Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This Blog Has Moved!

This blog has moved to All of the content on this blog will remain here, but you can read new posts at the new site. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Having Fun With Social Media

I stumbled upon an enjoyable video by Ben Stiller, which finds him updating his Facebook profile. Like all of us, he's trying to understand the many dimensions of social media...with funny results...

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Thoughts on Labor Day Weekend

As we celebrate Labor Day weekend 2009, I feel a huge sense of uncertainty regarding my work life and my career. As it turns out, 2009 has become another year of the transition for me.

At this time, I want to thank all of my family and friends for supporting me and praying for me during this challenging time in my life. Please know that your prayers and support mean more to me than I can express.

During my five months in transition, I have been surprised by three things in particular:

1) The large number of people who are in transition like me. About a month ago, I went to a networking event at a suburban church where over 100 of us were stuffed into a very warm room. Rather than feeling any sense of "strength in numbers," I felt a huge rush of sadness and helplessness. Thankfully the feeling went away quickly.

When I go to a library during a typical weekday, I am amazed by the number of people who are waiting to use the computers or working on their laptops. I am also amazed at the large number of people I meet at networking sessions who are looking for employment opportunities.

Currently the national unemployment rate hovers at 9.7 percent. This figure covers those of us receiving unemployment benefits. I know there are a lot of people who have either given up looking for a new job or they are severely underemployed. Whatever the case, there are many days when this 9.7 percent figure feels way too low.

2) I am amazed at the number of people that seem unaffected by the current unemployment challenges that are occurring. While part of me feels jealous of people who are living with a sense of "business as usual," I am comforted by this sense of "normalcy" in the work world. It gives me hope to see this at a time when my life does not feel anywhere near "normal."

3) I am amazed at the great amount of resiliency among people in transition. I've met plenty of people who need to express their pain, disappointment and frustration about their situation. But I have met many more people that are optimistic and positive about their situation. During this challenging time many of us are looking for, dare I say, a better job and a better life.

For a spiritual perspective about work and Labor Day Weekend, please check out a great article from one of my favorite columnists from the Chicago Sun-Times, Cathleen Falsani. You can check out the article at the Sun-Times or Cathleen's Blog.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Like" Part Three

Earlier this year, I wrote a couple posts about the over-use of "like" in our daily conversations. I shared a couple videos from performance poet (and former English teacher) Taylor Mali. You can check out these posts here and here.

While browsing Taylor's blog, I noticed that there is now a version of that performance with a very effective use of typography. Created by Ronnie Bruce, this version really brings the meaning of the performance to life. FYI, Taylor is coming out with a new book of poetry, which will soon be available on his website.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Receiving Advice

How many times has someone said, "you should...?" You can respond one of two ways: either say "thank you" and make a mental note to yourself or you can mutter something under your breath and try to come across as grateful for the suggestion.

Sometimes this advice is unsolicited or comes from a total stranger. Ideally the advice comes from someone who cares about your well-being like a family member, friend or mentor.

Recently, Fortune Magazine featured a cover story about successful people and the greatest advice they've ever received.

General David Patraeus received some advice from his boss while he was a captain in the army. His boss told him, " I think you ought to look for an out-of-your intellectual comfort zone experience." This advice let Patraeus to get a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton University and has helped him in his current position as Commanding General in Iraq. For the full story, click here.

While working as a systems engineer at IBM, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark was advised by his manager to use his dry sense of humor to help diffuse tension in his department. In addition to his great technical skills, this advice led him to his current success. To read more, click here. president Joanna Shields received this advice from her father, "Your career is long and the business world is small. Always act with integrity. Never take the last dollar off the table." This advice helped Shields in her dealings to sell the company to AOL. For more info on this, click here.

I'm very fortunate to have received some great advice from my parents and other family members over the years - the type of advice that encouraged me to go to college, do my homework, save my money, etc. I have become a better person as a result. But I've also received advice from someone who didn't know me...the type of advice that changed me significantly. I will be sharing this soon on the re-launch of 360 Degree Self.

How about you...what is the best advice you've ever received? The worst?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blog Update and Learning

I continue to work on the re-launch of this blog using WordPress and the Thesis theme. While Thesis makes customizing blogs much easier than many themes out there, I didn't anticipate all of the technical challenges that I've encountered. I've been dropping CSS code in at a not-so-furious pace. Three weeks ago, I wasn't familiar with CSS, but today I am dreaming about CSS code in my sleep. In true do-it-yourself fashion, I am scouring the very helpful Thesis support board and consulting my CSS in 24 Hours book. I am happy with the new design and excited to re-launch in a couple weeks.

Honestly, I'm amazed that I've been able learn this code and design the blog myself (though I cannot give myself too much credit since the design is very simple and clean). There have been plenty of moments that I have been more than willing to shell out money for some help. That would have been the easy way. But, somewhere in all of this coding, is a lesson for me. My instincts tell me that I may soon be helping other people with their blog and that these lessons will come in handy some day soon.

Besides dropping code into the custom stylesheet, I have attending some very interesting networking sessions and met some very talented people along the way. I will be sharing some of these thoughts soon on the new blog. The key point of emphasis that I wanted to stress is the opportunity for all of us to learn. No matter what challenge we're facing or how much we want to give up - we have the opportunity to overcome these challenges and become stronger.

I don't know much about the organization that created this video, but I found it interesting...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Making Lemonade

Thanks to a Chris Guillebeau re-Tweet of a Jonathan Fields Tweet, I stumbled upon this very interesting video. According to information provided on the site, more than 70,000 advertising professionals have been laid off in our current recession. As a former advertising professional who was laid off from two advertising jobs, I can identify very strongly.

One thing that always attracted me to working in that industry was working in a creative environment. This video gives you a slice of how just a few of these creative individuals are dealing with their layoffs. Whether you are between jobs or you create storyboards or pivot tables for a living, you might enjoy this...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

National Mustard Day

When I was a kid, ketchup was my favorite condiment. I would put it on everything. I avoided mustard, however, at all costs. Back in the "old days" when my mother took me to baseball games at Wrigley Field, hot dogs purchased from the vendor came with mustard on it already. I wasn't happy about this and I made a mess scraping as much mustard off of the hot dog as I could.

These days, my relationship with mustard is different...I love it! Today is National Mustard Day and if I could, I would visit the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

If you happen to be anywhere near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin today stop by the museum. For more information, visit Last night, WGN Radio personality Nick Digilio had Mustard Museum curator Barry Levenson on his program. For a limited time, the podcast is available here. It sounds like Culver's will also feature mustard custard as its flavor of the day. Check your location for availability.

If you cannot make it to the Mustard Museum, celebrate National Mustard Day today. Like the old days, I'm going to have an Oscar Mayer hot dog with my favorite yellow mustard, French's. This time around I'm going to put extra mustard on it. Enjoy the day and the weekend!

How about you, what's your favorite mustard?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Only Source of Confidence: You

Whether you're looking for a job, looking for love or looking to make the sale, one thing can help you on your quest - confidence. Finding confidence, however, is no easy task. Over the years, I've always been amazed and amused that men's shaving products have been sold to us as a source of confidence (see below):

I like this commercial (and a close shave), but the fourth blade on my razor is not going to give me the extra confidence to introduce myself to that woman that I'm infatuated with. It's not going to help me make the winning basket to win the championship game.

According to Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, confidence is "a faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way." It also describes confidence as, "the quality or state of being certain."

I am not an expert on confidence, but a student. However there is one tip that, to me, stands out when it comes to having more confidence. You can call it the law of attraction approach to confidence: it is to act as if you have the confidence already.

Like everyone, I've had moments where my confidence has been tested. But, I'm happy to say that acting as if has helped me in those circumstances. I noticed a distinct improvement in my confidence overall when I acted as if I were confident. It is important to remember that your level of confidence is constantly changing and different situations and circumstances will have an effect on your confidence. Unfortunately, you cannot leave the confidence switch "on" because it always seems to shut itself off by itself from time to time.

In the introduction to his book, The Confidence Course, Walter Anderson asked his friend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale how to achieve a life of confidence. His answer: "Be one hundred percent alive."

We are living at a time when we humans will spend an endless amount of money for clothes, plastic surgery, cars, and other unnecessary items all in the name of feeling good about ourselves and gaining confidence. If you're looking for a boost of confidence, start within before spending all of your money.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Miracle of Everyday

Yesterday, I ran into a friend who had a heart attack two weeks ago. He had been eating in a restaurant when he lost consciousness. Thanks to the quick action of another customer who knew CPR, she saved his life by keeping oxygen flowing to his brain until paramedics arrived. When I saw him, he was smiling and pointed to his waistline which had shrunk a little in the past couple weeks. He was also profiled on a local television news story as he gave thanks to the customer and the paramedics that saved his life. He did not have health insurance and was understandably concerned about all of his medical bills. But, he was grateful to be standing next to me.

I woke up early this morning to the sound of a hooting owl and birds chirping in the trees nearby. As I laid in bed, half-awake, I was comforted and appreciative to hear their beautiful music. At that moment, it struck me how precious life was. Most of us, myself included, live our lives with giant to-do lists and the expectation that tomorrow we can finish the things we can't get to today. Seeing my friend, I was reminded that there are no guarantees.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.

-Walt Whitman

There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

-Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting Somewhere by Getting Organized

One of the biggest challenges many of us face on a daily basis is clutter. I am, by nature, a pack rat and believe that your desk or your workspace is a reflection of you. I am also someone looking to re-invent the way I live (and work) my life. With this in mind, I took out an interesting book out of my local library, When Organizing Isn't Enough by Julie Morgenstern.

There have been a lot of books written about de-cluttering, but the Morganstern's latest book makes a strong case for not just organizing, but also SHEDing. To SHED means:

  • Separate the treasures
  • Heave the trash
  • Embrace your identity
  • Drive yourself forward
In Morganstein's words, "organizing is about identifying what's important to you and giving yourself access to it. SHEDing is about getting rid of the old and obsolete so that you can have space to discover what's important to you."

While I haven't finished the book yet, I realize that it is perfect for someone looking to get organized on a holistic level. If you are looking to re-invent yourself, When Organizing Isn't Enough is a perfect companion to help you release the old you in order to become the new you that you are seeking to become. The following video illustrates how Morgenstern put the ideas into practice...

I don't mean to turn this post into a commercial for the book. But as someone looking to make changes at many levels, I wanted to let you know that its out there. Good, I've got a bag of trash to take out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blog Update

First off, I want to thank everyone who has visited this blog, which continues to be a work in progress for me. During my last job search three years ago, I became quite obsessed with the wealth of creativity, entertainment and information provided by numerous bloggers. Some of my early favorites included Scott "The Nametag Guy" Ginsberg, Tom Peters, Christine Kane, Adpulp, and Brand Autopsy to name just a few.

There were two things that kept me from starting a blog at that time:

1) I was not ready and did not know what to say.

2) My work "hiatus" was shorter than I anticipated.

So I let my ideas simmer and started blogging in early 2008. I wasn't very sure of what I was doing so I blogged anonymously under my first name. Even worse, my "about me" section was virtually non-existent and I had great difficulty figuring out how and where to put my Google Analytics code.

These days, I feel like I've begun to hit a writing groove - on this blog and in other areas of my life, but I know my best work is still ahead of me. I am also feeling the urge to upgrade, so I will soon be switching to a hosted WordPress platform. Hopefully, this will be completed by the end of month. I will keep you posted with the new address.

In any case, the new version of 360 Degree Self will feature some improved content and a more detailed "about me" page. I welcome any feedback about what you have enjoyed here and what you would enjoy reading.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Social Media and the News

As someone who wrote for my high school newspaper, witnessing the decline of the newspaper in the United States has been disturbing. Chicago is one of the few major cities that still has two daily newspapers. But with all of the forced retirements and buyouts of its journalists and columnists, the quality has declined substantially. However, I still feel that newspapers are important and offer its readers (and citizens of towns everywhere) an important check against corruption in government and business.

With the recent deaths of Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays and the demonstrations in Iran, social media has quickly emerged as an important tool for news distribution. I've heard many discussions about many people first hearing of Michael Jackson's death on Twitter before it was confirmed on the news. While I learned about Michael Jackson from my local radio station, I learned about the death of Billy Mays on Twitter from an unlikely source: @michaelianblack, a comedian and former cast member of one of my favorite television shows, NBC's Ed. Here's his RT: "Now Billy Mays? Increasingly less famous celebrities are dropping like flies: I could be next!"

I really don't know what is next in the world of journalism and media, but I will continue to embrace these social media tools as best I can. One thing is certain: if you receive a Tweet from me while I am on vacation, it was from an impostor.

I wanted to conclude with a small tribute to Billy Mays. In a previous job as an account executive at a direct response television ad agency, I spent considerable time doing competitive research on other products on the market. Much of this research included watching commercials featuring Billy Mays. While I was never a big fan, I have to admire his energy and ability to sell product. Hopefully, social media won't make the pitchman obsolete. In the meantime, enjoy this You Tube video I found...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Would Your Mentor Do?

I was perusing the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly when I stumbled upon a quick writeup on actress Amy Adams who is listed as a "must sizzling star." She has a movie coming out later this summer called Julia & Julia which costars Meryl Streep. In the piece she reveals, "When I am in a hard scene, I always go, 'What would Meryl do?' Whether she's there or not, she is my invisible mentor."
This brings to mind an exercise that I first read about in Michael Michalko's Thinkertoys. This "Board of Directors" exercise involves several steps:

1. Select three to five people you admire. Although Michalko specifically mentions business movers and shakers, they could include writers, artists, athletes or even family members.

2. Get photos of your Board and pin them on your wall.

3. Research your heroes. This means reading their biography, autobiography, news clips, quotes, etc.

4. Take notes. Look for ways your heroes overcame an obstacle and anything you find interesting about their lives and how they solved problems. Keep these notes in a file that is easy to refer back to.

5. When you encounter a problem or challenge, consult your Board of Directors. Think of ways that your mentor overcame these problems and challenges and apply them to your life.

I'm sure many of us already do this exercise already, although less formally. For example, when I first joined Toastmasters nearly five years ago, there was an excellent speaker at the club who told us about the secret to his success - practice. He revealed that he practiced each speech more than 30 times before he delivered it to our club. For me, this was important to know.

As someone who took improvisation classes and often had an, "I'll wing it" attitude, I realized that I would need to put in a lot of work and preparation just to get competent as a speaker. While I am still working to become the best speaker I can be, I still remember the wisdom he shared with us even though he is no longer at the club.

Who are your Board of Directors? What have they taught you? How are you applying their wisdom to your life?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

DIY Learning, Part 2

Thanks to new blog buddy Michael Plishka at ZenStorming, I was made aware of another DIY learning opportunity...The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has posted free lecture notes, exams and videos on its MIT OpenCourseware site. Some of these courses include architecture, engineering, science and technology, management and the humanities.

I have only begun to poke through all of the courses, however one has attracted my attention: Dynamic Leadership: Using Improvisation in Business check it out here. Having taken a year's worth of improvisation classes a decade ago, I am aware of the magic of improvisational theater. In many ways, improv is not about theater or trying to make people laugh. It is a philosophy, a way to approach life. I plan to explore this topic in future posts, so stay tuned.

In any case, the key word involved in do-it-yourself learning is do. Sometimes, I am better at accumulating books than I am at reading and applying the ideas in them. I am working at this. But like anything important, learning is an ongoing process.

As much as I like the song, school is never really out...

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Are Needed More Than Ever

A few weeks ago I went to a small, local storefront theater in my neighborhood and saw a play. For more than a year, I have passed this theater on my way to work and had been meaning to check out a show there. Personally, one of my favorite things about living in Chicago is the small storefront theaters. Yes, Wicked and Jersey Boys will attract many more tourists into the city, but my heart is with the small theaters. I've had many memorable experiences seeing small productions of some great plays. Ironically enough, I can even remember seeing Camus' The Stranger in a small church not far from Wrigley Field.

The theater in my neighborhood had two rows of seats, approximately 30 total, and wasn't more than twenty feet from the front of the stage. Unfortunately the turnout was sparse and there were only about eight of us. Before the show, I spoke with a woman selling tickets at the door and she indicated that the theater was doing fairly well, but the last two productions had been less successful. Perhaps this is due to the specific productions, but more than likely it is due to the economy.

My conversation with the woman at the door made me realize something important: we are all needed now, more than ever. If there is something you care about deeply, whether it be your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, a nearby church, the independent record store you love to visit, or that charity that you feel passionate about, your support is more important than ever.

In many cases, funding from the government is drying up. The public radio station in Chicago, WBEZ, has changed its pledge strategy. In the past it would ask listeners to pledge a dollar a day or $365 for the year. Today, it asks for $20 and indicates that if everyone could pledge that amount they would be in good shape.

Now more than ever, our support is needed.

While much of this support involves money, there are plenty of things we can do to support the organizations and causes that we feel strongly about. This includes:
  • Volunteering your time - perhaps you can lend a hand at a special event such as a fundraiser
  • Volunteering your service - do you have skills (e.g. sales, money management, leadership) that can help?
  • Your presence - money usually speaks the loudest, but sometimes your mere presence is a vote of support for the organization/cause you care about

I hope to get involved by helping promote the next play that is running at the theater. While I do have some public relations experience, I am learning about the effectiveness of social media. This volunteer opportunity can help me learn more about social media while helping promote the theater.

How about you...what places, groups and organizations do you feel passionate about? How can you help?

Photo by Anna Cervova

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Musical Diversion: 2009 Chicago Blues Festival

Nothing says summertime in Chicago like the Chicago Blues Festival. The 2009 Festival did not feature as many big names as last year when B.B. King headlined, but delivered all the goods that blues fans were looking for. I was able to attend two days of the festival this year and here are a few highlights in pictures.

With the recent death of the Queen of the Blues, the 2009 Blues Fest started out on a somber note. A tribute board was created in her honor...

By late in the day Sunday, the board was filled up...

One of the highlights included guitar legend David Honeyboy Edwards singing "Sweet Home Chicago on the Mississippi Juke Joint stage on Sunday afternoon...

Another of the highlights included Big Jack Johnson who played the mainstage in the evening and the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (pictured below) in the afternoon. As you can see, Big Jack Johnson wears some big yellow shoes...

Inevitably, every year I'm blown away by a blues musician that I've never heard before. On Sunday, that musician was original Fleetwood Mac guitar player Jeremy Spencer. His melodic slide playing was a nice complement to Big Jack Johnson who proceeded him on the mainstage. Spencer was followed up by headliner Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who grooved with some 1970's retro soul. Ms. Jones put on a dance clinic as her high energy performance whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

It is worth noting that the Chicago Blues Festival is wheelchair accessible and one of the more memorable moments for me was watching a gentleman in a wheelchair dancing to the music. On the side of the mainstage, interpreters provided sign language with as much feeling and emotion as some of the musicians.

All in all, summer is off to a great start thanks to the Chicago Blues Festival.

To read last year's Bluesfest review click here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

DIY Learning

As I continue on my job search, one thing that I've been seeing a lot of in job descriptions is the old "MBA preferred, but not required" line. As someone with a Bachelors Degree who is interested in furthering my education, I have wrestled with the thought of getting my Masters Degree or an MBA. I even went as far as attending an MBA fair a few years ago. But the thing that has stopped me from proceeding is not desire, but money. According to Forbes Magazine, the cost for an average two-year MBA program is approximately $100,000.

In his book Small is the New Big, Seth Godin makes a case for not attending business school and getting an MBA. Of the three reasons to go to business school, "the third (and least important reason) to go to business school is to actually learn something. And this is where traditional business schools really fail. The core curriculum at business schools is as close to irrelevant as you can imagine. If you and I were trying to create a series of courses that would all but guarantee that, upon graduating, students would have no useful knowledge about how to do business in the new economy, today's business school curriculum would be a great model for us."

Coincidentally, Seth Godin makes a few suggestions for unemployed college students wishing to attend graduate school in his blog today.

There is a great amount of debate as to whether getting an MBA is worth it. Many will swear by it, while others may have a different story or experience. There are plenty of statistics that will defend either side of the argument. For the time being, I will not be pursuing an MBA. However, I will be intensifying my own education.

One web site I admire is The Personal MBA, which was founded by Josh Kaufman. According to its manifesto, The Personal MBA (PMBA) is designed to help you educate yourself about the world of business for a minimal cost...essentially the cost of the books. It argues that, it is the knowledge contained in these business books that gives you the tools and mental models to become educated about the business world. It also admits that it is not the books alone that will make an impact. The PMBA offers its users the opportunity to discuss these books in community forums and local communities.

I was intrigued to also read the list of recommended books, many of which I have read or have purchased. I will further investigate the books that I am less familiar with.

But ultimately, this DIY education is up to each of us. It assumes that we have the motivation and commitment to make learning a priority - to sit down and actually read these books and take notes and/or underline important points. It also means taking what we have learned and actually applying it to our lives.

Personally, I am determined to not let any financial limitations stop me from learning and professional development. In other words, I may not have made a financial commitment to further my education, but I have made a personal commitment.

In the past few weeks I have spent considerable time reading some interesting business, career and self-improvement books. I will be reviewing some of these books in future posts.

What are you doing to further your education? Are you ready to do it yourself?

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Naked Networking

There are a lot of people out there who find networking to be a difficult and uncomfortable task. At times, it can feel like a combination of speed dating, ego stroking, auditioning and interviewing. While I have never been a master networker, I feel I am improving at this important skill. A couple weeks ago, I attended a networking seminar and attended two networking events, but I broke a big networking rule: I did not have any business cards to pass out.

While I would never recommend anyone to network without business cards (let me tell you, I felt naked without them), sometimes its better to just do it than use it as an excuse to not attend. I don’t regret attending these events without my business cards for one moment because I met some very interesting people and learned some important things.

For instance, I learned that you can order “free” business cards from VistaPrint or very professional-looking cards from Staples for a minimal price that will be ready for pickup in four hours. I was able to pick the brain of a gentleman who has created his own business that helps organizations utilize new technologies and social media. I spoke with a woman who is starting a graphic design and web design business who shared some tips about the best way to switch my blog to WordPress.

I also met other interesting people including a woman with a similar career background as mine who has transitioned into a successful financial planner. Listening to her story was inspiring and motivating for me. I met a marketing manager who worked for a company that was a client of mine at my first advertising job. We shared some ideas and challenges that are part of that business. I met a gentleman that was seeking feedback about how to market a new product that he was trying to launch. We exchanged ideas and discussed a few strategies that he could use.

Networking is a dance of give and take, but probably the best thing you can do when you network is to listen. Yes, we all may have an agenda or a reason to attend a networking event, but we are there to listen, learn and help.

In addition to listening and having business cards handy to pass out, here are a few additional tips that will make your networking more successful:

- Have a quick 30 or 60 second elevator pitch ready. Ideally this introduction of yourself will state what your reason for attending the meeting (Is it to find a job? Are you looking for information? Are you looking to hire someone?)

- Make sure your name tag hasn’t fallen off or is upside down (like mine was on several occasions). Better yet, write something memorable such as “Joe the Real Estate Guy” on your name tag if you happen to work in real estate.

- Be willing to offer help or any suggestions to people you meet. If you forget something or think of something after your conversation, you can easily shoot them an email later.

Networking can be scary and tiring at times, but whether you have business cards or you are naked (without business cards), when it is done with the right attitude it can be a rewarding experience.

What are some of your favorite networking memories?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kim and Jason Escaping Adulthood

If you have been feeling old, tired and can't remember the last time you had some fun, you might be suffering from a case of adultitis. There have been many times I have felt this way, especially in times of stress and in the uncertainty of the job hunt. While it's important to establish a routine of productivity, it's also important to establish some fun as well. Helping spread a cure for adultitis are my blog buddies Kim and Jason.

As you may have read in an earlier blog post of mine from last year, the Simplicity of Food, you know that I enjoy cooking - whether it be for myself or with my family and friends. Last month Kim and Jason explored this topic on their post, The Importance of Family Dinner. I had the opportunity to comment on their post and was fortunate that they read my comment on their Escape Adulthood show (see below).

By the way, if you or someone you know have been diagnosed with adultitis, you might want to download Kim and Jason's Escape Adulthood Manifesto.

I will have more on cooking, family dinner and creating your own manifesto in future posts.

Photo and video courtesy of Kim and Jason.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Randy Pausch Commencement Address

The third post in our series of commencement addresses is short and sweet. It was delivered exactly a year ago today by the late Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University. The speech touches on a few key points: living well, regret, and finding and living with passion. Compared to some of the other commencement addresses that have been explored on this blog, Randy Pausch does not rely on his notes very much. I’m sure this is due to its short length and the fact that he has taught these ideas in previous class lectures (and especially his last lecture). Throughout his address, Pausch looks toward his audience as if to take in every moment in appreciation.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekend Sports Diversion: The Greatest Chicago Sports Story of the Year (So Far)

I’m not going to hide it: I am an unabashed Chicago Blackhawks fan. For those outside the Chicago area, the Blackhawks have taken this city by storm as they have advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in more than ten years. As a sports fan, you can appreciate that this team as one of the youngest and fastest in the league and that they have a “never-say-die” attitude. From a business perspective, it’s amazing to see how this team has re-invented itself in just over a year to one of the most up-and-coming franchises in any professional sport. If you love drama, you can appreciate this team for its ability to come back from two-goal deficits and win any game.

The Blackhawks are one of the Original Six teams in the NHL and last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. As a kid growing up in the late 1970’s, I watched an occasional Blackhawk road game as I pretended to be a hockey player in my living room. The team had its share of good players in my lifetime including Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour and Chris Chelios to name just a few. Back in 1992, they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals only to be swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Throughout my lifetime, the Blackhawks always had a small but very loyal following in the Chicago area. Much of this was due to the fact that they didn’t televise any home games. In addition, the team had not aired a game on free local television since the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. This was due to the philosophy of owner Bill Wirtz, who felt that if home games were televised, nobody would pay to see them live. Of course passionate hockey fans know that, unlike football, a televised hockey game can’t capture the magic of seeing the game live.

In 2003, ESPN named the Blackhawks the worst franchise in professional sports. I went to a game in 2004 and the place was half full. As I watched the game in from a private suite where I was a guest, I realized there was more happening in that suite than on the ice.

Things started turning around for the Blackhawks in 2006 when they drafted center (and current team captain) Jonathan Toews third overall and Patrick Kane first overall in 2007. Later in 2007, owner Bill Wirtz died and his son Rocky took over. Rocky decided to air Blackhawks home games and became an instant hero among hockey fans in Chicago. In addition, the team brought aboard former Chicago Cubs president John McDonough, who has done a great job marketing the team.

The Blackhawks begin their next challenge on the quest for the Stanley Cup this Sunday against their longtime rival, the Detroit Red Wings. Let’s go Hawks!

Logo courtesy of the NHL.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Weekend Spiritual Diversion: Wear Sunscreen

About twelve years ago, one of my favorite Chicago Tribune columnists, Mary Schmich, wrote a column geared toward college graduates. The piece was modeled after your typical commencement address where she provided practical advice on how to live successfully. Shortly after that, Australian director Baz Luhrmann created a short video of the column and "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" was born. More information on this can be found here.

As I mentioned in a post last year, I am a sucker for a good commencement address. While these speeches were written for a particular graduation class, the advice is appropriate for anyone looking to change or improve his or her life. With this in mind, I plan to focus on a few notable commencement addresses next week. I hope you visit next week, and as always, I welcome your feedback. In the meantime, wear sunscreen...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Thoughts on "Like"

The following two clips say more about "like" than I can put into words. Enjoy...

As mentioned Monday, Taylor Mali is one of my favorite performance poets. I first saw him in the mid-1990s at a few poetry slams in the Chicago area. A former teacher, Mali's poetry focuses on some of his experiences in the classroom...

If you feel strongly enough about "like," feel free to get some anti-"like" gear on Taylor's website. I don't know him or get any commission, but I do think it is great.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just Say No to "Like"

One great thing about being a member of Toastmasters is that it helps you to become not only a good speaker, but also a great listener. I find myself catching successful business leaders (and otherwise good speakers) saying “um” and “uh” frequently. At our club, members can be heard saying, “you know” quite often. But, perhaps, the most overused word that I hear on a daily basis is “like.”

I remember the first time my uncle, a former college professor, heard me repeat “like” several times in a conversation. He later wrote me a letter telling me I wasn’t using the word correctly. Up until that point, I was not aware that I repeated “like” frequently. I got the message and from that point on, I've made an effort to not overuse “like.”

Just as hedge words such as “it seems,” “I guess,” and “I believe” tend to make a speaker seem less confident in their statement or opinion, the word “like” makes a speaker sound less polished and credible.

According to a segment from Good Morning America Weekend, linguists say that “like” is not as misused as we think. While it may not be misused, it is definitely overused. The key to eliminating “like” is to be aware. Listen to conversations around your cubicle, at meetings, with your kids. Listen to yourself. With a great deal of vigilance, we can cut down and minimize this bad, four-letter word.

One of my favorite performance poets, Taylor Mali, has spoken about this on Def Poetry Jam a few years back...How about do you feel about "like?"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weekend Musical Diversion: Ellis Paul

April is National Poetry Month and I can't think of too many songwriters as poetic as Ellis Paul. You may have heard his music in Me, Myself and Irene, NBC's Ed or at your local coffeehouse. One of my college friends, Jim, turned us onto his music and I've had the fortune of seeing him at least five or six times over the past ten or fifteen years. His music is mellow and reflective and his lyrics paint vivid pictures. I recently stumbled upon the video for the song "Speed of Trees," which is one of my favorites. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Normally, Earth Day is not a day that has any great deal of significance for me. Yes, I have a deep appreciation for nature, I abhor suburban sprawl, can’t stand the idea of logging, and I lose respect for anyone who litters. But, I watched Frontline on PBS last night and I was alarmed and outraged at what is happening in our country when it comes to our clean water. To its credit, the episode of Frontline did not sugarcoat the situation. Puget Sound, which I have always thought of as a beautiful natural body of water, is sick and polluted. Companies and municipalities, which are responsible for this pollution, point fingers at each other rather than take responsibility and do the right thing and clean up the mess.

Last night’s program convinced me of one thing: things are not going to change unless we, as citizens, get outraged. If there is one tip I can offer everyone for Earth Day this year, myself included, is to take action. This means we need to write our congressmen and get involved in this important dialogue. It means learning more about these issues and getting involved and doing something about it. I know life is tough these days and if we are fortunate to have jobs, we are probably too tired to take action or care. But we must. It is not just about saving certain species of sea life or animal life, it is about the survival of human life and preserving our quality of life.

One place to get involved is the EPA, the official Earth Day site, or even Oprah. I welcome any other suggestions in the comments section.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Deep Thoughts: Soul Pancake

I have always been intrigued by the deep, big picture questions in our life such as “what is the meaning of life?” and “what are we doing here?” So it was of great interest to learn about a blog called Soul Pancake which invites its readers to “chew on life’s big questions.” The site was founded by Rainn Wilson from “The Office.”

So far, I have enjoyed the musings on spirituality, creativity and philosophy. I’m not sure any of these big questions get answered, but it is comforting to know there is a forum to discuss these topics.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weekend Video Diversion: New New Yankee Stadium

Have you noticed the new padded seats at the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York around the dugout and behind home plate? For the amount of money those seats cost, you would expect that those seats would be heated and feature a back massage. With that in mind, here's an absolutely funny clip courtesy of the hard-hitting news team at the Onion...

Yankees Building New Vacation Stadium In The Hamptons

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Creativity: Just Do It!

If there is a topic that intrigues me more than any other, it would have to be creativity. I am instantly drawn to any book that explores the creative process and how to become more creative. While I do not consider myself artistic, I feel that I am creative. One of my favorite bloggers out there, Scott Ginsberg, wrote a great post today called 12 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Metabolism.

One of my favorite points that Scott makes is that “the medium is you.” It really has nothing to do with how well you can draw, paint, write, dance or sculpt. Personally, I feel creative when I can add a different ingredient to my omelet or cook something new and out of the ordinary. I feel creative when I can take a picture and focus on something that nobody else would notice in that photo. I feel creative when I can answer an email with a clever, seldom-used combination of words. I feel creative when I incorporate a new word into my conversation that I learned from something I just read. Creativity is about attitude, not about ability.

I have two main points when it comes to creativity (in my humble opinion):

1. We are all creative – too many of us think we are not creative.

2. Just do it! – don't worry about perfection, just enjoy the process. I am an expert procrastinator (see my previous entry about this) and I know when it comes to expressing myself creatively, I need to just do it more often. It is time to gain some creative momentum. Thanks for a great post Scott!

What is your favorite way to express your creativity?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weekend Musical Diversion: Jeff Beck Redux

I don't mean to turn this blog into a Jeff Beck appreciation page or even a music appreciation page (though I am crazy about both), I wanted to share another clip of a Jeff Beck performance with Imogen Heap that I stumbled upon during the week. I was captivated by Ms. Heap and her performance, but was blown away by Jeff Beck's guitar solos in this clip. BTW, this is available on Jeff Beck's new DVD and the audio is available as a free download on Enjoy this clip and the rest of your weekend...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Weekend Musical Diversion: Jeff Beck

I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. To me, music is too personal for this. Each of us has our own music hall of fame, our favorite musicians and their CDs and albums.

That being said, one of my favorite guitar players is being inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame tonight: Jeff Beck. He's already in the Hall of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds, but he is being inducted as a solo musician this evening. If you have never heard any of his solo stuff, do yourself a favor and buy/download/borrow some of his work. Start with Wired and Blow by Blow, mix in a little Truth and don't forget some of his newer work such as Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop and Jeff. If you really want to treat yourself, pick up one his live CDs such as his official bootleg, Live at B.B. King's Blues Club.

I've had the privelege of seeing Jeff Beck live and he is simply spectacular and jaw-dropping. Once, I went by myself on the day of show and picked up a tenth row center ticket at the Chicago Theater. Amazing.

I used to live across the street from a mom and pop video store. I spent considerable time looking for movies and talking with one of the employees, Eddie, about music. Our conversations revolved around great classic rock guitar players such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Rory Gallager and Jeff Beck. Mostly it was about Jeff Beck. Everytime I came back during his daytime shift, he shared a tidbit and recommendation about Jeff Beck. Our conversations in many ways was was like a broken record: Jeff Beck, Jeff Beck, Jeff Beck. Yeah, we talked movies, but when Eddie talked about Jeff Beck, his face lit up and he was excited.

In my book, Jeff Beck (the solo artist) should have been in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame years ago. I feel compelled to re-visit the video store to see if Eddie is still there and give him a high five. In the meantime, enjoy Jeff Beck's version of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Turning 40 and Starting Over

Just a couple days after turning 40, I found out that I was let go from my job along with 15 other employees at my company. I was not surprised-- we had been pretty slow. This makes it my third layoff in five years. Along with getting unemployment I will now be attending Adversity University and figuring out my next move.

On the positive side of getting laid off, being a free agent means that my possibilities are wide open. Yes there is plenty of anxiety that goes along with not knowing about what is ahead. At the same time, I also get excited about my future job opportunities. I think many people spend their job hunt scouring the ads looking for a company they will fit into. I have been guilty of this in the past. Today, I am excited about the possibility of creating my own opportunities. Thanks to blogs such as Escape from Cubicle Nation, Christine Kane’s Blog, Phil Gerbyshak, Work from Within and Tom Peters, I can dream about the possibility of doing work that has meaning to me. In addition, reading books and blogs from successful entrepreneurs such as Scott Ginsberg makes me realize and understand the amount of hard work and tenacity that goes into their success. I am prepared for this challenge.

Yes, there are many ways I can react to my adversity. I will have some tough days ahead, but I am ready to use my experience and wisdom that I have gained to bounce back and make a better life for myself.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reflections on My 40th Birthday

This weekend I turn 40 and, more than ever, it feels like time for reflection. As a high school and college student, I figured that I would be married and have kids by now. While I have achieved some career success, I feel my best is yet to come. As a student, I did what I was told, followed all the rules, and behaved myself. In life, I am realizing this philosophy will get you It has taken me this long to realize this.

I also realize that 40 is just a number. For one thing, I am thankful that I don’t look 40 (so I’ve been told). I am also thankful I don’t act too much like I’m 40. Yes, there are moments when I can be pretty serious, but I think I am a kid at heart. But, unlike a kid, I do not have time to burn. It is time for me to realize some of the dreams that I put off and also create new dreams. It is easy to put off and forget about our dreams as we get older. There are many reasons for this: marriage, kids, job, survival, and other responsibilities.

As my dad always reminds me, having another birthday is better than the alternative. Yes, there is so much I am grateful for: my health, my friends, a good mind, etc. But I am ready to mark my 40s with something big…I hope to do something of significance this year. I’m not ready to run a marathon, but I’m thinking about a long-distance bike ride or some other endurance event that requires some training…Something that will allow me to get in the best shape of my life (and get rid of the band of flab around my belly). I have always been rail-thin, so this band of flab is really new to me.

Beyond that, I am ready to take my life up to the next level in so many ways. So, if there is anyone out there who did something special for their 40th, I would love to hear about it. I am also open to any suggestions for ways to mark my 40th year in this life.

BTW, I have attached a clip of Keanu on David Letterman. I love the way Dave puts things in perspective about turning 40 at about a minute in…

Saturday, March 21, 2009

All About "Me"

With mild weather sweeping through the Chicago area, my first opportunity to take an enjoyable walk in the park was this past Sunday morning. As I rounded the quarter-mile track, I encountered a woman walking two large dogs – the one on the right was going number two. While this was not a sight I wanted to see after my hearty breakfast, I was angered when she left without picking up after her dog. The non-confrontational part of me defeated my angry side. I said nothing. At each subsequent lap that I walked, I was reminded of the “gift” that was left behind.

I thought about this incident and how it was a prime example of something that has grown to bother me about us humans – the “me” mentality. You see it when you are crossing the street and none of the vehicles give the pedestrians the right-of-way or when drivers are in such a hurry that they put other drivers in danger. It happens when wealthy investors make poor investment decisions with other people’s money (think AIG) or when accountants cook the books at their companies. It happens when a governor of your state makes decisions that he says are best for its citizens, but really these decisions are for his own self-interest. There are more examples of this behavior than there is room to write about it.

I subscribe to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is one of my favorite lessons from the Bible. Going one step further, I would say that if you want to see change in the world, it starts with you. You must be the change that you want to see in the world.

What kind of “gifts” have you left behind for others? What kind of change do you want to see in the world?

Photo from the Norman Rockwell collection.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


One of my goals that I set for 2009 is to learn more about money, investing and personal finance. About ten years ago, my dad gave me the Personal Finance for Dummies book. I was a few years out of college and working at one of my first jobs. He encouraged me to read it and start putting money away in my 401(k). I read the book and it has helped me tremendously. But because of our current economic situation, I feel that it is time for me to take it to the next level.

One site that I am going to start for some good financial information: Wikinvest. Check it out, the Money School section alone is worth a look.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Improv Everywhere

Call it a guilty pleasure or pure amusement. Whatever you call it, I have always been an admirer of a group of individuals known as "Improv Everywhere." I especially appreciate their ability, as Scott Ginsberg puts it, "to stick themselves out there." They recently posted their latest mission...enjoy...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

One Nation Under a Groove

Last night I had the opportunity to see George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars for the first time at the Cubby Bear across from Wrigley Field. While I have primarily been influenced by classic rock growing up, I have had a soft spot in my heart for R & B and funk from the 60’s and 70’s. There is something about the music and its attitude that speaks to me.

With the inauguration of our first black president just days away, the show seemed to take on additional significance. I have never been to a George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic show before so I don’t have any points of reference, but it seemed as though the packed house had an impressive collective bounce in its step.

Back in 1993, Clinton put out the single/EP “Paint the White House Black.” He wrote it at a time when the thought of a black president seemed far-fetched. As I perused the souvenir table, the gentleman behind the counter declared, “get your P-Funk souvenirs, last night of the tour. Next stop, the White House!” He went on to say that Clinton and the P-Funkers will be playing one of the many parties on inauguration day in D.C. It was then that the historical significance of George Clinton’s music really hit me.

Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership in our country. We need a leader that can make thoughtful, educated decisions. We need a leader that can bring our country together. I don’t think there has been a president in my lifetime that I’ve felt this excited about. I know Barack Obama is no miracle worker, but under his leadership, I hope our nation can rebound from its current funk.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy New Year!

Despite the uncertainties of the world, I am very hopeful for an upbeat 2009. I am preparing for a Toastmasters speech that I will be giving this week from the advanced "Storytelling" manual. My first assignment is to re-tell a folk tale. After taking out several books from my library, I settled on "Best Loved Stories Told at the National Storytelling Festival."

I chose "A Fisherman and His Wife" told by Carol Birch. The story is especially timely and is about a man and his wife trying to find contentment in their lives. The fisherman finds a magic fish that grants him three wishes. After asking to be a prosperous vineyard owner and the mayor of the village, the man and his wife still cannot find happiness. Finally the fish returns the man and his wife to their original life, but they now appreciate all that they have in their lives.

This is a lesson for all of us. We live in a society where we are told by advertisers that we need a particular item to be happy. Many of us, myself included, often compare our possessions with those of our neighbors and we feel like we don't have enough. Many of us are looking for answers from other sources when they are often right in front of us or within us in the first place. As we enter 2009, let us be grateful and have a deep appreciation for the bounty that we have in our lives.