Lessons from my first year of grad school

A very small selection of my many textbooks for the past year, with a page from my very full planner. (C) 2012 Shelly Najjar
Only a few of the textbooks I have from this past year, and a glimpse of my overly packed planner.

I have officially finished Year One of grad school. During that time, I wrote papers, took tests, stressed about deadlines, and learned some things about nutrition and public health.

But I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself, about the way I work and think, and about life in general. Here are the three biggest lessons I learned this school year.

1. Choosing something means not choosing other things.

This is difficult for me to remember, because I really want to do everything. Then I remember to practice saying no, and think about this quote, which I saw when passing by a church marquee:

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

After talking with some people who know me and whose opinions I deeply respect, it seems that knowing my priorities is possibly the best way to make choices that I won’t regret, or that may even allow me to manage time well enough to choose more than one option.

2. Don’t procrastinate when facing things you don’t want to do. You won’t want to do them any more later than you do right now.

Speaking of time management, the temptation to procrastinate has become a big challenge for me, so this lesson is extra important. When I have something I don’t want to do (but must do), I find that it is better to just suck it up and focus on finishing, even when I don’t feel like it, so that I have more time to do something that is appealing later on.

I’ve also found that for this past quarter, it works better for me to choose one or two things to work on the entire day, instead of choosing eight things to work on for one hour each. (I used to do this so I wouldn’t get bored, but while learning about doing unpleasant things now, I realized I often used this “one hour” trick to procrastinate.)

3. You can do more than you think.

I have never been more academically challenged than I was this past year. It is frustrating and overwhelming, but it produces the best feeling of accomplishment. If I hadn’t been given as many assignments, as much responsibility with my fieldwork, or as much encouragement, I wouldn’t know that I could accomplish all that I did.

It has been a crazy experience so far, but overall, I’ve made progress toward my goal of focusing on learning (instead of focusing on getting good grades). Thank you to everyone who gave me encouragement and advice over the past year!


Key points from “The 7 Hottest Social Media Business Trends” webinar

Screen grab of the summary page of the 7 Trends webinar by Mari Smith and Guy Kawasaki, http://www.marismith.com/7smtrends/

On Wednesday (March 28, 2012), I participated in a webinar called “The 7 Hottest Social Media Business Trends,” which was presented by Mari Smith and Guy Kawasaki.

I watched it because I’m interested in marketing and because social media is increasingly being used to share health information.

You can watch the recording and read a summary of the trends, and view related tweets by searching #7smtrends on Twitter.

Overall, the webinar was entertaining and informative, and it was a privilege to hear tips and examples about social media strategies from two people as well-known as Mari and Guy. They said a lot of valuable things and told us to share the content of the webinar with other people, especially via social media, which I think is a great idea. Now, even without viewing it, others are able to benefit from the information.

Social media, Guy said, is “fast, free, and ubiquitous.” As a business, the key is using it correctly. They came up with seven trends they think are the most important.

1. Big Brand Bypass

New platforms are allowing more and more consumers to bypass brands and instead sell or exchange directly with one other. What can you do to show your audience that your business is the obvious choice for them … by being top of mind and in front of them at the crucial moments when they make that decision? (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

The best quote from when they talked about this trend was one from Guy: “Nobodies are the new Somebodies.”

2. Humanize to Monetize

In today’s world, personality means profit. Period. Bland, self-serving and inflexible brands are now incompatible with the public’s expectations. While human brands, or the humanity within big brands, leads to flourishing businesses. Where do you draw the line between capturing your market’s attention with individuality and character … without over-exposing yourself and your family to potential dangers and unnecessary risks of TMI (“too much information”)? (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

A quote from Mari sums up this section nicely: “People are craving that human connection.”

3. Cause-Based Consumers

How can you use the words “business” and “conscience” in the same sentence today … and include short-term profits with your long-term view? Consumers almost have an “addiction” to the NEW when it comes to consuming products. However, there is also a growing concern within consumers for the environment and policies that organizations and individuals stand for beyond “the brand”. If the business ethics don’t meet the consumers’ expectations for social cause, transparency and trust, businesses and individuals will fail completely. (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

They also called this trend “Beyond the Brand,” saying companies need to “Put it out there: What do you stand for?” Consumers want to see social causes, transparency, and trust. However, Guy reminded us that no matter what, a company offering a crappy product or service will not win customers by simply donating money to charity.

Mari also mentioned the Facebook engagement rate, and how to calculate it (number of people talking about that item, divided by number of fans).

4. Super Social Status

How can you use the words “business” and “conscience” in the same sentence today … and include short-term profits with your long-term view? Consumers almost have an “addiction” to the NEW when it comes to consuming products. However, there is also a growing concern within consumers for the environment and policies that organizations and individuals stand for beyond “the brand”. If the business ethics don’t meet the consumers’ expectations for social cause, transparency and trust, businesses and individuals will fail completely. (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

Mari used games, badges, and top scores as examples of this trend, and it was also mentioned (I forget who said it, but I think it was Guy) that it is “no longer about having material possessions,” which can be debated, but was more appropriate in context. They also said “People really crave incentives and rewards.”

To recognize those people who are the top fans on Facebook, Mari recommends using an app like Booshaka.

5. Awesome vs. “Flawesome”

Consumers are accepting that it’s okay for companies to be imperfect (they actually prefer it). The more open about your brands’ flaws the better. Being flawed and open about it can lead to a huge spike in brand sentiment. Consumers are embracing brands that admit to screwing up, that transparently show their shortcomings, and that show empathy through their mistakes. The façade of perfection in business is well and truly buried in the minds’ eye of the 2012 consumer. But, which irresistible morsels of fallibility should you proudly display as proof of your business’ human touch — and how do you decide where to apply the polish? (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

Guy and Mari talked about dealing with flaws. Instead of deleting them, handling them effectively can be more beneficial, since openness can lead to a spike in brand sentiment. They shared statistics: people guess that reviews are faked or censored if they are all positive; the conversion rate is higher for consumers who go out of their way to read negative reviews about a product they are considering.

Despite the quote from The Social Network that they mentioned (“The Internet is in pen, not pencil.”), they both encouraged businesses not to be paranoid, but to embrace flaws.

6. Mad for Mobile

Now that mobile device usage outnumbers computers 5-to-1 worldwide, we’re far beyond the tipping point. We can now do everything in a mobile way: more local information delivered via mobile, and more timely information delivered instantly. Mobile is simply more effortless; everything is easier on the go. But, how do you PROFIT by integrating effortless, instant-access mobile information with your always-on social media strategy? (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

They emphasized the importance of having “fast-loading mobile” versions of websites and blogs, as well as having “frictionless sharing.” Wibiya was given as an example of a useful tool. Other things they mentioned when talking about this trend were QR codes and SMS marketing.

7. Privacy Paranoia

Will 2012 finally tip the scales on a growing privacy backlash, resulting in a revolt against the widespread access to “open & misused information”? For the moment, Facebook, Google and many other services are pushing and pushing the boundaries of acceptability on privacy. At what point do we become uncomfortable and say, “enough is enough”? (Taken from previously mentioned summary)

There were several excellent quotes in this section.

Mari: “Have long cryptic passwords. If you can remember your password it’s not good enough.”

Guy recommended 1Password and says he uses it for everything, because password requirements make things too difficult to remember.

They briefly talked about the controversy over employers asking for employees’/interviewees’ Facebook passwords. Joking about the logic of these employers, Guy said, “It must be an IQ test. Let’s ask them for their password, if they give it, they are too stupid to work for us.”


After this, they had Q and A, and the topic of spam and spammers came up.

Guy said he hates spammers (He said social media networks are like a swimming pool, and then said, “It’s my pool, and you just put a piece of turd in my pool.”), and goes out of his way to crush them by changing the time he updates and by reporting and blocking spammers. He made the distinction between true advertising and spam: “If it’s advertising that’s relevant, it’s not spam.”


It was a great webinar and the presenters were fantastic. My favorite parts were the examples and stories they told, as well as participating in the interaction with people from around the world, both in the chat and via the Twitter hashtag (#7smtrends). This was the first time I’d participated in a live chat on Twitter, and will definitely be doing it again. Next time, however, I’ll probably try out TweetChat, something Mari had suggested that will update faster than Hootsuite, which is what I used (and is really more suited to social media management and scheduling than following live chats).

Once again, the recording and summary for this webinar are available online, and I highly recommend viewing it.

What are the social media trends that you’ve noticed? Do you have examples of companies who do it right? Let me know in the comments below.

For more information, please read the about the pros and cons of scheduling tweets.

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Alcohol and the Menstrual Cycle: New post at Nutrition Nuts and Bolts

Last quarter I wrote a research paper on whether the menstrual cycle affects alcohol metabolism. I’ve summarized the paper over at Nutrition Nuts and Bolts (read the post).

Screenshot of the post at Nutrition Nuts and Bolts titled

Overall, the research doesn’t support the idea that the menstrual cycle affects the metabolism of alcohol, but like all science topics, more research could reveal something else. Read the post and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!