Motives Matter

motiveI have been reassessing my motives for connecting lately. I am not saying my motives are out of place, but they easily could be. I am in a time of transition. I have gone from receiving a paycheck to purely contracting. With that comes stress brought on by the need to keep a steady stream of business coming in the door. I am a great connector. I can spread the word easily and find collaborators, partnerships and new customers easily. But closing the deal? That part is a real challenge and honestly one I like to take on with a team. So what does that have to do with motive? A lot.

You see underneath every human connection is a motive. If we honestly take apart the anatomy of a relationship we can start to see the reasons they exist. And many of those reasons are based on a need. Need for friendship because we don’t like being alone, a need to care for others because we like to see them thrive. Looking deeper our motives can be exposed as purely selfish, seeking gratification or promotion.

Are we going to always like what we find out? No, but I do think just beng aware of them can be very helpful in getting us to a place where we think of the other person first. A place that takes the pressure off both parties and frees the connection to really bring fruit to everyone involved.

Here is a simple exercise that I have found helpful. Pause before your next interaction. Before you message someone on twitter, update your status on your favorite social network or hit send on that email you are drafting this morning. Ask yourself these three questions:

-What am I hoping to receive in this relationship?
-What do I have to offer this person or community that will cost me something?
-Have I ever taken advantage of this connection and if so why did I do it?

A really good book that covers this topic really well is John Eldredge’s Utter Relief of Holiness.

The Ransomed Heart Team has offered a very cool deal for you if you want a free download of a live teaching that John Eldredge did on the subject.

The coupon code “HOLY” will give them a 100% discount on the download version. I hope you really enjoy it.

Your Dream Is My Dream

“Your dream is my dream now, and I’ll make it come true.” — Lady Sybil to Gwen in Downton Abbey.

You can read the rest of this post on Huffington Books.

I wrote my latest Huffington Post article starting with that beautiful quote from Downton Abbey with Ryan and Amy Green, Amy Dale, Anthony Vigilate, Nat Iwata and AJ Leon in mind. Now, when do I get to see your dream?

Looking Back On Connections With Timehop

I saw a quote by C.S Lewis last week “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”. This is one reason I try to journal everyday. I like to look back on how things have changed. Sometimes it reminds me of the things that need change.

photoA couple of weeks ago Carissa O’Brien reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts, one that was inspired by a conversation she and I had during the last day of CES 2011 in Las Vegas. She had found it using Timehop, an app for iPhone that pulls your tweets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Flickr posts from exactly one year segments ago.

I was first fascinated by the app because of it’s milestones attributes just like my journals. I often look back to the exact day a year or more ago to see what I was thinking and doing. Many times those entries can be way-points in relationships, my career goals or personal milestones.

As I started to use the app I noticed something even more profound. I was seeing who I connected with most a year ago and more. People come in and out of our lives. Those that we have a deeper connection with stand the tests of time. Often we allow connections to wane because of circumstances and trials. If you were to look back on your connections a year ago, what would you find? Would those milestones reveal flightiness, connections that skim the surface and never result in meaningful content? Or do they reveal true relationships that continue to grow over time?

Preparing For A Digital Fast

I started taking weekly digital fasts about a year and a half ago at the prompting of friend Tiffany Shlain. I have found that to do it well you have to prepare. But first, let me explain a bit about these fasts.

My career centers around digital connectedness. After watching Tiffany’s film Connected, ( now available on iTunes) she and I had a conversation over dinner about  digital addiction, losing touch with the analog world and the impact on our relationships. That day she was in the  middle of one of her weekly fasts she calls digital shabbat.

I remember thinking at the time that it was going to be tough doing one. I had become accustomed to working just about everyday of the week. Being involved in a tech start-up required a lot of work and it seemed to never end. But I was feeling burned out. Monday would roll around after another weekend of mixing family time with sporadic working. I noticed that I was losing my passion when it came to the things I love in my career, connecting with others, tech and communicating. Tiffany urged me to give it a try.

I took the challenge. At first it was a bit strange turning off my phone, ipad, kindle and any type of communication on my Macbook. To be honest I felt a bit panicky.

Wow, maybe I had become addicted to a digital world.  But then the panic subsided and I began to enjoy my day a lot. Now it has become a time I look forward to every week.  Here are a few things I suggest if you plan to take a weekly or monthly fast.

Come Prepared

  • Notify others that you will be unavailable. I made a voice-mail message saying that I would be unavailable from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I send out a simple message “Shutting down for a 24 hour digital fast.” Those closest to me know they can reach me through my home phone or my wife. At first I even had a few people upset that they could not reach me easily for 24 hrs. They soon adjusted.
  • Try to not schedule activities that require you to be on a smartphone or social network. Sometimes this is unavoidable. With a little planning I have found that I have only had to break a fast a few times. Pick a day that makes sense. Takes one on Saturday if it is more convenient.
  • Gather resources that can replace content like ebooks or computer note taking and writing. I keep a few books around specifically for this purpose as well as journals and sketchbooks. I reserve my paper copies of Fast Company and Game Developer to enjoy during the fast.
  • Plan time outside since it is a great time to reconnect with nature without the handy iPhone in hand to distract you from the moment you are trying to enjoy.
  • Encourage your family or those you spend the time with to join you. It can be tough hanging out with others that are glued to devices when you are all analog. I have yet to convince my own family to join me.
  • (Oh, and one last addition. I added this after my latest fast.) Don’t get overwhelmed by the chaos you might come back to after the fast. The world does go on with out you and yes there might be some work that piles up. You will be able to approach it with much more clarity though.

For a great conversation about these fasts I encourage you to listen to Aaron McHugh’s podcast with guest Jon Dale. Jon has some great suggestion for getting your family to join on.

One thing that I also do is not take this too seriously. I will watch a film with my family or even play a video game. Each of us has a different digital lifestyle. Some may need to fast from TV or other types of tech. For me I try to eliminate anything that keeps me from the natural world and the people closest to me. I would love to hear your thoughts if you are doing a weekly fast or are thinking of taking one.

From Brothel To Startup. Nat’s Story

How Nat found herself working in a brothel is much more complicated than she told us during our visit with her. Like most people who fall into prostitution in Asia, many have elements of human trafficking in their stories. A family member may have sold them into the sex trade and even if they chose it on their own, they have to contend with corruption and exploitation at every level as prostitutes. We chatted on a busy street where hundreds of women were tugging at Japanese, Russian, Australian and other men from around the world who had come here to pay for sex. Nat, who is 26, is passionate and determined to make a better life for herself, something that I have not seen so far visiting with other women this week who work the streets and brothels of Asia. Loud music blared from behind the pulled curtains of the brothels as Nat became more comfortable with telling the details of her story in well spoken english.

eyesAs a child she was given a great opportunity to study in international schools and achieved high grades through high school. After graduating she was able to attend a university studying economics. She was close to achieving her dream of becoming a business woman when it all came to a halt. Her father, she explained, likes to spend too much money on his many girlfriends. Because of this he decided to no longer pay for her school. Like all women throughout Asia, there are few choices to earn a living. She had to drop out before her 3rd year.

Also, like many young women, she chose to turn to the sex industry and became a hostess at a popular street brothel frequented by the many foreigners who travel to her city for sex. (A city that depends on sex tourism for a significant percentage of its economy.) But like all the girls here, these facts are just the surface of a much darker tale. She admitted her mamasan often gets angry with her when she refuses to accept a client for sex. Unlike many of the women here she does not seem to have a broken spirit. “I will only go back to a man’s hotel room if I can see in his eyes that he is not a bad man. Plus he has to pay a lot.” She says, with an air of determination and several fist hits into her other hand for emphasis. We asked if men have been violent with her before. She nodded yes with a frown.

After explaining how much it would cost to start her dream business, she went into a detailed plan that covered a strategy for a successful startup that would eventually spread to four other large cities, focusing on the beach resorts for the maximum profit. Eventually she hopes it will even spread overseas. Her direct and smart entrepreneurial demeanor and sharp business savviness easily matched many I have encountered in the startup culture in the US. She had a plan and it sounded like it could work.

Nat has been working in the brothel for 4 years, and says she has seen girls work the streets that are underage. She says it makes her very sad. Who knows what else she has witnessed. It is common to cater to whatever the client wants. That often includes very young boys and girls.

While she has had a few boyfriends, she is not currently involved with a man, saying she is waiting to find someone who will treat her right. She jokes that her last boyfriend never payed attention, playing Angry Birds instead of spending time with her. She swipes an imaginary screen mimicking him flinging birds at pigs, and then laughs with a shrug.

I asked her if she has saved enough to start her business. She says yes with several nods to indicate she really does. I asked her why she has not quit to start it. She smiles and does not answer and then glances around to see if someone is listening. Throughout our conversation, a man with a radio occasionally comes over and moves stools around in a strange territory establishing effort, and then leaves. Her mamasan also comes in and out of the conversation asking if we want to go inside.

Many prostitutes have to work off a type of indentured debt, one that is often impossible to pay off. Others are able to earn a sizable savings and retire back to their village or like Nat start something completely new. But a grimmer reality is apparent in all the women working in brothels like hers. Scars are common, reminders left over from rough customers. Many of the women show signs of kidney disease and other related illnesses as a result of the hard lifestyle. Many work 7 days a week, with Christmas and New Years off.

Nat never explained why she has not started her dream business yet. Something tells me she will though. As we say goodbye a real connection seemed to have silenced her isolation through our conversation, for a brief time. Maybe it had reminded her of her dream. And maybe she will take that move and choose a different life before it is too late.

I traveled this month with a group called The Exodus Road whose mission it is to rescue children from sex trafficking with a major focus centering in Asia. You can read about my experience on my Huffington Post page as well as stories here on the blog.

Where are the signs?

As I landed in Asia after a nearly 24 hour flight from the United States earlier this week I could only think of one thing. Where are the sex signs? I had been invited to travel with a group called The Exodus Road whose mission it is to rescue children from sex trafficking with a major focus centering in Asia.

brothelWhen you arrive at the Las Vegas International Airport it is obvious that no one is hiding the fact that sex sells and Vegas has plenty to offer. Amsterdam is similar. Landing at the airports in major cities in SE Asia in countries like Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam a traveler can be totally unaware of a dark secret sometimes operating in the very hotel they will soon be staying in. They would have a hard time knowing that there is a shiny veneer covering a thriving sex industry. And beyond that veneer is the darkest of all, the trafficking of children for sex.

What is it about these cultures that keep such a secret discrete even in the face of international pressures to address the issue? While the awareness of this crime has entered the world stage through the efforts of NGO’s and government campaigns, sex tourism still stands as a major economic giant. Most of these countries have passed legislation outlawing human trafficking, Myanmar joining them as late as 2005.

According to the International Labor Organization 4 Asian countries depend on the sex industry for 2% to as high as 14% of their economies. UNICEF reports in The State of the Worlds Children 2012, that out of the 2.5 million people trafficked in the world it is estimated that 22 – 50 percent of them are children. Of those trafficked some studies show that most trafficked underage women are used in the sex industry. The UNODC’s report: Global report on trafficking in persons 2012 states that much of that activity happens in SE Asia.

So the question remains if these societies will be able to continue hiding those realities. The world is starting to wake up to the facts. No longer is it only the pedophile who knows about the dark profitable places to seek out a child. Just this past week at a major gathering of college christian students called Passion, 60,000 students pledged to help end human trafficking. Coalitions are being formed all the time and groups are beginning to work together from the aggravating work of finding these victims to prosecuting their handlers. Facades can only mask so long what seems to embarrass a culture of honor.

I remember flying into Beijing for the first time right before the commencement of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The government went to great lengths to position everything from signs, reducing traffic induced smoggy skies, and other details to whitewash anything but the best of the city and surrounding scenery. Returning this last summer though, many of these measures had been removed. The city was still a symbol of power, but a truer Beijing was now visible, even with its least pleasant characteristics.

If these less honorable, and even worse, criminal activities against children become known stories then there will be a reduction in the places for them to hide and carry out the activity. Over the next week, as I travel throughout the region, I will be publishing first hand accounts of the people I meet. Some will be industry workers who have witnessed underage trafficking. Others will be investigators, case managers and aftercare professionals from various coalitions. I hope that their lives begin to paint yet another picture of the greater story being told by many, one that is creating an army of people who will not look the other way, one that finds honor only in dignity for all humans beings. While many people have said wise things in regards to slavery, these words from William Wilberforce’s quote in his address to the British Parliament in 1789 stand hauntingly appropriate for our world today. “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

A Week With The Exodus Road In Images

Since Wed, Jan 5th I have been reporting from the field along with another blogger in Asia. We have been conducting interviews, visiting brothel areas of major tourist hotspots, and getting a front row seat as The Exodus Road connects with their undercover operatives and coalition partners throughout the region. Here is a slideshow to just give you a preview of the stories I will tell in more detail when they are published. Please let me know if you have any questions about the experience.

Isolation to freedom: my upcoming trip to SE Asia

To be cut off from your family and friends and thrown into complete isolation. Having your only human connection be with those who mistreat, abuse and exploit you for ill gain. There is nothing more dehumanizing than slavery.

girlI have always been passionate about human rights. As a writer, storyteller and artist I could not have scripted how my career would have ever translated into something like this. But it has. Next Wednesday I board a flight headed to Southeast Asia for a week with The Exodus Road. I am one of two writers who are part of a greater network of 67 bloggers telling the stories that come out of SE Asia where The Exodus Road is part of 10 groups working to free women and children, shut down brothels, prosecute those involved and provide the victims successful after care. It is both an intimidating and honorable opportunity to tell the story of these brave individuals as well as the victims that they serve. I can’t think of anything that is more isolating for a person than to be in slavery. When we become isolated we lose connection with our world and the world loses out onundercover all the art one precious life has to offer.

So I plan to tell their stories with everything I have and I invite you to join me. I will be posting primarily on the Huffington Post Impact site daily throughout the trip as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I will add a few more personal posts as stories arise.

redI encourage you to follow along by reading the Huffington posts, viewing my instagram pictures, as well as some planned special content via twitter. Please leave comments and share. These stories need to be told and I can only do that with your help. Your connectedness will help end someone’s isolation and slavery.

Will You Be Missed?: Icarus Deception Book Review

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have a few authors, some alive and some long gone, that have greatly influenced my life and work. One of them is Seth Godin. While all his books have resonated with me there are a few that have just stopped me in my tracks. Linchpin was one. I think I have given nearly 20 or more copies away to people all over the world . I changed my whole career after reading a sentence in his book Tribes. I refer back to Purple Cow every time I ship something new from a video game to a non-profit fundraising campaign.

So when Godin launched his Kickstarter to publish his latest book, The Icarus Deception, I partly thought “there is no way he could top what he has already written.” I was wrong. Very wrong. As a backer I received Icarus earlier in December.

I was pleasantly surprised by the main theme of the book. Seth outlines a major shift that is happening right now. We are experiencing a time in history where the connection economy is replacing the industrial economy. Connections trump all other influence.  Icarus, describes this new world where artists thrive and those willing to be vulnerable and share, change the world. Truly I could write a long review here but, I would suggest watching the official trailer instead, Brent Underwood shared with me. What you see in it gives you an accurate preview of what you will find within its binding.

As I have given these copies away I have noticed something remarkable. Each recipient has expressed what I can only describe as epiphany. They are photographers, filmmakers, non-profit evangelists, writers and other world changers. Beyond that I am excited to see where those epiphanies take them next.

If you are near Portland, Oregon I also want to invite you to the first Icarus Session Jan 2nd at 2pm. I chose to start my own in the burbs (Newberg, OR) since the Portland one has grown pretty large. You can find the details here on the meetup site.

Are you failing? the years of connectedness I have made friends with many entrepreneurs and enjoyed the services and products of their startups, films, gadgets and writings. Some of those startups are now thriving businesses or part of larger companies through buy-outs. Some, did not make it.

Yesterday I was doing some end of the year house cleaning on the blog. One thing I had put off was fixing all the broken links that have inevitably show up after writing for 5 years (by the way here is a great tutorial showing how I did that). What I did not expect was to be reminded of those great ideas that just did not make it. Tools like Forecast or Whrrl had gone by the wayside. There were more but these two seemed to sting the most since they were ones I really enjoyed.

I am glad they tried though. I also know the great folks behind them will not stop trying.

I had a great conversation yesterday with a good friend about failure. A trusted mentor had told him recently that if he was not failing at least a couple times a month his business was just not experimenting, risking or trying hard enough.

So, are you failing?

I look forward to trying your beta app, your cool new Kickstarter gadget or reading that blog you have always wanted to start.

Go ahead and leave a link telling me what you are risking to start. I can’t wait to see them. Better yet add it too my open list I created here.

Oh, and for a bonus, Johnny Leckie wrote a really good post last night on a similar topic. Check it out.

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