Grow Your Own

Growth. People act like it is simple to grow a garden or a business. It takes a lot of work and even more help. This miniature Japanese eggplant took at least the efforts of 10 people to get here, in my garden. When I got tired of the story I repeatedly told myself that I grew up in an apartment in NYC, without a green thumb, I realized I needed to ask the experts and listen to their advice.

New soil, less weeds, regular watering, right spot for an appropriate amount of sun…gardening is now possible for me. It might have taken me a few decades to grow an eggplant, yet this shattered the limiting beliefs I had around growing food and reminded me to stay a student. Anything is possible, if you do the work, make this your summer of growth.

School year

Behind you all of your memories

In front of you all of your dreams

Around you all who love you

Within you all you need

-Reflections from students at San Domenico.

Before and after, I caught Suzanne doing the outline for this wall a few weeks ago, preparing for the end of the school year…today, I got to see the finished wall. Olivia finishes 7th grade today and I am grateful for the growth and reminder to LOVE!

Head to Brewster’s in Petaluma

Impossible Burger at Brewsters, amazing! Yes, the burger is shockingly realistic, I added some of their amazing bbq sauce to call it done, the pickled onions complete it! The dry rubbed carrots are the best carrots I have ever eaten, seriously.

The avocado toast will challenge your taste buds and your perception of what can be done with this not so simple dish. Not pictured are the ribs, Amy said they were amazing (yes, we are just crazy enough to get them to go).

The atmosphere is Petaluma amazing, the food is California divine. Washed it down with a Hazy Hen House.

SEO Tip – Google Business Mobile App

“Fortunate are those who take the first steps.” Paulo Coelho

Google Business is essentially a free blog site for you to grow traffic and engagement. It is reasonably simple to sync with your website, download the Business Google App to get started, follow the directions for set-up and make your first post!

Pro-Tip #1: Post a photo with 1-3 sentences of relevant text about the picture and your business as frequently as you post to either your FaceBook page or Instagram. An easy way to do this is copy your text from your Instagram post before you publish it. Load the same picture in to Google Business as an update, paste the text and publish your update. This takes less than 1 minute and doubles the impact of your Insta or FB post.

Why do this? Your images will show up in Google search. Look at the screen shot from Marin Power Yoga, notice their images are viewed 389% more than similar businesses. Why? Because content is posted regularly to Google Business. Yes, better pictures are viewed more. Does that mean wait until you have professional photos to post? No, the mobile app is easy to use, start taking and sharing your photos regularly.

Pro Tip #2: Use Relevant Text. What are your keywords and how should you use them? Short clear sentences, with words that people will associate with in the image and in your business. In this screen shot you can see how much Marin Power Yoga was found in search and the latest post underneath. This planking image from a class includes the words BootCamp and TRX making it easier for people searching for those classes to find location relevant information. Keep it clean and simple, don’t over think what to post, this is an area to execute a process.

ProTip #3: When To Do This. Regularly. If you are posting content to your Blog, Pinterest, Instagram, FB, Reddit, Twitter (people still use this?), LinkedIn, YouTube or any other niche social platform…your content should be making it onto Google Business. Generally, we all use the same excuse for things that feel burdensome or we don’t understand, “I don’t have time to do that.” Posting to Google Business takes 1 minute on your phone, you can do this while you are sitting on the toilet or watching the news.

How long will this take to work? People, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Be consistent and watch your numbers steadily grow each month. Use your iPhone like the incredible content creating super computer it is. Take Photos and Videos with your phone and share them across your social platforms and on Google Business. Wait. Did you catch that? Videos. Yes, Google Business started letting you upload videos in 2018. Everybody, including LinkedIn wants your video content. You want more engagement, upload videos regularly (this is harder than photos for many reasons including skill in creating content, bandwidth and quality of content). All of the social platforms are favoring video in their newsfeed algorithms. Why? They want you engaged for longer periods of time on their platform.

Why use this Paulo Coelho quote? Because each time we try something new we break past fear and embrace our vulnerability, we become stronger and smarter. Take the first few steps to improving your Search Engine Optimization and driving qualified business to your website.

Women Lifting Women

March Madness is an amazing experience, besides watching 4 basketball games today, I witnessed something incredible, the Saint Louis University Dance and Cheer Team is all women. ALL. WOMEN. Women literally lifting each other up.

If you check the photo you will see them doing the same things the other squads did, except they lift each other up rather than having guys lift them. They took longer to get into formations and used different techniques to get into poses. Awe Inspiring.

5 Best Practices on LinkedIn – The Two Minute Drill

Originally published on Elephant Journal in 2012, revised and republished here in 2019.

Here are 5 tips on how to effectively use LinkedIn to create revenue opportunities:

1. Put an hour or 2 into developing your profile. From a clean head shot to setting your public profile address to a concise and accurate summary to the interesting details that make it easy to connect with you. Think of this as creating the best business card of your life, it is the card that lets you stay in front of your network with minimal effort and conveys more information about who you are than ever possible before. Think of of your LinkedIn profile as your living bio. It must be accurate, honest and detailed!

2. Build a Large Vibrant Rainbow – Add Connections. Who should you add? Friends, family, co-workers (past and present), alumni, people you have met in class or at conferences, etc. Start by spending 2 hours looking for every single person you have ever known. Your connections are like the colors of the rainbow, they are vibrant unique and potentially leading you to a pot of gold. Yes, you should know or have met or have engaged with your connections. The bigger the rainbow, the more likely their is a larger pot of gold.

Should you connect to people you do not know? 10% of your network should be fat, people you don’t know that you want to know. When you invite someone you don’t know to connect on LinkedIn, it is a best practice to personalize the invite and give them a reason as to why they should connect with you. For people you know, just invite them! Letting LinkedIn check your email list for people you know who are on LinkedIn is a great way to jump start your network (Tip – do NOT let LinkedIn invite every single one of your email contacts to connect-only invite the people with a blue IN next to their name indicating they are already on LinkedIn).

3. Participate in the conversation. Practice the 2 Minute Drill. Take 1 minute a day and scan your newsfeed, look for new potential connections and content within your network you can comment on and/or like. At the top right of your newsfeed is a search button, you can search your newsfeed for words like yoga or asana or meditation and see who in your 2nd degree or 3rd degree of connections is talking about or promoting something you are interested in. When you Like or Comment on content in your newsfeed, that content is promoted to your network. Like your Facebook newsfeed, this is the most local and interesting news around!

Use the 2nd minute to look for new connections. If you do this 5 days a week and find one person every day your network will expand by 250 people a year!!! This is you creating potential, expanding your artificially created limitations. You want a strong vibrant network of interesting people improving the life of others and creating revenue. It starts with your network, build it daily!

4. Share content with your network. This may be once a week or twice a week or every day, do a status update and promote something you are working on – remember this is a business network! Promoting your business, research, company or blog is a great way to increase the quality of search of your content on Google and the general internet. More important it is a gentle way to touch your community and share part of your life. You can also Share your content in Groups you belong to on LinkedIn. Video content is favored in the newsfeed on LinkedIn in 2019! Follow the loose guideline of 1/10th of your energy creating content and 9/10ths of your energy distributing that content!

5. Schedule real world meetings with people from your network. This is how you find the pot of gold!!! You decide how committed you are to growth. At the minimum once a week or as frequent as your schedule allows. Combine your passion for business with these meetings and you will forge stronger relationships within your community. These meetings are not sales calls, these are opportunities to be an active listener and figure out how you can help your connections accomplish their dreams. Yes, you should tell your friends what you are doing, but focus your energy on how you can contribute to their lives.

This is a great community of hundreds of millions of people for you to communicate with, are you sharing your world on LinkedIn?

"All this is simply to say that all life is inter-related. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Martin Luther King Jr.
All this is simply to say that all life is inter-related. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

10 Secrets to Make Learning Fun for Our Kids!

This blog post was originally posted on Elephant Journal in 2012 here. Currently, working on a new updated response to this.

At some point most parents with the question of video games and kids. As a lifelong gamer and technology evangelist, sharing games with my kids is an amazing experience. It started when Alex and I drove 30 minutes to score a Wii one early Sunday morning and has accelerated with the growth of gaming on the iPad/iPod/iPhone. We play games as a family and equally enjoy hanging out while we all indulge in our own “screen time.” Video games are truly state of the art when it comes to technology, the current gaming experience is simply amazing, I am not sure we understood what was possible when we started playing Pong decades ago.

Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about success, what does it look like and how do we achieve it. This evolved into a conversation with Alex, at eight and a half years old he contributed some of the more brilliant ideas below. My friend Kim’s son submitted a long list of reasons the family would be better if he got a new gaming system for Christmas (this article would have been a great resource for him). I laughed when I read his powerpoint, it was brilliant! If you want your kids to compete in this quickly evolving world, video games will jump start their education and empower them to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Why do we want our kids to play video games?

  1. Dexterity. When I was a kid we played Atari and Coleco Vision, basically a joystick and a button. Today kids are using touch screens and motion controllers, these force them to move and think in dimension instead of up, down, side to side and fire. Whether it is touching the screen or moving the device, games today make your fingers move faster, improving dexterity. Repetitive behavior, such as playing the same game with the same physical engagement frees our brain to relax, much the same way meditation does. Too much of anything is dangerous, when Alex has been playing video games too long he becomes grouchy and impatient. Just as you can get carpal tunnel syndrome from computing too much, you can hurt your thumbs playing Words With Friends or NBA Jams excessively.
  2. Reading Comprehension. Whether it is stats in sport games or dialog in an adventure game. I believe the secret to reading is to enjoy what you are reading. When I pick up reading comprehension workbooks, my stomach churns. Those books do not inspire kids to stay up late and finish the next chapter in their book, however reading the The Legend of Zelda or The Adventures of Rayman will teach your kids to read and motivate them to learn at the same time. My daughter can not read thru the levels of Rayman, I can either tell her not to play or help her read thru the levels until she can read them herself. Is this painful for me? A little, but as long as I keep it fun for her she will become a great reader (more likely from reading great children’s books, but the gaming can only help). If you are not a native English speaker, video games are a great way to improve your language acquisition!
  3. Improved Sight. Your eyes are a muscle, the complex graphics and rapid movements will strengthen these muscles potentially improving your eye sight. Colors, dimensions and depth change rapidly causing your eyes to focus frequently, strengthen your eye muscles – your brain can process more information than we know. There have been scientific studies done in this area with positive results. Run your own study by playing some games and seeing how long it takes for your eyes to become tired. Do this for a week and you will find you can play longer and you will be better at the games!
  4. Problem solving skills. Finishing a video game requires great problem solving skills. Each level requires unique solutions to pass, whether you are searching for a secret door or figuring out what combinations of moves will destroy the huge monster blocking your path. From issue spotting (I need to get thru that ring of fire to get to the next level) to creative solutions (I’ll jump on that platform moving towards the ring of fire so I can leap thru the burning  ring) to time management (I have 3 minutes to complete this level), kids today are learning critical skills that will enable them to be great problem solvers.
  5. Analytical skills.  Evaluating what is the best way to score the most points or how to finish the level the fastest teaches kids analytical thinking. Whether it is figuring out what combination of car, tires and engine are ideal in Need For Speed or which bonus to use in Bejeweled, their is strategy involved in every choice. Video gaming teaches kids to look at a situation and develop a strategy that will lead to a positive outcome. Once a strategy has been developed (if you are playing for points in Ms.Pacman, when you eat a power up you will time it so the Ghosts are close and you can eat 3-4 of them), the execution is easy and only limited by practice and a little bit of luck (yes, you were lucky when you barely caught the 4th Ghost for 1600 points). Kids will use their analytical skills they develop gaming on the basketball court and in the classroom at school.
  6. Decision Making. In life we make a lot of decisions, little decisions such as what sugar we buy to huge decisions such as where we live and what school our kids go to. In video games you learn to make decisions quickly, whether it is in your choice of weapon or whether to cross the bridge or not. Practice makes you a better decision maker and video games let you practice without real world consequences, learning to deal with failure and success are accelerated creating the ability to understand risk and reward with confidence. In yoga we are constantly pushing our bodies to “find a new edge” or get into that running man or side crow, the decision to use ease and grace in your practice instead of brute force may be the difference between a great class and a lingering injury. I am not saying you will prevent injuries on your yoga mat because you play video games, but rather better decision making skills due to playing video games may help reduce your physical injuries on the mat.
  7. Math Skills. Math is an important skill that our schools are failing at teaching. Whether you are letting your 5 year old play a basic math game on the iPod or you are calculating how many boosts you need to get to the next level or you are analyzing angle and velocity necessary to topple the building and destroy the fat green pigs in Angry Birds, developing math skills is not an accident. Did you ever play Tank? Learning how to use angles of reflection can be fun! Video games make math normal and fun, rather than a miserable experience in memorization. Some of the highest level thinking in math requires abstract thinking and experimentation (Tetris anybody?). Video games teach us to think outside of the box and to try various combinations until we unlock the right match. If kids knew that math could be as fun as video games we’d have more mathematicians in society.
  8. Practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall the violinist asked the cab driver, practice practice practice he responded! Video games reinforce the concept of practice will improve performance, you know this from your yoga practice! We tell our kids, practice writing your letters and your handwriting will get better or practice writing your essays before taking the test and you will score higher. When we practice yoga, we acknowledge the growth and change that comes from our commitment to breath, body and soul – this growth comes from consistently practicing over an extended period of time. More kids have learned the value of practice from playing Super Mario Brothers than we care to acknowledge, but it isn’t easy to beat level one without practicing (when you will have to jump on mushrooms in life I am not sure).  Video games and practice go hand and hand, make it easy for your kids to understand the value of practice…encourage them to play video games!
  9. Failure. Handling success can be difficult, nobody likes it when you dunk the ball and pump your fist and shout “In Your Face!” – whether it is in the video game or the boardroom after closing a deal. However, learning how to handle failure is critical to success. When a stock you’ve bought sinks 20% in 3 days or the magazine you publish becomes to expensive to print, how you handle failure is a skill you can learn. It didn’t take you many quarters to learn how to adapt to failure in Ms.Pacman, nor does it take kids long to handle defeat in Madden Football. Whether it is creative problem solving, analysis or simply practice, learning how to fail in video games is making the next generation of kids valuable resources we will need to succeed. Adaptation is a combination of nature and nurture, video games teach these skills to kids quickly and easily.
  10. Socialization. Gaming has always been a social experience, whether it is old ladies playing Mah Jong or Poker Night, or the kids are taking turns playing the Wii (Just Dance?) or you are playing with your friends in different countries on the PS3 or you are playing Words With Friends on your iPhone against your Facebook friends. Gaming is a social experience and a great way to get to know your friends better. It may simply be the shared experience of playing, giving advice on how to play a game or “talking shit” during the game. We should encourage our kids to play games for many of the same reasons we send them to school, we want them to be social. When we teach someone how to play a game we learn to communicate and participate in a process, sometimes with people and sometimes alone – this sharing of experience and knowledge will extend into every aspect of our kids academic and eventually professional experiences.

Last but not least, playing video games is a lot of fun! Life is hard enough, if you can find release and joy in playing video games…enjoy it! Watch the games your kids play and discuss the games with your kids, you will see how their brains are working and help them understand what they are doing. Maybe next time they will take an interest in your life and what you are doing! Games are an easy way to bond and connect – whether it is family, old friends or new friends. Share this article and tell me what game you are playing today!!!

My friend Dana beats me every week at Bejeweled!

3 Tips For Using LinkedIn

  1. You Need a Broad Network. Search on LinkedIn is limited by the size of your network, or 6 degrees of separation. When I look up a company and only have 3rd degree connections into the company, I know it is my lack of effort in reaching out to more people. You are in control of the quality of your search.
  2. Be More Generous. Your Likes, Comments, Shares contribute to the newsfeed of your network. When you participate in your network you improve communication for everybody. If you watch a video and it is interesting, your Like or Comment will make it more likely for someone else to interact with that content as it stays in more newsfeeds longer. Improve the newsfeed and create positive business engagement with small actions every day.
  3. Use The Mobile App. The LinkedIn mobile app is a convenient way to post an update, check your newsfeed, look for a contact or even a job. Your phone is one of the most powerful tools you have, use it.
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche
“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Tips for Blogging

Social media is a giant experiment, that has changed the face of marketing forever, for the good.

Blogging is the single most difficult platform in social media and the most likely to fail. In fact, most blogs suck and are destined to fail (there are millions of blogs). Why is blogging critical to your social media strategy and how can you make it successful?Blogging is the center of your social media strategy; all content is either created on your blog and shared from your blog or simply shared on your blog.

Why? Primarily because you control it. If Facebook deletes your profile and you lose hundreds of thousands of Likes, do not lose your content. If Twitter becomes irrelevant (that happened in 2013) your foundation is still your blog and your content is safe.

When I break down the words “social media,” I am reminded that media is content we create; social is how we share that content. With this in mind, I want you to think of your blog as the foundation upon which you create and share all of your social media. All of the other networks are how you distribute your content, how you promote and share your content. Blogging is the core of any great search engine optimization strategy—it’s how we drive traffic to websites. Are you ready for my top 10 secrets?

Top 10 Secrets Revealed!

1. Keep it real. This can be stated as always write from the heart. Meaning if you are writing about something you believe in, the writing will come naturally and you will enjoy posting and maybe even look forward to it.

2. Write Posts or update your site at least weekly. You set the standard here, give yourself a schedule so you do not have to think about when you should post. Eventually, you will just post without a schedule because it will be part of your routine.

3. Find the balance of long posts vs. short posts. Not every post should be an essay or novel, sometimes just posting a picture says 1,000 words. We want to average 250 words. That means some of your posts should be a simple picture and a quote!

4. Write in your own voice. This can be difficult, but as you let your guard down, your voice will shine through.

5. Focus on your area of expertise. This is where you have the most knowledge and information to share with the world. That said, this should be an area of creative freedom, so break this rule as required. If you are an expert in yoga, write about what you are learning—this is where you are an amazing teacher and your content will be brilliant.

6. Cite your sources. The more links you can build into your posts establishes your credibility and the value of reading your posts. When I tell you to distribute your content on Facebook, I am telling you to do that because there are a billion people on Facebook, not because I like it (actually, I love it).

7. Add pictures when possible, cite the source and include the meta data (this is an excellent habit to develop from the start).

8. Links, Links Links. Put them in your posts, include a blog roll and add sites there. Posting a link to someone’s site gives them credit and builds social capital. This is great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and builds Social Capital because we are promoting resources. Just do it!

9. Bank it. This is a shot in basketball and a process in blogging. You do not have to post every blog when you write it—sometimes, you want to keep a few posts in your “bank,” for days or weeks when you are not in the mood to write but want to get a post up. This also gives you time to go back and add or revise a post.

10. Promote Your Blog. This may feel like selling your soul, but it is not. You are contributing to our universal knowledge. Put links out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Put a link in the signature line of your email. Tell your friends you blog and send them a link to the site. Make business cards and include your blog address on them. Use social media and traditional media to promote your blog. Your information is only useful if other people find it. Contribute to other people’s blogs, with a link. You have to share your content 10x the effort it took you to write the post. Think about that, and start sharing your posts more!!!

I believe you will be an amazing blogger; start today and never look back. Even if you read a lot of bad blogs, remember your blog will be amazing—write what you feel passionate about and restore our faith in blogging!

Why this picture? Amongst all of the flowers in the world, you will stand out just by being you.

The art of slowing down: Tea

Every few years I quit drinking coffee in an effort to reduce my dairy and sugar consumption. Drinking tea is a strangely satisfying substitute. Eric Grower at Breakaway Matcha is a believer in the ceremony of drinking tea, the process of making the tea is equally important to serving the tea.

Holly at Black Rabbit Trading Company is a source for interesting teas such as “Black Shade” and “Green Chai,” including the tea pot in the picture below. Part of me enjoys the search for interesting and different teas, bringing forth new flavors and experiences with each cup.

What has been missing for me? The conversation. I tend to drink my tea while working or commuting or reading. The slowing down, sipping, listening, thinking, talking…the essence of “tea time.” Tea has not been a social experience for me. That has to change. Tea time, hit me up.