October Advertising Spots!

It’s almost October, everybody! This means advertising spots are opening back up! I’ll be taking this post down in a few days, but I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to advertise if you haven’t seen the tweets & Facebook shout-outs about it!

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+ Mastering Life In 2011: The New, Sexy 1950’s Culture +

Today I have something very short and sweet to say:

The secret to just about everything is getting outside of yourself.

What do I mean by ‘getting outside of yourself?’ I just mean slowing down your brain and paying attention to the people around you. Putting a hold on your personal goals, and asking who needs help with theirs. Making a sacrifice so that someone else can get what they’ve been waiting for. Going over to your Mom’s house instead of sending her a message on Facebook.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve become a very individualized society. Words like ‘family’ and ‘community’ aren’t dropped too much anymore when discussing life decisions. The idea of still being friends at 25 or 30 with the kid you met on the playground when you were 5? That’s obsolete for 9 out of 10 people. With the traditional media explosion (radio, television, and eventually the Internet), culture shifted from what immediately surrounded you in your daily life to something that’s worldwide, and people then had their pick of what culture they wanted to adhere to. Through traditional media, we all got grouped into the humanity movement. And, true to human nature, we rebelled by ‘standing out,’ ‘being unique,’ ’embracing diversity’ and ‘doing me.’ (I could elaborate much more on the symptoms of individualism, but that’s for later, and not quite the point of this.)

Then came what I lovingly refer to as Teh Soshal Mediaz. Thanks to social media, we’ve suddenly become a relational generation again. Sure, it looks wildly different from the 1950’s, but I think we’re finally realizing that we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when we raced to put our careers first, let go of some pretty significant family values, and when “doing me” became the epitome of Cool.

Even if you don’t use social media, that’s okay. It’s changing your world for you, and you didn’t even have to Like any Facebook fan pages. There’s been an outrageous rush in even the last 365 days to raise awareness, build online communities, use Twitter to strengthen local non-profits, bring philanthrophy to the corporate world, interact personally with customer groups, and elevate the importance of sincere relationships.

We’ve even gotten so far as to have a man we call Doctor Love (Paul Zak) do extensive studies to prove that Oxytocin, the cuddle chemical, is triggered by things like a positive Facebook status comment. In the same way a bearhug from your best friend does. The significance? The corporate world is now anticipating that in the near future, their worth will be primarily measured not by their profit margins, but in customer relationships and their trust factor. Yes, people. Social capital is more valuable than money in the bank.

This has left us scrambling to figure out how to best gain this social capital. And it’s so, so easy. The secret is getting outside of yourself.

What does this mean for you? It means that we finally have proof that putting others first is the best way for the world to work. It means that engaging in a sincerely interested manner with the person at the drive-thru gives you an amazingly good return on your 5 minute investment. It means that putting a sticky note on your dashboard reminding you to focus on others, and not yourself, will actually increase your standard of living. It means that the whole purpose of social media is to be social: “marked by friendly companionship with others.”

But, there’s a catch. Being driven by love isn’t something you can fake. Even behind a creative Twitter handle, intricate philanthropic blog network, or super cute profile photo, people can tell fairly quickly what your motive is. Most people who are paying attention can skim a blog, and after 10 minutes, give you a fairly educated guess on what that blogger’s definition of success is.

I want this to be a challenge to you. Make a conscious decision to put other people’s interests above your own. When you go through the drive-thru, stop thinking about your next destination long enough to realize that a real human being is serving you. And when you jump on Twitter and half-skim a couple hundred tweets as your type yours up, pay attention to who needs a little extra love that day.

Success isn’t complicated, you guys. Fight the urge to be ruled by the numbers game and to be ‘doing me’, and let’s go back to our 1950’s roots – where family and community take priority in our lives. While still crushing on our sexy MacBook Pros.

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+ Branding Your Life: Welcome To The Internet! +

On November 1st, 2010, I tweeted: “You are a brand. Treat yourself as such. Ground your product, visualize your identity, network your life. Be open to growth.”

I want to elaborate on this.

After tons of meetings, coffee dates, emails and texts with guys and girls looking for advice on moving forward and becoming successful with their lives and passions, I’m realizing that most people don’t view themselves as a self-contained force. And really, you are. This is excruciatingly important for people to understand.

If you’re alive and kicking, you’re a small business. The question is, have you sat down as head of the company and started getting everything in line?

Most people are looking for something that will catapult them into the position they want to be in. College is the perfect example. No, college will not catapult you into a successful life. It’s an extraordinarily beneficial tool, but it isn’t “the answer.” It’s a solid learning experience, and an irreplaceable opportunity for networking. This business that your personal self inherently owns? That will be around forever. College will only be around for a few years. Make college fit into your business plan. Don’t make it THE business plan. A lot of people miss out on both the real learning and the networking in college because they don’t understand this crucial difference.

Here’s the hard truth: You fill every role in this business that you run.

You’ve got full control of what goes on, and what direction your business runs in, but you also are in charge of marketing, research, IT, public relations, training, social media, etc. That’s a lot of work. But don’t get overwhelmed. Realizing that you have control over all of these things is half the battle.

Now that you know you’re a business, you hopefully know how important it is to brand yourself. The key to sales (and yes, that’s what you’re doing. Selling yourself.) is relationships. The doorway to relationships is recognition. And you get recognition with savage, persistent presence.

Presence.

You’re in so much luck that it’s stupid. You were born into a generation where the Internet has made presence as easy as it will ever be. But it’s still your job to educate yourself, learn the tricks, and manipulate it into working for you.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, but what I can do is tell you what I’ve done, and what’s worked for me. So here we go!

Sign up for everything, but focus on your core. You want presence everywhere, but you don’t want to be trying to fill up 100 glasses at once. For example, I have a profile on About.Me. Do I use it? Nope. But if someone else is on About.Me and goes looking for Lauren Lankford…yep, there I am. With links to everything else that I DO use. Got ’em. Just heard about something new that just came out? Sign up. Take 15 minutes and look around. You may never use it again, but if it comes up in conversation later on (which it will), you’ll know what you’re talking about.

Learn HTML and some basic CSS. It’s easy. Go to www.w3.org and read through the HTML and CSS tutorials so you at least have a general understanding of how it works. This is worth gold when you find yourself fighting a life or death battle with the customize feature on your blog.

Get Twitter. Yes, it’s worth it. This is 2011 and you can’t network successfully without Twitter. Spend time seeking out people who are similar to you, tweeting at people (hint: this is the #1 way to build relationships at this point in time), and learning how to create valuable content in 140 characters or less. When you’re on a blog you love, look for their Twitter link and tell them via Twitter what you like about their stuff. It’s the equivalent of walking up to someone at a party and telling them you think their shoes are sick. New friend. If you don’t know where to start, go follow me and just start following people I do. I’ll be your springboard, I don’t mind.

Get a blog. Just like Twitter will be your conversation-hub, this will be the content-hub for everything you do. I recommend Blogger or WordPress. Blogger is run by Google (note: blogger & blogspot are the same thing), and extraordinarily simple to customize and navigate. If you’re up for the challenge, WordPress may serve you better in the long run. And now, ACTUALLY BLOG. Treat your blog as a social tool. Comment on other people’s blogs. Throw your projects up and shamelessly ask for critiques and opinions. Talk about people and things you love. Work on writing and producing quality. Ask people to guest post for you. This is the easiest way to direct someone else’s readers to your blog. Get an email subscription widget up from FeedBurner so that people can get your blog posts in their inbox. Be dynamic, not static.

Get Google Reader. Even if you’re not familiar with RSS, Google made it easy. Go sign up here. Up on the top left corner you’ll see a “Add a subscription” button. Click it, and cut and paste a blog URL. It will automatically add this to your list. All the awesome blog content you can find, put into one place for you.

Get a portfolio. I recommend Carbonmade. You can look at mine here.

Get a Tumblr. You may or may not use this, but if you want to be an expert in your field, you’ll try out everything just so that you know how it works. This is mine. Tumblr kicks ass for visual scrapbooking online. A couple clicks and you can upload an image, or hit re-blog from someone else’s Tumblr and it will immediately appear on yours, for all of your followers to see. Don’t know who to follow? Go to the Directory and see who is featured in the categories you’re interested. Follow the ones you like. Keep your eye on who THEY are reblogging from. Follow those people too. I don’t use Tumblr for networking, I use it for inspiration. Heavy content, 24/7. Free eye candy.

Get a profile on 20sb. It’s probably the best way for bloggers to network on the inside. Here’s my profile, go add me as a friend.

Get on LinkedIn. This is easy too. It’s the most professional networking site out there, and the whole point is to have a persistent presence, remember? When someone signs up on LinkedIn, they’ll have the option to search their email, Twitter & Facebook friends to find their friends and add them as a contact. Be on LinkedIn, and that’s one more time that someone sees your name. Win.

Be in good company. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that professionals are real human beings. Seriously. Don’t be intimidated by resumes, numbers, reputations or accomplishments. That person you admire has a family, ex’s, gets sick, has a sense of humor, and needs friends – just like you. I’m not promising that you can be their new friend, but place yourself in their life and do your best to learn from them. It’ll rub off.

Move, shake, talk, interact, serve, offer, ask – be savagely present.

Also, consistency is important. Keep the same name/username/feel/style/photo/etc, everywhere you go. The whole point of being present is to be recognized, remember? Don’t be afraid to change when you become better, but make your changes universal.

Remember that relationships work the same way online as they do offline. You don’t make friends by squinting from a distance and thinking about how cool they are. Say hello, and start a conversation. Talking = Recognition = Relationships = Branding = Success. Get on it, and have fun!

Now, go sit down with a few pieces of paper and try to draw out your business plan. Pretend you’re a company and decide what needs to be done in order for you to look smart and sexy on the Internet. Write down things you wish you were better at and figure out how to read up on them and practice them. Find the people who are already doing those things and stalk them like it’s your job, because it is. Make a to-do list. I recommend TeuxDeux. Blog about it, and let me know via Twitter!

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