One (or more) of “those” days

The last week has been filled with the kind of days I hate having. You know, the kind you describe as “one of those days” with a stressed out look on your face when your significant other asks you how your day was. The kind where your to-do list is so long, you don’t even know where to start it. The kind where the minute you get one thing done, you add five more. The kind where nothing seems to be going right. The kind where it feels like, no matter how hard you try, you keep dropping the ball.

Yeah…one of those days. Or in my case, several of them.

Thanks to three giant events that are taking place for my clients in February (coupled with the fact that I’m moving to a different state), I know I’m not the only one facing the pressure. Everyone on my team feels like they’re playing an ongoing game of “How long can you keep your head above water?”. But the doggy paddling is getting tiring.

It’s during these times that I start to wonder what it would be like to have a more “normal” 9 to 5 job. The type of job where you go to work, do your tasks and then go home, leaving your work at the office. In this fantasy land, there’s no working in the evenings. There’s no feeling of letting people down. There’s no putting in time at the coffee shop on Sunday morning. Your time out of the office is just that – your time. You don’t feel the pressure to clock the extra time or go the extra mile because it can always be done the next day.

Yeah, I know. There’s a reason I called it a “fantasy” land.

On the flip side, when I start yearning for this type of job, I try to stop myself as soon as possible. Instead of dreaming of less responsibility, my inner voice starts getting real with me:

Why would you want a job that you’re not invested in enough to put in the extra hours?

Why would you want to work someplace where you didn’t hold such high standards that you want to deliver at absolutely peak levels, even if that takes some more time than your regular 40 hours a week?

Why would you want to be somewhere that didn’t require you to push yourself past what’s comfortable?

Remember, lady: You. Don’t. Want. That. You want to be a rockstar and rockstars stop whining and go to the next level.

If evening and weekend work was the normal year-round, my inner voice might be a little more logical and tell me to think about my work-life balance. But it isn’t like this all the time. Once I get through February, I know from experience that things tend to relax a bit. And, starting in February, my role will shift a bit, giving me more flexibility in my work volume. So, I know this isn’t a long-term thing. It’s temporary and, while a pain in the short run, I know it will lead to success in the long run.

I’ve just got to keep swimming.

I have a motivation problem.

Now, for those that know me, you probably think the title of this post is pretty funny. When it comes to work and my professional life, I’m pretty darn self-motivated. When it comes to my life outside of work, though, I’m about as lazy as they come (in fact, on any given Saturday, this dog and I have lots in common).

I hate working out.

I love Netflix.

I hate doing laundry.

I love my bed.

I hate cleaning my house.

I love cuddling with my dog.

I don’t want to leave the house after 7:00 pm.

I want to binge watch Orange is the New Black.

See the problem here?

The challenge is that I know it’s better for me and everyone around me if I just got a little motivation. I need to work out so that I’m healthier in the long run. I need to do my laundry so I don’t wear the same thing every day. I need to clean my house regularly so I don’t always have to do it in the hour before someone comes over. I need to go out some nights because that’s what social, normal people do. I need to do these things so I can hold on to my sanity and be a better version of me.

So how do I fix the problem?

In an effort to be a more motivated, productive individual starting now, I am establishing the following two goals for the rest of January:

  1. Do one plank a day, increasing in time by at least one second per day (this is similar to the 30-day plank challenge that a lot of people are doing, but alas, I sort of didn’t start on time…)
  2. Complete at least one body weight and one core workout per week at home, in addition to my weekly training session.
  3. Run at least one load of dishes and one load of laundry each week (you’d think this wouldn’t be that hard and you would be wrong).

And to accomplish these goals, I’m putting in place the following rules!

First, I will put anything I need to do on my calendar and to-do list. I don’t know about you, but I have a love affair with my Outlook calendar and my Wunderlist to-do list app. They are my lifeblood and I will do whatever they say (most of the time). So I’m starting there.

Secondly, I’m calling in backup, specifically in the area of fitness. Right now, the only workouts I’m getting in are my once-a-week appointment with my trainer. That’s correct – I’m paying for a gym membership, but only showing up to the training sessions I’m paying extra for. Why (besides the already established fact that I’m lazy)? Because I have someone I’m accountable to (oh, and I really like Jen). So, I’ve decided that I need someone to be accountable to on a regular basis. I’ve asked my trainer Jen to shoot me a text a couple times a week, just asking how my workouts are going. I don’t want to let her down, so I think this might help.

My laziness won’t be cured in a day – of this I’m well aware. Even baby steps, though, when on the right path, should move me in the right direction.

How do you get yourself out of a rut and get motivated when it feels like you have zero interest in doing something? Would love to hear suggestions!

We'll be sad to leave our very first house, but excited to see what the future holds.

Home really is where the heart is

Whenever a soon-to-graduate college senior asks me if they should take a job away from their home state, I’m always the first person to mimic the Nike ad and say, “Just do it.” Get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, experience new places. Don’t look back on your life and say, “What if?”

I’ve been in Minnesota for 3.5 years now. Before I interviewed for my current job, I’d never been to the state. I’d never lived in a city bigger than East Lansing and I’d never lived away from the state of Michigan for more than the length of a summer internship. I knew absolutely no one. It has been a new experience in every sense of the word.

I would be lying, though, if I said it wasn’t hard.

Until you’re out in the real world, you don’t realize how hard it is to make friends as an adult. High school and college are these weird places where friends are basically there for the taking, already sharing the same interests as you – they’re in classes, clubs, mabye even dorms that you hand selected, so obviously you’ve got to have a little in common. When you move to a new state, though, with no one familiar, you don’t have any of that. People already have their own friends and activities, and you’re the oddball in the mix.

Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by truly wonderful people. Most are those I work with, so not only have they made my job fun, but they’ve also invited me into their homes to share their friends and families. I couldn’t have asked for better people to welcome me with open arms.

Next month, I’m moving back to Michigan.

My fiance recently got the opportunity to take a job closer to home and my company is allowing me to work remotely, so we’re taking the chance while we’ve got it and moving back closer to our families and friends. Yes, we’ll be leaving behind our basically brand new and first-ever house. And I won’t get to see my wonderful coworkers near as often as I do now. But we’ll be gaining so much more than we’re losing.

We’ll be able to see our parents and siblings more than once a year. We’ll be able to have dinner with friends on a random weeknight. We can volunteer with our local FFA chapters. We’ll get to go tailgate at a Michigan State football game or cheer on the Lions when they play the Vikings in a see of blue, instead of purple. All of the things we’ve been missing for 3.5 years will be back in our lives on a regular basis and we couldn’t be more excited.

I still stand by that recommendation to college seniors – go out and try something new outside your comfort zone. I wouldn’t give up the experiences I’ve had for anything. You can always come back home.

And it’ll be that much sweeter when you do.

Attention: Calling the future of agriculture!

Preface: This is an unapologetic, unpaid promotion of a program that I think anyone who wants to lead the agriculture industry should be part of. It is an admittedly shameless sales pitch. For those not yet scared off, carry on :)

If you’re like me, you crave opportunities to learn and grow in your personal and professional life. However, you’re tired of one-day seminars and webinars where someone walks through their PowerPoint, tells you what you should do to be a better leader, communicator, manager, marketer, etc. and then disappears into oblivion the minute the “training” (and I put it in quotations for a reason) is over. Often, employers don’t continue supporting the messages of these trainings and they become a big waste of everyone’s time and money.

Photo courtesy: Mark Jewell

Thankfully, I just spent two days at a training that takes those types of “trainings” and gives ’em a big ole punch in the face.

The training was a part of a year-long program I’m taking part in called The Millennial Mastermind. It’s a high-intensity, high-participation program that takes high potential leaders in the agriculture industry and pushes them beyond their limits to figure out exactly why they’re in this business, what their life purpose is, and how they can turn that purpose into big, sweeping change in the industry, their communities, their families and the world. Beyond the two-day intensive, there is ongoing training throughout the year, including podcasts, conference calls, coaching and webinars with industry leaders.

Photo credit: Mark Jewell

The mastermind group that I’m part of is made up of six millennials from seed companies, co-ops and advertising/communications. We came together two days ago not knowing anyone and not quite sure of what we were going to do or learn during the training. We left last night invested in each others’ success and dedicated to living our purpose in order to make a difference to others around us.

This program has only started and already I am beginning to see myself transforming – becoming more confident in myself and more clear on the direction I want my life to take. That’s what brings me to the point of this post:

If you are a millennial in agriculture or have millennials who work for you that you don’t want to lose and think could take over your company someday, you need to sign them up for this program.

No one is paying me to say this. In fact, it’s the opposite – this program is a considerable investment that my company is making in me. And it is life-changing. I want to make sure others have the chance to be a part of this movement. This is what training and development is supposed to look like and I’ve never come across anything like it. Do yourself and your company a favor. Connect with the program’s creator Mark Jewell or leave me a comment if you want to learn more about Millennial Mastermind. The next group starts in December – hope you’re there.

26 thanks as I mark 26 years

Today is my 26th birthday. I don’t have any big plans, nor do I anticipate getting any big presents and, seeing as how the final milestone birthday was last year (i.e., being able to get a rental car without an up-charge), there’s nothing that I get to do differently now that couldn’t have been done before.

Despite that this seems like such a lackluster day, though, it really isn’t. I may not have anything new coming my way, but my life is still full of gifts. After all, here’s 26 things I’m thankful for on my 26th birthday:

  1. A fiance who loves me (even when I drive him crazy)
  2. A beautiful house that’s far too good for a couple of youngin’s
  3. An adorable puppy that reminds us that every day you need to spend at least an hour burning off energy
  4. Parents who support me in everything I do
  5. A sister who is growing into a confident woman and has big things in store for her
  6. A job that allows me to learn new things and discover what I want to do in life
  7. A network of friends that’s always there when I need them
  8. The ability to travel and see new places on a regular basis
  9. The ability to be enjoy the things that make me happy – movies, television, musicals – and friends/family to enjoy them with
  10. Enough income to live comfortably but still value hard work
  11. Work travel that allows me to see family and friends
  12. Public transportation that gives me a couple hours each day to relax, read or get stuff done
  13. Colleagues that are willing to invest in my professional development
  14. A love of reading and being taken to new (or sometimes, old familiar) worlds
  15. Social media that gives me the chance to keep in touch with friends and family I don’t get to see often enough
  16. My involvement in things like FFA, 4-H and #agchat that has introduced me to so many new people across the country and around the world
  17. Being fortunate to live in a country safe from war and disease, like what is affecting so many people today
  18. The chance to live near one of the best cities in the country, giving me the chance to experience big city adventures with Midwest values
  19. Getting to see my mom start an adventure of her own doing something she’s really passionate about, through her business Bennu Creative Entertainment Services
  20. People in my life who make me laugh every day
  21. Aunts, uncles and cousins who have gotten to be such an integral part of my life and have been there for every milestone along the way
  22. Being able to smile at the little things in life
  23. An education and college experience at one of the best places on Earth – Michigan State University
  24. The fact that there’s rain in the forecast today, since we need the moisture
  25. Good health and the ability to make myself stronger physically and mentally
  26. A positive and optimistic outlook on what the future will bring

Every day is a gift and never more so than on your birthday.

Alanis soothes the soul

I’ve always been a huge Alanis Morissette fan. Despite the fact that I was only seven when the “Jagged Little Pill” album came out, I firmly believe it is one of the best records of the 90s (and maybe even beyond). One of the greatest things about the album is how wonderfully it embodies the emotion of what it’s like to be a 20-something woman. Whether you’re just flat pissed off about an ex (“You Oughta Know”) or trying everything once for the experience (“You Learn”), it’s so easy to relate to her songs – especially now that I’m in my 20s trying to make sense of the world.

One of my favorite songs lately is “Hand in My Pocket” because it so beautifully paints the picture of the dichotomy of barely being an adult but want to make your mark in the world.

I mean, how great are these lyrics?

I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah

I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby

I feel drunk but I’m sober
I’m young and I’m underpaid
I’m tired but I’m working, yeah

And who’s never felt this?

I’m free but I’m focused
I’m green but I’m wise
I’m hard but I’m friendly, baby

I’m sad but I’m laughing
I’m brave but I’m chicken shit
I’m sick but I’m pretty, baby

Being at this point in life is hard. You feel like you’re supposed to have your crap together, but between student loan debt, trying to get a job, finding a significant other, starting a family, thinking you should be an adult but not really feeling like one etc. it often feels like nothing is ever going to get easier.

But at the end of the day, life goes on. You change and grow, for the better. And as Alanis says:

And what it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one’s givin’ a high five

Stop aiming for perfection

I’ve been a perfectionist my entire life (just ask anyone who knows me). I’ve even worn those titles – perfectionist, over-achiever – like a badge of honor, proud of just how much I was achieving with little to no struggle. I was a straight A student, graduating from Michigan State with honors. I excelled in nearly everything I was involved in. I rarely faced a challenge I couldn’t easily overcome.

And now, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a good thing.

Here’s what I believe happens to perfectionists when they enter “the real world”:

  • You take criticism (even if it’s constructive) really hard because you’ve never really gotten it before
  • You live in fear of screwing up because you might disappoint someone (a huge driver of perfectionism)
  • You have a hard time taking risks because you might make a mistake or something could go wrong
  • You’re always questioning your own abilities because what used to make you feel confident – being highly capable in everything – doesn’t come so easily anymore
  • Any small mistake or failure seems epically larger than it is
  • You put more pressure on yourself to get things right the first time than anyone else does, for fear of letting someone see weakness or vulnerability

And if that’s not what happens to all perfectionists, at the very least it’s what happened to me.

In my job, like most, there is no perfect. There’s always something that could be done differently or better. There’s always someone asking if you had thought about things another way or asking your motives behind a decision (even if it was the right one, the fear of there being a chance you did something wrong is terrifying). All of these things are part of learning and growing but, while I know that to be true, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

So, I’ve decided that, moving forward, I’m working to fight my perfectionist leanings and I encourage others to as well. Do your best, yes, but also:

  • Stop being afraid to screw up!
  • Go out of your way to do things where you might make mistakes
  • Learn from those mistakes
  • Surround yourself with people who encourage and support risk-taking (aka they tell you to get on the trapeze because they will be your net if you fall)
  • Try new things
  • Actively remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect to be awesome (say it to your reflection in the mirror each morning!)

Perfection isn’t a compliment – it’s a straight jacket, holding us back from going out and doing all the amazing things that are out in the world. Stop being a perfectionist, but keep being awesome and imagine where it could lead.