Tag Archives: Work

Lessons in Multitasking

Busy, busy, busy winter.

  • 2013 is off to a fabulous start – I’ve transitioned into a consulting role with a super-neat startup in the Boston area to work on pushing the company to scale with an influx of multi-sided users.  It’s been a whirlwind and with quick, significant progress  – I’ve finally found the women’s restroom no less than eight weeks into the game.  There’s incredible potential for the technology they’ve developed, and we’re going to take this thing far & wide.  The visionary & strategic aspects of my role are incredible, and it’s caused a deep realization that hey maybe this is what I should have been doing — not the process-oriented roles I’ve filled in the past.
  • Timing is good too – a smart friend recently left his comfortable job for greener pastures in the world of marketing convergence.  What is this magical term I speak of?  It’s the first time anyone has linked together all marketing activities directly to business activities and directly to consumer activities. It’s a closed-loop system. Our tool is super easy to use and – best of all – doesn’t require the coffers of the Catholic Church to implement & maintain.  I’m proud of it, excited about it, and ready to introduce much much more in the coming weeks.
  • I’ve been writing, albeit slowly, working on an old/new project.  You remember Notes from the Field, right?  It’s undergoing a reboot and when I finish the intense outline, it’s hitting the publisher circuit.  (Another one you’ll be hearing much more about in the coming months.  I’ve dedicated nearly all my flying time to writing – except Superbowl Sunday and when I get jammed next to someone who insists on invading my space, brain, and consciousness with their nosy inquiries.)
  • Commercial and residential real estate is also on my radar, though I seem to spend more time kicking the tires than finding what I want. Essentially, I want to build out some decent commissary kitchens for up & coming chefs, home bakers, and those who want to break into the catering, food truck, and other food-types of business.  It needs to include a small cafe and a market (ideally), but finding the right-sized warehouse space that I can purchase & get up to code hasn’t been an easy task.  From the residential side – it’s time to put down some roots, if only so I have somewhere to come home to on the weekends.  I just don’t know where (yet).
  • And, of course, this past Saturday  marked the beginning of the soccer season!  Pictures & stories forthcoming — though I’m excited to coach another season with the girls. (They’re now 7 1/2 years old.  It’s our eighth season and going strong.)

Yep, this year is shaping up to be a game-changer.  Let’s make it happen together though — tell me what you’re up to!

New Addition to the Family!

Wise man with a secret(Shhhhhh – keep it on the DL, but…

I’m proud to announce

Charm School Marketing is one signature away from a new partnership venture, as part of a larger digital braintrust – and some seriously brilliant, strategic, and kick-ass human beings who can take Charm School clients to the next level.

Needless to say, I’m honored and thrilled and starry-eyed with the possibilities.)

In related news, I’ve got three major proposals in the works, including one regarding digital & interactive textbooks, one mobile app for the legal world, and one to create the first completely free bachelor’s education — complete with full university experience (ahem, also known as “Project Next Facebook”).  These ventures are in various proto-development and pitch stage, but by July 1st, all of them will be in the hands of venture capital groups.  I’ve also been working in new business development down in the Deep Ellum area to fit within a true community vision and push the area into a sustainable neighborhood and creative haven.

It’s gonna be a good summer.  Come September, I’ll be knee-deep in exactly what I want to do: rocking this world.

Twenty-Four Hours

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I listen to (read: dance to) Katy B’s “Louder,” the more it seeps into my day-to-day life.  The more it seeps into life, the more the underlying philosophy guides the days, weeks, and months.  Where I’ve previously described the angst of the ‘quarter-life crisis,’ it’s not the memories of my youth that I mourn, but quite the opposite: that instead it was wasted.

Listen for yourself:

(It doesn’t help that I looked like that at 16.)

It was a handful of weeks ago that I was driving to work, thinking to myself “is this what being grown-up is?”  The constant nagging feeling that I don’t really have any answers to the same questions that plagued me years ago, just a a few glimmers of insight.  I feel exactly as I did at 16, but with a few additional responsibilities and a whole lot more freedom.  I still drown out my thoughts with loud music; I still drive fast; I still escape situations where I’m awkwardly uncomfortable; I still coach (and play) soccer; I still adore the same things I did then (though the list has expanded some over the years).  And while I appreciate the present tense moments, I’ve never given in or been seduced by them, at least long-term (momentary weakness: yes; reckless addictions and compulsions: no.)  Which leads to an quirky question: did I miss out on an undefinable something called youth?  And worse yet: is that why I still feel 16?

I think this is a good thing, albeit odd.  Going through photos of friends, a handful of them have grown up – they’re married, some with kids, they have houses and mortgages, and have piled on the responsibility and sacrificed (some) freedom.  And they’re happy, happier than our parents were.  Yet it’s not about the rite of passage-style events anymore – it’s all about whether they’re still in touch, moving and shaking in some way.  It’s been made much easier to move toward and from the edge, in constant, dynamic flux with the use of social technologies.  ‘The man,’ as previous generations have declared, will get you, bogeyman-style, when you lose your cultural edge. Now, there’s no excuse.

My millennial generation has grown up in a period of unraveling and fragmentation in the cultural sphere, yet we’ve always been cared for and protected through this instability.  It’s said that we were the generation who elected Obama; it’s said that we can’t function alone, but only in teams.  We’re coming of age, not necessarily into adulthood, but into a larger role as we become the dominant power in this sphere. And given our predilection for optimism and energy, we’ll be the generation to redefine, fight, and expand our cultural power.

Certainly I’m part of that.

I’ve been working on a couple proposals for two serious – and high-minded – projects that can and will change the face of education, utilizing technology and the social space.  These projects address the continued fragmentation of education and the crisis of insurmountable debt (and the uneven impact to show for it).  I’ll be the first to say that my undergraduate education gave me the skills and abilities I needed – and the network to back it up.  My graduate education gave me the clout and discipline of responsibility.  I use none of my degrees in their narrow fields; it was never my intention to do so as none of them are vocational-level degrees.  I want to share this freedom with the world; I want the world to have the same opportunities I do and to be able to take these opportunities at any point in life.  Friedman and his disciples call this principle “flattening” – I call this necessity for a world soon (if not already) in the midst of cultural crisis.  Education isn’t a magic bullet, yet it is a stepping stone in the right direction.  The ability to think, to read, to write, to create, to analyze – these skills are priceless as the foundations of any existence.  A government is only as effective as its citizens; a culture only as pervasive as its citizens; an economic system is only as strong as its citizens.

And I have the heroic impulse (and 16 year-old indefatigable, youthful optimism) to take on the challenge.

My voice is getting louder.

Trading in the Suits

Yep – for a pair of jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  It’s time to get dirty.

Actually, it’s time to get charming – I’m taking my nascent business, Charm School Marketing, into the big leagues, past the word of mouth referrals (which I love) and the one-off freelance and contract jobs (which I tolerate), toward a future of long-term relationships based on smarts & strategy, evaluation & analytics.  And, of course, toward the bigger business goals with the Deep Ellum community revitalization.

I’m thrilled.

So stay tuned for more updates.  Today, I’m in Austin, meeting with strategic partners & clients.  Tomorrow, back to Dallas to smash the champagne against the boat, then put my nose to the grindstone.

Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness due primarily to self-righteous anger.

A smarter friend once said depression is anger turned inward.  Is this state of mind (and full body assault) then depression turned outward?  That final snap triggered to the unreasonable, irrational, illogical catharsis?

For years I’ve attempted to chronicle exactly this situation (with fictional twist) and even now I’m thwarted.  I’m living it, I’m experiencing it, I’m watching so closely yet this is the point where writing gets hard.  I don’t know what to say or what to write and as I try typing out these words, the ones you’re reading right here, the anger recedes from the overboil to a bare simmer.

And its in these unobserved moments I find that little bit of hope and optimism amid the swirling ugliness released.  That I can do this.  That I can make this work.  That it will all be okay.  That I will survive and thrive, and that one day I’ll look back on this and think “yep, that was the right move” – or think “yikes, screwed that one up” — but still I fight regardless of the regrets or affirmations.

So while I may have hit extreme burnout, and while this anger causes trouble and underconsidered or ill-advised action, tomorrow will be different.  Starting tomorrow, it’s all mine.

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

The Game

I’ve had my mind on the piano for the last few months, mostly thinking about sitting down and playing again.  I wasn’t ever a virtuoso by any stretch; the recording below has me fat-fingering a Rachmaninoff piece (and enhanced applause at the end – I was in front of maybe 10-15 people at the time it was recorded back around the time electricity was invented) and I never gave it the dedication needed to hit decency.  Though it is evidence that yes, I can play more than Chopsticks or Heart & Soul.

Prelude in G minor

It’s the spectrum of dedication, passion, and obsession that I’ve pondered in the few quiet moments, often when driving or when sitting and waiting for the next thing to happen.  I fully recognize I’m a mediocre fiction writer; I’m not particularly creative or inventive, but have just enough ability and talent to squeeze by.  And (to some extent) I’m okay with this – I recognize I won’t write the ‘great American novel’ or anything of the sort.  I likely won’t ever sign a book deal as forcing myself into a commitment day after day isn’t my idea of security.  It’s my idea of prison.

To some extent I feel fraudulent – as though I’m giving up – when instead it’s that I’m shifting my focus.

[To what, you ask.]

To which I reply “A career.”

My safety net is a small neighborhood cafe and bakery, the type of place I find myself aching over each and everyday.  It’s evolved through the grandiose visions (known then as Cauldron) and the quirky hole-in-the-wall existence (known then as Baked).  Some girls grow up dreaming of their wedding; I’ve seen this dream through twenty-something years.  But similar to fiction writing, I can’t do just that.  Never have I ever just done one thing; I lack the ability to accept only what I have in front of me and not think/dream/work toward something bigger and brighter, a characteristic known simply as ambition.

And what a waste of ambition to throw away on sweet and savory baked goods, day in and day out.  (Never mind the hundred other skills, abilities, and desires I’ve cultivated over the years.  If I never practice law, I’ll be a happy camper.  If I never own my own business, I’ll consider this life a waste.)  Paired with a larger vision and a plethora of things to accomplish – and the right team – I can give all myself to a project.  All the dedication, all the passion, all the obsession simmering below the surface.

Contrast this with my current situation: I’m working for a company who’s singular goal is to bring educational opportunities those those who couldn’t afford it, couldn’t make time for it, couldn’t achieve it, not because they weren’t smart enough or capable enough, but simply because life got in the way.  I’ve never worked for anyone or any type of organization with not only a crystalline goal but a crystalline goal I very strongly (and very deeply) believe in.  I’m thrilled to go to work almost every morning because it’s my job to help convince a person that yes, they can/should/will do this.  I find myself slipping into obsession, not out of dedication, but out of passion for this goal – I am inspired by those I work for.  I find myself uniquely frustrated by those who can’t or don’t hold this goal as close as I do; to many others it’s just a job, the same job that can be accomplished anywhere else.  And I’ve finally dug out of that mindset – after years of careers that dried up passion and dedication, jobs that shattered closely held ideals and left syrupy residues of nasty ethical compromises, I’ve found my swansong.

But am I ready for where it could take me?  Am I ready to put aside the small-town dream of a bakery, the mid-town dream of owning and managing commercial real estate?  The American dream of owning my own business and putting my ideas to work be damned for someone else’s great idea?

A few days ago, I saw my ending with this company.  It’s a political suicide, not shrouded in loyalty or pride, but in self-respect.  The metaphor I’ve used to describe it to others: imagine you’re twenty pages into a book and you already know exactly how it ends.  It doesn’t matter how long the book is, it doesn’t matter how the plot twists or turns – the ultimate destination has already been cast, the pieces are moving, and now I’m playing the game.

The question isn’t why I’m playing – that answer should be pretty obvious.  The question is who am i: the ‘go get shit done’ piece or the pawn who ‘gets capped quick’?  Do I play the game with agility or finesse?  Who is working against me, seeking nothing other than to trap me?  It appears that no matter my passion, my dedication, or my obsession my fate is written.  For some, this bleak post-modern outlook is persuasive.  It justifies the conspicuous spending and paranoid hoarding of resources.  It allows the ego to take on mythical qualities.  It reduces us to a caste despite the ravenous clawing for power in each interaction.

It’s an one-sided outlook of the game.  A philosophy I don’t subscribe to.

But it does give me pause to consider whether what I believe – no matter a fleeting state of passion or perpetual state of dedication – is true.  And whether knowing the ending should influence my decision(s) in the game.

Draft – Deep Ellum Introduction

Working on emptying my brain to the page – and started with the introductory letter for the Deep Ellum vision.  Everything included is open for discussion and I’d love any/all feedback as well.

To the eyes, hearts, and minds reading this document,

Allow me a moment of your time, a brief moment for a story full of politics, tribes, friendship, betrayal, change, death, rebirth, romance – all leading up to today, this very moment, set in these very words.

This story takes place in downtown Dallas, Texas in a small quirky neighborhood known colloquially as Deep Ellum.  Five streets wide, running east/west, and twelve blocks long, has housed workers, creators, and visionaries of all stripes and varieties since World War I.  It’s the home of the original black country jazz and blues, pushed out of the propriety and snootiness of what would eventually be a glamorous city.  The hired help, sharecroppers, carbetbaggers, and others called it home.  Henry Ford’s auto workers assembled the Model T here.  And as the sun went down each afternoon, the neighborhood hopped into action.  Men walked home from work and fed their families on a few hard-earned dollars everyday.  Women took in laundry, sowed, and roosted over the children of the neighborhood.  It was urban sustenance living.

And a vibrant culture blossomed among neighbors caught between prissy Dallas proper dwellers and the wide-eyed feats available at the county fair grounds.  The food was local, ingredients brought home from work and supplemented by small gardens, cooked to soul-filled perfection among the close citizenry.  Granaries and warehouses flanked the neighborhood, readily accessible to the rail lines.  Music and art were local, based on travels and exploits in, out, and around Deep Ellum.  Low arts, low culture, created for and by those living their lives, unable to fully express themselves anywhere other than home.

Then things changed, as things do.

Black music gave way to black gold, Dallas at the epicenter.  A national highway system was constructed, moving people and their goods faster, better, more efficiently through Dallas out toward the resource-rich countrysides.  Intolerance uprooted the neighborhood as its inhabitants pushed southeast further from the view of the downtown boom.  Oh, the days of Neiman Marcus, political vigilantes, and social upheaval of the 1960s as incomes in Dallas boomed, property values soaring, buildings constructed to scrape the sky.  Deep Ellum sat culturally fallow many years as auto mechanics and other light industrialists took advantage of location, location, location, disappearing with the sun.  Additional warehouses stored building materials for the rushing influx of residents hoping to strike it rich – and maintain the appearances of such position.

And then things changed, as they always do.

A basic principle: what goes up must come down.  The velocity may be fixed, but the acceleration surprised many now caught in shady practices, designed for inequitable results.  Dallas County shuddered.  Yet as shutters slammed downtown, cultural seeds sprouted in Deep Ellum, attracting passionately subversive creative-types willing to mark their territory fiercely and with plenty of color and disillusioned angst.  No squares allowed in their neighborhood, a vibe cultivated first by graffiti, then by performance art, then by punk music.  The culture blossomed into mythological status: Deep Ellum was the symbol of bravado among city and suburb dwellers.  Only those unfazed by the signs and stories on the tongues of many could venture into this neighborhood and remain unscathed.  But once there, the glories rivaled those of Greenwich Village, Ashbury Heights, Santa Monica Avenue, South Central Los Angeles.  Rock bands launched their careers in the tiny performance spaces provided by sympathetic owners charging dollar covers from a card table as one garage band after another took the stage.  Street artists gathered to repaint in the colors and symbols of the times, sharing their work to every driver, walker, and dweller.  Body artists proffered their skills with pins and needles, creating lifelong commissioned masterpieces.  Underground writers published their first works based in the freakish and delightful street scenes of Deep Ellum. Jazz musicians revived the scene long pushed out.  Performers danced dirty, filled with the soul of new vibrant music made by the streets.  The buildings, originally constructed for the heydays of industrial revolution, rallied with new ballads, updated for the modern clientele.

And then things changed, as they tend to do.

A mythological story must face cold realities before too long.  A rampant drug scene stole souls.  With drugs came erratic crime.  With erratic crime came fear as mere teenagers died at the hands of something so much more than they could comprehend.  With fear came a government crackdown on any subversive activity.  The roots poisoned, inhabitants cleared out, again moving south for greener, more temperate pastures. The neighborhood fell fallow yet again.

And yet again, concurrent bubbling booms exploded, dooming another cycle of investments.  Another recession, another depression, mayhem and ruin cut across the land.  And so Deep Ellum sat, unused, underutilized, struck down by bloodied balance sheets.

To see Deep Ellum by sunlight today is to see the hundred year oak trees lining Elm, Main, and Commerce Streets.  It’s to see a sparse yet motley mix of inhabitants get creative and eek out an existence in couture live/work spaces sprinkled through the neighborhood.  It’s to see a handful of legendary music venues struggling for breath as they face the inevitable change in surroundings.  It’s to see green grass growing despite the lack of care, to see countless buildings boarded up and bursting with potential for the next great Dallas chef, the next famous Dallas band, the next nationwide trend to take hold in Dallas and blossom on the streets of Deep Ellum.

And what of the future inhabitants?

A generation reared on the principles of collaboration.  A community desiring evangelism for something larger than themselves– potential, promise, praise – who provide significant political weight and economic support for principles they believe in.  An individual who preaches to the entire world that Deep Ellum is the enlightened place for every one and every thing who believes in creative collaboration to solve any problem, fix any mess, and achieve any dream.  We live here, we work here, we play here.  We are the new generation of artists, musicians, writers, performers documenting the riches of our culture.  We are the collaborative scientists and researchers solving the ills of the world.  We are the innovative entrepreneurs, attorneys, and doctors providing new solutions to problems current and old.  Together we are the strong hands and active voice of the new political and economic engine.

Join us in this project to revive Deep Ellum.  Make your voice heard.  Lend a hand to the group.  Be part of the ambition constructed specially for you, part of a larger, textured history – and create your promising future.