Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to Make Six Figures a Year

People often ask me what it takes to make six figures a year. My answer: When hard work meets opportunity. Notice that I said didn't say luck or falling into things.

True story: I remember the day my world changed. The bus fare changed from $0.40 to $0.75 and I had no idea how I was going to get to work. I didn't have a car and I made $2.13 an hour plus tips. To top it all off, I was a high school drop out that earned a G.E.D. because I knew it was better to have that than be a high school drop out. I mean, my thought process was why even graduate high school? I thought it was a joke. Full of people who fit a mold or category and conformed. Why did I want to do that? They didn't understand me. I was forced to understand them. Why be a part of a system I didn't believe in?

So, there I was trying to make bus fare; deciding my life and what I was going to do. I moved out early in life and after a couple of years had nothing to show for it. I had no medical, no car, no house, nothing. Just my paycheck to paycheck living. How frustrating is that after two years?

Something had to change. I couldn't keep living like this. I couldn't just work and not believe in what I was doing. I decided to go to college. I had to take a placement test where I found out I needed take remedial courses and didn't meet basic education requirements; meaning, I had to take remedial courses that wouldn't count as credit towards a degree. I had a high school freshman education and entered into college as such. It was so tough. I felt so behind. I mean, the pressure was on. I was receiving financial aid and completed almost 38 credit units in one year. To do this, I completed 12 credit units in a single summer. Very tough to complete that much curriculum in that short of a period.

Many of my friends came back the second semester with a tan and well rested and here I was, a sophmore and already exhausted. To add to it, I became part of a student worker program and had to work 20 hours a week to start.

My father was suddenly stationed from San Antonio to California and I made a tough decision to stay behind to finish school. That didn't last long before I realized that life was starting to get harder for me and I needed my family. Nearly four months to the day, I moved to California and started to work on educating myself. I started to work full time in the clerical field (at the time I was making more than minimum wage and thought I had finally made it).

It felt good to start making a steady income. Something I could count on. Something I could hold on to. I worked up the ladder in the financial field, then budgeting, then program management, then contracting. All in all, I spent nearly 10 years of working full time to get an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree and then finally a master's degree in business administration. Some weeks I had to work 60 hours and also had school assignments due. Talk about tough.

Each time I achieved a different degree, I applied for a job that required more responsibility. Soon that paid off when I went to apply to be an adjunct instructor teaching business. Varying view point than what I experienced several years prior. I didn't want to graduate high school, but now I wanted to teach? How ironic is that?

Truth is, I believe in teaching with all of my heart. That is because people had chosen that profession and I chose to learn, which ultimately has led to my success.

I noticed that there was a Director position available at an educational institution and thought to myself, I may qualify, but will they give me a chance?

To my surprise they did and I accepted. I never could have placed myself here, but it fits. I get to collaborate with the smartest minds and value the educational process more than I could have imagined. We are all life long learners and the moment we humble ourselves and realize it, the more we might be able to reach our full potential.

So how to you make six figures year? You work hard, never give up and never settle. Most importantly realize that you determine your potential and your potential isn't what people tell you your capable of. Your potential is up to you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Balancing Responsibilities

When I grow up, I want to be a ballerina, gymnist, dancer, singer....
The response: You have to pick one thing and be good at it. There is no way you can be all of those things.

Fast forward to 30 years later, I'm a wife, daughter, sister, friend, leader, athlete, manager, planner, collegue, teacher, singer, chef, author...

It is in us at a young age to want to do more than one thing. Why not plan big? Why not be all of the things that you are capable of? Why not push the envelope everyday?

I remember being frustrated trying to be all of these things. My time seemed to go from task to task and then I'd fall asleep and do it all over again the next day. Looking back, it was because I didn't balance all of the responsibilities that make me who I am. When would I have time to fit in writing or singing or the things I really enjoyed in life? When did I get so busy?

I had to start making some changes. I had to start thinking differently about things. Especially, about how I manage my time. I also had to realize a few things that I hadn't faced before, like maybe not being the best at everything, but good at several things. Here are some lessons learned that I would like to share:

Lesson #1: YOU control what you spend your time on. Pretty powerful words. Some may say, what do you mean? I have so many responsibilities, how do I get to choose? I have to pay bills, I have to change diapers, I have to... Yes, there are some things YOU have to do and somethings you don't need to do. My first order of business. Writing out the things I need to do versus things I need to have done. I realized that I was spending at least four hours a day every weekend cleaning my house. Is this something that I really need to be doing? What about having someone else do it? How can I afford to have someone else do it? I pay about $50 every two weeks to have my house cleaned. The in between weeks, I do a light cleaning, maybe about a half hour. I started to look at my services. Do I really need Direct TV's ultimate package with all of the channels? Do I really need a cell phone and a home phone? It's amazing where you might be able to squeeze out $50. I figure, if I can spend $50 on a tank of gas, I can figure out how to spend $50 getting four hours of my life back per week. For those who think they are the only ones who can clean their house good enough, it's not going to be perfect. Let it go. We are talking about 4 hours a week to help balance other responsibilities that you may have.

Lesson #2: Realize it's okay to be good at lots of things and you don't have to be the best at everything. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: "Sometimes your best is not enough. Sometimes you must do what is necessary." This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn. I am programmed to be the best all of the time. Truth is, it's not going to happen. If I spend less time trying to be excellent and more time trying to be good, I have more time to spend doing other things. Sometimes good is good enough.

Lesson #3: Do things that are fun. Life is full of demanding responsibilities and it doesn't get easier with the more you take on. When I am working loads of hours and am not taking the time for my other responsibilities, like singing, writing and cooking, I feel unhappy. The pleasures that you have in life are your responsibility. We tend to get programmed to just be productive. We are not robots. There are other sides that require attention also. As a mentor once said to me, "Do something everyday that expresses yourself." It could be singing in the shower when I'm getting ready for work. It could be writing just a little bit everyday, but I always make time for the things that let me express myself.

Lesson #4: Attitude is everything. I firmly believe this. There are situations that are challenging, but they can be turned into something positive. I work in a profession where I get to hear a lot of negativity. I mean, I control funds for a living. I'm the person that has to say no sometimes and I get to hear the brunt of that. People don't like to hear the word no. Even though it is challenging, it can be positive. How you perceive things is critical. You can let the negativity get to you or you can be the driving force to change negative behavior by setting an example. It's not easy and it's not going to be. I am accountable to myself for how I let things affect me.

Lesson #5: Reflect, reflect, and then reflect again. Reflection is important in order to really understand what is going on in life. I sometimes plan situations out in my head and think about how I might have done things differently or a better way to do things. Sometimes when I reflect, ideas pop in my head. In order to become self aware, you need to reflect on your actions, your responses, your attitude and your perceptions. Even a simple 30 minute meditation exercise may help with this. It is a time to be still, but sometimes I use that time to reflect.

As my responsibilities continue to grow, I will have to adjust how to balance them. I have to believe that I am capable to do all things that are in my heart. That they are there for a reason and that is because I am meant to do them.