Posts Archived From: 'February 2012'

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Branding Recap: 2012 YP Summit

What fun!


Thank you to everyone who attended the 2012 Young Professionals Summit, and those of you who joined one or both of my presentations on February 29. In an effort to keep the personal branding conversation going, I’ve included two PDFs of my presentation notes.


Grab ’em for your files, and post your thoughts below. Did anything I mention ring true for you? Did you disagree with a tactic or strategy? Have a follow-up question you didn’t get the chance to ask? Don’t be shy; I’d love to hear from you.


• Morning session: Personal Branding by Accident [PDF]

• Afternoon session: Building and Sustaining Your Personal Brand [PDF]


Until next time, I’ll see you around Omaha!


Write Now: Meet Malcolm Gladwell

Meet Malcolm Gladwell | By Sandy Lane


I work for Lutz & Company. I love to say that. In fact, I kind of wear it on my sleeve. People often talk about loving what they do and give the common clichés on their employer of choice…work/life balance, open door policies, putting people first, etc… No clichés necessary at Lutz. I live it, so I know this to be true. I work for an awesome company with an incredibly talented and big-hearted group of people. I have worked here for over twenty-one years and each day I look forward to sharing life with my co-workers. My personal feelings can be attested to by our recent first place award for “Best Accounting Firm to Work For”…a national award for mid-sized accounting firms and an honor of which I am very proud.


With this recent honor, a past award from 2009, “Young Professionals Choice Award”, has invaded my memory. The timing of this award corresponded with a life-changing time in my life as I was then only a few raw months into my divorce. The particular day that is populating my memory started with an e-mail blast to our office proudly announcing this award notification. It gave me a bit of a smile and some added pep on a bleak Nebraska winter morning. As I went about my day during the busyness of tax season, one of my partners popped his head into my office. “Hey, do you think you could give the acceptance speech at Chamber award luncheon next week?” he asked me. “Hmmm”, I thought. I sure didn’t see this coming.


As he looked at me and asked me this question, there was no doubt as to the look I saw in his eyes. It was a look I had become quite accustomed to during that time period in my life. It was the look of sympathy. I have never been able to understand why anyone would pay for a palm reading. Hands are clearly a waste of time. You can see everything in a person’s eyes. And I have seen all kinds of sentiments in other people’s eyes over my forty-four years…admiration, fear, dislike, affection, envy, loyalty, distrust… Yep, this one was definitely sympathy. It did make me pause a bit and wonder what he saw in my eyes as looked back. Embarrassingly, I concluded it was probably a bit of vulnerability. A look I was also quite sure my partners weren’t accustomed to seeing from me during our twenty years working together. Ugh. My head felt foggy and I felt a bit lost, so I was quite sure my eyes reflected this same sentiment.


“Sure”, I answered. “They will have you sit at the head table,” he goes on to explain, “and you’ll have two minutes to give an acceptance speech.” “Got it”, I responded. I wondered to myself if there was some discussion among partners that this may be an opportunity to encourage me and help me get me back to my prior pre-divorce self…engaged, game on and no fog. But since speculation served no good, sympathy or no sympathy; I was honored to accept the award and that I would do. It was time for me to reacquaint myself with the outside world again anyway. Maybe this was the nudge I needed? Since I love to give speeches and enjoy public speaking, the prospect of this acceptance speech was becoming invigorating. It is a strange anomaly in life when a person who is petrified of missing a fly ball in little league softball doesn’t have a bit of heart palpitation in giving impromptu speeches to hundreds. Figure that one out.


So the day came for my coming out party. I put on my favorite dress, jacket and boots in anticipation of stepping out into the world again. With the luncheon downtown and an 11:00 departure time; at about 10:00, I thought I better write my speech. The negative on being a writer is that you innately know that you can get away with waiting until the last minute to write little things like an acceptance speech. Don’t get me wrong, I had thoughtfully reflected on what I wanted to say for days. But with a two minute window, I needed only a few words to nail the message. And this speech meant something to me. I love my co-workers at Lutz. Not only had I been blessed to work with so many great people over my years at Lutz, but I felt completely surrounded by great love and support during a very rough spot in my life. Some shared words during this difficult time; others just gave me warm smiles with no words necessary. I always knew they had my back. So everything that had been circling in my brain for last few days were typed onto a one page speech in approximately twenty minutes. And I felt good about it. When I reread my written words, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to say.


With my speech stuffed into my suit pocket, my boots hit the ground; in route to take the podium Downtown. I was expecting a small crowd made up of my Lutz co-workers. Thinking this, my speech was fondly written for my co-workers and to my co-workers. As I walked into the Qwest Center, I quickly realized that my estimations were clearly off. I was shocked to find myself in the company of over 1,000 attendees. It just so happened that our award was a mere smaller portion of a bigger Chamber event featuring a national keynote speaker. Still a bit shell shocked with the mounds of people filling the room, I was guided to the head table. There was a brief panic attack when I second guessed my choice of spending a mere twenty minutes to write my speech. I certainly knew I didn’t rehearse it enough. I found myself sitting at the head table with local news personalities and corporate sponsors. After exchanging pleasantries, I looked around trying to locate the nearest bathroom. By my estimation, I had about ten minutes where I could hole up in bathroom stall and reread and possibly rewrite my speech; ensuring it was up to the standards with this very large audience. I gave this about five seconds of consideration before deciding that I was golden. No bathroom run for me. If I wasn’t picking up the words correctly from my paper in hand, I would just improvise by speaking from the heart…final answer.


As I perused the program to see find where our award fell in the timeline, I noticed a strange looking man who had just joined our table. Many people were chatting with him and he was wearing an ill-fitting jacket. He was also sporting a shocking dark Afro with fair skin and a receding hairline. He held a sullen expression with little excitement in his mannerisms. As it was clear that he would be joining the head table, I got up to introduce myself to this interesting individual. I had no clue as to who he was or for what reason he was seated there. As I walked towards him, I noticed a small mechanism attached to his jacket with wiring that worked its way up to his ear. I quickly concluded that he was disabled and wore a hearing aid (some form of a cochlear implant device). He must have been receiving a Chamber award for people with disabilities in the workforce. In an effort to make sure I made him feel comfortable and accepted; and so he could clearly understand me, I stood with my face within six inches of his. I extended my hand and with direct eye contact I VERY loudly and slowly said, “HELLO, MY NAME IS SANDY LANE. WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” As my brother, Matt, would say…I was in his grill. This peculiar man than calmly said to me, “Nice to meet you. I am Malcolm Gladwell.” Wow, he didn’t seem so peculiar anymore. He spoke perfectly normal; not what I expected from a person with a hearing disability. He then just looked at me with a funny, almost annoyed expression and offered no small talk. So I gave him a smile (he didn’t smile back) and went back to my seat.


The ceremony began with Lutz award at the top of the list. With a quick introduction of our firm and a write up on why we were chosen as “Young Professionals Choice Award”, I was asked to accept the award on stage and give my speech. I remember loosely following my written speech, but after connecting eyes with some of my co-workers; not wanting to look back down at the paper. It was way too mesmerizing looking at the crowd and sharing with them the honest sediments that were nestled with pride in my heart. And people smiled back at me…both with their mouths and with their eyes. I saw acceptance. It was exhilarating. It just felt right and all was well in the world again. The response from the crowd and my co-workers felt like a warm blanket. I was now grateful to my partners for the vote of sympathy. It was just what the doctor ordered.


I sat down while the applause was still vibrating and filling my spirit. The emcee moved on to introduce the featured keynote speaker with an introduction that included a long list of top-selling books and accolades on his publishing milestones. Yes, Malcolm Gladwell is one accomplished writer and being the keynote speaker, he was wired with a small clip-on microphone. And he gave an amazing presentation on his amazing book. My dream would have been for Malcolm to catch my eye on his way back to the head table and we share “a moment”, a look just between us, and then become fast friends with a chuckle later over our awkward introduction. Maybe my speech resonated with him and we now had commonality? Nope…not so much. In fact, I believe he glared at me on his way back to the head table. So in the end, Malcolm is not my FaceBook friend. We did not share a laugh nor did we exchange contact information. Although I do think Malcolm and I would have gotten on smashingly, it was not meant to be. But all that mattered on that day were my Lutz co-workers who were there with me sharing our award acceptance. And if I were to choose a friendship of choice, my fellow accounting warriors trumped the cult following of Mr Gladwell. Yep, my coming out party was spectacular with an amazing guest list of 14 co-workers that was the envy of Omaha. I would add that as a goodwill gesture, I did buy Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Outliers”. A fascinating read. I would highly recommend it. Just don’t ask me to get you a signed copy ;)


About Sandy Lane
Chapter 1: Born and raised in small (very small) town Iowa. Survived a childhood full of bean walking and older brothers. Chapter 2: Accountant, wife and mother for twentyish years in Omaha, Nebraska. Chapter 3: Now savors life as a seasoned traveler and single mom of three boys. Still enjoys her accounting career, but also blogs stories ( as a past time (isn’t that what all accountants do in their spare time?). On “off kid” weekends lives a life full of travels and adventures; spending a considerable amount of time skiing, cycling, running, and sharing life with her significant other in Denver. When not crunching numbers, writing stories or carting kids; also travels and enjoys visiting family and friends across the country and is greatly looking forward to see what life has in store for her in Chapter 4.


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Learn more about the Write Now project and how you can submit works for publication.


Share Your Titles, Win a Prize

This time of year I often find myself watching less television and movies, and reading more. It’s the cold weather, I suppose, and the enjoyment I receive while turning each page of a new book. Then there’s the satisfaction of finishing a book and the excitement of starting a new one.


My stack of active titles currently sits at three: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower II by Stephen King.


I like to say that I read several books at once, but that’s not completely true. I start a book and, although I’m enjoying its story, my mind wanders to what’s next. So I grab another title, make it through a few hundred pages, and repeat the pattern. Isaacson has me so engrossed that Follett and King are waiting in the wings. (Sorry guys.)


After those three titles are snapped shut for good, I’ll have to find something new. Or, perhaps, an old favorite I’m ready to read again.


Which begs the question: What are you reading? What have you read? And what books do you hope to read this year?


Share your selections below. A winner will be picked at random later this month, walking away with one of my most treasured stickers of all time.




Happy reading! And good luck.


What Brand Are You?

Do you recognize that eyeglass photo? I sure do. The whole image quickly and unintentionally became my photographic calling card once Nerdy Thirty hit shelves back in 2010. The photo was an outtake by Chris Machian for the book’s back cover.


And at the time, I absolutely loved the photo. It’s so clever! And cute! And it reflects my spectacles so well!


But now? Now I’m kind of sick of it.


The photo made its way around the web and elsewhere for more than a year. From a branding perspective, the photo (and the Nerdy Thirty cover by Eric Downs) was a smashing success. Immediately recognizable. Spunky, even. From what I’ve been told, both images made people smile.


So what’s the point? The point is that photos and eyewear and accessories and even your email signature are all part of your brand. You may not realize it, but you brand yourself each and every day.


Later this month I’ll host a discussion at the 2012 Young Professionals Summit on personal branding. This marks the second consecutive year I’ll present at the event. This year’s topic surfaced indirectly at last year’s event. While discussing social media marketing, someone in the audience asked about my personal brand. It wasn’t anything I had thought much about. But since then, personal branding has piqued my interested.


The company you work for is a brand. The car you drive or the bike you ride is a brand. The computer you use is a brand. That shirt you’re wearing? A brand.


And guess what? So are you!


At my 2:30 p.m. session on Wednesday, February 29, I’ll outline personal branding in greater detail. You’ll hear more how promoting your passions and concurrent work can build your personal brand in an authentic, inclusive, and engaging way that will open doors of opportunity and experience.


My hope is that you will leave the session with concrete ideas, tasks, and strategies to build your personal brand in an engaging manner. Building your personal brand, I believe, can clarify your passions and goals, both personal and professional.


Join me on the 29th at the CenturyLink Center. Don’t hesitate to pose questions or share suggestions via Twitter before the event. I’d love to hear from you.


Also, mark your calendar for the official February 16 pre-party and post-party of the 2012 event.


My Army of Skincare

Mirror, mirror on the wall. When it comes to beauty and skincare products, I felt like I’ve tried them all.


Makeup and me have never really gotten along. Call me a late bloomer. Chapstick was my sole beauty item as I progressed through grade school. High school wasn’t much different. I’d try a light pink lipgloss or maybe a peach blush. I’d only spend a few bucks at my neighborhood grocery store and left it at that. Of course, my female counterparts were busy exploring the infinite possibilities of looking pretty, painting on the hues in every color of the rainbow.


As for me, I just didn’t care that much.


By college I was slowly beginning to pay attention to such things, and found myself focusing more energy (and spending more dollars) on effective skincare as opposed to expensive cosmetics. It was probably a choice of convenience, the more I think about it. It was easier to keep my skin clear and clean than it was to pick the perfect color of blush or lipstick. (That type of decision is exhausting.)


At 33, I’m still practicing my beauty regimen in much the same manner. I wear little makeup these days – cream blush, lipgloss, neutral eye shadow, and, at times, mascara. But my skincare products are my pride and joy. That’s where I’ll spend the extra dollars and energy. Do that, and not much else is needed.


I wanted to share my Army of Skincare with my loyal female readers, many of whom have asked such questions. Most of what I use can be found at Ulta, Sephora, both online and in their stories, or QVC.


hands of hope by philosophy – I have tried countless hand lotions to keep my sometimes-dry skin moisturized. For me, it’s not about the scent as much as the end-result. Literally nothing else I have used has kept my hands moisturized and protected without a greasy feeling.


Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat – This is more about my nails. I’m obsessed with always keeping my fingernails looking freshly polished, and this gel coat works wonders. Two coats alone have improved the strength and health of my nails, and, when used as a base coat, maintains my at-home manicure for about a week.


Cheek Stain by tarte – For years I’ve tried and failed at powder blush. By noon, the pink swipes I applied that morning have completely disappeared. I never wear foundation, which probably explains my problems with powder. But this Cheek Stain has changed all that. It’s a light cream that goes on easy and keeps my cheeks the perfect shade of peach all day long.


WEN Texture Balm – Yes, it’s the same WEN you’ve seen on informercials. And yes, it’s a bit pricey. But I’m here to declare that my hair has never looked better. After using the WEN Cleansing Conditioner, I use a small dab of this sweet-smelling balm to keep my curls and frizz cool, calm, and collected.


Carmex – What can be said? It’s something like $2.99 for three tubes. It lasts forever and works better than more expensive lip balms.


Maracuja Oil by tarte – Acne has been my biggest skin foe. Since trying the Maracuja Oil a few months ago, I’ve noticed a dramatic difference in my skin’s texture and tone. The acne has cleared up, and shine and oil seems considerably lessened. At night before bed, I wash my face, pat it try, and apply a thin layer of the oil. My skin soaks it up, and by morning I look dewey and pretty.


Great Lash Mascara by Maybelline – I don’t often wear mascara, but I always keep a tube at home should I want to glam up before going out. My lashes are forever hidden behind my eyeglasses, so a more expensive brand just isn’t necessary for me. Great Lash is fool proof AND easy to remove before bed (or the next morning).


amazing grace by philosophy – Are you seeing a trend here? I find a beauty line and typically stick to it. Nothing keeps me smelling better than the amazing grace fragrance by philosophy, although I have several other philosophy scents in my arsenal. Pat and JT on Q98.5 always say I “smell like a mountain.” Here’s why.


Baked Marble Eye Shadow by Laura Geller – A smoky eye is something I’ve lusted after, but have been too lazy to pursue. Laura Geller’s combination shadows can mimic that look with just one product. The neutral browns and purples are in my pallet, but one day I’ll try a smoky gray and dark black. Just you wait.


Select Cover-Up by MAC – Do I love this line because it shares its name with my favorite computer platform? Perhaps. But I love it even more for its quality. When blemishes arrive, I send them packing with just a dab of this creamy concealer. A little goes a long way, which means this tiny tube will last for months.


Gentle Face Cleanser by Cetaphil – One of my low-cost workhorses, this face wash is affordable and effective. I’ve tried more expensive varieties by other brands, but nothing works on my face as well as Cetaphil. Plus, when I’m running low, a new bottle is as close as the nearest Target.


Clarisonic Mia – This tool is by far the most expensive in my beauty kit, but it’s something I can’t imagine living without. The Mia is the smallest cleaner in the Clarisonic line, but it works wonders. I use it every morning and sometimes at night. Since using the Mia, I’ve found that my moisturizer and blush apply even easier on my skin.


Showstoppers Dazzling Lipgloss Trio by tarte – Pretty colors, a hint of glitter, and not much stickiness makes the tarte family of lipglosses forever my favorite. And when bought in bunches such as this set, I’m able to keep one in my bag and one at home. More often than not, though, all three tubes are with me everywhere I go.


WEN Cleansing Conditioner – Yep, it’s my second WEN product in the line-up. And it’s by far THE BEST “shampoo” I have ever used on my hair. Those at WEN will tell you it’s anything but shampoo, but it works just as well … if not better than anything else I have tried. My curly locks need extra TLC during Nebraska’s humid summers, and this product, when used with the WEN Texture Balm, does the trick.


But enough about me for now. What are you go-to beauty products? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share as part of your beauty regimen? I’d love to hear what you’re using and how you’re using it.


Blogging and Writing: An Overview

What’s a blogger? What’s a writer? And what’s the difference? Earlier today I had the great opportunity to tackle these topics and more by leading a workshop at the Omaha Creative Institute.


For two hours, this group of twenty writers and I discussed the ways we develop ideas, how we execute those ideas, how we can solicit feedback, and how, perhaps most importantly, we can share our stories with the world.


I was delighted to meet such a variety of writers today. All were enthusiastic, yet few considered themselves writers on a full-time basis.


But here’s the big secret: few people who write do so as their sole source of income. We write because we love it. If we can make a few bucks in the process, great. The money, however, isn’t why we write.


There’s something creative on the inside that needs to be fed, be it with pretty paper and an ink pen, a chewed-up pencil and a yellow legal pad, or a computer that quietly hums away while we work.


Below are my notes from today’s workshop. Perhaps my thoughts will inspire you to share a story or two with the world.


Ideas and Blogging


Where do ideas come from?
• Real life/current experiences
• Your own past
• What story have you never told anyone?
• What you read/hear/see that is happening to others
• Talking to other writers often
• Do not immediately dismiss mundane ideas
• Use social media to test ideas
• Don’t fear “giving away” your ideas
• Expand on other pieces you may have written in the past


How to document/outline ideas?
• Are you a notebook person? Computer/iPad person?
• Keep one of them with you at all times
• Outline ideas before you even sit down at the computer
• Your ideas at the beginning may deviate by the end
• Be a hoarder; save everything
• Your blog


Where to write?
• On your own computer
• Microsoft Word
• Evernote
• Various iPad apps


How do writers stay motivated?
• Feedback from other writers
• Social media interaction
• Regular face-to-face coffee dates


Why Meals Ease the Miles

Like most people, my workweek begins Monday mornings with a stop at Starbucks or Crane Coffee, followed by an easy commute to the office. I arrive shortly past 8 a.m. with a handful of emails awaiting a reply. I grab lunch, attend a meeting or two, and then pack up my laptop and files. My office is about to sit dark until Friday.


I travel each week for my job, hitting Interstate 80 every Tuesday morning. Destination: Salina, Kansas. I work in development, and my latest client is based in this cozy community of 48,000. Smack-dab in the middle of Nebraska’s southern neighbor, my Tuesday travels take about four hours, front door to front door. Salina becomes my home for the next three days, until, on Thursday afternoon, I pack up my rental and zoom home to Omaha.


The four-hour drive each way leaves me ample time to brainstorm a variety of ideas: essays to write, to-do tasks that need tending, and recipes to prepare the upcoming weekend. Satellite radio and my own thoughts keep me company throughout my travels, but it’s my tiny kitchen that inspires me on Thursday afternoons. Hearty and home-cooked meals just aren’t possible from a hotel room. That’s why I’ve become diligent to have a recipe (and ingredients) ready when I’m welcomed home Thursday nights.


Of course I’m weary from the four-hour drive. And of course it would be easier to zip through another drive-through window, or toss another Lean Cuisine in the microwave. But those meal options are my only options when I’m out of town. When Thursday arrives, I find myself craving a meal that I have prepared with my own two hands. A recipe that’s a tried-and-true favorite, or something new that’s caught my attention. I typically determine Thursday’s dinner on Saturday or Sunday, ensuring my fridge and pantry are both stocked with the necessary ingredients.


After dropping my bags in the living room, I head to the kitchen. I pull the ingredients from the fridge and pantry. I begin dicing and chopping, opening cans and melting butter. If I’m working on a meal prepared in my pressure cooker, my motivation continues to soar.


Since picking up a new pressure cooker a few months ago, my confidence level in preparing poultry and protein (whole chickens, pot roast, even an Italian Wedding soup) has grown exponentially. These days, meals pretty as a picture are gracing my dinner table in less time and without much culinary expertise on my behalf.


The pressure cooker makes these meals so easy, it almost doesn’t feel like cooking. This four-quart-wonder warms up and the pressure beings to build. The combined aromas of whatever’s inside begins to waft throughout the kitchen, and my mouth begins to water. I can hear the pressure cooker sizzle, hiss, and simmer, until eventually it calms to a quiet. When the timer sounds, I set the table, plate the portions, and dig in.


In a way, my Thursday dinners feel more like Sunday dinners: I’m surrounded by those I love, with my belly full, and the comfort and pleasure of being back in Omaha. True, there is no place like Nebraska. But for me, there’s no place like home. And my kitchen.


We Have a Winner!

Toward the end of 2011, I celebrated the launch of my new website – the handiwork of Grain & Mortar – with a special giveaway. It was the first time I hosted something like this on my website, and the response was great! I heard from many of you far and wide about your resolutions for the new year.


After a random drawing from those responses, one reader walked away the winner: Courtney Gill Zurcher of Omaha. Courtney won a $10 Starbucks gift card, a Temp-tations ceramic travel mug, and a signed copy of Nerdy Thirty. Courtney also received a lovely little Q&A on this very website. (Isn’t she adorable?)


Name and age.
Courtney Gill Zurcher, 22.


Tell me a little bit about yourself, both personally and professionally.
I live in downtown Omaha and I spend most of my days working on my online clothing company, InezGill. In my spare time I love reading and I’m currently in the middle of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. So far Shadow of the Wind is turning out to be one of my favorite books.


What lights your creative fire and gets those juices flowing?
That is a tough question. Some of my best work has come from periods where my creative fire was non-existent but I just kept working. Creativity is defined by me as when I enjoy my work and my possibilities are limitless. To get to this place I take vacations, drink caffeine, watch good movies, meditate, and spend time with friends. Balancing work and play is a must to keeping the creative juices flowing.


What’s your favorite season, and why?
My favorite season is the summertime. I love when it is hot during the day and then around 8 p.m., the breeze sets in.

Are you an early bird or night owl?

I am definitely an early bird. I love the quiet and knowing others are asleep dreaming peacefully.


Complete this sentence: The best part about blogs (reading them and writing posts for them) is …
For reading them, it’s seeing what real people do. When writing them, it’s sharing the things I love with other people. 


What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Life is meant to be enjoyed.