Candid girl talk…our emotional attachments

emotional attachmentsLast month my annual GYN exam revealed something growing where it shouldn’t be.  (That’s creepy news to hear!)  An ultrasound didn’t provide many clues, and an MRI only confirmed there was…well…a large mass near my uterus.

My doctor assured me that none of the tests indicated that scary “C” word — but it couldn’t be ruled out a hundred percent, either.  Clearly uncomfortable with the status quo he said, “You’re one of those cases that cause us docs to scratch our heads and say, ‘What do we do now?’’”

Without hesitation I said, “You know, I’m not emotionally attached to my uterus.  At this stage of my life, it serves no useful purpose.  How about if we just take it out?” 

So I had a hysterectomy on Monday (which is why my weekly blog skipped a beat).  Problem solved (and I feel great, by the way).

But as a regular reader of my words, you likely know that this post isn’t about my health.  It is, as always, about the metaphor.


Once I spoke the words “not emotionally attached” and “no useful purpose” I couldn’t get them out of my mind.  Having made the decision to ditch a few body parts with surprising ease, I began to see everything through new eyes.

For a month I’ve been asking myself, “How many other things in my life serve no useful purpose?  Am I emotionally attached to them?” 

I came upon six years of Hemingway journals, which I use for my weekly planning.  Yes, six years.  (You’re laughing at me now, aren’t you!)  And I asked myself, Do these serve any useful purpose?  No.  So why am I keeping these?  Am I emotionally attached to them?  Yes.  Why?  Because that’s six years of work on those pages!

As I swapped the winter clothes in my closet with spring clothes, I noticed a sweater I bought in Paris two years ago, and have only worn once.  (It looked a lot cuter in that Paris boutique!)

Then there’s the straw handbag I bought in Rwanda but I’m too lazy to change purses all the time, so I never use it.   But I remember so clearly the face of the woman who made it!

And my books!  I may still have every book I’ve ever read.

Turns out I own lots of things that serve no useful purpose. The problem is, I’m emotionally attached to most of them.

So I’ve been asking myself quite a few questions:

  • What meaning have I attached to these “things?” What do they represent to me?
  • What am I holding on to?
  • Am I holding on to the past?  Or preparing for the future?
  • Are these attachments keeping me from something new and different?
  • Would it free up some space – both physical and emotional – if I parted with a few of these belongings?

Now, I’m not talking about things with deep sentimental meaning, like my children’s kindergarten drawings, my aunt’s antique wooden bowl, or a necklace my mother gave me.  That’s different.  And I feel great compassion for the many women who have had to sacrifice precious body parts before they outlived their usefulness, as mine had.  That’s real sorrow.


I’m talking about things and thoughts, belongings and beliefs, which might be keeping us in the past instead of preparing us for the future.  Do these things, thoughts, belongings and beliefs represent a resistance to change or grow?

Are there things — tangible and intangible — personal or business — that you are holding on to, without knowing why?  See where these questions take you:

  • Are you emotionally attached to a certain product or service you offer, that may no longer meet the needs of your market?
  • Are you emotionally attached to an employee that can’t keep up now that the company has grown?  (I’ve seen this happen, and it’s painful!)
  • Are you emotionally attached to a client that may not really fit your business model anymore?
  • Are you emotionally attached to a belief about yourself that is holding you back?  (I call these “stories.”)
  • Are you emotionally attached to a relationship that prevents you from being open to a new one?
  • Are any of these tangible “things” or intangible beliefs taking up valuable space (in your closet, in your mind, in your heart)?
  • Is what you think and believe – about yourself or your business — positioning you for the future or holding you in the past?

I’m still mystified as to why it is more difficult for me to part with a book than it was to part with my ovaries!  But I’m on a new journey now to reexamine what I’m holding on to and what that emotional attachment might keep me from exploring.

I kissed my Hemingway journals goodbye and put them in the recycle bin.  They will become useful once again in a brand new shape and form (paper towels? toilet paper?).  I folded the Paris sweater neatly, and sent it on to the women’s shelter, along with the straw handbag and two dozen other clothing items.  To another woman, these clothes will represent the new, the future.

You know what?  I felt lighter.

I am creating space for something new to take shape.  I hope you will too!

Take care,

Darcie Harris



P.S.  I hope you’ll share your stories of creating space with me too, in the Comments section below.  And if you like what you read, feel free to share.

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!

Communication: “Can you bring me a screwdriver please?”

communication skillsEver wonder if your communication skills are as good as you think they are?  Sometimes even the simplest things get misunderstood.  Listen to this…

I’m on a late night phone call from a consulting client.  She’s had a long day of meetings, and decided to swing by a restaurant she owns and sit by their outdoor fireplace as we debriefed the day.

In the background, I hear her flag down a waitress and ask, “Can you bring me a screwdriver please?”

We talk for a bit, and soon I hear laughter.  Then I hear the waitress apologizing.  Then more laughter.  They are hysterical!

I’m so curious that I’m trying to see through the phone line to figure out what has them doubled over laughing.  “What in the world is going on there?”

She’s laughing so hard she can hardly get the words out“The waitress brought me a tool box!  I asked for a screwdriver — I just wanted a cocktail!  She brought me an entire toolbox!”  communication skills

I’m now I’m laughing so hard I have tears rolling down my face.  She’s laughing, the waitress is laughing, and I suspect they had drawn a crowd by now.

So as you can see, even the simplest communication can be misunderstood.

We all agree that good communication is one of the most crucial skills of leadership.  Whether you realize it or not, you set the tone for communication throughout your entire company.

So maybe we can’t take even the simplest communication for granted.


As a leader, how are you doing in each of these eight communication skills?

1)      Authenticity:  Nothing destroys trust faster than lack of authenticity. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Authenticity doesn’t give you license to blow up or berate (we all have those urges!).  It does mean that you can express feelings of disappointment or concern.  It means that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  People will remember what you say, so be very sure you mean what you are saying. 

2)      Balance advocacy with inquiry:   Much of a leader’s job involves “telling and selling.”  Be sure to balance out your advocacy with inquiry, with getting others opinions.   And listen!  Stretch to understand what each person is saying.  Just as important, what are they NOT saying?  Use “active listening” skills, which means you reflect back what you believe you heard.  You check in, “Am I understanding you correctly when I hear you say that …” Ask good questions:  There is tremendous healthy power in asking the right questions.  Ask what slows people down, what is inefficient in the system.  Ask for ideas.  Ask what they need.  Ask what they expect.  Stop selling and start listening.

3)      Context matters:  Once again, the screwdriver…here’s the back story:  that waitress knew that the restaurant owner is quite particular about the patio furniture, and had recently mentioned some of the fittings were loose.  Given that context, she seriously thought that the owner wanted to tighten up the screws in the furniture.  Hence…she brought her a toolbox instead of a cocktail!  That’s called “context.”  Check in to understand the larger context of what’s being discussed and you’ll save yourself lots of frustration(Though you might miss a few laughs!)

4)      Shared meaning:  Repeat back what you heard and make sure you clarify.  For example, you might say, “We need this project completed fast.”  Well, what does “fast” mean to you?  Does is mean right now, drop everything and do it?  Or does it mean by the end of the month?  Clarify to make sure your words have shared meaning.  (Like screwdriver = cocktail vs. screwdriver = tool!)

5)      Early and often:  When people don’t have information, they fill in the blanks themselves.  And most of the time, they fill that gap with something negative.  Especially when change is in the works, keep people informed.  Speak to the issue as soon as possible and keep people updated

6)      Disagree and debate:  You want an environment where people can feel comfortable to disagree and debate issues, priorities, strategies and methods.  Jim Collins found this characteristic to be one of the most significant factors in the most successful companies

7)      Who needs to know What by When?:  One of the biggest complaints of employees (customers too!) is that they feel like they don’t have all the information or are not kept informed.  With every project or decision, ask yourself this question:  Who needs to know What by When?  That positions your employees to do their best work.   

8)      Undiscussables:  Nearly every organization has topics considered to be “undiscussable.”  These are the very topics that can sink you.  Undiscussables sap energy and create gossip (because people are talking about them anyway, just not to your face).  Create a culture where it’s safe to draw out the very topics that people are scared to bring up.

We’re going to tell that funny screwdriver story for a long time.  (And create more laughter, which is a good thing, because we all need more laughter.)

But beyond the comedy, here’s the real point:  Foster a climate of authentic, clear and open communication with employees, with vendor and with customers.  Your employee and your customers will all benefit!

Communicate with me too, right below in the comments section.  Got a funny miscommunication story?  I’d love to hear it!

Take care,

Darcie Harris

Maybe Oprah & I disagree about planning

PlanningI know a woman who left a lucrative (though unrewarding) job and moved to another city to pursue her dream of opening her own business. 

After a particularly bad day at the office, and one more frustrating episode with a miserable boss, she ducked out early, drove home, dropped down on the sofa and turned on Oprah. 

During that show, Oprah said the magic words: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

The woman quit her job the next day. On hope alone, within a month, she sold her home, moved and opened her business.

Trouble is, the money didn’t follow.

I know a lot of women entrepreneurs who do what they love, and the money hasn’t followed.

At the risk of getting on Oprah’s bad side, I think there’s a lot more to running a successful business than, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

So what’s the answer?  It’s not magic and it’s not complicated.  You absolutely, positively, unequivocally must have a plan.

 Time after time, research has proved that entrepreneurs who engage in strategic planning are more profitable and more successful than those who do not.

One simple thing stops most women entrepreneurs from creating a strategic plan:  they don’t know how. 

That’s exactly why I created my new e-course.

Strategic Planning Made Simple

It’s not magic.  It’s common sense, step by step instructions on:

  • Who should participate
  • When to plan and how often
  • What questions to ask and answer
  • How to define and measure goals
  • What to track and measure
  • How to use your plan to get better results

And there’s more!  You’ll get three easy-to-use planning templates.  Half the work is done for you!  (Okay, I’m exaggerating…not half — but the templates DO save you hours of time and energy.)

Strategic planning has so many benefits that entire books are written on the subject.  Here are the top three:  

  1. you’ll take control of your future
  2. you’ll identify and prioritize opportunities
  3. you’ll make better decisions about how to spend your time and money

Please don’t be like the women who, on hope alone, risked her financial security with no planning and believed the money would magically follow.

Start today to turn your dreams into reality with a PLAN.  (The secret?  Break your dream into bite-size pieces.)

Check it out today, just click, “Tell me more…”

  Tell me more

Stop struggling and start planning!

Take care,

P.S. Can you tell I’m excited about helping you turn your dreams into reality?  In fact, I’m so determined that if you sign up TODAY I’ll give you a FREE 45-minute coaching session! 

Are ambitious women are less feminine?

Ambitious womenI’ve been stewing about this for a week now.  I’m writing today in defense of ambition.  Specifically, in defense of ambitious women.  (Next week I might tackle defending perfectionism!)

Here’s why…

Last week, a close friend of mine spoke to me about his nephew, who is about to graduate from law school.  “I’m so proud of him.  He’s smart, he’s ambitious and he’s going to have a great career ahead of him.”  

The next day, a woman friend confided she felt troubled by hitting a speed bump in her career path.  “I think some of my co-workers – especially the women — didn’t like me because I am ambitious.  And because I’m not petite, they felt intimidated.”

Between her ambitions and her stature, she actually ended up feeling less feminine.  Her revelation was like a knife in my heart.  This woman is lovely, inside and out.  She’s competent, smart, and yes, she’s ambitious.  She’s also very feminine.

Her ambition makes her passionate about doing a good job, about doing what she was hired to do, and doing it to the best of her abilities.

Why do we admire ambition in men, but not in women?    

I’m curious…if someone described you to a friend and said, “She’s ambitious,” would you consider that a compliment?  Or would it make you feel less feminine?  Would you rather others describe you as pretty?

It’s time to rethink the stories we tell ourselves about ambitious women.  What is the source of our beliefs?  Is it time to challenge our own assumptions?

It’s time to realize that we will only be comfortable with the ambitions of other women when we get comfortable with our own ambitions. 

It’s time to be honest, too.  (This might hurt!)  Women have always been ambitious.  In years past, we just projected that ambition elsewhere.   We proudly chose ambitious spouses and felt pride in their career advancement and financial success.  We were ambitious about our children’s accomplishments.  We were ambitious about our material possessions — our homes, the clothes and jewelry we wear.

It’s time to embrace our own ambitions.

We don’t need to live out our ambitions through others.  You might have big career ambitions.  You might be ambitious about your creative gifts.  You might be ambitious about your community service.  Good for you!  We don’t all have to be alike.

As for me, I am nothing short of profoundly grateful for all the ambitious women who have changed the world, one small step at a time.  Ambitious women like:

  • Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx.  She began the company with $5,000 of her personal savings and launched a global company, providing thousands of jobs.  She’s now the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.  Are we going to hold that against her? 
  • Frances Perkins, our first female cabinet secretary, serving as Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945.  Before she left her mark, our country had no child labor laws, no social security system, no unemployment insurance and few safety laws.  Without Frances (I feel like I should call her Ms Perkins) our country might still have labor conditions like we see in Bangladesh, where people are forced to work 12 to 14 hour shifts in unsafe buildings.
  • Candice Lightner, who founded MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Drivers — after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  Thanks to her ambition, estimates show that drunk driving has been cut in half. 
  • Serena Williams…enough said!

These ambitious women have each changed the world in their own unique way. 

I believe ambition is a strength, and any strength overused becomes a weakness.   Ambition becomes dark when the source of that ambition is purely ego or personal gain.  Ambition turns sour when we use or abuse other people for our own gain.

But ambition fueled by a desire to live out our full potential or born from a longing to serve the greater good is an admirable quality, for both men and women.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th– a global holiday honoring women and the contributions of women around the world – let’s all celebrate the accomplishments of ambitious women! 

Celebrate by telling an ambitious woman you admire her!

No, I don’t believe being ambitious makes you less feminine.  I believe it can make you MORE feminine.

My hope for you is that you will proudly embrace your own ambitions, whatever they are, and use them for the greater good.

“A (wo)man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his (her) ambitions.”  ~  Marcus Aurelius

Take care,

Darcie Harris


P.S.  Do you need a jump start to help you get comfortable with your own ambitions and embrace your full potential?  If so … you might like my e-course The Alpha Mare: Embrace the Grace of Power.  Check it out!

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