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!

Are You For Real?

Crosstalk new


Do you ever feel like you are living someone else’s life? Turns out this phenomenon has a name and is prevalent in 70% of high-functioning women in today’s society. Men, I don’t mean to exclude you as there are indications that you too suffer from impostor syndrome.

What is Impostor syndrome, also known as fraud syndrome?

According to Wikipedia, in 1978 two clinical psychologists named Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the phrase while referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to accept their accomplishments as true and had a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Despite evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. They see proof of success but dismiss it as luck or timing. They attribute success as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. People with impostor syndrome tend to be perfectionists, which means they’re likely to spend hours working overtime to make sure they excel in every single field.

Fraud syndrome is also an equal opportunity employer. From Broadway stars to Silicone Valley boardrooms to the Supreme Court, no one is immune. Stars like Michelle Pfeifer, business tycoon Sherly Sandberg and even Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayer are all afraid that one of these days they will be found out.

I recall some simple advice given to me way back in the day when I started my career. “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Could that have been the start of my journey as a phony? Once you start to buy into the self-doubt, the cycle becomes a slippery slope of inauthenticity creating a drive to be perfect followed by a fear of being exposed. Then one day you wake up and realize nobody’s perfect!

Here are my top five tips on how to stop fraud syndrome in its tracks.

Embrace and accept yourself.

Claim your success and own it. I have a dear friend who built a successful business and sold it for millions of dollars. The selling part didn’t go off a smoothly as it could have, but nonetheless she built the company from nothing and made a major impact on people’s lives along the way. One day I brought this up to her and she just shrugged. I looked at her and said, “You don’t think you are successful business women do you?” She said, “No, I just lucked into it.” You have to be able to accept the success you have and embrace the fact that you deserve some of the opportunities provided to you.

Being perfect is impossible.

Admit you’re not perfect. No one is and there is no shame in admitting it. Sometimes we win in life and sometimes we lose. Being wrong on an issue or losing a job doesn’t make you a phony it makes you human.

Don’t take shortcuts because they only derail your long-term confidence.

One of the roots of my fraud stem from grade school. I have a math phobia. My teacher was a yeller. Every time I asked a question or didn’t understand something he would yell at us. Thus, I stopped asking. As a result I never properly learned my multiplication tables. I would carry a laminated times table grid around in my pocket in case I was picked on to answer a question. If I didn’t have the grid I would be overcome at the thought of being exposed. Instead of using this little short cut, the laminated grid, I should have addressed the issue with tutors and extra help. This issue festered well into my college years.

Be authentic!

I am a little quirky! There I said it. Some people will like me and some people won’t, that’s life! If you walk around being the shell of the person you could be your cheating yourself and the world out of the true you!

Shift from self-focused to others focused.

When you remove the self-focus and begin to serve others, you will find you can’t continue to wallow in impostor syndrome. By serving or helping others, you are moving into action and it becomes virtually impossible to keep up the novella of comparisons, worries about measuring up and fears of unequal social status. Stop comparing yourself to others, your uniquely-made quirks and all.

As it turns out, you’re not an impostor after all. You are a brave risk taker who may fail on occasion but you always get back up and can fake it ‘til you make it one more time, and make you will!

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at

[1] Wikipedia, the Definition of Imposter Syndrome, 1978. “The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: dynamics and therapeutic intervention.”. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice by Clance, P.R, Imes, S.A.

Hashtag Roundup


Hashtag Roundup


Hashtags have become a common practice these days; people use them for all sorts of purposes. You find them in text messages, chats, songs and advertisements. But where did it all begin? Turns out a former Google developer and California techie named Chris Messina posted a message in 2007 to solicit advise on using the hashtag symbol, then known as the pound sign, as an idea for groups on social media. He was met with mixed reviews at the time but the trend took off. So much so that in June of 2014, the Oxford English Dictionary added the hashtag to their definitions.


What are hashtags used for?

Hashtags are the card catalogue of social media. The metadata tag system connects your content with other people talking about the same things or looking for information about something. So, if you write an article about using Twitter for Business and use the #TwitterTips hashtag, more people will find your content.

Hashtag Tracking

When you’re thinking of hashtags, it’s beneficial to look at your audience and your competitors. Find the keywords and hashtags that are already associated with your brand and boost them. There are many tools to help you find keywords. A simple trick I have learned is to use the search feature in both Twitter and Instagram. Instagram actually provides a number count for how many people are looking for the specific keywords when you plug them in.

Hashtag usage and effectiveness varies by platform. They will enhance your engagement if used properly. Engagement includes clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies.

Let’s take a quick look at each platform and the use of hashtags.


On Facebook hashtags are not as well received as on other platforms. Research has shown they actually lower engagement. So a good rule of thumb is less is more. 1-2 hashtags are best for Facebook. You don’t want to be perceived as a hashtag spammer. You can use the search tool on Facebook in the graph section to see what is trending.

Twitter & Instagram

On these platforms hashtags are readily received and can increase your reach significantly. Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without. Some brands have seen a 50 percent increase with the use of hashtags according to HubSpot, a leading digital trend agency.

Instagram is ground zero for hashtag use. The platform has noted up to 30 hashtags used but 10 or 11 seem to get the highest interaction.



This platform has gone the way of the less used social media portals but is still worth mentioning. Google+ is Google’s social network; hashtags were built right into Google searches. If you type in a hashtag search, you’ll get the normal search results plus a sidebar of relevant Google+ posts.


Brands use Pinterest to showcase products in a visual sense. For tagging you can only place tags in the description section. The tag use helps searcher to find categories of interest.

Rule of thumb: 1 – 3 tags are best over all platforms.

  • Twitter: to categorize
  • Pinterest: to brand, build like communities and be specific (tags are only clickable in pin descriptions)
  • Instagram: to build community, and be unique/detailed. Up to 30 hashtags can be used. For best results stick with 10+
  • Google+: to categorize; auto generates tags based on what it thinks your post is most relevant to
  • Facebook: sort of a hashtag free zone – if your audience is very business-minded, follow Twitter rules; if it is community-oriented, follow Pinterest/Instagram rules

Check out these resources

  1. provides a cross referencing tool for data you can use to analyze hashtags. When you type in a hashtag, you see other hashtags and a display of how popular each hashtag. This also provides a glimpse into what key influencers are using.

  1. RiteTag

This site provides a visual organization of hashtags into colored bars showing quick analysis at-a-glance. This allows you to see what is overused or saturated and what words would be good to boost your posts.

  1. Tagboard

The results pages on Tagboard show hash tagged posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

  1. Twitalyzer

Twitalyzer helps you audit competitors and can tell you what hashtags they use most frequently. This can be really helpful in finding out how your niche’s influencers tweet.


If you are looking for more twitter followers try this tool. Plug in your interests and industry key words and Tweepi can help identify followers and groups to grow your lists.

Summary Tips

  1. Plug in relevant keywords to your business and the audience you are trying to target. (If you are a local business, use the name of your Geo Address too).
  2. Keep it simple on most platforms, less is more when it comes to hashtags.
  3. Put your #hashtag in the end of the #sentence. That makes #reading the sentence #lessannoying.
  4. If your brand piggybacks on popular hashtags, you could increase your visibility and reach. They are great for tracking events and see what others are posting.
  5. Try some of the tools noted and see which the best is for you. Some offer free services and others provide price based packages.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, writer, blogger and brand builder. For more information visit or .

Source Information on trends referenced from Hubspot.

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 or .

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 or visit

Patience Pays

Patience Pays

By: Jodi Cross

I am not a patient person. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. Being patient has never come easy to me. In fact, the world we live in today likely makes it harder for many people to be patient when everything is an instant mouse click away.

During a recent visit to Muir Woods outside of San Francisco I learned a valuable lesson about patience. With over 1.5 million visitors a year my husband and I learned quickly that the park may have been big enough to handle that kind of crowd but the parking lot certainly wasn’t. After our third go around, I was growing impatient when we came upon a car sitting and blocking the backside of the parking ring. The gentlemen appeared to be waiting for someone to pull out. Just as I was about to lay on the horn my husband snatched my arm away from the steering wheel sternly stating, “Don’t, just wait”!

As you can surmise my husband is a steady, even- tempered kind of man. Which happens to compliment my intolerant, in a rush, always running late ways. A couple of minutes went by and sure enough a car pulled out and zip the car in front of us moved into the spot. After our third go around, perhaps waiting wasn’t such a bad strategy. Within a few moments, out came another couple and in we went to their spot.

As we were walking toward the park entrance the man in the car in front of us said hello. I may have sneered inadvertently still stinging from my frustration of wanting to get in and take a picture and move on. My husband, however, acknowledged the man and said hello. The fellow outdoor enthusiast proceeded to thank us for our patience and offered to pay our way into the park. Wow, what a great lesson this was for me! I started to think about all the other kind gestures I may have missed out on simply because of my hurried nature and impatience. As I was researching my article I came across an interesting statistic and quote that I thought I would share with you.

Apparently doctor’s research shows that every minute you are angry causes you to lose 60 seconds of happiness. I especially liked this quote from James Clavell’s novel, Shogun: “Karma is the beginning of knowledge. Next is patience. Patience is very important. The strong are the patient ones. Patience means holding back your inclination to the seven emotions: Hate, adoration, joy, anxiety, anger, grief, fear. If you don’t give way to the seven, you’re patient, then you’ll soon understand all manner of things and be in harmony with eternity.”

Next time you have an inclination to become annoyed or frustrated about a situation try relaxing and focusing on the big picture. Let it go and see if positive Karma comes back to you. ©