I used to collect quotes. I had books and books of them, starting when I was 16 and going until about 23. What I loved about quotes was that no matter the mood I was in, I could always find a quote that “matched” my mood. In other words, I had validation that what I was feeling was “okay” or “normal”.
I guess it was around age 23 that I realized I didn’t need validation because it didn’t matter what other people felt. I don’t know if this was a good or bad thing as I vividly remember the last quote I wrote down was,
“23 and so tired of life…such a shame, to throw it all away. The images grow darker still. Could I have been anyone other than me?
At the time, I was sure that by age 23, I knew it all, had done it all, and life had nothing more to offer me….
Looking back, now I think this was a relatively normal feeling – sometimes dubbed as the “quarter life crisis”. I started working and got out of my ‘funk’, met my husband, and rode off into the sunset….sort of….
I’m now 31 and while inherently fulfilled with amazing family, loving friends, my perfect husband, and in general – a pretty nice life; something is missing. Or maybe, something WAS missing. For the past two years, when I tried to think of a quote to described my life, I heard the repeat of Ani Difranco in my head,
“Somebody do something, anything, soon. I can’t be the only whatever I am in the room. Why am I so lonely? Why am I so tired? I need back up. I need company. I need to be inspired”.
And in a way, looking at my life, this is ridiculous. I’m 31 and back to feeling the way I did when I was 23? How did that happen? And my life was seemingly perfect…what was missing?
So I started to look for answers and engaged in activities that had inspired me previously. I watched TED videos. They lifted me up for about an hour post watching them, then I got over it. I exercise and walked on the beach a few times a week, thinking the inherent beauty would spark something. Nada. I made a lot of money…maybe I could buy inspiration, right? Nope. I read a ton of books. Perhaps I could get so lost in someone else’s world that I could forget about the perceived lack of purpose in my own world. Good escape for short periods, but…at the end of the day, was still stuck with me. I threw myself into work and family as these have always been the two most positive parts of my life; and again, great times when I was actually “working” and actually “with family”, but once alone again…no inspiration to be had. I was stuck, and lost, and getting frustrated.
And then something interesting happened. Actually, a few interesting things happened at once. First, I decided I needed to go back to work full time for someone else. I knew I needed to get back to doing something mission driven, not just consulting for money. So the interviews began and I was at the top of my game. At the same time, I started working with my old boss again. He has always be an inspiration to me, but I never through about the WHY behind it – I just assumed it was “him”. I was back on a natural high. So I started thinking about WHY my boss had always inspired me and started thinking about the other people who had impacted my life and they all shared several commonalities:
1) They were smart – and not just “work” smart or “book” smart, but LIFE smart. Every lesson I learned from them was able to be applied to both business and personal life and served to enrich both.
2) They were driven by passion. None were driven solely by money or power, but by the mission of what they were trying to accomplish. Many things can be trained; feeling truly passionate and being able to communicate that passion is innate. I was mesmerized and fascinated by each of them.
3) They were all teachers. Not “teachers” in the occupational sense, but teachers in the sense that they understood the importance of a mentor / protege relationship; and knew the importance of being on both sides.
I could go on and on, but basically I realized what I needed to do. I needed to find something I was passionate about, working with people who fit the above description. So I did that. I found a killer job for an awesome company. I believed in the mission and I believed in the people…but…something was still off.
And it took me until a few weeks ago to realize what it was; I wasn’t building anyone.
I’m at my best when I can work with and better those around me. That is my natural high…finding what I term to be “wasted talent” and building those individuals into superstars. Or not even superstars, but building them to be whatever it is they choose to be. And 99% of the time, these individuals don’t know what they want to do or be…but they do realize that it’s the journey that matters, not the actual destination.
So I started engaging with a couple “kids”. Well, I call them “kids” now, but really – younger 20 somethings that I thought were “wasted talent”; I started really listening to them and trying to work on different ways to motivate and better THEM. And since then, this is the first time in two years, I’ve had the motivation to sit down and write a blog post. And it’s not a good post…it’s not like my old posts – but as with everything else, writing takes practice and I’m just getting back into the game. What’s important here is I recognized what it takes to “inspire” the uninspired….
It’s helping better someone else. At least for me, it is.
And when I look at this blog post, I want to puke at the way it’s written. Everything in me is saying, “tighten it up; this is so long; the lessons are not clear”…that said, this post was not for my readers. It was for me.
I love quotes. Always have. Some people kept journals their whole lives – not me; anytime something good or bad or sometimes when nothing happened and I was just feeling…an unexplainable feeling….I would look up quotes. And I realized – this did 3 things for me; 1) It was a release; a way of venting – cathartic 2) I was journaling…using other people’s words. I can look at a quote today and think of exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first wrote down the quote…my history is written in them. 3) quotes made me feel better about how I was feeling. It was and is comforting to know that people feel the exact same way you do…even when you think you’re going mad. You see others felt it and got through it – and you know you will as well.
So this morning, I’m feeling a bit off – not good, not bad, just aching for some inspiration really – and I pulled out my quote books and realized I was done with quotes; I could write and journal on my own now…but what I also found while online journaling was this picture. It was a graffiti picture of a quote and I thought, “wow – now that’s badass”. So I thought I’d share a few. Enjoy and apologies for not being my usual ‘ business’ thought. This is just ME.
My brother and I could not be seemingly more different. I say, “seemingly”, because it’s only on the surface we appear to have different beliefs and lead different lives. Over the years, what I’ve realized is that we have all of the same beliefs and values – they just manifest differently and at different times.
What I’m learning and I hope to impart to my readers is don’t push someone to be what you want them to be. It sounds cliche, and I’m sure we’ve all heard it before – but I’m living it. My brother is fiercely passionate about what he believes in; as am I. Like me, his passion can be a good or bad thing – our best trait and our worst trait. While he is a bit more socialistic, optimistic, and lives in the NOW – I’m trying to be all of those things. I’m capitalistic, think about where I will be in 6 months, and sometimes cynical about his beliefs; he may need to pick up on a bit of those traits -we are a perfect match.
So what I found this weekend is that when we meet in the middle – we are unstoppable. Our core values / our core beliefs are what matters; and our values – family, love, doing what we love, and driving our lives with passion – is what ties us together. All that said, I’d like to introduce a new blog; one that is similar to mine in that it works to make one pensive, teaches lessons, and is derived from a myriad of unmatched experiences, but different in that it is written by my brother – a far more compassionate and professional psychologist.
I invite you to share in my “better half”s blog and take a journey with both of us; he, a professional psychologist and thinker – and me, the savvy and aggressive businesswomen – and see how our core values manifest themselves through different professions.
Please read his opening / introductory post – Changing the World Through Altruism on his blog – Awaken Yourself Today, Sleep When You’re Dead; Perspectives on Positivity: Finding Happiness within Divine Dichotomy
There are hundreds of blog posts written on the value of networking, but people don’t talk as much about the downside of networking; like spreading yourself too thin. The past two years have been transformative for me all around, but the best thing I learned was how to “trim the fat”. To cut out anyone in my life that does not add value, does not help me to grow, learn, and does not treat me as I treat others – I treat everyone as if they’re my most important client. When I wrote “30 things I’ve Learned in Thirty Years”, the most commented on item was,
Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.
In my professional life, I made this black and white. I developed a list of traits that people I associated with in business needed to have. Those that didn’t encompass that ‘criteria’ were slowly moved to more of an acquaintance. Those that met the criteria below were and are the people I surround myself with. I suggest you look over this criteria and engage in the introspective process of developing your own. It will likely be very different from mine; but sort through your business relationships and ask yourself – do these associates fulfill me? My criteria is as follows:
1. Must be brutally honest (notice the word “brutal”). I want to know when I do something wrong and I don’t want to “corporate/politically correct” statement, I want the hard truth. Tough Love is crucial for me to move forward.
2. Must be able to ‘look in the mirror’ honestly. I want people who know themselves, their strengths, and weaknesses, and most importantly – “know what they don’t know” and not be afraid to admit it and ask for help.
3. Must hold themselves and those around them accountable. I’ve been in many situations where people ‘move up the corporate ladder’ by playing the game; not necessarily contributing to the bottom line of the company. Results oriented with an understanding of process is what I need.
4. Must not “work to live”, but “live to work” or at least be individuals that work because they love it, not because it’s forced on them.
5. Must have an understanding of the importance of communication skills and ‘treat everyone as if they’re the most important client’. Nothing irks me more than people not showing up for meetings, phone calls, etc. If you’re unable to attend, it happens – but communicate as soon as you realize.
6. Set Expectations
7. Be real – be the same person personally and professionally. One thing that I’ve found constant is people’s values and ethics. If someone is phenomenal professionally, but cheats on their spouse ( for example ), how could that person ever be loyal to you?
8. Push others to better themselves. The smarter and more ambitious those around you are, the better you will be. Bring out the best in one another.
I had always done a decent job of doing this in my professional life, but not in my personal life. I’m an extrovert and dive head first into conversations, meetings, and new friendships with the mindset that everyone can add something to my life; we can learn from each person you meet. I also committed to myself that I would be an open book; what you see is what you get. What that turned into was hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were ‘friends’ or people who expected me to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. A couple years ago I realized – I would have to make changes. It was okay to have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of “friends” as inevitably the ones that really DID matter to me – my closest friends – were not receiving the treatment I wanted solely for them; not for everyone else. I was too busy.
So I trimmed the fat. I looked over my group of friends and I asked myself, “who could I not live without?” It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I look over the people I surround myself with, my life wouldn’t be the same without them. This doesn’t mean I speak with them everyday – some I do, some I don’t – depending on how we’ve communicated to one another how we expect our friendships to work; but bottom line – I DO treat them as if they’re my most important client.
So ask yourself – are you spread too thin? Or are you able to treat the people who are most important the way you would want to be treated. If you’re not, take a moment and decide; who is worth the time and how do you trim the fat of your friendships and business relationships.
The best ideas are those that lie ‘outside the box’. The top thinkers, innovators, and visionairies have all been considered ‘out of the box’. Similarly, those that have the appearingly ‘best’ careers are the ones who have taken the concept of ‘career’ OUT of the box.
Don’t wrap your career in a box. Don’t look at your career in a vacuum. It’s not static and if your idea of a career is static, you will become static as well.
Here’s the truth; if you’re looking for a career, you’re looking for the wrong thing.
What you should be looking for is something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.
What you should be looking for is a way to continuously better yourself, continuously learn, continuously grow.
What you should always be seeking out – is your next adventure.
Certainly, that may take the form of something that turns into a career; or it may not.
Maybe what you’re looking for is to start your own business, maybe what you’re looking for is a contract – for a project that excites you, maybe you are good at several functional areas and it’s time to CHANGE what you thought was your ‘career’ path because all of the sudden, you’ve realized you’re a General Manager, but CERTAINLY you do not want to FORCE a career.
If you ignore this advice and continue to seek out a career, you will become part of the statistic that has changed so dramatically over the past decade. You will become one of the people who changes jobs an average of every year and a half, without promotion, but more importantly, without being happy.
By tying yourself into a career, you’re missing out on the most important part of your learnings; the different journey you take. The people you meet along that journey. Most importantly, your closing your mind to opportunities that may arise.
There’s probably a lot of people who will read this and think, “sounds good in theory, but I need to bring in some cash!” Of course you do – we all do. But bringing in cash and tying yourself to ONE career is NOT the same thing. Get a day job if you need the cash; but look for a day job that at least ties into something you love OR one that gives you enough free time at that “job” to work on your REAL passion – whatever that may be. A great example is Gary Vaynerchuck. He worked 12 hours / day at his retail wine shop and then built his own business at night – he worked almost every night from 8 PM – midnight. It took 2 years – but he did it. He launched his own business.
Another example is how I’ve designed my life. People ask why I consult and own my own businesses; and the reasons are very simple: 1) I don’t believe in a “career” as currently described in the marketplace 2) I haven’t yet found a job or group of individuals that meet the criteria set above; So, I take on projects and clients – I actually turn down more than I take on…and then I work on my own projects for free a couple hours / day. I have not “settled” for a job. I have figured out how to use my current skill set to continue making money. And I’ve ensured everyday is an adventure, every project is a learning opportunity, I only work for people who intrigue me, and most importantly, I enjoy my journey.
Your “career” can be anything you want it to be. Throw out the preconceived definition that so many cling to as a security blanket (definition of career) and define what a career is TO YOU!
There are blogs about time management. Increasing efficiencies. And creating a life / work balance. But I couldn’t find that many posts about “bandwidth”. I often have people tell me I have incredible bandwidth; and I always attributed that to one of two things: Either 1) Much of the work I was doing I had done previously and thus could work more quickly than a newcomer. 2) Maybe I was just “quicker” than the average Joe. Turns out, I was wrong. It was neither of these things.
This post explains how to make the most of your time; more importantly – increase your bandwidth while maintaning or bettering the quality of your work.
1. Get rid of your preconceived notions of separating ‘work’ and ‘personal life’. Whether we choose to admit it or not, every year this line becomes more blurred. With the advent and expectations that come with Blackberry’s, remote log ins, and other communication tools, people work 70% more now than they did 20 years ago. Instead of becoming annoyed and frustrated with the onslaught of technological communication tools, I found a way to use them in a way that makes me more productive. And we all know that “responding to emails immediately” rarely increases production, so this is not what I’m referring to.
2. Know when and how you produce. I’m an entrepreneur first, marketer second, and sales person 3rd. In any of these roles, three traits have set me apart; being ambitious enough to create strategically and then execute on tactics at near real time. That is “how” I produce. When do I produce? all day everyday. My least productive time in coming up with strategic ideas or plans is AT work; but I don’t have an exact time. Entrepreneurs gain business ideas and / or insights from anyone or anything. For me, an idea is usually sparked mid-conversation or while watching TV. I don’t know “why” this is, but would presume it’s because I’m an extrovert and clearly derive my motivations from other people.
3. Commit to being productive. Now that you’ve gotten rid of your preconceived notions and found out when you’re most productive, embrace the moment when a thought or idea comes to you. Don’t ignore it. Don’t say, “I’ll write it down later”. Commit to yourself that you will take advantage of your ideas and execute.
4. BE productive. Utilize the new technology. When you have an idea – type it out. Email it to yourself. Download an app like evernote. Record your thoughts an your phone. Whatever the communication medium is, use it. For me, I email myself all ideas I have. No matter how good or bad they are at the time. What may sound like a bad idea at one time may be the seed of a great idea or future business. Communicate it to yourself at the time, for later on you can build around it. For me, I have bursts of creativity, sometimes I even map out “task lists” in my head. What I do now is email them to myself. When I get to my computer, a task list, an idea, a marketing plan – whatever it is – it’s THERE. I copy and paste it into a doc, review / edit it, and the ‘hard part’ is done. I take on twice as many clients as other people I know because I commit to myself I will be productive when my brain is producing. I never put my creativity on hold.
5. Practice and embrace your productivity. When you’re in the car or at dinner, yes – this may be when you have a burst of creativity. Don’t get annoyed it’s “not the right time”. Get EXCITED. If you’re in the car, pull over. If you’re at dinner, excuse yourself and run to the restroom. The first few times, it may take you a while to get your thoughts communicated to yourself at a later time but as you do this more and more, you’ll find you’re able to send yourself an idea as well as corresponding execution plans in just 2 minutes. The faster your brain works, the more you’ll get onto paper.
People keep asking me, “what does it feel like to turn 30?” and my response, “It feels the same as I felt yesterday”. In looking back over the ‘years’, I realize the reason I feel the same is because I make it a priority to learn and grown every year. People ask what my passion is – my passion is learning – how to better myself both personally and professionally. So, to share some of the “hard learned lessons…”
1. If you love what you do, don’t strive for balance in your life as you’ll never be happy. Strive to be fulfilled.
2. Marry your best friend. They may have been your “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” first, but if they didn’t become your best friend, the marriage won’t work.
3. Travel. Learning about and engaging with other cultures will not only make you more appreciative of what you have, it will make you more tolerant of other people.
4. Don’t waste time with obligations.
5. There is nothing more important than relationships; whether personal or professional – build them and appreciate them.
6. If you’re feeling unmotivated, watch a TED video. Seriously – it can get you right back up.
7. Learn to be independent; financially and socially. You never know when something bad will happen.
8. If you’re comfortable where you are at, get out! Comfort is death. Only way to grow / better yourself is to get out of your comfort zone.
9. Major in something you find interesting. If you don’t, you won’t learn anything.
10. Seek out mentors. Both professional and personal. Everyone you meet can mentor you in some fashion; open yourself up to their teachings.
11. Everything is sales. Even asking someone out for a date, you’re selling yourself.
12. Trust your gut – but still engage in due diligence. Your gut can be impulsive.
13. Stay present. Granted, I’m not great at this yet, but the few times I can remain ‘present’, I enjoy myself far more than when I’m thinking about tomorrow.
14. People will trust you if you demonstrate your trust for them. If you want to learn about someone or get to know them better, tell them a secret; if you open up to them, there is a far higher likelihood they will open up to you.
15. Embrace innovators – don’t shun new ideas. They may sound crazy, but at some point so did a computer.
16. Don’t settle for a job just to make money. Find something that excites you to wake up in the morning. If you don’t love what you do, you won’t love YOU, and the job won’t last.
17. Don’t invest in companies – invest in people. There is less risk in investing in a start up company where you know the people than there is investing in the stock market.
18. Family comes first. That doesn’t mean that some of your friends have not become part of your family.
19. Always welcome competition; it only makes you try harder.
20. Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.
21. Have goals; but don’t be afraid to stray from them when opportunity arises. You may just be taking a longer path to get to your goal, but what you learn along the way may be more important than achieving the final result.
22. Don’t get into an argument for argument’s sake. It’s a waste of energy – even if you’re a lawyer.
23. It’s just as important to SPEND as it is to SAVE. Reward yourself once in a while, but do so strategically. Budget yourself to put aside money to do 1 thing you love per month or per week (depending on your budget).
24. Get a pet. It not only teaches responsibility, but we all need unconditional love sometimes.
25. Failing is a good thing. After you make a mistake, no matter how small, take a step back and assess what you did wrong. Learn from it. If you can’t figure out what you did wrong, ask someone. Don’t repeat it.
26. KNOW what you DONT KNOW. Admit that you don’t know. You’ll get far further not knowing the answer than giving the wrong answer.
27. Always hold yourself accountable. It sucks when someone calls you out before you call yourself out. This requires self awareness and the ability to admit when you are wrong. People will respect you for it.
28. Be well read. If you don’t like reading books, read the internet. If you don’t like reading books or the internet, listen to books on tape. The more you read, the more you learn, the more you offer to those around you.
29. Know what your natural high is; whether your endorphins get going from exercising or closing a business deal, know what that is and replicate it as needed.
30. If you don’t love yourself, no one else will.