Back in October 2003, my life was at a crossroads. I knew that I would have to find a new livelihood and I was overwhelmed by the prospect of starting over at forty-two years old.  

My friend, Dawn, and I attended a Learning Annex® event for women in transition. One of the speakers was a woman named Barbara Sher. I was impressed with her from the moment she stepped on the stage. She was so real and authentic and just spoke from her heart.

When Barbara spoke of women’s tendencies to ignore their dreams and goals and instead to sacrifice themselves for their family, I felt like she was talking to me.

She led the group in an exercise called The Lying Game. The object of the exercise was for everyone to partner up with their seatmates and share a story about themselves of something they wished they had but didn’t.  

Some people told stories saying they were famous photographers, others said that they owned a villa in France. There were stories of Nobel Prize winners and famous actors, bungee jumpers and athletes.

When it came time for me to introduce myself, I turned to my partner and said, “Hi I’m Andrea Amador. I’m a bestselling author and world famous speaker. I’ve just begun a nonprofit organization to benefit abused women and kids named Nana Cares, and lately I’ve been traveling the world in search of creating a network of sponsors.” I explained to her that I was about to close a deal on some prime oceanfront real estate along the Florida coast, and I was excited to own my first vacation home where I could spend the summers with my husband and two kids.

I don’t know about everyone else’s story, but I knew for sure mine wasn’t true. It was what I wished for but didn’t yet have. After everyone had taken a turn, Barbara explained that inside of us we all have unfulfilled dreams and desires. Most of us have spent much of our life trying to ignore them or make them go away because people have discouraged us and told us to be realistic.

Barbara said that many of our dreams may not seem realistic at face value, like wanting to be a Playboy bunny or jumping out of an airplane naked, or being a movie star. But when we dig beneath them, we can find what she calls touchstones to lead us toward being able to manifest our dreams.

She explained that within each of our “lies” were goals and dreams in hiding. Just like unpolished gems they were waiting to manifest into reality, but in order to make them shine, we needed to get some help.

Then she launched into another exercise and told everyone in the room to use the paper we had by our seats and write down and complete the following two phrases:

My wish

My obstacle

The idea was to get the group members circulating and for them to share a quick sentence about what they wished for and state the nature of the obstacles that prevented them from getting it. After we all settled down, Barbara asked anyone who didn’t get much satisfaction from the previous activity to volunteer and share their wish and obstacle.

One woman raised her hand and said that she had always dreamed of opening a spa business in Greece, yet had no clue or any connections to anything to do with spas or Greece. Barbara asked for people to raise their hands and say what they could do to help out this woman. Within a few minutes, she had met several people who could all provide resources or support to help her reach her goal of actually owning a spa in Greece.

I was astonished as I watched what began as a vague dream begin to become a reality with one person after another sharing their ideas, services, or suggestions. It all started with one person saying, “I have a piece of property in Greece that I’m not using that I’d be willing to discuss renting to you.” Just like a snowball rolling downhill, her wish started becoming a reality, getting bigger and bigger and gaining more momentum.

Stanley Milgram and Six Degrees of Separation

You’re probably familiar with the saying, “It’s a small world.” Well, there’s actually a lot of truth to that statement. Stanley Milgram is a psychologist who conducted what has been known as The Small World Experiment.

He gathered twenty strangers in a room with a wall filled with phone books. The purpose of the experiment was to prove that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people in the world. This means that you are only six contacts away from being able to connect with someone who can help you do whatever your heart desires.

Let’s say you wanted to meet Brad Pitt. According to Milgram’s theory, you would already know him through six different people. For example, you tell your friend Suzie you want to meet Brad Pitt. She’s knows Bob, who knows Jane, who knows Heather who knows Steve, who actually knows Brad Pitt.

The object of the Small World Experiment was to get a note hand delivered anywhere in the United States within just three days by using only the resources available in the room. One of the participants was blindfolded and opened a random phone book and put his finger on a name and address of a woman in North Dakota.

Every one of the twenty people in the room began brainstorming and thinking of ways they could get that note to the woman. One person in the room had a friend whose cousin was a trucker who could get there the next day. In addition to that idea, there were eleven other suggestions and strategies that the group came up with that day to get the note to the woman within only three days.

Now consider that this was only the collective brainstorming ability of twenty people. Imagine what kind of oomph you get when you have a room of 100 or 200 or 1000 or more. This is why in the group of several hundred at the Learning Annex presentation it was possible to generate solutions for the woman who wanted to own a spa in Greece.

How about you? What would you like to do, be, or have that requires help?

Accountability: The Difference that Makes the Difference

The first time I leveraged the power of accountability was when I listened to and followed a series of Tony Robbins Personal Power II audio cassette tapes with my friend, Sandra. As a small group of two, we were committed to ensuring each other’s success. When one of us made a promise to take action, we held each other to it.

If I promised Sandra that I was going to make three phone calls to several interested buyers, then that’s what I had to do. This is called Accountability.

Joining Jodie’s Success Team

My second experience with accountability came from being a member of a larger  success team. This group really packed a punch and gave my goals legs. Each week we would get together and share what we had completed during the previous week. The difference was that now I was accountable to a group of 3 other people instead of just one. I realized this had some real power. It was less feasible to try to weasel out of the commitment by begging off and making an excuse, such as was possible with a friend.

Jodie was our leader and she led us through the next eight weeks with passion and poise. To this day, she still remains a dear friend of mine. I believe it has been largely due to Jodie’s faith in me that I have taken many of the leaps that I have. Without her encouragement and that of my success team, I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough to have pursued coaching. On more than one occasion, my teammates Jodie, Anisa, and Shirley have been the wind beneath my wings!

I can honestly say that on the first day I arrived I had a whole armload of fantasies of what I wanted for my life. And thanks goes to my buddies because they helped me put those pipe dreams into plans and realities. Without them, I would still be spinning like a top, unable to fix on any one thing and wishing, hoping, and dreaming that my life was different.

But my group pressed me to get clear and focus on a goal. I chose to be a speaker. With their help and support, I dipped my toe into the speaking arena by becoming a Girl Scout leader. I decided that would be the most comfortable way for me to begin speaking. I led group meetings at my home on Saturdays for my daughter, Cara and the other 6 year old girls in the Brownie group. Those tender first steps were exactly what I needed to break out of my shyness, and get comfortable speaking in front of people.

Then after 2 runs of Jodie leading our team, she invited me to lead the next group. I had such a blast being a success team leader. From that point on I began leading online and offline mastermind groups, success teams and product creation groups. My next steps were making the decision to get certified as a coach and to take the NLP Master Practitioner training. Every step of the way my buddies cheered me on.

Sadly, over the years our little group got separated and Shirley passed away. But I’ll never forget the indelible experience of discovering the joy and support of success teams.

Online Accountability

Until I had my first experience with Barbara Sher’s Success Step by Step bulletin board, I had no clue of the value of online accountability.

One day, I faced a monumental task. None of my team members were available and I needed help because I didn’t have a clue how to begin the huge task that lay before me.

In preparation to sell the buildings, I had to clean out a huge area that I had made into my personal storage space where I had been stockpiling my junk for more than fifteen years.

Facing the pressure of the deadline, I thought I would go out of my mind. It was eight rooms filled with stuff floor to ceiling. Old craft projects, clothing, furniture, papers, boxes, photos, pictures, china, bric-a-brac, all the things I didn’t want yet couldn’t find it in my heart to release. These were the things that kept me holding onto the past.

One day there was a steam leak in the building and a radiator pipe burst flooding the area. When I surveyed the damage, I was broken hearted to see the destruction that had occurred.

Seeking instant support, I decided to take a chance and post my request on Barbara’s Sher’s message board. After I wrote down my request, I broke it down into several goals and further subdivided that into baby steps as follows:

Goal #1 Clean and clear storage area

Baby steps:

1. dispose of 10 large 3 mil garbage bags full of junk

2. separate clothes for donations

3. get assistance with removing heavy items

4. get assistance with upgrading all lighting

As soon as I wrote my request to the group I left the house to begin the task. As if by magic, people popped up all day long willing to help. One of my superintendents, Andres, and his wife, Juana, offered their help moving furniture and taking out garbage. Other people filled bags and helped clear the area. I was able to fill up ten bags in no time at all. Within less than a week the task was done. But the toughest part was getting started. I couldn’t have done it without the benefit of feeling the pressure of being accountable to somebody else.

After that, I was a believer and I fully understood the value of online accountability. For the next several years, I used Barbara’s online message board as my means of support when my team was not available.

Thanks to accountability and success teams, I feel as though I am never alone, and I know exactly where I can go for instant support, 24/7.