Motivation Monday: Mistakes

Art school taught me a lot more than art. It taught me perspective, open-mindedness, and constructive criticism. It also taught me to accept my mistakes, to really look at them and not turn away, and how to correct them.

I never expected that the knowledge I gained in art school would be applied so often to my everyday life.  As a graphic designer in corporate American, it was my job to correct mistakes – including my own! Let me share with you my first BIG mistake at my first job out of college. It was a Y2K publication for the city’s utility division. I typeset and designed a brochure at the city’s request, to let everyone know that all of their computer systems would run smoothly on January 1, 2000. What didn’t run so smoothly was my mistake, that wasn’t caught until after thousands of brochures were printed and distributed. I had left the L out of public, not once but a few times. How embarrassing! I know I ran spell check but since pubic is a word, it wasn’t recognized as a mistake.

I was fortunate to eventually work with a team of proofreaders, who could catch mistakes like that before they were even printed. I eventually went on to work for a publisher with editors, who did not hold back to point out every little problem from the improper use of a comma to an extra space after a period. With every red mark that came back to me, I examined my mistakes closely before correcting them.

Since leaving my art career and joining healthcare, I have somewhat become the editor. I work now as an auditor, reviewing provider documentation for errors. Finding mistakes isn’t a bad thing. Imagine if we, everyone, always did everything right. The world would be stagnant and there would be little room for learning and growth.

When I meet with providers to share the results of their audit, I approach it with the same thinking – here is an opportunity to grow. I share with them ways to correct their mistakes and better care for their patients, capture lost revenue, etc.

Not all providers are receptive. Many providers are perfectionists. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I personally want a provider who not only strives to do their best, but cares for me in the same manner. However, many providers have always excelled in life. I imagine they were valedictorians or deemed “Most Likely to Succeed” in their high schools; they probably graduated with high honors from college. It’s just who they are. So, the thought of me… an art school grad turned auditor… sharing with them that their documentation could use improvement, is probably like a black belt being told by a swimmer that their karate uniform isn’t as white as their peers. I have had some providers so upset that they shut me off completely, refusing to change.

So, I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise to me when I recently asked a law firm to correct the spelling of my name on a legal document they had recorded for me, and they told me it was no big deal. No big deal to correct the mistake? No… they meant the misspelling was no big deal. I was floored. Was I being over-sensitive? Was I wrong to ask them to fix this? I started to question myself. Maybe I should just let this go? But the legal document was recorded under a name that wasn’t mine, or rather didn’t match in spelling, and that could cause more problems down the road.

The more I tried to justify who was right, the more I realized that – in general – humans do not like to admit that they could possibly be wrong, or that they have room for improvement. I include myself in this. Despite my education and experiences, and feeling like I do accept responsibility for my mistakes and make an effort to correct them, I am human and I’m not perfect. Everyone has room to grow in character… always.

Not everyone accepts responsibility for their mistakes, though. Not everyone wants to make an effort to do their part. If they did, would it solve a lot of problems? I truly believe it would be worth the effort to try. Take, for instance, the recent situations throughout the United States involving law enforcement and African-Americans. Instead of each party believing (and arguing) that what they have done is right, what if both saw their mistakes and worked to fix those. After all, it is easier to change ourselves than it is to change someone else. Instead of only seeing our perspective, maybe we should consider everyone’s perspective. It really isn’t that difficult to do, but we do have to make a conscious effort to retrain the way we think; to be less self-aware.

Today, I want to encourage you to rethink mistakes. If someone asks you to correct a mistake that you have made, own up to that mistake. Take control of it, analyze it, and correct it. Approach mistakes in a positive manner. Consider what you could have done better, and how you can avoid it in the future. If you find your own mistake, don’t discredit it. We learn from those too.  Change a misspelling, say you’re sorry, or simply agree to disagree and work on solution – these small acts can (and will) motivate many and provoke a wonderful ripple effect.

No Boundaries

I did it!! I just signed up for the No Boundaries 5K Training at my local Fleet Feet. I’m so excited!

I have participated in many charity 5Ks over the past 5 years. I’ve never had the intention of running them. I would occasionally jog but I was primarily there to have a leisurely stroll with friends, while raising awareness and funds for the nonprofit hosting the event.

For the last 12 months, I have had an unsettling desire to become a runner. Yes, me… the girl who once said I’d only run if something was chasing me. Since my dad’s heart attack, I’ve looked for ways to become healthier internally. Of course, losing a few pounds on my outward appearance would be nice too, but I really want my heart to be in top shape. In all the research, and in all of the prayers, the only answer I only received one answer — RUN! Of course, I laughed it off the first few months. Me, a runner? I have bad knees. I don’t have the time. I’m not disciplined enough. I can’t find good running shoes at an affordable price. You name it, I had an excuse.

Recently, I acquired a brand new pair of Nike Air Max Ultras – a $160 pair of shoes – for a mere $45. How? Long story… but in a nutshell, there is an undisciplined teenaged boy who isn’t getting to play basketball because he can’t keep his grades up. His parents were so serious about not letting him play until he did better academically, that they sold his new kicks. I was the lucky recipient.

I also have a friend who committed to running. She has done so well that, on her third 5K this weekend, she finished 3rd in her class with a under a 9-minute mile. She looks great and has become a huge source of inspiration for me. She invited me to join her in The Color Run this coming March. I accepted the challenge, then panicked.

I have become a terrible abuser of my time. I have gotten slack about prioritizing. How would I ever get caught up to her speed by March? What have I gotten myself into?

In a random conversation with my hairstylist… she brought up the training sessions at Fleet Feet. I had no idea that literally, around the corner from work, was a company who specializes in training runners. This is exactly what I need. A coach, and fellow beginning runners, to run alongside me and encourage me… in a location that is extremely convenient to me, at a time that is perfect for my schedule. Hallelujah!!

Could it be? My dream of becoming a runner – a full-fledged, determined, goal-oriented, healthy-hearted runner – are literally withing my reach now? This is big.

I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions. But I am one for grabbing at every chance to change, re-evaluate things, and if need be… start over. 2013 is that for me. A chance to be more more positive, healthier, stronger, and more focused. It’s time to take charge of my schedule again. It’s time to prioritize life. This training will help me, in every aspect. No restrictions. No regrets. No boundaries!

The Downside to Social Media

I sat down at the computer tonight to blog about Social Fresh and the tiny couple of seconds it felt like I was involved in the two-day conference, when I noticed a Tweet in my stream that stated, “All: @NBCNEWS was just hacked. DO NOT RETWEET THEIR TWEETS. They are FALSE…” I stopped in my tracks and went straight to the NBCNews Twitter account. What I found were Tweets from a band-of-idiots who had illegally-accessed the account and stated an attack had been made on Ground Zero.

This being the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I immediately became disgusted by the hackers, their comments, and sadly, yes… social media. Who finds it comical to make such terrible accusations? Who has so much time on their hands that they sit around guessing the password to accounts? And why is social media such an open target for these opposing situations?

Lately I have noticed an increase in negativity via social media. Let me be more specific; this isn’t the hate that an angry teen posts on her Facebook status about her cheating ex-boyfriend. The conflicts that I mention are those that impact society on a far wider scale; conflicts that are created by malicious hackers, devious businesses, or even so-called-gurus. Although we all see the potential that social media has, we cannot lose sight that it is simply a FREE, open forum with no real rules, just waiting to name its next victim.

Don’t get me wrong. From a marketing and customer service stand point, the world has really struck gold with social media sites. It allows us to engage with our audience of clients and potential customers in a quick and cost-effective way. Yet, I feel the industry is largely, if not solely, relying too heavily on these sites. I’m not saying those of us who use social media for the good are at fault, but we have to question if we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

What are some of the problems that we face by using these free, open sites?

  1. Although some of us use social media from a business standpoint, there are plenty of folks on these sites, bored and ready to cause problems. Take for example, the hackers who compromised NBC’s Twitter account. We cannot take any material on social media sites for more than face-value. You may ask, “Doesn’t this contradict using social media to promote the validity of a business?” Yes, to a degree. This is why we shouldn’t depend solely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. until there are ways to control them.
  2. Prior to social media, businesses primarily gained visibility by means of radio spots, television ads, or print space in a magazine. All of these marketing efforts cost a significant amount of money, required skill to execute, and were heavily managed. It made retaliation difficult, which made a business really “think before they spoke” negatively. Although word-of-mouth cannot be regulated, it takes a great deal of time for your opinion to reach an audience of 100 people. An individual or business can now say whatever they want about a business to a broad audience, whether their statement is true or not, changing the actions of their peers almost instantly.
  3. Some self-proclaimed social media ‘gurus’ have a tendency of sharing information, often aggressively, in an effort to sway friends, followers, or clients into believing that their way is the “right way” to use social media. The only right way to share in social media is with effectiveness and etiquette. After all, the last time I checked there is no written rule of how Twitter must run, or how often a business (or individual) MUST use their accounts. We should share why it would benefit an individual to use social media etiquette – i.e., too many similar posts will look like spam, avoid language that could be offensive, etc. – or how effective it can be for a business to engage with their followers. There are many people who are still unsure about social media and someone coming across as the Twitter or Facebook police, only looks arrogant.

Social media makes it very simple for an average Joe to express their opinion and influence a large crowd. What once took organizing a rally in a large area with a p.a. system (and guts) now only takes 140 characters and the click of a mouse. We are a far braver society now that we can voice our opinions while hiding behind our computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. We need to be reminded, as professionals and as humans, that our words can be hurtful when presented irresponsibly. I am just as guilty of this. Who hasn’t had an email they’ve written be misinterpreted? Who hasn’t Tweeted bitterly about poor service in the midst of disappointment? Who hasn’t told a little white lie as a joke, not considering the consequences?

I will find myself, at times, being disgusted with social media. The term alone “Social Media” can turn my stomach on certain days, like today. Why are so many people comfortable with it? …so reliant upon it? …completely fascinated by it?

Then I have to remember, this is all still relatively new… the businesses and even the social media professional are still learning. Sure, the shiny-new has worn off to some of us but others just created their account last week. There are even businesses who jumped in, completely oblivious to social media and struggled, and left their accounts dormant while re-evaluating their decision. For myself, in just two short years Twitter alone has brought me so many positives to my life. I have met so many terrific people, learned so many wonderful things, and been a lot of great places because of it! However, I once abandoned my account too. It was the encouraging words of my brother, not a series of aggressive or negative Tweets, who coaxed me back on to use the site to it’s full potential. Had I received from him the response of “You’re doing this all wrong. You suck. You’ll never get it.”, then I would have missed out on a lot. There is no capacity for social media. We shouldn’t try to scare off people who aren’t as knowledgable as we are, we should help them.

…which brings me back to Social Fresh. It’s a conference spear-headed by some of the most helpful faces of social media. You can truly see the real professionals shine during conferences like this one. They stand out.

Although I was offered a free ticket by one of social media’s brightest stars, DJ Waldow, I regretfully still wasn’t able to rearrange my schedule on September 6 & 7 to attend. Instead I waited patiently on Tuesday for the first Tweets to start popping into my stream, and shortly after lunch, I was already recapping the events from earlier that day. Around 4:30pm, I left work and headed to Charlotte. I had planned to meet my dear friend, and social media’s most sparkly star, Stephanie Wonderlin (whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year) for dinner. We were joined by my brother, Dean, and a table-full of outstanding folks from Justin Levy and Carly Durham to Eric Boggs and David Horne. As I sat across the table from Stephanie, catching up on [and giggling about] real life, I wondered what my life would be like had I never started using social media. I hope that the positive impact Stephanie and some of the others have made on me, I am making on someone else. I really love to learn but I equally love sharing my knowledge with others. There is no reason to be negative in life… and certainly not in social media. If you have time to hack into an account and Tweet poorly-executed jokes or blog about how terrible someone is for not being as cool (i.e.; knowledgeable) as you are on Facebook, then perhaps you should step back and re-evaluate yourself. The time you spend being negative could be spent, instead, teaching others about social media, offering your time to show someone how Twitter or YouTube works, volunteering your time in the community, or spending time with loved ones. There is always a handful of positive options to counteract one negative effort, even in the midst of social media sites not having sufficient rules to keep others from being negative. Thank you to the crew of Social Fresh for pulling me out of my disgust and allowing me to see the good in social media often outweighs the bad.

Since my blog took a turn from it’s original path, please take the time to visit the Social Fresh Facebook page to read more about the sessions that took place on Tuesday & Wednesday in Charlotte. Hopefully you will take from this blog, and their notes, the positive impacts that social media can have in our society if we choose to share it.