Spring Forward Like Pacman

 

201303RRBridgeTownLakeFromPedBridgeNeverGiveUp

Never give up.

What a busy winter season. Holiday crush, end of year rush always has me looking forward to Q2 on the calendar. It’s Spring time and love of fresh tech startups is in the air with all the conferences, including South by Southwest and the inaugural Big Kansas City.

The picture you see is courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Austin, Texas Daily Photo. The caption says it all. Go for the Pacman food, and don’t look back.

Time to recap and get this blog revving again…


Unpluggd
I spent a considerable amount of writing bandwidth on my contributions to Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. They share entrepreneurs’ stories and advice to help you build your startup. Check out some of my work there:

South by Southwest
Checked in at “halftime” on Sunday, just in time for a solid three-day plan of tech parties, customer meetings, and the usual serendipity. Brief rundown:

  • #ShowMeSXSW
  • Paid a total of $7 for parking, not bad if you’re with car in ATX during SXSW.
  • SoCo, Joe’s, Annie’s, food truckology, and so forth.
  • Hung out with The Real Lean Startup
  • Badgeless with purpose in the Hilton lobbies
  • Ate a Casino El Camino burger and saw some Music + Film (thanks Kate!)
  • Met Bing Gordon on 6th Street (thanks to Jeff)
  • Hosted a kick-ass party with SquareOffs

I made a few “Un-Predictions” for 2013. Things that won’t change…
Brandifying, Google Plush, Byte Sizing, 2xfoursquare, Impressions, KISS

Tao of Bhanu Returns
Not only did he bust this blog’s record for Facebook likes, but he wrote another impassioned post on startups. Startup Investments and E-Commerce asks some tough questions on funding and urges tech entrepreneurs to take a pledge.

And finally…

trey-piece-hawks

All the way from Columbus.


Sometimes the best offense IS a good offense.

Congrats to the Louisville Cardinals for outlasting the amazingly talented scoring machine of the Michigan Wolverines. This game, this Final Four (Shockers) and tourney was everything the Spring Classic should always be — Competition + Class — and one to remember.

 

 

Write Better, Live Healthier #2

 

Packing serious power.

In the Write Better, Live Healthier  series I’m giving you practical advice on ways to improve the quality of your life. Creativity, happiness, success — there’s never a bad time to think more about it and go get it. It’s also a forum to explore and debate topics that we all care about but rarely have time to stop and consider amidst our busy lives. Think of it as a quick push notification for your life, full of little nuggets of byte-sized wisdom nudging you to tap into something new and good.

 

#2… Stop training for marathons, start training your mind.

Austin is my new favorite hot spot — not just for reasons some may think. Sure, it can be a mighty fine non-stop culinary and cocktail rodeo. But it’s also a place with people who live healthier lifestyles. That’s hard to do in the Everything-Is-BIG Texas.

It’s also home to two very cool and inspired people who I’ve come to know as great friends the last year — Andy & Nichole. You can read about their amazing story here. I recently was down in ATX to handle some business, surprise Nichole for her birthday, and retrieve my favorite burnt orange “trainers” (running shoes in the standard British-American English translation). Andy and I were having a discussion about what it takes to make a difference physically in your life. Nichole knows this like the back of her hand, so if you want to know more about her new project “The Real Lean Startup”  you can go here.

Back to me and Andy’s chat…

I was lamenting how I’ve known so many people that train for marathons, run in them, but never really seem to make much of a difference with their physical fitness. They still physically look the same as they always have. Conventional wisdom would tell you otherwise. But Andy reminded me what Nichole said once that stuck with us both, and that was “80% is your nutrition.” What I really worry about is all this focus on excessive cardio starting to eat into our muscles — the lean fat burning machine of our bodies.

About seven years ago, my doctor told me I was a little “fat” for my age and height whilst still being an athlete. I always tell this story to people, and might be a bit ridiculous. But I tell it to remind myself to stay on track. I played basketball in a fairly competitive pickup league every Tuesday night. I’d run up and down the floor for two hours, burn a ton of calories. I’d go to the gym a few days a week and run once a week on top of that. Here’s what happened. Amidst all the physical activity and exercise I was repeating some of these bad habits:

  • staying up too late and getting less sleep
  • neglecting my down time, i.e. no relaxation activities, but finding more work to do
  • eating like a buzzard while traveling on the road
  • stressing out too much about dumb shit

Whenever I visit Austin, I make a point to spend time with Andy & Nichole. We share a nice ritual of going to the store and picking up fresh ingredients for dinner. Then we go back to Bevanham Castle and cook an awesome fajita dinner. It’s good to slow it down a bit. Eat later. Do some food prep, open a bottle on wine, rap about life and business, and put on some crazy Swedish house music on the iPad. This is what my friends might call a “cheat” day. It’s never really a big deal because you’re doing the all the right things the rest of the week. And this is my practical message to anybody, but specifically to entrepreneurs  moving at a constant ludicrous speed:

It’s not about the bad stuff, as much as it is about not doing enough of the good stuff.

  • Eat right more often than not – Dave Thomas and Colonel Sanders are not your nutritionists. Neither are Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy John and Cinnabon. So don’t let them take over your crammed and slammed week of pitches, meetings, and hackathons.
  • Get out from under the laptop and get active — Surely. But don’t amass days and weeks of bad habits and think you’re rewarding yourself with a fun run or a marathon. That’s just backwards thinking. Instead…
  • Start training your mind to think ahead — Moderate exercise is a healthy habit to take up. No argument there. But stop for moment and think about what will take your mind and body farther and higher well into your best years. It’s the nutrition stupid.

Try this routine out. One weeknight a week. Work later (yes, I said work later). Go home around 8 or 9. Slow down, take the rest of the night off and cook yourself a healthy meal. Fajitas are great (Andy puts too much guac and sour cream on his), or try one of my all-time favorites. It’s fresh Wild Alaskan Salmon with sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts (use olive oil instead of butter, substitute prosciutto for bacon if you must!).

Little victories like these throughout the week will begin to train your mind with healthier habits. Watch your body become your new best follower.

Write Better, Live Healthier #1

 

Lettuce, begin.

In the Write Better, Live Healthier  series I’m giving you practical advice on ways to improve the quality of your life. Creativity, happiness, success — there’s never a bad time to think more about it and go get it. It’s also a forum to explore and debate topics that we all care about but rarely have time to stop and consider amidst our busy lives. Think of it as a quick push notification for your life, full of little nuggets of byte-sized wisdom nudging you to tap into something new and good.

#1…You need to make an effort to Write Better stuff.

I see a lot of poor writing out there. I see it in business — RFPs, emails, docs, Powerpoints, product specs and other things. I see it online — web copy, UI, blogs, profiles, social media posts and comments.  I also see out there in general, in the wild — ads, billboards, industrial designs, instructions, signage, even menus at bars and restaurants.

Nobody’s perfect, and I’ll certainly carry the torch for imperfection. Maybe at some point I’ll put up a few examples. But to quote a famous line from a Supreme Court judge and James Bond, “I know it when I see it.”

There are three reasons it’s important to Write Better:

  • Write Better to organize your thoughts. We all have ideas that pop into our head all the time. Use whatever system you want for getting these into some recognizable and referenceable format. I like blogging them, but I also like recording them on paper. For the latter, it has the added benefit of always being “wireless.”
  • Write Better to reuse your content. Time is precious. Why waste it on trying to recreate something every time you want to reference it, link to it, or expand upon it. I like this idea of becoming a buffalo content maker. Don’t waste anything. If you write it better the first time then it will be much easier to call-up and reuse again for maximum impact.
  • Write Better to inspire yourself and others. Make it memorable, and fun. How cool would it be to have a running catalog of stuff you wrote that gives you or someone else a lift in their day? Very. There’s an amazing thing that happens when you write in an inspired voice, a bonus. You often end up with content that can easily work into a verbal communication on the subject. This is because it was written in a conversational style that is a natural for connecting with the listener.

I leave you with this poster called 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer to get you pumped up. It’s from Copyblogger Media, makers of the StudioPress Genesis Framework. They make awesome WordPress themes. I am a big fan.

In future installments, I’ll cover specific tools and techniques for Writing Better for different situations in life — professional and personal. And of course I’ll be diving into the Healthier  side of this series. Topics for that one are top secret at the moment. I might need kid gloves.

#2… Stop training for marathons, start training your mind.

 

 

My Year-End Message: The Most Important Things Aren’t About You

 

Be Unique!

[Editor note: This is a letter I wrote to my second cousin, Kaylee, who turns 1-year old in a few weeks. My aunt Deb asked us all to write a few words about her Grandpa Bill.  She never got to meet him but will have a special Christmas book filled with memories about him. This is the most important thing I've written all year. And I'm sharing it here. Enjoy!]

Dear Kaylee,

Congratulations on your FIRST Christmas!  You are my second cousin.  Your father, Ryan, is my first cousin. Ryan’s father, Grandpa Bill, was my father John’s younger brother.  I called him “Uncle Bill.”  Your Grandma Deb asked us all to write to you about your Grandpa Bill.  He are some stories that are part of the family history and ones that are part of yours too, even though your Grandpa left us all before he had a chance to see you be born and grow up!

Videographer

Your Grandpa Bill was known as the family videographer.  Not only was he very creative and technically able, but he had a passion for family, especially reunions and get-togethers, and wanted to document these special moments for future generations.  What made his videos so great is he liked to capture candid moments (for better or worse!) with the people he filmed.  Your Grandpa was a straight-shooter and he liked real moments of joy, even if it came with a little embarrassment.  You accept people no matter what.  It is a lesson for life that he would tell you if he was hear with you today.  He would tell you to not be afraid to express yourself, especially your fun side, even it meant not always looking your best or saying the right thing.  What mattered most to your Grandpa was getting to know people on a human level – and being able to laugh at ourselves always!

Competitor

Your Grandpa Bill was a talented athlete and businessman.  He sought excellence, was a gracious competitor, but above all liked to WIN!  You will inherit this trait.  One story that many of us will always remember was when your Grandpa Bill was about your father’s age at a family reunion in Omaha, Nebraska.  He and my dad (your great uncle John) got into a “friendly” game of basketball.  They were joking around and playing for fun when all of sudden your Grandpa Bill got very intense!  He wanted to beat my dad at this game very badly.  So much so, that he sprained his ankle trying to do this very thing. He spent the rest of the weekend on crutches. What made your Grandpa Bill so memorable as a competitor is that he continued his clever and entertaining ways despite his injury. A true classic.

Salesman

Your Grandpa Bill was a great salesman.  He would always win all the sales contests at his company and take your Grandma Deb and sometimes your dad and uncle Chad on the most amazing trips around the world. He believed in working hard and working smart.  Your dad has inherited these traits, and you will learn over time how to be a charismatic and persuasive communicator like both of them.

Cooler Guy

Your Grandpa Bill used to bring a rolling cooler for storing cold drinks and snacks to every event.  He loved this rolling cooler so much that he vowed one day to make it a family reunion tradition.  His plan was to bring it to the family reunion each year and pass it on to the next host of the family reunion for the following year. He was very passionate about this idea.  Your Grandpa Bill was persistent and tenacious in the things he was passionate about.  It could be for the smallest things, like a silly cooler, or the biggest things like his family and friends that he loved.

Last Man Standing

Your Grandpa Bill was also an early riser.  So, it was funny to us all that he would often outlast even the youngest at family outings.  Maybe it was his competitive spirit or just his love of people.  One time,  at one of your dad’s birthday parties (I think his 30th in fact), your Grandpa Bill stayed up until the last of your dad’s friends had called it a night and went to bed!  He would also keep his siblings up late at night offering his philosophies and thoughts on life.  Sometimes, much to their disagreement! He was always starting a new and interesting discussion.  You will learn over the years to take an interest in people and want to spend every precious moment of each day learning about them and having fun in the process.

Salmon and Dominoes

There are probably more stories I could tell about your Grandpa Bill, but you will hear more of them as you grow up and the years go by from your Grandma Deb, your mom and dad, your uncle Chad and aunt Lacey, and your family relatives.

I leave you with a happy memory of your Grandpa Bill that I will always remember.  After my dad left us for Heaven, I was with your Grandpa Bill for his last Thanksgiving in Ottawa, Kansas with the rest of your family.  This was a very special time for me because your Grandpa Bill was the closest connection I had (outside of my own family) to my dad. They were very close even to my dad’s very last days with us.  I got to spend time that summer and fall cooking salmon (my dad’s favorite) on the grill outside with him, walking in nature and chatting about life – our hopes, our dreams, our plans, and what’s most important in life.  We would all eat turkey together, laugh, and play dominoes together for hours that Thanksgiving. It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing; only that we were together with family and enjoying each other’s company.
This is what was most important to your Grandpa Bill.

So, cheers to you and your first Christmas with us.  May you make many new memories with your family, and cherish these stories about your Grandpa Bill for years to come!

With Love,

Tim

Personal Branding: Are You @GaryVee or The Stealth Bomber?

 

Say something.

 

[Editor note: This post is related to the article "Founder to CEO: Mastering the Unnatural" that I wrote for Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. They share entrepreneurs' stories and advice to help you build your startup. Check them out!]

This is a quick post about branding. Personal branding. I’m not going to cover the “what” of personal branding, i.e. tools, techniques, etc. Instead, I’m going to talk briefly about the HOW. Use this as a quick gut check on where you are with your own personal branding.

Let’s talk goals first. Are you looking to get a lift in your job search and networking? Become a better thought leader in your space of learning and expertise? Get the word out about your new startup? The main question you must constantly ask yourself is, “What am I comfortable with out in the wild?” For some, it’s a series of baby steps, walks or skips. For others, it’s big leaps at every turn. Virtually all of us are looking for the same thing. We want our message to be seen and heard by people who care.

Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle of these two approaches, blend them at times, depending on the challenge or opportunity that’s in front of us. This is practicing situational awareness. I’m fairly new to personal branding and admittedly still finding the right mix. And that’s ok. The problem comes when your goals, expectations, and aspirations are out of alignment with your approach. For example, if you’re a soft-spoken entrepreneur and have big, lofty expectations for your idea in the marketplace you want to seriously consider turning up the volume on your personal branding even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

Now, this doesn’t mean you will instantly gravitate to either extreme outlined below. But it does mean that when you decide to say something big, you should consider how big you want to say it. You’ll need to eventually put most of your personal branding chips into one of these two pots.

The Stealth Bomber

You’re a bit of a lurker. You smartly poke around different environments and platforms making incremental gains in building up your sphere of influence and network. You might even take center stage sometimes. Not a bad play. When played right, this strategy allows you to fly under-the-radar but still be visible when you need to be. You’re usually well-connected. It’s also handy for using the element of surprise when the right opportunity presents itself. You strike when the iron is hot, and do so decisively.

“…featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is able to deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons.” — The Stealth Bomber

Personal branders should always strive for congruence. How you say something should align well with how you actually are — your authentic true self. Let’s say you’re known as somebody that doesn’t speak up much, but when you do, you do so confidently and decisively. Your personal branding should reflect this. That’s an example of being congruent. Conversely, if the same person is all over the map and offers no conviction in their personal branding, they are out of alignment with their true authentic self — and it will show. This is where being a stealth bomber can blow up on you. Let authenticity be your watchword with this approach.

@GaryVee

If you follow social marketing trends and aren’t familiar with @GaryVee of Vayner Media and Wine Library TV, get on Twitter or YouTube right now.  He advises some of the biggest consumer brands in their world on their customer engagement and marketing strategies. What sets him apart is his ability to put himself virtually/completely out there for mass consumption in his personal branding. It’s an integral part of his business branding too. This is a far cry from the stealthy approach outlined above. This approach requires a unique set of attributes, featuring thicker-than-concrete thick skin, laser-like focus of message, and less than zero personal inhibition. You must be comfortable in your level of exposure out in the wild being somewhere higher than the moon and stars.

“…featuring thicker-than-concrete thick skin, laser-like focus of message, and less than zero personal inhibition.”

I think you get the point with this approach. You’re putting your personal stamp on just about everything you’re putting out to the world. And you’re doing it in a very BIG and memorable way. If you buy into this approach, you are telling the world you’re confident that your message will persuade them to move in your direction.

The biggest difference between this approach and the previous one? In the @GaryVee approach, you’re putting all your chips into this pot, ALL the time. There is very little, if any, filter when it comes to your strength of conviction. Congruence is equally important with this approach to personal branding. But if you currently fall into this camp or are contemplating it, chances are you’re already the type of person that can pull this off.

Your Homework

To get you warmed up and inspired for how you’ll tackle personal branding in the New Year, watch this short video on marketing by the late Steve Jobs. In it, Mr. Jobs explains that ‘this is a noisy world, be clear on what you are about.’ It will challenge you to think differently about what you are currently doing. To say nothing is no longer an option.

 

 

Crack Your Creative Code

 

It’s your code.

 

[Editor note: This post is related to the article "2 Must-Have Habits for High Value Networking" that I wrote for Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. They share entrepreneurs' stories and advice to help you build your startup. Check them out!]

Creativity is the spark plug to your entrepreneur engine. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what you’re doing for a living. I’ve often been asked “why are you always coming up with these crazy ideas?” Does this sound familiar to you too?

If you find yourself in this camp then you absolutely understand that your own creative process is filled with lots of a really bad or “out there” ideas at first; and then over time they become refined to the point of sometimes being insanely good. There’s no secret to this process. In fact, most who practice it plead ignorance. They’re actually right. This idea was captured in a great quote I found by the late Steve Jobs:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. [via BrainyQuote]

Code Your Dots

There’s a sea change going on in the world right now. Information is so readily accessible to anybody, at any time, and it moves at lightening speed. This is taking our lives by force and making it necessary, not just optional, to think more creatively in our endeavors. What’s the point of being creative if we all have the same information? Think for a moment about the idea of connecting things — those THINGS are the dots of your life and experiences. And only you have access to how they all relate to your view of the world. You own that code. That’s your edge.

There’s a cool hashtag campaign happening over at Fast Company called #genflux. I encourage you to check it out.

 

There’s a conversation going on there about what talent looks like today. It’s an important conversation. Especially, if you find yourself moving in your career or building a company. I personally don’t think it costs you anything extra to be more creative. All it takes is connecting a few dots to create some new things. And you don’t need a certain look, job, title, or any permission to connect the dots and unleash the creativity within. It’s all right there.