Wednesday, June 9, 2010

G R A T I T U D E: The Prayer Of The Enlightened

A few days ago, at an all-day media coaching conference at Hachette Book Group USA, a group of four authors with upcoming books--myself included--had the rare opportunity of being coached for our upcoming radio and T.V. appearances. 

Leading the way were brilliant media experts Joel and Heidi Roberts, Joel a veteran talk radio host-turned-corporate media coach, and his business partner and perspicacious wife Heidi, a longtime TV producer, both indispensable in their astute observations of the day. They were also joined by well-known TV producer, publicist, and media coach, Tom Martin

And as the long 8-hour day unfolded, with each of us receiving critiques of our presentations and being drilled over and over again to hone our message concisely for a national audience--I found myself filled with the one thing that often eludes me--Gratitude. 

Why was this the case? Well, there I was surrounded by my Hachette family--the group of people I've grown to know so well, each of them expertly helping to launch my book, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, including the great publicity director Shanon Stowe, Internet geniuses Kelly Leonard, Valerie Russo, and Anna Balasi, Hachette's marketing guru, Martha Otis, not to mention Editorial Director, Harry Helm, my brilliant editor and book's greatest champion.  

Everyone this day was drawing together, supporting one common mission, making each of our book launches successful. 

In the end, this wasn't just about ego or making money. It was about pulling together as a TEAM. And when I left the day beyind--I carried with me something just as valuable as the lessons of the media training--i.e., a profound feeling of thankfulness. 

In an article I wrote about gratitude for Family Circle, I remember one wise interview subject telling me that the glass isn't just half-full; it's always full. Opportunity doesn't knock just once, it's always knocking. 

     Yet, racing through a daily marathon of household chores, obligations at work, and 

short-term goals, how many of us take our good fortune for granted, focused solely on what we don’t have? 
     Perhaps money, time or love may seem to be in short supply. Maybe we don’t have the body we’d like, or the right car or house. Even worse, a crisis of some kind may be intruding upon us. So narrowly fixed on these perceived lacks and problems are we that our days are saturated with panic, irritation, worry, and a sense of deprivation: the tendency to compare and despair  steadily depleting us at every turn.     
    This thankless attitude--or ‘stinkin’ thinkin’,  a phrase humorously coined by 12-step recovery groups--can lead to chronic backaches, ulcers, headaches, depression, and multiple addictions, say medical experts who chart the connection between body and mind.      
     Today, many health-care specialists,  therapists, and spiritual counselors believe that the solution to such a commonplace dilemma is a simple, yet profound one: putting gratitude into your attitude--”waking up” from an ungrateful mind, and allowing ourselves to appreciate the so-called ‘little things’ in life, that aren’t little at all.      
       How often do we disregard a bright moon, the taste of an apple, a child’s laughter, or the welcome wag of our dog’s tail? In a perpetual rush, we may ignore the smell of freshly-mown grass, a friend’s concern, the feel of sand in our toes, or the miracles of  technology--not to mention how well our arms and legs work, and how terrific it is to breathe and experience our senses.  
      What, then, is true gratitude? And how can we cultivate it? I just start by counting my blessings--and find that I have a very very long list. So will you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Famed columnist LIZ SMITH devotes her entire column today to mega-star ELIZABETH TAYLOR, discussing FURIOUS LOVE, a provocative new book that traces the tumultuous, passionate, unpredictable, and unforgettable relationship between Taylor and Richard Burton, whom she famously married twice.

There's no journalist alive who has had better access to Taylor--and countless other stars--than Liz Smith. She knows everybody and has one advantage over anyone else in the celebrity pool--stars trust her.

She knows her subjects from the inside out--and in this case, she traveled with Taylor and Burton extensively, covering them numerous times in magazines and newspapers.

I'm always amazed by the authoritative perspective Liz offers on any of her subjects--blending humor, wit, and compassion, though never sparing an objective, critical eye as well. In just a few words, she captures the essence of what we want to know. As she writes today:

Richard was an alcoholic. Elizabeth was an alcoholic (if, at first, to a lesser degree and not as obviously disabled by drink). Richard wanted to be famous, just not as famous as his association with Elizabeth had made him. Who knew what that first hot tryst during the filming of "Cleopatra" would spawn? In time he felt trapped, suffocated and embarrassed. World attention did not salve his insecurities or the realities of his upbringing – he grew up a poor boy in Wales.

Elizabeth? Fame was all she’d known. True, the intensity of it had grown exponentially as she matured from child star to princess-y ingĂ©nue to powerful leading lady, grieving widow and then, finally, a woman for whom a new shade of scarlet had to be invented. 

But it was all the same to her; the fuss, the crowds, the intrusions. She barely noticed. It was the perks that fame brought her that she truly adored. And as much as she loved Richard, she could never really understand where he came from. Her life had always been one of privilege and pampering. There had been trauma – her father’s beatings, her mother living through her, vicariously – but no struggle to success. She would admit to me once, when I interviewed her in London in 1973: "Richard worries more about money than I do. He was raised in extreme poverty, while I grew up luxuriously."

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Taylor five times over a period of 23 years, most memorably about Taylor's unforgettable crusade to fight AIDS and raise public awareness about the deadly disease (which killed an astounding 2 million people a year ago.) The cover, pictured here, was one of our favorites interviews together, but the one I'll never forget first appeared in my column at the Daily News and later in my book: Turning Point: Pivotal Moments In The Lives Of America's Celebrities

As always, Taylor was feisty and furious over people's homophobia and ignorance about how AIDS is transmitted.

Here's what she had to say, remembering her dear friend Rock Hudson's tragic demise from AIDS: "I've never seen a more painful, cruel, degrading death," she told me, close to tears. "When I saw Rock the day before he died, he didn't know me--he had no idea where he was. So lonely. The brain, mercifully, seems to totally disintegrate."
     And there was little peace for Taylor after that: "I'm goddamned sick and tired of people blaming gay men for AIDS. It was an accident that the disease was picked up by gay men. It could just as easily have been spread by some horny rich babe from Miami!"

"Aids," Elizabeth shouted, violet eyes flashing, "is not a sin, it's a disease--and the insanity of homophobia has go to stop. I'm wiped out every time I hear about people who still think you can get the AIDS visus through the air--through sweat glands or tears. The government has cold scientific knowledge, but I don't think it's heard about AIDS from an emotional heterosexual woman like me. I'm not an endangered species--although I've had blood transfusions, so maybe I am. We're all potential victims, for Christ's sake."

That day, Taylor left me with this message: "What ever happened to compassion? And to caring?> How dare so-called religious people say it was God's idea, His wrath to kill the homosexuals. We're all God's children."

Indeed. And here's the photo taken the day of our interview, one I'll always treasure. I'm sending my love today to both Liz's--my dear friend, Liz Smith, who is kindly hosting my KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL book signing this fall at Barnes & Noble--and to her dear friend, a true survivor and a woman of incredible substance, Elizabeth Taylor.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lucy Makes Her Photo Shoot Debut

Today, thanks to the kindness of the great photographers Sheila Williams and Brandon Williams, my new puppy, Lucy, made her Twitter and Facebook and debut. She’s only 11 weeks old, but already poised and ready for the camera. See what you think…and next week, read my longer blog on the incredibly talented Williams team.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Unbeatable Technique For Losing Weight: Get A Puppy!

Although the adventure with my new puppy started ten days ago, today is the first time I've written about Lucy, named after one of my all-time favorites, Lucille Ball.

Why has it taken me so long? Because I was so overwhelmed, and at times panicked, by Lucy's homecoming and the challenges of taking care of a 10-week-old cocker spaniel puppy--that I admit to seriously contemplating returning her! (Whew, but I didn't.)

For me, the transition really shook up my world. I guess it's because I haven't had a dog for eight years, not since Katie--the star of my upcoming book, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL. So I was out of shape, but no longer. The dining room has been completely given over to her large play pen and kennel and the house is littered with every kind of chewy and plush toy you can imagine.

After just a few days, Lucy's puppiness--her contagious energy, those big brown eyes, her astute intelligence, and that puppy smell--completely won me over. She is the most outgoing, confident dog I've known, completely comfortable with anyone. You can hang her upside down and she's happy, extroverted and ready to play with adults, kids, and most importantly, other dogs.

The other night there she was, weighing in at six pounds, wrestling assertively with a 92-pound bushy-haired giant (I don't even know the breed) who loves puppies. Eating them? I wasn't sure. But Lucy didn't have a care in the world. She grabbed onto his bushy tail and went for a ride--never letting go until she was left with a mouthful of fur. Then she put her entire head into his mouth before biting his ear and chasing him around the lobby of our apartment building.

She also has a Wheaten terrier friend named Norma and a Dachshund named Stanley, both regular play dates.

She also loves kids, and over the weekend, she met a little boy in Greenwich Village, pictured below, his smile telling you the entire story about the joy that a puppy can give, to anybody, anywhere, at anytime.

Lucy is making her debut on May 26th at Book Expo America, where I'll be signing autographs for KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL.

I hope you'll drop by at 1 pm to say hello. You can ignore me--but you'll never get away from the Hachette Book Group USA'S booth without getting a lick from Lucy.

And for the first 100 people who come by, there will be special dark chocolate treats shaped into dog bones--bad for dogs, good for people. See you there!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Jolt Of That First Book Review

After an author finishes a manuscript, there's always an interminable lag time between the last edit, creating an advertising, marketing, and publicity campaign, and, at long last, seeing the book actually hit the stores and on-line sites. It's a drawn out process not much different than shooting a movie, then waiting for it to hit the theaters.

In advance of my upcoming book, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL being published September 14th, one of the most important elements to it being noticed by booksellers is the advance review seen in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents.

Published continuously for the past 138 years, the main emphasis here is on book reviews. And yesterday, out of the blue, unexpectedly, I received from the publisher this all-important review--placed as the lead non-fiction item in the current issue of the magazine.

You can imagine how an author feels opening to a review, wondering what the reception will be from an impartial observer. You never really know. Did I strike the right tone? Was the story compelling to anyone--but my Mom?!

Well, here's what I read, I'm grateful for it, and wanted to share it with you.

Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family 
Glenn Plaskin, Hachette/Center Street, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-599-95254-3
Plaskin (Horowitz), journalist and lower Manhattan resident, shares the delightful story of how his precocious cocker spaniel, Katie, brought him closer to his neighbors and turned an apartment building of strangers into an urban family. Katie charms everyone she comes in contact with: elderly Pearl and Arthur, dog-phobic Ramon, resident macaw Mojo, and Ryan, a motherless two-year old whom Katie befriends, breaking her "no kids" rule. Katie rubs elbows with the rich and famous--Alan King, Leona Helmsley, Peter Jennings, Katharine Hepburn--as she accompanies the author, a former journalist with CNN, on his interviews. She commandeers the television remote control, steals spaghetti, receives a Christmas gift from Ivana Trump, stars as Toto in a play production of The Wizard of Oz, and is the subject of a Page Six item in the New York Post. Aside from her antics and brushes with fame, Katie proves to be a source of comfort after September 11 and when a member of their makeshift family dies. Plaskin’s engaging narration and Katie’s ability to make community will endear this book to readers. (Sept.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Huffington Post And Big Book Publicity

Today, on a visit to the Huffington Post, I was startled when I saw an article about big book publicity claiming I was doing the right things vis a vis my book. I always feel that I'm not doing enough, or not doing it right, so it felt especially good to see this.
Fate, of course, always takes its hand no matter what we humans do. So as I've learned, Take the action, and let the results go. 
Every author should be like Glenn Plaskin. Over a year before his book Katie: Up and Down The Hall would hit stores, Plaskin created an award-worthy book trailer, started working his celebrity contacts for endorsements, and hired a freelance book publicist. More than six months before his book would see the light of day, he started blogging almost every day, created a fan page for his book on Facebook, and debuted his active Twitter stream. And today, with his pub date still far on the horizon, he's taking meetings with major corporations to explore sponsorship opportunities.
Plaskin is a client of Goldberg McDuffie Communications, so we're especially aware of his work. But authors are coming to our freelance book publicity firm ever earlier in the publishing process, recognizing that now more than ever they need expert guidance on building their brand and positioning their book in the best possible light. While the rest of the publishing world is wrestling with difficult decisions like eReader formats and rights issues, we feel we're working in a bright spot. Authors will always need public relations and marketing specialists to help connect them to their audiences. It's just that the way we achieve this is changing rapidly.
Even just a decade ago, a full-page review in the New York Times would have been enough to catapult a book onto the bestseller list and keep it there. While still important, few traditional media outlets can achieve that sort of bounce for a book today as consumers change who they trust as tastemakers--it might be a "mommy blogger" instead of Ladies Home Journal. Communication is no longer a three-person process with the media playing the role of middleman. Because of this, a mix of coverage through mainstream general media, targeted niche media, online outlets, and the work of the author connecting with consumers one-on-one is necessary to give a book a life of its own and the sales numbers it deserves.
The work publicists and marketers do--whether in-house at a publisher or at an agency like ours--is increasingly important as the number of media outlets multiplies online, and new social networking sites and tools debut on a regular basis. Should one Tweet? Get on Ning? Start a blog? A big part of our role is to help authors assess the vast array of options before them, think strategically about what will get their book the most attention, and prioritize this work so that their efforts (and time) are not wasted.
We have also found it critical to become involved with an author and their work as early in the publishing process as possible. What good is advising someone to start a blog if their first post hits the day the book is on-sale? The point of reaching out to your "tribe" isn't just to sell books, though that will hopefully be a side effect. It's to begin an authentic conversation with people interested in your topic and your thinking. This can help sell books to consumers, and if done right, can help sell one's book to a publisher in the first place.
The publishing world is evolving in myriad ways, as anyone following industry news the last few months well knows. With imprints, editors, and publishing missions changing, authors like the idea of having some constants in their lives. By working with authors over the course of their careers, with the ebb and flow of creativity and publication schedules, we're able to give them perspective, advice, and insight. We're excited about the future of publishing and the many new ways of bringing writers and readers together. And we're looking forward to working with our colleagues in the industry to achieve this together.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

KAPOW! Singer Marilyn Maye Knocks One Out Of The Park At Symphony Space

Yesterday afternoon, at the acoustically-perfect Symphony Space, legendary cabaret singer MARILYN MAYE delivered a 90-minute tour de force, a masterful set of classic songs performed effortlessly, no less at age 82!

But you'd never know it. This woman moves with the grace of a dancer, kicking up her legs, belting out song after song, her voice a buttery blend of perfectly delivered purrs, taunts and teases, shading her delivery with a maturity and level of musicianship you'll rarely hear anywhere. Ella Fitzgerald once dubbed her "the great white female singer in the world,"and it's got to be true.

Indeed, she can belt out a song with the best of them and she does it all with the physical stamina and vocal mastery of someone decades younger. You simply can't believe this woman.

For example, her virtuoso rendition  of "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," chugged down the tracks, leaving steam behind and bringing the audience to its feet. And I can't even begin to describe her extraordinary peformance of "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road), haunting and brave in holding back the darkness.
With seemingly inexhaustible stamina, supported by her fantastic trio, she "swings hard" as the New York Times noted in a review of her act at Feinstein's earlier this year.

Outfitted in a sequined jacket, black pants with silver beads down the sides, and glittery silver shoes, she was a picture of grace and glamour as she offered a program including a tribute to the songs of Johnny Mercer, Steve Allen, Cole Porter, and more. For all this, I must thank my friend Mario Buatta, a great Marilyn Maye fan and friend, for inviting me as his guest to this afternoon delight.

For those who don't know, Marilyn was born in Wichita, Kansas and began her career as a child competing in amateur contest in Topeka, where her father owned a drugstore. By 15, she had her own own radio show; and it wasn't long before she came to the attention of Steve Allen, who invited her to appear on his show. Her RCA record contract soon followed, the younger singer delivering seven albums and 34 singles. She appeared on the Tonight Show a record 76 times. Nowadays, she receives award and award, "and I hope all these lifetime achievement awards aren't trying to tell me something," she jokes yesterday, "because I'm not done, not even close."

You said it. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Most Relaxing Conversation At The End Of The Day, With A Perfect Neighbor

Last evening, the balmiest, most perfect spring night imaginable, after a long day of working, and then a social engagement with friends, I came home to Battery Park City with my 'battery' completely drained.

There wasn't much energy left in me, not really. And as I got out of the taxi and entered the cherry blossomed-perfection of our waterside community, I felt relieved, as I often do, just by being back in my own neighborhood.

Unlike most of Manhattan, there was no traffic noise, nothing except the rippling sound of the water and people chatting while walking around at a much more relaxed pace than most of city life in this crazily busy metropolis.

As I strolled home, I just happen to run into a great neighbor friend of mine, a fellow dog lover, BEN, as above in the photo, who was walking his two dogs, Miko and Sammy.

What happened next was an example of a truly great neighborhood phenomena. Ben and I hung out on the street for at least a half hour, talking about anything and everything--including the antics of his two dogs, diet and exercise, my upcoming high school reunion, the process of aging, the secrets of centenarians, the benefits of getting two dogs instead of one, my new dog coming next week, how to handle stress with competitive colleagues and unruly friends, dating---you name it.

In short, as we often do when we accidentally meet in the morning--me on my bike and Ben walking his dogs--we chatted and laughed about life in general. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to have this spontaneous conversation--THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH WORK--or ambition.

It was just a normal, fun, casual talk and I left Ben feeling energized rather than drained. There was no tension. It was a "clean" transaction, devoid of any negative emotions--enervating feelings that are so destructive. Ben is a fantastic guy with a happy optimistic personality, a calm temperament, someone you WANT to be with, someone who is not in emotional pain.

In short, he is the perfect neighbor. He's also a contempoary, around my age, so we understand the process of how we feel and why. Because we're both settled in certain aspects of our life--it's actually healing to be with him.

Once, months earlier, when I told him that I was stressed--and that my back hurt--he was kind enough to give me a great book about YOGA. This was typical of his kind nature--being giving, open, friendly, not intrusive, and generous-hearted.

Now THERE's somebody you want to meet and spend time with.

Thanks Ben for a great gift, and the perfect end to the night.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A New Side Of Joan Rivers Revealed At The Tribeca Film Festival

If you want to know something truly personal and revealing about the Joan Rivers nobody knows, go see the gripping film I saw last night at the Tribeca Film Festival titled Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

You can read into that title many things, as Joan--a longtime friend, interview subject (and fellow dog lover)--is wildly irreverent, controversial, hilarious, even offensive to the delicate sensibilities of some--but at the very least, she's the hardest-working woman in show business. Her work ethic is without peer.

The back-breaking schedule detailed in this year-at-a-glance documentary would exhaust anyone half her age, so she's fortunate to have such an astute and warm-hearted support team--including her longtime assistants Graham and Jocelyn, her housekeepers, fantastic agent, Larry Thompson, and a circle of close friends.

Still, wouldn't she like to just relax by the pool? You must be kidding. At almost age 76, she jets across the country, jamming in nightclub appearances, TV shows, book signings, QVC jewelry spots, all of it non-stop though she could afford to retire and "live carefully," she says in the film. Retreating from the stage of life, though, is anathama to her and she wants to beat the record set by George Burns, who was still entertaining crowds well into his 90's.

Compared to that, who wants to golf or play bridge? Joan wants to travel the world, entertaining people, her mission and life purpose being that of an actress "playing a comedienne," for Joan's abilities as an actress, though underestimated by some, are formidable. When she takes the stage, nobody commands it better. And off-stage, chic in her signature jewelry and glittery costumes, she's a youthful wonder--the real secret of it not being plastic surgery, but rather the compulsive energy that feeds her ambition to stay current and active.

In fact, in the film, she admits that her greatest fear is having an empty calendar, joking that when she looks at a blank page of it, she has to wear sunglasses to shield herself from the painful glare.

How ironic that, even with her formidable accomplishments, she's still proving herself, still vulnerable to rejection.

At times, it's painful, in this film, to watch the triumphant winner of CELEBRITY APPRENTICE struggling to pin down nightclub dates, public appearances, and product endorsements, while trying out an autobiographical play that she ultimately did not bring to the Broadway stage.

During tryouts in London, the lackluster reviews were painful to her. But criticism is nothing new to Joan. She's faced rejection at key points in life, most notably in the l980's when she left Johnny Carson to host her own late-night talk show on Fox, a move that resulted in Carson blacklisting her from late-night NBC talk shows. It's their loss.

The movie also captures hilarious vignettes of Joan in live performance--but most of the film is rather serious and emotional, capturing Joan in private moments. On a poignant note, there's one very personal off-stage scene that tells you everything you need to know about the real Joan Rivers. There she is, sitting in the back seat of her limousine with her adorable grandson, Cooper, both on their way to deliver food on Thanksgiving, part of Rivers' work for

God's Love We Deliver, a cause she's championed for years.

In the car, Joan gently takes Cooper's left hand in hers and tells him affectionately: "I love your hands," turning them over in hers. And then the boy rests his head on his grandmother's shoulder as they snuggle, a tender part of Joan I'll never forget.

Her love for that boy, and for her daughter, Melissa, reminds you that beyond showbusiness, here's a woman with a vibrant heart and caring spirit.

Unexpectedly, this small moment in the film brought me to tears. Maybe it was because I was remembering the close bond I felt with my own grandmother, Essie, who like Joan, was unusually modern, a remarkably strong woman who even had her own line of cookies at Bloomingdales! There she is with me in the picture to the right, at one of my book autograph sessions.

Anyway, Cooper is a very lucky boy to have a grandmother like Joan.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The L-Factor: LIKEABILITY--The True Key To Success

Throughout my life, there are times when I've erred on the side of being too directive and exacting, wanting desperately for something to work out exactly as I imagined it.

This--more often than not--is a mistake, for people don't respond to being pushed or overly controlled. That's for sure. Whereas, the ability to take an action and let the results go is the greatest relief in the world. It not only relieves stress but it also makes you a lot more likeable which is one of the greatest secrets to success.

Whether it's Oprah Winfrey or your favorite neighbor down the block--the thing that makes you want to "tune in" to someone is their overall likeability.

Have you ever noticed that when two people are up for the same job, more often than not, it's the person who is the most LIKEABLE who gets the job? regardless of their particular qualifications. The ability to establish rapport is essential in life, I've discovered, and there are specific ways you can do it.

“Your success and happiness in life is a total by-product of how likeable you happen to be,” exclaims leadership coach Tim Sanders, best-selling author of The Likeability Factor: How To Boost Your L-Factor & Achieve Your Life’s Dreams a how-to guide to making yourself more popular in life.

"Your L-factor permeates virtually all aspects of your life,” he says. Likeable people land better jobs, earn more money, make friends more easily, and have lower divorce rates, lower blood pressure, and better relationships with their children. They also get better service in restaurants and more attention from their doctors!”

So what exactly is this powerful ingredient that promises such a charmed, happy life and how can we get more of it?

Like-ability,” as Sanders defines it, “is what it sounds like--an to produce positive attitudes in others by delivering emotional and physical benefits.” These include comedic relief, empathy, insight, comfort, entertainment, and offering your expertise.  “Someone who is likeable gives you a sense of joy, happiness, relaxation, and rejuvenation,” states Sanders. “He or she can bring you relief from depression, anxiety, or boredom.”

Better than Prozac and quicker than therapy, Sanders refers to likeable people as emotional angels---people who sees the world from an optimistic point of view and make you feel better about yourself. They build you UP! I call it the Dr. Feelgood factor. They’re typically positive, good-natured, and agreeable--bringing out the very best in others.

"Good for you!" is their hallmark," he observes "and they never rain on someone else's parade. They listen more than they talk, make direct eye contact, and they're generous with their emotions--more likely to laugh, cry, or confide their vulnerability than the average person."

Likeable people are typically thankful, grateful people with good math skills when it comes to counting their blessings. Their thankfulness results in making room for someone else to feel the same way.

This produces what Sanders calls a “positive feedback loop,” in which the warm feelings you invoke in others are reciprocated and returned to you, creating constant encouragement and an antidote to the strains of daily life.

One key component of likeability is FRIENDLINESS--the ability to be agreeable, neighborly and open, to roll out a red carpet of welcome that communicates your receptivity to someone.

You must convey warmth, comfort and safety in order to be likeable and have people open up to you,” says Sanders. "We’re all like broadcast towers--sending out signals that are decoded by others in order to determine whether we’re a friend or foe. So remember to smile, because it kicks off a chain reaction of smiles in everyone you meet. Studies have proven that smiling faces are perceived as more attractive than non-smiling faces--that a smile is a leading indicator of popularity.

The other key component to likeability is EMPATHY---the ability to recognize, acknowledge, and experience other people’s feelings. “It’s about being a really good listener,” says Sanders, “genuinely interested in someone’s feelings and responsive to them. It makes the other person feel like they’re being hugged psychologically.”


Everyone,” Sanders believes, is born likeable. The average five-year-old  is sympathetic, friendly, and real--possessing natural likeability in spades! But by the time we’re twenty-five and feeling the pressure of producing results in life, we start cutting corners. We get sharp around the edges and become less likeable, the means often justifying the end.”

The secret to reversing this trend, he believes, is consciously boosting our L-factor: “If we’re able to raise it by even just one or two points, life will feel better.” Here’s how to cultivate an easy-going, likeable personality:

(1) Pinpoint your two most likeable traits and use them every day. Is it your smile, sense of humor, generosity, perceptiveness, talent, efficiency?

(2) Go on a strict non-unfriendliness diet. Eliminate unfriendliness from your behavior and adopt a policy of zero tolerance for being unfriendly.

(3)Spot warning signs before you commit unfriendliness: These include feeling angry, having an ache in your head, a pain in the pit of the stomach, or the sensation of blood rushing to your face. Delay anger gratification.

(4)Show friendly signs:
Make eye contact; use your eyebrows (the more animated they are, the more outgoing and friendly you’ll seem); widen your eyes to show emotion;  smile--but don’t force it. Cultivate a friendly tone of voice--and don’t match tones with people who are unfriendly, upset, or angry. Remain calm. Speak in a confident tone.

(5)Demonstrate good manners Don’t interrupt people, apologize when you need to, and go out of your way to do favors for others. Don’t be aggressive; be nice.

(6) Make yourself emotionally attractive to people at work and at home Add value by easing their suffering, anxiety, or fear in any way you can.

(7)Avoid the prima donna syndrome: Don’t always be a star. Blend in and become part of the team.

(8)Observe your behavior as if you were someone else totally unattached to your ego. Ask yourself: how do I make other people feel?

(9) Allow people to feel the way they do. Don’t try to fix other people’s feelings. If they’re sad, be sad with them. If they're happy, let their joy be your happiness.

(10) Keep It Real
Believe every word of every song you sing. Be factual and admit your mistakes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inner Harmony: A Lesson From The G R E A T Shirley MacLaine

One of my all-time favorite interview subjects is legendary actress, bestselling author (and fellow dog lover) Shirley MacLaine, a luminously wise soul who brings her intuition and truth to everything she does.

Having done one interview with Shirley, together with Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, and Debby Reynolds, for the TV film"These Old Broads," we spoke again, in a subsequent interview, about the secrets of Inner Harmony, an especially useful topic to anyone who experiences the vagaries of worry, stress, and fear.
Over lunch one spring day in Central Park, Shirley confided that whenever she feels angry, discouraged, or stressed out, she always does exactly the same thing:
"I go into a quiet room, close my eyes, and say, 'Thank you.'"

"Thank you for being stressed out," I joked?
"Yes, that's exactly right. I have learned to say thank you for whatever it is I'm feeling angry or upset about because what I'm feeling is based on something that's unresolved in me," she observes.

"I'm thanking someone for making me clearly look at something and understand what brought up my anger. It turns out that the person or event that caused me to feel upset is really a teacher. When I probe the reasons behind it, the anger disappears. So what we're really talking about is a change in attitude toward everything that happens to you. I find that going inward through meditation is a panacea for healing depression, worry, fear--you name it. Reducing stress is really all about calming the spirit."

It's been proven, also, that having a dog also reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, calms the spirit, and shifts the focus from the self to the unique needs of our canine companion. In return, guaranteed is an endless wellspring of love.

Shirley touched on these spiritual gifts in her book Out On A Leash, all about her relationship with her dog Terry and how effectively her terrier communicates, sensing her feelings in the unique way that dogs always do.

I can tell you that in my upcoming book, Katie Up And Down The Hall, there are countless examples of times when I was sick or depressed or worried or anxious--and no matter what the problem I faced, the mere presence of my dog--and MEDITATION--were both healing balms, better than Prozac, therapy, or a piece of chocolate cake.
Meditation, Shirley says, "requires faith in yourself, faith in your capacity to hear your higher power."

When she finishes her spiritual routine each day, she has attained a state of inner harmony: "I don't ever feel depressed, and I don't ever feel ecstatic. I'm right in the middle--in a calm place. Maybe we have to redefine words likes 'happiness.' It isn't over-the-moon joy, necessarily. It's a humming feeling of real contentment."

In parting, Shirley shared with me her Daily Survival Kit, "necessary objects," she says "that you can keep in your purse or pocket--or in your imagnation--serving as reminders of spiritual principles." Thinking of them this way, as below, reduces stress every single time. Try it!

The Toothpick: is to remind you to pick out the good qualities in others.
The Rubber Band: is to remind you to be flexible; things may not always go the way you want but they always work out.
The Band Aid: is to remind you to heal hurt feelings, yours or someone else’s.
The Pencil: is to remind you to list your blessings every day.
The Eraser: is to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay.
The Glue: is to remind you to stick with it; if you do, you can accomplish anything.
The Mint: is to remind you that you are worth a mint.
The Candy Kiss: is to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug every day, especially children.
The Tea Bag: is to remind you to relax and take some time for yourself; you’ve earned it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Puppy On The Move

      Years ago, when I got my first dog, Katie--the star of my upcoming book Katie Up and Down the Hall--I never actually saw her until she was three months old.

She appeared one day, as I describe in the book, fresh from the farm in New Jersey, and though she seemed rather shy and ungainly at first, almost pitiful in appearance, I loved her immediately and the rest was history.

Here she is, to the right, in her Disneyland Minnie Mouse T-Shirt, at about 2 years old.
But now, in the age of puppy photos and videos transmitted electronically, there's little need for suspense, new images appearing each week on the computer screen or the i phone long before you meet.

So in advance of meeting my new dog, Lucy, her growth has been faithfully documented week to week by Dolores, the wonderful cocker spaniel breeder in upstate New York.

At first, Lucy looked like a furry blonde kualoa bear, easily fitting into the palm of your hand. But seven weeks later, her transformation is astounding.
Take a look for yourself....

Week #1

Week #2

Week #3

Week #4

Week #5

Week #6

Week #7
Week #8