Cosmopolitan Ascending

In less than a week, I will be presenting at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas at Ascend 15, the international conference for EpiServer. Yay me! Right? Well, maybe. I have had the pleasure of speaking at many events in my life. So this should be just another speaking engagement in a long line of them. But for some reason, it isn’t. I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Is it the venue? To be honest, it will be the largest and most famous venue I’ve spoken at. Lights! Noise! Casinos! Drinks! Food! But I don’t think that presents any additional concerns for me. When speaking, it will still be a smallish room seating maybe 50-100 people and I’ve spoken to larger audiences. I don’t think the place is my worry.

Is it the attendees? Again, to be honest, this will be the most widely travelled and eclectic group of people I’ve ever spoken too. In fact there will be some actual industry EMVP’s in attendance! Which is cool, but, again, I’ve talked with a lot of them already. Yes, there may be some excitement talking to a few people. (looking at you @sliewehr and @rwang0)

Is it the company? Episerver is a new twist on an old favorite. I’ve been involved in the Ektron community for a VERY long time and from my interactions so far, I feel just as comfortable under this new name.

Is it the topic? I am speaking on something I know like the back of my hand. I don’t have any concerns there.

So, what is it?

Here is my conclusion. It is me. I am approaching this from a completely different angle than I have other speaking engagements. I feel like this is an opportunity to take a leap of faith. For anyone that TRULY knows me, I thrive on challenges. Doing something that I am comfortable with and that I know like the back of my hand doesn’t really excite me. While I always give 100%, that doesn’t always translate into excitement for the mission. This presentation does. I want to make more of this than just have it be a presentation. I want to engage more and find (or make) opportunities to challenge myself. I want to express my knowledge and be questioned. I want to make sure my mind is never still. I want to make YOU think and hopefully laugh and question and talk and get excited.

I formally and informally invite everyone that is reading this to connect with me. On twitter, in person, LinkedIn, email or any other way that makes sense to you. Let’s have lunch, or a drink, or a hand of blackjack! I want to help you, I want you to help me. Let’s challenge each other and both be better for it.

If I come home from this conference without taking full advantage of the opportunities that each and every one of you have available, regardless if that opportunity is one that helps you or me, I will consider myself to have failed both you and myself.

I want to use this opportunity to Ascend!

I Don’t Care

It’s a phrase that can irritate people. I love using it. Not because it irritates people. I think it irritates people because they don’t understand it.

People want you to care about things they care about. It’s human nature. Because I have strong feelings about something, be it politics, people, work, sports (GO PACKERS!), etc…, I expect others to have feelings about those same things. The truth is, that just isn’t true. However, I’m not even talking about that kind of caring. I’m talking about a non-emotional kind of caring. Let me tell you a story…

One of the things I do is to design and build websites, and I care a great deal about what they look like, how they work and the other mechanics of the site. So, while building a website for someone, they invariably want to discuss colors and image placement and fonts which is great. Love those discussions. Then… the bad thing happens. They bring up content. You know, the actual stuff on the site (the exact stuff you are currently reading). Guess what? We have hit the “I don’t care” phase of the build. It honestly doesn’t matter if you are going to write the next “Politics for the Ages” blog or the next “How to throw your kitten a birthday party” blog. As a CONSUMER of your site, I will care, as the builder? Not so much.

I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to not care about some things. Not everything in the world needs your attention, nor should it! Others will try to draw you into caring, but it is your responsibility to decide if you caring is meaningful. In this context, saying “I don’t care” should be liberating for BOTH parties involved. Sadly, it is usually taken as a very negative response. I would like to change that perception. If I am working on a project and say “I don’t care,” it really means that the decision will have no material impact on the end product that I am being asked to deliver. Maybe the other person doesn’t want the responsibility of that decision to rest solely on them, but it is also not on you to do their job for them.

Lastly, I really want to push the point that this is a liberating mind-set. It focuses you on the things that are YOUR responsibility and clears out the things that are not. Of course, if you use the phrase wrongly (NOTE: You always care about that pair of shoes your wife asks you about!) then you can cause more problems, but used correctly and in context, it can be freeing!

So, do you care? Leave me a comment and let me know, I do care about that!

The Relationship Dissolution

I have been in a certain relationship since 1990. It’s time to end it.

Now, before anyone thinks I am speaking of my lovely wife, I most certainly am not. (I’ve been with her since 1985) Anyway, I am talking about a relationship I have had with American Express.

I started the business relationship as a senior in College and for the most part, it has been a very beneficial joining. Having the card has allowed me to do things and acquire things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and of course, they have made money from me.

Of course, as many younger people do, we make dumb decisions from time to time. I was no exception. There was a time when I overextended and got into trouble. Even through that, AmEx was a good partner. they worked with me to help put a plan together to pay down the debt.

Truth be told, I am still paying down some of those bad decisions. So, why have I come to the conclusion that it’s time to end the relationship? Well, it has been made eminently clear that I am nothing more than a number to them. (Yes, yes, I can hear the “well, DUH!”‘s from here)

But here’s the rub. Currently, I pretty much only use my AmEx card for business. Pay for a hotel, get an expense check, pay off the charge. But like I said, I still have a monthly balance I’m paying. NOTE: AmEx separates your CURRENT Charges from your REVOLVING Charges.

I pay $85 a year for this privilege. That fee was applied last month. This month, I got a notice saying they were lowering my credit limit to a number LESS THAN what I still owe them. Think about that, Now, I can’t use the card for business, and I have to make a larger than normal payment just to get under the limit AND I just $85 on top of that!

Now, I should also point out, I’ve never missed a payment. So I call them, Their explanation was thus: “We are doing this to help you pay it off faster” Um, no. What you just did was charge me $85 for the privilege of holding a credit card that I can no longer use.

All in all, just a very bad case of misplaced loyalty on my part. So, I’m calling it quits with them. Sorry AmEx “Don’t leave home without it?” Yes, actually, I think I will.

Am I approaching this right? Let me know of your bad credit experiences in the comments.

The Life Spark Ignition

Spark If you pay attention to the current themes that existing in both the movies and television shows these days, you probably have noticed a trend. Lately, there have been a great focus on zombies. We have movies about zombies, television shows about zombies, even Samsung has gotten in on this trend with a series of commercials about the unicorn zombie apocalypse. It’s all quite fun and cheeky.

I think a lot of people focus on this for the wrong reasons. They are focused on the gore factor. The horror factor. The struggle of the living to survive. All great ways to view the genre and it can bring enjoyment to the viewer.

However, I want to flip the table. Who looks at this from the viewpoint of the zombie? What is their motivation? What are they trying to accomplish? Some would simply say, “Braaaaaiiiiinnnnnnsssss” simple as that. And you know what? I think that is actually correct. But let’s think about this for a minute. What are our brains? They are the one organ in our body that makes each of us exactly who we are. From a medical standpoint, I think we have successfully been able to replace just about every single piece of our body, except for our brains.

It is unique and singular. I would argue that those 2-3 pounds of stuff in our skull IS who we are. So, back to the zombies, they are going for the one thing that makes a person, a person. Why? I would say its because they are no longer a person and are trying to reclaim that. They have lost who they were. They are looking to reclaim their SPARK.

So, lets bring this back into the real world. How many of us are “living zombies?” How many of us are just walking through life without a true goal. Without a reason for pushing forward? Without a need to progress? I think there are many. Probably many more that I’d care to realize. I think that you would agree that this is not a good way to walk through life. If you are a “living zombie” then you are looking for your equivalent of “Braaaaaaiiiiinnnnss.” You need to find your SPARK.

Brains can come in many forms. For some of you it will be family, for some it will be a career, for some a hobby, or any number of other things. What is it in general? It’s YOUR spark,it’s the thing that will kick you in the butt to get going. It makes you stand back up after you’ve been knocked down. And it is unique to you.

I cannot tell you what your individual spark is going to be. But when you find it, you’ll know. Once you know, you must do everything you can to keep it alive and going. So, if you are a “living zombie” go find your spark. Get it ignited. Go chase life down, grab it and don’t let go. Remember what they say in all those zombie movies…. They are relentless, they don’t quit, they just keep coming ad coming. Be like a zombie in your pursuit of your spark and life.

Have I lost my Brains? Leave me a comment and let me know.

The POV Singularity

Everyone has a point of view. It is what makes us all different. We all look upon things based on our history and life experiences. The worst part of this is that we all think we are right and the other person is automatically wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I was in a meeting with an individual and the ensuing discussion is what made me decide to write this post. It was one of the most trying meetings I have been a party to in quite some time. The difficulty was not in the fact that we disagreed on what constituted a proper course of action, the difficulty was that the other person didn’t agree that there was even an issue to address, and from his personal POV, there wasn’t.

He came to a decision in his mind and was incapable of seeing the situation from a different point of view. Without giving away the particulars, here is a re-enactment of the conversation:

Me: It’s snowing.
Them: No. It’s not.
Me: (looks out window, sees snow) Yes, it is.
Them: (Looks at picture of Florida on desk) Nope.

The point here is, we each came up with completely different results based solely on the point of view we used to make our decision. To come up with an acceptable answer, you need to be able to understand the point of view the other person is using to come up with their answer.

Truth be told, there are just some people in this world that are incapable of seeing a problem from multiple points of view. One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

This goes for points of view as well. You cannot have a singular focus when it comes to understanding others. You need to be able to understand where they are coming from. What is motivating the result they have come to. Why they have a different agenda.

Only until you understand these things can you start to make collaborative headway on the topic you are discussing. Personally, I believe this lesson is sorely needed in todays politics, but it also very much needed in our business communications.

So, go be that person. Go try and understand what drives people to make the decisions that they make and then how you can make your POV better understood.

The Debt Reduction Paradox

Debt

Debt

I don’t think I am alone in making the statement that I have too much debt. You can’t open a newspaper (yes they still exist), watch a news program, or listen to the radio without being bombarded with a commercial about getting out of debt.

Granted, it’s a booming industry. Not only is the Country in debt, but a significant portion of people are in trouble. I feel that there are 3 categories of people in debt. While there is no intrinsic difference (they are still in debt) I do feel there is subtle difference between one type and another.

The first category is the “Suddenly Debt Ridden.” These people have done everything right and were just hit with an insurmountable incident. Maybe they got laid off of work. Maybe that had a catastrophic medical incident. Maybe they made a bad investment. In any event, it’s a new, scary and uncomfortable situation for them.

The second type of person is what I call the “Chronically Debt Ridden.” These are people that just do not know how to handle money. You can give them everything and in a couple years, they are broke. Think of all the professional athletes that made millions of dollars, year after year, and are now broke. They just do not understand how debt works.

The third type of person is the one I want to concentrate on. These are the “Treading Water Debt Ridden.” The ones that just trying to live life, doing everything right, have a good job and a decent paycheck, don’t live extravagantly or outside their means, but slowly and surely lose ground on debt. You make enough to keep your head above water, but small ripples (a furnace, new tires, etc..) do you in. The proverbial “death by a thousand cuts.”

So herein lies the paradox. To just get by in the world, there will be moderate expenses. For example, a new stove. You could budget $750 for it and save for one. But what if you don’t have the $750 and your stove dies. That’s OK. The appliance store will give you credit. You certainly can’t do without a stove for 6 months while you save the money, so you get the credit. At 20-27%. You have EVERY intention of paying it off ASAP. But, then you need new clothes for your kids because school is starting. Oh, and you need other necessities this month, so you just pay the minimum on the stove. If you are still reading, you know how this goes. A year down the road, you still owe $400 on your stove, and you had another moderate expense in the mean time, and on and on.

Ten years down the road you wonder why you have so many credit cards and debt and how did you get there??? Needless to say, I speak from experience. If I showed you my credit report, you would see two things.

1. I have never missed a payment. Ever.2. My credit score is low because I have “too much revolving debt”

So how do you fix this?

I went to a bank and they won’t help me. They don’t think I can’t make the payments (even though I have 30 years of proof to the contrary). Let’s see, reduce my monthly payment, at a lower interest rate, to pay it off faster, and they don’t believe I can pay it. I should continue to pay the higher interest rate, larger monthly payments for a longer time and come back in six months. Yes. Frustrating. I know many of you have been there. I’m open to making a club🙂

So what are the options? Well, bankruptcy is one. A very unpalatable one, but an option. Winning the lottery? A great option, but somewhat difficult to pull off. Find a job that pays enough to dig out of the hole quickly. Or, continue the status quo until there is one too many moderate expenses that finally capsizes the boat.

What everyone needs is a rich relative. Unfortunately, those too are hard to come by. So, what about a “faux” rich relative? Let’s say I have $1,000 (I don’t) sitting in a CD making a whole 1%. What if I could lend that money to someone for a simple 6% so that they could pay off that 27% debt they are paying to the corporation. Yes, I understand the complexities of trying to make sure people didn’t scam the system, and I don’t pretend to know all the angles. I just have a gut feeling that there are good people out there that could make this “privatized loan” work (and not let it devolve into the “loansharking” territory I know it resembles).

In my mind, the term “A Kickstarter for debt reduction” is what I am seeing. You could invest in those you wanted to and really help some people in need, and make a couple dollars in the bargain. Does anyone think I have a valid idea here? Please leave me your thoughts. I think I need some healthy conversation about it.

If not you, then who?

@lukew

Luke, from my front row seat

I have to admit that I have had some great professional opportunities in life. Actually, let me clarify that. In my professional life, I have had some great opportunities. Truthfully, I’m still looking for my great professional opportunity (my dream job).

So, then what the heck AM I talking about? Well, this past week, because of my job, I got to go a conference and listen (and talk) to a couple of really big names in my industry. Before I get to that, Let me rehash some of the great people I’ve been privy to hear live and in person. The bolded ones, I actually had a one-on-one conversation. (And I don’t mean just a meet and greet, and actual industry specific conversation)

  • Nolan Bushnell – Founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese
  • Aneesh Chopra – First CTO of the US
  • Aron Ralston – of 127 Hours fame
  • Andy Andrews –  Motivational Speaker
  • Chris Gardner – of Pursuit of Happyness fame
  • Dr. Michio Kaku – Futurist
  • Malcolm Gladwell – Writer
  • Dave Logan – Writer
  • Steve Uzzell – Photographer
  • Mark Allen – Triathelte

While you may not know all of the names above, trust me, they are all worth listening too. However, this past week, trumped them all. At least as far as getting to hear big names in my industry. In a single conference, I was honored to get to hear from:

These are the guys doing what I want to do. They are they guys that are preaching what I want to preach.

So what content does this blog post have besides saying “Ohhh, look at all the cool people I’ve been able to see!”? Well here it is. After listening to these guys talk, I know I need to take action. I have to stop saying I’m going to go out and preach the word of RWD, Mobile, Community, UX and customer service, I just have to go out and do it.

It’s one thing to sit in an audience and nod your head and agree with what the guy on stage is saying; it’s quite another to stand on stage and try to communicate your view onto others. If you have a viewpoint, a cause, a vision that you feel strongly about, you need to get up and become an evangelist for it. You have to stop letting others (or waiting for others) to take up your cause.

The down side is that you will meet resistance and counter thoughts, but don’t you run into that anyway? Don’t let that be an impediment to going out and communicating your message to the world.

So, I ask you. If not you? Then who will spread your ideas?

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