Monthly Archives: June 2012

Warning: Lady with the Envelopes Ahead!


Pretend it’s written down in stone!

If you’ve ever been waiting impatiently in line at Target or Wegman’s or even J. Crew behind a woman who had to sift through a bunch of envelopes to pull out cash and count out the exact change for her purchase, that woman was probably me.

Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those “nerds” who carries around an envelope system, strongly advocated for and created by Dave Ramsey. No, the concept wasn’t created by Dave; as he would say, our grandmothers invented the idea. But he has expanded upon it with his own stylish wallets, with slots for your license, debit card, (notice I didn’t say credit cards,) etc.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the envelope system, it’s a way to keep yourself honest with your spending habits. Each pay period, you take out the exact amount of money you know you’re going to need for, let’s say, food (and yes, this means you must budget. I know, GASP!) Then, once the money in the designated envelope is gone, you cannot spend any more money in that category until the next pay day. So, if you only have $12 in your envelope and you’re really craving a dinner from your favorite restaurant, too bad, so sad. This keeps you from “twenty-dollaring yourself to death” (another Dave-ism,) not keeping track of how much you’ve spent, whether it be on food, gas, clothes, etc.

Before the envelope system entered our lives, I had a HUGE spending problem. I would walk into Target to buy a birthday card and a Rubbermaid bin, and I’d walk out with $200 worth of home goods, scrapbooking supplies, and candles (no joke.) So I was in DESPERATE NEED of a system, one that was black and white, without any loop holes. Because if there was even one, I’d find it and throw another six summer place settings in my cart. The envelope system is perfect, because it’s simple. If it’s not in the envelope, it can’t be spent. Period.

Now of course this concept is a simple one, but it’s not easy to do. It takes a TON of discipline. And I’m not going to say I haven’t wavered. But since adopting what I like to call a way of life, things have gotten SO much better financially for me and my family.

While filling my envelopes this past week, I couldn’t help but think about how this relates to the career book I’m continuing to read, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” by Dan Miller (see previous posts for more details.) One of the days in the book is dedicated to analyzing the seven areas of your life that need to be balanced for true fulfillment: career, financial, social, family, physical, personal development, and spiritual. Miller goes on to say you must deposit enough energy into each of these areas with the motivation to be consistent and passionate about it.

So how does this even parallel with the envelope system I’m so obsessed with? Well, think about it. In the envelope system, if you don’t put enough money in the gas envelope to last you two weeks, you’re going to be sitting on your butt at home, feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t afford to drive to your friend’s house across town. In the scenario Miller depicts, if you don’t exercise enough, dedicating time and effort to your physical well being, you’ll be sitting on your butt at home, feeling sorry for yourself because you don’t look or feel as good as you know you could.

Take a moment to think about those seven areas of your life. Where are you completely fulfilled? Or maybe overflowing? What facets are at an all-time low? I’m sure this isn’t something you think about often (I know for me it’s not,) but if you focus on it for just a few moments, it’s not difficult to see where there’s excess and where there’s deficiency. Take Miller’s advice– do everything you can to stay in balance!

And as for those envelopes, try it out. Even if it’s not Dave’s official system, try making your own (following the same principles of course.) It’s going to seem crazy at first– your friends will make fun of you, the people in lines behind you will mock you. But after 21 days (they say that’s how long it takes to successfully create a habit,) you, your family, and your bank account will be better for it.


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Conveyor Belt Love

Passions passing you by? Pull the lever… now!

Last night we had family friends over for dinner to say “congrats” and “good luck” to the 21-year-old daughter who is off to Orlando next month to start her first “real” job. After all the hub bub of getting her confirmed start date and salary, finding the perfect apartment and completing orientation, she can’t wait to get down to Florida.

Is it for the gorgeous sunshine or the change of scenery, after living and going to college in Central New York? Well, of course, that’s part of it. But the main reason why she’s going stir crazy is because she can’t WAIT TO WORK!

Some of us would say it’s because she hasn’t entered the workforce yet, and once she does, she’ll be whining and wanting to go back to the days of 4 hour shifts and her own schedule, only bound by waiting for her wash to be done to put on her favorite shorts or what time the gym’s strength classes are. I understand where this point of view comes from, but knowing this young woman, following her all through high school and college, I know her better. And I know it’s because she LOVES the career she’s entering into.

While in college, she attended the school of management, and like 99.9 percent of the college freshman population, she wasn’t sure what avenue of management she wanted to hone in on. After a couple years, it was clear after a summer internship with a large department store that she wanted to go into supply chain management. Is this something I could see her doing? Walking around a warehouse with forklifts and conveyer belts in her J. Crew pants and Urban Outfitters top? Absolutely not. It was a total shock to me. But the first time I saw her talk about her internship and the possibilities and opportunities that would potentially await her once she graduated from college, it was plain to see she hadn’t fallen into a career but had fallen in love with one. She will be working for a large office supply chain, and although the prospect of staplers and swivel chairs may not appeal to any of us, she couldn’t be happier.

Before having a long-winded career conversation with her last night, I had never thought about a younger person, someone who has been like a little sister to me, being my mentor. But now I know the passion in her eyes and the excitement in her voice is exactly what I yearn for, and what I will stop at nothing to achieve.

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Say “Ahhhh”

This weekend I happened to stumble upon an obituary that piqued my interest (I know, a bit morbid, right?,) but I think it was written with the intent of showing how this man left this world… as a legacy.

Not only was he an extremely well-known oral surgeon and philanthropist in Syracuse, but he was a man that began his career out of his passion for helping people. Did I know this man? No. But I do know his son, who followed in his footsteps and became an oral surgeon as well, and let’s just say he’s a complete and refreshing replica of his dad. If his father was anything like him, I know he had the best intentions and the best results from doing what he loved.

But back to the obituary… it was the LONGEST write up I’ve ever seen. It took up two newspaper columns; the text seemed to scroll endlessly. Several paragraphs down, it explained his recipe for success, and the principles he lived by, appropriately named “The 3 As.” It read (I’ve renamed him “Dr. A”, being overly cautious):

“Dr. A taught others through story and experience. He treasured the moments he could help someone and often shared his own formula for success–the 3 A’s: In order to be successful you were to desire and practice to have Ability, be Available to do the hard work and to help others and most importantly be Affable…be likeable, be kind.”

As soon as I read this I thought to myself, “What an amazing thing to put in an obituary.” I mean, typically it’s the usual statistics, symbolizing the culmination of someone’s life here on Earth, however long or short it may have been. But never have I seen someone live so strongly by a certain set of values that it makes his/her obituary! It reminds me of one of the questions after a chapter in “48 Days to the Work You Love”: “What would you want your epitaph to read?”

So let’s reflect on Dr. A’s words for a bit in terms of your career path. Ability makes complete sense. You obviously have to be able to do the work in order to perform well and to feel a sense of purpose. In my mind, everyone has the ability to do whatever they put their mind to. Sure, some things may come easier than others, but you need to be willing to learn new things and be the best you can possibly be at the task at hand. The ability to grow and learn is much more important than anything else.

Available… now there’s one that some people have trouble with. It’s SO difficult to balance life these days. Family, work, friends, church, extra-curricular activities… the list goes on and on. But are you available (physically, mentally and emotionally) to make a change in your life when it comes to dedicating yourself to and doing something you truly love? If not, make this a priority. And just as it’s put above, you need to have time to help others. The personal gratification from this is so astounding– that alone will get you motivated, if nothing else will.

And affable– kind of a funny word, huh? Being likeable and getting along with the people around you is SO key. Of course you’re always going to have the few people that drive you nuts (especially on a day where you’ve already spilled your coffee, forgot your lunch in the fridge, and your gas light goes on all before 8 a.m.) But people are everywhere. And then come in not only all shapes and sizes, but personalities. To help myself out with this, I always try to tell myself that I never know what kind of a day a person is having; I never know if they just received devastating news or are going through a tough time. So yes, Dr. A., you’re right– we need to remember the old addage, “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or in your words, be affable.

ImageThank you, Dr. A. for sending such a refreshing message. Not only did you make people’s smiles brighter through your work, but also through your words. I’m sure you didn’t expect someone to write about your obituary in a blog, but it did exactly what you wanted it to do… helped your “3 As” principle live on.


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Hello, Your Calling is Calling

How many of us have heard someone say (or have even said ourselves,) “I just haven’t found my calling,” or “This job fell into my lap; I guess it’s what I was meant to do.” These are the common sentiments of most people in the stereotypical, corporate ladder world. And a few months ago, before I started focusing on all of this career stuff, I would have heard that (or even said that,) and not thought twice about it. But now I realize and understand how as Dave Ramsey would say, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you happen to things.

ImageLet’s take the first statement I mentioned above: “I just haven’t found my calling.” Are people expecting that one day they’re just going to wake up and the perfect opportunity that they were meant to embark on will be sitting in front of them, with all the promise and answers leading to success? I’m sure in rare occasions this may happen, but for the most part, people haven’t found their calling because they haven’t done enough to try and hear it.

We all have natural skills and abilities that are undeniable. I can sit down and write for hours on end, needing to sharpen my pencil a few times, but ask me to solve a simple Physics equation, and I’ll sit there for three hours, tapping my pencil and staring out the window, waiting for the answer to subliminally appear in the clouds. In order to “hear” our calling, we really need to hone in on these said skills and abilities. What do you love to do? What are you good at? If money was no object, what would you do every day to not only make a living but make a life?

For those of you out there that pray or believe in a higher being, you may have heard the line, “I’ve been praying to God for an answer, for him to show me the way to the career I’m supposed to have.” In my opinion, yes, God can help you find the way, but it is your job to free your mind and let the world of limitations we’ve all created become illegitimate. You have to make it a priority to focus and stay on task if you really want to change your professional life. Rather than asking for Him to show you the way, you should ask for the knowledge, strength, and patience you’ll need to find it.

As for the second misnomer, “This job fell into my lap; I guess it’s what I was meant to do.” Again, this may be true for some people. Opportunities may arise that align perfectly with their passion and their natural, gifted talents. But for the rest of us, this is a simple way out. I used to think along these same lines. As I talked about in my previous post, my career path has been shaped by convenience and happenstance, nothing more. But this isn’t enough. This only defines what we can do, not what we should do.

So let’s start organizing our thoughts. Do whatever you need to do to hone in on the things that make you… well, you. For me, the only way to properly organize my thoughts is to write them down. Write a list, draw a brainstorming web, but whatever you have to do, just take some time to focus. Once you do this, start thinking about (and writing down,) ways you could make these attributes work for you. And don’t necessarily think everything has to weave in and out of each other. You can have many different careers that start and stop and come and go when it makes sense. Once the brainstorming is complete, it’s time to start the real grunt work! Don’t be scared of a little sweat, and maybe even some tears. Those are almost necessities in this type of self-actualization. And don’t worry, EVERY ONE needs this!


Planner Personified

ImageI am one of those annoying people who has to have a plan for everything: a plan for what we’re having for dinner for the next week, a plan for what housework I’m going to get done in a given day (which presents itself in list form, so that I can feel most accomplished,) a plan for when we’re going to have more children, a plan for how we’re going to budget and spend our money, and plan for my career, a plan for…well, life.

Looking back to when I was choosing a major in college, I knew (or thought I knew) exactly what I wanted to be: a broadcast journalist. How much more perfect could it be? I loved people, I loved writing, and I loved being in front of the camera. In my mind, by the age of 30, I would be the next Katie Couric, the face America would wake up to every morning.

I quickly found out this job came with three things I was going to hate: an extremely low-paying salary for the first several years of being on-air, having to move around frequently against your will, simply based on where the jobs were (my poor friend had to live in Casper, Wyoming for three years when she thought she’d start out in Orlando,) and being a night owl, many times having to work for several years covering the news from midnight to dawn and beyond.

Once I realized I didn’t want to be a broadcaster, I started searching for a new path, needing a new plan (surprise, surprise.) I knew I didn’t want to take on another major, which I knew meant several more years of student loan debt, so I coasted along, eventually falling into a Public Affairs internship, which after graduation became a full-time marketing position. Did I ever see myself in Marketing? Absolutely not. Did I ever really know what Marketing was about? Double absolutely not.

Four-and-a-half years later, here I am. Still in Marketing. Do I like it? Yes. Do I find it fulfilling? Some days. Do I LOVE my job? No.

The answers to these questions brings me to my current quest to find what I love. Being the planner and the “checklister” that I am, I decided to start the book “48 Days to the Work You Love” by Dan Miller. Pretty obvious title, right? Not only is this book endorsed by Dave Ramsey, who is one of my inspirations, but it’s literally a workbook, outlining tasks each day for you to complete in order to get you where you need and WANT to be in less than 2 months. I opened it and thought, “Perfect! A to-do list? With self realization? This is my kind of book!”

The first chapter talks a lot about people who were forced into a career because of pressure from their parents. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have that issue. However, I was “forced” into a career because of convenience. So the question now is, what is my true calling? What was I put on this Earth to do?

As outlined in the start of the book, in order to come to this conclusion, you must ask yourself, “If I sit and daydream about the perfect career, what comes to mind? If I could do anything in the entire world, what would it be?” When asking this question, work and play would most likely be parallel. If dancing is fun for you, you may want to open up your own studio; if landscaping is fun for you, you may want to start your own landscaping company. Pretty simple…

Or is it? For most people, work and play do not or cannot intersect. We’ve been programmed to believe that the activities that fall under each of these categories having nothing in common. But once you recognize this, you thankfully have the ability to change it.

So here we are, on our quest to find the perfect career… let’s sail.

Movin’ and Groovin’

“To change the world, start with one step.
However small, the first step is hardest of all.”

What gets you up everyday? (And no, your alarm clock’s incessant beeping is not a valid answer.) We all have our obligations and duties; some mundane, only defined by the repetitive motions they possess, others by their unpredictability, vulnerable to a sense of spontaneity. Whatever the case may be, a lot of us may answer, “I don’t have a choice. I have to get up to go to work.” But why? What propels you to keep going? Is it money? Is it power? Maybe it’s the need for order in your own life.

The Affinity HR group met with a group of employees from my company to talk about our motivators and how they tie in with the DISC assessment we had performed a year ago (see below for a further description.) First, each person started with writing down the three reasons why he/she comes to work. For me, it was people, purpose and routine. I thought this would be difficult for me to come up with, but I wrote these three words down in literally five seconds. It was almost as if I had subconsciously contemplated it before.

From there, the six natural motivators were explained, and each person’s natural placement was revealed. The six motivators are:

1) Theoretical: These people love learning. They thrive in environments where they are constantly gathering new and improved information on various topics. They love research and analysis and aren’t satisfied unless they are deemed an “expert” in any given category.

2) Utilitarian: Money, money, money! Well, it’s not all dollar signs for these  people. Those grouped in this motivator category are all about what they will be getting as a return on their investments. Whether it be time, dollars, or energy, these people want to know it’s worth it!

3) Aesthetic: The first word that comes to mind for this group is “zen.” These people love balance and harmony. They are motivated by how things appear, and ideally, that would be seamless and beautiful. They work through visions and need their endless thirst for creativity constantly quenched.

4) Social: Not only does this group thrive on the people they are surrounded by, but they also love to help those in need. They are constantly reaching out to lend a hand not only monetarily, but with their skill sets and abilities. This group is extremely selfless, wanting to give back all the resources that are available to them.

5) Individualistic: Picture this group on top of a mountain, shaking their fists and shouting orders. These people love being in control. They almost NEED to have a position of true power and authority. They work best when they are leading others.

6) Traditional: Routine and a reason for everything are what keeps this group going. Many things to this group may seem black and white, as there is a specific system in place to address all issues and problems. These people do not waiver; they are by the book and live for policies and procedures.

Everyone has two motivators, a primary and a secondary. Each feed off one another in order to keep everything balanced. At first, I was pretty taken aback by my results. My utilitarian motivator was extremely high, dominating all the other categories by a crazy margin. The runner up was social, but it still wasn’t anywhere near where my theoretical money-grabbing hands were. I looked at the graph and thought, “Oh my goodness– I am an insane, selfish person. My top motivator is MONEY?! And INVESTMENTS?! How is this possible?

Come to find out, the results weren’t as cursing and demeaning to my character as I had made them out to be. Basically, my results are interpreted in this way:

Money and finances are extremely important to me, not because of  the tangibles, but because of what it means for my family to be completely financially secure. I ultimately want to retire at an early age and be able to live financially free without any bills/debt hanging over my head, and this is what kicks my utilitarianism into high gear.  This is all very true for me (hence my obsession with budgeting spreadsheets and Dave Ramsey,) so I backed away from the ledge at this point.

My results went on to say that once my family is completely taken care of, I want to be able to give as much as I can in all facets of life. I want to earn to give… hmm… I had never really thought about it like that, but that’s definitely me! What could be more rewarding than writing your most cherished non-profit a hefty check to help serve those in need? That’s has to be the epitome of happiness. As Dave Matthews would croon, “If you give, you begin to live…”

So with all of that said, take some time and think about your motivators. I promise you once you pinpoint them, you’ll work with much more purpose, knowing what gets you going.