No one is ever entirely free of stress…or are they?

Stress is something that we consider as a standard in life. Sometimes stress is more dire than it is simple. We stress as teens studying hard for tests and as adults stressing over how much money we need to make to break even. Stress creates a very cluttered mental space, which then begins to impact other areas of life, like productivity and health. In short, stress is something that we don’t want but that seems almost inevitable, especially as professionals.

This is where mindfulness comes in. You may have heard the term in passing, but are you familiar with what it is and what it can do for you?

What is Mindfulness?

To keep things simple, mindfulness is being very aware of the world around you on a moment-by-moment basis, as well as accepting it simultaneously. People assume that this is simple — aren’t we all already living and experiencing every moment of our lives? Experiencing something and actually being 100% aware of it, however, are two different things.

While it’s true that we are physically present for all of our lives, we aren’t always mentally present. The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness, or essentially running on autopilot. Many people don’t fully understand how much of their life is spent lost in thought, avoiding outside stimulus.

Say that you’re walking down a busy city street. What are you doing? Are you keeping your thoughts to yourself, running through your daily to-do list? Are you listening to music from earbuds, lost in the sound and not paying full attention to the world around you? Both are examples of clogging our minds with something in order to avoid being cognizant. Someone who has embraced mindfulness is fully living in that moment, noticing things and taking them in.

What Can Mindfulness do for You?

Mindfulness is often associated with total positivity; it’s something written off as a new age, existentialist way of avoiding life’s problems. However, it’s exactly the opposite.

Let’s look at stress and mindfulness. When someone who is used to mindlessness is confronted with stress, the negative emotion and thoughts of the future cloud their vision. Anxiety gets in the way of productivity. Someone who is mindful, however, fully accepts the stressful stimuli and then formulates a plan based on their acceptance of their current predicament.

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce the harmful repercussions of stress, like panic and anxiety. Realize that stress is a state of being, an emotion — it isn’t a situation itself. When someone is mindful, they don’t experience stress because they experience a situation, not the harmful emotional side effect that comes with it.

Thus, mindfulness is growing in popularity as a way to increase productivity. When we are mindful of our surroundings, our emotional state and what we must do, we are much more likely to seize the day and get things done with no negativity involved.

I had a great time speaking with the very talented Nkenge in this latest episode. We discuss Nkenge’s musical background, his passion for creating new material, his single and upcoming album. We also talk about how he’s taken his career into his hands and created opportunities for himself.

You can check out his single “Wayment” on Spotify or connect with him on Twitter @nkenge1xmusic

4 Tips for Motivating Others as an Entrepreneur

by Keetria on February 9, 2017

Entrepreneurs often start their business journey thinking about being a stand alone individual, adjusting their work hours as they please and leading a life of flexibility. For some that might be the case, but most find that as their business grows, so do their responsibilities. With these responsibilities comes a need to structure their lives.

This also comes with a lengthened list of employees. As an entrepreneur’s employee roster grows, so does their responsibility to care for and motivate these integral parts of their business. Worker morale is a vital part of team success — when teammates are motivated, productivity goes up. With increased productivity comes more and more success.

Here are four tips any entrepreneur can use to keep their staff motivated, thus more productive.

Regular Conversations

If you talk to employees in standard businesses run by corporations, you’ll often hear employee complaints that revolve around not being heard or consulted. In businesses such as these, the people at the top often don’t understand how work flows in lower ranks, thus employees want more contact with their higher-ups in order to communicate these flaws.

While entrepreneurs and small business owners often have a more direct access to their workforce, this doesn’t mean that employees don’t want to have these same conversations about their thoughts on how the business is running. Sometimes the way to motivate people isn’t to talk, but to listen.

Have More Meetings

Another method of motivation revolves around being able to talk with employees as a collective. A common disconnect that arises within small businesses is not all being on the same page. It can be surprisingly easy to keep information to yourself and want to do things on your own as an entrepreneur; big businesses may feel a greater sense of urgency to keep things consistent across all locations and employees.

Motivated employees are employees who feel they know what direction their going in. You, as the owner or main entrepreneur, have the power to make this happen.

Don’t be a Robot

Entrepreneurs who assume leadership roles often feel like they must be a stone-faced boss, never making any decisions based on emotion. It’s never a good idea to let your soft side leave you vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but employees do react favorably to bosses that understand what it feels like to be human.

Don’t recite stock boss phrases like you’re a computer — show emotions, be understanding, and make your workplace fun by understanding that people like to cut up on occasion. Running a business like a well-oiled machine doesn’t mean it can’t also be a happy place to be.

Let Your Employees Know You

Do you find it easy to feel loyalty towards someone you don’t know? When we find ourselves disconnected from someone, it becomes harder to think of them in a positive way. This is how many people feel about their boss, and then business’ become run on fear or obligation or the necessity to make money and nothing else.

Showing others who you are is how you keep them invested in you. A boss that someone doesn’t know is a boss that is feared, not revered.

Here’s the latest episode of the SOB – Style of Business podcast. In this episode designer/artist and business owner Leah Smithson chats it up with me about her art pieces and designs. The founder and owner of art outfit Talon and the Suneaters, Leah is a talented artist who not only paints but offers a unique line of wearable goods and custom made jewelry.

Be sure to check her out on Instagram and on Twitter @leahsmithsonart

We hear all the time that it pays to be positive, but is that really true? How does positivity impact our lives, and what is the point to being so upbeat all the time? If positivity is so rewarding, does that mean there’s a consequence for sadness all the same?

Despite sounding like such a simple concept, positivity can be truly mystifying. How do we find happiness? Can I have positivity without happiness, and vice versa?

While it’d be impossible to condense all that we know about positive psychology (which yes, it has its own subset in the psychology world), we do have four fun facts or tidbits about positivity that may brighten your day.

  1. Positivity lengthens your life.

If you Google “Nun Study” you’ll find a very prolific scientific research project about aging and Alzheimer’s — that’s not the study we’re talking about here. This study is instead by Danner, Snowdon and Friesen from the University of Kentucky and is strictly about Catholic nuns.

These researchers found that based on the nun’s own writings, those that expressed more positive sentiments lived longer lives. Look it up for more concrete and fascinating stats.

  1. Positivity boosts sales.

Many believe that the secret to happiness is success. That once you’ve finally found your place in life, happiness is just around the corner…and if that’s not true, then what is? Is it possible that this assumed standard is false?

According to Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, the opposite is actually true. This creates a bit of a chicken vs. egg scenario, but Seligman is sure that optimism comes before success. Based on an optimism test Seligman designed for MetLife, those who were positive based on the test results were almost always likely to outperform those who were negative.

  1. Positivity helps counteract stress effects.

Stress is a part of life and it’s one you’ll likely never fully be able to run away from. If you figure out how to live a live 100% free of stress, tell us your secret — we’d like to know.

Still, just because stress is a natural phenomena, it doesn’t mean it’s one we have to take lying down. There are a million different teas on the market meant to combat stress and its side effects, but what about something like positivity?

Many credible studies focus on how positivity helps to combat stress, but mostly how our own negativity leads to a majority of stress. While a catalyst may be the biggest source of stress, self-doubt and blame often contribute to our negativity more than the original problem.

  1. Positivity broadens your horizons.

From a young age we learn to be positive. Most children are not born pessimists, but are instead taught to be negative based on those around them and their life experiences. Children play, grow and learn while basking in that positivity. At this stage of development, their world is infinite.

This is how positivity can affect all of us every day. When we open our mind to possibilities and positivity, we see our worlds as they can be — not as they are.


To be an entrepreneur, you must be…? How do you think that sentence should end? “Brave”? “Determined”? “Innovative”?

Truthfully an entrepreneur must be many things; more adjectives than five are required in order to call yourself a true and successful entrepreneur. However, we’ve selected five of the most common and essential traits required to either become or sustain yourself as an entrepreneur.

Risk-Taking

We often think of risk as a dirty word — in fact, isn’t it better to avoid risk altogether? This might be true in some areas of life, but in others the phrase “go big or go home” is one hundred percent true. Just like in gambling, sometimes a big risk results in a giant loss. Other times it means you get a big pay day.

Without that risk, no matter the outcome, there would be no chance for that huge success. The risk doesn’t have to be monetary, either. Sometimes taking a chance on the little things can pay off in a big way.

Hungry

No, not in the way that means you want to go out to lunch. This kind of hunger is for success, for knowledge and for recognition — maybe you’d prefer to call it “drive.”

A good entrepreneur knows that they have to keep learning, but a great entrepreneur is one that truly wants to. This kind of hunger is one that drives them to better themselves and take those risks.

Adaptable

Not everything will go your way all the time, and that’s not just a lesson for entrepreneurs to learn. However, it might be a lesson that entrepreneurs benefit from more than most. Sometimes plans fall through and an entrepreneur has to adapt to the sudden changes. Not every scheme will be executed perfectly, not every vision will be clearly seen and sometimes a completely foreign scenario works its way into the mix.

A great entrepreneur doesn’t give in to this uncertainty — they embrace it.

Responsible

Gone are the days of laying around on the couch and brainstorming about your big business idea — you’re going to be an entrepreneur, which means your life is going to drastically change if you want to make all of your visions realities.

Even though you’ll be your own boss, you’ll still have all the responsibilities that come with that position. It also means you’ll have to handle money, and hopefully lots of it, in a fiscally responsible way.

Gregarious

Sure there are ways to become a great entrepreneur as an introvert, but the more outgoing and personable you are? The better you’ll be at networking and selling your brand. Creating relationships among your peers and in the business community will be vital to getting your business recognized, and you can’t do that on a concept alone.

Businesspeople are usually outspoken, self-assured and promoting. They know how to charm and talk to people in a convincing yet personable way. This kind of attitude also lends itself to sales — without being gregarious, the sales funnel becomes a lot more narrow.

It takes a lot to become an entrepreneur. How many of these attributes do you have yourself?

New Self-Activation Strategies for 2017

by Keetria on January 11, 2017


The time to start motivating yourself was yesterday, but there’s still no time like the present. In short? While it was probably a better idea to already have been working on your self-activation strategies for the new year, there’s still time to do so right now.

Self-activation is all about motivating yourself without outside influences. No buddy-system, no bribes, no tools. Just you finding the will to do something and executing a plan. Why is self-activation so useful? It removes the crutches many other motivation techniques use.

While these techniques in and of themselves aren’t bad, they still require an outside influence to get you motivated. What happens if you don’t have access to your reminder app and you’ve run out of credit card account space to buy yourself that reward for being so good about your to-do list? When you know how to self-activate, you know how to get things done no matter the circumstances or environment.

In 2017, think more about being mindful and looking within yourself to achieve your goals. Here’s how to get started:

Reflect More and More

Part of being self-activating is to be mindful. In fact, mindfulness and self-activation often go hand in hand. When you’re more aware of yourself and your surroundings, you’re more likely to get things done. You face reality and see what you must do.

Many people don’t take the time to reflect on the lessons they’re learning all around them and throughout their lives. When something profound happens to you, do you actually take some time to absorb the situation, learn and grow? Part of being self-activating is learning from mistakes and pushing forward in spite of failure, and self-reflection can greatly help with that.

Start Scheduling

A schedule isn’t counterintuitive to a self-activating lifestyle, as long as it doesn’t become your source of motivation. Organization isn’t the same thing as activation.

Thus, helping yourself figure out what all you have to do and when to do it is crucial to keeping things organized and flowing on time. Clutter and disorganization can often lead to self-activation hindrance because they create a large roadblock. The more distressed your mind becomes, the less likely you’ll be to self-activate.

Nap More

Seems like the opposite of self-activating, right? While you may not be able to indulge in a cat nap if you’re part of the working class, entrepreneurs should take more advantage of their lax schedules and sleep more often. Napping is a great way to reinvigorate the mind and reset both your physical and emotional system.

We often find ourselves living from one caffeinated beverage to another, and we drink more cups of coffee than we sleep hours at night. This sets a disturbing standard — we’re exhausting ourselves. It’s hard to be self-motivated when you’re exhausted, which leads to motivational crutches and full on burn out.

Finally, be self-activating about your own self-activation. Look for more strategies and find different ways to motivate yourself. Before long you’ll be a self-activation pro.

Branding Mistakes You Might be Making Right Now

by Keetria on January 4, 2017

brandmistakesNot every branding idea you come up with is going to be a winner – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Branding swings and misses can teach you very valuable business lessons, and that’s something you should take away from all of your mistakes. Whether your sales are slowing down or you royally flub up a marketing opportunity, take the positive out of the negative: at least now you know what not to do.

That being said, this is only completely true if you know what you’ve done wrong. For instance, your sales numbers are indeed going down – but why? Without knowing this critical component of the problem, you’re still stuck at square one. This is why identifying these common yet devastating branding mistakes is crucial to your overall success in marketing.

Your brand is purposeless.

A sloppy brand indicates a sloppy business. While many assume that marketing is the cornerstone of every business, it’s actually the brand image – this image should be present in all aspects of the business, from every piece of content tweeted to every mock advertising graphic made in Photoshop.

Because of this, a brand is supposed to have purpose and be easily definable. If you can’t easily come up with a two-to-three sentence long statement about your business’ brand identity, you’re doing it really, really wrong.

There’s no set voice to your brand.

Think about your favorite character on television or from a film. You can identify them by their voice – which is to say, both how they speak and the things they say. Now imagine a completely different voice coming out of their mouth. It’s kind of jarring, isn’t it?

Consumers identify businesses in a very similar way, which is based on how they sound and the way they say what they’re trying to convey. This isn’t necessarily about getting the same voice actor for every commercial either – do you think the same voices have been featured in every Coca Cola add for the past 50 years? No – but the brand image has a certain style to it that’s consistent. That’s the voice.

All of your content and marketing should carry this voice throughout. Without a consistent brand voice, your ship is sunk.

You aren’t investing capital.

New entrepreneurs with new businesses are often squeamish about spending money – and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It’s good to be conscious of your budget, but remember the old adage? You have to spend money to make money? Sometimes it’s true.

While it might be a lot cheaper to come up with your branding ideas in your garage over a couple beverages with friends, let’s be real – the best branding ideas likely aren’t just going to fall out of the sky and onto the hood of your car or kitchen counter. Spending money on expert branding advice can be critical to establishing your brand as a whole.

It’s unnecessary to pour your life’s savings into branding, but consider this – you get what you pay for, so why not spring for a branding consultant who’s worth the money?

brandingtipsYou’ve spent a lot of time building your brand messaging stock…but is it actually doing anything for you? If you aren’t putting attention on what your target audience is and if your branding is actually reaching them. Branding and marketing can’t be created and just tossed out onto the Internet as a catch all — extra work needs to be put in to ensure that the content reaches who it will actually appeal to.

There are two obvious steps to making sure that your branding efforts aren’t in vain: deciphering who your target audience is, then using analytics to ensure that they’re being accurately reached.

Establishing Target Audiences

The first step in establishing your target audiences is to simply sit down and see what makes the most sense. What audience does it make sense for your brand to reach out to? A specific gender? Age group? Niche audience? Profession? The more specific you can be, the better.

Demographics aren’t the only area to explore, though. Sometimes you need to appeal to how someone thinks instead of who they are, and this is called a psychographic. This is marketing and branding strategies that appeal to someone on a more mental level than an obvious category. Areas like a person’s values or interests fall into this category.

Sometimes a target audience is more abstract than a specific subset of people. This means that your brand identity is more vague — it’s not like there’s a specific subset of people that Coca Cola or Walmart advertise to. While an individual ad might have a target audience in mind, the brand itself doesn’t have one set demographic.

Establishing a Brand Connection

Once you’ve established what your target demographic is, it’s time to reach out to them. Depending on who your demographics are, how you reach out to them and build that connection may drastically change. Many key demographics can be reached via social media, but which sites? Do you have a target demographic in mind that isn’t so Internet savvy, like the elderly?

Analyzing the Outcome

The best way to understand if your brand is actually connecting with an audience is to analyze the data involved with your branding and marketing to see if it’s working the way you want it to. Many social sites and blogging platforms like Twitter and WordPress have built in analytics tools that you can use for free or at a very low price. These are great resources! However, it never hurts to spend a little money on tried and true analytics software.

Analytics is how you determine if your plans are actually succeeding. Without analytics, you push branding content out into the world blind. How will you know if it’s successful? Is it failing? Is it succeeding?

The great thing about analytics is that it can get into specifics. If you do a branding overhaul and see your sales go up, your plan worked — but why? How can you execute this same plan again and again to better ensure future success? Analytics is worth paying for, and it’s worth paying very close attention to too.

The Motivational Books You Need for the New Year

by Keetria on December 22, 2016

motivationalbooksWhat is true motivation? Some believe that the best motivator is yourself, and for many people this is true – but not all of us were born with built in confidence or have had the experiences required to be so self-assured. Those who can self-activate are often those who are filled to the brim with courage and mettle, but it’s okay if you aren’t quite there yet.

One of the most powerful motivation tools is finding an example of someone who you’d like to be more like. That’s not to say you have to copy someone’s life experience exactly. In fact, that’s impossible! But if you don’t already have it within you to motivate yourself, learning about how someone else views motivation and their own successes with motivation can help you do the same.

The best way to do just that is to read a motivational book. Unlike blog posts or news story sound bites, books are much more collegiate and substantial. The opinions are formed well and researched – if you get a good book, anyway. To help you weed out any rotten apples and to give you some books to read for the upcoming New Year, here is a selection of motivation books that we can all learn a thing or two from.

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown

We all understand vulnerability – and if you say you haven’t then you might be in denial. To be vulnerable means to be unguarded, to notice that you’ve got a chink in your armor and know that it can’t be repaired right away. Emotions like uncertainty and precaution are human, though they’re often perceived as weak.

Dr. Brené Brown steers readers in a different direction. Dr. Brown argues that vulnerability isn’t actually weakness, but is instead what makes us stronger and is the core of our most profound emotions. Without vulnerability, things like joy and grief would be nonexistent – vulnerability brings us both the good AND the bad.

“Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change” by Derek Rydall

Many self-help or motivational books focus heavily on how to change who you are. Derek Rydall says that who you were born is the exact person you are right now – changing that is going against nature. We hear arguments like this in regards to things like sexuality, but never to character flaws or imperfections.

Rydall thinks that radical change within your life starts when you activate something that’s already inside of you, not something that you need to create inorganically.

“Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

One thing most of us need help with when it comes to motivation is cleaning and tidying. If you’re looking around you right now and see a stack of disheveled papers and a few too many Starbucks cups, you’re someone who could use this book to help motivate you come 2017.

Marie Kondo is an organizational guru who is here to not only help you with words, but with pictures. With both a written and visual representation of what your mess looks like and why you’re holding onto it, she sets all readers up for organization success.