Professional Development Q&A With J.W. Cannon

This post is the ninth in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8

Name: J.W Cannon (@cannonjw)
Profession: Senior Project Lead, Sponsorships and Events at UPS
Degree: Kinesiology

I was introduced to J.W. through my good friend Chris Yandle. In fact, I think a trend is developing on these blogs as not only have I profiled Chris, but many of the other folks who have been gracious enough to be featured on here I have met via Chris. But, I digress.

J.W. was kind enough to speak with me a few times as I look for new career opportunities. He had excellent insight for me about his career path and things I should/could consider as I pursue my next opportunity. He was transparent and very helpful and I can’t thank him enough.

You’ll learn more about him below, but I highly suggest giving him a follow on Twitter. He’s funny, has some great #dadlife tweets and also is one of the creators of #sbchat, a weekly twitter chat discussing all things sports business. Just search #sbchat on Twitter. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from J.W. Cannon.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My degree program and current profession are both tied to sports, but that’s where the comparison ends. Kinesiology (the science of human movement, for those that don’t know) programs largely serve to train informal and formal recreation/fitness professionals and physical education teachers/researchers. Quite a bit different from the business world.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
When I stopped playing sports in college, I needed something to fill that void, so I started working at the recreation center at James Madison. At the time, it was a brand new facility, and the organization was getting students more involved in NIRSA – the governing body for recreational sports. I got really involved, and thought that I would be taking a graduate assistant position somewhere, and going on to work at a university somewhere. Just before I graduated I decided to take an internship (required for graduation) with a global sports agency – at the time Advantage International, but is now known as Octagon. After that three months, I decided that the sports business world was more my calling. So I scrapped my original plans and started seeking jobs in that space instead.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Learn to independently solve problems and do things for yourself. Resourcefulness is a trait that’s innate and almost impossible to teach, but so useful. That trait is something I lean on a little bit every day.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
Seeing the work that I do make so many people happy. In the beginning, all of the bright lights and big personalities of the sports business are easy to get swept up in. Over time, going to another game is just part of the job. But I never get tired of seeing the passion fans have for the work that we do. It keeps me going on a day-in, day-out basis.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
Convincing people that we are more than just banner hangers and ticket brokers. Yes, we deal with signage. Yes, we deal with tickets. Yes, we go to cool events. But sponsorship is a strategic marketing discipline just like every other part of the marketing mix.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Accountability has become a much bigger issue, especially given the price tags involved with sponsorship and media. Gone are the days of impressions based metrics or doing sponsorships because “the CEO likes X”. Those are replaced by more complex engagement metrics and ties to the bottom line of the company.

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7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Most people leave the industry for greener pastures because they feel that their skills are not valued properly. It’s not the highest paying industry, you tend to work odds hours and upward movement is often dependent upon how willing you are to move somewhere else. Some people feel that they should be getting more for that effort. The challenge is that there’s a line of hungry people out the door that are willing to do that job that look just like you (or better than you) on paper. So the industry is a little resistant to change in that regard because they don’t have to. I can’t say I agree or disagree with anyone’s decision to leave the industry, though. That’s a personal decision.

8) Are you considering leaving your current filed or company?
No, I’m not considering leaving. But in this industry you always have to keep your eyes and ears open, otherwise you’ll miss opportunities.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter (@cannonjw)

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last Book: Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez…fascinating look at the crazy Silicon Valley tech world
Last TED Talk: Tim Urban, Lessons from a Master Procrastinator

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
A. Print Newspaper – Never
B. Online Newspaper – All the time, largely through a series news feeds and aggregators (RSS, Flipboard, Nuzzel, etc)
C. Television – still quite often
D. Twitter – specialized and real time news
E. Facebook – personal only
F. Other – go through over 2K pieces of content per day using aggregators

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
My 6-year old son and my family is my hobby. Whatever time I do have, I like to spend with them.

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4 Easy Ways to Find Work-Life Balance

It is possible to make some subtle changes to your lifestyle and find the right balance that makes you function efficiently in all aspects of your life. 

This post was originally published by and written for Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport).

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Individuals working in athletics and sports business know they’re choosing a certain lifestyle making the career decision to work in sports. A lifestyle that typically includes late nights, long hours, stretches away from family and friends, low compensation, lack of healthy meals, too many meals with limited activity, and the list goes on.

Those are just some of the reasons why people get burnt out and tend to transition to other career opportunities which offer a suitable work-life balance. That phrase “work-life balance” can mean different things to different people however. It doesn’t always mean changing careers or leaving a job that you really enjoy even if you have to make personal sacrifices.

Take it from someone who used to work in athletics and made the decision to look for a more balanced opportunity a few years ago. It is possible to make some subtle changes to your lifestyle and find the right balance that makes you function efficiently in all aspects of your life.

Below are some things to consider and some resources that exist to help you find that work-life balance to help you be the best version, both personally and professionally, that you can be.

Prioritize what gives you the most satisfaction –  Prioritization is key to achieving many things in life, but especially in finding balance. Does your job need to pay a certain amount? Does it need to have no travel at all or less travel than you experience currently? Does it need to offer flexible vacation time or generous holidays? Will it allow you opportunities for career development and growth? Will the employer offer a gym membership or on-site gym access? Prioritizing what aspects are important to you and will help you feel balanced. Discuss these items with those important to you and rank them. Use this a guide to help you remain where you are, look for something better, or just to keep you in the right frame of mind throughout your career.

Build downtime into your schedule – “Busy” is such an overrated word. There I said it. We’re in a culture of busy. People always say they are busy, like it’s a badge of honor. It’s really not. To me it means you can’t prioritize your time and efforts. Therefore you’re left scrambling all the time and use “busy” as a cover. Let’s stop the culture of busy. It can be done day planning your day with periods of down time, or periods when you are doing things that aren’t worth the time and effort. Make plans around improving your health. Make plans around strengthening the relationships that matter in your life. Downtime can mean many things and building in the time will make you a better person.

Focus on the good: complain less, appreciate more  – Gratitude is a powerful thing. So is positivity. YOU have a choice each day and during each situation you encounter to face it positively. YOU also have the choice to count your blessings and be grateful for everything you have in your life. So, stop complaining and start appreciating. You’ll be amazed at how your life will change. You’ll be amazed how you can change other people’s lives. You’ll also be amazed at the opportunities that will come your way when you remain connected to those that matter with a positive and grateful attitude.

When working, get in the zone  –  This last tip applies to being the most productive worker, employee, boss or mentor you can be when working. You have to be able to multi-task when working in athletics. Actually, looking at most job posting for any advertising and marketing jobs in any field will have “multi-tasking” as a critical skill. I tend to think of multi-tasking a little differently. I think you have to be able to accomplish multiple tasks and meet multiple deadlines within a given day or week. But, you need to tackle each task with a single focus. Don’t try to handle them all at once. Set your task priorities, focus on finishing on each task without interruption and get in the zone while working on each one. This will allow you to accomplish those tasks, but not get derailed along the way. It can get tough spinning so many plates at your agency or athletic department, but setting up your day with this focus can be a game changer.

These may seem like simple tips. And you know what, they are! They’re easy ways you can transform your life. They can make you a better person and help you achieve the professional and personal life balance that so many seek to achieve. Believe me, I practice the tips above and can attest to their power.

 

Professional Development Q&A With Lora Wey

This post is the sixth in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

Name: Lora Wey (@LoraWey)
Profession: Executive Director of Annual Giving at Illinois State University

I was first introduced to Lora Wey when doing research and prospecting for Verge Pipe Media, working to connect with those working in higher education annual giving. As an alum of Illinois State, I was thrilled to make a new connection with my alma mater and learn about their recent successes on Giving Tuesday. In fact, I profiled Lora previously to get her first-person perspective on how to run a successful giving day effort. You can read that article here.

Since our first interactions, Lora has been a great resource and sounding board for me on a variety of topics. She is one of the best in her industry and I am thankful that she is representing my alma mater and helping it become the preeminent public university in Illinois. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Lora Wey.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My degree was in international business and Spanish. I’ve worked in higher education  since I graduated college. Although not directly related to my degree, my liberal arts education and affinity for working with people prepared me well to learn the art and science of fundraising.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
I worked as an admissions counselor at my alma mater as my first job out of college. I knew I loved the school and was passionate about the college experience. I have never had a desire to leave higher education since. I have worked in this profession for 29 years.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
My advice is that your first job will not be your last. Be open to the experience and gain as much knowledge and experience as you can. It will be your springboard to the next chapter in your professional career.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
I like that our work changes lives every day. Not just the lives of students, but donors lives as well.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession today?
We can no longer depend on just a few channels of communication to resonate with donors. With the increased amount of not for profits and changing technology, we are forced to stay ahead of the curve in terms or messaging and creativity so that we remain a relevant giving priority to our alumni and potential donors.

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6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
The biggest change is fewer donors giving more dollars. In order to sustain the pipeline, we need to grow our donor base. Telephone and direct mail are just a few of the many channels of communication in which we must be present. In addition, we no longer employ a one message fits all donors campaign. We must segment strategically in order to capture the attention of our audience.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Perhaps they think more money can be made elsewhere. Many schools are experiencing financial hardship causing frozen wages. It becomes demoralizing to staff not to be rewarded year after year for your efforts.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
If I choose to leave it would not be for financial reasons, but for a different professional opportunity within higher education.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Facebook…I’m 50 years old and my friend base doesn’t utilize Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. 🙂

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I am currently reading You Win In The Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Our leadership team is reading and reflecting on how their advice is relevant in the work we do as managers.

11) Where do you receive your news and information
Of the choices you gave us (Print Newspaper, Online Newspaper, TV, Twitter, Facebook or other) I definitely get my news from online newspapers and my Facebook feed.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
I volunteer with several not for profits in my community as an advisor to fundraising or mentoring. It energizes me.

Professional Development Q&A with Kevin Adema

This post is the third in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2

Name: Kevin Adema (@KevinAdema)
Profession: Digital marketing consultant and educator
Degree: B.A. Business & Psychology, post-secondary CAAP designation from
ICA

I was introduced to Kevin at Second Wind’s Agency Account Manager College in Chicago last spring. I was lucky enough to attend last spring’s two-day certification, where Kevin was a featured presenter. As the only agency representative in attendance that worked for a digital-only agency, I was dubious Kevin would tell me something I didn’t think I already knew.

Thankfully, Kevin’s presentation offered a wealth of new ideas and perspective on the state of digital and how agencies are falling behind. Even though I was working for a digital first agency, there was still plenty I learned and I’ve remained in contact with Kevin ever since.

Please check out his website and look into his classes on digital strategy. You won’t regret it. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin Adema.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated
with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Education’s aim is always to empower and to train the student “how” to
think, “how” to learn and then, “how” to apply. My formal education paved
the path for me to have knowledge in both the business and personal realm
so in that regard, it is fully aligned with what I do currently. Are the
specifics from one course or another directly linked to my daily practice?
Not really as in my field of marketing, every day presents new issues.
Moreover, as marketing marries businesses with consumers, a marketer must
be a continual student, obsessed with learning and continually willing to
adapt.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what
you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations
along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
I didn’t have an exact ideal job in mind. I love business and I love
working with people. I was blessed to start my career in an agency as
marketing fuses my two professional passions together.

Deviations: no, not really. I’d say there were delays: Agency life can be
grinding as we get wound up in the daily ebb and flow of turning work
over. These patterns of “busy” can keep a person stuck and not growing.

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3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Be obsessively humble. Marketing is NOT about you and moreover, it’s
definitely NOT about the brand. Marketing is about understanding human
behavior and real human needs and then, filling those needs. I’d humbly give free access to our Fundamentals course to any marketing professional.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
The exact moment when someone says: “now I get it” and they get fired up,
excited and passionate about doing digital the right way.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
I’m battling 100-year old legacy thinking. It’s deeply entrenched into our
academics and established business protocols. Although millions of dollars
have been spent proving the “old way” isn’t working, change is never easy
even if it’s desperately needed.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
When I first started in an agency, we still had CMYK film and Quark was
the epitome of a designers toolbox. Those are long gone and digital
has completely changed how marketing works forever. We can’t use
traditional media approaches where we talk AT an audience. Digital has
given the consumer a voice and real power. It’s a dialogue, not a
monologue.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they
leave?

Marketing is not 9-5. Burn out, stress, fatigue are all factors.
Marketing is also very people centric. Any time you put more than 1 person
in a room, there exists a good chance for drama and politics.
I’ve learned many hard lessons dealing with people. I’ve made many
mistakes but hopefully, I’ve also empowered and taught enough people to
make a difference.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Never.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Any coffee shop where two people can put their mobile devices away and sit
face-to-face and talk. 🙂

If I had to choose, probably Linkedin as it attempts to stay professional
but as with most platforms, it’s loaded with content and not discussions.

10) What was the last book you read?  The last TED talk or othere-learning content you consumed?
I have a very large business library and use it frequently. The most
recent book I’ve spent the most dedicated time in was: “The Shift” by
Scott M. Davis. His philosophy of how marketers must change to become
leaders of tomorrow has inspired much of my work.

11) Where do you receive your news and information
A. Print Newspaper
B. Online Newspaper
C. Television
D. Twitter
E. Facebook
F. Other

Yes to all, but remember, reading or watching is not necessarily learning.
For example, if I read something in a certain publication that has an
inherent certain slant, have I learned the truth? NO. I’ve learned a
perspective on the truth. Read always to gain information from numerous
sources and then learn how to combine it for value. When numerous credible
sources all point to the same outcome, you have knowledge.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a
hobby?
I am married to a wonderful woman and we have three beautiful kids.
Spending time with them is my hobby and of course, I wish I could do it
more than I do.

Where Personal and Professional Meet

IMG_1307When I launched my personal blog last spring, the goal was to share my personal experiences through a creative outlet (writing, duh) that most recently I hadn’t been able to do for pleasure. Each blog to date allowed me to express information I am not sure I would have shared publicly in the past, while remembering how much I love to write. 

Additionally, the feedback and encouragement I have received about my posts has been tremendous. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment or reach out to me in some way. Those messages reinforced that I made the right decision.

That said, my blog is going to take a slightly different direction and tone as I continue to immerse myself in the world of Verge Pipe Media. After my first few blogs, I mentioned that my goal was to mix personal posts with content that would establish me as a thought leader and innovator in the world of inbound marketing. Now that I am at VPM, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to help grow the company, as well as writing for our company blog.

Going forward, I will link to the blogs that I publish for VPM on this site. I will also occasionally take the time to write about my personal journey and express my thoughts on how to set a positive example.

Because I have a very structured “work” blogging schedule, I want to make sure that my creative professional efforts are published to the widest audience. So, I hope that my readers (do I have readers?) will welcome this new mix of professional industry information as well as personal posts.

I said all that to say this . . . I won’t just be pushing my marketing and public relations thoughts on this blog. But, you will see a lot of that content here more often.

I plan to hold myself accountable and also provide additional blogs that are both entertaining and inspirational for those that may need the encouragement.

In the meantime, please read my first official blog post from the Verge Pipe Media Blog: Creative Possibilities For Brands and Live-Stream Video Apps

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Be A Better You

IMG_6317 - NEWI’ve not lived up to my pledge to fill this blog with regular posts, because as I’ve said previously, life keeps getting in the way. That’s a good thing though, and I have kept up my practice of writing down the thoughts that swirl in my head. I’ve been working on getting those notes into this blog and I’m finally ready to share a few with you now.

As I’ve faced some rejections and adversity this spring, I’ve been made further aware that you have to look out for yourself because nobody else will. I’ve also been made well aware that YOU are the only person who cares about your personal growth. It’s up to you, and only you, to make it happen!

It is imperative that when times get tough, you stay positive and you stay proactive. The best way to further your personal growth is through positivity and proactivity. If you aren’t doing these two things, you are being reactive and negative and will be unprepared to take action when faced with adversity.IMG_6318 - NEW

Keep these tactics in mind as you look to grow yourself personally…

Be passionate, but also be realisticBeing passionate is good, but you must look at the big picture when you get passionate about something. Having passion without realistic goals or a taking a proper look at the big picture can lead to frustration.

Fear will only hold you back – Let go of your fears and face things with positivity. Stop worrying! Taking a risk will be uncomfortable, but if you are confident in your choices, there should be no fear of failure. You must be ready to step outside your comfort zone!

Emotional decisions are usually bad decisions – Letting emotions get in the way of a big decision can lead to misguided reactions. You are usually acting with a minimal amount of thought when emotional. Sometimes our emotions are based on an unusual impulse. Always make sure to take time to look at the big picture and consult your better judgement.

Flexibility for change is vital – It is easy to get comfortable with your surroundings and accepting things as they are. Comfortable is easy, change is hard. But, it is important to stay flexible and learn to accept change. Learning to accept change is vital to long-term happiness and success.

Identify what you don’t want – It is important to realize that recognizing the things you don’t want in your life is as important as recognizing what you do want. Identifying what you don’t want helps you to focus on the big picture. Don’t ignore what you don’t want. Recognize it and make the decisions to get you what you do want.

Take ownership of your actions – When you have considered the points above and have clarity about your personal growth, act and act confidently. Take full ownership of your actions and be ready to accept the outcome. Taking full ownership will allow you to achieve success in the long-term.

YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and hopefully these tips can help you find some personal fulfillment.

I hope to write again soon and provide some personal and professional updates in addition to other ways you can better yourself with positive thinking. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

-Tod

Routines Are Good

IMG_2004(1)I have goals to make this blog much more focused and to post more frequently. But, life keeps getting in the way these days. Even without a steady job, I find it difficult to carve the proper time to create new posts.

I told myself that to get back on this writing thing, I need to hold myself accountable and develop a content calendar for the rest of the summer.

That said, this week I will touch briefly on a point I brought up in my first blog. From there, anticipate a few new pieces each week and possibly (hopefully?) updates on my job search and career opportunities.

If you remember in my first post, I provided ideas to help you cope with difficult times. I’ve expanded on a few of those already in this space. The one I am finding most helpful these days is . . . routines are good.

I can’t say this enough, routines are good.

My newest routine, the ones that I implement daily, are writing down thoughts which are swirling in my head to un-clutter my mind and sticking with my workout plan.

Even if your routine is doing one common thing each day that you enjoy . . . Do that one thing. Then do it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. That is all. If you do your one thing, it will make you feel good. You did it. That’s all you need to do!

You may think that one thing can’t possibly be enough to consider it “a routine,” you’d be wrong. You will be amazed at how once you’ve accomplished your one thing, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something big. Your day will feel complete. You will feel fulfilled.

Then you start to stack those “one thing” accomplishments on top of one another and, before you know it, your outlook on your circumstances is better. You’ll soon have achieved a month’s worth of “one thing” accomplishments and your attitude will have improved.

Your “one thing” could be anything, such as these examples I’ve mentioned before:
1) Working out
2) Meeting a friend for lunch
3) Writing a blog post
4) Playing with your kids
5) Writing down your ideas
6) Starting a savings fund for a vacation
7) Reaching out to “weak” contacts
8) Cooking dinner

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My “one thing” routine is a stabilizing force for me right now. When you hear “one thing a day,” boy does it take the pressure off your circumstances.

Routines are good, especially “one thing” routines. So, no matter what that one thing is . . . get up, get the blood moving, check things off that “to-do” list, but don’t forget to accomplish the one thing that YOU enjoy each day.

People Want To Help

IMG_1127Life is full of challenges. Regardless of the challenges we encounter in life, I’ve learned their weight and impact is lessened when we are able to connect with others who want to help. It may sound cliché, but I’ve found it to be true during my recent difficult timesPeople want to help.

Now, I promise my topics won’t all trace back to me losing my job, but this one is especially compelling to me. I also hope that some of the items I mention here will be useful to others.

Something I wasn’t sure of before I lost my job, but am now, is that people truly want to help when you are in need. While you like to believe your friends and family have the same principles as you, you’re never really quite sure. And, you always hope that you’re never in a situation where you need to rely on others or reach out for help.

But, I kept hearing over and over from friends and family in the last few weeks that they were there for me if I needed help. Many also advised me to reach out to many different groups of people, because they would want to help as well.

I know that in my adult life, from time to time, I’ve seen others struggle and felt compelled to help or reach out. It wasn’t always the easiest thing for me to do; it just felt like the right thing to do. You may not even be asking for “help” but you don’t want to seem desperate or needy.

I think the first step, the reaching out, can be the most difficult for people. People want to help or even just talk about what issues you may be facing, but they aren’t often sure how to begin the dialogue. Therefore, if you don’t initiate and seek the conversation, it may never take place.

So, I hope the following tips from someone who has been on both sides of this situation will help others as they either feel the need to seek help or hope to help others who may need it.

1) Just say anything
Have you ever received a note from someone unexpectedly and ended up being upset about it? I’m assuming rarely or never. You were just happy they contacted you in any way and it didn’t matter the context of the letter. The contact outweighs the context, so say anything! The initial contact will prompt future dialogue.

2) Be honest
The old saying goes — honesty is the best policy. That holds true when you want to reach out to someone for help or to help someone in need. Be honest and forthright when you make contact. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about what is bothering you or if you have a concern for someone else. People appreciate honesty and it will build a solid foundation for your dialogue.  

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are in need of some help or guidance, just be honest and come out and ask for help. If you are afraid people may perceive it as needy or desperate, don’t. Friends and confidants will be flattered that you feel they can help in any way. I’ve seen first hand in the last few weeks how receptive people are when you seek their help or advice.

4) Reach out to “weak” contacts
Lastly, if you’ve reached out and made contact with your trusted confidants, but are in the position where further networking may be needed, reach out to your “weak” contacts. Those people who you’ve lost contact with or haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe you’ve had a close relationship before and for one reason or another that contact has lessened. Trust me, they will be happy that you reached out and it will also start a fresh dialogue. It is all about the contact. Then follow what I’ve said above once you make the re-connection: be honest and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Life isn’t easy. Life throws challenges your way and those challenges usually make us stronger. Along the way, as you face these challenges, no matter how big or small, you don’t have to face them alone. Remind yourself that daily. You are not alone in this mortal coil and you are surrounded by many people who truly want to help.

-Tod

Tod and A Fitness Blog?

IMG_0575(1)This post was originally written as a guest blog  for my friend Megan’s site here:
http://bit.ly/1aLTANY

I sit here asking myself: why is a 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dad being asked to write for a fitness blog? I’m thinking of 20 good reasons why I wouldn’t be asked to write for a fitness blog, but then the reason why hits me. Maybe my article could serve as a good outlet for me to tell my story. And if – along the way – it helps someone in my same or similar situation, then maybe blogging should continue to be a regular outlet for me.

Are there any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dads out there? That’s another question I ask myself a lot. Not because I feel sorry for myself, but because just a few short years ago I never would have thought that description would fit me. In fact, writing it twice already, it still sounds absurd. Perhaps you find yourself in your own life changing situation, one that you never foresaw happening. Regardless of the circumstance, the best we can do is hope that our actions and decisions will bring us to a better place in the long run.

Without getting into the gory details, the last six months of my life have been rather tumultuous and some drastic changes have taken place. Some that I chose to make and others that were forced upon me. In the face of all of this change, I realized that I needed to find some stabilizing idea or belief to get me though the adversity I was facing. Yet, how do we implement the necessary changes in our lives to create this stability, to overcome adversity? What do those changes look like, particularly in the fitness realm?

Previous Success
Back in 2013, I committed to working on my health and fitness to be a good example for my young son, and as a way to break up the day working in my home office. The changes I made weren’t drastic, yet produced good results. It just took a little effort and dedication. I lost close to 20 pounds and felt better about myself in the process.

However, that feeling of accomplishment was short lived as my personal life began to change for the worse and I fell back into some bad habits. These habits continued up to, and through, my divorce in late 2014. The hard work and dedication I put in to making myself better physically had all but been erased.

It was then I decided I needed to re-dedicate myself to improving my health. There were things in my life that were out of my control, but one thing I can control right now is my well-being. But, this time I wasn’t sure where to start. My previous success was a guide, but that routine had grown stale and I was ready for a new challenge. This is where my good friend Megan enters the picture.

A True Professional
Megan and I have known each other since 2002 when we began working together at the Illinois State University student recreation center. Even then, she was dedicated to her workout routines and had made living a healthy lifestyle a priority. I had always admired that quality about her, knowing I lacked the same discipline and elf-motivation.

She and I had lost touch in recent years as she began to establish herself as a fitness professional in Chicago and I was living 12+ hours away as a married father to a young son. That said, sometime in the past year we had re-connected superficially on social media. Our conversations were few and far between, but as the thoughts entered my mind about re-committing to my fitness, I felt comfortable asking her for some advice.

A True Friend
It’s intimidating for anyone to admit weaknesses or discuss things that are out of their comfort zone. I was putting myself out there to a certain extent, but I felt like Megan would understand my needs and be able to help me get on the path to success. I’m glad to say that I was right and she has greatly helped me in the last few months.

Not only has she helped me understand my fitness level and also start me on a program that is sustainable for me, but she has been a source of positive energy in many ways. Most specifically, she has developed a great way of thinking positively through adversity and has transferred those ideals to me. She has made me realize that there are positives to be taken from any situation.

What Now?
So, how best to wrap this up with some actionable items — in case there are any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, singles dads out there. Actually, I hope that these tips can be applied by anyone facing adversity such as losing a job, struggling in a relationship, or just feeling like you are in a “life rut” and need some help in improving your well-being.

Consider these thoughts if you find yourself facing hard times and need some structure to help you through whatever you may be facing.

1) It is going to be OK…It is going to be OK!
2) Reach out to your family, friends, former colleagues, former bosses…people want to help
3) Network with your “weak” ties or people you have lost touch with…people want to help
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice…people want to help
5) Write down items swirling in your head, it will help you “un-clutter” the mind
6) Establish a solid sleep and workout routine (the structure is important)
7) If you do nothing else each day, fit in a workout…you’ll feel better about yourself
8) Stay positive and always reflect on the good that you have in your life

I can tell you that putting these thoughts to paper (or word processor) have really helped to reinforce in me that the steps I am taking right now are positive ones that will help lead to a positive outcome. I can also tell you that Megan has played a part in getting me through this, and for that I am grateful.

Megan has been kind enough to let me be a guest on her blog; so, if you’re reading this and unsure about where to start on your fitness journey, reach out to Megan. Her philosophy that “everyone is unique” and “not every workout works for everyone” is one that resonated with me and I think will make many feel comfortable. She is a true professional and also a great friend and I can’t thank her enough for her support during these trying times. Now, it’s time for me to go do some planks….

Tod