Relationships 101

 

As I work to achieve both my professional and personal goals, I realize more and more how much simpatico there is between successful business practices and achieving success in one’s personal life. In particular, to create mutually beneficial and significant relationships in both your professional and personal lives, the rules are more or less the same. These are some of my best practices garnered from both the good and bad experiences that I’ve had. I believe some of the most important things are:

1. Being social is everything — Put yourself out there. Bring your best self to whatever you do. From a professional standpoint, so much is social media and technology based now. Just because we cannot see the person behind the post or the tweet does not mean we can abandon our humanity. Its perhaps even more important to be social. This one is hard for me because I am so introverted. Nonetheless, I realize how crucial it is which is why I put myself out there so much.

2. Practice integrity — I define integrity as the balance between your words and your actions. Do they match up? If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you make plans with someone, don’t break them unless its absolutely necessary. Be on time. I’ve had problems in the past with procrastination and the like. Its important to not make a pattern out of being late or irresponsible. I recently read this really great article about what to do when you’ve angered someone. The writer states that even though you may have had a good, legitimate reason for being late or missing a date, the person waiting for you only experiences the consequences of your being late, not the events that led up to you being late. The principle of integrity is such an important one and should be the foundation of any relationship.

3. Make an effort — When you try, it shows. I find that when trying to build a professional or personal relationship, going above and beyond in a meaningful, authentic way is often appreciated.

4. Be a giver — Its true that some people are givers and others are takers. But giving (within reason of course) is a good practice to develop. There’s a great deal of conversation and research I see now being published on this very issue.

5. Observation is key — While its true that sometimes you can’t predict when a person is unhappy or angry, a lot of times there are signs. Be clued in to non-verbal cues.

6. Establish boundaries — Be clear on the nature of the relationship and what is expected of each person, party, etc. Repeated boundary crossing is never ok.

7. Little things matter — Things like etiquette, thank you notes, etc. never get old.

8. Remember — Remembering little things like birthdays, names, etc. shows you listen. Always a good thing.

9.  Be self-aware — Know your strengths & weaknesses and act accordingly. Knowing what sets you off, what you’re good at, what your weaknesses are, etc. can better able you to handle the ebbs and flows of any relationship, professional, personal or otherwise.

10. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Then fix it and move on — The only thing worse than making a mistake or having an error in judgement is pretending like it didn’t happen, avoiding it or lying about it. Fess up to it, do the best you can to fix it and then continue.

 

Do you find that there are noticeable parallels between good business and personal relationships? If so, what are your tips?

 

Learn Something New

 

When I turned 30, I made the decision to devote a portion of each new year of my life to the craft of learning at least one new skill.  This year, by December 31st, I plan to be at minimum highly proficient in spoken and written French and have a deep knowledge in building websites. During this process of learning at least one new skill a year, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Namely, how I best learn new things, how quickly (or slowly) that I can learn and how to best utilize this new information moving forward.

I heard about Timothy Ferriss a few years ago. The author of several successful books, most notably The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4 Hour Chef, he mainly discusses the process of learning something new, particularly how to learn something new in the shortest time possible with the most efficacy. I am a big proponent of the idea that you should never stop learning, especially something new.  I have a ton of new things that I want to learn. The things on my short term list would be: Spanish, coding, how to swim, krav maga, and the tango.  What are the new skills that you would like to learn? What best practices have you learning that anyone can apply to learning something new?

In Difficult Times…

 

Those who know me know that know I am currently going through one of the most difficult periods of my life.  My mother’s seriously ill and my finances are tight, all of which converged as I began launching my first business.  It’s amazing how one minute life can be great and one phone call can change all of that. As a result, for the last 6 or 7 months, I have been forced to respond to my new circumstances in improvisational and creative ways. Nothing stays the same. This much I know. But when life happens, your response is crucial. I’ve had to learn how to not just cope but thrive amidst very difficult circumstances.  Here are a few of my best practices for making it through an extremely tough time when there seems to be no end in sight:

1. Prioritize self-care. When I’m stressed, its very difficult for me to eat well, especially several times a day. I subsist on coffee and maybe a small snack per day. But this is way too little and not healthy. Its of paramount importance to prioritize your health while going through a stressful, difficult situation. In not maintaining your health, you compromise your ability to fully make it through your current circumstances.

2. Take a moment each day to express what you feel. Every day, I cry. I take a moment to myself to just release what it is that I am feeling. But I only give myself 10 minutes to do so. Whether, its in the morning or at night or sometime during the day, I do it. And then move on.

3. Do 10 things every day to move yourself forward. You have to fight for the life you want. Life may look different after bad news, but you have to push through it. Staying busy has really been a godsend for me. Doing 10 things every day that will take my life into a different place, has allowed me to take some sort of control.

4. Celebrate small victories.  It could be a hello or a kind word or basically anything. But being present in the moment to acknowledge the good and the positive is an excellent strategy when it seems as if life has thrown you bad lemons.

5.  Exude the opposite of what you feel. In other words, the more anxious, worried and sad that I feel, the happier, friendlier and more generous I have decided to become.

6. You may not choose what happens to you but you can choose how you will respond. Early on, I made the explicit decision to choose to learn from these experiences and that this sort of thing happens to people every day. I am no different than anyone else.

7. Surround yourself with a support system. The only thing worse than going through this would be going through this alone. Don’t walk through something like this by yourself if you don’t have to.

8. Have faith. I have leaned quite heavily on my own faith during this time. As many do when things are not good. But I don’t think this caveat applies to just the religious. I think having faith in that life happens to everyone and that life is series of ebbs and flows can be a powerful realization. Things can be great, things can be miserable. Know that this too shall pass.

The above video is an interview with comedienne Tig Notaro. Her career is on the rise, thanks to a resounding endorsement from the formidable Louis C.K. But before all the recent accolades came her way, she experienced the following: a bad breakup, life-threatening pneumonia, her mother’s death, and then being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a double masectomy.  Yet Tig managed to survive it all.

How you respond to difficulty has a huge impact on how you will move through it. The choice is yours.

 

 

 

WHAT JAY-Z HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BUSINESS

Several years ago, a friend of mine and I visited the then recently opened 40/40 club in Manhattan, music mogul Jay-Z’s sports club. We weren’t there 10 minutes and who did we see? Mr. Jay-Z himself. I was then still new to New York and was completely starstruck at the idea of meeting a celebrity. I was content to just stay at our table and make furtive glances his way. But my friend grabbed my arm, pulled me over to him and introduced us to the superstar. Jay-Z was nothing short of warm, generous, and polite, graciously engaging us when he clearly was under no obligation to do so. Since then, I have carefully watched his career flourish to stratospheric levels. Most recently he has extended his already enviable brand to include sports agent. As I begin to build Think Young Media Group one of my “virtual mentors” has been Jay-Z. I find myself thinking back to his example often to find tried and tested strategies for taking myself and my career to where I want to be. Some of the most cogent business tips, courtesy of Jay-Z, include:

  1. Treat everyone with respect. He didn’t know me from a hole in the wall but the amount of respect he showed me coupled with the attention he gave to us has always stayed with me. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
  2. Learn how to read people.  Jay-Z, to me, embodies someone who possesses a range of intelligences, one of which is social intelligence. In particular, he has honed the skill of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of most of those who come into his orbit. There’s this great Jay line in his song “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” that says, “I do this for my culture…Show them how to move in a room full of vultures, Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over, Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up…” Let’s face it, when you are dealing with people you will deal with both the good and the bad. Learning how to “move in a room full of vultures” as well as distinguish those that can add value to you and your company from others is invaluable. 
  3. Protect yourself, your brand and your business. Always handle attacks to you, your brand & business swiftly and then move forward.
  4. Be inquisitive and identify smart, successful mentors who can offer you honest feedback. The video above is one that Forbes did with both Jay-Z and Warren Buffett (another of my idols)! Jay-Z has been very open about his curious nature and his desire to always learn. Smart questions are the lifeblood of knowledge.
  5. Focus first. Then apply this focus to the most feasible, realistic way to make money.
  6. Hard times make you into the person you’re supposed to be. You choose how you respond to the uncontrollable and controllable events in your life. Life from them and move on.
  7. True Renaissance men master one area first before moving on to another interest/business opportunity. Looking back, I think one of the things that has held me back was my lack of focus. I admire how Jay really solidified his reputation in music before moving on to the sports, fashion, and beverage industries. Build your reputation first and branching out becomes much easier.

A NOTE ON MENTORSHIP

Never have I realized the importance of networking and making meaningful connections and relationships with people than when I decided to expand my brand and form my business, Think Young Media Group, LLC. Before I even knew the name of my business, incorporated myself or built a website, I leaned on acquaintances, both weak and strong, friends, family and colleagues for advice on securing potential clients, marketing, and the like.  During this period, a generous network was a godsend and I began to think about asking some of these people to be my mentor.  I’ve read a copious amount of material on mentorship that went into detail on the dos and don’ts of a good mentoring relationship,  how to make the ask, setting realistic expectations and so on.

As I began to think about who I would ask and, if he or she agreed, what I imagined the parameters of our relationship would be, I began to think of people who were already inspiring me in my quest for professional success. The Queen of all Media, Oprah Winfrey, has always been a personal and professional example to me particularly because she began as a journalist and parlayed her success into a billion dollar global platform. Others who I admire — Ursula Burns, Richard Branson, Warren Buffett — had always been “mentors” of a sort in the sense that although I’d never met them, I often leaned on their examples and personal journeys in order to inform my own.  I call them “virtual mentors.” Another one of those people is Melinda Emerson or Small Biz Lady. She successfully transitioned from corporate American to entrepreneurship, creating a public profile under the premise that she helps small business owners avoid failure.  This interview is a recent one where she talks about her journey to professional success. I think its these examples that can also create a form of mentorship. I’ve learned the importance of identifying both actual and “virtual” mentors, leveraging their knowledge, and pulling from it tools specific to your journey that will provide value to your professional path.