Actor, Writer, Puppeteer Stephanie Diaz on Life in the Arts & Finding Your Own Way | Podcast 015

Actor, casting director, writer & puppeteer Stephanie Diaz is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in markets across the country, including Seattle, Minneapolis & Milwaukee. Currently, she is an artistic associate with 16th Street Theater in Chicago.

Her recent work includes MARIPOSA NOCTURNA: A Puppet Tritych, a show she created in residence with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Stephanie is currently in rehearsal for Pinkolandia which opens April 3, 2014.

In this podcast, Stephanie shares stories from her journey as a working Latina artist and offers insight for up and coming actors wanting to break into the business.

I Tried Not Doing It



Sum up your business in three sentences or less.
I’m an actor, writer and puppeteer. I don’t know if it can really be called a business I’m an artist. The business part is really secondary (or tertiary), and the stuff that earns me the most money is sometimes the least interesting to me.

Why did you choose to become an actor?
I didn’t, really. It chose me. I tried NOT doing it, and it was not a good thing. I suppose I have my ex-boyfriend to thank for getting serious about it when I did, though (right after 9/11).

Where do you find inspiration?
It really depends on what I’m working on. With acting, I generally find it in the play itself, occasionally in great performances by others (lately, Matthew McConaughey is KILLING IT all over the place and I am mesmerized). The puppetry piece I created recently in residence with the Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs was inspired by Guatemalan folklore, sea life of the Monterey Peninsula, Ukiyoe archetypes, silentera films and the work of the Brothers Quay. Right now I’m really into microorganisms, and incubating ideas about how to make them into beautiful, light-up puppets. I’m really inspired by athletes. I’m obsessed with baseball and the Olympics. I am also inspired by avant-garde fashion and performance art.

What makes you different from other people in your industry?
I guess probably the variety of things that I do on a comparable skill level. Also, I’m not much of a sycophant, for better or worse. I don’t “play the game” very well. Diplomacy is not my strong suit. I am nobody’s satellite, you know?

Why should someone choose you instead of your competition?
It really comes down to what they want. Do they like what I make? Then they should hire me. Art is a really subjective thing. I mean, I’m a damn good actor, but so is almost every actor I know. The people who would probably be considered my “competition” as actors are so completely different than me? the only thing we actually have in common is that we identify as Latina and are in the same general age range. Other than that we’re as different as can be, in every possible way. I also find that thinking about my “competition” is really destructive to me creatively. I believe that there is enough work to go around.

Define your style?
Uh… what kind of style? Whatever style I’m working in depends entirely on the project. “Eclectic” is probably the best umbrella term, since it describes everything about me, from what kind of foods I like, to the clothes I wear, to my home decor, to the type of art I make/like.

Tell me about your typical day.
There really is no such thing for me. I generally get up after my husband goes to work (he makes the best coffee!) and what I do depends on what I’m working on: if I’m rehearsing a show at a big theatre, I’ll go to rehearsal in the daytime. If it’s at a small theatre, I’ll go in the evening. If I’m in performance or not working on a play, I might have to go somewhere for an audition, or record a VO audition in my studio at home. If I’m meeting a writing deadline, I’ll write in fits and starts throughout the day and night. I try to work out (Bikram or Baptiste yoga and running) every other day. I meditate 20 minutes a day. I drink coffee. I usually answer one or more casting emails (I’m a casting director), maybe coach a friend on an audition, maybe proofread some copy that’s going out for 16th Street (a theatre company I’m a member of). I might have a meeting with a collaborator somewhere. I take Pilates on Fridays at 11 (unless I have a booking).



How do you juggle work and family?
I don’t have to, really. I don’t have kids. But when I do have them, the beauty of what I do is that I’ll just choose projects to accommodate whatever is happening with child-rearing (or not). I didn’t marry an actor (I was never going to? not attracted to them categorically), so there’s a certain amount of financial stability in my marriage that enables me to have artistic freedom (this wasn’t always the case in our relationship, and I’m super-grateful that I’m no longer the main breadwinner. That was rough. I hate teaching and don’t love doing musicals, but they paid our rent for several years.)

Three tips you would like to give to people who are thinking about starting a business in your industry?

  1. Know yourself
  2. Diversify your hustle.
  3. Shut up and do the work. You can talk when you have something to show for yourself. Otherwise you’re just full of it.

How has your career helped you grown as a person?
I just sort of evolved into a working artist over time. When I was 25 I decided I wouldn’t work for free anymore, unless there was some kind of serious payoff in other ways and I haven’t. I guess the most profound and beneficial thing I’ve learned is that it’s OK to be the way I am, to honor and pursue my particular proclivities, and that there is truly no one-size-fits-all template for a fulfilling artistic career, no comprehensive measure of success. Also, learning to not judge the work, just letting it come about and THEN evaluating it is an ongoing lesson that I wish i’d begun learning earlier. It really is all about the work for me, and I try to let the work speak for itself. John Cage has a rule list for artists that has a lot of truth in it for me.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Not in Chicago!  And with children.  And a published novel.

For whom are you thankful? Who do you appreciate?
My mom, my husband, my sisters, my agents, my best friends Alissa and Jessica. I had a rough couple of years from a personal standpoint, and they were all tremendously nurturing and supportive in emotional and practical ways. They also really believe in the the art I produce, and that’s important, because when you’re IN it, it can be really hard to SEE it and know that it’s worthwhile. I also really appreciate super mediocre artists who produce, produce, produce I mean, obviously they don’t think they’re mediocre, but they are clearly not spending a lot of time worrying about whether something is “good” or not they just MAKE it. They get it made. Those people are very instructive.


Stephanie Diaz

Stephanie Diaz’s Bookshelf

Connect with Stephanie Diaz
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“Woman” by Tracy Larson Clifford | Podcast Episode 14

Singer-Song Writer Tracy Larson-Clifford

Singer-Song Writer Tracy Larson-Clifford

Singer-song writer, Tracy Larson’ Clifford debuts her new single, “Woman” in this special edition of the Gratitude Geek Podcast.

Never Give Up

“In the beginning, stepping into the spotlight (on stage) made me feel extremely vulnerable and anxious in ways I had not yet experienced in life. I loved it so much but my heart knew there was more, more to being just a back up singer, more to doing someone else’s song.”

Tracy is the talent and genius behind the Coffee & Cards Conversations & Gratitude Geek Podcast theme music, “Never Give Up”.  In this very candid interview, Tracy shares her journey from teen mom to grandmother. Her 22-year career as a nurse exposed and inspired a drive to provide healing through music. Her organization, Soul Lily House v’Music strives to offer guitar and vocal instruction and sponsorship to struggling families.

In addition to “Woman”, Tracy also plays acoustic versions of her singles “Gone” & “Never Give Up” during the interview.  It’s a real treat for your ears!

Connect with Tracy Larson’ Clifford

“The most peace for me in my spirit is when the first note is played and I begin to soar… at times, it feels as though I am flying around the room – JOY JOY JOY!”


Fitness Expert Lynda Davies on Spandex, British Chocolate & Kettlebells | Lucky Podcast #013 | Coffee & Cards Conversation #38

Confessions of a Coffee & Cards Conversationalist

When Lynda Davies & I sat down for Coffee & Cards Conversations, it wasn’t just to chat about spandex, British chocolate and kettlebells.  The real objective was to see just how many acronyms Lynda could use in 15 minutes!

Lynda Davies, Elite Fitness Training

Lynda Davies, Elite Fitness Training

Why ELITE Fitness Training, does that not limit your market?
ELITE is an acronym.  It stands for Everybody Loves the Individual Training Experience.

  • Everybody – from old to young, overweight, underweight, fit, or couch potato benefit from working with a personal trainer.
  • Loves
  • Individual – what you learn is for you as an individual. everyone’s plan is different, the time I spend with you is focused  on your goals and expectations.
  • Training – this is work I teach your mind and Train your body, it is not a walk in the park, except if that’s all you are capable of right now that is where we will start.
  • Experience –  when I train you, I do not just boss you around in my likable British voice I teach you about your body, and your lifestyles so that when our time together is through you can continue on the journey, and not undo all your accomplishments.

Explain the benefits of In Home Personal Training.
Time, Travel, Cost.

What new projects are you currently working on?
I am writing a book, based on a lifestyle plan I am developing.    My personal plan is 56 days to AWESOME, another acronym:

  • Attitude, you need the right one Before you start a lifestyle change be sure you are doing the right reasons, and know in your own mind that you will succeed.
  • Water, know how much to drink, and when. Learn if other drinks add or subtract from this total.
  • Exercise, know where, what when, and how much.
  • Sugar, know how to identify good and bad sugars. Understand the way the body processes the things you eat. Set a personal target for added sugar intake.
  • Oils learn about good fats and bed fat, and why I prefer olive oil, coconut oil, and butter, and I avoid canola oil, palm oil, and margarine.
  • Measurements, understand body composition , basal metabolic rate, available technology, set baseline measurements and use them to monitor progress.
  • Eating plans. Diets don’t work, if the did there would be no need for the Diet Industry. I will help you determine which eating options are right for you and help you develop a healthy lifestyle.

For you Kandas, I could work 56 days of GRATITUDE.

  • Goals – I will show you how to set SMARTER goals.
  • Rules – we will establish rules about sugars, oils and processed food.
  • Activity –  we will set the basic requirements for daily and weekly exercise
  • Timescales – we will establish the 8 week time frame and how it fits into your life plan.
  • Irrigation – Water supply, how much do you really need, do other drinks add or subtract from that total
  • Target – What are you aiming for, could be weight loss, fat loss muscle gain, how will you know you have reached them. Baseline and endpoint measurements.
  • Dairy- pros and cons of dairy consumption
  • Eating plan –  Will you DIET, ( do I eat this) or follow a conventional Atkins, Paleo, weight watchers etc program.  Will you move towards using more single ingredient foods and cooking from scratch and away from overly processed foods which may contain controversial ingredients whether listed on the label or not.  DIET, by the way, is an acronym for “Do I Eat This”?

How have you used SendOutCards to market your business?
I send cards to my clients on Birthday and Christmas or other special occasions.   I send thank you cars when they stop being my client.  I send random cards for accomplishment.  I have never sent a card to a prospective client yet, but who knows when I might need to do just that.

Lynda Davies Looks Good in Spandex, the Video

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How to Handle a Tacky Networker and other Networking Tips from Award-Winning Event Planner Shelly Rice | Podcast 012

Award-winning event planner Shelly Rice has spent the past 25 years helping business owners grow their networks and their companies through business events, workshops, mentoring and collaboration. In Gratitude Geek Podcast Episdode 12, Shelly shares her top networking and business tips, including how to deal with the infamous tacky networker.

This is NOT a Cold Call

Award-Winning Event Planner Shelly Rice

Award-Winning Event Planner Shelly Rice

Kandas:  Where would you go if you were invisible?

Shelly:  I would go visit all of my childhood boyfriends and play pranks on them.

Kandas:  What’s your motto?

Shelly:  Attitude is everything

Kandas:  What makes you different from other people in your industry?

Shelly:  Experience. Lots of great events out there but few can say they have held successful events all over the country. I’ve hosted nearly 1,000 events in 80 cities.

Kandas:  What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Shelly:  I spent two years helping my son overcome an illness. Two years of not knowing if he would walk again, or live or what the outcome would be. Tough two years. He’s just fine now by the way!

Kandas:  What is your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Shelly:  I seem to be my biggest obstacle. I can blame circumstances or others but in reality I am the only thing in my way.

Kandas:  What will it take to overcome your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Shelly:  Just never giving up. That and my coach is kicking my butt.

Kandas:  Define your style?

Shelly:  REAL

Kandas: Tell me about your typical day.

Shelly: I pretty much work 14-16 hours a day.


Networking 101:  Connect with People Not Business Cards

Kandas:  How do you juggle work and family?

Shelly:  Son is grown, still find time to see him and my family, it’s not tough.

Kandas:  Three tips you would like to give to people who are thinking about starting a business in your industry?

1. Put your plan in writing.

2. Have twice as much money as you think you’re going to need.

3. Collaborate with others.

Kandas:  What’s the best way to market your particular business?

Shelly:  This information is going to cost you!

Kandas:  How have you grown as a person since starting your company?

Shelly:  I started my company 25 years ago so I’ve grown and changed a million times since then.

Kandas:  If you could travel back in time and speak to your 18 year old self, what would you say?

Shelly:  Listen to your parents, they know what they are talking about.

Kandas:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Shelly:  Same thing….working like a mad woman, speaking on more stages, shaking more hands…….

Kandas:  For whom are you thankful? Who do you appreciate?

Shelly:  God, my family, my best friend-Reda and my mentor-Patty Farmer. Also thankful for my business partners: Margie Baxley, Reeshemah Holmes and the incredible Dawniel Winningham.

Kandas:  What else would you like to add?

Shelly:  I sincerely appreciate you having me on your show. Thank you. Please let me know how I can be a resource for you.

Shelly Rice’s Bookshelf

Bonus Book Pick

The Big Take Away

My big take away is:  It doesn’t matter how long you have been doing what you are doing, you still have much more to learn.

What about you?  Leave a comment with your big take away about this networking and business building conversation with Shelly Rice.

Connect with Shelly Rice
Be the Boss Magazine

Be the Boss Magazine

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Steve Schulz on Network Marketing, Money & Cheese Curds | Podcast 011


Meet a Network Marketing Legend

My guest today is a network marketing legend.  Twenty-three years ago Steve Schulz was a dead broke school teacher.  After consistently working his network marketing business for 3 to 5 hours per week for 3 years, both Steve and his wife Colleen, were able to leave their teaching jobs.  Steve shares the two things he did during those 3 to 5 hours.

Today, Steve is the President of Field Development for SendOutCards.  We sat down on a Thursday night in Houston, Texas to chat about network marketing, money and cheese curds.

Money is NOT the Root of All Evil

Steve shares his journey from teacher to multi-millionaire in his new book, “Yes, Sometimes It Is About the Money.”

“We can create more millionaires inside SendOutCards than any other program out there…  we’ve got the greatest product in network marketing.” – Steve Schulz


The Elusive Cheese Curd

Steve is from Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is known for cheese curds.  Despite my best efforts to draw it out of him, Steve would not divulge the secret of the elusive cheese curd.  He remains true to his Wisconsin roots.

Steve Schulz’s Book Shelf
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Leah Dossey Hasn’t Used Shampoo in 2 Years | Dirty Girls & Viral Social Media Marketing | Podcast 010

It’s our TENTH Podcast.  Whoop whoop!

Go ahead, scroll down and leave your congratulatory comments below the article.  You know you want to.  Just read the article first!

Secrets to Healthy Hair

leah-dossey-rocksKandas:  What is No Poo?

Leah:  No Poo is washing your hair without commercial shampoo. It literally means “No Shampoo”.  If you are concerned about clean hair after the zombie apocalypse, you need to switch to No Poo.

Kandas:  Your blog post about going No Poo has gone viral on Pinterest, can you tell us why you decided to write about it?

Leah:  When I decided to go No Poo I did a lot of research. I had to visit ALOT of blogs to get a really complete picture of the process. Once I was successful at No Poo myself, I wanted to create a comprehensive HOW TO article to help others learn about the process. Sharing with others so that they too can share what they have learned is a joyful experience that I find hard to describe.

Kandas:  What makes you different from other No Poo bloggers?

Leah:  The key thing I try to focus on when blogging about No Poo is helping others and providing them with support. That is why I created the Facebook group. We now have over 5,000 members from all over the world of like-minded people all trying to accomplish the same thing.

How She Used Social Media to Create a Global Community of Dirty Girls

Leah answers all your questions, well, my questions, about social media marketing, including:

  • Which social media channel is best for YOUR business?
  • Does print advertising still work?
  • How to market a blog.
  • How to create a “Pinnable” image for your blog.
  • What to do when someone plagiarizes your work.
  • Redirecting social media traffic to your blog or website.
  • Dirty vs. Tastefully Provocative.
  • Finding your niche.
  • How the HECK she gained 6,000 Facebook followers.
  • And so much more!

Plus, you learn how I REALLY feel about Kathy Lee.

Connect with Leah Dossey

First Follower

Here is the must-watch “First Follower” video we discussed toward the end of the podcast:

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Secrets to Healthy Living | Renu Agrawal, Holistic Health Coach | Podcast 009 | Coffee & Cards Conversation 036

The secret to living a healthier lifestyle is really not a secret. It’s just knowing where to find the answers.

Renu Agrawal says it’s about knowing yourself.  A Holistic Health Coach based in Magnolia, Texas, Renu received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She guides her clients into better health and wellness by identifying food, exercise and relationship blocks.

Let the Energy Flow

#36 Renu Coffee and Cards-300
Renu also integrates energy healing into her coaching sessions. According to ancient tradition, Prana, the sanskrit word for “life force,” regulates your blood flow and breathing. Pranic Healing and Reiki are two methods to direct the body’s energy towards self-healing. Renu is trained in both forms of energy healing.

When asked what she wishes Western people knew about Eastern healing, her simple answer:

“knowing yourself better, helps.”

Connect with Renu Agrawal

30-Day Gratitude Challenge

30 Day Gratitude Challenge

The challenge is to express gratitude to at least 1 person a day, anywhere in the world, for any reason, for 30 consecutive days by sending a real greeting card with a heartfelt message using the SendOutCards system. It is guaranteed to change your life.

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Cynthia Powell Shares How She Got to the Top of Organic Google Search | Podcast #008

Cynthia Powell, mother of three boys, has been a work at home for 15 years.  Her company, Chicks and Cubs, offers heirloom baby shoe bronzing services.  Her background in chemical engineering did not prepare her for the realities of business ownership.  However, she has learned to step outside of her comfort zone and embrace challenges.  Today, she shares the marketing secrets that keep her website at the top of organic Google search for her niche, year after year.

Cynthia & Kandas

Cynthia & Kandas

She’s Come a Long Way, Baby

Kandas:  Sum up your business in three sentences or less.

Cynthia:  I help families preserve childhood memories by Bronzing and Pewtering baby shoes, pacifiers, ballet shoes and other special items. I offer an heirloom quality product with present and future value.

Kandas:  Why did you choose to start your business – do what you do?

Cynthia:  Because I wanted to be HOME but it was hard to leave a Chemical Engineer’s Salary. And I have keep doing it because I have to have something that is MINE, that fills my need to be “productive” (and doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning toilets does not fill that need for me.)

Kandas:   Where do you find inspiration?

Cynthia:  I am most inspired by people’s whole story. And the more I study successful people, the more I realize that we all have a story – MOST if not all are NOT overnight successes. From Athletes, to Movie/Music Stars to Entreprenures… we all have a long life story. THAT inspires me to keep on my journey, so I can encourage and inspire others with my story.


Chicks & Cubs Baby Shoe Bronzing

Kandas:   What makes you different from other people in your industry?

Cynthia:  If you look back at the Baby Shoe Bronzing business, most was done Door to Door OR at the local big Department store. That is NOT our world today. Most others doing baby shoe bronzing today do it from gathering leads at shows/fairs or store displays. I have been able to set myself apart by generating my leads by being top in Google search, and internet advertising to make people realize that this is something they CAN still do today. The other difference is my prices are UNDER suggested retail. I have talked to clients in NY and CA that paid 3 times my prices for the same product. On the other hand I have really cheap competition. Their prices are under my costs – where we differ is QUALITY.

Kandas:  Why should someone purchase from you instead of your competition?

Cynthia:  I am the ONE that is providing VALUE – the best products for the best price and with a mom’s heart for their keepsakes.

Kandas: Define your style?

Cynthia:  No nonsense – I’m practical, to the point, detailed oriented, and can come across blunt. But my heart is HUGE and I care very deeply about people and their success.

Kandas:   Tell me about your typical day.

Cynthia:  Up by 6:30 – kids to school, usually back home by 8:15 – work any which way I can till 2:30. Pick up kids, then all the after school stuff and sports and then back to “work – ie: Facebook and emails” as I watch TV and to bed at some time – some days it is 8pm some days it 1am.
I do work a lot but what I have the OPTION of doing is STOPPING when I want. So I can go eat lunch at school or be the field trip mom, or serve on the PTO board or volunteer or take time to help a friend start her business or take a NAP during the day because I need it. I LOVE my life of flexibility.


Pewter Baby Shoes by Chicks & Cubs

Kandas:   How do you juggle work and family?

Cynthia:  Probably not all that well. I LOVE my work and I work a lot because I LOVE it. It is what I do for me. But like I said above, I flex as I need and want around my family and that is what I love about owning my own business, being my own boss.

Kandas:   Three tips you would like to give to people who are thinking about starting a business in your industry?


-FIND a business mentor!!

-READ anything you can find about business, sales, success – decide that you have a lot to learn and get to it.

-Don’t spend more that you have – do your very best to find a way to do things without going in debt.

Kandas:   How have you grown as a person since starting your company?

Cynthia:  I am a better customer/consumer. I think more people need to run their own business so they KNOW that it takes to make money. People don’t have a clue what it takes to run a business, how much it takes to gain a customer and taxes and regulations and shipping… So because of that, I’m a better customer.

Kandas:   Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Cynthia:  With this business, I am working my way up to being the top single  (vs team) sales rep.

Kandas:   For whom are you thankful?  Who do you appreciate?

Cynthia:  My husband and my boys for letting me be me and not expecting June Cleaver.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

My biggest takeaway today is learn to step outside of your comfort zone.  Doing what is just a little bit harder than what you are comfortably doing could have exponentially greater rewards.  You won’t always be able to see what’s outside that comfortable zone where you exist…  and you will never know unless you have faith and take a step!

Connect with Cynthia Powell


Luck of the Straw… err Draw

Did you hear my blooper in the podcast? It’s right before we chatted about how awesome Audible
is… Cynthia and I both listen to audio books while we fold laundry. It’s a great way to get some personal development in. You can get a free audio book using my Audible affiliate link.

Cynthia’s Favorite Books

Get Your Gratitude Geek On

Be sure to tune in every Wednesday to the Gratitude Geek Podcast.

Watch Coffee & Cards Conversations which are filmed on location at Conroe Coffee and produced by Shane Rodarte.

Music by Brock Rodarte.