Blog Challenge To Do List

Posted: March 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

As I’ve mentioned at the bottoms of my last two blogs, I’m accepted @iaagustin‘s 30-Day Blog Challenge.  So now I figured I might want to do a little bit of organizing, so that I’m not just sitting her thinking, “crap, I HAVE to blog SOMETHING, what can I think up on the fly?”.

(between you & me, I’m pretty great at thinking things up on the fly, but you never want to exhaust your powers, right?)

Ok, so here’s a list of what I figure I’ll do to fill the days.

Day 1: done
Day 2: done
Day 3: also done
Day 4: this baby right here
Day 5: well…. what do ya got?

Okay, so I’m not good enough at planning to know day by day what will inspire me, but I definately have some topics I want to explore. Here we go:

  • Finish off the drafts I never finished   (7 Posts)
  • Baseball Season Starting    (3-5 Posts)
  • Green/Urban/Environmental/Sustainable Topics  (3-5 Posts)
  • Why I Like Comics   (1-3 Posts)
  • News & World Events (1-3 Posts)
  • Weekly 5 Things (4 Posts)
  • Dear Ryan Weekly (4 Posts)
  • Review the Challenge Post

There we go; that comes out to just about 30 posts or more.

Hopefully over the next month I can make some discoveries as I force myself to write consistently.

Hopefully I can also entertain while I do it.

Let me know when you think I’ve failed one of those.

(this is day 4 of the 30 day blog challenge)


30 Day Challenge – Content Generator Overlord

Posted: February 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been mulling over a few ideas for my next self-imposed 30-Day Challenge.  A couple of the ideas I considered (and may still do in the future, but you’re more than welcome to steal the idea) include:

  • Splitting up my workday/time between home and the office a la Rand’s three-workdays-in-one strategy
  • Trying out this whole “8 hours of sleep” thing that people keep mentioning
  • Cutting out all video games and entertainment media other than reading

With Game of Thrones and Dr. Who starting back up in the next month, that last one would have been just dumb.

Then, as I was biding my time, the high-level wizards over at Portent launched a snazzy new tool: Content/Title Generator.

Portent Content Generator

To be fair, this sort of tool has existed before.  Whether it was a linkbait tool or a list of article types, there have been methods in place to help people breathe new life into topics that they have covered before, or just flat-out “boring” topics.

Side note: I sat in on a table-topic at a conference that was specifically about content for boring industries and heard from a pair of guys who were tasked with writing about machinery used in oil rigs. Not the rigs themselves, the cogs and beams and bolts that went into them. Feel a little sorry for those guys; at least my industry can tap into the aspirational nature of moving.

The neat thing about the Portent tool is the added text it gives with each title it conjures up. (In hindsight, wouldn’t Content Conjurer have been a more catchy title? “I summon thee forth, foul headline!”) It’s one thing to replace the noun/verb in an existing headline and spin it for linkbait, but the simple notes scribbled in the margins on this tool almost write your outline for you.

So here we have it, folks.  On top of the projects I mentioned on Sunday, I’m going to commit myself to 30 days of writing while incorporating the content generator to keep my on my toes.

I’ll take a random word each day, throw it into the Content Generator, and then write a post to match the assigned title. I think this will push me to write better, more engaging material, and will make me learn to research and formulate opinions faster so that I can keep up each day.

Hopefully this doesn’t blow up in my face like a poorly-cast Incendiary Slime.

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Dining Local – 30 Day Challenge Recap

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dining Local – 30 Day Challenge Recap

In early December I set a challenge before myself to only eat at locally-owned businesses for 30 days.  As I described at the time, this challenge was predicated after observing the disparity in service I was receiving at chain restaurants compared to their locally-owned competitors. At that onset, I established a few guidelines for this enterprise:

  1. Do not eat at any chain restaurants, including fast food, or any place that is not owned locally.
  2. Yes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  3. Local chains are okay (I probably shouldn’t hold it against NYPD that they have been successful over the years and opened multiple locations).
  4. Keep an open mind about the level of service being received, just to stay honest and see if my presumptions were correct.

We will come back to item #4 a little bit later, but I can tell you right away that item #1, dining local only, turned out to be a struggle, especially considering the number of times I shared meals with friends and family over the holidays. Perhaps now is a good time to show you where the money went, and you’ll see the red spots right away:

 

Dining Local Money Chart

Where I spent the money during my 30 Day Dining Local Challenge

Places I ate at / Hooray Local

Rather than inundate you with a massive listing of all the places I ate at last month (and the growing list of places I forgot of because they weren’t on my bank statement), I think the best way to go about it is to highlight the places that fall within my two favorite categories: restaurants/delis & coffee shops.

Locally-Owned Restaurants & Delis:

  1. Pig & Pickle: Scottsdale rustic/gastropub dining, selected by chef-genius Jeff Kraus; review forth-coming on Rogue Pepper.
  2. Matt’s Big Breakfast: As if I don’t eat at this place every week already.  I’d have to say that with the amount of work I was getting done in December, I actually had fewer easy mornings and thus was unable to visit this Roosevelt classic as often as I want.  Ernie is a shining example of how hands-on owners make a stunning impact.
  3. Hula’s Modern Tiki: Dane is another great owner who’s hospitality keeps me coming back for more, and the Hula Burger is easily #2 on my Top 5 Burgers in Phoenix.
  4. Pane Bianco: Somewhat unusual, went to this market deli classic for dinner instead of lunch and ran into the always awesome @eatSlow behind the counter.  Bianco’s pizza without the wait: top scores all around.
  5. Vovomeena: Great atmosphere, helpful owner chatting up incoming guests while there’s a line for breakfast service.  My order wasn’t up to snuff, but the rest of the food we got was great, so I’m sure we’ll give them a second try soon enough.
  6. Ray’s Pizza: Not nearly as good as I had remembered it.  Decent for a hole-in-the-wall place, but far worse than their old location on 7th Ave & Bell. Please don’t make a supreme pizza if it prevents the dough from cooking all the way through.

    There's a duck leg under there somewhere. via ...

    Pig & Pickle: There’s a duck leg under there somewhere.

Locally-Owned Coffee Shops:

  1. Lola Coffee: For years this was my coffee shop, (I think it’s the only place I’ve ever reviewed on Yelp) pretty much from the day they took over the space formerly inhabited by Calabria deli. Since the sale of their uptown location and their expansion into Sky Harbor Airport, however, I have to admit that there has been a significate downturn in the enviroment within this shop.  No longer does it feel like a more industrial, more sparse version of the other shops around; now it’s over-crowed with too much furniture and seems less like a local workplace (third-place) and more like a weird hybrid that doens’t quite know what to do.  Still the home of my favorite barista, and a place where I get my “usual”; if you see Susie, give her a high-five.
  2. Giant Coffee: Whenever I need a change-of-pace from Lola, Giant makes for a great place to work from.  The huge, bay doors on the front and soft ambient lighting are pretty sweet.  Only downside is how suprisingly rare it is to see either Ernie or Matt Pool at the place; odd considering their dedication to their customers at other places.
  3. Fair Trade Cafe: Honestly, I only come here if I miss my train and have 10 minutes to kill before the next Light Rail comes along.  The folks are mostly helpful, but the coffee is really only good as a way to keep your hands warm on the train platform; easily replaced by functional pockets.

Places I ate that weren’t local

– Ichi Ban: My brother invited us out to dinner, and letting him pick the place, he decided to opt for teppanyaki.  All-in-all, the food was as good as could be expected, though I feel like we got the least funny samurai chef in the place.

Starbucks: As much as I am an advocate for local coffee shops everyday, regardless of challenge, I still struggle to resist the holiday flavors from the coffee giant.  Plus they are the clear winners when it comes to convenient locations (right there inside the Safeway!), drive-thru’s and hours of operation (can’t buy from a local shop at 7pm, but Starbucks doesn’t close til 10 or 11pm.

– Texas Road House: This one was totally not on me.  The GF decided she wanted steak after watching an episode of Pioneer Woman, and we ended up in West Phoenix eating at a place that encourages you to throw saliva-coated rubbish on the floor. Needless to say, the service was crap and the steak was disappointing.

– AMC Esplanade: It’s not the holidays without seeing a movie (or several movies) and the Esplanade is far and away my favorite US theatre (sorry Film Bar, I still like your quirks).  Going to see Lincoln in a leather recliner and not have to leave your seat for a refill; heck yeah!  I did feel a slight tinge of guilt on willfully breaking my challenge restrictions for this, but I quickly overcame it.  On the service note, I’d say that I did have to wait an unusually long time for the refill I asked for, but I’ll chalk that up to not being staffed well enough at the holidays.

Zoe’s Kitchen: Another one I’m going to lay responsibility on the GF for.  I seem to recall this was some night we were coming back from visiting family and needed a place that was open late and close. Considering that every place nearby other than NYPD is either a chain or somewhere we had eaten recently, I conceded this one in the favor of keeping the peace when we were both hungry.  My penance for giving in: waiting around for food while the kitchen staff flirted with each other instead of cooking, and finding out that Zoe’s decided to end their free drinks promo that had been in place for years. Oh yeah, and food that was cold and feel apart once I got home.   Felt like I needed to go to localist confessional to remove the jinx.

– Schlotzsky’s: I actually do not feel too bad about this choice, since the Scholotzsky’s near my work is a franchise owned and operated by a friendly elderly couple.  Sure the shell is a chain, but the service inside is top-notch and makes you forget about the chain name rather quickly (especially when they’ll make you a sandwich that’s supposed to no longer be featured). I guess there is a happy compromise when the owners are still motivated to make an impact.

What I discovered

I set out on this challenge because I wanted to find a higher level of service and feel like I was supporting the local business owners I have so often touted as essential to Phoenix’s rise as an urban center and an improvement upon our history of strip malls and cookie-cutter business development.  I can confidently say that on average I found what I was looking for: better quality ingredient, more attention to the food and more attention to the customer, but I have to also admit that this may have been a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Perhaps I didn’t run the experiment long enough, or put enough restrictions on myself.  I think that upon review, it’s clear I visited places that have a stake in offering better service than their more efficiently-run corporate competitors.

Throughout the challenge, lunch and dinner were relatively easy to obtain; it just took a little bit more thinking than our typically robotic auto-drive to the nearest place.  Breakfast, however, was a rough one, as was any on-the-go order.  Most locally-owned places seem to struggle with to-go options, a sad reality I had to face with multiple day-trips to visit family during the holidays. Hopefully Crepe Bar can hurry up and get a downtown presence so I can nab some duck frites and a crepe on the run.

Oh, also, the worst service I received? Easily the cafe at my work.  Nothing like being ignored by cashiers and staff that make it plain they have better things to do than helping customers.  No wonder I spent to much money at the bodega down the street instead.

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2010 Blog Plan

Posted: January 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on 2010 Blog Plan

Well, this isn’t so much a “plan” in the sense that I could follow it to pull off a heist.  It’s more a list of traits that I want my blog to embody in the new year.  A set of reminders for myself that I want to strive towards.

– Consistent!!

I need to use this as an exercise to improve myself.  Like all exercise, it’s best when done regularly, not sporadically.

– Discuss Intelligently

– Revelant!
Connect the dots, obscure is fine, haughty is bleh

– Don’t be afraid of Long-Form
If it’s worth the time for you to read it, it’s worth the time for me to fully discuss it.

– Intuitive
I don’t really know how this applies, but it sounds good.  I’ll figure it out later

– More Engagement
No, not the down-on-one-knee kind; the interacting-with-whoever-reads-this kind.  I work best when challenged from an outside sourse.  What better source than the one right here?

I’m sure this list will be evolving.  This is just what I got down in 10 minutes today.
List done.


I love cities

Posted: March 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I do.  I love living in the city.  Not only because it fits my lifestyle, but because I love the promise of it.

Urban areas are traditionally the cradles of great ideas.  Think of Socrates, Cyrus, Solomon, Alexander, Magellan, Edison; democracy, art, opera, literature; all ideas born in cities, because cities allow us to know our fellow man in ways that yards & freeways & Cost Co’s don’t.

This got me thinking if there was an easier way to express my love of city life.

I hear people use the word “Urbanist” more and more lately, (or perhaps I’m just tuned into those types of channels more and more…) and I wondered if it’s a term that would apply to me.

So I Googled it.  But I had difficulty finding a clear definition.  I also learned that apparently there is some disagreement between “urbanism” and “new urbanism”.  Hmmm, well here’s the most well-written thing I could find. Wikipedia (pfft, great source, right?) defines New Urbanism as;

“an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types.”

Well that seems easy enough.  I love walkable neighborhoods, though my idea of walkable is probably a little more aggressive than most peoples.  Walkable for me just means “has flat-ish areas” and “hopefully few hobos and/or feral animals”.

Then I read a quote from the Congress for the New Urbanism:

We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

So what do we have here?

  • Neighorhoods?  Great
  • Accessibility?  Indeed!
  • Diversity?  Always good.
  • Public Policy?  Can always use help.
  • Pedestrian and Transit?  I’ve BEEN on-board with that for decades.

Alright, so this sounds like an agenda to get with.

As you know from my previous post about freeways, urban sprawl is something I definitely cannot get with.  In truth, even when I lived miles away from my job and school, I still took public transit, and as opportunity presented itself, I moved closer and closer to the core.  Now I live 1.5 miles from my office, right next to a light rail stop, and withing walking distance of parks, museums, great restaurants, pubs, a farmer’s market, the full gamut of culture in Phoenix, AND my favorite coffee shop.  I don’t see how a car would improve my life.

We really COULD improve my life, and the lives of thousands of people around me, is a good healthy dose of Urban ReUse.

I don’t say Urban Renewal, because Roosevelt Row and many parts of Downtown Phoenix are already vibrant and thriving in their own way, so I don’t want to solicit the type of “renewal” typically thought of.

No, what I would like to see is more redesign and reuse of existing structures, filling in the empty store fronts and repopulating the vacant lots that leave gaps in our neighborhood picture.  Just like an MRI, you can have 90% healthy areas, but if you have 10% missing, then you’ve got a problem.

So I was decently intrigued to see this post by fellow #30DayBC participant (and RDJ doppleganger) Tony A.  I’m interested to see how his series turns out, and perhaps add a few spots to the list.

(Ironically, for 5-years I used to live next-door to the first place he mentioned, and didn’t know that it had since turned into a vacant shell.)

So, in closing, give cities a boost, for all they’ve done for you.

…and be kind to the planet while you do it….

(This is Day 5 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge)


Your Inner Superman

Posted: March 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We all know Superman, “Mild-Mannered Reporter” Clark Kent’s alter-ego.  Beneath the surface Kent always has his super-powers at the ready, to pitch in when disaster calls.

But what about the rest of us.

Certainly we all have talents and abilities that we don’t broadcast.

Here’s my list:
– Incredible BS/Gift-of-gab ability
– Extremely powerful eyebrows and facial expressions
– near-mythical efficiency

(all adjectives are thematically exaggerated)

What’s your Superpower?  What do you have laying right below the surface?

(this is day 3 of the 30 day blog challenge)


“You said to never take the freeway”

Posted: March 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sorry, any chance to use a Matrix quote has to be capitalized on, right?

So, to follow-up on yesterday’s blog, I thought I’d take a look at one of the most ridiculous inventions of the last century: freeways

Before I give my opinion, let’s list some facts:
1.)  Freeways cost money to build and maintain
2.)  Freeways cost more money for highway patrolmen and/or the nefarious speedcam
3.)  Freeways are often noisy and unsightly
4.)  They don’t accomplish their stated goals

That last one may have been a surprise to some, so I’ll back it up.

A recent study by Brown University economist Nathaniel Baum-Snow shows that building a freeway to serve the residents of a community actually reduces that population by 18%.  No, the massive concrete beast didn’t eat up the area that those people’s houses used to be in.  But by creating a new tool for their commute, you’ve now told them that with a few adjustments, they could live somewhere else and still make their same commute.

If suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to effect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to effect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.

——————————–

For some anecdotal evidence, consider our freeway growth in Phoenix over the last 15 years, and how our suburbs look now.  More than once I’ve turned slightly to my left or right and asked Anie “why the hell are there business out here”.  Well, the answer of course is because there are people living out here.  So then you consider why do people live out there.  Certainly nobody moved to the suburbs in the hopes that someone would come along and build a Wal-Mart out there for them to work at.  No, of course, they moved there because they were working in the “city” and were okay with commuting from the suburbs to their jobs.

So lets consider the radius each of us would drive for a commute in terms of a number of minutes instead of miles.  Myself, I don’t like the idea of a commute that’s over 30 minutes at most.  Spending an additional hour of unpaid time just to get to my job and back comes out to an entire day I’d lose each month just in commuting.

To me that’s not worth it.

But let’s just work with that number.  In 30 minutes, I could drive X number of miles on surface streets.  30 Minutes = X Miles – W wait at lights.  Well now, that’s a second variable and sometimes I might be late if I lived exactly 30 minutes away from my work.  Plus I wouldn’t have time to get my coffee or chat up someone I met in the hallway… Better idea to give myself a buffer.

Then along comes the freeway.  Well now, if I take the freeway, I don’t have to wait for traffic lights.  Now I can get my coffee, flirt with Suzie in reception, and even check my fantasy baseball team before my boss gets in.

Except after a little while I realize that the freeway is SO FAST, I could move a bit further out and still get to work in the same 30 minutes.

Then later on, another freeway gets built that connects to the first one, and now I can live really far and maybe my commute only increases to 45 min, but I get to live in a “new” neighborhood and have a slice of the suburban dream.  Plus I’m sure my kids don’t mind that besides the 10-hour days at work, I’m spending another couple of hours on the road to and from.  Plus errands.  Those are always fun to run late at night.  Or pawn off on the spousal unit.

And best yet, I can always look back and chuckle at the years when we had to live in “the city”.  Oh, how dirty it was, being a train rider.  Running to the corner shop instead of the Galleria.  And imagine trying to parallel park our mini-van in those old neighborhoods.  Oh my, that WOULD be terrible!!  Ha ha, the comedy.

Yes, the suburbs are my distopia.

More from Baum-Snow:

A lot of people think that decentralization is about fleeing to the suburbs out of central cities, but if you look at the change in the spatial distribution of the population across large metropolitan areas, you find that it’s really much more of a spatial phenomenon. You see that the population density in the more peripheral regions of central cities actually went up quite a bit over the last 50 years, while the population of the central business districts went down.

Of course, as Baum-Snow admits, there has been a welfare gain from the implementation of major roadways in several cities simply by allowing industrial workers to not have to live so close to the plants they worked at.  If they worked hard, they could save up and move out of the slums into one of those great George Bailey houses and raise their kids there.  This is true in places like Detroit, Chicago, Pennsylvania, etc.

This was never true in Phoenix or most of California.  Here, our use of freeways is only to supplicate the developers and consumers who were enticed by the allure of “cheap” land.  If we’d been interested in using a decent amount of urban planning 50 years ago, we could have avoided a large chunk of the sprawl we have.  Instead, we’re spending more and more money to build freeways to neighborhoods that:

1.) don’t need to exist
2.) aren’t “neighborhoods”, just a collective of houses and commuters.

In part 2 of this, I’ll look at how freeway-related sprawl impacts our neighborhoods.

(this is Day 2 of the 30 day blog challenge. )


Sometimes an Idea is almost Too Novel

Posted: March 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

borrowed infographic from GOOD.is:

The inner-environmentalist in me think that this is exactly the kind of great idea we need to make happen.  Imagine if Chicago, LA, Miami, Phoenix…all these big, sprawling cities weren’t needed anymore.  Have one Megapolis with all the finance and creative and any other urban industries, and let the rest of the US go fallow.

We already know that NYC is one of the greenest cities because of it’s use of mass transit.

Now imagine you have a huge vacuum and you could suck out all the pollution from all the cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic in LA, all the smog that hover over Phoenix every day (and all that cow-stench that pervades Chicago still).  And you’d never have to re-vacuum again…

Sometimes I wish we hadn’t achieved Manifest Destiny.

Of course this idea will never happen, but it’d be awesome if it did.

(this is Day 1 of the 30 day Blog Challenge.  To see who else is in, click here)


Positive, high-achieving culture starts with me

Posted: February 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I originally wanted to title this post “I need to stop killing our culture”, but I figured that some folks wouldn’t know right away that I’m talking about the “culture” at work.

culture idea graph

Finding a picture of culture (and not events/perks) was tough, but this idea graph seems good.

I was a manager for 6 years before I got into online marketing. I started with a team of 4 people and built it up to a group of 20, consistently expanding our duties, scope and impact. Even when I knew that the job wasn’t something I could see myself doing forever, I loved the ability to lead my team and help hard-working people grow. As I mentioned before, part of my transition to my current role was making sure that all of my folks would be taken care of, then I was able to look out for myself and move on to something I really wanted to do.

During this period, I spent a lot of time learning about leadership and how to understand what people were really saying. I read philosophy, watched programs on psychology, got into anything I could find that looked like it would translate into an improved ideology for coaching the people I was responsible for.

(When I say “responsible for”, I intend for that responsibility to go both ways.  In the traditional sense, I am responsible for the output of any direct reports. In my own sense, I am also responsible for making sure that our investment in them yields more and more, but helping them grow their knowledge, experience, self-confidence, comfort and communication. None of us should be able to move on until we’ve prepared someone else to take over for us, and none of us should be happy working with someone who wants to do the same thing every day.  We should all be moving towards bigger challenges and you can’t do that with a wingman who’s still back on Level One.)

One of the most succinct statements I made to my team back then was “awesome is the new standard”.  To me this means that we won’t accept “good enough” or “nice” or “sufficient”.  If we do something, we’re going to do it up proper, or we’re wasting our time and effort and doing a disservice to our customer who could have been better served in a different manner. This means that everyone on the team has to be ready to blow away the metrics, or shine in a unique way that the metrics no longer apply because the stuff they are doing is so excellent that we struggle to define it or box it in.  I needed a bunch of commandos who could obliterate what struggles they found.

Over the years, I was pleasantly surprised and greatly assured when my team embraced this thinking. Setting goals that we were told would be impossible to meet and blowing them out of the water in short time, taking on more duties instead of trying to make ourselves look busy and protect our downtime… It was a great squad to lead and a great time to be their leader.

(I recently started questioning this all high-achievers approach when I was thinking about hedonic treadmills and local hierarchies, but I’m not yet convinced that it can’t be a viable long-term strategy when approached from the right direction. )

The culture I was putting in place was:

  • We will be better than anyone else can be.
  • Being the best is what gives us the liberty to do the job the way we want.
  • We have more fun because we get more done and our customers are happier for it.
  • Everyone who works for me has a future and we’re going to prepare to be great at that role, too.

These are lessons that stuck with me because it’s not a story about how great I am, it’s a story about how when I really focus on building people up, trusting their abilities and their work-ethic, and marching us all towards the finish line, we are rewarded much more than expected.

(Side-note: at the time I left the department and moved into online marketing, all but one person in management had worked for me at some point. Now THAT is a personal point of pride, that I could help folks not only become high-achieving themselves, but to also be able to pass on those lessons generationally.)

That brings me to today…

—-

We don’t really have a defined “culture“.  We have a bunch of things we do, and probably a list of characteristics or attributes that could be drawn from that, but we are just now (2+ years in) starting to get our departmental vision intact and ready to implement (Hooray for strategy meetings that actually lead to something productive!).

So while we don’t have something solid to point at yet, what I have noticed is a pile-up of negative actions that certainly aren’t helping us build the foundation for crazy amounts of achievement and success.

There’s a member of our team who is almost universally unpopular. As near as I can recollect, each individual on the team has a separate instance where they’ve had a bad experience with this person, and I’m sure those negative individual impressions were enforced by the opinions expressed around them.

For a long time I’ve thought “we just need to get rid of this person“, (or as Dharmesh said at Inbound 2013, “cut out the cancer immediately“). I’ve even been a shamefully active participant in lunch-time conversations about the problems caused and liberties taken by this individual.  “Why do we let so-and-so get away with ___?” “Showing us those same poorly-gathered stats again; doesn’t (the boss) know he’s making bad decisions with that data?” Or my favorite, “every time he mentions (that same old project), we’re taking shots“.

If I’m being completely honest, it was easier to distance myself and blame the continued problem plaguing us all on our bosses, who I knew wouldn’t take any action. I don’t at all agree with their inaction, and in distancing myself I was able to ally closer to “the troops” and shirk my responsibilities as a leader.

Today I decided that I need to stop this.

—-

There are other team members who have become discouraged by how few ideas they see making it live. Two years ago I prefaced an interview by saying that working in-house was akin to being part of a slow-rolling machine. Internal politics, insecurities and willful indifference are obstacles we all encounter in business, but as marketers we have to have the confidence to overcome this.

I had a conversation with my boss Friday afternoon about a content development project I’d worked on being cancelled.  I never saw the cancellation as permanent because I knew the idea was solid, and if the product owner wouldn’t give buy-in, I’d pivot it to one that would. The conversation touched on the point that had it been someone else’s project, they’d be frustrated, confused, upset, etc.

This is, of course, a natural part of the creative process; sometimes you create really awesome things that just get ignored or aren’t supported. I suppose I take solace in the knowledge that there is no formula for success. Some really awesome, very profitable projects were shelved for years before everything aligned and we were able to get approval. Other times, I’d be invited to meeting with no fore-knowledge of the agenda and come up with a solution we’d adopt that day. The only problem is when we take these struggles too personal and we start sinking into doubt and stagnation.

I need to be the guy to buoy the team until they all feel invincible.

—-

 

This week I’ve been studying Wil Reynold’s “UNtrepreneur” talk, and a lot of what he’s said resonated with me.

  • Be a leader that other people want to work for
  • Growth is a retention strategy
  • Refuse to have a B-Squad
  • Do I know enough about the people I work with?

I’m sure if I published those bullet points in a separate blog post, I could apply totally different meanings to them, so let me try to put them together in a communicable strategy…

I need to put in place a culture of personal growth and opportunity-creation.  If I’m invested in staying with this company, I need to put the same investment into the people I want to keep around me. Like Wil said, if there’s nobody to high-five when you do something awesome, what’s the point?

We need to all be growing our own capabilities and those of our team. If we have 3 people who can do X amount of awesome shit today, imagine the output when we have 10 folks who can do X² really awesome shit, and picture how much more rewarding the opportunities that come along then. It’s on me to figure out how to motivate each individual in response to their own strengths and interests, and nurture that progression.

I’ve worked long and hard for the experience I have, and I’m not helping anyone when I don’t pass on those lessons learned directly from our customers. I know growth works for retention, because every one of my best employees is still with the company in some new role as a result of what they accomplished before. The B-Squad-ers will sort themselves out, I don’t need to discriminate or play favorites with my collaboration.  When the rest of us are rushing over the hill in our battle-charge, the under-achievers will run home to the farm where they can’t affect morale.

—-

Roles I can fill to help the team.

So I’m sure that I alone cannot provide an ultimate solution, and I’m not even certain I can solve everything that’s causing this deepening schism, but it’s certainly more positive for the team if I’m a force trying to integrate everyone and help us all build our knowledge capital so we can step up and do really awesome shit than if I’m just another voice in the choir of “man that guy sucks”.

It will be a struggle for me early on. I know I have a tendency to favor people based on their production and accomplishments, but to not always offer a fair path for someone to ascend after a period of under-achieving. I also know that I can’t really put anyone’s work-ethic or desire to collaborate onto my own shoulders, but I can lead by example and create environments that encourage them to join in and get on the same path that everyone else is on.

In the end, it may turn out to be too little too late to solve this problem, but I know the actions I take this week can stop it from happening to someone else later on.

I’m going to grab the flag and show these folks how we can shrug off bullets and bayonets.

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#VeggieFeb

Posted: January 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

(I wanted to call it Veg-uary, but got shot-down in committee.)

Introducing: #VeggieFeb!

28 days, including at least one weekend away from home, where I won’t eat any meat.

#VeggieFeb Veg-uary challenge

 

This will be my first month-long challenge for 2014, though the credit for the concept belongs entirely to Anie.

In the past I’ve suggested that we practice weekday vegetarianism, but that wasn’t very successful. The hope this time is that our increased use of local produce over the summer and fall have given us enough experience to thrive, even without delicious, tasty pig meats.

The Expert Advice

To try to prepare myself, I sent a text to my good buddy Logan, who’s been a practicing vegetarian since the 90’s. I suppose his lack of response is caused at least in part by the diminished amount of energy his body has due to carne asada deficiency.

All jokes aside, I am interested in proving successful in this challenge, not only because of my sense of self-determination, but also because I know it will be a net positive to learn more/better ways to prepare local produce and expand my idea process.

Phoenix Public Market local produce

Yield from a regular trip to the Public Market last Summer

The Rules

We didn’t really discuss these, but here are the principles I want to put in place for myself:

  1. “Nothing with a face”
  2. I’d like to say no eggs, but I may compromise on this point to maintain nutrition and make it an easier social transition.
  3. The challenge is about eating vegetables, not just eliminating meat.
  4. This means not replacing meat with faux-protein.
  5. This means not eating more bread/pasta/noodles/cheese/grains just to fill up.
  6. I need to remain open-minded about the type and kind of vegetables I’ll eat.

There are some question marks that remain around how well I can balance this diet change while still trying to eradicate my diabetes, but I’m hopeful those can be resolved without too much compromise.  When I previously discussed an all-juice diet after watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead with my healthcare provider, they said that I’d still need to eat nuts or beans or get some source of protein to smooth out the blood sugar. Good thing I just got my pearly whites all checked-up, because here come the almonds.

The “no fake meats” rule is just my personal belief that since we are going into this from a health stand-point, and not a moral objection to eating animals, we wouldn’t really be experiencing it if just tried to make the same food we’ve been eating.  Plus, using Monsanto-tainted soybean curds in place of animal products seems like a very poor choice.  We’ve already made commitments to eat meat that is naturally raised and humanely processed, getting all of the rBGH, antibiotics and other crap out of our systems, so why would I want to start ingesting Round-Up via tofu?

As with healthy eating in general, I think breakfast & lunch will be my biggest challenges.  Our present lifestyle minimizes time awake at home before leaving for work, meaning that breakfast is either just coffee or something from the cafeteria at work. Dropping breakfast meats will be rough, but doable. Avoiding all the sweet breakfast pastries when I’m hungry and have minimal other choices, that will be the real challenge. As for lunch, it usually comes down to a social dynamic; finding a place where I can get something good and my friends/colleagues can enjoy the rest of the menu. Plus, truth be told, lunch around my workplace is pretty much boring and over-processed anyways, but it’s often the most productive part of the day for managing tasks and bonding.

—-

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR. (credit: Wikipedia)

Win, lose or draw, at least I’ll get to book-end this challenge with a few really good meals.  Friday night we’ll be celebrating a birthday at Clever Koi (described by someone I know as the best restaurant in town), and March 1st we will be driving from Portland to Seattle, so wake-up with a bacon VooDoo donut and end with a lobstah roll. Probably even cram some beef-jerky in for the road, though in Portland I presume they’ll have to pickle that. (ewwww)

 

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