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  digitalhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image8621100 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?

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image16068887Over 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.

no man is a failure who has friends

Today my daughter and I were walking out of a store . After we greeted the Salvation Army  bell ringers she turned to me and asked me who they were. I explained to her that many people are homeless or in great need. I assured her that it would never happen to us because of our friends and family (at least I pray it never does). But it got me thinking. Right now as the world continues to tremble under an economic climate not seen for decades and terms like fiscal cliff are in headlines everyday, we should consider how deep our friendships go as well as those we are connected to that are in need. It is one reason Clarences  note at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life really stood out to me this year: “Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! -Love, Clarence.”

Merry Christmas

I also wanted to share a post I wrote two years ago this night called “Ten minutes ten years from now: The angel Clarence & measuring your influence success”. It still resonates with me today. In fact I go back to remind myself from time to time what I wrote there. Here is an excerpt:

“…….Kelly Craft asked a question last week that begins to answer this question. She asked what I would do if I had ten minutes to check in on things ten years into the future.”

continue reading …..

 

 

 

Where they’ve been, where they are & where they’re going

I have been working on this post in my head since before Thanksgiving.  This time of year as we come together with friends, co-workers and family, the stress of the season can really ramp up emotions. Often we don’t see these people for large gaps of time. We may see them every day. What we (and I fully include myself here) easily do is place an image of what the person used to be like, their values, personality, achievements and passions. Worse yet we hang onto their failures. We rarely allow room for what their life is like in the present or the dreams they are going after.

Instead of me writing more I’d like to try something different. My friend Melinda Lancaster shared a picture that summed up so much of this. It was a rare shot of a tree in three stages of season, all at once. Meldina and I marveled over how it was so symbolic of a person’s walk through life. We are all growing, learning, being pruned, failing and succeeding. In many ways, all at the same time. So, take a moment and think of a few people you will interact with at the next party, meeting or around the dinner table. Try and imagine their life as you observe the new buds, turning leaves, bare branches and even new fruit.

Tree in Seasons by http://www.melindalancaster.com/

by Melinda Lancaster www.melindalancaster.com

Icarus Deception and V for Vulnerable Givaway

It has been a while since I did a book giveaway and you will not want to miss this one. Last spring I backed the higher level of Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project for publishing his latest book The Icarus Deception. You can basically call it his challenge to conventional publishing. He believes that it takes a community to successfully sell a book instead of a slick publishing campaign. Seth delivered a whole slew of rewards this past week and I want to give some of it away.

Giving The Icarus Deception away without a call to action just did not seem right. I don’t have a lot but as Theodore Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

So I thought I would share a bit about a group I am volunteering with as a writer. Two weeks ago I joined the Exodus Road as a storyteller. As part of a fleet of bloggers around the world, I will be telling stories about real life raids, those on the ground and many other interesting reports of what The Exodus Road and partners are doing to rescue women and children from sex slavery in SE Asia.

To do these efforts Exodus has to fund brothel raids. These raids require state of the art technology and support for the brave undercover operatives infiltrating locked brothels to rescue the victims. The raid funds will also pay for investigative work to document and prosecute those committing these crimes.

So here is how the giveaway works.

There will only be one person receiving the whole package that includes two copies of Icarus Deception (one to keep and hopefully one you will gift to someone has art the world needs to see), and one copy of V is for Vulnerable, a picture book written by Seth Godin and Illustrated by Hugh MacLeod.

To be entered into the contest all you have to do these two steps.

1. Share the raid funding site on the twitter using a link on Twitter, Facebook, pinterest or Google Plus. Here is the link http://jhnflry.com/12lXKmP

2. Post a comment here and make sure you leave a link where you shared it above.

(some have reported that Disqus comment system has not allowed them to comment. If that happens please send me a note at john at johnbergquist.com and I will post your entry. Make sure the subject in your email is “pick yourself”)

It is up to you whether you donate or not. But just think. What you and your community gives will free someone from slavery. Wow!

So far Exodus has had 348 teams’ Prosecutions to date, 622 victims saved By teams, 15 undercover operatives and 11 organizations supported. Now that is truly incredible.

Thanks and have fun. The contest will end Monday the 17th at midnight (Pacific Standard Time). I will then randomly pick the winner using a great unbiased third party service.  I will announce the winner on Monday the 17th. Also, I will ship free only to the continental US. If you are beyond that I will require payment to offset the cost.

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