All Posts By

Aaron Cole

Digging Deep – Success Happens Outside the Comfort Zone

By | Be Genuine, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

What do a former roller derby player, a French-trained Sabreur, the President of SoCal Toastmasters and an international marathon runner all have in common? That would be Aaron. To be more specific, it would be SoapBoxSample’s Director of Systems and Programming, Aaron Cole.

The first employee of SoapBox, Aaron is a fashion extraordinaire (who refuses to buy his clothes in America), a recovered hair-dyeing addict, a current tattoo addict, a vegetarian, an artist, a Spartan and a world traveler.

Come to think of it, he may have way too many hobbies to actually be doing any work. Hmmm….

He also has somehow managed to buy the exact right gift for my daughter every single year, from talking storybook dogs, to fuzzy slippers and phone cases, he has an uncanny knack for buying her just the right Christmas gift each and every year. If I didn’t know him so well, I’d think it was creepy. But he likely does all kinds of research as that is just the way he is.

Oh – and he trained his dog, Charlie, to run races with him. They also have been known to wear matching costumes for Halloween.

Aaron is also this week’s guest blogger! Check out Aaron’s guide to digging deep and pushing beyond your limits.

A Guide to Completing a Marathon in the Outback …Without Getting Yourself Killed

Guest Post by Aaron Cole

I was all alone in the middle of the Australian Outback, running up a sand dune. Dehydration and exhaustion threatened to overtake me. This was Mile 19. I still had 7 more miles to go. How did I complete my mission? By following the simple, but difficult, steps outlined below.

I’m happy to say that I not only survived the Australian Outback, but that I also finished in 4th place overall, was the first American to cross the finish line, and beat my own personal best time by over 15 minutes with a final finish time of 3hrs 23min 25sec.

When I first decided that I wanted to complete a marathon on all seven continents, I immediately began looking for the most unique, exciting, and memorable races I could find. For my third continent I settled on the Australian Outback Marathon; 26.2 miles of grueling masochism through one of the world’s harshest environments. (I also raised nearly $1,000 to support The Wilderness Society to help protect Australia’s many endangered and at-risk species.)

Curious how this went from an idea to a reality? Here’s how I did it.

  1. Have a Vision and Purpose: Running a marathon wasn’t enough for me, I also wanted to raise funds and awareness for The Wilderness Society. Whether for your own benefit or the benefit of others, having a vision and purpose is essential as it serves as the foundation for your motivation and drive.
  2. Set Goals (and Follow Through): In the 16 weeks leading up to the Outback Marathon I averaged 50+ miles of running per week. It. Was. Not. Easy. Some days I didn’t feel like putting in the work, but I had a vision and I knew that if I didn’t accomplish the goals I set for myself, it would jeopardize my ability to accomplish my mission.
  3. Just Do It: Like the slogan goes, you’ve got to get it done. When I felt tired, weary, or my schedule was jam-packed, it created obstacles for my training plan. It’s not easy to run 50+ miles when you’re working Monday through Friday and then lose your weekend to other responsibilities, but if you want to accomplish something great, you’ve got to put in a greater amount of effort. This involved many late night runs, running while on the go, re-organizing my schedule, and a whole lot of commitment.
  4. Prepare for the Specifics: If your goals aren’t targeted and purposeful, you won’t be successful in your mission. In order to prepare myself, both physically and mentally, I ran a lot of hills, long distances of up to 22 miles, and sandy beach runs. This gave my legs the experience, built the resistance, and helped to get my head in the right mind frame for the challenges I would face in the desert of the Outback.
  5. Support and Accountability: Putting in this much time and effort can be draining, and it can be easy to slip, so having a support network is essential to keeping you on track! Family, friends, business associates, or anyone else that can lend positivity and support are all crucial to your success. I joined several running groups, finding camaraderie with my running mates and even gaining new tricks and tips to improve my skills. I also found greater consistency in my training, helping me to accomplish my 50+ miles per week goal with significantly greater ease!
  6. Have Fun Along the Way: As I mentioned, the time and effort you put in to accomplish your mission can be draining at times, so you need to find ways to re-fuel your energy. This will vary from person to person, it’s really what’s works for you. For me, however, I used food, travel, and other races to keep me motivated. Rewarding yourself with a giant cinnamon roll with blueberries, almonds and cream cheese after a long and hilly 22-mile run is pretty much the best thing ever!
  7. Take Care of Yourself: It can be easy to overlook your own personal well-being when you become so engrossed in accomplishing your goals, but the impact of an injury can be far greater than the moments you spend to rest and recover. Even in a more professional setting, it can be easy to burn out if you don’t have a way to vent the stresses and take care of your mind and body. I had to nurse some injuries, ease back on training, and allow myself the time to recoup, which in the end resulting in even greater improvement, allowing me to far exceed my performance expectations!
  8. Dig Deep: All the motivation, support, and sense of purpose you carry may feel irrelevant when you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. But I’m here to tell you that nothing is impossible, and any obstacle can be overcome. This is when you need to dig deep and draw from within. For the last 10 miles of the Australian Outback Marathon, I was running in complete isolation; not another runner for over a mile in either direction. I was combating dehydration from the desert’s dry heat, and come Mile 19, the final sand dune drained the last of my strength. The remaining 7 miles I had nothing left. I was running on fumes. But I never stopped running, I never lost sight of my mission, and I dug really, really, REALLY deep.
  9. Celebrate and Recover: Victory! With your mission complete, it’s time to bask in the glory of your accomplishment. Savor this success and know that you’ve earned it! But don’t be too quick to jump into your next mission, give yourself time to recover so that you can tackle the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.

After all this I’ll bet you’re feeling ready to tackle a marathon of your own, right?? Maybe not. But that’s okay, because these strategies apply to more than just running marathons, you can apply this to any dream or goal you wish to accomplish. Whether your passion is to open your own restaurant, grow your business by 50% in the next 12 months, or even something as simple as learning how to roller skate, if you follow these steps, I can guarantee your success.

However, if you don’t find success with these steps, please direct any complaints and refund requests to Jacqueline Rosales c/o Telltale Ten!

Should Researchers Be Living the Hashtag Life?

By | Have Fun, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others | No Comments

If you read the BLOG last week, you learned that SoapBox’s very first employee, our current Director of Systems and Programming, also is a professional (as in actually was certified in France) Champagne Sabreur. Turns out, he also follows social media trends and proposed we hop on the #mannequinchallenge. I dutifully agreed, not even knowing what he was asking me.

 Apparently he had a grand plan to stage a SoapBox #mannequinchallenge with the in-office staff. Mind you he brought this up a few weeks ago when it was SUPER cool. It is still cool, but starting to get a little stale already. He suggested I also write a BLOG post about how Market Researchers tend to overlook these trends as we are not fast or nimble enough to catch on. I dutifully responded, go for it. Congrats! You just earned yourself the next guest writer spot on Telltale Ten.  So here is Aaron (aka systems extraordinaire Champagne Sabreuring Social Media expert – he also runs marathons. In case you care about that kind of stuff.)

With the prominence of social media in our daily lives and the ability to share connections with individuals we have absolutely no connection to, it’s no wonder that viral trends gain such high levels of popularity. From the Harlem Shake to the Ice Bucket challenge, these viral sensations have the power to captivate our attention, whether we’re truly entertained by their content or we simply want to know what the heck everyone else is talking about.  These trends have the ability to spread like wildfire through their use of quick entertainment, hashtags, and celebrity endorsements. The latest entry to the #viralclub is the #MannequinChallenge.

Now for those of you who’ve been living under a proverbial rock for the past couple of weeks, the mannequin challenge involves a group of individuals posing in various positions as if they’re frozen in time while the cameraman traverses the scene capturing all of the action. The trend started with a group of high schoolers, who posted the inaugural video on October 26, 2016 with music from the hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd. Word of the original video got back to the artists, Rae Sremmurd, who then performed their own mannequin challenge in concert with help from their audience. Since then the challenge has caught the internet by storm; from a Destiny’s Child reunion to Kevin Hart to Disney World to numerous professional sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and many others. Seemingly knowing no bounds, the mannequin challenge even spread into the political arena with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posting her own rendition prior to the election encouraging viewers not to ‘stand still [and] vote’.

Not only is it super impressive how these trends can come out of nowhere and become so big that even celebrities and major news outlets take notice, but it’s also impressive, maybe even more so, how they can be tweaked and crafted to showcase our individual voices and broadcast our own messages. In the case of Hillary Clinton (and this is not an endorsement for, or a statement against, so just calm down), she took a viral trend that was envisioned as nothing more than clever entertainment and applied to it a relevant and meaningful message: “Don’t stand still. Vote today.”

With that in mind, it raises the question if we as researchers are missing out on a golden goose? Should the Market Research industry pay more attention to these viral trends and capitalize on their reach?

It’s no secret that some of the biggest struggles faced by online research today are 1) finding your target audience, 2) getting them to respond, and 3) reaching younger age groups (especially males) and minorities. Well this may come as a shocker, but guess who some of the biggest proponents are for these viral trends? Millennials. Many of them males, and many of them minorities. Jackpot! There’s your audience.

The challenge then becomes engaging them in a meaningful way.

We here at SoapBoxSample decided to experiment with this and posted our own Mannequin Challenge with the help of a few employees and some clever ideas (levitating balls anyone?). Needless to say, we were quite impressed with the movement we saw. We had hundreds of views within a couple of hours of posting. It’s quite apparent why we saw the sudden surge in activity, and the answer is “viral trends”.

Imagine if we had taken this a step further and tied in a survey opportunity or panel recruitment? It would have resulted in free marketing, clever marketing, that could have easily facilitated our online data collection both for gen-pop and niche demographics.

Sadly, I don’t have the magic formula for how to best capitalize viral social media trends in online research (and if I did I might be inclined to keep it secret), but I am confident that there is a formula to be had. That formula just needs to be solved. And once it finally is, who knows, the possibilities could be endless.