The Necessity of Vacation

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

For the next two weeks, I’m creating my own sort of writer’s retreat, up in the boons of Northern California with my grandmother. I’ve got WiFi (which is on a limited GB plan!), but we were on dial-up up here just a few years ago. No joke. On Wednesday, my most exciting event was finding a dead raccoon and a (live) frolicking deer while taking the dog for a walk to the mailbox, which is down the street.

I’ve been here for a week already, however, feeling more relaxed than I have since I got back from Spain a few months ago. The most convenient part about my little retreat is that I have been able to focus on very important projects, including NaNoWriMo2014. I have never written so much in such a short time. Woot! 

Me in Oahu, Hawaii 2006

Me in Oahu, Hawaii 2006

Having time to ourselves to work on projects and reflect about things in our lives is very important. Therefore, I’d like to touch briefly on the importance of vacation–whether it’s a day of reflection or a week (or more) away from everything.

Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2007 with my grandparents.

Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2007 with my grandparents.

When I was 21, I had worked for 3 years straight with NO vacation. I thought I could conquer the world while working full-time, and going to school full-time. I worked 7 days a week (for the most part) and nearly collapsed from doing waaaayyyyy too much. Then I had a wake-up call when I finally took a vacation. 

Me in Campello, Spain in 2008--a life-changing vacation.

Me in Campello, Spain in 2008–a life-changing vacation.

One of my best friends was getting married in Hawaii and I didn’t want to miss the wedding. I booked a flight and hotel for both my sister and I, and decided we’d make the trip a full 8-day vacation. It was glorious. I had nearly forgotten how wonderful it was to relax and do next to nothing. I came alive again. And I realized that I hated working so much and needed to make a big change in my life.

Girls trip to Disneyland (CA) for Halloween 2009.

Girls’ trip to Disneyland (CA) for Halloween 2009.

A few months after that vacation, I quit my job and pursued other career paths. I was so happy and wondered what had taken me so long to make the change. Then I remembered that my vacation had triggered my desire for change, and that’s when I understood how important vacation is. Had I not taken that trip, who knows how long it would have taken for me to realize that I needed to make a drastic turnaround?

St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Famous arch in the background.

St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Famous arch in the background.

Vacation–or even reflection days–can bring clarity that the day-to-day grind can’t. It brings us to a different place physically (sometimes) and mentally (almost always) because we are removed from the norm. When we fail to take time for ourselves to reflect, get away from “it all,” and evaluate our current work/life situation, we do ourselves a disservice. We are more likely to fall into unhealthy habits all around, and wonder why we feel dissatisfied or stuck.

My nephew and I in Disneyland (CA) for my baby sister's Sweet 16 in 2011.

My nephew and me in Disneyland (CA) for my baby sister’s Sweet 16 in 2011.

Vacation doesn’t have to be something expensive or burdensome. It can be a day set aside once a month, or every other month, in order to disconnect from all our devices and e-mail, and become centered. It can be a day where our sole purpose is to journal and project the future of our business or career–or even plan our next novel. It’s a day where we ask ourselves: Am I where I want to be?

Times Square, New York with my mom in 2012.

With my mom in Times Square, New York in 2012.

And, if the answer is “no,” then we can use the remainder of our away time to come up with a way to answer “yes” in the near future.

Me, basking in the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico moonlight in 2013.

Me, basking in the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico moonlight in 2013.

I would like to note that an annual getaway does amazing things for our perspective on life. For myself, I come back from vacation with a new vision for my business and writing endeavors, and I just feel rested and ready for the next chapter of my life. I’m a nicer person when I come back from vacation, and that’s always a good thing. Being happier and more relaxed means that I’m a healthier person who can run a healthy business. I’ve made it a rule to travel somewhere at least once a year since that trip to Hawaii nearly a decade ago, and I’ve been blessed enough to keep that rule.

Gorgeous sunset at the Mona Lisa restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Gorgeous sunset at the Mona Lisa restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

If vacation is not an option for you in the near future, set aside some reflection days–national holidays are a good start. And, if the thought of vacation stresses you out…um…you should probably take a vacation. 🙂 Grab a piña colada and take some time for yourself. Cheers!

Homemade guacamole (with chips) and a

Homemade guacamole (with chips) and a “handcrafted” piña colada! Made it myself. 😉

Interview with Braxton Cosby, CEO of Cosby Media Productions


(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

Any smart entrepreneur or business person alike knows that in order to succeed and further one’s career, it’s wise to take advice from other entrepreneurs/business owners. I find that interviewing successful and creative people is the fastest way to learn about how they think while learning from their triumphs and failures.

Today, Dr. Braxton A. Cosby is a guest on my blog, and he’s here to share about his new company, Cosby Media Productions. As the CEO of the company, there is much he is responsible for, but I really wanted to pick his brain in regards to what prompted him to start the company in the first place. So, grab a cup of coffee and read on.

CMP TM1000

1. Tell us about your company, Cosby Media Productions. What does your company do, etc.?

BC: Cosby Media Productions is a full-service entertainment company that focuses on new intellectual properties in the areas of management, print/digital books, music, television, and film. New content is already in the works with networking and partnership opportunities available for future endeavors. It was developed by me, the CEO, and my partner, Leon Cosby III, who is the acting COO. We truly endeavor to build and partner with other content creators to make fabulous entertainment in the same scope or even larger than the blueprint that my Uncle Bill Cosby started.

2. What prompted you to start this company?

BC: The lack of original content available for people. There is something missing in today’s entertainment. Good, original, family content that inspires people. I love stories that offer encouragement and display good role-modeling for young people to follow. I’m excited at the prospects of how well-received some of the many projects we have in development are.

3. Is it difficult to manage a company like this? What are some of the biggest struggles you face as a business owner?

BC: Not really. Leon and I make the tough decisions of deciding who we partner with, and I have the final say so on what content we run with. Bringing on partners who we feel we can trust to pass on managing one facet of the company is tough, but we believe in those people. So, with God’s help through prayer, we walk in faith.

4. What are some of the benefits of owning your own company?

BC: Building and controlling you own content. We love the fact that once we get these projects funded, we will be able to keep the originality and purpose of the content intact, without compromising the messaging.

5. What kinds of projects are taking place at CMP right now?

BC: We have 5 divisions: management, film, tv, print and music. We have just finished completing deals that will ensure that our print and music divisions get the authors and singers the attention they deserve, and we are shaping out the animation and live action film and tv projects for first tier development. Action, story, and messaging are our focus, and it is paramount that they blend together smoothly.

6. Is there a “dream project” you’d like to work on?

BC: PROTOSTAR. I really want the trilogy to make it to the big screen and it will. But, it will require time to bring the pieces together.


I’d like to personally thank Braxton for taking the time to share a bit about his company and his heart behind the creation of Cosby Media Productions. Also, DID YOU KNOW? I am the Chief Editor for Cosby Media’s Print Division. We have already put out some great books this year, and are looking forward to the future projects for 2015! 🙂

To find out more about Braxton and CMP, visit these sites:




Braxton Cosby headshotBio: Author, actor, entrepreneur. Multi-Award Winning Author Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer who evolved from concepts on pen and paper to pixels and keyboards. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulate thought. Protostar: Book 1 The Star-Crossed Saga, and The School of Ministry: The Windgate, are currently two Young Adult series he created. Braxton is the CEO of Cosby Media Productions, a full-service media company with five divisions focused on developing Intellectual Properties that will “Entertain the Mind and Inspire the Soul.” He lives in Georgia with his wife, three children, and a troop of crazy African Cichlids. 

You’re Doing it Wrong: Networking on Facebook

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

It’s Friday! Awesome! Today, let’s look at networking on Facebook. There are many things that annoy me about Facebook (thank goodness for the unfollow feature), but there are some specific networking faux pas that irk me the most. Let me break it down for you:

1. Friending (ya, that’s totally a word now) for the sole purpose of selling your crap.

-Friending is one thing; networking is another. Networking still involves building a relationship, just like friending does. However, with networking, it’s not pure sales–at least, not right away. In networking, making the connection first is important. If someone doesn’t know you yet, why would they want to buy your stuff? Gimmicks of days past just don’t work anymore. Consumers want to know you first before they invest in your product.


2. And if someone does accept your friend request for the purpose of marketing: Posting your sales pitch to someone’s Facebook timeline. NO!

-This actually has happened to me before. Not often, but it does happen. I accepted a friend request from a fellow writer, in order to connect, and he posted his book stuff on my timeline as soon as I confirmed the request! What did I do? I hid the post right away and unfollowed him (but still kept the connection). An action like that is like going on a blind date and then proposing at the end. Don’t. Do. It.

Annoying FB Girl

3. Sending unwarranted DMs (direct messages) on Facebook to someone’s personal account.

-Remember Mr. Real Estate from my “You’re Doing it Wrong: Potential Clients/Leads” post? He was on my “no-no” list with his methods of reaching out to potential leads–namely, my sister. After my sister unsubscribed to his newsletters, he not only reached out to her via e-mail, but ALSO sent her a DM–same message–on Facebook! Do not do that! It’s rude, it’s desperate, and it’s annoying.

DM Picard

So, what is it okay to do?

1. It’s okay, within reason, to reach out on a fan page.

-If you have something relevant to a fan page, go ahead and reach out. Sometimes, I receive messages on my fan page, asking for a reciprocal like. And you know what? If the message is nice, I usually return the favor. We’re all trying to build our networks, and if someone is supporting me, I’m happy to help.


2. It’s okay to reach out in promo groups.

-Promo groups on Facebook are AWESOME. I am part of some great communities on FB, and the members are extremely supportive of one another. When you reach out or post a promotion, just make sure you are following the rules of each group. Some groups don’t care for self-promotion and others are cool with it. And, I’ll reiterate: READ THE GROUP RULES before proceeding with your promo campaign.

In Summary

Use common sense while networking on Facebook, and if you’re not sure, ask a friend (or e-mail me). Networking with others should be fun, helpful, and courteous. Don’t make yourself look like a social media ogre. It’s just not pretty. Done the right way, you’ll generate leads and build some important relationships for furthering your career.

Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to Facebook networking? Leave a comment!


How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur: 5 Rules

(Updated 10-20-14)

Oftentimes, expecting success and acting like you are already successful in a new endeavor can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who have a positive outlook in life are not immune to calamity, but they know how to get through the storms of life, conquering unfortunate situations with a sword of destiny. Maybe that sounds a little too poetic, but in principle, it’s true.

Each one of us has something unique to offer the world, but often we become so bogged down by responsibilities, that we settle for less than our best. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by, or unfortunate in, our situations and we allow ourselves to play the victim. We begin to recite the old cliché: “I wish that I knew what I know now…when I was younger.” We become stuck in our past mistakes or failures to launch. It’s a depressing cycle.


There’s nothing wrong with choosing the life and responsibilities that we do. Many people want to get married young, start a family, and want to live the suburban life. That is totally fine. I have never had those desires at the forefront of my life, and that has given me a unique advantage in climbing my career ladder. However, I do think there’s a problem with settling.

“Settling can lead us to become stuck in our comfort zones, and we create a drudgery-filled routine in life, too scared to move beyond the known to the unknown.” -T. Hela

Those who are successful in life are those who refuse to settle, see failures as simply lessons from which to learn, and hate the phrase “comfort zone.” And those same people are the movers and shakers of this world, helping to solve various problems for humanity, mainly because they have found their niche in life and are contributing to the world through their individual genius.


When I began my own business in August of last year, I had two main goals:

1. To be overwhelmingly happy with my work (and thus not feel like I was actually “working”).

2. To make enough money to pay the bills.

However, it’s only been a recent discovery in which I noticed how my own niche and passion were helping to not only solve problems for my clients, but were extending beyond the scope of each project.

For example, when I copyedited a website for a client—my largest project last year—I not only helped my client to have better web copy, but affected every current and future visitor who would be looking at the website.

When I edited a manuscript for another client, I helped her novel’s message and storyline come across more effectively, and also affected future readers by better facilitating them to connect to a great story that will encourage them in their personal lives.

So you see, what I do for a living is much bigger than writing and editing; what I do affects many people, just like ripples in a lake.


But again I ask: Why is it so hard for many to find their “genius?” Why do people settle and become miserable in their careers, have a midlife crisis around forty, and feel like what they do doesn’t contribute much to the world?

I honestly think that it comes down to two simple things:

  1. Individuals don’t know themselves as well as they think.
  2. It’s just plain scary to take a leap of faith.

But those two things can be remedied. It’s not easy, and it certainly takes a fair amount of time to develop. Yet, it can be done.

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Get to know yourself: personality-wise and career-wise. There are some great avenues in which to do so:

  • The Meyers-Briggs personality test is a great way to begin on the path of “knowing thyself.”
  • Clifton Strengths Finder (2.0) is an awesome resource for finding your strengths and applying them to your career and personal life. I have often bought the book for my clients, and have had them take the test so I could better understand their habits and ways of thinking.
  • Stand Out is another great way to discover dominant traits/strengths for your work life.
  • No matter how few or how many traumas you’ve experienced in your life, invest some time and money into either a coach or therapist. One of my amazing friends, Sarah, has a coaching business which helps people determine their goals and move past obstacles to live a life in which they thrive.

2. Plan for both success and failure.

  • As the saying goes, “Failing to plan means planning to fail.” However, keep in mind that failure is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’ve prepared. This is different than failing a test because you didn’t study. It means planning for the best and worst, but always hoping and striving for the best. Have realistic expectations and goals, but dream big.
  • The more I study successful people, the more I hear them saying the same thing: “Overnight success is contingent upon years of planning.” Though I did take a big leap of faith into starting my own business last year, I had been developing my writing/editing skills for many years, and studied all that I could about business, goal-setting, and time management. And I’ve still not struck that whole “overnight success” thing, but give me another year or two, and I believe I will.

3. Become a People Collector.

  • “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Time and time again, this saying has proven itself on numerous occasions in my life. I quickly learned at a young age just how important it is to know the right people, and develop great relationships with them. It has advanced my career more so than having three college degrees.


4. Give back.

  • Be a People Collector, yes, but also be a resource for other People Collectors. By giving of your time and talents, you’d be surprised how many favors you can call in. Before launching my business, I did a ton of pro bono work, and now it’s paying off. By doing pro bono work, I discovered that: there was a market for my skills, my skills were in high demand, and I enjoyed coaching/writing/editing/business building.
  • Offer something of value to people, and offer it for free. Do you know something that other people don’t? I’m not saying to give away the bank and never charge for your intellectual property, BUT…divulge some helpful tips here and there. It will hook people, and they’ll feel more confident about hiring you for the full spectrum.

5. Don’t fear the unknown; fear regrets.

  • When all else fails, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. You have to do something that no one else is encouraging you to do, except for that throbbing feeling in your heart. It’s that feeling pushing you to do something unexpected and risky. It’s the thread that connects all entrepreneurs: the courage to possibly look stupid and fail because you believe so strongly in your idea.
  • If you find yourself miserable in your career or life circumstance, ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if I decide to take this risk? If you answer any range of outcomes, except for death, then consider how you would plan to overcome or avoid any of the consequences. Losing all your money, looking stupid, failing, etc. Seems to me that death is worse than all those things, if that helps to put things into perspective.
  • If you have such a compelling idea to do something—an idea that won’t leave you alone, no matter what—then start drafting out the possibilities. Is it helpful to others? Will it make money and help you pay the bills? Is there a market for it? Do you possess the skills and knowledge necessary for this idea to come to fruition? And if you are missing some skills or knowledge, do you know others who could help you? If you answer yes more than no, you should probably do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT a weakness; it is a strength. After all, that’s the whole point of becoming a People Collector AND a resource for others. Call in some favors, buy someone a coffee for an hour of their time as they give you advice, ask an old boss or colleague for a letter of recommendation or testimonial.
  • Think of all the possibilities rather than all the obstacles!

Like I said before: It’s not easy to be successful, but it’s doable. Can you imagine how different the world would be if we all found our genius niche and offered it to others? If we were all helpful AND successful? Perhaps we would have more time to give back to others and tackle humanity’s problems with real and lasting solutions.

So, my encouragement to you: Look inward first, before looking outward. What can YOU fix about YOU? How can you shape your life and career to be someone you’re proud of…someone who reaches others?

How can you help yourself, so that you can help the world?

Until next time, Keep Calm & Business On!


You’re Doing it Wrong: Potential Clients/Leads

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

Last time I checked, there are still absolutes in this world. If I throw a rock at your head, it’s not a feather pillow just because you call it so. And, guess what? Your head will hurt, unless you’re completely numb or drugged, etc. I know that’s an extreme (and violent) example, but this world is so full of opinions and methods that are…well, wrong. The world is also full of opinions and methods that are right—very right.

Therefore, I’ve created a series titled: “You’re Doing it Wrong.” This series is not meant to degrade any one person or any one practice, but to simply shed some light on many wrongdoings in “work world.” However, be warned: I can get pretty sassy. (Perhaps you have already read my Twitter post in this series.)

Today’s topic? The wrong way to pursue potential leads/clients.

My sister bought a house this year—yay for her!—and while she was looking, she subscribed to a few local real estate e-newsletters and such, in order to better educate herself about the current market. When she found an agent she liked and wanted to work with, she decided to let the agent take over, and unsubscribed from all the annoying real estate emails she was receiving way too often.

Rather than find a nice “unsubscribe confirmation” email in her inbox, she was surprised to find a somewhat desperate email about her action of unsubscribing from a particular firm. The guy just couldn’t let go. He even encouraged her to go and like his Facebook page and view his YouTube channel.

Look, I’m all for giving people great resources, but seriously?


This is the WRONG way to attract potential clients/leads. It’s the old skool form of marketing—direct marketing, and specifically, a cold call (cold email, in this case). I’ll tell you how to remedy this at the end of this post, but first, I’d like to share the actual email from Real Estate Man that was sent to my sister.

Take heed if you have ever done something to the effect of the email below:

Dear [removed],

Thank U for your feedback. I am sorry to see you have chosen to unsubscribe from my exclusive home search website, but I just wanted to make sure I had every opportunity to help you since you subscribed recently with the info. submitted.

Its a very challenging market right now with limited inventory, rising prices & rising intereste rates. Its not a market for the “faint of heart.” Pls feel free to get back to me if I can be of service to you or someone near & dear to you as well in the not too distant future. Thanks so much again. Sincerely, [removed]

p.s. I also invite you to check out & “LIKE” my FB Biz page that is full of Great info., current community events & pertinent market data & info.

(I removed all his other PPS additions, because he added his social media links.)

My problems with this communication piece:

  • Not spelling out words. Be professional and craft a better form of communication, especially if you’re trying to attract clients.
  • Send an auto unsubscribe confirmation email and leave it at that. Asking for feedback as to why someone has unsubscribed from your materials is appropriate, but leave them alone after that.
  • A first time home buyer does not want to hear that the market is not for the “faint of heart.” If you’re a good real estate agent, I’ll hire you to do all the dirty work, and I need to know that you’re going to be my partner.
  • Check your grammar and sentence structure before sending out a “professional” communication. I know I’m picky because I’m a writer and editor—and trust me, I make mistakes, too—but I am always turned off by people who don’t invest in bettering their communication materials. If you’ve been selling houses for a while, I know you have enough money to hire a proofreader to catch glaring mistakes.
  • Don’t ask me to “like” you on Facebook or watch your videos, especially if A) I don’t want to receive your communications any more, and B) I don’t even know you yet. It’s like going on a blind date and then proposing. Things are moving a little too fast…buh-bye.

Overly Attached GF FB-email

I know there are worse emails out there, but this one struck a nerve with me. Plus, my sister later told me that he contacted her again! There comes a point where, if you reach out too often to people who clearly don’t want to use your services, your methods can actually become a form of harassment. You are in danger of becoming like those telemarketers who call people every night during dinner, asking if they want to save the earth by purchasing stuffed honey badgers. Just. Stop. (Not to mention that someone could very possibly take action against you and who has time for all that legal stuff?)

How could Mr. Real Estate have done things better?

  • For starters, he could have simply respected my sister’s choice to unsubscribe. Plain and simple. She’s probably not in his target market anyway, and focusing your efforts on leads like that is a waste of your time.

Grumpy Cat Unsubscribed

  • He could have used a proofreader or editor for his communication. Hell, just spelling out you rather than using U would have made a vast improvement.

Spell out you

  • Moving forward, he should reconsider his marketing efforts and brush up his knowledge on Inbound Marketing—marketing, basically, that brings leads and clients in to you rather than you figuring out how to reach every single market through cold calls, etc. Click HERE to read an article about defining Inbound Marketing, via HubSpot.

Inbound Baby

Takeaway: Don’t be that guy. Don’t be pushy while reaching out. Instead, read some marketing books and current articles, change your old ways of thinking when it comes to building your customer base, and for the love of everything that is professional—proofread your emails!

Stay tuned for next Friday’s “You’re Doing it Wrong” post.

BONUS: Awesome Marketing/Copywriting/Writing Blogs to help you become a better professional:



Writer’s Digest


Jeff Bullas