Super goal winners

While the rest of the country is snacking on Doritos and watching the Super Bowl, I’m propped up in my bed with furry Wilber stretched alongside me.  I’d much rather talk to you than watch football.

Honestly, I do not even know how the game is played.  And that is probably shameful given that I attended The Ohio State University during the years of football’s famous coach Woody Hayes and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.

I am much more excited that my colleague Daren Stinson, who loves the Ravens, is over-the-moon they’re in the Super Bowl. And I’m thrilled there are several Women on Fire in the stands in New Orleans, including Women on Fire Book 2 co-author Kim Davis.

Woman on Fire Kim Davis is in the house … at the Super Bowl!

But, for me, the only way I can relate to the excitement people have for sports is to equate it with how crazy happy I feel when Women on Fire set their goals for the dreams they so want — and it all comes true!

So, congratulations to the Super Bowl winner and all their fans, and here are a few Women on Fire members who are my personal Super Goal winners:

Kira Karmazin and I celebrating her big success in going for her dream

Kira Karmazin of Atlanta and I enjoyed a long and luxurious lunch in Naples, Florida this weekend.  I could have talked forever to this inspiring apparel-industry executive, who while working a full-time job and raising daughter Grace, created and launched her dream-come-true clothing line.

Her fashion-forward, exquisite yoga wear company KiraGrace was recently featured by Hoda and Kathie Lee on NBC’s Today Show!

Emily Neal of Nashville set a big goal to spend a semester abroad during her sophomore year at Vanderbilt University — and voila, she’s is now in Copenhagen! Check out her exciting adventures — attending Denmark’s Fashion Week —  in her new blog.

Nothing will stop this powerful threesome– Laurel Hodory, Amy Marzluff and Carrie Saba

Carrie Saba, Amy Marzluff and Laurel Hodory, from Columbus, Ohio — all three amazing coaches and teachers — took a weekend getaway and winter hike to create their own Vision Day experience and set their dreams.  I can only imagine what we’ll see from each of them this year. Carrie and Laurel are  co-authors in Women on Fire Book 2 and you’ll be able to read their empowering stories later this year.

As a little girl, Nellie Partow of New York City sketched designs in her notebook and dreamed of being a fashion designer.   Today, with a dozen collections to her credit, she was recently nominated for the fashion industry’s Rising Star Award.  And now Vogue Magazine is recognizing her supreme talent. Way to go for your dreams, Nellie!

Carmencita Whonder of Washington, DC is set to announce her years-in-the-making business — Of Whonder — a line of plus-size yoga wear. Stay tuned when details are revealed in New York City on February 13!

Congratulations to Ellen Wingard of Chilmark, Massachusetts, who this week becomes the chair of the board of World Pulse.  An author and transformational leader, Ellen has nearly 30 years of experience in leadership coaching.

Those of you who met her at the recent Women on Fire Retreat in Chicago will remember her powerful presence and goal to advance and promote the social and economic empowerment of women in the world.  She is well on her way!

Congratulations to each of you.  It is a joy to watch you set your goals and dreams and go for it!

If you have milestones in your dreams to share, please keep me posted on how your goals are transforming your life.


Does fear keep you from pursuing your dreams?

If you or loved ones were affected by Superstorm Sandy last week, my heart goes out to you.

We narrowly escaped her here on Martha’s Vineyard with only a minor inconvenience of no power for several hours.  Seeing the damage to our beaches, dunes and trees was terrible enough.

Superstorm Sandy flattened the dunes and transformed the once smooth and wide Lucy Vincent Beach on Martha’s Vineyard into a bed of rocks and stones.

So I can’t imagine the devastation and toll on so many on the East Coast.  Please let us know if you are suffering in any way because of the storm.

Last week we were preparing for the storm and I had just returned from the Women on Fire Retreat in Chicago. I promised to share from our Women on Fire weekend for those of you who weren’t able to attend.

In thinking about it this past week, something important stood out from the Retreat.  For me, it was the courage and strength that women coming together in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and encouragement provided for each other.

And, that is one of the best reasons to attend a Women on Fire event.  You’ve heard me say many times “a rising tide lifts all boats” and never was that truer than at the Retreat when so many women found the support to move toward their dreams.

Many of you spoke — both publicly at the Retreat and to me privately — about your fear to step up and step out to pursue your dreams.

It’s time. The world needs what you have to offer.

Woman on Fire Ellen Wingard bravely spoke to us during the Retreat with such eloquence.  For years, she has led from behind, she said. And now it is her time to lead from the front!  She has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Listening to the inspiring Ellen Wingard speak at the Women on Fire Retreat (Photo by Rob Berkley)

How is it for you?  What stops you from standing up tall and taking the lead to go after and share your dreams with the world?

Fear? Not knowing exactly what to do?

The latter is easy:  please ask for help.  And, if that’s hard for you, start to practice in small ways to ask for help.

If it is fear that stops you, you need support.  You need “your people,” those who believe in you, eagerly cheer you on and keep you on track, to see you through to your dreams.

And, you need double or triple the support you think you might need, so you have a surplus when the going gets tough!

When I started Women on Fire nine years ago, I was terrified.  What if I fail? What if no one’s interested? What if I’m a terrible leader?

But I knew in my soul that there needed to be a community where women could find inspiration, strategies and support for their dreams — and there was no other community that I knew of that provided what I dreamed of.

Many angels — both men and women — have whispered to me through the year to  “keep going.”  And, I needed every single soul who provided comforting words and support.

Out of ignorance, there will always be people who don’t get our dreams, don’t get our business model, don’t believe what we have to offer is worthy of pursuit.

Nanna nanna boo boo to them.

If you believe your family, your community, your world will benefit from your dream, do not let anyone or anything stop you.  Most of all, don’t YOU stop your dream.

Fear, as you may have heard, is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Next week we’ll discuss some strategies for conquering our fears.

For now, your job is to figure out all the reasons you are not living full out and pursuing your dream.  And, hint?  Money is not one of them.

I was reminded just yesterday of how little money has to do with pursuit of our dreams.  I’m reading Bruce Springsteen’s new biography Bruce (Amazon link) by Peter Ames Carlin.

America’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll star was so poor while pursuing his dream to share his music that when he finally got a record contract, he had to read it by candlelight because his electricity had been shut off.

Safe to say his world unfolded beyond his wildest dreams … and lack of money never stopped him.

See you here next week and feel free to send me your list of what stops you from pursuing your dreams!

Nothing happens unless first a dream

I just arrived home from New York City where I celebrated with a number of you at a Women on Fire Tea and appeared on Janette Barber’s radio show on Sirius XM.

The trip was filled with many delicious surprises.
Women on Fire Tea in New York City on Friday — Front row: Lara Licharowicz, Jolie Solomon, Renee Schmidt; second row: Darlene Wade, Ann Graham, Janette Barber, Mary Ann Donatelli-Reilly, Holly Getty, Ellen Wingard, Debbie Phillips, Jenifer Madson, Kim Anderson, Sandra Carlson, Heike Vogel, Janina Sebesky and Muffy Vrana (Photos by Rob Berkley)

My birthday is June 25 so my husband came along to New York and treated me to an early birthday dinner with friends and a spa afternoon with Woman on Fire Holly Getty!

And, Woman on Fire Sarah Elizabeth Greer hosted an extraordinary brunch complete with a handsome bassist playing some of my favorite tunes.

So sliding into my actual birthday (a day I share with Woman on Fire Sandra Carlson!) I already feel very loved and blessed!

I love having the same birthday as Sandra Carlson of Washington, DC. Happy birthday to us on June 25! Do you share a birthday with anyone you know?

During my many discussions in New York, we talked a lot about going for our dreams.  And, one of you asked me: how do I even figure out my dreams?

Great question!

So before we talk about that today …

I want to welcome many of you who are here for the very first time.

Quite a few of you found us when you heard Janette Barber interviewing me on her radio show about the power of Women on Fire — women supporting and cheering each other to go for our dreams.

On the air with the fabulous Janette Barber, talking about the inspiration, strategies and support that make Women on Fire such an uplifting community!

As the American writer, editor and poet Carl Sandburg said: “Nothing happens unless first a dream.”

Fascinating to consider, isn’t it?

Here are some of the questions I’ve personally used and asked of many coaching clients over the years to help them figure out dreams worth pursuing.

Answer with as much candor as you can and this is also a good exercise to journal:

1) Who do you enjoy helping and what problems can you solve for them?

2) What wrong in the world do you want to make right?

3) When you were a child or teen-ager, what did you dream of doing?

4) What do people come to you for?

5) If money or making a living were not a consideration, what would you do with your precious life?

Your answers to one or more of these questions will give you clues to dreams you may want to follow. Your answers also can unearth long-held dreams that you’ve forgotten.

In my own life, my answer to Question #1 led me to my dream that eventually became Women on Fire!

The people I wanted to help were my women coaching clients.  Successful in many ways, they were often isolated and feeling alone in their struggles.

My dream was to connect them in a fun and inspiring way so they could have the experience of being surrounded and empowered by other women cheering on their successes.

It was started out with a handful of women at a tea party — and voila nearly a decade later we are more than 3,000 women strong!

Cheering each other on — here I am at last week’s tea party in New York City with Janina Sebesky, Mary Ann Donatelli-Reilly and Janette Barber — amazing, supportive Women on Fire.

Indeed, nothing happens unless first a dream!

May your life be filled with inspiring dreams and the inspiration, strategies and support to pursue them.

7 Ways My Eyes Were Opened

I am stuffed – and writing to you from New York City after finishing the yummiest brunch at Nice Matin, one of my favorite restaurants.

Edward Beck Debbie Phillips Holly Getty and Ellen Wingard
My uplifting and treasured friends Ellen Wingard, Edward Beck and Holly Getty. (Thank you, random person on street who took this wonderful photo!)

When I am surrounded with supportive friends who make me feel loved and cherished like Edward, Ellen and Holly, I believe I can go out into the world and do anything.

Who in your life makes you feel this way?  Whoever cheers you on and helps you move forward, I hope you have a date on your calendar to spend time with them!

I am in New York City because I was invited to attend the 3rd Annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek/Daily Beast  Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown.

The summit was a convergence of 2,600 women from around the world and a showcase for some of the world’s most dazzling women change-agents – Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Leymah Gbowee, Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Christiane Amanpour, Sheryl WuDunn and many, many more.

After three days of immersion into the hopes, dreams, conditions and status of women and girls worldwide, I so wish I could give each woman who presented her due.

Instead, I will share the 7 Things That Opened My Eyes.  These were awarenesses that inspire me to want to be part of the solution for a better world.  In some instances, I’m not sure exactly how to help so I will take our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call to action as a roadmap.

“What does it mean to be a woman in the world?” she asked. “It means never giving up. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.”

There are many terrible things going on in the world that affect women.  The conference was not about politics, not about women vs. men, not about casting blame.  But rather how can we all join forces — no matter age, religion, political party, nationality — and find solutions.

This was, however, a call to action for women to use our gifts and talents, many unique to our gender, and help to solve our world’s problems.

Here are some topics that opened my eyes:

1) Child marriage is a horrific, pervasive problem in this world – and even in our own country.  25,000 girls under the age of 18 get married globally each and every day, some of them as young as 8 and 9.

In the United States, it is legal (with parental or court permission) to get married at age 12 in West Virginia and age 14 in New Hampshire.   Girls who marry at these tender ages face cascades of lifetime issues from lack of education and health to abuse and poverty.  Laws, customs and family traditions must be changed.

2) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at age 74, is an outspoken and powerful advocate for women.  Addressing the Summit, she made no bones about her opinions:  To people who say, “there are not enough qualified women (for elected office and top-level positions), that’s one of the biggest bullshit things I’ve ever heard!”

And, she will always hold a special place in my heart for her most famous quote: “I think there should be a special place in Hell for women who don’t support other women.”   You go, Madam Secretary!

3) Women are exquisitely and uniquely qualified to lead the world’s police and security forces. They bring different and needed gifts to this profession, which is increasingly more and more complex locally, nationally and globally.

Women are “lionesses” when it comes to protecting their families and communities,  innate skills and instincts for creating secure environments, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano pointed out.

Case in point: Washington DC’s Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, a single mother who entered law enforcement to make a better life for her son, is now celebrated for significantly reducing violent crimes in that city.  It has occurred because of her commitment to communication and outreach into the community.

4) “Women are too politely angry,” warned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, in discussing the power of women in conflict zones to replicate her success in toppling a corrupt government and violence in Liberia.  Pray The Devil Back To Hell is a stunning documentary (and one of my all-time top movies) detailing how women joined forces and conquered the violence in their country.

5) Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, two 20-something entrepreneurs shared their invention “SOccket Rockets.”  The device brings electricity to impoverished communities around the world and works when kids kick a soccer ball! One out of 5 people in the world don’t have power.  30 minutes of play gives 3 hours of power!

6) Former presidential daughters Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Bush, in separate forums, championed new generations of change-agents.

Barbara highlighted astounding success of her Global Health Corps.  What Teach America has done for education, Global Health Corps is doing to solve health issues and enlisting an entire generation of young people in making it happen.

Chelsea celebrated The Digital Lives of Girls and highlighted innovative young women who are harnessing technology to prevent bullying, to develop self-esteem and supportive communities for leveraging issues that are important to them.  Inspiring to see how Barbara and Chelsea contribute to the world.

7)  Women can change the world. Not that I did not know this going into the Summit.  Walking out, I know it for sure and am ready to take more of the need “on my back,” as Hillary would ask.

And, as she put it so beautifully, ““Women with help from their friends can make a difference.” She urged us to be  “fearless, committed and audacious.”  And, then she sent all 2,600 of us out into the world to make that difference:

“So let’s go for it, and make it happen!”

As we move forward into the next months, I will be asking your opinion for ways that Women on Fire join forces with other women in the world to bring about change, healing and peace to all.

Until then, is there a situation that you want to correct in your life, in your community, in this country or in the world?

You are only one step away from making a difference.

Have an absolutely wonderful week and keep me posted on how you want to make a difference in any aspect of your — and our world.


Time to let gratefulness overflow!

Hi, everyone and welcome to so many of you who found us in MORE Magazine this month. More than 200 of you and we’re thrilled you’re here!

Did you have a nice holiday weekend?

We sure did here on Martha’s Vineyard where we had a Friendsgiving — everyone eating turkey and pumpkin pie at our table was a beloved friend including two Women on Fire — Ann Graham and Ellen Wingard.

For the first time in a while, I really relaxed.  I spent much of the long weekend on the couch soaking in the warmth and gratitude from our Thanksgiving Day and reading.

I alternated between two inspiring biographies — on my Kindle was Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs and by the old-fashioned way — a hard-covered book! — I read Teddy Kennedy’s True Compass.

What those two men accomplished in their lives was motivating and profound to me.

And, then I came upon something wonderfully delightful and inspiring — this 10-minute video on opening our eyes and our hearts and allowing gratitude to overflow!

It was created by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg speaking at Tedx/San Francisco.  Enjoy!



What did you think about the filmmaker’s interpretation of “Oh, my God!”?

And, how about that insightful little girl? “When you explore, you get more imagination than you already had. When you get more imagination,  it makes you want to go deeper in and and get more and see more beautifuller things.”  A mini-Woman on Fire, for sure!

I want to remember to live each day of my life like this — overflowing in awareness and gratitude — and I thought you might like it, too.

Have a wonderful week!  I am on my way to New York City for the last two Women on Fire teas in 2011.  I look soooo forward to seeing those of you who are attending.


What gifts are waiting for you?

One of the many reasons I get so excited about you attending a Women on Fire event is because I know you will walk away feeling “on fire” about your life.

And, how do I know this???

Women tell me all the time that they stay “on fire” for days, weeks, months afterward. And, then they tell me all the wonderful things that were “sparked” in their lives because they felt inspired and supported!

The joy and energy of fabulous women connecting with each other and sharing their hearts and their dreams and what they need to move forward (yes, it is OK to ask for help!) creates a magical experience.

After all these years, and countless Women on Fire gatherings, even I learn something new and walk away inspired after every single event.

Come with me inside the tea we held in New York City last week.

Women on Fire Tea in New York City — Janina Serden Sebesky, Holly Getty, Sophfronia Scott, Jen Madson, Maureen Wheeler, Lauren Possee, Terri Cole, Dawn Halkuff, Lara Licharowicz, Jodi Graber, Debbie Phillips, Wendy Lagstein, Ines Altemose, Ellen Wingard and Colleen Pero.

I want to give you a little flavor of the wisdom, the learning, the inspiration and the caring that takes place at a Women on Fire event.

Sophfronia Scott, founder of Done For You Writing, shared the lessons from a book I’d never heard of called The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success.

The premise of this spiritual parable is that there are so many good things waiting to be delivered to us, but do we cut them off before they have a chance to arrive?

We all took a big, deep breath … and listened deeply as Sophfronia shared her plans to claim all that is waiting for her.  She inspired us to remember we all have gifts within reach …just waiting for us, too!

Leadership consultant Ellen Wingard told us of her recent travels to South Africa and an inspiring quote by Wendell Berry to describe where we sometimes find ourselves in life: “to be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”  We all laughed knowingly.

Wendy Lagstein, the Smile Director of a dental firm, had us in tears with what she was “on fire” about.

She told us of the Woman on Fire in her life — her daughter Farra who recently joined Wendy to run a 5K race.  Enchanted that Wendy is a Woman on Fire, Farra claimed she is, too, and shared with Wendy a very long list of what she’s on fire about in her 7-year-old life!

Wendy Lagstein with our youngest Woman on Fire, 7-year-old Farra!

And, these snippets are but a fraction of the gifts offered, passions shared, friends made, plans propelled forward at a Women on Fire event.

Have you thought about the gifts waiting for you? They are your dreams and desires that may seem out of reach.  What if they are only a hand away?

You are so welcome to share your thoughts about them on the Debbie Phillips blog.

In the meantime, I hope if you live anywhere close to upcoming Women on Fire teas in Cheboygan, Michigan; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Columbus, Ohio; or New York City, you’ll check out the calendar section below and register to attend.

You deserve the boost of moving closer to the life you dream of!

Or, as Woman on Fire Janina Serden Sebesky reminds us:“To keep a lamp burning, we have to put oil in it.” ~ Mother Teresa

What do you do when life goes bump?

There’s a funny little saying our beloved and hard-working assistant Blue announces when things get a little crazy and life whirls out of balance.

“It’s a little ‘kittywampus’ around here!” she’ll say, and I’ll laugh.

Our assistant Blue and her assistant Wilber keep ‘kittywampus’ under control in the office!

But if I ever needed strategies to cope with things going ‘kittywampus,’ this past week was rich with opportunities to practice my coping skills.

I know you’ve had those kinds of weeks (days, months, years?), too.  Maybe it’s happening for you right now.  Life is flowing along nicely and then bump, bump, bump.  (I swear it happens in threes…)

It started when I knew I had too much to do to fit into one week.  Writing deadlines. Calls. Interviews. Scheduling conflicts. Overdue work. Creative thinking time.  All of us here (Wilber included!) are working feverishly on the launch of a new,  top-secret project for you.

Add to it, this was my final week in Florida before the “great migration” home to Martha’s Vineyard.

Boxes to pack. Closets to clean. Clothes to organize. Cat to get ready. Cars to prep.  (How two people and one cat can accumulate practically a lifetime of stuff and books (even though we both have Kindles) in four and a half months is beyond me!

But I am not complaining and feel ever grateful to have designed our lifestyle to live in places we dearly love. I feel especially blessed to be in the warmth and sunshine of Naples when it is bitter cold and grey on the Vineyard.

Then in the midst of what was starting to feel chaotic, I received bone-chilling news that pushed me right to my edge.

Fierce, deadly tornadoes had struck Alabama.

Nearly my entire family lives in Huntsville and the weather radar showed they were in the direct path. (Thankfully, the televised images of the dreadful destruction had not yet made their way onto CNN.)

I made calls to every member of my family that went nowhere. Hours later, my mother was able to reach me and let me know all of our relatives were safe.

Shaken and surrounded by destruction, however, they would be without power for several days.

My mother had weathered her “scariest tornado ever” closeted alone with her kitty in the dark in her laundry room; her cell phone battery was two bars from dying and so it would be unlikely we’d talk until they had power again.

In an already too busy and now stressful week, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and helpless.  There was nothing, short of dropping in by helicopter and scooping them up, that I could do for them.  I was edgy and cranky with my loving, supportive husband who, as usual, calmly rolled with it.

The crush of everything left me worried, frazzled and even feeling a bit hopeless at times.

In my more sane moments, I knew it was a week “gone kittywampus” and that I needed to reach into my toolkit, pull out my strategies and use them.

So, here’s what I did to keep myself from going completely over the edge:

  • Walked each day even though I didn’t feel like it (I took pictures of flowers along the way which brought me joy)
  • Listened to comedienne and Woman on Fire Janette Barber on Rosie Radio (made me laugh and feel better)

In the sunshine, walking and listening to Woman on Fire Janette Barber on the radio perked up my spirits.

  • Paid attention to my breathing (always works)
  • Sat in meditation a couple of times for a few minutes (helped to center me)
  • Reached out to a couple of Women on Fire I love and adore just because I missed them and I wanted to get outside of myself (reconnected me to my deep passion for our Women on Fire community)
  • Held my “fear” fingers (my index fingers which is a Jin Shin Jystu practice that relieves fear)
  • Bought two baby cupcakes at Whole Foods; woke up at 4:30AM to watch the Royal Wedding and ate “cake” for breakfast to celebrate (I felt re-engaged seeing the joy and exuberance of two people so obviously in love)
  • Immersed myself in a Watsu experience (thanks to Woman on Fire Ellen Wingard who introduced me to this stress-relieving treatment in a pool, I finally felt calm and relaxed; more on this amazing “massage-in-water” in a future Spark!)

Golden Door Spa Watsu Expert Tamara Caggiano melted away my stress as she worked on my pressure points while I floated in the water. A truly amazing experience!

By the end of the week, two more “strategies” turned my week of ‘kittywampus’ back into a more peaceful existence:

One:  A wonderful, romantic dinner at sunset on the beach with Rob. It is our annual ritual to say good-bye, share our favorite moments of the season, and to express our appreciation for our time in Florida.

Good-bye, Naples, Florida. Rob and I soaked in our annual ritual of a sunset dinner at the beach.

Two:  Woman on Fire Jamie Eslinger suggested that we toss coins into a fountain and make wishes.

Jamie, on the right, and me as I say goodbye to my ‘kittywampus’ of a week and wish for the recovery and healing of all those tragically affected by last week’s tornadoes. Oh, and I also wished for William and Kate to live happily ever after. I think they have a shot at it!

What is your wish for this next week?  Or, what do you do when things go ‘kittywampus’ in your world?  You are so welcome to share it in the comments section below.

As always, my wish for you is that you get to live the life of your dreams!

Until next week…from Martha’s Vineyard.