Users, not customers: Skyping with Aaron Shapiro

Today, I had the immense pleasure of listening to a skype lecture with Aaron Shapiro, CEO of the digital agency HUGE. He also wrote a book called Users, Not Customers, which discusses adapting businesses for the internet.

First of all, let me just point out how awesome it is that technology allows us to have skype lectures. It’s so strange to think that only a few years ago, this type of experience never happened. Now, we can listen to a CEO across the country from a simple internet connection. Incredible.

I learned a lot of valuable information from Aaron, but I wanted to pull out some of my favorite insights:

“It is hard to connect that statistics are real people. It doesn’t feel real. It’s a mental shift companies need to get around.”

“The internet is more about DOING. Make marketing that’s useful, and helps people do things.”

“Understand the core reason people will use a product, and make that GREAT. Forget everything else. Think about what users want.”

“There’s no such thing as an offline business.”

“The most important skill set is learning technology. You need to understand how technology works, and manage with the user in mind.”

Aaron’s main points surrounded transformation. He explained that 50% of all consumer purchases are a result of digital. Digital commoditizes everything, which means it is crucial to set yourself apart. Now, we’re in an age where companies need two businesses to run: the core business and the online software layer. Any interaction should be available through a digital interaction as well.

As he put it,

amazing self-service + even better full service

Technology isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will keep growing and evolving. If companies want to keep up, they need to grow and evolve as well.

Thank you, Aaron for taking time out of your day to speak with us!

Take THAT, book buybacks!

My fists pumped in excitement as I exited my last creative writing class. Deep down, I was secretly holding back tears because I truly enjoyed every moment BUT the end of classes means that I can return my books for some sah-weet moolah (which I desperately need, if you read my  post about my online shopping addiction).

These days, I purchase my books in a digital format to save money. However, there are always those exceptions — my creative writing textbook — unavailable in eBooks format. At the beginning of the term, I paid $107.00 for the book (yes, my mouth dropped when I saw the price tag too). I strolled into the bookstore with confidence, thinking that I would at least get $50 back.

I slapped my book on the table smirking at my impending satisfaction, and gave the lady a “here ya go” wink.

“So, it looks like we can’t take this book back.”

My reaction:

“There’s slight water damange”

I wanted to shove the bookshelves over and scream, “OBVIOUSLY THERE IS WATER DAMAGE!!! WE LIVE IN OREGON YOU @#*%” but of course, I responded awkwardly with “Oh…Thank you” and walked out.

My hopes were shattered, but not all was lost. There was still the Smith Family Bookstore! Good ol’ neighborhood bookstore. They would take my book back! Right…?

WRONG.

“Hmm…Let me check and see if we have this book in stock.” (They Didn’t)

“Well…I can offer you…Eight dollars for this”

Ugh.

I almost felt like a criminal for having a book with water damage. Clearly, my book just wasn’t good enough for anyone even though the so-called “water damage” was minimal. Sad, depressed, and money-less, I walked home like this:

Then, I realized there is one thing I can ALWAYS count on…THE INTERNET! Huzzah!

I raced home, and started an Amazon seller account.

There aren’t many brands that I am a “die-hard” supporter of,  but Amazon truly takes the cake. Amazon has always been praised as a good brand, but the reason behind their success is due to their usability. I’ve never sold anything online before because I assumed it was too complicated. However, Amazon makes it extremely easy. They sell your product for you, they manage the shipping and handling for you, and you walk away with a happy transaction without breaking a sweat.

What Amazon does isn’t new. The difference is that they view customers as people. They make things relevant to us, and they make things easy. Other brands should start to take note.

Hitting the Iceberg: My Run-In with Online Shopping Addiction

It’s no secret that I’m pretty impulsive with my purchasing. For some reason, I convince myself that I do need things like head massagers and pirate eye patches. If you ever let me roam free in Hirons, I’ll come out with a truck load of useless purchases.

For this reason, I’ve stayed away from online shopping. Until one fateful day…
It started as a normal sunday afternoon. I woke up and began my usual morning routine of surfing the internet before any forms of human interaction, as usual. I proceeded to google puppies, as usual. I started to play my turn on the Draw Something app on my iPad. And that’s when it all went downhill.
The word was “ICEBERG”. I thought nothing of it, and proceeded to draw an elaborate portrait of Jack and Rose holding each other exclaiming that they would never let go aboard the Titanic. Little did I know that I would eventually hit that metaphorical iceburg and send myself into the chilling, deathly waters known as online shopping.
I NEVER click on advertisements in applications, unless it’s accidental. But you got me this time. Oh, you got me good. I put the final touches on my masterpiece and accidentally clicked an advertisement, which lead me to an application called Coffee Table.
I was about to click out, when I saw that this app could be somewhat cool. It intrigued me because it’s an app that puts various store catalogs into a digital format. The app even includes special deals like free shipping based on the catalog that you’re viewing.
My childhood nostalgia for the PB teen catalog combined with my early morning drowsiness caused me to download the app. Fast forward to thirty minutes later, and the next thing I know I’m racking up my credit card bills because I want to get the free shipping deal. I fell into your trap, you sneaky marketers. I hit the iceberg.
But was it really a trap? No. What it was — and the reason why I believe this app is so successful — was the usability. This application lets users view catalogs in a digital format, and then you can easily purchase items with a single click. It’s connected with Paypal, and so it is extremely easy to buy within seconds (and extremely detrimental to your wallet).
Instead of hassling with a phone call and placing your order, the purchase is completed within seconds, all with a flick of your finger. It encites consumers by putting all of the catalogs in one layout, and also providing deals that are relevant to you. The application is successful because it recognizes consumer lifestyles, and makes things easy.
 Everything is shifting towards mobile.  It’s crucial that companies understand that if you want to be successful in mobile, you need to make it easy. As my professor explained, “if you have to explain how to use it, you’ve already failed.”
So, I applaud you, Coffee Table. While the app may be the reason behind my sinking bank account ship (don’t you love all of the sea metaphors?) they understand the way I use technology, and I purchased items I didn’t anticipate because it was so easy.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be trying to find a job to repair the damage I’ve done to my dear Titanic.

A Week of Googling

This morning, I began my usual morning routine of surfing the internet before any forms of human interaction. My life is sad and embarrassing in that the internet is the first thing I turn to when I wake up, but I digress…

Much to my parent’s dismay and complete disapproval, I’ve recently decided that I desperately need a puppy in my life. I spent all last night and all this morning google searching puppies, adoption, and the like.

How could you say no to that face??

Don’t fret mom and dad, I won’t actually buy a puppy because I know I’m too irresponsible and poor for the time being BUT the whole situation reminded me of the 2009 Google Superbowl commercial that brought me to tears, and still remains one of my favorites.

The cursor blinks. The piano cues. The typing begins, and we’re transported into a beautiful love story via Google searches.

What do my Google searches say about me? I decided to investigate. I went through my browser history for the past week and recorded all of my recent Google searches:

SUNDAY March 4, 2012

Puppies. Adopting puppies. Hipping urban dictionary. Schiperke. New York City. Stuff to do in New York City. Weiner dog. Dachshund. Puppies. Adopt Dogs Eugene. Baby Animals. Oregon Humane Society. Puppies. Mutt Ad agency. Rush Limbaugh. Draw Something app. Multifaceted definition. Creative week New York.

SATURDAY March 3, 2012

Swedish meatball recipe. Facebook. Twitter. Facebook. San Francisco. Jobs in San Francisco. W+K. What agency did JCP rebrand. JCP Ad agency. Wieden Kennedy. Ad agencies. List of Ad Agencies in San Francisco. Tribal San Francisco. Ad Age. Top ad agencies. Best agencies to work for.

FRIDAY March 2, 2012

Morningside Inn New York. Manhattan New York. #FB. XO Urban Dictionary. Wiz Khalifa Amber Rose. Shakira Attacked by Sea Lion. Writing Manifestos

THURSDAY March 1, 2012

Grammar Effects vs Affects. Cliche. Well known Cliches. Adding slideshow to cargo website. How to add keynote to cargo website. Hulu. Watching TV online. Oregon Ducks Basketball Score 3/1/12. Sleeping problems? Identifying sleeping issues. Insomnia. Lack of sleep. How to sleep.

WEDNESDAY February 29, 2012

Leap Day. Hostels New york city. Snooki Baby. 30 Rock Leap Day episode. Usher new song climax.

TUESDAY February 28, 2012

(**Note: I was working on a class project this day – I swear I’m not a creep looking up underwear!)

Awkward gifts. Underwear. Awkward underwear gift. gifts. Bad gift to receive. Worst gift ever. Giftiki. Gum. Gumball machine. Dynamic vs static advertising. What do you want a large amount of. Whatsoever a word? Falsetto. YOLO. American Idol finalists. Attitude. Outlandish. Synonyms attitude. Irks. The Rock

MONDAY February 27, 2012

sex and the city cw new show? originality. Roosevelt hotel New York. Sex and the city episodes. Craig Smith blazers. Ohio School Shooting. Stop the Violence program. University of Oregon. School of Journalism and Communication UO.

So, clearly my life is not as romantic as the commercial, but I found it fascinating to see what my searches say about me (besides the fact that I’m a neurotic insomniac that desperately needs the unconditional love of a puppy and relies on urban dictionary for street credentials).

I noticed that Google searches truly have an archival aspect to them. Most of the things I searched were relevant to my life at the moment. For example, I will travel to New York in May and most searches related to the trip. On Wednesday, I worked on a project that caused me to search for strange things like “underwear gifts” (I swear, your honor, it was for learning purposes!). My numerous searches of puppy adoptions also hint at the fact that I tend to impulse buy…

I also found it interesting that I searched for websites on Google instead of going to the website URL. Instead of typing in “Hulu.com” or “Facebook.com,” I googled it. It seems strange to think about now, but while in the moment, it seemed like second nature to type it into Google rather than a URL.

I noticed that instead of saying “I searched for it”, I automatically say “Google it”. Google has turned into a verb, and  completely consumed our idea of online searches.

Now, a life without Google seems almost impossible to me. I use it even for the simplest searches. I think my dependence on Google has a lot to say about the shifts in our culture.

I’m not sure if this new “search culture” is a good thing or a bad thing. It may be good that we can easily access copious amounts of information with a simple search, but has it made us too impatient to discover answers on our own? I get easily frustrated when I can’t find a quick answer on Google. I’ve become dependent on Google for many aspects of my life, from finding restaurant phone numbers to navigating streets.

How will this affect the way we learn and behave in the future? What would happen if Google ever shut down (cue horror movie screams and visions of apocalypse)?

Until then, I’ll just focus on googling puppies and maybe someday finding a parisian love of my own.

This is Trey, the puppy I wanted to adopt after hours of Google searching

UPDATE: I’m not the only one!

The Curse of the “Forevernet”

Ughh...That horrible awkward stage. Note the Hollister jacket...

The year is 2002, and I am a freshly pimpled preteen whose main concerns in life are popularity and overpriced Abercrombie ripped jeans. Due to my desperation for acceptance, I decided to attend the local high school football game. Like most middle schoolers, I grazed the outside of the track and spent each quarter gossiping, not actually watching the game. It was at this very football game that my crush (who shall remain nameless) asked out one of my best friends.

Pure. Devastation. 

Of course, at this exact moment it started to rain, and I was left alone on the track with tears welling in my eyes. Straight out of a teen movie — How Cliche.

Immediately, I went home, locked myself in my room, and began blasting emo Evanescence songs. Suffering from my recent heartbreak, I decided to write terrible poems about the situation because let’s face it, MY LIFE WAS RUINED!!! This is where the problem arises…

Remember, the year is 2002. The internet was now an increasingly popular resource among my generation. I spent all of my time on AOL Instant Messenger and the act of sharing every last detail of my life developed into an innate evolutionary trait. Unlike my previous years of furious diary writing, my innermost thoughts were now poured into my Livejournal.

This is what I like to call the “Curse of the Forevernet”. Being part of a generation that was old enough to use the internet but young enough to be completely irresponsible with it left me with a curse. Don’t believe me? One word: MYSPACE.

I spent many years carelessly posting and sharing content that reflects my naivety. I’m not the first person who survived puberty, but the problem is that my experience is more public than the generations before me. I’ve tried my best to delete my accounts, but what is posted on the internet is circulating the inter-webs FOR ETERNITY. My immaturity is now forever embedded on some server, somewhere in the world. I didn’t realize that when I was younger.

See? Why did I ever think this was okay? It's embarrassing.

Now that I’m “older and wiser” (that’s in quotes because I’m still young and stupid) I wish that I could delete all history of 6th-9th grade. I was always told to be careful what you post, but as a typical preteen lacking frontal lobes, when did I ever think about my actions before I did anything?

Luckily, I was a very well-behaved young cherub who never broke rules, so nothing I posted was too outrageous. Yet, I would be absolutely mortified if anyone ever found a shred of my emotional turmoils of middle school yesteryear. Now I can laugh at my embarrassing past, but there’s still a darker side that reminds me it’s all still out there, somewhere.

To this day, I’m still surprised with some of my friends that unmindfully post things that probably shouldn’t be publicly shared. This isn’t to say I’m not guilty; we’re not all perfect. I’m sure I’ve shared some things recently that may not provide any meaningful value towards my future.

However, my point is that my generation has a cross to bear. We grew up using the internet without questioning it, and as a result we need to be more careful about the way we represent ourselves. It’s okay to be yourself and let your personality shine through — just make sure it’s the personality that you want the world to see for many, many years to come.

Car Trouble: My Dependency on Mobile

There I was, singing at the top of my lungs and mindlessly bumping along to the latest Rihanna song (guilty pleasure) when all of a sudden, there was a massive BABUMMP BABUMMP BABUMMP…

Next thing I know, my tire exploded and I’m skidding down the freeway on just the rims. In my head, I saw it as an intense action scene from 007 where I manage to calmly pull my car over like a pro. In reality, it probably looked something like this:

When I finally regained a normal breathing pattern, the first thing I did was take out my phone and call AAA. Following the AAA phone call, I dialed my parents, and proceeded to text my friends about my recent fiasco. To pass the time as I waited for the tow truck to arrive, I checked Facebook and scrolled through tweets.

While waiting, two different police officers pulled over, and asked me if I needed assistance. In addition, two kind souls stopped to see if they could help me as well. Unfortunately, I’ve become paranoid after watching too many episodes of “I Survived”, and so I automatically assumed they were potential serial killers, locked my doors, and motioned, “I’M ON THE PHONE WITH AAA, IT’S COOL!

This is where the point of my blog post comes in: It was completely instinctual for me to grab my phone as soon as trouble arose. I didn’t think twice about using my phone as a resource to get me out of a distressing dilemma. However, it was also instinctual for me to lock my doors at the first sign of human contact. The thought of actually letting strangers help me didn’t even cross my mind. WHY?

I justify my actions with the fact that I was alone, it was dark, and the reality of the situation is that we live in a dangerous world full of crazies. Sadly, females need to keep their guard up these days. But it did make me think about how dependent I am on my mobile phone. The first thought that came to mind was: “Wow, what would I have done without my cell?”

I thought back to those days I like to refer to as the “dark ages” when cell phones didn’t exist. As a millennial, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around life without a cellphone – especially in emergencies.

In this situation, my phone was my savior. It allowed me to call for reliable help in the safety of my car, and stay connected with my family and friends. At the same time, it gave me an excuse to avoid the people who tried to help me because I could easily say “I’ve got the situation covered, thanks to my ability to call AAA!”. I felt safer because I had my phone.

Our technology provides us with a sense of security. When we need help, we can get it at the push of a button. Phones provide us with a sense of comfort. But at what cost? Car trouble scenarios aside, are we becoming a culture that exiles each other because we would rather use our phones as a resource? What happens when we DON’T have our phones with us? Personally, I get a tinge of anxiety when I forget my phone…

What behavioral traits have shifted as a result of new technology? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

This debate on behavioral traits and technology is nothing new. I would like to discuss my personal opinions in a separate, more in-depth blog post. But for now, what do you think? Are you dependent on your mobile phone?

A Day Without Internet

January 18th — the day that modern field hockey became a sport. Rapper DJ Quik was born. Seven-year-old Leo II succeeds his maternal grandfather Leo I as the Byzantine emperor.

And now, it is the day that will forever live in the hearts of many millennials and tech-savvy crowds everywhere.

For those of you living under a rock (sorry, Geico Caveman), January 18, 2012 was the largest online protest in history. In other words, Internet users banded together against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). The goal was to show the world the potential consequences that would result if the bills passed. Below is a comprehensive video that explains why users were against SOPA and PIPA:

“In short, Protect IP won’t stop online piracy, but it will introduce vast potential for censorship and abuse while making the web less safe and less reliable”

And then, something incredible happened.

It started with the whiny complaints that fogged up my newsfeed with “Why is the Google logo all black? How am I supposed to write my research paper without Wikipedia?” and it evolved into knowledge.

The most-used sites on the Internet like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and even WordPress (which I use to write my own blog posts) “blacked-out” their websites, and encouraged visitors to educate themselves on the issue. Almost 1,000,000,000 people were blocked from websites. Before the West Coast work day ended, over 2,200,000 people had tweeted about #SOPA, and over 10,000,000 signatures filled a petition to against the bills. Those are some incredible numbers.

From my own observations, I saw first-hand that those who were initially confused about the issues surrounding SOPA and PIPA shifted from complaining to action. Profile pictures were changed to say “STOP SOPA”, and people tweeted their own form of “black-out” messages, or encouraged others to become involved.

On January 20th, two days after the Internet blackout, Congressed shelved the bills indefinitely.

Recently in my Digital Social Branding class, my professor Dave Allen made a point that the web is people powered. SOPA and PIPA are a perfect example of this. As a result of feeling what life was like without the Internet we know and love, people took action – and it worked.

The Internet is constructed around the idea that it connects people. You can’t win a fight against the owner of the gun factory with butter knives. Similarly, you can’t win a fight against the Internet when you’re trying to control the very thing that it was created for.

You can take our money…You can take our electrical outlets…BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY OUR INTERNET! The nerds WILL fight for their revenge (and we’ll win)!

Why will we prevail? Because the Internet is a beast that cannot be tamed. I like to think of it as the “Wild West” for my generation. No matter how hard you try to control it, people will always find a way around the regulations.

Instead of trying to fight and censor the people, why not work with them? Use the power of people to your own benefit.

What do you think about the SOPA and PIPA situation? Can the Internet be tamed? Is working with Internet users too optimistic? Please comment with your thoughts and opinions.

Sharing is Caring? My First (Public) Short Story: The Bus Stop

PREFACE:

I’ve always been shy. Sometimes people find my shyness hard to believe because I have moments where I seem very confident in myself. But when I was younger, adults would ask me questions like “How old are you?” and I would run away without giving them an answer. I’d spend the next few hours breathing heavily and nervously wringing my hands. When cars drove past my house while I played outside, I would run and hide in my garage until they were gone.

One time, my sister asked me to buy her candy at the store. She gave me exact change, and I counted it hundreds of times to make sure that I had the correct amount. I walked confidently up to the register, only to hear the words: “you’re three cents short”.

I knew for a fact that I had enough money. I saw the lady count it, and she obviously made a mistake by adding it wrong. I panicked, and ran away (as usual). Candy-less and money-less, my sister made me go back into the store and get what was ours. I’ll never forget the amount of sweat that formulated under my armpits that day.

Not much has changed. I’m still absolutely terrified of public speaking. My face usually turns bright red and I stumble over my words. It’s pretty painful, like watching a dog try to play a video game. You know it’s not possible because the dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs, but you just don’t have the heart to tell him that he should give up because he is embarrassing himself (and it’s kind of entertaining for you to watch).

The truth is, we’re all self-conscious — especially if it’s about something personal to us. We’re all afraid of the judgement that will follow after we share something with the world.

This morning, I read an inspiring blog post from my friend Allison Francis. She talks about how we should let go of our fears and share it anyway. You should definitely take the time to read the post in it’s entirety (especially if you are in a creative field). Her last paragraph is my favorite:

Let go of your insecurities. Get out of your head and into your soul. Answer the call to art and become a part of something bigger than you; embrace a power inaccessible to lone individuals. Create, create, create, and help make the world an inspiring place to live.

This term, I’m taking a creative writing class. We spend some time writing short entries, and sometimes that writing turns into something I’d like to continue with. I’ll probably never be able to give a speech without a red face, but here is to small steps…I’m going to start sharing some of my short stories on my blog under the category “Short Stories”  (very creative title, I know…).

Even if the stories suck, maybe you can laugh at my pathetic attempts at writing. Or, if there is a miracle worker out there, maybe you will watch my writing improve as the class progresses. Feedback is always welcome – it’s the only way I can improve!

p.s. Today’s writing prompt was Objective Correlative, which means we had to “use a symbolic article used to provide explicit, rather than implicit, access to such traditionally inexplicable concepts as emotion or color”. I don’t even know if I did this correctly, but heck, here goes nothing…

The Bus Stop

Dan sifted the dirt underneath his leather shoes, and waited for the next bus to arrive.

“I should have gotten a shoe shine,” he grumbled to himself.   “Hell, I didn’t even shave this morning,” he said, as his cold fingers stroked the graying stubble growth. “I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore…”

He mused to no one in particular, not even himself. Not a soul was even within earshot. That was just it; no one was there.

The bus stop taunted him with emptiness. After all, where would anyone want to go? Why would anyone have anywhere to be at 2 p.m. on a bleak Tuesday afternoon? Most people were busy shuffling about on their daily endeavors. Children were lacing up their shoes on the playground. Fathers were at work, furiously scratching away on yellow lined notepads. Mothers were sewing patches on the broken seams of the living room pillows.

Dan didn’t fit that lifestyle anymore. Instead, he was watching the rain drops slowly drip into larger formations of nothingness on the side of the bus stop at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.

He recalled the last time that he was on a bus. A blue Dodgers cap had covered his slightly tousled hair – more hair than he has nowadays. He frantically checked his watch, each tick determining whether or not he would make it to the game on time. If it wasn’t for Jack, who felt the annoying urge to pick up every single stick along the way to the bus, they would already be cheering in the stadium.

“Hurry it up, Jack! We’re gonna be late,” Dan had told him, as he hustled him along by the arm. “I paid a lot of money for these tickets! The sticks will be there when you get back.”

The rumbling of the bus awoke Dan from his daydream, and he boarded the bus headed for Marisville Cemetery. He took a seat near the back, even though he was the only passenger on the bus. This time, he wasn’t wearing a baseball cap or checking his watch. Instead, he gazed out the window, and wished that he would have spent more time picking up sticks alongside of his son.

New Year, New Resolutions

I started biting my nails in sixth grade. I saw my sister biting her nails at the dinner table and I was mesmerized by how it must be what all of the cool teens did. Naturally, I wanted to be a cool teen someday, and so I began to bite nails. She has since kicked the habit, but I have been unable to stop my gnawing. My typical New Year’s resolution is to stop biting my nails. As you probably assumed, my nail beds still suffer from my incessant chewing. I tried everything from slapping myself with a rubber band when I bit my nails, to coating my nails in that special polish that makes your mouth bitter for hours. Nothing worked.

New Years resolutions have never been my strong suit. Like many in the blogosphere, I decided to start off my newest blog by discussing my goals for 2012.  However, I’ve yet to accomplish or complete any the goals that I set out for myself.

But this year, I have high hopes. What I realized is that my goals were always too vague and grandiose. Instead of focusing on “I want to lose weight” or “I want to stop biting my nails,” I decided to focus on small ways to improve my daily life.

That’s what resolutions are all about, right? Self-improvement. But the only way that you can improve is to change bad lifestyle habits. And the only way to change habits is by taking it one small step at a time. Otherwise, the goals will become too overwhelming, and it is too hard to measure progress. By improving my daily life, I hope to improve my overall life.

Aside from everyone’s goal of surviving the impending apocalypse/end of the world in 2012, this is what I resolved to do and why:

1. 20 crunches and 5 push-ups everyday, no excuses. 

Yes, the numbers are low. Most people I told this resolution to laughed at me and asked, “Why only 20? Why not do 100 a day?”. The answer is simple: I know I will do it. It’s easy to say that I could do 100 crunches a day. But sometimes, life gets in the way. Recently, I went on vacation and I was busy all day. I barely had time to fit in a phone call home, let alone do my crunches. If I had a daunting number, I would have pushed it aside and thought “it’s alright if I just skip one day”.

However, one day leads to two days, which leads to two months, which leads to my usual disappointment in my lack of goal completion. As I explained earlier, if you want to change your lifestyle habits, it needs to be in small steps. So, laugh all you want at my small numbers. But when I can outrun the zombies and explosions at the end of the world, we’ll see who is laughing then.

I went a little crazy and purchased a shake weight, along with other work out equipment

2. Make meals for myself

Like most non-celebrity humans, I would like to be healthier and richer. My plan is to slim the bod and fatten the wallet by making meals for myself. For the past few months, I got into the habit of eating out a lot because I was either too lazy or too busy to make food for myself. I’m not alone: on average, Americans spend 5.6% of their income on eating out.

But I don’t want to do this goal just because it is healthier and cheaper. The real reason I want to make meals for myself is because I love to cook. Another realization I had about resolutions is that if you do something that you love, it will be easier to continue with it.

Instead of focusing on a goal for the wrong reasons (i.e. I want to make meals because its healthier), centralize on a way to make the goal a positive thing (i.e. I want to make meals because I love to cook). When you shift away from something you have to do into something you want to do, it will be easier to accomplish.

3. Write down one positive thing and one thing that I am grateful for

This is the resolution that I am the most proud of, except I can’t take all of the credit for it. I was with some friends at dinner, and we each went around and said our resolutions.While most of ours were along the lines of my two previous resolutions, one of my friends caught me off guard by simply saying “I want to have a more positive outlook on life”. I was really impressed by her as she explained that simply changing the way you think, changes the way you live.

It’s a wonderful and true point — our mentality has a lot to do with how we live our life. If you want a happier life, all it takes is changing the way you view the world.

To make sure that I follow through with this, I decided that each day I will write down one positive thing that happened to me, and one thing that I am grateful for. There are so many things to be thankful for, so I think this will be the most rewarding goal to look back on as I enter 2013. If the world doesn’t end, of course…

What are your New Years Resolutions?

Winter Break Woes: A Lifestyle Study of Lazy College Students

…And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!

(This post is best read in an English or Australian accent…Or, the voice of Morgan Freeman)

Similar to the migration patterns of birds to warmer areas during the winter solstice, it is one of nature’s mysterious occurrences that happens each year: college students return home for winter break.

The spectacle begins as we slam our heads against the shelves of books in the library and curse the world for our failure to study until the night before the exam.

“WHY CAN’T IT BE WINTER BREAK ALREADY!?” we repeatedly shout together in a war cry that reinforces our solidarity against schoolwork. Our fists clench in a psychotic fury resulting from the 18+ hours spent in florescent lighting and caffeine-induced crazy.

Then, miraculously all of our previous anguish is instantly obliterated. Finals finish, we prance around like blissful elves the day after Christmas, and race home to get to all of the INCREDIBLY important plans we have for winter break (i.e. sitting on the couch). Very peculiar specimens, we are.

This pure happiness lasts for about two days, and then the realization of how boring it is to sit at home all day sets in, and we crave to go back to school. Isn’t that ironic…

Yes, the college student is indeed a fascinating species. We have a complex combination of eagerness to learn mixed with inescapable laziness. An utterly confusing hybrid of pretending we’re mature adults, yet still acting like children.

So, for all of you scientists out there dying to study the nature of undergraduates everywhere, I’ll make it easy for you. From here on out, I shall refer to us as The Lazy College Student (LCS). The following is a lifestyle study on how we spend our winter break:

Leeching

While some groan at the thought of leaving our independent lifestyles and begrudgingly return to living with our parents, I welcome this opportunity with open arms. Although coping with the frequent parental nagging of “PUT AWAY YOUR DISHES” and “HOW CAN YOU LIVE IN THIS PIG-STY OF A ROOM” is arguably the most difficult feat of surviving winter break, living at home also translates to everything is free.

Free movies. Free laundry. And best of all, FREE FOOD! As a result, the LCS spends its winter break leeching. We feed off of the completely stocked pantry supply. We drive our family vehicles so that we don’t use our own gas. We suck the life out of your wallets under the guise of family bonding. The LCS will do sick, twisted things if it means free stuff is a looming possibility.

Third-Wheeling

Leeching then evolves into the phenomenon known as “third-wheeling”. As a result of our inability to resist free things combined with our exponential boredom, the LCS will frequently invite themselves everywhere. Even if you were planning on a quiet evening alone, this will not phase the LCS, as they are programmed to think that their plans are automatically more important than yours.

Usually, this third-wheeling takes form in “suggesting” family activities. Beware: “suggesting” is merely a pseudonym for “free activities for the LCS” (refer to Leeching). The social suicide of being seen with your parents in a public place is a small price to pay for what would have been a $14 movie experience (but you got it for free since you tagged along with your parents…muahaha!). Mom and Dad are eating at a fancy-schmancy restaurant for dinner? Don’t mind if I do…

Working

For the lucky few, winter break means extra seasonal hours at previous workplaces. It means holiday parties where parents are desperate to find those last minute babysitters. A common trait of the LCS is that we are always cash-hungry. What other age group asks for strictly gift cards or money during the holiday season? Similar to our leeching abilities, typically the LCS will do almost anything for payment. Use this to your benefit, older generations.

“Catching Up”

Depending on the varying level of extroversion, “catching up” can have many different definitions amongst the LCS. For some, it means catching up with old friends, and rekindling those forgotten relationships. For myself, it means catching up on 14 days of uneaten advent calendar chocolate and spending hours watching TV shows that deplete all forms of previous academia from my brain. Bring it on, Kardashians.

Hibernation

Like most marsupials, the LCS is also dependent on hibernation throughout the winter season. It is not suggested to wake them during resting periods, as it may result in a dangerously dramatic tantrum. If you value your life, allow them to press the snooze button.

Make-Shift Vacations

After becoming restless from our rough lives of waking up after twelve, watching TV all day, and occasionally getting up to eat (god forbid exercise or natural lighting), we ultimately decide we need a vacation from these hardships. The LCS will get together with a group of friends and decide on a whim that it will be a good idea to road trip for 13 hours and somehow fit 30 people in a room designed for 6. This will all be fine and dandy, until we reach the unfortunate realization that vacations without our parents means we have to pay for everything ourselves (refer back to leeching). Ahh, financial dependency. It ruins everything.

Spending an Ungodly Amount of Time On the Computer

Our increased amount of free time combined with an innate necessity to know what our friends are doing at all times (this common disease is also known as F.O.M.O — “Fear of Missing Out”) results in the LCS spending a ridiculous amount of time on the computer. If there is a Facebook status to be updated, we will update it. If there is a tweet to be sent, we will tweet it. If there is a cat video to be watched, we will watch it. Fear not, social media moguls — we shall keep you in business forever with our important conversations of:
“What are you doing?” // “Nothing, what about you?” // “Same here.”

Not Being Productive 

All of these characteristics lead us into our final phase of the LCS during winter break: counter-productivity.

“I’m going to start working on my porfolio”

“I’ll start my job hunt for after graduation”

“I’ll get my Christmas shopping done early this year”

“I really am going to clean my room”

Nope. These are all just broken promises that we make to trick ourselves into thinking we could be productive when in reality, we can barely manage to get out of bed before 2pm. There are just sooo many other things we would rather be doing — like spending hours on the computer, feeding off of our parents food supply, or watching reality TV shows. As hard as we try, we fall victim to wasting our time and doing absolutely nothing.

Yes, in conclusion, winter break for the LCS really just means we are an overall waste to society for three to four weeks. It is an eternal battle with the endless cycle of pure laziness. Until our winter break woes are fulfilled, parents may look forward to the LCS’s lack of any contribution to a meaningful life. Enjoy yourselves — it’s going to be a looong few weeks.