October 17, 2014

Are You Sleepwalking Through LIfe?

TRUE CONFESSION: For a split second this morning, I actually believed my stove was just being friendly instead of displaying the broiler setting!  #sleepwalking

For me getting up and waking up have always been 2 separate events that happen about an hour apart. I only wish that being caught off guard by a seemingly sociable appliance was the goofiest thing that had ever happened to me in the A.M. hours of my life.

I let people who plan to phone me know if they're calling just to talk 8:00 A.M. is fine. If they want a perceptible, intelligent reply, better make it 9. I've also been known to tell people who violate that protocol to speak softly and slowly - in short sentences - using small words. What can I say. The brain want's what the brain wants, and mine wants to wake up when it feels like it.

Sometimes I can blame sleep deprivation for other things that may or may not have happened at later hours in the day such as:

*Waiting in line at the newspaper dispenser at the fast food drive-thru for my order to be taken.
*Driving through a car wash in a mini-van with a car top luggage carrier still filled and attached. (Contents may or may not have spilled out inside the car wash and my van may or may not have been covered with the cleaning materials hanging from it like streamers decorated for a parade.)
*Paying for an order at a fast food restaurant and leaving without my food.
*Leaving my groceries at the store.

This is just a partial list. These are the things I can claim an "excuse" for. Sleep deprivation can be cruel.

What I'm writing about today however is even crueler. It's intentional sleep walking. It's going through our days, weeks, months and years being unintentional. I mean wasting our time, not using our talents. Not even bothering to find out what our talents are. 

How about the times we voluntarily "sleep" through things we see going on around us. Things we know we should do something or say something about...but we just zone out hoping the guy behind us will do or say something instead.

Have you ever spoken up to someone who was being a bully? Ever defended someone who's character was being assaulted unfairly?  Ever stopped to help someone when it wasn't convenient for you? I have done these things. I can tell you that in some instances I was afraid or worried about being late beforehand but none of that mattered after. The feeling of making even a small contribution is exhilarating. In those (way too few) moments I felt like I made a difference. Not a big difference. Not a life changing difference, but a momentary, miniscule difference, and the biggest thing it changed was me.

The things we do that we don't have to do will make us the people we could be but don't have to be. 

It's in the waking up and being engaged that our lives are made richer and more fleshed out. We've heard it said that people may forget what we do but they will never forget how we made them feel. I'll bet you can cite instances of people who have made you "feel" something that you'll always remember.

In case you think I'm preaching here, I'm writing as much to myself today as I'm writing for you. I waste as much time as the next person - possible even a good deal more. That's time I'll never get back or be given the chance to reallocate. It's gone.


Our time here is limited - even though we do everything in our power to block that from our consciousnesses it doesn't change the fact that there are only so many punches left on our cards before we have to turn them in. Time will pass and our greatest aspirations and accomplishments will be nothing but dust. All we really have to leave that will matter, is those who remember how we made them feel that one time.

I'm going to commit to being more awake. (Not in the morning. I can't lie to you.) I'm going to try harder to find the small differences I can make. I can't change the world single-handedly, but I can change the tiny spot of it where I'm standing...even if it's just by smiling here.

P.S. Immediately after finishing typing the above, I walked into the kitchen and tried to fill an upside down mug with water. #mustgetmoresleep!

October 1, 2014

SPARKS: Moments of Creation Vol. 6

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Mentoring is a true act of selflessness. It takes years of experience and breaks the boulders sized obstacles into gravel then uses it to pave a much smoother path for followers to travel - and that's just what this month's featured guest does.

He is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates and young professionals that Mashable calls a Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career.

Apart from that, he looks a bit like Alec Baldwin. When I mentioned that I agreed with others about that, he said "Alec Baldwin just threw up somewhere," so you can see he's as humble as he is passionate about helping build bridges for the next generation headed into the workforce. I'm excited to introduce you to:


How did the idea for YouTern come about? 

For a decade before we launched YouTern, I had worked with two start-ups in the online recruiting space. The first was an amazing experience; we were all focused on our disruptive mission and the potential of our company. The second, from the top-down, was a total disaster.

And yet through both experiences there was a common negative: all candidates had to do was click on the ‘Apply Now’ button on our job boards and something good would happen. No need for networking, relationship building, soft skill development, or mentors. At YouTern we saw our economy going in a direction where those things mattered again – and we wanted to be out in front of that. We, in a nutshell, wanted to put the “human” back into “Human Resources.”
How does it feel to be working on something you're passionate about?
I can’t imagine it any other way. A couple times in my life, including that second start-up experience, I went to work for all the wrong reasons. Now, as schmaltzy as it sounds, I – and my entire team – get to wake up every morning knowing that today we’re going to help someone.
How did you know when it was time to launch? Were you apprehensive? Any doubts?

When we launched, we were scared to death! The site wasn’t quite what we’d imagined, but it was time to go. Thankfully, a mentor of mine shared Reid Hoffman’s quote: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” So, off we went to be embarrassed, and we were – and to some point still are!

Thankfully, 4 years later, we’re about to launch the new version of YouTern – and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We’ve learned so much about what our community wants and needs from YouTern, and the new site is packed full of those features.
What has been most rewarding for you personally?

I love seeing the tweets and posts thanking YouTern for helping a young careerist nail a job interview, secure a new internship, or get that job offer. Even better: I love seeing what those tweets do to the YouTern team and community. Once those flashes of encouragement are shared we are re-energized and ready for more.
What challenges have you faced?

The economy, certainly. When we launched in 2010 at the height of the Great Recession everyone thought we were nuts. And I guess we did too. 

Another great challenge, and also a source of tremendous pride, was learning social media, blogging, and community building as we went along. We didn’t always get everything right. But we learned so much… and we keep getting better every day.
 If you had to do it over again, what would you change?

Well, monetizing YouTern much earlier would have been ideal. Our focus, however, was providing undeniable value and building a community where college students, recent graduates, and young careerists could go to talk about the professional environment without any kind of fear; where they could – some for the first time in their lives – ask the toughest or most embarrassing question and know they’d get a straight answer. Not always the answer they wanted to hear, perhaps, but the one they needed to hear.

Also, I personally would have gone after the helicopter parents and higher education institutions that were teaming up to send unemployable graduates into the world much sooner. In a job interview there is no trophy for eighth place; there is no guaranteed job just because you earned a degree. Today’s talent must be ready to compete, and many of our parents and universities are barriers to the success of our young talent.
Where would you like to see YouTern go in the future?

Right where it is headed now! I’m thrilled with the direction YouTern is going. The community grows every day. We’re on more and more college campuses. We have two books coming out in the next few months
to help move our mission forward here at YouTern and our sister site, SwitchandShift.com: A World Gone Social with Ted Coine and The Ultimate Guide to Internships. And we’ll soon be launching ForwardHeroes.org to help our military veterans make a smooth transition from their service careers to the civilian workforce. All-in-all, we’re making our dent in the universe – and I am so proud of the work we’re doing.
What advice do you have for someone who has a dream that they haven't taken action on yet?

While displaying humble confidence, go all in. Obliterate your comfort zones which are nothing but self-imposed prisons for your potential. Avoid the divas, drama queens, and trolls who will suck the life out of you. Instead, fill your time and mind with quality mentors, friends and colleagues who understand your mission and passion.

Most important: every day, focus on getting sh*t done. Don’t settle for a higher number of new followers, superficial kind words, and-or making some arbitrary list that says how great you are. Ask yourself: "Did I move my mission forward today?" "Who did I help today?" "Where did I make a difference?"

Focus on those very human things, and you’ll find the energy to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

FANTASTIC advice Mark! Thank you so much for taking time out at a very busy intersection for you to share with us what you've learned! 

You can connect with Mark through any one of the links below. See all that he's doing to contribute. It might light a fire for you and help you discover or jump into your own passion!

Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates, and young professionals that Mashable calls a Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career. A prolific blogger and speaker, he is also President of Switch and Shift and a co-founder of ForwardHeroes.org  Mark also joined with Ted Coine to write ‘A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive’ – now available on Amazon and at your local Barnes and Noble. Mark is the father of five and a grandfather; he and the woman who tolerates him (barely) call Seattle home.