Determining Your Own Fate!

It is common to fall into the hands of statistics, becoming a martyr, and following a predetermined destiny.  Many individuals look to see how likely those from the lower-income class are to go to college, what the statistic is for women to move from middle management into the executive level, or what the differences are of various cultures, races, and backgrounds when it comes to success later in life.  We can use these numbers to place ourselves into distinct categories.  We can play the game, calculating our likelihood of success at only 20%, therefore, a waste of time to go to college.  Or, we can determine our own fate.

I do not deny that those in lower classes have less access to the same tools and benefits that middle or upper class individuals may have.  This can cause a greater struggle, but I also believe there are those who will fight to rise above. Just as someone in a higher income family may turn to addictions or crime and lose everything.  The determining factor in the end, is choice.  While statistics can provide a great deal of data to help us understand the world better and to figure out what changes to make, there is something deeper that comes from within an individual that determines if they will follow the statistics, or become an outlier.  An outlier stands outside of the norms, and in many cases, this can be a great thing.  For those who are condemned to a life of poverty by statistics, being an outlier changes their life for the better, and can perhaps lead to a better life for their children.

I have been faced with numerous challenges, and I am still struggling through them, but I have pushed hard to get to where I am, and I now hold two degrees.  Degrees that ten years ago, I would have never believed possible for me to attain.  Yet, I have them, and I am now determined to keep moving toward my dreams and to be successful.  I know I will be, and I am an outlier.  I am proud to be an outlier.  I fully believe that people choose their fate.  I see more people complaining about where they are at in their lives on Facebook each day, and I wonder why they are not taking steps to change their life.

A degree can only take someone so far, it is the graduate’s responsibility to prove they have retained the knowledge and can use it in a career.  Someone who wants to write should write each day.  They may not be published, but they are growing by writing regularly.  Writing a blog can be beneficial to someone who needs to stand out for their writing, business, or to showcase photography, travel, food, or art.  There are so many steps people can take to shine, but these opportunities must be grasped, or they slip away.

I challenge everyone to stop letting statistics define their lives and futures.  Each life is an opportunity to make change, to give back, to contribute, and to become something.  Determine what you want your life to be, and go for it.  Confining yourself to the limit of averages does more harm than good.  Be an outlier.  Be the woman who is an executive.  Be the person in poverty that rises above.  Live the life you dream about, then give back.  Encourage someone else to be an outlier too.  It has to begin somewhere. And the glorious ripple that stems from positive change can make all the difference.

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Leading is Adapting!

To be a leader is to be a performer.  Always in the eyes of others, and always trying to reach various audiences in a way that works for them.  It is something that takes work, and is a never-ending process of learning.

I have found that the various leadership roles I have taken on have enabled me to grow, and that knowledge is something I can carry with me into new roles.  It is also knowledge I can pass on as I am practicing them now.  Every leadership experience is different, and advice may not work in one instance, but it may work very well in another.  As a mentor, I try to express the need to evaluate the leadership role individually and the people involved.  Everyone will react to different leadership roles in varying ways.  To be a leader, one must be able to adapt, to pick up cues, and to realize that failure will happen, but it is merely an opportunity to learn how to succeed.

A leader must be a chameleon, always changing to meet the needs of the environment they are in.  The trick is, they must do this while being true to themselves.  I have worked with many people, and the personality of each individual requires me to adapt to them, to communicate in a way that will help them to realize what my message is.  It can be incredibly difficult at times, and this is why a leader needs to be passionate about their role.  If a leader believes in their message, they will do what they can to convey it appropriately.

If you are a leader and not getting the results you want, you may need to change the methods you are using to fit your audience.  You should always look for ways to improve your abilities, ways to grow, and ways to adapt!

Ingenuity is Found in Imperfection!

We all strive for a level of perfection in our lives.  We desire a perfect relationship, the perfect career, perfect children, a well organized and perfectly maintained home.  There is a sense of pride and comfort that comes from perfection as we neatly tie our hair back, brush the wrinkles from our suit before a meeting, and make sure our grammar in a document is just right.  However, the world is not perfect, and as a part of the world, humans are far from perfect.  We can do everything in our power to remove the chaos from our lives and to tie our lives into a neat package with a bow on top, but are we being true to ourselves?

The truth is we spend more time trying to create the image we desire and we think others desire when we should spend more time valuing who we are.  We are all imperfect in a beautiful way that leads to diversity, unique creations and perspectives, creativity, and innovation.  The imperfections we have make each of us special and provides the ingenuity that makes us succeed.  If we can accept ourselves for who we are, embracing the differences, we can become confident and strong.  This leads to actions built on integrity, and we become genuine individuals which is what employers want.  Employers can be assured they are getting the person they can count on, not the one with a facade that must be broken down to reveal the truth within.

As you contemplate the direction you have taken with your life, consider who you really are.  What are you most afraid of, and are you being true to yourself.  Admit your flaws, and accept your weaknesses.  Be proud of what you have done, and make changes to become better.  When you are a genuine person, you will perform at higher levels because you are happy, you are grateful, and you feel complete.  This is what we should strive for in our lives, and the masks that we use to protect ourselves should be placed on the shelf because imperfection is truly the source for ingenuity!

New Year’s Series: Resolution Planning Time

Now that we have completed the exercises over the past few days, you should have a list of your toughest lesson learned, the successes you have had over the past year, your past goals and dreams, and a SWOT table with your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  This is a lot of information, but it will help you to plan resolution like never before.  The reason it is hard to stick to resolutions is because we tend to come up with a general goal and give ourselves a year to complete it.  There is no real plan.

Your first task is to go through your lessons learned because if one of them is that you need to cut toxic relationships from your life before they drag you down, and you want to resolve to make a toxic relationship stronger this year, you need to remember what you have learned in the past.  After making your resolutions , you will revisit this list to make sure your previous lessons do not apply to any of your new resolutions.

Next, you need to look at your successes and study them.  Did you succeed a great deal in one aspect of your life like your career, but not in your personal life?  Perhaps you want to continue to build on these successes, or perhaps you want to balance things out and add resolutions that will focus on a different aspect of your life.  Think about what made you successful for everything on your list.  Perhaps you were passionate about these things, maybe you accomplished more in the first half of the year when you were thinking about your goals for the year, or at the end when you realized you had not accomplished what you wanted to yet.  This is important because it helps you to see how you think, plan, and work.

The next step is to look at past goals and dreams that were left behind.  Are any of these still relevant? Did you give up on them because you were not ready, you were scared, or perhaps it is a path you left behind and would rather leave it in the past.  We all change as we grow, and this includes goals and dreams.  This is where you should break out the highlighter and highlight any goal or dream you would like to rekindle.

Finally, go over your SWOT.  You should see what your strengths are.  Will these help you achieve your goals, and is there anything missing that you should try to develop?  With your weaknesses, it is important to know what they are and if you can try to change that aspect of yourself.  Opportunities to enhance your life, and make changes to yourself, to grow and learn, can lead to resolutions.  Finally, threats, what threats do you have to your success, and how can you work through them?  You should always be prepared for these threats and for the task to overcome them.

This in-depth look at yourself should have helped you to come up with some resolutions you may not have considered before.  Your last task is to make a list of everything you would like to accomplish in the next year.  For each item, you need to consider if a different resolution should come first, if it should be within a certain period of time, and if it should be during a specific time of year.  Each resolutions should have a date to start, and an expected date to finish.  You should try to spread your goals out and make sure this is something you incorporate into your schedule.  Most of us use a scheduler on our phone, online, or a planner.  You can add the dates for your resolutions to it, and even reminders.  If it is a big resolution, create steps to help you achieve it.  This should also be added to your planner.  A more detailed plan like this allows you to carry your goals through the year and gives you a timeline to work from.  Once you have your completed resolution plan, think about your lessons learned, make sure they still apply, and think about your strengths that will help you achieve your goals.

Now, you can begin the year right, with a plan that will help you to find success.  I wish you all the best of luck in this coming year.  2015 has the potential to be a magical year if you work hard!  I hope you will all update me as we near 2016, and let me know if this worked for you.  I would love to hear about successful resolutions!  Happy New Year!!!

New Year’s Series: Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

We are almost there!  2015 is looming around the corner just waiting for the ball to drop and for everyone to celebrate with champagne kisses and a frenzy of resolutions.  This means we must get the last exercise in to prepare for resolution planning.  We can use everything we have come up with to prepare not just a list of half-hearted resolutions, but a plan that makes sense to us, that is attainable, and that is relevant.

Today, I want you to make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) table about yourself.  This tables should be a square broken into four squares.  In the top left, place your strengths.  This could be your personality strengths or skills.  Really, anything that makes you a strong person or hard worker.  In the top right, write your weaknesses.  We all have them, and this is important for you to know.  These are parts of you and your personality that could be limiting, or that could become a resolution to change.  In the bottom left, place opportunities.  This could be opportunity for change, growth, or anything else that you recognize as an opportunity.  Finally, in the bottom right, place threats.  This includes any roadblocks or challenges that threaten your progress.

Once this is complete, review everything you have written from the exercises over the past few days because this information will help when it is time to write the plan tomorrow.  Good luck!

New Year’s Series: Toughest Lessons Learned

For the days leading up to New Years Day, I think it is incredibly important to reflect on the past year.  Each day, I will be taking part in a special task to reflect on an aspect of the past year, and then, to consider the New Year.  Each year, people make resolutions, but this is not as effective as many think because the resolutions are usually short-lived.  People may work hard for a limited amount of time, but then give up as they move on to the next great plan or goal.  This is why it is important to do more reflection, and to plan resolutions differently.

Today, I want to focus on the toughest lessons learned over the past year.  I think that it is difficult to come up with a plan moving forward if we cannot zero in on the lessons we have learned.  For me, I learned a great deal the hard way, by making mistakes.  I find that if I think about some of the most difficult, embarrassing, confusing, and challenging times I have had over the past year, I can usually see how my actions caused or made that situation worse.  This is what I plan to list tonight.  The more I can accept my faults and mistakes, the better equipped I will be in the future to either not make the same mistake again, or to fix things a little quicker.

It all boils down to the fact that we are all human.  We cannot expect to be perfect.  I have high expectations for myself, but I also know that I will make mistakes.  I have done a great deal to become stronger in my communication abilities, to speak well, negotiate, network, and work with various individuals.  However, I have also found myself in awkward moments, or making simple mistakes in negotiating due to slight anxiety.  When these moments happen, I take a mental note of it so I can figure out what made me uncomfortable, and how I can handle this type of situation or reaction in the future.  Part of being human is having faults, making mistakes, and living through embarrassing moments that will haunt you.  Those who can accept this part of themselves while always looking at ways to grow from their experiences will find they will be more successful.

I challenge everyone to start their reflection of the past year by looking at the challenges you have faced, and make a list of the lessons you have learned along the way.  Then, have a plan for the future if you are faced with a similar challenge.  Sometimes, even though you understand the lessons, you may not know how to make changes when it happens again.  This is why it is crucial to plan for it now.  If you can gain a stronger understanding of you and your behaviors, you can become well equipped to handle problems yet to come.

The Transformative Nature of Education!

There is so much controversy over education right now.  Prices of a degree can be difficult for many people and the job market makes many question the value of a degree.  There are many articles out there with statistics telling people whether a college degree is worth it.  For the most part, everything I have read seems to show a higher level of income for degree earners in many fields, but this post is going to explore something else.  Education is not just about the income that will be earned later.  Education holds a treasure that goes beyond the paycheck, it is transformative for the learner.

As a college student who has spent six years juggling full-time education and a family to earn two degrees, I can say I have gained much more than I anticipated from my years in college.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am at an all women’s day college right now, but I have become truly empowered.  I have found the professors at Cedar Crest College to be inspiring, always challenging me to become stronger and better.  The small class sizes instill an environment of collaboration, and I have gained much from this.  I have learned to speak about my beliefs and ideas with conviction, and I have grown as a public speaker.  I have gained confidence and determination.  I am an active leader who takes charge and builds professional relationships with people based on trust.  I can collaborate, network, negotiate, and accomplish more that I though possible.  I have changed drastically.

Beyond the skills I have attained and the confidence I have built, I have also learned a great deal about myself.  I have found that I am passionate about more than writing.  I now know that I love leadership roles and teamwork.  I enjoy being challenged, and I have a passion for advocacy roles in various areas.  I have learned that my career goals can be expanded and I can aim for more than I intended.  My education has given me the gift of knowledge about the business world, and the analytical thinking skills needed to solve and analyze problems.  It has also helped to uncover the potential I had hidden deep inside myself.  While there are debates about the value of education all over the web, I find the lessons I have learned to be invaluable.

I will carry my education with me as I move forward into a rewarding life because I am now much richer than when I began college.  Richer, in the sense that the treasure I have is a better understanding of myself and a realization that the possibilities for my future are limitless.  In fact, I now know that the only thing that ever truly limited me from reaching for my dreams before was myself.  I could never put a price tag on the education I have received because its value cannot be measured.  Confidence, empowerment, skills, friendships, connections, and personal growth are worth the student loans I will owe and so much more.  I know not every student will have the same experience, but that is because they choose not to.  We can make our education great by tapping into each resource offered, and becoming involved.  This is how I made the most of my education, and it has truly transformed me.  I hope more young men and women choose to do the same because it can make the difference between a career at the end, or a struggle.