3 Steps I missed when I began Self-Development

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To all of my personal development lovers - this blog is dedicated to YOU.

Whether you’re a small spender on products to help you gain a new skill at a time to an investor who seeks massive mind shifts - we can ALL agree there are more books, assessments, services, events, tools, frameworks, and support structures than EVER before.

With a simple google search you can turn up hundreds of companies that created content to help you move forward if any way you can imagine. Even on social media, you can find thousands of groups dedicated to helping you master your mindset or skills in a particular arena. Seriously, I could probably go on and on with all of the offerings I come across as a coach.

It can be overwhelming, however, if you are feeling stuck in your job or in life and want to make a change for yourself. You can find yourself pouring over the mountain of personal development options like a maniac (I’ve been there myself) and it creates more frustration at times because you may not be really sure what to do first.

On the other hand, there are others who are avid personal development investors and looking to up their lives to the next level. It can be challenging to decide where to prioritize your time and energy.

I hear questions that are very similar to both situations like: “What’s worth the investment?” and “How do you narrow down to what works best for me?”

Whether you are a personal development investor or newbie, here are my top tips for narrowing your search and deciding what’s worth it and what can go on a wish list.

The Market

Whatever your need is - all personal development falls into a couple of different categories and are primarily focused on personal and professional skills.


Soft Skills- So for those of you focusing on developing your career skills right now and looking toward a promotion in your organization, some soft skills that are offered help you to learn key skills like navigating the challenges of management and other communication-based skills that are essential for keeping a team motivated and efficient.

Hard Skills:

Looking to make a jump into a new department or industry? You’re going to need direct skills necessary to be able to perform your new responsibilities. Skills in this area are step-by-step and include things like coding, financial accounting, public speaking, search engine optimization, starting a business, etc.


Soft Skills:

For those focused on their own personal growth, skills in this area would lean toward your mindset and building your “inner dialogue” skills (e.g.: personal transformation, learning to communicate with loved ones more effectively).

Hard Skills:

A number of personal courses have been designed to help us learn more than what is taught on the job. Hobbies and activities that we enjoy are vital for our development, and many of these courses help you understand the “how tos” (e.g.: Tennis, photography, personal branding).

Must vs. Nice

Many people float different ideas on where they want to focus on when it comes to making a change. Deep down when we are ready, you feel that urge that you just HAVE to start. If you’re ready to start but not sure what to focus on- grab your note pad or virtual note taking tool handy.

Split your ideas into two categories using the following steps:

  • List out your personal development vision (why you’re working on yourself and what you want to see happen)
  • List the skills and ideas you want to work on to get toward that vision
  • Separate your list into two categories-
  • Must have- these are critical skills for making your vision happen or helping you to achieve a current goal you have (changing jobs, promotion, improving yourself, getting a new hobby, etc).
  • Nice to have- these are the not to critical but ideal skills you’d like to develop
  • Circle the top 3 important skills (for now of course!)

For any of you who already invest in personal development but find yourself stuck with competing priorities, here is an exercise to help you focus on your next move as well:

  • List your top skills to focus on over the next 6 months
  • Identify the top priorities you have for choosing a program (the below list is not all inclusive!)
    • Does it need to be flexible with your schedule?
    • Does it need to be family friendly?
    • Does it need an in-person element?
  • Conduct your search and list out the programs that match your exact needs and criteria

Once you have the list of skills you really want to work on, the next question I typically hear is “How do I know if a program is worth it?”

That absolutely makes sense so let’s take a look at whether or not a program is worth the $$$.

Deciding where to invest your time and money can be boiled down to a couple of key questions:

  • What is my measure of success after completing this course/program/worksheet/retreat?
  • What are my expectations for this investment? What do I expect to do or experience as I am going through it?
  • How reasonable are the expenses associated with the program? What does it NOT cover?
  • What will it cost me (this applies more on the professional side) if I DON’T do this? How much money could I be losing?
  • How will I feel if I say no to this opportunity? Will there be disappointment or elation?

In a broader context, each of these questions should challenge you both mentally and physically to understand if spending the money (especially if it’s a bit out of your current comfort zone) is really worth it.

In order to truly know if you are ready to take the plunge, make sure to keep an honest perspective with yourself. Some of us dive into personal development without truly knowing why we are doing it- and then there are others who wait a lot time to “figure it out” before they can take the next step. Whichever camp you’re in- there isn’t a “perfect” time - sometimes it’s about trying something and working it out as you go along!

Remember that a wise investor first invests in themselves before others.

Cheers to your development!


Pro tips for the shy networker

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Stepping out of your normal routine to meet strangers can sound pretty daunting when put in that context. If you’ve ever found yourself at an event holding your bag & drink while staring at you cell phone, you’ll know what I mean. It seems like at every event there are people chatting, laughing and bouncing from group to group, and then there are the quieter ones looking around for someone to talk to.

The longer you seems to look around for someone to talk to, the more your nerves set in and you begin to feel as though attending the event was a big mistake. This happens when we begin disconnecting ourselves from the group- creating space both physically and mentally from everyone around us. As humans, we are wired for connection- whether that be one-on-one or in a group setting. The cautionary advice for networking is- don’t let yourself look at your phone for too long. By long, I mean more than a quick glance at your home screen.

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert we’ve all had moments where we find ourselves alone looking at the others chatting in groups. It doesn’t bring up good thoughts to see everyone else having fun except you- it came bring up some ugly old school-day insecurities about not fitting in.

Here are my top pro tips to getting you out of the corner and into the conversation quickly to maximize your networking time.

When you take time out of your evening to network, it can feel like a huge letdown if you can’t connect with someone quickly, aren’t meeting a lot of interesting people, or if you find people excusing themselves and you’re left there standing alone with your drink. What now?

Your networking mindset
Your mindset is tricky when you’re in a group setting- you know when you are the outlier in a larger room pretty easily. When you get into a good conversation, those insecurities tend to melt away pretty fast.

When you are alone at an event not talking to anyone, don’t allow the “I”m not interesting” fear to pop in. The question isn’t what’s wrong with you - it’s “who can I break the ice with?”. By focusing on your next move, you’re taking yourself from in your head, to action.

If you see a group of people laughing, approach the group and ask if you can join in- even if their backs are to you, they will open up and allow you to introduce yourself, and get to know everyone in the “circle” fairly quickly- BIG win if you are scanning for someone to have a one-on-one conversation after!

If you see one person who is at the bar ordering a drink, consider going up to the bar and starting the conversation there. If you aren’t a drinker- grab a soda. If you already have a drink- go up and grab a bar napkin, lime, or a straw. Chatting at the bar is a great way to introduce yourself to someone one-on-one if you shy away from the group conversations. They may invite you to walk over to their group if they are in one- politely accept and join in. Having someone introduce you or mention that they invited you in makes you intriguing to the group and they will be excited to hear more about you.

Invite people in subtly
When done right, however, you can make strangers your connections fairly quickly and step out of the uncomfortable hello to interesting acquaintance quickly. Don’t allow your posture or voice to deter people from approaching you as well. When you keep yourself in the corner on your phone, it’s difficult to make eye contact- and that is the quickest and easiest way to send someone a signal that you’re open to talking. Once eye contact is made, the smile comes next, then you open up verbal introductions.

Pro-tip: Remember to keep your phone interactions minimal when networking. People want to spend that time talking with you, not watching you on your phone- and when you are trying to make a good first impression- show them that they are important by keeping your attention solely on them (or in the group setting, the person who is talking). The best time to get out your phone is if you want to plug in someone’s contact details if they don’t have a business card, to broadcast on social media where you are (if you’re in a small biz), or you want to schedule time to follow up with someone. The second the phone comes out when you aren’t talking with someone- you could miss the eye contact and connection to start up the next conversation!

When you find yourself at your next event and looking around to start your first or next conversation, remember these tricks - they can help you move from stuck to moving quite quickly.

The tips to strike up conversations don’t end here- share your tips for how to overcome the standing in the corner of the room below!

Cheers to your career success,


4 Tricks for a Killer Presentation

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This past weekend Jonathan @jrh_graphics and I teamed up with Dani Sauter @blonde_inthedistrict and Callum from @cephotogs to do a collab styled photo shoot on 14th street in D.C. Oh what fun that was!

Dani is one of the most driven and down to earth entrepreneurs I've ever met. From first greet to goodbye hug, it was laughs, stories, and this deep down acknowledgement between us on what it's like to build a vibrant creative business in the heart of the Nation's Capital. What prompted this week's post was Dani mentioning that she has an incredible opportunity to MC an event this Fall and so I shared a couple of my best tricks and tips for rocking it. Here are my tips to share more with all of you!

Let's say, like Dani, you’ve been asked to give a presentation to the client, team, or perhaps for a big audience. You feel the nerves start to creep up as soon as you’re asked. Your palms begin to sweat, and your stomach feels like a pit of doom. All this before you’ve even begun preparing!

If you’ve felt alone in this, stop right there. I get asked all the time about the secret sauce to giving a compelling and engaging presentation. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how scary it can feel at first and how overwhelming it can be to figure out where to begin.

These are some of the most impactful tools I’ve used to create presence and successfully deliver any type of information leaving the audience engaged, educated, and entertained.

1. Memorize, Memorize, Memorize!
Have you ever seen a presentation where the speaker is reading their notes and avoiding eye contact? If you do this, it will create a lot of distance between you and the audience. The audience will feel instantly disengaged and you don’t want that.

Instead, think of a presentation as a conversation with your audience. Keep your notes tucked away and focus on the audience instead. Whether or not you are talking to a group of 3 or a group of 300, being present is a sure way to attract their attention to you and be with your presence. Having your content memorized will make it easier for you to interact with the audience instead of figuring out what page you are on in your notes.

For my favorite resource to help you remember literally ANYTHING, watch this Ted Talk by science writer, Joshua Foer. He describes the technique — called the memory palace — and shows off its most remarkable feature: anyone can learn how to use it, including him.

2. Rock Your Confidence Pose
Over 55% of what the audience will respond to will be from your body language. Believe it or not, how you stand speaks more to the audience than what you actually say.

An Executive Coach once told me that how far apart you hold your hands will be how much money you want to make. From that moment on, I got very conscious of how I presented my hands after hearing that. The closer you hold your hands, the more you contract your body towards your center, showing insecurity. Instead, spread your hands apart, align your legs with your hips, avoid bringing them together, and notice how your chest opens up and your voice will project more. You will convey greater confidence in your knowledge of the material.

3. Get Your Gestures
During your next presentation, don’t be afraid to move your hands to convey a key point that you’re trying to make. The grander the motion, the better so that it emphasizes your point more. Gestures will become more natural when you have practiced this so spread those arms and project your point as you prepare for your presentation. The audience will be more engaged with you and believe in what you’re saying.

4. Be Bold
Be bold in how you speak during the presentation. After all, 38% of your credibility is coming from how the audience is hearing you. You can use this to your advantage and match your tone with bigger body language we discussed above to project confidence. Have a bit of fun as well if your audience is open to that. Surprise them and do something unexpected.

All of these tips may feel awkward at first but remember that your audience wants to connect with you in some way. Even if they hold a straight face, don’t underestimate their enjoyment. I’ve been approached by the most stern audience members with glowing reviews after the presentation. You never know who will benefit from your messages, so keep at it!


Taking the Leap of Purpose

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Like any great story, the hero must begin their journey by mustering enough courage to leave what’s always felt safe and comfortable. Much like an adventure leading into a dark forest, your own pursuit of purpose can feel very similar. The terrain is new, it’s unexplored, and it can make you feel totally alone.

I remember a couple of key moments in my life where I felt ready to take the plunge and do something without knowing the outcome. When I first decided to go move to Boston for Graduate school, it felt like a lonesome decision to make at first. When you take on something new and exciting, it activates your primal instincts and stress levels to help protect you. When this happens, it can feel, especially when the fear sets in, that you’re the only one feeling all of the feels! Things like indecision, anxiety, anger, sadness, loss,  and pure fear about what was going to happen after you made your decision.

Luckily for us, the great stories with a hero all have a common theme of overcoming that initial fear of leaving your comfort zone. It can be hard in our modern stories to see the commonalities between us and others who have dared to pursue what they love, so here are my hero tips to help you begin step into your next adventure.

  • Look behind you: It can seem counter-intuitive to look behind you, but there’s a reason you’re standing on the edge. When you decide that where you are is not where you want to be, looking back can be a perfect reminder of the reason you are ready to move forward.
  • What’s the worst that can happen? My all time favorite question and with good reason. When we begin planning for the future (one we don’t know much about yet) we begin coming up with various scenarios and what ifs. Well, write all of those what ifs downs, AND what you can do to mitigate them.
  • Pay no mind to everyone else’s idea of the cliff: Our friends, family, co-workers all have their own experiences with the cliff and some are great, while others are scary. Remember that this cliff is yours, and yours alone. So what you experience will always be, in some part, different from everyone else’s experience.
  • Grow into your real self: The look ahead from here you are might start feeling a little narrow, like you’re heading into the thick of the forest. When you begin to only feel that fear, take a moment to remember that once you past that point, you are stepping into your own territory, where the rules are what you decide they are.

Once you’ve stepped into your first hero adventure or stepped off your purpose cliff, it will be the most rewarding and life changing experience. The minds will try and fool with us once on the edge because it knows that there is a big change coming. Don’t mistake your excitement for the adventure with the mind’s interpretation of fear. You. Got. This.