Born to Blog

BornToBlogAs a new blogger, I am constantly looking for ways to make improvements and reach a larger audience. I have reviewed a number of resources and my goal is to take away at least one new element from each. I recently read Born to Blog, by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith. Written for those who are just getting started, this book provides excellent information to help newcomers find success. My greatest takeaways are laid out below.

  • Blogs are a noninvasive, trust-building, relationship booster: This stood out to me because, when done right, I have seen how powerful a blog can be.
  • There are five elements to writing a successful post: 1. Create a captivating headline. 2. Give a unique personal viewpoint. 3. Take a personal risk. 4. Create an entertaining spin. 5. Use words that sing.
  • Blogs offer the most potential value for businesses. The benefits include brand awareness, direct and indirect sales, sales support, R&D, PR, crisis management and expanding search engine traffic.
  • There are specific traits of a successful blogger; tenacity, focus on passion, flexibility, consistency and courage.
    • Tenacity in blogging comes down to working for years to start to build something; there is almost never instant success.
    • Without passion, failure is likely just a short time away. The true passion has to shine through in each post. It can’t be “all business.” People want to find out what you have to say.
    • Consistency in blogging means new posts at least once a month; there are many reasons for this and daily can become even easier over time. Every post doesn’t have to be profound, but does have to give some value.
    • Courage is likely the single most important element; sometimes just to hit the publish button.
  • There are three areas where blogging goes wrong; the wrong purpose, the wrong content and the wrong people.
    • Blogging must be done to tell you or your company’s story and share the core values.
    • The content must be real and connected to what you or your company are all about.
    • The people must be authentic and likely working for the company itself; not outsiders.
  • There are eight ways listed to develop readership for your blog. 1. Give away your best. 2. Add your blog to your current marketing efforts. 3. Contribute to other publications. 4. Get active on your reader’s social channels. 5. Use savvy, simple SEO; research keywords, optimize blog titles and post content. 6. Use guest bloggers. 7. Join and sponsor conversations, such as Twitter chats and discussion forums. 8. Reward your readers.
  • Bloggers for a company should come from every level, ranging from entry to C-suite, and training and support should be given to ensure quality and consistency.

These few items are just a portion of the pages of notes I wrote down, but were the ones I felt most applied to what I am doing with my own blog.

If you are looking to start blogging or would like to get a fresh perspective to improve your current blog, I would encourage you to check out the book.

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Family, Faith and Work: Prioritizing the Work/Life Balance

balanceThis is going to be a particularly busy week for me. I have three summer courses running simultaneously, several work projects are coming together at once, my fiancé is graduating from her residency program, one of my best friends is getting married and I am traveling 4 out of 8 days. However, this is what I live for. Nothing makes me happier than being busy and having so many wonderful things going on at the same time. The only way I am able to find a perfect balance is through a well-developed set of priorities.

Over the course of my life, I have been taught, and learned on my own, what elements are most important. Some people share these same items, and in the same order, but there are also many who do not. In ranked order, from most important, I value family, faith and work. That has come to mean some very specific things as I have continued through my career. I have also learned it is much easier to say this than implement it.

Family, as well as friends, is what drives me to succeed more than anything else. While I want to help as many people as possible, the motivation to do so is based upon the energy generated through my interactions with those who I love. For the most part, it is not about giving anything up to put family first, but about making shifts to what will allow for both to happen. The only instances when one is above another is when opportunities come along where only one event can be put in one slot of time. That is the test of the prioritization. And, it should be noted that it is not about what happens when as the outcome, but that first moment when you realize there is an issue.

Faith comes next, but also includes my personal values. This, too, is what drives me to do what I do and gives me the strength to push on and find success. I am extremely proud of the moments when I made the tough choice to stand up for something I believe in, not compromising my values, and put my faith first, however, there have also been lessons learned when that was not the case. My goal is always to use those moments where I fell short as a learning experience as it is a feeling I do not wish to have again.

Finally, there is work, which is one of the most time-intensive and important elements of my life. The opportunities I have had in my career have only served to help me define my prioritizes, learn and develop as an individual, and create value that impacts my personal life. My current position with the NSBDC is an excellent example of being able to develop a great passion for what I am doing. Doing this only pushes me closer to my first two prioritizes.

There are so many wonderful things going on in life and I can barely stop to think about it all at the same time. This next week is going to be very exciting and I can’t wait to learn from what transpires, continue to push to become the best version of myself and help as many people as possible along the way.

Think about your own priorities and how you make decisions. Then, think about the ones that went well and those that didn’t. Finally, think about what you learned and how to push yourself to be the best version of yourself.

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Working for the NSBDC

Nevada-color with bandWorking as a business development advisor for the Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC) has allowed me to continue my goal of helping others achieve their greatest level of success. In fact, that is really at the heart of the NSBDC’s mission. Over the course of the last six months, I have learned a great deal and it has helped me to focus on what I would like to pursue in the future.

Since starting, many people have asked me what I do, so I created a video blog below to discuss the NSBDC and my role in the office.

The NSBDC is celebrating its 30th year of helping entrepreneurs and small businesses across Nevada. Funded through partnerships that include the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the University of Nevada, the NSBDC offers its services at no charge. This allows individuals and businesses to receive support they would otherwise not have been able to afford.

As a graduate assistant and businesses development advisor, I have been given a tremendous opportunity to help others. Specifically, I work with clients to provide whatever they need to succeed. This includes creating and reviewing business plans and financials, researching market and industry information, developing marketing plans and creating partnership that include various University departments. The clients I have been able to help range from needing help with financial projections for a loan to move to a larger location to generating a business plan to raise $20 million for a large project.

In addition to working directly with clients, I also write articles for the Reno Gazette-Journal, recruit and train student interns, writing grant proposals and helping to improve the efficiency of the office. Everything I have done for the NSBDC has been a great opportunity to use what I have learned through my MBA coursework, and continue to develop my professional skills.

To learn more about available resources, visit the websites for the NSBDC and SBA. To find a Small Business Development Center near you, click here.

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Working Remotely: Creating Your Own Office

computer-desk-homeofficeFor my third post on the topic of working remotely, I am going to discuss the most important aspect – actually getting work done. Getting out of the office is a unique feeling with endless opportunities. For me, the ideal was taking my laptop down to the beach and being able to watch the waves crash whenever I look up from the screen. After reality hit, I had to think about what was going to be most effective for day-to-day work. My process came together over years of trial and error. It still isn’t perfect, but neither is being in the office. Start with a plan: For some, it can be tough to get into the workday and just start going at it. It is important to remember that you must create your own ritual to follow. I like to get up, check the news, have breakfast, take a short walk (usually to the beach) and then take a look at my to-do list; all happening before 8am. Not being a coffee drinker, that is one step I never added that many others do. Scheduling time for specific items: Something I do, and even did today, is put together a full schedule of how I would spend my time; 8am – 9am emails, 9am – 10am blog, 10am – 2pm grant writing, etc. By doing this, I give myself small goals and little wins to knock off my checklist. This also helps to keep me focused on what is most important for that day through reviewing my entire to-do list. Work when you are most efficient: If you are an early riser and can knock out four hours’ worth of work between 6:30am and 8:30am, then use that time for the most difficult tasks for the day. The time I would otherwise spend on a commute is when I am able to be the most productive. If afternoons are when you start to slow down, then schedule meetings or do research; whatever requires less creativity. Working remotely isn’t always for home: There is a wide spectrum where I do my work. From the beach to my kitchen table, airports, coffee shops, bars and libraries in between, sometimes we don’t get to choose where we work. On any given day, I enjoy getting work down at a high level in the morning, and then going for a walk to a coffee shop or library to get out of the house. Some fresh air and new scenery helps me get a different perspective on whatever I am working on. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where it is, only that it works for you. These ideas really are for any work environment, but especially when working remotely. Sometimes moving your laptop to the conference room of the office can be just the change you need. Working remotely is all about finding your own rhythm. I am constantly working to perfect mine. Please let me know your favorite place to work, either in the office or anywhere else, in a comment below. Related posts: Working Remotely: Friend or Foe? Working Remotely: Maximize the Benefits Image Credit

The Professional Business Traveler

IMG_0150Over the course of six years, I flew hundreds of thousands of miles on business trips. Along the way I was able to become part of the traveling elite with perks and benefits thrown at me from every direction. It wasn’t until I stopped traveling for work that I began to appreciate some of the finer things a high status level brought. Better seats, upgrades, free baggage and more miles were just some of them.

While I still travel quite a bit, there is always the memory of what I once had. In my video blog below, I will detail what stood out to me the most. For those who also lived this life, please add anything else that stood out to you.


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Working Remotely: Maximizing the Benefits

home-office-laptopI am a big fan of working remotely, and there are many pros and cons. My previous post focused on those. Here I will discuss what I feel allows me to be successful and productive when working outside of the normal office environment.

  1. Set alarms: They are not just for waking up, but for when to start and stop projects, break for lunch and end for the day. Over time, they may no longer be needed, but they can help keep you on track as you get started – especially not over working.
  2. Use Your Commute Time: By not having to drive, that can add anywhere between ten minutes and three hours to your available productive time each day. The average American spends 6 hours and 18 minutes commuting per week. That is almost an entire extra day of work. This means you can work almost one full day less per week, or you can look at it as time to be more productive. If you are a salaried employee, think about the massive amount of extra work you could get done and stand out among your peers. At 50 weeks a year, an extra 6 hours per week is 300 hours that could be used for being an all-star; at home and for work.
  3. Run Errands More Efficiently: My goal with working remotely is to minimize wasted time. Run errands during the middle of the day when traffic and lines will be shorter, if there at all, is another way to do this. I am a big proponent of waking up early and taking breaks as needed. By running personal and business errands in the middle of the day, you are saving time that can be better spent with family or accomplishing more objectives. A work/life balance is extremely important. Even if this only saves you an hour a week, that is an extra hour that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
  4. Distractions: This is one of the toughest parts of working remotely. They come in all shapes, colors, sizes and ages. Everyone has their own items that will pull them away from work, so there is no point in trying to list them out. However, they fall into a few categories that I will discuss. If it is a spouse or roommate, then let them know what you need to get done and when; keep them in the loop and set boundaries. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but it is a great test on relationships. If it is little people – children – then I am truly unqualified to make any recommendations. If this issue is TV, food, or nice weather, then find ways to focus on work. Perhaps spending the few minutes to put on business attire will get you in the mindset of work; this can certainly be a helpful tool when you first start working remotely. Tracking exactly how many hours you worked in a day by writing it down will let you know if there is a distraction or focus problem.
  5. Work Station: It is easy to sit on the couch, or in bed, when working remotely, but that may not be your most productive location. Find a place where you can focus – the kitchen table, an actual desk, etc. Like distractions, when you first get started, it is easier to transition from a work desk to a desk at home.

Working remotely is an opportunity to work on your own terms. I have found it is the chance to maximize the amount of work that can be accomplished, as well as the amount of extra time dedicated to your personal life. For some, it needs to be eased into because it is a big step and there are many potential distractions. However, I have always looked at working remotely as the opportunity to get ahead while having more personal time to keep the batteries charged.

Please share your own helpful hints for staying focused or maximizing your time while working remotely in a comment below.

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Being a Catalyst: Fresh Ideas and Positive Change

Catalyst_ImageOver the years, many people have described me as a catalyst; I spark ideas, promote action and encourage change. This is, in my opinion, my greatest asset and strength. After someone brought it up to me earlier in the week, I wrote down a few ideas about what elements go into being a catalyst. These are the items I felt contribute to my own process.

Creativity:

I believe creativity comes from two approaches – systematic thinking and organic development. It does not have to be something an individual is born with, but I feel having it from a young age makes the process easier. The skill can certainly be developed with understanding how to specifically focus one’s thought process. The essence of creativity, in my opinion, comes from the ability to open your thoughts to multiple categories of information at once; meaning you can draw information from everything you have learned in different areas at one time. When needing to be creative on the fly, I will usually try to merge past experience and the current context to create an idea. When there is additional time to really think and develop, I focus in on different topics and projects I have worked on; systematically going through relevant and non-relevant comparisons. This allows you to connect elements in your mind that spark creation. It is the ability to be creative and generate ideas that is the first element to being a catalyst as it can prompt desired change.

Collaboration:

The secret element for creativity is collaboration, in my opinion, because it uses crowdsourcing to bounce ideas off others in the group, rather than placing the requirement on a single individual. Sitting around a room with others and sharing ideas is when the real magic happens. I think back to my first engineering class in college when I was introduced to the idea of the “deep-dive,” which came from IDEO and has since been sold to Deloitte. My favorite story was the birth of the ATM. It went something like this: bank leaders were sitting around a table and one says, in frustration, “I wish we could just put a box of money in front of the bank with paper and a pen to leave a note.” While that idea wouldn’t work out well, the comment prompted someone else to think about taking the idea one step further. Poof! The birth of the modern ATM. Now, I am not sure if that story is true, but I love it. Someone taking an infeasible idea from another and making it applicable, that is what collaboration does; it provides a venue and opportunity to bring about new ideas. This is an extension of how creativity can prompt desired change.

Courage:

One of the most important, and sometimes the most important, elements of being a catalyst is courage. Change can be one of the largest hurdles to overcome, especially if you are not the decision maker. The difficultly comes from individuals not understanding that change is needed, don’t want change or if suggesting change comes with negative consequences. Simply sharing an idea that is outside of the norm can be stressful because there is no knowing how others will react.

However, sharing ideas can be one of the best decisions when it is done consistently. It shows others that you are using your intelligence and are working to help make improvements, but also shows leaders that you have courage to be vulnerable. Courage is the final step that allows a catalyst to share their creativity. It takes extreme courage the go against the status quo. If there are current policies, practices or events that go against the purpose or values of a company, then courage is the element that will allow for positive change. It doesn’t come easy, but this is the most important element of a catalyst.

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Being told that I am a catalyst is one of the best compliments I have ever received. It comes down to two situations where being a catalyst comes into play; when a fresh idea is needed or a reminder to take actions in line with one’s values. There have certainly been times where I have fallen short on the courage, but I get genuinely excited about positive change and using my creativity to fuel that process. Anyone can be a catalyst when they focus their actions and develop their own process.

Push yourself to improve your own creativity, work in a team to generate ideas and practice sharing to develop your courage. That is how change will happen.

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Choose Your Attitude – FISH! Philosophy

FISH!_logoMany years ago, I was asked to read a book before I started a new job. The book was FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph. D., Harry Paul and John Christensen. This was my first job out of college and I was raring to go and excited to have some reading material prior to starting. I had never heard of the book and only initially knew what I read from the cover; 2 million copies sold and a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. I thought that was interesting and took the few hours to read it; at only about 100 pages I just sat at my desk until I was done.

I took a lot away from FISH! and would encourage everyone who works anywhere, so pretty much everyone, to read it. However, there is one topic from the book, in particular, that I would like to focus on here. That is to choose your attitude. Having gone to the bookshelf and pulled it out, I will likely reread it and discuss the book itself in detail later. For this post though, I specifically chose not to reread the book yet because I wanted to be able to discuss the ideas I have formed over the past seven years.

Getting the Idea: The idea of choosing your attitude has to come from somewhere, be it this blog, the book itself, a coworker mentioning the way of thinking, etc. No matter how it comes to be, the important thing is to understand what it means; or at least means to you. For me, choose your attitude means to deliberately act in certain way when at work – regardless of what the specific situation. Understanding that the most important time to choose your attitude is in difficult situations that overwhelm the senses.

Thinking about implementing it: Once you have head wrapped your head around the idea, you have to think about how this can fit into your general way of thinking at work. Run a self-assessment on how you feel. Do you like your job? Do you like your coworkers? Do you like your boss? Do you like the work you are doing? Do you like your desk, office location, parking situation, etc.? After you have answered these questions for yourself, you can think about how you can choose to be positive about it. Short of quitting your job, which is always a possibility, you have the opportunity to view your situation in a positive light. Sometimes this can be very difficult, I certainly understand and have lived that, but I have always tried to hold to having a positive attitude which results in positive behaviors.

Testing it out: Now comes the fun part. Go to work and be positive. When you see the person you don’t particularly care for, simply smile and say, “good morning.” At your desk, put up a picture of your loved ones. If you already have that up, put a picture of your favorite vacation or a place you are looking forward to going to next. If you need something more challenging or would like to explore another aspect of your job, talk to your manager/boss/supervisor about taking on a project to try it out. When something goes wrong, be objective and try to learn from it and share your thoughts. If you need ideas, just ask me and I will try to help you out.

Making changes as needed: After you have started to actually choose to be positive, especially when it is difficult, think about how it went. Are there changes you need to make? If so, test out new ideas. For me, the easiest way to get in the mindset, especially during tough times, I find a mirror (and with no one looking at me) and just smile. I smile into the mirror and see the happy guy on the other side. It may sound simple, or corny, but it can really work for me. If you see yourself happy, then it is easier to get in that mindset. You can try what works for me and/or come up with your own process.

There it is, just that simple. Writing has made me think about what I have learned about choosing my attitude over the last few years. While I generally have a positive outlook on life and it may be easier for me to look through rose-colored glasses, I still have rough days just like everyone else. That is when I am truly tested and have to put in extra effort to choose my attitude.

Please share your ideas for keeping a positive attitude in a tough situation at work in a comment below.

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Course Correction: Changing Careers

Part I of my interview with Race178 President and Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Race Director, Eric Lerude.

Race178One of the most important, and sometimes most difficult, decisions in our lives is determining what career path to choose. In our teens this decision first makes an appearance when we decide where to attend college and what major to pursue. Then we go after our first job in our early 20’s and by the time we are 30 we have almost a decade of experience. With every passing year, the risk of making changes becomes greater and greater; not only for the career, but also factoring in elements like a spouse and kids.

This was the decision Eric Lerude made in 2005. Having majored in finance and then passing the bar following law school graduation, Eric was a well-established attorney with 15 years of experience. However, having selected law school under the assumption that being a lawyer was a good job, he never found an intense sense of satisfaction from his work. That changed in August of 2003 when Eric ran the Hood to Coast relay race in Oregon. He had started running at a high level and this race was an opportunity to explore a new area. It ended up being the “ah ha” moment that changed his life.

Flying home, thoughts went through Eric’s mind about how he could create a similar experience that would showcase the city he was born and raised in, and loved – Reno. This was the moment of birth for what would become the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey (RTO), a 178 mile relay race around the city and lake (The full story of the RTO is in Part II). Suddenly, a new level of passion came over Eric like never before. This energy pushed him to spend the hours outside of his full-time job to pursue this new adventure.

Shortly thereafter, the moment came when Eric had to make the big decision; continue full-time as an attorney or take the risk and more full force into being a race director. This was an easy decision, especially with the complete support of his family. After hundreds of hours acquiring permits, working with the city, applying for grants, marketing, creating a business and doing a little bit of law work on the side, the first Reno-Tahoe Odyssey was ready to go.

10 RTO’s later and the 11th coming up soon, Eric’s transition has not only been successful, but tremendously rewarding. It is easy to see and hear the immense passion Eric has for his new career. Being able to authentically connect with others, centered on living a healthy lifestyle, generates even more passion and drive. Looking back, Eric shared the lessons he learned.

  1. In making a career change, ensure it is what you have a passion for.
  2. Leverage the knowledge and experience you have gained as much as possible.
  3. Support from those around you is an important element that can make the difference.
  4. And the most important lesson, “There is no magic pill.” Changing careers requires a tremendous amount of work and effort. Take advantage of classes, advisors and/or consultants who can help to make this transition easier. You don’t have to do it alone.

Making a career change should not be done lightly and only after many discussions with family, friends, mentors and professionals who understand the path you are looking to take. While there can be great risk, I feel that passion and dedication towards a goal is a potent combination for achieving success. Eric used his passion to achieve his goal and is now planning the 11th RTO, along with several other races he now coordinates. The lesson I took away from my conversation with Eric is to go after what drives you, using your passion and dedication to help find success.

Check out the Race178 website to see all the races Eric puts on and think about signing up for one!

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