3 Things I’ve learned about Blogging

I started Blogging as a hobby because I love to learn, I love to create, and I love to share. I was that kid that ran home from school and followed mom around telling her everything that happened at school that day. In doing so, I’ve learned a few interesting things in the Bloggersphere that weren’t immediately obvious to me from the get go. Lets get to it.

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1) Ya’ll don’t like to read that much.

I’ve already had people tell me that, although they like my blog, it’s too long at times. Did I say people? I meant friends. Those strong supporters of what I’m trying to do in my life cannot seem to take the time to read something that is supposed to encourage them in theirs. See that sentence above?^^^^^ It has 29 words in it. The average reader has the attention span 7-10 words. True friends tell you how it is. Same point- six words. Lesson learned. I’ll shoot for shorter. Alliteration intentional.

2) Writing is meant for the readers not for the authors

As much as I LOVE to write exactly what my opinions on certain topics are, that’s not necessarily what you like. Most of the time I’m trying to share a cool insight or something I learned that day. So although I have the reader in mind, my writing may not show it. It’s kind of like a doctor who spews medical jargon at you just to hear himself talk. I need to convert it into layman terms or just something that you will find valuable.

I had a Creative Writing teacher who taught me a great lesson. I wrote a story about a suicide (maybe I’ll share later) and allowed the class to give me real time editorial feedback. I got torn apart. They kept doubting that this could really happen and said the story was not believable. “Believable?!,” I fumed, “This is my life! This happened to me!” After class the teacher took me aside and explained why the class poked holes in my true story. Believability, she explained, has little to do with the facts, and a lot to do with the reader’s perspective. This is how writing fiction is different from journalism. Also, when a reader can relate to something they feel they know, they are quick to see any discrepancy. For example, I write about having coffee with a friend at midnight when an earthquake hit. You may be interested in hearing about what happens next. What if I rewrote the first sentence like this, “I was with a friend at a Starbucks around midnight when an earthquake hit.”   Some of you say, ‘wait a second. Starbucks isn’t open at midnight. I know because I’ve been there often and sometimes as late as 11 but never midnight.’ My credibility as a story teller is gone, your interest is elsewhere, and the earthquake, in your mind, probably never happened. In the first scenario, I allowed you (the reader) to decide where I was having coffee. Once I state a fact, it’s open to argument and especially if it’s something you’re familiar with. I hope that makes sense to any writers out there. Write for your reader, not yourself and definitely not like journalist.

3) People respond to pain more than passion

The largest response to my blog has come from the post People are going to let you down. It’s not just the title either. Friends and strangers have messaged me saying how encouraging it was to hear that perspective. It’s always comforting to know that your not the only one. And, by the way, people are going to let you down and people are going to screw up. This includes you. I look at the greatest business leaders, athletes, and critical thinkers in our society today, wondering how they got there. All have different paths to success but many have one thing in common. Many of them have hit a rock bottom or low point that has given them that hunger to do more for their life. For myself, I’ve got a couple low points that I may eventually get to share with you. However, I would NOT be who I am today if I had not come from and through everything in my past. I believe that with 100% of my being. So passion and pain are more alike that we may think. Passion, in many instances, stems from pain. Rappers talk about their hunger, athletes say sports is a ‘ticket out of the hood,’ and poor Irish immigrant orphans who rise to make a way in this world. I’m referring to Andrew Carnegie, steel king who amassed millions he never spent and did not know much about steel either.

SOOOOOOO… In posts to come, I will try to shorten my topics and posts. I will look for feedback on what you as a reader, like to get out of my blog. Hopefully we can build a community because I truly love people. I will provide resources and links to podcasts, speakers, books, TED talks, and anything else that I believe you can benefit from. I also know that we all are struggling with something. I have a long list of struggles…believe me. Try starting a conversation like that, “What do you struggle with.” Probably get some weird looks but you can find out a lot about someone. Be vulnerable. I will try and do the same. Thank you for all of your support. Happy Valentines Day! ❤

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Are you a BoyScout?

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Are you a Boy Scout?

 

“Are you a boy scout?” The decrepit man looked at me with heavy but bright eyes that had seen their share of years.

“Why yes, I actually am,” I replied with uncertainty.

“Would you mind doing a good deed?”

 

That is how I found myself placing a bandage around the yellowish, infected toe nail of a 90 year-old man in my gym’s small locker room this morning. I had to hold the toe nail, which was was about to fall off, while I tightly wrapped it up with Johnson and Johnson’s most popular product. Does that make you cringe? Probably. Yet for me it had a different effect. Only minutes before I had been in the shower feeling tired, hungry and a little discouraged. I was all wrapped up in my own poor circumstances when this man’s voice had broken through the fog with that unusual question, “Are you a boyscout?” As the situation progressed and I realized what he was asking, I began to laugh out loud. You have GOT to be joking. I told him to trim his nails and see a doctor but he said, “If that’s all that is wrong with me at 90, I’m probably pretty well off.” What a perspective!

Charles (his name) brought new life to my day. He gave me a story. The image of his gross toenail will be stuck in my head days from now and it will bring a smile that I would otherwise have missed out on. Sometimes we all need a little break from the monotony of our daily routine to open our eyes to the people in the world around us. It could be taking a different route to work or getting coffee from a new coffee shop. Try a food you’ve never tried or go do Yoga for the first time. These events have more of an effect than the activity itself. They do more than you probably think.

I once heard that it is a good exercise for our brains to listen to a new CD all the way through. The reason has to do with the human brain and the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain, among other functions, has the ability to play out scenarios that have not yet occurred. For example, major life change’s like marriage, a Caribbean vacation, a new car, or winning the lottery. We can imagine how each of these would make us feel even before they happen. Our brain plays and replays the outcome of these hypotheticals until it becomes rooted. It becomes so rooted that when the result is different than expected, we are let down. Instead of joy at a vacation, we think, “I wish it would have been longer. The hotel staff was rude. We should have chosen a different location. The weather would have been better in July”…and so on and so forth. In terms of the CD scenario, when we listen to something we are familiar with, we mentally prepare for the next song to come on as we expect it to. So it’s actually exercising the brain to listen to a) something we are unfamiliar with and b) use our imagination, not previous experience, to think about what’s coming on next. Your brain is thinking of a hundred possibilities of what music will play next. It is being exercised. The problem with our pre-frontal cortex? Most of the time it’s wrong. Reality deals life from a different deck of cards. You want to be happy on vacation? Be thankful and happy for today. You want marriage to mean something?Be thankful for every moment you spend with that person and show love when it’s NOT expected. Why do you think flowers are more meaningful when it’s not Valentines Day? DUH!

Somehow it always comes back to a child’s imagination. Children don’t put limits on their world. One way to look at it is this: When did wrapping paper stop being a sword? When did a towel stop being a cape? As a lego maniac myself, I can assure you that when I saw a box of lego parts, I saw much more than the average kid. I saw huge lasers that could be assembled onto massive starship cruisers to battle underwater monsters. If you gave me legos today I would probably still see that. I love creativity and Disney World is one of my favorite places to be. That’s another topic though. 

The main point is that we get stuck in the monotony of day-in, day-out routine. Our brain becomes trained to expect coffee in the morning, a nine hour work shift of boredom, a job we dislike, and acquaintances we don’t even consider true friends. When something does come along that’s extraordinary, we barely lift our heads to see it. We don’t even recognize it. What if you went into every day like a kid. What if everyday you thought that ANYTHING could happen. It might allow you to begin to appreciate the little things. It would allow you to recognize the extraordinary. I mean tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed right? So ANYTHING truly can happen tomorrow. That’s how I want to think and I thank Charles for opening my eyes and widening my smile just for today. 🙂

Connecting with people

I was at the Laundromat by 7am this morning because I still needed to get to the gym and then work a double shift at one of my two jobs. The only other person there was a heavier woman organizing dry cleaning for the day. I threw my wash in and politely asked her if she could watch my bag while I ran to grab some coffee. Her face lit up at the word coffee. I can relate. She jotted down her mocha latte order and gave me money and I walked the couple blocks to Dunkin Donuts, happy to help another person. I remembered times as a manager at Hollister that I would send my employees off to DD to bring back coffee and donuts for everyone. When I got back, Jill (her name) and I had a 20-minute conversation about coffee, busses, and minimum wage jobs. We talked about things we connected on and could relate to. We established a connection when only an hour before we had been complete strangers to each other.

 

A little later I was safely seated on Bus 30 on my way to the gym. I like to fill my travel time with more than music so I turned on one of my podcasts. Coincidentally or serendipitously, depending on your optimism, it was about connecting with people. Specifically, the talk concerned the instant connections in daily interaction that are more impactful in the long-term than we think. The podcast brought up three factors associated with connecting with other people.

 

The first of these was vulnerability. If you want to break down the façade of a ‘keeping up the with the Jones’ attitude, bring up a weakness of yours. Friendship is made in the moment that one person says, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” According to this talk, bosses and leaders are trusted much more when they show some vulnerability to their employees. Examples? Yesterday I got coffee at Starbucks from a nice young girl. While giving me my change, she knocked over a small display and blushed with embarrassment. I immediately said, “Don’t worry, I’m probably more clumsy than you on a daily basis.” She smiled and told me she had already poured coffee on a customer that morning- she wins. INSTANT CONNECTION. My mother related a story of a waiter she had two nights ago. After he dropped off the food he said to raise a hand if she needed anything else because he “wasn’t very attentive and it was busy; but he wanted to make sure she was taken care of.” That vulnerability gained the waiter a good tip and trust from my mother. It also had nothing to do with his service or the restaurant’s reputation.

 

The second factor discussed was touch. Touch has been long displaced in our digital world and culture. It has not been replaced though. The speaker brought six volunteers from the audience to sit in a circle as if they were having a meeting. They instinctively sat about arms length apart and began by personal introductions. He then told them to move closer to each other until their very knees were touching. “Now what did you have for breakfast?” The group went around again, knees touching, and he asked them how they felt immediately after. You guessed it. Each felt much stronger connection to the person next to them. The NBA conducted a study on all teams’ group interaction throughout a season. They specifically monitored how many times individuals touched each other through high fives, celebrations, or huddles. They found a direct correlation on the season between winning percentage and amount of touching involved on the team. Crazy right? My guess, and it is only a guess, is that maybe there is some subconscious trust involved. Touch may trigger a sense of trust. A teammate passes you a ball because he’s more confident you will catch it and you trust that he is a more able passer and that it will be catchable. It’s only a guess at our subconscious but you’ve probably heard the phrase, “90% of the game is mental.”

 

The third and final factor concerns people who are born with this as a natural trait. These people are referred to as high self-monitors. These people naturally meet us where we are instead of bringing us to where they are. We are inclined to naturally like these people because they mirror us. When I was just a kid my dad asked me what type of person I am: a nerd, a jock, a hipster, or my own category. As a confident 11 year-old, I responded with, “Depends on who I’m around.” He and my brother got a big laugh out of that but I felt embarrassed. I had responded truthfully. I have not thought about that again until I heard this speaker bring it up. It’s not that high self-monitors are schmoozers or fake. They simply have the ability to mirror their environment in a fluid fashion. These people make these instant connections much faster than others under similar circumstances. How interesting! Not only with a genuine interest in others help create relationships but it can be helped by these other tools. Vulnerability and weakness inspires almost instant trust. Touch and proximity can be a major factor in collaboration. It’s the reason why face-to-face interaction is so much more powerful than any Skype or conference call will ever be. Finally, certain people are born as high-self monitors. These people create instant connections because of their ability to mirror people and situations. Some food for thought. Hopefully it was interesting if you chose to read it. This is the stuff I LOVE J

You have an Unfair Advantage

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Mr. Ed has got swag

If you’re like me, your ADD applies to more than daily focus. It expands beyond the scope of shiny objects, strange sounds, and pennies on the ground. For example, you may be reading this because you’re wondering why this horse is wearing sunglasses. The answer is because I wanted him to…and he told me. Back to the point- a different type of ADD. If you’re like me, you see something you’re not good at and make it a priority to improve upon. You are a plethora of useless facts and figures. In other words, you are a, “Jack of all trades but master of none.” Nothing will hold back an ambitious individual more than this type of passion without real direction…in my opinion (Ben Franklin disclaimer)

Don’t fix your weaknesses. Discover your strengths and leverage them for success in your life. It makes a lot of sense right? I’m not talking about when you are a child and you’re better at playing football than reading. Not at all. I’m talking about that crossroads of education and career where you are told to choose a path. That path determines your focus. That focus determines your career and you live happily ever after. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be. Why?

If you’re like me, your mind creates every hypothetical outcome once you take a path. Your decision-making ability becomes a foggy cloud of ‘what if’ scenarios and hope begins to fade. Suddenly, a thought comes to you like a sliver of sunlight in the haze. You think, “I can do anything! Really, I have many options.” Here’s the problem- you move forward feeling confident but without direction. You are convinced in your mind that you are accomplishing something by simply realizing you can do anything. How ridiculous is that logic? The only reason I can even speak on this subject is because I’M GUILTY OF IT.

I saw my brother stay focused on his tennis and his school while I did what I felt like on a daily basis. Outcome? He played tennis all of college while maintaining a pre-med undergrad and is now at the top D.O. program in the country. On the other hand, I have two random degrees, have worked in five different industries, and can do the Rubiks cube in under 2 minutes. Focus matters. Direction matters. Measuring progress matters. Results matter.

You have an unfair advantage. You have something that nobody else does. You are unique. Don’t you dare say you don’t! The only person you are fooling is yourself. Every goal you set starts with the only thing you have control over- today. My challenge to you this week is to discover your “unfair advantage.” This post isn’t even about you. It’s about ME

A new year, A new you

ImageThere’s something about turning the calendar that inspires change. If you’re like me you want change in your life NOW and have felt that way for a while. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee just over a year ago and decided my first change was going to be a move. As the 23rd winter of my life approached, I abruptly packed up and moved to South Florida. The last year has been a search for the right outlet to plug my talents and resources into. Through it I’ve learned a couple things about myself.

The first thing I’ve learned is that wherever I work, I have the ability and drive to become the best employee at the business. The second thing is that I’m not a very good employee. These are not as different as they may seem. On the one side, there is the Drew that wants to learn all the ins and outs of the business to become as effective as possible. On the other side, once learned, the same Drew seeks to reveal inefficiencies in the business and explore betters ways to do things. Independent and entrepreneurial Drew has the same problems from a different perspective. I constantly look to better myself and improve both my knowledge base and habits in my personal life. I have a hunger to apply myself in all areas. This becomes a problem when I look for a direction or project to put those talents into action. I am simply a different breed of most people. I will never settle for mediocrity. I will always want to set a new standard once the old one is accomplished.

This leads me to today. I’m looking to develop a “Mastermind” group of friends who are also driven and passionate go-getters. Without any real direction to take real steps, I’ve begun to document where I’m at TODAY. It’s simply a tool of measurement and of expression and, with repetition, my hope is that it will convert to realities.

To master my new year, my goal is to become Master of my day. Does anyone out there feel me?