Work With What You’ve Got

Going outside your comfort zone can be overwhelming.  Even if the step you are taking is a tiny one, it can still cause quite a bit of anxiety.


I was asked to give a four-minute talk at a networking event called Sparks.  It is a similar format as the TED Talks with two four-minute presenters and a ten-minute presenter.  The talks are focused on ideas worth sharing – not about promoting your business. 


This would not seem like a problem for me, as I am a talker.  I love facilitating workshops and speaking so I was thrilled to present.  It also let me be creative in what I wanted to talk about.  I’m a creative person so again, this shouldn’t have been an issue.


I chose to talk about gratitude and for the metaphors use one thing I love: dogs.


It is all sounding good and I was getting excited.


But here is the thing: I wanted it to be good and what I found was I was running over on my time.


If that were to happen I would immediately be clapped off the stage – so it is a strict four minutes.


Now the anxiety started creeping in, it was getting out of my comfort zone because I was not able to control all the factors. 


Do I trim the talk to make it fit but loose some of the punch?

Do I start over thinking of a new angle but loose the excitement of what I want to use?

Do I adjust my talking speed in the middle to account for the timing?




That’s it!


I realized that there is no way that I could really say what I wanted, in the format and flow that I wanted in a “normal” way in four minutes so what I needed to do what use one of my other talents – the ability to talk really fast.


If I sped up in the middle of my talk the cadence would throw people off and possibly loose them.  But if I started and stayed at high speed it would be consistent and just might work.


People can listen to fast talking and get what is said.


The result – about an eight minute talk in four minutes that was very well received.  Oh sure, the speed talking was entertaining, but people also got the message; they heard it, they understood it and hopefully someone got it.


This experience reminded me of a line of thinking that I believe my dad instilled in me: use what you’ve got.


I was a short kid, a skinny kid and a girl.  I was also a tomboy so all the prior qualities were kind of detriments to that.  But he taught me to use what I’ve got to do what I want.  No excuses, just alternatives.


Instead of looking at a problem or goal and thinking about how you cannot accomplish it because you lack certain things, he taught me to look at it and figure out how I am going to succeed based on what I have or know.


Whether you are stuck in a situation, take a step back and think about using what you’ve got to solve the problem.  You may not have the education that a company is looking for in hiring for a position, but maybe you have the experience or life skills that compensate or outshine that diploma.  Use what you’ve got.


And use it to your advantage.


Here is a link to the video of the talk, I hope you enjoy it.



Lisa K McDonald – Gratitude: Three Legged Dogs and Piles of Poop



I think my dad would have, but he certainly would not have been surprised by the speed talking.  He got used to that many years ago.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


Thanksgiving is Over – Does This Mean No More Daily Gratitude?

daily gratitudeFacebook can be such a fun thing – a place to share pictures of your family (two and four legged), funny stories, interesting news tidbits and the occasional lists.  A tradition, it seems, is for the month of November for you to post every day something you are grateful for.


I watched closely this month out of curiosity and trying not to have a hypothesis proven.  Unfortunately, it was.


The month started with the robust proclamations of gratitude for God and Family.  They posts were really lovely and heart felt.


During week two we started to see some cracks in the wall, people having to make up because they forgot to post the day before.


Week three it seemed to be getting to a stretch people trying to put down something “meaningful” to be thankful for.  My favorites were my friends who were completely themselves and thankful for what others might have thought as silly or meaningless.  Thanks is thanks.


Week four it was a sad dwindle; only a fraction of those who started had completed this “task”.   Yes, task, because unfortunately it seemed that maybe it felt like a task there at the end.


Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all about gratitude.  But more importantly for myself I am more about putting the “hey that’s a great idea” into practice.  I took a different approach several months ago because I wanted to take it to another level.


You have all heard the inspirational quotes and mantras what you praise grows, happy people aren’t grateful/grateful people are happy etc.  I wanted to take that initial feel good and see how far I could take it.


I’m a list maker anyway, so on my daily To-Do list I made a small change: I added a Gratitude section.  Right there on the top of the page.  The night before I add to the next days to-dos but leave this part blank so first thing in the morning before I start my day I write down three things I am grateful for.  Yes, three.  I wanted to really stretch myself.


At first it was easy: my son, my family, my friends but I stretched it out: I listed them out individually.


Then it started getting a little harder.  Why?  Because I was putting some expectation on myself that no where in any of those happy positive inspirational quotes or mantras does it give rules.  But I had imposed rules.


I thought that my gratitude should have meaning, big meaning:  Thankful for my freedom, my family, my faith – things like that.  I couldn’t possibly put down that I was thankful for finding a new scent for my wax burner.  That seems silly, insignificant and well, unworthy.


How could God or the Universe bless me with more to be grateful for if I wasn’t appropriately thankful?


About a month into the daily gratitude it hit me – I was being an idiot.


Gratitude isn’t a competition sport.  It was a feeling.  And your feelings are not wrong – they are yours. Period.


So I started putting down the “silly” things: the scents, the sale on fresh asparagus, the new recipe for avocado/black olive salad, my friendly mail carrier, finding a five in the pocket of my jeans the night before.


I also started putting down characteristics in those I love that I was grateful for: the playfulness of my big puppy, the sometimes irritating way the little dog noses her way up on my office chair to take a nap while I am working, my son’s humor, my best friend’s grace – things I admired and were lucky enough to experience.


I start my day out this way for another purpose: sometimes I need a reminder.  Sometimes my day seems to turn into a black hole of crap that I can then look over at my overwhelming to do list and see three things that I recognized in the morning and it helps.  It helps me give myself a little kick in the butt to stop being so negative and suck it up.


You know most of my blogs come back around to job searching or business building – so here is the tie-in: start making your own list for yourself.


When trying to get hired by the right company or the right client we tend to focus on the bigger things and only the big things.  When we come to a lull in progress we tend to get a little down on ourselves or the situation.  This is when you need the list the most.


You have more to offer than just your big ticket items.  Beyond the expertise, length of experience or job title: you have your personal qualities.  The little things that make you – you.


If you think making a gratitude list every day is hard try making a self-appreciation list.  At first you are not going to like me too much for this.  But hang in there.


Every day start off by writing three things you appreciate about yourself.  Yes – make it all about you.  Step out of that comfy little box and give yourself some love.


That is going to be the hardest part because we are not used to doing it.  Especially women.  We really suck at it.  I tell all my female clients I get it, as a woman we are used to putting everyone on top of the list: first our family, friends, community, job, home…and somewhere at the bottom of the list, behind the dogs is our name.


I have four dogs, I was way down there.


Do it anyway.


Be uncomfortable.


You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t even have to tell anyone you are doing it.  If you have an amazingly supportive spouse or best friend you might want to tell them so they can help you identify some things to get you going, but that is up to you.


Write the darn list.


Give yourself permission to recognize and appreciate you, your qualities and your attributes.


Then here is something that will start to happen.  You will start to see a connection there with those big ticket items and it will give you an additional layer to add when talking to those prospective companies or clients.


When you discuss your expertise you can add a layer of how you do what you do and now that you have full appreciation for the details of how you do it you will be speaking for a place of excitement, admiration or love.


Let’s give an example to help with this.


I am an analytical person, no, let me rephrase that – I am a very over-analytical, research the hell out of it, break it down, dissect it gotta know all the details or death kind of girl.


At first blush it doesn’t sound like a positive, right?


But it is.  I have come to love this quality about myself.  Here are some things I could say on my Self Appreciation List:


  1. I love the fact that I have been called “a dog with a bone” when there is a problem to solve.
  2. I love the part of me that is so inquisitive that I keep digging to find out all that I can.
  3. I love the fact that I won’t settle for surface information.
  4. I love that this is a quirk about me – it makes me unique.
  5. I love it when I get so involved in it that my best friend has to say things like, “sweetie – you really don’t have to know every single detail about this, it was just a thought.”
  6. I love the fact that I still get excited to learn new things.
  7. I love the fact that I feel brave in reaching out to ask people to help me understand and I have grown up enough to realize that ignorance is curable, stupidity is not.
  8. I love the fact that I have a best friend that supports me in my ridiculous efforts and lets me share with her what I found out.
  9. I love the fact that I can take a mountain of information from digging and then put it into a simple way to understand when explaining it to her.


Now, if I were job searching or networking in my old playing field of compliance in the financial industry I would definitely use these things to support and sell my expertise.


In talking about rules, regulations or compliance requirements I would add in that in working with my brokers I don’t just tell them this is what needs to be done because the Fed said so because I am a very analytical and communicative person.  I personally want to know the whys so I can them work with them in incorporating the new regulation in a way that makes sense to them, doesn’t detract from their business and allows me to protect and serve them better because I have all the behind the scenes “whys” to make the “have to-s” possible.


Sounds a lot better than: “I’m good at compliance – I have a decade of experience in it and hold five series license and two insurance licenses.”


Not only will you gain a greater appreciation for yourself, but you will have solid, positive examples of how you do it better than anyone else.


In the end, isn’t that what you are trying to sell to the prospective employer or client?



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


I’m Not Done

I love my clients; every single one has a uniqueness and amazing quality that just makes me feel so fortunate that they have allowed me to assist them in some way along their journey.


This morning I had an interviewing coaching session with a client and in discussing various approaches, answers and his history I told him that he could summarize his mantra with “I’m not done.”  He absolutely epitomizes this sentiment.  At 55 he earned his Masters and at 60 he is earning an advanced Human Resource designation.  He truly feels he is never done learning, growing and taking challenges.


He inspires me and as soon as the mantra crossed my lips I knew it was something to strive for personally.


In reality none of us are really ever done.


I’m not done learning – I can always learn more about my craft, my interests, my loved ones.

I’m not done growing – except physically.  I peaked at height at the third grade I believe and well, that’s just not going to change.

I’m not done giving – I can still give more to my clients, to my business partners, to those I love and my community.

I’m not done forgiving – myself and others which will allow more room for more positive to come!

I’m not done laughing – I will never be done laughing.  If I do not in my loud, kinda weird laugh at least once a day someone better check my pulse.

I’m not done admiring – other people, the beauty in the every day, the world around me.

I’m not done loving – I try at every possible opportunity to let those I love know how much I value, appreciate, love and respect them, but there are always more opportunities.

I’m not done trying – to reach my goals, to improve my skills, to break my barriers, to challenge myself.

I’m not done risking – taking chances, trying new things, opening up to failure or heartache because as long as I keep trying I keep growing, receiving and learning.

I’m not done thanking – not only thanking those in my life for their love and support but being thankful for my life, what is in it, what opportunities lie ahead and the tremendous beauty of it.



I’m just not done.


Are you?



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

So I’m an Optimist – Bite Me.

I choose to be an optimist and I also choose to stop apologizing for it. My best friend Jackie and I had a conversation yesterday about growing up. We concluded that she is, in fact, adopted and I grew up with a very naive view of the world. I think that growing up thinking that everything was just as it seemed and everyone did things because their reasons were just and has really shaped who I am. We are optimists in a world of pessimists and we’re done apologizing for it.

The older I get the more I am not only okay with this, but very comfortable with it. When my ex-husband and I would talk about things that I wanted he would tell me some things could not happen and I would always ask “Why not?” His response was something to the effect that that’s not how the world worked. But… why not? Who made this way-the-world-works rule and why can’t it be changed? Maybe it just takes a few optimists to embrace their own world so let’s all stand proud. Accept ourselves and start asking why not and stop, for crying out loud, apologizing for how we are!

Today has been a crappy day, I will admit, however; I still choose to see the positive. I honestly have every right in the world to be upset, disappointed and angry but guess what, that’s not going to change anything. I think the normal path would be to behave or relish in those things, but remember, I am an optimist.

Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, it happens, so do not beat yourself up over it. The most important step is to decide how you will respond. Your spouse left, you lost your job, you didn’t get the promotion, your car broke down, your family disappointed you, you aren’t sure if you’re going to be able to pay the mortgage – life events. And they suck, no doubt. But guess what, the worse is over because you know what you are facing. Now how are you going to face it?

I think the status quo is the woe-is-me tunnel vision negative view. Take one incident and it consumes your whole day, week, life, identity. But try being grateful. When you get that sucky news take a moment to ingest it then stop. Stop and look around at exactly where you are and what is around you and find the good. Find the blessings and things to be appreciative for that is around you right now. For example, I am sitting in my office with three of the five dogs. The big boys are off playing somewhere.

Brutus is sleeping in the last bit of sunshine spilling onto the floor, Lexi is sleeping in the rocking chair and Micki is sleeping under the desk. My office is a bright green with white and purple accents and I love it, it is bright and energetic; the sun is shining outside, coming in on the three violets in the windowsill. I have India Arie and Norah Jones playing on my Ipod and the room is filled with the scent from my favorite candle. I am healthy and have all my senses, I can enjoy each and every sight and sound around me. I am so very fortunate that I am here in this moment able to see, appreciate and enjoy the beautiful things around me right now.

The day still sucked but now recognizing the things that are around me right now and having a best friend that told me to get off my butt and get my work done helps put things into perspective.

I cannot change today’s news but I can control how it affects me. For anyone telling me that I am being “too rosy” or unrealistic I say “Bite me”. Unpleasant events in life are going to happen and they help define who you are as a person. I can honestly look back and be grateful for the experience because it has helped shape me into the person I am today, and optimist and damn proud of it!

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.