Archives For Thoughts

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Memorial Day weekend means a lot more to me now that it’s also my anniversary weekend. I woke up that Monday relaxed and ready to spend time with my family.

As I got of bed and checked my phone, I had four notifications from marketers trying to get me to buy something.

As someone who has sent marketing emails, I have always been conscious of sending an email at the right time. But I also made decisions not to send people on holidays or other special occasions because I knew it was ethically questionable.

So on Memorial Day weekend, I felt conflicted—understanding the plight of the marketers but also wanting to be left alone on a holiday—so I just deleted the emails and went about my day.

On the Fourth of July, I woke up with five marketing emails in my notifications, and I was upset. Continue Reading…

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A couple of years ago, the Logos Quiz Game app was one of the most downloaded apps on Apple’s App Store. People all over the world were racking up scores based on the brand logos that they recognized.

The app reminded me of small documentaries teachers used to make my class watch where kids my age identified logos faster than famous world leaders. And it was bad that they recognized Taco Bell but didn’t know FDR. And I was bad because I did the same thing.

(What my teachers didn’t recognize is that it was their generation’s job to stop that from happening. It was probably too late.)

Now that my generation is grown up (Millennials unite!), we aren’t loyal to any of the brands we recognized. Or, at least, we’re not loyal in the same way that our parents are. Continue Reading…

This past week was an interesting one for me. I had some very unexpected interactions with brands that left an impression on me, and I thought I’d share them.

First: The Follow-Up

A couple of weeks ago I heard about the start-up Fitbay. Their website lets you put in your size and body-type and then they recommend clothing based on the information you provide. They’re currently in beta, so you have to request access and get on a waiting list. Somehow, I got quick access (my profile) and I’m already loving the site.

So @Fitbay tweeted that they’re looking for a social media manager for their young company, and I gave them a retweet because I know there are several social media savvy people who follow me on Twitter and might be interested in joining a start-up. Not too long after, @Fitbay publicly replies to thank me for my retweet.

Our exchange went on for a few more tweets, and they even mentioned that they saw I’d participated in the suggestion area of their website. Not only did they follow up with me, but they made the effort to look me up. I felt valued as a user, and I’ll continue to rave about them for a while.

Second: The Shout-Out

Around the same time I learned about Fitbay, I read about another start-up called ReadingPack. They allow users to save web articles and share them as reading lists. I signed up (my profile) thinking that ReadingPack would be an interesting solution for my coworkers and I to share articles with each other.

Then on Friday @ReadingPack tweeted about my reading pack. I was completely surprised.

Granted this is something that they’ve started doing regularly with users, but I still felt awesome that their company is paying attention to their users, including me.

Third: The Cold Shoulder

There’s this really popular blogger/leader who I follow on Twitter. (Let’s call him Hichael Myatt.) He tweets probably around 80 times a day, and though I find that incredibly annoying, some of that content is relevant to me. So I follow him anyway.

One day last week, Mr. Myatt had a malfunction in his auto-tweet software, so his tweet had special characters in the message instead of the title of his recent blog post and the link that accompanied it. So a few fellow tweeters and I replied to the message to try to get Mr. Myatt’s attention. I even went so far as to include the title and link that his tweet was missing.

Here’s a link to my reply (Warning! My reply totally gives away who the real Hichael Myatt is.): link.

Ten minutes later, the original tweet was deleted and replaced with what should’ve been in the original tweet. Which is good and fine, and I totally understand why Mr. Myatt (or the person running his Twitter account) might’ve done that. But it was also an opportunity to show a little humanity, to reach out to some very concerned and connected users. Instead, he hit delete, erasing it from existence.

(This wouldn’t be so bad if this wasn’t the fifth time I’ve tweeted at Mr. Myatt when he’s tweeted for help on a topic. Never once have I seen him reply to someone who has replied to his tweets.)

Conclusion: The New Truth

Social conversation is the new marketing. It turns users into advocates, brand reps. And it’s way cheaper than advertising.

Brands need to be aware of the importance of conversation on social media. My three examples are interactions that I take as personally as if I had spoken with a representative in-person. And they can rest assured that I’ll be sharing their story, content, and brand with my friends, family, and followers.

When I have spoken with other men about how I will be a father soon, I get two kinds of responses:

1. You’re excited now, but just wait… You have no idea.

2. This is such an exciting time for you! You are going to love your daughter so much.

Fathers say both of those phrases with smiles, but they’re very different smiles. One of them is warm and endearing, and it feels so encouraging to hear a dad tell me how great fatherhood is. The other smile is sly, and I feel embarrassed to for their children when they complain about them.

I fully understand that being a father will mean I will have nights that aren’t restful, days that are strained, and challenges I can’t even imagine right now.

But I don’t think those are reasons for me to lose my excitement.

What really bugs me is that people with a negative attitude are impressing their experience on me. That’s not fair to me, but it’s also not fair to my children.

I know that raising my children will not seem simple at times. But there are millions of dads around the world who handle it, and I can too.

So I’m looking forward to fatherhood and the struggles it may or may not bring. Either way, I will do my best to only encourage other fathers, because—as I’ve learned from my pre-dad experience—fathers need that encouragement.

The Sun Also Rises

February 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

For those that don’t remember reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in high school literature class, the novel is about a veteran of World War I (Jake) traveling to Spain with his friends to watch the bullfighting that takes place every year. His travel companions include the woman he loves (Brett), a friend he is in silent competition with (Cohn), and a few others. At the end of the novel, the entire group splits up after a fight between Jake and Cohn over Brett.

But the final title of the book was not the first title that Hemingway considered.

At first, it was Fiesta—a name that gives away the location behind the book with (what I’m assuming is) some sarcastic flair. You can’t have a good party without a fistfight, right?

Then it became The Lost Generation—a nod to a term Gertrude Stein coined when speaking of the post-World War I generation. But Hemingway didn’t stick with that title for publication.

The final title, The Sun Also Rises, is credited with coming from the passage in Ecclesiastes that is one of the novel’s epigraphs:

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever . . . The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose . . .

While I won’t disagree that the title’s origin can be found in Ecclesiastes, I think Hemingway was also giving away a bit of underlying information to the reader.

In the novel, the group travels to Spain separately, but readers follow Jake’s path from Paris to Spain. The journey is primarily made by train, where Jake bumps into some Catholic students who are visiting Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome—a small detail that doesn’t have any clear implications to the plot.

But what Hemingway doesn’t make clear is that Jake is following the path of another old Catholic pilgrimage—the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (aka the Way of St. James). The trip that Jake makes follows the path from Paris to Pamplona, which covers more than half of the pilgrimage.

But it gets better.

For most writers (including myself), one of the hardest things to decide is what to name the characters. Even more so for the main character, because that person is usually the on-page representation of the author. So Hemingway carefully names his character Jacob, which is the Latin version of the English name James (and the Spanish name Tiago). Hemingway named his main character after the journey he is making.

When most people make the pilgrimage that Jake is on, they don’t travel by train; they travel by foot. This can be difficult, especially back when there were no maps. So, to let people know they were on the right path, land markers with seashells were placed along the route. It can be explained that since the pilgrimage ends in Santiago de Compostela, the seashell represents the Spanish coast that resides just miles from the destination. But that’s not all. The seashells are a reminder about the sun.

The pilgrimage is a journey from the east to the west. All of the hope and joy and expectation that comes with a rising sun is constantly at the backs of pilgrims. Instead, day after day, they watch the setting sun as they continue westward. And while the sun sets to close another day, the pilgrim’s journey is still not complete. And if a rising sun is a sign of happiness and rejuvenation, then the setting sun is a sign of sadness and exhaustion.

But the seashell—with the line at the bottom marking the horizon and the lines upward and outward in a circle representing the sun shining—is a reminder that the sun also rises.


Days come and go in life.

Some days we are up early, excited for what is new and exciting.

Some days (or weeks or months or years) we are on a seemingly fruitless journey. All we can see is the sun setting, mocking us for our difficulties or our apparent stagnation.

And it’s in those times that we need a seashell along our path to remind us…The sun also rises.

Game BoyI had a dream a few nights ago that I was trying to give an old Game Boy new parts that would allow it to be its own NES emulator and more. I kept trying to get more and more out of the technology.

That is something I do on a daily basis because I recognize the power of the hardware and software I use, and I want to stretch them to take full advantage of their capabilities.

Then something hit me: Am I stretching myself to the extent of what I can achieve?

The answer to that is a little difficult. Yes, I’m in a place right now where I’m creating writing content five nights a week. I’m not really challenging myself to learn technical stuff (like jQuery and JavaScirpt). And I’m not running as much as I want to right now. But I guess I’m okay with the last two not being stretched as long as I’m writing.

A little later, something else hit me: Am I stretching my friends and coworkers to the extent of what they can achieve?

I don’t mean that to seem like I want to use my friends to benefit myself. I mean that, as a good friend and coworker, I need to be helping others realize the potential in themselves, or I need to be helping them with stuff they’re working on.

This was a huge gut-check moment, because the answer is an embarrassing “no.” I can take an easy cop-out and say I’m just not wired that way. But I’m man enough to take this one on the chin. I’m not doing much to help or encourage my friends—and there’s no amount of writing I can do for myself that will make me feel better about this answer.

So I’m going to try to ease into turning my “no” into a “yes” by asking close friends and coworkers How can I help you? and taking things forward from their.

Yesterday I’ heard several people talk about how they don’t want to nitpick or how they don’t want someone else to go nitpicking. Then I thought about how odd it is that a word about picking the eggs of lice out of someone’s hair became a part of our everyday vocabulary.

But what if you had lice? Would you want someone to go nitpicking? (If not, you’re a sick person…in more ways than one.)

So often I’ve heard people who don’t want to nitpick or be nitpicked. But I never hear anyone asking to be nitpicked.

Nitpicking is the process of removing something small and unwanted from a place we aren’t able to reach by ourselves. Why would we turn this down? Wouldn’t it help to have more nitpicking in our lives?

Now I understand there should be some caveats. You wouldn’t want some random stranger nitpicking. You wouldn’t want to be nitpicked several times a day in the same area.

But I think nitpicking is something we should be seeking out. Nitpicking is not only good, it keeps us in good health.