Feel Like You Haven’t Made it Yet?

Here’s an infographic featuring 12 amazing people who succeeded later in life!

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Originally published at LevoLeague.com.

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Getting Over Feeling Overwhelmed

Monday, 8:49 AM:

I’ve just gotten back to the work after a very relaxing two week break.  As anyone who works in academia knows, the end of any semester is often much quieter and more toned down than any other time in the year.  The new semester hasn’t brought new students with new needs to our office and the projects and events that take so much planning and execution feel like they’re happening at some far off, future date.

Until its Monday morning and you’re slogging through hundreds(!) of emails and trying to get your sleep-clogged brain back in gear to organize and prioritize them.  If you’re like me, you then spend ten minutes staring at them, feeling overwhelmed as you try to figure out what to tackle first.

It’s sort of like having a nagging headache for months. At first it seems small, something that can be managed with a couple of Advil. Then you realize you’re taking ten Advil. Then you’re trying to figure out a time in your busy week to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Then you start pacing, wondering if it’s something much worse than a simple migraine. You start thinking through the times you’ve felt frazzled or confused. Did you get the oil changed? You always get your oil changed. The oil hasn’t been changed. Do you have time for an oil change and a doctor’s appointment? What if the car has bigger problems? What if you take it in for a simple oil change and it needs hundreds of dollars worth of work? How will you ever save for vacation then? HOW CAN YOU BE THINKING ABOUT VACATIONS AND OIL CHANGES WHEN YOU MIGHT HAVE A BRAIN TUMOR?????

So maybe it’s just easier to ignore the headache, and the oil that needs changing, and the times when you’ve felt frazzled and concentrate on a vacation. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

This is how I felt at 8:49 AM yesterday.  I need to send out an email about this event.  But what if I’ve already forgotten something much bigger than an email and the event is a total failure? 

I hate that feeling of being so overwhelmed that even thinking about taking action feels taxing. It’s like trying to shovel snow during an avalanche–sure, I can take care of this one piece but it will just keep coming.

In my (ongoing) quest to get over feeling overwhelmed, I’ve found a few tricks that help.

1. Take one baby step at a time. 

Stop the spiral of anxiety and feeling like one small step won’t help. Send the email, open the bill, schedule the appointment and then move on to the next small step.

2. Ask for help.

This morning, I was trying to make coffee, take out the trash, feed the dog, and figure out what to wear to work–all at the same time.  I didn’t want to bother my partner, so I kept one eye on the clock and one eye on whichever task I was trying to half accomplish.  When my partner came downstairs, I tried to remember–This is what “partner” means–and asked for help.  It may have only shaved five minutes off the routine, but it made me feel less anxious and frazzled.

3. Make a to do list and tackle every item one by one.

Multi-tasking is a beautiful, beautiful thing, but it doesn’t always serve me. This may come as a shock, but it is incredibly difficult to manage a 100-plus pound Great Dane, a large garbage can, and a handful of laundry at the same time. Who cares if you keep all the plates spinning when one is cracked, another is dirty, and a third doesn’t match the set? It’s usually much more efficient to decide what matters most and work from there.

4. Take a minute for yourself.

Unless you’re an ER surgeon or a firefighter, most situations aren’t life or death. I sometimes have difficulty remembering this and feel the need to frantically do it all and get it all together. Most of the events, appointments, and obligations I’ve spent precious time stressing over end up not being the big deal (or big disaster) I thought. So, I have to get out of my head and out of the moment to get some perspective.

5. Reevaluate your priorities.

Most of us are super busy at one point in the week or another. But if you constantly feel like you’re headed from this project to that obligation to this appointment to that responsibility, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Figure out what matters most to you, what’s important to the people you love, and what you need to survive–the rest may just be over-scheduled filler. There’s no law that says being stressed, overwhelmed, and hyper busy is the road to happiness (or success).

So, I sent the email, handled the appointments, and let some other stuff go.  I stopped the downward spiral of “What Ifs” playing in my head on repeat and took some time to read a magazine. At 8:49 this morning, my inbox was perfectly empty and I was absolutely fine.

Isn't this collage absolutely overwhelming?

Isn’t this collage absolutely overwhelming?

explode images post it

too much

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12 Things You Should Know About Louisville if You Want to Call it Home

A few years ago, I moved from my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina to Louisville, Kentucky.  My partner, AJ, and I went through many websites to research what we needed to know about our temporary home.  The most important thing I learned back then was this: It’s not Louie-ville, it’s Lou-uh-vuhl.  A few months ago, Movoto.com published an article titled “29 Things to Know About Louisville Before You Move There.”  The article has some good points, but is still a little tourist-focused.  Since my partner and I have now lived in Louisville for several years and bought a home here, I’ve decided to gift you with a little holiday gift.

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12 Things You Should Know About Louisville if You Want to Call it Home:

1. For serious, it’s “Lou-uh-vuhl,” not “Louie-ville.”

2. Comfy Cow has the best ice cream in town (try the Birthday Cake!)

3. You do not have to love bourbon to live in Louisville. 

I’ve lived in Louisville for years now and just had my first taste of something bourbon flavored at a conference recently.  Yes, if you have family or friends coming to visit, of course, grab some bourbon balls and a hot brown.  But for residents? Not a necessity.

4. Living in Southern Indiana is not the same as living in Louisville.

A friend of mine who had lived here for a few years told me this when I was swayed by the admittedly less expensive houses and apartments.  It is absolutely true–there is nothing like living in Louisville.

5. We are one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the South.

With a public university that can boast being one of the most LGBT friendly schools in the South, fairness ordinances, and a pretty liberal mayor, it’s just a great place to be.

6. Living in Louisville is kind of like being an Interdisciplinary Studies major in college.

Louisville living really is “choose your own adventure.”  Interested in all things New Age-y? We have tons of meditation and yoga classes and at least three Buddhist temples.  Looking for a more traditionally Southern atmosphere? Get a burger at Mussel and Burger Bar topped with a fried green tomato or take in a Sunday morning service at Crescent Hill Baptist Church.  Find all things hipster on Bardstown Road and all things hipster-meets-suburbanite on Frankfort Avenue.  Do you care about social justice? Check out University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute, the Fairness Campaign, or the Muhammad Ali Center.  Or you can be a conservative, New Age-y Southern Hipster cause we have it all and it’s all available to you.

7. Where you went to high school actually matters.

This is a decent sized city that feels more like a small town and the answer to “Where did you go to high school?” seems to make people think they can make a lot of assumptions about who you are.

8. It really is a big city/small town hybrid.

You might be able to get lost in the beauty of Cherokee Park for hours without anyone interrupting you, but if you head out to one of our many malls, local restaurants or Waterfront Park events, you will run into someone you know.  Or someone who knows ten people that you know.

9. Oh, the weather outside? It’s frightful. 

In my first year as a Louisville resident, I was stuck in a basement because, tornadoes, had to navigate my car through flooded streets, and experienced freezing cold winters, scorching summers and everything in between–sometimes within the span of a month.

10. Only tourists and bachelorettes go to 4th Street Live.

I learned this within my first few months here after proudly announcing that I’d attended a concert there.  Want to know a secret, though? It’s still a pretty cool place to be.

11. UofL versus UK? It ain’t just about sports.

Kentucky fans are some of the most passionate people on the planet, but which team you root for says something about who you are.  I won’t go into detail as to exactly what it says about you, but I will say this: GO CARDS!!!

12. Once you’re here, you’ll never want to leave.

Forget the Ohio River Valley allergies, the lack of coastline or the sadistic weather.  Louisville has it’s own brand of incredible magic and if you’re lucky enough to experience it, you’ll never want to move away.

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In the Corporation Called LIFE, who’s on your Happiness Committee?

I love Martha Beck. She’s a Harvard educated psychologist who has written several great books and contributes a monthly column to O, The Oprah Magazine. I picked up an old issue of O Magazine at Half Priced Books this weekend primarily to read whatever fabulous wisdom Martha was dispensing that month. And boy, was it good.

When you make decisions–having a baby, completing a PhD, or going skydiving–your internal committee (in psychology speak, your “generalized other”) has a big say in which choice you make–and why. We all have an internal committee–some of us have committees made up of a few people, others may have a committee of just one or two.  Personally, I know that my mother is definitely on my internal committee because I hear her voice every time I gain a pound or spend money on something frivolous. So when you make a mistake or are facing a big decision, who are the voices you hear in your head? Your mom or dad (or both)? Your third grade teacher? Angelina Jolie?

Though we may have many members of our internal committee, they all seem to become an amalgamation of one voice saying some pretty specific things.  Want to know what your committee thinks of you? Do the following quiz:

“Everyone wants me to ___________________________.”

“Everyone thinks I’m ___________________________.”

“Everyone expects me to ___________________________.”

“Everyone’s always telling me ___________________________.”

As Martha would say, now think of real people in your life who have told you some of the things you wrote in the blanks above (“You’re selfish,” “You’re mean,” “You aren’t very smart” “You should be a better uncle”).  Odds are, you’ve internalized the negative things these people have said about you and then projected them onto the world.  Maybe your dad didn’t think you’d ever amount to anything–that turns into “No one thinks I’ll ever amount to anything.”  And sadly, we give people spots on our committee because their opinions mean a lot to us–parents, grandparents, best friends, high school teachers–and we desperately want their approval but maybe they don’t deserve a spot on our committee.

Perhaps you’re in a great relationship now, but every time you begin opening up to your new partner about your ambitions, you remember that ex who said you were an idiot.  That ex does not deserve a spot on your mental committee because they are holding you back from achieving your goals and becoming the person you want to be.

I know this to be true in my own life.  I didn’t begin college until I was 22 because the people in my internal committee told me college was a waste of time for someone like me, I wouldn’t fit in with my friends anymore, I’d never be able to make it to graduation day.  It took meeting someone who thought I was intelligent, who never stopped encouraging me to be the person I knew deep down I could become–and giving her a spot on my internal committee–to finally take the big step of enrolling in community college.

So, how do you fix your mental committee?

First, find out which members aren’t there to help you become better–more authentic, more accepting of yourself, more compassionate, more successful.  (You’ll know them by their put downs.)

Now, kick them off your committee.

You may have just gotten rid of the entirety of your committee–or at least the loudest voices.  It’s okay to hear crickets for a minute because you’re creating a new committee–one you choose.

Now, chose a committee chair. It may be someone who is already a quiet and kind voice on your committee–so promote them.  Let their acceptance and love become louder.  Now add other encouraging, patient, kind, compassionate, inspiring, worthy people to your committee.  Perhaps you feel like you don’t know anyone who could step up and take on this role. That’s okay, too–it doesn’t have to be people you know; it can be famous people, dead people, famously dead people or anyone else you admire and feel deserves to be one of your cheerleaders.

Need help? Here are some examples: Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Barack Obama, Teddy Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Bill Gates, Michael J. Fox, Ellen DeGeneres, Shonda Rhimes, Olivia Pope (hey, why not?)…There are millions more to choose from.

Now, meet with your committee everyday for 90 days. How do you meet with people whom you’ve never met, who may actually be dead? Read their memoirs, watch their movies, listen to their political debates, check out their websites, find encouraging words they’ve written or spoken.

It’s time to let go of the people who tear you down instead of building you up.  The first step to doing that is yours to take.

My fiance AJ and my dog Page are the co-chairs of my committee. 10735194_295124744030220_870250791_a

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Crushing Career Dreams…One Student at a Time

One of the most challenging (and most fulfilling) parts of my job is knowing when to inject a career advising session with motivation and inspiration and when to be a little more realistic. See, I work with highly motivated students in two highly competitive fields–STEM and music. These fields are not for the faint of heart–they require an enormous amount of discipline, persistence, intelligence and hard work.

Every semester, I meet with dozens of students who are coming to an thorough understanding of the (sometimes) harsh realities involved in pursuing these types of careers.  It’s one thing to like math and science and be the best in your small high school–it’s quite another to realize that every student around you was also considered the best.  When the passion is still there, but the skill just isn’t (or vice versa) what’s a student to do?

I often walk a fine line in these meetings–see, I too reap the benefits and suffer the consequences of the “You can do anything you put your mind to!” rhetoric of the late 80s and 90s.  I don’t want to be the dream crusher who says, “You know, if you are working this hard and studying this much and still not making a C in your first semester of calculus or music theory, maybe you need to think about other careers.”  Personally, I love the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.  I love the idea of being a surgeon and saving lives.  But I’m terrible at math, I can’t remember names of body parts in Anatomy, and I have barely functional motor/mechanical skills.  I could spend ten years working like crazy and studying every hour of the day, but I simply don’t have the skills or natural talent required to be a physician.

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So, how does one help a student to figure out what they’re capable of realistically while also challenging them to explore and find new dreams, skills, and passions? With my students, I work on identifying and discussing their strengths, discuss other classes, interests, etc. they enjoyed during high school, and talking about every possible major that they express an interest in.  I never want a student to walk away from a meeting feeling as though they’ve lost something without also feeling like they’ve gained something else.  I do not ascribe to the idea that I must be a “no person” to be realistic and honest with my students.  Instead of using the tired notion that we can all do or be or accomplish anything (which has proven to be untrue time and time again) I utilize the theory that we all have strengths, interests, values and capabilities that can and will guide our careers–if we open ourselves up to this.

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Maybe Your Dream Job Doesn’t Exist

…at this moment.

When I was 8, I saw old Charlie’s Angels reruns on Nick at Nite and decided I wanted to be a police officer. The Angels were confident, glamorous, and in control.

When I was 13, I decided I wanted to be an actress.  Actors had the opportunity to entertain people and tell unlimited stories, living out their days in other people’s skin, which appealed to me at an age when I wanted to be anyone but me.

When I was 17, I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer.  I wanted to create things people could love, things that would change their lives or make them feel special.

When I was 21, I read a story in Glamour magazine about Lindsay Hyde, a Harvard undergrad who founded Strong Girls, Strong Women, an organization dedicated to helping girls learn and grow through stories of strong women.  I wanted to be Lindsay Hyde.

When I was 22, a speaker came to my office to do a workshop on women’s empowerment in the workplace. I wanted to do what she did.

What do I love? What am I passionate about? What causes matter to me? Where do I want to live? Who do I want to surround myself with? What do I value? What am I good at? Who do I want to become?

I still want to be confident. And glamorous.

I still want to entertain people and tell their stories.

I still want to create. I still want to change lives and make people feel special.

I want to make something new and original like Lindsay Hyde did.

I want to empower women.

And I really freakin’ love career stuff. There’s no job description on The Bureau of Labor Statistics website for what I want to do. There’s no opening on Indeed.com.  I’m creating my own dream job everyday, by volunteering and raising my hand for new opportunities and taking risks and not being afraid to try new things.

Ten people in your office may hold the same title. A million people in the country may have the same job description as you. So it’s up to you to figure out how you want to be a firefighter, supervisor, cashier, journalist, politician, nurse… and then find a way to do it.

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Personal Branding Lessons from Taylor Swift

I remember the first time I heard Taylor Swift’s first hit, “Tim McGraw.”  It was almost summertime and I was going through a breakup myself, so the lyrics were especially poignant. Back then, Taylor had long, curly hair and wore cowboy boots exclusively. Since then, Taylor’s style has changed in many ways and so has her personal brand.

Taylor as a Country Princess

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In 2007, Taylor Swift exploded into the country music world. With songs that name checked country music stars like Tim McGraw, it seemed as though she was destined to become the next female country star. From the beginning, however, her style veered a little more towards a fusion of country and pop. In rapid succession, “Tim McGraw” and her next hit, “Teardrops on My Guitar” were remixed to be more pop friendly and were in regular rotation on country and pop stations.

What does this teach us? Figure out what makes you unique–then use it.

How many of us have preconceived notions of what a lawyer looks like, how an artist should dress or how accountants act? Taylor is an example of an unconventional young female artist and an unconventional country (or pop) star. Many young female stars who come up in show business go in one of two directions: rejecting or rebelling against everything that made them popular as a child/teen actress to illustrate that they’ve grown or proclaiming their innocence (read: virginity) a la an early Britney Spears.

Which leads to lesson 2: Evolve your brand slowly.

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If you listen to Taylor’s Album “Fearless,” specifically songs like the title track, you can see hints of what was to come with her next album, “Speak Now” (in particular, the song “Sparks Fly”).  From songs on her 2012 album, “Red,” such as “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22,” you can see the beginnings of her newer songs like “Shake It Off.”  Some people decide to do a complete 180 to change their image–they go from uber professional to bohemian artist or sweats wearing college student to conservative button downs. This can be a jolt for the people–your colleagues, friends, supervisors, etc.–who have grown accustomed to who you are (your brand or image) and can come off as being insincere.  Allow your personal brand to grow and evolve like you do–organically.

But–Have a Plan in Mind.

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I’m not naive enough to think that Taylor Swift’s newer image–from her fashion choices (straight hair! heels!) to her latest album–aren’t in some way calculated.  It’s important to have goals in mind and retool your brand in ways that feel authentic to you and are in line with your goals. So you want to be a manager? That doesn’t mean you start bossing around your co-workers. Instead, begin adding more managerial type clothing to your wardrobe (if you’re insure how, check out what the heads of your department wear) and begin taking on projects that require a higher level of responsibility.  Very few people can go from undergrad to CEO overnight. Always make sure that your image, or personal brand, is in line with who you are–and who you want to be.

And remember:

This–

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didn’t become this–

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overnight.

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