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There’s this vision of success that has been hammered into us over time. Power, prestige, and pay are at the forefront of what it means to build a successful career. Our parents and grandparents built lifelong careers with single companies, took home a pension at the end, and knew that if they kept their heads down, they would be taken care of.

That world exists no more, and we’re all on the same journey to find out what this new world of work looks like.

Living for Monday is built on the belief that work can be something different, something better, something special. We believe our work — the 9-to-5 — is our outlet for making an impact. Not something to be endured, but something to be invested in.

While some people remain stuck in the industrial mindset, there is another group taking a more inspired approach to their work. They wake up every Monday looking forward to the week ahead, ready to tackle their work with purpose and hustle.

The people who make up the second group are building a new definition of career success built around hustle, experiences, freedom, and community. That’s the group we’ve built Living for Monday to serve.

Living for Monday is for:

 

Young Professionals in the First Ten Years of Their Careers

At the most basic level, Living for Monday is built for young professionals between the ages of 21 – 30. They’ve graduated college in the last 10 years and are in the throws of finding direction in their careers, building a foundation of skills to fuel their growth, and forming the relationships that will become a powerful network over time.

…In Atlanta

Specifically, we’ve launched Living for Monday with a focus on young professionals in Atlanta. Anyone is welcome, but we’re focused on Atlanta for now because we know we can deliver a higher level of service to young pros in our hometown. We’ll be able to host events, offer meeting space for local mastermind groups, and open up spots in our in-studio audience because our members will be close by.

Our geographic focus will grow as our resources allow us — and of course, our online workshops, workshop library, and blog will be accessible from anywhere, anytime. Our top priority is delivering an outstanding customer service that is unmatched.

…Who Work in PR, Marketing, and Advertising

This was a tough decision, but after careful consideration, we’ve narrowed our focus to young professionals in Atlanta who work in PR, Marketing, and Advertising. Nearly every successful entrepreneur whose blog we read or whose advice we’ve received has shared the same general piece of advice:

“Narrow your market so far that it makes you uncomfortable at first. That’s the only way you’ll ever grow enough to serve a wider audience.”

We’re passionate about the power of PR, marketing, and advertising, as well as the people who work in those fields. When Josh and I independently answered the question of what industry we would focus on if we could only choose one segment, we both came up with the same answer.

Our entire workshop roadmap will focus on the needs of young pros in Atlanta in PR, Marketing, and Advertising. We’ll cover soft skills like productivity, public speaking, and goal setting, as well as more industry-specific topics like typography, press releases, and pitching. If you have an idea for a workshop topic, send it to us via our contact page.

…And Want to Build a Meaningful Career, Become Great at What They Do,  and Surround Themselves with Remarkable People

Perhaps most importantly, we’ve built Living for Monday for the young pros who believe work is about more than power, prestige, and pay. Sure, those things factor in over time, but our audience believes that a successful career is built on doing work based on beliefs, finding power in great people, having the grit to be great, and building habits that make us happy.

Being able to wake up on Monday morning excited to learn, grow, and do important work is much more important than being able to say we work for the most prestigious firm in town. If we can have both, that’s great, but finding meaningful work is at the top of our priority list. That’s the kind of person that makes up our community.

We’re on a mission to change the way the world thinks about work — from an attitude of TGIF to one of Living for Monday. That means building Living for Monday for the people who understand that we only get one life and one career. We might as well make it meaningful, become great at what we do, and be surrounded by great people along the way.

If that sounds like you, sign up for one of our free upcoming workshops. We’re building them for you.

 

**Photo = 2013 World Water Week Young Professionals by worldwaterweek on Flickr

Yesterday I wrote a novel introducing the new Living for Monday and I promised several follow-on posts to dive a bit deeper on specific aspects. I’ll attempt to be thorough, but intentional with my words so you get what you want without spending a ton of time.

Here’s how the new Living for Monday model works in a nut shell (or, how you can make the most of the resources we’re providing):

  1. Watch workshops for free
  2. Build your library or become a member
  3. Once you’re a member, invest in the community and it will invest back in you

Watch Workshops for Free

On the site, you’ll see that almost everything is focused on one particular action we want you to take: sign up for a free, live, online, upcoming workshop. We’ve laid out an entire roadmap for the next three months are so, aimed at providing the foundations for building a career that matters, making an impact through your work, and having a good time along the way.

You can view upcoming workshops from the Homepage, the workshop calendar on the Watch Free page, or the course roadmap on the Become a Member page. Our first eight courses include:

  1. APRIL 14 – To Do’s: Reduce Stress, Get More Done, and Consistently Produce Results
  2. APRIL 28 – How to Achieve Unreasonable Goals Through Reasonable Habits
  3. MAY 12 – How to Build a Mastermind Group
  4. MAY 26 – The First 90 Days: What to Do When You Land a New Job
  5. JUNE 9 – Personal Finance Habits
  6. JUNE 23 – Negotiate for a Raise or Promotion at Work
  7. JUNE 30 – Take Control of Your Annual Performance Review
  8. JULY 21 – Build and Maintain Your Inner Circle

All of these workshops are in direct response to feedback from our community of young professionals here in Atlanta. We’re focusing on productivity, goals, relationships, money, and job performance in these first eight workshops. If you have ideas for other workshops, or you have specific challenges you’re facing at work, drop us a line and tell us so we can incorporate your ideas into our workshop roadmap.

When you find a workshop you’re interested in, head over to its signup page, click Sign Up, and create a free account. I have a founder’s secret to share here: you are making exactly zero commitments and taking on zero obligations by creating an account. This is the most low-risk think you will ever do.

Once you sign up for a workshop, you’ll be on our list for the workshop, so we’ll send you reminders leading up to the day of. When it’s time for your workshop, you’ll login into the Living for Monday site with your free account and then navigate to the livestream page, where you’ll be able to watch from any device with a screen and connected to the internet. Alongside the livestream will be a Twitter chat where you’ll be able to ask questions, which we can answer live, and interact with other people watching the ‘shop.

I’m usually bit more humble than this, but it is one of the coolest things on the face of the planet that you’ll be able to access professional development un-training 1) for free, 2) live, 3) in an interactive setting where you can get your questions answered and 4) in a way that doesn’t suck the life out of you like most webinars. But that’s a personal opinion.

You have absolutely no obligation to ever pay us any money for watching a live ‘shop (or any other live broadcast we ever put out). After the event, we’ll migrate you over to our main email list where you’ll be able to optin to receive our monthly workshop calendar at the beginning of each month, a weekly best of the blog email, a daily RSS feed of the blog, or none of the above. Regardless, you’ll keep your free account for one click workshop signup foreva, foreva eva, foreva eva (Outkast, anyone?).

Build Your Library or Become a Member

Build Your Library

All of our workshops will be available for individual sale after the livestream version has been aired. Why would you buy a course if you’ve already seen the livestream version? You’ll build you own library of courses that appeal directly to your professional needs. You’ll also get to download all of the supplementary materials for the course, which will help you put the material into action.

Not everyone gets to see the live version, but they might not want to become a member of the community just yet, which makes buying a single workshop perfect for you. Others will have very specific learning needs and will need a workshop immediately. And some won’t want to get deeply involved in a community of fellow young professionals just yet, which makes our single workshops perfect for you.

Become a Member

For less than the cost of two workshops per month, you can become a member of the community. When you become a member, you get access to the entire workshop library, which will only grow over time. However, the real value comes from the community that comes with membership.

Members get:

  • Living for Monday Mastermind Group membership
  • Exclusive invites to join us as part of our in-studio audience for workshops on site in Atlanta
  • Access to monthly community events in our major cities of operation
  • Virtual office hours with the Living for Monday staff every other week
  • Exclusive invites to quarterly retreats, our annual conference, and any other events we can dream up to serve you (this is just a small hint at our future growth plans)

Invest in the Community and We Will Invest Back in You

Every member is required to join a Living for Monday mastermind group. That sounds threatening, but mastermind groups are the key to our community. Mastermind groups are made up of 6-12 community members who share some combination of location, experience, industry, and/or career goals. The groups set their own culture, including meeting time and place, frequency, format, and more.

Every group meets under the Living for Monday Community Agreement, which members sign in their first mastermind group meeting. The Agreement is our shared contract with one another to invest in one another, always maintain the group’s integrity (what happens at group meetings stays there), and to bring up the truly meaningful topics of conversation rather than wasting time in small talk that does little to help you reach your potential.

We also provide meeting templates and suggested formats to make sure you get the most possible out of your meetings. We also create discussion guides for everyone of our workshops, in case your group wants to use our training to fuel your conversations.

So there you have it. How to engage with the new Living for Monday. At a minimum, go ahead and sign up for an upcoming course. They’re free, live, and online over the lunch hour. There’s no risk, and if you like it (we think you will, but we’re biased), consider becoming more involved with the community. We’re here to serve you, the ambitious, generous, and creative young professional.

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What?! What happened to Livingformonday.com? Is this even the same company? I’m melting, I’m melting!

Welcome home, you community-craving, growth-seeking, impact-driven young professionals. We’ve finally built the thing you’ve been asking for.

I want to do a couple of things in this post:

  1. Give you a brief history of why Living for Monday exists and how we got to where we are today
  2. Tell you where the ideas for our training + community model came from
  3. Give you a tour around the new site
  4. Whet your appetite for what’s to come this week and in the next several months

 Living for Monday: A Brief History

  • August 2011: Barrett resigns from his position as a staff consultant in EY’s Performance Improvement practice. After becoming disenchanted with management consulting as a body of work and lifestyle, Barrett went in search of more meaning in his work.
  • September 2011: Barrett spends a month in the mountains with his dog, his bookshelf, and groceries. He uses the time for introspection, reading the entire Bible for the first time, and setting the initial vision for Living for Monday.
  • October 2011 – May 2012: Barrett creates an initial career search curriculum entitled Career Kickstarter. He tests the curriculum through one on one coaching with six college students.
  • May 2012 – December 2012: Barrett goes back to the drawing board after realizing that students needed much more than self-awareness and self-discovery training. He adds tactical information like resume building, cover letter writing, networking, interviewing, and negotiating to the Career Kickstarter written curriculum. He works with a team of interns to turn the curriculum into a 250 page ebook and 90-module video course with supplementary exercises and worksheets.
  • January 2013: We use $10,000 of friends and family money to fund the new Livingformonday.com, designed by Shatterboxx. We also launch CareerKickstarter.com, where we made the ebook and video course available for sale.
  • March 2013 – May 2013: Living for Monday partners with the University of Georgia Terry College of Business to run a Career Kickstarter pilot program with 50 students. 42 students sign up and 28 complete the 12 week career search program. Of those that finish, 90% landed jobs with which they were highly satisfied, beating the all-student average placement rate by 10%+.
  • May 2013, Pt. 1: We realize students are a bad target audience due to their lack of willingness and ability to pay for Career Kickstarter, even if they know and appreciate the value. Similarly, we find that university career centers are even worse customers. They are understaffed, underfunded, and stuck in the educational-industrial complex that serves their bottom line before serving students. We abandon Career Kickstarter as the core of our business model. Time to pivot.
  • May 2013, Pt. 2: It’s pivot or die time at Living for Monday. Barrett goes in search of a family and friends round of fundraising to fuel two years of base-level operating expenses for two full time employees (one of whom is me). Barrett successfully recruits Josh to join the Living for Monday team.
  • May 2013 – October 2013: The Living for Monday wilderness period. Funded, but lacking a vision for our next move, we fall back on Barrett’s consulting roots and Josh’s web development experience. Barrett becomes curator of Atlanta Global Shapers, travels to Portland and Geneva on business, and interns for Seth Godin. All of the experiences combine with the Career Kickstarter failure to form a new direction for the business.
  • October 2013 – March 2014: The new Living for Monday is born. Josh and Barrett create a shared vision for the future of the company. Starting with a broad vision that lacked focus, we eventually narrow to a focused, inspired, and creative training + community model for young professionals. Which brings us to today.

The New Living for Monday Model: Training + Community for Ambitious, Creative, and Generous Young Professionals

The new Living for Monday model reflects every experience I’ve had over the past three years.

Lesson #1: Businesses are doing a terrible job of investing in their young professionals, losing out on a massive opportunity to build great culture

At Ernst & Young, I learned what it’s like to do work that has little significance related to my personal beliefs, values, and interests. I was very good at management consulting and I could be making alot more money if I were still in the industry. But the work simply wasn’t important — to the extent I was motivated, it was entirely because of external factors like money, prestige, and appearances.

Further, I learned that businesses (on average) do a terrible job of investing in the development of their people — and EY is part of an industry that supposedly invests heavily in people. Businesses tend to invest most heavily in people who have been there for a long time, have proven that they are high performers and have reached a certain level of the organization (typically middle management). Because of this trend, young professionals receive very little training early in their careers, despite the fact that so much research shows that the first ten years at work make up the period in which we grow most as individuals and professionals.

Lesson #2: Universities, career centers, and therefore students are sometimes clueless about the world of work

In building Career Kickstarter and working with universities, I realized just how out of touch campus life can be from the world of work. Of course there are exceptions, but in general it seems like a lost cause. Students sit in class with out of touch professors teaching business lessons that were applicable 15 years ago. Students leave college, on average, with degrees that mean very little when it comes to their ability to deliver on their roles and responsibilities at work.

Students are exposed to relatively few opportunities in the world of work through the institutions where they learn. Big business makes big donations, and they get a disproportionate amount of attention from universities and their students. Every student in business school thinks they need to go to work for a Fortune 500, a big four accounting firm, an “A-list” agency, or a prestigious bank or consultancy. Some students thrive in those environments upon graduation, but most simply become disillusioned with what it means to work and feel duped by the system.

Lesson #3: Young Professionals in Their First 10 Years at Work are Optimistic, Inspired, Open-Minded, and Curious

The Atlanta Global Shapers have shown me a new world of possibility. The same goes for the Living for Monday contributors, the talented entrepreneurs at Atlanta Tech Village, and the inspiring people I’ve met at World Domination Summit. Despite the lack of practical training and personal development being delivered by business and educational institutions, young pros are remarkably resilient.

I’ve become intensely passionate about the potential of our first 10 years at work. Our first ten years represent the greatest years of change, salary growth, movement between jobs/organizations, and positioning for the legacy we will leave in our careers. The top 50% of Millennial young professionals realize this and they’re eager to build new skills and habits that will give them the freedom to pursue their goals. They’re also incredibly passionate about building communities of like-minded young pros who are ambitious, generous, and creative.

Lesson #4: Krypton, CreativeLive, Lynda, Fizzle, and Saddleback Church all provide valuable inputs to our new model

Working with Seth Godin and our talented team on the Krypton project was incredibly inspiring. Perhaps more importantly, it showed me the possibility of what we could build on the web. Much of the new Living for Monday design comes from our work on that project. Similarly, the idea of combining online learning with offline community comes directly from the Krypton model.

CreativeLive has shown me what is possible for making learning accessible to anyone while still building a profitable business model. Our free livestreaming of all of our content is inspired by CreativeLive. The same goes for the production quality and in-studio audience for all of our workshops, for which we’ve partnered up with the great team at Friendly Human.

We’ve learned a ton from Lynda.com. They have a massive library of valuable training content. On the one hand, their library is so large and lacks curation such that it makes the experience for a new learner incredibly intimidating and confusing. A 2013 Forbes article showed that the $100M company is moving towards more curated, in-house content over contracts with experts to produce new courses. Our monthly subscription model and our in-house content production is inspired by Lynda.

Fizzle.co has one of the most inspiring communities of which I’ve ever been a part. “Fizzlers” as we call each other, are incredibly passionate about helping each other succeed. They love spending time together and heavily invest in one another’s success. Our mastermind groups, community events, and online forums are all inspired by building a powerful community similar to Fizzle.

Finally, Rick Warren and Saddleback church provided inspiration for the way we want to grow our community. As a company, we want to provide the most inspiring and creative workshops for young professionals in the world. We want to be the most relevant and relatable source of un-training for young pros. While people will come to us for content, we know that our sustained growth as a community will rely on the people who make it up. We can only create content, structure, and branding that supports the kind of community we want. It will be up to you to build it, which is exactly why Warren made small groups the centerpiece of Saddleback church. People who don’t join a mastermind group will be asked to leave the Living for Monday community. We’d rather have great community than more money, plain and simple.

The Collective Lessons

Collectively, all of these lessons and experiences have added up to the model we’ve built for the new Living for Monday. We’ll share in more depth about different aspects of the model over the coming days, but that’s plenty for now.

 

A Tour of The New LivingforMonday.com

Our overall strategy for the new LivingforMonday.com was to cut it down to the absolute essentials. The old site was busy, old, not responsive, and built around the blog as the centerpiece. The new site is responsive, flat, elegant (we think), reflects the brand we want to build, and is focused on our workshops (the centerpiece of our new model).

The New Homepage

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I know I’m biased, but I love this homepage. It’s elegant, simple, and speaks to the core of what we do. We’re here to help you become great at what you do so you can make an impact through your work. We want to give you the freedom to pursue your career goals by giving you the tools to succeed.

The How it Works section is as simple as we could make the new model. Our livestreamed online workshops are free so that you can try us out without taking any risks or spending any money. Becoming a member means you become a true member of the community, including access to all of our live events plus the workshop archives. Reaping the rewards means we’re going to help you turn your training + community into the opportunities you dream of.

Underneath How it Works is an Upcoming Workshops section that shows you the next four upcoming workshops. You can click through to sign up and create an account for free.

Blog

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We completely redesigned the blog experience. The entire blog is built on a responsive card system focused on the reading experience. We wanted to give you access to the content you want most in a format that creates a delightful reading experience, regardless of device. This was a big step in the right direction.

We have 15+ contributing editors here in Atlanta who have been hard at work creating valuable content. We’re calling the blog: Pro: A weblog for young professionals by young professionals on what it takes to be great in your first ten years at work. We’ll be quickly expanding to include contributing editors in four other cities as soon as possible. If you’re interested, contact us.

Watch For Free

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This is the core of what we do. Inspiring and creative workshops to help you make an impact through your work. We’ll start off by producing two 90 minute workshops per month. The faster our community grows, the faster we’ll be able to hire course designers. My goal is to be producing one course per week as soon as possible.

Workshops are 90 minutes long, and we shoot them on location in the Friendly Human studio at Atlanta Tech Village. 20 Living for Monday members get to join us as members of the in-studio audience at no extra cost. Each course is livestreamed over the lunch hour (EST). You don’t have to leave the office and you can watch while you eat.

If you watch live, every course is free. If you want to access the course later, it will be available to our paid members in our workshop library.

Workshop Signup

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When you click on any workshop from the homepage, workshop calendar, or become a member page, you’ll be directed to the workshop sign up page. Each one has the workshop title, date and time we’ll be livestreaming, and a brief description of what you can expect from the workshop.

When you click on sign up, you’ll b asked to sign in or create an account. Creating an account is free, and it allows us to send you a reminder about the upcoming workshops. You’re also able to build a profile and view all of your upcoming workshops. When you become a paid member, your profile will become a training portfolio and you’ll be able to share it with your employer.

Become a Member

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This is where we make money. Once you’ve attended a live workshop or two, we want you to join the community. Becoming a member means you get access to the in-studio audience, monthly community events (Atlanta only at the moment), and every other week virtual office hours with the Living for Monday team.

Most importantly, becoming a member means you’ll get to join one of our mastermind groups. They consist of 8-10 Living for Monday members in the same city who share similar career interests or goals. They are your support group and your source of accountability for reaching your goals. Every group is supported by a Living for Monday community manager on our team.

Finally, members get sneak peeks at our growth plans. If you know me (or Josh), you know that we have much grander plans than what you can currently see at Living for Monday. Feedback from our members will determine which new offerings we create first.

Contact Us

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If you need us for anything, you can always reach us here. We also provide our real life emails in case you don’t want to use the form. If you have an idea for a course, are having trouble with the site, want to learn more about us, or just have a question you want to chat about, this is how you should get in touch.

Login

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When you sign up for an upcoming workshop, you’ll create an account. When you become a member, your free account will upgrade to a paid account, along with the accompanying benefits. Creating an account gives you one-click workshop sign up and you’ll be able to see all of your upcoming courses on your account page. If you’re a paid member, you’ll see your past courses, which will help you prove your training to a boss or potential employer.

What to Expect in the Next Few Months

The most important thing I want to communicate in this post is this: we’re all in on this thing.

We believe in the training and community model we’re building. The only thing we believe in more are the ambitious, creative, and generous young professionals who make up the community. Everything we do from here on out is to serve young pros in the first ten years of your career. Period. No questions asked.

We have enough funding to last us til the end of the year. By then, we need to have 1,000 members of our community to continue to operate. Once we hit that number, we’ll be off to the races together. I think we can do it within six months and we hope you’ll help us make it happen. We built the business model on two things:

  1. Having 1,000 true fans — 1,000 young pros who are all in on our mission of changing the way the world thinks about work. 1,000 people who believe in living for Monday and making an impact through our work.
  2. Building the most inspiring and creative un-training in the world at a cost that’s affordable to any young professional.

So that’s what we’re doing. We hope you’ll join us.

 

The next few posts will be a series to tell you more about the new Living for Monday. Here are the posts you can expect:

Next week (March 17 – 21, 2014), we’ll have the first articles from our Atlanta contributing editors. We’ll post an article a day and I think you’re going to be very pleased with what these talented people have to offer. Soon after, we’ll invite contributing editors from New York, Chicago, Austin, and Boulder-Denver to join our editorial team. If you’re in one of those cities and interested in writing for us, let me know.

We’ll livestream our first course on April 14th and one every two weeks after that. As our membership grows, we’ll grow our team in lockstep with a goal of producing one course per week by the start of 2015.

Here we go. It’s a whole new world at Living for Monday. We’re building it for you, the ambitious, generous, and creative young professional. We’re building it together. We’re all in. It might not work, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Fear and Gratitude

In today’s world, it can be incredibly easy to get caught up in many different kinds of fear. I’ve written about this before, but it’s come to mind again recently. As a preface, this is a vulnerable post that describes something I struggle with, so if you’re not up for that, it’s ok if you choose to come back tomorrow.

I feel like everywhere I turn there’s another advertisement for cancer care, another blog for someone who just found out they have cancer, or another charity event to raise money for (insert type of person) with cancer. It’s an incredible thing to see so many people rally to the cause and to see the positive effect it has on the people going through the struggle. (This doesn’t apply to just cancer — it can apply to many different topics, but this is one that hits home for me.)

All of these things can add up to be a bit overwhelming at times, especially for me. I’ve always been scared of getting sick — any kind of sick — and cancer is the ultimate form of getting sick. A billboard for cancer care burns a logo into our minds alongside an image of a family member, friend, or coworker we know or knew during their battle with the disease… Which makes it a powerful branding tool for those in the business of treating disease.

As I’ve grown older (perhaps this is a common occurrence), I’ve grown more aware of my mortality… Really, now that I think of it, I’ve been intensely aware of my mortality since a very young age. Seeing things like cancer care advertisements brings that awareness back to the forefront in the form of an intrusion into my psyche that I have not asked for. However, I know there are real people (a growing number) suffering from the disease and it’s a real possibility that many of us will face it in our lifetimes. Compared to their struggle, my fear is of relatively small importance.

So the question I’ve found myself asking is this: in the face of so much uncertainty, and even occasional fear, how can I remain positive, upbeat, and grateful?

One solution came to me as I listened to Episode 6 of the James Altucher Show with Dr. Wayne Dyer. In it, Dr. Dyer asserts that we invite into our lives the things we expect to come into our lives. The power of our mind is immense, and we control what we allow to control us.

As he made the comment, I came to a realization. One way to interpret the landscape I described above is to become fearful and shy away from reality as much as possible. Another is to embrace hope and be ever more grateful for every gift we’re given, whether the gift is related to our health, relationships, finances, career, or anything else.

Whereas an attitude of fear invites that fear into our lives and allows it to take over, an attitude of gratitude and optimism invites positivity into our lives. It allows us to support the people who need us (like those who may have been diagnosed with cancer, recently lost a job, or are suffering through some other challenge), while valuing every opportunity we have to create the life we want.

When we own the fact that we create our reality, it becomes much easier to let go of fear, express gratitude for every gift we have been given, proactively invest in the habits and relationships that create the reality we desire, and ultimately have faith in God that he’ll take care of us if we take care of ourselves.

When I change my outlook, it helps me change my actions, and vice versa. I believe I’m here for a reason. I believe God put me here and gave me free choice to act on my beliefs. And I believe that I have the opportunity to affect my future, today and everyday thereafter. But to do all of the above, I have to come from a place of hope and gratitude, not one of fear and anxiety.

I hope this post is a form of positive affirmation for you today. If you’d like to share fears you’ve had now or in the past, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Organizing People

This past Saturday I spent the day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It’s one of my favorite ways to get outside, do some service work, and feel a sense of accomplishment by getting my hands dirty. My love of Habitat started way back in middle or early high school when I first volunteered through my church with my parents. We had a great time and it’s been engrained in me ever since.

Then, last week two things happened. First, I read this post from Jeff Hilimire (CEO of Dragon Army, former President at Engauge, and fellow Villager at Atlanta Tech Village). Second, I got an email from Atlanta Habitat later in the day Monday or Tuesday saying they needed individual volunteers to help out with building on Clark Howard Way this past weekend.

My immediate response to the Habitat email was to jump on it. Add in the fact that one of my KPIs for the year is to go on a hike, adventure, or service day once a month, and it was a perfect opportunity. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jeff’s iteration of paying it forward, but the reminder about service work clearly stuck in my subconscious mind on some level because I also invited about eight friends to join me on the build day (Habitat needed 17 individual volunteers).

It wasn’t a grand gesture, just a simple text message to friends I love spending time with. To my surprise, half said they would love to, but they already had plans for Saturday. Four others ended up saying yes, and three ended up attending the build day on Saturday.

It gave me great pleasure to do something meaningful with people I care about. I thought about how awesome it was that we were spending time outside on an beautiful day and doing some good in the community at the same time. Which got me thinking about what it means to organize people.

Sometimes I have a tendency to place such gravity on every little event I put together, and I know others experience the same thing. We put together itineraries, Facebook events, and Eventbrite registrations. We invite 100 of our friends in an impersonal way by clicking a button or two on Facebook and publishing a post on our blog. We think we’re being efficient and using technology to our advantage.

The thing is, sometimes the simplest way to rally people to a cause or instigate a great experience is simply to send a text message to a couple people you’re close to. That starts by making a decision: “I am going to do this, whether anyone comes or not.” Making a decision makes it a simple decision for others. They can think: “Barrett’s going, which means I won’t have to go by myself. Do I want to go with him?” It removes the ambiguity and allows them to simply say “Yes” or “No.”

Further, two of my three friends had never been to a Habitat build before, even though I know they’re the kind of people that would love that kind of thing. Indeed, they ended up having a great time, which made me incredibly happy. I’m 99% sure they wouldn’t have gone to a Habitat build on Saturday if I hadn’t sent them a quick message — which is not a knock on them, it’s just a fact. They weren’t on Habitat’s email list, so they couldn’t know about the build day.

I’ve rambled a bit, so I’ll wrap this up. Sometimes the easiest way to organize people is to make a decision about what you’re going to do and then send personal, simple invites to a small group of people you care about. Not everything needs an Eventbrite page, a Facebook event, and a compelling/obligatory pitch. That’s a lesson I’ll carry with me going forward.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned is this: “This might not work.”

The lesson has become more and more engrained in my mind as I’ve seen projects succeed and projects fail. Today I read yet another post from a startup saying they’re closing the doors and shutting down. Having to write that kind of post is a scary prospect for a guy like me who’s 2+ years into a venture that, in all reality, might not work.

As I’ve become more aware of our mortality as an organization in our infancy, I realize how important it is to celebrate the process.

Celebrating the process is something I fully experienced for the first time during my time in NYC last summer, working with a team of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. It was a two week sprint, and at the end, by all of our initial measures of success, it didn’t work. We shipped, but not in the way we thought we would… But I don’t regret a single second of the experience.

I believe part of the reason I don’t have any regrets is that we celebrated the process. We lived the experience, as we were experiencing it. Each of us had to blog daily, and we started each day with a checkin on where we were, where we were going, and the learnings we had taken away so far.

It created a feeling of daily progress and utter enjoyment along the way. We celebrated small wins and enjoyed each other’s company. And at the end, when we knew we weren’t going to ship everything we had built, it hurt like hell.

But the thing is, there’s always that risk up front. This might not work, whatever “this” is, so we have to celebrate what does work along the way. The small wins and the learning matter, because they show us our potential and make it more likely that the next project will work.

Sometimes we’re so future oriented, looking toward the next thing, and imagining what “success” looks like. All of that is important, but when it doesn’t work, all you have left is the joy you felt in each little moment of victory along the way.

So today, I hope you’ll celebrate what you’re learning from your current project. I hope you’ll take time to look at all that you’ve already accomplished. I hope you’ll take note of the wins you’ve created. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.

This might not work. But today… Well, today you can celebrate the process.

Creating User Personas

These past couple of days I’ve spent most of my time thinking through the sales page for our new product at Living for Monday, which will serve as the core of our business model. It was a big project on my to-do list, and it made my brain hurt when I thought about it as a whole.

Usually when my brain starts hurting in response to thinking through a project, it’s because I don’t have a good understanding of the steps to completion OR I don’t have the skills/knowledge/expertise necessary to complete certain steps.

In this case, when I sat down to start writing copy, I realized that I hadn’t done enough thinking about the people who would be reading the page. Instead of pressing forward, I took some time to whiteboard my thoughts on our four different user personas. Here are some of the questions I asked myself as I did the exercise:

  • What is she feeling on her best day at work?
  • What is he feeling on his worst day at work?
  • What does she do day-to-day?
  • How does he think about what he wants from work?
  • What questions are they asking about their careers?

Here’s what the whiteboard looked like at the end of the exercise (Yes, there is foul language in a couple of places. It was a personal exercise, please forgive me):

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I based this exercise on four key personas that we’re serving with our new product offering (this is some of the copy that will appear on our new sales page):

  1. The Fortune 500 Mover and Shaker — you found a job at a household brand name, and you’re proud of. Now you’re trying to find your way through the maze that is a massive organization. We know what it’s like and we’re here to help.

  2. The Professional Services Pro — Accountants, consultants, and bankers, oh my. The world of professional services can be political, competitive, and stressful. We build courses to help you handle it with generosity, gratitude, and growth.

  3. The Agency Life Addict — Account managers and junior designers know that agency life can be downright crazy, and that’s why they love it, and hate it. Our courses will help you manage your career while building the lifestyle you want as well.

  4. The Startup Enthusiast — Startups are all the buzz these days. Salespeople, developers, and generalists know that startup life can be uncertain, but exciting. We’ll help you use your late nights and ambiguous responsibilities to your advantage.

Thinking about specific people in each of these roles allowed me to get into their mindset and thought process much more than I would have if I had gone straight into writing copy. I probably didn’t get everything right, but we’ll be able to leverage this initial process to conduct user interviews as we gather feedback about the product from our target audience.

I missed some key elements of a truly great persona exercise — I didn’t have pictures of the people or names for them. I didn’t fuel my insights with trends from multiple conversations with real people who represent each persona. Finally, I did not validate these insights with objective opinions from mentors, colleagues, or third-party observers.

Have you ever conducted a user persona exercise? What did you learn from it? Was it helpful? Did you make any assumptions that you ended up proving wrong?

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