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Judy Rose, NAWBO OC

Click Here for  Judy Rose Bio

What is the purpose of text?
You can find text like this on thousands of websites:

It's time to take it to the next level. Going forward, we'll help you leverage your core competencies to affect a sea change. You'll be ready to hit the ground running. We'll make sure you get significant face-time with a diverse audience. We take a proactive approach. We think outside the box. At the end of the day, you'll have state-of-the-art solutions.

What did that guy say? I could read it 10 times and still have no idea what his company does.

The purpose of text is to communicate. That means expressing something and being understood. He expressed something, all right. But how well was he understood? There's nothing specific. There are strings of words, but they're not connected to any concrete meaning. And yet, there are those who would find this paragraph completely acceptable. These are the words and phrases that surround us in thousands of articles, speeches, brochures and websites. This is the language of business today. Phooey!

What does it mean to take something to the next level? Are we going from We Stink to We're Mediocre?

What is this box everybody wants to think outside of? There must have been something worthwhile in the box if everybody thought inside it for centuries. And I don't know about you, but my head is not rectangular. Maybe we should think outside the balloon. What if we can't have a solution by the end of the day? What if it takes two days? A month? Are we going to abandon the problem because it takes more than 24 hours to solve?

I don't like buzzwords and trendy phrases that become so common they lose all meaning. They're a symptom of lazy thinking. They allow you to write without saying anything, to make believe that your content has substance. It doesn't!

What if you were in front of a firing squad and were given this choice: Explain what the guy who wrote that paragraph said, or get shot. Uh-oh.


The robot has come between us
The other day, I turned on my cell phone to make a call and saw a message on the screen indicating that software updates were being installed. It's happened fairly often lately, and when it does, I completely lose control of my phone. Calls can't come in. Calls can't go out. The screen says, "please wait."

I love my phone. It's cute. It's red. It fits in my pocket. I have a good basic plan that's relatively inexpensive and gives me everything I want. I can get calls, make calls, even take a picture. If I really have to, I can send a text. As a writer, my needs are very simple. I'm usually at my computer where I can get e-mail and surf the Internet. I just want a phone-phone, not an everything-phone. Less is more.

I went to the Sprint store to find out about that "updating" problem that takes control whenever it wants, and learned that since I have a three-year-old phone with a plan that doesn't include any Internet functions, some robot in some databank somewhere keeps trying unsuccessfully to insert software into a device that doesn't know what to do with it. Each attempt fails, but the robot never gets discouraged. It just tries again. And again. And again.

The only solution is to buy a more sophisticated phone and upgrade my plan to one that includes more services. And pay an extra $50 a month. The problem with this is that I don't want more services, and I don't want a more sophisticated phone. And I have better things to do with $50.

Right about now, you're thinking that I'm some kind of dinosaur steeped in ignorance, and that if I only knew how convenient all those added features are, I'd see why limiting myself to antediluvian technology (or something from 2007) is just silly, shortsighted and wrong. I'm not going to argue. I know when I'm beaten. I understand the if-you-build-it-they-will-come philosophy that says once I have all the features, I'll soon wonder how I ever lived without them. Maybe you're right. The handwriting is on the screen.

I loved my phone. Less was more. But alas, I think the romance is over. The robot has come between us.

You need both
I’m a little worried about our young people. Too few of them are developing strong basic writing skills. I see it every day as I work with businesses whose employees have difficulty expressing themselves in writing. The problem is partly due to modern technology, which has given us shortcuts that can make it seem as though the old ways of doing things no longer have value. But being able to write well is about more than getting something down on the page: It’s about the quality of one’s thinking. And high-quality thinking is something you need no matter how many apps are contained in that amazing gizmo that used to be just a telephone.

Look at texting. It has changed the way people communicate. All the old rules are out the window. Now, the faster you can write it, the better. The more acronyms you use in your message, the fewer buttons you have to press. It’s fast, it’s efficient, it gets the job done. It’s a new language – a useful language – driven as much by the capabilities of electronic devices as by the need to convey information or thoughts. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with texting. I myself am a purist about writing, but even I can appreciate the practicality of being able to say in a few thumb taps what I might choose to relate in an entire luxurious line of carefully constructed prose.

So what’s the problem? You write your way, I’ll write mine. But there is a problem, and it’s reflected in the growing number of young people (perhaps some of your employees) who can no longer write in the formal, professional style that business demands. It may be fine to text in 10 keystrokes about the time or location of a meeting, but that sort of shorthand doesn’t cut it when you want to explain or discuss anything of substance. It certainly won’t suffice for letters to prospective customers, the content of your Web site or business documents and contracts. The more people use the short writing style, the less practice they get using correct English. And this puts them at a distinct disadvantage when they are called upon to write something of any complexity.

Texting-style writing is probably here to stay, and that’s fine. If all you want to say is: GF, R U THERE? NE14KFC? BBFN*, then use whatever means you like, and then enjoy that delicious salty, crispy, greasy meal to your heart’s content (or heart attack, whichever comes first). You who read this are very likely in a position to influence the young people who work for you, as well as your own kids. You can do a lot for their futures if you remind them there’s another way to write that’s just as practical and just as useful as the short style they’re so adept at. It's a way that will enable them to serve up ideas that can’t be contained in the 140 characters that Twitter allows for; a way that makes it possible to handle nuance, explain a process or build one thought upon another until they’ve said something worth reading – something worth thinking about. Remind them that English contains immense variety, subtlety, emotion and beauty with which we can express to a precise degree, every shade of meaning imaginable, and that the more capable they are of using this fantastic language, the more they will connect. And isn’t that the purpose of writing, after all?

*Girlfriend. Are you there? Anyone for Kentucky Fried Chicken? Bye-bye for now.



Sharing remarkable stories
On Oct. 15, NAWBO held its annual Remarkable Women awards dinner honoring three outstanding members for their accomplishments in business and in life.

It was my privilege, and my pleasure, to write the program bios for the three winners, so when I entered the banquet room to take my seat, I already knew quite a bit about them. But hearing them speak opened up a swell of admiration for these three vibrant, successful women. The room was filled with attendees representing all rungs of the ladder: those just starting out in business; those with long-established companies; and everyone in between. And there was plenty of wisdom and humor to inspire everyone and to confirm the rewards of innovation, effort, persistence and hope.

One recurring theme I heard running through these women's stories is that there is no instruction book on how to create a successful business. It was good to have this reaffirmed, because if there was supposed to be a manual for any part of life, it was not in the carton when I was delivered.

As is customary, our three Remarkable Women awardees addressed the crowd with amazing speeches. Here are some of my favorite moments from the evening.

Laura Neubauer, whose company Deliver It! has grown every year since she started it five years ago, was our Entrepreneur to Watch. I loved hearing her explain why she never worked for FedEx or UPS. Laura's reason: "Corporations have too many rules for me!" Having purchased three companies that she had to get ready to open within a 13-day period at the height of the holiday season in 2004, Laura told us that a sudden voice in her head asked, "Laura, what are you doing?" And her answer was, "I don't know." Listening to her, I realized that Laura didn't want to make mistakes, but she was not afraid to make mistakes. There's a huge difference. She explained that just like playing catch with a 3-year-old, there are going to be misses. But as the child grows, she's going to get better and better, and eventually, that child will be able to catch the ball and fire it right back. That's an encouraging thought to keep in mind.

Cheryl Osborn, founder of CASCO Contractors, was our 2009 Business Owner of the Year. Cheryl, who built a $25 million company starting from her kitchen table, told us that the two most important attributes an entrepreneur can have are ignorance and persistence. She reminded me of heroes I've read about who succeed against all odds and say something along the lines of "If I had known it was impossible I never would have tried." She also reminded me of the moment in "The Empire Strikes Back," when Han Solo says to C-3PO after hearing him recite the possibilities against successfully navigating an asteroid field: "Never tell me the odds." Cheryl's wisdom is the kind of knowledge that can only come from experience. And it speaks to me. I so often feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, but I try to move forward anyway. Cheryl moved forward in a big way and is a huge success today.

Heidi Miller, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award, had the vision early on to see the connection between the fitness movement of the '80s and the potential for marketing healthy, delicious snacks. She built Heidi's Frogen Yozurt into a 120-store chain. After selling that business 20 years ago, she opened Tight Assets, a group of women's exercise-clothing boutiques that merge fashion and function. Heidi has demonstrated, through her many accomplishments, the ability to weather economic cycles. She told us that entrepreneurs, like cream, rise to the top. They create from nothing. They know that economic necessity is the mother of reinvention. And they never lose hope, no matter the circumstances. In keeping with that, Heidi left us with these words: "When life gives you lemons, use the rind to garnish your martini!" That's an attitude we would all be wise to adopt.

Sitting in a banquet room, listening to three remarkable women tell us in their own words what they have achieved and learned is a truly inspiring experience. Worthy of a standing ovation – or three of them.


Who's the Remarkable Woman in your life?
I have one, do you? For most people the answer is “yes.” Most of us have remarkable women in our lives who have loved us, influenced us, nurtured and taught us, inspired us, and helped to make us the people we are today.

The National Association of Women Business Owners recognizes and rewards three Remarkable Women every year at our signature event in October. These are women who have achieved success in their careers and in their personal lives. But not all women who are remarkable get publicly acknowledged for it. Sometimes their remarkable-ness (or remark-ability) is a very private thing, known only to their friends and family members. Now you have a chance to shine the spotlight.

This year, in conjunction with the official Remarkable Women Awards dinner being held at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa on Oct. 15, the Orange County Chapter of NAWBO is sponsoring a video contest. Just submit your two-minute video telling us about the remarkable woman in your life. We want to know about her special qualities, achievements, experiences, perhaps her sacrifices – things unique to her that make her remarkable. She may be your mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandmother, colleague, mentor, teacher or friend. If you want to pay tribute to her, we want to hear about it.

Three winning videos will be chosen early in October, and each one of the women honored will receive a surprise gift along with a copy of the video, courtesy of NAWBO-OC and contest sponsor PoshPartyBox.com. Videos will be posted on the NAWBO-OC Facebook and Twitter pages and on the NAWBO-OC YouTube channel.

There are a few rules:

1.    Videos may not exceed two minutes in length. Longer videos will be disqualified.
2.    Videos should contain your name, honoree's name, honoree's city of residence, her relationship to you and at least one or two things that show just how remarkable she is.
3.    The honoree must be a Southern California resident living in Orange, L.A., San Diego, San Bernardino or Riverside county.
4.    She must be at least 21 years old.
5.    Submission deadline is Oct. 1.

Complete instructions for submitting your video and further information about the selection process can be found here.

October is NAWBO-OC's official Remarkable Women month. In addition to acknowledging the accomplishments of the three official awardees, it's a time when we reflect on the amazing women – millions of them in every town, on every street and in every home – who make our lives richer, happier, more secure and more fulfilling just by being there for us.

So c'mon Southern California. Grab your video cameras, get your creative juices flowing and tell us all about your very own Remarkable Woman. She deserves it!

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