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

 

Making Waves with CAUSE

With all the news lately about NIU CAUSE  and their upcoming Social Impact Summit, we took some time to interview Sophomore Rob Willer to figure out what all the fuss is about. 

What is CAUSE?

CAUSE stands for the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs.  The organization is a bit complex and for the sake of brevity I’ll provide this link to their about page rather than reciting all their motives, goals, and projects ( http://niucause.com/about-niu-cause).

How did you get involved?

Well there’s a few reasons.  My old CA (Zach Fiegel)  is the current president of Cause.  He had talked to me about the organization a few times before but one day in class I was talking to a few students who were in the honors program.  They mentioned the Cause meeting that night and they invited me to come.  I wanted to get involved in the actual business program and I thought this was my chance.  Zach pointed to me in a meeting and asked if I had any thoughts on a certain topic and I thought that was really cool.  Since then  I took over the role of Social Media, then treasurer and now I help wherever I can.

So what exactly is your title/duty in the organization?

Treasurer, pizza maker, pizza seller, promoter, social media…you name it.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the upcoming Social Impact Summit.  What’s that all about?

A lot of organizations have been putting on these conferences lately and they involve schools and businesses around their area. We thought, all of these other schools and groups are doing it, why can’t we?  We really want this to be an opportunity to students and businesses to network as well as promote awareness of a socially responsible mindset.

The website states that there are three goals in mind.  To Educate students and social practitioners about the applications of social entrepreneurship, to Inspire students and social practitioners to find ways to enlarge their societal and environmental impacts or just plain get started in the social space, and to facilitate Networking among students and social practitioners who are passionate about making a difference and changing the world.

Who is coming out?

We have two keynote speakers, Chuck Templeton and Megan Kashner along with numerous other companies and social incubators.  Over 130 students are coming out as well and you can still register at NIUCause.com and click Register Today!

1st annual implies that it will be a recurring event….any details on next year’s summit?

One step at a time…we’re putting the final touches on this year’s event but we hope that in this next month once we’re done reflecting and taking a breath, then maybe next year we can hope to get some new businesses/speakers and reach our goal of 250 participants.

Was orchestrating this event more work than you thought?

Definitely, but it’s been very rewarding!  It’s been nice to interact with a bunch of these companies online as social media guy for NIU Cause and get them all together in the same place.  I see lots of the companies that are participating tweeting about how excited they are.  It really feels great that there are  people out there that are as excited as we are.

What skills did you develop from this?  What lessons did you learn?

Teamwork: at first there was just four of us going out to find sponsors for the event.  Then we started dividing the responsibilities out to more members to get more people involved.  You get a little overwhelmed at the beginning because you see all these people so involved but it’s actually pretty easy to find a place, just ask questions during meetings and jump in where you can!

How can students get involved?

Come out to one of our weekly meetings on Tuesdays from  5-6 pm in BH 227.  There’s no application… just show up.  Students can also follow us on twitter @NIUCAUSE  or on facebook for more updates!  http://www.facebook.com/NIUCAUSE

Rob also writes for CLNS radio and the Northern Star.  Keep an eye out for his articles online and in print as the baseball season gets underway!

ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

My computer is getting older, it’s four years old to be exact, and with age comes inevitable problems.  Programs crash, blue report screens  plague my existence, and slow, buggy processes make finishing assignments a massive undertaking.

slowcomputer ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

"Contrary to popular belief, screaming at the computer DOES NOT make it faster"

People have suggested taking my over-sized paperweight to major tech companies or local computer shops but who wants to pay $100 or more to fix a computer when you could buy a decent NEW one for south of $500?!  Unfortunately I can’t justify purchasing either at the moment because I have other priorities.

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"Priorities? He must mean Toppers and Keystone." -Nick's dog Baci

I thought my situation was hopeless.  My computer bugged out, I couldn’t get wi-fi in my own apartment for indefinite patches of time, the internet was slow, and moderately sized programs would crash all the time.  I even had problems with Internet Explorer!

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"...then again, who doesn't have problems with IE?"

I had used every  “10 ways to fix your computer” article and video that YouTube and Google had to offer.  I was reaching the end of my rope, until a good friend of mine opened my eyes to the NIU Information Technology Services (ITS) Helpdesk.

What’s the ITS Helpdesk you ask?!  Well I’ll tell you.  It’s a magical place where students like you can bring your computers and phones to get them worked on and optimized.   Oh, and did I mention that it’s free!  What the literal…?! O.o  Why did nobody tell me about this earlier!  As soon as I learned about the Helpdesk I brought my computer in the same day.  I dropped it off, got a ticket, and went on my merry way.  It took no more than a day before one of the workers called me back and told me the “operation” was done.  They cleaned it up, added some software, and even uploaded an intranet package so I could access my work emails from home!  So many headaches from the past year and a half could’ve been avoided if only I knew.  So many paper rewrites, system restores, and file backups could be erased from my memory.

the truth about men in black 3 ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

"Now if only I could erase MIB II from memory too"

So now I’m sharing this knowledge with you.  This hidden treasure on NIU’s campus should be shouted from the rooftops because if it can revive my computer, who knows what they can do for you.  Check them out at http://www.its.niu.edu/its/helpdesk/index.shtml and don’t let your computer problems stand between you and a good grade again!  2.0out

Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

A lot of you have heard about a nice state park called Starved Rock but many people don’t know a lot of the hidden joys that the park or the surrounding area has to offer.  Starved Rock is mainly a summer hangout for people to visit.  There are miles of trails to hike, numerous canyons to discover and a atmosphere to think, picnic, and to enjoy the company of friends or a significant other in.  You could even take a day for yourself to melt into the colors, sounds and serene landscapes, away from the rush of college.

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"Yeah, kinda like that..."

After a nice summer rain, you will be fortunate enough to catch the water careening off the cliffs from above and your ears will be treated to the sounds of the bubbling brew below.  Once the summer months pass and the cold sets in, people tend to stray away from outdoor activity but some real beautiful scenes occur at the park once the deep freeze comes.  The waterfall becomes a living painting, a powerful rush of water frozen in time against the quiet backdrop of winter.  You may even catch a glimpse of climbers scaling the frozen waterfalls during your early year visit.

 Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

"I have no words"

For  those that enjoy wildlife viewing as much as I do, Eagles are a common sight from the overlooks at Starved Rock. The bald eagles winter here because even when the river is encased in ice, the churn from the dam leaves a small portal open to the water below.  It is the only place for miles where they can catch a fish.  Because of that, you can see more eagles than you’ve seen in a lifetime in a single day with the right set of binoculars, some really warm clothes, and some good old fashioned patience.

 Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

"You don't have to plan a road trip to see natural beauty, it's right in our backyard!"

The town adjacent to the park is Ottawa and it can be just as fun to discover as Starved Rock.  History buffs can relive the Lincoln-Douglas debates which occurred there some 9 score and 5 years ago while adrenaline junkies can get their fix with Sky Diving companies that operate just outside of town.

 Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

"Or you can get two birds with one stone"

There’s lots of quaint shops as well if you’re going with the family.  You can pawn off your mother and grandparents to the local antique shops while you and the siblings hike through canyons and jump out of planes.  Whatever you do, if you haven’t gone I urge you to make it out to starved rock.  Even if you have been, explore it in a different season and surprise yourself.  It’s incredible to see how vastly different the same place can be at different times of the year.  Make it a day trip, camp out near the park, or shack up in a cozy cabin, either way I hope you will make it a point to give this hidden treasure so close to NIU a visit. 2.0out

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

Tom Kneifel: Student Turned Author

The following post was written by Senior Marketing Major Tom Kneifel.  

Listening to all of my friends talk about being seniors and what they plan on doing after college really made me reflect on what I have done in the past few years. Every now and then I would reminisce with my roommates about all of the great ideas we had or adventures we went on while at NIU. After a while I realized how much we had done together and I had one of those “I should write a book” moments. Eventually it became an e-book entitled “40 Ways to Have More Fun and Freedom in College”.

I began the project by researching how to become self-published by selling an e-book. I knew I wanted to sell it electronically because of several reasons. The first reason is that in order to publish a book online it costs almost nothing besides the time to write the book. Also, I knew that my target market was a younger crowd who is very technologically savvy. The book needed to be easy to access from anywhere and e-books allow that.

The hardest part about writing the book was choosing the subject. After that I was surprised on how easy it was to become self-published. I downloaded an e-book from amazon.com which gave me step by step instructions on how to format a word document and upload it to their site. I then had someone make me a cover photo and that was it.

While I was looking all over amazon.com all I could find were books on how to study better or how to get into college. I chose to write a guide with ideas that a college student would want to know.  Things like putting a refrigerator in your bathroom or how to become a super-fan aren’t going to be found in the average college guide. If anything I wanted to inspire students to spice up their day to day lives and do something fun.

It took me a while to get enough courage to actually submit the book to amazon.com. I went through so many drafts in order to get the formatting correct. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Luckily I had a great group of people help me proofread and give me feedback. Sitting there staring at the computer screen I realized that I just had to go for it. What a rush it was to see something that I created on a website that can be seen by millions of people across the nation. I knew it was real when I got my first five star review. Someone took the time to buy my product, read it, and actually enjoyed it. That was an amazing feeling.

Marketing my book has been one of the on-going challenges for me. I get to apply the skills I learned in my sales classes to a real life scenario. I have to earn every sale by advertising on social networking sites and word of mouth. I am not looking to get rich off of this small e-book but I am definitely learning many things along this journey.

Check out Tom’s new e-book “40 Ways to Have More Fun and Freedom in College” on Amazon.com.  If you’re feeling extra generous, write a review and let him know what you think!

Diamonds In The Rough

It was at about this time last year that I was just rising up from the trenches of UBUS 310.  Like the Chilean miners from a few years back, I triumphantly reached up to the surface and was immediately blinded by the light.

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"Until I put on my designer Oakley Sunglasses"

Until that point I was lurking in the shadows of group work, presentations, and study sessions and now I could finally see the world in plain view.  There was so much opportunity surrounding me that I simply couldn’t see before.  Student organizations were recruiting just as they are now and although I had given them a half-hearted shot the semester before, I decided it was time to finally invest my time and money in something other than taco bell.

Taco Bell Diamonds In The Rough

"Yeah, kinda like that..."

I got involved with a number of different organizations, 5 to be exact, and I threw myself at the prospect of doing something worthwhile for my university.  As time went on I found my niche and appropriately cut off the organizations that I did not see myself succeeding in.  By the end of the semester I had made connections in the remaining organizations, I had become highly involved and I got to know the faculty advisors.  I wanted to push further and knew that I wanted to do more in the following semesters.  It is at that point that I applied for positions with not one, but two executive boards.  I didn’t even really care which position, if any, I got.  I went in with an approach reminiscent of former Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader; hoping for the best but not expecting much of a result.  I just wanted the opportunity to stand out.  With a little bit of skills and some luck I landed positions in both the organizations I applied to.

 Diamonds In The Rough

"This is our year!" said Nader in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004....you get the idea.

There are people at this very moment beginning the same journey I just spoke about. These diamonds in the rough will begin to slowly float to the top and let their colors truly shine!  I can’t wait to see who the new class of hard workers is.  It’s odd, I don’t remember speaking on a casual level to the presidents of any student organizations until my spring semester was almost over.  These organizational leaders didn’t know me from a hole in the wall and now I am helping to manage the organizations they once spearheaded.  It just goes to show that you never really know who’s out there.  Will you be the next person to step up to a similar role?  Will you take the initiative to do something for your university and to do something that’s bigger than yourself?  I anxiously wait to see who rises to the occasion and what great ideas and vision they’ll bring to the next generation of NIU College of Business students!  Until then I’ll keep looking in the shadows.  2.0out