Category

Create Value

Happy Blog-iversary

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion

Dear Diary Blog –

According to research, the average lifespan of a blog is only 100 days. I didn’t make this up. Holy cow. So how did we make it to two years? Let’s be clear, that is 730 days – sounds more impressive right? Or in research speak, more than seven times the average. In blog life  you could say Telltale Ten is geriatric. She can’t hear very well, forgets things and has to pee a lot. Like blog, like author.

To celebrate the 2-year anniversary of Telltale Ten I thought it would be fun to go back and re-read the blogs. It was part fun and part torture Anyway, I also thought I’d share some of my favorite and most popular blog posts. Too bad these things don’t earn residuals. In all fairness, there were some I wanted to delete from the Blogosphere altogether, but since I am not technically savvy enough to do so, the suckiest of sucky entries are still there. The following you might find worth actually reading:

1. Just When You Think You’re Ready for the Week (August 1, 2017) Be Genuine, Create Value
2. When Life Kicks You in the A** (January 25, 2017) Be Genuine, Be Honest, Be Reasonable
3. Lazy and Genius Had a Baby (November 22, 2016) Be Genuine, Have Fun, Inspire Ideas
4. Indecision – The Evil Accomplice of Procrastination (October 18, 2016) Be Clear, Be Reasonable, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks
5. HALT — Stop, In the Name of Love (September 20, 2016) Be Clear, Be Genuine, Be Honest, Be Reasonable
6. Let It Go – Helpful Advice, Not Just an Annoying Song (August 30, 2016) Be Reasonable, Take Risks
7. Save Your Apple – No Teacher’s Pets Here (June 28, 2016) Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion, Take Risks
8. So You Wanna Be the Boss? (August 2, 2016) Be Honest, Be Reasonable, Take Risks
9. What Do Waffles, Luna Bars and Diet Coke Have in Common? (June 21, 2016) Be Genuine, Have Fun, Invoke Passion
10. I Ran Out of Gas (May 17, 2016) Be Genuine, Be Reasonable, Take Risks

I’ve learned a ton of lessons during my last two years as a blogger, and two worth noting from a business perspective.  One, free marketing is awesome. Two, blogging can be a great way to help make key decisions about those who be might be a ‘fit”. When clients or prospects or employees identify with the blog content, it’s a good sign they may be a good fit to work with; they are probably just the right amount of crazy.

My biggest aha from my two-year lookback, is that I really suck at writing things I am not passionate about or that are not current issues/challenges/adventures/happenings in my life. Here’s the truth. I don’t totally LOVE most of what I wrote in 2017. Some of it I don’t like at all. Reflecting on the topics I first tackled in the beginning has been a good reminder of why I wanted to start a blog in the first place. Looking ahead, my goal for Telltale Ten is to expand my audience to reach more people who are searching for that extra push to get them to the next level, whether it be in their personal lives, starting a business, growing a business, being a better parent, or a healthier person. So stay tuned for more whacky top ten lists, life hacks, and real talk. Let’s have a little fun and laugh as much as possible – at my expense of course.

 

Thanks for reading!

A Micro Dose of Motivation

By | Be Honest, Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others

What Motivates You?

As a startup leader, a HUGE part of my job centers around motivation. Convincing a group of super smart (and highly likeable) individuals to come join a startup, isn’t always easy. And once I convince them to join, I have to make sure they want to stay.

Motivate Others is one our Telltale Ten and SoapBox was founded on those ten principles. Motivation is key. But what does that mean? Where does motivation come from? What gets people motivated, what keeps people motivated, and how can we use motivation to accomplish our goals?

I have learned over the years, that motivation is not a one-size-fits-all. It is different for everyone. I feel like I get to know people pretty well, but you don’t know what you don’t know. After a recent TedTalk Tuesday lead by our Director of Systems and Programming, Aaron Cole, I got super excited to learn more about what motivates the staff. He talked about his motivation to complete his goal of running a marathon on all seven continents and shared his experience about running his most recent marathon in the Outback. I was inspired to learn more about what motivates others on my team. Instead of relying on my perceptions, instead I went with the direct approach and I asked my staff to tell me what motivates them. Sometimes the simplest (and most obvious) approach is the best.

What surprised me was that it wasn’t only big things (like feeling accomplished or helping the community) that motivated people, but small things like walking a dog, or hazelnut coffee. For me, I get really excited by an accomplishment as small as using up the last bit of a tube of chap stick (like seriously, do you ever get to the end of a chap stick before you lose it or it melts or your kid or your dog eats it – no right?).

The point I’m trying to make is that motivation can come in big and small packages. Maybe one of the items on this list will be a micro dose of motivation for you this week. Now the next challenge begins for me as a leader. How do I help make sure the staff is experiencing those things that make them happy and motivated?

Aaron Cole
Director of Systems

Food
Run clubs
Competition
Destination Runs

Adriana Hemans
Director of Marketing

Personal growth
Creative expression
Financial independence
Travel

Allison Flowers
Research Director

Making my kids proud
Making others feel good about themselves
Having a can-do mentality 

Andrea Sipos
Project Manager

My family
Animals
Nature

Angela Pack
Senior Account Executive

My child’s happiness
A clean & organized house
Helping in my community

Dan Parcon
VP, Operations

My faith
My child
Making a difference in the world

Elinor Gaida
VP, Research & Analytics

Coffee
Music
Walking a dog
Meeting with friends and family

Jacqueline Rosales
Chief of Operations

Connecting with close friends
Doing something nice for others
Organizing/Cleaning
Laughing

Kevin Moran
Support Specialist

Humor
Keeping promises
Food
Exercise (occasionally)

Michaela Petersen
Project Manager

Bettering myself
Broadening my intelligence
Contributing to the team

Paul Janowitz
CEO, icanmakeitbetter

Family & Travel
Improving the community
Hard work

Sam Ashburner
Project Manager

My new house
Exceeding my own expectations
Hazelnut Coffee

Sandeep Babu
Operations Manager

Travel
Culture
The little things
Finding fullfillment from helping others

Savanna Ayala
Bids & Feasibility Associate

Wine
Laughing
Food
Books
Alone time

Trina Martell
Project Manager

Expanding my knowledge base
Creativity of any kind
Music
Sharing knowledge
Kindness

Take a step back and ask yourself what motivates you. Write it down. Post it where you can see it and when you are feeling a little unmotivated, try one of things on your list to get you out of your funk.

Yay! My Kid is Not a Jerk.

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

So back in April, I wrote a BLOG called “Lessons From a Ten Year Old” about my seemingly unreasonable happiness over my daughter Antonella’s journey of turning a No into a Yes. Through hard work, pure determination, and relentless desire she earned a spot on the Hyht Gymnastics Pre-Team. In case you didn’t read it (you should), here’s the recap. Her coach gave her the good news that she finally made pre-team, but in the same breath she also told her, “I only want kids who work hard. If you stop working hard, you will be removed from the pre-team. If you keep working hard, you may actually make it from pre-team to team. Your work is just starting.”

Your work is just starting. Super powerful words. How a ten year old will act on those words is a total crap shoot. Ella had worked her a$$ off to get to her goal and it was just the beginning. Her commitment up until that point simply prepared her for the next phase of hard work. It was just one obstacle of many. In my last BLOG on this topic, I wrote about how happy I was that she didn’t make the pre-team on the first go around. And I meant it. I still mean it. Once she made the pre-team I was CERTAIN she was not going to like it. It meant more practice, which meant more drills, more working out and worst of all (for Ella) running sprints.

Well I was wrong. She embraced the challenge. Not without complaint, but she kept at it. She got her Dad to build her a beam and taught herself the Level 3 Team USA Gymnastics Beam routine from YouTube – she wasn’t even on the team. She had a list of skills she had to learn, and slowly kept knocking them off the list. The worst one was the back handspring. That damn back handspring. She practiced for months and months and just couldn’t get over the fear. She couldn’t, correction, wouldn’t do it. We endured months of “Will you spot me?” day after day. Her Dad and I were sure she would never get it. Some days I wanted to say, “No, I will not spot you again – just give it up. You won’t get it. Let’s just go inside.” You probably think I am a total douche, but seriously, try doing the same thing, day after day, watching a kid just flail around. It is not fun. And God bless her nanny. I bet she spotted that kid 1000 times – at minimum. But she kept at it.

She saved up her money sold stuff on Etsy and Poshmark and finally earned enough money to buy a tumbling trampoline. Yes, she is a working actor earning a nice paycheck. But she doesn’t get to spend that money – sorry kid. You will thank me some day when we didn’t let you blow all the dough. She even talked her Nana into having a yard sale in the dead of the summer in the heat. It was 110 degrees that day. But she had some money to make! She is a very persuasive young lady. And guess what? It took several months, but she finally earned the $500 to buy the trampoline.
She practices on that thing until it gets dark. “Wait, just one more. Can you watch?” Armed with her mat, her homemade beam, and her tumbling trampoline, she has just kept on keeping on. And guess what? She got that back handspring, and a dozen or so other skills. One by one. She would come home after practice each day and tell me if she earned gym bucks for a new skill. Some days she would bust through the door screaming “I got my back hip circle today” or whatever it was and other times she would say she had more work to do.

Yesterday she turned eleven years old. Today she went to practice despite being convinced she has a broken toe (she is the one convinced not us or we would actually take her to a doctor – we aren’t total a$$hole parents). Her coach pulled her aside before class started and told her she made the team. Ella had NO idea she was going to get that news. No idea at all. She was just showing up, with her broken toe, to practice.

As her parent, my belly gets all squirmy with excitement thinking how it must have felt in her little heart when she got that news. How proud she must have felt, and how badly she wanted to run home and tell us. As a business leader, I find this type of unrelenting focus, unceasing drive and bullish tenacity to overcome something outside of your comfort zone, is what it takes to be great. And look at that, I may have just defined greatness (Why Tony the Tiger is My Idol).

Why Tony the Tiger is My Idol

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Take Risks

Recently I was asked if I wanted to achieve greatness. At first, I was pretty offended. What a stupid question. Who wouldn’t want to be great? What does that even mean? Do they really think I’d say “no, I want to be average?”

Oh, and by the way, when I think about great, I just picture a Tony the Tiger. You know Tony right? The Frosted Flakes dude? One could argue whether Frosted Flakes are great, but the marketing was certainly pretty great. Are you saying “They’re Greeeat” in your head now? Point made. By the way, Tony the Tiger has been around since 1952. I’d classify him as a great mascot.

Once I got over being offended (I was asked by a person whom I really trust and respect otherwise. I may have just lived the rest of my life being annoyed about the question, aka – never thinking about it again), I realized that is wasn’t so obvious. I found myself reconsidering my resounding “duh, obviously I want to be great”, to “what does that even mean?”

I was taken over by a genuine curiosity to explore what that meant to me. It went from being totally obvious to totally illusive. Oh, aaannnnnd, the question was not just asked as a standalone. There was a series of follow ups after the initial question – I was cautiously hesitant in how I wanted to answer the first part. After all, I wasn’t going to fall into some trap. I have no idea what the trap would be, but that is the natural skeptic in me.

So the questions went like this:

Do you want to achieve greatness?
In what areas do you want to achieve greatness?
Do you know what it takes to achieve greatness?
Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness?
What obstacles are there to achieve greatness?
How to do you overcome these obstacles?

I felt like I was suddenly faced with the fucking prelude to my eventual obituary. Like what the hell?

I am in the middle of trying to manage a P&L, hire people, fire people, run operations, feed my child, make sure homework is done, hire a new Nanny, go to 10,000 doctor appointments, attend physical therapy, make it to a zillion meetings (most of which suck), chill with my husband on occasion, return my friend’s calls/emails, shower periodically and now I have to figure out this greatness thing? I am literally just trying to stay alive.

I spent some time with my google machine typing things like “what is definition of greatness” , “greatness quotes”, “inspiration quotes” and other nonsense before setting out to define my own version of greatness – by the way, the initial question actually said to create your own definition. I just naturally like to go in circles before getting back to the starting point.

I am still very much in the process of this greatness journey and intend to continue to be genuinely curious and humbly open minded along the way. My starting part has been a vision-board-style word dump. Here’s what I came up with:

Greatness
Satisfied
Content
Genuine
Authentic
Kind
Focused
Ambitious
Overcome adversity
Impactful
Nimble
Passion
Simplicity
Elegance
Humble
Teachable
Relentless
Curious
Grateful
Acceptance
Inspire

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Sometimes the best questions have no tangible answers – they take you on an unexpected journey. So here I am, unexpectedly journeying. If you are up to it, ask yourself the same. I dare you…

 

Hack Attack!

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks

Seven Amazing Hacks from One Unexpected Household Item

I’m a big fan of anything that makes life easier, more convenient, or less annoying. Any #lifehack posts that I stumble across on social media will immediately grab my attention. It’s possible that I spend more time reading about life hacks, than I actually save by doing the life hacks, but that’s a topic for another blog.

This blog is about one insignificant household item that can do about a million other things that it wasn’t even designed to do. (Reminds me of some people I know.) Here are seven of my favorite life hacks, all involving the humble dryer sheet. The best part is, for most of these hacks any brand will work, and they don’t even have to be new dryer sheets. Used ones work just as well.

  1. Remove nail polish. Glittery nail polish is a pain to get off. When you’re sick of looking like a Las Vegas showgirl, cut dryer sheets into small squares, soak them in acetone, and lay them on top of your nails. After a few minutes, the nail polish will rub off easily.
  2. Use instead of paint thinner to clean brushes. It’s not magic, it’s science. Science I won’t attempt to explain. Just try it. Lay a paintbrush over a dryer sheet, and pour water on top. The paint will slide right off.
  3. Clean your hairbrush. Instead of ripping out clumps of hair a few pieces at a time, soak the brush in warm water with a dryer sheet plopped in there. After a few minutes take it out and the hair just slides off.
  4. Sharpen scissors. When your scissors get dull from cutting up magazines, making DIY home décor, or cutting unidentifiable goo out of the dog’s hair, you can use a dryer sheet to sharpen up the blades again. Just rub the dryer sheet on each edge.
  5. Remove stains from the toilet bowl. Re-purpose a used dryer sheet as a toilet bowl scrubber. You don’t even have to scrub that hard. Gloves recommended.
  6. Scrub glass shower doors. A dryer sheet can remove water stains and calcium deposits. Add a couple drops of water, and wipe the doors down. You’ll want to share this one with everyone. Just don’t forget you heard it here first.
  7. Clean grease from pans. You can eliminate the crusty, burnt grease from your pans by soaking them in water, dish soap and a dryer sheet. Let it sit for one hour. Use that hour to catch up on Telltale Ten blog posts you may have missed.

Want more hacks? Check out Accessories to Make Your Traveling Life Easier — All From the Dollar Store.

Competition – The Great Motivator (and Wannabe Distractor)

By | Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I can be competitive. Like, super competitive. I recently made it a competition with our VP of Operations to see who could get to my boss’s office the fastest. Not kidding. Competitive people tend to gravitate toward other competitive people.

My friend Ashley Seeger (who was featured in one of the first Telltale Ten BLOGs, My Friends Are Cooler Than Yours) embodies that trait like no other. After a crazy ACL injury and a few other life events, Ashley made the decision to focus on her business full-time. She leveraged her growing boot camp and class groupies, and recently opened up her own gym and training facility called Becoming Badass. As a startup leader, I can tell you that being competitive can help you succeed. (Being a little bit crazy is helpful too.) Ashley is learning to take her race mentality, and apply it to growing her business. Oh, and she decided to take on a bikini competition, a 24-hour endurance race in Australia, and compete in World’s Toughest Mudder (among some Spartan and Ragnar races) all during her first year of business. Ashley shares a few key tips on competition in this week’s Telltale Ten.

Competition – The Great Motivator (and Wannabe Distractor)

By Ashley Seeger

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you know that there is competition on every corner. The stressors that come with opening a new business can be intense. Keeping up with your competition can be one that eats at you. For me, competition comes in a lot of different forms — competition with myself, competition with things in my life that are vying for my attention and competition from other businesses. Competition motivates us to do more, do better and grow as a business. If we were the only one doing the “thing” why would we need to improve? Instead, competition forces us to do our best. It can also derail us and cause us to lose focus if we don’t channel it correctly. Here is how I use competition to motivate me instead of distract me.

1. Master your trade. What are you good at? What is your passion?

Keep your focus on what YOU are good at. What do you love the most? What is your unique value proposition? What is special about you or your business that others cannot easily replicate? When looking at your competition you may be tempted to veer from your lane into what they are doing. But ask yourself – what are you a master at? Do you find your passion or expansion opportunities in competitive offerings? If not, then stay in your lane. Instead of trying to be a jack-of-ALL-trades, how can you improve what YOU do?

2. Don’t waste time or energy worrying about the others.

In other words, mind your own business. Literally and figuratively. Instead of worrying that others are going to do more, be better etc., use that energy for your own business. Once you have identified what is working for you, set a plan to improve what you already do. How can you be the BEST at what YOU do? Figure it out and then DO IT! Have integrity and take pride in what you do. You cannot control what your competition is doing. You also can’t be blind to it. This is a balancing act. Be mindful of the landscape, industry, trends, direct and indirect competition. But don’t be obsessed with it – and definitely don’t try to just copy it. Be aware of your surroundings and competition, continuously try to improve what you do and don’t let the competition be a threat, let the competition motivate you to be the best.

3. Leverage what you know, but don’t rely on today’s skills to get you through tomorrow.

Entrepreneurs need to always be learning, seeking more info, and getting out of their comfort zone. Just like on the race course, you have to know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You also have to train and be coachable. If you are not willing to learn new things, or accept advice from others who know things you don’t, you will likely fail. I am an athlete. I have always been an athlete. I am a coach. I am a good coach. Running a business is TOTALLY new to me. If I don’t embrace what I don’t know, and seek it, my competition may prevail regardless of how good of an athlete or coach I am. I have to find and recognize my weakness and then go after it!

If you want to check out all the badass things Ashley does, check out her website at www.becomingbadass.me. For someone new to business, she sure has mastered marketing and branding. It rocks. Truthfully I am jealous. You can follow her Badass adventures on social media at [Insta: @_ashleyseeger, YouTube: Ashley Seeger, Facebook: Ashley Seeger]. Oh, and to the tune of getting out of her comfort zone and delving more into the “business side” of running a business, she just joined LinkedIn! You can connect with her here where she will be posting her BLOG, news, making connections and learning new stuff.

There is a sign hanging in her facility that reads “Do Only Difficult Things” – that pretty much sums up entrepreneurship.

Telltale Ten Guide to Cleaning Up Dog Sh*t

Just When You Think You’re Ready for the Week…

By | Be Genuine, Create Value

Dog Sh*t Everywhere…

Last week was a rough week. Without going into a million details it was just hit after hit after hit across all areas of my life. By the end of the week, the stress had manufactured in exhaustion – I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually tired and ended up sick.

I went into this week determined to turn things around. Not only in how I react to things (like When Life Kicks You in the ___), but also in trying to eliminate some of the stressors all together. You know, organizing myself and setting myself up for the best chance of success knowing that sh*t will inevitably go wrong. Little did I know, that literally, sh*t would go bonkers.

By Sunday night I was still unable to sleep and transported myself to the guest room. For some reason it is an ice box in there and helps me sleep. I drifted off the sleep with thoughts of a “good week to come” in my head. I had prepared all the meals for the week, updated the calendar, worked out schedules, organized what needed organizing and was ready to conquer the week. And then…

I was abruptly awoken by my daughter saying in a quiet but panicked voice, “Sheebee had diarrhea everywhere and I don’t know what to do. Dad is really mad.” I can assure you this was not how I planned to start my “good week to come”. So in case you are wondering, Sheebee is our Husky and she is big. We had spent hours and hours of the weekend rearranging and redecorating my room and my daughter’s room. I laid there thinking “is this really happening?” and then when I realized I really had just been woken up by the diarrhea dog I thought to myself “how bad can it be?”.

Uhm, let me tell you, it was REALLY bad. OMG bad. Like my initial thought was the only possible solution here is going to be to tear up the carpet AND throw away the super cute (and expensive) new Pottery Barn rug. I didn’t have time for all that, so instead started shouting orders as if I was the Chief of Dog Sh*t Cleanup. I was determined to not start my week badly. This was nothing compared to what went on the week before, but it certainly wasn’t breakfast in bed either.

So the moral of the story is simple. Don’t have pets or kids.

Just kidding. Too late for that (for me anyway). But here’s the deal. I had a plan of how I wanted my week to start off. This was not my plan. So I could have let it be the defining conjunction between last week’s bad week carrying over into this week, or, just dealt with it and then decided I would start my week over. I have moved on in my quest to have a good week. There was nothing I could do to change it, so no point in dwelling on it. It’s not what happens, it how we react to it. In the grand scheme of life, this is certainly not a big deal. So often, we get caught up in the small stuff, and let it impact our happiness and usefulness for the day. I have totally let it go…

That is until the next thing happens and I start yelling “First the dog sh*t everywhere and now this?”

PS – We only have carpet in two rooms in our house. Of course this happened in one of those rooms. If this happens to you, here are some helpful tips:

  • Open all the windows
  • Febreeze the room prior to entering
  • Get lots of plastic bags
  • Do your best to scoop up the goop with plastic gloves
  • Use disinfectant sanitizer wipes to wipe the spots
  • Mix baking soda and water and put on the spots
  • Let that sit forever until it dries
  • Vacuum it up
  • Run a purification essential oil overnight

It totally worked. The carpet stains are gone (from both the Berber carpet and the wool carpet), there was not carpet discoloration and the room doesn’t smell like a kennel.

SoapBoxSample Telltale Ten

Who’s in Your Front Row?

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

As we move through the different chapters of our lives, we inevitably change. The people, places and things around us impact our mindset, mood, behavior and happiness. While it can be painful at times to leave some things behind, it can be equally exciting to experience the new things. When I find myself in a period of discontent, I know I have work to do. It is not anyone else’s fault. I choose to take responsibility over my happiness.

You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you are around. You may not be able to control certain things that happen to you, but you can control how you react. You may not be able to change other people, but you can change yourself.

A special woman gave me this many years ago. I searched the internet to find the author and found varying versions of it, but not this exact one. I attributed it to a “wise, beautiful lady”.  This was the perfect thing for me to find today. I needed this reminder…

Life is a Theater

Life is a theater. Invite your audience carefully. Not everyone is healthy enough to have a front row seat in our lives.

There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize, your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not going-anywhere relationships or friendships.

Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention. Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill? When you leave certain people, do you feel better or do you feel worse? Which ones always have drama, or don’t really understand, know, or appreciate you? The more you seek quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the front row and who should be moved to the balcony of your life. You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you are around.

In short, you don’t have to tolerate shitty people.

How to Stay Human While Working From Home

By | Be Clear, Create Value, Motivate Others, Take Risks

Not all employees work from an office. Apparently, starting this week’s BLOG intro with the obvious just feels right for some reason.

Telecommuting, working from home, remote employee, flexible working environment, or whatever you call it, there is a lot of it. Some deem it to be the perk of all perks. Others deem it to be a dreadful prison within your home of social isolation and a perpetuation of not showering.

You can find endless articles about the pros and cons. My personal opinion is that it can be a super good fit from some, and not so much for others. It is NOT for everyone. This week’s Telltale Ten post is from Jennifer Holland, a successful salesperson who works for SoapBoxSample’s parent company, Interviewing Service of America, ISA. She works remotely from her home in New York. She offers some great tips for those who work from home, or those who are considering it.

“You. Are. So. Lucky.”

I hear it at least once a week.  And yes, I am.  I’m one of the over 3 million Americans working from home.  While I must admit, it’s a good gig if you can get it, it does come with its own set of drawbacks.

When I started working remotely over ten years ago, I looked to my friends who’d been working from home for advice.  How did they manage their time, what did their typical day look like, how did they not go insane with all of the alone time?  The answers were varied but there was always a common thread in their responses.

Have an Office with a Door

Working from home can go one of two ways.  If you’re not disciplined, this situation isn’t for you.  People who are easily distracted, need someone checking over their shoulder and don’t like their job in general aren’t a great fit for remote employment.  The other side of that coin is you work All. Of. The. Time.  You’re working from your home, a place where you spend the bulk of your time.  So in essence, you’re always at the office.  I often find myself at my desk at 11 pm, checking email, working on bids, etc.  I start by walking through the house, picking up the backpacks, turning off the lights, checking the kids in their beds.  I end up walking into my office and working for two hours.

You need to work on maintaining an actual life outside of your home office.  I needed to make sure I had an office in my home with a door.  Somewhere I can walk into in the morning, and walk out of at night.  And close the door.  It’s not foolproof, and I’ve been known to bust out a proposal from my laptop in bed, but it helps to have an actual space in your home dedicated to your work.

Leave Your House

I have this trick that I do every morning.  I wake up, take a shower, get dressed and leave my house.  I know that sounds like I’m negating one of the main benefits of working from home.  You don’t HAVE to leave!  But I NEED to leave.  I get coffee, and come back to my office. It’s as if I’m arriving to work every day and not just Groundhog Day’ing my life away.  I also work from a coffee shop a few times a week, for a couple of hours a day.  A change of scenery is key for me.  It keeps me focused and sane.

One of the main struggles of working from a home office is the lack of social interaction.  I basically accost my FedEx guy with conversation when he shows up.  All he wants me to do is sign for a package.  All I want to do is talk to a human in person.  It’s become weird.  To ease the strain I’ve created in the relationships with my delivery people, I keep CNN on in the background all day.  I know he’s not really there, but in my mind Wolf Blitzer is in the office next door.  It’s nice.

Get Dressed

No.  I do not work in my pajamas.  I may work in leggings and a hoodie, but I do get dressed.  Every Day.  I throw my hair in a bun and rarely wear make up on work days (keeping it real here), but I wear actual clothes.  I think waking up and walking into a home office is a slippery slope.  One day you’re working from home, the next thing you know you’re that person on your street that no one has ever seen leave the house.  Clothes make you feel human.  Even if your kid tells you that you dress like a gym teacher.

I had a friend who worked from home and would put on a suit when she had an important conference call.  It made her feel more prepared and professional.  I do not do that.  All I can say is thank God most of my meetings are not video calls.

All in all, not too bad.  Right?  And trust me, I am NOT complaining.  I mean, my morning commute is about 10 seconds.  I only have to wear heels when I’m visiting a client or prospect out of the office (after 14 years of working in an actual office wearing very high heels, my feet are grateful for this benefit).  I’m not dealing with the office drama that exists in every office in every company.  My break room is my kitchen or Starbucks, so no drama there.

But I do have one complaint.  The ‘cookies in the break room’ email.  For some reason cookies don’t magically appear in my kitchen when there are cookies, cannolis, bagels, etc. in the break room.  I’m looking at you, Francine.

Minus May Recap

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others

Trying to accomplish a goal? Your failure or success could come down to one important factor — accountability.

At SoapBox, goal setting is not just a part of individual performance reviews, but also a part of SoapBox team building.  And when you can pitch to the group with a cool name like Minus May, it seems fun. Setting personal goals within a team environment helps to:

  • Create a supportive work environment
  • Build a culture that values self-improvement
  • Provide accountability
  • Encourage non-work related conversation and check-ins
  • Increase the likelihood of achieving the goal (although based on the results we failed at this miserably)

It also puts people on blast knowing they have to publicly admit if they break their pledge (on this very public forum followed by dozens of readers called Telltale Ten) – it can make the difference between saying f**k it, or following through.

At the beginning of last month, we challenged the staff to come up with one thing that they would like to eliminate in order to improve their lives. We proposed the opposite of a “to do“ list that people generally default to when they want to accomplish something.

Spoiler: no one had a perfect Minus May. Some came close, a few made some slight progress. One forgot what was happening and one doesn’t understand A,B,C grading systems. You can read everyone’s recap below.

Nicole, Sales and Marketing Administrative Assistant
Goal: To save money
Minus: Her daily trips to Starbucks

Grade: A- 

While I have eliminated Starbucks before, the difference this time was the temptation factor that would still linger when I would make a Starbucks run for someone else. You either love Starbucks or you hate it…at least for most people I know. I breathe Starbucks, have more cups than needed, and always seem to make friends with a barista in various locations. The challenge itself wasn’t hard, I saved about $3.95 a day. Sometimes I would have more than one Starbucks a day, so I saved between $150 and $200 bucks for the entire month. I had moments of withdrawal, one moment where I went and did a Starbucks run for a few others, ordered one for myself and drank it there before coming back to the office. That was about it. I did notice cutting all the sugar from my coffee has slimmed me down, so I can’t complain at all. Now that I am able to have it again, I will slowly start to indulge in it. I don’t see myself going overboard because I like the idea of having a flatter stomach. Supplementing Starbucks for other brands or energy drinks will never become a full-time habit, I am committed to Starbucks forever!!

Melissa, Recruitment Specialist
Goal: To have a more positive outlook
Minus: Complaining

Grade: B-

For Minus May my goal was to stop complaining. I realized recently that I have a habit of holding on to negative thoughts, which sometimes can cloud my outlook on life. While I did not have a perfect Minus May, overall I am proud of myself for the progress that I made. Several times I was able to catch myself before I started to complain, and I was able to refocus my thoughts to look at the bright side of a situation. Even though Minus May is now over, I plan to continue to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and turn them around before they take over my mood.

Kevin, Online Panel Support
Goal: To reduce his cholesterol
Minus: Eating fast food

Grade: B

I avoided fast food, but then bought more processed food from the store. I learned that restaurant vegetarian options can’t compete with their steaks. If I was going to try it again I would limit myself to fewer cheat days.

Cynthia, Manager of Community Experience
Goal: To live a longer, healthier life
Minus: Smoking cigarettes

Grade: F

I would give myself an F, since I did take a puff from a cigarette twice during the last week of the month. The challenge was to give it up, and I did not give it up completely. During the month of May, I had several stressful personal issues come up, as well as additional work stress which made me crave cigarettes. Typically, I smoke more when I am stressed. Before Minus May I was smoking about half a pack a day and to go from that to two puffs in the last 31 days is pretty good in my book. I think I did better than expected. I did snack more, but I was prepared for that. Overall, I am extremely happy with the results and will continue my Minus May pledge into June.

Note from Jax to Cynthia (let’s see if she reads the BLOG): I am proud of you and the standards you have set. I am also proud you took way less puffs of cancer. If you keep it up for June, I will match the money you saved. Extra incentive when those two puffs seem so tempting.

Adolfo, Senior Project Manager
Goal: To save money
Minus: Drinking alcohol

Grade: C

To be honest, I forgot and didn’t really try. I did, however, limit my alcohol consumption, which helped with the goal of saving money. If I were to try it again, I would actually try next time. But I would hope there would be some sort of support system/reminders. I truly forgot we were doing this for May.

Kalean, Bids and Feasibility Associate
Goal: To be more productive at work
Minus: Hitting the snooze button

Grade: F

LOL, I did so horribly. My plan was to ease myself into this challenge. Normally I hit snooze around four times in the morning and my plan was lower that amount by one each day until my body was conditioned to waking up after the first alarm. I was able to take a longer a shower and didn’t feel rushed the first day, but the next morning I went right back to my habits and snoozed until I absolutely HAD to get up. I kind of found a new way to circumvent not being so rushed in the morning though. Now that I have colored hair I need to take more care of it than I used to so I started to shower at night so I’d have more time to focus on it being maintained properly. As a result, my mornings became less hectic and I came to work five to ten minutes earlier than normal each day this week. In essence, my laziness and apathy towards waking in up the morning couldn’t be fixed, but my vanity is what really helped my production at work.

Michaela, Bids and Feasibility Associate
Goal: Saving time and money
Minus: Shopping and buying unnecessary things

Grade: B

I was really determined to stick with my Minus May resolution – and it worked! I was able to hold on to more of my paycheck by not spending money and appreciating the things I already own. I had a couple of “splurges” here and there due to my vacation at the end of May, but all in all I give myself a solid B. I’d like to make this a long-term habit for the future and I think Minus May was a good practice run to test my determination!

Adriana, Director of Marketing
Goal: To lose weight
Minus: Snacking at night

Grade: C

I went into the month of May with the best intentions, to stop snacking at night for SoapBox’s Minus May challenge. I thought it would be easy. I pictured a thinner, happier me going into June and a bed with no crumbs in it. Turns out it was harder than I thought. Old habits are hard to break, especially habits involving delicious, salty snacks. (That’s my weakness.) I broke down more than once. Ok, like six times. But on the plus side, I ended up snacking less than I would have if I hadn’t made my Minus May pledge. Next time I set a similar goal for myself I will do a little more prep work, by planning out what I’m going to eat for the whole day, so I’m not starving at ten p.m. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey, and even though I didn’t have a perfect month, I may be a step or two closer to meeting my long term goal.

Myself, Lunatic, COO, Mom Blogger
Goal: Sleep a minimum of eight hours per night
Minus: Cell phone after eleven p.m.

Grade: B

I did stay committed to sleeping eight hours a night for the most part. I think all but a few nights, I got that eight hours. Sometimes even more. But, it was not really a result of keeping my minus commitment. Most weekend nights for example, I was up way past eleven. But I also was super aware of the eight-hour goal, so I would make up for it by sleeping in.

If I were going to try this again with the “off the phone by eleven” as the driver for eight hours of sleep, I would not watch any binge-worthy Amazon, Netflix or Showtime shows that lead to “just one more” or “just the first 15 minutes of the next one”. There were a few weeknights where I just couldn’t resist that “next episode” button and couldn’t just sleep in to make up for it seeing as I have a job here at SoapBox. Or maybe I could just start watching earlier…I usually watch only one hour per day starting at ten. Perhaps I should eliminate family dinners and watch more binge-worthy shows instead. That could work…