I Heart/Favorite Twitter

On the first day, Twitter gave us the power to communicate with each other. We could express, thank, praise, laugh, criticize, or otherwise respond in up to 140 characters. Twitter empowered us to say something — whatever we choose — to someone, something, or the wide world.

One of its signature features was the retweet: share someone else’s tweet with the click of a mouse — thus, showing them and your followers you thought it was worth sharing. There was also the favorite, which was used as a bookmark, an informal polling device (i.e. RT for X, FAV for Y), and eventually as a liking tool similar to Facebook’s thumbs-up like button.

Along the way, retweeting and favoriting (now liking) became conflated with the concept of engagement. With minimal effort, we could “engage” each other. An original, perfectly-crafted tweeted might garner the same favorite as the boilerplate “LOL.” A thoughtful reply? Favorite. A provocative headline and link? Retweet. How often do we — and I am asking myself here, too — settle for, and hide behind, these simplified tools of “engagement”?

The challenge in life, and especially on social media, is to make the effort to do more than the bare minimum. Instead of a courtesy “like” (or “favorite”), we should seek meaningful engagement.

In its announcement, Twitter noted that the heart “is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.” Perhaps it is more universal and aligns more closely with its intended purpose than a star.

Using words to communicate with each other, however, is always going to trump the mere clicking of a symbol, whatever that symbol may be.

What is worse than saying, “That’s funny!” or “Thanks for sharing!” or “I totally disagree!”? Clicking a star or a heart or a thumbs-up and moving on.

Think about your highest moments on Twitter. When did you feel particularly witty or insightful? When did you feel like you were most enjoying the medium? Was it when you received a notification that someone had favorited a tweet or was it when someone said something to you? When have you felt most engaged: when someone retweeted you or when they paid you a compliment with words?

Twitter is a business — my favorite, as it turns out. Whatever I read about stagnant user growth, layoffs, and stock woes, I still value its role in my professional and personal life. Yes, I will continue to retweet and heart with the rest of you, but I will strive to use it for meaningful engagement above all else.

Really Shady McCoy

This afternoon, Buffalo Bills running-back LeSean McCoy sent out a disturbing party invitation via his Instagram account. It was deleted soon thereafter, but not until the masses saved it. It inspired me to write an imaginary conversation here.

Buzzer Management

On Monday, Seth Godin returned to The Moment with Brian Koppelman for another riveting, wide-ranging conversation that touched on mentors, expectations, and something new he calls "buzzer management." 

It's been nearly a year since his first appearance on The Moment—one that I listened to four or five times. That conversation helped me learn crucial lessons about myself, both personally and professionally, and re-orient my outlook on important elements of my life. It launched me into an exploration of Godin's work and reinvigorated a meaningful intellectual pursuit.

Why did I react a certain way when a professional relationship unexpectedly ruptured? How could I have prepared for and/or obviated that moment? What are the real consequences of being artistically blocked? How do I know when to quit and when to push through? 

These are just a few of the questions that conversation helped me formulate and answer, or at least begin to answer. Koppelman hints that the episode had a similar impact on many of his listeners.

This episode forged a different path. Instead of being a highlight reel of Godin's novel insights, it felt more personal—probably because he and Koppelman have become better friends and enjoyed more off-microphone exchanges over the last year.

Buzzer Management

As soon as it came out of Godin's mouth, it made sense: buzzer management. He'd been on an academic competition team of sorts, but, despite knowing all the answers, never fared well in tournaments because he wasn't quick on the draw. Then, he identified the issue, tested a theory, and won. The difference? Buzzer management.

Here's the secret to buzzer management, according to Seth: "You must press the buzzer before you know you know the answer." In other words, you have to think, "I'm the kind of person who knows the answer to that question. And then in between you buzzing and they calling on you, you figure out the answer."

So, what does that mean for the 99.999% of life that occurs outside of games like Family Feud or Jeopardy? 

Buzzer management is the skill of knowing to take a risk to jump in when you believe you can solve a problem. In a sense, it's a precursor to The Dip. A dip is what separates ordinary from extraordinary, however those are defined. A dip is a crossroads where we must decide to quit and focus on other endeavors, or push through the really hard stuff (i.e. the dip) that stands between wherever we are and the truly remarkable. The harder the pursuit, the more likely that pushing through the dip will pay off because others will either quit beforehand or drown in the dip.

How do we decide whether to take the risk? Buzzer management. Now comes the challenge of hitting the buzzer. In the abstract, buzzer management make sense, but buzzing isn't a simple yes-or-no proposition in the real world.

Maybe I see a posting for what looks like a dream job that I know I'd crush. Do I have ideas about the job? Yes. Do I have skills? Yes. Am I willing to take a risk? Yes. Am I interested? Hell yes! Do I buzz? Well, I want to, but I have to do more than whack the buzzer. I need the buzzer to buzz after I hit it. I need that company—that recruiter and hiring committee, for example—to buzz.

Maybe I want to start a company to fold projects into a more formal, marketable package. That I can do without relying on someone else. In that case, all I have to do is hit the buzzer—pick a name, buy the domain, make a website, tell people, and start doing it. As such, Godin's buzzer management makes more sense in the world of freelancing, founding, and creating. Here, knowing that I'm the type of person who would know the answer would be helpful. After that, it's just a matter of figuring out what the answer is.

Show Me The Weird

On Monday, I wrote about the disconnect between leaders craving linchpins and the recruiting mechanisms trying to fulfill those wishes. Whether it's a formal hiring process or another search for talent, I've been pondering how leadership can be more involved—assisting with the hunt and showing others how to find what you want.

For every 100 applications, I want to see the 5 "best fits." I also want to see the 5 weirdest. The expectation is not to give me the 6-10th best fits; it's to give me 5 people that you don't think I'm going to hire, but who have an odd, interesting background. 

Once a week, I want to spend 15 minutes talking about the weird ones. What did I see? What did you see? What did we learn? How could the applicant's "weirdness" translate in that position and in our organization, if at all? 

Change the numbers and times. Tweak it to appropriately fit your needs. But do it in some form. I suspect that by staying involved in the process you'll be happier with your recruiters' work and the end result.

Searching On Paved Roads

Seth Godin's blog is a daily source of invaluable nuggets. Take this one, for instance (the emphasis is mine).

When I write about linchpins and people on a mission, I often hear from bosses who ask a variant of, "Any idea how I can find people like that for my business?"

It's unreasonable to expect extraordinary work from someone who isn't trusted to create it.

It's unreasonable to find someone truly talented to switch to your organization when your organization is optimized to hire and keep people who merely want the next job.

It's unreasonable to expect that you'll develop amazing people when you don't give them room to change, grow and fail.

And most of all, it's unreasonable to think you'll find great people if you're spending the minimum amount of time (and money) necessary to find people who are merely good enough.

Building an extraordinary organization takes guts. The guts to trust the team, to treat them with respect and to go to ridiculous lengths to find, keep and nurture people who care enough to make a difference.

What strikes me is that this rumination begins with a common question asked by bosses: "How does one find indispensable employees?" 

I don't doubt that many bosses ask this question. It's an important one. I do doubt that this question is the reason for Seth's insightful response; the reason has to do with how bosses hire. Which is why I wanted Seth to go further. It's not enough to warn against spending "the minimum amount of time and money" in searching for "good enough." What about eschewing standardized recruiting in lieu of a system designed to attract and find these linchpins? What about the numbers game that recruiters play—screening tons of candidates, allowing a sufficient number of acceptable ones to continue, and minimizing the number of people the people doing the hiring have to see, thus saving time and money? I've heard of "good months" being two hires, "great" ones being three. And yet that fills only a small fraction of the vacancies, thus increasing pressure on people doing the work and those trying to hire more to do the work.

It's untenable. And we're not even talking about linchpins; we're talking about "good enough." If building something extraordinary takes guts, can standardized recruiting machines do that? Do extraordinary people fall through the cracks because the bosses who want "great people" are nowhere near the process until the end? 

The pressures inherent in running a business require us to rely on common credentials, accolades, and references—say, getting a Juris Doctor from a top-25 law school and being on law review. Doing so, in theory, saves time searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. But it also risks overlooking nontraditional candidates, some of which just might be linchpins that will drive extraordinary organizations.

Two-Way Street: A Complaining Consumer's Social Media Obligation

If we choose to use social media to complain about a company, then we obligate ourselves to use it to praise the company if and when it remedies the situation.

Setting the Stage

I had flown Alaska Airlines many times and never before found occasion to complain about my experience. Flights were consistently affordable, comfortable, and punctual, which explains the carrier's popularity on the West Coast. 

On Monday, after a fun, whirlwind weekend in Seattle, my wife and I opted to change our flight (I also paid $30 to bump us to preferred for the early boarding and extra leg-room). We were initially slated to arrive at SFO close to midnight, but found ourselves ready and willing to shorten our trip by several hours if it meant beginning the week that much fresher. A quick phone call to 1-800-ALASKAAIR and $50 in change fees ($25 each) later and we were set for a 3:25 departure. 

We arrived at SeaTac Airport extra early, as the Alaska Air representative had advised. Given that we did not check bags, we whizzed through security quickly enough to present yet another option: get on the 2:15 flight to SFO. I inquired with the gate agent who said there was space, but that we would have to pay an additional change fee (i.e. another $50). "What's another hour?" we thought, and balked. 

Well, to be exact, another hour would actually be six.

Just as boarding commenced for our schedule flight, we were informed that a mechanical issue had been discovered. Thirty minutes became an hour, and another, and another. It was around an hour into the delay that my wife and I regretted not paying the extra fee, and about five minutes later that I grew annoyed that we should have had to pay it at all.

So I tweeted my frustration.  

The Exchange

My complaint was brief and specific. @alaskaair's response was swift and constructive. It took a short time to move the exchange from the public eye to direct message. They offered to refund our change fees. Minutes later, snacks and water bottles appeared at the gate for everyone to devour.

We continued to wait. Around 5pm, I tweeted that we should have been about ten minutes from home, if only Alaska hadn't tried to double down on the change fee. Shortly thereafter, the gate made an announcement: when the flight was completed, we all would receive an email regarding "compensation" for the delay. Eyebrows rose. 

Around 7pm, we boarded a new plane with a sense of relief. Granted, it hadn't been a particularly awful delay. We had clean water, bathrooms, and food and entertainment options at SeaTac. But it was annoying—especially for those of us who hadn't gotten on the earlier flight. But the wait wasn't over.

Fog. Damn it, Karl. Yes, just as we were ready to head for home, SFO slowed everything down even more, as the Bay fog's low-ceiling requires. More (of the same) snack boxes were passed out, along with soft drinks (but no free booze). Finally, at 8:10pm we were off! We arrived home a little after 11pm, roughly an hour earlier than we would have if we had stuck to the initial plan.

The following morning, my wife and I received an email with a code for a significant discount on future Alaska flights. 

Instead of quietly going away, I realized my obligation. Social media is a two-way street. Whether it's consumer-to-consumer or business-to-consumer, it depends on mutuality and reciprocity. It shouldn't be a sounding board only for a frustrated consumer, like me. It is more than a tool to amplify a complaint or shame a business. Rather, it is a tool to connect and communicate. 

The more liberties we take in our usage, the more responsibility we bear.

If I use Twitter to vent about an Alaska Airlines policy and an unfortunate series of unfolding events, then I should use that same medium to thank the company for appreciating my concerns, valuing my business, and taking steps to ensure our relationship continues. And that's what I did.

Will I be flying Alaska Airlines again? Absolutely. 

If It Ain't Broke...

Break it.

The old adage usually implies staying the course because doing something risks disrupting the status quo. It further assumes that the status quo is preferable to alternatives.

Just because something isn't broke doesn't mean it doesn't need breaking (triple negative FTW!). Settling for average can be more detrimental than aiming high and failing.

So, find something in your life that ain't broke—maybe a diet, exercise routine, or bad habit—and break it. 

A Digital Exercise

With the world at our fingertips—music and podcasts ready to flood our ears, streaming video and mobile games ready to flood our eyes, and productivity apps and tools that constantly keep us doing—it is harder than ever to find the time and attention for the things we should be doing.

Jon Acuff, Seth Godin, and others have written about the importance of quitting. Today, Godin offers his readers a foothold in getting over this wall. He doesn't give us the answers; rather, he prompts us to ask better questions.

Is it meeting your needs…

Or merely creating new wants?

Is it honoring your time or squandering your time?

Is it connecting you from those you care about, or separating you?

Is it exposing you or giving you a place to hide?

Is it important, or only urgent?

Is it right, or simply convenient?

Is it making things better, or merely more pressing?

Is it leveraging your work or wasting it?

What is it for?

Maddening Expectations

In 48 hours, the series finale of Mad Men will invariably disappoint a lot of people. There are a number of factors working against Matthew Weiner and his stellar ensemble cast. Here are a few:

  • The show is in the conversation of "best shows ever" and therefore generates high expectations
  • It has never been a shock-and-awe experience; it's deep and deliberate—a progression that makes tiny details so meaningful, but not necessarily riveting to watch
  • Breaking Bad recently did the unthinkable by making its ultimate season spectacular, heart-pounding, and complete—disappointing (almost) no one and making us think, "If it can be done, then it should always be done"
  • We've been burned before: The Sopranos and Seinfeld come to mind

It's not often that someone does something as well as Weiner has done Mad Men. It's undoubtedly his magnum opus. Achieving the reverence it has is an accomplishment in itself. Put in context, however, it's even more remarkable. 

When I think about the other shows in that "best ever" conversation, The WireThe Sopranos, and Breaking Bad top the list for me. Those shows revolved around the war on drugs in Baltimore, an unusual figure in organized crime, and a chemistry teacher who turns to making meth after a cancer diagnosis. Mad Men is about an ad man with a secret and, increasingly, the other ad men and women around him. Yes, people have died in Mad Men, but not in as explosive fashion as its peers. Yes, there are illicit drugs (and lots of liquor and cigarettes), but not in a trafficking/dealing sense like its peers. In a larger context, then, Mad Men is amazing for being so good with fewer natural opportunities to "wow" us.

In a more recent context, it's just as impressive. What are the more popular, revered shows of the last five years? Game of Thrones. Walking Dead. Homeland. Breaking Bad. And a ton of reality shows. It's a similar argument. Mad Men is different; it pulls us toward emotion and history between characters, not the supernatural or national security or life-and-death decision-making. 

For the finale, we should expect nothing more. If we do that, there's no way we'll be disappointed.

I'd ____ Bill Simmons

If I had money, I'd fund Bill Simmons' next venture. 

If I owned a company, I'd hire Bill Simmons.

I'd also work for Bill Simmons (the likeliest of these three scenarios).

Why? Because I'm drawn to people who are curious, ambitious, and versatile. Because I respect people who aren't afraid of speaking truth to power, but who also use power to speak truth. Because there are few people bold (or arrogant) enough to say, "I know what's good and I'm going to surround myself with good people, empower them, and lead the way." As Seth Godin has said, "If your standard is to never be called arrogant, you've probably walked away from your calling."

There aren't many willing to lead because it comes with hassle and risk. But Simmons started Grantland and championed 30 for 30. There aren't many people who are good at one thing who say, "I'm going to try something else!" Remember Simmons' transitions to podcasting and television? Few people have that dogged determination and work ethic, but never lose that folksy, playful way of relating to just about everyone. That's how Simmons can write a beautiful ode to the family dog or describe a life-altering trip to the Azteca that stays with the audience for years.

Despite his flaws and gaffes, and certainly notwithstanding today's news that he's parting ways with ESPN, I believe he's the best and safest bet in sports media. If there were 10 Bill Simmons working in sports, I'm not sure any of us would ever get anything done. And that's why I can't wait to see what's next.

Meet Me On Polk

I'm going to try something new. I'm going to start extending regular invitations to people I don't know to meet, drink wine, and talk about, well, anything. 

When? First one's today at 5:30pm (I'll stick around an hour and chat with Vicki and Thaddeus if you don't show up).

Where? William Cross Wine Merchant, 2253 Polk Street, at 5:30pm.

What's on tap? I'll buy a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to share. After that, you're on your own. 

How will I recognize you? I'll be carrying a single red rose. Not really. It's not busy in there. Ask if I'm Corey.

Why? I like meeting new people and I don't do it enough. Plus, I liked the idea of building in a reason to splurge on Châteauneuf-du-Pape. #Smart 

Don't Give Away Your Happiness

The more we give other people and things the power to make us happy, the more we lose control over our own happiness. It's one thing to want something; it's another to need it. It's okay to want a job or a promotion, a house, or the ability to take a year off and travel. It's unhealthy to assign these things so much value that the failure to obtain them will affect our self-worth and happiness. It's okay to feel brief disappointment or a compulsion to act (to try again) when we fail to obtain these things. It's unhealthy to feel rejected or defeated. That's when we know we've given away the power.

Second Chances

Today, I stumbled upon a piece by Richard Branson for a young professionals series called #IfIWere22. I decided to write my own.

If I were 22, I'd stretch that semester into a year or two abroad and really solidify that second language.

If I were 22, I'd ask people in my dream jobs if I could work for them, even for free.

If I were 22, I wouldn't let myself think about graduate school of any kind for at least 3 years.

If I were 22, I'd take more chances and leave my comfort zone every day.

If I were 22, I'd play music for people in public.

If I were 22, I'd laugh at myself more.

 

Pay-Per-View Immorality

By most accounts, Floyd Mayweather is a horrible person. You can read about his history of evidence, particularly against women, here. He's also offered to pay Suge Knight's bail if he wins. Knight has pleaded not guilty to hit-and-run murder, which you can watch here.

But tonight he's going to make a healthy nine-figure sum–$5,000,000 per minute to be more accurate. That's the kind of spoils that comes from a $100 pay-per-view event pitting the undefeated welterweight against also-legendary boxer and Filipino Congressman Manny Pacquiao (who has a less-than-stellar political record when it comes to women's and LGBT issues).

After the NFL's domestic violence problems came to a head this season, after Tiger Woods' moral turpitude came to light and cost him hundreds of millions of dollars, after baseball and cycling have dealt with steroids and doping scandals galore, how is it that Americans are so eager to make Floyd Mayweather $180,000,000 richer (and Pacquiao $130-ish) tonight?

I can't reconcile the conflict, but I suspect that it lies somewhere in a corner of our moral psyche in which our collective craving of spectacle and entertainment yields to almost anything. As a sports lover, I can understand loving a sport or team through scandal, but where is the line. What else could Floyd Mayweather do that would make most people say no? How far is too far when it comes to enriching depraved individuals? We should have this discussion.

#IdeaMonth Days 26-30: Travel-Related Light-Bulbs

After a few days of quasi-unplugging in Cabo, I'm finishing off #IdeaMonth with an assortment of ideas related to travel.

Ideas for Flying

The inside of a commercial airplane is about as captive as an audience gets. You can't leave. You can only get out of your seat for a limited amount of time and, during that time, your options to move pretty much run along a straight line down the aisle to the restroom. Gone are the days where passenger marketing was mostly restricted to Sky Mall and an in-flight magazine. Now, there are promotional videos and ads, as well as an expanded selection of in-flight food, drink, and entertainment options.  After returning from a trip to Cabo, I couldn't help but think we're missing an opportunity to incentivize behavior, both before, during, and after a trip.

For instance, airlines should offer free fruits and veggies. Do I need to tell you why? They should also offer free or discounted healthy drink options. 

But what about behavior off the plane? How about developing partnerships with local charities and service organizations and discounting airfare, waiving baggage fees, and providing in-flight freebies for passengers who spend, say, two or more hours volunteering during their trip?

We know that digital devices aren't good for our brains. So why not offer a free drink/snack for passengers who correctly complete an educational crossword puzzle or current events quiz (thus, keeping them off the screen/device for 30+ minutes)? 

Ideas for Accommodations

Guests who consent to having to TV/Internet access in their room receive a discount.

Provide opportunities for guests to learn about and make local food. It's educational and stimulating for guests, and encourages the hotel to prioritize its dining programs instead of resorting to buffets, fried and processed foods, and other shortcuts.

Clearly instruct guests on food and water issues. Must I only consume bottled water and avoid ice and all fruits and veggies that have been washed? 

Ideas for Activities

Free language and cultural classes. Knowing the basics of any foreign language can make an otherwise nerve-racking experience tolerable, even pleasant. In Cabo, the hotel offered free hour-long Spanish classes every other day. Facilitating communication and understanding is never a bad thing. More of this, please.

Free social media classes. Teach guests how to evangelize effectively. Sign them up. Improve their skills. And do it all when they're in your loving arms.

#IdeaMonth Day 25: Wine Sticks

What if you could dip a Popsicle stick-like thing in a glass of wine and test for varietal,  alcohol content, or check whether it's corked?

It's a wine pregnancy test of sorts. Enjoy the piece of mind when you roll the dice at a budget motel or unsophisticated purveyor. 

#IdeaMonth Day 24: Create Something Every Day

Except for one forgetful day, I've written every day for over three months. Once in a while, it's something longer and thoughtful; most days it's short and sweet. The point is to write something, not to create a masterpiece.

But sometimes it's good to push myself to be creative—that is, to do something artistic. I used to write and play a lot of music, but that's less common these days. I also used to write fiction, prose, and poetry a bit, but those forms, too, met a similar fate.

Developing or changing a habit isn't easy. Getting stuck in one, however, is. That's today's idea: spice up the routine. I'll even practice what I preach with a haiku.

Yes, TGIF.

But is it Saturday yet?

Cabo awaits us.