Time For The New Year’s Resolution To End

Well – I guess I am surprised in a way that I made it this far, however, it is time to see the New Year’s resolution of publishing one article/post a day come to an end. Yes, I know that I am just a month into it, but it is turning out to just not be sustainable. Here is why:

  1. I do some writing/reflecting on my own on paper and have found myself neglecting that to make sure to publish a public post.
  2. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have anything to say and end up writing a junk post
  3. Sometimes I feel like I have a lot to say, but the writing would take a couple of days, and I am neglecting working on a more detailed post

I have learned a lot in this process, namely that I am capable of writing faster than I thought. I feel that I can modify the resolution while still honoring the intent of continuing to write. The question will be whether I will slack off or not knowing that I no longer have a hard and fast metric to achieve.

Why I Love Painting

Today I started painting my shed in the backyard. This shed is pretty old and was in need of a new coat of paint. I am always amazed at what painting can do for a structure that is about to fall down or how it can completely change the outside of a house or a room.

I love painting – I got this from my mom who always seemed to be painting a room in our house growing up. In fact, one of my earliest memories when moving to Lubbock was sitting on the floor of our new house while my mom was painting the living room. She bought me one of those Tiger portable electronic games that you could either move left or right; this particular game was a race car game and you had to dodge other cars or hazards in the road as you zoomed by. I would love to see what the current generation would do if their if their iPod Touch was taken away and they were handed a Tiger portable game!

At any rate, because my mom was always painting, I learned to love the smell of fresh paint. When I got older, I started helping her paint. Any painting job can be divided into two separate types of work. The first is rolling where you get a roller brush and a long handle to paint large areas of a wall. This is where the room begins to change dramatically as you alter the predominate color. The second type is cutting, or taking a paint brush and going around the edges of the room and trim where the roller brush couldn’t cover (at least without painting over parts of the room you don’t want painted).

While I like both types of painting, I prefer cutting. I love zoning out to this very methodical task, concentrating on covering only the area that needs the particular color of paint on my brush without splattering on the other parts. While some people use tape, I learned from my mom on how to paint without tape. This is more satisfying, you don’t waste time taping the room and you don’t have to worry about peeling off some of the paint when you remove the tape.

Painting is satisfying because I get to zone out. Nothing in the world matters when I am painting, with the exception of making sure that I do the best job possible. I love the singular concentration of applying a fresh coat of paint – no smartphones, Internet, blogging or worries trouble my mind. I focus solely on painting.

I’ve painted quite a few rooms and houses since coming to San Antonio. My mom and I painted the interior of my first house; we had to use several coats to cover up this My Little Pony purple in the former girl’s room, a denim blue in the boys room and a rose red in the dining room. These colors were hideous to me, but I am sure that the previous owners (and their children) loved them. I often helped one of my good friends, real estate mentor and coworker Giovanni paint a couple of his rent houses. I loved working with Gio, helping get his houses ready and looking fresh for the next tenant or buyer. I remember one house in particular when the sun was setting fast, so we hustled to get the job done that day. We were drenched with sweat but were able to knock it out, preventing us from having to come back an extra day to work.

I painted another old shed at my first house; it was a metal shed and my buddy Putman came into town from Houston. He and his wife were living in an apartment, and he wanted to actually do some work instead of being cooped up inside, so we cleaned out this nasty shed (we found this weird shopping cart contraption that previous owner must have used to hold tools), almost got bit by several brown recluses and redid the decking on the floor. Afterwards, I primed and painted the outside a fire engine red that looked sharp – four years later, it is still up! To think that I was going to knock down that shed!

When I had left my company to try to start a business, things weren’t going too well. I had the bright idea to try and get jobs painting, so I decided to paint my rent house to drum up some business in the neighborhood. The work was tough and the sun was hot, but I loved being outside working on making this property look better. To top it off, my friend Gio came out to help me on my rental property, returning the favor for my previous work.

Painting is such a powerful activity. You get to transform something right in front of your eyes, and doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to reap such amazing rewards. You often get to work with a friend on a project, alternating between talking and silence; it is one place that I feel you get to know a person. But the greatest joy of painting is to spend the time in singular concentration, leaving the world (or at least something in your world) look new, different and beautiful.

Exploring Your City

One of the things that I think most people are susceptible to, including myself, is staying within five miles from their home. Think about it, most things that you do (with the exception of going to work) probably occur in that distance: where you eat out, where you shop for groceries, where you fill your prescription, where you go out for fun or even where you worship. It is amazing how easy it is to exist in such a small bubble in a city the size of San Antonio.

But the reason why is that it is just so convenient to do so.

I would have understood that excuse 15 or 20 years ago; heck, I might have bought it even five. But with the proliferation of mobile phones and the social web, the only thing you have to fear about exploring your city is fear itself. Sites like Yelp and Foodspotting help you know what restaurants might be good to check out. With the proliferation of blogging, there is an abundance independent news about local issues and what is happening. Following local organizations and companies on Facebook and Twitter can clue you in to interesting events and specials. Meetup.com is a great way to find people with similar interests to yours and get to do fun things in person. Simply put, there is no good reason to stay in that bubble, so get out there and explore your city.

 

Taking The Time To Do Something Fun And Creative At Work

While it might not always seem like it, there are always opportunities to do something fun and creative.

At my company, I work with some of our employees and a contracted videographer to film videos explaining technical concepts. These videos are key to helping visitors to our site understand our industry as well as the different products and services of our business. Most of the time these videos are for a very particular set of people: system administrators, developers and IT directors. But on the day of the shoot there is often an hour or so of downtime, so I have begun challenging myself and the videographer to come up with quirky films to shoot.

This has yielded a couple of fun videos that have allowed us to creatively tell the story of our brand. One video that we released today highlighted our corporate culture and the people who work there. My company, Rackspace, is housed out of a former mall in San Antonio, TX, and in our headquarters is a slide. This is a highlight of any person who visits our office, and for many people this is the go to transportation to get from the second floor to the first floor. We took an hour to shoot different strategies for going down the slide. While this video is a lot of fun, it also serves the purpose of humanizing the technology, showing our customers that real life, fun loving people support them and their business.

 

Another video involved using a MaKey MaKey to create a cloud server with the ingredients of a BLT. The underlying message that I wanted to convey was how easy it was to use our newly designed control panel to spin up a cloud server.

 

Both these videos did extremely well on social media, and served as a vehicle to not only energize our fans, but also become an effective high level awareness piece for folks interested in Rackspace. Taking a little time out of the day-to-day to do something creative is one thing that I love about my job.

Lesson From My Contractor In The Aisle Of Lowe’s: Be Helpful

This past week I had to get a shower at my rent house fixed. The abridged version is that there are three handles (hot, cold and diverter from bath to shower) and I needed to replace a leaking stem on the diverter. In the past couple of years I had replaced the stems on the hot and cold, so I knew that they were outdated and Lowe’s wouldn’t have them, however, Alfred, my contractor, wanted to give Lowe’s a shot anyway.

We went to Lowe’s home improvement store and were waiting for someone in the plumbing section to help with matching the stem. There were a couple of other folks waiting as well (one of whom was a World War II vet) and it was interesting because Alfred went over to see if he could answer their questions.

This really took me aback. I mean, Alfred obviously has an incredible amount of knowledge and instead of sitting off to the side doing nothing, he made the conscious effort to help out some others. He solved one gentlemen’s problem straight away, and was in the middle of helping the other person when the Lowe’s employee came up to help. Eventually we were told that Lowe’s did not have the stem that we needed.

As we were going to the next custom plumbing shop, I told Alfred that I was impressed with what he did back in the store. Many times I have been one of those people, roaming around just lost in the aisles. The information that he gave was sure to help them finish their job quicker.

Alfred told me that he is just a helpful person, and that if he likes to help others out. He believes that if he has the time and the ability, there is no reason not to help another person with a problem. Alfred then remarked that he does get 80% of his business from the aisles of Lowe’s.

I found this fact interesting: being genuinely helpful leads to jobs. In the age of “your call is important to us” and a lack of customer service, Alfred proves that helping someone out is not only the right thing to do, it has an effect on the bottom line. I am sure that he is not upset or disappointed if his help in the aisles of Lowe’s never turns into a job, rather, the jobs are a function of Alfred caring for his fellow man.

Aspiring contractors, entrepreneurs, businesses and large companies would be served well to learn this lesson from Alfred.

Reconciliation, Not Retribution

Our pastor told the story today about Joseph (you know, the guy with the technicolored coat), how his brothers despised that he was the favorite of his father, was sold into slavery, placed in jail and ultimately rose to power in Egypt by interpreting a dream of the pharaoh. Joseph told that this dream meant that there would be seven years of surplus, followed by seven years of famine. He told the pharaoh that it was imperative to save during the first seven years to make sure that they had food stores for the drought. The pharaoh liked what he heard and put Joseph in charge of this project.

Sure enough, following the seven prosperous years the famine hit. But it didn’t just hit Egypt, it also affected the surrounding communities; many people traveled to Egypt to purchase supplies and food. It was at this time that his brothers came to Egypt for food. After keeping his identity hidden, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers so he could see his father again. While Joseph’s brothers were apprehensive of what Joseph might do to them at the time, that fear was magnified after their father passed away. Joseph was faced with a choice, reconciliation or retribution. Through the spirit of God, Joseph was able to put aside the terrible past and reconcile with his brothers, providing an amazing amount of grace.

Our pastor said that it is often the people who are wronged that have to rise above the hurt and pain to offer reconciliation. This was particularly seen in the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King. With his nonviolent approach to civil disobedience, he was able to bring amazing change to the country as a key figure of the Civil Rights movement. While he was most certainly the victim of countless numbers of taunts, insults and slanderous speech, he was able to rise above the hurt and peacefully lead people to change.

While always more difficult, what would the world look like if we were more inclined to offer reconciliation rather than retribution?

Having Nothign To Write For A Short Time

This is kind of weird – I have tons of stories that I am excited to write, but I don’t have the time to write them tonight. I am going to be meeting up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while in an hour, and having 10 minutes while my wife is showering just wouldn’t do these stories justice. I guess sometimes it is worth waiting to make sure that the stories are done right.

Speaking of my friends, I have this core group of people who I met on an social volleyball team that have become great friends. To this day I am glad that I was put on a team with all these people.

In Which I Say Adios To My Boss

Today I had to say goodbye to my boss as she accepted a new role within our Marketing organization. While she will still be on my same team, and I will probably work on several projects and a campaigns with her, it was bittersweet to have her go.

One reason I am sad to no longer have her as my boss is that she took a chance on me. Not many people would think that a technical project manager would be a good fit to be a content marketer. I know this for a fact: I have been trying to break into the marketing world ever since I left my first job out of college as a distribution center planning analyst back in 2007. For whatever reason, people don’t think that industrial engineers would be good marketers (probably for good reason).

I had left my company in April of 2010 to start a business (which was a miserable failure), and returned in November 2010 to a familiar project management role. In the time I was gone from the company, I found a passion to add value to the world by “creating” things. This is vastly different to how industrial engineers add value to the world – they do it by “taking away” things, such as removing process steps, eliminating waste and trimming down inventory. Both types of value are needed for an organization, but I wanted to find a way to transition into the “creating” things line of work and made a goal of finding a role within my organization by the year 2012.

In November of 2011, my soon-to-be boss informed me about different roles in marketing, and asked if I knew anyone who was interested. I was bursting at the seams to say “ME!” but I let my lack of experience suppress my enthusiasm. I told her I would think of some names and get back with her in the upcoming week.

At that time I did a lot of soul searching, and felt that I could do this job. I was an active blogger on my own website, and I had experience working with contractors to develop apps. I felt that I had good relationships with technical colleagues and was passionate about getting their voice out to the market. I had ideas of what I wanted to accomplish and was genuinely excited about the possibility. But I didn’t have any practical professional experience. I thought I would pitch myself anyway to see if there was a remote chance of getting an interview for the job.

While I might like to think that I convinced her that I could do the job, I think that all along she believed in me. She was the bridge to get into the marketing world from the project management world, and arranged for me to interview for the position. I went through a series of interviews, talking with people who were quite knowledgeable in the marketing profession as well as having years of experience. I don’t know what happened, but I ended up getting the position, fulfilling my goal a month before 2012 arrived.

Since that time I have worked on hundreds of blog posts, collaborated with technical colleagues on hundreds of videos, learned how to interface with agencies, vendors and writers, was part of a team that created an amazing 3D animated short film and helped develop an app to spread the news out to employees. To top it off, I have had the most fun I’ve ever had in a professional environment in my life.

So while it may just be a small move and she may still be on my team, I have had the best time getting to work for my boss. I am extremely grateful for the chance that was given to me, and wish her all the best with her future role.

Orbiting The Giant Hairball

Today was an awesome day. I got to sit down with someone at my workplace that has one of the most interesting jobs at my company. He is a guy who has been at the company since almost day one, and has become a person that everyone admires, respects and cares about. His passion is infectious and he is incredible at connecting with people, and he is able to do so in a very nontraditional role. Talking to this person today reminded me of a book that I read four years ago entitled, Orbiting The Giant Hairball.

The book is by Gordon MacKenzie, an artist for Hallmark who had been with the company since the early days. From what I remember (my brain my have a little cobwebs since it has been a while since I read it), MacKenzie saw the organization turn from one being driven by artistic and creative types into one that was concerned with process and procedure. He knew that all this new bureaucracy was somewhat necessary (even though he despised it) and called it the “hairball.” He wanted a role that involved orbiting around it, having the flexibility to do creative things and making connections with people. He refused to get absorbed by the hairball and instead chose to orbit it.

One of the reasons that I liked the book at the time that I read it was that it gave me hope that even in a very structured or corporate environment, if you were creative enough along with taking a genuine interest in your colleagues as people, you could find an exciting role. A role that allowed you to orbit, have more freedom to pursue things of interest and to make meaningful relationships with the people who you spend a good chunk of your daily life with.

Now, don’t take this as meaning that you can have a fluff job. I think that orbiting could be almost as difficult as being in the hairball in the sense that it takes a lot of work and commitment. In the limited about of orbiting that I have done, it usually involves extra work (on top of your job) to help out other or to tinker. The person that I talked to today puts his heart and soul into his job, and always has to be “on” – while it might seem like something fun to most, I would place money that most couldn’t give what that role required and would be burned out after a week of being “on.” The difference is, what would tire most people is precisely what powers to orbiter.

Superior Spiderman (Or How I Got A Comic Subscription At Age 30)

At the conclusion of 2012, there was some big news in the comic book world as Peter Parker was finally killed by his nemesis Doctor Octopus in The Amazing Spider-Man 700. In a strange plot, Doc Ock switched his mind with Parker’s and consequently Spiderman. But in addition to Parker’s spider-like senses, he also had Doctor Octopus’s heightened intelligence, becoming an even better Spider-Man. Much to Doc Ock’s disappointment, however, he also obtained all of Parker’s memories and was suddenly transformed from villain to hero.

The Amazing Spider-Man series ended its run and The Superior Spider-Man was born.

I have to admit, I am by no means a comic book fanboy, yet I have always enjoyed the mythology. In particular, I am fascinated when something horrible happens to the main characters. This probably explains how I got into the different Superman series after Doomsday killed the beloved hero and four different characters rose up to claim his spot. Around the same time was when Bane broke Batman’s back in the Knightfall series. These story lines happened almost 20 years ago and got me engaged with comics.

Needless to say, when I learned that Peter Parker was to be killed, I had to check back into the Spider-Man series. What I found was a very intriguing #700 comic book, so much so that I decided to check out Superior Spider-Man #1. After reading that book, I was nothing short of impressed; seeing the cover for Superior #2 where Parker was embracing and kissing MJ made me want to find out where this storyline is going to go. I hopped on Marvel.com and placed an order for a 12 issue subscription.

Looking further at it, I have found that I am so energized for this comic book series for several reasons. (1) The story is intriguing. Seeing a former villain assume the role of the hero/protector is interesting. To top it off, Parker is still in the picture. It is only a matter of time before they end the Superior series and pick back Amazing with #701. I want to be along for the ride. (2) Part of the fun of comics is trying to figure them out. With each issue you are given clues, and it is fun to get to talk with friends and other people who are interested in them about what you think is going to happen. (3) In the time of media over saturation and the instant gratification of iTunes and the Internet, it is nice to have to wait for something. You don’t have all the answers right off the bat, and there is a certain amount of payoff for having to wait weeks at a time to see what happens next.

Superior Spider-Man may have upset many of the die hard fans out there, but it was able to get me to take a chance and actually purchase a subscription. I am looking forward to see where this series ends up.