Success Mindset

Independence Day thoughts

This Sunday was the Fourth of July, America’s independence day.  As I am sure you are aware, this is a very important holiday in the United States.  While the Fourth of July has basically become synonymous with barbecues, swim parties and family picnics, it is still hugely symbolic not just for American patriotism but for the freedom it represents.
Of course, as an American living in France, my Fourth of July is just another day because absolutely no one celebrates it.  However, I don’t have to wait long until the French themselves have their own Independence Party—the 14th of July.
Different circumstances of course, but the same sort of celebration.   For both America and France the 4th and the 14th represent a new beginning and the end of oppressive regimes (England for America, the King for France).
Independence.  Freedom.  The stuff of dreams.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, very few really feel that they truly hold their destiny in their hands (including many I know both in the United States, France and beyond).  Whether it is the tyranny of money (or the lack thereof) or addiction or sickness, even the haves in this world feel a very heavy burden as they try to make ends meet and have some semblance of a quality life.
This is, by all counts, not the world’s finest hour.
But why on earth am I discussing this subject on a column about social media?  Basically, I believe the greatest paradox in the world today is that NEVER have so many people felt so much discontent  while in fact there is so much opportunity.  And in my book, this is because so many of us cling to an old way of doing things and don’t […]

Is Traditional Education Really Preparing Our Kids For The Future?

I am an American living in France.  I have one daughter who completed the incredibly rigorous French education system and is now attending one of America’s most prestigious Ivy League universities. My younger daughter currently attends an international-French school; she endures a 9 hour school plus two hours of homework every day 10 months out of the year.

Apparently, I am not alone.  I talk to many parents in the States and across the world with school age children who tell similar tales.

We submit our children to grueling school schedules, ridiculous pressure to get them into ‘good’ schools. Once they are in university, the undue strain just continues.  The cost to the children and society are tragic. Cornell University, for example, recently suffered the shocking heartbreak  of several undergraduate suicides; these  were young, isolated people simply unable to deal with the stress.

So is all this sacrifice and pressure on our children really worth it? 

Are we serving our children well?

Is this education we are so obsessed about really preparing our kids for the future? 

I am not convinced.

I am not at all persuaded that we are preparing our children for the world in store for them.

They study at institutions that are probably modeled more closely after 19th century ideals than those of the 21st.  The careers they prepare for are dusty and obsolete, baring little resemblance to the new professions a fast-moving, global New Net  requires. 

Success in the future will not depend on old formulas.   It will require a large dose of imagination and creativity, an ability to think out of the box, a capability to move swiftly and react deftly to change, a talent to communicate with many different types of […]

Our Childhood Playground Comes Back To Haunt Us

Ever since we were children, we were afraid of criticism.  Someone might mock our hair, criticize our dress, whisper nasty things about the way we played in the playground.

Criticism has haunted us since Day One.

And social media is no exception.  Has

When we write a blog, people can write a nasty comment.  When we post our update, people can pop out with a mean comment.  Our tweets can be sliced down in a word or two.

 There doesn’t seem to be any place to hide.  And we are back at the playground once again.

Okay.  So this is the deal.

Negativity and negative comments are just part of the social media game.  So the answer is not to hide in the corner just hoping no one will see you.  The answer is to figure out how to respond to the negativity.

First of, don’t try to avoid them.  Hiding under the desk didn’t work in elementary school. And it won’t work here either.

Confront the negative comments head-on

Learn to listen

Learn to respond.

And-if the criticism is merited- (and it CAN be merited), try to fix what is broken.

But the most important thing is NEVER IGNORE NEGATIVITY

Respond immediately and politely.

It may be hard.  You might have to bite your tongue.  But you will be surprised what happens.  Often, your enemy turns into your advocate.  It takes the wind out of their sails.  And sails with no wind don’t travel too far.  On the best of days, your critical enemy will become your advocate or even your friend.

And don’t prohibit people from saying negative things.  Some people will review the comments made on their blogs.  Don’t do that.  Let people say negative things about you.  Let them say those things publicly.  It’s okay.  […]


A few weeks ago in France, there was a huge hurricane.  It happens once in a blue moon.  But the winds sweep through and we all just sit tight until its over. And when the wind finally subsides, we creep out of our houses to assess the damage. 

This last storm wasn’t anywhere as destructive as the famous storm of December 1999 which ripped off roofs and downed chimneys.   But this time, when I ventured out of my house, I was heartbroken to discover that my favorite tree—a majestic old pine- had simply fallen down. 

I sat and stared.  And I wept.

We all have landmarks in our lives.  We learn to love them, we lean on them, they provide us with comfort.  And when they disappear, we mourn them, realizing that it in some small way our lives will never be the same again.  I know this was just a tree. But for me it had been a daily reassuring site and a place of memories.

One thing that is crystal clear to me when I speak to my friends and colleagues around the world, is that I am not alone.  For so many, the old landmarks are gone.  So much has changed.  For so many of us, our belief in basic institutions like banks and governments and corporations have been left in tatters.  I know so many people in their 40s and 50s who have been rudely awakened in recent years, realizing that even though they played by the rules, they have lost out.  The old landmarks just didn’t live up their promises whether in the form of ruthless employers, inadequate medical plans or the obscenity of greedy bankers who behind our backs […]


I believe  that successful social media is a  mysterious, magical  blend of strategy, tactics (i.e. tools) and the right mindset.  But of the three, I think ‘getting the right mindset’ is what stumps people the most.   

One of the biggest psychological obstacles in social media is the notion that we must be perfect. All the time. And to all people.  This Perfection Obsession has dominated corporations for years and has trickled down even to small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.  We want to portray ourselves as perfect.  We want to show off our companies as having no blemishes and no faults.  And we are frightened to death that someone, somewhere might pull the curtain back and find out that we are really just the little old man in the Wizard of Oz.

This Perfection Obsession mixes badly with social media.  Why?  Because social media is social.  . It is all about interactions between people.  And, human relations are anything but perfect. They are messy and contradictory and full of good , bad and in-between emotions.  Human beings—their thoughts and feelings—cannot be packed up neatly in a little box and pushed out in neat, manageable, bite-sized pieces.   That was  the old way—the traditional thinking behind mass media and advertising.  And that way of thinking is going the route of the dinosaur.

So, let’s all forget about the Perfection Obsession. (The secret is out anyway—no one ever thought either you or your company was perfect).

Aim instead for another mindset.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Transparency.  Let people see your mistakes. Talk about them.  People will not think the less of you for it..  To the contrary, humans, oddly enough, like humanity. 

Oddly, in all areas of our lives, we are drawn, […]

Has Barack Obama Lost His Magic?

My jaw dropped along with the rest when Scott Brown won the recent election in Massachusetts, grabbing Ted Kennedy’s senate seat which for decades has been an unquestioned Democratic right and tradition. 

Was this election a symbol of Obama decline? I think everyone is in agreement that it is.

But it is more.

It is a symbol of a loss of hope for each of us. 

So many of us had invested so much.

It was only a year ago that the world was fired up over the inauguration. Even the skeptics were optimistic that we had turned a page and that the “Yes we can” rhetoric could be a launching pad for a new era in Washington and beyond..

As an expatriate living in France, my phone was stuffed with text messages from my French and European friends, congratulating me and my country for the choice that we had made. 

A year later, my phone is silent.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a huge fan of Obama (much to the chagrin of my ultra-liberal friends State side).  But I have been fascinated by Obama’s ability to capture and articulate the sentiment of a much beleaguered nation.  And I was even more impressed by his prescient use of social media with the My site.  His ability to understand the true force of his community  was, in my opinion, one of the first real success stories in social media.

I went to his site today (now called Organizing for America).   Am I wrong but has it lost its fire?

Where is the energy and impetus of his followers that led him to the White House in the first place?

Is part of Barack Obama’s loss of magic due to the […]

Will Social Media Change The Way We Relate To Each Other ?

I am very old school when it comes to friendships. 

While I have thousands of acquaintances gathered from decades of adventures, my real friends—my true friends—can be counted on one (maybe two) hands.

My friends are precious to me.  I am fiercely, fiercely loyal.

A friend for life?  For me, friend and life are pretty much synonymous.

Few friends, deep bonds is my motto.

I was recently waching CNN.  They were talking about how social media was changing the nature of our relationships.  How we will have hundreds and hundreds of friends, but that those friendships  will last nanoseconds.

Is that our fate?

Are the days of deep, long-lasting friendships over?   Is social media going to condemn us to shallow, passing interactions on cyberspace? As we flit from social media tool to social media tool, will we never be able to relate to each other in any long-term or profound way?

The answer may be in the middle.  Yes, many of our social media connections will be spontaneous with little depth.  But this is not inevitable.  As our understanding of social media deepens so will our connections there.  And as we share and converse, there is no reason that real friendships won’t emerge.

We must remember that these are still early days.  Social media will mature as will our interactions there. 

By |January 8th, 2010|Success Mindset|2 Comments

Can We Really Be Nice Online When People Are So Nasty Offline ?

Last Tuesday,  a woman called me regarding an unpaid bill.

I had barely said Hello when she began to scream at me.  Foul language, shrill tone, very impolite.  When I finally got her to calm down, she explained that the bill had been delivered to my stables, not me.  So I explained to her that I had never received the bill in question but would be happy to clear this issue up by writing a check immediately and sending it in the mail.

Given her anger, I braced myself for a big sum.

She barked that I owed her $35.00.  THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS…

All that anger and craziness and unpleasantness for such a small sum of money.

A small incident? Perhaps.  But I am afraid encounters like this are a sign of the times.

Behind the wheel of the car, shopping in  stores, traveling on planes and conversations over the phone—no place is immune to impoliteness and rudeness. The smallest issues trigger people off.  The slightest mole hill becomes a mountain.

Why are people so grumpy?

Well, for starters, times are tough.  Tougher than they ever have been.

People feel stressed about money, isolated (according to a recent Sky News report, isolation is now considered nothing short of a silent epidemic) and  anxious for the future.

But if people are getting nastier and nastier to each other offline, how does that affect our interactions online.  And in particular in social media?  Because social media is all about BEING NICE– -it stands for openness, transparency, sharing and listening.

How will this work?  Will the ill will in our ‘real’ lives ultimately spill over into our virtual, social lives?  Or will social media be the only place we can seek relief […]

By |January 4th, 2010|Success Mindset|2 Comments

What I Have Learned From My 14 Year Old Daughter

My two daughters are my heroes.  From the very first minute they entered the world, I have been in awe of both of them.

Daily, I realize how much I have learned from them.

My 18 year old Chloe  weathered the vagaries of the French educational system to be accepted to one of the world’s greatest universities.

She is centered and refined but always ready to laugh.

My 14 year old Gabriella who battled in early life with meningitis and speech difficulties is fast becoming a beautiful, cultivated and determined young woman.

Last Sunday, Gabriella won 1st in a horseback riding competition.  An expert equestrian, her journey on the horse has become most

symbolic for me.  Among the many lessons about life we have learned together, the following stand out:

Never ever give up
Be humble
Admit Mistakes…and learn from them
Patience beats impatience every time
Don’t look left and don’t look right. Look straight ahead with head high and shoulders back.
Compete hard but never compare yourself with others
Focus on the next jump. That is the only thing that matters
Success is what is in your head…and your heart.
Sensitivity to others (including the horse) counts immeasurably
Concentrate on the little stuff but never forget the big vision
Have fun
Be passionate

Lessons for a little girl and her mother.  Lessons for those embarking in social media.  Lessons for life.

By |December 14th, 2009|Success Mindset|2 Comments

The Dark Before The Dawn

photo of Stockholm at the dawn/ flickr/ diesmali

It is, famously, always  darkest before the dawn.

We’ve all experienced it.

For example, when  someone you loves  leaves you, you plunge into the abyss, certain that life will never be good again.

Or if you lose your job, it is tantamount to losing hope and the dark descends.

But as all of us who have lived long enough know,  these moments of darkness are finite.  And the sun indeed does rise again.   And most ironically the more potently  we feel the weight of the night, the more glorious are the rays of the dawn.

And that is what I believe  is happening all around the world today.

No doubt about it.  It’s bleak.

Factories are  shutting down.  Old institutions-household names- are faltering. Millions of jobs have been lost. People’s life savings have been decimated.  We have all been touched by the malaise.

The fall of 2008 was a sort of financial 9/11.   We will never be the same again.

Yet, this time, the destruction wasn’t meted out by a terrorist from some faraway land. But by household names and governments and old man Greed

But I believe that the dawn will come and we will indeed be able to build something new out of the rubble.  But it is time to say goodbye to old institutions and archaic ways of thinking that do not work.  And a moment to embrace new systems, new ideas, and new formulas that will-at long last-usher in the 21st century.

And at the forefront of this change is what is happening on the internet.  A veritable feast of communities and openness and sharing and connecting that is taking the whole world by surprise.

The future-and very specifically the future potential of the internet- […]

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