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.
So I started dabbling with daily meditation in November. First off, a few caveats: I am not converting to buddhism, and I don’t fancy myself some spiritual guru.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I would love to share what meditation means to me, how I think it will help you, and how to get started.
It’s one of the most difficult things i’ve ever tried to learn because it takes a different type of discipline – total concentration, time, and lots of practice.
When I first started I literally had no idea what was going on. I would sit there, eyes closed and breathing… basically waiting for it to end.
But… before pulling the chute, I did some research. I reached out to Jonathan Fields after reading his book, Uncertainty, and he pointed me to a few really cool resources. I was also inspired by this really cool personal anecdote on meditation from JC Deen.
So here I was, confused guy looking to meditate his way to a stress free, hyper-productive life, but how did I actually start meditation?
The premise of meditation for me is focused awareness, living in the present moment, and being aware your body.
I’ll save you the spiritual cheesefest, whilst trying to explain a bit about each below.
I started meditating in November for a few reasons. Long days and bad sleep, but also i’m also just curious about ways to promote well-being, increase productivity, etc.
Coming from a psychology background, stress and anxiety are two things I spend a lot of time thinking about. The spiritual aspect of mindfulness meditation always popped up in psychology research as viable alternatives to your standard drug therapy approach.
I also, have this issue where I can never turn my mind off and ‘let go.’ When I go to bed, my mind goes crazy and I can’t sleep because its racing so fast.
I feel like a lot of people share similar issues – daily meditation can help you because it’s helped me.
Are you curious how the 5Run faired running a 5k… 18 times? Peruse the video to find out.
It’s been a long week… feels like I’ve been hit by a truck. Through the last seven days, along with my team and fellow Bagel Chasers, I’ve managed to run 90 km. This of course is in addition to working 50-55 hours this week.
Aside from causing me to reassess my life, (who spends this much time running?) this week really opened my eyes to the vibrant running community in Vancouver.
Small, passionate communities are all over the place, you just need to find them. Case in point is all the awesome people I met this past week. Everyone has a unique story from different backgrounds, but we all came together for a great cause.
Maybe, i’ve finally found the running enthusiasts.
I also figured out that (wait for it…) running in groups is WAY better than solo missions.
Learn about 5Run’s first charity event: the Bagel Chase, and a spontaneous 5Run thank you moment on the best five run of 2013.
The ocean in false creek is like glass, no wind, no rain – i’m running with Gerard. We waste little time firing up our respective running apps and get going.
Wednesday morning was your atypical five run. I kept thinking how perfect the weather was for running, and clearly others felt the same way. Barely 2 km’s in, we hit 8 high fives.
Then, something interesting happened.
We came across a pretty brunette girl running. In typical fashion, we fell into five formation and extended our hands. Something particularly awesome happened next.
While she enthusiastically high fived us, she said something i’ll never forget.
Shocked, we responded with your typical ‘woohoos’ and continued on. We sort of laughed it off… “hey that chick thanked us!” We finished our run, the best morning five run of the year so far, we hit 27 high fives.
Something about the encounter stayed with me. It wasn’t until later on that I figured out what the hell happened.
More on that later.
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:
Continue Reading →
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.
Continue Reading →