Photo Credit: Andy Feliciotti
It was the 1980s, a time of Talking Heads, padded shoulders and big hair. I had just graduated from college with a B.S. in Agriculture. A younger sorority sister of mine at Penn State with a really cool name, Mimi Roma, told me she was moving to Washington D.C. with her boyfriend and was going to finish her degree at Georgetown University. I didn’t know of Georgetown. I was a country bumpkin from Western Pennsylvania who only applied to one college and didn’t even know the meaning of Ivy League.
I also didn’t know exactly what I was going to do after college. I didn’t have anything lined up. The United States was in the middle of a terrible recession. I went to the library near the grassy center of campus and looked up Georgetown and saw that it was considered one of the best universities. I didn’t know anyone in Washington D.C., but I got the idea that I should go there, too.
My boyfriend agreed to move there with me. He had some fraternity brothers who were renting a house in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and they could rent us a room. We drove there in my bright orange Ford Pinto with one hundred dollars and a couple of suitcases. We clutched on to the concept that with our degrees, along with a hope that only a freshly educated co-ed can realistically muster, we could find jobs.
Things were rough. The two of us slept on a single bed. My first task was scrubbing the bathroom we shared with four other guys. Boys can be so filthy. That first year, I hawked encyclopedias door-to-door. That was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in terms of learning to sell and overcoming rejection. It was an education in and of itself. My boyfriend couldn’t find a job. Finally he found one, but it wasn’t in the Washington D.C. area and so he moved away. I stayed.
Back to my idea to attend Georgetown University. I took my GRE. Got my undergrad transcripts and the whole nine yards. Referrals from three of my professors. Applied. Started taking part-time night classes in the interim. Met and pretty much camped out on the doorstep of the Chairman of the Economics Department. Finally after doing well the first semester, I was accepted and given a fellowship. Execution.
Washington, D.C. was a wonder. Although it is small compared to cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, to me it was vast. I was nervous just driving around the Beltway. I walked everywhere I could with my worn tennis shoes and Sony Walkman. I passed iconic government buildings on the mall, like the museums and different Cabinet Departments. There was also The World Bank and the Peace Corps. I had the idea, I can work at one of those places. And I did. I became a typist for the CIA. I got an internship at HUD where I wrote a book that was published. I made a friend in my graduate program and he introduced me to my future boss at the World Bank. Execution, execution, execution.
Looking back, my entire life has been about coming up with ideas and executing them, by almost any means necessary.
And it has been that way with my business today, Bloomers Island. I nurtured the idea for a long time, then raised seven figures and started executing. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of it and how difficult it has been the last few years (my investors have been both patient and supportive), but I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. To be sure, it is a light that at any moment can be snuffed out, but it is there, faint, dispersed and faintly glowing through the fog of the future.
It was one of my most trusted advisors who first uttered the saying to me, There is no such thing as a good idea, there is only good execution. Immediately it was love at first hearing. How many times has someone told me that theyhave a great idea, this or that, and I listen to them and know they will never execute; they will never put in the work and dedication, along with the money and the risk, to bring it to life?
Photo Credit: Brittany Colette
How do we bring our ideas to life? How do we bridge the gap between coming up with brilliant ideas and then following through on them? I did some research on this, and thought a lot about how I have been able to bring my ideas to life. This is what I do:
1. I honor my ideas. I write them down. I try to bring them to life.
2. I tell everyone I know. You never know who is going to share your enthusiasm. It might even be a potential investor.
3. I figure out a way, strategically and tactically to achieve my ideas. I make a plan.
4. Failure is never an option for me. I burn my ships.
5. I am patient, but not so entrenched that I am not willing to pivot.
6. I persevere. Character is sticking with a project long after the mood has passed. I forget who said that, but it’s true. Perseverance is about 90% of success.
Think about all the times you came up with an idea and then executed it. You can repeat that! It doesn’t matter if you work for yourself or work for a large company.
Let me know the best idea you ever had that you were able to execute.
Here are some great articles that may also help if you’re struggling with bringing your ideas to life.
My last article on Medium : Where The Heck Is My Comfort Zone And How Do I Get Out Of It?
The 12 Things That Successfully Convert a Great Idea Into a Reality by Glen Liopis for Forbes.
How to Execute Great Ideas by Marla Tabaka for Inc.
How Do I Actually Execute On My Ideas by Art Markman for Fast Company.
Eventually, Mimi Roma and I drifted apart. The funny thing is, she never went to Georgetown. But I did.
You've Got Snail Mail
I remember when I was a little girl, the mail lady drove up and down our suburban hill putting letters in the spacious silver mailboxes at the end of each driveway. If we wanted to mail something, we would put it in the box and raise the red flag that rested dutifully at its side. The mail lady was very sweet to all the kids and at Christmas we would leave her a little box of holiday cookies or a card with some cash in it. She would take my envelope with its carefully printed address to Santa Claus at the North Pole, usually with an S&H green stamp in the upper right hand corner, and earnestly promise to deliver it to him. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
We would get stacks of Christmas cards from all my mom and dad’s friends near and far, back at a time before social media could catch them up on everyone’s doings. I imagined that every letter in the mailbox was from a place I had never heard of and never been to, which was probably true, but those places were the nearest big city which was Pittsburgh, and not somewhere exotic like Hawaii or Europe or Australia. China was a place we thought we could reach by digging a hole in the back yard, and all the way through the planet.
The idea of getting a letter was fantastical to me at that time. I didn’t even get mailed letters or cards from my grandparents because they lived close by and I saw them all the time. But when we moved far away from our suburban home to Misty Hill Farm, written in neat block letters on our new mailbox, I promised to write to my friend Cindy Wolf, who in addition to sharing the same first name and last initial as me, also shared my birthday. I even got stationery for Christmas that year and we were pretty conscientious about our writing until we weren’t anymore.
When my first children’s book, The Great Garden Party, was published last year, a lot of my friends and family asked me to sign their book for a special child. For those children who I didn't know or didn't live near me, I thought, why not send them a postcard instead, with my thanks and well wishes (and remind them to eat their veggies of course). That way, they would get something in the mail... an unusual occurrence for any child, in any time.
I set about designing and printing the postcard which is from an exotic place: Bloomers Island, located somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean and that no human has ever seen let along visited. The Bloomers even have their own mail system (the Snail Mailman) and their own stamps (worth 50 Golden Suns). I thought that would be much more exciting and the child could use it as a bookmark too! And then I thought, why not offer that to every child who buys a book? So that’s what I’m doing. If you buy one of the Bloomers’ books, you can email me at email@example.com, (I will get that promptly), with your child’s name and address and I will send her or him a postcard from Bloomers Island. Remember though that since it is coming from the Snail Mailman on Bloomers Island it may take a little while!
Remind your special child to enjoy their book, eat their veggies, and I look forward to hearing from them. The book, Bloomers Island, The Great Garden Party, can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere.
Spring has sprung and it’s time to get outside with the little ones. When I’m not writing or running my business, Bloomers Island, I work with schools to set up school gardens and get kids excited about gardening.
When my children were little and I was trying to get them to eat more vegetables I created stories about little plant, flower and tree characters (not vegetables!) called the Bloomers. I drew upon those characters and their home, Bloomers Island, and wove them into my lessons. Bloomers Island is a mysterious place far away in the Pacific Ocean that no human has ever seen, and where plants became the intelligent species. The Bloomers have to learn how to garden along with other important life lessons at their boarding school, a tree house held in the arms of Mr. Banyan.
I turned my stories into books where kids are inspired to grow their own food and eat their veggies. Here are some of the ideas and activities that you can try with your kids right now:
1. Make gardening a game. Make up little prizes to give away to your children as they complete a gardening task.
2. Invite friends. Let them have friends over to help them.
3. Don’t forget the value of a scavenger hunt! Hide a couple of seed packets around the house or outside in the yard and let your kids look for them. When they find the seeds, help them choose what they want to grow.
4. Bring technology into it. Let’s face it, kids love technology and there are many gardening apps they can use to plan a garden.
5. Remember, gardening can be done indoors or out. You can grow lettuce, herbs, onions or radishes in a pot on a windowsill as long as there is sunlight.
6. Kids love digging in the dirt! Give them a trowel and see how fast and how deep they can dig a hole.
7. Kids love tools in general. Invest in an inexpensive gardening apron with their very own tools.
8. Look up recipes together. Make a dish with whatever vegetable they are growing.
9. Come up with some science experiments. Do fruits of the same size (avocados and tomatoes) have the same size seeds? For the little ones, cut open different fruits, pull out their seeds and put them in order from largest to smallest. Do the seed sizes correspond to the size of the fruit? What about peaches and apples?
Be creative and think of your own ideas to make gardening and healthy eating fun for your kids. Better yet, ask them! And share your ideas with us.