SEO Your SEO (Social and Emotional Optimization)

Optimized Search for Personal Optimization? Huh? Looks like Temple University may have taken one of the first serious looks into how Social Media Networking may benefit those suffering through some tough times: Find Emotional Help on Social Sites. Sound familiar? This has been my thesis since I was able to lose 50 pounds in less than a year using Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, et al. It is the crux of this very blog. Losing weight was a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. It starts to get a little bit fuzzier if you have someone say that just got separated and is heading towards a divorce; how to apply the SMART principles in this situation may not be so cut and dry – it is much more than reaching a goal. I am a firm believer, however, that Social Media can be used to help develop definable and attainable goals no matter what the difficulty or challenge may be or at the very least bring us closer to what we want and move us further away from what we don’t. Now, for people with gross mental health issues like suicidal thoughts or extreme substance abuse issues, professional help and medication may certainly be the answer. I am not advocating ditching your Dr. and using the Internet as a sole substitute for any professional medical advice. Nor do I advocate a hermetic lifestyle where Facebook replaces traditional social stomping grounds such as the playground, local bar or bingo hall.

However, it is a Social Network and may prove a valid vehicle compensating for the diaspora in which we all live in this post-modern chaos, with grandparents living 1000 miles away, siblings 1000 the other way, friends from college off in new states with new friends and families, divorces, new unions, where half- and step- and -in law get so confusing they just get dropped. Point being, the traditional, socially nurturing network has slowly but surely been being destroyed over the past 50-75 years. But in its place is something else, something new and something actually pretty cool and exciting. Skype puts grandma right back into the living room. Twitter puts 1,000,000 sufferers of the same physical ailment from which you are suffering a click away. Facebook creates a high school reunion on a daily basis. Your parents had a tough time keeping after you when you were a teenager and probably didn’t even care so long as you made it home safely, but today corporations KNOW where you are, what you bought, who you are with… Certainly a brave, BRAVE, new world! It’s not going away, so lets learn how to use it and embrace it as the tool it was imagined up to be.

In less than two months since I started “in11months” I have learned an incredible amount from an astronomical quantity of people. Imagine if I had to pay $20 (my physician’s visit co-pay) to every person I learned something from over the past month. A back (of the back) of an envelope calculation tells me I am tens of thousands of dollars in the hole. Thank you everyone!!!! Yes even Mr. Sheen gave us #Winning which right now, thanks to all the folks on Twitter, I believe I am!!!

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Parking Lot Prayer – Bird Brained?

This morning I pulled into my company’s parking lot and stopped the car and began to pray. This “Parking Lot Prayer” is a new practice I recently started mainly since embarking on “in11months”. In this new morning tradition, I usually ask God to give me strength to get through the day at this job in which I work in your typical Dilbert-esque cubicle world with no windows (added bonus – there is also an actual factory attached!). In addition, I ask him to give me guidance so that I can find and follow my passion, be a better person and lead a better life. Today I specifically said, “God, give guidance so that I may be nearer to you, so that the work that consumes me puts me with you at all times and doesn’t separate us.” Referring to the fact that I have to go inside this building with no windows all day long without any connection whatsoever with the natural world and rendering me nearly spiritually impotent. Just as I uttered that request, everything went kind of dead for a second and all I could hear was the sound of the huge fan exhaust system that blows the fumes of chemicals from our plant outside and then suddenly out of nowhere I heard the chirps of hundreds of birds, beautiful little chirps not distinguishable but certainly some type of shorebirds. I felt a warm sensation come over my body like static electricity and a voice inside my head said “Like this? Do you want to hear this? Listen to the birds singing? Do you want to listen to this?” “Yes!, yes!!!, yes!!!!! of course!!!!,” I said out loud. This is exactly what I want to be listening to and experiencing. And the first thing I thought of was that I AM a photographer. Why couldn’t I get back into photography…nature photography….and that way I could be “working” and spending time with God. Then, all of a sudden the sound of the beautiful chirps surrendered and the obnoxious hum of industry hustled its way back into my conscience. But on my way into the building as I was fumbling for the key fob for the back door of the building, I once again gave one last sigh and asked God for strength to get me through the day. And then from nowhere the chirps were summoned and I looked up into the sky and there they were. A whole flock of birds I do not commonly see…in fact I had to look them up and I believe they were Swallow-tailed Kites. Still not sure…but they were magnificent and they flow over me about 50 feet and sang their song – which by the way I believe most people would have thought sounded more like a bunch of angry shrills from disgruntled seagulls. But these were not common seagulls and to me they were operatic.

Well, this “experience” doesn’t end here….

Later in the morning I had to research something and pulled up Google and I couldn’t believe my eyes!!! Google’s logo (Google Doodle) today was an image of a group of American birds all perched on branches.

Today, as it turns out is John James Audubon’s birthday!!! Audubon was a French-American ornithologist who spent much of his life in Pennsylvania (very close to where I grew up in Pennsylvania!!!!), studying birds extensively and creating original drawings of his field observations. How weird………..

See: http://www.audubon.org for more information.


Soon to be in 10 Months!

Ok, it has been nearly a month since I started down this road “in11months” so now we are ticking down to 10 months. At first glance, judging from my blog entries it may appear as though not too much has been done or accomplished. However, I have made a lot of progress on Twitter and have spent an enormous amount of time and energy learning and starting to develop relationships with people that are either in the same boat or are coaches or mentors. I “follow” almost 1000 twitter accounts which is just insane – many people follow tens of thousands. This is like 5-20 new tweets coming in every second. Impossible to keep up with, so I have gotten very good at skimming really fast for something that looks good. Long story short, most of my efforts have been concentrated on Twitter and not so much on this Blog. But I am going to swing that back around now and start laying down the groundwork.

The most important components of my challenge are:

1) Making more money – not asking to be a millionaire, but I am making what I made 11 years ago which, because of inflation, means I am way worse off at 41 then I was at 30. I just got a 2% raise (the highest possible at my company) – inflation will probably run at 5% at least this year. So my standard of living will decrease about another 3% this year. I am worth far more than what I am paid. This was a fantastic job that fell in my lap at the right time when I needed a job – when Jenny and I separated. But even if my salary went up 25% or even 50%, it really wouldn’t matter…I need something else in my life now.

2) I want flexibility. Having already owned a retail store/business for many years I know what it is like to have your own business. The hours are long but they are yours. I need a job where I set my own hours. Right now I get 10 days of vacation – no sick days and no personal days and 5 holidays. I would like to have more time to travel, spend with family and be able to enjoy my many hobbies. Not that I am not willing to work my butt off, but I also need more flexibility and time off. I am also an outdoors person. Being indoors all day for 9 hours sitting down (very unhealthy) in front of an LCD screen just does not float my boat – it borders on torture. Not that I need constant up time either. I like the mix. When I was a professional photographer I had shoots where I was running around outside like a maniac and then the processing stage in front of the computer. It mixed things up nicely.

3) Most importantly, I need to be working on something I am highly passionate about. If you enjoy what you do it isn’t working. I have many passions – to a fault. And this is the crux perhaps of what in11months is all about. It isn’t so much “finding” a passion in my case. It’s picking one and sticking with it. And picking the one that is going to give me the best bang for the buck. Putting all limiting thoughts behind, I think I can be good and successful at any one of them. But I do allow some doses of reality settle in and I do need these reality checks – but without allowing them to be controlling, self-defeating, limiting beliefs.

So in conclusion: A time flexible job, making decent money doing something I love to do! Is it really that hard??? Why is this so seemingly challenging to create for myself?


The Last Breath of a Sleeping White Dragon

Thanks to shows like American Idol and our winner-take-all society, our children, thumbs glued to their Droids and iPods are presumably typing away about their ambitions to be the next Carrie Underwood or Justin Beiber….or even Harry Potter….who knows. Remember when you you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? There were the standard Fireman, Policeman, Dr., Lawyer, Teacher, Actor….and of course Astronaut as answers. Few kids responded Engineer or Software Developer or Mathematician. Ok, I may have left out Marine Biologist in that list. My point is this… Few kids, even when we were kids, admitted to wanting to study lots of Science and Math for their occupation of choice. I venture to say that today that this is more than likely even more true. But there still are plenty of kids that want to be astronauts…I know several, including my son. But, what happens when he finds out that astronaut is no longer a job or career choice??? I find myself reminiscing the glory days of the Space Shuttle. I remember visiting Kennedy Space center as a child. I have witnessed many a launch which never fails to bring tears to my eyes – chills – awe. I don’t think the retirement of the Space Shuttle program is getting the publicity it deserves nor is anyone discussing the consequences its demise may have on our children’s aspirations and dreams. Astronaut is about the only career choice a young child may wish to be “when I grow up” that involves a heavy commitment to science and math. An area where the US is slipping much too quickly in this increasingly competitive world in which we live. We need to invigorate the minds of our children with something more than swag and bling and smart phones and me-ism. I would even venture to say that the death of the Space Shuttle may some day widdle its way into future historians’ parlance when they are discussing the end of the American Era.

A song by Rush that always gave me chills and made me proud to be American:

Lit up with anticipation
We arrive at the launching site
The sky is still dark, nearing dawn
On the Florida coastline

Circling choppers slash the night
With roving searchlight beams
This magic day when super-science
Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams

Floodlit in the hazy distance
The star of this unearthly show
Venting vapours, like the breath
Of a sleeping white dragon

Crackling speakers, voices tense
Resume the final count
All systems check, T minus nine
As the sun and the drama start to mount

The air is charged
A humid, motionless mass
The crowds and the cameras,
The cars full of spectators pass
Excitement so thick you could cut it with a knife
Technology…high, on the leading edge of life

The earth beneath us starts to tremble
With the spreading of a low black cloud
A thunderous roar shakes the air
Like the whole world exploding

Scorching blast of golden fire
As it slowly leaves the ground
Tears away with a mighty force
The air is shattered by the awesome sound

Like a pillar of cloud
The smoke lingers high in the air
In fascination
With the eyes of the world
We stare…

-Niel Peart – Rush



“A New Life”

A new life, what I wouldn’t give
To have a new life
One thing I have learned as I go through life
Nothing is for free along the way

A new start, that’s the thing I need
To give me new heart
Half a chance in life to find a new part
Just a simple role that I can play

A new hope, something to convince me
To renew hope
A new day, bright enough to help me
Find my way


Push Me Off This Cliff Please

I have read so many self-help books and find it pervasive in Positive Psychology and in LOA (The Secret) and  Joel Osteen and Oprah and in so many Blogs that I read: “Get over what you have been told about yourself, the limiting thoughts….ultimately the fear that is holding you back from achieving and ALL of your dreams and everything else will magically fall in place!” What I don’t see much of is how do you actually accomplish this monumental task of getting over your fear. Its kind of like telling someone who is depressed to snap out of it. Or someone that is afraid of the dark to get over it. There has to be a a step-by-step manual to take someone through the “letting go” process which needs to be written by someone that was once scared, took the leap and landed in success or whatever it was that they were after. One thing that I have worked with lately that has stretched my capabilities and helped me to accomplish more has been this simple formula: pain<reward. The pain is less than the reward. This is of particular use for procrastinators like me.

Well, what I am really after is a book that takes the reader step by step through the process of building the confidence and shedding the fear in order to take that giant leap forward – off the cliff if you will  – into the world of fulfilling your wildest dreams. Anyone have any suggestions?


My Munchkin

Had a wonderful time with my Fisher last night. Amazing how fast 2.5 hours can fly by. I haven’t seen him in a while because of the move and then he went to his grandparent’s for 10 days or so but it is still so fascinating to see how much they can change in such a short amount of time. Jenny bought a packet of recent school pictures and they did something with his hair, that combined with the outfit he was wearing, and I swear that my 3 year old looks like he is 8! I am sorry to say, I didn’t even recognize my own child. He just got his hair cut again so he doesn’t have his “Fisher-esque” swag about him right now – he looks so much better with long hair. It reminds me of my dog Dandelion, an Old English Sheepdog, growing up. She had very long hair but since everyone in my family neglected to brush her, she would get matted up and we would have to have her hair shaved to the bone every 6 months or so. I was thoroughly convinced her personality was completely different when she had the short hair. She was so much more “in herself”, she was Dandelion when she had long hair – more swag, more confidence, more persona. Oddly, Fisher calls his short cut his “daddy” cut – but I have medium long hair. I used to have short hair. Anyway, Jenny doesn’t like long hair on men so that is that.

Jenny and I discussed sports programs for Fisher last night because he does demonstrate an extremely high aptitude for sports – seems to take to and like anything involving a ball – not unusual for a boy, but he is highly coordinated. And here is where some discussion about “in11months” begins my friends…

I want Fisher to have at least as fantastic as a childhood that I had but at this point if he has half the privileges I enjoyed I would be happy. I am finding that I can’t afford to send my son to a soccer camp at the YMCA.