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Our Trip Around the Sun: A recap of top posts from 2013

earth and sunWith only 2 days left in 2013, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this crazy busy but very memorable year. Who knew we could pack so much into just one trip around the sun? It’s a journey we’ve taken together  - with all of its ups and downs, twists and turns. I know that I have personally grown more this year than I have ever before. I had many significant life changes, career growth and have continued to work to find contentment in every moment – even the ones that challenge me to new limits.

To honor the progress of this year, I began by sifting through the Bennis Inc Blog archives and found that I fell in love all over again with some of the thoughts I shared. So in celebration of all great things to come in 2014, here is a highlight of the most popular posts from the Bennis Inc Blog in 2013!

1. Never Lose Sight of Your Childhood Dream

In this post, I reflect on my childhood dream to become an architect and interior designer. Clearly this dream never became a reality; still I managed to incorporate the core aspects that I loved about these careers into what I’m doing now. If you take a closer look, you too may see that you never gave up on your childhood dream – you’ve just repurposed it.

2. The 80/20 Principle: How to identify the clutter in your life and business

After reading “The 4 Hour Workweek,” I was inspired to write about my own take on the 80/20 Principle. Essentially it states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort and time. I still swear by it and every so often have to refocus myself on whether or not I’m applying it to all aspects of my life.

3. A Penny Saved Is More Than A Penny Earned

This was a really fun post! I give a couple (creative) reasons as to why a penny saved is actually more than a penny earned. Instead of trying to earn more money to do more things, we should actually be focusing on living more conservatively and enjoying the free time it provides.

4. A Low-Information Diet – The Solution for Overwhelm and Overload?

After a very overwhelming start to my career on a political campaign, I’ve since prescribed my life the low-information diet. Essentially, it’s eliminating all of the noise and clutter that we needlessly bring into our lives and as a result, has helped to boost my productivity and reduce my stress.

5. D’oh! The 5 Most Common Public Relations Mistakes

I’m still surprised to see how many hits this blog gets a day! I outlined some of the most common PR mistakes that we all make from time to time. This guide is a great help especially for small businesses out there who may be looking to implement their own PR tactics, but are too scared of making a mistake.

6. A Price for Passion: Being smart and fair when pricing your services

This is an essential post for every entrepreneur or business owner as it covers one of the most critical question for making money – how do you price yourself? For those who offer services, this is even more complicated because the resource you’re ultimately selling is your time. Here are the tips I’ve learned through my own trial and error with pricing my services.

7. The Necessary Slow Burn of Business Growth

The idea for this post came from a creative analogy that I saw as being applicable to business growth. Though we all wish success could take off like wildfire, there is necessity to the process of slow and steady growth.

8.  The Life Lessons of Parenthood

On May 11, 2013, my life forever changed. I became a mother. This post examines the life lessons of parenthood I learned in just two short months with my son, Holden. Now nearing the end of 2013, Holden is growing into a little man and the life lessons keep on coming!

9. A No Is As Good As a Yes

Un-productivity is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when projects get held up because of someone’s lack of responsiveness. This blog post is a plea to those regular “offenders” that a no is sometimes as good as a yes because it helps us move forward with work – and life.

10. The Working Mom/Stay At Home Mom Hybrid

This was the most read and shared post of 2013 – and one in which I opened myself up to discussing a pretty personal and controversial topic. The decision of whether to be a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom is one of the most difficult choices for any mother. This post takes a look at how I’m adjusting to life as a “hybrid mom.”

Tell me about your year! What was one of your most memorable moments from 2013?

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life

 

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Twas Two Days Before Christmas…

Twas Two Days Before Christmas

(A fun twist on a familiar favorite)

Twas two days before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly matters?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve done mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

whimsical christmas tree

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Life

 

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When In Doubt, Take the Next Small Step

small stepIn business and in life, being faced with different choices can be an overwhelming and paralyzing situation. We always want to make the “right” choice, the one that we can look back on years later and know we wouldn’t change a thing. But rarely are we afforded the benefit of hindsight. In a recent conversation with a client, I was discussing how difficult it can be to make decisions as a business owner. With the weight of the world on our shoulders, we worry that one poor choice can bring it all tumbling down. We are often forced to make decisions on limited time and limited information because if we took the time to fully outline every option, we would never move forward with anything. Therefore, one of the greatest accomplishments of any business owner is to empower yourself with the confidence to make decisions and stand behind whatever the outcome. When in doubt, take the next small step. You don’t have to act radically or nonsensically, but you must still move forward. Especially when you’re not sure of your footing, the best option is to simply take a single step in one definite direction. This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It’s obviously applicable to an entrepreneur, but I believe we can also apply it to all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.  

In Business

I have written passionately about my experience as an entrepreneur and I advocate for other entrepreneurial hopefuls to “take the leap.” But with this major life decision, I must caution that you should still do it with some rationale. When I was confronted with the ultimate decision to either stay in my current job or turn my part time passion into my full time career, it was done as an initial small step that has since turned into a major life change. I began by first incorporating my business. Not only did this make my side work feel more legitimate, it was also a sound investment that has since saved me a lot of money (and headaches) on taxes. This started things rolling in the right direction. My next step was securing enough clients that I knew I could cover my bills. And the next step was the big one – resigning from my 9-5 for a life as an entrepreneur. When broken down, these were all single steps that turned into quite an amazing journey. Even now when I’m faced with wanting to make a change in my business, I pause, breath and identify the next small step. If I only looked at the big picture, I would easily overwhelm myself with how I get from point A to point B – especially when they appear oceans apart. Instead, move just one step in the direction you know you want to travel and do so with confidence!

In Life

For those of us who aren’t business owners or entrepreneurs, life is stilled filled with countless decisions we must make on a daily basis. Small choices like what to have for dinner or how to spend a free weekend are relatively easy to decide. But bigger decisions like buying a new car, building a house or going on vacation can add unwanted anxiety and unnecessary stress to our lives.  When in doubt, take the next small step. Begin by looking at your finances or researching the top options, but take one step forward! Big decisions shouldn’t be made overnight, but progress can still be made slowly and consistently to help you make a smart choice in the end. By taking small steps, you’re less likely to make a decision due to pressure, frustration or confusion and you’re more likely to enjoy the process and feel confident with the end result. Take a moment to think of a big decision you’ve been avoiding and identify one small step you can take today. It doesn’t need to be the end result, but it should at least put you one step closer!

No matter the scope or size of the decision, we have all encountered obstacles in our effort to move forward. Have you ever had difficulty making decisions? What’s the best advice you can give to become a more decisive person? Share your insight by commenting below!

 
 

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The Growing Gap Between Technology and Wisdom

dunce cap

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. It allows us to access people and information all across the globe and has facilitated countless opportunities that would never exist without its advancements. But this doesn’t come without setbacks. Technology is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, a pace that society is struggling to match. A quote from Isaac Asimov sums this thought up quite well, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” This truth is only made more evident every time we see the misuse of social media or turn to a search engine to do the thinking for us. There’s a growing gap between technology and wisdom. Instead of embracing our ability to do more, we’re using it as a crutch to do less. Let’s take a look at a few trends that illustrate how technological advancements have come at the price of conventional wisdom.

Social Media Faux Pas

Spelling errors, outlandish or offensive statements and superficial thoughts are accepted without a bat of an eye on social media. Even if you keep your friend list to just close contacts, you’re still bound to see examples of these faux pas in your newsfeed on a daily basis. Social media has given each of us a soapbox and a megaphone, but not the common sense for how we should use it. The wisdom and better judgment we need to develop our “social media manners” is being outpaced by technology. As a result, we see daily examples of social media faux pas, some of which can be dangerous or hurtful. For the most part, social media is like the Wild West with no rules and infinite freedom. This is both a benefit and a pitfall. It will take time to develop the wisdom to utilize this technology with decorum, and it will also take our personal desire for higher standards. What can we do right now? Take careful consideration to what we share and how we share it. Use the same manners we would use when communicating through any other medium. It may be simple advice, but it’s not common sense – yet.

Lack of Common Knowledge

“I don’t know…Google it!” This is a phrase that’s echoed all across the globe. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s being said right now in multiple different languages. This is the easiest response to any question someone might ask of you. I don’t know if the bigger issue is that we don’t know the answers to so many simple questions or if we do but are just too lazy to retrieve them from memory. We can now type faster than we can think, and this is the ultimate problem. Search engines are right at our fingertips every hour of the day. Thanks to smart phones, they’re only ever as far as our pockets or purses.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else – if I want to know the capital of a state, convert feet to meters or check my spelling, I turn to Google. What did we ever do before? We committed information to memory. Search engines are fast, reliable and easy, but they’re not a replacement for actually learning the information they provide.

Communication Erosion

I’ve discussed before how technology can both bridge a gap and build a wall. It allows us more ways than ever to communicate and gives us instant access to people across the globe. But it also provides a shield that we can hide behind and has contributed to erosion in formal, face-to-face communication. When presented with all of our options, we usually choose email over phone calls and phone calls over in-person meetings. Throw social media into the mix, and Facebook messages and Tweets have become an even less formal way to get a hold of someone. This is a fine option for a quick message to a friend, but social media is not a replacement for sharing a project proposal or soliciting someone for their business. When it comes to sharing hard news or negative feedback, it’s even more tempting to hide behind technology.  Sending a generic Linkedin message to make an introduction or breaking up with someone over text may get the message across, but it won’t earn you any respect and won’t make you any (real) friends.

With all of the information we have at our fingertips, we are the “smartest” society yet. But in exchange, we have seemed to sacrifice our wisdom and ability to think critically for ourselves. Social media doesn’t spell check our egregious grammatical errors or review our half-baked thoughts, search engines have made us lazy and smart phones have made us dumb. These are the rock bottom standards that technology accepts from us, but we can demand better. Let’s aim a little higher. With awareness and commitment, we can maintain our wisdom even with rapid technological advancements. Let’s take an active role in growing our wisdom every day with the help of technology, not despite it.

In what ways have you seen the decline of conventional wisdom because of technology? Do you rely on search engines or smart phones to complete everyday tasks? Share your thoughts and add to the discussion by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Social Media, Technology

 

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What is Public Relations?

PRThis is a question I’m asked quite often. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, in most initial conversations I find myself explaining – or defending – what it is I do. The challenge is that Public Relations doesn’t fit in a neat little box like when someone says “I’m a dentist” or “I’m a teacher.” Sure there are variances within those fields, but for the most part you can state that as your job title and people get the picture. With Public Relations, not so much. It’s ambiguous, abstract and ever-changing. Most challenging is that even the professionals in the field can’t agree upon a single definition for our work. As a result, I’ve created my own definition that has changed over the years along with type of services I offer my clients. In a recent conversation I was told that I have a very broad definition of PR to which my response was, “Of course, PR can be found everywhere!” And I firmly believe that. This is my personal explanation of Public Relations. While it may be broad and it may not be what you’ll find in any book, it’s coming from years of first-hand experience in the field. I’d say that makes it just as legitimate as any other definition out there!

It’s relationship management.

Foremost public relations is building and maintaining positive relationships with your audience. Technology provides us with the power to directly engage our customers unlike ever before. It’s important that businesses embrace this opportunity and carefully consider the image they’re promoting through these interactions. Some of the services I provide such as blog writing, social media management and web site content creation can be the first interaction people have with you. It’s important that your brand is intentional and polished. While many businesses successful manage their own relationships, it’s often with a good PR consultant at their side.

It’s about telling your story.

I’ve worked with quite a variety of clients and for each one I’ve been able to identify the underlying story that makes them stand out. This story is often hidden, underutilized or misrepresented – all affecting the impact it has on the target audience. You can promote your “value, service and integrity” and sound like every other business out there or you can use some Public Relations to help you craft a unique and memorable story that demonstrates these same qualities. I help tell this story and carry it across every communication channel, from web site content to marketing materials to company culture. Storytelling has become one of my specialties. I love the challenge of extracting a story upon being introduced to a new business and I love how drastic the results can be when a business proudly showcases their story to the world.

It’s common sense.

When I really want to state what I do in as few words as possible, I say Public Relations is common sense. OK, common sense to me at least. Really though I would say most people know that the basis of Public Relations – building relationships, telling your story, providing exceptional customer service – should be a core part of their business. Yet so many forget to implement it. I help clients regain this common sense by keeping them organized, staying on top of projects and deadlines so they don’t have to and overseeing the interactions between the business and its customers. Saying that Public Relations is “common sense” makes it sound easy, but it still takes someone with a specialty for PR to develop an effective strategy.

So yes, my understanding of Public Relations is basic and broad. It’s not overly technical and puffed up with jargon. Instead it’s relatable to every business. I see Public Relations opportunities everywhere and this inspires me to continue to grow my passion. What is your personal understanding of Public Relations? How has it been explained to you by others? Share your definitions so we can compare and discuss!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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The Working Mom/Stay At Home Mom Hybrid

work-at-home-mom-cartoonThe day I started my own business, it became my first baby. I devoted my time and energy to watching it grow and take on a sustaining life of its own. But in May 2013, it was no longer my sole priority. As we welcomed our first son into the world, I knew that my life as an entrepreneur would gain one more layer of complexity. People were both curious and concerned as to how soon I planned to return to work. The honest answer is that as soon as I stepped foot out of the hospital and through our front door, I was back at work. Of course I slowed the pace considerably for a few weeks, but by June I was running at full speed.

We live in a world where people want things to fit nicely into little boxes, but my career has never packaged up so neatly. Becoming a mother didn’t make me any less of an entrepreneur. I’m sure some wondered if I would continue working or if I would just transition into a Stay At Home Mom. I had moments where I wondered the same thing. Now over 5 months in, I’m proud to raise some eyebrows when I explain that I am both a Stay At Home Mom and a Working Mom – I am part of a growing generation of Hybrid Moms. As a Hybrid Mom you truly work two full time jobs. It’s not a part time gig or a hobby on the side. It’s a full time workload and an equal source of income for your family. I’m fortunate to have the flexibility in my schedule to take on both responsibilities and to have clients who understand my commitment to also serving as the sole caretaker for my son during the work day.

Defining your career as a mother has become a hot button issue and one that I’ve seen argued from many different viewpoints. Now that I wear both hats, I’ve become emotionally invested in this topic and am discouraged to see such strong accusations and hurtful generalizations being strewn about. Many women are choosing to become Stay At Home Moms and in an effort to mainstream this career choice, have put down other women’s choice to work. I am most bothered that these choices are made to feel mutually exclusive, like you aren’t a full time mom if you choose to work. As a Hybrid Mom, I don’t get to turn off my motherly responsibilities just because I have a looming project deadline. If Holden needs me, I’m always on-call.

My mother worked a full time job while raising three kids. She didn’t have a cleaning lady, cook or personal assistant to run her family’s errands. She was all of these things, plus she worked outside the home for an additional 40 hours per week. As a child, I never felt I lacked time with my mother either. She had a home cooked meal for us each evening, helped us with our homework, was involved in our activities on the weekends and she even stayed home with us many days that we were sick from school. One argument supporting the Stay At Home Mom claims that their job is to be the CEO of the house. I don’t disagree. I only wish to make the point that my mom was every bit the CEO (and a fierce one at that) while working full time. You can do both and be both – they’re not mutually exclusive. The growing number of Hybrid Moms brings hope that we are beginning to realize this and that we have enough support to give us the confidence to make this choice if it’s right for us.

By definition, yes, I am a Stay At Home Mom. I take care of my 5-month old son full time (this also includes being his sole source of food). But I am a Working Mom too. I provide a range of Public Relations consulting services for anywhere from 8-12 different clients on a daily basis. In addition to these two full time jobs, I still have time to attend weekly networking meetings, write for fun on my blog and hit the park at least once a day. You may wonder what I sacrifice to “do it all.” It’s not mental or physical health—I run 20+ miles per week with yoga scattered in between. It’s not sleep – we all get 8+ hours per night (with our cat, Pinot getting quite a few more throughout the day). We have a clean house, fresh groceries and clean clothes. I’ve even chosen to go the route of cloth diapers and making my own baby wipes, which certainly adds a few extra steps to our daily routine. It’s quite often that I get the response, “Well you’re just not normal.” I find this to be the most offensive of all. I feel what I accomplish in any given day is very “normal” and attainable with merely organization and discipline.

My life is not perfect – there are absolutely days when I feel like this balancing act may all come tumbling down. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is supportive and involved. It’s teamwork that makes raising our little family possible. Because I’m a Hybrid Mom, I can attest that each career has its own unique challenges and rewards. I’m fortunate to do both, but I won’t say that it’s luck. It comes with hard work and determination to make it work. The best we can do for each other is to support our decision to do what is right for us and our family. For some, one career is quite enough. For others, we may enjoy balancing a bit more. Whether our title is Stay At Home Mom, Working Mom or Hybrid Mom, the most important word comes at the very end – and no matter what, that means we have the hardest but best job in the world!

park

Monday afternoon at the park with Holden

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Why You Should Become A Lifelong Learner

Head in sand ostrich

It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand, but to remain competitive in the marketplace, we must take our education into our own hands.

The first 22 or so years of our lives are consumed by education. Our full time job is to learn as much as we can about the world around us and narrow our focus on a specific area that we hopefully will turn into a career. But once we’re launched into the real world, this commitment to continuing our education seems to wane. As we spend more and more time applying the knowledge we have, we have less and less time for seeking out additional education. Slowly but surely, our wealth of knowledge begins to depreciate as it becomes outdated and incomplete.

With the types of resources we have available right at our fingertips, this should never be the case. We always have the opportunity to better ourselves through lifelong learning even if we feel we have no time or money to do so. It’s possible – and paramount – to developing both our career and our character. Here are a few critical questions we must first ask ourselves if we want to assume the mindset of a lifelong learner.

When did we decide to stop learning?

Doesn’t it seem unbalanced that we rely upon the education we gain during the first quarter of our lives to last us for the other three-quarters? This is a common idea that society has made acceptable. Maybe it’s because we’re so overloaded with school, classes, exams and essays that when we earn a degree we want to wash our hands of this part of our life completely – never wanting to return to the anxiety and challenge that often accompanies it. The shame is that this is such a small part of what learning truly is. Learning need not be defined by a classroom, diploma or grades. The decision to start learning again doesn’t mean having to enroll in a graduate program. The options for how we can do so are virtually limitless, but first we must change our definition of learning.

How do we change our definition of learning?

It doesn’t require a classroom setting to enhance your education. In fact, most of what we’ve learned throughout our lives was from observing other people or through trial and error. So throw away the notion that night classes are the only way to re-educate yourself. Technology has also drastically changed the learning opportunities available to us for free and from home. College-level courses are available at all hours of the day and in increments that can fit into any schedule. This type of learning may not earn you a formal degree, but unless your career field has a proven return on investment for additional degrees, don’t take on that unnecessary debt. Rather, informal and free courses are just as effective at achieving the ultimate goal…a lifelong education.

Will lifelong learning really make a difference?

Yes. Making the commitment to learn throughout all quarters of your life – not just your first – will have a great impact on both your career and your character. It will keep you competitive in today’s job market. With the ever-changing face of technology, we don’t have the luxury of relying on what we learned decades ago to get us through the job we have now. Even more mind boggling is that for many of us, the job we will have 5 years from now likely doesn’t even exist yet! If you want to increase your value as an employee (and secure your job for the future), lifelong learning is a must. Also, the more you know the more interesting you tend to be. Did you ever know someone who could start a conversation with just about anyone? It’s likely that this person was well-educated and continued his education throughout his life. You want to be that person, too. Finally, lifelong learning will make you independent. The more you know how to do on your own, the less you will feel inferior or helpless. You will be able to trouble-shoot your own problems and work more efficiently as a result. There’s many more compelling reasons why each of us should become a lifelong learner, but I think I’ve made my point.

To end, I will leave you with this interesting quote from Robert Heinlein:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Resources for lifelong learning:

Coursera. Coursera works with top universities from around the world to offer classes online for free.

OpenStudy. OpenStudy is a social learning network that allows you to connect with individuals who have the same learning goals as you.

edX. Harvard University and MIT partnered together to create interactive, free online courses. The same world-renowned professors that teach at Harvard and MIT have created the courses on edX.

Udacity. More college level classes taught online for free.

CreativeLive. CreativeLive lets you stream live courses being taught for free (if you want to view the course later there is a fee). The courses focus on more creative and business subjects.

TED. TED compiles speeches and lectures from professors as well as interesting people from many different walks of life. This is a staple for lifelong learners! (And they tend to be far more interesting and entertaining that the college lectures you remember)

iTunes U. iTunes U has thousands of free downloadable podcast lectures taught by the best professors from around the world. Learn while you exercise or on a long road trip.

YouTube EDU. Addicted to YouTube? Put it to good use by enriching your mind with thousands of videos that cover a variety of topics.

 
 

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Finding Happiness Throughout Every Stage of Life

happyAs a young business owner, I sometimes catch myself wishing away the present moment for a milestone in the future in which I think things will be happier, easier, more successful or less stressful. I’m just beginning my career, so there is a lot of time ahead of me before I can even think about slowing down or planning for retirement. The span of time between now and then will define most of what I’ll remember as being my life. When put into this perspective, I immediately regret any time that I wished away the work week to get to the weekend. If I continued to live my life only enjoying 2 out of every 7 days, I will enjoy only a fraction of the time I’ve been given! I don’t feel alone in this mindset; in fact I know I’m not. To be truly content, we need to learn to find happiness throughout every stage of life. There’s no reason that the joy we feel on Christmas or the first day of vacation can’t be felt each and every day.

The Problem: Deferring Happiness

Whether we know we’re doing it or not, we often defer our happiness for a point in the future when everything will be perfect. Do either of these phrases sound familiar? “I just want it to be the weekend so I can relax!” or “Once I get that promotion, I’ll finally treat myself to an overdue vacation.” We should find relaxation and enjoyment every day, not just on special days. This is deferring happiness.

The problem with deferring happiness is that we don’t allow ourselves to be truly content until we reach a fictitious and self-imposed target – a target that is always moving. There are enough variables in life that this “perfect situation” we’re waiting for will likely never happen. If we continue to deny ourselves the ability to be happy right now, then we will live the majority of our lives rushing through the present for a future that is always out of reach.

The Solution: Practicing “Nowness”

Pause for a moment and reflect on the thoughts that normally fill your mind. If you’re like most, these thoughts are either projections into the future or memories from the past. It’s rare that we really stop and focus on the exact moment in which we’re living and take in the experience of the “now.” It’s hard. The present is not always exciting. In fact, much of it is a well-memorized routine and so it’s easy to go into autopilot. But to be truly happy throughout every stage of life, we must practice “nowness” and learn to find contentment each and every day.

So how do we break the bad habit of deferring happiness and get into the new habit of practicing nowness? Here are just a few ways in which you can take the first step:

Stop using the phrase, “Once I retire I will…” There’s no reason you must reserve these enjoyments for retirement. With moderation and a little planning, things like traveling to a foreign country, pursuing a hobby or just taking a nap from time to time can all be woven into our lives right now. Plus, once you reach retirement age, things like skydiving, climbing Mt. Everest and salsa dancing might not be as feasible to you as they are right now.

Put a sign on your desk, mirror or refrigerator to remind you that right now is the best moment of your life—or at least it can be if you have the right mindset. This small reminder will make a big impact on your mood and remind you of everything you have to be happy about right now.

If you find yourself fantasizing about a future moment in which you’ll finally be happy, stop and make yourself think of at least one thing you’re happy about right now. Even on the dullest of days you can still be happy about good health, a delicious lunch, a visit from a friend or feeling accomplished at work. An upcoming vacation, holiday or career change are all reasons to look to the future for happiness, but don’t discount the happiness that surrounds you right now. Learn to celebrate even the smallest things that bring you joy on a daily basis.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Life

 

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Meeting Fate Halfway

blindfolded womanEvery so often life presents us with moments where things really feel like they’re coming together. We can choose to believe this is by chance or that this is by fate.  Switching careers, buying a new home and falling in love are all life changing experiences where so often we hear people say “It was fate.” I do believe in fate. I believe that doors close so others may open and I believe that our passions can lead us toward where we are meant to be. But I also believe that we must meet fate halfway.

In a recent conversation with a friend about my own endeavors as an entrepreneur, he said that I am fortunate to have had fate lead me down this path. My response was that although fate presented me with opportunities, it was still my responsibility to be prepared to seize them. This is important for every business owner to remember. Even if you believe in fate, this is not an excuse to walk around blind folded just waiting for it to lead you where you’re supposed to go. You must be an active participant in the process. Just a little more than two years ago, when I turned my part time passion into my full time career, fate presented me with the opportunity, but I still had to contribute the vision and the hard work to make it a sustainable success.

During this entrepreneurial journey, I’m learning that you can’t leave everything to chance. When I meet a potential client, I still have to prove my skills and professionalism to increase my chances of working with them. Fate may have placed me in the right place at the right time to be considered for this opportunity, but I most certainly won’t get the job if I sit back and do nothing.

I’ve also learned not to be foolishly optimistic. Fate is a presence in my life, but it’s not a safety net. Relying too heavily on fate to always give you your happy ending will result in many unhappy outcomes. Fate won’t pay my taxes, guarantee new clients or further develop my skills. It isn’t fate’s responsibility to do so. It’s mine. Fate has and continues to present me with the opportunities to accomplish these things successfully, but I must always meet fate halfway.

I think we must redefine our perception of fate. It’s fun and romantic to throw our cautions to the wind and say “whatever will be, will be,” but this is taking advantage of – and missing out on – the opportunities with which we’ve been presented. Instead, even with fate on our side, we must continue to keep our nose to grindstone and prepare ourselves to seize life’s fateful opportunities.

 
 

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What We Can All Learn From Open API

This means...stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

…Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a phrase that’s been used since, well…probably when the wheel was first invented. It’s the notion that when a good, working idea exists, we shouldn’t waste our time trying to alter it or duplicate it. Instead, we should embrace it, use it and build upon it. Yet I still see examples of people trying to do the opposite. One of the biggest advantages of the technology we have now is the ability to collaborate with each other. I like to refer to this as living in the Age of Open API.

Open API (which stands for application programming interface) refers to different technologies that enable websites to interact with each other. The concept behind this is that businesses with different specialties should be enabled and encouraged to collaborate. The Age of Open API is the concept that we should stop trying to reinvent the wheel. We should instead focus our time and energy where we’re most talented and becoming the absolute best we can be in this field. In doing so, we create a network of experts rather than a world full of Jacks of all trades.

The Age of Open API is already among us, but not everyone has opened their minds to the power of applying this idea on a more personal level. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, business owner or employee, we can all benefit from having Open API and the following three concepts should give you the framework to start to do so immediately.

Outsourcing work

While we all have many talents, we’re exceptionally good at only one or two. These talents are the ones we should place most of our focus on and try to monetize. Because we have likely developed a level of expertise within our top few talents, we can complete this work more quickly and efficiently than the average person. For all other work outside our small area of expertise, we should try and outsource. Open API promotes work sharing. Do what you’re capable of doing best and offer this as a service to others as well. In exchange, others can provide you with their talents to compliment your own.

Using each others’ work

Just as we continue to use the concept of the wheel, we should also feel free to utilize other existing ideas. So long as it’s not breaking any copyright laws, reusing and duplicating ideas is a great tool for efficiency. You can learn from past mistakes and eliminate the time it would take you to develop the exact same idea on your own.

Collaborating

The final concept of Open API is collaboration. This is different from outsourcing or using existing ideas in that it requires us working together throughout the process and not just combining work at the very end.  Two (or more) heads are better than one, right? If you share a similar talent with another person or business, team up! You will instantly and exponentially increase your network – as well as potential work. You will also challenge each other to rise to a higher level of innovation.

To close, the Age of Open API has provided us with an environment that nurtures information sharing and collaboration. We’re able to maximize our efficiency and focus our time on doing what we do best. If everyone were to embrace their own Open API and join in the sharing of information, together we would build stronger, more innovative businesses than we could ever dream to do alone.

Have you personally embraced your Open API yet? Share your ideas for outsourcing and collaboration by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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