The Gap Between Authentic Connections + Influencer Craze

1.31.2019 Fresno, CA


It's taken me a few days longer to get this post out than I had expected. Part of me was trying to be mindful of the tone that this message presented to make sure I wasn't offending anyone, especially considering people get defensive over influencer talk and then the other side of me reminded myself that this is what my blog is for to touch on topics inspired by life as I know it. So here we are.

Can I be transparent for a second? When I first started this social media stuff it was for kicks and giggles (during my high school years). Twitter was a way to follow my favorite celebrities and Instagram allowed me to connect with my friends and share the fun moments we experienced together. As I grew with the internet my own passions developed and led you here to this post. How we use this space is so much different than it used to be...and I find myself missing certain parts of how things were back then. Social media has changed the game in how we get our crafts out. It has also been a segue in developing some amazing relationships and friendships too. I have personally been afforded plenty of opportunities in the past thanks to my little space on the internet and I love that we live in a digitally sound world, but the more we grow with the constant upgrades of social media, things become more... inauthentic.

It's great to find a community based on your interests outside of the friends you have because although they support you, sometimes they just aren't going to be into the same things as you. Which is fine, no shade, it's just how it is. Everyone likes what they like. However, I've been noticing how making connections with others in terms of blogging and entrepreneurship is a little lackluster.

A lot of people see Instagram as just Instagram, which it is, but it's also a platform full of opportunities. I understand the focus of building your brand to be more appealing to your audience, I do, but finding more bloggers and entrepreneurs to connect with on a more personal level doesn't seem to be an interest anymore. In my honest opinion, it seems as though Twitter is more laid back, easier to connect creatively and has an openness to bond over people's work. It seems all people really care about on Instagram these days is becoming an influencer, and there is no harm in that. However, I guess my perspective on influence is quite different than others.

Instagram is known for being a visual app and people have become even more hooked on the imagery; which makes some go to great lengths to replicate what draws people in. When I first stepped into the blogging world, there were so many articles I read, filled with advice on how to help my blog grow on social media; Instagram as the main focal point. To make money you have to do this, make your brand look like that and I soon realized after falling in the trap that, I didn't want my brand to be a replica of the thousand other bloggers on the internet. I wanted it to represent me and my authenticity, in true form... and I had to ask myself.. how authentic am I vs. the illusion I feel I need to produce for "quality content"? 

That question alone changed my whole approach to my brand and blogging "career" completely; if you want to call it that. Instead of having the mindset of "content, content, content" I realized what was best for my brand and I find so much comfort in that. It's unfortunate that everything has become so numbers focused. There's an extensive amount of fake engagement going on and what seems like tons of following to unfollow, and for what purpose? Seems like everyone wants to be an influencer without really knowing what they want to influence for other than a perceived social status. It’s even sad that you can tell who may or may not be willing to connect with you nowadays or the fact that if your feed isn’t perfectly put together your quality of work must be mediocre. Feeling that certain people are too out of reach to connect with based off their following is ridiculous, but that's how it is. The mindset is trash. You have people who have smaller platforms who have the power to move masses. However, even smaller influencers are doing the same tactics to establish their Instagram standing, and I get it. It's easy to want to conform and do what it takes to enhance your platform.. but ultimately that would mean I am the one being influenced. Right? 


I can’t wait until we can get back to the times where we get over this infatuation with being influencers and public figures to monetize popularity that brings no real value to peoples lives. Granted, there are a handful of people who impact lives in a positive way who didn't ask for the influencer label, but I’m not sure if anyone has noticed how bad it has gotten collectively over time. I would like to see people getting back to the root of why they do the things that they love, to think for themselves and build off talents, gifts and what makes them unique— not what everyone else is doing. I need people to really start asking themselves what is it that they are influencing people to do? Are you making people want to be like you? Follow you?.. and if so, what are they gaining out of that besides pretty feeds and personal boasts? How are you helping anyone want to achieve where you present to be? I hate that I look into matters for tangibility but it’s something that really needs to be thought about considering the lack of substance within the community.

There's a big gap between influencer craze and authentic connections. The supply of influencers has gone up but the relationships it takes to have an impact is short-lived. The thirst for high follower counts is making people feel a lot bigger than they truly are and the illusion has people out here feeling like they aren't doing much compared to those who appear like they are. 

I might get some who decide to read this triggered and I'm sure people will take this as me complaining that I'm not at the heights of my Instagram game like others out here. Which isn't the case at all. What I'm saying is that I feel like I'm the only person left who truly cares about the art of things now, who still loves blogging for what it was originally renowned for. Furthermore, we somehow lost sight of authenticity along the way as the industry grew. The shift has unfortunately caused us to be more visually driven than ever before stimulated by sight which gets us no further than instant gratification and admiration. Causing us to eliminate the most important sensor we need, which is our thought process.

All in all, I just want bloggers, creatives, content creators (etc.) out there with smaller platforms to not feel like their message, or the quality of content is inadequate. It is so easy to get caught up in it all when you want more growth and traction... but I am telling you, your purpose and those assigned to it will come. Validation begins with self. The credibility of your brand is still worthy without the extras. Focus on the quality and forget about being recognized or looked up to and remember, everything that glitters ain't gold. 

I stand true to the lifestyle niche I assigned myself to and my best quality is that I am relatable. I am a regular person, no influencer, seeking to share a little light and inspiration to the world.. and that is exactly what I strive for my brand to represent. I want there to be some normalcy to me. I want people who come to my page to feel like my way of living is obtainable because it's a reflection of what my lifestyle looks like in real life. I may not have many posts but that's because I'm focused on truly building what I'm doing. I lose followers just as fast as I gain them but that's not important. My only obligation to myself and my brand + body of work is to reach those who genuinely like my content. I’m a writer and I’m sensitive about my craft. Anyone who is more visual, I’m just not the account for them. The quality of my content goes deeper than the quality of the picture I’m posting and I know that. I guess my only hope is that we can get away from this craze of looking the part and actually start focusing on the craft/community again.. and stop allowing platforms to get in our head.

That's all.



Breaking Bad Habits for a Happier and Healthier Morning

1.21.2019 Fresno, CA


I never knew the importance of a morning routine until I didn't have one. For most of my life, I have been on a strict schedule as an athlete. Pretty predictable. I can't even begin to share how many times "I have practice" or "I have a track meet" uttered from my mouth. I always knew what to expect and how much to give back. I had workouts, weights and classes down packed. I was the multitask/prioritizing queen. That's all I knew, how to juggle things (and very well might I add). It certainly was useful in the beginning. However, once the schedule changed, bad habits began to form. You mean I don't have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn for weights anymore? That calls for immediate sleep-ins. Always being on the go meant always eating on the go. Not enough time? I'll just skip that meal. Free weekends were like a vacation. I carried all of these habits over into life after track and soon realized it needed to be fixed. I'm not saying that I was unhealthy, but I am saying that I didn't have the greatest of morning habits for a while.. and your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day.

When I first got out of college, I took every opportunity I had to sleep in. When I say sleep in, I'm talking 10/11 a.m. sleep-ins. I believe a portion of that had to do with the fact I was dealing with post-grad depression and had to go to a job I didn't like every day. After realizing that I wasn't making good use of my time in the mornings, I wanted to start being more productive during the hours I used to sleep my life away. There were so many things I could be doing within that time period and I wanted to make sure that I was getting the most out of it.

It took a while.

I continuously fell off of my plans to do better and would pick back up just to fall off again. Things get so much harder when you aren't required to do them anymore, but that's where self-discipline comes in the most! Our days and moods are pretty much shaped by how we spend the first hour in the morning. My first-hour would be spent scrolling through social media.. and I still fall short sometimes. I'm guilty, but I hate giving my time to things that aren't that important right then. I've done it so much throughout college it's become second nature. I started really thinking to myself like "what did I do before I ever had a phone?" before any of these social networking apps took over. It seemed the more I got into blogging over the years, the more I instinctively checked social media.

If I want to direct my life I must first take control of my consistent actions, because it's not what I do once that shapes my life, but what I do consistently. So, at the end of last year, I told myself that I needed to change the way I spent the first hours of my day and did trial and error routines. For some reason, I wake up at 6:58a on the dot, every single morning now and it's been that way since October. It doesn't matter if I go to bed later than usual, the good Lord is popping my eyes open right on time daily. Noticing that and taking the areas of my life that I wanted to improve this year I began a routine. Waking up this early helps especially on Saturdays when I go for my run.

I'm still in the process of tackling this routine down perfectly every single day of the week, but we're getting there. Baby steps right?


(side note: my room is my favorite place outside of my office.. I spend more time here creatively.)

WEEKDAYS

I'm kind of a grandma now so I really don't do much on weeknights, but I do have movie nights with my boyfriend or sometimes binge watch shows on my own until 12a the next day (ya'll know how it goes). However, I'm pretty adamant on going to bed around 8:30 or 9p outside of my occasional Netflix binge. In addition to that, because I'm going to bed quite early I usually don't eat anything after 8:00p (usually). As morning comes around, I'm up at 6:58 as my bedtime alarm starts to play chirpings of birds (this is the calmest alarm tone to wake up to, take my word for it).

I then will proceed to either take my morning shower or run a bubble bath so I can spend some time on devotionals. After that, I make my bed and cuddle up on my couch and read one or two chapters of whatever book I'm reading at the moment.

Since I'm at two different schools throughout the day, I like to set my intentions, go over lesson plans and get in tune with how I'm feeling. I do all of this by using my little 5-second journal. I document how I am feeling that morning, why I feel this way, what I can do to improve my mood, as well as state the things I would like to get done. My favorite part of the journal is the option to physically write down when I will be done working that day, which is especially good emotionally when I'm beginning to feel burnt out.

Notice, I haven't mentioned anything about my phone? Well in case you were wondering, yes. I have been on it but not for social media. I do my devotionals through the Bible app so I'm utilizing it for that and exchanging good mornings and well wishes for the day with Kirk and family. Other than that, I don't need to check my Twitter or even begin producing content because it's already taken care of. I use Buffer to schedule any and every thought I may have to tweet out for me at night. I have fallen in love with this app because it really does the work for me. It schedules the timing on its own, I can choose how many times a day I want to publish tweets and that's it. I don't have to worry about producing content throughout my work day and can be active online without having to be active.

I've gotten pretty good at sticking to this routine, sometimes I fall off (checking social media), but I do plan to continue doing it so that it becomes easier to have a more productive morning. When I do well on this routine my whole day runs smoothly and I'm in a great mood because I've taken the time to utilize my morning and get many things out of the way early.

Once I get to work I use office time to check or respond to any blog or business related emails since I'd typically already be checking work emails before class.

 WEEKENDS

Are used for fun right? To a certain extent. I don't want to stop trying to collectively better my routines with the exception of the weekend. So, Saturdays are used for morning runs. I get up at 6:30a to get to the park at 7:30a and do my full workout with my trainer. It can consist of hills, sprints, two-mile runs on the loop, whatever it is, I take this time to clear my mind of everything from the week. Running has always been my way to focus better. After, I get a nice and healthy breakfast in, shower and dive into blogging. Again, Twitter is already handled. Then Sunday is a rest day, usually more time for reading and prepping for the work week.

I like this schedule so far and plan to be more consistent with it because it does make me very productive. The next thing on my list to tackle is incorporating cooking more throughout the week to limit eating out and practice healthier habits.

Hopefully, this helped you identify bad habits that you've developed throughout your mornings and moved you to want to break them!


The 5-second journal can be found here if interested: Amazon 

I Got Checked by God

1.20.2019 Fulton District, Fresno, CA



Have you ever been checked by God? I mean a full-fledged confront? I hadn't until this week. It's officially been two months since I've stepped into my entrepreneurial journey and it hasn't been all #GirlBoss positive quotes and pretty images. Not saying that's what I expected it to be like because believe me, I didn't. I honestly didn't even anticipate for it to be the slightest bit of easy. I had visions of me crushing it of course, who doesn't, but two months in? Absolutely not. When I walked away from television I started working on everything God was throwing at me. Early mornings, late nights + lots of webinars and research. I was so passionate about developing something of my own (teamed up with God of course). Co-creating with the creator. It was exciting!

This process has been giving me better practice on breaking out of my worst characteristics, impatience being the main one. Don't get me wrong, I have gotten a lot better over the years, but I'm still human and I do still struggle with it a bit. When you are excited about what you're doing it's easy to get ahead of yourself. You see things going one way but it might not be the wisest choice for your particular calling/vision. This vision was definitely one given by God and he helped orchestrate the blueprint for it all. The business plan stated that I was going to file under an LLC, but because California business taxing is so high, I was going to wait and file in the state I plan on expanding to in the near future.

I'm new to all of this and with the emotional help of my entrepreneurial dad/family and boyfriend, I'm doing my very best and getting through. However, realizing you have to backtrack and kind of start from the beginning in some areas is frustrating.

From the beginning, people have thrown out the non-profit route and I didn't want to do it that way. Part of me was a tad uneducated on non-profits as a whole and on the other hand I was just getting too far ahead (vision wise). I believe it's perfectly fine to think of where you want your business to be in terms of the big leagues and I know I want to have a powerhouse athletic firm one day. That vision alone was what was complicating things for me.

I was a little too focused on building a dynasty and the profit. Every entrepreneur wants to earn money from their ideas and business, yes. However, sometimes its bigger than that and God checked me, my intentions and my heart quick when this subject of having a non-profit came up yet again.


I'll never sugar coat anything on my site. You always get the real me and raw experiences. I'm not ashamed to say that I slowly started getting caught up in how much money I could potentially make with this business idea. I'm not ashamed to say that the devil would get me annoyed and irritated when it was suggested that I go that route because I was looking at the money too deeply. I was hung up on it being my brand, solely, when I'm actually just the vessel doing Gods work. His Co-creator. He's the CEO, not me. I've never thought in such greedily ways before in my life. Everything was me, me, me, me. What I wanted.

Until the other night when I got checked completely.

I felt God tugging at me in a way of saying "Ashley this isn't why I gave you this vision, this isn't the way I intended for you to go... this isn't the purpose of your calling.."

Deep down inside, I knew that too.

My business was never about me. I was never supposed to be the most important piece to it. That's why my name isn't associated with it. I did that on purpose and somehow lost sight of that worrying about how I'm trying to create a powerhouse athletic firm in the near future. Well, that's fine and dandy.. but my duty is to better those I am trying to serve FIRST. This isn't a ploy to look important on social media, it's not a following of trends it's a divine assignment. A mission.. for me to touch as many young lives and change family dynamics, cycles for the betterment of our communities.

So when I got confronted with my own selfishness, I was disappointed in myself. That's not me, nor is it the kind of heart I have.

I went on to educate myself more and turns out, a non-profit is the best option for me right now starting out and when I realized that, I was thankful God brought me back to what this journey is all about. What I'm set out to do. It's all bigger than me... and sadly, I was almost my own downfall.

Moral of the story: make sure you aren't getting in your own way.

I'm still embracing all of the cuts and corners of my path. I'm still learning and being introduced to different parts of me that are brought out by different scenarios I find myself in. If I were to continue on and passively ignore what needed to be addressed, I wouldn't be truly living through my self-discovery. These are the ugly sides that help me become a better woman as a whole. Facing my flaws that could harm such a beautiful cause. This is entrepreneurship.


There's nothing wrong with continuously learning about yourself. Often times we don't even think we would react in certain ways until it's presented to us. The glamour and recognition are so easy to get caught up in. Even when you haven't reached that high yet. The thought that it can happen and the glimpse of opportunity is enough to get away from yourself.

I'm sure that this is one of many valuable lessons I'll go through in my journey— but the woman it's turning me into is phenomenal. I have no problem sharing this because I'm in my own lane.

Here's to continuing this walk alongside God as he opens my mind, spotlights areas in need of growth, plants seeds and improves every part of me.

Embracing Accountability in 2019

1.14.2019 Fresno, CA



 Two weeks late, but better than never. Like I mentioned in my Chicago post, I'm just surfacing back into the motions of life's everyday tasks. However, I very much wanted to make this post to reflect on what the last year has meant for me. If you haven't caught up with my highlights of my New Year in the windy city, you can indulge here.


With my blog now on its third year of rotation, I can only help but notice that I barely have content to cover those laps around the sun. They are very much spread out, but for me, that's a true reflection of the growth I've gone through since creating this platform. So many things have changed since then. 2016 and 2017 Ashley thought she had her whole life aligned and received so much more wisdom in return. Everything in my life hasn't gone exactly like I have envisioned but in some other ways, a lot of what I envisioned actually manifested too (if that makes sense). It's a good balance of prosperity and disappointment that produced a strong line of contentment, happiness, reassurance, hope and the most important of them all— faith.

What a transition. Holy maturity.
The woman I am today amazes me. I love her and she just keeps getting better.

Everyone who has stuck around and those who have joined in at the introduction of this journey, I thank you. Thank you to those who encourage me with positive feedback on my posts and openly shares how much I resonate/help you. It means the absolute world to me and makes me want to keep this discovery train running.

I can't believe it has been three years! That's a milestone in my book. Lately, I can't help but wonder what my blog will look like three to five years from now.. guess we just have to experience more life and see. The transitions that my blog has gone through over the last year have been eye-opening. Sharing my journey, good and bad (in my eyes) have helped me gain so much more wisdom in many different areas. There's still a lot more growth that will take place here but I wanted to kind of set the tone for how I want to do things in year 3.

Looking Ahead: 

I want to try my very best to create as much content as possible. but I'm also not going to force it. More quantity is desirable, but you know how the saying goes. So, quality always comes first! I honestly feel like I'm always telling myself that I want to be more consistent and then something in life causes me to grow and be in the cut for a little. However, a goal I have set for myself is to create some type of content management plan where I'm covering all areas that need to be met. Considering I have a fairly new business, a lot of my time needs to gravitate that way, but again, this is something that I really want to learn and master.

A vow that I made to myself this year was that I would do everything in my power to do more and work smart. Meaning figuring out a way that I can tackle things of importance to me without burning out and also completely crushing my social life. I am so determined to learn how to do it all per se but in a healthy way. When I look at one of my favorite bloggers, Laura Lacquer, she inspires me so much in this particular area. She and her husband are both doctors, with a family of five, she blogs full time, posts to social media like every day and produces valuable, quality content consistently. My fellow creatives, you know how time-consuming all of that sounds but it's inspiring! Here I am with my job, a new business that's getting off the ground, no kids having self, more time on my hands thinking I don't have enough time to do it all. When really, I just have to cook up the right formula that works for me and how I want to approach time management. All in all, I really just want to provide more for my readers and continue to grow Ashley Avenu to new heights. I really didn't even need to ramble like that to say what I just did lol. I'm all about setting up the storyline lol.

Something else that I want to start taking seriously is how my brand is reflected on social media. I definitely want to grow these platforms and position myself to work with top brands that can catapult my creative career. Being able to do what I love full time on top of my business is something that I really want to aim towards. I feel like I have unlocked the difficulty of mastering my online presence on Twitter which is difficult for a lot of people to do. I have grown that platform tremendously with careful quantitative research study and analysis (thank you communications degree). It took me maybe a year to really hit where I wanted that platform to be for my writing and now I'm wanting to have a more advanced reach. However, one platform that I struggle with content wise is Instagram and I know how pivotal it can be for my business and brand. So, that is also an area I am going to look more into and study my audience with hopes of growth, as well as my YouTube channel.


The Motto:

That simple quote, be where your feet are, really stuck with me when I saw it. I find it's very important to be open-minded along your journey and that's something I have grown to adopt. It really speaks for itself and I have no doubt that reciting this phrase to myself will get me back mentally where I need at that moment. I know it will help me not look too, too far ahead and to analyze ways that can get me to my destination from the view of a different cockpit. It will be an avid reminder to be open to many flight plans that help me soar and notice how my footing today, tomorrow, next month or even next year matter. Whatever I'm going through matters and is teaching me something vital.


My Word:

I've been enjoying my time reading Soar by Bishop T.D. Jakes and it's taken me a little time to finish this book than usual, but I haven't really had time to sit and read every day like I'd like. However, the title seemed fitting for how I want to embrace and approach this year. Soar. Everything about the word is how I envision my year to go. I see myself making necessary changes to get myself to where I need to be. I see new skills for next level evolution and prospering in all areas of my life. Soaring passed every step to the woman I am called to be in business, blogging, entrepreneurship, and mentorship. I want to reach the highest of heights. I want to be on my A game, unreachable to the version of myself that I'm shedding. I will soar, all 2019. In Jesus name.


Business:

It's been two months since I launched ProtegĂ© and I'm still doing a lot of groundwork. I have a lot of goals set for myself but I can't do everything on my own. I declared this would be the time I stopped playing it safe. I am investing in my vision to make it into an athletic consulting powerhouse. The first step was hiring a media management company for advertisements and social growth while I do all the face to face work. It's one of many business partnerships to come and a huge load off of my shoulders. That's working smart, remember. Whatever it takes for me to do this entrepreneurship venture the right way to build success, I'm in. I feel good about taking that first step. One of five big goals cleared off the board. The most important thing for me in this section is building strong relationships and partnerships.

Travel:

This falls in line with my mention of doing more. I plan to do a lot more traveling this year even if it's locally or domestically. I want to see and experience more of what life has to offer. It's always been a bucket list of mine and honestly, why wait? There's so much out there ready to be experienced and explored.


I've written all of these down on paper already but I figured putting it on screen too may just double the manifestation.

The #1 mishap for bloggers, entrepreneurs and creatives is their inconsistency. Have you been telling yourself how you want to be more consistent with Instagram? Do you want to actually create that blog or YouTube channel this year? Or are you just wanting to find a better strategy to be in your creative zone to see effective growth? Then join my email list and get matched with other creatives, bloggers and entrepreneurs for an accountability partner! Sign up here.

Chicago

1.13.2019 Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL


I am finally back and functioning after a looooong vacay! I feel like I have been on go-mode since Christmas prepping for this trip. However, I'm glad that I finally have time to unwind and share highlights from one of my new favorite cities. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that I mentioned bringing my YouTube channel back to life and the people wanted more content that shows my life in visual form, which honestly makes sense. In other news, Chicago was a beautiful city. Aside from all the negatives you hear about, this was one place that I have visited that made me consider living there (which speaks volumes because I was done with big city life after living in LA for six years). I absolutely loved it. The food was great, vibe was unmatched, and the people were so welcoming. Overall, 10/10 in my book. Chicago was a great decision for our New Years destination. Hopefully, travel vlogs become more of a thing on my blog!


With all that being said, I guess the video will do the rest of the talking for this post. Enjoy!

Don't forget to subscribe (you can right here if you hover over my picture).







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