YOu Handle it?
What is Preventing Your SUccess
What is preventing your success?
When you perform an inventory of your successes, failures, and subpar results, what do you see? I see some parts of my life with which I am quite happy. I went back to school and got my MBA. I spent an immense amount of time on my children, being involved with them and their activities, classroom parent, PTA board, Girl Scout Leader, band mom, just to name a few things. The two girls my husband and I raised are on their way to being thriving, productive members of society. They are still working on it, so cross your fingers for me. I’ve written two fairly successful science thrillers. The third book is still in the works. My small business, under the name, Lena Robin Writes, has been a joy for me. I get to assist others’ businesses in their communications, strategies, and marketing plans to help their businesses grow and succeed.
So why am I questioning success, specifically my own? I don’t think I’ve lived up to my potential. I used to revel (hopefully quietly, nobody likes a braggart), in the fact that with minimal effort, I could prevail and prosper. I don’t mind hard work, but I did not need to be outstanding, I just needed to do well enough. One day, I looked back at the arrogance of my underachieving younger self, and I became overwhelmed with sadness. Beyond that emotion, I was vexed. Yes, I said it…vexed. As I’ve matured, and especially watching my own children grow, my mediocre results with minimal effort was not enough. Finally, I saw it. I was not the person I wanted my children to emulate.
What gave me the right to expect more from my children and others than I was willing to undertake myself? Even if my girls wanted to be nothing like me, I wanted to be able to take pride in the example I set for them. I wanted to succeed at a level worthy of the abilities and experiences I had accumulated over the years. I wanted to put in the kind of effort I put in to raising my girls in a manner I could appreciate. I wanted a lot and I did not possess it. So, I began to push myself trying to succeed beyond mediocrity.
Having an epiphany of such great weight is not one that easily emerges in your brain, then you move on with life the next day. No, the revelation was a painful slow process. I experienced many days and weeks of depression and emotional eating. The anger I had at myself was hard to bear. Had I wasted my life thus far? The tumultuous experience of self-revelation only multiplied while I dealt with my mother’s failing health, my (step) father-in law’s battle with cancer, my father-in-law’s life falling apart and my mother-in-law’s debilitating early-onset Alzheimer’s. When my MIL entered a comatose state, she moved in with us. While my husband was at work I took care of her. Did I mention emotional eating? I acted as if I had it all together, but I did not. Anyone have another cookie? I think back on and know that I used all the craziness as an approach to not deal with my disappointment in myself. I love all these people dearly, but was I that devoted? I think not. Life was stressful, yet the people and events that occurred around me had nothing to do with the person I had chosen to be. That person, that disappointment, was all me.
My enlightenment, as turbulent as it was for me internally, was essential to my growth as a person and a writer. However, to really understand the depths of growing into the person I wanted to be, I needed data. I needed goals and to arrive at those goals, I needed understanding.
Over the years I’ve found many reasons why I had not succeed in the way I wanted. Sometimes the timing was not correct for a project to succeed. At other times, I had played fast and loose and taken too many chances…ahh, to be young and dumb. I could go on listing every mistake or shortsighted decision, yet anyone who has ever found success knows chances must be taken. And, there are often failures to build on. The list can go on for days. I matured quite a bit before I had my own children, having them changed the conversation for me. Now, my list or reason for not succeeding is shorter and much more succinct. All the reasons I see for failure and subpar results can be broken down into three categories.
First and foremost, I saw excuses. We all have a million reasons to give up. Every reason is merely an excuse, which takes control. Some days, success seems out of sight. What we want comes slower than we would like, or at least I would like; however, to truly desire a result, delete excuses from your repertoire. The perfect example from my life is my book writing. My books aren’t selling at the rate I’d hoped. Come on, now! I’m supposed to a “Michael Crichton” or “James Rollins” by now. Yes, you should definitely check out, The Andromeda Strain, and “The Seventh Plague” for some hair raising science thrillers. My book, Hour of Trial, is a slow burn. Unknown Hours, picks up speed with a ton of adventure. Final Hours slows back down a bit. Yet, at the time of writing this article, you won’t find Final Hours, BECAUSE I HAVEN’T PUBLISHED IT YET! Oh, I have excuses for not finishing, too. Covid hit and messed with my head. I’ve been too busy to finish final revisions. I need to help my clients with their writing. My office got moldy and I had to move out to have it fixed. And, the excuses could go on, trust me. Did you notice how I let the excuses take over? Excuse, after excuse, after excuse. Do you ever suffer from excuses taking over your will to be successful?
Lack of Preparation
As a marketing and communications strategist, I’ve learned the importance of preparation. The proper business and marketing plan can be the difference between scrambling to catch up and leading the pack. Knowing your business intent and plan, then having measurable goals and a strong strategy to meet those goals, can put you on a road straight to success.
A key part of any strong business plan is a marketing plan and a communications strategy. Establishing your target audience, as well as, how and where you market and communicate your fabulous products or services removes the fickle lady luck. Your success transforms success from a coincidental and fortunate possibility to a decisively well-planned and hard earned accomplishment. Business plans, marketing plans, and communications plans needs to be revised and updated regularly. When was the last time you considered your goals and preparation in relation to your success?
A perfect plan and a ton of hard work, success is assured, correct? Never. That realization can instigate a small pearl of anxiety that can grow into an agonizing paralysis if I let it. Only one reason remains in my categories of what can be preventing your success and mine, fear. Usually, I am overflowing with confidence. I regularly have and do help others succeed and meet their own goals. With my own work? I ended up feeling as if I was a non-entity. Excuse filled and ill-prepare, because I was too afraid.
I had to ask myself, afraid of what? Staring into a void without the ability to move forward? Fear of finishing? Fear of not being good enough? Why are people afraid of success? Well, I felt all the reasons (excuses) and there I sat, as I peeked out hoping that someone or something would come along and pull me from the wreckage of my debilitating fear. What a terrible way to succeed.
Excuses, lack of preparation, and fear are the three principal reasons why success eluded me in the past. Growth as a person, especially when I used to like myself is akin to a rough tumble down a hill. I flitted along, then down I went. Surprise! All the way down I scraped and scratched and broke down my weaknesses. The fall also gathered leaves and dirt and other not so delightful discoveries. Down and down I tumbled, gathering experience and wisdom. Eventually I arrived at the bottom of the hill to a valley of despair and realization. I’ve always been a get and brush myself off type of individual. So, that is what I did.
The short stint of disappointment in myself was also the fuel I needed to figure out how to be a person I could like again, not just an individual I meandered into becoming. I started planning and working toward being the person I saw in my head, the woman I knew I could be for my family but even more, for me. My books and my communications business came into the forefront of my life. Now, I am trying to expand and work on a larger sphere, one where I can affect more of the world around me. I am still working on being that person, the woman my daughters could emulate if they chose. The journey never ceases. However, if I take my lessons and continue to apply them properly, you will be hearing from me again!
What can you live without?
Is there anything you can't live without? I'm a firm believer in the fact that we can live without almost anything. That being said, there is plenty I don't want to live without.
1. My family and friends
2. My kitties (and even Gizmo the pup).
3. Books and writing
4. Sleeping medication.
5. Quiet moments.
6. Exercise (don't love it, but boy, I need it every day).
The past 4 years have been difficult in many ways. Covid being a real eye opener as to our own fragility. I keep losing people. I just found out an acquaintance passed away. I don't know any details yet, but he was young. He was also loved and greatly admired and appreciated. I want to live without losing anyone for a while. Feeling a small connection with a person, yet not having the opportunity to deepen that connection is what is causes me extra pain. Is it strange that the deep connections I’ve made with people make losing them easier on me? I miss them, however, through the deep bond I have with them, I feel as if they are always with me.
Swami Sivananda said (paraphrasing here) that attachment is the root of all misery and pain. While this statement is true, I'm not evolved enough to love without attachment, yet. On my Instagram post a very wise soul said that grief was the price for loving someone. Possibly grief over not seeing or speaking a person, but I don’t know if the same could be said for loving them.
I think the price we pay for love is compromise. Compromise is a learning and growth experience and can be a painful one. Every compromise is done out of selfishness, need to accomplish a goal (even if it is peace), or sometimes love. When the compromises are done with love, I don’t feel the loss or regret. My mind grasps onto understanding and care that another person will be more satisfied with their choice or decision.
Have you had to live without anything? My mom died 4 years ago, and I miss her more than I thought possible. Funny thing though, as she was in the hospital room and we (my siblings and I) were about to have her machines disconnected, I felt connection more than loss. My family is odd and our sense of humor aligns in a strange way. That humor, my mom’s cackle and silliness is what I hold closely to me. Not without attachment, but with fondness that helps me process missing her.
So, while I believe we can live without almost anything, I don't think I'm ready. Attachment provides a certain level of comfort. I embrace the comfort when it is available. I know, I know, not evolved. I'm working on it. Until then, to all those people and things I am attached to, I will work on loving and try not to hold on too hard. What do you want to hold on to in this life?
When do you decorate for Christmas?
I don't know about you, but I tend to envelop my home with Christmas baubles whenever I have the opportunity. Life is busy. So, whenever I can fit it in is the best time.
The process of decorating for the holidays has historically been such an enjoyable time for me. I love stringing up the lights, or at least directing my husband to do it. I revel in placing each Christmas treasure out, knowing we only have weeks to enjoy them.
The past few years my youngest has taken charge. In these pictures, my daughter was prepared to pull down the decorations and trim the tree. I worked at my computer for most of it. I know the activity seems like it should be a family one, it always has been in the past. However, I was around the same age as my daughter is now when I took over decorating from my mom. I relished watching her from the corner of my eye.
At the end of the day the tree was only partially adorned in our family fun ornaments. Many of the decorations and most of the lights await in the attic, ready to be dragged down. I think this week the entire family will help with the rest of the decorations. I’ve set a date with my girls. After school activities, we are all going to jump in and finish decking our halls, and other rooms too!
I can't wait to show you all the final results of the Christmas extravaganza.
What do you look forward to on Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a day we celebrate to express our gratitude for all we have. I look forward to so much on these family holidays. I was fortunate to have my husband, daughters, niece, nephew and my oldest’s boyfriend with me on Thanksgiving. Most years, my house is packed with extended family and friends as well. This year was much quieter but just as beautiful.
This year I spent the day before Thanksgiving baking with my friends’ grandchildren. I usually reserve that day for my own baking. I didn’t do any of my own! I did have a blast with the kids though. Since the dinner was small I knew I could finish the baking between cooking.
With a reduced menu, I had less to do than in previous years. We have a tradition, burn the biscuits. This year was the exception! I had so much help. My oldest mowed the lawn, so our guests could find our front door. My youngest prepared and cooked the turkey. My niece roasted the carrots. My nephew helped with the appetizers. Everyone set the table. My oldest and husband washed the dishes. Each assist lessened the load, and I did not burn the biscuits.
When my mother was alive she loved everyone to share what they were grateful for over the past year. This year we tried a new approach and played High/Low. My youngest says she and her friends play it regularly when they are waiting around or have nothing else to discuss. Instead of addressing the entire year or our entire lives, which can be a bit deep and intimate (not to mention the gushiness of it), we spoke of the day. Many were happy for the meal and company. Some had silly moments, while one person had their parked car hit that morning, a real low. Overall, I think the High/Low game is a bright star in our future.
After dinner we played a game, Drawful. My oldest was in charge. I think she killed it, as usual. The girl is very good at games and almost always wins. She doesn’t even try hard, she can’t help herself.
I know that sometimes family drama creeps into holiday meals but I am lucky that drama is not a regular on the menu. Overall, the company, the food, and the fun all made Thanksgiving the gratitude filled day it is supposed to be.
Do you have any obsessions?
Do you find anything completely mesmerizing? Does sitting back to watch the sunset wash the world in color draw you into a trance? Does the moon in all its phases, casting its subtle power across our world, bewitch you? Does the beauty of nature in its diversity fascinate you? Some find the beach, a child at play, or the art and architecture of the city their paragon. I admit all of the objects (and occurrences) hold a certain allure. Nature in its power captivates me. However, there is something about a tree.
I find trees inspirational. To me trees, and the human form, are life's most beautiful creations. My art and my stories are filled with them both metaphorically and physically. Like the muscles of our bodies, the wood of a tree curves and bends into beautiful shapes. They captivate my mind, my heart, and my obsessions.
In my childhood nightmares, trees were the saviors. Granted, my nightmares were about being chased by an alligator and that tree I climbed into saved me, my cat, and my horse. Yes, I pulled my horse up into the tree with me. Why alligators? Because they were a real danger on our bridle paths, or at least I perceived them to be. Alligators were the unpredictable, unstoppable force, and the trees lifted me up (as I climbed them, not magically). A tree was how I rescued myself.
Trees are above all stable and helpful. They prevent erosion, and protect from the elements. They purify our air. They provide food at times. I couldn’t survive off the mango tree in my yard, but she does feed the squirrels well. One of the persuading factors in choosing the house I live in now is the giant oak in the back yard. The first thing we did was put a swing on one of its branches, and to this day, even though my kids are grown that swing is well used.
Trees provide peace. My walks are tree lined. Their shade and the quiet rustle of the breeze in their leaves provides me with such tranquility. I come home from those walks feeling energized and refreshed (even on the hot sweaty days). I also sit and read or write under them. I am a bonafide tree hugger, especially when there aren’t too many ants on it.
I took this photograph in Central Florida where my father and his family lived. Spanish moss hangs from the trees there, adding to its charm. What visual forms mesmerize you?
Tree-hugger or Urban Bunny?
Are you a big fan of wildlife or more of an urban bunny? Today is #nationalwildlifeday. I live in the suburbs, so I see a little of it. I can't take credit for these photos though. My friend and neighbor Glory is the photographer. Isn't she fantastic? Those photos are all in our neighborhood (my friend's backyard is practically a wildlife refuge). She has the patience of a saint and waits for the perfect pictures to come to her. To be frank, I usually miss the picture.
Have you been to the Northwoods? That is the northern part of Wisconsin at the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I will be taking a trip to the Northwoods later in the next month to get my fix of nature and all its glory. I can't wait to go. I am a little afraid of bears. I have never run into them in the wild and don't know how to deal with them. Maybe I can sing them a lullaby and chase them off.
I dream of one day, when the kids are grown, retiring to a more rural area. Retiring may be overstating it, I will have a working retirement. I need to be doing something at all times! I can't imagine a life without communication and writing, whether it is working for someone else, writing books or blogging, I will never stop.
I live in an area where some wildlife that has not been chased off. We are almost overrun with bunnies and squirrels. There are even some fox and alligators. We also have all kinds of birds. The other day, I was out for a lovely evening walk, just before dark , and a bird almost flew into me! The funny part of the story is that it was a hawk carrying dinner. It flew directly across my path towards the street. It must have miscalculated the distance of the oncoming car because it veered off at the last minute. It came straight at me! I even got a close look at the gutted rat it was carrying. 🤢 Luckily, it turned before I got splashed with guts. Lol I laughed the rest of the way home.
Have you had any close calls with nature?
How do you view your past?
My sister sent me this picture today (I am the one on the far left). It brings back quite a few memories. My twenties was an adventurous time for me. I was in my twenties here. When I look at this picture, boy do I miss being that thin. However, you can see from my grandma and my gorgeous mom that genetics are in play, and I was only meant to be skinny when I was young. The beauty next to me is my sister holding her daughter who is now all grown up and married. My niece is a delight beyond words, even now.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in my twenties. I hadn't meant my hubs, but I knew I wanted to have kids, girls to be specific. I was a traveling fool, road tripping everywhere. I've visited 48 states so far. Only 2 more to go, Hawaii and Alaska. My twenties were beautiful, but also painful. I faced huge heart aches during that time of my life. It taught me a lot and sent me down paths in my life that were detours. Some were amazing and others, uhhh, I still wince thinking about. Those side tracks made me who I am today.
Many people state that they wouldn't change a thing. I would. I have definitely disappointed a few people in my life (through my actions or inaction), and I would prefer to change those moments. The people I had disappointed did not deserve it. I was a bit of a free spirit. When I look at my own children I have to remind myself they might be like me. Fortunately, I have grown. I am mostly happy with who I am now and I guess that is the most I can hope for in life, right?
How about you? When you look at your past what do you think?
The pandemic hit 12 months since the pandemic. How are you dealing with it?
I think I've been dealing with the pandemic well in some ways, not so well in others. I still manage to exercise an hour a day most days, which helps. My kids have returned to school. When they come home there is a process to de-funk. Washing hand the moment anyone walks in the door has been part of our practice since I gave birth to my children. I read somewhere when my oldest was a baby that washing hands the moment you walk into your house is the best way to help prevent the spread of germs. We have been doing it since. Masks are a nuisance, but I take wearing them quite seriously. I am just grateful that such a simple item, the mask, can help protect us.
The biggest impact of the pandemic has been on my career and writing. Reason number 1, my books in the Viralist Thriller Series are about a pandemic! Hour of Trial, book 1 was released in 2018. Unknown Hours, book 2 was released in 2019. Both long before Covid struck us. Draft 1 of book 3, Final Hours was finished before the end of 2019. Revisions are moving as a snail's pace. It has been difficult to complete since we are mid pandemic.
Reason number 2 for the impact on my writing....my house was full until recently. Seriously, I had to hide to get a moment alone. An introvert surrounded by people is not a productive person. Some of those around me needed to be around others and choose me. Add a needy puppy to the mix and my brain was overloaded. I do love the close bond I have with my family but holy smokes! I need my time alone. It is when I can think. It is when I am productive, it is when I am creative.
The impact on my career is heartbreaking. My clients are all small business owners. I am considered non-essential. I don't blame them, they too need to survive. Their businesses have been hugely impacted and some of them are hanging on by a thread. A pandemic was not in the plans for anyone, except the characters in my book of course.
So I allowed my environment to impact me, instead of taking control of the situation. Basically, I turned into a marshmallow. I'm okay with it, but I do feel like a slug for not finishing my third book. I'm back on track to being myself. Revisions are moving slightly.
How about you? How did the pandemic affect you?
1. Right now I am reading Five Dark Fates by Kendra Bown
2. My favorite book was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, it haunts me to this day.
3. My favorite book store is The Book Cellar, Lake Worth. I haven't been there in quite a while.
4. A book I read many times was The Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson. I think I read it to my girls every day for years. They loved it.
5. A good movie adaption of a book was Gone Girl. It captured the creepiness of the book quite well. Gone Girl was also the first book I read after a break in reading, when mommy-hood took over.
6. My TBR is huge! Every day I seem to add more and more to it. One book I am looking forward to is Victoria's War by Catherine Hamilton due out in June.
7. If I could live in any literary world it would be Nav'Aria before Narco's time. It seems so beautiful and peaceful.
8. A book that surprised me was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I would never have picked it up, but my friend put it in my hand and told me I had to read it. I loved it. I love when someone helps me venture out of my comfort zone.
9. My original reading goal for the year was 24. Things are different. Now, it is whatever. I am already on #14, but if I get back to writing I may get caught up and not pick up another book for a while. So, who knows.
10. My favorite reading spot is curling up in the corner of my couch or outside, when the weather is nice, under a tree.
11. A book I loved as a child was The Scarlet Letter in 7th grade. It gave me my first glimpse into the nature of men and the strength of women. I was viewed as a bit jaded for years. Not jaded, realistic about the society we live in, such as it is.
What does your reading list say about you?
What are some under hyped books that deserve to be loved? With so many options the list could be endless. While my main genres are Sci-fi or Fantasy, I also like to mix it up. Historical Fiction is at the top of my list after Fantasy and Sci-fi.
When this question first came to my attention, all the books I thought of were historical fiction. The stories still sit at the back of my mind, years after reading them. Each one of them reaches into your heart and holds you close so you can barely breathe. These books are not merely good reads, they are great reads. The beauty and horror of the eras, the love and hate, and the depth of the storylines will undoubtedly capture your interest.
My book recommendations for under hyped books are:
📚 Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrihim
📚 Four of a Kind A Women's Historical Fiction by Vanessa Russell
📚 Spit of a Minute by Linda Dickson
The story begins during the antebellum years on a Southern plantation. The focus of the story is on a slave woman and the child to whom she is wet nurse. The two have a deep bond. As the child grows older she begins to notice that the world is not equal for her and her beloved wet nurse. The story that ensues reeks of the injustice of the period and the desperation of the oppressed. Love and resentment can coexist, but have finite ability to survive in harmony.
Four of a Kind; A Women’s Historical Fiction
Four generations of women in a family get together to share their stories. Some do so willingly and others not. Each generation has its own secrets that surprise and shock their family members. The stories explain the difficulties of being a woman during the generation in which they grew up. Each member of the group discovered that all is not as it seems. Each faced terrible choices and heartbreaks. Understanding the past can reach a deeper understanding of what the civil rights movement faces.
Spit of a Minute
Anything can happen in the spit of a minute. Choices, both good and bad can have lifelong consequences. The situations women are faced with during some eras are impossible. Even today being faced with the impossible, women somehow survive and even thrive. Somehow in this story injustice paves the way for more injustice for some while others find redemption.
Your reading life can never be complete without these books in them. I read each of these three novels quite a while ago and the stories still resonate in my memory. Everyone I recommended them to also felt they were fantastic. If you pick them up and give them a try, please tell me what you think.
Lena Robin's Blog
A Writer's Life!
Writer, communications coach, mom, wife, crazy cat lady, and yogi extraordinaire (not really but we can pretend).
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