined Carli Alice in her no sugar challenge -  no sugar accept fruit and stevia for my coffee for the next eleven weeks. I finished my taxes and have even managed to clean my desk at work. I am also putting together a handmade postcard celebrating something I've done outside of my comfort zone for Marcy's send me your postcard feature

How do you pull yourself out of a rut?

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Biggest Money Mistake Women Make

I’ve recently read several articles revealing women’s money mistakes; not saving enough for retirement, incurring too much debt, giving money to family members, taking on children’s debts by co-signing their loans, and relying on the men in their lives to handle finances and investments. While spending too much on handbags and not knowing how much your husband’s 401(k) is worth are not smart money practices, I feel the biggest money mistake a woman can make is:

Not negotiating a higher salary
According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their book Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation--and Positive Strategies for Change:
By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.
$500,000 could have bought a lot of overpriced handbags over the course of a women’s life. In addition to earning less in wages, not negotiating a higher salary leads to women contributing less to their 401(k) plans, receiving smaller 401(k) matching contributions and earning smaller social security credits.

Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever also reveal:
  • Many women are so grateful to be offered a job that they accept what they are offered and don't negotiate their salaries.
  • Women often don't know the market value of their work: Women report salary expectations between 3 and 32 percent lower than those of men for the same jobs; men expect to earn 13 percent more than women during their first year of full-time work and 32 percent more at their career peaks.

This was certainly true in my case. I’ve never negotiated for a higher salary not once. When I started out in my career I had no idea what I was worth – my confidence was so low upon graduating from college I actually thought I was unemployable. When I was offered my first real job at $6.29 an hour in 1986 I was happy to just be employed.
I wasn’t the only woman not negotiating:
My second job a year later paid $14,500 a year. I thought this was low until my female co-worker hired a few months prior with similar qualifications disclosed she was earning even less.
As my career progressed I continued to avoid negotiating salary:
Once I became a CPA in the late 90’s, I relied on my credentials to ensure I was paid a fair wage. I was working at an engineering firm when I obtained my CPA license.  Shortly afterwards my employer fired my manager who they thought was lazy and offered me his job. My new annual salary would be $35,000, a 9% increase over my current salary of $32,000. My former lazy manager had been making $75,000 a year. I accepted this position without questioning my new salary, researching the market or negotiating for more.
Other attitudes at the time:
One of my female co-workers, ten years my senior and our company’s office manager offered the following advice:

She felt it was preferable to make a lower salary than what you were worth because in doing so you were insuring employment. Throughout her career she had witnessed numerous individuals who were underpaid be the first to be hired and the last to be let go when layoffs came around. In her opinion, the highest paid employee was always the first one fired.
Why this advice is so horrible?
Unfortunately, I think she mistook highest paid for overpaid. In the recent economic downturn, in addition to down-sizing every employee who wasn’t absolutely necessary many employers reduced the salaries of their remaining employees. Now an underpaid employee was earning even less. Salary-cuts at my current company remained in effect for three years. I lost $15,000 in gross wages. Already on the low end of the salary scale, during the salary reduction years I was substantially underpaid for my position and work experience.
Men in my circles do negotiate more often:
Last year my husband received the standard cost-of-living raise during his salary review. At the end of his meeting he expressed displeasure with his raise, reiterated his yearly accomplishments and told his manager he had been expecting more. His manager agreed to think over his decision and get back to him. I was astonished. Never in my life would I have asked for more money. His company was still struggling, despite my husband’s project going well; how could he expect more money. My husband felt differently. He was working on one of the most important projects of his career at this company. There was never a better time to ask for more money besides what did he have to lose. He was right and ended up receiving the raise he had been expecting.
While raises have been frozen at my company for four years:
Three male managers I know of have asked for more money. One was flat-out refused – he handled the negotiations so poorly he eventually was demoted; one was denied then given a surprise year-end bonus of $10,000 and the third received exactly what he asked for.
Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever make the point that the male approach to negotiating isn’t actually superior to women’s:
Men are not better negotiators than women. Women more often than men take a "collaborative" or cooperative approach to negotiation that has been shown to produce agreements that are better for both sides. Women are more likely than men to listen to the needs and concerns of the other side, communicate their own priorities and pressures, and try to find solutions that benefit all parties—to find the win/win solutions. This approach not only leads to better outcomes for everyone, it often produces creative solutions to problems that might have been overlooked by men taking a more competitive or adversarial approach. Also, by looking for those win/win solutions, women tend to preserve and enhance long-term business relationships—they don't burn as many bridges as men who focus on short-term gains.
It is also important to note:
Failing to negotiate is not just a boomer problem:
Younger women may assume that things have changed far more than they have, but according to Babcock and Laschever studies among men and women in their 20s and early 30s, men are much more likely to initiate negotiations than women.
Don’t forget to negotiate your bonus:
In addition to negotiating salary, many jobs now come with a pre-negotiated bonus plan. Women may think they are being paid a fair salary, but are  unaware their male counterparts negotiated and are earning a much higher year-end bonus. While researching salaries with your networks don’t forget to collect information on bonus plans. 
Have you ever attempted to negotiate a higher salary? What was the result? What do you feel is the biggest money mistake women make?
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Sunday, March 03, 2013

How to Play Professional Matchmaker on Social Media

Have you ever had two contacts you met via social media you were sure would benefit from being introduced to each other? I recently had that experience. A connection I met through this blog asked if I’d promote her business by sending her current promotion to my contacts. I immediately thought of Anna Runyan. Anna is a career coach and the founder of She taught me the importance of networking in Why Networking is Important, a guest post she wrote for this blog. Also, last year I participated in Anna's Classy Career Girl's networking challenge.

I didn't think forwarding my friend’s email to Anna would really promote her business; most likely it would be deleted along with all the other spam-like emails. Thinking my friend’s business may benefit the members of Anna’s latest endeavor the Classy Career Girl Get Ahead Club I wanted the two of them to connect. Not knowing how to go about this I emailed Anna asking for her advice. Here is Anna's response.
Is she is on LinkedIn? I know you can introduce both of us there. Otherwise, I would just send an email with both of us CC'd and introduce us through email…Anna this is so and so and she does this…. Etc.
Since I blog anonymously, I obviously can’t introduce them through LinkedIn. Instead, I will go with Anna’s suggestion to introduce them via email.

I also asked Anna once an introduction has been made how should my contact go about networking with her? Should she ask for a few minutes of Anna’s time then give her elevator speech? Should she ask if Anna would promote her business to her contacts? Whether she should participate in the Classy Career Girl Get Ahead Club? Or should she ask something else entirely? Here is Anna’s response:
I would think differently about it. Like how can she help me so that I can help her because networking isn't only about having other people help you. So maybe she should say that she enjoys my blog and that she tweeted some articles just to show that she knows what I do and has helped spread the word. And then she can ask her question. Does that make sense? As far as what she should ask, that would really depend on what she wants?
Thank you Anna. Anna Runyan can be found at I highly recommend subscribing to the Classy Career Girl Newsletter where you will receive weekly career tips and my favorite - book reviews and recommendations. Also, check out the Classy Career Girl Get Ahead Club! You can read more about it here.

One more thing:
Before introducing two people who don’t know each other I would privately ask each of them if they are comfortable with the connection and give them the opportunity to opt out. You don't want to take either of them by surprise or put them in an awkward situation.

Have you ever played professional match maker on social media? How did it work out?

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