Derby Fever

My bucket ran over last year when by husband presented me with Derby tickets for the 143rd Running of the Roses at Churchill Downs. The race has been nicknamed the “Run for the Roses” because the winner is given a garland of more than 400 red roses sewn together, a tradition that dates back to 1932. There is a reason they call it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” as frivolous as it sounds those two minutes didn’t disappoint. Growing up I loved everything to do with horses. I rode and competed in English Style in upstate New York for many years.

The Kentucky Derby held May 5th is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and is followed by the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The 1 1/4-mile race runs on a dirt racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Last year the dirt turned into mud after a morning deluge but that didn’t stop our fun.

Twenty horses enter the Derby, which is one of the largest fields in horse racing. To qualify for the Derby, horses and their jockeys travel on the road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races featuring a point system. The top four finishers of those races earn points and the top 20 horses from the 35 races earn a spot in the starting post in the Kentucky Derby race.

Churchill Downs is packed with over 150,000 fans all dressed to the nines with hats and sipping mint juleps hoping for their pick to be the one lucky windfall of the race. In fact, Always Dreaming, last year’s winner, did provide a little pay day for us helping me to recoup the cost of my dress and hat. The whole weekend was a lovely experience full of southern charm and hospitality. You should plan on spending a good amount of money to check this bucket list item off.

Places to Stay

During the Derby you have hotels that are high-end and make their year during Derby weekend and a selection of very nice Bed & Breakfast establishments. The B & B options were less pricey but not by much.

We stayed at a charming bed & breakfast close to Churchill Downs called The Samuel Culbertson Mansion. This was a good plan because the day of the race it rained and we were able to take a quick rickshaw ride right into the stadium. Many visitors were traipsing through the mud, dresses and white slacks ruined and splattered as they fought their way into the Downs. 

Places to Go & Things to See

Louisville can be summed up in three words, bourbon, horses & history. Before the Derby went off, we had a drink at the historic Brown Hotel and toured a couple of the distilleries in downtown Louisville. The Galt House is another well-known stop for a drink or a bite. The Louisville Slugger Museum was a fun and interactive stop. You get to make a bat and take a few swings in a cage. When planning your trip reserve your dinner reservations ahead of time. Most of the restaurants are booked out months in advance. We ate at Bucks and 610 Magnolia.


Expert Insight

I don’t like to be negative but there was one area of dissatisfaction during our visit. Churchill Downs has very poor signage and flow. When we and the other 150,000 people were departing it was a sea of crushing bodies pushing and trampling one another to get out. For a world-class sporting venue like the Derby, I was shocked and disappointed by the experience. People were pinned against the tunnel walls and it was very uncomfortable. There were handicapped people who couldn’t get through and no one was around from the stadium to direct the flow or help. This needs to be improved or someone will get hurt.

The Race

Who will it be this year? The odds makers are abuzz with speculations. Betting is complicated. You have to take into consideration so many details including the horses’ pedigree, breeder, trainer, jockey, race position and past wins. Last year it rained a good amount and some horse are considered good “mudders” while others are not so great. The process of dissecting and selecting can be overwhelming and exhilarating. We were in section 113, Row 3 by the finish line and just under cover enough so we didn’t get wet when the relentless rain kept coming all day. The pomp and circumstance was rich, the Juleps were flowing and they were off. You’re out of your seat cheering as the blaze of horse’s race by. As the field narrows you can barely control your excitement as you see your horse, Always Dreaming, clomping his way to first place. You never know when another Secretariat or American Pharaoh is just around the corner.

Dreams do come true! This year, we’ll be watching from our living room but our memories will keep us smiling for years to come.

Here is to the field for 2018 and it’s off to the races on May 5th at 6:34 post time!

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Summer Camp Provides Life-Long Benefits

Horse camp image

For decades kids have been shuffled off to camp each summer to experience bonding, make new friends and commune with nature. One of the coolest things about camp is being exposed to new experiences which help to develop your self-esteem. Growing up I only went to camp one time and the primary attraction was horseback riding. Little did I know at the time Circle C Ranch in Attica, New York would hold a special place in my life and become an experience I would never forget.

Going to camp has a way of connecting you to nature and drawing you into the physical realm of being present. This was an amazing experience and in today’s world of 24/7 connectivity, getting kids to put down technology and get physical is crucially important.

I was a lonely child growing up with a twelve year span between myself and my oldest sibling. Summer camp allowed me to meet new friends and provided a sense of community. Camp also sparked an interest in hobbies I wasn’t exposed to and taught me how to be more independent.

Summer Camp

What attracted me to camp was the horseback riding program, which Circle C Ranch offered on a daily basis. I can honestly say I was hooked on riding after that summer. A lifelong passion ensued with private lessons, shows and competitions in English riding. As an adult, I still ride and enjoy the sport. Horses are such beautiful and soulful creatures and my love for them has never diminished.  

For decades kids have been shuffled off to camp each summer to experience bonding, make new friends and commune with nature. One of the coolest things about camp is being exposed to new experiences which help to develop your self-esteem. Growing up I only went to camp one time and the primary attraction was horseback riding. Little did I know at the time Circle C Ranch in Attica, New York would hold a special place in my life and become an experience I would never forget.

Going to camp has a way of connecting you to nature and drawing you into the physical realm of being present. This was an amazing experience and in today’s world of 24/7 connectivity, getting kids to put down technology and get physical is crucially important.

I was a lonely child growing up with a twelve year span between myself and my oldest sibling. Summer camp allowed me to meet new friends and provided a sense of community. Camp also sparked an interest in hobbies I wasn’t exposed to and taught me how to be more independent.

What attracted me to camp was the horseback riding program, which Circle C Ranch offered on a daily basis. I can honestly say I was hooked on riding after that summer. A lifelong passion ensued with private lessons, shows and competitions in English riding. As an adult, I still ride and enjoy the sport. Horses are such beautiful and soulful creatures and my love for them has never diminished.  

As much as I love riding there was another gift I received from Circle C Ranch.  Circle C was a mission based camp, something I didn’t realize when I enrolled. After my week was up the real gift appeared and has stayed with me my entire life.  Our family grew up Catholic, we went to church every Sunday and attended Catechism on Thursday nights. All the church going taught me about religion and history but never about having a personal relationship with God. This cataclysmic shift opened up a whole new world for many of us campers. During our week at camp we learned there was not some super being looking down waiting to catch us doing something wrong. Rather a loving father looking to create a relationship and connection with all of mankind. There was something peaceful stirring in my spirit.

This amazing lesson weaved a way into my being. I won’t say the promises and commitments I made didn’t falter through my high school and college years but some piece stuck and a small flame was ignited. The biggest gift of all was the exposure to a new perspectives and a life-long journey of faith resulted.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.


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The Dark Side of Social Media

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The Dark Side of Social Media

social-media1

Has social media become ground zero for hatred causing a viciousness epidemic? Recently I witnessed such depravity; I had to take a step back and wonder if there ought to be Geneva Convention Rules for social media.

Eighty one percent of young adults think online bullying is easier to get away with than bullying in person. Forty three percent said they have been bullied before. I wonder where have our young people learned this snarky behavior? Perhaps the source goes back to their parents.

Many of you may have followed the controversial development project in the works in Jupiter. People seemed to have a great deal to say about the project from both sides. If you ask me the online ranting, taunting and, in some cases, defaming people because they had a difference of opinion, went too far. As I followed along to see what both sides had to say, I noticed a spirit of shaming that can only be characterized as a mob-rule mentality. As soon as a post was made the same four or five people would try to shut the post down with personal attacks, antagonistic rants and badgering comments.

I was curious to see what was behind all this hatred and bitterness. I get the fact that people are very passionate about their beliefs and, when pushed, Americans have always been able to mobilize into action. When I went to see what all the fuss was, I found friendly smiling faces some with lovely portraits of children by their side with interests such as church, saving the animals and other assorted noble causes. There were several rapid fire rounds of emotional exchanges sent out across the social media sphere in a mob-like wave. I returned to some of the repeat offenders profile pages and found they had removed most of their personal information.

How brazen the exchanges became from these bullies cloaked in anonymity living out their lives in The Matrix of social media. One person seemed to attack every post within minutes and even went on to attack any person who disagreed with her position. In one exchange, the post writer tried to comment back and was met with this response, “This is America, I can shame and bully if I want to.” Really!

Not only do we seem to have an epidemic of hatred and bitterness on-line but we are clearly having a famine of kindness and love. The whole exchange was just ugly and left me wondering if social media has amplified the bully on the playground to the point where anonymous personal attacks have become the new weapons of mass destruction. I can only hope this is just a small sliver of reality and not what my America has really turned into. Have a Happy New Year and may we all spread a little more kindness!

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com .

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The Power of Owning Your Choices

The Power of Owning Your Choices

As we cruise into holiday mode, there will be a plethora of choices to make including which gifts to buy, what parties to attend and which family members to visit. For some, the holidays are a joyous time but for others stress can overwhelm you and ruin the season. There may be underlying family struggles or hurt feelings lingering from your past.  There is good news; you hold the power to move forward within you by owning your choices.

I recently watched a segment about a reunion at Alcatraz. Former prisoners and guards from the notorious prison came back for a visit and to share a meal. Admittedly, it was an odd segment but one of the prisoners said something very cathartic which caught my attention. He was talking about his story and how he ended up in Alcatraz. He robbed a bank and was locked up as a result of his crime. During his time in prison, he came to realize that he had chosen Alcatraz. He explained he had made a choice to rob a bank and the choice led him to being captured and then serving time to pay his debt to society, so in essence his own choice put him in Alcatraz. After his release, he never committed another crime again.  He had an awakening and owned up to his choices. The power of owning up to what he did released him. Conversely, another one of the inmates interviewed was now in his 80’s and had only turned his life around five years ago.  He turned away from his decades of crime and a life of wrecked personal relationships to start again.  

Our choices have short-term and long-term effects in our life. There are methods to head off negative choices which start by weighing your decisions carefully. Here are three simple steps to consider;

  • First, intentionally prepare for a decision and avoid impulse decisions. Think about the benefits, downsides and if the choice fits in with your goals and direction. I use this to stop myself from shopping or eating something I don’t need. Would I rather have one more blouse or money in my 40lK for retirement?
  • Second, evaluate the possible outcomes. For evaluating I use the Suzy Welch method described in her book 10.10.10. Consider the ramifications or benefits of your decision today, tomorrow or down the road. In Suzy’s terms, how will your choice affect you in the next 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years? When I think of this in terms of the prisoner example, he was probably living in the 10 minute, 10 month zone but not truly considering how his choices would haunt him for years if he were caught.
  • Finally, follow through and own your choices, don’t rationalize. Sometimes moving forward on some of life’s harder decisions can be difficult. Things such as whether to accept a new job, move across country or start a new venture can create monumental changes in life. Personally, I find emotional decisions to be the most draining. Should you keep a friendship after someone has betrayed you? Are your kids on solid ground?

To help with the decision process you can use a few tools to guide you.

  • Collaboration and asking feedback are a good way to get a 360° perspective.
  • Considering your past experiences and personal knowledge then applying wisdom to create a solid barometer.
  • Listening to your intuition or what I call your internal voice, this can provide invaluable guidance in decision making.

Is there a choice or something you need to let go of this holiday season? Maybe you’re facing a dysfunctional family situation or you need to forgive someone.  Look at your choices with discernment, clarity and from the perspective of will this matter today, tomorrow or next month. Then, move on with confidence. Owning your choices and decisions can be very liberating. Happy Holidays!

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com .


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No More Grousing

 

I stumbled across a new movement taking hold on the Internet. Check out this link to learn more about the specifics: Complaint Restraint Project. The initiative was established by Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims,  to create a more positive life by eliminating negative statements for 30-days.

“There’s no secret sauce,” the website says. “Simply stop complaining.”

Unfortunately misery just loves company doesn’t it?

I thought I would give it a whirl, so I enlisted some of my inner circle for a team style project. My sister said it sounded interesting but she couldn’t commit to starting until after the 19th of month. Huh? Can it really be that difficult to stop grousing?



Fast Company picked up the battalion and even wrote a post that lists ways to make not complaining a realistic goal: 

Start by defining what a complaint is:

Turns out there is a difference between an observation and a complaint. Maybe I just tend to be very observant in my daily life. Especially when I notice coffee dribbled on the floor or laundry piled up. Perhaps people in my house just aren’t as observant as I am. Is that possible? Or did I just slip back into complaining? Seriously, a complaint brings about a negative undertone and makes the energy drain out of you.

Track how often you complain and what about:

This opens the mindfulness cavern and really gets your brain tuned into how habitually you fall into a pattern of complaining. One morning while watching the news I had 5 slips in a matter of minutes. Yikes, turn the television off, light candle and tune into some spa music.

Don’t engage:

Skip grousing fests and avoid friends who tend to over-grouse.  If you have to attend a meeting or event, try to stay on the fringe or add something positive. Just last week, I opened my mouth to say something and a certain person pounced on me like Tigger in Pooh. The rant of expletives, and “that is the stupidest thing I ever heard,” followed. Ouch!

Use the “but-positive” technique:

We all know this little trick helps you turn a negative into a positive. Another way to phrase things is by turning a “but” into a “get.”  Try turning, I have to pick up the dry cleaning, into, I get to pick up the dry cleaning, which happens to be right across the street from my favorite store. I have to go up north in the middle of a storm… but I get to spend time with my parents.


Just remember, ridding yourself of negativity takes work. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip. Slips happen, just keep trying to find the rainbow in the midst of the storm. I am working on taking the challenge one day at a time. Won’t you join me?

 

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

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A Quick Reference Guide to Making Marketing Planning Simple

People often underestimate the power of marketing. Think of it this way, would you take a road trip without a map? You need a well thought-out plan for your business to succeed.   I have written hundreds of marketing plans. When I ask my clients what’s stopping them, the # 1 response is, they are intimated by the process or don’t know where to begin.  Here is a simple outline I hope will take the pain out of marketing planning.  

Here are some basic down and dirty elements of a marketing plan:

If you are interested in discussing or developing a marketing plan contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. Jodi may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com for more great marketing ideas.  

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Lean In or Bend and Flow?

Could Life’s Perfect Formula Be Mirrored By Trees? 

The wind picked up during my morning walk and I noticed a sudden shift in the air. As I looked around I could see the palm trees swaying and bowing as the wind slapped at their branches. The mighty oaks seemed to lean in deliberately taunting the wind as it challenged their aged sturdy canopy. Living in Florida we often see heavy winds, hurricanes and an occasional tornado. After the storms pass the debris can be seen for miles. Isn’t this just an analogy for our life? We hit a rough patch, a Tsunami of sorts, we get hurt, broken and the debris of our lives spreads out for months and sometimes decades.  


Is it better to be like a palm tree or an oak?  Turns out a palm tree is more like a flowering plant, a monocot. The center is made up of cells, a watery flexible sheath like substance which allows for nearly a 90 degree bend. At the base is a root ball system that teeters and tauter’s with pliable roots that rebuild after a storm.  The oak on the other hand is a dicot, a heavily rooted hardwood, which grows massive roots and elaborate canopy systems providing shade and light to pass through similar to an umbrella. I love Oaks, they are confident and respected, but I am not sure I want to be like one when the storms of life hit.


Growing up I would have sworn that the sturdier and tougher you were the better chances you had to weather the storms. As they say, the older you get the more you know. There are powerful forces and seasons in life that require flexibility rather than rigidity. In some cases you must bend or you will break under the pressure. The palm tree’s greatest strength lies in their ability to be pliable when storms come and to regrow and rebuild when they pass. The oak can dig deep, cling on and grow to a massive girth, yet if pushed too hard the tree will uproot and fall.


The winds of change are ever present and my first inclination is always to lean in, pull from my roots and hold steadfast. But life has a way of teaching us lessons and sometimes we learn by toppling over leaving a wake of mass destruction with an empty hole left for weeds to fill. I will never forget one poignant message a friend of mine shared after her husband had passed away. Her biggest regret was that she spent her time scurrying around researching, trying to solve the problem and getting multiple opinions for the cancer that was eating away at her husband. In the end, she had wished she had just been still, sat with him and honored the time they had left together.


When the storms of life hit you, I think the perfect formula may be to rely on your roots, turn to God for comfort and gracefully sway, bow and dance so you can be the thing left standing when the sun shines again.


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

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How To Develop a Business Plan

     

 

Writing a business plan can be a daunting task. Just like anything else in life, a plan is an essential tool for success. We have all witnessed an under capitalized business shutter up soon after opening. A business plan should tell a compelling story about what you do and why consumers would want to buy your service or product. A good plan is a living document that shows viability and growth and should be updated on regular basis. There are multiple websites and templates on the internet that help organize the process. In addition, the Small Business Association (SBA) offers some good resources to guide you through your journey.


There are various types of  business plans used for different stages of growth. Stages include; start-ups, post launch, line of credit needs and expansion & growth. Determine what stage of your business lifecycle you are facing and tailor your plan accordingly. Consider the audience, are you looking for investors, partners, stakeholders or a line of credit?  Regardless of your lifecycle, a business plan sets you up for success.  


Business Plans should answer a litany of what, who, why and how questions:

  • What is the problem that your business is solving?
  • Why do consumers want your product or service?  
  • What are your key features?
  • How much capital is required?
  • What challenges could impede growth?
  • What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

 These questions should be answered in sections and clearly articulated for the reader to understand and process. Whether looking for capital or seed money,  defining business objectives and goals in a logical and disciplined way will make the difference between success and failure.  There are several standard sections that must be included, the outline provided illustrates a framework to get started. 


The business plan framework is very simple, and outline in this graphic:

The Final Steps:

8. Funding

Why should a bank or investor help you? How much do you need? When will you be able to pay it back? What is the investor going to get out of the deal?

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • How long will the cash or requested funding you receive last? What will it cover in terms  of growth. What type of funding are you requesting? Debt, Equity, Angel?

9. Appendix

This is an as needed section but you should have it organized in case a lender asks.  

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • Include legal paperwork, letters of reference, customer testimonials, permits, contracts, leases, attorneys, accountants and your business manager.

Now that the framework is in place, start writing and don’t stop until the plan is done. When presenting to investors tell a story that sells your business idea simply and succinctly.  Describe how you make money and what the best thing about your product or service is. The foundation you establish today will be rewarded tomorrow.

Sources: Sba.gov

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The Art Of Journaling

Recently, I started journaling again. This has been a habit of mine off and on over the years. I fill-up one journal, stop for a while and start up again with a blank canvass. My journaling habit came about as a way to remember experiences and tap into my feelings. I started by journaling vacation details and recounting questions which would keep me up at night or jotting down Ah Ha ideas.  These details always came in handy down the road when my memory became a bit fuzzy.

 

Over the years journaling has become a favorite hobby of mine. Putting words to paper or tablet has benefited me in so many ways. Writing can be therapeutic, even cathartic and is great for self- expression. Journaling helps to relieve stress and can be instrumental for expressing feelings in private you don’t necessarily want to share.  There are many uses for journaling but clearly it is a discipline that stimulates creativity. Journaling is a starting point for poetry verses, song lyrics and free writing which ultimately turned into my monthly columns.

Writing allows you a certain freedom that speaking does not. Like many girls my journaling started when I was young; there was a small key attached to my pink journal. The lock symbolizing keep out, private meaningful thoughts inside. Truth be told, inquiring siblings very likely perceived this as an invitation to snoop. During my teenage years, I filled pages with broken hearted relationship stories and secret crushes. As I grew older, I recounted college memories and friendships along with hurts and disappointments. I always carry a journal on vacation with me and I write down all the detail of my trips. There are guide names from places I have stayed, favorite restaurants where I dined and other magical memories from ancient city explorations.  


The intimate contact between paper and pen leads to more personal thoughts and creative ideas. Journaling is introspective even when writing about the mundane. Sometimes I go back and read old journals and I am always surprised by all I discover about how I was feeling during a particular phase of my life. The act of writing is what makes my old journals valuable to me.


Journaling beckons you to the present, to a quiet place and time of reflection to ponder the unanswered questions that haunt you. Through words, dreams and plans can be formed while moments and memories come alive.


If you have thought about journaling, now is a perfect time to pick up a notebook  or try an on-line app for writing today. There are some great sites and books to ignite your creative juices. “Writing Down The Bones” by Natalie Goldberg or “Bird By Bird” by Annie Lamott, provide some great starting ideas. You may just be lured into the art of writing as I was, but beware, it can be addictive.


Jodi Cross is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com.


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Planning Overtakes Procrastination


Planning Overtakes Procastination

By: Jodi Cross

Check Mate! I have declared war on procrastination! The piles have been building for months and my “to do” lists have a list of their own but nothing seems to get done. The key to ending the madness is planning.


Start by organizing your to-do lists and make priorities:

Make a list and write items down in categories

  • Breaking things into Personal or Professional action items

Prioritize 

Think of issues as:

  • Critical-these are things that must be done in an urgent time frame or their will be consequences.
  • Important-these items are action that must be taken but there are not   urgent consequence.

Layout tasks on your actual calendar

  • Schedule action items into small tasks.
  • Set deadlines and stick to them.

Avoid getting caught in the perfect trap 

  • Perfectionists can be the biggest procrastinators of all, it is part of their winning formula. Instead focus on progress.

Minimize Interruptions and distractions

  • Set a time to get projects done. Check your emails during certain windows during your day to avoid distractions.
  • Compartmentalize work flow and return calls later. Stays focused on projects and see them through. Once a task is completed check your email list and return your calls during set times throughout the day. This will make your time more productive.

Build in rewards

  • Think about big and small rewards you can give yourself if you finish a project.
  • Use positive, pleasurable outcomes to motivate you to complete a project.
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