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





Paper Social Network

13 07 2009

Summer’s here.  Well okay, it’s been here for a while.  But if you live in a college town like me, you know what this means – social life can fall flat, especially if everyone else goes home.  All of the sudden you find yourself back at square one in the meeting new people stage.  Unfortunately, meeting new people is easier said than done.  Sometimes we can get in such a social rut and become so comfortable with a few close friends that when they aren’t around, we don’t know what to do. When this happened to me this summer, I got kind of desparate.  After doing some brainstorming, I got this crazy idea – physically map out my social network.  I thought this would just be a fun experiment, but to my surprise it actually helped me socially.  With this map, I knew exactly who to talk to and where to go to expand my circle of friends.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle.  In that circle, write “Me”.
  2. Create more circles with your closest friends (or groups of friends) directly above and below your circle.  Connect with lines.
  3. Create circles farther out for friends you don’t talk to as much, then connect them to your circle.
  4. For friends of friends, draw circles on the outside connected to the person that you know them through.
  5. Review your map and ask yourself some questions:
    1. Who have I not spent time with lately?
    2. Who might have some great friends I could meet?
    3. Who should I develop stronger relationships with?
  6. Finally, make concrete plans to expand your network.
network

my first social network (yes, I can be a nerd sometimes - I did it on the computer)

It doesn’t matter how large or small your network currently is – this visual approach will help you to see where relationships can be strengthened and where your best sources for new friends are.  Give it a try – let me know how it works for you.

Cheers,

-Ellis





Remembering Names

11 07 2009

Last summer I was placed in an interesting situation.  I had just left Texas and was starting a new year of college at Brigham Young University in Utah.  It so happened that I didn’t know a single person in the apartment complex I was moving to, and I was also slightly introverted and extremely self-conscious (more posts on how I got over that another time).  Being the type of person who always feels the need to work on something, I set a unique summer goal – to shed the “sorry, I’m really bad with names” excuse.  The fact is, I was horrible with names.  Someone would introduce themselves, and the name wouldn’t even stick around for two seconds.

I figured a new life in a new state would be perfect practicing ground for developing this trait.  I had heard various pieces of advice on the subject, but I wasn’t really sure which method would work for me.  So, I made my own.  It consisted of a few simple principles:

1. Always carry a notecard and a pen in your pocket

2. When someone shares their name, make a pointed effort to take mental note of it.  Repeat it in your mind as they talk.  Repeat it back to them in your conversation.

3. Look for something unique and unchanging about that person that you can associate with their name.  It helps if it rhymes with their name, but this is not at all necessary. (ei “Jenny – overly jubilant’ or ‘Mark – sounds like the movie trailer voice’).

4. As soon as they turn their back, take out your notecard, and write down their name and their unique characteristic.  Just a note – if ever there was a place to be euphemistic, this is it!  The last thing you want is for someone to stumble on their notecard and see something  like ‘Kyle  – guy version of Susan Boyle.’

5. Review your notecard that night and also before any situation in which you might potentially see that person again.

I learned a lot about how my memory works from this experience.  Before, when someone would say their name, it would go in one ear and out the other.  This is how we are conditioned to accept information. We let the specifics pass through, and only hold on to the big picture.  What we hear is “Hey my name’s Tanya.  I’m from California.”  What we remember is “she’s a girl and she’s not from here.”  This is how normal interactions should be – if we get bogged down in every detail, it would be too hard to have a normal conversation.   Most people claim to be bad with names because   they haven’t trained themselves to take special note of that one crucial piece of information.

The notecard method forces your mind to focus on names as they come up.  The notecard is a physical reminder that you are responsible to remember the name and the person associated with it.  The beauty of this system is that a focus on names eventually becomes natural and you can shed the notecard.  Go ahead – give it a try.  Meet some new people and show you genuinely care by remembering their names.





Quest for Potential

9 07 2009

We live far beneath our capacities – that is my conviction.   Think about it.  What goals could you reach, what relationships could you build, what lives could you touch, if you gave yourself the time?

This blog is a chronicle of my quest for potential.  In it I will share my goals, my struggles, my breakthroughs, and the lessons I learn along the way on how to reach potential and make a difference in the world.

See what a difference you can make in your life and in the life of others when you set specific goals and learn to live to reach them.