12 Days of Zen

It’s that time of year again… THE HOLIDAYS.

Yep. Cue: family craziness, crowded shopping malls, and overbooked schedules. I’m not a scrooge by any means. I love Christmas. As an entrepreneur, this is really the only time of year I have to relax & refresh for a brand new year of kicking butt.

The problem? The holidays can get really stressful. It’s easy to get caught up in the mania, and, before you know it, it’s time to get back to work.

12 days of Zen is a mini-series with daily tips stay mindful this holiday. Don’t let the holiday season whiz by you in a hectic blur. Use this time to rejuvenate, celebrate, and be happy.


Day 1: Let go of expectations

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Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.~John Wooden

Drop your expectations of what you think this holiday season should be like. We’re bombarded with ads, movies, and social media that our perspective of what the holidays are actually like is tainted.

The truth is, the holidays are… messy. There’s a reason why this is the only time of year you see some extended family of yours.

It’s not always going to be perfect (or even enjoyable) the whole time, but if you can adjust your expectations, you can still be happy. How? Change your thoughts, adjust your perception, and decide that this holiday season is great.

 


Day 2: Stop obsessing over outcomes

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Let go or be dragged.- Zen Proverb

Entrepreneurs are obsessed with outcomes. Our discipline constantly keeps us in check. Right now, we’re more focused on outcomes than ever as we plan for the next 12 months.

Our passion for defining what success looks like and making a plan to get there carries over into our personal lives, too. This time of year, it’s hard to get our heads out of that mindset. Self-criticism can dominate your thought process & perspective.

Here’s the truth: Things won’t go as you planned. That’s okay. Your family might not get along the whole time. That’s okay. Instead of spending this entire holiday season trying to make things perfect, take time to enjoy the experience, no matter how chaotic it might be.

Let it be.


Day 3: Cut your family some slack.

If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own. -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

You know those dysfunctional family members of yours? It’s like they live in a completely different world (or universe, for that matter) than you.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to judge them, as if you’ve suddenly become an expert in family psychiatry. It’s just as easy for them to judge you, too. In fact, they probably think your family is dysfunctional & weird, too.

Instead of judging them, embrace your differences. Let things slide, avoid taking sides, and try to be a peacemaker. You’ll have more mental energy to put into what you can control, your happiness.


Day 4: Giving Back

No-one has ever become poor by giving. – Anne Frank

As an entrepreneur, you’re in a constant battle to make it to the top. It can be hard not to always think about “what is in it for me?” when doing just about anything.

There is so much more to have in mind though, Others.

Think about the last time you were going through a difficult situation and how powerful it was to have someone offer you help. Putting people before profits leads to a life richer than you can ever imagine.

This holiday season remember how powerful it can be to give. This year I encourage you to ring a bell for the Salvation Army, donate to Toys-for-Tots, find a way to get involved and give back. Do it with the right intentions, of receiving nothing in return, and you will find a much-needed moment of peace.


Day 5: Enjoy Doing Nothing

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.- Socrates

There’s always a little part of me that feels guilty whenever I’m not being productive. I’ve found out, however, that always being busy can actually be counterproductive.  If you can never turn your brain off, you can never get some real rest.

Going through your mental to-do lists when you’re trying to get into a good movie is the opposite of relaxing.

Burn-out is real. The good news? It can be easily avoided. Take some time this season to shut that mind off. No family stress, no work, nothing. Take a walk and admire Christmas lights, make hot chocolate to sip by the fire, or curl up and watch your favorite holiday movie. Enjoy doing nothing, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a day.


Day 6: Realize It’s Okay to Say ‘No’

It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. – Steve Jobs

In the age of FOMO and not wanting to miss any opportunity that comes your way we have all become ‘yes’ people. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’.

Instead of feeling like you have to go out of your way to make others experiences great, try to put yourself and your experience first. You don’t have to go to every holiday party, get together, or gift exchange you’re invited to. It’s okay to sit it out and get some much needed R&R time to yourself.

Holidays are a time for rest and relaxation, running around like a chicken with your head cut off will just make you more insane.


Day 7: Schedule Time for Yourself

It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s a necessity. – Mandy Hale

It’s just as important that you take time this holiday to attend to YOU. With only a few days left until Christmas and New Years, your calendar is probably full (if not overbooked).

Block out a few hours over the next few days for yourself. Catch up on to-do’s, get some last minute holiday shopping done, or simply watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Whatever will make you happy and ready to take on the rest of your festivities full-throttle.

If you don’t designate this time for yourself in advance, something will come up to take its place!


Day 8: Embrace Instability

Change is never painful, only resistance to change is painful- Buddha

We’re at a pivotal point in our lives where nothing seems to be stable. Friends graduate, move, & get real jobs. Families grow up. Traditions change. Chances are, the holidays aren’t the same as they were when you were a kid.

I’m all for nostalgia, but sometimes, dwelling on the past can backfire. It’s hard not to miss the carefree days of winter break when our biggest concerns were what made it on our Christmas lists.

Instead of letting change make you feel unsteady, embrace it.  Change opens the door to let something new into your life. It’s up to you to make the most of it. The holidays are a time to go with the flow, not get caught up in play-by-play plans or expectations (see day 1!).


Day 9: Adjust Your Perception

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses- Abraham Lincoln

Your life is what you perceive it to be. Whether your life is good, bad, or in between is completely up to you.

For example, I made a lot of mistakes during my first year as an entrepreneur. The fact I’m still living at home is enough to show you I haven’t figured everything out quite yet. I can look back on this year and think about what I didn’t do right. I could look at this year as a failure.

Or, I can change my perception & make this year a success. I can choose to focus on the progress I’ve made. The fact I was able to launch my first beta test, make my first dollar on my own, and inspire other student entrepreneurs is worth celebrating.

It takes a lot of discipline to get control over your perception. You constantly have to play devil’s advocate to your own mind and opinions. Like everything, it takes practice. Meditation has done wonders for me, but simply being mindful of how you perceive something is enough to start getting control of it.  


Day 10: Take a Break From Social Media

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

Social media alters our perception to see the world through a filtered lens. Right now, your social feeds are probably flooded with pictures depicting the perfect holiday season. As you scroll through, you might compare your holiday experience to theirs.

Just remember you’re seeing a filtered version of reality. You’re seeing what people want you to see, not how things really are.

This is a time for you to mentally prep for 2017. Taking a break from social media allows you to come back to the present moment and focus on you and your own happiness.

 


Day 11: Start Visualizing 2017

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. – Harriet Tubman

There are less than 48 hours (!) until Christmas. You’re knee deep in family & festivities by now, in dire need of a little TLC for yourself.

For an instant uplifter, start visualizing what your want 2017 to be. In the midst of the hustle & bustle, let your mind drift to your biggest hopes and dreams for the next year.

Tune out your bickering nephews, drunk uncle, or nagging grandma & use that time to conjure up your best year yet.


Day 12: Count Your Blessings

I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet. Life is full of blessings. Sometimes, we’re just too blind to see them. – Unknown

As entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for new opportunities. We’re always chasing the next best thing. We have to pause and remember what we have accomplished in both our work and personal lives. This time of year is truly about celebrating the good in our world.

Count the blessings that you have in our life; loved ones, friends, family, food, a roof over your head, even having internet to read this. Our culture makes this season about receiving new gifts, instead of remembering the ones you already have in your life.

This Christmas, remember the reason for the season. Find some peace in the blessings you already have in your life & prepare yourself to receive new blessings, no matter how big or small, in 2017.


Happy Holidays!

3 Ways Building my First Prototype Turned me into a Real Entrepreneur

3 reason to build a prototype

This previous March I finished out my very first crowdfunding campaign! It was a daunting task, having had no experience with building and managing one whatsoever, but I exceeded my goal thanks to SPURstartup’s team. I knew the newly acquired funds would be perfect for building a prototype. After a break over the summer I cranked out a couple prototypes and my eyes were opened. Running a crowdfunding campaign was a huge learning experience in and of itself, but building a prototype brought light onto so much more for me, as well and I’m here to share it with you!

    1. Just finish SOMETHING
      As I had mentioned, I took a break from my idea over the summer so I could continue school and begin internships. In all honesty, I also put it off because I had all these funds, I didn’t know HOW to use it on building a prototype. I didn’t want to disappoint all the people who supported my idea. I got advice from Jeremy Vickers, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship director at my University, to just go to Home Depot, get some materials and slap it together. I still put it off for a while, but this September we finally got around to it and I was amazed! Not by our roughly made prototype but by how many ideas and approaches came to mind for our next one.

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      When you have been apart of the process of putting it together, you are forced to think about things you couldn’t have predicted when you were just speculating. When you have something real in front of you, the idea fireworks WILL go off. No matter how scared you are of how something will turn out, remember it’s better to have something bad to work with than nothing at all.

 

    1. Resources are all around
      By having a physical prototype, we were able to show people! A fellow classmate took a look and kindly informed us that a vacuum form would be the perfect tool for making our product faster and look cleaner. He told us about a tools lab on campus with power tools, a 3D printer, and, what we needed, a vacuum form. We were thrilled and tried it out the next week!Stencil FR (2)Definitely ask around your school or area for any tools and spaces that are open for you to use. If you pay for tuition you might as well get what you can out of it! That same week were building prototype two, we went to 1 Million Cups, a coworking space in Dallas. The collaborative entrepreneurship hub offers free-coworking-Wednesdays! I discovered a great space to take advantage of all the startups working there, get advice, and potentially gain resources. Dallas has proven to be a very nurturing place for entrepreneurs. It only makes me more excited to plug-in and utilize all the lovely things Dallas has to help us succeed.

 

  1. It opens doors
    Building a prototype has allowed my team to progress so much more than when it was just a concept. I used Prototype Two to take nicer pictures, which became the center of our official website IcingAid.com. Having a real site that depicted our concept well gave us leverage to share it with potential customers and companies we wanted to connect with. We are now able to collect emails and begin analyzing feedback. We also feel more comfortable to enter business idea competitions–three to be exact– which may also bring us closer to success!
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I hope this inspires you to go out and starting finishing those baby steps! Start with what you know, and before long the right things will come into your life to bring you closer to a running business.

 

7 things holding you back

We are all guilty of not maximizing our potential in some way. Take a look at the list below and think about how you can make yourself more productive in your startup/job and in your everyday life. Remember to keep winning and staying competitive in whatever you do. Do not let anything hold you back.

7 Things Holding You Back (and how to reach your full potential)

  1. Using simple words in emails

    When emailing people, it is important to be direct and to the point. Using filler words does not add value to the message, rather, it is viewed as clutter. Using “but” invalidates everything you said in the statement before and the word “just” is seen as validating your statement to yourself. Take a look at the next email you write and be conscious of where you use these words. This is a great start to writing more succinctly.

  2. Too responsive to email

    Most emails are not time critical. If you cannot answer an email in less than 2 minutes, and you are busy, come back to it. A key thing I have learned is if it truly is important you will receive a follow up.

  3. Doing what is required

    There are base things you have to do in order to get the job done. Do those. However, there is so much more you can expand on. The best ideas come out of digging a little deeper into something. You will impress yourself with how much you can accomplish and learn.


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  4. Not valuing your time or others

    Make it a point to be on time and start things at exact times (a 2:30 meeting means 2:30 NOT 2:32 or 2:35), no more waiting on others that are late without anything said. If you make it a point to be on time, others will follow. This will create a sense of leadership.

  5. Overanalyzing situations

    This is inefficient and limits the amount of work that can get done. If you have all the information in front of you and you understand it, do not walk away without making a decision. The material will never be fresher on your mind than it is in that moment.

  6. Staying silent in a meeting

    I know that when you are in a room with older and “wiser” people you may feel intimidated, forget about that. You need to make an impact and staying silent will not help your cause. Have ideas and share them, it is your job to get noticed by the more experienced and ultimately your fault if you are not.


    via GIPHY

  7. Ignoring others

    I see this every day in the hall or in meetings. Some people feel like they are better than others. And you know what, that is ok. Do not let that be you. You can learn so much from small interactions with people. I mentioned this before in a previous post, a simple Good Morning can really go a long way. New relationships cannot form unless you interact with others.

 

-Jeff B.

Tackling Summer Burnout

This summer my brain has really been in a funk. We’ve grown up taught that summer is a time to take a break in life to have fun. It’s hard to shake the mentality.

When you’re working around the clock and balancing school, it’s easy to get stuck in a mental rut. You need a mental tune up. Here are my three favorite tricks to feel rejuvenated and accomplished during the dog days of summer. (Spoiler alert: Netflix & chill is NOT one of them).

1. Make a reverse to-do list. You may feel like you are being unproductive, but you’re accomplishing more than you think. Stop thinking about what all you need to get done and start thinking about what all you have done (glass half full kind of thing). Write down what you accomplished at the end of each day to track your progress.

2. Meditate (really!). This one is coming from personal experience. When you’re running at a bazillion miles an hour, it’s no wonder you get stuck in a rut. Meditation does ~wonders~ for my brain that never seems to calm down. Peace is Every Step is my favorite book to learn about meditation. It’s a quick read and transformed the way I work!  

3. Pick up a new hobby. Push your brain to a new limit and channel your creative flow. When I’m not working on SPUR, I spray paint murals and play the drums. This keeps me sane and makes me more productive. When there’s a day I can’t seem to get anything done, I take it off to work on my art and music. This lets me refresh my brain and my soul.

Incorporate things that challenge your brain in new ways into your daily life. You’ll avoid exhaustion, mental fog, and, most importantly, burnout.

 

 

Turning your passions into profits: How being creative landed this designer her own TV show

See how Kayln did it in this candid Q&A.

Entrepreneurship is totally a family thing, at least it is more me. From my intrapreneur sister, Lila, to my designer-turned-TV host cousin, Kalyn. Kalyn Rothaus, the host of Office Spaces, knows what it takes to work hard and break through even the hardest of industries. I can remember back to the days when she was in college bringing home her designs, my Aunt Kit looking at them and asking my 14-year-old self what I thought about it all. (Aunt Kit is the person I credit with kicking off my career- but that’s a story for another day). Kalyn has come a loooong way since college. She has her own TV show, just tied the knot, and is kicking some serious butt. I picked her brain for the quick-and-dirty about what it took to get here and how to brand yourself. Get the deets below!

 


What inspires you to work so hard?!

I am a goal setter and always have been. When I have measurable goals it is easy to work hard to get there faster and enjoy the hard work with perspective on the outcome!

 


How do you stay motivated to break through in such a difficult industry and always believe in yourself?

I truly believe I have always worked hard, but I have also had some luck! I think the combination of being at the right place at the right time in conjunction with hard work creates this magical formula in my life for opportunity.

 


You think outside of the box with your designs- how do you apply your creativity and innovation to everything in your work life?

I apply my creativity to everything in my life. I try my best to be silly, and not take myself too seriously which helps my creativity flow more freely. I find that when I was afraid of what people thought, I couldn’t be as expressive in my work and in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to trust “me” the most. Although, I do have to make clients happy too, so there is a fine line.

 


What is the number one piece of advice to you have for someone who wants to make a name for themselves and be successful?

Say yes. When I was asked to be the on camera Host for Office Spaces, I said yes, even though I was terrified (to say the least). I began to soak up everything around me and learned from everyone I could- from the camera operator to the production assistants, constantly asking what I could do better. I also watched myself on the monitor after shoots to understand how I could improve. The bottom line is, I said yes, in spite of not knowing what yes meant. The truth is, I believe I am smart enough to figure anything out AND ask for help when I need it!

 


Do you think having a personal brand is important? What advice do you have for branding yourself?

Well, before I knew I would have a TV show, I thought about this question a lot. I had no idea how to start. Then, I was thrown into an on camera role, and the most important thing I can do for my “brand” is be me. I am constantly being told what to say on camera, but I always pause and think about how to say things in my own words and express what I believe.  If you are your own brand (especially in a creative industry where we sell ideas and dreams that are not tangible at first) be your unique self and believe in what you create.

Mentor of the Week: Philip Zeller

Project Manager | Netsync Network Solutions

Phil is a Project Manager with Netsync Network Solutions, overseeing network and server infrastructure deployments for customers in the education and healthcare vertical markets. In his career in IT services, Phil has delivered projects for household brands and Fortune 500s like Best Buy, American Airlines, LEGO, and large public sector clients including the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Parkland Memorial Hospital, and the University of Texas system.

Aside from his love for meeting business challenges with IT solutions, Phil is a devoted husband, father to an adopted golden retriever, econ and markets geek, Feed My Starving Children supporter, dance music addict, occasional cyclist, and cancer survivor.

 


Advice for 1st time entrepreneurs:

“Sell, sell, and then collect a profit! Many of today’s entrepreneurs grew up in the age of low interest rates and cheap, readily accessible capital. When Silicon Valley companies that have never delivered a profit  have market capitalizations comparable to Dow 30 components, it’s easy to get caught up in the fallacy that product is more important than profit. While this may hold true in the short run, in the history of market economies, consistently selling products that are both in demand and profitable has never completely gone out of fashion.  To that end, carefully evaluate and understand the risk-to-reward when considering any form of debt or leverage when developing a product. Leverage by definition amplifies any outcome–good or bad.”

 


Biggest learning experience of his career:

Perspective is key, and your customer’s is the most important. Several years ago, I had a demanding customer who had little understanding of the technology we delivered, but was nonetheless under a lot of pressure from his management to have it delivered within a certain timeframe. It was a customer that represented a lot of revenue, and the project itself was fairly small. We encountered substantial, and frequent delays due to the lack of preparation on the part of the customer. It reached the point where the project had exhausted its labor budget and was past the intended due date. Suffering from myopia, I issued a change order to the customer and said that project work would be stalled until additional hours were purchased. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have realized that more so than delivering a project, my goal was to help the customer meet its goals. In the end, the matter was escalated, and my company finished the work for no additional charge. While I may have been right in following the official process, in accordance with our contract, I ignored the customer’s perspective and put our relationship in jeopardy.”

 


What keeps him motivated:

“In all of my pursuits, I focus on the positive impact of my work. When I’ve overseen upgrades of wireless networks for hospitals, I’ve thought about how a faster, more resilient network enables nurses to make patients more comfortable, doctors to diagnose more effectively, and keep patients entertained on their portable devices. In deploying virtual desktop environments for school districts, I think about the enhanced quality of instruction that comes from teachers and students can access their lessons and homework from any computer or device. The greater the outcome of my work, the greater my motivation.”

Student of the Week: Jason Dang

University Texas Dallas
Founder | LEO Supply Co.
US Marine Corp

Jason was crowdfunding for LEO Supply Co.: here


Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?

“I have two main desires for becoming an entrepreneur. The first of which is that I love to help people grow, expand, and better their lives. This can range from helping a complete stranger to helping friends and family. The second is that I love the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want, whether it be play or business.”

 


How do you stay motivated?

“With entrepreneurship there’s a lot of freedom to  make your own decisions and mistakes, and grow. And at the end of it all, if it all pays off the financial reward along with the feeling of accomplishment is what allows me to continue to do whatever I want.”

 


You were in the Marine Corp, how did that experience influence who you are as an entrepreneur?

“My biggest take away from being in the Marine Corp is that I’ve become more flexible and adaptable. In the Corp, plans change on the fly and you have very few resources to work with in most cases. These two aspects have taught me to be able to do a lot with what little I have and to be able to understand that things happen and you have to be able to adapt and overcome to get the results you want.”

 


How has SPURstartup helped you with your startup journey?

“SPUR has helped me in the sense of making me physically hone down how to explain my startup idea and has forced me to create a foundation for an online presence. This gives me the ability to find out what works and continue building my network.”