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!

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.

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.

A reminder of perspective

I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling a little down about work lately. I’m chalking it up to a minor “quarter life crisis” – which I know I’m not alone in experiencing – and putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Do I want to stay in advertising?

Do I want to move to the non-profit sector?

Should I freelance?

Are there other interests outside of agriculture that I should tap into?

Should I be looking at things closer to home, friends and family?

I know that none of these are questions that need to be answered right now, and that I should just stop and take a breath. But it’s just so hard sometimes, when you feel like there’s just so much to figure out! Thankfully, I got to have an experience at work last week that gave me a little bit of perspective.

Right now our agency is working on a little self reflection, trying to discover where we want to be in the future and what steps we need to take to get there. As a part of the process, I got to be part of a focus group. The group was made up of people mostly in my age group, from all different disciplines and departments. We were asked about our thoughts on agency culture, where new business might come from and the creative process. One of the best perspective gaining questions that got asked, though, was the first one we got started with:

Why do you like working here? What makes you get up in the morning every day?

What I loved is that, across 10 or so people around the table, there were common themes that resonated with all of us and prove that yes – despite my constant panic about whether I should shift course – this really is a great place to work.

We don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Minneapolis is a big advertising/PR town, with shops that are doing globally recognized work. We do great work in our office, too, but you won’t see us jet-setting to Cannes or only doing work for high profile, “flashy” companies. We know our clients and their business and that’s why they hire us. We work hard to bring them new insights and ideas and, at the end of the day, we relax over a drink and some happy hour snacks. We love what we do, but we don’t have to stick our nose up at everyone else to do it. We’d rather challenge you to a game of Crud instead.

We value the fact that employees have lives outside of work.

While we expect that the work gets done well, on time and on budget, our senior management (and clients) also understand that people have interests and families outside of our walls. Unlike other “run ’em ragged” shops, people on our team will raise an eyebrow if you’re still in the office after 6:00 or if you say you’re skipping a kid’s baseball game because you’re trying to get work done. Work is only one part of our lives – it doesn’t do well to make it the only focus.

We put a lot of faith in young talent.

This is one that’s especially good for me to be reminded of every so often, especially when I get caught up in all the things I don’t feel very confident in. At my agency, our leadership has faith in young talent. There are 20-somethings (like yours truly) who get tons of responsibility over strategy development and project execution for lead brands of our biggest clients. When we prove that we can handle the challenge and can be trusted to make smart choices, we’re given the opportunity to lead. That’s huge.

So next time I get stuck in a “What in the heck am I going to do with myself for the rest of my career?!!?” place, I’m going to look back on this list and remember – I’m in a pretty good place to figure it out.

Turning tragedy into inspiration

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I had the chance to volunteer with the Denver Comic Con this year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in a long time. Whether it was other volunteers, attendees, comic book artists or celebrity guests, I met so many wonderful people that I got to talk and laugh with over the weekend-long event.

Shane Bitney Crone Love is Louder

Shane Bitney Crone is taking a tragedy and turning it into inspiration for everyone fighting for equality. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most inspirational people I met while I was there was Shane Bitney Crone. Shane first rose to notoriety when his YouTube video “It Could Happen to You” went viral. The video tells the story of Shane and his longtime partner Tom, who died in a tragic accident. Despite being together for years, Tom’s family blocked Shane from attending the funeral and threatened him with physical violence if he tried to show up. Shane and Tom’s story has been told in more detail in the documentary “Bridegroom” (available on Netflix).

What is most amazing to me is that, in the face of this tragedy and heartbreak, Shane decided not to pity himself, but rather to take action. Over drinks and dinner, it was so inspiring to hear him share with us the drive he has to spread his story far and wide in order that one day LGBT couples will have the same rights to see and mourn for the ones they love that their heterosexual counterparts do when emergencies arise. He has spoken at universities and events across the country and around the world, including doing a screening of “Bridegroom” at the Denver Comic Con. As he told me, every single person who hears his story is important because that’s one more person joining him in the fight for equality.

I know Tom would be extremely proud of Shane. I only spent a few hours with him and I know I am. May we all take a lesson from his strength.