One year of CrossFit. What’s next?

About one year ago, I decided to do something about my fitness and joined my local CrossFit gym.

Since then, I have checked in to workout 168 times. That means I burned around 100,000 calories. In this process, I have turned exercise into part of my routine, and I can honestly say I’m no longer sedentary. When filling out forms, I now check the “yes” box under the question Do you exercise regularly?

CrossFit worked for me for a number of reasons: Continue reading “One year of CrossFit. What’s next?”

100 podcast episodes on “Project Management for the Masses”

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve gone to a conference or seminar and learn great ideas, you had good intentions, but you didn’t get the breakthrough results? Have you ever gone to training and learn new knowledge but that knowledge didn’t increase your performance? Have you ever set big goals and fell short or […]

via Episode 100: Self-Leadership — Project Management for the Masses

So You Want to be a Happiness Engineer, Huh?

Here’s an amazing post by my coworker Sandy on becoming a Happiness Engineer at Automattic. Thanks Sandy for this awesome resource.

Sandy McFadden

Since joining Automattic (and to the annoyance of some people, I’m sure) I tend to go on about how much I enjoy my job and the company itself. I’ve often been asked what it takes and what you need to know to get the job. Especially since I called people to join me in my last post, I thought I would put together my thoughts and some resources which I can point people to or they can hopefully find through searching online as well.

I’m going to go a bit further and not only talk about what you need to do to get the job, but what I think you need to be successful in the Happiness Engineer role at Automattic. Please note that there are a lot of points here and you don’t have to be an expert in all of them to apply, but having a good understanding…

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I’m Not Giving Up Anything for Lent

Lent is a season associated with sacrifice, penance, and introspection.

Many people, both religious and not, have the habit of “giving something up” for lent.  I believe the original intent was to emphasize sacrifice, but over the years it just became equal to “I’ll just do this other delicious thing instead.” I have been guilty of this in the past.

This year I’m deciding to look at it from another angle.

I’m not giving anything up for lent. I’m not saying “no” to a few things. Instead, I’m saying “yes” to a few other things.

And when we say “yes” to something, it typically means you’ll have to say “no” to something else.

But the “no” in this case is just a secondary effect. It’s not the end in itself, but a byproduct of another, more fundamental end.

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This lent I’m saying yes to being more intentional and more focused on what matters.

This lent I’m saying yes to being more intense about what’s in front of me.

This lent I’m saying yes to modeling better behaviour for my family.

How am I going to do that?

Well, I am planning on saying “no” to two things.

socialmedia

Social Media

Social media is a major time suck for me. I loooooooove social media. I love to know people’s opinions on things, I love posting funny things I come up with, and I love the banter with my friends and strangers.

But it adds very little to my life. It does not help me much in the areas I want to be better at this year.

So I’m going to stop engaging in social media for 40 days.

I started today and immediately saw a jump in my productivity and focus. I’m looking forward to using the extra mental bandwidth for things that matter more to me.

If you’d like to stay connected with me during this time, click on the sidebar to follow my blog, and comment on my posts.  I’ll be checking it 🙂

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Gadgets

I have to admit I’m addicted to my iPhone. When there’s any sort of break in my day, the impulse is to pull it out and check stuff.

I’m not giving up my phone for lent, but I am going to stop using when my children are with me.

I don’t want to be that father whose kids are going about their lives around him while he is sucked into his little gadget.

After 10 years of parenthood, I have realized that kids learn from observing behaviour. I want my kids to not be addicted to gadgets, and then they see me buried in my phone, they learn that that’s how life is, and that it’s OK to be constantly checked out from real life.

So, unless I need the phone to play some silly music for us to have a dance party, the phone is going to be put away.

So those are my plans for lent!

How about you? Are are you doing anything differently this lent?

 

What’s an Automattician’s day like?

It’s been over a year now since I started working at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and a bunch of other awesome products.

While at first it was a big adjustment to work from home and have so much freedom, I’m now 100% used to it and loving it even more.

I get a lot of questions about what it is like to work there, what it is like to work from home, and also what it is like to make my own work schedule.

So here’s a little post in which I describe a typical day of work for me.  Let me know if you have any questions by adding a comment below!

5AM: I wake up and spend some time alone before the kids wake up. I do some reading, praying, and meditating. This is especially important this year, when I’m trying to focus more on my interior life.

6AM: I go to my “cloffice” and start my day by connecting with WordPress.com users via live chat. This is always exciting, as I never know the questions I’ll get, or what issues our users are facing.

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The Cloffice: The guest room closet that we converted into an office.

 

8AM: Coffee and breakfast with my family.

8:30AM: Back to live chat, catching up on e-mail, and multitasking a bit, now that I’ve had some coffee!

11:30AM: Break to go to the gym, eat some lunch, and shower 🙂

1:30PM: At this point, sometimes I choose to go to a coffee shop to continue my workday. I then reply to some more messages, and work on different projects.

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2:30PM: A 30-minute chat with a co-worker. We are encouraged to do this and have work “buddies” who can help us and be helped as we navigate the excitement and challenges of remote work.  I always enjoy these calls.

3PM: If I’m home, I take a short coffee break and enjoy a few moments with my wife.

3:30PM: Back to the computer! I now check on our team goals, projects, and commitments and see whether we are moving at a healthy pace to reach our weekly goals.

4PM: Answer some more customer emails, follow-up on anything that needs attention before the end of the day.

5PM: Close the computer and end my work day.

This is a pretty typical day for me.

One of the neatest parts of my day is life’s little “interruptions.” Let me explain: Because we homeschool, my awesome wife Amy and our kids are home all day. I have an open-door policy, so they can always come in and give me a hug or tell me something they want to share – even if I’m working. Apart from the few times when I’m on an important call, these little interruptions do not distract me from what I’m doing.  In fact, they remind me of why I work in the first place.

Automattic is a great company to work for, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on something meaningful, while at the same time witnessing my family life from a front-row seat.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Oh, and by the way, we are hiring.

What classic book should I read this year?

Please help!

I did not grow up in North America, and as a result, I have not read many of the classics books that everyone around me has read.

As part of my goals for 2017, I want to read a bunch of books, so I decided to read some of these.

Please help me pick the ones I absolutely must read:

Actually, 2016 Was Pretty Awesome

sgt-pepper-2016I’m sure you’ve seen a friend or two talk about 2016 as a terrible year. So many celebrities dead, so many wars, so many undesirable people elected to office, etc.

Well, I disagree.

While I respect people’s feelings, the world has always been a difficult place, and things don’t go the way we would like to all the time. Celebrities and non-celebrities die every day. Wars have always happened. Idiots are elected to office every year.

We all lived the same 2016. Yet for me (and for a few reluctant friends who dared to share their thoughts in social media) this was one of the best years of my life.

I think the secret to always having a good year is to

  1. Understand what is and what isn’t under your control, and
  2. For what is under your control, have a deliberate plan so things turn out the way you want them to.

If you think 2016 was a terrible year, I’ll risk a guess that you either are

  1. Letting things that are not under your control affect too much of your life, or
  2. Not being deliberate and planning how to tackle the things that are under your control.

The folks I quoted above are the people behind becomeablogger.com and Social Media Examiner. Leslie Samuel and Michael Stelzner are incredibly successful guys who really understand what I’m trying to explain in this post.

What we can’t control

About the things that are not under my control, like the bummer of losing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in the span of 24 hours, there’s not much I can do. In this particular case, I may watch A New Hope and Singin’ in the Rain one more time and say a prayer for their souls and for the family they left behind. I may also choose to celebrate the positive effect their work has had in my life and watch one of their movies with my kids.

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Carrie Fisher and mom Debbie Reynolds

But in the end, bad things happen. They always do. If we can’t find a way to cope and have a strategy to deal with them, we are going to have a hard time in life.

We shouldn’t let our happiness be a direct result of these out-of-our-control events. Happiness needs to be more proactive, and less reactive.

What we can control

I’m a huge believer of setting goals for oneself. I’ve written in the past about having SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) as a way to turn their achievement more realistic. That is a great way to come up with a few items for the short/long term which you can have some control over.

intention

This past year of 2016, instead of specific goals, I decided to focus on three areas of my life, and chose three key words to define what I would work on: service, simplicity, and strength. I opened the year by writing this post which delineated how I planned on attacking these areas.

Now, 365 days behind me, I see that I made good progress in all these three areas.  Here’s what happened:

Service

2016 was a year that I made a decision to be more available to help others. Though I still have a long way to go in this area, I think I did better than previous years. I helped friends move furniture, volunteered to teach the marriage preparation course at our local church, helped my dad with his business quite a few times, created a new website for our parish on WordPress.com, cooked a couple of dinners for my family (!), volunteered to teach an introduction to WordPress course at our homeschooling co-op group, and a few other things.

There’s much more to do here. But a year ago I decided to make some gains in this area, and I did.

Simplicity

As a result of working from home and needing only my laptop to do my job, I decided to get rid of things this year.

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At first I started weighing all the items that I would donate or sell, with the intent of tallying it all up at the end of the year. That didn’t quite happen, because we were donating and selling so much that it became a nuisance to weigh everything as it left the house.

I’ve also decided to wear simpler clothes on work days, which meant I wore a whole lot of WordPress swag, making my choice on what to put on every morning a lot simpler.

2016 was a simpler year for me. I carried less weight with me, spent more quality time with my family, and did more with less. Just like I had planned it would be. Win 🙂

Strength

Besides the occasional jog throughout spring and summer, I joined the local CrossFit gym in October and since then have been working out 3-4 days a week.

I have never been in better shape. I feel younger, stronger, and healthier. I can run 5Ks faster than ever. In just 3 months, my thighs have grown from a circumference of 20 to 23 inches!

It’s hard work, but it is something I decided last year that I needed to do to be stronger.

Here’s me deadlifting 335 pounds last week:

Needless to say I have increase my strength, like I had planned I would one year ago.

Life is what you make of it

In short, your life is a collection of events, some that happen to you, and some that you make happen.

If you learn to cope with what happens to you, and start planning and executing on what you want to make happen, 2017 will likely be your best year ever, just like 2016 was for me.

Stay tuned as I will share what my three words for 2017 will be in a few days.

What will your 3 words be for 2017?

Introducing VR and 360° Content for All WordPress.com Sites

The WordPress.com Blog

Virtual Reality is coming to WordPress.com! As of today, you can create and publish your own VR content on any WordPress.com site, starting with 360° photos and 360° videos (beta), and you can view regular photos and panoramas in VR. Our goal is to make publishing VR content as simple as publishing text or photos to the web — just add VR content to your site and anyone with a web browser can instantly enjoy it.

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Progress?

I now see this underlying idea that there’s an absolutely obvious progressive path humanity must take, and we are either on or off it. 

But where are we supposed to be going? 

Who decides?

Truth is, progress is relative. It depends on where you want to go. 

If you believe you are going in the wrong direction, the most progressive move is to turn back. 

I think progress can only be defined in relation to a destination. Progress in and of itself is meaningless. We progress toward something. The something is what it’s important. 

In that sense, if we know where we want to go and take proactive steps in that direction, we are progressives. 

The world is not so much divided into left and right, stupid and bright, good and evil. 

Instead, we are mostly divided in what we think we should be doing. It’s a division based on our goals, not on the goodness of our motives. We disagree on the next step in front of us because we ultimately disagree on the final destination. That’s it. 

Where are you going? 

Community Recap: Automattic’s Worldwide WordPress 5K

Can you find me in that picture?

The WordPress.com Blog

From September 19 to September 26, we invited members of the WordPress community to join us in one of our favorite yearly traditions: the Automattic Worldwide WordPress 5K (open to runners, walkers, cyclists, and hikers — and any other type of ambulation). Here are some of the stories and photos people shared from their corner of the world.

Live from Whistler

Our company is distributed, with Automatticians currently based in more than 50 countries. But once a year, we meet for a week to work and socialize in person — and we always set aside some time to run together, too.

Automatticians preparing for their 5K in Whistler, Canada. Automatticians preparing for their 5K in Whistler, Canada.

This year, our Grand Meetup took place in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. And on the morning of September 19, a few dozen of us braved the chilly early-morning weather for a 5K in the lush mountain landscape. If this…

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Surf’s Up

 

 

The business world is changing. It seems I’m riding the wave. High.

I’ve just come home from my company’s yearly retreat or, as we call it, the Grand Meetup. I have so many thoughts it’s been hard to come up with a coherent post to put it all together.

Automattic is a company known for creating WordPress.com, and it is now famous for reinventing the workplace.

All of our 500 employees are distributed – this means that Automattic does not have a central office where employees go to work. We can work from wherever we want, and as a result, we have automatticians (how we refer to ourselves) living in 50 different countries.

Many companies have tried the “work from home” approach, but it seems like Automattic is one of the few which have made it work. In 2016, when we are tethered to our smartphones and communicate with people around the world instantly, figuring out a way to make remote work a viable reality is a huge deal.

In an effort to promote relationships and collaboration, every year the company organizes the Grand Meetup (GM). The GM is a week-long get together where we are encouraged to get to know each other and collaborate on projects, learn new skills, and cross-pollinate ideas across virtual silos.

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467 Automatticians at the 2016 Grand Meetup in Whistler, British Columbia

To do that, Automattic tries to create environments for employees to meet each other in different contexts.

Here are some of the things we did this past week:

  • Flashtalks: each employee did a 4-minute presentation on a topic of their choosing. Some of these talks were funny, others educational, and some just plain silly. There was a Spanish automattician who showed us images of his home renovation. I learned about the wines of Portugal. I shed a tear when someone presented the life lessons he’d learned from his dog. It was fascinating, and I learned a lot about the people presenting.
  • Projects: in the weeks leading up to the GM, we suggested mini projects to be worked on during the meetup. These projects included improvements to our product, a new internal tool to make our jobs easier, the creation of a new app, and many others.
  • Classes: we could also choose one of a number of classes to take.
  • Meals: we went out to dinner in Whistler Village in groups of four. The dinners were all pre-arranged by the organizers, and they made sure we were dining with employees we had not yet met.
  • Town halls: we had several town hall-styled meetings in which we could ask questions of our CEO Matt Mullenweg and other leaders within the company. It was great to see how people communicate- discussions were open and frank.
  • Fun activities: we went hiking, zip-lining through the mountains, mountain biking, running…. We also sang karaoke, swing danced, played with virtual reality, played board games, showed off our talents during an “open mic” session, etc. It was really cool to see my coworkers in these unusual situations.

There was a lot more, including an epic closing party with live music performed by automatticians themselves.

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The saxophone player is Automattic’s CEO, Matt Mullenweg

My Takeaways

So, where do I start?

Automatticians are a special bunch.

During this week, we took over two big hotels in the heart of Whistler Village, and had access to an open bar for the entire duration of our stay.

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What the hotel lobby looked like for about 7 days. These are all automatticians.

I saw people having fun responsibly, being respectful to each other and to hotel staff.  I also saw countless examples of people helping each other.

Another amazing example of the spirit of my coworkers was when we all got together for a couple of hours to do actual work.  We noticed that the support ticket queue was really backed up, so we spontaneously organized to work and get the queue under control.

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Coworking to keep the plates spinning 🙂

I’ve never been part of an institution in which everyone is so happy to be in it.

What’s the secret? I think it’s a combination of factors.

First, Automattic produces services and products that are awesome. The company’s motto is to democratize publishing by making it available to everyone around the world. We all feel like we are making a difference.

Then there’s the culture. There’s a shared sense of responsibility. Though we are often in t-shirts and funny hats, there’s a feeling of being around grownups. I don’t mean “grownups” in a sense of having a diversified portfolio and owning a lawnmower, but in the sense that we are all responsible for our future and for the future of the company; that we have a job to do, and that it is important.

Complainers are scarce. Whiners non-existent.

The result is a group of socially aware, smart, attentive people who do the right thing, efficiently, and with panache.

And finally there’s the company itself.

I mentioned at the beginning that Automattic is redefining work. As a result, we are doing things in ways that nobody else is.

The upside is that we are leading the corporate world in how to tackle work in the 21st century.

The downside is that we have to make it up as we go. There are no consultants we can hire, no books we can read, no seminars we can take to learn how to do what we do, or what to do next.

As we discussed our products, how we work, and what to do next, we found ourselves often baffled by the unknown. The problems we have don’t yet have solutions. So it’s up to us to iterate and find the best way forward.

As I pondered how Automattic works, I kept remembering a scene from an old Disney cartoon called Saludos Amigos.

In that scene, Donald Duck is riding a llama in Bolívia, going across a suspension bridge. After a few mishaps, they find themselves standing on just a few boards, hundreds of feet up in the air. As the llama starts to walk forward, Donald grabs the last board and moves it to the front, so the llama has something to stand on. He then repeats that process, so the llama keeps walking forward:

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Why did I keep thinking of that?

Because at Automattic, we are at the forefront of work. We are doing things that have never been done, in ways that have never been tried.

We create the path we walk on.

We are riding the wave, but as we look around, we can see that it is because of our disturbance that the ocean is waving.

Automattic is meta. Matt’s name is literally in Automattic. We are self-referential, we have inside jokes, and we all blog using WordPress, the product we ourselves create. Our logo is a circle. We love looping GIFs.

Some of this self-reference is due to loving what we do. But some of this looping and inwards looking is a result of having no one else next to us to look at as we lead the way.

While this can be exciting, it does not come without challenges.

I truly believe that years from now, Automattic’s true legacy may not be WordPress, but how we created exciting products that impacted the world in a positive way, redefining workplace communication, creating an environment of respect and support, and having a ton of fun along the way.

I feel privileged to be a part of this group.

Thanks Automattic for the amazing 2016 Grand Meetup. I look forward to surfing some more.

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CrossFit!

Today I started the OnRamp program to get me started with CrossFit. 

If you’re not familiar with it,

CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. 

It’s hard to describe, and there are those who love it and those who hate it. 

In my case, I’m pumped. This is just what I need right now to motivate me to work out on a regular basis. 

In short, I’ll be showing up for coached gym classes three days a week. 

This will keep me motivated and accountable. 

I’m looking forward to getting stronger and healthier. 

Field Notes: Podcast Movement 2016

Here’s my latest contribution to the official WordPress.com blog:

The WordPress.com Blog

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community. This week, we share our experience at the Podcast Movement 2016 conference.

People use WordPress.com to share many types of stories, from written essays and photo galleries to podcasts. Podcast Movement has quickly become the conference to attend for audio storytellers, so we were excited to be there to support the podcasting community and spread the word about podcasting tools on WordPress.com.

Live from the WordPress.com booth

Cesar Abeid, Trevor Montgomery, and Dustin Hartzler, Happiness Engineers at Automattic, attended the latest installment of this exciting event earlier this month in Chicago, Illinois. The conference, now in its third year, drew over 1,500 attendees. WordPress.com was a sponsor, so we had a great opportunity to engage with the community from…

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Our First True Family Vacation

After three kids and 11 years of marriage, we finally went on our first true family vacation.

Sure, we had gone on trips before… Even a three-week trip to Brazil back in 2011.

But all the trips we had gone on were to visit family and friends who happened to live far away.

This was the first time that the trip itself was the end goal. A true vacation! Continue reading “Our First True Family Vacation”

Coming Soon: New .Blog Domains for Websites

This is awesome!

The WordPress.com Blog

For more than a decade, the word “blog” has been synonymous with “your home on the web.” And since 2005, WordPress.com has been proud to help you create a unique space that is all yours.

Now we’re excited to announce a brand new way to create a unique identity for your website: .blog, a top-level domain extension that will let you create a customized name and web address for your site.

A name that’s all yours

Just like .com before it, .blog is clear and accessible, and it creates millions of fresh, new options for naming your blog. It’s the perfect place to build your home on the web.

The .blog domains are coming this year — sign up here to get notified when they become available. We’ll be offering them to all websites — you won’t need to have a WordPress or WordPress.com site to purchase one.

Why .blog?

For years, .com was the…

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Project Management For You by Cesar Abeid

Thanks Gus for the great review!

Alex Gustafson

After reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, I was excited to get to work. With clarity about my system and tools, I made better Next Steps and forced myself to confront the things I could do and what I needed to defer or delegate.

But on some items, I found myself running in circles. Things big enough that a Next Step would be the planning and thinking about what would make a good next step.

What I needed was project management. The ability to break down big, ambitious tasks with multiple parts into a series of next steps.

GTD falls short on material of how to handle project management. Where David Allen left off, Cesar Abeid picks us up. Reading Project Management For You is like unlocking some hidden bonus chapters of GTD.

I came across this book because I’m lucky enough to call Cesar my friend and colleague. Before our recent team meetup…

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You Make Your Money When You Buy

I have heard variations of this quote from Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, and a few others. The gist of it is this:

When investing in something, you make your money when you buy the something, not when you sell the something.

For example, when buying real estate, the deal is not in selling for more than you paid, but for buying for less than it’s worth.  This takes a lot of work and patience up front, and the passing up on many opportunities that are less than ideal. Continue reading “You Make Your Money When You Buy”

I’m Not Moving to San Francisco :)

Since I posted that I’m now working for Automattic, many have asked me if I’m moving to San Francisco, where Automattic’s main office is.

I’m not.

Automattic works with a 100% distributed team, which means I’ll be working from home. The same goes for other Automatticians who live in Hawaii, Japan, Iceland, South Africa, Bangladesh, etc. Continue reading “I’m Not Moving to San Francisco :)”

Overwhelm

Priorities this weekThe problem with project managers like myself is that we become overly confident on the amount of stuff we can handle.

We know how to manage projects and are confident we can deliver.  The result is that sometimes we just take on too many projects.

I’m certainly at that stage today.  Waaay too much to do, not enough time.

One of the ways I have deal with this problem is to have a prioritization meeting with myself.

The process is simple. Continue reading “Overwhelm”

Às Vezes O Bom É O Inimigo Do Melhor

Uma pequena revolução de vez em quando e’ uma ótima coisa. – Thomas Jefferson

Estou vendo, a distancia, as manifestações no Brasil. Tendo morado muitos anos fora, da minha varanda estrangeira eu sempre tive uma vista interessante da cultura brasileira, talvez às vezes um pouco mais lúcida do que quando eu morava lá.  Como se diz por aqui, às vezes a gente não consegue ver a floresta por causa das árvores na nossa frente. Continue reading “Às Vezes O Bom É O Inimigo Do Melhor”

No Excuses.

Chances are if you made new years resolutions at the end of 2012 you have already forgotten about them.

I can speak for myself: every year I’d make lofty resolutions but by Valentine’s Day I was usually back to my old ways.

That’s why this year I decided to do something different.

Instead of resolutions, I set goals, wrote them down, and told people about them.

Goals are very different than resolutions.

Here’s what I mean:

  • To start eating healthier is a resolution.  A goal is to eat 8 servings of vegetables a day, 5 days a week, for 5 weeks in a row.
  • To lose some weight is a resolution.  A goal is to lose 15 pounds by May 28th.
  • To start exercising is a resolution.  A goal is to be able to run 5 kilometers within 10 weeks.

A good goal is very well defined.  A good goal allows you to look back and clearly say “I did it.”  A good goal lets you easily imagine what completing it looks like.

And when you write them down and tell people about them, it becomes real.

I’ll tell you how real.

Just a few months ago I couldn’t run for more than 5 minutes.  A combination of laziness, asthma, and fear had kept me on the couch for years.

Me, running my first 5K. No, I haven't purchased the photo yet :)
Me, running my first 5K. No, I haven’t purchased the photo yet 🙂

Last year I set a goal to run a 5K, which I completed in May during the Toronto Marathon.  It felt fantastic.  I had never been a runner and to cross that finish line brought me such a sense of accomplishment that I actually cried.

For 2013, I set 9 very specific goals for myself. One of them is to run a half-marathon before the end of the year.

I wrote it down and shared it with my family, my friends, and my mastermind groups.

It turns out preparing for a half-marathon is hard work, and now I need to really get busy training. I’ve been consistently running a little bit every day for the last few weeks, which feels really good.

But what really inspired me to write this blog post is this: Today I went running even though it was -8C (17F) and snowing.

Because I set a goal, wrote it down, and told people, I dressed up in layers, gloves, wool socks, and ran in freezing temperatures during a snowfall.  I had so many reasons not to run today, but because of how I set my goals this year I found it in me to engage in this insanity.

What I didn’t expect was how great it felt.  As I was running and snow was accumulated on my clothes, I had this feeling of empowerment that I was managing my life and that I was intentionally working towards something good.

The more I think about goal-setting and read about the lives of people who accomplished great things, the more I realize that these great things happen to those who are purposely working towards goals.

If you haven’t done so, I challenge you to write a handful of goals for yourself to accomplish before the end of this year.  Make sure these goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

These criteria spell “SMART.”  It’s easy to remember.

If you set a goal, make sure you write it down and let people know.  If you’d like, let the world know by using the comment box below this post.

Swing Dancing and São Paulo?

The video below brings me flashbacks of my childhood, sweet memories of landmarks of my existence in a way I never thought possible.

On this 459th “birthday” of the city of Sao Paulo, it beautifully shows the city that all us Paulistanos love and, I guarantee at one time or another, have loved to hate.

These are monuments I climbed as a child, buses, subway trains I rode countless times, and beautiful buildings. These are buildings I now wished I had taken the time to get to know better but was too busy looking down or – at times – too preoccupied with staying safe as I walked the cobblestone streets of downtown São Paulo as a teenager.

walkingMy story is not unlike the broken story of many immigrants; it’s a story of an existence severed by expatriation which makes one leave behind memories, things, people. It’s a plot in which the drastic decision to move to a new culture abruptly ends a story line and starts another. It’s a plot in which the protagonist is often left wondering who he really is. There was an old story. Now there’s a new story. Though the new story is often equally as rich, the chasm is always there.

That is who I was. This is who I am.
That is where I lived. This is home now.
That is how I used to speak. This is my language now.
The list goes on.

An important aspect of my life in the second part of my story involved a silly little thing called swing dancing. Swing dancing is as American as apple pie, and as I started to create roots here in North America, it was one of the first bonds I created with the new people in my new story line  Swing dancing helped mark the new milestones of my new life as an immigrant. In my new life I had an accent, I looked different; in my new life I danced. And boy did I dance.

This is why this video touches me in a special way.

In a quasi out-of-body experience, I see my broken story as whole. For about 3 minutes it’s like my story has been stitched together and the chasm never was.

It makes me wish I had never left and grateful that I did, all at once.

Thank you Blubell, RecheioDigital, and Hopaholics for creating this video. You will hear from many how great it is, but I guarantee you it will not touch anybody as deeply as it has me.

Here’s why your company should have a podcast

If you know me personally, you are probably sick of the word “podcast.”  I’m an avid consumer and since August of 2011, also a producer of podcasts. I listen to podcasts on my commute to work, when I work out, when I’m doing the dishes, and when I can’t fall asleep at night.  On Thursday mornings I produce and record my own show.  Obviously I’m really passionate about this type of media.

There are many reasons why, and I’ll tell you today why I think your company should start thinking about starting your own podcast.

Podcasts are a great way for you to create content

If you have been around the world of marketing in the last few years and not lived under a rock, you have heard of the word “content.”  Content is king, they say.  Create content, they say.  The problem is, creating content takes work.  Sometimes it could be painful.

While most people mean blogging when they say we should create content, writing engaging and compelling posts might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Podcasting gives you a great alternative or complement to your blogging efforts.  In my case, keeping up a weekly blog posting schedule was a chore.  Podcasting, however, is a blast.

If you or your company is struggling with creating written content, consider podcasting as an alternative.

Podcasting is a fantastic way to engage an audience today (your target market)

I don’t know about you, but I find it harder and harder to concentrate while reading stuff on the internet.  I think it might be a combination of information overload, the millions of blogs that are available out there, and just overall being distracted.

An article published by the BBC suggests that online browsing can leave us with the attention span of only 9 seconds. The scary part is that this article is from 2002, before the distractions posed by social media even existed.  This was also before we had little smartphones in our pockets constantly buzzing and beeping for our attention.

A simple blog usually requires that the reader be in front of a computer/tablet/smartphone, when all these distractions are there to take your reader away from your content.

So, if you were having a hard time producing written content on a regular basis, now you need to create epic, compelling, can’t-live-without, better-than-facebook-and-lolcatz written content that blows your readers minds.  Weekly.  Perhaps 2 or 3 times a week.

 

Enter podcasts.

Podcasts are usually consumed when people are driving, working out, or performing some activity when they can’t read.  Now, consider that the average commute time around the world is typically 30 minutes or more, and that the average workout can last between 40 minutes to an hour.

This is a great opportunity to have your audience’s undivided attention (except for dealing with traffic and sweaty brows) for a good half-hour.  When people can’t focus for more than 9 seconds on written content, I’m sure you can understand why this is a golden opportunity.

Besides the chance to have people’s attention, podcasts let people hear your voice, and this makes it a lot easier to create relationships with your audience.  When someone listens to your voice, to the passionate way with which you talk about a topic, your humanity comes across to your audience.  This makes it easier for them to relate to you, and a lot harder for them to turn you off.

Also, there are WAY less podcasts out there than there are blogs.  That is why I was able to get away with calling my show THE Construction Industry Podcast.  The name wasn’t even taken.

A good podcast will create solid relationships between you, your company, and your audience, all the while having their full attention on what it is you are saying.  Bingo.

What are your thoughts on podcasting?

How to choose a topic for your podcast?

Recording the Construction Industry Podcast. Credit: Daubian Oliveira

If you believe that starting a podcast might be a good move for you and/or your company, you’re in good company. Many companies and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the fact that a good podcast can create loyal audiences and a successful platform for your brand and business.

Many people want to start a show but don’t know where to start.

In my opinion, if you are considering starting a podcast, one of the first things you need to ask yourself is:

What in the world will I talk about?

To try and answer this question, I will walk you through my thought process as I decided to launch my award-winning Construction Industry Podcast back in August of 2011.

The first thing to consider is to have a podcast on a topic in which you have some knowledge. In other words, why not start a podcast talking about something you know deeply about?

That approach works for a wide variety of circumstances – perhaps even in most cases.  For example, my friend Dustin Harzler has a great podcast in which he shares his knowledge on the blogging platform WordPress.  He has thousands of attentive listeners who want to learn more about WordPress.  Another example is my other friend Cliff Ravenscraft, who is an authority when it comes to podcasting.  Cliff has a ridiculously popular podcast about podcasting.

In my case, this approach didn’t really work.

In my company, in my 9-5 job, I am responsible for the design and installation of monitoring systems for construction projects.  We are experts in construction cameras, time-lapse video creation, and all the equipment that goes along with it.

The problem is, if I had created a show around that topic, the only people interested in learning more about that would be my competitors.  I would not be reaching my target market with a show about construction cameras.  Dustin and Cliff, on the other hand, want to reach people who are interested in WordPress and podcasting, so talking about their expertise works really well for them.

So my thought was: whose eyes did I want on my brand?  What is my target market interested in?

The answer to that question almost automatically tells you what kind of show you should produce.

Remontech (my company) serves the construction owner, the entity that is sponsoring the project.  Our clients are usually in the construction sector, but not are not necessarily construction professionals.  They are project managers, directors, business people who are dealing with construction and trying to learn more about the industry.  Sometimes these individuals may feel a little inadequate, because the are constantly dealing with contractors, architects, subcontractors, who have their own jargon.  It’s easy to feel like an outsider sometimes.

So I decided to create a show for them.  In the Construction Industry Podcast, I interview experts in the construction sector and cover topics which are construction-related.  But as I do that, I keep it accessible for those who are trying to learn more about the construction sector.

In short, you have two approaches when starting a podcast for your business:

  1. If your knowledge is what your target market is interested in, have a show about that.  You will be able to shine as an expert and create confidence in your audience that you are the man/woman for the job.
  2. If it is NOT your knowledge that will reach your target market, think about what it is they are interested in and provide that content to them.

Do you have a podcast?  What is it about and how did you come up with the idea?  I’d love to know.

I’m speaking at New Media Expo 2013!

I’m absolutely thrilled to let you know that I’ll be a speaker at the upcoming New Media Expo (NMX) conference in Las Vegas.

NMX is the largest, most prestigious conference and trade show for the blogging, podcasting, and WebTV industry.  Attendees from around to world will flock to Las Vegas this January to learn, share, and network with the best that the new media world has to offer.

Because of my success with the Construction Industry Podcast, I will be sharing my experience and tips on how to be a podcaster in a podcast-less niche.  The title of my session is

“The benefits of being the first to podcast within your niche.”

Click here for my bio at the NMX website.

Speaking at NMX is a great privilege and I cannot wait to share my perspective and what has worked for me as a podcaster.

If you are in Las Vegas or coming to the conference, let me know!

 

Footage from the drive to Labrador City

For many reasons, my last trip to visit my client in Labrador City had to be by car.

It is a very long drive (around 2,200km each way).

A large part of it, mostly between Baie Comeau, Quebec, and Labrador City, Newfoundland is on a dirt road.  You basically get on this road in Baie Comeau and drive north for a whole day.

The enldess road to Labrador City from Baie-Comeau, Quebec.

Around the mid-point, there is a little rest stop where you can get gas and a snack. I stopped there literally seconds after getting my windshield smashed by a rock that flew from the back of a truck.  There I met Alan and a group of bikers who were taking a similar trip, but by motorcycle.  Crazy, I know.

The cool thing is that Alan had a camera attached to his helmet, so I had to talk to him.  He told me he was on a round trip to Massachusetts, and I asked if he would be posting that video somewhere.  He said yes and we exchanged business cards.  I didn’t think I’d hear from him again, but to my surprise, Alan sent me an email with a link a few weeks later.

Here’s the link to the video that Alan’s camera captured.  If you’ve ever driven on that road, you’ll enjoy it!

Why and How I use Buffer

We all want to engage our friends, our audience, our clients, our tribes.

Much like a cocktail party, we want to talk to people, make new friends, network, share useful information so interaction with you is seen as beneficial and people will come back for more.

Twitter is a great tool for achieving this engagement.  It is everywhere, millions of people are on it, including a lot of the people you want to interact with.  Besides being a tool for carrying conversations, I find it is a great way to provide information I come across during the day.  I get email messages that are worth sharing, I have insights that I want to convey to other people, and I subscribe to a myriad of RSS feeds that provide me with lots of information worth sharing.  Twitter provides a great way to easily share all of this with my relationships.

I find, however, that it is a bit hard to take full advantage of Twitter based on my daily workflow and schedule.  That’s where today’s tip, Buffer, comes in handy. Continue reading “Why and How I use Buffer”

Goodbye my kitty.

I was never a cat person.

Cats seemed distant, arrogant, egocentric, aloof.  They get sick on your carpet, eat your unattended food, and protest when their bathrooms are not cleaned on a regular basis. Differently than bratty human guests, we can’t ask cats to help with the chores, pay rent, pay for damages, or kick them out. Cats were all demand and no delivery. I always thought I’d never bring such a jerk into my house.

Life had other plans for me, however.  When I married Amy, I inherited Casey, her 9-year-old tabby.  Being slightly allergic to cats and slightly annoyed for having to attend to one, I immediately proceeded to impose new rules for him in my household. There would be no Casey in my bedroom, no Casey on the couch.  Casey would not eat from the dinner table, and behaviours such as pawing on doors, scratching the furniture, and howling outside my door at 4 in the morning were to be strongly discouraged. Continue reading “Goodbye my kitty.”

Google+ Solves Yet Another Problem

Multilingual people like me are usual in a tight spot on Facebook.  When large percentages of your list of “friends” speak different languages, how do you choose what language you will use when posting something?

Facebook offers no solution to this conundrum.

Google+, with its “circles,” allows you to organize your contacts in different groups.  When making a post, you can choose which “circles” you want to share it with.  In fact, you can even select the audience down to a single individual.

What are your first thoughts on Google+?