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?

 

Advertisements

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?

Be (More) Interesting

 

It will make a significant difference in everything you do. Be (more) interesting. Interesting can take different forms. Find what is authentic to you and makes you stand out. Hone in on that. Perhaps you’re funny or slightly mysterious. Maybe you are deeply intuitive or a bit eccentric. Whatever it is that makes you tick, use that and make yourself more interesting. If there is one thing that will kill any sort of relationship or interaction, its being a bore.

You should know by now that Marie Forleo is one of my all time fav success stories. As an entrepreneur, she has established a platform that’s inspirational, eclectic and open. The above is a video she did with “fascination expert (I love it!) Sally Hogshead. Sally makes the point of saying that everyone has the ability to be fascinating. One tip is to start with something external. Perhaps its a cool or vintage piece that you can add to your ensemble that will be a conversation starter. I’m currently growing an afro. A huge one. Make yourself interesting externally someway while crafting your inner diva (or divo). Be (more) interesting!

 

Living in the Moment

I am the face of NOT living in the moment. I’m always thinking about the future, trying to learn from the past, and scrambling to complete things in the present. The fact of the matter is is that each day, each moment that we have is unique and special and we will NEVER get it back. Because of this, I’ve been much more intentional about how I spend my time, who I spend it with, and making sure that I handle business at home first and then commit myself to creating experiences, in the moment, that will help shape the person that I am supposed to become. It’s hard to do this. Especially when you have the pressures of life knocking at your door every day. So, I have created a few tips that I use of make sure that, each day, I am living in the moment.

1.  Every day, start up a conversation with a stranger. It sounds crazy and frankly, it can make an introvert like me nervous as hell but I think this is a good way to live in the moment by engaging with those in your space. Even if its just a brief hi, how are you with a genuine smile, engaging with those near you in an authentic, natural way is a great tactic for living in the moment. Besides, you never know who you will meet!

2.  Be intentional but not rigid. Being intentional is very important for me. I am a compulsive goal setter and I supplement those goals with to-do lists that are designed to draw me closer to my goal. But I think its really important to not be inflexible. I think staying resolute, hard-working and determined are important but also remaining open to possibilities and a change in plans is also crucial.

3. Be generous. I am learning that there is no down side to having a generous spirit. Helping people, in ways that are appropriate and genuine, offering advice, showing up, being available, these are all traits that, I feel, are returned to you ten-fold. Now generous does not equate to naive but living with a gracious spirit is a wonderful way to live in the moment.

4. Ditch perfection. I used to be so obsessed with perfection that nothing ever got done! Now I’m over it. I just do the best that I can do, make sure it adheres to the quality standards that I have devised for myself, and then I move on!

5. Make time for YOU. Self-care is crucial and critical. Not just exercise and proper diet but monitoring the stories that we tell ourselves. If you want to achieve greatness, you need to take care of you first. Although our days are busy and we want to take care of everyone else, take at least 30 minutes to give yourself a pedicure, meditate, drink a glass of wine — take time each day to do something that gets you off, that tells you that you love you. Build a relationship everyday with yourself!

6. Journal. This is something that I admittedly, have just started doing again. I recently went back home to Louisiana and I found my journals from back when I was a teenager. I really valued reading my thoughts and feelings at that time in my life. Journaling is a great way to chronicle moments in your life. And its also fun to revisit journals at a later time.

The above YouTube is a video from one of my all time favorite female business owners, and a friend in my head, Marie Forleo. Above, she and actor John Pais share a few tips for living in the moment.  Its not easy but I promise, its worth it!

 

 

Finding My Inner Diva

Yesterday evening, I read a very interesting article over at the Wall Street Journal called “Why Divas Need Make No Apology.” The article deconstructs the meaning of “diva” into both negative and positive traits. In contemporary pop culture especially, diva seems to take on a slightly derogatory meaning. It tends to describe someone who is demanding, arrogant, and always needs to be the center of attention. But this article posits that “healthy divas” have a great deal of traits that others could learn from. Firstly, they always demand their worth and never settle. Secondly they advocate for themselves and others. Thirdly, they are hard workers who believe in themselves and exude confidence.

There is a fascinating anecdote in the article where a comedian describes an article that he read:

“Dan Nainan, a 31-year-old comedian in New York City, says he became more assertive and inflexible a few years ago, after reading a newspaper interview with a call girl. “She said that when she charged $500, men treated her like dirt, so she upped her price to $3,000, and now men treat her like gold,” he says. “That really opened my mind.”

I included the most recent commercial by pop superstar and diva Beyonce above. Whether you are a fan or her or not, Beyonce knows how to command an audience and she knows her worth. As I push through to the next phase of my personal, professional and financial lives, I’m going to find my inner diva. And release her!

The Power is in the Plan

 

I am a compulsive goal setter or rather, a compulsive planner. I am one of those people who has a list for everything — the grocery store, a to-do list for the day, a goal list for the week, etc.  The idea of having a plan settles me, it gives me direction, and orients me in a way that makes my goals, big or small, seem achievable. I find power in the planning. As I try to make major changes in my personal, professional, spiritual, and financial lives, planning has been at the core of this process. Figure out what you want, set a goal and then stick to a series of steps that will get you closer to achieving it. Each morning, after meditating, I look down at the goal list I prepared the night before and mentally organize my day around those goals. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons that I have learned through this process is to not be so rigid with respect to planning. I’ve learned that flexibility is key. If something isn’t working, rather than trying to make it work with one method, I now pivot and try to find alternative ways to meet my goals. Or, if need be, I re-direct my goal. The YouTube video above is a TedTalk that I particularly like that speaks to the power of a 200 year plan. The author of the talk explains above but the idea behind it is creating a plan wrapped in your core values that will outlive you and leave a legacy.  The ultimate in a powerful plan!

 

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.