What About Gifts

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

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 I said goodbye to outdated clothes and those extra pairs of shoes lying around.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

New Rules

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

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

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

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

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

What About Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

Be Intentional

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

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

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

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

When Lent Becomes a Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Twitter to Advance Your Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

3 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Network

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This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

Networking and relationship building should be a continual process in your life. This means you should consistently strive to foster your existing connections, build new ones when you can and work to “play the connector” where it is applicable.

I’ve shared some of the following thoughts in the past, but it’s important to reiterate these tips and emphasize their importance. I realize we all have busy weeks with a lot of moving parts. However relationship building and networking should always be a focus.

By elaborating on these processes, I hope to make them less intimidating for you. Here are my three easy ways to strengthen your network.

Consistency In Outreach
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.

This can be about 10–15 people. 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. This number may fluctuate, but try to identify five of these to begin with.

Finally, make a list of “acquaintances” that have been influential in your career or that you have developed even a small relationship with. This can be an evolving list of 10–15 people as you expand your network. By identifying your core contacts, lost connections and acquaintances, you will have a “living” list that constantly gets updated.

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.

Play The Connector
If you’re like me, you’ve either received an interview, received a recommendation or maybe landed a job because of a previous connection you’ve established. Something that’s just as fulfilling is repaying those favors and “playing the connector” for other individuals.

Don’t just network for selfish reason, network in order to help your connections out when they need it as well. It is an amazing feeling when you can make an introduction or recommendation and it ends up helping out a close connection or acquaintance.

Networking is a two-way endeavor and playing the connector is immensely fulfilling. If you think playing the connector is daunting, here are a few ways you can get started.

  • Join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc.
  • Start a diverse reading list. Come up with the five or six things you like and pick out a book in each topic.
  • Also, read blogs on these topics, follow folks on twitter discussing them or look at local seminars focusing on them.

These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network and learn about ways to help yourself and others. You’re never too old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.

Give Thanks
This is also not a new topic for FOS, but it can’t be stated enough. It really can’t. Being thankful should be a mindset that is adopted all year long. It is nearly impossible to advance your career without the help and guidance of others.

Everyone who you interact with in your career (both good and bad) has an impact on you whether you realize it or not and for that you should be thankful. Always be thankful for the moments that helped you improve and for those teaching moments when things didn’t go your way.

When it comes to networking specifically, thanks can come in many forms, but for me it usually means a hand-written thank you note. Make this a part of your weekly outreach. Strive to reach out to those tiers of connections mentioned in point number one above with hand-written notes.

I know email is easy and convenient, but the extra time and effort it takes to write a note won’t go unnoticed. It may even prompt someone else to take up this extra-special step of gratitude!

By following the simple tips above, I have gained many valuable friendships and relationships, which have been critical to me both professionally and personally.
Every interaction you have while networking is a way to showcase yourself and your skills. Take advantage of all of these occasions and encounters to learn new things and expand your horizons.

You’ll be amazed at what will come your way and happen in your career when you are consistent in your outreach and work to improve the lives of others just as much as you seek to improve your own.

 

 

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!

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.

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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.