From the category archives:

Unprofessional

“Good morning.”
“Hey, how are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Oh, you know. From the womb untimely ripped.”
“Sleepy?”
“I feel like I could sleep for weeks.”
“I know the feeling. You heading anywhere interesting?”
“South Carolina.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s there.”
“Well yeah, but they’ve already discovered it.”
“That’s right. And climbed it, too.”
“I live in North Carolina, so we tend to look down on South Carolina.”
“I’ve heard that. That there’s Carolina, and then South Carolina.”
“And they have Myrtle Beach and South of the Border.”
“But when you’re on your family vacation, where do you stop? South of the Border.”
“I’ve already decided that if I get married a third time, it’ll be there, in the shadow of Pedro.”
(big smile)
“Safe travels.”

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Political debate in the U.S. devolved into name calling long ago. Both sides are guilty of using the basest of personal attacks to appeal to the basest instincts of the electorate. But it is time for both parties to realize the long-term damage they are causing in their heedless, headlong rush to power.

America is divided pretty evenly between Democratic and Republican voters, as presidential election polls and results show. When one candidate says the other is completely and totally wrong, he or she is saying that candidate’s supporters are completely and totally wrong. And thus pointing a finger at half the country and saying, “If you’re with me, you have to believe that half of your friends and neighbors are completely and totally wrong.”

Reasonable people know that not to be true. My father and I often disagree about politics, but because we have different key issues that concern us. We agree fundamentally that America should be an inclusive country with a strong economy that provides a safe place for people to live, learn and succeed. And we both agree that the only way for that to happen is for reasonable people to work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, not by rabid fear-mongering that turns everything upside down every four years.

But if we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the rhetoric of each campaign, and the commentators and news outlets who earn their money by perpetuating and exacerbating the conflict, Sunday lunch would become a shouting match.

The campaigns play on the same instincts that, taken to an extreme, turn soccer stadia into battlegrounds where zealots try to maim and even kill their neighbors, identical to them apart from the color of their scarves. And to the furthest extreme, these are the instincts that allow the rise of fascism.

I honestly don’t know how we will break this cycle. The political machines on both sides are refining their tactics every day, learning the marketing techniques refined by people like me, driven by the greatest profit and power motive the world has ever known. Maybe we need to be attacked by aliens to remember that we are one people who agree far more than we disagree.

In the meantime, I hope reasonable people around the country will remember that most of your friends, neighbors and co-workers don’t hate you because you pull a different lever in the voting booth. If we can show some tolerance and keep our minds open to the possibility of working together, maybe the political parties will follow our example.

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John from KOne Limo in Atlanta I traveled to Atlanta recently for a meeting with customers. I booked a car service since it was the same price as renting a car, and required less GPS goofery on my part. I looked on Yelp and found K-One Limo, with six of the most positive reviews I’ve ever seen. Initially I was skeptical, because the reviews were so over the top, but I booked the trip.

John (pictured) is the owner of K-One and met me at the airport. He called to make sure I had arrived, directed me to the right place to meet him, and then quickly and graciously re-adjusted when I doofed my way to the wrong place. He was driving an immaculate Lincoln Navigator and was dressed way better than I was, even though I was on my way to meet customers.

We talked all the way to the hotel, and all the way back, about his life, his family and his philosophy of customer service. Basically he goes out of his way to remove all obstacles and annoyances from his passengers. When he learns their preferences he accommodates them. One Yelp reviewer said John always has an iPhone charger ready to replenish his travel-drained phone.

He also understands the value of quiet competence. When things are going wrong (as you can imagine, an Atlanta limo driver deals with a lot of delayed flights), it doesn’t do any good to flap. John remains calm and professional, which I guarantee you is more reassuring than sweaty apologies and mad dashes through traffic.

I think John could do anything. I wish he ran pretty much every service organization, like, everywhere. I truly enjoy meeting people who are absolutely on top of their game and happy doing what they do. I’ve had that pleasure a handful of times in my life.

When you meet someone who is truly happy and successful, it’s usually because they can’t imagine doing anything but what they do. I never worried, for instance, about Jim Goodnight selling SAS when I worked there, because it was obvious that what Jim Goodnight loved doing was running SAS. If you want another great example, read a biography of Richard Branson.

I suppose I should end with some kind of motivational challenge to you to find the thing you love, but we’ll take that as written.

Who have you met who is really on top of his or her game? What did you learn?

image by me

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Social media usage statistics for the month of July show that early adopters and influencers are leaving Facebook in favor of a new crop of social networks. These location-based food photo sharing apps place funny quotes on top of the picture, designed to attack people who don’t share the user’s political believes. The hottest one is called SaidNoOneEver. There is no Android app as of yet.

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Last week, Jamie Sandford began the day with what I’ll call a “metatweet.” I responded. It took off. Here’s how our conversation evolved throughout the course of the day:

@jsandford: <something about coffee>

@davidbthomas: <something about Mondays>

@jsandford: <inspirational way-too-much vim and vigor tackling-the-week tweet>

@davidbthomas: <excessive use of motivational hashtags>

@jsandford: <ending of day tweet>

@davidbthomas: <expressing an interest in a particular foodstuff and/or alcoholic beverage>

@jsandford: <general agreement and/or countering with alternative item which is more complex or uses rarer ingredients>

@davidbthomas: <enthusiastic agreement, onomatopoeia representing consumption of said foodstuff>

@jsandford: <comment related to upcoming TV show, hashtagged>

@davidbthomas: <parenting anecdote>

@jsandford: <emphatic sport event comment!>

@davidbthomas: <support for the opposing team expressed as ridicule of your character>

@jsandford: <denigration of your team based on menial historical statistic relating to prior triumph in the series>

@davidbthomas: <rejection of the importance of your quoted statistic, followed by equally trivial statistic from earlier contest>

@jsandford: <commentary on the difficult nature of putting small descendants to bed and/or humorous pre-slumber saying>

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I’m getting in shape and I’d love your support, and I’d love to support you as well. If that sounds interesting, read on to find out how.

As any of you who have seen more than just my tightly-cropped avatar already know, I need to get serious about my health and fitness. I’ve been overweight more or less since leaving high school. I’ve had ups and downs and tried different ways of eating and exercising with differing levels of success. Now, at 45, with a three-year-old son, it’s never been more important for me to make some lasting changes. And I’m convinced social media can help me.

There are websites where you can track your fitness goals and interact with lots of strangers, but I don’t want to do that. I want to get support from my existing community, and I want to give my own support for those of you who are fighting the same fight. I’ve just read The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss and I’m going to follow his “slow carb” program. But he lays out much more than just dietary advice. Tim has developed a series of “body hacks” that are based on science and research. His focus on managing glucose and burning fat while maintaining even blood sugar is especially good for me.

He also has a lot of smart, practical advice on how to stay with it. One suggestion, for instance, is to share a photo of every meal you eat with your networks, on the principle that you’re less likely to eat a bag of M&Ms if you have to disclose that you’re about to do it. That’s one thing I’d like to share, but I doubt my existing Facebook friends, Twitter followers or blog readers want to see that three times a day.

Here’s what I’m thinking: I’d like to start a Google+ circle called “Healthy.” I will use that circle to share my own goals and progress, post pictures of my meals, and force me into public accountability. If you’d like to participate (and you’re reading this via Google+) then let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to that circle and you can share your progress, post pictures of your meals, tell us about your walk or run, or whatever else you need to stay on track. As the circle grows, you can watch the comments and add members of my circle to your own. (Or maybe I’ll create a list of members and share it with new people who join: keep that in mind if you ask to join my circle.) If and when Google+ allows us to make circles publicly opt-in, I’ll do that.

If you came upon this post directly on my blog or via Twitter or Facebook and you’re not on Google+, I’ll be happy to send you an invitation. My email address is Dave at the domain name of this blog. (Be sure to send me a Gmail address: it only works with Gmail.) ::UPDATE:: If you’re reading this post via Networked Blogs, it’s not that URL. My domain is dbthomas.com. So put Dave in front of that.

I’m not looking for this to become huge. I’d love it if five to 20 people who I know, either from the real world or from social media, want to participate. I’ll post daily updates of my weight loss and body fat reduction, my exercise, and pictures of my meals. (I’ll try to make the pictures fun when possible.) I’ll also share my thoughts on the 4-Hour Body program and how it’s working for me, and any good, healthy recipes I come up with. If you do the same, we can build a community of people sharing valuable information and offering one another support.

If that sounds like fun to you, let me know. Now I’m off to grate some cinnamon and think of clever things to do with lentils.

image by cookbookman17

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storage media in a museumI’ve seen quite a few discussions lately about the Spotify online music service. A few people said they didn’t get it; they wanted to own their music, not rent it. I saw a similar comment about the Amazon Kindle e-reader. That person was concerned that Amazon could take the content back at any time; he wanted to own it.

Why?

I’m not talking about people who like the experience of holding an actual book. I get that. Or audiophiles who get all squishy at the smell of a freshly-unwrapped vinyl LP. I mean, why do you care about actually owning the content?

For one thing, you don’t in fact “own” the content; the artist or author does. You’re just buying the delivery medium.

I listen to all my music through iTunes, XM Radio or the web (just trying out Spotify). I have around 500 albums and I haven’t had a functioning turntable in at least a decade. My CDs are in the drawers of my son’s dresser. (We’ll have to move those as soon as he discovers them or I predict they will turn into a thousand shiny projectiles.)

I don’t want to own content. I don’t even really want to store content. I just want it available when I want to access it.

I love using Kindle on my iPad. It syncs to my iPhone which means I always have the book I’m reading with me. There are some books I’ve re-read several times (Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, for one), but looking at my Kindle library now, I’ll tell you there aren’t more than one or two titles on there that I have any desire to “archive.”

For TV and movies, even fewer. Remember that Qwest commercial from about ten years ago? A haggard looking man checks in to a dusty motel and asks the bored teenage clerk if they have any in-room entertainment. She says something like, “We have every movie ever made, available at any time, day or night.”

Yeah, that’s what I want.

When I found out that Spotify let you stream whole albums for free, I thought, “Yep, that’s it. I’m done.” My favorite albums of all time are London Calling by The Clash, I Just Can’t Stop It by The Beat and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (yes, I went to college in the ’80s). I listen to them maybe twice a year, if I’m honest. Why do I need to buy them and hold them, if I can go online and listen to them whenever I want?

Yes, there’s lots of obscure music out there you won’t find online, and things do go out of print and disappear, but if you’re worried about that, I already covered you in my squishy LP-opener category.

I don’t want a closet full of storage devices. I don’t even want a hard drive full of files. It feels like clutter to me, and something that will endlessly have to be maintained, backed up and worried over. If I ever did make a full to-do list, there would be several items related to just the external hard drive with my MP3s on it (back up, eliminate duplicates, organize). I don’t need that.

Tommy Lee Jones, viewing a new piece of alien music technology in one of the Men In Black movies says, “I guess I’ll have to buy the White Album again.”

No you don’t! You just need to pay somebody who has the White Album online. And if a service like Spotify can supply both the archiving of old music and the discovery of new, that’s all I’ll ever need.

(Of course this all falls apart if the White Album isn’t available to stream. I should probably check that.)

If you like owning your music and books, I’d love to hear why.

image by me

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a very nice photo of a roseI’ve been tired of the arguments over “social media experts” for a long time. There’s also the recurring meme about people with unusual titles (ninja, guru) and that one bores me as well. If all you have to write about is semantics, dig a little deeper.

But here’s a nomenclature discussion that makes sense to me. The PR firm GolinHarris has tossed out their old title scheme and adopted a new one:

Strategists, who analyze a client’s business;

Creators, who develop new ideas and engage in brand storytelling;

Connectors, who reach target audiences through media and other channels;

Catalysts, who manage client relationships.

(Thanks, and a tip of the blog hat to Publicity Club of New England, where I found out about it.)

I’ve always been a big fan of clarity and saying what you mean. Those titles seem to me to say pretty clearly what those people do (with the possible exception of Catalyst—that one seems a little less descriptive and more like marketing speak).

With the speed at which things are changing in the communications and marketing world, and the different ways we are pursuing those activities, it makes sense to rethink the way we talk about what we do. Two of my three most recent titles didn’t exist five years ago.

The big question, of course, is will this provide clarity and value to clients, or will it confuse people? Regardless, it’s a bold step and one that seems to me to involve more than just semantics.

What do you think of those titles? And do you think we need new ones, or should we let the old ones evolve?

image by suchitra

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a tree standing alone in a large fieldEvery now and then I’ll get into a conversation about introverts and extroverts. People sometimes think I’m kidding when I say I’m an introvert. Sometimes it’s because they’ve seen me speaking before a roomful of people, or acting goofy to get a laugh.

When I first took the Myers Briggs test, I was right on the borderline between introvert and extrovert. The last time I took it online I had moved a bit to the E side, but not by much.

I’m thinking about this because I’ve spoken at two conferences in the last week, and that always gets me thinking about human interactions and my reactions to them. Also, my friend Emily just posted a link to a post by Jerry Brito called Top Ten Myths About Introverts. Not everything in that post applies to me, but a lot of it does.

I hate small talk, for instance. I would much rather someone walked up to me at a cocktail party and said, “Tell me what your first decree would be if you became emperor,” rather than, “So, did you see the game?” And it’s true, as Brito points out, that if you get me talking about something I’m interested in, I won’t shut up for days.

Years ago I heard a description of the difference that made sense to me. Extroverts recharge their batteries by being around other people; introverts do it by being alone. That is definitely true for me. I love going to conferences, client meetings, parties and other intensely social events. But when I hit a wall, I need to get the hell out and be by myself for a while.

I suspect a lot of the people we see on the podium at conferences feel the same way. I know I’ve had similar conversations with people I’ve met on the speaker circuit.

How about you? How do you recharge your batteries? Alone or in groups?

image by Malulux

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