My Message: “Dismiss the skeptics with the middle finger!”

Hilarious Middle Finger

Yes…I said it…give them the middle finger and prove them wrong!

What is your passion?
Many times, I am asked to speak to college students and they always want to know my path. They want to know what I do and how I was able to get where I am today. I always ask them, what is their dream job? I ask them to tell me, what would they do if money did not matter!

Many students struggle with that question, having a hard time to frame the wisdom of what tomorrow might hold, given the frankness and reality of their upcoming graduation. I ask them…what is you passion?

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Balancing business passions and life passions, keeping the focus!

Pure Joy!

What is your greatest passion…the one thing that drives you to get up in the morning and push harder and harder?

This is my greatest passion…my little rose!

Now I talk about my business passion: finding and telling great stories. yes…it is. But that is just one part of the bigger picture.

This little one makes me work harder, work smarter, and challenge myself to seek the balance in the work/life continuum.

A few months ago, I sat on a panel discussion where the audience were mothers of preschoolers (MOPS). They called it the man panel and the major part of the discussion was balancing work and home. I think there is a bigger balance for self-employed, small business, entrepreneurial individuals.

Each day, we balance so many pieces of this work/life pie:

  1. home (keeping the house running – the honey do’s)
  2. partner in life (keeping the one we love the most close)
  3. family (keeping our loved ones close to feel like family)
  4. children (being a good father with a profound presence)
  5. working in our business (executing the daily tasks to generate revenue)
  6. working on our business (planning and preparing for tomorrow)
  7. growing our business (thinking and preparing for opportunities beyond)
  8. keeping the focus on our passions (defining those passions in personal and business life)
  9. finding time for ourselves (time to recharge those batteries)

Now look at that list and you think, we can combine some of these points into categories, but i specifically left them separated. Each of these have become so important and it has even taken me years to bring language to all of those points. What do I mean? It is being able to have the wisdom to actually write each point down and recognize each of their relative importances.

I read a wonderful blog in the Harvard Business Review, here is an interesting quote:

“…according to one survey, 75 percent of male executives are married to homemakers.  It’s simply not possible to work 90 hours a week and see to your own basic needs – much less support someone else’s career. It works the other way, too: with only one salary to rely on, those husbands need all the wage premium they can get.”

It goes on to share this…

“Millennial men are beginning to do what women have done for decades: to work as consultants or start their own businesses that give them the flexibility for better work-family balance. A forthcoming study of New Models of Legal Practice by the Center for WorkLife Law documents lawyers in their prime who left large, prestigious law firms so they could practice law in ways that allow them to be more involved in children’s lives.”

Now I am a Gen X…so I miss this point by a few years. But…I can definitely relate. Sometimes I fell like I am a millennial. I did what all Gen X’s do. I attended a four year school and received a degree, got a job, and started working my way up the corporate ladder. BUT, a few years into my career…I realized that I was working too damn hard and not making enough money. Also…there was a cap on my long term opportunities.

So I started over…went back to graduate school to get a focused education. I was re-emerging in the business world in a post 911 era. A time when entrepreneurship was becoming common place in the tech world.

Realizing this path…working for myself, learning to start a family, and grow a business; the list above started emerging point by point.

This takes me back to my passion…my ultimate focus. Rose and Sarah are my passion and all things are wrapped around their lives sarah and the life we are building together.

life, business, entrepreneurship…give me those 2 outs…

my life…my journey…my approach has been surrounded by what people said i could not do. from the earliest days as a child…i was so shy. i was so scared…timid…worried what people would perceive.

i remember being that kid in high school that was that kid who did everyone’s algebra homework. i was more of a creative kid, taking private art lessons and going to one of the first summer governor’s school programs.

when i found myself in the middle of college athletics working my way through school…i learned about fighting for everything. i learned about determination and the will to succeed.

it was the summer of my sophomore year and i was about to fail out of school. yes…my grades sucked. my parents were getting a divorce and life had no focus. i had people telling me that i was not going to graduate from college. it was that day…i grew a backbone. i gave them the middle finger and proved them wrong.

i got my act together and with the help of clemson athletics, i got back on a great academic path, earned my degree, and found my first job.

i remember getting into television because i loved technology…i also found my creative passion of telling stories. i remember starting out as video tape editor for a weekend newscast…small job, long hours and i wanted more. i was told i would not get to the big markets.

i worked my way up into the photojournalism staff and landed a job at one the best photojournalism stations in the country…KPHO-TV in phoenix. i gave those nay sayers the middle finger.

off i went to the wild west to prove to myself and others…life is full of opportunities.

i remember being told i would not win a lot of awards…i would always be subpar in my profession. i just love proving people wrong. one year i walked away with some of the most awards in my region. i had to buy a large suitcase to fly home with all of those shinny statues. i gave the nay sayers the middle finger.

i remember being told i would not go to graduate school…mainly because of my lack of focus during my undergraduate years. i earned my masters in one of the toughest programs in the country…one that has changed my professional life. once again…i gave the nay sayers the middle finger.

i was told i would not own my own business or work for myself…i would fail. i did…and i failed and i succeeded and i failed. but….i have found my niche…getting back to my roots and telling stories. i am following my passion and getting paid for it! and again…i gave the nay sayers the middle finger.

i do not know Warren Morris…but here he is with the weight of his program on his shoulders. i am sure many were saying, screaming into the television screen…he is going to strike out.

from nola.com
“Morris’ story deviates, just slightly, from the popular fantasy in one crucial aspect. While children around the country may typically hit their fictional winning homers with a 3-2 count, Morris crushed the first pitch he saw.”

“All I was thinking is, ‘I’m going to go into this aggressive,’ which is probably why I hit the first pitch,” he said. “More than anything it was good for me that is was the first pitch, because I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it.”

it was 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th…

“Morris didn’t have much time to react to the pitch. His coach, teammates and the thousands in attendance weren’t given much notice that the game had ended. As Morris caught it low in the strike zone, the ball took a fast, low-flying trajectory toward the right field stands of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium before disappearing just a few feet into the crowd.”

2 outs…first pitch…history was made…national champions…clutch

sometimes we should approach life the same way…treat it like there are 2 out and freaking swing for the hills…prove to all those nay sayers and give them the middle finger.

life is to short to listen to the nay sayers and sometimes our own conscious…just swing away!

Disrupt Hackathon Got Hacked – Own Your Media

Ownership of our media is something that I have been exploring and researching. As I was reading Techcrunch, I found these videos. Todd Bonnewell took to the stage to share his thoughts…that we must reclaim ownership of the content and media we create.

Todd Bonnewell took to the Disrupt Hackathon stage and hacked the 60 Second Pitches with his own pitch. This stage is typically for individuals to share new apps or concepts, but instead…he had a message for the audience of hackers, not for the judges.

Here is his interview after his message:

You can find him online at https://twitter.com/madeopen

Here is the link to the original article on Techcruch: CLICK HERE

Reminders from those who inspired us! #Passion

So it was the other day I was cleaning out my old office and moving everything to the new location. I was looking through some old boxes, pulling out old memorabilia…and look what I found.

One of my favorite people…one of the few that I truly admired in the broadcast television business gave me this card. While working for WCNC-TV in Charlotte, NC…I had the pleasure to work on a yearly project called Road Show. We would take the news to a different city each day for a whole month…putting our main anchors and brand right in the middle of the public.

The leader of the Road Show is a very talented producer, writer, wordsmith, and cat header. Yes…she crafted the show daily with special stories pre-produced showcasing the area we were visiting. It was lots of fun, we met lots of great people…but most importantly…we really grew together like a family.

I ended up working for Allison in Special Projects after a few years of the Road Show. During my time in Special Projects, I truly grew a tremendous respect for Allison not only as creative but as a person.

I remember I had only been working directly for Allison for a few months, and a great opportunity emerged to transition to the business side of the television industry. I will never forget that night I had to tell her. I shed tears and was worried I had damaged both our personal and professional relationship.

To this day…she has been one of my strongest advocates. Why? I am not sure…but she knew I had a passion for something bigger. She gave me this card shown above during Road Show. I have kept it ever since as a reminder.

“Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.”– Denis Diderot

I have to agree and thank you to Allison for pushing to chase my passions.

our story…our connectivity…our passion…our entrepreneurial spirit

What story do we share on regular basis? Have you noticed over time your story is changing, evolving…but are those passions an evolution? Or are those passions just part of our long-term focus. I remember coming into this year, my path has come closer and closer into a clear path…a clear focus.

I received an email today asking for help with a complex digital communication concept…it was way out of my league. Well, let’s just say this concept is not where I like to focus my business. So I made a few phone calls trying to connect a colleague to the right group with the right solution. As I called around, I reconnected with an old friend. Joe was on the other end of the phone call…an entrepreneur that took a lot of chances with some cool ideas…just the timing was not right.

We talked on the phone for over 45 minutes, reconnecting, sharing our updated stories. Even though he jumped back into the corporate game, leaving behind his entrepreneurial start-ups…I know he will swing the bat again.  His focus was smart, hunker down during the recession by leveraging a fulltime job to support his family. But he will try again, and he will use his experiences from the previous entrepreneurial endeavors to guide his next venture.

As we talked…I shared with him my vision for my future and my family’s future. Why do I share this? Entrepreneurs are constantly searching for focus, pitching our ideas, our stories, our passions. I shared my passions and how I want to convert those passions into my real life story:

1) Get into better health as a whole person.
2) Complete the business transition from service provider to curator of my craft.
3) Continue build my company for long term success.
4) Advocate for the initiatives that represent my ethic (both personal and business).
5) Embrace my core family.
6) Serve the community in public office.

My story is changing…yet coming more and more into focus. The more I focus, the more important my connections become a richer experience. Our passions are shared, even during a phone call. Yes…*we* should share our story, share our passions, and embrace our connectivity! Why…because we embrace our entrepreneurial spirit.

Passbook & NFC: Social Commerce in small town South Carolina

So Wednesday morning, I received my new iPhone 5 in the mail. I am a gadget freak and yes I upgraded from the iPhone 4s. One of the new features released with the new iPhone (iOS6) is the the Passbook application. This allows you to find businesses that offer incentives to use your iPhone as your wallet.

So I downloaded the Starbucks application and immediately created an account and loaded $25.00, sort of like buying a pre-paid credit card, except using your iPhone. Off I went to carry out my morning errands, and as I passed Starbucks in Anderson…I thought I might have to give this little application a try.

So I walked in and ordered me a Pumpkin Spice Latte with no whipped cream, hmm! It feels like fall outside. When it was time to pay, I asked the cashier, “How do I use the Starbucks application on my iPhone to pay?” She told me to open the application, push the button to pay, and a barcode appeared on the screen. She then used her scanner next to the cash register to scan the barcode on my screen, and POOF…transaction complete.

It deducted the $4.91 from my phone and off I was on my merry way with a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was so excited, I opened Facebook and checked into Starbucks by writing this status update:

I immediately called my wife to share my experience. After she listened to my gadget success story for the morning, she scolded me and said…”You need to buy local. Stop going to Starbucks and walk across the street from your office downtown and go to Figs. Figs is the new coffee, ice-cream, soda shop downtown Anderson owned locally.

The Digital Divide
Hmm…I wonder, do they have a little application for the phone so I can pay? Do they have a check-in option on Facebook so I can share my love for their store? Hmm…let me go see. So off I went to Figs, and noticed a few things. Great food, great shop, nice ownership…limited social interaction. Well, they are new…but this leads me to my though process. Buying local in socially connected community has a HUGE barrier to cross when competing against big box groups. You are probably thinking…well, tell me something you do not already know.

Ok, back-up…notice what happened Starbucks. They have an app that allows me to use technology to not only purchase with my phone, but they made it easy to take part in the social share. The check-in location rapidly appeared in Facebook allowing me to share my little success with technology.

The digital wallet leading to the social share…big business leads the way in social commerce. So how do the little guys compete? What is going remind me about Figs over Starbucks for coffee (other than my wife screaming buy local)? Figs is kind-of a outlier, they have only been in business for a few months. They are still trying to establish their digital footprint.

So, I took a walk through downtown Anderson and spent some time using my Facebook and Foursquare apps to see if retailers had check-in points established. Most were established including having those check-in points connected to a social outlet like a Facebook page.

But the part that is missing for most of these small retailers is the digital tool for commerce.

Passbook and NFC
Passbook on the iPhone is a brand new concept and Starbucks was one of the first to take part in this concept. Passbook was Apple’s alternative to NFC (near-field communication).

Wired.com states, “NFC chips in smartphones let you pay by waving your device over a scanner at the store. The chip is tied to an app that is tied to your bank account and credit card. Volià, no more cash, no more wallet.”

“Passbook lets you keep in your iPhone virtual versions of some items you might normally carry in your analog wallet or bag: boarding passes, movie and sports tickets, coupons, and gift cards. Passbook stores these items as barcodes, but some wondered if Apple would tie NFC to Passbook to make direct payments possible.”

Matt on the Nerd Wallet blog shares his thoughts:

“While loyalty programs are popular amongst customers and merchants alike – the number of loyalty memberships in the U.S. exceeds 2.1 billion – it’s not clear how effective these programs are. According to a white paper published by COLLOQUY, 17% of U.S. consumers felt that loyalty programs were a “very influential” factor in their purchasing decisions and an even smaller 12% said they “strongly agree” when asked whether it pays to be loyal to a favorite brand.”

So is NFC and Passbook just another coupon”ing” option or loyalty program? Or is the combination of NFC/Passbook concept on your smart phone as a one-stop shop for your to purchase and share with your friends. Connivence makes us happy and we love to share within our social outlets when something makes us happy.

Social Commerce & Economic Development
So how does a small coffee shop in little ole Anderson, SC compete with a Starbucks and their Passbook app? Well…first of all, building these applications are expensive and you have to find a a company that has the experience to build these types of mobile commerce tools. I am not sure if Figs would have the budget to have one of these applications built, and it probably makes no sense for them to do so…especially given small town word-of-mouth always prevails.

BUT…from a digital concept, local business should team up and build one mobile application for those local retailers that can add to the pot. Imagine an initiative in Anderson, SC where a group of local retailers teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and local Economic Development groups like Innovate Anderson or Upstate SC Alliance to find the funding to build a one-size fits all.

Yes…this would be an economic development tool for small town Anderson, SC. Access to digital tools that not only power commerce but power the idea of the social share, building online reputation for a town trying to attract more growing businesses.

For those who want to read more about developing apps for Apple’s Passbook –> CLICK HERE

50 States 50 Stories

I am so excited to announce that I am launching my 50 States 50 Stories initiative today. I have been working on this concept for close to a year. As a storyteller, I like to capture and share people’s stories. This initiative will give me the opportunity capture stories, interviews from people I have never met and may never get a chance to meet.

I am dropping this box in the mail today. It is off to Arizona to the first entrepreneur. Hopefully during this year long initiative, we will be sharing 50 entrepreneur’s stories on a website to be launched soon. It is up to these people to share their story and send the package to another entrepreneur who they think has a great story to share.

Soon…I will be launching the website where we will share these stories as I receive them. You never know…you might receive this box in the mail.