Internet Inspirations: Spring is Coming Edition

February 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Get inspired to spring into March! Photo (c) Heather Comstock 2013.

Get inspired to spring into March! Photo (c) Heather Comstock 2013.

It is the end of February. The groundhog predicted an early spring. The daffodils are up and the grackles are cackling in the trees of my neighborhood. As the weather turns warmer, here’s some inspiration to kickstart your March from around the internet!

Over on Jon Acuff’s blog, he’s got a great piece of the power of finding 30 minutes a day to move forward on fulfilling your dreams! John notes that “rescuing the first 30 minutes” is the hardest.

On the Harvard Business Review blog, Peter Bergman gives you “Nine Practices to Help You Say No”. When you say no, you create space to allow yourself to “Yes” to something more important.

While this advice may seem counter-intuitive when job searching, Learnvest has a great rundown on Signs You Shouldn’t Take That Job. Employment situations should be a good fit for both you and the employer for long-term success!

PEC Boardmember Cheryl Pullins has a great post on her blog about how to pry your ego out of the driver’s seat so you can move forward fulfilling your dreams. Plus, bonus Kool Moe Dee reference!





Finding More Than a Lost Purse

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is a post from Coach Maria Shepard-Smith who shared this story about an unexpected Christmas Eve Time Out during a discussion about why the holidays seem to get crazier every year.  We hope you’ll enjoy as much as we did!

Maria finds an unexpected refuge and gift while looking for her missing purse!  Photo credit: Daderot (Daderot) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Many years ago I was rushing around at the holiday season on Christmas Eve doing my last minute shopping, after work of course, in Macy’s NYC on 34thSt. I wasn’t alone, unfortunately there were hundreds of others doing the same thing …what were they doing here…didn’t they finish up early…why were they in my way?

Needless to say, I was harried and rushed and thinking about the hundreds of things I had to do before Christmas day…yes just a measly 6.1/2 hours hence.

Well “I went in” as they sometimes say, you know you hear it all the time ’I am going in’ …knowing just knowing you might not survive the ordeal. Or worse, for me at that moment, that I might not get ‘just the right present’ to add to the lovely holiday spirit and sense of peacefulness that is always being touted at this time of the year, which for me was, at that moment, quickly evaporating.

Yes! I was at the very place where many of us end up, for one reason or another, when it is least expected, and when we can least afford it emotionally…at the brink of extreme angst.

Well, I did survive and in a way that I did not even think was possible when I finally left the store 3 hours later and headed home at the end of the evening.

In the midst of my harried rushing about I had forgotten the real meaning of the season.

As I made my way down the Subway station stairs to catch the train home, I fumbled with my packages and shopping bags for my purse to get a token for the fare. In less then 2 seconds, I realized … I DID NOT HAVE MY PURSE!

I rushed back up the stairs of the Subway, through hoards of folks headed down the stairs. I hurried into Macy’s trying to remember where I could have put my purse down ….you just don’t do that at the height of the shopping season in NY. Well I decided to retrace my steps…going backwards. I made my way to the 7th floor restroom…the last place I had been before leaving the store.

I rushed into the restroom went through the sitting area and checked the stalls…I knocked on the stall that I had used and asked the woman if she saw my purse hanging on the hook behind the door. ‘No ‘she said, ‘there’s nothing here. For a moment, I didn’t believe her, but then I knew that it had to be true…what was she going to do…stuff it in her bag, (in those days my purse a pretty fair size).

Well, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I began thinking about how I was going to get home. Well, I thought, I’ll give a sob story to the policeman or clerk at the booth. They would let me on the train. After all, it was Christmas Eve. They weren’t going to hold me hostage for the fare…which at that time was .35 cents. Plus, by the time I would have gotten down to the Subway, after my search, I would look like such a sad sack they would take pity on me.

Then of course I began to make a mental list of what important things I had in my purse…not much money…only one credit card…and various other items we all carry in a wallet. The thought of having to plow through the task of unraveling the event of a lost wallet etc. was too much for me.

For some reason, I didn’t lose it, my sanity that is. I just began to settle down. After all, what choice did I have?

With a resigned feeling, I turned to leave the bathroom area to make my way to the other departments in the store where I had shopped. ‘I’ll give it a try,’ I told myself…knowing full well that it would be a futile attempt…but I had to try. I continued ruminating as I walked towards the door to the sitting room. “I’ll head for the ‘lost and found’ department before I leave too,” I said to myself.

As I did so, the matron for the women’s room came into the bathroom area from the outer sitting room. She was a tiny elderly woman with grey hair and glasses. I asked if she had seen a purse. ‘What color?’ she asked. ‘Black’, I replied with a ray of hope. “And how much money was in the purse?” she asked. ‘About two dollars”, I said. ‘Come with me’ she said. She walked me through another door into a small windowless room connected to the sitting area. In this room there were a small table and chairs and some of the restroom supplies. “Is this it?” she asked, as she handed me my purse. I was stunned. Not because she had it, but because it just seemed absolutely impossible that I would get that bag back at all.

I was profuse with my thanks. Perhaps she realized that I had reached the other side of panic, numbness, because she asked me to have tea with her…right there in her little space…and I did. This was a space she used to rest and perhaps to have her meals. She heated water on a small electric burner and took out an English teapot with two matching teacups. As I listened to her tell me a little about her life, while we sipped our tea, I felt a growing sense of peace and gratitude. I had been given a gift…in this little room, sipping tea in bone china teacups with a kind and gentle spirit. I had come upon a refuge…metaphorically and literally.

At the time I was grateful for having been given this moment. I was grateful too because I was able to give her, at that moment…a little gift of companionship on Christmas Eve.

I realized at the time and in looking back at that Christmas Eve, that the genuine meaning of the season or the greater gift is to give of oneself in a simple way.

I also received a bequest, not just a reminder to retreat from the hustle and bustle and share quiet and touching moments with others, but a series of more poignant gifts that reveal themselves each time I relive the experience of sitting in that little room.

When I look back at this experience in my life, and I often do, I realize it has become an allegory for me. It was a moment where I learned something that continues to touch my ‘soul’; something about life and how to ‘be’ beyond the moment. It is something that I cannot cognitively explain, except to say that I feel like I experienced a spiritual connection with humanity.

Finally, the memory of this event continues to touch me deeply because, for me, it is a lens through which other difficult events and experiences can be seen and transformed; transformed from a lost cause to a hopeful resolution, from calamity to a silver lining, from disaster to re-birth.

It has many meanings and lessons and I hope it will touch you all in a way to help you move into and through this special season of the year, and perhaps through any trying a time, with the ability to create a sense of peace within yourself as well as for those around you.

Perhaps the experience was a cue to remind me that we have a greater connection to one another than we are aware of or care to believe. Perhaps it was the pathway to the work I do now. Perhaps it is a chance for me to pass on the awareness that we are all in some way responsible or maybe even destined to support and nurture one another. Perhaps once we start to do this we will all be in a better place as I was in that little room in Macy’s NYC, sipping tea with a kind and gentle soul.

Join Maria and other life coaches and career coaches at a holiday gathering at the Pinnacle Empowerment Center and Refocus, Re-center and Re-energize. Take a break from the holiday chaos and join us for some cheer and inspiration as we wind down the year. Come drink, eat and mingle with us as we discuss and share ways to keep from getting overwhelmed and reconnect with the purpose of the season.

**Complimentary coaching sessions** available

Please bring a friend!

When: Wednesday December 12th at 6:00pm

Location: 8180 Lark Brown Road, Suite 301, Elkridge, MD 21075

For more information visit click here!

Maria Shepard-Smith is a Life and Career Coach with 15 years of experience coaching and training individuals and empowering them to find their own answers. Coaching is a way of encouraging and supporting clients on their path as they continue to make important choices in life and in their careers. Tune in for more on about how coaching works and how you can benefit! Call Maria at 410-799-1097 ext 304 or email her at

Happy Thanksgiving from PEC!

November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

As we wind down this short business week, we take some time this week for Thanksgiving before catapulting into the busy holiday season.  We hope you’ll enjoy these reads as much as we did around PEC!

Permission to Suck

Okay so this is from the folks at MAKE magazine who tend to focus more on engineering and mechanical things, but the reality is, we all have to start somewhere. If you want to wait until you’re perfect at something to get started, you’ll never get going.

Can you Really Have It All? Seven Keys to Finding Balance

As we gear up for the busy holiday season, here are some great tips on how to create the space you need to focus on what’s truly important to you!

The Fermata

Seth Godin ponders the role of the Fermata which isn’t just for music!

Lighting Your Flame

Rochelle Moulton is thankful for those who have helped inspire her and keep her moving.  Who are you thankful for this holiday?

All of us here at PEC are thankful for the wonderful community who support us in our mission.  We hope that you and your families have a wonderful holiday together!

Empowering Yourself: How to Set Healthy Boundaries

November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Boundaries are powerful tools that give you freedom to live the life YOU want! Image courtesy

Are you constantly kicking yourself for taking on too much?

Do you keep saying Yes to things you really do not want do?

Do you often feel guilty for saying No?

Do you always feel exhausted?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these questions, here are a few tips on how to set boundaries that will energize you and help you to live your life on your terms.

#1 Figure out your top priorities-or your YES list

Right now take out a piece of paper and make a list of things that are most important to you in your life right now. What brings you the most joy? What gives you energy? What have you most wanted to do but are always moving to the “back burner”? What needs your attention most right now? What do you need to take care of yourself right now? (hint: this should be #1 on your list!)

Now look closely and decide which ones are your top priorities for the next 3 to 6 months. Come up with your TOP 5—or your YES list. Your YES list will help you to say no and let go of the things that are not serving you best right now. Print them out and post them on your calendar, your desk, next to your phone, anywhere you can see them to help you make a very clear-cut decision when a request is made of your time or talents. If it’s not on your Yes list than the answer is NO.

#2 Face and Overcome the Guilt

Anytime you make a change in your life, chances are you will be met with some resistance from those around you. Don’t let that fire up your guilt sensors or make you feel the need to defend your choice. You have the right to choose how you spend your time and control the way you live. As I have built up my “boundary setting muscles” and recovering from the “disease to please” it has helped me to come up with some “stock responses” when I am asked to do something that does not fit into my YES list. A few of them are:

  • Sorry, it’s just not possible for me to do that right now”
  • Thanks for thinking of me, but I will need to decline”

To validate how well this short and to the point method works. I had a colleague say to me “Wow you CAN say no” and then she became more judicious in requests she made of me and had more respect for my time. And what a revelation to me of how I was being perceived! Create your own “stock responses” so you can be less reactive and feel more in control.

#3 Stop Getting Mad and Speak Up

If there are no limits to what people can ask of you, you will constantly feel “under attack”. Over time you will feel resentment, anger and always on guard. Setting boundaries will actually enhance your relationships by helping you to be more open and honest with people. It’s ok to tell others what is acceptable and not acceptable for you. Your authentic self will begin to shine through and ultimately you can begin creating relationships that have mutual respect.

#4 Find Like-Minded Support

Find people who seem to have mastered this skill that you respect and ask for their support. Tell them you would love to hear how they have become so successful at this and can they share some tips. Also, find another person you know that is aspiring to do the same and “buddy-coach” each other to help keep your momentum.

Getting Family Support–Sometimes setting boundaries with family members or those closest to us are the hardest of all. They are used to you doing certain things in a certain way for them that are extremely beneficial to them and the thought of that not occurring scares them. One way to get the family support is to sit down together and create a Family YES list where everyone has some input. It is also good to reinforce to them you cannot take care of them without taking care of yourself first. What a great way for you to model and teach others how to set healthy boundaries for themselves.

#5 Keep Building those Boundaries High and Wide for continued “De-stressing”

I have a friend and fellow coach who said to me (as I was feeling very overwhelmed and questioning my boundary setting abilities) “You need to build those boundaries HIGH and WIDE!” And she was right. To build long lasting boundaries that have the most impact in our life we need to do it in a big way. WE ultimately have the power to define what and who are most important to us. We also have the right to honor how we choose to spend our time to so we can live the most fulfilling life we can. The more you get comfortable setting high and wide boundaries the more calm, focused and in-control you will feel.

Remember Boundaries are not meant to close you in but provide FREEDOM. When you say NO to one thing, it allows you say YES to something you really, really want.

Lisa Dolce is a certified coach and trainer who empowers women to unleash their potential to create successful careers and small businesses.

Reading Roundup – Autumn Hooky edition

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of the hidden gems of Howard County, Patapsco Valley State Park’s Cascade Falls in the Orange Grove area.

We’ve been out enjoying the lovely autumn weather and planning our upcoming Mama Lucia’s event on October 23, so I hope you’ll enjoy this list of inspiring reads from around the interwebs! What are you reading? What bloggers get you going? Share!

Top 10 Power Tips for Engaging Your Audience

We are pleased to welcome Cheryl Pullins to the Board of the Pinnacle Empowerment Center! You can see from her blog some of the fantastic talents and energy she brings. In this post, she has some great tips for engaging your audience whether you’re building your own business or heading out for that next job interview. Being prepared and punctual not only keeps you from starting out flustered, and sets the stage for success.

What Makes for Good LinkedIn Recommendation?

Coach Randi Bussin has some great tips on Linked In Recommendations. She recommends personally reaching out to the individual on what the recommendation should include. LinkedIn is a powerful tool and many companies use LinkedIn as a screening tool for applicants!

Summer Reinvention Book List

A friend of The Empowerment Center, Jennifer Ransaw Smith of BRANDid compiled a fantastic list of inspiring reads. I know it was for the summer, but as the weather cools and we move indoors, it is a great time to pick up a few great reads!

Cycle Worse, Cycle Better

But identifying the down cycle and investing in replacing it with the up cycle is the one and only best strategy. “ Seth Godin points out this works for both individuals and businesses. It is unrealistic to expect the outside stressors to stop or change when you can control how you respond instead.

When to Ignore Organizing Advice

It might seem counter-intuitive on an organizing website, but Deb at Unclutter points out that systems that are too complex or onerous are doomed to fail! Craig Jarrow at Time Management Ninja points out this can be a problem for your Time Management Systems as well!

Have you read or run across anything inspiring lately?

Posted by:  Heather C.

Finding My Tribe

September 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t we look like a fun bunch? Come hang out with us at Mama Lucia’s on October 23rd to support the Pinnacle Empowerment Center! Photo by: Kristin Mentz.

Going into Pinnacle hardy ever seems like work. From the outset, I’ve left meetings at the Empowerment Center energized and ready to tackle the latest project. It has been one of the most exciting nonprofits I have ever encountered. The main reason is because the women I’ve had the privilege of working with and getting to know.

I’ve met a Women’s Commission Hall of Famer who shares my love of camping, a retired government employee with the soul of a poet, a teacher who spent the last several years working in the Middle East and takes gorgeous photos, and a woman with years of nonprofit experience that freely embraced the new and unknown of social entrepreneurship. Not to mention the social entrepreneur, the former PTA president with serious crabbing skills, and my partner in frugality hints and tips who in her past walked away from a high powered career in banking to remake herself.

Every day, I have been inspired. It is impossible to tell all their stories. But what I found at Pinnacle was a tribe. My own band of Sweet Potato Queens, Ya-Yas, or Red Hatters. A tribe of women that each and every day wake up inspired, energized, and eager to take a step to improve her community and leave it better than she found it. Our morning meetings often segue into interesting conversations about business, families, and society that usually leave me thinking about more than just the details of the upcoming conference or the coming training calendar.

From the beginning, one of the things that we said over and over during the start-up of Pinnacle Empowerment Center was that we wanted to be a place where women could come and be supported, inspired, energized, and informed. In short, empowered.

I think the best way to do that is to find your tribe. Now we want to reach out to you and ask you to help us make this tribe bigger and better! All you have to do is come have lunch or dinner at Mama Lucia’s of Columbia on Tuesday, October 23rd. When you present the flyer below, 10% of your check will be donated to Pinnacle Empowerment Center. If you can come between 5 to 7 pm, our tribe wants to meet you so you too can join the fun!

Come hang out with us and help us expand our tribe and keep the energy going. Help us make Pinnacle Empowerment Center a place where women can come and be supported, inspired, energized, and informed. Help us build a community to support women and together, we can all achieve our goals.

Mamma Lucia – Fundraiser Flyer

Download the flyer and bring the coupon with you to Mama Lucia’s on Tuesday, October 23rd to help support Pinnacle Empowerment Center and our work helping women in our community achieve life and career success!

Posted by:  Heather C.

Pipping and Cootie Shots: Inoculating Against Negativity

September 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Beat back negativity and keep a smile on your knee!

Negativity is a destructive force. And it is contagious. When you don’t actively push back it begins to permeate everything. You begin seeing everything through this dark prism and everything is unsatisfactory. Your language and your body reflect it. Everyone else can feel it and may begin avoiding you thus feeding the negativity and reinforcing it. It erodes your power and control over your own destiny and eventually you believe you can do nothing to make it better.

Is there a cootie shot to inoculate myself against negativity when I know I am going into a situation that is going to trigger these feelings and thus prevent it from starting? I conducted a completely informal email poll with the lovely ladies of Pinnacle for their suggestions!

Know before you go. Some places you already know are going to be triggers. If you know that spending all day with your extended family drives you a little crazy, plan for a break to regroup. Take a magazine to read or plan to take a long walk after lunch. Try not to schedule back to back meetings or too many professional events at one time. Make sure you’re in tip top shape before the event – get a good night’s sleep & eat a good breakfast before heading into a stressful situation.

Adjust your Attitude (and expectations). I forget this one, but it is keenly important before going into a situation that will be stressful to ensure your attitude and expectations are in line with the situation. Lisa and Cindy both suggest taking a few minutes before going in, to take a few deep breaths to calm and center yourself. Cindy recommends counting to 10 before responding to anything.

Be prepared. Cindy noted that the unexpected can take mildly inconvenient events and blow them into major stressful events. Ever had an important meeting scheduled and had one of your kids wake up sick? If you have backups in place, it’s easier to stay on track and not become overwhelmed and by extension harried and stressed.

Stay Focused on Your Goal. Cindy suggested writing down your goal for the meeting or the event. She said having that written reminder in front of you can help you keep things on track.   This advice holds true for both professional and personal situations!

Think of the children (or your pets). They are a great excuse to get away from a negative situation! Take them for a walk or to the playground for a break as a reason to cut negative conversations short during family events. Excuse yourself from difficult conversations with a co-worker telling them that you have tasks to complete because you have to leave to and let your dog out!

Get (or be) a pip. Never underestimate the power of someone close to you reminding you of what they like and admire about you and vice versa. That can snap a negative spiral dead in its tracks. Pip somebody you love (or a complete stranger) today and you just might be stopping a negative streak cold.

Embrace the Power of Music. When I feel myself getting into a funk, I apply liberal amounts of goofy music. They need to be peppy, ridiculous, & fun! You can use these as a preventative measure as well. Play some upbeat songs on the way to your next job interview and you’ll walk in with a smile on your face and a little bounce in your step.

Here’s a sampling of our Negativity Buster Playlist:

  •  The Commodore’s Brick House
  • Lipps, Inc. Funky Town
  • Toby Keith’s Red Solo Cup
  • Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe
  • LMFAO’s I’m Sexy & I Know It
  • Duran Duran’s Rio
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (I always picture Wayne’s World when I hear it)
  • Weird Al’s Eat It

What else can be an inoculation against negativity? What would you put on your Negativity Buster Playlist?

Posted by:  Heather

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