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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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Just Plane Trivia

Like me, many of you are on the road all the time, so this week, I’m going to share a little airplane and airport trivia with you, to make your next trip just a little more interesting.

First, did you know that the Wright Brothers’ first flight covered less distance than the length of a Boeing 747 is today? That’s right… Their first flight was only 12 seconds, and 120 feet long… The queen of the skies, well, she is 250 feet long and can fly almost 10-thousand miles.

The 747 can take off weighing just over 910-thousand pounds too…

Let’s talk airports… If you’ve sat on the tarmac for hours like I have, you have noticed that each runway has a number… Do you know where those numbers come from?

The number on a runway represents the direction it’s facing on the compass… So runway 2-7 faces 270 degrees or directly West… Runway 0-9 faces 90 degrees, or directly east.

And depending on how the winds are blowing that day, runways can be used in either direction, so runway 09 and 27 are actually the same runways, just taken from different ends.

Here in Atlanta, at the world’s busiest airport, almost 300 planes takeoff and land every hour of every day…

Finally this week… Have you ever wondered what those white trails are that form behind airplanes flying in the sky?

Conspiracy theorists call them “chem trails” and say it’s the government spraying various chemicals on unsuspecting citizens below…

They’re actually called “con trails” or condensation trails, and they’re ice crystals formed from the exhaust from the airplanes engines.

Environmental conditions have to be right for these gasses to form into ice, which is why you don’t always see them, but rest assured… They’re not harmful to you, or the environment.

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Growing positivity in the workplace

This week, we’re talking about negativity in the work place… Actually, let’s look at it from a different angle… We’re talking about positivity in the workplace, and how to keep negativity from creeping in.

The first step - make a conscious decision with your team to not allow negativity to sabotage your hard work.

Workplace gossip, snide remarks under your breath about others’ work, or ugly text messages during meetings, can all sabotage workplace morale, so decide collectively to avoid it.

I’m inspired by the author Jon Gordon, who uses the term “energy vampires” to talk about people who bring negativity with them wherever they go.

If you have one on your team, have a conversation privately with them, and find out what you can do to help make their work experience more positive.

Many times, you’ll find its things outside of work that are making them that way, and just taking time to understand what’s wrong can help make them a more positive team member.

You can also institute the “no complaining rule” — that is, don’t just complain for the sake of complaining… Come with one or two possible solutions to the problem before you even bring it up.

Complaining helps keep you focused on the problem, and not the solution.

And finally, don’t be afraid of conflict. If there’s no disagreement on your team, you’re not trying hard enough!

Innovate, don’t be afraid to break things, and don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations around your teams’ choices… But make sure the disagreements are constructive. That’s the only way forward.

To leave you with a quote from Gordon’s books - Being positive wont guarantee you’ll succeed, but being negative will guarantee that you wont.

So go out there, and be the positive force for your team!

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Be prepared for the next disaster

2018 has brought us record-breaking temperatures, massive wildfires, dangerous hurricanes and everything in between.

So how do you make sure your family is prepared when disaster strikes?

It’s all about covering your basic needs — food, water, shelter, power, first aid and communications.

Depending on the kind of disaster, fresh food and drinkable water may be scarce, so it’s important to keep a small stash in your house.

Don’t go crazy building a bunker - unless that’s your thing - but do keep a couple jugs of bottled water, and some non-perishable foods around.

Tuna cans last for years, and things like peanut butter crackers and jerky are high-calorie foods that’ll last a long time, and fill you up.

Next up, shelter.

If a disaster is bad enough that you’re worried about your house blowing away, you probably shouldn’t be there to see it happen, but in smaller disasters you may need to cover a hole in your roof, or board up a broken window.

Keep supplies like a tarp, some duct tape, and some plywood around for emergencies.

You may also lose power too, so it’s a good idea to have enough flashlights for everybody in the family, batteries to power them, and even a small generator.

Be careful though — one major cause of death after disasters is carbon monoxide poisoning from people who bring generators indoors, and die from inhaling the exhaust fumes. So keep generators outside.

First aid is important too… In a major disaster, 911 service might not be readily available, so keep enough stuff around to treat cuts and scrapes, some antibiotic ointment, a few gauze pads for bleeding, and some tylenol or advil for minor injuries.

Also make sure you have enough of your prescription medications around in case pharmacies are closed for a few days.

Finally, communications.

Cell towers may be down, so know where to find a landline phone — maybe at a neighbors house if you don’t have one. Sometimes, even if you can’t call out, you can get short text messages to friends and family to let them know you’re safe, and get an emergency weather radio, so you can hear what’s going on.

Stay safe!

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