Green hills below a vast clear blue sky

How To Survive Whatever Comes Next

I am part of the popular majority who did not vote for the person who is officially becoming President of the United States today. And like many others in that majority, I have been cycling through feelings of disbelief, anger, sadness, and disappointment since November. Every announcement about the leadership appointments and policy changes expected from the incoming administration are disturbing. All the ongoing investigations around intelligence breaches and Russian influence only make things seem uglier.

I am not happy about any of this. But I am not going to live unhappy because of it, and neither should you.

Regardless of who you voted for, regardless of what you expect to happen next, there is one thing we can all do to make our lives and this country better: we all have to wake up each day and make good decisions about how we’re going to live and work and communicate and contribute to the world in a way that is meaningful to us.

And as I’ve been writing about since this blog began, making good choices means staying HUMAN: Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active, and Nice.

Be HONEST with yourself and with others about what really matters to you. Follow the subjective honesty of your heart and your gut to help you understand your values, but don’t ignore the objective honesty of facts and data, especially if they conflict with your instincts. Feel confident that you could explain why you feel the way you do about things, why you choose what you choose, and if you don’t know why, be honest enough to say that too. That’s how we learn and grow.

Be UNAFRAID of bullies and threats against your beliefs and values, and be unafraid to be different, to stand apart from the crowd and share your honest self. And equally important, don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong about something. Admitting you’re wrong is just admitting you’re human. Now that news and social media can influence us so subtly that we’re not even aware of it, it’s highly likely that what you’re sure you understand today may change tomorrow as new information becomes available. Don’t fear that change just because it’s different, but also don’t be afraid to ask questions when the answers aren’t clear.

Stay MINDFUL of how you apply your time and attention every day. Do your work with purpose, informed with the honesty and fearlessness you’ve already built. Don’t lose sight of your values, and don’t be steered astray of your goals by taking on too much at once. Set goals that are important to you, that you know you can achieve, and measure your progress. Don’t just witness your life happening—participate in every day, and let yourself be absorbed in what you’re doing. Breathe, and know that you are breathing.

Be ACTIVE about nurturing your values and seek opportunities to grow. Learn facts, learn history, learn science and culture. See a movie about people who look and talk differently from you. Travel to a place you’ve never been. Discover something inspiring, and then share it with someone. Write about it, photograph it, sing it aloud. If you think you can make change in the world, don’t just stand in place yelling about it—go out and make the change happen. Don’t keep your self to yourself.

Be NICE to your fellow humans. Listen, be patient, be engaged. Ask people about their lives, about their worries. Give time to help when you know help is needed. Share what you can, give support to individuals and organizations that you think are making a difference in the world, and not just to feel good. Yell and scream at problems, not at people. Don’t hate, don’t bully, don’t demean. Be patient, be reasonable, and act with dignity. Be a good citizen, willing to work with others for the benefit of all.


As John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”

I choose to focus on the good today, and be grateful for the bad that never came to be. I choose not to waste whatever miracles lie ahead but help make them happen. I choose to be Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active, and Nice.

Stay human, share human, and live a good life. We’re all still here, we’ll still be here tomorrow, and the day after that. Let’s make a heav’n of hell together today and see what happens.

The Slide Deck Tango

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 Six; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

Giving a talk in the modern era means 99% of the time also preparing a visual presentation to go along with it. So it should be no surprise that, with only a couple weeks left before this conference, my focus has turned to getting my ideas out into a slide deck to support my thoughts. And this, for me, is really where I get the most stressed and the most intensely absorbed in the process, because these slides are really the final container for everything I’ve worked on. They are the structure and storyboard for the ideas and examples I want to share in my talk, and for anyone who isn’t able to attend my presentation, they may be the only way they get to experience this.

There is a lot I could say about putting together a slide deck, probably enough for another entire blog. I was originally titling this post as “How to Build a Deck” but the small part of me that pays attention to SEO thought that might end up disappointing people looking for details on how to build some kind of wooden platform off the back of their home.

The one thing I will share here that could apply to building slide decks or backyard decks is this: don’t take shortcuts. If you take shortcuts to save time—like say, taking something somebody else made and slapping your stuff on top of it—you may get a deck that meets your needs but it will also be obvious to everyone that you were lazy.

If you think of nothing else when creating a slide deck, remember that the software is just a tool you are using to convey an idea. They should not contain or repeat the idea itself, only reinforce it, enhance it, and make it stick. Seth Godin already wrote about this pretty wonderfully and I recommend reading that (you can also get a PDF version here). Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.