“Imagine yourself doing what you love, and loving what you do, being happy from the inside out, experiencing your dreams wide awake, being creative, being unique, being you—changing things to the way you know they can be—living the life you always imagined. “ My husband Chet, June 14, 2019.
Just like that, a year went by! I can’t believe it has been a whole year! I remember the months and days just before my final day, how difficult they were, how I counted the minutes until I no longer had to worry, until I could finally be myself. What have I learned this year about leaving a toxic work environment, breaking free, and living the life of my dreams? Tons! Here are some of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur that I can no longer live without. Hope it helps if you are thinking of making the jump!
I am free to create my own vision. When I was an employee, I needed to run every project and every idea by someone else, often someone who did not have my best interest at heart. So many good projects went down the drain just because someone did not find them interesting enough. Most of the time, my boss was more preoccupied with covering her own back than she was about moving the community forward. It was very frustrating to say the least. Now, I get to execute every plan and work on every idea. I get to work on my ideals! Do I want to travel around the world to promote an inclusive practice? I can do that. Do I want to talk to a radio host? I can do that. There are no restraints to how much I can contribute to this world.
I can work-from-anywhere. My work allows me to be able to work from anywhere, and I am embracing it wholeheartedly! Not only am I embracing it, I’m actually working with partners from around the world, and it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Do you want to have a better vision of what the world needs? Partner with someone from a different part of the world. As an employee, I had a very limited vision of what could be done around the globe. No matter how much I traveled, without collaborative enterprise the world was small. Now, the world is limitless, and I’m just getting started!
The sky is the limit. Basically, I own my time, my thoughts, and my ideas. I can do what I know is right and follow my heart without having to “run it by” anyone. I can respond to the needs of my community and use it as my guide to improve what I can offer. For better of for worse, I make my own decisions, and I control my own destiny.
I will be forever grateful to my family and friends who stood by me, listened to me, counseled me, believed in me. I’m a firm believer that when one person is successful doing what they love, we all win.
If you have any questions about making the transition from employee to entrepreneur, drop me a note.
It will soon be a whole year since I turned my life around. Yes, I broke free not only from my bully boss, but also from the bully mob: Those that were once my friends but preferred to secure a paycheck rather than their own dignity. My work week consisted of never ending work days that had no substance other than securing a paycheck.
Does this resonate with you? Since I left my job, I realized that breaking free from the bullies not only means planning your exit, but also dealing with the abuse in your own mind so that you can turn every obstacle into an opportunity. Does the bully tell you that you will never amount to anything? Amount to EVERYTHING: Be so successful that you exceed your own goals and expectations. Does the bully threaten you with your job security? Learn that no job is ever secure, and take steps to find security in work for yourself, not at the whims of someone else.
Turn every challenge into an opportunity!
The truth is, if you have become the bully’s target, it is possibly because you are actually perceived as a threat by the bully (Tip: If you have ever seen the movie Mean Girls, you will recognize this by the way that Regina George treats Cady). Bullies rarely pick on employees who they don’t perceive as targets: They pick on those that they perceive as threatening.
But even this is not a rule. There are bullies everywhere, and the workplace is not an exception. In fact, the Workplace Bullying Institute, 37 percent of American workers are targets of bullying, while nearly half (49%) are affected by it in one way or another (by witnessing it, for example). That is a really high number!
If you have been bullied at work, by your boss, none of these statistics will matter. What matters is to keep you sane, safe, and give you the tools to execute an exit plan, while you continue to work in a toxic environment. Yes, you will be gaining strength while planning the exit.
How do I know this? I did this myself. I tried everything to try to stay in my job of 21 years. It was a large department that brought me a lot of happiness the first 18 years of my work there. The last 3 years, however, were nothing but miserable.
In the end, I decided that the best alternative for me was to move on. I was very afraid that I would not be able to support myself, let alone be successful. So I crafted a careful plan and set it in motion. Here I am, almost a year later, much more successful than I could have imagined.
“I could be lost inside their lies without a trace But every time I close my eyes I see your face ” Sting, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.
It seems somewhat incredible, unbelievable, that it has already been over 6 months since I cut ties with my employer of almost 22 years and became self-employed. Let’s just say that the writing was on the wall, or rather, it had been on the wall for quite some time. I had never been a firm believer in signs or the universe sending a message, or things of that nature, but in this case, the message was loud and clear: It was time to let go.
Now, I had always thought that if I was ever to leave my employer of so many years, it would be for something worthwhile. In my case, “worthwhile” meant making the jump from employee to entrepreneur. What I didn’t know at the time was that six months in, I was going to find so much happiness, fulfillment, and sense of purpose doing what I currently do.
A year ago, I had insomnia, and could not sleep for days, from the stress that my job caused me. I lost weight and was put on medication to manage symptoms of PTSD. This year, I lay awake at night just reflecting on the incredible things I get to live day by day. Life has certainly changed, and I am extremely thankful to those who “wrote on my wall,” as they, in their quest to make my life impossible, managed to make it incredibly purposeful. Sometimes the Universe does work in odd ways.
And if you think that money is the reason I’m saying all of
this, you’re wrong. Even though I have
been very fortunate in that department, I can honestly say that the reason for this
incredible emotion is the fact that for the first time in my life, I get to do,
every single day, and every single moment of the day, what I believe in, what I
love to do.
These emotions became all the more clear in during the last two weeks of 2019. Each end of the year and beginning of a new year tend to mark a tone of reflection. This was especially true in my case, as I was able to spend those days making connections that will last a lifetime and will truly make the world a better place. I welcomed the new year in a completely incredible, positive, and new-for-me state of mind.
I was also lucky, very, very lucky to be able to spend those days surrounded by family and friends, the kind that love you no matter what and support you always. I could almost hear my late father whisper in my ear “I told you so,” so many times. He will always be my guiding star and my inspiration. He used to love the song by Sting “If I Ever Lose my Faith in You.” We used to sing it together.
Dad, wherever you are, thank you for never losing your faith in me. Thank you for showing me the way, always.
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When I first saw this book’s title, Listful Living, I immediately thought “a book about making lists. I’m in!” I was captivated. After all, who couldn’t be better organized? More efficient? As a new entrepreneur, I value efficient use of time, and completion of tasks in a timely manner. I also recognize that as I approach the 6-month mark as an entrepreneur, my responsibilities have only grown, but my 24-hour day has remained the same: Still 24 hours!
Little did I know that Listful Living was much more comprehensive than that. If you think that you will be making “to-do lists,” please note that this is not what Listful Living is about. This book is about taking a realistic look at your life, evaluating it by being able to set your priorities, from top to bottom, and envisioning where you want to be a year from now. This book is about action.
In fact, Listful Living has pages and pages of “homework” to help you visualize what’s already in your mind. Putting it on paper is a kind of agreement with yourself, and it really helps to pinpoint where you are, where you want to be, and the way to get there. It sounds like work, but it will only save you time, energy, and will allow you to make your priorities a reality.
As I read, I felt strongly connected to the author’s experiences, Paula Rizzo, as she described having visualized a better future for herself, realizing this future, and then having to step back to make room for her life and her priorities. Sometimes, it takes a door closing to realize that the window was opened all along. In Paula Rizzo’s case, it was a real health scare that landed her in bed for weeks. In my case, it was the professional realization that if I stayed where I was, things would never change. I had to produce the change myself. I had to BE that change.
Listful Living is the perfect gift for yourself, for busy moms and dads, for working parents, entrepreneurs, or simply anyone who wishes to improve their lives by being realistic, simplistic, and looking to a better, more fulfilling future.
Like Dr. Jeneby, I also have a confession. I wanted to read Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon even though it had no relation (or so I thought) with what I typically write about on this blog. But then, I read the book, and I realized that this doctor’s outlook on life has more in common with mine than I want to admit.
For starters, in his book Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby refers to his childhood, his journey through school, his different, “one-of-a-kind” personality, that made him stand out, and all these things reminded me of my life. Like Dr. Jeneby, I often felt like an “outsider,” whether in school or at work. I mostly felt like the odd one out of the bunch. I was never part of the “cool” clique, and most days I was called the “nerd.” Dr. Jeneby talks very candidly about how this phase in his life gave him the fuel he needed to stay motivated and prove everyone wrong. Like him, I do have an insatiable drive to show everyone what I can do, and in my case, what WE, as a special village, can do. We have a similar story, even if on the surface it looks very different.
Dr. Jeneby is very close to his family and takes the opportunity to show us his life. He credits his mother for providing the strong role modeling of a strong, motivated, professional woman. Her strong guidance spearheaded him into a successful life, but the support of his family through thick and thin is what keeps him afloat. In Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby talks about his desire for success, his motivation, and his realization that he could only be himself if he worked for himself. In this particular regard too, I felt connected to what he describes. I spent so much time working for “others” when it didn’t suit me, that my only regret is not having set myself free sooner.
He dedicates a good amount of the book talking about his charity work, which he pours his heart into. Like him, I cannot live without this aspect of my life, which is why I pour my heart into The Bocha Project. Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon is the unveiling of a world that I you can only see in television programs like Botched, plus everything that comes with this world: the craziness, the unstoppable hours, the constant running for time. If you like to watch plastic surgery shows on television, you will definitely like Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, and you will get to know an awesome professional as an added bonus.
Yes, a toxic work environment can lead to PTSD (Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder). We typically would not think of it, as this is usually what we hear when we refer to combat troops, people who have gone through severe trauma, or those who have experienced serious injury or abandonment. But there is a category of people who have been showing up to their doctor’s office more and more these days, and that’s those who are being subjected to a toxic work culture. These employees tend to exhibit symptoms similar to those who have experienced trauma. Why? Because in reality, they are experiencing trauma! There is no room to breathe when exposed to a pressure-cooker type of work environment.
What symptoms do employees present with that are cause for
Let’s name a few:
Employees feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells,” not able
to understand how to behave and having to account for other people’s feelings
Problems concentrating: It is hard to focus when
you don’t know when the next shoe is going to fall. Fear is the enemy of concentration.
Persistent negative feelings about oneself: Feeling depressed sad, and helpless.
Having nightmares, distressing dreams: You repeat the distressing events over and
over and as a consequence, you have difficulty sleeping.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or similar ones, you may be in a toxic work environment, and you need to figure out your next steps.
I thought of no better time to bring up these issues than right now. Even though I have been free from this type of work bullying for almost three months now (Yayyy!), I still experience some of these symptoms, and I want to share them with you so that you don’t have to go through what I went through.
In my old job, my boss(es) ganged up against employees, made
them feel devalued, unwelcome, and unimportant.
I used to constantly have nightmares about events at work, a situation
that many of my coworkers also shared with me.
Some of us had difficulty sleeping, eating, and experienced physical
symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.
I actually experienced what it meant to be “disgusted” by a situation as
my gut told me exactly what that was.
I was lucky enough to seek the help of my primary health
care provider. When I told her what was
happening and what I was feeling, she recognized the symptoms right away. She let me cry for about 30 minutes, non-stop
during that first visit. She constantly
checked on me to make sure that I was putting myself first. I will be forever grateful to her for helping
me understand that I need to take care of me
This is the message that I want to leave with you today: Remember, your number one responsibility is to YOURSELF
“All we have to do now, is take these lies, and make them true somehow” George Michael, Freedom.
I have been trying to write this post (and others) for a few days now, but the truth is, it has been a very busy month! It is very interesting, because one of the concerns I had before my last day of being an employee was letting go of what many people refer to as a “secure paycheck.” I had done my homework, however, and I knew from many entrepreneurs in the field that a good life, with a work-life balance, independence, and professionalism, and of course, good monetary compensation to go along with the package, was entirely possible. Of course, even though this is a legitimate concern, it is one that seems to be exaggerated by our fears and the fears of our well-meaning family members and friends around us. In the end, the only regret I have about having left my job as an employee, is that I didn’t do it sooner.
As a matter of fact, this month has been a month of learning for me (as every month should be!) and I would like to share some tips for those of you who are contemplating a change, whether you have already made a decision to quit your 9 to 5 job, or are still contemplating your options.
Leaving your current 9 to 5 job is risky, but so is staying: If there is one common element to my reflections about my departure from the NYC Department of Education, it that I didn’t do it any sooner. It was quite evident that our working relationship was not working. On the surface, we managed, to a degree, to make it look like we had the same mission, but behind closed doors, our philosophies could not be more different. I worked for a division within the department that believed that efficiency was equated with taking care of our clients (families and their children) in the shortest time possible, with minimal contact, and treated families and school personnel as “suspicious” every time there was an issue. I had a boss that once asked me to talk to a school principal to get details about a certain situation in a school. When the school principal explained the situation via email (corroborated by other school personnel), my boss responded by saying: “She sounds too defensive. She must be lying,” and proceeded to make a decision based on her assumption that the school principal, and the other school personnel, lied about the occurrence.
If you are asked to do, witness, or are aware of illegal or immoral acts, leave immediately and don’t look back: You can try reporting what you were asked to do to the Human Resources department, or the legal department, but in my case, I was under the impression that they were not going to help me for many reasons. My last boss once demanded, at a staff meeting, that counselors who directly deal with families of school-age children not spend more than 15 minutes with every family. However, she said, there is an exception to this rule. “Unless the person you are seeing is important or famous,” she said, and told the staff that the lady she had seen for about an hour that very week was a famous actress on Broadway that had given her two tickets to her show as a gift for her undivided attention. I think back to this moment and know that this is when I should have left. Not a minute later.
Being an employee does not mean a secure paycheck: Yes, as long as you are employed, you will get a paycheck, but this will end the moment that someone decides that they no longer need you. I have heard of too many people who lost their jobs from one day to the next, without a warning. No one is safe in any job, with any employer. I was once having a conversation with a senior administrator from the NYC Department of Education, who told me that Human Resources and some of the senior administrator of a particular department had devised a plan to “get rid of” an employee who they no longer wanted. They were going to keep “writing her up” until she got tired and resigned. She did resign. (Hence the reason I opted to not contact the Human Resource Department).
Being self-employed means that you can put your own skills to the test. When you are employed, you are satisfying somebody else’s vision, but when you are self-employed, you are free to create your own vision, and contribute to this world in your own terms. You are free to not only help others the best way you know how, but you are also free to earn as much as you want, work the hours you want, and do it from wherever you want. The choice is yours.
Know that there are resources out there if you need help deciding if it’s time to leave. One of the institutions that helped me the most was the Workplace Bullying Institute. They helped me realize that quitting, for me, was the most powerful, and life changing decision.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on a link and make a purchase.
Imagine being able to work from anywhere: From the comfort of your own home, from the beach, from across the world while visiting family. Imagine being able to attend your children’s school functions, take a walk during sunny afternoons, working from a coffee shop by you. Is this possible? The answer is simple: Yes it is! And you can achieve it if you follow the advice of those who have already accomplished it. I learned most of what I know about blogging and making money online through the Blogging Blastoff course!
How did I decide that this was the course for me? I had limited time and wanted practical advice, you know, the one that you can put to use right away. After much searching, trying, discarding, and trying again, I found Blogging Blastoff and I immediately knew that I wanted to enroll. Blogging Blastoff is taught by Heather and Pete Reese from It’s a Lovely Life, and if you follow their blog, you’ll see that they have mastered the art of enjoying life while making money online.
Blogging Blastoff was created to help online entrepreneurs build the life that they want. One of the features that I like the most about this course is that it clarifies that even though making money as a blogger is an ideal form of income creation for many online entrepreneurs, it is also necessary to understand that there is a healthy dose of planning, commitment, and hard-work that is necessary for any blog to be successful.
As a matter of fact, Heather and Pete Reese show us their step-by-step
plan on building a blog, complete with recommendations on what it should look
like, how to use social media, and the different ways to make money
online. They have it all broken down in
30-day lectures and assignments, which are super-easy to follow even if you
have a full-time job. I did it myself
while I still had two jobs!
If you are interested in learning what online blogging entails,
how to make money while blogging, and are serious about committing and
planning, then this course is for you.
Life is full of opportunities to enjoy. Blogging can help you create the life you want. If you are interested in learning more about Blogging Blastoff, click here and take advantage of what Heather and Pete Reese can teach you!
What are the qualities of a true leader? I get this question very often. We all have our ideas of what a leader should
be, but some of us, who have not only occupied positions of leadership but also
have been led by different types of managers, have a pretty good idea of what
good leadership should be like. Most of
us would agree that a true leader is a leader who is willing to inspire and
teach others and feels no intimidation or fear in doing so.
I remember that one of the topics I was interested in when I was thinking about my dissertation was school leaders’ leadership style. It had been my observation that the more inspiring, role-model-like a leader was, the more likely staff were to follow their lead and become leaders themselves. I had observed this in my own practice in schools, school districts, and education departments. The inspiring leader was a teacher, a guide, a role-model. The inspiring leader was worthy of a following.
In the past couple of years, I was able to pick up a few tips that I hope will become a mantra in the world of management. I was able to closely observe what an inspiring leader could build, and what an authoritarian leader could destroy. I came up with three very important observations that clearly separate the authoritarian leader from the inspiring one. Being and becoming an inspiring leader is an art that needs to be practiced!
Takeaway #1: Do Not Confuse Micro-managers with Real Leaders
Micro-managers are the opposite of a team leader. A real inspiring leader is inclusive, takes into account the opinions and thoughts of others, analyzes what they have to offer. A micro-manager dictates how an organization is to conduct itself. The micro-manager may present him/herself as an enlightened leader who comes in with the greatest intentions, but soon enough employees can perceive authoritarian traits. Hitler, Mussolini, may have been “effective” leaders. After all, everyone did what they asked, and they took great care in their operations, but they were very far from being true leaders. Those ranked under them did what they were asked mostly out of fear. Gandhi, for example, was a great leader, who not only created long-lasting change, but was also inclusive of all creeds and ideologies.
How can you distinguish a micro-manager from an inspiring, true leader? If your supervisor/leader, makes you feel afraid or incompetent, you probably have an authoritarian leader. If you can’t wait to tell your boss your latest idea for your business, then you probably have an inspiring leader. If you feel like you can get “in trouble” for using your own judgement to do what’s best for a client, you probably have an authoritarian leader. If you are confident every time someone leaves your business that you did the best possible for that person, then you probably have an inspiring leader.
Takeaway #2: The Word Teamwork Gets Misused
Team, teamwork, “there is no I in team,” are all very popular words and catch-phrases commonly used in today’s work environment. I have heard these terms, a version of them, or a combination of them, be used and misused in more ways that I can explain. I have seen authoritarian leaders use these terms and have absolutely no idea what these terms mean. I once had a supervisor who praised her team but did not want or allow any of her team members to make any decisions without her approval. I had a supervisor, in the same department, who once berated me for “thinking” a certain way about a decision that needed to be made. I have read emails from supervisors that did not have a clue they were being impolite, disrespectful, and rude to their employees. Yet, I knew they referred to these same employees as “family” when talking to other people. Some of these employees displayed symptoms of PTSD, and others experienced a version of Stockholm Syndrome. This is no way to treat those who we consider family. This is no way to treat anyone.
In addition, when employees are not at their best, they do not perform best. Employees who feel valued, feel strong, and can carry the weight of the organization. As humans, we have an innate need to belong, to be part of something, rather than just an underling. As a leader, I had the pleasure of working with team members that gave their all for the organization. They were considered team members, not merely “staff,” and I made sure that they were thanked, trained, welcomed, and felt like I had their back. They never hesitated to stay late, come in on weekends, work their lunch, etc. because their input was invaluable. They felt how important they were to the organization.
Takeaway #3: True Inspiring Leaders Train People to Replace Them
One of the most important aspects of being a true team
leader is to make sure that the team can move the organization forward in case
of the leader’s absence. There should be
no difference between the leader and the team members in regard to taking over
and moving projects along.
A few years ago I ended up moving on from an organization
earlier than I had anticipated. My
assistant was able to carry on all aspects of the operation and was able to
take over all responsibilities of the job.
She was trusted by everyone as I had given her enough space to carry on
the daily tasks, get to know the important stakeholders, have interactions with
all the relevant stakeholders, make decisions, and take over responsibilities of
my position. She learned quickly and
efficiently. When I moved to a different
position, she not only took over all responsibilities but also was quickly
noticed by other employers who snatched her right away to a much better position
within the organization. This was a
Last weekend, I was proven correct one more time. As some of you may know, I run a non-profit organization, The Bocha Project, and part of our responsibility is to fund-raise for other organizations around the world so that they can become independent and can build on their mission rather than have to worry about the deficits of their daily operations. Last Sunday, we had a fundraising event to help two wonderful organizations (Sabores Especiales Madero and Casa de Papel). Early that morning, due to a medical emergency, I realized that I would not be able to attend this event at all. It was a huge disappointment for me, but I was certain that the event would go on without a hitch. After all I have associated with partners who could carry on without me (shout out to Iliana and Ivana, and to Café Argentino Restaurant!).
Hope this helps you grow as an employee, entrepreneur, and
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for,” John A. Shedd
I can’t believe that it has already been a month of working for myself. To be perfectly honest, this past month just flew by. I have been BUSY. One of the most common fears (and should I say, widespread myths?) of an employee is that if they leave the employer and work for themselves, there is a chance that that steady flow of income will be gone. I was not an exception to this type of fear. After one month of working for myself I can say that this is not entirely untrue, but it is mostly blown out of proportion. As a matter of fact, in the past month, one of the most challenging aspects of working for myself has been to schedule clients and make time for office hours. I simply feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do.
The biggest question though, as I was preparing to leave my
life as an employee and preparing for my life as an entrepreneur was, how will
it feel? I envisioned feeling nervous,
anxious about having taken this huge responsibility on my own and leaving the
comfort of a secure paycheck. Will I
have enough clients? Will my income
decrease? I am happy to say that those
fears were unfounded. My income revenue
is strong, and I have been expanding on a daily basis. Life is pretty good on this end.
As I revisit my decision every day, I can say that I have NO REGRETS. I am the owner of my time. My income is directly affected by my own efforts and capacity. I have the immediate possibility of growth. I dictate the rules and regulations of my business. And most importantly, I PUT MY CLIENTS FIRST. I was raised by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you,” and my previous employer did not live by this rule. I could no longer bear the agony of having to put my own judgement aside to deliver policies that were not conducive to the principles I live for: Social Justice and Equity.
Today, I live the life I want to lead. I am a true professional, a true educator, an advocate and coach for families of special needs. I no longer feel like a highly paid pencil-pusher. All I can say is: I wish I had made this decision earlier!