Actually, Money CAN Buy You Happiness.

Money can buy you happiness. Let me explain. First, a little background:

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I mean, look. Obviously, I agree with the concept that you can have all the money in the world but if your life is out of balance, chances are: you’re not happy.

But here’s the thing: Money can buy you happiness. Let me explain. First, a little background:

I grew up with the understanding that money was a thing my family didn’t exactly have in spades. I was told, vaguely, that “credit cards are bad” but I didn’t quite understand why. I knew checks might bounce, cards could get declined and that shirt probably wasn’t worth buying unless it came from the clearance rack.

That was about the extent of my knowledge of money.

Fast forward to age 22, when I am graduating from college with $37,000 in school loans and an accepted job offer for $10/hour. I remember sitting at the kitchen table complaining to my dad, “How am I ever going to get ahead?” He shook his head, “Ah Kiddo, someday you’re going to look back and laugh.” And added: “The more ya make, the more you spend.”

Dad was right (on both accounts). Things have changed. And while I do look back at my financial struggles with a part-endearing-part-risible perspective, I can’t help but say to myself: Was all that strife really necessary?! I could’ve and should’ve done things so differently. I was grossly uneducated about what it meant to take on that amount of debt….I just did it because I thought it was what I had to do and from what I could tell, it seemed like there were a lot of other 18-year-olds doing the same so it couldn’t be all that bad? No one told me any different nor did I take the initiative to school myself.

Last year, I drafted a headline of a blog post that I called: “How to Make $100,000 by Age 30.” I knew I probably wouldn’t have the balls to actually publish it. I mostly wrote the headline as a way to motivate myself to actually earn $100,000. I knew that if I didn’t write it exactly right it could come across as bombastic and self-aggrandizing. So I thought I’d instead explain why I wanted to make $100,000+ in the first place:

There are a lot of things I want to do in life. I want to travel the world. I want to learn new languages, take more art classes and maybe learn photography. I want my kitchen to be stocked with food I love. I want to be able to give back more so that other people can achieve their dreams, too! Two things that are true here: these things make me happy (and not just temporarily). And these things are going to cost me.

 

I think the world needs to turn the way we think about money on its head. If we view money as the resource it’s meant to be instead of this evil, ugly thing, we’d collectively be in a better place. Here are 3 things I think could help:

1. We should be learning about money much earlier in life. I know there is a lot of controversy over what’s getting cut from schools right now vs. what should be taught but in my opinion, financial literacy should be at the top of the list and I hardly hear any conversation about the topic at all. Money is a universal language – it’s a thing we’re all going to deal with whether we have a little or a lot of it. It can be an uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people though. In many families, it’s a completely taboo topic to even bring up and I think that’s dangerous.

 

2. No matter how ugly, you’ve gotta take your finances head on! When I was broke (mehhh first 25 years of my life give or take) I believe it was my mentality that was holding me back the most. Money is a bad thing when you don’t have it. Like you view it as this nasty thing that causes all sorts of problems in the world. But when you do have it, money is this beautiful, glorious thing that solves all sorts of problems. Oh, the irony! No matter where you are at financially, face the music. Every single month. Keep a monthly spreadsheet. Download an app. Take a class.

 

3. We need to be wary of our culture of #YOLO. There is a very real challenge in toeing the line between finding debt-free/financial freedom and buying that thing because you are living in a constant #YOLO state of mind. I often ask myself, is it really about living life to its fullest? Or do I want this because someone else has it? Social media makes it easier than ever to compare ourselves to the Jones’. But that is weak and undisciplined – two things that you are not! 🙂 A hard-learned lesson on my end was the idea that no matter how hard I work, if I don’t have the money budgeted, I do not deserve the new shoes or the fancy car or the sweet vacation or even the $5 coffee.

I am not perfect. I’ve made – and continue to make – so many money mistakes….and I am still very much a student of finance. This is a journey and one I am finally enjoying learning about (and now sharing!). I just wish I had forced myself to learn about it back when I only had 89 cents in my checking account…because that’s when I’d argue it matters most.

So, can money buy you complete happiness? No. But it can buy you a lifeline to the things that make you happy. Now all you gotta do is spend it wisely.

How to be Alone

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:

Self-Love

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.

#CareerGoals

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 of my Most Important Goals (Currently)

#GOALS

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!

  1. Be more grateful. Probably the hardest goal to measure on this list, but arguably, the most important.
  2. Learn a new language. Master Spanish (I was a Spanish minor in college but am a bit rusty these days) and/or learn a brand new language (perhaps French).
  3. Read two new books per month. I definitely read more in the winter. And I tend to read a lot of non-fiction. Time to keep my reading up every month – and take on more fiction! (Always accepting suggestions…)
  4. Create a stricter plan for student debt. I will not have all my student debt paid off in 2018. But my plan is to re-budget so I can pay it off by age 35.
  5. Master a gymnastics tumbling pass. My main goal at gymnastics class is to work on completing one pass on the floor: a roundoff back handspring back tuck.
  6. Learn an instrument. The two instruments I’ve always been drawn to are the piano and the harmonica. I may start with the harmonica… I hear that’s easier 😉
  7. Volunteer more. Volunteerism has always been important to me. But my job – particularly in the summer – has made it tricky to commit to a volunteer program on a weekly basis. My goal is to find something project-based and flexible with my schedule – and ideally involves working with kids!
  8. Try a new fitness class. I set this goal about a year ago and back then, I decided to take on aerial silks at a local “circus school.” I had so much taking these classes that I decided to “re-up” this goal regularly. Next on my list? Either boxing. Or rock climbing. Or maybe trapeze.
  9. Learn knitting. Although I’m not the most artistic person you’ll ever meet, I always enjoy working toward goals that force me to use my hands to create something.
  10. Experience more live performances. I’ll be seeing RENT this week(!) and hopefully Les Misérables in the spring.
  11. Take a trip. So as not to impede on goal #4, I embarked on a very budget-friendly solo road trip in 2017. Without a doubt, it was one of the best trips of my life so far. And it confirmed for me that I can uphold my travel-related values without busting the bank.
  12. Write more.  I very much enjoy working on my hosting/improv/in-person communication, but writing is where I have always felt most at home.
  13. Eat cleaner. Join my Whole Life Challenge team!
  14. Make more time for people I love. Whether it’s in-person visits or Facetime calls, something I’m trying to get better at is making more time for my own friends and family.

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

M.

5 Life Lessons I Learned in my 20s

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.

IMG_5644

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:

  1. Listen more.
    Why is listening so hard? I mean, seriously…WHY. My 20s taught me that it takes real skill (that too many people lack) to look someone in the eye while thoughtfully listening to the words coming out of their mouth. When people demonstrate terrible listening skills, it says a lot of bad things about them: They’re either insecure, self-important or boorish or all of the above.

    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. 😕

  2. Hand out (genuine) compliments more.
    People don’t verbalize compliments enough. And that is a very strange thing to me.When I was probably 22, I remember sitting in a meeting with an influential and talented director-level colleague. This woman is one of the smartest people I’ve worked with even to this day. Our small group was discussing the topic of giving feedback to one another and she made a comment that the further along she’s gotten in her career, the fewer compliments she has received. “People expect me to be good all the time,” she assessed. This was odd to me because I thought everything this woman said was practically genius. And I thought to myself, “Why is it that I’ve never told her this?” Well because, I probably assumed everyone told her how smart she was. But that’s silly – why are we sometimes so scared to tell people what makes them great?

    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?)

  3. Don’t get into relationships that just don’t feel right.
    I probably could’ve written an entire article about relationship-themed mistakes I’ve made but in the spirit of not doubling my wine intake while I type this, I’ll include this teeeeny tinnyyyy flaw I repeated more than once in my 20s: Getting into relationships that did not feel right.

    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.”

  4. It’s never too late to start.
    It seems like the message we get these days is: If you didn’t start the sport or hobby by age 3, you’re outta luck. And that is beyond frustrating. My parents did not enter me in any dance recitals or band lessons. (I was lucky to get to be on my elementary school’s basketball team.) So by the time I reached adulthood, I was certainly not an expert at any given thing. I was, what most would deem, of average talent. And in my teens and even early 20s, I think I let that way of thinking intimidate me.

    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 🙂 )

  5. (Most) people don’t change.
    I was hopelessly optimistic about this one for a very long time. And I hate to end my dissertation here on something so gloomy but it is, by and large, the truth. People are who they are at their core. “When people show you their true colors, let them” are words of wisdom worth remembering.

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.

M.

Before You Win, You’ve Gotta Learn to Lose

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.

emmys
My friend and colleague, Teddy, and I at the 2017 Emmy Awards in Chicago! This photo was taken shortly after I got my gown stuck in the escalator. 🙄

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.)

Polyps_from_Ursula's_Garden
Haters not welcome. 🙅

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.

 

My Day as a Gymnast at Badger Gymnastics

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.

A Roadmap to Building Influence

You don’t need a fancy job title to make a positive and powerful impact. Let’s talk influence. First, what is it exactly?  

influence

[in-floo-uh ns] noun

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.

Unlocking Potential #12: Q&A With Mariah Haberman

You’ve really gotta own it and believe in yourself, and when you make mistakes, you assess and move on.

This article originally appeared on garthbox.com. {Interview by Garth Beyer, @TheGarthBox}

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

 

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

10 Tips and Tricks to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

I don’t know a single soul who was born a brilliant public speaker…

I live for a great speech. I think that to write and give a speech confidently is a powerful talent to behold. It’s a big deal to me. I was probably one of the first people to follow Obama’s original speechwriter on Twitter. (Hi @jonfavs #iswearimnotastalker). And my penchant for watching commencement speeches on YouTube has turned into a full-blown side hobby. (All-time favorite? Eh, it’s a toss up between Conan O’Brien at Harvard and Jim Carrey at Maharishi University of Management.)

So yeah…to summarize: One could conclude I have a bit of an appetite for communication, specifically public speaking. I suppose it’s something of an obsession. 🙂

And truth is, I’m not the only one obsessing. According to The Book of Lists, “speaking before a group” is the #1 human fear. For point of reference: Death is #7 on this list! Jay Leno put it best: I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.

I’ve been pretty fortunate to hone my public speaking skills by way of my profession. Thus, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Here are 10 ways to channel that executive presence while all eyes are on you:

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice.
    The most boring and obvious tip on this list is also, undoubtedly, the most essential. I’d credit about 95% of the growth I’ve made as a public speaker to practice. Rehearse in front of your significant other or kids, in small groups at work, at your local non-profit…just put yourself out there. And be warned: To practice does not mean to memorize. When I’m getting ready to speak – whether it’s a premiere party for Discover Wisconsin or a speech at a wedding – it’s not uncommon for me to just make an iPhone note of three to five points I want to make or stories I want to tell. If I’m more anxious than usual for whatever reason, I’ll practice out loud several times in my car. (I’m sure those who pass me on the beltline are all sorts of confused when they spot an animated orator in the right lane! 😂)
  2. Watch Yourself Speak
    One of the “luxuries” of working on-camera is I have easy access to playback footage of my own work as a communicator. This has been incredibly helpful. But I was doing this long before I had a job in TV. In college and throughout my pageant days, I’d film my speeches and interviews and solicit feedback from my peers and professors. A major mistake people make is spending 80% of their time writing their material and only 20% of their time rehearsing it. You need to flip those numbers. Surprise! It’s less about what you’re saying and more about how you’re saying it. We’re getting a bit into paralinguistics here but people really have a tendency to mirror your emotions as a presenter. If you are communicating in an animated, exciting, cheery way, chances are, you’re going to notice some smiles on people’s faces. If you’re going for a more solemn, dramatic mood, expect some pensive crowd reactions.
  3. Study Others
    Whether it’s a bridesmaid speech or the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I’ve learned as much from others as I have my own speeches. There are always little nuggets to glean. For example, by watching a speaker I admired, I learned to be okay with a little silence – to embrace it actually. When I was in front of a group and unable to come up with a way to wrap up a point I was trying to make, I’d feel my face get real hot and search for words – any words – to fill the silence. But a little break in your flow is just fine. Take President Obama, for example. An incredible orator, inarguably, but one thing that has struck me about his speeches and interviews is the fact that silent pauses are trademark Obama. You can tell he is searching around for the perfect word, the perfect way to wrap up what it is he’s trying to communicate and it sticks with you because it comes across as authentic and not rehearsed (even if those dramatic pauses are indeed rehearsed).
  4. Tap Into Self-Awareness
    While studying others is helpful, knowing yourself is essential. Capitalize on your strengths – are you an amazing storyteller? Do you have a sense of humor? Are you able to simplify complex concepts? Or do you have a flair for drama?
  5. Consider the Audience, but Don’t Overthink It
    Knowing your audience is paramount. It can be daunting to try and guess what it is they’d like to get out of your talk. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to ask the host/moderator/event planner: “Is there anything in particular your group wants me to address or share?” That said, don’t overthink the audience factor. I find a lot of people focus a little too much on the audience and not on their own material. Don’t worry so much about them – they are not there to watch you fail.
  6. Ruminate Over Your Transitions
    Ah, the transitional trap…Picture this: The Best Man is at the head table – mic in hand. He’s really getting into a funny story about the groom and he’s telling it pretty well! But now we’re nearing the end of the story, and you can tell he’s unsure how to transition to the next point. He didn’t think that part through and this is where you usually get an awkward “So…yeah. I thought I’d share that…with all of you…” Gah, facepalm, we were off to such a great start! One of the biggest differences between a great speech and a mediocre one comes down to the orator’s ability to smoothly transition from point to point. In other words, he or she has built a roadmap for the entire speech and didn’t just work on the individual topics/stories.
  7. Get Your Audience Involved
    If it makes sense, consider asking questions in the middle of your talk. This shift in your presentation pace may re-energize the audience and also give you a chance to recalibrate. Plus, fun fact: people learn best in 20-minute chunks…which is a major reason why TED Talks are as popular as they are.
  8. Do not personalize the audience reactions.
    This lesson was a BIG one for me. I’ve always considered myself pretty attuned to how people are interpreting my messages. So during my first talk with an Alcohol and Other Drugs class at UW-Whitewater about a highly personal topic (alcoholism in the family), I was a little discouraged when the 75 students I spoke to seemed rather apathetic and incurious throughout my talk. As I would speak and make eye contact with each student, their expressionless faces had me thinking: “I’m not getting through to them. They’re not interested in what I have to say.” This is probably the worst feeling to have as a presenter. With every passing word, my confidence further dwindled while my anxiety gained momentum.Two weeks later, I received 75 feedback forms in my mailbox from the professor of that class. I dreaded looking through them, so sure these college students would rip me apart. But I was numb with emotion after reading every last one of those feedback forms; they told me what I had to say really moved them. Some of them shared their own personal stories with me that were over a page long. I was shocked. They weren’t at all disinterested…they were simply concentrating hard on what it was I was saying.

    Side note: This is also why, as an audience member, I always try to make a point to give presenters non-verbal cues while they are on stage. Whether it’s in the form of a head nod or even a smile, I think it’s important to let presenters know: “I hear you. And I like what you have to say.”

  9. Just Breathe
    Man, adrenaline is one hell of a hormone. When your mind and body are under stress, your fight-or-flight response kicks in. When I’m nervous, I pace back and forth. I tend to make everyone else around me nervous but I need to move around, it helps calm me down. Take deep breaths and reassure yourself that all the preparation you’ve done up to this point means you’ve got this.
  10. Know That It’s Okay to be Nervous
    Actually, nervous energy is a good thing. It means you care about this thing you’re about to do. Even though it’s my job to speak in front of people and on camera, I still get nerves – sometimes it’s just an adrenaline rush before I walk on stage and sometimes it’s full blown chest-tightening, hand-wringing nerves. I’m not convinced it’s anything you’re ever completely “cured” of. In fact, of all the speeches I’ve given, there is a handful of which I felt a bit disappointed with my performance and of those, there was one common thread: I didn’t feel nervous beforehand.

Most importantly, don’t just decide that this is something you’re bad at. I don’t know a single soul who was born a brilliant public speaker. It’s a learned skill and like any learned skill, practice makes perfect. So get out there!

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16 of the Craziest Things I’ve Done on Discover Wisconsin

Cheers to another year full of adventure, mishaps and fearlessness!

One of the more popular questions I get asked is: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on Discover Wisconsin?” There’ve been so many wild moments, but here are 16 that come to mind:

  1. Completely bombed a waterski jump on Lake Arrowhead…three times in a row
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  2. …but redeemed myself by waterskiing behind a seaplane!
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  3. Kept the bulls at bay as a rodeo clown in River Falls
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  4. Competed in a smooshboarding competition in Hudson
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  5. Judged a “Show Me Your Fur” Contest during Fun on the Frozen Flambeau in Rusk County
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  6. Kayaked these CRAZY rapids in Black River Falls…
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  7. Floated above Lake Geneva in a hot air balloon
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  8. Motorcycled my way around southeastern Wisconsin
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  9. Toured Lambeau Field with former Packers kicker Chris Jacke
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    Dressed up as an 1800s dame at the Baker House in Lake Geneva
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  11. Competed in a barrel racing competition in Buffalo County
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  12. Buzzed around Lodi’s Smokey Hollow Campground in a giant shopping cart
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  13. Made my way around the backwaters of La Crosse by airboat
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  14. Flew over Oconto County in a helicopter
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  15. Played snowshoe baseball at Blizzard Blast in Conover
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  16. Performed with the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Show Team in Janesville
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Ah, the memories! Hats off to the #DWcrew for putting up with my shenanigans 😀 If you have a favorite moment or episode, comment below. Let me know if you have a destination you’d like to see featured on the show, too!

Cheers to another year full of adventure, mishaps and fearlessness!