How High Are Your Standards?

I always have interesting conversations and incredible people watching episodes when I’m at the airport.  I listen and observe, I engage and I observe some more.  At one airport, I was waiting for a flight and we were delayed so many times that it was almost a game to see when the app and the actual board in front of us would match as to the newest departure time.  There was a woman standing next to me. She was well-dressed and was friendly enough.  We were sharing some travel stories and then we got to “what do you do?” I told her I was an Executive Coach, a speaker, trainer, radio show host and author. She asked who I worked with and I gave her that information. I of course turned the conversation to her and asked what she did. She worked for a large organization and had been there for many years… “After all, why should I leave? I get paid, don’t have to do too much and I get to do some traveling.” The conversation went on for a bit and she mentioned that she had never had a coach but her boss swears by them.  Of course I needed to probe a little more and she told me, without any hesitation, she had never and would NEVER hire a coach because she would be expected to work more and harder and that is not what she wants to do. It started me thinking about standards and how as entrepreneurs we need to set the bar higher than we can even imagine. People will choose to work with you if what you are offering them is the best quality or service to solve their problem.

The truth is most people don’t like high standards because they create a lot of work – especially the kind of work that nobody likes in the first place. In the real world, getting from good to great requires extraordinary efforts and high standards. It demands more time than you want, more energy than you have, and more cooperation than any normal person can be expected to contribute.

That’s IF you want high standards. If you are willing to settle for “good,” things can be much easier – and you can be much nicer. How about if we talk about standards…for instance what are they anyway?

Your standards define how you act, which, in turn, builds trust in your brand. They can be guidelines that describe your quality, your performance, your style or your systems. Standards must align with your mission, business objectives, and leadership, and be implemented consistently.

What about our own personal standards? Are they written on a wall for all to see? Not necessarily, but think about this; personal standards are what separates the highest achievers from everyone else. Personal standards are nothing more than a set of behaviors. These behaviors are built upon expectations you have of yourself in a variety of situations. Your personal standards are reflected in how you treat yourself, and also in how you treat other people. They are also reflected in how you expect to be treated by other people. When you have high standards you expect to be treated with the highest of regard. However, when your standards are low it suggests that you are lacking in the self-esteem department. Remember though, no matter who your customer is, you shouldn’t change your standards to meet theirs.

Your personal standards are also reflected in the promises you keep, the way you show up, and are reflected in the quality of your work, values and communication. In fact, everything you do and say gives others an indication of the personal standards you live by. As women, we might have to work a little harder and set the bar a little higher to be treated on an equal playing field, and that’s ok.  It’s just a little extra stretch…and we’re used to that.

Luckily, if you turn to entrepreneurship as a way to fulfil your potentials and meet your standards as well, there are so many valuable resources to learn from. No longer do we need to learn everything through trial and error! And that feeling that you’re not alone in your striving, that helps. Just recently I’ve interviewed Stefan Pretty, an interesting Scottish entrepreneur who created Subbly, a management software for subscription businesses. But what really inspired me is the way he shows a step-by-step approach (that’s what I love about it…plus it’s easy to follow) on how to start a subscription box, making that start line (which is often the most difficult one) as straightforward as possible. And once you actually start something, it becomes easier to continue evolving and also, raise the standards when you realize that goals were more achievable then you thought!

Speaking of which…Do you have goals that you would like to achieve? Have you ever considered that in order to achieve these goals that you must first raise your personal standards in certain aspects of your life? Setting low standards will only take you so far along your journey towards your goal. With low standards you will simply not put enough work, time, energy or resources into this goal. You will not be able to give this goal what it requires, and therefore you will end up not getting the results you truly want.

When you set high standards you immediately raise your expectations of what’s possible. You suddenly expect more from yourself, more from your actions, and more from others. And with a higher set of expectations you are willing to do more to get the results you’re after, and your performance level shoots straight up.

As Tony Robbins said, “Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards.”

Don’t be like my airport buddy thinking that having a coach means others will expect more from you and that is a negative thing…after all, what is wrong with that?


5 Life Lessons From Ruth

The following is an outstanding guest post from Ruth Thoes Vivrett. It seems she has seen and done just about everything, and I know just about everyone could learn a thing or two from this post. Enter Ruth:


My father always used to say I had my daddy’s good looks and my mama’s disposition. Guess that is what set me up to believe that anything was possible. I was also blessed with intelligence and the capacity to look for solutions – not bragging since this was God given and just was. In school, my intelligence was both blessing and curse – The blessing came from recognition from scholastic awards and the curse came from an inherent shyness thinking something was wrong with me since my studies seemed to come more easily to me than to my friends.

I held various positions in corporate America, before being assigned to help develop Electronic Funds Transfer capabilities for our bank – I was chosen to do this since the management team didn’t see much value in a bright young woman. The reality was that by being willing to do whatever was necessary this formed the basis for an expertise that became very lucrative in position and financial rewards.

I eventually was chosen to manage the creation of an Automated Teller network in the late 70’s (MPACT which became CIRRUS which became MasterCard Debit capability). I worked for a very difficult CEO who gave me hard jobs because he knew I would never give up – I would somehow figure out the world that was the marriage of banking and telecommunications and systems. What I really learned was how to be a good translator – just kept learning new languages as needed. A wonderful executive at the company told me that being shy did not mean I had to accept unacceptable things – I just needed to learn to be an actor. I could become who I needed to be (daughter, sister, best friend’s wife, etc.) to get the deal done without ever giving up myself. From that point I began to develop the social skills that goes with being an effective corporate executive.

When my time in corporate America was over, I spent several years traveling the world as a management consultant. From Brazil to Japan to England and France, the opportunities were awesome and taught me respect for other cultures and points of view that I had not experienced as fully just with travels in the United States. This also taught me new languages – both from the country as well as the many different business models I worked with. All good. As the consulting time completed, I actually thought about retiring and not being on a plane again. However, my husband changed that thought when he said that he and the dog could not take my full attention – I was making them nuts. And so, a new skill/language was born.

I built my own business in the financial planning arena. Consulting one on one with my clients was very rewarding and also the business was complex enough to keep me intellectually engaged. But the best lesson I discovered about myself was I really never wanted to “report” to a manager again. No one would be in the position to “lay me off” again. Finding this level of control in my professional life was the hardest work I ever did but also it is what will take me forward. My more recent challenge was physical in nature – I was diagnosed with breast cancer and am thankfully recovered after quite an experience (double mastectomy, chemo, itching, etc.). I am lving a much fuller, more grateful life and know that each experience has just been another reason to learn and to help others.

Key lessons:

  • Never give up – if it hasn’t been invented yet, figure it out. If it has been invented, don’t be afraid to use what is there.
  • Become an actor – don’t let you nature or shyness keep you from being what you can be.
  • Be a lady – compassion and manners still count. I found a way to be “one of the guys” and still be a “one of the girls”.
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer – learn from everyone – what to repeat and what to never do again.
  • Enjoy the thrill of re-inventing yourself – don’t let a hurdle keep you down.


To connect with Ruth Thoes Vivrett call her at 214-674-5495 or email her at

One of the MOST Meaningful Days in a Long Time

When the meeting was over, we all headed out for the tailgate party. The rain had stopped but the wind was whipping. It was a lot of fun and I got to talk to everyone and they all wished me well in my new endeavor and said so many wonderful things to me. I was a happy girl.

Now the rest of the weekend was something that resulted from a simple conversation between myself and a very special friend. You see, last year, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would be undergoing some major surgery and treatment but she wouldn’t start that until she was able to attend the Company annual celebration last December. This was a priority for her and something she really wanted/needed to do. When she told me what was ahead of her, I told her that if she was up to it, we would find a breast cancer walk close to her, and she and I would walk together. She said she would keep me posted and that was our promise to each other.

She did amazingly well and her attitude was the most remarkable force to reckon with. I can’t even imagine what the battle was every day, but she said she was up for the walk and we were going to do it…in Grand Rapids, MI, her home town. Now the pieces of the puzzle are making more sense I would imagine.

When word got out that Karen and I were going to do this, so many more of her colleagues joined in and her incredible supportive family would be there in full force. Tara her daughter, took charge of forming the team “KICKIN’ IT UP FOR KAREN” and she and Karen’s husband Rich made the event happen.

Back to South Bend. I had the enormous pleasure of riding from South Bend to Grand Rapids with Tom and his family. Melody, Tom’s wife and I have known each other for years so I was glad to spend some time with her. BTW she is the backbone of Tom’s business but don’t tell him that. Their sons Noah and A.J. are two of the most incredible young men, who watch over each other like nobody’s business. AND can I just say that they take their football teams VERY seriously…right Noah???
The drive was a breeze and we all met in a hotel and shared pizza and conversation and we all received our shirts and bibs for the next day. I was so glad to see Karen and if nothing else happened, my trip was complete.

The next morning, bright and early, we headed to the area where the walk would be held. Who knew it would be so cold in September in MI?? Ok so I’m still thinking of the temperature in Texas but we were all really cold but so happy to be there. All the little ones were in strollers under blankets and everyone was there in full force.

Up until that morning we weren’t sure if Karen would be able to actually do the walk, but she would be out there cheering everyone on. We all saw the support that this community had for this disease that affects so many of the people we love. There were over 7,000 fans of the survivors. Those fabulous women wore their hot pink shirts proudly. It was a reality check to see that this disease does not discriminate at all. The number of survivors in their 20s and 30s was a frightening number but the number of survivors made it even more emotional. I would not have missed this moment for anything. If you have not supported a breast cancer walk in your area, you need to. Some people are not fortunate enough to have support at home or from their fellow workers. Walk in honor of or in memory of someone but get out there and walk. If breast cancer has not affected you, find another cause and get out there.

I am so happy to say that Karen did do the walk and did cross over the finish line. She is one of the strongest women I know. I am so proud to call her my friend. Always remember, a simple conversation can turn into something that can change your life…

South Bend Revisited

While this blog is about my journey, and I do want it to be in the correct sequence, the next blog or two are a little out of order, but they are too important to hold on to.

If you go back and read the post on South Bend, the Final Frontier, you will remember that this was my last training with a very special group of people. They are the Mad Dogs and I am their Kennel Keeper. Even though I have known and have been friends with the Agency Manager for over 15 years, we didn’t really get close until I became “Corporate”. Remember, even though I am not really a Corporate kind of girl, I wouldn’t trade what I learned and gained for anything…this is one of those reasons.
Originally, I was supposed to be part of their celebration in July, rewarding the team for some amazing production. I chose to back out of that event because I had left the company and I didn’t want the day to be about me and what I was doing and was I ok etc. It needed to be about them and how they all banded together to make their production really stand out. As sad as that was for me, it was the correct decision.

I had made plans to be in Grand Rapids, MI for a very personal reason and South Bend would be the beginning of that trip. I was not going there for my old position or my new Company. I was going there to be able to officially say goodbye to my Mad Dogs, and I was told, they are indeed my Mad Dogs. Many people use that phrase but I promise you, you have to earn it and after my last visit, it was sealed in my heart.

Ok, back to the trip. I arrived in South Bend 30 minutes early. That is unheard of, especially after my last trip! My consultant and I still talk about that trip 🙂 Tom picked me up and we were going to have a nice quiet dinner and talk about how the next day was going to unfold. This was just going to be a chance to say goodbye and I was looking forward to seeing everyone. There would be a trainer for the group on a new product and then he asked me to let everyone know that there is life after leaving the company and then a tailgate party-hopefully the weather would hold out.

Of course the dress of the day would be jerseys. What else would you wear to a tailgate party?? Except that won’t work for me for two reasons 1-I don’t own a jersey and 2-I am always dressed for Selling In A Skirt….and that was what I would be wearing. Tom laughed and said he didn’t even think that dress code would apply to me…

Friday morning arrived and Tom picked me up and we headed to his office. He was wearing his jersey, and so was everyone else. The trainer did his thing and then Tom got up to speak. He was talking about this bowling shirt that was given to him and how special it was to him and then he began talking about another special person and got choked up. Was he giving me this special treasure? He was talking about me and I thought OMG please don’t make this that kind of goodbye! I don’t know if I can take it. These are my Mad Dogs and they are a major part of the reason why I took up crying as a sport.

But it was and it was so touching. I didn’t get the bowling shirt. Instead I received my own jersey that had Mad Dogs on the front and Kennel Keeper on the back AND to make it more like me, it even has puffy sleeves with pictures of dogs on the shoulders. When he presented it to me, I ripped off my jacket so fast and wore that jersey proudly. Between that and the beautiful card and the testimonials, I was a goner. I’m not even sure if what I said to all of them was audible.
Emotions ran so high that day and that was only the beginning of the weekend….

Getting Excited and Make Things Happen??

Well I did go to Chicago for that final training.  Here’s what I weighed: I had no new projects and all my projects were done.  I got the thumbs up from everyone and if I didn’t get to be out of the office I think I would have internally combusted. I think I made the right choice.

Before I left, the Agency Manager that I was going to see,  ran a mini contest and the prize was dinner with me the night before the training.  I was really touched and there was quite a crowd there.  It was wonderful and we all talked about business and told stories and laughed and that was  exactly what the doctor ordered.

The training the next day went well.  We went over some popular and necessary topics and there were a few people that drove from Wisconsin to hear me.  Remember what I said earlier about bringing value?? Ok I get it, I did and do.  One of the Wisconsin attendees and I have been friends for years and he was really sad that I was leaving. I told him friends remain friends no matter what or where you are. They are your super heros and no matter how often you actually see them, these are your true friends.  I mentioned earlier about life lessons and finding out who your friends are and I knew that was in store for me but I assured him that would not happen to us.  He gave me a beautiful card and present and drove me to the airport.  My final training was a hit and on the flight home I realized the hard stop in front of me.

My life was changing faster than I had imagined.  Only one week left in the office and then I would be unemployed, 55, nervous but so excited I could hardly stand it.  Someone said to me that I wouldn’t realize how stressed I was and how I didn’t feel that great until a few weeks from when it was over and I saw how great I actually felt.  Someone will have to prove that to me…

Caged Tiger Anyone?

After getting back from my adventure in IN, I was now “grounded” from traveling.  If you haven’t learned anything about my personality yet, I’m not an office person so this was a hard pill to swallow.  I didn’t really understand the reasoning behind this as I did ask if I could travel and was told “NOPE” and didn’t get any explanation.  My thought process was as long as I gave 8 weeks notice, obviously I was still committed to the cause and wanted the best for the field.  Why not use me to my best ability?  I decided to just let it go…and with that I bet those that know me are crcacking up.  I really did behave.  You can ask anyone.

So what I did was to make sure that everything going forward was completed and organized so anyone could step into my shoes and not have to even think.  I don’t believe in leaving anything to the imagination when it comes to my job.  Why shouldn’t I make it as easy as possible?  After all, I did give 8 weeks notice!

I believe I might have said in a previous post that I was feeling a bit invisible in the office but I’m sure it was the only way to be.  I couldn’t get any new projects because I would be gone.  I came in everyday and put in a full days work and was as positive as always.  I will admit though, it was difficult not being where I truly belonged, in the field.  But, I decided not to question that decision. You see I did ask more than once.  I know you are giggling about that right?

Anyway, one of our Agency Managers was at a meeting with our SVP and asked if I could come out for one last training for his office.  He told him how valuable that would be and how much his team had benefited from my other trainings and was told that would be a great idea!  He called me immediately and told me about the conversation and asked if I would do that.  Ummmm I was jumping up and down on one hand and totally confused on the other.  What would you do?

Traveling Is Always A New Adventure

I know it’s been a few weeks since I left you hanging about my IN trip but I’m in the midst of closing a chapter of my life and beginning a new one.  The blog is in the present but not yet…hopefully you will understand.

When I left off I told you that there was an interesting story about my final trip, which was my final training.  Now, it may not sound that interesting to you, but it was to me and probably anyone that was there.  It reminds me of ground hog day because it just kept going and going and just when you thought it would end, it didn’t.

I left for South Bend, IN on Thursday afternoon-not the easiest place to get to. The training took place on Friday and it was awesome.  The message was loud and clear.
After lunch I was driven to the airport a little early since I did not have assigned seats.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 3:30 and I arrived at the airport at 2…the airport is very small so you could truthfully get there at 3 and be fine but I needed to get seats. I was flying to DFW via Chicago. The choices were Cincinnati or Chicago.  I did Cincinnati going and decided on variety and chose Chicago going back.

Anyway I did get my seats and the flight was listed as On Time. At 4:00 we all understood that this flight was no longer on time but the board didn’t change.   The gate agent who was also the ticket agent, who was also the baggage agent and guided the planes in, was a bit lax in communicating.  Finally at 5:30, after the natives were getting extremely restless, Jack of all trades announced that the weather in Chicago was not great and the plane was running late.  Wow! Imagine that?? There was another flight to Chicago scheduled for 5:10.  I would say that it was pretty obvious that was late as well. You didn’t know I was that smart!

At 7ish 2 planes landed, mine and the 5:10 flight.  Did I mention it was thundering and lightening?? I was still ok at this point because my connecting flight in Chicago I had changed to 8:30, the last flight out.  South Bend is EST and Chicago is CST so I was still good.  If the flight left South Bend by 7:30 I could still connect to my Dallas flight.
Sooooo we are now told that one of the flights was going to leave-want to guess whose flight it wasn’t? My flight was now changed from weather delays to mechanical. It seems the pilot’s headset was not working and they had to fly another one in from Chicago and even when it arrives; they aren’t sure if that model will be compatible.  Any reason why they don’t have them on hand in South Bend or why they didn’t think of flying in different models at the same time? Nonetheless, at this point, a bunch of us started chatting and one in the “group” said that I went from smiling and laughing to tears in a nanosecond.  At that point I had realized that I went from meeting my son at the DFW airport to having to call him to tell him I was stuck in South Bend.  Here’s the problem, he can get to my house but there is no way to get him in.  He never needed a key because either I’m there or I leave the door open if he is going to get here a little before me.  I had to call him and try to figure this out.  He ended up changing his flight to hopefully meet me in the morning.

Ok now back to South Bend. It’s now around 8-8:30 and they are not canceling the flight but are STRONGLY encouraging us to reschedule for the morning. The only problem is the weather heading for South Bend is the same weather that was in Chicago…understand the dilemma? We were all waiting in line to make the changes and yes the same guy was the one that needed to do that. One person for 40+ changes.  I called United and changed my flight and handed my phone off to others waiting to do the same.  And all this time, the flight is still reading On Time on the board… enough to make you want to jump out of your skin.

Four of us decided to rent a car and drive to Chicago.  It’s better to be there with a number of choices than in South Bend with one or two.  Did I tell you we didn’t know each other? It was myself, a female graduate student from Notre Dame who was leaving for India from Dallas at noon on Saturday-LOL, a student from Notre Dame and a consultant from OKC.  The grad student rented the car and was going to drive solo until she asked if I would go with her and the student.  I in turn invited the consultant, since we all were chatting anyway. We all piled into this car called a Cube? OMG the wind was picking this thing up and moving it around.  We were all going to share in the cost of the car except that the student had no money and the grad student put this on her debit card and would never get to the bank before leaving for India.  I told her not to worry and we would switch it to my card when we got to Chicago when we brought the car back.  Because I travel so much, I know that when you bring a car back, they will ask you if you want to leave it on the card you reserved it on.  We will just swap it then-remember this thought. So we drove the 3 hours with the student and I in the back and he is wheezing the entire time because of the cleaning solution used on the car.  I was trying to keep him calm and finally he fell asleep.  I did check a number of times to see if he was breathing.

We got to Chicago about 10:45 or so and I told the person at the car rental we were going to change the credit card and she said no problem just head inside and they will do it. She handed me a slip with the mileage and car stall # and thanked us.  The grad student and student headed to the terminal and the consultant and I headed inside the Rental Car building.  There were about 30 people on line with 1 person working. So we waited and as we almost got to the counter I said that I’m not sure if we need more info than what is on this paper because I didn’t have the contract and guess what else we didn’t have??? We didn’t know the grad student’s name.  We finally got to the counter and handed him the piece of paper. He asked if we had the contract-nope, person’s name-nope, car info-other than Cube-nope.  He said he couldn’t do anything.  I told him it was the LAST car rented in South Bend one way.  He said he couldn’t look it up that way. So the consultant went out to find the car. Did I mention it was really cold, raining and windy? After about 10 minutes we realized it was for naught. So the only thing to do was to leave it on her debit card.

Now off to the terminal-of course there was a skeleton crew working at this time of night and again we needed to wait on line, which we did. When we finally got to the counter, the ticket agent said she didn’t need to hear anything because she had heard it all before and would just look up the ticket numbers. When she did, she asked how we got there since our flight hadn’t taken off yet…  now she wants to hear the story? We explained it and she said she would get us a hotel voucher, meal voucher and a refund for the unused leg of our trip…oh wait I had booked through Orbitz and now have to go through them if that is even possible (BTW I still have not received my refund). The consultant got his refund no problem. So we walked away from the counter and realized she hadn’t given us our boarding pass for the morning so we scooted back over and she apologized and handed them to us.  As we are walking away, a man standing in the long line waiting to talk to the ticket agent called us Assholes for cutting the line.  OMG I was so tired and was biting my tongue.  The consultant flipped around and asked the guy What did you say?? Did I say he was about 6’2”.  Ok so I am standing in between the two of them and I said as politely as I could, that we waited in line as you are now doing, and the ticket agent forgot to hand us something and we walked back and she did. So we started walking away and he muttered some other choice message and I spun around and said Seriously?? The consultant walked back and said why do you need to wait until we are 20 feet away.  How about saying something now??  I left with the consultant  and suggested we go get on the shuttle and started going La La La loudly just in case there was another comment because I was afraid the next time there would be physical contact and not sure who would be throwing the first punch.

Now off to the shuttle to the hotel…which is about 3 blocks away and remember the weather I told you earlier.  I’m wearing heels and trying to run. I’m so tired now I’m literally crying.  People are just crabby and mean when they are tired and that would include me at this point.

We get to the hotel around midnight and we have not eaten since lunchtime.  Yes in South Bend the only restaurant closes before 6 and who knew we would be there after that? The hotel restaurant and bar in Chicago closes at 11…so I went to sleep for the few hours because the hotel shuttle runs every 30 minutes and only takes 20 people and at that time in the morning to get the 5am shuttle you need to be down at 4:30.  So I was there at 4:30 and there were already 10 people there and yes the weather was the same only colder. When the shuttle arrived there were about 35 people there but we were in an orderly line….except that the driver decided to start from the back of the line-are you serious? The people were up in arms and finally the driver reconsidered.

We got to the airport and got through security and I finally go on the 7am flight and arrived 20 minutes before my son….ahhh that was the happy ending to my story.
Needless to say I was pooped  but it was great having him here. So the trip started with a great training and ended with my son taking care of his mom.

I will tell you this story is not over yet…