Archive | Observations RSS feed for this section

The cobbler’s children have no shoes…

White Label

I was speaking to a friend the other day and for some reason or another websites became part of the conversation. I was asked,

“What about your website? Where is it so I can go look and see?”

And I have to admit to them that it is in a horrible state of affairs—it has been over 9 months since I had written anything at all on the site. I told them that I’ve fortunately been too busy to do anything about my own website and they said,

“Ah like the cobbler’s children that have no shoes!”

And I said, “Precisely” and thought to myself how piss-poor an excuse that is.

In that moment I didn’t fully grok what just went down. A day later I get an email referral, they ask me to have a look at my work online, and the conversation above all came back to me.

Really? Had I forgotten about my own website all this time? Was I really too busy to update it, keep things fresh and relevant? No, I would look at it from time to time. I’ve had many things I’ve wanted to share and I’ve hatched multiple “ideas” to update it. I’ve thought about what I want it to be, and so on. However, all this thinking never produced any type of plan, or set of steps to get things going. I’ve never made it a priority really. In fact what is super embarrassing is the post previous to this that is 9 months old that talks about how the website overhaul is underway—well now it is.

I’m going to make this happen. An hour a day (or more if possible) until website is up to date. There, I said it or rather typed it out in black and white (not just a thought in the head). It has been far too long, and an update does need to happen to this website. Blog posts about changes may follow.

For now, I did find this question posted on Quora and thought I would share.

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , ,

The Finish Line

Right now I am in an airplane flying back from Saratoga Springs, New York. I took a 5 day trip to visit my Uncle Nick who, a few weeks back, was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Needless to say this was a surprise to the entire extended family. Fortunately this extended family is quite strong and supportive. Being in the presence of the love, kindness, and humor of my uncle and family these past few days has left a lasting impression with me.

I’ve known my Uncle Nick for well over 20 years. He is a “one-of-a-kind” person and personality. Always kind and giving, with firmness and one of the best sense’s of humor I know. He is a solid man, a presence in the room, but as he would say he’s “just a simple country boy.”

There are many long-standing jokes and mythologies he not only created but helps to maintain up to this day. For example, he has the unwavering belief that my father has numerous coffee can’s filled with money buried throughout his backyard. My Uncle thinks my father’s claims of not having money are B.S. and that he keeps putting money in cans, and burying them. Over the years any time the topic of money would come up, Uncle Nick would be sure to mention to my father that he needs to stop being so stingy and dig up some of the coffee cans and “give the kid some money.” Of course this drove my father nuts, and everyone would have a good laugh.

I visited with my uncle 3 times over this week. Each visit he seemed to be a little better than the last primarily because he has decided to stop radiation and chemotherapy.  Being at stage 4 with his type of cancer, combined with his age (77) puts him in a situation of either enjoying what time he has left as best he can, or to poison himself and be in pain for his remaining time on Earth. He has come to terms with the idea that the finish line of life is near. He is blessed in that people that love him can come and say their goodbyes as I did. His passing is imminent but he has time left and has decided to live it as best and comfortably as he can and for that I admire him as I always have.

This visit to see my uncle for the last time has reminded me that money and work, while nice to have, is not the end-all be-all of our daily existence. Having strong connections with friends and family is very important and those people show up in your life when you need them.

The TIME you have to spend in life, doing whatever it is you do, is the most valuable and important thing we all have other than life itself.

Continue Reading

Tags:

What are you waiting for? Publish!

I’ve been meaning to publish a post like this for a while. The irony of that combined with the topic is not lost on me and I find quite priceless. Have a look+listen and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Do you publish? or Do you wait?

http://www.vimeo.com/8873874
Continue Reading

Tags: , , , ,

Help In Choosing a Specialist. It’s in the Value.

There is a trend I have been noticing in doing business on the Internet lately and like any place of commerce you eventually see this. What I am referring to is the commodification of services. In other words, if you are looking for a programmer or designer to help you with an Internet based communication project; be it a website, email newsletter, SEO, etc., you know that one can find a variety of people that vary in skill set and professionalism with what services they provide. More people providing the same skill sets compete with others on price, thus making it a commodity.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Working on Spec (aka Working for FREE!)

I had a client of mine—one of my first when I struck out on my own—email me about a conversation we had a while back. The conversation was about some new ideas regarding a website. It was a great talk and the brainstorming was fun. We left the conversation open-ended and, from my perspective, we would pick it up again. That day just came.

Updated 8/14/2009 Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Tags: , , ,

Paying the price. One way or another.

time-is-money

Today I was reflecting upon a common occurrence among people that I talk to with regard to their website(s).

The people I talk to either want a new website or they have one and want to update/add/delete a design or function of the site. These conversations either happen through email or in person and become a dialogue of  back-and-forth brain picking. They ask how they can do “X, Y, and Z” and I then ask questions relating to strategy, objectives, and outcomes. These are great conversations, and I love having them to figure out what it is people are doing, and how I can help them out. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Thesis is like the chocolate in a Peanut M&M

mmsYellowPeanut

I was having a discussion yesterday about the specifics of what I do for a living. I typically give very generic answers as I think most people don’t really care they are just trying to create polite conversation. However this time the person I was speaking with was genuinely curious and was digging deeper with more questions.

Explaining the intricate details of web design and web development to the laymen can be an interesting exercise. Anytime I try to explain something I know intimately, I have the best success using metaphors. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Signpost in the road. Turning 40.

40

May first. May Day. Today is my birthday and you can tell by the sign above that it’s a round number of some notariety. It is an age that to some is a milestone, a turning-point, for others it is a sign of dread. As for me I am actually stepping back and not assigning any meaning to it. Yes it’s a birthday, which is reason to celebrate for anyone, but the specific number to me—at least this time—is not overwhelming. Funny because every year since 35 has caused me more and more dread but now that the day has come I say “big deal.” 40 after all is just a number and the signifigance you place on it is what goes on in the gray matter between your ears.

I do have much to be thankful for at the time in my life. I have a healthy and happy family, a roof over my head, food to eat, clean water to drink, modern conveniences, I am self-employed and (knock-on-wood) have remained busy despite the present doom-and-gloom reported in the media about the US economy. All things reviewed I have it pretty damn good so really there is no “dread” for me to be the age I am. Age is just a number, and a state of mind, after all.

A few observations at this time in my life:

  • Time does indeed fly. Time has the feeling of moving much faster. Days fly by and the weeks are fast now. When I was a kid an hour seemed like forever and now its a blink of an eye.
  • Use it or lose it. You need to move your body and exercise. After 35 you start to feel your body in ways you never have. The solution is to use it. You want to end up in a walker? Get your ass off the couch and get in motion!
  • Kids are zen. They are always living life in the moment. No worries about the past or the future. Its all about “whats happening NOW!” Being around them and their ability to stay present is a gift.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all do it. We let the internal critic tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, or that people don’t like us. That’s all bullshit. You need to get present to reality and what is really true, not what you “think” is true. Take a deep breath, let it go, and lighten up.
  • Worrying solves nothing. All it does is give you gray hairs, ulcers, and wrinkles, and who wants those?
  • I am grateful. The older I get the more grateful I become for everything in life.

OK, that’s enough for now. My life is calling…

Continue Reading

Tags: , , ,

Get Perspective On Your Stress

My wonderful wife is a teacher at The Thacher School. One week every school year each teacher is required to take on the responsibilities of the T.O.A.D. (Teacher On Active Duty). One of the duties is to give what is called a “TOAD Talk” Monday morning to a full assembly of the school; students, faculty and staff. Her talk last Monday on stress was addressed to the lives of the students but as I listened to the talk it was apparent that she was speaking to everyone. Here is her talk. My hope is that this talk will speak to you.

Good Morning…

  • Stress affects our physical and mental health
  • Negative effects of stress on the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the endocrine system, and the muscular system, are measurable
  • Depression, one reaction to stress, is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century
  • 54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives

During any given day at Thacher you hear people talk about how stressed they are. We are always busy and have a lot going on. As students you have tests, papers, pages and pages of reading, and little free time. There are complaints of endless work, worry about getting into college, not feeling good enough or adequate compared to your peers. Life seems too much to handle. Slowly we become conditioned to accept stress as a normal part of life. We learn to live with it but in reality it depletes us. If not dealt with in an effective manner, it literally kills us. Learn to live with it long enough and you won’t know what to do without it. We grow into adults who don’t know how to slow down and take time to enjoy life. We equate “down” time with wasted time. Of the myriad of ways there are to cope with stress, one is perspective—taking a look at the big picture—because, in reality, at Thacher, ours are the stresses of the privileged.

Don’t get me wrong. Stress is stress and very real to the person experiencing it whatever the cause. But most of the world would be pleased if a term paper was their biggest stress, or failing a class was their worst worry.

  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation
  • 1 in 3 children in the developing world lack adequate shelter
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished
  • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes—about one child every five seconds

In comparison to what life has to offer some, the stresses of a day in the life at Thacher seem almost welcome.

Think about it the next time you complain about being stressed out or complain about your life in general. Tell it to the mother of five from a poor country who walks 40 miles with her young children to gather a gallon of water you wouldn’t give to your dog.

Again, our stress is real and has power to wreak havoc on our being, but perspective can give us a new way to look at our situation and give us a much needed reality check.

Ironically, the things we tend to stress about most often are the stuff of life that is ultimately the least important.
I promise you at your 20 year reunion, the “D” Mr. Perry gave you in English won’t matter even when in the moment it may have been the end of the world or at least your immediate future.

On your deathbed, surrounded friends and family, the fact you didn’t get into Stanford, Yale or Brown won’t matter at all as you say your goodbyes. Your salary won’t matter. The grades you earned, both good and bad, won’t matter at all.

What will matter?

It’s not about the college, the grades, the money – it’s about you and what you bring to the table. What you decide to create of yourself from your experiences.  You will be all you have in the end. It will matter that you lived examined life — one of integrity, responsibility, curiosity and passion. It will matter to be able to look back on your life having enjoyed it all –the good the bad, the highs and the lows and maybe having learned something about the complexities of the human condition.

So that D on a paper? The rejection from your first choice college? Not being as good as you would like to be at any given endeavor? Not being the best? The grade, the college, being the best is irrelevant and stressing about your situation won’t help. A good education is available to anyone willing to work for it regardless of the institution. If you enjoy doing something you will get better at it with practice and patience. There will always be those who are more accomplished than you and those less accomplished. It could be argued that there is as much to be learned, if not more, from receiving a D on a paper as there is from an A.

When it comes time for you to graduate, your Thacher diploma shouldn’t be emblematic of the college you got into, your grades or your prowess on the athletic field – if that is the case we haven’t done our job.

Your diploma should represent friends made over your years here that will be some of the dearest of your life. It should represent hard work doing things you enjoyed and even those things you didn’t enjoy doing. It should hold the memories of having met challenges that would have never been asked of you anywhere else – walking long miles with a heavy pack at high altitudes, a stubborn horse that frustrates you daily, teachers that expected your best work day in and day out. It should represent your intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

So while some amount of stress in life is inevitable and maybe even needed at times, don’t let it control you or become a way of being. Stop and try to get perspective on your life. It is yours alone to design and develop.

As Anna Quindlen wisely said:

“Whether you are sixteen or sixty, begin today to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience.”

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , , , ,

You will not end your life wanting more time on the computer.

Image of guy sleeping at computer

I have been in a slump as of late.

I have been busy and working (thank goodness in light of economic uncertainties). However, I have not taken time off in what is approaching a year. Feeling the burnout? Mmm… yeah maybe a touch. I have been here in this space before—to pre-burnout, then burnout and back that is—a few times. Sometimes I drive myself mad with the incessant desire to keep going, do a little bit more, forgo taking care of myself, and for what? Some imaginary idyllic computing nirvana where all my random downloads are in the trash, my email in-box is empty, and there is not an errant file sitting on my desktop? Did I just hear someone say “pipe dream?”

This ‘nirvana’ may be possible. But to think turning into ‘Jabba the Hut’ eating crap food and sitting in front of the keyboard for endless hours trying to achieve it? For what? I’m the only person that sees what is on my desktop. What kind of satisfaction do I think, that by doing this, it will somehow massage my pineal gland and make me feel complete? I enjoy working on the computer, but at what cost?

Sir? “Put down the mouse and step away from the computer.”

In this era of information overload, rss feeds, social media, email, it is easy to get sucked in if your job is to sit in front of a computer doing any type of job. What is worse is if you have a propensity to be a work-a-holic (ahem), and your career as a digital gun-for-hire also happens to be your hobby as well.

I’ve been reminded of late that at the end of my life I will not want more time on the computer. I will not think about how “I wish I had cleaned my desktop of all those files…” Or will I think “Gee, if I only got that email inbox to zero…” I will think of the people that mean the most to me, of the places I have travelled to and the things that I have seen. I highly doubt I will think of a YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr (unless its pictures of my kids 🙂

So this is a little “note to self” posted on the Interwebz…

Put down the mouse, turn off the monitor, get up, go outside, and do something with other people. Do something other than compute.

OK, that was a bit theraputic. Now back to my email…

Continue Reading

Tags: , , , , , ,