Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Earning and Spending Points

I've gone over this "theory" a bunch of times with friends over the years and finally am going to attempt to blog about it.

Guys, you know how when you do something good for the one you love you think to yourself...
"Big points for that!"
You know what I'm talking about, right? Come up with that special gift and you get points. Doing the dishes gets you points. Remembering birthday's gets you points, but remembering her sisters birthday gets you even more. I'm not talking about lame airline points, miles or fake currency here... I'm talking about pure relationship pointage... and you know what that could get you!

Different acts gets you different points - everyone has their own scale. The scale isn't what's important here at all. No. Before I get into the heart of the matter, here's a sampling of possible things you can do with points to whet your appetite:
  • Long golf weekend with the boys
  • Poker nights
  • Ability to purchase new gadgets with immunity
  • Your favorite meal
  • Being left alone for 3 friggen minutes already
  • A 3 letter word that starts with a capital S
  • Add your own per your own relationship
What is crucial here, and what sits at the heart of my theory is how and when you can spend those hard earned points.

I've done a lot of thinking about this over the years and I'm fairly certain I've got it right. Pay close attention here, because this is important. I'm going to give you the key right up front so you can chew on it while I continue to blather on...
You lose points at a dramatically faster rate than you can ever accumulate them.
Read it again, because it's critical that you get this part right. The key piece of the theory is the word "dramatically."

Please understand that the way this works is that you can happily accumulate points for as long as you want. But you'll lose them all immediately with simple slip ups. Trust me here, it's true.

Don't want to blindly trust me? Ok... then take a look at some of my well-honed and immutable points laws...
  1. You cannot safely accumulate points over a long span of time. Any attempt to hoard points will be met with complete point bankruptcy
  2. It takes effort to earn points, yet takes no effort to lose them.
  3. You cannot trade in points
  4. Points are not transferable under any circumstances
  5. There are no negative points, thank God.
Right? See where I'm going yet?

In conclusion and to wrap this up; when you earn points, you must find ways to spend them immediately!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Brief Return to Non-Profit Land

I started reading Fast Company again after a year or so of giving it up and am happy to be back. While I dug the Shaun White article in the Feb 09 issue what really caught my attention was an article titled "No Vacancy - Job Seeking refugees from the for-profit world shouldn't go running for the not-for-profit sector."

During my tenure in the not-for-profit sector (yes, I had a blog then too)this was probably the #1 question I got from friends and colleagues looking for something else to do professionally. I'm pretty much done giving advice around that topic, especially in light of my decision to join Microsoft instead of pursuing another post inside a non-profit. That said, I even wrote a blog post "So You Want to Work In Non-profit Land?"

I think the FC article makes some good points and it really brings me back to the last 8 years of my professional life. The one comment I'll make however is that during my first 3 years or so (while at March of Dimes) I think I considered myself more of a volunteer than anything.

It wasn't until I snapped back to reality and got "serious" about developing my non-profit career did I start running into problems (problems like deciding to take promotions, making more money etc). That was a mistake. I wish I had simply been content in considering myself a free agent volunteer. I'm terrible at managing my career and much better and simply sinking myself into things and letting the water flow any which way it wants.

Anyway, check this article out if you are considering a move.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Betty Crocker

I was fortunate to be in Seattle this week and to get an invite to a Social Media Club meeting from my good friend Filiberto Selvas.

Filiberto and I recently traded comments on SocialCRM blog and on Twitter about the idea of agencies running/managing online communities for brands.

As per my usual, I started with a very strong opinion that brands who want to start customer communities should not use an agency for hands on community management. My entire concept of online communities revolves around creating open and honest conversations. The thought of hiring an agency to manage it to me at first seemed ludicrous. I felt strongly that any brand that would outsource that function ought to reconsider their strategy and perhaps hold off on building customer communities until they were more ready to commit.

At the SMC meeting of course, I met someone with a different opinion (surprise, he's an agency guy!). Thing is, he mentioned Betty Crocker. According to Wikipedia, Betty Crocker was invented in 1921 and was in fact an invented persona who became a cultural icon.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I realize Betty Crocker wasn't exactly a community manager. But even still, Betty Crocker became a brand that had very real relationships with customers. In today's world, I don't want to believe that a brand could build a community around a fake personality... but then again we've seen some interesting things lately like lonleygirl and other examples that I should be able to point to, but can't think of any right now.

Could a brand use a fictional character as a community host to help them build a community effectively? I think the answer is maybe. If I had to guess, it's happening a lot already. I believe there are brands out there who are building communities where the community manager isn't an actual person but is rather, a collection of people, a committee or some other grouping of markters or maybe even (gasp!), an agency. Maybe one day you'll be able to buy a Turing machine to do it for you.

I'm conflicted... what do you think? Am I incorrrectly drawing connections between things that aren't comparable or is there something worth thinking about here?

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Higher Calling

It's funny, when you start to focus your attention on things, all sorts of interesting bits come your way. I had been holding on to a copy of an article from NYT Magazine about Philip Seymour Hoffman for a few weeks and finally read it over coffee this morning. It's a great article, a rare look inside a terrific actor and a stunningly intense guy.

In describing when he first saw "All My Sons" on stage, he uses some really interesting images and vocabulary that is really sticking to me this morning.

"It was like a miracle to me. But that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great — well, that’s absolutely torturous."

I'm struggling myself with what it means to be great in all my own roles - father, husband, employee, sports coach, son, grandson, brother, friend, etc... It really is tortuous in many ways, some of what is required is totally unnatural and sometimes uncomfortable for me.

While I realize it's OK to forgive yourself for failing, I think it's als OK to push forward in trying to be great.

Sorry about the lack of marketing blogs lately. Frankly, I'm bored with a lot of the social media talk, predictions and baloney that the pundits are throwing around. I'm much more interested in relationships and examining myself these days. That said, here are some terrific links to keep your eye on if you care about social media and engagement marketing:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More Presents!

As part of my ongoing, annual goal setting and life re-orientation as I now call it, I just finished reading "The Present," a parable by Spencer Johnson. This book is a lot more accessible, though not as deep as Tolle's "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" and is a quick read.

It's amazing to me that I've been trying to live more in the now for the last few years and have not made more progress. That said, I do finally find myself recognizing when I am in fact, not living in the present. A few nights ago, I totally flew off the handle after talking to my mom and while I was able to recognize what I was doing, I was unable to curb my behavior. Some things continue to get to me!

Alternatively, on Christmas day as the girls were opening their gifts, this amazing wash of joy came over me. I know looking back that I was experiencing "flow" and was wonderfully, totally in the present moment.

In any case, the book essentially presents 3 ways to use present moments to enjoy life... I do not think posting these here will help you, but since I've read the book I think it will serve as a reference point for me. I'm also considering turning this into a wallpaper :)

Be in the present
When you want to be happier and more effective
  • Focus on what is right now
  • Respond to what is important today

Learn from the past
When you want to make the present better than the past
  • Look at what happened in the past
  • Learn something valuable from it
  • Do things differently today

Help create the future
When you want to make the future better than the present
  • Imagine what a wonderful future would look like
  • Make a realistic plan
  • Do something today to help it happen

Realize your purpose
Explore ways to make your work and life more meaningful

Friday, January 2, 2009

Off to a Fast Start

Cross 'em off! I'm off to a roaring start in '09, completing 3 goals right off the bat.

#1 was to figure out how to get GPS working properly on my mobile phone, and thanks to some slick software (GPSToday), it's not only working great, but it allows me to automatically add geodata to photos on the fly. Sweet. Check.

#2 was to reorganize how we (my family) manages all our digital files and to put into place a better backup strategy. Basically, I've turned my home computer into a basic file server and mapped public folders to the kids and wife's mobile desktops. Once that was complete, I configured Cobian backup software to run daily backups on those folders, offloading the backup data to an external 250gb drive.

For those really valuable digital photos, I'm using Cobian to create DVD ready archives so I can easily (and quickly) make DVD backups. Not only do I feel good about crossing these things off the list, I've got some peace of mind regarding those digital photos!

#3 Confirm I have the best possible mortgage and life insurance rates... done. (No refinancing needed, unfortunately)

Next up on the list:
  • Check for better auto insurance rates
  • Reconfigure my workout plan