Mission Accomplished

30 days ago I was issued a challenge. To create and write 30 blog posts in 30 days.  The overall goal of this was to help create some legitimacy toward the website.  I have also like the idea of being able to actually demonstrate some of the things I have been able to experience both professionally and personally.  

The last 30 days have been more challenging than I could have ever imagined.  I have a newfound respect for people who write for a living.  Writer’s block is a real thing, and coming up with new content on a consistent basis was a unique challenge.

I do want to say, that I overall I have enjoyed this excursion. I was forced to really dive into all of my experience to think of things that I could write about with any sort of knowledge. I was able to speak about my times in social media management, management, sales, marketing among many other things. I was forced to analyze different situations.  I took another look at how I handled these situations, and I even was able to gain some more insight on how I will handle similar situations in the future. I would strongly encourage anybody that wants to improve themselves professionally, to issue themselves a similar challenge. There are really only good things that can come from it.

I tried to keep my personal blogs to a limit.  Sure I could talk about why the designated hitter is great for baseball (and I still might do that), but things like that weren’t my goals for this website and this challenge. Overall I tried to keep my personal blogs somewhat related to my professional goals, and experiences.  In the future, I might tinker with this idea more, and you all might get a better idea about the kind of person I am away from the office.

The fact that I have achieved this goal does not mean that I am done from posting to this website. I must say that I won’t be posting at near the pace that I have over the past month. However, I do understand that just because I have accomplished one goal, I can’t just sit back and relax.  I will create a new goal and work towards accomplishing that one. Thanks for reading.

Tips for Settling in a New City

A unique fact about me personally is that I have moved around a bunch in my life. Right now I am 25, and I have already lived in 10 different cities, and 5 different states. Most of them before I was 18, but ultimately I am glad I have been able to have so many different experiences. I got to experience what it was like to live on both coasts and in the flyover states of this awesome country.  Obviously, every move is tough, but there are certain things that are important to keep in mind to help you settle into your new home better.

If there is anything I have learned from moving around a lot, is that every place has its positives.  When I moved from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, I was afraid everybody was going to be fake, not true. When I was told I was moving from California to North Carolina I was afraid I was going to be surrounded by hicks, not true.  When I was told I was moving from North Carolina to Kansas City, Missouri, I was afraid I was moving to a flyover state with nothing going on, not true. Every move has its challenges, but I was so glad that I was wrong so many times.

First of all, reach out to real people. If you went to college, or have worked in a somewhat big office, it is inevitable that you know somebody that has lived in the area, or is currently living in the area you are moving to. Reach out to these people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  They will be able to give you a tremendous amount of insight on the city.  They will be able to tell you about the culture, the people, the cost of living, and so much more.  Also I have found that people love bragging about the city they live in or have lived in.

Second do some research online. This one is fairly obvious, and it might have even been your initial instinct.  Look into websites like Citysearch or Yelp.  By doing this you can read what others have said about the key features of the city.  You can find out the best places to eat, the best places of entertainment, or things like that. Of course, there is no substitution for actually experiencing something yourself, so go out and actually try these places in question, early on in your move. I have just found that websites like this are usually a good start.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to get out there and make new friends.  Make new friends in your job or school that have similar interest. You will never fully learn the city if you spend all your free time on the couch watching Friends reruns.  Also, don’t be afraid to pick up new hobbies or reacquire old ones.  When meeting new people it is all about finding a common ground that you can go out and try new things. There is no way that you are moving to a town that has nobody with some of the same interests as you, just go out and find them!

You won’t meet anybody by just sitting around your new house, so take any opportunity you have to get out there.  You will have to probably take some initiative to meet new people and fully appreciate your new home, but don’t stress about it. As with most things in life, if you have an open mind and a great positive attitude, you will soon find yourself fully immersed in your new city.  Thanks for reading.

Some Ways I Conquer Writer’s Block

The blank page is very intimidating. That might be putting it lightly, it is terrifying.  It seems like the harder you try to create some content, the harder it is to come up with ideas.  To help with the legitimization of this website,  I decided to undergo a challenge. I decided to write 30 posts in 30 days.  This sounded a lot easier than it is.  After the first week, I found that I was stressed, trying to find things to write about. I having a running document of ideas of things I might try to write about. The current list is sad and desperate.  Nonetheless, I am committed to keep churning content for this website and accomplish my goal. So today, what I am going to write about is a couple ways to get over writer’s block.

  1. Drink some caffeine.  Maybe it’s a placebo, or maybe coffee is the nectar of the gods.  For whatever reason, I find that my creative juices some time flow a little easier after I  down a cup of coffee.  Scientist’s have actually done studies that show that caffeine helps us with our thinking process.   It helps me more become energized and determined to conquer the empty page. 
  2. Exercise.  Sometimes I might be too energized or trying too hard.  I find that if I get my blood pumping I am able to think of some new topics.  Even during a run, I can feel my head come up with new fresh ideas and takes that I can write about.  I rarely commit to a full workout when I am writing, but a quick run or some jumping jacks can usually do the trick. After I have finished, I find that both my mood and creativity are in a much better place to write. 
  3. Do some mindless chores. There is a scientific reason that we always come up with our best ideas when we are in the shower.  We need to let our brain take a break from thinking so it can really start thinking. Staring at a blank screen for an hour will just frustrate and torture me. Sometimes I will actually do things that I used to have to be nagged to do.  I have found that when I do things like flossing, vacuuming, putting up my laundry, I will sometimes come up new post ideas. 
  4. Waste time on time wasters.  Social Media can be a bad distraction at sometimes, it can be the ultimate procrastination tool.  However, I have found that if I use sites like LinkedIn, facebook, or google plus, I am able to steal some new ideas. You can absorb what others are talking about or interested in. There are also times I watch the news with this purpose, to try to see what people are talking about. I have found that these things can be a more than welcome distraction than I once thought.

This 30-day challenge I am undergoing is the most I have forced myself to write. I am aware that having a website is far from qualifying me as “a writer.”  Nonetheless, I find that from time to time I suffer from writer’s block.  These are some of the ways I have been combating it. Thanks for reading.

Quantity or Quality in Your LinkedIn Network?

If you have read some of my recent blog posts, you know that I have some experience in social media management.  This meant running companies Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other pages.  It also meant running personal LinkedIn accounts for some of the professionals I worked with.  While I was doing all of this, I ignored my own personal LinkedIn page.  For me, Linkedin was only something I visited when I was looking for a new opportunity. I Would go months at a time without even logging in. The result of this was a sad profile.  

I have recently updated my profile as a part of my process that I am embarking on to round me out professionally.  I have updated my experiences, replaced the blurry profile picture with a better one, and even improved my biography.  There is still one glaring weakness on my profile. My network is embarrassingly small.

I’ve never been one to put much stock into my personal social media numbers. On Facebook, I rarely sent out friend requests.  On Twitter, I have found I would much rather follow Cam Newton than the guy I had a philosophy class with 5 years ago.  I carried this mentality over to my LinkedIn presence, and my profile has suffered from it. Sure every once in a blue moon when I did log in I would have 1 or 2 network requests, but when I was working with people I never went out of my way to make sure we were a part of each other’s networks.  

This brings me to my dilemma, I am far away from getting that coveted 500+ icon on my profile.  But is that number really important? Or is it the quality of people that you actually know that matters?  After all, these are the people that could actually vouch for you to their hiring manager. After a lot of thought and research, I realized the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

There are ways to grow your network without actually adding people you personally now.  To do this search for LIONs. No, not the king of the jungle.   The acronym L.I.O.N’s stands for LinkedIn Open Networkers.  The people that have this designation somewhere in their name or profile are saying that they will connect with any request that they might get. I looked into this for myself, I even sent out 5 requests to 5 random people (in my industry).  While this was able to get me a little closer to that coveted 500+ mark, did it really do anything to help me? Maybe, maybe not.  Having a bigger network will add some legitimacy to your profile, but overall I think it is a shortcut that won’t help much in the long run.

That’s why I have decided to try to grow my network the hard way.  I am going to be meticulous about adding people on LinkedIn soon after I meet them. In addition to that, I will be tracking my growth on my website for all of you to see. Right now my somewhat embarrassing number on LinkedIn is 58.  58 people that I am connected to. By July 1st I hope to hit the 100 mark. I don’t know if I will ever get to 500+.  I don’t know if it matters if I ever get to 500+.  I do know that only good can come from growing my network that natural way though.  I think this new focus I have on improving my online image can only go on to benefit me.  Thanks for reading.

Why Did ABC Cancel Last Man Standing?

I was disappointed to hear the news last week that ABC decided to cancel the popular show “Last Man Standing.”  Channing Dungey entertainment president over at ABC explained the reasoning behind the decision as “business and scheduling reasons.” She also denied rumors that the decision had anything to do with the political leaning of the star of the show Tim Allen.  For those of you that watch (watched) the show you know that Time Allen plays Mike Baxter, conservative man, that is an executive at a sporting goods store, living in a liberal world.  In real life Tim Allen is a staunch conservative, that was actually in attendance at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, even though Trump was not his ideal choice.

Shows get canceled all the time. Especially sitcoms, that are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  So why does this cancellation smell so fishy?  The numbers don’t lie. “Last Man Standing” is ABC’s second highest rated comedy behind the wildly successful (and personal favorite) Modern Family. Overall it is (was) the network’s third highest-rated scripted show. If you really believe that this was a “business and scheduling reason” as Dungey said, then I still have some oceanfront property back in Missouri I would like to sell you.

I am worried that this goes beyond a show cancellation, and into a troubling trend, we are seeing. The reality is, that we as a country like to claim that we take our freedoms, and the responsibilities that includes, very seriously. The reality is that we don’t. We shame people that don’t align themselves politically with our beliefs. This makes me think of how many people in Hollywood are afraid to share their beliefs, on account of their projects being canceled.  To clear something up, this is not me blaming the liberals. The conservatives are just as bad.  We have a President that blocks liberal news stations out of press briefings.

I believe that we are headed down a dangerous path as a country.  We try to eliminate the opposite voice to ours politically, something that is truly depressing to me. I was disappointed to hear that ABC was canceling “Last Man Standing.”  I was even more disappointed for the reasoning behind it.  If you would like, you can sign the petition to try to save “Last Man Standing” here, there are currently 350,000 people that have done this. Thanks for reading

Take Advantage of Your Daily Commute

Millenials tend to struggle with their work life balance.  We complain that we don’t have the time to dedicate to our friends, spouses, family after the work week is over. It is especially hard for us to work as much as we do, balance our families, and then have time to better ourselves. I think for people that are in sales, in particular, it is crucial to become more well-rounded individuals. We need to increase every chance we have to find a commonality with our prospects or clients.

I have a cheat code to get a couple hours back at least for most people in America anyway. That cheat code is your commute. Now more and more, people are working from home, which means to those people this point is mute. However, to those who still head to the office five days a week, there is a tremendous opportunity. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, 76% of people do most or all of the work at work. For the argument of this post, that means that three-quarters of you still have a daily commute. I calculated my personal numbers for how much time I spent commuting back and forth to work in a given week, 7 ½ hours. Now how was I spending nearly 5% of my week? I was rapping, listening to sports talk radio, I was imagining what song I would pick to audition for American Idol. Clearly, I wasn’t bettering myself during this time. Then I started to analyze how I spent my time in the car and found a couple ways to better myself.

I started to make myself change the radio station from the morons arguing over how great LeBron is, and instead started listening to news stations.  I quickly found that I was now far more up to date on current events.  I had a new list of talking points to talk about and help create relationships. I also started to venture into the wonderful world of podcasts. There are millions of podcasts on thousands of different topics. You can take advantage of these podcasts and quickly become an expert in just about any field. You can then use this new found knowledge to find commonalities with co-workers and clients, a great way to cement any relationship.

I also now use my drive into work to organize my day.  I found an app that will write down the things I say.  I take advantage of this, I create to-do list’s, create reminders for who I need to call later in the day, and even set up goals for the day.  I find that if I get my day organized before I even sit down at my desk, I am much quicker to be productive.

Sure, There are times that I find I need to decompress on the way home. There are days I will still shamelessly rap along to any Drake song that comes on the radio.  I will occasionally let my mind completely blank out as I listen to the LeBron vs Jordan argument for the ten thousandth time.  But the majority of the time I now spend on bettering myself.  Thanks for reading.

How I Became a Productive Worker from Home

I dreaded the idea of working from home. The only reason I even entertained the thought was because it was an absolute necessity, and my boss recommended that I give it a shot. This might be a rare concern for most people, especially today. With the all the technology we have working remotely from home is easier and more effective than ever. I think in the future this trend will only increase, as companies can devote fewer resources to things like office spaces and in-house technology.

Back to my own personal situation. I was absolutely terrified of working from home. I was just so sure that I would not be able to get into the correct mentality and my productivity would absolutely slump.  I have always had the mentality that I will bust my butt working hard for 50-60 hours a week, but when I got home, I want to be able to power down. We all have busy times that we devote to work, but I always liked to keep Sunday free so I can relax and devote time to my family and my God. I found that this attitude carried over the nights on weekdays as well, however. If I left work at 6:30, I was very hard to get a hold off until the next morning. I don’t like that I was wired this way, I don’t even think I realized it. That was just me, even growing up I was the kind of person that could never do homework at home. What I couldn’t get done at school, I felt that I would have to go to a library, or a public space to be productive. There are just too many things or people at home that are a distraction for the times I need to be productive.

Fast forward to me in the career world, it is inevitable that at times, you will have to be accessible at home and even work from home. I had a set of keys so every day I would always go to one of the offices, and put in a day’s work, even though at least 75% of my job could have been done at home.  Then came the inevitable time that we had to upgrade the furniture, and some of the technology in all of our offices.  Our industry was seasonal, so we could get away with shutting down the offices, but I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I even considered using my vacation time, even though it wasn’t an ideal time, to avoid having to work from home. There was simply no avoiding it, I was going to have to work from home. I am going to talk about how I was able to be productive and even learned to love working from home.

First, I learned I needed to start the day off as every other day.  I keep the same exact morning routine on days I work from home as the days I go to the office. I get up at the same time, go through my morning ritual, you can read about here, I then get in the shower get dressed and even put on some nice shoes.  I actually get dressed in professional attire and put on dress shoes for a couple reasons. First of all me and my boss like to video chat as much as possible. This way I am always ready to jump on a call without having to worry about putting on a dress shirt.  The other reason I do this, is I feel like I am tricking myself into believing that it is work time, even though I am at home. Just because I am within the comfortable confines of my house, I still need to be productive. If I allowed myself to sleep in an extra 15 minutes, watch breakfast on the couch, and watch television, I found it was difficult to get my day started

I then head downstairs to my home office. Now to call this a home office is taking some major liberties. I have a small portable table and one portable chair. I have this set up in a room with nothing more than four walls, a door, and a treadmill. I even went through the effort of removing the television from the room in order to keep myself from being tempted.  There is not a shred of decoration in this room, in fact, the only thing on the walls are a couple of outlets.  The only reason I allow myself to leave this room is to grab the occasional cup of coffee and to make myself a lunch that I take back into my office and quickly eat. When people come over they are quick to comment on how boring and even depressing the state of this room is, but it’s what I think I need in order to stay focused and on task.

Sine I have found these tricks, I actually like working from home. When I work from home I save myself about 90 minutes that I usually contribute to commute. I even find that it has helped with my work life balance because on days I work from home, I am usually done by 6:00. There is always reason’s for me to go into the office, but I at least have a strategy to be productive at home. Thanks for reading.

My Miracle Morning- My Fresh Start

Over the last several weeks I have made a big jump, and taking a big risk with my professional life, one that I am convinced will be for the better. As I take in these new endeavors I kept thinking of how I can make this a fresh start, really an exciting opportunity that we don’t get often in life. I figured I would write about a fresh start, but not as a point in life, but a fresh start to each and every day. What I am going to talk about is my morning routine, and how I was completely shocked at how wrong I was treating my morning, until a couple months ago.

I am not a morning person. In fact, that might be putting it lightly. On my phone I use to have 7 alarms set to wake me up. I took long showers in the morning, because my brain just wasn’t ready to function enough to differentiate the shampoo and the body wash. In the past, the most you would get from me until I am halfway through a cup of coffee is a grunt.

I never understood why the world insisted that my day should start at 7:00. The thought of waking up a second earlier than I absolutely had to is just an idea I was not ready to entertain. I have friends and colleagues that claim to have woken up an hour early so they can start their day with a workout at the gym. Now, I’m not totally against the idea of working out (although running strikes me as rather pointless sometimes) but to do anything productive at 6:00 seemed totally out of the question. That all changed when I was introduced to “The Miracle Morning.”

Now for those of you that aren’t aware, The Miracle Morning is a book written by a motivational speaker, rock-star salesmen, and now bestselling author Hal Elrod. Now as a quick sidebar, I would encourage anybody to give his books, and system a chance. I would also encourage anybody to at least look at this guy’s life, it truly is incredible what he has been able to endure, and bounce back from. I was introduced to him by one of my wonderful mentors and at the time current boss, Peter Hynes. This will sound corny, and hopefully not pathetic, but this book changed my life for the better. Being late to work has never been an issue for me. I was brought up to believe that being on time means being there 15 minutes early, and showing up at time, meant you were late. However, this book changed my mindset for each new day.

While I don’t follow Hal’s system to the tee, I have tailored something that works for me that is very similar, and I am so glad I started it. I wake up an hour before I otherwise would (I know it seems crazy, but at least try it for a day.)

This is what I have found works for me. I wake up and do some reading for 15 minutes. Now this might be different everyday. Some days I will read a book to help me become more professionally prepared. Some days I will read and think about a list of motivational quotes that I have found work for me. Some days I will read my Bible, I take my faith seriously and enjoy reading the Bible without any outside commentary so I can form my own opinions of what I have read. I have found that if I get out of bed, and lean up against a wall or on a chair to read, my mind get’s started much quicker than it had in the past.

The next thing I do is think, 5 minutes of thinking without checking twitter or last nights score of the ballgames. I think about goals I have in my life. I think about the things that I want. I think about the things that would benefit me. I think about what I have just read. I will also send up a quick prayer. I have found that this part of the morning has made me more effective in the opening hours at work. Critical thinking is a big part of my job, and I like to think this short time of meditation exercises my critical thinking.

After I finish this part of my morning, I go into a light workout. Now for those of you that have already met me, you know I have never taking working out very seriously. For those of you I will meet in the future, you might not even guess I work out at all. Nonetheless I have incorporated a light workout for the last 40 minutes of my routine. Not that I go to an actual gym, or really even have much equipment at my house, but just enough to get my blood really flowing. I will do a couple sets of push-ups, until my body is tired. I will do some sets of sit-ups until my stomach starts to fight back. I might do some workouts with a resistance band. When the weather is optimal I might go for a quick jog. Again, nothing to strenuous or serious, but after I have worked out and gotten out of the shower I find that I am actually excited for the day.

The first day I tried this, I set my alarm had a bottle of water ready on my nightstand table, and went to sleep determined that I would give this a routine a try, even if it was just lasted one day. As weird as it sounds the next day I woke up a couple minutes before my alarm went off with a confusing feeling. I woke up with that “Christmas morning feeling” that I haven’t had in years. I woke up with an excitement that I never had until at least lunchtime. I haven’t looked back since, and I am so thankful that I was introduced to, and gave this system a chance.

So, to break down my routine, I believe that it gives me the correct mindset, an optimal attitude, and even an excitement for the day. To be ready to crush my morning chores at work that my coworkers find mundane. I have noticed that while most people are still drinking their coffee, and stalling or delaying the inevitable, I am cranking out my normal morning tasks, and setting myself up for a successful day.  This is my fresh start, my miracle morning. I hope you’ll consider giving it a try.

My Road Thus Far

Hello World! This is my first of many blog posts. As is probably true with any ventures, or journeys in life the first step is the hardest. With that in mind, there in no doubt that writing this first blog post will be the hardest. I am the type of person that likes to organize my thoughts before sharing them with people. You can all be confident knowing that my blog posts will be well thought out, probably to an unhealthy level.

I had plenty idea’s of what my first blog post should be. Should it be an in depth “about me page”? Should I talk about the things I am passionate about? Should I talk about my experiences? My hobbies? The people around me? My routines? literally dozens of ideas came into my head. I settled on the idea of how I want to do a blog post entitled “a fresh start.” I started righting this blog, and quickly realized it would be better suited as my second blog post. What I am going to talk about instead is the pivotal time I am with my life, both professionally, and personally.

A little bit about me. I am 24 years old and I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Growing up I moved ten times before I went to college (No I am not in a military family.) I lived in different cities throughout Indiana, Illinois, California, Missouri, and North Carolina. When I was 18 and living in Kansas City, Missouri, I made the next logical step, I went to college. I attended the University of Missouri (go Tigers). I quickly noticed that while I maybe enjoyed the social part of college, I dreaded the classroom aspect. I thought college was going to be totally different than the setting that I had the 12 years of schooling leading up to that. While my grades were average (not stellar, but not bad enough to raise any eyebrows either) I found myself frustrated. I was blessed to have a part time job with a group of H&R Block franchise offices. I loved it. I loved the real world experience I was getting, I loved that my bosses challenged me, and believed in me, I loved the people I worked with, I loved the fact I was actually getting compensated. Needless to say I found it harder to pay attention in a Food Science, or Art Appreciation class (I guess that’s why I still don’t appreciate it.)

I was overjoyed when when the owners of the company offered to relocate me and offer me a full time job in the middle of my second year at college. This job was great, I got to wear a different hat everyday. I got to dip my toes in customers service, marketing, management, as well as countless other responsibilities. I got along great with my owners, I was making good money, I was able to avoid student debt, and I was convinced there were entrepreneurial opportunities within the company. Unfortunately, life threw me a curve ball. H&R Block had a change of philosophy, no longer believing having franchises was a viable option as a company, began aggressively buying back there franchises, my owners included. While I don’t hold it against my owners ( they came out great and were able to retire at a very young age because of it) it did leave me in a tough spot. I could go back to school, accept the job that H&R Block offered me, a position I just could get excited about, or find a new job.  I picked the latter.

I have since been in sales. I enjoy sales, I enjoy getting to meet people, I enjoy getting to learn about their lives, I enjoy that the hardest workers get paid the most. I have however, noticed that without a degree I am limited in my upward mobility, so I had resigned myself to the fact I would have to go back to college, and learn about all sorts of things that weren’t going to better me. That is when a mentor of mine told me he had heard of a program called Praxis.

I am excited about starting my journey with Praxis. I know that this, with the proper work ethic and mentalities, will be great for my professional career, and future. Along with the changes in my professional life I am also taking some personal steps. I have recently become engaged to my longtime girlfriend, and best friend, Megan. I can’t wait to start our lives together. So with some fear, but a lot of elation, I am ready to embrace my new challenges: both personally and professionally. look out for my next blog post “A Fresh Start” on how I will go about doing just that.