Blank Fortune



The absolutely worst thing just happened to me. I was driving home and stopped at a local Chinese food take out place. I am a real Chinese food kind of gal. Since I was a child, my parents took me  to Chinatown in NY for dinner at Lee’s. They had determined Lee’s was the best and while we did not eat out often, we did become frequent dinner guests at Lee’s on Mott Street.

I wasn’t starving but I needed something easy. I considered egg drop soup. I am a huge egg drop soup fan. But no, that wasn’t going to do it, I needed something with a bit of bulk.  I always like Moushu Pork but that was much more than I wanted.  Hmmm, something quick with a bit of bulk, I know, Easy! I ordered an egg roll.  Yes, that was exactly what I wanted.  An egg roll and nothing more. Well, I assumed that while I ordered just an egg roll, that I would be given  a fortune cookie as well. A fair assumption on my part, because Chinese restaurants ALWAYS include fortune cookies, not because you ask for them, just because they want to give them to you. At Lee’s, we always had fortune cookies.

Just a few minutes later, a version of “Mauri An” was called, and I was handed a small bag.  I quickly scanned the bag for its contents. Yes! It was all there. A warm egg roll and the coveted fortune cookie that surely would offer me a look into my future.  The Egg Roll was just as good as I had imagined so my mouth was happy and so was I.  And now to the fortune cookie.  I decided to take the fortune cookie home, where I could savor it and contemplate my fortune.

I transported the Fortune cookie carefully all the way home. My hands almost trembled at the very thought of having the next stage of my life revealed to me on a tiny little white paper.  Would my fortune suggest that there was a new personal relationship blooming? Would it talk of my next business venture? Something about my family, suggesting a new grandchild maybe?  Oh my goodness, the possibilities were endless!

I slowly removed the narrow white slip of paper.  I imagined a drum roll and an audience of people silenced in anticipation of what was about to be revealed.  Oh no, how could this happen to me?  The paper was  blank!!! It said nothing, absolutely nothing!  I have been eating fortune cookies since I was four years old and needed help reading the message. I have had some confusing fortunes, some funny ones, and some that really seemed captured the essence of me. But never, never before have I received a blank fortune!”

What does nothing mean?  Does it mean that  nothing is going to occur throughout the rest of my life? Does it mean that I cannot learn from any more ancient Chinese wisdom? Perhaps it means it is time for me to write my own fortune, to create my own next steps, to decide what it is that I would love to do for the rest of my life.  The blank fortune offers no boundaries or limitations. Perhaps this isn’t the worst thing that happened to me, but rather, the best thing!

How cool is it that women today really can do anything they put their minds to? While there are still a few male-dominated industries, women have made inroads in IT, medicine, law, construction, finance and even the media and Major League Sports. We are finding fewer boundaries and limitations, and finding ways to get around those that still exist.

My good fortune is in my ability to create something new however I envision it.  It is in my ability to combine my passion and skill sets with an opportunity to help other women. Wow, this wordless Fortune Cookie has given me a lot to think about!

Sometimes no message is a valuable message. Know what I mean?



“Just Not Fair”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? I treated myself to breakfast  today for the best pancake in town at First Watch. For $3.50 I ate the incredibly light, fluffy pancake with practically a gallon of maple syrup drank a cup of hot water with lemon. I was a happy woman as I ate the “best ever pancake” and read the NY Times.  While I was totally engrossed in an article about an artist, I was distracted by a child in the next booth who was trying his best to get out of going to his piano lesson.

“Please…Pleeeeeeeease mommy”, the child pleaded.  “I hate it, I really hate it. It’s no fun and I don’t care about playing the piano. I just wanna play soccer.”

“You will go to your lesson and you will stop whining this minute!”, the mom retorted sounding confident that her command was going to be followed.   She had my full support at this point because I wish I continued my own piano lessons and I wish I was more firm with my children and their piano lessons.  Being able to just sit down at any random piano and play your favorite songs is a phenomenal gift that I do not have, nor do my children.  The mom was right, the little boy didn’t know what he didn’t know–he should go to his piano lesson!

But just then, the child uttered a familiar response:

“It’s just not fair!” 

And then frankly, the  child had my attention.  “It’s just not fair.”—I wanted to butt in and tell him he was right, that  life isn’t always fair.  I wanted to tell him the unfair thing that happened to me recenty but at that moment, my mind was flooded with other unfair things that had occurred around the world, far more unfair than what happened to me.  It wasn’t fair that the people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were on that flight, it wasn’t fair that GM didn’t act more quickly with its Cobalt recall, and it wasn’t fair that a fire took the life of a small child in Tampa last night.

I am not sure if the small boy went to his piano lesson or not, but  I am hoping he doesn’t see  what really is unfair about life any too soon. Maybe he will luck out and having to go to a piano lesson with be the most unfair thing he experiences for a long time.

To  those of us who play life fair, all the time—yes, I mean ALL THE TIME, the “it’s just not fair” thing enters our lives a lot.  It doesn’t change things for us, we don’t stop playing fair, because we couldn’t go through life any other way. We occasionally try to alter someone who is unfair, just a tad, to help them “see the light”, but it is to no avail. They do not see the light, they do not want to see the light, and they continue to be “unfair.”

Women with High SUCCESSTROGEN play fair, it is in their DNA. They don’t cheat, make idle promises, or back off from a deal. They frequently meet up with unfairness as well, but it doesn’t get the better of them because they know  they are playing life the right way.  Like High SUCCESSTROGEN women, I play fair and it is in my DNA, but unlike them, I do not manage through unfairness as well as they do. I find myself reviewing and reviewing the injustice in my mind, allowing the unfair person more power over me than I wish to give.

As I write today,  I am forced to look at my reaction to someone else’s recent unfair behavior.  Instead of feeling stuck, I should feel free and go and apply what I learned from the experience  to what I already knew and most important to what I will do today.  My problem is that I saw this coming. I saw the signs but my Polyanna-like spirit kept me hoping I could change things.  Too often when life is unfair to me, it is because I didn’t stop the unfairness before it happened.

I am not sure what happens to the unfair people, but I am very sure what happens to the rest of us to do play fair. We live well and sleep well and know deep-down inside that the fair way is the right way for us…the only way.

Be fair, and be well.



Keep it Between the Lines



This morning I heard about a serious car accident just east of here, near I 75.  It was reported that one car crossed the boundary into the oncoming traffic, and hit another car head on.  The news announcer said the accident was under investigation at this point.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the driver suddenly become ill, or was under the influence of one thing or another. Nevertheless the point is clear, the driver crossed a boundary that he shouldn’t have and the results in this case were disastrous.

I am reminded of one of my favorite country songs by Ricky Van Shelton, “Keep it Between the Lines.”  The  song is  sung to a young teen who is apprehensive about learning to drive. The application of the song spreads much further to include you and me and how we live our lives.

The words are something like this…. “All you gotta do is keep it between the lines…Cause it’s a long narrow road. Only the good Lord knows where it leads in the end but you got to begin…So keep your hands on the wheel, believe in the things that are real…Just take your time and keep it between the lines.”

The song literally speaks of lines on the road and suggests if the young driver stays within them, he will be fine. Figuratively, the song reminds us that we have boundaries everywhere in our lives. For the most part they keep us safe and healthy and able to continue our journey.  We have lines on the road, rules in our neighborhood association, agreements between spouses and partners and  children, ground rules for our business meetings, and our values that provide us personal boundaries.

Simply, we need to focus and to keep within the boundaries that guide us to do the right things.   In our country,  communities and business organizations, it is easy enough to determine the  boundaries that will guide large numbers of people to safety and productivity.  

I am more concerned with boundaries within our homes because I want our children to grow and develop and learn to think for themselves and be responsible adults.  In families, however, generally there are either too many rules or too few rules depending on the personality style of the parents.  Unfortunately sometimes rules are made when  someone does something wrong, as when a child writes on the couch with magic marker and now no one in the house can sit on the couch with a pen, crayon or maker. Some rules are too restrictive considering the age or personality o the children living under the roof, and the children are not enabled to think for themselves and make some healthy mistakes along the way. Sometimes there are few if any rules and children lack structure and wander aimlessly through life.

In households where there are children, I think the boundaries need to be just right.  They need to be broad enough to allow those who dwell within  to function with an element of freedom , individuality, and creativity.  If there were no boundaries or they were too wide-spread, then the environment might be chaotic and out of control.  By the same virtue, if the boundaries were too narrow and restrictive, those within the home could hardly grow and development into independent human beings.  The lines need to be painted clearly and appropriately and the children and parents need to keep between the lines.

Women with High levels of SUCCESSTROGEN set boundaries and live them consistently.  They have spent time deciding where the boundary lines should be drawn and their behavior reflects their desire and ability to keep within them.  In a home like mine, with just one person in it, I need to every so often check the boundaries I have put on my own behavior, making sure I live life to the fullest within guidelines that fit with the person I wish to be. I need to keep between those lines.

How about the boundaries in your home?  Are they clearly set? Do they align with your family values? Do they respect your growing child’s need for independence?  Do you and your children keep between the lines? And in your work life?

Find and Grind

photo-2I just returned from my morning ritual, a tall decaf cappuccino from Starbucks. If truth be known, I am not a coffee drinker, I just like the Starbucks experience…no joke.  In any event, while waiting on-line, I noticed the latest Starbuck promise, “The Find and Grind Promise.”

The Find and Grind Promise is Starbucks’ mission to find everyone their perfect Starbucks coffee and grind it for them.  Imagine? Find everyone their perfect coffee. Everyone, as in the world? Of course that would be ridiculous…so everyone as in Sarasota?  Even that is absurd because I know at least three women  in my condo alone who wouldn’t be satisfied no matter what “perfect” anything  someone offered them! Perhaps this vision-like statement is another corporate example of one that can never be achieved.  But that is not my point today.  Today I want to talk about the “find and grind” part.

Find and Grind 

I recently worked with some very sharp MomPreneurs, each of whom  found a solution to a problem and were working very hard to make something of their solution.  I heard the excitement in each of their voices and the passion in the story of their journey.  The excitement of their “find” was contagious.  I also heard of the “grind”…..the day-to-day battle to stay afloat and succeed.  There were stories of promises of orders that never came, packaging costs that exceeded the plan, and investors saying it was a good find but not good enough for them to invest in. There were stories of spouses and friends telling them to “let it go” and that little voice in their heads sometimes agreeing with the spouses and friends. A sale one day, then no sales for weeks was a familiar pattern. Clearly, the grind was not as much fun as the find.

Maybe as parents we were ecstatic with our new-found family member at birth, and felt some of the “grind” as we struggled to know how to parent a teenager who was out of control.  Maybe we enjoyed the “find” of an incredible company to work for and then felt the “grind” of working under a micromanager.  Maybe as an adult child we found a need to help an aging parent, and felt the “grind” dealing with a system we didn’t understand and a parent who no longer even remembered our name. Perhaps when we began to find that something changed, we decided to end a long-standing relationship, but underestimated the grind of the loneliness that was to follow. We experience both the find and the grind throughout our lives.

The grind part of life is hard work.  But as women, we know hard work well, we just didn’t always call it “work.” We know how to deal with a problem and know in our hearts we took care of things. We know how to find who needs us, and help them. We know how to find our way when off track, and recalculate our route. Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN are aware of the “find and grind.”  They do not fear it.  They live it.  Frankly, they thrive on it.

So if today, you are psyched because of a new “find”, good of you! Enjoy the high!!!! But if today, the “grind” is taking over, and it is less than a glamorous day for you, hang on. This  is just the inevitable grind part presenting its challenge to someone who has met challenges before and will meet them  again.  Recall the moment of your find and the highs along the way of your journey, and use that internal force and passion to take this new grind on.

If hours have elapsed and your are still feeling the grind, then call someone who is an inspiration to you.  Talk about your grind and then listen to her encouraging words.  She enjoyed hearing about the Find when you first shared it, and now she is willing to help you work through the grind, and will every time.

Find and grind, and be better as a result of both of them.



A friend stopped by the other morning  as I was making a batch of waffles.  I usually eat one, because unlike a “stack of pancakes”, one waffle at a time is best. I freeze the rest.  I love Belgium waffles (which incidentally are no where to be found in Belgium) with lots of maple syrup and sometimes when I am really daring, with a bit of whipped cream as well.  I  offered my surprise guest a waffle as my waffle maker does what it is supposed to do quickly and perfectly, every time.  But she declined.

As I ate my waffle, my friend began telling me about the new man in her life with a level of enthusiasm I hadn’t heard in her voice for a long time. She talked about his thoughtfulness, that he is an excellent cook, and has a collection of the top 100 greatest movies of all time!  Every once in a while during the day, he sends her a text simply saying  “thinking about you.”  He makes her laugh out loud, and they enjoy the same restaurants and TV shows.  I couldn’t help but hope that he had a twin brother!

“Wow,” I said.  “Do you think he is the man you have been waiting for all these years?” I expected her to quickly say yes and that she was bringing him this weekend to meet me.

“Oh, I didn’t say that!” she quickly back peddled. “You know he is an agnostic and I am not sure that is a good fit for me. And he isn’t into sports and you know how I love the Sox and Patriots.”

I glanced down at my waffle and couldn’t help but think she was “waffling” on the relationship question.  Just then, the indicator light told me another waffle was ready. I removed the next waffle and put it on a plate in front of her.  And we both laughed.

Much later in the day  I was grinning to myself about the waffle being there just when I needed it, a perfect  prop.  While I enjoy eating a waffle, (the noun), I do not in fact ever waffle, (the verb) on my beliefs or core values.  I may waffle back and forth on what to wear or what movie to see, but not on my values.  High SUCCESSTROGEN women  don’t waffle either.  They  see a problem and relentlessly search for a solution.  If they are entrepreneurial, they don’t waffle back and forth when others think their idea won’t fly or  a spouse or partner suggests that they need to focus on their day job to help support the household. They know their destiny isn’t in their day job.

Sometimes  we waffle with our child who does not want to go to soccer practice. We start off by reminding her that she has a committment to her team.  We start off strong, but in the end, we waffle! We get tired of arguing and dealing with the tears.  She does not go to soccer practice and now we are responsible for helping to  create a behavioral pattern that can have negative consequences.

We may waffle on going to the gym, choosing healthy foods, or drinking too much wine. When we waffle, or go against what we believe we should do, we have negative consequences that we do not welcome. While I don’t waffle on my core values, I do my fair share of waffling on other things, like getting talked into going to some events  I don’t enjoy, or eating a piece of cake when I am not even hungry.

Consider reviewing a  “waffle experience” that causes you the most pain, stop the waffling, and enjoy the positive outcome.  Take it one waffle experience at a time, because, we are a not talking pancakes here– one waffle at a time is best. I think I will do the same.

Statue of Liberty

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????While delivering a PodCast this morning for the SCORE organization, I was asked to define crowdfunding. I said:  Crowdfunding is a way of supporting a product or business venture by gathering small amounts of money  from a large group of contributors, generally via the internet.”  I went on to offer more information.  “The term crowdfunding first appeared on the scene in 2006 but it is not a new concept.  As a matter of fact, in 1884, the pedestal supporting the magnificent Statue of Liberty was cracking and in need of repair.  Joseph Pulitzer published an appeal to the American public and raised over $100,ooo  through this early crowdfunding event, with most donations being $1 or less.  As a result of Pullitzer’s successful crowdfunding campaign, Lady Liberty was restored to her original health and beauty.

Driving  home I chatted with  MomPreneur, Courtney Washmuth (Founder, Miles Outside) and told her about the Statue of Liberty example I used earlier.  “Have you ever seen the Statue of Liberty up close?” I asked her as my mind wandered from the PodCast to my last trip to Manhattan. I stayed in a hotel room that looked directly out at the Statue and I could hardly pull myself away from the sight.  “It is magnificent and solid.  She appears to be focused, not at all distracted by all the eyes upon her.  She holds the torch firmly as though leading the way.“

Courtney interjected, “Sometimes I feel as MomPreneurs, the world is watching us, waiting for us to guide them.  Sometimes I, too, feel confident, strong and able to lead the way, yet other days I am not so sure of where I am going, and I don’t feel like I could lead the way to anyone!”

MomPreneurs, especially those who are new to crowdfunding, experience the emotional roller coaster that Courtney referred to.  One day they receive a call from a vendor asking for more product and the MomPreneur is pumped up and excited.  And still on another day, perhaps she learns that the production run is late, or more costly than initially planned, or maybe that there hasn’t been any activity on her crowdfunding campaign.  Those days are down days, unsure days, days of wondering if it is all really worth it.

When I asked a diverse group of entrepreneurial moms what they do on those down days to get themselves upbeat again, I received variety of answers.  Courtney goes for a run to clear her head and bring her attitude back in line. Lara (Co-Founder with sister Jen of heart&core), however, looks for a crowdfunding  inspirational boost from Google, finds herself in the Pilates studio, or she even admits to letting go of her mind as she reads through gossip magazines. Regardless of how they unwind, afterwards they find themselves focused, free of stress,  and back on track.

Sitting in New York Bay, the majestic  Statue of Liberty  has become a symbol of  freedom to all Americans and those who choose to come here in search of a better life.  Courtney and her entrepreneurial colleagues are in search of a better business world, one where women are respected for their innovative product ideas and their ability to lead organizations to consistently provide quality products and services.

And so to Courtney  and her colleagues who have created innovative products and services, I say:  MomPreneurs, we are watching you.  We are waiting for you to show us the way to a changed world, a world that recognizes the genius of women and their ability to run successful businesses.  Like the Statue of Liberty, you will be leading the way for other moms, women and young girls who also dream of one day having a business of their own.

What’s in Your ToolBox?


There was something wrong with the  hinge on my guest bathroom door.  Not ever having worked in Home Depot and therefore lacking the technical name for the current problem,  I will just say the nail that holds the hinge together so a door can swing freely and close tightly, was sticking up. The hinge was not working.  What was also not working was that a guest using that bathroom couldn’t fully close the door–UGH.

While this may come as a surprise to you, I have a tool box.  Not a serious, metal one with little compartments for nuts and bolts, but a plastic bin into which I have thrown one hammer, a Philips and a regular screwdriver, a measuring tape, tons of batteries, an extra power cord,  and far too unrecognizable things.   Consulting my trusty tool box, I found the hammer,  just the right tool for the job.  Two good swats with the hammer, “hitting the nail on the head” so to speak, and the hinge was fixed.  The hammer was just what I needed.

Recently I had a problem that needed fixing but after trying several different tools, the problem remained a problem I was unable to fix.  Outside of my plastic-bin toolbox,  I have a lot of tools to help me resolve problems.  I have all the energy and determination in the world. I have ears for listening, eyes for observing, and a good brain with which to problem solve. I know how to communicate clearly, how to confront, and how to give positive and constructive feedback.  Usually those tools help me stay true to my values and bring value to others.  In this case, I tried them all, but none worked.  It would have been easy for me to point fingers and put someone else’s name on the problem, but I am aware of an old Chinese proverb that says:

“A bad workman blames his tools.” 

I am aware that many people blame others for their misfortune, lack of success, and their unhappiness.  I have addressed this in previous SUCCESSTROGEN blogs. I suppose it is so much easier to blame something outside of ourselves than to look inward and acknowledge our contribution toward a problem. But women with high SUCCESSTROGEN don’t blame, they assess a situation, look within to see their role in it, attempt to fix it, and then if they cannot, they move on.  No grudges, they just move on.On that, I score high SUCCESSTROGEN.

However, I am very low SUCCESSTROGEN when it comes to moving away as soon as I see the value set is not aligned. Far too often, I try to put the difference in the back of my mind, I try to work around it, because all else looks good.  But it comes back to haunt me every time!  I cannot judge another’s value set but when core values are very different from mine, alignment is not going to happen.  I need alignment of those values with my children and family, on the tennis court, and in every aspect of my life.

Recently, I did not have the right tool to fix a  lack of alignment between myself and another. I was able to identify the gap, but unable to close it and unfortunately, unskilled at working around it. Sometimes  lots of pieces are perfectly aligned, yet one piece is not  and then much like my hinge problem, the door does not swing as it should; it just doesn’t work.

And so, to make a long story short, I had to close a door, and again, walk through the familiar door marked SUCCESSTROGEN where I always feel in alignment, a place where I will devote  more time to reaching more women and helping them develop their SUCCESSTROGEN.

By the way, what’s in your toolbox?