5 Wonderful People from 2014

A short list of amazing people who made a impact on my personal and professional life in 2014.

With the first two weeks of 2015 now gone, I am a bit late in sharing a list of just a few people whom I either met or got to know better in 2014. The following is certainly not a comprehensive list of people who made a positive, lasting impression on me, but those in this admittedly very short list continue to impress, inspire and motivate me.

Joe Mastrangelo

Joe Mastrangelo and I met through a number of professional contacts maybe two or three years ago. In the spring of 2014, Joe approached me with a creative project. From that point, he and I have worked together a number of times: sometimes on projects for his clients, sometimes for mine. In working with Joe, I was immediately impressed by his professionalism, thoroughness and attention to detail. A genuinely nice guy, Joe is laid-back and quick to laugh. On the business side, Joe heads up a small firm called Masthead Marketing.

Tim Whiting

Tim Whiting is the founder of his own personal injury and truck accident law firm. More than that, Tim is one of the most generous and thoughtful guys I know. I’m always learning something from Tim. Incredibly hard working, Tim always remembers the personal details that make a professional relationship so enjoyable — and he makes times to check in about those small, important personal details. I’m known Tim for more than 15 years, but over the past year we’ve have grown increasingly close. I consider him one of my dearest friends.

Zoe Rooney

Zoe Rooney is a Philly-based front-end developer who’s established a stellar reputation for herself over the past few years. I first heard about Zoe at WordCamp Philly where she delivered a presentation about automating development-related tasks. She was kind enough to deliver a version of that same talk a few months later to the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. Zoe is hugely generous with her time and talent, often sharing “how to” posts on her blog and offering guidance to others in the WordPress and tech community. You can check out her services and portfolio over at zoerooney.com.

Ngaire Ackerley

Ngaire Ackerley spent more than three years working with me at LBDesign. For that reason alone she deserves a mention in this list. On a serious note, she is a very hard-working, focused and dedicated designer and front-end developer who contributed so much value to my business during her tenure in our UK office. Ngaire’s off traveling the world now, so be sure to check out her amazing photos and insightful travel advice.

Lauren Pittenger

Lauren Pittenger is a friendly and energetic designer and front-end developer from greater Philadelphia. I was lucky that Lauren applied to join LBDesign in the autumn of last year. Since joining our little team, she has proven so valuable and such a joy to be around. She brings a fresh, intelligent perspective to the daily virtual office. I’m thrilled to get to work with her every day – and because she’s in the same city, I get to hangout with her in real life.

With almost a full 12 months of 2015 still to go, I look forward to working, collaborating and spending time with these amazing people. I’m also very much looking forward to meeting new people!

Getting Back in the Game

Four tools to help get back into a productive mindset after time out of the office.

Getting back into productivity

Summer is the time for vacations here in America. Loads of people get out of the office, head to the beach, to the mountains and elsewhere with family and friends. In late June and early July, I took a few days away from work, relaxing with family. While I expected some loss of focus and productivity when I got back into the office the next week, I struggled to get back into the swing and rhythm of work in the office. To encourage, cajole and force myself back to an acceptable level of productivity, I rely on a number of techniques.

Here are my tips and techniques for getting back into the game, recapturing focus and restarting the engine of productivity.

Write My Daily Goals

Over the years I’ve learned a lot from Brian Tracy, a leading professional development trainer. One of his most valuable practices is the writing of daily goals. In a nutshell, the practice involves spending a few moments in the morning to list my top 10-15 life goals. For me, the list includes a mix of professional, personal, spiritual, health and financial goals. In taking the time to list these goals (in a notebook, writing in pen), I remind myself of those goals which are most important to me. I use the goal-writing process to help me dive into a productive day.

Lean on My Daily Schedule

While I am a devoted technophile, I place great value in pen and paper. I start my work day by printing up a day calendar. On that calendar, I have the day broken into 30 minutes slots. After filling in my pre-arranged meetings, calls and appointments, I pencil in various tasks from my to do list. This quick process allows me to plot out my entire day. I know what I will be doing and when. This approach helps keep me on task and focused throughout the day.

As the day proceeds, I rely on my handwritten schedule to remind me what I should be doing. It provides strong visual encouragement to get me back on task.

Listen to My Favorite Podcasts

There are some truly wonderful podcasts out there on practically every topic under the sun. I listen to a whole range of programs. Yet the following the ones are what I turn to when I need help getting back on track.

  • Advanced Selling Podcast: Sales coaches Bill Caskey and Brian Neale talk through a range of topics geared to helping their listeners to be better sales people. I find the podcast does a great job of offering insight on hardwork, focus, self-determination and more.
  • The Dradcast: Each week, Brad Williams and Dre Armeda talk about the latest news and happenings in the WordPress community with a new host. While the conversation focuses on WordPress, they invariably talk about running your own business, entrepreneurism and networking.

Go for a Fast Run

I appreciate the value of exercise as a way to stay healthy and focused on work. When struggling to get back into the swing of work, I make time to go for a fast paced run. I’m no marathoner, so if I want to run quickly, I keep the distance to less than 2.5 miles. Then I make the point to run as quickly as a I humanly can. The confidence and sense of accomplishment that I get from that dash gives me the pick-up I need to get back into the office with a real focus.

What Works for You?

Without a doubt, the tricks that work for me won’t be right for everyone. I’d love to hear what other ideas or advice others might have to getting themselves back into the game after a break.

 

 

Shoplandia by Jim Breslin

A short review of Jim Breslin’s new novel, Shoplandia

Shoplandia

I take great pleasure in hearing about and trying to support the success of friends and professional colleagues. I really do love it when those around me hit a home run in their respective industries. It’s so cool to witness. So when Jim Breslin, a local writer who I met through my local WordPress and marketing community, published his first novel, I was eager to buy it and give it a read.

Yet, I have to be honest. The only reason I wanted to read Shoplandia was because it was written by Jim. Jim is a former producer from QVC, the television shopping network. He used his 17 years on the job with QVC as the basis for his novel.

I’m familiar with some of Jim’s other work; I know he’s a great writer. Still I had no interest in a novel set among a television channel. I don’t shop on QVC and I don’t even really watch television, aside from soccer matches. When I read for pleasure, I prefer historical fiction and biographies. I was a little concerned that the book wouldn’t really do it for me.

I shouldn’t have been concerned.

Jim Breslin wove a tale that was engaging, funny, believable and interesting. Jim’s characters came across as truly human. The personalities who made the Shoplandia set their professional home came to life in a way that was convincing and believable. It was a page turner (or a tab-pusher as I read Shoplandia on the Kindle) right from page one to the very end. I wanted to know what happened in the lives of these characters.

As a guy who has struggled to find enjoyment in fiction and reading for pleasure lately, I feel like Shoplandia has put pleasure-reading back on the table for me. I have Jim Breslin to thank for that.

So, anybody have recommendations for my next fiction read?

Oh, you can get your own copy of Shoplandia on Amazon.

London in February 2012

A selection of 5 pictures from a recent trip to London, England.

Last month, I was in London to speak at The FSI’s Workshop. While over in Blighty for a week, I stopped on a number of instances to snap a few photos with my iPhone (3G s, if you must know). Some of the photos turned out rather nicely, with a few lighting issues here and there, so I thought I’d share them here.

Cromwell Road sign

Rental bikes in London

Exhibition Road, London

The LSE

Natural History Museum, London

If you like to see more, you’re in luck. I’ve posted photos from previous trips to London on my site:

Colin Powell’s Rules

General Powell’s Rules which he learned and developed over this 35 years of active military service

Colin Powell's autobiography

As I come to the end of Colin Powell’s autobiography, I find myself even more impressed with the man than I had been before reading his story. The son of immigrant parents of modest means, Powell worked his way up to the highest rank in the US military, eventually becoming the first African-American to serve as Secretary of State in the US.

My American Journey by Colin PowellThe first to admit that I do not agree with all of his decisions or all of his politics, I still find myself looking to the man as an example of how to work hard, think clearly and act decisively. I can learn a lot from his example.

I’d like to share General Powell’s Rules which he developed over this 35 years of active military service and which are included as an appendix to his autobiography.

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your positions falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Powell’s rules strike me a relevant for running a small business as well. I especially like the emphasis of perpetual optimism: I try to attack each day with a glass half-full approach. Knowing that such an approach helped Powell reach the pinnacle of professional success goes a long towards convincing me of the value of that approach.

Grab it when it hits you: tips for capturing inspiration

When running a small business blog, capturing inspiration and creative ideas when they hit us can be tough; this post has some ideas on how to do so.

A pen and little notebook

If I have learned one thing since starting this blog in 2007, and in running the daily blog at chickenmonkeydog, it is this: when inspiration hits, capture that feeling, those thoughts or that picture right away. Don’t let the moment escape and leave you lamenting “Only if …” Generating quality blog content for our small businesses is tough; we cannot afford to let any good content ideas slips away.

Four tips for capturing inspiration

So, to help improve our ability to harness those sudden burst of inspiration, I have shared a few tips to ensure that we capture those inspirational moments in a timely fashion.

1. Write it down

In the technical age, there is still great value in keeping a pen and paper handy at all times. With a little notebook and pen stuffed into our pocket or bag, we can easily jot our thoughts down. Write as much as we need to capture the full thought and spirit of the idea. If we have the opportunity to do so, take as much time as we need to be complete. It is time well spent.

2. Send an email

If we’ve access to the internet, we can email ourselves the key points from our brainstorm. Depending on our work flows, having our thoughts in an email can help us organize and store them too. An added benefit of this approach is that we’ll have these thoughts in the cloud in case we want to refer back to them later. We should use a idea-specific subject line to help us find the email later.

3. Leave a voicemail

For old school people whose phone only makes telephone calls and sends text messages, we can call and leave ourselves a voicemail. In just a few minutes — or longer if we need it — we can leave ourselves a detailed auditory note that we can check and re-check later. Don’t forget to transcribe the voicemail when we have time. This saves us from mourning our accidental deletion of that message.

4. Snap a photo

If we have a smart phone, we can capture the inspiration with a photo. We can use the camera to take pictures of more than just smiling faces and captivating landscapes. We can photograph anything to save it as a visual record: signs, ads, meeting minutes, business cards, whatever! We can always type up whatever notes we’ve photographed at a later date.

Organizing those notes

While the first half of this blog post focused on capturing our creative ideas and inspirations for our small business blogs, the second half deals with storing and organizing the notes we generated documenting those ideas.

EvernoteFor the smart phone user, I have a wonderful recommendation: Evernote. It is a great app for capturing, storing and searching all the little notes we generate during our business day. Integrating smoothly with both the iPhone and the computer, Evernote allows for all notes to be titled, tagged and stored in the cloud. Check out the overview video (for Mac) from Evernote below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlOLXWvaIy0&feature=player_embedded

With the right tools in place, and a bit of practice, we will be well on our way to writing better blogs posts as we will have a method for capturing and storing ideas and inspirations for blog topics as and when they hit us.