Comfort Is A Girl’s Worst Friend

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A theme that has come up recently with the younger people in my life is the issue of how to assess the value of an opportunity.  I have repeated the same advice, to think about  the long term benefit(s) of accepting the opportunity being presented.  The thing that stood out very clearly in both situations is that they wanted to wait for the perfect situation that did not require any additional sacrifice: the perfect job in their field, paying the desired salary, close to home with a positive work environment.  These are people working survival jobs that don’t bring fulfillment or much career advancement.

What I told them both is that we have to step out of our comfort zones to get where we want to be.  A very “lucky” person can see things work out exactly as expected, however the truth is, it is highly unlikely.  Plans face frustrations.  There is a popular expression that states: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  While that sounds pretty cool and most would agree, as with most motivational quotes, it is a different thing altogether to internalize its meaning then practice it in real life. And what is a comfort zone??

 

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We are created to multiply our innate gifts and talents.

 

Welcome To The Comfort Zone

‘Comfort zone’ is a pretty way of saying ‘complacent’ or ‘apathetic.’  It is a state of familiarity, predictability, consistency and untested confidence.  It’s a place of the knowns and known unknowns.  It is home base.  In a comfort zone you know what you have.  The down side to never straying from the comfort zone is stagnance.  Yes you know what you have, but it is all you will ever have.

Showing Up

We often get to a point in life where we want something different, even if we do not know exactly what it is.  There is a powerful force inside that yearns to be released in some particular direction.  It may be the desire for more income, better use of skills, development of interests. In this day and age entrepreneurship is the highly valued; more people than ever want to “be the boss.”  But any change to the norm requires some level of ambition and that inescapably requires risk.

When we want to accomplish something greater we need a plan of action with short term and long term goals; we have to assess what we are willing to give up to get started in that desired direction.  Changing careers or employers is a good example.  Are you willing to give up the place you live?  Are you willing to take a longer commute to work or work in an environment that is not ideal in order to gain practical experience in order to become a more attractive candidate for the dream career you envision?  Are you willing to make the monetary sacrifices necessary, such as spending more on transportation or more professional credentials?

It is nearly impossible to make any progress toward a significant goal without getting very uncomfortable.  Success and risk go hand-in-hand.  There is no way to know where an opportunity will lead and sometimes the best opportunities appear very undesirable.  Doing things we don’t “feel like” doing can be blessings in disguise because the first step is to make ourselves available for that unknown key to unlock the door to the chance of a lifetime.  The first thing you have to do is show up.

I learned this while pursuing a career in acting.  Plenty of people are drawn to the industry because of the perceived glamour and riches that can come with it.  Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and wondered how in the world that actor got that part?  Maybe their acting stinks or they are otherwise somehow wrong for the role. When I see situations like that I remember what I was told by casting directors: about half of the actors who are invited for auditions don’t bother to show up!  Showing up is literally half the battle in life.  Actors who go to everyaudition that they can, even ones they’re not invited to, are more likely to eventually book work consistently, not only because of the increased odds they gain from going to as many auditions as possible, but because their consistency is noted and appreciated.  They’re hungrier than everybody else!  And because of that they will be trusted for their work ethic and reliability.  So between two actors, one being stellar who attends auditions sporadically and one being mediocre who shows up consistently, the latter will have a higher likelihood of booking the part because of their reputation.

The other thing I learned from the acting world is that the industry is small. Everybody knows everybody, ultimately. Other industries are the same. Human beings are relational.  One of the blessings of showing up is that you don’t know who is going to notice and make a recommendation to someone looking for someone just like you.  You never know whose mind you are on.

Showing up for every audition you can get to means showing up when you “don’t feel like it.”  When you’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV or doing whatever other activity brings you pleasure.  It even means showing up if you are less than prepared and chalk it up to simply more audition experience and another opportunity to “be seen” by someone who may be looking for your type in the future.  Being willing to get uncomfortable means being willing to be less than your normal cute self.

The point is that it is those who do not expect their best opportunity to look and feel a particular way, but can consider the different ways that an opportunity may be able to enhance their skills, network and reputation who will ultimately fulfill their purpose and reach their goals.

Training Day

 

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Challenges can make you stronger.

 

The best thing about challenging one’s self to get uncomfortable is how it will strengthen a person.  When we get uncomfortable there are hurdles that we have to figure out how to overcome. It makes one more “street smart.” It develops character.  It teaches one how to manoeuver in life when inevitable difficulties (the unknownunknowns) come up – even in the realm of your ideal life.  Overcoming fears, doubts and anxieties trains our brain and our spirit to persevere instead of giving up when things get hard. It can teach us to recognize ugly-looking opportunities as the potential diamonds in the rough that they are.  Ask a real estate investor.  The gold mines of life are the places that most won’t go because it’s not cute or easy.

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Overthinking: The Anti-Superpower?

UntitledWe all know what a superpower is, right?  I would describe it as some incredible ability that nobody else has or a very rare gift that allows the holder to do amazing things.  Earlier this year my uncle told me I was Superwoman because nobody expected me to live when I was battling hodgkin’s lymphoma with a scleroderma pre-condition, much less to go into remission from both and thrive while reaching for my dreams.

But what is the opposite of a superpower?  Maybe there are a few.  But I strongly believe (since yesterday!) that one word that can definitely define the opposite of a superpower is over-thinking.

I’ve been thinking about over-thinking and how to resolve it; how to overcome it to accomplish goals, certainly, but more importantly, to create a great an abundant life.

Here’s Why I Think Over-Thinking Is The Anti-Superpower

Over-thinking will destroy the ability to take advantage of an opportunity; it will lead to procrastination; it can even lead to self-doubt because the more you think think think over something the more likely you will end up thinking your way out of doing it.  Ultimately, over-thinking is dis-empowering.  This occurred to me very clearly just the other day.

Two days ago I posted about my issues with not completing my book and what could be holding me back.  I believe that over-thinking plays a part.  Instead of just going for it I over-think and psyche myself out.  When you spend too much time thinking instead of stepping boldly into action it’s like getting yourself caught up in a net that is difficult to untangle without great effort – lost in your thoughts.  And that process can lead to overwhelm.

We Can Express Both Strength and Weakness In The Same Habit

I must give myself credit for the areas where I can see that I am overcoming this habit.  There are things I am doing business-wise and personally that are happening because I am blocking out worry – another offshoot of overthinking – about if I’m ready and the definite and potential risks.  I am taking my own advice to others, that you have to take a risk if you want to accomplish something.  If you let fear keep you petrified in the same place you end up with frustration.  You end up with real failure.

“Fail Forward”

The above is one of my mantras.  There are different kinds of failure.  There is failure that leads to growth, which can form a stepping stone in the right direction.  And then there is failure that keeps you from moving forward.  (Moving forward can mean moving in another direction, but the operative word is moving!)  Not trying in the first place is a sure-fire way to not move forward.  I consider not trying a form of failure because it could mean missing your true calling.  Much of the time we don’t try because we are full of fear.  When there is no escape from fear, like laying down in a hospital bed nearly immobile, barely lucid much of the time, in never-ending excruciating pain for months on end, you eventually figure out how to defy your fears if you want to live.  This is why challenging our comfort zones is so important.

Well, this is my lesson to myself today: overcome this “anti-superpower” called overthinking.  I’m so proud of me!!

What do you think?  Do you have an issue with spending too much time rummaging over an idea in your mind instead of taking decisive action?

Follow me on instagram at @melissa_the_mariner and on Facebook at @thefinancialfashionista.

You can also find me on the Rainbow in Bloom podcast here:

Apple:  http://bit.ly/RainbowOnApple     Spotify:  http://bit.ly/RainbowOnSpotify

 

Issues With Writing My Book

book-images-png-30955I’m supposed to be writing a book.  It’s been at least four years now that I have had this story – or, testimony – to tell and have neglected to.  I know that I MUST pinpoint what is holding me back from writing my book.  Not that I haven’t done anything; I’ve been writing notes and paragraphs, ideas and memories.  I even have an outline that lays out the topics I want to write about.  I’m trying to pinpoint why I do not follow through and just write it.  I think part of it is, just the thought of putting all those pieces together is kind of overwhelming.  I think I must get discouraged by the feeling of overwhelm.  It’s a lot of work!  I’m good at writing down my thoughts but putting it all together remains elusive.  Sometimes a stroke of ambition will hit me and I will take the time to flesh out a part of the story to my satisfaction.  But I think it’s the glue to tie together all the different pieces that I get “stuck” on.

The book is to be about surviving what was essentially terminal illness.  And it’s really not AT ALL as depressing as it might sound.  It is a story of triumph, hope and faith, and lessons learned from having to dig deep into the core of my being for the strength and tenacity to hold on until I reached my breakthrough.  My survival is nothing short of miraculous.  I was diagnosed with stage 4B hodgkin’s lymphoma after having a pre-existing autoimmune disease called scleroderma, which was already slowly destroying my body and my life.  So I was living (“living” is generous) with two illnesses that each had a high likelihood of fatality.

I learned a lot going through that experience.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about people.  Going through all that, I learned a lot about life itself, who I am and what I stand for.  It’s made me more bold, brave and confident in who I am, what I want and what I will not stand for. I am no longer let insecurities about what people think of me limit me.  And boundaries.  It also taught me a lot about the importance of establishing clear boundaries, unapologetically.  I stick up for myself.

The ultimate goal for writing this book (I already have the title) is to encourage somebody else to keep pushing through even when it seems there is no way out; to allow someone else to see how they might pull themselves out of seemingly insurmountable odds. I was ensconced in darkness but I was able to have joy and hope, which would seem antithetical.  Five mantras for my life came to me through that experience.  My mental toughness was also a valuable realization about myself.

It could be a really good book!  If only I would WRITE IT.  But I sit down to write and I get easily distracted by other things.  I allow other things to distract me.  And I’m getting annoyed with myself because at this point I don’t really have an excuse like I did before – I was really sick and could hardly sit up straight for an extended period of time or stay awake against crushing fatigue.  Persistent mental fog is a common complaint among people living with autoimmune illnesses like scleroderma.  Those things are not much of a problem now.

Then there’s the issue of distance.  The blessing is that hindsight comes with better vision – as they say, “hindsight is 20/20.”  I see things differently now.  I see more and understand a little bit more day by day.  But also, as time progresses we and our circumstances change.  The curse is that we don’t stay the same, so my perspective  changes constantly.  My emotional connection to that experience is nowhere near as strong as it used to be.  I worry that some of the emotional resonance could be lost because of this.

So pinpoint number one is that I really have to get disciplined: that’s my big problem, clearly.  I assume that one of the reasons why I get distracted is because of the way I work.  I don’t have a set schedule.  It’s sort of up in the air.  I’m in logistics so I often have to get up and go with short notice.  That makes it hard to be consistent and grounded since I have to be ready to literally move throughout the day.

The nature of my “day job” (I am self-employed) suits my personality because I have a wandering mind – which is pinpoint number two.  My mind is always “on” and as a result I don’t have a regular sleep pattern either, which is pinpoint number three!  As I write this it is 3:24 AM and I am supposed to wake up around 6.  I am trying meditation to help center and calm my mind.  Pretty sure I need to do it more than once a day.  When I do need to sleep I manage to do it, but only because my body makes me.  That pretty much means I am completely exhausted.  I’ve always been an insomniac.

Completing this book will mean something more to me than simply the satisfaction of the achievement and even helping someone who reads it.  The process of completing it will help me to grow because it requires that I overcome these issues that I know I have and want to get a handle on.  If you don’t control life life will control you, like the tail wagging the dog.

This is my big challenge for the rest of the year.  I want this week of July 22, 2018 to be really focused on completing one chapter.  I probably have it done already; I probably have more than one chapter, considering all the pieces.  My short-term goal is to publish an ebook, to get a feel for the response to content and make some money too.

What are some things that you have been procrastinating on, haven’t made the time for, or simply not in the right situation to get done?

Linked In To Leverage

bigstock-black-african-american-ethnici-83481563No matter who you are or what your experience, starting a business is a nerve-wracking process.  The true beginning of a new entity – a start-up – is the germ of an idea that keeps you up at night (like right now!); distracts you at work; monopolizes conversations with friends and family; gives energy, inspiration and hope.  It builds from an idea to a research project; it is only natural, and absolutely necessary, to immerse oneself in the topic – reading everything, talking to other professionals.  A budding entrepreneur has to seek a place in the market that is meant for him or her to fill.

That is me.

There are three main hurdles that the average person will typically face when starting a business.  Some people may not be hindered by all three but at least one will be an issue to some degree.

  1. Technical knowledge

One of the most common pieces of advice that entrepreneurs are given is to gain two years of work experience in their intended industry before going into business for ourselves.  There’s nothing wrong with that, per se.  “Experience is a good teacher.”  But I would argue that having a “job” in the field doesn’t in and of itself mean that a person has gained the skills, knowledge base or fortitude needed to start and run their own business.  What if a person has no desire to be an employee and wants to go directly into entrepreneurship?  There is another way, and that is by leveraging the experience of others.

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2.  Support

Entrepreneurs are also often advised to build a team, or “board of advisors,” no matter how much experience.  The ability to connect with the right people who have the skills, knowledge, experience and willingness to help achieve the person’s vision is fundamental.  I learned this back in 2005 when I entered the annual business plan competition at the Brooklyn Library for the same business I am building now.  Many years later (for reasons beyond the scope of this blog) I attended graduate school to gain the “book knowledge” on the industry that I was lacking.

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Me at a training.

I have a very curious, expressive, detail-oriented, and – I’d like believe – humble character.   So seeking the counsel of many others is my thing.  Over the years I have gone out of my way to be around people in my industry.  If I wasn’t seeking advice I was taking it.  I leave no stone unturned (I don’t think…)  I’ve traveled hundreds of miles to expensive conferences, attended local events, taken trains two or more states away many times for parties, seminars and speeches hosted by industry groups and organizations.  A couple of years ago I had two advisors through the SCORE program with the Small Business Administration (that’s a whole other blog post.)  In October 2017 I am going to a conference in Barbados.

 

The goal had always been to make connections that will become fruitful when the right opportunity presented itself.  But now my goal is very specific: to build my team.  I’ve been having some success lately via LinkedIn.  Recently I met someone who seems to have all four of the traits I’m looking for in an advisor/partner: a) have the experience I am in need of for what I want to accomplish; b) have the desire to be a mentor, providing consistent, long-term guidance; c) take me seriously; and d) isn’t needlessly condescending, presumptuous or biased.  I find that the key is finding people who are hungry for change.  People who are looking for an opportunity for freedom to control their destiny in a way that capitalizes on their interests and expertise.  Everything seems to go back to my network marketing training!  Retired professionals are a great resource.  I spoke with one gentleman I met through a family connection, but he failed the test when he stated, “You don’t know what you want,”  as though enquiring about his background and his perspective on market opportunities means that I’m clueless, aimlessly fishing for something to grab on to.  Through LinkedIn I’ve been able to identify and contact experts in industry and academia that I probably would have had no knowledge of otherwise.  It’s amazing how many highly desirable people I’ve been able to introduce myself to and how fast conversations have developed, just from this one platform.  It’s really powerful and I highly recommend it.

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5 Clever Ways to Raise Money For Your Startup Without Making an Investor Pitch

    3.  MONEY!

Donald Trump has praised the power of debt.  He was able to build a real estate empire by leveraging Other Peoples’ Money to a high degree.  The power of OPM has become very real for me in my real estate investing business.  Real estate investors depend on private and hard money lenders for property purchase and rehabilitation.  It is how someone with little money of their own can begin a lucrative career in the field.  But it is a skill to be cultivated.

6 Tips for Borrowing Startup Funds from Friends or Family

That isn’t what I was taught.  As far as I knew, if you wanted to start a business you needed to save your own money and possibly take out a bank loan.  It seemed like venture capitalists and private investors were for the very sophisticated.  You had to be “linked in” to a different world, or something.  I had no idea that I could have access to this kind of capital and how to go about it.

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Raising capital for a business doesn’t have to be torturous.  It requires self-confidence, a plan with a great elevator pitch, a clear and specific ask, persistence and creativity.  Below are some ideas.

  • Self-confidence: The best place to start your search for investors is your immediate community: parents, family, friends, colleagues, alumni network – the people you know and the people they know.  This takes courage because we all know that the people closest to us are often the ones to doubt us the most.  It takes courage to face rejection, doubt and possibly thinly-veiled ridicule from the people who have the power to hurt us the most.  But still, it’s better to fail than to never try.
  • Plan:  The best way to win people over is to have a clear plan.  Clear doesn’t mean having all the details. It’s clarity of vision and idea of how you intend to bring it to reality.  Be honest about what you’re not sure about but give ideas about how you plan to go about figuring it out.  The point of the plan is not to have all the answers but to provide a framework for your actions and goals.  Be able to articulate your idea and not allow questions or negative responses to be discouraging.
  • Specify the ask: In articulating a clear plan with confidence, you have to be specific about what you are asking for.  So if your desire is to raise $20,000 speak it into existence! Don’t be vague. “My team is seeking to raise $20,000 for operating costs for the next six months…” – whatever it is. “This is our first (second…third…) round of funding to support our expansion into…”  Offer incentives for different levels of investment.
  • Persistence: I expect to have many conversations, even speaking to the same people several times.  And remember a ‘no’ can some day become a ‘yes.’  Consider no’s temporary.  Keep your prospect list updated on the progress of your campaign whether they have contributed or not.
  • Creativity: A battle is fought over several fronts.  There’s fighting on the ground, there’s intelligence, there’s diplomacy…  In your funding campaign you will also need to utilize many skills, devices and people, as well as altering the message depending on the audience.  Think outside the box.  You make the rules. It’s your show.  Just always respect peoples’ time, be honest, be gracious and communicate well.

 Raising money is another reason it is important to have a team.  You have the   opportunity to reach more people.  If and when you do solicit an investor or venture capitalist, having a team with extensive recent knowledge and experience will bump up your credi(t)bility.  *Credit being the operative word!

Today I am entering the fourth iteration of business goals, bringing with me all the lessons of past efforts.  I’ve learned from my mistakes and feel much better equipped in confidence, skills, knowledge and creativity than I was before.  Getting my business from idea to income-generating entity has been challenging, but I believe that God’s timing is perfect.  I’ve just been preparing for my season.

 

Sign Seeing

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Over the past couple of weeks three themes have kept popping up everywhere I look!  I’ve had lots of time to sit and reflect on where I am in my life, how I got here and what I need to do to move forward .  The universe seems to be in agreement with me as the same ideas have popped out at me in scripture, social media posts and even Sunday service.  On social media I have commented that the collective unconscious is working overtime right now.  I’m not the only one to notice.  Having a break from “busy”ness has allowed my mind to rest and me to get more centered and focused.    Below are the three ideas that have resonating around me.  The first two I touched on in last week’s blog post.

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  1. Missed Opportunities.  There’s nothing worse than a missed opportunity.  Hindsight is 20/20 As I look back (which I do very carefully!) I can see many of the opportunities I missed either by not grabbing them when I had the chance or not putting myself in the position to create them.  I acknowledge the self-doubt this was rooted in.  Looking back is only useful if you gain lesson to apply to future decisions.  It is an opportunity to fine-tune one’s intuition, ability to reason, and make better life choices.  journeytolaunch_1561592622500438037
  2. Preparation.  Last week I wrote that in business an elevator pitch is valuable tool that will allow the business person to be prepared for a chance encounter with someone who could in some way be instrumental in achieving their business goals.  The meme above was posted on Instagram by a financial coach; it was a post about being prepared financially for life’s emergencies.  This of course ties in to missing opportunities.  Some opportunities come with a cost.  I saw in my past opportunities I missed out on because I was not ready financially – and I could have been.
  3. FOMO.  When I read about the concept of FOMO, a light bulb went off.  When I read it a few days later in the intro to the verses assigned for one day’s bible study, it was like my mind was blown after being struck by lightening!  It perfectly pinpoints something I have sensed about myself while taking an honest look at the past three years.  FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out.  Patrick McGinnis, who coined the term, describes FOMO in the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, Episode 21.

“an inward struggle and it impedes you from disrupting yourself because I think you lack focus. There is a positive side to FOMO in that it can tell you what your hidden dreams and desires are. If you feel FOMO when you see somebody start playing the piano maybe you should go out and take piano lessons….But I find that it is a great way to distract yourself from doing the hard things in your life you need to do. Rather than sitting down…and dealing with that big challenge that you need to deal with, you spend a bunch of time running around doing other things to stay busy.”  

I’ve been reading the book The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Mansen and Les Hewitt.  In one of the first chapters they write about not being distracted by the next shiny new thing.  But the question is ‘why’ do we do that?  The answer is FOMO.  FOMO will eat up lots of opportunity, ironically, because when you’re chasing all you will catch none.  It is futile.

So once the signs are acknowledged the next step is to apply what they teach.  These signs have reiterated a nagging feeling that I need to be doing less, not more.  Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.  I’ve been noticing that the more busy I have become the less satisfied I have been feeling with the results of my efforts.  So now, mid-2017, is a good time to assess my priorities, strategies and activities, make sure they are in line with my goals.

Have you noticed any signs instructive this summer?

How To Graduate with Less or No Debt

Keys_29082It’s quite the conundrum. We are told that a college education is the key to achieving our full potential and the American dream.  The story tells us it is the way out of poverty.  Access to higher education was a major priority for the last White House administration and affordability was central to that message.  President Obama even introduced the America’s College Promise Act 2015 to make the two years of community college free.

Over the past decade or so the number of Americans earning college degrees has skyrocketed.  And so has the tuition, and the debt that follows.  For many, what was supposed to be a roadmap to the American Dream turned out to be a money pit into a uniquely American nightmare.  Graduates now face enormously burdensome debt that many will never be able to pay off in their lifetime.  We’ve all heard reports about the student loan default crisis, where the struggle to keep up with unaffordable loan payments becomes so discouraging that people stop paying altogether.

Women are particularly vulnerable.  I recently read that women own two-thirds of student loan debt.  Yet a female graduate will earn only 79 cents for every dollar that a male graduate will, on average, in a similar position.  Hmm…wouldn’t it be nice if that was reflected in the tuition we pay?!  Blacks and Latinas tend to take on more debt, and the fact that they tend to make even less than their White counterparts makes it especially harder for them to repay.

But alas, there’s hope!  There are several ways to graduate with less or no debt.  At the root of decreasing the need to take on debt to advance one’s education are planning, time and diligence.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Take your required courses at a community college.  It is not necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars on coursework that isn’t directly relevant to your major; better yet, if you don’t even know what you want to study or career path you want to take right now, community college is a great place to sort that out.  Aside from the money, it can help you to grow in maturity and be more focused at a four-year college. Advantages:
    1. Cheaper
    2. Potentially pay tuition as you go
    3. The 4-year college transcript is what will be seen on your resume and what you will talk about at parties!  If you started at Community but ended up at Harvard no one really has to know.stundet-loan4
  2. Prepare!  There are literally thousands of grants and scholarships.  Take the time to do the research necessary to meet all of the deadlines and gather all of the information required to complete each application.
    1. Attend events at schools and community organizations of all sorts; read books and articles on free money for college. Get to know people who do this every day and keep in touch.
    2. It would be wise to start researching 18 months out from when you will begin school.  This way you can target your time and energy towards the most lucrative scholarships and grants that you qualify for and are interested in.
    3. Give yourself and your recommenders enough time to craft thoughtful, well-written essays and recommendations.
  3. Consider the potential salary expectations for your desired career.  Will your potential future income allow you to afford your student loan debt along with your realistic cost of living?  Your grades, location, network and caliber of your school are all factors in the salary level that may be available to you.
    1. This is the business of your life.  Do a cost/benefit analysis on your educational goals.  Does the pay scale for the career you intend to go into justify the cost of the degree required for the field?  For example, if you want to be a social worker, would it be worth it to go $60,000 into debt, considering what your salary is likely to be over the long run?
    2. Following the example in number 1, there are student loan forgiveness programs for certain careers.
      1. Usually when you go into one of these careers and apply for loan forgiveness there are requirements such as length of time to work in the field.
      2. Careers in public service (ex., The Peace Corps), medicine, the law and military service are all examples.
      3. For more information go here, here, here and here.splash
    3. An often overlooked yet critical advantage of going to college is the alumni network.
      1. I wrote in a previous blog, No Man Is An Island.  No one gets to where they want to be in life solely on their own effort.  Everyone needs a team to achieve their goals and dreams.
      2. As I asserted in my post about opportunity, connections are key.  That is the value of going to a top-tier school.  College isn’t just about academics; it’s the people with whom you will build lifetime personal relationships and professional connections. Further, the higher up on that U.S. News & World Report list, the higher your earning potential will be as soon as your graduate.
      3. Going to a top school matters most in the beginning of your career.  Afterward your professional record is what will really matter.  Of course top school alums will always have bragging rights, whatever it’s worth. 🙂
    4. Get a job at a company that offers tuition reimbursement.  Consider that there is more than one way to obtain an “education.”  Working in your field of interest while saving and investing as much as you can, kills two birds with one stone.  Being reimbursed for the tuition you pay is icing on the cake!
      1.  I benefited enormously by this incentive when I worked at Ernst & Young.  I was able to grow my professional competence through continuing education classes.  But they would also have paid for graduate school.
      2. Usually companies will require that you study courses either related to your specific position or the company’s industry. Length of time employed is another typical requirement. Either way if it’s your field of choice, it’s a win.
      3. The bigger the company the more likely that this opportunity will be available and the more generous.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  There are other personal finance possibilities that I will cover in another blog.  Have you been working on getting the money together to pay for college?  What has or has not worked for you so far?  Do you have any ideas you could add to this list?  Comment below!

 

Read more on the advantages of community college here.

Tennessee Makes Community College Free For All Adults

Detroit Is Making First Two Years of College Free

Two Tuition-Free Years in Rhode Island

Should Students Get Grades ’13 and 14′ Free of Charge?

Paying off debt with 401K

8 Reasons To Never Borrow From Your 401K

First 2 Years of College Free

Pitch & Leap

There’s no bigger regret than a missed opportunity.  We miss opportunity mainly through lack of preparedness at the time an opportunity presents itself; this includes the inability to recognize an opportunity for what it is.  Always be prepared.  Easy solution, right?  Well I always say that in anything, it’s not the ‘what’ it’s the ‘how.’  Show me, don’t tell me.  Every big idea has to be broken down into smaller, bite-sized, easily-digestible pieces.

So, how do we prepare?

Opportunity mostly lives in the land of the unknown unknowns. But there is a tool we all can and should develop that will build a bridge between us and that most desirable of all destinations – the land of opportunity.  That tool is called the elevator pitch.  A fine-tuned elevator pitch should articulate your purpose succinctly, passionately and clearly – in up to 90 seconds.  And it is not only relevant to business.  You can pitch yourself!  Use it as a self-inspiring tool that reminds you why you wake up every morning; it can silence negative self-talk.  Have a pitch for your job search, business prospects and fundraising.

Preparation for writing your elevator pitch begins with having a clear idea of who you will be pitching to.  The questions you have to ask yourself will depend on your needs and the outcome you want.  For example, are you looking for an investor or a client?  Consider these questions: Who will your audience be?  What problem(s) are they trying to solve and how can you provide resolution?  What is unique about what you have to offer?  What skills and experience qualify you?  What are your needs; what is in it for the listener to help you solve your problem?

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So, what is an elevator pitch?

The truth is we are all salespeople. Everybody is selling something, but ultimately the thing we’re really selling is ourselves.  The elevator pitch is a very brief statement that tells the (hopefully) listener who you are, what you want and how what you have to offer is relevant and valuable to them or in the marketplace.  As far as the latter, the person you’re talking to may not be the one you really need to talk to but he or she may be the link between you and that person.  It’s not important to have all the answers as to whether or not the person you’re speaking with is the right connection; what is important is to master the things you can control, which in this case is articulating a compelling narrative that allows someone else to see you as a potential connection.

Fake It

So, how do we create an elevator pitch?

There are of course the mechanics of writing a pitch.  But the thing to really keep in mind is the power of storytelling.  A good elevator pitch is both informative and engaging.  The end of the story is what will make it or break it; it must be memorable and compel the listener to want to tell it to someone else.  People like retelling great stories.

  • Start with who you are: Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic and friendly. Start with either a question to raise their curiosity, a statement or catch phrase that will prompt the listener to ask a question.  “I am a first-generation American continuing my family’s legacy here in the United States.  I’m the big-picture person who focuses on developing markets for our textiles company, XYZ International..   
  • Make sure to be clear on your offer, or value proposition.  And let the listener know why you’re interested in them.  “We help small suppliers in Central America earn a living wage by supplying the finest hand-made organic cotton and wool apparel and home goods in the market, at affordable prices.  I understand (your company) is looking for textiles made with organic materials for the price-conscious consumer?”
  • Summarize the benefits/advantages of working with you; what sets you apart from the competition.  “We operate within Free Trade Zones in each country, which significantly lowers our costs to market and enables an efficient supply chain.” Give a brief example.
  • End with a Call To Action.  “We’re currently scheduling appointments to show off our new bedding line. May I bring some samples to show you and your team?”

So, how do I get started?

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As I stated in the beginning, your elevator pitch must be fine tuned.  And it’s not a one-shot deal.  You will have to adjust the original as you progress.  Now, get your pen and paper ready.  Here are some tips to get your ideas flowing:

  1.  Write down everything you can think of to tell your prospective client/boss/investor. What makes your business or idea unique? What have you done? What are you planning too accomplish? What do you have to offer that the listener wants or needs? What problem can you solve for them?
  2. Edit.  Eliminate extraneous words and details.  Make every word count! No small talk.
  3. Tweak it until it flows smoothly.  If any part sounds awkward to you it will to the person you’re talking to.
  4. Practice. Practice. Practice.  Anchor your pitch in the key points that you always want to come across clearly.  Memorize it and practice saying it out loud, so that it is second nature by the time you need to say it.
  5. Your pitch will fall flat if it doesn’t address the only question your listener wants answered: WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?”

Let Your Body Talk

When you feel good about the elevator pitch you have developed it is time to take the leap to the testing phase.  Put yourself in situations where you will meet other people in your industry where you will be asked what you do.  Do not underestimate the power of body language.  Your body language will speak even more loudly than your voice will.  Like preparedness, your body language can imbue you with the confidence you may not feel yet.  Stand with shoulders back and be very careful about what your hands communicate. Keep your body open, keep your hands in front of you.  Maintain eye contact with a pleasant disposition.  Research body language and practice it as you rehearse your pitch.

Industry organizations, networking events, alma mater socials, etc are great places to try out your pitch.  When you’re in a group make a connection with each person by looking each person in the eye while expressing a single thought.  Try to avoid cutting off the other people around you. Practice with people with whom there is nothing to lose if you fumble a little.  Don’t make your first stop the biggest fish in the pond.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!