Money can buy you happiness. Let me explain. First, a little background:
Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:
According to a 2014 issue of Science magazine, participants across 11 studies would rather give themselves a mild electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone.
That’s just insanity.
But in some ways, I’m not surprised. For starters, we live in a society that tends to celebrate extrovertism. And to be clear, the state of being alone is different from the feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, they’re linked. But I’m here to declare you can be alone without feeling lonely, bored or sad. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite!
Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:
When you’re not afraid to try things solo, you’re building your independence, self-confidence and resilience.
So you want to try that new restaurant? Grab a table for one. Dying to see the latest blockbuster? Hit the theater by yourself. Interested in learning a new skill or hobby? Sign up solo! I think you’ll be surprised by what you might learn about yourself by taking on even the smallest acts of independence. And overcoming the weird looks you may get (but probably won’t), is actually kind of empowering.
In late August – early September 2017, I embarked on a 9-day road trip through Michigan and parts of Canada. When I told friends and family my plans, I received a lot of gasps: “What? But why are you going alone?!” They were worried for my safety (which I appreciate) but I’m glad I didn’t let their reactions influence me. It was a trip of a lifetime. I played trivia with some folks from England, enjoyed poutine and local beers at a dive bar in Montreal and hit the hay in some odd, tiny and ecclectic AirBnbs.
When you head out on your own, you learn to be highly observant and appreciate (and look forward to) the quiet moments.
Without your friends and family by your side, you also get really great at forming your own smart opinions. This is such a rewarding, and oftentimes unforeseen, fringe benefit of “going it alone.”
Need a few ideas? Consider some inspiration from Women’s Day: 25 Things to Do By Yourself.
“So, why are you single?”
Let’s talk about being alone in the sense of being single. Ah, I’ll try to be brief.
I’m in a relationship now but I was kind of always known as the perpetually single girl. And I used to hate being asked, “Why are you single?” Every time, I’d have to suppress my inner sass. My preferred answer was: “Well, because I’m a strong independent woman who believes finding true love with a great partner is a rare thing. Add to that, I value my time and would rather not waste it alongside someone less than mediocre.” But in the interest of not scaring off nice people who I know meant well, I’d usually just shrug and mutter something about how I’m too busy, blah blah blah.
But now I am in a relationship. Shortly after meeting my boyfriend at Christmas this year, my dad remarked, “Huh. Yeah. We were starting to wonder if maybe you were a lesbian.” He was serious, and I thought this was hilarious. I spent most of my 20s alone and partner-less (albeit happy!). I thought my dad’s theory was amusing but I also thought it was interesting insight into how people view those not in a relationship. (i.e. “What’s the deal with her?!”) If you’re reading this and you’ve been single for a while, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.
One thing I know for sure is that if you can’t handle being alone – if you depend on being with someone (or anyone!) – you should not be in a relationship at all. Work on doing things for and with you, and the rest will fall into place in the best way possible.
I am not sure if I’ve found professional success because I’ve been single, or I was single because I was focusing on my career – perhaps it’s a little of both. But there’s no denying the fact that being alone meant I was able to focus on the things I really, really wanted and cared about.
Last year, former UW Badger basketball player and current NBA hopeful Bronson Koenig penned a letter to NBA GMs. This excerpt really spoke to me:
“I’m good on all that,” he said. And then he proceeded to tell me something that I wasn’t expecting. He told me that if I really wanted to be successful, that I had to be O.K. with being alone, with staying home and working on my craft to the point of it becoming an obsession.”
-Bronson Koenig, Dear NBA GMs
Of course, when it comes to being alone to the point of obsessing over your career goals, you run the risk of living an unbalanced life. I hope nothing I’ve written has come across as an ode to disowning your friends and family – they’re crucial for success and happiness! But that seems to be obvious to most people.
Stop fussing over what could go wrong or what people might think. Just do it! Jump head first into cold water. Who knows what you might find?
I’ve never been big on “resolutions” per se, but I am big on goals. I dream up, write down, re-set and re-adjust them throughout the year, not just on Dec. 31. But since New Year’s is a time of inspiration – and because I have loved reading others’ goals on social media – I decided to share a few of the goals I’ve set sometime within the last 6-18 months. Each goal has a different ‘due date’ – some I’d like to accomplish in 2018 but most are a bit longer-term.
If you have any tips or ideas on how to achieve them, comment below. And if you’ve set goals of your own, I’d love to hear about yours too!
Bonus Goal: Be okay with the fact I may only accomplish a portion of this list. Because it’s all about progress…:)
Happy New Year! #GOALS
Peace 20s. ✌ Bring on 30 and beyond.
I’ll be 30 next month. And probably like anyone entering a new decade and saying goodbye to another, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on what the last 10 years have meant for me.
Ten years ago, I was 19 going on 20. Things were pretty ugly back then. My stepdad had passed away the summer prior. Our house was getting auctioned off. My mom lost custody of my youngest siblings. My family life was in total turmoil. It was so distracting, it was nearly impossible to see past the fog and into a more optimistic future.
That year, I tattooed the word “hope” in white ink on my wrist. Because that’s what I held on to at that time: hope that things would get better. When I look down at my faded tattoo today, I’m reminded of what life felt like at 19 and, although I had fun in my late teens and early 20s, I’m much more grateful to be turning 30.
And things did get better. Along the way, I learned a lot (as we all do!). Here are just five lessons that made multiple cameos throughout my 20s:
Likewise, I learned that most people love to hear themselves talk. But the real talent lies in the skill of listening. I think I undermined this 10 years ago. I wish I had realized the class, professionalism and intelligence that come with closing your mouth and using your ears. I’ve had to re-learn this again and again with my on-camera role. It’s my job to help my interviewee tell their story; not to interject with my own insights every two seconds.When I’m sitting around a conference room table at work, I try hard not to blurt out my opinion first. Hear what everyone else has to say. And then share your opinion if you feel moved to. I am still in practice but I know that listening never makes you look stupid. You do run that risk though when you run your mouth. 😕
I think compliments – when authentic – are important, whether it’s your sister or your CEO. (Did I mention you’ve gotta be genuine about it?)
Perhaps you too are familiar with the drill: You see potential in someone but despite your internal voice screaming: “This should not be a thing,” you continue the thing anyway. The worst is when you swear you won’t get into anything without it feeling 100%…and you do it again. On one hand, you definitely learn from every failed relationship but in general, this is not fair to either party. Wait it out. That whole “when you know, you know” thing is just a cliche way of saying “trust your instincts.”
Until one day, I decided to embrace a sport I’ve always been obsessed with but had zero experience in: gymnastics. I found a gym in Madison that admits adults, regardless of experience level, and I went for it. That was 2012. I still go to class every week. I’ll clearly never make an Olympic team but I’ve found something that makes me very happy every Monday night. (Hobbies coming down the pike include: learning French, piano and knitting. Stay tuned 🙂 )
Everyone glamorizes the whole being in your 20s thing. I’ve found it humorous (ok, maybe even borderline aggravating) just how many people have brought up my impending birthday with sorrow and sympathy. i.e. “Are you going to miss your 20s?” You mean, am I going to miss being broke, insecure and in a state of perpetual confusion? No, no I am not going to miss that but I’m grateful I went through it. My 20s were full of good times but I’ll make sure to make more good memories in my 30s (and continue learning hard lessons, obviously).
Peace 20s. ✌ Bring on 30 and beyond.
The thing is, people hate to fail. And that is ridiculous.
“We can be truly successful only at things we are willing to fail at.” -Mark Manson
Someone recently exclaimed in despair to me that I “win everything.” First, I laughed. Second, I denied it. And third, I thought about how badly I wanted to bluntly reply: you clearly have not seen all the ways that I have failed in my life! I didn’t though. Instead, I’m writing this blog post.
Most people don’t talk about their failures. It can be awkward and embarrassing. But such is life. Here goes!
The thing is, people hate to fail. And that is ridiculous.
The only way to step out of mediocrity, as I see it, is to stick your neck out, raise your hand, speak up, try something you’ve never done before, and then fail at said thing a thousand times. Because failure is a beautiful, humbling, edifying path to learning the best lessons life has to offer.
Over this past weekend, I had the honor of attending the 2017 Emmy© Awards in Chicago. Now, I have a lot of opinions about awards like these. On one hand, it feels pretty damn good to get acknowledged for the work that you do. And an Emmy is the ultimate form of acknowledgement in my industry. On the other hand, people obsess over awards. It’s strange to me when I see someone get so wrapped up over a pretty trophy that they lose sight of the big picture. And believe me, it happens all the time – I think particularly in the TV/entertainment industry.
Anyway, my work crew and I decided as a team that this ol’ stamp of approval was indeed a goal of ours. And we did it. Two colleagues and I were up for an Interactivity award for our work on Discover Wisconsin. To get a nomination alone was a huge honor and one I am very proud of.
And I’ll admit it: I really did want to win that award. But that is not what happened. Someone else walked away with it. (Congratulations Melinda Davenport!) I’m proud of the work we did but the lesson I learned was: maybe we didn’t put our absolute best foot forward. Maybe next time, we’ve gotta be even more clever, more creative and more inventive. And that is exactly what we’ll do (while keeping our eyes on the bigger picture, of course).
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”
-Thomas J. Watson
Exhibit B: My involvement in the Miss America Organization. Having competed in the program for three years, I lost far more than I won (7:1). For three years, I worked harder than I had worked for anything in my life at that point. And seven times in a row, I watched someone else be awarded the job I was so sure I would nail if given the chance. Each time, I had to reckon with the fact that a panel of five judges watched me interview, dance and sashay my way across the stage and said: “Nah.”
Each time I failed, I looked back at my performance and tried to figure out where to make adjustments. I asked my friends, family and most of all, the judges, to steer me in the right direction. I’d weed out the opinions that didn’t feel right in my gut and I’d hold on tightly to the ones that did. That’s important — following your instincts while navigating the success/failure line.
I did end up winning, only to lose a couple months later at the state level. And I learned so much about my own skill-set: I found talents I didn’t know I had. I also felt more in tune than ever with the areas I needed to work on.
When I gave up my crown a year later, I said to the next round of contestants: “Congrats to the future winner…take lots of pictures and enjoy the ride! But to all of you who don’t hear your name called tonight (I know how you feel!), know that you have an even tougher job. You can not give up. Keep trying and I promise you, something really great is just around the corner.”
Thankfully, lots of people encouraged me to keep trying before I won. It wasn’t just my own ambitions and dreams; it was also the encouragement of others. (Of course, there were naysayers, too. They will also be in the background. I liken them to “Ursula’s Garden”…remember those creepy sea creatures from The Little Mermaid? That scene is how I envision all the haters in my life.)
The “failure journey” is maddening. There is no way around it.
Even before landing my gig with Discover Wisconsin, I must have reached out to hundreds of folks in the TV industry with the hope that just one would crack that door open. Just one tiny crack in the door…that was all I was looking for.
Unless you’re one of the golden few who just happens to get “discovered,” you will get 5,000 “No’s” before you hear “Yes!”
Persistence and the willingness to play in the first place is everything.
I gravitate toward gymnastics because it requires an insane amount of fearlessness.
I didn’t grow up a gymnast. But I was always obsessed with the sport. As a kid, I’d sit so close to the TV as the tiny teenage gymnasts would appear one by one, each of them so powerful and confident and mega talented.
I grew up on a farm in the “middle of nowhere.” I was the oldest of five so there was no talking my parents into driving me 30 minutes away for class. My elementary school offered a gymnastics unit once a year and my eyes would light up at the sight of the vault, four-inch beam and foam mats set up across the floor. That excitement has never waned, even through my adulthood. And that is exactly how I found myself at Badger Gymnastics in Madison. It was the only place around that offered adults (with or without gymnastics experience) the opportunity to feel (and be!) a real gymnast.
Welcome to my workout with Jessie Carlson, owner and coach at Badger Gymnastics.
I had no idea I’d be finding some of Wisconsin here in Tanzania. Life has had a habit of reminding me that people just aren’t so different.
Editor’s Note: This article was guest written by Adam Nothem, a fellow UW-Oshkosh alum.
Sometimes, a seed sprouts best after it lands in new soil.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I grew up near Green Lake in Farmington and I always felt a sense of community around me there. We all knew our neighbors and people watched out for one another. My summers were spent with my friends swimming in the lake, exploring the nearby woods, and hanging out in the yard with my family and our dog and having campfires. Where I’m from, and likely many of you as well, we walked through yards to visit our neighbors because no one has fences. And when I got called home for dinner, it was by hearing my name being called from the porch. My drive home from school passed innumerable corn fields, dairy farms, and a quaint village named Cheeseville. Wisconsin was always my home and, in 2014, when I was leaving home to live in Tanzania for my US Peace Corps service, I had no idea I’d be returning to a very similar sense of community; one that I had lost slightly during my time in college and while living in the city.
In case you are unfamiliar, the Peace Corps is a government organization that favors a grassroots development strategy and a commitment to a particular village for at least two years. I lived in a small, rural village named Mnavira near the southern border of Tanzania where the sandy soils nourish mostly corn, beans, mangoes, coconuts, and lots and lots of cashews. Most people are subsistence farmers but many farm cashew nuts for pay as well. Cashews are the main cash crop and are harvested once each year. Many villages like Mnavira are absolutely dependent on the cashew harvest. If the rains or high winds affect the trees and the yield is less than planned, many families can be left with light pockets and heavy burdens. It’s common for extended families to share homes to all help one another out. Generally, the men do the farming and are responsible for bringing in income and the women maintain the home. Often though, with their child on their back and more in tow, the women find themselves in the fields as well or hauling water from the stream or spout.
Upon first arriving, one may focus on many of the cultural differences. But part of what makes our 2 year time frame so advantageous is that it gives us and our community members time to get used to the shallow differences and start to connect to our deeper commonalities. And what I began to see early on is a very similar sense of community that I grew up with. This was partially due to how readily they welcomed me into their community. My neighbors kept watch on my house if I was gone, they would check on me if I was sick, and they would always welcome me to share meals with them. The Tanzanian people are an extremely welcoming people. That made my time here so much more comfortable and helped me integrate to my new home. I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to receive a cold welcome or open animosity. It would’ve been nearly impossible to integrate effectively or to learn the Swahili language. As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), I have several goals. The first one, since I am a health extension agent, is to assess the health situation in Mnavira and to try to improve it in any way I can. The second goal is to make Tanzanians more familiar with America and the American people. For many people in Mnavira and Tanzania in general, their only experience with America is through news headlines, movies, or music videos. As you may imagine, that leaves people with a pretty interesting perspective of our home and an endless flow of questions. The third goal is to make Americans more familiar with Tanzania and see it as the individual country that it is among the vast expanse of Africa.
The familiar sense of community that I returned to made reaching those goals possible. It’s amazing how much information you can share just through normal day-to-day conversation and inclusion into a new culture. I would do this while helping my neighbor farm his cashews, while my friend Mudi and I would do home projects and he’d teach me the local way of doing it, and while I would just sit with my neighbors on the grass mat under a mango tree. I was there during holidays, weddings, and funerals. These were new experiences for me because of the difference in culture but also because they were done along the Islamic traditions and prayers.
In Tanzania, Muslims make up nearly half the population and Christians make up nearly the other half. This ongoing interaction creates a very peaceful life with most people thinking of others as fellow Tanzanians first, and their religion or tribe second. In Mnavira, nearly everyone is Muslim but the few Christians were warmly welcomed to share their food even on holidays like Eid. I celebrated Eid twice during my time in Mnavira and I highly recommend it. There is just such a good mood in the air and the food is fantastic. And during Christmas and Easter, many Muslims break bread with their Christian neighbors. This close sense of community and togetherness gave me all the motivation I needed to do health work.
In Mnavira, many people get infected with the malaria parasite. At the local clinic, an average of twelve people a day tested positive for malaria and got treatment. This is a heavy burden on a community both financially and emotionally. For some, the symptoms are fever, chills, muscle pain, and vomiting. For others, it can be serious enough to cause seizures, cognitive impairment, or death. These severe outcomes are more commonly seen in children under five, pregnant women, and people living with HIV. Mnavira, like many Tanzanian villages, also struggles with water availability, nutrition, and HIV. These factors combined with low income, inadequate health education, and inconsistent healthcare access can create a crisis for many families. That is why the headmaster of the primary school, Rweikanisa, applied to the Peace Corps for a health volunteer. He and I quickly became close friends and he was an invaluable neighbor to have throughout my service. Together, we came up with new ways to teach people about health information. To name a few, this ranged from doing formal lessons at the primary school and clinic, to painting a mural on the school wall, making radio programs for the nearest station, an educational storybook to be read by students and parents, and making visualizations of the high cost of continually treating malaria in the village rather than preventing it. He was also essential in our lessons about reproductive development and gender equality, a beekeeping program for people living with HIV, and in organizing the construction of a new pit latrine at the school.
During our time working together, he always helped me integrate further and helped strengthen the community ties between all of us. These projects were no easy task as many people often seem complacent in their situation. Malaria has always been here and it is difficult for people to imagine life without it so they can sometimes look at the disease like we may look at the common cold. I focused on malaria in my time at UW Oshkosh, so I was especially keen to put forth extra energy to our malaria work. It is a disease that is entirely preventable and treatable and I find it unacceptable how many people, especially young children, die of the disease. The number of funerals I attended for my community members was truly saddening and I was highly motivated for the two years I lived in Mnavira to give help in any way I could to the community who welcomed me so thoroughly.
In fact, I decided to extend my time in Tanzania for another year. I found a small non-profit organization in the north of the country in a city called Tanga called MEA. I saw that they trained community health workers (CHWs) in the surrounding villages to treat their fellow villagers for minor ailments. Often, minor ailments can go untreated and can develop into bigger problems so these CHWs put in the time and effort to help. The organization, MEA, mentioned how they’d like to get those CHWs involved with malaria work and I applied to help start the program. During my third year of service, I was technically still a Peace Corps Volunteer but I was also the Malaria Program Manager for MEA. During the course of the year, we were able to gather the support and encouragement from the district level to the national governments for our new program, the first of its kind in Tanga region, and we were able to train and certify nearly 200 community health workers. The health workers, along with their usual treatment duties, now also test people for malaria using rapid diagnostic tests and treating people with the proper drug regimen. Most of them do this in addition to their normal work because they are paid whatever little bit their patients can chip in and no one is turned away for not having any money to pay. Their individual agreements are driven by their shared sense of community. The patient wants to help the health worker be paid for his or work, but the health worker doesn’t want to burden patients to where they won’t seek treatment any longer. As of now, nearly 200 health workers are participating in a program that will test and treat more than 41,000 people each year for malaria.
When I was at UW Oshkosh, I dreamed of being able to do direct malaria work. I thought often of what it’d be like to live in a new place, to learn a new language and actually be able to use it to teach and have conversations, and to immerse into a new culture. I knew that, if I wanted to fulfill that dream, I’d have to leave my home of Wisconsin. I had no idea I’d be finding some of Wisconsin here in Tanzania. Life has had a habit of reminding me that people just aren’t so different. As my service comes to a close this week, I can’t help but reflect on that and count myself very privileged for being able to have this opportunity. It can be a scary thing leaving one’s home. For some, time like this can be a break from the life they were living and they can go right back when they’re done. For others, it can be a jumping off point to a new life if and when they return. For myself, I’m happy to not choose and just to see where it goes while enjoying my newfound perspective.
Adam Nothem, a native born Wisconsinite, has spent spent the last 3 1/2 years living in Tanzania serving with the US Peace Corps. There, he has continued with his passion for combating malaria; a passion he’s had since his time as a biology student at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
You don’t need a fancy job title to make a positive and powerful impact. Let’s talk influence. First, what is it exactly?
the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior and opinions of others.
Quite simply, it’s “knowing the heart of the person you wish to influence and ordering your words (or more generally, communication) so they’ll act.” What I’d add here is: when they don’t have to.
The interesting thing about influence is you can be influential without being the leader. The old way was: the one with the power had the influence. Now though, the one with the influence has the power.
Why should you care about influence, you ask?
You’re influencing people every single day whether you realize it or not: at work, at home and everywhere in between. Employees are influencing their bosses. Parents are influencing their children. If you’re the type of person who is interested in moving the needle, you’re going to want to hone in on how to change others’ behaviors and outlooks.
Cruise through my Keynote presentation below for a deeper dive into some of the themes relevant to building influence – from self-awareness and likability to collaboration and authenticity.
One young woman’s journey back home
Editor’s Note: This article was guest written by Wisconsin farmer and blogger, Lauren Rudersdorf.
Five months ago, my husband and I bought a home. Our first home. As we sat beside each other signing our closing documents, it felt positively monumental. It was the first time in my young life that I really felt like I had made it. My husband and I had started a small, organic vegetable farm four years prior and it had brought enough hard-earned income that we could afford a home of our own in a beautiful town within commuting distance to both our farm and my off-farm job. We had enough stability in our lives that we felt comfortable committing to a place. The fact that our new home was move-in ready and fully renovated five years ago was just icing on the cake of our late twenties’ lives. I felt mature. I felt settled. I finally felt like maybe I could call myself an adult.
We moved into our home on July 1, 2016 (give or take a few hell-ish weeks of schlepping boxes back and forth from Albany to Evansville in our Ford Ranger and my parents’ minivan). Over the next couple months, we did the new home thing. We unpacked boxes. We hung pictures on the walls. We put a “Rudersdorf” sign on the front porch and bought a lawn mower. Yet despite all the effort I put towards turning our new house into a home, I felt myself continually waiting to be excited about the move. There was no doubt it felt empowering to be a young homeowner, but something about the situation just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t happy. I felt anxious and insecure all the time.
The strange thing about our new home is that it’s located in the town where I grew up. The town where I had spent 13 years of my life in school, sports and community organizations. When I had graduated nine years earlier, I fled my hometown just as fast as I could for a small private school in Ohio and told myself I’d never look back. I wanted big things and was certain that big things didn’t happen in small towns. I expected moves to Europe, New York City and Washington D.C. I envisioned a big flashy career and non-stop travel. I imagined a life nowhere near where I grew up. I was convinced I would leave Wisconsin and become a totally different person. Returning home had baggage and baggage I had not yet dealt with.
How I ended up back home was a long and winding journey. I took a year off from college to travel and experience the world. I had solo trips abroad that were beautiful and transformative. I learned a lot about myself, and also realized, to my own dissatisfaction, that the private school I loved in Ohio was no longer right for me. I moved back home to earn some money and figure out next steps. I got my first apartment in Madison a few months later and by 2010 had transferred to the University of Wisconsin enrolled in an undergraduate program I was passionate about.
In Madison, I quickly fell head over heels for a man who loved soils and nature and wanted to live his life outdoors. We were the perfect compliments to one another and decided to begin an organic farm together. I was fortunate enough to have parents with farmland so we rented four acres and began building our business. Shortly thereafter, we decided to commit our life to one another. We were married in 2014 and began thinking about where we should build our life and home. Taking over the family farm was what made the most sense for us, and suddenly we found ourselves looking for homes in Evansville.
Life moved fast, as it does, and a journey that began in other states and other countries had suddenly catapulted me back home. As I unpacked boxes and looked out the big windows of my beautiful new house at a community I’d ambled through as a kid and young adult, I felt uncomfortable. It was as if suddenly, I was right back where I started. I felt pathetic, almost like I was moving backwards.
Those first two months in our new home were really difficult for me. I was exhausted from the farming season and trying to process my feelings about being back in Evansville. I was forced to learn some really hard things about myself, like how I never quite escaped the need for validation from other people. Or how for a long time my greatest desires in life weren’t motivated by my own dreams or desires, but by my own obsession with always trying to impress people. Or how I felt like success could never be at home. It had to be somewhere else.
I could have never imagined that 10 years after fleeing the town where I spent my childhood and adolescent years, I’d be living in a neighborhood with old teachers right next door. But it’s perfect. And I chose it. I chose to leave and I chose to come back. I hadn’t gotten lost, run out of options and returned home because I had to. I chose this. Every decision I’d made since I became an adult led me back here because it’s where I wanted to be. I had traveled and tried new things, and the more I did, the more I felt pulled back to the place where I had been raised. Despite my urge to fight it, my connection to the Midwest was undeniable.
In the end, it turns out moving home was exactly what I needed. It helped me forget and forgive that girl who grew up in Evansville 10 years ago: who could be so naïve and cruel, putting pressure on herself to change because she thought who she was and where she came from was never enough. It helped me stop caring about what other people think and do things for myself instead. It helped me move with confidence as I push my career forward in ways that aren’t always linear to the outside world. It helped me accept the person I have become instead of making apologies or excuses. It helped me shed the weight of expectations and find happiness from within. Moving home helped me finally heal.
And what I learned by removing any self-judgment was one irrefutable truth: I love this place. I understand it. It’s flawed, like anywhere, but its enchanting. The rolling hills. The agricultural and environmental legacies. The pristine farmland and beautiful bodies of water. The historic small towns and colorful main streets. The subtle charm that requires patience to be discovered. The hardworking people and sense of community. I love it here. I love everything about where I’m from. And I couldn’t be happier to build a life here and do what I can to make it better.
Lauren Rudersdorf is a Rock County, Wis. native who loves all things food, farming and Wisconsin life. If she’s not out in the fields of Raleigh’s Hillside Farm or kicking butt at her day job in Madison, you can find her hiking on the Ice Age Trail, testing recipes for her blog The Leek & The Carrot or planning her next vacation. You can find more of her writing at Edible Madison in the Farmer Voices column and Madison Magazine beginning in June 2017.
You’ve really gotta own it and believe in yourself, and when you make mistakes, you assess and move on.
Welcome back to another Q&A with a remarkable marketer as part of the Unlocking Potential series. I heard about a woman named Mariah Haberman when I first moved to Madison, I found out she worked at the PR agency I hope to work at, and then I got to see her speak not too long ago. (Post about impressions and link to her presentation here.)
Mariah has drive, excitement, and more passion that I thought one person could have. It will be clear as you read on. Without further ado, welcome Mariah.
Q: What motivates you to get out of your bed in the morning?
Mariah: Caffeine! And lots of it! I am so not a morning person so the fact that I make it into work before 10 a.m. is a miracle in itself. That said, I can honestly say I have never dreaded a day of work. Getting to discover Wisconsin is a cool gig but I think working alongside amazing and talented people is just the best thing ever. (Also: Free Sprecher root beer :D)
Q: What business would you say you’re in and how did you get there? What’s your story?
Mariah: I have a weird hybrid role: I’m both a television/radio host and a PR and social media marketer.
I always dreamt of working in television. In fact, I can recall writing my sixth grade career report for Mrs. Herbers about my aspirations of becoming a news anchor. In college though, I threw those dreams out the window after coming to the conclusion that a television career in Wisconsin during a recession was a ridiculous dream to have.
So I picked public relations. And upon graduating from UW-Oshkosh, I threw a few suitcases in my tiny ’02 Corolla and with my shiny, new diploma in tow, I made the trek to Chicago. There, I worked as a temporary assistant at an entertainment PR firm. Next, I decided to freelance back in the Madison area and then I worked at a wonderful marketing agency in town.
Meanwhile, I spent three years competing for the title of Miss Wisconsin. That endeavor really reignited my desire to pursue television. So, I reached out to the one contact I had at Discover Mediaworks and asked if, by any chance, they’d ever consider letting me guest host an episode or two. After several months of back-and-forth, the crew finally invited me to come in for an interview and audition. Apparently, they saw something in me, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Q: What are four life lessons you’ve learned from following your muse?
1) Make things happen for you.
2) Be nice to people.
3) Own up when you’ve messed up.
4) Never take yourself or your work too seriously.
Q: You’re constantly putting yourself out there. How have you dealt with fear – be it of rejection or failure or even success?
Mariah: I hate to quote the most buzzed about kid flick of all time, but when it comes to being in front of crowds, you really have to just let it go. I’ll get nervous from time to time during the preparation of a big shoot or speaking engagement, but once I am on stage, or those cameras are rolling, I don’t even let myself go to that place of self-doubt. You’ve really gotta own it and believe in yourself, and when you make mistakes, you assess and move on.
So much of the television business I think is listening to your own gut. You are going to get people who absolutely adore you and your work. And the opposite of those people are Internet trolls :). I take it all with a grain of salt—both the compliments and the critiques.
Q: What do you do to continue growing in your field? Are there a few special practices or habits you think people reading may benefit from doing too?
Mariah: The idea of being stagnant or out of the loop as both a host and marketer downright scares me. I am constantly trying to learn and get better at my craft whether it be through improv classes or online marketing research—you name it. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the biz, learning is essential.
The beauty of working in the agency world is that you’re surrounded by folks who specialize in all sorts of things that you may not necessarily be an expert in. But making an effort to understand their work inherently makes you better at your own.
Q: What has been a major highlight of your work?
Mariah: A viewer reached out to me on Facebook the other day to tell me that he and his daughter make it a weekly tradition to sit down every Saturday morning and watch Discover Wisconsin together. Hearing things like that – from people who make our show a part of their lives – is the kind of stuff that sticks with me.
Q: What is one characteristic you’ve noticed every successful marketer has? Better yet, what the heck does it take to become a remarkable PR pro or marketer?
Mariah: Great marketers want to learn; they are asking questions. They are paying attention not only to what other brands are doing out there, but more importantly, they’re noticing what people care about, why they do the things they do, buy the things they buy, and hang out with the people they hang out with. I think a marketer has to be easily fascinated by and curious about the world around him or her—and I’d say the same thing applies to great TV/radio hosts.
When you understand why people do the things they do, the ideations, strategizing and executing for brands comes a whole heck of a lot more naturally. (It’s still a tough gig, don’t get me wrong!)
Q: Would you tell us about a time you almost gave up and what you did instead?
Mariah: Interestingly enough, I actually have to tell myself to let go of things more often. (Noticing a theme here?) I get invested too easily. I love to dream big and I think the upshot of dreaming big is that you tend to bite off more than you can chew. So while “giving up” often has a negative connotation, I really have to continue to remind myself the importance of walking away from the stuff I can’t or shouldn’t fix.
Q: How do you try to live your life? Do you have a life motto or a particular quote you stand by?
Mariah: Nah. No life quotes really. I just try to live life to the fullest…you know, find the silver lining in even the crappiest of days!
Q: What is a dream you have or a project you want to create that you haven’t had the time for?
Mariah: Sooooo many. I want to write my own book(s). Open a wine bar. Learn French. And piano. And how to cook (better). And more time for travel would be lovely!
Q: Where can people find you and your work? (Shameless self-promotion here!)
Mariah: Why, you can watch “my work” every weekend on your TV screens (or laptops or tablets or smartphones)! Broadcast guide here: www.bobber.discoverwisconsin.com/broadcast …and because social media is my thang, I’m pretty easy to find on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Stay Positive & Curiously Alive