My mission on the train from Vancouver to Portland, LA, then onto Austin for SXSW just about took everything out of me.
In hindsight, spending five days on a train leading into five days of madness in one of the craziest cities may have been a tad ambitious.
I won’t bore you with the minutia of my trip because I already wrote about it on the HootSuite Blog.
Instead, I’ll share some musings from one of the best trips of my life thus far.
*Side Note* If you haven’t already read about my trip, I encourage you to take a peek, there are some cool stories about burrito ladies, travel bloggers, and train conductors. The preview can be found here, followed by part 1 and part 2.
No one cares about your typical work endeavour, goal, or event unless is has some oomph to it. Had my trip been your typical walk in the park, no one would care either.
Subtleties like the words you use to describe your project – how you pitch and brand it can inject some much needed zest and get you noticed.
You’ll notice that I used word like adventure, journey, and ‘epic quest’ to brand my trip. These are easy wins in making your project seem cool and unconventional.
I managed to get decent organic pickup on the articles because my trip was interesting and because it pushed me personally.
What I’m here to tell you is this. Instead of worrying about the small things, step outside your comfort zone of the screen. Do something interesting with your life, then share it.
People who’ve built meaningful platforms online, and the large followings that go with it, all do interesting things.
What they don’t do is spend all day on Twitter. Twitter is endless, it’s not like your inbox where you can (potentially) get it to zero.
The trip made me realize what I want. What is important. Doing trips like these and sharing the stories with you makes me happy.
With that, my plan is to do more of just that; doing interesting things and writing about them. Wow…what a breakthrough!
Take home for you: find out what makes you happy. If this is interesting to you, chances are it is interesting to others. Find these people and share it with them.
Three weeks ago I came up with this crazy idea with my boss to hustle my way to South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) at no cost. Easy right? Sort of. Anyway, with our goal in mind, it was time to figure out how to get it done.
What follows is a personal story of how I ended up on a train to Portland this morning as the first leg of a mission to Texas. I’m confident that you can take some learnings from my experience for ways to pitch your big shiny ideas, get them noticed, and green-lit.
Today I start a 5 day journey from Vancouver to Austin, Texas. Sure my main goal was to find a way to get to SXSW, but as I look out the window, i’m realizing it’s about the journey, not the destination.
SXSW is the go-to event for nerds and tech geeks looking to make waves in the industry. Major media brands like Twitter owe their fame in part to launching at SXSW. Every year, it’s a ners’ arms race to figure out which hot new startup will take over.
My employer, HootSuite, sent a team of 10 down last-year. And I knew this year would be similar. The handful who do get to go are the envy of the rest of the company because SXSW is a geek’s paradise.
Being the realest I am, I figured my name would not be on the list for 2013. The lucky chosen few tend to be more higher up established peeps.
That is where this crazy idea started. Could I hack my way to SXSW?
My boss, DaveO, is your modern day Jack Kerouac – the train idea was his. I remember him saying a month ago: “reach out to Amtrak and let’s see if we can train you down to sxsw.”
With that, I got my creep on and tried to find find someone at Amtrak who might be interested in hearing what I had to say.
The basic plan was this: if you provide travel arrangements, I will tell the story of my journey by blogging, producing videos, and just about every other form of media out there.
Once I found someone, it was time to extend the olive branch with the ultimate email.
When you’re in this situation, you need to take the perspective of the person you’re targeting with your pitch. What emotions are they going to feel getting a random email?
and how can you use this information to choose the right words in order to get a reaction?
Once you figure this out, you can start crafting the copy for your email.
The email you send isn’t about you. It is about accommodating the random person reading the email. Make it as short, concise, and as easy to read as possible. Bulleted lists, bold words, and short, well written sentences are your friend.
Talking to people about the reality of spreading the 5Run movement to the masses gets me thinking. I reflect on whether it’s realistic to expect others to eventually share the same passion for change, and helping people as i do.
Some of you I talk to are reluctant to high five if you’re running alone (completely fine, by the way). I think you may be better suited to spread the love whilst running in a group. It is all about comfort, do what feels right.
Originally, I adopted the ‘lone wolf’ mentality with 5Run. I envisioned high fiving strangers as way to bring fun to running, and add social element to the monotonous pavement grind.
Interacting with your fellow runners by helping, encouraging, and even pushing one another to be a better version of yourself was the goal. It still is, and progress is my guide.
I tend to experiment liberally with just about everything I do, high fives are no exception. I’m constantly thinking, tweaking elements of the whole high five experience – this is probably due to competitive / perfectionist disposition.
Since i’m getting requests on the specifics of high fiving other runners, i’ll attempt to map it out for y’all – this is your kind to high five strangers.
Think of the it this way: You have about 15 meters or or 3-4 seconds of real-estate with which to work. There’s a laundry list of things which need to align to pull off a successful running high five.
This is a continually evolving process as i’ve experimented with different approaches and techniques. Some work, some not so much… and some were outright embarrassing.
Lucky for you, i’ve done the heavy lifting, and will outline the art of the running high five.
Here’s how you can high five a stranger without embarrassing yourself:
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Through the fall, i’ve high-fived my fellow running strangers all over Vancouver from Kits, DTES, to UBC, and the Sea Wall. I’ll run a couple times per week before work as well as one caffeine-fuelled long hangover cure of run a on the weekend.
My motive with #5Run is simple: bring joy to fellow runners and see if i can bring about mood changes. I wrote last year about bringing fun to running, but there’s something more important here.
If i can positively shift someone’s outlook on the day, i’ll take it. Unfortunately, this proves a bit of a challenge as Vancouver runners are a difficult bunch.
Runners represent a screenshot of Vancouver’s culture. There’s patches of awesomeness dispersed throughout the holier than thou choch-fest which plagues our city.
People visit or move to Vancouver and completely struggle to infiltrate social circles. I personally didn’t realize our cliquey international rep until a couple years ago. Now it’s clear, the inherent guarded social circles are glaringly obvious.
This extends to runners.
It’s embarrassing how guarded some Vancouver Runners are. Smiling at someone might garner a reaction that I visually violated them.
I’m determined more than ever to change status-quo for Vancouver runners – let’s call it a shakedown of sorts. I high-fived 29 keen eyed Sea Wall Runners on New Years Eve, and the reactions were mixed.
I get a lot of questions about learning social media, digital, and breaking into the industry. With more universities offering diplomas, certifications, and courses for social and digital media, the question is whether it’s worth your money.
My advice is always to use extreme caution.
The nature of the digital space is such that its in a constant state of change. Social is new; Facebook is nine years old and Twitter six. What’s the next disruptive social platform?
The point is social and digital evolves quicker than any industry – formal education doesn’t mesh with this space.
Professors develop curriculum long before courses take place. It goes against the real-time nature which makes digital and social so unique and exciting. Any course becomes outdated before it is taught.
While formal education isn’t a perfect fit for the industry, there are specific use cases. I’ll rattle off a few examples.
Skill Acquisition: If you’re looking to add specific skills, ie photoshop, illustrator… etc, formal courses make a decent fit. The important thing here is utility. Ensure you are learning tangible skills that transfer and are directly applicable to your goals.
Networking: Professional network development. As much as I hate networking, it is necessary. You have to ‘play the game’ no matter how fake and phony it makes you feel. This is something i’ve personally struggled with before because I find it exhausting.
The beauty of formal education is how it provides a rolodex of connections for the future. This is probably the only reason i would consider an grad school down the line.
Keep in mind building these relationships takes effort and is only worth it if you attend a globally recognized grad-school program.
Learn yourself. I personally take pride in self learning… you should too, but how does one do this?
Expose yourself to the social space, experiment on different social networks and research who is influential and innovative on these subjects. These are who you should learn from.
An easy example is by making a Twitter list with digital “thought leaders.” Read not just what they write, but what they read as well.
Everyone knows the spiel about how everything is free on the internets, i’ll save it and instead, point you to some resources i’m using to continually learn. Same knowledge, but without the fancy piece of paper.
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With Movember winding down, I’m stroking my glorious moustache and pondering Movembers role in the greater context of mens health awareness. The last two years skyrocketed Movember’s status into mainstream.
With that comes mainstream media exposure and thus, Movember business opportunities.
Brands had this popular global event to explore. It screamed opportunity for Movember related promotions. Local brand and businesses particularly had an easy chance to inject themselves into Movember through deals and promos.
I kept thinking to myself all month how easy it would be. I’m still shocked that i didn’t see any friendly or creative promos.
In short, slap a ‘Movember savings deal’ in your store, shop, or business.
Here’s a thought.
Say i’m strolling around downtown on a Saturday, and I happen upon a coffee shop offering ‘Movember Discounts.’ It could be as easy as X amount off your brew if you’re sporting a moustache.
Not only would I gladly welcome a discount for my mo’, I would be inclined to share this info. In short, I would blast this over Twitter, Facebook and other social networks… “Hey I just got a discount for having a moustache!!!”
Public speaking infront of a group of critical strangers is universally mans’ greatest fear. Personally, I used to share echo this sentiment. I’ll admit it’s something I’ve avoided when possible. I’m not completely frightened per say — in the past I just didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a group of people whom I don’t know. My public speaking nerves take over.
Part of my apprehension is value based. If I didn’t have much to contribute, (translation: who cares what some dumbass like me has to say?) why potentially embarrass myself in front of a group of strangers? The risk-reward didn’t seem to check out… Much like how terrified I was starting this blog.
I firmly believe in not talking for the sake of talking – only speak when you truly have something to ‘say.’
The issue is vulnerability — we struggle to step outside the comfort and safety of our daily routines to which we can control.
I’ve come to realise I’m in a somewhat unique situation (narcissistic rant coming). I’ve accomplished my goal of startimg a career the social media landscape — making the transformation from full-time amateur athlete / student to working at a upstart tech company.
The last few months have been pretty amazing. I went from being a lost puppy without direction to fulltime employment doing what I love. I also graduated, finally putting an end to my six year arts degree marathon.
How did I pull off the transformation from intern to HootSuite employee status? A few things come to mind which i will lay out below.
Coachella easily ranks as one of the most amazing weekends of my life. Every renaissance man enjoys tasteful music. It was your stereotypical three day bender with minimal sleep and terrible 3am Del Taco missions that always seem to be a good idea at the time.
The performances were crazy! Here’s a snippet from everyone’s favourite white rapper.
Monday was absolutely brutal. Long day of public transit, random airport carpooling to Orange County Airport, long airport waits and finally a flight home.