Be honest, did that headline sound like clickbait? Because I promise, this article is NOT sponsored. 100% pure Becka’s personal opinions. If anyone I mention in here wants to throw money at me, please do.
OK, so let’s dive in. I’ve been a professional for, ummm, a lot of years. (Let’s not go there.) And in those years, I’ve deeply and passionately participated! I’m talking Soho House, Union League Club, Women’s Presidents Organization, Chicago Chamber of Commerce, Conscious Capitalism, Peloton…and the list goes on.
I’m here today to tell you about the BEST INVESTMENTS I’ve made over roughly twenty-something years that have paid MAJOR dividends in terms of: Professional growth, creative inspiration, overall mental health & wellness and a general sense of satisfaction from my investment. In other words, I’ve spent a LOT of time and dollars…would you like to know what I’ve learned?
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” – Joseph Pilates
Absolutely nothing in my life has had more impact on my performance as a professional, a wife, a leader, a human—than consistent exercise.
The meditation of exercise is everything. I won’t pretend it’s easy, though. No one wants to get up early and work out—or drag themselves to the gym after a long day of work. Until you do it. 100% of the time, I’m so glad I did. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.
And nothing delivers better than exercise you really enjoy. Everyone has their jam. Mine is pilates. Once I discovered pilates, I never looked back. I guess I showed my hand with the quote above, but I believe Joseph Pilates to be a complete (mad) genius. He created an exercise that’s hard enough that you must concentrate on what you’re doing, lest you injure yourself. But not so hard that it’s intimidating and unapproachable.
I feel at least a foot taller after leaving the studio; so elongated and warmed from the inside out. And I’ll tell you this: I no longer throw my back out. I’ve learned to actually use that thing they call a “core.” Who knew? But why do I say, “personal instructor or trainer?” Because as people, we’re undisciplined children and our teacher has left the room, and we’ll use any-and-all excuses to get out of physical exertion. (Raise your hand if you’ve hurt yourself trying to reach for the remote with your toes.) I will ALWAYS put work, friends, dogs, a slight breeze, in front of my scheduled exercise. Hit me in the wallet though—I’m there every time. And after you feel the benefits, you see the value of the spend.
Pro tip: The right instructor is everything. Don’t be shy about shopping for the right personality fit. And remember, the best fit is not the person you find it easy to chat with. You’re not paying for a chat. You need someone to kick your ass a little.
My favorite studio in the city is CCBM. Tell them Becka sent you.
OK, so why did I put exercise first? Because if I haven’t worked out, everything else gets out of whack. See again, quote above from Joseph Pilates. It’s like that first rule they taught us when I got my lifeguard certification: make sure you’re stable before diving into the chaos. Next, let’s talk about another investment that has helped me maintain and grow a successful business for nearly 17 years…
Vistage has enriched my professional network more than all the other groups I’ve joined, combined.
If you’ve ever had to make huge decisions that affect the lives of your employees, you know it’s scary. I mean, no amount of Sleepy-Time tea (or gin) can help with this. Should you take out that loan and shoot for growth? Do you need to cut someone from the team that may be very profitable but isn’t a culture fit? How much can you really afford for that next office space? What is your EBIDA? (oh, lord) The list goes on. But Vistage is there to help. Vistage is a peer group that brings together, on average, 15 CEOs or leaders of companies into groups that act as sort of a Board of Directors to help you make these huge decisions. There is a group facilitator, who is always also a business advisor or coach. And you become VERY close with this group of leaders. They play by Vegas rules, and nothing is off limits. We show each other our Balance Sheets. We confess all our weaknesses as leaders. We learn and grow together and help each other build the most successful company we have the courage to build.
Vistage is by invitation, but not in a snobby way. It’s really about finding the right group for the right person. And VERY IMPORTANTLY: the right group leader. I’ve had the privilege to work with some truly amazing Vistage Chairs in my career to date and hope to work with many more. Julie Colbrese, Jodi Wellman, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. You changed my life and how I lead.
I’ve also built AWESOME relationships with cohorts I met through Vistage. Sometimes these people weren’t even from my own group but referred through the network. These people have helped me understand complicated problems, how to approach them and navigate the choices. And I’m proud to say I’ve helped them a great deal! For every person that patiently helped me understand a complicated financial equation—I’ve helped them understand that before they build a website, they have to know WHY they’re doing it. What are their goals? What issues do they currently face that the website could help them overcome? And so on. These are beautiful relationships I would not have without Vistage.
I’ve been part of Vistage since 2007. I’ve been in 5 different groups. Vistage segments groups based on whether you’re a CEO or maybe a leader within an organization and by business size., That way, you’re talking about relevant topics together. The groups are living things that grow, change, disband, and evolve. And it’s exciting when that happens. It shakes us up and ensures we aren’t getting lazy.
But it’s not magic. You must have the courage to listen to and trust your peers. You must make changes and believe in yourself and your business. These people will hold you accountable for your performance. When a Vistage member is referred to me, I always choose them over a non-Vistage candidate as a vendor.
The last thing I’ll say about Vistage: it isn’t cheap. But you get what you pay for. And I feel like having that much skin in the game makes everyone more serious about their engagement with the group. I can’t help but add this one comment: there aren’t enough women.
“The instructors are literally the A-list of talent. The courses are well-planned and high quality. And somehow they always teach me the right information at the right moment in the course.”
— Linda Dao Ohr, Global Head of Sales Enablement, Kin+Carta
We’ve all heard of Masterclass. I’m not telling you a big secret here. However, I don’t think they advertise to my audience of peers well enough. They highlight a lot on really fun things like Gordon Ramsey teaching me to cook the perfect cauliflower steak (chef’s kiss), or Alicia Keys schooling me on songwriting. And I get it. Those are impressive, talented, popular people. But Masterclass has so much more value than is advertised! The instructors on there are serious. They provide me with VALUE I can’t find elsewhere, and they fill in the holes of my skillsets perfectly.
In any given week, I’ll have Malcolm Gladwell teach me how to hold my reader’s attention! (How am I doing?) Next, David Carson can help me stay fresh on my Typography fundamentals, I don’t want to let that part of my skillset die off just because I’m busy running a business. Once I’m done with that, Bob Iger can help me to focus and prioritize better. There are endless opportunities for me to better myself—and in an engaging, captivating and entertaining way.
Personally, I marvel in their Creative and Art Direction. I don’t know how they do it, but they always have the perfect lighting for each instructor, the best set, best structure, as Linda mentioned above. It’s lovely, really. Seriously, do yourself a favor and give this gift to YOU. It’s a feast for your eyes, ears and brain.
Pro-tip: Go straight to Chris Voss and let him teach you his negotiation strategies. Freaking brilliant man.
“OK, I promise to help with the cooking if you tell me exactly what to make, have all the ingredients ready and a recipe that’s easy to follow.”
— my seriously wonderful husband
Knowing that quality time is set aside for dinner with my husband—making it a set-in-stone weeknight date—along with knowing what I’ll be eating and that I have all the ingredients to make it in my kitchen, helps me focus on work while I’m at work and home when I’m there. I can be present.
I know that each and every one of you is sick to death of hearing about home meal services…but bear with me. What does this have to do with professional development? Everything. What I’m having for dinner is already decided, like two months ago. So, I can focus on work right up until I don’t have to work anymore. No stopping at the grocery on the way home. No food hangover from bad takeout. No guilt when you see the credit card statement’s Postmates balance. And, despite my concerns about not wanting it when the time came…that hasn’t happened. Because it’s freshly prepared food. It’s an entirely different game than, say, frozen meals that seem like they’ll save the day, but look oh-so-gross. Cost, you say? Pschaw. It’s a fraction of the cost of delivery. And do you know how much food I DON’T throw away because I got overly ambitious with my grocery order? Life-changing.
I put both memberships up here for a good reason. My husband and I started with Home Chef. I did a lot of research to find the best quality, value and variety. Home Chef won all my research metrics. And my husband wasn’t a skilled cook, so he was very pleased with the easy instructions. But once we got comfortable, we did eventually get a bit bored with some of their more repetitive meals. (Enough with the bok choy, guys.) BUT! They let me put my membership on hold while I dated Martha Stewart’s brand, Marleyspoon. Ooooohhhh, hello, Flavortown! SUCH amazing recipes. But not for the novice or even non-ambitious chef. Martha’s meals are work. But sometimes that’s good, right? It’s meditative. It’s a place to shift from work to home.
The truth: Home Chef has amazing customer service, a ton of value for your dollar, a fantastic UI/UX and is five-star in my book. Martha’s plan is more “fly by the seat of your pants.” They expect you to always have red wine vinegar and unsalted butter. They don’t include every accoutrement you might need for your meal because they expect you to be serious about cooking. Their recipes are not as clear and concise as Home Chef. I often suspect an inebriated person writes them. But we’ve just learned to read them all the way through and make sure to plan it OUR WAY before diving in. It’s worth it.
Perfect Customer Service and a nice meal = Home Chef.
Creativity, flavor, exciting recipes = Martha Stewart/Marleyspoon.
The Calm app has helped me to center myself before a stressful meeting. It helps me to take a moment before replying to a potentially explosive situation at work. It helps me get much-needed rest so I can show up for work at my best.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but YOU can pay to have Harry Styles or Matthew McConaughey tell you a bedtime story. mmmmmmdelish. Anyway, there’s much more to Calm than their super snuggly bedtime stories that lull me to sleep like a little baby toddler. They have excellent soundscapes for concentration and thoughtful, guided meditations to shake off stress. Honestly, if you need to CHILL and get yourself together between busy meetings, 5-10 minutes of the CALM app can work WONDERS. I love gifting this to people., It’s affordable at $70 per year, it’s easy to use and it’s a major break from the cacophony we are bombarded with all day long.
“For me, LinkedIn has helped me not only keep in touch with and grow a diverse network, but also has been a source for referrals to my company, inspirational quotes and storytelling and an outlet for me to share back.”
— Monique Kelley Gigliotti, Neuroscience & Commercial Ops/COO Communications Lead, Takeda
LinkedIn is obvious. We’re all on it. But if I use it fully, including a subscription to provide added features, it becomes a powerful business tool that helps me stay in touch with my clients and colleagues, on top of current topics relevant to my peers and networking *tastefully* with people in relevant fields.
I won’t lie. I have a love-hate-love relationship with LinkedIn. Sometimes they change things that we all really wish they would leave alone. Sometimes they decide to just WIPE OUT entire sections of business profiles (remember Business References?). Sometimes those are sections we spent YEARS building and then **POOF** “Bye, Felicia.”
However, we also love it, don’t we? Unlike social platforms, you can count on the people on LinkedIn being there for business. It’s a nice escape from all the ridiculosity of other platforms. Maybe I’m a jerk, but most days, I just don’t care what you’re making for dinner, how many points your kid scored at his game or what my spirit animal would be if only I took this quiz you shared with me. I’m trying to be candid…respectfully? (I did say trying.)
I go to LinkedIn to (lol) relax and do business. I can read about a book someone just authored that they’re proud of. Or another peer’s philosophy towards servant leadership. I can stay in touch with clients who transition to different jobs/companies/roles. I can connect with people I’ve met and see their picture because my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I need all the help I can get!
And if you’re in sales, I do recommend upgrading to the Sales Navigator tool. You can build sets of lists of potential connections that might make sense for you to approach. It’s a great way to organize your search for leads, especially if you’re feeling the need for guidance. And if you use it correctly, RESPECTFULLY, it really does work! I think everyone knows what I mean here. Don’t spam 50 people to connect with you. Especially without sending a thoughtful message explaining WHY they might want to do so. Enough said.
I also really like their job posting function. It’s a decent interface and I get far better candidates than on sites like Indeed. Here, too, they make the pricing confusing, but just go with it. Set a maximum spend amount to protect yourself. If you’re not getting enough candidates, it’s because they want you to spend more. Do it. Talent is priceless.
I could spell out more complaints, but here’s the bottom line: LinkedIn is THE place where I communicate for business. I know this blog will be posted there, at no charge to me, and as a result, I’ll gain some followers (pandering alert) and drive some traffic to my company website. And that’s very nice of them to do. If I wanted, I could use the LinkedIn platform completely free, and that’s really cool.
“Age may wrinkle the face, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
— Danish Proverb
There aren’t a lot of things about getting older that I would describe as “awesome,” other than WISDOM. I hope I’ve gained some and continue to learn every day. And if my experience can give you one little nugget of assistance, fantastic. It makes covering this grey completely worth it. (Except no, I don’t mean that at all.)
Seriously though, one of the items that’s been on Our Manifesto since day one is this: BE HONEST. CANDOR SHOWS RESPECT. And that’s my goal here today…to be brutally honest about what I think are small to medium investments you can make in yourself that I believe have value that far outweighs the cost. And I hope, in turn, you’ll share your wisdom with me. Please comment on my LinkedIn post, or drop me a note at email@example.com. Let me know what subscriptions or memberships you’ve grown from professionally. Even if…ESPECIALLY IF…they’re unconventional! I’ll always be a creative, at heart.