20 Miles: The Long Road Ahead

This morning I woke up feeling invincible and with the realization that I am capable of overcoming what might sometimes seem like insurmountable goals, if only I manage to get past those little voices in my head that sometimes want me to quit halfway through.

What made me feel this way? Only the 20-miles that I ran yesterday as part of my training for the NYC Marathon. That’s right, I ran 20 super long, mentally and physically draining miles that I honestly didn’t think I would finish. There were times during my run yesterday that I felt happy and lost in my thoughts (I guess that’s one of the beauties of running), other moments I became distracted by the cyclists, walkers and fellow runners passing by and at some point after mile 15 the mental struggle started to kick in.

You see, in running it’s always your mind wanting to give up before your body. By going the distance, running teaches you mental resilience and that sometimes the things holding us back are all inside our heads. I ended my 20-mile run yesterday with a feeling of true accomplishment and amazement at my ability to go the distance. Did I mention it only took me 4 hours?

“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.” —Bill Bowerman, track and field coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc.

It’s been three months since I began my training and I am officially 5 weeks away from race day. Until that day comes, I’ll be constantly daydreaming about happily facing the long road ahead, running one of the greatest marathons in the world, crossing the finish line (possibly 5 hours later) and finally claiming my finisher’s medal!

Hacking and Breaking Habits: 21 days without a single cup of coffee and counting

“I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

It’s been exactly 21 days since I challenged myself to take a break from coffee. But, before I tell you all about my 21-day journey (and still counting) without one of the most aromatic and delicious drinks in the world; I’ll tell you a brief history on my coffee consumption background.

My love for coffee really started about five years ago. It became a routine for me to drink it, and after some time, it felt as if I needed to have a cup EVERY single morning no matter what before starting my day (I’m sure a lot of you can relate). I’ve never abused coffee; at most I’ve had three cups in one day. But after 5 years of drinking it consecutively every morning and with the start of the New Year, I wanted to challenge myself to see how long I could really go without a single cup.

My family thought I wouldn’t make it more than a week and with that, I became even more determined to try and break my habit.

The first week was the most challenging. On the first day, I woke up in the morning and substituted my cup of coffee with a cup of decaffeinated hot tea. Two hours later I was craving coffee again, and throughout my entire first day, I continued to reach out for a bottle of water at the first thought of coffee.

The second day was painstakingly similar; I craved coffee all day long and found myself instead, drinking water. I was pretty impressed because I was substituting coffee for water. And we need to drink as much water as we can throughout the day right? Score one for me!

One week turned into two, two turned into three, and I have found ways to control and substitute my coffee cravings by drinking more water and decaffeinated tea. Did I mention that I don’t visit Starbucks as often anymore either? Which as you can imagine, is saving me a decent amount of money considering a small cup of coffee there runs you about $4 dollars each.

Good habits or bad habits, the truth is that for most of us, they are extremely difficult to break. According to Charles Duhigg: The Power Of Habit The reason we form habits is called the habit loop. I’m not diving deep into this subject, but understanding how this neurological loop and its elements work can also allow you to easily break away from unwanted habits.

Here it goes:

cue-routine-reward_charles-duhigg
Image Source: Charles Duhigg

 

The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

  • The cue is basically anything that triggers the habit

(My trigger was I need coffee to wake up in the morning)

  • The routine is the element, the habit itself that you want to reinforce

(Or in my case change, which was drinking coffee every morning)

  • The reward is the positive reinforcement for your habit

(For me it was coffee gives me energy, starts my day)

And there you have it, being able to identify the routine of your habits and its elements (along with some Willpower) will help you to change and work on those habits you no longer want to foster by redirecting them to something else. It worked for me!

Are you: A Marketing Specialist or Generalist?

 With 2017 finally here, if you’re not an established marketer yet, one of the things to ask yourself is if you should focus on your marketing career as a specialist or generalist. But what exactly do these terms mean? As a Specialist, you have professional expertise in one particular area of your chosen field.

As a generalist, on the other hand, you take on a more versatile role by having enough knowledge in more than one area allowing you to effectively take on several tasks within an organization.

Marketing generalists wear several hats, simply put “generalists are really good multitaskers”. SMB’s and Start-ups normally benefit more from generalists because they are able to contribute to several areas within the business or marketing department.

Choosing which path to take ultimately has a lot to do with your strengths, personality and your style of workflow.

Within the last couple of years, we have seen marketing professions evolve into several different areas and with marketing tools changing rapidly, it’s beneficial for both generalists and specialists to spend some time becoming familiar with all marketing trending topics and technologies.

Personally, I consider myself more of a generalist. I want to know enough design, branding, social media, and strategy because I feel it aligns well with my future goals. But I also believe that “specialists are extremely valuable and play a major role in effectively executing specific objectives for a business”.

And perhaps there should be a new category labeled “Specialist-Generalist” for marketers and other professionals that are truly specialized but can perform well in other areas as well. I am sure there are many out there!

So, with that I leave you pondering.  Are you a marketing specialist or generalist?

Book Review: Strengths Finder 2.0

You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are. –Tom Rath

Literature transcends barriers and gives us an opportunity to learn about the world we live in. Now more than ever, we strive to learn about ourselves as individuals and often look for literature in the form of self-help books, hoping to uncover new traits we didn’t know we possessed. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath is a #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller, a book that acts as a guide and provides insights into discovering your natural talents and through an assessment, uncovers your top 5 strengths.

I came to acquire this book interestingly enough through a recruiter, while interviewing for a marketing intern position. After the interview, I went back home with a new book in hand, and curious to find out what my top 5 strengths would be.

Here’s my review of the book:

strengthsfinder-gallup-image
Image Source: Gallup
  • Father of Strengths Psychology, Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. (1924-2030), created the assessment and it’s 34 talent themes in 1998. Both the book and the recently revised version of the assessment, research and themes are part of Strengths Finder 2.0.

 

  • Strengths Finder 2.0 from Gallup and written by Tom Rath is available as an e-book and hardcover. Attached to the back of hardcover version, is a unique 10 digit access code that you use to take the Gallup online assessment on their website. You can complete the timed assessment in less than 30 minutes.

 

  • Upon completion of assessment, you are given a full and in-depth 19-page report: The Gallup Strength Insight and Action Planning guide, unveiling your top five strengths based on your answers.

 

The Gallup Strength Insight and Action Planning guide includes:

  • Your top 5 Strengths
  • A personalized Strengths insights, that highlights what makes your strengths unique
  • Ideas and action plan to help you develop each of your top 5 strengths
  • Achievement section that provides strategies and steps to help you use your talents for personal growth and achievements

 

My overall feel for this book is that it’s a great addition for anyone interested in developing his or her strengths. My favorite feature of the book is that you do not have to read the entire book from beginning to end. You can always mark the sections where your 5 strengths are and use them as a powerful reference to go back and forth as needed.

 

As for my interview with the recruiter who introduced me to this book, well, I didn’t get the internship with the company, which I really wanted to work for. But what struck me days later is that thanks to that recruiter I had gained something far more valuable than what a job with the company would’ve provided: A deep insight and understanding of my top 5 strengths and how to apply them to my professional career, personal development and life.

Top 5 Social Media Management Tools

Social media has become a central part of any company looking to promote their brand, reach a bigger audience and communicate with current and potential customers. As such, social media is now required for most businesses to have in order to effectively engage with their target audience. However, it is important to understand that your business does not need to use every social media platform. Perform research to know where your target audience is and begin there. After conducting research and selecting your social media channels, create a social media strategy and decide what management tools offer the best features for managing your new accounts.

Choosing the right management tools can sometimes be quite overwhelming considering the ever-growing number of platforms available online. Additionally, many of these platforms have similar features making the task of finding the right ones even more daunting.

Below are my top 5 Social Media Management Tools:

1. Buffer

Buffer is a social media automation tool that supports several networks. By signing up for their free 14-day trial you will gain access to learning how to monitor all your social media accounts in an easy to use interface that allows you to schedule current and future posts plus gain access to Buffer’s analytic tools.

2. HootSuite

Hootsuite is also a social media automation tool that supports more than 35 global networks including WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Their free 30-day trial is perfect if you are just learning how to manage all of your favorite networks. Hootsuite also offers more extensive features than Buffer. Most notably, allowing users the ability to add streams from their dashboards.

3. Bit.ly

Bit.ly is nothing short of amazing for me. This platform allows users to manage and shorten URL links, customize, and finally share them across their favorite social media channels. Long gone are the days of posting an extremely long link for your audience to click on. Bit.ly also comes with a free 14-day trial period, a dashboard that allows you access to track link analytics and analyze performance insights.

4. Socedo

Socedo‘s focus is to drive demand for B2B through a generation system allowing users to qualify social media prospects with the goal of increasing company revenue. Socedo also allows you to discover and engage with your audience by inputting keywords, bios, hashtags, location, plus sending requests and newsletters to leads. It comes with a free trial period of only 7 days, but Socedo ensures that they are only a phone call away to help make the most of your free trial period.

5. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is the newest social media platform allowing users to interact with their target audience through selected social media channels and is often compared to Hootsuite. Also known as “Sprout” this platform has unique features such as individually placed sections or folders for each of your social media accounts.

Finally, keep in mind that before choosing any social media management tools you must first know who your target audience is, what you hope to accomplish through your new social media channels and understanding what social media management tool features will work best for your business.