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Educate or Deteriorate? You Choose.

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educationYou bought a new car. It is fresh off the lot. You have driven it for a while and it performs really well. A few years pass. You realize you washed it more in the first year than the next 6 years combined. New models are coming out every year with new technology just waiting for your car to get old. Rust starts to collect on the quarter panels. Oil changes are not the only thing that you have to pay extra for anymore. It is more trouble than its worth. Eventually, it is scrapped for a new car.

Now think about yourself and your career. You graduate college and you have been out for a while now. You know a fair amount of things going on in the world and you are amazing at your job. A few more years pass and there are a lot of younger people under you or close to you that want your job. They know the latest technology and are hungry for the work. You are used to certain ways of doing things and this new technology seems like a passing fad. Eventually, you wonder why you were traded in for Liz from accounts.

What happened? Whatever you knew is just part of everyday business and what you do not know is holding you back. You forgot one of the most important things in life: Continual education. You lost touch with the world. Education is a basic fact of life. It would be a tragedy to think that you were to stop learning when you graduate college. Do not fall into the you-can’t-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks category. Make it a point to be in the always-open-to-learn-something-new category.

That is not to say it is always easy to learn new things. It can be scary. However, once you learn even the smallest thing, you will be all the wiser. Nearly everyone has the capacity to learn something new. When she was alive, I taught my 91-year-old grandmother how to use her cell phone. She lived through the depression and held out from getting a cell phone as long as she could. She was physically old, but she did not let her mind catch up with her physical age. At 91, she was happy to learn something new.

Alright Don, we get it. What do you suggest we do about it?  

Never stop learning. Sure you may tweet and share things to look like you know what is going on, but it is just an act. You read the headlines. It sounds interesting, so you re-post it. If others are traveling at 60MPF you are too. You do not realize that sometimes it pays to travel at 40MPH to better understand new material, or at 80MPH when you know exactly what needs to be done. After I graduated with my MBA, I quickly found out that to reach your highest potential, you need to find the internal motivation to teach yourself new tricks everyday. Yes, everyday. It does not have to be some earth-shattering idea, it just has to be something.

How do you apply this in everyday life? Here are the 10 things I do to keep myself fresh of new ideas and changing industry trends.

  1. Go to the library. You do not have to waste your money on buying all the latest magazines and books. The library has them for you. When is the last time you were there? That’s what I thought. Books on CD work great too. I just finished a Seth Godin book on CD recently from my local library.
  2. Subscribe to key blogs. Many industry leading individuals and companies have key blogs. It may take some digging to find key ones that appeal to you, but once found, make it a point to read them as often as they post.
  3. Go to local events. Nearly every industry has local, and national, events centered around education. I say local events because they are the path of least resistance. These events allow you to learn directly from industry leaders.
  4. Network. Local events always offer some sort of networking option. Always take advantage of this. At a scholarship fundraiser for my alma mater last weekend, I heard of a recent forensic science graduate to who was introduced directly to the head of the Michigan crime lab. This was an invaluable chance meeting. Do not miss out on these opportunities.
  5. Watch the news. Before work every day I watch the news with my beautiful bride. It keeps me up-to-date on local happenings. The sports update is especially helpful. If you are a real go-getter you know that finding the time to watch all or even part of a major sporting event is difficult. Watching the news will help you see all the major plays and the outcome. That way, you will not miss out on an opportunity to continue a conversation at a networking event.  Similarly, you will also keep knowledge of other events in your mind to help shape decisions you make in the future.
  6. Set up lists.  Lists on Twitter help a lot when it comes to educating yourself. I have a list set up in Twitter called Influencers, among others. This list allows me to see what is important to some very influential people in my industry. Reading this keeps me very well-informed.
  7. Subscribe for webinars. Webinars are easy. Most of them are a half hour to an hour in length and a number of them are free. You can log in to a webinar anywhere and many times they make materials available afterwards for reference.
  8. Ask a colleague.  Sometimes this is very difficult. You do not want to come off like you do not know anything but you know they have the information. It is best to simply ask a colleague what she thinks about a certain situation if you find yourself hitting a brick wall with your own knowledge. After all, you are supposed to be functioning in a team. Collaboration will flourish, if you are open, and you may learn more than you bargained for.
  9. Ask to listen in. Ask your boss if it is okay to sit in or listen in on key meetings. I have done this many times. Shadowing your boss, writing down their key thoughts, and remembering what you learn will help you excel by leaps and bounds.
  10. Blog. Do something like what you just read. It has been the biggest payoff for me.

Choose wisely. Will you educate or deteriorate?

Starting an Agency Includes Cultivating REALationships

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Bilal Saeed and Tim Adkins, Brofounders Pakmode

Bilal Saeed and Tim Adkins, Brofounders
Pakmode

“Deflate your ego.” This is one of the first things Bilal Saeed, Brofouder of Michigan-based Pakmode Media + Marketing, said to a packed house at TEDxEMU on March 15, 2013 at Eastern Michigan University’s Quirk Theater. Alongside Saeed, was Brofounder Tim Adkins, who leads creative direction at the agency. The creative duo’s discussion focused on building REALationships, and not just relationships, to stay successful in business and life.

When starting the agency fresh out of college in 2008 they quickly understood what hard work meant. Upon their first day of business, an advisor gave Saeed a small needle. He was unsure what it was for but the advisor simply said that Saeed will know soon enough. He kept the needle and got to work. Many times, Saeed and Adkins, found themselves washing dishes and waiting tables at a local restaurant after a full day of work just to pay the bills.

Thousands of clean dishes later, it dawned on the Brofounders that the needle was to deflate their ego.

Brofounders, by the way, is what they decided to name themselves instead of the formal CEO or COO since they were together much of their waking lives. The name stemmed from when they first heard brothers John and Scott Meyer of 9 Clouds refer to themselves as ‘Brofounders.’

Saeed and Adkins realized that deflating their ego was only the first part of the process. To create, grow, and maintain REALationships, there are actually four key ideas to keep in mind, especially when starting your own agency, as follows:

  1. Deflate your ego: This was their first and most vital lesson. It is important to remember that you are not automatically entitled to anything you do not earn. If you want something you must work hard to achieve it. Nothing will be given to you. They say to “Grind because you believe in something greater.”
  2. Be a chameleon: Adkins reluctantly lets Saeed talk about this point since he focuses so much on it. However, in creating REALationships it is important to know your surroundings and adapt as you need to. Do not be afraid of change and allow yourself the ability to be prepared for all situations as they arise. You may be in a tough situation and your next client may or may not be watching you. Saeed exceeded one man’s expectations so much with the way that he went out of his way to adapt for another client at an event that he landed the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowlaccount on the spot.
  3. Being selfless without being selfish: The Dalai Lama once said, “Our prime purpose in life is to help others.” The Brofounders keep this in their mind daily. Their goals are focused on helping others first and acting for no personal gain. This allows them to be better people and better corporate citizens.
  4. Being a real, better person: This last point is best assimilated to being a child again. Simple things that people forget over the years are to share, say please and thank you, and remember to be nice. And do not forget, the ransparency of this niceness factor should be shown through all social media channels.

At the completion of their TEDxEMU talk, Saeed and Adkins made note that these four points are easier to say and harder to do. This is not a sales technique, but rather a lifestyle. They truly believe in the working capacity of each of these key points and have made them part of daily life. “Do not fake it,” says Adkins. People will see right through the exterior. It is truly important to be a better listener and to care about the REALationships you make. What will you do to turn your relationships into REALationships?

Read the entire article on Talent Zoo’s beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17244

17 Quotes to Inspire Your Personal Brand

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It is amazing what a good quote can do to help you start off your day. A good quote lets your mind get moving on a positive note. It lifts you up. It keeps you motivated. I started off my year with a blog post on this thought – Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Each of these quotes keep me on top of that goal. Now that the year is a third over, have you stayed on top of your new year’s resolution?

It is amazing the power of what just a few words have on people. Think of “We the people,” “I have a dream,” “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and what did it do? It opened people’s minds and gave them something bigger to hope for. Open your mind. Find a few quotes that motivate you to keep your personal brand operating at full capacity. It will not only keep you more productive at work but will help achieve that work/life balance that so many are constantly striving for.  Start by reading these:

  1. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
  2. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” – Cecil B. DeMille
  4. “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” – Ayn Rand
  5. “It’s always too early to quit.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  6. ” The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  7. “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” – Audrey Hepburn
  8. “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” – Leo Burnett
  9. “If plan “A” fails — remember you have 25 letters left.” – Chris Guillebeau
  10. “You can get everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
  11. “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” – Albert Einstein
  12. “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” – Gandhi
  13. “An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” – Bill Bernbach
  14. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
  15. “Do something worth remembering.” – Elvis Presley
  16. “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” – David Ogilvy
  17. “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

Which of these quotes inspires your personal brand? What other quotes would you add to this list?