We’ve Moved!

17 05 2010

20-Something’s Potential is self-hosted now!  Same content, but now a little more search engine friendly.  New posts coming soon.

Check it out here:
www.20somethingspotential.com





The ‘Stop Doing’ List: A New Way to Look at Resolutions

11 12 2009

I had it all planned out.

4 amazing part-time internships and 18 credit hours, all in one semester.  These jobs would give me the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best and brightest and gain the kind of experience that most students could only dream of.  I could do it – just 14 hours a day and 6 days a week of tightly scheduled classes, meetings, and study time.  I would make it work – just barely.

Well, a good friend invited me to read an article by author Jim Collins entitled Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List, in which he discusses the importance of worthy, sustainable priorities.  He suggests the following guideline in planning:

Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

And so now here I am, having to make some bold decisions about where my priorities lie.  This has forced me to make some uncomfortable choices and turn down a few opportunities.  But at the same time, I believe this will allow me to really focus on the remaining priorities and make an even greater difference than I could have being spread so thin.

So for the new year, if you find your plate a little full, rather than piling more on, consider where your priorities lie.  Drop the extraneous and give what’s remaining your full, undivided attention.





Get Out, Get Involved, Leave Your Comfort Zone

10 11 2009

For the past few months I have been involved in the Students for Social Entrepreneurship club creating their website. After many hours of work, it is finally finished, aside from fleshing out some content.  What’s the moral of this story?  Get out there, get involved, and leave your comfort zone.  I had never made a site before, but I was extremely interested in social entrepreneurship, and I wanted some web design experience.  This has turned out to be such an enriching experience for me.  Is there something you’ve wanted to do?  Go ahead, give it a try.

You can check the website out at http://studentsforsocent.org/.

Students for Socent Website





Staying Organized and Motivated: Planners and To-do Lists

29 10 2009

For the past couple of years I have been struggling to find a planning device that met my needs as a student.  I tried Franklin Covey – too bulky.  I tried a small Day Runner – not enough space.  I tried a PDA – too clunky.   I tried no planner – too many missed deadlines.  I even resorted to using my phone’s calendar, but texting every appointment gets old really fast.  After all this searching, I have finally found the ultimate planning device – I found Google Calendar.  Here’s why it’s great:

1. Versatility – Create appointments, move them with the drag of a mouse, create repeating appointments, set up SMS reminders, and the list goes on.

2. Integrability – Seamless integration with other google services.   Gmail recognizes event information in emails and can send it to Google Calendar in just one click.  One click will also bring up a google map of the event location.

3. Ubiquity – On campus, most organizations now have google calendars.  Many students (especially in the business school) are also adapting.  The power of this comes in the ability to mash multiple calendars together.   Consider the situation in the screenshot below.   Not only do I see my personal events, but I can see the BYU Academic calendar, events from Students for Social Entrepreneurship, my internship group’s calendar, and Management Consulting Club events.  All of these events are updated and maintained by someone else so I can focus my attention elsewhere.

Calendar

 

On top of the calendar, a surprisingly effective tool for staying organized and motivated is the to-do list.  The beauty of a to-do list is in it’s simplicity – all you really need is a piece of paper (although Google Calendar does have a nice to-do list feature).  A couple of semesters ago I stumbled upon an end of semester ritual that has helped me immensely to stay motivated.  About a month or two before the semester is over, I gather all my syllabi, take inventory of  my remaining assignments, and make a giant to-do list of everything.  Then I count how many items are on the list and calculate how many items I need to cross off each day.  There is a certain satisfaction in having a large list to plow through – it almost becomes a game of ‘let’s see how far ahead I can get’.

So there you have it.  Two great productivity tools.  Both free and easy.  If you don’t already have a good organization system, get your calendar and to-do list off of your mind and onto paper (or computer screen).   You’ve got more important things to focus on.





7 Tools for Learning a Language

22 09 2009

One of the best ways to connect with the world and expand your horizons is to learn a new language.  Of course, this task sounds daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be – just take it one step at a time.  I have been working on Spanish since the beginning of the summer, and have loved every moment of it.  In the process, I have come up with a list of 7 tools that will guarantee language learning success.

1. Motivation – There’s no way around it – learning a language is work.  The only way to succeed is to be motivated.  Choose a language that has special meaning to you.  Come up with milestones and rewards along the way (see tool 7) to help you stay excited.

2. Quality Method – Some methods of learning a language are just better than others.  I prefer self-directed methods because you know your learning style better than anyone else.  Still though, there are many options.  For my language learning, I have been relying heavily on Fluenz program. This program focuses on teaching usable structures from the beginning rather than teaching simple words and phrases that you don’t see in real life.  For instance, while a program like Rosetta Stone might teach you “The apple is red”, Fluenz teaches “How much does that cost?”.  For me, this method is very encouraging, as you will be communicating from day one.

3. Steno Pad – If you aren’t familiar with this, as steno pad is a small notebook with the spiral on top and a line down the middle of each page.  It was originally developed for dictation in shorthand so that two pages of information could fit on one page.  However, it is perfect for language learning.  Simply put any new words you learn in English in the left column, and in the foreign language on the right.  Then, review them frequently.  These notebooks typically have about 80 sheets with 22 lines each.  This translates to 1,760 words, or 3,520 words if you write on both sides – this equates to 1 notebook to reach fluency!  For me that is encouraging.

4. Verb Book – Conjugation, conjugation, conjugation.  Any way you look at it, you can’t master a language without knowledge of its verbs and their conjugation.  A verb book is a must.

5. Immersion Content - To really grasp a language, you need to become comfortable leaving the textbook behind and seeing it used in the real world.  Immersion content helps to bridge this gap.  This can include anything in that language outside of your regular learning program, including TV shows, magazines, books, etc.  Learn to love the arts and media surrounding your language.

6. Language Partner – Having someone to talk to in your new language is essential for fluency.  Take time regularly to have conversations in the new language and to receive feedback from a fluent speaker.  Luckily, the internet makes this process much easier.  Sites like Livemocha.com specialize in bringing language learners from all over the world together so that you can get experience no matter how obscure your new language is.

7. Reward – This goes back to motivation.  Reward yourself as you reach milestones in your language learning.  Naturally this reward would come as a trip to a foreign land where your new language is spoken.  Rewards don’t have to be that expensive though.  My rewards in Spanish include trips to local Mexican restaurants where I can practice speaking.

With these tools, you should be ready to expand your horizons and tackle any language.  If you’re working on a language, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going!





My Grand Project – Starting a Business

16 07 2009
This summer has been extremely busy for me – honestly I think I always bite off more than I can chew.  I get off of work at 6 every evening and then the rest of the time is torn between learning Spanish (my summer goal), cooking (my stress relieving hobby), studying sales (I can be a pushover and I’m trying to change that), writing this blog (quite time intensive), and also church activities.  So what do I do?  Take on another task – starting a business.

Last year I was reading a book by Cal Newport titled How to Win at College.  For this book, he interviewed some of the nation’s most successful students to find out what made them tick.  He then outlined their advice in his book.  The concept that was most influential to me was the idea of always having a grand project – a goal you work towards outside of the regular curriculum to cultivate your confidence and a can-do attitude.   He explained the concept of a grand project as follows:

Start Your Project - Be Invincible!

Start Your Project - Be Invincible!

“Your Grand Project should consist of a group of achievable, nonacademic accomplishments that, when combined, move you closer to an exciting aspiration.  Think big.  Be ambitious.  When you explain a Grand Project to someone it should elicit a response of “Wow!”  Working on such a project will keep you constantly excited and energetic.  It will keep the pressures of course work in perspective, and make it easy to brush aside the little bad occurrences that pop up now and then.  When you work on a highly ambitious project, you feel invincible, like you are a step ahead of the rest of the world, forging unique paths to great success.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t always succeed.  The novelty and thrill of taking chances is a powerful force.”

Ever since reading that, I’ve been in search of my own Grand Project.  I’ve had some crazy business ideas along the way (juice boxes marketed towards adults, an ‘organic’ lawn mowing business consisting of a flock of goats) and also some good ones too (what, you think I’d share those?).  Finally, I settled on something that met my criteria – it helps people, it is managable (along with school and another job), it has virtually no startup cost, and it has high earning potential.  What is it?  A cleaning business for students.

Now before you tell me this is the worst target audience ever for such a luxury service, hear me out.  Here in Provo, all the student apartment complexes have mandantory cleaning checks and they always seem to be at the worst time, like right before midterms or during finals.  If your apartment isn’t clean, you get slapped with a large fine.

And that’s where I come in – to save the day – to clean for you when you don’t have time.  Because, You’ve Got Better Things to Do™.

I’ll keep you up to date on how everything goes.  In the mean time, what is your grand project?  Is it a business?  Is it research?  Is it something artistic?  Really anything out of the box will do.  Try it out – start a project.  You’ll feel invincible as it begins to unfold.





Remembering Names, Part 2

13 07 2009

In an earlier post, I mentioned a unique method for learning names.   However, no matter how good we are, we are all  human – sometimes we will forget.  In fact, although with our self-deprecating attitudes we tend to think otherwise, the truth is that 95% of the population is bad with names (and 85% of statistics are made up on the spot – but that’s besides the point).  So the question isn’t so much whether we forget, but how we handle forgetting.  Imagine two scenarios:

Scenario 1. You forget someone’s name.  You are too embarrassed to ask them.  You continue to be awkward around them for weeks thinking that someone will drop their name eventually and you won’t have to ask.  You can’t establish an open relationship.  Eventually, someone does drop their name.  But by now it is too late – their opinion of you is already formed – you are the shy awkward person who seems to always hold back.

Scenario 2: You forget someone’s name.  You are embarrassed, but you ask them to remind you anyways (this may even happen more than once).  They tell you, and you laugh and joke about the whole situation.  You establish a normal relationship.  They forget that you forgot their name because  of other good experiences that come along.  Their opinion of you is formed – you are an awesome person who is fun to be around and knows when to not take life too seriously.

Same situation, two different approaches, two different outcomes.  Which do you prefer?  Don’t be afraid to ask.

-Ellis








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