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.

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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.

3 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

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This post was originally published for Front Office Sports.

As I’ve progressed through the ups and downs of my latest job search, I’ve often had certain feelings of doubt or said to myself, “What if people realize that I don’t know as much as they think I do?”

While I have made great strides to be more mindful and self-aware, it’s only natural that doubt can creep in when you’re going on month six without a job offer. I’ve made progress with interviews and, just last week, had four in four days (and somehow managed to survive)! But, the more you sell yourself and your skill set, the more it can feel like you may be selling something that isn’t entirely true.

I approached my wife about these feeling and she mentioned the phrase “Imposter Syndrome,” something she has read about in the past and has also experienced. I had never heard that term before but it makes perfect sense.

Coined in the 1980s, Imposter Syndrome is having the nagging fear of being “found out” as not being as smart or talented or deserving or experiences or (fill-in-the-blank) as people think.

It’s actually a quite common phenomenon and research has found that up to 70% of people have suffered from Imposter Syndrome at some point. Myself included.

It’s a solid bet that outside of super low achievers, narcissists, or someone certifiable, being susceptible to the self-doubt that feeds this syndrome is common. What matters the most, however, is knowing how to deal with and process these thoughts and fears. We can’t let them overwhelm us and prevent us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals and aspirations.

If you’ve related to anything I’ve described so far, good for you! Imposter Syndrome is very common in high achievers. It shows that you’re not ready to settle for mediocrity. You aim high and are committed to giving your very best and being your best self while striving to attain whatever goals you have set for yourself.

That said, overcoming Imposter Syndrome requires self-awareness. A firm grasp that what you’ve achieved and what you want to achieve are impressive and attainable. You’ve given your best all along the way and that is what matters. You don’t have to be “the best” at anything or have “the best” numbers or achievements to be worthy of the accolades you’ve earned in your career.

Don’t let your fear of being “found out” take hold of you in your career. Consider these three thoughts the next time you let self-doubt creep in.

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Own Your Success

Don’t let the fear of being “found out” have you start attributing your successes to external factors (luck, others involved, etc.). Never minimize an accomplishment that you truly had a hand in! Own what you have done and been a part of in your career. Even if it was a collaborative effort, you were still a part of that team. I challenge you to make a list of all that you have accomplished in the last five years. Write it all down and take pride in it. I hope you will see that you deserve the successes you’ve had.

Stop Comparing

Just as I wrote in my FOMO piece, there is nothing that lets doubt creep in faster than comparing yourself to someone else. Author Iyanla Vanzant believes that “comparison is an act of violence against the self.”Comparisons are always biased and rarely helpful. All of those “highlight reels” posted on social media do nothing but reinforce Imposter Syndrome. It leads us to think that everyone else has it easier or is having a better time in their life. The reality is actually many people are struggling just like you with a unique set of challenges. When you realize that, it may also help you to realize you may be more equipped to handle your challenges than them. Stop comparing and start realizing you deserve all that has come your way.

Stay Focused on Your Goals

Imposter Syndrome can sabotage your future success on so many levels. Don’t let it into your consciousness so much that you begin to settle for less or truly believe you are inadequate. Use the tips I’ve been sharing in my blogs to help you be more self-aware and productive. Don’t play it safe or not totally sell yourself in that next job interview. Trust me, they are speaking with you for a reason and you know your accomplishments are legit. Be confident with your delivery and be humble enough to admit that you don’t know it all. Know that you’re speaking with them because you know you can provide value and you want to accomplish your goals as a part of their team.

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When I had that run of four interviews last week I’ll be honest, I went in to each one a bit nervous of being “found out.” However, I had the confidence and awareness to realize that if I was myself and could lay my pride and vulnerability on the line, good things would happen if they were supposed to.

It takes courage to put yourself out there and go after big goals. But, don’t let these fears of being “found out” dictate your future choices or prevent you from chasing new opportunities. You’ll truly discover how much you are capable of and how much you can truly accomplish when you know you’re putting forward your best self and are completely confident in your abilities.

Four Ways To Avoid FOMO

This blog was originally published by Front Office Sports

Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO. I know you’ve heard of it. It’s a real thing and both people and brands have trouble with it on social media. I’d be willing to bet that both of those groups fight it on a daily basis.

Social media is such a huge part of our daily lives. The latest studies show that social media captures 30% of our online time. This percentage has increased each year (not surprisingly) since sources began tracking this activity.

This ever-increasing checking of social media is leading to many cases of FOMO. Our attention is diverted from our real work and real problems by the escape of social media. I’d be willing to bet many of the posts you see on social media come from brands and marketers trying to capture your attention.

Those marketers see these statistics and know their target audiences are spending more time on social media each year. So, what better way to reach them than with social messages.

In the process of marketing on social media, brands also fall into the same FOMO traps and begin to post content that is off-message and off-brand, just so they can appear to be “hip” and “on-trend”. There’s always some made up hashtag day or celebration day on social, and god forbid a brand not try to partake.

But let’s be real, not everything on social is important (gasp!) and not everything on social needs to distract us from what really matters. So, in an effort to help level off your time spent on social media, let me present my four ways to avoid FOMO so you can become a better version of yourself.

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It’s all a highlight reel
I’ve spent the recent party of my career working within social and digital media and I sometimes get to the point of struggling to see what is the point of it all. I am a confessed Twitter addict (I’m working on this) and also really enjoy other platforms. But sometimes I struggle to see what’s the point of it all.

A thought that has helped me process the popularity contest that is social media is that it’s just that, mostly a popularity contest. People brag about their best bits and that’s it. And there is the belief that share and like counts quantify how exciting your life is. A recent study says almost a quarter of what you see on social media is either faked or exaggerated.

This leads to people comparing themselves to their peers and being in constant competition to get their life as good as everyone else’s. Stop this thinking. In fact, enjoy social media through the lens of knowing it’s all a highlight reel. Stop comparing. Stop judging. Everyone’s highlight reel looks awesome. Know that everyone is facing problems that aren’t “Facebook worthy” and their life is never perfect as it is depicted. Keeping this perspective can make social more enjoyable.

Less is more
This old phrase holds true for social media as well. If you want to be your best self and avoid FOMO, set goals or parameters to check and post on social media less. It may be a struggle at first. Heck, you may have to delete the icons from your phone (raise your hand if you’ve done this!). But, I’ve found this to be very therapeutic.

Two years ago when I went through some major life struggles, I gravitated away from social media instead of towards it when times got tough. I’m generally a private person and sharing my struggles on Facebook and Twitter just seemed wrong. So, I began to check and post less often. It helped me realize that I shouldn’t compare my life to everyone else’s highlight reel. It also allowed me to focus more on what mattered to me personally (formed by my own opinions and not others) and I shifted my focus to others around me.

Set a goal this month to check and post on social media less and focus on yourself and those that are important to you more. Trust me, this will simplify things in your life.

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Best self
Now that you have everyone else’s posts in the proper context and you’ve simplified your posting and checking, is there anything else you can do to become your best self and avoid FOMO?

Yes! Now is the time to evaluate what makes you happy and not what is appearing to make other people happy. Focus on what matters in your everyday life. What are you learning new today? Who are you reaching out to today? What are you challenging yourself with today? Did you hug your kids? Did you tell your spouse you love them? Did you pray? Did you workout? Did you stick to your new health eating plan? These are all ways to help keep you on track to being the best you and ways to make you happy.

These are also all things that are better than posting that latest selfie or one-liner on social media. Prioritizing the things that matter the most to you, and leaving social media as a small portion of your life will keep FOMO at bay.

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Is it worth it?
The last point is an attempt to drive home every thing I have said to this point. Is FOMO worth it? My wife has a phrase she likes to use on me when I’m contemplating a decision. She will say to me “And then what…”. Which means, what happens next? What are the consequences or outcomes of your decision? So you post that selfie on Instagram with the trending hashtag. Well, and then what? What does it do for you? Why does it matter?

So you saw people gathering at the bar and then joined in and stayed till “last call”. Well, and then what? You probably went to work hungover. Or you worse, you got to work late. Or you missed church on Sunday morning or that early morning commitment you had on Saturday.

Having FOMO and letting the highlight reels of social media suck you in can lead to unintended consequences or outcomes. Work hard to think about if your activity and posts on social media are really worth it. Just always ask “And then what…”, you’ll be surprised at how this phrase can change your decision making.

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I’ve struggled with FOMO my entire life. Even before social media existed, I was the person who struggled to leave a party, didn’t want to miss out on what others were doing and needed that human interaction. I also always compared what others were doing as a way to evaluate my life.

It has been a process during my adult life to change these habits and begin to focus on what is really important to me.

FOMO is hard. I get it. But, the tips above are a great way to make changes in your life. They aren’t drastic changes, but are ones that will help you take social media a little less seriously and help you prioritize the things that will help you become the best version of yourself.

 

 

 

Your Career May Be A Jungle Gym…And That’s OK

A popular book on the #SBBX and one my wife read this summer is Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. It’s a great read for working women and for the men who are married to them.

One of the more popular quotes from the book, one which we have discussed at length, is the following: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” She attributes the metaphor to Fortune magazine editor Pattie Sellers.

She’s totally right. We grow up hearing about the “career leader” and how your career should be a “climb to the top” or at least a climb to a level that makes you happy and secure. I had this mindset for most of my early professional career. It was all I knew really. But, if I had to do things over again, I’m positive I would approach my career differently.

The era of employment for life with one company is over. Workers now switch from job to job much more frequently in search of grafter fulfillment and compensation. Today, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Most workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to the next.

That is why approaching job searches must be done differently these days and consistent networking is a must. You also have to be agile as you track and adjust to job market trends.

So how do you go about having this agile mindset? How do you plan for professional development and not just career planning? Let me provide a few examples I now employ during my career shifts that I wish I had been more cognizant of from the jump.

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Stay Relevant I’ve written this previously, but staying relevant by learning to code, getting various certifications and learning the basics of video production and photography are great ways to stay up to date on industry trends. Many companies today look for talent that is experienced in wide areas of expertise. Always learning new things and staying relevant in the skills that industry HR people are looking for will help you as you look to advance your career.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Presence — I have many thoughts on “personal branding” which I hope to write about for FOS soon, but I did want to touch on the topic here. Whether you realize it or not, everything you post on social media can help form people’s opinions of you. Therefore, it is your choice to either actively control and shape your personal brand, or let others do it for you. You need to be your best advocate because how you present yourself online could determine future leadership or career opportunities.

Take Advantage of Lateral or Downward Moves — This one may seem counterproductive, but career opportunities come in all shapes, sizes and directions. This is really what can turn your career path into a career jungle gym. During my time searching for new employment I’ve spoken with many people who arrived to their current position by moving laterally within a company or even down, to then progress in a different department. These moves also allow you to see the bigger picture of your business or brand from another point of view. Always stay open to the opportunities that present themselves. You never know what move, no matter the direction, may be the next key to your career success. Trust me here, I can pinpoint a specific lateral opportunity with a previous employer that I wish I had pursued. I don’t dwell on it, but I do look back at how foolish I was for not even entertaining the thought of trying a different route during my early tenure in athletics.

Apply For The Position Anyway — I can’t tell you how many times professionals hold back from applying for a position because they don’t think they have the skills needed to succeed. It’s OK if you don’t, as long as you have the drive, motivation, and resourcefulness needed to get the job done. Be calculated in your risk taking. Honestly assess where your skill gaps are and get advice from a mentor to help you determine if the position is a right fit for your development plan.

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These are just a few things to consider as you move around on your career jungle gym. It’s perfectly OK to not always climb upward as you move to each new career opportunity. You have to move in the directions and in the positions that will bring you the most joy and give you the most career fulfillment.

Just because the move may not be in the direction that your father, mother, sister or brother made in their career path, doesn’t mean you’re not advancing your career.

By considering the steps above, continuing to network and build relationships, and knowing it’s OK to make career moves every few years, you’ll ultimately find that progressing through your career like a kid on a jungle gym is perfectly normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Important Groups to Follow on Social Media

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I don’t claim to be a Marketing and Social Media expert. In fact, I shudder when people use that word or any form of that word (ninja, guru, etc.) to describe themselves.

It’s not that I’m downplaying my skills or anyone else’s, but I think we all can be continual learners and never stop growing in our chosen field. There are some people more knowledgeable than others on certain topics, but nobody is an expert in my mind when it comes to social. It moves too fast for someone to have all the answers.

Do I have strong options on digital and social? Sure! But, I don’t claim to be an expert. I do love to have ongoing discussions on topics that are important to marketers. I’m always trying to read the latest articles from thought leaders, peers and industry executives to stay relevant. As I stated, things change so rapidly with social, it’s important to have these conversations to stay relevant.

That’s why it has always been important for me to follow four certain groups on social media. It’s critical to follow this diverse group of people and brands because you need to make sure you are keeping up with all the current conversations taking place in the industry.

So, what are these groups you ask? Here are my four group to follow on social media.

Professional Connections
This is a group that I have mentioned before in my my writing. You have your subsets of connections (core, lost and acquaintances) that you should be reaching out to consistently. These “living” lists should evolve, but you should make sure that you are connected with these folks on social media so you always have a touch point.

You may find that communicating or keeping in touch on social media is the easiest way to foster certain relationships. During these last few months, I have made a better effort to follow and connect with all levels of my “living” connections list. Keeping consistent conversations on social will allow you to learn about new opportunities (seminars, job openings, etc.) and keep you plugged into the latest news.

You never know where a conversation may lead or how a conversation will help you make your next career connection or advancement. Similarly, by extending your knowledge and expertise, you may help someone else to do the same.

Employers/Potential Employers
This segment is important from a personal branding and messaging standpoint. Following your current employer(s), and your potential employer(s) helps you share and amplify their messages. I’ve also found it incredibly useful to follow the Human Resources accounts for companies that I’d like to work for.

This comes in handy when writing cover letters, answering questions in their online portal and when speaking during an interview. If you can speak the language of your current and potential employers, you’ll have a greater advantage over those that don’t.

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Clients/Competitors
What drives your business to be successful? Other than the hard work of your team, it’s your clients and competitors. Following these groups will keep you focused on their needs and core messages. If you’ve ever worked for a marketing, PR or advertising agency you know that retaining your current book of business is critical.

A good way to make sure their messages are being received (even if you are in charge of their messaging) is to follow them yourself and view their social content against others in the native setting. Another critical part of any business is monitoring your competitors for the same messaging.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of industry messaging will help you to serve your clients better and make sure they’re either keeping pace or leading the race when it comes to their company goals for marketing, advertising and PR.

People You Disagree With
This last segment is a hard one for me and I promise I won’t name any names. But, if you truly want to broaden your social media network and your personal network, you need to follow some dissenting opinions from your own. Now I don’t mean to follow these people if they’re only going to make you mad or you’ll argue with them online. That won’t look good for you or for them.

What has been healthy for me is finding someone who you agree on most things with, but not on all things. Personally, this has brought about provocative and positive discussions that opened my eyes to how other people view certain topics. Even if you never come to an agreement on a certain topic, knowing you can have a serious conversation and remain friends is important.

You will get too insulated and susceptible to group-think if you don’t enter into discussions like this. Trust me here, I’m sure you already know a person or two who fits this description. I urge you to follow them and have discourse on topics that matter to you in order to open your mind to a new way of looking at things.

Following these four segments on social allows me to keep in touch with the current “hot topics” in the industry and foster some great relationships. I can’t tell you how many Twitter, phone, email and LinkedIn conversations I’ve had with people who I consider close friends and colleagues, yet I’ve only met a small portion of them IRL (“In Real Life” for you non-millennial types).

By following a diverse group of contacts from the segments I defined above, I’m confident that you will continue to get value from your social media interactions.

 

Engage, Engage, Engage…Invite

This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

If you’re around me long enough you will surely hear me say, “you have to look out for №1.” What I mean by that is if you’re not looking out for your best interests, it’s not guaranteed anyone else will either. You have to be mindful and make sure you’re bettering yourself mentally, emotionally and professionally. By doing these things daily, it will allow you to improve in many areas and help you become the best version of yourself.

Another component of working to better yourself is being selfless and offering help to others when possible. Balance your efforts between looking out for yourself and finding ways to help others. If you don’t pay it forward from time to time, there will be no favors to come back your way.

So, what do I mean by all this? I mean that it is possible and actually quite easy to both look out for yourself and others at the same time. You can do that by using a method I like to call “engage, engage, engage . . . invite.” Engage with your core contacts, lost contacts and acquaintances frequently and consistently. It’s only after you’ve maintained ongoing contact that you should invite them to help you in some way.

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All too often we reach out to folks only when we need something and just “ask, ask, ask.” While it’s OK to ask for things, it’s pretty selfish to do it right out of the gate if you haven’t established a rapport or built solid relationships. It just comes off bad if you immediately go for the ask and make it apparent the connection is all about you.

You need to make sure these connections are beneficial to both sides. That’s why it’s important to engage consistently when you reach out. Reach out to others and ask how they are doing. Ask how their latest campaign turned out or what initiatives they have been coming up. It’s also OK to ask personal questions when you reach out to these contacts. Ask about their family, ask about their hobbies, establish what traits you have in common that aren’t just work related.

Integrate this line of questioning and conversation as the dominant theme in your emails and phone conversations. You will find that many of your connections will grow deep in nature when you take this approach.

Only after you have engaged consistently should you go in for the ask. Get it now? Engage, Engage, Engage . . . Invite.

After you’ve made it clear it’s not all about you, then it’s OK to do the following. Invite them to help you if you need it, whether it’s for an endorsement or otherwise. Invite them to that panel you are hosting. Invite them to meet another connection you’ve made in which you feel they may also like to meet. Invite them to discuss career development with you. Invite them out for drinks. The possibilities can be nearly endless if you follow this method.

You’ll notice a difference right away how things change in your life both personally and professionally when you take this approach. It’s a refreshing and rewarding way to approach relationship building. I can tell you first hand it has changed my life dramatically. I’d love to see it do the same for you!

 

 

5 Ways To Work Efficiently From Home

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This article was originally published by Front Office Sports. 

Working from home is much more common today than it once was. It’s a luxury that companies realize can make their team’s work more productive. But, how can you make sure you remain on task and don’t allow you to become your own worst enemy? Routines!

I’ve written previously that “Routines Are Good” and I still believe that. Even if your daily routine includes just one thing that you enjoy . . . Do that one thing! Then do it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. If you do that one thing that makes you feel good, you will be on your way to routine that keeps you at peace.

You may think one thing can’t possibly be enough to consider it “a routine,” but you’d be wrong. You will be amazed 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 begin 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.

I have taken this approach as a remote worker in my career. Below, I’ve compiled a few work-at-home tips and tricks from my time spent as a remote worker which hopefully can help you develop a routine that will keep you productive!

1) Have a Plan – In my last post for FOS, I wrote about planning and making your Mondays productive. I learned many of those mindfulness and productivity tips from my time working at home. It’s important to plan your day much as you would if you were at an office. While you will begin to find that you get tasks accomplished faster at home than at work, this structure and planning will keep you focused and productive.

2) Start Early – I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a morning person. But, it’s important to remember when you work from home, you’re not losing time in the car commuting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American spends 25 minutes commuting both to and from work each day. That’s nearly an hour of your day behind the wheel or on the train. It’s hard to be productive during commuting. With that time now freed up, plan accordingly to get your work day started and finished when others are commuting. Answer emails, get those easy tasks done on your to-do list, etc. I always felt my days were off to a good start when I knew my pending communications could be handled while my coworkers were still on their way to the office.

3) Have a Door – I can’t stress this one enough. Having a door for your home office or work space is a must! It will become increasingly difficult to follow your plan and stay on task if you face interruptions from your family or roommates. When working at home, you’ll begin finding that conference calls will be a large part of your weekly routine. There’s nothing more annoying than being that person on a conference call who has the noisy dog in the background or other interruptions that can derail the call. When planning your home office workspace, be sure it has a door for privacy.

4) Get Away From Your Desk – Out of the five tips I’m providing here, this may be the most important. You may begin to feel trapped and isolated if you’re working your plan each day and not stepping our of your home office or leaving the house. Getting away from your desk can involve a variety of things such as a workout on your lunch break, working from Starbucks or Panera on occasion and especially eating your lunch away from your desk. Sixty-two percent of professionals typically dine “al desko” which leads to messy desks, sticky keyboards, etc. As you know, I’m a big proponent of meal planning so you’ll stick to your healthy eating goals. A helpful way to make sure your plans come to fruition while working at home is eating these meals away from your desk. Eat at your kitchen island or family dinner table. Even if you eat on a TV tray in your living room, do it somewhere other than your home office.

5) Pick a Definitive Ending Time – While working from home I found it really easy to let work life and tasks bleed into my personal life and family time. I had to use discipline to develop habits to ensure that I was fully present when my family or friends needed me. Boundaries are important, and this applies to both halves of the equation. When you are setting up your weekly routine, also schedule in a definitive “quitting time” for each day and then communicate those times to the important people in your life. If you set clear expectations for yourself and your family, your work will be more productive, making you more fully present for personal commitments.

My routines and plans are a major stabilizing force for me at this stage in my life. When you can plan your work week and commitments ahead of time, it takes much of the pressure off of your circumstances.

What tips do you have for being productive while working from home? Share with us in the comments, tweet us or drop us a line. We want to hear your feedback!

3 Ways to Make Monday the Best Day of Your Week

This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

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They don’t have to be as hard as you think. 

We all know the phrase from Office Space — “Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.” Monday can be hard. Monday can be a drain. But, Monday doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

Monday should be used to set the tone for your whole week. It should serve as the launching point to make sure that each week is as productive as you can make it.
I know what you’re thinking. How am I supposed to make Monday count? It’s all I can do to get to the office on time! Well you’re in luck. That’s what I’m here for.

If you want to separate yourself from the other workers in the cubicle farm and get the most out your Monday, follow these three easy tips and begin to see how they can transform your weekly productivity.

Wellness/Meal Prep
For me, the key to work productivity also includes keeping up with my workouts and eating right. If I’m not working out or get into poor eating habits, it begins to affect my mood, mindfulness and overall productivity.

One way to make sure that I keep these aspects of my life in order is to plan my workouts and meals ahead of time. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. As you look at your week ahead, try to plan for 3–4 workouts at convenient times.

This may have to be before you go into the office, at lunch, or at the end of the day. Regardless of the time, make sure to plan accordingly to keep your fitness goals on track.

For meal prep, it’s easy to schedule your weekly trips to the grocery store on the weekends. This allows you to prep for meals in advance.

How busy is your week? Do you have a meeting where food will be provided? Will you be away from your desk and need to pack snacks/protein bars? Have you scheduled lunch meetings?

Don’t leave your meals to chance! You will often find yourself choosing unhealthy food or skipping meals altogether.

A simple workout and meal plan conducted on the weekend can set you up for a successful week at the gym and at the lunch table.

Handwritten To-Do List
I wrote last week that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. I want to reiterate that point again and say that another way get your mind right for Monday is to write down your weekly to-do list.

Pull up all of your calendars and important appointments and write them down to set up your week. Along with that, prioritize the tasks you want to complete, meetings you have planned or want to plan and also incorporate your workouts and meal plan.

Now we all know what they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men,” — but starting your week off with this solid written agenda will allow you to begin on track and will also make adjustments easier as they inevitably pop up during the week.

You can be more agile and more productive when the majority of your week is planned ahead of time. There is nothing better than entering the week with a nicely laid out plan with tasks ready to cross off!

Relationships
The final step to help make your Monday more meaningful is to plan ahead for relationship building.

We all have busy weeks with a lot of moving parts, but relationship building and networking should always be a focus. Here are some ways to make this more manageable.

First, develop your “core” list of mentors, influencers, or whatever you want to call your most coveted contacts. These are the people who you keep in contact with the most and reach out to when in need of help or guidance. Keep these individuals close and reach out to them often. Ask how they have been and be mindful of what’s going on in their lives too.

Next, identify “lost” connections, or those that you’ve developed a relationship with but over time have lost contact with. Work to keep these people more top of mind and converse about what each of you have going on.

Finally, make a list of “acquaintances” that have been influential in your career or that you have developed even a small relationship with. By identifying your core contacts, lost connections and acquaintances, you will have a “living” list that constantly evolves.

Select a core contact, lost connection and acquaintance to reach out to each week (at least) to make sure you’re always maintaining and growing relationships, while reinforcing the friendships you have.

These three tips are just a start. There are many things you can do on the weekend to refresh and recharge and set yourself up for a productive week. But, I have found these three items are the top priorities for me as I look to plan my week. After a while, they become habitual and they’re just part of a regular weekend.

Shifting Your Perception of The Hustle Mentality

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

We live in a world that increasingly glorifies the #hustle culture. You know the one I’m talking about, always on the #grind, setting meetings, working out, traveling, all work, no sleep. Just follow my guy Gary Vaynerchuk on any of his platforms and you’ll see the epitome of this glorified mentality. It has its merits but, trust me, it’s not for everyone.

That said, I’m not here to tell you not to work hard. But I am here to provide suggestions to help you become your most productive self. I know everyone is wired differently so I’m speaking here from past experiences. The #hustle and #riseandgrind mentality can be draining on you not only mentally, but physically and emotionally.

I’ve already written in this space about work/life balance. I wanted to continue along those lines and discuss a few more habits I have adapted in recent years that have helped me be more productive. You’ll notice that these habits don’t involve using the latest app, or another way to keep me plugged in. These are some “old school” methods that, to me at least, are still ways to #hustle and keep you on the way to being the best version of yourself.

1) Hand Written “To Do” Lists —I’ve long felt the most comfortable when my “to do” list is written out and I can physically cross items off or re-order them as priorities shift. It’s been proven that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. That was all I needed to hear a while back to make the change to a more traditional method. I still use apps like Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Evernote for certain things (the pinging on my phone is still needed), but I rely on them much less that I used to. I also like to hang on to my lists and planners. With an app, things eventually get deleted. To me, that just seemed like a tidy way of organizing. But with a paper trail, it’s a great way to look back at your past week, month or year. There is something refreshing about reflecting on how much you’ve accomplished. I also have heard many stories about families discovering old journals and notes from family members. What a cool way to remember and reminisce about a loved one when you can read their accounts in their own words and handwriting!

2) Face-to-Face Connections —I’ve been reading recently about how email controls our day. This in turn means we are letting other people’s agendas dictate our productivity. How many times do you just about get in your “zone” or say to yourself that you’re going to focus on a certain task for the next hour and then PING, you get distracted by that “urgent” red flag email? I’m guessing more often than you want to admit. We have to change the way we respond to emails and other distractions. I’ve learned that I need to set aside certain times of my day to check them and from there prioritize my responses. Not everything needs a response! Now to get to the title of this point, face to face connections. What I try to do for pressing matters is make time to set face-to-face meetings. Not long, boring meetings. But, short and productive personal sessions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish meeting face to face! This is even a tactic I like to use when networking and connecting. Don’t just rely and emails and texts. Work as hard as you can to meet someone for coffee, a quick lunch or a happy hour drink. You’ll be amazed at how productive they can be.

3) Reflection and Wellness —I must give credit to me better half for this section. My wife Megan has totally transformed the way I reflect, stay mindful and make sure I’m taking care of myself physically. These are also ways to help keep you grounded if you feel that the #hustle is getting the best of you. A few things that I have adopted are journaling, getting enough sleep and understanding the concept of peaks and valleys. Journaling has helped me chronicle the best parts of my day and reflect on the things that matter to me the most. This can be anything from time with my family, getting that interview I wanted, or even the Cardinals sweeping the Marlins. You will also be astonished at how much reflecting on the good will keep you focused on your goals. Getting enough sleep is usually not a problem for me, but when life and work get stressful or complicated, it can really affect your sleep patterns. You must remain cognizant of your sleep patterns. It’s OK to shut off the #hustle at 10pm or earlier each night and go to sleep. It’s also OK to sleep past dawn. Figure out when you can get the 7–8 recommended hours for most adults to help balance your hormones and help your body recover.

Design
I mostly kid when I say that these are “old school” ways of staying productive. I’m not that old, and these methods can work for nearly anyone. What I am saying is that as much as I strive to work hard, reach for my goals and build relationships, I can’t get caught up in the #hustle culture. That just doesn’t work for me. It’s not how I am wired.

If you find yourself scared of the real world or scared of the grind of working for an athletic department, a corporation or an agency…don’t. Be yourself. Stay true to the principles and methods that keep you focused and grounded.

If you’re someone who has been working for a while and you’re not Generation X and also not a Millennial, I will tell you same thing. Be yourself. Don’t compromise your values, don’t lose your mindfulness and don’t let the #hustle culture get to you.