Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Welcome to Monday and Welcome to Book Love!

51mNB2F9XwL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, is a book that every micro-entrepreneur or small business owner needs in their toolkit.

Have you ever had the feeling that the business you’ve created has become a beast. That not only does it consume you, but you can’t even remember what the one essential thing was, that you wanted to create in the first place?

Are you too scared to turn down any opportunity in case you miss out?  Do you say yes to everything and then find you’re being stretched so thin that nothing you do has any impact, or makes the contribution you passionately want to make?

Greg’s book can help you unravel the decision-making process that takes you from trying to do everything, to finding your own definition of essentialism and learning the craft of ‘saying no gracefully’ – so that your time is devoted to that one thing.

Greg’s reviewers say

Essentialism holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more? A timely, essential read for anyone who feels over-committed, overloaded, or overworked—in other words, everyone.

It has already changed the way that I think about my own priorities, and if more leaders embraced this philosophy, our jobs and our lives would be less stressful and more productive. So drop what you’re doing and read it. (Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of GIVE AND TAKE)

And after reading it in one sitting (well one and a train ride) I couldn’t agree more… it’s easy to read, harder to do, but so liberating when you come to the realise that to gain the greatest rewards, you have to work on the one thing you care about the most.

So grab a copy if it appeals to you, and let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Book Love: ‘So we leaned in…now what?’

You may remember Julie’s great review last year of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Now, further down the track, we have Sheryl back on the TEDWomen stage, being interviewed by Pat Mitchell about what she has learned since her Ted Talk and the book’s publication. If the book has had an impact on you and your life please share in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Sheryl Sandberg admits she was terrified to step onto the TED stage in 2010 — because she was going to talk, for the first time, about the lonely experience of being a woman in the top tiers of business. Millions of views (and a best-selling book) later, the Facebook COO talks with the woman who pushed her to give that first talk, Pat Mitchell. Sandberg opens up about the reaction to her idea, and explores the ways that women still struggle with success.

Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO asks us to Lean In … should we?

leaninTo say that I was resistant to reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is a bit of an understatement.   However, when my great friend Joanna Penn sent me an email on Friday night telling me for the third time that I should read this book, I decided to stop fighting it and bought the book on Kindle … fully expecting to do battle with Sheryl in my mind as I read the pages.

I really admire Sheryl Sandberg and what she has achieved – as the COO of Facebook, one of the top 10 most influential women in the world AND a mother, she is someone who has forged her own path without compromising.   I loved her TED Women presentation which we screened live at the British Library Business and IP Centre back in 2010.  But over the last couple of years I have felt quite strongly that women don’t need to lean in.  That actually it is ok to lean out.  That we can and should choose to lead our lives in a way that suits us rather than fighting battles to get noticed and create a successful career in a corporate cage.

Many women in the Women Unlimited community have had phenomenal careers, led large teams in FTSE 100 businesses, and held very senior positions, even board level positions before creating their own businesses.  And they are part of Women Unlimited now because they want some different. Something more fulfilling.  They want to cut their own trail, follow their passion, help their communities and make a difference.  These smart women, intelligent and ambitious women have chosen to leave their corporate careers because it is the right thing for them and as far as I’m aware none of them have regretted it.

Feeling like an imposter

But Lean In surprised me.  From the first chapter I found myself nodding in agreement.  And as I went through the book, more and more of what Sheryl Sandberg was saying resonated with me.  And as I read…

“But I also know that in order to continue to grown and challenge myself, I have to believe in my own abilities.  I still face situations that I fear are beyond my capabilities.  I still have days when I feel like a fraud.”

…I found myself tearing up as this really hit home.  This statement perfectly describes how I feel at times.  It’s a struggle to keep pushing through when I don’t feel like I’m good enough.  But push through I do, because if I didn’t, everything would stop.  This feeling is known as “The Imposter Syndrome” and it turns out that many women feel this same way.

Embrace your inner feminist

There were a number of things that Sheryl wrote about that, before reading her book, I didn’t think were a problem.  But as I was reading, I realised that the reason that I didn’t think they were a problem is because they reflected cultural norms.  And I had never really challenged those norms.  In the book Sheryl shares our reticence to ‘own’ the title of feminist because for our generation it feels too militant.  There is a  slight feeling of discomfort that calling ourselves feminists means we are also man haters and bra burners.  I can relate to that, but it is a word that I use frequently and deliberately as for me, the word feminist means balance, strength and equality.

Why women don’t lead

We live in a world where in-spite of all the progress that was made in the 70’s and 80’s women are still taking a back seat in many parts of our society.  A 2011 McKinsey report has shown that while men are promoted based on potential, women are promoted based on experience (and when we apply for jobs we use the same measure… men apply based on their belief that they can do it, where women apply based on whether they have done it).

Also, studies have shown that most women don’t aspire to reach the top jobs in the corporate world.  Sheryl calls this the leadership ambition gap.   Even today’s young women, are less likely than their male peers to characterise themselves as leaders.  Professional ambition is expected of men, but is optional or sometimes even a negative for women.  Her theory is that our desire for leadership is largely a culturally created and reinforced trait.

Sheryl also talks about how we discourage girls from being bossy, where are boys rarely discouraged because taking the role of boss is something to be admired in a boy.  I STILL remember the shame of constantly being told I was bossy as a child (and much like Sheryl still get teased by my brothers about it).

She also cites numerous situations where women internalise their lack of ability and how they blame themselves for not being more, doing more, achieving more.  Or when they fail, how women don’t blame external factors like not studying enough, instead they believe that it’s because of an inherent lack of ability.

Family first or Career first?

Sheryl states that as women we lower our own expectations of what we can achieve and prioritise our partners and children (even before they are born) over our own needs and careers.

I can attest to the truth of this.  In 2000 I made the break for self employment and was frequently known to say that it meant that I would be able to be more flexible when my future, and not yet conceived, children were born.  And after my son was born in 2004, I moved away from doing corporate consulting to being a freelance web designer because it meant that I could be more flexible.   And it wasn’t until after my daughter was born in 2007 that I realised that I was doing myself a dis-service by not stepping (leaning!) into my potential.

Today my children still take a greater priority in my life than my business.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not constantly juggling  battling with myself over where my time should be spent.  However, what I have found is that if I prioritise my business over my family I always regret it.  When my values as a mother are compromised, it leaves me feeling like the price is too high.  So I continue, knowing that my business is not growing as fast as it could if it had 100% of my attention all the time but glad that my kids are getting the support and attention that they need from me.

I have also been known to joke about the irony that I run an organisation built around female empowerment while at times I feel like a 1950’s housewife.  My husband and I have talked about role reversal and whether he should slow down his business while I step up  on mine, but it feels like a difficult decision.  There are no easy answers here and a significant proportion of Sheryl’s book talks about sharing responsibilities at home 50/50 but I think each family needs to find a way that works for them.

I am really glad to have read this book and am thrilled that Sheryl Sandberg chose to write it.  It is a very brave and honest book in so many respects and has really made me question where my beliefs come from.

One of the most striking statements that I found in the book came from Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation.. and she said

My generation fought hard to give all of you choices.  We believe in choices.   But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.

Messages for future generations

Lean In is a really important book to read because it is a fantastic guide for how we talk to our girls and the messages that we give them.  We have the chance to challenge and change some of the cultural messages that we take for granted.  As the mother of a 6 year old girl, it’s certainly given me a lot to think about and some new paradigms on how to encourage her going forward.

Pick up this book!

Sheryl Sandberg is incredibly intelligent & driven.  And most of us don’t have her life (or necessarily want it) but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to what she has to say.  The book is full of great advice on how to negotiate as a woman, how to deal with the need to be liked, how to step into a leadership role and how to find a mentor (I particularly liked her take on this…).   I highly recommend that you pick up a copy and read it as soon as you can, because I promise it will change the way that you think about your own path and your own choices.  

Click here to get it on

Click here to get it on

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Launch! how to quickly propel your business beyond the competition

Today in BOOK LOVE we review the wonderful work of Michael A. Stelzner and his book Launch. This is a book for those who are brave enough to take a long hard look at what marketing means in today’s market place and what it’s likely to mean in the future.  As Stelzner shows us,

‘it’s focusing on the needs of others, giving gifts, working with outsiders, and restraining our marketing messages that will lead to marketing success stories.’

These are the complete opposite of traditional marketing principles and in this book he shows us why they work and how we can ignite our own businesses by using the ‘Elevation Principle’ – the process of meeting the core desires of prospects and clients by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost. This is a great read, full of practical strategies and roadmaps from a man who has actually done the work and created his own success story as the founder of Social Media Examiner

The thing I most like about this book, is the language, the visual metaphors, and the energy and enthusiasm he generates for the reader, he makes you want to really take your business ‘out there’, beyond the frontier, as far as it can go. It serves to make you dream bigger and really ‘own’ your strategy for growth. Julie and I are already planning on building a rocket ship in her front room just to keep us on track!!

Below is a quick glance at some of the key points but I really recommend you take a few hours out to contemplate the enormous wealth of knowledge that Michael shares in this book.

  • Great Content + Great People – Marketing = Attraction and Growth
  • How to shift from ‘pitching’ to ‘boosting’
  • How other people can ignite and determine where your business (rocket ship) goes
  • How to leverage other ‘experts’
  • The difference between your primary, nuclear and promotional fuel
  • Knowing your trajectory and where you want to go
  • Using markers, speed and  motion to stop the gravity drag
  • Keeping an ideas vault
  • How to create your marketing messages and nurture leads through content

So this really is a step-by-step guide to Launch – whether it’s a new business idea, a campaign or just to re-ignite your enthusiasm and take your business to the next level.

Happy Reading!

The four e’s of selling without selling your soul

Imagine this: your brand is out there for real. Your website is up and looking mighty fine. People are noticing you and liking what they see. You could say the dating game is going well.

In fact, you’ve met someone special. You’re so happy to have found each other – you were starting to believe it would never happen. You don’t want to mess up this beautiful relationship you have going… but something is bothering you.

You both know that the S-word is on the agenda. That dirty S-word creeps into your mind every time you make eye contact. You are fantasizing about having your first S-word experience with them all the time, in private, but you never raise it in public (well, not without apologizing).

What if you get rejected? What if they slap you down? What if they tell you, ‘I thought you were better than that?’

Okay. This isn’t the nineteenth century, so let’s put it out there. At the end of the day you’re going to have to stop just flirting, look them straight in the eye and… sell.

Oh yes, I said the S-word! Sales.

In our culture we think of sales very much like the Victorians thought about sex: ie pretty often, but never spoken about in polite society.

Thinking that sales just isn’t your thing? Trust me, you are not alone. I asked a few free range fledglings their views on sales and here is a selection of the results:

“Maybe it’s a confidence thing but I don’t want to come across as pushy.”

“I want to make money but not if it means selling my soul.”

“Personally, I hate getting cold calls about products/services I don’t want, so I’m really uneasy about doing it myself.”

“Sales? It’s just not me.”

You know what feeling uncomfortable with pushy sales means? It means you don’t suck. Congratulations.

I honestly don’t know anyone who loves cold calling and pushing crap on to other people! If I had to do that type of sales I don’t think I’d be my own boss at all. However, that’s not the only way to do sales.

Instead of selling your soul, try selling from your soul. Like this.

The four e’s of selling without selling your soul

Guidelines for every Free Range Human to live and work by:

1. Enthusiasm

Why are you doing this again? Oh yeah, it’s because you love it! You are excited about working with these people; you believe in the message. You can’t wait to get started!

How about communicating that rather than trying to ‘convince’ someone?

If you find your enthusiasm for your subject mysteriously shuts down when you move into ‘doing sales’, consider how you would describe this were it someone else’s product you were recommending to a friend who really needed it. Would you want to grab them by the shoulders and say ‘do it man, do it for you!’? Capture that enthusiasm, that genuine care, and use this at the core of what you communicate.

When you truly believe in and love what you do, it doesn’t feel like selling. It’s sharing your enthusiasm and passion for what you’re offering.

2. Engagement

Forget the idea of sales being those 1980s red-tie boys BS-ing their way to a commission. Free Range Humans do it with love. To do that, you need to get to know your niche, understand them, and above all, focus on helping them. Get in the habit of thinking from their perspective.

On a fresh sheet of paper, identify 5–10 benefits your client will get from taking you up on your offer. I don’t mean the obvious features, for example ‘a blue box with a ribbon’ or ‘three osteopathy sessions’. I mean what is the outcome? For example, ‘relief at having got a winning gift for their partner (with little effort)’ or ‘no more lower back pain’.

Think of your benefits now: will your client get more energy? Get more done? Feel more confident? Have a garden that makes people say Wow?

HINT: list your benefits in the language your people might use when talking about this outcome to a friend. This lets you engage more closely with how they actually think and feel.

3. Equanimity

Equanimity: self-assurance and groundedness; or, not being pushy and desperate.

If you’re coming from a position of thinking you might miss out, that people are out to steal your ideas, and that others in your field are competitors (rather than potential collaborators and friends) then this will come across in a whiff of desperation. When you look desperate, empty-restaurant syndrome kicks in, and people sidle away. End result: people don’t buy what you have to offer.

Bottom line: you have to trust in yourself and your potential before others can trust in you. That’s when you stop copying others in your field and start listening to yourself. That’s when people buy from you readily.

4. Ethics

Ethics is really simple: treat others as you expect to be treated. That’s what being a decent person is about.

That’s the way I try to operate, from my personal ethics. That means: I don’t take people on my higher-end courses if they have credit card debt. On any programme where there are applications, I will turn down more people than I take on. I tend to give away more on my courses than people can do in one go, because I’d rather over deliver than hold back.

That’s my version of ethics – some people would go further and think that my version is too money-oriented. Others would think my ethics are way too touchy-feely and not money-oriented enough. That’s fine. We each come to our own balance based on our own values.

So I’m not going to tell you how to behave. But I will ask you to consider it yourself, get clear on your values, and your benchmark so that you won’t be rocked at the last-minute by thinking: ‘Is this okay, can I say that?’

Free Range ethics comes from the premise that you only sell something that you believe is good. Every moment you hold back is a moment that someone who needs your product, service or ideas is missing out on getting what they need.

When you waver on selling, ask yourself am I holding back out of genuine ethics… or are people missing out because of my own insecurities about being too forward?

That’s the big question.

This is an extract from Marianne Cantwell’s brand new book Be A Free Range Human (Kogan Page, 2013). For more on how to ditch the old rules, create a remarkable (totally you) business and a lifestyle you love (on your terms) get your free chapter here:


The book that will change the way that you market your business

I bought this book on Amazon after a very cryptic email from a popular business blogger, Naomi Dunford.   She started out the email with the following phrase

It’s 2:21 in the morning. I just finished the best business book I’ve ever read. And I’m not going to tell you what it was.


Because I want to keep it for myself.

And can you believe it, she did!!! … and by doing so, she really got my curiosity going.  I wanted to know what that book was more than anything.  I couldn’t imagine what the book could have told her, but I wanted those secrets.   And I was more than a little annoyed with her for not sharing it with us.   Thankfully, a few days later she saw sense and decided to share the book, and when she did, I bought it immediately.  That is the power of this book.

… and the name of the book is…

[drum roll please]

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation

and it is as good as Naomi says.  The author Sally Hogshead (yes, that really is her name), starts the book with one of the best opening pages that I’ve ever read, I was pulled in immediately.  She then goes on to describe what triggers fascination in people, and how companies, people, and ideas put those triggers to use.  I now know why my husband’s obsession with Apple products has grown from resistance to wanting to have the whole lot of apple products.  I know why I am drawn to some products and not others.  And I have the theory (and am working on the practice) on how I can use those things in my own businesses.

Fascination is more persuasive than marketing.  More persuasive than advertising.  More persuasive than any other form of communication. And it all starts with seven universal triggers.

This book is a must have addition to every copywriter, marketer and entrepreneur’s book shelf.  Buy this book, trust me – you won’t regret it.

Like this review?  Don’t be selfish, press the retweet button and share it with your friends.

Boom! 7 disciplines to control, grow and add impact to your business

My library of entrepreneur books is growing at an alarming rate, however I was still excited to be able to review this first book from Emma Wimhurst, the founder of Diva Cosmetics.  Disclosure first… Emma is a regular speaker for Women Unlimited, and she ran a very inspiring session on creating vision for your business for us earlier in the year in June, so she is someone who I respect and enjoy listening to …  This book is like having Emma on hand to give you advice at every stage of your business. Continue reading “Boom! 7 disciplines to control, grow and add impact to your business”

The Jelly Effect

The Jelly Effect was recommended to me by my co-trainer at the Mastering Communications workshop we held back in March and I have to say, I was not disappointed.

This book is a great starting point for small business owners who want to be more  effective in their communications across the board.  Andy covers topics such as how to be an effective networker, improve the quality of your presentations and sales effectiveness.

The most profound thing that I got out of the book was the concept of ‘AFTERS’ . This is in the opening pages of the book and the foundation of everything else throughout.  I have read many books about being benefit focused, but didn’t really get it until Andy simply and clearly pointed it out (so obvious now!).

On Amazon there are a mix of review mainly positive, but a few negative.  The negative ones focus on the over simplicity of the book, so if you feel that you already know a lot about communications, this book may not be for you (you might want to check out my all time favourite communications book Made to Stick), but if you would like some simple tools and practices that you can implement immediately, this is a great book to help you make small changes that will have tremendous impact.

Here is one of the Amazon reviews that I think is a pretty accurate perspective.  Check out the Jelly Effect, in my opinion, it’s worth a read.

“I  have read various sections more than once – looking for the catch! But there isn’t one. I am reading some of the most useful advice I have ever read in plain, normal English – just as if I were listening to a close friend. No business jargon, no over inflated business language – just plain simple, easy to absorb advice.

And the best bit is that it is all about how we make the best use of our verbal communications with other business people when selling, networking, referral seeking and presenting- something we all do every day. There is no academic, NLP layden, brain bending rubbish here – just everyday situations that business people face. “

The Success Principles

Within minutes of openingThe Success Principles: How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to be I felt empowered and motivated.

Jack Canfield doesn’t allow you to hide from the reasons for not achieving the success that you are looking for in any aspect of your life. The opening chapter Take 100% responsibility for your life, sets the stage for the rest of the book and the quotes alone are worth the price of the book.

“When you are interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” Ken Blanchard

He starts out by stating unequivocally that if you follow these priniciples you will create more success in your life. They are a recipe for success that if followed consistently will make a difference. Any athlete will tell you that they hit plateau’s in their training, but if you follow these principles constantly and consistently you will see results.

Everything you experience today is the result of choices that you have made in the past.

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to be is broken down into six sections that help you chart your path.

The Fundamental of Success (which includes principles like Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life, Be Clear Why You’re Here, Decide What You Want, Believe It’s Possible, Believe in Yourself, Unleash the Power of Goal-Setting, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Be Willing to Pay the Price, Reject Rejection, Use Feedback to Your Advantage, Commit to Constant and Never-Ending Improvement, Practice Persistence, and Exceed Expectations); Transform Yourself for Success (which includes principles like Drop Out of the “Ain’t It Awful” Club . . . and Surround Yourself with Successful People, Acknowledge Your Positive Past, Face What Isn’t Working, Transform Your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach, Stay Motivated with the Masters, and Fuel Your Success with Passion and Enthusiasm); Build Your Success Team; Create Successful Relationships; Success and Money; and Success Starts Now.

This book is a must have for anyone’s library, but especially if you want to start accelerating your business or improving your personal life.

Give yourself a treat and buy The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to be, I promise you won’t regret it!