Career Champs with Alicia Robinson, Founder and Executive Director of Limitless Ambition

Bootstrapping a non-profit is no light affair.

alicia robinson limitless ambition kent ohio zinga hart

I remember the night like it was yesterday. Frustrated with being severely limited at my job, I needed a way to vent my  insatiable need to create solutions to complex problems, and I found myself meeting with the coolest professional woman in the coolest building on campus at what was formerly known as the Blackstone Launchpad.

It was a semi-transparent glass box, smack dab in the middle of the student center, and having encountered her before, I curiously wondered how we could connect. When we met, she gave me the invitation to an All the CEO Ladies networking meeting later that week. It was after work so I went. It was there that the true connection was made.

It was there that the true connection was made.

We all had to pitch as a part of the membership. I came up with an idea to develop a social app that categorized and simplified who will be on the current political ballot. Everyone cheered, it was and still is a pretty crucial invention that we can’t quite get popularized.

Then it was her turn, Alicia Robinson. She sat and cheered everyone through their ideas and made friends pretty instantly. Like a cool older sister that you wonder where they get their je ne sais quoi.  We all heard her stitch together her vision of a future where women accept our pain because it pushes toward a life of purpose and passion. Where we network together to build youth girls to dream, believe, and achieve without limits. An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.

An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.

Her ideas of the future were so grand and so big, it  almost felt like one’s first visit to the late FAO Schwartz. She had the determination in her voice that made everyone feel like all the pitches we gave would pan out perfectly, just because we said it. We wanted her to succeed because we felt our own limitless ambition fueling us there in each others presence. A room full of young, emerging women hoping to craft a better future with our best ideas.

women leadership free lessons a woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman

Start-Up Leadership Lessons

By this point, I had experience with growing and refining strategies for non-profits so I agreed to join the group and help create a strategic plan, while doing some marketing.  that is where I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas. This is when I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas than the well-established organizations I was used to before starting college. Becuase it was a start-up, I was voted into the position of president, a role I was surprised to be offered. Yet, my initiative and understanding of the mission along with my comfort with strategic management fit for a startup. I agreed to take the position for three years, we the stipulation that we would spend time finding a president of a much higher-profile by the end of my term.

Alicia and I were still in school at the time, we both also worked full-time had tight millennial budgets, an untapped network, and  starter experience to boot. Our passion wouldn’t let that stop us, and, thankfully, Blackstone Launchpad, now KSU Launchnet provided an excellent source of wisdom, connections, and support along the way. We had late nights,  early emails, weekly and twice-weekly meetings; we devoted any minute of our free time, effort, and attention into making sure Limitless Ambition, Inc did everything as thoroughly as possible, to show we could match the pace of our peers. What we learned was that we had something that worked and that we had to keep serving those around us because they found value every time.

When life called she answered cultivated visions

Our Start Up Nonprofit Grows Up

It is no easy journey and we still have a long road to walk. There were small successes, frustrating failures, arguments, and awkward moments of facing our truths, so we could improve and move on. Yet, all along the way, we knew the moments were moments of empowerment, which was exactly the point. Thus, we kept moving forward, ego bruises and all. Now, we are preparing to host our next summer program and we have grown our team from around 5 to over 20 in three years time. Our organization has had a reach of over 600 people face to face and we have a locally-targeted social media reach of 4000+, all while working our passions part time.

As our team grew our hectic schedules quelled, and now we face new leadership lessons beyond the ones of our early start-up days. How do we ensure our mission is reflected in every aspect of our work? How can we provide community transparency that builds trust amongst those we serve and support? How can we be better leaders, still?

This may be my last year serving as the president of Limitless Ambition, so I hope to leave my lessons here for those who will carry the torch forward. Take a moment below to watch me interview Alicia in my special podcast segment below.

lessons learned from leading limitless ambition for the ladies who launch gala

Lessons Learned From Leading Limitless Ambition

As I get ready for the gala this week, I realize that this leadership ride I’ve been on has shaped some powerful lessons in my life. You see,  when I was in grad school I was a woman seeking to take a stance of power within my life and the world around me. Thanks to connections made at Kent State University’s LaunchNet, I was fortunate enough to encounter a young startup non-profit that had a motto aimed at helping girls dream, believe, and achieve without limits. As a lover of building solutions from scratch and human empowerment, I found a home to pursue my passion of achieving long-term strategic goals, while doing good in the world.

Shortly after, I found myself to be the president-elect of Limitless Ambition, Inc. and while growing a non-profit organization that empowers women in Northeast Ohio, I’ve come to unearth many areas of growth. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned after 2 full years in the position.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse. Read more.

One More Move: Replace Your Negative Sayings

Refraining from holding negative thoughts in your life, is as powerful as removing negative people in your life. To keep from going back to the habit of holding negative thoughts you need something to replace it with. Preferably something positive. At a workshop, I coordinated over the weekend, one of the attendants shared a great tip. She has a quick list of positive phrases to use to replace negative ones, which she adapted from this Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway  by Susan Jeffers [affiliate link].

For her sake and ours, I made a quick graphic out of it.

positive phrases.jpg

micro moves to focus fast get productive improve success

7 Micro-Moves To Focus Fast w/ 3 Free Bonuses

Do you get off track easily?

From time to time, you may find that distraction is winning  a lot of battles in your fight to stay motivated and push towards your success. Whether it is building your personal brand, building a business, or achieving any other goal, there is a key to staying focused and persistent.

From time to time, you may find that distraction is winning  a lot of battles in your fight to stay motivated and push towards your success. Whether it is building your personal brand, building a business, or achieving any other goal, there is a key to staying focused and persistent.

Luckily, there are simple, and free, ways to quickly  get back on the priority task at hand instead of logging another hour mindlessly scrolling Facebook to do…”research” . While these moves can be done alone, they also work together in a sequence. Use them as a quick routine when you realize that your are avoiding your valuable tasks for an unproductive ones.

MicroMove  #1 Take a deep breath

If you are losing focus on a task you know you have to finish, then there is probably something about that task that causes you stress. This stress triggers your “fight/flight” response which turns you to your coping mechanism: distraction.  This subtle behavior is rewarded with the removal of the stress, which is a positive outcome and so you are not easily persuaded away from your flappy bird marathon because it feels better than writing a 10-page marketing piece or presentation for your big pitch night. Whatever it may be, struggling through the cumbersome and complicated process that is reaching long-term success comes with no guarantees. Meanwhile, your favorite reality show comes with a very real and very now satisfaction.

That is why taking a deep, and I mean, deep breath is a micro behavior to first take when you truly want to disrupt the pleasure vortex. According to a Harvard Family Health report, deep breathing triggers us to relax, which releases the stress sensations that were eliciting the fight/flight response in the first place. So, if you wanted only one more move to help you get focused fast then you can stop here. If not, keep going…

MicroMove # 2  Check the Time

Sometimes a project is really stressful…

Honestly, you just know it is going to take forever and you have an entire to-do list to get through, plus the day is just etching away…

These are thoughts that definitely run through my mind if I feel as though I am distracted through the day. How are we supposed to fit so many priorities into such an infinite amount of waking day?

Often, when this happens, I find I really don’t know the exact time. How much day do you really have ahead of you?

By checking the time you afford yourself an opportunity to make a rough sketch of how all of what you want to do can play out, and if you are short you are forced to prioritize to the essentials.  This helps focus you in relationship to your present situation.

Once you know how much day you have ahead of you, pick a priority for every 1-2  hours left.

MicroMove # 3 Set a Timer

So you are feeling less stressed and prioritized, but stiiiillllll…..getting started on that project isn’t any more motivating. No matter how calm you are or how important you rationalize it to be, the energy to get you going just isn’t sparked. So what to do next?

Set a 10 or 20-minute timer to complete the first priority. Set the timer before you are even sure what you want to do next. This creates an external incentive to commit a small amount of time to devote from the time you have left.

By incrementing time even further, you’ve placed bite-sized boundaries on this once insurmountable project.

MicroMove #4  Check Your Goal or Write a Goal

Next if you don’t already have one, set a goal or check a goal. For example, I have a command center that I created a while ago, which lists my major priorities. Helping grow a non-profit, developing my business, and contributing to the higher education profession are the top three. From there I would pick one for the next hour or two and I would work on one goal.

For someone writing it may be to write a chapter, edit a chapter, research 10 sources. Whatever it may be, make sure your goal contributes to advancing your priority.

MicroMove #5 Make sure your goal is SMART

One of the things that trips me up, is sometimes the goals I write are not easily processed by my mind. I teach this in many goal setting workshops. Our minds are very much like programs processing lines of code and interpreting it into action.

If I set a goal that is something like : “Create packet”

When I return to complete the goal, I can be completely oblivious to exactly what the parameters of packet creation will be. Furthermore, if it is an older goal , I may complete lose why and what I wanted when I wrote “Create packet”.

So it helps to make goals as specific as possible, and the SMART acronym is a tool used to refine your goals into a way that we can process easily.

“Create packet” becomes “Make a rough draft of a 3-page marketing packet for our latest workshop offering on MeetUp within the next 17-minutes (your timer is still going).

MicroMove #6 Say an affirmation

Affirmations are a simple way to promote positive thinking around your priority project.

Great affirmations for focus:

  • I have all the time I need.
  • My work is a priority and I work my priorities.
  • Staying focused is easy.

Here are some more great affirmations for focus. Just pick one though and move on to your final move.

MicroMove #7 Do it

Jump in there! You have reduced stress, prioritized, specified, and affirmed! There’s nothing left to it but to do it no matter how unpretty it may be. Get in there and get it done. The clock is ticking.

Bonus moves

  1. Always be aware of your triggers – Brainstorm a list of triggers and build your  awareness by noting when you are engaging in a trigger. Playing Call of Duty when you know there are chores to complete or diving into an hour-long debate to avoid finishing that first draft. Gently note this times and realize you can take the micro moves above to get back on track.
  2. Write if-then statements and keep it nearby – If then statements are great tools to use with your awareness of distraction triggers. For instance at an old job my boss had us all say the motto “If there is time to lean there is time to clean” – plug in your trigger with your priorities and use it as a verbal reminder to refocus using some of the moves above.
  3. Have a reward system handy – When you do get back on track and finish your work in the time you devoted know of 1 or 2 rewards you can give yourself a positive experience and reinforce the satisfaction of being focused.

The smallest steps lead us toward success. When you recognize that the small moves that you take contribute toward your overall achievements your destiny becomes much richer and simpler. You can relish in every note you write and every goal you set which will keep you motivated in the long run. Appreciate your micro moves and use them to keep them keep you focused today.

For more moves toward your success visit zingahart.com or email me at zingahart@gmail.com to discuss a personalized strategy for you.

Keep Your Brand On-Point this year NYC

4 Smart Steps to Keep Your Brand On-Point this Year

If you are up to date on the latest trends in growing your reach online, whether it is for yourself, business, or passion then you know cultivating your leadership brand means creating content for the web. Content is valuable, purposeful, creations (whether an article, video, comic, podcast, etc.) that attract a particular audience and ultimately drives them to take action.

Yes, all those infographics, quote pics, even random Twitter rants you post are tied to the web of your brand. In a sense, this becomes the pre-impression before the first impression someone might get from meeting you more personally. In a sense it also forms an idea of who you are and a baseline for the value you bring to the table that people can start to believe. 

self authorship zinga hart - Quote is Our Self Image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become

Can you visualize your self-image clearly?

While your integrity is usually tested in real life, your reputation is partially set on the foundation of what you post online. While you don’t have to be a prolific author to write your story, you do need to respect how critical it is to maintain your authenticity, while growing your personal or business brand. Self-authorship is a theory attributed to Baxter Magolda, and is defined as “the internal capacity to define one’s own beliefs” as she wrote in Three Elements of Self-Authorship. This self-definition is at the foundation of developing your personal brand over the course of your success journey. Owning your beliefs takes time because you need to sort out the wealth of information you have absorbed and learned over a lifetime and distill it into your core sense of being. While, not quick task, with simple steps you can begin to dig in deeper, find your internal sage and use that to project and share your brilliant brand with the world in a way everyone can agree upon.

Here are four simple steps to author your self-definition so you can grow and polish it over time.

  1. Journal on what you think you have to do in order to fulfill your dream life: What are the essential things you need to live. Be specific: “Using the bathroom, eat, sleep” are some basics to include, but keep adding until you’ve exhausted your ideas, “own a business, have a family” could all be a part of this list.
  2. Walk away from the list for a day or so and then return. Look over the list and question how this master to-do list aligns to your values, your mission, and your vision. If it doesn’t click, make a note of how the “have to” came into your life. For instance, if you wrote, “own 20-bedroom mansion like Oprah” but your vision is to travel for the rest of your life, then consider Oprah’s role in influencing your personal beliefs.
  3. This working list is for you to return to and to refine over time. Choose the strongest beliefs of the work you have to do to live a full life. Notice what comes up over and over, notice what you are most proud of as you go about your days. Reduce your have to four or five sentences to keep your essentials close.
  4. Own it. Write it out, make it your screensaver, or create a ringtone. Figure out a way to keep your essential commands to yourself a constant in your life.

There are easy steps on the road to self-authorship Of course, there are many more steps on this journey, from vlogging to therapy, but what matters most is getting started. Thanks for walking with me!

 

For more here’s a Youtube video on the four phases of self-authorship

Want a partner to help you hone in on your self-definition?

Set up a free phone chat with me here!

From Passion to Process: 1st Workshop of the New Year!

I had a ton of fun today at Scribbles in Kent, OH. I hosted a workshop titled from Passion to Process where we reflected on our passions and then set aside time to build a system towards enacting our passions on an annual, monthly, weekly, and daily basis. It was a blast and such a good feeling to hear it was a helpful session.

northeast ohio passion discovery

Bonus: Scribbles is awesome and I thank them for hosting us! Their wall is lined with books and getting to color on the table tops was a creative feature.

passion discovery worksheet

One part I was particularly proud of was transforming my personal at-home command center into a useful printable for everyone that attended. The full version of the 2016 Command Center is attached below. I condensed it to one-page from them to save on printing costs and paper, so I wanted to share the full-version should there be any visual types out there.

Screenshot 2016-01-09 at 10.09.20 PM

 

Grab the free full version printable 2016 Command Center today.

 

Building Your Authentic Self-Definition

Building your self-definition plays a crucial role in how you lead yourself towards success. The challenge arises when you must sift through the input of others and find the wisdom nuggets you identify with, and with which others can mostly tolerate.

Trust, there is a lot of input.

We can’t help it, we want to see you take action, and so you are offered information to inspire your next moves. In addition, businesses want to envision you your ideal reality and offer you a solution to buy. While this can be useful when needs arise, it can also fill your mental chatter with clutter that distances you from the voice of your Self. 

self
self/
noun
  1. a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.
    “our alienation from our true selves”

This can make communicating with your authentic self feel like the Tower of Babel when the discord first struck.  Chaos and confusion as you try to build and yet somehow manage to stagnate or destroy simultaneously.

Yet, you need to  envision something and you need feedback to ensure your definition can withstand the test of time.

How can you balance between external inputs and internal controls?

There are many ways, but a reliable method can be borrowed from the business world. Small businesses and enterprises alike benefit from what is called a SWOT analysis. This assessment lists the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that a certain enterprise, team, product, or brand faces. It helps sort a wealth of information so you can turn it into actionable feedback.

if-you-change-the-way-you-look-at-things_wayne-dyer-quote-5

To incorporate this practice into your own success path  take these simple steps.

  1. Choose a personal goal you are pursuing.
  2. On your own, list what you consider to be your personal strengths that might help you achieve this goal and weaknesses that may inhibit you from achieving this goal.
  3. Next, consider any opportunities you could take of advantage of to reach these goals or any competition that might be in the way. Write these down as well.
  4. Then go around and ask people you trust or your closest circle of acquaintances and ask them the give you the observations from points one and two. What do they think your strengths and weaknesses are? What do they think of your goals and what challenges you might find along the way or what gaps they might hope you fill.
  5. Finally align the feedback notes you got for yourself and from your circle and see if where they align and where they don’t. Are your strengths viewed by your circle the same?
  6. Go over the feedback and use it to determine what you want others to know and how you can get there.

The personal SWOT assessment is a decision making tool to help you unlock possibilities for yourself as you develop her brand.

Click to download the Personal Definition SWOT Assessment

Let’s connect!