July 3, 2018
If you read my blog much or listen to the podcasts you know I tend to talk a lot about active listening. (In fact, I just referenced this Sunday.) But the idea of active listening is only the first step in this journey. Beyond the act of listening actively you need to follow-through with the next step. I consider this next step equally important. This next step is applied listening. This is where I take the listening I’ve been involved in doing and actually use it to affect something I am doing. I apply the knowledge I’ve gained.
Oh, but there’s lots of room for learning still, and today is no different. What you’re about to read is my Tech Tuesday post. Last week we dug in deep and explored polynomial code computing. I’ll save you the mental struggle of wading through another concept at the same depth this week and instead explore a more applied technology. In fact, we’re going to take things extremely simple this week and look at something I wrote over the weekend.
The idea is simple. I wanted to take my applied listening and do something with it for the purpose of making this blog in particular easier and better for my readers.
The idea: applied listening
Real life example coming at you. My blog posts usually come in at around 1,000-1,200 words with some going even longer. That’s a lot to read, not necessarily when taken individually, but when put into the context of a week’s worth of daily posts…it can be overwhelming, and possibly a bit daunting. I was faced with a dilemma. The depth of each post is important, and there’s valuable information I’m conveying typically without demonstrating an unnecessary verbosity.
But not everyone has the ability to devote the time required to read a long post each day. In fact, my best friend once mentioned no matter how much they hoped to be able to, they could never keep up with it all. And this resulted in a negative experience for them! The exact opposite of what I hoped to accomplish. I want my readers to feel inspired, motivated, and most importantly in control of their time. When the length of my post dramatically and directly contributed to the opposite effect I felt I was the one failing them!
I wanted to find a way to resolve this conflict and provide a better user (reader) experience while at the same time not sacrificing the quality or content of my message. This leads to my proof of concept below.
The proof of concept:
There are existing plugins which will report the average reading time of a post. These are somewhat helpful in providing information to the reader about the length of time to anticipate a particular post requiring. However, in my opinion this reading time message is merely passive usability. I’ve written a good deal about the notion of active vs passive. (Don’t get me started on this in regards to artificial intelligence!) I call this passive usability because the basic message is merely, “Here’s what’s happening, deal with it.” Somewhat beneficial but not necessarily proactively helpful.
Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to the top of this post (if you’re not reading this on the actual post page, click through to the single post instead of the homepage). As you can see, my subtext is slightly different and a bit more specific. There’s an included link asking a question – got less? I believe these two little words and the included functionality take this usability from passive to active. What you have now is active usability because the message now says, “Here’s what’s happening, want to change it?” See the difference? Beneficial while also empowering and proactive.
At this point I was going to tell you to try it out. However I am 99% sure the minute I referenced the subtext in the previous paragraph you’ve already played with the technology and seen what it does. I hope your first response is delight mixed with a hint of intrigue. If that’s the case then I’ve been successful in changing the experience to a positive “reader experience”.
- First, I’ve written my post in its entirety as I normally would, then I use a special toolbar formatting option I wrote in the editor that allows me to wrap words, sentences, and paragraphs of text in span tags. Each span tag includes a special class name, such as, level-10, level-25, level-50, level-75, etc… any digit between 1 and 100 can be used in association with the level- portion of the tag.
- The second step implements a rather standard jQuery UI slider element (I’ll admit this was the first time in a very long time that I used jQuery UI…I almost didn’t believe it was still actively used!). This slider UI begins at 1 and has a max value equal to the total reading time of the post.
Side note: Total reading time as I mentioned previously is easy enough to figure out using an average words-per-minute read time. Nothing super special in here honestly. It’s a basic equation.
It’s really that easy. 3 simple steps and you have a “surprise and delight” experience for your readers. But since I’m all about the value of time and the essence of simplicity and convenience I wrote a plugin to perform all this work and all my job consists of is merely selecting the appropriate spans from the toolbar, the plug-in does everything else.
And finally, let’s open source everything.
Of course I plan to open source this plugin so everyone can see the code and have a go at it…and hopefully make it better! Before I do there are a few things I’m still improving before I want to share it, basically cleaning up the code and implementing something I added just yesterday (take the page url and add an “anchor” such as #3 to be automatically given the 3 minute version of the post). It won’t be too much longer and I’ll share the code and I’ll be sure to post an update so you can try it for yourself!
Have a great Tuesday and remember, simplicity is key, sometimes the best usability is also the easiest to create. Finally, remember sometimes what looks like a magical user experience only takes a few lines of code and a little bit of extra thought.
June 13, 2018
Apples, Oranges, and Communities
“You’re only focused on the developers.” The comment stung but only for a second. I was deep in conversation with a few Mauticians when this supposed truth bomb was dropped in my lap. But rather than devastating me, or causing me to explode in a defensive nature, I let the comment soak in. I rolled it over in my head and attempted to evaluate the truthiness of the words. Here are the conclusions I came to as a result.
What am I focusing on?
I appreciated this reminder about how vitally important it is to focus on the many different type of community member. In other words, not everyone is a developer. I’ve been working in communities and developing communities for the better part of the last decade. And still, still I struggle with remembering this valuable fact.
I’m an engineer at heart. I love creating beautiful code and I love creating process. I love the ability to create order from chaos. Or create functionality from nothing. In addition to just the code I am hyper-focused on the presentation. I’ve written about the topic of UI/UX frequently on my blog (Most recently I wrote about the concept of UX writing). So, code + design are always the first and foremost on my mind.
I’m sharing things about myself in order for you to have a better understanding of what comes naturally simply by default for me. In this situation these are the things which influence my responses and my “top-of-mind” areas of focus when considering community and community growth. I would suspect you are each similar to me as well, albeit with different focus items.
This is the reason why the comment which turned it into a conversation was so important to me. The statement made me look inward and evaluate how I was doing as a Mautic community leader and how the Mautic community was growing. Were there areas in our community being neglected? Were we as a community overlooking valuable contributors and passionate volunteers simply because they didn’t look like everyone else?
And all of that brings me to my somewhat unusual blog post title. I always hesitate to share common idioms in an effort to not bore you with something I assume you already know. However I’ve found there are usually one or two who appreciate the quick response of something they remember only vaguely.
Why are we talking about fruit?
The phrase I refer to in my title says, “Like comparing apples and oranges.” This classic phrase is usually called upon when someone is attempting to compare two items which are clearly different. The point being that the person making this comparison is neglecting or overlooking the rather obvious fact that at the most basest of levels the two items are simply incomparable.
And of course the final item in the title refers to our communities we live and work in. Comparing community members or making the base assumption that every community member looks the same (aka has the same skills and talents and focus) is just as flawed as fruit comparisons.
How does a community grow?
When we reevaluate our thinking about our community and we look with a fresh focus on the diversity found in skills, talents, and abilities we see something more than differences – we see strengths.
These strengths, these unique qualities, when they are recognized and encouraged, result in community growth. And this little secret is what everyone is seeking in community growth hacking. A community typically forms around a common set of shared values (Seth Godin’s Tribe mentality). When we recognize this foundation then we can turn our focus to our differences.
Reference: Tribes and the reality of the worldview.
Why are differences so important?
The previous paragraph leads me to ask this next question. Do differences actually make us stronger and help us grow faster? Isn’t the opposite view, of a unified approach, better and more productive? The seeming contradiction however ignores the fact of a strong shared foundation of values. There is a basis of unified beliefs and a shared vision (this is the why of the community). The differences are the unique additional qualities of each person. And here’s the reason it matters, wrapped up in a biblical expression:
“If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:17 (CEV)
Simply put, if everyone is the same (an eye) in a community (body) then there are all sorts of things (the act of smelling) which cannot be done. In other words, we lose out on incredible and valuable functionality. This implies therefore the inverse is an increase in functionality. Our differences make us stronger.
Mautic celebrates differences
The conclusion of my short mental journey down this path was a realization of two facts. First, Mautic is an incredibly diverse and unique community. We share a common set of beliefs and goals, but beyond that we each have unique talents and abilities. Mautic as a community embraces those differences. Second, while I was reassured after this mental exercise I was not neglecting any particular subset of our outstanding community, I was thankful for the opportunity to review my actions and motives.
If I could leave you with a word of encouragement as you are in a community (or possibly building a community) – consider your differences. Seek to support, encourage, and empower volunteers by highlighting their strengths. Do this and I guarantee you – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to hack your community growth.
June 11, 2018
First Things First: How to Handle Priority Paralysis
I recently spoke about decision paralysis, in the terms of the consumer and the marketers response to this crippling sales detractor. We had some great understandings and takeaways as a result of that post. (Or are least I hope you got something profitable from it!)
Quick Reminder: Implementing marketing automation correctly and segmenting an audience allows marketers to limit the number of choices seen and hopefully prevent the onset of decision paralysis.
While this post is not necessarily about decision paralysis the resulting behavior is remarkably similar. As referenced in the title, this post focuses on priority paralysis. Priority paralysis is actually something which can occur with everyone regardless of their role or position. Let’s look first at what I mean by priority paralysis and then explore what ways we can mitigate the problem or at least the pain associated with the phenomena.
How to identify priority paralysis
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting, staring at your task list and not sure which to tackle first – you’ve experienced priority paralysis. Maybe you’ve snapped out of it relatively quickly and gotten to work. If so congratulations, you’ve found a way to work around the problem. But how many times have you instead swiped up and started browsing social media, or reading the news headlines, or opened your email instead? If you’ve performed any of those actions you’ve fallen into the paralysis trap and you’ve been caught by the distraction dragon.
The distraction dragon (and the other critter you’ll read about later) are inspired by perhaps one of the greatest blog posts I’ve read in the last year. The Procrastination Matrix by Tim Urban takes a very light-hearted and easy-to-read approach to tackling the problem of procrastination. I recommend this post highly to you. And I believe the concepts he has outlined in his post dovetail nicely with this point in our study here. (Interested? If you have a spare 30 minutes go read it and come back. You’ll be better for it, I promise.)
Continuing on with this thinking, it is important to recognize that delayed action is still paralysis. The distraction dragon is there to distract you from the prioritization you should be doing. You think you’re moving (and thus productive) because you’re engaging with the distraction dragon, but you’re not moving any closer on your journey to proper prioritization.
Those who know me or have had the (mis)fortune to work alongside me on something know my deep-rooted desire for speed and handling things quickly. I am not advocating the only way to beat priority paralysis is with immediate action. It’s not the accomplishing of items on the task list alone that counts. Taking time to arrange your priority of items and providing more detail on each one is a huge step towards success.
Three simple steps to beat priority paralysis
I don’t believe these are the only ways to overcome this obstacle but I have found these three things help me greatly as I struggle myself.
1. Be specific and gather details
The first and possibly greatest way to be successful in prioritization involves a full and complete understanding of the list and the details of each item. I can’t stress this point enough. The reason why I think it is so important lies in the fact that I believe it’s so easy to be deceived! I wrote just yesterday in a book review about the value of a number and metrics. But here is the important point: Partial detail is never good enough. What I mean by this is simple: Don’t be fooled into thinking some of the details is enough.
Aside: As a personal example I was speaking internally at Mautic about our practice of prioritizing certain support items. Rather than being specific we talked about introducing a representative labeling system instead of surfacing an exact number. I instantly recognized this as a subtle way to get caught in priority paralysis.
The instant we introduce a layer of abstraction which lacks specifics we add obscurity and prevent our ability to properly prioritize.
The confusion critter is the best friend of the distraction dragon. They complement each other, but to your detriment! These little fiends like to scurry throughout your processes and your thinking and drop little fuzzy blocks. Fuzzy blocks are those areas where the details are missing, you have an idea of the shape of the problem or the item on the task list but you’re not sure what it really looks like. The confusion critters love these because they trip you up and make you focus on them and their best buddy the distraction dragon instead of the priorities.
2. Identify both short and long-term goals
The second way to defeat priority paralysis is to look ahead at the short-term and long-term goals you’re wanting to accomplish. Anytime you are able to raise your eyes up and look at the goals you are aiming for you will have better insight into how to properly organize the tasks immediately in front of you.
The best explanation I have for this comes from Principles by Ray Dalio. In his extremely well-written and popular book he touches on a number of important concepts, but one of them which I find immediately relevant is his ‘Five Step Process’ for success. In case you don’t have the time to read this tome, I’d suggest something even easier (again, takes 30 minutes but you’ll thank me for it). Watch his recent mini series on Youtube. It’s ridiculously good and captivating. Pay particular attention to Episode 3.
Takeaway: Each of us has to choose goals based on our own values and decide on the best path to achieve those goals. We need to identify how we approach them to achieve them when problems stand in our way.
If we get caught stumbling over the fuzzy blocks laid out by the confusion critter or start focusing on the distraction dragon instead of those goals we have taken our mind off finding the best path to achieve our goals. In other words, we neglect the goals and don’t prioritize our tasks based on that viewpoint anymore.
3. Start something on the list
I originally started this point with the more simplistic title: Start something. But then I realized how completely ambiguous that left things and how easily it lent itself to the distraction dragon. The better, and more specific title includes “on the list”. If we don’t start something on the list we are not taking a step down the pathway to success and achieving our goals. We are paralyzed.
Starting something on your prioritization list is an interesting idea because starting something means actually working towards your goals and you’re going to face a serious inner struggle at this point in your journey. You’ll be faced with a choice. A dilemma will appear before you. This is a question quagmire. I call this a quagmire because you’ll be faced with determining which task to start. The ground gets soft at this point. You’re starting to feel the onset of priority paralysis because all of a sudden you’re being forced to pick something. Don’t fear. Don’t sit still and sink into the question quagmire.
But there’s a reason this is the third step in conquering priority paralysis. You can start something on the list at this third point because you have successfully completed the first and second steps above. You are equipped to handle the slow downward pull of indecision. This question quagmire will attempt to grab hold of you by the feet and keep you from moving, pulling you slowly into priority paralysis. But if you know all the specifics, and you have your eye set on the goal you are out to accomplish you can respond to the question quagmire with an answer. This is your definitive first step.
Moving quicker with practice
Once you have successfully fended off your distraction dragon, the confusion critters, and walked confidently across the question quagmire you will start to be free from the paralysis of prioritization. You’ll grow ever more confident in your abilities to take a list of tasks, work through these same steps and properly organize them in a priority which will help you accomplish your goals. And then comes the exciting part: this gets easier each time. You’ll continue to grow and improve. You’ll be faster at avoiding the confusion critters and their fuzzy blocks by starting to identify the important details earlier. Once you know these details the distraction dragon will hold no interest to you because you’ll clearly see he is not obstructing your path to your goals. He won’t be blocking your way to prioritizing what you need to do next.
Each time you wrestle with the challenge of prioritization and successfully take the first and second step, the question quagmire will shrink. You’ll grow more and more confident with which item you should start on first. However, don’t be discouraged if you should choose wrongly, there’s nothing wrong with stumbling; as long as you get up, analyze what happened, and learn from it. Ray speaks to this as well in his book and ultra mini-series. (Have you watched it yet? Do it.)
I hope this helps you overcome the priority paralysis. I certainly learned a lot about myself as I wrote this post and found the points above helpful for me as well. We’re all learning on this journey. Let’s learn together!
May 29, 2018
Reading List Recommendations
I decided rather than post my weekly reading list update on Friday I would wait and post on Tuesday instead. Given the long holiday weekend in the US I had my expectations that this would afford me a bit of extra time to read. Excitingly enough I was correct and have a few more books I’d like to add to this post. In addition to my usually non-fiction reviews I’m also sharing some of the fiction books I was able to find time to indulge in as well. I hope you’ll find something in here that will inspire, encourage, or motivate you to pick up a new book as well.
Business books & a common theme
Just as I have done in weeks past I’ll start by sharing the three business books I read this past week and after the summary and takeaway from each I’ll share what I believe might be considered a common thread between them. Interestingly enough, this week, as with weeks past, I am not purposefully selecting books that I believe share a common theme. However, I have been once again pleasantly surprised with how these three disparate books and authors have some common themes and relevant points shared.
This book was one I picked up because the subtitle completely caught my eye. The full title of the book is Accelerate, Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. The subtitle jumps out at me because of the challenges and opportunities Mautic is encountering as we continue to grow at such a rapid pace. Thankfully I was able to enjoy reading this book as Mautic has overcome many of the early struggles we had handling such great growth. I say enjoy because I wasn’t forced to scour the pages in an attempt to uncover some instant fix in the midst of a crisis!
This book was only recently published and has been receiving quite a bit of publicity (at least in my circles) so I was quite eager to read it, particularly given the individuals recommending it. I can now solidly add my own name to that list and say, if you are in any technology-related position in any organization, you should absolutely pick up a copy of this book. In fact, any time I read a book and discover the amount of my highlighted text exceeds the un-highlighted I know I have read something truly meaningful. That being said I don’t have any idea how I’m supposed to shrink down things into a simple handful of bullet points. Here is the best I can do for you:
- Practical Application: This book has performed incredible studies into real-life use cases and organizations and extracted useful results from them.
- Process Makes Perfect: To twist a common saying, the authors focus on creating the best processes for scaling a successful organization.
- Psychometrics and Surveys: The authors focus on collecting data through surveys (some consider this questionable or too subjective) and then applying science to study the results.
I feel terrible offering three meager snippets for a book of this quality but also recognize I cannot paraphrase the entirety of the book here. I can only suggest you pick up a copy and read it yourself. Whether you’re concerned about deployment processes, employee satisfaction, product stability, or just a better understanding of what other highly successful organizations do, this book is a must read.
The process by which an organization accelerates the development and delivery of software improves profitability, productivity, and market share as well as improved effectiveness, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
The second book I read this weekend was technically a bit of a re-read since I had read it once before and I don’t frequently take the time to read a book through a second time but this book is one that serves such a practical nature it’s more of a handbook or manual then it is a book. The book, SPRINT by Jake Knapp is a playbook for how to successfully “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”. There are many reasons why I recommend this book but let me give you just a few:
- Plan and Execute: The author uses a story-telling narrative as he shares how to organize a team, identify a specific problem, and create a prototype in only one week.
- Pick a Path: Storyboarding, brainstorming, idea sharing all play a role within the team as a path is outlined to solve the problem.
- Prototyping: In this week of incredibly fast iterative development it’s important to recognize the outcomes anticipated and focus on getting insights. A prototype rather than a polished finish product is the week’s goal.
I should be clear: this book is not referring to agile development sprints. Just in case there’s confusion I realize it’s important to mention this book and its outcomes are applicable to any organization and any problem. The author is quick to point out the principles and processes here can be applied to any industry and any problem.
Ultimately, this book provides a fascinating and highly specific 5 day (almost hour by hour) journey through a process to go from idea to customer-tested prototype.
Human + Machine
The last of the non-fiction books I read last week was a more future-focused look at how humans work alongside artificial intelligence. In, Human + Machine, Reimagining Work in the Age of AI the authors Paul Daughtery and H. James Wilson focus on how a future work experience looks like as we begin to realize that we are not competing with AI for all jobs but rather how we will work together in a mutually beneficial relationship to accomplish a goal.
I personally enjoyed this book as I am constantly thinking about and sharing how I believe AI will revolutionize the marketing automation space and what machine learning really means (beyond just fancy marketing jargon that some companies like to throw around).
The authors break the book into two parts, first studying what advancements we have already made in the world of artificial intelligence today. They point to the seamless and even elegant interaction between robots and humans in factories where previously these machines were completely restricted to assembly line motions. They continue to draw the reader to conclude how much “AI” we are already consuming today. This serves to emphasize their point that we are currently already living in this humans and machines symbiosis.
The second half of the book is where the authors take more creative liberties to explore what this future looks like if things continue at their current pace. They explore many of the topics which strike fear however unfounded in the hearts of workers everywhere (The imagined future where all jobs are owned by AI). Instead of such a bleak outlook the writers focus instead on the many benefits and attempt to set straight a realistic view of this future world. This is where things get interesting for me. The book focuses on a concept colloquially termed “the missing middle”, or ways of working which currently don’t exist in today’s economy.
This book is a thought-provoking study into how businesses will achieve the greatest success when machines and humans work as allies to create a process which takes advantage of complementary strengths.
As I selected them and read throughout the week these three books did not seem at first glance to have any real correlation. However, as I read them I was struck by what once again seemed to be a common theme.
The Common Theme: Process
The concept of process was pervasive in these three books, whether in product departments of an organization, in how a sprint is handled, or in how machines and humans work together for the betterment of the business. Across all these different thoughts and areas of focus the singular idea of the importance of a clear process was immediately evident.
Personally I admit I may have been slightly predisposed to this notion as the concept of processes is one I personally study heavily, speak about publicly, and even write about with some frequency (The Importance of Process, An 8 Step On-boarding Process, The Importance of Planning, The Importance of Planning: Practically Speaking just to list a few examples.)
As a result of this personal interest I found these three books to touch on unique yet similar aspects of this concept in fresh ways (or in the case of SPRINT, refreshing ways). If you have not read one (or any) of these books, I would certainly recommend you consider adding them to your bookshelf. I would recommend them in the order in which I’ve written about them here and depending on your field of focus might recommend switching #1 and #2. However, if you’re in the technical side of an organization you simply must read Accelerate.
Too often we get caught up in the details of a particular problem and fail to either look at the bigger picture or more accurately, we fail to see how the part fits into the whole. We lose sight of the process. These books helped remind me that the process is critically important as businesses grow and develop.
Bonus: Fiction Fun
Okay, as I said in the beginning due to the long holiday weekend I was able to read a few more just-for-fun books as well. Rather than doing any sort of write-up on them I’ll just share the titles with you in case you’re curious what else I read.
I’m a bit of a mystery thriller fan and love reading a good book with a “twist”. Regardless of your personal interests, I’d recommend anything by James Patterson, he’s a very easy-to-read fiction author (not to mention phenomenally prolific and I find myself inspired by his drive and work ethic). Whatever your pleasure-reading preference might be I encourage you to find a new book, new author, or new topic.
May 24, 2018
Recently I’ve received more than my fair share of emails relating to my privacy and other businesses. This left me contemplative. I began to wonder what this data might look like in graph form. Given my proclivity for data and data interpretation I decided to quickly create a graph that I felt was truly representative of the situation as I have experienced in my inbox.
I recognize we are all unique and we each have different online habits and subscriptions, so your particular results may vary. Below is simply my estimation from personal experience, although I would believe it feels similar for many of you.
Clearly the situation has escalated in recent days and the result has been nothing less than an overwhelming sense of comfort knowing just how many businesses care about my privacy!
I will admit that some of the subject lines have been slightly intimidating or even threatening but I rest assured this is simply their extreme desire to see my privacy protected and sometimes that heartfelt desire can appear as a threat.
As a result of this wave of interest in personal privacy I realized as the recipient I also have an obligation in this situation. If others are so extremely dedicated to protecting and promoting my privacy and take the time to demonstrate this through a barrage of increasingly frequent emails, then it is not just my responsibility, but my duty to respond accordingly.
In order to put the minds of these many concerned businesses at ease and allow them the freedom to sleep in peace at night without the weight of worry over my personal privacy I am choosing to assume that responsibility myself and relieve them of that burden. I’d encourage you to do the same. Let us allow these businesses the opportunity to focus on improving their products and their businesses instead of how they manage our personal data. Let’s give them the freedom to move forward unencumbered without the albatross of our personal information hung around their necks.
The preceding is my light-hearted response to the influx of emails received in the past 24 hours as “the deadline approaches”; in all seriousness this does present a significant opportunity to evaluate your sharing decisions and the implications of who receives your data — Think about it.
I’ve been to a fair number of conferences so far in my life and I don’t see the trend slowing down any time soon. Between the excitement of the Mautic – Open Marketing movement and the ever-growing community supporting the world’s only open source marketing automation product, I’m on the road a lot. But don’t think I’m complaining. Not for a second. I enjoy the opportunity to share Mautic with the world. But that’s only half the joy. I also get the tremendous privilege of attending conferences and seeing how others think about the MarTech landscape and the business of sales and marketing.
But every once in a while I have the chance to attend a conference that goes a bit deeper. It’s always fun when that realization dawns on me that I am witnessing an event that has been organized down to the smallest detail and attention has been placed equally on every part of the experience.
This last week I had the tremendous privilege of attending SiriusDecisions in Las Vegas for their 2018 Summit. Now I should preface that I had built a bit of a preconceived notion about this particular event. I had heard the stories. The quiet whispers that this was the marketing event. And of course I took these suggestions in stride and with a sense of reserved acceptance. Not until I was able to witness this conference for myself would I make my decision on its ability to deliver on these lofty reviews.
This was the mentality I had as I landed in Vegas for the conference kickoff on Tuesday. What followed was a 3 day showcase of precision, skill, and aptitude on the topic of sales and marketing. Every aspect of the conference was focused on maximizing outcomes for attendees, sponsors, and speakers alike. I had the great privilege of spending one-on-one time with incredible individuals like, Chris Frank from Cisco, who took his time to explain to me how he leads the complex demand generation strategies for WebEx with revenues north of $1bn. Hearing his thought leadership on the ways he saw the marketing landscape and how businesses should be positioning themselves for the future of marketing left me contemplating strategy for hours to come. Or, Becca Shaffer from LevelJump who shared how the scrappy startup life was the ideal breeding ground for quick innovations and success. These individual meetings “serendipitously occurred” due to the intentional and strategic workings of the conference organizers.
And then there were the sessions. Case studies from global industry leaders openly sharing their successes, and their failures, all for the benefit of everyone else. This open spirit of sharing resonated deeply with me as I often say I default to open and sharing everything with others. This was the mentality and attitude of the speakers and presenters at this event. What a refreshing change of price to hear a global multi-billion dollar corporation share “lowlights” (as opposed to highlights). This attitude made me think of a quote I of which I am particularly fond:
“Be humble to see your mistakes, courageous to admit them, and wise enough to correct them.” — Amine Ayad
I forget when I first heard that quote but it has stuck with me, this is the open and honest nature I strive to hold myself to and I was surprisingly pleased to see this same concept on such display at Summit 2018.
Beyond just case studies, and thought leadership though, Summit 2018 gave me excellent practical applications which I could immediately begin to apply to my own thinking and work. This is where I began to realize the true value of an event like this. Show me others who have been successful and I admire it. Give me something to think about and I appreciate it. Teach me how to do something better myself and I am forever changed. That’s the promise Summit 2018 was able to deliver on; with precision and forethought.
Perhaps one of the greatest highlights of the entire conference was the keynote presentation by the world renowned photographer, Platon. His ability to tell a story through his photography and to carry the audience on a journey though laughter, anger, sadness, and a sense of inner resolve was masterfully delivered. He challenged us to think about what a true leader looks like. He told story after story carefully weaving a common thread of servant leadership throughout. Picture after picture, individual after individual he unfolded and shared a philosophy on leadership which kept everyone on the edge of their seats until the very end.
Tony Jaros, president and chief product officer for SiriusDecisions introduced Platon with an almost prophetic statement when he stated, “You’ll want to put your phones away for this next hour. I promise you.”
The next 60 minutes flew by in a mesmerizing showcase of personal stories and deep inner reflection. It was truly a memorable experience. We were changed as an audience, transported from global destination to destination. As Platon anticipated and masterfully orchestrated, our differences were put aside, and we were collectively moved by a singular feeling of compassion. Regardless of personal convictions, biases, and beliefs, we were united under this common cause. When the lights finally rose at the end of the session breaking the spell the room sat in hushed, almost reverent respect for what had just occurred.
My respect and appreciation for the staff and organizers of SiriusDecisions has been raised to new heights and I find myself whole-heartedly agreeing with the reviews and feedback I received from others before I attended. It will remain to be seen what level of ongoing benefits will come from the many meetings I had with others, but I am confident tremendous value has been returned on this investment. The relationships and connections formed go far beyond a casual business relationship and extend deeper into an intrinsic long term value.
If you have an opportunity to attend a future SiriusDecisions conference I highly recommend you do so. Whether it be for learning strategy, finding encouragement, or changing your thinking SiriusDecisions will deliver.
May 6, 2018
Growing with GitHub and GraphQL
I wrote yesterday about Learning Something New and thought that maybe a great example would be living by example and take just a very quick post today as a follow-up to share what I learned!
Picking a problem
I’ll start with the problem. Mautic is growing at a tremendous pace and has a great foundation. (I laugh as I write that because doesn’t that sound like the most perfect problem to have?) But those words are the “pretty” way to say what is very much more real and more raw. Mautic is growing so quickly that it becomes a massive chore to keep things organized and focused. (And that’s a very real problem, for quite a few reasons.) In addition, a great foundation suggests longevity. The Mautic Community is getting some history.
Fast growth comes with all types of growing pains, and without being in state of constant and continual focus things will get lost, or broken, or simply done ineffectively. Yep, growth has its downsides.
Longevity comes with the implications of technology problems. And this can mean a variety of things: outdated technologies, or non-standard implementations, or just flat-out missing software. A history and a “way of doing things” can be problematic for the future.
Okay, so now we’re on the same page (at least a little I hope) about a few of the struggles that a growing and solidly built community encounters. As I wrote the article yesterday these are some of the things also floating around in the back of my mind. So I decided to see what I might be able to learn to help with those problems.
Sorting out a solution
I fully recognize I’m not going to solve all the things in a single Saturday learning exercise. Nor am I going to be able to learn everything on a topic that I need to learn for my own personal edification and since I’m hate feeling like a failure I wanted to pick something manageable. It didn’t take me long to find something to settle on: metrics.
For those who know me, I love facts, snippet-style facts, and specifically numbers. Therefore, having an easy dashboard for viewing statistics about the Mautic community and software. I am also particular about design and the user interface/user experience. And so I set my sights on my target for my project: Build a dashboard view for Mautic metrics made available on GitHub.
And so I started by creating a plan. Here’s the very, very simplified version of what I scribbled down:
- Understand GitHub and what it provides
- Pick a technology for consuming GitHub data
- Display that data beautifully.
Wow, that sounds so incredibly simple. (I thought) I’ll be done with this in 30 minutes! (I was wrong, but that’s another blog post on project estimating probably.) Hindsight is 20-20 and truly ignorance is bliss; all of which is a very good thing because I felt confident and unstoppable (an important way to begin any project). And so armed with a problem, a solution and a plan of attack I got started.
I have a secret…for some rather undefinable reason, I don’t like the word grok (definition here). Regardless, it fits here so I’ll use it. I wanted to get to know how GitHub stored and shared the data from the repositories I was keeping with them. I was fairly familiar with GitHub already due to the amount of time I spent on the platform but didn’t really know as much, at least not detailed, about what information GitHub made available for reading programmatically.
I knew they had an API so I started my journey (and eventually my code) from this source. I would later come to realize something else (as the title suggests) but this is the first example of where for my personal knowledge set I was evaluating their bleeding edge offerings, and starting with what I knew. Remember – the goal with bleeding edge is to move fast and break things. So I set out deep-dive exploring their REST API endpoints and beginning to figure out what data I wanted to retrieve and display eventually.
Designing the Data (The Tech)
Designing the data involved how to store the information I retrieved. I wanted real-time information and I believed most everything could be either pulled directly or done so with very little programmatic modifications. As a result I decided on going database-less and using a true API-backend (in this case GitHub) as my only datasource.
At this point I was building a very simple React App that interacted with Github’s REST API and would then display the information in an easy to ready, beautiful manner. Next slide please…
Displaying the Data (The Look)
Once I had a good idea what data might be available I set out to figure out a way to lay it out and make it beautiful … while still being highly relevant and meaningful. There are thousands of resources available for frontend design so this part of the process is of course highly subjective and I chose to create something that appealed to my tastes and layouts. As with several other spots in this project, I had the advantage of taking creative liberty.
This point is truthfully the one where I recognize my own tendencies to get lost completely. I know the look in my head and will take as long as necessary to get there … pixel by painstaking pixel.
Putting the Pieces Together
All the pieces were in place, it was time to implement. I created code, designed pages, and built my proof of concept app for what I wanted it to do. And I was pleased with it, but ran into roadblocks. (Not surprising) First, roadblock to overcome was the limiting of API calls done by GitHub. I was working with a React app on my local machine that would hot-load any changes to my local site every time I saved a file. Every time it hot-loaded the page it would re-call the API calls. Thus (as you can imagine) I very quickly hit the non-authenticated API endpoint limits.
First Challenge: Implement a more advanced API call that included a personalized authentication token.
After that was resolved I continued on my quest for data supremacy and the all-knowing snapshot of our Github repository. Things continued along nicely but I found that I was retrieving far more data in some instances than I needed and in other cases I was simply unable to pull out the information I needed. I was getting frustrated.
Second Challenge: Data was incomplete or too much in the wrong instances and was not allowing me to do what I wanted.
So I walked away. That’s right, pushed my chair back, went for a stroll, cleared my head. And came back with a fresh outlook. I knew the end result I wanted so I started to step back and re-think my thinking about how I was building things out…and that’s when I decided to explore GitHub’s GraphQL implementation.
And here, this is where I had to give up my own comfort of a very familiar REST API and look at doing something different. And so I began to break things. I quickly commented out all of my REST calls and began building out GraphQL calls instead.
Pro Tip: I always start with a soft delete whenever possible so as to be able to use my knowledge again later should it prove to be helpful.
Third Challenge: Learning GitHub’s GraphQL implementation
That challenge feels very short but let me tell you, it packs a punch. And it took me some time to implement — partly this is due to the fact that every software product is different and thus their implementation of something rather standard (GraphQL) still involves understanding all the data available and the manner by which you navigate their structure to retrieve it. GitHub’s documentation was incredibly helpful in this area.
Bonus: Documentation will make your break your product. As much as you like to think it’s intuitive. It’s only intuitive to you. Good documentation wins wars.
I’ll save you a significant amount of time at this point and fast forward to my current status in this “quick” creation and my “learning something new” experiment.
Displaying the Data (The Product)
I’m excited to share with you this screenshot of what I built. It’s not complete…quite yet. There are still improvements to be made and I certainly want to explore ways to continue to optimize performance. I’ll be putting the actual site up for everyone to use in the coming days as a contribution to the community. So keep your eyes peeled for that announcement.
As I said before, there’s certainly more to add and even as I share this I am thinking of improvements I want to make.
It’s important though to achieve small victories. Find the win. I think this was a successful Saturday and certainly forced me to learn something new. Finally, I debated back and forth about including various sources, websites, repositories, example code snippets, that I found useful along the way but decided against this due to the sheer volume of links that would involve. Not to mention the many , many dead ends and wrong examples I followed as well which might be more difficult to suss out of anything I were to share. If however, you are interested in knowing more leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer. Oh, and there’s a bit of an Easter egg in that screenshot too. But I’ll leave you to figure that one out.
I’m off to enjoy the rest of my weekend and I look forward to seeing what you create as you continue to grow and become better. Don’t be afraid to learn something new.
May 5, 2018
Learning Something New
Part of my job is staying aware of all the new technologies and then evaluating them to ensure that things I work on stay on the best path in regards to our future technology stack. All this tech is usually labeled with a rather aggressive term: “Bleeding Edge“. I’ll use this throughout the post, so if you aren’t familiar – read up real quick (remember: keep learning…)
As I work with these different frameworks there are a few criteria I realized I was almost unconsciously applying to each platform I worked on. I realized since these were criteria I used when evaluating things it might be interesting to share and offer it to you to do with as you please.
Advice for bleeding edge technology
Remember that today’s bleeding edge code and methodology will be yesterday’s standard. However, I would recommend caution in this part because as with anything else, you have to pick the right horse (not a racetrack gambler myself but I think the analogy holds true). This can be tricky because it’s frequently very hard to know or to determine. But there are ways to make an educated guess.
Don’t get distracted by shiny objects
Even as I write the title to this section I feel slightly hypocritical even suggesting such a recommendation. I am very easily distracted. It takes constant attention and focus to ensure I don’t get off track. Things like ProductHunt, BetaList and others are constantly proffering the latest and greatest shiny new toy and they pull on my /need for new/. Fight this urge (as I do) until you have the free time to explore these wares for your own entertainment. Shiny objects don’t automatically equal great tools or even the best tool you should consider for implementation. For this reason I suggest not getting distracted by these at all.
Do listen to what others are talking about
The best source of information is the trusted source. Those friends, colleagues, and leaders you look up to. What do they recommend, what are they talking about, what are they excited about. Those are the bleeding edge things you should explore. These aren’t shiny objects (usually) when they are being talked about by others. There is confidence in a multitude of advisors. These are the tools you should keep an open mind towards.
That’s important, don’t overlook it. I’m speaking from personal experience here and I’m embarrassed to even mention it but I will for your benefit: I have ignored incredibly valuable advice more times than I care to admit because I failed to /listen to what they were excited about and predicting to be popular/. Don’t make this same mistake. Listen.
Problems using bleeding edge
But working with bleeding edge software is not always unicorns and butterflies. There’s all sorts of issues. Sure, you feel like a hero when you get something right but 99% of the time you’re absolutely about to blow a gasket because you can’t get it figured out. And it’s not always your fault even! Here’s a few of the common problems I’ve come across working with bleeding edge software.
Most bleeding edge software has terrible documentation
No joke, I know it’s common for engineers and technical circles to make jokes about how much they hate writing documentation. And then there’s the common line, “my code is so clean you don’t need documentation” (I love that one.) So user docs are usually non-existent and technical docs are basic at best. Don’t lose heart. This shouldn’t stop you from pushing ahead – just prepare yourself to become a master of your search engine.
Bleeding edge software changes constantly
I can tell you with authority, almost every single bleeding edge product I have used has experienced changes rapidly. In fact, there have been times that between the time I close my laptop in the wee hours of the morning and when I open it again only a few short hours later the code has changed, the method improved, or the result different. This can be absolutely exasperating. Again, don’t lose heart. The reward is worth the pain.
Okay, I’m going to stop at two, I’ll lose my own desire to keep “fighting the fight” if I continue to list the negatives and the problems. (I’m speaking tongue in cheek of course) So now that we’ve seen a few reasons for bleeding edge and a few problems we might encounter let’s look last at a few tips for working with bleeding edge software.
Tips working with bleeding edge
Working with bleeding edge is both challenging and rewarding. Overcome the challenges and you’ll find deep and visceral satisfaction with your successes. Here’s a few tips to help you.
- Seek out multiple sources for information: If the software has met the criteria listed earlier (not just a shiny object) then you’ll be able to find multiple sources, implementations, and most importantly (at least for me) several different examples.
- Move fast and break things: I recently wrote about the balance between startups and stability. This is one of those cases when you simply must move quick and break things. You’re more than likely working on a local environment, don’t be afraid to try something different. Use proper Git versioning and you can easily roll back changes that don’t work right.
- Be prepared to re-think your thinking: Sometimes you’ll find yourself unable to perform what you expected following your preconceived idea or strategy. Instead of giving up, or forcing a situation. Stop. Re-evaluate. Explore alternative ways to reach the same goal.
- Know when to walk away: Don’t become so entrenched in what you’re attempting to do that you abandon common sense. There will be times when you need to write your work off. Chalk it up to experience (You will have gained knowledge) and move on.
Your takeaway should be simple: Bleeding edge code is exciting and significantly rewarding, but the risks, pitfalls, and failures are inevitable. If you remain self-aware in this regard you will find the adventure very rewarding. (Sounds a bit like a cheap fortune cookie, and I apologize, but the sentiment is genuine.) The last word I’ll leave with you is a simple reminder. Sometimes all you need is a clear head. Get up, take a stroll, let your ideas and your problems soak for a bit, then come back and look at things with fresh eyes. Keep learning. Keep asking questions. I’ll leave you with a question: What is something new you’re learning now?
February 20, 2018
Cyborgs and AI
I am almost embarrassed to write this due to the lateness with which I am apparently reading this particular blog post, but for those that have beat me to it I beg for your patience while I get a bit excited in sharing my personal discoveries. Okay, with that being said let me dig in and get a bit more specific.
I recently stumbled across this article, Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future – Wait But Why and it’s done wonderful things for putting real words to some of the thoughts I have been entertaining regarding the future of AI and humanity. If you have a free 30 minutes (maybe an hour or two) then I can think of very few things more worth the investment of your time. Take a deep dive into this line of thinking and expand your horizons.
I can tell you that a few of the concepts here touch on topics that I have personally been very excited about and have begun discussing with those that work closest to me. I agree with the observations concerning the direction of our current technology and I also agree with the concept of how we successfully navigate the perceived dangers of AI. Bottom line: An integrated AI is where I place my hopes and intents for the future. And although there are a couple of areas in the post where I take a different line of thinking from those shared in this article there are many others where I agree. A fully integrated tertiary layer that improves upon our “output” will revolutionize our future. External vs Internal supplemental AI seems a moot point that society will need to reconcile in time.
If you’d like to read what I’m reading and are curious what my thoughts are about where we go from here, then this article gives some great insights to get you started. Read it and lets talk. Read it and challenge your own thinking. Read it and challenge mine. As I shared on my short form post, Opinions this ability to form, express and differ in those opinions is what will improve us all.
February 15, 2018
Exploring Serverless PHP
I love reading about cutting edge technology and exploring what will be coming next in tech. Most recently I have been reading everything I can about serverless architecture given the growing number of articles and discussions surrounding this trend.
Most recently I read this article, Rise of Functions as a Service: How PHP Set the “Serverless” Stage 20 Years Ago which very clearly discusses the changes in our technology even if it is several months old. I really liked the comparisons to the early days of PHP and how it relates to where we go from here.
I am eager to see how things like serverless architecture can be implemented in modern software applications like Mautic, or others, but continue to struggle with the fundamental disconnect between these FaaS platforms and a PHP-based software application. I am beginning some exploration in this regard through the use of some different connectors (like the one shared in the article above).
Anyone interested in learning with me (or showing me what they have already done) I have begun my experimenting with this framework: Serverless Framework – Build applications on AWS Lambda, Google CloudFunctions, Azure Functions, AWS Flourish and more and plan to update my blog with my progress as I explore this in greater detail. So far I’ve discovered several libraries that offer integrations and/or frameworks for PHP and have settled on using GitHub – araines/serverless-php: PHP for AWS Lambda via Serverless Framework this resource for starters (don’t hold me to it as I may change this later). I liked this one because it uses Symfony components which is what Mautic uses in core already.
I don’t know if this will be something that we use with Mautic, but I am proud that we currently use the most well-recognized (and still considered cutting-edge) software with Kubernetes. There are always challenges when building out large-scale applications particularly when you want to balance contributing to an open source distributable platform and also create a world-class SaaS platform based on that same code. Kubernetes and Docker containers have given us the ability to do this and I’ve been incredibly pleased with the results so far. (If anyone is interested in hearing more about that I think it might make for an interesting topic for a future post).
For now, I’ll continue to explore how Mautic (and other PHP applications) might be able to take advantage of Functions as a Service frameworks to scale even faster.
February 10, 2018
Phone Screen Experiment
Recently the hype has been growing surrounding the removal of various social media apps from cell phones. Whether the action is due to social pressure, personal resolution or otherwise the outcome is the same – reduced social media usage. I’ve read story after story of people doing this either as an experiment or as an attempt to overhaul their time spent on social media.
In fact, most recently I was excited to hear my good friend, Dries Buytaert also started a blog series outlining his process in replacing his social media posts with more relevant and meaningful posts on his own blog. Personally I think this is the best approach I’ve heard of so far.. Studies have clearly shown that removal of one social media app merely causes a corresponding rise in use of a different one. Dries’ approach carries many benefits not only in the decrease of social time spent but possibly the greater value lies in the increase of quality content that he is now placing on his blog. I’m also a huge fan of the furtherance of an open web mentality that comes as a result of his decision.
I removed the various social media app from my own phone late last year and have found it to be an excellent decision. I’m spending more time on what I consider meaningful activity. But as I’ve progressed this year I’ve continued to read blog posts (like this one) that would suggest the replacement principle is still at work even in my phone usage and even in the absence of social media. And so I am going to continue on my own journey of exploration and hopefully self improvement. Let me explain.
Many individuals like to share the home screen of their phone. It tells everyone what apps they deem most important and what apps they want to be able to access quickly. Here’s my current home screen.
That’s not a mistake. Not only is this my home screen (because I know some of you will think I’m cheating and using screens to the left or to the right) this is my only screen.
My current phone of choice is a Google Pixel 2 XL . I’ve been using the Pixel line for 2 years and love it This means I’ve been using the Android OS for a while and it allows this level of customization. Let me explain my thinking and the reason behind this change.
I should begin with the problem I wish to solve. Too many times I have found myself grabbing my cell phone and tapping an icon simply to occupy myself. Whether that’s out of boredom, awkward shyness, or habit. None of these are acceptable reasons and yet countless times a day these feelings would trigger my action to grab my phone, unlock it, and tap an app. I believe this is a complete waste of time, and more importantly a waste of brain power.
Secondly I’ll share my idea around a solution. I found that 9 times out of 10 my mindless phone usage was begun by opening an app on my home screen. Now, I’m sure you can already guess why I made the adjustments to my home screen that I did and although drastic I’d like you to read about my observations before coming to your own conclusions that I’m crazy or pointlessly radical.
By taking this drastic action I now had to click the home icon (the middle button in the screenshot above) and then scroll down to the app I wanted to open.
Side note: In addition to changing my home screen I also downloaded and applied an icon pack to all of my icons. This keeps the apps from looking familiar and forces my brain to actually look at each app’s name to find what I’m looking for. I may write a subsequent post on this due to some additional interesting finds.
Now I know you’re thinking that I’m wasting valuable time by forcing myself to jump through the hoop of opening up the app screen and scrolling for the app I wanted to use but the truth is actually quite different.
I discovered that the majority of my legitimate phone usage came from responses to notifications. Keep in mind that I’ve removed social media apps from my phone so the notifications I see are now mostly surrounding email, Slack, text, or other personal and relevant communications. So first observation: I was not significantly hindered in my interactions with others as a result of this home screen decision. In fact, my engagement levels were the exact same on tasks that involved actual phone tasks (as opposed to the mindless phone usage).
Secondly and perhaps even more alarmingly I discovered just how frequently I would grab my phone and unlock it without having a purpose to do so. I’m sure everyone knows this is obvious but now that my apps were a two step process further away from my finger it broke the mindless app tap that normally existed after opening my phone up. Instead now I found myself staring at my blank home screen unsure what I was actually doing. This was amplified by the times that I actually tapped the home screen button and found myself staring at a list of apps with no idea why I was there. Wow. For me this was a huge wake-up call. I had no idea the overwhelming number of times I was mindlessly opening my phone.
There are all types of excuses for not doing something drastic like this but I’d suggest ignoring your dopamine-addicted tendencies and consider radical action. 😉 I can tell you from personal experience that so far this experiment has been an incredibly eye-opening opportunity and one I plan to continue. I’ll share further observations in future posts as I continue this journey into proper phone usage and how to take back control of my time and my mind. And of course I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below regarding your own phone decisions and radical action.
January 2, 2018
New Year’s Resolutions 2018
This time of year the talk of resolutions, of change, and of self-betterment seems to take center stage. Everyone focuses on the things they want to better in themselves for the coming year. But why do we do this? Why do we take this time to lament our shortcomings and set goals for the future?
The last question gives us a good hint at the reason. The “death” of one year and the subsequent “birth” of the next year is a perfect opportunity for us to put to death the bad habits we identify in ourselves and try to set in place those habits we wish to maintain.
Did you know the tradition of making these resolutions dates all the way back to the Babylonians? They held a giant multi-day party and made oaths to the gods to repay any debts they owed to others and return anything they had borrowed. They made these promises full-knowing the massive consequences of failing to keep these vows: death (because displeasing a god surely meant death). I think that might keep you on that treadmill for a day or two more. Or at least keep you from making a promise you don’t have 100% resolve in keeping.
A study performed in modern times demonstrated that less than half of those making New Year’s Resolutions were able to keep them beyond 6 months.
But there’s more research (of course there’s more) due to the extensive and timeless nature of these resolutions. In fact there have been numerous studies and reports created surrounding this concept of resolution-making and new habit forming. And with modern technology some interesting observations have been made.
With the rise of social media there has been an interesting phenomena observed:
”Identity-related behavioral intentions that had been noticed by other people were translated into action less intensively than those that had been ignored.” When Intentions Go Public
Whoah, did you catch that? In plain English, when you tell others about your intentions you seem to think of that as partial success and then don’t both with actually putting those words into action! Or to put it another way, if you want your resolutions to be successful…don’t tell anyone. Don’t broadcast your goals all over social media and consider yourself better instantly.
If you have the time, the study I quoted above is a fascinating read and speaks to some interesting characteristics of the human psyche. It’s a good warning for what so many others tend to joke about: show discretion with what you share on social media. This seems to be particularly true if you want to improve yourself and make some new resolutions for the coming year.
Given our newly discovered knowledge I’ll share my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 below and I would encourage you to do the same:
- xxxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xx xxxxxxx xx.
- xxx xxxxx x xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxx xx xxxxx xxxx xxxx.
- xxxxxxx x xxxx xxxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xx xxx xxxxx xx xxxxx xx xxxxxx xx xxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxx.
And though I may not approach these with the same fervor and fear that the Babylonians may have held, I do hope I’ll be able to share my success with you as 2018 comes to a close. Whatever you may choose to do for your own resolutions and your goals for the new year that lies ahead of you – I wish you all the success and best of luck as you strive to be the best version of yourself.
January 24, 2017
A recent Simon Sinek talk has been making its way around the internet and if you haven’t watched the video I’d encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to what he has to say. But before you jump on the bandwagon about how much you like or dislike Simon I want you to stop and think – regardless of your feelings about a person or their views consider the value in listening. Not hearing, and certainly not agreeing, but merely listening. Too often I think we form our opinions and then filter what we truly listen to as a result of our own way of thinking. But you don’t have to take my word for it…
Bunny Trail: As a kid I grew up watching (and admittedly liking) Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton. This was a classic tv series that even now I remember bits and pieces from. As I am writing this post I’m reminded of a phrase Levar would say every time before the “book reviews” section of his show. He would always introduce the reviews, provided by other children, with the same line. “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”
Obviously the idea of hearing opposing views and actually listening to them existed long before I ever suggested it. In fact, even one of the greatest philosophers of all time shared something similar. Socrates, the Greek philosopher and one of the founders of the entire concept of Western philosophy said this phrase:
“Wisdom is the ability to hold two opposing views in mind at the same time.” – Socrates
There are many times when we talk about wisdom and knowledge. And sure, we know the difference between the two: knowledge the ability to recall facts and figures; wisdom the practical application of knowledge. But there are almost always areas where identifying and demonstrating wisdom is incredibly difficult. Situational wisdom as it applies to every day living seems quite easy to understand. Basic example – I know how to change a tire. Raise the car by placing a jack under the mount near the flat tire, remove the hub cap, unscrew the lug nuts, pull the tire off the vehicle and replace it with a new one. (Boy, that sure sounds simple but trust me…every single one of those steps has about a million ways in which it could go wrong, terribly terribly wrong).
Those steps I just shared are knowledge. I have the knowledge about how to complete the task. Now when I actually have to change a tire and I realize that unscrewing the lug nuts take a significant amount of torque and the longer the tool I use the easier the job becomes (I’m ignoring the mechanics and their air drills for the moment); I’ve not only taken that knowledge but applied it to a specific instance. I’ve inferred more into the process and I have a deep understanding now not just of the steps but also how to perform them. This is knowledge applied, this is wisdom. I trust we can all see and agree with that. I’d call that situational wisdom, it’s knowledge applied to a specific situation.
The other type of wisdom I think about (and the one where I believe we struggle more to see practical application) I’m going to call abstract wisdom. This is knowledge applied to an abstract concept. In these situations there’s not evidential or tangible product by which we can judge whether or not wisdom exists (knowledge has been applied). These situations are the ones I am referring to when I talk about demonstrating wisdom.
We all laugh about the internet and this world of opposing views where everyone has an opinion. Take this meme for example:
This is all too common of a scene, and no I don’t mean dressing up in pirate gear and running along the beach. But the underlying principle of how we address opposing or conflicting views.
By now I hope you’re starting to see what I’m suggesting. One way we can actively demonstrate our abstract wisdom is through our ability to not just hear but listen to opposing views; to actively hold them in our minds and consider them thoughtfully. Rather than jumping to conclusions based on our opinions or previous experiences (or how we feel about the speaker’s hair) we can demonstrate wisdom through thoughtful consideration of opposing ideas. As you browse the internet, engage with co-workers, or even sit around the table with friends and family keep this thought in your mind. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Process what you’re hearing and form an opinion based on knowledge. When you do this you’re demonstrating wisdom. You’re applying your knowledge to the conversation.
Have ideas on other types of wisdom? I’d love to hear them. I’ve only briefly touched on two forms. Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think, I’m listening. (See what I did there?)
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey
January 17, 2017
Social Media: Personal vs Professional
We all know those people on social media who are incredibly proud of their small business, startup, or work ethic. And of course we know those Facebook friends who share every intimate detail of their day and their life. The question that interests me is which is a better use of social media and which is more appropriate. Even as I type that last sentence I struggle with such a harsh and complete distinction of a right vs wrong use of social media. Let’s look at the pros and cons for these two approaches and then see if we can draw a conclusion about the right approach to a social media strategy.
There are many different types of social users and I still vaguely recall reading a humorous post at some point in the past about the top 10 different social profiles. Although that post was shared with light-hearted joking there was value in the labels. And so even though I am only drawing attention to a couple of those profiles I want to focus on them for the sake of comparing and contrasting them.
The Eternal Professional
This is the person who is forever posting business advice, their tips for success, or re-sharing the latest Simon Sinek video with the cliche comment, ‘this is how we do it at my company”. The eternal professional is constantly seeking new ways to say the same thing. “Here’s my business, you should be interested.” The problem with this approach I believe is the failure to understand their audience. How many people truly want to see what you’re doing in your business on a daily basis. At what point does sharing your business dealings become a cold and impersonal advertisement? The risk of the eternal professional is a lack of interest from their friends and followers. Gradually you’ll lose their attention, they will scroll past your posts faster than you can say, “business brag”. But there has to be some upside to this approach to social media right? I believe there is. Just like the old adage says, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, there is certainly some value in being the loudest proponent for your own startup. You’re actively putting your brand in front of the eyes of your fans. Whether they read your post or quickly continue their phalangeal flicking their eyes and their brain have been imprinted with your business brand. Congratulations you’re becoming a master of subliminal marketing.
The Exasperating Personal
This social sharer is the friend or family member who believes the world is fascinated with their every mundane life detail. No personal problem is too big or too small to be broadcast to the universe. Their posts show you how much they love their coffee, their breakfast, their kids, their wall color, their animals, their…well, you get the idea. Everything is shared. The problem with this is similar to the professional’s problem we looked at first. There comes a point when a little filtering and self-moderation becomes a good thing. Do your friends really need to know about the color of your toenails this week? Do you believe their lives are better as a result of seeing your breakfast burrito? The risk of the exasperating personal is alienation from your followers. When everything is shared, nothing is special. You don’t want to be labeled as the self-interested, self-obsessed social sharer. But there’s a positive here too. Connection and endearment are the two biggest benefits of sharing personal stories. You have the opportunity to connect with people. They see your life details and feel as though they know you and can relate to you. You may bring a smile to a face, share a laugh, or even possibly begin to build a relationship.
As I look at these two personas I realize I’ve oversimplified things to an extent. As I shared previously there are more than two profiles and variations on those as well. But there’s value in a quick introspection of your social persona as it relates specifically to these two types. I too struggle with this dilemma. After writing the above descriptions I believe I fall more solidly in the Eternal Professional category. And I see the pitfalls of that approach. I am also strongly against the overtly personal approach as well. But as any good, self-respecting writer must do, I must draw a conclusion.
There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.
– Simon Sinek
The truth of the matter lies in a familiar and frequently shared topic on my blog: balance. Once again, as with so many other areas of life;
balance is key. Being able to identify your tendencies will allow you to focus your time and attention on improving your balance. In this case don’t be so focused on the professional that you lose touch with your personal side; or contrary to that, don’t be so passionately personal that you neglect to share things of worth or value to others. There is nothing wrong with building a brand, sharing business advice, and growing your followers for your startup; but be moderate. Think of your audience. Write your posts with your followers in mind instead of yourself.
Therein lies the second observation: focus. Focus on your friends and followers instead of yourself. By shifting that focus you will be mindful about what you share and even when you share it. Be relevant, be interesting, be inspiring, and be entertaining.
I know being able to identify my own tendencies is the first step in improving myself and so I expect in the very near future you’ll see a better balance in my posts. I trust this post will help you evaluate and improve your social profile in the future as well. What kind of social sharer are you? Do you think you should change? Find your focus and be more balanced? I look forward to hearing what you think.
January 10, 2017
The Importance of Planning [Practically Speaking]
I wrote previously about the importance of planning and gave 5 simple reasons why planning is critically important. Since I wrote that article I’ve received hundreds of comments on the topic and thousands of views. Clearly this is a topic that people are interested in. As I re-read the article though I discovered something was missing. Practical application. Yes, there is definitely a need for having solid reasons why planning is important, but there’s also a great deal of usefulness found in applying those reasons to everyday life and identifying how that planning can be put into practice. In this short article I’d like to give you a follow-up 5 ways that you can implement planning in your daily routine and through your actions demonstrate why planning is important for success.
Practical Step One: Keep a Journal
Previously I wrote about the importance of writing out goals. I’ll touch on this more in a future point when we look at setting daily goals. In this first practical step though I want to encourage you to begin keeping a journal. There is tremendous value in writing down your thoughts, your ideas, and your feelings. Ooh, did that last one get you? Not everyone like to write down feelings. In fact I understand it can be quite challenging to be honest with yourself and actually make your feelings ‘real’ by putting them in writing. This is a very important process. Journaling is in fact critically important to your planning process. Let me explain. By putting your ideas and thoughts down on paper you are keeping a log of your days and your time. What better way to plan your future than to have a record of your past and present.
Still not understanding? Think about it like this. The next time you start to make a plan and you have a question about the feasibility of your idea, or your timeframe, imagine you’re able to glance back in your journal and see how long something similar took you in the past. You could see your idea as it unfolded, your feelings about the process and a realistic idea of how long it took you to accomplish (or abandon) the idea. In this way your past directly influences your future and advises your planning.
I recently discovered the Best Self Journal. It has some excellent features which allow you to do all of the above and even some things I’ll touch on later in this post. I don’t recommend many products directly but I’ve found this journal to be incredibly helpful. Have you found a journal that works particularly well? I’d love to hear about it!
As this relates to time and a daily routine we can easily move into our second point for daily applications of planning.
Practical Step Two: Maintain Your Calendar
The second step I would recommend when it comes to the importance of planning and what that looks like in a daily routine is maintaining your calendar. The best way to prepare, to plan, is to be organized and intentional with your time. Schedule your days and your meetings. Be specific in what you want to accomplish throughout your day.
I remember once reading that Warren Buffett never scheduled meetings more than 24 hours in advance. He did so because of the very real possibility of schedules changing and things becoming less relevant the farther away they are scheduled. Obviously this is a bit of an extreme on one end of the spectrum but it proves an interesting point which we’ll discuss in in practical step #5 below.
For now I would suggest a more balanced approach. Rather than no schedule (or a one-day schedule) maybe look at a weekly calendar. I’ve personally found that anything longer than that tends to make the meeting and the information shared less relevant. If it’s important then make it happen. Maintaining your calendar and prioritizing your time is critically important in your planning process.
Practical Step Three: Organize Your Email
The third practical step in planning to implement on a daily basis involves that dreaded disaster, the maelstrom of messages. You guessed it – your inbox. Ugh, I have no doubt we all struggle with email organization. I’ve seen innumerable methodologies and processes for achieving what some like to call “inbox zero”. If you’re unfamiliar this is the state where your email inbox holds zero messages. And this state is not achieved because you mass delete them all. No, every email is to be processed, responded to, tagged or tucked into a folder. While this is certainly one method of inbox organization I don’t believe it’s the only one.
My email is one of the central ways I plan and organize my life. I use my email as my brain in many ways. What that means is for me I appreciate having my emails present in one place (the inbox) and easy to scroll through. For me this works well. I can jog my memory about tasks to complete, people to contact or meetings to schedule (see Practical Step #2 above). As a result of this way of using email it’s not helpful for me to have a zero message inbox state. What is far far more important is to have a zero unread message state. That means my emails may continue to live in my inbox, I may flag some as important to make sure they catch my eye later, but I don’t archive them all. Sure, I will archive irrelevant messages, delete the junk ones, but many will continue to live in my inbox. The important thing is they are read. I have reviewed the contents and am aware of each message.
I understand this method might not work for you either. The important thing to consider is not the exact method you use, but rather that you use a method. Keeping an organized email inbox means you are in control of your thinking and your time. You are actively planning how you respond to people and how you manage your time.
I know I’m going long on this point but since email is such a major part of our lives I feel the need to mention one last practical point. Don’t let email control you. By keeping an organized email system you are planning your email time effectively and ultimately planning your life more productively. Don’t spend your days in your email. Keep it organized, plan your approach, and be intentional about it.
Practical Step Four: Set Daily Goals
The fourth point involved in practical daily planning involves setting daily goals. I briefly touched on this earlier when we discussed maintaining a calendar (and even a bit with the journal).
The thing I love about these practical steps is how they are intertwined and connected. Each of these daily, intentional items work together to make your planning better and your success inevitable. They are important.
The journal I mentioned previously gives a great daily layout which includes a spot for daily goals. This is a fantastic way to organize and plan what you would like to accomplish TODAY.
The idea of daily goals is a very fun and practical way of implementing planning. With daily goals it’s easy to see success or failure. Over time your goal-setting will become better and better and you’ll find yourself becoming an expert in knowing what is capable of being accomplished in a day. The more you know abut your own abilities the better your planning becomes. This may well be the most practical and easy-to-understand point from this entire list. Setting daily achievable goals directly demonstrates the importance of planning. Set. Achieve. Replicate.
Practical Step Five: Build In A Buffer
The final practical step I want to share with you relating to the importance of planning through practical application involves building in a buffer. Don’t be so incredibly strict in your planning that you fail to plan for the unexpected. Life is unpredictable. Humans are by their very nature prone to fluctuation and last-minute changes. If you plan too meticulously you’ll end up failing miserably.
Building a buffer into your planning allows you to be flexible and still achieve everything you have planned. Since this is practically speaking here’s what that buffer might look like:
- Allow for extra time between your meetings on your calendar. Don’t schedule things so tightly that you have no time for delays in a meeting. Have you ever been in an entire day of meetings without a single delay? I doubt it.
- Plan extra time for your journaling. Some days the words will flow and others will be a struggle. Again, scheduling things too tightly will lead to a higher stress level and a less creative approach.
- Even your daily goals should have a buffer. As you look at your goals for a day and how they relate to your work week, consider how these may shift from day-to-day. Don’t build up a domino chain where a single failure will make your entire week unsuccessful.
As I hope you can see these are five practical ways to demonstrate the importance of planning through your daily routines. Putting these items into practice each day won’t guarantee you success but will absolutely demonstrate the importance of planning. You will quickly see the results from these real-life simple steps. The importance of planning is something you absolutely should not neglect and I look forward to hearing your stories about how these steps help you take a more intentional and planned approach to your work and ultimately your life.
December 2, 2016
Determined or Workaholic
Some people try to label me a workaholic. They seem to think that because I stay up late or get up early to get work done that I must be a workaholic. But there’s a difference. I realize not everyone will see it and you might not agree but let me see if I can persuade you to think about it differently.
The dictionary definition of workaholic is as follows: A person who compulsively works hard and long hours.
This means anyone who is compulsively working long hours or hard hours is by very definition a workaholic. However, let’s dig into that definition a little bit more. The interesting word in that sentence is: compulsive. Compulsive means a result driven by an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one’s conscious wishes. And now I hope you see the real root reason why I would fundamentally disagree with the label of workaholic.
If you’re in a situation where you are working obsessively on something, but loving what you do, you are driven to see its success and you are hyper-focused on seeing your work brought to completion…that is not a workaholic. That’s focused, intentional, and deliberate choices made for a very specific purpose.
In those late hours (or early mornings) when I am diligently striving to create something never before seen I am motivated and driven by a goal and a vision. My “why” statement is the foundational belief upon which I build my work schedule and my calendar. I am consciously and willfully making choices which will enable and empower me to accomplish the goals I have set. This is the exact opposite of compulsion.
Compulsive behavior by its very definition is an irresistible, uncontrollable urge to work, regardless of desire, motivation and purpose. This behavior lacks the fundamental basis of “why”. Therefore, workaholics are not driven by their goals and their desires to accomplish something, they are not driven by an innate inner fundamental belief, instead they are controlled by an external force. Workaholics have lost their basic human right to freedom.
So as I hope you can see, I very strongly object when someone would suggest that I am a workaholic. There is no situation in which I would consider myself a workaholic. Yes, I spend a lot of time creating something incredible. I pour myself into what I do and I am highly motivated to see its success. But it’s a conscious choice. It’s a daily decision I make to wake early, stay late, and change the world. I’m driven by my “why” and my vision. And I hope you are as well.
August 2, 2016
The Importance of the Last Mile
Everyone talks about going the extra mile. But there’s actually something to consider before thinking about going the extra mile. In fact there’s something directly before the extra mile. And that is the last mile. Even from an early age I had the concept of finishing drilled into my brain.
Many of you who know me may not think of me as necessarily athletic. In fact you would probably assume I was your typical computer nerd with glasses during high school and you are mostly correct. I was a computer nerd and I did wear glasses but I also played sports and enjoyed participating in both soccer and basketball during my high school years. This environment helped me mature in team activities and also in other areas of my thinking as well.
As I mentioned one of those concepts has been permanently impressed on my life and affects nearly every aspect of my daily life. I hinted at it above but let me give you a little more detail about why the concept of finishing sticks with me so thoroughly.
It was a hot summer afternoon and we were running sprints. Back and forth we plodded across the dead remnants of a soccer field, the lush grass long since withered and faded under the blistering unforgiving summer sun. Goal line to the box, back to the goal line, forward to the half, back to the goal line. Repeat. To his credit the coach would run with us, encouraging us, cheering us on, cracking jokes, pushing us. When finally we were allowed to collapse exhausted onto the needle-like surface of the battlefield he would remain standing. We knew he was spent, clearly he had to be, in our youthful eyes he was ancient and yet he stood. He stood because as he would go on to tell us, it’s not whether or not we played the first 80 minutes impeccably, but how we played the final 10; the last 1. Standing rather than collapsing. Finishing the game. But not merely finishing; finishing strong. That was only the first of many lessons on the value of finishing.
Every game would begin with a huddled mass of excited, adrenaline-filled fists jammed into a circle before being thrust heavenward with the battle-cry of “Finish!” More importantly ever content, regardless of victory or defeat, was ended with the same ritual. Some times the cry was painful as loss still echoed in our heads. Other times the anthem rang out embodied with every goal and winning moment of the latest success. But always, “Finish.”
The lesson taught has gone on long past those summer evenings. Gone are the game-day lights and the glory of a sports conquest. But the concept of finishing continues on. Just as my coach had always envisioned, he was doing more than teaching us to play. He was teaching us how to live.
In a world where “going the extra mile” is praised and celebrated and where going above and beyond is rewarded with accolades and commendations, we too often lose the value of finishing. There is tremendous benefit and something to be said for finishing strong. Before worrying about going above and beyond, and before thinking about the next big step you could take, focus on finishing well. Create finished products. Deliver work done excellently. There is extreme value in the last mile.
June 30, 2016
First Follower FTW
Recently a humorous in-office chat unfolded on our #cooler Slack channel. It began simply enough. I posted a random photo that I found to be funny due to an optical illusion.
This lead to one of our team posting this humorous reply.
What happened next caused me to remember a post I had meant to write but forgotten about. This is the message which pushed me to write this post.
It seems rather innocuous and unimportant even, but the opposite was in fact true. This was the first follower. Why you might ask? Because this post lead to this.
The leader was the first poster, they had an idea and they shared it. But the first follower, the second poster, they started the movement. They supported the idea and turned it into something more. That’s a very practical example now let’s look at this concept of first follower in a bit more detail.
What is first follower
The first follower is a phenomenon I learned of first from a TED talk by Derek Sivers. In this talk he discussed a popular viral video which you can watch here if you feel so inclined. Here is the bottom line if you prefer a tl;dr version.
The first follower is the hidden leader of a movement. They support the vocal initial person who began doing something different. The first follower lends credibility, support, and raises awareness. The first follower takes the focus off the person and places the focus on an idea. This is the moment when a movement behinds. Let me rephrase that another way.
“A movement begins when the focus shifts from a person to an idea.”
Why be a first follower
Clearly there is an immense amount of power held by the first follower. This person is the true hidden driver behind revolutionary change. Their input might not always visible or even publicly recognized but the power exists. The first follower recognizes they have the ability to support and promote the idea creator. Being the first follower requires bravery. At this point the idea is new, young, and unaccepted. The general audience has not yet accepted the idea being promoted and the creator is a lone voice proclaiming their message. The first follower therefore holds an immense amount of risk in accepting this idea and following the promoter. But the power, the responsibility, the opportunity to make an idea a movement lies in the hands of the first follower.
When to be a first follower
Because of the amount of risk associated with being the first follower there should be some guidelines followed before blindly becoming a first follower. Here are a few general questions to consider before assuming the role of a first follower to an idea.
Do you agree with the idea?
Sounds basic right? But before you follow someone or something you have to determine that you fundamentally agree with what’s being shared. The world today is so connected and accessible that anyone can share any random idea or thought. This does not mean every idea is worthwhile or worthy of becoming a movement. Critical thinking is required.
Do you feel passionately about the idea?
It’s not enough to simply agree with an idea you need to feel passionate about it. Is this truly something you believe in. Keep in mind is the turning point for the idea and its creator. This holds the potential to turn an idea into a movement. You should feel passionately and willing to truly support and back the idea.
Are you prepared to support the idea?
This question should be an easy one to answer if you have asked the first two questions but it’s still important to ask yourself if are ready. Supporting an idea in its infancy may result in rejection from others who don’t follow with you. Even more difficult is the acknowledgment and acceptance you may even be ridiculed for your belief and support of the idea.
If you answer these three questions and you’re ready to move forward then keep reading.
How to be a first follower
There are many way you can demonstrate your support and approval of an idea some are easy and some require more work. Typically the more difficult the way to demonstrate your following the greater results you’ll experience.
Be a silent supporter.
This may seem like passive support but in the early days of an idea (before reaching the critical mass) even the silent support is important to the eventual success of the movement. Silent support might be as simple as a “like”, or maybe a public acknowledgement of someone else’s verbal comment.
Be a vocal supporter.
The next level of first follower involves vocally supporting the idea. Again slightly more risk involved as you are publicly sharing your agreement with the idea. This might mean resharing, retweeting, or verbally affirming what someone else says or does.
Be a secondary creator.
This is the most difficult level of first following. At this point you we no longer merely supporting silently or vocally but you are creating and sharing additional supporting ideas. You are taking your support of someone else’s idea and you are owning the idea at this point. This is opens you up to your own level of ridicule as you are now becoming a bit of a public leader yourself. This is creating variants of the idea and sharing them all with the purpose of growing the support for the original idea.
The bottom line is simple: be a first follower. Start a movement. Don’t feel like you must create an idea to be successful. Instead as this post and the supporting documentation and research shows – you can be the true force that makes an idea into a movement. Find those ideas you believe in, passionately believe in, and support them, advocate for them, and build on them. Follow them.
June 6, 2016
The Greatest at Personal Branding
On Saturday I woke up to the news that Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the most well-known sports figures of all time had passed away. My first reaction was a bit of surprise as I had been fairly unaware of his detiriorating condition. My next thoughts went instantly to the highlight reel in my head of the best moments, quotes, and interviews with the legendary loudmouth. As I Googled my way through the classics a new thought began to enter my marketing mind…
I was front-row firsthand witnessing a master of personal branding. As I reflected on this fact I tried to put my finger on a few of the reasons why I found myself admiring this master marketer. Here are the five big takeaways that I believe make Ali “the greatest” even in the world of personal branding.
Ali was bold
No one would ever accuse Ali of not speaking his mind. One interview would quickly prove that Ali was bold in his approach. He spoke frequently about his abilities and his talents. But not just bold in words. Muhammed was bold in other areas of his life as well. He stood by what he believed whether that was related to religion, politics, or boxing. After beginning life as Cassius Clay he boldly changed his name in response to his conversion to Islam. When the United States attempted to force Cassius to join the military during the war he boldly stood up for his beliefs, not to be defiant, but to be resolute and true to his own beliefs.
Ali was creative
As I stated in the beginning one of the first things that came to my mind when I thought back on the life of Muhammad Ali was his colorful and creative use of language and even poetry. I’m sure almost everyone knows at least one famous quote which began “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” (Can you finish the couplet?) Ali never failed to flash a great big smile before dropping some creative rhymed taunt aimed at his opponents. He used this creative talent to make his name and his brand memorable and enduring for generations.
“I wrestled with an alligator, I tussled with a whale, I handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail, I’m bad man….Last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”
Ali was not afraid of offending
Secondly, Muhammad was clearly unafraid of what others thought or what their reactions might be to his life and his vocal outspokenness. This was not because he didn’t care, but more that he was so completely compelled to be himself and share those beliefs he was not deterred by the response he might receive. If someone was offended by him, well that was their right and freedom to be so. But that potential offense would not keep him from broadcasting his beliefs and speaking his opinion. The key thing to remember is what motivated him. He was driven incessantly by his beliefs and convictions. He didn’t offend just to offend someone, but he wasn’t afraid of offending when it contradicted his passionately held personal beliefs.
Ali owned up to defeat
While it might not have happened often there were a few times that Muhammad lost the fight. These were very telling moments for Ali. Rather than faking it or falsifying the truth the world renown fighter owned up to the defeat. He may not have humbly rolled over and claimed complete failure; but he did give credit to the victor. There’s plenty of evidence to this fact, one of the most memorable for me is an interview before his infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight. Ali praises a litany of his competitors for their victories in previous fights. It takes a big person to humbly accept praise in victory, it takes an even greater individual to be gracious in defeat.
Ali wrote his story
The last point I dwell on is perhaps the most important and also the most poignant. Ali was his own biggest promoter. He constantly referred to his skills, his abilities, his talent. He never sat back and let others describe his character or his performances. If Ali was in the room while someone was sharing something about him, Ali would immediately speak up (usually louder) to share his own opinion and view of himself. One of the most entertaining things to watch is any instance when Ali begins to pontificate on his own abilities and his greatness. And here’s where I think we learn a valuable lesson from Muhammad Ali. He branded himself as “The Greatest” – this was a self-claimed title. And yet, within hours of his passing, the branding he had worked on building his entire life, the story he had spent every interview instilling in his audience was fixed and established forever. “The Greatest” had died.
This is the ultimate in personal branding. Ali provides us with an excellent example on how to brand ourselves. We must be bold to share what we believe. We must be creative in how we share those beliefs. We must not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in (even when that boldness is potentially considered offensive by some). We must be gracious when acknowledging the successes of our competitors And finally, we must never give up writing our own story. Tell the world what you want them to know about you. Craft your own successful image. Be relentless in the pursuit of your goals and be intentional in sharing your story with others.
The world has lost one of the greatest sports figures of all time. Perhaps even the greatest. But the lessons we can learn from this persuasive, powerful master of their brand will continue on forever.
May 6, 2016
Know Your Limits
Most people recognize that as they get older they start to slow down; or at least their bodies start to slow down. There’s less they can do and there are more things slowly seizing up. Recently I had a friend jokingly comment that they were ok with the minor aches and pains, and the crick in their neck was not that big a deal because as they said, “Hey, I’m 53 now and things are starting to break down.”
As they get older people start to understand their bodies better as well as getting smarter about what they do. In short, they know their limits. Maybe it’s not staying up as late, not eating everything they want, or not jumping into that pickup basketball game like they used to. As a result of this self-imposed limiting they are able to do more and do it better. This seems counterintuitive. Self-limiting should mean less gets done and more experiences are lost right? In reality, once they start restricting themselves and understanding their own limits they can push themselves within those boundaries and experience life more fully. I find this truth to be insightful for many other aspects of life as well, both personally and professionally.
Let me share what I mean. I titled the post Know Your Limits. I tossed around several different ideas but finally settled on this. Originally I wanted to express the idea of self-awareness and how knowing what you were good at would equate to being capable of doing things excellently. Ultimately being excellent, being known for doing excellently is important to our feelings of self-worth and personal value. We want others to recognize our talents and skills. We want to feel as though we’re accomplishing something worthwhile and in our hearts we want to feel that we are providing value to those around us. This lead me down the path thinking about what helps us accomplish those feelings.
I began to think about the next logical level from the end result of doing something with excellence. How do we do something excellent? Well we have to be able to do it “right”. There’s usually two ways of doing something ‘right’ – either through training or natural ability. However, even those natural abilities and talents need to be cultivated and refined. This requires work and time spent improving, tweaking, adjusting our practice until the end result is clean, polished, and excellent.
Next in the progression involves looking at how many different things we’re working on. Why is this important? I’m glad you asked. As I just shared, every talent or ability requires work and time. Time. I’ve talked about it frequently on my blog in the past because of the critical role it plays in everything we do and every journey we undertake. And here again we see time becoming an integral factor in our path to excellence. If we recognize that time is the only asset we can’t beg, borrow, steal, store, or create more of then we need to think about all those way we are consuming it. This means we have to consider how many different things we’re working on and the time required to be excellent. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the commonly shared almost anecdotal 10,000 hours rule. If not, a quick Google search will reveal a number of helpful posts on the subject. I’m not going to question the legitimacy of the post, or the specifics of the claim. But it provides a good basis to help shape our thinking.
10,000 hours. If we look at the average life expectancy we find there are approximately 689,412 hours in life. We then find that we spend about 90,228 hours working in a typical life. If we ignore the fact that there are probably a dozen other demands on our time even at this somewhat unrealistic view of our time we still only have approximately 9 things we can truly master in a lifetime. (90,228/10,000 hours). Wow. That is not a lot. And yet, how many of us, myself included are trying to be excellent at dozens (if not more) of different things? We believe we can beat the system and be excellent at everything we do. Some of this is natural human optimism. But if we can recognize this temptation to be overly optimistic and idealistic then we can begin to cultivate and refine our talents in a more achievable way.
And so we return to the title of this post and the goal we want to accomplish. In order to be excellent, in order to do things right, in order to be successful we have to recognize and build the right foundation. We have to know our limits.
It’s incredibly hard to be this self-aware. In business it’s incredibly hard to stay focused on those few areas where you can truly be excellent. As you get closer to achieving excellence others will begin to recognize your differences and your ability to rise above. When they do they’ll begin to use and promote you and your brand…and they’ll want you to solve all their problems. This is the trap many fall into. Those problems will start to creep outside those areas you have focused on and become excellent in performing. If you know your limits and the limits of your business you’ll be prepared to answer these requests the right way. Of course there are ways your business will continue to grow and adapt and become better but prepare your customers by making them aware of what they are requesting and your current abilities in those areas. Share your limits. Don’t be afraid to grow but also don’t be afraid to share your current strengths and weaknesses. Your customer’s will respect and appreciate that even in this you are doing things excellently.
Let me know if as you have read this post you’ve thought of other ways knowing your limits is beneficial to your success. I think the concept of time management, efficiency, and self-awareness are all critical elements for ultimately being excellent. Are there important elements? Are there other benefits to being self-aware and knowing your own limits? I look forward to seeing what you think.
December 28, 2015
What’s Your Name
I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from a rather famous book entitled, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Granted, this book is almost a rite of passage for some industries and now sits among others on the shelf of great books. There are many lessons you can learn and practical tips you can take away from this author’s suggestions and advice. One of them which I doubt I will ever fully master (though I continue to try) is the importance of remembering a person’s name. One of the quotes from the book perfectly encapsulates this idea:
“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
If this is the sweetest and most important sound than what a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that you also find them important. Simply remember their name. There are of course numerous ways to attempt to do this. I’m sure you’ve experienced the sad, and awkward occurrence when someone tries to remember your name by repeating it at you over and over through the course of a one minute conversation. Clearly this is somewhat embarrassing and a bit annoying. They’re attempting to use a technique which has been around forever. Remember this?
“Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning.”
This advice, though accurate, can be detrimental to the relationship if used inappropriately or done too obtrusively. Therefore, remember the importance of learning someone’s name but also the importance of doing it the right way.
A person’s name is special. Even though there may be millions of Davids, or Steves in the universe to each individual that name is special and unique. If there is one way to improve your relationship with someone then prove that they are important to you by remembering something special to them: their name. It’s almost an offhand conversation starter. What do you do when you meet someone for the first time? You ask their name. You’re probably not even listening to the answer because you have already moved on to the next question in your mind or the next thought you want to share. But this is a mistake if you want to build a relationship (and all those times when you don’t know if you want to build a relationship). Because you don’t always know where a road will lead.
Asking someone their name therefore is your first chance to build the right foundation for a relationship. Don’t take the opportunity lightly and don’t let the moment pass you by. Ask with care, ask with purpose, ask and then…listen. Your first question is also your best chance to start right. Take a moment the next time you ask: What’s your name?
November 10, 2014
Leaving is Ok
This post began as a much shorter piece I wrote but decided it was worthy of expanding on and writing a bit more formally in my long format posts. If you’ve already read this on that blog then you can skim this and move on. If you are still here I want to share with you some thoughts on the concept of decisions, departures and responses.
I was faced recently with a few incidents where I was able to witness some hard decision making and some difficult choices by some good friends of mine. I was able to witness the difficulties and emotional struggles they had to face both with themselves and with the task of sharing with others. It was eye-opening and striking. I saw the courage it required and the personal turmoil they faced as well as the reactions they received from others. I was moved by the situation and struck with a realization which I feel compelled to share.
The Wrong Response
The immediate response I saw was a begging and a pleading for the person not to leave. There was an expression of deep sadness and deeper regret followed by a strong emphasis on forcing them to remain where they were. This response is absolutely, totally, and completely wrong. This places the focus on the person doing the begging. This demonstrates a completely selfish response. No longer do we care what is best for the person who has had to make the hard decision to leave but instead the focus is on how this departure affects them. How incredibly improper. The decision to leave is most often not taken lightly. Many hours of careful thought and hard emotional moments have been faced. These individuals have weighed their options and determined what they feel is the best path for their life. They are looking to grow, to improve and to make a better future for themselves and their family. This means sometimes the hard decision has to be made.
After reaching a conclusion they finally share their decision with those they would consider their friends, their family. If they are met with this immediate and overwhelming emotional plea to stay this puts an incredible sense of guilt and false obligations on them. They feel as though they are hurting someone else for making the decision they have spent so long deliberating over. What an incredible disservice. How completely inappropriate and selfish to imply this hard decision is wrong.
The Thoughtless Response
If I were to step even a bit further I’d dare to say this over-exaggerated begging and pleading is somewhat forced and almost an immediate thoughtless response. Again the focus is not correct. This does not show support or encouragement to the decision-maker and it most certainly does not come across as heartfelt. Lives changes, people change, goals and opportunities effect each person in unique and different ways. Each individual has a unique path to take and must choose the path most appropriate for their personal well-being and the well-being of their families. The false over-the-top emotional pleas to stay come across as disingenuous and lacking heart and support.
Of course I would be foolish to ignore the leaving and departing over hurt feelings, or personal wrongs. In those cases there is absolutely an opportunity to restore a trust in a community or job and to attempt to right a wrong. Never twist what I am saying out of context. I am referring to those instances when an individual has labored over a decision and chosen a path which differs from the community or the company where they currently reside. They make this decision not as a result of any wrongdoing but over a genuine belief they must make a change for their own personal and professional growth.
The Right Response
Finally I would like to share what I believe is the proper and right response. It’s quite simple and can be summed up in a single word. Appreciation. I’ve written on the topic of appreciation a number of times recently (here and here and others) and feel strongly that this is something almost every community, company, and organization would benefit from doing more often. Of course we will miss them when they go. Yes they will leave a void. Absolutely and without a doubt we thank them for their tremendous time of service. They have given their time and their energy and their life to a cause we share and their impact is often immeasurable. We should be genuine and profuse in our expression of appreciation! We should never, ever, slip into the forced, and faked begging them to not leave and guilt them for the decision they felt best for their personal life. We are blessed by the time we have shared and our friendship extends beyond a community, beyond an occupation. Friendships and families are anchored in much more than code, or work, or any other trivial shared interactions. These continue regardless. This is the heart of the matter. True friendships extend beyond these constraints.
We should always be sure they are not leaving under negative situations and ensure that they are doing what they want to do. That is our duty to them as a friend or even deeper a family member. Ultimately, we should care for them. We should hope for the best for them. We should encourage them to be successful. I would encourage you to believe that leaving is ok. When that inevitable time comes and a friend or family member make the hard decision they feel in their heart is best remember this – Genuine, heartfelt appreciation is the only necessary response.
October 14, 2014
I was inspired to write this post by a good friend of mine who reminded me they look for something inspirational to read or watch every evening before calling it a night. This post is for you. Wherever you are and whenever you are reading this. You matter.
This isn’t like my normal posts and it’s certainly far more personal than my usual. Read it anyways. I don’t know what you are busy working on. I don’t know what makes you tick or what motivates you to do the things you do. Your life and your choices are your own based on your life experiences and your connections with others. One thing I do know. I know you matter. I’ve spoken on this topic numerous times at various conferences. In fact I just recently offered the closing keynote for an event in Bulgaria where I shared this very idea. Each of you matter. You are special. You have talents and abilities unique to you. No one else who has ever lived or will ever live again has the same set of opportunities to change this world like you do.
Your opinion matters.
I’ve heard a quote which says if two people agreed on everything then one of them is not need. I believe we can expand this to more than just two people. I believe in communities you will never fail to find differences of opinions. Some of you have loud voice and like to share your opinions with everyone listening (and everyone not listening); others have a soft voice and your opinion has to be practically dragged from you. And of course there are others who are in the middle somewhere. All of you have an opinion that matters. Don’t be afraid to share it. If you are in the first group I mentioned- don’t be afraid to listen. We don’t all have to agree. The goal is not to make everyone agree with us. The goal is to communicate and grow. Here’s a quote by a good friend of mine…I think it speaks volumes.
Loud voices silence wispers.
— betweenbrain (@betweenbrain) October 13, 2014
Your work matters.
We all have different skills. I could never do some of the things my friends do. I’m amazed at the abilities of others and the things they are capable of. Call it a gift, call it a talent, call it a skill. Whatever you call it. It matters. Your work and what you spend your time doing matters. This is especially true in an open source community. When we’re all working together as volunteers we are contributing our talents to a greater good. We are working together to make something amazing. Just as no one else has your opinion no one else has the same opportunity to do things that you do. Your skills, your talents can do great things and the work you do matters. If you haven’t read my previous post about open source appreciation I suggest you do so now. Because your work matters. And I thank you for it.
Your life matters.
Last point before I leave you. Your life matters. I mean your real life. Not your social profile. What you do and how you choose to spend your time matters. Do so wisely. Don’t lose sight of what is truly important to you. Stop and think about your time and your life. Are you happy with how your days are spent? Are you enjoying your life? Your life matters. Not only to yourself but to others. Your family, your friends, your workplace, your volunteer communities. There are dozens of places where you make a difference. Be sure you’re happy with yourself. Do those things that make you happy and make your life matter.
So as you finish reading I want to thank you. Thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to connect with me. Each of you that has said gone out of your way to speak with me, to shake my hand, or offer a hug in friendship. Thank you. You matter to me and I wish nothing but the best for you.
Remember, we’re all in this together.
October 8, 2014
Everyone has seen the interactions between individuals on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes we laugh at them, and sometimes we cringe. There is always the opportunity for conflicts and differences of opinion to surface when talking in a global setting. The very nature of social media is for the purpose of discussions and information sharing. But of course with this sharing comes disagreements. We are all unique individuals with different backgrounds, life experiences, and outlooks. While there is nothing wrong with different views it does lead inevitably to debating and discussing those differences.
Fighting is the next step in the debate/discussion cycle. When people discuss their differences we involuntarily try to “win” the other person over to our point of view. When that doesn’t happen we tend to become antagonistic or even take the debate personal. Once things become personal it quickly deteriorates to a social fight. Social fighting is bad for many reasons. Here are three popular reasons why social fighting is a bad idea.
1. Social Fighting Involves Everyone
Unlike in person meetings when disagreements and debates (which lead to fights) occur, when you are holding these conversations online on a public and wide open social network you are allowing everyone to sit around and observe. No longer is this a private matter between two people but it turns into a public stage with the world watching. I’ve seen times when this public stage and global focus has been an extremely positive thing in helping the debate to reach a right conclusion; but I’d venture to say the majority of the time the arguments would be better served to be carried out in private. There’s no need to involve the world in your argument about the proper way to recycle pizza boxes. (I’m being facetious of course…we all know the right way is to throw them in the compost pile).
Too many private battles begin with an innocuous tweet or status update which leads to a disagreement which leads to mud-slinging which leads to a bare-fist twitter brawl. Because a conversation can degenerate so quickly from something so small as a tweet it can be difficult to monitor and nip it in the bud before it turns into something bigger. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be aware of it.
2. Social Fighting Is Permanent
There are times when you watch a fight happen live on social media. You sit on the edge of your seat (or maybe through spread fingers with hand over face) and you hold your breath as you wait for the next message to be posted. You probably keep up with the conversation throughout the day and then when it reaches a conclusion you move on with what you were doing. Sometimes you may never think about the subject again. If you were one of the people involved in the debate you may spend a bit more time thinking over your responses and the replies you received. Perhaps you will even reflect back on it the next day as you decide if you were correct in your posts. But eventually you’ll forget the debate even happened. You’ll also go on with your life. You may even have subsequent conversations with the person you were fighting with and find that you both made mistakes and reconcile with each other. You may very well meet them in person at some point and talk out your differences. But the problem with social fighting is that the fight is now permanently recorded.
The fight which in real-life may have blown over in a 30 minute or hour long argument and then left behind now sits dormant on the internet. Ready to be uncovered by someone new at any point in time. Forever. Your words written in haste or written incorrectly are forever recorded to be found and read and analyzed by the world. This is very different from other situations and yet another reason why social fighting is a very bad practice. Don’t make your negative thoughtless comments and arguments be what you are forever remembered by online.
3. Social Fighting Wastes Time
I don’t know about anyone else but interacting on social media is an extremely time intensive process. To do it well and do it right you have to listen. You have to pay attention to what’s being said and what’s being shared and then you have to respond to each message. While in person this is the single focus of your efforts and you work through your debate and then walk away (as we looked at previously); when you debate online and in social media you end up trying to multi-task. I would wager that most of us do that rather ineffectively. We make our comment and then we return to our other tasks on our task list but all the while keep one eye trained on the top right corner of our screen waiting for the notification of a reply. Our minds are not engaged in what we are doing but rather constantly distracted waiting for the imminent reply. This completely ruins our ability to concentrate on other tasks and as a result slows our progress. Social fighting is usually about something we’re passionate about. As a result our passion drives our thinking and our thinking affects our output.
While you may think you’re managing your time well I would be bold and say you could be managing it better. The constant distractions and the disruption to your thinking which occurs each time you jump back into a social fight slows the progress you would otherwise make. Never forget the person picking fights, looking for ways to stir up conflict, or just being contrary in their messages usually is the one with the most amount of time to spend.
It seems to make common sense that social fighting is not a good thing but sometimes we can forget about it when we’re in the heat of the moment. Hopefully these three points will stick your mind and the next time you find yourself enthralled in a 140 character war of words you will think of them and change your approach.
If you’re able speak to people one-on-one. Take the time to make a personal connection and make the effort to communicate effectively. Yes, differences occur and yes there are times when arguments will erupt-but social media is not always the place to hold them. Make your interactions meaningful. Make your social media meaningful.
September 25, 2014
Your Experiences are Worthless
We all have things happen in our lives which affect our outlook. We have interactions with family, with friends, with clients, with employees. All of these experiences make up our past. They make up what we know and understand about life. But without a few important things those experiences are worthless. We have an opportunity. We have the power to improve our lives and our businesses. And we have the option to make our experiences count for something or to be worthless.
Here’s the important things to keep in mind to make sure your experiences impact your life and your work in the right way. These are the ways you make your experience not worthless.
1. Learn from the past
If you never stop to reflect on past experiences, if you never analyze how a particular situation unfolded and the outcome was reached then your experience is worthless. You must do more than just collect experiences in life. You have to learn from them. You have to grow from them. Learning from past experiences means stopping and looking at what was done right and what was done wrong. Force yourself to work through the activities and how they impacted the outcome. Without the ability to learn from our past experiences they serve no purpose.
2. Change the present
Once you’ve learned from the past experiences you must use what you learn to change or improve your present. I don’t mean that every experience should result in you doing something different on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting you change your daily ritual or that you walk away from every experience with a mile-long list of changes you need to make in your present situations. In fact, sometimes, the best thing you can learn from a past experience is the change to make no change. Meaning instead of changing you stop and stay constant. (Ironically that is a change from previous behavior) If you don’t take those lessons you’ve learned. If you don’t capitalize on the experiences you have and use them to change the present then they are worthless.
I’m reminded of the quote by Albert Einstein.
3. Shape the future
So now you see where I’m going. We looked at how experiences are worthless if we don’t learn from them. Next we saw how those same experiences are without much value if we don’t use them and the lessons we learned to change our present situation. Lastly, we see that if we don’t use those experiences to shape our future they are worthless. Those experiences, those life lessons you’ve learned and have used to change your current situation must be used as a guide to help shape your future goals and aspirations. If you know how something happens because you have experience with that particular situation then you can not only understand the outcome but you can shape it. You must do something with your experiences and your past. You must use your experiences to shape your future, if you don’t then they hold no value.
Three ways to make sure your experiences are not worthless. It’s not necessarily hard. But like so many things in life it takes thought, it takes patience and it takes perseverance. We must make our experiences valuable. They are one of the most valuable assets we have and possibly the one thing of true worth we have that no one else ever has had. Our daily lives and existence, our minute by minute experiences are unique to us and we have the opportunity to decide what we do with them. Don’t make one of your greatest resources worthless. Use your experiences to learn, change, and shape what you do.
September 19, 2014
No, I don’t mean physically stretch (though that’s important also!) I mean mentally, personally, internally stretch yourself. Life can be easy at times. Following the same routine and the same day-to-day activities and performing the same job with consistency can be easy. Easy in the sense that you get comfortable with the schedule. You will find yourself beginning to relax a bit in the every day. Sure, maybe you shake things up by eating dinner a bit later on Friday night or you order something slightly different from that little lunch place you visit every Wednesday. These are minor little differences in an otherwise same routine.
This relaxed and casual life can lead to complacency. You get comfortable and you neglect to improve yourself. You quit striving for better things or you stop worrying about trying to accomplish your goals. Maybe you think you’ll get to it tomorrow but telling yourself you’ll get to it the next day soon becomes just part of the routine. Eventually you’ll even get tired of saying the words and you’ll just ignore it all together. I encourage you to stretch yourself. Here’s what I mean.
Do something different
I don’t mean different like a new lunch choice; I mean different like a different ethnicity for your lunch choice. Go to a place you’ve never been and perhaps would never think to go. That’s different. Stretch yourself to look beyond what’s comfortable and what you are familiar with and ry something different. Maybe you have an incredibly sensitive stomach and different foods are simply impossible. Or maybe you don’t have anything close you can try. Find something else you can do different. Take a different way to work and don’t use your phone to give you the directions. Find your way. There was a time not too long ago when we had to use little GPS units created specifically to help us (remember those large blocks with 2 1/2 inch screens?). And it wasn’t too long before that when we didn’t have anything but those giant paper maps (which I could never really fold back the right way). There’s a sense of excitement with trying to find the way to get somewhere without following the same, old, beaten path. Do something different.
Learn from someone else
Learning from someone else means finding someone different from you. Don’t seek our your coworker who you’ve known for a half-dozen years and has shared every detail of their life with you already. Seek out someone else. It doesn’t have to be a deep and lasting connection. Maybe you’re incredibly shy and you don’t like to speak to others. I get that. I’m a bit of an introvert too. You can learn from someone else without even engaging in conversation with them (though I encourage you to do so as it’s definitely the best). You can also just listen to others talk, or watch how they interact. You can learn from how they perform a task or interact with others. Everyone is unique and has different life experiences. The stories they have and the memories they have made in their life time are vastly different from your own. And you can stretch yourself by learning from them. Push your own thinking and your own views and opinions by seeing life through someone else’s eyes.
Show unexpected kindness
The keyword in this last idea is unexpected. It’s easy to show kindness to someone who is our friend or family. We naturally want to please them and be kind to them. But unexpected kindness means seeking out someone that does not expect your kindness. Be generous with your time. Maybe even generous with your money. Showing unexpected kindness stretches you in several ways. In fact, it helps you as you do something different or learn from someone else. In addition it causes you to stretch yourself with what you would normally do or how you would normally spend your time or money. And trust me-the feeling you’ll receive by showing kindness to someone is unmatched. The challenge exists of course to find someone to whom to be kind. This challenge leaves you looking. Searching for someone to demonstrate a random act of kindness towards…and this will stretch you. It will awaken you from the steady stupor we so easily sink into from the routine of life.
There are an almost innumerable list of benefits you can receive by stretching yourself. You can improve your attitude. You can improve your life. More importantly you can improve your world. Taking the time to wake up, smell the coffee, and stretch will make you enjoy life more. And who knows. You may change someone’s day, or even their life through what you do.
September 16, 2014
Why I Love Open Source (Reason 2)
I previously blogged about the first reason why I love open source. You can read that post here. This is the second in the WILOS (Why I Love Open Source) series. It’s difficult to come up with just one reason to focus on at at time and maybe that’s why my posts on the topic come so far apart. But I have narrowed down my second reason why I love open source and I’ve listed it below along with my reasoning. Please keep in mind these are in no particular order and I hope you’ll agree with each of these reasons.
Reason 2: Open source gives power.
Ok, no panicking. Don’t go thinking this is the “I will rule the world” type of power. Power in open source is very, very different. Read my points below and I think you’ll agree that power is an excellent reason to love open source. There’s different types of power and different applications and displays of power. Here’s what I mean.
Power drives communities
When a community holds power they are able to do great things. A community which has been empowered to make decisions and change the course of the project is a highly motivating force. These open source communities are powerful and capable of shaping their future based on the needs not of a single corporation but of the entire community. This power enables the community to feel in control and share a bond which encourages teamwork and cooperation. In addition the empowered open source community maintains stronger bonds of trust between the individuals which make up that community.Great open source communities are built on the trust and relationships of dedicated individuals.
Power belongs to everyone
Open source is unique in that it allows everyone to be empowered. The really great open source communities give their volunteers the opportunity to own the source code themselves. They can take control of the code. What do I mean by taking control of the code? It’s easy. If you see a problem. You can submit a pull request to fix it. If you see a need you can fill that need. The opportunity is available for you in an open source community (and particular the open source code projects). This is power. This is exciting power. This means the power for improving the project belongs to each and every individual.
Power means responsibility
It can be an awe-some and intimidating task to think that each community volunteer yields the power to change the direction of a global open source project. This amount of power can be overwhelming and certainly challenging…but as the popular phrase goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Each of us working in a volunteer open source community must behave responsibility. We have the power to make changes which will affect others well beyond our own sphere of influence. This empowerment means we are responsible. We must maintain a sense of respect, support, and encouragement for others. We must hold this power responsibly. Questions about what that looks like? It’s as simple as the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I love open source for so many reasons. The power to change our world and improve the lives and businesses of people I would never otherwise meet is almost breath-taking. Stop and think about it for a second. The power to help others and provide a sense of empowerment to someone else is yours. Your open source activities empower you to find both personal and professional satisfaction.
Do you consider open source to be powerful? Have you thought about the power you hold when volunteering your time in an open source community? If you haven’t then I hope these couple of points have encouraged you to think about it again. And I believe you’ll agree with me. Power is certainly another reason to love open source!
September 15, 2014
A Monday Morning Question
I’ll be sharing some technical posts later this week so I decided I’d make my Monday morning post a bit different. I’d like to make an observation and leave you with a question. This is a rhetorical question – not something I need to know the answer to or even want to know the answer. This is your opportunity in the quiet of your own mind to evaluate where you are and how you would truthfully answer this question for yourself. Grab a cup of coffee and take a moment.
Here’s my question. It’s not hard and it’s not difficult to understand.
Where is your focus?
Now that seems a simple question. In fact, it’s only four words. I bet you instantly answered it. You came up with something about work, or family, or friends. Maybe you didn’t. Again, I’m not interested in hearing your answer. That’s for you. But I’d like to expand the question just a bit and then ask you again how you would answer.
We have a million things begging for our attention these days. We have more channels then ever to monitor and keep up with. In reality this means we have so many more opportunities for marketers to advertise their products and push their items in our streams, our feeds, our faces. Then beyond the companies begging for our money there are other things competing for our time. We must balance not only our priorities but our energies and our efforts. Family, friends, husband, wife, children, siblings, parents, bosses, co-workers…the list is seemingly endless. So many things needing our time and our attentions. I haven’t even begun to address open source, volunteer and other non-profit areas where our time can provide immense benefits. I know, you understand already. You get my point. I’ll not elaborate or draw things out any more. Bottom line – there’s many many things which would like more of our time and attention.
With so many things in need of our abilities we can very quickly begin to lose our focus. Not our focus on which project or relationship to spend time on, but something different. We can misplace our focus. I believe it comes down to one of two options. You can place your focus on others or on yourself.
We each have unique skills and abilities which make us special and give us our worth. Some of us have a grander stage, some have a more visible role. Regardless of the size of the audience we all have talents. We have power to make a difference and we have the tools to do more. But sometimes (sometimes) we lose our sight. We lose our focus and instead of placing others before ourselves we fall prey to the selfish me-first attitude. Because we have many different demands on our time or abilities we begin to think more highly of ourselves. It’s slow, it’s sneaky and it’s dangerous.
Rather than being consumed with how everything affects us, we should spend a bit more time focused on others and how a situation might affect them. Admittedly that’s hard to do. We all want to be recognized as important and valuable. We crave the sense of appreciation we get from others and how the feeling of importance makes us feel needed. We don’t fit every need and we’re not (or shouldn’t try to be) the center of every debate, discussion, or situation.
When we work together as a team, a community, a family we have the opportunity to accomplish great things. When we focus on the common good, the common cause, and the vision we have set forth and we each look to our neighbor as our focus we empower each other. This bond strengthens relationships. This bond empowers and fuels us to do more, to be more, to become more. When we focus on others we improve something greater than ourselves and we leave a legacy.
There’s my Monday morning question for you. It’s only four words but it holds a lot of meaning. Remember, it’s rhetorical. I answered it for myself and I’m not sharing my answer. I’d love it if you did the same. Consider the question. Consider yourself and decide where you are.
Where is your focus?
September 8, 2014
Movement or Action
We all know people who are so busy they meet themselves coming as they are going. The frantic, fast-paced lifestyle tends to be a badge of honor amongst United States workers especially. If we’re ragged, worn, and constantly moving then we must be successful or at the very least critically important. But this great quote by Ernest Hemingway comes to mind frequently in those situations.
“Never mistake movement for action.”
– Ernest Hemingway
As a society (and again because of my geographic location I will focus heavily on the United States) Americans seem to have lost the concept of action and replaced it with movement. I see people who are consumed with staying busy rather than productive. Being busy is not the same as productive. Just because you’re moving doesn’t mean you are active. Or rather, just because you are moving does not mean you have taken action.
I am important
I realize staying busy gives a sense of importance, of self-worth, and of the vital role we must play within our jobs if we are so busy we cannot stop to eat. But if we are not measuring our outcomes and pointing to our performance as proof of our movement’s value then we are merely moving for the sake of moving. We’re merely being busy. Here are 3 quick ways you can check to see if you have movement or action.
Work for a purpose
The first thing I check when I am feeling extremely busy is what I am working towards. What is the purpose or goal of what i’m doing? Is there a reason why I am so busy and not just why I am busy but more importantly – what am I hoping to accomplish. And I force myself to be specific. I can’t use excuses such as, “I’ve got to keep my job” or “Someone has to do these things.” Those generic reasons are not a purpose for movement. Those generic answers are excuses.
A better purpose for movement would be something like – “I am working this much or I am this busy because I have a deadline with an investor scheduled for Monday at 9am and I must get X, Y, and Z done beforehand.” A reason like this not only proves you are moving with purpose but also helps you to refine your tasks to better accomplish the goal.
When I find myself incredibly busy I will most days evaluate my progress at the end of each day. This helps me ensure I’m actually doing something profitable. I want to work for a purpose and I want to be sure I’m not simply moving. If I am making progress on my goals then I know I am doing it right. When those times come where I get to the end of a day and feel mentally and physically exhausted but cannot point to clear progress made throughout the day I realize I’ve been moving too much.
There’s something important in that last sentence. When I get to the end of a day and cannot point to clear progress…to be able to point to progress means I must have a set of goals or a purpose to my work. Not just “make it through the day” (though sometimes I admit that sounds like a hard enough job in and of itself). But rather I must set out to accomplish clearly defined goals which will help me to arrive at my final completed work. I cannot evaluate my progress without them.
I’ll never forget the impact the father in the book Cheaper by the Dozen had on me. Frank Gilbreth was a time and motion study expert. I learned so many little ideas from that book. In fact I don’t want to go into too much detail about that now because I plan to write an entire post on him. The bottom line is simple. Always be looking for ways to improve your efficiency. I want to make sure I’m acting with a purpose and making progress, and doing all of it in the most efficient way possible. The more efficient I can become the more I can accomplish.
The goal is to be less busy and yet more productive. I want to increase my efficiency by scheduling tasks in the right order, by prioritizing my workflow and my meetings so each builds on the previous and the end result is progress and goal completion.
We all end up being busy at one point or another. We all end up moving at a ridiculously fast pace. I am certainly not speaking out against that. I’d be the worst offender of all if that were the case. Rather, I’m speaking out against movement without action. As Mr. Hemingway so aptly put we should never mistake the two. When we find ourselves the busiest this is when we should pause for a moment and evaluate ourselves. Use these three quick points to check and see if you are moving or active.
September 5, 2014
The Importance of an Organized Desk
If there’s one thing I wish I could maintain better its my desktop. No, not my virtual desktop on my computer, that one is, in fact, surprisingly sparse. In fact at this very moment there are exactly zero items on my laptop desktop. I find it much easier to keep this space uncluttered then the one which lives in my physical world. This got me wondering if an organized desk is actually important.
But I’m a creative genius…
I have always heard a cluttered desk is a sign of creativity. I like to think of myself as creative and therefore believe a messy desk proved to the world the extreme level of my awesomeness. Based on the number of paper piles, writing utensils, and sticky notes littering my desk (along with envelopes, plates, cups, and more) I was clearly the undiscovered creative genius of the decade. But perhaps these are just excuses I used to keep myself from worrying about keeping my desk clean. I decided to do a little digging into what others would suggest are the benefits of a clean desk. I’ll leave them here for you to decide if you agree.
A clean desk demonstrates organization.
Don’t laugh. It’s true, when an office desk is clear of clutter, excess paper, and all the various and sundry tidbits which litter a desktop it demonstrates an individual who is organized. An organized person is someone you can rely on because they have clearly introduced structure and reason into their environment. If someone is reasonable then you can trust them with making logical decisions and choices which will best accomplish the tasks they are given. Cleaning a desk demonstrates a level of organization.
Notice that the title of the article is an organized desk. Not a clean desk, not an empty desk. Organization means you have a methodology and a space free of clutter and randomness. Introducing order and structure can be done without being empty. By the same thought then a clean desk is not necessarily an empty desk. A clean desk merely means organized.
An organized desk shows priorities
If you keep your desk organized then you are automatically keeping yourself in a constant mindset of prioritization. While you organize the papers on your desk you’ll find you think about it and where it belongs in terms of what needs to be done. Sometimes you can quickly place it in the trash and you have one less thing to be concerned about. When you maintain an organized desk you show dedication to a continued focus on priorities. Your clients, your boss, your employees will all see this very visual representation of your ability to be consistent in managing your priorities. Keeping your desk organized means you value prioritization.
An organized desk helps the environment
If you can keep your desk organized and free of paper you are helping reduce the paper usage in your office. Recycle and remove paper and give the impression that you discourage others from delivering paper to you. Think about it. If someone walks into your office and they see a clean and organized desk free of paper they’ll be much more hesitant to place a paper on it. But if instead they saw a sea of cluttered and jumbled papers pouring over the edge of your desk they’d assume one (or one dozen more) won’t really matter.
Paperless offices are wonderful at this but far too rare. Maybe craft a small sign on the corner of your desk which simply states, “Consider the environment before leaving paper on this desk.”
An organized desk saves you time
Ok, so the above three reasons are great and worthwhile reasons and sure there’s value in each of them. But let’s be honest with each other, none of those reasons are quite compelling enough to make you keep an organized desk. We drink a coffee from a reusable cup to help preserve the environment! But this last reason, this reason right here is the one reason which grabs attention, and forces me to keep my desk spotlessly clean.
We all need more time. There’s never enough time to get everything done that needs to be done in a day and an organized, clean desk gives us more time. You won’t waste time searching through stacks of paper to find the information you need. In fact there have even been studies done about just how much time you lose! The bottom line is simple – an organized desk saves time.
A desktop challenge
There you have it, the single most important reason why an organized desk is important. So for this end of the week wrap-up I’ll leave you with a simple challenge. Organize your desk. Save yourself some time by spending a little time organizing your desk. Then once you’ve realized that you’re not only saving time but you’re also helping the environment, improving your prioritization, and being cleaner and more organized you’ll realize it really is worth it. Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. See if your lifestyle and work environment change as a result of an organized desk. Trust me, we will all still know you’re ridiculously creative.
August 26, 2014
The Danger of Assumptions
Assumptions can be a very dangerous thing. They can be exceptionally harmful in an open source community. Of course its not always intentional to be assuming something about someone or a situation. In fact I imagine, to some extent, human nature causes us to make assumptions based on the knowledge we have on hand. Unfortunately, more often than not, those assumptions are false. And the resulting feelings, emotions, and actions which are taken as a result of those assumptions can harm the community.
So what are some common ways in which assumptions can harm a community? There are many but we’ll look quickly at three examples.
An Assumption Can Harm A Reputation
First, an assumption can harm a reputation. You may not mean to harm someone’s reputation by making an assumption about them or their character, but what happens when you make an assumption based on false information or a mis-understanding can oftentimes result in someone’s reputation being damaged. There’s nothing worse than having to defend yourself against an accusation which is untrue or unfounded. And when that accusation is based on an assumption rather than truth or a fact, it makes defending yourself that much harder. In a community setting it may be easier to walk away then bother to defend yourself against a false accusation. Too many good community members are lost this way.
An Assumption Stirs up Strife
Secondly an assumption harms a community because it sows discord. When community members are assuming things about other community members they begin to distrust others. As the community, in essence, turns on itself, the community begins to fall apart. The trust, the common bond which has brought all these various individuals together begins to dissolve. And it dissolves because each person begins to distrust the other people. They begin to question motives and intents. They begin to distrust because of an assumption rather than a fact. If a community lacks trust in one another then there is no solid foundation on which to build a healthy community and a healthy team. Great communities rely on mutual respect and trust.
An Assumption Makes A Community Look Bad
Thirdly, a community can be hurt by assumptions because of the image it portrays to others outside the community. When others outside the community are witnessing the assumptions shared within a community they spread like wildfire. Before you know it others outside the community are also making assumptions and very quickly the entire situation escalates out of control. If someone outside the community hears a rumor or a story, especially if they know nothing about the community, they will usually assume the worst and then they will share that with someone else and person by person the story will spread. And the community suffers.
What are the best ways to avoid assumptions in a community?
There are ways to avoid assumptions in a community. These are a great place to start when you find yourself caught in a situation where you believe you may be involved in a rumor or an assumption which seems difficult to believe. If you find yourself questioning the validity of a story, follow these steps.
Open communication is first and foremost the fastest way to ensure assumptions are stopped. If you have questions or concerns about the motives or intents behind someone’s actions – ask them. As a community we should have that level of personal involvement with each other; that level of comfort which allows us to go to one another, share our thoughts, and ask for clarification. We’re working together. We’re fighting for a common cause. We’re seeking to accomplish a singular goal with a shared focus. If there are questions, comments, or concerns about that focus the fastest way to clear up confusion is direction and open communication.
If you hear a rumor its often better to go directly to the source and verify the information. This will keep you from continuing an assumption. This also helps to ensure the assumption stops quickly when they do form. Because its impossible to stop all assumptions, but at least we can minimize the damage. The idea here is not a public name-and-shame tactic which some people use. The idea of being direct involves a one-on-one personal conversation, much as you would have with a close friend. Because…we should be close friends. We are a community. We should have a real and personal relationship with one another. We are not enemies.
Too many people are scared of offending someone or intimidated by the possibility of conflict which may arise when speaking directly to an individual about a situation. But that fear will quickly turn into something larger, something far more damaging to the community. We must choose to work together. We must refuse to be afraid. We must choose to be brave. Assumptions have no place within a strong community and the faster we destroy assumptions when they begin to form the stronger our community will be.
August 25, 2014
10 Tips to Get Things Done (Part 2)
Happy Monday! You got the first 5 tips to get things done on Friday. Hopefully a great way to finish your week strong and hopefully you took at least one of them and applied them to your day and I trust you got something done.
It’s now the start of another week. You have a clean slate and 5 days of opportunity ahead of you to accomplish great things. I’d like to start your week right with the final 5 tips to get things done. Put the two posts together and you’ll have a complete list of 10 tips to get things done. Let’s not waste any time and jump right into today’s list.
Prioritize your to-do list. There are two ways to prioritize your list of things to do and each has benefits. First you can order them by importance. There is immense value in ordering them by importance because you’ll immediately begin working on those things which will directly affect your schedule and the things which are critically important. I completely understand this prioritization however sometimes I think this causes us to put the wrong things first. We’ll trick ourselves into defining what is “important” based on what we want to work on. This is the reason I like the second ordering better.
I like to order by estimated time to completion. I put the quick ones first. This means I can show progress and feel as though I’ve accomplished a lot very quickly. Personally I find this to be extremely motivating. You may disagree and find that this isn’t as motivating to you – either way prioritizing your tasks will help you get things done.
7. Use Positive Reinforcement
This one ties in closely with the last one. By prioritizing your tasks you’re giving yourself the opportunity to positively reinforce your progress. If you fill your time with the feeling that you’re beating your head against a wall and not getting things completed you’ll get more easily depressed and discouraged. Discouragement is a motivation-killer. The effects of positive reinforcement are both psychological and physical. You’ll not only feel better and more eager to work on other task items but you’ll find yourself working quicker too.
You’ll be seeking ways to feel that sense of accomplishment again. That means getting more things done. Knocking another item off your task list. It’s a bit infectious and you’ll find that positive reinforcement will help you get things done.
8. Be Accountable
There’s a sense of urgency and responsibility that comes from knowing someone else is waiting for you to be done. Whether its a boss, a co-worker, a friend, or a client if you make yourself accountable to someone else to check up on your task list and how you are doing you will be more prone to get things done. I hate that feeling that I’ve let someone down or have not lived up to expectations. There’s nothing worse than disappointing someone and if you make yourself accountable in regards to what you will be getting done you’ll be more motivated to make sure they are completed.
Accountability is a challenge. In some environments you are forced to be accountable. Your boss gives you a deadline and you must meet it. Your client expects the deliverables on a certain date. Those are examples of forced accountability. When you voluntarily make yourself accountable you are proactively forcing yourself to make sure you get things done as promised. It’s a challenge because it’s much easier to sneak by without it. But you’ll be more likely to get things done when you are accountable.
9. Set A Goal
When you want to get things done it often helps to set a goal. Obviously this isn’t setting an unrealistic or unattainable goal (See #2 from Friday’s post). This is about setting a realistic and achievable goal. Maybe it’s to complete 50% of your task list. Maybe it’s simply to accomplish 1 item from your list. The purpose is to set a goal which you are confident you can meet. Setting a goal means you are using your goals as another form of positive reinforcement.
You’ll feel great when you accomplish a goal. You’ll feel energized, motivated, and encouraged to set another goal and do it again. Setting goals is another great way to motivate yourself and get things done.
I could go on giving tips on ways to get things done. There’s certainly other ways to encourage you to work and make progress and be successful. You can simply Google the term, get things done, and you’ll be greeted with thousands of websites, tips, tricks, and motivational tools you can read. But the single best tip I could give you is simple. Just get started. Do something. Pick a task and complete it.
Instead of wasting your time searching for the ultimate productivity tool just start working. Easy right? Sometimes its harder than we care to admit.
There you have it. We’ve completed 10 tips to get things done. It’s Monday and the week lies ahead. Empty pages waiting to be filled. Whatever you choose to work on and whatever your focus is for the week get started! Today is the day to make a difference.
August 22, 2014
10 Tips to Get Things Done
This post is gold. I doubt many people would admit that however. More people would consider it to be similar to a visit to the dentist when you have a terrible toothache. You know you have to go but you dread going because you know what lies ahead. The problem is not that we don’t know the ways to get things done, but that we don’t want to have to implement those things.
I’m going to give you 10 quick tips to help get things done. Are these new or novel ideas? I doubt it. Is my goal that you follow all ten tips and immediately get everything done you wanted to? No. Definitely not. I want to provide 10 tips of which you might take one or two. (Do I dare even hope for 3 or more?) I hope something in this list will encourage you to do what you know you should be doing and help you get things done.
1. Make a List
This one’s a great one to get started. I made a list for this post. Making lists is a great way of organizing the jumble of things inside your head. Some people are more the list-making type than others. I admit I’m one of them. The truth remains that making a list helps the human brain put things into perspective and focus on a realistic set of tasks rather than an abstract (and mistaken) view of the size of the job.
2. Be Realistic
There’s only 24 hours in a day. And for most of us, we have to sleep for some of it. This means we have a limited amount of time in which we must get things done. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and don’t be overly ambitious. You probably won’t be able to paint the house, rebuild the fence, repair the driveway, and fix dinner all in a day. When you make a list of things to do put down small things. Small accomplishments help motivate and energize you. And you’ll see yourself making progress throughout the day.
3. Turn Off Email
Yeah, right. I know you just thought the same thing. There’s no way you could make it through 15 minutes let alone a couple hours without your email being open and checked. This one is a tricky one because I hear people claim their job requires instant and constant checking. Unfortunately I think this excuse is abused by most people. I’m guessing most of us can work two hours before responding to an email. Most things will be ok whether you answer immediately or in two hours. Try it. Maybe try it for 30 minutes, if it goes ok and nothing falls apart and the world doesn’t implode, try for an hour. You’ll be more productive. I promise.
4. Close Social Media
This one might very well be the most obvious and yet most neglected on the list. Social media is one of the biggest time drains within the workday. Studies have been done on the amount of time lost to social networking and its staggering. Close down tweetdeck (gasp), close the Facebook browser tab, and see how much more productive you’ll be. You’re not going to miss anything. It’ll be ok. Again, take it in small steps. Don’t think of it as a permanent withdrawal. Shut it down for an hour. Set a clock alarm to remind you when your hour is up and turn a negative into a positive; look forward to opening it back up when the time comes.
5. Take a Break
Wait, take a break to get things done? Yes. Sitting too long, working on a single task too long can have a counter-intuitive effect of making you less productive. You’ll naturally begin to work slower, your attention will begin to wain, and you’ll lose interest in the task. When this happens your best solution is to take a break. Studies have shown a number of different time lengths per hour you should take as breaks. I’m not going to point to a specific one but rather recommend taking a break when you need one. Be self-aware about how productive you are being and stop yourself if you need a break.
Ok, there’s five tips to get things done. Follow these and I guarantee you’ll find yourself getting more things done.
Wait! You’re right. I did say 10. Here’s the thing. Rather than overwhelming you with 10 tips all at once I’m leaving you with 5 for today. I have 5 more and I’ll publish them on Monday. But I’m practicing what I preach. I’m making a list and I’m being realistic. I want to give you an opportunity to get things done today. I want Friday to be an amazing end of the week and your weekend to be fantastic. Take these 5 tips (and come back on Monday for the other half the list).
August 21, 2014
Charlie Chaplin Speech
I wanted to share something different today. I found this speech given by Charlie Chaplin a while ago and wanted to use it in one of my speaking opportunities but as I have yet to find the right fit I thought I might share it here for everyone. Even though this was part of a movie I think we can feel the reality and intensity of these words echoing from the actor himself. The year was 1940. I encourage you to listen this Charlie Chaplin speech and read the powerful words being spoken. Then let us unite, let us feel more, let us free the world.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..
Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
August 19, 2014
Open Source Project Update (Top Secret)
For those of you who have been following my blog and have seen my previous post about what I’m so ecstatically working on then this post will serve as a bit of a status update. If you are curious about what I’m talking about then I suggest reading back on my previous post. I admit I was slightly abstruse in my previous post. I’ll clear some of that up with this article…I hope. Here’s more information on this revolutionary new open source project (soon to be released).
What’s in a name?
I guess the first thing which would be important to share is the name of this super top-secret project. I’m excited to announce this new open source software will hereby and forever more be known as Mautic. Now before you go trying to figure out what it means let me save you the time and let you know you won’t find much. We developed a name which held the meaning, the essence, of what we were creating and are thrilled with the result. So what is the essence of the platform being created? That’s the next exciting question I get to answer.
What is Mautic?
Mautic is a free and open source marketing automation platform. That’s right, completely free and completely open source. No strings attached. After seeing this completely closed-source dominated market space and how severely it impacts the lives and successes of hundreds of thousands (millions even?) of small and medium-sized businesses which simply cannot afford the extravagant monthly costs of existing software-as-a-service only solutions we knew there was a problem. Mautic is set to fix that problem. We’re disrupting the space and introducing the power of open source to marketing automation in much the same way the CMS landscape was forever changed by the release of three powerhouse open source systems (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress) back in 2004-2005.
We are excited to be the catalyst for this movement and help grow the community around this project. The simple bottom-line answer – Mautic is a game changer.
The First Big Decision
One of the very first big decisions we needed to make was in regards to our logo which would represent us. We went through a very, very detailed process which if others are interested in the psychology behind the final selection or are interested in hearing more about the process involved with defining a brand image then definitely let me know. I’d love to share (as I said this platform truly is something the community can rally around) but I certainly don’t want to waste anyone’s time with “the details”. Needless to say a lot of time, effort and community feedback was involved in this process of selecting the most appropriate logo. And so I’m excited to announce and share the version which will represent the Mautic brand.
Without any further ado. Here is the shiny new logo for Mautic the free and open source marketing automation platform.
August 15, 2014
Are You Surrounded?
There’s a common phrase which I am confident most of you have already heard. It talks about who you choose as your friends and they type of person you choose to surround you. There’s certainly some truth to the idea and we may take another post to look more in-depth at the psychology involved. My question is simple – are you surrounded by the right people?
When you look at those people which which you associate and with who you spend the majority of your time have you asked yourself if they are helping you? Do they keep you from your goals or do they encourage and motivate you to accomplish them? Here are 5 types of people I recommend having in your inner circle.
Someone Slower Than You
Before you start thinking I started off harsh allow me to clarify. I don’t mean someone slower in a negative sense. Slowness can also refer to someone being more deliberate. I know for myself this person is one of my most valued friends. I’m a quick person. I move quick, I think quick and (regretfully at times) I move quick. Moving quick can be a positive trait but can also be extremely detrimental. There is immense value in the person who weighs their options, methodically approaches a situation and deliberately makes a decision. If you don’t have someone slower than you then you need to find that person.
Someone Faster Than You
This one is much easier to accept than the previous one and if you’re like me and naturally a quicker person this can be a fun relationship. More than likely you will already have someone who moves equally fast and helps to push you. Moving fast involves being willing to take action, to analyze a situation and make a decision quickly. When time is of the essence and a delay could be potentially disastrous having someone faster than you is an invaluable asset.
Someone Smarter Than You
It can be challenging to feel like the dumbest person in the room. In fact it can be downright humiliating, however if you include someone smarter than you in your inner circle and those people who influence you most then you will find a challenge to encourage you to keep thinking, keep growing, keep learning. Someone smarter means they may have the answer to the question you have, they may know the technology you want to learn and can help you learn quicker. Best of all they motivate you to not remain stagnant but keep striving to be smarter.
Someone Nicer Than You
There are certain people who are naturally more caring, more generous, and more thoughtful than the average. These rare and gifted individuals can be a wonderful influence on you. They’ll share their compassion with you and help you be more aware of the needs of others around you. Be sure you have someone nicer in the people who surround you. They’ll help keep you grounded in those things which really matter and will encourage you to take more time to realize the greater needs which surround you. This will greatly change your outlook on life and affect your goals.
Someone Happier Than You
The last type of person I’m going to recommend you surround yourself by is the person who is happier than you. We all know the person, they seem to always have a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye. I will be one of the first to admit there are days when this person is more difficult to be around then others. There’s some days where the dark clouds hang low and I simply don’t want to see someone’s toothy grin. However, even on those dark days there’s some power in their personality. No matter how low I may feel I miss them if they aren’t around. As the corny expression goes, “A smile goes miles.”
These 5 personality types should absolutely be included in the people you associate with and surround you. Here’s one last takeaway. You’ll naturally gravitate to like-minded people. You’ll be in your comfort zone when you spend time with people that are like you. While there is nothing wrong with that. You’ll be far better if you stretch yourself and round out your friend list. Connect with people and hold dear the differences in their personalities. Your friends are a reflection on you, and your inner circle of friends will shape you. Choose wisely.
August 13, 2014
Talk to Me
One of the hardest things to do sometimes is to listen. It’s a challenge to shut out the other things grabbing at your attention and to focus on a single voice. But what makes it even harder is when the person you really want to hear from doesn’t talk.
I like to tell people that one of my tasks as a volunteer community manager is to listen to people. I listen a lot. The task is made more challenging when filtering through the “noise” and listening to the heart of those community members who might be more timid in sharing their opinion or less vocal in their thoughts.
Don’t Be Shy
Being shy is a character trait which I find myself struggling with constantly. I’m an introvert myself so it is a step outside my comfort zone to talk to someone else. I can relate to those feelings. But I encourage you when someone is looking for your opinion and your thoughts and they have specifically asked you to talk to them…don’t be shy. Find a way to communicate your opinion on a subject.
I want people to talk to me. I want especially the quiet community member to talk to me. Don’t be shy, I promise I won’t snap. I want to hear what you think about things, because you are important. Your opinion matters. A good community manager makes it easy for you to share without you worrying about the things which intimidate.
Pick Your Communication Channel
Not everyone likes to communicate verbally. There’s a variety of reasons for that and certainly there’s nothing which says that verbal communication is the only way to effectively communicate. Maybe you prefer email, social media, or IM, or forums, or some other medium (Have I mentioned I know sign language?). Whatever the way the goal is the same, share your thoughts.
As a community manager I try to make sure I’m available in as many ways as possible. And I’m always looking for other ways. Just yesterday I was exploring a new chat application I now have an account there and am looking forward to offering another way for people to get in touch.
Sometimes the problem is not being shy or not finding the right communication channel. Every once in a while the problem is being indirect. Subtweeting is the latest phenomena in this type of communication. The idea behind this is indirectly approaching a subject, saying something without really saying something. It means not sharing the information that matters with the right people. Or sharing the wrong information to the right people. (Saying things so obtusely that even though the person you’re speaking to can control the situation they have no idea you’re seeking action).
This idea involves boldness and courage. Not brazen or public ridicule. Not a false bravado. And certainly not an attempt to make others look stupid so you look better. Being direct may mean handling a situation in private, where no one sees.
Share Your Passion
There are few things I find more exciting then listening to someone talk about something they are passionate about. The excitement is almost tangible and I find myself quickly drawn in by the enthusiasm they share. When someone is asking you to talk to them then you have the perfect opportunity to share your passion. I love it when someone stops me and wants to talk to me about something which interests them. Sometimes it’s in their business life, in their personal life, or in the community we share. Regardless of the area I still share in their excitement.
I want to hear what interests you. Good community managers care about their community. Great community managers care about the people in their community . This means caring about the person and what matters to them…beyond the community. I want to be a great community manager.
In case you can’t tell – I want you to talk to me! I want to hear your thoughts and your opinions. I want to enable and empower you to do more and to find your “voice”. Your voice is important and your voice needs to be heard. Don’t stew over things or hold your opinions to yourself. Our communities will only get better if everyone participates. Share your views. Together we can make our community the best it can be. Because together we can make each other the best we can be.
August 11, 2014
Yep you clicked through because of the title didn’t you. I admit it doesn’t sound like something you’d normally hear me say and certainly doesn’t sound like the polite thing to do. But I would suggest there are a few times when you should never apologize.
4 Times You Should Not Apologize
I’m going to start with the possibly most debatable of the four and then work towards the more obvious. Four quick things I’d encourage you to consider the next time you’re about to offer an apology. You may think of more. Let these be a starting point. The idea is simple: quit apologizing when you shouldn’t be saying sorry.
If you hold a personal belief it is just that. Personal. You should never be forced to apologize for your personal beliefs. Of course you shouldn’t force your personal beliefs on someone else but for yourself you are free to hold whatever beliefs you choose. And you should do so unapologetically. If you do, or feel as if you should apologize for your personal beliefs then I would ask you if that belief truly is something you hold as a tenant of your faith. If you lack fortitude in your personal convictions and constantly apologize for them then perhaps you should re-evaluate the reason why you believe what you do.
Signs of emotion
Secondly you should never apologize for showing signs of emotion. This one is one I find myself guilty of the most. Somewhere along the way the idea of showing emotion (especially for men) has become slightly socially unacceptable or at the very least – awkward. The tension in the room becomes instantly thicker and often I find myself apologizing. The truth? The truth is signs of emotion when coming from the heart demonstrates the passion you feel for the topic . Of course you’d never apologize for being passionate about something. Passion is what drives you to do great things. And before the cynic in the crowd attempts to point to violent outburst, anger and other forms of abusive passion…this is not the type of passion or emotion to which I refer. When you are so passionate about the subject that your emotions break through, you should never apologize.
Acts of service
The next time you should never apologize is when you are performing acts of service. For some reason I’ve seen a trend where someone offers an apology almost blatantly thoughtlessly (flippantly?) when they do something as an act of service. As if it’s an offense to be helpful. The easiest way I can think of to illustrate this idea is to imagine a role reversal. If someone were performing an act of service for you, if they were doing something to make your life easier or help you, would you expect them to apologize for it? Clearly not. You appreciate their thoughtfulness and more than likely an apology would even serve to negate the perceived thoughtfulness. If you’re providing a selfless act of service for someone else don’t apologize for it.
When You’re Not
It’s unfortunate to hear those times when someone offers an apology as a preface to something they are about to say. It’s something I notice exceedingly in the USA culture particularly. “I’m sorry but…” typically means exactly the opposite. I’m not sorry. I want to say my opinion and this opening apology is a weak attempt to appear as though I’m not being rude or aggressive. Don’t use an apology when you’re not truly apologetic. Save the apologizing for when you mean what you say and want to offer a heartfelt word of sympathy or request for forgiveness. Don’t cheapen the meaning of an apology and ultimately cheapen yourself by apologizing when you’re not apologizing.
There are certainly a number of legitimate reasons to offer an apology and I may take the time to push out a quick blog post outlining some of those times. But briefly here I want to encourage you to hold to your beliefs, be confident in your impassioned pleas, perform acts of service with genuine selflessness and be meaningful in what you say . Let’s not waste apologies or minimize the importance of asking forgiveness by using it flippantly.
August 7, 2014
Don’t Be Busy
I know we often hear the admonishment not to be lazy. It’s as though a slower pace and a relaxed view of life is somehow frowned upon. Typically this seems to be more prevalent in Western culture and particularly in the United States. The ideas of being a workaholic is touted as a sign of a tireless worker dedicated to their job.
Busy Does Not Show Dedication
But there’s a subtle (or not so subtle) difference here. There’s certainly something to be said for being active and involved in your work. Yes, we want to make sure that our jobs are done well and we demonstrate our commitment, but that does not necessarily mean we are emailing our co-workers, bosses, or vendors back at 11PM on a Friday night.
The School Day Mindset
In an effort to avoid being labeled as lazy I think we become obsessed with appearing busy. That’s right. Appearing busy. It’s not that we’re doing great things, but instead we’re simply doing busy work. I remember in school how much I hated it when we were assigned busy work to complete at our seats. There was no point no purpose or if there was a purpose it was extremely minor. The work was merely an exercise to keep us busy.
I’m not advocating for laziness. In fact, I am often accused of being too busy. But in reality I try not to be busy but to be something else. Here is the key point. If you only take away one thing from today’s post I want you to remember this: Being busy is not the same as being effective.
Can I repeat that for emphasis? Just because you’re busy does not automatically mean you’re effective. Sure you can quickly fill up your day with menial tasks and responsibilities. You can create busy work for yourself to do. It may appear that you are being highly productive when in fact you may simply be busy. Being busy is not a badge of honor. Being busy doesn’t allow you to accomplish your goals. Being busy just means you’re tired and feeling overworked.
Why should we not be busy?
If we focus on being effective rather than being busy there will be several positive side effects which will result. The first is easy. Being effective rather than busy means you are placing your tasks in priority and accomplishing things relevant to your goals and ultimately your job. If you are filling your time with busy work you will leave yourself less time to do those truly important things which matter far more in the long term.
Your body needs a break
Secondly, if you aren’t forcing yourself to be busy by filling your hours with those unimportant time drains then you’ll find you have a clearer head. You will be able to relax when you’re not working and you’ll feel more refreshed. When you take the time your mind and body needs to recover from a long day (week) then you’ll feel more refreshed and energized to continue working effectively. Your productivity will increase as your busyness decreases. That’s a seeming paradox. The less busy you are the more effective you become. You’ll be spending your time doing those things which really matter.
Your priorities get misplaced
Lastly, when you fill your time with busy work you leave yourself very little time to be effective. You’ll feel constantly overwhelmed because you’re not “finding the time” to get the important things accomplished. Each day those important tasks will be the ones that get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list and then bumped from one day to the next when you ultimately run out of time. Your brain is smart and it knows doing the hard things are hard. They’ll take real brainpower. It’s much simpler and easier to fill the time with menial busywork.
No, don’t be lazy
I’m certainly not advocating laziness. And I realize that sometimes being busy and being effective are one and the same. Those times when you have incredibly tight deadlines or project due dates and it requires a ridiculous level of effort. But those are the exceptions to the rule. In general I recommend be effective not busy. Being busy is not a badge of honor. Being effective is. Accomplishing your goals and feeling that sense of accomplishment is what matters most.
August 4, 2014
4 Places To Get Amazing Free Blog Images
I’m going to keep today’s blog short and sweet. I have been asked a few times where I find the various images I use for my blog posts and I am happy to share. The importance of a blog image is widely recognized as a key factor in the amount of views a post will receive. If you’re still skeptical you can view this article, or this one, or also this one.
Bottom Line: Whatever you do, it’s clear that adding an image to your blog post is important. Adding a striking image to your blog will increase the chance that someone will be intrigued enough to follow through and read your carefully crafted words. Here’s 4 sources for amazing blog images. I use each of these when searching for images and I’ve listed them in the order in which I usually search.
1. Flickr with CC License
This user-generated site is full of great photographs and images which can be used freely on your blog provided you search with the creative commons license filter on. This will ensure that the results you get are restricted to just those images which are free to use. This site provides a huge variety of graphics and you can go wild searching. Picking the proper search word is key in finding the best possible image.
This website is a wallpaper site but typically has great images. All these images are public domain and can be used without attribution. When searching you’ll need to make sure you select a device with a high resolution screen in order to get images large enough to use on your blog. This site usually work great for nature and scenic images.
3. Getty Images
This service is an exciting new way to source images for your blog articles. In fact, the company where I work recently inked a deal with Getty Images to provide these images directly within Joomla’s admin panel (through a plugin). This is a fantastic site to find high-quality professional photographs to use on your blog articles. They provide an easy-to-use embed option to help make sure the image and proper attribution shows on your site.
This last website is one I admittedly haven’t used as much as the others but plan to take advantage of more in the future. It provides an easy search functionality and returns high quality images which can be used in your blog articles.
I told you I’d keep it simple today! Check out these sites if you have any image needs for your blog articles. Remember, finding the right image is super important. Don’t neglect this part of your blog process.
August 1, 2014
I watch the flames lick around the sticks and branches placed in the fire pit. There’s one part that’s red-hot, the flames are high and jumping in an almost frenzied pace, then there’s an area which has not yet been touched by the heat, and lastly a part that’s already felt the heat of the fire and has been consumed. Around the base there’s the ashes remaining from previous hot spots. As I watch it occurs to me that many projects work in a very similar way. In fact, I work in a similar way.
The Red-Hot Area
The red-hot area is the thing I’m currently all-consumed with working on. It may be a project, an idea, or just something I’m interested in at the time. The passion is high and I’m fascinated with what is being worked on, regardless of the value of the idea, it may simply be something I’m curious about. This is the fun spot. This is where all projects should live until they’ve been completed.
The untouched part of the fire is like my to-do list. It’s the area of the fire that’s not yet been sucked into the flames. I haven’t begun work and maybe I won’t ever get to it. This is a challenge because if it’s on the list then I need to do it, but sometimes I lack the passion or the interest in getting around to it. There’s potential here and sooner or later this part will become realized.
The Partially Consumed
The consumed part is what remains when the fire has moved on. It still maintains the structure of what it once was, almost as if it’s a shell or shadow of it’s previous existence. The consumed projects are those projects which have passed their prime. I’ve lost interest in working on them, they may have been partially successful but ultimately for one reason or another I quit on them. This is the worst state for projects. Shadows of what might have been.
The remnants are the ashes, the remains of past projects which are now dead and gone. Some have been successful, some have been failures. When they reach this stage there’s nothing left to them. You cannot return to them and you cannot rekindle a fire around them. This is the point of no return for the project. If it’s success remember it with fondness, if it’s not, learn the lessons you can from the experience.
So what does it mean?
Ok, so there’s my analogy. I think it’s appropriate but the question is what can I gain from it? How do I apply this to my current situation and how can I use it to improve myself.
First, I must be able to identify where a project is. If it’s in one of the first three stages then I know there’s something left which can be returned to and worked on until its completed. Second, once I’ve identified where a project is I can give it the attention it requires to achieve the goals I’ve set. The untouched projects should be placed in a priority to give me something to start work on as soon as one project finishes. If it’s currently in the midst of the fire then I need to focus on completing it with strength. Don’t leave it partially consumed a monument to a distracted mind. Lastly if I recognize a project to be nothing but remnants then it’s a waste of time to try and build a fire from the ashes. If there truly is nothing left then a fire is impossible and my time is wasted trying.
Sometimes I think it helps me to recognize where things are so I can spend my time most effectively. You may find other ways to identify your projects and prioritize your time. This is one way which works for me. Whatever the method the goal is the same. Spend your time effectively. Live your life with passion and be successful.
July 30, 2014
Why I Love Open Source (Reason 1)
The conversation rages on, discussion and debate abound, individuals pick fights and people take sides. The community becomes embroiled in each minor change and pick up the banner for the underdog regardless of the logic or lack of evidence supporting a claim. At times it feels almost ludicrous. How could such animosity, such anger and personal feelings be so openly shown within a community? I believe the reason is simple and it is one of the reasons why I love open source.
Reason 1: Open source is full of passion.
Why can so much drama be found in open source communities? (Love the logo there BTW). I believe the answer is a single word. Individuals in open source communities hold a character quality which cannot be bought, sold, forced, or enforced. These volunteers have passion. They believe in what the community stands for and they believe in the power of their voice to improve it. They love the efforts being made and they love the goals the community is trying to accomplish.
At times this passion is difficult to control. Moderating oneself on discussions which matter to them regarding something they feel so strongly for is difficult (impossible?). But this passion, this desire to be a part of the discussion and the community is indeed one of the reasons why I love open source. Let me give you a few examples.
Passion implies dedication
At times it can certainly feel discouraging when there is debate and discussion on every point. In fact, if talking is the extent of every decision then indeed the community will fail. Action must be taken to implement change, to make progress, and to improve. This can be easily lost in discussions and debates. It’s much easier to talk about something than to actually do something. I challenge you now – do something!
That was a freebie ‘aside’. Whenever you get to feeling discouraged or frustrated with these frequent examples of passion (through the form of debate or argument) remind yourself of this simple fact. This level of dedication often occurs because the individual is passionate about what you’re doing and what they believe holds value. If they didn’t-they would leave. (I know at times that seems hard to believe.) The next time you feel like someone is arguing just for the sake of arguing keep this point in mind.
Passion demonstrates attention
When someone can post a comment or create an issue and immediately generate multiple responses this tells me there is a certain amount of attention being demonstrated within the community. Individuals who are showing attention to everything occurring within the community hold a passion about the community. They care. Sounds crazy when you read responses and replies but the bottom line is clear. If they didn’t care they would find another community.
Open source communities frequently rely on the volunteers to contribute time and attention without renumeration (no pay). When a community has a significant number of individuals demonstrating such a high level of attention to details and minor discussions it shows a passion for the community. There is little financial gain for these volunteers but they value the community and its future enough to give it their attention.
Passion shows life
The last thing I use to remind myself when feeling discouraged with the seeming endless debates found in open source communities is the fact that without this debate, without this passion, there would be no community involvement. The very presence of these discussions demonstrates the life of the project and the community which holds them. Each open source community I am involved with seems to hold some level of these discussions and arguments. Each also can be overwhelming at times. But if everything was quiet in the community there would be cause for concern as well.
Bookmark this post!
The next time you are feeling discouraged or frustrated with your community for some reason use this post to remind yourself of the value of the passion which drives your community. Passion in open source communities is an invaluable asset. You won’t find the same type of passion anywhere else. This is one of the reasons why I love open source so much. Open source communities are unique and wonderful.
So take a deep breath and focus on the positive aspects. Then, with a clear mind and a cool head, dive in and make a difference yourself.
Above all, don’t let the passion end in a debate or fall into the trap of endless discussion. Break the cycle, contribute more. Get up, get involved, roll up your sleeves and do something. No matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Just do.
July 23, 2014
The Buzz (Excitement)
Sometimes the excitement surrounding a new product or idea is so strong it’s almost tangible. I’ve had some incredible experiences but one feeling which never gets old is the buzz. The buzz is my way of describing that super awesome sensation when the goosebumps start to form on my arms and the surrounding air is alive with electricity. I live for that feeling. Sometimes I get teased because I’m so passionate about what I do. But I will not apologize for the energy which motivates me and which may be passed on when we talk.
I already said I won’t apologize for my enthusiasm but I think there is something I’d like to share with you which I’ve learned from my personal experience. I love to chase the things which are important to me. Ask me about small business, ask me about the companies which aren’t in the Fortune 500 but have to try to compete with them. I’ve talked to business owners and heard the stories of being unable to adequately represent their skills because of budget or revenues. It’s simply not right. Businesses should succeed based on their skills and their abilities to complete the job best. When barriers unrelated to the job keep the little guy from being adequately represented I get upset. I’ve felt these personal obstacles intimately and have experienced the rejection based on factors completely unrelated to the job. It’s infuriating. Are my feelings clearly on display? I think so. Now that you understand a bit about my passion and where my interest lies maybe you can relate.
I know the common phrase is “Do what you love, love what you do.” There is some real truth in those words. If the feelings I’ve described above are unfamiliar to you and perhaps you don’t relate to the sensations I have shared then I have a question for you. What are you doing?
If you don’t have that goosebump raising excitement when you talk about what you are doing then why are you doing it? If you’re just doing a job to do a job I can certainly relate. The need to pay the bills is a strong one. You can’t pay your rent with a feeling. But here’s the point. Don’t get so lost in the day to day struggle that you live without passion. Make sure you continue fighting for what you truly love. Find those things which you are passionate about and keep your focus on chasing your dreams.
I have to tell you there is nothing that feels the same as when you follow your dreams, and get to share it with others. I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to begin sharing my passion and my big ideas with others. The response has been incredible and every single interaction just confirms what I have thought quietly (and not so quietly) for so many years. If you’ve got questions, ideas, or just want someone to share your ideas with I would love to hear them. If you work in small business then I definitely want to talk with you. We can share struggles, share successes and help each other grow. When I end my posts with the phrase, “We’re all in this together!” I mean it with my whole heart. We share in our fight to succeed and I love to connect with you. I get incredible motivation from those moments and many times it provides me with the energy I need when I’m feeling down or discouraged.
I’ll leave you with this. Do you have the buzz? Do you live with the passion and excitement and desire to share your heart with others? Do those experiences electrify the air around you? If you don’t find yourself empowered and alive doing what you do, then take a moment and re-evaluate where you are and where you’re going. If you’re unsure what I mean by “the buzz” then please feel free to ask me, give me a call, talk to me, and let me share with you what I’m passionate about. I’d love to share my excitement with you and I’d love to help you find your own.
July 14, 2014
A Four Million Dollar Cooler & Potato Salad
I recently observed an incredible phenomenon. I watched as a small orange chest designed to keep cold things cold broke all types of fundraising records. Ironically at this same time a bowl of potato salad has also reached absurd support levels. Does this show of an underlying cultural shift? Where is the social good? Do we have the right focus in our lives and in our investments? What can we learn from these fundraisers and what does it tell us about our world values and priorities?
I believe we can see several priorities of this culture which raise some cause for alarm and would do us well to think on. I don’t say these projects shouldn’t exist and I certainly am not against having a good time. But clearly there comes a time when focus is lost and our priorities become skewed. I list four wrong questions that are asked.
What Does It Do For Me?
Clearly based on these and other recently funded projects we as humans are focused on those items which will benefit us personally. We’re looking for conveniences and humor. Those fundraisers which give us something. The “me” culture which has become so pervasive in our world continues to thrive. We look for those things which will do something for us. We focus our time and give our hard-earned money towards those things which will make us happy. I mentioned humor a second ago, that leads directly into the next human value we find in our world today. Of course it’s human nature, survival instinct, to protect and support ourselves. But what about our neighbor?
Does It Amuse Me?
We want to be entertained. We want to laugh and be happy. There is of course nothing wrong with being happy. I enjoy being entertained as much as the next person. But the problem comes when we focus more on those things which will amuse us rather than improve us. When we spend all our time seeking ways in which we can entertain ourselves we fail to help others. We fail to acknowledge the struggles, the hurt, the pain others are experiencing. There is a time and place for everything. We must be cautious to not become out of balance in seeking to be entertained.
What Is Everyone Else Doing?
These types of fundraising efforts very clearly demonstrates the human nature to follow a crowd. No one likes to be alone and no one wants to be the one on the outside of a group. We follow the crowd. Suddenly supporting these projects become nothing more than joining the crowd. When a tipping point occurs in a project and enough people have backed the venture it becomes almost a necessity to be a part of the movement rather than risk being the outsider. We as a culture fear being left out of something. And yet, we don’t fear being left out of everything, it seems a strange sort of dichotomy the areas where the power of the crowd influences people.
Does It Make Me Feel Uncomfortable?
I believe we can draw from these rather frivolous campaigns the concept that we have a culture of ignorance towards the uncomfortable. Almost in a sense that if we don’t see or hear about those things which make us uncomfortable then they don’t exist or are not happening. We deny their existence and act like a little child who covers their eyes and disappears from the world.
The world is full of people suffering, hurting, and in need of help. You don’t have to look very far to find worthy organizations in desperate need of funding. But this is not pleasant to think on. These organizations make us uncomfortable and do not entertain us; nor do they provide any direct benefit to us. Therefore it is easier to ignore them then to do something about the problem.
The Right Questions
The harsh reality unfortunately shows a culture which lacks empathy for its fellow human. I’m not denouncing every fun and whimsical fundraising effort. I love the excitement and the entertainment involved with them. What I notice however is when these humorous projects are taken to an extreme. When they reach absurd levels and continue to grow while many far more worthwhile and beneficial organizations struggle to make ends meet. I’ve said it before. The key is moderation. When things are in balance there is room for both.
Who does this help?
When evaluating a project this is a great question to lead the way. Who is benefited from the fund raising attempt and in what way. How great is the need and how dire the situation. There’s certainly room for both the fun and the serious projects, but they should be moderated. If you’re only backing projects which do something for yourself, take a moment and look at the other projects which are seeking to do social good. Are there any you can support and improve the life of someone else? Does your backing allow for children to receive medical help, food to eat or a bed to sleep in?
How does this help?
The next great question to ask yourself when evaluating an organization or a fundraising project is how does this help? This often goes hand in hand with who does this help. The next step once you’ve identified who is helped is determining what good comes from it. Even as a single person you can make a difference. When we join together we can do powerful things. We can impact our world and we can implement changes for social good. How does the donation you’re about to make help? Do you save a life, change a village, or even change your world?
What can I do?
This is a powerful question. Ask yourself what you can do. This means acknowledging a need, recognizing a problem and looking to actively be involved in the solution. Don’t be discouraged or think you have little to no impact. Every person counts. Every bit helps no matter how small. What can you do? Maybe you can go further, beyond just a button click and a monetary donation. Can you do more? Take the idea of backing something farther than just virtual backing. Lace up your work boots, pick up a tool belt, a medical bag, or just your passport. What are your skills, what are your talents and what can you do?
Stay In Balance
Our current culture is out of balance. Let’s slow down and focus a bit more on how we can do good. Ask the right questions and we’ll find the right answers. We can find ways to be involved in social good and help others. When we do that we’ll find we are much happier and far more rewarded then any cooler or potato salad could ever make us. Next time you’re about to back a project ask yourself, are you balanced?
If you need help getting started here’s just a few worthy organizations for you (there are of course hundreds more):
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital http://stjude.org
Doctors Without Borders http://doctorswithoutborders.org
Charity : Water http://charitywater.org
No Kid Hungry http://nokidhungry.org
Habitat for Humanity http://habitatgsf.org
Bring Love In http://bringlove.in
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity https://donate.gosh.org/
July 10, 2014
Introducing Something New To Open Source
Open source software is the future of our world. The power of the community has been clearly demonstrated and the opportunity to provide equality to businesses of all sizes has been shown. I’d like to share my latest endeavors with you and encourage you to join me.
Too often businesses are forced in to situations which limits their opportunity and their ability to succeed. Small businesses account for over 65% of all new jobs and more than 22.7 million small businesses existed (several years previous). Strikingly though of this dominant portion of the economy 80% average less than $50,000 in receipts. Small business is a struggle. More small businesses close than open each month and yet the struggle continues.
Small Business Confession
I’m part of a small business. I know firsthand the struggles faced and the challenges which exist in the day to day. One of the greatest concerns and frustrations I meet is the lack of strong software tools available for small businesses. This weighs on me heavily and I am deeply passionate about changing this perceived standard.
“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
– Albert Einstein
What I Fight For
I’ve spent my entire professional life seeking ways to combat these issues and help other small businesses just like myself to succeed and find the resources they need to achieve their goals. Too many vertical markets exist where the only providers are large, closed corporations intent on maximizing their profits and focused solely on serving other businesses of their same size. The Fortune 500 helping the Fortune 500. No one is looking out for the little guy. The underdog. The up-and-comer.
Other Open Source Projects
Through the years I’ve been privileged to be a part of several open source projects and to create several open source tools aimed at providing an equal playing field for small businesses to compete at the same level as these large businesses. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned the importance of good support, the value in a community, and the opportunity for growth through conflicts.
Initiatives I’ve been fortunate to be involved in have released amazing Content Management software, Customer Relationship Management software, Project Management software, Live Chat Management software and others. Each of these software tools has been with the same goal. The empowering of small businesses. We’ve sought to reduce the ridiculous over-priced expense which previously had prohibited small businesses. But there’s still more to do. There are still more challenges to conquer and more ways to empower small businesses. Rest assured I will continue to be an active supporter and vocal contributor to each these open source projects.
Continuing To Grow
I am incredibly excited to share with you the next open source project I’ll be involved in. Myself along with several other close friends have identified a vertical market completely out-of-reach for many small businesses due to the exorbitant monthly costs. Monthly fees exceeding the entire gross revenue of approximately 75% of all U.S. small businesses. And yet a powerful piece of software which incredibly helps those businesses which can afford the service. This tool is revolutionary not just in the powerful, cutting-edge framework upon which its built but also in the disruption it brings to a previously closed market.
I look forward to sharing much more with you through my blog as we go about preparing tools. I’ll share the pain-points, the highs and the lows of beginning a new open source project and we’ll grow together as we begin to form a community. As we go if you have questions, ideas, or just general comments I welcome them. You can contact me directly through my email. The excitement is growing and the buzz is definitely starting to increase. I hope as things progress and I share different behind-the-scenes peeks you’ll start to feel the same enthusiasm that’s driving me!
Beginning a Community
Yes, I know I’m leaving things a bit in the dark at the moment but I promise more will come. I’ll share screenshots, ask for feedback, and just in general do everything I can to get you involved. I’m only one of the people involved in this very exciting effort. If you own, run, or work in a small business I hope you will become more and more involved as we go through this process. It’s never too early to become a part of this new open source community.
I believe in small businesses, equality, and community. I believe in open source.
July 8, 2014
Too often as small business owners we are terrified of failure. Fear is a powerful motivator but it’s not always an appropriate one. We tend to live constantly in fear of failure as though a failure would somehow define us and characterize our lives. We find ourselves judging our usefulness and our self-worth by our successes. We all need to learn a bit more how to embrace failures.
Embracing failures is a difficult thing to do and usually one we don’t enjoy focusing on. It’s much easier to discuss embracing success. We are inherently drawn to the idea of defining success as the positive outcome and failure as the negative outcome. This is not always the case and we should work on being more comfortable with failing. Failures can teach us far more than a success ever could and our opportunity to learn and grow from failure is far greater.
Failure Is Not Final
One of the first things I remember when I find myself failing at something is that failure is not final. I purposely chose the active verb “failing” because I believe many times it’s not a past tense thing I have done, but an ongoing opportunity for change or growth. In fact, along the way to success you may encounter dozens of tiny failures. These failures are not “show-stoppers” so to speak but rather opportunities to shift direction or focus and improve the final product. Here’s a quote by Thomas Edison which I think fits well.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison was famous for his inventions (e.g. the lightbulb) and his persistence. I once had opportunity to visit his laboratory and hear more about some of the more obscure creations he invented. I remember this quote being engraved on a plaque and it stuck with me. He is often thought of for his inspiration & perspiration quote but I find this quote to be far more relevant and encouraging.
Failure Is A Learning Experience
I think most of us would agree that failure is indeed a learning experience. The part we struggle with the most is applying what we learn and implementing change as a result. We can’t simply turn our failures into a distant experience. We should embrace these failures and use them to motivate us in our future efforts. If something doesn’t work the way I planned I try to learn why it didn’t work and use that knowledge to shape my future attempts. We must be willing to acknowledge failure first, and secondly study the failure to analyze exactly why it failed. I wrote earlier about overcoming adversity in that post I mention that adversity is what gives us skills and experience. When those adversities overwhelm us they are still a learning experience.
Failure Is Inevitable
One of my favorite magazines is a monthly one called, Inc. Magazine. This publication shares the stories and successes of some of the popular startups of the day as well as more established companies. A common thread I have found in reading the stories of many of these founders is twofold. First, they will almost all tell you they were not an overnight success. It appears so but in reality they have spent months, years, building up to the point where they became successful. And secondly, many of them will describe the failures they experienced along the way. Failure is a sign of attempting something. If you don’t try then you will never fail nor will you ever succeed. I’m reminded of another quote by another inventor.
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” – Benjamin Franklin
Here’s an incredibly successful inventor, writer, politician boldly stating that we should not fear failure. He doesn’t say you might know failure. He says you will know failure. He too saw failures as inevitable. But instead of giving up he used failure as a motivator. We should continue to reach out and not fear failure. Embracing failure and planning to learn from it.
Failure Is An Event
The last point I want to share is that failure is an event, not a character summary. What I mean by that is to recognize failures will happen and to not place your self-worth in a failure. Just as you would not measure the quality of your life by the time you once went to the beach. A failure is merely another event which occurred in your life. What you do with that failure points more to your character than the actual event of failing ever could. I struggle with this point the most. Possibly more ego and pride than anything else I hate to acknowledge failures as I quickly conclude they are character definitions. This is wrong thinking. I love to use my kids and my wife as my motivation to get beyond the failure. Especially at this time when my children are young. They don’t know me by my business successes or more importantly by my failures. They know me by the time I spend with them and the way I love them and care for them. My personal relationships with each of them create and define my life far more than a failure event ever could.
I encourage you also to use and embrace failure. Embracing failure is hard at times and none of us would seek failures out but as we’ve seen – failures are inevitable and these events will affect all of us. Use them as learning experiences to improve, to grow, and to change. Change can be hard but if we don’t implement change when we fail then we’re not learning from our experiences and becoming better.
July 3, 2014
The Ultimate Productivity Tool
If you’re anything like me you have a list of tasks a mile long you need to complete. This list might exist in your email, your calendar, or possibly even just a piece of paper you’ve scribbled things down on. Bottom line, you have tasks. I have a secret to share with you. The ultimate productivity tool.
Did I get your attention? Here it is. You. That’s right. The ultimate resource at your disposal for getting things done is quite simply yourself. Why is it then so difficult to get things done and to be productive? Why do we spend so much time searching for the perfect app or the perfect tool to do the job? We seem to hope as if by some miracle we’ll find the project management tool that organizes things perfectly! (and even do the work for us)
Procrastinating Is Easy
I have found myself doing the same thing. Procrastinating but pretending I’m actually doing something useful. Productivity means not procrastinating. Sounds simple but as humans we’re extremely good at fooling ourselves. (Sometimes it seems we only fool ourselves). We procrastinate by claiming we’re looking for a better tool. Again, the tool is not going to get the job done for you. The tool merely organizes information.
Of course you need to use tools and you need to be organized and yes, there are different tools with different focuses, but if you spend all your time looking for a different tool which will help you more you’ll never get anything done.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Don’t spend more than 30 minutes looking for a new tool. If you can’t uncover something better than what you’re currently using in 30 minutes stop looking and get back to working. You can always look again later.
Busy Does Not Mean Productive
We tend to trick ourselves into thinking if we’re doing something…doing anything…then we’re busy and we’re productive. In reality being busy is not productive. I often think the more I’m doing the less productive I actually am. Shouldn’t the most productive person be the one who does the least because when they do work they work efficiently and quickly? A productive person will be busy in short bursts rather than live in a continual state of busyness.
If you’re busy look at what is making you busy. Are you busy doing tasks or are you busy looking busy? If you’re busy doing tasks are you working smart? It takes thought to make sure you’re doing the right tasks and working effectively.
Practical application: Break your work time into distinct blocks of time and take breaks. Force yourself to stop and step away and come back. The goal is to get your mind disengaged and then re-engaged when you return. You want to make your time productive and work in short bursts of high efficiency instead of a continually busy frame of mind.
Don’t Chase Rabbits
There’s a number of other reasons why working in shorter time periods is smart. We’ve touched on one already. A second reason is the infamous rabbit trail. For me all it takes is a look up from my computer screen and I find myself hundreds of miles away and thinking about some completely random and totally unrelated topic. If you sit at your desk all day and never take a break you’re encouraging yourself to let your mind wander. Your brain needs breaks. If you don’t plan for breaks in activity then your brain will take its own break whenever it pleases.
There are numerous studies which outline the attention span for humans. And no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise – you need breaks. The key is not to try and fight the mental rabbit trails but to control when and where they occur. Enjoy the daydreaming. Great things can happen when you let your mind wander.
Practical application: Don’t attempt to keep your mind from wandering, instead try to keep your day dreaming to those times you have set aside as breaks. Stay focused on your tasks while you’re in your work block of time. If something drifts across your mind, write it down so you’ll remember it for later. Then get back to work. When your breaks do come, change your scenery (get up), change your posture (move around), and change your mind (chase those rabbits).
The last productivity tip we’ll talk about is doing versus talking. Of course planning is important and you must be thoughtful about what you do. But this does not mean you should spend your entire time discussing your options or reviewing every possible outcome. If you spend all your time analyzing and debating your course of action, you’ll never have a course of action. It’s a balancing act between discussing and doing. (I wrote about these two roles in a separate blog here.)
When you find your time being spent discussing and debating every task and the way each task should be completed; it’s time for a change. (Keep in mind the talking can be just with yourself!) Stop talking and start doing. Even if you find out later there’s a better way you could have done the task. The goal is progress (forward progress).
Practical application: Keep a close eye on the time you spend between discussing the task and doing the task. If you start to elaborate too much or plan for every possible unknown then force yourself to pick a path and start work. Don’t lose time worrying over each and every decision. You can always make changes later.
Here’s the bottom line.
Most of us already know what it takes to be productive. We understand the steps necessary to get things done and we absolutely know the importance of using our time wisely. What we often fail at is implementing and following what we know. Hopefully these productivity tips will help affirm what you already know and encourage you to re-examine your workflow. It’s not the tool or the app which will make you successful and productive. It’s you.
Remember we’re all in this together.
June 27, 2014
Take The Time To Teach
Everyone has a different set of life experiences as well as a different set of skills and background. As a result there is always something to be learned from everyone you meet. Sometimes this is less obvious than others but there’s always something to be learned. You should take the time to teach what you know to others.
There’s a flip side to this idea of you learning from others; you have something of value to share. Your background and experiences make you an excellent candidate to share and teach your knowledge to someone else. And yet I know many people are hesitant. They make excuses and they keep to themselves. Here’s a few common reasons and my replies to each.
“I’m Too Shy”
This is a common one, in fact quite possibly the most common. People like to claim they are too shy to speak up and talk to others. While I understand completely the introvert nature (in fact, I identify most with the introvert personality type) I believe the claim to be shy is a poor excuse. I’ve read many articles (Inc Magazine, Susan Cain, and more) who very plainly point out that introverts actually make for better speakers.
I won’t take the time to go into the various reasons why I agree with the focus of these articles — I encourage you to read them for yourself. However, I will say as an introvert and naturally shy person myself; the claim of shyness for not speaking is a poor excuse.
“I’m Not An Expert”
As I shared in the introduction, this is simply not true. You may feel you are not an expert, and this may indeed be the case. I’ve found no matter how much I learn about a subject and no matter how deep I go in my learning of a particular area there is always someone who knows more. Always. But I’ve learned another interesting fact. Just as there is always someone that knows more there seems to always be someone that knows less.
My experiences and the things I have learned are still considered expert by someone else. I can share what I know and help them learn. The concept of being an expert is a funny one because most people never view themselves as an expert, regardless of how much they know of a subject. The truth is your knowledge is unique and you should share it.
“I Don’t Have The Time”
I guarantee you, you have the time. You may lack the motivation, the interest, or the enthusiasm. You absolutely can have the time. How can I be so sure? Because those things you place value on you find time for. You make the time.
Teaching someone else is a wonderful opportunity unlike anything else. It only takes a minute to teach someone a single concept. No one says you have to jump directly in to teaching a 12 week instructional course. Start small — just start. Set goals which you can easily accomplish. Small goals that may take only 10 or 15 minutes. Write a short paragraph about how you do something.
“I’m Not Sure Where To Start”
This is a great problem to have. I say it’s a great problem because it means you already acknowledge that you can do it. You are willing to teach someone what you know and you merely need to figure out how and where to get started. I love this reason. Get started anywhere. Do you like writing or talking? Do you like things done on-the-fly or rather with a lot of preparation? Answer these questions and it will be easier to decide how to get started.
If you prefer writing, start a blog. If you prefer public speaking check out what events are close by and have a call for speakers. Like preparing? Do recorded videos and screenshares. Prefer in-person live communication? Look at programs where you can be a mentor to someone else. (Do you do PHP? Here’s a great opportunity – http://phpmentoring.org)
So there’s just a few excuses (rather poor excuses) commonly made for not being willing to teach. I should close by saying a few important things to remember about taking the time to teach.
Not Everyone Is A Teacher
First, not everyone is a teacher. Taking the time to teach is very, very different from being a teacher. You can teach someone how to do a particular thing without being a teacher. I touched on this idea briefly in the post above, I’m not referring necessarily to teaching a 12 week course – leave that to the professionals. (Interested in teaching a longer course? Let me know!) I do believe everyone can share their knowledge. Everyone can teach something.
Because You Care
Second, teach something you care about. Don’t try to tackle something you’re not familiar with or have an interest in. Remember, you’re teaching from your experiences, you’re sharing knowledge you have. That puts significantly less pressure on you then attempting to learn a subject just to teach someone else. You’re sharing what you know. Take the time to teach because you should care. You should care about helping others, and you should care about making sure your knowledge and experience is continued forward. Don’t let the skills you possess die with you.
Because It Matters
Last, take the time because it matters. If you’re sharing what you know and you’re sharing something you care about – then it matters. It doesn’t have to matter to everyone (You’re not trying to teach the world). Find the niche and the tribe of people interested in what you are interested in. Seek out your place and share what you know because it matters to them. It matters to all of us.
We’re all in this together! Let’s share our knowledge.
June 26, 2014
Every Day Is A New Day
Today is special. Today is unlike any day before and will be unlike any day yet to come. It’s exciting to think about what the day may hold and it’s exciting to lay out plans for what is to come. Remember, whatever happened yesterday is behind you. Today is full of new opportunities to do great things. Every day is a new day.
Here are ten things to remember as you start this new day. Ten things to help motivate you as you begin your day and encourage you as you accomplish all you hope to do.
Today you can start fresh
I said it earlier, but today is a new day – this means you can make it whatever you want it to be. You don’t have to start the day overwhelmed with the failures of yesterday. It’s a clean slate and a fresh start. You can make today different. You can start fresh.
Today you can be encouraged
Once you’ve enjoyed a cup of coffee (or two) remember that today is a good day to be encouraged. This is linked closely to starting fresh. You can be encouraged in the fact that you have an entire day ahead of you to fill with excitement and opportunities. Today you can be encouraged by your surroundings, by your friends, and by your accomplishments.
Today you can share joy
Too often its easy to only share the frustration and the disappointments. I’ve often heard for every one happy review or positive piece of feedback you receive there are actually a dozen other happy clients. Human nature seems to be more prone to sharing negative experiences instead of positive ones. Today you can share joy. Deep-seated happiness is infectious and you can give that joy today to someone you know.
Today you can help someone
Today is an opportunity for you to share something you know with someone else. It takes an effort on your part to be thoughtful and to seek out someone you can help. Do it. Make the effort because you will be rewarded as well. You never know what your knowledge and assistance can mean to someone. Seek out someone you can help today. Offer a helping hand to someone in need.
Today you can learn something new
Here’s the flip-side to sharing what you know and offering help. Be willing to listen to others and to learn. Today is a day filled with chances to learn. Don’t be too consumed with your own importance to neglect the opportunity to learn. Every single day you can learn something new. Be thoughtful, be observant, be humble. Learn something new today.
Today you can smile
Smiling is an opportunity to receive a gift while you give one. As you smile you will encourage someone to return the smile. You can both be a blessing and be blessed. Look for someone in need of a friend, in need of encouragement, in need of a smile. Today you can smile. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can give a smile over and over. Don’t stop with a single person. Give smiles to everyone you can.
Today you can breathe deeply
Life is incredibly fast-paced. Every day I think we move faster than we did before. Today you can breathe deeply. It only takes a minute to fill your lungs fully, pause for a second, and exhale slowly. Today is a wonderful time to focus on what really matters. You can improve your health, improve your outlook, and improve your life with only a few deep breaths each day.
Today you can meditate
Sometimes, some days, breathing deeply is a great start to something more. Today is an opportunity to quiet your mind, slow down, and meditate. Find a quiet spot, somewhere without the vibration of your phone or the myriad of update notification sounds which stream from your computer. Close your eyes, clear your mind, and meditate. Today you can meditate.
Today you can do something
You have a day of choices ahead of you. The opportunity to fill your hours with something meaningful. The page has already been filled for yesterday, today is a blank page waiting to be written. Make a list of doable tasks. Set some goals. Then get to work. Get those tasks crossed off one at a time. Today is a day you can get things done.
Today you can make a memory
You can make today special. You have time to engage with other people. To share a laugh with a friend, and to encourage someone else. You have the chance to make a memory which will remain with you forever. Today can be a day you will never forget. Spend your time wisely. Make memories you’ll never want to forget.
I know this is different than most of my normal blog posts, but it’s important that we sometimes take the time to encourage each other. Today is a day we should enjoy and make the most of every minute. Don’t live with regret, discouragement or disappointment. Today is fresh and new and together we can make it special.
I hope you have a wonderful day!
June 16, 2014
The Power of Personal Branding
When you’re working for a company in today’s world there are many more opportunities for sharing and discussing your opinions with others around the globe. Your ability to gain a personal following of people is greater than ever before. How does your personal branding interact with your work life and why does personal branding matter?
Many companies now like to impose certain limitations on social postings when it relates to their business and what employees can and should say in their personal social networks. Why should they care about those personal branding opportunities and what should be the accepted solution? Personal branding is a hot topic although perhaps not with that term. A more familiar term might be personal social networks. Or who you are online. Or to put it simply – what you say and do.
Why Personal Branding Matters
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
– Jeff Bezos
What people post online matters. It matters a lot. The reason why is because the internet of today has allowed for audiences and networks of people to connect who never would have connected before. The stage is much bigger. As a result what is said online and how it is said matters because it is powerful. Why do companies limit social network profiles of employees? Unfortunately they limit them because of fear.
Most companies worry about lots of things. They worry about their competitors, they worry about the market, they worry about revenue, and they worry about employees just to name a few of the worries. Everyone missteps and makes mistakes and a company is no different. To grab a famous quote:
“You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
The larger a company gets the more likely they will at some point make a decision not particularly appreciated by everyone. Companies fear this moment. They use words like backlash and scandal to describe these moments. As a result they try to monitor and limit personal social networks to help ease this fear. Is this acceptable? Should a company be allowed to dictate what is or is not shared on social networks? I believe that’s the wrong question. The better question would be: Has the company hired the right type of employee?
The Right Employee
If companies are hiring the types of employees who love their job and love their company and resonate with the core beliefs and missions of the company then their online personal branding will also reflect this. Of course I would never be so bold as to assume that if a person agrees with their company vision they will never have a difference of opinion or be disgruntled over a decision. The difference is the reaction. It always comes down to the reaction. Sometimes there is no power over the decision made, but there is always power over the reaction.
The right employee understands more than just the decision made. The right employee understands the intentions and motivations of the company and interprets the decisions made through those beliefs. No, they will not always be right. But understanding the heart of the company results in a different reaction. And elicits a different response.
The Right Company
It’s not all about the employee. The right company makes the decisions which best follow the mission and values established. Making decisions that match up to these core beliefs allows others the opportunity to acknowledge why a decision was made and the thinking behind the choice. The weight of a good decision is indeed a heavy one but the right company handles them through careful listening and proper communication.
Secondly, online personal branding matters because it provides a way for you to grow as a person. A personal brand is an opportunity to expand. An opportunity to make new connections and to grow beyond a current position.
A personal social network provides a platform to share thoughts, connect with others, and to grow. Ultimately self-improvement occurs. Beliefs are shaped, friendships established, and opinions formed as a result of social network interactions and the availability of others. This personal growth also allows for personal branding. Posts and thoughts shared help to establish a niche. No longer are social conversations limited to a small and local audience. Voices are much louder. You now have the ability to expand your horizons. And you should make the most of it. Force yourself to grow, challenge yourself to think and encourage others to become better as well. Your personal brand matters.
The community perception is the last point we will look at quickly in regards to why your personal branding matters. By community perception I mean what does your personal branding say about you to others. We’ve looked at the risks and fears of personal branding to corporations; and we’ve looked at how personal branding can encourage your own growth. Now let’s look at how personal branding shapes what others think of you.
I left this point until last because this is the most common way personal branding is interpreted. What you say and do online is most commonly associated with how others think about you. As you’ve seen above however it is much more than just what others see. Personal branding affects where you work, how you work, and how you grow as a person. Only after those things begin to take shape do you really notice how others view you.
3 quick tips when establishing your personal branding
I’d like to offer three very quick tips to help you as you establish (grow) your personal branding. Follow these and you’ll find satisfaction in your personal brand efforts.
Be true to yourself
Your personal brand should be a true reflection of who you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not to please others. Don’t put on a fake persona purely to reach a certain market share or demographic. Your social networks, your connections, your communication should be a true reflection of who you are and what you believe. Anything else and people will see right through you. Be honest with yourself and with others. Your personal brand should always be genuine.
Your personal brand should always be considerate. Learn how to disagree with respect and dignity. As mentioned earlier you will never agree with everyone 100% of the time. Understand you’ll disagree with others. Handle personal disagreements with character and grace. You’ll gain their respect even if they still disagree on your opinion. Being considerate also means listening. Don’t talk down to others or attempt to force them to agree with you. Listen to what they say and understand why they think the way they do. Your personal brand should always be considerate of others.
Never be afraid to share your thoughts and your opinions. They are yours. No one else holds the power over your feelings. It’s easy to think of boldness as loud. I recommend trying to be quietly bold. Be bold, but not brazen in your approach. Yes, you are in control of your own feelings and opinions, but temper them with consideration. Be respectful of others while still expressing yourself. Your personal brand should always be bold.
Remember your personal branding efforts should never be established because of a desired outcome. Your personal branding should be a genuine reflection of who you are and what you believe. You should be considerate to others and you should be bold to share and interact in the community. Personal branding is an image of you, a reflection of your values and beliefs.
Your personal branding is powerful. And your personal branding matters.
May 26, 2014
Taking Time Away From Keyboard
I love technology, and I love working on code. In fact, sometimes I realize I’ve been spending every waking moment in front of a screen of some kind. This past weekend was a welcome change of pace from that life. A weekend away from keyboard.
My family and my wife’s family has always had an affinity for camping. I remember soon after my wife and I were married and after spending several camping trips “roughing it” in a tent we decided it was time to upgrade to the “next level”. Which meant in our meager way, we moved from a tent camper to a popup.
This was a huge move for us. We weren’t sleeping on the ground any more but actually had beds and even a sink! We were most definitely living the high-life. Now looking back it’s been 7 years we’ve spent our camping time in this wonderful little camper. We’ve grown from a family of two to a family of 5. And through it all this camper has given us a chance to get away from it all. A chance to get away from keyboard and all the encumbering constraints of technology.
As busy as my life can get at times it’s critical to take some time and get away. De-stress and even (dare I say it) step away from the devices and electronics. I have found these trips away to be incredibly helpful in more ways than one. Not only do I get a chance to leave the electronics behind but I also can take a deep breath of fresh air and do something that is truly special. I get to spend quality time with my family.
Sometimes amidst all the conferences, airports, lecture halls, business meetings, and all-night coding sessions it can be easy to
forget neglect the importance of family and friends. Or pets. Or anything beyond the computer. Life is more than lines of code, more than business meetings, more than flights and hotels. Life is about relationships (I’ve blogged about that before – here and here). Sure a good bit of my travels and meetings are for building relationships and spending time with my “extended family”. But these camping trips are special.
So here’s a word of encouragement. Don’t neglect your closest relationships. Remember that computers, phones, tablets, and all other electronic devices are tools to accomplish a purpose, they don’t control you. Step away from them and spend some time in ‘real-life’. Enjoy the fresh air and nature and the opportunity to share your life with family and friends.
(My kids with their cousins)