Today #SpreadPeace

The topics of “violence and hate” came up during my lesson of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. It’s amazing how re-reading this book from an adult perspective has moved me emotionally. I had a discussion with my students today about how hate breeds violence; seemed appropriate especially during this time in history.

I want my students to learn that hate is taught. But how do you address this controversial issue? Because my essential question was, “What does it mean to respect humanity?” I knew I had to take a delicate-approach on current affairs as to not offend either perspective.

What did I say? I told them. Hate is powerful. It spreads. It is nearly impossible to correct not only how hate makes people feel but also to forgive what hate makes people do. The actions of  hate can take people decades of teaching to unlearn. Hate divides us- It makes people take sides in arguments that will inevitably spoil the beauty in our hearts and lives.

I hope that the next generation will never know the association that violence is synonymous with survival. I am reminded that making serious attempts to spread peace is vital.

Three Things I wish Contently Gave Me the Opportunity to Say

A Story for Shane Snow (can be nicely paired with a hot beverage, enjoy)

Dear Mr. Snow,

On June 23, 2015, I crafted this story just for you.

Before I begin, I want you to know that contrary to popular belief, I have always believed in the Latin phrase, “Audentes Fortuna Juvat,” or “Fortune Favors the Bold.” So naturally, I will be a bit bold in my delivery. For those of you who are reading this and are unfamiliar to who Mr. Snow is, here are a few facts:

• Shane Snow describes himself via Twitter as, “Tech journalist and cofounder of @Contently. Author of sha.ne/Smartcuts. Lover of pizza, science, and stories. Latest work at shanesnow.contently.com

• His LinkedIn profile summary reads as follows: “New York City-based technology journalist and web entrepreneur. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Contently. I got my master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and write for some cool places like Fast Company, WIRED, and Advertising Age. In the past, I’ve designed infographics for MTV, Gizmodo, and The United Nations, among others. And I’m a member of the Sandbox Network, Young Entrepreneurs Council, and the Royal Society of The Arts.”

• When you go to www.contently .com TELL GREAT STORIES reads in bold type. They are described as a company that, “helps leading brands build loyal audiences through premium, original content.”

• To get my facts straight, I do believe that Mr. Snow is an epic writer, entrepreneur, and brand strategist. Also, I do adhere to the belief system that Contently is an epic brand. They truly do go beyond the traditional closing by demonstrating superior follow-through. I have no doubt that they set their clients up for achievable success. Bravo.

Recently I read an article by Damian Farnworth entitled, “Here’s How Shane Snow (Founder of Contently) Writes. He asked Shane to share one of his best-loved quotes and Shane replied with the wise words of Richard Ayoade.

Prepare to put mustard on those words. For you will soon be consuming them along with this slice of humble pie, that comes direct from the oven of shame, set at the gas mark ‘egg on your face.’

After reading this I felt empowered. I knew I wanted to apply to Contently to contribute to their epic mission. I read the job description for Sales Strategist. The top of the jobs section reads “Write Your Own Story.” Before applying, my motivation mantra was: Bring on the egg-y face, let me tell you a great story, be bold.

Mr. Snow I want you to know that my story begins in my backyard, just a few weeks ago. I had a great time. You weren’t there which is to be expected, since after all, we’ve never met.

Ah, yes. I had a great time. In order for you to understand what I mean about “a great time,” you should know that I am one of those quirky-nerds who loves to write and read. One of those happy but productive individuals who likes to celebrate victories via awkward dance. An edtech educator who adores random sticky-notes and just wrote this story while listening to eighties dance music, Yup. That’s me. I have been telling and writing stories for many moons.

My niece Amelia came over, she just turned five. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but she always tells me that I am her favorite person. Amelia quotes, “Aunt Erica, you tell the best stories.” I like to respond, “We write them together.”

I told Amelia that I wanted to write a story for someone I would like to work with and she told me to just be myself and that I didn’t have anything to worry about. She’s right. BUT Amelia doesn’t realize that applying for a job requires a professional cover-letter.

To a five year old, that’s just a boring story. Amelia decided that you might enjoy a story about a jungle instead of a story about work.
For entertainment sake. I’d imagine you might like to read something like this:

To set the scene, we had flashlights, my patio-furniture played various wild animal roles and my yoga-ball was our resident elephant. Though out the evening I made some rather convincing sound effects and we ended the night by piling various leaves, twigs, and pine cones in lieu of building a camp fire. It became an adventure because we flexed our imaginations and journeyed through my yard as “explorers.” Armed with lanterns and walking sticks, we collected rare stones, spotted a rhinoceros, and chased an elephant.

I applied for the sales strategist (New York Location) and I feel that your application process does not allow your applicant to tell a great story. It disappointed me to say the least. I know that, “a jungle tale” does not demonstrate how I could add value from day one. But I also know that simply asking for my first and last name, my email address, and my resume makes me feel devalued as a potential applicant.

Don’t you want to hear a great story? I am prepared to put mustard on my words. So much in fact, that I write you a non-traditional cover letter and boldly post it for all to see.

What I first want you to know about me is that on one hand, I know the sales process, how to increase conversations exponentially, and when to be professional. On the other hand, I am an innovative collaborator who will jump into the untested waters of unconventional stories and pitches. Most people would describe me as a clever person who is both kind and considerate.

Here are three things I wish Contently gave me the opportunity to say-

1. My name is Erica Yvonnet. I would like the opportunity to work with your team as a sales strategist. Can we talk? Two days ago @Contently tweeted that #Storytelling will be the top business skill in the next 5 years.

If you really believe that, allow your potential applicants to tell you a story.

Here is mine.

I used to be an edtech educator; my primary roles included the support of evaluation activities, the development of a high quality, researched-based, effective learning curriculum, and the objective-driven training of others. Contently is an advocate of empowering brands and journalists to connect and create original and compelling content; the commitment to a world that “builds something real” through innovative resources is synonymous to my own. I have practiced this skill as a professional development participant, a presenter to adult learners, and as a “Inducted Masters Level Sigma Tau Delta Honors member on the basis of English excellence, secondary education k-12 standard is with advanced standing,” educator.

2. On your website (for the sales strategist position) you seek to build a team of non-traditional sellers. Someone whom, as you quote, “Is a teacher. They don’t just pitch of instruct, they make their clients comfortable. They help them learn. They create better storytellers.”

Why not then, hire someone who was a teacher? But more importantly, ask your applicants to tell you why they believe they are a non-traditional seller.

Here’s why

A resume does not argue transferrable skills. It does not reveal professional demeanor, attitude, work ethic, appearance, etc. of a potential candidate. I can make thirty urban high school students write in absolute silence. I can make a student believe in themselves when no one else does. I know that the solutions for better learning are in a forward-thinking companies that place emphasis on hyper-relevant content and digital innovation. My real references should be my students whom I have helped feel comfortable, learn, and become better storytellers. I am capable of educating your future consumers BUT my resume resonates nothing of the sort.

3. If you want to identify, “a unique subset of sales people who are truly invested in the growth of the Contently brand.” Why not inquire what a potential applicant might suggest about Contently.
Don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about what you do. I just think your application process can be a better representation of your brand.

Here’s a suggestion

Your company claims that “We don’t hire based on Rolodexes.” But your application process suggests that you do. A video or portfolio submission might give you a better understanding of how real your candidates might be. If your mission is, “to build a better media world- for creatives who live to tell stories and tell stories to live, for businesses that want better ways to connect with consumers, and for everyday people who rely on stories to understand the world better.”

Let’s make storytelling the top business skill today. Won’t you, Mr. Snow, give your applicants a chance to tell a great story?

We can eat some humble pie together. Mustard anyone?

Why people find it so hard to be happy

hard to be happy

Quite often I have a longer than usual conversation with a friend on the telephone. Not necessarily to make plans or discuss grandiose accomplishments (if any) but really, just to have a discussion with someone who can relate to my feelings of being consumed by the day-to-day events that have become my life.

My life…ah, too often like a spinning mental rolodex I recall what it’s been like. Sometimes it shocks me that I had never imagined so many things that are my current reality. I read this quote recently and it really made me think.

Marcel Pagnol once said, “The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”

Those words really resonated within me. I decided to remind myself (Adhering to my recent mantra that contrary to popular belief, happiness is hard work) I should be honest with myself about my past, my present, and my future.

Past:

I am not going to list all the mistakes I made. I really don’t think anybody should as it could lead to some unhealthy thoughts of what might be. What I will say is that I am grateful of a few things.

1. Thank goodness I was lucky enough to be a kid who made choices that lacked common sense and at the time, no one had to know about it. Video cameras and smartphones, not to mention the social media, have allowed today’s youth an over- exposure that would have made me wildly uncomfortable. I am grateful for the luxury of privacy that I have received.

2. I would have been far worse off had I not had a wonderfully patient and stern set of parents. To this day, I can still hear them in my mind reminding me that I can always be a better version of myself. As a writer, you can imagine how I might feel knowing that even in this moment, there are no words to describe the appreciation I have for them.

3. Sometimes I look back to my past and I have a “those were the days” kind of moment. I feel like nostalgia should be the name of a Greek goddess who lures people back in time.

Present:

I am not going to discuss where I think I should be in my present moment. What I will say is that I don’t suppose anyone thinks about the possibility that their thighs might be rubbing together by the time they are in their thirties. Sometimes I look at pictures of myself from the past and I can’t imagine why I had a complaint in the world of how I looked. When I am an old woman I bet I’ll have this same thought when I look at a picture of myself in this moment. These are a few things that help me be happy in the present moment.

1. I try to be consciously aware of my better-days and my not-so-good days. If I’m feeling mildly unhappy I avoid social media. I think it’s called the “happiness reel.” It makes me think that people are out there experiencing life and I am just sad. TRUST ME online most people appear to have their shit together and that’s just not the case.

2. I analyze my surroundings. This world (even the state I live in) is highly competitive and in the grand scheme of things I am doing okay. Things could certainly be worse.

3. Not only do I have a great family but I have stellar friends. I am at a point where I have eliminated toxic relationships and that has led me to love. Which brings me to-

4. I have the love of an incredible man. He understands and supports me. When I think about having him in my present it makes me feel better about my past. I must have done something right to deserve his companionship.

Future:

I try to smile about what might be. One of my favorite activities is imagining some of the infants I know as teenagers. Imagining myself five, ten, thirty years from now is less amusing. I’d adhere to a few things that make my thoughts of the future more delightful.

1. I try to live in the moment and keep a grasp on my finances, not living too much beyond my means. I still buy lotto tickets every now and again remembering that you can’t win if you don’t play. Possibility can be fun.

2. I play. On the daily. Working hard is inevitable but laughing hard is mandatory.

3. I often read and re-read what Marcel Pagnol once said.

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”

Bravo sir. And thank you for the reminder.

image

#workhappy and see my tweets @themerriment

A couple things to consider when contemplating a new job-
1. Be challenged
2. Work with great people
3. Make a difference
Happy and productive workday to you! What are some work culture must haves for you?

In the Works

Please allow me to give you some background information.

Since I have been unemployed, nearly one year, I have been doing a lot of “soul-searching.” Mostly, because, so much of what I did as a profession, I identified with as a person. Without a defined career path, I often stalled when people asked me to tell them about myself. In the beginning, I began with, “I used to be a High School English teacher.” I was someone who used to describe myself as someone I used to be. I felt broken. Add constant worry of how I will financially maintain my lifestyle plus the relentless, abysmal-tedious tasks of writing cover letters, filling out applications, “networking,” and editing resumes. Yup. That used to be me and I was unhappy about it.

I asked myself a series of questions to resolve things in my life that were causing my unhappiness, was I unhappy because I didn’t have a job? Was it possible to be an unemployed person and also be happy?

I decided that I would find a job but I would also make a conscious effort to be happy. Yes. That is how I would mend my deflated-ego. My plan was, from 9-5 apply for jobs, after 5pm, research happiness.

My life plan (on repeat) sort of looked like this:
8:30 AM: COFFEE
9 AM – 5 PM: Job hunting, occasional interview, ½ hour lunch break paired with phone for social media
6 – 7 PM: Dinner, clean-up house
8 PM – Bedtime: Try to obtain happiness
Weekends: Social events, try to obtain happiness, occasional job hunting

This is how I researched happiness:
Research/follow people and brands that promote happiness by reading articles, watching videos, and listening to podcasts. I also saved and spread others’ opinions on the topic as well as my own inspirational findings.
I tweeted about working happy @themerriment and blogged about promoting happiness at www.themerriment.com in efforts to outline my dream and the process of possible fulfillment.

After nearly one year, I have learned this:
It is my dream to have a career in which my objective is to promote happiness for students and professionals. There is a great need to promote happiness inside schools and within corporations. I have identified that many individuals struggle with balancing their emotional lives and their professional lives.

It has become my mission to address and spread a work-happy belief system.

My approach:
Research and compose hyper-relevant content which supports the notion that happy people work harder. I would also like to analyze and present some of my personal experiences as evidence.

Conduct seminars and facilitate events to encourage professionals to practice happiness in their careers in order to promote productiveness.

Some of my work-in-progress seminars:
“Epic Victory Dancing 101, Celebrating Professional Achievements”
“I Am an Awesome Professional, Emotional and Career Balance”
“My Work is the Cat’s Pajamas, How to be Productive and Happy”

More to Come #workhappy

Emotional Intelligence, Learning and Developing “People Skills”

When someone tells me, “I’m a People Person,” I want think about four things:

1. This person is a good listener who always seems to know what needs to be said, but more importantly, how to not upset or offend others in their delivery.

2. This person considers proper word-choice when conversing because they care about creating and optimistic solution and they are hopeful they will reach it.

3. This person consciously works at managing their emotions, especially in stressful situations.

4. This person looks at themselves in an honest way, because they believe you can learn more from failure than you can from success. Criticism, to this person, is an opportunity to improve their performance and decision making.

People who have these skills have a high degree of Emotional Intelligence, or EI. They are able to sense the emotional needs of others because they know themselves very well.

So, what exactly is Emotional Intelligence, and what can you do to improve your People Skills?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

We all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. Navigating through this all takes tact and cleverness – especially if we hope to succeed in life. This is where EI becomes important.

Emotional Intelligence is a person’s ability to consciously understand and recognize their own emotions and how they affect others. It involves a delicate perception of understanding of how others are feeling- a person with emotional intelligence uses this knowledge to manage relationships more effectively.

Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness – People with high EI are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don’t let their feelings rule them. They’re confident – because they trust their intuition and don’t let their emotions get out of control.
They’re also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of EI.

2. Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don’t make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.

3. Motivation – People with a high degree of EI are usually motivated. They’re willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They’re highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.

4. Empathy – This is perhaps the second-most important element of EI. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships , listening , and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.

5. Social Skills – It’s usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high EI. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

The ability to manage people and relationships is very important in all careers, so developing and using your Emotional Intelligence can show others your leadership qualities.

How to Build Your People Skills by Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence be learned and developed. As well as working on Daniel Goleman’s skills, you can use some of these strategies:

• Observe how your actions and reactions affect people. Before you act, consider your own impact and how others might judge or deal with your action or reaction.

• Practice Humility. Be quietly confident in your accomplishments and don’t intentionally seek out praise.

• Identify your weaknesses. Be willing to accept that there is an honest way to be a better, happier, more productive, version of yourself.

• Control your emotions. Remember that anger clouds thought, especially in stressful situations. Stay calm when things go wrong.

• Be responsible for your actions. If your word-choice merits a direct apology, do it as an effort to make things right.

Practicing Emotional Intelligence is not only being aware of your actions and feelings – and how they affect those around you but also about valuing, empathizing, and identify with people on many different levels.

You ever get mad? You Ever Get Mad? You Ever Get MAD!?! Let’s Work On That.

You ever get mad? You Ever Get Mad? You Ever Get MAD!?!

Yes. Yes, I do. Don’t get me wrong. I do consider myself a happy person, but naturally, sometimes I want to karate-chop someone in the throat.

Sometimes I want to be that person who gets cut off in traffic then proceeds to give the finger to the offender. Really maybe my real issue is that sometimes I want to be the person who doesn’t feel bad about giving a person what may indeed be “coming to them.” Yes, instant karma deliver, at your service.
I need to tell you a story about why I don’t get as mad as I used to:
First some context.

I was one of those college students who worked full-time and went to school full-time. Through the years, I had a variety of jobs. In this story, I was the manager of an Italian ice store. My best friend, at the time, also worked at the store and the other employees did not know she was my best friend. This was a strategic approach to managing my employees because I did not want them to call favoritism on account of my best friend working there. Like I was ever going to let my best friend have a crappy schedule, seriously?

Okay now, let’s get personal.

So I’m just going to blurt this out-I was dating my boss. I was young! He was young! This was well before I learned that you shouldn’t, “mix business with pleasure,” or for the blunt, “shit where you eat.” Anyway, I really dug the relationship, at first. So push comes to shove, I’ll save you some semantics, I found out my boss/lover was double-dipping in the workspace. He was in fact dating another employee whom was also a friend of mine.

Here’s how I lose my cool.

I flip out. I want to call up this “friend” who is messing with my man and curse her out. If she was there when I heard this news initially I might have slapped her in the face, I could have let my ugly-out, and I most definitely would have got mad all over her ass. BUT really if you think about it, the best thing happened, she didn’t pick up the phone. My move was to leave a pleasant sounding voicemail encouraging her to call me back only to rip her a new one when she called.
So she called back (and I should be thinking- I got you now tramp).

But when she did call- I was tired. I had a long commute back to my dorm and an even longer day. My roommate and I decided to go to a diner and I was about mid-way through a very appealing sandwich when the phone rang. Thinking I was going to miss my opportunity, I picked up the phone. She politely said, “Hi, it’s (insert name), you called?” I responded, “Yeah, listen, I just wanted to say that I know what you did and I think it was fucked up, so do me a favor, and don’t ever talk to me again.” Then I hung up and turned off my phone.

My roommate gave me a bizarre look.

“That’s how you tell someone off? That was so calm!” It was precisely the opposite of mad and you know what? I felt great. You ever get mad and tell someone off and then you want to pick up the phone again call them back and “YOU KNOW ANOTHER THING! CURSE, YOU.” Then hang up? I get it. But because of this moment, because I knew I didn’t want this type of person in my life, I really did say the three things I needed to say: I am aware of your actions, I did not like your actions, my action is to not partake in this friendship. I felt great because I discovered a classy way to express how I felt and I didn’t have anything else to say about the matter. She can remember exactly what I said and so could I, it was a simple calm statement brought on by exhaustion.

AND TRUST ME, you don’t need to EXHAUST yourself:

Remember I told you my best friend worked with us? Also true. She told me that the next day the girl came into work and claimed I told her off, she even claimed I came to her house and threatened to beat her up. This just goes to show you that you shouldn’t get mad because people are just going to make up whatever it is they want to about a situation. The instant karma might have taken a day or so, but in the end, the person that was genuinely wrong in the situation faces a liar who says hurtful things in the mirror.

I don’t want to be the person that looks at my own reflection and feels like a terrible person; which is why I work on not getting too mad as an effort towards achieving happiness.

Angry Cappuccino (Work on Stress)

Okay Stress! Really if you think about it stress has a bad reputation. Here are some benefits of stress according to ulifeline.org

“According to experts, stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.

Stress is also a vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — such as jumping away from a moving car — and be safe.

In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.”

BUT regardless of the benefits, there are often times we could hang from the rafters chanting, “I am so stressed-out!” What I suggest to you is something I like to call “My Angry Cappuccino.”

Here’s What I Do:

I go to a coffee shop and order a cappuccino with no sugar and extra foam.

I decide that the bitterness of the beverage and the chaotic foam represents my stress/troubles.

I take my time and swallow every ounce, reminding myself that once I have conquered this beverage I have, in a sense, conquered my problems.

Once I finish, I rip the cup to smithereens and dunk it in the trash receptacle. Suddenly I feel like such a bad-ass. I can conquer you cappuccino, I can conquer anything…bring it!

Ah, you have to try this! For best results incorporate a happy victory dance.

Rearrange your space (Work on seeing Happiness)

In the past my desk has looked like it threw-up a extensive amount of marked-up papers and got attacked by sticky notes. So I HAVE to ask, “What does your environment do to promote happiness? Really, I want you to understand that the first step in this “exercise” is that you need to set up your space to allow happiness. Yes, Happiness is allowed. Today make an effort to change three things that surround you (if you want to go for more…super!) your goal is to smile more today in your surroundings.

One of my random reaches to smile today and be happy:

I got out a couple of markers, stickers, and fancy paper supplies. I made myself a happy note. I wrote the quote “be kind to yourself, you’re awesome-now get back to work!” and selected a hilarious photo to match then I posted it to my corkboard by my desk. Then I decided to rearrange my paperwork. I just kept on reminding myself that I am working on something that usually displeases me then I look at my reminder again. Productive but with the reminder that I am too damn funny and that I work too hard not to have this moment- it makes me happy to have this laugh with myself.

Consciously try today to do something that reminds you to be happy.