September 4, 2014 Comments (0)

Running Headlong After Each New Thing that Lights Me Up

September 4, 2014 Comments (0)

I just finished Ryan Holiday's book, Growth Hacker Marketing. While I was reading it I found myself excited by the notion of tossing out old ways of Marketing. I was thinking, "I could do this. This sounds awesome! I'll start tomorrow." Then I realized I've been here before.

Since 2012, I've been on a quest for new and interesting aspects of the work I do—new ways of doing things I already do, or perhaps, new things to do altogether. I am not talking about finding a new job, but rather, finding new ways I can bring new ideas and new value what I am already doing.

I get into a new topic after reading some amazing book or watching a talk that lights me up and I want to run headlong into the subject. I want to be that subject. I've gone so far as to change my title at work a couple of times or, at the very least, get on a kick for doing exactly what I just read. Tthis applied learning has it's benefits. It clearly highlights that I am driven by learning new things.

I've dived head first into a number of fascinating topics including Content Strategy, Digital Strategy (which I think I am most aligned with), Content Marketing, User Experience, Customer Experience (something related to UX but more a holistic Marketing thing). Of course these are all related to Marketing, communications and creating great experiences.

The realization that I grab hold of the latest thing to blow my mind, doesn't make me upset (though it is a little embarrassing). The key lesson here is to take what I learn from it, combine it with all the other stuff that's come before and apply it.

So, today I am really into Growth Hacking1. I am not going to change my title on any of my social bios but I am going to change some of the things I was doing yesterday—and all future yesterdays—until I jump onto another topic that lights me anew.

Image license: Ryan M

1Before I heard Ryan on a podcast talking about the book and reading the book, I was very turned off by what I thought was Growth Hacking. This was based on the many Marketing-morons who didn't really get it but were spouting about it on Twitter.

September 2, 2014 Comments (0)

Feeling Great by Completing Unfinished Projects

September 2, 2014 Comments (0)

Over the Labour Day weekend, I completed some home repair projects that have lingered unfinished—some for years. I installed two ceiling fixtures and two wall sconces. I installed the crown moulding in the downstairs powder room. I hung a wall mount for one of the TVs and removed an unused TV from the family room.

Having any of these projects completed was a small accomplishment. Each completed project compounded the feeling of accomplishment and made me want to find other projects to get done. I've got a taste and now I am craving more 'completes'.

When you let things slip or go unfinished, the first step is to face restarting. Don't imbue the tasks with bad feelings of not finishing in the first place. Start unfinished projects as new and untarnished. Complete them and feel great. Repeat. Repeat.

September 2, 2014 Comments (0)

Tearing off the Bandage

September 2, 2014 Comments (0)

For nearly a year I've looked at the last blog post I wrote. I'd come to the front page and see the image I chose for it and think, "I need to post something here." Still, I never did.

I felt bad I let so much time pass. I felt I had nothing to say. I felt my ideas were stupid. I felt guilty because it was really procrastination keeping me from sharing my thoughts and ideas.

Today, I am tearing off the bandage.

September 13, 2013 Comments (0)

Growth and Development for Personal and Professional: An Exploration

September 13, 2013 Comments (0)

Recently, I have been mulling on the idea of personal and professional growth and how it relates to career and business.

First, here are a couple things that have contributed to this line of thought:

Dharmesh Shah from Hubspot on Hubspot's culture:

One of the core tenets of HubSpot culture is that we want to increase individual market value. In other words, we want someone’s currency to have risen higher at HubSpot than any other place they could have gone.

And, a tweet from Amber Naslund:

Here are four notions I am working through for upcoming posts/explorations:

  • We are a risk if we are the same person, with the same views and same skills we had when we started. Businesses that do not make room for their people to grow are at risk. Do you see this as true?
  • We must prioritize our own projects to give it the attention it deserves and remove the distraction of it's pull. If we can move it forward, we can focus more fully on our other obligations. What are your views on this?
  • Do we have a responsibility to grow professionally and as people? For ourselves and for the people who we work with or for? What do you think?
  • I had unknowingly become an appliance. I am looking to find ways to grow and change in order to do better work and create more value for myself, my family and for the people I work with. Is this something you actively work on or is it part of who you are?

I've started working on posts to explore each but am very interested in hearing the experiences of others on these ideas/notions.

Image credit: Kevin Dooley

August 25, 2013 Comments (2)

How a Chance Encounter with a Jogger Changed My Path Forever

August 25, 2013 Comments (2)

Each morning I walk three laps around the pond near our house. It is a perfect place to walk while listening to Podcasts. The path is gravel and dirt—in places carpeted by a layer of pine needles—and closely follows the contour of the water, rising and falling natural elevation. On three sides of the pond, the hills are packed with red pines like a silent audience at an amphitheatre. It is quiet and rarely do I see another person. It is like a walk in the deep woods.

When I first started my walks around the pond, I instinctively traveled clockwise. I'd head up the steep slope of the path into the woods, toward and then past the museum and town pool. Then, I'd make my way down an even steeper slope that takes me back to the the main path and follow around the water, back to my start position. I do one or two more laps depending on the time I had.

To change things up one morning, I decided to go counter-clockwise. It felt strange. It seems silly that it would feel any different. It's just walking a path, but I found myself feeling something wasn't right. A couple more laps in this direction and it felt normal—or rather, it didn't feel strange any longer.

One day not to long after my directional change-up, I was walking counter-clockwise around the pond. A jogger approached from behind. As is the custom, anyone passing will say, "Good morning." The jogger slowed to a walk along side me and said, "I'm visiting the area. I just happened on this path and it's a nice place to run. Do you know if there are any other areas like this?" I responded, "Sadly, I've lived here for 9 years and I have no idea." I then pointed to the path and gestured to the left and up and added, "I like to go up the steep hill to work out my legs." By the time I finished speaking, he was back into his jog, gestured to a path at the right, that was not part of the main path. I told him it would just take him back up to the street. He turned and resumed his full-speed jog and he was almost instantly out of my sight.

As I walked my second lap around the pond, I couldn't get my mind off the out-of-town jogger's gesture toward the other path—the one that that led away from the main path. I thought to myself, "I had never actually taken that path. I've only ever stayed on the main path." To me, the idea of leaving the main path felt far more foreign an idea than switching my route from clockwise to counter-clockwise.

On my third and final lap, I approached the my path-not-taken. In that moment I decided I was going to change that. With resolve, I veered onto the new-to-me path. Each footstep changed me. I could feel my mind adjusting. It wasn't scary. It wasn't going to hurt me. It was something new. It sure felt odd to be off my path, and I did confirm that it brought me out to the street exactly as I assumed.

The visiting jogger showed me something important. I—we are not bound by patterns of behavior and habits. We can experience new things. If we purposefully step out of our patterns, we'll dramatically increase the odds, frequency and quantity of new experiences.

Do you step out of your patterns? Do you make an effort to change things up? Or, do you always make the right on your way home and never the left? I want to be your out-of-town jogger and ask, "What's down that path?"

July 18, 2013 Comments (6)

Taking Stock and Picking Up the Paddle

July 18, 2013 Comments (6)

I've spent a long time in the current of life, and even though I have a paddle and the personal strength to direct my course, I just continue to float without considering where I've been and where I'd like to go.

I've been reflecting on things that I've done recently and what I might wish to explore or change, however, I've not really done the work of taking complete stock of things in my work and home life with regard to activities, behaviours, shortcomings and strengths. In writing this, I realize I am considering doing a SWOT analysis (for those of you familiar with them).

So, I'll make a list of what I am doing and evaluate each item. Do I like it, am I good at it, what do I need to change about it or do I need to do it at all? There may be more criteria I will use to evaluate but those are certainly a start.

I've received advice about goals and purpose: do not stay still until struck by some ultimate goal, rather, to start moving and see what goals and purposes emerge from my actions. I feel that in order to best start moving I need to take this inventory and do the analysis then grab that paddle and start heaving in a direction of my choosing.

Have you ever done a personal inventory? Have you ever taken stock of what you are good at, what you are not, what gets you jazzed, what annoys the hell out of you and at the less extreme just bores you to tears? If you have, share your story in the comments, or send me an email if it's too personal.

July 4, 2013 Comments (0)

Narrative: The Storytelling Powerhouse

July 4, 2013 Comments (0)

I love reading and writing. It seems crazy to me that, just now, after 40 years of life, I realized how powerful and important stories are. I tweeted this 'eureka' moment as soon as it donned on me.

I've been reading more books on my quest to grow and change. The books that resonate most take a narrative form. The narratives can be complete archetypal tales or short anecdotal stories. In contrast to narratives, prescriptive works—ones that tell you what ought to be and I ought to do, leave me feeling invalidated and foolish for not coming to this conclusion myself.

Fictional Archetypes

Some examples archetypal narratives that had significant impact for me include: Michael Gerber's, The EMyth Revisited (one of my all time favourite business books), Dave Chilton's Canadian, personal-finance classic, The Wealthy Barber, and, Freshbooks founder, Mike McDerment's, recent small-business revelation, Breaking the Time Barrier.

Each book is built around fictional characters to tell the story of their circumstances, based on the real circumstances many of us find ourselves in. The books then develop and demonstrate the clear path through the challenges and into the new reality. We see ourselves in that character. Since the character is just like us, we can see ourselves moving to the same place. We're not being told what to do, they are. And, through their changes and responses, we see the way.

Anecdotal Narratives

Other forms of narrative I find compelling are anecdotal narratives from other people who've had experiences similar to our own. These stories of other people—who are like us in many ways—show us that we're not alone; people who've been at the bottom or fell from the top or struggled with addiction or survived a great illness.

When we're in the middle of it we all feel alone. People have had these experiences since time-immemorial. When we hear the stories of others we feel less alone. People who inspire others use this form of personal narratives to let people see that they are not alone and describe how they moved forward.

Recently, the personal narratives that most inspired me include James Altucher's, Choose Yourself and Kamal Ravikant's Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It.

Oral Narratives: Podcasts

In addition to books, I've found a number of wonderful podcasts that deal with business and personal development. The beauty of podcasts is, many of them are conversational-format interviews. I find the most impact and inspiration from the narratives in the podcasts. The best hosts encourage guests to share personal stories of their experiences. I can't get enough.

The podcasts I listen to regularly, contain both simple and deep personal stories. The host draws out the stories from their guests, but also share their own reflection of similar circumstance which magnifies the impact. This isn't about inserting themselves into the narrative of the guests, me too-ing, or ego but rather a instinctive need to share experience with another person. Isn't shared experience what togetherness is?

Here are the podcasts I am listening to right now: Chris Brogan's Human Business Way podcast, Jonathan Fields', The Good Life Project, John Dumas', Entrepreneur on Fire and Lewis Howes', The School of Greatness.

These glimpses of the truth from others' lives, brings a lens of perspective to our own lives. In my case, the stories of the feelings I had, have an immense impact on me. They helped me see that I am part of the world and the world isn't always roses. In fact it's sometimes shit. Hearing the stories of when it's been painful or shitty for others has power. It gives power to see ourselves in them and how they've grown and changed.

Sharing Narratives is Important

I've begun to share some of my story. I've shared of my fears, of becoming passive and an almost empty shell. At first, it was for the catharsis of getting it off my chest. Now, I realize that by sharing it I helped others. Not thousands or anything like that. A few people have reached out to me privately to tell me my story helped them feel less alone in their struggles or pain. I've done the same. I've reached out to people whose stories helped me to thank them for sharing. I knew the impact it had on me, and therefore, the impact it might have for another person.

Forever Changed

This realization about the power of stories will change me forever. The work that I do is going to change forever. It is going to be about telling and sharing stories. This will apply with my day job as a Marketing and Communications guy but also as someone seeking new ideas, working to understand and share experiences. The best way to share and communicate is clear to me now: narrative story.

June 26, 2013 Comments (0)

Exploration

June 26, 2013 Comments (0)

One of the items on my Ten Ideas: Idea Topics for This Series post was to come up with ten blog niches about which I, or anyone might write about. My own issue is that I am only just entering my period of self-reflection. I am still fumbling around to find a direction to head.

It seems, at least for now, this blog is about exploration—a conduit through which I can examine what does and doesn't capture my imagination.

Is exploration enough? Don't we all explore? Is it a worthy topic to cover?

June 26, 2013 Comments (9)

Lost Goals, Passivity and Fear

June 26, 2013 Comments (9)

What happens when you realize you have no goals?

This happened to me. One of the lowest points in my recent past (early spring 2013) was coming to the realization that I stopped planning my own future, setting my own goals and creating a vision for the future. This was scary. What do you do when you don't know what to do? It's like getting in your car and starting to drive but not knowing where you ought to go, who should come with you and why you're even in the car in the first place. You are just doing without reason. This should seem pretty crazy. It is what happens when you become passive.

The road to passive is paved with the desire for acceptance and the absence of ambition. I don't know if this is a truth but for me, I wanted people to like me more than I wanted to be me. I hate confrontation. I am sure most people do. But what happens when you don't assert yourself, your ideas, your points of view or your opinions because you're afraid to be rejected? You become passive. You become a receptacle for inputs and you respond in ways that will not disappoint or require you to object. Simply put, this is fear.

I was afraid. I was afraid to lose my job. I was afraid people would find out I am a fraud. I was afraid that I was out of my depth. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid to disappoint my co-workers. I was afraid to disappoint my family.

Living with this type of fear was stressful. It's not rational but when you're on an eggshell treadmill doing things to please others and avoid rejection at all costs, your mind is working against you. I am sure my stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) were constantly flowing through my body. I put on weight. I drank more. I was exhausted. I was angry. I was reactionary. I was becoming a pathetic asshole. I had to get off this treadmill.

This is the journey I am on now. I am off the treadmill for the most part but it's tempting and often easy to step back on for a nice dose of low impact life. It takes work to stay off and forge a new groove. So, it's time to ditch fear.

I am starting with me. The first goal is to crush the fear and mute the desire to be accepted. And how do we quell our need for acceptance? With love. That love must come from within. The love of oneself. The love that makes us better and want to help others have love.

Chris Brogan, not to long ago, interviewed Kamal Ravikant about the topic of his simple and profound book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. Kamal's book describes the truth he found recovering from his lowest point of illness and depression and the power of self-love. This notion may seem too new-agey or, for some, even narcissistic (although narcissists don't really love themselves). It's the idea of truly being in love with yourself can make you feel like you can do anything. Remembering when we were first in love—not infatuation but truly in love, we felt the world could bring us no ill. If we can have this love within, we can have that same feeling about the world. That feeling that we can handle anything the world throws at us because we're in love.

I've started with this one goal. Other goals are starting to slowly bubble up through the crusty shale formed by passivity. Fear is waning. I'll call that a win.

June 25, 2013 Comments (0)

Ten Ideas: Idea Topics for This Series

June 25, 2013 Comments (0)

This is part of my Ten Ideas series, inspired in whole by James Altucher and his brilliant book Choose Yourself. In each post I explore ten new ideas to pursue, for others to use or possibly spawn new ideas between people. Most will be bad, some will be good and all will be worthwhile.

This post will explore ideas for the ideas I will generate as part of exercising my idea muscle. It's meta for sure. It was worth it for me, maybe there's something here for you.

Ten Topics For a Podcast

I've been thinking about starting a podcast over the last few months and haven't narrowed in on a topic to start on. The podcasts I listen to are generally around business, entrepreneurship, web development and personal growth. I don't know that there's a need for yet another voice in this space.

Ten People to Follow on Social Media

Really, this should be entitled "ten people to get to know because they are smart, inspiring or just plain interesting." I follow lots of interesting people and many of whom you might find interesting. This post idea is not about a quaint #FollowFriday but about sharing some people from whom I learn and grow with others who may be on similar journeys of growth and exploration.

Ten Inventions Needed for My Life

This one might be hard to write and will require some serious thought. I have pretty much everything I need in terms of gadgets but I am sure there are some things I could think of that don't exist in the real world (that I am aware of) that could change my life and that of others. Some may be for selfish reasons, some may be for the good of the world. I can't wait to see where this list takes me.

Ten Blog Niches

Sure, you could say there are blogs on every topic to the point of saturation. Similar to the podcast topic above, I am not sure where this blog will go. I've been posting here in fits and starts over the last couple of years after doing the same with other blogs and never building a theme (save for the work I did at smashingred.com and do at work at modx.com). Should it cover learning, creativity, starting over, life changes, my personal trials and successes of work and life? I should be saving this for the actual list post.

Ten Conferences I've Always Wanted to Attend But Never Have

Over the years I've pined to attend many conferences on Web Design and Development, Content, Marketing, Design and much more. Realistically, I've never made a real effort to go and being away from my family has a host of challenges so just heading off to a conference for myself and leaving them behind is not exactly something I can do and feel good. Thinking about the ones I'd like to go to and possibly speak at, I'll be able to consider why they appear worthwhile and whether I should go to in the future.

Ten Business Ideas from Two Or More Unrelated Ideas

This list is similar to (or exactly the same as) an exercise in James Altucher's book that started me down this path to exercising the idea muscle. This is done all the time in the entertainment industry where you take two completely disparate successful film ideas and combine them to something new. An example would be Die Hard meets Little Orphan Annie or The Cabin in the Woods meets Chicago. One more for fun would be Aliens meets Pocahontas (Avatar anyone?). None of these make sense at first glance, but who knows what could happen if you explored those disparate ideas and built a synopsis. Now this list will do the same with business and see what happens.

Ten Books to Write

This one is something I'd really like to explore deeply. I've heard time and time again that everyone has a book in them. I love to write and I'd love to write something and share it with the world. When I was in high school (and a little bit into University) I used to write poetry, song lyrics and short form fiction. I've had grand ideas of novels and once wrote some pretty trashy story starts as well. I am not sure if fiction is the path to take. I'll start the list and see what happens. Maybe a good idea will come and I can start on something. If not, maybe you can.

Ten Things I Used to Do And Wonder About Revisiting

As I mentioned in the 'books to write' item above, I used to write poetry (who knows if it's any good, it likely wasn't) and I've written more and more over the years even though I probably wrote very little from 1991 when I left University (no I didn't graduate) until 2004 when the work I started SmashingRed as web development and Marketing business (it was just a tiny freelance operation). What else can I look to my past for to round out my life. I used to play guitar and write songs in a basement band, I skateboarded from the time I was 5 to over 20 and I just stopped. I played Hockey, baseball, and paddled competitively as a teen. Which of these things, if any, should I revisit?

Ten Books to Read in the Next 6 Months

I've become a faster reader and love to read all I can. Every time I come across a topic that piques my curiosity or an author or thinker that has things to say that resonate with me and what I am interested in, I want to read what they write. I was first introduced to James Altucher by Chris Brogan on his podcast. What interested me in James initially was how Chris spoke of him and how it sounded like he was impacted by James ideas. I have a fondness for Chris as I see similarities in certain aspects of our personal journeys. When Chris interviewed James and then James interviewed Chris, I had to have James' book when it came out. It's one of those books that grabbed me and changed me. I want to find 10 books so that I can find another that will have a similar impact.

Ten People to Have a Meaningful Connection With in the Next Seven Days

In my dark state of earlier this year, I realized that I've been missing out on meaningful connections with people. I've been working from home since 2004 and most of the time I am staring at a blue screen. I've relied very heavily on my wife to be my source of connection.

What I do today, working at MODX is a result of making a connection with people in the MODX community and becoming friends with Ryan and some of the other team which led to a job, which led to something extremely challenging and interesting. It was those connections and building on them that made that happen.

I think I need to start exercising my connection muscle and build meaningful and strong connections with some and open opportunities with others. I am going to start this by listing ten people I want to connect with and I mean truly connect with. How I am going to do this and not be entirely self serving is another topic. I think the key will be to just ask about them. Lewis Howes, said in a recent podcast (I don't remember which one, it might have been the one where James Altucher interviews Lewis) that he just used to ask people what brought them their success and instead of a request for time or help, he just took interest in them. This sounds a little Covey-esque. I've not read Seven Habits so I can't say for sure.

Idea Exercise Day One: Success

My first go at exercising my idea muscle was a good experience. In the planning of this post I actually ended up with 17 topics and I had thought I'd just post them even if this is a 'ten list'. I've decided I'll keep them for another time.

What about you?

Is there anything you want to take from this list? Every item on this list is yours to pursue or you can even take on the exercise in your own way.

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