WORKPLACE BULLYING: WHY AND HOW TO STOP IT—NOW!

I remember feeling tired, just worn out. I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. It wasn’t worth it. The “boss” had won. She could replace me with someone, anyone she thought could do the job better. The daily struggle to do my job, prove myself and keep my staff inspired in a toxic work environment while navigating her unpredictable bully tendencies of condescending, disrespectful, unwarranted jabs and humiliating comments in front of others, had taken its toll.

But, I wasn’t completely defeated. Despite the unbelievable pursuits and intimating tactics of my supervisor, the president, and his executive assistant to get me to sign their pre-written letter of resignation, I refused. Not a chance. If you want me to 
go, then look me in the eyes and tell me. Say it! Say, “You are fired!” No one had the courage to say it to my face; instead, my boss slipped a letter under my office door.

According to some stats, I’m just one of nearly half of all American workers who’ve been affected by workplace bullying.

As a direct target, I witnessed firsthand how being bullied affects morale, productivity, absenteeism, retention, succession planning, and employee health—including my own.

This recognition fueled my purpose, passion, and mission to influence how people feel about themselves and how they communicate with others. I knew that self-esteem, branding and effective communications were platforms to help me move past bullying, as well as pillars to improve behavior and workplace performances. After all, given my success in helping to transform hundreds of workplace cultures through employee development and becoming a go-to media expert, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Plus, being sought by major publishers to share my philosophy, reminded me I was on the right track.

However—there was a heighten truth and awareness that flowed through me as I read a written apology from my former boss admitting and owning her internal struggles when she was responsible for creating opportunities for me to develop and grow so that I could provide greater value to the organization—but instead harassed and then fired me.

As a workplace expert and speaker for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Speakers Bureau, it brings me to a great place because back then when I needed human resources, my HR office had no power, no influence, no say.

Now, by teaming with SHRM, I get to further impact the culture of workplaces around the world by providing development services that will help human resource professionals develop their personal brand and executive presence to be seen, heard and respected throughout the entire organization. Further, I’m confident that when human resource

professionals are in the C-Suite speaking the truth, cultures will change, employees will advance and businesses will grow and evolve beyond expectations.

Here are a few tips human resource professionals can embrace to showcase their value:

  • Connect, Communicate and Advocate: When I went to human resources, I could see that they wanted to advocate for me but didn’t know how. So instead, they shrugged their shoulders and felt sorry for me. Looking back I can clearly see that the director of human resources didn’t know how to connect and communicate the impact of the toxic culture on the president’s agenda. 
•

 

  • Become the Hub for Organizational and Employee Progress: Get leadership’s 
attention by connecting and communicating how a problem is hindering the CEO/President’s goals. Then, advocate for change. I don’t ever remember reading a workplace policy handbook in its entirety until I needed to know the views and policies of certain behaviors. And, as a workshop presenter, when I’ve asked employees if they’ve read it, few hands are raised. What I discovered is leadership’s behaviors are the “unwritten rules” of the organization. In the eyes of the employees and leadership, when bad behavior goes unchallenged it’s because “human resources” isn’t doing its job.

 

  • Think Under Cover Boss: I can’t tell you the number of people who email or phone me to share that they work for a toxic boss and are frustrated because human resources will not help. I’ve sat at the table in the C-suite and I’ve learned this: the CEO or president of the organization is looking for solutions to problems that they are too far removed to see, but are very clear these type of challenges have a drastic effect on the organization. Be the voice that confidently and courageously speaks up.

 

© 2018 S. Renee, a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding & Communications Expert, Speaker, Coach, is a workplace expert and SHRM Speakers Bureau Presenter. She is the author of Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate With Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your 
Brand Likability, Marketability, Credibility, Our Hearts Wonder Prayers to Heal Your Heart & Calm Your Soul, There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power- Packed Life. You can learn more at srenee.com.

 

HELP! WHERE ARE MY CLIENTS: SIGN CONTRACTS WITHOUT COLD CALLING

I launched my business in September 2005. In my blog, How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too I shared with you that, even before I launched my speaking business, I had landed my first paid speaking engagement.

But what happens after the first gig? How do you continue to grow your speaking business?

I’m a believer that one speaking engagement should lead to another. And there is evidence that, when you give a dynamic presentation that meets the needs of your client, you’ll be booked again and again.

However, even when some buzz is created after you speak, there may not be an immediate need for your services.

So what do you do in the meantime when you have a relevant message that solves a problem, but your phone isn’t ringing?

Some people recommend cold calling. This is, undoubtedly, an excellent way of creating awareness around your brand and the solution you provide for an organization. However, for me, when I first started my business, cold calling was not an option.

I hated cold calling, and I still do.

I’m uncomfortable picking up the phone, calling an organization and praying that, eventually, I’ll get to talk to someone who will talk to me. This doesn’t mean it’s not an effective way to grow your business. In fact, I help my clients who choose to cold call, craft a message that helps them to connect and communicate what the do and the value they bring in such a way that gets them to the decision-maker. But it’s just not the way I have been able to work with over 100 organizations across nine industries and have a repeat client base of 95 percent.

So how did I sign my next contract?

Here’s what happened.

It’s September 2005. I just launched my business. I am at an event and recognize the president of a local university. My immediate thought was: “Aha! A potential client. I can help them. I should go and introduce myself.” The more I thought about the possibilities, the more pumped I became.

Suddenly, it hit me. I have to talk to him. What should I say? What will make him want to hire me? Of course, when the leader of one of the largest employment organizations is in the room, I’m not the only one wanting his attention. It seemed everyone in the room is vying for his time.

I battled so long within myself until the announcer said, “Please begin to make your way to your seats. The program will start in two minutes.” Has that ever happened to you? You talk yourself in and out and in and out again, of taking action?

Before my conscious thought caught up with my movement, I made a mad dash toward the front of the room and found myself standing in front of him.

All I can remember is feeling anxiety, talking fast, selling hard and trying to put my business card in his hand.

Can you relate? Clearly, that’s not what I would recommend to my clients today.

To my utter amazement, he interrupted me and said, “I know who you are. I’m familiar with your work. You just wrote a book. Our students NEED your help. Please set an appointment with our Provost. He’ll be expecting your call.” While stepping on his last few words, the announcer came over the intercom, “The program is about to begin.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Still feeling the residue of anxiety—along with a renewed sense of excitement that they “need” me—I confidently, but hurriedly made my way to my seat. I couldn’t believe what just happened. That moment led to an $8,000 contract a few months later and six consecutive contracts in six years. Plus, my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life was designated their freshman must-read for two years.

I didn’t know that answering the call in that moment would be so pivotal in my personal growth and business success.

Whether you want to build a speaking business, land a promotion on your job or score a media interview, here’s what I know for sure:

Build Your Brand. A well-built brand creates buzz. Buzz increases awareness and awareness is a touch point. A touch point comes in many forms. For example, a conversation among two or more people and your name comes up, an interview on a local television show or an article in the newspaper or a promotion about your upcoming book signing. And, of course, social media has given us the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of people. Every touch point gives you a chance to be relevant and to climb to the top of your audience’s mind.

Small Steps; Big Opportunities. The challenge I faced back then, and sometimes now, is taking the step. Yes, today each step I take involves less risk of rejection because people are more likely to have a positive response to proven success, but the point is this: I still have to take the step. Wherever you are on your journey, you have to take the step. I don’t know how the president of the university knew who I was back then, and I still don’t. But I know this: never underestimate the work you are doing and who it is reaching.

Follow up. This isn’t just about landing a new client or developing an important business relationship at work—it’s about the credibility of your brand. Do you do what you say you will? Let’s say I assumed the president was just blowing me off, but didn’t want to appear rude so I decided not to follow-up. Think about what I would have lost. What about you? How many people have you meant, promised you were follow-up with them, but haven’t? I have to constantly remind clients and employees alike—stop making assumptions about others and what they will or will not do.

Be honorable in your commitment—this will force them to tell you what they really want from you. And, yes, sometimes they may want you to stop calling them, but don’t be disheartened. Knowing their true desires is important. Surely you want to invest your time, talents and abilities in people and organizations that want them and will value you, right?

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry. All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of: 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your Brand, Our Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For coaching or booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.

 

How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too

It was 2005 and I knew I was being called to be a speaker. In fact, I had known for about 7 years that I would be a speaker. Nope! I didn’t have all the details. I didn’t know where to start, who I needed to talk to or exactly what I needed to do to get started, but I did know two things: I wanted to change the workplace and I wanted to see people succeed.

I was in the midst of writing my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living A Power-Packed Life. As I recall, I didn’t even have a website, yet. It was Summer 2005 and a friend asked me for a favor: “Will you come and speak to a group of HR (human resources) professionals? I’m responsible for booking speakers and I need a speaker for an upcoming meeting.”

Without intentionally exerting any energy, my heart rate increased and I had so many thoughts running through my mind that they disrupted my normal thought pattern. Have you ever had that happen to you? You’re so surprised by an opportunity that you don’t know what to think, do or if you are even capable of meeting the expectation? At that time, I wasn’t a proven speaker and I certainly wasn’t ready to step on stage in such short notice.

With a healthy balance of doubt and curiosity, I said, “Sure. What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything,” he responded.

“Anything?” I thought.

For what felt like days, I debated within myself: “What should I talk about? Who will be there? How do I decide what to talk about?”

My first book was about discovering who you are and finding the confidence and courage to be personally accountable for creating what you want. That just didn’t seem to be a great topic for a group of policy-following HR professionals. Although I wasn’t going to get paid and didn’t have the experience to know how to process what I could possibly get out of this gig, at the very least, I wanted the audience to like my presentation—and like me. It wasn’t just me, right? Don’t you want to be liked and appreciated?

I decided to be true to myself. I spoke on the topic, “How to Find Your Passion.”

It turned out that I was completely wrong about HR professionals. Everyone started buzzing about the content. After the applause had ended, a line started forming. People were saying how inspired they were by the content and how much this message was needed in the workplace.

At the time, unbeknownst to me, the head of HR for the State of Delaware was in the room. He approached me and said, “Great speech. I have two statewide conferences coming up for support staff. There will be about 300 people at event. I’d like for you to address how to present with confidence. How much will it cost to book you for both conferences?”

“Wow!” I thought. “They must really mean what they are saying,” Do you ever feel like people are just appeasing you? You know, they don’t want you to feel bad so they tell you how great you are, but never take your follow-up call. Well, despite the buzz I didn’t absorb it as honest feedback.

For me, in this context, the truth to admiration and appreciation is the answer to this question: “Are you going to hire me to speak for your organization?” 

After that offer, I felt a surge of confidence in the chatter so I calmly asked, “When are the conferences? How long do you want me to speak?” He gave me the dates and said 45 minutes each. Without hesitation I said, “I have to check my calendar, but thirty-five hundred ($3,500) per conference.”

He shockingly said, “3500 per conference! You’re not worth $3,500.” Without knowing how to demonstrate my value, I responded with a smile, “You may not be willing to pay me 3500, but I’m worth 3500.”

Clearly, wanting me to keynote his conferences, he retorted, “I can pay you $1,000 per conference for 45 minutes.” It didn’t take me long to make that decision. I had just spoken for 30 minutes and got paid $0. He’s offering me $1,000 for 45 minutes, plus I quickly assessed that if I revved up my efforts, I could have my book done before the conference.

I boldly asked, “I have a book coming out around that time. “Can I sale it after I speak?” He enthusiastically said, “Yes!” I had just negotiated my first speaking contract and gave birth to my full-time speaking career.  

From coaching over 300 speakers in the last five years, many of them spend years investing their time and money speaking for free or for minimum compensation. My philosophy is this: be careful of setting a standard of devaluing your mission and message. Over time, not only will you be speaking for free, you’ll start to question yourself and the value you bring. This can severely impact your self-esteem.

The lessons I share with upcoming speakers is this:

·     Be Yourself. Many speakers, authors and other professionals, including employees struggle with knowing and really believing in themselves and their message. Do your homework and just present your message; don’t try to prove that your message is right or how great you are.

·     Be Honest With Yourself. Recognize that if you are not being booked, you may need a coach to help you develop your brand, speech and speaking abilities. Your presentation has to be so good that you are memorable!

·     Brand Your Business. I’ve discovered that for most of my clients, there is an internal battle of wanting to craft and communicate an authentic, valuable message and trying to figure out what’s most popular in the marketplace. Don’t bounce around trying to be everything to everyone; believe in and evolve with your message as the market and workplace changes.

·     Be Dynamic. Give your audience a compelling reason to want to hear you speak again. You have to work on your presence, presentation and performance. Be magnetic, innovative and energizing. When you do, someone in the audience will ask, “Are you available to speak at my event?”

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You WantThe Bridge to Your BrandOur Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.

DO PEOPLE KNOW AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU DO?

Recently I had an Aha Moment! I can’t believe that I missed this. But I think you’re going to find this to be one of your greatest blind spots, too.

As experts, we often assume people “Get it.” They know what we do. And, if they don’t, they should. Why shouldn’t they? There’s tons of information out there about our subject matter and we saturate them with the value of our work, right?

Here’s what I learned during a one-on-one fact-finding consult with a new potential client. It has helped me shift again how I position my message.

After we exchanged pleasantries, the conversation went like this:

S. Renee: Tell me about yourself.

Potential Client: I don’t know if I need your services because I don’t know if I need branding, but you came highly recommended so I thought I’d at least give you a call. A publisher published my book and I want to sell lots of copies.

S. Renee: Oh, that’s exciting. So you signed a book deal. What an honor! Who is your publisher?

Potential Client: Oh, I paid to have it published.

S. Renee (Hmmm, I thought to myself): Okay. Tell me more.

Potential Client: I realize now that I paid too much money for the little bit of work they did for me, and now they are trying to sell me a marketing package. So I’ve been asking people about marketing, and your name keeps coming up as someone who can help me. I thought I’d call to see if you could help me sell copies of my book.

S. Renee: Tell me more.

Potential Client: I know my book will help a lot of people. I just need for people to see it and I know they’ll like it and buy it.

Renee (after some more digging): So, tell me what you know about branding.

Potential Client: I think it’s when people recognize you. But I don’t want to be recognized. I just want to sell my book.

That’s when the light bulb came on for me. This individual, like many of the people I talk to, has a dream. They finally have a piece of their dream in their hands, but they don’t know how to launch it into the marketplace. In fact, they don’t even realize their book is a product and it has to find its position among the millions of other books in the marketplace.

Yes, they see Fortune 500 companies reach them through storytelling on television, billboard and online advertising, and store placement. But they don’t connect their product with needing the same investment, attention and persistence.

Like many of the over 300 clients I’ve coached, their ideas are on paper, but they don’t see their book as an extension of themselves. They see it as an independent product that only needs to be seen by others, and – BAM – they sell hundreds of thousands of copies and they become well-known!

This is so far from reality. Consumers are sophisticated and smart. They know what they want to spend their money on, but you have to tell them you are the person or company who they want to spend their money with.

Brands drive sales. It’s the skillfully worded message behind the product and the consistency of that message that gets people’s attention. It’s the fulfillment of the promise of that message that earns the trust of the consumer, which leads to a purchase.

Think about the advertisements you see. They are nothing more than a carefully crafted story that shows you a problem and tells you how to solve it. As small business owners, entrepreneurs, speakers, authors and even employees, we too, have to craft our message, build our story and earn the trust of our audience.

S. Renee, CPC, is a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding and Communications Expert, Speaker, Coach and Best-Selling Author. To learn more about how you can craft and communicate a message that connects and engages your audience visit www.srenee.com and consider one of her upcoming events.

 

FROM BROKEN TO BELIEVING: STEPS TO REINVENTING YOURSELF

I remember feeling tired, just worn out. I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. It wasn’t worth it. She had won. She could replace me with someone, anyone she thought could do the job better. The daily struggle to prove myself, do my job, keep my staff inspired in a toxic work environment plus navigate her unpredictable bully tendencies of condescending, disrespectful, unwarranted jabs and humiliating comments in front of others, had taken its toll.

But, I wasn’t completely defeated. Despite the efforts of my boss, the president and his executive assistant scheming to get me to sign their pre-written letter of resignation, I refused. Not a chance. If you want me to go, then look me in the eyes and tell me. Say it! Say, “You are fired!” They didn’t have the courage to say it to my face; instead, my boss slipped a letter under my office door.

I laugh at that cowardly behavior today after reinventing myself, receiving a written apology from my former boss (that wasn’t slid under my door) and becoming nationally recognized for my work, but that experience was mental and emotional torture when I was going through it. It wasn’t a small feat to reinvent myself and design a brand that would catch the attention of major corporations, media outlets, and publishers. There were a lot of decisions I had to make before I could land my first gig, media interview or book deal.

Reflecting on that time in my life, I realized that I had already seen the vision that I’d be doing something other than serving as Director of Public Relations. I had written in my journal exactly what I believed God had spoken to me. Deep down I knew the truth, I just couldn’t own it at the time. The truth is, at that time, I didn’t have the courage and confidence to stake claim to my space in the world. Isn’t it ridiculously sad that we are so fragile? Unfortunately, we replace our God-given powers for our fragile insecurities.

All I had to do was say: Yes! to the vision, God had shown me for my life. Yes! to the possibility that the image in my mind and the feeling in my heart were the truth,  and understand that the doubts running through my head were a lie. Yes! to the belief that if I put myself out there, I’d be supported by the spiritual world. I’d meet people on my path that would appreciate what I was trying to create and help me, and I would appreciate and support them. Click the title to watch a video to understand what my trademark message, There Is More Inside is all about.

Remember, when I left my job, I was broken and feeling lost. Okay, maybe more intensely disappointed in a system that failed me than broken, but the point is this: they robbed me of my livelihood for no good reason–and didn’t care.

This is what learned as I navigated that challenging time and made my way to the top in the self-development industry:

  • Decide what you want to give the world. For me, I want every person to know they have the right to feel good about who they are and create the life they want by practicing spiritual principles and building a brand.
  • Write down your vision. I wrote my vision down in my journal years before landing the Director position. I knew I desired to become nationally known by writing and traveling the world teaching people spiritual principles and how to own their truth and courageously live it by being personally accountable for their life.
  • Put your pride aside. I earned great success during my 20s. In my early 30s, after being fired, I was without income, but I was trying to pursue my purpose. As a result, the debt was rising and my stress level increasing. I put my pride aside and took a job as an assistant manager at WalMart. Yes, people were asking, “What happened?” They were wondering what happened to me because I was on the fast track to success.

I didn’t explain myself. I stayed focused on my target. No good could come from engaging in conversation with people who would only keep a negative conversation going and give power to my doubts.

By staying focused, I created the spiritual space for me to work on writing my first book, There Is More  Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life.  This would’ve been difficult if I would impose more suffering on myself. 

  • Reflect on your life. By pausing and thinking about your life’s journey, you’ll notice themes and messages that allowed you to clearly see a marketable message that will resonate with people.
  • Crafted a brand message around your life challenges. I used my story and the lessons I learned to craft a message that related to national issues and solved problems. You can do it too.
  • Decide what image you want to project. As a former model and television talk show host, I understood the importance of image and how it influences people’s perception of you and how they respond to you. I wanted to make sure that when the spotlight finally made its way around to me, I would be ready to showcase and clearly communicate my value to others.
  • Attend workshops. You don’t know what you don’t know, but I knew it was important to find out what I didn’t know so I attended conferences and workshops, which gave me the opportunity to watch leaders in the industry, learn from them and make myself known to them–even though I was still marinating on who I was going to be in the marketplace.
  • Put into action what you learn at workshops. Attend workshops with the intention to learn and implement what you learn immediately. By doing so, this commitment served as the building block to my business and helped me to grow steadily.
  • Hire a coach. I hired a personal and business coach. I needed to understand what may hinder me from reaching my goals and identify any blind spots. You’d be surprised what can happen and how much you’ll grow from getting a proficient coach.
  • Launch your newly reinvented brand into the marketplace. In September 2005, approximately 3.5 years after being fired, I launch my business. In the last 13 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with over 100 organizations over 9 industries (95 percent are repeat clients), coached approximately 300 small business owners and employees logging over 600 hours, be interviewed by some of our nation’s top journalists and signed two book deals.

The first was with Wiley, one of the world’s top academic publishers,
and the second was with Callisto Media, one of the fastest growing
online publishers. As the author of 5 books, I wrote and launched a
new book every 2.5 years. This helped me to remain relevant in the
marketplace. As a result, I’ve been invited to share platforms with
some of the nations most influential leaders.

What’s most important? I have been able to wake up every day and be used by God.

I’m not sharing this with you to impress you, but to impress upon you what can happen when you DECIDE you will no longer be filled with doubt, but fueled by faith!

How about you, what’s happening in your world? What are your challenges? What needs to change? What are you willing to change? Are you pursuing the vision God has given you? If not, why not?

© 2018 S. Renee

S. Renee is a Certified Professional Coach and a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding & Communications Expert, Speaker, Coach & Author. She is the author of Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate With Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your Brand Likability, Marketability, Credibility, Our Hearts Wonder Prayers to Heal Your Heart & Calm Your Soul, There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life. You can learn more at www.srenee.com

3 SIGNS YOU’VE OUTGROWN YOUR CURRENT SITUATION & IT’S TIME TO GO

I was 16 years old, a junior in high school. At a time when I should have been enjoying football games, Friday night pizza gatherings and sweet talk from the male cuties in my Math class–I was feeling empty.

For some strange reason, I felt like a misfit. It seemed like all my classmates connected. They talked about the same things and wanted to hang out in the same places. I, on the other hand, found myself thinking about what I wanted my life to look like “when I grow up.” From my teenage perspective, the thought of being an adult excited me.

I didn’t criticize my peers for having what I considered unimportant conversations and seemingly risky behaviors. In fact, it was just the opposite. I was wondering: “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I get with this? Any of it.”

Academics bored me. My classmates confused me. And the environment stagnated me. All of which lead to a C student who was called a nerd and labeled as too good to hang out with her peers.

Those were three signs that it was time for a change:

1. I was no longer challenged.
2. I could no longer relate to the people around me
3. My energy didn’t match the energy of the environment. 

One day, I was walking down the hall and Dr. Gilbert, an associate principal, as I remember her to be, yells, “Smith”! Most of the teachers and administrators referred to me as “Smith”. I have three older siblings so most often I was known by my last name, which came with clear expectations.

Wondering if, for some unforeseen reason, I was in trouble my heart started pumping and hands became clammy. I immediately stopped and turned around. She walked up to me and put her arm around my shoulders and casually said, “Hey, how are you doing?” Not clear on whether she really wanted to know how I was doing or if she was just getting cozy to see if I had a pass to be roaming the halls, I enthusiastically responded with my usual “Excellent!”.

Engaging me in further conversation she asked, “how are your classes?” At that moment, I surprised myself. I said, “Dr. Gilbert I don’t enjoy school anymore.”

Forgetting that I was on my way to class, she said, “Come, take a walk with me.” Continuing with the small talk, she led me into her office. After taking a seat she promptly asked, “Have you ever considered going to college or getting a job?”

I lit up! I felt my eyes popped wide open and I smiled broadly. I felt the energy of opportunity. I felt a boost of confidence when she continued, “I’ve noticed you, and you are quite mature for your age.”

Whiling trying to look attentive to the conversation, I thought: Wow! I’d love to go to college. As that thought past, the little bogeyman on my shoulder said: I wonder if she knows I’m a C student? They probably don’t let C students go to college. I wonder what grade point average I have to have to be admitted? This is probably not going to work. I was too embarrassed to ask and I certainly didn’t want her to look up my record. So I said, nothing.

I told her I’d go to the admissions office of the local college to see if I can enroll. Being true to my word, that’s exactly what I did. The next semester, while still in high school, I took Speech and Biology college courses. It was amazing. I found a new space where I could breathe again.

What’s in that experience for you?

Here’s how to take a leap of faith:

1. Listen and Trust Yourself. You know when it’s time for a change. Your body, mind and spirit will never lie to you. You aren’t feeling anxious, unsettled, unhappy and disconnected for no reason. If you take the time to stop, you’ll know exactly what you feel and why you feel it.

2. Open Up. You can choose to suffer in silence and pretend to be happy or open up and share with someone who can and will help you. Consider someone who can see options that you never thought of and with whom you respect.

3. Take Action. Opportunities are all around you! Doors with various labels are waiting for you to walk through them. Many times, you see them and even feel a tug to move toward them, but turn around and step back into your box.  Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if I walk toward a worthy opportunity?

Copyright 2018 S. Renee Smith. S. Renee is a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, coach, speaker and author. For more information visit is www.srenee.com.