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Lifelong Learning – 6 Benefits For Lifelong Learning

What Is Lifelong Learning?

As industries continue to evolve and the nature of work becomes more dynamic, lifelong learning is becoming increasingly essential to stay competitive. More and more, people are realizing that education is a lifelong process, not something limited to the years of formal schooling. Lifelong learners continue to study, learn new skills, and try new things. They’re curious, open-minded people who continually adapt to change.

Lifelong learning became a requirement for me early on. As an Environmental Studies major who decided to build companies in the publishing and music industries while in college, it quickly became clear to me I needed to pursue learning opportunities beyond the classroom in order to make an impact. I'm a big believer in seeking out new skills and using the digital resources we have at our disposal today.

Examples of Lifelong Learning

So, what does lifelong learning look like?  The truth is that there are many ways to engage in it. The beauty of learning continually throughout your life is that you get to choose what, when, and how you learn.  Here are some examples of lifelong learning to get an idea of how you might learn:

Taking a course

Don’t let your education come to an end once you’ve finished high school or college. Lifelong learning means taking advantage of opportunities to learn about a topic that interests you, whether it’s through an in-person or online course. It could be a course to learn a new skill for work, to learn a new language, or to improve your creative writing skills. Online courses are an excellent way to keep learning on your terms.

Gaining a new skill

Everyone learns in different ways, but it's common for people to learn a new skill by taking classes or trying it out themselves.  Some skills, like salsa dancing and playing the piano, have official classes you can take, but plenty of other skills—like baking crème brûlée—can be self-taught through trial and error.

Researching a fascinating topic

If you have an interest in something, you can take it upon yourself to learn more about it.  You might be a fan of the Golden Age of Cinema and decide to read up on old filmmakers.  Or maybe you’ve just found a podcast that covers financial tips for dummies.  You can learn outside a classroom if you’re willing to go looking for it.

Familiarizing yourself with new technology

Plenty of jobs require you to use complex technology or software applications.  Playing around with new tech can help you get a handle on it so you can take advantage of all it has to offer. When you invest in new technology and learn how to use it, that's an example of lifelong learning.

Pursuing personal development

One of the best examples of lifelong learning is having a hunger to know ourselves better.  When you pursue things like meditation, self-discovery, and even therapy, you’re engaging in the process of learning more about yourself and how you work.  This is a worthy area of study that can never be fully explored.

6 Benefits Of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learners experience countless benefits that those with closed minds do not. These include:

  1. Better work performance

The more open you are to learning, the better your career will be.  Lifelong learners continually gain new skills, improve their performance and learn from everyone around them.  Strive to treat every experience as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow.

  1. A healthier mind and body 

Learning something new can have a profound effect on your health.  Not only does it help your mind stay sharp, but it can improve your mental wellbeing and self-confidence. It also keeps you mentally (and sometimes physically) active, which improves both your energy levels and your overall wellness.

  1. Improved self-confidence

The more you learn, the more skills you acquire.  As a result, lifelong learners are constantly improving, overcoming obstacles and fearlessly taking on new challenges. They’re building themselves into the people they want to be, which allows them to tackle whatever life throws at them with self-confidence

  1. Valuable new skills

Lifelong learning gives you new skills that can change your life for the better. You’ll become familiar with a wide range of topics, more adept at using technology, and more cultured.  You’ll gain hard and soft skills that help you navigate work and social life.  Whether these skills are for personal pleasure or professional gain, they will enrich your life and expand your social circle.

  1. Greater self-awareness

Many people wander through life without truly understanding who they are and what they want. It’s difficult to find out what motivates us, inspires us, and strengthens us. Lifelong learners discover the things they like and the things they don’t. They also gain a greater understanding of what interests them, what nourishes them, and what they need to do to succeed with self-awareness.

  1. Stay up to date

Being out of touch with the rest of the world is one of the worst parts of having a closed mind.  You’ll struggle to keep up with new technology, feel excluded from many conversations, and find yourself overtaken at work by people with up-to-date knowledge.  Being a lifelong learner allows you to stay current, educating yourself with the latest innovations to make sure you keep up at work and in life.

Tips To Start And Be Engaged With Lifelong Learning

If you’re interested in becoming a lifelong learner, there are a few tips you can follow to get started.  These tips can be practiced daily to help you make continuous learning a habit, helping you get through the temptation to quit when you face obstacles. 

Try new things

The best way to see what interests you is to try new things.  Indecision can paralyze us, so it’s best to move forward even if you aren’t sure of the outcome.  If you want to learn to speak a new language, find a class that seems interesting and take it.  Even if you decide in the end that learning a new language isn’t for you, you’ll learn more about yourself than if you had simply done nothing.

Be curious

Having an open mind is key to being a lifelong learner.  When new opportunities present themselves to you, don’t ignore them.  Ask questions, be curious, and feel free to explore.  When you choose to be curious in the unknown, you open yourself up to new opportunities to learn and expand your horizons.

Set goals

To make sure that you’re continuing to learn new things, set regular goals for yourself.  Maybe you want to spend a certain number of hours a day learning a new skill, or take a certain number of classes by the end of the year.  If you have measurable and achievable goals, it’s easier to show up for your dedication to learn.

Find fellow learners

It’s a lot more fun to learn something when you’re doing it alongside other people.  If you take an online course, get in touch with other members who have the same passion as you.  This can help you find new courses or groups from which you can learn even more.  Your fellow learners can also share their knowledge and advice on their own learning journey, which can inspire you to keep growing.

Getting Started With Lifelong Learning

I believe that people should be able to pursue courses that match their personality and interests rather than be forced into a narrow set of educational options. That’s why I created Audo, an online learning and career-building destination that connects people with the resources to discover their passions and the courses they need to get ahead.  Audo guides you in the learning and self exploration process, using A.I.-driven recommendations to help you find which online courses are the best match for you and your goals.  Audo rewards lifelong learners by giving them a way to learn new skills that they can immediately put to use and start earning money.

Learning throughout your life can help you improve your wellbeing and mental health, build new relationships, and more. By committing to lifelong learning, you open yourself up to new opportunities and the chance to create a better future for yourself.

November 25, 2022

Lifelong Learning – 6 Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Business and Leadership

Gen Z And Freelancing: The Newest Workforce Trend

Gen Z'ers are leading the trend in freelance work.  Freelancing used to be viewed as a risky endeavor, a break from the security of a 9 to 5 job that wasn't always guaranteed to pan out. But as employees are increasingly less willing to stick to a traditional work routine, freelancing is skyrocketing in popularity and feasibility.  The number of freelancers in the US boomed from 57.3 million in 2017 to 70.4 million by 2022. That number is expected to keep growing, with estimates of 90.1 million freelancers in the US by 2028.

So what does this mean for anyone looking to set off on their own? Freelancing and the gig economy is a viable option worth considering. There are numerous avenues for people to find freelance work, as I’ll explain in this article. Read on to find out more about the ins and outs of a freelance career.

What Is Freelancing?

So what is freelancing? Freelancing is the act of performing specific work for clients while not being employed full-time by any one organization. One of the most attractive benefits of freelancing is that you are essentially your own boss, working for yourself instead of an employer. Freelancers can work for multiple clients at a time, whereas employees are typically committed to one company.

Freelance projects come in many shapes and sizes. While freelance jobs are generally short-term in nature, satisfied clients often request follow-on work from the same professionals again and again. Freelance professionals are available across a wide range of skills, including copywriting, programming, engineering, and marketing.

Who Can Be A Freelancer?

Freelancing comes with the freedom to work in the capacity of your choice, but how do you determine what niche to focus on and prepare yourself for success as a freelancer?

Freelancers have a wide variety of job opportunities available to them, including writing, graphic design and dog walking. Freelance job portals can help you find work in your preferred field.

One of the most important attributes of a freelancer is discipline. As your own boss, you’ll have to hold yourself accountable for your actions. You won’t be able to rely on a fixed income as a freelancer, so you’ll need to work hard at finding new opportunities if one falls through. This can be difficult at times, but there are plenty of people out there who have managed it. You may have to keep hustling for a while, but if you have the drive and persistence to keep going, you'll earn enough to see yourself through the various ups and downs.

Gen Z And Freelancing As A Career

Freelancing gives up the comforts of a full-time job, such as healthcare and retirement benefits. While you do have to pay your own health insurance, and you don’t get paid time off, you also gain freedom to set your own boundaries around work. You can work for whomever you want, whether it's multiple clients or just one. Your salary is up to you and your skills—in some cases, your salary can be comparable with or better than what a regular job earns.

The median annual personal income of freelancers has increased significantly over the last few years. Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of freelancers earning over $75,000 a year leapt from 17% to 31%.  The more time you spend freelancing, the more clients you will attract and the higher your earning potential will be. Gen Z and Millennials have found that freelancing is a lucrative and rewarding career option.

How To Become A Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer isn’t as hard as it looks, and it’s easier than you think. Simply go to any website that offers freelancing jobs and assignments, and apply for them. Working on a freelance basis can be slow-going at first, but you can build up a client base and earn higher rates as you go.

Freelancing sites can help you find work or clients to work with. Here are some websites where you can find freelance jobs:

  1. Fiverr

Fiverr is a valuable resource for freelancers of any kind.  You can create a gig for pretty much anything, from creating graphic designs to writing online articles and content. You set your own rates, and clients find you through Fiverr’s search feature.

  1. 99Designs

99Designs is a graphic design company where you can create logos, websites, book covers, and more.  Depending on your niche, you can offer any graphic design service under the sun to interested clients through a secure and trustworthy platform.

  1. Upwork

Upwork is similar to Fiverr, although it’s the freelancer who seeks out the client rather than the other way around.  This makes it easier to get started, however, as you can submit detailed applications to gigs that fit your qualifications.

  1. Audo.com

Audo.com is a career-building ecosystem that uses AI to recommend which skills you need to succeed in your career.  I founded this company to provide Gen Z with the tools they need to learn skills and earn money at the same time.  All you have to do is fill out your interests, abilities, and experience, then watch as Audo provides you with a personalized skill path towards making money.  Once you’ve completed coursework, you can use your new skills in our marketplace to earn money as you continue to learn more skills.

  1. Freelancer.com

Freelancer.com is another site that works similarly to Upwork. Freelancers can create a profile and bid for projects with their own pitches that explain why they’re the best person for the job.  Freelancers will work out an agreed payment amount with the buyer, which will then be delivered to them through the site.

Like any career, freelancing has its benefits and drawbacks. Before you go down that path, make sure you’re willing to assume the risks that come with freelancing. While it offers you professional independence, it can also come with insecurity and the danger of failure. But the more you’re willing to take risks in order to follow your professional ambitions, the more opportunities you’ll have to establish your brand and reputation as you achieve your goals.

November 24, 2022

Gen Z And Freelancing: The Newest Workforce Trend

Business and Leadership

Certificate Vs. Degree: Which Is Right For You?

Going to college and getting a traditional education used to be the surest way to open up career opportunities for your future, but that’s no longer the case. While traditional education is still considered the norm, it is no longer the only option for achieving career success, and more effective and attainable options are available today. The number of people enrolling in certificate programs to gain a greater understanding of their industry, obtain vital skills, and become more valuable employees is increasing year over year.

According to a recent report, about 51.3% of American adults have a college degree, certificate or industry certification. A degree or certificate can expand your career options, but the path you choose should be the one that is right for you. This blog will cover everything you need to know about certificates and degrees, so that you can make a more informed decision about which one is right for your career.

What Is A Certificate?

A certificate is a document that verifies you have completed a specific program of study within an industry. Certificate programs usually offered by colleges, universities, or private companies. While a degree offers a wide range of knowledge and expertise, a certificate program usually provides training for technical or skill-based jobs. Examples include:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • IT fundamentals
  • Data science
  • Nursing
  • Web development
  • Dental or medical-assisting
  • Firefighting
  • Real estate
  • Massage therapy
  • Construction
  • Plumbing

What Is A Degree?

A degree is an academic title that you receive after graduating from a university. A degree entails much more than the basic knowledge you need to work in a certain field, and can in fact prepare you for several different roles depending on your focus. Degrees can be divided into four categories:

Associate degree

An associate degree is higher than a high school diploma but not as intensive as a bachelor’s degree.  It takes around two years for a student to complete. Associate degrees can include:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Bachelor’s degree

To get a job in many fields, some employers will ask for a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree takes about four years to complete and includes general education classes in addition to courses pertaining to your specific major. Bachelor’s degrees can include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is a post-baccalaureate program consisting of more rigorous classes within a specialized field of study. Programs usually take between two-three years to complete. In addition to degrees within specific niches, the three basic master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Doctoral degree

A doctoral degree is the highest degree you can obtain, and it certifies your expertise in a particular field. The types of doctoral degrees include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Practitioner doctoral degrees, such as Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Health Administration (DHA)

The Main Differences Between Certificates And Degrees

Some people believe a degree is more valuable than a certificate, and some think the opposite.  The biggest difference usually involves the time and cost to earn them.  Differences include:

Time commitment

Certificates are usually less time-consuming to obtain than degrees. A degree can take between two to four years to complete, while a certificate can be obtained in just a few months. This is because certificates require fewer courses and can be taken according to your schedule.

Requirements

Another difference between a certificate and a degree is the requirements for enrollment.  Because most degree programs require a high school diploma or GED, they are often more viable options for people without either of these qualifications.

Depth and scope

Certificates teach you about a single topic. Degrees, on the other hand, allow you to explore a wide range of topics in depth. This can be useful to people looking for comprehensive knowledge, while a certificate can be useful for those looking for specific knowledge.

Cost

The cost of a degree vs. certificate is based on the number of courses you take.  Because degrees require many more courses to complete, the cost of a degree is much higher.  However, both certificates and degrees offer financial aid options that can help.

Job opportunities

If you want to get a specific job, then a certificate might be enough to help you land that particular position. But if you want your education to make you eligible for a wide range of jobs, then one degree can get your foot in the door in many places.

How To Choose Between Degrees And Certificates

In order to choose whether degrees or certifications, consider factors like your job ambitions, time constraints, and financial resources.  Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself before deciding:

  1. How quickly do you need to earn your credentials?
  2. How will you balance work and school?
  3. What field do you want to work in?
  4. How far do you want to advance in your career?

You may find that, while a degree would be ideal, it’s unrealistic for you to afford the time and money necessary to obtain one.  However, you may find that obtaining a degree is a long-term goal worthy of pursuing through online and night classes.

Self Learning And Certification

There are plenty of ways you can get certificates through online or offline self-learning.  These can help you upgrade your skills and even explore new careers. One of the most difficult steps in starting along a path of education is choosing what to pursue. My company, Audo, aims to address that very problem.

Audo is a career readiness and management platform using AI to tailor data-driven career paths by integrating paid gig work into the learning experience. Our AI-powered assessment maps your passions and interests to the careers that are right for you. You can level-up your skills, earn certifications and turbocharge your career by taking courses and earning credentials from our education partners. 

Do your research before embarking on a certificate or degree program.  Have a clear picture in your head about where you’d like to be in five years–do you want to be working your way up in the industry of your choice?  Freelancing while pursuing a master’s degree?  Starting your own business? The path toward your goals will come into clearer focus if you can get a clear picture in your mind of where you want to be. And if you want some assistance in creating that picture, take the Audo Guide assessment.

November 23, 2022

Certificate Vs. Degree: Which Is Right For You?

Business and Leadership

Is College A Waste Of Time?

Whether you believe that college is a necessity or a waste of time, there’s no denying that it’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. In contrast to certificate programs, which allow you to earn a certification relatively quickly and inexpensively, obtaining a college degree requires time, effort, and money. But can that time be better spent elsewhere?  Is there an alternative to college that can help you start earning money faster and find success just as easily?

As of 2021, just under 38% of US adults aged 25 and older have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. College degrees are no longer a requirement for building a successful and fulfilling career. In fact, many well-known companies have begun to hire employees based on their skill sets, rather than just college degrees. It's becoming increasingly clear nowadays that you don't need to follow the traditional college path and earn a degree to lead a prosperous and successful life.

The Case For Why College Is A Waste Of Time

Education is important, but if you're not married to the idea of a traditional educational route, you may find that not attending college is one of the best decisions you can make for your future. Here are a few reasons why:

Many successful people don’t have a college degree

Some of the most well-known successful individuals of our time either dropped out of college or never went at all. Steve Jobs famously quit after one semester at Reed College, deciding to work for Atari before leaving to co-found Apple.  Walt Disney didn’t even finish high school before entering the business of animated films, establishing a company worth billions that remains a powerhouse to this day.

Plenty of job vacancies don’t require a college degree

A college education has traditionally been viewed as a path to stable jobs and high earnings, but we are seeing a increase in the amount of companies adopting a skills-based hiring structure rather than making degrees a requirement. This opens the door to ambitious and talented people who lack the desire to spend at least 4 years pursuing higher education. Don’t assume that a college degree is required to do what you want to do–take the time to research jobs in your preferred field to see if a degree is necessary.

Certificates offer an attractive alternative

College degrees require you to take dozens of courses and spend years obtaining a general education in addition to your chosen major.  Certificate programs, on the other hand, give you the ability to hone in on your specific niche without wasting time on outside pursuits.  An increasing number of online courses allow you to obtain certificates that teach you valuable skills you can use to obtain a job.

There are faster ways to enter the marketplace

College can delay your entry into the workforce. If you have an idea for a business and you are ready to get started, don't deflate all of your energy by postponing your career for education. Sometimes the right thing to do is to take a risk and go for it. Whether you’re taking a leap into entrepreneurship or getting started in a new career, you may benefit from taking an entry level position and learning on the job.

Student debt can cripple your future

Student debt has become so excessive that even graduates in the highest-paying careers can find themselves hamstrung by their student loans. If you’re not planning to enter a field in which a degree is absolutely necessary, it makes more sense to put that money toward the pursuit of your career instead.

Reasons In Favor Of Attending College

Although there are many reasons to forgo college, it still remains the best path for certain people to reach their desired career.  Here are a couple of reasons why college might be right for you:

Your profession requires it

You can’t get away from it—some jobs do require a college degree. If you want to become a doctor, lawyer, or other jobs in the medical or legal field, you will need multiple degrees.  If you have your heart set on a career in one of these areas, college is a requirement.

You build connections with people in your field

One of the benefits of attending college is that it brings you together with peers who share your interests. You gain access to a network of alumni that can help you find a job, as well as fellow graduates who can offer guidance and camaraderie. In a world where networking can get you anywhere, college is full of people who can help you get where you need to go.

A College Degree Is Not Required For Entrepreneurship

As I touched on above, many of the most successful entrepreneurs don’t have college degrees. Here are a few more examples of successful entrepreneurs who opted not to attend college:

Richard Branson

Richard Branson is well known as founder and CEO of Virgin Group, a multinational conglomerate company.  From the airline company Virgin Atlantic to communications company Virgin Mobile, Branson has managed to make billions–all without a high school degree or any formal business education.

Mark Zuckerberg

If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, then you’ve witnessed the story of Mark Zuckerberg’s path to founding a revolutionary social media company.  Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard in 2004 to pursue Facebook full-time, building it into a company that has dominated the social media landscape for over a decade.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the most famous businessmen in the world. He founded Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard to focus on business, and has amassed a fortune worth $104.1 billion as of 2022.

Michael Dell

Michael Dell dropped out of college to found Dell Inc., which quickly became one of the largest technology infrastructure companies in the world.  His net worth is now $54.6 billion, a stunning achievement for a man without a degree.

Alternatives To College Degrees

So what can you do if you don't feel college is right for you? There are many non-traditional paths that can offer you equal or better benefits without the drawbacks. Depending on your career path, you might want to pursue any of the following alternatives:

Community college

Community colleges offer a variety of degree programs and allow students to earn associates degrees and certifications. Some popular community college degrees include nursing, law enforcement and web technology.

Trade school

Trade schools provide secondary and post-secondary education designed to teach technical skills required to complete the tasks of a particular job.

Coding bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are intensive programs of software development that are designed to provide students with the skills they need to land jobs in software development.

Entrepreneurship

Becoming an entrepreneur and building your own business can give you freedom, flexibility, and earning potential if you have the self discipline and ambition to make it happen.

Self learning and certification

Companies like Audo guide your learning process, helping you gain the skills you want and putting you on a path to the job that’s best for you. A.I. powered recommendations give you personalized recommendations for what to learn next.

College may not be right for everyone.  There are many drawbacks that can make college a waste of time and money.  However, it remains an excellent path for those who are determined to be in a profession that requires a college degree. If you're interested in entrepreneurship, college might delay your ability to join the workforce and start earning money.  

If you believe that college might not be the path for you, don't be afraid to break away from the pack.  Look into the alternatives—getting your education from an online program or starting a business straight out of high school to see if you can get the credentials you need without college.

November 22, 2022

Is College A Waste Of Time?

Business and Leadership

5 Advantages Of Being A Freelancer

Freelancing has become one of the most popular new career choices for young adults across the world.  As of 2022, there are 70.4 million freelancers in the United States, with an estimated 1.2 billion freelancers around the world.  Why has freelancing gotten so popular, so much so that almost one-third of the global workforce is doing it?  The answer lies in the numerous benefits of freelancing.  Not only do you get to be your own boss, but you gain the experience of working on a variety of projects you wouldn’t have access to at a 9 to 5 job.  

To help give you an idea of what freelancer benefits lie ahead of you, I’ll go over the pros and cons of freelancing and which platforms can help you get started.

5 Benefits Of Freelancing

If you want to join the expanding number of freelancers across the world, consider the benefits of freelancing to help you decide if it’s the right path for you.  These freelancer benefits include:

  1. You choose the employer

We rarely get to choose our bosses in life.  All of us have had that boss who demands too much without offering the support we need to get the job done.  When you work freelance, it’s up to you who you work with. You get to be your own boss, which means you call the shots on which clients you take on.  If a client is difficult to work with, you’re perfectly able to turn down work from them in favor of clients who are a better match.

  1. Work as much or as little as you want

Depending on your schedule, you can take on as much or as little freelance work as you like.  If you’re freelancing on the side, then you can take on one or two projects to supplement your regular income.  Or, if you’ve decided to become a full-time freelancer, you can determine the optimal workload that doesn’t leave you feeling burned out.

  1. Develop your own schedule

Freelancing gives you the independence to develop your own schedule.  If you’re an early bird, you can set office hours in the early morning to leave your afternoons wide open.  If you’re a night owl, there’s no one stopping you from working late nights and spending your mornings with your family or sleeping in.  Freelancing also allows you to give yourself time off whenever you want, allowing you to attend special events or take vacations without having to clear it with your boss.

  1. Be your own boss

One of the best benefits of freelancing is the ability to be your own boss.  Many jobs force you to color within the lines, delivering the work that your boss desires even if you would prefer to do things differently.  When you work freelance, you get to decide how you operate.  If you want to work from home in your pajamas, no one can stop you.  If you want to outsource certain parts of the work, you have the freedom to do so.

  1. Work on a greater variety of projects

When we work on new projects outside of our comfort zone, we gain new skills that make us more valuable in the workforce.  While a regular job might limit the scope of the projects you take on, freelancing gives you the opportunity to work on a wider variety of projects.  You get to decide whether or not to branch out and challenge yourself, which can help you build your resumé faster and become eligible for more work.

What Are The Cons Of Freelance Working?

If freelancing didn’t have any pitfalls, everyone would be doing it.  However, the people who succeed at freelancing do so because the rewards it provides exceed the cons.  Here are a few potential downsides of freelance working:

  1. You have to pay taxes by yourself

When you have a steady gig at a company, your employer chips in to pay part of your taxes.  This means that you only pay a portion of Social Security and Medicare while your employer helps pay for the rest.  Working freelance means you take on these taxes all by yourself, paying the full corporate share.

  1. You don’t have a fixed income

A steady gig guarantees you a fixed income.  When you work freelance, you’ll have times where you’re making a lot of money and times where you make very little.  If you’re good at budgeting, you can weather the rough patches just fine.  But some people aren’t equipped to handle these ups and downs, preferring the security of a regular job instead.

  1. You may feel isolated

Isolation is a potential downside of working for yourself.  Without an office of coworkers to go into every day, you need to make an effort to maintain connected to other people.  This may mean working from coffee shops or co-working spaces where you can meet and maintain relationships with other freelancers.

  1. It can be tough to find a work-life balance

At a regular job, you clock in and out at specific hours.  When you work freelance, it can be tough to slip out of work mode.  You’ll need to work extra hard to give yourself a firm end-time to the work, just as you would if you were working at a regular job.

How Do You Start Freelancing?

The best way to start freelancing is to engage with freelancing platforms.  Here are a few to help you get started:

Audo

Audo is a company that I created to help Gen Zers learn new skills and earn money at the same time.  Using data-driven recommendations, you can discover which online courses will gain you the skills you need to succeed.  You can also use the platform to find work through our Audo Earn Marketplace, putting your new skills to work right away.  

Fiverr

Fiverr has sections for different freelancing skills, from graphic design to writing online content.  You’ll make a gig and set your own rates, waiting for clients to purchase your gig from a list of other freelancers.

Upwork

Upwork puts the onus on you to find work, allowing you to bid on project proposals using a personal cover letter and work samples.  This can be especially helpful for those with detailed portfolios that they can use to impress buyers.

There are many pros and cons of freelancing, but luckily the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  If you’re a self-starter who’s willing to put in the effort to find your own work, then freelancing will give you the flexibility and freedom to build a successful future.

November 21, 2022

5 Advantages of Being a Freelancer

Business and Leadership

10 Steps To Start Your Own Business In 2022

Everyone has come up with an idea and thought, “I should start my own company.” But only 5% of those people actually do it. Starting a business requires more than just an idea, you need to know the steps to be successful. Ideas are the driving force behind every company. The companies I’ve created were born of simple ideas that fulfilled unmet needs and made a difference in the world. 

Audo began with the goal of providing Gen Z with the skills it needed to enter the workforce.  After publishing my writing on the Huffington Post in 2016, I was inspired to create Nota because I saw the need for vetted and anonymous publishing to restore civil discourse. My sister and I founded Guin Music to provide a full artist-first-ecosystem focused on artist development and sustainability. 

If you have an idea and want to turn it into a reality, read on for 10 easy steps to start your business.

What Do You Need To Start A Business?

Before you can get started setting up businesses, you need to be fully committed to your new venture. Setting up a new business takes a whole lot of drive and motivation to keep going through the various peaks and valleys. In addition to the actionable steps we’ll cover here, the mental commitment and preparation for starting a business is crucial. Don’t skip this step. Consider your willingness to take on the responsibility, stress, and time commitment necessary to see a business idea through. 

Research and seek out mentors who can help you turn your idea into a reality. No matter what industry you're in, there are successful people who have a lot of experience in that industry; and they like sharing the little secrets and tips on how to make it in their world. Seek out the wisdom of successful entrepreneurs by reading books on entrepreneurship for motivation and articles written by industry leaders. This can help you get into the right mindset to take the leap yourself and start your own business.

10 Steps To Start Your Business In 2022

Once you have done your research, you are ready to take the first steps to starting a business. These steps offer a basic roadmap for everything from coming up with a business idea to launching your new company. Here are 10 introductory steps to starting a business:

  1. Pick your idea

Deciding on an idea is the first step in determining the likelihood of your business succeeding. To come up with a monetizable idea, consider your own experience and strengths. Do you have any skills that could be turned into a business? Have you noticed any gaps in the market that you know how to fill?

  1. Perform market research

Before you move ahead with your idea, you want to make sure it’s actually profitable. A good starting point is to research how others in the same field are earning money and whether there’s a market for your idea. Even if you are entering a marketplace with other companies, your research can tell you how to differentiate yourself from the competition. You can offer lower prices, higher-quality products, or more convenient delivery.  Find a way to stand out and meet your customer’s needs.

  1. Draw up a business plan

Next, you’ll need to create a business plan, which will guide you through the rest of your journey of starting a business.  A detailed business plan should include descriptions of your product or service and how it will benefit customers, as well as all of the market research you’ve done. This plan should be formatted with a table of contents and clear sections to make it easy for investors to navigate.

  1. Decide on your business structure

Your business structure determines whether or not you will receive legal and financial protection as the founder of your business. A sole proprietorship is the easiest business structure to obtain, but it leaves you personally liable for the actions of your company. An LLC offers liability protection, which means that if someone sues your business, he or she cannot go after your personal assets. A corporation offers the highest degree of protection from lawsuits and other liabilities, but requires you to issue stock. This will give shareholders ownership over fractional shares of your company.

  1. File the necessary paperwork

To get started, you’ll need to register your business with the state. You’ll need to get a state and federal tax ID number for your business, as well as any licenses and permits required by your state/city. This often varies due to industry, as food service businesses have their own requirements separate from other retail businesses.

  1. Find investors

Now is the time to go out there and secure funding.  Before you start searching for investors, make an estimate of how much money your business will need. Don’t forget to include not only the cost of supplies and licenses, but also services that are essential to the success of your business such as legal advice. Once you have a number in mind, look for financing options such as grants, business loans, and angel investors. You can even look to friends and family members to invest in your business.

  1. Purchase business insurance

Business insurance and liability coverage will protect you, your business, and your employees from unforeseen events. You’ll want to consider general liability insurance, business income insurance, professional liability coverage, and data breach coverage if you need coverage in those areas. You may also want commercial property insurance to cover any physical space you rent for your business.

  1. Hire your team

Once you’ve got some seed money, hire a team to help launch your business. You may want a co-founder to help manage the day-to-day running of the business. Many businesses, regardless of industry, use IT professionals, marketing agents, and social media managers to help run their operations.

  1. Start Marketing

When you start a business, you must establish a brand. Develop a logo, create a consistent voice and tone for all your marketing materials, and design a website that is both easy to navigate and visually appealing. A marketing agency can be a real asset to help you build a website and become active on social media. Once you’ve laid this groundwork, it’s time to launch.

  1. Launch and scale

Launching your business is the beginning of a long and rewarding journey. You’ll need to scale your business and find new ways to grow if you want to start turning a profit. Keep your ear to the ground and listen to your customers' needs so that you can refine your products accordingly. You’ll also want to continue researching market trends and your competitors to make sure they aren’t outpacing you.

Now that you know all the right ways to start a business, you’re ready to get started. But just know that the most important step of all is defining your purpose. How will your business change people’s lives and add value? If you focus on this from the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll give your business the best chance of thriving.

November 18, 2022

10 Steps To Start Your Own Business In 2022

Business and Leadership

7 Business Myths About Starting A Business That I Used To Believe

Peter Drucker once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." This quote can be encouraging when you're considering starting your own business; instead of focusing on what an entrepreneur should be, find out who you are and what your passion is. The truth is that there are many things to consider when starting a business, but the best way to get started is to just do it.

When I first started out, I believed plenty of myths about businesses.  Like many people, I thought that entrepreneurship was an incredibly hard skill to learn. When I began working for myself, I realized that my goals were much more achievable than I had expected. Building a business is challenging, but you don't have to know everything or have every aspect of your business planned out from the start. The willingness to take action is the most important asset an entrepreneur can have.

7 Myths About Starting A Business And Entrepreneurship

A lot of people have a lot of wrong ideas about starting their own business.  You may have heard that you can only start a business if you have money, or higher education, or a 20-page business plan.  But none of those things are strictly necessary for starting a new business. If you have the drive and determination and motivation in entrepreneurship, you can succeed.

Here are 7 business myths that I’m here to correct:

  1. Only geniuses can start a business

Some entrepreneurs exaggerate their own expertise in starting a business by claiming that it takes a lot of knowledge. While business savvy and a higher education certainly help you navigate the world of entrepreneurship, they’re hardly requirements. The truth is that you don't have to know everything before you start a business but all you need is learning by doing. The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has an inspiring story of success despite failing his university entrance exam (twice). After years of rejections and initial failures, he was able to build one of the world’s largest e-commerce conglomerates.

  1. You need to have a lot money to invest

When starting your own business, time is more powerful than money.  While money is always helpful, many entrepreneurs started with nothing more than their services and skills.  If you want to know how to start a business with no money, look to entrepreneurs like Michael Dell.  He started with just $1,000 from his family, yet he was able to become one of the richest men in the world.

  1. You need to begin with a full business plan

A business plan is an asset, no doubt. But you don't need a ton of detail and a rigid structure to get started. It's okay to begin with just a few initial steps and an overarching purpose to guide you through the beginning stages of your business. Once you've gotten started, you'll get more information to fill in the blanks as you go along.

  1. There is a “right time” to start

Too many entrepreneurs are paralyzed by the idea that they have to wait for the perfect time to start their business. Don't be one of them. You always have reasons not to act–you don’t know enough, the market isn’t right, you’re not organized enough. The truth is that waiting for the perfect conditions to start a business will never happen. The right time to get started is now!

  1. You need to hire a full staff

Many businesses need employees to help manage day-to-day operations. But if you're just getting started, it's perfectly acceptable to work alone for some of the initial period. You can take on many roles yourself, then hire freelancers to handle tasks as needed. Instead of hiring a full-time copywriter, outsource your web copy to a freelance writer. You can keep your business lean by hiring part-time staff and contractors until the business has grown enough to warrant full-time employees.

  1. You should be ready to work around the clock

One of the biggest myths about starting a business is that if you want to be successful, you have to work 24/7. The truth is that if you take on too much too fast, you're likely to burn out. Quality work is much more important than quantity, especially when you know how to prioritize and focus on what's most important. 

Work smarter, not harder. Focus on high-impact tasks and delegate or delay the minor stuff. If you spend 30 hours a week doing high-quality work, it's likely to get you farther than burning out after a grueling 60-hour workweek.

  1. You need to be an expert at marketing and branding

Taking one or two online marketing courses can be a great asset to starting a business.  However, it's not required to be successful. If you know your customers and you have a clear goal, it’s possible to succeed without being an expert marketer. Think about the value you want to provide your customers and use that as a guide.  This will help you create a strong brand and connect with your audience.

When it comes to starting a business, there's a lot of information out there. Some of it is good, and some of it is less than accurate. In order for you to get up and running as efficiently as possible, it's important that you avoid these seven common myths when getting started in business. 

Don’t wait any longer to pursue your dream of entrepreneurship. I’ve reframed the myths that are likely keeping you from getting started, so there’s nothing left to stop you.  Anyone can start a business but not everyone is able to push through the failures required to achieve success. In my journey of becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve learned the most from my failures. If you want to create a successful business, you have to be ready to embrace your fears, be willing to fail, and learn from it.

November 17, 2022

7 Business Myths About Starting A Business That I Used To Believe

Business and Leadership

7 Most Valuable Interpersonal Skills For Employees

When you're interviewing for a job, you'll often hear applicants boast about their “excellent interpersonal skills.”  But what exactly does it mean to have good interpersonal skills? And why are they such an asset in the workplace?  The truth is, mastering interpersonal skills is certain to get you far in both your work and social life. Interpersonal skills will make you a more effective communicator, help you to get people's attention and focus, and allow you to avoid conflicts that come your way.

The ability to communicate effectively with other people is a fundamental skill for everyone, whether you’re managing a team or starting an entry-level job. In this blog, I’ll discuss what interpersonal skills are, why they’re so important at work, and the most important skills to develop.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are your ability to communicate and interact effectively with people throughout your daily lives, including at work and in personal relationships. They are essential to your success and happiness in everyday life, as well as valuable assets when you apply for a job or an internship.

These interpersonal skills are the behaviors, attitudes, and strategies that we use when working with other people and collaborating with your team. Interpersonal skills are those that involve managing other people. Such skills include conflict resolution, active listening and working as part of a team. They can also include emotional intelligence skills such as the ability to regulate stress and empathize with other people. While some people are natural born experts, others have to practice in order to make these skills a habit.

The Importance Of Interpersonal Skills

Practical skills such as coding and digital literacy are valuable in some professions, but interpersonal skills are applicable to every area of life. If you’re an accountant, entrepreneur, or retail manager, the ability to work well with others will get you far in your career.  Strong interpersonal skills are essential to resolving conflicts at the workplace with colleagues, friends and communicating more effectively with your romantic partner. This will lead to less conflict, higher self-confidence, and greater productivity.

Types Of Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are basic competencies that relate to working with other people. Here are seven examples of interpersonal skills that are valuable in the workplace:

  1. Communication

The principles of communication are the foundation of a strong interpersonal skill set. Being articulate helps you pick up on important details and makes sure your message is never misconstrued.  Communication can be broken down into two categories: verbal and nonverbal.

Verbal communication is a way of communicating with words. Good verbal communication includes being clear and direct while remaining respectful. Nonverbal communication refers to the ways we communicate using our bodies, facial expressions, and gestures. The best communicators are those who can read body language and pick up on other people’s nonverbal cues. They are mindful of their own tone of voice and facial expressions, and they use these skills to interpret what others are saying.

  1. Public speaking

Public speaking is an offshoot of communication skills, but it’s important enough to deserve a section of its own.  The ability to address a crowd is something that distinguishes good leaders from great ones.  When you have the ability to command people’s attention, you can do things like lead an effective meeting or even make a persuasive speech to attract investors.  Public speaking requires quite a bit of practice, as you’ll need to rehearse and plan out what you’re going to say ahead of time.  It can take a while to build your way up into being a confident public speaker, but it’s a valuable tool in any leader’s arsenal.

  1. Conflict management

The ability to resolve conflict is another important interpersonal skill that every employee needs.  Workplace disputes are a part of life, but being able to compromise and disagree respectfully are critical.  Without the ability to remain levelheaded and look for common ground, you render yourself and your colleagues ineffective. The ability to resolve conflicts between others is also an important interpersonal skill for leaders to have.  If you can find the source of the conflict, make sure that each party has their say, and find ways to meet a common goal, you can create a more cohesive team.

  1. Listening

Active listening is an incredibly valuable interpersonal skill. This refers to the ability to listen fully to another person without interruption, taking in the meaning of their words before formulating your own response which may become a listening barrier.  It also may include verbal or nonverbal gestures of encouragement to show the speaker that you’re engaged. A good listener asks clarifying questions and pays attention to the speaker’s body language while being mindful of their own.

  1. Empathy

Empathy is an important key to working with others. If you can’t understand why people act or feel the way they do, then you’ll keep running into conflict when your opposing work styles clash.  When you practice empathy, you take the time to learn how the other person operates so that you can meet them halfway.  If you stop to consider how your actions will affect them, you might decide to switch tactics. Being able to empathize allows you to anticipate their reactions and minimize resentment against people who work differently than you.

  1. Positivity

A positive attitude is hard to force, but it’s easy to learn. It takes time and effort to maintain a positive attitude through the stress and burnout of work. Train yourself to look for the positive side of things and see challenges as opportunities. With a positive mindset, you’ll find yourself less stressed and less likely to succumb to burnout. You’ll also be easier to work with, as you won’t take your frustration out on others. Positivity is contagious, and the more you train yourself to stay positive, the more you will encourage that mindset in your employees.

  1. Teamwork

The final interpersonal skill on the list is teamwork, which is a powerful skill for both employees and leaders.  Whether you’re leading the team or not, it’s important to know how to work with others towards a common goal. Teamwork and collaboration skills include the ability to compromise and delegate certain tasks to other people based on their unique strengths.  If you tend to do everything yourself, you’ll need to learn how to let go of control and allow others to submit their own ideas.  If you tend to shirk your responsibilities onto others, you’ll need to practice accountability to do your fair share of the work.

As you’ve read, interpersonal skills can play a very important role in your life.  However, it’s important to learn how to use these skills in a way that will benefit you rather than harm you.  These skills should help you support, inspire, and guide your fellow employees rather than manipulate or control them.  As a leader, your job is to support the people you work with.  Interpersonal skills are your most valuable tool to be of service to the people around you.  

To keep improving your interpersonal skills, find opportunities to practice civil discourse on a regular basis.  By actively listening, communicating honestly and respectfully, and maintaining your composure, you’ll be able to have difficult but necessary conversations.  This ability will keep your interpersonal skills sharp and provide you with constant opportunities for growth.

November 16, 2022

7 Most Valuable Interpersonal Skills For Employees

Business and Leadership

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

Mindfulness is a quality that manifests itself in the way we interact with others. When we are mindful, we become more empathetic, compassionate and honest. By being mindful, or maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding environments, we bring awareness to the way we communicate with others.

A mindful approach is a key element to effective communication. Being mindful of the present moment allows us to be more aware of how we interact with others. We can recognize when communication has shut down and consider our words instead of responding out of emotion. It's easier to notice if we're overreacting so we can take a time-out.

Jamyang Khyentse once said, “We think that we have successful communication with others. In fact, we only have successful miscommunication without being aware of it.”  Mindful communication is a state of being. If you want to become better at it, here are some ways to increase your mindfulness.

What Is Mindful Communication?

Now that we're clear on the context of mindfulness and communication, let's discuss what it means to be a mindful communicator. Mindful communication is a distinct approach to communication that emphasizes being in the present moment. It is the practice of being fully aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and in turn, how we communicate with other people. As someone who aspires to communicate mindfully, I try to listen twice as much as I talk. I strive to be a mindful listener when I'm engaged in a conversation as well.

Does Mindfulness Help With Communication?

Communication is one of the most important tools we have in life, and mindfulness can make it even more powerful. Instead of talking at someone, when you have the ability to be mindful, you talk with them. Both sides of a conversation get more out of the exchange when they’re equally engaged in the communication. Even if you’re the only one practicing mindful communication, you’ll still experience better results.

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

As beneficial as mindful communication sounds, you have to practice it if you want to get better.  To improve your mindfulness in communication, follow these 8 tips:

  1. Shelve your judgment

When you're too busy judging another person's words or actions, your own filter keeps you from hearing what they have to say. When you make a judgment about someone’s character based on something you know about them, it can prevent you from really listening to what they are saying to you and even cause you to make hurtful comments that damage the relationship.

  1. Understand your motivation

Before you speak, consider the purpose of your words.  Are you trying to protect someone from harm?  Are you trying to chastise them?  Or are you trying to manipulate them? One way to be mindful of what you say is to be aware of your motivation. If your purpose is to be spiteful or criticize, perhaps you should pause or refrain from saying anything at all.

  1. Be kind

There’s never a reason to be cruel. Even when you’re criticizing someone’s bad behavior, you gain nothing by doing so in a hurtful or insulting manner. It’s best to express disappointment in a kind, direct way. Rather than being accusatory or using incendiary words, phrase things with “I” statements and focus on the solution rather than the problem.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a great way to practice mindful communication. It offers you an opportunity to discuss difficult subjects honestly and openly. It also gives you boundaries between when to listen and when to talk so that you can fully understand another person's point of view.  Try making civil discourse a regular practice so that you become better at mindful communication.

  1. Say only what’s necessary

Some of us overestimate the importance of our opinions, and we should refrain from making unnecessary comments in sensitive discussions. Sure, you may have an opinion about what your boss is doing, but is it necessary for you to share that opinion with others?  A good rule of thumb is to only give advice when solicited or when talking with someone who works for you.  If they’re a friend or a superior, then you should only speak up when it directly involves you.

  1. Refrain from unhelpful comments

This goes along with making unnecessary comments.  When someone asks you for feedback, it’s important to use discretion.  Sure, they’re asking for your opinion, but that doesn’t mean that every single thought you have is going to be helpful. Only volunteer information if it benefits the other person.  By filtering out unhelpful feedback and constructive criticism you can focus on offering comments that will actually help someone improve.

  1. Don’t make assumptions

We all make assumptions about what others are thinking, but we can't actually read minds.  Our history with others often influences those assumptions. You can’t know what another person is thinking, so don’t operate based on anything other than the information given to you. If you suspect someone is hiding something, ask questions. Assumptions lead to miscommunication and conflict, so sustain conflict avoidance at all costs.

  1. Practice active listening

Active listening prevents you from making assumptions. The better you get at it, the less misinterpretations you'll make. Make eye contact when people are talking to you.  Give them verbal and nonverbal acknowledgements to encourage them to continue their story. While someone is speaking, wait until they have finished to formulate your own response.  Ask questions to clarify if needed.  These mindful communication exercises will help you become a better listener and communicator.

As you become more conscious of the way you communicate with others, you may realize that you used to communicate much more poorly than you had thought. After learning how to listen and speak with intention, you will become a more successful and empathetic communicator. Ultimately, empathy and rationality are at the heart of all communication. Whenever we speak with others, we must ask ourselves: what is kind, helpful, and necessary? These questions are key to becoming mindful communicators.

November 15, 2022

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

Civil Discourse

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

Mindfulness is a quality that manifests itself in the way we interact with others. When we are mindful, we become more empathetic, compassionate and honest. By being mindful, or maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding environments, we bring awareness to the way we communicate with others.

A mindful approach is a key element to effective communication. Being mindful of the present moment allows us to be more aware of how we interact with others. We can recognize when communication has shut down and consider our words instead of responding out of emotion. It's easier to notice if we're overreacting so we can take a time-out.

Jamyang Khyentse once said, “We think that we have successful communication with others. In fact, we only have successful miscommunication without being aware of it.”  Mindful communication is a state of being. If you want to become better at it, here are some ways to increase your mindfulness.

What Is Mindful Communication?

Now that we're clear on the context of mindfulness and communication, let's discuss what it means to be a mindful communicator. Mindful communication is a distinct approach to communication that emphasizes being in the present moment. It is the practice of being fully aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and in turn, how we communicate with other people. As someone who aspires to communicate mindfully, I try to listen twice as much as I talk. I strive to be a mindful listener when I'm engaged in a conversation as well.

Does Mindfulness Help With Communication?

Communication is one of the most important tools we have in life, and mindfulness can make it even more powerful. Instead of talking at someone, when you have the ability to be mindful, you talk with them. Both sides of a conversation get more out of the exchange when they’re equally engaged in the communication. Even if you’re the only one practicing mindful communication, you’ll still experience better results.

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

As beneficial as mindful communication sounds, you have to practice it if you want to get better.  To improve your mindfulness in communication, follow these 8 tips:

  1. Shelve your judgment

When you're too busy judging another person's words or actions, your own filter keeps you from hearing what they have to say. When you make a judgment about someone’s character based on something you know about them, it can prevent you from really listening to what they are saying to you and even cause you to make hurtful comments that damage the relationship.

  1. Understand your motivation

Before you speak, consider the purpose of your words.  Are you trying to protect someone from harm?  Are you trying to chastise them?  Or are you trying to manipulate them? One way to be mindful of what you say is to be aware of your motivation. If your purpose is to be spiteful or criticize, perhaps you should pause or refrain from saying anything at all.

  1. Be kind

There’s never a reason to be cruel. Even when you’re criticizing someone’s bad behavior, you gain nothing by doing so in a hurtful or insulting manner. It’s best to express disappointment in a kind, direct way. Rather than being accusatory or using incendiary words, phrase things with “I” statements and focus on the solution rather than the problem.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a great way to practice mindful communication. It offers you an opportunity to discuss difficult subjects honestly and openly. It also gives you boundaries between when to listen and when to talk so that you can fully understand another person's point of view.  Try making civil discourse a regular practice so that you become better at mindful communication.

  1. Say only what’s necessary

Some of us overestimate the importance of our opinions, and we should refrain from making unnecessary comments in sensitive discussions. Sure, you may have an opinion about what your boss is doing, but is it necessary for you to share that opinion with others?  A good rule of thumb is to only give advice when solicited or when talking with someone who works for you.  If they’re a friend or a superior, then you should only speak up when it directly involves you.

  1. Refrain from unhelpful comments

This goes along with making unnecessary comments.  When someone asks you for feedback, it’s important to use discretion.  Sure, they’re asking for your opinion, but that doesn’t mean that every single thought you have is going to be helpful. Only volunteer information if it benefits the other person.  By filtering out unhelpful feedback and constructive criticism you can focus on offering comments that will actually help someone improve.

  1. Don’t make assumptions

We all make assumptions about what others are thinking, but we can't actually read minds.  Our history with others often influences those assumptions. You can’t know what another person is thinking, so don’t operate based on anything other than the information given to you. If you suspect someone is hiding something, ask questions. Assumptions lead to miscommunication and conflict, so sustain conflict avoidance at all costs.

  1. Practice active listening

Active listening prevents you from making assumptions. The better you get at it, the less misinterpretations you'll make. Make eye contact when people are talking to you.  Give them verbal and nonverbal acknowledgements to encourage them to continue their story. While someone is speaking, wait until they have finished to formulate your own response.  Ask questions to clarify if needed.  These mindful communication exercises will help you become a better listener and communicator.

As you become more conscious of the way you communicate with others, you may realize that you used to communicate much more poorly than you had thought. After learning how to listen and speak with intention, you will become a more successful and empathetic communicator. Ultimately, empathy and rationality are at the heart of all communication. Whenever we speak with others, we must ask ourselves: what is kind, helpful, and necessary? These questions are key to becoming mindful communicators.

November 15, 2022

8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication

Civil Discourse

How To Foster Self-Confidence

Building your self-confidence is a process that takes time, dedication, and practice. With self-confidence, you can achieve anything you set on your mind. Research indicates that people with higher self-esteem earn an average of $7000 more per year. Despite the fact that 85% of the world's population has self-esteem issues, there is a way to be more confident.

Self-confidence is contagious. It can make the difference between getting that promotion at work or being stuck in the same job for years. A positive self-image can improve relationships, help you avoid mental and physical health issues associated with low self-esteem, and make you a happier person. The steps I've outlined below will help you build self-confidence and live with more confidence.

What Is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is not something we’re all born with.  Some people have more of it than others, but it can be learned by anyone. Self-confidence means to stand up for what you believe in and control your own life.  It’s about being able to deal with the world around you by controlling your emotions and thoughts.  You can’t control what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to it. Self-confidence comes from feeling a sense of control over our lives.

Why Self-Confidence Is Important

To learn how to build self-confidence, you must first learn why it's important.  Having confidence in yourself is the best way to find success in all areas of life.  When you trust your own abilities, you gain trust in your colleagues and bosses. You will earn a reputation for reliability and responsibility.

Self-confidence is important not just because of how it affects others, but also because of the effect it has on your own behavior. When you have self-confidence, you’re more likely to pursue goals and accomplish them. Believing in your ability to overcome obstacles makes you more willing to try and fail. It improves your skills, resiliency, and what you are capable of. The benefits of self-confidence are endless.

How To Build Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is not only about what you feel about yourself on the inside, but also how you project that feeling to others. Projecting a positive image to others can help you improve your self-confidence, but faking it will not get you very far. These steps will help you build self-confidence so that the image you present to the world matches the confidence within:

  1. Improve your body language

Body language can tell you if someone is confident. The good news is that, even if you don’t feel confident in the moment, mimicking confident body language can help you become confident. Standing or sitting up straight instead of slouching says a lot about your self-confidence. Open your body and make eye contact with whomever you’re interacting with.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse requires a great deal of confidence and intelligence. Practice active listening when someone else is talking, be open-minded, and give honest feedback in return. If you’re willing to have civil conversations about difficult topics, you will not only build confidence in your abilities, but also realize that you are a capable, intelligent person.

  1. Quit the comparison game

Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Instead, focus on improving yourself day by day. Don't compare yourself to other people, who may have private struggles you know nothing about. Instead, focus on your own accomplishments and the positive aspects of your life.

  1. Become a better communicator

Confident people know how to have effective communication, the more you work on your communication skills, the easier it will be for you to succeed. Learning the principles of communication is crucial for making a good first impression. It allows you to engage other people, and it lets you project confidence even when you’re plagued with self-doubt.

  1. Focus on personal growth

Focusing on internal growth instead of external will guard you against feelings of inadequacy or impostor syndrome.  Practice meditation, mindful listening and emotional growth. These areas will make you a more resilient, resourceful and emotionally mature person. Confidence will help you tackle obstacles, bounce back from defeats, and feel good about yourself no matter what life throws your way.

  1. Affirm yourself

Positive affirmations are a powerful tool for building and retaining self-confidence. By stating aloud your positive qualities, you will remember your strength and know your worth. You can change your life by changing your thinking.  Every morning, repeat positive mantras in the mirror, such as “I can handle anything life throws at me” or “I am deserving of all my successes.” Write down a list of your strengths, carry it with you and refer to it whenever self-doubt strikes.

  1. Seek out feedback

People who are self-confident also have a healthy sense of humility.  They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they aren’t afraid to admit to either.  Instead of resting on their laurels, they are always working hard to improve themselves.  Find mentors who have what you want and learn from them.  Get feedback from your mentor about your performance to identify areas in which you can grow.  You'll not only stay on track with your personal growth, but you'll also get positive external feedback on your strengths.

  1. Take care of your body

Physical wellness is essential to self-confidence. It’s hard to feel grateful for our outside blessings when we’re dealing with fatigue, stress, and body image issues. To build and maintain self-confidence, make sure you’re practicing self-care in fitness, nutrition and mental wellness. Establish a workout routine that fits your schedule, even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time. Take the time to read food labels and choose healthy foods you enjoy eating.  Have a self-care routine in place to deal with stress and avoid burnout.

  1. Test your limits

Learning something new is one of the best ways to build self-confidence. If you spend all of your time doing what you already know how to do, you won’t have an accurate gauge of your abilities to handle the unknown.  Push yourself to the limits of your abilities by trying new things and experiencing new skills that you’ve never tried before. You’ll build self-confidence when you realize just how well you do when up against a challenge that is outside of your comfort zone.

How To Know If You Are Overconfident

When building self-confidence, it’s easy to go too far and fall into the trap of overconfidence.  As long as you’re mindful of the signs of overconfidence, you can build self-confidence without alienating others.   Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • You talk much more than you listen.
  • You’d rather teach others than learn from them.
  • You’re obsessed with how others perceive you.
  • You deny your weak spots and dismiss your failures.
  • You hide your true self around other people.
  • You get frustrated when you don’t do as well as you think you should.
  • You stop trying to grow.

Knowing how to be confident is an extremely valuable skill, one that can greatly affect the way that you interact with people and the way your coworkers, friends, and family view you. The tips above are meant to get you started on your journey towards a more confident state of mind. But remember: it takes time, so don't expect overnight results. The more effort you put in every day, the better you'll feel about yourself and the more confident you'll become.

November 14, 2022

How To Foster Self-Confidence

Civil Discourse

How To Set Healthy Boundaries

Can you define the boundaries of your life? I don't mean your physical boundaries like where you work, the places you hang out with friends and what's in your cupboard. We all know that, but I'm talking about emotional and mental boundaries. A lot of people can struggle with this and find it hard to set boundaries, sticking to them or even knowing when they need to be set.

Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills to have in life. We live in a culture that values kindness and generosity over confrontation. But saying no is an important way to protect your time, energy, and well-being. It’s important to remember that you are an individual with boundaries and limits, even when you care about someone a great deal. Here are some tips on how to set your own boundaries and make them stick.

What Is Boundary Setting?

Boundaries are sometimes difficult to define. When someone is doing something that directly affects you negatively, it's your responsibility to speak up and set a boundary. Even though you may feel guilty, you do have the right to say 'no' without having to explain yourself.

For example, as long as I can communicate my preference for not receiving work calls after hours in a respectful way (and not ignore it when it’s violated), then I am setting reasonable boundaries.

Why Do You Need Boundaries? The Benefits Of Setting Healthy Boundaries

So, are boundaries really important?  Are they a luxury or a necessity?  I believe that you must have them in order to have a balanced life. Boundaries help us avoid burnout, maintain our physical and mental health, and show up for the things that matter to us. Boundaries can be a gift, marking the limits we accept and those we don’t. They give us freedom, autonomy and control over our decisions.

If you want to understand the importance of healthy boundaries, here are some of the benefits of setting personal boundaries.

  1. Avoid burnout

When we don’t know how to say no, we can easily take on too much work or responsibility.  By setting boundaries, we can avoid overworking ourselves and make sure that the things that matter most get the attention they deserve.

  1. Reduce conflict

When we don't set boundaries, we tend to become resentful and lash out whenever people go too far. When we communicate effectively, we can avoid the conflict that arises when people unknowingly cross that line in the sand.

  1. Improve self-respect

When you fail to set boundaries with others, you become a doormat for them to walk all over, disrespecting your time and worth. Setting boundaries allows you to live an autonomous life by respecting yourself and saying no when needed. All you need to do is to stand up for what you believe in and live your best life. 

  1. Set clear expectations

People can't read minds. You have to tell others what your boundaries are so they know how to work best with you. That way, everyone's on the same page and there are no misunderstandings. So, understanding people and your needs are the principles for happiness. 

  1. Improve communication

Boundaries are an important part of communicating with others. Improving communication skills, we learn to say no, and they give us practice standing up for ourselves when our boundaries aren’t respected.

How To Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is easier said than done. To become better at setting boundaries, take these steps:

  1. Identify your needs

First, ask yourself what it is that you need. To be spoken to with respect?  More downtime?  Greater respect for your time?  It can be helpful to identify certain behaviors that bother you and ask yourself which need of yours isn’t getting met.  If someone is consistently late, you might need to set a boundary that your time is valuable and lateness infringes upon your ability to do other important tasks.

  1. Acknowledge your worth

You deserve to have your needs met and to feel respected, just as anyone else does. If you want to set boundaries, you must remember that you are deserving of them. Self-awareness helps to improve the quality of your life. 

  1. Examine existing boundaries

If you’re new to setting boundaries, a good place to start is by asking yourself if you’ve ever set any before.  If your colleagues know not to disturb you after a certain hour, for example, you can use this as a starting point for creating other boundaries in your life—perhaps with your spouse or children.

  1. Give yourself the gift of saying 'no'

You may feel guilty at first when you start saying no to people but don’t worry about it.  People may be frustrated by your sudden unwillingness to put up with their behavior, but they will get over it.  Saying no will become second nature soon enough.

  1. Communicate respectfully

It's one thing to tell someone what you need in a polite and respectful way. It's another to yell at them for violating your boundaries. Always show respect to others and communicate new boundaries in a clear way, as well as learn to bring up violations without anger.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is an effective way of having difficult conversations. It will help you to respect other people’s right to speak and communicate respectfully while also exercising your own right to be honest.

How To Make Sure You Stick To Your Boundaries Once They Are In Place

Setting boundaries is the first step to getting what you want from life.  Once you’ve put in place the boundaries that work for you, stick to them.  Here are a few ways to help you stick to them:

  1. Always keep your boundaries in mind

Be clear about your boundaries so that you can act firmly when others start to infringe.

  1. Have a plan at the ready

Don’t wait for others to violate your boundaries. Instead, decide how you’ll communicate with them when you wish to remind them of the boundary you’ve set.

  1. Learn from your mistakes

When you set a boundary, try not to be so rigid about it.  If a situation arises where, for example, you need to change your mind about what’s okay and what isn’t, don’t be afraid to communicate openly with those around you about why your boundaries have changed.

  1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your emotions. This can help you handle your relationships more effectively and set boundaries when you need to.

  1. Seek out mentors

If you want to meet your own needs, try to find people who are good at getting their needs met and do what they do. Ask them questions and seek out their advice on setting your own boundaries. You may also help yourself with asking self-reflection questions to understand your real needs. 

Setting boundaries is not easy, especially when you're starting out. Unfortunately, setting good boundaries isn't a magical process where setting just one boundary causes all your problems to go away. Instead, it's a process that requires some willpower and effort. But if you want to set better boundaries in your life, keep reading. After all, as long as you keep at it and do the work, your efforts will pay off in the end.

November 8, 2022

Learn To Set Your Healthy Boundaries

Civil Discourse

Self-Awareness: The Path To Self-Discovery

Self awareness is a difficult state to achieve, but it is the holy grail of emotional intelligence. Self aware people are highly aware of their emotions, and of the effect they are having on others. They take full ownership of their lives, which makes them strong and happy individuals.

Although many people think they are self-aware, the reality is that lack of self-awareness is what keeps people from realizing how unaware they really are. According to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, the percentage of people who are truly self-aware lies between 12 and 15 percent. But how can we improve if we don't know where we stand on the scale of self-awareness?

The answer is simple–practice.  Like any other skill, we can gain self-awareness through consistent effort and discipline.  I’ll go over the different types of self-awareness and what you can do to refine your self-awareness and self-reflection skills.

What Is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to objectively evaluate yourself—how you truly are, and how others perceive you. It means understanding your emotional responses and what triggers them. You also know what your values are and whether or not you’re living in alignment with them.  It is difficult to master self-awareness, especially because it means keeping our emotions from driving our behavior. Also, it takes humility and flexibility to change our actions when we need to.

Think back to the last time you received criticism, whether at work or in your personal life.  Did you stop and listen objectively to what you were hearing?  Or did you go on the defensive, believing the other person was blowing things out of proportion?  Being self-aware helps you admit your weaknesses and respond accordingly to negative feedback and constructive criticism. In fact, feedback is one of the keys to gaining self-awareness for those who lack it.

The Two Main Streams Of Self-Awareness

There are two main types of self-awareness: internal and external.  Internal self-awareness is all about understanding how you operate–what your values are, what motivates you, your strengths and weaknesses.  For example, you might know that you struggle with productivity, but also know that setting self-imposed deadlines can help you overcome it.  This kind of internal self-awareness can propel you out of inaction and help you achieve your goals.

External self-awareness refers to how other people perceive you.  This is related to internal self-awareness, but having one doesn’t always mean having the other.  You may know yourself quite well, but be completely clueless as to how others perceive you.  For example, while you might work hard and take your job seriously, communication barriers with your colleagues can lead them to believe you’re a slacker.  It’s important to make sure that your actions match the person you know yourself to be.

Benefits Of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is essential to personal growth. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to improve your weak areas and capitalize on your strengths. Here are a few benefits to self-awareness:

  • You can more easily see things from other people’s perspectives.
  • You can practice self-control and reigning in your emotions.
  • You can become more efficient at your job.
  • You can improve communication skills.
  • You can boost your self-confidence through continuous self-improvement.
  • You can make better decisions with more reliable information.
  • You can improve your work environment and emotional well-being.
  • You can strengthen your relationships and gain other people’s trust.

How To Become More Self-Aware

Anyone can develop self-awareness, even if they don't feel like they have a good handle on it now. It just takes the desire to improve and a willingness to temporarily deal with any discomfort that comes up along the way. It may go against your nature to ask for feedback and question your own assumptions about yourself.  But if you’re willing to do these things, however scary, then you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll grow. 

These examples of self-awareness practices can help you develop and even master this skill:

  1. Practice mindfulness

You’d be surprised what you can learn when you’re paying attention.  All day, we’re surrounded by information coming from every angle–text messages, meetings, even the sights that pass by on our morning commute.  We’ve trained ourselves to tune out anything we deem unnecessary, but often we go too far and find ourselves on autopilot.  Practice mindfulness by taking a moment to look at your surroundings–what do you see?  Hear?  Smell?  Taste?  The more you’re able to stop and be present in your own body, the more you’ll be able to observe your emotions and how you react to things.

  1. Journal your awareness

Writing is an excellent way of grounding ourselves in the present moment.  Whenever you stop and practice mindfulness, take the time to write down everything you’re experiencing.  What are you feeling?  Have you experienced anything new?  Is there something you’ve learned about yourself that you didn’t know before?  It might be easy to remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, but much harder to remember how you felt when you first woke up.  These journal entries can help you look back and track your emotional state over a period of time.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a powerful tool to help us get a handle on our emotions.  When you practice civil discourse, you become a mindful listener.  You learn how to consider and then respond rather than immediately react.  You also train yourself to understand the opposing side and gain new perspectives when you’re not entrenched in your own judgment.  Civil discourse and self-awareness are two of the biggest assets in social leadership and in life.

  1. Ask for feedback

Most of us bristle when we receive feedback. Try practicing contrary action by soliciting feedback whenever you can. The more you ask for feedback from superiors and colleagues, the more you’ll learn about yourself and how others perceive you. You can also train yourself to become more comfortable with the process so that it becomes less of a burden when you receive unsolicited or constructive feedback.

  1. Try new experiences

Humans are creatures of habit.  We don’t like discomfort, and new experiences are often uncomfortable.  If you want to improve your self-awareness, however, try exposing yourself to new experiences on a regular basis. This will teach you more about what you like and what you don’t like.  It will also help you learn how you react in different situations–do you stay calm?  Lose your cool?  Are you curious or closed off?  Rigid or flexible?

How To Test Your Self-Awareness

There are many ways you can test your self-awareness.  One way is to write a list of your strengths and weaknesses.  Once you're done, show it to a trusted friend and ask their opinion—do they believe the list is accurate?  Is anything missing?  This will show you whether or not your perception of yourself aligns with how other people see you.

Another way to test your self-awareness is to take a personality test like an Enneagram test.  Do the results match up with what you thought they would be?  How do they differ?  Ideally, over time, you’ll test yourself in deeper ways that bring you closer to understanding who you truly are.

Self-awareness is necessary if you want to be a great leader.  If you can pick your best traits and build on them to strengthen your weaknesses, you have a much better chance of success.

November 7, 2022

Self-Awareness: The Path To Self-Discovery

Civil Discourse

How To Practice Mindful Listening

If you’ve ever been in the middle of a meeting and suddenly found your attention wandering, you’re not alone.  Studies have shown that although we spend 55% of our day listening, we only remember between 17-25% of what we hear.  Those who do practice mindful listening, however, receive numerous benefits.  Mindful listening increases your attention span and improves your memory.  Beyond that, however, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness correlates with higher satisfaction in relationships.

Learning how to listen mindfully is something you need to practice regularly.  I’ll walk you through the basics as well as a few mindful listening activities you can practice to improve your skills.

What Is Mindful Listening?

Mindful listening combines two different practices: mindfulness and listening. Mindfulness is about being aware of your surroundings. Active listening, however, is about paying attention to someone else—and listening well can make you more insightful and empathic. When you combine the two, you’re able to receive information and remain open-minded. You don’t let distraction or judgment affect your ability to understand people.

Think of the last time you listened to a friend complain to you about a problem.  Did you listen actively, nodding along and asking follow-up questions?  Or did you interrupt with your own advice, tune out after a while, or let your attention wander?  When you listen mindfully, you’re present in the conversation in a way that allows the other person to feel heard and understood.

5 Benefits For Mindful Listening

It’s true that mindful listening can do wonders for your personal relationships.  But it can also help your professional relationships, making you a better and more efficient worker and have productive team collaboration. Mindful listening has a multitude of benefits for your life and career as an aspect of social skills, including the points below:

  1. You can retain more information

We can’t remember everything we hear, but it’s important that we remember more than we forget.  Mindful listening helps you retain more information from a conversation that can be useful to you later.  Whether you’re learning a complicated new subject, being briefed on a work project, or meeting a new client, it’s important to retain the necessary information to do your job efficiently and find common ground.

  1. You have more time to consider your words

Pausing before you speak gives you time to choose your words carefully.  Many of us speak hastily or out of emotion, which can lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings.  Practicing mindful listening allows you to take a moment after the other person has finished speaking to consider how you will respond to respect other opinions. You may find that certain things can be said more eloquently or even not said at all.

  1. You can pay attention for longer

Our attention spans are terribly short, but luckily there is a way to lengthen them.  Mindful listening increases the amount of time that we can pay attention by focusing our energies on the present.  When you set an intention to listen mindfully, you find that distractions are much fewer and further between.

  1. You’ll become an active listener

Active listening is such a powerful tool in the world of business.  Whenever I meet with clients, I make an effort to sustain eye contact and keep my body language open.  I also show that I’m paying attention by nodding along and giving small verbal encouragements to continue.  By practicing active listening, I know that the other person feels heard.

  1. You’ll boost your self-esteem

The best way to boost your self-esteem is to practice esteemable acts.  What’s more esteemable than being a good listener in a world of bad listeners?  People respect and appreciate those who offer them their undivided attention.  You’ll make strong business relationships with people who see you as a mindful listener, which will allow you to see your own strengths.

How To Practice Mindful Listening

Becoming a mindful listener takes time and practice. You have to set a clear intention to be a better listener, which isn’t an easy task to do. It’s normal to find yourself getting lost in your own thoughts every once in a while–this can happen to the best of listeners.  But what separates those who listen mindfully from those who don’t is the ability to take a moment, acknowledge that your attention wandered, and then redirect back to genuine listening.

Practical Tips To Enhance Mindful Listening

To make it easier on you, I’ve listed a few practical mindful listening activities and exercises you can do to become a better listener.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on staying present

This mindful listening exercise will require a bit of discipline on your part.  As human beings, it’s natural for our attention to drift to something that happened this morning or what we’re doing later in the day.  But in order to listen mindfully, you have to be grounded in the present avoiding all types of listening barriers.  Find ways to ground yourself by focusing on the other speaker’s eyes, their words, and the tone of their voice.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse goes hand in hand with mindful listening.  To practice civil discourse, you have to listen with an open mind, refrain from interrupting, and allow the other person to finish speaking before thinking of your own response.  It will take a bit of work to get into this mindset, but it will help you have honest conversations about difficult topics without losing your cool.

  1. Ask questions

Asking questions not only shows you’re paying attention, but it can help you stay on track in the conversation. Ask follow-up questions and repeat what you’ve heard back to the person for clarifications.  

  1. Pay attention to body language and tone

Body language and tone are both important forms of nonverbal communication that can add to what the person’s words say.  Watch the speaker’s body language and listen for their tone to see how that affects what they’re saying.  You may find that a follow-up question is required to clarify or probe for more information.

  1. Practice mindfulness meditation

The best mindful listening exercise is meditation.  Not only will it train you to be present, but it will also work as a way to combat stress and burnout.  Try meditating for a few minutes a day in the beginning and see how it affects your ability to listen.

These mindful listening activities can help you unlock the key to being a better listener.  Not only will you retain more information, but you’ll  and have effective communication with everyone around you.

November 4, 2022

How To Practice Mindful Listening

Civil Discourse

6 Tips To Improve Your Effective Communication Skills

Communication is something we all know how to do, but few of us can do it effectively.  We talk more than we listen, we tune out what bores us, and we allow personal judgments to cloud our understanding.  If we want to succeed in the workplace, however, then effective communication skills are essential.  

Whether you're presenting at a meeting, sending an email to a client or negotiating with a supplier, the bottom line is that the principles of communication can result in increased productivity and success. Regardless of the type of business you're in, effective communication skills can help you develop stronger relationships, build stronger talent and increase your bottom line.

Read on for some helpful tips on how to improve communication skills and what can get in the way of you being a better communicator.

What Is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is all about exchanging information in a way where the message is clearly received and understood.  When you communicate effectively, you exchange knowledge, opinions, and ideas with another person in a way that leaves both people feeling understood and heard.

I’ll give you an example.  Say you’re in a meeting with your boss and he’s talking about a new project he’d like your team to work on. His presentation is overly long, directionless, and frequently diverges into unrelated topics.  Sound familiar?  While we’ve probably all worked with someone like this, we may not realize that the problem here is ineffective communication.  When you’re an effective communicator, you know how to transmit information quickly, clearly, and concisely.  Ineffective communication can turn off listeners, confuse people, and lead to costly mistakes.

Common Barriers To Effective Communication

We are all capable of learning effective communication skills.  However, we’re all susceptible to certain barriers that keep us from being good communicators.  Here are a few of the most common communication barriers that prevent people from finding common grounds:

Stress and out-of-control emotions

When we’re upset, we don’t always think, act, or speak rationally. If you’re under a lot of stress or feeling angry, you’re less likely to listen with an open mind and respect other opinions.  You’re also less likely to be direct yet courteous.  Passive aggressive comments and outbursts are not only ineffective, but also damaging to our professional relationships. So, it is vital to know how to stay calm during an argument and foster positivity. 

Lack of focus

True, not everyone is the most enthralling at telling a story.  If you find yourself growing bored or the person you’re listening to starts rambling, then you’re much less likely to communicate effectively.  But just because someone else’s communication style is lacking doesn’t mean that yours has to be.  You can overcome this barrier with a little bit of discipline and some good follow-up questions.

Cultural differences

Cultures differ, and with them our communication styles.  Some cultures have a much more direct communication style than others, while some have a certain tradition of courtesy that we may not be used to.  If we’re communicating with someone from a different culture, we may find it difficult to understand their communication style or have our own be understood.

Negative body language

Our body language sometimes says more than our words do.  Nothing shuts down a conversation faster than crossed arms and a scowl.  It’s important to be mindful that our body language is open and nonjudgmental to encourage others to be honest.  Otherwise, we might find that our body language keeps us from hearing important information that we need to hear.

Tips To Initiate Effective Communication

Communicating effectively is a skill that you can learn.  There are a few practices you can work on that will help you improve your effective communication skills over time.  Here are six tips to foster effective communication:

  1. Give your undivided attention

How can you communicate effectively when your mind is elsewhere?  There is no understating the importance of giving someone your undivided attention.  This means putting down the phone, maintaining eye contact, and practicing active listening.  When someone knows they have your full attention, they’re much more likely to speak freely.  You’ll also be able to pick up on things like body language and other nonverbal communication that can add to what they’re saying.

  1. Get a team communication app

The easier it is to communicate, the less information falls through the cracks.  Communication apps are great ways for team members to exchange information back and forth without having to go through multiple channels.  Instead of having to sift through dozens of emails, put everyone on your team in the same chat group using the communication app of your choice.  This will act as a central hub for all questions, ideas, and announcements.

  1. Show appreciation

People enjoy being told what they’re doing well.  When you show appreciation for effective communication, you encourage others to improve their communication as well.  This acts as positive reinforcement for their behavior and enforces an atmosphere of inclusivity.

  1. Ask follow-up questions

If you don’t know something, ask!  This is the best way to clarify that what you’re hearing is what the other person is intending to say.  Ask questions, repeat what you’ve heard back to the other person, and don’t be afraid to send follow-up questions by email if you think of anything later.

  1. Encourage two-way feedback

It’s not always easy for people to speak up with their superiors.  But effective communication goes both ways, which is why two-way feedback is so important.  When you encourage team members to offer you feedback, you make it easier to give them feedback without making them feel like they’re being singled out or negatively reacting to constructive criticism.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is at the heart of effective communication.  Part of communicating effectively is ensuring that you’re allowing an open, honest, and respectful exchange of ideas.  That means having an open mind, listening fully before formulating a response, and refraining from interrupting.

Just as you didn’t learn to speak overnight, you won’t become a perfect communicator overnight, either.  Follow these tips to keep sharpening your effective communication skills and watch as you become a better leader.

November 3, 2022

6 Tips To Improve Your Effective Communication Skills

Civil Discourse

8 Tips To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Active listening is a skill that many people lack because it's not something that we are accustomed to practicing. Body language helps to spot when someone has poor communication skills like poor eye contact, uninterested facial expression, inattentive body posture, or talking over another person. But active listening is harder to identify because it's a combination of only two things: paying attention and making it clear that you are paying attention using nonverbal communication. 

If you aren't aware of how others are demonstrating their ability to give good active listening, you may feel like you're doing a good job of actively listening when, in fact, you aren't even close.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening is the process of paying close attention to the other person's body language, tone and choice of words. The goal is to communicate, understand people and build trust. If it's done well, you can use these techniques to really connect with someone - even strangers or new contacts. This may mean paying attention to their body language to help interpret their words–it also may mean verbally acknowledging what they say and replying with relevant comments.

According to the University of Missouri, 45% of communication is listening, and yet the average person remembers around 25-50% of what they hear.  That means that when you’re venting to a friend, having a meeting with your boss, or chatting with a customer, most of what you say goes in one ear and out the other.  

The difference between active and passive listening lies in your reaction.  While passive listening means not reacting at all, active listening usually involves verbal or physical reactions to encourage the speaker to continue. These reactions show you’re listening to what’s being said without interrupting the speaker with your own thoughts.

What Are The Benefits Of Active Listening?

Active listening will help you in almost every area of life, from being an awesome friend to being a more effective and mindful leader. It’s also an essential part of civil discourse: you must listen in order to share a discursive space. When you listen actively, you respect the person you're communicating with and gain the information you need to be a better friend, better leader and colleague.

The 3 A’s Of Active Listening

The three A’s of active listening are attention, attitude, and adjustment.  Attention requires you to be fully in tune to everything the speaker communicates, including their words, gestures, and facial expressions.  Eliminating distractions and maintaining eye contact are vital components of paying close attention to the speaker.

When actively listening, you need to have a positive and open-minded attitude.  A scowl or an eye roll can shut down the other speaker and make them less willing to be honest with you.  Lastly, you need to be able to adjust your gestures and body language in order to react to what you’re hearing.  Nobody wants to talk to a blank wall, which is why it’s important to show you’re receiving the information being given to you (without being too over-the-top).

Key Points In Becoming An Active Listener

There are a few tips and techniques you can use to become an active listener in civil dialogue. If you practice these techniques regularly for self-improvement, you’ll become a better communicator. You can boost your productivity in the workplace, and improve relationships in and outside of work via accurate collaboration skills.  

So, what exactly are the active listening skills you can learn?  Here are 8 tips for how to be a better active listener:

1. Be present

It’s impossible to be an active listener when your mind is elsewhere.  In order to take in everything that’s being communicated to you, avoid distractions, communication barriers and pay attention.  Mute your phone, make eye contact with the person speaking to you, and wait to formulate a response.  If you find your thoughts wandering, gently bring yourself back to the conversation.

2. Avoid interrupting

It can be tempting to jump in with helpful advice or anecdotes, but avoid interrupting at all costs.  Wait until the person has finished speaking to make sure that you fully understand what it is they’re trying to say.  If you interrupt, you run the risk of cutting them off before they give you all the relevant information.  If you feel as though you have something you need to say, make a mental note to bring it up later and display respect for other opinions

3. Defer judgment

We can’t make an accurate judgment of what we’re being told before we know everything.  Defer judgment until the conversation is over to avoid polluting your understanding of the speaker’s message.  If you do find yourself making a judgment, try to avoid interrupting with judgmental comments or leading questions.  Be ready to change your mind at any moment based on new information and find common ground.

4. Pay attention to your body language

Your body language might be saying something even if your words aren’t.  If you’re closed off and making gestures or facial expressions that express judgment or discontent, this is just as bad as interrupting.  Make sure you’re remaining open and interested in what the other person is saying.  Make affirmative body movements by nodding, smiling, or peppering in a few comments that encourage the speaker to keep going.

5. Ask follow-up questions

Active listening is primarily about accurately receiving all the information you can and how to show respect.  If you find yourself confused about what’s being said, ask follow-up questions to clarify the speaker’s points.  Make sure you understand what’s actually being said without allowing your own assumptions to fill in the gaps.

6. Practice civil discourse 

Practicing civil discourse is a great way to sharpen your active listening skills.  Be mindful of your body language, listen carefully even when you disagree, and ask questions to help understand different perspectives from your own.

7. Try repeating what they are saying 

Sometimes the best way to clarify what’s being said is to repeat it back to the speaker.  Try using sentences like “What I’m hearing is…” and “So you’re saying…” to make sure you understand what they are saying.

8. Don't jump to conclusions 

As humans, we’re wired to make quick judgments about things.  It’s important to refrain from jumping to conclusions, however, as this can cause you to tune out what’s being said.

Examples Of Active Listening

Active listening is easy to recognize, even if it takes some work to do.  To train yourself to become an active listener, check out this example of active listening:

Jeff: Hey, do you mind if I talk to you about something that’s been on my mind?

Rachel: Sure!  Let me just put my phone on silent so you have my full attention.

Jeff: Thank you.  I just need to vent about something that happened at work.

Rachel: Of course.  Tell me more.

Jeff: My boss is always breathing down my neck, which makes it hard to concentrate.  I’m always afraid of making mistakes.

Rachel: That must be really difficult to deal with.

Jeff: It is.  Then today he criticized me in front of everyone in a meeting.

Rachel: How did that make you feel?

Jeff: It was humiliating.  I feel like quitting.  But I really love this job, and I don’t want to let this get in the way of that.

Rachel: I understand.  I bet you could use some time to think about what you want to do.

Jeff: Yeah, I think so.  Thank you for listening, I think I just needed to tell someone about it.

Be a better communicator, leader and listener by following these tips.  It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it consistently over time, your communication skills will improve.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself in every conversation focusing on the other person and what they have to say.

October 31, 2022

8 Tips To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Civil Discourse

How To Develop Self-Regulation Skills In The Workplace

Self-regulation skills are essential for great performance at work. When your sense of self-efficacy guides you to meet challenges, you can promote better health, productivity and creativity in yourself. Effective self-regulation skills enable you to perform the most important tasks on time and produce quality results, regardless of what you do or who you're doing it with. Self-regulation skills allow you to have a healthy balance between controlling your emotions and expressing them effectively, enabling you to be assertive without being aggressive.

Research shows that the more self-control you have, the better your relationships and interpersonal skills will be.  It also shows that people who are good at self-regulating statistically have higher grade point averages, better self-esteem, and more optimal emotional responses than those who don’t.  

I’ve picked up a few self-regulating techniques in my journey for entrepreneur motivation rise, which I’ll share with you in this article.  Read on to find out more about self-regulation, its meaning, and how it can help you become a mindful leader.

What Is Meant By Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is the ability to control your behavior, emotions, and thoughts. It’s a critical component of emotional intelligence and a valuable tool to advance in life. In order to be successful, we have to be willing to adjust to what life throws at us.  We all go through times when we want to lash out, doubt ourselves, or give into the temptation to quit altogether.  But the hallmark of a successful person is knowing how to self-regulate our complex emotions so that we can push through them.

Why Self-Regulation Is Important

Self-regulation and self-improvement are vital to your success in all areas of life. It helps you grow professionally as well as your personal life, making it a valuable tool for anyone to learn.  When you learn how to self-regulate, you’ll gain:

  1. Self-confidence

When you lack confidence, it's easy to lose hope when confronted with obstacles.  If you learn to control your emotions, stay calm in stressful situations and stand up for your beliefs you’ll see just how strong you really are. Pushing through communication barriers and overcoming obstacles is a powerful way to increase self-confidence.

  1. Self-esteem

We can gain esteem by doing things that are valuable and useful for other people.  The only way we can act in a way that aligns with our values, however, is if we learn to manage our emotions through self-reflection. Fear and anger can make us act in ways we normally wouldn’t, damaging our relationships and self-esteem. Regulating our emotions helps us get benefits and have productive conflict, learning to turn disappointments into new opportunities for growth.

  1. The ability to handle stress

Handling stress well is a skill many people lack, and if you are able to perform well under pressure, your composure can inspire others. Self-regulation allows you to handle stress in a way that makes you appear confident and composed.

  1. The ability to handle frustration

We can all feel frustrated when things don’t go our way. But when you know how to self-regulate, you don’t let frustration derail your goals. When we self-regulate, we accept and let go of our frustrations so that we can focus on what we do have control over.

  1. The ability to adapt

Rigidity can hinder even the most talented leaders. A good leader knows that life is a series of unexpected twists and turns, but instead of complaining about adversity, they adapt to their surroundings as a master of conflict avoidance. Self-regulation skills are vital to enable us to manage our disappointment and adjust to our new reality.

Techniques To Develop Your Self-Regulation Skills

Developing self-regulation skills is a matter of practicing a few simple techniques on a regular basis. These techniques will help you manage your emotions and behavior so that you can succeed both in and out of the workplace.

  1. Become aware of your emotions

In order to deal with your emotions, you must first be aware of them.  Self-regulation doesn’t mean ignoring how you feel, but accepting it and moving past it.  To be free from the tyranny of your emotions, you must first become aware of what you’re feeling and accept it. It’s how you pay attention in the present moment—without judgement—that brings about this awareness. Once you’ve given yourself that space, you can then make a decision knowing that you’re not simply reacting with blind emotion.

  1. Monitor your body

Our emotions often manifest themselves in our physical body.  When you feel a strong emotion, take a moment to monitor what’s happening in your body.  Are your palms sweaty?  Heart racing?  Teeth clenched?  Notice what’s going on and then take steps to calm yourself down.  Practice deep breathing and use a stress ball if you find yourself needing a way to release tension.

  1. Meditate

Meditation is an excellent practice that helps you stay focused on the present moment. Even if you start small with only five minutes a day, you’ll train yourself to become more mindful. You can then turn to meditation in the moment you feel strong emotions to calm yourself and encourage self-awareness.

  1. Exercise

Our physical health plays a huge role in determining our mood. If you incorporate regular exercise into your life, you strengthen your body and your mind. Self-regulation is much easier when our physical and mental health is at its strongest.

Self-Regulation Skills In The Workplace

While self-regulation skills can help you in every area of life, many of these skills are especially useful in the workplace. These include:

  1. Communication

We communicate poorly when we let emotions cloud our judgment. By practicing self-regulation, we can avoid  listening barriers and improve communication skills with others without lashing out or shutting down.

  1. Conflict resolution

Self-regulation helps us to deal with conflicts in a constructive way. Instead of sticking to our guns out of spite or resentment, we will listen with an open mind to opinions that differ from our own.

  1. Civil discourse

It's only possible to have civil discourse when we're able to regulate our emotions and respect the people we're speaking with, which means refraining from judgmental comments, not interrupting other people, showing respect to other opinions, and listening fully before formulating our own response.

  1. Problem-solving

Negative emotions often keep us from making the best choices for ourselves. When you are able to self-regulate, you’re better able to adapt and consider all your options when tackling problems.

  1. Time Management

It can be tough to manage our time well when we cut and run at the first sign of trouble.  Self-regulation combined with time management enable you to push through obstacles and show up for your commitments and deadlines.

It is only through mastering self-regulation skills at work that you can thrive in the workplace and make sure that you are making the best use of your time and energy. If you aim to improve yourself, you will find it much more fulfilling than trying to improve other people. 

Using these strategies outlined here, take a few minutes each day to reflect on your goals and values and ways that your behavior needs to change, and then make an effort to put your plan into effect. In time, you’ll find that mastering the art of self-regulation will make you a better leader, partner, and friend.

October 28, 2022

How To Develop Self-Regulation Skills In The Workplace

Civil Discourse

Why Self-Reflection Is The Key To Living A Deeper Life

There are countless books, articles, and practices designed to help you take charge of your life and be your best self.  There is one thing that almost all of them have in common: the need for self-reflection.  In order to overcome our weaknesses, play to our strengths, and achieve our goals, we have to know ourselves.  Without regular self-reflection, we may stay in a job we hate or a relationship that isn’t right for us.  Self-reflection gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and identify our desires.

Self-reflection has been my greatest asset as an entrepreneur.  Personal reflection helped me realize the kind of differences I wanted to make in the world.  I knew I wanted to help young artists with Guin Music, to restore civil discourse in the world with Nota.  Self-reflection was the key that helped me find the mission behind my businesses and put them into action.  To help you learn how to self-reflect, I’ll define self-reflection and how it can benefit your life.

What Is Self-Reflection?

Self-reflection is the process of examining yourself to better understand your thoughts, behavior, and emotions.  Most of us struggle with self-awareness, but personal reflection gives us time to look back at our patterns of behavior and interpret the underlying causes.  We can analyze how we cope with difficult emotions, what brings us joy, and what it is we truly desire.  Self-reflection gives us the ability to course correct when we find our actions straying from our values.

Self-reflection can be a powerful tool for enhancing relationships, achieving goals, and finding personal satisfaction and standing up for our beliefs.  However, too much time spent in self-reflection can lead to unhappiness and self-obsession.  We reflect on situations where we wished we had behaved differently so that we can learn from our mistakes, not beat ourselves up about it.  Self-judgement is not the point of personal reflection–rather, we simply wish to learn more about ourselves so we can improve our lives.

The Elements Of Self-Reflection

If you want to learn how to self-reflect, you need to work on three essential skills.  The first skill is the ability to maintain an open mind about ourselves and the world.  Everyone has their own biases, but you must become aware of them if you wish to keep them from clouding your judgement.  The second skill is the ability to be a neutral observer.  You have to learn how to observe yourself and the way you act with the same distance and lack of judgement you would offer a friend.  Lastly, you must learn to be objective.  You must learn how to separate negative thoughts and feelings from who you are as a person.  Your identity is not defined by how you act or feel in any given moment, but by the culmination of all of your experiences.

Benefits Of Self-Reflection

If you want to know why reflection is important, simply look at the myriad ways it can benefit your life.  The benefits of self-reflection range from the internal (personal fulfilment and satisfaction) to the external (achieving goals and improving relationships).  Self-reflection can offer you the following benefits:

  1. Make better decisions

Self-reflection offers you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.  By examining the way we act and feel in certain situations, we can learn what works for us and what doesn’t.  Let’s say you realize you do your best work first thing in the morning, but you’re hopeless in the late afternoon.  Self-reflection can allow you to cater your schedule to prioritize the most important tasks early on.  This way you can maximize your efficiency and avoid falling into the same trap again and again.

  1. Gain greater self-awareness

Self-awareness is an important tool for living our best lives.  When you know what inspires and motivates you, you can accomplish more at work.  When you know what makes you frustrated or anxious, you can avoid or overcome these negative emotions.  If you feel great anxiety around meeting work deadlines, then self-reflection can help you realize the benefit of finishing projects a day or two ahead of time.  This can lessen the stress in your life and help you get ahead of your anxieties.

  1. Learn to regulate your emotions

One of the biggest benefits of self-reflection is the ability to regulate our emotions.  How many times have you reacted out of emotion and then immediately regretted it?  When you engage in frequent self-reflection, you learn to anticipate your emotional reactions to things.  This gives you time to equip yourself with tools to deal with the emotions instead of letting them get the better of you.

  1. Improve your relationships

Self-reflection is not only good for us, but the people around us as well.  Regular self-reflection makes us more self-aware, empathetic, and kinder people.  We choose healthier responses to things and change our behaviors when they don’t suit us.  This allows us to be better friends and coworkers as we show up for our responsibilities and our friends.

  1. Achieve your goals

The personal growth you achieve as a result of self-reflection will help you achieve incredible goals.  Whether you want to switch to a new career, gain a promotion, or learn a new skill, self-reflection can help you get there.  It can help you become more efficient, overcome obstacles, and silence your inner critic.

Civil Discourse And Self-Reflection

When you practice self-reflection, you get a better understanding of yourself.  You become aware of your biases, triggers, and blind spots.  This makes you better equipped to handle difficult conversations without losing your temper or shutting down.  Because the goal of civil discourse is to talk and share ideas and opinions without arguing, self-reflection is invaluable in the process.  By engaging in regular self-reflection, you strengthen your ability to have meaningful conversations with people who have different viewpoints than your own.

Self-Reflection Quiz

To help you get started on self-reflection, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Think about what you did today.  What behaviors did you do throughout the day?
  • What emotions did you feel?
  • What triggers anger in you?
  • What triggers fear in you?
  • What triggers shame in you?
  • What emotional patterns do you experience regularly?  What causes them?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What prevents you from pursuing your passions?
  • Do you shy away from difficult conversations or tackle them head on?
  • Can you keep an open mind and listen to opposing points of view?

Hopefully you’ve been able to find what self-reflection means in your life.  Keep an eye out for self-reflection examples in your life as you start your journey to greater self-awareness.

October 19, 2022

Why Self-Reflection Is The Key To Living A Deeper Life

Civil Discourse

Lifelong Learning – 6 Benefits For Lifelong Learning

What Is Lifelong Learning?

As industries continue to evolve and the nature of work becomes more dynamic, lifelong learning is becoming increasingly essential to stay competitive. More and more, people are realizing that education is a lifelong process, not something limited to the years of formal schooling. Lifelong learners continue to study, learn new skills, and try new things. They’re curious, open-minded people who continually adapt to change.

Lifelong learning became a requirement for me early on. As an Environmental Studies major who decided to build companies in the publishing and music industries while in college, it quickly became clear to me I needed to pursue learning opportunities beyond the classroom in order to make an impact. I'm a big believer in seeking out new skills and using the digital resources we have at our disposal today.

Examples of Lifelong Learning

So, what does lifelong learning look like?  The truth is that there are many ways to engage in it. The beauty of learning continually throughout your life is that you get to choose what, when, and how you learn.  Here are some examples of lifelong learning to get an idea of how you might learn:

Taking a course

Don’t let your education come to an end once you’ve finished high school or college. Lifelong learning means taking advantage of opportunities to learn about a topic that interests you, whether it’s through an in-person or online course. It could be a course to learn a new skill for work, to learn a new language, or to improve your creative writing skills. Online courses are an excellent way to keep learning on your terms.

Gaining a new skill

Everyone learns in different ways, but it's common for people to learn a new skill by taking classes or trying it out themselves.  Some skills, like salsa dancing and playing the piano, have official classes you can take, but plenty of other skills—like baking crème brûlée—can be self-taught through trial and error.

Researching a fascinating topic

If you have an interest in something, you can take it upon yourself to learn more about it.  You might be a fan of the Golden Age of Cinema and decide to read up on old filmmakers.  Or maybe you’ve just found a podcast that covers financial tips for dummies.  You can learn outside a classroom if you’re willing to go looking for it.

Familiarizing yourself with new technology

Plenty of jobs require you to use complex technology or software applications.  Playing around with new tech can help you get a handle on it so you can take advantage of all it has to offer. When you invest in new technology and learn how to use it, that's an example of lifelong learning.

Pursuing personal development

One of the best examples of lifelong learning is having a hunger to know ourselves better.  When you pursue things like meditation, self-discovery, and even therapy, you’re engaging in the process of learning more about yourself and how you work.  This is a worthy area of study that can never be fully explored.

6 Benefits Of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learners experience countless benefits that those with closed minds do not. These include:

  1. Better work performance

The more open you are to learning, the better your career will be.  Lifelong learners continually gain new skills, improve their performance and learn from everyone around them.  Strive to treat every experience as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow.

  1. A healthier mind and body 

Learning something new can have a profound effect on your health.  Not only does it help your mind stay sharp, but it can improve your mental wellbeing and self-confidence. It also keeps you mentally (and sometimes physically) active, which improves both your energy levels and your overall wellness.

  1. Improved self-confidence

The more you learn, the more skills you acquire.  As a result, lifelong learners are constantly improving, overcoming obstacles and fearlessly taking on new challenges. They’re building themselves into the people they want to be, which allows them to tackle whatever life throws at them with self-confidence

  1. Valuable new skills

Lifelong learning gives you new skills that can change your life for the better. You’ll become familiar with a wide range of topics, more adept at using technology, and more cultured.  You’ll gain hard and soft skills that help you navigate work and social life.  Whether these skills are for personal pleasure or professional gain, they will enrich your life and expand your social circle.

  1. Greater self-awareness

Many people wander through life without truly understanding who they are and what they want. It’s difficult to find out what motivates us, inspires us, and strengthens us. Lifelong learners discover the things they like and the things they don’t. They also gain a greater understanding of what interests them, what nourishes them, and what they need to do to succeed with self-awareness.

  1. Stay up to date

Being out of touch with the rest of the world is one of the worst parts of having a closed mind.  You’ll struggle to keep up with new technology, feel excluded from many conversations, and find yourself overtaken at work by people with up-to-date knowledge.  Being a lifelong learner allows you to stay current, educating yourself with the latest innovations to make sure you keep up at work and in life.

Tips To Start And Be Engaged With Lifelong Learning

If you’re interested in becoming a lifelong learner, there are a few tips you can follow to get started.  These tips can be practiced daily to help you make continuous learning a habit, helping you get through the temptation to quit when you face obstacles. 

Try new things

The best way to see what interests you is to try new things.  Indecision can paralyze us, so it’s best to move forward even if you aren’t sure of the outcome.  If you want to learn to speak a new language, find a class that seems interesting and take it.  Even if you decide in the end that learning a new language isn’t for you, you’ll learn more about yourself than if you had simply done nothing.

Be curious

Having an open mind is key to being a lifelong learner.  When new opportunities present themselves to you, don’t ignore them.  Ask questions, be curious, and feel free to explore.  When you choose to be curious in the unknown, you open yourself up to new opportunities to learn and expand your horizons.

Set goals

To make sure that you’re continuing to learn new things, set regular goals for yourself.  Maybe you want to spend a certain number of hours a day learning a new skill, or take a certain number of classes by the end of the year.  If you have measurable and achievable goals, it’s easier to show up for your dedication to learn.

Find fellow learners

It’s a lot more fun to learn something when you’re doing it alongside other people.  If you take an online course, get in touch with other members who have the same passion as you.  This can help you find new courses or groups from which you can learn even more.  Your fellow learners can also share their knowledge and advice on their own learning journey, which can inspire you to keep growing.

Getting Started With Lifelong Learning

I believe that people should be able to pursue courses that match their personality and interests rather than be forced into a narrow set of educational options. That’s why I created Audo, an online learning and career-building destination that connects people with the resources to discover their passions and the courses they need to get ahead.  Audo guides you in the learning and self exploration process, using A.I.-driven recommendations to help you find which online courses are the best match for you and your goals.  Audo rewards lifelong learners by giving them a way to learn new skills that they can immediately put to use and start earning money.

Learning throughout your life can help you improve your wellbeing and mental health, build new relationships, and more. By committing to lifelong learning, you open yourself up to new opportunities and the chance to create a better future for yourself.

November 25, 2022

Lifelong Learning – 6 Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Business and Leadership

Gen Z And Freelancing: The Newest Workforce Trend

Gen Z'ers are leading the trend in freelance work.  Freelancing used to be viewed as a risky endeavor, a break from the security of a 9 to 5 job that wasn't always guaranteed to pan out. But as employees are increasingly less willing to stick to a traditional work routine, freelancing is skyrocketing in popularity and feasibility.  The number of freelancers in the US boomed from 57.3 million in 2017 to 70.4 million by 2022. That number is expected to keep growing, with estimates of 90.1 million freelancers in the US by 2028.

So what does this mean for anyone looking to set off on their own? Freelancing and the gig economy is a viable option worth considering. There are numerous avenues for people to find freelance work, as I’ll explain in this article. Read on to find out more about the ins and outs of a freelance career.

What Is Freelancing?

So what is freelancing? Freelancing is the act of performing specific work for clients while not being employed full-time by any one organization. One of the most attractive benefits of freelancing is that you are essentially your own boss, working for yourself instead of an employer. Freelancers can work for multiple clients at a time, whereas employees are typically committed to one company.

Freelance projects come in many shapes and sizes. While freelance jobs are generally short-term in nature, satisfied clients often request follow-on work from the same professionals again and again. Freelance professionals are available across a wide range of skills, including copywriting, programming, engineering, and marketing.

Who Can Be A Freelancer?

Freelancing comes with the freedom to work in the capacity of your choice, but how do you determine what niche to focus on and prepare yourself for success as a freelancer?

Freelancers have a wide variety of job opportunities available to them, including writing, graphic design and dog walking. Freelance job portals can help you find work in your preferred field.

One of the most important attributes of a freelancer is discipline. As your own boss, you’ll have to hold yourself accountable for your actions. You won’t be able to rely on a fixed income as a freelancer, so you’ll need to work hard at finding new opportunities if one falls through. This can be difficult at times, but there are plenty of people out there who have managed it. You may have to keep hustling for a while, but if you have the drive and persistence to keep going, you'll earn enough to see yourself through the various ups and downs.

Gen Z And Freelancing As A Career

Freelancing gives up the comforts of a full-time job, such as healthcare and retirement benefits. While you do have to pay your own health insurance, and you don’t get paid time off, you also gain freedom to set your own boundaries around work. You can work for whomever you want, whether it's multiple clients or just one. Your salary is up to you and your skills—in some cases, your salary can be comparable with or better than what a regular job earns.

The median annual personal income of freelancers has increased significantly over the last few years. Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of freelancers earning over $75,000 a year leapt from 17% to 31%.  The more time you spend freelancing, the more clients you will attract and the higher your earning potential will be. Gen Z and Millennials have found that freelancing is a lucrative and rewarding career option.

How To Become A Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer isn’t as hard as it looks, and it’s easier than you think. Simply go to any website that offers freelancing jobs and assignments, and apply for them. Working on a freelance basis can be slow-going at first, but you can build up a client base and earn higher rates as you go.

Freelancing sites can help you find work or clients to work with. Here are some websites where you can find freelance jobs:

  1. Fiverr

Fiverr is a valuable resource for freelancers of any kind.  You can create a gig for pretty much anything, from creating graphic designs to writing online articles and content. You set your own rates, and clients find you through Fiverr’s search feature.

  1. 99Designs

99Designs is a graphic design company where you can create logos, websites, book covers, and more.  Depending on your niche, you can offer any graphic design service under the sun to interested clients through a secure and trustworthy platform.

  1. Upwork

Upwork is similar to Fiverr, although it’s the freelancer who seeks out the client rather than the other way around.  This makes it easier to get started, however, as you can submit detailed applications to gigs that fit your qualifications.

  1. Audo.com

Audo.com is a career-building ecosystem that uses AI to recommend which skills you need to succeed in your career.  I founded this company to provide Gen Z with the tools they need to learn skills and earn money at the same time.  All you have to do is fill out your interests, abilities, and experience, then watch as Audo provides you with a personalized skill path towards making money.  Once you’ve completed coursework, you can use your new skills in our marketplace to earn money as you continue to learn more skills.

  1. Freelancer.com

Freelancer.com is another site that works similarly to Upwork. Freelancers can create a profile and bid for projects with their own pitches that explain why they’re the best person for the job.  Freelancers will work out an agreed payment amount with the buyer, which will then be delivered to them through the site.

Like any career, freelancing has its benefits and drawbacks. Before you go down that path, make sure you’re willing to assume the risks that come with freelancing. While it offers you professional independence, it can also come with insecurity and the danger of failure. But the more you’re willing to take risks in order to follow your professional ambitions, the more opportunities you’ll have to establish your brand and reputation as you achieve your goals.

November 24, 2022

Gen Z And Freelancing: The Newest Workforce Trend

Business and Leadership

Certificate Vs. Degree: Which Is Right For You?

Going to college and getting a traditional education used to be the surest way to open up career opportunities for your future, but that’s no longer the case. While traditional education is still considered the norm, it is no longer the only option for achieving career success, and more effective and attainable options are available today. The number of people enrolling in certificate programs to gain a greater understanding of their industry, obtain vital skills, and become more valuable employees is increasing year over year.

According to a recent report, about 51.3% of American adults have a college degree, certificate or industry certification. A degree or certificate can expand your career options, but the path you choose should be the one that is right for you. This blog will cover everything you need to know about certificates and degrees, so that you can make a more informed decision about which one is right for your career.

What Is A Certificate?

A certificate is a document that verifies you have completed a specific program of study within an industry. Certificate programs usually offered by colleges, universities, or private companies. While a degree offers a wide range of knowledge and expertise, a certificate program usually provides training for technical or skill-based jobs. Examples include:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • IT fundamentals
  • Data science
  • Nursing
  • Web development
  • Dental or medical-assisting
  • Firefighting
  • Real estate
  • Massage therapy
  • Construction
  • Plumbing

What Is A Degree?

A degree is an academic title that you receive after graduating from a university. A degree entails much more than the basic knowledge you need to work in a certain field, and can in fact prepare you for several different roles depending on your focus. Degrees can be divided into four categories:

Associate degree

An associate degree is higher than a high school diploma but not as intensive as a bachelor’s degree.  It takes around two years for a student to complete. Associate degrees can include:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Bachelor’s degree

To get a job in many fields, some employers will ask for a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree takes about four years to complete and includes general education classes in addition to courses pertaining to your specific major. Bachelor’s degrees can include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is a post-baccalaureate program consisting of more rigorous classes within a specialized field of study. Programs usually take between two-three years to complete. In addition to degrees within specific niches, the three basic master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Doctoral degree

A doctoral degree is the highest degree you can obtain, and it certifies your expertise in a particular field. The types of doctoral degrees include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Practitioner doctoral degrees, such as Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Health Administration (DHA)

The Main Differences Between Certificates And Degrees

Some people believe a degree is more valuable than a certificate, and some think the opposite.  The biggest difference usually involves the time and cost to earn them.  Differences include:

Time commitment

Certificates are usually less time-consuming to obtain than degrees. A degree can take between two to four years to complete, while a certificate can be obtained in just a few months. This is because certificates require fewer courses and can be taken according to your schedule.

Requirements

Another difference between a certificate and a degree is the requirements for enrollment.  Because most degree programs require a high school diploma or GED, they are often more viable options for people without either of these qualifications.

Depth and scope

Certificates teach you about a single topic. Degrees, on the other hand, allow you to explore a wide range of topics in depth. This can be useful to people looking for comprehensive knowledge, while a certificate can be useful for those looking for specific knowledge.

Cost

The cost of a degree vs. certificate is based on the number of courses you take.  Because degrees require many more courses to complete, the cost of a degree is much higher.  However, both certificates and degrees offer financial aid options that can help.

Job opportunities

If you want to get a specific job, then a certificate might be enough to help you land that particular position. But if you want your education to make you eligible for a wide range of jobs, then one degree can get your foot in the door in many places.

How To Choose Between Degrees And Certificates

In order to choose whether degrees or certifications, consider factors like your job ambitions, time constraints, and financial resources.  Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself before deciding:

  1. How quickly do you need to earn your credentials?
  2. How will you balance work and school?
  3. What field do you want to work in?
  4. How far do you want to advance in your career?

You may find that, while a degree would be ideal, it’s unrealistic for you to afford the time and money necessary to obtain one.  However, you may find that obtaining a degree is a long-term goal worthy of pursuing through online and night classes.

Self Learning And Certification

There are plenty of ways you can get certificates through online or offline self-learning.  These can help you upgrade your skills and even explore new careers. One of the most difficult steps in starting along a path of education is choosing what to pursue. My company, Audo, aims to address that very problem.

Audo is a career readiness and management platform using AI to tailor data-driven career paths by integrating paid gig work into the learning experience. Our AI-powered assessment maps your passions and interests to the careers that are right for you. You can level-up your skills, earn certifications and turbocharge your career by taking courses and earning credentials from our education partners. 

Do your research before embarking on a certificate or degree program.  Have a clear picture in your head about where you’d like to be in five years–do you want to be working your way up in the industry of your choice?  Freelancing while pursuing a master’s degree?  Starting your own business? The path toward your goals will come into clearer focus if you can get a clear picture in your mind of where you want to be. And if you want some assistance in creating that picture, take the Audo Guide assessment.

November 23, 2022

Certificate Vs. Degree: Which Is Right For You?

Business and Leadership

Is College A Waste Of Time?

Whether you believe that college is a necessity or a waste of time, there’s no denying that it’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. In contrast to certificate programs, which allow you to earn a certification relatively quickly and inexpensively, obtaining a college degree requires time, effort, and money. But can that time be better spent elsewhere?  Is there an alternative to college that can help you start earning money faster and find success just as easily?

As of 2021, just under 38% of US adults aged 25 and older have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. College degrees are no longer a requirement for building a successful and fulfilling career. In fact, many well-known companies have begun to hire employees based on their skill sets, rather than just college degrees. It's becoming increasingly clear nowadays that you don't need to follow the traditional college path and earn a degree to lead a prosperous and successful life.

The Case For Why College Is A Waste Of Time

Education is important, but if you're not married to the idea of a traditional educational route, you may find that not attending college is one of the best decisions you can make for your future. Here are a few reasons why:

Many successful people don’t have a college degree

Some of the most well-known successful individuals of our time either dropped out of college or never went at all. Steve Jobs famously quit after one semester at Reed College, deciding to work for Atari before leaving to co-found Apple.  Walt Disney didn’t even finish high school before entering the business of animated films, establishing a company worth billions that remains a powerhouse to this day.

Plenty of job vacancies don’t require a college degree

A college education has traditionally been viewed as a path to stable jobs and high earnings, but we are seeing a increase in the amount of companies adopting a skills-based hiring structure rather than making degrees a requirement. This opens the door to ambitious and talented people who lack the desire to spend at least 4 years pursuing higher education. Don’t assume that a college degree is required to do what you want to do–take the time to research jobs in your preferred field to see if a degree is necessary.

Certificates offer an attractive alternative

College degrees require you to take dozens of courses and spend years obtaining a general education in addition to your chosen major.  Certificate programs, on the other hand, give you the ability to hone in on your specific niche without wasting time on outside pursuits.  An increasing number of online courses allow you to obtain certificates that teach you valuable skills you can use to obtain a job.

There are faster ways to enter the marketplace

College can delay your entry into the workforce. If you have an idea for a business and you are ready to get started, don't deflate all of your energy by postponing your career for education. Sometimes the right thing to do is to take a risk and go for it. Whether you’re taking a leap into entrepreneurship or getting started in a new career, you may benefit from taking an entry level position and learning on the job.

Student debt can cripple your future

Student debt has become so excessive that even graduates in the highest-paying careers can find themselves hamstrung by their student loans. If you’re not planning to enter a field in which a degree is absolutely necessary, it makes more sense to put that money toward the pursuit of your career instead.

Reasons In Favor Of Attending College

Although there are many reasons to forgo college, it still remains the best path for certain people to reach their desired career.  Here are a couple of reasons why college might be right for you:

Your profession requires it

You can’t get away from it—some jobs do require a college degree. If you want to become a doctor, lawyer, or other jobs in the medical or legal field, you will need multiple degrees.  If you have your heart set on a career in one of these areas, college is a requirement.

You build connections with people in your field

One of the benefits of attending college is that it brings you together with peers who share your interests. You gain access to a network of alumni that can help you find a job, as well as fellow graduates who can offer guidance and camaraderie. In a world where networking can get you anywhere, college is full of people who can help you get where you need to go.

A College Degree Is Not Required For Entrepreneurship

As I touched on above, many of the most successful entrepreneurs don’t have college degrees. Here are a few more examples of successful entrepreneurs who opted not to attend college:

Richard Branson

Richard Branson is well known as founder and CEO of Virgin Group, a multinational conglomerate company.  From the airline company Virgin Atlantic to communications company Virgin Mobile, Branson has managed to make billions–all without a high school degree or any formal business education.

Mark Zuckerberg

If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, then you’ve witnessed the story of Mark Zuckerberg’s path to founding a revolutionary social media company.  Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard in 2004 to pursue Facebook full-time, building it into a company that has dominated the social media landscape for over a decade.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the most famous businessmen in the world. He founded Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard to focus on business, and has amassed a fortune worth $104.1 billion as of 2022.

Michael Dell

Michael Dell dropped out of college to found Dell Inc., which quickly became one of the largest technology infrastructure companies in the world.  His net worth is now $54.6 billion, a stunning achievement for a man without a degree.

Alternatives To College Degrees

So what can you do if you don't feel college is right for you? There are many non-traditional paths that can offer you equal or better benefits without the drawbacks. Depending on your career path, you might want to pursue any of the following alternatives:

Community college

Community colleges offer a variety of degree programs and allow students to earn associates degrees and certifications. Some popular community college degrees include nursing, law enforcement and web technology.

Trade school

Trade schools provide secondary and post-secondary education designed to teach technical skills required to complete the tasks of a particular job.

Coding bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are intensive programs of software development that are designed to provide students with the skills they need to land jobs in software development.

Entrepreneurship

Becoming an entrepreneur and building your own business can give you freedom, flexibility, and earning potential if you have the self discipline and ambition to make it happen.

Self learning and certification

Companies like Audo guide your learning process, helping you gain the skills you want and putting you on a path to the job that’s best for you. A.I. powered recommendations give you personalized recommendations for what to learn next.

College may not be right for everyone.  There are many drawbacks that can make college a waste of time and money.  However, it remains an excellent path for those who are determined to be in a profession that requires a college degree. If you're interested in entrepreneurship, college might delay your ability to join the workforce and start earning money.  

If you believe that college might not be the path for you, don't be afraid to break away from the pack.  Look into the alternatives—getting your education from an online program or starting a business straight out of high school to see if you can get the credentials you need without college.

November 22, 2022

Is College A Waste Of Time?

Business and Leadership

5 Advantages Of Being A Freelancer

Freelancing has become one of the most popular new career choices for young adults across the world.  As of 2022, there are 70.4 million freelancers in the United States, with an estimated 1.2 billion freelancers around the world.  Why has freelancing gotten so popular, so much so that almost one-third of the global workforce is doing it?  The answer lies in the numerous benefits of freelancing.  Not only do you get to be your own boss, but you gain the experience of working on a variety of projects you wouldn’t have access to at a 9 to 5 job.  

To help give you an idea of what freelancer benefits lie ahead of you, I’ll go over the pros and cons of freelancing and which platforms can help you get started.

5 Benefits Of Freelancing

If you want to join the expanding number of freelancers across the world, consider the benefits of freelancing to help you decide if it’s the right path for you.  These freelancer benefits include:

  1. You choose the employer

We rarely get to choose our bosses in life.  All of us have had that boss who demands too much without offering the support we need to get the job done.  When you work freelance, it’s up to you who you work with. You get to be your own boss, which means you call the shots on which clients you take on.  If a client is difficult to work with, you’re perfectly able to turn down work from them in favor of clients who are a better match.

  1. Work as much or as little as you want

Depending on your schedule, you can take on as much or as little freelance work as you like.  If you’re freelancing on the side, then you can take on one or two projects to supplement your regular income.  Or, if you’ve decided to become a full-time freelancer, you can determine the optimal workload that doesn’t leave you feeling burned out.

  1. Develop your own schedule

Freelancing gives you the independence to develop your own schedule.  If you’re an early bird, you can set office hours in the early morning to leave your afternoons wide open.  If you’re a night owl, there’s no one stopping you from working late nights and spending your mornings with your family or sleeping in.  Freelancing also allows you to give yourself time off whenever you want, allowing you to attend special events or take vacations without having to clear it with your boss.

  1. Be your own boss

One of the best benefits of freelancing is the ability to be your own boss.  Many jobs force you to color within the lines, delivering the work that your boss desires even if you would prefer to do things differently.  When you work freelance, you get to decide how you operate.  If you want to work from home in your pajamas, no one can stop you.  If you want to outsource certain parts of the work, you have the freedom to do so.

  1. Work on a greater variety of projects

When we work on new projects outside of our comfort zone, we gain new skills that make us more valuable in the workforce.  While a regular job might limit the scope of the projects you take on, freelancing gives you the opportunity to work on a wider variety of projects.  You get to decide whether or not to branch out and challenge yourself, which can help you build your resumé faster and become eligible for more work.

What Are The Cons Of Freelance Working?

If freelancing didn’t have any pitfalls, everyone would be doing it.  However, the people who succeed at freelancing do so because the rewards it provides exceed the cons.  Here are a few potential downsides of freelance working:

  1. You have to pay taxes by yourself

When you have a steady gig at a company, your employer chips in to pay part of your taxes.  This means that you only pay a portion of Social Security and Medicare while your employer helps pay for the rest.  Working freelance means you take on these taxes all by yourself, paying the full corporate share.

  1. You don’t have a fixed income

A steady gig guarantees you a fixed income.  When you work freelance, you’ll have times where you’re making a lot of money and times where you make very little.  If you’re good at budgeting, you can weather the rough patches just fine.  But some people aren’t equipped to handle these ups and downs, preferring the security of a regular job instead.

  1. You may feel isolated

Isolation is a potential downside of working for yourself.  Without an office of coworkers to go into every day, you need to make an effort to maintain connected to other people.  This may mean working from coffee shops or co-working spaces where you can meet and maintain relationships with other freelancers.

  1. It can be tough to find a work-life balance

At a regular job, you clock in and out at specific hours.  When you work freelance, it can be tough to slip out of work mode.  You’ll need to work extra hard to give yourself a firm end-time to the work, just as you would if you were working at a regular job.

How Do You Start Freelancing?

The best way to start freelancing is to engage with freelancing platforms.  Here are a few to help you get started:

Audo

Audo is a company that I created to help Gen Zers learn new skills and earn money at the same time.  Using data-driven recommendations, you can discover which online courses will gain you the skills you need to succeed.  You can also use the platform to find work through our Audo Earn Marketplace, putting your new skills to work right away.  

Fiverr

Fiverr has sections for different freelancing skills, from graphic design to writing online content.  You’ll make a gig and set your own rates, waiting for clients to purchase your gig from a list of other freelancers.

Upwork

Upwork puts the onus on you to find work, allowing you to bid on project proposals using a personal cover letter and work samples.  This can be especially helpful for those with detailed portfolios that they can use to impress buyers.

There are many pros and cons of freelancing, but luckily the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  If you’re a self-starter who’s willing to put in the effort to find your own work, then freelancing will give you the flexibility and freedom to build a successful future.

November 21, 2022

5 Advantages of Being a Freelancer

Business and Leadership

10 Steps To Start Your Own Business In 2022

Everyone has come up with an idea and thought, “I should start my own company.” But only 5% of those people actually do it. Starting a business requires more than just an idea, you need to know the steps to be successful. Ideas are the driving force behind every company. The companies I’ve created were born of simple ideas that fulfilled unmet needs and made a difference in the world. 

Audo began with the goal of providing Gen Z with the skills it needed to enter the workforce.  After publishing my writing on the Huffington Post in 2016, I was inspired to create Nota because I saw the need for vetted and anonymous publishing to restore civil discourse. My sister and I founded Guin Music to provide a full artist-first-ecosystem focused on artist development and sustainability. 

If you have an idea and want to turn it into a reality, read on for 10 easy steps to start your business.

What Do You Need To Start A Business?

Before you can get started setting up businesses, you need to be fully committed to your new venture. Setting up a new business takes a whole lot of drive and motivation to keep going through the various peaks and valleys. In addition to the actionable steps we’ll cover here, the mental commitment and preparation for starting a business is crucial. Don’t skip this step. Consider your willingness to take on the responsibility, stress, and time commitment necessary to see a business idea through. 

Research and seek out mentors who can help you turn your idea into a reality. No matter what industry you're in, there are successful people who have a lot of experience in that industry; and they like sharing the little secrets and tips on how to make it in their world. Seek out the wisdom of successful entrepreneurs by reading books on entrepreneurship for motivation and articles written by industry leaders. This can help you get into the right mindset to take the leap yourself and start your own business.

10 Steps To Start Your Business In 2022

Once you have done your research, you are ready to take the first steps to starting a business. These steps offer a basic roadmap for everything from coming up with a business idea to launching your new company. Here are 10 introductory steps to starting a business:

  1. Pick your idea

Deciding on an idea is the first step in determining the likelihood of your business succeeding. To come up with a monetizable idea, consider your own experience and strengths. Do you have any skills that could be turned into a business? Have you noticed any gaps in the market that you know how to fill?

  1. Perform market research

Before you move ahead with your idea, you want to make sure it’s actually profitable. A good starting point is to research how others in the same field are earning money and whether there’s a market for your idea. Even if you are entering a marketplace with other companies, your research can tell you how to differentiate yourself from the competition. You can offer lower prices, higher-quality products, or more convenient delivery.  Find a way to stand out and meet your customer’s needs.

  1. Draw up a business plan

Next, you’ll need to create a business plan, which will guide you through the rest of your journey of starting a business.  A detailed business plan should include descriptions of your product or service and how it will benefit customers, as well as all of the market research you’ve done. This plan should be formatted with a table of contents and clear sections to make it easy for investors to navigate.

  1. Decide on your business structure

Your business structure determines whether or not you will receive legal and financial protection as the founder of your business. A sole proprietorship is the easiest business structure to obtain, but it leaves you personally liable for the actions of your company. An LLC offers liability protection, which means that if someone sues your business, he or she cannot go after your personal assets. A corporation offers the highest degree of protection from lawsuits and other liabilities, but requires you to issue stock. This will give shareholders ownership over fractional shares of your company.

  1. File the necessary paperwork

To get started, you’ll need to register your business with the state. You’ll need to get a state and federal tax ID number for your business, as well as any licenses and permits required by your state/city. This often varies due to industry, as food service businesses have their own requirements separate from other retail businesses.

  1. Find investors

Now is the time to go out there and secure funding.  Before you start searching for investors, make an estimate of how much money your business will need. Don’t forget to include not only the cost of supplies and licenses, but also services that are essential to the success of your business such as legal advice. Once you have a number in mind, look for financing options such as grants, business loans, and angel investors. You can even look to friends and family members to invest in your business.

  1. Purchase business insurance

Business insurance and liability coverage will protect you, your business, and your employees from unforeseen events. You’ll want to consider general liability insurance, business income insurance, professional liability coverage, and data breach coverage if you need coverage in those areas. You may also want commercial property insurance to cover any physical space you rent for your business.

  1. Hire your team

Once you’ve got some seed money, hire a team to help launch your business. You may want a co-founder to help manage the day-to-day running of the business. Many businesses, regardless of industry, use IT professionals, marketing agents, and social media managers to help run their operations.

  1. Start Marketing

When you start a business, you must establish a brand. Develop a logo, create a consistent voice and tone for all your marketing materials, and design a website that is both easy to navigate and visually appealing. A marketing agency can be a real asset to help you build a website and become active on social media. Once you’ve laid this groundwork, it’s time to launch.

  1. Launch and scale

Launching your business is the beginning of a long and rewarding journey. You’ll need to scale your business and find new ways to grow if you want to start turning a profit. Keep your ear to the ground and listen to your customers' needs so that you can refine your products accordingly. You’ll also want to continue researching market trends and your competitors to make sure they aren’t outpacing you.

Now that you know all the right ways to start a business, you’re ready to get started. But just know that the most important step of all is defining your purpose. How will your business change people’s lives and add value? If you focus on this from the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll give your business the best chance of thriving.

November 18, 2022

10 Steps To Start Your Own Business In 2022

Business and Leadership

7 Business Myths About Starting A Business That I Used To Believe

Peter Drucker once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." This quote can be encouraging when you're considering starting your own business; instead of focusing on what an entrepreneur should be, find out who you are and what your passion is. The truth is that there are many things to consider when starting a business, but the best way to get started is to just do it.

When I first started out, I believed plenty of myths about businesses.  Like many people, I thought that entrepreneurship was an incredibly hard skill to learn. When I began working for myself, I realized that my goals were much more achievable than I had expected. Building a business is challenging, but you don't have to know everything or have every aspect of your business planned out from the start. The willingness to take action is the most important asset an entrepreneur can have.

7 Myths About Starting A Business And Entrepreneurship

A lot of people have a lot of wrong ideas about starting their own business.  You may have heard that you can only start a business if you have money, or higher education, or a 20-page business plan.  But none of those things are strictly necessary for starting a new business. If you have the drive and determination and motivation in entrepreneurship, you can succeed.

Here are 7 business myths that I’m here to correct:

  1. Only geniuses can start a business

Some entrepreneurs exaggerate their own expertise in starting a business by claiming that it takes a lot of knowledge. While business savvy and a higher education certainly help you navigate the world of entrepreneurship, they’re hardly requirements. The truth is that you don't have to know everything before you start a business but all you need is learning by doing. The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has an inspiring story of success despite failing his university entrance exam (twice). After years of rejections and initial failures, he was able to build one of the world’s largest e-commerce conglomerates.

  1. You need to have a lot money to invest

When starting your own business, time is more powerful than money.  While money is always helpful, many entrepreneurs started with nothing more than their services and skills.  If you want to know how to start a business with no money, look to entrepreneurs like Michael Dell.  He started with just $1,000 from his family, yet he was able to become one of the richest men in the world.

  1. You need to begin with a full business plan

A business plan is an asset, no doubt. But you don't need a ton of detail and a rigid structure to get started. It's okay to begin with just a few initial steps and an overarching purpose to guide you through the beginning stages of your business. Once you've gotten started, you'll get more information to fill in the blanks as you go along.

  1. There is a “right time” to start

Too many entrepreneurs are paralyzed by the idea that they have to wait for the perfect time to start their business. Don't be one of them. You always have reasons not to act–you don’t know enough, the market isn’t right, you’re not organized enough. The truth is that waiting for the perfect conditions to start a business will never happen. The right time to get started is now!

  1. You need to hire a full staff

Many businesses need employees to help manage day-to-day operations. But if you're just getting started, it's perfectly acceptable to work alone for some of the initial period. You can take on many roles yourself, then hire freelancers to handle tasks as needed. Instead of hiring a full-time copywriter, outsource your web copy to a freelance writer. You can keep your business lean by hiring part-time staff and contractors until the business has grown enough to warrant full-time employees.

  1. You should be ready to work around the clock

One of the biggest myths about starting a business is that if you want to be successful, you have to work 24/7. The truth is that if you take on too much too fast, you're likely to burn out. Quality work is much more important than quantity, especially when you know how to prioritize and focus on what's most important. 

Work smarter, not harder. Focus on high-impact tasks and delegate or delay the minor stuff. If you spend 30 hours a week doing high-quality work, it's likely to get you farther than burning out after a grueling 60-hour workweek.

  1. You need to be an expert at marketing and branding

Taking one or two online marketing courses can be a great asset to starting a business.  However, it's not required to be successful. If you know your customers and you have a clear goal, it’s possible to succeed without being an expert marketer. Think about the value you want to provide your customers and use that as a guide.  This will help you create a strong brand and connect with your audience.

When it comes to starting a business, there's a lot of information out there. Some of it is good, and some of it is less than accurate. In order for you to get up and running as efficiently as possible, it's important that you avoid these seven common myths when getting started in business. 

Don’t wait any longer to pursue your dream of entrepreneurship. I’ve reframed the myths that are likely keeping you from getting started, so there’s nothing left to stop you.  Anyone can start a business but not everyone is able to push through the failures required to achieve success. In my journey of becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve learned the most from my failures. If you want to create a successful business, you have to be ready to embrace your fears, be willing to fail, and learn from it.

November 17, 2022

7 Business Myths About Starting A Business That I Used To Believe

Business and Leadership

7 Most Valuable Interpersonal Skills For Employees

When you're interviewing for a job, you'll often hear applicants boast about their “excellent interpersonal skills.”  But what exactly does it mean to have good interpersonal skills? And why are they such an asset in the workplace?  The truth is, mastering interpersonal skills is certain to get you far in both your work and social life. Interpersonal skills will make you a more effective communicator, help you to get people's attention and focus, and allow you to avoid conflicts that come your way.

The ability to communicate effectively with other people is a fundamental skill for everyone, whether you’re managing a team or starting an entry-level job. In this blog, I’ll discuss what interpersonal skills are, why they’re so important at work, and the most important skills to develop.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are your ability to communicate and interact effectively with people throughout your daily lives, including at work and in personal relationships. They are essential to your success and happiness in everyday life, as well as valuable assets when you apply for a job or an internship.

These interpersonal skills are the behaviors, attitudes, and strategies that we use when working with other people and collaborating with your team. Interpersonal skills are those that involve managing other people. Such skills include conflict resolution, active listening and working as part of a team. They can also include emotional intelligence skills such as the ability to regulate stress and empathize with other people. While some people are natural born experts, others have to practice in order to make these skills a habit.

The Importance Of Interpersonal Skills

Practical skills such as coding and digital literacy are valuable in some professions, but interpersonal skills are applicable to every area of life. If you’re an accountant, entrepreneur, or retail manager, the ability to work well with others will get you far in your career.  Strong interpersonal skills are essential to resolving conflicts at the workplace with colleagues, friends and communicating more effectively with your romantic partner. This will lead to less conflict, higher self-confidence, and greater productivity.

Types Of Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are basic competencies that relate to working with other people. Here are seven examples of interpersonal skills that are valuable in the workplace:

  1. Communication

The principles of communication are the foundation of a strong interpersonal skill set. Being articulate helps you pick up on important details and makes sure your message is never misconstrued.  Communication can be broken down into two categories: verbal and nonverbal.

Verbal communication is a way of communicating with words. Good verbal communication includes being clear and direct while remaining respectful. Nonverbal communication refers to the ways we communicate using our bodies, facial expressions, and gestures. The best communicators are those who can read body language and pick up on other people’s nonverbal cues. They are mindful of their own tone of voice and facial expressions, and they use these skills to interpret what others are saying.

  1. Public speaking

Public speaking is an offshoot of communication skills, but it’s important enough to deserve a section of its own.  The ability to address a crowd is something that distinguishes good leaders from great ones.  When you have the ability to command people’s attention, you can do things like lead an effective meeting or even make a persuasive speech to attract investors.  Public speaking requires quite a bit of practice, as you’ll need to rehearse and plan out what you’re going to say ahead of time.  It can take a while to build your way up into being a confident public speaker, but it’s a valuable tool in any leader’s arsenal.

  1. Conflict management

The ability to resolve conflict is another important interpersonal skill that every employee needs.  Workplace disputes are a part of life, but being able to compromise and disagree respectfully are critical.  Without the ability to remain levelheaded and look for common ground, you render yourself and your colleagues ineffective. The ability to resolve conflicts between others is also an important interpersonal skill for leaders to have.  If you can find the source of the conflict, make sure that each party has their say, and find ways to meet a common goal, you can create a more cohesive team.

  1. Listening

Active listening is an incredibly valuable interpersonal skill. This refers to the ability to listen fully to another person without interruption, taking in the meaning of their words before formulating your own response which may become a listening barrier.  It also may include verbal or nonverbal gestures of encouragement to show the speaker that you’re engaged. A good listener asks clarifying questions and pays attention to the speaker’s body language while being mindful of their own.

  1. Empathy

Empathy is an important key to working with others. If you can’t understand why people act or feel the way they do, then you’ll keep running into conflict when your opposing work styles clash.  When you practice empathy, you take the time to learn how the other person operates so that you can meet them halfway.  If you stop to consider how your actions will affect them, you might decide to switch tactics. Being able to empathize allows you to anticipate their reactions and minimize resentment against people who work differently than you.

  1. Positivity

A positive attitude is hard to force, but it’s easy to learn. It takes time and effort to maintain a positive attitude through the stress and burnout of work. Train yourself to look for the positive side of things and see challenges as opportunities. With a positive mindset, you’ll find yourself less stressed and less likely to succumb to burnout. You’ll also be easier to work with, as you won’t take your frustration out on others. Positivity is contagious, and the more you train yourself to stay positive, the more you will encourage that mindset in your employees.

  1. Teamwork

The final interpersonal skill on the list is teamwork, which is a powerful skill for both employees and leaders.  Whether you’re leading the team or not, it’s important to know how to work with others towards a common goal. Teamwork and collaboration skills include the ability to compromise and delegate certain tasks to other people based on their unique strengths.  If you tend to do everything yourself, you’ll need to learn how to let go of control and allow others to submit their own ideas.  If you tend to shirk your responsibilities onto others, you’ll need to practice accountability to do your fair share of the work.

As you’ve read, interpersonal skills can play a very important role in your life.  However, it’s important to learn how to use these skills in a way that will benefit you rather than harm you.  These skills should help you support, inspire, and guide your fellow employees rather than manipulate or control them.  As a leader, your job is to support the people you work with.  Interpersonal skills are your most valuable tool to be of service to the people around you.  

To keep improving your interpersonal skills, find opportunities to practice civil discourse on a regular basis.  By actively listening, communicating honestly and respectfully, and maintaining your composure, you’ll be able to have difficult but necessary conversations.  This ability will keep your interpersonal skills sharp and provide you with constant opportunities for growth.

November 16, 2022

7 Most Valuable Interpersonal Skills For Employees

Business and Leadership

Feedback Sandwich: 10 Pros And Cons To Consider

Many organizations are working hard to create a culture where their employees can give and receive performance improvement feedback comfortably and kindly. The feedback sandwich or “compliment sandwich” has long been recommended as a strategy for giving positive and negative feedback in management development and consulting.

The feedback sandwich method is an effective way to give feedback, but it isn’t the best approach for everyone. The feedback sandwich method is a good way to provide constructive criticism, but it’s not the best approach for everyone. Some people might find the structure of the sandwich confusing, especially if the person giving feedback misapplies it. It helps to know when it’s the right time to put it to use. In this article, I’ll go over the pros and cons of the feedback sandwich as well as a few hot tips on how to deliver it effectively.

What Is A Feedback Sandwich?

Just as a sandwich filled with tasty ingredients is made with positive feedback between two slices of bread, a feedback sandwich is made with negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. The idea behind this method is to give criticism after praise in a way that makes it easier to hear negative feedback and more likely to be accepted by the employee receiving the feedback.

A feedback sandwich is a great way to provide feedback because it allows you to deliver your thoughts without offending or upsetting the person you’re giving feedback to. It also helps you provide a very clear and constructive criticism, which is often much more effective than simply trying to tear something down (“That was terrible!!”)

When giving feedback, it’s important to make sure the person you’re talking to is receptive.  The feedback sandwich helps with this by beginning with positive feedback, then mentioning a piece of negative feedback, then ending on a positive note.

Pros And Cons Of The Feedback Sandwich Method

Like any method of communication, the sandwich method of feedback has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Check out these pros and cons to see whether or not the feedback sandwich method is appropriate for you.

Benefits Of The Feedback Sandwich

It makes negative feedback easier to hear.

The biggest benefit of the feedback sandwich is that it softens the emotional impact of criticism.  No one likes to be told what they’re doing wrong even the most confident employee can start second-guessing themselves if they receive too much negative feedback.  By pairing the negative with the positive, you remind employees that their strengths vastly outweigh their weaknesses.  This can help them maintain perspective when being shown areas of improvement.

It makes negative feedback easier to give.

Just as no one likes to be criticized, very few people like to give criticism.  It takes a certain amount of objectivity and detachment to be able to tell another human being that they’re doing something wrong.  Even people whose job it is to critique other people can struggle with giving negative feedback on a consistent basis.  The feedback sandwich makes it easier to provide open and honest feedback by giving you an opportunity to focus on the good as well as the bad.  This can train you to become more adept at identifying areas of improvement in an objective manner.  It also helps you to acknowledge people’s strengths at the same time.

It reminds employees of their strengths.

Human nature causes us to focus on our own shortcomings and take our strengths for granted.  On any given day, we’ll remember the one thing we did wrong over the 20 things we did right.  Feedback sandwiches boost our self-esteem by reminding us on a regular basis of the areas in which we shine.  This confidence boost makes it easier to believe that we have the ability to overcome our weaknesses and grow no matter what.

It allows things to end on a positive note.

People tend to remember the way something ended much more strongly than how it began, which is why it’s important to end every meeting on a positive note.  The feedback sandwich allows you to part on good terms, which makes the person receiving feedback much more inclined to act on it rather than ignore it.  When you make the feedback sandwich the standard form of communication, you train your employees to expect positive feedback instead of anticipating constant criticism.

It strengthens the tunnel of communication.

Communication skills are one of the most important tools in our lives.  Whether we’re communicating with a boss, a colleague, or a partner, open and honest communication is necessary for a functional relationship.  When you’re too afraid to give negative feedback or you’re overly critical, you risk harming your relationships.  The feedback sandwich makes you a better communicator– it shows your employees that you will always be honest and they can be honest in return.

Drawbacks Of The Feedback Sandwich

It can sometimes come across as unclear.

One of the potential downsides of the feedback sandwich is that it can potentially cause confusion.  A feedback sandwich requires three clearly defined segments, but poor communicators can often blur the lines between the compliments and the criticisms.  This leads an employee to hear something like “You’re doing great, except you really aren’t, although maybe it’s not so bad.” Make sure that your compliment sandwich is clearly defined, specific, and most of all, actionable.

It can spoil positive feedback.

Another potential downside of the feedback sandwich is that it can ruin any positive feedback you’re looking to give.  If you only ever give feedback in the form of the feedback sandwich, you might inadvertently train people to think that every compliment you give is hiding a secret criticism.  The goal of the feedback sandwich is to soften the blow of negative criticism, not weaken positive feedback.  Make an effort to give out positive feedback on its own every now and then.  This will remind people that sometimes, you really have nothing but good things to say.

It can appear disingenuous.

When giving a feedback sandwich, it’s important to choose significant pieces of feedback to use as the individual ingredients.  If both of your compliments are weak, then they’ll only add insult to injury when you deliver the criticism.  For example, imagine if the feedback sandwich you received was:

  • Thank you for always being on time!
  • Your work is seriously subpar and if you don’t improve, we may need to fire you.
  • You always dress professionally.

While this is an extreme example, do you see how the positive feedback pales in comparison to the negative?  If your work is so subpar, who cares how you dress?  Each piece of feedback should be roughly equal in comparison, otherwise the person receiving it is going to feel manipulated.

It may not translate cross-culturally.

Cultural differences may prevent the feedback sandwich from being truly effective.  While the feedback sandwich has many strengths, it is primarily suitable for the Western style of communication.  Americans are used to hearing feedback in a certain way, while employees from other cultures may interpret the information in a totally different manner.  You want to avoid confusion at all costs with the feedback sandwich, otherwise you risk creating distrust in your employees.  Test the waters to see how the feedback sandwich is landing for each of your employees–if you can tell it’s not working, you might want to try a different method of communication with that person.

It can increase anxiety among employees.

This drawback is primarily dependent on how confidently you deliver the feedback sandwich.  If you’re nervous, stumbling over your words, or speaking in riddles, then you’ll only make things worse for the person getting the feedback.  Try practicing the feedback sandwich by yourself before testing it out for the first time.  If you like, you can write down bullet points to refer to during your meeting so you stay on track.  As long as you’re communicating clearly, respectfully, and with empathy, then you’ll be sure to pull off the feedback sandwich effectively.

Tips On How A Feedback Sandwich Can Work Effectively

If you’re considering adopting the sandwich method of feedback, then it’s more important to understand how to do it effectively. Here are a few tips to consider when giving a feedback sandwich:

Give constructive criticism

While a feedback sandwich does allow for negative feedback, this should be tailored in a way to be as constructive as possible.  “You’re doing terribly” is not only vague, it’s unhelpful.  All criticism should be clear and constructive, leaving the recipient with clear direction on how to move forward.  For example, “Your work is sloppy and unprofessional” could be delivered as “I’d like to see a more polished product.  Perhaps you could spend more time on the review process before turning things in, or let us know if you need an extension on the deadline.”  This is clear and constructive, making it easier for the recipient to change their behavior to meet your needs.

Make additional suggestions for improvement

Don’t be afraid to make suggestions on what changes the recipient can make to improve.  Sometimes people need extra guidance in order to learn from constructive criticism.  By providing the person with a few ideas on how to improve, you give them an opportunity to show you that they’ve heard your feedback and they’re taking steps to change their behavior.  That way, if they try your suggestions and still don’t meet their goals, you can then work together to give them the tools they need to succeed.

Have a strategy prepared ahead of time

It’s easy to lose track of things during the discussion and veer off course.  Nothing derails a feedback sandwich more than rambling about something off-topic.  Try to have a plan drawn out ahead of time for what you’re going to say, and include opportunities for the person to respond.  You might want to consider the different ways they’ll respond and come up with your own way of dealing with that.  For example, if your criticism is about lateness, you might anticipate that they’ll have questions about how often they’ve been late and by how long.  Having this information on hand ahead of time can make the process easier to navigate.

Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a powerful tool designed to have difficult conversations in an open and respectful manner.  What’s more difficult than telling someone what they’re doing wrong?  To practice civil discourse, make sure you give both sides ample opportunity to speak.  Don’t interrupt the other person when they’re speaking, and listen carefully to what they say before formulating your own response.

Practice active listening

Active listening is another great tool to make the feedback sandwich method easier.  When the person asks questions about your feedback, listen mindfully and closely to what they’re saying.  You may come in with an idea of what negative feedback you want to give, but then something they say makes you realize you had things all wrong.  Be open to input from the feedback recipient and you might find that you’ll come to a solution together.

What Do Real Life Feedback Sandwich Situations Look Like?

Feedback sandwiches don’t always work out in certain real life situations.  Some people have selective perception where they tune out the negative feedback and only hear the positives.  For example, let’s say you give someone the following feedback sandwich:

  • You’re always so dependable.
  • You need to keep me in the loop with updates about work projects.
  • You have an excellent attitude.

If the employee has selective perception, they might not understand the negative criticism in the middle.  You may want better communication about work projects, but all they’ve heard is how dependable they are and what a great attitude they have.  Try to make sure your negative criticism is distinct from the positive feedback, and that it doesn’t contradict it.

The feedback sandwich can be a great tool for making constructive criticism a natural part of the workday. Consider these tips to see whether or not the feedback sandwich is right for your needs.

November 11, 2022

Feedback Sandwich: 10 Pros And Cons To Consider

Business and Leadership

It’s crazy to think that we, as humans, have been expressing our creative side for thousands of years. The oldest cave paintings (that we know of) date all the way back to the Prehistoric Age. Now, human-produced AI and algorithms are capable of creating their own art. Thus, the creators of art have now become the creators of the creators of art. However, there are still many things that AI simply cannot do. Even with how quickly automation and other AI tech are advancing, I sincerely believe that they will never fully replace human beings in the realm of art.That said, I’m a huge proponent of further research & development in AI. I even use AI to better some of my businesses. At The Doe, we conduct cutting-edge evaluations through AI; by utilizing natural language processing (NPL) and other technologies in our user quizzes, we help our readers better understand differing values and perspectives. However, just because AI is useful doesn’t mean it offers a solution to every problem. After all, if I want to hear a great song, I don’t ask Siri to sing something for me.

Art Is a Distinctly Sentient Process

I don’t want to offend any bots that might be reading this, but art has always been something created by (and for) sentient beings. Humans (and maybe even a few other species) have the unique capacity to feel emotions and produce things with intent. That is to say, we can make things not just out of necessity, but also out of desire. More often than not, it is the desire to make something of beauty.Whether it’s a poem, a song, a painting, a digital NFT, or something else entirely, humans have the unique ability to create things with intention. We want to enjoy them. If we produce art for the sake of others (as is often the case), then we want them to be enjoyed, or at the very least, appreciated.As a writer and music producer, I have a special place in my heart for my fellow scribes and musicians. Writers use their linguistic abilities to create beautiful prose, informative articles, entertaining scripts, and profound stories. On the other hand, musicians use a combination of senses to create intricate melodies and harmonies, beats that seem to reach directly into your soul and make your body move, as well as completely new sounds that have never been heard before. While technology may help many artists practice their craft, it’s hard to imagine an algorithm producing Sylvan LaCue’s “Clam Chowda” or penning David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

Artificial Intelligence Merely Replicates Human Intelligence

As it stands now, Artificial Intelligence really has no ground to stand on when it comes to creative intent. We currently have no formal way to measure sentience, but since humans created AI tech and we know (with near certainty) that it does not have a consciousness, we can conclude that an AI robot is not sentient — at least, not under current definitions of the term.Thus, AI is only able to replicate human intelligence and behavior. A robot can appear to feel sad, but that does not mean that it actually feels sad. Similarly, a robot can be programmed to create a beautiful work of art, but in this instance, who is the real artist? The human who wrote the algorithm or the robot that carried out the directive according to a specific formula? I would say the human, as the robot is merely a tool in the artistic process, rather than the creative mind behind it.

Even If AI Can Rival Certain Sentient Qualities, It Cannot Replace Human Creativity

In any case, there’s no doubt that AI is constantly evolving and improving, so how can I be so sure that AI will never fully replace human-made art? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that AI evolves to the point that it is virtually indistinguishable from human beings. By all accounts, we have created a sentient robot with the capacity to feel, think, react, and create things from scratch with vision and intention. In short, I’m imagining a future in which AI can create art on its own, without any help or guidance from human beings.Even in this hypothetical future, human-made art would still remain distinct from AI-produced art. This is because every human consciousness is its own entity; we may have collective qualities and properties as sentient beings, but we are all individuals living our own little lives. Thus, human art will always be a reflection of human creativity that is unique to each person, and to our species as a whole. AI tech may evolve to produce its own art forms, but they will exist separately from what we create.So, even as fearmongers worry about robots writing news articles or algorithms creating hit songs, human art will always have its own space. We may not always be able to tell the difference between human and AI creations, but this fact is largely irrelevant. As long as humans never lose our capacity to exercise creativity and produce things of beauty, no robot will be able to take that away from us.

September 7, 2021

Why AI Will Never Fully Replace Human-Made Art

Published

We’ve been hearing about 5G for a while now, even though the vast majority of consumers still can’t access it. Currently, 5G-ready devices are priced pretty high, and ISPs are each scrambling to market themselves as “the” leader in 5G coverage — just like they did with 3G and 4G. While 3G brought us basic mobile web browsing and 4G brought us high-speed mobile internet and streaming, 5G technology promises to kick things up a notch.

Thus far, consumers and media outlets have mostly focused on the promised speeds that will come with 5G — and for good reason. Theoretically, 5G could be up to 10x faster than 4G, though some reports indicate that people might get speeds nearly 100x faster than what they have now. To put this in real-world terms, this means you could be able to download a 2-hour, 4K Ultra HD movie in a matter of seconds.

However, the true potential of 5G isn’t the potential speed — it’s the accessibility. If you’ve ever traveled beyond the realm of your home Wi-Fi network (as I’m sure you have), you’ll know that wireless mobile signals vary drastically. This is especially problematic in rural towns, states, and even regions, where ISPs have invested very little in the way of infrastructure.

While people in rural areas should have the same speeds as everyone else, it’s hard to blame ISPs for their priorities; they simply can’t get the same return on investment setting up mobile internet towers in Cheyenne, Wyoming (population ~65,000) as they can in New York City (population ~8.42 million). Fortunately, 5G will make leaps and bounds in terms of high-speed mobile internet access for everyone — not just big-city dwellers.

Why is 5G so much better?

A big problem with 4G is network congestion. Sure, you can watch a movie on the train ride to work, but when thousands of other people are trying to do the same thing, you’ll often find yourself with a blank loading screen — even when you’ve got full bars. This is due to the fact that 4G has, by and large, reached its data-processing limits. As 4G became the norm for billions of people around the planet, it also showcased the technology’s inability to quickly transfer increasingly large amounts of data across blocks of spectrum. With 5G, this is no longer an issue.

5G will open the door for ISPs to control more spectrum, thereby allowing more people to use the same network simultaneously without reduced speeds. On top of that, 5G tech is inherently built to deliver faster speeds, lower latency, and greater bandwidth by default. In other words, 5G will make everything you do online faster and easier.

But again, I’m doing the same thing that everyone else does — talking about speed when I should be talking about ease of access. Detractors have already tempered expectations about 5G’s capabilities in rural areas, which are mostly served by low-frequency towers. Since 5G is designed to function at mid-to-high frequencies, it will have less of an impact at the outset. However, the greater efficiency of 5G technology means that it could still provide less congestion and nominal speed improvements in rural areas.

Moreover, this is just what we can expect over the next 2 or 3 years. Beyond that, 5G infrastructure will likely make accessibility to higher-quality mobile (and home) internet even better. Plus, there’s another important factor that people need to keep in mind. In rural areas, most people are accustomed to unstable internet and mobile networks that deliver paltry speeds at best. Even a small uptick in average speeds and network access could make a huge difference to billions of people in underserved areas all over the world.

What does 5G mean for entrepreneurs?

There’s a reason why many young entrepreneurs leave behind their small hometowns and move to the big city to start their business endeavors. While it may be the “chic” thing to do, it’s also a sound business decision. Nowadays, most businesses are completely dependent on the internet. As a result, entrepreneurs need access to high-speed internet whether they’re working from home or just checking emails on the go. This means that mid-size and large cities are home to the vast majority of new businesses.

While this may just sound like the cost of doing business in the modern world, it also means that there’s a huge barrier to entry for entrepreneurs in rural areas who don’t have the funds to relocate to more expensive cities. Not only does this force many people to abandon their dreams, but it also robs the world of great potential. The next Bill Gates could be living in a small village in Africa, but without access to high-speed internet, he or she may never be able to show the world their true potential.

This is exactly why I’m excited about 5G. Sure, it stands to give the average consumer access to better quality mobile and home internet service, but it really means so much more than that. Once 5G infrastructure grows and 5G-ready devices become the norm (as opposed to the latest high-priced phones), billions of people across the planet will have the power of high-speed internet wherever they are, opening the door for almost limitless innovation. It may take a few years before we see the full effects of 5G, particularly in rural areas, but for many new and existing entrepreneurs, it will be well worth the wait.

September 7, 2021

Why 5G Could Be a Game Changer For Entrepreneurs — and the World

Published

An Ever-Evolving Industry

The music industry is changing rapidly, with new avenues arising for both creators and consumers every day. This begs the question: What will the music industry look like in the future?As the cofounder of an indie record label, I’ve watched many of the most recent changes happen in real time. Despite only working in the business for a few years, we’ve had to constantly adapt to new trends — both in music creation and consumption. While musicians can largely continue creating music as they have for years, the way in which they market their music and reach their audience is always changing.It’s easy to see how the music industry is evolving at an ever-increasing speed. Though SoundCloud has been around for more than a decade and is still one of the biggest players when it comes to discovering new, emerging artists, TikTok has emerged as a popular application for both creators and consumers. First introduced in 2016, the video-centric social media application has taken the music world by storm. Many new artists have gained huge followings on the application and, despite the Trump administration previouslyattempting to ban TikTokciting national security concerns, it has remained one of the most popular avenues for free music distribution, particularly among Gen Z consumers.In a sense, this is the future of the music industry. Whether you look at it from year to year or month to month, the ability to adapt back-end strategies is a must. However, one aspect of music marketing that has become increasingly relevant in the late 2010s and early 2020s is what I like to refer to as the “scandal factor.” You can create great music and garner a following as musicians have done for decades, but if you want to make it big in such a fickle and ephemeral landscape, you have to turn the dial up to 11.What does this actually mean in practice? It not only means doing something that no one else has done — it means doing something that shocks, polarizes and ultimately shifts the download and streaming data in your favor.Lil Nas X provides a perfect example of a musician where controversy has garnered attention and helped build his musical brand. He first turned heads by teaming up with Billy Ray Cyrus to create the highly popular and oddly catchy “Old Town Road,” a mixture of traditional country and modern rap that exploded on Twitter. The following year, Lil Nas Xpublicly came outin 2019, which in and of itself, shouldn’t have been controversial. However, it made him a mainstream gay male rapper — a rapper with a country hit who has attained international success. Lil Nas X capitalized further on this “controversy” with hismusic video for the hit single, “Montero,” which evoked images of the Garden of Eden before showing a fictionalized version of Lil Nas X twerking on Satan’s lap. While many saw it as an ode to the freedom of sexuality, manyconservatives decried it as blasphemous. However, regardless of how you felt about it, the controversy only put more money in the rapper’s pocket.This desire for increasingly shocking material doesn’t just exist in the music industry, either. The old modes of building brands — from political campaigns to retail shops — are falling by the wayside, with new players driven by clicks, streams, downloads, retweets and so on. Social media, particularly TikTok, Twitter and Youtube, might be the primary facilitator (for now), but the desire for controversy and virality are what underpin modern success. To be noticed, you have to do something worthy of people’s attention — which often means doing something completely unexpected. I learned this first hand by building the first completely anonymous publication. By allowing people to write for us anonymously, we get juicer, much more “controversial” perspectives. We’ve seen how the “scandal factor” of the narratives we publish on The Doe can lead to virality on social media like Instagram.Some artists may not like this data-obsessed way of creating, but there’s nothing inherently new about it. Musicians — and their labels — have been motivated by profits, usually above all else. Now, profits are largely calculated using algorithms and data provided by online platforms. Therefore, the environment for music creation and consumption may have changed, but the underlying drive to create new, interesting and profitable media remains the same.

The Bottom Line

My advice to young artists? Don’t feel that you have to cheapen or somehow betray your passion for music just for shock value. That said, if you want to reach a larger audience, you have to find ways to use your unique talents to create something worth talking about. There are millions of artists out there, so the key is figuring out how to make your music loud enough to be heard above all the other noise.This is why I like to tell artists to treat their music like a product and less like an art form if they want to succeed. That means every time they put music out, they should be treating their fans or listeners, no matter how small that group is, like a focus group they can garner feedback from. The fans may not always know what they want until they hear it. But they do decide what happens to your career, so being arrogant about knowing what’s “the best art” is probably not going to work out for you. Purpose-driven artists can build their careers by understanding how they can market or portray their unique art — even if it means pushing the current boundaries of artist comfort.Originally published on Rolling Stone.

July 15, 2021

My Thoughts for Young Artists on Marketing Their Music in an Ever-Evolving Industry

Published

The Transition to Remote Work

In many ways, the transition to remote work in the wake of Covid-19 has helped redefine existing conceptions of “company culture.” Even the term itself seems rather outdated; it conjures up images of bustling offices of decades past, with daily meetings, memos and synergetic pep talks. Though some organizations still function in this way, much modern-day business is done with teams spread out all over the world. Many entrepreneurs — myself included — now have to juggle multiple time zones and communication platforms, as well as differences in both language and culture.I’d like to make it clear that I am in no way complaining. In fact, I find the environment of remote workplaces exhilarating. That said, there’s no denying that we have entered an era in which traditional ways of developing and nurturing company culture no longer exist. Consequently, we have to find ways to build and promote cooperation, camaraderie, innovation and productivity — perhaps without ever meeting most of our coworkers face to face.

Company Culture Built On Communication

With the knowledge that work culture has evolved in a remote environment, many startups must spend a great deal of time considering and implementing various ways to strengthen the community from within. It may sound tedious to those entrepreneurs who are, frankly, just concerned with making payroll. You may wonder, who has the time to focus on company culture when there’s a never-ending to-do list? But when the “boss” is physically separate from everyone else, building strong professional relationships is essential.It’s not about monitoring people’s every move or badgering them for constant updates. Instead, it’s about developing a relationship built on mutual communication, trust and understanding. I seek to understand all of the people I work with — and do my best to make myself understood by them. Even when there is a clear hierarchical structure within the business, I want to let everyone know that they are heard and respected.While this may not be completely revolutionary, it is somewhat unique, even in the ever-growing world of remote work. Now that employees are no longer working under the noses of management, there’s a tendency in many companies to over-enforce policies that ensure productivity. In my opinion, this almost never has the desired effect. Instead, it results in more adversarial relationships, where business owners distrust their remote staff and remote employees resent their overbearing bosses.At my companies, most team communication takes place over Slack, email, Zoom or one of the productivity tools we use like Asana and Jira. Small nuances become important when much of our communication is no longer tied to facial expressions or body language. The need to over-communicate so that everyone can understand my tone and intention quickly becomes rather important. For this reason, I think one-on-one meetings allow us to understand each other on a deeper level. I never want to dictate; I prefer to collaborate.This is where I believe the future of remote company culture is heading. Rather than a series of top-down directives, objectives and policies meant to guide employee behavior, remote workplaces should be built on mutual trust and respect. This all begins with having the right people, in the right roles, who are crystal clear on their responsibilities and expected output.

Turning Remote Company Culture Into Business Growth

While I personally like to communicate in writing, I’m not blind to the fact that many people are visual or auditory learners. So, in getting to know the people I work with, I also come to learn the most effective ways of communicating my ideas to them. While I may not prefer to brainstorm or think out loud on a call — as opposed to brainstorming in private and coming back with written thoughts — I recognize the importance of doing so in some cases. Sometimes people need to feel heard and seen, even if you’re reading everything they’re sending you. This helps facilitate an environment in which open dialogue is not only encouraged — it’s just the way we do business.Take one of my startups as an example. The first product we launched was our publication: It’s entirely stories from people’s lives. We simply tell stories that are not being told in other places. While we do verify authors and their stories, we publish them anonymously to ensure their ideas are considered fairly by the public. However, this also gives a voice to those who don’t yearn for the attention their story could bring them. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t organize my businesses using the same foundational concepts. Everyone involved — from part-time freelancers to junior employees — has a voice. While we may not always agree on the same strategy or idea, it’s up to me to listen to them all.Even if they aren’t physically by my side, I know that I can depend on a network of people all over the world to help turn our mission and aspirations for the world into a reality. We all work closely together, exchanging ideas and information — often on a daily basis. In doing so, we ensure that no one’s ideas are disregarded, and everyone understands that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves — even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

The Bottom Line

While many of us may be using many of the same tools — Slack, Zoom and so on — the difference lies in how you use them to build relationships. I believe in maintaining a safe and professional working environment for everyone, myself included, but I’m not afraid to get personal. In fact, my businesses depend on it. By building trusting relationships with all of your remote teams and network of associates, you can ensure that you’re cultivating a company culture that is built for everyone.Originally published on Forbes.

July 15, 2021

How To Maintain Company Culture Remotely

Published

The Impact of Music — on Musicians

Arts and music are the most expressive industries. The spotlight they cast on artistic output is the death of many talented and upcoming artists. Contractual idiosyncrasies in the music industry offer several benefits, but also several distinct disadvantages. The mounting pressure to write, produce, and perform great music takes a toll on the artists, if not properly monitored. Although the current music industry offers many artists an opportunity to succeed, many times the artist will work themselves into a very unhealthy state. The creative process, and the pressure to remain relevant, exposes them to strong responses of depression, morbid public meltdowns, mental issues, and ultimately, may lead to their death.

The Impact of Streaming

On a similar note, the tantalizing premise of streaming services has led to success stories for a number of artists. As a consequence, music streaming services have resulted in a generation of single songs that have more impact than albums. At the same time, streaming has inexorably altered the music industry, which habitually notes the ‘death’ of artists, and many become tagged with the label of being one-hit wonders. However, as Paula Mejia wrote:

While streaming continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, the system through which artists are paid for the music being listened to hasn’t evolved in tandem — meaning that, as dissenters note, many artists are still paid little, after services and labels take their respective cuts.

Because of this new impact of streaming on artists, it is imperative to address the hot topic on the minds of many people — the literal and metaphorical death of artists due to mental health struggles, and the impact of streaming gatekeepers.

The wider cultural shift across the music industry, beginning with the advent of streaming, has introduced new types of gatekeepers. The industry is no longer siloed into discrete functions, such as promotion, publishing, talent management, and royalty collection, as it was in past decades. Streaming has changed music consumption and distribution, which has significantly altered popularity characteristics. The data used to evaluate the popularity of music and the artists, is obtained from streaming services in various classifications or charts. For instance, the Billboard’s Hot 100 includes weekly figures of the most popular songs across multiple regions and genres. It also ranks songs by radio airplay impressions, sales data, and streaming activity.

A Short Chart Life

The digital vetting process filters through songs, separating dubs and creating songs/singles that chart for only one week, known as “one-week wonders.” Digital songs are considerably more likely to plunge from modern digital vetting processes and disappear from the charts into oblivion. As Jerry Lao and Kevin Hoan Nguyen wrote in their article:

The end result is that digital songs are significantly more likely to fall off the chart in the first week compared to CD songs, but the effect moderates over time as the digital songs are scrutinized and only the good songs remain.

Moreover, the processes favor established artists who often regularly dominate the weekly charts. The digital platforms increase the avenues and frequency of music evaluation, as well as the speed with which singles from less established but talented artists peak and disappear — a one-time spotlight phenomenon.

The Decline of The Rising Career

The bedrock structure used by modern streaming services is disproportionately biased against emerging and midsize artists. The unfavorable model guts the musical career of many upcoming artists. Popular streaming services, including Apple Music and Spotify, use a “pro rata” model to determine how revenues are distributed. According to Mejia, the meaning of pro rata is that:

Rights-holders are paid according to market share; how their streams stack up against the most popular songs in a given time period. The people who hold the rights to the most listened-to tracks, then, stand to make the most.

This model is vastly critiqued as unreasonably privileged because it prioritizes and benefits the services themselves, followed by top artists and labels.

As a result, emerging and midsize artists have little chance to earn a decent living. In addition to money considerations, there is a shift toward purpose and mood-driven playlists, instead of full album plays. This pattern is mainly adopted as an advertising tool that functions on the basis that more value is derived from people listening more. Therefore, singles are pushed and popularized to the extent they matter more than artists or full-length albums.

Striving To Succeed

Music has a powerful positive impact on listeners’ mental health, yet many artists are subject to a negative impact, as they struggle with dire mental health issues. Sudden fame, and a lifestyle revolving around music creation and live performances, can intensify mental health challenges, including substance abuse and other psychological issues. In a tangential way, the quest to enter and rise to the peak of the music industry can massively impact an artist’s emotional health. Artists report despair and suicidal thoughts after repeatedly being turned away while trying to rise to fame.

This rejection reflects the brutal competitive nature of the industry, as only a few achieve a successful career. Several aspects trigger these problems, including lack of confidence, anxiety due to rejection and failure, negative influence of others, and the impact of exploitation. The callous nature of the music industry is evidenced by the peak in record sales immediately upon the death of an artist. Mental health struggles are a real menace in the sector that continue to steal big talents, and numb shining stars; as co-founder of Guin Records, our mission is to provide better support to artists

The Impact of Performance Pressure

The music community produces significant pressure and stressors. Artists often experience high-pressure situations, including gigs and live shows, attended by thousands of eager and expectant people. Artists are human, and the body is pre-programmed to respond in different ways under stress, which includes various physical and psychological states. Hence, musicians can either perform well due to the heightened awareness from adrenaline rushes, or suffer panic attacks or even memory loss, which cause long-term anxieties. Several artists have reported instances of stress-related breakdown that trigger unhealthy habits such as drinking and drug abuse.

Demi Lovato, for instance, has been admitted in hospital for drug overdose in the past. Before this incident, Lovato was and is still among the most vocal artists on mental health awareness within the music community. Anxiety struggles are also prevalent among several high-profile artists. Such debilitating issues cause much exasperation, necessitating the need to address them publicly. If left unaddressed, issues arising from high-pressure music industry may rapidly deteriorate to feelings of severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

Behind the Scenes — the Artist Suffers

It is paradoxical that music and musical communities and events foster a supportive environment to relax and have fun, yet artists suffer behind the scenes. The music industry is often a smoke and mirrors business, where artists may be portrayed as figureheads who have greater fortitude than others. Media and even artists foster these perceptions and encourage misconceptions about the magnitude of financial success. Nonetheless, they conceal the dire health conditions, and even worse financial outcomes that often occur.

The industry provides a brief window of opportunity for an artist to peak, but is all too often the death of many aspiring artists. Although streaming is arguably an engine driving the music industry to new heights, it is a black spot for those labelled as one-hit wonders. The sector is characterized by monsters, including mental health disorders, depression, and the death of artists and talent.

The Death of an Artist

Unfortunately, the most powerful impact of mental health issues in the music industry arises after the death of an artist. This issue is reflected in the deaths of major acts such as Avicii, who reportedly committed suicide after struggling with thoughts about the meaning of life, and Michael Jackson, who struggled with painkiller drugs addiction for years before dying from a combination of drugs. Artists are perceived (by fans) and portrayed (by the media) as having fun, ‘living the time of their lives’, and as people with superhuman fortitude. With this increased attention, artists often become influencers, and the demand for them to share their personal opinions and become subjected to the pressures of scrutiny, become even higher.

Instances of depression, mental breakdown, and even death show a different side of the lives of musicians. This situation shows the complexity and skewed perceptions about the subject of mental health issues in the context of the music industry. Unlike the easily relatable and understood cases of depression and anxiety such as schizophrenia, mental disorders and associated death within the music community is a major menace. The morbid public meltdowns, depression, and mental issues and ultimate deaths of artists continue to intrigue people — but sadly, just not enough to take action.

Originally published on Thrive

Works Cited

Lao, Jerry, and Kevin Hoan Nguyen. “One-Hit Wonder or Superstardom? The Role of Technology Format on Billboard’s Hot 100 Performance.” 2016, web.stanford.edu/~xhnguyen/BillboardandTechnology.pdf. Accessed 15 July 2020.

Mejia, Paula. “The Success of Streaming has been Great for Some, but is there a Better Way?” NPR, 22 Jul. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/07/22/743775196/the-success-of-streaming-has-been-great-for-some-but-is-there-a-better-way. Accessed 15 July 2020.

May 5, 2021

Nobody Wants to Talk about it: The Death of Artists

Published

The practice has gained much more prominence over the last two decades. Since the advent of the Internet, millions of 9-to-5 workers have put their extra time and resources toward making money through side hustles. According to a Bankrate survey, nearly half of full-time workers take part in some form of “side hustle” outside of their traditional job.

These activities can range from starting a fashion blog to working as a freelance delivery driver — and everything in between. When my co-founder Sabine and I pivoted Dormzi from being a service-based network to a marketplace powered by young people, our vision was to help students lean into their side hustles. One of the challenges we’ve been seeing since doing so is that many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that they would have to completely drop their 9-to-5 job or schooling to turn their side hustles into thriving businesses. Fortunately, this is frequently not the case. To show how to turn your side hustle into a full-time business, let’s look at a few real-world success stories:

Big businesses that started as side hustles

It’s a common misconception that your side hustle cannot become a successful business unless you dedicate 100% of your time and money to it. While it’s true that you cannot just expect a side hustle to become something more without any effort on your part, you can turn a side hustle into a full-time business without quitting your day job. How exactly can you do this? By regularly funding your side hustle with a portion of your 9-to-5 paycheck.

It sounds too easy to be true, right? The fact is that many side hustles remain side hustles because people don’t put additional funds into them. For example, if you provide writing services, you could pay to develop a website that markets your services and makes you look more professional. Without a website, you’ll likely struggle to gain new clients and turn your side hustle into a long-term business venture.

So, to refute the naysayers, let’s take a look at some entrepreneurs who invested in their side hustles and now run extremely profitable businesses:

Aytekin Tank, Founder of JotForm

Before founding JotForm in 2006, Aytekin Tank worked as a senior web developer for a large Internet media company in New York City. During his five-year tenure, Aytekin Tank was frequently tasked with creating tools with which editors could create unique forms, like surveys. However, Aytekin Tank often found the existing tools on the market wholly insufficient.

Thus, JotForm was born. While Aytekin Tank toiled away at his day job, he spent his free time developing what would become one of the most popular online form builder tools in the world. His work as a senior web developer provided enough additional funds to turn his ideas into a reality. Over time, Aytekin Tank put away a small fraction of his paycheck until he was ready to launch JotForm. Then, he had the funds to hire a team, grow his start-up into a full-time business, and become one of the dominant forces in his niche. Today, JotForm has over 2 million subscribers and counting!

Andrew Mason, Founder of Groupon

While Andrew Mason working toward a Public Policy Degree at the University of Chicago, he started developing The Pointa platform that introduced the “tipping point” concept of donating funds towards a particular cause. With The Point, users could collectively fundraise in support of a common goal. However, if the goal did not reach a certain number of supporters or a minimum monetary amount, no one would be charged and the goal would be abandoned. This “tipping point” concept would later form the basis of Andrew Mason’s subsequent endeavor, Groupon, with partners Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky.

Andrew Mason and his partners put a great deal of time and effort into The Point, which proved to be a failed idea, due in part to its lack of focus. However, they found that one aspect of The Point was particularly popular: collective buying power with group deals. Thus, in 2008, Groupon was born.

Andrew Mason worked as a server and a series of other odd jobs to pay his way through college and put aside funds to create The Point. Additionally, he was able to launch The Point with funds from his future Groupon partners. Even once The Point turned out to be a bust, Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky stuck by Andrew’s side. The trio turned their initial failure into a massive success, creating a company that is now valued at more than $2.4 billion!

Eren Bali, founder of Udemy

In the mid-2000s, Eren Bali worked as a freelance web developer based in Turkey. While working for various clients, including the now-defunct Speeddate.com, Bali was putting his extra time and funds toward his own passion project. In 2007, he developed software for a live virtual classroom. He saw a lot of potential in his new creation, so he saved up the funds to move his base of operations to Silicon Valley.

Once in California, Eren Bali met up with Oktay Caglar and Gagan Biyani to found Udemy, an open online course provider. The site launched in 2010 with minimal funding. In fact, Eren Bali and his partners tried and failed 30 times to gain the interest of investors. However, the early success of the platform allowed them to raise $1 million in just a few months. Later, Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell would help raise more capital for the burgeoning company. By early 2020, Udemy was valued at approximately $2 billion!

How to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Full-Time Business

It’s easy to look at success stories and feel that these side-hustlers-turned-business-owners just got lucky. While there is a certain amount of luck involved in every entrepreneurial endeavor, there are actionable steps you can take to turn your side hustle into a successful full-time business. Based on the examples above, you can reverse engineer their experiences to find a process that works for you. So, let’s take notes from successful entrepreneurs like Aytekin Tank, Andrew Mason, and Eren Bali!

Find and perfect your idea

In all three examples above, the founders of successful side-hustle businesses had ideas that they put into action. Often times, these ideas combined their existing skills or passions with a gap in the market. For example, let’s say that you are an excellent communicator and have expert knowledge in a particular niche. You could begin consulting for businesses in that niche. From there, you could set aside funds from your job to market and grow your side-hustle consultation services into a full-time business! This brings us to the second important step…

Develop a funding strategy

Most people begin side hustles to make money. However, to turn a side hustle into a business, you’ll need some starting capital. As a result, you’ll likely need to dedicate a small portion of your paycheck toward building your side hustle. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a sound business strategy.

Think about it; if you quit your job just to focus on your side hustle, you greatly reduce your income and risk putting all of your eggs in one unpredictable basket. Alternatively, if you regularly set aside funds from your job (or your side hustle) to build your business, you’re essentially investing in your future without taking on any additional risk. Over time, this nest egg could be enough to get your business up-and-running. If you still need more capital, you could always look for investors or take out a small business loan to get things moving!

Launch your business

It may seem like an unimportant distinction, but a side hustle becomes a business once you identify it as such. Side hustles are essentially part-time, temporary work to make extra cash; businesses are long-term investments with the potential to grow and create much larger returns. So, once you officially launch your business as an LLC or similar entity, you’ve taken an important step in your transition from side hustler to business owner!

As illustrated in the stories above, side hustles are generally low-risk. You spend a little bit of extra time and money to (hopefully) make more money or develop a unique idea. However, launching a business entails much more risk. When Aytekin Tank formed JotForm, he struggled to pay and manage his ever-growing staff. Andrew Manson’s first business launch, The Point, turned out to be a momentous failure, though it led him to develop a much better and more profitable website. Finally, Eren Bali and his business partners failed dozens of times to secure funding before finally getting the capital they needed to grow their business. In all three examples, these entrepreneurs launched their side-hustle businesses in spite of the inherent risks.

Time to get started

Turning a side hustle into a big business doesn’t mean you need to quit your day job. In fact, a day job has allowed hundreds of entrepreneurs to routinely fund their side hustles, eventually transforming them into full-time businesses. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs sometimes argue that leaving their much-hated nine-to-five jobs to focus on a full-time business will increase their chances of success. While there is validity to the point that you can’t just “set it and forget it,” you don’t need to completely upend your financial life or career to build your business. Instead, routinely fund and dedicate extra time to your side hustle until you’re ready to launch your business venture.

Originally published on Entrepreneur.

April 30, 2021

Big Businesses That Started as Side Hustles

Published

Today, small time farmers across the United States are stuck between a rock and a hard place due to unfair and unjust pressures put on these family run farms by mega corporations. This pressure has made it harder and harder for farmers to make ends meet to properly care for the health and wellbeing of their livestock. Unfortunately, nearly all farmers have to choose between, either, treating their animals humanely and making a small profit, or signing with a mega corporation to inhumanely raise livestock for a slightly larger profit. Poultry farms throughout the United States serve as a great example for how hard it is to compete with these corporations. 

The reality is that these mega corporations came in and changed the age-old standards of ethical farming. When looking at poultry farms, the price of meat and eggs has remained too low for too long for smaller farmers to compete and make a difference. Therefore, the poultry farmers have to make a tough choice between selling at the farmers’ markets, or signing deals with mega corporations for a better profit.

Factory farming, which is controlled by big businesses and corporations, are notorious for their inhumane treatment of animals. Poultry farmers, most of the time, have to compete with these mega corporations that find nothing ethically wrong with packing chickens into crates so small that they cannot move, failing to care for the medical needs in order to raise a bird bigger, faster, and cheaper. By completely neglecting any concern or care for the chickens, and placing these animals in horrific, unsanitary, and tortuous environments, big corporations are able to mass produce more eggs and poultry products at a discounted price. In exchange for money, they opt to torture animals.

This, in turn, drives down the price of poultry and eggs, considerably. Today, most farmers only make pennies per bird, due to the mass corporations that can afford to only obtain a marginal profit per animal because they own so many. Put in simpler terms, to make a $100, a mega corporation might only need to make 10 cents per chicken, since they have 1000 chickens. However, a small time farmer, who only has 100 chickens — but keeps them humanely, cares for their needs, and feeds them real food that is not genetically modified — would need to make $10 per chicken. This means that a small time farmer simply cannot compete with larger corporations that specialize in poultry. 

Ultimately, they, either, have to raise their productivity and, in doing so, sign a contract with a mega corporation, or remain small and sell at the farmer’s markets. Either way, the end result is the unfair treatment of poultry farmers and the continued mistreatment and abuse of chickens.

Not surprisingly, many smaller chicken farmers are reporting feeling extremely disgruntled and downright depressed over the current state of the whole enterprise. They remember the days, in decades past, when they could care for their chickens in an ethical and humane manner and still turn a profit because it was just them selling along with other farmers who grew for their towns. Now, you can buy the same brand of chicken all over the country. Because of this, fewer and fewer farmers are able to act ethically and earn enough to stay in business.

But there is hope. You as a consumer have the power to help these marginalized farmers and their animals who, ultimately, suffer the most. It is vital for all Americans to petition their governments — local, state, and federal — and demand that stricter laws and regulations be put into place in order to protect animal rights. Stricter laws will accomplish one of two goals: either, factory farmers will be driven out of business, or factory farms will be forced to treat their animals humanely and ethically. It is essential to keep in mind, that these larger corporations are lobbying lawmakers and petitioning to have their agendas upheld and undermine the legitimacy of truly dedicated and just farmers.

If factory farms shut down completely, then smaller farms will be able to thrive and prosper without having to succumb to barbaric practices. On the other hand, if these farms do abide by the laws and regulations which protect animal rights, then poultry farmers will be able to work in a humane setting and not be expected to abuse and mistreat animals in order to turn a profit. 

Either way, the farmer and the chickens will win and the corporations, which exploit farmers and torture innocent animals, will be thwarted in their nefarious actions.

Originally published on HuffPost.

April 15, 2021

A Rock and A Hard Place: The Farmers of America

Published

Social media influencers, bloggers, third-party review sites, and even major publications give negative feedback to businesses all the time. Learn how you can leverage media criticism to get your business ahead of the crowd.

One trait that applies to most new entrepreneurs is hopeless optimism. While many entrepreneurs and startup owners keep their feet on the ground when it comes to budgeting and business management, they may not be so level-headed about media criticism. In fact, most startup owners expect to receive nothing but praise and cheers when their products or services hit the market. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case.

However, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Rather than throwing in the towel when you get negative feedback, you should leverage media criticism to your advantage. When it comes to leveraging media critiques, there are essentially two schools of thought. One approach is the “P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism” technique; the other is Eric Reis’ “Adaptive Learning” strategy. Though both methods are very different, they offer you two ways to turn negative media criticism into a useful tool to grow your business and ultimately stand out from the competition.

What is media criticism?

It may sound like a no-brainer, but many first-time entrepreneurs assume that any kind of negative feedback qualifies as media criticism. In fact, there’s a huge difference between consumers leaving your business bad reviews on Yelp and a journalist criticizing your startup in a respected publication. So, let’s evaluate the differences between consumer criticism and media criticism.

Consumer criticism

Consumer criticism refers to any kind of negative critique of you, your product, your service, or your business by a patron or customer. For example, let’s say you run a business that provides digital marketing services. A client uses your services, feels unhappy about their experience, and decides to write a negative review of your business.

This is a prime example of consumer criticism. It is simply a form of negative feedback from a customer or client. More importantly, the customer or client is not a public figure, nor do they hold any sway over a larger audience. However, their feedback will likely be in the public view, so it does have the power to negatively affect your business and possibly deter future clients.

Media criticism

Alternatively, media criticism refers to negative feedback from a public and/or authoritative source. Sometimes, consumer criticism can also be media criticism. For example, if a prominent Youtube star makes a purchase from your startup and creates a negative review video for their Youtube channel, this would be a form of both consumer and media criticism.

In any case, media criticism generally comes from individuals or organizations that have a large audience or have the ability to sway public opinion in a substantial way. Here are a few common examples:

  • Journalists
  • Prominent social media influencers or bloggers
  • Celebrities
  • Newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets
  • TV programs, radio shows, and podcasts

Needless to say, there can be many different sources of media criticism. When many new startup owners are faced with media criticism, they may feel the urge to crumble under the pressure. After all, being the target of public criticism from a popular or authoritative source can be painful. So, how can you get over the initial hurdles and leverage media criticism to your own advantage?

Different approaches to managing and leveraging media criticism

As previously mentioned, there are two unique approaches to leveraging media criticism. The first approach is the “P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism” method. This is a rather famous — and perhaps infamous — strategy implemented by world-renowned New York Showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, P.T. Barnum. So, let’s take a closer look at the notorious showman’s strategy for using media criticism to grow his entertainment empire.

P.T. Barnum’s pro-criticism method

Though P.T. Barnum dabbled in a wide variety of ventures — from politics to journalism — he is most remembered for his traveling circus and widely publicized hoaxes. He became highly successful due to his keen observation that media criticism can be a good thing. In fact, many historians attribute the famous quote, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” (sometimes quoted as “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”) to Barnum.

One of Barnum’s most famous hoaxes was the “Feejee Mermaid,” which was the corpse of a monkey sewn to the tail of a fish, with paper-mâché to craft certain parts of the head and body. Despite its highly questionable authenticity, thousands of people flocked to Barnum’s New York-based museum to see the exhibit. In this instance, Barnum used controversy and negative media attention to grow his empire. This was further exemplified with his second most popular hoax, “General Tom Thumb.”

As part of his touring circus, Barnum employed several dwarfs and little people, one of whom he dubbed “General Tom Thumb.” The young boy began performing at the age of 4, with Barnum claiming that he was “The Smallest Person That Ever Walked Alone.” The act was so popular that Barnum took it to Europe, where Queen Victoria was both entertained and saddened by the young entertainer. His appearance before royalty — and the subsequent media frenzy — led to a hugely successful European tour.

So, how can these stories help you as an entrepreneur? The fact is that there is some truth to Barnum’s media criticism theory. Press — whether good or bad — provides exposure for you and your business. In short, it makes more people aware of your brand. For example, my business, The Doe, is a digital publication for anonymous contributors. Since we strive to encourage conversation and differing viewpoints, we have faced media criticism in the past. Most recently, we experienced backlash related to an article that argued against voting in the 2020 election due to the lack of quality candidates. Some of our more prominent followers took to social media to deride the article’s viewpoint, but as the founder and CEO of The Doe, I decided to lean into the criticism. Rather than ignoring, however, I always choose to respond to our critics, as often those conversations can be the most enlightening as a founder.

Eric Reis’ adaptive learning

In his much-lauded book, The Lean Startup, American entrepreneur Eric Reis puts forward a method for handling media critiques as a startup owner. Part of this process is a practice that Reis calls “Adaptive Learning.” As the name implies, entrepreneurs must analyze feedback so that they can adapt and learn from past mistakes. In short, it takes the same process that startups can use with consumer criticism and implements it with media criticism.

However, the ideas behind Adaptive Learning are far more complex than simply learning from one’s mistakes. In fact, Reis promotes a three-step process that every startup owner can use to their advantage. The illustration below provides a broad overview of Reis’ process:

As you can see, every startup must begin with a vision. This step defines the goals of your startup. To get to the next step, you must identify actionable steps that can get your startup up and running. Once you’ve identified these elements, you can start seeing how your business operates and how it is received. Are you able to profit right from the start? Is consumer feedback positive or negative? How about media critiques?

If you’re getting any negative feedback or taking note of metrics that could be improved, this is the moment to adapt and learn. This process of building, measuring, and learning is the foundation of Adaptive Learning. As you can see from the illustration above, you can continue through this process multiple times to improve your business and leverage media criticism to your advantage.

It’s inevitable

At one point or another, media criticism is an inevitability for every startup owner. Whether it’s a blogger who doesn’t like your product or a journalist who thinks your practices are questionable, there will always be media critiques of your business. Remember, you shouldn’t see media criticism as a reason to give up; you should see it as a reason to improve and build your business. Whether you use the P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism approach or Eric Reis’ Adaptive Learning method (or even a combination of the two), you have an actionable path to success. You simply have to use your ability to leverage media criticism so that your business can grow and get ahead of the crowd!

April 12, 2021

Leveraging Media Criticism to Get Your Business Ahead of the Crowd

Published

Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook report has some relevant findings for those willing to think outside the box.

Many young entrepreneurs and freelancers see opportunities in the highly disrupted 2021 economy, particularly in relation to bringing new products to digital markets that are only starting to stabilize in response to the pandemic.

Deloitte’s “2021 Retail Industry Outlook,” which surveyed fifty retail executives to analyze trends within the industry, demonstrates some of the unique ways young entrepreneurs and freelancers can benefit from retail trends. Digging in, we are able to see some ways that freelancers and others can pivot in 2021 to take advantage of retail industry shifts and turn existing skill sets into new avenues of professional growth.

Talent needed for digital formats

One of the major themes in the 2021 Deloitte report is an emphasis on reimaging how digital space is used by retail companies, and the importance of proactively orienting toward digital marketplaces as a long term strategy, not a short term stop-gap. In order to accomplish this, Deloitte recommends hiring digitally savvy, versatile talent that will reimagine websites, apps, and digital spaces to increase sales and improve UI.

Young entrepreneurs are also tapped into one of the biggest concerns for consumers today: trust, privacy, and transparency. According to Pew Research, 81% of the public believes that the potential risks of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits. Designing sales fronts and apps that put data privacy and consumer protection to the forefront of UI development will give new entrepreneurs an edge in an ever more cautious digital space.

One of the major lessons learned from the retail environment of 2020 was that supply chains were delicate and consumer behavior was harder to predict. Young entrepreneurs will succeed at solidifying supply chains and distribution networks through innovative partnerships forged outside of traditional frameworks that struggled to adapt in 2020. These will require digitally savvy talent able to reimagine how data is collected and connections are made in online sales spaces.

Livestream and virtual showroom content

The Deloitte report points to a growing trend in China of live streaming product demos, and many young entrepreneurs with live streaming experience from the gaming world could capitalize as this trend comes to the United States. As Inc’s Lindsay Blakely notes, the growth of livestream shopping in the US is particularly strong for male consumers and dads, which means content live streamers already confident in writing copy and performing live for male audiences could thrive in retail demoing of consumer electronics, luxury goods, or other products which benefit from the live stream format.

The Deloitte Report also pointed to the extreme importance of new, contactless ways of connecting consumers with products, including 3D Virtual Showrooms and consumer-oriented image databases of retail products. Freelancers in the photography space, many of whom struggled with 2020’s decline in public events, could pivot their efforts and portfolios toward virtual showroom photography that is oriented toward consumer behaviors. This would be a way for freelancers to partner with small businesses to create captivating online content that drives brand loyalty.

Complexity and personalization

One of the biggest results of the online retail shift of 2020 is the drive toward personalization and digital differentiation. This means that companies should be considering how to add personalization options and unique details to all items offered, and to design products and UI to be oriented toward digital customers. The folks over at Deloitte argue that “everything could emanate from the customer, precisely because AI makes such personalization possible by achieving economies of complexity (handling personalization at the lowest possible cost) rather than economies of scale (handling production at the lowest possible cost).”

In essence, “bespoke” is hip in the digital retail space. Young entrepreneurs and freelancers can take advantage of this trend by imitating companies that create innovative UI and allow for the kinds of customizations that matter to Millenials and Generation Z shoppers. Companies in the delivery home cookingbeauty, and skin care industries have been highly successful in these efforts: young entrepreneurs looking to move into any retail segment should look to how customization, combined with innovative digital sales platforms, can increase profitability.

Long term opportunities

Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook is optimistic about opportunities in 2021 for the retail industry to rebound and operate more efficiently. While many small businesses failed in 2020, and many young entrepreneurs put their dreams on hold, 2021 offers post-vaccine hope of rebounding sales, particularly within the digital space. By focusing on new virtual spaces, customer UI, privacy, live streaming, and bespoke customization, young entrepreneurs can take the best lessons from 2020 and integrate them to promote rapid expansion in 2021.

Perhaps more importantly, those looking at 2021 as an opportunity to pivot from previous experiences to a space in the retail industry can utilize the need to present products in new ways to demanding digital customers as a way to sell existing skills. Photographers, live streamers, brand managers, product developers — many freelancers and young entrepreneurs can benefit from the move away from brick and mortar to a more adaptive and dynamic digital retail space. By focusing on customer experience and new conceptions of digital space, young entrepreneurs can still reach medium and long-term business goals through rapid 2021 growth.

Originally published on Entrepreneur

April 5, 2021

3 Ways Young Entrepreneurs and Freelancers Can Disrupt the Retail Industry

Published

Hi Friends,

I’m back with the monthly memo. And I’m going to start this one by asking y’all to take a deep breath, because it’s been a long 40 days since I began this newsletter. But I’m not alone in the sentiment of being a bit more tired than usual, it’s been a lot of really long days.

When I read that letter again, part of me feels the same as I did then: there are glimpses of fatigue along with a healthy level of founder optimism. But my sentiment in the last letter about battening down the hatches was no joke. The 6 am wake-ups and 14-hour work days haven’t quite let up, and while it does feel like I’m moving at lightspeed, there’s still a feeling of “hurry up and wait.” This letter, in large part, is for my fellow founder friends who are continuing to build amidst a financial winter unlike we’ve seen before.

All that said, if you’re going to stick with a startup during an economic downturn, I strongly believe in the importance of – as a founder – outperforming and inspiring those around you. In truth, that can be a very difficult thing to do when you’re young and everyone you work with has more experience than you.

That means you’ll have to figure out what your “secret sauce” is in order for you to stay ahead of the pack. I’ve found that nobody can prescribe the right sauce to any person, because the value we bring to our respective startups differs from one to the other. In my case, my “secret sauce” is my obsession with productivity and capturing information that can be leveraged later. I try not to let a single plausible idea – or concept that could improve my life or help me achieve my goals – go undocumented. This isn’t productivity for work I’m talking about, but a personal life management system.

For you, your secret sauce might be communicating the most outrageous concepts in the simplest of ways. Or maybe it’s showing up on time for people, something I haven’t been very good with recently. Whatever your secret sauce, use that each morning to deliver your unique value to whatever vendetta you’re building against. Focusing on one vendetta at a time keeps the stress levels down :)

But if you’re young, now is the time to be pulling all-nighters and risking it all to change the world. Stick with me as I tell you about the last 40 days since I wrote y’all... and apologies for the delay. Here we go!

This month I’ve been meeting with lots of different investors, from venture funds to angels. The feedback and interest in what we’re building is strong: it’s never been so obvious how terrible of an investment college is for Gen Z. Our challenge is straight up ambitious: use AI to tailor online education to get you employed in under 3 months. As we head into the holiday season, we’re focused on our beta users currently taking courses, and driving towards our MVP to open our doors to the internet.

We’ve made some exciting progress this month onboarding beta testers for Audo Learn, pushing the limits of what our beta can handle before our MVP opens in January. But even that statement feels like a blessing when I think back to the beginning of this year when we didn’t even know if the concept would resonate (we did tests, but ya never know). I’ve been doing live walkthrough onboardings with some of our beta testers, and it’s been really helpful to get that user feedback in real-time.

I was planning on telling everyone how many career tracks we’d launch with in January. But we may have a surprise in the works

Audo is hitting the road, and we’ve applied to some of EdTech’s biggest opportunities:

  • Myself, Andrew (CTO), and Ahmad (Partnerships) will be attending CES in January: would love to connect with anyone thinking of going!
  • You’ll see us in a booth at ASU+GSV where we’ll be looking to connect with new partners, demo our tech, and learn more about the future of education.
  • We’ll also be at SXSW to join hundreds of excellent companies working to reimagine the future of education. A hackathon is also in the works; more details coming soon!

I also had the pleasure of speaking on a couple of podcasts and Yahoo Finance to get the word out about Audo, which were really cool. I’m just a verbose dude, and am working on refining my answers, because I love rabbit holes. Conveniently located here to peruse:  

Yahoo Finance Appearance

Action & Ambition Podcast

Entrepreneur Radio Podcast

Man. This one is tough. As I spoke about in my last letter I’ve taken a step back from Nota (Previously named The Doe), to allow Josh Brandau the new CEO of Nota to bring the organization some much-needed focus.

That much-needed focus also came with a lot of innovative ideas, and a lot of questions around building a sustainable technology company in a struggling publishing industry. The problems are nuanced, but I’ll start with this: it’s very difficult to watch something you’ve built for so long come screeching to a halt, as we evaluate the most viable route forward.

All that to say, the Nota team has made it past many of the “rough times,” and momentum should begin to pick up soon with more clarity on what we’re building. But it took some time to get here. I don’t have much more to share at this point, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have some really exciting updates about Nota by the end of the year.

The Guin team has been growing significantly lately. We’re now a family of about 20 people, and proudly a 90% black-employed organization.

With our growing team also comes an evolution of concept. Beginning this year, Guin has focused on creating sustainability for the label, and we’ve made major moves toward ensuring that this happens. We’ve fleshed out our revenue model, and the label itself has undergone a huge in-service operation: everyone’s jazzed for 2023.

We have big dreams for Guin, and Misha is chipping away at all of them daily. Imagine a Guin studio in every major city. Imagine an incubator focused on artist development for aspiring artists who are financially disadvantaged. Imagine transparency at the core of every deal we do.

There’s a lot that’s been cooking in the oven that we’ll start to share slowly, but October was a temperature check on the dream, and it’s strong!

Across the Board

Culture has been a big focus of mine recently. It’s the driving factor of success for a startup, which is why I’m grateful to highlight an amazing culture being built at Guin. Misha has done an amazing job of driving cohesion among an ever-evolving team against a new pivot. But culture ebbs and flows. Across my organizations, we’ve had to let people go as we’ve made aggressive pivots and evaluated what the organizations best need to be successful. We’ve also seen amazing moments where we’ve gained explosive growth at Audo, meeting our goals, only to see the goalposts move into arenas like fundraising or team growth: which inevitably weaken culture. The startup game can be frustrating, but I also believe that building sustainable companies that employ many, and drive obvious solutions to industry-wide problems, is the greatest use of my drive and time.

At Guin, I’m seeing glimpses of a really amazing culture. At times, artists will tear into staff, but our team is learning how to deal with it. We are learning when to own up to a fault or hole in our startup processes and to recognize the moments when it’s not our fault. It’s amazing to see this growth in Guin under Misha’s leadership.

At Nota, the team and culture have suffered a lot. I’m grateful that all the team members we let go, or chose to leave during our pivot, have all managed to gain employment and make the next moves in their careers. That’s the best outcome you could hope for as a founder who will inevitably make mistakes. In my case, it was seeing hockey stick-like traction without building proper monetization strategies. To the team members who have moved on, thank you for trusting in me for so long. I’m proud of the work we did and proud of you all for keeping the drive and finding new opportunities to work: I can’t wait to cheer you on on your new paths.

For the folks still at Nota, I think we understand how daunting the challenge we’re tackling is, but I also think we’ve figured out how we’ll be able to operate and build. I know you all will love what we release next.

It’s been a tough month. I think most of my fellow entrepreneurs are changing their expectations of what the end of this year would look like. The hours have gotten longer and the work more extensive. I’m sure I’m not the only founder who’s been facing 14-hour days with no lunch.

But I don’t want you to think it’s all doom and gloom.

This past month has been a lesson on the importance of building connections and keeping an open mind, even under the intensity of building and raising. From chats with investors, to dinners with fellow founders, there’s truly no better way to get a perspective on what you’re building than by hearing other people’s stories. It re-motivates and re-excites you about the path you’ve chosen.

You never know what kind of insights or opportunities will come out of a conversation – and you are more likely to find them when you are receptive and present.

I attended an event on the Future of Work this month, intending to connect with VCs and find opportunities to pitch Audo. Surprisingly, though, the best connection I made wasn’t with a potential investor; it was with another founder. His company is creating tech that can quickly recognize patterns in large data sets. In connecting, we were able to follow up with meetings, learn about their technology, and develop new ideas that will save my team hundreds of man-hours. Had I been narrowly focused on networking with VCs, I would have completely missed out on that learning opportunity.

When you're building, staying laser-focused on your MVP and fundraising can be tempting, but there's a lot to be said for staying impartial and open-minded. In fact, the early building stage might be the most important time to remain objective and open. Remaining malleable and adaptive as a company culture will result in more effective pivots that keep you on track, rather than breaking you.

George Bernard Shaw said it best: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

I mentioned I’d talk about productivity in these newsletters, but really I’ve just been building out my life on Click-Up more than ever these days. So for now, here are some contact management apps to help you improve the relationships in your life. It’s been a very interesting, niche, craze. And there are so many options from Dex, to Clay.Earth, Contacts+, and more.

Book Update

In January, I shared that I got a publishing deal for a book proposal on civil discourse. I’m excited to say that the final manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, and we’ve approved the first set of proofs. On the long road of publishing a book, we are within sight of the finish line!

We’re 5 months away from our publishing date, so expect to see more on this soon. I’ll likely do a cover reveal in November!


November 9, 2022

October Monthly Memo

Newsletter

Hi friends! Welcome to the first installment of my monthly memo. I'm excited to share some news and updates with you, as well as insights from the blog, and a few other things on my radar.

It's been a busy year, and summer... I began this year with the intention of creating self-sufficiency for the three startups I founded over the last few years. 

To focus my time, I've taken on full-time responsibility as CEO of Audo (formerly Dormzi), while taking a step back elsewhere. I have hired the previous CRO of the LA Times (Josh Brandau) to take over and evolve The Doe, and I've taken a step back from Guin, confident in my sister and co-founder Misha's leadership as sole CEO of Guin Records.  I support both Misha and Josh as much as I can in my free time, sharing learnings from Audo and other companies across my portfolio to ensure learning and progress from mistakes and wins are made at each venture. 

On a personal note, Summer has been less relaxed than in previous years, with "building" being the focus on my mind. Whether it's been increasing the amount of time and priority I put on family-time this summer, or the late nights and early mornings spent fundraising for Audo, I've been blessed to be busy! But if you're feeling like this summer has been a quiet and heads-down period for more than just yourself, there's some logic there! (Keep reading)

I've been fortunate to learn a lot over this summer, and to put a significant emphasis on increasing productivity, increasing clarity in everyone's roles and responsibilities, and doing my utmost to drive these impact-focused teams. But, at the risk of repeating what you all already know, the markets are down; beyond the global implications, from an early-stage founder mindset, the dial has been turned up for all of us to ensure sustainability in what we're building. Fundraising is no longer dependent on who makes the most noise, but now, who has a real solution for a large enough market that can be monetized in your first 2-3 years of operating. I'm confident I'm building solid companies, but this summer was a lesson in long-term strategy.

I'm learning that patience is a founder's best asset in a bear market and everything takes a little longer in a downturn. Patience coupled with a realistic roadmap to product-market fit is the way through. That means being able to see the vision beyond the excitement of early stages, and being mentally prepared for years of testing, feedback and product iterations that will lead to a monetizable solution. 

Young founders, myself included, tend to be impatient, wanting to build the products that solve massive problems and grow into empires. But Rome was not built in a day, so patience has been the biggest skill I've been developing most this summer, along with all the fundraising lessons I've been learning on the job. Amazon started by selling books, before selling everything you can think of.

Company Updates

AUDO

Audo's beta is officially live!

In case you missed it, my college startup, Dormzi, has recently pivoted and rebranded to Audo - A career-building ecosystem that uses an AI-powered assessment to generate a personalized upskilling path and connect you to careers in today's increasingly volatile market. 

We believe that there are tons of powerful courses online, and tons of amazing job opportunities at the entry-level, but users are not being matched well to either. We're building the ecosystem to bridge digital education with gig-style work and earning potential. A "get paid gigs, as you learn", kind of thing. 

We've partnered with Coursera, EdX, and Path Unbound to provide ample variety in courses for us to stitch together personalized curriculum. The only question at hand, is how can we close the gap between higher education and job placement? Well, it starts by ensuring it's offered at an affordable price that breaks the chokehold of student debt and the 4 year commitment typically expected by traditional education institutions. We're in the exciting stage of beta testing Audo Learn, and we're prioritizing collecting as much feedback from our early users as possible so we can adapt to their needs. If you or someone you know is interested in being a beta tester, they can sign up here.

NOTA

Say Hello to Nota-the next stage of evolution for The Doe!  

The Doe began as a solution providing a place online to authentically tell meaningful stories through anonymous publishing. However, over the years, we've recognized we cannot do this alone. To do more, our vision must grow and pivot.

Enter: Nota.

With Nota, our dream is to build an ecosystem for journalists and media consumers by, finally, bringing technology solutions to the journalism industry that improve the content creation process for writers, increase revenue for publications, and rebuild trust in publications from consumers. We want to return people to the center of publishing. We're focused on empowering the writers and storytellers who fuel the publishers we trust most, with the intent to improve the publishing experience for all those involved: publishers, writers, and consumers. 

Nota will continue to serve marginalized voices as the internet's leading anonymous publisher, while expanding our focus to a grander mission: improving the way consumers interact with news and how publishers source and distribute that content.

GUIN

A lot has happened at Guin in the past 6 months.

Like the other two, Guin has also been very focused on sustainability. Misha and I have focused on how Guin can continue to grow towards becoming the leading artist-friendly label in music. The mission is ambitious and challenging, but we know the only way to get there is by listening to what our artists and the greater artistic community are asking for. This has involved looking at the data of what it takes for a label, which in the modern day operates like an early stage venture capital fund, to break an artist. We've also been analyzing what the weighting of factors should be in the decision making of which artists we sign and how to better construct those deals to incentivize artist growth. 

As always, Misha and I have leaned on what we know best to make this happen: recruiting talented team members to collaboratively give this mission the best opportunity for success. While our progress this year has been exciting, it hasn't come without its fair share of headaches either. Signed artists are like founders: there never seems to be enough money, somehow the fund is always blamed for lack of growth, and while building a successful artist career is like building a business, artists sometimes don't see it that way. Nonetheless, like any fund focused on the "early stage," it's our job to guide, mentor, and shepherd these young artists towards a mindset of partnership.

Misha and I continue to work closely to dream up what Guin can become and what the appropriate milestones will be along the way. I'll continue to provide updates as we flesh that out. But for this year, beyond all of the amazing music releases we've had, I'm most proud of the team we've grown into: a team focused on setting and driving against goals in the next year, a team focused on process and efficiency to ensure nothing slips through the cracks, and a team focused on culture and mental health. We're intentionally signing artists we believe we can work with closely to develop their work through our partnership, and avoiding artists who want to treat us like the label that doesn't care. Because, believe me - this team cares so much, they put the lives of the artists ahead of their own. I couldn't be more grateful for the team we've built, and for Misha showing up day in and day out to build a music empire and family that artists are proud to be a part of. 

As Guin keeps building, I'll continue to share updates here; and in the meantime, here are some of our newest releases! 

Guin new releases:

From the Blog

What Is The Role of A Record Label In Today’s Music Business?

Record labels play an important role in artist development, fostering a body of work while maintaining a focus on profitability and data-driven results.

Principles of Communication

Human language, problem-solving, and morality originate in our imaginative ability to reflect on different situations and our deep-seated drive to connect with others.

How to Break Out of the Social Media Echo Chamber?

If you find your content consumption pattern one-sided and constantly bashing the other side, it's time to break free of your filter bubble.

September 27, 2022

Milan’s Monthly Memo September

Newsletter

Milan’s
Blog

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Civil Discourse

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