Category Archives: Career Advice

Ubuntu

Ubuntu:  I am because we are

For the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of working on a leadership development experience with some of the brightest minds in the business. The African word Ubuntu sums up this community nicely. After 1,825 days, the cross country trips have come to the end and as always, the universe’s timing was spot on.

I could write pages on what I’ve learned, on how this extraordinary group of human beings has inspired me.  But, in an effort to be outside my comfort zone, I’m going to try to keep it tight and sum it up in five lessons from the last five years.

  • Be unapologetically you: When I first started the position I’m currently in, I tried changing myself to conform to the way others wanted me to be. I came off disingenuous and as if I was trying too hard. And I was. Once I let go of who I was trying to be and fell into who I was, it was like magic. I was confident, carefree and happy. My coaches tell me this is what owning your power feels like. GOOD STUFF!
  • Take nothing personal: When you work with people day in and out, for hours on end, they become your family, which is a gift. I love that I love spending my free time with my colleagues, that I consider many of them friends. BUT, it’s a double-edged sword. You MUST separate the two. Sometimes that means asking for help on how to manage both a personal and professional relationship. Sometimes that means saying you’re sorry. Sometimes it means drinking champagne. It always means being intentional and kind.
  • Stay open: SOOOO many things have changed in the last five years. And each one of them has made me a better person. I used to be so afraid to roll off this program. I do not know working life without it. Through lots of reflection and some tears, I’ve gotten to a place where I’m proud of the work I’ve done and feel in my bones that it’s the right time to move on. How do I know this? I got on the plane home from California with a smile on my face and an urge to write. That’s how I know. I would not be going to get my coaching credential in 2018 if I was still on the program. I know this for sure…the best is yet to come. And when you accept change, it is invigorating and spectacular.
  • Celebrate every win, big or small: Get through a tough session without having a nervous breakdown? Get yourself a pedicure. Successfully manage a room of tired, hungry coaches while still getting program feedback and do it all on time? Pour the champagne. Life is messy and scary. Every time you overcome sometimes that challenges you, celebrate. On the easier days, help someone else celebrate. Life is
    good vibe tribe

    My good vibe tribe with some missing

    too damn short. Also, when you’re not sure what to do, dance it out.

  • Be the good vibe tribe: These people I’ve worked with for the last five years, they are the best in their respective areas of expertise. But, even better than that, they are exceptional human beings, good as gold people, who choose kindness and love above all else. They will forever be my good vibe tribe – putting on smiles and staying in the high positive even through life’s hardest moments. They inspire me to be better, love harder and smile a little brighter.

And the biggest lesson of the all: Live in a constant state of gratitude. I DO NOT always get this right. Believe me, Newark Airport tests my high positive, grateful state on every occasion. In those trying moments, find one thing, one person, one experience you’re thankful for. And focus on it with all your might. I promise your mood with change instantly. I will be forever grateful for this experience and for my good vibe tribe.

find your tribe

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Break Before the Breakdown

I spent my #MDW doing absolutely nothing. No predetermined plans. No beach trips or barbecues. Instead, I slept. I exercised. I shopped. I caught up on my favorite T.V. shows. And it. was. blissful!

Because sometimes having your life scheduled to military precision drives you insane. Sometimes you need a weekend to exhale.good vibes only

This weekend was the first weekend I’ve been home, in my apartment, in six weeks. Five business trips along with one week at my dad’s house. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies; my curiosity is instantly peaked when I’m in a new place. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.

But…

It’s exhausting. Early mornings, late nights, always being “on.” As extroverted as I am, even for me, six weeks was enough. I took the weekend to unwind, unplug and reflect. Schedule time to think my friends, it’s extremely important.

During week five while at my dad’s house, I literally had a breakdown. Think panic attack meets three-year old tantrum. One minute I was typing an email, the next I was hysterical. And I had no idea why until I took time this weekend to figure out what happened.

I am a creature of habit: I love having a game plan, a routine. I want to know how my day, week, month is going to be spend…loosely. Every hour does not need to be scheduled. When I break my routine, I lose control. I tell myself stories that are completely untrue. And my anxiety goes through the roof. Enter childlike breakdown.

Upon further review of the situation, here’s what I know:

I need sleep. This isn’t a new thing, even in college, I couldn’t pull all nighters. Without an uninterrupted six to seven hours, I’ve miserable. I also need to exercise regularly, better if it’s in the morning. It starts my day off right and prevents the spin.

I noticed that all of areas of energy are connected. For example, if I exercise, I am instantly in a more positive mood. Physical energy connected to mental energy, easy example I know. Then there’s emotional and spiritual energy, which is a bit harder. Writing in my journal every Sunday night is how I refill my emotional energy tank. I include things I am grateful for and other reflections from the previous week. Spiritual energy means finding your church. It could be an actual church, it could be your yoga mat, whatever is good for your soul.

All of these examples were missing the week of my breakdown.

surround yourself

The people in  your life are also a source of energy. It can be very easy to catch the energy that’s around you. You should only surround yourself with good people, positive people, people who want to make a difference. Negativity sucks the life out of you and negative people steal your joy. No bueno.

Sometimes I need to distance myself from people I love so that their energy doesn’t consume me. Sometimes that means taking a time out and walking away. I’ve done this at work, where I’ve gotten up from my desk and gone for a walk so I don’t lose it. If you feel a breakdown coming on, stop what you’re doing (it’s not that important), change your scenery (outside is recommended) and breathe. Break before the breakdown!

My new goal is to communicate this with the people around me. I can’t expect people to be mind readers. Share your routines, boundaries, plans for progress with anyone who could impact them. It will save you the headache later.

I’ve been much more intentional about controlling my different energy level since my breakdown earlier this month. So much so that I now track it my journal. I know when I need to sleep or need to meditate or need to talk to someone.  I can literally feel it and I’ll never ignore that feeling again.

If you’re energy is depleted in any way, you’re no good to those around. And with everything happening in the world right now, we can’t afford to be anything less than at our best.

To My Sisters

Lent started on March 1 and if you’re a practicing Catholic, you give something up. So, I gave up apologizing, casually throwing around “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t needed and certainly when I didn’t mean it. I also made a point to find at least one woman, each day, who left on impression on me. Maybe she showed kindness, or strength or listened when I needed it. Plus it’s Women’s History Month, why not focus on my fierce lady friends!

sistasMy little mission yielded a few lessons or maybe observations is a better word for what I saw. In 31 days, women close to me and complete strangers influenced the trajectory of my day. Each, in her own way, raised me up: with encouragement, compassion, advice or a mug of wine. I didn’t struggle to identify someone each day; in fact it was the opposite, I couldn’t choose one name!

As I paid close attention to the women I interacted with, I also paid close attention to my apologizing tendency as well as other negative language I use without even thinking about it. I saw myself really thinking about  saying I’m sorry. I only did it when I truly meant it. It made such a difference!

Word choice and the language we use especially when talk about ourselves is important. In the last month, when I listened more closely to these same women, they were far less empowering when it came to speaking about themselves. I heard women struggling to accept compliments, be recognized, say thank you and talk positively about themselves. It wasn’t always the case but happened more often than not.

It’s been an enlightening 31 days and my intentionality around apologizing and language will continue past the month of March. Now my PSA: Ladies, our paths are different from our male counterparts. That is fact, however, don’t forget where we as a population have come from. We must own our power as women, to set the example for those behind us. You are whole, you are strong, you have God-given talents that no one else possesses. They are uniquely yours. Own them!

The way each woman who crossed my path this month acted is how we all must treat one another. With respect, humility, compassion and grace. We must raise each other up. When one succeeds, it is a victory for all. It sounds preachy and idealistic, I know. However, it’s the only way to move forward and to make sure everyone knows and appreciates a woman’s worth.

Self Love

I meant to write this post in February, the month of love. But I got distracted. Moving on.

February is the month of love but I bet you instantly think of Valentine’s Day, couples and chocolate. But shouldn’t it start with self love? That’s what I dedicated my February (mostly) to and here’s what I learned.

Mornings at the gym set the tone for my entire day. I absolutely need sleep if I want to be nice (and probably productive too). I feel better if I eat right but that does include carbs.I get a headache if I don’t drink enough water. Destressing after work includes watching my shows including sobbing during This Is Us. I catch people’s energy. Silence scares me. So does formally joining a dating website. People’s lack of accountability drives me nuts.

My biggest realization on this self love journey? I’m a fixer, a helper, a person who is the first to offer to help. I don’t say this to be self-righteous. I share this with you as a reminder to myself and because I’m sure many of you feel the same way. I love helping people and it certainly feel good to do good. But at what point does that stop and you start becoming resentful?

Harvard Business Review’s “Big Idea” in January was called Beat Generosity Burnout. In the article, the authors share how selflessness at work (and I’d argue personally too) leads to exhaustion. It’s a fascinating read that completely resonated with me. At some point, when all you do is say yes, you reach a breaking point. You throw your hands up and say no mas!

As the article points out, there are several ways to prevent yourself from getting to this point. For me, it all comes down to boundaries. I tested my theory out this past month and for the most part, it worked. When I chose to do things based on how I was feel and my priorities, I’m happier. I got clear on my boundaries by writing down what is important to me. I also realized that each day is going to go exactly my way. It’s okay to put others first when you choose to do it versus being forced. When I did choose to help, it felt even better than before and I was more present while with the person or project.

Self care is fundamental yet we all try to be superheroes. Taking care of yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – is the only way you’ll be able to help others. So it’s not selfish, it’s the first step in loving yourself fully.

 

 

 

Stopping the Spin

Whirling: A verb: move or cause to move rapidly around and around. That’s how I describe it. Constant, continuous whirling. All. The. Time. Thoughts whirl in, out, through and around my head. And for a while, I had no idea how to manage it.

To my recollection, the whirling dates back to when I was 2 years old. I would rip paper up, put it into a plastic bowl and spin it around with my hands. At the same time, I would chant. Yes, you read that right. A buzzing, humming chant that increased in volume over time. While I don’t have proof that this was the start of the whirling, it certainly looks that way.

As I grew up, the whirling turned into anxiety. The floodgate of thoughts would open at any given time, rush through my brain and leave me anxious and unsure of what to do. It wasn’t alway as paralyzing as it sounds. I figured out ways to focus, especially when the topic was of interest to me. While the chanting did stop, the fussing and fidgeting did not; I would constantly twirl a rubber band (or Mardi Gras beads, or a hair tie, etc) between my fingers. I could control it to an extent; if I was comfortable around someone or in someplace, the rubber band would appear.

10% HappierTwo weeks ago, I ditched the rubber band. Sometimes, it feels like I threw out my security blanket. The twirling and fidgeting was a release for me and although it isn’t detrimental to my health, it was distracting, to me and those around me. This is thanks to Dan Harris and 10% Happier. Harris, an ABC news anchor, talks about his struggle with his version of whirling. He’s real, relatable and was a skeptic of meditation. Now, after seeing a change, he is one of its biggest advocates.

We all have the whirling..worries, to-do lists that are never done, etc. But, how we manage it is unique to us. What mindfulness does, as Harris describes, is helps people identify their thoughts to create space in their heads. This helps you be less anxious, less responsive and overall less stressed. Yes, there is scientific research that backs this.

I’m also finding that other activities provide similar results to meditation. Activities like working out (especially yoga and strength training) and cooking relax my mind and provide something specific to focus on. Cooking also unleashes a stream of creativity that excites me. Maybe try these activities (if you like them) as a start.

I get it, it sounds a bit crazy. I know. I was there. But I encourage you to start small, a few minutes a day and use a guided meditation app (I recommend 10% Happier, Happify or Headspace). I use these to fall asleep, which is when my whirling is the worst. Overall, I fall asleep and stay asleep longer, can stay in the present more easily and when I can’t, I use my breath to regain focus.

Now, I am not perfect and some days, all I do is whirl. But, it’s progression, not perfection, that’s important in this mindfulness journey. Corny? Maybe. But it’s accurate and life changing. Give it a try and start living your best life.

 

 

What’s With Well-being?

Whirling. We all do it. When the thoughts in our head race so fast we can’t keep up. When you’re so restless at night thinking about the next day’s to do list. When the days fly by and you forget to eat, sleep or pause for a breath. Yes, this is the whirling. I was (and some days still am) in need of a way to get the whirling to stop. Luckily, I found one.

About a month ago, the Center for Healthy Minds did a live event with the Dalai Lama. It was the most enlightening 90 minutes I’ve experienced in a while. The Center is dedicated to helping people change their minds, so they can change the world. Richie Davidson, the founder of the Center, spoke passionately about the four components of well-being:

  1. Resilience: How fast or slow we recover from adversity. Richie believes this is a learnable skill.
  2. Positive Outlook: The ability to see the basic goodness in every human being and savor that experience.When you see the world in a more positive light, your body’s stress hormones are lowered.
  3. Attention: A wandering mind (aka a whirling mind) is an unhappy one. There are strategies for managing attention including mediation.
  4. Generosity: Acts of giving activate circuits in the brain that regulate emotions and lower stress.

When all of these aspects are combined, a person can achieve well-being or the state of being comfortable, healthy and/or happy. Richie cites different pieces of research that prove these concepts improve your overall physical, mental and emotional health.

Dalai Lama

Inner peace is another way to say happiness

As for me, I just wanted the whirling to stop. I listened to Richie and the Dalai Lama speak and show real scientific proof and thought might as well give it a shot. I started by mediating to fall asleep at night. It got me to focus on my breathing instead of my to do list. I fell asleep faster and stayed asleep all night. Win #1 for meditation!

Resilience has been the hardest concept for me to implement. When things go wrong, either at work or at home, I tend to get hung up on them. I replay the mistake or challenge over and over again and lose all confidence in myself. This is definitely not a good place to be in. One thing I’ve started doing was writing down any challenge, heated moment or incident that triggered me. By writing it down, I’m letting it go. Still very much a work in progress, but it’s a start.

You can start today too. Well-being isn’t something you inherit, you can learn as you go and pivot as needed. I absolutely feel better and in times of high stress know how powerful even a few deep breathes can be.

 

 

 

Stop Freaking Out About Your Future Finances

It’s almost the end of February so if you’re a responsible adult, you’ve filed your taxes. Now you’re waiting for that highly anticipated tax refund check. It’s probably one of the few times a year all of the 20-somethings in the world feel financially stable and like they rule the world.

Why limit that feeling to only one time a year? Your personal finances should not freak you out. If you have a good job with a respectable income, then money should not cause you anxiety. I’ll admit for a while money, credit cards, investing and budgeting were all things that stressed me out. I was paranoid that the money I saved would magically disappear. Guess what, there is not a money stealing fairy that takes all of your money in the middle of the night. You just have to be smart about saving for the future.

A budget spreadsheet should be your best friend. It’s a really simple way to track your spending. There are different apps out there that can do the same. Knowing where you money goes is the only way to reduce expenses and save more. Now how do you take your finances to the next level?

Investing. Yes, that big scary word that doesn’t really make scene to a lot of people. I am of the Carrie Bradshaw mindset: “I like my money where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” Fair point because at least Carrie (and others) know where their money is going. With investing, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You know what you’re investing in but aren’t sure how your money will fare in the market.

There are lots of resources that can help you figure out how to invest your money. One example Quandl, a centralized website that pulls financial and economic data together as a tool for people to use when investing. Their futures page show over 100 options for investing and provides data on each over a period of time. So before you put your money anywhere, you’d want to check out trends and historical data to make an educated decision.

Managing your money boils down to needs versus wants. As long as you maintain a balance between the two while planning for the future, you’ll be set. Add in some smart investments and you’re in a good place. I know it might not be as easy as it sound in this post. But if you remove some of the fear you might have about finances, it does make the process less painful.

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