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« The "I Did It" List | Possibility Pages »

Ask the Expert: Jane Pollak

Jane Pollak "Ask the Expert" interview about Possibility ThinkingThe “Ask the Expert” interview series connects you with industry thought leaders and gives you the opportunity to participate in inspiring conversations. This year we’ve spoken with Dorothy Breininger about success, Dr. April Lane Benson about enlisting help, Leslie Josel about motivation, David Allen about time management, Peter Walsh about clutter, Sheila Delson about letting go, Laura Berman Fortgang about next steps, Judith Kolberg about change, and Sue West about fresh starts. This month I’m thrilled to bring you business coach, Jane Pollak, to share her insights and experience about possibility thinking.

While Jane and I have never met in person, I have been following and hearing about her for many years. I have several colleagues that rave about her unique ability to help entrepreneurs clarify, focus, and connect. When I contacted Jane to invite her to be interviewed, she generously accepted. You are in for a treat. My deepest gratitude goes to Jane for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Jane Pollak is one of the Northeast’s foremost coaches of entrepreneurial women and a living example of how to turn a passion into a thriving business. Jane’s story is an odyssey that led her from remote craft fairs and customer rejections to an invitation to the White House and appearance’s on NBC’s Today Show. The lessons Jane learned along the way led her to share her story and give advice to struggling entrepreneurs, travelling the country and beyond. Her book, Soul Proprietor, is not only inspiring and motivating for the entrepreneur or small business owner, it is a handbook of lessons that one could apply to the business of everyday life. You can connect with Jane on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog or website.


Linda Samuels:  You’re an expert in helping women entrepreneurs “achieve uncommon success.” What are some ways to create an environment that nurtures possibility thinking?

Jane Pollak:  It’s obvious to everyone looking on what lights you up. But we rarely give ourselves permission to listen deeply to what we really want. Sharing your dreams and visions with one or more other like-minded souls is like putting Miracle-Gro on your garden. It will flourish. Having others reflect their belief in you back to you in a group is powerful.

Be aware of how you language your vision. Eliminate words like “should” and “try” which, subtly diminish our intentions.


Linda:  What might get in our way?

Jane:  Other people’s needs. Women are born nurturers and caretakers. Johnny forgot his violin. Your elderly mother needs to have cataract surgery. It often falls to you to take these tasks on, but it may not be necessary, and it most definitely CAN be done on YOUR schedule. I’ve had clients who are desperate to write, create, you fill in the blank, and are unable to put two hours together in their day.

At some point, you need to stake a claim for yourself. Some confuse self-care with being selfish. I don’t adhere to that. I believe that the example you set for your families, friends and colleagues is worthy of the risk it takes to do that. Johnny can experience the pain of his forgetfulness, and you can take your mother for surgery on a day that works for you. Once you get into the habit of scheduling time for YOU, there’s no turning back and it becomes the norm, not the exception.


Linda:  What are some techniques or questions to ask for imagining possibilities?

Jane:  A typical one that has remained evergreen for that reason is: If money, health, location and family obligations were not an issue, what would you really like to do? Or, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Many women will not even allow themselves to fantasize about possibilities for fear of failure or fear of success. It’s a loaded question and requires a lot of personal development work to get there.

A talented coach will be able to deeply explore your vision once they’ve broken through the layer(s) of resistance. What blocks us is not lack of talent as much as putting many obstacles in our way.


Linda:  What have you observed about the relationship between letting go and possibility thinking?

Jane:  They are mutually beneficial and must co-exist. It would be challenging to have possibility thinking without letting go…of preconceived ideas, demands, guilt, worry, etc. If you want to paint a great masterpiece, you may have to let go of having an immaculate household. I heard a wonderful saying once that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years: Housework, if done correctly, will kill you!


Linda:  What has been your most significant personal challenge around embracing possibilities?

Jane:  Getting divorced at age 63 after a 38-year marriage. While I was comfortable knowing I could support myself and be of value for another few decades, I am a relationship person and had to embrace the possibility of finding love in my 60’s—which I have. My self-talk had to be tamed – Men are only looking for younger women. All the good men are taken. Etc.


Linda:  Is there anything else you’d like to share about possibilities that I haven’t asked?

Jane:  Yes. I could not, nor would I advise anyone else, to do this at home alone! Support is vital in every aspect of our lives. When it comes to possibility thinking, it’s what will get you through the rocky road whether it’s someone to hold your hand, have your back or encourage you to continue to follow your dreams. They can get lost very quickly if you venture out alone.


Thank you, Jane for sharing your wisdom about possibility thinking. There are so many riches here including the uplifting words such as “flourish,” and “vision.”  I love your calls to action like give yourself “permission to listen deeply,” share your dreams with “like-minded souls,” be mindful of how you “language your vision,” "stake a claim for yourself," or learn how to tame your self-talk. These ideas exude possibilities.

I invite you to join Jane and me as we continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts about possibility thinking. Which ideas resonate with you?

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Reader Comments (27)

Thanks so much Linda for bringing Jane to me. I am a believer! I am a firm believer that unfortunately we are our own self sabatogers. I once heard someone say that Should is Could wrapped in shame. Getting through the self-doubt, self talk and fears is hard, but until we do we can't possibly forge the path we are destined to do so. Emotional clutter can be so toxic! thank you Jane for helping us clear the space!

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Wonderful interview! From the first, I love Jane's perspective on "stake a claim." How exciting to be able to nurture your own passions first. Adding in support and getting help make one's changes more fun by sharing the joy. Thanks for sharing this great interview!

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Another great interview, Linda. Thanks to Jane for giving us a peak into her thought process. I so agree that women limit their thinking by the "cares of the day". I find this especially true for women who have been home full time, and are considering transitioning into full or part time work. It is VERY HARD to let go of the pattern of full availability to the family. There can be guilt that "I used to do this....." Full support from the family can ease this transition.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Thanks Linda and Jane for this interview. How true is that we are our own biggest obstacles. We need to stop thinking about what we can do and just do it. It's important what Jane pointed out, we need a good support system compound with family a good friends, without them we'll probably fail or find that is harder.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

What a wonderful interview Linda. I loved the part about self care not selfishness, We as women always see ourselves as the doer of all, we all need to delegate. Thank you Jane for some great insights.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

I love the connection to emotional clutter. Thanks for that insight.

Thanks so much for your comment.

Thank you for the affirmation!

I like the way you elaborated on the support part of this. Thank you!

Thanks for your comment!

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJane Pollak

Boy, did this interview resonate with me. I need to get into the habit as Jane says to, "...schedule time for it becomes the norm, not the exception." Challenging with young kids and aging parents but very necessary. Thanks for another great interview, Linda.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Agin Murray

Linda, great interview showcasing yet another fabulous expert. Jane has keyed into so many struggles that we all experience as business owners, mothers, and women in general. I always say that women are "wired" differently than men, and so our emotional connection is always integrated into everything we do. It sits on our shoulders and can both comfort us and hinder us through turmoil. Sometimes we get in our own way and so Jane's reference to our self-talk and "language" is my favorite take-a-way. Eliminating the "shoulds" and "coulds," obliterate the negativity.This is so difficult to unlearn but once mastered, I have to believe our goals are so much more attainable. Btw, @LeslieJosel, phenomenal phrase that Should is Could wrapped up in shame. Well said, on the money.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

What a heart-full, folks. It is wonderful to "hear" all of your voices and shared thoughts.

@Leslie- Oh the places we can go when we get out of our own way!

@Ellen- Yes! Making room and enlisting support...valuable keys to possibilities.

@Seana- Letting go in order to reimagine is an essential part of the process.

@Nacho- Forward movement is always possible, and as you pointed out, easier if we create internal and external environments that are conducive for change.

@Jill- Thank you for highlighting that point: self-care not being selfish. It's another one of Jane's nuggets of wisdom that I really appreciated hearing.

@Stacey- The pull of family needs are very strong. And how wonderful that you are there for your family. And yes...carving out "Me Time," reframing that time as the standard or norm and not a luxury, is essential.

@Nancy- I'm with you on the power of self-talk language. We can either be our best or worst encouragers. Being mindful of the subtlety of our word choices is a great start. Ditto on liking Leslie's contribution, "Should is Could wrapped in shame."

@Jane- We are so lucky to have you here with us, not just for the interview, but also for continuing the conversation. As you can see, you are helping, inspiring, and getting our possibility thinking activated.

October 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

It is amazing how one post can touch each reader differently, and each of us connected with something different in the piece.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

Jane must be an amazing coach, as I felt energized just reading her post! I've also added her book to my "want to read" list on Goodreads.

Linda, thank you for always introducing such interesting people.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Jill- You're so right. It IS amazing how each of us finds that thing that we need most. Great sharing all around.

@Janet- Totally agree with you, Janet. Jane's positive, clear energy jumps right off the page. I'm sure she'll be happy to know you'll be reading her book.

October 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wow, Linda. I just loved this interview with Jane. Her perspective really spoke to me on so many levels. I also love the responses from the other readers. Leslie Josel gave me should is a could wrapped in shame. I think I'll tape that on my mirror. I will also eliminate the word - try.
As the care taker of my family I do consciously schedule time for me. I love that Jane made that point. It's so important. How can we take care of others if we don't first take care of ourselves?

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Diane- Like you, I also love hearing what each person contributes to the conversation. Powerful choice you made by eliminating the word, "try," from your vocabulary. Way to go, Diane! The question you pose is so apt, "How can we take care of others if we don't first take care of ourselves"? Of course we can ignore our needs, but that can easily result in burnout and resentment. "Me Time," becomes key.

October 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I knew I was going to like this interview when I read the words: "But we rarely give ourselves permission to listen deeply to what we really want." So very true. Rarely do our lives quiet enough to allow us that opportunity. My kids being at college is giving me more time and space to do this deep listening and I have to admit I'm amazed by what I'm hearing when I take the time to ask the deeper more probing questions.

Then I read the words that are some of my favorite to ask in a coaching session: "If money, health, location and family obligations were not an issue, what would you really like to do?" Interesting to me though is that in my own reflections around my next steps this is a question I haven't asked myself. I look forward to trying it on for size later this week during a visioning session.

But when I read "what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?" I knew Jane was someone I need to connect with. You see I have those words inscribed on an aluminum paperweight that has been the lone item on my kitchen window sill for the past 15 years. Those words are key to who I am and who I am becoming. In fact, those are the words that made it ok to go a little nuts and start a business seven years ago in a field few had even heard of. : )

Thank you for this wonderful introduction to Jane. Hopefully, I will have the pleasure of connecting with her in the future.

With gratitude,


October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

Thank you Linda for sharing Jane Pollak's great advice. I know first hand how much her coaching has inspired women to do and be more than they thought possible and without losing themselves in the process.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterScarlett De Bease

Thanks for this Jane and Linda! I especially like the idea of having Miracle Gro-friendships/support groups to cultivate my dreams/ visions. I have recently been cultivating my creative side through writing and crafts and I just bloom like a rose in those groups! I can see how having a coach would do this for my business goals.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Deinstadt

Thank you for adding your insights and wisdom to the conversation.

@Andrea S.- Oh, how I remember the tremendous surprise of being able to "listen deeply" in a way I hadn't in years after our daughters left for college. One gets used to a certain level of activity. Each person we are involved with and care about take a certain amount of energy and space. It's neither good nor bad. It just is. So when we have more space and quiet, it's amazing what else we're able to hear.

@Scarlett- As a another type of coach, you also are an inspirer and cheerleader for women. And your word choice is so interesting. Because in the work you do, perhaps those that have lost themselves a bit, rediscover their beauty and power by re-imagining their outer selves to better express their inner selves.

@Andrea D.- I'm with you on the Miracle Gro. I love Jane's analogy. You and I have spoken several times above creativity and you absolutely "light up" when you describe the different venues you've been pursuing. That light is inspiring to others. Keep weaving, writing, and …!

October 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Jane's comment, "I could not, nor would I advise anyone else, to do this at home alone! Support is vital in every aspect of our lives. When it comes to possibility thinking, it’s what will get you through the rocky road whether it’s someone to hold your hand, have your back or encourage you to continue to follow your dreams. They can get lost very quickly if you venture out alone."

Isn't this the truth? Often it's a blessing + a curse that so many of us now work from home offices - alone - which can feel so isolatied and disconnected. We don't have the support of co-workers who often provide a quick word of encouragement or a powerful idea which germinates in our mind.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

@Geralin- Yes… you found another one of Jane's gems! I suppose the blessing part is that especially with all of us that work from home, we now have the opportunity to create and hand pick our "Miracle-Gro" circle of support. And that can come in so many forms- sometimes face to face, but just as often by phone, email, or even our social media communities.

October 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you Linda and Jane for this inspiring conversation. It all seems to hang in the balance, doesn't it? Finding the balance between meeting our needs with the needs of others, creating room for inspiration by letting go of limiting beliefs and behaviors, finding and nurturing the community that sustains us and our dreams while honoring our individuality.
Lots to contemplate.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Yota- You have such a wonderful way of soaking it all in and being able to grasp the big picture. And yes…agreed that this conversation gives us a lot to "contemplate." Each piece of that puzzle deserves time, thought, and attention. But so worthwhile. Always love hearing your "voice." Grateful that you're here with us.

October 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wonderful interview! Women ARE nurturers and many thrive in roles that allow us to develop and use these wonderful skills. But at the same time the same gifts can become a burden when nurturing (or lack there of) comes with guilt. Thank you for the reminder to determine if we personally need to be the ones to solve the problem.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNettie Owens

Nettie- What a powerful observation that nurturing can become a burden when accompanied with guilt…and that we don't always need to be the problem solver. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be the question-asker. I've also found the coaching term, NCRW (Naturally Creative Resourceful and Whole) a great one for shifting perspective. When we view others as NCRW, we see them as capable of figuring out their own solutions. We can help facilitate the process by being supportive and asking good questions, but the discoveries, solutions, and actions are far more effective when they come from within.

October 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi All,

I wrote a really detailed response to each of your wonderful comments this week and they disappeared. Aarghh. I hear that Mercury is in retrograde, so I'll blame the Universe.

I'm so happy to connect with each of you and appreciate your comments so much.

Thank you!


October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJane Pollak

I'm late to the conversation, but I just have to say that you ask the best questions Linda. What a great interview.

I particularly love this thought: "At some point, you need to stake a claim for yourself. Some confuse self-care with being selfish. I don’t adhere to that. I believe that the example you set for your families, friends and colleagues is worthy of the risk it takes to do that."

So inspiring!


October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAby Garvey

@Jane- Great "letting go" modeling. And my apologies for the technology glitch. I'm sure it was frustrating that you put forth so much effort, which wasn't able to be seen. I'm grateful for your sense of humor, presence, and connection with all of us.

@Aby- You're never late and always welcome. So glad you're here and that you enjoyed the questions and the interview. The self-care/selfish distinction Jane made resonated with me too. I remember thinking a lot about this when our daughters were young. If I didn't take care of myself, I wasn't modeling that for them. I wanted to know that they knew how to not only give to others, but also how important self-care was as part of the balance.

October 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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