Category Archives: Self Savvy

Have We Ever Been So Divided?

 

These days, our country seems hopelessly split in half politically. The only issue that most people agree on is that our country has never been so divided before.   Actually, it has.

The colonial population was split on whether to rebel against England. Northern states were in competition with English businesses and so they favored rebellion. But the Southern plantation owners depended on English businesses that loaned them money to grow cotton which was later sold to English textile mills.  Rebellion meant insolvency for Southerners so they opposed it.

One of the ugly facts erased from American history books is that as much as one quarter of the population were “loyalists”, people who remained loyal to and often fought with the British. These individuals were chased from the colonies by mobs of their neighbors in an 18th century version of ethnic cleansing.

The divisions remained after the U.S. became a country.  The founders argued about whether to abolish slavery, allow new immigrants, and whether to have an economy based on agriculture or manufacturing.  Southern states wanted an agricultural economy which supported their economic system of slavery.  Northern states were insolvent due to devastation caused by the American Revolution and wanted to rebuild quickly through an industrial economy.

The U.S. could easily have become a failed state. But it didn’t because of a blend of pragmatism and idealism epitomized by the Constitution. The idealism is reflected in the complicated structure of three co-equal branches of government which created strong institutions that could withstand corruption and tyranny.  The pragmatism is reflected in the tacit bargain that allowed the South to keep slavery in exchange for accepting a strong federal government that mutualized northern debts allowing for an economic recovery.  It was far from an ideal bargain but it saved the country.

Our political history is full of such compromises, most notably the Great Compromise of 1850 which delayed the Civil War for ten years.  But in the 1850’s, everyone lost their idealism and their pragmatism.  The North/South divisions ran so deep that voters elected only those politicians who pledged to never compromise on the key issues of the day: immigration and slavery.

Today our country is as divided as it was in the Federalist period and in the 1850’s. My hope is that we will follow the Federalist example. It’s the only way our country can remain strong.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – What Have We Become  

The information is chilling.

Families seeking asylum at our southern border are being deliberately separated due to a zero-tolerance policy that makes all adults illegal, incarcerates the adults, and sends children, sometimes infants in arms who are breast-feeding, to a detention setting.

This is not just a number.  This is a living, breathing baby whose only source of nourishment is its mother.   The baby probably has no idea how to take a bottle.  Torn from its mother’s arms, it will cry uncontrollably, will be unable to eat, and could very likely die due to this kind of treatment.  This is a criminal act.

The Trump administration has said that this horrific policy is being undertaken to deter asylum seekers.

What have we become as a nation?  How is it possible that thousands are not gathered at the border to protest these policies.

These are CHILDREN – children who are brought to this country by desperate parents fleeing for their lives.

Children who are traumatized carry the results of these experiences in their own DNA.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences research study (www.acestudy.org ) has proved that these kinds of events have long-lasting effects on the physical and mental health of children long into their adulthoods.  Any competent mental health professional knows that the effects of attachment disruption is profound.

The United States is wrong.  The world is watching.  I will contact my representative and senators. I will protest this injustice.  I will support with donations organizations that are attempting to serve these children.

What will you do?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Loafing

 

A friend recently gave me some words of wisdom that I found shocking.

She said, “You’ve been through a lot over the last 18 months – now it’s time to focus on relaxing and self-care and fun.”This perception on her part was shocking in several ways – but most importantly, it invited me think about what HAS been going on in my life.

In the last eighteen months I have had three major surgeries, the trip of a lifetime, selling of a childhood home and subsequent downsizing process, purchase of a new home, loss of my best friend to early-onset Alzheimer’s, a home disaster in our new condo that resulted in almost five months in an extended-stay hotel, my daughter’s first pregnancy, exposure of our cats to the lethal effects of eating an Easter lily (they are fine), and the birth of a granddaughter.

WOW. Or better said, YIKES! Talk about a roller coaster!  No wonder my friend had this perception.

Living life is like being in a river.  The current is constantly flowing, and we are in that current.  It is ongoing, ever-changing, sometimes stormy, sometimes swift and challenging, sometimes slow and lazy, but never the same.  Taking the time to climb out onto the bank to observe one’s self in that current can be challenging – and sometimes it takes another person looking in to help us see what has been going on.

My friend’s comment did this for me – and helped me realize something about my own process.  I don’t take the time to step back, to rest, to recharge.  These last months have really been about “good soldiering”.  One step in front of the other, don’t look back, don’t look ahead, just slog on, keep your head down, that’s the best you can do.

It’s not a process that is filled with rest, renewal, or any kind of joy.  It is called survival.

Many of us get stuck in this place of survival and adapt to it – it becomes the only way we know how to approach living.  To break that mold takes intention and some degree of support.  It takes claiming time for yourself to do things that perhaps you don’t normally do – whatever it is that you experience as relaxing and fun and outside the regular track of your life.

What am I doing?  I am puttering around with plants for my little patio.  I am taking a trip to hear music over Memorial Day.  I am going to my college reunion in June.  I am planning a trip to Charleston to see my other grandchild.  I am planning a trip to Florida to see dear friends.  On a daily basis I am asking myself this question:  How would you like to loaf today?

Answering that question may be the most important and the most challenging of all – because I don’t know much about loafing around (that means being unproductive – heaven forbid!).  Redefining loafing as resting, taking it easy, changing your pace, slowing down – these are new ideas for me.

When do you “loaf”?  Are you always on the move, always doing, always restless?  If so, you might need a dose of loafing to bring some balance into your life.  I know I do!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Creative Camping

IMG_9991 (1)Having just participated in an art workshop for 3 days, it was so filled with adventure that I have come away comparing it to what kids might feel like when they go away to camp.  The busyness of preparation with getting supplies together, the trepidation of feelings, “Am I going to succeed at new tasks?”, and the exhilaration of “I am having fun!”  The fun, in addition to the satisfaction of learning something new, comes from being with other artists who encourage one another, give grace at the stumbles, tell funny jokes and some dumb ones, too, and express gratitude at the good days and the fact that we get to do what we do.   The other fabulous feeling comes from admiration that another human being can do something unique and to such a high degree of competency that it fills me with inspiration and a grateful heart for being shown the way.  Charlie Hunter, who has developed a style of his own, was so willing and generous to share his process and help us experience his way of working that I came away with faith that I will continue to find my bliss.  I was inspired and feel that I can paint and explore processes in any way that I want, and that I, too, will find my own mountaintop.  This is a good life.  I am grateful.

Painting en plein air is not for everyone.  There are challenges. First, logistics.  I am my mother’s child, and I want to have my needs met at any given time.  This means that I carry a lot of supplies – a rolling cart and usually another bag that holds the gadgets.  I want my favorite brushes, stool, umbrella (sun protection), water device, the right canvas, sketchpad, viewer, pencils, palette paper, trashcan, easel, and tripod, camera for photographing scenes and birds, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, beverages, snack, and now there are new gadgets, oh, but they are such fun, mark making, tools.

The joy of getting away and focussing on art is such a gift that it makes the logistics part bearable. I’ve had the pleasure of taking a class with Charlie Hunter through The Chestnut Group this week.  It was different than anything else so far, and frankly, I didn’t know that I would even like painting in this monochromatic, tonal style.  Let me tell you, it has drawn me in like a moth to the flame.

If you have ever wanted to try painting, or if you already paint and you are looking for a community of artists, consider us,  The Chestnut Group.  We will encourage you and share what’s been shared with us.

I will continue to negotiate the cold, heat, humidity, sun, weather threats, bugs, long distances to restroom facilities, logistics and unknowns.  The payoff is so worth it.  Painting and birding, two of my favorite pastimes, are afforded in one outing.  I am fortunate.

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About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville, in 2015. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. To see what she’s working on, visit her website: www.reneebatesartist.com.  She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.
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My Summer Garden

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My backyard in Los Angeles was an oasis. We had green space, a large pool, spa, four different citrus trees, a concrete sports court and a patio with a barbecue and seating. And since the weather was good all year, we really made use of our outdoor space. We had pool parties in January, and cookouts in August. But the one thing I never did in L.A. was grow vegetables. Ironically the great year round weather lulled me into feeling I’d get to it eventually, but never did. I did try planting pumpkins with my kids a couple of times, but they didn’t take, so we gave up.

Now that we live in an urban neighborhood near downtown Nashville, I feel a strong desire to turn our cozy little backyard into my garden retreat. So for the past couple of weekends, my husband and I have been researching, shopping, prepping, building and planting. And our city garden retreat is nearly finished. We have four raised beds filled with vegetables, two baskets of herbs, we cleaned and moved an old abandoned dog house into the yard for our fur baby, “Bentley,” planted a row of sunflowers (my mother’s favorites) for privacy and fun and built a rain barrel to give all these plants some fresh rain water. I plan to add some seating, maybe some garden sculpture and maybe even a water feature.

This is a pretty ambitious plan for me. I’ve never been very good at maintaining houseplants; in fact most of my indoor plants are artificial. But I just feel drawn to getting outside, digging in the dirt and growing food we will actually eat. There’s just something so satisfying about cooking with tomatoes you’ve grown yourself, snipping some fresh mint for a mojito (!) or baking some zucchini bread with fresh squash. I also feel more relaxed after a productive session working in the garden. And since I am once again a city dweller, gardening brings some peace and beauty to an otherwise hectic environment.

Beginning with this post, I’ll be sharing my summer garden experiences and pictures as it grows. If you have tips, advice or anything to share about your garden adventures, please comment here. I’d looooove to hear about your successes and your failures. As my garden grows, so do I!

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About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Better Late Than Never???

People say that. I don’t know if it’s really true, but, hopefully, it’s a good way of making an apology for my tardiness – once again. For many, MANY years, I was ALWAYS late. My family planned around it. They got to where they told me to be ready a half hour before I actually needed to be just so I MIGHT be ready on time. Then, in about 2000, maybe 2001, I can’t remember, I did a 180. Now, it’s like, even when I think I will be late to work or to an appointment, I somehow manage to arrive early, or on time at the latest. Amazing! It amazes me regularly.

This leads me to the point that, when I was Managing Editor of HerSavvy, I was relentless about getting the blogs out on time. Now that I have committed to writing a blog once a month, for some reason, I can’t seem to get on schedule. My apologies go to you, our readers, and my humblest apologies to my blog-mates, Barbara, Susan, Norma, and Renée.

Legitimately, though, I was consumed for a couple of days filling out some very detailed paperwork for our mom, which also involved tracking down documents which had been stashed away for a very, very long time. Even though I had reminders set, the next thing I knew, it was Wednesday. Rats!!! What happened to Tuesday? Long gone. And I had planned an article inspired by Norma’s article from last week.

I do have a problem. I admit it. There are plenty of things I want to accomplish in this life, daily and for future success. Yet, I fall short. Fear of failing? Maybe. Some say we tend toward this due to fear of success. That seems crazy to me. I read Barbara’s article again, On Being Human, and I realize that I am taking for granted the intensely packed life I somehow keep up with. I manage to hold several jobs and work on my songwriting as well. I am hopeful that, as Barbara wrote; I am “Learning to accept myself as I am, to value myself for who I am and to grant myself the compassion I give to others.”

I am a work in progress. That’s for sure. I’ll write that article for next month and I’ll get it in on time. I promise.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Home is Where the Cats Are

 

Thursday night – my husband and I returned home from work (home still being the extended-stay hotel where we have lived since December 14 due to a water heater failure in our new home).  I was checking phone messages when I noticed that one of our cats was nibbling the leaf of a plant that we brought home from church last Sunday.  It was an Easter Lily.

For some reason I thought to myself – I should check on that – I don’t know anything about lilies and cats.

I googled it – and discovered to my horror that Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats, causing kidney failure and death.

We immediately called our vet.  We were referred to the Pet ASPCA. We learned that the Easter Lily is the most toxic of the lily family to cats; they both needed immediate treatment, involving 48 hours of IV fluids and repeated bloodwork to determine whether kidney values were going up.  If they were, there was little hope of survival.  If the cats had even had pollen from the lily on their coats and ingested it while grooming, the toxicity would still be significant.

Four days later – the cats survived.  We are out a significant amount of money.  Most importantly, we learned a huge lesson – and it is not that Easter Lilies are dangerous for cats.

The lesson I learned is that my animals, my companion animals, are a significant part of what has kept me in balance through the turmoil of the last several months.  Having that consistency of caring, snuggly fur babies has given me comfort and helped me make it through another day.  Needing to be there for them has made it easier to keep going.

I imagine that there are many people out there whose companion animals make life a little less challenging and a lot more satisfying.  When I was afraid that I would lose them – well, let’s just say that I didn’t like what was going on these last several days. Learning that they would be ok has lifted a huge cloud from my world. It has also asked me to examine my definition of “home”.

Robert Frost, in his famous poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”, juxtaposes two definitions of home –

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

From The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems, 1969

These two definitions have always troubled me – one exemplifies what I call an ethic of righteousness, focusing on merit and a kind of grudging acceptance of responsibility for someone who probably doesn’t deserve it but is taken in anyway.  The other focuses on an ethic of mercy or grace, recognizing that sometimes creatures just don’t deserve care, but receive it anyway out of grace or compassion.

What do my cats, or any companion animals, have to do with this story?  The cats, for me, are the carriers of grace.  We have a responsibility to the animals in our care, and they give us without condition the experience of unconditional love and acceptance.  The prospect of losing them brought home to me the significance of their living presence.  I am grateful, and wherever they are, is certainly home to me.

I wonder – what makes “home” for you?  I have found through all this that home has little to do with place, and a lot more to do with the connections with people and companion animals who surround me.  I will be very happy to return to our home – hopefully within the next two weeks.  However, I know that what makes it home has a lot more to do with my husband and my cats than with the place itself.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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On Being Human

Love-and-compassion-are-necessities-not-luxuries.-Without-them-humanity-cannot-survive.

This week I did something I’ve never done in my professional life…I missed a deadline. In fact, I missed my deadline for publishing this post! I don’t know how or why, and I’m pretty embarrassed about it. I consider myself a responsible, mature professional who is able to manage time well. But somehow, it happened.

As you can see, I’m beating myself up pretty badly about this. And I can’t help but wonder why. Why are we so hard on ourselves when we behave in a perfectly normal, natural, understandable manner? Is it perfection we expect? Are we afraid of letting people down, of being a disappointment?

Last week I spent much of my time preparing my home for the holiday of Passover. This requires cleaning my food pantry and clearing it of any food items containing flour and other foods forbidden during the weeklong holiday. In our household it means moving things from one place to anther, swapping out my everyday dishes for those reserved for this holiday, along with flatware. I also shopped, cleaned house and prepared food for the seder, festive meal, we hosted for 18 people at our house on Friday night. And, my adult daughter arrived to spend the weekend with us. In short, I DID A LOT OF STUFF! At various moments I reminded myself that I also had to write this post, but obviously, that didn’t stick. I can’t imagine why not! Ha!

Obviously I am someone who can accomplish and juggle many tasks. I pride myself on that fact and consider it one of my strengths. Heck, I raised three kids, went to grad school, worked full time, started two businesses and held volunteer leadership positions. I’ve set a pretty high bar for myself and usually can meet it. So is that why I can’t seem to shake the shame that I feel? Or is it something deeper?

I have a theory. I think my overblown shame and embarrassment stem from my underlying insecurity. It’s a feeling that, no matter how much I accomplish, I am not good enough. So when I fall short of my own expectations, it’s as if my suspicions about myself are right, and I am exposed. The world can now see me for what I really am: inadequate and incompetent.

My insecurities have their origin in my childhood, of course. I’ve had enough therapy to know from whence it came. The question is how do I move past this? It’s a difficult task. There are no easy answers or shortcuts. What I know is that this is part of my life’s journey. Learning to accept myself as I am, to value myself for who I am and to grant myself the compassion I give to others.

The lesson of Passover is to understand our past, and to remind ourselves of our journey from slavery to freedom. This year, I want to free myself from the bonds of insecurity and self-doubt. I want to remember the lessons of my childhood so that I can make new, better, kinder choices. One of the blessings in the seder services says, “This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free.” We are all slaves to something. What does it take for us to be free?

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Losing a Friend

It all happened gradually – so gradually that until it had been going on for months, even years, it was hard to notice.  Taken individually, the changes could be explained.  Lost keys.  Forgotten purse.  Trouble with managing a smart phone.  Struggling with finding a word on occasion.  Each one of those experiences has happened to all of us at some time or another.

However, suddenly, all those things were significant, because more things began to happen, more often.

Someone who had been the most fastidious of people had hair that needed washing.  Someone who had always been full of ideas seemed to have lost her interest in others.  Someone who knew her city well began to be confused about how to get from one place to another.

When the day came when she tried to write a check and didn’t know how to do it – when she sat at lunch with us and forgot there was food on her plate – we knew.

We knew what we hadn’t wanted to know, that we had written off as depression, as Attention Deficit Disorder, as just growing older – we knew that our friend was facing progressive dementia.  Because of her family history, we also knew that this was most likely early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Our friend is fortunate in that she has a caring family who intervened, who helped her make the changes she needed to make.  She will be loved and safe.  Although she will no longer be in this city, she will be with people who love her.

Others who live alone and/or who have no family are not so fortunate.

We are facing an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias as our population ages.  What I have learned by going through this process with my friend is that it is all too easy to dismiss the visible signs of early dementia because we don’t want to know it is happening.  This denial does a disservice to the person who is suffering, because early detection and early use of the medications available that slow the process down are essential to preserving the functional parts of the brain.

This terrible illness that ultimately eradicates the person’s memory and ability to function can be treated (not cured, but treated).  If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.  Don’t wait; don’t live in denial.  If you see a friend struggling, speak up.  In the end it serves no one to pretend that all is well.

This link discusses some of the early signs of dementia.  It is worth reading. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a wonderful resource and support for caregivers.

https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/early-warning-signs

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Business 101: A Savvy Woman’s Book Club

Book Club

A few of us savvy women are currently part of somewhat unique book club. Rather than reading the latest bestseller, romance or historical fiction, we are reading a business primer of sorts, focused on learning how some major US companies grew into some pretty great ones. The book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins was written in 2001 and while some of the businesses profiled are no longer with us, the deep dive into the successes of these giants is proving to be both fascinating and moving.

The book details a multi-year study into 11 industry giants, which over a 15-year period, grew from being a good, solid business into a truly great company. Collins compiled a team of about 20 researchers who helped develop benchmarks against which to measure their subjects. They painstakingly defined the concepts of, “good,” and, “great,” compared the subjects to other similar companies, and what resulted is this book. It may sound dry, and I confess I was skeptical it would hold my interest, but to date I am about halfway through and I cannot wait to get to the next chapter.

One of the things that surprised me is how the characteristics, principles and practices that Collins and his team have uncovered in the great companies can be applied to most facets of life. Chapter Two, for example, looked at the five levels of leadership and defined what makes up each level. One by one, each member of our group began measuring herself against the top level and found herself coming up short. Our discussion that morning centered around how people in general and women in particular, judge ourselves harshly and often fail to see or acknowledge our own strengths and successes. The discussion led me to reflect on my own tendency to set a high bar for success and then when I don’t reach it, I feel like a failure. And this concept does not only apply in business. I can see it in my relationships with my children, my husband, friends and colleagues. I can see it in how I evaluate my own concept of success and failure.

The best part of reading this book, though, has been the group itself. Each of us has found something that resonates either personally or professionally and often, both. Our discussions are deep, funny, interesting, educational and sometimes frustrating, as we learn more about ourselves and our individual journeys. It’s exhilarating to be learning new things and facing new ideas in concert with others.

This savvy gal highly recommends you find a similar outlet. Books provide a springboard for so many wonderful discussions. Let us know your experiences with a book club or new experience. And if you haven’t already read it, try, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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