Self Motivation at its Simplest

Filed Under (random thoughts) by Nicole on 17-04-2009

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There are hundreds of books out there on self-motivation and attitude, and most of them have great tips and suggestions. We all have areas to improve, but there’s so much out there that it can become white noise. It’s impossible to implement every single tip from the experts, and some of them take up significant time. How do you decide what ideas to take away and use, and which to leave? In my experience, the simplest ideas can add a little focus and change to life without turning into major projects.

My personal favorite is from Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles.” One piece of advice Mr. Canfield gives is to write down “I believe the world is plotting to do me good today, I can’t wait to see what it is!” and post it somewhere clearly visible when you first wake up in the morning. Simple enough. I’m sometimes a little skeptical about these tips, they can seem downright cheesy to me. I wondered how this could really change anything, but I gave it a shot. To my (pleasant) surprise, this really can give the start to your day a little upswing! I consider myself a generally upbeat person, but seeing those words first thing every morning has a way of starting out every day with more excitement.

Maybe this specific tip isn’t the one that works for you, but find one that does. It’s a simple way to gain even more control over how you see life. Adding that small spark to my focus every day was well worth the two minutes it took me to write out. If you tell yourself it’s going to be a great day every single day, you’re bound to start seeing the world in a brighter light!

What Kind of Failure Are You?

Filed Under (millennials, vision) by Nicole on 17-03-2009

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The first type of failure stems from just not caring. This seems pretty straightforward, but it’s not always what meets the eye. I recently read a blog about how millennials may not succeed because failure is an option, that we’re not forced to be self-sufficient. Is everyone who moves back home really a selfish wreck who prefers a parasitic life to one of independence? Somehow I doubt this. This broad stereotype is hardly the norm, and you’ll find that those who move home generally fall into two categories. This makes all the difference in the world, that between having a purpose as opposed to taking the easy way out.

Even without becoming a parasite as the example described, it’s easy to fall into the trap of the first type of failure on a less extreme level; I see this type as being complacent. Playing it safe all the time or letting the world happen to you instead of going after what you want is failure. It seems strange, but you don’t actually have to fail at anything to do this, in fact, NOT doing something is the real shame. It hardly fits the typical mold of “failure” but wasting our ideas and potential is pretty sad.

On the flip side, I would argue that what we often label openly as “failing” signals just the opposite. Rarely is it easy to look at the positive elements when we fail by going out on a limb with new ideas (that don’t work) or attempt to be self-sufficient (and we find out we need support) but it’s the fact that we tried that matters. Is the attempt itself good enough? No! However, behind most great ideas are many failed attempts. The key is learning from what went wrong the first time so it doesn’t happen again, and absolutely not giving up. Then you build a much stronger foundation going forward, not to mention a clearer vision of what you need to do in order to find success.

Go ahead, fail miserably. Just make sure you fail forward with a purpose. Instead of falling into complacency, take something of value away from every negative situation (especially if you got yourself there) and it will make you wiser next time around.

Banana Trees and Vision

Filed Under (careers, goals, networking) by Nicole on 06-03-2009

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One martial arts myth says Thai fighters used to kick banana trees 100 times each day as part of training in order to condition their shins. I’m not sure if this actually happened, but this story and its underlying idea ring true today with clarity of vision.

When it comes to kicking trees, there is no shortcut or easy way out. You either display discipline, putting in the 100 painstaking kicks each day, or you don’t. Likewise, you can’t build that amazing career of your dreams overnight. There are some luck-based success stories out there, but they’re few and far between. Creating and sustaining success takes discipline day in and day out as you work toward your goal. This takes tremendous focus. You have to know what you want because if you don’t have vision what’s the point of kicking that tree every day?

Establish your career vision and go for it, but this is only the start. From there, pick one small thing you can do every day to make progress. It doesn’t have to be the same thing over and over like kicking a tree, but it should be a never-ending advance toward the end result. Whether it’s through reading, networking, blogging, or any other means of career advancement, without fail commit to doing SOMETHING every single day; this is one area in which instant gratification just plain doesn’t happen.

It’s painful at times, and often hard to see progress, but if you remain consistent you’ll get there eventually and soon enough you’ll be kicking bigger and tougher trees.

3 Tips to Grow Your Network in 5 Minutes

Filed Under (careers, college, millennials, networking) by Nicole on 27-02-2009

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A year and half ago when I came to college I didn’t know anybody on a professional level. Now I’m building a professional network; relationships with people who I would go the extra mile for (and hopefully they would do the same for me). Most college students who want to start networking don’t know where to begin, but it’s not rocket science. On the most basic level it’s easy; you just have to be willing to put effort into the small things.

With recruiters or just meeting someone new, the simplest way to stay connected is the follow-up email. This seems way too simple, right? Maybe that’s why nobody seems to do it. I try to follow up after meeting with someone, whether it’s the first time or the 100th. Immediately. Every time. The key is keeping it simple.

1) Say thank you, you’ll never go wrong. If someone went out of their way for you, send a handwritten note as well as the email. It doesn’t take that long and it shows that you understand that his/her time is valuable. This is a powerful message to send, especially since Millennials get a bad rap for acting entitled. Set yourself apart from the stereotype

2) It’s not about you. You have to make it about the other person. Obviously if you’re looking for an internship or job, those are priorities when you’re networking, but don’t be that person who continually asks for favors. Build the relationship and find ways YOU can do something for him/her. The tables will turn some day, you just have to have faith!

3) Consistency and persistence are key. I send my thank you immediately. Every time. It might feel ridiculous sending a follow up every time you meet someone, but people notice and they appreciate it. Keep it clear and concise. Messages don’t have to be long or drawn out, just thoughtful.

At the end of the day, it boils down to common courtesy. If you shoot an email to someone after you meet it will speak volumes about your initiative. And it literally took five minutes.

Find the Point.

Filed Under (careers, college) by Nicole on 15-02-2009

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In college, we’re all surrounded by the idea of “building your resume.” What puzzles me about this is the emphasis on getting leadership positions. Many students think that as long as they were an officer in a group, they’re set with “leadership experience.” I’m not saying leadership positions aren’t a good thing, but they can’t be the goal. The goal is what you actually do with an organization; that’s real leadership. There are two goals I have to help me focus in on what’s important in being part of an organization:

1) Evolve. What matters is how you contribute to an organization. This means upholding and extending the group’s vision and seeing where improvements can be made. It’s not about what’s expected from you, it’s what you do beyond that. Give the organization a point! Something to rally around and be proud of.

2) Evolve others. Enabling group members reflects upon your leadership; taking all the credit might help some “status” in theory, but in reality it undermines the group. The best leaders are those who nurture new leaders; don’t be afraid to let others take ownership in the vision or to help them succeed. Some officers have an idea engrained that others succeeding make them somehow less successful. This is opposite of the point; an organization is better off as there is more success among the members.

The bottom line is that evolution is key to finding and keeping a “point” to everything that an organization does, and caring more about that evolution than personal credit. Stop wasting time in meetings wondering “What’s the point?” Either find the point or evolve the organization to create it. This gives real value to your resume; the real world doesn’t care how many hours of meetings you sat through or what you took credit for, what matters is why you were there and what difference you made.

Not the Blogging Type? Think Again.

Filed Under (careers, social media) by Nicole on 01-02-2009

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Last year in class we were given the breakdown of 4 personality types most of us generally fit. Most of us have traits that overlap or put us in multiple groups, but basically there’s one we fit better than the rest. There’s the focused “driver” who is result-oriented and likes to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. The detail-oriented “analyzers” question everything and add a new depth of thought to discussions. The “amiable” group pays close attention to the needs of others and generally keeps the peace, while the “expressive” group refers to those fun-loving, life of the party types.

Why does this matter when it comes to blogging? I’m constantly confronted with the stereotype that all bloggers are essentially the same and if you don’t fit some predetermined mold then blogging isn’t for you. I don’t buy it. Regardless of what personality type(s) you fit blogging can add to the way you see the world.

If you’re a driver-type, blogging is an irreplaceable part of your career. Building an online presence is key in today’s job markets and a blog can get you one step ahead of the competition. Displaying your work online and writing posts that show who you are add weight to your credibility. Consider your blog a career investment.

For the analytical thinker, blogging is a way to see the world from a new perspective. Instead of noticing an ad, article, or problem and then moving on, blogging brings the questions “How can I fix this?” and “How does this connect to something else I know?” into everyday thought. This capacity translates not just into blog posts, but into how you solve problems and see the world around you.

Those who fall into the amiable category can find purpose in creating a blog as well. When you pay attention first and foremost to the needs of others, finding ways to express your own opinion can be difficult, but a blog is the perfect place to do it. After all, those who observe are usually best at seeing ideas in a new light but don’t always share these ideas.

An expressive-type person is generally considered to be the blogger stereotype. If you’re enthusiastic and love meeting new people, what better way to do so than finding others of common interest through blogging communities?

While you may start blogging for one reason, all the reasons combined will continue to make it worthwhile. Through blogging, one single activity can boost your career, improve critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills, create new relationships across the globe, and serve as a form of self-expression. So I challenge you, ask yourself: What type are you?

National Debt Clock

Filed Under (random thoughts) by Nicole on 20-01-2009

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This caught my eye during my time in New York City. Swamppolitics.com published an interesting article on the national debt. This is a picture I took a couple weeks ago, but every hour or so our debt rises by about $75 million; the financial bailouts will increase the debt ceiling even more. Is there any end to the cycle we’ve created?

DewTour 2009

Filed Under (advertisement) by Nicole on 16-01-2009

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Yet another post about an ad; I guess that’s what happens when I spend time in New York! Pepsico caught my attention with a Mountain Dew sponsored event that was very well-executed: DewTour. DewTour was a skiing/snowboarding competition held in Vermont at Mount Snow last weekend. The event itself is a great start, because it fits the image of Mountain Dew as “extreme.”

The only place I saw ads for the DewTour (someone correct me if I’m wrong) was on trains headed to and from the north suburbs of New York City. While this may not initially sound like great publicity, it seems brilliant to me. For starters, extreme sports, including snowboarding and skiing, are extremely targeted groups; I’m sure that by bringing in the top athletes in the field those who follow the sports closely already knew what was going on. To generate additional publicity, they didn’t need to spend money for a full-blown campaign. The majority of people who visit the Mount Snow area are residents of those suburbs of New York where it’s considered a popular winter vacation spot, and most of them also commute to work via train.

I don’t know what kind of numbers can be assigned to the awareness/sales generated by DewTour, but we couldn’t find any parking at Mount Snow to watch or even ski, so I think it’s safe to say the event was a hit.

How Charmin Stands Alone in Times Square

Filed Under (advertisement) by Nicole on 04-01-2009

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What better place to market a brand or product than Times Square? Is it expensive? Yes. Ad spaces can cost up to $350,000 per month, not to mention the cost of these high-tech ads themselves. However, these ads end up generating a great deal of bang for the renter’s buck. The CPM (cost per thousand) ranges from $2 – $5; much less than the $20 or so a prime time TV spot would run. With 40 million visitors and 100 million pictures taken each year, Times Square is as visible as it gets. When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, 211 million people are watching! That destroys the 80 million who watch the Super Bowl.

As incredible as the numbers are on their own, I think there are 2 key factors that make Times Square a fantastic place to push a brand. First is the prestige. Walgreens gets this. They just opened a new store at 1 Times Square with outrageous rent, but even more incredible publicity. CMO Kim L. Feil told the New York Times,

“It’s about saying, ‘We’re here.’”

As the New York Times article further explains, it’s about being a part of an iconic area that is not only as public as it gets, but prestigious. Second, is simply that the entire fascination with Times Square IS the prevalent advertisements; people come to Times Square to see the best and certainly the brightest ads. The lights and billboards make Times Square, well, Times Square.

How, then, can a brand be differentiated? With ad after ad of prestigious brands, what can make one or two stand out? A couple days ago I was walking through Times Square, being bombarded with the ads, and one grabbed my attention. Instead of flaunting the brand name alone, it offered the viewer both humor, and a useful service. I’m assuming it was also there two days earlier for New Years, during which I’m sure there were many thankful Times Square goers.

Charmin did not just get out the Charmin name and blend in with the rest of the Times Square lights. Not every product makes sense to sponsor restrooms at Times Square, but the point of an ad is to promote, and what better way than tying something practical or humorous with that product or service? I know every time I think of Charmin I will remember this ad. They must have done something right.

How to Achieve Continual Success

Filed Under (careers, how to, millennials) by Nicole on 29-12-2008

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It’s simple advice, really. Most of us want to find success in our careers. The definition of “success” differs from person to person, but we all have goals in mind. Our level of effort can drive success and is important to get from Point A to Point B, but how is it possible to create a career that grows constantly?

Obviously our effort must be maintained, and Seth Godin puts this best, explaining how we create our own “luck.” The essential element to continual success builds off effort: never get comfortable. Whatever effort you’re currently giving, it’s critical to ask yourself, “What next?” Building your career requires constant assessment and evolution. It makes sense; to keep your career moving, you have to keep moving!

So if you spend time reading, networking, blogging, studying, or in general creating the career you want, you’re already well on your way with effort. Now is the time to ask yourself that simple question “What next?” and start finding ways to evolve.

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