Finding my “Wai” in Thailand

My husband and I just returned from a ridiculously amazing trip to Thailand as a reward for my work with Rodan + Fields this past year. On the trip, amongst all the fun we had, I learned a few important lessons from the Thai culture that will continue to influence the way I think about business and life:

1) Invest in people with small gestures of gratitude

I learned in Thailand that it’s not the big stuff that matters; it’s the little things. There, they show gratitude and respect by placing their hands together in a prayer symbol called a Wai (pronounced “why”). Whether it was hotel staff, market vendors, or elephant handlers, they would stop everything they were doing to Wai when we would interact. And always with a smile. Most Americans would be too busy, too engrossed in their cell phone entertainment, or just downright oblivious to make such a simple gesture, yet they did it consistently at every appropriate chance, and it never ceased to make me feel extremely special and appreciated! Couldn’t we all improve the way we treat those around us with a simple gesture here or there to go above and beyond? I guarantee, the recipient will remember your investment in them.

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2) Happy has nothing to do with how much money you have

Our first day in Thailand was spent touring the famous canals of Bangkok. The people we saw on the river banks lived in modest shanty homes with very few possessions, they bathe and fish from a polluted and dirty river, and they live day to day barely knowing where their next meal may come from. In the US, people in this state of living would be devastated and anxious about their future.   Yet, these people were seemingly unphased. As we floated by with stunned faces at their living conditions, they were smiling, waving, and fully enjoying themselves. It was wonderful to see that the Thai people disassociate a relationship between happiness and money. They simply don’t have to affect one another. And they prove that you most certainly CAN be happy without money. Another great lesson for us Americans.

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 3) Everyone can find fulfillment through giving

The final lesson I learned in Thailand is one I’ve always known in my heart, but it was beautiful to see it in action in another culture. In Thailand, children learn from a very young age, that no matter how little they possess, it is important to give some of it away to people less fortunate. As a result, our tour guide informed us that the wealthy people in Thailand feel a social responsibility to take care of the poor. This basic building block to the way people live and give in Thailand, I would argue provides a much more attuned social awareness than we have in the United States. It was admirable and something I was very eager to bring home and share with my own children. Overall, our trip to Thailand confirmed what I’ve always known: In the end, the mark we leave on this world has nothing to do with how much we have, but everything to do with what we give back.

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A Milpreneur’s Day on The Today Show

Click Here for the TODAY Show Segment!

It was like any other Tuesday, until my company’s PR department sent an email that began with this: “The producer at the Today Show is interested in including you in the segment he is putting together about Rodan + Fields.” Whaaat? Me??? Wahooo!!! Immediately, my mind began racing. What will they ask? What do I wear? Do I need to wax my eyebrows? Will I sound good? Holy crap! And most importantly, why me?

I later learned the reason I was asked had to do with the fact that I am a military spouse and veteran entrepreneur. I literally had to catch my breath, because this was a story I had been yearning to tell for so.many.years! Not because my story is any more impressive or interesting than the next, but I was excited because I had been waiting for where I could shout from the mountaintops that I had found a way to have my cake and eat it too as a military veteran, spouse and mother; entrepreneurship!!

The interview process began with a telephone interview with both a Today Show producer and correspondent to do a quick introduction and to cover some of the basics. They asked about my team, my day-to-day activities, and me so we could accurately portray the story. Next, they gave me the upcoming filming day and time.

And so commenced the ridiculous hours of cleaning, primping, festering and practicing. I rehearsed the company information and facts and made sure any question could roll off my tongue with ease. More importantly, I continually reminded myself of the women who might see this segment and prayed that I could convey just how spectacular the idea of entrepreneurism had been for me. Not just as a money-making venture, but as a way of keeping sanity during the long deployments, as a way of finding my own mojo again by achieving my own goals, and as a way of helping other women discover the power that lies within them!

On the big day, the plan was to send the kids to school, and then head to my hairdresser for a relaxing morning of getting primped to look my best on camera. The filming would commence at 1 PM since they would just be traveling in from NYC and the kids would arrive home for their part at 3:30. After the kids got their spot on camera, we’d wrap up the shoot. As I’m sure is common in the TV news world, things did not turn out quite as beautifully as my Type-A self was expecting. Instead, I got a call early the morning of the “big day” saying that my kids’ school was cancelled due to 4-8” of snow. Great! Ok, but the show must go on, right?! I could handle it. The next call was from the producer himself saying that he and the commentator wouldn’t be making the drive from New York due to the snow. But the producer said that the camera and sound team would still come and he would do the interview by phone. In my head, I’m trying to stay cool and collected and told myself, “Ok, seems doable.” I was rolling with the punches, folks, like a good military spouse does! Oh, and to add to the fun, they would now be there at 10:30 am, about 2 and a half hours earlier than before. Alrighty, then…..I had to get moving!

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I have to chuckle as I think back on it now. As inconvenient and stressful as this last-minute jostling of the schedule might have been, it was so poetic, because life as a military spouse is a constant stream of curve-balls and it would be silly to think that this day would be any different.

With lightening cat-like reflexes, sharpened by years of single-handedly tackling crises as a military spouse, I jumped to action! After a quick shower, I called the hair/makeup team to update them on the day and got my kids clean and ready for the new schedule. By 10 AM, everyone in our house was dressed and ready and the primping commenced! The camera crew began setting up while my hair and makeup wizards put the finishing touches on and somehow we began right on time.

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The next hour and a half of questioning was a bit of a blur. I tried to seem relaxed (but I wasn’t), I tried to ignore my kids peering over the railing watching and giggling at my TV persona, I tried to tune out the 13-yr old family dog that begged to relieve himself every 5 minutes, and I tried to make sure I got in all the things I wanted to say in my interview. I made it through unscathed, despite a few tricky questions, but honestly I can’t remember much of what I said. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, and it probably didn’t come out exactly as I had planned. I may cringe a time or two during the segment when it airs, but really, as a mom and a Milpreneur, who should ever expect things to go perfectly? When you really think about it, the beauty of a story like mine is that it’s not about perfection. Neither my crazy military life or my business will ever be perfect, but what we are is a perfect fit! In my line of online business, I can run my operations around the very imperfect moments of motherhood, military moves, family, and dogs that have to pee! And the point isn’t that things always go flawlessly, the point is that I’m there. I’m home for each and every crisis life throws at us–every disaster, every barfing kid, every doggy accident and every homework assignment. And I’m there for every momentous occasion—kids’ choir performances, putting the finishing touches on a shoe-box diorama for school, and even interviews for the Today Show.

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At the very least, I hope my story proves that YOU, the woman next door; a mom, a wife or a military spouse can be business owner too! Despite what your fears, doubts, societal stereotypes and naysayers may want you to think, you HAVE what it takes to be successful beyond your wildest dreams and you should go for it! Challenge yourself to dust off the hair-brained idea or unique talent that you put on the shelf years ago due to kids, age, circumstances or lack of confidence! It may be just the thing the world has been waiting for! And, four years from now, you just never know– your hair-brained idea could become something the Today Show might want to hear about!

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Watch Jen On The Today Show

Why Cinderella is a MUST SEE for Entrepreneurs!!

Once upon a time….

My kids looked over and caught me crying about 5 times….

Yep, I’m THAT Mom.

The new Cinderella movie had been on my kids “to do” list since the previews started months ago.  Since it was opening weekend this past weekend, we decided to go!  I was fully expecting for it to be an over-the-top depiction of the age-old story.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not only wonderful for young kids, it also had great application to me as an entrepreneur!  I found so many parallels to my business….here are just a few:

1.  We All Start With a Fairytale Idea

Don’t we all have a rosy picture in our mind when we start our businesses?  We’ll work hard, people will want what we offer and the world will be a better place because of our amazing business concept!  Just like Cinderella’s family is the picture of perfection in the beginning of the movie, most entrepreneurs have an idealistic picture of what they want their “fairytale ending” to look like.

2.  Setbacks Happen

And then reality sets in.  Cinderella’s parents die and her evil stepmother and sisters move in.  Even though she works harder and harder with the best of intentions, Cinderella still finds herself as a slave in her own home.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  How many entrepreneurs could say the same thing?  No sleep, working round the clock, and burning the candle at both ends to keep up with the never-ending hamster wheel of work in order to achieve the beautiful life they envision?  Despite vision and drive, it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to have Cinderella moments where they can become slaves to their own businesses.

3.  Emotions Are a Part of the Process

That kind of passion and servitude can sometimes bring out the water works.  Several times throughout the movie, I looked over at my tenderhearted son, and saw giant tears rolling down his cheeks–both for the happy and sad parts.  (Of course, I was sobbing right along with him).  And I couldn’t help but think of how many times I’ve ridden the rollercoaster of emotions in my business as well.  There are days where you feel like nothing can stop you as you work on Could 9, and there are other times where you get stuck at what seem like insurmountable roadblocks that cause frustration, fear, and at times, tears.  But here is thing.  The emotions are what make the journey as vivid and as memorable as a Disney picture.  Sure, there are highs and lows, but it’s all because of the deep passion you have for your product or service.  And without the emotions behind the tears, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting a ride.

4. Your Values are Tested

Before she died, Cinderella’s mother reminded her to “have courage and be kind.”  Despite being treated poorly and losing so much, Cinderella remained steadfast to her mother’s advice. Eventually, her commitment to those values would lead her to her happy ending.  And in the everyday grind, we as business owners inevitably will also encounter situations where we feel the tug to stray from our values.  It might be the lure of a new strategy here, a quick fix there, an unethical offer under the table, etc.  The slippery slope can be tempting and often easier.  But if you stick to the values that ring true for you, you’ll find yourself in a better place.  Have courage and be kind to yourself by always keeping your compass pointed at true north.

5.  Who is Your Fairy Godmother?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t any wand-waving fairies in business (at least my kind of business)!  But we all have them in our lives.  Just like in the movie, they may be disguised as bosses, colleagues, friends or neighbors, but they hold power, nonetheless.  Our fairy godmothers are mentors that can pick us up and dust us off when needed.  They are there in our lowest moments when we have self-doubt and we think there is absolutely no way to make magic happen in time for our royal opportunity.  They offer us a piece of advice, a pat on the back or some necessary tools to get the job done, but they are all around us if we stop and make time to look for them.

6.  Does The Glass Slipper Fit?

The story of the glass slipper is such a great analogy for the evolution of a business.  As business owners, sometimes we want something (a certain business model, strategy, idea) to fit so much that we twist, and we push and we grind our way into the shoe.  But the second we stop worrying about all the exterior issues; what people think, how do I compare to the next girl, what is the secret sauce, etc., things can change.  Redefine your inner Cinderella, who is focused on working hard, helping everyone, and finding the good in the world, and you’ll probably see that the shoe fits effortlessly, as it should.

7.  Happily ever after is possible!

In real life, no business will ever be flawless or beautiful every single day.  But if you believe; in yourself, in your true love for your mission, and in the good in the world, there is no reason you too, can’t achieve your “your happily ever after.”  So get out there and show the world what you’ve got!  Have courage, be kind, and believe….your Cinderella story can’t wait to unfold!

The Oscar Goes to…The Real-Life Wives of ‘American Sniper(s)’

It was a Friday night like any other at the local movie theater. The difference was that Kevin and I had extra motivation to arrive early because the movie was a true military story with ties to people we knew. And good thing we arrived early, because the seats were filled nearly 30 minutes before the movie began. We ended up in the front section looking straight up at the screen, but neither of us complained. At least we got seats!

For 2 hours, neither of us moved as the true story of Chris Kyle mesmerized the completely packed theater. As the movie progressed, Kyle’s real-life heroics and difficulties made for one of the most compelling combat movies I’ve ever seen. Even more importantly, the movie did a great job of depicting the aftermath his wife and family felt after his 4 deployments as Kyle bravely battled the effects of PTSD. As the movie concluded on the tragic note of Kyle’s death, I remember feeling absolutely numb as the credits began to roll by. As a fellow military member and spouse, I thought I would have experienced tears, or anger, or sadness. But instead I just sat there in silence….paralyzed and unable to coherently think or feel anything. What was even more shocking was the rest of the theater sat quiet and motionless as well. It was something I had never witnessed before; complete and utter silence in a room packed with people. And I can guarantee that it was a feeling that anyone who attended the movie will never forget.

This room full of silent movie-goers had just gotten a taste of the lessons many military members and families know all too well; teamwork, patriotism, selflessness, and sacrifice. One might argue military members and Navy SEALs know these hardships accompany a chosen life of combat on the front lines. But what ‘American Sniper’ truly brought to life was the reality that military families don’t get a choice in so many other aspects of combat. As depicted in the movie, they faithfully endure a laundry list of challenges that most often, nobody could anticipate.

As we neared the exit of the theater, my emotions returned in full with nearly uncontrollable tears as I thought about Taya Kyle and the fact that at the conclusion of the movie, a long road lay ahead for her as she entered a battlefield of her own……single-mother, legal decision-maker, sudden public figure and broken-hearted widow. How does any military spouse in a situation like this keep it all together? How do you survive? Is there any way to be ready?

Thankfully, for Taya Kyle, the wives of Navy SEALs are one of the closest-knit groups of women in the military community. Given the dangerous nature of their husbands’ jobs, they are conditioned to rally around crisis, they support each other through inevitable hard times, and they stand together no matter what. I can only imagine that the support network of the SEAL wives, undoubtedly had to have been comforting for the Kyle family as they recovered from their devastation.

But, what about the rest of the military spouse community? Given the same situation, would my friends be equipped to pick up the pieces as gracefully as Taya? Would they be okay emotionally? Would they have the financial means to support their family? What if they gave up college or careers for the military life? Would they be ready? Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to admit, in a lot of situations, the answer is no.

Military spouses are accustomed to sacrifice. Often they trade careers and dreams to be the bedrock for their military family, providing the stability needed in an ever-changing and stressful environment. Many military spouses think it is an either/or decision between having a career or staying devoted to the family. But, is there another way? The reality is that in today’s world, military benefits like healthcare and retirement may not be a sure thing forever, PTSD touches many military families, and more and more families are in need of a second income. Could we do a better job of developing military spouses as individuals to have skills and abilities independent of their military member? As sad as it is, on any given day, any one of us could be in Taya’s shoes. I would hope any spouse’s support network would be as good as the SEALs to support her emotionally, but I think it is time we become even more passionate to encourage military spouses to pursue their education and career goals. Whether it is going back to school to finish up a degree, maintaining a certification they may have put on the back burner, or starting a business to share their talents with others, I have never felt more strongly that the movement for military spouse development should become a top priority.

American Sniper is a 6-time Oscar nominee (including Best Picture), and I can’t help but hope that the film wins them all. Not because of amazing actors, directors, writers or music scores. I hope it wins because it touched us all and its depiction of a military family is real. And in reality, military life is hard. It’s filled with countless sacrifices, relentless dedication, and even death. But emerging from these sad realities are beautiful stories of resilience, unfathomable strength, and new discoveries about the depth of the human soul. My prayer is that we can all be as prepared and poised for our uncertain futures as Taya Kyle. And tonight, regardless of all the Hollywood glitz and glam, in my eyes the true red carpet recognition goes to Taya and the many military spouses she represents.

For Once I’m Loving Wrinkles!

Christmas DressAs I was reflecting on the year while writing our annual Christmas letter (this year we embraced the obvious and made it a play on National Lampoons), I found myself chuckling that two of my most
treasured experiences in the past year involved a very unlikely group of people; seniors!

The first experience began as I was getting my daughter into a Daisy troop so she could meet some friends when we arrived in New Jersey (and for me to meet some too). While on a field trip, another Mom (we’ll call her K) and I were lamenting the fact that neither of us exercised as much as we would like, despite the fact that we both have YMCA memberships. So we agreed that we would attend a class together. Later in the week, K texts me, “Let’s go to Zumba!” I cringe (because I’m THAT girl in a Zumba class), but I reluctantly agree and tell her I’ll meet her there on that Friday.

So, picture this:  On the day we meet up, I show up to class just in the knick of time and pop into the Zumba studio doing my best to play the part, wearing Zumba-like gear, my hair pulled back and pumping myself up, only to find that this class is not just any Zumba class…….it is…. ZUMBA GOLD (which is advertised for older adults with limited capabilities). And besides K and I, the entire room is at least 30 years our senior and all have white hair!  The music begins pumping, and I’m surrounded by crazy, cat-calling women in their late 60s and 70s who like to “shake it” and my friend and I are swept into the class (they even shook it to Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass)!!   As is always the case in Zumba classes, the  instructor is an adorable Latina who mesmerizes you and makes you hate her (because her hips do things yours will never do) all the the same time. So, for an hour, the ladies and I danced our booties off (to the degree that I can). I forgot all about the day, the work I needed to get done, my anxiety about my husband being gone for 3 months, and just ENJOYED MY SENIOR DANCING ZUMBA BUDDIES!  I seriously think it was the highlight of my week!  I have since returned and have found these ladies to be some of the neatest and most carefree bunch.  They give me hope that I may one day be as confident, uninhibited and in love with life as them.  And I think we are a match made in heaven because I get to help them age beautifully with my skincare business!

Coincidentally, I have also been volunteering at our local Thrift Shop and enjoying the company of some pretty amazing seniors there too.  They have their operation down to a science that surprisingly involves NO technology.  Though they are very capable, I have enjoyed introducing them to social media platforms to help them gain a bit of an online presence.  I don’t think I’ve seen ladies get more excited than when they reported to me last week that they have 133 followers on Facebook!  I swear, it’s the simple things like this that feed my soul.  So, if you want to really give them a New Year’s surprise (because chances are good they won’t check til then :)), go like their Facebook page at: Moorestown Friends School Thrift Shop.  Needless to say, I have enjoyed my “senior moments” this year and feel like my life has been blessed in new ways because of them.

The moral of the story: In our crazy military life and with all our frequent moves, we get the chance to meet all types of people.  The best part is that no matter who it is, and how unsuspecting they may be, they can provide you invaluable lessons for life!  So I encourage you to hug an older person in your life, and thank them for providing you with their wisdom, perspective, and zest for life!  I have definitely seen firsthand this year that some things are better with age!!

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Bringing Home Service For The Holidays

As our family prepares for the upcoming holidays, I always challenge myself to keep ahead of the increasing commercialism of the season.  Between the Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas toy guides that seem to appear after Halloween, and even the advertising within the Macy’s Day parade, I feel that my kids are bombarded with things that encourage them to think only about, “Me, me, me!”  So this year, I have made an extra effort to incorporate some of the tenants of military service, like giving, service before self, and sacrifice, more resolutely during the holiday season to keep the true spirit of the season at the forefront of our family’s mind.

When I thought more about this, I set a goal to find several ways in which I could turn holiday conversations around our house from “What I want for Christmas” and “I hope I get….”  to “Where can I help?” and “What can I do?”  Once I put my thinking cap on I found several good ideas:

  • Heifer International: This organization was not new discovery for me.  My Mom and the church I grew up in as a child were big supporters of this effort on an annual basis.  Although I didn’t remember the exact details, I remember people making it a major priority every year to support Heifer projects.  As I revisited their website, I found that Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.  An excerpt from their site summarizes their efforts:
    • “We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.  When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.”
    • Heifer provides a catalog each year of possible animals to purchase at every price level.  They have everything from bees, to bunnies, to water buffalos and it quickly became a hit with my kids—it’s already become the most popular Christmas catalog in the house.  It is a fun and easy replacement to the toy catalogs that easily find their way into your kids’ possession.  This is a perfect option to replace their infatuation for toys with a desire to find the perfect animal to donate to a community in need.
  • The Pointsettia Project: Every year at Halloween, our family gets “Booed.”  You may be familiar with this concept–a mysterious friend puts a basket or bag of random, fun, Halloween candy and treats on a doorstep with no sign of who left it other than the “You’ve been Booed” poster that accompanies the package.  Once you have been “Booed,” you are then encouraged to pass on the fun to another family within a short period of time.  Using this same logic, my daughter and I picked up a slew of $0.99 poinsettias at Lowe’s this year on Black Friday and came up with a plan to covertly deliver poinsettias to friends’ houses with the accompanying letter that tells the story of the Legend of the Pointsettia.  We had so much fun and it only took a couple hours from start to finish to spread the good cheer, but it made us both feel wonderful for days!  We even picked up a few extras for my husband’s secretary, and other key co-workers.  We figured the Pointsettia Project can work for just about anyone!  You can find the “Legend of the Pointsettia” here: http://www.just4kidsmagazine.com/poinsettia.html.
  • Pay it Forward: Another easy way to show your kids the spirit of giving this holiday season is to allow them to pay it forward to people at locations you frequent.  The possibilities of how you can do this with your kids are endless.  Some convenient places include Starbucks, the grocery store, the post office, or through donations in the mail.  You can do it by either paying for the bill of the person behind you, whether it is a drink, groceries, etc.  Or, in the case of sending a donation through the mail, you put your allotted amount of money in the envelope with a note that says, “The gift of giving is priceless!  Please use this money to pay it forward to a deserving person this Christmas season.  There are no rules on how you do it, just that you warm someone’s heart with your thoughtfulness.”
    • This exercise is not as much about the actual donations as it is about the spirit of service felt when you go the extra mile to pay it forward to someone you may not even know.  It truly warms the hearts of everyone involved.
  • Send Holiday Cards to Troops: As military children, my kids know that not all Moms and Dads are able to be home with their families during birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  So one easy way to keep our deployed troops in mind during Christmas is to put your kids’ art or authoring skills to work and create cards, books or letters to send overseas.  Operation Gratitude is an organization that sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.  This is a great way to lift the spirits and say “Thank You” to members of our Military.
  • Let Your Kids Decide: After talking with my kids about all of the aforementioned ideas, it was heartwarming to hear my daughter come up with her own idea.  As we were driving to get poinsettias, out of the blue, she states, “Mom, it’s really cold outside.  Maybe we should buy some blankets to keep people warm who need them.  And maybe other kids would like to buy them too!”  What a brilliant idea?!  And it was exactly the mindset I was hoping to achieve this season.  We discussed how we could ask her 1st grade class to participate by bringing a blanket to class and we would take the donated blankets to a Homeless Shelter or Soup Kitchen in order to share the goodwill.

WWII Vet and Federal Judge Opens My Eyes To Our Country’s Secret Weapon: Women

There I sat, listening intently to a WWII Marine hero.  At the age of 91, his years of service may have shown in the curve of his back, but his sharp, Marine-like confidence was evidenced in the depth and delivery of his words.  With much anticipation, I awaited his stories of combat and valor, his recounting of turmoil and triumph, and his inspiration to support our husbands in their valiant efforts.  So I was completely and utterly stunned, when he said this truly poignant statement:  “if there is a way we are going to fix the state of the world we’re in, it will be through the power of women.”

This surprising scene occurred just weeks ago in a meeting to honor approximately 250 military spouses and veterans at my company’s annual convention in Atlanta, GA where we had gathered to celebrate the launch of a new proprietary anti-aging product.  Judge Harry Pregerson, they keynote speaker, recounted his days as a Marine who was wounded in Okinawa in nearly the same location from which several of those present had traveled.  As he delivered his message about the power of women, his words hung in the room and landed directly on our hearts.  He struck a chord with us all as he put words to the unspoken energy that had been building within this particular group of women over the course of several years. His unexpected speech reflected our unorthodox approach to “employment” as military spouses perfectly.

You see, this particular group of ladies had forged a new path for military spouses, a group who suffers from underemployment due to frequent relocations.  As social entrepreneurs, they have found a unique intersection of big business and stay-at-home flexibility in a cutting-edge new business model that hinges on social selling.  At the beginning, the company’s military spouse pioneers were looked at by others with raised eyebrows and little support.  But four years later, the mold has officially been broken and the company is seeing new military spouses join all over the globe.  And, they are bringing their military leadership and discipline with them to the business, which creates healthy and thriving business teams.  Their success is evidenced by multiple women out-earning their military member or replacing their full-time income.  So, it is safe to say, the tide has definitely turned.

This day will stand out in my memory as one of the best days in my professional life.  Not because of the recognition or because we had proven ourselves or even because we had seen success.   That moment will live on because in that room, I could tangibly feel the wave of empowerment hanging in the air.  It was strong, it was bold and it was contagious.  Each of us left with a formidable sense that we had started something wonderful, something historic and something much bigger than ourselves.  Thank you Judge Pregerson.  Your message was simple, yet perfect.  And you’re right, the power of women, and undoubtedly this group of women, can change the world!

“Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!”

Imagine you’re at Costco. As you’re perusing, you hear an enthusiastic, “Winner winner chicken dinner!” coming from the sample lady. You can barely help yourself, and despite the fact that you don’t even like canned chicken, you join the masses to try this woman’s samples. She has great information for why you should consider her product! And oddly enough, you find yourself glad to have walked by this fun and truly infectious lady and you are now considering the ways this can of chicken could help you increase your cooking possibilities.

This happened to me the other day and it got me thinking…..even though most of us don’t think of ourselves (or don’t want to be labeled) as “salespeople,” we are ALL selling something all the time. If we’re being honest, we sell the concept of healthy dinners to our kids, we sell the importance of education to society, we sell the recommendation of our favorite hairstylist to our friends, right?! Yep, admit it….you do all these things too!

So I suggest we get over the idea that selling is bad. At the core, it’s really just sharing. And let’s just face it…it’s part of life. And if you really think about it, good selling is a great thing! It allows us to open our minds to new ideas and concepts, it reveals possibilities, and in the end it helps us discover ways to improve our lives and the lives of the people sharing!

So happily shout “Winner winner chicken dinner” about the ideas you’re selling! You have nothing to be ashamed of!!

It’s Time for Military Spouses to Enter the Big Leagues

I have always had a love affair with competitive sports.

The past two years, I have enjoyed watching my daughter, who is now six, play baseball in a little league with other same-aged boys.  What was amazing to me is that there was really little difference between the ability of the children at that stage.  Everyone learned how to hit, field, and run the bases… and they all had equal confidence and basically the same abilities. I was proud that Ally hit the ball from coaches pitching and seemed to enjoy the love of the game.

After two years playing ball, and as a big kindergartner, we decided it might be time to put her in an all-girls league so she could start learning the nuances of softball versus baseball and become more acquainted with other girls her age (as there were only two girls per team in the baseball league).

Much to my chagrin, the caliber of expectations was significantly lower in the softball league.  Watching opening ceremonies and the first game alone, it was quickly evident that the emphasis was more on the hair bows and a team cheer than it was on learning the fundamentals or increasing skills.

As I sat and watched the season, I could only grumble knowing that I too, had experienced this same sort of decline in standards when my label went from “career woman” to “military spouse.”  With the new title, came a quick erasure of all previous standards and a drastic lowering of the bar in terms of what people expected of me.  I went from a demanding job where I was able to exceed in a high stress environment, to an environment where my performance or my ability to lead was irrelevant.  Expectations were reduced to just possessing a basic knowledge of social calendars and my husband’s work environment.  My old identities, and even my titles of mother and entrepreneur, were now eclipsed by the words “military spouse” and the unwritten guidelines that accompanied them.

Inside my head I remember screaming, “How is this okay?”  Shouldn’t I, even as a military spouse, still be inspired by my community to continue to strive for excellence?

There’s no question marrying a military service member comes with sacrifices. We’ve given up college degrees, specific careers and put other plans on hold. According to a recent article on Military Spouse, a recent study by the Military Officers Associate of America (MOAA) and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Families (IVMF) revealed that 90 percent of female spouses felt that they were underemployed based on their education and/or experience. In my opinion, this statistic is pretty accurate.

Over my 14 years as a spouse, I have witnessed a majority of spouses try for their first few assignments to keep a career going. After several failed attempts and the addition of kids, they often hang up their cleats, deciding their efforts to find meaningful work are futile.  In ball, we rely on our teammates for support and encouragement to keep us steadily achieving more and more over time.  When society grants military spouses a proverbial pass to take a “timeout” on their journey to big dreams and goals, wouldn’t it be awesome if their colleagues encouraged them to strive for more?  Why would spouses play t-ball when they are capable of hanging in the big leagues?”

My point in writing this is not to say that all military spouses need to work or make a career their focus.  I know plenty of stay-at-home-moms who are also military spouses who love their role as such and would never change a thing.   Shannon at Military One Click admitted, she hasn’t always loved being a military spouse but she appreciates the community of like-minded people, “who’d married for the love of their mates and who’d make that choice over and over again no matter the difficulty.”  But, work or not, and regardless of the field on which we find ourselves, universally as spouses we can step up our level of play.

It is time military spouses’ step up to the plate.  I challenge this group to reinvigorate your big goals and dreams.  You are strong, resilient and smart individuals who can achieve more than you’ve been led to think!  We have been permitted to let our skills and talents lay dormant.  We have gifts that have been allowed to languish and important lessons that remain hidden from future generations.

Whether it’s leading the PTA, taking a class to keep former career skills current, running a marathon to remain healthy or starting a business to share your skills with the world,  it’s time military spouses start taking some swings, it’s time we elevate our game and it’s time we show the world the caliber of play of which we are capable!