Failures

Last week I began a short two-part series about contributing factors to my success as well as my failures.  This is part two of that series and below I will highlight practices that have resulted in personal failure from my perspective.  I hope you can learn something from my mistakes and maybe take some time to self reflect as well.  Cheers!

Always present yourself in a manner suitable to meet someone new.  I dress slovenly on Mondays because I sit in an office and work on a computer.  However, what happens if a representative of a company I’d like to work for comes in to visit the dean in the office I work at?  It’s happened more than once and I continue to fall back on bad habits.  If only I would’ve taken the extra half hour to clean up before leaving my apartment, who knows how many more connections and opportunities I could have had in my academic career?

Forgetting to leave time for myself.  I used to have hobbies that included running, lifting weights, biking, and swimming. I took on so much in school that I left no time to pursue these activities.  Needless to say, I “let myself go” and caution others to leave time to take care of themselves before caring for the masses.  “When asked “What thing about humanity surprises you the most?”, the Dalai Lama answered:

“Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Falling into a routine.

Spending time on the wrong things.  I spent a lot of my time early on at NIU trying to make other people happy.  I took myself out of my way to offer an extra hand, brain, and set of eyes to people and more often than not, I was left with minimal if any reciprocation.  You have to understand that like in the stock market, there are certain investments you don’t make because there is little to no ROI.  Although you’re not losing your life savings in the stock exchange of life, you’re investing your time in these people and projects.  Time, as I understand it, is the most important thing you can give; unlike money, you can’t get it back.  Make sure you’re spending your time on the right people and projects otherwise you’ll find that frustration, stress, and confusion may find its way into your heart…and believe me, no one needs that.

Being busy.  There’s a friend of mine at the college of business who never refrained from challenging me to be better.  Regardless of the conversation, this individual always made me feel like what I was doing wasn’t good enough and although this sounds depressing, I welcomed the motivation.  If I had a surplus of free time, he’d ask why I wasn’t busy.  If I was busy, he’d tell me that there was a difference between being busy and being productive.  Really think about that for a second……go ahead, take your time.

Being busy vs. Being productive.  How profound and self explanatory.  I’ll leave it at that and let you make of it what you will.

Again, these are just a few points that I can recall from my experience at NIU.  Now we’ll ask you…what has contributed to you failing and what could you do better?  Leave your input in the comments below! 2.0out

 

Success

Over the past two years I’ve had my share of experiences.  I’ve had some success and a fair amount of failure as well.  With graduation quickly approaching I wanted to take some time to reflect on what contributed most to not only my successes but my failures as well.  This has been a great form of meditation and I encourage anyone reading this to do it as well!  I’ve learned a little bit more about myself in the process and want to share my thoughts with you in a short series of posts that will highlight my contributing factors to success, which you’ll read below, and my failures will follow in time.  Disclaimer: by no means am I saying that I always do these items below…but when I have, I’ve felt that I’ve achieved success in doing them.  Hope you enjoy!

When something hits your desk it doesn’t matter what level of importance it is.  What matters most is to recognize that if it affects somebody else, do it immediately.  You can wait till the last minute on a 10 page paper if you are solely affected by the grade on the assignment.  However, if somebody needs an email forwarded, help on a team assignment or a favor, do it.  You will be held in high regard if you can exhibit this behavior.  An old saying rings true “You can have everything you want, if you will just help everyone get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Keep in contact with people.  Send little texts, stay in touch through social media, or send a card once in a while.  Do this whenever you see something that reminds you of them.  Or if that’s too much out of your day just be personable and say hi to people you know (or don’t know) in your daily lives.  Nurture your friendships and keep your network open, one day these people you kept in contact with could hold the keys to open doors that you don’t even know exist yet.

Opportunities present themselves often at NIU, take advantage of them.  You get in-class presentations on the Experiential Learning Center, study abroad programs, student organizations, etc., but many people simply forget what they’ve been exposed to only minutes after it’s shown.  Write those opportunities down and research them further when you have a minute to yourself.  Pursue challenges and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ll go, not only at NIU, but in life itself.

Keep moving.  I learned this on distance bike rides and a backpacking adventure in the Smokey Mountains.  Even trying to ride my bike from my hometown to Wisconsin, every pedal I took, no matter how small, brought me closer to finishing my goal.  When backpacking we spent a few days going uphill for stints of 12 miles or more.  With each step in that cold and wet weather, we were that much closer to reaching camp. For those of you who want to give up and are overwhelmed by work that is seemingly insurmountable, take a second and remember how to eat an elephant…do it one bite at a time.

I encourage you to add your own keys to success in the comments below.  As I said, keep an eye out to read a little bit more about my failures and how can you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made in my university career. 2.0out

Keys to Success: Defined by Students

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about what makes someone successful at the NIU College of Business.  I wanted to seek out someone to ask how they achieved their success.  Then it dawned on me…no one person alone can answer this question because there are so many unique experiences that can be had here at the college of business.  Instead of asking one person, I decided to take my question to the streets of Facebook.  I asked fans of the NIU College of Business for their input and requested that they complete the following sentence: I’ve achieved success by_______.

I want to thank students who shared their input.  You may view their responses by following this link http://on.fb.me/ZKSyXO.  Take a moment to reflect on the meaning of their answers, although they are brief there really is a lot of insight when you look a little deeper!

Suiting up

Getting “suited-up” has numbered benefits.  For one, it clearly and immediately communicates to an audience the goals, mindset, and personality of the the person that’s dressed to impress.  Annika Shelly, writer, stylist, and lecturer at the Wall Street Journal adds, “It’s about trust and credibility. The reptilian part of our brain tells us to trust what we see more than any other sense. And trust what the person is wearing.”  It also proves a personal level of respect for the occasion.  Taking extra steps to dress up for your date or cleaning up nice before going to work will show others that you’re taking your role seriously.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2011/04/13/dressing-the-part-job-personal-branding/

Indeed, dressing the part can absolutely make you not only look more professional but it can boost your confidence as well.  Heavy influencers in the corporate world agree.  Take Neil Patel for example.  By the age of 21 he was named one of the top influencers on the web according to the Wall Street Journal.  In a reflective blog post he states, “A friend of mine kindly suggested that I spend a bit more money on my wardrobe, pay more than 10 bucks for a haircut, and get a decent pair of shoes…With my new clothes, a somewhat decent haircut, and nice pair of black shoes I made a break through. At first I noticed that people were more willing to talk to me when I went to conferences. I also noticed that during my business meetings people took me more serious.

http://www.quicksprout.com/2011/09/12/why-you-should-dress-to-impress-%E2%80%93-the-roi-of-fashion/

Not missing a single day of class

It may seem silly to remind you to go to class. But it won’t be quite so obvious as you settle into college life.  Although it may seem difficult at times to forego your beauty sleep for academic discussion, you must realize that you have access to some of the most accomplished experts in their field, and moreover, you are paying a large amount of money to have their attention and support. Don’t waste it.

By not taking shortcuts

Put in the hours, it will pay dividends down the road.  Actually learn your material.  Realize that you need to invest yourself fully in your education.  One respondent to our poll even said that they studied on Friday nights!  Now that’s dedication!

By getting involved in organizations

Becoming a part of the community is of the utmost importance.  It is important not only to your mental and social health, but it also helps you achieve academic and career related success. Your relationships add value to you and can help you get your homework done, they can help you in developing team skills.  You could even step up to lead a group project, and activities in organizations give you something to focus on even if other academic stresses get you discouraged.  Best of all, joining organizations can help you earn valuable skills that you’ll need in your future career.

By asking the right questions

Heck, they don’t even have to be the right ones.  Each question that is asked is relative to the person asking the question so how can you identify which question is “right” and which one is “wrong” anyway?  For example, if you are a marketing major like I am, you may have a question if a problem involving physics is given.  Others with that background may find the questions I ask to be silly or unnecessary but because I have yet to earn that knowledge, the question I asked was justified.  So going along with what this student mentioned, simply reach out to someone for help and advice, especially as a student.  Professors, professionals and others are often times more than willing to lend you a hand or offer wisdom from their own experiences and knowledge banks.

Networking

College is probably one of the most diverse populations of people that you will live and work with during your entire life.  There are countless majors, backgrounds, and creeds that attend our beautiful college and to not make connections with them and keep in touch would simply be foolish.  Not only do you have access to a vast number of students but we are also granted access to numerous professionals through networking events, class visits, and recruiting fairs.  Actively seek out people to build your network.  Whether it be fellow students, or professionals, the people you know should be treated as valuable assets in the professional world.

 

Beat the Winter Blues

It’s the middle of Winter at Northern Illinois University and unless you’re Canadian you’re probably holed up in apartments and dorms, waiting for the warmth of spring to wake you from a grizzly bear like coma.  Like many of you, I subscribe to that hibernation approach.  I stick my head in my comfy bedsheets and wait for the cold to lift so I can properly enjoy the outdoors I love so dearly.  The winter blues, or cabin fever, is a common term used to describe the moderate to emo feelings that people might get during this cold season  known as winter.  Although I don’t usually talk about it, I’ve known for a long time that I suffer the effects of Season Affective Disorder and it’s always around this time that I get somewhat depressed.  I’ve taken some proactive measures this year to try to side step those feelings and I’m happy to say that these steps have been fairly successful!  So for those of you who are feeling the effects of winter but are hesitant to talk about your state of mind with others, I thought I’d share some tips on how to get well from someone who’s going through it with you.

Step 1: Get a Natural Daylight Lamp

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"It's sort of like the Pixar lamp, only this one won't stomp on you"

Much of the negative feelings attached with winter, come as a result of sunlight deprivation.  There are lamps out there designed to mimic the natural rays from the sun.  People often treat themselves with these lights for periods of a half hour or more to help trick their minds into thinking it’s sunny!  That little placebo effect can go a long way!  This is one of the better investments that you could make to help get you out of the funk.  I don’t use the word “investment” lightly either.  These lights, depending on which model you get, can get very expensive.  So please frame this purchase in your mind as “an investment in your well-being and happiness” rather than a quick buy.    I recently purchased one myself and I turn it on when I get home from classes and work (bear in mind by the time I get out at 5 PM the sun is already setting over the horizon).  After exposure to the light, I’ve noticed marked improvement in my productivity and mood.  Maybe it is all mental, but if that’s enough to take your mind off winter, I’d say go ahead and do it!

Step 2: Take Vitamins

So we’ve talked about the placebo effect that the sun can have on your mood but what about the actual physical effects?  When we expose ourselves to the sunlight we unknowingly absorb a number of vitamins from the suns rays.  In winter, when the sun is not as prevalent, the lack of vitamins can literally lead to a minor deficiency which actually messes with your mood!  Who knew!?  So after I came across this research, I took it upon myself to purchase the recommended Vitamin D3 and Vitamin B12 tablets.  I’ve found that taking one each day provides a profound pick me up!  Just last week I was sitting around in the afternoon feeling kind of down; I couldn’t figure out why.  When I looked back on the events of that day I remembered that I forgot to take the vitamins.  Perhaps that was just my mind playing tricks on me, but either way I should probably take some daily vitamins anyway.

Step 3: Eat and Drink Fruits

Nothing can bring back thoughts of warm climates and good times like a good fruit shake, a citrus fruit, or a banana.

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"Remember that one time it wasn't -20 degrees?!"

Not only are you receiving tons of vitamins in each serving but you literally have to try not to smile when drinking or eating one!  Go ahead.  Try it!  I dare you!

Step 4: Exercise

Exercise does a number of things to make you feel better.  It increases circulation, increases hormone production such as endorphins and adrenaline, and is a proven stress reliever.  The recreation center is free for students so why not go lift some weights, walk on a treadmill, or shoot a basketball?

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"Because shirtless outdoor plyometrics just isn't my style..."

I can speak from experience and say that these small steps have gone a long way in helping me break through the fog of winter.  As long as this article helps one person smile I feel that I’ve done my job.  Thanks for reading and if you have any other suggestions or tips, please feel free to add to the conversation in the comments section!  2.0out