Spam galore!

Using the word “Blog” in my last post title was a bad idea. I had an influx of “followers” who are quite eager to tell me how to make money blogging.

To that, I have to say, thanks but no thanks.  Seriously.

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Hello Blog, I am back.

I guess it can be countered as a rite of passage, this absence of posts for 7 weeks. Don’t all non-professional bloggers go through this at some point? Writer’s block, perhaps, or being overwhelmed with more important matters in life?

I hope so. Just to feel less embarrassed and guilty about my absence!

Source: womenonthefence.com

Having stepped away for a while, I feel that it is time to change the direction of this blog a bit. From day 1, I had envisioned a blog that would likely start with good intentions but a weak voice. With practice – and interactions with other bloggers – the blog will grow and evolve into something that feels right to both the audience and myself.

This is the time to experiment the next step.

My main challenge is to strike the balance between writing posts that are valuable for others and, at the same time, “flow” from my personal experience and observation. This is not supposed to be a business blog or a news hub; it is personal, from me to you.

Well, I just have to start writing again and see where this takes me. Simmering goodness takes time, afterall.

Coffee shop alternatives

Shoptalk over a cup of coffee is a standard practice. I don’t know about you, but I am getting rather bored with the same old, same old.

Source: http://olechko.org/
Source: http://olechko.org/

According to A Brief History of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places (what a great read, thanks!):

….the first coffeehouses started springing up in the late 1600’s, there was at last an alternative to the perpetual drunken haze, people “who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved.”

In coffeehouses, the people met not to drink and sing, but to exchange ideas, to discuss poetry, philosophy, politics science. One could even argue that coffee was the drink that brought the Enlightenment to Europe.

Career women, especially those in the entrepreneur world, know the value of “Let’s have coffee”. I am particularly fond of one-on-one conversations, where I get to know someone more upclose and personal. In my work, many of my conversations happen virtually – Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – so putting a (real life) face to an Avator or voice is always an exciting moment to look forward to.

By default, coffee chats happen in coffee shops. And again by default, Starbucks or similar chains are the typical choices because of their locations.

So lately I have been thinking: Why default to the same old, same old? Why not explore other ways to do out-of-the-office shoptalk? Why not make the experience more unique and enjoyable?

Alternative #1: Independent cafes

Source: blogto.com

The first step of course is to explore the many independent cafes that have sprouted up in the city in recent years. Some remain small and unique, a few have expanded to become a “mini chain”, as described by BlogTO.com.  Shame to admit that I have not explored many yet – more goodness waiting to be discovered!

Here’s a couple of useful links for independent cafes in Toronto:

Recommendations by Toronto.com
A comprehensive list and reviews by BlogTO.com

What about YOUR city? Any good ones?

Alternative #2: Art Studios

Source: http://www.tanyakirouac.com/studio-fuse/

I recently had a reunion with an ex-colleague at Studio Fuse, an art studio and exhibit space with a quiet cafe that is open to public. Situated in the Distillery Historical District, it certain beats a commercial joint amidst office buildings. During the afternoon hours of our visit, the space was relatively empty, so we pretty much had the whole room without worrying about eavesdropping (a concern in coffee shops in the business districts).

There are many similar establishments in Toronto and I am sure in other cities around the world as well. I have attended many functions in spaces like that, including an intimate birthday party in a cupcake studio and a Red Cross Canada fund-raising event in another art studio, etc.

Do you know of similar spaces in any city? If so, please share!

Alternative #3: Chinese Tea House

Source: taotealeaf.com

I stumbled upon Tao Tea Leaf while looking for a quick workday lunch spot. There were 2 options in the busy business district: this tea place (showcasing some interesting-looking vegetarian dishes) or greasy pub fare next door. No brainer.

It was quite an experience to step in from the buzzing summer heat into a quiet tea house. Much like other tea retailers, it had rows and rows of tea leaves (and the accompanying aroma), but the space was also decked out in Chinese rose-wood furnitures.  I felt rather regal, to be honest, and even slowed down to enjoy every bite of my lunch.

The place worked equally well for one-on-one meetings.  My client and I had a nice quiet conversation over lunch. It was 2 years ago and I am not sure if they have changed – but according to their website, they also host tea tasting events and workshops.

Does anyone know of other Chinese (or maybe Japanese and Indian too?) tea houses? Did you enjoy the experience?

Is saying Thank You outdated?

I posted this question on Facebook and received a number of passionate replies.

“Is saying “Thank you” dated? Helped a university fresh grad on something very important to her, and the word “thanks” had not been uttered or written. Funny, because in my experience, everyone from Toddlers to Seniors still say Thank You. Eye-opening really.”

black-boy-day-fragons-girl-Favim.com-401418
Source: favim.com

Obviously, it was all tongue-in-cheek, as I neither found it “funny” nor truly “eye-opening”. Simply put, a case of rudeness of an individual. Good manners should never be out of fashion!

A number of replies surprised me, pointing to the possible traits of the younger generation, specifically GenY. (Note: comments made by people from 20s to 40s). While I do interact frequently professionally with people from that age group, I don’t have that general impression – or maybe I simply attract/am attracted to those who know their manners?  Broad-stroke statements are dangerous and often unfair, and I am not going to make any judgement here, but I do want to share some of the replies with you.

 It does seem to be abit outdated. People expect things these days. My kids write thank you letters after bdays and xmas and seem to be out of the ordinary. It’s something I did and really fee strongly its good manners xx

This is one of my huge pet peeves. I love helping people and I don’t expect much for it, but when I don’t even get a thank you it makes me crazy.

I think appreciation is absolutely essential when someone helps you out. It is beyond courtesy, and in my book, to be extended to everyone who deserves it, including your own family.At the same time, I don’t want to vilify all Gen Ys because I mentored a young (to be) graduate on the phone and connected her to several others in her field, and received a (surprise) thank you letter in the mail. So courtesy is not completely dead.

I find, it depends on the generation. Some people in a few certain generations do not seem to be familiar with the words Thank you. I know. It’s quite sad. Yes, we should not expect it, however, saying “thank you” should almost be like a default human to human code. Right? (To which someone else commented – I don’t think it’s generational at all. Some people get it. Some don’t.)

People don’t say sorry these days either!

 I am not surprised.

People here in <country> don’t say please or thank you either and it really irritates me….so rude!

This sort of thing really annoys me. I’m a stickler for manners and probably use thank you and please more than I need to! I’m old fashioned though, I like sending thank you cards!

Source: dribbble.com

What do you think about these opinions? Do you have anything to add?

Regardless of the Why’s, there is zero reason for not showing your gratitude. I am not talking about huge gestures (a bunch of flowers can be an overkill in some situations!). Often a simple “tks!” would suffice. There are so many ways to say thanks, it is hardly an effort. Do it in real life, do it virtually, make it funny, memorable, or serious…whatever you do, it is your voice, it is about you appreciating someone.

While the business world can be an arena, you will find that there are lots of people who are willing to help without expecting anything in return. You will find yourself in the position to offer help OR receive help time over time throughout your career life.

Saying Thank You is and will never been an obsolete gesture, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Heels, Glorious Heels (or not)

When it comes to heels, there are 3 camps: Must have, Stupid idea, and those 1.5-inch devotees in between.

ballet-black-and-white-class-dance-Favim.com-673977
Source: Favim.com

I myself belong to the 1.5-inch camp because of my total inability to master heels. Many are objects of beauty, architectural wonders really (and I am not being sarcastic here, there are so many things a top notch designer can dream up), but they will always remain eye candy for someone like me.

Well, me and millions of women in the world. Try googling “how to wear heels” and you will find everything from instructional videos, doctors’ warnings, women falling, training classes from a former model (!), training classes from a man (!!), and confessions of the ultimate heel advocate Sarah Jessica Parker (!!!)

My take? I am not a doctor, a fashion guru, or what not to participate in this debate.  Your body, your style, your choice.

Nevertheless, I do have my 2 cents to share when it comes to women + career + heels. No, make that 2 dollars, this is quite a list.

Save the unusual/artistic/look-at-me shoes for after hours

Source: highheelsdaily.com

Indulging in the unexpected is cool, I like it. There are websites and even a whole museum devoted to the art of shoes and shoe-making. But unless you work in the fashion industry or alike, such footwear will only act as distractions. You never know how people would react to it. Perhaps you would be regarded as a unique and creative individual, a bonus for your professional image, or – much more likely for most business context – your attire would be considered inappropriate and unprofessional. There is no one definition for “artistic” or “unusual” shoes, so please exercise your judgement.

Pilot run – how long can you walk in those heels?

Source: shoeperwoman.com

I once attended an important meeting. Parking right outside, straight to the office, all good.  Until I was given a tour. A long tour of the big building. You see, I was betting on a nice sit-down talk and was spotting my 3-inch new shoes. So please don’t be stupid like I was. Never bet on just “being there”. If the conversation continues afterwards at a nearby pub, you want/should be there without worrying about that 5-block walk.

Classy heels as part of your outfit

My hats off to those who can master heels and incorporate them elegantly into their style. Here are a random few I like from The Satorialist. Garance (1st picture) is one of the best-dressed women I have come across because she makes everything works for her, and always appears to be comfortable. Giovanna (2nd picture) is similar, just a bit more colourful and daring.

Be comfortable, but don’t be an eyesore

Source: nytimes.com

Those are “Furkenstock” from Céline’s.  I don’t care if they are lux, cozy and ergonomically sound, they just don’t cut it. The same goes for well-worn sandals, anything that resembles slippers, UGG….you get the picture.

Admit your defeat, wear flats or low heels

Source: nytimes.com

Browsing for “low heels for work” images, I almost got distracted and started online shopping!  If like me you toddle on high heels, admit it and live with it. There are so many delicious options out there, from luxe to affordable….and all far from your boring matron-y pumps.

And I don’t really buy the “It” shoes concept either. Below are a few in my closet (years old but never made it to my feet yet….shame on me). Unless you are a die hard fashionista, you probably would not point and laugh at me being so last season.

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Signing off, I am leaving you with a “fun facts about shoes” questionnaire from the Bata Museum!

Dread exercising?

“Working out is my Joie de Vivre.”. There, I said it, a monumental statement from someone who, merely 1.5 years ago, specialized in nothing but sitting and typing at her desk.

Source: transfigure.ca
Source: transfigure.ca



Being fit is not an option; it allows you to enjoy life to the fullest. Evolution dictates that strength and endurance ensures the survival of a species. However, as modern humans, we have nothing to hunt and no predators to avoid….and are left to our devices to figure out the big M – Motivation.

I have succeeded in nailing down my own M …and along the way discovered the joy of ignoring counter-motivational advices. So, if you happen to have “work out more” on your resolution list for years, you may want to check out my alternative perspective!

 

Counter-motivational advice #1 – Find an exercise that you like

Source: blog.aarp.org
Source: blog.aarp.org

Health experts understand the importance of getting over that first motivation hump. So they say “find something you like!”. And they give you a list of activities to try out.

Here’s the problem – I KNOW what’s out there, I have not been living under a rock. In fact, I can give a lecture on workout trends from the Jane Fonda era to last week’s favourites.

For the motivationally-challenged, it is not about the options. It is about how our brains have been wired to separate “Exercise” from “Pleasure”. Walking-and-shopping for 3 hours = Joy.  Walking for 20 minutes to burn calories = Not Joy.

Only after we get over the hump, we can associate working out with pleasures. But to pick an exercise before our self-motivation kicks in? Does not work.

What works for me instead: 

Source: Favim.com
Source: Favim.com

Learning from the kids (useful if you are a parent!)
My 5-year old has lots of “outside” time both at home and at school. Basically, running, jumping, sandbox digging, silly chasing, etc. He also knows about mommy’s “exercise time” (home gym).

One day, he saw a jogger and commented that he was being silly “He is running on the street!”. I explained to him that jogging is a kind of exercise and; when I work out at home, that’s another kind of exercise. His little brain associates all those running and jumping as “play”…and who cares if he is tired and should come in for a rest…no…PLAY MORE.

What does that mean to you? It means, anytime, and I do mean anytime, you are moving, you can consider that an exercise. Browsing the antique market on a Sunday? Yes, count that in. Strolling over to the neighbourhood ice cream parlour? It counts. Marathon shopping spree? Most definitely.

Pay attention to how your body feels during and especially afterwards. That sweating, that little sore, that little bit of tiredness…it’s your body working.  Start with pleasure and you will soon find yourself yearning for more.

Move like a French Woman (by Mireille Guiliano)

Source: favim.com
Source: favim.com

Mireille Guiliano said it so well that I rather just refer you to her article What is means to move like a French Woman. It echoes what I’ve written above…but much better 🙂

It’s only the view of the workout as mandatory sentence that rubs us the wrong way.

Counter-motivational advice #2 – Happy Pictures

I used to buy health magazines when I needed some visual motivators. Somehow seeing happy people with glowing skin riding a bike made me feel instantly more virtuous, as if their “happy to be fit” attitudes somehow would rub off on me.

Exercise-and-happiness

Needless to say, nothing really changed after a few moments of borrowed euphoria.

Here’s the problem. Those pictures are “photoshopped emotions”. In real life, people do not smile, sans sweat and in perfectly groomed hair, when they work out. Observe athletes – they mean business and they do not wear a silly grin.

Not all visuals are created equal. Here’s a super collection “Reasons to be Fit” that I go back to time after time, even adopting some as my Facebook banner. Below are a few that speak to me:

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tumblr_lwd1sdz3q71r1u0gno1_500

Sweating

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I also LOVE pictures that demonstrate “grace and strength”, like the one below (I don’t remember where it is from, but will update if I locate the source).

balance strength and beauty

Counter-motivational advice #3 – No Pain No Gain

This advice is passe but many people still subscribe to it. That’s really unfortunate, because it is about how hard you work and not how much it hurts – there is an important fine line between the two.

Without being preachy, let’s just say make sure you know what you are doing, get the right professional guidance, and know and do everything to prevent injuries.

Another reason why this is so counter-motivational is that it is telling you, the current couch potato to “Get up, you need to do this 60 days programme, 30 mins a day, then you will be all good!”. So, you work out as per instructed, feeling half dead after 10 mins, about to puke in 20…..and somehow you need to mutter the enthusiasm to feel half-dead again the next day?

This is perhaps the only area in life where I would say – forget the principle of commitment. DO commit to work out but DO NOT commit to how long or how frequent.  Get yourself in the gym or in front of that DVD, start moving. If you are unfit, you will likely start sweating in 5 mins and seriously panting in 10 mins. Bon, c’est tout for the day. Enjoy that feeling of your heart beating, the sweat beads, the feeling of being alive.

When you look forward to that same endorphin fit the next day, you are already on the winning track. Before you know, you will complete the whole workout and ready for more.

The bottom line is: find that little morsel of joy and it will motivate you to go back and do more until exercising becomes your daily Joie de Vivre.

So, friends, have you experienced the same thing? Do you have similar stories to share? Any great pictures to share?