Making a Good First Impression

Ever feel like you’re back in 4th grade?

Sometimes when I meet new people, I feel like I’m back in elementary school all over again. It’s gym class and they’re picking teams for dodge ball. I hate dodge ball — not because I actually hate the sport itself but because I hate failing (I’m so not an athlete, even now, with the exception of archery). But even more than failing and being knocked out of the game, I hate being picked last.

That psychological imprint hasn’t faded over the years.

Getting over it meant getting vulnerable.

I recently attended a mastermind retreat and a 3-day business event in Asheville, North Carolina. I’m a total introvert, but I love people — in small settings. Neither was a small setting. Weekend #1 there were over 40 new names and faces. Weekend #2 brought 150 more my way. My inner child totally wanted to have a panic attack and hide in the corner.

Instead, I coaxed her out, gave her a quick pep talk, and reminded her that sometimes, all we need to do is show up and be real.

So I said it to people: “Meeting lots of new people always feels overwhelming to me.” “I was worried I’d be picked last for everything.”

The reality? People get it. So often, they feel the same way, even if they’ve been to events like this before.

Making a good first impression is all about being yourself.

These days, I’ve learned that we need to just show up as ourselves. I attend these business events in dresses and black Timberland boots because that’s just me. I admit when I’m a little bit afraid and I do everything I can to make people around me feel comfortable and heard.

First impressions aren’t about projecting only what you want people to see; they’re not about showing your strengths and hiding your weaknesses.

A good first impression is bringing your whole self to the party. It’s showing your strong and soft sides, being authentic, and creating connections with people.

When we’re authentic, we attract opportunities and create deep relationships.

As Brené Brown writes, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

I try to do this every day in my life and in my business. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s always worth it.

What are some things you do to make a good first impression at events? Do you ever have a moment when you want to run away? What do you do to connect with people? I’m curious to hear how other people get themselves ready for big events and meetings.

The Power of a Mastermind

Several years ago, I read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. He wrote about his junto, a group of men of his day that gathered regularly to discuss new ideas and speak freely about the problems society faced. I often dreamed of starting such a group.

I’m now part of three. Yes, three.

Each met this past week for the first time. Three mastermind groups seems excessive, but I have already felt their transformative effects. I am supported in a way I have not been in the past, advised by other passionate entrepreneurs, and encouraged to dream bigger and achieve more. And this is only the beginning.

If you’re not already part of a mastermind, here are a few reasons I’d suggest you consider joining one.

1. Support

As a creative or entrepreneur (or both), it’s easy to feel alone and lost and unsure about your ideas. A business can be overwhelming, and you’re faced with so many new situations. With a mastermind, you have others to turn to for advice and wisdom.

2. Collaboration

You can do amazing things on your own, but what happened when like-minded people gather? They dream bigger. They begin to weave their talents together in unexpected ways. New opportunities, new ventures, new amazing collaborations that would never have emerged without your mastermind.

3. Networking

A woman in one of my mastermind groups shared that one of her goals was more specific networking. She has participated in general business networking events, but wanted to meet more people that might help her grow her business. Not only will a mastermind help you dream up new ways to meet people, but your group members will often act as connectors. The woman in my group is a copywriter — and I often recommend copywriters to clients.

4. Accountability

Planning to write an e-book, but just can’t find the time? Your mastermind won’t let you quietly sweep anything on your to-do list under the rug (especially the important stuff). They will check in with you, support you, encourage you — and you will do the same for them. The results are…well, actual results.

Masterminds aren’t only for business owners: artists, students, scientists….anyone can create a mastermind group with a unique focus. Use them for your life; gather that circle of women to support one another in everything they do. When you create a strong community of people that trust one another enough to be vulnerable, amazing things can happen.

If you’re in a mastermind, what’s been your favorite part? If you’re not, what do you dream of creating a mastermind around?

Shaping A Year — and Believing

The time around my birthday and the winter solstice has always been a special time for me — an opportunity to reflect, a chance plan, a dawning. Often in the past I’ve made lists of things I wanted to do in my new year, goals I wanted to accomplish.

But there wasn’t a list in me this year. As I sat there starting at the blank sheet of paper, all I felt was a strong desire for transformation.

The resolutions and goals I had written in the past, things like “lose 15 pounds,” had no weight for me anymore. I realized I didn’t want my life to be a list any longer.

So rather than set goals for 2015, I set an intention: to believe.

I believe my cat is going to be okay, that he’s going to fight cancer and win. I believe that I can let go of old patterns and ways of being that did not serve me. I believe I can transform my business and myself. I believe that I am connected to other people, to the Universe. I believe that I’m part of a bigger picture, and that I’ll fully step into my role helping others this year.

This is the year I believe in all of my magic.

What’s your intention or word for this year?

(And check out this resource from Christine Kane if you need help figuring that out.)

Winter Retreat

December has some big and very welcome changes in store for me. I’m moving to Charlottesville this weekend, into a lovely home where I will have a dedicated office space. There’s some new office furniture heading my way as well, which I’m hoping will better organize my papers and work space. I’m looking at hiring an accountant and a part-time employee.

Most importantly, I’m taking some time to actually work on my business, and asking myself these questions like these:

  • What do I want for my business in 2015?
  • How can I better server my past, present, and future clients?
  • What structures can I put in place that will allow me to work easier and more efficiently?
  • Where can I venture outside my comfort zone to try something new with my business?
  • What personal daily practices do I need to commit to if I want to be less stressed and happier?

Clearly, I’ve got some planning to do.

My birthday will be here in a few weeks and along with deciding what I want for my business, I’m also deciding what I want for myself, come my birthday. But more on that soon.

Are you planning any winter retreats?

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Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.