Paradise – A Nice Place to Visit But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There

Oyster Bay Resort, St. Maarten - view from the pool Somewhere around day 2 of a recently ended 7 day vacation on the Caribbean island paradise of St. Maarten (St. Martin if you’re on the French side), the question started. It was a whisper at first. But around day 4 the volume and frequency had increased. The question goes something like this: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just quit our jobs and live here forever?” Of course, every time I’m on vacation I ask the question. And the answer is always the same: “No it wouldn’t.”

That’s Why They Call it a Vacation

You see for me, at least, the reason a Caribbean vacation is so intoxicating is that it’s a much needed break from the mundane, from the endless hours of work and phone calls and emails and texts and responsibilities. It’s that recharging your battery thing.  You get what I’m talking about. It’s special. But would it be if you lived there? I don’t think so. Although it’s hard to imagine, perfect weather, white sand beaches, crystal clear water and 50 varieties of rum would become….well dare I say, mundane. I’m reminded of a story I heard some years back about a fellow from New England who accepted a permanent position in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. He was surprised that the position took so long to fill and that there was so much turnover. After all, he figured, wouldn’t everyone want to live and work in Paradise? Three months into the job he came down with an intense form of “island fever”, a toxic combination of boredom and claustrophobia, and had to leave the island. So much for Paradise.

The French Side of the Story

When there last we observed a fair number of French citizens, mostly young, who seemed to be immune to “island fever” and had taken up permanent residence in St. Maarten. I admit to a certain amount of envy. Somehow these folks had developed an immunity to boredom. More likely though they just don’t find tropical weather, gourmet food, steel drum music, cloudless skies, friendly people and endless stretches of beach boring. Ah, the French.

And Now Back to You

Have you ever wondered while on vacation in a beautiful spot what it would be like to live there? Could you do it? Would you like to try? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this one.

You Can Handle The Truth!

You Can Handle the Truth

I am learning to accept the truth regardless of its source. It’s hard. After all, the truth, as we’ve heard too many times, hurts. But how could it? Why should it? Here’s what I think. It’s not the truth that hurts at all but rather the manner in which it’s first revealed – its source. Maybe you’re in the midst of a heated argument with a friend/spouse/co-worker when he/she angrily spews out some vitriol that you know contains some element of truth about yourself. Or maybe an unhappy client is taking you to task for poor customer service. Or perhaps a competitor has exposed, very publicly, some of your weaknesses. In each of these scenarios, and in countless others, truth lurks, daring us to find it.

Take a Deep Breath

This is how it usually goes for me. First I get angry. I rant and rave (in my head of course), plot revenge, blame someone (not myself of course), make excuses, remain angry, calm down (only a little) then, with a pretty much ruined attitude,  continue with my day. Later, much later, when the world is quieter, I sit down, take a deep breath and ask myself this question: “Was there truth in what was said to you or about you today?” Here’s the hard part. The answer is almost always yes. Now I need to painfully pull the nuggets of truth, one by one, from the mass of hurt. Ouch! Worth the effort? You bet! Truth hurts. But it’s a good hurt.

What is Truth Anyway?

A while back I blogged about success and asked how you define it. Okay amateur philosophers, ready? What is truth? From, here are some of my favorites:

The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.
Herbert Agar

Not being known doesn’t stop the truth from being true.
Richard Bach

You never find yourself until you face the truth.
Pearl Bailey

A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.
William Blake

Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction; for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.
G. K. Chesterton

Here is another take on the truth … the famous “You Can’t Handle the Truth” speech from A Few Good Men delivered as only Jack Nicholson could. Enjoy.

Now Back to You

How do you handle difficult truths about yourself? Are you able to accept them? Is your process anything like mine? If you’ve got a better way I’d love to hear about it. Talk to me.

Photo credit: lizmcdaniel

Stuff – How Much is Enough?

Too Much Stuff

Stuff I Haven’t Worn in Well Over a Year. It’s Gone Now.

I‘ve always believed that less is more. It’s a worldview that informs a lot  of what I do. In music, fewer notes almost always works better for me than lots of notes. In writing, concise is better than verbose. In web design, white space is better than gratuitous design elements. But here’s the thing – and I’ll use music as the analogy. To say what you want to say in fewer rather than more notes, each note must mean more. Each note has to have emotion, has to be expressive, has to breathe, has to let the listener fill in the blanks and use their imagination. B.B. King is a master at this. Every note he plays tells a story.  I can’t  explain it. It  just is. And those whom he has influenced – Eric Clapton comes to mind – have that same quality. Don’t get me wrong. Clapton can rip off a blizzard of notes when he wants to. The point is he doesn’t have  to.

Same  Goes for Stuff

So when I came across this wonderful blog post by Julien Smith about stuff, I had an epiphany. I have too much stuff. Somewhere along the line I heard that if you have clothes in your closet that you don’t wear for an entire year, you don’t need them. So, like a man possessed, I threw open my closet door, identified the stuff I hadn’t worn in years, threw  it in a big pile on my office floor, gathered it up and brought it to the nearest Goodwill box.  Ahh! What a relief. And as an added bonus, Julien’s post contained a link to a fascinating video by Graham  Hill, the founder of Life Edited, a site dedicated to the proposition that we can all live a very happy, fulfilling life while leaving a very small footprint. Hill  puts his money where his mouth is. Literally. He lives in a tiny apartment in Manhattan that can somehow seat ten people around a dining room table, sleep two guests comfortably in their own beds and a whole lot more. You’ll have to watch the video to see how he does it.

More About Stuff

All this attention on stuff got me thinking about the classic George Carlin bit about….well it’s about stuff. How much we have, how much we want, how we protect it, how we build our lives around it, how it runs our lives. This clip is 26 years old but like all great comedy, still very relevant. Take a break from sorting through your stuff and watch this. You will laugh. A lot. I promise.

And Now Back to You

Have you ever thought about how much stuff you have? Do you ever wonder if you need  it all? What do you do with it? Do you still have unopened boxes you’ve carried around through several moves? Do you tend  to get rid of stuff every now and then? I’d love to hear from you on this one. Talk to me?

McCartney Turns 70 – What it Means to Me

Beatles as old men

Artist rendering of The Beatles as old men c. 1965

I was 15 years  old when I saw this rendering of the Beatles as old men for the first time.* For me the concept of aging was unfathomable. In my world, everyone was young and everyone would always be young. But most of all, The Beatles, our idols and mentors, prophets of our time, would never age, could never age. They were immortal. That’s why the rendering was so shocking. I remember laughing nervously sitting there with my friends and band mates gazing at the picture. We simply couldn’t comprehend what we were looking at. Old was  something reserved for our parents and grandparents. Not us and certainly NOT the Beatles.

A Heavy Dose of Reality

Sadly, old age was not meant for John Lennon. He was tragically murdered on December 8, 1980 at age 40. And depending on how you define “old”, it can be argued that George Harrison, who died of cancer on November 29, 2001 at age 58, never got to grow old either. But Paul and Ringo, mortals after all, are growing old along with the rest of us.  What a comfort to this old Beatles fan. Indeed  it was the occasion of Paul’s 70th birthday last  June 18 that started me thinking about writing this post. (Ringo turned 72 two weeks ago, July 7).

What Does Old Look Like?

Paul McCartney turns 70 Paul McCartney turns 70. If you’re a Beatles fan, you must buy the special edition Time Magazine book by James Kaplan.

A few years back, while searching the magazines in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, I recoiled  slightly when I saw Paul  McCartney’s face gracing the cover of AARP Magazine. Shock number two. Certainly not as violent a shock as the 1965 version but a shock nonetheless. It’s official now, I thought. McCartney’s old  and I’m old. But he didn’t  “look” old. At age  70, he’s certainly not the puffy faced, double chinned cherub imagined by the artist back in 1965. Even more impressive – he doesn’t act 70 either, or maybe he’s actually redefining how a 70 year old is supposed to act. I like to think that. In the last few years he has played more concerts and toured more extensively than at any other time in his career, including the Beatle years. I’ve been to one of his recent concerts. Admittedly I was skeptical. I thought I was going to hear a tired rehash of old songs played by a guy who should have quit years ago. Instead, I was blown away by Sir Paul’s energy, enthusiasm and sheer joy. As he told “TIME” in 2005, when asked if he would still indulge audiences with oldies like “Hey Jude”: “They’ll get that too, but you have to move forward as well as go back. As they say, the show must go on!” You gotta love this guy.

Ringo at 72And it’s not just Paul who seems to be defying the aging process (or is it redefining the aging process?) Take a look at the 72  year old Ringo on the left. Now take another look at the rendering at the top of  the page. See what I mean?

Final Thoughts

A friend once poignantly characterized aging as a cruelty. Indeed in many ways it is. But watching Paul McCartney age shows us that it doesn’t have to be that way. Since 1964, when I first saw his boyish  smile and his big round eyes light up my black and white television set, he has been a sort of role model. Well, Paul my old friend, if this is how you plan to get old, I’m still happy to follow your  lead.

And Now Back to You

I’d  love to hear from other Beatle fans out there. What do you think about Paul turning 70? About Ringo turning 72? Does it make you feel old? Does it make you feel something else? Talk to me.

*Disclaimer: I am more than happy to credit the artist whose rendering appears at the top of this page. However, I can’t find any information on who may have drawn it. If anybody knows the answer, please let  me know and I will give the proper credit.

WordPress Invades Hub 2012

WordCamp 2012

When I was deciding which CMS (Content Management Platform)  to adopt as my primary web building tool, I chose WordPress because of the size and enthusiasm of its community. Well, I just wrapped up WordCamp 2012 (read my take on WordCamp 2011)  hosted, again, by Boston University and can tell you the community is growing in both size and enthusiasm. It’s also getting younger – or maybe it’s me just getting older. In any case, I’m encouraged by the collective intelligence, creativity and determination of our 20 and 30 somethings.

Who Are All These Smart People?

So as I did last year, I’d like to thank the following people for making me smarter:

Web Designer's Guide to WordPress Book Cover

Jesse Friedman’s book. As he says, “Buy It!”

*Jesse Friedman wrote a book. Here is how he told us about it: “Oh, by the way, I wrote a book. Buy it.” I’m certainly going to, even though, as Jesse said, “you’ll have to wait four months to get it.” Gotta love the off-handed manner in which such a bright young guy announced such an impressive achievement.

See you all next year.


I Network, Therefore I Am

Buffalo Wild Wings in Saugus, Massachusetts hosting a networking event sponsored by the Saugus and Peabody Area Chambers of Commerce

Socializing is one of the most basic of human activities. This has been true since the dawn of man. Whether around a fire after a grueling hunt, or the television after an episode of American Idol, we love to gather and tell stories. We are social creatures. It’s what we do.

Socializing With an Agenda

I like to think of networking as socializing with an agenda. Madison Avenue got it right in the seventies with this classic commercial for Faberge shampoo. (I’m not hawking Faberge products. The video is for illustrative purposes only.) Remember the line “they’ll tell two friends and so on”? That’s networking.

Then there’s the young man who, in the early forties, developed a method for turning black polyethylene slag, a waste product produced in oil refinement, into a material that was flexible, tough, non-porous, non-greasy, odorless and translucent. He knew he had something but it wasn’t until he met Brownie Wise in 1948 that he and his product became household names. Brownie’s idea was to hold informal social gatherings in peoples’ homes to demonstrate the product. “If we build the people,” she was fond of saying, “they’ll build the business.” Apparently, Mary Kay and others were listening. The man was Earl Tupper and to this day, the Tupperware Home Party, remains the exclusive outlet for Tupperware. Earl Tupper sold his company to Rexall in 1958 for a staggering $16 million. That’s networking.

Note: Thanks to the Archive Center of the National Museum of American History for the Tupperware story.

Networking Etiquette

I said that networking is socializing with an agenda. There is nothing wrong with that. But you must play by the rules or you will lose the social capital you have earned and may never get it back. Here are some tips that work well for me:

  • don’t play at being interested in others. Be genuinely interested.
  • ask people what they do before you start talking about yourself. Listen to the answer. Really listen.
  • don’t lead a conversation by trying to sell your product or service. Instead, seek to establish your expertise or authority.
  • dress appropriately – this  may seem obvious but I’m still amazed at how many people show up at networking events dressed for the beach, or the nightclub or …. well you get my point.
  • act appropriately – this too may seem obvious, but if you’re spending more time chatting up the bartender than the other professionals in the room ….. well you get my point.
  • business cards – yes, exchange business cards. That’s why you’re there – to expand your professional network. But don’t, I repeat, don’t add your new contacts to your mailing list without asking permission. This is a real pet peeve of mine.
  • don’t be shy – this is a tough one. If you’re shy by nature than the whole idea of networking is probably challenging for you. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to make new contacts and expand their sphere of influence. Once you introduce yourself to a few people you will get into the groove.

The thing about networking etiquette is that the rules aren’t codified or written down anywhere; they’re mostly a matter of common courtesy. But like all rules, violating them comes with a penalty. Many of the people you are likely to meet at networking events are seasoned business professionals. If you come to the party shamelessly selling your wares or talking about yourself non-stop or grabbing business cards and leaving, you will not be taken seriously. That’s the penalty.

And Now Back to You

Are you a networker? Do you belong to any Chambers of Commerce or other professional networking organizations? Has your participation helped you grow your business? What tips can you give others to get more out of networking? Talk to me.