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Separating Who You Are From What You Do

When the agency I was working for hit rough financial waters and I was laid off, I decided to try a bold new experiment…getting a life.

Don’t get me wrong. Getting laid off with more than a half-dozen of your coworkers during the holidays is not something you build into your five-year plan. In fact, because the holidays are not the easiest time to find a job, I had to resolve myself to the reality that I might have six weeks of free time on my hands.

While searching for a job I wondered what would happen if I gave myself time to explore who I was? For the first time in my adult life would I be able to separate the idea who I am from what I do?

There are dozens of studies that show that we, as a society, are increasingly building our identifies and our sense of self-worth around our jobs. In fact, people who lose their jobs experience depression and identity-related crises at more than twice the rate as those of those still employed.

Finding a sense of self-worth that is more independent from what we do is not just a matter if short-term happiness, it’s a long-term requirement for happiness.

Based on my experience, here are a few potential ideas that proved out their usefulness in helping me find out what really mattered to me (click on any photo to start slide show):

In retrospect though being laid off wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me it also wasn’t the worst. With nothing better to do, I had to take life day-by-day. Through putting things in perspective, I rediscovered the things that mean the most to me.

Ultimately, my period of unemployment only lasted two weeks. My new job offered me the chance to start right away and I had to think seriously about taking them up on it. However, I opted to give myself more time in the experiment and the results are pretty self-evident in the photos.

Though I am ready to get back work, I am doing so more mindful of what it is that means the most to me in life. By trying to separate who I am from what I do, not only I am going back to work happier but I am going back to work with more appreciation for my life as a whole.

If you find yourself laid off or with some time on your hands, I can’t recommend highly enough conducting your own experiment. Treat yourself like you would your job and invest in your own happiness. It’s worth every second.

Atlanta From The Sky

Every once in a while you get an idea for a gift that just blows away anything else you could have thought of. I had just such a moment for my grandmother’s 80th birthday.

Now, you have to understand three of things about my grandmother.  First, she’s a very spry 80-year old.  In fact, her idea of a good time is hopping around the Galapagos Islands or in the jump seat of a Russian MIG in a mock dog fight.  Second, she’s 2nd generation native Atlantan and she’s not shy about telling you, either.  She knows Atlanta and its history about as well as any other native you will meet.  Finally, she’s a cancer survivor.

As you can imagine, the stakes for a great gift that will mean as much as I wanted it to mean were high. After some googling, I figured it out…show her Atlanta in a way she’s never seen it before – by air!

The results were incredible! I booked with Prestige Helicopters (through Xperience Days) and the 40 minute flight with our pilot, Scott was nothing less than incredible.

I’ve laid out a video, below, and some of the best of the shots from the tour are in the gallery viewer at the top of this post:

For anyone looking for a similar experience, I highly recommend the tour and Prestige, in particular. For more details on the tour and our experience, I am glad to connect.  Just contact me through my web site.

Gallery: When Life Sends You To Dallas…

So I got called to Dallas this week to meet with one of my favorite clients. What ensued was not only a great meeting but a very cool trip to South Fork Ranch of DALLAS fame to burn some time after the meeting was over.

Little did I know that I would get stuck on the set of DALLAS watching a scene be tapped.  I also got to see the soon-to-be-infamous “Room 22” where JR will be murdered. Well, I got to see the outside of it, at least.  Apparently the producers have padlocked the door, even from the real life staff at South Fork Ranch, until the cliffhanger episode is over.

Score one for a random work trip…not to mention ending up with a lime green tie and mustang for a rental car that just happend to match each other.

That Time Twitter Won The Super Bowl

If you watched the Super Bowl last night without having someone in the room with a Twitter account, you missed a lot.  Not just when the lights when out at the Superdome but some of the best moments of last night happened off the field and online.

For me, it shows that Twitter is growing up and people are starting to understand the (no pun intended) power of the platform.

There were two key points I want to highlight:

1. When your website can’t handle the traffic, Twitter notices:


Despite having an AMAZING mobile-optimized site, cokechase.com hit some major snags last night.  Slow load times definitely put a damper on what could have been a serious contender for the best online/offline superbowl coke integration, yet.  I loved me some Polar Bears from last year but all the content that went into that site definitely showed that Coke realized that content will get you more eyeballs, longer than novelty, alone.

2. News travels fast…and funny:


When the lights went out, tweeps went to work.  Not only did the power snag elicit some amazing rapid response from Oreo but even the utility company supplying power to the Superdome swung into action:

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 7.03.23 AM

Now, keep in mind that the tweet above was subsequently deleted and replaced with this one:


I still believe, though that Entergy did the right thing by jumping on the issue.  They were proactive, informative and the only one’s really active.  No matter who was to blame, they used Twitter as a news distribution venue and something tells me it will save them a lot more grief than if they were silent and had a #EntergyNOLAFail campaign started up against them.

For the purposes of this post I am going to ignore some of the brands that dropped hashtags into their ads for the sake of it.  However, I think we’re finally getting to the point where Twitter is not just a platform but an ecosystem that communications professionals of all shapes and sizes are paying attention to.


All hail the tweeps on this one!

NASA Scores Major Social/PR Win With Mars Landing

For those of you keeping score, NASA not only landed a direct hit on the planet Mars early this morning, they also landed a huge PR win via social media.

According to my data; in the last 24 hours, conversation about NASA has jumped over 350% thanks to smart tweeting by NASA’s social media manager, Veronica McGregor and, surprisingly also by JPL’s flight director Bobak Ferdowsi.

McGregor, no stranger to the social media limelight, lit up Twitter with the amazing personality she powered up for the mission’s official Twitter handle, @MarsCuriosity:

Meanwhile, Ferdowsi himself became an instant celebrity adding more than 20K followers since the start of this morning’s live stream. Perhaps not intentionally, Ferdowsi became the face of the new, modern NASA with his stylish haircut and {achem} dreamy smile.

He even managed to inspire his own internet meme and fangirl/fanboy tumblr:

Maybe I’m just a huge geek but I can’t help but feel really inspired by not only the mission but the smart risks and new energy being brought to NASA PR. Congrats to Veronica McGregor, Bobak Ferdowsi and the entire NASA-JPL team!

Of Dogwoods & Gratitude

I was originally was going to make this Part II of my Maslow post but I wanted to preempt it to share something that ran through my mind today.

Amid the insanity of a couple thousand OTPers descending on Midtown Atlanta, I was still able to make it out to the Dogwood Festival.  Though the festival was made up of mostly the same artists and food vendors you see year after year, it was the first time a couple of my friends had gotten a chance to see it so I agreed to be a guide.

Along our walk, I decided I wanted to show my friends the newer section of the park including the Legacy Fountain.  In contrast to the main sections of the park, the newer area was almost completely void of visitors.  It made for a nice calm and with the cool wind whipping around us, it made one of my favorite poems come to mind:

“I walked in a garden today
Where loving hands had wrought
She could not have known
As she toiled there tirelessly,
That I would come today
Despairing, lonely and afraid
And that her garden
Would restore my peace of mind
And give me hope and faith.
I walked in her garden today and
Tonight I thank God for her
Who toiled there tirelessly.”

O.R.W. – Cheekwood Botanical Garden

Though the last few weeks have been an interesting mix of productivity and drama, the thing that has stood out the most is how much I am learning about the finer points of cultivating serenity. Sure, it sounds kind of fluffy but you never know how important it is until you need it to kick your goals into high gear.

That poem and, in particular, the timing it had running through my head reminded me that building that sense of serenity is a two-way street. In one direction, we’re trudging a road paved by others.

When you’re looking for that serenity and you’re a typical “Type A” personality, that journey usually requires the help of people that have been there before.  There is an enormous amount of gratitude to be found for those people who are there for you be they family, friends or just someone with a big heart who is willing to help.

In the other direction, you’re maintaining or paving that road for people who may come after you. Like the poem says, you may never know who comes after you but that road may indeed mean quite a bit to them.

The friends I took through the park had a chance to experience what I’ve gotten to experience dozens of times before.  In sharing that experience, though – this time it was somehow more profound.

Like I said, it was kind of a fluffy moment but when you work hard and care a great deal about what you do, these moments help remind you of what’s important. If this sentiment means nothing, I promise the next post will be fantastically geeky enough to make up for it.

If the sentiment did mean something to you, that’s even better. In that case, I encourage you to try it out for yourself and pass the feeling forward.  You’ll be glad you did.

Photo Courtesy of brettlohmeyer

Pride/Tribe – Part II: Revenge of the Midtown Traffic

It’s funny how things work out.

Contrary to my well-laid plans, I ending spending the better half of Atlanta Pride on Sunday stuck in traffic in my grandmother’s car.  As much as I wanted to enjoy it, it turns out pride isn’t nearly as fun rolling down West Peachtree in a 10 year-old tan Lexus no matter how many times they play Lady Gaga on the radio.

Instead, a mix of occurrences called my best friend and I out to Vinings (Atlanta’s version of the Bronx). Between that and schlepping my Grandmother, Aunt and cousin to see Wicked at the Fox Theater, the most of the pride parade I got to see consisted of the rental trucks used for the floats trying aimlessly to find their way back to the interstate.

I’m not complaining, mind you.  The Fox run was planned well in advance and I was happy to do it.  The trip out to Vinings was unexpected but turned out to be definitely of benefit to my friend who had been going through a rough patch.

What had stuck in my craw actually occurred the night before on what turned out to be a bad third date. It was one of those situations where we were both trying really hard to be what each other wanted and it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work. I felt crappy enough being the one to say, “let’s just be friends” that getting up the next morning and being “fabulous” was just not on the menu.

Suffice it to say, I woke up on Sunday morning a little frustrated an it just kind of went downhill from there.

Luckily I wasn’t alone.  After we returned, my best friend Grace* and I agreed that we needed to take our friend Karen*, the one we had just met in Vinings, out to drinks and a movie later that evening.  Over wine and flatbread at The Grape in Atlantic Station we all kind of bonded over the frustrations of recently dating a guys that just didn’t live up to expectations.

We ended the night having WAY too much fun at a showing of What’s Your Number, a romantic comedy about screwed up relationships. The irony and appropriateness of how we ended the evening didn’t escape us.

As annoying as it was to miss the parade, I ended up my own little version of pride on Sunday.  Good friends, family and a story worth telling. Isn’t that enough to celebrate not just one day of the year but every day?

*Names changed to protect the “innocent”

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