Photo Credit: E.Leigh Photography

When you were four-years-old, Y was your favorite letter. With a name like Yessica, your affection was understood. The obsession with Y quickly moved to why. You repeated it back to your indulging parents – heck, you repeated it back to anyone within a playhouse’s length from your dimples. Yes, your dimples and chub were your weapon, and you were adored despite the incessant repetition.

Why transformed from a simple word into something more revealing. It evolved into a question once you developed intonations. Why? led to lengthy explanations and tales from decades ago. Why? became your education and your source for wisdom and often times, dirty secrets.

Years have passed. Your dimples don’t glow as they did years ago. And the chub – well, the chub is cellulite. Lately, you’ve stopped asking why? Blame it on stress. Blame it on the lack of jubilee in your life. Blame it on your toxic job or even your beardless ex-boyfriend. Blame serves no purpose. Not here.

Instead of missing your old crush, you move forward. Call it an hour of empowerment or the result of a dirty martini, but you change. You find a new three-letter accomplice – How?

You know why you aspire for more innovation in your career, but you now ask, how? Help is needed. The task at hand is larger than you, Yessica.

You explore NYC until you capture the When I Grow Up Coach, Michelle Ward. Yes, Michelle is a certified life coach, but her talent, perspective, and personal experience far outweigh any framed document. She is exactly who you need.

How did Michelle become a Creative Career Coach in New York City?

“I went into life coaching because I wanted to be the person that I needed when I was 26 and trying to find my new career – so passionate about performing musical theater. After figuring out it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore, it was hard for me to find someone that got that – that got that it was really a mourning period for me to let go of my childhood dream. I needed someone that believed it was feasible for me to find something else that I was equally passionate about,” Michelle shared.

Similar to many other gifted New Yorkers, Michelle is a Renaissance Soul. Performance is ingrained in her laughter.  Michelle accessorizes with a BFA in musical theater from New York University/Tisch School of the Arts, and she was featured on “Saturday Night Live”. Michelle admitted, “I miss performing at the level I used to do it. I always have a cabaret show in my head. I always think about what I can do to sing more. I’d love to start art journaling and writing even though I’m not a writing coach. Writing is such a big part of my marketing with my blog and newsletter.”

How do you successfully skate forward once you know what you want from your creative career?

Without the ease and ability to shove her executive assistant job into the port-o-potty, Michelle made a plan. Since authenticity is the core of Michelle’s ideology, she didn’t want to hide the less-than-glamourous aspects of her early business beginnings. “When I started coaching, I kept my day job hidden. … Once I exposed my day job and once I started documenting where I was in my business and how I was able to make it work, I became transparent. I’ve heard more than once from people that they like the fact that I’ve done what they aspire to do, and I’ve done it recently. Clients know from working with me that I’m not someone who comes from this wealthy family and sits at home and decided to become a life coach one day.

“I always tell people, ‘I don’t have magic fairy dust, I didn’t have three wishes granted to me, and I didn’t win the lottery’ – I literally decided that I was going to be a life coach, and then I figured out how to do it without falling flat on my face the first week. I built myself the biggest safety net I could possibly design, taking baby steps every day. My clients find their own way to do it – not my way. Not everyone needs to get an executive assistant job and work there for 2 years and 7 months while they get certified and build their business.”

How can you build your own creative career when your time is limited?

Michelle advises, “Be clear about your goals and do something every day. It’s not about waiting around for a free afternoon and inspiration. … While I was limited to my cubicle and building my business, I knew I had to blog, I had to tweet, and I had to start talking to people online. I did that every-single-freaking-day. It was great because it wasn’t torturous or horrible. I really liked doing it. It is important to figure out what marketing aspects work for you. Commit 15 minutes here and there.”

Designing a tailored career can lead to endless options. Michelle suggests, “You don’t have to put yourself into one box. Thank the Lord it is 2010 and there are so many options out there for us.” Touch upon the basics – your essential oils of pleasure, e.g. hobbies and interests. “I’m really adamant about still performing. It is hard to find opportunities in NYC when you aren’t super serious about acting full-time. … I’m still so new in my business that it would make my head explode if I had to rehearse and audition every day. My husband writes a show, new episodes of 80’s and 90’s sitcoms, and I pretty much force him to cast me in whatever part I want – I’ll sing a lot of the theme songs which I love – so that’s sort of how I get that fix. I’ll probably start taking improv classes. I’d like to start doing something more visually creative. I’m not an artist in any shape or form.”

But Michelle is an artist. Her palette consists of questions, insights, and intuition. As she adds layer upon layer of truth and strategy with clients, vision and sweat align. Creative careers are fertilized.

How do you stay true to yourself and your vision?

“After Danielle LaPorte’s Firestarter Session, my big takeaway was simple: no one else is going to be able to tell me what I need to do for myself. I’m very big on listening to my gut. Ugh I’ve turned into such a hippy!  It’s always important to follow your instinct,” added Michelle.

How To Find Michelle Ward:

1. Discover Michelle’s first e-course, The Declaration of You
2. Tweet, tweet, SQUAWK
3. Surf the web
4. Wander over to Facebook
5. Delight in Spring – Inspiration in Bloom


Steel pipes and innovation

September 8, 2010

#womaninnovator Natalia Oberti Noguera

There are no cracks in this pipeline; instead, visionary alloys connect the conduit.  These woman innovators, led by Natalia Oberti Noguera, the Founder and CEO of Pipeline, are heating the business world, ion by ion.

Pipeline is a social venture start-up whose mission is to ensure that every woman achieves her potential as an innovator.  It’s got luster; and it’s got strength. The dense start-up contains a variety of elements including proof-of-concept labs, a successful online media campaign, and an energized leader.  “Women tend to wear many hats in the career pipeline,” Oberti Noguera shared.  “We may start off in the corporate sector and then move to the nonprofit sector; next, we start an exciting new business venture.  A lot gets lost in the transition. … Pipeline is a hub that stays with women throughout their career.”

Pipeline connects women to other professional and personal resources  – i.e. The OpEd Project, Catchafire, Astia, etc.  “A lot of women create businesses, start entry-level jobs, or contemplate ways they can accelerate in their careers, and a huge differentiating factor for them is their role as an expert,” stated Oberti Noguera.  Experts are in.  But how do you leverage your personal expertise?

Through Pipeline’s proof-of-concept labs, women have the opportunity to develop their own brand – a hybrid of professional and personal identification.  “We provide a safe space for women to start owning it, to be identified as an expert, and to be considered a thought leader,” Oberti Noguera commented. “Be comfortable saying you are an expert.  … the concept goes back to self-promotion.  If someone has a more fleshed-out persona, including their personal and professional brand, then they are more likely to make a connection with someone else.”

Language matters.  During a recent interview with No Country for Young Women, Noguera advised, “Women innovators and people in general should learn another language.  Learning a second language is not just about communication, it also applies another way of thinking.  It provides a different point of reference and reminds us that there is more than one word for something and also more than one way to perceive something.”

Oberti Noguera’s diverse elements and background binds Pipeline’s core into a unique model.  “I’m half-Italian and half-Colombian so Pipeline’s global perspective is something front and center for me.  I want to ensure that we can produce women innovators globally,” stated Oberti Noguera.  Her tweets (@nakisnakis) fit her offline persona to a T: efficient, smart, and inspiring.  “I am a huge social media fan – love it – it fits my personality.  I want to make sure that the technological solution that we develop for Pipeline compliments our initiatives and helps us scale so we can support even more women entrepreneurs.”

Online media (more specifically, @PipelineWomen) connects and features women innovators.  “One of our initiatives is #womaninnovator … it is creating online and offline opportunities to share women’s stories and go viral … #womaninnovator shows the diversity of faces and expands the definition of woman innovator,” added Oberti Noguera.

What are the proof-of-concept labs?

The Accelerator teaches female professionals about change management, an important leadership skill, by providing them with the opportunity to create, pitch, make the business case, and implement a sustainable initiative at work. Oberti Noguera added, “My personal belief is that sustainability is a change management issue, and at the end of the day, a change management issue is a people issue. What really distinguishes a manager from a leader is being able to anticipate, respond, and even create change. For the Accelerator, we provide the support and network for women to create an action-plan and to integrate sustainability at work (i.e. a recycling plan in the office).”

The Incubator provides tools, resources, and capacity-building to entrepreneurs. Each woman is paired with a mentor (an established entrepreneur) and an apprentice (typically a graduate-schools student).  The apprentice is tomorrow’s entrepreneur.

The Mastermind leverages the curriculum of leadership programs offered to high potential employees at Fortune 500 companies, and the Mastermind also teaches best practices in networking, relationship-building, and identifying one’s strengths with the support of a facilitator and peers.  “The broad definition of sustainable is that it’s not just about the environment, and it’s not just about the social dynamic.  It’s about whether or not you are being sustainable in your career – in terms of your work/life balance and in terms of your relationships.  The Mastermind is for people to identify their strengths.  It provides structure and accountability which is so important during a transition – women need support from other women going through a similar experience,” Oberti Noguera added.

A new initiative, Fund, is launching this fall and will convert women philanthropists into investors and encourage women to invest in triple bottom line (3BL) companies led by #womaninnovators in the range of US$50k-US$500k.

What is your definition of a #womaninnovator?  Write it down. Better yet, tweet it and share with @PipelineWomen.  You’ll soon realize that you fit your own definition.  Until then and after then – get involved.  Email to learn more about the proof-of-concept labs and to share your innovations.

Under construction

July 13, 2010

I'm in the blue shirt at the Red Feather Build on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation

I am currently redecorating this site – a bit of stucco, polishing the floors, hanging plants, etc.  Back in the fall.  Meanwhile, check out what I’ve been up to this summer here.

Photo Credit: Red Feather Development Group

No texting.  No internet.  No blogging.  No, no, no.

I love it.  I’m currently residing in an emerald green tent in the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  My first time in Montana.  I’m helping build a sustainable straw bale house through the incredible organization, Red Feather Development Group.

Truthfully, waking up a 7am and working every day does not seem like a vacation.  Yet, I feel like the next week may be worthy of a lot more than golden beaches and tans, pool side lounging, and daiquiris.  It’s my first week on “vacationing” completely on my own.  On my own as in not knowing a single soul.  It’s refreshing … and it’s needed.

I’ll be back to the homestead, NY i love/hate you City, on June 20th.  Changed.

The end of “nice”

May 27, 2010

Cheers to the wild Self.  Imbibe.  Whatever you do this weekend, do not “be nice”.

Side note: My week felt like this frizzle of a doll.

“I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.  If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door.  If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.  If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.

…The early training to ‘be nice’ causes women to override their intuitions.  In that sense, they are actually purposefully taught to submit to the predator.  Imagine a wolf mother teaching her young to ‘be nice’ in the face of an angry ferret or a wily diamondback rattler.”

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, Women Who Run With the Wolves

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Yellow eyebrows

May 20, 2010

“My sister was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease when she was in her early 40’s.  By the time they figured out what she had, they gave her three months to live.  She ended up living for three years, due in large part to her fervent love for her young daughters.

Her name is Kathy.  She was technically my half sister, but was like a mother to me.  I packed up all of my things and moved from Florida to California at her suggestion when I was in my early 20’s.  It never occurred to me that anything ‘bad’ could happen to a young woman in a car alone on a three or four day trip across the country with all of her possessions in her car, including a large television more or less in plain view in the back seat; and nothing bad did happen.

She took me into the fold, made me part of her family.  We would take long walks and she would listen to me rattle off incessantly about whoever I was dating at the time – she was patient with me as I painstakingly dissected every conversation and wrung my hands over every nuance of what was said.

She was home.

So I painted her.  Tried to convey the strength of my love for her and the power of her courage with the color choices.  Most of all I tried to capture the pain in her eyes.  The resignation.  The fear.  And a glimmer of hope in her yellow eyebrows.

It occurred to me long after the painting was done that her eyes were green.  Mine are blue.

I had painted my eyes into her face.”

-Art and story by Lisa Valle, 44, from Portland, Oregon

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Art by Melissa Garrett (daughter) from Bristol, Tennessee

“My name is Melissa. I have always felt like I was born in the wrong area.

I feel that I would better ‘fit in’ in a large metropolitan area, such as New York or LA. However, I went to a very rural high school in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. It was not out of the ordinary for the students of my high school to wear their overalls and roper boots to school, fully adorned in the cow and horse manure from working on their families’ farms early that morning.

Agriculture and Horticulture were the most popular areas of study at my high school. Old pick-up trucks with a dead deer in the back from the owner’s most recent hunting trip were plenteous. I, on the other hand, did not find this aspect of my area’s culture attractive in the least bit.

Each morning when I got ready for school, unlike the others, I did not think of what would be most comfortable to wear that day. I focused on what was stylish and appealing. I spent much of my time with my fashion magazines. My dream job is to be a fashion stylist of the stars (although I am currently in college to become a nurse).

As my picture describes, I treated the halls of my school like a run-way, modeling the fashionable looks that I put together. I did stand-out from the ‘norm’ of my peers, but I didn’t mind. I love expressing myself through style.”

-Melissa Garrett, 20-years-old

Art by Barbie Garrett (mother) from Bristol, Tennessee

“This is a self-portrait reflecting my vision of who I am.  As I was having fun drawing, I was reflecting that this is not how others see me, I think. I started to send a picture of just two green eyes on a white background.  I see myself that way sometimes, on the outside looking in.  And invisible.

This reflects the parts of me I enjoy.  I purposely left out my family, even though that is so much of who I am.  And, I purposely left out my faith, which is also much of who I am.  This is just a simple ‘look at me’.

I spend much of my time out on the porch, working on my laptop in my porch swing.  I am a freelance writer, and this is a lot of who I am. I am the Social Media Examiner for the Knoxville Examiner. I write about many different topics, but it is often cooking and crafts. I am a kitchen gadget addict:  I have 3 bread machines and 3 rice cookers.

I am a church organist and a former piano teacher.  I do a lot of things, but I usually do them on the front porch in my porch swing.

Obviously, I am a philosopher, and not an artist!”

Barbie Garrett, 50-years-old

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