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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons To Start Blogging Today

You have all these great ideas floating around in your head don’t you? Oftentimes so many of those ideas wake you up during the night, so you jot them down in your phone or on a notepad. Raise your hand if this has happened to you.

How many of you spend your time commenting on stories or having discussions on Twitter? But don’t you wish you had a more long-form outlet to formulate your thoughts?

Well, start a blog! “What a great idea,” you say, right? Followed by “how the heck do I get started?” Or you may say, “nobody will read what I have to say.”

There’s so much information out there on the web and so many opinions being posted each day. How will I stand out? Who will listen to me? How do I even get started? I don’t really even have the time to blog. Blah, blah, blah.

Don’t let all these questions or doubts hold hold you back. I have a good friend who is battling this right now (you know who I’m talking about Brett!) In trying to figure out a way to kick his ass in gear, I decided to write this blog in the hopes it spurs him into action. If along the way I turn on the green light for someone else, well that will be a bonus.

I’ve been blogging for slightly over two years and I didn’t know much about doing it when I began. But I needed an outlet, so I simply set up a WordPress site and off I went. I promise that blogging can be simple and relatively easy. It can also be very rewarding. Below are my five reasons to start blogging today.

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Setup is Easy

Choosing where you want to build a blog is the first step you have to take and shouldn’t be a deterrent. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’ve heard of WordPress. This is where I host my blog and I suggest that you do as well.

WordPress is one of the biggest platforms in the world with more than 82 million active users. The platform is simple to use with countless plug-ins and add-ons. It offers tons of themes and layouts, plus there’s a massive support forum if you ever get stuck. Your blog will look sleek and functional, it will allow people to interact with you easily and your content can be shared, commented on, and so on.

Medium is also a very popular content platform, as you should know by now if you follow Front Office Sports. Medium allows anyone to publish pretty much anything and it works hard to guarantee that visitors only see good stuff. Medium is built to reward content for its quality and even if you decide to build a blog on WordPress, it’s worth also posting your blogs on Medium to help with exposure.

Connections/Networking

If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you should by now know the importance of networking. Working to connect with people and learning from their experiences and friendships is vital to your career development. It also is an important factor when blogging.

Blogging about your thoughts and ideas allows you to share these thoughts with others in your network. It helps to strengthen existing bonds and expose you to new opportunities. You should always look to nurture and expand your network and there’s no better way than to do it through blog writing.

As you begin to blog more often and have more discussions with your network, you won’t ever have to worry about running out of topics. There should always be topics and ideas percolating in your head that make for perfect blog content.

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Research/Learning

Another positive aspect of blogging is very often you need to do extra research on a topic or topics before you begin to write about them. I’ve stressed this before, but continuing to learn throughout your life is a must. You can never let yourself feel like you know it all. Trust me, you don’t.

Reading, researching and learning should be constants as you get older. Exposing yourself to new ideas, stats and ways of thinking will only make you smarter. It can also help you meet new people and expand your network.

Consider joining a book club or exchange. This kills two birds with one stone and allows you to read and meet new people. It will most likely expose you to new ways of thinking and options which at first may be different from yours currently, but will change your perspective and open your eyes to new idea. Then you can apply what you’ve learning into a new series of blog topics.

Share Your Expertise

Blogging is an excellent outlet for sharing your expertise on various topics and getting those swirling thoughts out of your head. Do you often feel like you want to contribute to a topic but don’t have the platform? Do you feel like your comments are getting swallowed up on other platforms?

Starting a blog gives you that place to tell your story and give your side. Don’t worry about if anyone will read it, or if you show up in search or even if someone else has written about the topic 100 times. If it is an outlet for you to write and write about things you feel passionate about, do it. You won’t regret sharing your expertise through your blog.

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Writing Is Good

Writing reduces stress. Getting those thoughts out of your head is a good thing. Writing these things down helps to shrink them to a point where they are life-sized and manageable. Writing also is empowering in that way. When we can manage our thoughts, ideas and other items into well-written blog, it can make navigating life much easier.

There is research out there that believes blogging might trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, similar to stimulants generated by activities like running, listening to music or playing video games. Having a platform to express yourself, as well as the ability to connect with other individuals experiencing similar circumstances, is not only therapeutic but allows for an added sense of community and empathy.

Whether it is reducing stress, changing your state of happiness or making you more self-aware, writing ultimately changes your mind. Which in turn can change your life! If nothing else, writing a blog will remind you that no one else is the author of your story. So get off your ass and set up that blog today. Tell the story you were born to tell.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

4 Ways to Stay Relevant In Today’s Marketing World

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

As we approach graduation season, a popular topic that’s appearing on my social feeds is advice for those about to graduate. While this post is being published around the same time, I try not to wait until just this time of year to help those who may need it. I strive to set meetings, write blogs and join discussions all year long, focusing on self improvement and career development.

As many of you know, today’s marketing and communications landscape is changing rapidly. So rapidly in fact, that seasoned professionals sometimes find it hard to stay sharp and keep their skills up-to-date with the latest trends.

As a way to help both young professionals and those with a little more “fungus on their shower shoes,” I would like to offer some tips on how to stay relevant in today’s ever changing marketing landscape.

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1. Get Certified — There are many FREE certifications available to marketers today designed to help keep your skills sharp. The one that I recommend to most is the Inbound Certification from HubSpot. HubSpot is the world’s largest and best Inbound Marketing software platform and the authority on educational inbound marketing resources. Many of these resources include training videos which are categorized into a series of Marketing Certification courses. Of the five total courses offered, the Inbound certification is far and away the most completed course and the most comprehensive. The Google AdWords Certification is another increasingly popular online certification. This particular certification allows individuals to demonstrate that Google will recognize them as an expert in online advertising. Additionally, Hootsuite offers a series of social media marketing courses that are also defined to drive real business results. I can’t stress this enough, retaining certifications by any of these outlets will ensure you’re keeping up with the latest marketing trends.

2. Learn To Code — There was a time when knowing how to code or program was only for IT professionals or those that “are good with computers.” As you well know, if you’re going to hold nearly any professional job these days, you better know more than just the basics of using a computer, tablet or smart phone. I may be dating myself, but I definitely remember the times when this wasn’t the case. Any entrepreneur, marketer or freelancer will tell you today that coding can help you succeed and separate you from your competitors. As with the certification tips above, there are many FREE resources available online that can teach you the basics of coding and programming. If you’d like a handy list of places that offer coding for free, I’ve got you covered.

3. Learn Video Basics — I should probably take my own advice here. I mean I just wrote a post about how video marketing is the hottest trend right now, yet I’m not much help with a camera or editing. If you want to add value and separate yourself from the employee in the next cubicle, learn to shoot and edit video. It’s that simple. I reached out to my good friend Chris Yandle to discuss this tip, as he is a recently self-taught videographer and photographer. His new role allows for great flexibility for career development and Chris immediately began to improve his value by learning these two skills. He says he watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and edited video while he watched them. To quote him “We live in an amazing time when information is everywhere and YouTube is a prime example. It is free and offers may hours of online learning.” Some employers and universities may also pay for certain photography and video courses, but start with YouTube videos and you can construct a realistic timeline to learn more about video production.

4. Never Stop Learning — This is a mantra that I try to live by. Don’t ever get set in your ways or think you have all the answers. Learning can apply to many things too, not just your professional career. Start a reading list and try to read as much as your free time allows. Make the list diverse and don’t just read about work or careers. I try to mix in books about marketing, sports, religion, fitness and mindfulness. But that is just me. 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. Also make sure to consistently network and connect with friends and colleagues. Come up with a list of your top 10–15 “core” connections and make sure to touch base with them regularly. Always look to nurture those relationships. Finally, join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc. These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network. Making these new connections allows you to learn new ideas and new ways of thinking. You’re never to old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.

It sometimes can feel daunting when a new app, new feature or new platform is seemingly announced weekly. It doesn’t mean that you have to learn a new skill or change your whole marketing campaign. But, it does remind us that innovation never stops and therefore we must keep learning and trying new things.

Following the tips above can help you remain agile and relevant. They will help you expand your skill set and learn new things to help you advance your career. But, this is just a simple list to get your mind going. I’m sure some of you could add to this list and think of even more ways to add value to your employer. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below. Drop us a line or tweet at us with your ideas.

Professional Development Q&A With Kevin DeShazo

This post is the 10th in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Name: Kevin DeShazo (@KevinDeShazo)
Profession: Founder of Fieldhouse Media and Culture Wins Championships
Degree: BS in Management Information Systems, MBA in International Business

You should know by now that I’m a big fan of Twitter.  You’ll find out below in this interview that so is Kevin. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he and I first connected on our favorite social media platform. We’ve been having conversations on our favorite social media platform for around 2-3 years now. He may even have ended up in my timeline because of interaction with Mark Hodgkin or Chris Yandle.

But, I digress. Kevin and I share many common traits and have had lots of conversations outside of Twitter quite frequently. His thought leadership when it comes to smart social media use for student athletes is second to none. Make sure to check out what he has going on over at Fieldhoue Media. His latest effort, Culture Wins Championships, is all about providing leaders in athletics with a proven program to create a championship winning culture. He is an expert in both areas and is constantly delivering his messages to the top athletic programs in the country.

All of that said, I think you will find Kevin’s discussion below not only informative, but useful as well. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin DeShazo.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Ha. It doesn’t, at all. My degree was in Management Information Systems. I knew early on I didn’t want anything to do with that field, but I sort of stumbled into where I am now. My first job out of college was as an embalmer’s assistant at a funeral home (a story for another day) then I got into the healthcare recruiting. In 13 years (that makes me feel old), my actual degree has had nothing to do with my professional career.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Truth be told, I’m not much of a planner. I go wherever “feels right” and love to keep my options open. So I didn’t have a specific plan once I graduated. This is probably why I ended up working at a funeral home. It seemed fun, so why not? I never could have envisioned doing what I do now.

For one, social media wasn’t really a thing. Facebook existed and MySpace was coming, but the iPhone didn’t exist and the world as we know it was vastly different. And traveling the country to speak to athletes, coaches and leaders was honestly never something I considered. I always wanted to do something “big” but I didn’t know what that was.

Along the way I went from the funeral home to the corporate world and then to starting my own businesses. There were incredible successes and failures along the way (I went 2 years without making any money). But those opportunities and situations gave me perspective on the bigger story of life, and drove me to want to help people believe they have a story worth telling.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be humble yet believe you’re capable. Be willing to do the work. Know your why.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
I love being on campus and interacting with people, getting to help them realize what they’re capable of. On the social media side it’s helping players, coaches and administrators realize they have a story worth telling and guiding them in how to tell it. With leadership development, it’s helping them believe they are capable of being leaders worth following and guiding them through that process. It’s incredible to see a leader and a team truly change their culture. And the emails/calls/texts I get about the impact that our work is having on individuals, teams and even families/marriages. It’s incredibly humbling and energizing. It’s a tiring job that requires a lot of travel, but I head home every trip grateful for what I get to call work.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
People have gotten to a place now where they think that because student-athletes spend a ton of time on social media, that means they understand it and know how to use it well. So helping administrators realize that’s not reality, and that social media education is still crucial for these groups. I thinking also battling complacency. Fieldhouse Media has established itself as the leader in social media education for college athletics, but that doesn’t mean I can get comfortable. With Culture Wins Championships, the challenge is that the leadership space is really noisy and crowded, so trying to serve leaders in order to show them how what we have to offer is different.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
I started Fieldhouse in 2011, when the social media world was mostly Facebook and Twitter and most people were afraid of it. Today, social media is the way people communicate and new platforms continue to arrive on the scene. Early on, administrators wanted student-athletes to be scared of social media and wanted education centered on that. Today, they realize how important and valuable it is for student-athletes to use social media purposefully. I prefer to focus on the positives so that has made my job a lot easier.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I think people leave the field because they are exhausted. Athletics is an “always on” industry and it can cause serious stress on individuals and families. People either embrace that and find the balance where they can, or they get frustrated and tired and pursue careers outside of athletics.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. I genuinely love what I do.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter, without a doubt. I love the community, the people I’ve been able to meet and the opportunities it’s provided me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last book I read was Shoe Dog (the Phil Knight bio – highly recommend). Also a huge fan of the StoryBrand podcast and (shameless plug) The Liberator podcast – provided by the guys who run the GiANT Worldwide, the leadership company behind Culture Wins Championships.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
Twitter…end of discussion. Just kidding…

A. Print Newspaper — What’s that?
B. Online Newspaper — The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, The New York Times
C. Television — Typically tuned to ESPN or The Food Network. (I try not to watch cable news).
D. Twitter — A variety of news outlets and individual journalists (from sports to politics to culture to religion or a variety of other topics)
E. Facebook — I try to avoid Facebook

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
If I’m not at work or with family/friends, I’m running, cycling or roasting coffee.

Tips For Maximizing 360 Video

Visual content is a vital part of any successful marketing strategy today. However, we’re already moving past the days of having only an image accompany every post on social media. Many brands are using animated GIFs or animated infographics, while others are using short videos to promote their content.

Video is no longer “nice” to include in your marketing plan. It’s a crucial marketing tactic and is a powerful way to communicate your brand story, explain why you are different and build relationships with your fans, customers and evangelists.

The most recent statistics prove that video not only works, but works well. In fact, 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Brands can no longer ignore the power of video.

360 video and virtual realty is the latest type of visual content that you can add to your marketing toolbox. The library of 360 video content is growing by the day as more and more platforms like YouTube and Facebook support 360 viewing capability.

This latest innovation can allow brands to produce extremely unique content for their audiences. But, I must caution you, don’t just do 360 video to say you’re doing 360 video. Below I offer some things to consider to make sure your content is unique and compelling for your target audience.

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1) It’s all about your personas – Every piece of content you produce should appeal to and be created for your buyer personas. Not familiar with the term “buyer persona?” Maybe you call it your target audience, or your core audience. Maybe you just refer to them more commonly as “readers” or “fans.” Whatever you call them, they are the representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data you gather about them. Any good marketer needs to know their personas inside and out and always create content they want. If you dip your toes into the 360 video realm, you have to make sure this is something they want or will watch. You don’t want to produce a 360 video, just say you did. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Always bring value – Don’t ever produce content “just because” or “because everyone else is doing it.” You never know, they may be producing something their personas don’t want or they may also just be trying to keep up with the trends. If you feel you have the data at hand to produce 360 content, then your strategy team must plan to bring value. What types of video will your personas like? What makes it unique? What will set it apart from from your other content or campaigns? What I’ve seen work when it comes to franchises or athletics departments is exclusive content. Taking fans to places they can’t normally go. I’m talking about locker room or facility tours, pregame and postgame access, celebrations, team travel, etc. You can immerse your fans in occurrences like this with 360 video to bring them even closer to the team. For brands, 360 video works for new product unveilings and storytelling pieces. The brands able to leverage 360 at the moment are outdoor adventure brands, automobile makers and movie studios.

3) Think of the end product first – Once your marketing team has used available data to help decide you’re ready for 360 video and has developed a list of content ideas that may work, it is time to work backwards. What do I mean by that? I mean that the story you tell will shape the 360 experience for your personas. You’ll need to think of the ultimate end-user experience and how they will navigate this 360 video. Do you need to control the immersive experience and what the viewer is looking at? Will that further complicate the video? Do you need a guide in the form of a voiceover? Are you changing locations or will there be transitions? How will the viewer know how to navigate? Will you have to add post production to replicate a menu or navigation controls in case the viewer isn’t looking in the right direction? These are all questions that will need to be addressed and planned out prior to scheduling the video production. Trust me, this may seem like a lot of planning, but it will be reflected in the final product. After all, your goal is to produce a quality piece of content that your personas want to consume.

If you’d like some confirmation on how you can use video in various ways to reach your target personas, check out this post. Additionally, if you need some data to present to your team or superiors in your next marketing meeting, check out these stats from HubSpot.

Each of the points above could quite possibly be a blog post on its own. There are so many things to consider when it comes to producing quality video content, let alone the latest in 360 video content. In my opinion, the tips above are the most important to keep in mind in your next marketing meeting. Video content marketing has to be a part of your marketing strategy in 2017 and following the above will ensure your fans love the final product.