The coronavirus pandemic was the curveball none of us saw coming in 2020. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions more held on for dear life while they prayed to avoid another recession.
At first, I was terrified. As a speaker a significant portion of my revenue comes from speaking on college campuses and events across the country. But even with a lack of in-person speaking engagements due to COVID-19, I still found a way to DOUBLE my business revenue in 2020.
My secret? Professional development. And I did most of it using one of the cheapest forms of professional development there is... books. I recently got a Kindle Paperwhite as an early birthday gift (if you're on the fence about getting one, I highly recommend it!) and I've been reading more than ever.
Check out the four books I read in 2020 that helped me make twice as much money this year - even during the pandemic.
If you need finance 101 (even if you aren't a millennial!) then this is the book for you, my friend. It covers everything from credit scores to savings interest rates to how to make a plan to finally get rid of your debt.
But even with this much information it was still a light, painless read that didn't feel like a college textbook. And you definitely don't have to read it cover to cover - I just bounced around to the chapters I needed the most. Take what you need and leave the rest.
Fun fact: I've been obsessed with financial guru Suze Orman (and learning about money!) since I was a little kid. I used to sit in the living room staring at the TV while Suze told yet another hopeful caller, "You cannot afford it!"
I had high hopes for a finance book written by Suze Orman and Women and Money did not disappoint. I personally loved how much background there was on why a lot of us women may struggle with certain financial decisions.
But most importantly, this book didn't just talk the talk... I made several of Suze's strategic recommendations and ended up with an extra $1,237 in my bank account in less than a month. Win!
This business book written by my friend Jaclyn DiGregorio isn't just focused on making money, but on improving your overall mindset when it comes to life and money. One of my favorite sections is when Jaclyn outlined how she made a major shift in her own business.
If you want to be a CEO, start thinking the way a CEO would; start asking yourself "What business decision would a CEO make if they were in this position?" Don't just wait until you become wealthy to start making better financial decisions.
Okay - this one isn't exclusively a finance book either - but I'm a firm believer that reframing the way I think has drastically increased my income. After reading this book I felt so understood.
That clarity and confidence helped me make more calculated risks in my life and my business! After reading this one, I had a breakthrough about ways to add an additional revenue stream to my business.
P.S. If you purchase any of these books through the links above I may receive a small commission from Amazon, but all opinions and recommendations are my own!
Coronavirus has changed the game in more ways than one, including how (and where) many of us work. For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever worked at home and the adjustment isn't always a smooth one.
Not to mention, you might have even more distractions if you have kids and/or a spouse who are quarantined at home with you. Luckily, I've worked from home for several different roles over the last couple of years and I'm sharing my favorite tips!
1. Work from home ≠ work from bed
Everyone may not have an extra room to use as an office in their apartment or home - that's okay! But try to establish a designated place as your "work zone." The only rule? It can't be your bed.
When you wake up in the morning, you need to move from your bed to your designated work space. This tells your brain that it's time to shift from rest mode to focus mode. I promise your sleep schedule (and your boss) will thank me!
2. Change your clothes
But Jasmine... one of the only perks of this quarantine is not having to get ready every day! I get it. You don't have to put on a full face of makeup or a pair of jeans, but remember what I said earlier?
You have to help your brain realize that after you wake up you're shifting from rest mode to focus mode. Even if you just change out of your sweatshirt and put on a new pair of leggings - that counts!
3. Surround yourself with reminders
I'm a visual person, so having reminders to look at really helps my productivity. Here are some of the things I have around my desk:
4. Clear desk, full stomach, can't lose
For the love of God, clean off your desk already! You don't have to be Marie Kondo organized, but at a bare minimum try to stack your relevant papers together into piles and throw away/shred anything you don't need.
P.S. I never start working without three main food groups on my desk: water, caffeine and a snack. That way you don't have to keep getting up when you finally get into a good flow.
But for some people, getting up for snack breaks is a big help. Try it each way and see which one works best for you!
Understandably, this is a difficult time for many people. Even if you or a loved one hasn't been directly impacted by Coronavirus, you're likely still dealing with canceled events, sudden changes and a world filled with new priorities. Not only is this shift frustrating, but the sense of chaos it brings can also lead to overwhelming anxiety and stress.
If that's where you are right now, I want you to know that I know exactly how you feel. There have been a lot of times in my life where I felt like my world got flipped upside down without warning. But because of those experiences, I learned how to live - and thrive - in the chaos.
I shared this on my Instagram stories over the weekend, but with everything that's going on right now I want to share my tips again for anyone who feels like they're surrounded by uncertainty.
One of the reasons that chaos is so challenging is because it upsets our normal daily routines. Most of us aren't following our usual schedules right now and that lack of structure plays a major factor in the discomfort we feel.
While we can't just hit reset on our routines, here are three things you can do to help you feel like things are a little more normal again.
1. Identify the part of your routine you miss the most right now.
Can I be honest for a sec? I don't miss every part of my daily routine... For one, I've cut out over two hours of commuting to work each day and I can't complain about that. Being able to spend more time with my dog is also pretty great and I've saved a lot of money on gas + food!
But think about the part of your routine you miss the most. What's the first thing you would do right now if you were told all of the madness was over? I can't wait to see my family, go on vacation, grab brunch with my best friends and get back on stage! I've already picked out the outfit I'll wear at my first speaking engagement when things are back in action and I can practically sense the energy buzzing from the audience already.
What about you? What do you really miss right now? Before we can address it, we have to pinpoint exactly what it is.
2. Figure out why that part of your routine is so important to you.
I've had to cancel several speaking engagements due to the virus. The day before one of them was originally scheduled to take place, I sat at the desk chair in my home office and cried my eyes out. It felt really unimportant and selfish in the grand scheme of things, until I realized it wasn't just the speaking engagement that I was missing - it was the feeling that speaking to an audience gives me.
I have such a special place in my heart for speaking to college students because I had some of the most difficult experiences of my own life while I was in college. I struggled to learn how to deal with the loss of my older brother and other family members while I was away... and if you throw in a few other plot twists, it all took a pretty big toll on my mental health.
I hope that sharing my story of overcoming rock bottom is inspiring to students everywhere, but I realized the most important person that it inspires is me. Every time I speak about the hard parts of my story, I remind myself just how strong I am and just how far I have come.
If you're someone who is missing the gym as part of your routine, it's actually pretty similar. While there are a lot of physical benefits of exercising, we don't talk about the emotional benefits quite as much.
Have you ever been in a workout class or training session and you hit your breaking point? I've definitely stopped and said "Okay, I'm done..." But then a song comes on in the gym, or your trainer encourages you to keep going, or some motivational quote (maybe #StopHalfAssinIt?) pops into your head and you keep going.
That's because the gym is often a place where people can push their brain through mental hurdles and dig deep to work through other challenging parts of their lives.
Figuring out WHY you miss this part of your routine is really important, so don't skip this step!
3. Find another outlet that allows you to recreate the same feeling that part of your routine gives you.
Don't recreate the wheel by trying to add 17 new things into your routine right now. You have already identified that you miss the gym. You know the reason you miss it is because it empowers you to feel like you can push through more than you ever thought you could. So now all we have to do is recreate that feeling in a new way.
If we're sticking with the gym example, try coming up with a list of other things that give you that same empowered feeling. Is it...
- The people you follow on Instagram?
- A bad-ass playlist during your workout?
- FaceTiming an accountability partner from your workout class?
For me, I know that I can't get on stage and speak to college students right now. But I can't just say "Oh well, I'll have to wait this out until the fall." I have to find a new way to fill that void. Make sense?
I know it feels like our routines - and the world - are constantly changing right now and guess what? It's okay to feel overwhelmed and confused by that. But remember that there are still parts of your life that you can control.
You can find calm in the chaos; you can still plan for your future even though you don't have all the answers yet; you can choose to stop half-assin' it.
As a speaker and a speaking coach, not only have I improved my own speaking skills, I've helped others improve as well! Check out some of the tips I share the most with my speaking coaching clients.
1. Never let 'em see you sweat
One of the questions I ask my clients is "what's the worst thing that could happen while you're speaking?" Many of them respond, "I'll get asked a question I don't know the answer to."
Unless you're on Jeopardy, no one expects you to know the answer to every question on the spot! If you're a true expert, you'll thank them for their question and use it as an opportunity to follow up with them later on with your confirmed answer.
2. Hit record!
Whoever said "practice makes perfect" wasn't lying! If you're struggling with public speaking, set up your phone or iPad and take a video of yourself practicing. You'll likely pick up on at least one thing that you didn't realize you do when you're speaking.
Once you know where you need to improve, you can work with a speaking coach to help address it!
3. Think back to the big picture
When you're working on a presentation, remember that it's not really about you. It's about the AUDIENCE! Who are the people sitting in the room? Why should they care about what you're going to say? How does it affect them? What matters the most?
I would present my speech differently for college students than for a Fortune 500 company's Board of Directors - even if I'm teaching them the same concept. That's why I spend the time helping my coaching clients identify their ideal audience early on.
4. Liven up the place
I was recently asked to speak on a college campus and the event organizer said, "We want someone who isn't going to just talk AT them. They've been in lecture halls all day, so we really need something interactive that will wake up their attention."
Amen to that! I've been to my fair share of conferences, networking events and guest speakers and while some speakers have a great message, they don't always share it in a way that's entertaining... Don't be afraid to be yourself and wake the audience up with something they aren't expecting!
5. Embrace your nerves
"Jasmine, I always get nervous before I speak." Um hey there, so do I! I've done live TV interviews and speaking engagements to over 1,000 people, but I still get the butterflies before I speak sometimes.
I love the way my mentor Jess Ekstrom put it once, "Being nervous just means that you care enough whether something goes well."
By the time I was 18 years old, I had gone through a few phases of mistaken "dream jobs." At one point I had even imagined myself as a librarian...
But when I started college, I was confident that my future was in political journalism. I loved watching the news and I desperately wanted to help raise awareness about what was going on in the world.
One of the coolest things about attending High Point University was how many different speakers they brought to campus. I mean, I was shaking hands with Condoleezza Rice and learning from innovative minds like Steve Wozniak.
Unfortunately, one of the innovative minds also burst my latest dream bubble. He was a correspondent at FOX News who came to speak to our journalism students.
"If you really want to be a journalist, you have to have that fire in your belly. You have to be willing to wake up at 3 AM, or in the middle of a hurricane, to go chase that story!"
I remember thinking, "Uhhhh... I don't have that fire in my belly. I have no desire to wake up at 3 AM or go chase the story. What am I even doing here?!" Now I was stuck with no dream career and no idea what I was going to do after graduation. But then I got an email...
Earlier that year, I had received an alumni scholarship. Since many of the people who contributed to this scholarship fund would be on campus for Alumni Weekend, the school thought it would be a nice touch to have recipients talk about how the scholarship helped them.
I decided not to just talk about how the scholarship helped me financially (I was working on campus and over the summer), but about how it helped me personally. This was the first time I really told my story.
I talked about losing my brother unexpectedly as a freshman and how, at one point, I wanted to leave High Point to be closer to my family. I was honest about the hard days and how I didn't know what I wanted to do after college anymore. I told them that this scholarship reminded me that someone else had faith in my education - faith that I would graduate! - even on the days I didn't believe in myself.
Shortly after, I was asked to speak at a another event. Next thing I knew, I was invited to tell my story to over 1,000 staff and faculty members.
I'll never forget the moment I got back to my car after that speech and turned my phone back on... emails were pouring in with support.
"It was truly an honor to hear you speak today at our staff meeting. I am so proud to work with students daily just like you. Your story brought tears to my eyes..."
"Thank you so much for sharing your story! You make me so proud to work at HPU!"
"You made me cry like a baby, but they were all tears of joy."
I couldn't believe my life was inspiring to people! To me, it was just "normal" and I didn't realize how moving my "normal" might be to others.
Then I got asked to be the commencement speaker at a school graduation, then to come to a college campus, then another campus and another. My inbox kept overflowing with kind messages after every single one.
I realize now that it was never about the industry that I wanted to work in. It wasn't about being a librarian or a journalist like Rory Gilmore. I wanted to help people; I wanted to do something that would make an impact and change lives.
And even though I didn't start this journey wanting to be a speaker, I'm so grateful I accidentally stumbled into a passion that lets me help others in so many ways.
Maybe you're still in your librarian phase or you're *positive* that journalism is for you. Regardless of what you think you want to do, get to the root of your why. After all, it's not about the job, it's not about the industry, it's about the feeling it gives you.
Does the last quarter of the year fly by for everyone or is it just me? It's like I'm enjoying summer and next thing I know it's my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Talk about the most wonderful time of the year!
There are so many special things about the end of the year - the music, food, time with your family - but for me this time of year is also an important wake up call.
Growing up, my mom stressed the importance of not only being grateful for what we have, but being generous to everyone around us. It's one of the reasons I'm holiday-crazy! I love thinking about what someone likes and picking out the the perfect gift that has their name written all over it.
One of my favorite family holiday traditions is our annual 100% tip night. Me, my mom and my sister pick out a restaurant and we go out to eat right before Christmas. No matter how good or bad our service is, we tip our server 100%.
Yes, you read that right. Little did we know, over the years our mom was secretly teaching us one of life's most important lessons.
It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. Be good to people for no reason, with no motive. Be good to people just because it's the right thing to do.
If you're looking for some incredible ways to be good to people this #GivingTuesday, here are a few of my favorite causes to support:
1. Big Brothers Big Sisters
I was pretty involved throughout college, but my favorite organization to work with was Big Brothers Big Sisters. For four years, I mentored an elementary school boy who had lost his mother in a car accident. I went into the program thinking I would change his life, but I never expected how much he would change mine. Consider donating to BBBS or signing up to be a mentor!
2. High Point University
If you've known me for a while, you've heard me talk about how proud I am to be an HPU alum. HPU supported me during some of the hardest days of my life. Not to mention, they were the first ones who encouraged me to get up on stage and share my story. Without HPU, I wouldn't be the person or speaker I am today. You can donate to High Point University student scholarships here.
3. Watkins Mill High School
I met some of the most important people in my life at my old high school. WMHS made me who I am and that's why it's so important to me to give back to this community. I'm proud to lead the WM Alumni Network as we plan our new mentorship program and alumni scholarships! Let me know if you're interested in volunteering or you can donate to WMHS and our alumni network.
Fun fact: I was a campus representative for Headbands of Hope in college and now their CEO, Jess Ekstrom, is one of my mentors.
This is the perfect holiday bundle! Grab #chasingthebrightside by @jess_ekstrom. Then use the code THANKS50 for 50% off at headbandsofhope.com. For each headband sold, one is given to a child with cancer and Chasing the Bright Side is the story of how it got started.
As a kid, I was really lucky to have a family that encouraged me to do my best without letting me take life too seriously.
When it comes to role models, I hit the jackpot with my mom. She has been a guiding light through many of my dark days and is now one of my best friends. While we have an unbreakable bond today, many of the most important lessons she taught me were in my childhood.
In honor of Mother's Day, I'm sharing three of the most important life lessons that I learned from my mom!
1. Stop Making Excuses
I watched my mom put in looong hours at the office and knew I wanted to be just like her. Not only did she rock fitted suits and a chic bob, but there was no question I had ever asked her that she seemed unable to answer.
As an adult, I realize this is way more difficult than my mom made it look. She had to sacrifice a lot of quality time with me and my sister to reach her big career goals, but she never complained and she never made excuses.
2. Treat Others The Way You want to Be Treated
My mom has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She's the type of person who brings a neighbor soup when they're sick or picks up your kids from school while you're in the hospital.
I was applying for jobs recently and my old boss passed along a reference she wrote about me. While the entire reference was flattering, there was one section in particular that stood out.
She gained the confidence and friendship from the CEO down to the cafeteria servers. It was impressive how she was able to listen to others and know how to work with them.
I teared up reading that because it's the way, I imagine, many people would describe my mom. I have never seen her treat anyone as 'less than.' It was a great reminder of how many things your children learn from you - not from your words, but from your actions.
3. If You Want Something, Make It Happen
When my sister and I were younger, we wanted to be in Girl Scouts more than anything. As it turned out, there wasn't already an established troop in our area. For most people, that would have simply meant telling your two daughters 'no.' Not my mom, though.
My mom figured out what we would need to do to start our own troop and we did just that. She even took on the role as our troop leader, guiding a group of Brownies and later Juniors as we went camping, hiking, and even on field trips to places like Hershey Park.
She already had a lot on her plate, but it meant so much to see how she made something happen that we really wanted. In hindsight, this is another trait that my sister and I inherited over the years without realizing it. Now when we want something, we figure out a way.
Sure, my mom taught us the basics too. But the most important lessons we learned from her weren't the ones that she said out loud. The most important lessons were the ones we learned from watching what she did and following that example.
What's the most important life lesson you learned from your mom?
Does anyone else sort of go into hibernation during the winter?
It's a hard time of year for me to begin with and the cold weather coupled with shorter, darker days makes it even worse. To be honest, during most of the winter I feel like I'm just trying to get through.
But by the end of February/beginning of March, I start feeling like myself again. There's a tease of more sunlight and the weather isn't quite as brutal.
As good as that sounds, it also usually means I start kicking things into overdrive for all of the time I feel like I 'lost' during the winter.
I'm talkin' longer to-do lists, playing catch-up on time with family and friends, booking huge speaking gigs...
My friend, if no one has reminded you lately:
One of my own personal mantras is 'choose to stop half-assin' it.'
Choosing to stop half-assin' it sometimes means saying no to things that you want to do.
So whether you lived through 'March Madness' last month or you're in the midst of some 'April Showers' this month, remember this:
People who are close to me will tell you, I'm a ride or die kinda girl.
My friend is having a baby? Cool, I'll plan the baby shower, be there when you deliver, babysit and teach him to read.
Coworker's daughter is a Girl Scout? Awesome, I will single-handedly organize her cookie sale to make sure she sells the most in her troop this year!
These things are all well and good but the problem is, I start a lottttt of things and then I have a hard time letting myself quit them. That sounds weird, doesn't it?
It seems like we've always been told that quitting is a bad thing.
Nowadays, it's like you're praised for however many things you can juggle at once and seen as lacking ambition if you're not juggling enough.
It's okay to quit sometimes. Your responsibility is to wake up in the morning, take care of yourself and your loved ones, do your job, treat yourself and others kindly... that's pretty much it.
You don't have to cure cancer or start a mentorship program. No need to become an entrepreneur or run a marathon every month. It's okay to just be.
This is something I've been working on because I never feel like I'm doing enough. Planning my friend's baby shower makes me think about how many single moms are struggling. Buying cookies from a Girl Scout reminds me of my childhood and the things I wish someone had taught me back then.
Instead of just acknowledging these thoughts, I always feel compelled to take action. To make waves, spark change, kick off a whole damn movement. But here's the thing: when you try to be everything for everyone else the person you end up giving the least to is yourself.
Many of us end up half-assing a bunch of things instead of committing to a few with everything we've got. So moving forward, I'm giving myself permission to quit sometimes. I'm giving myself permission to just be sometimes.
That doesn't make me a bad daughter, sister or girlfriend, in fact, it makes me a better one. So if you have too much on your plate right now, give yourself permission to quit sometimes. Give yourself permission to just be.
It's time to stop half-assing it and commit to a few things with everything you've got.
I get it, Valentine's Day is cheeeeeeeesy. A holiday created by greeting card companies to make us feel like we have to tell people how much they mean to us on one day of the year.
But you know what? I don't care.
Because there have been people in my life who left suddenly. There have been people in my life who didn't make it to Christmas or their next birthday. There have been people who didn't get to watch me cross the stage at my college graduation.
So if I can take a random day in February to buy my boyfriend a heart-shaped container filled with Starbursts and a silly card, I will.
If I can take a random day in February and Venmo some of my best friends to treat themselves to coffee on me, I will.
If my mom wants to give me a chocolate rose every Valentine's Day, I will gladly take it and eat the whole damn thing.
How often are we going through life when our to-do lists start piling up? And doing something special for the people we love drops to the bottom, if not off the list completely?
Let's face it, we all could use another reminder that we're loved and appreciated.
I guess what it comes down to is this: Does it really matter why we tell the people in our lives that we care about them... as long as we tell them?
So no matter what your relationship status is take today to show someone how much you care about them. And you know what, it's perfectly okay if that person is YOU.
Happy Valentine's Day, friends!