exploring web stuff, organizations, leadership, and general miscellany.
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July 4, 2013

Narrative: The Storytelling Powerhouse

July 4, 2013

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


June 26, 2013

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

Lost Goals, Passivity and Fear

June 26, 2013

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

Ten Ideas: Idea Topics for This Series

June 25, 2013

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.

June 20, 2013

Choosing Myself / Idea Workout Day One

June 20, 2013

I started reading James Altucher's book, Choose Yourself, yesterday. It's brilliant. He's brilliant. I'll talk more about James and his book in a later post as I am just beyond the half-way mark. I suspect I'll finish it tomorrow.

The Idea Muscle; Mine's in Sad Shape

I am compelled to share one of the key recommendations of the book: generating ideas as part of a Daily Practice. This makes a tonne of sense. He writes of the "idea muscle" and the risks of not working it regularly. The result of not using your idea muscle is that it will atrophy, just the same as when you stop moving for a prolonged period of time, your physical muscles atrophy. I've seen this atrophy in action in both my ideas and body.

After emerging from a rather dark state recently (more on that in a future post), I realized I stopped coming up with new ideas. I was working on the line waiting to react to things served to me by others. Ideas served by others, goals served by others, decisions served by others. I'm doing much better now and the stain left by this dark period is fading but it requires lots of light and exposure to positivity. In any event, before even hearing about James Altucher (first by Chris Brogan and then other smart folks who I've discovered recently), I came to that realization of my failure to generate ideas and be the origin of my actions.

So, when I started reading Choose Yourself, it struck me that not only should I start working on generating ideas as a Daily Practice (sic), I started to wonder what would happen if I shared those ideas? I am not afraid of someone stealing them, I am not afraid of people thinking they are stupid—although many will be.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits related the story of what started him down the road of his success to Jonathan Fields on The Good Life Project. He said that it was that he made his commitment and practice public. Leo found that putting his goals out there and sharing his results was a way to bring (or force) accountability and help document the progress. People who found his writing saw their own struggles and could identify with what he was doing and it had an impact on their lives.

My First Idea

So, my first idea is to publish and freely share my ideas. I want to put them out there for people to look at, think about, use themselves, suggest we try to execute together, share with friend in need of an idea. They won't all be good. Some will be real stinkers or just plain nuts but in sharing I hope I can help myself and better still, help someone else.

May 22, 2013

10 Months

May 22, 2013

It's been nearly 10 months since my last post here. Where did the year go? What happened? What have I been up to?

I guess, yet again, it's time to light the pilot light on this blog. 

August 12, 2012

Progress of Design in Perpetual Beta

August 12, 2012
Image of this site's CSS File

I have been tinkering with the design here.

The current blog design is one I created to be light, clean and very readable. It was not originally designed to scale down for mobile or small screens.

Yesterday, I spent a little time making adjustments to allow it to respond based on device screen size. This required some layout changes at smaller sizes as well as ensuring that on large screens things don't get haywire.

The next experimentation will clean up the typography further and potentially make this design available to be distributed in some form.

I am hardly a designer—more a student of design. I appreciate design that delivers on a functional and aesthetic level simultaneously. It's what I am aiming for and this offers me a little creative outlet beyond writing and my other work.

Why am I sharing this? First, it is to offer a little insight into the design process and all that entails and second, to force myself to write and share on a consistent basis.

What creative experiments might you consider sharing?

August 10, 2012

The Truth Will Always Be out There

August 10, 2012
The Truth Is Out There (X-Files Tagline)

I've been on a mission to learn all I can to live a long, healthy and active life. I want to feel good and ideally postpone or avoid much of the degeneration and disease of old age. To better understand and find approaches, I read a number of blogs, studies and journals on human health and well being.

Every day I am amazed see new theories emerging with new truths replacing old truths. What this really means is that we were not at the truth, if the truth is an irrefutable absolute. There is truth in choice and numbers. Our understanding of the universe, however, is not boolean.

Agent Fox Mulder knew the "Truth is Out There" but like tomorrow, when it comes to making sense of the world around us, truth is not something that ever arrives but an always present horizon.

What are we left with?

We have understanding.

Understanding is not truth, it's a milestone on the road to the absolute truth. Some understanding we hold is closer to the truth end of this infinity—some is just off the starting line. Furthermore, we have no idea where we are on the road, there are few, if any, landmarks. There is no end, and the flag waving in the distance that shows the last stop moves fluidly closer and further away, sometimes completely out of sight and at other times nearly close enough to touch.

Let go of truth and instead use it as a beacon while you build your understanding and consider the truths of others ingredients to reflect on and incorporate into your understanding. You will feel relief by giving up on truth because you no will longer be betrayed by the new truths and welcome them into your understanding with open arms.

June 20, 2012

7 Questions to Ask when You Are Distracted to Get Your Focus Back

June 20, 2012

For many people, staying focused is easy, for others, it is a constant struggle against the forces of resistance to get the work done.

Here's my list of the 7 questions I ask myself when distracted and some solutions for each:

  • Are you checking your email? If so, stop!
  • Are you looking at social media sites? If so, stop!
  • Do you have unread articles open in my browser? If so, save to “Read it Later” or Evernote.
  • Have you started a task on request without evaluating it? Is it important? Stop doing it, evaluate it, and either add to list in priority, or, just do it if less than 2 minutes of effort.
  • Have you reviewed your daily task lists and prioritized? If not, do so now. Then, do one of the things on your lists.
  • Have you added all new requests for action to your task lists? If not, do so now. Then, do one of the things on your lists.
  • Have you written down or added new ideas to Evernote? If not, do so now.Then, go to your task list and pick something to do on your lists.

You don't need to use the tools I use such as Evernote or Instapaper. Getting your ideas out of your head and into some sort of container will free you of the psychic baggage that is preventing you from getting focused work done.

Share Yours

What tactics do you use for staying focused and getting things done?

Update: I just realized I have another item to add to the list: "Are you checking for responses and shares of your blog post? If so, stop it.

March 7, 2012

Using Blog Software Doesn't Make you a Content Management Expert

March 7, 2012

I have developed a new pet peeve. I have been observing a proliferation of Marketing and Business experts who frequently recommend the use of blog tools for businesses because they have personal experience with them.

Keep Away from the Drafting Table

Living in a house and doing minor repairs and maintenance doesn't make you an architect, does it? So how does maintaining and writing a blog make you a Content Management technology expert?

All Businesses Have Unique Needs

Real businesses need real tools to market, sell and create interaction points for their brands. Sure blogs are a valuable piece of the marketing puzzle but centering your complex business needs around a niche technology because a respected expert in another field likes using it doesn't make sense.

Experts: Keep to Your Domain

If you are a business or marketing consultant or expert, please consult the experts in the Content Management and technology fields for advice and recommendations rather than just your personal experience.

Seek the Right Advice

If you are a business owner, start up marketer, I implore you to seek the advice of real professionals who may be at a local digital marketing or creative agency, business technology consultant or Content Management consultant about the challenges and goals you are hoping to address.

Know Your Tool is the Right One

Finally, I am not saying some businesses shouldn't use blog software for their website. You should have the right tool for your need and budget but make sure you know you're using the right tool and not just what your well meaning marketing or business expert finds works for them.