Culture

The Internet is a wonderful thing; information at the click of a button, hours of entertainment, easy ways to connect with friends (old and new) around the world. The Internet, as it turns out, is also a terrible thing that can consume your entire day with mindless clicking around. As always, there are two sides to every story, and it’s important to hear both.

The pros of the Internet are pretty clear: with everything electronic, virtually any question can be answered with a few clicks on a keyboard. Also, with the Internet around, there is no way to be bored. Games, social networking sites, blogs, and many other sites are just as easily accessed as information, and often hold hours of engaging material for the casual browsers to dabble in. Sites such as YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other similar websites are excellent places to share and expand upon ideas – old and new – and with so many people only a computer screen away, it’s easy to carve out a little niche, and work on whatever inspirational thing is going on. Sharing ideas is easy and quick, and everyone with WiFi can have a voice.

The cons of the Internet come in when a person slips from casual browsing to full-on obsession. A few funny videos or a quick look at some pictures can easily devolve into hours of clicking on related topics, until suddenly you’re watching videos of some random cat, not exactly sure how you got there, but knowing it’s not at all related to what you originally intended to look at. Seemingly limitless content can also be a negative; while some of it can be insightful, it also has the potential to be offensive. Since wars of opinion on the Internet are not fought in person, some people forget that the person they’re talking to is just that; a person. It’s easy to forget yourself in the twists and turns of the Google searchbar, and once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, it’s hard to get out.

The truth of the matter is, whether you like it or not, the Internet in all its glory is here to stay (and for me, that’s a positive thing). So be careful what you search, and use it to the fullest.

What do you like and dislike about the Internet?

Check out this article for inspiration on unplugging for a couple of days.

Image: Dennis Skley

HealthSkills

Maybe you’re having a bad day or maybe even a bad week. It can be hard to stay positive when life just seems as though it isn’t ever going to go your way, but here are some tricks to keeping an optimistic mind!

1. Reminders

Having inspirational and motivational quotes as a daily reminder to maintain a positive attitude can be extremely helpful! Whether that’s putting Post-It notes on your mirror that you can look at as you get ready in the morning or having an alert on your phone for a middle of the day pick-me-up, adding positive sayings to your daily routine can brighten your day!

2. Exercise

Exercise is proven to make us happier. Not only does it relieve stress, but the results of exercise cause us to feel better about ourselves on the inside and outside, giving us a feeling of accomplishment and an attitude that wants to accomplish more!

3. Your Diet

Yes, that chocolate cake may give us temporary happiness, but eating healthy has a similar effect on us as exercising! Taking care of ourselves on the inside makes us feel better on the outside and gives us a more positive outlook!

4. Socialize

Spending time with people will boost your mood as well. We love to be around company, and being around others to talk and laugh with is an easy way to put a little pep into your step.

5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

If you’re with people who have a positive outlook on life, it will help you to do the same. Being around negative people can cause us to be negative as well. Of course, it’s important to be there for your friends, but being around people who are negative 24/7 will only do harm to yourself.

6. Take Time for Yourself

Take time for your own hobbies and interests. Try learning a new song on the guitar or pick up the book that’s been sitting on your bedside table. As important as it is to be around other people, it’s just as important to take time to do the things you love.

7. Pamper Yourself

Sometimes a thing as simple as changing out of your pajamas and putting on a pair of jeans and a cute shirt can boost your mood. If you look good, you feel good. Feeling put together on the outside makes us feel put together in other aspects of our life and gives us the boost of confidence we need to conquer other activities.

Image: unsplash

EducationSkills

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

As someone who has both led and been led, I have found this quote to be true in every situation.

The thing is, many leaders believe their job is to “tell” their team what to do, and to create and stick to their vision.

While it is important as a leader to have a strong vision and communicate it clearly, it is also important to keep open ears and an open mind, allowing team members to creatively and collaboratively contribute their own thoughts to the group vision. Inflexibly telling everyone what to do is a waste of the unique mind power each team member possesses.

Instead, I’ve compiled, from my experiences, six ways to ensure open communication and creative collaboration, and they’re pretty easy:

1. Make your team a communication “safe space.”

Be sure to actively listen, encouraging input and questions. This means showing appreciation for ideas, even when they aren’t great. This will keep team members unafraid to contribute potentially stellar ideas and ask important questions. Never talk at, always talk with. Remember, your leadership position should never have you on a pedestal.

I was training as a host at a restaurant. During a weekend night when we were absolutely slammed, the manager welcomed all of my questions. Because of that, the next night when we were even busier, I was able to handle the finicky crowd gracefully on my own, much more so than if I’d been afraid to ask her questions in the moment the night before. As a result, she was able to pick up the slack for a brand new server, keeping the customers much happier. Be patient and welcome all communication from your group, even if you’re stressed. It will pay off.

2. Provide continuous feedback (positively).

Show your team members you hear them and see what they’re accomplishing. Sometimes, people can be blind to our own strengths. Pointing them out can give members the confidence to take those strengths and run (a win for you). Be sure to also share things you expect them to improve, letting them know you believe they can do it and providing suggestions as to how they can.

I worked at a PR agency under a great CEO. When I got strong media placement results, he would take the time to stop by my desk and let me know he saw I’d been getting good results that week, and to keep it up. It kept me intrinsically motivated to keep improving my results.

3. Ask for your own feedback.

Good leaders must not be afraid to hear criticism. Anonymous surveys are good for receiving candid answers about this. Ask questions that will lead to honest and productive answers.

Honestly taking feedback into consideration creates a level of trust and mutual respect between you and your team. It also allows you to improve yourself as a leader and a person.

The best professor I’ve ever had checked in several times throughout the semester with anonymous surveys, and also asked for feedback on the fly if he felt something was off. He used it to improve his teaching methods, resulting in higher student test scores and retained knowledge.

4. Hold everyone accountable (yourself included).

When people are assigned tasks, tell them their deadlines and when you will check in with them. Then, do it by asking about their current progress and next steps. I’ve liked doing this via email and during team meetings. Just be sure everyone knows they’ll be asked about it during meetings so they don’t feel put on the spot, and can address concerns with you beforehand.

Update everyone on your own activity, too, so that they also know you’re all in it together. Set examples by meeting your own deadlines.

As the director of my university’s Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon, I often met one on one with team members to discuss individual progress and determine where we could tweak or add things. I created Google docs with each member’s proposed timeline, which we edited together as the year progressed. I also set aside about five minutes to begin our meetings by providing updates on my own activity. It kept us on track in exceeding our main goals.

5. Remember your team members are humans.

This sounds obvious, but it’s important; people will make mistakes. They’ll encounter personal roadblocks that drain them. Be sure to show interest in these things. If someone’s performance has dropped, don’t assume anything. Ask if they’re ok and listen to their concerns. Be sure also to recognize what motivates or discourages your teammates individually, as different people respond to different things in different ways.

In high school, my basketball coaches saw I’d been playing poorly for several games in a row. Instead of getting harder on me, they pulled me into their office after practice to ask me what was going on. They came to find out a personal stressor had been weighing me down; they showed their constant support and understanding. I was back to normal within a few games. They recognized that, while other teammates responded better to tougher love, I responded well to more gentle feedback.

6. No micro-managing!

Offer your help and provide advice, but trust your team to complete their tasks. They may mess up, but it’s better than keeping them from improving and learning. They also may do things their own way, which could turn out to be better than yours!

As the director of our dance marathon, we ran into some roadblocks with corporate sponsorship. We needed about $6,000 in less than two weeks, which my faculty director could have easily secured on her own. Instead, she put the trust in me to do it. I ended up applying for and securing all of the funding and grants we needed, and gained tremendous confidence in the process. She likely had a plan B on hold, but she let me grow and learn through the process.

In the end, your and your teammates’ personal and professional growth should be just as important as the project results. Don’t forget that you’re all teammates, regardless of titles, and that happy people do the best work!

What tips do you have for quality leadership? Any stories about good or bad leaders you’ve encountered?

Image: D I, Flickr

Skills

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is no proof that Mahatma Gandhi ever said these exact words, but either way, you are familiar with this quote. It was used in the valedictorian’s graduation speech, a few of your professors paraphrased it in their lectures, someone retweeted it on Twitter, it was printed across a cute shirt on the bargain rack at the mall, or maybe you’re just the kind of person who likes to collect inspirational quotes.

Whatever your story may be, there is no doubt that you’ve encountered this quote at some point in your life. However, your familiarization isn’t what’s important. This is solely because nine times out of ten people will look at that quote, think it’s inspirational enough to share on social networks, and go on about their day smiling at all of the likes and retweets and favorites they get from their friends and followers.

I’m not saying everyone is like that but how many people do you think will actually be the change that they wish to see? Now, that quote is obviously open to interpretation because we all want to see different things. We all have our own definitions of change and what we’d like to see change. But if there is one thing we all have in common, it’s this: we all live in an imperfect world. It seems like every time I go on the internet or turn on the TV, something horrible is happening. Even if I’m not aware of it, I still know that somewhere in the world someone is living in poverty or trying to survive in a war-torn country.

If you’re reading this article, that means you have access to the internet, which means you have a computer (or a smartphone), and that already makes you a little more privileged than a lot of people around the world. This is not to say that we don’t all have our own life struggles or that we’re all well-off, but I am saying that we have a duty to fulfill. Because while we all might not live in war torn countries or have to deal with poverty, it doesn’t mean that those issues will go away if we don’t think about it. The horrible things in this world aren’t fairies. They won’t disappear just because we say we don’t believe in them or because we aren’t forced to encounter struggles in our everyday lives.

So what is the point of all of this? Well, to put it simply, as young people (it doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or in college), we owe it to future generations to set a good example for them and to be the change. All change is change, so if you wish to see less animal abuse in the world, volunteer at an animal shelter, help fundraise for organizations whose missions are to end animal abuse. Whatever cause you’re interested in, find a way to become a part of it, because chances are there is a way that you can contribute. If you’re not really into joining any causes, you can still volunteer and make a difference in your community.

Look for local chapters of Habitat for Humanity. Put in time helping restore or build a home for a family in need. Pick up trash around the neighborhood, clock in some hours at the community center or an afterschool program or anything your heart desires! I’m not saying that doing any of these things will put an end to all wars or get rid of poverty forever, but as I said before, we live in a world that is imperfect and bad things happen everyday. Why not try to do something good to counteract the bad?

Volunteering is important because not only will it impact your life, but it will ultimately have a positive impact on the lives of others. No act of service is too small or too great. Poverty will not go away in one day and neither will famine or sickness. I don’t expect it to but I do expect to try to work at doing what I can, as a young person, as a college student, to make sure that I do things that honor the change that I not only wish to see but the change I want to see as well.

You have the power to influence others in a positive way. If you start to volunteer for a cause or an organization, one of your peers or family members might be inspired to get involved or to tell other people about it. That’s how movements are started. That’s how change happens.

If you’re like the queen from Alice in Wonderland and you don’t want white roses, paint them the color that you want them to be. In other words, if you don’t like the way things are, do something about it. Paint all of the things that you want to change red!

Also, the next time you come across the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world,” forget about liking it or sharing it or retweeting it; choose to live by it instead.

Image: morguefile