Thursday, March 31

When Your Mountain Won’t Move by Shelia E. Lipsey

When Your Mountain Won’t Move by Shelia E. Lipsey

The word of God says…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you ( Matthew 17:20b)
Life is complex at times, especially when we are in the midst of trials or facing problems and troubled situations.  Sometimes, the mountain of problems we are facing can test even the strongest of God’s children.  Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen (Hebrew 11:1 NASB).


During tough times such as those many of us are faced with today, where does our faith stand?  Where is the mustard seed faith that can say to the mountain in our lives, be thou removed and be yea cast down into the sea, and the mountain will move out of our way?  Where are those of us who stand strong against the fierce winds of adversity?
When everywhere we look, people are losing jobs, families are splitting apart, and murder and mayhem seem to bombard the news.  Giant corporations who provided good, steady jobs with great pay and benefits are becoming scarce and corrupt.  We don’t see a positive end in sight.  As a matter of fact, it looks like things are getting worse at every time.

What do you do when your mountain won’t move?  Some of us give up.  Some of us find it even more difficult to call on the sovereign God.  Still, many more of us fester in anger, disappointment, confusion and hate.  As our children go without, as our homes go in foreclosure, and our automobiles are repossessed, and our job cutbacks are at an all time high what do we expect.  When  we lose our material possessions that we’ve worked so hard for, how can we stand and take our tiny, pitiful mustard seed faith and say “mountain get out of my way,” and expect it to move?

It can be difficult. It can seem impossible. I know from experience, and I’ve been a child of God since I was eight years old.  Now I am so much older, and I’ve seen the matchless hand of God’s saving grace and mercy work over and over and over in my life.  Still, I’m here to tell you, that even now, my faith has been put through the test.
I wish I could say that I came through with flying colors like my brother in Christ Job did, but I would be lying.  Truth be told, I recently went through a trying situation that had me reeling and spiraling out of control. I didn’t think about picking up God’s words. I barely drew his words from my heart. I lay in a fetal position on my bed literally for days and sulked, cried, sulked and cried some more, wondering why me, Lord? I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to talk to family and friends. I didn’t want to talk to God.

Yet.

Yet, I say. God Is.  God remained faithful to me, His child.  After all, He is the one who chose me, adopted me into His kingdom, made me an heir and a joint heir, placed me as part of a royal priesthood.  He is the one who made me, he formed me and he already knows all there is to know about me, including the times such as these that I have faced lately and times before, and times to come.
God remained by my side when I didn’t feel Him by my side.  He is in my spirit, the depths of my soul.  He surrounds me with his love and His angels of protection.  He looks at my fragile, carnal body and loves me--Still.  He loved me when I didn’t think I was loveable.  He loved me when I felt doubtful of Him and His love.  He loved me, and he held me when I fought against Him, when I blamed Him for my circumstances.


You see, my friends; God is big enough to take on our problems.  He tells us to trust in Him with all of our hearts and to lean not to our own understanding.  He tells us that He will direct our paths.  He reminded me that I am not perfect.  I will falter at times, but my belief in God will never change.

You can say to the mountain in your life.  “Move mountain. Get out of my way in the name of Jesus.  If you believe that which you say, then the mountain has no choice but to move! 
I came to understand this recently as I sat in a sea of depression in the middle of my bed watching Planet Earth on the Animal Precinct channel. It told the story of a beautiful group of special cranes that had to make a gruesome, life threatening journey to the other side of the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world, if they were to eat and drink.  Though they knew they faced death, though they knew some of their young would be killed, though they knew that some of them would not make it because of the danger that faced them as they confronted the mighty Himalayas, they yet moved forward.  They stretched their wings and allowed the wind to push them gently, yet steadily, higher and higher.  They elevated gracefully up, up higher and higher into the Himalayas. 

The mountains are too tall to fly over, so the cranes had to reach enough elevation that they could rise above the storms that they would surely face trying to make it to the other side by going through the vast God majestic mountains.  There was a time they even had to turn back because of the strong, turbulence coming from the ferocious storms up in the clouds.  They were exhausted, hungry and thirsty.  They faced a major setback and had to turn back. 

Yet, they did not give up. They started again and they went through the same thing, but this time, even though hawks were waiting to prey on the weaker cranes, they didn’t stop.  They moved higher up the mountain until they reached an elevation high enough that they were able to fly around the massive Himalayas all the way to the other side.  Upon reaching the other side, they were able to feed on rich, fertile food and fresh water.  They would have to make the long journey back again, but they had no time to think about what lay ahead.  They had reached their destination through perseverance.


We too, can reach the destination that God has for us.  Maybe you have lost a job recently.  Maybe you don’t know how you’re going to make ends meet.  Maybe you’re in a troubled relationship or you’re just plain worried about your future.  My friends, God is able.  God will never let us down.  We must learn how to face our mountains.  We may turn back at times, and feel like we will never see a brighter day ahead.  But we must not linger and we must not give up.  We may have to start the journey of faith again, but that’s okay because God is a God of second chances and third chances and unlimited chances.  We may falter and get weary but God says He will fight our battles for us.  We do have the power within us because of the Holy Spirit to say to our mountain, Move Mountain Get out of my way.
----


The Word According to Shelia
is a monthly column by national multi award winning Christian fiction author, inspirational speaker and literary expert, Shelia E. Lipsey.  Contact Shelia E. Lipsey at shelialipsey@gmail.com or visit her on the web at www.shelialipsey.com 






African Americans: Decide Your Destiny, Master Your Mind by Bret Searles

African Americans: Decide Your Destiny, Master Your Mind
by Bret Searles


“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” -Hebrews 11:1

Gain Ultimate Leverage-Know Your Values and Beliefs: Simply stated, what we value and believe most will have ultimate leverage over how we think and feel on a daily basis. A belief in God may compel people to worship several times a week, pray to Mecca 5 times a day or even to change friendships, kill or willingly die based on how they practice their faith. Beliefs are powerful and a minor alteration to a single belief can completely change one’s life.

If you believe that racism is a barrier to success, your mind has no choice but to confirm your belief. If you believe as Earl Graves, publisher and CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine and author of the book “How to Succeed in Business without Being White”, that racism is a nuisance, then you will be empowered to defeat this nuisance when it rears its ugly head. The reason is that your mind will work overtime to confirm your deeply held beliefs because the mind doesn’t accept contradictions well. Your brain will prefer to confirm what you believe by finding confirmatory evidence in your external world while blocking out evidence to the contrary.

Your deeply held beliefs have the power to create mental blind spots to evidence that is contradictory to those beliefs. Not all beliefs fall under the category of being deeply held but the ones closely connected to your core values usually do. If you highly value your freedom, your beliefs about what freedom means to you will likely be deeply held. A belief that is not deeply held will have much less impact on our lives. For example, a cigarette smoker may understand that smoking is unhealthy and deadly however, he may continue to smoke. There is no contradiction here. In this person’s hierarchy of beliefs, this smoker believes that the benefits of smoking are more important and more desirable then the consequences.

Your beliefs have a hierarchy. The smoker may believe that smoking is cool, social, soothing and his social circle will likely confirm these ideas. This smoker will have difficulty quitting without first changing his beliefs. If he inverted his hierarchy of beliefs about the benefits and dangers of smoking, he will be more empowered to quit. The more strongly held negative beliefs about smoking he has, the easier it will be to quit especially when coupled with the visualization of a slow, painful death from lung cancer.

This is how we can use our beliefs and values to gain leverage over our actions. This is also why for every study that attempts to prove that alcohol or caffeine may be bad for us, there are industry-sponsored studies showing that alcohol, such as red wine, or that something about caffeine exerts beneficial effects. Each study has the potential to shape our beliefs, which is one reason why so many “research” studies may come to the exactly opposite conclusions.

Politics is another area where there is enough data on either side to rationally justify voting for either of the two major parties. The most loyal party members easily disregard data that contradict their beliefs and readily counter with data that supports their viewpoints.

I am asking you to be aware of what your beliefs are and to determine if they serve or limit your capability. If your beliefs are self-limiting, you have the freedom to change or alter them. Another belief you must have is that you possess the power to change your beliefs at any time you desire. Some beliefs can undermine your business efforts. Also, a positive belief will be cancelled out by an opposing negative belief. A belief that marriage is wonderful can be totally cancelled out by a belief that all men are bastards that is self-sabotaging to any potential long-term relationship you may have with men. Adopt more positive beliefs then negative ones to tip the scales in your favor. Here are some strategies to help you take control of your beliefs so you can gain maximum positive leverage out of them in your life.

--List and rank your core values - Values are abstract ideas that get their substance and meaning from how you believe they should be expressed in your life. Freedom, honesty, integrity, loyalty, the purpose of money, the love of a family and faith in God are a few of many potential values you may have. Define what these mean to you. Freedom to one may mean being able to go where he wants to go while to another it may mean freedom to worship God. Rank your values in order of importance to you. What do you value most? Knowing can help with your goal setting.

--Use questions to test your beliefs - Questioning your beliefs puts them to the test. Challenge their purpose and impact on your life. Sometimes our beliefs contain language like “all”, “always”, “must” and “impossible” to name a few. Do these qualifying words really apply? Will “all” people take advantage of you? Is it really ‘impossible’ to succeed and get rich in this economy? ‘Must’ everything be perfect before you can start your new business? Questioning your beliefs helps put your brain to work at finding answers instead of excuses. Asking the right questions will produce the right answers. If you don’t like the answer, ask a better question. The qualifying words you use may serve or hinder you in the attainment of your goals.

Strengthen your most empowering beliefs with qualifying words like the ones mentioned above and weaken your most disempowering beliefs by changing your qualifying words. Change ‘must’ to ‘maybe’ and you will take some of the leverage out of your disempowering beliefs. Changing ‘should’ to ‘must’ will add leverage to your empowering beliefs. Should you improve your organization skills or must you improve them? It’s easy to put a ‘should’ off until tomorrow but your ‘musts’ must be done today. Wouldn’t you agree? Are all men dogs or do some men occasionally act like dogs? The second phrasing has less emotional impact and is less of a barrier to good relationships.

--Reframe - Change your negative beliefs by focusing on their positive opposites. You already are aware of how to do this. Is the glass half empty or half full? How you answer this question can affect your entire outlook on everything. Instead of believing that ‘all men are dogs’, you could reframe that belief to say that your experiences have taught you what you like and dislike about men which makes you wiser now and that you will make better choices about the men you date in the future. This reframe takes the power away from external events and others and puts it back into your hands, which is right where you want it. That is the power of the reframe.

--Create new references - This is the fun part. References are the actual experiences you have that actually support you new beliefs or values. Once you are clear on your values and beliefs, asked the questions and reframed your beliefs, you can now begin creating new reference experiences for your new beliefs.

--Act on your new beliefs - Don’t wait for an experience to happen your way by chance that confirms that your new belief is true. Create the experience by taking action on it. Start a business, go for a promotion, and give that speech to a large all the confidence you believed you would. Whatever belief you decided would empower you the most, take immediate action on it. Also, create a mental image of yourself successfully taking action on your new beliefs using the visualization techniques mentioned early.

Remember, the brain doesn’t care if the experience is real or not, it interprets all images the same. So, create several images with as much emotional intensity as possible to give your beliefs instant emotional power.

These are just a few of the most powerful strategies you can employ. The more of these strategies you use, the more power you will have to put yourself into your most resourceful states. As with anything that is worthwhile, these strategies require practice. Don’t give up after a few attempts. Give yourself time and these skills will become more like second nature to you so that you can implement them unconsciously.

The next strategies may not be for everyone because of their seemingly spiritual nature however the power inherent in these next strategies is undisputed. I encourage to read the next article in this series to gain true strength and leverage to shape your destiny.


About The Author Bret Searles

This article is an excerpt from the downloadable ebook by Bret Searles titled "The 7 Simple Secrets to Wealth Building: An African American’s Guide to Wealth Building in the 21st Century and Beyond" available at www.blackwealthnow.com. Contact Bret at: bret@blackwealthnow.com

Intimate Conversation with Karibu Bookstores Founder Bro. Yao Glover


Intimate Conversation with Karibu Bookstores
Founder Bro. Yao Glover

Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) is a poet, author and businessman. He founded the vending operation that led to Karibu Books with his wife Karla Glover in 1992 and ran the company with Simba Sana. Karibu Books was legendary and held the title of one of the leading African-American bookstores in the country, the largest chain of African American bookstores up until February 10, 2008. Fifteen-year-old Karibu Books, headquartered in Temple Hills, Maryland, which at its height had 6 stores and 45 employees in Maryland and Virginia, will never be forgotten. Bro. Yao is  currently a professor at Bowie State University .

Ella:  Bro. Yao welcome!  It is such a pleasure to have you with us today! It was such a rewarding experience working for Karibu Books!  The closing of Karibu sadden a entire community. Today I would like to talk about the mission behind starting Karibu Books and what Karibu really meant to you.  For those new to the literary scene, you can give them a glimpse inside the world of a business owner and community leader.


Ella: Now that Karibu is gone, what are you doing within the community? Are you still networking in the literary world? Are you still writing poetry?
Yao: Currently, my interest are still in promoting African American Literature of the Diaspora. At Bowie State University , I get a chance to interact with young people primarily from Washington, D.C. , Baltimore and Prince George's County, Maryland. In terms of basic reading and writing the core skills are often lacking, however, in terms of communication I get the chance to learn. On the poetry side, I am constantly reading, studying and when I get the chance performing.

Lastly, on the business side, I am working on a new project. The greatest obstacle to that project is the debt from Karibu which was primarily absorbed by my wife and I. In summary, I like to think of myself as a resource for Bowie State and the Community at Large in respect to writing, selling and promoting reading and books in our community.


Ella: Did Karibu Bookstores change the way consumers were previously taught to think? This is one of my favorite quotes in relation to business. Did Karibu create a new system?
"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one." - Nicolo Machiavelli

Yao: Karibu was a product of a series of forces. Only one of them was the actual will and force of the owners. The others were the market conditions: the change in the literary landscape of the 1990’s, the blessing of being born into the Washington Metropolitan Area and deciding to build a Black Bookstore here.

The rise of the Black Woman Writer (Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker as example), the Black Inspiration Book (Acts of Faith, Black Pearls), the relationship book, (Michael Baisden), the expansion of African American LGTB writing, Black Romance, Erotica and Urban Literature all worked to Karibu’s advantage. I think the next move after Karibu will be a new system. In fact, Karibu’s destruction was a by product of the quest to create a new system. Internally, we were not strong enough to complete the transition in that model. More than anything Karibu existed because of its ability to utilize the force of current trends and the way people thought about Black Books during its lifetime.

Ella: What are 3 things all leaders possess?
Yao:  I’ll take this from the Tao-humility, love and frugality.


Ella: How did you get your start in the world of book selling? Karibu books and the staff encouraged black authors  to live their dreams, hosted roundtable discussions, poetry readings and visits from noted authors across the country like T.D Jakes, Tavis Smiley, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley and Terry McMillan. Karibu was a cultural force, to say the least.
Yao:  My wife and I began vending as a way to provide for our family.  I had no formal business training. I received the basics of business through my interaction with my partner. I am trained in Literature and writing which are essential skills in running a book store and actually valuing the books. (Pic: Yao and Simba Sana back in the day at Karibu)

Ella:  What is your biggest challenge in handling business at Karibu? How did you overcome it? 

Yao: A business is a small world created by the owner. The most challenging aspect of the business was considering all of the various areas of detail. Business owners are forced to deal with both the physical reality of the business and the conceptual reality. The list is almost endless, down to the font on signs, paper towels in the bathroom, mission, vision statement, HR procedure and the like.

For Karibu the level of detail increased dramatically because we had 6 locations. As a number this demanded infra-structure that related to the training and day to day management of employees that in the initial stages of the business were handled through day to day interaction with the owners in the business. We dealt with the challenge through relentless dedication to development and detail along with operations. In the wake of the death of Karibu, I am excited about doing more of that development before the actual business launches. The advantage of business plans and development is they allow one to visualize a business and its processes as a complete unit before the company begins.


Ella: What did you hope to offer your clients or customers to shape their lives?  Karibu was the largest Afrocentric bookstore chain in the United States at one point. Karibu's slogan branded the store as ‘‘books by and about African people, 365 days a year.”  
Yao:  The Book business and writing are fundamentally about content. Though content is capable of changing consciousness, it is never guaranteed. There are the skills of the business person and the skills of the reader. Though we can deliver the book, there is no guarantee the message will be received or internalized as we might like. This places emphasis on other efforts outside of selling books, such as literacy and a rethinking of the role of books and education in our community.

The distribution of resources is simply one step in the goal to transform consciousness via the written word. It is our hope that the distribution of African American Literature through Karibu was a catalyst and gate that will lead to a more serious grassroots dialogue about ideas and their importance in building and shaping new social structures for African American people in specific and Americans as a whole.


Ella:  Can your mission or vision truly keep a business growing?
Yao:  With the Internet and the technological changes that are occurring in the marketplace we are challenged with considering different delivery systems for African American content that are outside of the book. Blogs, Facebook and the like give us other areas to explore, in order to expand the vision.



Ella:  Tell us about the people you helped in the 15 years Karibu was leading the community. How was your company impacting the public? What social issues or causes did you address? It was clear at the Black Books Coalition Launch party the community still respects you.
Yao:  When people ask about the social impact of Karibu there are a few approaches. On one level there is the larger narrative of the history itself of Karibu as the cultural institution and the rich history of Malcolm, Marcus, Ella Baker, Harriet Tubman and others whose literature and stories we sold, promoted and distributed. However, beneath this narrative there is the story of the customers, employees, vendors and folks in the mall who may have never purchased books. All of these groups were a part of the Karibu phenomena. (Pic: Tribute to Yao given by Lee McDonald of the The Renaissance Group, LLC)



Yao: There is one member of our customer and support base I used to refer to as an angel or oracle. This man had been hit by a car outside of a club in MD many years ago. On some days when perhaps he wasn’t feeling that well he would pull up his pants leg and show you the scar. The scar was about a foot long beginning above his knee and then stretching down the front of his leg to his shin. Much of his flesh was gone. As a result of the accident he walked with a permanent limp. His accident had also left him with a head injury and a whole host of medical issues he was forced to carry for the rest of his life.

This customer was more than a customer-he would come through Landover Mall almost everyday even when we had our cart in the middle of the mall, watching our cart for us when we went to grab some food or needed to use the bathroom. Yet, he also purchased books from us. I can still hear and employee telling me when I entered the store at P.G. or Landover that he had called me while I was out or had stopped by to see where I was at. If by chance I ran into him he would often stop me and talk for long periods of time. I can hear his voice now saying, “ Bro. Yao- you are a good man-folks don’t understand what you are doing for the community-what Karibu is doing for the community.” He would call sometimes and read me quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr’s work. 
I actually trained employees to view his interaction with the business as a test of where the business was. The most amazing thing was how his interaction with us was often a test of where we were as a business. If we were too busy to deal with him, it reflected something about our sense of grounding. Granted sometimes we were too busy and for good reason-we had numerous responsibilities, countless customers and bills to pay.

Yet, some of what he was giving us back was a portion of what Karibu had already put out into the universe. On the days I felt too busy to deal with him, I would often imagine our interaction was a meditative act. I was learning about the power of our impact from him. The feeling that we were too busy to deal with him, was simply not just a sign of our current mode but a sign of our relationship with the common denominator in our community.



Yao: In the Karibu history Landover Mall was a perfect example of that common denominator. Landover Mall was located across the street from a housing complex where in the heyday of the D.C. crack years, numerous murders had been committed and open air drug markets had been conducted. It was in the 80’s we would go to Landover Mall to see dudes with Gold Chains on their neck that were large enough to hold back Pit Bulls. The women would be there with their name spelled out in a giant hoop earrings as round as the bottom of a forty-ounce bottle. And after the murders and the reputation, Landover Mall never recovered. Folks would go there only when they had too. There were numerous vacancies. Landover was an old idea from another time.

In many ways as a corporate concept it was a minor casualty to be added to the crack years in the Washington Metropolitan Area. What is most important is that Landover though located in the Prince George’s County Suburbs was a version of the hood. By definition, the location of a Black Book Store in this portion of the community was similar to shining a bat symbol in the sky. And even if you didn’t shop at Karibu-you knew that it was that Black Bookstore in the middle of the mall.

Definition by mere presence-existence-perhaps as a correlative to someone who remembers walking black folks with picket signs many years ago and then being forced to read it in a history book. You remember and where a part of it, but where not really a part of it. Karibu affected countless folks who came through Landover Mall in this way.


Yao: While working at Landover Mall within the actual Mall I saw prostitutes, people who were mentally insane and permanent fixture. There was the man who mumbled through the mall everyday chanting to himself. The young brother with a butcher knife in plain view. The fights in the Baker’s shoe stores. The cluster of older men congregated outside the store talking about J.A. Roger’s and Chancellor Williams. The young ladies with their two sort skirts and too tight jeans picking up a copy of Flyy Girl. There was also an older woman in her 80’s who I wish I had a picture of who would walk through the mall hustling folks for dollars. I wish I had a picture because I can still see her in my mind with a Karibu T-Shirt on and a handful of plastic bags. As a fade away, Darren Coleman walking through door telling me he is going to write a book, and asking me would I sell it when he finished.

Ella: Yao you are a legend in your own time!  At the Black Books Coalition launch party, as you spoke, you could feel the love and admiration from the DC literary elite as well as those new authors and community leaders coming along now. Please stay in contact with us!  EDC Creations exists because of the Karibu support and connections. I will be eternally grateful for all you, Simba Sana and Karibu Books offered me. Lee McDonald, Carolyn Reed and Sunny Sana were also instrumental in helping me to grow into the president of EDC Creations. After you hired me as a buyer's assistant for Karibu Books, my position and responsibilities continued to change and grow along with my knowledge of the literary world. Ultimately causing my life to be forever changed.  I want to do whatever possible to support you and your wife in any future endeavors. Thank you for being a thought leader and a literary legend for 15 years in business and beyond!

African Americans: A Look in the Mirror by Bret Searles

African Americans: A Look in the Mirror
by Bret Searles
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

At present, African Americans stand at the crossroads of great hopes for wealth and freedom exceptional for the great-and great, great-grandchildren of former slaves and great despair caused by family disintegration, generational poverty, educational disparities and the digital divide. The threat is that we will form a permanent underclass is this new society as the demand for skilled and highly educated workers and new business owners reaches a peak.

You might not like me too much for the data I present in this chapter that reveals the depths of our situation. Bill Cosby has been speaking out about these things and has taken some heat for his coarse rhetoric. We can’t change our situation until we know what we are changing. I believe that once you see the data, you will be compelled to make some changes. If that is the case, I am confident that you will finish the rest of this solutions-oriented guide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 70% of black children are born out of wedlock. Many times, the father is absolutely out of the picture. Single moms have the toughest job there is in this country. No work demands as much immediate attention and delayed gratification. You cannot pay someone enough to do this job yet the single black mom is the poorest demographic in our society. An unimaginable 39% of black female heads of household and 33% of black children are living below the poverty line compared to 18.6% of white female heads of household and 9.6% of white children. The true shame is that all odds are stacked against these families compounding every challenge normally faced with raising children into healthy, confident and independent adults. They face long odds when it comes to living in poverty, being victimized by violence, lacking quality education, low self-esteem and poor role models.

Having a loving father around is a spiritually, mentally, emotionally and financially stabilizing force needed by every child. The numbers bear this out to be true. Only 7.1% of black married couple families live below the poverty line and only 3.3% of white married couple families live below the poverty line. God created the family to consist of both a father and mother and all other arrangements are sub-optimal for children. Be that as it may, everyone must also make the best of their situation as it may be right now.

The reality is that 300 years of slavery has devastated the African American family unit. There are many African American families that are loving and meeting the needs of their children that we don’t here about that share in the values and beliefs that stable families are good for our children. The challenge is that we were deliberately denied the benefits of family for too long. Saving the African American family needs to be the number one priority of every organization that says its purpose is to help black people. A father is the first competitive edge any young person can have in this world. A young person of any race that is raised in a fatherless home has several strikes against him or her already.

Building and strengthening African American family is the first preliminary step we need to take to get started on the track to building wealth as a people in this society.

The seven critical 21st century skills outlined in the book, The 7 Simple Secrets to Wealth Building: An African American’s Guide to Wealth Building in the 21st Century and Beyond, will work for anyone however, accomplishing anything will always be more difficult for those with so many odds against them that they must overcome and being fatherless is a long odd, indeed. This data presented here is not designed to discourage anyone. Hopefully, it will encourage each of you to more carefully consider the needs of Black children and to find ways to provide them with what they need to flourish in this new economy starting with a responsible, loving father figure.


About The Author Bret Searles

This article is an excerpt from the downloadable ebook by Bret Searles titled "The 7 Simple Secrets to Wealth Building: An African American’s Guide to Wealth Building in the 21st Century and Beyond" available at www.blackwealthnow.com  Contact the author at: bret@blackwealthnow.com 



11 Ways to Take a Mental Vacation by Tinisha Johnson

11 Ways to Take a Mental Vacation
by Tinisha Johnson

During economic difficulties, you may not always have enough funds to take even one vacation, let alone more than one or two vacations per year. We live in a fast track world where time escapes us all, and the time that is available, is often not enough, leaving us tired and drained, while we try to squeeze in life’s little pleasures. Whether you take a physical vacation in the near future or not, why not schedule some mental and relaxing activities now, so you can take the edge off.

Our mind is the way we connect with our inner emotions, and with the outer world. With everyday stress, our minds can become overloaded and overwhelmed. This is usually the time when you find yourself easily frustrated, not sleeping well, irritated by the slightest of things, or feel a loss of energy on a frequent basis. Stop, take a deep breath, and learn ways you can relax your mind, body and spirit, even if it’s in the comfort of your own home.

1. Meditation
What does meditation do for you? It connects you with your inner self. It calms and places you in a relaxed state. It also helps to release stress and increases self-awareness. Those who practice meditation on a regular basis have said it’s transformed their entire body. If you’ve never meditated before, you could be missing out. There are several techniques and levels. To start off, you may want to experiment with the type of meditation where you close your eyes, and concentrate on various breathing techniques. There is free information online that can help get you started. Also, talk with a certified health specialist on the various ways to meditate.

2. Read a Book
Reading can be a relaxing and entertaining activity. Browse the library or a book store and spend just a few moments reading about subjects or genre’s you love. While you are reading, don’t allow your mind to wonder off to anything except the words that lay on the page. Become deeply involved in the book. Make a commitment that you will schedule out a few minutes each day, or an hour per week and engage your mind in the book of your choice. Make sure you keep your reading schedule until you’ve finished the book.

3. Take up a hobby
Kids seem to have more hobbies than adults. There has to be something you love besides plopping in front the TV set. It doesn’t have to be hard or farfetched. Things like gardening, taking photos, journaling, or drawing are just a few out of a thousand. Figure out what you love to do, or at least would like to try. Even if you think you don’t have the time, spend just a few moments and write out some suggestions. Then write out what steps you’d have to take to get started.

4. Exercise
Exercise is one of those words some people cringe when they hear. You’ll also hear the most common excuse: “I don’t have time.” Exercise doesn’t have to be 2 hours at the gym body pumping and slaving away on a stair master or cardio machine. Start off with walking or any activity that will get your heart rate going. Exercise definitely makes you feel better after you’ve done it. You’re never hear anyone say after exercising, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” You will always feel better afterwards. Exercise gives you energy and clears your mind.

5. Revisit your photo albums
Many of us have photos we cherish. Some may be sitting right in front of us or along the wall in our homes. Revisiting photo’s of friends and family allows you to take a mental trip down memory lane, and embrace the people you love, including those who are still present in your life. Every now and again, we need to reflect on where we’ve been in life, because it helps us become more aware of where we’re going.

6. Take a walk
Depending on where you live, this could be just around your block, up a hill, at a nearby park, in the mountains, or along the sands of a beach. Life can go by in a flash if we let it. Why not take a walk and get to know nature a bit. We can take someone with us on the walk if we choose. If you’ve driven down a particular road hundreds of times, why not try walking along side that same road. You’ll notice the experience is quite different. Walking in general allows you to pay attention to your surroundings just a little bit more.

7. Visit the museum
I’m sure you can remember back when you were a kid, the museum trip you used to take with your school and classmates. You learned so many fascinating facts about history. Taking a visit to a museum is definitely something different. Just changing up our daily routine just a bit, could be all we need. It’s a positive experience if nothing else. Go by yourself, or take a friend, a child, or a family member. Take in the knowledge. What type of an effect has history had on you personally? Visit the museum with the insight that you will come out learning something new.

8. Listen to soothing music
Music refreshes us in so many ways. Music can change our moods in an instant. What type of mood would you like to be in now? You can purchase CD’s with the sounds of nature on it. Take a risk and buy one, and lay back relax and listen to it. You’d be surprised how you’ll feel afterwards. You can be sure your mood will change. They say the sounds of nature changes the vibrations of the mind’s thought process, and provides a sense of peace, even if just for the moment.

9. Get a massage
Treat yourself and go to a spa or pay to get a professional massage. Let someone else help you smooth out your stresses of the day. It will definitely be worth it. Many massage locations give discounts for first-time customers.

10. Cleanse your body
A body cleanse can rejuvenate and improve your digestive system, and your overall health. There are various body cleanses. When some people think of body cleanses, they think you have to go without food. Although those types of cleanses exists, there are also cleanses where you don’t have to eliminate your food intake. In fact, there are many ways to detoxify the body from toxics present in your body. Ask your doctor or a pharmacist what types of body cleanses may be right for you and your lifestyle.

11. Write it out
Are you troubled by something or someone? Are you overworked and completely drained? If so, write it out. Put pen to paper, and write out your worries, concerns, and dislikes. Getting your feelings out on paper can be a major therapeutic release. In essence, writing out your emotions can release the negativity from inside. After you have written out your feelings and what you don’t want, you need to write what you want, to balance it all out. Writing out your problems and concerns helps you face and recognize them. Writing out what you want brings you closer to resolution.

In conclusion, right now plan to take your mental vacation within a few days or weeks, and enjoy yourself and have fun!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tinisha Nicole Johnson is an author, writer, and poet residing in Denver, Colorado. She’s written various books, and writes freelance articles for the Denver Examiner. Besides writing, she also hosts political and sports teleconferences. Books by Tinisha at Amazon.  Learn more about the author at her website: www.TinishaNicoleJohnson.com

SELF-PUBLISHED POETS, BE ENCOURAGED by author/poet Marc Lacy

SELF-PUBLISHED POETS, BE ENCOURAGED
by author/poet Marc Lacy
If you are a self-published poet, or an aspiring poet considering going that route for your first publication, I’m sure you’ve just about heard it all by now. “Poetry doesn’t sell.” “You’re better off writing a novel.” “You will not be accepted as a legitimate writer while writing poetry.”

Well, I know I have. People have been on my back since day one with regards to publishing something other than poetry. I mean I’ve had some knockdown drag outs about what “I” should do with “my” career. I’ve listened to just about everything people have to say. I take everything with a grain of salt. People are entitled to their opinion. It is what it is…and what it is, is “their opinion.” But, in processing all of the opinions, I realized how valuable their takes were and still are about writing and publishing.

Although I have produced works in other genres, I’m currently making a segue into the realm of fiction. Even though I have made my mark as a poet, I certainly want to be known as a quality “writer” first. So why now Marc, especially since you’ve been such an ambassador for poetry and spokenword? I’ll tell you why. Throughout all of those years of getting hounded (respectfully) by literary enthusiasts, book clubs, fellow authors, friends, and family…there was a perception that my only goal throughout my entire literary career was to only publish poetry and produce spoken word cds. No one ever asked me what my future plans were? All along, I knew I would someday take the fiction leap of faith; but I did not know exactly when. So why now? Well, if I’m going to make a transition, it is going to be at my own pace and on my own time. I humbly refuse to let another dictate how and where I should throw my passion’s weight around.

However, I’m no dummy. Remember…I “do” listen. I understand the reality of the situation. When people walk into a bookstore, the last thing they may say to themselves is, “Hmmmm, let me go to the poetry section.” Even if they convince themselves to do so, what makes me think my book is going to standout over a beautiful hard-covered Nikki Giovanni coffee table edition of a poetry collection? Yes, Nikki is the bomb. Or a nice volume of famous works by Edgar Allen Poe? Edgar was a poetical genius. Nothing wrong with having gumption, confidence or desire; but if you are a fish, compete with the best fish and do not try to fly with the fastest birds.

Be realistic in your goal-setting. In some areas, it’s okay to take the path of least resistance. If you are a pioneer and have visions of setting a trend, understand that you will be your own sacrificial lamb. In layman’s terms that means, you will go through more hardship before you realize any pleasure or relief. But, it is ultimately up to you. I do not want to be the one to deter someone from chasing dreams. We all have them.

As odd as it sounds, there needs to be some “reality” factored into our fantasies. Nothing wrong with learning to work smarter while pursuing goals. There is also nothing wrong with applying logic and truth to a creative vision and going forth.


WHY SHOULD YOU BE ENCOURAGED?
There are several reasons to be encouraged. So many that I do not have the real-estate to cover them in this blog, but I need you to know this: although people tend to purchase fiction and other genres at a way higher rate than they do poetry, if they see you perform or somehow hear your material, they will at least be attentive for that time period. Once you have them, you have them. So continue honing your craft of writing poetry and performing spoken word. If poetry is your thing, then that is what it is, however, you can still retain these skills while going through a writing genre transition.
Just think about it…if you are invited to present your material with a group of authors who write in other genres, depending on how your performance goes, you have the potential to stand out like no other. Why? Because you are performing your material and not necessarily just talking about it. If you stand out, then people are more apt to purchase your material; especially if you are the only one on the program performing or doing some sort of skit. Take full advantage of this opportunity should it arise. However, make sure you think about getting double the exposure by developing your writing skills in another genre.

Once you become acclimated to and sharp in another writing category, you will then have extra power in your literary engine to flex when it comes to publishing and presentation. By respecting all facets of the craft of writing, your game can be potentially stepped up more than you know.


WHY SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT BECOMING A BETTER WRITER?
If you are published and have aspirations of continuing to publish, your main objective should not only be selling books; but becoming a better writer. Even if you a performing poet, you should still focus on becoming a better writer. People get into the game for a variety of reasons. Some people are not concerned for state of being of the craft of writing as they are about making a dollar from selling a book. If you are passionate about any genre, then you should be just as passionate about improving your writing.
Be encouraged to constantly digest and embody the change you are trying to make. If you are a poet or spoken word artist; continue being the best you can be; but also be encouraged to know that your talents are appreciated. Being that such is the case, why not take your writing to the next level by delving into another genre while still maintaining your skills in the realm of poetry/spoken word? I’d like to leave you with this thought: If you develop your writing in another genre, publish books to the effect, that fact alone may bring more attention to your poetry than that which was gained when you wrote only in that genre to begin with.



About the Author
Marc Lacy, a graduate of Alabama A&M University is a nationally renown, award winning poet/author and spoken word artist. He has performed all of over the country for many national literary events and spoken word venues. Marc is the author of Rock & Fire - Love Poetry from The Core, and The Looking Heart - Poetic Expressions from Within. He is also the producer of REFlux, RTIQLation, and LyriCode 256 spoken word CDs. Marc is the contributor to many anthologies such as: The Soul of a Man, Step up to The Mic, and Witness the Truth.
Marc is a member of ArtNSoul Society of Expression, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Church Street CPCA, Huntsville Literary Association, and National Society of Black Engineers. He credits his faith in God and love of family for providing energy to succeed.
Checkout his latest fiction book, Wretched Saints - When the Righteous Path Leads to Hell's Doorstep at: www.marclacy.com  and www.facebook.com/marclacy 



Countering the Age of the “Me” Generation

Countering the Age of the “Me” Generation

I try to pay attention to the game as the assistant coach. However, I am bombarded by begging from players on the bench: “Brother Green, can I get back into the game?” I try to ignore by pointing:  “Ask the coach.” 

Every weekend was like déjà vu for me.  A bunch of 8th graders were trying to tell us they were just as good as high school athletes.  These 8th graders were undersized and no match for more experienced ‘ballers.’ The basketball league was designed for high school students.  I felt they should be graceful to be allowed to play with our high schoolers.  Instead, it was a steady stream of complaints and ingratitude from some 8th graders.  I wondered how I got stuck with Gen Next.

Today’s organizations face unprecedented competition from all fronts.  Many institutions desperately need to infuse their organizations with fresh leadership and new ideas. Yet, there is a hesitation for this transformation. Many baby boomers argue that the current generation is not ready. These young workers are called many names such as Generation Y (Gen Y), Echo Boomers, or Millennials (born 1977 to 2002). Most experts predict the generation will be a major factor in society. There are more than 70 million of them.

However, they have been described in the workplace as lazy and self-absorbed with their own worth. Laura Clark, columnist, argues, “Today's young workers, it appears, believe they deserve jobs with big salaries, status and plenty of leisure time - without having to put in the hours.” According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters study, there is a new breed of graduate 'divas' who expect everything to fall into their laps. These people believe they are a hot commodity in the job market. Yet, their managers describe them as ‘unrealistic,’ ‘self-centered,’ and ‘greedy.’

For the first time in American history, organizations have four different generations in their workforce. Sadly, it’s not without problems. Companies don’t understand this young generation. They desire to share in organizational decisions on day one of employment and be promoted instantaneously. With managers who had to ‘pay their dues.’ The Gen Y mentality is a hard pill to swallow.

Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell track this trend of self-absorption in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. “Narcissism- a very positive and inflated view of the self is everywhere….Understanding the narcissism is important because its long-term consequences are destructive to society.” In the 1960s, individuals led causes for the greater good. During the 1970s, there was a focus on self-admiration.

By the 1980s, society had totally gone to ‘looking out for oneself.”

Unfortunately, some managers distort the work value of this emerging generation by stereotyping them as selfish. Baby boomer managers complain about the difficulty of managing Gen Y employees. But, didn’t these baby boomers raise them to be narcissistic anyway? Therefore, it isn’t fair to label them totally as expecting entitlement.

Twenge and Campbell note, “Parenting became more indulgent, celebrity worship grew, and reality TV became a showcase of narcissistic people.” One must wonder what Gen Y will pass along to their own children.

As more baby boomers retire, a new generation of leaders will replace them. These new leaders will cross age, gender, race, and geography. I certainly hope that Gen Y can overcome the negativism surrounding them and be prepared to accept future leadership roles. I pray it’s not too late.


Dr. Daryl Green
provides motivation, guidance, and training for leaders at critical ages and stages of their development. He has over 20 years of management experience and has been noted and quoted by USA Today, Ebony Magazine, and Associated Press. For more information, you can go to http://stores.lulu.com/darygre  or http://www.darylgreen.org 

Seven Mental Toughness Strategies How Parents Can Assist Their College Grads With Employability

 Seven Mental Toughness Strategies  How Parents Can Assist Their College Grads With Employability

Are you a frustrated parent, who worries if your child will ever land a good job? Many of today’s college students lack the mental toughness and fortitude that are necessary to deal with economic turbulence. Today’s youth must learn how to be mentally tough if they are to survive a turbulent economic future. In reality, many parents have crippled their children by solving their problems for them and shielding them from making difficult decisions.

This reality can be seen in viewing  ‘helicopter parents’ who micromanage their children’s affairs from infancy to adulthood. This has resulted in an increasing ‘Boomerang Generation’ of young people who move back home and must depend on their parents for financial survival. In fact, it is a no-brainer for college students to stay in college as long as possible to that it can be paid by parents.

My co-author William Bailey and I wrote our latest book, Job Strategies for the 21st Century: How to Assist Today’s College Students during Economic Turbulence. It was especially designed for frustrated parents, anxious students, bewildered professors and educators, and those who deeply care for college graduates. Through our research, we have found that there is a huge disconnect between what organizations are looking for in potential employees, and what today’s graduates are providing. This article describes ways in which today’s parents can infuse their children with mental toughness.

In this financial crisis, college grads need to be mentally tough. It is easy to see how individuals can be discouraged with the current economic recession. According to the U.S. Labor department, only 47.6% of people age 16 to 24 had jobs in August. This is the lowest percentage since the government began tracking this statistic in 1948. Yet, college grads must have the determination to overcome any crisis in life. In fact, they need to be mentally tough.

Mental toughness can be defined as the character attribute that allows an individual to stay in control while confronting adversity and navigating obstacles in life. Athletics is one area where we can easy see how trials can make someone stronger. Mental toughness provides the individual with the determination to press on. This trait can be seen scripturally in Corinthian 4:8, 9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Generally speaking, many young people look for the easy way out of situations. Eric Thomas, a Michigan State University administrator and motivator speaker, speaks to the revelation when talking with young people. “The problem is you have never felt pain before. You’re soft. This is a soft generation. You quit on everything.”

Fortunately, mental toughness can be developed. Today’s parents can infuse mental toughness in their college students before they graduate in the following ways: (a) build a positive relationship with your children, (b) allow them to work through their own problems, (c) learn how to listen without offering any advice, (d) ask probing questions, ones that stimulate them to find creative solutions, (e) be honest and critical of their situation without being negative, and (f) encourage them to be around positive people. In most cases, it is a lot easier for parents to solve their children’s problems. Yet, it is a critical mistake over the long-term.

Today’s college students find the employment outlook full of gloom. Many experts note that a different career strategy will be needed during this economic crisis. Sadly, many young people do not know how to deal with adversity. Furthermore, numerous parents shield their children from difficult situations. That is a fatal mistake. Today’s parents can plant the seed for success in their children’s minds by assisting in the development of mental toughness. Unfortunately, this economic crisis is not going away anytime soon. If college students can become more resilient in this crisis, they will ensure themselves of a better future. Let’s pray that it is not too late.

About Dr. Daryl Green
Dr. Daryl Green
provides motivation, guidance, and training for leaders. He has been noted and quoted by USA Today, Ebony Magazine, and Associated Press. For media interviews or speaking engagements, please contact Mrs. Donna Gilliard at 865-216-9209 or 823donna@comcast.net  or visit Dr. Green at www.darylgreen.org. 

Truths About Being a Published Author by Electa Rome Parks

Truths About Being a Published Author
by Electa Rome Parks


“It has been a pleasure, an honor and a privilege to be a published author; it is one of the true joys and accomplishments of my life. Not everyone has the opportunity to realize a dream and I feel totally blessed to be in that number. During my tenure as a published author, I’ve discovered certain truths.” – Electa Rome Parks

1. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Everyone is not going to love or even like your novels. And that’s OKAY.

2. Everyone, their mother and cousins will want to point out any editorial errors they may find within the pages of your books. Everyone’s a critic.

3. You don’t necessarily have to go to college to become a successful writer. I believe there are elements of writing that comes naturally, just like breathing.

4. Everyone thinks they can write a book. However, every book in the marketplace isn’t necessarily a good book.

5. Everyone thinks their life story should be a book.

6. Talent will only get you so far. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

7. The right “handlers”,  i.e. agents, editors, PR person, make all the difference in the world.

8. Every fiction novel has some element(s) of truth. Don’t believe the hype.

9. Writing is a business. Sales are the bottom line. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t have the sales, you won’t get the next deal.

10. There is such a synergy when creative minds come together; it’s magic.

11. There is such a sense of freedom and joy in having the ability, from the very core of your soul to express yourself to the world; it’s almost like giving birth.

12. The new “renaissance” authors are making history and some are creating powerful legacies.

13. Writing is a lonely and hard business to be successful in. Most of us can’t quit our day jobs.

14. Every author should pen at least one book that gives back to the universe in a positive, appealing manner to the masses.

15. You have to have a real love affair with the beauty and power of words in order to stick with it because the industry, like a lover, will take you through ups and down and sometimes screw you over.

Check out my latest fiction release:
True Confessions by Electa Rome Parks
Purchase from Amazon.com
ISBN-13: 978-1601622396


About the Author
Electa Rome Parks
lives outside Atlanta, Georgia and is the best-selling author of seven acclaimed novels, The Ties That Bind, Loose Ends, Almost Doesn't Count, Ladies' Night Out, These Are My Confessions (anthology), Diary of a Stalker and her latest release True Confessions.

Dubbed a "book club favorite," avid readers have embraced Electa's true to life characters that tackle prevalent and heavy hitting issues that take them on an emotional roller coaster. Electa is currently following her passion and working on her next novel and first screenplay.

To find out when and where Electa will be in your area, check out her website at www.electaromeparks.com.  To share your thoughts with Electa regarding her work or to schedule an event, please e-mail her at novelideal@aol.com.


5 Easy Steps to Sell Up to 100 Copies of Your Book! Marian L. Thomas

5 Easy Steps to Sell Up to 100 Copies of Your Book!
Marian L. Thomas


Talk with most authors and they all have one thing in common—to sell their books. For some authors, writing their book was the easy part, putting down their pen and picking up their marketing hat—is not as easier.


Hopefully, following these 5 easy steps will help get the marketing juices flowing and your books out the door!

Step #1-  Get a website created with your own custom domain name. It has been common in the industry to see author domain names that are geared toward the title of their first book, however, it might be more effectively in the long run to get a domain name that features your first and last author name.  For example: http://www.marianlthomas.com.  Why Important? Readers need somewhere to go to read more about you, your book (s) and to see purchasing options. It also helps to establish creditability as a serious author.


Include on your website the following:

-Home Page:  a photo of yourself is often displayed on the home page.
-Biography:  Keep it simple but give it some substance.
-Book Page:  Book Synopsis, Purchase Links for Your Book, Reviews, and links to Book Trailer
-Media:  To set up this page, first make sure you set-up a press room at http://www.prlog.org


Once your press room has been created
, ensure that any press releases that are written about your book, book events or other news that is media worthy is linked to your press room. You can then add a link to your press room under your Media tab. Be sure to include any links to articles that you have written or radio shows on this page.
-Contact:  Use this page for comments, a way for readers to reach you or as a guest book.
-Calendar:  Must have! Google Calendar is great, free and can be embedded on your website.

Step #2 -  Plan a major book signing/launch event around a theme.  Everyone loves to go to a themed party, so have one.  Invite everyone you know and ask them to invite 5 to 10 people that they know.  If you get 50 to 100 people to attend, that's  50 to 100 books sold!  Make sure to include the cost of your book in the ticket price if possible and feed your guest!  Live entertainment is always good to have.  Look for someone local. Local author, local entertainer. Win-Win.

Step #3 -  Use the Internet to invite book lovers, book clubs or social groups to your event. Try websites like:  http://www.meetup.com  to find book clubs or social groups in your area and reach out to the coordinator. Offer to send him/her a free signed copy of your book if they would be willing to share the news about your event with their members.

Step #4-  Send out press releases in a Word document  to your local newspaper. Don't forget to include any newspapers or media that might be close to your event venue. Some of your local papers have a free event listing or calendar. Use them! Great way to get your event out to the public and did I mention that most are free?

Step #5-  Presentation. You've gone through quite a bit of trouble to get things going in the first three steps so don't blow it by not having a professional presentation set-up for your book. Invest in a good large and tall banner of your book. Make sure you display lots of copies of your book at your event and be sure to have a means for your guest to purchase additional copies.


About the Author:
Marian L. Thomas
  welcomes the release of her second book,  My Father's Colors-The Drama-Filled Journey of Naya Monà Continues  on  March 1, 2011  to online retailers,  Amazon.com,  Barnes & Noble.com,  Kindle and Nook.  Be sure to get your copy today! It is sure to be another Best-Seller for the author as it takes you on the journey of four individuals that lead to one destination filled with betrayal, lies and shocking secrets.   

Ready to Purchase Your Copy of   My Father's Colors-The Drama-Filled Journey of Naya Monà ContinuesClick Here.  Visit the author's website: http://www.marianlthomas.com 


10 Giveaway Ideas to Grow Your List Submitted by Ali Brown

10 Giveaway Ideas to Grow Your List
Submitted by Ali Brown


As a small business owner, you don't want a website where people land, look, and leave. It used to be enough to just offer a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to get people to sign up in seconds. But, with everyone online now, that's not enough to cut it. These days, you have to get creative to draw people to your list, and one effective tool that works well these days is giving away something of uncommon value.


Read on for TEN types of giveaways you can host on your website to help your business stand out from the crowd:

1. Discounts or coupons.   One "characteristic" of humans that crosses all socio-economic levels is: we LOVE a good deal. (Even Oprah likes "Clinique Bonus" time.) You can offer regular discounts and coupons in your ezine, particularly if your service or product is something that people use regularly such as makeup, hairstyling, massages, ink for your printer, etc.

2. Ebooks.   Ebooks are still revered as an incentive to opt-in, as long as they are on a topic that your target audience really values. You need in-demand information (generally 20 pages or more), as well as a gorgeous book cover image (check out KillerCovers if you're looking for a professional service that can help).

3. Audios.   Audio with informative content is attractive to clients because they can listen to it in the car, download it to their iPod, or play it at home -- wherever they learn best. Plus, they can keep listening to it as many times as they need. You can offer an audio file as an mp3 link, but for greater impact, send them a CD with an attractive cover and case.

4. Teleclasses.   Create a free teleclass on a hot topic, record it, and then offer it as a giveaway in audio and transcript form. This sets you up as an expert with whom your web visitors will want to stay in touch.

5. Gifts or Samples.   Sometimes the best way to sell a product is to offer a sample (think along the lines of ice cream samples at Ben & Jerry's or a bonbon tasting at See's Candies). Consider giving away a "taste" of your product. This works great if your product is part of a series, because it can let them see your style, your depth of content, etc., and if they like what they see, they'll likely want more.

6. Contests.   If your product, or any part of it, is too valuable to give away, you might want to host a giveaway. An author who just self-published a hardback book, could give away a free, autographed copy on a weekly basis. Or, host a contest for a winning cover design and offer to cross promote the winning designer's services. It's always fun for people to see the contest winner's names listed on the website, so make sure to add that little feature in for added incentive and legitimacy.

7. DVDs.   It's easy to create a video these days with handheld camcorders like the Flip SD, and video gives you the advantage of being able to talk directly to your audience. You could tape a live workshop or presentation you've already set up, where you're speaking to a live audience, or, if you're a little camera shy, even a PowerPoint presentation can be a great visual tool. As long as you keep the content relevant and engaging, you'll have a great free DVD that you can mail out as a giveaway.

8. Free Reports.   A report can be shorter than an ebook (less than 20 pages, usually) and you have a little more flexibility as far as formatting and voice is concerned. You could choose to follow a narrative form, which is a great way to let people in on who you are, what your story is, how you became an expert, etc. Or, you can write it as a white paper, which is a longer, more formal marketing report that uses a problem, solution, state of the industry type of format, infused with hard-researched statistics.

9. Trial Memberships.   Giving a 30-day free or low-cost trial is a terrific way to give customers a sample of your unique expertise and win them over as paying clients. Just make sure that their access doesn't give them carte blanche to months and years of material that they can download and then run.

10. Informational Series.   Another freebie you can offer is a series of mini-lessons or mini-courses, which is actually a series of emails you've pre-written (a.k.a. "autoresponders") that is released to the prospect on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. Let's say, for example, you are an SEO expert. You could offer 10 mini-lessons leaking the "Top 10 Plugins for Your WordPress Blog" or 7 mini-courses summarizing the "Top 7 SEO Strategies for Driving Traffic to Your Website".


So get the full details on my List Building System here now.
http://www.alibrown.com/lbs

 


About the Author
Ali Brown
is fast becoming regarded as the voice for women's entrepreneurial success. After launching her first business from her tiny NYC studio apartment in 1999, she has grown it into what is today a multimillion-dollar enterprise that ranked in 2009's Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation.

Ali has been featured as an expert in the New York Post, Investor's Business Daily, and on TV including Fox Business Network, ABC News Now, E!, and morning shows around the country. She was named one of 2010's Enterprising Women of the Year and was ranked on Forbes.com as the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. She was also honored as one of Ernst & Young's Winning Women of 2010.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love Ali's dynamic courses and programs to help you start, market, and grow your business. Learn more at www.AliBrown.com.
Millionaire entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD and articles at www.AliBrown.com 





Ten Ways to Know if Your (Internet) Marketing is Paying Off

Ten Ways to Know if Your (Internet) Marketing is Paying Off

So you're out there marketing. You're doing all the right things (or so you think). You're following the book marketing advice of some leaders in the industry. You've got a checklist and you're methodically checking off your goals. But how do you know you're doing everything right? The fact is, most of us don't. Yet we forge ahead, keeping pace with our marketing plan, without ever knowing if it's paying off. We don't see it in sales. Does that mean it's not working? Not at all. You could be seeing the effects in other places but just aren't keeping track of it.

I find that especially in social media you need to keep a close eye on what's working and what's not. If you've spent *any* kind of time online you know that you can be in front of your computer for what seems like 20 minutes and yet three hours have gone by. If the three hours of marketing is paying off, then it's fine to spend the time. But you need to know the difference. Here are a few things you can review to measure the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of your marketing.


1. Jumping in without a plan:
Set clear, measureable goals because most marketing is invisible. Let's face it, you send an email and wonder half the time if the intended recipient got it or if it ended up in a spam filter, never to be seen again. That's the power behind goals. You need them and you need to run your campaign by them. So what are your goals? And no, you may not say sell books. Yes, that factors in - but there are a million small steps along the way before you even get to sales. Consider these goals and see if any of them fit your book, topic, and future:

a. Establish yourself as an expert or get known in your particular field.
Hey, maybe you just want to be known as the go-to person for everything related to paranormal romance. That's great and it's a realistic, attainable goal.

b. Increase the visibility of your brand. OK, sort of the same as the bullet before this one but more geared to the non-fiction author.

c. Increase traffic and incoming links to your website. This is a great goal. Whether you are fiction or non-fiction, it's a great focus.

d. Do what makes sense for your book: If your followers aren't on Twitter then why have you spent the last month or so promoting yourself on there? Mind you, Twitter works for most of the books we manage, but there are a few that don't make sense. Twitter skews older than most people think so don't be surprised if your YA reader isn't on there. Before you launch head first into a campaign, make sure it fits your demographic.


2. Neglecting other marketing:
I know it's easy to get all a-twitter about Twitter, but what else are you doing to promote yourself and your book? If you're good at events and speaking, are you still focused on that? Don't get too myopic on doing just one thing for your marketing. The truth is, you need to do a lot of different things, balanced out over a week or a month for your marketing to really make sense.


3. Set goals - be clear on what you hope to achieve in social media:
What are your goals for Twitter? If it's just about gathering followers then you are missing a big piece of this social networking tool. For many marketing people it's all about the number, but numbers don't make as much sense unless they are driving interest to you and your book. If the numbers keep growing, along with traffic to your website, then you're on the right track. But if you're just growing numbers for the sake of being able to say that you have 10,000 followers then it makes no sense. That's like buying a fancy car you can't really afford. Eventually the debt of it will drag you down. It's the same with Twitter and Facebook and any other social media site. It's not about the numbers. It's about the activity.

4. Be clear on who you are trying to reach:
Many of you say you're trying to reach readers, but is that really true? We all want to sell books, but who are you really going after? In all likelihood you will have a variety of different targets you are going after. Consider these: booksellers, speaking opportunities, interviews, bulk sale targets, reviewers, and readers to name a few.


5. Measure effectively:
In order to know if stuff is working you'll need to measure effectively. As I pointed out earlier on in this article you may not want to do that by fans or followers - instead consider these ideas as ways to measure your success:

a. Retweets on Twitter:
The best sign of success on Twitter is the amount of retweets. Are you getting them and if so, how often? If your tweets are good and your followers are active, you should see a few a week at least (depending on the amount of followers you have). If you're curious about the amount of Tweets that get RT'd - check out retweetrank.com. Twitter Analyzer (twitteranalyzer.com) is another great tool for determining how far tweets have traveled.

b. Site hits: Are the hits to your site increasing? Are you watching your analytics to be sure? If you're not, you should be. Watch your site stats closely and monitor the increase in traffic and where it's coming from.

c. Inbound links: How many new ones are you getting? Did you do a vanity search before you started this campaign? If not, do that now. Make sure you know how many new incoming links you're getting as a result of your efforts.

d. Sign-ups to your mailing list: Are they increasing? If you're doing the right stuff in your social media they should be increasing weekly.

6. Increasing the contacts in your industry: Remember that social media marketing is just like going to a networking meeting. You want to expand your reach and get to know others in your industry. If you're not increasing your reach and contact base, then you need to be. This is another great way to gauge how effective your marketing is.
We always want to make progress in our marketing but we're not always sure how to do it or if what we're doing is making a difference. Follow these steps and see if it doesn't help your marketing momentum. If it's paying off, you'll know sooner rather than later and you can keep doing the good stuff, and punt the bad.

Bonus: additional tools for tracking marketing

Bit.ly: This site serves as both a URL shortener and also as a measurement tool. Bit.ly can help get you real-time results on clicks to links you are posting to Facebook and Twitter.
Google Analytics: If you don't have any back end web analytics (and even if you do), Google gives you a lot of valuable data.
Trackur: This is a great monitoring site to see what's being featured on you online and off. It's not free like Google Alerts, but much more comprehensive. Their basic package is $18 a month.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
 

How to Publish Yourself by Marian L. Thomas

How to Publish Yourself
by Marian L. Thomas


For the last couple of months, perhaps years —you have stared at a monitor, pecked away at a keyboard and searched the depths of your imagination for something real, fresh and captivating that will show the world who you are from a written page.  Finally, you have put your last period at the end of a sentence and sat back with a smile of disbelief.  Did you just finish writing your first book? Will it be a bestseller? Yes, and Maybe.

Okay, why did I say maybe?  When you decided to begin your journey to authorship, you also decided to publish yourself.  To put 'you' out there to all who have never heard of 'you' before.   It's a scary thought, but such a reality that stares you in the face and asks "are you ready?"   A valid question.  So just how do you go about getting not just your book published but you for that matter?

Before I answer that, remember this fact: that one can have an amazing book, an amazing cover, and the best story out there, but if you fail to publish yourself who will know it?
So when should you begin the process of  'publishing you' ? It is highly recommended that you begin this process before your book hits the online venues and brick and mortars. Actually, studies have shown that you should begin to market yourself at least three months prior.  How?


Here are three steps to help get you started on the task of publishing yourself.

Step 1- 
Do research on developing a marketing plan—a game plan on how you are going to get your name out there. It's amazing what the www. can do for you. Use it.

Step 2-  Get on social media sites and begin making connections. Who knows better how to market yourself than other authors that have done it. Ask questions, take notes and continue to step 3.

Step 3-  Get a blog going and use the research information you found in step 1 as your posts. Select different topics each week. If they came from another blog-make sure you link back to them.  Not only do you help other fellow bloggers who might return the favor for the link back to them as the publishing source, but it helps to get your name out there in the writing community as a great resource.  People like freebies, advice and places they can go to get questions answered.  Become an expert on some topic that is worth them coming to your blog about.


About the Author 
Marian L. Thomas
,  reared in Chicago but lives with her biggest-supporter—her husband and their spoiled but playful dog, Winston in Atlanta, Georgia. Her debut title, Color Me Jazzmyne, went on to become an Amazon Best-Seller and was ranked as one of the  " Top 100 Books" -1st Qtr 2010 by the Sankofa Literary Society Review.

Marian welcomes the release of her second book,  My Father's Colors-The Drama-Filled Journey of Naya Monà Continues  on  March 1, 2011  to online retailers,  Amazon.com,  Barnes & Noble.com,  Kindle and Nook.  Be sure to get your copy today! It is sure to be another Best-Seller for the author as it takes you on the journey of four individuals that lead to one destination filled with betrayal, lies and shocking secrets.   

Ready to Purchase Your Copy of   My Father's Colors-The Drama-Filled Journey of Naya Monà Continues?  Click Here.  Visit the author's website: http://www.marianlthomas.com


Building a Personal Brand for More Employment Opportunities

Building a Personal Brand for More Employment Opportunities 
by Daryl D. Green

Examine how working adults can increase their employment success through personal branding.

Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal received his doctorate degree from Barry University. After a year into NBA retirement and after 19 seasons in the league, Shaq decided to rebrand himself. Many NBA superstars leave college early with the desire of wealth and never obtain their degree. Shaq was different. After leaving college early for the NBA, O’Neal went back to school, earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and now doctorate’s degree in education. He had an internal motivation.   Dr. O’Neal notes, “One, I promised my parents I would [follow my passion for education]. Two, I wanted to continue my education and three, I wanted to challenge myself.”

However, Shaq has managed to rebrand himself as more than an ex NBA superstar and separate himself from the pack. Likewise, millions of people must create their own brands if they want to compete in this economic crisis. Today’s job market requires that working adults develop their own personal strategy for employment. This article provides working adults ways to increase their success in more employment opportunities through personal branding.


The Economic Picture
The current economic crisis continues to stall job opportunities for millions. Yet, a college education isn’t cheap. According to the College Board, the average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges this school year rose 8.3% and with room and board now exceeds $17,000 a year.  According to the Forrester Research, approximately 3.3 million U.S. jobs and $136 billion in wages could be moved overseas to countries like India or China by 2015. The industries potentially impacted include electronics, computer programming, telecommunications, banking, engineering, management consulting, and other highly skilled services. Therefore, many people are nervous about their future employment.


Personal Branding
Personal branding allows individuals to stand out in the crowd. Personal branding can be defined as ‘the process whereby people and their careers are marked as personal impression or brand.’ Sir Richard Branson, Virgin executive, noted the importance of branding in the corporate environment:  "Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful."
Renowned preacher Richard S. Brown, Jr. further explained, “Everyone wants to be outstanding but no one wants to stand out.” Yet, it is the “standing out” that catches everyone’s attention. Working adults are no exception. With this personal branding strategy, a personal can create a positive position in a potential employer’s mind also. This impression should reflect a person’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors.

Branding includes personal appearance, communications, networks, or anything that identifies a person. Employers are looking for individuals who stand out beyond mediocre performance. Consequently, an effective personal brand can be a positive job strategy for today’s job applicant. However, most people haven’t been taught how to do create a personal brand. The following personal branding tips are provided:

(1) Evaluate your current online appearance so that your image makes a positive impression.
(2) Perform an online search on your name to see what potential employers are viewing.
(3) Determine your ideal personal brand and create a strategy for achievement.
(4) Develop a personal brand that will create an image of indispensability and uniqueness.
(5) Showcase your expertise on a variety of levels (blogs, media expert, etc.).
(6) Become a great source of information by writing and speaking.
(7) Champion a significant cause in a nonprofit organization such as United Way.
(8) Become the linchpin that connects people with problems to people with solutions.
(9) Extend your network globally with social media platforms such as Linkedin.com.
(10) Obtain special training or certifications to become more competitive.

Conclusion
As the financial crisis continues and the US labor market continues to weaken, many people are wondering how they will survive these difficult times. With the fierce competition for limited jobs, they wonder if they will be able to land a good job in the marketplace. Today, working adults are bombarded with many obstacles. However, they can make a positive step in navigating these difficult economic times and landing their future jobs. Now is the perfect time to begin. Finding a job under this financial crisis will not be easy.
Shaq took the extra step in obtaining a doctorate degree which has repositioned him in the job market from others. Working adults can also find the right formula to separate them from the pack for greater employment opportunities. With the right personal brand, people can stand out in a positive way and transform their livelihood. If individuals want to be more effective in their job hunt for 2012, they can use these job strategies to navigate future career challenges.



About Daryl Green 
Dr. Daryl Green
has done extensive research on cultural issues impacting today and future leaders. His last book, Job Strategies for the 21st Century: How to Assist Today’s College Students during Economic Turbulence, has been rated number one on Amazon.com. For more information, you can contact him at www.darylgreen.org  or  www.nuleadership.com