Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why run a marathon?

When people hear that I have run several marathons, they consistently ask, "Why would you do that?" It's a decent question. I wonder the same thing when I see trapeze artists, high-rise window washers and attorneys at work. So, here's the list.

Why run a marathon?

1. It's difficult.
2. It's a true test of your discipline. You can't cheat. To do it correctly, it takes at least six months of training to prepare. By "training," this means running shorter runs several times a week and gradually ramped-up long runs(I preferred Sundays.) By long run, some prefer to run the full distance before a race, some run up to 20 miles.
3. There's a whole strange and wonderful community built around running.
4. It's just you, your body, your mind, and the road. (And your mp3 player, if you're me. Some prefer the solitude of their environment.)
5. There's real peace out there. (Not just the chemical thing that happens around Mile 14 for me, but that's pretty fantastic too.)
6. It forces you to get outside and see the world.
7. If you travel, it's a really unique way to sight see.
8. You start to see food as fuel, and (hopefully) get smart about what you're tossing down your gullet.
9. It's a cheap hobby. Some decent shoes(go to a store where they know what they're talking about), some moisture-wicking gear, mp3 player(optional), watch with a timer(GPS running watches available for gearheads) and a target marathon. Typical marathon entry fees will cost between $75-150. Of course, if you choose to run one out of your area, add travel cost. When all is said and done, it could likely cost you less than that gym membership you never use.
10. It's inspiring. No joke. For all three experiences, there were points in my training where I wanted to quit, but I persisted. There are points where you are in pain, but you go on. I have called on what I learned about myself on the road when times get tough.

Feeling inspired? Here's a great place to start with free training tools, as well as great videos and articles. Runner's World: Beginners.

Photo gracias: Flickr user jjan9.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seven Things You Don't Know About Me.

So, I've been tagged by Lauren Vargas, Linda Jacobson, and Lauren Turner to take part in the Seven Things You Don't Know About Me blogging fun. Geoff Livingston originally tagged Lauren Vargas and my bud Richie Escovedo. This idea is a great representation of why I love the social Interwebs. Here goes:

1. For several years, I played guitar in a heavy metal band, Cain. Don't try to look us up or buy our stuff on iTunes because your search will be fruitless. We weren't the big hair variety, either, we were more of the Pantera/Metallica ilk. I still listen to metal regularly and go to the occasional show. I also still play guitar, but more of the Zeppelin/blues speed now(I'm old!).
2. My wife and I give out informal Parent of the Year awards. My most recent Father of the Year honor came when we got home late from an event. I told my kids(3&5) to be quiet because I thought I heard monkeys upstairs. The 3 yr old ended up crying and not sleeping much that
night, afraid of the monkeys in our house.
3. I write all the time. I've written four full length novels(one I'm finalizing to try to sell). I wrote a play, The Mercy Street Boys, that was produced by a local theater in 2001. I've always had more story ideas than time. I hope to balance that ratio someday. I also write non-fiction. I'm currently working on a non-fiction book with a friend centered on the relationship between love and self-respect.
4. I'd list my favorite kinds of music as rock, jazz and opera. Wait, what was that last one? Yup. Opera. I attended a performance about 8 years ago just from curiosity and found out I really like it. My favorite is Puccini's Turandot. Nessun Dorma is one of the most beautiful things ever written, in my opinion. Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez is a close second, but that's not opera, and I'm getting off topic.
5. I played ice hockey, badly, for a few seasons recently. I am a rabid hockey fan and thought my love for the game would translate. The NHL players make it look easy. Skating is hard enough. Trying to play hockey and skate for me, near impossible.
6. I've run three marathons. My favorite, so far, being New York. Running through that great city was amazing. The countless people lining the streets in every neighborhood was amazing. And, of course, finishing in Central Park is nice.
7. Despite my love of all things literary, I read everything Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk write. One of my fav recent blog posts references Palahniuk's Fight Club.

I hereby tag these friends: Leo Bottary, Dan Keeney, Chelsea Moser, Rob Barra, Jenn Schooley,
Patrick Evans, and Simon Salt.

The rules(courtesy of Vedo):
  • Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged
    (Hat tip to Beth Harte for the rules.)
Photo gracias: Flickr user no vacancy.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Personal Branding is Your Interview Suit

You know that suit (or "outfit") that hangs in the corner of your closet, anxiously awaiting its next interview adventure with you. It's a beauty, right? It's crisp and clean and is probably one of the best cared-for items you own.
Lately, especially in the current market, I've had calls from several good friends who are looking to market themselves. Most understand that a paper resume is not the full picture anymore. As I've attempted to explain the modern job hunt as I see it, I always end up discussing personal branding. There are many differing opinions of what personal branding is, but my short definition is that it is your online profile. It is the services you use and how you choose to use them.
Many think this is just another buzzword...another one of those items a shady "executive search" firm can charge you untold thousands for. (If you're listening bogus exec search firms, we're on to you.) This "branding" is actually what you are doing all the time. The job hunt is everywhere. People are watching you and your work all the time to see if you're a good fit for their company. Maybe they'll need you five years from now.
A friend recently told me they didn't see the point in keeping up a blog. It's easy for most to see how networking services like LinkedIn and Facebook can help(or hurt) a job search, but blogs are often tougher wrap your mind around. Blogs are for talking about why Star Wars is better than Star Trek, right?
Even slow futurists will tell you that knowledge brokers and empathetic communicators will be the United States' greatest export in future years. By proving your ability to communicate, interact and present yourself on a daily basis, you are only increasing your ultimate value. So, does your online profile provide you the same benefits as your interview suit? Think about it.

Photo gracias: Paul Goyette

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ten Years Gone?

Spurred on by some of my recent work on my Master's Degree, I am shopping around the following question. I will post answers below. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

What is the most important work skill for managers to develop in the next 10 years?

@kenthompson007(via Twitter) "...losing the ego at work and refraining from abuse of power."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

SMTOI - Scribblar

I'm constantly evangelizing for the fun tools that I enjoy checking out, so I decided I'd throw one on the blog every so often. I'm calling it The Social Media Tool of Interest. SMTOI, you know - like "toy," but spelled "TOI." I'm trying to get into the act of goofy social media spelling. So, anyway, let me introduce Scribblar.

Scribblar is a free utility(also avail in a $99 Pro version) that allows you to manage multiple whiteboards in real time. You can use all the pictures, text, etc., that you want. You can chat off to the side, if needed. This is a nice tool for an impromptu explanation, or a quick presentation, a graphic edit among co-workers, etc. If you have a minute, take a look. It's fun stuff.

Above is my Superfantastic example of a few minutes play on Scribblar....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Six Challenges for Journalists

Let me preface this post by saying that I have 10 years in Public Relations, a degree in Journalism and some experience as a newspaper reporter. In other words, I've got the cred to have an opinion.
So, since I have devoted what will likely be a fourth of my work life to working with the media and I truly have a heart for the work journalists do every day, here we go. Read on...

Six Challenges for Journalists

1. Be Honest. You expect the truth from sources. Be upfront with what you know and where you get your information from(if possible). PR people have a bad rap for being dishonest and so do journalists. We both need to reflect on why the public feels this way and work to gain back their trust.

2. Be Professional. If you use foul language or are abusive to members of a source's staff, they do not have to accept this behavior. The media are the first to shine a light on any public figure behaving unprofessionally, but I have encountered much of the same behavior from reporters. It is just embarrassing for the profession. Those in charge should correct, and not encourage, this type of behavior. Please don't give people more ammo to justify the negative stereotype of reporters.

3. Be Respectful of the Other Person's Schedule. Many reporters have told me that any individual should drop whatever they are doing to talk to the media. To say this is to say that communicating via the media is everyone's most important duty. I do not want my local Fire Chief to have the media as his first priority. Sorry, I just don't. To be clear, I am not advocating dodging of media. This is bad practice, as well.

4. Admit You are Part of the Conversation. Television news viewership and newspaper readership is down and dropping. Consumers are rapidly turning to other sources for their information. The attitude that an organization needs to cater to the media is waning. The media simply does not hold all the cards anymore. The information environment is extremely diverse and complex. Figure out how you fit in and play that role.

5. Embrace Change. Meet Rick Sanchez, CNN anchor. He's fully embraced Twitter (@ricksanchezcnn). The remarkable thing about Rick's interaction is that he actively references user comments on his daily show and most recently from the beach during Hurricane Ike. Also, and I would say most importantly, he is not afraid to insert his personality into the news. This does not mean a surrender of impartiality, but it does mean to keep it interesting. Why do most regular people get their news from each other or entertainment-oriented sources like Limbaugh, Stewart or Letterman?

6. Add to the Conversation. Our country is currently bankrupt - economically sure, but also of ideas and inspiration. Journalists have a voice. Use that voice to be an agent for the common good. Exposing corruption is just part of your job as I see it, but is not the entire picture. What about adding fuel to fires that will benefit society as a whole?

Photo gracias: ShutterCat7.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SNL Greatness

I can't really explain why this makes me laugh so much, but it does. Enjoy.

Not enough green = Broccoli

I read this article from the New York Times this morning
(Thanks @thopeross).

The article explores the premise that bad economic times are actually good for an individual's health. Why? Well, tough economic times lead to less fatty restaurant meals, less nights out drinking with friends, and less consumption of entertainment where food plays an important supporting role(ballpark frank anyone?).

I recognize this trend in my own family. As times get leaner, gas prices remain high, etc., we have cooked more at home. We have gone out less. When we do go out, we often share an entree. We consider whether the kid's meal is really worth the extra few bucks. Is any of this reflection or focus negative? It's hard to argue that this type of reflection is bad.

How has the downturn positively affected your life? Comment below.

(Bonus: For any of you dieters/health nuts/gym rats out there who had to cancel a club membership to buy gas, check out the free Sure there's advertising, but you can ignore that if you want.)

Photo gracias: amayu.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why Old Star Wars is Better

Why do I prefer the older Star Wars movies?

I think it boils down to the Millennium Falcon.
It didn't work most of the time.
It sputtered.
It smoked.
Chewbacca was working on the ship about as much as he was kicking butt in the first three movies. (One of his action figures even came outfitted with tools and goggles.)
Much of the dramatic tension revolved around whether they could get it working in time to escape from whatever danger they were in at the time.

There's a business lesson in this. It was harder to root for the heroes of the newer, glossier Star Wars pics for me. New communication is as much about showing your scars, as much as it is about sharing your successes. After all, we can all see the smoke and hear the gears grinding, don't be afraid to talk about it.

Photo gracias: GABURU & spiritwalkersg.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Is Facebook Good for My Job?

I noticed an interesting phenomenon around my office. Several of our group participate in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. There was no "type" represented in the way this group spread. They represented a real cross-section of early adopters/non-techie, male/female, all ages, different job functions. Often when I discuss social media, people are quick to say the tools are natural for a certain generation, those under 30, etc. It's easy to compartmentalize people and say that social media naturally exempts some individuals. The only group with a real exemption are those without regular access to a computer or mobile phone, which is a relatively small percentage in the professional/student areas.

The phenomenon I picked up on was that those who chose not to participate were missing out on quite a bit. Most people would not hesitate to point out the importance of attending office parties, talking to people casually in the break room, etc. These informal relationships are the same within online communities, although they run much deeper. I know a great deal more about most people I interface with via social media than I ever would from casual conversation.
On that same note, you are getting "face time" with a boss or supervisor every time they interact with you, view your profile, see your updates, etc., on Facebook or other services.

Too much emphasis has been placed on the negative aspects of social media. If you use these tools in a smart and social way, they can and will actually help you in your work life*.

*I realize also that many of your companies may block social media as a category(they are wrong to do this, btw), but don't let that be your personal excuse. Participate anyway. It only takes a few minutes a day to update a profile and see what your friends are up to. Most likely you will appreciate the extra layer this adds to your life.

Photo gracias: Hallie M.

Books I've Read & Recommended.

When I get together with friends, family, and business contacts, it seems we always end up swapping titles of books we are reading. I thought it would be fun (and also a good crib sheet for me) to keep a list of my favorite books. These are in the order that I read them. There's no links to buy them here because this is just about sharing. You know where to find them, if you're interested. I'll also do my best to link to blogs and other info related to the books. If someone interesting, say Tiger Woods or William Shatner, recommended the book - I'll let you know that too. That's all for now. Enjoy.

Made to Stick (2007: Non-fiction)
by Chip and Dan Heath

My thoughts: This was a great reminder of concepts that you think you know already. Basically, keep to the simple and memorable.

I read it in Summer 2008.

now is gone (2007: Non-fiction)
by Geoff Livington with Brian Solis

My thoughts: This was the launching point for me with social media, especially its relationship with PR. Geoff's blog and influence in the PR community are well-known for good reason.

I read it in Spring 2008.

Freakonomics (2005: Non-fiction)
by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

My thoughts: This is a fascinating look at the invisible lines that connect variables in life from the perspective of a "rogue economist." I am interested in economics, but not unusually so, and this made for a very interesting read.

I read it in Spring 2006.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why I loaf Jott

Chris Brogan posted a Jott goof this morning, and I realized that our mis-Jotts have gotten to be a fun thing around our house. I'm beginning to think maybe my wife uses Jott half the time just to see what it enters on her Google calendar. (If you're not familiar with Jott, it's a great tool, especially for commuters or people with old school cell phones. Basically, Jott adds items to your calendars, sends messages, etc., from voice cues. It does not always get things right, but that's a little charming at this stage of technology.)

So just for fun, because I'm in that kind of mood today - I'm collecting Jott mistakes. I'll repost my favs via my Twitter account @morate. So, send me your most mangled Jott messages. Here's a few of my personal favs. (Voice msg = Jott post)

Kleiman Eye Center = Climbing Ice center (@vedo)
Swim lessons = Tin license(@morate)
Winestyles = Juan's house(@morate)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Online tab, now I'm happy.

The Internet Machine has really outdone itself this time. As someone who spent hours working away at songs in guitar Tab books, I am glad to come across the above site. provides standard tab, but also keeps time and gives you an audio cue of individual notes and chords. It's also got an option to play a song at half-speed, just in case it's your first go round with...let's say ...the Chili Peppers' Under the Bridge. I also have to thank Stumbleupon for helping me to find this site. If you haven't signed up for Stumbleupon, do it, do it now!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are you an info pusher?

I was trying to figure out why I migrate to certain people on Twitter over others today, and I settled on this...there's info pushers and then there's citizens(call them Twitizens, if you need a catchy new word. Take it, it's free.)
Some of of us sign up (on purpose) for info push on Twitter, via email, etc., to get sports scores, tech news, beard trimming tips, and the like. This is fine when we've made a mutual agreement that we want someone to shout news or information in our general direction. But what of the shouters on Twitter? Personally, I find them annoying and I'll tell you why.
Twitter is basically a venue for a large conversation. I describe it to the uninitiated as if I am sitting around a giant table with some good friends, some content experts, some jokesters and a few advertising wonks. They all add to my day, and hopefully I add to theirs. Accepting the premise that it is a conversational medium, why all the shouting. We all have those friends who incessantly pepper us with news every time we see them. As they give you their verbal news feed, you're really thinking "Can we just have a real conversation here?"
Twitter's for real conversation. Use it that way. And if you're just now realizing you are an info pusher, make a clean break. Start out by doing some quality listening. Follow some interesting people and then follow their lead.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The only object in life is to grow

The only object in life is to grow.

"Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow." - Margaret Fuller

Every once in a while, I come across a quote that I can't let go of. Such is the case with the above quote from Margaret Fuller, a writer from the early 1800's. It's not hard to apply this thought to your own life, as this simple thought can take on various meanings.
I think this quote is very applicable to social media in PR/Communications. When discussed, many people regard the social media phenomenon as a passing fad or worse, a trivial waste of time. The early adopters are upset because they can't exactly explain why this new world is so important for others to discover. I offer this simple plea to those who are still skeptical - social media is personal growth.
For me, every step of the way has been very challenging and very exciting. Sure, it's fun to tell your friends that you have a blog - but guess what? It's hard work. It requires a shift in your thinking and the way you process information. But, for me as a writer at heart, it has been a wonderful revelation. Also, when I worked for a newspaper, I felt very constrained by style and editors - but there's no editor in the blog world. Your readers decide if they like your style and content.
I've also ventured into other avenues, including social bookmarking(Delicious, Digg), network creation/management(Ning), microblogging(Twitter,Plurk), social media aggregation (FriendFeed) and unique animals like Jott and Mosio, to name a few. Each adventure has been just that, and each has exposed me to a world of new people and new ideas that I never would have been exposed to under normal circumstances.
So, dear reader. Why do you read books? Why do you have dinner with interesting friends? Why do you go to professional conferences? Why do you engage with the arts? You do all of these things to learn, and to grow. So, if you're not out there, get out there. If you are, you have one more reason to give those who doubt the value of this new medium.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Tony Robbins Loves Bean Soup.

Let me start out by saying that it's not every day I nod along approvingly to a Tony Robbins interview, but the below interview from the Today show last week struck me.
Robbins' basic point was that the economic downturn we are experiencing could actually create a mentally healthier population. As a nation obsessed with things, the downturn has become downright depressing. Robbins suggests this cultural reflection is a good thing.
After all, was it good strategy that we were all overspending on credit and real estate?
Was it good that we don't have a next step plan for our economy?

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Let's Start with the Universe.

Richie and I began our presentation today about social media to the Fort Worth PRSA crew. It went well, I felt. The discussion was real. The questions were all over the map(a good sign). People generally nodded their heads. Even when we went over time and gave everyone the go ahead to bolt, the majority stayed and continued to ask questions.
But after all that, there was something holding us back today, and I realized it after getting back to the office. It was the universe.
Trying to explain social media, as a concept, is a little like trying to explain life, starting out with a brief discussion on the universe as a whole. Basically what I'm saying is, it is a BIG subject. And discussing this BIG subject with a group of nearly 60 professionals from different companies, with different interests, etc., is also BIG.
There's also the slight problem that asking Richie and I questions about SM, is a little like asking a Trekkie, "Hey, what's the big deal with all this Star Trek stuff?"...or asking a jazz fan if Miles or Monk is better? Anyway, you get the picture.
If you were there, I'd be interested to hear your comments.
If you've presented SM to a group of "non-tech" types, I'd also love to hear your feedback and experiences.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

America's Heart Problem.

Vedo and I were discussing the Cohen/McClellan situation this morning and something struck me. Let's call it Jerry Maguire's disease. Forget all the "you complete me" side of that movie, I remember my incredible shock at the beginning as Jerry composed his treatise on everything that was wrong with his business. He was unceremoniously canned, spiraling his life into a somewhat inspiring romantic comedy. We should all have such luck, right?
The first act of that movie laid out an all-too-familiar scenario in America. Just a few weeks ago, I witnessed a candidate whipped by Tim Russert for changing their mind about major issues. Why, in America, are public people unable to change their minds on issues. New information comes to light. The world changes. For example, the way both parties talk about the environment has vastly changed in just the last 10 years.
So, I know there is more to this story. Those of us who weren't there can never truly understand the pressure McClellan was under. We can also not understand his heart now, in this situation. I venture to say that every person has the right to have a change of heart, and even to be disgusted by some of their own actions in looking back at their life. Isn't this what we call wisdom?

Pic courtesy -

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Hard Look in the Mirror.

Andrew Cohen of CBS News took a shot at PR professionals as liars. Many in the profession took incredible offense at the comment. Were they wrong to be offended? I say no, but conditionally. When I tell people at a party what I do, they crack a joke about me being a flack, putting "lipstick on a pig", etc. Any attempt at further explanation and they just get bored. The general public has opinions about lawyers, politicians, and yes...PR people.
That said, Cohen was fundamentally wrong about PR pros as paid liars. It reminded me of a story...
Early in my career, a colleague told me a story of being asked by his boss to lie on behalf of the organization. He took a long look in the mirror and decided no career was worth compromising himself. He did not lie. The person that asked him to lie was later arrested and he remained with the organization. Trust me, dear reader, this is not the only example like this.
I venture that all professionals are faced with some type of ethical dilemma within the scope of their career, whether it be cooking the books, lying, etc. The true measure of a professional is how they react. PR people are not able to simply ignore ethics as part of their job description. The issue is human, not job specific. So Cohen(a member of a traditionally picked-on profession) took a shot at PR, we can withstand it, BUT better - let's do our best to educate our co-workers, friends and clients of our true purpose.