Category Archives: OpsLens Media

Lessons From An Email Ninja: An Interview with Yanna Torry Aspraki

Just the thought of calling a person I don’t know gives me a case of the nerves. There’s something about talking, as opposed to writing that just brings out the shyness in me. Since its creation, email was a godsend for someone like me. Not only did it eliminate the need for jittery, rambling phone calls, the idea that you can send someone something so quickly, without postage, was always fascinating to me. With email, you have the added bonus of having a document of what you sent, so you always know what you said. But how many of us have ever thought about how email actually works? I recently had the opportunity to interview Yanna Torry Aspraki, Deliverability Specialist and CRO of EmailConsul.

She is saving the world one email at a time.

Ms. Aspraki has a unique mission: to democratize and simplify email deliverability so that everyone can communicate effectively via email, regardless of their technical expertise, size of their business, or email lists, and to tackle the growing challenge of email deliverability in today’s complex digital landscape. As time progresses, email deliverability has become increasingly difficult due to constantly evolving spam filters and blocklists. Many senders assume that email marketing is all about creating compelling content, beautiful templates, and growing their email lists unaware of what happens after pressing the send button. It is oftentimes completely left in the hands of the email marketing software provider. Many important factors of getting emails sent and having them land in the inbox are overlooked. As a result, they may inadvertently engage in practices that can harm their email deliverability and reputation. This leads to emails landing in spam and oftentimes nowhere at all. Yanna Torry’s goal is to provide resources and easy-to-use tools that simplify the process of sending emails and ensure that they also reach the intended recipient’s inbox. She explained that we must all understand that email deliverability is an ever-changing world of email and that staying ahead of the curve is essential so that we don’t make decisions based on common misconceptions. That’s why she offers actionable advice, and shares knowledge openly that senders should have access to, real-time analytics and reporting, and guidance to help improve the sender’s deliverability and reputation.

Many of her clients are businesses that strongly feel the effects of bad email deliverability. She explains that if more businesses monitored their deliverability or were aware of how email actually worked, she would have a lot fewer clients, which would be great for the world. In her opinion, all email senders with a list over 1000 subscribers should definitely be monitoring their deliverability. That being said, she is hoping that by working on her personal goal of democratizing and simplifying email and deliverability information, senders out there will minimize the use of deliverability specialists that fix issues instead of monitoring.

Overall, her mission is to empower businesses and individuals and by simplifying email deliverability knowledge, she strives to ensure that everyone can send emails with ease and confidence, even in the face of evolving spam filters and blocklists or technological changes outside our control.

Yanna Torry explained to me that even though some of the younger generations may use email less frequently for personal communication, opting instead for social media or chat messengers, email remains a critical tool for businesses and professional communication. Studies have shown that the younger generations actually prefer email for brand or business-related communication. Email allows individuals to read the messages on their own time, rather than feeling the pressure to look at them immediately as they might with social media or chat messenger notifications. Email has been around for decades and is a tried-and-true method of communication, it is still the most effective way for businesses to communicate with their customers. Yanna Torry shared some of the benefits of using email over social media or chat messengers:

First, email allows for more personalized and targeted messaging because subscribers have already shared information that is personal to them, creating a foundation for a warmer relationship. People are more likely to follow a brand than they are to share their email address with a brand or business which shows a great commitment of interest on their part. With email, businesses can segment their audience and send tailored messages to specific groups, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion. This level of personalization is not as readily available on social media or chat messengers.

Secondly, email has a much higher ROI compared to social media and chat messengers. Studies have shown that email marketing has an average ROI of 42:1, meaning for every $1 spent on email marketing, businesses can expect an average return of $42. Social media and chat messengers, on the other hand, have a lower ROI and can be more difficult to measure as brands have less control over the data they have. Think of Google Ads where you share parameters in order for the system to make decisions versus email where the information and interest is coming directly from the interested party.

Finally, email is less intrusive compared to social media or SMS for example. With email, people can choose when to check their messages and engage at their convenience, whereas other forms of communication can be more demanding and may feel like an invasion of privacy, especially when not done right. While other forms of communication have their rightful place and are necessary to offer a full-rounded marketing experience, email remains a crucial tool for businesses to effectively reach and engage with their customers. The ability to personalize messaging, higher ROI, and its less intrusive nature make email a valuable asset in any communication strategy.

When I talk to experts like Yanna Torry, I like to get some insider tips to share with our audience, in the hopes that this specialized information can help someone out there. To begin, I asked for some best practices for businesses or individuals looking to expand their reach and engagement through email marketing:

  1. Building a targeted email list: It’s important to collect email addresses from people who are interested in your products or services, rather than buying or renting lists. This ensures that your emails are being sent to people who are more likely to engage with your content.
  2. Creating personalized content: Personalized emails have higher open and click-through rates than generic ones. Use customer data to tailor your messaging and content to each recipient.
  3. Optimizing for mobile: Most people check their email on their mobile devices, so it’s important to design your emails to be mobile-friendly. This includes using a responsive design, using a clear and concise subject line, and placing important information above the fold.
  4. Testing and optimizing: Regularly test different elements of your emails, such as subject lines, CTAs, and send times, to optimize your campaigns for better engagement and results.
  5. Following email deliverability best practices: Make sure your emails are getting delivered by following best practices such as using a reputable email service provider, maintain high engagement rates, and cleaning your email list regularly to remove inactive or invalid addresses.

Her number one tip for a business trying to build their email marketing strategy?

Prioritize the subscriber experience.

It’s important to be honest with yourself and understand that not every subscriber needs to receive every message. By respecting their time and inbox, you can build trust and loyalty with your subscribers. To achieve this, it’s crucial to follow email and deliverability best practices, which will help ensure that your messages are delivered to the inbox and not land in spam. By doing so, you can create a strong and effective email marketing strategy that engages your audience and builds lasting relationships.

Email technology is constantly evolving, with new features and capabilities being introduced regularly such as AMP for email. As long as businesses adapt to these changes and follow best practices for email marketing, email will remain a valuable tool for reaching and engaging with audiences.

Email has been around for over four decades, and it remains a crucial communication tool for both personal and business purposes. While social media and chat messengers have gained popularity in recent years, email is still widely used and shows no signs of going away. In fact, according to a recent report, the number of global email users is expected to reach 4.6 billion by 2025. While newer communication channels will continue to emerge, email’s longevity and versatility make it unlikely to become obsolete anytime soon. As long as people use email to communicate and businesses use it to market their products and services, email will remain an essential part of our daily lives.

I am always concerned about censorship, and it is a very hot topic these days. I asked Yanna Torry if she sees any censorship in the email deliverability world, and if there is a way that an email client and/or server can censor someone they basically “don’t like” or don’t agree with?

Her answer made me love email even more:

In the email deliverability world, there is no censorship of information based on acceptability or unacceptability. Unlike on social media or search engines, spam filters operate based on sender reputation and recipient preferences. Therefore, there is no possibility of email clients or servers censoring someone based on their views or opinions. The filtering process is not influenced by monetary factors, and instead is solely based on whether the recipient wants to receive the email or not. So, while there may be concerns about censorship in other areas, email deliverability operates on a different set of principles.

Yanna Torry’s newest endeavor is called Next-Gen Email. She describes it as a community created to help her succeed with her goal to democratize and simplify email deliverability. Deliverability knowledge has been kept under wraps to prevent spammers from accessing the information. However, as time passes, the email industry is becoming more divided, with larger businesses having the resources to succeed while smaller businesses struggle with email misconceptions, leading to their emails being delivered less frequently. Next-Gen Email aims to provide the world with the necessary information to succeed in email marketing and help individuals grow their email-related careers. By creating this group, she hopes to provide others with the opportunities that she had in her career by offering a great email network and access to the right information.

She and her partners have also developed EmailConsul, a deliverability monitoring tool. Email deliverability monitoring information is not commonly known or understood, and this lack of knowledge can lead to poor email marketing decisions. With EmailConsul, they aim to provide senders with the information they need to make better decisions and ensure that best practices are followed when communicating with subscribers. Email can be a powerful tool for communication, but it is essential that senders have the necessary information to use it effectively. EmailConsul is just one way that they are working towards improving the email industry and helping businesses of all sizes succeed in their email marketing efforts.

Yanna Torry is a great example of someone who has a strong work ethic and a never-give-up attitude. She credits getting into martial arts at the age of two and is now a black belt in karate. On top of self-defense and fitness-related reasons, she says that karate helped her develop discipline, confidence, control, and concentration. Karate helped her to set goals and work toward achieving them. In the past, she has opened and operated a karate school with her sister, which allowed her to share her passion for martial arts with others and help them to achieve their goals. Speaking with her, I can see that she truly has a passion for email also, and shares her knowledge freely to help businesses succeed.

Yanna Torry Aspraki, an email deliverability guru and black belt in karate, describes herself as an “Email Geek”.

I would describe her as an “Email Ninja”.

If you would like to learn more about Yanna Torry Aspraki and EmailConsul, please visit and

This article was originally published on

It’s Who You Know: An Interview With Liz Capants

I remember when I graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in international relations. I would inevitably run into some recently graduated engineering student who would ask me, while I was ringing them up at the local record store, what degree I had graduated with. People in Davis, and even in Sacramento, used to look at me as if I had two heads when I would tell them that my degree was in international relations- they had no idea what it was. Through a friend’s referral, I soon found my way into an office job working for a company that tracked legislation for all fifty states. They were absolutely thrilled that I had a college degree, it made no difference what the degree was in. I didn’t get the job through the usual application process. I got the job through someone who knew me, through networking. In fact, looking back, I have never gotten a job purely based on a standard application and interview process – they have always come through someone who knew me and decided to help me.

Years later, I was hired into the Central Intelligence Agency. I had been applying for at least seven years. Do you know what finally got me in that very elusive door? I was referred by a retired CIA officer with whom I had become friends. Through a chat with one of his friends, my long-coveted job came through. I would have never gotten in based on my application and interview alone. That is called networking.

Networking is important. It truly is who you know.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Capants, a top leader among women in business and a networking guru. Ms. Capants is the president and founder of Global Executive Search, EBC Associates, and the Erudites Networking Group. She founded EBC Associates more than ten years ago and grew the small business into a globally recognized executive recruitment agency. Her background was in marketing and business development in the publishing and financial industries. She had worked for another search firm prior to launching her own practice and, along with a partner at the time, she felt she wanted to develop a more human-centric recruiting model.

EBC Associates was born. A global specialized executive search, business consulting, and referral networking services firm has grown into a global network of affiliate partnerships to drive growth. Erudites Networking Group was formed as a subsidiary. The two provide four areas of focus: human capital and executive search services, career coaching and branding, referral networking, and social impact and community give-back to support non-profits. Liz’ business is a unique model. EBC Associates works with direct mandates provided by employers, they then execute on those positions, as well as provide human resources consulting and advisory services. Erudites Networking Group supports job seekers that may not align with her direct searches, where she provides a community and resources specific to the job search process.

The typical client size for EBC Associates is mid-market, anywhere from $5 million plus. The industries that use their services vary. Liz has worked with organizations in management consulting, e-commerce, fintech, construction, nonprofit, and advertising agencies, to name a few examples.

When she was first starting out, Liz explained that she had put all of her eggs in one basket, she had two clients that gave her the majority of her business. When things changed for those clients (leadership changes, etc.) she realized she needed to diversify her portfolio. This is where networking came in.

Even in today’s increasingly remote work-from-home environment, no man or woman is an island. Networking is one of the most crucial skills you can master to help your career and business thrive. Even if you are one of those people who loves the flexibility that working remotely affords, it’s still important to expand your community by incorporating some form of networking into your schedule. You never know where your professional network will lead you.

Liz leads an Execs in Transition Networking group and a Young Erudites group for early stage career individuals. Her goal for both groups is to provide a holistic approach to job searching – incorporating networking, branding, and consulting opportunities to broaden the process to finding work. These communities have grown organically as a forum to advise and consult one another.

Today, Liz Capants’ business is fueled by referrals and word of mouth from previous clients; her business is generated through the network she has built. She is a perfect example of the importance of networking.

If you would like to learn more about Liz Capants, EBC Associates, and Erudites Networking Group, please visit and

This article was originally published on

Mastering Your Inner Game: An Interview with Ailish Keating

Life is Too Short to Stay Stuck or Hidden. 

Ailish Keating perhaps knows this better than anyone. About seven years ago, she developed a large lump in her breast that seemed to appear overnight.  She had been going through a very a stressful period at that time.  In addition to the stress, she was aware she had a lot of repressed emotions that likely also contributed to the appearance of the lump. Fortunately she possessed the self-awareness to realize what had caused it. Over the next few weeks she was able to reverse it by addressing her internal struggle, releasing the emotions using some healing methods she was familiar with as well as changing her diet and actions. Within a couple of weeks, the lump went from the size of a golf ball to the size of a small marble and continued to diminish. But that wasn’t the end of the lump.

About four years ago, she found herself in the middle of a similar set of conditions where she was under an enormous amount of stress, and the condition returned. This time, it did not matter what she did; nothing changed its direction. She was living in Maine and traveling back and forth to New York City for treatments when COVID arrived. Flights were soon canceled and she was unable to travel to appointments. Her condition worsened over the two months that followed. By the time she was able to be seen by a medical professional, her diagnosis was triple negative breast cancer with two to six months to live. It had metastasized and she was very weak. She then went on various chemotherapies which would work for about three weeks and then stop working. Eventually, after the third chemo was not working, the US doctors suggested that she return to Ireland as her condition was not improving. She returned to Ireland and due to COVID-inspired delays and required quarantines, there was an approximately two month delay between appointments from the period of July to September. Somehow, during this delay between treatments, she had started to improve. Ms. Keating was practicing holistic therapies on the side, and they were working. In case you were wondering, Ailish Keating is still alive.

Pretty inspiring, right?

I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Keating, to find out where she is in her life now – a life that was declared over a few years ago. 

Ailish now dedicates her life to helping others master their “inner game” to achieve healthy relationships, wealth, and happiness. She wants to help people discover why they are here, their authentic self, and uncover and achieve their highest potential. She believes that once someone does the inner work required, not only do they have improved finances, but relationships and life in general also start to improve. She says it is all an inner game.

By the inner game, she means mastering emotions, thoughts, memories and thinking – one’s entire vibration. This impacts how one shows up in life and also what happens to you and how you respond to what happens. As you get more skilled, you can handle situations and people with greater ease. It is not that things don’t happen, it is that you have increased skill sets to handle life and you master your response, your choices, and your reactions.

This shift allows opportunities and invites success into your life. You become more naturally confident and more congruent with who you are. Then the world outside of you changes to match who you are on the inside – it is an inside job.            

“I don’t know you yet, but I know this: the world needs your gifts right now – you are here to transform lives and I am here to help you do that.”

Ailish Keating is a Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) Practitioner and a holistic coach who helps entrepreneurs and executives Master the Inner Game to achieve healthy relationships, wealth and happiness and so they don’t burn out. Ailish is trained in RTT, Hypnotherapy, Access Bars, Yoga and meditation.  She has developed a proprietary technique called Emotional Alchemy™, which allows her clients to process high levels of emotions and trauma, achieving powerful results in a short amount of time.

I asked Ailish to explain what Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) is, and how it works:

Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) is a complete solution-based treatment that combines the most beneficial principles of Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, NLP, and Neuroscience. In short, RTT can deliver extraordinary change from physical, emotional, and psychological pain by reframing our core beliefs, values, habits, and emotions deep in the subconscious. By rapidly rewiring the brain’s neural pathways, RTT® replaces our outdated belief systems and negative behavior patterns. New life-affirming beliefs are formed, and the transformational process begins. In as little as 1-3 sessions, some lifelong issues can be resolved.

A session is typically 1.5-2 hours, after some initial investigative work between the practitioner and client, the client is placed in hypnosis. This simply serves to allow the conscious mind, which is the gatekeeper, to step aside so that the subconscious mind can answer questions. The client’s subconscious mind will present events from the past that contributed to the current issue/problem. These past events are then cleared from mental and emotional triggers. The problematic beliefs and values, many of which they have carried with them since childhood, are rewired and reframed using suggestions and reframing.

Often, these have been so deeply buried in their subconscious that they are unaware of them; by giving the client the potential to alter the way they think and put an end to self-sabotaging tendencies, the client can positively approach life and move forward. This technique allows a client to release the memory of the event responsible for the traumatic response. It can be used for a variety of issues such as stopping smoking, overcoming anxiety, improving memory and concentration, and clearing traumatic events from the past.

For example, one of her clients, at fifty-one years of age, had a fear of deep water and would panic if she was in water above her waist. She wanted to set a better example for her teenage son as she had found, during every family vacation, she would not go in the water and swim with her husband or child, which had a negative impact on what should have been a happy occasion. She wanted to swim in the deep end of the pool, she wanted to enjoy her time with her family, but something consistently held her back. During her RTT session, it surfaced that she had witnessed her sister almost drowning when she was a child. When that happened, she had promised herself that she would not be put in that position again. A week after the session she was back, swimming in the ocean, and shortly after that, swimming in the deep end of the pool. Swimming is now enjoyable for her and her family; the fear of deep water is completely gone.

In Ailish’s sessions she also uses a proprietary technique called Emotional Alchemy™. I asked her what this is:

Much like memories, emotions that have not been expressed are stored in the body; these stuck emotions then impede our ability to be fully present and can also be easily triggered.  As a protective mechanism, these emotions stack one on top of another.  In a session with my clients, I guide them through the process of feeling and releasing each emotion without judgment, and also to achieve a place of full acceptance of each emotion that surfaces. This acceptance then allows the client to go deep inside and clear and release emotional wounds that have been kept in place from a young age.  

My process of Emotional Alchemy allows the client to process what can be a backlog of emotions in a single session. What is important to understand is that emotions are chemicals in the body and these chemicals impact our vibration. So if you are attempting to achieve a positive outcome but you have a lot of negative emotions – fear, anger, resentment, etc. stored in the body, these emotions that are stored will impede you from achieving a different outcome, regardless of mindset or actions. Once these emotions are released, someone is standing on neutral ground and it is a very powerful place to create from.

I asked her what she finds is the most common fear her patients face?

Shame is often an underlying emotion that shows up, and fear around that. Fear also shows up indirectly through anxiety. While fear is an emotional reaction to a specific, real danger, anxiety is an excessive and unfocused fear that may be triggered by a variety of stimuli. Anxiety caused by stress may persist long after the trigger is removed or arise with no trigger at all.

Have you seen people’s fears change over the years of doing this kind of work, and if so, how?

A lot of fear can be overcome once you start doing the work. So the focus is on getting started. Once someone has overcome the resistance around starting whatever it is, then the focus switches to something else. Most fear and anxiety is associated with an earlier event, once we can clear and reprogram the earlier event that issue is resolved and the client can either move on or something else will show up to work on.

Through the work that I do, it is relatively simple to eliminate fears and anxieties. After they are eliminated, there needs to be positive actions to seal in a new experience. The ego likes the status quo. New actions and situations trigger the ego’s need to feel safe.  Once the ego/personality can learn that it is safe to do a new action and that this new thing won’t ‘get you killed,’ then the ego can be trained to respond positively in these scenarios with some positive experiences.

A lot of things that people consider fear are really just the discomfort around doing something new. These sensations in the body were probably first experienced when the client was a child, so it is very natural to want to move away from them. As an adult, once you can start to identify the sensations and triggers and look at them with an ‘adult’ mind, you can really help yourself move beyond them.

Her number one tip for dealing with anxiety or fear: 

Visualizing a positive outcome before you leave the house. For example, if you are going for a new job interview – before you leave the house, visualize yourself arriving back home after the interview looking happy and calling up a friend to tell them how well it went. Somehow in that process, and I tell all my clients to use it, the outcome of the interviews is usually very favorable.  Keeping an eye on the rate of breath is very helpful also, slightly longer exhales than inhales can assist in keeping the mind calm.

Her number one tip for dealing with depression:

It really depends on the person; however, good sleep, adequate sunlight and grounding should all be a part of everyone’s life. Grounding is the practice of walking barefoot on the natural ground – such as grass, sand, etc. or for example, lying in a park for 20-30 minutes at a time. The direct physical connection to the earth calms the mind. Grounding offers many health benefits, including improved sleep, reduced inflammation, improved tissue and cell repair, enhanced blood flow, increased heart rate variability, and improved electrical activity in the brain. In addition, walking barefoot on the ground releases endorphins and it is free and available to almost everyone. 

Good gut health is also essential for healthy serotonin levels. Once you have these things working for you (sleep, sunlight, grounding and diet), then you are naturally in a better place to deal with whatever mental and emotional issues are present and causing the depression.

I asked Ailish what her biggest challenge in life has been:

My biggest challenge in life has been trusting myself to find my path. A lot of what I have done in life has been different from many family members and friends and pretty much all of my college friends. Particularly, when I was younger, I found there was a lack of good role models and mentors in the field that I am currently in.

What brought you from Ireland to the US? Where are you based now and why did you choose that location over the other?

When I was younger growing up in the west of Ireland, New York always seemed like the capital of the US, even though obviously DC is. After college in Ireland, I had the opportunity to do my Masters through Cornell at IMHI/ESSEC and spent some time at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. After I graduated, I received my green card and I had contacts in the city, so it was easy for me to start in NY. I worked there for over eighteen years and then in Maine for an additional eight years thereafter.

I moved back to Ireland in 2020 as I was sick at the time. As a single parent, it was the correct choice for me.  It took me over a year to settle back into Ireland.  Now that I am here, I am growing my business and my life here. There are advantages to both locations, and I see them both as home. It is fabulous to be in Ireland and Europe for so many reasons also.

What are the biggest differences you see between life in the US and life in Ireland?

Possibility and Potential are the words that always come to mind for me with the US. It is such a big country and has so many different landscapes. People do not generally judge a person for whatever they choose to pursue, so for example, someone who is fifty-five could start out on a new career and no one would think that was unusual at all. The opinions of the people and everything there are generally very diverse. Sometimes the places lack the character of Irish towns and villages though.

Connection is the word that comes to me for Ireland, and connection and community traditionally have been very important in Ireland. However, there is a sense of sameness in Ireland and a somewhat lack of diversity in opinion more so than in culture. The political landscape in Ireland is very mono; there is very little diversity in political opinions. The landscape in Ireland is so beautiful and intimate and there are sacred places everywhere, wells, ring forts and ancient sites, so it is a place of wonderment also.

If Ailish Keating’s biggest fear in life has been of having an ineffective, non-impactful life, I would say she has nothing to fear.

You can connect with Ailish Keating at as well as on most of the regular social media platforms. Most of her work is directly one-on-one and custom tailored to each individual and the results they wish to achieve.  

This article was originally published on

Life Lessons From A Combat Marine: An Interview with Natalie Shand-Spellman

Staring blankly at the computer screen, I wondered for the umpteenth time how to explain that Jennifer Garner doesn’t really work at CIA Headquarters, that her character doesn’t actually exist, and whether there couldn’t possibly be a better use of my time as an intelligence officer than answering a flood of emails from individuals clearly lacking a true grasp of reality. At twenty-nine years old, I could have most certainly used Ms. Natalie Shand-Spellman’s purpose-cising technique.

Ms. Spellman is the author of the book Drop Stress Like a Hot Potato: Transformative Stress Workbook with Life Coaching for Busy Women.

Coach Nat, as she is known, describes the book as an illustrative, transformative, life-coaching, mental health, and stress management workbook. It is for individuals who feel broken, overwhelmed, lost, confused, grief-stricken, lonely, hopeless, and helpless. In the beautifully designed book with therapeutic colors, Coach Nat guides readers through a unique stress transformation and a mental re-framing journey that will improve their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Also, readers will learn the strategies to discover themselves, master their emotions, manage life, overcome negative thoughts, improve their mental health, and experience growth in all areas of their life. At the end of the book, readers will know how to live their best life in harmony and balance while performing at peak levels.

Coach Nat knows something about performing at peak levels – she served in the United States Marine Corps. I asked her to tell me a story about her time in the Marines and a specific experience that shaped her personally. She went on to describe her experience in Marine Corps boot camp:

When I first got to boot camp, I was the weakest because I had difficulty assimilating to the grueling boot camp training. I struggled with the required skill training to advance in the boot camp program, and I also moved at a slower pace than my peers. My leaders wanted to teach me a lesson, so they masterminded a plan to put me in charge of the entire platoon. They assigned me this leadership position during the Crucible, which was the most intense and final test before earning the United States Marine title. It was hard work, and I had to pivot from the weakest link to one of strength. I had to quickly learn how to motivate my peers when it was tough and challenging. I dug deeper into my mental fortitude and discovered my dormant strengths. I tapped into those strengths and quickly learned to turn my other weaknesses into power. That experience taught me that I was stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I had previously thought.

She went on to lead a small military troop in Iraq.

Natalie’s current work and her new book were shaped by this military experience. She talks about dealing with lost identity, brokenness, emotional turmoil, and ill health due to stress. I asked her to tell me more about the “lost identity”:

I dealt with a quarter-life crisis after returning home from Iraq. I once led a small military troop and had a promising military career. I had a vital mission to protect the freedom of the United States and was purpose-oriented with great patriotism to serve my country. I had excellent camaraderie amongst other Marines because we all shared the same core beliefs and values. We were sacrificial and willing to put our lives on the line for our country. On returning home, that military state of believing, being, and living was non-existent since others around me did not share my military core values and beliefs. I also felt like a fish out of water because my civilian friends and family could not truly relate to or understand my struggles. My family, as well as society, expected me to assimilate back into a culture I had left behind years prior.

Furthermore, it was more complicated because I was dealing with PTSD unbeknownst to me, and my environment significantly triggered me. I suffered in silence because no one around me understood my struggles. While I functioned superficially, I felt lost because I was no longer a leader with a purpose and a mission but rather a young woman who was once again struggling to find herself in a world where she felt misunderstood.

With today’s youth so seemingly lost, I asked Natalie about why she joined the military in her youth, and if she would recommend it to today’s youth:

The United States Army initially recruited me. I was guaranteed a two-year contract and a $50,000 sign-on bonus. Weeks later, I met the Marine Corps recruiter on my college campus who looked sharp and dignified in his official military uniform, unlike the Army recruiter. The Marine recruiter was highly skilled and sold me the Marine Corps dream with no bonus; it was also a four-year contract, not two years. The Marine Corps dream package promised intangible leadership traits like honor, courage, and commitment. Those were the skills I needed, so I forwent the bonus from the Army for the title of US Marine. I wanted strength and courage to be the best.

I believe today’s youth can benefit from some essential life skills and intangible leadership traits that the military offers. Those traits include discipline, integrity, honor, courage, commitment, perseverance, passion, and mental fortitude, which are high-performing skills for great success. Additionally, when you serve in the military, you tend to mature quicker and be more equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Military service can benefit anyone who chooses that path to success and patriotism, but if you’re not ready to join the military, Coach Nat has created something called Boot Camp for Life. Boot Camp for Life is a proprietary approach to life coaching that she developed to incorporate her military, clinical, and life coaching skills to provide a unique, transformational, intense, and result-driven experience for clients in her coaching program. This program aims to create a shortcut for individuals who want those life skills, traits, maturity, and high-level tools to handle life optimally without enduring the grueling training of the military. This way, there is hope that one can achieve purpose and mission-driven results in their life in a shorter period rather than spending years in military service.

Natalie Shand-Spellman is a great example of the crucial skill she credits the military with having given her- perseverance.

You can find more about Coach Nat at

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Powerful Mind Powerful Soul: An Interview with Sheila Vaske

There it is, in the pit of my stomach.  A creeping feeling, perhaps best described as a feeling of dread, has crept over me each day from as early as I can remember.  As an adult it made the simple process of getting out the door every day to go to work an uneasy experience.  I fought through the feeling day by day and forced myself to do what I had to do to make a living.  Contradicting this feeling, I’ve always had an ability to accomplish goals that most would not have the courage to execute.  At twenty-five I moved myself, alone, across the country and established my own home and career, purely out of determination.  I’ve traveled all over the globe for months at a time, alone, sometimes staying in foreign countries where I did not speak a bit of the language.  I never stayed in a position or situation I didn’t like; I always had some innate courage that has pushed me to live what has turned out to be a very full life.  Yet this feeling of dread has been my constant companion and has even grown progressively worse since 2020.

I’ve become curious to see if other people have this feeling.  If they are familiar with the feeling, how do they combat it?  In my quest to find solutions I recently had the opportunity to interview Sheila Vaske, author of Powerful Mind Powerful Soul.  Ms. Vaske was, among other things, the creator of her own jewelry line, V’Enza.  She describes her jewelry business as being like one of her children.  She was truly guided spiritually to create the line; every piece was birthed by her, and she gave it everything she had.  Her mission and purpose of the business was to inspire and heal as many people as she could through her creations.  Unfortunately, due to many unfavorable circumstances, Ms. Vaske was forced to let the business go.  As the jewelry line was just at the point of scaling into a national brand, the COVID shut downs began.  All of the national contracts that were about to come to fruition came to a halt and Ms. Vaske lost everything.  She describes this time as one of the first in her life that she grieved.  She felt so much pain and became very angry.  She was angry about what she had lost and even angrier about what had happened to the world.  She recognized that an ugly divide had arisen and created hatred.  It took a huge toll on her physical and mental health. 

Ms. Vaske was no stranger to health problems.  At age eleven, she was diagnosed with scleroderma and told she had five years to live.  Coincidentally enough, my grandmother died of scleroderma.  If you’re not familiar with this very rare disease, the way it has been described to me is that your body turns into scar tissue from the inside out.  It is very painful, making even the slightest touch excruciating.  As an infant, I met my grandmother as she was dying in her early fifties.  It is extremely rare for a child to have this disease, and Ms. Vaske lost about eighty percent of function in her right hand and arm.  She describes the look of her arm as being as if it had been burned in a fire.  As expected, this brought on a lot of insecurities as an adolescent. 

The turning point for Ms. Vaske was when her ninth grade health teacher spoke of the power of the mind.  He said, “Whatever you give attention to has power over you”.  Ms. Vaske, who had become a case study at Boston Children’s Hospital, made the decision then and there.  She stopped all medications.  She stopped going to the hospital and visiting doctors and simply made up her mind that she would no longer give the disease her attention.  She would not feel sorry for herself and she would not let it control her. 

At that point, her mind took control and changed the trajectory of her life.  She began doing everything she could to regain her health and that included function in her hand and arm.  Within months, she had regained function of both.  People began noticing her arm not because it looked strange, but because it looked amazing.  They would compliment, instead of cringe, at the appearance of her arm.  This miraculous recovery made her realize the power of our minds.

In today’s world, where so many are struggling with depression and anxiety, I asked Ms. Vaske what her top tip would be for getting through it.  Her answer did not surprise me. 

Take time out from social media and all media in general.  Turn off the television, video games and even movies.  Get off of your phone and take ten minutes each day to reflect on you.  Pretend you live in a bubble and create your own personal space.  Make that bubble beautiful.  Stop following the crowds and pave your own personal way.  What is good for one person may not be the answer for all.  Create your light and spread it everywhere you go. 

If you share my constant companion, this feeling of dread, realize you are not alone.  The goal is not only to manage this feeling, but to get rid of it.  Stop consuming the toxins that are coming at you from all angles and face yourself.  Our young people today are the most at risk.  As Ms. Vaske so rightly points out, many of them do not use senses any more.  Of the five senses, the youth of today perhaps use one or two.  They have lost touch with their intuition because everything is done, said, and felt for them.  They are the ones who truly need the older generations’ help.  Suicides, depression, and anxiety are the real pandemic.  We can be the teachers and achieve change by example.  Perhaps this is the remedy that can at least placate my constant companion.  Maybe it can be yours too.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

The Secret to Happiness- My Inner Thongsuk

I can still hear the click-click-click of her flip-flops as she swayed down the hallway. I can see her clear as day, in her white blouse and long wrap-around Thai skirt. Early every morning she would sweep, tirelessly and somehow gracefully, every inch of the house’s teak floor. She would do the laundry, some by hand in a bucket, suds flowing down the pavement beside her while she scrubbed. She rhythmically ironed all of the clothes. She would cook fantastic meals and she would wash the dishes by hand. She seemed content and always had a joking remark at the ready. She had warm eyes, a wide smile and a wicked sense of humor. She was Thongsuk, our maid in Thailand.

All of the foreign families had maids in Thailand, and likely many of the Thai families did too. But Thongsuk was exceptional. Only as an adult do I now realize that she personified the Buddhist ideal of accepting what is. As an elementary-school-aged-child I only knew she was authentic and warm — genuine and funny.

In the afternoons I would meander out to the backyard where I would find Thongsuk. With a sideways glance and a mischievous glint in her eye she would respond, “You have eye!” to my very American greeting, “What are you doing?” Perhaps feeling low due to being deemed “too skinny” during the school day, my latest schoolgirl crush not noticing me, or any other such youthful worries, she never failed to cheer me up and put things in perspective through her presence alone.

Some days I would retreat to her kitchen and sit with her while she worked. I would happily eat the crunchy little fish that she set in front of me with their heads still intact while she bustled about getting that night’s dinner prepared for us. I was fascinated by her little altar to Buddha in her modest maid’s quarters. I felt instantly at peace when I was with her. She was inspiring at a time when I did not know what it meant to be inspired. She was my friend — I loved her.

As an adult, I find myself frequently channeling my Inner Thongsuk. I myself can be extremely restless and distracted. I am always working on a new project and don’t feel content unless I am creating and moving on to the next thing. But I have realized that the secret to being happy is to accept what is. I find peace in having no, or low expectations. I practice being present in mundane chores. I actually enjoy washing dishes by hand and cooking large meals.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have goals and work toward accomplishing them. Thongsuk had an outside life that I knew almost nothing about. I’m sure she had her own worries, goals and struggles. But in today’s productivity-obsessed, fake-positivity-spewing world, how many people do you know who are truly happy or content? My experience is that most people in the United States seem pretty darn miserable.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. Desire is the root of all suffering. The quotations abound. That’s correct, the secret to being happy is to anticipate nothing. If restlessness, unhappiness and misery is all you have to lose, why not give it a try? You just might find your Inner Thongsuk.

This article was originally published on and also on OpsLens.

Check out Europe’s leading mind coach – Karl Morris Mind Factor

Soil Life: An Interview with Aaron William Perry

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of digging in the dirt in our yard. I would spend hours digging up worms and huge rhinoceros beetles, as well as unearthing rocks and breaking them open to find beautiful glimmering crystals inside of the otherwise unimpressive-looking slabs of rock. My very first experiences were with soil, rocks and creepy-crawly living things. Perhaps I was a lonely child, or, more likely, I instinctively knew that connecting with the soil can actually help one thrive.

I recently spoke with Aaron William Perry, the founder of the Y on Earth Community. The Y on Earth Community is an action-oriented educational non-profit organization that provides curated seminars, workshops, and immersive leadership retreats, as well as a diverse array of digital and print resources dedicated to the transformation of our culture, society, and economy toward stewardship, regeneration, and sustainability. They connect the dots between personal, family, and community strategies for enhanced health and well-being on the one hand, and global strategies for stewardship, regeneration, and sustainability on the other hand. The organization serves as headquarters to a growing global network of ambassadors, and hosts the Y on Earth Community Podcast, on which notable authors, scientists, business leaders, influencers, and sustainability practitioners appear as guests.

Mr. Perry has authored several books, many of them centered on the topic of well-being. Soil features prominently in many of his books, to include a set of children’s books, one of which is aptly titled Celebrating Soil.

Mr. Perry describes five key practices for feeling better, to include more movement like yoga and walking; eating organic, natural foods; connecting with and touching the living soil in our gardens (and houseplants); connecting with wildlife and nature; and cultivating special well-being practices like meditation, aromatherapy soaks, reading books, and socializing with friends and family. I asked Mr. Perry if he had to choose one thing that the everyday, average person could do to feel better, what that one thing would be.

His choice was the fundamental importance of connecting with the soil, which, when we touch and hold it with our bare hands, causes beneficial microbiology to pass through our skin into our blood, enhancing serotonin production, helping reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and even – according to recent scientific studies – helping boost immune system function and cognitive performance. Soil is central to our experience as human beings – hence the etymological connection between our Latin-derived, English term “human” and the term “humus” for soil, also related are “humor” and “humility” both of which we could all probably use more of in our lives.

Mr. Perry explained his five core Thriving practice themes: Soil, Movement, Food, Nature, and Wele (which is the middle-English term meaning “well-being,” from which our contemporary term “wealth” originated (giving us a clue that true wealth is rooted in well-being, wholeness, and a healthful life). He emphasized the importance of connecting with plants. Whether houseplants, foods and medicinal herbs in the garden, flowers in the yard, or trees nearby, these are all living creatures who possess the alchemical power that converts sunlight into food and life-force energy, which we too often write-off as some simple scientific process called “photosynthesis”. He says that when we truly connect with, befriend, and cultivate relationships with living plants, we open our hearts, minds, and bodies to the wonders of the Viriditas of which the medieval mystic and polymath Hildegard von Bingen spoke about 900 years ago – the “gold-green healing energy of the Divine life force that flows through the plant kingdom”. Human life is impossible without the plants, and at the personal level, thriving is not likely without a deep, intimate connection with living plants.

Mr. Perry talks about ways people can “get smarter”. He covers this in his books also, as part of overall well-being is related to using your brain. His number one choice to accomplish this smarter life? Again, connecting with the soil is key. Also, slowing down, gardening, and sitting with your flower patch and/or the trees, observing, listening, relaxing, and receiving the deep A.I. – the “Authentic Intelligence” that flows through the living biosphere of our shared planet Earth. He states that this connection is our birthright and is an essential requirement for any of us who want to truly get smarter – and feel better – in our own personal lives.

Reading to increase your brain health and well-being is something I truly believe in. Read, be curious, and always strive to learn something new. It does not have to be text book reading, fiction can also help your brain grow and thrive.

Mr. Perry’s latest book Viriditas: The Great Healing Is Within Our Power, has been described as an eco-thriller and a novel that makes serious topics fun to read.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Patriot Day

You may not even be aware that it’s Patriot Day. I mean, if you rely on your phone’s calendar, as many people do, to let you know which holiday or remembrance day it is, (real remembrance days, not just the Facebook “It’s National Doughnut Day!”) then you would have no idea that today is Patriot Day.

Mind you, my phone calendar (it’s an iphone) does have all of the Muslim holidays and some holidays of which I’ve never heard, but there is no mention of Patriot Day on my phone for the remembrance of the thousands of innocent people brutally murdered on September 11th. It used to be on there, but sadly, not anymore. Why was it removed? When did this happen?

I used to annoy the girl whom Annie (from my series, Mingling in the CIA) was based on by reminding her that pretty much every day there is a holiday in some country across the globe. I’m not against putting all of the world holidays on the calendar. But if the reason some companies are including only the Muslim holidays is to be “inclusive” and “tolerant”, then by this same logic we would be including Loy Krathong and Songkran, in addition to many others.

Some day, when we no longer see memorials for September 11th on television, a mention on the calendar would be one small way to ensure we remember and teach generations to come about what happened on that September day in 2001. Let’s not forget.

If you’d like to read my September 11th article for OpsLens, please click here.

Bringing Dubai To Zimbabwe

UAE’s Investment in Zimbabwe Grows with the Groundbreaking of Zim Cyber City

It’s no secret that many countries across the globe are clamoring for their piece of the action on the resource-abundant African continent. We have all heard of China’s influence and expansion into Africa, but the United Arab Emirates has also been very active in the African region. One African country, Zimbabwe, has seen a 300% increase in trade with the UAE in the past three years. The UAE is now Zimbabwe’s second largest trading partner.

On July 20, 2022, a vision of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was actualized. President Mnangagwa held a groundbreaking ceremony for Zim Cyber City, the first real estate investment in Zimbabwe channeled through the Zimbabwe Global Investments (ZGI) Special Economic Zone (SEZ) program. Touted as the “smartest city of our age”, Zim Cyber City will be spread over 2.5 million square feet of land and is expected to have a shopping mall, luxury villas and apartments, cyber technology offices and other facilities, to include Mulk Tower, projected to be the tallest building in Africa.

Dubai-based billionaire Mr. Shaji Ul Mulk met with President Mnangagwa at the 2020 Dubai Expo in the UAE and what followed was the vision for many future investments in Zimbabwe. Zim Cyber City is the first embodiment of this futuristic vision and Mr. Mulk promised there will be many more to come. The President’s decision to allow UAE businesses to invest in Zimbabwe will bring more investment in the future, and as President Mnangagwa stated, “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

President Mnangagwa stated that his desire is to transplant Dubai to Zimbabwe and to build a smart city even better than Dubai. Declaring that Zimbabwe will not be left behind, the President is certainly ensuring that Zimbabwe is developing a culture of continuous innovation and an environment for economic growth.

The cyber city’s goal is not only to offer economic benefits to commercial enterprises combined with lavish, uptown living, but to create an easy system for blockchain and crypto exchange companies to operate, where digital currencies can flourish. With Zim Cyber City, located in Mount Hampden, New Harare, we will witness the successful integration of blockchain and crypto technology and premium, residential living.

President Mnangagwa has granted Mulk International an exclusive license to establish a blockchain and digital assets special economic zone and investors in Zim Cyber City will benefit from the many tax and import incentives offered through the ZGI Special Economic Zone program.

Mulk International is a multinational conglomerate with diversified business interests spanning primarily four sectors – building materials, plastics, healthcare and cricket assets. For more than two decades, Mulk International has been owning and managing a group of 18 companies under the leadership of Chairman Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk.

Mr. Mulk is quite an inspirational figure himself. Mulk gave up his US dreams of going to the Wharton Business School to pursue the dream of being an entrepreneur. He once fixed films on windows in the UAE, but is now worth over $2.7 billion. He had moved to the UAE originally to save money for college and prepare for his GMAT exams. He took a job at his brother-in-law’s small company that dealt in solar panel glass covers, working in the installation department. Three days into the job, he moved from installation into sales. Within a few months he was feeding the company’s capacity 100%. Then he got into sub-contracting work and within a year had saved $30,000 to pay his college fees. A week before he was to leave for the US he asked a friend for advice. The pull of entrepreneurship was strong. He then gave up his Wharton’s admission to stay in the UAE and pursue business. His calculated risk of giving up his admission to the prestigious college has paid off in spades. Now, a man who used to clean window panes and install panel sheets on windows, who had to take various forms of transportation just to get to work every day, drives a Rolls-Royce Phantom, among other luxury cars. His company has a global annual turnover of $1.8 billion.

Mulk is a man who is not afraid to take a calculated risk. Teamed up with President Mnangagwa, the transformative project of Zim Cyber City will most certainly help Zimbabwe reach its goal of seeing an upper-middle income by 2030, giving multitudes a better life and building Zimbabwe into one of the dominant countries in Africa.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Is Property Ownership Out of Reach for Our Youngest Generations?

These days it seems most of the youth of the world is woefully uninformed when it comes to financial literacy.  I was lucky to have parents who taught me early on about credit.  Even when I found myself, in my twenties and thirties, underpaid and overworked, living above my means with the help of numerous credit cards, I still knew how to right my own financial ship.  It seems that for the most part, today’s youth do not have the same experience or knowledge.

I know plenty of people, even in the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations, who consider owning their own piece of property pretty much out of reach in today’s world.  Many of them cannot afford today’s rent prices either.  This is glum on so many levels.  I mean, who wants to move back in with their parents in their mid-forties?  Sadly, I’ve seen this one too many times in the recent past.  To make matters worse, rents all over the world are skyrocketing and the cost of living is only rising…. (to continue reading, please go here)