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Starting from Scratch – Part 2


Today on The Bigg Success Show, we continued our discussion with Adam Shepard. Adam is the author of the book Scratch Beginnings, which describes his year-long real-life experiment to see if the American Dream is still alive. Last time, Adam told us about the initial stages of his experiment and what it took to begin his path toward independence. Let’s get back to the conversation …

georgeAdam, have you ever thought about becoming a Wall Street investment banker, losing all your money and turning to the government for help?



I have not.



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Don’t Listen to Career Tests

By Dana Mancuso
Bigg Success Contributor

Again with the Funeral Director? 


In high school many of you probably took a careers/skills/interest survey. I did. And what I remember most is that my answers to the questions linked me highly with the occupation of Funeral Director. I am sure it also linked me with several other occupations, but that one stuck in my mind as I read the test results at age 16 or 17. And, of course, I instantly thought in stereotypes and imagined a job in a morose world of sadness and death. Sounded like a great job to a high schooler – and a girl to boot. What females run funeral homes? And it sure was fun for my sister. What a hoot for a 13- or 14-year old to find out her sister ought to be a Funeral Director (actually the test at that time said Mortician.) Imagine the great teasing that happened at our house.

Not once, but twice

So, fast forward a couple of decades. I had completely forgotten about those results until I once again took a skills/interest assessment test online. Just for kicks, to see where my skills might take me in future incarnations of my career (no pun intended there.)

Guess what ranked right up there in the top five on the list? Yep. Funeral Director. So this time, I decided to dive into the results and find out what it is about me and/or my answers that linked me to this profession, not once, but twice—20 years apart. There must be something that keeps bringing me back to that career.

My instincts told me that the following skills and interests would make me likely to thrive in this career:

  • I like helping people
  • I am generally calm
  • I am sensitive to the needs of others
  • I can help people plan
  • I write well

My instincts also told me that:

  • I'd have a tough time spending each day surrounded by grieving people
  • I'd have a tougher time spending each day surrounded by the dearly departed

Back to the research

According to the U.S. Department of Labor in its "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition", funeral directors:

“Perform various tasks to arrange and direct funeral services, such as coordinating transportation of body to mortuary for embalming, interviewing family or other authorized person to arrange details, selecting pallbearers, procuring official for religious rites, and providing transportation for mourners.

The job of a funeral director requires tact, discretion, and compassion when dealing with grieving people.”

Self assessment

Let's see…Tact. Check. Interview skills. Check. Arranging details by phone. Check. Discreet, Compassionate. You bet. So far, sounds like me.

However, that's where the buck stops. I might have some of the skills but not the constitution.

A profile on of Funeral Director Fred Skinner summed up nicely the intangible qualities needed:

“Dealing with the emotional upheaval a major loss brings poses one of the profession's most important challenges. In one case, Skinner helped a teenage boy, beside himself with grief at the loss of his grandfather, to come to terms with the death. The family had chosen that the body not be viewed, and the boy was distraught that he could not see his grandfather for the last time. "I talked to the boy and his mother, and I got the family to give me 24 hours so that I could prepare the remains to give the boy a chance to see his grandfather and say goodbye."

There is more to any job than the skill set needed. What about temperament? Preference for hours worked? My personality, while compassionate, is too emotional for this kind of work. And though I most-likely could make all the logistics happen, I would not pass the test in terms of my comfort level with death. And, I like my evenings and weekends thank you very much.

So, even though I don't intend to choose this particular career as a next move, I discovered, or re-discovered some key information about my skills. Perhaps you would too. Take a career test online. You might unearth (again, no pun intended) some long lost skills or interests that you can polish for use in your current job or the next one you move into. And, by examining your personality, you might find out why you aren't in the jobs on your career test profile.

P.S. Funeral Directors have recently (2008) been highlighted in an Emmy Award-Nominated documentary. The PBS Frontline program The Undertaking received a nomination in the category of "Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming" category. According to a press release from the National Funeral Director's Association, Frontline “presented a moving, insightful view of funeral service and the important work performed by funeral service professionals every day. The documentary featured multi-generation, National Funeral Directors Association-member (NFDA) firm Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors, which operates from several locations in suburban Detroit, Michigan.” 

Hear today's lesson and laugh on The Bigg Success Show. 

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Women Can’t Win

According to Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace, gender stereotypes still play a major role in how women are judged. If they act consistently with female stereotypes, their competence is questioned. But if their behavior is consistent with that of the stereotypical male, they’re viewed as being too tough.

Catalyst has done these studies all around the world. They’ve found that the characteristics of a good leader vary from region to region. But whatever is considered ideal, women fall short.

So it would seem that women can’t win.

We understand that you can’t change people’s perceptions. To be more direct, you can’t change bias that’s based on stereotypes. You can’t control anyone else.

So why worry about it? Focus on what you CAN control – how you conduct yourself and your business. You are the CEO of the most important organization in the world – YOU, Inc.

So today we’ll offer 3 tips to overcome stereotypes, gender-based or otherwise.

Tip #1 – Be yourself.
You can’t change opinions that can’t be changed. But if people like you, or at least respect you, you’ll succeed. So if you’re a nurturing person, nurture. If you’re assertive, be assertive.

Don’t try to please everybody. Don’t second guess who you are. Don’t try to become what someone else wants you to be. And don’t ever apologize for who you are.

Tip #2 – Promote yourself.

Make sure you’re 132 getting the credit that you deserve]. Don’t be so humble. Make sure you keep document what you’ve done. Make your boss aware of it. Then you’ll be in demand – with your current company or a new one.

Tip #3 – If all else fails, find a different workplace.
If your boss or your company isn’t supporting you, move on to a company that will. If you’re not completely ready, start making preparations. And that doesn’t have anything to do with preparation H! This isn’t an easy solution, but you have to go for what you want in life.

Tip #3B – Start your own business.
Create a workplace where you’d like to work. That’s the motivation for a lot of women starting a business. And women are starting businesses today at three times the rate of men.

Turning stereotypes upside down
Here’s something that we found very interesting – traits that are often viewed as negatives in the corporate world are being turned into advantages in the entrepreneurial world.

Margaret Heffernan wrote a great book, How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business. She says that female entrepreneurs emphasize values and relationships. They create a culture that includes employees, customers, and the community at large.

The result – they are building companies that last AND make a contribution. Doesn’t that sound like good leadership?

How have you beat stereotypes, gender or otherwise?
Share it with us by leaving a Comment below!

Our bigg quote is by Anonymous.

“Some leaders are born women.”

But no one is born a leader. You have to take action, but you can do it! After all, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Next time, we’ll sit down at the negotiating table for some delicious tips to negotiate your next deal. The women are having steak … the men are having quiche … how’s that for beating stereotypes?

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!