Thinking is easy, blogging is hard

I was asked last week if i blog and after an awkward yes, I had to admit that it’s getting pretty dusty here at World on Shuffle headquarters.

So many ideas. So few blog posts. Nine months of crickets.

I keep an impressive list of potential blog topics. Many of them are quite fleshed out and simply require my hands on the keyboard. However, that seems to be the final stage of their existence. Some of them perish because they just aren’t very good ideas. Most of them die at the hands of Twitter, emails, Temple Run, Instagram, Plants vs Zombies or any of the many other seductive distractions enticing and serenading me from my iPad and iPhone.

Yes, I am addicted to distraction at times. Some of these detours are productive, but the blog gets dusty and lonely. Like talk, thinking is cheap. Thinking is easy, blogging is hard. It requires work and focus. Commitment. Action.

My pledge is to blog twice a week at the very least. Please feel free to remind me when it doesn’t happen. If I don’t respond I am probably tending to my son’s Zombie Farm and calling it productivity.

Institutional Knowledge is a Liability

Every company has a set of explicit and implicit rules and practices on how things get done within the organization. It often takes weeks or months or even years on a job to acquire and accumulate this institutional knowledge. Often the more you know the more you can thrive and accomplish on the job. Thus, institutional knowledge has an exaggerated value placed on it.

I would argue that institutional knowledge becomes the death of innovation.

You bring skills, passion and change to a new job. You learn the system and gain in effectiveness as your tenure increases. For a period of time you hit a peak of productivity and innovation.

However, at a certain point on a job the crushing weight of your institutional knowledge cripples your ability to grow and change. You shift from “this is how we do it” to “this is how we’ve always done it.” At that moment you begin looking backward and not forward, effectively becoming an impediment to progress. Unless your job grows or changes dramatically it is almost impossible to avoid this yoke of stagnation.

How long is too long on a job? How do you prevent institutional knowledge from strangling innovation and progress? I would love to know your thoughts.

You’re Fired! Seven Steps to Survive Unemployment

Fired. Downsized. Laid off. Restructured. Not sure what else the kids are calling it these days, but it happens to everyone at some point in their career. It happened to me and I found seven steps that have made the transition easier and (almost) enjoyable.

1 Don’t take it personally
This is the toughest step. You will probably need to focus on acceptance on a daily basis at first. It may have been politics, performance, economics, or something else, but the reason you no longer have a job is irrelevant. You are now unemployed. Yes, you will grapple with anger, shame, fear, denial and sadness. This emotional cycle is crippling. Let it go. It isn’t good or bad. It just is. The sooner you remove the emotion, the sooner you will free yourself to take on the next challenge.

2 Be Prepared
Update your resume. Complete your LinkedIn profile. Get business cards. Sharpen your job pitch. Treat your search like a job. If your former employer took back your technology, get a new phone, laptop, iPad, blackberry or whatever works for you. Your new workspace will likely be the local coffee shop, so make sure you have what you need to function as a mobile office.

3 Call/write/contact everyone you know
If you are not a natural networker this is hard. Think of it as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and coworkers. Go through your address book and reach out to everyone. Those first emails and phone calls are painful. Set a goal every day and stick to it. Write 5 emails. Make 5 phone calls. It is a numbers game and the more contacts you make the more opportunities you will uncover. Plus, you won’t find a job online. You will likely find it through your extended network. Your contacts are one of your biggest assets.

4 Don’t take it personally, Part 2
You will get blown off by a lot of people. Job search can be a daily beatdown of unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls and cancelled meetings. Yes, even your friends and colleagues will ignore you. Your timeline isn’t the world’s timeline. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep reaching out. Follow up. Ignore the bad and focus on the good. The best part of this process is discovering how amazing some people are. You will be touched by their kindness and make some great new friends along the way.

5 Get Up. Get Dressed. Get Out
Do not stay at home. Staying home is a giant time suck, plus you will wind up talking to yourself. Get up and out. Dress like you are going to work. Create a rhythm and a daily routine. Your time is yours, but use it wisely. This is your new job until you find a job.

6 Keep learning
Take classes. Sharpen your skills. Go to conferences. There are tons of great free webinars and online classes. Keep up on what’s happening in your business. Work your social media profiles. Job search is a full-time job and consider this on the job training. Try to get a little smarter every day.

7 Enjoy the Time
This is tough too, but critical to the process. The anxiety and uncertainty of unemployment hinders the ability to appreciate the gift of not working. Yes, it is a gift. You will find another job and you will work long days and get caught up in the challenges, stresses, demands and politics of that job. So enjoy this time to reevaluate, reinvent and recharge your life and career. Take time to enjoy every day. Go for walks. Hit some museums. Spend extra time with your family. Do the things you never had time for when you were working.

I hope these help anyone who is looking for work and I would love to hear your ideas on surviving job loss and unemployment.

Your Technology is No Good Here

A couple of weeks ago I spent a week in western Massachusetts in a house way up in the hills. I love this particular corner of the world for several reasons. Hiking. Road riding. Mountain biking. Rafting. Kayaking. Swimming. Whoopie pies. Most of all, I love the quiet. The loudest noise in the daytime is tractors and the loudest at night is the owls.

There is no cell service here. Nothing. No wireless. Zero bars. My trusty iPhone is basically useless beyond Cut the Rope and Doodle Jump. Just a brick that tells time.

At first this is disconcerting. I reflexively look to see what’s happening in my digital world and it’s The Twilight Zone. No Facebook. No Twitter. No emails. No texts. No phone calls. It no longer exists.

Once the shock wears off, I start to enjoy the freedom. I read books. I hang out with my kids and build forts. We all sit down to dinner and talk about frogs and butterflies. It’s amazing how quickly I don’t care about new followers on Instagram or checking in on Foursquare. The biggest gift is the ability to focus and think. It is something so precious that we often neglect in our quest to vanquish our to-do lists.

Once I was back on the grid it was a scramble to catch up and plug back in, but the lesson I learned is the beauty of disconnecting, even if just for a moment.

At the recent #140 Conference in New York City, many of the speakers said the same thing. Put down the technology. Go outside. Make friends. Build something. Do stuff. Love someone. It will all be here when you get back. And they are right.

How do you disconnect and find time in your day to think? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Vinyl vs Digital – Curation vs Serendipity

I love vinyl. The gorgeous covers. Gatefold sleeves. Liner notes. Inserts. The feel of a record’s sharp edge as you flip it with your fingers. There is nothing like opening a brand b]new album and hearing the pop of the needle as it hits the record for the first time.

Records are a curated experience. Two sides, each containing a suite of songs often very carefully sequenced by the artist. Yes, it was a context created by the limitations of the 12′ LP, but what a great context. Generations of music fans grew up in the late 50s, 60s, 70s and into the 80s with whole albums burned into our collective memory. We knew our favorite albums intimately and consumed them in order from track one, side one to the locking groove at the end of side two.

Some music wasn’t meant to be broken up into little bits. Great concept albums, symphonies and song cycles were produced to be heard as one extended piece. For an obvious example, you can’t really break up the songs on side two of The Beatles’ Abbey Road without sacrificing the greatness of the work. They were random song fragments blended together with a beauty and genius beyond the separate pieces.

As technology changed it was obvious that vinyl was relatively inconvenient compared to CDs. Digital music is even easier. We can copy, share, mix and match with so much ease. However, what have we lost in the way of curation and context? (I must add that I am thrilled by the resurgence of vinyl sales.)

I love digital music. It is infinitely more convenient. My entire library is stored on a drive and available at a moment’s notice. No more giant crates of vinyl or shelves of CDs. No scratch and hiss. We all get to create the best radio station ever with all our digitized tracks and/or simply use Pandora, Spotify, Turntable.FM or any of the great new online music services.

When I am working I often plug one of my way too many iPods into the dock and listen on shuffle. Today the first 10 songs were from Candi Staton, Destroy All Monsters, Let’s Active, REM, Tori Amos (sorry), Iron Maiden, Jack Logan, Elastica, Honey Cone and Link. All great songs randomly shuffled. I love the surprise and serendipity of shuffle, but sometimes miss the craft and context of a perfectly segued and sequenced record.

What do you prefer? Curated musical content or random shuffle?

Content on Shuffle

I want to explore how we discover and experience content. The intersection of search, curation and sharing under the umbrella of discovery is fascinating and constantly changing. How does it impact how we interpret the world around us and how we learn? And how does the digital world affect how we socialize and share our experiences with others?

Growing up I listened to records, watched live television, listened to live radio, read a morning or afternoon paper, watched movies in a theater and read the magazines available at the local drug or bookstore. Content was relatively scarce and distribution highly controlled. I quickly gravitated to books and music because I could control and curate my own experience.

Sharing content was difficult, but we all shared the experience, gathered around the TV at the same time. We all watched the same movies and shows and heard much of the same music. Curation was often top down. Rigid TV schedules. Highly formatted radio stations. Mass media was exactly that. Content created and curated for mass audiences.

In the 80s and 90s things began to change with the broad proliferation of cable channels, the Sony Walkman and the adoption of VCRs and DVD players among other things. Choice multiplied and so did the number of devices in any household. The common familial, social experience of media was giving way to individual experience. Not only was there more content, we could share it more easily, copying and trading music, movies and TV shows.

Today content is ubiquitous. Distribution is ubiquitous and often confusing. Our individual media experiences are unique and generally self-curated. With millions of websites, thousands of digitized songs, hundreds of DVDs, our phones, ipods and ipads filled with apps, games, music, books, movies and TV shows, plus hours of programming recorded from hundreds of channels on DVRs, how do we provide context? How do we discover and curate great media experiences?

It’s now a world of content on shuffle. So many amazing media experiences are immediately available on a multitude of platforms. We have amazing tools to share and recommend to our friends, families and social media acquaintances. How has this all redefined sharing? How has it redefined us? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.