I’m going to let you all in on something you all probably already know: I don’t have it all figured out.
Knowing that, it is nothing short of an honor that a blog reader whose daughter recently graduated from college reached out to me asking if I’d sit down with her daughter and provide some advice about going forward after college. While I surely don’t have it all figured out, over the last seven years (I cannot believe it has been that long!) since graduating from undergrad and four years since graduating from law school, I’ve been taught some hard lessons. And it is hard lessons from which advice is born. So, here are three pieces of advice that I would offer for recent grads, with the hope that they can save themselves from some of the struggles, troubles and pain I’ve encountered over the last seven years.
1. Timing is not everything; the time we have is
I graduated from an anomaly of an undergraduate institution, whereupon with only a bachelor’s degree, most of my friends landed six-figure paying jobs. I then made the terrible economic decision to put myself into debt and go to law school. As luck would have it, I graduated from law school in a recession. What that meant, is there were only a handful of six-figure paying jobs for entry-level attorneys when I came out of law school. Needless to say, I did not land a six-figure paying job out of law school.
I beat myself up for nearly two years after law school. I was miserable in my job and more often than not, second guessed my decision to attend law school. I was weighted down with student loan debt, attempting to live a lavish lifestyle in southern California and probably making less than I would have had I just gone straight to work after completing undergrad.
During this time, both of my parents said the one thing that a person going through a personal crisis doesn’t want to hear: ”Just give it time. Things will get better.”
Upon receiving this advice, I’d always counter with some snarky comment about not having time, that I wanted to get on with my life, and how I worked so hard to do things the right way so I could lead my life the way I wanted to. I was a pretty miserable person to be around during these bursts and I wasted a lot of energy being that miserable person.
At some point, I ran out of the energy necessary to be miserable. As I came to learn, being miserable is exhausting. It consumes you. It eats you up. It destroys you. As someone whose always been known for an optimistic nature (heck, I won the Optimist Club’s speech contest in 8th grade) and ability to laugh off everything (I’ve been told more than once that I have a nervous habit of giggling after much of what I say), I didn’t recognize myself for some time.
Slowly, though, grace came back into my life. The universe sent a man into my life who might be the most optimistic soul I’ve ever met. On top of that, he had dreams grander than mine and he believed with his whole heart that he would achieve them. He’d wake up in the morning excited about the possibility that day held. He drove to work believing that he could achieve anything he set out to do. He was positive about where his future was taking him, even if he had to stumble sometimes along the way. Seeing the way in which he led his life slowly allowed grace to re-enter mine.
It was with that grace that I realized that you don’t wake up and stumble upon success. It was with that grace that I finally succumbed to the understanding that it is in fact about the journey, and not the destination. It was with that grace that I finally decided that even though my life didn’t play out as planned, I deserved to be happy.
Life has changed a lot for me since God put that guy into my life. I wake up everyday thankful for the opportunity to work on getting to where I want to be. I thank God when things don’t work out my way, because chances are, His way is better. I look at the meagerness of my paycheck and think back to that guy’s saying of, “I like working for peanuts–it keeps me hungry.”
Most of all, though, what I’ve realized is that timing isn’t everything. Rather, the time that we have on Earth is everything. Recognizing that this very moment is all I have has forced me to live more intentionally. That intentionality in turn, has led me to focus on the things I can change. That focus has restored my happiness. Happiness, like time, is everything.
2. Be the captain of your own ship
Because the time we have on this Earth is everything we will ever have, how you use that time is crucial. The best use of that time is to proactively create opportunities that will drive you to where you want to be. I call this being the captain of your own ship.
My misery for the first two years after I graduated law school was caused in large part by me not finding the career opportunities I wanted. My misery ceased once I woke up and realized I was the captain of the Alicia Ship. In a moment of clarity, I realized I had the power to chart the course my ship sailed and in exchange, create my own happiness.
The point here, is you cannot wait for the perfect time to do something. If you have a plan, wish or dream in your heart, it was put there for a reason. That reason is to act upon it. You cannot wait for the universe to align perfectly, the right job offer to pop up, or to be fully financially stable to make your move. Because we know that timing is never perfect, but that time is everything that we have, you must sail your ship forward. As the captain of your own ship, you need to pick the time when the water is steady enough and when you can see far enough ahead to set sail. If you don’t go, you will sink.
Society tells us to be careful to an extreme. Mothers of people my aged plastered “Baby on Board” signs across their minivans in hopes that drivers near them would do what they were already supposed to do: drive carefully. Children no longer roam streets freely on their bicycles during summertime, because we are worried for their safety. We routinely walk through metal detectors and endure pat-downs at things like sporting events all in an effort to protect ourselves from unknown harms.
There is a difference between being careful and tying your ship to the dock forever. Being careful is making wise financial decisions before starting a business. Tying your ship to the dock is never starting a business because it is too expensive. If you wait on life’s dock forever, you’ll see a lot of nice sunsets, but in the end, life will pass you by.
I was having dinner a few weeks ago with a man who has been a journalist for over 20 years. He was so kind to me and said I have the world at my fingertips. I told him about a great opportunity at my doorstep and shared my frustration over something I need to do to fully secure the opportunity. After noting that frustration, I said, “Everything happens in its own time though. If it’s meant to be, what needs to get done will find a way of getting finished.”
His response was so perfect. He said, “Alicia, you are the way. Now is the time. Sometimes you need to speed up time and bring things to yourself. This opportunity is at your doorstep for a reason–for you to take it.”
I love that he said that, because it reminded me that you cannot get too complacent with how you sail your ship. Even when waters aren’t rough, you need to look ahead and do what is necessary to traverse through life the way you want to. And sometimes, that means making bold decisions, taking reasonable risks and charting a new course.
3. Prioritize your passions
By now you have probably heard the adage, “Choose a job you love and never work a day in your life.” These days, Americans spend more time than ever at their jobs. Given that time is everything we have on this earth, I am an advocate for using that time wisely. And a wise use of time is doing something you’re passionate about with it.
The biggest mistake I made in my early life was worrying too much about money. I made educational decisions based largely on the financial payout they would provide after graduation. I went to an engineering school even though my heart was never truly in engineering. At a young age I chose law school because I knew I’d be able to make a good living as a lawyer.
Choosing to direct my life’s path based upon these factors meant that my passions were withheld. For as long as I can remember, my passions have been sports and writing. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching a good game, and I’ve been told a time or two that I tell a good story. However, my younger self didn’t see a way in which I could pay my bills by pursuing these passions. So I didn’t pursue them.
I’m a religious person and I believe that we all have a purpose to serve on this planet. I believe that by the end of your life, you will have fulfilled your purpose. Sometimes, it takes the misery of experiencing the process of recognizing what your purpose is not to finally push you in the direction of prioritizing your passions. I truly believe that I would not be where I am today–devoting myself to pursuing a career that melds my passions–had I not experienced the misery I did earlier in my career. God–or for non-believers, the universe–finally got me back on the course my life was charted to travel.
Some days I wonder what my life would look like now had I been brave enough at 18-years-old to actually pursue my passion rather than a paycheck. Every now and then I catch myself thinking about the ways in which my life would be different had I set out at that age to be a writer. I question whether I’d be further ahead on this journey and what opportunities I would have experienced. I’m not one to dwell too much on the past, so I don’t spend much time considering this. Rather, I just give thanks that I realized sooner rather than later that a life without passion is meaningless. I’m grateful that after a couple of years of pain, I found the strength to pursue mine.
Deep down, I believe we all know what we are meant to do with the life we’ve been given. The best way to figure it out, I’d say, is to think about where your mind goes when you daydream. What kind of picture do you paint for your life when there are no boundaries for it? What are you doing? Where are you living? Who are you with? Those are your passions. And you need to put them first.
There is so much I have experienced in the last seven years that have molded me into the person I am today. I didn’t think that life could get any better than it was when I was 22-years-old. I was surrounded by friends, fun and young love. While things got rocky for some time, I can look back at age 28 and say that I am a better person today than I was then. I can also say that my life has unfolded in far better ways than I imagined. The process of becoming the woman I have become over the last seven years has prepared me to face bigger challenges and chart tougher courses as the time of my life marches on. Because after all, that time is everything, and every possibility–should you seek to find it–is wound up within it.
Everybody has their own motives for what they do. Everyone on this planet is fueled by different passions and pushed to succeed for different reasons. My cousin recently asked me what has driven me down this path I am on, so being who I am, I decided to answer his question here. What motivates me to give everyday my all, to chase my dreams, and go into this world believing that I can accomplish anything?
What drives me harder to succeed that anything, is people who don’t believe in me. The naysayers. Those who say, “You could never do that.” Or, “Your economic background isn’t good enough for that.” Or, “That piece of paper called your diploma isn’t from an esteemed enough institution to open that door.”
I was born premature to a man who spent some of his teenage years homeless, dropped out of high school and got a GED and to a mother who tinkered with the idea of college but never completed a degree. I think it’s safe to say that when I was born, some members of my extended family didn’t have the highest expectations for what I would do with my life.
Yet, the two people who brought me into this world told me constantly that I could do anything I set my mind to. They read to me daily, challenged me with new ideas and instilled in me beliefs, that by educating myself and being nice to others, I could open any door in this world.
My mother also took me to church every week. And it was there that I learned, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
The combination of these lessons gave me a strong enough belief in myself, that when other people doubted my abilities, dreams and hopes, I kept pushing on. It is that push that has made all of the difference in my life.
The push has led me down interesting paths and has peppered my life with experiences for which I’m grateful.
Someone doubted that I could graduate from the best engineering school in Colorado, so I earned my diploma there.
Someone didn’t think I could make my college’s cheerleading squad, so I became captain.
Someone thought my blog was a waste of time, so I pressed on and got a broadcasting agent.
The biggest motivator in my life has always been the belief within my heart that I know what I am on this planet to do, and because I can do everything through Him, I am going to set out to do it. If I were to fall victim to critics–to disbelievers–I would be doing not only myself, but this world an injustice.
I believe that each of us is put here on this planet for a reason. While many search high and low throughout their lives to find that reason, I believe that at age 28, I have figured out what that reason is (note: I will probably re-read this at age 40 and get a kick out of what I thought the meaning of life was at 28-years-old). The reason is to go into the world, and do the good things that are written on your heart.
For me, that is to share others’ stories. To get to know people and really understand them at their core and then take the messages found from their experiences and share them with the world. It’s charting a path based upon my background and experiences to use the talents I have been given to make this world a better place. The other day, someone told me that this is something that can’t be done. So, as per usual, I am going to give my all to get it done.
At the same time, my motivation is also an acceptance of who I am. And part of this acceptance, is that people can take what I can offer, or they can leave it. I do not come from wealth. I did not graduate from an Ivy League law school. I am a Christian and a sorority woman who believes that life is far too short to be too serious. I have a hard time being mean to people, and laugh after almost everything I say. I am a sensitive soul who bottles up that sensitivity by putting out an air of confidence, that only my true friends know is a mask. I am someone, who just given the opportunity, will lay my heart and soul out on the line and put my best foot forward. Every single time.
Motivation is personal. Yet, at the same time, I would aim to guess that most of us are motivated by the same thing: someone who disbelieved. And, I beg to argue that nothing tastes as good as proving a disbeliever wrong, save for celebrating with those who have always believed in you.
I’ve never felt heartache like the pain that stung my heart on July 27, 2004.
He had the world at his fingertips. He was driving home from California after completing a summer internship. Football camp was set to start the next week and he’d be the senior kicker and punter. At 6’7″, his long, lanky legs let him make kicks that no Division II kicker should’ve been able to hit. There were rumblings that he could go pro. He was smart, though, too. At one of the most challenging institutions in the United States, he managed many times in three years to rack up a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
On a July day on his way home to a future that shined bright, he fell asleep behind the wheel in Utah. His car flipped and items he was bringing back to Colorado from California struck him in the head. He died that day in a hospital room in Utah, even though he fought to stay alive.
Yesterday, my old friend Scott would’ve turned 30.
After finishing a few stories, I decided to get in the car, go buy some yellow roses and visit the grave site I couldn’t muster the strength to visit for the last nine years.
I got to the cemetery, walked into the office and asked if they could help me find my friend.
A woman sat me down in an empty room and had me fill out information about Scott on a piece of paper. She then returned with a big binder and a plot map. She looked at the information I scribbled on the paper, looked up and me and said, “Oh wow. He was young.”
He was young. And he had the world at his fingertips. 21-years-old. We thought we were so old then. But we really were just babies.
The lady mapped out a route for me to go find Scott. Seeing the look of confusion on my face she said, “Why don’t I drive out to his marker and you can follow me. I want to make sure you can find him.”
So I followed her. As she parked her black minivan, I knew the moment I’d been dreading for nine years was about to happen. I grabbed my bundled up yellow roses, wiped the hair from my face and got out of my car.
Walking a few steps behind her, I watched as she would sweep off debris from graves that families and friends had forgotten. After several failed attempts to locate his, we finally found Scott.
She tapped me on the shoulder and said she’d be heading back to her office.
She hadn’t even gotten three feet away from me when I turned my head the other way and started crying harder than I have in ages.
The best person to ever come into my life would’ve turned 30 yesterday. I fought back tears as I thought about what he’d be doing now. The picture perfect family he’d likely have. The success he would’ve found in his career. The lives he would’ve touched with his warm spirit.
For as much as he lived and as right as he lived his life, the images that fluttered through my mind of what Scott would be doing yesterday were some of the most beautiful ideals I could paint for a life.
Eventually, the tears stopped trailing down my face as quickly as they started. I thought about how at 18-years-old, I’d linger after cheerleading practice just to get a hello from Scott. I laughed about how at the night of my first fraternity party–when I was on crutches–he stood by me all night as we improvised dance moves. I smiled when I thought about how I can’t even tell you who played in Super Bowl 37, because the football player and the cheerleader spent the entire game in the back of the room making each other laugh.
Selfishness set in as I lowered myself to sit down by his grave and wiped away the leaves that had fallen on it. As I placed the yellow roses in the vase and poured what little water I had into it, I thought about the corners my life has turned in the last nine years. I wondered what avenues I wouldn’t have traveled had Scott been around. I questioned how my life would be better if he were still in it.
Swept up in emotion and letting my imagination get the most of me, a couple walked past me, and once again, I remembered that he’s gone.
The point of this story isn’t a mystery. The point here, is to live each day to your fullest. The point is to chase your dream. The point is to let the people you love know just how much you love them. The point is that sometimes, you have to use heartache as a reflection of what you really should be doing with your life.
And most importantly, you need to ask yourself, “How am I living?”
Spring has sprung, which means that for collegians, summer vacation is just around the corner! Summer vacation likely brings many fun things, like spending time with hometown friends and family vacations. However, it should also bring a summer internship. This week on Managing Monday, I’ll provide you with five tips to help you make the most out of your summer internship experience.
1. Finding an internship
I’m a big proponent of starting from the beginning. Thus, I’d be remiss to not begin this column with talking about finding an internship. Many of you have probably already lined up a summer internship. However, many of you are probably struggling to find one. What do you do if you find yourself in this boat? The answer centers around creativity.
If you do not have a summer internship lined up at this point, you do not necessarily need to fret or convince yourself that you will not get one. However, what you need to do, is execute a more creative job search than you have up until this point.
What is it that you want to do in a career? What areas of practice interest you? Where will you be residing this summer? Make a list of all of those factors. Then, make a list of all of the companies, organizations or people who could offer you the experiences you are looking to fulfill.
Let’s say that you’re a law student who wants to practice sports law. Luckily for you, sports law is a broad field with many different avenues to travel down. Where could you begin sending resumes to in an attempt to find an internship?
By this point in the year, teams and leagues have likely locked up their interns. However, it would be worth your time to visit TeamWork.com to see if any have postings.
Therefore, you should think broader about your internship search. Think about local sports agencies and sports marketing companies. How local sports foundations or event planning agencies? What about pairing up with a sports law professor and assisting him or her with their research? Have you reached out to your local university’s athletics compliance department to see if you could assist them this summer? Athletics directors are some of the most over-worked people I know; I’m sure a few would love to host an intern for the summer.
The point here, is that you need to be broad with your internship search. The goal is to get an internship so that you can build your resume. In approaching these various opportunities, you need to sell them on what you can offer their organization. Some places you contact may not have an internship program, so you need to convince them that it’s worth their time to bring you on for the summer. This may seem counter intuitive, since you’ll likely be working for free. However, keep in mind that it is the organization who offers the possibility of an internship opportunity that you covet. As such, act accordingly.
2. If you don’t find an internship
Sometimes, you may exhaust every creative avenue and mail out hundreds of resumes and still not land an internship. The good news is, life is not over. I assure you that you will find employment after graduation. However, not finding a summer internship does not equate to a free summer pass, where you can lay around all day catching up on Teen Mom 2 episodes. The fact of the matter is, even if you don’t have a summer internship to work, you still need to do something to further your career path this summer.
If you find yourself in this boat, the biggest piece of advice I’ll offer you is to spend the summer educating yourself about your passion and then finding an outlet to share that education with the world.
The best advice I can give you if you don’t have a summer internship, is to spend the time you would otherwise spend in the internship (i.e., 15-40 hours per week) researching areas related to your chosen career field. Then, take what you learn from that research and turn it into something tangible. Perhaps you do this by starting a blog or writing a law review or business journal article. Maybe you accomplish this by building a business plan or reaching out to leaders in your industry with your findings.
Sometimes you need to create your own resume fillers. When you refuse to sit idly by when others fail to give you a chance in the profession you want to practice, you put the fate of your career in your own hands. Trust me, that is one of the greatest feelings you can ever experience.
3. Arriving at the internship
I remember always being unable to sleep the night before I started an internship. Feelings of excitement over what I was about to experience always fluttered through me. I always fretted over whether my outfit was ironed well enough and if I packed a good enough lunch.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you to succeed on your first day on the job, is to walk in reasonably prepared.
Being reasonably prepared has nothing to do with the outfit you select for your first day or what kind of sandwich finds its way into your lunch bag. Rather, being reasonably prepared means having some sense of the situation you’re about to walk into. What I mean by this, is to spend the weeks leading up to the start of your internship researching things like the organizational structure of the company you’ll be working for. It is also beneficial to research the people you will be working alongside. The first task can be accomplished by spending some time on the organization’s website and reading it in detail. The second task can be accomplished by using LinkedIn. Researching these two areas will allow you to have a better sense of what causes you are about to promote in your internship, who you can expect to report to, and how to build a rapport with co-workers.
I’ve put this practice to beneficial use in my career. Knowing the organizational structure of a company has allowed me to recognize who the best people are to ask for assignments. Knowing my co-workers’ professional and personal backgrounds allowed me to build camaraderie with them early on. This camaraderie in turn allowed me to obtain more assignments than some of my peers. Because my co-workers knew my interests, they would present opportunities, like participating in arbitrations, researching sports-related topics and so on, that that wouldn’t have otherwise had they not known my interests.
4. Throughout the internship
The best thing you can adopt throughout an internship is a “can-do” attitude. You are at the internship to work, not relax. You are at the internship to gain experience that others are missing out on and to make you a more valuable job candidate after graduation. You are at the internship to decipher what interests you about your career path and which areas you are not so passionate about.
There is no task too small for an intern. Yes, fetching coffee and making copies are not the tasks you or your parents have spent tens of thousands of dollars on an education to prepare you for. However, we have all been there before. What can you learn from those experiences? How might performing those experiences well allow you to work your way into bigger tasks with greater responsibilities?
Early in your internship, you should ask to sit down with the internship coordinator to discuss some things you hope to learn during your experience. While it may not be feasible to tackle your entire wish list, hopefully by sharing these desires, the coordinator will assign you some relevant projects.
The more you are willing to take on during an internship, the more opportunities will come your way. I experienced this firsthand at the Screen Actors Guild and Warner/Chappell Music. At both, I worked to develop professional relationships with all of my co-workers and to express to them my willingness to help out with any projects they were working on. As such, my desk was often more full than fellow interns’, and more often than not, with more interesting projects. I’ll never forget when the head general counsel at Warner/Chappell assigned me a project that its own attorneys had been struggling with for months, because he had seen my work and believed I could find the solution to it. As a 22-year-old law student, that was a very rewarding feeling.
So, get out there and get your feet wet. Make the most out of the opportunity presented to you. Don’t expect your boss to be a mind-reader and know what you want to get out of your internship experience. Seek out opportunities to build the experience you need to get the job you want after graduation.
5. After the internship
The experience doesn’t end on your last day on the job. Rather, it is just beginning.
You’ve just spent the summer with professionals in an industry you want to work in. The most important thing you can do perhaps during the entire experience, is to work to maintain those relationships. Keep in contact with the people who supported you throughout your internship. Make it a point to touch base with them once a semester and update them on what you’re doing. Let them know how school is going and any activities you are engaging in. If possible, set up a lunch or coffee visit once per semester.
Building a solid network begins by holding onto relationships that you have already established. Some of my biggest supporters on this sports media journey of mine have been my former employers. It is likely that if you bring a “can do” attitude to your internship, that yours will be, too.
Money is the root of all evil. Or so they say.
Since I was young money has played an interesting role in my life. My dad grew up with nothing. He actually was homeless for some of his teenage years. While my family is by no means rich, when I was a child, I feel like my dad was making up for lost time by splurging on things. He’d go overboard on Christmas gifts. He bought me a brand new car the day I got my driver’s permit. Then I crashed my mom’s car, so she got to keep the brand new car. But that is neither here nor there.
I grew up living next door to my grandparents and they practically served as surrogate parents for me. My grandmother was born in 1907 and my grandfather was born in 1913. They lived through the Great Depression and the dust bowls. In contrast to my dad, they were relatively financially conservative. However, my grandfather’s lasting line about money was that “you can’t take it with you when you go.” As a tribute to this motto, we actually put some cash in his suit jacket pocket before we buried him.
I think in large part because he grew up poor and homeless, my dad worked tirelessly throughout my childhood so I would never have to worry about money. I always had what I needed and if I wanted something badly enough and gave a good reason for it, nine times out of ten I got it.
While I enjoyed living this way growing up, difficult times arose for me after I graduated from college and became financially independent. I was used to hitting the mall every weekend and buying whatever outfit I wanted. It was normal for me to go out to nice dinners three or four nights a week. However, once the money was coming out of my own pocket to support all of my life’s habits, I had to begin living intentionally. There have been some struggles along this process as I’ve learned things I wish I would have learned earlier in life. However, I’ve taken away some good tips that have allowed me to gain a reasonable sense of financial security for a 28-year-old.
1. High Interest Snowballs
The one thing in my life I wouldn’t let my parents pay for was law school. Law school was my dream, not theirs. As such, I thought it was appropriate that I foot the bill for it. Thus, I have student loans. For what it’s worth, it turns out that when you go to law school in one of the most expensive counties in the United States that your law school bill gets a little hefty. Who knew?
After law school I dug into books filled with investing advice. Many of these books have suggestions of ways to pay down your debt. The strategy I’ve adopted is a combination of Suze Orman’s and Dave Ramsey’s theories. So far, it’s proven successful.
Suze Orman is a big proponent of paying off your debts that bear the greatest interest first. She says if you do this, you’ll eliminate debt quicker. Dave Ramsey promotes a “snowball” method, where you pay off your smallest debt first irregardless of its interest rate. Once that debt is paid off, you roll over what you would’ve paid on the now paid off debt to the next lowest debt. And so on and so forth.
Suze is smart. Dave is smart. When you combine both of their ideas, you are met with financial genius.
The intentional action plan I have adopted to pay off my student loan debts is one where I work each month to pay off smaller loans that have higher interest rates. By doing this, I make a dent into some of my higher interest loans while also paying some off more quickly and in turn, receive the opportunity to reallocate what I would pay on them to pay off other debts.
In the last year, I’ve used this method to pay off two of my student loans. Granted, they weren’t my biggest loans, but still–they’re gone. For a twenty-something person, I’m not sure if there is a better feeling than receiving the letter saying that you no longer have to pay a debt.
Truth be told, the hardest thing for me to do financially is budget. I like nice things. People at Nordstrom may or may not know me by name. NFL players may or may not ask me to help them purchase wardrobes. It’s a passion of mine.
However, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I am not independently wealthy. As such, I cannot live as though I am either of those things. Therefore, I budget.
Budgeting can be a real buzz kill. There are things you want to buy and things you want to do. Realizing that you can’t can cause disappointment and stress. Thus, with budgeting it’s important that you intentionally set limits that are within your boundaries and are realistic. It’s also important that you don’t let your budget consume your life.
When my student loan payments became due in October 2009 I sat down and listed all of my monthly expenses in an Excel spreadsheet. I then subtracted that amount from my income. With that, I was left with a number of remaining funds. From there, I decided a reasonable amount to invest with (which I will discuss below) and a reasonable amount to use each month for shopping and fun.
I visit my Excel budget each Monday. On Mondays I pay all of my bills that are due that week and also track how much money is in my checking account. If that number is lower than it should be, I adjust my personal spending during the week so that I can get back to my goal. If it is higher that I expected it to be, I allow myself some flexibility and treat myself to something like a new outfit or a nice dinner.
Budgets are some of the biggest causes of stress for people my age. If you let the thought of money consume your life, it will. The most important thing when it comes to budgeting, is to be realistic. I know I could be saving more. However, I also know that I’m the type of person who wouldn’t be happy if I was saving any more than I am. As such, with budgeting it’s important that you intentionally set yourself up for success. You know what you are capable of and you also know how much you need to put away for a rainy day. Budget accordingly.
Once I hit the real world, I was put in a position where I had no choice but to begin saving. One of my best friends from law school, Austin, became a financial analyst after we graduated. After sitting for the bar, Austin and I met in his office and went over the various saving tools his company could offer me. At the time, I had an enormous mountain of debt and had just begun working. In other words, I was pretty broke. However, Austin gently told me that I needed to begin saving something for my retirement and other big milestones in my life, like buying a house.
Investing pundits like Suze Orman tell you that you shouldn’t save money until all of your debts are paid off. I coudln’t disagree more. I think that I would be at my wits end if I didn’t know that I had some money in the bank saved up. It’s unrealistic to tell people that they should not begin planning for their future via saving until their past expenditures are paid off. Therefore, each month I put approximately ten percent of my paycheck into mutual funds. On top of this, I have my 401K offered by my work. While neither of these are going to allow me to retire by the time I am 40, I know that I am at least beginning to make a dent in saving the amount of money I need to save for retirement. Additionally, committing myself to saving these amounts has forced me to be intentional with my budget. Each month I know that draws will be made from my checking account to put the money into these accounts. As such, it holds me accountable and forces me to spend accordingly.
If you have trouble putting money into these accounts, perhaps the best advice I could give you is to hire one of your good friends as your financial advisor. Whenever we review my finances, Austin points out to me how much more I could’ve saved had I not taken that trip to Miami or bought that designer handbag. While I’d like to say that his hassling me about these things has made me turn completely to the good side and become a total Saving Sally, that would be a lie. However, his comments have motivated me to become a better saver and work harder towards achieving my financial goals.
If you don’t have a good friend in the financial industry, I offer you mine. He is a star at what he does, has always gotten me a good return on my investment and if you tell him you know me, he’ll probably tell you some good stories about the trouble we got into in college. You can check him out here.
Overall, for me, living intentionally financially comes down to balancing the financial practices of my dad and grandfather. It is the realization that yes, I need to save for that rainy day, but at the same time, I need to live life and enjoy it. Because as we all know, you can’t take it with you when you go.
A couple of years ago I had a really rough day at work. At that time, I was living in Orange County, California, so I did what I did whenever I had a rough day at work: I got in the car, opened the sun roof, and drove the winding Pacific Coast Highway down to Laguna Beach straight to my favorite store: Tuvalu.
Tuvalu is a home furnishing and decorating store in the heart of Laguna Beach. It is filled with coastal-inspired designs and knick-knacks. There’s a book section in one corner of the store that has this absurd way of making any bad day of mine better. I’ve spent numerous afternoons in that book section thumbing over covers, looking to find the perfect words for whatever I may be going through at a given moment.
On one particular spring day, I picked up Anna Quindlen’s “A Short Guide To A Happy Life.” I was familiar with Quindlen, but never read any of her books. After reading “A Short Guide To A Happy Life,” I was hooked on her simplistic and concise writing.
In the book, Quindlen spends a significant amount of time talking about the importance of relationships to ensuring happiness. In one simple paragraph, she sums up what it means to live intentionally in friendships and relationships:
I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
Truth be told, my life has become exponentially more busy since July 1, 2011. The busyness of my life was summed up when a guy I met this fall added me on LinkedIn. Later, when we would talk again, he quipped,”So you work what, three jobs?” It’s easy to let relationships go by the wayside when you are busy. And truth be told, we are all busy. How then, do you use living intentionally to get the most out of your relationships?
1. Show Up
My schedule no longer allows me to attend every social event I’m invited to or want to attend. This is one of the byproducts of becoming an adult–your free time dissipates. Yet, my friends would tell you that I still show up.
With an adult (aka busy) schedule, prioritizing is key to showing up. I intentionally make a point to recognize the important moments in my friend’s lives. I call on birthdays. I send messages on anniversaries. I show up at the hospital when babies are born. I show up with a bottle of wine when the jerk dumps her.
Being a friend requires taking the time to be intentional in recognizing the important moments your friends are experiencing. A phone call after a doctor’s appointment you know they had scheduled could mean all of the difference in the world. A “Hey, I’m proud of you” message after a milestone at work is accomplished lets them know you’re not just a friend, but a cheerleader. Asking to sit down for coffee and look at pictures of their most recent trip shows that you care about the biggest moments in their life.
While it’s important to show up in the big moments, it’s also important to show up in the mundane. With busyness, this takes greater intentions. I work to carve out at least one non-weekend day that I set aside specifically for activities with friends. This practice has allowed me to find better balance in my life, while also developing better relationships with those I care the most about.
And truth be told, the reason why this post didn’t make it up last night, is because I took my own advice. A friend called and asked me out to dinner. Seeing the fun opportunity to catch up, I made the intentional decision that work could wait until another day.
2. Be Present
While showing up is important, if all you did in your friend’s big moments was grace them with your appearance, your relationships wouldn’t have any depth. Thus, it’s important to also be present in the moment during interactions with friends.
The easiest way to be present in a moment is to be completely open to it. Take in the surroundings. Share what’s on your mind. Ask questions that really get to what is on the heart of your friend. Where is their life taking them right now? What joys are they celebrating? What hurts are they suffering through?
Being present means that you open yourself up completely to those around you. You let them in to the joys being celebrated in your life. You do this with the hope that they will celebrate along with you. You let them in to the hurts you’re suffering through. You do this with the hope that they will offer you peace to get you through your suffering.
In turn, being present means that you intentionally react to the joys and suffering that those around you share with you. You do this through empathy. Empathy requires that you put yourself into the shoes of your friend and try to imagine what they’re going through. Empathy requires you to offer reassurance of hope, gifts of support and a promise of a continued friendship.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in this life, is that my friends open up to me. I’ve been on the receiving end of many secrets and breaking news stories in my friends’ lives. I truly believe this is only because I have shown up in their lives and when I did, I was present.
3. Intentional Offerings
Throughout my life, I’ve had a hard time accepting two things: First, that I can’t be friends with everyone and second, that not everybody has your best interest at heart.
I love people. I love learning their stories. I love hearing their ideas. I love being surrounded by them.
This love, in turn, means that I want to be friends with everybody. I want to be well liked. I want to be well received. I want to hang out with the entire world in one giant party, alright?
Unfortunately, though, I’ve learned that not everybody has your best interests at heart. Not everybody wants to be the type of friend that you want to be to them. Sadly, in this world there are some people that just want to use you and lose you.
As the wool has been pulled away from my eyes on this topic, I’ve become much more intentional about who I let into my life and who stays in my life. The area in which I’ve done this the most hasn’t necessarily been with friendships, but more so with romantic relationships.
I’m the type of person who will give my heart away at the drop of a dime. I’m the type of person that if I truly feel a spark, will get on an airplane and spend the rest of my life with somebody. I’m the type of person who will die before my loyalty for the ones I love is stripped from me.
Over the last year, this nature of mine has caused me a fair amount of heartache. I’m not sure if there’s a feeling that hurts worse than laying everything you have out on the line for someone you care about and that sentiment not being returned. I’m not sure if there’s something that hurts a heart more, than the realization that you love someone more than they will every love you.
What I’ve learned over the last year though, is to survey your surroundings. Oftentimes, a quick survey of the people around you can tell you much about your relationships. Do the people you show up for often and present yourself for return the favor? Are the people you show empathy and care for the ones who call you first when big news happens in your life? Is your life being celebrated by the lives you are celebrating?
Friendship, and love for that matter, are worlds of equals. You don’t beat somebody when it comes to friendship and love. The intention–unlike with most things in life–is to find equal ground. The idea, is to share your best with one another.
Living intentionally in friendships and relationships sometimes requires you to cut people out of your life. You don’t need to do it brashly or rudely. But you do need to do it. There’s only so much time in a day, and that time should be used to show up and be present for the people who show up and are present for you.
For as long as I can remember, one of my greatest intentions in life was my career. At the ripe age of 7 years old, I decided I wanted to go to law school. So, I began living intentionally to make that happen. I got straight-A’s. I performed well academically during undergrad and involved myself heavily in leadership roles. I then went on to law school, graduated and passed two bar examinations.
What nobody told me during this entire process, though, is that sometimes your desires shift. Yes, I love being a lawyer and am grateful for my career. However, I always imagined that upon graduation from law school, the bridge to the castle would be placed down and I’d be able to pass through the moat and straight into my dream life.
If you’ve been following along for some time, you know by now that that’s not what happened with my career. Rather, in 2011 I was forced to again raise my intentions to find the career I wanted.
These days, I’m asked frequently by students across the country about how to land a dream career in sports. My answers differ depending upon where they find themselves in life, but generally, they boil down to one thing: Intentions.
What is it that you want to do career wise? If you could wake up every morning for the rest of your life and only do one thing, what would it be?
After answering these questions, the next question should be, why aren’t I doing this job now?
The first two questions posed above lead to goal setting. The answer to the third will either be the objectives you need to complete to achieve that goal or excuses as to why you’re never going to work your dream job.
Here is an example of how I answered those questions when I started on this journey in 2011:
1. Career wise, I would love a job that combines three of my greatest passions in life: Sports, writing and the law.
2. If I could wake up every morning and do only one thing, I would write. I love nothing more than sharing stories with others and learning about the stories others around me have to tell.
3. Truth be told, before 2011 I wasn’t writing sports law and sports business stories because I created too many excuses for myself. It doesn’t pay enough. And I have massive student loan debt. I don’t have time to do this. Nobody would read what I wrote anyway, so it’d be a waste of time. And I don’t have time already.
Slowly, I gained the confidence I needed to make my entry into the field. The excuses that served as the original answer to my third question slowly faded. They were replaced with intentions.
I can make enough money doing this, because I am good at it.
I have enough time to do this, because it is important to me.
People will read what I say, because I will build a rapport with them.
In some areas of life, living intentionally takes longer to develop. Wanting to become a lawyer and acting out the intentions necessary to become one was second-nature for me. Wanting to become a sports writer and realizing I could become one, on the other hand, took some more time.
The lesson here is this: You have the greatest power of making your career goals come true. Look inwardly to define what they are. Then, get to work on making an action plan of what needs to be done to achieve those career goals. Once you have made that list, replace excuses for why you can’t complete it with intentions. And with that, my friends, you will be set on your way to finding the career of your dreams.