Just be kind!

In the age of social media, it’s easy to look at peoples’ carefully curated lives online, and believe that their lives are going amazingly well, but it’s always important to remember that everyone is struggling with something.

Maybe they have family members who are ill, maybe they dislike their jobs, or maybe their marriage isn’t as rosy at it seems.

I say this not to bring you down but to ask you to remember to be kind to other people.

If somebody snaps at you too quickly, is quick to judge, or just isn’t very friendly, ask yourself what may be going on in their lives that causes them to be that way… And if that person is a colleague, a friend or a partner — ask if you can help.

And if the grumpy one is you, take a hard look at why, and if you can, make changes in your life that help you be happier.

The author Jon Gordon, somebody I look to for inspiration, recently announced he was suffering from some medical issues. His point in telling his readers about it was not to complain, but to underline this point: While we may not be able to control our circumstances, we can control our response to them.

It’s an important lesson to remember, and one I hope you carry with you this week.

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Making your home smarter

This week we’re talking about travel gadgets… And specifically, Smart Home tech that helps you stay connected while you’re on the road.

One of my favorite new types of gadgets is the connected doorbell. The most popular ones are the Ring Video Doorbell, and the Nest Hello.

Both of these little gadgets replace your current doorbell, which does nothing but ring inside your house!

These video doorbells send you an alert on your smartphone when somebody rings the bell, allows you to see video of who’s out there, and even talk back to them if you’re not home.

They both run about 200-bucks, and the Nest Hello connects to your existing doorbell wiring. The Ring Video Doorbell makes both hard-wired and battery powered options…

Next up, the connected thermostats. The most popular is also made by Nest, and allows you to control both your heat and A/C from afar. It also learns your habits, and automatically adjusts the temperature when you’re not home to save on energy costs.

If you’re on your way back from a trip, log on once your flight lands, and start cooling the house down… or heating it up…. It’ll be nice and ready by the time you get home.

The Nest Thermostat starts at 169 bucks, and is compatible with most existing thermostat wiring.

Finally this week, smart switches.

There are lots of different brands out there — Belkin WeMo, TP Link, Lutron — but they all do the same thing. Allow you to turn on and off lights, and other plugin devices remotely.

This is handy if you’re across the room, or across the globe… allowing you to turn lights on and off to make it look like you’re home, turning the radio on for your dogs, or just turning on the fan before you go to sleep.

Most of these smart switches are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa system and Google Home, which makes them even more convenient. Control your lights and appliances with your voice, simply by talking into your smart speaker.

We’ve come along way from The Clapper, haven’t we?

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Picking better road food

This week, we’re talking about food… in particular fast food.

I’m on the road all of the time, and when I’m in a hurry, I’ll be honest, I stop for fast food sometimes, but as I get older, I'm thinking more about making healthy choices.

There are ways to eat healthy, even in the drive thru, so here are a few tips I got from a nutritionist for eating on the go.

First, there are a lot of healthy fast food restaurants popping up - from Panera to Zoe’s Kitchen, and a bunch of build-your-own salad places, so keep an eye out for those first.

Another good option could be a sub place - Jersey Mike’s, Subway or Jimmy Johns — and ask them to make your sandwich as a salad, or scoop out the bread.

If you’re going with traditional fast food places - Wendy’s, McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, Arby’s, KFC or Taco Bell… Don’t worry, there are healthy options there too.

To build the healthiest meal, start by picking the right side dish. Skip the fries, and instead, replace it with a salad, a baked potato, or fruit.

You all know Diet Coke is my thing... When you’re picking a drink, stay away from sugary sodas, and instead go with water, unsweet tea, diet soda or coffee.

And for your entree, look for grilled options instead of fried, leave off the cheese and fatty condiments like mayo, and even consider losing half of the bun… Or the whole thing if you’re more adventurous.

Be careful with condiments too… Ketchup and bbq sauce are loaded with sugar, and creamy sauces like ranch and mayo can be full of fat.

Of course all of these restaurants offer salads too, but don’t automatically assume it’s a healthier choice.

And remember, just because you get it through a window, doesn’t mean it has to kill your diet…

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How to develop your personal brand

This week, we’re talking about your personal brand. What is it that makes you, you… and how do you get people to relate to you.

Studies have shown that people connect more easily with people than with companies, so you’re selling you - not a product, not a company.

How do you define your personal brand? First, identify your unique qualities. I’m a mortgage lender, I’m a dad, I’m a UGA football fan… And those are all things that inform my personal brand.

Then, take time to understand who your ideal client is, and think about what you have in common with them.

People want to connect with other people like them, so take those areas where you overlap, and drive your branding towards those things.

Tell stories that your customer can relate to, share news articles you know they’ll be interested in.

This makes your clientele feel like you “get them,” and in turn, will make them think of you as a trusted friend in whatever business you’re in.

Of course, be genuine — don’t make up a personality, or invent things to help yourself be relatable. It has to be authentic to shine through.

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