On Decision Making

Let’s talk about good versus great.

What differentiates the good from the great? How do you get from one to the other?

Decisions. Your decisions reflect who you are and who you aim to become. Your decisions pave the path to your future successes.

I don’t want good. I don’t want acceptable. I don’t want mediocre. I don’t want satisfactory. I don’t want mundane. And I certainly don’t want whatever society is telling me I should at this point in my life, just because it is what is expected.

I want the power of choice over settling. I want gloriously fulfilled over simply maintaining. I want completely overflowing rather than filled to the top. I want novel and thrilling and keeps-you-guessing. I want exceptional. I want life-altering. I want bursting. I want overjoyed. I want triumphant. I want something incredibly special. I want shooting for the stars.

I want great.

And what keeps me going is the daily reminder that I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

The decisions you have to make in order to achieve greatness are not easy. They aren’t obvious. You will not know for sure if they are the right ones until you see how they play out. Good decisions take practice. They take self-awareness. They take effort. They take commitment. They take inner strength. You have to be ready to take risks. You must be willing to jump without being able to see if you’ll make to the other side. You need to be prepared to go down in a blaze of glory.

I can tell you one thing- the quality of your decisions can be easily determined by your intent.

Think about it. When you are making a decision, what part of yourself are you nourishing? Encouraging? Growing?

If you are feeding your ego, then you are surely making the wrong decision. The same goes for greed, envy, insecurity and fear.

Let your actions reflect your decision to have a great relationship with yourself first and foremost. Forget good for now or good enough or maybe this will work in every single area of your life. Love, friendships, career, hobbies, side hustles; throw it all out if it’s not making you gloriously fulfilled and practice patience until great comes along.

Except the career- make sure you can pay your bills while you work on securing your dream job.

It won’t always go well. I promise. You will fail. And then you will fail again. The failures will hurt. Your heart will cry out in protest. This is too hard, it will say. We have come far enough, it will urge. Why can’t we just be happy with good, it will question. I’m just not ready, it will whisper.

You will have to remind your heart that you want great. That you will never know what you could have achieved if you stop now. That you must keep going, no matter what. You will never feel ready. You will never become immune to pain. You’ll just become more skilled at dealing with it all, and that is a sign of greatness.

The failures only mean you are getting closer to what it is you are striving for. Failure is the surest indication that you are taking an active role in chasing your dreams. Failure isn’t final and only you have a say in what stops you.

Don’t expect to ever stop failing but you can expect that your failures will, one day, reflect a refining process rather than a complete demo of your life.

I want to, every single day, strive for great rather than good. I want to be a great friend, daughter, mentor, employee, and partner. I want to be great at adapting right alongside of change, at accepting the difficulties I must overcome, at thriving when my heart tells me it would be fine for me to quit and fall apart.

I want to, every single day, become better than I once was. I want to choose authenticity over being perceived as perfect, honesty over saved face, and owning my truth over hiding behind the fear of vulnerability destroying me.

We must decide to choose challenge over comfort and patience over instant gratification.

We must make the decision to make the choices that aren’t easy.

And that’s how you will get from good to great.

What decisions are you making today?

xoxo

Sarah

 

A Letter To My 18 Year-Old Self

Dear Sarah,

You will change so much in the next ten years, it will make your head spin.

Mistakes, many many mistakes, will happen. You will, sometimes, hate yourself. You will question the purpose of it all, and wonder if you are doing anything right. You will wonder if you are broken and beyond repair. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. You will discover that you are capable of greatness. You will eventually gain enough perspective to see that your heart is tender, loving, vulnerable, and forgiving. These qualities are so important. You are special, so special. You will only get better at life.

Most people won’t get your sense of humor. That’s okay, because it doesn’t make you any less hilarious. You’re more intimidating than you think you are, so be careful with your words. Make sure they are always kind. Your ability to say how you feel, and your directness, are two of your most enduring traits. You won’t realize this until much later than you should. Do not be ashamed of your positivity and sparkle. Some people will not like you, and that is okay. Some people will not understand or approve of your story, and that is okay too. It is not their story to write.

You will lose yourself, and then you will discover yourself. The world, and your decisions, will almost break you. Then you will build yourself back up again. The people in your life will teach you valuable lessons. They will enter into your orbit and show you love, wisdom, pain, sacrifice, and toughness.

That’s what everything is. It’s toughness training. When you get to be twenty-eight, your skin will be thicker. Your heart will be bigger. Your self-awareness will be better than it’s ever been. You will have gained back the confidence you lost during your dark years, and more will come with it. You will get more than you bargained for in every aspect of your life.

When it comes to the dark years, remember it is all essential in shaping who you will become. They will be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and full of tears. You will doubt your ability to make it through. You will feel alone and devoid of faith and hope. Remember, dear one, that these years are inevitable for you, and so important to your journey. When you are closer to thirty than you are to twenty, you will be on the other side of them. You will feel truer and more authentic than you ever have. You will have learned so much about yourself. The darkness is imperative to discovering your inner light. Feel it. Go through it. Don’t fight it. Look forward to the person you will someday be.

When it comes to college, pay attention. Especially in statistics and economics, or else you’ll regret not doing so once you graduate. Major in something that you are passionate about, regardless of what job opportunities it may present after graduation. College is a bubble, a wonderfully encased and protected version of life, so soak it up. Join the sorority that resonates with you and your ideals and your principles, and it will give you lifelong connections. Do not disappear into the partying. For heaven’s sake, make it to that 8 am ochem class regularly. Take a quarter abroad and travel. Your twenty-eight year-old self never did, and she really wishes you would. At graduation you will have no idea what you want to do or who you are meant to become, and that is okay. You will figure it out along the way. Be weary of how much you spend on your credit card.

When it comes to your career, don’t be afraid to assert yourself and live out loud. Do not shy away from expressing your opinions. Do not let other people make you feel small. If you work for a company that does not value you or recognize your accomplishments, move on. Chase your dreams. Don’t be scared to make a change or to use your voice. Don’t settle for a job that is boring, but be sure that you can always pay your bills. Financial security is necessary but living lavishly is not. Try your best to let temporary setbacks and negative energy flow in and out, like the gills of a fish. Work is the water and your gills are the filter; keep only the good.  Be fluid and proud and kind, always kind. Treat people how you would like to be treated and do not reciprocate less than graceful behavior.

When it comes to your love life, maintain the faith that the right one will come along. There will be years that are meant just for you in which you learn about yourself, all alone. There will be years in which you have no interest in a relationship, and years where you yearn for companionship and love. Who you think is good for you, or a good idea, usually won’t be. Consider advice but make your own decisions. There will be men who lie to you, take advantage of you, disrespect you, and don’t appreciate the wonderful woman you are. There will also be men who restore your faith and teach you that what you are looking for will come in its own time. There will be men who take care of you and honor your friendship. There will be men who are honest, kind-hearted and want the absolute best for you. Keep fighting for yourself. Keep dating. Pray. Do not become bitter or closed-off to something amazing, for it could be just around the corner. Assert your needs but don’t be afraid to compromise. Remember to find the good in every experience and that time heals all. There are good ones out there, I promise. It only takes one to change everything.

Do not play the comparison game. It is the quickest way to suck the happiness out of your life. Follow whatever it is that makes you happy. Write. It will be your therapy and your contribution to the universe.

The earlier you learn to accept what is, rather than what you wish would be, the better. Quit blaming yourself for everything. Throw out that life plan you’re writing out in your journal. It’s all a process. It’s all impossible to control and predict. The point is to enjoy the ride and to run head-first into your life, with arms spread wide.

Don’t be scared. I know that’s easier said than done, but it will all be okay in the end. You are fierce, brave, independent, driven and full of promise.

And last but not least, trust me when I tell you that the only thing standing in your way is you.

What do you want to say to your 18 year-old self?

xoxo

Sarah

 

 

Smart Networking: The Importance of Connection

One of the most significant contributing factors in making it to the top is the importance of connection. People are the key element to your professional happiness and continued success.

Your network can help you leverage your effectiveness, aide you in capitalizing on your career goals, bring you balance, and enhance your professional path up the corporate ladder.

According to Cross and Thomas, authors of Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network,”The executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks…made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy. ”

So how do you build a kick-ass network?

The Importance Of Variety

There’s a plethora of options when it comes for networking. LinkedIn, Meetup, Facebook, and Twitter are reliable and well-known sources. Take cues from peers that you recognize as being excellent networkers and ask them about their approach and methods.

It is just as important to have variety in who you include in your network. You need to draw from multiple resources that will awaken different strengths in you. Your connections should include:

  • Someone with more experience and perspective that will act as a mentor.
  • A colleague who can offer support, validation, and encourage your personal worth
  • Someone who will challenge your ideas, insist you take on new perspectives, and promote positive change in you
  • Someone to occasionally vent to and be real with; someone who you can talk to about compensation/salary, difficult bosses/peers/employees, work burn-out, and everything in between.

Size Isn’t Everything

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and having tons of connections doesn’t guarantee any advantage. It is more important to focus on quality over quantity. According to Managing Yourself, effective core networks typically range in size from 12 to 18 people. But what really matters is structure. It is important to nurture and maintain your relationships, and to be strategic in choosing who you surround yourself with. Pick people who will inspire you, encourage you, and teach you.

“Core connections must bridge smaller, more-diverse kinds of groups and cross hierarchical, organizational, functional, and geographic lines. Core relationships should result in more learning, less bias in decision making, and greater personal growth and balance. The people in your inner circle should also model positive behaviors, because if those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be, too.”

Invest Your Time

You get out what you put in. Do your research before networking events, like a conference or trade show, on specific companies and individuals you would like to seek out and initiate quality connections with. Forbes recognizes the benefits of investing time into your social networking, encouraging you to do all you can to learn pertinent information before meeting the people who interest you. Making sound choices in who you initiate a relationship with can generate significant professional and personal payoff.

“Surround yourself with smarter people’ says Francisco Cruz who has helped grow the Startup Grind community into a 100+ city start-up networking company. Cruz later stated ‘I feel like I will never be as awesome or as smart as those near me. And with that constantly hovering around your head it makes you strive to become better.”

Use Constant Vigilance

Always be on the lookout for new people to incorporate into your network. Evaluate your needs and shortcomings. What kind of assets and knowledge are you missing? What inclusions would make you a more-informed and well-rounded employee and individual? What goals do you want to accomplish and how can you help yourself to get there?

Part of constant vigilance is the ability to re-evaluate and purge. Remember quality over quantity. It is important to value and prioritize those connections that treat you with mutual respect and show their appreciation over connections that don’t carry their own weight or bring too much negativity into your life. Analyze your network for benefits and potential pit falls. Remember, your network should be comprised of people who:

  • Support you
  • Challenge you
  • Energize you
  • Inspire you
  • Motivate you

Networking isn’t a boring obligation or something to check off of your to-do list. It can have incredible benefits with far-reaching positive outcomes, and can bring some of the most important and amazing people into your life. No-one has ever achieved success without the help of another, and someday you will hopefully be able to repay the kindness shown to you by helping someone else out along the way.

kaboompics.com_Top view of creative workspace with keyboard and coffee

xoxo

Sarah

Vienna, Austria

You guys, I went to Austria.

And it was amazing.

Around a year ago I promised myself that I would do a few certain things, just for me. Things that would enable me to discover deeper parts of myself. Things that would help me in my search for self-knowledge and self-love.

One of these things was to travel. To get out and explore, to broaden and enrich my knowledge of the world outside of my everyday routine, and to learn more about other places and other cultures. To make my world bigger, to gain a new perspective, and most of all to get outside of myself.

The only thing standing in my way was money and coming up with a way to save up enough to get around to traveling before even more time slipped away from me. How would I manage it? Even with my best brainstorming and budgeting, I couldn’t see a way.

Little did I know that the universe was already on my side, working hard to bring my wishes to fruition in a way that I could have never anticipated. Within a year I would be traveling to Vienna, Austria on my first international business trip.

So, in the few weeks remaining in my twenty-seventh year, I boarded a plane to Zurich and then on to Vienna.

It was magical. The whole time, I couldn’t stop saying the word lovely. This building is lovely. This hotel is lovely. The warm weather is so lovely. This garden is lovely. Oh, that church is lovely! This potato salad is lovely. The people are lovely! I was lacking enough adjectives to describe this wonderful new place I was in and how blessed I felt.

But really, truly, it all was just lovely.

I strolled the streets of the city center in the evenings, drinking in the sights and smells and new words and cuisine and the sheer uniqueness of this place I was experiencing for the first time. It felt unreal. Was I really here? Had my career just brought me to this beautiful moment I was having? I almost couldn’t believe it.

The work hours were long and imperfect, but the good moments far outweighed any stress I experienced. I was able to disconnect from my day-to-day life in order to fully appreciate a new place and have a few truly authentic moments with me and only me. When I wasn’t  working and hooked into WiFi at the convention center, my cell phone was merely a device to take pictures with. For my personal time during my trip, I was detached from everything that is my life in San Diego.

It was the best early birthday present that I could have been given.

Today is my twenty-eighth birthday. Twenty-seven was my best year yet, both personally and professionally, and I cannot wait to see what new adventures, lessons, and experiences this next year has in store for me.

*Below are some of my pictures, but I have a few posts in the works to tell you about the sights in greater detail! Stay tuned.

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The Spanish Riding School

Stephansdom, or St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

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Volksgarten, a garden in the city center

On a day trip out to wine country

On a day trip out to wine country

Durnstein and the Danube

Durnstein and the Danube

In front of Stephansdom

In front of Stephansdom

Birds-eye view of Vienna

Birds-eye view of Vienna

City Centre

Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace

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xoxo

Sarah

Perks of Side Hustling

What do you do in your free time?

Free time is a tricky thing for me. I’m a hustler; a mover and a shaker and a go-getter, and just a tiny bit of an overachiever. I like to be busy and firmly believe in the mantra that if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward.

So I like to fill some of my free time with side hustles. What is a side hustle? Let’s turn to Urban Dictionary for some help on defining this:

“Sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job. Maybe playing weekend gigs or life coaching. SELLING AMWAY IS NOT A SIDE HUSTLE — it’s just a stupid way to alienate your friends.”

Thanks, UD!

One of the most fulfilling parts of my professional life, aside from my career, is writing. Something about writing just makes me feel whole and balanced. It started here with my personal blog, and then I was brought on as a columnist for a website called Ms. Career Girl last October. Hello, side hustle! Writing for Ms. Career Girl makes me feel like I am helping all of the women out there who, just like me, are working their hardest to develop their blossoming careers.

I don’t receive financial compensation for my writing by Ms. Career Girl. Instead, I get paid in opportunity, which I believe is much more valuable. I get the opportunity to mentor women in their careers, to contribute my experiences about finding fulfillment and balance in the workplace, to be a part of a large community of intelligent, dedicated and inspirational women bloggers, and to share my passion for success with everyone that reads and contributes to Ms. Career Girl.

I typically write on productivity and goals for my column, but sometimes I am given the opportunity to do a product review. Confession: this is pretty high up there on the list of biggest perks of being a columnist. Free stuff is cool. Really cool.

If you are interested in checking out my latest product reviews, read this and this. The first is on a fabulous body wash by Nature’s Gate whose products are vegan and cruelty-free, and the second is for Vaseline Intensive Care Healing Serum which was a miracle-worker on my dry skin.

So, if you have the free time, I recommend you get yourself a side hustle. I promise you won’t regret it.

Go get ’em, hustlers!

xoxo

Sarah

Career Girl How-To: Negotiate A Raise

“While undergoing my first annual review at work, and subsequently receiving a significant promotion and raise, I realized I was totally unprepared to negotiate. Not only was I unprepared, I was incredibly intimidated by the process.

I am not alone in this. According to Lisa Gates of Ask The Negotiators, the career advice section of themuse, “The fears women have about negotiating are legendary. Women are four times less likely to negotiate than men, and on top of that, tend to work 10% faster and 22% longer for the same reward. But, remember this: When you fail to ask for what you’re worth, you stand to lose up to $1 million over the course of your career, thus solidifying your own wage gap and, often, your early exit from the leadership track.” To read the rest of Gate’s tips on how to negotiate a raise, click here.

careergirlphoto

After all was said and done, I had a much better idea of how to fight for myself and will be able to be more confident and competent in future negotiations.”

It is fairly simple to do, you just have to follow the 3 steps I’ve outlined. Want to know what these 3 steps are? Read the rest of my column over at Ms. Career Girl!

xoxo

Sarah

Career Girl How-To: Survive and Thrive In Challenging Work Situations

Despite our best efforts and good intentions, it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies at work.

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We have to deal with difficult bosses, difficult subordinates, and difficult peers on a constant basis. Often we want to be able to provide all of the help that is requested of us, but our plate becomes too full. Sometimes we may want to lose our temper and tell everyone what’s really on our mind, but we know that’s not an option for the sophisticated career woman.

So, when you are ready to lose it, what can you do to navigate challenges at work? Having survived some recent major work challenges myself, I can attest that the following tips will not only help you to survive, they will help you to positively thrive in the long run.

1. Kill them with kindness. Delivery is everything. It may be easy to let our frustrations come out in our tone, but it is important to stay cheerful and positive. People want to help people who are kind and patient, not angry and rushed.

2. Confide in a mentor. Someone has experienced the same challenges you are at some point in their career- guaranteed. Approach someone you trust at work, perhaps a mentor, and share how you are feeling. This is a great way to get some wise perspective and valuable advice.

3. Share it. If you find that you have bitten off more than you can chew, do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not admitting failure when you reach out for assistance, you actually prevent it by getting the work done on time rather than missing a deadline by being overextended.

you can read the remaining 3 tips over at Ms. Career Girl today!

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Career Girl How-To: Get Everything You Want

“You know the type- the woman who seems to effortlessly succeed at getting exactly what she wants with minimal effort and maximum likeability. We want to be her- to mirror her attitude and success.

It’s not as hard as you might think to get what you want, if you have the commitment and sense to go for it.

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1. Ask for It.

Getting what you want always begins with asking the question. If you never ask, then there’s zero chance you will ever get it. The worst thing that could happen is that you will be told no, and no is always negotiable.

2. Be Willing To Do What It Takes.

If you want something, you have to ask yourself how hard you are willing to work to make it happen. How many hours are you willing to dedicate? What sacrifices are you prepared to make? Be eager. Be willing…”

Want to hear the last 3 tips? Read the rest, today over at Ms. Career Girl!

xoxo

Sarah

Career Girl How-To: Navigate a Major Work Transition

“As you gain momentum in your career and develop yourself professionally, it is inevitable that at some point you will find yourself navigating a major work transition.

Whether it’s becoming a boss, acquiring a new boss, undergoing department restructuring, or making a fresh start with a new company entirely- you will have to learn how to survive the transition period.

This is undoubtedly an extremely challenging time no matter the circumstances, but a savvy career woman has a few tricks up her sleeve in order to stay ahead of the game. Just remember to stay positive, remain engaged, and to keep the following 3 things in mind…”

read the rest over at MsCareerGirl!

035-dramaxoxo

Sarah

A Handbag Love Affair (plus a discount code)

As a writer for Ms. Career Girl, I see many benefits. I get the humbling opportunity to mentor young women as they discover their professional path, to be part of a community of women bloggers that helps to empower and inspire, and there’s the added bonus of getting to have my voice heard on a platform that isn’t my own personal blog.

When I was brought on as a columnist, my editor shared with me that I might have the opportunity to do product reviews (and score some free stuff). My reaction? Sign me up! Anything you need me do to help the website, I’m here for you! Also read: will do anything and everything for a chance at free loot. 

I know, I am shameless.

Well, it finally happened! I got to do my very first product review! Yippee.

Enter: the perfect career girl handbag- the Robert Matthew Natalie Shoulder Tote. You guys, this thing is gorgeous. It’s the first red handbag I have ever owned, and it’s the perfect statement piece. I’m obsessed. I can’t stop looking at it. I love it. Okay, I think you get the point.

Natalie Shoulder Tote in Vibrant Rose. Courtesy of robertmatthew.com

Natalie Shoulder Tote in Vibrant Rose. Courtesy of robertmatthew.com

You can read my full product review, featured today over at Ms. Career Girl, here.

Added bonus- you can use the exclusive discount code MSCAREERGIRL30 at checkout to see some savings of your own! 

 Because every career girl needs the perfect handbag in her professional tool belt.

xoxo

Sarah