Nine Ways To Balance Being A Parent And An Entrepreneur


Working parents know how difficult it is to balance a career with caring for children. However, parents who run their own business experience an added layer to this challenge

In many ways, these “parentpreneurs” stretch themselves between two types of babies: the children they’re raising and the business they’re growing. Both require near-constant nurturing and attention to be successful, especially in their early stages, and entrepreneurial parents must learn to carefully plan and prioritize their time to ensure that each gets the care they need and deserve.

Nine members of Forbes Coaches Council offered their best advice for parent entrepreneurs and I gave a short answer to this question which was compiled with other council members and published.

My answer is #3 – I hope you get value from it!

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Establishing An Emotional Connection With Customers? Here’s How To Adjust Your Strategy

As a Forbes Coaches Council member, I was asked to give a short answer to this question which was compiled with other council members and published.

My answer is #1 – I hope you get value from it!

Today, marketers have to take a different approach to reaching and keeping their customers. With all the “noise” out there, marketers must make emotional connections in the simplest ways possible.

If an emotional connection matters more than customer satisfaction, how can marketers adjust their strategies? We asked eight coaches of Forbes Coaches Council to comment.

Forbes Coaches Council


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10 Ways To Improve Your Presentation Skills

presentation skills, success skills, Forbes

As a Forbes Coaches Council member, I was asked to give a short answer to this question which was compiled with other council members and published.

My answer is #3 – I hope you get value from it!

Knowing how to deliver an idea is beneficial, no matter what line of business you’re in. But if you’ve tried everything in the books to improve your presentation skills and are still met with the kind of anxiety that causes you to break out in a cold sweat and stumble over your carefully planned words, it’s time to try a different approach.

Remember, speaking in front of people is a skill, not an innate ability. To help you nail your next presentation, 10 Forbes Coaches Council members offer their professional advice below:



When Bad Things Happen, Part 2

This article is a sequel to the July 2013 Newsletter Article, When Bad Things Happen.  Of course, I meant to get back and complete the article the very next week.  Ah, the best laid plans…

But better late than never, right?  I recommend you go back and read that article to give you the back story and context for this Part 2.

In Part 1, I talked about 2 things I learned from an experience that helped me get out of the Pit of Despair.  Here is the third and perhaps the most deeply profound learning for me.

What Are You Making it MEAN?

emotional intelligence, success skillsIts important to understand how your brain works.  The human brain is a Meaning Making Machine.  The brain takes in literally billions of bits of information every day from your physical senses.

It is the brain’s job to interpret that information, to make sense of it so that you can survive, both literally and figuratively.

Which means your brain has to do two primary things:

  1. Determine what information is important or deserves your attention (think signal to noise ratio)
  2. Determine what that information actually means in terms of you, the world and your place in the world.

It’s that second step that usually gets us into trouble.  As I mentioned in the first part of this article, we are very uncomfortable with the unknown.  That’s just human nature.

And we have survived and evolved as a species because our brains successfully made life and death decisions with limited information. (The bush is shaking, there’s probably a lion waiting in ambush!)

So our brain has evolved a predictive capacity or the ability to extrapolate based on limited information, using your expectations, beliefs and past experience (which together make up your context – the environment in which meaning is determined).

Inspirational-quote-by-Siddhar-But this extrapolation is mostly happening at the unconscious level and is presented to our conscious mind as “The TRUTH.”  Unfortunately, it is often these “truths” that propel us into the Despair Pit.

It is useful to remember that these truths are anything but.  They are constructs based on limited information plus your self-constructed context.

Don’t mistake the map for the territory!

Instead, approach these “truths” with curiosity and ask good questions.  Here are a few that I’ve found useful.

“Now What?” Instead of “Why Me?”

When hanging out down there in the despair pit, we are often asking really poor questions.  The most common is some version of “Why me?”  Instead, try asking, “Now What?”  That conversation might go something like:

Now that these circumstances/challenges/obstacles have happened, now what?  What can I do, right now to:

  • protect myself?
  • feel better?
  • change my circumstances?
  • continue to pursue my goals? And so on….

Can you see how asking these kinds of questions instead of “Why me?” could show you the path out of the despair pit?

What is the belief?

Once you’re in a more stable place and you’ve taken care of the business you need to take care of, and you’re ready to do some transformational self-examination, a good question to ask is

“What is the belief that’s being triggered?”

(If you don’t know what that means, click the link and read a good article explaining the concept around triggering).

In my experience, when I’m having a really strong emotional response to my circumstances, there is often a belief underlying that response that is being energized by the current circumstances.

If you’ve ever been in a musical instrument store when someone strikes a tuning fork, you’ve heard how the different instruments will vibrate in harmonics to that tone.  A similar thing happens when your external circumstances trigger your inner beliefs.  It may not be logical, but in some way your brain has created a connection between what you are perceiving and your past experiences and/or beliefs.

So, if you can identify which belief, expectation or past experience has been triggered at the unconscious level and make that dynamic conscious, you can use that awareness to begin to understand it and even shift it if you choose to.


One of the best ways to make that internal shift is to remember that the context you are using to create your experience of your circumstances, to make that meaning is a subjective framework and not TRUTH.

What could you make it mean?  Because if it could mean many different things, could you choose a different meaning?  And if you can choose a different meaning, why not choose a meaning that creates a more positive and functional experience, a meaning that guides you out of the despair pit, or even allows you to avoid the pit altogether?

This is called reframing.  You are seeing the picture of reality in a new context.

Think about a circumstance you’ve had recently that was perhaps painful.  How could you reframe that experience in order to feel better and more empowered to be constructively responsive to those circumstances?



When Bad Things Happen

July was a tough month.  It started out well, but one morning I woke up in pain.  I’d done something to my wrist in my sleep.  As that day wore on, the pain got worse until I gave in and went to the ER and after an x-ray they told me it might be broken!  WTF?

It turned out to be a bad bone bruise, but for a week, I didn’t know if I was facing 3 months in a cast above my elbow or possibly even surgery.  Seven long days of uncertainty, pain, and to be honest, freaking out!

As I teach in How to Use Feedback and Criticism Constructively, throughout this experience I was alert to the question, “What is the learning here?”  The more I looked at it, the more I discovered that the lesson wasn’t about the details of the experience but how I managed the fear and uncertainty, as well as the self-defeating beliefs that surfaced.

Here are some of my lessons:

Sliding Into the Pit of Despair

catastrophic thinking, feedback, Autobiography in 5 chaptersThe Despair Pit is the term that my Sister and I use to describe that downward cycle.  You know the one. Where the world seems to have turned against you and you are doomed?

Yes, doomed, I say! 

Where nothing works out and all is lost.

Overly dramatic?  Or eerily familiar?

There were moments, particularly in the first few days of the injury, when I just wanted to throw in the towel.  Why does everything have to be so hard? Why is it just when things start going my way, does something always go wrong to block my efforts?!?

The old “Why Me?” conversation took pretty solid hold there for a minute.

A therapist I worked with during my 10-year bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gave me this poem and since then I’ve often used it when seemingly lost in the Pit of Despair:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

So, while I did fall into the deep hole for a little while, I didn’t stay long. I recognized it for what it was, asked for support and climbed on out.

Here are some of the things that helped me climb out.

Staying in the present moment

Much of the content of the despair pit for me this time had to do with the future.  How am I going to finish the Multiple Streams of Music Income Self-Study Program if I can’t type?  How am I going to take care of my Dad if I can’t use my arm?  How am I going to continue losing weight if I can’t exercise?

All of the things that I wanted this summer to be about seemed in dire jeopardy.

But the key word in that statement was “seemed”.  Because I didn’t know.  That’s probably the hardest part – the uncertainty.  I didn’t know if my wrist was broken, if I’d need surgery, if I would be wearing a cast for months.  I didn’t know.  But not knowing is so uncomfortable, that our brain fills in the gaps.  We are so frightened of the dangers implied in the unknown that we fill it with scenarios, as if we know.

The best way to stay out of the despair pit, then, is to sit in the uncertainty.  As agonizing, uncomfortable, and scary as the uncertainty is, staying in it is the more powerful choice.

But that’s the illusion, isn’t it?  In the future-thinking, contingency-planning, scenario-making place, you feel like you’ve got power, like you’ve got control.  But you don’t, because as long as you’re there, you’re not in the present.  And if you’re not in the present, you can’t adapt to what’s really happening in this moment.  So breathe through the discomfort and stay present.

How much contingency planning is too much?

The truth is that contingency planning is an evolutionary advantage.  It’s one of the things that makes us successful as a species. It’s what motivated the birth of agriculture – storing food during the abundant growing season so you have food when that season is over wouldn’t have happened if someone hadn’t thought, “Gee, what will we do for food when winter comes?”

Contingency planning is thinking about what the future may hold and making a plan to handle the various or even worst possibilities.

But contingency planning can lead to what is known in psychology as Catastrophic Thinking.  This kind of thinking is the wallpaper down in the Despair Pit!   When you are thinking of all the awful things that could happen and you become obsessed with them, you begin to interact with those thoughts as if they were real.  And that’s the danger.

It is helpful to simply ask yourself, “Are these real possibilities?”  And if the answer to that question is, “Yes” or even “Maybe.”  Then ask yourself, “What can I put in place today to manage those possibilities?”  Take those self-protective actions and then set it aside.

Because beyond taking those steps, all those dire thoughts are just energy sucks.  They’re just the stuff that keeps you up at night and makes it hard to concentrate during the day.  They don’t add anything to your ability to manage the uncertainty or even the contingencies – if and when they happen.  Those thoughts can actually make it worse!

In this instance, the contingency plan meant doing a bit of research on voice recognition software, just in case I wouldn’t be able to type, notify my virtual assistant that I may need more help in the coming days, making sure that I was seeing a good hand specialist and then set it all aside.

It helped that I knew I would have an answer to the uncertainty within a few days.  But the principle still stands. And whenever my brain started to slide into catastrophic thinking — see it, name it for what it was, and breathe into the discomfort of the unknown.

[End of Part 1 – Part 2 coming next week!  Stay Tuned!]

What do you do when bad things happen? Please share your techniques for staying out of the Despair Pit!




Fear of Success or Fear of Failure?

What’s stopping you?  Do you know?

What blocks you from pursuing your dreams with all that you have, all that you are, all of your might?

Often when asked this question, the answer is either:

Fear of Success


Fear of Failure


And often it’s even expressed as both – “Maybe it’s fear of success or failure.  I don’t know….”  Really, the truth is, it doesn’t matter which.  Because it’s not logical.  And you’re not going to be able to logic yourself past it.  Although understanding the underlying belief that’s driving your fear can be an important step in moving past it.

But Debra, how can you say it doesn’t matter?!?

In our society we’ve done ourselves a major disservice when it comes to Emotional Intelligence.  We’ve confused, disguised, conflated or combined thoughts with emotions.  The statement, “Fear of Success,” is emotion + thought/belief.  A better way to look at it is “I have beliefs about Success, and those beliefs cause me to feel fear!”

Remember the Cognitive Behavorial Cycle:

Belief, emotional intelligence, Fear

By saying Fear of Success, you are combining two different steps in the cycle!  But what you’re really experiencing clearly is the Feelings State.  And most likely the beliefs that are causing that feeling state are unconscious!  Which is why you might be unsure – is it success or failure or both that you fear?

As you can see from the cycle, what’s stopping you is the emotion, which is fueled by the beliefs.  Clearing or shifting those beliefs is the best, most long term solution to the problem of being stopped by fear.  But that’s a longer term project.  What if you just need to get into action now?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Remember that fear is just an emotion, like happiness, sadness, anger.  But fear has been hardwired into our neurology because reacting strongly to fear was an evolutionary advantage.  But unless your fear is a lion about to eat you – just breath and move forward.
  2. Notice what you’re telling yourself about the action you’re afraid to take.  Could you reframe it so that it’s not quite so life and death?  If you take a risk and it doesn’t work out – could that just be an interesting experiment, instead of the end of life as you know it?
  3. If it’s a big project, break it down into bite size pieces and then promise yourself you only have to take one action today.  Just a nibble.  You don’t have to eat the whole elephant today.  Just one nibble…

In last month’s ArtistsMBA class, How to Move Past Your Fear of Success or Failure, I explained several specific and concrete methods for managing your fears around success and/or failure.  The most important first step is to acknowledge that this is what’s going on.  Because often, we miscategorize what’s going on.

You might name it procrastination or avoidance.  Perhaps you just feel pulled to take any action EXCEPT the one you know you need to take, even allowing other people’s needs to distract you from moving forward.

Haven’t you noticed that when you operate from fear, you end up manifesting the very thing you’re afraid of?

I’m not going to tell you that facing the fear, feeling the fear and moving through the fear will be easy and light.  In order to move through it, you must own it.

What I will tell you is that moving in the direction of the fear, rather than at the behest of the fear will create amazing results in your life and your career.  Fear can be a wonderful guide.  If you’re willing to let yourself feel it.

And let me leave you with this inspiring TED talk by Brene Brown:

In order to embrace your path to success in the Arts & Entertainment Industry – you must allow yourself to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

How can you use this to overcome your fear?  Please share with me what you discover!


How to Move Past Your Fear of Success or Failure

Artists MBA, Professional ProgramDo you feel confronted by the specter of fear or success?

When you start to take action to move your career forward, does it feel like you’re pushing against a wall? Or does that wall stop you dead in your tracks?

This question comes up often, “How to I move past my fear of success or fear of failure?” The essence of this question is a misunderstanding of what fear is and how to manage it.

In this class we will discover:

  • How to identify the root source of the fear
  • How to handle the nay-sayers that feed the fear
  • How to turn fear into motivation and momentum

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Will you allow your fear to stop you? Will you allow your fear to keep you from fulfilling your purpose, the purpose you were born to fulfill? If you’re answer is, “No!” then this class is exactly what you’re looking for!

Additional Resources for this Class:

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Goals – What Are They Good For?

I’ve been reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink.  I expect I’ll be writing an article about Motivation when I’m done with it.  But while the book does question the value of setting goals, I am still a big fan of them.  In Drive, the studies seem to discount the value of external drivers toward accomplishment.  And I agree that externally motivated goals are not the way to go.

Goals, Vision, PlanningBut that’s not how I teach you to write goals.  A well-written goal must include your internal motivation, your experience of what your life will be like when you have accomplished the goal.  Because while we benefit from external rewards.  We are driven by our internal needs.  Your goals need to reflect and express your life’s purpose.  And when well-written, I believe that goals allow us to create our lives with volition.

In my experience, goals serve two main purposes:

1 – Definition of Your Path and Your Direction

When you set a goal, you are by its very definition determining that you are going in this direction and you are not going in that direction.  The more specific the goal is, the more defined your direction and the more options you have eliminated.

I believe that’s a good thing.  Very often people become completely paralyzed because they have so many choices, they don’t know where to start and so they just don’t … start….

In my experience with clients and in my own life, it is better to start down a road in a specific direction and change your mind than it is to wait until you know for sure.  Very often, if you begin to move in a particular direction, you can discover information that you would never discover if you wait.  Finding out that this path is the wrong path is extremely useful information. You can decide what you don’t want, which can lead you to more specifically determine what you do want.

And you will develop skills in the process that will greatly enhance your abilities to create success once you clarify your path.

I don’t believe there are any mistakes in life.  Because as long as you are in a learning process you will benefit from your experiences.  And your experiences will feed the next choice.  I have often “accidentally” discovered an amazing opportunity that I would never have seen had I been waiting for the “right” path.

2 – Placing Your Order With the Universe

So, first, I believe in the Law of Attraction.  As a reminder, here are the two main tenets of that law:

  •   What you focus on expands
  •   You get what you expect

So, in terms of goals – when you are focusing on your goal, you are actually expanding your opportunities in that direction.  And since by the very action of setting a goal that you believe is achievable within the time frame you’ve set – you are setting the stage for the achievement of the goal – because you expect it.

I look at goal setting as placing your order with the Universe.  You are inviting the Universe to align with your intentions and support you in manifesting what you want.  You’ve heard the expression – be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.  That’s what this is.

And it’s better to place a specific order than a general, vague order.  Think about it.  What if you went into a restaurant and said to the waiter, “Hello, yes, I’d like some cow, please.”  Do you know what you’ll get?  You might get a steak, but you might get tongue (yech!).

On the other hand, if you say to the waiter, “I’d like a filet mignon, with a baked potato, sour cream on the side, and an order of steamed broccoli.”  You’re more likely to enjoy that meal.

So, what are your goals for 2013?  And does this help you begin to think more specifically and clearly?  Please share your insights!

How to Use Goals, Actions and Strategies to Craft a Plan

In Part One of this article – Goals and Actions and Strategies – Oh, MY! – I clarified the differences between goals, actions and strategies and talked about why that is a difference that makes a difference.

In this article, I’m going to explain how you can design a plan that employs all three aspects.

In my experience, most people have a focus level that is their comfort zone.  There’s the big picture thinkers and the detail-oriented folks.  Which are you?

Big Picture Thinkers

goals actions strategies vision planning

  • You are a dreamer.
  • You are excited by big goals for the future.
  • You love new ideas and starting new projects, but when you get bogged down, you just go on to start another project.
  • You have little patience for the details – the details seem hard and even boring.
  • You get overwhelmed easily by details
  • You are often unhappily surprised by the outcomes of your big plan, because you forgot a simple detail.
  • You make a lot of big plans, but don’t seem to get very far in executing those plans.  And usually those big plans are very sparse on the details.

You love to fantasize about your big success, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you’re not there yet.

music business coach, success, promotion, marketing, artistsDetail Oriented Folks

  • You love to feel busy.
  • You are constantly thinking in terms of, “What should I do?”
  • Thinking about long term goals feels uncomfortable, even frightening.
  • You’d much rather focus on this email, that paperwork, those phone calls…
  • You have lots of lists and every time you listen to an expert or read a book you add lots of items to those lists.
  • You can tend to over think things and feel the need to get all the details and plans perfect before taking action.

You work really hard all day long, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you feel like you’ve gotten nothing accomplished.

I don’t think either focus level is right/wrong or good/bad.  Actually, in order to be successful in life and in business, you need to be able to pull focus. You need to have some facility with both levels of thinking which will enable you to think big, create useful plans and then implement those plans to take consistent and productive action.

Whether you go from microcosm (the details) to macrocosm (the big picture) or vice versa, when designing your plan doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that:

  1. You create the big picture outcome (goals and vision)
  2. You choose some guidelines for making decisions (strategies)
  3. You develop a step-by-baby-step action plan for accomplishing those outcomes with a specific order and time frame to get you from where you are now to where you intend to be
  4. You implement that plan on a daily basis
  5. Assessing and adjusting as you go

goals, plans, vision action

Start with Your Comfort Zone

The order is less important than doing all 5 parts.  If you’re a big picture thinker, start with the big picture, but don’t stop there!  And if you like the details, but thinking big scares the bejeezus out of you, then start with the details and extrapolate out.  Here’s how:

If You Start with the Big Picture

Close your eyes.  No, wait, read this part first, THEN close your eyes!  OK, think about one year from now.  And as you’re imagining one year from now …

  • What do you see around you?
  • What do you have?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What are you doing?
  • What do you hear?
  • Get specific.

Now, open your eyes and write down everything you saw.  Do it in bullet point form.  Create a brainstormed list of all you want to have and be.

Once you’ve got your list:

  1. Go through and turn each bullet point into a specific, measurable goal with a deadline.
  2. Group those goals together by category (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.).
  3. Within the business category – you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to group your items in more specific categories.
  4. If you see other goals that need to happen in order to create that goal, add them to your list.
  5. Put the goals in the order that makes the most logical sense
  6. Then break out the objectives and action steps for each goal.

You will end up with a specific, step-by-step actionable plan for each goal.

Now if that feels overwhelming, don’t do it for each and every goal.  But do it for the first group of goals that put you on the road to those longer term goals.  What are the goals that need to be accomplished in the next 3-4 months?  Develop a plan for each one of them and then get busy making them happen!

Or You’re Starting with the Details

To do listIf all you think of when asked “What do you want?” is all the stuff to do, all the steps to take, all the different things you’ve been thinking about, “If I only do these things, I’ll be successful.”  Then start there.

Make a big brainstormed list of all the actions, all the steps, all the ideas of actions, all the things people have told you that you have to do.  Make a big list.  Now I recommend doing this in excel, where column A is your long list of stuff to do and each action item is in a separate row.

Now, take that long list and:

  1. In Column B, put the categories of your life each action falls into (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.) and again, you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to break out the work category further.
  2. Then, use the sort function in Excel to sort by category.
  3. Cut and paste the sorted list into a separate worksheet for each category.
  4. One category at a time, ask yourself, which actions go together?  And group them together.
  5. And then ask yourself, if I do these 6 actions that seem to go together (for example) what will I have?  What will that give me?
  6. Write a specific and measurable goal or objective to express that.
  7. Put a deadline on that goal and add start dates and completion dates on each action.
  8. Fill in any actions that are missing in order to create those goals
  9. Think about all those goals together, and create a vision of what that life looks like.

And here too, if creating a full-fledged plan with start and end dates on every action feels overwhelming, just work with the goals for the next 3 months.

StrategyWhere do Strategies fit in?

Strategies, by their very nature, fall into the category of big picture thinking.  Because they apply to everything.  When you choose a strategy, it will effect:

  • How you state your goals
  • Which action items you choose when creating your plan
  • How you implement your plan

For example, if you have a strategy of

Always be learning!

And you apply that to your goal.  It might change:

A CD of toe tapping songs


A CD of toe tapping songs with expanded musical influences

Your action plan might include studying Cuban and Jazz music styles in order to help you expand those musical influences.  It might also include taking a songwriting class or studying recording techniques.  It might include participating in a songwriting circle to get ongoing feedback on your writing.

Without that strategy, your goal and your actions might be very different.

So, start with creating a few strategies and test them out.  Apply them to your goals and action plans and see how they change.  And work with them for a few weeks to decide if you like how the strategies are affecting you and whether you want to keep them or change them.

It’s also an interesting question to analyze what strategies are you currently using, unconsciously?  But that’s a subject for another time.

What are your goals, actions and strategies?  I’d love to hear them!



How to Implement the Learning

Artists MBA, Foundation ProgramThere is a lot to learn about how to succeed in your business – whether it’s Music, Art, Film, Dance. Here at the Artist’s Marketing & Business Academy, we strive to teach you all that you need to know to create the career of your dreams.

But it’s not enough to simply learn. Knowledge without implementation is worthless. You must put what you learn into action and sometimes it’s hard to see exactly how to do that.

It is not always what we know or analyzed before we make a decision that makes it a great decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute it that makes it a good decision.

William Pollard

In this class you’ll discover:

  • How to overcome your blocks to implementation
  • How to prioritize which pieces to build first
  • How to plan your implementation
  • Where to get support for implementation

Joining the Artist’s Marketing & Business Academy was a great decision to learn how to succeed. Now get busy and implement what you are learning into your business!

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