“Wash your hands and I’ll make you a plate of pancakes.”

“I want blueberry pancakes, not Play-Do pancakes!”

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“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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“If they have toys at the hardware store, can I buy one with the money Grampy gave me?”
“Sure.”
“Good. I want a riding lawn mower.”

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I’m at the Back to the Blog event at Duke, organized by Anton Zuiker and Cara Rousseau. One attendee just asked how to find time to blog, which is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the past five years. I have a number of standard responses:

*Look for content you’re already creating, from white papers to long emails, and repurpose them.

*Look at what you’re doing that isn’t working and stop doing it to free up more time.

*A blog post doesn’t have to be a white paper; a short, interesting post or a link to another post your audience will find useful is enough.

Yet I still do most of my blogging (the little I do these days) late at night. I have a job where I could easily justify blogging during the workday, but I don’t. I write after my wife and son go to bed (or sometimes before they wake up). I’ve always done my best creative work late at night, whether on this blog, my book or presentations for work.

I wonder if that’s one of the reasons people feel they don’t have time to blog, because writing is a creative and personal activity that we want to do well. I have to be in the right mood to blog well and enjoy it. I don’t feel that way about other work-related tasks. It’s not as though I’ve ever thought, “I’m too tired to come up with a clever formula for this spreadsheet.”

One of the big challenges I’ve set for myself is to blog short items more frequently, but I don’t. Instead, I post more to Facebook (which leads to another question for another time).

I have abandoned some of the niceties I used to observe on this blog, notably posting photos and adding links. I used asterisks above instead of the HTML for bullets. (Did you notice? Do you care?) Those things don’t take that much time, but they take enough time (and are hard enough to do by mobile) that giving them up feels freeing.

But still it’s easier to post to Facebook, and I do it more often than I post here by a factor of, what, 100? I wonder how much of that is because blogging feels like Writing, with a capital W, and writing is a skill I respect and don’t want to devalue.

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“I wish I was a vegetable so that I didn’t have to get shots.”

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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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The Boy: “Can you break a testicle?”
Me: “It takes an awful lot to break a testicle.”
The Boy: “You could use a really heavy book.”

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Boy at park: “Do you know what the Olympics is?”

The Boy: “It’s when you swim and you sing ‘Call Me Maybe.’”

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