An open letter to France

Dear Country of France,

I’ve crawled around your country about a dozen times over the years and each visit has been filled with beauty, culture, history and fine food.

But I have to ask … How did you become such a great nation with such lousy bacon?

Indeed, I believe the foundation of  American’s strength — not to mention its girth — is fortified by its wonderful bacon.  As an act of selfless diplomacy, I’d like to suggest that I can help you out in this area.

Bacon provides important nutrients from the five basic food groups: salt, sugar, fat, cholesterol and pork.  Hence, it is Nature’s Most Perfect Food.  In fact, I think the only food that rivals bacon in nutritional value is Beer Nuts. You can probably skip those, however.

With the global financial crisis and political controversies you’re facing, I believe a good slab of bacon would effectively distract your foes and delight French citizens. Who would not be much happier with a nice plate of thick-cut, maple-smoked bacon?

Now I know you have a lot of national pride and are probably thinking you can establish your own bastion of bacon. Forget about it.  Our technology is far too advanced.  Let us help you get over the learning curve and ship you a couple of truck loads.  Don’t worry, we have plenty to go around.

I await your call.

Your friend,

Mark

P.S.   If you are a new reader or otherwise confused, this is meant to be humorous.  At least to me.

Illustration: zazzle.co.uk  I can’t believe I found this picture. Damn the Internet is great.

A place where bloggers are royalty (video)


During my recent trip to France I had a chance to catch up with {grow} community regular and video blogger extraordinaire Michelle Chmielewski, who is now working in Paris.

Our friendship started through an innocent tweet (“Go Steelers!”), and has become one of my favorite stories of connecting through the social web.  This short video documents our first face-to-face meeting, highlights an international “blogger party,” and also addresses the very interesting blogging culture in France.  The top bloggers are treated like media royalty over there.  Hey America, what gives?  : )

Any way, I think you’ll find this little interview fun and interesting. And be sure to check out Michelle’s blog. One of my favorites!

A World Without Flaws – The Social Media Stepford Wives

An email with a subject  line of “You Made Me Cry” gets my attention!

And that is exactly what Jamie Lee Wallace wrote to me last week after reading the post “Social Media and the Big Conversation Fail.”

I guess it hit upon some profound feelings as she thought about the importance of the social web as a lifeline for a single mom trying to make it with her own business. With Jamie’s permission, I have taken excerpts from her message to me to share with the community …

As a single mom who works from home, I don’t have a lot of time or opportunity to develop and nurture the kinds of deep, relationships I’d like to have.  I know it sounds like a cop out, but – at least for right now – my life is moving at such a pace and scheduled so tightly that one glass of spilled milk can throw the whole day off.

So, I have the Internet – Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. It’s a godsend, really. My mom has told me how she wished she’d had access to a virtual community when she was young. My dad was stationed in Texas with the military and mom spent long, solitary days at home in their apartment with me and my younger sister. She had no car and no prospect for friendship within walking distance. I can hardly imagine the loneliness.

… except that, sometimes, I can. Even though I’m wired up to my eyeballs, even though I’m active on all these virtual platforms and engage in dozens of conversations each day, I sometimes feel so lonely. As one of the {grow} community members explained, I’m longing for “life beyond 140.”  I love my “virtual” friends, and many (if not all ) of them know more about me than my Real Life acquaintances, but there’s something about a real, human connection that gives more.

And, of course, that’s missing from the Web. There’s also a sense, for most of us, of keeping up a certain appearance. Even when we’re being personal and honest, we’re still able to control what people see. It’s not the way your true friends get to see you – the bad parts, the snits, the tears, the flaws.

And that’s what is missing from the social Web – flaws.

I know people share them, but even the confessions are “managed.”  Sometimes it seems we’re an online community of Stepford Wives.

Our flaws and human failings are a big part of what bring us closer to each other. A “real” relationship is one in which both people are not only aware of each other’s flaws, but experience them on a daily basis … and love each other anyway.  A real relationship is one that has value of its own, without having to exist in the context of some larger community.

I don’t want this to come across as being anti-social Web, it isn’t meant to be. I love the connections, opportunities, and magic that happens.  I guess your post just reminded me that there’s another world of relationships right outside my door which, despite or maybe because of their flaws, deserve as much attention as my virtual relationships.”

I like the way Jamie brings her heart to her writing and calls out the fact that we often try to be super-human on the web.

Ironically, I’ve found that in the few instances where people are “human,” something special ignites. Sharing honestly seems to connect much better than a cold topic like “the Five Biggest Mistakes on Twitter.”

What are your thoughts? Are you a Stepford Wife on the social web? Or something more?

Five steps to prepare you for the social media marathon


The world of work is different today.  It’s not a 9-5 daily sprint, it’s an always-on, always connected, all-out communication MARATHON.  And like any athlete preparing for an intense and extended effort, it takes preparation — some mental, some physical, and some conditioning that only gets easier through discipline and practice.

I carry a heavy workload.  Throw my commitment to the social web on top of it and I’ve had to make adjustments to the way I mentally, and even physically, approach work every day. Here are a few tricks for handling this new world of work.

1) Schedule every important task. One problem I had was having only a vague idea that I had to work on certain important projects — You know, “get it done by the end of the week,” for example.  But then some distracting snowball would start, it would roll down hill, gathering all my client time with it.  So now I schedule almost everything I do.  I set aside time for blogging, planning, administration, and projects, and then I schedule less important phone calls and meetings around those blocks of time.

2) Don’t apologize for being “on.” I grew up in a world where dad worked 8-5, five days a week and mom was a homemaker.  There was a time for work and a time for family and it was highly compartmentalized and predictable.  That type of schedule is impossible as an employee within a global, digital 24×7 world.  I still strike a balance between work and play, family and customers, but it’s not my father’s Oldsmobile.  I rarely have a day when I don’t work to some extent. I still have a twinge of guilt when I squeeze in a little work on a Saturday but then I realize how lucky I am to be flexible to take time off in the middle of the week because the digital world doesn’t care when I work. As long as it all balances out in the end, forgive yourself for not being your dad (or mom). It’s just the way it is. P.S. My kids are grown. That helps with the flexible work schedule!

3) Get a virtual assistant. Yes, there is a way to get more than 24 hours in a day.  Instead of getting mired in routine administration I can push some work to my friend, a talented stay-at-home mom who is appreciative of a little extra income.  This keeps me focused on strategic work and also affords me the luxury of “dead-ends.” What I mean by that is when I have a wild idea for something, I can have my VA do some research on it before I waste too much time on a concept that ends up going no where. My challenge is to be disciplined to delegate and buy myself more time!

4) Shift perspective. It is not unusual for me to spend 12 hours or more each day in front of a computer. This is not healthy in any way. So I take frequent breaks, I shift positions, I may work standing up or in different locations to provide some ease to the body and energy to the mind.

5) Write ahead. Over the past two weeks I have been absolutely slammed with extremely important, intense client work.  But I was still able to keep up a a high-quality blog with consistent posts because I write ahead.  I am constantly writing posts or parts of posts as the ideas come to me so when that slam time comes I can draw from the pool. I currently have 45 posts in the “draft” pile. Some of them will never see the light of day but I am constantly adding to the inventory of ideas, even if it is just a sentence or an inspiring quote. This is an essential survival skill for anybody who hopes to keep up a blog if it’s not your job.

I don’t have time management down perfectly and never will.   Here’s where I still struggle:

  • I tend to schedule myself with too little rooom for error. When a computer failure hits it can really throw me for a loop.  As a solo entrepreneur, I sure miss the IT department.
  • While the flexibility of my schedule is great, I have a hard time shutting my mind completely down.  I am always twitching with ideas. It takes me at least two days of digital de-tox to begin to relax.
  • I need to jog more than I blog.

As I re-read this post I realized like it might seem that I work all the time. I don’t.  I have lots of outside interests and activities. And my life is a ball.  I do work a lot but it is more like fun than work … most of the time!

How are you running your marathon?   Where are you still struggling?

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