The Importance of Next Steps

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How many times have you promised yourself or someone else that you’d do something and never actually do it? A lot I bet.

You might be too busy. You might forget. You might even agree to something only to later realize that you don’t even want to do it. Regardless of the excuse, your inaction leads to a dead end.

I’ve definitely hit some walls lately when it comes to blogging, promoting my content, and attempting to start a side business. It’s not that I can’t do these things; it’s that they just become fleeting thoughts in my head or are thrown onto a to-do list that I don’t pay enough attention to. What I really have failed to do is break down these broader tasks into smaller, more manageable next steps and keep consistent track of them. Changing my habits in this way would allow me to do one thing at a time and actually make progress. Next steps should not be an afterthought but rather a crucial part of accomplishing tasks and goals.

Depending on the circumstances, determining next steps can be easy or difficult. It’s mindless to come up with next courses of action when you’ve tackled a problem or performed a certain task before. If you’re smart, you’ll already have a system in place that basically eliminates thinking.

However, if it’s your first time encountering a situation, you probably do not know what to do. That’s totally fine. The good news is that you’ll likely at least have an idea of where to start. For example, talk to people who have been in similar situations before and gain feedback from their processes. If you’re doing research, ask lots of smart, pointed questions, whether in a search engine or to people you’re working with. Guessing what to do next by relying on a lack of experience will almost surely lead to disappointing results.

When it comes to actually taking next steps, a lot of people just react and start executing on whatever pops into their heads first. This works fine when the task is simple and requires a single step. Tackling larger problems complicates things, though. Reactively executing in these more complex situations might make you feel more efficient in the short-term, but it will cost you in the long-term because your actions are not grounded in a carefully thought-out plan.

Instead of quickly taking a first step, actually take some time (e.g. 5 minutes) to think about the ask and how you would systematically go about carrying it out. Write down your thoughts and organize them in a linear way. Set deadlines and assign responsibilities where applicable. As the plan takes off, it will feel good to cross off steps upon completion. Maybe even reward yourself to give you that extra motivation. If you’re worried about putting on the brakes mid-plan, find yourself a coworker or friend who will keep you accountable.

After you’ve taken all next steps and finished what you set out to do, it’s beneficial to analyze what you did, especially if it’s something you will encounter again.

What could you have done differently?

How could you have done it faster?

Ask others around you for feedback. Being critical as taking criticism will force you to get better. Take your learnings and apply them. Rinse and repeat.

What’s a project you can’t seem to be making progress on? Share it below and tell me your first next step!

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10 Lessons Learned from Gary Vaynerchuk

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Gary Vaynerchuk

Every Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., I participate in a unique Twitter Q&A hosted by James Altucher. It’s one of my favorite hours of the week. Of late, I’ve really come to admire James as an author, blogger, and mentor. If you haven’t heard or read about him yet, shame on you! Here’s his Google search.

In a recent one of his Twitter Q&A’s, we had the following exchange:

Altucher Exchange

I asked him this question because I’ve been feeling strong connections to entrepreneurs and thought leaders who I think are killing it right now. Eventually, I want some of these people to know who I am so I can start developing relationships with them. Additionally, I can’t help but notice that everyone that’s doing awesome stuff seems to know each other. I want to know these people too!

In James Altucher’s Twitter reply, the @garyvee he refers to just happens to be my boss, Gary Vaynerchuk. Despite already being on his radar at VaynerMedia, I wanted to heed James’s advice by first sharing 10 lessons I’ve learned from Gary in my 13+ months at his social media agency. Drum roll please…

1. PATIENCE – In my first 15 minute, 1-on-1 meeting with Gary, I asked him about the one thing he wish he knew at 23 years old. With little hesitation, he preached to me about the importance of patience. Gary knows it firsthand, having worked his tail off since his teenage years and not experiencing large success until his 30’s.

As an ambitious, recent college graduate, I want success now, i.e. more recognition, more money, better title, etc. Unfortunately, the world almost always doesn’t work that way. It takes a lot of time and hard work to make it. I need to focus on learning my craft as much as possible now so I can be ready for opportunity when it arrives. I couldn’t help but feel optimistic about my future as Gary said that I’ve already done so much more than he did at the same age. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

2. EXECUTION – Gary is a beast of a human. He constantly executes, whether it’s building his personal brand, investing, or growing his businesses. When I asked him about how to be more creative when generating marketing ideas, he completely flipped my question on its head. Instead, Gary reminded me that the best creative ideas get nowhere without execution. The doers are getting their fair share of the pie, too.

Once again, Gary kept me grounded by pointing out that I don’t have to excel at both creativity and execution in order to advance my career. As someone looking to make a move to the account side of the agency, I can focus on getting shit done and bringing those creative ideas to life. Why force talking the talk, if you can walk the walk?

3. BET ON YOUR STRENGTHS - This boils down to self-awarness. You’ve got to know what makes you tick, including your strengths and weaknesses. Gary has gone all-in on his strengths (salesmanship, business development, work ethic, compassion) and seen tremendous success. He hires people to compensate for his weaknesses.

You become your best self by betting on your strengths. Accept that you can’t be good at everything and rely on other people for support in those weaker areas. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask your family, friends, and coworkers. Give them permission to be brutally honest if you really want to double down on what makes you special. Hone those skills and never look back.

4, HUSTLE Gary calls hustle the “most underrated word ever.” He eats, sleeps, and breathes it every day through his insane work ethic. He’s often up at the crack of dawn until the wee hours of the morning. Somehow, Gary manages to juggle a crazy amount of responsibility and projects (running companies, blogging, writing, investing, traveling, etc.) and love every second of it. He’s been doing it his whole life and hasn’t stopped.

Seeing how hard he works motivates me as an employee to show him that I’ve got the same chops to excel at his company. I’m willing to get my hands dirty to prove my worth and do whatever it takes to get the job done. This can’t stop-won’t stop mindset will take me far in my career.

5. CARE IMMENSELY – Gary is in love with his employees. He’s creating the type of organization that fosters loyalty and camaraderie like no other. Despite his crazy schedule, he takes the time to meet 1-on-1 with both new and current employees. He wants to get to know our backgrounds, hear our thoughts on the company, and mentor us. Whatever we do in our careers, he wants to make sure that working at VaynerMedia was the best decision we ever made. As much as he likes to win and dominate the competition, he cares most about how his employees treat each other.

Gary’s loving, parent-like leadership trickles down to his staff; everyone’s so nice and pleasant to work with. We do care about doing exceptional client work, but in the end it all comes back to how we communicate, coexist, and take an interest in each other’s lives. That’s how you create winning organizations. If you want move up the ladder at your current job or start your own business, you better care your face off for your fellow employee and customer. That’s how Gary would put it :)

6. DREAM BIG – Gary makes sure everyone knows that he wants to own the New York Jets some day. Having a lofty goal such as that one makes the climb to the top that much more enjoyable. Gary is all about passion, especially encouraging his fans to pursue theirs on as large a scale as possible. He defines happiness as the ability to do exactly what you want every single day of your life.

Watching Gary chip away at his ambitious goal is inspiring. A true American Dream story, he’s done it in a way that really any one, myself included, can imitate (not with the same bravado of course!). He makes me want to attack my dreams with a full head of steam and do whatever it takes to accomplish them.

7. AUTHENTICITY – Gary is the truest version of himself every day. He’s the person he wants to be, regardless of what others say about him. Dropping regular f bombs when talking is not weird at all. Neither is making jokes about employees. It’s just Gary being Gary. When he talks, you can’t do anything but hang on his every word given his passion and careful word choice.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming the person your parents want you to be. Gary has taught me to embrace my identity and let it shine at the office. It’s not only reflected in my work but also in the way I interact with my coworkers. Every day, they’re getting the raw Mike Riley.

8. GRATITUDE – Gary is the king of self-promotion. He’s given so much value to his community and the people around him that it’s only natural that from time to time he throws “right hooks,” aka asking his community to take actions on his behalf. His asks are so effective because the following he’s developed online and in the workplace is rooted in gratitude. As much success as he’s achieved, he knows he could not have done it without the people who helped get him there. Even at the office, Gary is constantly thanking people around and asking how he can help.

I am humbled by Gary’s gratitude. It makes me want to treat the people around me even more nicely and further appreciate how I got to where I am. Every now and then, I need to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. I’m happy and thankful to work at one of, if not, the top social media agency in the country. It’s a privilege, and I ‘m doing all that I can to make it a memorable experience.

9. LEAD BY EXAMPLE – Gary is a great overall human being. He’s one of those guys you meet and instantly want to be friends with. Even though I’ve only interacted with him a few times, I feel like I know him so well just by being near him and consuming all the content he puts out. The way he carries himself at the office and online definitely rubs off on those who pay attention and care.

Watching Gary in action makes you want to be the kind of person he already is. If you’re constantly around great leaders, you’ll likely adopt some of their winning habits and tendencies. I’ve always wanted to be an inspiring, cool, and awesome leader. I can’t think of a better way to start my career then being under the tutelage of the cream of the crop.

10. FEAR THE UNDERDOG – Gary loves to shake up any industry he’s in. He does this so effectively because expectations are so low for new competition and he’s constantly innovating. For example, he’s building one of the fastest growing social media agencies on his own terms. As someone who is scrappy and loves to climb the ladder of success, watch out!

I’m an underdog. I’ve barely been working in the professional world and have a lot to prove. When I choose myself to start a business, no one is going to have heard of me. There’s no better way to write your own rules on business and life than watch one of the all-time greats do it with style.

What have you learned from Gary Vaynerchuk? How are you getting on the radar of people you admire?

Gary Vaynerchuk just published a new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Pick it up HERE.

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The Struggle to Start a Side Business

I want to start a side business, i.e. earn money outside of work to complement my full-time salary. I’ve had this feeling for awhile now and am finally putting it on paper.

With the rise of companies like Facebook and Twitter, entrepreneurship has become the sexy thing to do. Everyone thinks their idea is going to be the next big thing.

Exponential user growth.

Billion dollar valuations.

IPOs.

Cashing in and having more money than you’ll ever know what to do with.

That’s the dream, and I want in on it (to a certain degree). You probably do, too.

While the odds of a high level of success from starting your own company are heavily stacked against you, you’ve got to remember that many of these uber-successful businesses began as side projects. As soon as they gained solid momentum, the founders quit their day jobs to pursue their ideas full-time. From what I’ve read, that’s the ideal approach to getting your idea off the ground given the financial security of a full-time job.

As happy as I am in my current job, I’m very much in tune with the idea that the modern workplace has drastically changed. Employees jump ship frequently as they get stagnant at work. Traditional companies are squeezing out the middlemen by hiring cheaper labor and automating processes through technology. It’s up to you and me to become indispensable at work but at the same time pursue interesting things and discover our true passions.

Reasons Why I Want to Start a Side Business

1. Additional Income Some people are perfectly comfortable living off a salary. I’d much rather create multiple streams of income that allow me to live more comfortably. If I was ever laid off or quit my job, I could at least rely a little on my side business(es) to keep me afloat.

2. Entrepreneurial Tick - Since college, I’ve become really interested in startups and entrepreneurship. Through reading business books, autobiographies and industry articles as well as blogging, I’ve developed a mindset that knows that starting a business and being my own boss will be the right path for me. It’s just a matter of when.

3. Diverse Interests – Why settle for a job that only lets you practice skills in finite areas? I’m definitely interested in social media, but I am also curious about blogging, book marketing, book writing, building sustainable businesses, etc. And the list keeps growing. While it’s awesome to be knowledgable about other topics outside your job, it’s even cooler and more fun to put them to the test and earn some money for the time you’re already investing.

4. Personal Brand Development – My boss Gary Vaynerchuk says that everyone’s a media company today. I couldn’t agree more. Everything you do on- and offline shapes your reputation and legacy. The longer you work for someone else, the more you’re tying your name to that company and being overshadowed by its success and reputation. Once you become a business owner, your name is much more out there. Who you are and what you do become one and the same.

These all seem like great reasons for me to take the plunge and start a side business. However, I have my doubts. I’m only human.

I hope that by admitting them publicly and elaborating on them below, I will be empowered to start executing on ideas that might very well become side businesses.

Fears Standing in My Way

1. “I don’t have the right idea.” – Every entrepreneur is obsessed with finding that one idea that’s going to allow them to strike gold. While it might exist, 99.9% of the time it’s not going to be the first business idea you try. I must learn to accept an imperfect beginning in order to get started at all. The best way to discover better business ideas is to fail fast, learn and adapt.

2. “I’m going to fail.” – Everyone tries to avoid failure, but it really is inevitable. I definitely don’t want to be that guy who keeps starting ventures only to quit after a short time and move on to something else. As much as it might make me feel dejected, I have to acknowledge that it’s part of an entrepreneur’s DNA. There’s absolutely no shame in it. Failures should not be frowned upon but rather celebrated as learning opportunities that shape launching a future successful business.

3. “I don’t have the time.” – This is my biggest fear. Obviously, my hours outside of my full-time job are limited. It’s been really tough juggling the responsibilities that come with living in NYC with my interests outside of work (committed relationship, reading books, blogging, alumni club involvement, etc.). It’s really a matter of discipline and cutting out the things in my life that are not adding value. The best way to launch a business is really to work on it every single day. No excuses.

4. “I don’t know how to run a business.” – As a 23-year-old who thinks he knows everything about the world, there are definitely a lot of things in life that I have yet to experience and learn firsthand. While I do have natural skills and an understanding of business, I’ve never actually run one. This inexperience intimidates me, but at the same time, I realize that at some point you just have to take the plunge. Otherwise, you’ll be preparing your whole life for something that never happens and wondering where all that time went. I will learn a ton make mistakes, but I will become better because of them.

This honest self-analysis has definitely helped me put things more in perspective. I know that starting a business is something I want to do and need to take action on sooner than later. It’s time for me to man up, pick an idea, and start executing on it consistently. Sacrifices will have to be made, but it’s the only way to get myself going. I look forward to picking that idea, sharing it with you, and updating you on my progress.

Have you thought about starting a side business? What’s holding you back?

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Forget the News

crumpled_newspaperI’ve never been a big fan of the news (when I say news, I’m talking about the national and local reporting from the major broadcast networks and big time newspapers). It’s something I was obviously exposed to while growing up, as it’s been a staple of the American household since the advent of television. At home, my mom always liked to have it on in the background while preparing dinner. I much preferred to watch sports, Seinfeld, Jeopardy, or The Simpsons as soon as I rushed into the kitchen after hours of  playing sports with the neighbors. Fortunately, she often let me win this small battle, and the news became an afterthought to me. This habit continued throughout my adolescence, all the way up until my time at Georgetown.

On the Hilltop, I tried to become a little bit more conscious of news headlines since my peers were more interested in national and global issues. I guess I should have seen that coming , given the high number of Hoyas who intern on Capitol Hill at some point during their college careers (proud to say I wasn’t one of them!). Whether it was scanning WallStreetJournal.com or CNN.com, I could never completely get into the news. I’d glance at the headlines and brief synopses and either wouldn’t quite understand what they were talking about or frankly didn’t care. Instead,  I much preferred pleasure reading about topics I was genuinely interested in (sports business, marketing, personal branding, self-development, etc.). This habit continues today, and I’m perfectly content with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect the news. As American citizens, we should know what the issues are in our country and abroad as well as have some understanding of the arguments of opposing points of view. Awareness of what’s going on in the world helps make you a more a well-rounded individual who can participate in intellectually stimulating conversation. When the news directly impacts your life in some way, it can lead you to take action that collectively might make a difference, i.e. local voting. Finally, the news can be interesting and entertaining. As humans, our innate curiosity allows us to develop affinities to certain topics that we want to learn more about. Other times, the sheer absurdity of stories gives us good laughs or gossiping opportunities.

On the flip side, the typical news story is negative. If it’s not about violence, it’s about crime. If it’s not about disease, it’s about poverty. This vicious cycle seems to never end. Additionally, the news is not always accurate. In a day and age where all media outlets seem to care about is page views, the quality of sources and story content is suffering. Everyone fights to be the first to break headlines, only to change them hours later based on more complete information. More often that not, the news has zero effect on your immediate situation. Life would go on in exactly the same way had you not paid attention. In a world where we increasingly are wondering where our time goes, is it really worth it to keep up with national and local news?

The answer, my friends, is a resounding “No.”

Instead, I would recommend staying abreast of industry news depending on what your job is. When I say staying abreast, I mean scanning the headlines and only reading stories that you’re most interested in and can learn something from. Remember, you’re not getting paid to know what’s going on in the world outside your industry. You’re getting paid to produce results for your business (I hate to break it to ya). If you want to make more money, keep your head down and focus on improving yourself and those around you to perform more efficiently and effectively. Don’t worry so much about being out of the loop on a national news story. If it’s honestly that important, you’ll hear about it from someone else, whether that’s in-person or on social networks.

Besides reading industry-specifc news, I would recommend creating a Twitter list so you can follow the handles of successful and interesting businessmen and -women who you admire (here’s mine). Read their blog posts and the articles they are sharing. It will give you insight into how they think and what matters to them. You’ll learn a lot more from them than you will from the news. If you like what he or she has to say, sign up for their email newsletter. Investing your time in what these people have to say and share will pay off many times more. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve learned so much from people I admire and truly feel are ahead of the game.

Forget the news. Scan your industry headlines and go all in on learning from interesting people whose ways of life you strive to emulate.

What’s your ROI on the news? Who are some people you’re following that are much more newsworthy?

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4 Lessons Learned from Homecoming

Healy_hall_gtuA couple of weekends ago, I returned to Washington, DC for the second consecutive year for Georgetown University’s Homecoming. I love going back to campus to see what’s changed, reminisce about funny stories and lasting memories, and reflect on how my education has helped me since graduation. As with any homecoming, I expected to catch up with friends and acquaintances, drink a few adult beverages, and generally just have a great time. Thankfully, my visit lived up to my expectations in that regard but also exceeded them in a different way. As a more mature adult more in tune with his surroundings, I definitely paid more attention to what was happening around me, and it made me realize a few valuable lessons that serve as a nice refresher for anyone’s post-college life. Drum roll please…

1. The power of giving – One of the best things I’ve learned since working at VaynerMedia has been the power of surprise and delight, aka unexpected gifting. In the social media world, that means brands unexpectedly rewarding advocates with some sort of physical item or gesture that tells them you value their support, thus further strengthening the lifetime bond between them.

Prior to traveling down to DC, I had arranged to have drinks with my alumni mentor from the business school. While I was putting that plan in motion, I finished an awesome book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself that I thought would be the perfect read for my mentor given his career complacency. I connected so much with the book that I not only read it twice but also felt compelled to spread its message to someone who would truly benefit from it. When we finally met for happy hour, I surprised him with the book, which he was extremely grateful for and excited to read.

That very same day, while visiting Georgetown’s bookstore, I decided to buy a T-shirt for my roommate of four years with whom I was staying. I thought it was a nice way to say thank you for the hospitality, and I knew he would totally not be expecting it. Just like my mentor, my roommate was caught off guard with my generosity and was very appreciative of my gift.

In both instances, it felt so good to give something meaningful to people I care about. I encourage you to give more unexpected gifts not only because it makes you feel nice inside but also because it strengthens your relationship with someone. Think of it as money invested, not money spent. Give for the sake of giving, and don’t expect anything back in return.

2. Mentoring is a two-way street – I had not seen my alumni mentor since graduation and only spoken to him a couple of times before we met Homecoming weekend. As my mentor, I looked to him both during and after school for help with career interests and legal advice around my past blogging gig. Throughout our relationship, I did my best to lend an ear to his personal and professional issues and speak honestly about how I thought he could approach them.

When we finally met for happy hour, we picked up right where we left off. It felt like two friends shooting the breeze and enjoying each other’s company. There was a mutual bond between us that transcended any formal mentor-mentee role play. We were both generally interested in each other’s current situations and eager to help. No wonder why the hour plus time we spent together flew. It was one of the first times I felt that I was giving back to him as much as he was offering to me. It was AWESOME!

The best mentor-mentee relationships are the ones in which both parties learn from each other. As a young kid just out of college who doesn’t have much life experience in the “real world,” it is difficult to play the teacher role and much easier to ask for advice. However, a lot of people sell themselves short with the regard to the potential value they can bring to the table. No person is free of problems. You just have to get to know him or her well enough on a personal level to discover them. Once you build up that trust, it’s much easier to brainstorm ideas and offer suggestions on how to tackle their problems. How can you help your mentor today?

3. Make your story interesting – Homecoming is awesome in that it unites you with people you spent time with in college. The annoying thing about it though is that the first thing everyone asks you about is where you are living/working. I totally understand this safe, ice breaker question, but all I kept doing was repeating myself. Compared to what most people were telling me, I’ve been working on some much cooler stuff at a growing company, which made me feel good. However, the way I explained and delivered my story could have been better. I could have told it with more excitement and pride. I could have framed it in a much sexier way given how social is transforming marketing today. The bottom line is that I didn’t do these things.

It was a good wake-up call for me and hopefully for you that you need to know how to tell your own story. Otherwise people will lose interest almost immediately and move on to something or someone else. Think about how you got where you are now, why you’re still there, and where you think you’re going next. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re likely just coasting in your job, stunting your career growth, feeling unhappy, or all of the above. Once you do know your elevator pitch, focus on capturing your audience’s attention to have them begging to hear more. Practicing this skill will help you as a public speaker and networker.

4. Explore / Be spontaneous - I went into Homecoming weekend knowing I would meet my mentor for drinks and attend the two main Georgetown alumni events. That’s pretty much it. As far as the rest of my trip was concerned, there were other things I thought it would be nice to do, but I wasn’t requiring myself to do them. I wanted to see where the weekend would take me.

On Friday, my girlfriend and I visited campus and the greater Georgetown area. Among many things we did that day, we enjoyed a peanut butter chocolate cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake, iced coffee from Saxby’s, a university bookstore visit, and of course plenty of fun photos. Saturday was less exploration-based given the main events of the weekend. Sunday was all about firsts: brunch in a part of DC I’d never been, a walk through Meridian Hill Park, and a tour of the National Portrait Gallery.

As much as I like to follow an agenda and routines, it was really great to further embrace my adventurous side. I challenge you to do something unexpected this weekend and really live in that moment. Shake up your routine and see where it takes you. You won’t regret it.

What have learned from returning to your college or high school Homecoming? Share your lessons in the comments.

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Fantasy Football Makes You a Better Employee

6a00d83453762c69e201543495e016970c-320wiAmerican sports fans have been buzzing like crazy now that NFL football is back. Sundays are no longer dreaded as the end of a quick weekend and the beginning of another long work week. Instead, we look forward to them as a chance to forget about the world for a few hours and stand behind the team we’ve supported since birth. When we’re not screaming at our television, we become glued to our smartphones. We can’t wait to refresh the latest player stats so we can monitor our chances of winning in fantasy football, aka the greatest sport alive for the non-professional athlete.

I’m assuming you know why it’s the greatest, so I’m just going to dive right into why I think playing it makes you a better employee (if you don’t know why it’s the best, email me at lifeofriley29@gmail.com). Competition in your office league is about to reach new heights because fantasy football helps you hone the following business skills:

1. Talent Evaluation – Every fantasy football season begins with a draft. We act as GMs and evaluate potential team members based on a variety of factors, the core of which is statistics. On paper, stats are the most reliable way to predict future performance. We do our best to choose the most talented players based on our pick in the draft order and continue to evaluate our rosters over the course of the season.

As you advance in your career or decide to start your own business venture, you are going to hire people to be on your team. While you might have some more context on these potential candidates through references and personal interactions, a lot of what you judge them on is their past performance, i.e. resume. At the end of the day, your decision to hire someone is a speculation of positive future performance, just as it is in fantasy football. If someone fails to meet your talent expectations, you fire him just as you would drop an underperforming player.

2. Negotiation – Just when you think your fantasy football team is in the gutter and you’re about to throw in the towel, you decide to make a trade. You tried adding and dropping players to no avail. It’s time to cut a deal with one of your friends and hopefully turn your season around.

As you advance in your career, negotiation becomes an invaluable skill. Maybe you’re switching companies and making your case for a higher salary. Maybe you’re brokering a new business deal that will accelerate your company’s growth. Whatever the situation may be, you need to learn how to convince people to come to terms with you in a way that creates value for both parties. In essence, fantasy football trading 101.

3. Strategy – As the owner of your team, you go into every football weekend with a game plan. You likely start your early round draft picks and shuffle around the rest of your team according to matchups, recent performances, hunches, spite, etc. Regardless of the reason, you put careful thought into your final lineup choices with the hope that your players exceed your expectations.

If you want to make it big in your career, you have to think often about where you’re headed long-term and how you’re going to get there. With the end game in mind, you try to craft a career path that inches you closer to your vision of success. Like fantasy personnel decisions, your career plan is based on assumptions that you believe give you the best chance of winning. These assumptions will change based on experience and factors outside your control. Those who adjust best and alter their game plans accordingly have the greatest chance of succeeding.

4. Competitiveness - Let’s be honest. Aside from money and other silly bets, you play fantasy football for bragging rights. There’s nothing better than letting a friend have it after talking smack to them all week and having your team backing you up. Just like playing sports, the goal of fantasy football is to win, plain and simple.

If you’re working at a more traditional organization, you’re competing every day with your peers for that eventual promotion. Not everyone can be CEO. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re compete every day to keep current customers and acquire new ones. In both fantasy football and the working world, the people who refuse to be second best and play by their own rules are the ones who will edge out their competitors and come out on top. How bad do you want it?

You now have my permission to pass this along to your boss if he or she catches you modifying your fantasy football lineup. Cheers!

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Take Pleasure Reading to the Next Level

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A Brief History of My Pleasure Reading

Ever since I was a boy, I was an avid reader. Maybe I was not always crazy about the required reading in school, but pleasure reading was a whole different ball game. I was naturally passionate about sports books and sports magazines given the countless hours I spent competing with neighbors in pretty much any athletic activity imaginable. Having the ability to choose to read about a topic I was truly interested in was so much more appealing to me than being forced to read textbooks.

As I got more comfortable at college and improved my time management skills, I made a lot more room for reading books. I took a particular interest in the self-help, business and autobiographical genres. As much as I liked to get lost in a good fiction story or sports book, my reading interests evolved into more practical content that had the ability to add value to my personal and professional lives.

Extracting Value

To be honest, I learned more about myself from pleasure reading than I ever did in class. This is nothing against the first-rate education I received.; I just felt that aside from my major, a lot of the concepts I learned each semester went in one ear and out the other. I recognize that the same argument can be made for certain pleasure reading depending on the genre. Yet, the kinds of books I was reading really shaped my life philosophy and mentality. They helped me develop a state of mind and personality that boosted my confidence to craft a life for myself that I can deem happy and successful on my own terms.

My Routine

When reading books for pleasure, I make a habit of marking information that I find important. For paperbacks or hardcovers, that means old school underlining with a pen. For e-books, that means new school digital highlighting. I practice this habit so that if I ever want to revisit one of the books, I can skim through it and re-learn its key points with ease.

The Struggle

This process is awesome in the way it contributes to that state of mind I mentioned earlier. However, I have difficulty taking tangible action on most of the things I learn that promise to add value to my life, even if I’ve taken the time to write them out as goals/tasks. Obviously it’s hard to get personal/career development stuff done during the work day, but I find my post-work hours and weekends filling up too. I can only imagine how much better my life might get if I put more effort into taking action on my pleasure reading learnings. I’m working on it!

Step Your Game Up

At the end of the day, pleasure reading should be fun. I’m not asking you to forget the art of storytelling or no longer read for the sake of reading. I just want you to be more open to the powerful effects books can have on your life. Take some time to reflect on the message the author is trying to convey.  How can it add personal or professional value to your life or someone else’s you know? Don’t just settle for, “It was a good book.” Do something about the lessons you learn from reading and share your results with others. You’ve already invested hours of your life into it, why not get them back tenfold? It’s time to take pleasure reading to a whole new level.

What books are your currently reading for pleasure?

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