Tuesday, 23rd January 2018

ListenPort is changing the way companies listen

Posted on 18. Sep, 2016 by in Blogs


ListenPort comprises of a dedicated team of professionals from various industries, who understand the importance of listening and acting upon feedback from consumers. Brought together by a common need to possess and provide others an effective means to engage in conversations that matter to a business, ListenPort laid roots in North Virginia in 2013 to achieve this goal.


How We’re Helping Companies Listen to Their Customers’ Feedback LOUD and Clear.

ListenPort is a proven business intelligence tool that combines both customer relationship management(CRM) and online reputation management(ORM) functionality to effectively deliver real-time consumer feedback directly to management, because timing is everything to a business. With the knowledge that customers are the lifeblood of any business, can companies really afford not to pay full attention to the feedback that truly matters?

Many companies fail to realise that damage control is not the right way to contain a negative review, when instead measures should be taken beforehand to prevent the negative publicity generated from an unhappy individual.

With ListenPort, a customer can easily reach out to the right person in any organization and engage in both valuable and reductive dialogue. What potentially could have been a social media publicity disaster for the company, is now turned into a extremely valuable opportunity to rectify any issues and gain a positive review instead. The results of the company’s timely intervention would lead to a online review left by the customer, which can be published at the management’s discretion at a simple click on the dashboard.

Companies also benefit from ListenPort’s functionality to improve and build stronger rapport and communication with their employees. The tracking functions have also been proven to be very handy for businesses that operate in multiple locations. By using the tracking system’s data, an organization can pinpoint and identify the cause of negative reviews in any of their locations, and work on ways to efficiently rectify such situations.

ListenPort’s value is bolstered by simplicity and functionality. A clean user interface in the easy-to-use dashboard, guarantees that even the most non technically inclined staff in any organization will be able to operate it successfully. The dashboard, which is accessible from any desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone, creates a convenient central location where the needs of customers and patients can be heard and disseminated to the right people to quickly take charge and take action.

Our platform is now utilized in close to a dozen countries by businesses of all sizes, from brand new start-ups to multinational corporations.

In the healthcare field in particular, ListenPort is regarded as a lifesaver to medical care providers. It is an exceptional and reliable tool in aiding medical facilities operationalize real-time, mobile-enabled, patient-feedback delivery solutions through both inpatient and outpatient communication systems. ListenPort helps these medical care providers optimize their staff presence to deal with any communications brought forth by patients in a timely fashion, lowering the number of filed complaints or waiting times for a figure of authority to respond on an urgent issue.

Businesses that rely heavily on positive reviews for future earnings, or those that face understaffing issues or poor management quickly realized that this platform was just the thing they needed to improve their service standards and manage their online reputations effectively at the same time. Those businesses revelled in the fact that not only was the platform effectively producing positive results, it was also relatively simple to manage and use as well.

Since then, ListenPort has improved upon the original platform and garnered the trust and support from hundreds of registered businesses in various industries who are currently using the portal. The ListenPort family is constantly finding new and innovative ways to provide businesses an effective means to listen, solve and improve while giving consumers access to management level staff to voice their opinions and be heard.

Critical Industries

ListenPort is extremely effective in businesses with high physical daily crowd volumes. With over 300 existing businesses using ListenPort everyday, we are committed to bring the best positive results to your business by helping you take care of your customers and their feedback.

The main ideal industries that have benefited immensely and seen positive growth through the use of our product includes, but is not limited to the following sectors:

Need to determine if ListenPort is suitable for your trade or business? Contact us now, for an obligation free discussion with our customer representatives to help you determine how best ListenPort can be integrated into your business today, or click here to sign up for free.

8 Most Instagrammed Restaurants in the Area

Posted on 06. Aug, 2015 by in Blogs

2014-07-08 13.03.11-2

Are you a foodie whose mouth waters every time you see a photo on Instagram?

We’ve checked out the #hashtags and done all the work—now it’s time to check out the restaurants for yourselves. These hot spots have been racking up points on Instagram and are some of the most delish places to dine in Nova and DC.

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken
Washington, DC


According to our Instagram sources, this gorgeous lineup of donut, fried chicken and—gasp—fried chicken donut sandwiches is worth the drive out to DC. Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken is reported to have “the best doughnut in DC.” They also serve up farm fresh seasonal fruit and ingredients from local farmers. Search #astrodoughnuts on Instagram for great reviews.

Bangkok Golden Thai Restaurant
University Mall
Fairfax, Virginia


Instagrammers are raving about #bangkokgolden:

“Hands down, best Thai restaurant. Crispy duck!”
“My favorite Thai place in NOVA.”
“Accomplishing my food bucket list before heading back to school.”

Since 1999, Jack-Sao and family have been serving up Thai dishes that celebrate native home cooking. They’re known and applauded for their crispy catfish, Thai salad, and chicken larb. For more great dishes, check out #bangkokgolden on Instagram.

Coastal Flats
Tysons Corner, Virginia


Over the seared Ahi Tuna Salad, one instagrammer exclaimed to his date, “That looks so amazing!”

With locations in Tysons Corner, Fairfax, and Gaithersburg, Great American Restaurants’ beach-themed Coastal Flats offers a satisfying coastal menu. The smoked salmon filet and hickory grilled jumbo shrimp with Mediterranean orzo salad top their list of best sellers. Coastal Flats serves lunch and dinner, and also offers a gluten-sensitive menu. Check out the #coastalflats hashtag to read more rave reviews online.

Founding Farmers
Tysons Corner, Virginia


What instagrammers are saying about Founding Farmers:

“Do you see the size of the Bananas Foster Buttermilk Pancakes? Insane and delicious! Best ever.”
“A trip to DC can hardly be considered complete without at least one meal at #foundingfarmers.”
“Double posting, because this is just too good not to share.”

Founding Farmers serves up seasonal food that’s locally sourced, sustainably farmed, and has a minimal carbon footprint. One step in the door, and you’re greeted by the warmth celebrated by American farmers and the land they farm. Check out #foundingfarmers on Instagram for more reviews.

This much yumminess in one picture should be illegal.

GypsySoul Restaurant
Fairfax, Virginia


Crowd-pleasing, GypsySoul. Buttermilk pancakes with pumpkin mousse—what could be more gratifying? Their menu offers a whole section devoted to macaroni and cheese dishes. Southern-inspired options like sage biscuits, jumbo lump crabcakes, and potato salad is what earned their chef, RJ Cooper, his James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid- Atlantic.

Beef marrow, sea urchins, antler mustard, and ink toast are the more adventurous items on the menu. Lovers of other food eccentricities can find Asian-style lettuce wraps with crispy pig ears and fermented cucumbers, chicken-skin cracklings, as well as a stuffed pork head.

Here’s what instagrammers are saying:

“When you have a great night it needs to be shared.”
“Killer donuts with bourbon glazed pecans.”

Kapnos Taverna
Arlington, Virginia


Chef and owner Mike Isabella is not only an award-winning chef, but also serves up authentic Greek food sure to please Gus Portokalos himself—My Big Fat Greek Wedding, anyone?

What instagrammers are saying about Kapnos Taverna: “This is a must to order when you go to #kapnostaverna.”

“Crispy eggplant with blood orange and honey #nomnom.”
“This #baklava is as good as it gets.”
“One of our favorites tonight, marinated mussels with preserved lemon and pomegranate.”

Sugar Shack Donuts
Alexandria, Virginia


Sugar Shack Donuts has truly mastered the art of donut-making. These yeast donuts are sprinkled, candy laden, and in every color of the rainbow!

With two locations in Richmond, one in Alexandria, and more to come in Fredericksburg, Midlothian, and Charlottesville, Sugar Shack Donuts is a donut connoisseurs destination. From their house-made raspberry glaze to bacon maple, apple fritter, and chicken donuts, Sugar Shack Donuts will not disappoint.

Here’s what Instagrammers are saying about #sugarshackdonuts:

“What a #sweet way to end the weekend.”
“The toffee one was so good I had to put the box in the truck to keep from eating another one!”
“These are grade A prime donuts.”

Ted’s Bulletin
Reston, Virginia


Homemade poptarts. ‘Nuff said.

Ted’s Bulletin is the great American family restaurant. With locations in Reston, Fairfax, Washington, and Gaithersburg, Mark and Ty Neal opened Ted’s Bulletin in honor of their father, Ted. After the struggles of the Great Depression, Ted celebrated the new availability of food, adopting an open-door policy with friends, family, and neighbors. Ted’s Bulletin honors the memory of Ted, and, just like at home, the kitchen always has a pot of tomato soup and grilled cheese ready. Instagram photos of Ted’s Bulletin’s homemade poptarts, spiked milkshakes, and comfort food galore are some of the most popular on Instagram. Check out #tedsbulletin to see for yourself.

What they’re saying on Instagram:

“People who love to eat are always the best people. ~ Julia Childs”
“Not. Another. Bite. Yum.”
“Great atmosphere for families!”

Summer is the Ideal Time for Quick Local Getaway

Posted on 06. Aug, 2015 by in Blogs

Summer is the Ideal Time for Quick Local Getaway

Summer is the ideal season for a quick getaway. The days are longer. The kids are out of school. The sun is shining bright. And if you’re looking for a few quick day trips, we’d suggest soaking up Northern Virginia’s expansive wine scene. Virginia is the fifth largest state for wine production in the country. In 2010, about 1.6 million people visited wineries in the Commonwealth, and you might want to consider being one of them this year. Even if you’re not an oenophile, wineries have a lot more to offer than just tasty drinks. You can pack a whole picnic and take in the beautiful landscape. Bring your family, a date, or just a few friends. You can even catch the big game on the screens at a few of these spots. And each one will give you a chance to check out a different part of Northern Virginia. No matter which one you choose, know that each spot offers wine, scenic views, and a perfect way to spend an afternoon.


The Winery at Bull Run
Visitors will enjoy a healthy dose of wine and history at this Manassas spot. Chances are you’ll fall in love with the meticulous landscaping, including trees that drape over the entrance—making it almost resemble the entrance of a southern plantation. Once you’ve parked in the gravel lot, head inside the warm and cozy tasting room, complete with a wood bar, tables, chairs, and soft lighting. Sidle up to the bar for a tasting, or buy some wine to enjoy either indoors or alfresco. Choose the indoor patio if you’d like to avoid the bugs, or you can even watch TV in the tasting room. But when the weather’s nice, you’ll have ample gorgeous greenery to admire outside. No matter what setting you choose, make a point of checking out the Civil War relics like belt buckles and bullets—the owner has collected them from throughout the region. As far as wine goes, I’d recommend the Delany. This sweet, smooth, and light white wine, named after the owner’s daughter, is sure to satisfy on a hot summer day.

15950 Lee Highway
Centreville, VA 20120


vineyards3 Paradise Springs Winery
Clifton’s Paradise Springs Winery is just what an urban winery should be. It’s located on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot of land just off Clifton’s quaint, historic Main Street. But this is one spot you won’t want to drive past. Expect an after-work crowd here; I met a teacher on Friday when I visited in December. Enjoy your wine in the spacious, luxurious-looking tasting room that comes complete with a glass wall that allows visitors to see the wooden barrels where the wine is aged. Enjoy your vino inside the tasting room or out on the indoor patio; we’d recommend the alfresco option to really soak it up. Pair your vista with the impressive Viognier—the official state grape of Virginia. Be sure to take photos of the vineyard out front. The view alone will make you feel like you’re in the country and far removed from the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia.

13219 Yates Ford Road
Clifton, VA 20124

Opened in 1997, Chrysalis is the oldest pick of these three wineries. This Middleburg spot is famous for showcasing the Norton grape. A native grape of America, Chrysalis’ owner has gone to great lengths to preserve this now rare vintage. As a result, Chrysalis may have the largest planting of this grape in the entire East Coast, and it’s worth a sip. Expect a rich, deep red with a flavor that’s almost spicy. Even if you don’t prefer reds, the winery also stocks Sarah’s Patio White—a light and crisp wine that will make a summer’s day seem even sweeter. Each of these wineries featured gorgeous scenery, but Chrysalis by far had the most sweeping views of Virginia’s Bull Run Mountains. And the winery’s new tasting room is gorgeous. This huge, ultra-modern space—slated to open in May—will eventually feature not only wine, but fresh-made sandwiches, cheeses, and bread, too. Visitors will love keeping it local. I could easily see myself sitting on the patio enjoying wine and sandwiches for hours during a long day. If you’d prefer, you can also check out the original, quaint tasting room before it closes. It’s about the size of a small house and also includes great views. If you’ve got the time and the appetite, we’d recommend going to the famed barbeque spot, The Pit Stop, located just a few minutes away in the neighboring town of Aldie.

23876 Champe Ford Road
Middleburg, VA 20117

No matter which winery you choose, we hope you take advantage of the good weather and enjoy refreshing wine in one of Northern Virginia’s emerging wineries. You’ll enjoy soaking up all each spot has to offer.


The Three No-Nos When Seeking a Business Loan

Posted on 20. Aug, 2014 by in Blogs


It is difficult for companies to receive the capital needed to grow their businesses. Many struggle with the process involved in acquiring a loan. In a recent survey, I discovered the three biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when presenting their plan (and commercial loan application) to lenders.

Mistake #1: Companies don’t understand the bank’s risk concerns or how to position their companies for approval. There are three parts to a successful bank application: good credit, collateral, and cash flow. Good credit is determined by your FICO score. Banks will request collateral for business debts, and sometimes the collateral we have is not plentiful or attractive to mainstream banks. And cash flow is shown through a strong business plan. Many entrepreneurs forget that banks are businesses, too. They are in the business of making loans that will be repaid each month. A bank’s greatest concern is that the entrepreneur will default on his loan. The business leader’s job – when presenting a business funding package – is to show how you’ll alleviate the bank’s risks within your funding package.

Mistake #2: Entrepreneurs don’t know how to clearly articulate their vision, their client attraction plan, and how their team will take advantage of the market opportunity. If you’re unable to attract paying customers to your service, you will never survive. If your employees are unable to serve your customers and turn them into loyal, raving fans, you will earn a bad reputation on social media and throughout social circles. Within your business plan, you MUST show how you will not only attract but retain patrons

Mistake #3: Business owners don’t know their numbers. After reviewing your Executive Summary, the commercial lender will review your financial forecast and past financial performance. Then they’ll ask questions. Being able to clearly articulate your calculations and back up your forecast improves your chances of getting approved.

Some bankers will say that the business plan is unimportant in the commercial loan process. Untrue! I know a company that was turned down nine times from commercial lenders. He changed his business plan and received four approvals. Why? Because his business plan showed he avoided the three mistakes shown above.

Your first instinct may be to copy a business plan template from the internet and simply fill in the blanks. This method may be easier in the short run; however, it won’t give the desired result.

Remember, bankers see thousands of loan applications annually. Whether you’re seeking a business loan for working capital or business expansion, you must show a clear understanding of your numbers, your client attraction plan, and your repayment abilities.

Basecamp’s Support Via Twitter Rocks

Posted on 19. Feb, 2014 by in Blogs


Earlier this month, 37Signals announced that the company would henceforth take the name of it’s most successful product, Basecamp. The company will either:

  1. Spin off its other product lines
  2. Sell the product lines outright
  3. Indefinitely support current customers

While Forbes calls the move ballsy, I think Basecamp’s decision to narrow its focus is a solid strategy. CEO Jason Fried wants to deliver an exceptional product and keep the company small. Focus will enable the company to make the product much more robust, which will make its 15 million (and climbing) users very happy.

As a long-time Basecamp user, I relish the idea of deeper functionality. One of the other things I like about the new and improved company: fast customer support. This week, I opted to ask a support question via Twitter. The answer came in less than 3 minutes.

Go figure. A company with 43 people offers lightning fast responses using social media. Having their ear to the ground gives Basecamp a leg up in a fast-paced, SaaS environment. Even better, they offer the best example of how to use social media to connect with clients that I’ve seen in a long time.

I Can’t Say No To My Boss/Client….Or Can I?

Posted on 12. Feb, 2014 by in Blogs

Business Talks


We can feel trapped in this struggling economy. Fear of being laid off. Knowing that there are hundreds of qualified applicants for one job opening. Understanding that clients can make a different choice in who they hire. In the best of economies saying “no” could mean the loss of a client or saying “bye-bye” to a promotion. How the heck is “no” even an option now?

Using your healthy “no” wisely can make the difference between feeling trapped and setting healthy boundaries for you, your work and your family. Realize that I am speaking to those of you who 1) give 110% on a daily basis, 2) have already paid your dues in your chosen profession, and 3) will weigh the all possible consequences carefully. There are times in our lives and careers where “no” is not an option. We must pay our dues. We must prove ourselves to gain trust and respect. Finally, it is how we tell our bosses and clients “no” that makes all the difference.

The Pause
There are five components to a healthy “no”. The first, and most important, is a pause. Your boss asks you to work late to finish a proposal for a client. Your child has a performance that evening. Ask your boss for a few minutes to consider his/her request. During the pause you ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to help this person? Do I want to do this task? What are the potential consequences of me saying “no”?

The second component to a healthy “no” is that there is compassion for the person making the request. Your boss might be under pressure from his/her boss or the client. The client might have just shortened the deadline. Your boss might have already submitted a proposal that the client would have denied, but is being given a second chance. They might be asking you because you are the best in the department to produce a proposal that will be accepted by the client. It is situation where the task needs to be done, and either the boss can’t do it him/herself or you will do it better. Unfortunately, you, as an employee, don’t need to have all of the background information. But you can hold compassion for your boss as a person who is under pressure.

No Anger & No Whining
The third and fourth components of a healthy “no” are that you hold no anger and have to give no excuses for your “no”. Of course your boss is going to come to you to finish the proposal. Of course he/she is coming to you at the last minute. This might be part of the job. This might be because your boss is not good with deadlines. This might be why you were hired in the first place. Get rid of the anger – you chose this job. Get rid of the whiney excuses – they just make you look bad.

In this case, you might go to an either/or scenario. Either you stay late and miss your child’s performance or you say “no” to your boss and see your child’s performance. Both options stink. Are there other options? Of course there are.

The final component to the healthy “no” is to present choices to your boss or client that create a win/win situation for all parties. It’s time to put on your creative hat and think outside the box. It might play out like this:

“Sir, I have been thinking about your request and I have my daughter’s performance tonight. I could stay for another hour to work on the proposal, be on time to see the performance, and then work on it when I get home. I could come in early tomorrow and work through lunch. If you need it done tonight, I could come back to the office after the performance. Do any of those options work for you?”

In presenting these choices you are showing that you want to do the task and be a team player. You are also making it known that there are times when a happy child and happy family compete head to head with business. It is your job as a partner, parent, and business person to find as many win/win scenarios as you can to balance work and home.

If your boss digs in their heels and poo-poo’s all of your options, you will need to decide how to proceed. Only you know your boss, the client, the company climate, and the consequences of going or missing your child’s performance. You can feel better that you tried. It might work better next time. As my momma used to say: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”


How to Be Relevant in Today’s Workplace

Posted on 12. Feb, 2014 by in Blogs

Halelly Azulay, author of Employee Development on A Shoestring

Few would argue that job functions have changed rapidly in the past several years. New technologies (like social media) have disrupted the marketing discipline. The push to do more with less has caused companies to merge job functions. The list of changes are seemingly endless.

Whether you’re a new college graduate, in mid-career, or even planning to leave the workforce in the next 5-10 years, you probably need to brush up your skill set in order to keep pace with the demands of your employer or potential employer.

A lot of people expect their companies to provide the training they think they need. While employer-provided training is useful, it’s only part of the story. According to Halelly Azulay, author of Employee Development on A Shoestring and founder of TalentGrow LLC, only 10% of professional training happens in the workplace. Another 20% comes from relationships and feedback, and the remaining 70% is on-the-job experience.

The employee-employer relationship goes two ways. Instead of looking to one’s employer to provide training, employees also have a responsibility to expand and hone their skill sets. After all, if the job requirements change dramatically (and in some fields they have), you must learn what’s required for the job function or risk no longer being the best person for the job.

As a columnist for Modern DC Business, I’ve gone to a lot of networking events over the past three years—which means I’ve overheard a lot of conversations. You might be surprised by how many people who are either out of work or struggling in their jobs overlook their responsibility to keep pace with their profession. A number of marketers have blatantly claimed they have no interest in social media. With that attitude, it’s no wonder they can’t find employment.

So, what can you do, then?

Halelly Azulay

Azulay shared some of the secrets to Employee Development on A Shoestring at the Positive Business DC Meetup last night, and it’s not what you might think. If you’re an employer or manager, her insight could help you foster a dynamic, engaged, relevant workforce without breaking the bank. If you’re a job seeker or currently employed, her insight can help you not only stay at the top of your game or get a job, it can help you climb the corporate ladder.

Originally, I had planned to provide some of the examples and exercises Azulay had Positive Business DC members work through last night. But, on second thought, if you’re interested, I urge you to check out her book. And, if you’re really intrigued, there’s a 1½ day workshop March 13-14. Based on what I saw last night, the workshop will be killer. And, for those of you who are counting, the workshop falls within the 10% noted above.

Originally published in Modern DC Business on Feb. 12, 2014.

How to Find More Creativity And Courage

Posted on 05. Feb, 2014 by in Blogs

GMU Logo

This article is for people who stand at a crossroads. Perhaps you want to engage more actively in your career. Or maybe you seek deeper personal fulfillment. Last year, I had an educational experience that gave me both. George Mason University offers a certificate in Well-being Foundations of Personal Transformation, and I was a member of the first cohort.

Let’s just say that the experience was nothing like I expected, yet the results have been profound. I make decisions in a completely different way than just a few, short months ago. My professional and personal lives are starting to flourish beyond what I believed possible. This is a common theme for the other members of my cohort too.

A new program begins on March 28, so I want to give people a perspective that I didn’t have about how this experience helps people tap more deeply into their potential to lead fuller, more fulfilling lives. Co-facilitators, Mark Thurston and Mary Elizabeth Lynch from the Personal Transformation and Courage Institute granted an interview so that Modern CD Business readers can gain insight into this powerful program.

Q: Mindfulness has become a term that’s frequently used, but I think is often misunderstood. Can you demystify the term for our readers?

MEL: Mindfulness helps us deal constructively with the grip of our fast-paced lives in at least three ways.

Mindfulness helps us to slow down, reduce anxiety and stress, and build capacity for a more balanced perspective of our lives. Then, when life events come flying at us we can better assess what is important, what needs our attention, and how best to accomplish our goals.

Practicing mindfulness also helps us engage all of our cognitive resources – our analytical processes as well as intuitive insights. Research has shown that slowing down and being able to focus attention allows us to sharpen both cognitive faculties, make better decisions, and be more creative.

Image of Mary Elizabeth Lynch, co-founder of the Personal Transformation and Courage Institute

Mary Elizabeth Lynch

Finally, mindfulness practices help us create “space” in our lives. We need space to gain perspective, be more creative, live more deeply from our core values and promote greater well-being in our lives. As we practice creating inner and outer space in our lives, we can build better relationships with ourselves and with others. Our actions better reflect who we are at our best – and we feel more at peace with our lives and find that we are able to meet challenges and opportunities with confidence.

MT: It’s important to note that mindfulness is not just something you do for 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening. It is the discipline to come back to your ideal throughout the day, and practice leads to cognitive fitness.

One of the elements of cognitive fitness is to be able to stand back from our emotions. We still feel, but we regulate our emotions. Everybody can see how emotional regulation can lead to a happier personal life and more productive professional life. We’re more attentive and focused. We listen better to other people, which leads to better collaboration.

Q: Let’s explore that a little more. How does mindfulness fit into the workplace?

MT: There are a couple of common misconceptions about how mindfulness fits into the workplace. Some people express concern that mindfulness promotes Buddhism or other religious orientations. That’s not the basis for what we teach. We view what we do as a humanistic way of framing mindfulness as cognitive fitness. Another misconception is that people who meditate become placid, calm, and so compassionate they lose the fire they need to be effective and keep business on the cutting-edge.

MEL: In fact, the research shows that mindfulness practices lead to many positive outcomes in the workplace. For example, people who engage in mindfulness practices are more focused, present and attentive to their work; they tend to be more creative, in-tune with their values and more productive overall. Mindfulness is as much an experience as it is a conceptual understanding. Having a framework in which to understand mindfulness is important, but the deeper meaning and impact of these practices comes from experiencing it and incorporating it into your life.

Mindfulness boosts creativity and productivity, fosters collaboration, improves prioritization, leads to engagement, and ultimately produces better business outcomes.

Q: What does being part of a cohort, or group, mean for program participants?

MT: Being part of a small, intimate group in a wholly safe space is important. People get inspired as they watch others alongside them do their inquiry. I’ve seen time and again that when a question of deep intentionality is explored in cohort or community setting, something really special takes place.

MEL: It is very empowering for people to get clarity around what inspires and directs their lives. In work settings, colleagues bond more deeply when they see and appreciate each other’s strengths and values. People get the sense that their core values help to direct and define their leadership abilities, and they begin to act more purposefully from those qualities.

How do positive psychology and neuroscience fit into your teachings?

Image of Mark Thurston, Co-founder of the Personal Transformation and Courage Institute

Mark Thurston

MT: Both are relatively new sciences that are trying to understand principles about the wisdom of the human condition that are centuries or millennia old. The nice thing about our own generation is that there are ways to begin to measure the impact of mindfulness practices, and science is creating a safe space to trust the reliability of these methods.

MEL: It’s always important to have theories and concepts that help to frame and give context to experiential learning. Scientific validation of these practices can deepen the impact of the experience for many people. The more we understand how the brain works and how mindfulness practices lead to greater cognitive fitness, the more we are willing to engage in these practices and use them to enhance well-being in our lives. .

Q: The topic of healthy will development was one that helped me identify my own suboptimal behavior patterns. Can you speak to what healthy will is?

MT: The topic of will has been one that psychology has often brushed aside. But, it has recently resurfaced and this discipline is just now coming to the forefront. The focus has been on the coercive side, as in forcing ourselves to do something. That’s a piece of it. There’s also collaborative will and the will of the wisdom within us.

Willingness is a lovely word; the opposite of willfulness. ‘Willingness’ molds highly functional workgroups in a manner that includes group will, willingness, and the appreciation for the autonomy of each individual.

MEL: Many people equate willingness with physical action in the world. There’s a broader of application. It takes a willingness to be mindful, to be receptive and to be open to thinking about oneself and others in new ways. It also takes willingness to work constructively with emotions and attitudes. We are making internal choices all the time – and they manifest as our actions.

Q: Is there a common theme in what people gain from courses they take through The Personal Transformation and Courage Institute and GMU’s Center for the Advancement of Well-being?

MEL: I think there are many common, intertwined themes. Participants get more deeply in touch with what really matters in their lives. They tap into the courage it takes to live in a way that reflects what matters most to them. They learn to listen to and constructively respond to their thoughts, emotions and body wisdom. People see what has been limiting them in the way they think about themselves and their place in the world, and they learn skills and practices that help them make the changes that lead to greater well-being, equanimity and resilience in their lives. I think our participants also come to see that everyone struggles with very similar issues. The cohort provides a safe place to explore these issues, with the loving support of the facilitators and other members of the group.

MT: Many program participants learn to measure their lives more intrinsically than extrinsically. More and more, they realize that sense of fulfillment, meaning, and happiness is rooted in their own choices and they have more power over that than external conditions. This realization enables the locus of control to move inward. This does not mean these people become introverted. Instead, the source of their happiness is more internal. They learn to believe in themselves, feel more grounded in their strengths, and they blossom. It’s a matter of courage and self-mastery. Becoming more courageous is one of the byproducts we’ve seen time and again.

For more information about GMU’s Center for the Advancement of Well-being and the certificate program, please visit the George Mason website. You can also check out what members of last year’s cohort say about their experience.


Riedel’s Upscale Glass for Coca Cola

Posted on 17. Jan, 2014 by in Blogs


Anyone who has met me knows that I have a long-term addiction to Diet Coke. The addiction started when I was a teenager. My parents put a walk-in cooler in the basement after closing their restaurant. My sister worked for Coca Cola at the time, so it’s no surprise that the cooler held cases of Coke, Sunny Delight, and Tab.

Yeah, Tab never tasted all that great, but when you’re drinking multiple cans of what we called “pop” a day, you learned to overlook the funny taste artificial sweeteners had in the ’70s. I think the majority of Tab drinkers’ taste buds heaved generous sighs of relief when the company rolled Diet Coke out in 1982. (Not that I advocate drinking diet sodas… the evidence is pretty clear that they are not good for the body.) That said, I am not giving up Diet Coke. Cut back, perhaps. Stop, no.

Given my habit, you might think that I’d be the first to run out and try the new glass Riedel designed for Coca Cola. They say that the shape of the glass holds the carbonation well. They also say that the new glass exposes lemon and malt characteristics that other glasses cannot produce. Given that Riedel invented functional wine glasses, that makes a lot of sense. One of the most interesting things about the glass is that it adheres to the distinctive look and feel of Coke’s brand. That’s the real genius.

It will be interesting to see how many people buy Riedel’s new glass. It’s the first one they’ve ever manufactured for a nonalcoholic beverage. This seems like a good strategic move because it’s a wholly untapped market with one of the world’s largest brands. And yet, even I can’t see myself spending $29.50 for a pair of glasses just to enhance the experience of drinking my Diet Coke. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the difference between someone who guzzles and someone who sips.

So, what do you think? Is this a good move for both companies or is it just a marketing gimmick without legs?

A “Goode” Way to Close The Year

Posted on 31. Dec, 2013 by in Blogs

Operation Homefront

Last night, my husband and I ate dinner at Pine Lodge. As we waited for our dinner, we noticed a table tent advertising Murphy-Goode “Homefront Red.”

According to the label, “Murphy-Goode is committed to quality winemaking and having fun. We also believe in giving back, and that’s why we’ve crafted Homefront Red. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold will go to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency and financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.”

Let’s just say that it’s fine as a table wine. The idea, though, to give people an easy way to support our troops—especially over the holiday season—really struck a chord. The winery’s goal: Raise $300,000 for Operation Homefront.

Naturally, after we got home, I had to check out Operation Homefront’s website. The organization’s mission: To give RELIEF during a crisis, offer a place to RECOVER if military members and their families need it, and a little bit of RECOGNITION for a life of sacrifice.

If you’re interested in helping directly, you can visit the Operation Homefront website. They accept donations for ongoing areas of general need (such as housing, electric bills, car repairs, and life transition to name a few) to individual needs that are too numerous to mention.

If you want to lend a helping hand to someone with a specific need, please visit their “needs list.” Or, you can always support the cause by buying a bottle of Murphy-Goode’s Homefront Red. It looks as if $1 from every sale goes to Operation Homefront.

Thank you, Murphy-Goode, for raising awareness for this very important charity.