Thursday, September 29, 2016

Marketing Research: A Story of Struggle and Casual Triumph

Marketing From Scratch 
If you have read some of my previous posts, you know that I am employed by a business owner to create and market her brand as a Hay House author and motivational speaker. I am the only one assigned with this task in a building full of people that work for her business side of things. 
Oh, and I have never done anything like this before. I was a "communication specialist" for an escape room in Bloomington, which basically meant that I wrote two press releases, contacted businesses in the area, and brainstormed ideas. 
Then I was the (Store Manager and) Marketing Director for an escape room in Champaign. This was definitely more extreme in the marketing realm. I had to create a brand for the facility, then we got sued and had to re-brand, so I had to start from scratch, make it look like nothing major had happened, and market the hell out of it for months. I did that for about a year and learned how to market a small *local* business (Side note: Want tips on that? Just ask me! [Facebook, word of mouth, and radio for the win]). 
But this national author/speaker marketing platform? Yeah, this is a WHOLE 'nother  ballgame, my friends.
I am single-handedly determining what our central message is, how to best portray her, creating the website, figuring out what social media platforms to post on, what to post and when, how to build our online base, attending networking events locally, creating hooks, Brand Positioning Statements, book bios, and author bios, conducting audience research, writing website content, learning SEO, and so many other things, while trying to navigate through my first real office job (and all the weight gain, isolation, and politics that comes with that), and get experience on the side through freelancing some of my additional marketing services.
Feeling that Marketer's Block?

But I did not come here to complain, no, far from it. This is the best experience I have ever had and I have learned a ridiculous amount of information and have been given this amazing opportunity out of the blue.
I wrote this post to share some information that I have learned with you, my silent readers.

So this week I have written the Brand Positing Statement. Until last week, I did not have a clue what this was. It is the internal guidance system of sorts. You break down your objective, then write it into a sentence that becomes the central positioning that your branding team can refer to in any situation and for any post.

Below, I will detail and break our statement down for you:

Our Brand Positioning Statement
Brand Breakdown:
  1. AudienceWho are we targeting? Who finds your brand most relevant?
a)     We have determined that our target audience is women, ages 30-45, who are employees, mothers, and either single or in a relationship, earning middle income, and are ready to live a more purposeful life, where they are in control of their decisions and opportunities. These women want to take the next step but need help identifying what they want and/or how to get there.         

  1. Product In what market do you compete?  What solutions do you provide?
a)     Mary Shores is a public speaker, teacher of self and business development, founder and CEO of a unique collections agency, and author of a self-empowerment book that will be published by Hay House in August 2017. Our market is primarily in business growth and personal development. Mary seeks to change and empower others through teaching them to focus on the words they use. She created a system called “Words That Work” which helps individuals eliminate the negative words they use in order to create a more positive life. This system is also focused on determining and setting goals, and taking action toward creating a more purposeful life.

  1. Value:  How do customers benefit from your solution?
a)     Mary Shores empowers her readers to take the next step toward creating the life where they feel in control and purposeful. We would ultimately like them to buy Mary’s book, take one of her courses, subscribe to and follow all of our online content, and attend her events, but the way to achieve that is to show them that Mary genuinely wants to help them get from where they are to where they want to be. We want to relate to the readers so that they trust Mary, take her seriously, do her exercises, and share it with their friends. If we can empower the readers to take control of the decisions in their life, they can discover what they want out of life, outline their goals, take action toward their dreams, and encourage others to do the same.

  1. Uniqueness:  Why do customers choose you over the competition?
a)     There are many self-help authors and speakers throughout the country and world, but what sets Mary apart is her past, and her relatability to her audience. Mary is a self-made business owner, and successful single mother of two thriving sons. She came from humble beginnings, and dealt with the tragic death of her daughter at a very young age. She overcame her difficult upbringing, tragic loss, autistic diagnosis of her son, and life-shattering divorce to develop and run a successful multimillion dollar company. This business seeks to alleviate the burden of debt from their debtors through using her “Words That Work” system. Mary hopes to share the tools that she has learned throughout her life to help others overcome their hurdles, discover their true potential, and take action in the direction of their dreams.

  1. Emotion How does your solution make your customers feel?
a)     The feelings that we want to resonate with the Mary Shores brand are: charismatic, honest, relatable, trustworthy, approachable, practical, accomplished, and credible.

Statement Breakdown:
Audience:         For American mothers in their 30s and 40s, looking for the next step toward creating a purposeful life,
Product:           Mary Shores’ book, retreats, and courses
Value Driver:     seek to empower tribe members
Uniqueness:      who are able to relate to the hardships that Mary Shores overcame in motherhood, life, and business
Emotion:           so tribe members can have a trustworthy, relatable, and knowledgeable resource for taking control of their life and building the best version of themselves.

Brand Positioning Statement:
For American mothers in their 30s and 40s, looking for the next step toward creating a purposeful life, Mary Shores’ book, retreats, and courses seek to empower tribe members who are able to relate to the hardships that Mary Shores overcame in motherhood, life, and business so tribe members can have a trustworthy, relatable, and knowledgeable resource for taking control of their life and building the best version of themselves.

The last sentence is what will be our internal driver and help us determine who we're catering to... But let me take a step back from this for a minute. 

How did we determine our audience and their likes/needs?
I would love to say that this is a simple task but to be honest, it has (and still does) consume most of my time and brain capacity.

So first, we broke down what the book was about, Mary's demographics, Mary's demographics in the book (slightly different than her current ones), and the appealing features within the context of the book.
What was to be gained from the book?
Now we can look at who wanted to gain those things.
We looked at different audiences and different value groups, attempting to determine who would be most drawn to the messages within the book and who would relate to Mary's message.
This was the messy part. It came from a lot of really strange google searches. At one point, I stumbled on some really disturbing porn (see: Mom next door) and accidentally signed up for a very strange dating website (my audience liked Hi5, who knew that it was focused on fornication?), oh and side note: googling "What Women Want" is not helpful. 
We decided that the people that would be most responsive to our message was women who were in a point in their live where they wanted something more and were ready to take action. The last part is actually important. Mary had no intention on coaching anyone. She didn't want a bunch of excuse driven women that weren't satisfied but made excuses instead of taking action. 
At first, I thought that maybe we could focus on women in their 20s, all the way to women in their 50s. A lot of women in this age group wanted something more, right?
But then, through my research, one central message started popping up everywhere. 
Basically: If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
Also, everyone promises empowerment, how are you going to stand out? (But that comes later).*

I'm going to repeat that line, one more time, because it's that important.

If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
Yeah, I was a skeptic too.
A particularly helpful resource was an interview by Marie Forleo. In this, it talks about how if you're looking to buy a shirt, you are more likely to buy it if you see someone like you wearing it. If the first picture is someone like you wearing it, your mouse hovers over the purchase button, but when you switch to the next picture, now it's a kid on a skateboard wearing that shirt (ehhh), and the next one is an old guy wearing the same shirt. Now you close the window all together, because they tried to appeal to everyone one and ended up appealing to no one.
I *love* this analogy.

I was trying to do this with the Mary Shores brand. I thought that we could market to all women. But no. If we market to a 25 year old, a 50 year old is turned off. And if we market to a 50 year old, now we're loosing our 30 year olds.
So the solution? 
We figure out our target demographic. Specifically, who can gain the most value from our message? What age group is the most relatable? Who can we hook? And how?

Our Target Audience
From there, I determined that our message appeals to women ages 30-45. 
Bonus: women in their 20s might be able to relate to women in their 30s, or want to be like them, and women in their 50s may relate to women in their 40s so WIN WIN!
Women ages 30-45 are most receptive to our message of *empowerment because they are often at a place in their life where they know who they are but are often seeking self-improvement. They are relatively comfortable in their life, but they may be seeking something more. This is the most likely to start a life improving strategy like dieting. They also are at a point in adulting where they are likely to reassess themselves, think about whether they are satisfied, and determine what could make them more happy.
I think that men have their mid-life crisis of identity in their 50s and around retirement, where as women have this in their 30s and 40s.

What can you get from this? 
It is EXTREMELY important to determine your target audience, and narrow it down, in order to determine what they want and how you can appeal to them. If you are actually targeting the wrong audience, it is time to reassess the product and make changes before you market it. It can save you THOUSANDS in trial and error marketing.

How We Can Market To Our Audience
So now that we know our target audience, we have to determine how to market to them. Which really comes from researching who they are and what they want. This google search was difficult because every result was about dating and fashion. Literally it was depressing. And this is when I started having empathy for women in their 30s. As a 24 year old, I don't really think beyond my weekend plans, but these searches were really helpful in gaining an understanding of what my 30s brought... And I didn't like it. It seemed like people were really dropping the ball for this demographic. I can't imagine women in their 30s being as fashion, sex obsessed, and depressed as the google searches led me to believe. One particularly awful article was written by a guy about why women in their 30s should lower their dating standards. I wanted to punch this fellow in his face (I'll add the link when I can find it). 
But then I found a fantastic blog online about marketing to women ages 35-55 that really got me inspired. Part one went into detailed specifics about who these women were, mostly single mothers and working mothers, and what they valued. Part two detailed how exactly to market to this demographic through 3 steps. 
This really got me inspired, but I was still at a loss as to how exactly to appeal to these mothers, when I was so far out of that demographic.
Enter: Facebook Research.
Yes, I am a bit of a research feen, but as soon as this idea hit me, I knew it was a good one... If not a bit creepy. So while I was immersing myself in the parenting culture (thank you, Parenthood), I dug through my Facebook friends list and detailed their life, searching their page for answers and scraping my own recollection for descriptions of what they were like and what they were searching for. 
I went through 25 profiles and documented my observations on a sheet like this:

Side Note: If you are one of my Facebook friends in this demographic,
please don't ask me for your analysis. Love you! :D
I found that my typical friend in this demographic is either a single mother or married with kids, trying to balance her social life with parenting and working full time. They are generally college educated and non-religious, with a household income around $70/80,000. Each of them could be in our target demo, and have main motivations of finding more time to spend with their kids, being the best version of themselves (for their kids), and often feel like they are disappearing into their work and family life, and would like to find something that makes them passionate and in control of their decisions. They are skeptical of advertisers, but trust their friend group, and other women that they relate to. 
Relatability and trust are key. The best way to market to these women is through testimonials and word of mouth. They will relate to Mary because she is a mother first, and then want to be empowered like her, because she is a business owner and a

How You Can Market To Your Audience
So now to the meat and bones of why you're reading this post. I know you probably didn't just come here to read about me and my findings, but rather, you want to know how you can utilize this to make your million, right?
Well first, stop reading and start doing. Start digging into what your message is and who it appeals to. Then outline what you need to know about your audience to best market to them. Then do your own research, find out what your friends and family in that target market want and need, and encourage your team to do the same. Read about where your audience spends their time online and what they spend money on. Figure out how to adjust your product to fit their specific needs. And for god's sake, LIMIT your target market. Yes, it would be great if everyone used it, but even if only one quarter of the men in America ages 43-45 buy your drain cleaner, you are still making a fortune. So focus on them, whoever is most likely to buy your product, and sell your pants off to them.

Should You Hire a Branding Company?
So the last thing you might be wondering is whether you should do this all on your own. In my opinion, if you have the time and resources to do it, I think you should do it on your own. You are the most invested in your product/brand. You want it to succeed more than anyone else. Why should a branding company wake up in the middle of the night and write an idea in a notepad that they keep next to their bed? They shouldn't. You don't pay them enough and their future success doesn't depend on it. But yours does. This is your life. So make it your whole life. Get invested, get motivated, and get inspired. That is the best way to sell your product, and as far as I'm concerned, it's the only way,

Please tell me what marketing has worked for you, what questions you have, or what color you are wearing.
Journey on, friends!

What to Write About When You Can't Think of A Topic

I'm still trying to figure this one out. I will have to find some good articles on this topic to share with you. ;)

But in the meantime, here is a picture of all the delicious food I've eaten this week:

Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Make Every Day a Great Day... Even This One.

Recently, I was stuck in a dreary place.
You know the feeling... Tossing and turning at night, getting up to turn down the air, then kicking the blankets off, drinking some water, finally getting comfortable, then having to pee, only to hear the dreaded alarm in the morning and press snooze until it's too late to take a shower and do your hair.
You'll just have to wear it back again.
Going to work, staring at the computer, wondering how you're going to survive another... 7 1/2 hours without a nap.
Finally leaving work, coming home to a sink full of dishes, a dog that needs to be walked, dinner that needs to be made, and a shower that needs to be taken. Feeling unattractive, not initiating sex, getting upset when your partner doesn't initiate it either. Feeling a constant longing for... something... you don't even know what.
When the weekend finally arrives, you're excited to try to finally be able to relax, but when Saturday comes, you feel restless and unsatisfied. Should you clean? Go outside? Exercise? Watch more TV? Catch up on work? Socialize?
You don't even feel like getting out of bed.
Your partner already left the house, meanwhile, you feel like a lazy bum for coming back to bed after breakfast. You're lonely, even when you're not alone and you can't shake the feeling of dread for the upcoming week.

We've all been here and we've left this feeling too, only to return back to it again and again.
But I've figured out how to climb out of it.

These things (sometimes slowly) work for me, and I want to share them with you too.

Cherry pick your favorites:
Put One Foot In Front of the Other.
Taken from Wikimedia.
  • Get Out of bed. Promise yourself that you can return to it again soon, then put one leg out and let the other one follow it.
  • Go Outside. If it's summertime, step outside, or go to a park. If it's winter (yes, this is much more difficult), go to the bookstore or coffee shop.
  • Compliment a Stranger. Don't be a creeper, and don't be inauthentic, but find something you like about someone around you (their eyes, shirt, purse, shoes, glasses... something) and tell them you like it.
  • Go A Step Further. Pay for someone's order, smile at people around you, buy a stranger a cookie (preferably right in front of them... on second thought, this might not be a good idea), but do something that showed that you went out of your way (if only a little) to bless them.
  • Find Something To Be Grateful For. Post what you're grateful for on Facebook, or write it on a note, or in your journal. Make it your phone background or say it out loud. Even if you're not feeling particularly grateful, I promise you that you have at least one thing to be grateful for. You're welcome to join my daily gratitude group on Facebook.
    Make that call.
    Thanks for the image Flickr.
  • Call Someone. You may not be a phone talker, and this may be super unusual for you, but pick one person that you appreciate, call them up (don't text, email, or message them) and tell them how much they mean to you. Ask them how they are, don't make them worried that you're depressed, and don't make the conversation about you, just tell them how much you appreciate them. If you don't have anyone to appreciate, tell your bus driver how much they make your

  • Hug a Homeless Person. I hope I don't lose you on this one. Admittedly, this one is a bit extreme, but it has never failed to turn my shitty day into something manageable. Homeless people are often not treated as human, and I don't like to hand out money to everyone I see, but I do like to just extend a small kind human interaction with them. It's really not as "unsanitary" as some might make it out to be. And if a homeless person is too extreme for you, hug someone else. Studies show that human contact will make you healthier (Eight hugs a day? Whoa, I need to increase my hug ratio).
  • Watch a Commencement Speech. This works for me almost every time. Watching commencement speeches get me pumped up about the potential that life has, not just for recent college graduates, but for people at any stage in life. I have made a playlist of my favorite ones here
  • Meditate. Meditation doesn't have to be the whole process. You don't have to join a mediation group (although you could, I recommend this one), find a guru, or go to a yoga session. You can mediate wherever you are for as long as you have. Just close your eyes, breathe, focus on your heartbeat, calm your thoughts, express your gratitude, sit in silence, watch something extremely funny... whatever makes you feel centered and fully present, because that's what meditation is for.
  • Talk About Your Feelings. I know, this probably makes you cringe, but don't let it scare you away. You don't necessarily have to voice them aloud, but maybe it's time for a journal or a therapist? The stigma of therapy is falling away, and it's a good thing too, as an increasing number of adults actually need one. If there is something wrong in your relationships, your friends, family, or significant other probably can't read your mind (that would be kind of scary if they could), so maybe it's time to talk about it.
    It's time to say yes.
    Pic from Flickr.
  • Start Saying Yes. There will be times when you do not feel like going out to get a drink with an old friend, or go to a networking event, or even attend your kid's seventh soccer game, and sometimes it is okay to say no, but other times, you will not regret pushing past that immediate impulsion and just saying yes. Don't forget how short life is. You are given a very limited amount of time to live, so why say no to experiences and opportunities that might just make your life even more worth living? Plus, maybe you'll get a good story out of it, and what is life if not accumulating a bunch of good stories to tell?

  • Create Your Own Happiness Ritual. What makes you happy? Do that, all of that. Take a bath, watch your favorite movie, re-read your favorite book, pick and choose some of the things on this list... whatever and make that part of your Happiness Ritual.

I hope that these tips can help you make you every day great!

Let me know what works for you and don't forget to subscribe to my blog to get more fun updates and tips!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Found My Heart In The Back of A Pet Store

Two months before the end of my 22nd year on Earth, I was in my car, driving (as I often did), but this time it was different. I didn’t have to be at work in the morning, or classes on Monday. I had 25 hundred dollars in my bank account, a paper map in my hands, and a bed made in the back seat of Mia, my beloved 2005 Kia.

This was it, I was really doing it. I was taking a cross country road trip by myself and had an entire two months to do it.

I had quit my jobs at an escape room place, and as a test administrator, and personally assisting an author and journalist, as well as assisting an embedded system consultant. I quit my internship at the YWCA. I took my last class of my undergrad career online so it could be on the road with me. I broke up with my boyfriend, and loosely cut ties with the guy I had started seeing shortly after. I didn’t renew my apartment lease, and had packed all of the belongings that wouldn’t fit in Mia’s rear end, away in a storage unit.

I had worked hard for this. For the last four years, I had juggled multiple jobs, yearly unpaid internships, countless relationships, 18-21 semester hours, many mini-mesters, and a cumulative 4 point 0.

I had no job waiting for me when I got back, and no long-term plan. But I didn’t care. All I could smell was freedom…  And roadkill.

The first stop of my epic journey was an organic farm in upper Wisconsin, where my cousin worked. He got me room and board for a week, in exchange for my daily commitment to working on the farm.

That was the most exhausting, bug bitten, sunburnt… and rewarding, week of my life. I went to bed every single night too exhausted to regret quitting a comfortable life, and woke up every morning, too late pressing snooze (a few times) to even consider the other ways I could be spending  the summer right after college graduation.

On day seven, I took the last shower, did the last load of laundry, and ate the last healthy breakfast I would have for a while. I packed up my car, said goodbye to my cousin, and the new friends I had met, and hit the road.

Onward to Minnesota, then Iowa, then the dreaded Nebraska drive, and to the Colorful Colorado, with only my audiobooks, journal, and crappy virgin mobile phone to keep me company.

The first time I caught sight of the snow-capped mountains, I let out a literal gasp. Never, in my life had I ever witnessed such massive nature-made magnificence.

I bee-lined to the mountains, which as anyone that has been near these mighty landscapes knows… can actually take a while. Apparently the mountains in your eyesight are further than they appear.

By the time I had arrived to the horseshoe mountain in Fort Collins, the sun was casting shadows on everything around me, and I was too exhausted to do anything but park my car and climb into my backseat for the night.

The next day I awoke to the rising sun, reflecting on the body of water that surrounded me, almost completely. I had driven right into the valley of the canyon, engulfed in the beauty that only the mountains can offer.
Where I Woke Up

I let out a laugh, took a video, and prepared for the unknown day ahead.

I was getting a little lonely. All of my Colorado friends, family, and friends of friends and family had fallen through on me. Either busy or not answering my calls.

While on my way to the Rocky Mountains for another solo cruise, I saw a pet store in Loveland. I drove passed it, trying to ignore the strange pull I felt in my heart. There is no way I needed a ginnypig, hamster, puppy, bunny, or snake to keep me company… That would be absurd. Two months on an unknown, largely unplanned adventure with another creature? No way.

But for some reason, my brain failed to communicate this logic to my body, because suddenly I was making a u-turn in a gas station parking lot. I drove the two miles back to the pet store, parked and stepped inside.

I browsed around, eye balling the hamsters and smelly ferret, when I heard it… The unmistakable sounds of whimpering and squealing newborn puppies. My heart leaped and I wondered toward the sound, like a zombie sensing nearby brains.

The first picture I
 ever took of Rocky.
Long story short, when my eyes connected with the oldest, ugliest, and least pure bred dog there (appropriately and cruelly named Monkey Face), my heart did a 360 flip and promptly melted in my chest. That was the day I met my trip companion and soon to be best friend, Rocky Road Trip Slevin.

My little companion and I.
We spent the next two months crashing on the couches of friends and family, sleeping in the backseat of Mia, visiting national parks from Wyoming, to Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, picking up a pine cone in every state we stopped in, making friends with nearly every stranger (and stray) we met, and saying yes to (almost) every opportunity that was presented to us. I learned how to surf, went deep sea fishing (getting pinched by a crab, that I promptly revenge ate that evening), and discovered who I wanted to be a little more every single day I was on the road, and every single journal entry I wrote. The formerly abused Rocky learned how to love and be loved by her adoring owner (ahem, me) and by every passerby that looked upon her little scruffy face.

My anchor. <3
This pup taught me that sometimes logic doesn’t prevail, sometimes the biggest adventures arise when you just follow your gut.

I found myself while traveling cross country on an epic road trip, because I found my heart in an unlikely place… in the back of a pet store in Loveland, Colorado.

Given As My First Toastmaster's Speech on September 22, 2016.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why I wanted to go to Jury Duty..

Yes, it's true, I wanted to go to Jury Duty this week. Once I realized I had been picked, it felt like I had won a lottery of sorts. No, it's not just about the idea of being apart of one of those juicy court hearings that you see on tv (admittedly that WAS in the back of my mind). It wasn't about being able to miss work, although I did look forward to catching up on some research and reading I've been meaning to do. It wasn't about being able to step away from all my stressful day-to-day thoughts. 
I was excited about Jury Duty because it is one of the reasons why I love this country.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that I am a huge patriot and I ignore all of the injustices taking place daily here, and I'm not trying to romanticize all of the terrible, tragic things that are happening to undeserving people.
But, regardless, there is a lot to love about America.
To me, Jury Duty represents democracy, justice, and freedom of the people.
Of course it could be implemented better, of course! Everything could, really. But there is something so beautiful about looking around me and seeing people of all different races, ages, education backgrounds, classes, opinions, wealth, and opportunities sitting with me as peers, getting 100% of the same say as one another.
Isn't that just a little beautiful?
Okay, so it is scary that all of these strangers might have totally different morals and biases than me and we may be deciding on very serious consequences for someone, but it all comes back to what makes America so wonderful.
Who's to say that my one option is correct or that my individual bias, or education has given me the right answer in a specific case? Nothing. But with 12 minds, morals, backgrounds and options working together, we can reach the most balanced decision possible.
It's a beautiful thing.
I don't really get to see how my individual vote changes an election, or how my tax dollars really make a difference, but when I sit in the chair at the courthouse with all my peers, I feel like I am making a teeny difference in what makes America a democracy.
Each of us will probably have to serve on a jury at one time or another, why not change your perspective about the whole thing and instead see what an instrumental part you get to play that week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Marketing to Emotion

Today I did a lot of research for our target audience, for SEO, for content marketing, etc, etc.
All and all I think what marketing is all about (and this is going to sound obvious) is building value.
Bare with me here.
I know this sounds all easier said than done, but if I am stepping back and taking a look at the bigger picture of every marketing campaign I've seen and everything that has appealed to me, it's really about very few things:
a) Making my life easier (cleaning, errands, work)
b) Lessening my stress (money, obligations, time)
Side Note: People will pay a lot of money to save time
c) Making something feel achievable or attainable (beauty, money, luxury, fame)
d) Giving me valuable information (step-by-step, how to, cheat sheet)
c) Making my concerns valid... then offering a solution (debt, debt, debt)
e) Appealing to my emotions (I know, super broad-- Fear [of missing out], jealousy, desire)
f) Puts me in control (or so it seems)
g) Makes a promise (guarantees a result)

I'm sure I'm missing some things here, and I will probably add to the list as my research gets more thorough.

But here's the thing, once you know what appeals to you, now you can start to break that down, figure out what makes it appealing, and determine how this can help you create a effective marketing strategy with whatever brand, product or message you have.

The initial face mask
This was legit my dog's reaction
when she saw me with
the bubble mask on.
Just a short note: I once bought a face cleaner online because of a tutorial from a stranger. This doesn't seem all that strange, right? But it was. It was the first time I had ever bought anything because of a tutorial (and the last). It was not a product that I would have ever used. It was a random person that I had never seen before. And it was on Facebook (one of those random "related" videos that pop up after you watch one video). This was a totally unusual and impractical decision for me... So why did I do it? Well, first, she was a super likable and relateable person, that seemed trustworthy. The face mask bubbled on her face and she displayed all of the same reactions I would have. Second, the product was affordable enough to be an impulse buy. Third, other people were liking, and commenting on the video, vouching for the product and encouraging my initial inkling.
Did the product change my life? No... But learning from my own purchasing impulse did.

Then it got so bubbly!!
Moral of the Story? Emotions are EVERYTHING. People trust other people WAY more than they trust products and if they can watch someone display the same emotions they are feeling, that will hook them.
Bonus: Here's the video!

Comment Your Thoughts! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Enjoying Life Throughout the Ups and Downs

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I truly did.
Ryan and my Date Day yesterday,
complete with a Banana Split!
It was the most relaxing weekends I have had in a while, and I had quite a bit of time to reflect on what gives me happiness and satisfaction.

I started reading The Energy Bus and it has really caused me to think about negativity. I really try to be an optimistic person. As I stated in my last post, I wasn't always this way, but I slowly began changing my negative thoughts into positive ones and eventually it changed my perspective on everything. That being said, I really think that I have some room for improvement. It is time to start putting others first and it is time to stop stressing about the things that are out of my control. I also need to make more goals and have more of a vision, in order to steer my bus in the right direction.

I haven't been able to sleep very well for a few weeks, just tossing and turning and worrying about all the things I need to get done and worrying that I will not be able to complete everything, or I will disappoint others with my work or they will feel like they wasted money by investing in me... I worry about not having time to relax and about relaxing too much, and lately I have been worried about worrying. It is ridiculous. I have no idea when I got back into this spiral of negative thinking, and it is not always there, but it seems to want to keep me company at night, when I am at my most vulnerable.
Right on the edge of sleep, I have a anxiety filled thought that zaps me awake, and I lay there, exhausted and stressed, with thoughts of potential failure jumping through my mind like the sheep I can never seem to concentrate on counting.
Yes, I know I am not the only one that struggles with this, but it just seems like I've gotten so far with eliminating my negative thoughts and I feel so disappointed that I may be recessing back into this spiral of negativity, which makes me more negative. The constant migraines aren't helping, but I'm sure the stress isn't helping the constant migraines either.

But here is the thing. I can change. I have done it before many times, and I can do it again.
First, I will start by stopping myself from complaining more. I will stop from beating myself up about having these negative thoughts. I will also surround myself with more positivity. This weekend was so wonderful because it was filled with loved ones, and that is exactly what I need to make priority.
It is easy to forget and put pleasure as the last thing on the priority list, but it is necessary to make it one of the most important things on that list. It is the motivation that keeps the ride fueled.
I will also express my gratitude more frequently. I will start now.

My handsome man

My mother
I am grateful for...
My friends
My wonderful family
My best friend
My puppy
My beautiful grandmother
My adventures
Journey on, my friends, and stay forever grateful and positive. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Fully Alive 101 Guest Post

This guest post can be found on the Fully Alive 101 blog!

What is does living fully alive mean to you?

To me, my life is slowing becoming exemplary of living fully alive.
I meet new friends on a daily basis, I take little adventures constantly, I like who I see in the mirror, I come home to an amazing puppy and wonderful boyfriend, and I work a fantastic job. Already, at the age of 24, I know what drives me and I know where I find solace. I am true to myself and I try to be the best version of myself possible.
I know this all may sound pretty braggy, but believe me, it is far from it.
I wasn't always like this, in fact, the Summer of years past is quite different from the Summer of today.
The Summer that tied
her value to others.
I used to be a complainer. I used to blame my problems on others. I picked fights with my boyfriends and love ones, swinging from one relationship to the next. I used to vent all over social media and take the friends that chose me, liking the attention and not being selective enough with who kept me company. I used to roll my eyes when I was given advice and scoff when I would be disciplined by teachers and bosses. I used to wake up the wrong side of the bed, a lot. I would get so angry when someone would question me. And I used to suck everyone around me into my cloud of dissatisfaction.

So what changed? 
My perspective, mostly. My desire to live a more 3 dimensional life, my willingness to disregard my ego, and my shift into becoming more introspective and spiritual rather than judgmental and logical.
I started genuinely loving people, not the unhealthy relationships that I had been dragging with me, instead I consciously made an effort to surround myself with passionate, positive, and like minded people, especially fellow women. And I loved them with no expectation or thought of what they could do for me.
I started forgiving myself. I forgave myself for being too critical, for being so anxious all the time, for jumping from one relationship to the next, for finding myself in my significant other, for the drugs I had abused my body with, and for all the many, many mistakes I had made.
The "Give No Fucks"
I started hearing an inner voice, you know, the one so many people claim to hear? I had never hear it before because of all the other things I had let myself get distracted by. It was so small at first, and as I practiced the art of listening to it, the voice started to grow. I started understanding what "following your gut" really meant and how to start doing just that. I started putting myself out there and living with a "no regrets" philosophy.
I started putting my value in myself and not in those around me. I started choosing my significant others carefully, and knowing that if that relationship wasn't forever, it would be okay. 
I stopped trying to control everything and everyone around me.
The biggest thing I started doing was saying no to the toxic things and saying yes to the opportunities I wanted.
I am by no means saying that I am perfect. Far from it. I am constantly evolving and fluidly changing. I am not the person I will end up being ultimately and yes, sometimes I do make mistakes and question my choices, but I am so happy with who I am and who I am becoming. I have found my inner guidance, and I found my passion.
You deserve happiness, but
no one is going to do anything for you.
You have to make it happen.
So make it happen.

This shift did not occur overnight, it took years of watering my open-minded garden. It took meeting strangers and taking advice, finding role models and mentors, going to counseling, quitting the jobs I didn't like, taking myself on a solo two month cross country road trip, and making small decisions every single day to become who I am today.

You can do it. It starts right now. Who do you want to become? 
It doesn't have to be one big huge shift. It just has to be a bunch of tiny shifts in the right direction.

Go, become who you want to be. Nothing is holding you back.

Journey on, friends. <3

Of Course I Forgot to Post Yesterday

One single, pitiful day after I committed to posting everyday, I completely drop the ball.
It is difficult not to get frustrated at myself for not being able to keep a habit for even one day, but you know what? That's okay. I am back on the horse today, and even though it is a Friday and weekends are not terribly routine driven, I will try to post again tomorrow.

This is going to be more of a journal entry type blog post-just a warning.

So yesterday was a fantastic day, really this whole week has been great for networking, learning, getting empowered, inspiring others, and enjoying myself.

Last Friday, I went to a Chamber event and a wonderful marketing consultant. Beth, talked about effective communication. I loved her talk and was secretly hoping that she would be my marketing mentor. I accidentally introduced myself twice, an hour apart, which was quite embarrassing.
I ended up getting my first press release gig that day, and found out that a fellow member of junior league, chamber, and leading ladies was trying to freelance, and I tried my best to inspire her to go for it.

On Monday, Mary gave me permission to go to a Book Launch Conference in LA! By myself! Next month! She paid for the ticket, airfare, and hotel! And then I found out that a friend I have never met (a fellow wanderlusting, gut following, 'fuck it' tribe member) lives in LA and wants to meet up! And then my cousin (who I also have never met,except through Facebook) asked if I wanted to get together. Yes!

Tuesday, I went to a Jon Gordan seminar and was blown away by his talk. I wrote so many notes, that I think my pencil was smoking. I will have to transcribe all of my notes in a future blog post (note to self: keep track of future blog post promises). Then I asked him a question that he had posed to us earlier (and was later told that I won for questions that day... I know, I need to practice more humility). Because I asked a question, I got a free book and he signed it at the end! :)
Mary then introduced me to a fellow local motivational speaker, Lesley, that I was going to see on Thursday.
Then I went to a lunch that a colleague had won from the radio station. A local speaker, Habeeb, gave a wonderful presentation about the talk. At the end of this, I gave him my card, told him about Mary and told him that Ryan would be applying for a job at his organization.
Later that night, I went to my first Junior League event. We were given tshirts, and asked to go door to door passing out "Kindergarten preparation kits" to kids. I met wonderful people and forgot how much I loved volunteering and making a small impact on others.

Yesterday, I went to a real estate thing to see Lesley speak. Since I work for Mary's personal development side, and not her debt collection agency side, I felt a bit out of place representing Midstate... at first. Then Lesley recognized me and sat right next to me. We talked for a while and when she (nervously-- yes, public speakers get nervous too-Eeek!:)) went up to speak, she asked me to take some pictures for her.
Then at the end, I made my rounds, exchanging cards and catching up with people, when I came across the owner of a local nonprofit. She had gone up to speak before Lesley and had ended up crying when she talked about the children that her organization helps. She also caught my eye a couple times during the talk. I ended up telling her about my own attempt at starting a nonprofit, Stand Up Illinois, to raise awareness for sex trafficking and such. She got so excited. She gave me her book and told me that maybe our organizations could partner, and she could pay me to be the director of Stand Up Illinois within No Child Unloved. Whaaa...?! Yes! This would be a dream come true, given, but I told her that I had no intention of leaving Mary yet, so she suggested part-time work, and told me to think about it. I certainly am!
Then after work, I went to a chamber event to network and I met so many new people! And got to catch up with old chamber connections. Everyone I knew and talked to said they got my marketing consultant email (which I sent to about 300 of my contacts). On lady I had met at Leading Ladies told me that I was "unforgettable" and after she met me, she was trying to figure out if she could give me a job somewhere at her bank, then she said that I was too creative to work at a bank. Haha
This creeper dude, Mike, that I met at the Rotary bar crawl told me that I had been "bitchy" last time we met because I (fairly politely) had told him that he was "in my space" when he consistently leaned too close to me at one bar. I apologized for coming off rudely and told him that I was just honest. Later, in the middle of my conversation with an old PR gentleman, he very rudely, shrewdly and inappropriately violated my personal space by coming out of no where, and pulled my sitting body close to his groin area. It was completely fucked up. I was shocked he laughed it off and told the old man, "Don't worry, it's an inside joke" then walked away. I was so caught off guard. I tried to re-orientate myself and told the old man, "He violated my personal space and apparently thinks its funny to do it again. Anyway, where were we?"
I just moved on from that and continued networking and connecting, later meeting a great older gentleman that runs a retirement financing and accounting (or something?) company. Jeff called himself a "one-man BCP" which is hilarious, because that is where Ryan just applied.
We had wonderful chats about his road trips last year, and my own adventures, and aliens and what not.
It was really great.
I also looked down at my phone and Lesley had texted me, thanking me for taking pictures and telling me that I have a "bright future". Eek!
Everyone else went to a bar afterwards, but it was already 8:00p and I wanted to go lay in bed and watch Parenthood. So I took off and when Ryan got home, I was so excited to tell him about my day and the communication skills I had learned that we didn't stop talking until after midnight.

Today, I got into the office and promptly had a conference call with Beth, the marketing consultant I saw on Friday, to discuss branding for Mary. I sent her my 12 month marketing timeline, and the website proposal I had sent the website designers to gauge our brand. She was blown away. She told me that she wasn't trying to give me a big head or pander to me, but she had never seen anyone detail the marketing plan and do so much research. And she told me that she didn't want to talk herself out of a job but that I didn't need her help with this brand. She told me that she would be happy to mentor me wherever I needed help! EEEK! And told me that she would send some examples of branding statements that she had made for my reference. THEN she told me that she is constantly hiring freelance writers and she was so happy to have met me. Yippie!

I really think that I have been put on this Earth to connect people, and to remain positive, passionate, honest, humble, and empowered in order to empower others to do the same.

Life is so great when you say yes to opportunities, meet everyone there is to meet, genuinely care about them, persevere, and stick your neck out as much as possible!

Go, kick some ass peeps! And leave me a comment about what you're up to! :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

One Post Everyday

As you can tell, I am terrible at posting one blog entry every single day.
It is so difficult to fit it in-between the networking, workshop attending, Netflix watching, headaches, working, socializing and so on. It just becomes lost in all the noise and all of the priorities that seem to creep up the list.
I just don't feel inspired, or I want to write the perfect post instead of just crying out in mediocrity. And to be completely candid, I also don't know if I'm a good writer, and I am afraid of the feedback... or even lack there of.
But then I did some research for how to get motivation to blog and I found out that *GASP* I am not alone in my struggle, worries, procrastination, and insecurities.
The number one piece of advice I got was to just SUCK IT UP and write one thing everyday. And when you hit the publish button on that one thing every single day, it becomes public and you have to suck it up even more.
Because life is going to be over in the blink of an eye, and so why not just put yourself out there and JUST DO IT.
Do I want to be a writer? Yes.
So how does one get better at writing? They write. Duh.
Every single day. It's called discipline and I am going to prove that I have an ounce of it.

So here I am, having adventures and journeys, but not exactly leading the life I want, but it doesn't matter. I'm going to suck it up and write about all my days anyway.
So welcome to Summer's New Epic Journey.

The one where she has many mini journeys, thoughts, desires, tips and stories.

My posts will vary:

  • Some of these posts might be fiction (I will add a disclaimer to those) because I would like to write my first fiction piece.
  • Some of these entries might seem journal-ish.
  • Some of the entries might be stock full of tips.
  • Some might just talk about my motivation that day.
  • Some might talk about the inspiration I got that day or the people I met.
  • Some might be memories of my previous adventures.

I do hope you enjoy this journey with me, but ultimately I will need to remember that this blog is about loving what I'm writing about, not getting praise and comments from my readers.

That being said, feel free to leave me a question, comment, or feedback.

So wish me luck!

#OnePostEveryday #SummersEpicJourney