Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Focus. It is so important, and so much harder than ever to manage. Our lives are filled with so many distractions that -- sorry, that was a text from my daughter. Where was I? Oy, yeah, our lives are filled with so many distractions that it has become almost --- cool. Someone just re-tweeted me. Umm, what was I saying? Oh, right, that with so many distractions it has become almost impossible to spend more than a fleeting moment on ---- email. Just had to see what that email was because my Pebble watch was vibrating. Now, as I was saying... Focus. Damn, it's hard. That's why focus is all three of my words for 2014.
Attention Deficit is no longer a disorder. Frankly, it is the norm. I am as guilty as anyone of having a hard time sticking to any one task for more than a few minutes without taking some sort of digital detour. I know it is bad. I know I do my best work when I zone everything else out and stay FOCUSED on one thing for thirty minutes or more, but the times I actually do that are few and far between. At least far less frequent than they should be. The truth is, at least for me, the distractions that the Internet and our "always connected" lives have introduced only serve to exacerbate a problem I have always had. I've always tended to commit to too many things at once and, as one of my High School teachers once warned me, "spread myself too thin..." This, combined with a propensity to procrastinate makes distraction where the action is. But no more...
Focus, Focus, Focus...
My "three words" for 2014 are Focus, Focus, and Focus. I guess, my three words are really only one word: Focus. (See, already I am more focused, putting my full attention on one theme word rather than three!) Better focus is something I can strive for in all aspects of my life, from family, to fitness, to business, and I intend to approach all of them in a more focused way, being mindful of the moment and committed to what I am doing at any given time. At least that's the plan. It will be up to me to stay focused and carry it out. Wish me luck (but don't be upset if I don't respond right away... I may be focused on something else...)
What do you think of my newfound focus? Do you have three words for 2014?
Photo Credit: © aaabbc - Fotolia
Saturday, May 11, 2013
(This post originally appeared at Dad-O-Matic.)
Those of you with kids in diapers or grade school may want to skip this post (unless you want a peek into the future at one of the many other parenting adventures you can look forward to facing). Those of you with teens and young adults getting ready to enter the workforce and start to earn more than an allowance, please read on...
Jobs vs. Career
In simple terms, I think of a job as something you do to make money. This is especially true when we are young. Babysitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, packing grocery bags, hawking fast-food, etc., are all "jobs" we do to make money, and they are usually among the first paid work experiences our kids will have. While great to teach the values of a good work ethic, responsibility and to start learning to save and spend their own money, few of us would consider any of these occupations a "career" for our kids. Careers are work that we are passionate about, that we believe in, that we truly love to do. Jobs are important, but a true career is the goal.
But What Is A Career???
In truth, the above is an over-simplification, especially in today's world. Our kids are likely to move around during their careers far more than we have. Growing up in a hyper-connected world where any fact is just a few taps away, and where "attention deficit" is no longer a disorder, but rather the order of the day, our kids will likely find many interests and passions to pursue throughout their careers, and take far more circuitous routes than we may have taken as their parents. But they have to start somewhere...
Getting Into The Industry You Love
My middle son is a musician (a guitarist and songwriter, to be more specific). He recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music, and is currently living the life of a struggling artist, manning the cash register at a hipster Brooklyn cafe to pay the proverbial bills while making music the rest of his waking hours. But he wants to work in a music related job, and as his dad, I felt compelled to give him some guidance and a plan of action that will hopefully land him with a job he can become passionate about... a job that will contribute to a career.
Don't Look For A Job, Look For A Network
Here's what I recommended to my son:
1) Leverage Your Obvious Strengths (and don't be shy about it) - Sure, you are an extremely talented musician, but right now you have little tangible "professional" experience. What you do have is a degree from a respected music school with many accomplished alumni working in all areas of the music industry. That "Berklee Connection" is perhaps your greatest asset at this early stage of your career. Use it!
2) Build A Network, One Cup Of Coffee At A Time - Through resources like LinkedIn and Berklee's alumni databases, create a list of alumni actively working in the music industry in New York City. Get an email address or phone number for each, as well as their office address. With the goal of getting 10 personal meetings a week, start contacting everyone on this list. IMPORTANT: You are not looking for a job, you are looking for a mentor. Ask people to tell you about themselves: "Hi, I am a recent Berklee graduate living in Brooklyn. I'd love to have 15 minutes of your time to ask you a few questions about how you started your career after you graduated. I am actually going to be in the neighborhood of your office on Tuesday afternoon. If I could stop by to see you for a few minutes, I'll bring the coffee - what do you like from Starbucks?... yada yada yada." Shoot for a personal meeting, but if all you can get is some time on the phone take it.
3) Listen, Learn, Then Ask - People love to talk about themselves and share their accomplishments. Your goal is not to ask for a job, but ask for knowledge and advice. Have 5-6 solid questions ready for your meetings, focused on how THEY got started after THEY graduated from Berklee. Be smart, be personable, let them do most of the talking and LISTEN. Keep track of the time and when 15 minutes are up, let them know, and that you don't want to take too much of their time (giving them the opportunity to end it smoothly or keep the conversation going - at their choice.)
4) The Ask - When you're meeting is done, thank them sincerely, and ask if it would be okay for you to stay in touch periodically. Then ask if there is anyone else in the industry they think you would benefit from speaking to. If they have a recommendation, ask if they would be willing to make an introduction. Then let them know if you can ever help them out with anything, no matter how trivial, it would be your pleasure. Thank them again and get your butt out of their office.
5) The Follow Up - Within 24 hours of the meeting, send a short email, thanking them, saying how valuable it was to learn their story, and reminding them you'd greatly appreciate any other industry introductions they'd be willing to make.
6) Rinse, Repeat - Do this diligently and push hard to get those 10 meetings a week. Many will blow you off, say no or ignore your request altogether, but some will agree to meet you, and every one of those will be an extremely valuable opportunity to learn and grow your industry network. Don't worry about the "no's" and keep focused on getting the "yes." The numbers are on your side. The more folks you contact, the more times you will hear yes.
7) Be Patient - I told my son that I am confident that if he follows the above plan and actually gets meetings every week, in a matter of time he will be working in the music industry, and be able to give up his job to start his career.
What do you think? Do you agree with the advice I gave my son? Am I missing something that you would recommend? Please let me know in the comments (and thanks!)
Finally, a shameless plug: If you are, or know someone in the Music biz in NY, and you or they would be willing to meet my (awesome, talented, hard-working) son, please let me know and I'd be very happy to make the introduction. :-)
Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21). He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast. You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads, Wunderkind! and Gape Into The Void podcasts. Jeff just launched a new story podcast, DadSlam.
Photo Credit: © rnl - Fotolia.com
Friday, April 05, 2013
|Roger Ebert Blvd. (Photo credit: rexb)|
(Name-dropping disclaimer: The older I get, the more I catch myself name-dropping. At first, I felt embarrassed that I seem to always have a story about someone well-known. But the truth is, I've been "out in the world" working for over 30 years, almost half of them in the entertainment industry, so I've been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of celebrities and notable business folks along the way...)
Just read the outpouring of love and adoration for Roger Ebert and you can sense what an amazing impact he has had on an industry and a culture. His career, long and rich, is unrivaled and remarkable. His grace, strength and determination when faced with incredible health challenges can only be viewed with awe and admiration. When he lost his spoken voice, he embraced technology, the Internet, and Social Media and found a stronger, more resonant voice than ever before. His wit, wisdom and way with words was perfect for a world of blogging and tweeting and texting.
I met Roger Ebert sometime in the early 90's at a party in a villa in Cannes during the film festival. I know it sounds pretentious, but it is the truth. I was working for Troma at the time, and even us schlocky "B-movie" guys were occasionally invited to the right parties. I was standing next to Mr. Ebert at the buffet, getting food, and we struck up a conversation. He was there with his wife, Chaz (they may not yet have been married, I can't recall) and rather than movies, we started talking about food.
CompuServing Up Tofu
I mentioned that I had recently become a vegetarian, and that immediately sparked Ebert's interest. He said that Chaz had been encouraging him to make more healthy eating choices and he was curious about variety in vegetarian cooking. I told him, as we were fairly new vegetarians, my (then) wife and I had been experimenting with a wide range of interesting veggie dishes. I mentioned one of my favorite meals, tofu "breaded" with yeast flakes, and promised to send him the recipe. We corresponded a few times after Cannes via CompuServe (we were both active back then in CompuServe's "Showbiz Forum.") I shared the tofu recipe with him. He thanked me and said he and Chaz would try it. I like to think he gave it a "thumbs up..."
Rest In Peace Roger... Like the great films you loved, your mark will be long-lasting.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
I'm Jeff and I am an early adopter. There. I said it. I admit to my vice (that's the first step, right?) As an admitted early adopter I was one of the early backers of the Pebble smart watch on Kickstarter, and I received my Pebble shortly after the first production run. Although I have had my Pebble for more than a month now, I have only worn it several times. That's because the same week that my Pebble arrived, I also received my Basis Band… another new gadget I ordered early enough to be among the first to receive.
One Available Wrist
As most humans, I only have two wrists, one of which has been home to a bracelet since my early teens. After all these years I have grown accustomed to wearing just a bracelet on my right wrist. I feel awkward without it, and I prefer to wear only a single bracelet on that wrist. Which leaves me just my left wrist for any other watch or band device. Hence having to choose between my newly acquired Basis and Pebble. Here's why, for the moment, the Basis has won the battle for my left wrist…
Connected Self vs. Quantified Self
I, like many of you, am addicted to my smartphone. My Samsung Galaxy SIII is the last thing I look at before I go to bed and the first thing I grab when I wake up in the morning. No, these are not great habits. Yes, they mean I live an uber-connected life, feeding myself a constant stream of information via a phone that is rarely, if ever, further than a meter from my media overloaded brain. As if my mobile habit wasn't bad enough, I find I am also addicted to fitness tracking devices, and own all generations of the Fitbit (plus an Aria wi-fi scale), a Jawbone UP bracelet, a Motorola ACTV gps watch, several generations of old Garmin GPS watches, a Nike+ FuelBand, and now, the Basis Band.
Up until the arrival of the Basis, I was wearing my Nike FUELband on my left wrist, using it as both a watch, and a fitness tracker. Since the FUELband does not track sleep, I also wear my FitBit regularly. With both the Pebble and Basis as shiny new options for my left wrist, I retired my Nike FUELband, and ultimately chose the Basis as my daily wrist mate, leaving the Pebble for "special occasions" as described in more detail below. While the Pebble is an awesome device, when weighing the true benefits of wearing it all day, every day, I decided the fitness data provided by the Basis truly added more value for me.
Firstly, both the Pebble and the Basis Band are great devices. They are both well manufactured, comfortable and cool looking to wear, and deliver on their respective promised features and functions. The Pebble, while lauded as a "smartwatch," is really more accurately a "connected" watch. In the current early stage, it essentially becomes an extension of your smartphone, passing along alerts and messages to the e-ink screen on your wrist, and letting you then decide whether said alert or message warrants retrieving your smartphone from a pocket or purse to take further action.
My conclusion: during the day, when your phone is generally handy and accessible (often right in front of you on your desk), getting alerts on your watch is just an additional distraction and doesn't necessarily add much convenience or value to the smartphone or watch experience. I can glance at my phone screen just as easily as I can glance at my wrist when my phone is faithfully at my side (sadly, my norm.) Where the Pebble does shine, and where it really is a pleasure to wear, is when you are at an event or in a situation where it really is inconvenient or inappropriate to be constantly addressing your phone. The times I have worn, and thoroughly been delighted by my Pebble have been at concerts, the theater, and social events, where I can remain "in the moment" and not with my face rudely glancing down at my phone, yet still feel completely connected and have no FOMO (fear of missing out) because even though my phone is tucked neatly in a pocket, I will know everything it is trying to tell me. In these situations, the Pebble rocks.
The Basis Band
As fitness trackers go, the Basis is the closest thing to an "all in one" device I have found. With a slew of sensors, the Basis tracks steps, calories, heart rate, body temp, perspiration and sleep. And it tells time! It does all this quite seamlessly and elegantly in a watch form factor that looks great and is light and comfortable to wear. What I love about the Basis is that it is a passive device. Just wear it like a watch and it tracks everything. Even sleep tracking is automatic, a big plus, as every other device I have used to track sleep requires you to "start" and "end" some type of "sleep mode" for sleep tracking to engage, resulting in many missed nights of data. The Basis software (currently web only, with apps reportedly coming very soon), is both detailed and slick, including some neat gamification elements as you earn points and unlock "habits" for further trackable goals. My only complaint about the Basis, and it is not that big of a deal, is that the screen is not very bright, even when backlit. I suspect this was a trade-off in favor of better battery life, since there are so many active sensors working 24/7 on this device.
Best of Both Worlds
I am a huge fan of the "quantified self" movement and strongly believe that when you track activities you will do them more, and I absolutely know that I exercise more regularly now that I am fully aware of my progress each day. The Basis is a great fitness companion and subtle coach, pushing me through awareness toward my daily goal. Thus, for me, the Basis provides much more utility and value as my "all the time" watch than the Pebble does. However, as soon as I hit my daily 10,000 step goal (and especially when I go out on a Saturday night), I am happy to switch to my Pebble, and give my smartphone some time to hibernate in my pocket, leaving my hands free for fun.
Have you tried a Pebble or a Basis Band? What are your thoughts?
(Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links to help support my gadget addiction...)
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
My friends Chris Brogan and C.C. Chapman are vocal proponents of the practice of choosing three words as your focal point and reminder of goals for the coming year. The challenge is to narrow your annual objectives to three words that serve as guideposts to remind you and keep you centered on the things you have decided really matter. I've tried to master the art of three words a few times in the past, but not every year. In fact this year I've chosen to focus more on being in control. That said, there are three words that I do think I should put at the top of my list this year. As a faithful, fervent fan of frequent alliteration my three works all start with the letter M:
Move. In many ways, movement is the secret to all success. We must increase our movement to be healthy. We must always keep our mind moving to stay sharp. We must always keep our careers and relationships moving forward. For a shark, ceasing to keep moving is a literal death sentence. For a human, lack of movement leads to stagnation, to depression, to frustration. In 2013 I want to keep moving. From literally running for exercise, to advancing personal and business goals, constant and positive movement will be key.
Measure. We live in the age of big data, and as someone who never really was a numbers guy, I've come to gain an appreciation for the value of measurement. It started with an obsession with fitness trackers. I wear both a Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band every day, and I pay attention to the data they provide, relishing in the satisfaction of measurable results, and enjoying the discovery of patterns and new personal records. Now I want to apply that same appreciation of measurement to track and monitor my progress and results in areas beyond fitness, and especially in business.
Meditate. Over the summer I was inspired to revisit practicing meditation, something I began in High School but let go of sometime after graduating from college. Over the past few months I've been sporadically trying to reestablish TM as part of my daily routine, but it hasn't quite stuck yet. It's a shame, because when I do manage a nice stretch of a few weeks of consistent daily meditation I can tangibly feel the results in my improved energy and awareness, and just plain feeling better. So, as part of my mission to take better control of my time, I want to make the time for meditation each and every day.
There you have it. My three words for 2013. I won't go so far as to tattoo them to my forehead, but I will write them on post it notes, and in my notebooks and hope to refer to them regularly as gentle guides toward a productive and fruitful New Year.
How about you? Have you selected three words?
Monday, December 31, 2012
Life Is Full of Uncertainties.
Every day we are faced with the challenge of reacting to things that are outside of our control. The actions and behavior of others, the weather, illness, loss, the economy, wars, accidents... So many things that affect us deeply can seem so random and out of our hands. We can ask why... We can live in fear... We can numb ourselves from seeing or feeling... We can give up, since we have no control over it anyway... Or, we can take control.
We Do Have Control.
Granted, not over everything. There are things, lots of things, that just occur, whether we like it or not, whether we are naughty or nice, whether we deserve better, or get what we deserve. The reality of life, from a macro perspective, is as simple as two words: "Shit Happens." So, we can wait for it to hit the fan, or we can go ahead and take control of the things that are absolutely, positively ours to determine. And by being in control of just a few things, we can gain the confidence and strength to face up to the things we cannot control, and put them in a more healthy perspective.
5 Things We Have Complete Control Over:
As we head into a new year and everyone is thinking about their resolutions and goals and three words or simply reflecting on the year that was and the year that may be, I am thinking about how I can do a better job of taking control of the things I actually can control. In particular, I want to do a better job of controlling these 5 things (and you can too):
1. My Body: I have complete control over what I choose to put in my body. It is up to me what foods I choose to eat, what liquids I choose to drink, what medicines or vitamins or drugs I do or do not choose to ingest. How much I consume is also within my control. Of course it is not as easy as it sounds to make all the right choices. It takes discipline and determination, but those are two things that each of us have the power to exercise if we choose to. I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years, a vegan for nearly 5, but still I can take better control over what I put inside my mouth. Most likely we all can. As important as food is, you can't take control over your body without exercise too. Making regular exercise as essential to your being as eating and breathing is the best way to take control. Exercise is not a chore, or a task. It is a way of living. I am pretty good about my food and exercise choices, but I know I can do better.
2. My Mind: I have control over what I choose to expose my mind to. What I read, the movies I watch, the music and podcasts I listen to, the television programs, social media streams, pictures, art and other media I am exposed to is for the most part my choice. I can choose not to watch the latest episode of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." I am in control of whether I allow myself to become addicted to "Homeland." I can determine what I want to expose my mind to and control how I choose to teach and entertain myself. Reading more, and watching less is something I can control better (and hope to).
3. My Attitude: Attitude may not be everything, but it is darn close. I am in control of my attitude. I can wake up each morning and put a frown or a smile on my face. I can carry that comportment with me all day long, and see the world around me through tainted or clear eyes. That choice is mine to make, every day, throughout the day. My attitude is mine to control, and I will reap the rewards or suffer the aggravation according to my choice. The first step toward happiness is to simply be happy. The right attitude can get us there.
4: My Time: Time is a fascinating and powerful thing. It can pass swiftly or slowly. It can heal all wounds. It can soften the hardest rock, and deepen or close chasms. While we have limited (and unknown) time in each of our lives, from moment to moment we are in control of time. What we do with our time each day is our choice. What we do next is our choice. What we do now is our choice. We can make time for the things that we deem to be important. We all have the power to control our time enough to make room for thinking, for meditation, for quiet. We all have the power to make time to listen better, especially to the people we care about. I know I can do a better job of taking control of my time so that the there is always enough of it for the things I have made a priority.
5: My Heart: Contrary to the words of countless songwriters and poets, we can control our hearts. We can choose to be more loving and caring, and to be more open to the love around us. To tell our children or parents that we love them is completely under our control. To treat others with compassion and understanding is as easy as choosing to do so. We each control that choice. When you realize that you can indeed control your heart, you will also realize that our hearts can grow without limit. If we choose to be more loving, we have an endless capacity to do so. That's the path I want to try and take. To control my heart, and grow it.
These are the things I believe I can control, and my goal for the new year is to step-up my game and take more control of each of them.
How about you?
Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: © stockshoppe - Fotolia.com