What Makes You So Darn Special?

Hi, I’m Lisa, I’m a learning junkie.

I look at learning as a continual investment in myself. I am in a perpetual state of evolution. Constant learning by reading, taking classes, experimenting and being blessed with influencers.

I have an amazing tribe of mentors and coaches – shout out to Lorraine, Jennifer, Amy, Deb and Michelle. These personal influencers enrich my life. They elevate me as a person and as a contributor of value to others. They keep me grounded, encourage me, gently point out stupid things I do and get my sarcasm.

There is one constant that every single one of them has told me, on more than one occasion: I am harder on myself than anyone else. Duh.

The aforementioned stupid things I do, if they point it out, they do so in a supportive, kind way. When I think about it, I tell myself something like “well, you’re a blooming idiot.” Here is a great example of this:

During a discussion, I made the comment that I should have known how to do something, which I had never done before. To which she replied, “Why?” I thought because it was similar to something else. She said it was unfair to myself to expect to know something I have never done.

In replaying that conversation, my comment to myself was, “What makes you so darn special? Like you should know all the answers without ever doing it before?”

We all need to stop thinking we are so darn special that our expectations for ourselves exceed anything we would expect of others. Especially when it is setting us up for failure.

My son was having a struggle with something the other day. This would be something his dad could relate to better than I, but his dad passed last year. I tried the supportive, kind way – he wasn’t getting it.

Then I asked him if his dad was in the same situation, what would he tell his dad? His response was a healthier option and completely different than what he was doing. My next comment was, “If you would give that advice to your dad, why wouldn’t you take it yourself?” Light bulb.

Chief and I had a conversation about working out. He had completed a goal and was disappointed that he had not subsequently gone far enough beyond it. He had extremely high goals set for each next step. When I asked him what goals he would recommend for me if I did the same thing, there was a huge discrepancy. The goal was significantly lower and prefaced with “any improvement is great”.

My question to him was, “why is a small improvement great for me, but a failure for you?” Light bulb.

I am all about setting high goals, I’ve got three on my plate right now. What I am not all about is beating yourself up when you feel like you are failing, when in reality you are not.

Here’s how to do a healthy pivot if you’re getting burned out or feeling a bit of failure creeping in on a big goal:

1. Know your why. Reconnect with the reason you have this goal in the first place. Your why is the primary driver of any goal.

2. Give someone else advice. If you can, ask yourself what would you advise someone else to do if they had the same goal. If you cannot divorce yourself from this situation, ask a friend to role play this with you.

3. Break it down. Big goals are not achieved in one fell swoop. Take a look at it and break it down to its most simple components. Can you break down actions into monthly steps? Great, now break them down into weekly actions, then daily. One step at a time. No step is too small as long as it is a step forward.

4. Learn from going backwards. Yes, I just said any step forward is progress, but the reality is that you might go backwards a time or two. Fantastic. Hidden within that is an amazing opportunity to learn something. It might be about the goal, the process, the action or yourself. Write that stuff down!

5. Write it out. This is the best motivator I know. Track your goals, actions and – this is big – your accomplishments. This will help you keep track of how far you have come and that you are, indeed, moving forward.

6. Celebrate it all. Don’t wait until the realization of the big goal to celebrate. Recognize and praise yourself for the ‘little’ victories as well. If you don’t feel like you moved any closer to your goal this week, take a look. You completed every one of the daily activities you set out to do – hooray! Ice-cream with sprinkles for you!

7. Relax. Make sure you bring balance to your life. Goals are awesome, but they are not the end point. Often, they are not the most rewarding, it is the journey that gives us the most delight and satisfaction. Take a break. Recharge your batteries by engaging with people, nature, art, food, exercise, or meditation. Keep yourself at peak performance by taking care of you as a whole.

You know what, you are special. We all are. But you are not so darn special that you should hold yourself to insane standards that you would not encourage for anyone else. Remember that Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To keep our own expectations from get out of hand let’s add: Do not do unto yourself as you would not do unto others.

Start today. What is one thing that you can celebrate today? I didn’t ask what big thing can you celebrate, I asked what is one thing you can celebrate. I haven’t tackled any of my big goals today. But off the top of my head I can think of three things so far today that I can celebrate. I did my three miles on the treadmill this morning. Dinner is already prepared so it will be a hassle-free night tonight. I had an amazing coaching session and one action suggestion I offered was of great value to my client.

Now it’s your turn.

As a triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Career Coach and Social Media Brand Analyst I help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance. I get people unstuck in their careers.
Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about we can work together to get you unstuck

Find Your Own 3 D’s To Give You Balance During Job Searching

happy office puppyI am the first to say it and I say it often: job searching is a job in itself. You magically transform into a business owner and sales person all in one. Your business is you, your product is you and you are constantly promoting yourself.

Every encounter can be a lead or opportunity. Every networking event could unfold to meeting a person who might know the right person. Opportunities are endless and it takes an extreme amount of time, effort and energy to suit up for this job every day.

You are always “on” being a business owner. You never know if that person you are talking to in the grocery or foo-foo coffee line is a prospect. Your radar is constantly running, that prospective right connection buzz rings in your head at all times.

It is exhausting.

It can also be mentally, emotionally, financially and physically grueling. Thinking you made a great impression during an interview or connection then never hearing another word – sheer hell. At which point you go back to your product design and see where there might be flaws. Was it in the delivery, was it in the sales pitch, did you not convey the benefits of your product effectively?

It is enough to send you over the edge – if you let it.

Do not let it. Find a completely unrelated distraction and throw yourself into it.

I absolutely love what I do, if you were talk to any of my clients I think that is one thing they would all agree on – I am very passionate about what I do. I give it all I’ve got when I am working. Having clients in different time zones and countries makes a “typical” working hours type day nearly impossible. It would be easy to get burned out by burning the candle 24-7; however, I have three secret weapons that work for me – the three D’s.

Dogs, Dew and Dancing.

They are more than secret weapons, they are more like healthy obsessions. Ok, bordering on the unhealthy, whatever.


I preface every interview with clients by telling them I bring my dogs into my office, they might hear them in the background now and then. I traded an empty-nest situation to a dog situation. My current pack is three.

They sense when I am tense or having writers block and I find a dog head popped into my lap as if saying, “time for a brain break.” I talk to them, they talk back. I take them on walks, give belly rubs, play chase and throw- they do not return the items so it is a short lived game. They give me a healthy, loving, fun break from my day.


This is my unhealthy obsession – Mountain Dew. I love it. It is bad, I know, but when I really kick butt on a project I reward myself with a Dew. When I am struggling, I help pep myself up by getting a Dew. The bonus is when I am done with the bottles they become instant dog toys. The boys love to take the screw off cap off the bottle and have gotten it down to being able to do so in about 30 seconds. It is fun for me to watch them get all excited about getting a bottle then triumphantly spit out the cap.


This is the best and is sometimes done with the dogs. When I find myself stressed out or blocked I turn up the music and dance it out. Yes, right there in the middle of the office. Oh yes, and sometimes right in the middle of a store. It may look like I am flailing or having some sort of attack, but it is my release. All I hear is the music all I feel is the beat and all I do is let it go and let it out. Five minutes of that jumps starts me right back into my day.

These three D’s have helped me keep my sanity – and perspective. When I am dancing it out I tend to stop analyzing why I didn’t get a certain project or care that I am having a brain block. Having three sets of eyes watching every move because it has been an absurdly long time since they have had a treat gives me perspective.

Find your own obsession or escape from the job of job searching. You need balance. You need to recharge. Embrace your release and let yourself go. My obsessions also weave in the important elements of keeping healthy:

Exercise – walking three dogs will definitely give you some great exercise, I take one at a time to triple the benefits
Eating Well – not the Dew, but the reminder from the pups that they get a treat after I eat, so it helps me remember to eat regularly
Sleep – dancing it out and walking three dogs can cause physical exhaustion which helps me get great sleep
Fun – dancing is fun, playing with my dogs is fun; fun is a necessity! Seriously, look at that face in the picture – that is one of my pups, how do you not smile when you see that face?

When you are on the clock for your job of job searching, give it all you’ve got; just make sure there are down times or hours. If you do not take care of yourself you will be no good to anyone else – your family, yourself or that new, fabulous job!


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Balance is Bull; How My Son Got Me to Get Life


Having a 21 year old son as a mirror, reflecting certain aspects of my personality can be quite annoying. I am never sure whether to be proud or afraid that our personalities are so similar on several counts.

Physically we could not be any different: I am 5’ tall, maybe 100 pounds soaking wet and fair skinned (he has called me translucent). He is over 6’ tall, very athletics and maintains a perfect tan in the wintertime.

We have a unique communication style having many lively conversations that provide great entertainment to those around us. We are both straightforward, direct and appreciative, devoted students of effervescent witticism. We are a couple of smartalecs.

For all the grief I give my son, and I do so quite a bit in seminars and blogs, I will be the first to admit he has taught me more life lessons than any mentor or idol.

His points are poignant due to his delivery. It is normally a short, direct statement that cuts through any bull, fear or distractions.

I read an article the other day about work-life balance, which I believe is a bunch of bull-hooey. Balance implies equality. I have yet to meet the person that has perfect equality in both professional and personal worlds. The phrase implies some sort of perfectly balanced scales. I don’t own any scales.

This is not to say that you cannot have it all, in my opinion you most certainly can – just not all at one time.

My problem was not that I was trying to make those scales balance; I was on a different extreme. I used to devote myself to only certain areas of my life completely ignoring others.

A few years ago he put it into perspective for me. We were discussing my work and he simply looked at me and said, “When are you going to have a life?”

I backtracked and tried to provide proof that I did, in fact, have a life. Obviously he was mistaken.

He just shook his head and said, “No you don’t.”

He told me that when he was growing up, my life was focused on him; when his dad was diagnosed with cancer, my life was focused on both of them; and when he moved out my life focused on my business. He said he wasn’t talking about relationships, he was talking about me. He asked when I was going to focus on me.

He told me, “Mom, I think it is your turn.”

He was not mistaken.

Damn kid.

That is the day that I began to realize balance is not equal and the each side of the equation are actually multi-part subsets. It is not a perfectly balanced scale; it is a teeter-totter with different size and shapes of aspects sitting on each end.

The Teeter-Totter

One the work end you have your peers, bosses, clients, prospective clients, vendors and every person you come into contact with during the working day.

On the life end you have all the things that mean most to you personally: your family, your community, your faith and your passions.

A teeter-totter is a basically a plant anchored on a fulcrum. According to the dictionary, a fulcrum is the point or support on which a lever pivots. What is the fulcrum in the work-life teeter-totter?


You can counter the feeling of being dropped on your bum when someone jumps off the other end of the teeter-totter by enlarging your fulcrum.

In work, realize that everything is not a means to a financial end. There are interactions, lessons and people there for you to get to know and enjoy.

Understand that everyone has their own path. Careers are rarely a straight line; more often than not they are winding, twisty, topsy-turvy crazy lines that takes you where you are and where you want to go.

On the life side things are sometimes messy. Other people’s actions create fears, insecurities and doubts about ourselves and our abilities as partners, parents or friends. We feel pulled into other people’s stuff.

It is a natural inclination to be all things to all people as a leader, worker, provider, business owner, parent, partner, sibling, family member, friend and volunteer. In doing so you forget the fulcrum holding it all together: you.

This was my son’s point. I had forgotten me. My teeter-totter had no balance point. That is when I hung up then burned my superwoman cape. Here is how I built a better teeter-totter.

Me time

I began scheduling, yes I had to schedule, me time. I started with an hour in the evening where I completely disconnected and did something just for me. Not filling this time with things to check off my list.

At first I felt guilty. I should be using this hour to clean the bathroom, give the dogs a bath, research an article, call a friend, do laundry – anything but mindless, time wasting activities.

If I do not take care of my mental, physical and spiritual health what good am I for all other components of the equation? I needed the time that I gave to others, without it I could still do all things for all people but I was a worn down, exhausted hot mess.


I began forgiving myself for taking me time, for saying no and for mistakes. I am human and I provide forgiveness for others yet rarely for myself. This led me to the next step.

Treating myself as I do others

We encourage, support, love and appreciate the people in our life, so what if we started putting ourselves in that mix? What if you started treating yourself as you do all others in your life?

What if you started giving yourself pats on the back for a job well done? What if you told yourself that it is okay that you did not get everything checked off your list today? What if you told yourself that you did the best you could do and that is all anyone can do? What if you told yourself that you are amazing? What if you started complimenting, genuinely complimenting yourself? What if you stopped holding yourself to a higher standard, an impossible standard, and gave yourself support, empathy, encouragement and love?

Appreciation vs. Gratitude

Now I was starting to really get a life, and one I liked. Now my dogs started getting into the act.

Then I stopped looking at the didn’t haves and lack ofs and started focusing on what was right there in front of me and around me. I started the practice of appreciation rather than gratitude.

Gratitude is being thankful with an element of something not having happened yet. I am grateful for the balance of my bank account although it is not where I want it to be right now.

Appreciation is being thankful for that exact moment without regard to future needs or wants. I am appreciative for what is in my bank account right now. Period.

My dogs helped me learn appreciation. Every morning I sit outside watching them. It is the same yard, same trees, same grass, same flowers and same smells; but not to them. Every morning they bound out the door to discover the backyard world with fervor of discovering it for the first time.

I started approaching every one of my mornings the same way. Sitting outside with them I started with the little things: appreciation for the beautiful flowers in my yard, the birds playing and the dogs’ curiosity.

I really took notice of where I was sitting and gave appreciation for the deck that my family built and for the house that is my home. I gave appreciation for my clients, for the work I do, the conversations we have and how they inspire me.


If any nagging thoughts come in about not checking things off my list yesterday, I give myself a mulligan. I go back to forgiveness and the natural tendency to beat myself up and state out loud “Today is a new day” What can I do today?


I try to incorporate play into my day, every day. This gives me my greatest release: laughter. I play with my dogs, I play games that challenge me mentally trying to beat my score, I play loud music and dance while I clean.


Throughout the day I completely disconnect. I turn off the sound on everything from my phone to my email notifications. Even if it is for 15 minutes I completely disconnect. This allows me to become acutely aware of my current state. If I have become tense, in stillness I can identify it and release it. Meditation, deep breathing or exercise – whatever it takes to release it.

Time Stingy

I started saying no. I have the opportunity to fill my days to the brim with family, clients, networking, friends, new opportunities and more; however, I started being stingy with my time. I started putting me time on the priority list, as well as time for things that are important to me.

If this week is incredibly busy, then I schedule a couple hours devoted to my dogs. I take them each out on their own walk, I turn off the phone and I make sure I am absolutely present in that time. I schedule time to walk with the girls and make sure my time with them is all about them.

Implementing these things helped me build a better teeter-totter. I went from that stationary center point fulcrum into a fluid, growing, vibrant curve that extended to each side giving me control of a balance that works for me.


The Counterproductive Way to Reach Your Goal

The first real weekend of Spring.  I had visions of tilling the garden; building the fence and gate; mowing the yard; weeding the flowerbeds (how do weeds grow so much more quickly than flowers??) and preparing new flower beds.


Guess how much of this outdoor work I got done?


None. Nada.  Zip. Zilch.


The weekend took a whole new direction by late Friday and all outdoor plans were thrown out the window. 


I still had a wonderful weekend and spent it with family.  Always treasure that.


Yet there is that little part of me that, as of 9 am this morning looking out the window started to remind me of all that I wanted to get done and the to-do list I already had mapped out for this week now compounded on top of the weekend not-got-a-single-thing-done list.


The anxiety started to creep in.  I automatically looked at my calendar to see when I could try to squeeze all this in and the anxiety increased. 


That’s when my coach-mind spoke to my overanxious to-do-list-making mind:



It was the same voice that looked at my agenda this morning and was able to keep me in check.



Too often we put so much emphasis on achieving a goal, or completing a to-do list that we actually sabotage ourselves.



Failure to relax causes us to fail.  We need to stop trying so hard all the time.


There are 24 hours in the day.  We need a good chunk of this time to sleep.  We need other chunks to eat, groom, exercise or meditate, play, and relax.  If we try to squeeze every single moment out of every single day on one goal then we become seriously out of balance.


As does the goal.


It is heightened, we put more pressure on ourselves to achieve it and we completely loose proper focus and health attitudes.  It becomes a mission or obsession instead of a goal.  Have you ever seen anyone obsessed with anything?  It is not pretty.  Think screaming, crying, hysterical young teenage girls and the latest teeny bobber rock star.  It is downright frightening. 


There are a few things of high priority on my to-do list today.  There are also a number of things I would like to get done today, but need to get done the first part of the week.  I can look at this list and not freak out because I know I am not getting them all done today.  I am not sacrificing down time to kill myself to get it all done.  It puts more pressure on me and I am not able to give it my best.  That is not what my clients deserve.


So I wrote it all down and then I took a few minutes to relax.


So far I am almost half way done with my must do list.  So I took a break to write this blog, this is one way I relax.  Once I post it I will be more refreshed to finish up what I need to do.


I think I average it out to about five business priorities I can do a day at my best quality.  That is my frame of reference.  If I surprise myself and get through quicker than I think, then I can start on my would like to dos.  This gives me a little more time to sneak outside and do yard work.


If not, well, then I will do what I can in the time I budgeted for outside time. 


My point is on this Monday, just relax a little will you?  It will  all get done as long as you keep it in perspective and retain your balance. 


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



Spit It Out for Goodness Sakes…with Balance

theatre masksIt took me 40 years (give or take) to understand, identify and immerse myself in what I consider my calling. The pieces all came together and I see clearly how it is the perfect combination of my passions, strengths, challenges and dreams. It wasn’t an easy journey but, damn, it was worth it.

One of the biggest challenges was my directness or bluntness.

Throughout my career I had been “talked to” by managers and mentors about the greatness of my passion and dedication and the “need” to temper. In other words just because I was thinking it didn’t mean I needed to say it. Right or wrong, people don’t always want to hear the truth.

I struggled with that a lot. Isn’t truth supposed to set you free? When I was in compliance it was pretty black and white: you can do this, you can’t do that.

But I was continually being forced into a mold of saying it in a kinder, gentler, more guiding way that was more a manner of suggestion on what should be done, how it should be done or what I wanted.

I don’t really fit into molds. Ok, it is more of I bring a sledgehammer with me to the casting.

But that is the great thing – that directness is a key attribute to what I do now. I tell my clients I do not tell them what they want to hear, rather I tell them what then need to hear. I’m not their wife, I don’t have to stroke their ego – my job is their coach. I tell them what is in their best interest.

The delivery is depended upon the person, sometimes it is a matter of detailed explanation and sometimes it is a matter of full force blunt. Whatever delivery is going to be most effective and align with them because I get to know each one of my clients and how they best learn, grow and receive.

Often I hear that it is very refreshing for someone to be honest in order to help them. Their support system may be trying to gently hint instead of just coming out and telling them what they need to know.

There is a lot of gentle guidance during the job search process for job seekers: given to them and given by them.

When they are in interviews, negotiations or writing cover letters/resumes they try to gently guide the reader to what they want them to know.

Stop it.

Just Spit It Out

If you want something you have to say it. You have to let the other person know who you are, what you have to offer, what you want and what you are willing to do – period. Laying a frame work of little hints does not work. It isn’t enough to try to hint at it. I, personally, suck at hints.

What do you want?

Now, figure out how to say it. I spoke to a client last week about an email he wanted to send a prospective employer. It is in round two of interviews and he really, really wants this job. The original email had an inference in the email that could have been taken as he was still searching for other candidates and possibly not seeing my client in that role. My client was getting a little freaked and wrote an email that had something like: I will be the best employee you will ever have working harder than anyone else, blah, blah, blah.

I immediately told him no. First, you sound desperate. Stop. Second, you are applying for a management position; managers need to be confident leaders. There was no leadership or confidence in that response.

We crafted a response of appreciation for the communication (because it is rare as we all know in this day of job searching) and reiterated his interest in the position. We then addressed the ambiguous statement itself stating something like he was unclear as to what he meant. During the first interview a comment was made about his youth in leadership. So the next statement was a reaffirmation of his ability and tenure of leadership and consistency of results.

The response he got back sent him over the moon. The gentleman clarified that he is definitely interested in him for the management position, it is simply a matter of aligning calendars with the bigger boss and apologized for the miscommunication. The interview will be set for this week.


The balance is between the wishy-washy gentle guidance of hints and desperation.

That is when you need to muster courage. That’s right, dig deep, find that courage and if you have to fake the heck out of it. Be confident in your comments and delivery yet clear in your message. That is balance.

Let me be frank here, you have nothing to lose, so if you are going to do it do it right and give it all you have. Approach each opportunity as the golden opportunity that will not come again. Go for it.

If you do the wishy-washy and it doesn’t happen then you will be disappointed. It is like sending out an open invitation for anyone who wants to come over for pizza and movies to just come on over when in reality you really want to invite one person. You are hoping they see the invitation and invite themselves. They aren’t going to do that dummy.

You have to direct the invitation to the one you want. You have to be clear in your message and take that chance that they say no. What do you have to lose? Nothing. Remember, general invitations don’t work. People want to be wanted, not invite themselves. Seriously.

If someone is interested in you for a job don’t give them a lukewarm maybe interested back or crazy-person desperate I want this more than life itself. Tell them you appreciate their interest, you are very interested in the position, why and reiterate, briefly, why you are the best fit.

Bottom line: if you don’t tell them how are they supposed to know?

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

“How Do I Know if I Need Help?” – You Do.

I have had several people ask me this relating to resumes, networking or interviewing and my answer is always, “Yes, you do.” If you think you might then odds are you do. Normally it is a nagging feeling or doubt that makes you wonder this in the first place. Many would call it a gut feeling and if it is nagging you than there is probably a reason.

I have that feeling about a lot of things. The IT side of my business or marketing are two examples of areas where I might think to myself, “I’m doing a pretty good job, but I wonder if I need help…” The answer is yes. Of course I do, I am not an IT or Marketing expert. Why would I think that I could do it better than people who this is their life’s calling?

Yes, I said calling. You see, I prefer to work with people who are passionate. Their primary reason for being in the business they are in is because they love it, they are good at it and it is truly what they want to do. There are many who are wonderful at marketing, but I sense right away that their passion stems not from a love of what they do, but a love of growing their bank account. I prefer not to work with them. No offense, it is a personal decision. I want someone who is going to take my concerns and needs personally.

I am not faulting anyone for trying to make a good living. I am doing the same thing so it is not the pot calling the kettle black. Actually, I had an interesting lesson last month. I believe that we all learn lessons throughout out life and the important ones are tested now and again to make sure we got it and stick to it. I had my test last month.

I had the opportunity to really have a great pay month, the problem was, I was working 16 hours a day, skipped too many work-outs and meditations and did not eat or sleep well. I was all consumed with deadlines. I could do very, very well for myself if I had chosen to continue that path, but my personal health and happiness, and sanity, were worth far more than any paycheck. So I chose balance. I reminded myself what I was willing to do, sacrifice and enjoy to life the life that I want.

Part of living the life that I want is to stop stressing over the things that I know I need help with and just go get the help. I’ll be talking to IT and Marketing gurus until I find the right one for me. I have asked myself the question, “I wonder if I need help” and knew immediately the answer was yes. Sure, I could put in the research and effort to maybe find out the things they know, but my time is better served doing what I do best and using my expertise to help others, not figure out my IT issues.

Value yourself, value your time and treat yourself to hiring an expert when it calls for it. It may cost a bit up front, but your sanity, health, and peace of mind are worth more than any fee they might charge.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

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