10 Tips for Those Looking to Start Freelance Writing (and a great book to help)

Over the past few years, I’ve spent the majority of my time building my portfolio and freelance writing as many articles, blog posts, and exercise descriptions as possible. The bulk of my time is spent on the keyboard trying to thumb up new posts and articles.

I’m no wordsmith, but I’ve come a long way.

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I could come up with 10 tips for aspiring writers. Although I don’t consider myself an expert, I acquiesced and typed out a few of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned throughout the past few years.

I thought they could be of value to some of you so I thought I would throw them up here on the blog.

Without further adieu, here are 10 tips to become a better writer:

  • Write often. Just like any other skill, you have to write to actually get better. Realize that the majority of your writing may not get seen by anyone else but you. That’s perfectly fine because you might need to write a hundred pieces to have one that really stands out.

Jeremey’s note: Start a practice of writing first thing in the morning. For me, I’ve found that I’m the clearest at that particular time of day.

  • Read your own writing out loud. Many times, the hardest part of writing is actually proofing your own work. Make a habit of reading your own writing out loud before you hit submit. Many times, you’ll uncover mix ups that you would have never seen had you just read it through.

Jeremey’s note: Better yet, read to someone else. Ask them if they understand your message and what you’re trying to accomplish with that particular blog post or article. Ask if they understand the terms regardless of whether they work in the field or not.

  • Read as much as you write. I heard a quote the other day that sounded very true to me – “Everyone wants to write but nobody wants to read.” Make a habit of reading good writing every day for at least a few minutes. You’ll pick up words, styling, and sentence structure you would have never thought to use otherwise.

Jeremey’s note: For starters, pick up the Eighty Greatest Esquire Stories of All Time

  • Learn to use space well. Most readers can’t handle huge paragraphs of text. Learn to break up your ideas into thoughts on the page that are easily digestible and give the reader a break rather than just bombarding them with text.
  • Experiment with different writing styles to find one that works for you. I made the mistake early on of attempting to emulate the writing style of one of my writing mentors. It didn’t work out because I couldn’t match his personality and inflection, but it did lead me to find my own writing style. Practice with a lot of writing styles but ultimately find one (or a select few) that come easily to you and sound natural.

Jeremey’s note: Sticking to your own personal style will not only feel more natural – it’ll save you a ton of time. It feels almost as if the words flow on to the page.

  • Spend some time working on the first sentence. Writing a good lede is a skill that requires constant attention.
  • In the same token, focus on writing good headlines. Many times, they are the make-or-break factor that influences whether readers click on your article or not.
  • Master your active vocabulary. Vivid words just sound better. Every time I come across a word that I can’t define, I jot it down and look up the definition later. Eventually, I’ll have a notebook full of vivid words.
  • Learn to own deadlines. When I’m working for an editor, I make sure to always hit my deadline even if that means I have to stay up until the wee hours of the night. Learn to work on a time crunch and plan your assignments out ahead of time.
  • Learn from others. I spent the majority of the early months reading the writing of other fitness pros that I look up to and admire both for their knowledge and wizardry on the keyboard. You can gain a tremendous amount of wisdom from speaking to someone that has already been there.

Throughout my time rapping away on the keyboard, I’ve picked up a thing or two and done my best to share those tips in any way I can with whoever will listen.

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All of those tips weren’t in one place until now. Lisa Shaughnessy of the Fitness Marketing Q&A Show had interviewed me awhile back about all sorts of things including building your business as a personal trainer, writing for fitness, marketing mistakes I had made in the past, etc. Since then, she interviewed a bunch of people far smarting than I am and collaborated all of these thoughts into a book titled the New Rules of Fitness Marketing. It’s practically a one-stop shop for building your fitness business, and all of the advice is from people that have been there. 

I’ve had the pleasure of reading through it and I highly recommend for anyone looking to improve their fitness/writing careers. Right now, you can pick it up on Amazon (and prime members can even rent it for free – can’t beat free). P.S. That’s not an affiliate link of any kind. The book is just that awesome that I hope you pick it up!

 

What tips do you have for someone looking to pick up writing? I’m all ears in the comments section.

How Big Are You Living? Defining Super-Ordinary

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When I switched from JDStrength.com to my own personal domain which I aptly named JeremeyDuVall.com in a binge of creativity, I made a choice to stray away from fitness content and focus more on lifestyle development pieces and other musings that interest me. After all, I write about fitness quite a bit. It’s nice to get a refresher of something new every once in awhile.

When I started to think of central ideas and themes for the site, one concept kept coming back to me over and over again – the notion of living bigger and louder. I imagined living a life where you can take risks, travel where you want, hang out with who you want, and ultimately make your own decisions and choices. After all, you get one shot at this life. Might as well make it right.

I’ve been thinking about this concept for quite awhile inspired by people like Nate Green. I didn’t want my coaching program or writing to be simply about fitness. That’s far too one dimensional for me. I wanted it to be all-encompassing much like a good book that can evoke many emotions not just a select few. I wanted this site to become a resource for guys and gals that wanted to live better whether it meant learning how to save more money, cook a great breakfast in a pinch, or just get into better shape.

After some discussion, I ended up settling on the term “super-ordinary”.

Super-ordinary – (adj) living the life you want to live on your own terms.

It’s a term that means combining the ideals of heroes with the challenges of everyday life. It’s a commitment to living better and doing the right thing, but more than that, it’s a challenge to live the biggest and loudest life possible

How Big Are You Living?

That’s the question: How big are you living right now? Are you getting everything you want out of life and more?

In my opinion, we don’t take time to really sit down and evaluate our lifestyle. We live at 90 mph and don’t take time to enjoy the scenery along the way. That would be completely fine if we all weren’t going to eventually die at some point.

That’s a pretty sobering fact: You’re going to die.

The idea is to live the biggest life possible while you’re here. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to living a super-ordinary life. That’s completely dependent on you as an individual and your own personal hopes and dreams. The end goal is to lay in bed at night and be able to answer the following questions:

  • I accomplished everything I wanted to do today and more.
  • I enjoyed every experience I had. Whether it was inherently positive or negative, I learned something that I could use to improve myself.
  • I helped to improve someone else today.
  • I spent quality time with the people I love.

You know what is not on the list?

  • I ate perfectly today and didn’t succumb to the tasty desserts on the table.
  • I made a lot of money.
  • I pushed someone else down to propel myself up.

The end goal is to make yourself better every day – that’s a success.

SuperHero

Steps to Finding Super-Ordinary

The path and time frame are going to be different for everyone. I can’t tell you what you want out of life. You have to figure that out for yourself. However, I can give you some brief guidelines to help you create your own checklist to happiness.

  • Make a list of the things you want to do in your life – and then act on them. Want to travel Europe? Make it happen. That’s one of the biggest things on my list at the current moment. Want to go skydiving? Why not do it over Europe and knock out two birds with one stone. The idea is to dream big and make this list count for something.
  • Figure out what you have to offer people that’s unique to you. Offer it up for free and help someone else cross some things off of their list. Karma is a bitch. You want it on your side.
  • Do one thing really well. Figure out what you do extremely well and become the best person in your field. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. If it keeps you up all night thinking, it’s probably worth a go (stole from Jon Goodman).
  • Surround yourself with kick-ass people. If you are truly the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, don’t spend time with people that suck – plain and simple.
  • Be honest. Tell the truth and you’ll have a much easier time going throughout your day. Tell a lie and you’ll spend the rest of the day figuring out the other lies you have to tell to make your story hold up.
  • Find time to hang out alone. Due to some issues with my car stereo, I’m forced to sit in quiet on most of my morning drives to work. In a time when it’s hard to find a spare moment along to sit in silence, it can be quite hard not to check my phone every two minutes or drum my fingers on my steering wheel. Get comfortable spending quality time by yourself each day to reflect on things you’re doing well and where you’re falling short.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself. Simply put, don’t live with a stick up your ass. Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. If you can’t crack a smile when you do something stupid, friends will be few and far between.
  • Spend money on what matters to you. Look, I’m all about cutting back on spending, saving money, and paying off debt. But, I’m also realistic and mesh well with the idea that you can’t take paper money to the grave. While you can’t just go living your life in a black hole of credit debt, I also think you need to spend money on stuff you enjoy. For me, that means good beer and better coffee. I splurge on good food. On the other end of the spectrum, I rarely go shopping for clothes because I’d rather buy some quality stuff and spend my money elsewhere. See more on this at the bottom.  (Note: When I told a client that I was cutting back on groceries to save more money, he replied “I’d cut my cable before I cut back on groceries.” Well played sir, well played.)

Make a commitment to living better and making choices that bolster your happiness rather than break it down. Super-ordinary isn’t a magic term – it’s a choice you make each day. 

So, tell me the biggest choice you’ve made recently to start living a bigger life.

I’ll go first: I’m making a choice to pay off every bit of credit debt in the upcoming months. It means less fun now for more fun later. Sometimes the best choicest are the toughest.

How to Navigate the Grocery Store Like a Boss

Since Charlotte and I recently moved out to Boulder a few weeks ago, we’ve had to hit up a new grocery store. While it may sound like a trivial part of the move, it’s huge in my eyes.

Few things can derail a good nutrition plan than switching grocery stores.

You walk in and don’t know anyone or where anything is in the store (Yes, I make mindless conversation with the cashiers.). You amble around confused why the dairy aisle is on the opposite side of the store or why they don’t have that particular brand of tomato sauce you like so much. Everything comes in a different packaging making it hard to find your go-to favorites. Even the sale indicators are completely unfamiliar so you can’t really tell what’s on sale and what’s not.

It’s hell in the finest sense of the word.

Food is a treasure and grocery shopping is honestly one of the highlights of my week (riveting I know). In my opinion, the grocery store should be a sanctuary rather than a place of stress. I enjoy going and picking out what I’m going to have for the rest of the week. This probably goes hand in hand with the fact that I like to cook, but that’s neither here nor there.

Back to the point at hand – surviving in the grocery store. 

Perhaps it’s a new store or you just hate the grocery store in the first place and can’t seem to make it out without spending an exorbitant amount of cash. Whatever the reason, here are a few tips to get you in and out in one piece.

Learn what fruits and veggies are in-season.

The rookie mistake is to buy the same things throughout the entire year neglecting the entire notion that crops have season and ergo are cheaper at a particular time of year. Remember that awesome time of year somewhere in the November range where avocados are 3 for a buck? It’s practically better than Christmas because the rest of the year they go back up to being $1 a piece. (You do eat avocados, right?)

Rather than walking into the grocery store like a five-year old that proceeds to grab everything they want off the shelf without looking at price, learn what is currently in season and then plan your meals accordingly.

With spring coming up soon, use this guide from the crew over at Greatist.

You won’t only save money with this strategy. You’ll also enjoy better tasting food. Win. Win. Win.

Always buy organic with these items.

Listen, I’m a huge fan of the whole organic movement. In fact, if you can afford it, load your card up at the Greenwise section at Publix. But, I also realize that organic food can be expensive as hell. Especially when you’re starting to change up your diet for the better, organic food shouldn’t be at the top of your list.

Learn to make better choices, then worry about buying healthier items. Organic chicken doesn’t do you any good if you’re washing it down with a Cherry Coke or a a Yoohoo (News flash: that isn’t even milk. You’ve been lied to).

Still, the organic vs. non-organic choice still comes down the pipeline and you’ll have to choose between the $1 apple or the $0.25 apple. Decisions, decisions.

First off, here are some things I try to always go organic with:

  • Coffee – yes, go organic with coffee even though they probably won’t have your favorite flavor. Coffee is one of the most pesticide-sprayed products in the world. You don’t want all that mess up in your body.
  • Apples – yep, you got it. These things are loaded with different types of chemicals.
  • Bell peppers – I tend to use these guys as snacks and I’m terrible about washing them beforehand so the logically choice is to go organic.
  • Lettuce – I eat a mansalad for lunch most days of the week. When you eat something every day, it pays to have good quality stuff.

Some people refer to these items as part of the dirty dozen. You can find the rest of those foods here.

Outside of that list, here are the considerations I make:

  • Am I going to eat the skin? If not, I don’t worry about it.
  • Was this product grown locally? I’ll opt for local over organic most times.
  • Am I going to take the time to wash this thoroughly? Is my carnivorous appetite going to eat these grapes out of my hands before I wash them?
  • Can I go organic and still buy all the bacon I want? Seriously, if eating organic means you also have to buy crappy food, then it’s not worth it in my opinion.

Hit up the meat aisle first.

Since your meals should be based around their protein source (they are aren’t they?), it makes sense to shop for those items first on your list. Most often than not, Charlotte and I will plan out our entire week based on what meats are on sale at the current moment.

Want to be super savvy? Check online for deals before you go.

Want to be the rockstar of the grocery store? Buy your meat in bulk either straight from a farmer’s market where you can get insane deals on very high-quality meat or from a local farm that sells their meat straight to consumers. You can also opt to buy half a cow (which I tried to do in college) and have meat for an entire year. Figure out what works with you and your budget.

Main takeaway: Prioritize your protein or you’ll mess up your mojo.

Plan out your meals and stick to the plan.

Speaking of meals, I’m constantly amazed by the amount of individuals trying to eat better that don’t plan our their meals ahead of time. It’s akin to trying to save money without creating a budget. It’s hard to figure out when you have money and when you’re bank account is bone dry.

Planning meals is the single most successful tip you could implement to improve your nutrition. You can’t eat well if you don’t have good food in the house.

Plan out your meals in advance for each day of the week. We often plan out six days assuming that one day we’re going to cut loose and get wild at a restaurant before watching a movie and falling asleep at 9pm like old folks.

Center your planning around your week. Have a little extra time on Wednesdays? Plan to have a more thought out meal with longer prep time. Slammed on Thursdays? Crock pot here we come!

Learn to eat a few things very often and make them well.

Variety may work in the bedroom, but it makes things harder in the kitchen at first. –  Me

Listen, I understand that eating plain chicken and broccoli can get so boring you’d rather skip a meal than force it down your throat, but I also know that I didn’t learn to ride by bike by popping wheels and doing backflips all over town (that was week two).

When you’re first learning to eat well, the simplest thing to do is make a list of meals that are acceptable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The easiest thing to do is to create nine total meals – three of each – but categorize them as 1) good amount of prep time 2) short prep 3) fridge to table in 3 minutes. This way, you’ll always have something prepared no matter how long you have to eat.

One of the biggest pitfalls I see when individuals try to go on a diet is that they attempt to make these gourmet meals with foods they aren’t accustomed to. Break that habit by learning just a few recipes you can make on repeat. Bonus: this makes shopping way easier as well.

Figure out what days are best to shop.

This is a minor one. Peruse your grocery store ads to find out which days offer the best deals. Try not to shop on the weekends when everyone else is picking up groceries as well. Chances are, all the great deals are going to be gone. Instead, opt for a day during the week.

Our previous grocery store used to combine deals on Wednesday so you could get the deals from the previous week as well as the new deals coming out. Bingo!

Eating well doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it doesn’t take that much time at all. The main pitfall is piss poor preparation – which starts at the grocery store. Arm yourself and take over your diet. Want to be super savvy? Check out this awesome video from Michael Pollan that details why products are at certain spots on shelves and why milk is always at the back of the store.

  • Image credit: NPR

Time to let me hear it in the comment section. What’s your favorite grocery store? What key steps did I miss?

Jeremey posts a ton of other quality info on health and fitness as well as writing and everything else under the sun on Twitter and Google +. Hop over and follow or plus him there.

5 Strategies to Avoid Dying in Your Office Chair

As many of you know, I recently switched from personal training (which is by and large one of the most active career fields in existence assuming you’re good and not just sitting at the smoothie bar) to a primarily seated job working in digital media. I’m thoroughly excited about the opportunities that it presents down the road.

I’ve been asked numerous times about whether or not I’m enjoying the switch and my answer is an overwhelming yes, with one exception:

Sitting at a desk drives me crazy. 

Coming from someone that has never been chained to a desk during the day, staying in the seated position in front of a computer screen for hours on end has proven to be extremely difficult. Before, I would be on my computer for a few hours in the morning, active all day, and then resurface by my screen after work. The activity of personal training provided me with a little break in my day.

Now, I’m seated for the greater part of 7 hours straight with breaks to hit the gym, get lunch, and amble around the interesting town of Boulder. This likely isn’t far off from the daily in’s and out’s of many Americans. We’re largely a sedentary culture that prefers search fields to soccer ones. This doesn’t come without repercussions. Sitting is again and again identified as one of the biggest causes for heart disease and other preventable illnesses.

“Based on all this data, the researchers calculated that limiting the time Americans spend sitting to three hours or fewer each day would increase the life expectancy of the U.S. population by 2 years.”

“Sit less and you’ll live longer – it’s really that simple.”

  • Source: Me and my infinite wisdom

With that being said, the simple solution is to get your butt out of a chair and get more activity in your day. As is often the case, what sounds relatively simple can be a pain to put into practice. Since I’ve been sitting quite a bit recently, I’ve being utilizing these five strategies to get more activity in my day. Go ahead and read through them and then add your own at the end.

Strategy #1: Work For An Allotted Time – Then Get Up

One of the most practical tips to save yourself from rotting in a chair is rather simple – get up. While your boss may not take a liking to you strolling around the office, getting out of your chair and moving around is the simplest (and most obvious) way to get more activity in throughout the day.

Upper management not a fan of taking breaks? Here’s your solution.

Set a timer on your computer at work (try Online-Stopwatch for starters). Start the timer and work for an allotted amount of time. I opt for somewhere in the range of 45 minutes because I feel like I can crank out some solid work in that time without getting too distracted or seeing my mouse creep up to the Facebook shortcut.

(Note: This only works if you actually do work for the entire 45 minutes.)

When the timer goes off, step away from the desk. For me, it doesn’t matter where I am in a stack of work. I walk away when the timer hits 45 simply because I know that it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in a pile of publishers and not leave my desk again for another two hours.

Here’s the hardest part – get out of the office if possible.

A little sunshine in your life not only helps to give your skin a refreshing glow; it also helps to keep you energized. Whether you work in the middle of the city or out in the sticks, take 10 minutes for a short, brisk walk around your block. Allow your mind to wander and avoid thinking about work. You’ll feel more energized when you get back to your desk – guaranteed.

Strategy #2: Keep a Lacrosse Ball at Your Desk

One of the worst aspects of sitting in front of a computer all day is the typing that wreaks havoc on your forearms and shoulders. Constantly hunching forward over your computer can lead to a slumped forward head and shoulders meaning upper and lower back pain when you’re moving around outside of the confines of your desk. Constantly tapping on your keyboard puts your wrists in an extended position tightening your forearm extensors and potentially causing elbow and shoulder pain down the road as well.

Your solution: a lacrosse ball.

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Roughly two dollars can save you a hell of a lot of trouble down the road.

Here’s your game plan: Keep the lacrosse ball by your desk where you can grab it at a moments notice. Perform some self-myofascial release (tricky name for massage) on these three areas:

  • Upper traps – these get especially tight as we get stressed out throughout the day
  • Forearms – focus on hitting the outside of your forearm just below the elbow
  • Feet – slide your shoes off (make sure you’re wearing matching socks) and run the ball underneath the arch of your foot. For someone wearing dress shoes or heels all day, this can be heaven.

Tackle these areas whenever you’re feeling especially pensive and need to ponder some important ideas or whenever you’re reading an article and don’t need to utilize the mouse or keyboard for a little while. Personally, I like to run through a few of them when I’m reading during lunch. It relieves some stress as well as slows down my eating and helps me digest my food better.

Strategy #3: Drink Plenty of Water

Keep a bottle of water by your desk and guzzle away. This serves two purposes:

  1. It helps to keep you hydrated most importantly. Your body is predominantly made of water. Having a shortage prevents things (your brain for instance) from functioning optimally. It also helps give you energy throughout the day.
  2. There’s no better reason to get up from your desk than to hit the bathroom. Guzzle one bottle of water every hour and a half and you’ll be no stranger to the bathroom. It’ll give you a reason to get up from your desk without feeling like you’re avoiding work. That’s what we’re shooting for right? More activity?

You can use a water tracker to make sure you’re taking in enough or you can invest in one of these giant water bottles that tracks how quickly you’re actually drinking water. Whatever the case, aim for 60-80 ounces a day. Chances are, that’s a far cry from what you’re downing now. If you’re consuming a lot of soda and coffee, up your dosage.

Strategy #4: Take Phone Calls and Meetings Standing Up

When I’m sitting all day and then head to a meeting, the last thing I want to do is take a seat while I listen to someone else talk about work. A simple solution is to stand. In fact, you could adopt the policy of Google where there aren’t any chairs in the meeting rooms because meetings are too long if employees want to sit down.

If it’s not going to be a complete disruption of the work environment, opt to take a stand at the back of the room. You’ll be able to stretch your legs and get a little more activity in than your cheek-squishing counterparts.

Take the same approach to telephone calls. To remind myself to stand up during the day, I’ve taken to the notion that phone calls should be answered standing up. This gives me a simple reminder and cue to get more activity in throughout the day.

If your office gives you complete freedom, you could even look into getting a standing desk although that’s a bit of an extreme measure for the workplace in my opinion.

Strategy #5: Break Up Your Day

The biggest strategy that I’ve been utilizing to keep myself active and prevent myself from going absolutely insane is extremely simple yet hard to actually put into practice. I’ve been breaking up my day very frequently into two workable chunks separated by a long break (when I usually hit the gym).

Each separate chunk is dedicated to specific tasks so I know exactly what I need to focus on and get done during that 3.5 hour block of time before I hit the gym or go out for lunch. When I take a break, I do just that. I don’t think about work while I’m at the gym. I block everything out and try to just enjoy my time outside of the office space.

This becomes quite challenging if your day is full of meetings and telephone conference calls. It becomes a bit harder to step out when your schedule is dictated by others. The easiest thing that I’ve found to do in that scenario is to schedule it in your calendar just like every other meeting. Rather than simply putting it on the back burner when the time comes, set an alarm that signifies it’s time to hit the gym. It’s harder to avoid when it’s a set time in your schedule.

The moral of the story is to move more and sit less. With that being said, those are just five strategies that have been working for me.

Time to sound off in the comments. Let me know what you do to prevent yourself from going crazy in a desk. I want to hear it!

What Writing Webs Taught Me About Business and Networking

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Remember back in middle school or high school when the teacher made you create a writing web during class for an assignment?

You likely sat in your seat and stared at the blank piece of paper with a big circle enclosing your main idea plopped in the center of the page. You’d branch off thin lines to form other bubbles that contained your smaller sub points. Those would fork into even smaller subtopics still until you had something manageable.

That was the idea at least.

Often times, you’d just scrap that piece of paper after the teacher came by your desk and start writing freeform ignoring all forms of planning.

I’ll admit that I don’t have a firm platform for outlining my writing ahead of time. Typically, I’ll jot down my thoughts (or type them out) in bullet form following a very loose structure. I always plan on systematically filling in the details in some organized fashion, but I often end of up writing freeform figuring things out along the way.

It’s not that writing webs are completely useless. In fact, I think they are extremely useful. The purpose of course was to break down a huge idea or topic into manageable parts that can be tackled one by one.

I took this exact same approach learned in middle school to tackling the idea of networking and developing relationships – and it’s working.

Let me explain.

The idea, of course, is to start out with a huge goal in mind. Mine was to meet the high-level authorities of the fitness industry. The guys that act as the official gate keepers of what articles get published, which ones get the most traffic, and who is seen as an authority. Believe it or not, there are a few key players that can essentially make or break your career.

I started with the top. Who did I want to meet? I thought big – names like Arnold for instance.

Branching off of those big names were topics, events, and other fitness professionals all that were a step down in the chain in terms of popularity. Don’t get my wrong. These guys weren’t no-names by any means, but they weren’t Arnold. 

After several steps of breaking down the individual into a series of topics, events, and other networked individuals, you have the outskirts of your networking web. These are the people, places, and things that are ultimately going to lead to the big kahuna. When I started out, I went straight for someone at the top, applying for a mentorship with John Romaniello (effectively called Roman in fitness circles).

Needless to say, that effort fell short.

Rather than ditching the whole process, I started smaller meeting individuals that know people and offering them what I could at them time – exposure. I’d quote them in an article for Men’s Fitness or some other magazine and offer the all-important link back.

I haven’t met Arnold (yet), but I have gained some traction and made incredible relationships with individuals that truly inspired me to start writing. 

Back to the school example and how this relates to you.

When you were in school, you could effectively wing it when writing an article and have things work out alright. In the business and networking world, that just doesn’t cut it. You need to have a plan in place detailing where you want to go and who you need to meet to get you there.

That’s where the writing web comes in. It helps to break down your goals into manageable steps.

Start a networking web. Jot down the big idea in the center (and make it big). Branch of with people, events, topics, and opportunities until you have something workable. Rather than scrapping this web like middle school, use it as a tool to plan the events you go to, who you interact with, and what business relationships you pursue.

Have any other thoughts on business and networking? I want to hear them in the comments below.

I’d also love it if you subscribed to this blog and found me on Google +.

Why I Hired Professional Help (And You Should Too)

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The other day, I finally broke down and hired professional help.

Relax. I’m not some sort of drug addict or junkie itching for my next fix. I’m just a guy that doesn’t know how to ski.

Charlotte and I took our first ski trip together a few weeks ago venturing up to Winter Park, CO in search of a thrill and an adrenaline rush. Being the novice of the group, I relished the idea of sticking to the bunny hills and any slope blatantly plastered with a big green arrow. Charlotte, being far more advanced, looked forward to everything else – including double black diamonds, a level of which I will never understand.

Charlotte offered to help show me the ropes, intent on making this second ski trip a successful one. (Don’t ask about the first. It involved me plowing into a snowboarder full speed in order to slow myself down.)

Having just celebrated our engagement and still happily planning our future marriage, we eventually decided this was not going to be the brightest of ideas. I’m easily frustrated, and let’s just say that she’s not the most patient teacher in the world.

To save us both the trouble, we plopped me and a pair of novice skis into a lesson.

(Note: How in the hell does anyone walk in skis? It seems virtually impossible.)

My only hope was that I was paired with some four- and five-year olds to share my triumphs and most enjoyable crashes with. Unfortunately, there weren’t any youngsters to high five when I made my first hockey stop. In fact, I spent the entire afternoon sharing my time with only one individual and the instructor which made for some great one-on-one teaching.

To my surprise, my skills ended up vastly improved at the end of only three hours.In fact, the only person to fall down during our lesson was the instructor (ironically enough).

One thing that the instructor said in particular stood out to me, “It’s much better to invest your time and your money on quality lessons lest you teach yourself and end up practicing habits that were never good in the first place.”

In an essence, many people can ski. Few actually can ski properly. Now, in all honesty, I couldn’t care less if I skied properly or not as long as I looked cool going down the mountain. That’s not really the point.

The point is that hired help can save you a lot of trouble along the way.

I consider myself to be a somewhat talented individual when it comes to sports and athletic activities. Sure, I may not be the Deon Sanders of the group, but I can move side to side and twist without tripping over my own two feet.

I don’t, however, know a thing about skiing. Compound that with the fact that I’m actually looking to hire a writing coach to critique my work and give me feedback to improve my writing, and you’ll notice that I’m depending on professional help more and more.

Here’s the deal: Professionals know far more than you do. Trust me, I spent seven years as a personal trainer selling myself as a fitness professional and I can guarantee you that I didn’t come across one client that knew everything they needed to know about getting in shape.

So, why might you want to hire a professional?

1. They know the fastest way possible.

Let’s talk about tricks of the trade for a minute. They’re hard to pick-up. You know who learns them faster than anyone? The individuals who are teaching thousands of other people to become masters of their particular trade.

Take skiing for instance. The particular instructor I had along the way had taught numerous others to ski. Therefore, he know what worked and what didn’t. That’s a handy piece of information to know.

I did the same thing with personal training.

It’s easier to work with a pro and get it right the first time rather than banging your own head against a wall.

2. They know the right way.

Forget speed of learning for a second. There are a ton of ways to lose weight, ski, or complete any other skill, etc.

That doesn’t mean they are all correct. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told of a weight loss success story that revolved around a juicing cleanse and resulted in a 15 lb drop in a few days. Successful? Yes. Sustainable? No.

Learn right and you won’t have to repeat the basics again.

3. You’re paying for the lack of frustration.

I’ll be honest – I’m very easily frustrated, especially when learning a new skill for instance. I remember trying to learn to skateboard and being consistently angry when I couldn’t ollie correctly.

It’s extremely difficult trying to learn new things.

Save yourself the trouble (and headache) and learn from a pro. The main benefit: it’s much harder to yell at someone you don’t now. Trust me, I learned first hand.

Have you ever hired help to learn about something? Let me know I’m not alone in the comments section below.

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How Apple Sold Me a MacBook Pro 6 Months Ahead of Time

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Listen, I’m just as big a Mac fan as the next person in line. Hell, I waited up all night for the iPhone 4 to finally come to Verizon and ended up placing my order at 2AM after sleeping on my couch with my computer propped open on my lap for the better part of the evening.

But, even I was beginning to have my doubts.

More and more people were talking about the almighty Google and the Android power that exists on the other side of the spectrum. Now that I’m not tethered down to iTunes anymore (running Spotify mainly), I technically don’t have anything holding me back from switching systems.

Still, I’m attracted to Apple products for the same reason everyone else is. They’re clean and pretty to look at. The user interface is remarkably easy to use (and still my fiancee can’t figure out how to navigate with Maps).

So, imagine my excitement when an Apple store ended up being directly across from the new office of Federated Media Publishing. I’d have to walk by the office each day on my way to work and stare at the toys on display.

Back when I got my first Mac (2007), it literally was the most expensive thing I had bought to date. I remember standing at the checkout line in Best Buy shuddering over the amount I was about to fork over. Could this new Apple computer really be $500 better than the HP I was comparing it to? After all, I’d used PC’s virtually my entire life.

Where in the hell was the “Start” tab? What about the control panel? It was like learning to walk all over again.

As with many fairy tales, I ended up falling in love and would classify myself as a die-hard Mac fan (and others would tend to agree).

It’s almost that time again – time for me to reinvest in a new Mac. Despite updating my RAM and running very few applications at once, my current MacBook (from the one year that they actually made just MacBooks with an aluminum frame) is running a bit on the slow side.

So one day, I made the mistake of walking into the Apple Store.

I had scheduled an appointment with the Genius bar and was met by another Mac fanatic that evidently knew his way around the operating system far better than I did. I learned more hotkeys in the 15 minutes with him than I’ve learned in my entire time with the machine.

My problem was computing speed. He began showing me a variety of reasons why I was running slower than usual and ended up improving my speed in just a few seconds. We settled on the fact that I needed more RAM and would eventually need to replace my computer. Being the helpful sales associate that he was, he demonstrated the new MacBooks on the market including those with Retina display. He explained what I would need from my new computer (surprisingly not the most expensive option out there). He gave me a few other tips to help prolong the life of my current mac.

But, I had another problem. My battery life sucked. It was time to invest in a new battery for my current laptop if I was going to keep it.

He went to the back to grab the battery and ended up walking out and installing one in my computer. I got out my wallet to pay when he showed me the receipt totaling nothing and saving me over a hundred bucks.

Now, I know this is a ploy to get me to come back. I’m clearly interested in buying another MacBook Pro and keeping me happy is a surefire way to guarantee $1500 down the road for the company. But, they turned this experience into the best one possible. I now know how to improve my computer speed (buy new RAM surprisingly from another website not from Apple at the recommendation of the employee). He gave me a free battery and told me what kind of back-up system to buy (again, suggesting another brand outside of Apple).

My computer will last me another 6-7 months before I invest in a new MacBook Pro.

Moral of the story: The customer experience is important – even more important than the flashy products. They tend to sell themselves. Experiences sell the company.

What kind of good/bad customer service experiences have you had that have either brought you back or deterred you away from a specific store?

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Is Personal Training the Best Start for Your Future Career?

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A few weeks ago, I announced that I was leaving personal training as a full-time career. It was a tough decision, and frankly, I’ll never really know whether it was the best choice.

Having worked in the industry for quite a while and spending my time in two very different gyms and scenarios, I can confidently say that personal training has helped me evolve into the person that I am today.

It’s hard to believe that I started as a shy sophomore, almost too timid to train my first client. I’m literally shocked I made it through an entire hour-long session without her getting injured. My next few clients weren’t the best either, but we somehow managed not to kill each other and a few of them even got results.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned to sell myself and my skill sets. I’ve gained insight into networking and relationship-building. I’ve learned how to carry a conversation with even the dullest of individuals. Personal training has helped me become the person I am today. It literally helped me grow the hell up.

I guarantee I’ll find crossover in almost any other position I work in throughout the rest of my life. The personable demeanor that is necessary to succeed in the personal training industry is a prerequisite to succeed in many management and sales roles. Hell, the ability to simply talk with a variety of individuals helps you start small talk with many different personalities – even those that are polar opposites of yourself.

I don’t think everyone should go into personal training. If you don’t have the personality and confidence to win over clients and gym members, it’s not going to be the most fun career path for your future. But I do think it can crossover into almost any career field.

Here’s why:

1. Personal training teaches you how to take care of people.

Plain and simple – if you don’t take care of your clients, they aren’t going to resign with you. The minute someone spent money to hire me as a trainer or to work in one of my small groups, they immediately started to receive text message updates throughout the week checking in and seeing how they were doing. I started to remember more about their family and what they were up to during previous weekends.

It’s a bias to those gym members. They are taking care of me so I’m going to reciprocate. Plus, it helps to give them the added benefit of follow-up outside of our sessions, not just the paid value of hanging out with me for a few hours a day.

2. You learn how to carry on a conversation.

I’ve trained some absolutely amazing clients over the past few years. I’ve had some great conversations and ended sessions bent over with laughter. But, for every awesome individual I’ve trained, I’ve worked with a few others that have been less than interesting.

Working with a diverse clientele taught me how to meet, bond, and entertain almost any particular personality, albeit some are harder than others. It gives you the confidence to walk into almost any business setting with the people skills to entertain a group.

That’s a powerful thing to have.

3. You develop the ability to sell a non-tangible item.

Personal training isn’t tangible. You can’t walk out of the store with a personal training session. When clients go to Best Buy and spend $800-$1,000 on a computer or television, they have the satisfaction of walking out of the store with it on that particular day.

I’ve had clients spend the same amount of money on training and go home with nothing on that particular day other than my business card and a scheduled appointment for later on in the week.

That’s a rough sale when the typical consumer today is looking for immediate satisfaction.

To sell personal training, you have to learn how to build value in an intangible item that most individuals aren’t going to have experience with using before. In my opinion, this type of sales training will benefit you down the road regardless of whether you go into a sales role. It’ll help you sell yourself and your own personal skills.

4. You learn how to work for your money.

If you don’t know, personal training is largely based on commission. In the most literal sense, time is money. Trainers with empty schedules are usually those that go home with the smallest paychecks.

In order to make a decent living, you have to fill up your schedule with a decent amount of client hours. It’s not exactly a job where you can take a long lunch and leave at 2pm unless you don’t want to get paid that day. As a result, trainers don’t exactly take many holidays.

I won’t lie and say it’s all work and no play.

Due to the flexibility of their schedule, personal trainers are often working less hours than your typical 8AM-5PM employee although they may be making the same amount of income.

But, trainers also aren’t getting paid for their downtime. If they aren’t facing a client, they aren’t making money. There were many times that I had eight clients in a row and left the gym exhausted. There were also days where I worked three hours and left for the day. It’s an up and down career path that rewards individuals that want to work.

5. Time management becomes your biggest priority.

Going hand in hand with the reason above, your time is literally your biggest asset as a trainer. Being that most trainers are paid per hour, it’s beneficial to learn how to make the most of that particular timeframe. For many trainers that involves building small groups. The clients generally pay less yet the trainer makes more. It’s a win-win for everyone.

This really comes into play when trainers have down time. In order to recruit more clients it’s beneficial to spend your time where you are the most effective. If you can’t walk the floor and pick up a client, it’s not the best use of your time.

Over time, you learn the things you do best and how to improve your strengths rather than wasting time with your weaknesses.

Personal training isn’t the easiest career to succeed in. It takes quite a bit of work, but it can be extremely rewarding both personally and financially. Overall, I think it’s beneficial for someone to spend a few years in a client-facing job like personal training. You’ll learn skills that’ll help you later on in your career.

So tell me, what skills do you think carry over to your next career path? Also, your thoughts on Google + is much appreciated. Is it worth investing the time to build your Google profile?