How to Court the Younger Generation: Creating the Future of Your Business by Marketing to Millennials Today

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In the world of marketing, there’s a natural instinct to go after certain segments of the population when marketing because those are the ones that spend the most money. That may be good for short-term gains, but any business worth its salt will always be thinking about the future. And regardless of the industry, the future can be summed up in one beautiful little word: millennials.

Commonly defined as anyone between the ages of 18 and 34, or those born in 1982 and up, millennials outnumber baby boomers by roughly a half a million people. They’re the largest generation in the country right now and, make no mistake, the one that the very future of your business will be based on. If you want to court the younger generation and create a solid future for your business, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Treat Them as Equals

No consumers like to be talked down to or told what to do – but this is especially true with the younger generation. Millennials can absolutely sense “marketing speak,” so don’t think that is going to buy you a whole new generation of customers, either. According to one study conducted by Kissmetrics, 89% of millennial buyers trust recommendations from friends and family members MORE than any claim that a brand could make.

Use the same tactics that you’ve been using to win over older generations, but reconfigured for a younger audience. You should still be putting helpful, relevant content that appeals to the people you’re trying to attract out into the world, but keep in mind that what is relevant to a 20-year-old isn’t necessarily the same thing that’s relevant to a 65-year-old. Buyer personas are going to be hugely valuable in this regard to help guarantee your eye is always “on the prize.”

You’re a Combination Marketer Now Whether You Like It Or Not

Marketing to specific groups of people has always required putting your efforts to where those people actually are, and millennials are no different. Millennials are nostalgic about direct mail and appreciate personalized invitations and advertising they can hold. Likewise, according to a study conducted by Nielsen, more than 85% of millennials own a smartphone. That means your digital marketing needs to marry with your print marketing for the best way to meet your audience where they’re at.

When used together, print and digital marketing successfully target that coveted younger generation. Think digital with a smartphone-based loyalty rewards program, and connect that program to your direct mail campaign. Social media is another obvious example. Tie your social media efforts with posters, envelopes, and more to create the best of both worlds.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that no business – regardless of what it is – is time-proof. If you focus all of your efforts on one particular age range or demographic, you run the risk of accidentally making yourself irrelevant when that group invariably ages out of the product or service you’re offering.

5 Ballet Business Lessons You Should Make a Point to Learn

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Business has quite a few things in common with ballet. Ballet is just as demanding as business, although in other ways. To succeed as a ballet dancer, one must put in a lot of hours of practice. To succeed in business, one must put in a lot of hours of work. For both, plans and dances must be executed in a precise way or the result will not be ideal. Because of these similarities, several things can be learned from ballet that can be applied to business.

1. Create Your Individual Style

Although there are basic components of ballet that ring true, someone who develops their individual style and dares to try new things is someone who will go further than an individual who sticks to only the basic rules. The same is true in business. If you want to succeed, you must stand out from the crowd. Find your own path that is unique to your goals even though you will be utilizing the same building blocks as everyone else.

2. Continue Learning Throughout Your Career

A great ballet dancer never stops learning new techniques and new dances. They simply cannot stop after they have learned only one dance and be successful. In business, this is also true. You must continue to seek out education. Whether it is another degree or simply a class to help you hone in on a skill set, you should never stop trying to learn more and improve your abilities.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

In ballet, perfection is valued and coveted. To reach this kind of perfection, dancers will practice for days, weeks, months, and years on end. They understand that they have to practice to get better and one day achieve that perfection they desire. In business, the same is true. You may have success the first time you do something, but more often than not, you will have to try again. If you believe in a business idea, keep trying and practicing until you get it right. Practice does, after all, make perfect.

4. Know There is a Place and a Role for Everyone

In a ballet dance that involves multiple people, there is a role for everyone to play. Not everyone can be the main dancer, even if they want to be. Someone has to play the supporting role. In business, it is important to understand this because the same is true. Even if you want to be the top dog on a project or in a company, you have to understand that sometimes you simply have to play another important role.

5. Develop and Build Trust

Trust is a huge component of ballet, especially if you are dancing with a partner. If the two partners do not trust each other, it will be apparent, and the dance will not be as beautiful. In business, it is equally as important to trust your partner. Otherwise, you may not give much effort to the project, or you may hold back and cause the business to suffer. Build trust with those you work with and the business will prosper. Choose not to trust, and it can crumble, just like a ballet routine.

There are several parallels between ballet and business. These lessons learned in the ballet circuit are important because they strengthen the dancer. Learn from these lessons, and you will become a stronger individual in the business world as well.

Pull Back the Curtain: Providing a Backstage Glimpse of Your Company

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One of the primary objectives of any marketing campaign you run has nothing to do with selling your product or service. While these will always be important, equally necessary is your ability to sell yourself as a company. People want to know more about the people who work in your business and the values and ideals that you have. They want to be able to look at you as an authority. Pulling back the curtain and providing a “backstage” glimpse into your product or service is one of the single, best ways to accomplish both of these things at the same time.

The Benefits of the Backstage Approach

One of the major benefits of this type of “backstage” approach is that it helps position you as a true authority on a particular topic. It’s one thing for you to SAY that a product performs X, Y, and Z functions – it’s another thing entirely to prove it by providing an unprecedented look into the design and development process. You can shed insight on your decision-making process, for example, helping them to not only SEE what your product does but WHY.

Taking a “backstage” approach to marketing also helps to strengthen the intimate, organic connection you’re able to create with your target audience – thus helping to build brand loyalty. Think about it from the perspective of the entertainment industry, as celebrities, in particular, are masters at this. DVDs are filled with hours of special features outlining how a scene was shot, how a script was written, how a special effect was pulled off and more. This instantly makes something that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make seem smaller and more intimate, while letting audiences take their experience to a whole new level at the same time. Providing a similar look into your own operation will have the same effect for you, too.

Pulling Back the Curtain

Unless you’re launching a product that is shrouded in complete secrecy, you can start pulling back the curtain pretty much right away. Even if it’s something as simple as updating a weekly blog post with sketches, schematics, and other materials from the research and development phase, this will go a long way towards increasing transparency across the board. Have employees talk about the specific work they’re doing on a daily basis and how even though they’re all working separately, they’re all contributing to a larger whole.

This startlingly simple approach helps to close the gap in between business and customer, making a customer actually feel like they’re a natural part of the process. When you combine this with all of your other marketing techniques, you’re looking at a striking amount of loyalty built just from publicizing activities that were already going on behind closed doors anyway.

These are just a few of the many reasons why providing a “backstage” glimpse can help bring your product or service to life. Not only does it help provide a valuable context to the particular product or service that you’re trying to sell, but it also helps build a strong, positive impression of your company. People will stop seeing you as a faceless entity and will start looking at you more like the living, breathing, hardworking people that you really are. This will only deepen the connection that you have with your target audience and make interaction more meaningful in the future.

Sometimes Fresh Eyes Brings a Memorable Camel

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We often say that children look at the world through fresh eyes. Spending time with a child can give you a new perspective on life and how you view the world. While experience is an excellent teacher, fresh eyes can see the tried and true in a way that you may not have considered before. How can you adapt the fresh eyes concept into your business?

Marketing is successful when it gets prospects and customers to sit up and take notice of your service, brand or product. Some of the best commercials are the ones that make us laugh, cry, or even cringe. The problem is that sometimes marketers rely too much on old ideas and the view of experienced sellers and managers instead of looking for fresh eyes on a campaign. A great marketing campaign gives the audience an emotional connection with the company. Emotions give advertising a memory hook; they get remembered.

Hump Day

Remember the “Hump Day” camel commercials that were on TV about a year ago? Do you remember who they were advertising? If you don’t remember, they were advertising GEICO. GEICO specializes in goofy, funny commercials that are easy to remember due to their tone. Insurance is essentially a tedious business, so getting you to remember advertisements and brand names associated with them takes a memory hook. For GEICO, the gecko is one hook that most Americans can recognize and associate with the company. However, if they overused that hook, audiences would get tired of him. Instead, they come up with quirky commercials and throw in a camel to keep you focused and interested in their brand.

Seeing Your Company with Fresh Eyes

Since you cannot see your own company through fresh eyes, it takes some testing to find out how new people respond to your campaigns. Your assumptions about who is interested in your products and why they are interested may be out of date. Periodic testing of your ideas is crucial to keeping your current customers and finding new ones.

Before you run your marketing campaign, test your assumptions on real people to see how they respond. Real people are the target market you are shooting for, therefore if your tests tell you that you won’t get the results you want, you can save yourself a lot of money. Keep tweaking and testing your campaign with real people until you find the right message, image, and concept that will get the response you want. What made the “Hump Day” commercials so funny? They were silly, harmless, and could never happen in the real world.

Find a Way to Shock Your Audience

Shock your audience with unexpected humor, meaning, or entertainment when you market. Find something that will resonate with them and use it to grab their attention. Obviously, any type of shock will only work for so long because it loses its effect after a time. When was the last time you saw a “Hump Day” commercial, anyway?

Creating an Editorial Calendar: The Foundation of Your Content Marketing Strategy

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According to a recent survey conducted by Gleanster Research, managing the overall content creation process was the single biggest challenge that most medium- and large-sized companies faced on a daily basis. To make matters worse, 36 percent of respondents indicated that they were missing deadlines on a regular basis, significantly derailing their efforts as a result.

Luckily, the exact cause of these types of issues also happens to be one that is easily avoided. By creating an editorial calendar, you essentially create the backbone of your entire content marketing strategy. Your entire team can reap the benefits in a number of important ways.

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

On the surface, an editorial calendar is a calendar that outlines the specific due dates for all important content launches well into the future. It’s a wonderful, visual way to see where you stand and what you need to do in terms of your short-term and long-term goals.

Underneath, however, it’s an invaluable resource to start putting better content out into the world immediately. Think of it like a daily planner – each day you know what type of content is going to be launching, who is going to be writing it, what important details are going to be included, and more. It’s an opportunity to take this resource and bend it to your existing workflow. Instead of laying down guidelines for your team and forcing them to adjust the way they like to work to meet this new tool, the tool itself is inherently malleable by design.

An editorial calendar is also a great way to plan for the entire process of content creation from start to finish. Everything from idea conception to publishing is all handled through one centralized point of access, not only giving you all of the benefits of firm project management but also helping with communication. Everybody can be on the same page at the same time (no pun intended) because all they have to do is check the calendar to see where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re supposed to be going next. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Forming the Backbone of Your Future Content Planning

Once you’ve had the chance to get your editorial calendar up and running, you’ll have access to a wide range of different benefits that would be difficult to get in any other way. For starters, a calendar allows you to custom build your content marketing strategy for specific audiences in a much easier way than ever before. Based on user preferences and behaviors you can clearly outline what types of content are making their way to which channels and, more importantly, when.

An editorial calendar also gives you the ability to plan keywords well in advance, letting you design the content around the keywords your users are paying attention to, rather than trying to cram those keywords into a piece once it is already finished.

These are among the many reasons why taking the effort to create an editorial calendar is well worth your time. The great thing about it is that it is a resource you only have to build once. As soon as your editorial calendar is up and running, everything from creating content to distribution becomes significantly less challenging and the results that you’re after are well within your reach.

A Business Perspective on Apple’s Latest MacBook Event

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If you’re interested in the tech world at all, you’re no doubt aware that Apple recently announced the 2016 MacBook Pro – something the company is calling “the best laptop ever made.” Indeed, it’s a unit with a technical specification sheet that can’t help but impress. Objectively, it likely will go down in history as the best laptop the company has released to date. However, some users are suggesting that Apple may be losing the balance between “user experience” and “marketing” in a way that is a bit unfavorable to their end goals.

The 2016 MacBook Pro

The new MacBooks don’t have a standard USB port at all, getting rid of them in favor of the new (and admittedly superior) USB-C. This is a great step towards a much more productive future, but it’s at the expense of the fact that we’re not quite at that future just yet. Case in point: the new iPhone 7 does not have a USB-C port at all. Instead, it uses Apple’s proprietary lightning cable.

This means that if you own both devices and just want to do something as simple as charge your iPhone with your MacBook, you need to purchase an external adapter. To be clear, this is not “the end of the world.” The MacBook Pro is still powerful; it can still be used with the brand new iPhone. However, what used to be a one-step process now requires two, as well as a purchase of additional hardware. This is contrary to the popular mantra of “design for the user experience first, marketing second.” This is the very same mantra Apple built its reputation on.

What Would Steve Jobs Say About All This?

Never one to shy away from “rattling a few cages,” this is one particular case where we don’t actually have to wonder what Steve Jobs may have thought about the steps that modern day Apple just took with the MacBook. He may have actually said it himself, in an interview conducted in the 1990s.

In an interview for the PBS documentary “Triumph of the Nerds,” Steve Jobs talked about how important sales and marketing people are to an organization, but how it’s equally important to keep them separate from the product development process. His argument was that all too often, products go from offering a great, easy experience to being “great and easy… to market.” Innovation, usability, and the overall experience tend to suffer as a result.

In that interview, Jobs said:
“… the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the ‘product people’ get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product vs. a bad product.”

Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs didn’t hold an “anti-marketing” stance at all. He supported marketers, and with good reason. Under his watch his own marketing team created some of the most successful campaigns of all time. What Jobs was warning against was the idea that you should always design a product or service for the customer first, and then turn it over to the marketing people to do what they do. When marketing is considered an extension of the product development phase, the positive qualities that brought you to your current position in the first place are often lost.

Turning Failure Into Success – Stories of Famous Achievers and Their Failures

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Every entrepreneur, and I do mean every, has had a taste of failure at one time or another. The slam-dunk business idea that landed flat. The star product that fizzled out. It happens more often than you really hear about, but to those individuals that it’s happening to, the “failures” can be seriously disheartening. If you’re feeling a bit down about a business venture that didn’t go as you planned, don’t lose hope. Countless well-known and successful individuals have achieved their dreams despite multiple setbacks. Their stories are sure to inspire you.

Henry Ford
Best known for the most ubiquitous automobile on the road today, Ford founder, Henry Ford had a rocky start. Early on in his life, Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. It was during this time that he built the first gasoline-powered horseless carriage in a shed behind his home. Due to a number of factors, including controversial views on politics and battles with the United Automobile Workers, Ford reportedly went broke three different times. Despite numerous setbacks, Ford went on to develop new methods for mass production that put the automobile within the reach of ordinary citizens.

Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French Chemist and Microbiologist most well-known for his invention of pasteurization, a process that kills bacteria in food through extreme heat. Beyond making food safer for people for years to come, this below-average chemistry student is also responsible for creating vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Not bad for a student ranked 15 out of 22 chemistry students!

George Lucas
George Lucas…the man that brought us Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and the Force, fueled every kids’ dream of being a fighter pilot in outer space. It’s hard to imagine that a franchise worth over $30 billion began with rejections from every studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally took a chance on it. We shudder to think what would have happened had he just given up and went home.

He’s what George Lucas says about failure: “If you’re creating things, you’re doing things that have a high potential for failure, especially if you’re doing things that haven’t been done before. And you learn from those things. No matter how you cut it, you say, ‘Well, that didn’t work,’ or, ‘Well, this didn’t work,’ or ‘That was not the best idea.’ And you use that information that you’ve gotten, which is experience… Failure is another word for experience.”

Walt Disney
Known for his fanciful theme parks and animated children’s tales, Walt Disney wasn’t always living in the lap of luxury. Countless instances of adversity rained down on Disney in his early years as an animator. After having to dissolve his company in 1921, he was unable to pay his rent and was living on dog food to survive. Later, after gaining some success with a cartoon character named Oswald the Rabbit, Universal obtained ownership of the character and hired all of Disney’s artists when Disney tried to negotiate with Universal Studios to increase his pay. Not surprisingly, Disney reportedly suffered from depression during his long career. The suffering and perseverance paid off, as assets of the Walt Disney Company are currently in excess of $89 billion in 2015.

Dr. Seuss
Who would have thought that one of the most well-known and revered children’s book authors had trouble getting his writing career off of the ground? It’s true, though. The crafty “Cat in the Hat” creator was reportedly rejected by 27 publishers for his first book “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” The 28th publisher, Vanguard Press, took a chance on the young author, ultimately selling over 6 million copies of that first book. Since then, Dr. Suess has published over 40 books and sold over 600 million copies. The best part is how he made a positive impact on the lives of millions of kids around the world.

Remember, you write your own stories, so you are in control of writing your ending. Will those “failures” become opportunities or excuses to quit?

Warning: Are You Accidentally Shattering Your Brand Continuity?

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At its core, brand continuity is the idea that all communication channels between your brand and your customers (live chat, email, phone calls, etc.) should all look and feel like they’re coming from the same place. It’s the idea that you should strive to give your customers an experience that is as consistent as possible, regardless of how they choose to make contact with you. Successful brand continuity requires you to strike a delicate balance, and if you’re not careful, there are a few ways that you can accidentally shatter all that you’ve worked so hard to build even before you realize you have a problem.

 

It’s All in the Visuals

One of the more subtle ways to build and maintain brand continuity is also one of the most important, mainly because it can be the easiest to get wrong. You have to make sure that all of your branding from the version of your company logo to things as seemingly insignificant as the font you use are as consistent as possible, regardless of which element of your online and offline presence you’re using. If a version of your company logo is present on your website’s “Help Desk” page, it should be the same version of the logo sent out in your latest email or print marketing materials. Don’t use professional-looking fonts on your website if you’re going to be using Comic Sans MS on your print materials.

You may initially think that this is incredibly easy to miss and in many respects, you’re right. Customers aren’t necessarily paying attention to every last visual element on a page versus a flyer versus a billboard. But, think about it this way: the ones that do notice may be put-off or at least find it odd, which is a feeling you do not want to invoke. Those that don’t notice will still benefit from your strict brand continuity, even if subconsciously.

 

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

Another way that you can accidentally shatter brand continuity has to do with getting everyone on the same page regarding how your business works. If your website is very clear about one particular policy but your customer service team isn’t, you’re immediately confusing customers every time they pick up the phone. This confusion is especially evident regarding promotions. If an email goes out offering a new sale, you’d better make sure that anyone who answers the phones for your business knows about it and knows what it entails. Otherwise, your customers may get a disappointing experience when it feels like the left hand is unaware of what the right hand is doing, so to speak. It gives the impression that the different parts of your business are operating independently of one another, which is something you don’t want to communicate to prospective buyers.

These are just a couple of ways that you can accidentally harm your brand continuity. Remember, you can never be 100% sure how someone is going to make contact with your business, especially for the first time. So, make sure however they encounter you, it’s equally easy, enjoyable, and helpful.

Tips for Getting Maximum Mileage Out of Your Marketing Content

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Too many marketers look at the content they’re creating as “one and done.” You spend a huge amount of money designing the right print mailer, send it to all of the relevant people on your list, and then never think about it again, right?

Wrong.

The truth of the matter is that this content is still high-quality because you wouldn’t have sent it out into the world if it wasn’t. It’s a shame to write it off so quickly, especially when you can use just a few, simple techniques to increase its overall return on investment beyond what you originally thought was possible. If you want to guarantee that you’re getting maximum mileage out of your marketing content, there are a few, key tips that you’re definitely going to want to keep in mind.

Repurpose Whatever You Can

Creating a piece of high-quality, original content from scratch is not only expensive but time-consuming. This isn’t exactly a secret, but it is a problem that marketers are creating for themselves more often than not by insisting that every last piece of information going out into the world has to be wholly original from the top down.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t – sometimes repurposing a piece of older content is a great way to not only get maximum mileage out of those materials, but it can also help fill gaps in your editorial strategy and more.

For example, say you hosted a webinar that went off without a hitch. Those ideas don’t have to die the minute the last viewer logs off. Take all the notes from the webinar and turn them into a slideshow for your website or use them as the basis for a direct-mail flyer to go out in the near future. You get the benefit of building FROM something instead of creating from scratch and also get to stretch the ROI of that original content as far as it can go at the same time.

Redistribution: Using Changes to Your Advantage

Another one of the most important ways to get maximum mileage out of your marketing content involves careful redistribution. Consider how things may have changed since that original piece of content went out into the world. Maybe you designed a post for Facebook that was hugely successful but now a new social media network has entered the marketplace. A few key adjustments could make that old piece ready for a brand new audience.

The same can be said of taking something from the print world and bringing it into the digital realm, and vice versa. Take that informative print flyer you sent out a few weeks ago and use it as the framework for a blog post. You get the benefit of increasing the longevity (and again, the ROI) of that original content and you get it in front of a whole new crop of people at the same time.

While many people think of content marketing as “disposable,” it absolutely does not have to be that way. A good piece of content is a good piece of content – period. By carefully practicing techniques like redistribution and repurposing, you can stretch the value of that content as far as it will go, and get as many miles out of it as you can.

Moving On Is Not Giving Up

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No business professional in history has ever had a perfect record. Though you only set goals for you and your team with the absolute best of intentions, sometimes you may find yourself coming up short. Everyone from our parents to our teachers to our mentors has told us over and over again to “never give up, never surrender,” when sometimes, you have to do exactly that. The key to coming out all the better for it involves knowing how to identify that moment of surrender when it does arrive, and how to best handle what comes immediately after.

 

Look for the Signs

The best way to know when to move on from an objective in the world of business involves taking a moment to observe the world around you. How much time have you spent trying to accomplish this task? How much money have you expended trying to do this one particular thing? Would that time, money, and energy be better served if it were reallocated elsewhere within your organization?

At a certain point, you will start to feel diminishing returns. You’ve put your all into something and success is still just as far away as it was when you started. When you have that moment of clarity, the best thing you can do is look deep inside yourself. Do you really believe that you can pull off the challenge in front of you, or do you just hope that you can? If you fall into the latter category, it may be time to move on.

 

Moving On Doesn’t Mean You’ve Failed

The most important thing to understand about when you should move on from an objective you just can’t quite accomplish has to do with what happens next. If you set a goal for yourself and come up short of that mark, a lot of things have happened -but failure is not one of them.

You can choose to look at it that way if you’d like, but doing so actually limits the power of the moment you have in front of you. Maybe the objective you set wasn’t the right objective in the first place, and everything leading up to this point has been trying to tell you that. It’s a scenario you can see time and time again with some of the most successful companies in the history of business.

Apple, for example, had been set on releasing a smartphone for years – or at least a “smartphone” as per the definition of that term in 2005. Steve Jobs and his team tried, and tried and tried again, and eventually released something called the ROKR E1, a phone designed in conjunction with Motorola that was basically a regular phone with iTunes connectivity built in. The results were disastrous – a rare black mark on Apple’s otherwise top notch record. Jobs had set a goal for himself and had failed to accomplish it the way he wanted.

But instead of saying “Apple and phones are not meant for each other,” he thought differently. He realized that what he really failed to do was find the right hardware company to partner with to achieve this goal. He realized that by handling both the hardware and the software in-house, he could get at what he really wanted in the first place. Apple would go on to release the iPhone less than two years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

In the End

When you set goals for yourself, you always do so with the best of intentions. Remember that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Sometimes, you need to know when to try harder and when to try something else. However, moving on doesn’t mean that you’re a failure – it just means that you’ve cleared away the cobwebs, reassessed your priorities, and are ready to redirect that energy into something much more positive and appropriate.