How to Combat Distractions

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Like most, I typically take the month of January to diet. While most years I cut out a certain food, this year I wanted to focus on being as clean as possible. Cut out bread, potatoes, alcohol, sugar, chips, anything delicious. I can have a cheat meal once a week (or more, due to my rollercoaster of a social life) but I’m sticking to eating clean as much as I can. While for the most part I’m proud of myself, for the most part I’m also starving (no, I am not actually starving myself). It’s only been a week, and it’s been a rough week. I’m a “see food eat food” kind of person. When I see someone eating, I assume I should be eating too. So when my live-in boyfriend is still eating at 10pm, my stomach is yelling at me to follow suit. When there are TV commercials of delicious, mouth-watering steaks and ribs and burgers and…before i get too hungry, you know what I’m saying. Then there’s social media – with hundreds and thousands of people showing me all the tasty treats they’re eating. Same can be true for business. You see someone working hard, then you need to work hard. You see someone simply getting by, and you think it’s ok. It’s not ok.

This leads me to my overall thought – the entire world is a temptation.

Advertising, social sharing, people in general are all more or less swaying you from losing focus of your goals. This holds true for reaching your business goals,  your fitness goals, your personal goals, and especially your diet goals. There’s always someone or something trying to distract you, and a majority of people fall into the trap.

You’re forced to think, “Well everyone else is doing it, so it must be ok.”

The reason it works so well for people to give up is because it’s easier than fighting through it. I gave myself a pat on the back the other day because my friend ordered a glass of wine and I didn’t.

Really? I’m proud of that?

I have to be, because it’s not something I would normally do.

But self control and focus are more difficult than we get credit for. No matter what goal you’re trying to achieve, there are a laundry list of distractions eager to stand in your way. The world is designed to fight against you, not for you, especially in America.

It’s interesting that I came to this conclusion from trying to maintain a diet for a week, but I am. It’s hard out there.

To fight for your convictions and stand your ground when so many people are telling you to give up. And that’s the reason that those that make it look like they do it effortlessly, because they keep their eye on the prize.

If it really was that easy, we would all be able to do it. And we would all be a lot skinnier for it.

My advice to you, and myself, is to confront the distractions head on. Once you identify the distraction, it doesn’t seem as daunting as it once was. No one is going to know you gave up except you. So make yourself proud in 2017 and say no to the distractions.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell

About:

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and writer Nell Scovell, was released in 2013 in response to Sandberg’s 2010 TedTalk on the ways women tend to hold back both in business and in their personal lives. Sandberg uses personal observations and experiences, as well as well-qualified research, to encourage women to pursue their dreams, be confident in their convictions and, most importantly, lean in rather than hold back. From the success of this book, the term lean in has taken on a whole new meaning and launched a revolution where women around the world are creating “lean in [group] circles” or sharing experiences together through #LeanInTogether.

Lean In Sheryl Sandberg Book Review

The Pro:

From the first sentence, I was drawn into this book. Sandberg has a way of using precise and captivating research to justify the claims and assumptions she’s made from her experiences in both climbing the corporate ladder and being apart of a family. What makes this book so well acclaimed is the fact that it’s written by Sandberg herself, a woman who has led the charge for women in the corporate world and technology sphere – from her humble beginnings as the chief of staff for the US Secretary of the Treasury and working in the early-stages of Google to her most recent role as COO for Facebook. It’s safe to say Sandberg has been around the block, and although she works for a social network her personal life had been kept relatively private prior to the book launch. Readers (or at least readers like myself) were excited to learn about how Sandberg got where she is today. These experiences are qualified, and her convictions intelligent and intriguing. When you add justified research to the mix, you have a recipe for an intellectually stimulating and thought provoking content and words of wisdom.

The Con:

I genuinely do not have a con. The con is that I wish more men would be willing to read this book and gain some insight into what it’s like to have to fight to have a seat at the table, regardless of qualifications. The only other con I have is that this is another book that I would not deem as a business book.

Disclaimer: It is also not a feminist book, contrary to belief.

If anything, you can call it a well-written research paper, mixed with personal anecdotes, that encourages action and accountability in the women of the world. You might learn things that will help you in business, but you should not read the book for that purpose.

 

Important Takeaways:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder. There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.”

“Whenever possible, women should substitute ‘we’ for ‘I.’”

“It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

“Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.”

 

Rating:

Clearly, I give this book a well-deserved A+. While I don’t doubt that this book isn’t for everyone, it should be. As I said, this isn’t a business book but it’s not a feminist book either. This book is a revelation and, in turn, the start of a revolution. I would like to hope this book doesn’t become a classic, but I can’t see this book ever being irrelevant or outdated. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, smart, lazy or apathetic, you will relate to this book in some shape or form. If you haven’t had any experiences where you can relate to this book, you read these experiences with the understanding that they can and will happen to you one day. While some of the real-life accounts can be daunting, they also instill action in readers to make small changes in their own lives to enact change on a universal level. Sandberg presents this evidence and these stories in a composed and classy manner, instilling motivation and hope rather than anger, resentment or surrender. That’s what makes this book an informational tale of “how to be a woman in the world.” A book that instills awareness and the desire for the right kind of change. If you haven’t already, please make a point to skim through this book, and lean in.

 

Get Disciplined, Not Motivated

The Challenge

It’s hard to stay motivated day in and day out. There are days when I feel pulled in 42 different directions, I’m lethargic, my neck hurts, and I start to think “Is this worth it?” My subconscious starts building this defense that maybe I should remain working for someone else and staying the course. It’s not so bad. It’s certainly less stressful.

There are other days when I see others so much farther along. I observe my boss pitching a new client with ease and finesse, knowing nothing but the name of the guy he’s speaking to. I see a guy I went to college with on CNBC selling a drone that recites your day’s to do list to you while trimming your hair. My younger brother calls to tell me he’s just been promoted and is making more money than me. My subconscious re-emerges to tell me, “You can’t get to where they are. You’re too far behind. It’s not ever going to be enough.”

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Motivation works against you. You wake up feeling energized and determined to control the day, and, almost in an instant, you realize you’ve let the day control you. In order to make motivation an ally, to keep your motivation always on your side, you have to achieve discipline. Without discipline, there’s no drive, there’s no ambition, and there’s certainly no motivation.

Depending on who you are, you can train yourself to be disciplined in a multitude of different ways. For me, my discipline is driven by my to-do lists. I’ll digress for a second with this quote by actor Ben Feldman.

“Goals aren’t enough. You need goals plus deadlines. Goals big enough to get excited about and deadlines to make you run. One isn’t much good without the other, but together they can be tremendous.”

This quote reminds me that your goals are nothing without a plan. That plan has become my discipline.

The Process

I begin each year, rather than with New Years Resolutions, with goals. I then break those goals up until quarters (deadlines). Each quarter, I have a manageable amount of goals I hope to accomplish. These are either baby steps towards a bigger goal, or the big kahuna staring me in the face telling me I must make it happen within the next 3 months. Then, at the beginning of each week, I write my personal goals for the week on a post-it note. This post-it note will be transferred onto each of my daily to-do lists for the week. My daily to-do list include tasks for, you know, my actual paying job. But that post-it note is always with me throughout my day, staring me in the face, challenging me to make things happen for myself as much as I make things happen for my company and clients. This week, that to-do list told me to write this blog. Mission accomplished.

There is nothing quite like crossing something off my to-do list. I think I might like the action of sliding a line through a bullet point more than actually accomplishing the goal.

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The Success

This quarter, I had to accomplish a goal I had been dreaming about for at least five years. I wanted to be published in the Huffington Post. I had researched the process last year (within one of my quarterly tasks) and this year I was determined to make it happen. And this quarter, I accomplished that goal.

When I received the email saying my article would be published, it was a Monday morning and I was sitting in my office ready to take on another workweek. Instead, I became a child. I silently fist pumped onto my legs, squealing inside. I couldn’t believe that I had accomplished my goal. I was smiling for myself and myself alone. I did it. Of course, the accomplishment took motivation. It took determination, considering I had emailed editors a few times with no response. It took a timely, interesting pitch, one that came to me out of nowhere when I saw what a recent editor had written. It took passion, passion for the piece and passion for the goal. But ultimately, all these things would be nothing without discipline. The discipline it took to follow editors I related to. The discipline to write on others’ articles on a consistent basis to understand the tone and structure of the writing. And, ultimately, the discipline to achieve this goal on deadline.

Now, while this process may seem trivial, time consuming or confusing to you, it works too well for me – so well that I was actually impressed with myself (which doesn’t happen often). I am disciplined to deadlines and to-do lists. Without them, I lose motivation.

The next step

Now, it’s time to ask yourself – What drives your motivation? What part of your process needs discipline? How are you most encouraged? How are you motivated to work? Some people need a drill sergeant, some need an accountability coach, some just need personal time. Start with figuring out what will make you more disciplined. Once you’ve determined that, you’re ready to go for the goal.

Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

About:

Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill, is considered to be a modern day classic that refers to the experiences of more than 500 affluent men throughout our country’s history. These experiences are used to justify the premise that, “If you think it, then you will become it.” Originally written in 1937, Hill provides a step-by-step process for developing the mindset for the pursuit of wealth and, in turn, receiving wealth. This ranges from using everything from desire and faith to processes and self-analysis, with justification from stories about men such as Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. This book can be considered both a personal development and self-help book with a primary focus on achieving wealth.

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The Pro:

Considering this book was first published in the 1930s, it is quite interesting to read tactics and strategies on pursuing wealth that are still applicable in today’s technology-driven economy. It proves that the stories and experiences from great businessmen like Carnegie and Ford shouldn’t be taken for granted, as they have the ability to improve our business sense and mindset throughout our lifetimes. This proves that the concept and the stories told are true stories for the ages.

 

The Con:

This book was by no means an easy read. Although interesting at times, there were other moments that seemed to drown on. It is not a book you can read before bed, as it requires you to be alert and focused. Given its initial publishing date, the language is eloquent and lacks a conversational tone. It took me a significant amount of time to get through, but proved to be worthwhile.

 

Important Takeaways:

“There is nothing, right or wrong, which belief, plus burning desire, cannot make real.”

“Success comes to those who become success conscious”

“The real employer of the future will be the public.”

“Be sure that you are worth more than you now receive.”

“All negative thoughts serve as stimuli to your subconscious mind, unless, you master these impulses and give it more desirable food upon which it may feed.”

“Mind control is the result of self-discipline and habit.”

 

Rating:

I give this book a B rating. To be honest, throughout the entirety of this book I did not enjoy reading it. It felt like more of a chore to get through than anything else. However, when I sat down to review my notes, I realized that I had actually gotten a substantial amount of insight out of the book. The book largely talks about the effect your subconscious mind has on you and your future and the process in which you can begin to control it. While this was a concept I was already familiar with, the steps in which to take control of your mind were very helpful and informative. This, paired with the stories from our country’s most famous businessmen, made you feeling inspired and hungry. While it is not a book I would necessarily read again, it is still one I would recommend given the overall value I was able to take out of it. I recommend for future readers to write down every line or section that you find helpful, as to keep those specific pieces top-of-mind without having to re-read the book in its entirety.

 

What Would Mini-Me Do (WWMD)

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When I ever reach a fork in the road, I find myself reverting back to one question, “What would my 5-year-old self do?” or “What would mini-me do?”

WWMMD, if you will.

You know, the person you were before you knew too much information for your own good. The person who would never consider the percentage a company puts into your 401k when deciding between jobs. The person who thought of what would be the most beneficial (and fun) now versus what was going to be the best option 5 years down the road.

The person who wasn’t afraid of anything, let alone failure.

I often feel that when I was 5-years-old is when I really had my life together.

I was still silly type-A me, making to-do lists, reading too much and adamantly sure that I could single-handedly take over the world. I still, to an extent, think I can make an impact on the world. But when I’m faced with a difficult challenge, things aren’t always as black and white as they were when I was five.

It’s sad when you reach the point in life when you understand why adults told you to

never grow up.

But honestly, I am really able to put things into perspective when I think about my problems as if I were still a child. It’s then that you can pick out what’s really most important to your inner self and, more importantly, your inner child. It’s in your five-year-old soul where your dreams really lie. Where the things that meant the most to you, the things you strived to do and the person you aspired to become.

Do you still want to be that person?

I challenge you, the next time you’re stuck at a crossroads, to think about what you would do if you were still that naïve little child with an infuriated curiosity and unfathomable passion for learning. Maybe that was just me as a child, but you get the point.

Before you knew how much you actually were costing your parents and how much you needed to save to have a five-year-old of your own. If you’re still lucky enough to be at the age where you don’t have to worry about a family or a mortgage, let your five-year-old self-free. Even if you do have a family and a mortgage, maybe your five-year-old self can help you figure out a way to have it all.

WWMMD? The answers might surprise you.

Steps For How to (Try to) Figure Out Your Life

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When I first graduated college, I had a major quarter-life crisis. I had enough experience to get me through three careers – but yet I didn’t know what path would get me to the one I loved.

I have always wanted to have a career, not just a job, so to not know the answer to such an important question crushed me. It was at this time that my mentor very easily stopped me from drowning in depression. If I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I needed to prepare to get the job I wanted – whenever I decided what that was. He gave me a list of books to read, had me answer specific interview questions, fine tune my elevator pitch and, best of all, he gave me a purpose. The most helpful tool he provided to me, and one that I pass on to my friends who are still stuck in jobs while looking for careers, was a simple excel spreadsheet.

If you don’t have Excel – grab an old-school piece of paper. Draw 4 lines down the page and one across the top to create headlines.

On the top of each column, make a list in this order:

  • What do I love to do?
  • What kinds of job let me do what I love to do?
  • What industries are these jobs in?
  • What companies have these jobs?
  • Who in that company has a job that I want?

The first column is going to be the easiest and also the most important. Write down everything you can think of that excites you and motivates you. I literally wrote down “express my opinions.” Envision your ideal workplace – the environment, the people, the day-to-day tasks – and list them here.

The next few sections take a bit of research, but the research is eye opening. If you’re not sure which jobs entail what you’re envisioning, look up “random job title” and “job description.” This exercise is where LinkedIn will become your best friend, especially if you’re looking for companies in specific areas of the world.

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The most fun part of this exercise for me was finding the people in said companies with the jobs I wanted. If you’re getting exciting looking at stranger’s responsibilities at their job, that’s when you know you’ve found the job for you.

What’s more, my mentor suggested I actually reach out to these people in these jobs – not to get hired but to get knowledge. Ask them how they got to where they are, what they like about it and what they don’t like. Everyone has a story to tell and it is truly remarkable how many “too busy” executives want to find the time to bestow knowledge on younger generations. They may not have time to help you get a job, but they do have time to talk about themselves. And we all know knowledge is power.

Now, I’d love to tell you that after completing this exercise I was ready to begin my career. Unfortunately, I quickly ditched my spreadsheet and ventured off to NYC for what I assumed was my dream job.

Four months in, it was time to pull out the spreadsheet once again. This exercise is not one you do once and throw away. On average, Americans will change jobs more than 11 times in their lifetime. We are constantly changing as people and as a society and thus, what we “love to do” will change just as much. The second time I pulled out my handy worksheet, albeit less than a year later, it was interesting how much I had already changed. Since getting adjusted in the workforce in my first real job, I had a better idea of what was important to me in my next place of work.

When I got to the final section of my second worksheet, I had a few people to call. One of them ended up giving me a job, a job that I loved…until I didn’t.

I suggest keeping this worksheet each time you create it and watch how your interests evolve. Don’t get frustrated. Trust the process. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you devote the time to dissecting your own self.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with this exercise! I don’t expect this tool to be the secret to success – but I am always looking for ways to improve it. Please feel free to email me.

SKIRTS in the Boardroom

SKIRTS in the Boardroom by Marshawn Evans

About

This book utilizes the real-time examples of author Marshawn Evan’s full life – student, lawyer, sports marketer, consultant, Apprentice winner and motivational speaker, to name a few. Marshawn explains how to be a SKIRT in a man’s boardroom. SKIRT as an acronym for – Sisterhood, Knowledge, Integrity, Respect, Tenacity and Substance. The book is as empowering as it is knowledgeable as Marshawn breaks the book into sections of how to breed success – from attitude and communication to commitment and clarity. At the end of each chapter, Marshawn summarizes the chapters’ main points and provides a short exercise to apply what you read into your own life.

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The Pro:

  • You are learning from an unbelievably experienced leader in a wide variety of industries – and she’s a woman. You believe in what Marshawn is speaking because it has clearly worked. While some chapters mirror topics you touched on in undergrad or in a masters program – some people have experienced neither, and can still be successful! For me, some things I read I already practice. That didn’t make me bored, that made me proud. It was very validating. While Marshawn’s career is relatable to few, the tone in which she speaks forces you to feel a connection with her. As if you have the potential to be like her as well – if you practice what she’s preaching. What better business book is there?

 

The Con:

  • While I am all feminist and a bag of chips – I felt like some of Marshawn’s lines were a little exaggerated and over the top. It was sometimes so “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR” it made what she was saying less authentic.
  • The other slight issue I had was the exercises at the end of the chapter. Now, I definitely agree with applying what you learn. And it makes absolute sense for her to leave these exercises at the end of each chapter. If she left it all for the end, it would be took overwhelming and you would’ve forgotten a lot of the material. But most people are not reading this book in their bed with a pad and paper within arm’s reach. If you are looking to expand your business knowledge, you may be reading like I was – on my hour lunch break to “relax.” I didn’t have time to review what I had read and dig deep into my soul. I did go back and do the exercises – but after I had finished reading and throughout a few days. Hey, at least I devote an hour to reading!

 

Important Takeaways

“You may be in business for yourself, but you will never be in business by yourself.” 

“You wouldn’t let someone else spend your money – don’t let someone else spend your time.”

“It’s about how well you know ‘who you know,’ what the ‘who you know’ say about you and how much the ‘who you know’ trusts you.”

“It’s not what you do one day to create a personal brand; it’s what you do every day.”

“If a woman can raise a family, singlehandedly prepare a Thanksgiving dinner fit for a king and run a household she can run a corporation and still have time to get her nails done.” 

Rating 

I give this book an A-. It’s not necessarily a book I think I could read again but it is definitely a book worth reading and a book I would recommend (and I also wouldn’t mind meeting the author). It sustained my interest, taught me a lot and motivated me even more. It realigned me with my convictions and my goals and gave me that push on the butt that we all need every now and then to remember where we’re headed and why. Again, what better kind of business book is there?