Pictureone of my most liked instagrams. idk why, either.
People will shell out thousands of dollars to have portraits of themselves painted or pay to have photographs of themselves taken. 

Yet somehow both are seen by the general public as less shameful & egotistical  than taking a photo of yourself & posting it to the internet.

Does having a "professional" make that big of a difference if you aren't posing for something like the cover of Time's Person of the Year issue?
Having interacted with a lot of photographers over the years, there are quite a few that can definitely be described as less than professional than even your Average Joe iPhone owner.

While I agree that they are best taken behind closed doors, I disagree that people should feel sorry for showing the world their beautiful (clothed) selves via social media. 

However, one must not abuse the selfie. It already has a bad reputation, mostly because of the unwritten rules of selfies being broken time after time. 

Someone had to write down these for all to follow & observe to avoid future infractions.  Read on, pass on and you're welcome.

Thou shalt not selfie in public.

Seriously. There are some things you can only do when you're alone. This is one of them. Don't be this guy.

Have a purpose.
Whether it's showcasing your cute outfit or new hairstyle or something else - HAVE A REASON for taking the photo. If you don't have one? Make one up. 

Gratuitous pictures of yourself are generally only warmly received if you're a model. A REAL model, not an instagram model. Yes, someone told me that's actually a thing, which makes me sad. 

Speaking of gratuitous...
Wear clothes. Please. At least some. There are sites meant for naked photos, but Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc are not. In fact, it's against their terms of service. 

Keep that to yourself or at least get paid for it - because it'll probably keep you from getting most kinds of jobs down the road anyway. This is the INTERNET - you don't know where that picture is going to end up or when it will come back to bite you.

Know your surroundings.
The main focus of the photo may be you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of what is in the background. No matter how sexy your pose is, seeing a toilet, your unattended child or anything unseemly or disgusting in the background isn't going to turn anyone on. 

Also, doing anything illegal in a selfie is just stupid. I can't find a nice way to say that and still get the point across. So: don't be stupid.

Learn the meaning of "moderation."
Not every photo you post should be of yourself. Go outside. Do things. Make friends.

Perfect your angle.
I get a lot of flack for having a similar pose in photos. Guess what? People aren't going to take bad photos of themselves & post them on the internet. Duh. Find what angle & pse works for you - try to find more than one, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you're practicing moderation, then your photos won't all look the same.

Side note: if you review my candid photos with other people (mostly the sober ones), you'll find I do the EXACT same hand on hip pose. The camera either isn't from the same angle as a selfie, but hey. I like it. It works for me. Get your own. 

Accept feedback. With a grain of salt.
If you receive negative feedback, assess who it is coming from & what it says. Haters are going to hate, but also your pose or outfit or filter or accompanying text or whatnot could just be bad. If no one likes or comments or engages with one of your selfies - delete it. 

Try to figure out why people engaged with others but not that one. If one selfie is more popular than others, try to find out why (although if you're taking naked photos & you're female, you don't really need to do try too hard). 

If NO ONE engages with ANY of your selfies, either you have no friends, mean friends or you should probably just delete the camera app from your phone.

Selfies aren't for everyone.
People who have the urge to comment "selfie!" on selfies or make other snarky comments: ok, we get it, you think selfies are stupid. That isn't going to stop people from taking them, especially if their photos get positive reception from the general (online) public. 

So repeatedly making the same types of comments doesn't make you witty, it just makes you annoying & indicates that you probably have even less of a life than you claim the person whose photos you feel the need to stalk every time they post something new has. Feel free to pass on these rules, though!

PicturePreach, RuPaul, preach!
You don't have to publish everything. Or anything.
There's nothing wrong with taking photos of yourself (disclaimer: non nude photos unless you work for Playboy). 

Use these photos to know how to better pose for photos with other people in it. Keep them to yourself as a memory of how good your hair looked last Tuesday. Practice your smile. There's no law saying you have to share them with the general public. 

Just don't be ashamed. Love yourself inside & out. There's this "happy girl sare the prettiest" quote that's often overused and misattributed, but it's true (and applicable to males, too). If you already do love yourself: awesome! Don't overdo it on either end of the self esteem spectrum.

And there you go. Click (or tap) away! If you follow these rules, and your friends aren't all dicks, you should be able to skirt too much selfie scrutiny - or at least it will be good-natured. 

And if your friends are all jerks, they're probably the people instagramming every meal they have, so they're just as bad as you. 

What rules would you add or alter? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

This is my presentation from the iAcquire Content Meetup last week - it details how you CAN overcome the madness of marketing content created without a strategy. 

Some other great speakers were there - you can check out more information about the event here and more about content marketing & content strategy (do you know the difference?) here.

See how we were able to create strategy to lead what seemed like an underdog project to a championship ending in one shining moment. Learn the lessons along the way - with a little bit of help from some of the winningest coaches in college basketball.

Megan Brown for iAcquire 12 Days of Linkmas
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I’ve known you since I was born, and over the last quarter of a century, I’ve been blessed and lucky to have you in my life as the most generous & glamorous partner and crime and confidante a girl could ask for.

Over the years, you’ve been there for me & given me advice on so many important life subjects – fashion (we shared a love for red patent leather shoes), love (you always took my side & accurately referred to my exes as schmucks), friends (you knew what a great friend was because you were one), miscellaneous grievances (you were the only one who continued to call me Rosebud after I decided at age 8 that’s what my name should be changed to), and you always knew just what to say to my mom so I’d be in a little less trouble by the time I got home. A cup of coffee – Starbucks, of course – and a chat with you always put a smile on my face.

You had that effect on others, too. No matter where you went, your charm, intellect and intriguing life stories drew people to you. You were never afraid to throw on a fur coat over your pajamas, top it off with a sequined baseball cap and go out visit a friend, even if your hair wasn’t done. I looked forward to your arrival at family dinners – because, as you know, you are definitely family to us – not just because you never forgot to bring the wine (which only the two of us really drank) but also because of the way you lit up the room with jokes and stories, ensuring that there was laughter at every occasion you attended. 

Beyond your ebullience, the way you so generously loved those close to you is without comparison. You were always there to take my calls – no matter what time of night, you assured me you were up anyway. You never forgot a single important thing going on in the life of anyone close to you, and you always were the first to want to celebrate a victory, no matter how small. 

Thanksgiving wasn’t the same without you joking about us going to line up for the midnight Black Friday sales or jesting that you and grandma were going to hit the bars after dinner, so we better be ready to bail you out of the “pokey.” In fact, that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what I’ll miss about you. 

Although I can no longer pick up the phone to call you for advice on what to wear on a first date or go meet you for a chat – with Alexa in tow, you always let me know the pup was welcome – the love you gave me and others around you as well as the lessons you taught us about enjoying life to the fullest will always be there to help us through even the hardest of times.

Your Rosebud loves and misses you very much, and I will carry you with me in my heart every day. But, I know that no matter where you are now, you’re watching over us & cheering us on in all we do… that is, when you aren’t too busy making heaven that much more fabulous. 


My parents, me, & my brother Jason.
Six times. Almost seven.

If you've ever moved before, you know fully well that it is a pain in the you-know-what. Packing up everything you own carefully into boxes, carrying the heavy boxes and various pieces of furniture one by one down stairs (if you're lucky it's less than three flights), loading up a moving van or a very kind friend's truck, driving to your new abode, dragging said boxes and furniture up stairs (three flights again, are you kidding me?!), and then unpacking and arranging.

Within the last couples years, I have done all of the above six times, and move number seven is coming up in less than a month. All of my moves were for different reasons, ranging from celebratory important life milestones (ex: college graduation), to not so pleasant but equally important occasions (ex: a breakup), to the anticlimactic and inevitable ending of a lease. 

When you move that much, you learn to condense things in your life. Do you really need that ugly drawer-residing penguin figurine your ex painted for you on a date four years ago? How many bottles of hair products constitute "too many?" Since when did you ever wear this purple sweater? What's left over, no matter how small or large, whether it's a ticket stub from a Milwaukee Brewers spring training game or a homemade mau5head, holds meaning for you. If it meant nothing, you wouldn't bother to keep carrying it with you.

The same goes for people. People come and go in our lives, but although we may not feel as if we choose to invite them in or feel as if we consciously toss them in the bin with that cast off purple sweater, we often are those who make the final decision as to who stays or goes- based upon the effort (or lack thereof) we make. We have friends in all shapes and sizes- some are family who we don't exactly pick ourselves, some are friends we meet in all facets of our lives. Some need more attention than others, some are better suited to handle some situations than others, some are better for the good times, some are better for support. This does not make any of them worth more than the rest, but it shows the range in which we can amicably co-exist, the same as we may fit into the lives of those very same people. 

And, let me tell you, if you really want to know who is there for you: move six times. There is no better person in the entire world than one who will help you move. No matter how much beer you promise, it is not pleasant lifting others' heavy belongings in the middle of a humid Indiana summer. 

Literal moving aside, we all make changes in our lives that are equally comparable, if not even more considerable, than a change of residence. Some years, we do this more so than others. Those who will help us do the 'heavy lifting' emotionally are invaluable, because they love us and support us as well as our goals, with no promised benefit to them except for our happiness. 

So, examine your life. Look at who is still around- not just existing in the realm of your life, but really there for you. When have you last thanked the people who have "moved" you over the years, whether it be physically or in an intangible way? There's obviously a reason they're still around. Do not carelessly let them go the way of the sweater, go the extra mile to show them you appreciate that they have done the same in many ways for you. Tell them creatively what it is that makes them so wonderful or simply that you appreciate all that they do. Simple words, written or spoken, are more meaningful than any gift you could give them, yet we often get too caught up in our own daily narratives to remember this fact. Doing so will even brighten your own day.

Because when you recognize not one, but two people stand out from the rest as truly dedicated to your success, who go above and beyond to ensure you feel supported, happy, and loved, and who are always the first to dry your tears, find solutions to your problems, or open a bottle of wine to celebrate your achievements- you discover that although sometimes (always) moving sucks, you're pretty darn lucky to have some great people to carry in your heart with you no matter where you go. And, if you're lucky, they might even carry some boxes up three flights of stairs for you. 

Thank you so much, mom & dad, for everything over the last 24 years!
I promise I won't make either of you carry any boxes during move number seven!

Whether or not you are using social media in a personal or professional capacity, your end game is the same: to promote a brand. 

This can be your personal brand, your company’s brand, or even a mix of the two, such as promoting yourself as an expert in a certain niche. If you’d like to explore how to create an online presence for yourself or your company, please contact me (mbrown918@gmail.com) for a consulting session. 

You should definitely hire me if @alexatheyorkie has more followers than you (209 & counting)

Once you’ve established what your purpose is, you’re ready to expand your network. Here are a few quick tips for making friends and influencing people via Twitter. Again- if you’d like more information, please feel free to e-mail me to set up an appointment!

Tip #1: Repeat after me: “I am NOT Justin Bieber.”

Justin Bieber has over 17 million Twitter followers. Kim Kardashian has over 13 million Twitter followers. Ashton Kutcher has over 9 million Twitter followers. You, most likely, will not.

These celebrities are a prime example of how no matter how good your SEO/PR/marketing department/awesome consultant named Megan is, you will most likely not garner this many Twitter followers ever – at least not without some sort of offline popularity. And that’s ok. Most people on Twitter aren’t celebrities, and beyond that, you should NOT be so follower number focused. 

The prime rookie mistake people/companies make is assuming that Twitter is a numbers game. It isn't. 100 engaged followers are far more valuable than 5,000 silent ones. I usually tell clients (jokingly) that if they only want to gain numbers, they might as well spend their money just literally buying followers - which is possible, but in all reality, I strongly advise against it. You don’t want people mindlessly retweeting links to articles you’ve written without actually reading the article. You want to find your niches and become renowned within those one or two areas – not join “team followback” or run gimmicks and become lost in the crowd as just another social media spammer. 

Twitter is a platform for you to share and promote yourself, but also to engage. If you’ve spent time writing a blog post or creating a product- don’t you want people to read it or buy it? Just ‘existing’ is not enough- engagement is the key to success.

Once you accept that Twitter is NOT about numbers, but about engagement, then you will become both a social media contributor as well as a thought leader- and people will flock to you for valid reasons that don’t involve your derrière (I’m looking at you, Kim K). 

Tip #2: You can’t buy love. 

I’ve already stated outright buying followers is a practice that makes me cringe. However, many Twitter users think they have come up with more clever ways to do the exact same thing. Here’s a hint: It’s not as clever as you’d think and it involves everyone’s favorite words. 

FREE STUFF. Not going to lie, those words do get my attention when I see them. I love free stuff! In fact, I will even take bribes! But that doesn’t mean I’ll fulfill my end of the deal- and, like me, the internet is a very fickle place. 

Giveaways, contests and promotions do have their value, but when you are on a small scale to start, they are usually inefficient cost-wise, especially depending on which platform you advertise them on. You’ll probably end up with a lot of spammy followers just for tweeting the word “free.” Those who do enter your contests probably already had some respect for your reputation to begin with. While it’s great to reward those who stood behind you from the very first tweet, you should probably wait to build up a following before you do so. Then, more people than your mom and mooching second cousin will enter to win it- and those who do win will be a lot more apt to tweet about what a wonderful new experience/product/kitten you’ve given them because they beat out all those other people. 

You can’t buy followers, directly or indirectly- at least not ones who will last.

Tip #3: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

You have an e-mail address, you’re on Facebook, you’re on LinkedIn, you might be on G+, you have that MySpace you made ten years ago, and you should probably delete your Friendster account. 


Leverage is your best friend. Put simply, the leverage process is strengthening and using what outlets you already have (your website(s), social media profiles) as well as creating other profiles you may need on niche social media networks (outreach blogs, maybe getting involved on niche forums, etc). Through these, it's very simple to naturally build followers via reputation and outreach by creating your site as a resource as well as valuable participant in your niche. 

From putting your Twitter handle in your e-mail signature, to adding a Twitter widget to your WordPress site, to making your family and friends wear shirts that say “@thatgirlmegan knows more about #baseball than I do” (oh yes, this is going to happen), get the word out to the people you already know and to people you want to know! 

Use hashtags more often or join a Twitter chat relating to your area of expertise to meet others with similar interests. Your Twitter bio is even searchable on Google: REWRITE IT. Cute quote Twitter bios are for celebrities and people’s dogs. There are a million articles online about what is searchable, what you can optimize, which niche networks are the most important in your area. Go read them! And if you want someone to do the work for you, then pay me to do it (For real. I do this for a living, make sure my yorkie gets to eat tonight)!

Optimize every aspect of not just your Twitter profile and tweets, but also your other social networks as well. You may have already done this in some respect, but please take a second look and make sure you are sticking to your message: you or your company’s brand. Yes, you have more interests than kung fu fighting, homemade piñatas, and Bratz dolls, but if you want to garner an audience, you need to be focused. Once in a while you can Tweet about other topics, but without a message it is very difficult for people to connect with you or know what you/your company is really about.

You’re on the internet for a reason. Make it known on every outlet possible- but be careful to not fatigue audiences by overdoing it.

Tip #4: Put a ring on it.

Take the plunge: Get engaged! …with your Twitter audience, that is.

What you want is to make people come to you, not have to ‘follow for a follow.’ By participating in niche conversations, Twitter chats, forums, etc. you establish yourself as a resource on your niche topics. Once you become a resource, you gain reputation. Once you have a strong reputation you become a thought leader. Once you become a thought leader… the possibilities of influence are endless.

Engagement is a bit more in depth than just simply ‘talking,’ though. Analyze who the existing thought leaders are in your interested publics (audiences), why these personalities or organizations are thought leaders, and then engage with them as well as their followers. Again- if you don’t want to do this groundwork, I don’t blame you. Hire me to do it for you! 

At first, you will be in a way riding these thought leaders’ coattails, however, this is integral in order to get them to help you build your reputation without outright stating your agenda. You'll at first gain followers via osmosis, but then others in your niche will naturally start coming to you as you yourself are established as a thought leader.

Tip #5: Use your powers for good.

Google is changing its search algorithm to better reflect user/site online reputation, and it is because this is exactly what internet users want. When you want to read the news, you look for a brand name news site that speaks to you - even if it is a niche site, for some reason you trust its reputation. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I’m pretty sure it burned down in less than that. The same goes for your online reputation. Make sure that all of your outlets are accurately reflecting what you stand for- even your personal sites that have a limited audience. You never know who is looking over someone’s shoulder. If you are having someone else manage your social profiles for you or your company, feel free to lay down some ground rules so that they know what is expected in regards to language, tone, and personality. 

A tweet can be deleted, but its impact lasts a lot longer than those 140 characters it took just a few seconds to type. Make sure you aren’t losing clients or alienating followers due to something as simple as straying from you or your company’s values. Yes, you should have personality and be yourself- putting a face on a company, even, is always a good idea. But you should know the norm within your area so that you are familiar with what will and won’t be acceptable to those around you.

I know this may seem simple, but even a misplaced curse word can cost you. Know what it takes to fit in with your peers in your industry or niche. You don’t need to use Howard Stern tactics to be noticed (unless that’s common in your area). You will stand out because you provide quality content, relevant contributions, entertainment value, and, most importantly, a standard of excellence.

Bonus! Tip #6: Hire me!

I'm in the business of creating resources and reputation, not adding meaningless numbers or page hits. 

No one can truly brand themselves as a social media expert, given the changing atmosphere of the online community as well as the fluid nature of technology. 

However, my 6 plus years of experience helping companies build their online social media reputations gives me room to confidently state that I have enough online marketing and mixed media experience to know what works and what doesn't. 

From creating strategy in the hospitality industry with Schahet Hotels, a franchise that owns and operates Hilton and Intercontinental brand hotels, to social media consulting in the entertainment industry with Playboy Golf, I have efficiently and effectively been able to create messaging, improve ranking, garner followers on all social media and relevant niche media platforms, all while strengthening online reputation. 

I'd love to help you build an online reputation via social media!

Here are a few ways to get in touch with me so I can help you and/or your business become a respected social media thought leader in your industry:

E-mail: mbrown918@gmail.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/thatgirlmegan

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/thatgirlmegan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megan.brown

Google+: https://plus.google.com/104925629302385815418

Site: http://www.thatgirlmegan.com

How would you label this girl?
Labels are bullshit.

Often, we are forced to attribute them to ourselves- through resumes, social media profiles, etc. Yet, the worst labels are the ones which society foists upon us:

Nerd. Ditz. Princess. Geek. Jock. Stupid. Hot. 

There are a few we try to 'take back' and wear as a badge of honor, most are negative.   

And, although you may find it hard to believe, there are even downsides to being labeled as a 'hot' girl.  

Before you write me off as arrogant or feel the need to dispute, let me define 'hotness' - it is a term a woman does not give herself, it is a title bestowed or burdened upon her by society. It is one of the basest labels that can be affixed to a woman- this is not 'inner beauty' or any of that deep self help mumbo jumbo you may see on Dr. Phil. A girl doesn't choose this, although for some reason she is constantly being put up against others or challenged to prove it is so. And, god forbid a 'hot' girl has other qualities to offer the world, including self confidence.

1. Everyone is competing- but for what?
The second you are labeled as hot and people realize that you aren't insecure - or that you are least smart enough to keep such things to yourself- they feel the need to poke at you. Everyone around you is suddenly super competitive. The problem is, you can't begin to even fathom what this exhausting competition is for. To be the most attractive? Who cares? You'd rather be surrounded by other confident people, rather than alone with a bunch of people who hate themselves. To be the smartest? Well, who wants to be surrounded by idiots? To be the best? At what? Isn't everyone good at something? For some reason, with catty cutting comments and pointless peacocking, almost every other woman (and sometimes man) you meet seems to want to engage you in some sort of antagonistic encounter until one of you emerges a clear victor.  This happens everywhere: at work, at a bar, with girls you thought were your friends, with complete strangers. Part of you feels like you should participate, because, after all, no one likes to lose. Yet you can't help but wonder constantly: Why am I bothering? One thing I have learned: If you aren't competing, you've already won.

2. You can't always be yourself
Whether your hotness is on the inside or the outside, as with everything in life, there is an appropriate time and place to display it. Anyone with common sense knows: A bikini is not a good outfit for a boardroom. Yet even an outfit you see as inoffensive can be viewed as others as highly inappropriate. Unfortunately for you, this means you are constantly having to cover up. This isn't necessarily referring to your ...assets - although it can - this also means your true self. Both dressing down as well as dumbing down are severe injustices women everywhere face. However, in order to please society, be taken seriously, not be seen as only getting ahead due to looks, and not have our confidence mistaken for conceit, we must do so.

3. "...for a hot girl."
I hate this phrase and the other backhanded 'commendations' like it. Anyone who has ever given you a compliment followed by this qualifier should be shot. The one I get the most? "You know a lot about sports... for a hot girl." Even worse: "There are hot girls who like sports?!" I fail to see how this is a surprise. Go to Aerys Sports- the entire site is made up of amazing women who blog about sports! I hope one day you run into Erin Andrews on the street, and she punches you in the face. 

4. Healthy and skinny: why not both?
'Healthy' and 'skinny' are too often seen as antonyms. How do you think I got this body? By pure luck? Admittedly, there are some women who are born with amazing genes and high metabolism. Most of us, however, work our asses off (literally) to look this good, and because we love ourselves, we accept the fact that no one, least of all us, is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Even Playboy playmates are constantly tweeting about going to the gym! Even making good eating choices give others leeway for lambasting hot girls. It's my fault for skipping chocolate cake last Tuesday and being very aware of what I put in my body. I admit, there are some women who face serious eating disorders, and I commend their friends for stepping in to help. However, it is all too often that the same people who say a girl is too thin are just as fascinated when someone seen as skinny puts on a pound or two. Everyone rushes out to buy that copy of Us Weekly to see how Reese Witherspoon is 'Just Like Us,' because look- there she is, on the streets of New York, unashamed- stuffing her face with a chili cheese dog! However, you can bet your spin class ass she puts in hard work at the gym or hitting the pavement to work off those street meat calories. We work to look this way, so yes, in a way we are enabling the 'hot girl' labelers, but at the same time, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being healthy- and it does take lots of work.

5. You have other qualities, too
Is Megan Fox a good actress? Damned if I know (not that I've seen any of her movies). Even in professions that are less based upon physical appearance, women are unfairly judged or even ignored by both men and women.  Although being labeled as 'hot' can get you ahead, even when it does so,  it happens at the cost of your other qualities.  People can become consumed by your 'hotness' and not care at all what you have to say for yourself or the amazing things you are capable of, making you feel frustrated as well as unfairly judged. Meanwhile, those around you are often jealous of something they can't begin to understand, and it fosters ill will. Even out of the office, fewer people feel as if they even should take you seriously merely because of your looks. Hello, my face is up here, buddy.

I have nothing against the women who are labeled as 'hot' - but I definitely am not a fan of the labelers. Because, when it comes to being seen as 'hot,' often that one label is mistaken for good and seen as the only important quality a woman has- and that is most definitely not hot.

Yes, it's a #8 jersey.
"Don't forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball."
-Woodie Held

Every Little League season started out the same: bouncing in my seat in the car excitedly on the way to the baseball diamonds at First Baptist, incessantly chattering away to my ever-so-patient mother, anticipating who would be on my team that year, wondering if my lefty mitt fit perfectly from my dad tucking it into my mattress so I could sleep on it the night before to break it in, praying that the weather would be perfect all day- but not too hot, and hoping the team snack would be popsicles. 

I would tumble out of the car, an energetic spillage of girl, glove, and already mussed ponytail, joining a sea of others just like me, each reporting to their own chalk-lined, dusty field of dreams. And so I went with them, reporting to my team's home plate. 

That's when the Norman Rockwell-esque daydream would turn into a nightmare. 

Every single season, it was the same: I was afraid of the ball. Absolutely terrified.

Although you may know me now as a baseball blogger, MLB game live tweeter extraordinaire, batting cage frequenter, and die-hard member of the Brewers Nation, if you knew me back then, you'd know the little girl who hid behind her glove for at least the first couple of practices of every season. I didn't want to catch the ball, and I didn't want to hit it either -my batting average at the start of every season was so low, it was doing the limbo under the Mendoza Line.  

To this day, I don't even know why I was so scared of the ball in the first place. I'd played catch in my backyard with my father and brother before the season even began, and I wasn't afraid then. And, every single season, I'd get over my fear after a few practices or the first game- once even making a behind-the-back catch at third base that, I must say, was pretty impressive. I would never be USA Women's Baseball material, but I was at least able to enjoy the game without fear, once I made it past those two to three terrifying practices.

So, what does this have to do with you - or even me - all these years later? Actually, a lot more than you'd think.

We all have fears. Some of them are phobias, completely irrational reactions to circumstances or tangibles, that we cannot explain or even justify. However, most of them are just plain old uncertainties and apprehensions dressed in fear's clothing - which means it is a lot easier than we think to get past them. 

Although I can't explain why I was afraid of a softball whizzing at my glove, season after season, I can tell you that I loved the game so much that I knowingly faced it, year after year. I accepted the fact that the scariness would not necessarily disappear, but I also did not let it override my excitement about going to play a game with my friends. My chances of getting nailed in the noggin by an errant softball were just as good later in the season as earlier, but because I was refusing to back down from it (or my parents were refusing to let me quit softball, after all, the Browns are not quitters), it became so far tucked back into my memory that it could not creep out and wind its paralyzing grip around me- for at least the rest of the season. 

The one thing little Megan, despite her bravery, failed to do was keep this fear from coming back. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that there was nothing to be afraid of, just like my coaches would patiently remind me during that first practice. However, we do not have the luxury of time travel (yet), so the only changes I can make are those in the present. I can honestly say now I am not at all afraid of softballs (or baseballs), and it's likely that is because I just merely grew out of my fear. 

But, as adults, even young adults, our uncertainties and uneasiness are caused by far more complicated things than a piece of cork and rubber hurtling at us. We will not grow out of what is holding us back from being our best. We may not even be given more than one chance to prove ourselves to be an integral, contributing member to any number of 'teams' we play on- whether we call those teams family, friends, coworkers, or something else. And when we fail, which, as humans, we all undoubtedly will stumble at some point, we feed these failures to a ravenous beast we call fear- but, like a sports mascot, fear is only something smaller than we think hiding inside the shell of something meant to intimidate. 

Do not let fear be your mascot. Even if you consider yourself to have failed, you have tried, you have taken a risk, and you have learned something valuable, even if all you did was learn how to recover. Do not let the risks outweigh the invaluable triumphs of meeting your personal and professional goals. Keep pushing toward your goals at home plate and keep jumping to catch those fly balls- even if you crash to the ground with an empty glove, you and your 'team' know you gave it your all. When you are most afraid to try or do, take a deep breath and go for it anyway. Even if the foundation of your approach feels like false bravado, you will be surprised to see that your supposed fears, when brought to daylight, are no more threatening than a ground ball straight to your glove, and true confidence will build within you.

This is all easier said than done. I know there are things I myself should jump into feet first, rather than cautiously waiting and wondering. Or perhaps there are situations where I should push more than I have to make things happen. There is nothing wrong with making informed, researched, and planned decisions. But there is something wrong with assuming that all good things come to those who merely wait. I am ready to push apprehension aside and make more happen, and I hope you are too.

If the 10 year old little Megan could face her softball anxieties year after year, just so she could play a game, then I have no doubt that both you and I can hit our fears far and away out of the ballpark - and enjoy our victory lap around the bases in the game of life. 

"Happiness is a way station between too little & too much.  
-Channing Pollock

When I started this blog (and the at-the-time-unemployed me paid a not so small amount for this domain), I made a promise that I would not neglect it. 

Building friendships & arbors at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (photo courtesy of Michael J. Thom)

Although my readers are few (aka my mom and potentially my dog when she sits on the keyboard while I try to type this post), I am going to admit that I am a bit embarrassed that it's almost been a year since my last post. 

It's not as if my life hasn't been chock full of lessons I've learned, ideas I'd like to share, or topics I'd greatly appreciate and enjoy your input on. Quite the opposite. While I'd like to employ the typical "adult" excuses of work or being tired (as opposed to the old college excuses of class or a hangover), we all know that the things we consider priorities are the things we actually make sure get done. Sometimes, though, it seems our plate is too full, and we slowly let even the small or least time consuming activities fall to the wayside. 

Yet, here I am, busier than I have ever been in my entire life, loving every second of it, and I'm back to blogging. So why have I decided all of a sudden to make this blog a priority now and add one more thing to my schedule? It's not something I woke up in the middle of the night and sat down to do. In fact, getting back to blogging is just one more thing on a long list of priorities I've been conquering and re-including in my life. 

Whether it's a change of location, job, or simply time of year, we all face a point in our lives where we feel as if we are doing whatever it takes to get by. Even if we don't feel sad, and our schedules are jam-packed, we still feel as if something is missing or wrong. We feel stressed, as if we are rushing around, but while we may be working hard or even playing hard, we aren't getting or enjoying the benefits we could be. Simply because we have't prioritized. 

Prioritizing is more than making a to-do list of things you are obligated to do or even creating a calendar of things you want to do. It is broadly deciding the experiences, goals, and connections you want in your present and future, and then pursuing them  in the most effective ways possible while maintaining balance. Seems both terribly easy and wonderfully hard at the same time.   

Most of the time, you subconsciously do this on a daily basis. You make decisions about what you do or don't want to do. However, the long term or even immediate effects of doing or not doing something probably don't occur to you. Those who don't think ahead end up taking things to the extreme- living in overly hedonistic unrealistic lifestyles while others submerge themselves in the drudgery of mundane. Some may know they are doing so ("I'll stop later," being the most common excuse as well as the most blatant lie told to concerned family or friends who notice). 

True, that you should pursue priorities with passion, but you also must find a realistic balance so you can achieve all of your goals. If you want to have a social life and excel in the business world, you're not going to be promoted if you're out partying every night and show up to work still drunk and unable to perform your best. Then again, you won't be very social if you spend every minute working, which will lead to unhappiness. Thus, maybe you limit your partying to the weekends, or, better yet, make lasting social connections by volunteering, playing a sport, joining a club, or even getting together with friends for dinner. The connections you build and make through these sorts of activities actually even may fulfill several priorities in addition to a fulfilling social life- someone you meet volunteering could be a valuable business connection, playing sports  will be fun and coincide with a fitness priority, or spending time with friends can further deepen your bonds and create a stronger network of support. Commit yourself to your priorities, and you will subconsciously be able to fill your life with success and positiveness. However- don't focus too much on 'getting something' out of life that you forget to enjoy it. After all, being happy should definitely be one of your top priorities as well as one that you can solely depend on yourself to choose to make happen. 

The hardest thing about prioritizing is that it may mean going outside your comfort zone, trying something new, or taking a risk. Having priorities does not guarantee that things will work out, but it does ensure that you will know how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. While your priorities may rise and fall depending upon what needs attention most, your unwavering commitment to leading a happy and fulfilling life will remain unchanged. 

The next time your plate seems full, yet, no matter how much you slop on, you're still always hungry, take a look at what's on it. If you don't like what you see (in my literal case, that would be peas), start to consciously delineate your priorities and decide how to make them happen. Or, if you already know your priorities, revisit them to regain clarity and balance. Maintain your passion for the things you do and keep your plate full of goodness (my case: popsicles... obviously), aka your priorities: people you love, activities you enjoy, goals you strive for, and dreams you will turn into reality. Eventually, you will gain momentum and realize negativity and emptiness have been replaced with positivity and fulfillment. 

After all, while we can refill and rearrange our priorities plate as much as our hearts desire, there are no second helpings of life.
go duke!
"Courage is fire. And bullying is smoke."
- Benjamin Disraeli

I broke a coffee mug yesterday. I want to say it was on accident. But it wasn't. In fact, at the time I was enabling its breakage (which is a fancy way of saying 'unceremoniously hurling it at the floor') I didn't even feel a single ounce of remorse.

This is new for me. I get angry, sure, but never violent.  I have never actually broken something (on purpose), whether it is a painted piece of porcelain or someone's nose. I am not an angry person. But, lately, in the last few months, enough has been enough.
Make fun of me for being a Duke fan?
Keep it classy!

I have apologized thousands of times for things that are not my fault simply so that the issue could be resolved, the friendship repaired, and the      fight forgotten. Hallmark has probably made hundreds off of me from cards I have bought for perturbed parents, sullen sorority sisters, or boyfriends with bad behavior. From discussions with friends and family, I do not argue or disagree with anyone more than the average person does. Although I stand up for myself when the issue at hand is important, sometimes I have decided to 'just let things go' and decide that a friendship or intimacy is far more valuable than an ex accidentally washing chapstick with the whites or my grandmother forgetting my dog's name for the millionth time. A relationship, in my nonscientific opinion, is 99% of the time more valuable than whatever started the argument to begin with.

But what do you do when you don't know who the person provoking you is? There is no known relationship to fix because he or she chosen to hide behind the anonymity that a technologically advanced age has allowed him or her to assume. Even the most superficial emotions of anger have nowhere to be directed, but it is hard to forget the offense. Who takes time out of their day to anonymously harass someone on the internet?

Apparently a lot of people. Cyber bullying is finally getting the attention it deserves. Although at first I found a lot of their campaigns laughable, but the statistics and real stories are hardly a joke. According to anti-cyber bullying group i-SAFE, 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once. There have been cyber bullying related suicides by children who just could not handle the intimidation and cruelty.

And here is where my shattered coffee mug enters into the equation. The catalyst for my out-of-character action was the result of an incredibly invasive, crude, and cruel message sent through a social media outlet. At first, when I saw it, I was appalled. What was written, due to content, had to have been composed by someone who not only knows me, but knows intimate details about my life. After shock, all I could feel was anger. Who would be such a coward that they could not ask a question or say these things to my face? Why were they unable to keep such disgustingly rude thoughts to themselves rather than splatter them sloppily all over my otherwise normal day? And, most importantly, why were they masquerading as a friend if they honestly couldn't be bothered to bring up the conversation in person?

Cyber bullying is real, and it is not just limited to children - although the adults who engage in cyber bullying might as well be acting like mean spirited schoolchildren. Studies in the UK show that one in 10 employees feel as if they are victims of cyber bullying in the workplace alone. I know I am not alone. I know some of you who are reading this can commiserate. As someone who has long been the number one fan of both technology and every form of social media possible, I urge you to join me - we must not let the magnitude of possibilities available with these advances turn into a nuclear project of power we cannot control or dedicate to doing good. There will always be a darker side to almost every discovery, but we, as individuals, can do what we can to rein in this misuse. This is not first time you may have heard this, but I cannot reiterate it enough: Those 'report' buttons are there for a reason. We must do our best to behave online the same way we would face-to-face. And we must discourage online anonymity among social networks. There is hardly a place for it. We must hold ourselves online to the exact same standards we would offline.

Maybe I am not right for reacting the way I did, but let's get one thing straight: It definitely took me longer to clean up that coffee mug than it did for Mr. or Ms. Anonymous to send me that miserly missive. And, although I am much more educated for it, I'd still prefer whoever you are to stay out of both my life AND my inbox.