United States Postal Service @USPS Passport #Privacy breach – They still don’t “Get it!”

September 9, 2015 at 09:57 (Money, Money & Finance, Privacy, Security, Women Empowerment, Your Bottom line)

We noticed an uptick in complaints regarding United States postal clerks and how they handled the passport process. I renew my passport by mail and get a new one within six (6) weeks. The old one is also sent back to you. The old passports are nice reminders of past travel. The passport photos, on the other hand, is a different reminder!

You can renew your passport by mail if it had not expired past the five years or; you can renew within 15 years from the date of issue. It is a quick and simple process. But for millions of new passport candidates, you must apply in person. You must also renew in person IF your passport expired five years from expiration date or 15 years from the date of issue.

For this undercover SOCIAL EXPERIMENT, my partner and I went to the local post office to see how they handled our passport requests. My partner was looking to get a new passport. I had an expired passport of more than 15 years from the date of issue, looking to get a new passport.

At the local post office, one clerk was seen when we arrived. Another clerk soon came into the scene to help a customer. When we were called to the counter, we stated our need for new passports. The clerk rudely asked, “What are we doing?” Again, we clearly stated our need for new passports, and elabourated that both of us were getting new passports. I stated mine expired. The clerk, INCORRECTLY chimed in, “Oh yes, over 10 years.” The correct answer was over five (5) years, since that would be the correct time after the expiration date. This WRONG response made me feel less confident in the clerk’s abilities.

The clerk again rudely asked, “What do you want? Forms?!” We had the forms. She then rudely stated, “Give me what you got!” We provided her with our folder with the forms all filled out. You could fill out the application forms online and print them. She asked, “What is this?!” She started to crudely go through it and said, “I don’t need this…this is not needed,” and so forth, thumbing through the forms in a rude fashion. The first part of the passport forms are instructions which are printed out with the application.

We asked the clerk if she had a private room where we can process the passport application, since our paperwork was being manhandled with total disregard for privacy. She said, “Nope, this is it!” We were subjected to just the counter and a clerk who did not know the first thing about securing personal information. Mind you, ALL passport applications contain SENSITIVE information including social security numbers! Any ID thief could use the information to create a false persona and RUIN your credit, not to mention your life!!!

We made a request to have our documents examined on the lower part of the counter where there was plenty of space. This lower level would hide the documents from prying eyes. The top counter was visible to all. She again refused and said, “Well, I don’t have any room down there!” This was a LIE, of course. She had plenty of space. She just did not want to do it.

We lifted the folder flap so it created a barrier for prying eyes. Next to us was a customer who ACTUALLY was looking at our paperwork being disheveled by the clerk. He was waiting for some service to be done and it was taking quite a long time. I glared over at him and he quickly turned his head straight away. The clerk yelled at us and asked, “What are you doing?!” We stated, we were doing it to prevent identity theft!

Once we took our stand for MORE privacy, the clerk rudely commented, “Well, that’s ridiculous!” She then nonchalantly stated, “This was a first!” The clerk then rudely stated, “Let’s get the pictures done!”

The clerk took us down a hallway where she opened a door to the back room. A white screen was placed behind a stool. I waited about five minutes until she figured out the camera. She took two pictures. When I asked to see them, she made a long “Sigh,” giving me a clue that she could not even be bothered. She then stated that her battery was dead. I asked, how she could take pictures if her battery was dead. I waited another five minutes with my partner outside the door, until she figured that one out. We promptly ended the session with the clerk and asked her to delete the photos she just took. We were not interested in getting passports today.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Consumers have a RIGHT to take action, when they feel violated or their private information is nonchalantly handled. We all have a responsibility to protect our identity and; to call out others who do not. If we demand better service, often times we will get it. But, we must collectively voice our dissent in order to receive it. This also goes for other acts you too should initiate. If you see something…do something about it! During a recent visit to the CVS, I noticed a customer being ignored. I approached her and asked how long she had been waiting. 45 minutes!!! I promptly went over to the Manager, who was not doing anything of importance, and asked why was this happening on his watch. TAKE ACTION for yourselves and for OTHERS!

FINAL THOUGHTS: Not every USPS experience is the one described herein; however, the privacy and security factor remain. Many USPS locations process passports at the counter and; yes, clerks have a propensity to read aloud information such as full name, address, contact phone number, email address and even; your parent’s information listed on the form. This is a DANGEROUS practice!

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. #ADVOCACY

© 2015  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne


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I Am…What’s Wrong with the World? “Tom Shadyack”

April 21, 2011 at 09:39 (Ethics, Health & Wellness, Money & Finance, Relationships, Women Empowerment, Your Bottom line)

Tom Shadyack, the director of the provocative documentary, “I Am,” explores what happened to “civilisation” as we know it. We had an opportunity to screen this film back in March. The film resonated with all of us as we continue our journey for more “altruistic” ventures. He was on Oprah yesterday with an epiphany that changed his life forever, as it did ours in 2003.

Tom Shadyack is no stranger to filmmaking or Hollywood. He has turned out comedic hits as “Bruce Almighty” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” starring Jim Carrey and “The Nutty Professor” starring Eddie Murphy. He averaged about $8M per film with points for box office receipts. At one time he owned three (3) sizable “mansions,” flew on private jets and lived by any standard, an “extraordinary life.” He gave it all up for a more “happier life” a “double wide” and a bike and; as he stated, “the less weight I had the happier I became.”

His “ground-breaking” new film explores his own journey to discover where did civilisation get it wrong? Whilst the film does not condemn life as we know it, it questions where society sets “priorities,” and the notion that “more” will make us any happier, or that we are hard wired for competition. On the contrary, we are “hard wired” for “collabouration.”

In 2003, we made the decision, as a collective, to downsize out of economic necessity. We were once again “Going to war.” One cannot live on just a military salary, alone. We also made a conscious and ethical decision not to take our usual Board of Directors stipends whilst on deployment. In the years since, just like Tom Shadyack, we, as a collective, became happier with less weight and; realised that we did not miss the “management of “stuff” nor the “stuffy” and “pretentious” world we were once part of.

To be clear, being part of “high society” is not stuffy at all, but the trappings of which others see as being important was. We also realised in our unique personal journeys, that the people we associated with were MORE important than those things that defined our status in life. Whilst we were products of good stock and education; associated, some would say, with a “privileged” life, we never let that which was afforded to us “go to our heads.” We were able to put things into perspective, select the friends who made us whole, be part of a team that made us thrive and seek out projects that gave us the opportunities to achieve.

A reporter who interviewed us during our pre-deployment once asked if it was “easy” to give up most everything we owned. Our ownership extended to properties, cars, lucrative stipend and luxury items including memberships at exclusive clubs and a private jet. Absolutely! When you are on the front line, your priorities are totally shifted to “What is really important in life.”

Today, we are still lean, and still don’t miss “all that.” With that said, we did not have to compromise our love of travel, entertainment and joys of life. Matter in fact giving up the other “weight” afforded us greater freedom to play. Tom Shadyack stated that when he told people he worked 18 hours, he received “positive” feedbacks, until he stated he played about four hours a day…to blank stares! No wonder people are stressed out and unhappy! We love the blank stares…so bring it on!

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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“Stand in YOUR Truth”

April 10, 2011 at 11:15 (Business Development, Ethics, Money & Finance, Your Bottom line)

We have been admirers of Suze Orman since the 90’s. In 2005, we produced the programme “Young Fabulous and Broke” using Suze’s book of the same name and in 2007, “Women and Money” where we also promoted the “Save Yourself Plan” through TD Ameritrade. In 2012, we will be back with another popular Suze book, “The Money Class” where she engages readers to “Stand in your truth.”

What we admire about Suze Orman is her “no nonsense” approach to personal finance. She definitely puts things into perspective and; some would say “too direct;” but does one have to be “meek” when it comes to a “reality check?” We believe that “Political Correctness” has all but destroyed our civilization as we know it to the point that there are very few people standing in their own truth and others “afraid” to say it like they mean it.

We do not want to scout around an issue looking to “feel” our way around for a “proper response.” If someone asks for our honest opinion, we will tell it, without being abashed. If we see something wrong, it will be addressed head on…”appropriately.” Calling it like you see it is not about “name calling,” attacking the person or being down right vicious. It is about providing a response that directly addresses the matter, without being malicious.

Suze Orman uses the phrase “Stand in your truth,” that in order to make significant positive changes in one’s own life, you have to be authentic. Whilst Suze applies this meaning to personal finance, we apply this to business and the troubling trend we are unearthing.

In today’s business environment, people can “hide” behind walls like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn spewing”quotes” and guiding people’s lives, but then we always wondered; who are these people? What is their background? How did they get started? Why should we believe anything they have to say?

Unfortunately, the contents of most websites do little to dispel the “myth” about the person who is the principal. Other than some “questionable” testimonials from “friends,” there is nothing unique to distinguish the “claims” this person makes about his/her “business.” Some are not even legitimate businesses. For instance, if you check ANY State business filings online, you can see ALL RELEVANT and “legitimate” businesses listed.

After a recent incident in one our beta programmes where participants were caught lying about their business status, we did a complete search. We were shocked how many of them were “Administratively dissolved” by the State for FAILING to file their ANNUAL REPORT, so in essence calling themselves an Inc., LP or LLC without “proper authority.” A few got “reinstated” after paying the hefty penalty fee and others just started a new business, without even bothering about their old business. Still others changed their business name like a baby changing a diaper and unfortunately, for some, nothing matched up with what they were currently doing. BLOWS YOUR MIND! Would you do business with such “questionable” entities?

We prefer “consistency in productive output” and REAL experts! History is important, but one does have to weigh a new business or a shift in business model with logical flow. If a person has too many “outstanding” businesses over a short period of time that resembles a “Start, stop and start,” with no logical flow, you need to question motive. For instance, if the business started out as a public relations firm, then decided they were financial planners; this would not be a logical flow. However, if the public relations firm added social media expertise, that would make sense.

Businesses should also “get” the importance of communications, “deadlines” and abiding by legal guidelines for their business. This to us shows “responsible and accountable business practices.”

If you “stand in your truth,” you will hold others to a higher degree…and by all means, you should!

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

ADDENDUM (04-11-11) Since posting this blog, we received email comments from those who had their businesses “Administratively dissolved” by the State. Some of them got reinstated after paying the fee, “claiming” they did not know when their Annual Report was due. Others stated they just wanted to do something else and let the State take care of dissolving their business. To ALL, we say, “That is just plain laziness,” with all due respect. Most states send reminders of their Annual Report or Biennial statements, with a figure and fee for failing to file the report. In the matter related to dissolution, most states charge a nominal fee, such as $35.00 to “Voluntarily dissolve” your own business. THERE IS NOT EXCUSE FOR LAZINESS! To “Stand in YOUR Truth” is to take ownership of your responsibilities. Be accountable! If you fail in taking care of your own business, how can you “honestly” take care of anyone else?

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Suze Orman vs. Kim Kiyosaki

March 4, 2011 at 00:05 (Education, Ethics, Health & Wellness, Money & Finance)

We recently heard an interview of Kim Kiyosaki and realised the woman was “out of touch,” especially in this economy. She told the interviewer point blank that “no one” should live below their means or within their means. HUH? Really? Even the interviewer asked her “Why?” Ms. Kiyosaki responded, “Do you want to get rid of your credit cards and eat cheap meals? I don’t.” She then continued by stating that she was used to a certain lifestyle and she was not going to give it up. We found her response to be quite “elitist.”

We thought Ms. Kiyosaki’s statement to be “negligent,” as well, since the majority of women who “flock” to these conferences where Ms. Kiyosaki appears do not have the financial resources. They mostly come from the “working class.” Some are single mothers who don’t have the luxury of an extra income. Even if they have a spouse, some women feel they need to work to support the family. Rarely will you find women from Bel Air, Palm Beach or Riverside flocking to these kinds of events. Can you imagine the Housewives of Beverly Hills, Orange County, DC and Atlanta attending? So the message has to be tailored to the masses who do attend, not those who don’t.

We attended one of these Rich events for FREE, but rather have paid for “real value.” This event was more like a “Get rich quick” scheme where unsuspecting people were “sold” on a “system” that costs more than some of their pay checks. Of course, the price was slashed to $495 at the event!

The Rich staff members sat at long tables, behind the audience, “ready and eager” to take credit cards, and even suggested a “payment plan.” A guy at the front of the house “worked the crowd,” shouting and we thought, “touched by the holy spirit.” It sounded like a Baptist revival, all programmed to release the audience of their hard earned money!

On her website, Ms. Kiyosaki does bring up a good point that money can “set you free.” We totally concur with that. Being financially solvent and independent from debt and liabilities does set you free. There is nothing more EMPOWERING than being debt free and cash rich, but certainly NOT at the expense of others. Ms. Kiyosaki and her husband became rich selling their lifestyle ideals to others, whilst pocketing the profits.

Suze Orman got it right, and in our view, she is the “real deal.” She is a highly successful professional who can spin Ms. Kiyosaki in a wind tunnel of financial expertise. “True wealth” is knowing that you have the cash to pay for it outright, not that you can put it on credit. Once you put it on credit, you already carry a liability which eats away at your networth. Then you are trying to figure out how to make more money to counter balance that liability. When in the first place, if you did live either below your means, meaning spending less than you bring in (AND NOT as defined by Kim Kiyosaki), or within your means, you would not have to work so hard to generate income to make up the difference.

The Kennedy’s are seen as a Wealthy American family in every sense of the word, yet Rose Kennedy, the matriarch had no problem shopping at Woolworths. Warren Buffett is the second richest man in the world, yet has no problem eating a steak at a dive. You can’t even find the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha. They don’t have a marquee on the building. They rent office space, as they had done for years! We attend their Shareholders meetings annually. During our first year, trying to find their headquarters in Omaha was like, “Where’s Waldo?”

SMART Women know how to build wealth…SMARTLY. These women do not follow the groupies, the heard or the raving fan base. Be your own mistress to your destiny and take charge of your life and financial future by being SMART and living SMART.

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Here is a recent Tweet from Kim Kiyosaki. NO Ms. Kiyosaki, “Living below your means DOES NOT mean being “less” than who you are.

@kimkiyosaki Kim Kiyosaki says:

Often we hear “live below your means.” This means be less than who you are. We should be expanding to be MORE than who we are.

17 Feb via HootSuite

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Red Flag: Consumer debt rising!

February 15, 2011 at 11:12 (Health and wellness, Money & Finance, Relationships)

On the Today Show, Jean Chatszky and Consumer Reports’ Mandy Walker raised the alarm of consumer debt being on the rise. For the last 2 years, it appeared that personal debt was abating, but once again, consumers are “back to their old habits.” This report does NOT surprise us in the least. We lived through countless ups and downs in the economy to know better that consumers won’t change until they make the change for themselves. The Economy is ONE GIANT psychological roller coaster and trend setter, NOT a means to an end.

We are known as the “FREEDOM T.E.A.M.,” because we know the value of ownership. This hit a nerve with a potential Strategic Alliance recently who called us out and stated, “Does that mean you don’t charge for anything?” We answered, “absolutely NOT!” It means that we know the value of the dollar. We don’t believe in credit or the “credit” industry. It is because of this attitude we are able to thrive in this economy whilst others are barely surviving. People and businesses are debt heavy and cash poor. That just is not us.

Recently, we saw an HGTV episode of “Selling New York,” where a well know New York City “Soap Star” was selling his New York City apartment and needed to do it FAST. His property in Florida was barely floating. We wondered, with all the millions he MUST have made through several years and decades of acting…where did ALL the money go? Not very many people realise that there are PLENTY of wealthy people that are credited up the hilt. Remember Sami Davis Jr.? Red Foxx? Tony Braxton? They ALL faced financial hardship. Tony Braxton was bankrupt and had to buy back her own Grammy awards!

Here’s the rub, savings IS easy when you VALUE and PRIORITIZE your expenses. EVERYDAY IS a choice, either to buy a beautiful set of painted tea cups and saucers from Ebay at a huge bargain price of $15.00 or buy power steering fluid for your car for $20. The former is a “Want” whilst the latter is a “Need.” For us the choice is clear. Needs trump wants!

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Another SCAM event?

February 15, 2011 at 11:05 (Education, Ethics, Health and wellness, Money & Finance, Relationships)

Recently, we had a conversation with a colleague who was attending an event of a well known Motivational Speaker. In our view, he is known for making “lots” of money on the backs of hard working people. Whilst his message was interesting…nothing new or “earth shattering”…he was able to “hook” unsuspecting people to come to his events that cost hundreds of dollars. He not only expected them to pay, but did plenty of “upselling” before his event to ensure that he made even MORE money off these “suckers.”

Personally, we are ALL for events that are “altruistic” in nature that support the success and achievements of others. There are excellent examples of great events that do just that! Then, there are those organisers who approach their events with one “conflict of interest after another,” organising an event” that showcases themselves and their “friends.” They even promote themselves with tag lines such as “#1 Internet Marketer,” The “Greatest” Marketing mind, the “Worlds Top” Marketing Experts. Who determines these titles anyways? If you see one…RUN AWAY!

Anytime an event promotes “You can make money in your sleep” and talks about the Internet, we TRASH IT! Come on…have you REALLY met anyone that actually made money in their sleep this way? We have interviewed not less than 80 business owners/entrepreneurs in one such community and none of them did. We even conducted a focus group of 566 in 2009, and none of them did either. So, could these organisers who run their own show be blowing a giant smoke screen? Perhaps.

Be aware and just make it happen for yourself!

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Shattering Misconceptions, Part II: Seems too Organized? “Fear is the Mind Killer”

February 7, 2011 at 14:57 (Health & Wellness, Money & Finance, Relationships, Women Empowerment)

We recently conducted an exit interview with a woman who was accepted into our latest beta programme, “What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know.” Please note for the value of this blog, she only experienced the first week of the twelve week programme. The first week is dedicated to introductions, where participants introduce themselves to each other, in their respective group dynamics. The “meat” of the programme is week II to XI.

This woman relayed to us that our programme, from her experience, seemed “too organised.” She felt that down the road we would want “something” from her, like “money.”  We advised her that our programme was altruistic and sponsor underwritten. No monies EVER exchanged hands with participants. The primary goal of this beta programme was to mine data for future events and; to assess the viability of such an undertaking. We do NOT sell to participants.

The “organisational” process was credited to the people that made it happen. They included our volunteer staff who were experts in their field; Moderators/Mentors who dedicated their weeks to this programme; Keynotes who presented each week and; Advisory and Training Advisory members. Quality people bring quality to the table!

Nevertheless, we validated this woman’s “fear” since change has to come from within and; “fear is the mind killer.” Her bad experience(s) of the past has crippled her in the present. It was shameful that some Organisers run their show with no checks and balances. They charge enormous fees, with no guarantees. They promote their friends as instructors and keynotes, with no credible experience. Some Organisers are a one person show, with “claimed” expertise in ALL subject areas. One cannot be an “expert” in everything and if they claim they are? RUN AWAY!

It is natural, of course, to have doubts. We are the sum total of our past experiences. While many programmes are worth the time and investment, some are disingenuous and built as a “cash flow” vehicle for the Organiser(s), and NOT a viable resource for the attendees. Programmes of the latter nature do spoil the good image for those programmes that strive to do good. We leave the final judgement up to the attendees.

We don’t like wasting time and do not want anyone to waste their time either. So, when we were approached by this woman to leave the programme, we did not stand in her way. Interestingly, this woman “changed her mind” and wanted to continue with the programme, even stating she would be there for the next session. WE HAD OUR DOUBTS.

After 12 years profiling people as a profession, we felt that this woman was not sincere in wanting “back into the programme”  We sent her an exit survey, in any event. Did we we assess her personality correctly? You bet! As it happened, she changed her mind again the VERY next day.

“What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know” is a Program that is NOT for the “faint of heart.” This programme is designed for women who “want to make things happen” in a BIG way. So, the next time, you see us in your neck of the woods, make sure you want it, or don’t sign up. We say this honestly and without malice.

MORE information: What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Shattering Misconceptions, Part I: What Women Should Know…They GOT the Power!

February 7, 2011 at 14:44 (Health & Wellness, Money & Finance, Relationships, Women Empowerment)

January was an exciting beginning to what will undoubtedly be a prosperous year! In the Chinese calendar it is the Year of Rabbit = Prosperity. The Rabbit is a lucky animal symbol. In numerology the number 1 notates “Beginning, New, Focused concentration, Goal-striving, Action, Independence, Originality, Courage, Invention, Leader, Self-reliant, Ambition, Pioneer, Will, Conscious Mind, Positive.” Whatever your belief, this year does bring with it HOPE.

In January, we also launched “What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know,” a programme specifically designed for women. What we know is that women are pioneers, everything from the suffrage movement to “breaking the Glass Ceiling,” including at Ebay, Hewlett Packard and Facebook and; starting businesses. More than half of small business start ups are initiated by women.

Single women also are in the MAJORITY. imagine that! In a recent Match.com research study, 52% of men are now “dreaming” of the “traditional” household and seemingly want to get married. Less than half the women researched say they do. Women are also leading in the hire rates of industries including education, health care and government.

Now with all this POWER women have, what is holding them back from achieving the calibre they all know they can? Women are less prepared for the job market, with less than 7% negotiating for their first job out of college. They are less financially prepared, albeit the majority run their own household finances and, they are paid less than their male counterparts in almost every other “male” dominated industry such as law enforcement, legal and finance.

Whilst the “What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know” programme is aware of these issues, we are MORE focused on creating opportunities and helping women compete in their specific marketplace by elevating their knowledge and skills set. We believe we can be the great equalizer in making this happen and; true to form we are already shattering “misconceptions” of what this programme is all about.

MORE Information: What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2011  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know-“Downsized” & “Fairy Job-mothered”

December 20, 2010 at 14:44 (Education, Health & Wellness, Money & Finance, Women Empowerment)

We recently conducted a focus group in four (4) of our markets to assess spending habits and lifestyle changes of participants directly impacted by the economy. This was an independent study of an outside market research company to obtain a “snap shot” of how people were doing in their “new” economic reality and what were their “coping” mechanisms, if any. Spending habits is one of the indicators of how an individual copes with economic “hardship” or “prosperity.”

Not surprisingly, the data revealed that most of the people were “optimistically” cautious, BUT also more individuals were gravitating towards “uncharted territory” in an effort to “survive.” For instance, more were willing to share their “challenges” and participate in forums and open discussions with total strangers, with similar background and experience to themselves, in order to feel “connected” and to seek information for their own circumstance. Additionally, some started watching “reality-based” TV shows like “Downsized” and “Fairy Job Mother” to help them understand that they were not alone.

The “coping” mechanisms, i.e. to be with others who “feel” their “pain,” and seeking outlets that could help them improve their circumstance seems to be what is “trending” in this NEW economy. This brings us to events on television, which sometimes reflects life, and the shows that have found “instant” success due to the “demand” for that kind of information, knowledge and pacification.

In the show “Downsized,” a blended family goes through the realization that their once “cushy” lifestyle on a million dollar plus income and living way “above” their means, gave way to their current daily struggles of putting food on the table and finding ways to cut expenses. In “Fairy Job Mother,” individuals are making the most of valuable job-hunting techniques proposed by their career consultant to land their next job. Both shows are definitive of the “current” economic situations faced by many households and individuals.

On the flip side, some of the focus group participants were making the most of their new reality. These individuals are not millionaires… far from it…but were able to sustain themselves by living frugally, on a budget or being realistic about their financial expectations. Whilst some did lose their jobs, they did not lose their sanity, their “shirts” or their “home” in the process because they had the foresight to “store” enough “nuts” during the “harvest” to ride out this economic “winter.”

What Focus Groups bring to light is (1) insight and; (2) opportunities. What we learned was that there was a great divide between how men and women took advantage or not of their current situation. Whilst we like to believe that women are great “networkers,” women are not doing nearly enough for each other as their male counterparts. Women are supportive to be sure, but men’s outright “assertiveness” is the game changer in why the “Good Old Boy” Network is so much more efficient and SMARTER than the “Sisterhood.”

Let’s put the “Good Old Boys” to the test. Take for example former “disgraced” New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who now has his own television show or; even former “disgraced” Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich who has been receiving steady work including his own radio show, reality show and TV commercials, whilst awaiting trial for fraud and bribery. I am not saying that EVERYONE falls into this “Teflon” category, BUT most men seem to bounce back from scandal or other life’s challenges with little to no damage, whereas for a woman, there is a “double” standard, especially initiated by OTHER women, NOT men. Women ARE their own worse “frenemies.”

Men too are more assertive in business and in job hunting than their female counterparts. A man is willing to let go of his “ego” to stand on a street corner with a sign that says, “I need work,” whilst dressed in his business suit and tie; whereas a woman sometimes restricts her own opportunities to “save face,” and continues to “pretend” that everything is all right, when in fact it is not. The same woman might continue to spend money she does not have, shop at the same stores and dine out with her gal pals, all the whilst her debt continues to mount and she does not know how she will pay for rent or mortgage. Not ALL women and not ALL men fall into any of these categories, but the gender “behavioural traits” are spot on. These behaviours were also clearly evident in Focus Group discussions.

The “support” mechanism between the genders also vary on how situations are handled. As one of my Sponsors pointed out, a woman is very likely to be supportive “verbally,” saying things like “it will be all right…it will get getter,” whilst a man whose friend needs a job will pickup the phone and speak to a contact to get his friend a job. Men are more “action” oriented, whilst a woman puts all her “feelings” into words with very little activity physically. Again, I am not trying to square peg anyone into a round hole, but there is a vast difference between the genders on how they cope with their reality.

Take for example the TV show “Downsized.” When the couple went to a financial planner, they were both given the “riot act” to change or else. They were given top-notch feed back and what they could do to drastically improve their financial situation. Whilst the man “got it” and already started making cut backs, the woman felt “guilty” about cutting back on her kids “extra curricular activities” that were supporting their increasing debt! In one episode, she even told the financial planner she “needed” the “expensive” Starbuck’s coffee every day due to her MS condition.

As a direct result of several factors that came out of the focus groups we conducted from August to October, we developed a programme specifically designed for women. “What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know” hopefully will be plenty! That a woman does not have to give up her femininity to be assertive and; she can meet the challenges head on without being called a “dragon” lady.

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

What S.M.A.R.T. Women Know

© 2010  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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Energy Vampires…Stop Sucking your own Life force!

October 31, 2010 at 06:23 (Ethics, Health and wellness, Money & Finance, Women Empowerment)

In recent months, we discovered a very “disturbing” trend. We call it the “discombobulated” factor where intelligent small business owners, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors are adding on “unrelated” business entities to their mix of already “unsuccessful” list of “things they do to try to earn some money.”

Unless you are an “investment” or a “holding” company, i.e. Berkshire Hathaway or Unilever, a business should be crafted in such a strategic way to be identified with their “brand.” Therefore, if you are known as a “webmaster,” per say, and you start selling fashion clothing, we wonder how serious you are about your craft, unless you are making a concerted effort to “reinvent” yourself and have therefore left a “successful” venture to try something COMPLETELY new. It does happen!

Several months ago, we totally gave up attending any “singular-minded” business-related functions because we were so confused by the majority of the attendees. Chambers of Commerce and institutions that support small businesses are a good thing, but they are so similar in the way they approach business practice, they do a great disservice most times for their membership. Personally, we hate the “elevator speech,” the sing songy way of expressing what you do, usually in 30 seconds or less. We suppose it does help people from “rattling on,” as some do at these functions.

Regardless of the “elevator speech,” most attendees do not have a clear vision of their business or their brand. They seemingly take on more than they produce. They do not prioritize their strategic business intent which is evidenced by their rattling more ventures in a single breath, i.e. Printing service and an unrelated MLM company like Juice Plus; rather than highlighting their specialties or mission within their main business frame.

This trend of the multiple unrelated, discombobulated “features” in one’s business does little to promote the business. It is too darn confusing! However, this trend has been growing in recent months due to the recession. People, especially sole proprietors are feeling rather “desperate” and with it, unfortunately, comes despair and with that comes a need to “try anything” to stay afloat. In other words, they try WAY TOO hard to be heard and in essence, spread themselves too thin. Their life force is being sucked out of them and they don’t even know it.

These Energy Vampires are more dangerous because they suck the life force out of you from within, leaving you nothing but a shell. You are not enriched by this experience because you have lost your sense of direction and focus. Instead of successfully maneuvering the challenges of your main business, you have now taken on yet another “task” that is completely unrelated, and neither your primary nor supplemental job come to fruition because you had no plan.

The “triple threat” like J-Lo, aka “Jenny from the block,” come to fruition when you successfully maneuever all three (3) areas of talent exceedingly well. Each talent block, ie. singing, acting, dancing, MUST co-exist and collabourate, not become discombobulated. There is nothing wrong with “dominating” an industry, i.e. Oprah (Media/Entertainment Mogul) or Tyler Perry (Writer/Director/Producer)…just do it well.

A “triple threat” or any addition to your known public “brand,” should be a building process, not a “stick to the wall and hope it will stay” mentality. Examples of successful transitions are all around including Jill Ireland (Model/decorator/investor). Yes, there will be missteps (i.e. Oprah’s “Beloved”), but just keep moving and with each step, you will get stronger and better.

Healthy | Mindful | Wealth

Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. Ask questions at hashtag #TEAMSOUNDOFF

© 2010  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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