Workspace

I am an absolute nerd when it comes to school supplies. My favorite part of back-to-school shopping is Staples, or Target, or wherever I happen to go. My last semester of college was a little bit different because I didn’t need a whole lot. So, I put a lot more thought into the items I selected.

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  • think happy be happy Notebook – I found this at Marshall’s while Christmas shopping over the holidays. This notebook is pretty thick and I’m planning to use it for all 4 of my classes. My online class shouldn’t be many handwritten notes, and I’ve found over the past semesters that I don’t usually fill up a notebook with just one class. My favorite part about this notebook is that the edges of the pages are gold-plated.
  • Marble Hard Shell Macbook Cover – I found this cute case on Amazon for only $20, and I am really impressed with the quality. The Apple logo even shines through the case, which looks really cool.
  • Staedtler Ballpoint Pen 10 Color Pack – These pens are my favorite because they don’t smudge, have a convenient case so I don’t lose them, and come in colors that aren’t too bright. I use these pens for my planner to make the pages more vibrant and happy.
  • Moleskine 2016 Weekly Notebook – I’ve been eyeing a Moleskine planner, and I finally decided to get this one because I like the layout of the pages. On the left are the days of the week, and on the right is a lined sheet of paper to take notes. I find this is especially handy for to-do lists or providing details about events that you note on the weekly view. It also has monthly calendars, a map, an address book, and a few other handy pages.
  • Solo 2 Beats By Dre (not pictured) – I got my first pair of Beats as a bonus when I purchased my Macbook Pro this year. I wasn’t really interested in them at first because I am not a fan of large headphones, but they have become a staple for studying or doing work. The best part about them (besides the great sound quality) is the noise-cancelling.

I’ll Never Move On

I think about Paris every day. I have a map of Paris on my wall, pictures of my time there above my bed, posters, mini eiffel towers, books, music, ticket stubs, scrapbooks.. I couldn’t avoid thinking of Paris even if I wanted to. I was only there for 6 weeks, but while I was there I didn’t leave except to visit Reims and Versailles – a day trip each.

Why? I didn’t want to sight-see. I thought I wanted to before I got to Paris, but once I was there I could not leave. So many parts of my soul connected when I was in Paris. Music I’d played on the piano since I was 7 was written there, artists I admired found their muse there, accordionists were a daily encounter, the language I’d fallen in love with was all around me, the food my mom had always cooked was born there, the style, the culture, the vibe – whatever the heck that means. It just felt right. It was the lifestyle I had always wanted to have but that didn’t quite fit inside of Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

My dear friend gave me the book How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are for my birthday and I finally got around to reading it over Christmas. As if I needed another reason to feel completely split in half, this was it. After each page I read, my mind was screaming “yes, yes, YES! Someone who gets me!”  

My connection with Paris is rivaled by no other human connection. I fell into a love so deep that the distance makes me grow fonder, and I don’t mind that I can’t be there all the time because I know that, in a way, I am still there. Like so many people before me, I went to Paris and I was changed forever.

Don’t believe me? There is a whole book of testimonials just like mine. You can ask artists, authors, actors, models, designers – anyone with an affinity for art, or even not. We have all had the same experience, and none of us will ever move on.

Five Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Social

I know, I know – the last thing you want to do is add to your competitor’s follower count on Twitter, be one more view on their YouTube video, or admit that you stalk their Instagram. But here is a list of five things you can learn from your competitors’ social presences that make it worth it:

  1. The appropriate tone and voice for your industry. This first tip is especially key if you are just beginning to build your business’s social presence. Have you ever noticed how some brands Tweet like a playful human? I’m thinking of Pizza Hut and for this one. If you are also in the food industry, you can take a look at accounts like this one and see how people are responding to that type of voice. Do customers engage with it? Do they like it? Do they think it is appropriate? This can either give you the go-ahead to adopt a similar style on your social accounts, or tip you off that maybe staying more conservative is a good idea. Note: DO NOT plagiarize your competition. Being a copy cat is bad. Learning from others’ mistakes/successes is good. Social is a grey area that provides you with the opportunity to push boundaries and try new things – seeing others’ experimentation can help you brainstorm your own.

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    Retrieved from Twitter.
  2. Industry #hashtags. One way to increase your views and followers is to use hashtags in your social posts. Look to your competitors to see what hashtags are trending in your industry and join in the conversation. Don’t just let them do all the talking!
  3. What platforms are relevant to your consumers. If all of your competitors have a YouTube channel, you might want to get one too. This may be a sign that your customers are looking to find their information there.
  4. Competitors’ branding strategies. Social media is a platform that provides brands with the opportunity to creatively express who they are. When entering or expanding your reach within a market, it is important to see who is already there. How are competitors positioning themselves to reach the people you want to talk to? Aka – what seat at the table is already taken?  Being aware of others can help you build a unique brand persona that will diversify you.
  5. What customers actually think of your competition. One example that immediately comes to mind for this one is Zappos. Just by taking a quick glance at Zappos’ Facebook page, you can tell that customer service is their priority and that people think highly of the brand because of it. The example below is just one of the many conversations that Zappos has with customers on their Facebook page. They take the time to show that their customers are a priority, and clearly, this is paying off! This would tip you off that if Zappos is your competition, you better fight hard to win over their customers because they ain’t going easy. The inverse of this example is that if your competition is doing a poor job, people will make it known on their Yelp, Twitter, etc. Complaints can tell you a lot about what your audience is expecting out of a product/service, and you can use that information to meet their needs in ways that the competition currently isn’t.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 11.08.32 PM
    Screen caption from Zappos.com’s Facebook.

Gratitude Instead of Fear

One thing I am working on is being grateful for what I have in the present, rather than being fearful that I will no longer have the same circumstances in the future.

For example: “I am thankful that I have this now,” rather than “I am afraid I will no longer have this tomorrow.”

Circumstances change and this is largely out of our control. We can work hard towards the things we desire, and we will be rewarded. But sometimes, try as we might to line our ducks up in a row, what we receive isn’t equal to what we believe we deserve.

I believe that adopting this perspective will lead me to a happier life because I’ll shorten the amount of time I spend worrying on any given thing. Yes, I will worry when worrying is due, but in the mean time, I can enjoy life the way it is.

2016 Goals

  • 500 followers on Twitter (@sltaylor94)
  • 200 followers on WordPress
  • Publish blog post 1x per week
  • Journal every day (no set length/topic)
  • Keep planner up to date using Bullet Journal technique (see here)
  • Read 1 book for enjoyment per month
  • Keep personal website (taylorsamantha.com) up to date
  • Personal finance with mint.com: adhere to a savings plan; monitor monthly spending;
  • Transfer all emails/contacts/listserv subscriptions from school email address to personal email address
  • The 52 Lists Project (see here)
  • Reduce items in closet by 30%; sell or donate accordingly
  • Play piano, guitar, sing, or write a song 1x per week
  • Declutter
  • Learn Spanish

Balancing Work, School, and Play

Next semester, I’ll be in 12 credit hours, working a part-time internship, and attempting to enjoy the best (and last) semester with my friends.

I was going to write this post about tips and tricks for balancing your life in a way that you don’t have to sacrifice any of the things you care about, but then I realized that that isn’t possible.

Yes, there are things you can do to cut corners and squeeze as many things into your busy schedule as possible, but then, are you really making time for anything at all? Or are you just half-assing it all, and in doing so not really putting the right amount of time into anything?

This is a hard subject for me because I am a really busy person who wants to think that she can do it all. There are way too many experiences out there that I want to have, and I want so so badly to be there for my friends at all times, but you just can’t do it all.

This is where priorities come in. Priorities are evil. Not really, but sometimes I feel as though they are my enemy. Why can’t I prioritize everything equally? Why can’t I have three separate lives in which I focus on one area of my life in each of them?

I don’t know the solution, or the secret key to unlocking this problem. It is something I’m currently trying to work through. I suppose that’s my answer – it takes time and soul-searching to be able to really look at your life and honestly decide what areas on which you want to focus your precious (and scarce) time. But I have a strong feeling that making a decision will lead to a better outcome. Putting more effort into the things you do and giving up the things you just can’t make time for will show people that when you do something, you do it right, and you do it because you care. I think that that sends a better message than trying to be in one thousand places in once because guess what? You can’t be. And when you aren’t all in, it shows.

As the new year approaches, here’s my challenge for myself, and for you if you wish: pick a few things in your life that you care about and be all in.

You don’t have to give up everything in your life, but try to shave off a few things that you know you don’t have the time or effort to dedicate yourself to fully. Also, make sure you forgive yourself for this. One thing that weighs heavy on me every day is that I don’t play piano as much as I used to. However, beating myself up about it isn’t going to change the fact that I just don’t have the time or desire to make it a priority right now. Forgive yourself and hold onto the idea that maybe one day circumstances will change and you can revisit it.

All that being said, I’m looking forward to the best semester yet with my friends (who I love and appreciate so much) in blue heaven. I can’t wait!

Leaning into Pain

I was inspired to write this post while I was at the gym, scrunching my nose up as I fought the bike machine for just five more minutes, just two more minutes, 1 MORE MINUTE, PHEW!

As I lumbered away, panting and cursing the machine that I inherently resented but also loved, I thought about something that various yoga instructors have told me in the past.

Acknowledge the pain. Embrace it. Really experience it, and don’t shy away from it – lean into it. 

They would say these things as we each fought our internal battles on our separate mats to stay in one pose for 1 minute, or was it only 30 seconds? Who knew. Sometimes I would think, “This is a load of crap. You’re just telling me this so I’ll hold this position longer, and I’m not fooled!”

But they would still say these things, over and over.

Pain is how you know you’re alive. Pain is human. Be grateful that you can feel this pain. Embrace it, experience it, lean into it. 

Time after time, I would hear their words but still dislike the feeling. However, when I was on the bike at the gym yesterday, it just seemed to make sense to me, and on somewhat of a grander scheme. We are human, and we do have the ability to feel pain, and yoga teachers always told me,

“Remember, we are talking about good pain, the kind that you can bear and that makes you feel good after you’ve pushed through it. Not the kind that means you’re pulling a muscle  – learn the difference.”

So I started thinking about that. Good pain versus bad pain. Good pain motivates us. In exercise, its what tells us that our bodies are working hard and that we will definitely be feeling the effects in the morning. It also tells us that we are using the right set of weights, or doing the right set of movements, to push our bodies to get stronger.

Bad pain tells us to STOP – DON’T DO THAT EVER AGAIN. Bad pain is when we burn ourselves on the stove because we try to clean it too soon after turning the burner off. Bad pain is when we do something we should not, and bad pain is the memory that will prevent us from making the same mistake again.

I know I’m going all philosophical here, but I really think that this lesson on pain is one of the best things my yoga teachers have taught me. It applies everywhere in life. There are times when we must push through the hard stretches in life to get to our end goals. We have to put in a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it and make the temporary discomfort fade into the backs of our minds. There are also times when we must stop because we realize we have pushed ourselves too hard, or in the wrong direction, and we need to give ourselves a break.

Good pain, bad pain. Both are important because they guide us through life. It’s pretty awesome to be a human.

 

“Feel the Real”

I had a really interesting experience while driving on the highway yesterday in Winston-Salem. A billboard, similar to this one, caught my eye. “This Ad is Real” it said, with the url “www.feelthereal.org” on along the side. Of course this caught my attention and I hurriedly went to the url on my phone. My boyfriend was driving – so don’t worry, I was not typing and driving!

The website had a lot to say about OOH – or Out Of Home marketing. I had heard of this before, and I knew that it, along with experiential marketing, was trendy.

The website contains statistics about the amount of ads that are eaten up by bots, and the amount of money that advertisers waste for similar reasons. The website also has a quiz that allows you to determine how “real” you are. I clocked in at a disappointing 45% real. The next page allowed you to read articles on how technology is destroying our relationships with people and our ability to interact in human ways. One of the articles I remember looking at mentioned how people were now taking classes to learn how to ask someone on a date.

While I see the point this website was trying to make, and while I think their execution (in terms of catching my attention) was incredible, I’m not sure that I’m convinced that technology is inherently bad for human interaction. It definitely changes the way we interact with each other, but I’m not sold on the idea that this is a bad thing. Rather, I’m still looking at both sides and in need of much more scientific evidence before I’m a registered pessimist.

Either way, this site is worth a look. It was a cool moment for an ad nerd like me.

Check it out at feelthereal.org.

Prose on Passion and Personal Growth

One of my favorite qualities about myself is that I am passionate about everything that I do. I love learning about new things, old things, scary things, exciting things. There is no limit on my capacity to wonder, and when I find something interesting, I dig in… deep.

Passion is what has gotten me to where I am today, but being passionate is not easy. Passion means caring – deeply – to the point that you are willing to risk fear and rejection in order to pursue something you believe in. I used to think that I was delicate, easily hurt by the slightest comment or change of plans. One misstep along the way would throw me off guard, and I often wondered if I was just a sad-natured person because these instances would happen often.

I realized, however, that my fragility is really strength. When you are so passionate about something, being vulnerable is something you just have to do. Your bones won’t let you shy away from what you truly believe. Being hurt is just what comes with the job description. Allowing myself to experience hurt, anxiety, and fear have only made my passion grow, and opened doors to new experiences. I cherish my ability to care so much and no longer see it as a flaw.

I think it is important to talk positively about ourselves. Introspection is important for personal growth, and that involves acknowledging not only our areas of improvement, but the areas where we shine. The norm is to diminish ourselves to make others feel better, but in reality, this kind of talk just makes everyone feel bad. I want to help change the dialogue. I’m challenging you: think of your favorite quality of yourself and don’t be ashamed – be proud.

 

Why Every Intern Should Have One “Hallway Office”

I have been an intern for four years now. In that time, I have had three different desk spaces, but one of them in particular has taught me so much about relationship building in the workplace.

My very first desk was in a nook in the hallway exactly halfway between the President’s office and the break room at a small company. There are some blaring cons to this setup – the most obvious one being no privacy. This entails eating lunch in the middle of the hallway where everyone has to smell your food and wander by asking what you are eating today because “it smells amazing!” – every time.

It also means that you have to be on task at every moment during the day because you never know who might walk up behind you and take a peek at your screen. Yes, this means no Netflix.

But, you will have the opportunity to say good morning to almost every employee while they are either en route to their desk or to put their lunch in the fridge.

When coworkers have a meeting with the President, they almost always stop to chat with you while they wait – because the President usually has a meeting or two run over each day.

The coworkers who bring their lunch and heat it up in the break room will stop to chat with you while they wait 3 minutes and 30 seconds for their SmartOne to be ready.

Why do these small interactions matter? Because one “good morning” every day totals 15-20 interactions per month. Coworkers waiting to speak with the CEO often share troubles and inspirations they have about an important piece of business that they are going to discuss in their meeting. 3 minutes and 30 seconds is enough time to learn what your coworker is doing this weekend – a way to connect on a personal level – or what one thing would make their job easier – a possible project you can take on as an intern.

As the intern, these interactions are so valuable. Knowing your coworkers and what they desire gives you the power to bring innovation to the workplace and create relationships that will last beyond the internship. You might also realize that the people you work with are pretty awesome – something you won’t necessarily learn in a meeting.