Category Archives: Success

I hope she doesn’t sit next to me

open to possibilitiesAs I sat in the Southwest Airlines lounge waiting to board my plane last week, I noticed an unusual older woman.

She wore a flowered blouse, bright with spring pastels, a long earth-toned plaid skirt and around her neck hung a red knit scarf. Her shoulder length hair was held back with a very big bow.

She looked…well…eccentric. “I hope I don’t end up sitting next to her.” I thought to myself. I was looking forward to the time on this long flight to read.

If you’re thinking that I judged her based simply on her appearance, you’re sadly right.

I found a window seat, kept my head down, and my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t choose the open middle seat next to me.

She ended up sitting in the row behind me, along with a teenage boy who looked to be about sixteen. I breathed a sigh of relief and opened my book.

As the flight got underway, I heard her speak to the boy who shared her row, just asking him about his travels. I could tell he was reluctant at first, giving short replies. They chatted a bit and she asked him a bit more about himself. When he answered her questions, she would often reply, “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more.”

Bit by bit he opened up. Before long she was asking him about his plans and dreams for his life. And this teenage boy was telling her!

When we landed, the boy and the woman – total strangers two hours ago — hugged goodbye, as though she were his grandmother.

She was warm, kind, and empathic. She had a sweet gift of communication that enabled a sullen, uncommunicative teenage boy to open his heart and his imagination.

And I had judged her.

I hate to admit this, because I think of myself as being open and non-judgmental, but I had made a decision about her based simply on what she wore.

I was wrong. And not wanting to communicate with her was my loss.

That awareness led me to think about how many other times I had decided something, based on incomplete information. How many times had I closed my mind, based on assumptions that turned out to be inaccurate?

And what had that cost me?

Is it possible that you’ve done something similar, and that it’s holding you back in your business or your life?

What are we telling ourselves that may cause us to miss opportunities? What ideas have we become so attached to that we are no longer open to new ideas and possibilities?

Here are four opinions I’ve heard people share in the last week — opinions they are convinced are absolutely “right:”

  • Millennials are spoiled, self-entitled and can’t contribute anything meaningful to the business world
  • Connecting on social media is a waste of time
  • Taking time for networking takes us away from “real” work
  • Spending money on marketing does no good

Maybe you agree with these opinions, maybe you don’t. My point isn’t to say these opinions are right or wrong. What I’m interested in, for both you and me, is the possibility of blind spots like my own — of reflective assumptions made without all the information, assumptions that may cause us to miss possibilities.

Seeing this oddly dressed woman, followed by the privilege of overhearing her endearing conversation with a typically sullen teenage boy, reminded me of the importance of staying open.

My commitment to making sure I foster an open mindset involves four steps:

  1. Catch myself when I have a strong reaction to something
  2. Ask myself the question, “What am I telling myself about this?”
  3. Be intentional about opening my mind to a new perspective
  4. Re-frame the issue with a more positive viewpoint

So often we think it’s external factors that keep us from what we want, when it might just be our own head trash that gets in the way. That’s actually good news! We have control over our own stuff, and can’t control what’s external.

Here’s to new and improved possibilities in 2015!

Coming up for air…lessons about change

ChangeIt’s been eight weeks now, since my big change — moving to Southern California — and I finally have my head above water.

The most frequently used word in my vocabulary these last weeks has been “change.” Moving to another state meant changing literally everything.

From my software to my social life. From my health insurance to my hair stylist (miss you Gary!). From my writing schedule (obviously, since this is my first post in eight weeks!) to my wardrobe (don’t need those heavy sweaters now).

The entire rhythm of my life changed. Familiar things are gone. Most things are new and different.

There’s an old saying, “When nothing changes, nothing changes. When something changes, everything changes.” I definitely found the truth in that statement.

Reflections on navigating change

Change has both positive and negative ramifications.

The downside? I no longer know where to find things in my own home (still haven’t found my collection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars from my travels). I don’t know how to find places I need to be. I don’t know who to call for frequently used services.

So things that were automatic take more time than they did before. And more money. Change temporarily slows you down and change is expensive.

The upside? I love where I live now. I love the climate and the views. I love the intellectual stimulation of new business connections. I’m energized by new conversations and new opportunities. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

Change is both healthy and revitalizing. But more than that, it’s necessary. A business that doesn’t change with the times or with the market grows irrelevant. A person who doesn’t change grows stale and uninteresting.

What changes do you need to make?

As you look to the brand new year of 2015, consider all the changes you may need to make.

Five lessons learned

Consider these five lessons I learned from my big change:

1) Get help. I absolutely couldn’t have made this move without the help of friends on both ends of the move. Friends who helped me pack and unpack. Friends who helped me figure out logistics, listened to me think out loud about the hundreds of decisions this change required. Friends who took care of things and took care of me, both emotionally and physically. Professional like my attorney and my bookkeeper who provided expert wisdom. Enlist all the help you can.

2) Break the process of change into themes. You’ll feel less fragmented (therefore less crazy!) if you tackle areas with a common denominator. Consider all areas of your business or your life and try to anticipate the consequences of each area. How will this change affect your financial plans and institutions, your technology, your people, your logistics, your vendors, your family? As much as possible, have conversations with everyone involved and ask them for their input. They will likely think of things to consider that haven’t occurred to you. Your plan for change will be greatly improved by their input.

3) Make a budget — then double it. Be realistic about the financial cost of change. There can be hidden costs that are difficult to see. While I planned well for the big moving expenses, I incurred plenty that I hadn’t anticipated. Small things (like needing to buy new storage organizing gadgets and paying fees to change legal documents) eventually add up. Anticipate as much as you can, but build in a cushion for those unexpected expenses.

4) Have Plan A and Plan B.  I love it when Plan A works out, but realistically it’s usually Plan B that becomes a reality. Think through all the “What if’s” and be as prepared as you can for the time when what you think is going to happen doesn’t.

5) Create space. The change process itself takes on a life of its own. You have to manage that process in addition to all the regular stuff. So create as much space as you can. Get as much off your plate as possible so that you have the margin to deal with the inevitable new tasks and decisions.

Personally, I like change – but mostly when it’s my idea! Change can feel scary for those who aren’t in charge of it. So you’ll need to do some hand-holding.

And even when you’re the one driving the change, there may come a point when you ask yourself, “What made me think this was a good idea?” Recognize up front that while the change will create wonderfully positive outcomes, while you’re in the middle of it, you will likely feel uncomfortable. Life feels foreign and strange. So you have to resist boomeranging back to what feels familiar. Trust yourself, and create new habits.

Once you do, you’ll emerge from the change process re-energized and ready for a new adventure!

Farewell Oklahoma…Hello California!

693I am writing from my new home in sunny southern California. Yes, I moved! Here’s how it all came together.

Fifteen years ago, I met a total stranger when he stepped on to the treadmill next to me at the gym. We began to chat, and within minutes ended up in a very deep conversation about life and work and being faithful to our own inner calling.

He mentioned a book: The Heart Aroused, by David Whyte. Greatly intrigued by his description, I drove directly to the bookstore on my way home from the gym and bought a copy.

I never knew this man’s name and never saw him again. But that chance encounter turned out to be life-changing.

David Whyte’s book spoke to me in a way no other book had. His words gave me the courage and inspiration to follow my heart and take numerous risks over the last fifteen years.

I just took one more leap of faith. I moved from Oklahoma to southern California, where I grew up and where a part of my heart has remained for thirty-five years.

Each time I traveled here, I felt my heart swell as I saw the blue Pacific, the graceful eucalyptus trees, the red tile roofs of Spanish colonial homes, the brilliant bougainvillea, and felt the warm sun even in December.

  • “Take any step toward our destiny through creative action and we know intuitively that we are giving up whatever cover we had.”

No kidding! I know exactly what he means, and I’ll bet you do too. There’s no safety and security when we go off the path and explore our own deep and genuine desires.

  • “In my experience, the more true we are to our own creative gifts the less there is any outer reassurance or help at the beginning. There is a certain early stage when we are left to camp out in the wilderness, alone, with few supporting voices. Out there in the silence we must build a hearth, gather the twigs, and strike the flint for the fire ourselves.”

There is an inescapable aloneness when we honor that authentic part of ourselves, no matter how many close friends we have. Some offer well-meaning words of caution. Others may think we’re just plain crazy.

But the loudest voice holding us back is often our own. It’s the part of us that craves safety and security. Our own interior voice says, “This is too risky. You’ve got to be careful. Be grateful for what you already have. The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.”

I had many long conversations with that interior voice over the last few years, as I contemplated this move. My life was predictable and secure (well, secure is a relative term for any entrepreneur).

But I kept coming back to David Whyte’s words

  • “In effect, if we can see the path ahead laid out for us, there is a good chance it is not our path, it is probably someone else’s we have substituted for our own.”

I wanted my own path.

I believe life is a never-ending cycle of getting to know ourselves — listening to what energizes us, what brings us joy. To be truly authentic, we must honor those creative and, yes, sometimes radical desires, even when those dreams and desires draw us down a path that looks nothing at all like the paths others have chosen.

  • “There is surely a place for the strategic mind, the ability to plan, that lays out our every step in advance, but its ability to pay the monthly bills and figure out the social security tax can become an end in itself. What would it be like to link these powers of calculation and strategy with a radical embrace of the creative unknown, to put strategy in the service of soul?”

And so I put my strategic abilities to work, in service of my soul. My soul longed for California. Though I’ve lived in Oklahoma for thirty five years, I’m a California girl at heart, and that’s where you’ll find me now (hopefully watching the sunset over the Pacific!).

It only took me fifteen years (since reading The Heart Aroused for the first time) to gather the courage to act! I knew I was giving up the safety and security of the life I’d known for the last thirty five years.

But thanks to David Whyte’s words, my soul finally told me I was safe already, safe in my own experience.

I hope my personal story will inspire you to be attentive to the longings of your own soul (and to pay attention to those seemingly unimportant chance meetings!). I hope you’ll find the courage to do the work that you truly love and live in a place that feeds your soul.

I’d love to hear your story too! Tell me about it in the Comments section.

Farewell Oklahoma, hello California,

Darcie Harris



P.S. The only part of this decision I regret is that unforeseen circumstances prevented me from being able to say “Farewell” in person to hundreds of friends, neighbors, clients and business colleagues who have enriched my life and meant so much to me. So plan your next vacation in sunny southern California – we’ll get together and watch the sunset over the Pacific!

P.P.S.  My new contact information is: 821 Via Alhambra, Suite A Laguna Woods, CA. 92637 405.205.1124


Put eight gorillas in a room (or how corporate culture is created)

812Imagine this…you’ve got eight gorillas in a room with a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling and a ladder under the bananas.

The gorillas will race to climb the ladder to get the bananas, right?

Now imagine this: every time a gorilla starts up the ladder, you spray him with a fire hose. The gorillas learn pretty quickly to quit trying to reach those bananas!

Then, remove one of the original gorillas and replace him with a new gorilla.

The first thing the new gorilla will do is head up the ladder for those bananas. The next thing that will happen is the seven veteran gorillas will grab him and drag him down.

Then, one by one, remove another veteran gorilla and replace him with a new gorilla.

Here’s what you’ll end up with — eight gorillas that have never been sprayed with a fire hose, yet they’ll make no attempt to go near the bananas. But the real issue is that they don’t even know why!

So why am I talking about gorillas and bananas? Because this little parable shows you how corporate culture is created and passed on over time.


The first thing to know is that your company has a corporate culture whether you have intentionally articulated it or not. Your business has a personality, just like every individual has a personality.

Corporate culture is not what YOU say it is…it’s a minestrone soup made from what OTHERS say about your business.

It’s what employees say to each other in the parking lot or over a beer. It’s what they say to friends and family. It’s what customers say when they talk ABOUT your business, not just TO you. It’s what vendors say about how it is to do business with you.

Your corporate culture is shaped by your values and your own behavior. You might say you want a culture of teamwork, initiative and respect. But are your actions consistently congruent with those values? You can write anything you want on a piece of paper and call it your values, but your true values are what you live.


So when you think about your corporate culture, the first place to look is in the mirror. Take a good look at yourself, then take 100% responsibility for the corporate culture you are creating.

There are no right and wrong values that make up your culture. (Well…I take that back. Aspiring to a culture of deception or dishonesty wouldn’t be very smart, would it?)

What I mean is that each business is different. Let’s say you run a marketing firm. Creativity and imagination would be important. But let’s say you run a pharmacy. I’m not sure I’d want to shop at a pharmacy that got creative with my prescriptions! But accuracy and precision would be important.

As a consultant and coach, it’s not up to me to decide or advise what your corporate culture SHOULD be. I have one client who is an absolute perfectionist. Perfection gives her a competitive advantage in her industry. I support that. I have another client who wants a culture of fun. I support that too.

However, I do suggest that you think very deeply about your corporate culture and what you’d like it to be. Once it’s established it’s very difficult to change. When you get clear on the culture you’d like to create, then make sure you live that out in your words and actions.

If you want a company with ambitious gorillas who reach for those bananas, then think twice before you spray them with a fire hose.

I’d love to learn more about your corporate culture. Tell me in the Comments section about the culture in your business, and how you created it.

What’s your success formula?

Success for women entrepreneursSuccess.  We all want it, right?  Even if our definitions are different, we all want to achieve our own version of success.

And I’m seeing a lot of oversimplified clichés (especially on social media!) that imply all we need to do is “think successful thoughts” and success will be delivered to our doorsteps, wrapped up in a big bow.


Whether you’re a sports fan or not, just listen to this…

John Wooden was one of the most successful basketball coaches that ever lived.  He turned the UCLA men’s team into a winning machine.  He earned 10 NCAA titles in 12 years, racked up an 88-game winning streak, and won 38 straight tournament games.

Wow!  Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, you’ve gotta admire that impressive winning record!

But here’s what’s fascinating to me:  none of his coaching or locker room talks with his players focused on winning. 

Don’t get me wrong, John Wooden was very competitive and loved to win.

But instead of focusing his players on winning, he taught his students two things:

  • How to execute the skills that led to scoring points (because scoring points leads to winning)
  • Working and practicing to achieve their personal best

In other words, John Wooden focused on input, not output.


Coach Wooden’s philosophy is a great lesson for business success too.  I mean, think about it.  How useful is it if you say, “I want to be successful!” without focusing on the individual skills and steps that lead to success?

You have to break success down into bite size pieces.

For basketball players, that’s accurate shooting, jumping high to get rebounds, quick reflexes, and having the stamina to run up and down that court.  (I’m making this up, you understand, I know very little about basketball.)

But I do know about business.  And I know you need to ask yourself, “What are the specific skills my company needs to execute that will lead to putting points on the board in this business?” 


Imagine you run a restaurant, and you have an outstanding chef.  The food you offer is amazing.  But if your hostess, your bartender and your wait staff aren’t warm and friendly, aren’t attentive, aren’t timely, then it’s not going to matter much how great your food is.  Your customers will be disappointed and won’t return.

So let’s break this down and look at the INPUT it takes to have a successful restaurant.  Great food, great service, great marketing, great profit margins.

Now let’s get more specific.  You have to define “great.”  What does it mean?

Get very specific with your staff and train them.  Teach them exactly with “being warm and friendly” looks and sounds like.  Set standards for speed and service.  Focus your team on practicing the individual steps it takes to consistently create great food and great service.

Does your business depend on referrals?  Then focus on being the best you can be at getting referrals.  Put a system in place to get those referrals.  Set a goal for how many referrals you want each week.  Test several ways of asking for referrals and find the top three most effective ways.  Then practice using those top three methods until you become the absolute best you can be at getting referrals.

That’s what focusing on the input and achieving your personal best looks like.  You have to get specific.


So I want you to take two minutes, right now, and ask yourself these “input” questions:

  • What causes sales in my company?  (i.e., referrals, cold calls, needs assessments?)
  • What causes great service?   (i.e., speed, accuracy, creativity, hospitality, reliability?)
  • What causes wasted money? (i.e., inefficiency, wasted materials, ineffective marketing?)

Then choose ONE THING you can improve in each area and get amazingly good at that one thing.  Define it; get specific about what it takes to really excel in that area.  Teach and train your staff exactly what that looks like.  When you have mastered that skill, then move on to the next one.

John Wooden believed that little things make big things happen.  Little things in your business are what will make big things happen too.

Yes, we need to have a success attitude, a success mindset.  But putting points on the board is what adds up to a winning score.  (I’m starting to sound like a guy right about now, aren’t I?)

Focus on defining your success formula and mastering your input.  That’s when you’ll see success!

Take care,

Darcie Harris



What my grand-dog Sammi taught me about strategic planning

Strategic PlanningMy grand-dog Sammi, a happy black Lab, loved to greet me at the door when I came home.  She also loved carrying around sticks in her mouth.

One day, a heavy wind blessed her with plenty of long tree limbs to choose from.  That evening, when she saw me open the door, she rushed up to greet me – limb and all.

Her tail was wagging, her eyes were bright and she couldn’t wait to get her neck scratched.

Unfortunately, the limb she had in her mouth was so long that she couldn’t fit through the door.

I could see the dilemma on her face — the tough choice of knowing that she’d have to drop her precious stick to get through the door and get her neck scratched.

That’s what it’s like for most of us, knowing that we can get more of what we really want, but we’ll have to let go of something else to get there. 

We have to face that reality:  everything isn’t equally worth doing.  For Sammi, getting her neck scratched trumped carrying around the stick.  (I was pretty happy about that!)

The time comes, as a business owner or leader, when we have to take a deep breath and let go.

We have to train others to take over tasks, responsibilities and authority for things we’ve done well.  We have to learn to trust that others will do them just as well, hopefully even better.

Easier Said Than Done

If you’ve reached that turning point, putting together a strategic plan can help you make that transition.

Here are a few clues that time may have come.  Are you:

  • Feeling overwhelmed?
  • Going in too many directions?
  • Unclear about your priorities?
  • Don’t know what to do next (or first!)?
  • Trying to accomplish big dreams with a shoestring budget?
  • Unable to achieve the results you really want?
  • Unprepared to capitalize on all the opportunities you see?

It’s a proven fact that creating (and using!) a strategic plan will help you master those challenges.  You’ll

  • Gain clarity
  • Get focused
  • Decide priorities (including what to STOP doing!)
  • Achieve better results
  • Inspire the full engagement of your team

 Don’t let Strategic Planning Scare You

 It’s not rocket science, I promise!  Strategic planning is a step by step process of:

  • Painting a picture of your desired future
  • Choosing the ideas you believe will give you an advantage
  • Deciding what is worth doing
  • Knowing exactly what you want people to do
  • Choosing how to do it in the best way
  • Using your resources wisely
  • Making better decisions

Simply put, strategic planning takes you from being reactive to the “crisis of the day” to focusing on the future and becoming proactive.

The Reality of Cost

I know that sometimes the expense of hiring a consultant to facilitate strategic planning keeps small business owners from taking action.

That’s why I’ve designed an affordable and convenient way to accomplish strategic planning.

Strategic Planning Made Simple A one-hour e-course, complete with three planning templates

(to help you organize your goals, your priorities and know who is accountable for what).

The benefits of strategic planning are remarkable!  You’ll learn how to:

  • Define a clear vision, understood and embraced by all employees
  • Set clear goals
  • Focus on your priorities (daily decisions become easier then!)
  • Prevent wasting precious time and money
  • Focus on what differentiates you from your competition
  • Energize and inspire your employees to deliver their very best effort
  • Define what people are accountable for (not just tasks – results!)
  • Turn strategic plans into action plans

Breathe New Life Into Your Business

Is it time to “drop the stick” you are holding and embrace the reality that everything isn’t equally worth doing?

Learn how to do a strategic plan and your life will become more focused, more organized and you’ll achieve better results. 

So join us:

Strategic Planning Made Simple

Thursday, March 27th

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Central Time)

The course is just $199, and it’s yours for life.  View it as often as you like and download fresh templates whenever you need.

You have my word that the benefits will last you a lifetime!

 Take care,

Darcie Harris



P.S.  As with all my training, I want you to be completely satisfied.  That’s why I promise a money-back guarantee if you’re not.  No hassles, no risk!