Inspire Ideas

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…

DO’s and DON’Ts of Public Speaking

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Have Fun, Inspire Ideas

Let’s talk about “glossophobia”. What’s that? You don’t know what “glossophobia” means? Surprisingly, you could actually be suffering from it, and not even know the “official” name. It’s the medical term for stage fright, and a large percentage of Americans are affected by it — 28.4%.

Here’s the bad news. At some point in most people’s lives, they end up needing to present, speak in public, or otherwise put themselves on display. It can be awkward. I totally get why people hate it.

Here’s the good news. You can get better at it. You may even start to like it. The main thing is to keep it simple. Start practicing one or two things at a time, starting with these basic tips:


DO — Make eye contact with your audience.

DON’T — Stare like a serial killer.


DO — Show enthusiasm for the topic.

DON’T — Come off as so fanatical that your audience believes they are being recruited to join a cult.


DO — Establish your expertise.

DON’T — Announce that you know more about the topic than anyone who ever lived. Ever.


DO — Speak slowly so that the audience can understand you.

DON’T — Speak so slowly that your audience can’t follow your sentences because your pauses are so long.


DO — Avoid reading word for word from a script.

DON’T — Decide to wing it and forget everything you were going to say.


DO — Try to relax before the start of your talk.

DON’T — Knock back a few cocktails and go onstage drunk.


DO – Wear something you feel comfortable in.

DON’T – Wear your pajamas or sweats.


DO — Speak from the heart.

DON’T — Reveal overly personal information, like the time you peed your pants in 5th grade.


Have any public speaking tips of your own to share? Tweet me @jax_rosales


Lessons From a Ten Year Old

By | Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

Don’t Raise Your Kid to Be an A$$

About two months ago my ten-year-old daughter was waiting on pins and needles to find out if she made pre-team at gymnastics. She wanted it so badly and was totally obsessed. We had no clue how she would fit it in with her other activities, but she was certain this was THE most important thing…like ever.

Finally, the news came. It turned out to be the best news ever. Well, from my perspective, not hers. She didn’t make the team. She was going to miss practice the day the coach was giving out the news and had to ask in advance. She wanted us to ask for her. There was no way we were going to do that. She timidly approached her coach (who is a total hard ass) and squeaked out, “Did I make it?” Her coach said no, and then proceeded to tell her what she needed to work on.

When she got home that night, she disappeared upstairs. My husband and I decided to go up and talk to her. We started to feel badly we made her go to the coach on her own, and started to second guess whether we were too strict with her. We walked up the stairs expecting to find her crying or otherwise sadly engrossed in some YouTube video. When we got up the stairs, we found her in the gym – practicing her strength and the skills her coach told her she needed to work on.

It was at that moment, I knew that her failure was absolutely the best thing that could have happened.

She then asked us to start taking her to more classes. She started taking two tumbling classes a week, an intermediate girls class and going to open gym for two hours on the weekends. She was incessantly handstanding all over the place. She did all the strength and core work at home. She would leave for school at 8 am and some days not get home until 8:30 pm. At that moment of failure she had a choice; quit, settle to just take classes, or work her a** off at something she was not naturally good at.

The week after she didn’t make team, I was at a business dinner and shared how happy I was she didn’t make the team. Another mother at the table looked at me like I was the worst mother ever – I didn’t care. She was seemingly appalled by my celebratory reaction to Antonella’s failure. Kids need to learn that they don’t get everything they want. Life is full of disappointments. You have to work (hard) for things you want and even when you do, you may not get them. They also need to learn that without failure, you don’t succeed.

Fast forward to last Monday night. Ella was working late after tumbling class on her back handspring and some other skills. We were the last to leave the gym around 8:45 pm. Late night for a 5th grader. She got home from gymnastics the next day and I happened to meet her in the garage as she got home – ready with my usual mom prodding about school, her friends, practice etc. She smiled coyly and looked down at the ground. She then told me Coach Brooke asked her to stay after. That’s when the coach told her she made pre-team. She had no idea. I had no idea. Her hard work had paid off. Her coach took notice. Antonella had EARNED her spot. It wasn’t given to her. Her coach followed up the good news with, “I only want kids who work hard. If you stop working hard, you will be removed from pre- team. If you keep working hard, you may actually make it from pre-team to team. Your work is just starting.”

In life we fail, in order to succeed, to keep working harder. Many adults haven’t figured this out yet. I am so inspired by Antonella. She makes me proud. I may also succeed at one of my life goals which is to not raise an a$$hole.

Why I Love Infographics

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion

In the early days of SoapBox, like a lot of startups, we had a tiny marketing budget. By being selective with our dollars and as persistent as cockroaches, (yes, someone called me a cockroach – although not the worst thing I have been called), we managed to carve out a name for ourselves. You can read more about our early marketing efforts here.

Although we’ve grown as a company, I still love behaving like a scrappy, nimble startup (plus, we still don’t have much budget). That’s one of the reasons why I love using infographics as a marketing tool. Yes, and…infographics are:

Identifiable: Infographics help to convey your brand personality— using colors, images, and a quirky design. Visual storytelling leaves a lasting impression on your clients.

Digestable: They provide a large amount of information in easy to consume, bite-sized pieces. Not everyone has time to sit down and read a 10 page white paper? I always mean to, but it often gets pushed aside.

Shareable: They are spreadable – maybe they even go viral. People are always looking for something to spice up their social media pages.

Valuable: The infographic I’m sharing today helps marketers understand how people search for the things they want to buy. And it gives clients an insight into how SoapBox uses data to reveal these insights.

And they just make me happy.

You can download your own copy of the Digital Path to Purchase here.

SoapBoxSample Jax Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler — Improv Comic or Sales Guru? Part 2

By | Be Genuine, Be Reasonable, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others
If you read last week’s BLOG, you are probably just as disappointed as me to hear that Amy did not reach out to me and tell me how brilliant she thought the BLOG was. That probably would have made an awesome BLOG for this week, but since she didn’t, here is Part 2 as promised. Blame Amy.

The Not-So-Obvious Characteristics a Sales Person Should Have Part 2

Sales people need to have the answers.
Yes, and…when they don’t have the answers, it is ok to be the “one” who knows how to get the answers. Often sales people are too afraid to not answer a question or say I don’t know. This is super dangerous. Some of the most successful sales people achieve success because they know how to connect prospects with the right people to get the answers. Don’t try to be a know-it-all. Just try to be a know-where-to-get-the-info-all.
Sales people need to know how to answer questions.
Yes, and…they also need to be curious. Genuine curiosity can often uncover clients’ needs sales people may not even be aware of. Asking “why” or “how does that impact you” or “what have you tried before”. Asking probing or follow-up questions in lieu of just accepting a response at face value can be the differentiator between you and your competitor.
Sales people need to close the deal.
Yes, and…they also need to admit when they are not the right fit. Staying focused on closing the deal may lead to overselling, undelivering and ultimately winning a one-time customer. Instead, if you are not a fit, admit it, offer an alternative solution and remind the prospect what you are a good fit for and what types of problems you can help them solve. A prospect is more likely to come back next time around as opposed to buying an un-needed product or service a second time.
Sales people need to keep the client happy.
Yes, and…they need to be willing to push back when the client has unrealistic expectations. Scope creep, intentional or unintentional can kill a relationship. Be honest with your client about what they are asking. Don’t just agree to everything and assume you have to say yes. Sometimes, clients are asking for things they may not even need which gives you the opportunity to come up with a solution that works for the client and your own company.
Sales people need to know their numbers.
Yes, and…well they need to know their numbers. What is the goal, how many calls, to get how many proposals to close how many deals in how much time? What is the average deal size? How long is it taking you?
Sales people need to be confident.
Yes, and … they need to trust the knowledge they have already gained but they also need to be coachable. They need to be able to take advice from senior management, and have the flexibility to change their styles or adopt new selling techniques if their industry demands it.
Click here to read the rest of the not-so-obvious characteristics. If you have any of your own to share, tweet me @jax_rosales


SoapBoxSample Jax

Telltale Ten Does Tech

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion

If you read my Telltale Ten regularly, you know that I like to write about a bunch of random things like buying travel accessories at the Dollar Store, or how to assess personality traits. I rarely write about topics specific to the Market Research industry. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually do know a bit about Market Research, the industry as a whole and what we are doing at SoapBox to stay ahead of disruption. The super cool people at Wakoopa (who also seem to know a thing or two) invited me to be interviewed as a part of their blog series called Behavioral Data Barometer. If behavioral data is what gets you excited, definitely check it out. If it is not what gets you excited, read it anyway and maybe you will find yourself excited (or confused – it could go either way).

What made you decide to go into passive metering?

When SoapBox launched at the very end of 2012, it was seemingly the most ridiculous time to enter the “online sample” space. The market was saturated and companies were fighting to sell $2 sample. We saw a unique opportunity to stay focused on the evolution of research, the convergence of technology and the changing behavior of consumers.

Passive metering has actually been around a lot longer than most researchers know. There were some forward-thinking early adopters, and then lots of chatter. Researchers tend to be slow to adopt new technology, but in this case, it was not only the technology (which has since caught up), but also the data. Researchers and marketers have a great appetite for understanding how people behave and make decisions online. Brands want to understand their audiences beyond demographic and attitudinal data; passive tracking data fills this need by showing how consumers move across the digital world with step-by-step interactions. Connecting actual digital behavioral data with demographic/attitudinal data, results in the high-depth, actionable insights clients want.

We recognized the benefit of contributing to the rise, understanding, adoption, shaping of best practices of passive metering. We were lucky to partner with a forward-thinking client who was ready to take risks and experiment, almost immediately following the launch of SoapBox. That experience really propelled us into passive metering and we are continuing to evolve.

How has SoapBoxSample incorporated ‘My Soapbox Meter’ in its panel model? How did it help/change your position as a panel provider?

We have a two-pronged approach. We do a lot of custom recruitment for our clients. They are typically looking for a very specific audience and want to meter them for a designated period of time. Sometimes, they are looking for passive data alone, and other times they want to incorporate methodologies like surveys or diaries. We also recognize clients’ desire for look-back data which was initially the driver for building our existing metering panel. The metering panel also helps with profiling, targeting and a host of other advantages – some of which we are still uncovering.

Where do you see the most valuable use cases of behavioral data?

There are two key areas we focus on with clients. The first is gathering a 360-degree view of the consumer journey. By gathering consumer behavior (as opposed to relying solely on recall) we can see the influence certain types of sites and apps (social media, review sites, coupon sites, etc.) have on the path to purchase. This helps our clients intercept their audiences with the right message at the right time. The second use case we focus on is building digital profiles of our clients’ target audiences. By understanding how certain segments use websites, apps, and search terms our clients can optimize their media spend to reach their target audiences at an improved ROI.

What do you see as the main challenges when dealing with behavioral data?

One of the major challenges about passive metering data is that there is a ton of it and it is totally unstructured. Some of that data is incredibly valuable and relevant to the research objective and some of it isn’t. It takes time, experimentation and the willingness to dive into the unknown to find the connections between seemingly unrelated data points. The idea is to help brands understand their customers by taking millions of tiny details that, when seen as a whole, paint a vivid picture of their customers and their underlying motivations.

Another challenge we deal with regularly, is that most often the clients asking for “metering” data don’t understand the methodology yet and often try to make it fit where it doesn’t, or assume it is the Holy Grail of research data that can answer any and all questions about what people are doing online and on their devices. This is a struggle as there is really no checklist for what metering can/cannot do. Well, there are some checklists on what it can’t do, but the newness, combined with the complexity is a brand new challenge. Clients have to work in partnership with their providers, take risks and be willing to delve into the unknowns to get the magic nugget of information.

How will the growing importance of mobile affect passive measurement?

Opportunities for brands to connect with people, and for people to connect with brands increase as we spend more time on our mobile devices, and we have more devices in our hands. Each item (computer, phone, tablet, wearable) offers researchers another window into people’s online lives. Passive metering is the most effective way to find out what people are doing without disrupting the process, and I believe it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

How will passive metering influence sampling, data collection and surveying?

I think the research industry is beginning to recognize the value of passive data collection. What remains to be seen is to what extent passive data will replace traditional surveys, how often it will be used in conjunction with traditional surveys, and how data integrations from a variety of sources (survey, transactional, customer, 3rd party, passive) will be leveraged. At SoapBox, we’ve had a lot of success with blending methodologies to create innovative solutions to help answer client’s business questions.

For me, the most unexpected (and potentially disruptive) shift I am seeing is that sample providers, and/or data collection providers in general, are moving away from being order takers of pre-determined research approaches by full service agencies or end users/brands, and now have a seat at the table in designing and contributing to the research approach. It is super exciting to see collaboration from the start of a project to the end.

Is there any advice you would give the market research industry?

My advice would be to stay as lean and nimble as possible. Now is the time to dive in and start even though things aren’t all “figured out” yet. Those who wait and watch, will be passed over. With the coming advances in AI and Machine Learning, the market research industry will certainly be faced with major disruptions — more than we think, and earlier than we expect. We all need to hone our adaptation skills to survive in this business environment. I say learn how to anticipate the ever-changing needs of the industry and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.

SoapBoxSample Jaxbluedress

Accessories to Make Your Traveling Life Easier — All From the Dollar Store!

By | Be Reasonable, Create Value, Inspire Ideas | 1,667 Comments

My awesome outfit I wore for my Dollar Store Theme Party requiring all attire be purchased from the Dollar Store (yes, even the shoes). And the fly swatter in the background.

Traveling is something on a lot of people’s bucket lists — who wouldn’t want to see the world? It’s so glamorous … until it isn’t. From the crowds, to the boredom, to the extra fees, sometimes it can all be pretty unglamorous. Sometimes it’s actually the worst.

Early in my career I was all pumped up about traveling. Now, I’ll try to get anyone to go in my place. For me, it is part of the job and I have found there are definitely ways to improve your traveling experience. And, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on trendy accessories. Here are my Top Ten favorite travel hacks, all using items that can be found at the Dollar Store. I love the Dollar Store. I even throw a themed party at my house where everyone has to arrive in an outfit made from items at the Dollar Store. It was epically awesome. And you know how I love a good deal…

My Top Ten Travel Hacks To Get You Through The Crazy

  1. Fill a Ziploc bag with anti-bacterial wipes to scrub away all the germs floating around. Airports are crowded and planes have very little personal space. Having these at-hand when you travel by air means you can wipe down the seats, the TV, or your neighbor. Even better, you don’t have to worry about what the person who previously occupied your seat was doing during their 5-hour flight.
  2. Make your own variety snack-pack with a plastic craft supply box. I don’t know about you, but I am always hungry. I have been known to spend $100 on airport snacks because I showed up without my usual arsenal of healthy food to munch on. You can pack a variety of goodies in these craft supply boxes. Even better – the small compartment sizes keep portions under control.
  3. Store your flat iron in an oven mitt. Packing in a rush? Instead of waiting for your hair appliance to cool down, just pop it in an oven mitt. Your clothes remain unburned and your lipstick unmelted. And you might just make your flight on time.
  4. Pack your necklace inside of a straw so it doesn’t get tangled up. You carefully picked out your jewelry to go with your outfits. Don’t spend the first 40 minutes of your trip in your hotel room untangling your favorite chain. Just slide the smaller end of the necklace into the top of a straw and leave the bangle poking out of the top.
  5. Keep track of your earrings with a button. I love this tip because it looks cute and makes me smile. Not sure why, but it does. It also prevents you from digging around in your bag to find that missing earring or accidentally leaving a pair of earrings behind on the bedside table. If you see a button laying around in your room, you know you have a pair of earrings to look for.
  6. Buy socks at the Dollar Store to store stuff in. Keep your hairbrush, bottle of ibuprofen (for the headache you will probably get), or shaving gel in Dollar Store socks and then pack them inside of your shoes for space saving. Or those chocolates you brought back from Europe – what? At least I stored them in clean socks before I put them in my shoes.
  7. Keep your headphones and USB cords tangle-free with tiny hair clips. I try to visit the gym regularly on every business trip, so having headphones is a must. (Check out my blog about staying fit when traveling for work.) Tangled-up headphones are just annoying. And don’t rely on the cheap headphones they provide you with in hotel gyms, usually only one of the ear buds actually works. Better to bring your own, and keep them ready-to-use by coiling the cord around your hand and clipping it in place with a small hair clip.
  8. Wrap your shoes in shower caps to separate them from your clothes. The best part about this tip is that if you forget to pack shower caps from the Dollar Store, you can get from from the hotel for free. If you travel with many pairs of shoes (like me, and every other woman in America), you can sometimes score a bunch of free shower caps in the hotel spa.
  9. Store your tablet in a beanie for scratch-free quick access. Your devices stay protected, and you can keep your head warm if the weather is cooler than you expected. Plus, I just look cute in a beanie.
  10. Keep your rolled clothes together with hair-ties or rubber bands. This tip has a dual purpose. 1. The clothes are squeezed together tightly, which gives you more room in your suitcase. (For shoes, obviously) 2. You can color coordinate your rubber bands to organize your outfits. It’s the trifecta of expert traveling — time-saving, space-saving and inexpensive!

Traveling doesn’t have to be a nightmare. A little planning and a quick trip to the Dollar Store can save a lot of time and trouble. If you have any tips of your own to share, tweet me @jax_rosales

And the Winner is … Not Me!

By | Have Fun, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others | 13 Comments

It’s Not a Popularity Contest (But if it Were, These 10 Blogs Would Be the Mean Girls)

Around this time of year, it’s hard to avoid the ubiquitous Top Ten list — Top Ten Best Movies of the Year, Top Ten Worst Celebrity Breakups of 2016, Top Ten Most Hilarious Internet Videos Involving Squirrels… maybe not that last one, but there are a lot. But don’t think we are jumping on the bandwagon or anything. Top Ten lists are kind of my thing. This is the Telltale Ten, after all.

The Telltale Ten Top Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of 2016

Millennials — They Don’t Suck

Don’t Let Business Get Personal — I Disagree

You Have 30 Seconds to Sell Me This Pen

Be Reasonable

Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean — or Don’t 

What Do Embarrassment, Fun and Ridiculous Have in Common?

Stop the Insanity — 8 Ways to End Meeting Madness

I Ran Out of Gas. Literally. True Story.

So You Want to Be the Boss

4 Survival Tips — Staying Sane with an Insane Boss

Looking at this list, I think of two things. 1. I can’t believe I actually blogged every week for an entire year. 2. There seems to be a theme here — people seem to like the posts with real, genuine and practical advice. You Have 30 Seconds to Sell Me This Pen is about how to ask interesting and revealing interview questions, Stop the Insanity — 8 Ways to End Meeting Madness is about how to hold meetings that are actually productive and Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean — or Don’t is a handy guide to interpreting what your boss, employee, or co-worker really means when they say X. (Example: When an employee says, “Just as an FYI…,” they mean, “I’m now asking for your forgiveness, because I neglected to ask permission.”) Have an idea for another practical advice topic I didn’t cover last year? Tweet me, @jax_rosales

Side note: Yes, the number one post of 2016 was actually not written by me. It was written by a real, live millennial named Sullivan. Maybe we need to have more millennial guest bloggers, starting with a Top Ten list — Top Ten Millennials Who Blog About Top Ten Lists. Or something like that.

My NYE Ritual — Review, Reflect, Write

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion | 13 Comments

I am not a believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I think most people set unrealistic resolutions, become short-term crazy fanatics, slip, get back on it and then just fall off the wagon completely. It’s complete insanity. All those gym memberships go to waste, savings accounts stay empty, yelling at the kids commences, booze is drunken excessively, clutter builds back up, nails stay bitten and things just continue on the way they were. In some cases, things get worse and people carry out a major case of the f-its.

I do, however, have what I believe to be an awesome tradition that I have maintained every year for the past 13 years. My tradition is comprised of three parts. Reflection, review and goal setting. The coolest part of this tradition is that the reflection part gets more awesome every year, the more you have to look back on.

First, write down a minimum of 10 accomplishments, things you did or things you are proud of from the past year. The first few years, the actual original exercise called for 20 – I always get afraid that number will scare people away so I just say 10 – but as many as you can think of. You may be surprised once you get on a roll. (Plus, I am a rebel and don’t like to follow instructions all the time). The accomplishment can be anything big or small, professional or personal. Maybe you went on a fun trip, got to see an old friend, got a new job, broke an old habit, exercised more, tried a new food, wrote a BLOG every week for a year (Hey that’s me!) – anything you can think of that is positive from the past year.

Review your goals from the year before. These will be the goals you wrote the previous year. What did you accomplish? What obstacles stood in your way? Did you forget anything on your reflection list? For the goals you did not reach, do you want to try for them again in the coming year?

The next part of reflection is the absolute best for me. My favorite part is starting with the very first reflection list and reading them all in chronological order. This gets better and better with each year and you see how far you have come! I get to see my life journey from getting married, to having a child, to building my professional career. I get to see how things have changed and shifted and most importantly, how I have grown. It is a list of years’ worth of accomplishments and reflections. Really, such good stuff.

The next part is writing down what I want to accomplish over the next year. It is a mix of personal and professional things I want to achieve. Again, some big, some small and some very, very personal growth goals. It can be anything! Losing weight, making more money, cleaning your garage, getting outside more, going on a trip, spending time with a family member, seeing friends, starting a hobby, stopping a bad habit, change in mindset, getting married, having a child, buying a home. Doesn’t matter. Anything goes. It is YOUR life.

I also take a look at what I had on the previous year goal list that I did not get done and determine if I want to add it to the next year. Can anyone guess how many years in a row cleaning out the garage has been on the list? I can still only park one car in the three car garage. Maybe 2017 is my year of the clean garage.

The interesting thing about this step is that I don’t post these goals and I don’t keep them out to look at. Nope. I tuck them away in the same binder and don’t look at them until the next year. Some may think this is weird. How can you achieve something if you “forget” about it? The whole point is to be present in the moment you write that plan for 2017. It becomes part of you. It is whatever you are feeling is most important at THAT very moment. Maybe things change over the year and that is ok. I believe in setting incremental milestone goals through the year too – sometimes things that were not even relevant at the beginning of the year.

I wholeheartedly believe in challenging and pushing myself physically, mentally and spiritually. This is one of the many ways I practice self-challenge and most importantly, self-reflection. We often forget how far we have come. We forget to celebrate life’s greatest moments. We let experiences fade away. This helps me keep all this alive. My daughter joined me in 2012 so this will be her 5th year. Her goals started as things like; no night light, no training wheels, do a cartwheel and grew into — be nicer to my parents, get straight As, sing a solo and book commercials. She has things like go to Hawaii, go to Europe, go on a cruise and get a puppy – those are more to-dos for Mom and Dad, but hey, it is her list so I let her put whatever she wants on there. Try it. I dare you…

Credit Due: I was first introduced to this tradition by a man by the name of Tom Batchelder. I despised him (literally) at the time.  I found him annoying and all warm and fuzzy like which was not my style. Don’t worry, he knows this, and since then, he has been a life mentor to me and a good friend. We sort of go back and forth on whose life is messier. Sometimes we have big gaps in the time we connect but when we reconnect its on like Donkey Kong. He has written a pretty cool book, Barking Up a Dead Horse which you can find here.

The book is only slightly annoying and mostly SUPER helpful.

Maintain Tradition or Simplify?

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Inspire Ideas | 13 Comments

Why Can’t I Give These Things Up?

Hand addressing Christmas Cards

I have seen the demise of the postal Christmas Card for many years. It seemed to start with the rise of e-cards. Everyone thought, hey, why not? I will just send an e-Greeting instead of a physical card. I am sure there were some altruistic thoughts of saving paper, saving stamps, saving money or whatever. The e-card is not entirely defunct; a few pop up here and there. The strange thing is that the few I do receive, I actually enjoy as they are from the same people, it is their MO, and that makes me smile.

Then people started just posting “social greetings” on whatever social media channel. You know, “from our family to yours” overlaid on some photo taken the night before. Or across a collage of past profile pics from FB. Yes, those. This year, it has gone a step further and I’m getting status updates in lieu of anything at all. They go something like this: “We are not sending cards this year but we still think of and love all of you blah, blah, blah.”

This is by no means a knock on people who go this route. In fact, I am freakin’ jealous. Why can’t I do that? It would be way easier. Instead, I have to search what used to be dozens, but is now hundreds of designs, pick a custom message, select the paper type, paper weight, corner type, glossy or matte, matching envelopes, pre-printed return labels on stickers and the list goes on ad infinitum.

Even those who are hanging in there with me on the physical mailed Holiday cards have gone to printing address labels. I envision their card labeling goes something like this.

  • Step 1 – Pour a glass of wine.
  • Step 2 – Mail merge a file with label layout
  • Step 3 – Top off the wine
  • Step 4 – Hit print.
  • Step 5 – Get a snack
  • Step 6 – Peel off labels and stick to envelope and put in mail. One bottle of wine and an hour at most. And voila – all done!

I, instead, design the card, have them printed and then proceed to hand label them all in my horrendous handwriting. I stress day after day about “getting them out”. I seem to hold a resentment over my whole family for them not being able to help me to hand address. It isn’t even that they are not willing. It’s that I am working off the same printed address list I used for my wedding 12+ years ago. There are additions, subtractions, retractions, name changes, front and back, arrows and some odd color coding system that I can’t even follow. Every year, I vow to change the process. Every year I do the same process. Every year I get so damn jealous of those who do not do it like this.

I know there is a person or two out there who appreciates my physical, mailed, hand addressed Christmas Card. I hope they noticed this year. Because it is the last. I swear. Never again. Probably. I think. Maybe. We will see.

Handwritten thank-you notes

I have been doing this bullshit since I was a kid. Thank-you note for everything no matter what. I have passed this torture on to my child. I get like 5 handwritten thank-you notes a year. They are my favorite things. I actually post them up on my wall and they make me smile. I love them and I’m so sad for this lost art. I have managed to somehow escape the TOTAL torture of this by passing it on my 10 year-old. She is forced to write them now and I figure, hey, if I can get an elementary school kid to sit at a table and hand write these cards, my thank you is “built in”. The torture is in me insisting Ella write them. To every single person. And she has to specify what the gift was and what she liked about it. None of this “thanks for the gift” bullshit. Not cool.

I know this is a good lesson for her in manners. I still send them when friends give me gifts, or do something kind and meaningful. They always make note on how I should not have, and don’t have to, but this is the one old-school thing I am not giving up and neither is Ella. I don’t care if she is 50. I will go to her house and make her write them. I used to get her the fill-in-the-blank kind and now she has to write the whole thing. Oh and address them all too (off that same dreadful address list I use for my Christmas Cards).

Gift-wrapped Christmas presents

I could probably get about 40 extra hours of sleep, or binge watch something meaningful like Shameless, if I would just give up wrapping gifts. I totally suck at it, and they do not even look nice. I waste way too much paper and I get mad. I could EASILY, just throw my gift into a gift bag with a few pieces of tissue on top and be done. I could have an assembly line with Ella. Insert gift, plop down tissue, place under tree. And those bags get reused like 60 million times.

Buuttttttt…. I simply can’t. Don’t know why. I just can’t. They take up a lot of space under the tree and isn’t part of the fun ripping opening the wrapping papers and throwing it all over the place? Again, I have no disrespect for people who do this. Once again, I am jealous of them.

I am constantly on a quest to simplify things, but there are some things I’m just not willing to compromise on and take the easy way out. Just can’t do it. Maybe someday. I know these are things I really should not give up. And that they are proper. Truthfully, I probably won’t. But I would be sort of proud if I did. Should I?