Living in a Calculated World

Stories From a Country Girl

Its hard to believe it was 10+ years ago I first entered the world of blogging.

I look back on those days fondly.

{Now I know how most seniors feel when they talk the good ol’ days.. you know, those days before smartphones, technology and all this craziness}

But in all seriousness, even 10 years ago, the digital sphere was a different time.

(OK, now I definitely sound like a senior).  This may be the first blog post that ‘dates me’ as a human. Sigh.

Yes, it’s been that long since my ‘Stories From a Country Girl’ days for those blog readers who have so loyally followed me here all the way from then, to my Passionate Voice blog and now to my new home. Thank you to those readers for your continual support and readership throughout all these years 🙏 Even if there are only 6 of you 😉

I’ve been doing a ton of listening, conversing and reflecting throughout the month of January for work. It has me thinking of how we’re living in such different times than even a short 10 years ago from so many standpoints – in life, in work, with social media, technology, consumer behavior, disruption, the list goes on.

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about the role of social media and the impact it has on our lives and our mental health. Its something that bombards us and inundates us both personally and professionally every day. We’ve never been properly trained in it and the research isn’t quite there yet to show the long-term lasting effects, yet we continue to use it at such rapid rates. I see firsthand and realize its benefits but I also see the cautions we need to talk about more, to engage productively and healthily with our social media feeds.

And this comes from someone who does social media for a living!

Even blogging 10 years ago was a completely different landscape. It wasn’t so ‘calculated’ as the entire world now is with blogging and social media. When we were blogging back in ‘those days’, we didn’t have to have well-curated graphics that had consistent branding with the ‘right’ fonts. We didn’t care about likes/followers, we just blogged about what we thought about and cared for and if the likes followed, then great but that wasn’t the end goal. We didn’t care about promoting our messages beyond our followers, trying to make our content ‘salesy’ for people to eat up and then buy from us. Hell, we didn’t even give the proper credit for graphics/photos when we searched on Google and used them for our blog posts.

Side note: If you previously read my SFACG blog when I first started, yes, the image above is my old header and no, I didn’t end up purchasing the image for $20 but I am at least giving image credit below 😉

I sometimes wish we had that type of freedom again.

To read blogs written in the ‘old school way’ of blogging. Or think in that easygoing way #FreeThinking. Or blog in the carefree way, whenever we wanted too, without the branding, the content calendar and the perfectly placed hashtags. Blogging in a world where we didn’t have to worry that if you said something that not everyone agreed with, you didn’t have to face the social media wrath you probably would today. I wish we all had that freedom to only care about ourselves and what we thought. And not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but a way that was healthy for us. A time where if you had something to say and wanted to passionately say it, you just said it (HECK YES!)

I really do wish some days we were living in a less calculated world. I miss those days of off-the-cuff randomness. Whose with me?

[Image Source]

7 Ways to Manage Your Digital Footprint

If you visit here often or we follow each other on social media, you would have noticed some changes last fall to my photography and branding.

It was just some simple, subtle, yet positive changes that helped to spice things up around here and on my social platforms. Hello, new headshot! :P 

Its like when I re-arrange furniture in my house when the seasons change, it is the simplest thing to do and the BEST feeling when its done. In the social world, you really always have to be changing it up to keep fresh, continue to evolve and be noticed as you and your brand grow and evolve.

The intended change was good because it made me realize how you have to take continued stock or inventory of your digital footprint. Simply put, you have to keep track of all your social profiles. Sounds easy but it isn't.

Even if you’re not rebranding, having all of your passwords and log-in information in one place is a good place to start. This made things SO much easier for me when I went to do my rebrand and proudly post my new headshot across all my social platforms last fall.

This blog post can serve both individuals or even businesses and social/digital managers that manage their company's corporate communications and brands. Here are 7 things I learned last fall with my rebrand for how you too, can easily manage your digital footprint at any point in time.

7 Ways to Manage Your Digital Footprint

  1. Create and maintain a locked password document (that requires a password to get into the document). This should contain all of your social media platform passwords. This is an easy way to keep organized, period.
  2. Establish and set your brand guideline. This will ensure you execute your brand with consistent colours, fonts and look/feel across all social platforms you use. It is best to create a mood board and then a brand board to always refer back too. I've provided my latest rebrand branding board below for your reference :)
  3. Once you've set your 'look and feel', hire a professional photographer to capture your brand - it’s a wise investment and some of the best money you will spend!
  4. Have a consistent logo/photo/headshot across all of your social platforms.
  5. When/if you decide to change your logo/photo/headshot, take the time to update your bio and descriptions with the same consistent wording and put this across all of your platforms.
  6. Update your website or your blog at the same time to reflect any of these new changes and introduce your new rebrand.
  7. Review your analytics on each of your social platforms and website/blog to determine what platforms are working best for you. When you rebrand, its a perfect time to add new platforms, change the function of existing platforms or decide altogether to stop using certain social platforms if you find you're not getting the ROI for the value you're putting in. Your followers on each of your social platforms will tell you a lot about what they consume from your brand.

If you have questions about your own social media profiles, need help in rebranding or want to know more about the analytics behind your social platforms,let's get in touch!

The Sunday 7

  1. If you follow me on Instagram, you have saw what travels I got up too today on a random Sunday drive. Hint, it included discovering this Flea market pictured above, in my the backyard of my hometown that I've drove by a million times. Found some pretty cute antique pieces too #ExploreYourOwnBackyard
  2. Also on our Sunday drive, we stopped in at this amazingly cute and homey coffee shop in Warkworth, ON, Our Lucky Stars. Definitely coming back for another cup of coffee soon, so glad we stopped in!
  3. As a women who loves and works in politics, if you are in and around the Guelph area and want to attend a campaign school for those interested in politics, check out this event being offered at City Hall.
  4. I recently had a salad that had a beautiful looking veggie in it that I had no clue what it was. How did I not know before now, what a watermelon radish was? #facepalm Perfectly summed up, "If Cinderella were a vegetable, she'd be a watermelon radish."
  5. This dreamy backyard porch oasis has me dreamin’ of warmer, sunnier temps where I can be blogging from my backyard. #SpringSoonPlease?
  6. I already had enough reasons to love the stationery line, Rifle Paper Co, but now I see why the stationery is so brilliant, after seeing this home tour of the mastermind behind the brand.
  7. Have a long drive coming up? Listen to this 'How I Built This' podcast with Kate & Andy Spade, the husband-wife duo behind the famous brand, Kate Spade. Thanks for the reco, Sarah :)

Airplanes: A Destination for Silence

There aren't many places where you can now fully disconnect. Places where you can't access wifi and be hooked to the internet and your smartphone. Places where you can totally be #offline.

Thinking back to my first trip to Europe in 2009, I couldn't call home on my cellphone, let alone get a wifi signal to use my cell (notice I called it a cellphone not a smartphone, that dates me already!) That was less than a decade ago. Oh how technology has advanced in such a short period of time!

While in Europe, I had to go to Internet cafes or use pay phones with calling cards to call home to let my parents know I was safe and sound. I remember taking photos with my camera here and there at the most memorable tourist attractions but I couldn't be bothered with documenting my entire trip through the lens of my camera. I wanted to experience it all in person. And let's be serious, even if I wanted to document it all through the best filters and apps, my flip phone didn't even have the capabilities to take photos. God, I really am dating myself. 

Fast forward almost a decade later, and you can now connect almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day. They even now offer wifi on some planes which seemed like the last place we'd ever see access to internet introduced. I always thought it interfered with the airplane signals?! #GuessIwasWrong

On most flights where they now offer wifi, they at least have put a price tag to access wifi. Its a hefty price tag, but I am glad they put the price high so it discourages me to pay for internet. 

Here's why....

Airplanes are one of the last places where we can put boundaries or restrictions on using our smartphones and accessing social media. Its one of the last remaining places where we are guaranteed silence. Where we expect to be left alone. Its one of the last places where we are forced to sit alone with our thoughts... scary I know.

Its where you can read a book quietly or watch a movie... with no dings, no alerts, no vibrations.

On airplanes, I get some of my best ideas. Its where my creative juices get a flowin'. Its where I pull out pen and paper and write down blog post ideas, work on my editorial calendar, brainstorm content for upcoming presentations, process ideas and thoughts and let my mind wander. 

Its one of the best feelings.

I've come away from my recent trip visiting my in-laws in Manitoba with many blog posts written and random thoughts documented. Some samples from my most recent two hour personal brainstorm session plane ride?

  • Agriculture faces a re-branding challenge. I tweeted about this idea this week. Its one of the biggest challenges I believe we face in the industry I grew up in and love to work in. I'll be elaborating on this thought later this week when I serve on a Co-operators ag panel.
  • On the topic of agriculture, it just recently dawned on me that for the better part of my political career, I have been the minority. Working in agriculture in downtown Toronto, surrounded by consumers who don't know much about agriculture and farming is where I've realized I'm not the majority. When I was a kid growing up, I just naturally assumed everyone knew about farming because hey, that's what everyone did right?! Do those who work in agriculture sometimes forget, including me, that we aren't the majority anymore in the circles we need to be selling our industry too?! And are we comfortable being the minority?
  • Social media is changing the operational functions of customer service departments for companies and businesses. Both good and bad. I talked about this at a presentation I gave earlier this week from a customer service experience I witnessed on Twitter recently. Blog post written on this = check.
  • A 'Someday File' - we all have one. Places we'd like to travel too; things we want to buy; books we want to read; things we want to learn. What holds us back from doing any of it?! After reading more of Mark Manson's 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' it got my mind racing on so many topics he writes about and my own 'someday file' and why I keep making lists but don't DO alot of them.

So many thoughts I know for a two hour flight :P So much writing, so little time. Also, here is to our first successful trip and plane ride with Blake. Thankfully it was a smooth ride and experience. Thanks little man for making this mom feel like she hit the baby jackpot #MotherWin 

To The Journey We Begin

"A new is baby is like the beginning of all things - wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities."

- Edna J LaShan

I intentionally decided to step back from the Passionate Voice over the past month and take a break from my own personal #Blog452 goal for 2017 since experiencing the greatest life gift a month ago.

Only a few short hours after sharing my last blog post, on May 27, 2017, one month ago today, we were blessed by welcoming Blake Andrew Arklie into the world.

Taking the time to step back from blogging, use social media with more intention and purpose since then and relish in the arrival of our new baby has been a gift. Getting to know this new, tiny human being while at the same time, adjusting to the new roles of motherhood and parenthood, has been a gratifying and humbling tiring experience.

It has taken me several attempts to write this post as the words didn't seem to embody all I've been thinking and feeling. Every time I began to write this post, I was overcome with emotion, of course positive ones. To try and find words to accurately reflect how life changed a month ago is next to impossible.

And then I realized, after trying to start this post many a time, this post is a reflection of what I am learning (in a short time of course) about motherhood, "Its progress, not perfection." 

You'll never find the perfect words to sum up something as magical as this so here it goes, my first blog post being wrote, while breastfeeding, balancing a baby and typing with one finger (I feel like I'm in grade 3 computer class all over again learning to type, but again, progress not perfection).

No book, manual or course can prepare you for what I am realizing is the single most unique experience that anyone can go through. Every person is different, every baby is different, therefore making every person's version of parenthood so unique.

It has been an incredible (and daunting) feeling, knowing I am now not only responsible for myself, but another human being.... and that the values and perspectives I share will ultimately help to shape who he becomes.

I am proud to have been raised into who I am by my parents and my upbringing; proud of the choices I've made and the paths I've pursued in my personal life, my career and my hobbies... but being Blake's mom is now the cherry on top.

Watching Andrew take on his new role of being a father has also been the most heart-bursting thing to watch. So many of the cliche things they say about parenthood ring so true now - you never truly feel a love like this until you watch your partner you love, love the baby you created together #HeartExplosion

Learning Blake's small, subtle cues of what his different cries are for and what he needs; watching him grow each day (seriously can't believe how much they change so quickly!); experiencing all of his 'firsts' with him; taking him out to do the most mundane tasks, only to be admired by men and women of all ages (people really do love babies!); and enjoying long walks with Blake in the stroller, Starbucks coffee in hand while the warm summer sun beats down, are just a few of the small day-to-day experiences I am continually in awe of and thankful for.

Of course there are late nights, long days, cries and poopy diapers - the detailed stuff the books don't (really) prepare you for, but I'm just thankful that my job and my upbringing on the dairy farm helped prepare me for late nights, early mornings and operating on only a few hours of sleep on any given day. As I keep joking to find the positive, you can sleep when your dead right?! #IWish #StillNeedSleep

Navigating this new phase of life and my new role as mom has been 'interesting' on some days but having the best husband and partner to share in this with makes this the greatest adventure we've embarked on together. If I thought it was liberating not knowing what was ahead as we prepared for Blake's impending arrival, not knowing what is in store each day with a newborn baby and learning something new each day as a new mom is even more liberating.

I've relinquished full control to a small tiny being and for the first time in my life, it feels amazing to not have expectations because as I shared on instagram last week, when you don't have expectations, you don't have disappointments. Another new lesson for this mom.

I was passionate about everything I did in life before Blake arrived (hence why this is called 'The Passionate Voice') but now I wake up, yes a little more tired, but with an added sense of purpose. If I wanted to do things before Blake, I only want to do them THAT much bigger and better now. The purpose, passion and perspective I have for life and seeing it through the eyes of our newborn, has added a whole new vigour to which I want to do this thing called 'life.'

If any time in life, I'm realizing this is the best time to let the dishes pile, the laundry heap and the dust collect, there will be enough time for all of that. For now, I'm trying to soak this all up.

I'm hoping to continue kicking butt with my 2017 goals and it looks like I can check off the biggest one of them all not only for 2017 but in life.. becoming a mom to a healthy baby! I do plan to share more and do more here on The Passionate Voice to make even more of a difference because if I wanted to leave the planet a better place before Blake, I only want that a million times more now.

Here's to our journey ahead as a family of 3.. its going to be one hell of a beautiful, bumpy ride :)