Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Start a Study Group - Here's How

I am a huge fan of study groups.  Accountability is important – and working cooperatively to prepare for tests, quizzes, and final exams is a great way to get ready for the material. In my book I also talk about how they are a great way to start making friends and building a learning community. 

But, if the show Community on NBC has taught us anything, it is that study groups need parameters. 

So here are my must-dos for study groups.

1. Study ahead of time – don’t be that guy (or girl). Study groups should never be your only means of studying. One of the biggest hindrances to study groups is that guy who shows up with a bunch of excuses about why he hasn't studied yet and that he's finally ready to get serious. He's relying on you to give him all the answers. Don't be that guy! Because it doesn't work. You should study by yourself for a few hours before you engage in a study group. The study group is an opportunity to recall what you've studied - not to start from scratch. The study group should take your preparation from a B+ to an A+. 

2. Make it an open group – at least initially. Since you are going to prepare ahead of time, the study group serves as an opportunity to recall the information and interact with others - anyone interested will be a great asset. When you are a commuter student especially, it should be an opportunity to expand connections with your classmates. But don't be afraid to politely ask someone to leave if they are not being helpful towards the study group's goals. 

3. Create a game-plan for the session.  How will you study? Will it be a free-for-all or will you have some sort of coordinated strategy? The best study groups are the ones with a leader or two - people who think about the study group ahead of time and help create a structure that allows everyone to get involved. 

I often led study groups and would create games we could play with the content using notecards; we'd go around the room quizzing each other, and would pause on any topics we felt we needed to discuss further. Don't assume someone else will create this for you. Be that leader and not only will you help others, you will benefit tremendously (e.g. anytime I led a study group like this I usually got a 98-100 on the exam). 

4. Generate questions. Anticipate what questions will be on the test and try to create a practice test the group can go over together. Before you meet you can assign each person in the group a role in terms of what part of the practice "test" to create and then you can quiz each other when you meet for the study group, moving through the material with focus and direction. 

5. Make it a habit. Fine-tune your group (if one session seems flawed, fix it or move on) and then make a habit out of meeting.  Study groups can be fun, can keep you accountable, and can help you build a fun and thriving learning community.   

Give these tips a try and let me know if you have any more questions about your group at advice@communitycollegesuccess.com! If you are already in a study group, see if these things can help improve the quality of your session.  Study groups should be fun – but more importantly, productive.  Find that balance and enjoy :)

Study Tipping Tuesday - Note Cards, Location, Time Management

Here are this week's study tips for Tuesday :) 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

This past week was one of the busiest, and craziest weeks of my life.

My book revision was due. I traveled to my state’s capitol.  I worked full time. At one point, I had to take a cab back to a hotel to make it to Wi-Fi for my master’s class.

And I had meetings, blogs, lunch appointments, errands, and a relationship to balance.

And what is my point?

Who hasn’t had a week where things just get real?

 Sometimes, when things get busy I can feel myself threaten to shut down – to just throw my hands up and say “enough already I’m going back to bed!”

But instead, this week turned out to be wonderful and it reminded me of something so easy to forget in my own life – and something I wanted to share with you.

Every little thing in every day is leading us somewhere. Every process, event, errand, homework assignment, or task that sometimes threaten to overwhelm are leading us to something.

The road you are walking is leading you towards a destination. And, often, the harder the road is, the greater the payoff will be at the end.

And sometimes, it’s easy to mistake business for displeasure. 

Because honestly, I love my job, my master’s program, traveling (taking a cab for the first time by myself made me feel like a legit city-girl…even if it was only a 5 minute cab in Tallahassee), lunch appointments, networking, my book, my business, and my relationship.   

But when they all hit at once, stress threatens to make even the greatest things feel like burdens.

So, remember this:

Even when it doesn’t feel like it, working really hard will always pay off. You enrolled in college to get somewhere and it’s how you approach the day-to-day tasks that will determine your success.   

And never forget that everything you do, from the truly enjoyable to the incredible arduous, contributes to your end goal.

The prize.

So take the time to remind yourself of that this week or anytime you start to feel overwhelmed by your life.  It is the greatest form of self-motivation.

Great goals are not reached from attitudes of complaint, apathy, or even stress.

They are achieved by those who push through the toughest obstacles, overcome the greatest barriers, and – more than anything else – accomplish the small, sometimes mundane, tasks with a smile, every.single.day.

The only way to do that? Keep your eyes on the prize.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Go-To Guys (or Women)

I was watching TV last night, and on came a commercial starring Charles Barkley – he is now the spokesperson of Weight Watchers.  (This may be the greatest spokesperson-company arrangement of all time.) 

And seeing him got me thinking about those commercials for T-Mobile that he used to do with Dwayne Wade. The ones about T-Mobile’s “Fave five.” 

Since I used to have that plan on my cell phone, I would always think about how interesting that concept is – the idea that we should have a circle of people who are our “go-to guys.”  I was to have a group of five people who I would expect to call, to text, to engage with more than anyone else on my contact list.

These were to be my “Favorite Five.”

So I started thinking about this same concept and how it can apply to the rest of our lives. Lots of us think of this concept socially - but I think that the concept can and should go further than that.  

While it is great to have friends that are your go-to group, have you thought about who your go-to guys outside of friends and family might be? 

What mentors, professors, or professionals are in your life?  Who will you have no problem calling for help when the time comes? 

It probably isn't as easy of a question to answer as what five friends would you put in your phone - it certainly wasn't for me when I first started college.  

And that is because it takes work to develop those relationships, it is really at the heart of my book, but I think it is undoubtedly worth it.  And it isn’t a process that starts and then stops – it is certainly ongoing

So let’s make that a goal for all of us this year. We can get started on it right here, right now.  

First, let's make a list of those adults in your life that can offer some sort of professional or academic advice, and highlight those on that list that you wish you could learn more from. 

Next, make it a goal for yourself to cultivate those relationships as the calendar year goes forward. 

Time is on your side – these are projects, and relationships are fluid – they develop, not always instantaneously. 

But the work is worth it – like I wrote in this piece on coaches – you need older adults on your side. 

Because the more people who see that amazing potential you have, the better. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three for Thursday - 3 More of My Favorite Things for Your Balancing Act

It is Thursday, which means you need to remind yourself again:

Success requires balance.

So here are this week's three things for your balancing act:

1.  Pinterest -  Hopefully, most of you have already stumbled upon this awesome site. If not, here is the gist - you get to make collages - which I recommend for goal-setting - and are able to essentially click, or pin, anything that catches your fancy online. I have loved it so far - and to my surprise - it has actually been a tool to get to know a few people in a more complete way. Also, different college organizations, like NSCS, actually have their own Pinterest accounts that you can follow.

2. Playlists that never get old - Music is inherently emotional - and is one of those things that sometimes can get me moving when it comes to a project or something that I am dreading to do. I am a well-documented Taylor Swift enthusiast - so today on the ride home from a trip to my state's capitol for my job, I revisited my favorite playlist of her songs for the long ride home. This might sound cheesy - sometimes cheesy things are true - but, don't be afraid to revisit a playlist that puts you in a good mood when you feel overworked, stressed out, or just want to unwind. The tonal quality of music might be all you need to kick things into gear.

3. www.goodreads.com - I don't know much about this site, but a friend recommended it to me this week, so I am going to give it a look. The premise is that it is essentially a site for you to suggest books to friends. I am a big proponent of everyone cutting out time in their schedule to read, regardless of how much they like or dislike doing so. If you have some free time on the computer, take a look at GoodReads, let me know what you think. I am always looking for nonfiction (and a few brain candy) titles to read - let's link up and we can recommend a few titles to each other :)

I hope your week is going fantastic! If you haven't, take a look at this week's study tips - these will be a new feature for the site this year running on Tuesdays.

Let's be friends.  
Be a leader not a follower, except when it comes to Twitter
Or feel free to email me at advice@communitycollegesuccess.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Study Tipping Tuesday

Announcing a new feature I’m going to include on the blog for Tuesdays in 2012!

College success is really all about strategies, so every Tuesday I will give you 3 quick strategies that you can implement into your routine right away to give you a boost towards reaching your goals.

Here are this week’s 3!

1. Decide on a set block of time you will study/work on homework every week this semester and set phone reminders (Google Calendar SMS set up is great). Schedule the blocks at no more than an hour or two at a time and stagger as necessary. Stick to those reminders every week. If the alarm on your phone goes off at seven o’clock and you are on Facebook, sign off, change locations, and get to work. This will pay off with A’s.

2. Read a book about your desired major/career. You’ve been there, standing in line at your college bookstore, paying hundreds of dollars for a book you may not be all that interested in. It can be crazy, but reading will always play a huge part in how we learn. So why don’t we read more books on topics that truly relate to our own lives and personal goals? Search your college’s library, your local library, or Amazon.com for a book that relates to your desired future profession. And then read it.

3. Write down one question from your required reading this week to ask your professor in your next class. Never go an entire week without contributing to class discussion. Make it a goal to speak up at least once every class. Professors who remember your classroom contribution will be the ones ready to write you a recommendation when you move on or graduate. 

Success is all about small daily habits. Ask any student who get’s straight A’s. Ask any athlete. Ask any mom.

It’s the little daily things that move us forward. And missing out on these small things every day are what can take us down.

I hope these tips this year will help you lift off every day towards your better life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to become an overnight success

The first time the idea for this post came into my head I was on my hands and knees in one of my nicest dresses picking up confetti piece by piece after a student event. The second was at a nighttime student Valentines Day event when one of the students got suddenly sick and, since it was after-hours with no janitor, security let me into the janitors closet so I could mop up the mess.

These moments are part of my first job out of college and I will never forget them. Because they remind me of what every successful person I’ve ever met or read about has told me – almost everyone starts from the bottom.

A few days ago I was talking to one of my mentors who is always full of quotes and life lessons that seem to stay with me forever; he works in entertainment and has met some wildly famous people, and in passing he said: “people who enjoy overnight success enjoy it after many years.”

We live in a culture where it seems like Justin Bieber’s come out of nowhere and giant successful companies can be created by students still in college (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook).

It’s awesome to be young and successful but the truth is, it’s really rare.  And the danger is we are saturated with these young celebrities and successful entrepreneurs and are told that if you just have the right idea or get a college degree that money and success will come – and come fast.

But the truth is, it takes a long time. And that is a good truth to remember. Because otherwise life after college can feel really, really depressing.

And life during college can be wrought with stress and anxiety, with you wondering if you are doing what you need to do to set up your “future.” Wondering if it will be enough.

You are enough. And you can do big things and find great success in college and beyond. You just have to remember that overnight success takes years. And here is how you can make this year one.

1. Write your goals
To become successful in whatever it is you want to do, you first must define what that is. It can be anything! Success does not mean winning a Grammy or making millions. Only you can define it for yourself. But where most people miss out is that they never define it. You can always change your mind. But you must make an initial choice. And once you do – go full force!

2. Focus and practice every day
People who are successful and great at what they do are focused on what it is they want and they do something every day to move towards that goal. Every day. What could you do today to move closer to what you want for your life? Answer that question every day and then act. Sometimes it can feel like you are getting nowhere and destined to mop floors forever. But one day – that overnight success moment – you will realize all of that investment paid off.

3. Build relationships
Ask anyone whom you admire and think successful who has helped them get where they are today and I guarantee you they will be able to list people off the top of their head with no trouble. People helping people is what move success forward. Put yourself in situations where you can meet new people often and take time to get to know people you admire. You never know what can happen.

4. Put yourself out there and take opportunities
You have to be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and try things you’ve never tried before, and college is the perfect place to build this habit. Notice your fears and crush them. Become an officer in a club. Become the president. Start a new club. Try for big scholarships and awards. Work really really hard and take risks.

Whenever life seems hard and you feel like you just can’t catch a break, remember the steps above and keep pushing forward. And remember that almost everyone starts at the bottom. It’s not a bad place to start.

This year Malcolm Gladwell will be the speaker at Phi Theta Kappa’s National Convention and one of his many incredible books – Outliers – elucidates how “overnight success” truly is the product of a lot of behind-the-scenes work and practice that most people never realize. Check out the short video below to see how he uncovers and explains the Beatles amazing musical success. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Romance, Relationships, College Success?

Almost everything that I write about on this blog directly correlates with my overall belief that the building, developing, and strengthening of relationships is at the core of building success.

And, the reality is, some of the relationships in our lives that occupy the most time and attention are romantic ones.

Meeting. Talking. Dating. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. The Notebook. 

So, I wanted to be able to touch on the subject on occasion. And away we go...

I approach relationship advice in the same way that I do with any networking – it should be about positive, encouraging, and productive interactions, regardless of the intimacy involved.

So here are the top three questions that I think are worth asking if you are in, or are thinking about, engaging in a casual, or even serious, relationship. 

1. What am I looking to contribute to this connection? Like all interactions, it is probably worthwhile to consider how great of an investment you are looking to put forth. If you aren’t interested in the emotional, or even time, commitment of a serious relationship, the person involved should know ahead of time. If not, you are setting yourself up for interpersonal conflict, which doesn’t set up a situation conducive for your personal success. In other words - prevent the drama.

            2. How does the other person fulfill my expectations? If you shouldn’t settle for a career, shouldn’t settle for a college, shouldn’t settle for a major, why on earth would anyone settle in a relationship? It is okay if someone doesn’t meet  all 1000 items from your checklist or look like Ryan Gosling, but it is not okay if that person has characteristics/values that aren’t up to what you know you deserve. You deserve constant respect, affection, and support – don’t stop believing in what you deserve in any part of your life. 

3. How much have I learned about the other person? I love chick-flicks, Disney movies, and Twilight…but, those silent, mysterious, and unsolved personalities are only “dreamy” when you first meet them. For example, a company’s image might be amazing, but you want to know the employee culture before you decide you want to work there. Don’t change that rule for a personal relationship. I am not talking about going too fast or taking it too slow- people can be together for a long time without actually knowing a lot about each other or vice versa. But don't be afraid to get to know what the other person really loves and really cares about.

And most importantly, remember, this is not about what is “hot” or how to get the cute guy or girl to notice you in class – those things are fleeting.What will stay the same? The fact that you deserve relationships that improve the quality of your life.

Never forget that and you will always qualify as a dating expert :)

So, uh what are your loves and dreams? 

Let's be friends.  
Be a leader not a follower, except when it comes to Twitter
Or feel free to email me at advice@communitycollegesuccess.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Three for Thursday - 3 of My Favorite Things for Your Balancing Act

There is a reality. Success requires balance.

So I’m going to try to use every Thursday this year (in place of 2011's Weekend 4Cast) as a time to share some things that will help you balance work and play. Here are three of my favorite things this week :) 

1.     NTCNike Training Club – An awesome (and most importantly) free application for your iPod, iPad, iPhone, or Android. I don’t like the gym – its often hard for me to allow the necessary time commitment with my schedule. If the same is true for you, this app is awesome. It has a ton of workouts on it – it has built-in videos to show you the movements – it talks to you while you are working out and gives you tips and motivation, just like a personal trainer – and you can set your playlist to go along with your workout.  Did I mention it’s free? I wanted to use it for a month before I wrote about it – I can honestly say I have never gotten results like this before. By the way, Nike didn’t pay me for this post – or give me any free stuff. I am however dressed from head to toe in swooshes. Kidding.

2.     Book and movie combinations. Is there anything more fun than reading a book and following it up by watching the movie? I don’t think so. I did it this weekend with The Nanny Diaries. Love the book – love the movie’s ending. And Scarlett Johansson. If you are in search of brain candy, enjoy a double up. It is a great way to get your nose in a book. And make sure to tell me your favorites!

3.     Google Calendar. I know, this one doesn’t sound as fun. But, I can honestly say Google Calendar is a live-saver. If you have a Gmail account, try it out.  I use it to organize, categorize, and prioritize both personal and professional events. Most importantly, it sends you text-message alerts. If you have a calendar-based program, keep using it – if you haven’t ever used an organizational calendar, I recommend this one.  

      I hope that everyone is having an amazing week! If we haven't gotten a chance to connect on social networks, I would love to get to know you better and hear your questions and ideas. Feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook or Tweet me :) 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Checking in with Your Choice of a College Major

Sometimes, when you look through old pictures, you realize things

Like this simple fact: I look cute in some hats.

In others...not so much.  

But honestly, I’d never know this seemingly obvious fact if it weren’t for these pictures.

And then there is college. And majors. And careers. And your future.

Sometimes, you find yourself choosing a major because it looks good on the shelf.  The average salary is good. The hiring market looks strong now. You did ok in this class in high school.

So, remember to take pictures - reflections on how your major really works for you. If it looks good on you keep on wearing it. If it doesn’t, contemplate a change now before you head too far down a path and find yourself as a graduate holding a degree you have reservations about.

Here are some questions when evaluating your major:

1.     What are my expectations upon graduating, and how do they fit in with this major?
2.     What is my day-to-day looking like now? If you dread a class within your field in college, will the day-to-day of a future career have the same effect?
3.     Am I excelling where I am? You are all gifted and talented – some have talents in areas that they aren’t always working in. Cater to your strengths – it is much easier to find happiness (in regards to school and work) when you are in a field in which you experience success.

Remember, this is an ongoing process – take these “pictures” of yourself and your major often. 

Because, ultimately, it is important to remember that education is an investment – both in your own personal development and future. Try and make sure that you are investing that time, commitment, and effort in in places where you will be happy with the results

I provide more tips on choosing the right major in my upcoming book Community College Success - mark your calendars for March 15th, 2012 and be sure to enter to win a free autographed copy! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to Survive a Boring College Class

Sometimes, a class just isn't riveting. Here are three tips that will help you when a college class is...well...dull.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Choose the Perfect Work Shoe

One of the most difficult transitions to make from college to the “real” world is your wardrobe. At least it was for me.

Throughout this year, I will on occasion share with you what I’ve learned and my tips for making the perfect choices for your work wardrobe without sacrificing your creativity and personality.  I wrote about the basics of this in a piece I did for USA Today College. But I want to be able to help you get into specifics.  

Let’s start with shoes.

I like to categorize my shoes in three ways:


Understanding these categories can make choosing your shoes in the morning a breeze – especially before an all-important job interview, internship, professional event, or even just rushing out the door for another day at work.

The first question to ask yourself: what is the wear and tear factor?

My favorite category of shoe is weekend – they are my flip flops, flats, and sandals –
 and they usually have the most wear and tear. I can wear these shoes to the beach, to the theme park, out shopping – anywhere. They are cute and comfortable which is why they were also my go-to college shoes. But that has now changed.
My favorite weekend shoe (at a theme park) :)

Once you transition to a work environment these shoes become weekend wear. Sandals are amazing, but they are typically not the most appropriate for work.

The second question to ask yourself: would these shoes cause someone to whistle at me? ;)

If so save them for your nights out or really special events.

I am only about five-one, so I love to have that extra height that the dangerously high heel provides. 

But the reality is, in most jobs, the six-inch heel stands out a bit too much.  I’m not saying to avoid height altogether at work, but you never want any of your clothing choices to draw attention to you in a negative way at work.

You never want someone to say: she wore those to work? It’s unfortunate but trust me, it happens.

So I have a general rule of thumb – I call it the red carpet factor.  If I put on a pair of shoes and I can imagine myself wearing them at a red carpet event (c’mon, you know we all have those fantasies ;)), then I will save them for nights out and special occasions.

I love these grey Jessica Simpson heels and have worn them on special occasions and to galas, but the truth is, I can almost dunk a basketball in them.
Fun, but a bit too much for an every day at work. 

Shoes like that will just garner too much attention on the job – and not the attention I’m looking for. 

So, finally, you ask yourself what is a work appropriate shoe?

The third question you need to ask yourself is : what is the culture of my workplace?

Culture is everything in work as every environment can be very different. As you spend time at a job notice what kinds of shoes the women in executive positions wear.

But on an interview and the first few weeks of a job you are still getting acclimated to the culture –s o what do you do?

You can almost never go wrong with a clean, neutral flat or small heel. My favorite neutral color is one that that matches your skin tone as it can make your legs look longer and goes with everything.

When I have to run an event or know I’ll be walking around a lot at my job I wear comfortable flats. But when I’m going to be going to a meeting or have a speaking event I’ll wear a medium heel. Just remember the higher the heel the tamer the color should be for work. If you wear a pop of color or a heel with a unique design, you’ll want to keep the heel a bit smaller.

You can also use longer pants to help balance out a higher heel.

Here is an example of my go-to work shoe – they are also Jessica Simpsons (I am a sucker for how comfortable her shoes are). I love these because they match my skin tone, are incredibly comfortable, give a little height, and also have a cool suede texture that I find fun and unique.
The fun of a heel, but the balance of work-appropriate :)

The key is to find your own style, express yourself, have fun, and be appropriate for every situation so that you can own it with confidence and style.

I hope you enjoy picking out your shoes for your next interview, internship, professional event, or day on the job– I know I will ;)

And if you have any other fashion questions feel free to send them to advice@communitycollegesuccess.com 

And Tweet me your favorite work shoe :) www.twitter.com/isaadney 

To read more about Isa's personal story how you can build relationships to: make positive friends, be more successful in academics and work, find the right people to connect with, and access the hidden job market, grab a FREE e-copy of the first chapter of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams! Claim your free copy on the Facebook page!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking a Vacation Every Day

Ok. I have to be honest here. I don’t have a lava-rock formation facing the Pacific Ocean at my house.

We are all entitled to dreams though, right?

I posted this picture because I think it represents one of the most important concepts that we often forget. 

We need to recharge.

I don’t mean blow off steam – and I don’t mean just become vegetables.

I think we need to find time to regroup, reinvest in our own thoughts, and take some deep breaths.

If you can, find something beautiful that you can reflect on. I’m not in Hawaii on vacation like I was in this picture, but some afternoons, when I need to recharge, I simply open up my window and take a few minutes to relax, or write in a journal, without the television or computer on, and with my phone and iPod silent.

You probably won’t have time for you to do this for as long as you should every day. My schedule rarely permits more than fifteen or even thirty minutes

But if you try it, I think you will appreciate those little breaks more than you ever thought you could. No music. No TV. No computer. No texting or phone calls. Sometime, that little break is what keeps me upbeat about things that I know I want and need to do, but at times can feel overwhelmed by.

Just a fifteen-minute mini-vacation. You work hard - you deserve it, and the clarity and tranquility that time will provide can give you the energy to push through your daily tasks with positive energy, rather than dread. 

Give it a try. Send me a postcard :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ok...Now What?

So, many of you have started back on campus by now.  And hopefully, most of you have been trying my tips for a first week on campus.

But let’s get real.  Now what?

Many of you asked yourselves that this afternoon – some of you did and might have not even known it.  But the odds are, at the end of the day, on the drive, walk, bike, or bus ride home, you started to think about how your first day back went.  You probably thought about all of the work you are going to do, and for many of you, how you are going to balance that class with this class and all of those classes with your work schedule. 

Well, take a deep breath.  Inhale. Exhale. And now reflect.

You owe yourself these three questions:

1.     Did I come home today feeling great?  If you did, awesome! Keep up that momentum, don’t let it slip away and treat every day like this one.  If you didn’t, evaluate the “why not” question. Do you need to adjust your schedule? If so, get it done now, before you get too deep in the semester and a change throws you off. 
2.     Who did I talk to today? If the answer was your peers and your professors, great work! If it wasn’t, which ones did you talk to? Come up with a plan for tomorrow to make sure you introduce yourself to valuable people around you, for your personal life, and for your academic life. College is more fun when you connect!
3.     What’s the game plan? Let’s figure out your schedule now before you add anything else to the mix. When am I going to study for class A? What week will I need to take off this day from work to finish the essay for Class B? Read those syllabus handouts that your professors gave you this morning. They can be flotation devices for your mental health in stressful situations. 

I hope everyone’s first days back are going great.  I am so grateful to have you all as awesome readers – and you deserve awesome semester – make it happen!

PS. I tweeted this today (let's follow each other! www.twitter.com/isaadney) - I like to think of Monday as the first chapter in a good book. 

I hope yours is a great read!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finding feedback in your life

With the return of the NBA and college bowls and professional football playoffs going strong (I'm watching the Steelers play the Broncos right now), I can’t help but remember how I used to view the role of the coach.

Naively, when I was young, when my dad would watch sports on our TV, I would sit wondering why coaches were needed. Most of the coaches didn’t even look athletic, and I just didn’t understand the point. 

The players could play the game by themselves, right?  

Of course not.

The truth is: athletes need coaches because players are too close to the game to always see the big picture. 

And sometimes, its not just one coach.  Whenever I am watching football, I notice how, in addition to the coaches on the sideline, there are also coaches/coordinators who sit high above the field and call out advice from radios and phones. They are able to give a unique and valued perspective.

And they are integral in helping teams win games.

And now I think about how this same concept works in our lives.  So many times, we are too close to our own situations, our own habits, our own behaviors - and often need someone else to help us see the bigger picture. 

And yet, too often, we think we can play the game all by ourselves and don’t need anyone in our lives to tell us what to do – or how to improve.

So, every once in a while, we need to ask ourselves: 

Do I have a coach in my life? Someone who can see my life from a vantage point – a unique perspective?  Sometimes we’re so busy playing on the field that we forget to ask for advice.

And what we forget is that coaches can see and draw out potential in us that we didn’t know we had - just like coaches do with professional athletes. 

For example, one of my good friends started using a running coach a few months ago and went from running a 15 minute mile to running a 7 minute mile and completing her first half-marathon. I asked her how in the world that was possible and she said it was because her coach told her he knew she was capable of more and pushed her to believe in herself in a way she told me she never had before. She started to believe that she had that running capability in her. He coached her. And  - the most crucial part – she listened

And that's the catch - getting any sort of coaching or criticism in life is really hard (e.g. think about reading those red marks on an essay or hearing a friend tell you how you hurt them with your behavior). It almost never feels good. And truthfully it probably never will. 

However – those who really succeed in life are those who listen to and act on coaching and feedback. 

It’s the only way to improve.

I thought a lot about this when I recently had my book edited. I sought out students and professors and friends to edit the book before I sent it off to the publisher. I didn’t have to do this. And to be honest I didn’t want to because I knew – no matter how much I needed and wanted it – the editing process would be painful. And it was. But it made the book better. 

Now, of course, you shouldn’t always listen to every voice of criticism or feedback in your life. In fact, it is essential that you develop your own sense of self -- know what advice to take and what advice to leave behind.  But often the instinct in life is to feel defensive and ignore almost any source of criticism in your life - and that is the instinct you want to resist. 

The trick is to be brave enough to take feedback from people you trust.

The simplest way to do so: just ask yourself - does the person have my best interest in mind? 

While sometimes there will be feedback that can be hard to take, it is the only way to truly improve. And the best part is -- coaches can bring out potential in you that you didn’t know you had.

The greatest athletes do not achieve that level of performance on their own. They have coaches. Often the best coaches. Why should life be any different?

Who is influencing your life? Who are you asking advice from? Find yourself some great coaches (a great place to start is with your college advisors and professors). Ask them for help, have the courage to listen, and have the diligence to act. You have no idea what kind of potential and greatness they will be able to draw out of you.

Because it is there - sometimes we just need someone else's help to realize it :)

My book Community College Success will teach you how to find these types of coaches in your life and how to create relationships that lead to your great success. You can enter to win a free autographed copy of the book in the e-mail sign up at the top left-hand corner of the blog. The book will be available on Amazon.com March 15, 2012! :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Going Back to Graduation for Help

I’ve got a goal for you for this weekend. This month. This year. 

That goal is for you to live your life with the zest and zeal that you had on one of the biggest days of your life:

The day you graduated high school.  

Because whether that was one year, two years, seven years ago like myself, or even longer, you felt like the world was yours to conquer on that day

So what has changed?  It is true, we grow up, responsibilities pour on, and consequences for our actions evolve.  But, don’t let the events of a lifetime steal what you had that moment:

Belief in yourself, hope in future, and pride in what you can accomplish.

So here’s the deal.  Here are three things I want you to do to help stir up that feeling that you had:

  1. Take a look back at a photograph of your graduation day.  Look at your smile, look at the smiles of those around you.  People are proud of your accomplishments. Don’t forget that!
  2. Get in touch with someone who makes you feel like you can do anything in the world. Hang out with a friend who builds you up, call a relative that cheers you up, Facebook someone who always offers support. Everyone has a support system – sometimes we just forget who they are. 
  3. Write a journal entry – I’m serious about this. Even if you don’t journal (guys usually do this less than girls).  I want you to write about the goals you had when you graduated from high school.  Then I want you to write about what has changed – don’t make excuses for yourself.  But, instead, think about whether or not you are happy with the change in plans. If you are, carry on with the energy you know you have inside. If you aren’t happy with the changes, let’s work on a plan to get you on the track you want to be.  Reach out to someone  - reach out to me – I’ll offer any advice I can for a professional or educational goal.
So let’s get to this.  Because, far too often, I think we forget the people we believe that we can be. 

Your goals are still attainable - the only variable is that things don’t always follow the schedule or direct path that we expect. 

And you are capable of anything. Sometimes our eighteen-year-old selves can teach us something.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Talk to Anyone: Conversation Starters

Want to talk to people but often don't know want to say? Want to vanquish the awkward silences in your college classes? This video will show you how :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Get More Out of Your Morning Routine

In my preparation for March 15th's book launch, I'm going to be doubling the blogs and vlogs! I hope you enjoy :)

Today was my first day back @ work after a long vacation.  This morning, I was thinking about the different steps that make up my pre-work routine.

There are good and bad morning routines. 

Good routines are ones that make you feel productive, get results, and make you feel genuinely happy.

Bad routines are the ones that make you feel like you are in a slump

So here are a few tips that I suggest for you and your routine as you get back into the day-to-day of the semester:

1. What can you add into your routines that will make you happier – even if it is only an increase of a slight percentage? Every morning, I spend about 25 minutes to blow dry my hair – which, as any girl can tell you, isn’t always something we look forward to – but it is something I do every day before work, and I enjoy the way my hair looks afterwards.  However, in order to make this less tedious, I set aside a DVD of my favorite TV shows and use my blow-drying time to work my through them.  It is amazing what a difference that little adjustment makes – the simple addition of entertainment makes me honestly happy to go through the process.  The truth is: Simple things can make a difference in your happiness.

2. What in your routine can go?  When I transferred to Stetson University, I used to drive through a gauntlet of fast-food restaurants on the way.  I found myself in the habit of stopping in (on a daily basis at that) to pick up a coffee, or more often, hash browns. Hash browns are Kryptonite.  But, while I enjoyed them at times, I never really felt like they were something that was making my routine better.  It was a quick fix. When I realized this, I realized that my routine could trim this (pun intended) fat.  I was much happier eating a healthy breakfast at home, and I felt better afterwards.  Don’t settle for quick fixes in your routines – they are fool’s gold. 

3. What in your routine can be moved around?  I used to work out in the morning every day.  But, it didn’t always work for my morning schedule, and often, I would find myself either dreading the work out or skipping it altogether.  So, I switched my workouts to another part of my day.  I now find myself enjoying them and am much more diligent in getting them done.  If something doesn’t fit, find another space for it. 

Take a look – enjoy your routines – find out what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what can be moved around.  I promise that even the tiniest of adjustments can have a big payoff.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

College fashion tips for bros

I'm always sharing fashion tips for girls - but what about guys? This vlog is just for bros - a girl's  viewpoint on what to do (and what not to do) in order to get noticed, have fun, and express yourself in college in a way that lets your personality shine through & attract the ladies ;) 

How to make your dreams come true in 2012

“They’re going to bring their dreams along to share!” – Goofy
“Aww- Phooey! Nobody believes in dreams anymore!” – Donald Duck
“Oh Donald! You mean you don’t believe in dreams? But everyone believes in dreams! You see, that’s the only way dreams can come true!” – Minnie
“You see Donald, everyone has a dream. You just have to believe!” -Mickey

[by believing in dreams Donald saves Disney from all the villains]

“Donald! By believing in your dreams you saved the day!” – Minnie
“That’s right Donald. By remembering about the power of dreams, you reminded us all that when we believe in ourselves and our friends and our family there’s nothing we can’t do! When you find the dream inside your heart, anything is possible!” - Mickey

I spent my Christmas at Disney World this past week and these were lines from the live Dream Along With Mickey show at the Cinderella Castle. This was the first time I’d seen this show and some of the lines above struck me more than I thought any Disney show could -- and it reminded me about sharing with you some of the most important tips I have to help you make your dreams come true. 

A few things stood out to me in this show and I want to share them with you so you can reflect on your own dreams this year and actually make them come true. Sound impossible? Sound cheesy? Then you might be a Donald.

What struck me most when this show started was Donald’s stubborn attitude. It seemed even Disney knew in these recession and post-modern times that most people see “dreams” as a silly and na├»ve notion. And thus it needed to be addressed that in these times it often feels like “nobody believes in dreams anymore.” What about you? 

I have to admit, I’m an incurable Mickey. I still believe in the power and beauty of finding something you care about, are passionate about, are excited about, and making it happen. I believe it takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, failure, and perseverance. But I believe it starts with believing. 

And I believe you can make your dreams come true. 

First, you must find or create your dreams, as Mickey says “When you find the dream inside your heart, anything is possible!”

I know it may sound ridiculous that my eyes watered at this point in the show but it’s because I’m such a Mickey. I thought about how deeply I do believe this, and what made me both happy and kind of sad is thinking about how many beautiful children and people in the world don’t - can’t - find or believe in their dreams because they don’t have anyone in their life to tell them that who they are and what they bring to the world is so valuable. Do you have people like this in your life? Do you believe? Or have you lost that? 

What I’ve learned this year more than anything is the incredible power unleashed when someone else believes in you and sets your heights higher than you could have ever set for yourself.

But, the thing is, not everyone always has these people in their lives. Which is why we can’t always rely on others and must find it within ourselves. 

You have to believe in yourself and believe that if you believe in yourself, define your dreams – whatever they may be – and believe that anything is possible amazing things will happen in your life. And though it may not mean much, I believe in you. 

The only catch is, believing in yourself is really, really hard to do. It’s easy to feel like a Donald. I have my Donald moments too.

But the truth is, if you don’t actually believe what you want for your life can happen, then it is guaranteed not to happen. If you even want the chance you have to believe. Like Henry Ford says,
“whether you think you can or think you can’t, [either way] you’re right!”

What do you want to happen this year? Have you defined your dreams? Are you excited about your endeavors in 2012? Do you believe you’re capable of achieving them?

Dare to be optimistic in a pessimistic world.

Believing is the first step. But simply believing alone is not enough. You can’t just wish your life – you do have to take action. And I have found the best way to start is to write down your goals and be specific.

I’m not talking about resolutions. As one of my favorite authors Christine Hassler says, resolutions don’t work because they’re just about trying to do something “more, better or different.” Her New Years ritual is my favorite and I highly recommend you do it!

I did mine two days ago and added a few things. In addition to doing Christine’s practice I also did a watercolor painting (I am not an artist but got a watercolor set for Christmas and have been having a blast! My skills are on par with a 4th grader’s, and I have as much fun as a kindergartner) of an ocean view that I dream of having one day. 

I also made a collage of pictures and words that represented who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish this year. It was so much fun and now I have great visuals that I’ve taped to my closet door along with a typed document that lists my 6 goals and a short paragraph I wrote last year that explains who I want to be (written in the present tense).
The final step that I will be doing today is turning my dreams into specific measurable goals. Writing down these measurable goals are not about putting pressure on yourself, but about defining specifically what it is you want to accomplish so that you know how to best prioritize your time and energy. I tape my goals to my mirror and see them every day as a reminder to think about how I’m spending my time.
All of my goals pictured above came true this year except for one (running a 10K). I wrote this in the winter and at the time loved running outside in the cool weather. But in Florida….I realized I only liked to run about 3 months out of the year. I don’t beat myself up over this. I simply reflect, think about why it didn’t work, and will be creating a different fitness goal for myself this year.

The most powerful part of this process is it reminds you of your priorities. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the unimportant. Define what you want, and if you see it every day you will spend the time necessary to make big things happen and eliminate the wasteful ways in which you spend your time this year.

And finally, when you write your goals, be specific. Here are the points I follow, but of course there are many strategies to write goals and you can find what is best for you. The key is if it works for you:
  • Be very specific and measurable. Have a due date and don’t make all of them Dec 31. Give yourself goals that have due dates throughout the year. 
  • Have about 3-6 goals. Focus on things that really matter to you and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things to accomplish in one year. The more focused you are the more attainable your goals will be.
  • Reach and be realistic. When I say realistic I don’t mean you should sell yourself short. You should reach as high as possible, even a bit higher than you think is possible. However, be realistic when it comes to your strengths and talents. And most of all, be realistic in writing goals you really care about, not things you think you “should” write…because those won’t work.
  • Reflect before you write your goals and don’t be afraid to dream big. Start by writing all of your goals out without thinking and then narrow them down to what is really important to you.
  • Write, showcase, and share them anywhere and everywhere around your room so you can see them every day.

I know both Christine and mine’s processes seem to take a lot of time and energy. But I promise you if you dedicate just an hour or two to this process and really do it completely, you will have year unlike any you can ever imagine. I know this because last year I did this all of this for the first time and had a year that was indeed a year I could never have believed.

I still literally can’t believe it.

Carving out that time and focusing on what is really important to you will make all the difference in the world for your 2012. What in your life would you like to accomplish this year? You can make it happen!

Block off some time for yourself in your calendar right now to reflect and write about what you want to do this year. Invest in your life – your dreams. And believe they are possible.