Archive | October 2010

A few day’s reprieve

After going gangbusters for the past week and a half with seminars, it was time to sit and catch up. I took a look at my notes from the Vegas and D.C. events and started typing them up. I’ll get a wiki or some such going. It’s the best way for people to come and go with the collected data.

I forgot how much I enjoy not having much to do. My old roommate from D.C. let me crash at his place once my second event concluded and he went to work like normal, leaving me to my own devices Thursday and Friday. The hours sort of hurried by as I watched the Twitterstream. Now that it’s Friday, I feel almost guilty that I don’t have all of my notes transcribed.

Not too guilty, though. I am using personal days for these final few days in D.C., so I’m not technically on the clock. If I’m a little sluggish is responding to work email, so be it. The purist in me would say leave the work phone off altogether. But I know it’s better to chip away at the email mountain now than try to climb it flat-out when I get back to the office. For all the “you’re not allowed to use personal sites at work” sentiment that still persists in many circles, I don’t think those particular managers realize how much work life already permeates personal time.

Others do realize that, and it’s why I’m very okay with people taking a few minutes to look up that thing on Amazon they were wondering about. Sure, it technically is “time wasted,” but so is eating lunch. So is saying “hi” to a coworker. As much as I thought the message of “give a little, take a little” in terms of personal/work time had already been established in workplace circles, I’m still surprised how often I run into organizations who still believe their workforce is 100 percent productive between the hours of 8:59 a.m. and 5:01 p.m. Most Internet sites are forbidden. Hours are meticulously tracked. I’m surprised they allow talking in the halls.

People have been wasting time since the beginning of time. Facebook isn’t the problem, attitudes and people are.

Luckily, I work for a place that’s not THAT strict when it comes to logging and tracking every second of my day. I’m allowed to check on social media sites and whatnot so long as it doesn’t affect my productivity. If so, my manager fixes what is a management issue. Cool, huh?

But there is the other side of the coin, where employees also need to know when to unplug. As I type, there are five or six brewing storms that I’m going to be sucked into when I return to work after this little break. I could sit here and fret about them. I could furiously write reports to estimate and try to mitigate perceived risks and problems, even if those perceptions are bound to change and shift. I could, but I shouldn’t. I’m off the clock. That’s why they have a clock. Being “on” too much will burn a person out.

So I sit and watch the sun set, looking over to where the light switch is in my roommate’s apartment. Later we’ll go out and chill with some people. And I’ll let the work tempest brew. Only eight-12 hours in the workday, after all. They can’t fire me for not working during personal time. At least I hope they can’t :p


I plan to have no plan

Penn Jillette (from Penn & Teller) and a Hollywood executive producer named Mark Burnett (creator of TV shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, etc.) were among the people who spoke at the various keynotes during the 2010 Blogworld Expo. Both of them, when asked how they achieved their success, essentially gave the same answer: I just did it.

They aren’t the first VERY successful people whom I’ve heard say this. In fact, I’ve heard it so often that it makes me feel like an idiot.

“I don’t know…I just did it?” Ha, that easy, eh?

On the other hand, I’ve heard from the next couple of levels down. These are the people who aren’t quite there. They have to always pitch themselves. They’ve had some semblance of success. They’ve gathered a larger-than-average pool of Twitter followers, whatever. They appear at conferences and seminars too, pushing their new blog/site/business, begging for followers/retweets, handing out “buy my stuff” swag. They have theories and coin phrases. And while they’re being recognized for their successes at certain venues, they haven’t “made it” by many long shots.

When these “almost but not quite” people talk about success, they recount the thousands of ways they expand their influence. They recount formulas for maximizing viewership. They talk about selling ads, Excel spreadsheets, projections, ad-words, keywords. They’re always self promoting. They’re always working. They claw success and fame from life like a starving farmer ekes his years from poor soil.

So there seems to be something else in the works. It seems that hard work only takes you so far when it comes to influence. Some people just have it. Some have to fake it.

Perhaps it’s like Shakespeare (and what isn’t?) “…some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It’s like there’s a marked difference between the genuine achievers and influentials in the world and the rich guys you see in pyramid scheme late-night commercials.

However, it also makes me think of something Abe Lincoln said (and what doesn’t?) “…give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Maybe the major successes of the world have something else they do? Maybe it’s something that’s so ingrained in their behaviors and dispositions, that it just seems like common sense to them?

Hell if I know what it is outright, but I’d like to think they know how to listen—they know where to apply their limited force on the world and cause a shift.

Penn talked about adapting and learning different skills and doing different things as he saw them. Mark talked about hearing different ideas and going with ones he thought were compelling. There seemed to be a lot of “Wait, then act” motifs to their life stories.

…which flies in the face of the “always on, sell, sell, sell” obnoxiously aggressive sales approach I hear from others.

So maybe, instead of asking the Penns and Marks of the world, “How do I get to be as famous as you?”, we should ask, “What do you value and how do you pursue it?”

Seems like one of those, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” sorts of things. And that’s cool, as I’m all for naturally accruing influence in life. Scheming and following formulas to mine fame comes across as disingenuous.


BWE10 closing: two observations

Couple of things I noticed after three days of bloggerific seminar sessions.

One, I need an iPad. Yes, I did have one for a couple of weeks before I got the cease-and-desist from work—not cool to invest in productivity tools, it seems. It’s a security risk, they say. But seriously, I’m going to need one. I’ll ask the bosses.

While we, the human race, have gotten along swimmingly for centuries using paper and ink, I have drawn the line in the sand and declared scribbling notes during seminars is no longer adequate. Hear that, nature? Josh says the cool kids on the planet need to move on.

For me, the sexy advantage to an iPad-like device is how one person can simultaneously and easily hop-scotch from listening, browsing and note-taking with just a few flicks of his/her type-y fingers. Hear a mention, look up the website, type out a note, send a tweet. Boom. Done.

I was able to keep up with my notepad, sure, but now I have 40-50 pages of notes to work through. Ugh! With something like an iPad, I could have taken notes on the cloud, parceled out bits for tweets and moved on to cocktail hour. Priorities, people!

The other bitingly sweet feature about iPad is the portability. Macbooks and the MBAir used to be the bizomb. But nowadays, any clamshell is cumbersome. I need something I can ninja flip around in mid conversation once I admit the person talking is worth remembering. I don’t want to have to balance my coffee, disposition and laptop in mid hallway.

The second thing I noticed during BlogWorld was how much I still dislike self promotion. Maybe I should say shameless self promotion. Everybody has to self promote, sure. It’s as basic as birds puffing themselves up for potential mates and all that crap.

What I really dislike, though, is session hijacking. It’s like thread hijacking, but in person. You know…topic is one thing, panel is discussing it…the floor is open for “questions” and people start giving GD soliloquies about their business.

It’s ridiculous. I’ll say to those out there who do this sort of thing what my commanders told me: if you’re not at the adult table, you don’t get to talk. In the service, as a lowly-ranked peon, if I wasn’t spoken to about a specific topic, I shut my mouth. This includes topic shifts…like “Do you have a question?” “No, but let me show you a cool thing I learned in Boy Scouts.”

Yes, no, we’re good. Thanks.

Teaching soldiers that they aren’t the center of the universe is standard practice pretty early on in military careers. Maybe I take that for granted. I’m of the persuasion that people sometimes need a kick in the shins to remind them the whole world doesn’t bend to their will. Things will go on if they don’t scratch that itch, gawk at that passing cute something-something, or indulge in any of the 1,000 impulses that come to them every second. It’s why we military guys stand guard over buckets of water on “fire guard” or do any of the other asinine things that siphon hours of life—the whole of the group is bolstered by each of us denying ourselves now and then for the benefit of others.

This includes shutting mouths when others are talking and NOT hijacking panel discussions.

I have no illusions, I’m not THAT special. If I’m doing something that is astronomically awesome, stuff has a tendency to get noticed as I go about my NORMAL ROUTINES. I call it God’s grace.

But what are those normal routines?:

1) Don’t be a dick.

2) Listen.

3) Encourage others.

The end.


Vegas, baby. Vegas

Title is my favorite Vegas quote cliché. Couldn’t resist.

And so it came to pass that the great USAA employer gods would wish to send me out into the wilderness, to survey the landscape and gauge the culture that exists outside the walls of our campus.

What better event to check out than one of the largest social media conferences in the world, the Blogworld Expo? And what better venue than Las Vegas?

I flew from San Antonio to Phoenix then to Vegas. It was interesting seeing the landscape change. While I’ve spent time on the West Coast, I’ve always hopped over the South West. Fort Hood was about as “west” as I’ve ever been, from a tumbleweed, dusty savanna kind of perspective. It was pretty neat seeing mountains again. Green fell away off the color scheme for the most part, though I see how allergies are on the rise in Phoenix—so many pools, trees and forced lush greenery. The trip into Vegas itself was even more interesting. By change, I happened to look out the window as we drew near and saw the Hoover Dam, you know, the place Michael Bay let the cat out of the bag concerning where we’re keeping Megatron. It’s important that you stick with me on these things.

It was pretty gnarly, even from a pretty good clip up in the air. I landed to a setting sun, so the strip hadn’t sparked to life. Las Vegas has a very interesting skyline, as you’d imagine. There are spires, pyramids (well, one big one) and the typical less exotic high rises. What’s funny is everything is Las Vegas-ified. So the McDonalds are sparkly with lights and a huuuuuge sign. The Motel 6 near my hotel has a sign nearly as large as the building itself. Pretty sweet. I’ll have a chance to roam around and take pictures more over the next couple of days.

For now, though, I had to catch up on some work, answer some emails and all that. I’m not here for kicks, there’s work to be done.

I am very interested in learning more about blogging, in particular. Sure, I’ve been a blogger in spats since 2004 and have run this blog since 2005, but I still have a lot to learn about cultivating an audience and approaching community building. And since those are the types of things I am to perform in my new position at USAA, then I better get cracking at learning from the best. I’m pretty stoked to check out the keynote speakers and I’m interested who’s running the “milblogging” tracks. We do have a few military blogger celebrity types. I’ll gush and name drop tomorrow after I meet a few of them.

Amateur goof goes to me for not being obnoxious enough at work. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to find out what the heck happened to the business cards I was supposed to get. I only re-engaged on the process a few days ago and came to find out some “t” didn’t get crossed on some email somewhere (should have used a Sharpie on the monitor, I suppose). So, I’ll be meeting dozens of people with a handshake and a smile, hoping they don’t mind if I can’t return the gesture of their business cards. Can’t we just use “bump” on our phones, anyway?

I’m told my snazzy new cards will be overnighted to my hotel in a couple of days, but I’ll have to win over friends and influence people a capella until my rectangular credentials arrive at the front desk. It’s how I rolled in the service for a while, so I’m not too worried. Heck, I just broke down and printed my own cards even then. It’s no biggie.

So yes, BlogWorld Expo. Me and 50,000,000 other bloggers. I’m here to scout for allies and infiltrate social media circles. Wish me luck, friends!


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