Change Your Words. Change Your World.

Change Your Words Change Your World

Kathleen Byars | September 24, 2016

This past week I was interviewed for a podcast and also for a blog. The interviewers asked excellent questions that made me think.

One of the interviewers asked, “What is one thing that no one ever says to you?”

It took me awhile to answer. And then it occurred to me. Rarely does anyone say,

“What can I do to help?”

We are all familiar with the generic “How can I help you?” or “If you ever need anything, just ask”.

Yet, rarely do we hear an offer for help backed by intent.

This rarity is not reserved for me. It’s my observation that in general, as a society, we miss out on offering genuine help to our fellow humans. For free. No strings attached. Absolutely gratis.

I see this phenomenon quite often on social media. Someone posts a sad event.

“I lost my job”

“I didn’t get the promotion”

“My spouse has cancer”

The comments are profound.


“Feel better soon”

“Hugs and prayers”

Or God forbid. The emoji. Disappointed Face on Apple iOS 10.0

I don’t think we mean to be standoffish. Maybe we’re in a rush. Maybe we don’t want to feel sad feelings. Maybe we unintentionally brush these events under the rug in an attempt to avoid the pain of life.

Words are powerful. Take a moment and watch this beautiful video produced by Purple Feather. I first saw it during a presentation on Inbound Marketing by Square2Marketing’s Eric Keiles.

Words connect us. When the girl re-writes the blind man’s sign, she isn’t simply choosing better adjectives. She is connecting us to the man’s plight. We no longer see him as a blind man. We visualize ourselves in a world of darkness.

Words matter.

This past week, I also spoke with two prospective clients. When I talk about Blazers, I don’t talk about marketing or advertising or promotions. I talk about words. I talk about messaging. I talk about storytelling. The kind of storytelling that resonates with, and attracts, the right audience.

My clients are not simply business people. They’re game changers. They have a vision that is different than the rest of the pack. They want to make a difference for their customers; and for the world.

And the words they choose has a direct impact on their ability to do that.

Words close the gap. Choosing the right words is the first step to creating an iconic brand. By iconic, I don’t mean popular or globally recognized. I mean a brand that is connected with its audience. When we connect with our audience they readily buy from us. They eagerly recommend our brand to others. They are more forgiving when we fail. And they are far less expensive to acquire.

And growing a connected audience is so much more fun than chasing sales. Supporting a connected audience makes business enjoyable. Pushing business uphill is a grind.

Words make a difference. If you read my article “What’s Your Story?” you understand how to create words that matter. Often we mistakenly believe that we simply need a clever headline or creative copy. Yet, it’s not clever and creative that reverberates with the world. It’s authenticity; vulnerability; emotion. When we share who we are, not what we do, we begin to connect on a level that is meaningful to our lives – and our business.

This week I am going to commit to changing my words. I hope you’ll join me. If you like, share how you plan to change your words in the comments below. Maybe we can all learn from one another.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.


Got Flow?

Got Flow?

Kathleen Byars | September 27, 2016

This past week I enjoyed a road trip across Texas. It’s been twelve years since I moved away from Dallas. And it’s been seven years since I last visited the state I grew up in.

Business meetings lured me back. I don’t like to be away from my family so I took them with me. My husband and I decided a road trip was in order so that our boys could enjoy the beaches along the way and we could drive up and down Texas eating barbeque.

Which is exactly what we did. We ate our way through Dallas, Austin, and Houston.

Boy, I sure do love Texas brisket and ribs.

I decided to try to meet as many people as I could while in Texas. Although my meetings were the motivation for going, I wanted to network with like-minded folks who happen to live in the area.

So I sent an invite to everyone who subscribes to my Sunday newsletter asking them to meetup for coffee. To my delight, I received a few dozen responses. Many of the people who responded do not live in Texas, so we have agreed to meet for coffee the next time I am in their area. Now I can’t wait to travel to other places to meet new friends.

However, for the folks who do live in Texas, I scheduled the first coffee of my Texas road trip on Monday night. I met a successful artist, a talented claims adjuster, and a European airplane manufacturer who is launching beautiful and affordable aircraft here in the States.

Michal Magolien Airplane

Our coffee was scheduled at 7PM and I figured it would last an hour to ninety minutes. I was wrong. We hung out for three and a half hours.

Although none of us had every met or even corresponded before, we had instant rapport. Our lives are all vastly different, yet we found a common connection in our mutual zeal for creating extraordinary businesses and extraordinary lives.

For me, it was an effortless evening enjoying the company of newfound friends. My mind didn’t wander to think about my upcoming business meeting. I overlooked the time and my husband waiting patiently for me to arrive back at the hotel with his dinner. I completely forgot about my schedule, my tasks, and the workload that would be waiting for me upon my return.

I was in my flow.

If you are not familiar with the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I suggest you check it out. It’s brilliant. This book helped me understand that I could live a life of success and passion. The idea is that you can be so engrossed in what you do each day that work doesn’t feel like work and the concept of work and play become intertwined.

That’s a huge concept to wrap your mind around.

Fascinated by the character vignettes in the book, I found my former self curious to learn more. How is it that a successful business woman can juggle her demanding schedule and still jet to an opera without feeling fatigued or overwhelmed? How can Joe, a mere welder, be satisfied with so little?

In my life, I had certainly experienced moments of flow, yet they always seemed fleeting. I didn’t understand how to build a life centered around flow. I wasn’t foolish enough to think it would be easy, but I sure as heck didn’t know where to begin.

Here’s a tip. Flow is not lack of activity. It is not a mental state whereby we do nothing. Sitting on the beach staring at the ocean all day may sound appealing, yet long-term ocean-watching will likely become quite boring.

Flow is anything but boring.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow Diagram

As Csikszentmihalyi states: “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

In my corporate life I sure did feel like I was being stretched to my limits and felt like my work was definitely challenging and worthwhile. Yet, flow continued to escape me.

On the outside my life was a fairy tale. Yet on the inside, I was becoming more and more dissatisfied.

As I read about the characters in Csikszentmihalyi’s book, I figured there must be something wrong with me. They had figured it out, but I couldn’t quite get there.

So I worked harder and harder, but still found no answer.

Finally, I just quit my life and moved to an island. Yet, flow was still elusive. I invested six years and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars figuring it out.

And here is what I learned. There are three barriers that prevent us from finding the purpose and passion we crave:

  • You have to understand how you got to where you are; and what drives you to make the decisions you’ve made.
  • You have to break through our cultural paradigm of success and define your own concept of success.
  • You have to understand the difference between passion and escape so you avoid jumping from the frying pan into a newfangled fire.

These barriers are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are highly intertwined. However, once you remove the barriers, flow, well, just flows. You really don’t have to do much more after that other than continue to take the actions you’ve learned.

Living a life of flow is possible. I found it, and you can, too.

When do you experience flow? If you don’t mind, leave a comment below. Maybe we can all learn from each other.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to help others create change in their lives. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

What’s Your Story?

What's Your Story?

Kate Byars | September 11, 2016

In 2010, Simon Sinek published his first book, Start With Why. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. What you’ll read can change your life and dramatically impact your business.

Start With Why seeks to understand how great leaders inspire others into action. In his research, Sinek discovers what he calls The Golden Circle. The Golden Circle visually demonstrates what great leaders intuitively understand.

Simon Sinek The Golden Circle

People buy who you are, not what you do. – Simon Sinek

Sinek uses Apple as a prime example. Apple is an iconic brand with strong customer loyalty. Apple doesn’t chase its customers. Instead, customers chase Apple. This is because Apple understands its “Why.” Although Apple has an amazing product, they could literally sell anything and people would buy it. Here is Apple’s “Why”:

“In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

If you’re like me, you are not trying to become the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Winston Churchill. However, when we understand our own personal “Why” we start to live more authentically and can deliberately craft a life based upon our passions. Rather than ping pong-ing from one moment to the next, we can make purposeful choices that lead us to the outcomes with the highest potential for well-being and personal satisfaction.

We start living according to our story.

Companies that understand their “Why” become brands with wildly loyal fans. Like Apple, their customers identify with the brand story because they share the same values. Rather than chase sales, these brands support their community.

That’s fun.

Companies that understand their “Why” also have incredibly loyal employees. Everyone operates harmoniously with one, unified voice. While objectives must be established and goals must be met, these Why-centric companies are fun to lead because everyone who works there believes in a common goal. That’s super fun.

So how do you define your story and discover your “Why”?

You start with the beginning: your childhood. At Blazers, we take every one of our client leadership teams down memory lane. It’s a bit awkward at first, but it works. The C-suite finds a renewed vigor and sharper company vision and once we instill the “Why” into company culture and brand messaging, this story becomes a magnet for like-minded employees and customers.

Here is an example of how to discover your “Why” so you can do this yourself:

Start by writing down childhood memories that are prominent for you. Here are a few of mine:

Age 3. My preschool teacher asks me to sit down to color. That doesn’t make sense to me. I am coloring successfully standing up. I continue to stand. Furious at my inability to fall in line, the teacher becomes angry and forces me into a chair.

Age 6. My entire family is sleeping in the basement during a violent storm. I am tucked inside my 1970’s pink and orange sleeping bag. The sleeping bag is covered with famous quotes. There is one quote that stands out poignantly and I have never forgotten it.

“I would rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” – Emiliano Zapato

Age 11. Americans are held hostage in Iran. I feel terrible for the Americans. Yet I also wonder why the Iranians would do this. I figure that you don’t get out of bed one morning and decide to capture people. Something pretty awful must have happened to make someone resort to such desperate means. I voice my thoughts, but the rest of America isn’t listening. They say the Iranians are bad and I should learn to be quiet.

Age 15. I am supposed to become a member of my church. I refuse. For two years I attend confirmation classes, church camp, and Sunday School. I ask my pastors why the people of my faith are the only ones God lets into heaven. The pastors said we would find out soon, but shushed me every time I brought it up. Despite my family’s objections, I decide I need an answer before joining a church that cannot articulate a solid response.

In each of these memories there is a common thread. A girl who thinks differently. A girl who is willing to see things that others cannot see. A girl who is confident enough to make choices that go against the grain.

“In everything I do, I believe in trailblazing. I believe that boundaries do not apply and anything is possible.The way I make things possible is by taking risks, empowering others to do the same, and by helping others enjoy amazing human experience. I happen to be a marketing expert. Want to hire me?”

Is it any wonder that I thrived as a marketing executive freely traveling the world, yet wilted when I was tasked with reporting directly to the corporate office? It’s understandable that I took a huge leap of faith and quit that skyrocketing career to go live on an island. And it makes perfect sense that I am building a fresh breed of marketing consultancy to serve trailblazing companies and transform them into iconic brands.

Looking at all of these pieces in black and white, we can easily pull together my story. Yet, it’s never that easy. It’s taken me forty years to understand my “Why” with such clarity. And there are a whole lot of external pressures and other challenges that can easily pull us away from living authentic lives.

Yet it is possible.

Let’s look at one more example.

I recently helped a client figure out her “Why” and develop her company mission statement. Although she is a trailblazer and we share many of the same values, she has her own unique story.

My client is the oldest child in her family. She spent much of her childhood helping raise her siblings. In high school, she drove her brother and sister to their activities and volunteered every day after school at a therapeutic equine nonprofit. She emphasized to me that some of her greatest joys in life have come from volunteering to help others. Helping others is absolutely intrinsic to who she is.

Once I understood her “Why,” I was able to craft her cause into an authentic mission statement that now serves as a sounding board for every business decision and a beacon for like-minded customers and employees. The work we put into understand her “Why” resulted in a new company mission statement: “To provide care and delight to one of the most significant moments in a person’s life.”

Do you see the connection? When we dig deep and find our authentic story it resonates in everything we do.

So what’s your “Why”? If you don’t mind sharing, I would love to know in the comments below. Maybe we can all learn from each other.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

Life is Not Linear

Life is not Linear

Kate Byars | September 4, 2016

My parents were children of the Great Depression. They were both raised on farms so at least they never went hungry. When they married, my father took a job at a global corporation; a big step up for a farm boy. I remember my dad leaving for work each morning at 7AM and returning promptly every afternoon at 5PM. My father is a creature of habit and his daily schedule never changed.

My mother had a short career as a bookkeeper prior to marrying my father. Once they married, she quit her job to “keep house.” The rest of her life, my mother was a homemaker.

Shortly after my father’s 50th birthday, his company offered him an early retirement package. Since that time, my father has never worked. Instead, he enjoys various hobbies and travels. Today, at the age of eighty, my dad has spent nearly thirty years enjoying his passions. That is the American Dream. Work hard, retire, and go play.

But sometimes the American Dream is elusive.  

My mother worked hard as homemaker. She drove a used Cutlass Supreme. She bought her clothes at Sears. She never decorated her home or went out on the town with my dad. My parents lived frugally so that they could afford a home that would allow their daughters to attend the best public school available.

For twenty-five years my mother raised her girls. And just as she and my father began to enjoy retirement, she died.

In his book “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind,” Vishen Lakhiani challenges the thought that life must be a slow and steady growth toward future enjoyment.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph I

In this chart I see my father. He never enjoyed his work or even spoke of it. He simply went to work, head down, and waited for the future to enjoy his life. I also see my mother. She worked hard, head down, and waited for a future that never arrived. This breaks my heart.

Now look at this next chart. Here Lakhiani challenges us to consider a new definition of life. One that looks more like this:

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph II

In this chart, I see myself. Rather than a slow and steady grind from childhood to success, I have experienced life as a series of ups and downs.

“What if life is meant to be a beautiful joyride, with ups and downs as we…try out things outside what is practical or realistic?” – Vishen Lakhiani

My childhood years were safe and happy. My teenage years were not. I moved away from home at the age of sixteen. I lived below the poverty line. I got married and divorced. I lost my mom. Then life improved once again as I graduated college. I took risk after risk in an attempt to follow my career aspirations. I landed two dream jobs. I traveled abroad. I moved to an island, got married, and had kids. I experienced fear and self-doubt much of the way. Yet, I prevailed and in doing so, became confident in my own self. I learned to trust who I am and what I am capable of. I learned that letting go of the status quo doesn’t mean failure. It means living on my own terms.

I like that.

And then life took another downturn. Nothing major; life just seemed to lose its glow. Giving birth to two boys only two years apart was challenging those first few years. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my career. I felt blessed for my health, my family, my home, yet I also felt like I was simply existing rather than living. The lens of life had once again grown cloudy and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get back my groove.

And then I realized why.

After my boys were born I started playing it safe. I was afraid to take risks with two kids in tow. I had forgotten that I am fully capable of creating a life on my own terms, with or without children.

Yet, I have learned from my past that when I embrace risk my life blossoms. I find amazing success and a deeper connection with what is most important to me. I am energized and feel a profound sense of well-being.

In his book, Lakhiani says that the common thread he found in researching those who live extraordinary lives is this: these individuals are risk-takers, trailblazers, and pioneers. They are no smarter, nor any different than you or me. Yet, they are willing to embrace risk and in doing so, craft amazing lives.

Today I am taking risks again. I don’t want to simply exist. I don’t want to wait for retirement to live. And I certainly don’t want to bet that retirement will be there for me. It evaded my mom, what if it evades me as well?

We all want to live amazing lives. I’m going to continue to take risks in life and embrace the ups and downs. I would love it if you joined me.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If this article resonates with you, please share! Maybe we can all be inspired and learn from each other.