The Panic

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Five; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

And now is the part of the process when The Panic starts to settle in.

The more I start bringing all the pieces of my presentation together, the more I feel my mind trying to pull it all apart, seeding doubt into every choice I make.

Is that really what I’m trying to say?
Is this too much? Is it not enough? Is it too obscure?
Will anybody even notice? Is it too obvious?
Do I need to support this idea more?
Is this even an idea worth discussing?

The Panic wants me to question everything.

For every little note I’ve made, every scrap of an idea I think I can use, there are four others I don’t get to. There seem to be so many paths I can follow but I’m building the map as I go, and it’s unclear if all those paths intersect or lead to the destination I’m hoping for, or if anyone will even notice the details that stick out to me.

I think this is what I mean, but is that the right way to say it?
Why doesn’t that look right?
Is this font better?
Maybe this font? Or maybe this font?
What am I even doing this for? I’m no expert – who am I kidding?
They’re all going to see right through me…

So I stop.

Take a breath and walk away for a moment.

Deep down, I know that as long as I take my own advice and focus on being Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active and Nice with my work, then the work will reflect that and turn out right. And yet The Panic lurks, waiting for me to let my guard down, waiting until I am most vulnerable and doubtful that anything I’m working on makes sense.

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Archaeology

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Four; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

For a few years, when I was about six through nine years old, I was really interested in being an archaeologist. At the time it probably came from a fascination with dinosaurs I shared with many kids at that age, as well as my general ongoing interest in Science! as a thing I enjoyed learning about. I was also excited by discovery, digging and unearthing pieces of a puzzle, figuring out how the pieces connect and learning the story they tell.

My interest in dinosaurs faded by the time I was ten, replaced by science fiction and space exploration (Lego!) and something in our new “computer lab” called an Apple II (Logo!). But my love for discovery and unearthing the bones of a story have never really gone away.

Which is a good thing, because now I find myself at the stage of putting together my presentation where I have unearthed a whole mess of bones, but I have no idea which ones actually belong to the skeleton I’m trying to assemble and which ones are part of a different beast altogether.  Continue reading →

Making Room for Ideas

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is my second entry in the series. You can find Part One here.

There’s something about the first of the month I’ve always found hopeful, so when I get the first day of the month and the first day of the week on the same day, like I did on Monday of this week, it always feels extra special to me. A Double First Day feels like the planets are in alignment (oh, wait – they actually are!) and the universe is telling me that this is a perfect day for starting something.

I chose this Double First Day to start focusing on a new goal: reduce my cognitive load as much as possible and give my mind more room for creative thinking. Because if I’m going to deliver the keynote talk I want to next month, I’m going to need all the creative energy I can get, not to mention all the time I can get to actually put it together.

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A Tote Bag of Ideas

As I wrote last week, I will be giving a keynote presentation at the upcoming HighEdWeb New England regional conference. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity because I know I’ll be able to use the time I’m being given to talk about something that has become very important to me over the past couple of years: sharing.

The working title for my talk right now is “Share Like a Human” and in the spirit of sharing (along with some inspiration from Austin Kleon), I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes thoughts and processes as I put my talk together.

Starting this week, and over the next seven weeks or so leading up to #hewebNE I’ll be chronicling my progress as much as I can without giving away the actual content of my talk.

Why bother doing this? Well, in a lot of ways I’m doing this for myself as a way to organize my thoughts with purpose, and writing about a process or idea often helps me figure out the details of what that will be. But I also think it may be helpful to others working on presentations or talks of their own to see how another person prepares for it.

I don’t claim to be an expert at giving presentations, and the way I do things may not work for everyone. I build presentations in the way that works for my own needs and habits, using a structure and elements that draw on my past experience and training as a writer and performer. But whether you’re working on a keynote, a conference presentation, a classroom lecture, or just leading a discussion, I think there are elements everyone should consider and plan for.

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Resolve to Evolve

I’m not making any resolutions for the New Year; I want to make evolutions instead.

A resolution is a short term goal, often about breaking bad habits and starting better ones: do more of A, less of B, stop doing C altogether. But I’m old enough now that I’m basically satisfied with all with the big choices I’ve made about my personal As, Bs, and Cs, and all the rest.

I’m no longer concerned with making or breaking habits; I want to evolve the habits I have into being the most effective habits for my future. I want to do more of what I’m already doing, do it in a more mindful, practiced way, and get better at it day by day.

I want to evolve my health habits. I’m already exercising regularly – how can I exercise better? I’m already eating healthy – how can I improve the quality of the healthy food I choose?

I want to evolve my money habits. I’m already saving – how can I save more? How can I improve my shared financial responsibilities? How can I improve my spending?

Now is the perfect time for me to evolve my career. I’ve had so many new opportunities appear around me, and shifting responsibilities for myself and others in my office creating challenging opportunities for all of us. I’m finally understanding what skills I bring to my job, what I do best and what others do better. I finally have a vision for the future I want to evolve toward. How can I level up in my work, take on more of a leadership/ownership role, and better put myself in a position where I can enable and empower others to be awesome?

The most tangible evolution I’ve made so far is that I’m writing and blogging regularly (and you may notice I’ve even evolved the design of this site a bit). But there is still more evolution ahead. How can I evolve my voice as a writer? What knowledge and insights do I have to share that is of value? How can I expand my ideas beyond a blog? What am I going to do about that book I keep thinking about writing?

Last year I wrote that my resolution would be “a long pass to myself in the future,” and I’m confident I caught that pass and ran with it. I didn’t get too far down the field with the ball, and certainly didn’t get any touchdowns, but sometimes a completed pass is all the victory you need.

Every completed play after this is just an evolution of the larger strategy, and evolution is the only resolution I want to make.

Farewell 2015

Today is the first day of a new year, but I feel I’m still saying goodbye to the year that just ended. There have been a lot of changes in my world over the past year, and along the way I’ve had to say goodbye to some people who had an influence on my life in one way or another. So before I get too far into a fresh new year, I want to be sure I put out some final words of thanks to those I’ll be missing.

Thankfully, there have been a few I was able to actually thank personally, like the boss who hired me. She was a major anchor in my work life and career. Losing her set me somewhat adrift, but also gives me new freedom to grow and build on my strengths in the year ahead.

Another anchor many of us lost this year was that of Jon Stewart when he left The Daily Show, which seems odd to say because he didn’t die or completely retire, and I didn’t even know him. But like many of his TV audience, I still felt I knew him and I didn’t realize how much I really appreciated him being there throughout my week. It’s going to be a very different election year without him around, but at least there is hope that his sharp, smart, comedic voice will return someday in the future.

Same goes for David Letterman, who officially did retire this past May. Late night TV is definitely different now without him, his voice, his point of view, his connection to the old-school tribe of broadcast TV pros. I’ll understand and be okay if he doesn’t reappear in some way — he’s earned the right to disappear from view just like Johnny before him. But there will always be a small part of me that will hold out hope to see him reemerge, well-rested, full-bearded, and with something worth saying.

Sadly, there are others we lost this year that we won’t be hearing from again, but the work they left behind in our culture will continue to be discovered and influence other humans just as they influenced me with their creativity, their skills, and their dedication to making art, music, films, and even advertising that used those forms in new ways that hadn’t been done before. Continue reading →

photo by Chetan Menaria

Letting Go to Move Forward

I just had my last-ever meeting with my boss. She’s leaving our office  after 13 years of work in higher ed marketing for a big opportunity in a different industry and a different town. She’s taking a bold step, leaving behind an institution that not only helped shape her, but that she helped shape for others.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about the whole thing and frankly I’m in a bit of a daze.

On one hand, I don’t blame her for leaving when she is. Our office and our campus have been on a very bumpy road this year, especially over the past few months. She stepped up to take on a lot for our team and was not rewarded well for her efforts. Combined with all the continued protests and negative vibes going around our campus, plus new leadership still just settling in and others vacancies still to be filled, I think her timing is actually probably perfect.

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Revised

This blog post has been revised at least eight times over the past week. Today is Friday, and I’ve been trying to maintain the discipline of posting every Friday whenever possible. But sometimes the thoughts I think I have to share at the beginning of the week revise themselves.

This started out completely different; a bigger, more complex idea with links to examples and images to embed and some kind of vaguely witty structure to link it all together. Sometimes it’s hard to think small.

But the more I write, the more I discover what it is I’m really trying to say, and all of a sudden I’m writing something very different than what I initially set out to do.

So this post has been revised. Updated in a lot of little ways, mostly deletions or small changes in the word usements I structure. Most of them you’ll never see unless I point them out.

But it’s a post. It’s some new content, something out of my brain and onto your screen. And more importantly, I shipped on time. I overcame the resistance, figured out how to not overthink it in the midst of so much else going on with my life, with my job, with my plans for the future.

I shipped. I met my goal. In the end, the only one who really cares about that goal is me. And sometimes the goal is revised.

Just like this post.

Thanksliving

I am thankful for every day.

Thankful for being alive and being aware of the world.

I am thankful for backyards in summer. A full moon in the snow of winter.

For dreams. For the ocean and the clouds. I am so thankful for clouds.

I am thankful for New York City. Chicago. Paris. London. Tokyo. Boston. Ithaca, NY. Deerfield, NH.

I am thankful for books. For lemons. For bicycles. For birds and squirrels. For apples. For yogurt. Chocolate. Popcorn. Bacon. Gravity. Baseball. Buster Keaton. The Muppets. Ice cream sandwiches. Iron Giant. George Carlin. Woody Allen. Nichols and May. Bill Murray. David Letterman. Peter Jennings.

For all the things I can’t remember, and everything I’ll never forget.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1996, standing in the back of a hushed theatre and watching Mikhail Baryshnikov dance to the amplified sound of his own heartbeat. Standing in a tent in Battery Park watching Zingaro dance with horses.

I am thankful for infinite knowledge at my fingertips. A computer in my pocket. Crossword puzzles. Rivers. Mountains. The Beatles. Bach. Moby Dick. Blood MeridianInfinite Jest. Autocorrect. Portal 2. Maple trees in March. Shakespeare. Jacques Tati’s Playtime in full 70mm on a huge screen on a Saturday afternoon.

I am thankful for the these words that let me be thankful.

I am thankful for my tribe.  Thankful for my wife. My friends. My families. For those who have left, for those who have died. For those I have yet to meet. For those I will never know who endure war, poverty, injustice, starvation, disease, and all those dedicated to helping them.

I am thankful for those who have fought for my country, for their country. Those who are smarter than me, stronger than me. For those who excel and those who strive to do better. For those who listen. For those who nurture.

I am thankful for teachers. Thankful for farmers. For makers, artists, builders, creators, explorers, storytellers, musicians, thinkers, editors, dancers, comics, athletes, chefs.

I am thankful for libraries, and for people who share. For procrastination. For poetry. For freedom. For the feeling of slipping on a freshly laundered shirt straight out of the dryer.

For hot water. Cold water. Clean water – anytime, anywhere. The first cup of fresh coffee. The last sip of old whiskey.

I am thankful for pockets. For paper. For pencils. For language. For learning. For learning to be thankful every day. Learning to give thanks and receive thanks.

I am thankful for my eyes, my ears, my nose, my tongue, my fingers, my toes, my lungs, my heart.

I am thankful for love. Thankful for being human with you. Thankful for our human-ness.

I am thankful for you.

Everything With Moderation

Things have been a little crazy at the office lately, especially since the college I work at became part of national news trend pieces for a few days last week. It’s a situation that has continued to build tension on campus over the past month and, for me personally, as an employee and alum of the college, it’s been sad to see how much the negativity and anger that has arisen from the situation quickly became louder than voices looking to find solutions and make change.

Of course, just walking around you’re only mildly aware of the level of frustration people are feeling. Public demonstrations, posters, and signs from the many voices vying for attention have ebbed and flowed across different public spaces on and off campus, but nobody’s camped out on the quad in protest, and most classes and schedules have continued as usual.

But things are much different if you pay even a little attention to social media. One quick search for our school on Facebook, Twitter, or YikYak and you’ll see just about every opinion people have, often followed by flame war comments going back and forth about who’s more ignorant or why people want to see our president resign. You’ll see individuals sharing moving stories of their own experiences as targets of racism, marginalization, or violent speech. And you’ll find posts filled with passionate opinions, arguments, and links to all kinds of longer rants that all seem to be strongly for one thing or strongly against another thing.

Sadly, few of these are kind to the people they see as against them. In fact, several posts or comments have been messages of outright hate, and that has been the most disturbing part of this whole experience for me.

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