Category Archives: Reviews

I’ve been there

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

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.

The Yards Brewery (Work on getting out)

Hey you, yeah you, you need to get out more; but really at the right-kind of place with the right-kind of people. Here’s where I went. I wrote you a nifty review, enjoy.

“About Two Hours From the NYC…Don’t You Want to Get Away?”

Let’s have an honest moment. The city is complicated and you need a road-trip to distress. You might consider visiting The Yards Brewery on 901 N Delaware Ave in Philadelphia, PA 19123.

I know. I know. Gas prices. But I promise it will be worth it. Here’s why:

Your visit will make beer consuming history. They proudly boast that they brew craft beers of authenticity, integrity, and character. Their process is rooted in the British brewing tradition and for the pursuit of happiness. You can’t buy many of their selections in the store, so if you want to experience the awesomeness you’ll have to take the drive.

Your taste-buds and brain will thank you for it. Yes. Not only will you consume wonderful beer like the Chocolate Love Stout and the Extra Special Ale, but you can also get an education on the hilarious tour of their brewery, conveniently located next to the establishment. Did I mention that the tour was free and full of delicious samples?

Their décor is the cat’s pajamas. We’re talking pool tables, shuffle boards and a variety of pub grub. Beer-infused cuisine at a reasonable price paired with tasting room that welcomes both the casual and the refined.

Go ahead. Get Away. You deserve it.

Here is the trick to getting happy by getting out- good people. The older I get the more I realize you don’t need a lot of friends to be happy. Just a select few that you can laugh really hard with but also have a serious conversation with. When you get out you vent through experiences collectively with people who are also looking for happiness. You also think/worry about you problems less because you are entertained by others. Consider getting out as an opportunity to “work well with others.”

Education Reform (Work on Progress)

Work on the belief that by acknowledging how things can get better you are contributing to the process of happiness. Write an un-sent letter to a topic or group of people that need to work on certain things in order for you to be happy in their company.

Dear passionate practitioners of learning,

I’m not bitter about education. I don’t entirely feel that as an educator I was, “damned by the man” or “suffocated by the system.” I have met many students and educators that I was honored to know. I’ve experienced constructive observations and innovative blended-learning lessons. I’ve have developed content for learners on all levels at perilous districts and in achievement schools. I consider myself an avid learner of the newest technologies and well versed in a variety of design formats. I can both complain about education and commend educator’s effort(s) for reform.

Here’s what I think: I believe that education (the state-mandated curriculum) has been saturated with too many need-to-know particulars and concepts that leave very little room for the expansion of a learner’s creativity and opinion. I have written so many acceptable objectives that I was told must be measurable. I was often concerned about my lesson’s projected assessment-driven results.

I get frustrated sometimes because the answer to what students need in order to be successful is complicated. Given the advancements in technology and the increase of population and demands- I know this: moral and intellectual exploration need addressing most in this highly competitive world.

Can education have a sophisticated infrastructure and adhere to a worldly vision statement? To be honest, I believe it can- but the process is going to be one hell of a bumpy-ride. I think that what is deemed as relevant content needs to be criticized and examined as well as foster lively, meaningful, dialogue that aids the envision process. For example, when The Crucible is taught, half the lesson should address characterization and plot and the other half should encourage the students to learn about themselves (or what they can create), while applying the content’s theme of divination. For this to happen, districts need to spend more time on allowing the student’s to absorb what they can individually learn through literature rather than how many titles can be added to existing cannons.

In life, we are in search of meaning and entrepreneurs on a daily basis. I do not know the direct-answer to education’s reform; but I think we need to collectively lean a little more towards what our students are capable of learning and what it means to them as individuals and a little less towards what our students are capable of memorizing and regurgitating. For this reason, formal education has taken a backseat- I am now, more than ever, curious about what innovative companies can bring to the education reform table.

I acknowledge that the topic of education reform is broad and encompasses many approaches/understandings. What I suggest is approaching education through resources that specialize in digital tools and computational models to pursue humanist research.

To all the educators and entrepreneurs (like myself) who are passionate practitioners of the quest for learning- Good luck in the delicate balance of what is to be expected and the unforeseen potential. Sometimes I get exhausted with mission of education’s reform; but I would rather struggle through a process of something I believe in, then never to have tried at all.

Sincerely,

Me.

I might not be able to find a solution to what concerns me today, but today I can acknowledge my concerns and in return feel happy for my progress.