What About Gifts

I began my journey into minimalism just under two years ago. In the beginning letting go of the clutter was easy.

I said goodbye to extra pots and pans that made my last two moves with me. I said goodbye to outdated clothes and those extra pairs of shoes lying around. Also said goodbye to extra towels, linens, utensils, tools, etc. Items just sitting in closets and drawers that collect over time. I use the term “said goodbye” because we are not our stuff. Our things don’t define us. We don’t have to hold on to things “just in case.”

New Rules

By using Josh and Ryan’s simple and helpful 90/90 Rule, it was no trouble at all letting go of things that didn’t provide value to me. The 90/90 Rule is simple: Have you used this things in the past 90 days? If not, will you use it in the next 90 days?

However, we often also hold on to things “just in case” we need them. We refuse to let go because we might need these things in some made up, non-existent future-state. We stash away things in the remote chance that we might need it “just in case.”

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An additional easy way to help let go of these “just in case” items is the 20/20 Rule. As you define “just in case” items, ask yourself, “Can I replace this item for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from my current location?”

If the answer is yes, then get rid of it. Although I’ve yet to replace any item I had previously saved “just in case,” I now know that I can replace them all for less than $20 and not have to travel more than 20 minutes to get them.

Following these rules I feel much less confined and burdened by the things I do own. I know the things I have in my home serve a purpose. I know that I have just what I need and I can get anything else I may need with minimal effort (see what I did there!).

What About Gifts

That said, there’s one set of items which was difficult for me to fully detach from. Items that prevented me from fully feeling like I had simplified my life. Items that did hold some perceived value. Those items were gifts.

It really wasn’t me who had a problem getting rid of them, but it was my feelings for the people who gave them to me. There are different memories in these items and I knew the people who gave them to me might get a bit upset.  I’m a people pleaser by nature and I didn’t want to offend anyone as I was progressing in my new lifestyle.

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Then I had to remember that this is MY journey into minimalism and not anyone else’s. Most people won’t notice or won’t care. It’s not like I’d broadcast to them, “Hey, I got rid of that gift you got me!” Even if someone does get offended, that’s a “them” problem and not a “me” problem and that’s OK.

As I let go of negative relationships because of my focus on intentional living, some people got offended. As I stopped commenting and participating on Facebook so much, people got offended. When I’m more intentional with things that matter to me, some people get offended when it’s not what matters to them.

You can’t let these things bother you. There’s nothing you can do about it. The more you stand for something, the more respect you will command. People will truly respect you when you draw a line and say, “I’m doing this for me and not for anyone else.” As a natural pleaser, it’s hard for me to put aside what other people feel. It really is. But through this journey, I’ve come to realize that what other people think about your decisions don’t really matter.

Be Intentional

If you’re making intentional decisions to better your life, that’s what’s important. It is OK to get rid of the clutter and gifts in your life that aren’t adding value. Minimalism is all about letting go of what isn’t important so you can focus on what’s truly important in your life.

IMG_0298The people who truly care about you and love you won’t even notice what you’re giving up if they know it’s making you happy. The people who do care or get offended by your new actions? They probably won’t approve of what you do no matter what. So why try to please them?

When you can truly move past what other people think and begin to live a more intentional life, one where your short term decisions and actions align with your long tern values and beliefs, you will begin to find true happiness. Happiness that comes from relationships and experiences, not from material things.

So what about you? What are you doing about all those things you hold on to “just in case?”

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The Fallacy of the American Dream

American Dream

“Sometimes the best way to grow is to subtract.”

In my journey into minimalism and living a more intentional life, I’ve had to remind myself of the above quote many times. I spent the first 30+ years of my life chasing the “American Dream.” It’s what we’re told to do right? Go to college, get a job, make decent money, get married, buy a house, make more money, buy more stuff, just keep climbing and chasing. Oh the fallacy of the “American Dream.”

The idea that “anybody can make it in the US if they work hard enough” has been a bedrock of American life since the country’s birth. However, data is showing that inequality and economic mobility are highly correlated, and inequality has been on the rise in the US for the last half century.

The US is not some special land of economic opportunity. It’s time Americans realize it. But how? How can we get people to realize that you can live a fulfilled and happy life without chasing the fallacy of the “American Dream?” Well let’s start with all of our stuff. That’s right, stuff. Things. Items. Clutter.

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Journey to Minimalism

I found out about the practice intentional living and began to change my habits after watching the documentary “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The term “minimalism” gets bad rap because people tend to think of it like art. Minimalism in art often colloquially refers to anything that is spare or stripped to its essentials.

So the minimalist home is often thought of as stark white walls, little furniture, no electronics, etc. The minimalist lifestyle is often thought of similarly. Wearing the same clothes, not driving a car, just one of each at the grocery store, only the basics, boring, stale, and it goes on and on.

That’s not the case! I personally feel intentional living is different for everyone. It is essentially bringing balance to the things that matter. This applies to books, clothes, furniture, people, jobs and general clutter. What is important? What matters the most?

Intentional Living

Your definition or feeling of intentional living probably won’t happen overnight. Mine didn’t. Heck, it’s actually an on-going journey. It takes time to organize, prioritize and discover what is appropriate. You’ll usually find that once you feel like you have de-cluttered, re-organized and prioritized, more stuff has entered your life and you may start some of those processes again.

Don’t fret however, because you will develop a sense of calm and pride in only keeping the stuff that matters or adds value to your life. These periodic purgings won’t be so daunting when you know the end result is feeling in control and becoming a better version of yourself. Like the quote says, “sometimes the best way to grow is to subtract.”

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Where To Begin?

There are a lot of tactics out there to help get you on your way to living a more intentional life. Tactics to help you stop pursing the fallacy of the American dream and focus on what truly matters. I’d also be lying if I tried to provide you with any tips and claim them as my own. The below links are things that worked for my wife Megan and I when we began this journey in 2017.

20/20 Rule

30-Day Minimalism Game

Packing Party

Start Here

So What About You?

So what about you? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by pursuing the fallacy of the “American Dream?” Do you look around and see a bunch of stuff and realize that it isn’t making you any happier and sure as hell doesn’t define who you are as a person?

Get started today. Start freeing yourself from the fallacy of the “American Dream.” It is dumb. It’s comparing yourself to other people which only brings about insecurities. As the saying goes, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

If you truly want to be the best version of yourself and live an intentional live, than you must realize that the pursuit of greatness isn’t about being better than someone else. It’s truly about being a better version of you.

How will you live intentionally and become a better version of you?

One Word

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Did you know one word can change your life? It may seem crazy, but I swear it’s true. Let me tell you how.

As I experienced a personal and career transformation throughout 2017, I began reading and following the works of Jon Gordon. Mr. Gordon is a renowned author and speaker who touches on topics centered on leadership, culture and teamwork.

As I poured over his works, I came across a book written by him and his friends Jimmy Page and Dan Britton titled, “One Word That Will Change Your Life.” That’s a pretty bold hook and makes you think that a universal word is all we need to transform our life.

However, the topic is a little more nuanced. The authors found one word could be a driving force for people each year. No detailed goals. No wish lists. Just one word. But, that word should be different for everyone. It should be personal to you and help guide your values and beliefs.

I’ve written about my desire for a simple life before. By focusing on what truly adds value to my life, I’ve been able to clear the clutter from my mind and focus on progress NOT perfection. My list of goals is simple and focused, with action items and check points for me to stay on track. This helps me prioritize what matters to me personally.

Despite still having a list of goals, I have also chosen my “one word” for 2019, and my word this year is “Service.” The simple power of this word will have an impact on six dimensions of my life – mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Simply put, the one word “sticks” for me in a lot of areas.

 

Service“Service” may mean something different to everyone. For myself in 2019, I want to be able to give more of myself and my time to others. Service to me means giving back through my time adjunct teaching, mentoring and speaking. This hits the emotional, relational and physical dimensions.

Service also means donating funds to causes in which I believe, many involving my son’s school or my parish, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. This fulfills the financial, spiritual and mental dimensions.

The financial freedom my wife Megan and I have recently gained has allowed us to begin to give our time and money more generously. My goal is to multiply the time and money we are able to give this year. Giving to others fills me with a sense of purpose and better aligns my every day actions with my core values and beliefs.

It’s easy to pick your one word. You must first have clarity and focus in your decision. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past. Then, deciding on the word is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Identify the person you want to become
  2. Identify the characteristics of that person
  3. Pick a word that helps you become that desired person

One Word

Before you embark on this journey, a subtle warning: Don’t be surprised if living out your “one word” feels unnatural and awkward at first. Remember, the reason you want to focus on this word might be due to the fact that this characteristic may not currently be present in your day-to-day life.

Give it some thought. Also, give yourself time and stay with it. It’s as easy as following the above steps and then deciding on your one word for 2019. By focusing on one word and setting realistic goals in 2019, you will begin to believe in yourself like never before. You will be on your way to becoming the best version of yourself and your life will be changed before you know it.

 

Resolutions Suck, Goals Don’t

I firmly believe goal setting is good. Even though we get beaten over the head this time of year with terms like “New Year’s Resolution” or “New Year, New You,” and tend to tune them out, I still feel it is important to set intentional and realistic goals.

When I say intentional and realistic, I mean we need to move past the thoughts of “I am going to lose 10 pounds this year” or “Saving money will be a priority,” and focus on small changes and steps that can lead you to amazing progress. We need to change how we approach our goal setting and begin to focus on Progress NOT Perfection.

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Resolve to Evolve
I touched on this mindset in early 2018, and I’m here again to show you how I was able to achieve most of my goals I shared with you then, and how I’m just as committed this year to evolving and achieving my short-term goals as I was in 2018. It’s really easy; I promise you!

My wife Megan and I are using the same method to become more mindful and intentional in our goal setting. We like to call it the “Resolve to Evolve” plan. Check out the link and click on the template to help you brainstorm, create and carry out your goals for the upcoming year.

The action plan only requires you to identify three steps leading up to the goal, along with a 6 month review.  Your goals should be SMART.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. It’s that easy!

In 2018, our goals focused on five categories: health, career, relationships, financial and spiritual/learning. We chose these categories because these are five focus areas that tie into my core values and beliefs. The easiest way to live an intentional life, one that has true purpose, is to align your actions with your core values and beliefs.

By focusing on small changes and measurable progress, you are less inclined to get in a rut and think that the goal is un-attainable. This method can help you break the routine of setting unrealistic resolutions that you bail on by March and transform your life in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Goal setting should be a fun, thoughtful activity that causes you to reflect on your best qualities and how to improve upon them in the New Year. As I stated, in an effort to hold myself accountable I published the blog last year with my 2018 goals. Here is the update to those goals along with what I have set for myself in 2019.

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Goal Updates
Health

2018 Goal: Complete 80 workouts by 8/31 – COMPLETE – I worked out a total of 125 times in 2018 and lost close to 20 pounds.
2019 Goal: Complete 80 workouts in 2019 (knowing teaching four days a week limits my gym time), along with maintaining my current weight and running a 5K.
Why? Make health and wellness a priority. Workouts need to be the norm and not the exception.

Career
2018 Goal: Obtain more digital marketing certifications – COMPLETE – Two new certifications added to my resume in 2018
2019 Goal: Speak at another Ragan conference and one more speaking gig
Why? Public speaking better promotes myself as an educator, speaker and minimalist.

Relationships
2018 Goal: Send one hand-written note per month – COMPLETE – I’m not positive it was one per month, but I sent at total of 15 hand-written notes in 2018.
2019 Goal: One date night dinner per month with Megan
Why? With our professional lives getting busier, it is important for us to be intentional about our “us” time. We like to spend those moments over good food and drinks.

Financial
2018 Goal: Pay off my last credit card – COMPLETE – We’re debt free entering 2019 and it feels amazing!
2019 Goal: Donate my time and money responsibly
Why? With financial freedom, it is important to me to donate to worthy causes and correlates to my 2019 One Word: Service

Spiritual/Learning
2018 Goal: Read eight books – COMPLETE – I finished Everything That Remains, Perfectly Yourself, Smart Baseball, The Last Boy, It Looked Like Forever, The Big 50, More of Less, Are We Winning and The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity.
2019 Goal: Write nine blogs
Why? I like to write and it keeps my mind sharp and my blog fresh. It is also another way for me to market myself and showcase my knowledge and abilities.

Always make sure when writing down your goals to set realistic deadlines, work in a 6-month review or check-in dates to track your progress and have a “why” behind each goal. If you’re not aligning your why to these goals, you’ll lose focus on their importance and more than likely fail to meet them. Without these steps, your goals will lack direction.  And without direction, you may end up at an unknown, and unwanted, destination. Work to be intentional and not accidental.

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One Word
I want to leave you with one final, easy, and actionable step to help you make 2019 the most productive year of your life. Pick your one word. Yes, one word. Author Jon Gordon and others have used this method to help people focus on just one simple word, instead of a daunting list of broken promises or unrealistic resolutions.

My one word for 2019 is “Service.” I want to be able to give more of myself and my time to others in 2019. Whether that is through my time via teaching and speaking or donating funds to causes in which I believe. Our financial freedom is allowing us in recent months to do both and I want to multiply that time this year. Giving to others fills me with a sense of purpose and better aligns my every day actions with my core values and beliefs.

To choose a single word, you must have a clarity and focus in your decision. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Identify the person you want to become
  2. Identify the characteristics of that person
  3. Pick a word

Before you embark on this journey, a subtle warning: Don’t be surprised if living out your “one word” feels unnatural and awkward at first. Remember, the reason you want to focus on this word might be due to the fact that this characteristic may not currently be present in your day-to-day life. Give it time and stay with it.

So, give it some thought. Follow the above steps and think about your one word for 2019. By focusing on one word and setting realistic goals in 2019, you will begin to believe in yourself like never before. You will be on your way to becoming the best version of yourself.

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Support, Challenge and Celebrate
Be honest and challenge yourself in 2019. You can’t grow as a person if you aren’t honest with yourself. You must know yourself to lead yourself, and you must challenge yourself without being too critical of yourself. In 2019, begin to believe in yourself without being prideful.

We’re imperfect people striving for perfection. We have to learn to celebrate our progress in 2019. Perfection isn’t possible. But, a constant effort and a constant celebrating of our progress is possible. The more we celebrate our progress, the more progress we’re likely to make.

I will consistently focus on my word this year, and I’ll use it to be intentional in my actions and not accidental. I will use the word and my goals to challenge myself to become the best version of me. I will also work to celebrate the transformative progress I make in 2019. The psychological encouragement that comes from knowing that we are actually making progress is incredibly powerful.

How will you celebrate your progress this year?

When Lent Becomes a Lifestyle

What a wonderful time of the year. The sun is out; temperatures are increasing; flowers are blooming; and He is risen. It truly is the Easter Season. A season of new beginnings. So why did I feel so melancholy on Easter Sunday?

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For the first time in my life, as Easter came and went this year, I found myself feeling different. I felt somewhat sad. I felt like something was ending. Easter is supposed to be a new beginning, and I was feeling the opposite. It wasn’t until my wife and I were listening to Matthew Kelly’s final message from his wonderful “Best Lent Ever” program that I began to really pinpoint the feelings I was having.

You see, for the first time in my life (noticing a pattern yet), I truly abstained from something that had normally been a staple in my life. I made the decision to “give up” alcohol for Lent. I’ve always been a social drinker. Drinking is something that normally makes me feel good. Drinking usually makes me feel relaxed and confident. But, as I get older and try to live my life more intentionally, it wasn’t making me feel those things. It really wasn’t making me “feel” anything at all.

Living life more intentionally for me had meant eating better, working out more and cutting back on drinking. For Lent, I wanted to go from “cutting back” to “cutting out.” Therefore, this Lent, I was ready to challenge myself. I hoped this challenge would bring me closer to my faith and help me truly experience what Lent is supposed to mean for Catholics.

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What is Lent supposed to mean for Catholics? I’m glad you asked. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ. The better the preparation, the more effective the celebration will be. The purpose of Lent is to provide spiritual purification by weaning from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in our hearts.”

Ok, that’s a mouthful. So what does that really mean? Or should I say, what does that mean to me and why did I decide to “give up” alcohol for Lent? To me, abstaining from alcohol and depriving myself of something that once made me feel good, would make me truly focus on what is important in my life. I hoped it also would help me reflect on areas of my life that need improvement. By doing these things and atoning for my sins, I hoped I would be become closer to God.

And you know what’s great? It worked. I think I had the best Lent ever. I think I possibly had my best Triduum ever. For sure, my best Easter ever. It’s truly been a life-changing experience. A sacred experience. Why then was I feeling melancholy? I mean, I had done it. I had abstained from alcohol for more than 40 days. I had kept up my other habits of exercise, diet and prayer. And I’d lost weight doing it!

I think these feelings manifested initially because the end of Lent was somehow signaling the possible end of this new, better version of myself. But why would that be the case? Just because I “could” drink alcohol again, does it mean I “had” to?

The more I thought about things and prayed about these feelings, the answer became clear. I don’t have to change anything. I don’t have to drop these new habits because Lent is over. I can turn my Lenten lifestyle into my everyday lifestyle.

Sure I can enjoy a drink now and again. A glass of wine with dinner when we are at our favorite restaurant. A brown drink or a beer on a Friday when I’ve had a long week. I may even indulge at a happy hour with work colleagues. But, because of my Lenten sacrifices, I no longer have that need for alcohol at certain times. I don’t need it to fill a void. I don’t need it to make me feel content.

I can enjoy alcohol responsibly and still maintain a healthy lifestyle and make healthy choices that keep me on the way to becoming the best version of myself.

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I’ve talked before about celebrating progress. And about focusing on progress not perfection. I think that mindset is what helped me succeed this Lent. At first I didn’t recognize my accomplishment because the melancholy crept in. After some prayer and reflection, I realized I could celebrate the progress gained with these new lifestyle choices and share my experience with this post. I also could build on this progress and work to maintain these habits.

So are you making progress? It’s an important question to ask yourself. Through this Lenten sacrifice, I think I’ve made significant progress. The reason I make this point again is because when I am making progress, I find I am a happier person than when I am obsessing about perfection. Progress brings us to life!

When we sense that we are making progress, we tend to be filled with passion, energy, enthusiasm, purpose, and a real and sustainable joy. Progress fills us with gratitude for the now and hope for the future. Progress creates enduring happiness.

Are you making progress? Are you a better person today than you were a year ago? Are you happier? More fulfilled? Are you a better spouse? boyfriend? girlfriend? parent? employee? employer? teammate? colleague? friend? Are you healthier?

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I’ll close with a quote from Matthew Kelly whose programs and teaching via Dynamic Catholic have truly changed my life. Consider these words when striving to be a better version of yourself. Sometimes the tiniest of changes can make a huge impact on our lives.

“Most people will tell you that they would prefer to live happier lives, but how much time do they actually spend thinking about how they could create and live a happier life? The preference never becomes desire. The desire never becomes action. But they will spend their whole lives preferring a happier life.

Preference is not enough. Progress requires desire and action. The Gospel rearranges our priorities and challenges us to actively seek what God wants in every area of life.

It is not possible to create a genuinely happier life while not also making the world a better place. So let us progress in the direction of happier lives and a better world to pass on to our children and grandchildren.”

What lifestyle changes can you make to progress toward a happier life?

Progress Not Perfection

Here we are. The Madness of March has begun. We’re nearly at the quarter pole of 2018. You’re probably already asking, “Where has the time gone?” Just yesterday you seemed to be gearing up for the holidays and now it’s just about baseball season.

How are those 2018 resolutions coming? Hopefully, you’re like me and you’re on track with the goals you have set for yourself. What, you weren’t expecting me to say that? Did you think this would be another post about failed resolutions and how tough life is? Not here. Not today. I’m serious. I’m more committed to evolving and achieving my short-term goals in 2018 than I ever have been in my life. It’s all about focusing on progress not perfection.

It really is that simple. It’s not just a phrase, but a mindset to keep you focused and in a positive frame of mind. In order to help you achieve your goals and realize it is not too late to set some for yourself, I want to share with you my goal-setting process. Along the way I will reveal a few of my 2018 goals in hopes you will keep me accountable. Finally, I will show some ways for you to set realistic goals and begin to achieve them. My hope is you’ll realize it isn’t too late to begin your 2018 progress and make the most of what else 2018 has to offer.

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Goal Setting
Goal setting. It’s never been a strong trait of mine. Sure I’ve had goals and dreams. Things I want to do or accomplish, but rarely have I ever written them down. Rarely have I ever truly held myself accountable. Rarely were there repercussions or consequences if I failed to meet them. Partly because they were flimsy goals and partly because I never really took it seriously. I wasn’t very intentional with my actions. This all changed the day I lost my job in 2015.

Since that time, I have had to take a long look in the mirror and completely change the approach to how I live my life and attack tasks. So how did I do this? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. I began to read more books on leadership, entrepreneurship and personal development. I got re-married during this time and my wife is quite possibly the most mindful person on the planet. Her guidance and influence have completely re-shaped my thinking and I must give credit to her for this process.

So what is this transformative process? We like to call it the “Resolve to Evolve” plan. Check out the link and look at the simple to use template to help you brainstorm, create and carry out your goals for the upcoming year. It’s that easy! The action plan only requires you to identify 3 steps leading up to the goal, along with a 6 month review.  Your goals should be SMART.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

2018 Goals
My goals for 2018 focus on five categories: health, career, relationships, financial and spiritual/learning. I chose these categories because these are five focus areas that tie into my core values and beliefs. The easiest way to live an intentional life, one that has true purpose, is to align your actions with your core values and beliefs.

Once you have your core values in alignment with your categories, it’s time to get specific with your goals. For me, each category then has three specific goals tied to the category. This then gives me 15 highly actionable areas to focus on this year.

Without going into tremendous detail, below are my top line goals for each category in 2018:

Health
Goal: Complete 80 workouts by 8/31
Why? Make a health and wellness a priority. Workouts need to be the norm and not the exception.

Career
Goal: Obtain more digital marketing certifications
Why? Always need to learn and remain personally marketable.

Relationships
Goal: Send one hand-written note per month
Why? Taking the extra time to write a note makes me feel good. This act nurtures relationships and can also be nice surprise for the recipient.

Financial
Goal: Pay off my last credit card
Why? Financial freedom is important to living a fulfilling life. There is no such thing as “good” debt.

Spiritual/Learning
Goal: Read eight books
Why? Reading books keeps me away from devices. You can never stop leaning and I grow and learn by reading.

Always make sure when writing down your goals to set realistic deadlines, work in a 6-month review or check-in dates to track your progress and have a “why” behind each goal. If you’re not aligning your why to these goals, you’ll lose focus on their importance and more than likely fail to meet them. Without these steps, your goals will lack direction.  And without direction, you may end up at an unknown, and unwanted destination.

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Progress Not Perfection
This statement has resonated with me more than just about any mantra I’ve picked up in the last few years. All too often we focus on the end goal. Any impediment to that goal which slows us down, usually leads to discouragement and may possibly lead to quitting. You must celebrate your small gains and wins along the way. You’re never going to achieve your goals overnight, so you must remain hopeful and focus on progress not perfection.

For my “80 workouts by 8/31” goal, I know that I need to hit the gym 3-4 times a week to meet this challenge. I didn’t set an unrealistic goal of going every day of the week. With my schedule and my commute, that would burn me out really quickly. I also know that some weeks, it may just be one visit. While others I may go 4-5 times. Knowing that life will get in the way, but setting a realistic mark, has allowed me to focus on the progress I make.

The reality is, we’re imperfect people striving for perfection, and we have to learn to celebrate our progress. Perfection isn’t possible. But, a constant effort and a constant celebrating of our progress is possible. The more we celebrate our progress, the more progress we’re likely to make. And the psychological encouragement that comes from knowing that we are actually making progress is incredibly powerful.

I consistently strive to become the-best-version-of-myself. But being intentional in our goal setting and aligning our actions with our core values and beliefs, we can accomplish becoming a-better-version-of-yourself every day. Progress, not perfection. How do I celebrate progress? I share it with writings like this and I look to help others better themselves through goal setting.

How do you celebrate progress?

Using Twitter to Advance Your Career

Twitter wasn’t always my favorite social media platform. In fact, if you ask my former colleagues that remain with Conference USA, they may remember how hesitant I was to sign up for the platform and begin to leverage it with the league. I’ll remind you that this was around 2008-09 when people were sending just under 300,000 tweets per day. It was mostly a conversation platform and because I wasn’t familiar with the interface, I didn’t “get it.” However, it didn’t take long for me to come around on its usefulness. I soon saw its business value and I’ve been fairly addicted to Twitter ever since.

As most people know, worldwide Twitter usage spikes during prominent events, specifically sporting events, with the World Cup and Super Bowl setting usage records each time an event is held. It can be a communal platform that offers near real-time conversations. Despite these items, Twitter still isn’t as popular universally as some would think, especially among 18-29 year olds. This demographic makes up about 36% of all Twitter users. Compare that to Instagram, where 32% of all internet users are using the platform and a whopping 59% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18-29.

During my time as an Auburn University adjunct instructor this past fall, students expressed an interest in learning more about Twitter. In the class of 20 public relations students, many felt they weren’t fully aware of how they could leverage the platform as they prepared to enter the “real world.” Most admitted they could see the value, but weren’t sure how to devote the proper time to it.

Most people use social media tools in many ways for many reasons and thus there is no “secret sauce” for how to get the most out of Twitter. However during my active usage, I have found many ways to take advantage of the platform during my career. Below is a modified version of my presentation to the class at Auburn. I hope you can take away the following key points and make the most of all Twitter has to offer in order to advance your career.

Growing Your Network
It may seem cliché, but in order to further your career you must network, network, NETWORK. Twitter is such a natural way to connect with people because over time you learn more about people’s personal and professional interests. To take that further, you can choose when you want to engage in a conversation and even jump into interesting conversations between other people without it being awkward or inappropriate.

There are many great people in my network who I’ve met via Twitter and still mainly interact with them on the platform. I’d argue that these relationships are as “real” as some I’ve had with people I interact with interpersonally each day. Many of the people I spent time interacting with during my recent job search were Twitter connections. Some offered advice while others offered people to contact and organizations to consider in my job search.

Keeping Tabs on Things That Interest You
The students really liked hearing that they could make Twitter whatever they wanted it to be. By that I meant you can follow those people, brands or whoever it may be that interests you. It can then serve as a de-facto news aggregate or personal RSS feed. For me personally, I follow many national sports writers, beat writers covering my favorite sports teams, #smsports professionals, marketing professionals, thought leaders, entrepreneurs and more.

Whatever field of work you’re in, I’m willing to bet that there is an awesome community of like-minded individuals from it on Twitter. Whether you want to connect with young professionals or journalists and PR professionals, Twitter is the perfect tool for keeping your pulse on what’s going on.

Twitter Chats
My final item is more of a mini listicle. Another great way to expand your network on Twitter and use it to advance your career is to follow Twitter chats. While chats typically take place once a week or month, by participating you are able to find individuals to follow and engage with over time. Here are a few chats to get you started:

  • #U30Pro: Focuses on issues and trends surrounding young professionals. Hosted by @u30pro. (Thursdays at 8pm ET)
  • #Jobhuntchat: Focuses on advice, issues and items for those looking for jobs. Hosted by HR professionals with @JobHuntChat. (Mondays at 9pm ET)
  • #ypsportschat: Focuses on current events impacting young athletics PR professionals. Host by @ypsportschat. (Tuesdays at 9pm ET)
  • #internpro: Focuses on young professionals and connects them to mentors and offers career advice. Hosted by @youtern. (Mondays at 8pm ET)
  • #raganchat: Focuses on issue and trends for PR professionals. Hosted by @ragancomms. (Tuesdays at 3pm ET)
  • #simplychat: Focuses on social media trends to help you connect, create and convert. Hosted by @simplymeasured. (Thursdays at 2pm ET)
  • #hootchat: Focuses on social media trending topics for social media and marketing professionals. Hosted by @hootsuite. (Thursdays at 3pm ET)
  • #omcchat: Focuses on advice, issues and items for those looking for jobs. Hosted by HR professionals with @OmChat. (Fridays 12pm ET)
  • #journchat: Conversation between journalists, bloggers and public relations folks. (Mondays at 8pm EST)
  • #sproutchat: Focuses on digital marketing trends to help you grow your business. Hosted by @sproutsocial. (Wednesdays 3pm ET)

Twitter can be many things for many people. If you consider the above tips, is can be a social media platform that helps you advance your career. Always remember, you are the brand on Twitter. Therefore, the way you package yourself and interact can determine how it helps you in your career. You’ve got to portray and package yourself as someone that knows your values and what you want to achieve.

If you stick to your core objectives and branding, Twitter can be a valuable resource to help you advance your career. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to just have fun on social media or use its full potential to help you advance your career in ways you never thought possible.

8 Lessons I’ve Learned (So Far) As A College Professor

Just call me Tod. I’m serious. I’m a public relations and marketing professional, I’m not a professor. So, I’m not Professor Tod or Professor Meisner. I don’t have or want my doctorate, so I’m not Dr. Meisner. I’m also not Mr. Meisner. That’s reserved for my father, a high school teacher and coach for 35-plus years in Raymond, IL. I can’t live up to that name and won’t try. So yes, please just call me Tod. It’s perfectly OK and I’ve answered to it my whole life.

Now that I have that details of the way, I’d like to share some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor. To rewind, last summer I was approached about teaching a section of “Style and Design in Public Relations Messages” at Auburn University. I had known Terri Knight, Lecturer and Interim Associate Director of Public Relations for Auburn’s School of Communication & Journalism, for a few years and she knew I was interested in being an adjunct if the timing was right.

The timing was right at the end of the spring semester last year when she knew she would need a third section for Style and Design in the fall. She pegged me as the perfect practitioner to fill this opening and we set up lunch appointment to make sure we were on the same page.

I knew it would be a lot of work and a big time commitment. But, something in me knew I had to commit to this. Both of my parents were educators and I think deep down I realize that I may have missed my calling to be a teacher. This was my time to see if I was right and also step out of my comfort zone a little bit.

The most rewarding part for me personally from my time at Verge Pipe Media in Auburn was working with our young interns. I still felt young enough (or young enough at heart) that I was relatable, but could still impart on them the things I had learned in my professional career to date. I wanted to be able to do this with more students, and I wanted to have some control over the curriculum I would be teaching. Luckily, Terri had the same ideas in mind as I did and we agreed I would teach the section for the fall semester.

As the 2017 fall semester winds down and I approach the end of my first stint as a teacher, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, coach, or the CMO of your company. These are leadership lessons that can help you be the best version of yourself. Without further delay, here are the lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor.

I Can Do This
Without a doubt, I know that I can teach at the college level now. Whatever self-doubt I may have had before is gone. While I won’t go so far as to say I nailed every lecture along the way, or had all the answers, I know now I can teach at the highest level. If I’m teaching on a topic that I’m both knowledgeable about and have a passion for, I can excel. Plus, I will only get better! I feel like I learned just as much as the students and that’s a good thing.

Teach As You’d Want To Be Taught
This nugget was told to me early and often as I sought out advice from many people on how to succeed. I had to think back about teachers and leaders that I liked (and disliked) and make a list of “do’s and don’ts.” As I’m learning in Kevin DeShazo’s CORE Leadership classes, you must know yourself to lead yourself. Or in this case, know your team to lead your team. I tried to take that approach each class and present the material and use my knowledge in a way that I’d want it presented to me. Along the way, as I learned about the students, I was able to adjust my approach and present to them how they responded the best.

Higher Ed PR Curriculum Needs Updating
From recent interactions in the classroom and during my work for a higher education focused marketing agency, it has become clear there is a massive shortage in Inbound trained job candidates, especially those entering the workforce directly from college. This means we need to change the approach on how to teach marketing and PR in the classroom. I’m not calling for the end of the traditional college experience, but I am calling for the inclusion of at least one Inbound Marketing class for all marketing and PR majors. We should be training our next wave of practitioners how to grow responsible website traffic, write buyer personas, create remarkable content and offers, etc. Even for PR majors! Times are changing and it will serve PR majors well to learn these skills while in college to add to their skillset.

Problem Solving Skills
This is something that took me by surprise as I neared the end of the semester. I sensed a change in students’ moods as they were juggling multiple deadlines and class projects. So I was glad that I had built in some work days for them to concentrate on their website project for the class. I then began to learn that their problem solving skills seemed to be missing on these days. I kid, I kid. I know they possess these skills. But when given the chance to work in class and ask me extra questions, it was apparent they wanted me to “tell them how to do it.” I had a lot of “this used to look like this and now it doesn’t” or “I’m trying to fix this and then I messed up this.” It was a lesson for me in showing them how to work through difficulties. How to write things down as they do them, so when they need repeated, you have a process handy. It was frustrating that their default was to take the easy way out and say “you do it,” but it was a teaching opportunity for me to help reinforce problem solving skills for them.

The Obvious May Not Be Obvious
At times, I found myself getting frustrated when students weren’t performing as I’d anticipated. Then I realized I probably hadn’t communicated the class expectations clearly. I’ve learned I need to spell things out pretty clearly and leave out any ambiguity. In a class where you create a lot of content, I wanted to give the students some creative freedom. But, that’s a double-edged sword because too much freedom for the students sent them into a paralysis where they wanted more direction from me. Lesson learned: Students are bright and capable but require clear expectations.

Set Accountability
Students sometimes claim they are overworked (although the problem is often poor time management on their part). When class is cancelled, they rejoice. In that spirit, students may also look for places to exploit loopholes — like inconsistencies in a syllabus that could allow them to miss class or turn in a paper late without penalty. Those situations are tricky to handle. Two things helped me: setting a firm deadline for everything and outlining the consequences for missing it. Without such specificity, students may decide there are no penalties.

Ask Your Students
When in doubt, just ask your students. About halfway through the semester I decided to take a temperature check and see what they liked and what else they’d like to learn. To my delight, they offered up great lecture topics and also made other excellent suggestions. What a revelation! Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Why not harness their collective brainpower? Naturally, not every last detail of a course can be driven by students. But there are multiple areas in which students can become equal partners in the educational process

Showing Up Is Half The Battle
I’ve written about this one in long form. But, I must reiterate it again. Showing up is half the battle. In life, for work and in higher education. I placed hard and firm deadlines on the students and told them that a lot would be expected of them. They would have to produce a lot and showing up would help. Sound familiar? Probably kind of like every job you’ve ever had. For college professors reading this, if you are able, structure your class as close to a real job as possible. Impart they must show up, get their shit done, get it done well and soon they’ll be rewarded in time.

As I wrap this up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank those who helped me during this opening semester. If it wasn’t for Karen Freberg, Chris Yandle, Derrick Docket, my sisters Kelly Klopp and Kristin Seed, the aforementioned DeShazo and Knight and my amazing wife Megan, I’m not sure I could have survived. With their help and encouragement, I was able navigate the semester and bring a fresh perspective to the class that the students seemed to enjoy.

I hope to be asked to contribute to a section of this class again and apply the lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor. I’m a firm believer that one must continue to learn throughout one’s life and career. I say that because life never stops teaching, so you must always keep up. I look forward to teaching the next group of students and the opportunity to learn just as much from them as they do from me.

Be Present: Showing Up Is Half The Battle

This article was originally published by Front Office Sports.

Succeeding in your career is sometimes as easy as being present.


If there is one thing that was reinforced during my time as an adjunct professor this fall for Auburn University, it’s that being present and showing up is half the battle.

I told my students on day one that attendance would not be taken. There would be penalties for missing a certain number of classes, but I wouldn’t call roll every class.
I wanted to expose my students as close to real life as possible. Be present, show up, do your work, do it well and go home.

As I near the end of the semester, it is becoming apparent to those that may have rolled their eyes when I initially told them “showing up is half the battle,” that I was serious. A select few have inched way too close to getting penalized and are finding out that they’re behind on their final projects.

What exactly do I mean when I say “show up and be present?” I’ll paraphrase from the awesome book 5 Gears.

All too often people go through life without truly connecting. This leads to missing out on experiences and relationships that have the power to bring them great joy. By understanding how to be fully present when needed, you can improve your ability to connect with the world around you.

As we approach the end of 2017, students and professionals alike are setting goals for personal and professional success in 2018. I have placed an emphasis on showing up this semester in class. In order to succeed, personally or professionally, showing up and being present must be part of your action plan.

BE PRESENT
As someone who sets high expectations for success, I let the students know from day one that the course would consist primarily of content production. Students would gain knowledge from lectures and from the content they produced. Ultimately, they would be creating many assignments outside of class.

Assignments ranged from obtaining a variety of inbound and content marketing certificates, to blog writing, to simple graphic design projects. The final project was a WordPress responsive website featuring the content and certifications they produced.

Many of the more dense lectures were covered early in the semester. The Canvas portal was filled with resources to help answer questions outside of class. Students could begin on the website early in the semester and were encouraged not to wait until the last minute.

I say all this to emphasize the importance of being present for classes and taking advantage of the materials provided. This should be enough to pass the class. Be present, show up, listen, ask the right questions, meet the deadlines and you will receive the majority of the points for the class.

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THE REWARD
I lectured on “real life” instances to help the students understand how what I was saying would be applicable. I tried to lead them the way I wanted to be led when I was their age. I said many times that once they get hired in the “real world” they will be expected to show up and to provide value.

Their chances of succeeding in the ROI-driven world of marketing and public relations today will depend on whether they can bring in money/results for their company and also provide value. I asked questions like:

  • Will you be a return on investment for the company?
  • Are you bringing in numbers?
  • Does your work help attract the right personas?
  • Are you generating leads or sales?
  • Are you generating the right coverage?

It no longer matters if they’re the first one in the office as long as the work is completed on time, the numbers are sufficient and the quality of work is phenomenal. Most jobs in the industry today offer work from home or telecommuting options which allow for greater flexibility.

Be present, show up (whether in the office or not), get your work done, do it well and you’ll be rewarded in time. If you’re doing what you love and are confident in your work, it shouldn’t feel like a battle anyhow.

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ALWAYS SHOW UP
Young professionals, if you don’t believe me yet, I’ll leave you with this. One of the blogs my students are required to write is a letter to their freshman or younger self. Since my class is full of seniors, my hope was to offer a chance for them to reflect on how they’ve grown in four years.

A popular letter to a younger self floating out there on the interwebs and I’ll use it to drive this home. Here’s an excerpt from 10-time NBA All-Star and 2-time NBA Champion Ray Allen’s recent letter to his 13-yer-old self. Let me know if you notice anything.

Sometimes you’ll be afraid. Sometimes you’ll think you’re out of your league. But you’ll keep showing up every day, putting in the work. You’ll put up more than 26,000 shots in your career. Almost six out of 10 won’t even go in. I told you this game was a sonofabitch. Don’t worry, though. A successful man is built of 1,000 failures. Or in your case, 14,000 misses. You’ll win a championship in Boston.”

Being present and showing up is half the battle. So be present. Keep showing up. Good things will happen. I promise.

My FOS Reflections

This article was originally posted for Front Office Sports.

I’m hoping some of you missed my weekly posts because I know I have missed writing them. When I set out to produce content for Front Office Sports while on the job hunt, I wasn’t sure how the partnership would go or if I would have enough content to bring value to all of you. But, I really wanted an outlet to share my thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, Adam was gracious enough to include me as a contributor for FOS as a way to expand my audience, continue writing and to help others.

Little did I know along the way, not only I would realize the value in what I was offering, but I would also meet, network and collaborate with some really great industry professionals. Initially, in my mind, I anticipated I would find a job rather quickly and FOS would be a blip on my radar while I was unemployed. I can tell you now I am glad things didn’t work out that way.

Before I get too far into this, I want to let everyone know I will provide some takeaways in this post and I’ll try not to get too sappy. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t reflect back on my experience writing for FOS. Although my impact may have been minimal, I’m glad I’ve been a small part in helping FOS grow into the leading multi-platform publication and industry resource covering the ever-changing landscape of #sportsbiz.

For those that aren’t aware, I recently accepted a role with Aflac at its worldwide headquarters in Columbus, Ga. My fancy title is Digital Marketing and Media Coordinator, and I’ll be a key member on its Digital Marketing team working on lead generation campaigns for its broker and agent segments. As a result, my content production for FOS has slowed considerably. I will no longer have a weekly article, but I hope to contribute from time to time.

Before I go, I wanted to share a few “dos and don’ts” I learned on my job search. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m no expert on this subject, but I want to share my experiences in hopes it can help just one person endure a job search or stretch of unemployment.

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Don’t Settle
I’ve used a variation of this phrase in my writings, but don’t ever settle for less than you think you are worth. Choose your words and actions wisely. I hinted at getting a job offer pulled in a previous piece and I want to elaborate on that experience. It was a Friday when I was offered the job and I requested to take the weekend to confirm. When I reached out to the hiring manager, I asked a few more clarifying questions and also countered on title and salary. Looking back, I don’t regret taking that action, but I should have handled it differently. The way the company interpreted my counter is obviously why the offer was pulled and it really stung my confidence. I caution you to ask all the appropriate questions during the interview and offering process. Be mindful of your tone and actions. But, don’t ever settle. If you feel you are worth more than they are offering, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Stay Positive
I must be honest here. I don’t possess some magic elixir or potion that will help you to remain positive during tough times. But, I can tell you that positivity is a choice. YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and how you will react and handle situations. You can’t allow your hardship(s) to get you down. Use your support system, use your writing, use prayer. Heck, use whatever it takes to remain positive. It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to in your mind, has power over you, if you allow it.

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Find An Outlet
By outlet I mean something to occupy your time that you enjoy. For me it was both writing and working out. When you’re married to a personal trainer, it’s kind of hard to not be dragged to the gym when you have extra time in your day. To my surprise, and to her delight, I really liked and began needing that outlet. She designed programs for me that were just enough work to see results, but not so hard that I’d lose interest. The time also helped me clear my head of any negative thoughts and better align the positive thoughts I had around blogging, connecting and looking for my next opportunity. For you this may be drawing, journaling, swimming, horseback riding, or whatever. If this outlet helps you stay positive, do it.

Network, Network, Network
I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am currently without the help and support of my network. This includes your core connections and acquaintances as well as your lost connections. Leverage all of those people who have impacted your career.Don’t ask much from them either! Call them to catch up, call them to spill your guts, call them to seek their opinions. Don’t immediately ask them for a job or for help. Use them to gain a new perspective on your approach and to seek guidance. During these conversations, opportunities will arise and you’ll eventually get your chance to ask for help. Keeping in touch with this support system and showing thanks and gratitude to these individuals will get you through any tough time that you may face.

I want to leave you with a quote from Matthew Kelly. Kelly is the founder of Dynamic Catholic and his book Resisting Happiness truly changed my life. No matter your denomination, I urge you to read this book and learn about how you can overcome resistance to become the best version of yourself. I used a lot of his principles to help guide me during my job search, and I believe they can help anyone when faced with adversity.

“Life is messy, but nobody can take your hope from you. And if there is one thing that resistance hates, it is hope. So hold onto your hope no matter how messy life gets, and share it with everyone that crosses your path.”

I always remained hopeful and I incorporated FOS as a platform to share it with more people than I ever could have imagined. I can’t thank Adam and Co. enough for this opportunity and I look forward to being able to contribute in the future.

Until then, be hopeful my friends and try to share that hope with everyone that crosses your path.