West Roxbury's Gail McMeekin is the founder and president of Creative Success, LLC, and the author of "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women" and "The Power of Positive Choices." She answered some Patch questions about her newest book - "The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women" and why there weren't 11 or 13 secrets in the book.
Patch: You live in West Roxbury? For how long? What do you like best about West Roxbury?
McMeekin: I grew up in Hingham, lived in Brookline for many years, but have now been in our beloved stone Victorian in West Roxbury for 16 years. I adore my house and West Roxbury is such a convenient place. Anything I could want is on Route 1 or the surrounding area and the new Legacy Place is great plus. I can be in downtown Boston via commuter rail or on the train to NYC in 25 minutes. Amazing.
Patch: What made you want to write "The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women"?
McMeekin: This book is the sequel to my very first, best-selling book "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women" and both are published by Conari Press, my wonderful publisher.
I have had thousands of emails and notes from women all over the world asking me to write this new book (and the special journal program I wrote as well called "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal"). In both books, I interview successful creative women and each book has 12 secrets. In the success book, I tackle major issues for women that block their success like burnout, low self-esteem, a self-defeating mind-set, not having a business plan that highlights your talents and supports your lifestyle, strategies for getting up to the next level of success, and the need to take positive risks, among other topics.
In the first book I interviewed 14 women in Boston like Lydia Shire and Loretta LaRoche, and in the duccess book, I interviewed a group of women on Cape Cod, as well as woman all over America. I coach so many women who are not making the money they deserve to or devalue their talents and accomplishments or have lots of creative ideas and cannot get focused and harvest the creative gold in their business. This book is a game-changer and provides solid advice, great role models, and loads of self-aweness and business planning exercises. Library Journal selected it as one of the best books of 2011 and it is available on audio, too.
Patch: Your book is focused on being successful in business - do you discuss your success outside of the business world, too?
McMeekin: The principles in this book are meaningful for women in all fields, including education, non-profits, the arts, science, et cetera. I interviewed a wide range of women for this book including an astronaut, a medical intuitive, a woman who mails cakes to the troops, two doctors, a TV star and celebrity nutritionist, a dengue fever and public health scientist, and a pianist.
Patch: You highlight developing the right negotiation skills to get from others and in life - when did you realize that negotiation skills were necessary? How old were you and how did that change you?
McMeekin: Many years ago, in my late twenties, I took assertiveness training, and I had a revelation about the power of negotiation and personal rights. I then taught assertiveness training at many companies and places like the Boston Adult Education Center, and coached job-hunters and managers about how to negotiate effectively. First we have to be crystal clear on what we want and and make a choice to ask for it. We need to do our research, like knowing what fees to charge, or the salary ranges for your profession, and build a case for why we deserve it. As relationships are a key value for women, they often need to learn to negotiate with their bosses and families to get the time, money, and support to fulfill their creative dreams.
Patch: Can you personally pinpoint your most successful moment in your career?
McMeekin: The day in January 2001 when I received my first copy of my new book "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor" in the mail and I held it in my hands. It took me almost 10 years and many rewrites and agents before I found the right publisher. The book looked gorgeous in design and I felt so proud to have achieved my mission to become "a portable mentor" and to get this book into the hands of thousands of women.
Patch: Please provide one tip on increasing one's self-esteem?
McMeekin: Pick 5 to 10 people that you trust that know you well and ask them to tell you what they like/admire the most about you and have them write it down. Keep those pieces of paper close by to look at when you feel down. You can even make a collage or a special art piece that reminds you daily that you are creative and have many strengths.
Patch: What advice would you give to someone who may not want to try something out of a fear of failing?
McMeekin: There are two kinds of risks -- impulsive risks and calculated risks. I coach people to plan out calculated risks -- step-by-step. So we take the challenge and create mini-experiments to test out your plan, adjust as necessary, and keep getting comfortable with it. But, as I write in the book, we all fail at something at some time. But successful people accept that and if they fall down, they GET RIGHT BACK UP AGAIN AND KEEP GOING! Rejection is part of life and certainly a professional life and that is okay, but we need to have a support system around us to cheer us on, whether we are riding high or recovering from a disaster. When you master a fear and win, your life is never the same.
Patch: Why 12 secrets? Why not 11 or 13? Were there secrets that you considering but tossed out?
McMeekin: The number 12 is a very special number. It is the sign of a whole and perfect harmonious unit. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs on the zodiac, 12 inches in a foot, 12 face cards in a card deck, and 12 basic hues in a color wheel. Healing is also a 12 step process, too! No, to the question about tossing out secrets -- I included just what I wanted. I will confess that I was ambivalent about exactly what the missing concept was for secret 12 at the end, but had a clear brainstorm and chose Initiate Transformation for You and Your team which was perfect.
Patch: Is it healthy to have secrets? Tell us a secret about yourself not included in the book.
McMeekin: I often tell clients with new business ideas or creative projects to be very careful with whom they share them. Creative ideas are precious and you want to maintain full ownership of them until you find good and trustworthy people to partner with. There are certain secrets that are meant to stay secrets for a while, and maybe even, forever. I also tell new entrepreneurs that their parents who grew up in the depression may get anxious about the lack of security in a new biz and to wait until they have a solid plan before announcing their launch. A secret about myself that is not in the book is that I want to become a major philanthropist in my later years, as I love to give people things!
Patch: How much does the way you dress create success? Do you think it matters more for women or men, or is it equal?
McMeekin: With some many people working at home or virtually right now, dressing up is not as much of an issue for everyone as it used to be. I sometimes am interviewed on radio while still in my pajamas. However, how we look and present ourselves is part of our reputation whether we are male or female. Dressing well conveys the message that we are serious about our profession and we have respect for the people we are meeting with. I always dress up in business casual or more for clients. Also, we all need to be marketing ourselves continually, so we need to look like the person we want to be. Dressing up in better tailored attire helps us to get to the next level as we look the part already. Having our colors done so that we look our best is a very worthwhile investment. Fortunately, the "uniform" look of the old days is gone and we are free to wear color and different designs and still look professional. I do tell my clients not to model their work attire after what young women are wearing on TV, with their low cut tops and super short pencil skirts, as that does not fly in most settings, unless you are an actress/entertainer.
Patch: How much of your book do you think a man could apply to being successful?
McMeekin: Many men have bought my books for their wives, sisters, mothers, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. and then read the book themselves and have written me that they found it very helpful. While women have special issues which are outlined in my books, it is good for men to be aware of what their female colleagues/partners are dealing with and how they might mutually support each other. And, many men have self-esteem issues and play it too safe or don't stay focused, etc. so these tips are useful for them too. I have another product called 'Creativity Courage Cards' that are my affirmations linked with my husband's professional photo's that keep you motivated daily to take risks and take the actions necessary for your success and men love these cards too! All my products are available on my website.