Fresh Findings Friday: Way Below Status Quo

How many of you sit around with your friends and talk a lot of game about how you’re going to go on a road trip across the country? Probably far fewer of you actually do that trip (myself included if you don’t count moving for work).

These cats pulled the trigger on their cross country voyage and are having an awesome time in the process. @instigatingandi @mynameiscolin and @TMFproject just came through Boulder to rock out, network with freelancers, entrepreneurs and locals alike and are heading on their way to Salt Lake City, Utah next to continue their trip Westward that started in New York City.

Check out their blog and send them some support, props and money if you’ve got it!

http://waybelowstatusquo.com/

**Much thanks to the folks at Everlater, Kapost, Atlas Purveyors and The Bitter Bar, Grace Boyle, Joni Klippert and more for being top notch hosts to Andi, Ashley and Colin.

Fresh Findings Friday – My Baby Boy Is Blogging Up So Fast!

My girlfriend is all about her Friday Linky Love posts, which she never, ever misses every single week. So this week, I wanted to start a new tradition called “Fresh Findings Friday.” Every week I’m gonna try and turn you folks onto someone or something new and totally ill.

This week, we’ve got Steve *Applause*

Steve is one of my closest friends from back home and is basically an evil genius. This is the kind of guy who, with no formal training, is able to hack computers, set up small business quality virtual networks and can photoshop the hell out of any innocent enough looking picture. I’ve been raving like a mad man at home for the better part of 5 years to start blogging, but he always said it wasn’t for him. So, I pressured him more and more and he didn’t budge.

Then obviously I was back home for some reason and he casually mentions to me that he has a blog. Hardy, harr, he always has the last laugh on me. As all of you can see, he’s a good writer, funny and really smart. I’m really proud of him for the recent steps he’s taking in his life and  career and I wanted to give him a little shine on here.

Hopefully we can get him to guest blog on here sometime soon, maybe even move over to a self-hosted site… and hopefully he won’t leave my personal brand in ruins with his love for exposing the more delicate parts of my adolescence. 

Sight Unseen – Investing Time Or Money With Less Info

Intuition is a tool that most people have, but few people use wisely. I’ve made major life decisions on intuition more than once, fallen flat on my face a few times too, yet I never have regretted any of those decisions. Why?

Why do risk takers continue to take risks repeatedly after they’ve taken a 12 round ass kicking from life? I think it comes down to two major factors:

  • Starting from rock-bottom. Whether you were born lower class or were raised with a silver spoon in your mouth and messed up severely, knowing where the relative bottom lies for yourself in relation to the rest of the world keeps risk and loss in perspective.
  • A person must always have an idea of what they want. Yes, desire, drive, aspiration…. the people who take what they are given from authority figures are usually smart enough to realize that a lot of the “average” in life is a pre-determined, bullshit number that is profitable to some dark figure, but because they’re living off of what’s given, they’ll be content to exist and complain. The moment you stop saying “this sucks” and start saying “I want _____” you’re laying a path for yourself. Even if the path towards what you wants changes, there’s more momentum in pushing forward in the direction that you choose rather than hopping on the bandwagon with everyone else.

I keep these factors in mind when I’m faced with new challenges and options in life. I went to college and got in too much debt for my undergraduate degree because I believed it was worth it. It wasn’t worth it, but does that mean I’ll never further my education? No.

I moved to Madison, Wisconsin in good faith to work for a startup that could have been the next big thing in social networks for young people. That scenario didn’t happen and I got laid off after six months. Does that mean I’d turn down job offers from innovative startups in the future? Hell no, I’m still a sucker for a good idea and passionate people. Always will be.

Being able to stare in the face of uncertainly with nothing but a feeling of “this could be cool” to propel you forward takes a certain level of confidence or trust in yourself. It takes a willingness to plant a stake in the ground and declare, “this is what I want, I deserve this.” Then, you may not get what you want, but that’s cool if you’ve got a mental notepad and pen along with you to carefully track the occurrences along your uncharted paths.

Missteps in finance, careers or even love are all just blips in the time line of life if you live consciously. If you’re semi-detached from the relative drama of a situation you find yourself in, you can identify patterns and meaning in the actions of others and yourselves. Even the perspective of seeing how close you were or could of been is enough to keep people moving forward after getting knocked down time after time. You just need to keep your eye on the prize.

Doing Good Work Doesn’t Mean Doing It Alone

How many good ideas are formed in a vacuum?

It’s interesting to think about how many businesses were formed by hermits or people who didn’t do much collaboration around the things they were interested in.

I think there may be a tendency to isolate yourself, for some people, when you’re trying to stay true to yourself and be original, but more often than not, I’d say ideas that stew in your own brain that don’t get tested, shot down, re-evaluated and re-built are going to stay right where they originated in – your head.

Just like how there isn’t really a lot of room on the bandwagon when it comes to a lot of new businesses for jacks of all trades to hop on (although I’ve been lucky to be included on the proverbial bandwagon more than once by several gracious startups), you should also establish and develop community in as many different ways possible early on in your formative professional years.

Even if you’re moving to a new area that already has a solidly established community (tech incubators, small business networking groups, blogger meetups) in which ideas your interested are being developed, you can step up to the plate and offer up your services and help in any way in order get involved with successful professionals already doing their thing.

Even if you’re not 100% sure about what you want to be doing or how you’d like to change your career or even grow a business, by placing yourself among actively thinking and acting business people and having your own ideas challenged or encouraged, you’re setting yourself up for a breakthrough, one way or another.

There are people out there who would be interested in meeting you, who are doing the things you want to do and might even be willing to help you. Place yourself out there, be useful and assume you know almost nothing. That’s the path to a breakthrough.

Open Doors And A Sunday Potluck

Fighting off the drowsiness associated with good food and beer on a hot summer Sunday afternoon, I wanted to write a quick post about how awesome the concept of a Sunday Potluck is. I am offering a lion’s share of the credit to my girlfriend and her roommate for inspiring and pushing along the idea of getting our friends together for a Sunday Potluck.

I’ve written a good amount, on various occasions about the sense of place that I’ve been craving since I lived in Boston in certain apartments where friends would come by, casually and just sit down and eat, talk, drink and yak it up for a bit on any given night of the week. It’s something I feel like I took for granted while I had it and there were entire years when I didn’t have people who’d come by to visit or socialize.

I moved to Boulder a little over a month and a half ago and have been doing lots of different things to get settled in an feel in place in this new city. My girlfriend has been incredibly generous with her time and friends in introducing me to scored of new people almost every week and allowing me to grow my own social structure here. But even having people who I can call at the drop of a hat to get a beer or a bite to eat doesn’t quite equal “home.”

My new house mate, who’s a really cool dude and laid back, was totally fine with me having some folks over for a get together. So, I got up earlier than usual today, went and got ingredients for my idea of what Sangria should taste like, some chicken for grilling and the fixins to mash up some homemade hummus (my first time, used canned beans, don’t judge!). I prepared the Sangria and put it in the fridge to chill, mixed up the ingredients for hummus and slowly people started to show up with plates of uncooked food, ready to start putting heat to raw goodies.

Here was tonight’s menu: Caprese salad, my homemade hummus, these avocado fries, buffalo mozzarella and summer vegetable wraps, chicken and vegetable kebabs, grilled wild turkey chicken and pasta salad. For dessert we had this summer fruit tart and key lime bars.

This is what a “sense of place” is really all about. It can be elusive, it doesn’t just happen and it requires the right people, but when you feel it and recognize it for what it is, it’s easy to be grateful and appreciative for how special it really is.

Here’s to many more potlucks and spontaneous get togethers.

How To Be A Grumpy Introvert (3 Lessons On Networking)

One would think that a tried and true introvert wouldn’t want to move out of their comfort zone to pursue careers, romance, social scenes or anything else that isn’t in their own comfortable little bubble. Introverts are weird, silent, misunderstood little people and I count myself among their ranks. How do we get along when we place ourselves in new cities and towns where we don’t know anyone?

  • Know Your Audience (And Yourself) – Introverts like to spend more time along than most people because it’s when we recharge and are able to do a lot of the indexing of events and interactions that we experience on a day to day basis. But, introverts get bored just like anyone else and need to get out to mix things up now and again. You need to be particular with your time and the places that you spend it when you move somewhere new. If you’re trying to find a new job, develop your business or built out your interests, figure out where people congregate for those reasons.
  • Compete With Yourself  (Not Others) – At social events, people tend to talk in circles and generate pissing contests over who’s done what, where you went to school, who you know, etc… Not only do these people look totally stupid to most introverts, we enviously realize that we probably don’t have the energy or resources to compete with braggarts in a public setting. Instead, if you over hear someone talking about something that you’d like to know more about, wait until the crowd talkers have blown off all their steam and then grab whomever you want to talk to when they’re walking away from that conversation and then do your best to really connect with them one-on-one (that’s when you’re at your best in all likelihood).
  • The Interwebs Are Your Friends – I get reactions to my social networking strategies that involve online social networks from a lot of people that resemble “that’s really weird. Seriously, don’t you think it’s creepy to find people and try to meet up with them for a job or something through the Internet?” My response is usually, “No.” Despite there being tons of noise and morons on the Internet declaring themselves internet social media guru addict experts, or whatever, if you’ve got half a brain for strategy, doing a little search engine research and utilizing whatever social networks you have (LinkedIn, Facebook, Brazen Careerist, Twitter), you can see who lives in a place that you’re moving to and is active in the social and professional scenes you’re interested in. By reaching out, after you’ve done some research, and offering up your services and asking for 20 minutes of time in exchange for a cup of coffee, you’re way more likely to be considered a g0-getter rather than a internet stalking creeper.

It’s absolutely shocking, even from my perspective as an introvert, how bad so many people are at networking and presenting themselves to decision makers and thought leaders in their field. The nervousness associated with worrying about how you’ll be perceived as over-aggressive or weird is completely relative and frankly pointless when you consider that if you use all of the revolutionary communication tools to get a message to the people you want to talk to, then you can bypass all of the anxiety inducing, competitive pectoral flexing that goes on at old-boy networking events and socialite cocktail parties.

Go fourth and bother influential business professionals you shy, awkward, but awesome introverts!

Shop Talk

I’m trying to remember the last time I actually physically touched something that I sold. Besides retail (FML), I used to build ventilation hoods and air duct systems when I was in high school. My uncle and grandfather ran a pretty successful sheet metal fabrication business out of some converted garages behind the property where I grew up in Worcester and I got schooled on the art of bending and welding (well, I sucked at welding, just being honest) sheet metal and installing commercial vent pieces in restaurants all over Worcester County and beyond.

I used to throw ventilation fans that weighed 80 lbs on my back and hike them up to blacktop roofs on 100 degree days, get left alone in the shop or at the job site for hours, by myself, kicking around wishing I could do something more creative, be out playing with my friends, etc. Nowadays, I get to work from home everyday, take my bike downtown to the cafes and work or shut down and bail on everything for a few hours while I go on a hike. Sounds great!

But, I miss shop talk. I miss the very distinct sights, smells and sounds of working in a shop, building things out perfectly to specifications and then bringing them to the customer and making whatever they were building complete. As a kid, I probably said “this sucks, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life” more times than I could count to my grandfather and uncle. It probably pissed them off a good deal too because I could have easily taken over the business around this point in my life if I had continued on that path. Instead I’ve worked in the service sector pretty much my entire post-undergrad career.

Why did I chose this path? Well, to be honest, I loved the idea of making a lot of money using my mind rather than my hands. The concepts of generating money from ideas and/or software seemed absolutely thrilling to me. I guess I had to check that idea a bit when the economy tanked a few years ago because so much of our economy was based on that idea. Then again, I’ve had jobs working with the elderly and finding them housing that honestly were some of the most rewarding days of my life. I’m not saying the service sector is bad, but I’m questioning my own fulfillment when it comes to the great majority of opportunities that folks like myself line up for.

My best friend who’s getting married in Canada next month (can’t wait to see him) is an interesting example of this change in perspective I’ve experienced over the last few years. He and I were both educated by the best private schooling that our part of the state had to offer, we both went to good colleges and graduated in good standing. What my friend did actually bothered me a little bit though: he became a carpenter.

Why did this bother me? My father, who I don’t talk about much on here, is a carpenter. There are lots of carpenters in my family. My family is generally very blue collar with the exception of a few lawyers, accountants and nurses. But with my friend, he had these amazing opportunities to do research throughout China, Peru, Canada… he literally could have traveled anywhere and continued the research he did in college. Instead he took a job building houses, something he knew little about but wanted to learn about.

Now, he builds and installs solar panels and honestly, I couldn’t be more envious (and genuinely proud) of him. He’s go the world at his fingertips and literally shows the most complete contentment out of any of my friends in what he chose to do. Heck, I’m pretty sure I was into solar and wind power before he was on a general time-line, but he made it happen and that’s not something I can say about myself (yet).

I started having these thoughts a few years ago, well into my “social media career.” It probably accounts for my general malaise when people start singing on the rooftops about the glory of social media and it’s mythical healing powers, when there’s no brand or cause worth talking about associated with the practices. Since moving to Boulder, I’ve had a bit of a re-invigoration regarding the general ideas of applied marketing and social media because I’ve gotten to know so many amazing entrepreneurs who are building their companies and ideas from the ground up, right in front of me and that passion reminds me of what keeps me going as a professional.

That same passion- I imagine a real passion in the hearts of the men and women who drive by the solar panels they installed on a high school that help power classrooms everyday or in the trapeze artists who built wind turbines that you can look at for hours on the highway while driving across the great planes.

I’ve used my imagination to create a career out of thin air and now my imagination (and familial working roots) is pushing me in another direction. I wonder how well my time is spent being nostalgic about these sorts of things or just making them happen like my friend did. I’m still trying to figure out (after 3 years) the steps to make it happen and I feel I’m getting closer than ever before.

Where do you draw your passion from? Is it from the sprouting of ideas, running your fingers across a finished product or a combination of both?

Kapost: A New Feature on NotSoLiteral.com

I wanted to highlight a new feature I installed on NotSoLiteral.com which is a new and interesting tool I wanted to test out with my readers – Kapost, a social content management system.

What does that mean?

Well, basically if you have a blog, you can install this widget into pretty much any content management system or platform that you like (WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Drupal, and more to come), and your readers can contribute content to your site.

Why would you want more content on your site?

Well, more (good) content is always a kickass thing to have. Plus you, as the site owner, have the ability to monitor and approve which posts get used. You can highlight people who think your ideas are awesome and if you’re not too chicken, you can post comments from the haters!

Why would you want to contribute content to someone else’s blog through a social content sharing platform?

Content is social by nature. The idea of having proprietary content to keep your impressions high and blah blah blah is all good and fine, but in reality, if you want to grow your social network, you need to create and participate in discussions about the matters that are near and dear to you. With a lot of blogging platforms, comments are out of site and sometimes closed off altogether. With Kapost, you can jot down a quick response or give someone props via a blog post, hit submit and then they can feature your stuff in a higher profile manner than simply letting your blog comment sit and stagnate on the back end.

Want to try it?

If you want to try out Kapost on your own blog, just click on the image above and you can sign up from the home page. Then there are just a few steps on the backend of whichever CMS that you use and you’re golden. It’s really easy!

What do you think?

Click the Contribute under “Your Ideas Here” to the right of this post and let me know what you think.

No, You Cannot Have A Pony (Yet)

Lately I feel like I’ve been tormenting myself. After moving to Boulder, the apartment situation (more like a house) that I landed in that has benefited me greatly due to it’s open ended, contract free terms and cheap rent. The only catch? No dogs allowed! Well, not yet anyways. I fully intend on working the landlord over with persuasion and/or cash bribes, need be.

I’ve had lots of “hurry up and wait” moments in my life. Whether it’s for a job, buying a condo or moving somewhere new, I’m the worst person in the world when it comes to sitting on my hands and being patient. I don’t even like when someone tells me they’ve got a surprise for me because I like to get an idea of the special occasion/gift and let my imagination run wild while I wait to get it. I know planning doesn’t always bring your wildest dreams to fruition, but I’m the type who’d rather have like 70 irons in the fire and know only a few might take shape than to choose to avoid risk all together.

I want a dog, I want to (continue to) do kickass work, I want to travel, I want, I want, I WANT!!! (Get your mental image if me throwing a fit in grown up one-piece pajamas with the footies). I know I will have a dog someday and I’ll probably get most of what I want if I work for it, but it’s a matter of doing what’s right, for the interm and setting myself up to enjoy my prize a little big more down the road…. you know, like starving yourself before a big meal. 😉

Anticipating a likely response to this post of “wow, you suck at living in the moment” I’ll say that the balance of craving the not-yet-attained and savoring what you already have is something I’m getting better at and have been working on a lot in the past couple of years. I know how lucky I am, right here, right now and I’m extremely grateful for it.

But, I still want a dog.

What do you want? Does putting one foot in front of the other when it comes to life’s choices encourage you or frustrate you?

Some Things (Should) Never Change – Creating Tradition

What’s the dividing line between deeming something as acceptable for the masses to go crazy over and what’s worth investing real time and energy into, regularly, consistently, even when it’s not the easiest or most simple thing to do at first? What feelings do you want to hang onto?

Making breakfast for other people is one of my most favorite things to do. I love cooking for people in general, getting together and having a reason to sit down and talk with people I’m close with or to get to know people better. But, breakfast is the best. Getting up early (early for me at least) in the morning to make breakfast for my girlfriend while she gets ready for work is satisfying in a way that most things cannot even aspire to. I know I can sleep in because I work remotely and on my own schedule, but seeing a smile on her face when she goes off to earn the soy bacon with a full stomach of home made food gets my day started better than the coffee I’m serving.

Christmas celebrations hold a similar appeal to me. I get up in a three decker apartment (three dekka in Massholese) and every Christmas my grandparents who lived downstairs from me and my great grandmother who lived upstairs from me would have these massive parties for Christmas Eve. We stuffed way more people into this building than were probably fire-code acceptable and at lots of food and had lots of laughs. Despite these gatherings happening on or around Christmas time, which is really a universal reason for most (Christian) people to congregate, my grandparents started having these parties before my time and kept having them because they felt good and got people together. This is my yearly tradition that no matter how much fighting was done among us in the family or how tired or busy we are, time still gets made to put together this party and attend it.

I’m notorious for bucking tradition more often than not. I survived 13 years of Catholic education and came out a complete non-believer. So much was made about the concepts of “faith” and acting in the name of tradition and scripture in order to preserve the religion and in essence, your soul.

Add to this equation… I’m an introvert, I come from a massive family and my network is pretty god damn large. Being forced into situations where there are lots of people and a required etiquette can be outright painful for me. The phrase “but this is fun, most people enjoy this kind of stuff” has been repeated to me more though out my life than I care to recall.

It’s not that I don’t think that lots of hard, thoughtful work goes into so many different traditions in all sorts of cultures. I find social trends and interactions fascinating and inspiring, but life’s sporadic personal and intimate moments shared between two or more people are the things in life that I find most amazing.

Yes, I lived through the Red Sox winning the world series in 2004 when I was in Boston going to college. I saw Barrack Obama get elected. Those were moments of intense joy that I shared with millions of other people that I never knew. I didn’t even know what to do or how to react when these things happened. I knew they meant a lot to me though.

Those moments were amazing, but fleeting. After the Red Sox won in 2004, I cared considerably less about baseball in general after that moment. People all around me continued spending lots of money on games, getting rowdy at bars, picking fights with Yankees fans and generally trying to keep the energy level as high as possible after this incredible peak. Same thing with Obama… I still like him a lot as a man and as a politician, but I’m really over the afterglow of his presidential victory and don’t get much excited about what goes in in the Oval Office anymore. Business as usual.

But, I recognize beautiful moments for what they are. I can easily  see the symbolism of a monumental event, whether it be shared between the masses or whether it’s between two people. I just can’t relate to trying to keep a mass-wave going amongst people as often as I can embrace the moments that consistently feel good between me and mine, because that is and should be enough.