Meryl Blau: Assistant Professor, U Miami School of Communication

My NativeAdVantage:

Bio:

Meryl Blau received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Miami International University of Art and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida. She also spent some time studying at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Her teaching interests focus on portfolio development, art direction and conceptual thinking. Before joining the School of Communication’s Advertising faculty in the fall of 2008, Blau worked as a creative director for Ronin Advertising Group, an art director for G2 (a division of Grey Advertising), and senior art director for MARC USA, Advertising.

Blau’s philosophy on executing great creative is to simultaneously think strategically and aesthetically, while always looking for the emotional appeal of the consumer. Blau encourages her students to explore various visual aspects to find unique solutions to each creative challenge. It is this philosophy that she passes down to her students by utilizing engaging and interactive methods to teach the art of visual communication. Blau also works with the student-run organization, Ad Group, as a mentor and faculty advisor. Recently, Blau illustrated and authored a children’s book titled The Monkey Hunt which was published in the spring of 2009.

What do I do best?

I’m a leader and a mentor above all else. And that seems to be what transcends any particular profession or particular skillset I have. I have a wonderful ability to work with people and help them see a clear path – and guide them to a place that allows them to excel. As a professor, this shows up in the way I guide my students, helping them become the best version of themselves, with confidence to go on to do something great in their career and passions of choice. Sometimes it’s with gentle guidance, and other times it with a lot of tough love, challenges that exceed the beliefs they have in themselves and their ability, and with a lot of holding the bar to a high standard of expectation.

As a nutritional coach and mentor, it shows up as I help to guide others towards their own personal goals and dreams. Some need help to find a path of health and wellness, and others are trying desperately to find their way out of their financial struggles. Mostly I find, whether they start with a statement that is about wellness, or that of financial struggles, in the end, it’s a combination of both that transpires with personal transformation. Through leadership and guided mentorship, I teach and train them to leverage a nutritional program to be their absolute best.

As a mom, my goal is to guide my children with loving, supportive, and positive reinforcement. I lead by example, and work to create in myself what I hope to instill in them. I believe in enforcing independence, courage, hard work, and willingness. I live by example and try to show my kids that there is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it. And if we try really hard, we can not only achieve but conquer.

I teach. I mentor. I inspire others. And what I love most, is when those I have been able to impact, come back to me and say, “Look what I did!”

What makes me the best version of myself?

I have a bar that I set for myself – that is always higher than where I was yesterday. I have an unsettling feeling about staying still or not progressing. I love to push myself to be better, especially in my physical ability and to see just how far I can push to meet those goals. I love to work towards goals and live my life by that practice. And therefore, I work to inspire those I work with to do the same. Complacency is uncomfortable for me. I used to always say my life’s belief was, “when the snow-globe settles, shake it up” – and I live by that. I thrive on getting better. Learning, growing, and physically transforming. I look at what surrounds my life at the current time, and assess where I can take advantage to do something new, to learn something new, to dig into another part of me I have yet to explore. I am a student of the world. I love the classroom environment. If I don’t learn something new – or sign up for a class, every couple of years at minimum, I literally start to get the itch that it’s time. I love to learn and grow.

When I was in graduate school, I was asked to do an illustration project. But to me, what is an illustration, without a story to go with it. And with that, a children’s book was born. I used the inspiration of my recent honeymoon to create a series of illustrations, that followed by sitting down with my newly-wed husband to write a rhyming story that summed up our vacation in a whimsical way. We eventually self-published the book and made sure to see it through with marketing efforts among our circle of influence.

Even as a professor, I look around and say, what can I learn that will make me more “dangerous” in the classroom. And while it’s no longer a requirement that I do so, continuing education beyond my field, makes me grow and appreciate the classroom from the students perspective. I have taken multiple classes through the University of Miami’s School of Communication, including a photo-journalism course, and a Photoshop and retouching course. I’ve got a few others on my wish list, and hope to pursue sooner than later. In addition, I travel to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity every June with a group of students, for a massive immersion of creativity. I use this as fuel to ignite my fire, keep my classroom fresh, and keep my conversation current among a forever-changing generation in the classroom.

As a mentor, I believe most importantly that you must learn and embrace what makes you, you. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, and lean into them. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. You don’t know what you don’t know. And you just may surprise yourself if you try. In the classroom, I push for that discomfort. As a wellness coach, it’s no different. If you want to learn and get better at who you want to become, you have to be open to the challenges that come with trying. I am not afraid to try. And I am not afraid to tell other people to try. They may not always like me for saying it, but they love me for helping them step off the cliff and figuring out that they have had wings all along.

I I am ever evolving. I embrace the fact that only one thing is certain, change will occur in life. Every time you get comfortable with what is, I guarantee, something is going to change. So you can either change for the better, or change for the worse. While the path is rarely clean, or clear for that matter, and rarely is exactly what you envision or anticipate, it may change a hundred times while on what seems to be the course, but regardless, I will always choose the prior.

What are my aspirations?

It’s my desire and aspiration to see just how high I can take my personal level of being through spiritual connections, mindfulness, and mind / body connection. I am working towards learning the art of mediation, yoga and spiritual connection to the universe to draw the things I want most in life and allow the universe to work for me. And with that wish, I seek to find total awareness of my body, my actions, my self, and my reactions to the world around me. As I continue to explore what I am capable of, I learn more about what I can and can’t control.  I yearn to create a physical body for myself that makes me feel comfortable and powerful. I yearn to create a world for my family and me that is not defined by financial restriction, but rather an abundance that allows me to give more and do more. I aspire to teach my children to live in a world where they don’t place unwarranted judgments on themselves or on others. I yearn for a life that is truly free.

My Biggest Success?

My biggest accomplishment to date lies in self-awareness and acceptance. I have struggled my entire life with a feeling of envy and admiration for others, which in turn played heavily into my inability to find joy in who I am, especially in how I perceived myself and felt in my own skin. I can track back to 2nd grade the first time I remember feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, and have battled my entire life with what would change that. I tried every trick in the book to “get skinnier,” change my body, starve my body, therapy, workout plans, hired numerous trainers, and so forth – on a quest to find comfort in my own skin. In my 40’s I discovered a fitness team that not only taught me the value of treating your body right with food and fitness, but offers mindset training, and started to help me reprogram my head. Three years into being on this team, many successes and setbacks later, I have one thing I can say for sure – I am finally GOOD with being me. It doesn’t mean I don’t strive for more, but being good today, means being able to be able to strive for more and BETTER tomorrow. And that is the biggest success I could possibly ask for.

My Most Challenging Moment?

This may seem like a small moment in terms of challenges, but bear with me as I tell my story. I came back from a summer abroad after my junior year of college, and had just had the most incredible, inspiring experience of my life. I backpacked with a friend from school and then spent 3 weeks in school in London. And from the point I arrived back at school telling my friends and family that I would be going back to Europe after graduation, by myself this time, to back pack, to get a job, to do anything to be there. And so I spent my senior year working and saving, and making sure everyone knew my plans. During the year, I was presented with another opportunity that was being held for my career path in Vermont and was in heavy debate about the value it would hold for me to go to this opportunity instead of my trip back to Europe. However, I had “put it out there already,” I told everyone my plans and they were all “so impressed,” there was no way I could change courses now. So while everything in my gut told me that I should make a different choice and do what my heart was telling me, I did what I believed I should do, and went back to Europe for this second round at being abroad. This time, it was with intention of interviewing and getting a job. Needless to say, the job didn’t happen. The people I met the previous year were no longer there. The vibe was different. The feeling was gone. Every day was a challenge to push myself to do something new and do it on my own. I was lonely. I was alone. I was unhappy being there. I didn’t get the job. I didn’t have this incredible trip filled with inspiration and hope. I was trying to recreate a feeling that I had already experienced. I was trying to be what I told people I would be, and if I did, they would see how great it was that I was brave enough to do this big bold thing. But in the end, this was not the case. No one really cared where I was or what I was doing. I wasn’t brave. I was a coward for doing what I thought I was supposed to do, instead of following my heart and doing what I wanted to do. And honestly, the only one who mattered in this moment was me. I missed the opportunity to try something else, because I was afraid to speak up and say, “I am going to change my course of action, because there is something that is calling me. “I wish I did. But I didn’t. It was a long and expensive lesson that challenged me to learn a very valuable lesson. It’s never too late to change your mind. It’s never too late to change your course of action. Your aspiration or desire today, may not be the same as it is tomorrow. And that is OK. The only thing that matters is that you feel in your gut, and in your heart that what you are doing is right for you. And as long as what is right for you, isn’t causing physical harm to someone else in the process, you have to do what you know is right for you. In this case, I did not. But since this moment, and thank god it was early in my life, I have learned one of the most valuable lessons. You have to be clear with yourself and you have to be ok to make the hard decisions, even when they feel like you may be judged in ways you don’t want to be judged. Because in the end, you are the only one who will suffer from you trying to please others or appear to be something you are not.

I have faced many challenges in my life, from seeing my mom being diagnosed with cancer and needing a stem cell transplant, wishing I could do more to help her, but can’t, to having a pregnancy with an unknown outcome of heightened health risks (that to our gratitude did not amount to anything other than a happy, healthy baby), to facing a lifetime of personal distorted body issues and faced my fears head on by training and getting on stage as a bikini competitor... it doesn’t matter what the challenge is – it’s all about how you adapt in the moment, not shy away from your fears, and be clear about what you need from the moment you are in – and be willing to use your voice to speak into that clarity and tell those who support you, what you need.

My Motto?

Complacency will never move you forward. When the snowglobe settles, shake it up.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Cathy Savage, Lisa DeMayo, Angelique Norrie, Susan Sly, Peta Kelly, Tom Brady, Jen Dicandia, Jessica Halbert, Eden Slobin, and my mom.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

The Swiss Alps. Stand on a swiss mountaintop and just breathe in the air. There is simply nothing like it.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

A sketchbook or a journal and some new pens and pencils to go with it. I never finish them – I also start with the best intention, but always skip from book to book. But I get high just being in the store, over the excitement of it being a day where I will buy a new one. There’s something so therapeutic about having a place to safely write, draw, or scribble your thoughts and feelings.

More: The scent and feeling of new make up – preferably and most notably MAC, a really great looking, great performing pair of gym shoes (typically Nike is my choice these days), a good pair of flip flops, my Beats headphones, Alo yoga pants are my newest obsession, and a comfortable sports bra.

My Current Passions?

Fitness and wellness is my number one passion and obsession. Moving and eating right will literally change the entire vibe of my day. Yoga is my newest obsession. I’m ready to take my yoga practice for a spin and see if  I can learn to fly. And lastly, meditation. I’m not very good at it yet, but it’s in my heart to learn the practice of drawing more and more positive energy from the Universe with the intention of giving it back to other, and that is what I hope to do.