Tag Archives: advice

Lesson #5: Sink or swim. {Year #2}

12/14/17.

Advice: People love to give it, but rarely talk about the steps you have to take beyond the surface.

They say step out of your comfort zone. It’s where you’ll grow the most; it’s where you’ll be tested and challenged and stretched. This kind of advice leads you to the water but doesn’t really teach you how to swim.

I’m no better than “they.” I’ve realized that I’ve given pretty general advice my whole life, too. Take the leap. Follow your dreams. Push yourself. But today as I was pushed out of my own comfort zone once more, I began thinking about what it actually takes to dive deep in unknown waters.

I think it’s confidence.

When you’re pushed off the side of the boat, Confidence becomes your oxygen tank, your goggles, your life vest, your lifeline, your everything. Actually —

You can’t think it’s confidence. You have to know it’s confidence.

And swim like your life depends on it — because it does.

New waters call for a new attitude.

The answer is not “No” or “I don’t know how” or “I can’t.” It’s “Yes” and “I will find out” and “I can.”

You pick up speed once you begin sailing.

I know, I know — nothing is as simple as that. It’ll take some trial and error. You’ll flip the boat and get tangled in rope. You’ll float into fog and learn how to re-navigate. Shake off the sand and laugh before you even see the horizon — it’s coming. You have to take on new form. A liquid only thinks it’s a liquid until it becomes solid. A solid doesn’t know it can become a gas until it does.

When you lose comfortability, you gain confidence.

What other option do you have?

It’s game on.

It’s sink or swim.

Keep your head up and out, kid.

You’ll get the hang of it.

Lesson 5, Year 2.

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Lesson #356: They say bad things happen in 10’s… and 20’s… and 30’s.

7/11/15.

You know when one bad thing happens? And then another? And another? Then so many bad things start happening that you begin to wonder if you’ll ever see the sunlight again through the heap of horrible things piling up on you?

Okay, that was a little bit dramatic.

No tears, but today was definitely rough day.

My external hard drive crashed in the middle of editing a good friend’s wedding video, I had to drop a ton of money on a new drive without even knowing if I would be able to get all the files back, I came across something that I didn’t even know would still hurt, and I was behind on my blog posts, amongst a list of other things. Add in one little thing here and one little thing there, and soon my entire day was a hot mess. About the only good part of it was a phone call with my dad and a huge chocolate chip cookie.

I went to a coffee shop around the corner that I had never been to and did some work alone, and it turns out that my day got a lot better with just that small action. It was just distracting enough, but it also gave me the space to think.

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I typed up a little list of some things that I learned.

1. Be gentle. With the things you handle, and with yourself.

2. Outlines work on everything and anything. It’s the best way to get organized. Seriously. If you learned nothing else from middle school English class, remember this.

3. Schedule time at least once a week to be alone. And I don’t mean “alone” as in coming home to an empty house or sitting in your living room while your friends or roommates or significant other is out. I mean “alone” as in out doing something alone. Alone, as in surrounded by people. Being purposefully alone. Re-centering yourself in the presense of other bodies is a very powerful, refreshing, and empowering thing. You’re not tucked away in the usual comfort of your own mind as you sit on the couch; you’re just ever so slightly aware of what’s happening around you, and you’re forced to be in tune with yourself. You’re out, and you’re doing your own thing. You’re spending time with you.

4. I’ve come to a resolution about a certain thing, and the resolution is that it’s just not going to hurt any less. I don’t mean it’s going to hurt forever—because it can’t. But I know that right now, and for a very long time, it’s not going to hurt any less without action. I need to seriously separate myself for a while, or it will never get better. T-swift said that bandaids don’t fix bullet holes, and that’s the truth. But what she didn’t tell us (until next single) is that you can’t keep putting bandaids over open wounds. I need to accept that it hurts and work to get past it by creating space. As I’ve said in a previous lesson, realizing something is a completely different lesson than actually executing what you’ve learned. But at least I’ve gotten as far as the first one. Wish me luck.

5. When I spoke to my dad today, he reminded me of the most true and fundamental thing we need to remember. Bad things that happen to us—and even the bad things that we bring on ourselves—will only make us stronger and better. You can’t afford to get all frustrated over it. You have to take it as it is, learn from it, and know what to do next time. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve learned so much about myself today. How I become hesitant and introverted when I go into crisis mode; how tough I can be, but how fragile I am too. I realized that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I realized that I am confident and independent, but I sometimes rely on others for answers that I need to find myself. I realized that it’s okay to rely on others for a push sometimes, but NEVER for validation. I learned I am meek and shy when it comes to being wrong, but regardless, I always admit when I am. I learned that I am most discombobulated and frantic and not myself, not when I’m stressed, but when I’m nervous. And all of these are things I want to work on.

As we get closer and closer to Day 365, I’ve realized that the good times teach us something wonderful, but the hard times aren’t just hard—they teach us something as well. There is no good feeling that comes with mess-ups, mishaps, or moments gone wrong. But the greatest feeling that rises from it all, is the feeling of a lesson learned; of a little piece of betterment for ourselves.

Use it to carry on.

Day 356.

Lesson #353: Learning to slay with Andy Cohen.

7/8/15.

Does Andy Cohen really need any introduction?

The author, executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise, and host of Watch What Happens Live on Bravo is well known for his sense of humor, his style, and his bold personality. Andy has written three books, was the head of development at Bravo for over ten years, and continues to rock out as the host and executive producer of his own late night talk show.

And did I mention he’s won an Emmy?

Lucky for myself and a group of other interns in Los Angeles and New York, we got to listen to him, speak with him, and ask him questions.

I promised myself when I started taking down all of the great things Andy was saying that I would only choose one to write about.

But seriously, who was I kidding?

We all know I can’t do that by now. Plus—there’s always room for more lessons, right? ;)

Andy is actually just as hilarious in person as he is on camera. But what you may not know or see is just how hardworking, motivated, and dedicated he is behind the scenes.

Here’s 10 incredible things I learned from Andy Cohen.

Is it too early to drop the mic?

1. “Be motivated and aggressive, but in a decent way.” 

Andy Cohen started his career as an intern at CBS news alongside Julie Chen. He said that he would literally get in wherever he could in order to learn whatever he could. Andy laughed as he told us he would snoop around to see where the soaps taped. “I would bust through any door I could just to watch what was happening,” he recalled.  Later on in his career, Andy decided to go out on a limb and directly ask— “What do you think about me being on camera?” It didn’t happen right away, of course. In fact, he did a million other jobs before then. But the moral of the story is: if you want something, ask. You never know who could help. You never know what could happen.

2. “You can’t have the authority to say or do something if you haven’t done it.”

Andy stayed at CBS News for 10 years. He started as a desk assistant and moved around the company. He got experience in the edit room, the control room, on the field, answering phones, etc. He practiced wearing a variety of hats, and when the time came to be a producer, he wouldn’t just be able to say, “I want to be a producer,” he had the ability to say, “I know how to be a producer.” Much like we’ve learned from many other people and speakers and guests this month, if you want to be somethingbe it. And if you can’t “be it” on your own terms, then get experience that directly relates to it.

3. “If you don’t get something, it’s actually for a reason. And it will lead you to somewhere you’re supposed to be.”

Even after all of his experience at CBS, Andy Cohen didn’t get his first dream job he applied for. When he was denied the position to be the network runner of a new channel called Trio, he thought it was the end. But one thing led to another, he was introduced to Bravo through a person he knew—and seriously—just look at where he is now. Might I point you to the first two paragraphs again? Keep dreaming. Seriously!

3. Set yourself apart. 

Yea, you’re cool and all. But are you different? When Andy first became a producer at Bravo, he made it a point to be unique. But how? He thought: “I’m going to be the only producer blogging for a network, and I’m going to do it every single day.” (I am Andy Cohen… surprise) The blog was hilarious, and people loved it. It opened the door for him within the network and later contributed to him landing his own show. He had personality—and it was recognized.

4. Has anyone ever told you about—I don’t know—good communication?

People tell us “having good communication skills” is important, and they tell us constantly. We hear it from the day we start applying to our first internships and jobs, to family members (and non-family members… I don’t know which is worse) lecturing us about relationships at wedding receptions, to the inevitably basic advice we receive during our first class public speaking class. If you’re not as sick of hearing about it as I am, then you should receive an award.

And maybe a little gold star too.

I can’t pretend like I’m good at it, because I’m not. I like to hold conversations with anyone and everyone—from a friend to a stranger on the bus. But that’s not necessarily good communication—that’s just talking. When it comes to asking for what I want or breaking the bad news or talking about a problem or anything up that alley?

Hi. I’ll be in the corner, trying not to barf.

When people say the words “good communication,” I instantly think: “Seriously. What even is this ‘good communication’ you speak of? And what exactly does it entail? What does it actually even mean?”

And I think Andy was the first one to actually answer it for me.

(He’s a good communicator, clearly)

He said this:

“Be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and decisively—about what you want, and why you want it.”

If I could underline this a million times, I would.

Spit it out!

What do you want?

And the real key to being a good communicator…

why do you want it?

5. Speaking of what you want…

We’re not talking about your dream job, or dream significant other, or the $10 bathing suit bottom you just saw on sale.

We’re talking about the task at hand.

Andy said you need two things to do it,

and two things to do it well.

1) A strong sense of vision. What do you want? What do you not want?

2) A strong sense of the brand. What are you like? What fits you? And if it’s for a company—what fits them?

In other words?

Know yourself and know what you’re working with.

6. How do you balance—well—life?

I had the opportunity to ask Andy a question, and you could probably guess what it was.

“You do a lot of things: from writing, to producing, to hosting—to now starting on a new project in the fall. As someone who wants to do a lot of things as well, how do you balance—well—life?”

Andy paused, laughed, and then said: “…I really don’t know.”

After a giggle from myself and the audience, he told me four of the most powerful words—and four words that I needed so badly to hear.

“Work deadline to deadline.”

7. You will receive criticism, whether you like it or not.

It’s inevitable. You’ll receive positive feedback and negative feedback and see bad comments and hear horrible things. That’s just the way it goes. “You have to let it roll off of you,” Andy said. He told us to not let the good stuff go to our heads, and to not let the bad stuff derail us. “Consider who it’s coming from and go from there.”

8. Monitor your breath, always.

When someone asked Andy: “What’s the number one advice you would give an intern, if you could only say one thing?” He replied with this. Seriously.

“Monitor your breath. Always,” he said.

Everyone laughed.

“I’m dead serious.”

He told us it’s the absolute worst first impression you can leave with someone.

The stank may not last, but that memory of you does forever.

9. Do you, boo boo.

“Focus,” Andy said. “Don’t get too political or backstabby or crazy. Just make sure whatever work you’re doing is good.” That’s what really matters.

10. Be #you. 

You are you! You’re your own brand. You’re own person. And that makes you awesome in itself. Andy told us, “I try to be myself and not think about it too hard.” He said people can always tell when you’re not being yourself. One thing he always remembers is what (he thinks) Oprah once said: The key to being great on TV is being the same you on camera as the you off camera. One of the most important things you can do is work somewhere that allows you to be yourself. This applies to every industry and every person—no matter who you are.

Now, I know I said I would tell you ten things.

But I think I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice from Andy as good luck.

11. “Swing as many times as you can before you find where you want to be.”

Like Andy said,

follow your bliss.

And if you keep working towards it,

you’ll be just fine.

Day 353.

Lesson #345: And they worked happily ever after.

6/30/15.

Can you forgive me for a momentary lack of loyalty?

For a second today, I abandoned my number one rule:

Never stop learning.

As you know, Tuesdays mean we have a guest speaker in class.

But I’m only human, and I made a mistake.

I momentarily caught myself thinking that I had nothing new to learn—mostly because I was missing being an extra in a movie to be in class—but nonetheless, I’m still embarrassed the thought even crossed my mind. How could I basically betray the whole purpose of my blog?

I’d like to think it wasn’t with pretentious way; thoughts like this aren’t a regular occurrence for me. But after three or four guest speakers combined with my circumstance, I started thinking: What does it even matter? Won’t their advice all be the same? To make connections? Work hard? To do our best?

Today, Amy Baer came to my rescue, and seriously proved me wrong. She completely flipped the table, and gave some of the most incredible advice I’ve ever received in my life. It was an absolute honor.

Amy Baer is a former studio executive (AKA the previous CEO of CBS Films and Executive Vice President of Sony Pictures…wowza) turned independent producer and founder of her own content company, Gidden Media. Baer and her Gidden colleagues, Chris Ceccoti (JMU Alumni…whoop whoop) and Jes Bikert, were kind enough to share a little bit of their stories and give us some insight into the professional world.

Amy started with my favorite thing to hear from people:

her story.

When Baer started her career, she was working at a desk. She began thinking rather quickly: ”How do I break out of this mold?” She was terrified that she would get comfortable; that she would become a career secretary. Working at a popular company, she realized that nothing about it was appealing other than the outside perspective; that the company was “cool” and “big.”

She said one day it hit her: “I’m not exactly sure what I want, but I know it’s not this.”

I think this is all something we can relate to—or will at some point in our lives—whether it’s a job, internship, relationship, or something of the sort. Here’s some freaking great advice from Amy Baer on how she handled it, and what she’s learned over the course of her career.

Before your happily ever after

One of the very first things Amy told us, is to tune in internally and really get clear on what we want to be doing.

“You have to be clear internally, because this is a noisy business.”

We know in our gut what kind of things we enjoy doing naturally; it’s instinctive. It’s pretty simple: you know what you like and what you don’t—whether you know exactly what you want to do with your life, or not. Don’t focus on the job title you want, or the position you crave. Focus on what you love to do.

Sounds easy, right?

But with your first few jobs, that might get put to the test.

You might have to try a few places or positions to figure out where your heart lies.

So onto the next chapter of life.

During your happily ever after

So you finally get your ‘happily ever after’ job.

Or at least—you think you do.

But the story isn’t over here.

The truth is, what we usually think is our end destination, is only the beginning.

The show goes on—and there might be a few plot twists along the way.

Here’s five things you may want to know.

1. Part of remaining happy in what you do involves holding near and dear what’s valuable to you. It’s unavoidable: at some point in your career, you will have to choose between what you value, and your job. At one point in her life, Amy got offered a great job opportunity with DreamWorks, but she had to watch another person get it because she didn’t want to move her kids in school. You will have to choose. And because of this, you won’t get every job. But you will ultimately get to keep and have what you love and value. As for Amy, she didn’t get that specific job. But in the end, she got the job. (I mean…she’s running her own company!)

2. Discover and create a safe space with a great group of people where ideas can be kicked around without judgment. The people in this environment should be encouraging, but everyone should constantly be pushing and challenging one another also. Jes loved a script they received about rice. It was a strange concept, but he went for it anyways. He told Amy to read it, and she ended up loving it too—all because she was open to it.

3. If you’re afraid, this business is not for you. Amy told us that we’re constantly going to be told our idea “won’t work.” She has received feedback on pitches multiple times: ”No one is going to buy this.” She told us, “Well that’s their opinion. Next phone call.” And even we you do get it—everybody falls flat on their face at some point. “Everybody. Everybody. Everybody,” she said. “And it’s not ‘if’. It’s ‘when.'” One or two or five projects are bound to be a bust. But there are one or two or five that won’t be.

4. If you’re looking for security, this business is also not for you. Things are changing, constantly. Nothing is promised. But the good news? There’s endless possibility. Especially in this day and age.

5. Beware of boredom. And most importantly, when you do get bored with what you’re doing, leave. Fear boredom like the plague. Don’t listen to the paycheck, or the voices that say, “This is what I should be doing next.” Hating or becoming disinterested in what you do everyday—and staying—is death on earth. You should love what you do, because it’s what you’re spending your life doing.

When you do come to that fork in the road, feeling unhappy or unsure about what you’re doing, really sit down and ask yourself this:

“Why am I doing this?”

Baer had to ask herself this when she found herself unhappy at one of her jobs. She remembered thinking, again,

“This is not what I want to be doing.”

She recalled her earliest memories of being happy. “When I was younger, I fell in love with the way I felt when I watched movies. I thought, ‘What does this job have to do with creative content?’ It didn’t. So I quit.”

When it came time for questions, I asked: “How do you know it’s definitely time to leave, or if you should stay a little bit longer to get the most of the experience?” Chris answered: “Ask yourself: ‘Am I still learning things? Am I growing?’ If not, it’s probably time to go.”

As we were about to move onto to the next question, Amy came back to me and told me something I’ll never forget—or at least something I never want to.

She told us to always ask ourselves:

Am I serving where my passion is?”

And I think that pretty much sums up the entirety of the talk.

Go where you are able to serve your passion by doing what you love.

Go work happily ever after.

But like any old tale, we have to question it’s authenticity.

Is ‘happily ever after’ a real thing?

Maybe we’ll work happily ever after, and that will be the end of it.

But maybe we’ll spend our whole lives searching for what we love to do, finally finding it, and then searching and finding it all over again.

Like Brenna expressed in her guest post a few days ago, many fear being average.

But what I fear?

Finding something above average that I love doing, but never being satisfied with it somehow; always wanting more.

That idea is actually terrifying to me. But in a way—it’s inspiring. It’s fantastic. It’s whimsical. It’s magical.

A world of opportunity is a scary thing.

But it only means more opportunity for us to keep falling in love with different aspects and subsets and branches of what we love to do. It means we have the opportunity to constantly create different things, think in new ways, and continually change and impact our corner of the world. We just can’t fear the change.

So how does it end?

Well.

It looks like we’ll work happily ever after—

—until our next fairytale carries us away.

Day 345.

“Don’t you dare wish time away.” A guest lesson by Morgan Weitzel.

Don’t you dare wish time away.

Time is finite, making it one of the most precious things here on this earth. Finite things have an end. Time will end. Always.

One of my biggest college regrets is wishing my time away and wanting to move on to the next chapter of my life before I even finished the page that I was on.

A bad breakup regrettably triggered my time squandering.

For the next year and a half, I not only disliked who I had become because of the breakup, but I also began resenting my life and the cards I had been dealt. I wanted to fast forward to the end of college—where my new life would begin and where I would have a fresh start at happiness.

I stopped going out, cut off close friends and family, and lost my Morgan spark. For that, I honestly hated the guy—but now I know better.

Hating someone still makes them an important part of your life. If you forgive them—even if they stole your heart, time, and money—it makes them obsolete. [Side note: Don’t ever let a stupid boy do that to you, ladies. No guy is worth the pain. I have so much more advice about that…but that’s for another lesson. ;)]

So THAT, expediting my life’s chapters, is my biggest regret. I was so focused on a final destination that I hoped to skip the journey simply because I ran into some bumps.

I’ve learned that no one knows what life will bring on any given day. No one knows how long anything will last. No one knows when you might lose something or someone you love. No one knows when the next tomorrow won’t come. No one knows ANYTHING.

Now, after I’m finally over the mega-douchelord (I guess I shouldn’t call him that..but it’s definitely the most appropriate of the words that I would like to call him), here I sit without any possibility of regaining that time. I have one semester to make up for all the time I lost staying in bed, binging on takeout and Netflix. It breaks my heart all over again to think about how I spent my days crying and angry at the world, when I could have been out with my best friends making unforgettable memories.

All because I was caught up wishing away time.

Time is finite. Everything will eventually come to an end without warning, but don’t rush. Take life slowly and savor every step along the way. Enjoy where you are when you are. The journey is the best part. Don’t waste time being unhappy; it’s just not worth it. Ever.

Don’t you dare wish time away you beautiful soul, you.

-Lesson by Morgan Weitzel-

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Morgan Weitzel is a strong, independent woman with a heart of gold, the lifestyle habits of a 70-year-old man, and (if needed), the attitude of a fighter. She is heading into her final semester at JMU, and will be graduating with a degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She’s never really taken the time to scribble down the on-going thoughts in her head, but she is finally ready to share a lesson.

Lesson #339: Playing defense.

6/24/15.

When I was given a lower grade than the rest,

I was caught off guard.

I sat down my laptop, and angrily and confusedly typed away in the “Make a Comment” section—which is completely unlike me.

“Was it one of the slides?” I asked. “Or maybe the joke I made?” I paused to think, and then typed some more. “Was it the games I incorporated into my part of the presentation? The directions told us to make it fun and engaging. I don’t quite understand if and why I’m being penalized for it.”

I was met with this response.

“Great job. I would have liked for you to focus on the content and not the performance on this assignment.”

He ended it with a smiley face.

I am all open to feedback and constructive criticism, but I just didn’t see this one coming.

I was absolutely upset—and quite honestly—a little bit hurt.

For one, it’s a summer class. Two, I worked hard on my part of the presentation, within the time frame I had. Three, I had this professor before, he knows what kind of student I am, and I did very, very well in his last class. Four…my “performance”? This hit a personal note for me.

I thought I was only being myself. Anyone who knows me knows that I am animated and energetic—and it’s not like I was a stranger to him. You can only imagine that this seriously made me question myself: how I act, how I come off to others, who I am as a person. It felt like a punch straight to the stomach.

I think it’s safe to say I was stumped, so I asked.

He answered, explaining his reasoning a tad bit more.

I was still upset, but I forced myself to step back, get out of my own head, and assess the situation realistically.

I asked to meet up with him and talk through it; I needed to understand. He is someone I value, respect, and trust—so it was important for me to do this. If what he was saying was true, I needed to know how I could do better and be better in the future.

I promised myself that I’d go into the conversation with an open mind, and I did. He told me he holds me to a high standard. He told me that compared to my last presentation, this one seemed a tad overdone; like a performance. I told him that while the purpose of my last presentation (a television episode pitch) was more professional and serious, I assumed this one (an informative group lecture on the entertainment industry during the 1910’s/20’s) was more entertaining and engaging. But I agreed with him. While I didn’t agree that the presentation was of the same caliber, I swallowed my pride and accepted that part of what he said had to be true: if the content didn’t come through clearly, at least to the guy who’s grading it, then I didn’t get the job done.

In the end, though, I realized that it didn’t matter if what he said about my “performance” was true or false: and that’s the answer I think I came into the conversation looking for. While I agreed with some things, others in my heart I knew not to be true. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be getting an answer—because only I could answer that for myself.

You have to be true to yourself, and only you can decide if you’re doing that or not.

You’ll know it in your gut when you aren’t.

Feedback is easy, when we ask for it.

But when we don’t, it’s easy to be on the defensive. In fact, it’s our natural reaction to most things when we feel caught off guard or personally attacked.

But what you can do, is take a second, open yourself up to feedback (as long as they are being constructive), be open to becoming better in whatever way you can, and be open to how you are coming off to others.

Playing defense is important; we have to protect what’s ours.

But today, I learned the best (and hardest) thing I’ve learned in a while.

You have to relax those muscles every once in a while in order to become a better player.

Day 339.