LinkedIn got it right

It takes a lot to catch my attention through email. LinkedIn did it this week, and they did it well. They did a brilliant job in perking my interest in both my closest connections and their recent stories. As a professional networking site, most of us see it as an interactive resume. Users barely log in more than once a week or even once a month. On Wednesday I got a message that displayed a shot of several of my closest connections that have either changed jobs, started something new, or were promoted. During a time when bad news seems to be everywhere, LinkedIn got my attention by showing me something remarkably hopeful. Not stopping there, they made sure somehow that most of these people are more than just business connections. Each face in the picture comes with a great story.

I have posted recently on friends seeking jobs. I have created a twitter list honoring those who have left mediocre jobs to venture out into something new. I love stories about linchpins changing the world. Linkedin tapped right into that for me, and they even got me to click through “to find out more”.

The hard things that count

Recently three types of events have been more frequent than I like within my community: funerals, layoffs, and health issues. These are all issues our friends experience, and our response is critical. When I was younger, I avoided conversations with someone struggling or grieving. I felt helpless. However, as I mature, these events become more common in my circle of friends. So something has changed for me in the last decade. I feel more comfortable with …..the uncomfortable. I know the person in the difficult situation benefits when I navigate situations like these with discernment and sensitivity. Some are seeking a listening ear. Others are hoping for advice to move forward. Sometimes they just want someone around. Really it can be as simple as knowing someone actually cares. A packed room at a funeral shows the family and friends left behind that their loved one mattered to the tribe. Layoffs become an opportunity rather than bad news. Injuries and aging are easier to handle when we know we are not alone. These can only happen if we are intentional. When we resist avoidance and engage with someone who is hurting, we lighten his or her grief.

For more on a similar topic, listening well, see my Three Part Series on Listening.

The connector recharged

Humans are made to connect with each other. This is true no matter where you fall on the spectrum between introvert to extrovert . In order to do that well we have to have something to offer. No matter who you are, getting away allows refueling by both reflection and freedom to recharge.

I fall high on the scale toward extrovert but I find that I need solitude just as much as anyone else. Without it I lose both the desire and ability to build and deepen relationships.

This weekend I was together with close friends on an annual camping trip. For many of us it is the only chance we get to regroup and learn about each others lives. We all have kids now so most of the day is spent around activities like hiking, biking, swimming and such. The evenings, after smores and bedtime stories, are spent together gazing into the fire. This trip on one of the nights I ended up being the last one up. As I stared into the glowing embers of the fire now reduced to a pile of red hot coals, I realized that I often end up doing this alone on purpose. 11 - 1I love the reconnecting and storytelling that happens with all the friends but often the two to three days of constant interaction drains my reserves. The trip is really a connectors dream setting. Several good friends brought together for a few days in close contact is a precious time for me. But in order to offer who I am, I need to go back to a place of solitude. Mini retreats like this are essential for everyone. Some of us need it more of it than others. Seasonally I try to get away for an extended version. Call it a modern day example of what the desert fathers did in Christian tradition. I get away for one or two full days where I try to leave behind all technology and spend time hearing God and letting all the world’s bagage fall off my shoulders.

I always come back, whether it is an hour or a couple of days, refreshed and ready to continue connecting and contributing to the relationships in my life. I am able to offer a clearer perspective. How many of us though are spent, running on fumes in every interaction with have with others. People need us to have something to offer, something to give away. We only can when we refill our reserves.

You have time to read

An entrepreneur starting a new business was asking for advice on specific connecting tools this week. I gave him a few tips. Ultimately though, I told him there were a few books that would supply him with everything he needed to know. Plus they would cover the topic in greater detail. His reply was a simple “I don’t have time to read”. Really, I asked? Not even an audio book while you travel?

Reading keeps us sharp and helps us stay constant students not only of our own trade but the world around us. On average in the US Adults spend 2.73 hrs a day watching TV and an average of 23 minutes commuting to and from work*. Those are just a few segments of time that could be used. Books are available in many forms making it easy for the busy person on the go. I am currently reading three books with my kindle account on three devices that sync between each other. I can grab a section on my MacBook Pro, pick it back up on my Droid X sitting in a doctor’s office and then continue at the same spot as I settle into bed with my iPad. Some ebooks can even read to you while you commute (including two my company developed) and others can also be synced through your favorite audio program like iTunes, Spotify or Google Music.

If you tell me you are too busy to read I will tell you that you wrong. You are missing out on valuable information to help you not stagnate in an ever changing business world. Most of all though, you are missing all the benefits that a good book offers. Peace, perspective and a stimulated mind. If you still feel you don’t have time, my friend Tara can point out all the time you don’t know you actually have.

*figures based on US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gallup poll.

Dinner: It is more than a meal

I dine out a lot. I was raised by restauranteurs, and as we travelled we always enjoyed exploring new eateries. Dinning can be the connectors best tool. Because I travel a lot I try to do two things: leave time to explore where I am going and always make meetings over a good meal. This past week is a great example. My friend and business colleague Oliver Glenn (who is a Senior Account Manager at Openfeint.com┬áNow with GREE) invited Chris Skaggs and I to dinner before the Open Feint VIP party at Casual Connect, a gaming conference. Oliver had picked a great local restaurant featuring a unique and delicious menu. Our time at The Wild Ginger was filled not only with business dealings, but also with catching up on each others lives and just enjoying the company. So much happens over the course of a meal. You learn about your companion’s tastes and interests. I have learned that dinner is much more a meal.

Lastly, you never know what eating out might offer. I have had the surprise of dinning next to Elton John, and meeting new friends, like the greeter at San Diego Gas lamp districts Analog Restaurant and Bar. While at dinner with Oliver, we noticed Kenny G was enjoying a party with friends a few tables over. So don’t settle for fast food and dull dinning. Mix it up, from elegant dining to awesome street vendor. Dinning out, especially while travelling, can be one of the connectors most valuable tools.

For reference I am trying to post on my favorite haunts on Yelp. It is far form complete but hopefully will be soon. I hope it is helpful.

A good read as well is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

You are a reject

Here is an idea. Keep a file folder for the rejection letters you receive. It could be from a love interest or a college application. Want an easy source? Start applying to some dream jobs. Most will reply back.

We know so little about our future. Yes, you may have solid goals and dreams. They will take different shape as they become realized. Something we “have to have” at the time will one day point the direction to the path we ultimately take.

Then one day five or ten years from now open the folder up. As you read through them think of all the turns, changes and redirects you took to get to where you find yourself. The journey and story that will unfold will be fascinating. I bet you got there not because someone picked you (maybe one or two did). Ultimately you will reach your goals because you picked yourself.

Follow people

Does it really make sense to categorize people? Whether it is Google Circles, Facebook or Twitter lists, they have been used effectively by people for years now. Yes circles are somewhat different but really they are ways to categorize who we follow and read. One particular post on G+ and it’s resulting conversation caught my attention. Chris Guillebeau said he only had one circle called “Awesome People” which got me thinking. I follow people not subjects. Yes I focus on company culture, game and app development, technology, writers and publishing, business acumen and communication. What I have found is that I really am more interested in connecting with people and while they may show up on my radar because we share similar interests I am actually compelled to follow them because of the complexity of their interesting lives. In the past I have tried to categorize them into subsets but I finally resulted in a list like Chris’. You see it comes down to this, I like people. Whether they know it or not, all people are marvelously complex and interesting.

Brevity and connection

Twitter taught me how to get a point across in 110 characters of text. Many of us noticed our writing improve on blogs and in books. Another benefit was the ability to know quickly if you were someone I wanted to connect with. In the short descriptions on a good twitter profile I knew who you were, what you did and where you did it. Better yet I had a link to find out more.

As people add me to circles on Google + I am noticing a common occurrence. Just like twitter, Google Profiles are where I quickly assess whether I want to add you to a circle or not. Several profiles read like resumes or worse they are just one solid block of five hundred words or more. Most of all they are boring.

The profiles that catch my attention are short, creative and utilize all the tools that Google has offered including the photos banner. And like twitter, really your profile is as good as your last post.

Like the subject of this post I am keeping it brief. Please feel free to comment, disagree or share your own profile insights.

If we are not connected on Google + you can find me at http://gplus.to/johnflurry. See you there.

Two worlds of the web

Two worlds today exist today on the web. One of trolls who bait others into flame wars and one of active thriving conversation and community. A few months back I shared a post with a good friend. We have an ongoing conversation about web communications. He is a successful business consultant and like most executives participate in a healthy balance of value questioning and actual participation in social online communication. Most of our conversations come down to one simple rule; good practices of communication and relationship work offline as well as online. One observation of his continues to dig at me. As he read through the comments on my blog he pointed out obvious civility, thoughtfulness and intelligence of the community. To be honest I had never thought of it before. So what was the differences he noticed? Yes I would love to think I attract the smartest and civil people. I think he uncovered something more though. It is a result of two worlds of the web.

As I thought about it more I realized that because of my web habits I often never see the other world where web trolls entice arguments and sometimes even worse as in the case of Mitchell Henderson (see NYT article on Trolls and Henderson’s death). I mostly read a collection of blogs and articles related to my interests and profession with an occasional news article. I rarely enter into any conversation in a comment section where anything but civil arguments are being conducted. You can easily find these darker conversations though. Look up any comment section in a local online newspaper. A recent article written in Kotaku.com about a conference I helped coordinate now has over a thousand comments, most just a volley game between trolls in a flame war completely off the article’s topic.

Whenever I see these darker conversations occur I have an instinct to jump in a set things straight. I have found the best practice is to take what I can from the original content and go back to the places that have valuable conversations. Luckily I have more than enough of the good. You see it comes down to where you look and choose to hang out. By the way, thanks for making me look good and contributing the one side of the web that adds value. I think I will hang out with you instead of the trolls.

Giving Pause in Google + (or anywhere)

While doing research writing policies for my former employer, I ran across Intel’s social media policy. To this day the one line that still sticks with me is “if it gives you pause, pause” meaning that if anything makes you stop and think maybe it should not be shared on the web or wise counsel should be sought before doing so. This past week Google + surprised me with a notice when I began to share a friend’s post. The box appeared when I clicked share reminding me that it had originally been intended for a limited audience and asking me if I really wanted to do that.

I loved the reminder. All of us could use a pause button. To this day my post on filtering your tweets is still one of my most read entries. We make mistakes, are impulsive and even at our best often lack judgement. We let things slip that should not be said. We say things to people we quickly regret. Is it so bad to have filters and checkpoints? Google found it worthy enough to include it in their sharing methods.

My grandfather told me once that I should pause before saying anything and roll it around my head first. He said that trying it on first will help to say something more meaningful. As we have increasing ways to broadcast ourselves, pause is more valuable than we may realize.

Join me on google plus. If you don;t have an account I have plenty of invites. Send me your gmail account name on my contact form.

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