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The Truth About Trophies


Written by Millennial Crista Leonard

Keeping my 3, almost 4, year old busy is high on my priority list these days. Boredom equals whiney tantrums, which in turn equal driving me and anyone else unfortunate enough to witness it crazy. We have all been there. Whether experiencing it with our own kids, or witnessing it in a store or restaurant. It's not fun.

I always keep an eye out for activities that I think my 3 year old would enjoy. I decided dance lessons looked like fun. I took them when I was little, so I thought my daughter might like them too.balletslippers Something else to keep her busy and avoid meltdowns. She has been taking them once a week since last February. She loves it! Score one for mom.

While the girls dance, all the moms and siblings sit in a small waiting room and chat and watch. I do a lot less chatting and watching, and a lot more of trying to keep my 17 month old out of the trashcan. The waiting room is decorated with pictures of the different teams, medals, and trophies.

At the end of class, I helped my daughter change back into her regular shoes. She got up and went over to the trophies. Some are small and some are almost as tall as she is. She points to one of the big ones and says, "I want to win a trophy like that one." I told her, "If you want to win a trophy, you have to practice really really hard. And you have to pay attention to the teacher while you are in class instead of goofing around and looking in the mirror." (She loves to look at herself in the mirror and gets distracted from what is being taught sometimes). That was my first response and my first thought. I didn't have to think about what to tell her or how I should say it as to not hurt her feelings because that is the truth. You have to work hard for a trophy.

Not everyone in my generation would agree. One of the other mom's jumped in right after I gave my bit on practicing and paying attention. She looked at my daughter and said, "Oh you are already well on your way to getting a trophy like that, I am sure!" It's like she felt bad about what I told my daughter and wanted to placate her or something. I interpreted it as, "Oh don't worry honey, you WILL win a trophy!" As if everyone is guaranteed a trophy whether they practice and pay attention or not.

I didn't respond to her comment, but it got me thinking. If this type of mindset is still believed, it looks like we will have another generation with the 'everyone gets a trophy because we all are special' mentality. Nooooooo!!!! We can't keep teaching our children that they don't have to work for a reward. I grew up in that generation. It was reinforced over and over. I remember when I was about 8 and my school had a fund raiser where we would jog laps and people would sponsor us money for each lap. It was a competition. Who could jog the most laps? I remember trying to beat the boys, one super fast boy in particular. I ran circles around most of the kids. Well guess what? trophiesWe ALL got the same trophy at the awards night. I was so disappointed because I had ran a lot of laps. I expected to get something cooler than the other kids. While this 'everyone gets a trophy' mentality is a self-esteem booster for those who didn't do so hot, it discourages the kids who actually earned the trophy. The next time, they will probably not work as hard to do better than others because hey, what's the point? They will all be praised just the same. This is not how I want to raise my kids. I want them to learn the value of working hard for something they want. I want them to understand that a trophy must be earned through hard work and outshining your competitors. I also want them to learn that even if you don't win a trophy, it's ok. Not everyone is a winner. You can try again next time. The beauty is in the journey that you take to get there, it's not necessarily the trophy itself. And THAT is the truth about trophies.


Pull Yourself Back from the Brink of Your Caffeine-Driven, Smart Phone-Addicted Life

Welcome guest blogger/executive coach and fellow Georgetown alum Scott Eblin.  His new book is being released next Monday, October 13, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  I have several copies on order and will be recommending it to my clients.

On a summer Sunday night four years ago, I found myself standing in front of a roomful of about 80 corporate managers who probably didn't want to be there. They had just finished the first week of a high-profile leadership development program in one of the world's largest companies and week two was scheduled to start at 7:30 am the next morning. They were polite but understandably restless. I was there as a guest speaker brought in to share some of what I'd learned from working with several hundred other leaders in their company.scotteblin

Since high-achieving people usually like to compare themselves to their peers, I asked if they'd like to see the summary results of hundreds of leadership behavior self-assessments completed by those other leaders. Of course they said yes. Starting with the highest assessed behaviors, everyone could quickly identify with commitment to behaviors like making timely decisions, being clear about priorities and accepting accountability for results. Then we took a look at the lowest assessed behaviors like pacing myself, taking regular time to step back and giving others my full presence and attention. There were nods and murmurs of recognition. I summed it up for the group with the headline, "Leaders in your company are so busy doing stuff that they probably don't see what needs to be done. 

Then the room erupted. Not in anger but in vociferous agreement. "Yeah, that's exactly it!" one person exclaimed. "Yeah, another agreed, they expect us to be corporate warriors, answer e-mails at 2:00 in the morning and get by on four hours of sleep a night." Several people at once said, "We can't keep this up."

The conversation I led that evening was the beginning of work and a thought process that led to my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. One of the things I've noticed in my work as an executive coach and speaker over the past four or five years is that most of the executives, managers and professionals I work with are trying to work harder every year. The demands of a "do more with less" culture and a 24/7, smart phone enabled operating environment have left too many people teetering on the brink of a caffeine-addicted, sleep-deprived, stressed-out existence. The impact of all of that on short-term productivity and happiness and long-term health and well being is devastating.

Because of all they're trying to do and pay attention to many of the leaders and professionals I work with are in a chronic state of fight or flight. Their stress hormones and blood pressure are too high and their immune and digestive systems don't operate at healthy levels. In the short run, all of that leads to anxiety, insomnia, poor decision making, lack of focus and generally poor health. In the long run, it leads to broken relationships, premature aging and early death.

The point I'm trying to make in Overworked and Overwhelmed is it doesn't have to be that way. There are simple, relatively easy steps you can take to pull your life from the brink. That's where the mindfulness alternative comes in. eblinbookOver the past few years, mindfulness has gotten more and more attention in the mainstream media – it's even made the cover of Time magazine. The picture that a lot of people get in their minds when they hear the word mindfulness is of blissed out people sitting cross legged while they meditate and chant. That's one way to do it, but it's not something that most stressed out professionals are going to do.

What I'm presenting in my book is what I've learned about how the basics of mindfulness can be used and applied by just about anyone who needs to get out of chronic fight or flight. We all know what fight or flight is – it's supposed to be the emergency response system controlled by your body's sympathetic nervous system. It's a big problem when the fight or flight response gets stuck in the on position and becomes chronic. That's where another system that all of us have but few of us have heard of comes into play. It's called your rest and digest response and is controlled by your body's parasympathetic nervous system. You can think of it as fight or flight being the gas pedal and rest and digest as the brakes. We need to exercise both throughout the day to be healthy, happy and effective. Fortunately, there are simple, easy to do routines that we can learn from the practice of mindfulness that can help even the most overworked and overwhelmed people activate their rest and digest response. I summarize a lot of those routines in my book and offer a simple one-page framework called the Life GPS® that helps make it easy to follow through on the routines that help you show up at your best.

It's never too late to pull yourself back from the brink and reclaim your life. Now is a great time to get started. Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative can help you do that.


Spotlight on Talent: Brianna Robbins



By: Lexie Ermi

Brianna Robbins is a senior at Haverford College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her illustrious athletic career and her stellar academic performance led to an internship after her junior year of college which has provided her with a job offer. Her future secure for the time being, an advantage not extended to many in the current job market, she took a few minutes to reflect on how she got to this position.

Growing up in Orchard Park, a suburb outside of Buffalo, NY, Brianna's involvement in sports began at an early age. briannarobbins2Thus, upon her arrival to Haverford, a transition into the athletic field was natural. She joined both the women's varsity lacrosse team and the women's varsity basketball team. "I really enjoyed being on a team. I'm naturally very competitive. It was great coming into college with a network of friends too, and having that group for all four years. It was a great experience. My basketball team won the Centennial Conference for the first time ever and that was a night I'll never forget. We got to cut down the net and everything." Being able to work on a team as a collaborative effort served her well in her later endeavors.

Brianna's major in college was economics with a minor in philosophy. When asked about her unique choice, she explained, "I was really encouraged to embrace the liberal arts education here at Haverford. I found it enjoyable to go from a logical, rational economics class to a philosophy class where you think more outside the box and more abstractly." At Haverford, there is a requirement for seniors to write a compulsory thesis. Brianna's idea for her economics thesis – whether the higher expense ratio of an actively managed ETF (exchange traded fund, which is managed by a portfolio manager) is justified by the higher returns as compared to a traditional passive ETF (a traditional investment consisting of buying an index rather than having an advisor manage it for you) – relates to the internship she was lucky enough to have last summer.

This summer, Briana received a ten week internship from one of the best asset management firms on Wall Street. Brianna worked on the sales desk, and assisted the associates who sell the mutual funds and ETFs (exchange traded funds) to financial advisors, who would like their client's money managed by this firm. The internship program itself was very well developed. There were 30 other interns in office. The campus recruiting team put together a lot of talks, breakfasts, and lunches with upper management that let us see what they were doing and how they got there showed different career paths so the interns had the chance to gain knowledge of the industry and people in it.

The portfolio challenge ended the summer. The interns formed teams and had to create a fund or portfolio with a theme, choosing stocks and making a presentation at the end of the summer competing against the other interns. Brianna's team made it to the final round of the presentation and presented to the CFO of the company. Their fund was called Yshares and was a fund for the young investor. "Our idea was to get young adults involved in the market and teach them what they were holding in their portfolio and why. It is crucial for young people to invest their money and to also be involved with the investment decisions that are being made with it."

Her internship led to a job offer in the same department once she graduates. briannarobbinsHer future is bright and her many years of hard work have paid off. Such things as her athletic career have provided her with the personal growth needed to be a successful individual and her academic work has given her the understanding and qualifications that landed her an impressive internship and subsequent job. Hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of a successful Millennial in the workforce.


Millennial Musings: No Man is an Island


The Ermi Group welcomes blogger Crista Leonard!

It's Tuesday. The second week of my 3 year old's preschool. I'm running a little bit later than usual, so when I pull in to the parking lot, it's almost full. As I scan the area for a spot, I make an interesting observation. I am the only car in the lot! I am surrounded by minivans and SUVs of all sizes. Was there a compact car only section I was missing? Hmmmm...nope. It's just me and my little car swimming in a sea of SUVs and vans. suvs No man is an island. Right? I sure feel like I am on an island. My 3 year old has complained before that she didn't like our little car, only after riding in my mom's brand new SUV of course. Was I like, a two, on the cool-mom-meter? All because I drive a car? Would the other moms snub me because I wasn't rolling up with my kids in a flashy Denali or a kid-friendly minivan complete with a DVD player and doors that open by themselves?

After taking my daughter to her class and getting back in my car, it dawned on me that it didn't matter (although I would be lying if I said there wasn't a split second where I hoped no one from my daughter's class would see me get in my car). I love my car and that should be enough. It suits my family's needs just fine. It runs great, it's in good shape, has a sunroof and my husband even installed an upgraded sound system. And the best part is, I don't have to make a car payment every month. Take that, supercool moms!

Another more important realization I made is that what brings me here, and what brings the Denali drivers here, is the exact same. We are all here because we have the same wants for our kids. We all love this preschool and have chosen it opposed to one of the many others in the area. Therefore, we must have similar values and criteria for our children's education and upbringing.

Usually these types of values extend in to our personal life as well. Your neighborhood, your workplace, your softball league, your place of are a part of them just as much as the next guy. communityAs cliché as it may sound, "don't judge a book by its cover" is the perfect thing to say here. So the next time you find yourself feeling like you are on an island, whether you are at work or at your child's school, remember that beneath the Tahoes, hair dye, and Nikes, we are all pretty much the same.


Spotlight on Talent: Perseverance and Preparation - Jesse Showalter


Jesse Showalter is a recent graduate from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. In a time where Millennials are facing an increasingly difficult job market and coming to grips with the realization that often your dream job doesn't simply just fall into your lap, Jesse is among the lucky few who has landed an impressive position. Beginning July 28th, he entered the workforce as an Associate Professional Staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Jesse has a number of unique experiences under his belt that have provided him with a global perspective often coveted by the globetrotting Millennial generation. jesseHis parents were missionaries in the country of Burkina Faso in Africa, where he spent a majority of his childhood, returning periodically until beginning high school in the States. In turn, he had the opportunity in college to make a number of travels.

He took a modern civilization course in France which reminded him of his love of travel but also prompted a new realization: traveling as a tourist is very different from the experience of living in a country and learning their culture and customs by becoming part of them. Visiting places as a tourist often forces the visitor to rush around to see the sites and limits the visitor by not allowing him to see how everyday life is typically lived. It was this experience that suggested traveling during the summer after he graduated prior to his job beginning.

Through Project Okello, a group on GCC's campus that works with African charities and raises awareness for humanitarian issues, Jesse became aware of an opportunity in Uganda for an internship with the Kamwenge Secondary and Vocational School. During his trip to Kamwenge, he experienced culture shock; a familiar concept due to his international childhood, but one that he had not experienced for a number of years. Culture shock reaches a deep and fundamental level. Jesse explained further by saying, "There was a sense of persistent uneasiness and loneliness. It never really leaves when you are in a culture you don't really understand with people you don't really understand." In order to combat the loneliness, Jesse cultivated perseverance and diligence. Acting as a jack of all trades, he assisted in the school wherever needed.

When Jesse returned to America, he began his job at APL shortly thereafter. His job entails model analysis and software development. A lot of work at APL is self-directed, he explained. Rather than being tasked with something, you find something you are interested in and see if you can get funding for it; or else you find someone else who has a project you are interested in and ask if they need help.

Jesse's math major prepared him well for this job. One of his first projects at APL required him to handle projected areas of rectangular prims, which are calculated by flattening it into the plane and measuring the shape. The difficulty of Grove City classes provided him with a level of perseverance developed from "beating your head against a problem for eight hours and getting nowhere." The social interactions with friends also taught him to look at work not as a place to go for eight hours and then leave but rather as a community to invest in. As a result, the workplace becomes much more enjoyable.

jesse1His international experiences and globetrotting childhood have given Jesse a distinctive past that has provided him with the skills needed to become a productive member of society.  "Doing good and useful work is what is needed to make a satisfactory job," Jesse said. "Even if the work isn't strictly satisfying now, Uganda has given the perseverance to push through until it does." Many Millennials struggle with precisely what Jesse delineates. His words are a lesson that many might learn from, and his story is one that captivates.



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