Is it just me or are we being encouraged this year to shuffle right past Thanksgiving and move on to Christmas? Where’s the love for Thanksgiving?
Well before Halloween, Darryl from “The Office” has been poised at his keyboard promoting Walmart’s Christmas deals. Target has already leaked its Black Friday ads, and the outrage over this year’s effort to “remove Christ from Christmas” is well underway with the Starbucks #redcup controversy.
The gears of consumption are greased and ready to go before the canned pumpkin is even stocked on the grocery aisle endcaps.
Before we start buying a bunch of new stuff and getting caught up in all that mindless eating, is it prudent to take some time to be thankful for what we already have?
Here are a few things I will be thankful for this year leading up to Thanksgiving:
So far, I am healthy and my family is healthy. This is not something to be taken for granted. Anyone who struggles with health issues will tell you poor health colors everything else. This is a huge blessing.
I live in a country that despite its great flaws, is still the best country on earth. The United Statesallows me as a woman to pursue whatever path I wish, gives me the opportunity every so often to have a say in the direction my country takes, and provides opportunities to better myself at every turn, should I make the choice to avail myself of them.
I have friends and family who care what happens to me. Every day someone I love tells me to have a good day, or shares the details of their day with me. Many days these interactions keep me from going nuts with the sometimes mindless busyness of modern life.
I am gainfully employed. For more than five years, many people in the United States have lost their jobs or struggled to keep working in a delicate economy. I am extremely grateful that I continue to work so that I can support my family.
I have way more than I need. I have a large enough house, plenty of food and a nice car. I try not to feel entitled to any of these things, but appreciate that I possess much more than I need to survive on a basic level.
Sprinting ahead to Christmas I think removes the opportunity to reflect on the blessings we receive every day, even small ones. Can we take the next ten days and just count our blessings?
Christmas will be waiting for us on the other side, I promise.
During last night’s Yankees-Mets game, I got a kick out of scrolling through Twitter, seeing photos of families and friends sharing the game together.
While other sports certainly promote connection and sharing, few seem to do it the way baseball does. The pace and tempo of the game, even if too slow for some, create an environment where you can settle in for an afternoon or an evening, eat, drink, laugh and occasionally cheer for your team (hopefully).
Baseball is meant to be shared.
Some say baseball games are too long and we are losing fans to the length of the games, especially since attention spans these days are only six seconds long.
I don’t buy it.
We find ways to focus on what we really enjoy and what is providing meaning for us.
I think teams should focus more on the connection part of baseball. Franchises should make games more affordable so families can come to the ballpark more often and create memories like the ones below.
Social media was the outlet for both joy and strong public opinion this week. Snapchat is the new resume, and a new social network is on a mission to fight depression.
First, let me take a selfie Despite the limitations on Internet and social media in Iran, Iranian citizens found their way on to social networks to trumpet their happiness at the news of the finalized nuclear agreement. Their gratitude extended to President Obama, whom they were able to watch on Iranian TV as he delivered news of the agreement, the first U.S. president to be broadcast on Iranian TV since 1979. Jubilant Iranians took the opportunity to grab a selfie with the leader of the free world. (The Hill)
Fight media with media
Out of frustration with broadcast and print media in Iraq, some Iraqis are using social media not just to keep people informed but to wage the information war against the Islamic State. (Al-Monitor)
Gettin’ Riffy with it
Facebook introduced a new video product this week called Riff. Part Snapchat and part Vine, Riff is another cog in the wheel to keep us from leaving the Facebook platform and going to YouTube. With Riff, Facebook users can create videos that other people can add on to. Maybe Riff can lure back younger users who left eons ago for Snapchat, which is kind of what this is like. (Mashable)
Mistaken identity Indiana’s new religious freedom law sure has everyone all worked up. The pizza restaurant at the center of discussion this week for refusing to serve pizza at a gay wedding has met with a firestorm of criticism on social media. Unfortunately, so has a similarly-named restaurant in Wisconsin that has nothing to do with any of it. It’s a sad lesson in the responsible use of social media. (Post Crescent)
Get your social media on A creative group of students have come up with a way to find others who share your same social media interests with shirts that light up when you are near each other. Imagine the odds of running into another One Direction Twitter follower at Old Navy! It takes wearables to a whole new level and could foster new offline relationships. (Phys.org)
Living with Social Media
It’s a snap to apply Throwing traditional job search methodology out the window, an Austin pizza restaurant is accepting job applications only through Snapchat. Their rationale is to be able judge the people skills a candidate may possess that translates into quality interaction with its customers. You may remember this as what used to be called a job interview. (The Daily Texan)
Social data in the city In a densely populated area like New York City, the NYPD can’t be everywhere (but they’re pretty close). Social media, however, lurks in every nook and cranny, and people are not shy about discussing just about anything on their personal networks. The NYPD is tapping in to this information to get a better picture of where they need to direct their focus in addressing citizen concerns. Stay safe out there! (DNA Info)
Get a little help from your friends
Social media gets a bad rap these days for causing depression, but a new social app aims to use the support of a strong social network to combat depression. Panoply, developed by MIT and Northwestern University, helps those diagnosed with depression to learn the coping skills necessary to beat depression, while using a strong support network to reinforce new ways of thinking. (Wired UK)
Bully pulpit With all the discussion of preventing bullying against students, it seems teachers in the United Kingdom may quietly face the same concerns. Reports of online abuse and social media attacks on teachers by both parents and students are cited by the largest teacher’s union in the UK as a rising concern. (The Guardian)
Social media in U.S. politics had its first big heyday in the 2008 presidential election. While Howard Dean is generally credited with being the first candidate to use the new interactive tool of blogging in his losing 2004 bid for the White House, Barack Obama’s campaign team pounced on the still shiny new world of social media in 2008.
Obama 2008 demonstrated clear mastery in an era of communication with unclear rules and boundaries. His effective use of social media, coupled with a fresh message, was the home-run hitter in the 2008 game.
Social data = money
The effort was followed up in 2012 with President Obama’s re-election, raising the stakes from elevating candidate visibility through social media to the new name of the game — raising cash. Obama 2012 more than accomplished this feat with masterful use of data and actionable, shareable social media and traditional online tactics.
Clearly the Obama campaign’s surgical use of data (compiled from all our social media sharing, Internet searching and mobile Internet use) played a critical role in his victory.
Campaigners had unprecedented access to the thoughts and behaviors of the American populace at a pretty granular level.
These last two game-changing presidential elections have laid the groundwork for the 2016 race.
Some are hailing this upcoming election as the ultimate marriage of social media and big data and that the next occupant of the White House will be the one who dominates this data contest.
Our data is the currency
Every day we willingly disclose information about ourselves on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and all the others. Couple that fact with what can be discovered about us through the metadata of our other online and offline activities, now easily traceable through our growing use of mobile devices.
Campaigns are now able to slice and dice the American populace in ways they could only dream of just 10 years ago.
Because there is now an unending firehose of information about the American public — more than existed during the 2012 election and much of it offered up by us on a daily basis — presidential contenders will now be able to easily craft specific messaging that speaks to people right where they are, using language they understand.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it does show how important our information has become in shaping our country’s political future.
But even with all that data moving through the pipeline, as the 2016 political theater gets underway, the big question still lingering in my mind is:
Do successful social media and data campaigns translate into actual votes?
It’s difficult to conduct research showing causal links between social media and voting behavior. Random, controlled samples of significant sizes are hard to come by. A myriad of other variables can taint the data that may not be possible to control for.
And many studies rely on subjects that merely report specific behaviors or attitudes as opposed to observing activities directly.
A few recent studies have explored the relationship between online social sharing activities and offline actions as they relate to elections.
The power of connections
One of the more convincing ones is a study published in 2012 in the journal Nature. Researchers correlated the use of social media and voting behavior in the 2010 U.S midterm elections using a sample of 61 million Facebook users, coupled with public voting records.
Researchers found that election messaging in the 2010 elections seemed to translate into greater voter turnout when Facebook users could see their friends engaging in political activities.
The researchers’ methodology made use of message prompts Facebook users may be familiar with. In the last election you may remember seeing messages in your Facebook news feed encouraging you to vote or providing a link to find your polling location.
Right next to those messages, photos of your Facebook friends proudly showing their “I Voted!” stickers on Election Day were prominently displayed.
The study results showed that if you were on the fence about voting, these photos may have spurred you to head out to cast your vote, especially if that photo was of an offline close friend.
The researchers conclude that while the voting message itself may or may not move people to act, the fact that a person’s social network was participating in the political process may be enough to move him or her to take action to vote.
“…social mobilization in online networks is significantly more effective than informational mobilization alone. Showing familiar faces to users can dramatically improve the effectiveness of a mobilization message.”
Magnify this same effect across your own social network through friends of friends, and you can see powerful exponential effects in play here.
Get people talking
Another study from researchers at Indiana University looked at the significance between online political behaviors and offline activities over two U.S. Congressional elections, in 2010 and 2012. Using data downloaded from a Twitter API, researchers analyzed the Twitter mentions a candidate garnered against their performance in the election.
The results showed that the visibility of a candidate on Twitter, whether positive or negative, translated into a higher share of the votes and that “…the ‘buzz’ or public discussion about a candidate on social media can be used as an indicator of voter behavior.”
The researchers conclude that studying social media data in this way could be useful in replacing traditional polls. Respondents to a poll are more likely to hold back if they think their answer might be construed as inappropriate or offensive.
But expressing views about a candidate as part of vigorous online political discourse may yield more honest findings and hold clues to the final outcome.
Buckle your seat belt
As the frenzy of November 2016 nears, it will be interesting to see which frontrunners will emerge and how they will make use of this information.
Will social media and big data turn out the vote among those who don’t normally vote? Will they lure younger voters, known for being politically disengaged, to the polls?
Meerkat and Periscope duke out the first round in the live streaming video matchup, why you should learn about Banjo and social media mining, and how social media is opening up ways to help impact depression and suicide. Plus, Pandas! Have a great weekend!
The battle over live streaming. The webernet was all a-flutter the last 10 days over the debut of two live-streaming apps called Meerkat and Periscope. Meerkat was first to the party (barely) followed by recent Twitter acquisition, Periscope. Both apps are easy to use but, at least right now, there are a few differences. It’s hard to say which one will emerge the winner because they will both continue to iterate rapidly. The sure winner will be the average Josephine, who will now be able to broadcast whatever and easily share her broadcast with the world.
Millennial nose for news. Many people have millennials chalked up to a non-informed group who spend all their time texting, tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting instead of pursuing the “real” world around them. What we’re beginning to discover is that millennials are engaging the real world through these media channels, not in spite of them. Though they are not as a group deliberately searching for news the way previous generations do (through time-bound media like newspapers, news websites, magazines and TV broadcasts) they are ‘bumping into” the news through the very social networks we judge them for using so heavily.
Cutting through the noise. This is a fascinating feature from Inc.com about Damien Patton, creator of Banjo. Banjo is a platform that combines all the activity we’re doing online and aggregates the data to create real-world pictures of what might be happening in the world at any given time. Part of the challenge with social media and online metrics is that you have to be a bit of a wizard to understand exactly how they all fit together and what they really mean. Banjo takes to a level that is hard for the average person to understand, but has practical implications in innumerable areas of life and industry.
Never say die. Email is the bane of our existence, yet it’s really the only universal method of communication accessible to most all online audiences. Since social media burst on the scene in earnest a decade ago, we’ve been hearing that this app or that app will finally be the death of email. So far, that’s not the case. This Newsweek article argues that we just haven’t found the next great universal tool that will fit our now largely mobile lifestyle.
The green monster is a ghost. Facebook is notorious for creating relationship drama when it comes to jealousy. But Snapchat is quickly overtaking Facebook for the social media jealousy crown. Turns out its secrecy and self-destructive nature makes it even more prone to flirtatious behavior than Facebook’s more public nature.
Depression on display. Younger generations are now conditioned to share their feelings online, in very public forums. In the past, people who were depressed or suicidal often suffered alone. But the Internet, especially social media, has allowed us a window inside the mind of mental illness. And sometimes those thoughts are scary because they might be thoughts of harm to themselves or others. So do we as Internet citizens have a responsibility to intervene when it seems a social media connection is having more than a bad day? This article shares the prevalence of depressive thoughts on social media and how some are providing a solution.
Establishing social media boundaries. It’s kind of expected these days to have some kind of social media and online presence if you are engaged in a career. Sometimes known as personal branding, this image marketing is just part of the game now. But how do you engage on these platforms without giving up too much privacy or showing too much of your personal side? Taking control of your social media boundaries lets you decide how you want to engage and which audiences see the information appropriate for them.
Hashtags support health. Everyone knows support is critical in any weight loss endeavor, whether it’s Weight Watchers meetings or working out with a buddy. There’s power in knowing someone else is sharing your efforts and looking out for you. Now research is showing that those who engage heavily in social media as part of their weight loss quest are seeing real benefits. The accountability and motivation are key in helping them stay on track.
One of the great things about being in the communications field is watching the ground shift at fairly frequent intervals. What was “the next big thing” just a year ago in many cases gives way to something else before you start your Christmas shopping. It’s like hitting a moving target, with faster sharing and new apps always on the horizon.
The ground has shifted in the last three weeks with the launch of Meerkat.
New apps debut every day but few to as much fanfare as this new live streaming app. You’ve probably seen a myriad of articles in the last few days about Meerkat and thought it was just another flash in the pan. And it very well may be.
But since it launched just a little less than a month ago, it’s become the darling of the tech community. Not only are people buzzing about it, but they’re also using it. Third party apps are already springing up to support it. More importantly for Meerkat, they’re raising cash.
Everyone can be a broadcaster
Meerkat is live broadcasting for the masses. The app lets you live stream from your mobile device inside your Twitter feed. Once you initiate a video recording through the Meerkat app, a tweet pops up on your Twitter feed containing a URL to the stream so your followers can watch your broadcast. The URL can then be retweeted like any other tweet, opening the door for your broadcast to go viral.
Viewers can comment and ask questions throughout the broadcast, making it much more interactive than just watching a video.
The stream isn’t archived in the app itself, but the broadcaster can store it on his or her device and upload it to YouTube, Instagram, or another video sharing site. A few days ago an app called #katch popped up, allowing Meerkaters (pretty sure that’s a thing) to automatically upload completed Meerkat broadcasts to YouTube.
Will Meerkat be different?
While the idea of livestreaming from your mobile device isn’t anything new, the simplicity of creating the broadcast and distributing it on a well-established platform like Twitter is Meerkat’s strength. They’ve made personal broadcasting kind of goof proof.
It’s tempting to wonder why you should care about this app. Certainly plenty of people will broadcast the mind-numbing details of their selfie focused life. But the uses for this kind of personal broadcasting are extraordinary.
Here are a few compelling uses in the mix so far:
While Congress can’t quickly pass meaningful legislation these days, a few politicians have already managed to latch on to Meerkat. Though not the first politician to Meerkat, Rand Paul broadcasted at the tech fest SXSW in Austin, where the infant Meerkat really got its legs. (By the way, that was just last week.) And Jeb Bush has already live streamed some speeches.
As the campaign circus gets fully underway, watch all the potential contenders start falling all over each other trying to look relevant with this app.
Twitter proved its worth as a major player in uprisings in Egypt, Ukraine and other hotspots around the world. Meerkat adds a real-time visual layer to this kind of information gathering. As events unfold around the world, we can watch them as they’re happening (albeit with a 10-second delay built in by Meerkat). It’s a compelling way for real-time events to be tweeted in a visually compelling format. I’m guessing we won’t be able to stop watching.
Many reporters are now asked to be a one-person show on scene: camera operator, audio technician and reporter. Meerkat may simplify their job by allowing one-button access to getting “on air” as breaking news unfolds, getting eyeballs on their broadcast quickly. This BBC article has a good analysis of the media company’s thinking behind their use of Meerkat in the recent Ferguson protests:
Lord knows we don’t get enough information about celebrities. We are addicted to “as it’s happening,” and we are addicted to whatever it is celebrities do when they’re not working, so this use should really take off.
Sports organizations can use Meerkat to provide engaging content at practices and during camps, or just to make quick announcements, like informal press conferences. Or give us a glimpse of what Derek Jeter is up to in retirement, just sayin’…
The interactivity, timeliness and ease of use could be a strong application of Meerkat in an educational format. With the increase of social and mobile technologies in developing countries, Meerkat could bring education in all disciplines to remote corners of the world.
It was only a few years ago that I began to understand the role mentorship can play for women in the business world. I had no models for my career when I got out of college more than 20 years ago. So I largely went it alone, forging ahead with my career mojo of hard work and a fierce hunger to learn.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked with knowledgeable, creative and dynamic women but I was never in a position to avail myself of them specifically as a mentor. I had no idea you could just ask (who knew that was a thing?), and I know my career would have been better for it.
Now that I am firmly a card-carrying member of the mid-career crew, I can easily look back and pick out a few things that can be helpful to someone at the starting gate.
At its core mentoring is a relationship of guidance and encouragement, peppered with measurable goals and accountability. Even if you didn’t have the benefit of your own mentor, you can still provide value to a young woman in the early stages of her career by focusing on a few key concepts.
Listen to understand
The skill of listening is hands down the foundation of any successful relationship. In order to get to the specific goals and aspirations of your mentee, you need to hear what’s in her heart. But listening to understand is different than listening to speak.
Often when we’re listening to someone talk about a challenge or problem, we are calculating our response to them — while they’re still speaking. We’re so eager to get our point across that we miss out on important information.
Listening to understand means listening to your mentee with true empathy, summarizing what she said to make sure you have the details straight, asking open-ended questions to clarify anything, and physically giving her your undivided attention.
It’s a deliberate approach but it will leave her feeling as if she’s really been heard, which will encourage her to open up even more.
This is a good way to build rapport quickly with your mentee and get your relationship underway.
It’s also pretty much the best way to engage in all your relationships.
Encourage your mentee to take the reins
While it’s important to do the hard work of active listening with your mentee, it’s also important to remember that she is the one benefiting from your wisdom and knowledge. In doing so, your mentee should take the lion’s share of the work.
She should take the lead in scheduling your time together and have clear ideas and questions about what she’d like to discuss during your meetings. It will certainly be more of a collaborative effort as your relationship grows, but you shouldn’t find yourself managing all the details of her mentorship experience.
Making sure you’re meeting on a regular basis and coming up with good content for your sessions together really falls on the mentee. This is how she learns to take ownership of her career and relationships.
If you feel like you’re working too hard at the relationship you should bring it up with your mentee and re-clarify her goals for the experience.
Challenge your mentee to get uncomfortable
Some of my most gratifying and successful projects came about because I put myself in an uncomfortable and somewhat visible place. As women we don’t always like to move forward unless we have planned everything to death or spent hours in preparation. Learning to take action before feeling 100% ready (or 90% or 80%…) is a valuable skill to teach any young woman.
Encouraging your mentee to volunteer for challenging projects or take on a leadership role she may not yet feel prepared to take on is a great way to build her confidence. Action builds confidence, there’s just no way around it.
The added bonus for your mentee is that you’ll be with her as she makes that move so she doesn’t have to go it alone.
Above all, be patient as you build your relationship. Hopefully you and your mentee will hit it off right away, but it may take a few sessions to feel as if you are really connecting. Meaningful relationships take time to develop.
Be patient most importantly with yourself. While you may not see visible effects of your mentorship right away, you may not realize how much you’re affecting her in small ways. Sometimes one comment from you can be all she needs to look at herself in a different light.
Investing your time and experience in another person is a rewarding benefit of reaching this stage of your career.
You may not have had the benefit of someone to walk with you in your own career, but your own achievements will provide your mentee plenty of inspiration to start achieving her own goals.
I was moved this week attending a retirement reception for a woman who had served in public health for more than 30 years. After a long and fruitful career as a physician, she recently decided to conclude her career to spend more time with her family.
I sat in the audience as person after person stood and expressed their gratitude for her mentorship, her leadership, and her diligence in creating programs that ultimately impacted thousands of people, many of whom she never met. Her impact seemed immeasurable.
This wasn’t just the usual witty, if not somewhat annoying, retirement banter: who’s going to make sure everyone gets their TPS reports in on time, who’s going to bring the donuts in on Fridays, or please, think of us all here when you’re relaxing at the beach. There was real respect for the magnitude of her work and even some tears from those who had benefitted from her tenure.
I think many of us envision leaving this kind of footprint with our careers but at times it’s hard to imagine when you’re in the throes of it all.
Career literature for women today focuses on building careers that elevate women’s leadership in visible ways, such as C-level positions, Fortune 500 board positions, or in well-paid positions that bring more power.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those pursuits, but the statistical reality is that most of us will not reach these heights inside a corporate structure. As much as we say we are just as capable but lead differently than men, we still at times like to use their measuring stick to define our success: power and money.
Where is the line between an ambitious career that meets your financial and creative needs yet leaves an immeasurable impact that continues even after you’re gone?
As I listened to the praises bestowed on this woman, I reflected on some of the underlying themes in the remarks.
She was a woman of action.
She wasn’t so much about talking in order to be heard; in fact she is quite soft spoken. Sure, she leaned in so that others knew she was there and capable of doing good work. But she then put action behind her words, creating organizations that addressed problems in very practical and tangible ways.
Her expertise as a physician allowed her to determine the most effective course of action and also what might hinder the goal. And she certainly drew others to her to help in achieving that goal. She acted in concert with others to meet a real need in her community.
But she acted.
She chose action in context with her passion.
Her passion was public health and ensuring the health and well-being of people who struggle to help themselves. As women with so much potential and infinitely more choices than our grandmothers, it’s easy to devote our time to things that really don’t get our motor running.
In following her passion, this woman created opportunities not just for herself but for others in the same field. Several people at her reception mentioned that their careers were possible because of her desire to create change in her sphere of influence.
Someone else is doing their job because you did yours.
That’s powerful stuff.
In choosing to act, and choosing to act according to her passion, she carved her path to her legacy.
Legacy work is that which lives on after our careers are over, and indeed, when our lives are over. It doesn’t just include having a hospital wing or a street named after you. Hearing people say years later that their lives and careers were possible because of your specific choices is a humbling endeavor.
Seeing this woman quietly accept and acknowledge this gratitude from her peers made me wonder if she had any inkling of this path for herself at the beginning. Or if she was just pursuing — with measurable action – simply what mattered to her and what she thought would help the most people.
It sounds simple but I’m not sure that it is.
In spite of the challenges still present, today’s woman has more tools than ever to help grow her career and do the work she wants to do. Beyond networking, organizational effectiveness, thought leadership and all the other areas women are encouraged to pursue, we also have to ask ourselves what we are contributing that will remain, that really matters.
What choices are you making in your career that will make another person’s journey more purposeful?
If I’m honest with myself, most of the things I do on any given day don’t drive me toward my larger work and personal goals. My cherished to-do list is full of things that maintain my lifestyle or advance someone else’s agenda. Busywork, mostly.
When I don’t accomplish enough of this busywork on my list I feel anxious and berate myself for failing to live up to an arbitrary standard.
Yes, I’m hard on myself.
In the process, the things that matter to me are easily pushed aside.
What can I let go of to focus on the things that will push my own work forward?
We get mixed messages about perfectionism. We’re told to just get things done to some point of completion. Done is better than perfect, according to Sheryl Sandberg.
At the same time we’re told that attention to details can change the quality of our lives. Remove all sugar from your diet to ward off obesity and cancer, meditate at least 10 minutes every day to reduce stress, get at least 120 minutes of cardio every week for physical and mental health, and make sure you don’t sit too much.
This noise creates anxiety if we’re not meeting those minimums. And if you’re a perfectionist, you don’t want to just meet the minimums.
I think one might be better than perfect.
Instead of asking myself each day how much I can get done, I’m now looking at my list to see what one item will have the most the value. I’m focusing my valuable energy there first. The rest will be what it will be. At the end of the day at least I’ll have my one thing.
Negative thoughts and perceptions
I hold the key to change what I believe about myself. No one else can do this work for me. Not my husband, my friends, the company I work for, not even Oprah. This one’s truly in my court.
Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which can lead to negative actions. We spend a lot of time trying to control our emotions or justifying them. We like to say we can’t help how we feel, but we can because we can choose how to think.
We sometimes forget we have the ability to control the process from the beginning. We can choose how we perceive the events in our lives.
I’m letting go of any space in my mind for negative and destructive thoughts. I’m challenging them right at the door as they come in. A mental bouncer, if you will. My mind is no longer an open house but by invitation only.
I’m on a mission in 2015 to remove most passive entertainment from my life. Research shows the time I spend on digital entertainment amounts to another full-time job.
If I remove all the pointless TV (including and especially the news), binge watching, random Internet browsing, social media, celebrity gossip and online gaming, I’m left with an enormous amount of time to get stuff done.
I suddenly find time to exercise, read, make the next workday’s healthy lunch, write, sleep, create a business plan, have a meaningful conversation and take time to ponder life in all its woe and wonder. Seriously.
I’m trying to let go of the need to be entertained at every step and using that time to create stuff. It’s not easy. Beautifully lit screens are surely seductive, but this new focus has produced nice rewards for me so far this year.
Spending time trying to be perfect at everything, beating ourselves up and whiling away hours consuming slick marketing platforms are all pretty wasteful.
I’m ready to let go of the activities and mindsets that hold me back. It’s time to reclaim my creative space and produce the legacy work that will mark my time here.
One of the consolation prizes of getting older is thinking maybe you’ve learned something with each passing year that you can take in to the next one. Every year presents a new opportunity to finally get it right, to reveal in your memoir that you figured it out and that the rest of your life pivoted on that one mind-blowing year.
My memoir probably won’t be as dramatic as all that but I have identified a few things I’d like to do a little better this year.
Find my long-lost right brain
The last 20+ years in corporate America has almost squandered the free-associating right hemisphere of my brain in favor of the more pragmatic, task-oriented left side.
At the end of the day, you have to get stuff done.
But it’s really starting to bother me that I don’t create anything as much as I just complete checklists.
The advance of the Internet and the ensuing smartphone revolution brought about productivity systems, tools and apps that promised to free up valuable parts of my brain for more creative pursuits. Honestly, those tools just gave me time to create more checklists and maintain the tools.
That’s not good enough.
I want to reclaim my ability to create new things. This year I want to have tangible representations of my time, to throw my face to the sky in blind enthusiasm and say, “I made this!” (There’s that drama!)
GOAL: Learn to draw.
Okay, it’s kind of a random goal. But plenty of people say that learning to draw is like a creative decongestant. So many different areas of the brain come into play to make it happen that it opens up new skills and changes how you view objects in the world.
Maybe the focus on using my hands and brain in a completely new way will open my mind to undiscovered possibilities hiding under its surface.
Ask more questions
In his book, “A More Beautiful Question,” Warren Berger explores the innovation and creativity that can result from the simple act of asking questions.
Instead of the constant search for answers, made easier these days by a simple Internet search, questions such as, “Why am I doing this?” and “What if I did this in a different way?” may prompt us to uncharted territory.
We are so busy chasing productivity and material goals that we don’t always stop to ask why we are on the hunt for these things. Should we pursue them at all?
These questions don’t have easy answers in the Google box.
GOAL: Ask questions about one goal, belief or assumption I hold dear and search honestly for the answer. Document and share.
What if I were to challenge one of my deeply-held beliefs this year? What kind of change could I bring about in my own life or in the lives of others by asking questions about things I take for granted?
Less mindless entertainment
You can now literally exhaust yourself watching TV. It goes with you anywhere on a device of your choosing. TV, now known as digital content, has turned into an amazing time suck, especially now that we can binge watch until our eyes bleed on any number of channels and services.
A Nielsen study from 2014 showed that Americans now own an average of four devices (guilty), and spend 60 hours a week consuming content on those devices (embarrassingly and probably, yes).
What amazing things could happen if just half that time spent on passive entertainment was spent exercising, reading, building healthy relationships and learning a new skill?
Would 30 hours a week developing a new hobby, building a side business or spending time with someone change my life in any real way? (Look at me already asking questions!)
GOAL: Watch TV shows I truly love only as a reward for accomplishing my weekly goals.
These goals are not mind-blowing, aggressive or innovative in and of themselves, but I think they might help push me to use my time in ways that offer more long-term value.
I want to be a good steward of my time and open my mind to opportunities I may have easily missed the past few years.
Maybe 2015 is the year I start Chapter One of that dramatic memoir.