Inspirational Ring Leader

loveWe each have a unique perspective on living life, and of our world. This is the easiest way to start social sharing, and storytelling about your certain way. Just choose a story from your life experiences, perhaps why you do what you do or when you realized you enjoyed doing something…movement, in any direction, makes the difference.

Last week Al and I co-instructed a boot camp – designed to get our guests into sharing their #owncertainway with the world. I discovered I liked being an inspirational ring-leader when I was a child. I would gather people together and we would create elaborate games, plays or role-playing activities that got us engaged and having fun. That is exactly what boot camp does in it’s own way as well. It gets business people together, and we play games, role-play and tell stories that share our why with the world. Sounds full circle, doesn’t it?

This is also what I do in the pool company. I get to tell stories, create video, use photos, and make the world a better place by shining our light and sharing our stories.

I work because I love this shit. Do you?

#day2 #ourcertainwaychallenge

Our Certain Way: A Work in Progress

Insights OwnersWe just spent an amazing couple of days with a few of our closest friends, all while working through Our Own Certain Ways. The way to the happiest life and the best marketing comes through living and developing Our Own Certain Way. The discovery of this is through Starting with Why and answering the question, “What makes me happy?”

By sharing our stories, explaining our own certain way, including why we do what we do, what it means to us, and our many thoughts on the topic, are what connect us with our audience.

When I was a little girl, I used to be the ring leader of groups of kids. We’d organize into playing games, laughing together, and engaging. As it turns out, as an adult that is something I enjoy doing as well. Leave out the small talk, I’m in for the deep inner reflection and motivations, laughing, having a great time, and jumping in to try things that may intimidate us. This is what I spent two entire days doing – being the ring leader of this amazing group of people, who are now friends for life.

This discovery is the key to discovering the best way to explain your why to the world. So many people stop at the surface and explain the how instead of going deeper and explaining the why. Your Why will connect with someone, every time.

Get to know me and my why even more through my words (sharing my thoughts vocally is my best way of sharing) followed closely by video and then blogging…enjoy!

#ourcertainway #day1

Grit and Grace: Women in the Pool Industry

Grit and Grace Women in the Pool Industry


Grit and Grace – Women and Leadership in the Pool Industry

By Sandi Maki

Over the past few years, something really interesting has happened to the team at Legendary Escapes. Our company has become largely female-centric, with women making up a hefty portion, even sometimes a majority, of our crew as well as our front office staff.

It wasn’t intentional; this came about as a result of our certain way of doing things, of hiring people with a passion for the work and a commitment to our philosophical approach to business.

These women are making a huge difference to our work here on a local level, earning a reputation as respected and talented craftswomen. And it makes us wonder: What would it take for more women to take leadership roles in our industry?

We set out to learn just that.

Earlier this fall, Al [Curtis] and I went to the Las Vegas pool show with one goal being to search out stories about influential women in the pool business; women who are standing apart from the crowd and doing something important for themselves and their industry.

We definitely saw women at the show. We saw talented women who have roles with manufacturers and suppliers, and with industry publications. We talked to women in marketing and other front office roles. What we didn’t see were any women truly in the spotlight due to their construction or leadership roles in pool building companies.

To be sure, the female sex was represented on the educational programs (self included) most often talking about the marketing or customer service side of the business. On the show floor, though, most of the booths were staffed predominantly by men.

Our search for those stories of women leading in this industry was pretty unsuccessful. And we spent a lot of time asking ourselves why. Where are the women actually running the companies, leading the design and construction side of pool innovation?

As we talked about this after we came home, Al pointed out a possibility…that maybe our society, with as much progress as we’ve already made, still isn’t quite ready to let go of traditional gender roles. Maybe there’s still a gap between men and women’s perceived roles in constructions and skilled trades.

Let’s face it; if we call a plumber and Julie the Plumber shows up, we’re still a bit surprised. We’re all conditioned to the distinction between fields that women and men are either naturally or stereotypically drawn to. I find myself in this industry now leading a construction and service company, though at first I was in the office, and later running my own all girl opening and closing crew.

With that in mind, it seems that the larger question now is: How can we educate the world that it’s okay for a woman to work in construction or skilled trades? How can we stop treating women in the industry as a novelty, or a token placement, or a pull for ratings or traffic?

When do we get to the point where we stop being shocked or surprised by a woman making a career in a traditionally male role?

The Magic of Feminine Energy

From Al’s perspective, having women on the crew has helped make this company the success it is today. He is adamant that the interplay between the masculine and feminine energy created by our team is invaluable to our success.

“The feminine energy brings such richness to the project and the product and what we’re trying to accomplish,” says Al. “And it’s not because the women on the crew are doing it differently than the men would. It’s just a fact that the feeling they bring or approach they take to the work is different.”

When those two diverse energies – the masculine and the feminine – meet and are allowed to blend with each other, “magic happens,” says Al. When the masculine and the feminine can play off each other, they call up and support each other’s strengths. This kind of magic can do wonders for a team, a company, and even the entire industry.

How can it happen? How do we get teenage girls interested in the pool business as a career choice? There will be those who are naturally drawn to it and decide to pursue that course. But to truly make the pool industry a viable and fulfilling place for the women who seek it out, I believe it comes down to having solid role models. There are many women working in the trades that do have a calling for it; perhaps they just don’t see themselves as role models or change leaders. They are simply doing the work they love.

Much of our modern thinking about gender roles at work goes back to the end of World War 2. Think back to the 1940s in America; the men went off to war and the women went into the factories. Rosie the Riveter’s “can do” attitude made a huge difference in the U.S.’s role in the war. What a massive step forward that was for women who had a desire to work in skilled trades….suddenly they were not only “allowed,” but welcomed and encouraged. And then the men came home, and needed those jobs, and the women were shooed back into their aprons and kitchens. In spite of Women’s Lib and the ERA, cultural attitudes still hold tight more than 70 years later.

I believe we are ripe for change.

The Exponential Power of the Role Model

Several years ago we hired a young woman named Aly to work on our summer crew. She was on the small side, petite, with long blond hair and a decidedly feminine look. And she worked like nobody’s business, handling the requirements of the job with a truly womanly combination of grit and grace.

Al recalls the first day Aly was sent to a job site, and the crew chief called him up and said “What do you want me to do with her?” Al didn’t hesitate to answer: “Work her hard! Work her like anyone else on the crew!”

Aly took to it like a pro, often out-working the guys on her crew and refusing to take a break unless everyone else did. She became a role model for my daughter and Al’s two girls, all of them too young to work at the time but often at the job site. As those younger girls watched Aly work, the phrase “I want to be just like Aly” became their mantra.

Aly was willing to work and sweat with the best of them…mixing concrete, shoveling dirt, hauling supplies. She ended up inspiring all of us, men and women alike.

Aly has moved on to other things, and our three daughters are now highly valued members of our crew, taking after Aly and emulating her grit…and her grace. The next generation is being raised up, exponentially, by the leadership of the previous.

Aly pushed through the pain and pushed through the skepticism of some of her male counterparts, and we can all learn from her to push our own boundaries and the expectations of those we work with.

So how can we find and encourage this kind of leadership, in the hopes of inspiring even more growth for women in the industry in the future?

I believe all of us have a part to play; we can shine a light on them as role models, giving them the accolades and respect they deserve. Then other young women could see that and decide if a career in the trades might be right for them. This approach has worked well for educational institutions that have featured women in leadership roles in engineering, math and science, and it could work for us too.

We encourage these women to find their voices and share their stories with others. You never know who’s watching when you work…and the impact you are having can be tremendous.

Let’s share those stories, and spotlight those women who are totally kicking ass in this industry. By doing so we’ll surely see those leaders rise to the top and bring many more along with them.



Trip of a Lifetime, Fiji and Australia

Cairns, Australia
Cairns, Australia

For my daughter Kaylee’s graduation from high school I promised her (and my son next year) a trip anywhere in the world for the two of us. She started to say she wanted to visit Australia. I was all for the idea, as it has also been on my bucket list for my entire life. Then my adult self spoke up and began to think the longest plane ride ever would be coming up. I tried to persuade Kaylee to choose somewhere else. As she began to see other possibilities I finally decided we just had to go for it, and booked our tickets on a journey that would take us from Detroit, MI to LA to Fiji, Sydney and Cairns in Australia. I began to dread the plane ride, and just hoped I’d find a way to live in the moment enough to survive what I perceived as my biggest hurdle to enjoying the trip, all those hours on an airplane.

It’s hard to believe now that I’ve been to Fiji & Australia and back. I missed February 20th this year, as we left the states on the 19th and landed in Australia on the 21st after flying for 13 hours. I spent 23 hours in flight on our journey home which took a total of 42 and really had a “do over” day of March 2nd as we re-crossed the international date line. I enjoyed every moment of my travels, including each and every one of the minutes I spent on the airplane.

Setting my intention to have a great time and be “in the moment” made the difference for me energetically. I was able to just perceive exactly what was in front of me, and it flowed effortlessly throughout the trip. I didn’t have access to the internet right away in Fiji until we realized the resort had wifi in two locations. I began to post pictures of me along with the absolutely serenely beautiful scenery which prompted comments from close friends about how they didn’t know if I was coming back. I was completely in love with my moments, myself, and my life in Fiji. There was nothing more expected of me than to enjoy myself. Whether I was alone, or with people, or walking, or lying by the pool, it was all about me. Was I hungry? Time to head to for dinner. Was I bored? Time to head to explore. Was I content just to sit and people watch? Just sit. It was an entire experience wrapped around just “being” and it was beautiful.

Sydney Cairns (9) Culture shock hit after several of the most amazing days of my life. When we landed in Sydney (after Kaylee was sick on the airplane ride on the way over, perhaps it was the Kava we had the night before, or just too much sun, as she is pretty stubborn about sunblock and drinking enough water), we landed in the midst of the busiest metropolitan area in the entire land of Australia. I’m pretty sure that Kaylee’s dreams of lines of studly Australian Crocodile Dundee types waiting for us as we got off the plane vanished as we entered the longest que I’ve ever seen to catch a taxi in my life. As we headed to the hotel in the heart of downtown Sydney and pulled up at the hi-rise hotel, I felt my spirits sink. We got settled in, and that was the last Kaylee was awake for a good 18 hours.

I wasn’t going to explore on my own, I had my own culture shock to deal with. Being thrust into the busy metropolitan city and the abrupt end to serenity I had going was a bit much to handle. I spent much of the day thinking, pondering, reading, and just relaxing. I also spent quite a bit of time on my phone at 3am figuring out what a plane ticket back to Fiji would take, and if the resort had availability. We did every sight-seeing activity in Sydney we could come up with over the next few days. We visited the zoo, and got up close with the Koalas. We took a spin through Sydney Harbor and looked upon the Opera House from the boat. (It’s much smaller than it seems in photos, and just like any other building – I’d skip it next time). We visited the typical “tourist” attractions on the water front, and wandered to and fro.

Cairns, Australia
Cairns, Australia

Having been talked into continuing our journey to Cairns, we headed to the “tropical north” and re-entered our serene vacation. The Sandi I enjoyed in Fiji began to rejoin me. It was a much more relaxed area, our resort was close to town. Town of course was filled with tourist shops and restaurants, though with a view of the ocean and the mountains from our room there was hope for a peaceful and enjoyable stay. We took the train to Kuranda, held a Koala, pet the Kangaroos, road the skyrail back and opted for a scenic helicopter ride of the area. I was up early and in bed well after Kaylee retired for the (a’hem evening, typically at 6 or 7pm) with my camera ready to capture the sunrise and sunset. I had to remind myself just to watch it happen, and only get a few shots, as experiencing it in person was the most vibrant it would ever be, and photos could try, but hardly come close to the perfection I was experiencing.

Kaylee and I had a great amount of mother-daughter bonding on the trip. She’s been with me her entire life, though at 18 she’s gained her independence and the dynamics of our relationship continue to stretch and grow. I got to know the “adult” version of her in a way I probably haven’t been paying as much attention to at home. She also began to meet me, her “peer” as so many people we encountered thought we were friends on our spring break holiday, or sisters. As I’m smiling from the inside hearing the comments I can imagine Kaylee’s thinking, “but that’s my mom ;o(” One day, if not already, I know she’ll have a new appreciation for what it means to have a grown up child and still feel like a child inside herself.

Thank you Kaylee for heading out with me on the adventure of a lifetime! For giving me special mother-daughter memories I will treasure forever, and for being awesomely, unapologetically, especially you!




Living in Your Bubble

Living in your Bubble.

By Sandi Maki

There is nothing wrong with living in your bubble. It’s the space where you can do your best and create a life that you enjoy. You don’t have to let people, places or things into your bubble that don’t serve you. Too many times we allow others, including friends and family to put us into situations that we don’t consciously choose. That choice is essential to being our very best selves.

Living in your bubble doesn’t mean you don’t try new things. I just means that you choose which adventure will be yours. You try new things, and you leave or discontinue things that don’t serve you. It means spending time with people who surprise and delight you while making you happy. It also means saying no to doing things and spending time with people who drain your energy.

It also means that sometimes when you are somewhere dealing with people you’d rather not, that you find your happy place in your bubble and you don’t let it affect you. Easier said that done, I know. The next time that same situation comes up hopefully you’ve gained a few skills in remaining in your bubble, or maybe you just take your bubble and go home.

Day 7 #YourTurnChallenge

Just keep writing.

Just keep writing.

By Sandi Maki

I’ve written blog posts on a regular basis. I’ve even had a podcast that had a regular series of episodes coming out. I found that I had quite a bit to say about philosophical and interesting things. (The fact that I can re-read or re-listen to my content and be entertained says something about it’s staying interesting power as well!)

I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. Even though I would like to publish another book I had stopped feeling like I had something to say. Or I’d stop before I even started to write for fear the words just wouldn’t come out.

As it turns out, every time I sit at a computer with a keyboard the words come. The topics are random, and interesting. Some days they flow better than others, some days I enjoy writing them more than others, though the result is always the same. Interesting content from my perspective that will entertain at least one person and give someone a glimpse into the way my mind works.

Advice for getting unstuck, just sit down and write. Something is bound to happen.

Day 6 #YourTurnChallenge

Marketing is My Happy Place.

Marketing is my Happy Place.

By Sandi Maki, Chief Marketing Officer of Ask the Pool Guy

When I was growing up and beginning to decide what I thought my forever job and career path should be marketing never came up. There were the traditional choices in front of me, medical fields,  pharmaceutical, engineering, math and science. At least that was what was in front of me. I never really considered writing, designing, art, or business at first. My first day of college I was enrolled in the biology program at an engineering university. Let me just say that was not my passion, nor did I like any part of it.

As time went on I took some time off of the school route to focus on other things, including raising my children. I was re-committed to finishing my education, mostly to fulfill personal goals than really gain a career, so I went back to school for business administration (which made sense at the time since I was already running an office), so I obtained an Associates Degree in Business Administration.

Following that, I decided that I really did want a four year degree, I just wasn’t sure in what. I had really liked my intro to Psychology class so looked into what it would take to become involved in the Psychology degree, and that is the path I took. I immensely enjoyed all of the psychology program, and ended up with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

So how does marketing fit into all of this? In my current role, I am a company owner, I don’t work for someone else. I became involved in the company just over ten years ago. With my office experience I started working at the company running the office and retail operations. At that time the company wasn’t very progressive (or challenging). It came time to reinvent our offerings and I was brought on as a full partner based on what I was able to contribute. That was when I really began to shine.

My business partner and I launched two new ventures at the same time, an entrepreneur incubator/think tank, and a re-brand and re-birth of the Swimming Pool Company. It was really the entrepreneur experiences that got us so involved in bigger thinking and the marketing of a company successfully. Both of these experiences allowed me to use my business experience and training, as well as incorporate psychology into everything that we did, with marketing as the umbrella over all of it.

Once we had that experience, it re-ignited our passion to build the swimming pool company into exactly what we wanted it to be. It became a pool company that we marketed extremely well to attract the exact customers we wanted to serve, instead of letting a market dictate to us what we would offer. It also involved defining the separate aspects of what we did, design/build and service/products. By doing this we also realized an opportunity exists to create a strongly branded and marketed swimming pool franchise company, which is the very next step for me.

Since the day we made the decision to re-brand and re-ignite our interests, I  have had all the freedom to create inspiring, creative, fun, and imaginative marketing campaigns. Just this past week after one of our weekly Marketing Mastermind Sessions my brain was just jumping up and down with excitement about some fabulous new marketing ideas for members of the group.

Today my mind is racing with marketing ideas for the next evolution of the swimming pool company, and the future is very exciting indeed. Marketing IS my happy place.

Day 5 #YourTurnChallenge

Surround yourself with people who get it.

Surround yourself with people who get it.

by Sandi Maki

What is it exactly? It is whatever you need it to be. In a recent conversation with my son, who is quite intellectual I enjoyed our discussion of current events in his life. During our conversation I reminded him that throughout life it will be very important for him to surround himself with people who “get it”. In his case it will be people who can keep up with his mind and offer stimulating and interesting conversations. He can traverse intellectual and philosophical conversations with ease. I find this an admirable quality in a 16, soon to be 17 year old, let alone a person of any age.

My son’s approach to conversation delights me. We can have witty banter, and throw in topics such as personalities, science, and the origins of the universe. We can discuss moods, actions and behaviors of people, and can relate it back to each of our lives. One day after such a discussion my son looked at me and asked “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get a group of people together and have conversations like this?” It was a very proud mom moment. Of course in my life I have actively searched out opportunities to have these very discussions! I have been a member of a mastermind group regularly for the past 7 years, as well as a part of several book clubs and philosophical discussion groups.

This past weekend my son and I launched an intellectual Cafe’. We each invited a few people to see how it would work out. The first meeting sported my son (16 years old), and other guests in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s respectively. It was a great meeting with super discussion, and had each participant looking forward to the next meeting. Word spread, and the RSVP’s have increased.

In the quest to surround yourself with people who get it, you can wait for them to come to you. Or you can plant a flag and let them know just where you’ll be and invite those conversations.

Day 4 #YourTurnChallenge



Dreaming inspires. Progress fulfills.

Dreaming Inspires. Progress Fulfills.

By Sandi Maki

What do I mean by this?

I have the most fun and engaging conversations with people who are growing through their dreams. The dreaming inspires action, growth and change. The progress toward those dreams fulfills the lives of the people living the dream, and those of us who can be inspired through them. It’s hard to find much to talk about when people are stuck in the status quo, and are either comfortable or lazy, and therefore not taking much action.

I have found that having a dream helps to create momentum in my life. It’s not necessarily getting to the dream that is important. It is the progress toward the dream that offers such inspiring energy. It also offers challenges, changes, new ideas, and yes, sometimes even deviations from the path that I am on. I feel the most alive and fulfilled when I am actively striving for my dream.

I was recently reminded that dreams are so important when I met with a group of friends who are also business owners. Of the group, several of us are growing and changing (and actively dreaming!) while others are admittedly at a stand still or stalled out in the dreams for their lives and businesses. It is so hard to be inspired (and even want to continue spending time with people) who are in such a stuck spot. Sure, there’s room to help motivate, but people have to want something enough to motivate themselves.

If you find yourself stuck and in need of dream inspiration take some quiet time with yourself to do some dream building. Read books, watch inspiring TED talks, journal, mind map, and find out what it is that you really want. Then start moving in that direction (even if you are not sure it’s the final direction.) Any amount of action will start to create momentum, in you, and in your dream.

The bottom line is just get moving in the direction of your dreams, no matter how large or small the first step!

Day 3: #YourTurn