Leveraging Learning to jump start your business

“If you are not learning, you are dying”.

As a business owner continuously refining your business by constantly learning is an integral part of sustaining long term viability. Within business nothing stays the same for long, so relying on past wins as a game plan builds in boobie traps to your foundation that can quickly take you under.  Markets change, audiences change and competition changes and that is a guarantee.  Preparation to avoid the pitfalls of this ever changing market should also be a guarantee as you plot your own path to success.  Investing in learning and growth can ensure your company is responsive to these changing environments, instead of reacting to problems and obstacles the unknown future almost certainly holds in its cards.

A focus on continual learning in your professional life doesn’t have to be as defined as a commitment to go back for a degree or a formal certificate program. If you can assess, research, and pull together others adding to your professional education can be as simple as 1, 2, 3:

Access: This requires an honest assessment of where you are in skills and knowledge. If you are able to do this or poll respected colleagues or co-workers for their opinion you will be able to start first with where you are to determine where you want to go.   This understanding is key as it gives you the focus not to just reach out for general information but to sort through the learning environment for what specifically can apply to advance your business.

Research: I think general seminars and books are a great start to keep you motivated as well as give you a general sense of up to date information. These sources have already been cultivated to deliver a specific message and the research and sources are on point with current issues.  For me seeing the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit I quickly reviewed the agenda and signed on.  It is not just a quick opportunity to cover lapses in knowledge that I am aware of, but also to learn something from issues that may not have been on my radar in my normal practice of expecting the best but preparing for the worst I my business.

Pulling together others: An additional resource you can pull from educational seminars is knowledge from your peers that can ultimately be invaluable. Making connections with a range of people, some who may have a similar mission and others whose goals are diverse give you a broad awareness of issues that can impact your business and a heads up on key areas of improvement.  An educational seminar pulls together people who at least have a base of pushing for common information and this base can be a spring board to shared interest and later collaborations.  Next time you are at a seminar or luncheon really put on your listening hat for the knowledge just immediately around you.  When your mind is open you will always be surprised what new you can learn.

The Delano South Beach a sleek and modern luxury hotel

If laid back luxury in Miami is what you seek then you should look no further than the Delano South Beach for your stay in Miami.  From its sleek reception area, to its airy restaurant to its chic poolside the hotel unites the it crowd, luxury aficionados and professional powerhouses all under one blanket of Miami indulgence.  I fell in love with the Delano many years ago where the one of a kind old fashions and sought after address made me feel at home with grabbing a drink and people watching on a solo night out on the town.  Within seconds the sights from the sushi serving to the lively pool games to the gorgeous décor you definitely feel like you have arrived in Miami.

The location for the hotel is one of my favorites.  Located on 1600 block of Collins Avenue you are within a hop skip and a jump from most of the great offerings you can find on South Beach.  If you want to stay out of the party mix try heading up Lincoln Road with its great mix of shops and restaurants to get a real authentic Miami perspective.  With great opportunities to hop in on a salsa dance, grab a hookah or cigar and just relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the night the options are plentiful.  For more of the party goers you are again right in the magic spot, where you can walk or take a quick tax to the main Ocean party destinations like Wet Willies and Mangos.

For those wanting nothing more than just to relax the day away the Delano is as beautiful as it is welcoming.  Just step to the back patio where you can lounge at the open air restaurant or in the hammocks and even step in to one of the most eye catching pools that South Beach has to offer.  This gorgeous pools and its gorgeous servers is warmed and ready for you to relax, chat with friends and even make new friends as you unwind.  The expectation modern indulgence is carried from the lobby and restaurants to the rooms.   With comfortable beds and pillows you simply sink into the accommodations offer a refuge from the party hard or sun drained lifestyle you can take on in Miami.  My experience at the Delano was definitely one for the record books and should definitely be on your destination list if luxury is on the top of your list for your trip to Mimi.

Miami Weekend Takeover

Short trips are a perfect way to step out and recharge and there are few places that give you more variety in relaxation and fun that a weekend getaway to Miami. Miami has long been one of favorite places as it is almost like taking an international trip on a domestic budget.  The warm weather and international vibe make the city a huge melting pot with a little something for everyone.

Your hotel choice on a pop in flight to Miami sets the tone for what kind of weekend you should expect.  You can stay in the middle of the madness in prime time South Beach with a low Ocean or Collins address.  Just make sure to read up on the hotel instead of just looking at pictures as the lobby in some of these hotels can far outpace the reality of the rooms.  You can also go for some of the hotels on 17th and higher that tend to deliver a bit better on the rooms while a little more walking is required for fun.  If you are on the beach side of the street, however, you normally get direct beach access which is always a plus.  If R & R is your top priority going up to mid-beach area or Downtown Miami are great bets for a more relaxed and luxurious atmosphere.

I like the best of both worlds so I usually stay on Collins. I spun off from my usual SLS and hopped across the street to the Delano. The hotel is a great boutique concept with a good mix of business travelers, partiers and families.  While it is a little slower than my typical SLS expectations, the pool is to die for.  Heated to a baby hot tub temperature it is a great way to relax from a day at the beach or meet new friends who are kind enough to send over a bottle of champagne (if you are lucky).

One of my favorite things about a weekend in Miami is that you never know what you can expect. If you are open to let the opportunities find you, then you really never know where you can end up.  This trip in taking a quick beach day detour for sunblock we came to the Ritz Carton restaurant’s showcase of a new grill and White House Chefs tour.  Soon as I caught a whiff of what they were serving up I was sold and what started as a short walk to Walgreens became a great taste of new creations both on the grill and behind the bar.

While weekend trips can be short, they abbreviated length puts you on notice to make the best of it. If you can to rest dive in, if you came for fun plaster a smile on a friendly ear and get out there.  With a good attitude you can easily get everything you want out of a quick trip and when in Miami you can make sure the city owes you nothing when you pop in and pop out.

Using good feelings to stay focused

Thought Bubbles of Money

Good things in life easily motivate you to get things done. When you are craving that piece of chocolate or new electronic you have been dreaming about nothing and the world can stop you.  When you compare this driven mentality to other areas of your life, however, there can be a dramatic turnaround with your ability to want something and put in the work to get it done.  At least one reason this can happen is how your mind focuses on things that you want to actually get you moving in the ride direction.  Take this example.  First think of going out for dinner for your favorite meal.  Instantly you start to think about how delicious it is and how good you feel when the aroma whiffs your way and just how great the first bite will be.  Next up pick a different goal in your life, let’s just say you may also want to make $20,000 more at work.  Instead of imagining just how great it will be once that gets done, you automatically start to think of all the work, obstacles and hassles that lie in your way before you get to what you want.

Adding some of the reward and benefits to your goals that aren’t as appealing as your favorite meal is a good way to jump start the process of easing the mental blocks you are throwing up to get things done. If you want to make more begin to associate that with how your life will improve.  Perhaps you will have more time with the kids or the flexibility to take the vacation you want.  Of course your mind throws up interference at first but the more you challenge yourself to make the association with a different, more enjoyable goal, the strong the association becomes.  Working harder just to work harder does not come easy for a lot of people but working harder focusing on the carrot instead of the stick can help you self-motivate and get in gear for chasing your dreams.

Once you get in autopilot then little steps come faster and before you have a chance to stop yourself progress is being made. I like to spend time every Monday just imagining so I can associate things I love with the work it takes to the get them.  I love to travel so I browse for destinations I would love to visit.  Then I think of the small, manageable steps I could take to get there.  While $20,000 increase in sales sounds overwhelming, making an extra $1,500 a month does not and making an extra 3 phone calls a day sounds even better.  I stop thinking about all the work and just take the work as a cost of the reward and my engines get revved up!

Tampa Girls Weekend Fun

Birthdays are a perfect excuse to visit long distance friends so I recently hopped to Tampa for the weekend to get a taste of this South Florida destination and celebrate with friends. A weekend trip for a purpose is great as you get to wash away some of the excuses that normally plague a short trip.  Instead of worrying about ticket prices or how to work time off in your hectic schedule it becomes a lot easier to just bite the bullet and commit.  When you are visiting a new city the choice is even more tempting as you can get some of the highlights of a city in a very fun weekend with friends.

For this trip as I have amazingly chic friends I got some of the best food and drinks that the city of Tampa had to over. Fresh off the plane, thanks to a prime airport location, I quickly started my Tampa tour and the super sophisticated Ocean Prime.  This was my first time trying this is a national restaurant chain and I was definitely not disappointed.  The lounge and bar area have a cool kids vibe flowing from the staff to the guests.  The smoking Berries and Bubbles cocktail caught my eye as soon as I walked in and with first sip I was in love.  The food and service combined with this intoxicating cocktail started my night off on a high note.  To keep the party going in Tampa is easy as pie as they have several bar areas which making something you like a breeze.  As bar hopping is a serious past time of mine it was easy to go from grunge, to bar, to hookah, and even to live music so finding something up your alley is almost guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a long night of fun and a nice day of taking advantage of some of the great shopping Tampa had to offer it was time for a birthday dinner. Where else should you celebrate one of your most fabulous friends than the world renowned Bern’s Steak House.  To say the restaurant is a culinary experience is an understatement.  From the ornate decorations to the completely separate dessert restaurant the experience at Bern’s is top of the line.  While I am not a big steak person, I could not resist as you look at the giant menu of options.  Even more exciting is that you come in with the expectations you are about to give away your first born for your meal and I was pleasantly surprised with the cost of the food considering we got course after course of exquisite dishes.  For some extra bonus points you have the opportunity after your meal to tour the kitchen, including in house butcher, and wine cellar.  A great way to appreciate your gastronomic adventure at Bern’s even more.

 

Now of course everything I did in Tampa did not consist of food and drink but those were definitely some highlights. All in all Tampa was a cool city that had a mix of small town closeness with stylish city flare.  With their closeness to the water and constant festival city one thing is for certain, Tampa and its residents know how to have fun!

Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Sip and Stroll Ticket Giveaway

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair 2017

While the Houston area may boast several events for wine and food enthusiast, the ultimate food and wine celebration in Houston is the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.  Over the past 6 years Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has been raising the bar on the culinary standards in the city with a decadent celebration of food, wine and spirits in a collaboration that is truly unforgettable.  This year the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is making some exciting changes to the mix to not only showcase some of the best food Houston has to offers and the top tier of wine and spirits from around the world.  Attendees win as the festival gives you an insider’s glimpse that will take your knowledge and appreciation to the next level.

In lieu of some of introductory events the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair will take on the road as teacher as it showcases food and wine in a more intimate setting.  In order to provide the perfect setting the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge has been replaced with private dinners to kick off the weekend festivities.  Choosing either the Boiling Point seafood boil or The Italian Invasion Dinner guests can mix great food and wine with intimate company and some great insight as they enjoy their favorites or try something new.  Additionally the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has added several learning experiences that guest can attend Friday and Saturday.  There is nothing like identifying the why of your love for some of your favorite flavor profiles.  Taking the time to get deeper into the educational side only strengthens your appreciation for your favs and gives you clues on how to find other top picks based on your own palette.

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair made sure not to mess with the best, with their program changes, and Friday nights Grand Tasting is sure to be one for the books.  The Sugar Land Marriott Town Square serves as the perfect location to meet food and wine nirvana.  With everything from inventive culinary creations (I still dream about the upscale Frito pie) and tried and true favorites from HEB and local restaurant superstars the event provides a something for everyone in an unforgettable night.

Other favorites, such as Saturdays Sip and Stroll will keep more recent location changes, now done at Constellation Field but enhanced it with a two day option so you have all of Saturday and Sunday to get a chance to grab your favorite bites and beverages while enjoying some of the great performers who always deliver during the event. As the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair promises more of the core that has built its following as well as some great new opportunities to appreciate the food and wine on a different level this event is going to be a must on any food and wine lover’s schedule.

Closing out Tokyo by honoring history

Japan is a very eclectic mix of old and new, but on my last day I had to dive into some of the history that makes Japan unforgettable with a visit to their Imperial Gardens and Samurai Museum. A last day on any trip can feel a little overwhelming as you sort through things missed and those you can’t miss.  My last day I decided to split between something important to me and something important to my daughter.  Frist stop was the Imperial Gardens as they were within walking distance from my hotel.

One of my main priorities in choosing Tokyo as a destination was just to relax and find a space to clear my head after dealing with a personal loss. While Japan overflows with beautiful gardens, something about the regal nature of the Imperial Gardens called to me and we off set to explore the grounds.  With several entrances to the Gardens make sure to get a clear idea on where you want your access point to me.  The Gardens are divided into a ground level portion and a different section on a steep incline.  If you go to the wrong entrance you have a steep hick ahead of you.

The Gardens offered me just what I was looking for, a serene place where you can sit back and enjoy nature.  Part of why this is such a tourist destination is how the Japanese make serenity an art, carefully plotting out waterfalls, coy ponds, bridges and monuments to give you an opportunity to carefully observe and appreciate the thoughtfulness of design.  Serving a delicate balance of nature and how human artistry can work to enhance, not take away from the beauty of nature.  With my mind feeling calm it was time to hop to my daughter’s top pick, the Samurai Museum.

Just as it sounds the Samurai Museum is an ode to the discipline, culture, and exquisiteness of the Samurai culture. The museum offers English tours of everything from the dress to a history of their battle skills and rise and fall of the samurai culture.  There is something quite special about an interactive museum as it gets you a chance to not only learn more about a culture you admire but to take a small step in their footsteps to see just how amazing their life and devotion to their craft were.  Perhaps it was all the karate movies my daughter watched her whole life but this tour gave her life.  Add in the opportunity to try on a Samurai outfit and hold a sword and this was one of the highlights of her trip.  Make sure to plan extra time for the tour as they have daily Samurai fighting exhibition that we had to miss to make a break for the airport.  All of the fun new culture Japan offers have a distinct line to their proud and innovative past that demands some reverence to their beautiful history.

 

Tips for staying above the travel transportation learning curve

On my most recent trip to Japan I was reminded of the importance of staying on your p’s and q’s to move around a new city as you learn the landscape.  It’s easy to have expectations that things should just work out our way while putting little time and attention into how this will actually happen.  Traveling in Japan, for instance, with all of the English accommodations, you can easily forget the importance of knowing some words or phrases in Japanese in order to ensure you can smoothly move around.  As I tackled hailing a cab from the Tokyo Tower and hopped in a cab where the driver spoke no English that lead to Battle Royale when it was time to pay I was reminded of some simple tips that would have made the night a lot smoother

Take notes on landmarks and directions – It is no fun being lost in a strange city.  Don’t’ assume everyone will have an idea of your destination.  If you are leaving your hotel take note of important physical markers that can assist others helping you find your way back home.

Your phone can be a resource even without service or data – International service can be very expensive with iffy coverage at best.  This doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone.  The voice recorder is a great way to provide information in a different language to others.  Also, have your hotel concierge record the name and directions to your hotel in the language of the country you are in or take a picture of a map directing others to its locations are great tools for finding your way back.

Ask questions before committing to a service – Transportation in other countries is notoriously a mix bag depending on the city and the particular driver you get.  I learned in Italy pretty quickly that cab prices can be high and can be low but asking before you take off prevents you from getting locked into a war of words where neith3er party knows what the other is saying.  Asking ahead gives you leverage to negotiate or find some alternatives if you can’t agree.  If you want to use a comfort from home, check ahead if options such as Uber are available where you are internationally. 

Use your other experiences to increase your travel savvy – I was never so happy to have a New Yorker for a college roommate than when I had a cab driver attempt to overcharge me in Japan.  As soon we took off I saw he neither knew where he was going, nor what I was saying and was too stubborn to do anything about either problem.  So when he tried to triple the charge for my return trip than I paid for my arrival it was on.  Learning not to let people take advantage of you prevents you from becoming a walking doormat internationally.  I quickly pulled out my New York negotiation skills and the haggling began.  AT the end of it I had to hop out a cab but maybe a lesson will be learned about playing black women in cabs by this cab driver.

Be diverse in your back up plans – From addresses written in foreign languages to maps to asking your hotel for an international contact you have to plan for all the things that can go wrong while still being light on your feet.  I always grab a map at my hotel and ask for details on the area that I am staying in.  Your concierge is there for a reason so take a moment to discover what a local would know about your location as the small things may be important later when you are out about exploring away from the welcoming staff at your hotel.

Day 2 in Tokyo Enjoying the mix of fun, fashion and serenity of Meiji Shrine

One of the big draws for me to visit Tokyo was getting some peace from the beautiful scenes and parks the city is renowned for so the Shibuya district was at the top of my list.  On my second day in Tokyo my quest lead me to Shibuya and the Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine to take a walk in the park if you will.  Often my travels are about seeing all I can see but crossing a city off your travel list does not have to be what wanderlust is all about.  Coming off the death of my grandmother, my motivation for traveling to Tokyo was just to take a break and appreciate my blessings and nature is one of the best spaces in which life is put into perspective for me.

Meiji Shrine is a huge area encompassing the temple area, covered walk ways and bridges, museums and historical buildings.  Unfortunately for us the access to the Treasure Museum is limited to the weekends, however the grounds in themselves are a looking glass into the world of ancient Japan.  During your stroll to the Temple you get to enjoy the tree lined walk ways and trails.  From the old wine barrel displays to the bonsai garden you have a sense of reverence for the history that is contained within the park area.

As we approached Meiji Shrine you are reminded that despite it begin a tourist attraction it is a place of worship for many as well. From the ritual cleansing of the face and hands instructions at the entrance to the shrine and prayer area there is a real sense of peace in watching others celebrate their beliefs.  I was lucky enough to even see a wedding processional solemnly parade through the courtyard.  This temple also did a great job of giving some explanations to the ceremonies and celebrations that were ongoing in the space.  During my visit I saw the harvest festival which used elaborate fruit offerings as a celebration of blessings.

Outside of the Temple the park is an explorer’s paradise. The grounds allow you to visit several historical buildings or just relax in the grass and enjoy the peace and beauty of it all.  Outside of the temple, however, the city is still bustling all around.  We decide to just wander our way to our next destination, even passing some comforts of home such as Garrets Popcorn.  We grabbed lunch just blocks away at the Omotesando Hills.  This is a go to destination for premium luxury brands, but as usual there was just food on the brain.  After a tour of the ten restaurants and their menus we settled on a small restaurant doing what Japan does best when it comes to food, showcasing simple ingredients in an exceptional way.  Even with my simple order of chicken the barrage of colors and sauces and flavors on my dish made it one of the most memorable meals I had in Japan.

While luxury brands were not my cup of tea this trip I am always interested in exploring local shops so we headed deeper into Shibuya to see what we could find. This is a huge area for shops and stores, most that are original to Japan.  After a long day of walking and exploring we headed back towards our train stop but the relaxing tour of the Meiji Shrine stayed with us as a sense of appreciation for the beauty found all around us that is celebrated in Japan.

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