Don’t Forward That Email to Me!

We live in a world where speed is key. Everything has to be bigger, better, faster and so on. Time is money, so no one can afford to wait for anything. Unfortunately this development has enabled e-mail to become ridiculously over-used(abused?).

We all know that e-mail forwards can get you in trouble. Everyone has heard about the person who forwarded a nasty e-mail about their total drip of a boss to all their “close” friends only to have that person forward it to another person , who forwarded it yet again until that cute little note lands right in the boss’s in-box and the next thing you know there is a cute little pink slip in yours.

Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. Here is a list of some of the worst spam I get forwarded to me:

1. Political rants – I for one and really sick of getting other’s people propaganda. Yes this is an important time to be involved in the political process, but hey, as a fully functioning adult, I can make my own decisions.

2. Scary Chain emails – You know the kind I mean – forward this to 10 million friends in the next thirty seconds or a house will fall on your sister! (Sorry Margaret…) I do not have the time or the desire to sift through these barely veiled threats to my eternal happiness. They fill up my in-box, carry viruses and are just plain annoying!

3. Religious requests – I know this might strike a nerve, but hey, I don’t need religious instruction from random folks. I am pretty comfortable with my mortality and can make my own decisions about my eternal resting location. Don’t send me forwarded prayer requests for little Susie in Guatemala who has X disease that can only be cured with my thoughts and prayers. If you really want to make change, volunteer, vote and be an advocate for a legitimate cause. Don’t send me spam.

4. Ridiculous or inappropriate YouTube Videos – I love a good laugh as much as the next person, but most of the videos I receive are downright stupid. Also, most of these videos have been forwarded numerous times so that you may never know who the original sender was.

**A note about email privacy: Please check your send to list. If you put your contacts in the CC line then everyone can see every address you send it to. Before you hit that forward key stop and think, do you really want your boss, or significant other or even your grandmother to receive something you thought was funny but may be entirely inappropriate for them? Do you want them to see your entire contact list? If you must forward be discreet – use the BCC function!

She Works Hard for the Money…so Hard for it Honey!

My name is Monica Favela George and I have a problem. I LOVE shoes. So much that I have risked my entire financial well being on launching my own shoe line.  I did not work for anyone else in this biz before taking what I now realize is a much bigger leap than expected.  The down side:  my life is chock-full o’ work, cash flow is a big worry, and I need to clone myself to get everything done on time that needs to be done. I am “on” all the time, calling, emailing, invoicing, selling; I am running on 5 hours of sleep most days; I’m struggling to be the best mommy to my precious pumpkin 3.5 y.o. that I can while being so overextended.  My husband is disgruntled b/c our sans-Gigi dinner dates are down to 1 per 6 week frequency. The last time I went dancing with my girleez was 8 months ago (unimaginable in my pre-shoe biz life). The loads of laundry are daunting; and the house looks like a tsunami relief camp run by an organization that donates shoes.

The up side:  I LOVE my job; the first time I saw my maiden name emblazoned upon a pair of hot heels was a moment I will relish forever; when I see the prototypes come together and they look better than the sketch, the feeling of creative zeal is fantabulous.   I am blessed by supportive friends and family; the network of women that I have met who are excited about my line and helping me to make contacts is heartening; my biggest order for Fall is with a major boutique in Beverly Hills, which is amazing for my second season.  I am my own boss; if I am staring at my computer until 4 a.m. it’s because I’m working on my own dream.

Unsung designers recently hosted a launch party/trunk show for me. My iPod sound system was mixin’, the champagne was flowin’, and I was running around like a mad woman getting sizes for all sorts of ladies.  Most of my good friends, many whom I haven’t seen in months, came to celebrate and see my ouevre.  I looked around and realized that I am Blessed to be surrounded by so many good vibes and to see my intent’s fruition. So, even if I go down in a big ball of financial flame, I DID IT!

How I Got Fired

I got fired from my first job after college. It’s now over ten years ago, so I don’t have to tell the story at job interviews any more, but I was well and truly fired from my first real job, and it hurt like hell. My boss called me in to her office, and told me it would be my last day at that job. When I asked why, she gave me a bunch of reasons, some of which seemed accurate, some of which seemed unfair, and some of which seemed to have been chosen at random and bore no connection to me at all.

It turned out for the best  – I actually hated that job, and I moved to Egypt six months later. But I still remember crying all the way home, and the way I could barely catch my breath for sobbing. I felt like the biggest screw-up in the world.

So, what did I do wrong?

* I signed a lease in a new city before I found a job. That meant I was desperate during my job search and I took the first job I was offered. The job itself was a terrible fit for me. I was registrar at a for-profit language school, and I had to enroll each student using very complicated database software that had been written for the school by a none-too-competent programmer. It was boring, detail-oriented work that meant nothing to me.

* I settled too soon, and was too loyal to my new job. I had no idea how long a job search actually takes. I was offered four other (better-sounding) jobs in the two weeks after I started work.

* I didn’t trust my feelings. I hated my job so much I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning; I thought I was just having trouble leaving academia for employment. I had no chemistry with my boss or the owner of the school. I didn’t like them, and I am sure they didn’t like me. I thought that’s just what the working world was like.

* I didn’t know anything about how to behave in an office. I was 21, and not some mature, confident 21. They had to teach me to put a cover sheet on faxes, and that it wasn’t okay to chat with my mom on the phone while I stuffed envelopes.

* I was too honest. I was awarded a prestigious internship at the American University in Cairo that started in September. I told my employers in February that I would be leaving in seven months. I cannot believe I was that naïve; I really thought they would keep me on and hire someone I could train to replace me.

What I learned:

* You can’t be good at a job you hate. You don’t have to love your job, but despising it will inevitably make you screw up your work.

* Trust your gut. I knew going to work didn’t make me happy, but I thought I just needed to grow up. I should have trusted my own instincts, and figured out that office was a bad place for me. I also spent the last month of my job convinced I was going to be fired, and telling myself I was just paranoid. Right up until the moment I was fired.

* Getting fired can open doors. After my firing, I found a temp job in under a week, and spent the next six months temping. I learned a huge amount about different office environments and by the time I got to the American University in Cairo I was an expert on adjusting to new situations and learning new skills fast. If I hadn’t been fired, I would have stuck around the language school, doing work I hated and getting progressively more depressed. I was exceptionally lucky to find work so fast, I know that. But I also know now that getting fired is just a form of rapid change, and change is something you can turn to your advantage.

The Beauty Premium

Ladies, I think we always knew it was the case, but now it’s confirmed. Yes, the workplace is a beauty contest. And there’s a lot of research to back up the uncomfortable reality that attractive people get hired over those less so. And to add insult to injury, beautiful people get paid more, too!

Two prominent economists, Markus Mobius of Harvard and Tanya Rosenblat of Wesleyan, proved it with a research study based on a mock labor market where students were employers and job seekers. The job was solving mazes. The job seekers filled out a resume and then were given a simple maze to solve. To measure self-confidence, job applicants were asked to estimate how many mazes they could solve in 15 minutes.

What the researchers did next was to have each employer hire a small number of job applicants. Some employers only considered the resumes of potential employees. Others saw a resume and photograph. Some saw a resume and had a telephone interview. Others received resume, a telephone interview and a photograph. The last group had the whole nine yards – a resume, telephone and an in-person interview.

Guess what, those with good looks were no better at solving mazes than less attractive people (Whew!).

But, when employers saw a picture or met the job applicant, the beauty premium kicked in. Attractive people got the jobs, the bigger salaries and received higher expectations. And both men and women employers had the beauty bias (so it’s just not the men looking to hire babes).

So, ladies, while we make not like it, image makes a difference in how we are perceived. Our success in the workplace, as in life, is based on creating positive impressions about ourselves. That’s why we have to take it seriously.

Looks have a halo effect. That’s why marketers are into packaging and design. And we need to create a look that shows each of us to advantage so people assume a lot of positive attributes about us too – that we’re smart, productive and right for the job.

While you may not be ready to strut down the runway (neither am I), we can create an attractive image. Here are five tips from my new book, U R a Brand, How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, recipient of the Ben Franklin award for best career book 2007:

1. Package yourself. Brand managers pay a lot of attention to packaging. You should too since visual impressions are powerful. We are pegged in a matter of seconds: good – bad, hire – don’t hire, successful – loser. It all happens in the first few seconds. It’s based on snap visual impressions: how you look, your clothes. Of course, clothes won’t make a difference in how well you do your job, yet they will have a significant effect on how you are perceived on the job. Clothes are a quick read and one of the easiest ways to communicate a message about who you are.

2. Emphasize an unusual or different feature. Today, interesting-looking people are attractive. After all, you don’t want to look like everyone else. You are an original and want your own vibe. Having different looks can be very effective in building a powerful and attractive image. Think how Barbra Streisand, Andy Warhol, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar all dramatized their usual looks, features or shape.

3. Have a trademark. Developing a signature item as a trademark is smart personal branding that will set you apart from the crowd. You’re creating a branded element that identifies you like a logo on a product. Chosen well, it will convey a brand message to others and even change the way you see yourself. Larry King has his suspenders, Jackie Kennedy had her pillbox hats and then her oversized sunglasses. Steve Jobs has his jeans. And Bono has his tinted wraparound glasses.

4. Don’t neglect your hair. Hair is a terrific device for building a powerful visual identity. Think of Dolly Parton vs. Laura Bush. Don King vs. Dr. Phil. Donald Trump’s hair has become as much a trademark of his visual identity as the trophy wife and oversize yacht. Even the lack of hair can be attractive if you fully shave your head to accentuate the shape and silhouette.

5. Focus on “soft power.” One thing to think about is executive presence. How do you enter a room? Do you stand tall and walk purposefully? Or do you slouch and look distracted? Another aspect of executive presence is comportment.- your way of conducting yourself in interacting with others. Comportment is knowing how to behave in expected and unexpected situations regardless of how many eyes are on you.

Ladies Who Lunch

Lauren Pheeney Della Monica graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in art history and Spanish Literature in 1995.  Lauren completed a program in art connoisseurship at Christie’s, NY.  She then worked at an American paintings gallery and at the Citibank Private Bank Art Advisory Service, assisting clients with purchasing fine art and valuing artwork for loan portfolios.  As a complement to her arts training, Lauren received her JD in 2001.  While in law school, she interned in the General Counsel’s office at The Museum of Modern Art.  Lauren practiced commercial litigation and art law at a firm for two years.  She then launched her art consulting business, LPDM Fine Art Consulting, in 2004.

Yesterday I met a friend/client for lunch at a lovely restaurant known for its salads and pastries. There were quite a number of tables inhabited by pairs of women.  I arrived five minutes early, so I was seated in a corner table on a banquet, right beside two lunching ladies who were in their mid 50s. I could not help but overhear their conversation, try as I might to check my email on my Treo, turn off the ringer, write myself a list in my pocket notebook, and drink my newly poured glass of cold water. But, they were just inches away, and I could hear every word. And I was fascinated. Lady A and Lady B were discussing some women they know who never had children, and so they also have no grandchildren. My mind was racing with each statement made. Their take is that because these other women have not had kids (and these are all quotes as best I can remember them):

(Lady A) “They care more about which restaurant we go to and less about friendship. They will say things like, “Oh, I can’t eat there. The food is terrible.” It is as though they don’t know what is important in life because they have not had children. Lunch should be about the friendship not about where you eat. If the food is edible that should be good enough.”

(LPDM — I just have to interject my thoughts) I simply don’t understand the logic. How does a woman’s womb have anything to do with where she dines for Caesar salad in her 50s? Perhaps the women at issue are not interested in the same menus, in which case perhaps they should not dine together. But why is this about reproductive history? And then how exactly does reproductive history inform one’s understanding of friendship? I thought friendships were learned and developed early on in life before the age of reproduction (and continued long after the childbearing years).

(Lady B) “It is just terrible. When you are seated at a table and all the rest of us have children and grandchildren to talk about it is just so terrible. They have nothing. They have nothing to add to the conversation because they have nothing in their lives. So, I just shoot the others a look and try to turn the conversation away from families.”

(LPDM) Excuse me. Hearing you talk about your children and grandchildren is probably boring and something which others (parents, grandparents or otherwise) tolerate to an extent out of politeness and custom. A few minutes of that kind of proud mother/grandmother talk at any ladies lunch is acceptable, but it can get old fast whether you are a parent or not.  And wait, don’t you have anything else to talk about besides your family? Is your life that empty? Not having children and grandchildren does not mean you have nothing in your life. It means that you don’t have THAT in your life. It means that perhaps you can’t relate on that topic any more than when a group of men sit around discussing basketball scores and you are not a fan so you are probably bored and have nothing to add. It does not make you empty, just off topic. Go ahead, change the topic. But please don’t do it out of pity.

(Lady A) “I know. They always need to talk about themselves because they don’t have families to talk about. They need attention. I notice that they create illnesses to talk about just to get attention because they have not had children and they don’t know how to put themselves second and care for other people first. They don’t know that the world is not all about them and they don’t know how to care about anyone else.”

(LPDM) In an age when baby boomers are having to care for their own aging, and perhaps ailing, parents in record numbers according to many sources I find it hard to believe that simply not having children will absolve anyone from ever having to care for anyone else. Chances are they care for their spouse as well as for themselves. They also have had parents at some point and may have had to care for them, and maybe even for a sibling at some time, or another friend or a pet. Women have lots of care taking roles in their lives and the need is only projected to grow over the coming years. I guess it only counts for Lady A and Lady B, though, if you care for your children.

Maybe their childless “friends” are terribly self-centered, vapid hypochondriacs and if so, I think all of these women should stop having lunch together and perhaps give up the charade of friendship. It sounds dreadful. However, if a friend comes to you to discuss her illness have an ounce of compassion — maybe your friend is scared about being ill and needs some support.  Since you are such a warm, giving, family-oriented woman perhaps you could spare some kindness and lend your friend a shoulder rather than vilifying her for talking to you.

(Lady B) “Well, you know, they are bored in their marriages and they don’t have children or grandchildren to distract them. That’s their problem.”

(LPDM) Oh, so not having children means one has a problem. I see. Lady, other people’s marriages are none of your business. As my dear friend once said to me, “If you aren’t in it, don’t judge it.” Hard as that is sometimes, it is good advice. Maybe Lady B has some marital issues of her own that she is projecting?  And I don’t think anyone would say that having kids saves a bad marriage. No matter how much you love your children, it is still a bad marriage but with more pressure and responsibility.

Finally (and this is really the big one) how dare you be so judgemental!  You can never know why someone does not have children.  Perhaps it is a conscious decision not to have children and to choose a different lifestyle. Not everyone wants to be a parent, and it is not for you to judge. Perhaps the woman desperately wants kids but has been unable to conceive and has been through years of agonizing and expensive fertility procedures. Perhaps the woman never found the right partner with whom to have children or her timing was off and so it never worked out. My point is that simply having children does not make you better than someone who does not have them. It just makes you different.

Ah, thank goodness. My lunch partner has arrived. Now we can get down to our business of talking about her newborn, our love and lives and our business transaction!s

Protect Your Passion 2009

It has been said that “the surest way to keep a man in prison is not to let him know he’s there.” And the surest way to keep a woman from embracing her pure career ambition is to make her believe she’s already done it.

Don’t believe it. 

Heading into 2009, we women still are not advancing in our careers the way we should. We’re not getting the fulfillment we desire or making the money we deserve. And this time it’s not men who are holding us back. This time, sisters, we’re doing it to ourselves, because ambition—for us—is still a dirty word.

Do you unconsciously buy into our prevailing cultural paradigm, that double standard that says: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitchy, greedy, cold, arrogant females who attract enemies, repel lovers, make rotten mothers, live lonely lives and, in one way or another, miss out on fulfilling lives because of their ambition?

Are you not advancing in your career as quickly as you’d like? Are you not making the money you deserve and getting the fulfillment you desire? Are you afraid of what you might have to sacrifice if you pursue your big goals?

YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

It doesn’t matter where we grew up, went to school, or go to work. It’s the same whether we’re in our twenties and new to our careers, or in our fifties and sixties and among the most highly-regarded professionals in our industries. Today, the greatest barrier to earning more money, getting the power and recognition we deserve, and feeling entitled to stay the course comes from inside of ourselves. We agonize over whether or not we deserve to be ambitious—and about what it will cost us.

High-achieving women of all ages and at all stages of our careers all harbor the same dirty little secret:
 we all struggle with socially sanctioned failure to embrace our ambition. We all have some version of the same pernicious audio loop playing between our ears:

“Will being as ambitious as I dream of being make me less of a woman? Can I? Dare I? Have I gone too far? Will it cost me my personal life? Will I make enemies? Is it impossible to be a great mother and as equally committed to my ambition as I am to the well-being of my children? Will it make those I care about suffer? Is it impossible to be ambitious and happy? Am I giving my employer or my clients their money’s worth? If I negotiate, if I ask for what I’m worth, will I lose the opportunity? Is it wrong to care as much about making money as I do about making a contribution and being fulfilled at work? Does taking credit mean I’m greedy, arrogant? Am I worthy of recognition and power? Do I deserve to go after my biggest, most precious career dreams?”

Ambition is not a dirty word, but as far as many of us are concerned, it might as well be.

Why do so many of us self-sabotage without noticing that we’re doing it?

Because everywhere, there are disempowering ideas about women disguised in positive, and even sometimes flattering terms. 
The ideas translate into seemingly desirable traits women should cultivate, and we buy into them and internalize them. But these views and attributes are not desirable—they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they lead to self-sabotaging beliefs and behavior. By accepting them, and action on them, we women compromise our ambition—but we don’t see what we are doing to ourselves.


Our culture encourages women to derive our sense of self from being selfless, by giving to everyone else first and foremost—even at the expense of our career dreams.
 Could there be a more confusing, contradictory recipe for self-satisfaction? No wonder we drop kick our dreams!

We women have been told—implicitly or explicitly—not to value our ambition as much as our other priorities. Instead, we’re spoon-fed a culturally acceptable, watered-down definition of success:

-“You don’t have to be unabashedly ambitious. You’re above all that. You’re sophisticated enough to realize that ambition isn’t as important as getting the life-balance equation right. Get balance right and you’re successful, even if you have to sacrifice your dreams.”

Few of us challenge the notion that the accepted definition of success might actually be holding women back because it is couched in such a positive way. 

How can we take seriously the necessary soul-searching required to discover what we were meant to do professionally when we’re rarely encouraged to explicitly acknowledge and to discuss our pure, unadulterated ambition? 

This year, tell yourself a new message: your ambition is not a dirty word. It’s the best of who you are.You owe it to yourself—and the world—to make the contribution you were born to make. You can be as ambitious as you want to be—with integrity, grace, and dignity. And being true to your ambition needn’t cost you a happy personal life.

Here’s my new year’s challenge to you: 

Go down just as hard for your ambition as you do for any other primary priority in your life, be it lover, friend, child, community. Don’t sacrifice your ambition for any reason.

In 2009, let’s reclaim ambition as a virtue by adopting three rules: 


1. You must love your work.
 You must be willing to aggressively pursue the professional work you were meant to do and to strive for any career opportunities that inspire you.

2. You must regard your deepest career aspirations as unconditionally sacrosanct. 
The real way to have a great life is to see your career ambition as a part of your value system to which you must give equal attention, along with other non-negotiable priorities in your life, including your partner, your unconditional dedication to your children, and your commitment to your friends and community.

3. You must feel entitled to earn your worth.
 You must charge your full marketplace value without self-reproach, without leaving money on the table, and without feeling like an impostor.

If you don’t go down hard for your ambition, you’re letting the best part of you, the part that the world deserves to have you contribute, rot in a basement. 
In 2009, let’s get her out.

Protect your passion. As the ambitious woman you are entitled to be, I encourage you to answer for yourself, every day, a question posed in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

Tell me, What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

To steal a line from the musical “Rent”, “It’s gonna’ be a happy new year.”

Designing Between the Lines

I love, live and breathe fashion. I pick season’s colors, watch fashion trends, travel to Paris to source fabrics, and I sketch constantly.  Ah yes, and read fashion magazines and shop whenever possible.  All in the name of work.  Lucky?  Definitely.  Absolutely!  But getting here was a journey, and one that required a complete re-working of my ideas about career and success.

Having been raised by immigrant parents, I grew up in a household where education was highly valued, and having a stable, well-paying career was heavily encouraged.  I always loved fashion but it never occurred to me that it was a feasible career. So, my first choice was the law. And, I worked incredibly hard to get into a great college so that I could realize this pursuit.

Then, during my first semester at U.C. Berkeley, I discovered that lawyers actually have to think about THE LAW. Hmmm. Obvious, I know, but it was a shock to me… It’s funny – when you’re young, you formulate an answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” without really even knowing what certain jobs entail. And, over time, if you’re not careful, you can spend years moving towards actualizing a goal that occurred to you when you were a child. So, there I was, a college freshman, on the brink of giving my professional life up to a pursuit I didn’t fully understand when it struck me that, now that knew a bit more about myself and how the world works, I should probably investigate what I really wanted to be.

At Berkeley, I started giving credit to my passion for fashion, and began thinking about possibly building a career as a designer. After a couple of years of dancing around it, I started taking some costume design classes. This first structured foray into fashion was exciting and profoundly satisfying. When you start actually doing something that, for a long time, has been a bit of a fantasy, you experience great satisfaction, and – dare I say – power. You realize that you are ultimately a self-directed being, and you can choose your professional future. And so, I decided to choose mine.

When the end goal finally crystallized, I began planning. Unlike my discarded decision to become a lawyer, my decision to become a designer came with an understanding of what the path truly entailed. Fashion design is a true trade and craft, and I wanted to be designer in every sense – I needed to learn how to drape, make patterns and sew garments. So, after some very unglamorous, but practical, training at an LA trade school, I was ready to start my own little local line, Lanya.  My first order started as a final school project, and it turned into a birthday present for a friend working at a well-known boutique known as a launching ground for LA designers. The owner wanted 4 tops immediately. And so it began… I was a designer. Or so I thought.

After 2 years of being in the best boutiques, having clothes photographed with fashion dreams like Dries Van Noten, and being highlighted in Lucky magazine, I was frustrated. I realized that when you have your own label, you are not just a designer – you also have to worry about production, marketing and sales. Although I was a designer to the extent that I made clothes, I was, in many ways, an entrepreneur. And although that’s fine, that’s not what I wanted. So, I re-calibrated again. I was self-directed and I could choose my own path, remember?

All my thinking led me to an unmistakable conclusion – I would move to New York so that I could work for a designer… I would design clothes, while someone else worried about everything else. It was difficult to leave my close family and lots of life long friendships but, fortunately, my life in New York is fantastic – I’m in a cute, East Village apartment with a wonderful new love, and I work for a great company, run by a professional woman who encourages creativity and pushing the envelope. She gracefully manages the challenges of running a company, and inspires me to be impassioned by my role as a head designer. And, ironically, as a member of a team that supports and advances a brand built by someone else, I now have the freedom that I expected to have when I was the boss. I can create and have fun and not have to worry about keeping the lights on.

Did I ever think I’d be working for someone else and loving it? No, but it’s been a great turn of events, and I love the listener’s pause after I respond with, “I design lingerie.” So, it’s tough to know when you’re 12 what you’ll end up doing when you grow up, but it’s great to know that we all have the freedom to change our minds when we decide to stop, take stock, and be brave enough to make a decision that can make the difference between just having a job, and getting paid to do what you love.

Looking forward to sharing my designing details, and sprinkling some life in between the lines with all you Damsels in Success!

Baby Fever

It seems like everyone’s doing it: Christina and Nicole, Jessica, J. Lo, Gwen Stefani (on number 2), and, bless her heart, Jamie Lynn Spears. My refrigerator is peppered with shower invites and baby announcements, and I think it’s no coincidence that my two favorite movies of the year, Knocked Up and Juno, are all about having babies.

And yet…

I’m totally not ready. I still get freaked out, oh like once a month, when I suspect that even for a moment I might be pregnant. And then I start thinking about all these things I still want to do sans children, and I imagine how things would work out if nine months from this moment I would in fact find myself responsible for another little being. And…we’re back to freaking out.

It’s not that I don’t like babies or want one or two or three of my own. I just need more time to get my proverbial ducks in their row.

Right now, my husband and I tell our parents, who are actually really cool about not pressuring us to have kids, that“We’re having a movie.” And while I know making a documentary film is not as physically painful as actually giving birth to a small child, it’s definitely giving us an emotional and mental workout and costing us just as much, if not more, at least in the immediate future.

And it’s weird because sometimes we lie awake at night asking ourselves the “what ifs,” and we start to sound like worried parents.  What if we can’t find a cast? What if we run out of money? What if no one watches our movie? What if an errant satellite falls out of the sky and crashes on our studio, destroying the camera and the entire footage of the film? Seriously, what if?

The further along we get in production (we just finished up a round of casting last week and are very pleased to have more than enough compelling candidates), some of those worries become answered and then replaced by new ones. And in the midst of all the stress, the undercurrent that propels us forward is the passion we have for the project and the joy it gives us to use our talents to make a difference.

Making this documentary, more than anything else I’ve done in my life, has made me realize that more likely than not whatever I do, be it becoming a parent, buying a house, or shooting a film—I’ll never exactly have my ducks in a row. And that’s okay, because as this filmmaking experience is teaching me, I don’t need to have all the answers in order to move forward–which is not to say that I won’t give considerable thought to the various avenues I take.

I’m still not ready to join the celebrity bandwagon of motherhood just yet, but when I do I know I’ll look back fondly at the parenting lessons I learned while bringing up this movie.

Clear the Clutter in Your Life

Look around you, at work and home. Do you feel overjoyed or annoyed? Your environment affects your moods, attitudes, emotions, and energy level. What things sap your energy? You need to figure out ways to reduce, eliminate, or change your environment, so that it lifts you up rather than brings you down. These tidbits might help.

1. Clear the clutter. This requires effort and can be time-consuming, but the real reason people dread clearing clutter is emotional attachment — and because you no idea how to organize what you keep. Focus first on the areas of the home that are most important to your health and vitality, especially the bedroom.

2. Thin out the incoming stream.
We all have a constant stream of mail and new possessions coming into our lives. If you don’t develop a regular habit of thinning it out as it walks through the door, it’ll pile up and zap your energy in no time.

3. Create space with the right layout and equipment.
If you get buried in clutter simply because you don’t know where to put things, learn to make creative use of the space you have — including vertical space.

4. Learn to live more simply.
Instead of piling on new possessions until you just have to many, stop buying and take a hard look at what you have. Don’t equate material possessions with wealth or happiness, or — worse yet — self worth.

5. Get rid of it. If you don’t learn how to get rid of things, you’ll be overwhelmed with your possessions. Unworn clothing, unwanted gifts, ancient paperwork — get rid of it. If you haven’t used it in two years, ditch it.

6. Accentuate the positive.
Separate the trash from the treasure. You don’t need to keep unwanted gifts simply because they’re gifts. And don’t be afraid to get rid of things that are dragging you down with emotional baggage: there’s a reason women burn photographs of their old boyfriends.

7. Keep your office desk organized. No, a clean desk isn’t the sign of a simple mind: it’s the sign of an efficient, energetic mind! The more space there is, the less crowded your energy is. File rather than pile, and gather up those sticky notes!

8. Make a list of the home improvement projects you want to accomplish.
Nagging, incomplete projects not only create clutter, they also drag your mood down because another thing on your to-do list is staring you in the face. Dispatch routine tasks as soon as possible, and work to get the others off your calendar.

Clearing away clutter may seem like too much work, but you need to learn how to do it effectively for your own benefit. Once you cut down on the clutter in your life, you can move on to more productive levels of emotion and energy that put you ahead of the game.

— Visit Laura’s site, www.TheProductivityPro.com.

Carrie Bradshaw Goes Global. And Is That a Good Thing?

That’s the thesis of a piece called The New Girl Order by Kay S. Hymowitz in The City Journal. According to Hymowitz and data on the subject, the single young female (SYF) is bar-hopping, shopping, and bopping at night clubs from Warsaw to Tokyo.

Hymowitz says the proliferation of SYF culture is being driven by a few factors. Namely that they are pushing off marriage well into their thirties. She notes that in 1970 just 7.4 percent of all American 30-to-34-year-olds were unmarried; today, that number has increased threefold to 22 percent.

The trend is hugely promising, because it means that women are spending more time investing in their careers, hopefully paving the way for women earning 77 cents to the dollar to become an anachronism.

But let’s not kid ourselves; this piece could not just focus on the career inroads that young women are making. There had to be some mention of what I think most young women saw as the salient, or at least most compelling, storyline of Sex and the City: The search for Mr. Right.

While The New Girl Order is about having unprecedented earning power and multiple degrees, it’s also, Hymowiz says, sprinkled with “gyms for toning and male-watching: ski resorts and beach hotels; and, everywhere, the frustrating hunt for a boyfriend, and though it’s an ever more vexing subject, a husband.” And remind me why we can’t talk about young women and careers without talking about the hunt for a husband?

Here’s what vexes more (yes, even more than a hunt for a husband). It’s the cultural icons that have come to embody The New Girl Order. The Carrie Bradshaw character has little resemblance to the young women I know in this demographic. They are able to conduct simple arithmetic and, for the most part, manage their money. Carrie Bradshaw, however, realizes she spent the down payment on her apartment on shoes, only after Miranda correctly does the multiplication for her.

Then we have Bridget Jones, perhaps even more iconic than Bradshaw. Hymowitz notes that The Economist coined a term called the Bridge Jones economy. Jonesers, like Bradshaws, spend their disposable income on whatever is fashionable, frivolous, and fun.  Jones, though, if you remember, is always “on the edge of reason,” making a mockery of herself and a series of bad decisions about men that also lead her into an array of career compromising situations.

Hymowitz is right that there is much to admire in the New Girl Order. If only we could say the same for the women that seem to personify it.