The Tonic of Wilderness

"We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Some mornings you wake up with heavy eyelids and a heavy heart to coincide. This morning was one such morning for me, and on mornings such as these I draw back from public interaction. Now I'm a digital marketer and more specifically a community manager, so there is no such thing as a true retreat. My coworkers may not have seen my face until the afternoon, but they've seen my IMs and my emails since the wee hours.

The world always beckons.

I fall asleep late at night to an empty queue, having responded, interacted, engaged all I can for the day. I awake to dozens of notifications and conversations I've missed while asleep - even for the short few hours I get each night. I wake up behind on the day, each and every day.

But I do not mind this. I am custom built for this. I will see it all, I will engage with it all. I will be everywhere I can, as often as I can be there. I will be "always on". I will stretch myself thin. It's something I'm good at, it's something upon which I thrive.

But sometimes I need wilderness.

I need sanctuary. I need something untouched by the infinite connectivity of the digital world. Now, fortunately I live in a beautiful place in Boulder, Colorado - a place that has actual wilderness a stone's throw away. I took a brisk walk this morning and found myself staring at what is still unfathomable beauty of the Flatirons - just out my back door.

But it's not simply a hike or a day backcountry skiing that I'm in search of. It's not a physical wilderness. It's something inside me, something unsurveyed and unfathomed to this point.

I don't know what my wilderness is yet, but I'm setting out to explore.

A View From the Dark Side of Stubbornness...Maybe.

I''m not a complainer, and aside from occasional thoughts shared on this very blog, I'm not big into talking about things that may be bothering me - and even when I do share, "it's always vague and cryptic", as a close friend recently described it.

I don't often air my grievances and I'm not regularly found venting. I'm a devout believer in the "grin and bear it" attitude toward hardship and pain. There are probably noble things to say about that attitude - to call it brave, strong-willed, or to call me "a trooper" as my mom would say.

But really I'm just stubborn. 

In my defense, I'm a male Capricorn of German-Irish-Polish descent from the southwest side of Chicago named Andrew. Did I really have a choice?

Jokes aside, I am very stubborn. I don't whine because that's letting a situation get the best of me. I persevere because there is no other choice. It's me versus whatever that thing against me is, and I'm going to overcome it. I'm going to. Simple as that.

This unwillingness to give in to life's attempts to break me, I consider a defining trait, which has mostly been a positive thing for me. But as with anything, there's a dark side to such a temperament, particularly when faced with a darker kind of stubbornness.

That kind of stubbornness is the kind that consumes a person. It's the kind of stubbornness that knows absolutely no boundaries and does not differentiate between friend and foe because it simply can't. It's a primitive stubbornness, a belief that anything and everything is an obstacle and that all must be dominated or overcome regardless of circumstance.

People who possess this type of stubbornness tend to be pretty successful in life - like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos - but they are often difficult creatures to like as well.

I have a person in my life who I believe possesses this stubbornness, and an interesting battle between our strong wills played out yesterday. For some reason, and maybe it's the overall circumstances I'm currently in and the wider exhaustion I'm battling too, I let it boil over into public (well, sort of - I never named the person and kept all potential details that might help identify this person private and I will continue to guard that privacy).

As a social media professional I don't condone the public airing of grievances at all, yet here I was posting on Facebook, asking friends for advice on how to handle a particular situation.

Don't do this.

A close up of that text message exchange looks like this, my comments in blue (click on it to enlarge):

The exchange

Now, there's an antagonistic history here, and to say this nameless person and I don't see eye to eye on...well...almost anything...would be a massive understatement. These are not the first shots fired between us. And I mean between us, because I've had a finger on the trigger in the past as well. As you can see above by my "If you're telling me, I'm telling you to fuck off" comment, I'm not immune to angry words. I own that phrase and apologize for saying it.

The easy thing may have been for me to have taken the post in question down and move on. Yet, I almost feel obligated not to. This person seems to feel they can order me to remove a picture that does not violate any rules, does not include them, reference them, nor involve them in any way, from a public setting, for no reason other than it bothers them personally. From the very start - the very first communication - there's sarcastic insults and a mandate ("I'm not asking you I'm telling you").

I don't know folks. That doesn't sit well with me, and I'm not comfortable rewarding this kind of communication and behavior by caving to demands. I don't think lying on the ground kicking and screaming should get a child what they want and I don't think it should get an adult what they want, either.

But maybe I'm being too stubborn myself.

The court of public opinion that has weighed in heavily thus far has without question agreed this style of communication is unwarranted. Even one of the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful, gracious people I know, who weighed in with one of the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful, gracious comments of all of them, began it with, "I think this person is acting like an inconceivable douchebag...however..." yet I take no satisfaction in that. I knew before I even showed it to people that this was ridiculous. It's pretty obvious.

But I wonder if I've dragged this issue out because it's a true matter of principle or just because I want this person to be abundantly clear they're in the wrong.

I'd like to believe the former. It aligns with my principles, both personal and professional. Personally I don't believe people should be allowed to demand or bully other people into getting what they want. Asking nicely goes a long way. Professionally, I don't believe a social media post (or blog post, or newspaper article or YouTube video or major motion picture) that violates no rules, and is in the spirit of the forum it's posted on should be removed because a single individual simply doesn't like it.

I wonder if in posting that Facebook post and posting these thoughts here on my blog I've stooped to the latter.

Is my idea of being principled, of defending the fact that I've done nothing wrong originally, and of not being willing to cater to aggressive demands in reality just a cover for seeing this person as an obstacle that must be overcome, regardless of cost?

I don't know yet.

I'll guess I'll be listening to Clarity while I sort this out.

UPDATE: Nah, I'm good.

What Were You Expecting, Chicago?

NOTE: For those following along at home, this one's about football, so...um...bear with me. There's a larger thing I'm working towards here. So, it turns out the Chicago Bears aren't really a great team this year. That's surprised a lot of people whose job it is to care about that stuff, but even more surprising than the team's play on the field has been the great levels of dysfunction off the field that have crept into the public eye.

I'll let you Google what I'm referring to, but the peak of the franchise's ongoing meltdown happened this past week when it was announced the team was benching quarterback Jay Cutler, a player they signed to a 7-year $126 million deal before the season.

The popular opinion is that Cutler has certainly not lived up to the expectations of that deal (fair, as I'll go into later), however this is still a strange decision. Well, unless you're a friend of mine whose name rhymes with Blacho.

Nacho Hates Cutler

Blacho's not the only Cutler-hater around. They are numerous and they are loud. "Sucks" is a common word found after the quarterback's name. Well, at least on Facebook and Twitter - which we all know are the places people go to discuss things in a civil, well-reasoned manner (yeah, or not that).

Now, I'm pretty indifferent when it comes to Cutler and the Bears, really. I have been known to debate his critics in bar conversations on occasion, but that's been less about defending the man, and more about defending rational thinking. That's what I'm trying to do here. And, here we go.

Everybody Hates Jay-mond?

A lot of the negativity directed toward Cutler has to do with his personality. He's criticized for being aloof, a poor leader, generally unlikeable and disinterested.

Disinterested Cutler

Sure. I don't have anything to say about that, because those are subjective arguments, and well, a lot of players across sports have been unlikeable over the years. Chicago, remember Dennis Rodman? Though it absolutely helps if we like athletes, we don't need them to be likable. We need them to play well. We pay money for tickets to games to watch sports-ball players play well and win sports-ball games.

But, Data!

So that brings me to the other argument the Jay-ters often make: Jay Cutler isn't a good/winning quarterback. Sorry, Blacho et al. You're wrong. Factually, statistically wrong.

Never argue with an idiot.

Here's a look at Cutler's stats as a Chicago Bear. These stats come from NFL.com, and I'm not manipulating them to make a statement or anything. Just showing raw statistics.

Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD Int QB Rating League Average Worst
2014 14 347 525 66.1 3,640 28 18 89.5 89.19 69.1
2013 11 224 355 63.1 2,621 19 12 89.2 85.75 66.6
2012 15 255 434 58.8 3,033 19 14 81.3 85.47 63.1
2011 10 182 314 58 2,319 13 7 85.7 83.58 62.2
2010 15 261 432 60.4 3,274 23 16 86.3 83.86 57
2009 16 336 555 60.5 3,666 27 26 76.8 82.31 55.8
TOTAL/AVG 81 1605 2615 61.15 18553 129 93 84.8 85.02 62.30

The third to last column there shows QB Rating, an imperfect, but commonly cited metric when grading quarterbacks as it takes into account a variety of statistics in its formula. As you can see, during his career as a Chicago Bear, Cutler comes just under the league average for QB rating, and that's really dragged down by one year (2009).

Out of 6 years as a starter, Cutler finished at or above the league average in QBR 4 of those years. What's more, this year, the year of his benching, he's actually having his best season looking at those stats.

Jay's criticized for being a "turnover machine" but he's never actually thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. "But what about fumbles, Coate? Cutler currently leads the NFL in turnovers!"

Okay, so that looks like this, adding fumbles lost, but also rushing TDs since that also wasn't originally included:

Year Pass TD Rush TD Int Fum Lost TDs Turnovers
2014 28 2 18 6 30 24
2013 19 0 12 3 19 15
2012 19 0 14 4 19 18
2011 13 1 7 3 14 10
2010 23 1 16 6 24 22
2009 27 1 26 1 28 27
TOTALS 129 5 93 23 134 116

Yes. Cutler does turn the ball over a lot. Factually. Never more than he scores, however.

Also, many of Cutler's failures may have something to do with the poor support systems he's had around him. Bears receivers have combined to have the 4th most drops since 2009, accounting for over 15% of Cutler's incompletions in that timeframe. SOURCE: SportingCharts.

Also the game situations have had something to do with his interception rate. Pete Prisco, a Senior NFL Columnist, dug through some data and figured out that in 2014 alone, Cutler threw 332 passes when his team has been behind, "a clear indicator that he's usually in scramble mode, which can make it tough to play quarterback in the NFL." That's fair. If you're under duress, you tend to panic. Professional athlete or not, that's a normal human emotional reaction to stress.

Why Does This Matter, Coate?

Let's pause for a moment.

None of the data above, and none of the mountains of data about Cutler's Bears career does anything to justify his pay grade.

When you combine all the various stats Cutler has compiled in his Bears career compared to the rest of the league in those various seasons, Cutler ranks exactly 15. There are 32 NFL teams, which places Cutler at exactly barely above average.

So, statistically, Jay Cutler has not been as poor as generalized ("average" does not equal "sucks"), however there's a larger problem, here. The Chicago Bears organization and its fans expected Cutler to be a Top 10 and maybe even Top 5 quarterback. They expected him to be elite. After all, he's paid like it. His contract makes him the 7th-highest paid QB in the NFL.

It's then fair to say, Jay Cutler has greatly underperformed compared to expectations.

The Truth Hurts.

But, here's my question, and the heart of this whole thing. What were you expecting, Chicago?

Cutler arrived via trade to the Chicago in 2009 to much fanfare. In the 24 seasons in between the 1985 Bears Super Bowl victory and Cutler's acquisition, Chicago had trotted out 27 different starting quarterbacks - most of them other team's castoffs or career backups.

Craig Krenzel Who

With Cutler, Chicago fans would finally have a "real" quarterback - a guy with tremendous natural talent and a huge arm. This was the guy that would return the Bears to their former glory.

I now ask, what gave them any indication that would be the case?

Look back at the very first chart I posted above, and now look at this one:

Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD Int QB Rating League Average
2008 16 384 616 62.3 4,526 25 18 86 82.24
2007 16 297 467 63.6 3,497 20 14 88.1 82.10
TOTAL/AVG 32 681 1083 62.95 8,023 45 32 87 82

These stats are from his two years as a starter with the Denver Broncos prior to going to Chicago. Cutler's 62.95 completion % is barely above his 61.15% with the Bears. His touchdown-to-interception ration with the Bears isn't much different than with the Broncos. His QB rating with the Broncos was higher than the league average, but not significantly. He averaged a QBR of 87 in those two years with the Broncos.

Let's say he kept that as an average with the Bears. He'd still finish barely above the NFL average QBR.

Are you sensing a theme?

Cutler has always been barely above average. The Bears traded for a barely above average QB and have gotten exactly that same QB...they just haven't gotten what they paid for.

Why Blame Jay?

How is that Jay Cutler's fault? HINT: It's not.

We live in a capitalist society. Cutler apparently has a really, really good agent. Just because he was paid as a top QB, doesn't mean he should have been a top QB. There wasn't anything in his prior career (other than "potential") that showed he would become a Top 5 option.

Especially when you consider he was traded to a traditionally defense-and-run-grame-focused organization, and to be Top 5 he'd have to best QBs like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and even Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb, Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning. Most of those QBs have led high scoring offenses in the past decade and a few of them are sure-fire Hall-of-Famers.

The guy (potential for more aside) gave a consistent effort all these years. This, while playing under 4 different offensive coordinators in 6 years with the Bears.

Football is a team sport, and like any team sport it takes more than one player to be great. It seems fair to me that Cutler, the man who holds 14 franchise records as a quarterback - is really just a scapegoat (link goes to another post with even further evidence that Cutler hasn't been the largest problem in Chicago).

Blame These People Instead.

McCaskey's suck

Those people in that picture are the owners of the Chicago Bears. They brought Cutler to Chicago, and well, not much else. These are the people that have been absolutely OK with average.

Need proof?

Since the Chicago Bears won their last Super Bowl in 1985, the team has gone 239-222. That's a .520 winning percentage. With Jay Cutler as a starter, the Chicago Bears went 45-36. That's a .556 winning percentage - which, is higher.

They’ve gone to the playoffs just 10 seasons out of the past 29.  5 of those 10 came between 1986-1991 when they still had some guy named Mike Singletary (Hall of Fame) at Middle Linebacker and Mike Ditka (DITKA) coaching.

Since Ditka left in 1992, the Bears have played in just 9 playoffs games, winning 4 (Jay Cutler played in two of them, winning one).

Blacho and others - it's time to come to a sad realization - the Chicago Bears organization is mediocre and has been for a long, long time. Jay Cutler was just another mediocre player among many brought in. Actually, as proved above, he was slightly above mediocre. The Bears were better because of him. Not much, but still.

Jay Cutler's tenure with the Bears is likely over. The Bears' tenure as a mediocre team won't end with him. Not until the ownership and management figure out how to put a good TEAM on the field.

 

Clarity.

Music is transcendent. There's not a mood nor emotion that doesn't have the perfect soundtrack, nor are there adequate words to describe the feeling of hearing the right music at the right time. There's no way to draw comparison to the experience of being completely and absolutely overwhelmed by an album or by a live performance. We've all had that feeling - that song, that album, that show that just...consumed us.

I've had a few, particularly around this time of year. Growing up in the harsh winters of Chicago makes you moody to say the least. Winter is a time of escapism there. You do anything you can to distract you from miserable gray skies, matching gray slush along the streets, and biting subzero temperatures.

The lucky or wealthy escape to warmer climates, many (most?) escape to alcohol, I escaped to music. High school was a time of musical discovery. My ear perked up at more than The Smashing Pumpkins' Melanie Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Billy, I can't stand you, but god I loved your music once) which had, alongside Siamese Dream and Adore, dominated my junior high listening.

In high school I listened to anything and everything my new classmates recommended and among those recommendations came Clarity by Jimmy Eat World shared with me by a friend name John Farrell. While Jimmy Eat World's genre and wider catalogue are not among my preferred, this album and the title track gripped me in a way few albums or songs had before.

https://play.spotify.com/album/0JfCEzWgcuUxrAUZw5eUT4

They struck me so passionately and impacted me so deeply that during a time where all I wanted was to be introduced to more and more, I found myself listening to Clarity on repeat.

Clarity was inexplicably inescapable. Iconic. Defining.

It remains that way. The past week as the weather has chilled in Boulder, Colorado I find myself walking to work with Clarity in my ears. It's the perfect soundtrack for now, as it has been this time of year, almost relentlessly.

It's music I come back to. I hope you have an album like this in your life and I'd love to hear what it is below.

What I've Learned After One Year at a Startup

NOTE: The views of this post are my own and are not meant to reflect those of my employer. I made it folks.

One year ago, I joined a Boulder, Colorado marketing technology company called Kapost. At the time, it seemed like a potentially risky move. I was recently engaged, leaving a company at which I felt secure, working with great people and for a great person. A year later, it's the best decision I've ever made.

celebrateme
celebrateme

Throughout this year I've been documenting my evolution as a new employee, sharing what I had learned after one month and four months, and my awe of the people I've worked with and for. This is another in that series, documenting lessons from this past year at a Kapost.

You Can't Fear Change

For those following along at home, this is a recurring lesson. In fact, it's probably the number one theme. In the past year we've altered the way we do business (3-4 times by my count), adjusting appropriately as we learn what works/doesn't. We've grown from a company in the teens (I was employee 19 a year ago) to somewhere around 60 employees. I think. I honestly can't keep up. In my first post on this topic I bemoaned the construction of a cubicle wall that divided the room, however noting:

"...aside from whining about it in this post, I’m not throwing much of a fit, because I know this too will change.

If we continue to grow as rapidly as we have been – and as rapidly as the company is planning to – we literally will not be able to fit everyone in the office space we’re in now. There will be another move, and maybe we’ll return to an open, lively, & energetic workspace. The point is, change happens at breakneck speed at a startup and if venting in a blog post like I just did isn’t enough to help you keep moving, you’ll struggle to catch up."

It did change. We kept growing. We kept playing with the layout of our space. Now we're moving to a bigger space in a month or so and an even bigger space a few months after that. This constant adjusting of ideas - and in our case physical space - can't rattle you if you want to last in a startup.

On a smaller scale, our marketing team has been under constant change this year. We're now at the largest we've ever been staff-wise, but we've had to get to that point by overcoming the departure of 6 marketers in the process. Sometimes we filled positions, sometimes we created new ones. If there's one thing our team knows, it's that the way things work now, sure as hell won't be the way they always work.

Fortunately, we're the kind of team that just keeps rolling.

COATEFUCKYEAH
COATEFUCKYEAH

You Can't Stop the "Up"

So, remember that part above where I said the marketing team lost some folks this year? Well, among them were our web designer, front end developer, marketing automation & Salesforce admin, and our director of marketing. Ridiculously talented people in critical positions. I can't stress that enough. In fact, the latter two were the ones who built Kapost's original marketing structure from the ground up. You don't just replace that overnight.

But despite these key setbacks, our marketing goals remained in place. We still had to produce and still had to produce more each month. So we did (for the most part). We found a way to keep momentum, because, well, we had to. In order for this company to grow, we as a company need to continue to produce, to innovate to stretch ourselves to be the best version of Kapost we can be.

forthewin
forthewin

I'm proud to work at a company where that is not only a mandate but a common understanding and something we all push for. We all know, that as tough as things get, we'll keep going and keep this company booming. So far so good, and we're not stopping any time soon.

Don't Hire Jerks

Now you might be thinking "no shit, Coate", but the reason Kapost has been able to handle change, turnover, high demands from prospects, customers, board members, investors and so on is deeply rooted in an old SlideShare presentation by CEO Toby Murdock. On slide 5 Toby lists Kapost's cultural values.

[slideshare id=24580088&doc=kapost-20culture-207-130724094223-phpapp02]

Numbers 3-6 make up the part I have most commonly cited when people ask what I enjoy most about Kapost. It started with good people, it's grown with good people, and it will continue to grow with good people. As we've grown I've never questioned a hire. With very few exceptions, the people who have walked in the door have belonged, have been all-stars at what they do, and fit in as those they've always been a part of this.

I've also watched as wave after wave of new hires has been welcomed by those before them. There is no sense of "us vs. them", "originals vs. newbies". There's no overt favoritism solely toward longevity. Appreciation, sure, but I mean to say a person is able to walk in to Kapost and do a great job from day one, because they already have the trust of existing teammates.

The great part too, is that the awesome people that have left this company this year have been awesome to the company on the way out. Our marketing team survived a potentially treacherous transition period because none of those key departures left on a bitter note (awesome people are in high demand and they were demanded elsewhere is all), and were willing to do everything they could to make sure we could keep going in the interim, often going above and beyond what's typically expected.

So yeah. Don't hire jerks.

Style Doesn't Matter...

Referencing that SlideShare deck again, #7 reads "We evaluate by results." One of the joys of working for a startup is how freeform a lot of work tends to be. Goals are in place, along with general process guidelines (sometimes), and then it's "okay guys, go get 'em."

This is where innovation comes from - finding different ways to get somewhere. Experimentation has its place, so does unconventional thinking. There's no format, really. It's purely about getting things done, however that looks.

While I referred above to a unity among Kaposters, you wouldn't notice it directly by looking around the office. I see a diversity of workspace and clothing choices, of work styles and work schedules. We aren't a group of look-a-like do-a-likes but we're getting it done. There's something to be said for that.

...Though Apparently Neither Does Cleanliness

Kaposters. Dirty dishes in the bucket. Seriously.

Dirty dishes
Dirty dishes

Also, what's going on here?

IMG_0913
IMG_0913

Or here?

IMG_0914
IMG_0914

Clean up after yourselves, adult humans.

READ MORE:

What I Learned After One Month at a Startup

What I Learned After Four Months at a Startup

Kapost is a rapidly growing venture-backed company with customers like IBM, Dell, & Lenovo.

So that's year one for me. Hope you enjoyed reading my experiences this crazy year as much as I enjoyed having them.

What Loyalty Looks Like

This morning was a normal Saturday morning for me. Wake up, shower, throw on my button up shirt and sports jacket, grab a breakfast burrito and coffee, head to Folsom Field to pick up my press pass for the CU Buffs Football game. Wander up to the press box, grab a delicious blueberry muffin, followed by a brief stop down to the field where I stand in the end zone, watching warmups, looking for anything notable to use later on. Well, that used to be a normal Saturday morning for me, anyway…a decade ago.

At the time I was a student at the University of Colorado, working for KVCU, the student radio station. I had originally volunteered at the station in hopes of becoming a DJ and hosting my own specialty show, but found that volunteering with the sports radio show to be a quicker route to getting behind a soundboard and eventually on air. As an added perk, I got to be a producer for weekly broadcasts of the football games.

Andrew J. Coate Corey White

Admittedly, football has never been my number one sport of passion, but college football games are an experience like none other. There is a buzz, an excitement in the air, a frantic energy that you simply don’t get in professional sports. I witnessed this secondhand, a tacit part of it from a press box high above the stadium. I looked down on the often packed student section, clad in black and gold, enjoying the ebb and flow of their energy as they game progressed.

Go Buffs

Andrew Detch

Meanwhile, a pair of fellow CU students named Andrew Detch and Brian Hickey spent their Saturday mornings in a similar environment, yet in quite a different manner.

Brian Hickey

Their mornings involved all that buzz, excitement and frantic energy I referenced. They were not mere observers like me, they were participants. They were creators of it. Drew never left his house without Buffs colors and his cowboy hat glued to his head. Hickey often painted up. They analyzed the game in greater depth that many of the press writers I shared my Saturdays with. They weren’t just CU Buffs fans, they obsessed over CU football. They bled black and gold. They always showed up and showed up loud.

I left the University of Colorado before graduating, and I missed some of the football program’s darkest days. But as tough as those years were to watch, Drew and Hickey still watched. They still cheered. They still obsessed. They still showed up.

The wider world sometimes looks at this unflinching focus on a football team as silly. It’s just a game right? There are more important things to put your energy towards, right? Maybe, but the narrative here isn’t about a pair of sports nuts, it’s about loyalty.

I’ve been fortunate to witness this loyalty firsthand and to realize that it’s not situational. These are loyal men. They have been loyal to me as friends. They seen me up and down, lifted me up and brought me back down when necessary. They’ve stood by me. Last Saturday they literally stood by me as my groomsmen along with two other loyal men - Corey Gage and Eric Thompson. The type of loyalty these two display is rarely seen. It’s even more rarely appreciated or rewarded.

Best Men.

This morning, I had the opportunity to reward them - to give them the opportunity to literally stand by those they had long stood by figuratively. This morning they joined me at Folsom Field. They walked the press box, they stood on the field. The University of Colorado should be honored to have such men on their side, and I know they are, considering their willingness to help me create this experience (thanks Dave Plati and the Sports Information Office for your generosity).

Hickey and Drew on the Field

I’m thankful and humbled by the chance to revisit steps of my past, but I’m more thankful and humbled to have done so with these two men by my side. Again, tacitly watching their excitement, their buzz and their frantic energy, only this time from a tad bit closer proximity.

Thanks for your loyalty Drew and Hickey. Jerks.

Oh, and Go Buffs.

Boss' Day: A Tribute to Three Jerks That Made Me.

My nifty Sunrise calendar app tells me today is Boss' Day. I didn't know that was a real thing, but I live by a "if it's on the calendar, it's a thing" code so I'm rolling with it. I actually have quite a bit to say on this topic, as I've had the good fortune of having three great bosses in a row, and the even greater fortune of calling them each friends (and jerks) as well. Below I talk about Jeff Rummer, Geoff Deakin, & Jesse Noyes, three men who haven't just been "cool" to me, but have gone above and beyond to nurture my career. Seeing as how the word "career" wasn't even in my vocabulary as recently as Fall 2011, that's not something I take lightly.  Here we go.

Jeff Rummer

Jeff Rummer Boy Band
Jeff Rummer Boy Band

I profiled Jeff at length (and also his awesome wife Rachel) previously, but was reminded just the other day by my nifty Timehop app that it has been exactly three years since a conversation I had with Jeff jumpstarted my life. If that sounds overly dramatic or mushy, it's not. Almost overnight I went from wasting away in a bland, corporate sales environment I was wholly and absolutely unfit for in Chicago, to feeling the Colorado sunshine on my face with a sense of purpose. I was working for someone that I trusted creatively and someone who understood my value.

Jeff Rummer likes me.
Jeff Rummer likes me.

What made Jeff a great boss, is that he was a great teacher. He didn't overlook my inadequacies or lacking of certain skills, or business thought or vocabulary. He knew I was missing a lot. So he taught me. I became a better writer, designer, coder, budgeter and critical thinker under Rummer's guidance. Really, I became a marketer under Rummer's guidance. My abilities would be further realized down the line, but Rummer helped refine them in me. So Jeff? Thanks, jerk.

Geoff Deakin

Geoff Deakin Rides Unicorns
Geoff Deakin Rides Unicorns

At some point Rummer left. After realizing this didn't open the doors it should have for me, I was left planning my own exit strategy. I reached out to what I call the "Why Don't We Still All Work Together?" Club, a group consisting of now 15 or so talented marketers who have found success in companies other than the one we all worked together for. Among that club is Geoff Deakin who scooped me up to be a community manager at his company. Again, he recognized something in me and was ready to let me try some things I couldn't before.

During my time working for Deakin I came to appreciate his ability to manage personalities and conversations. Many times he would get a riled up Coate (or an entire riled up department) in his office with complaints/brilliant ideas.

Somehow Deakin could not only absorb that chaos but pull some relevance out of it. He made us feel heard. That, or he was just really damn good at making us feel like we were heard. Either way, I came to appreciate the bigger picture, strategic thinking. He taught me to pause a bit more. Absorb a bit more. React a bit more calmly. I also appreciated thousands of Simpsons references and his photoshop abilities on long conference calls. It was a pleasure working for him...and now with him (more on that later). So Geoff? Thanks, jerk.

Jesse Noyes

Jesse Noyes knows.
Jesse Noyes knows.

If Jeff Rummer and Geoff Deakin helped refine me, Jesse Noyes was the one who let me loose. Beyond the hundreds of things I've learned about marketing from Jesse (before I worked for him and since), I learned so many things about management. He has a very "hands off, trust your team" approach to things, which works because he knows how to hire a team. What that approach does is it tells a team you're willing to invest in them. It says "I believe you're talented, I believe you know what you're doing. That's why you're here. Now go do it."

Jesse Noyes thinks Andrew J. Coate Rules
Jesse Noyes thinks Andrew J. Coate Rules

That approach has done wonders for me. With plenty of guidance from Jesse when needed, I've able to achieve more in one year working for him than all other years combined. Jesse has helped me cement my position as an authority on something, and he's also taught me what it looks like to make adjustments. Jesse is a master of adjustments. If something's off, we tweak it.  Jesse's also taught me how to look forward. I, for the first time, have a clearer outlook. Not with 100% clear, but my 3-5 year plan no longer looks like this:

3-5 year plan
3-5 year plan

So Jesse? Thanks, jerk.

BONUS ROUND: At the time of this writing, I now have the pleasure of pushing forward in my career with two of the three jerks mentioned above. Deakin has brought his talents and Simpsons references to join Jesse and I, which is sorta cool, too I guess.

Deakin Jesse
Deakin Jesse

A Great Day

I just read this post on LinkedIn called "12 Powerful Ways to Create a Cohesive Team" and my first thought was how fortunate I am to work on a cohesive team, and how the man who brought us together was 12 for 12 on that list, I've written before about the awesomeness of the group I work with (it's only gotten more awesome since), but now I want to reflect on how I came to be a part of it all. A year ago today, Jesse Noyes sent me a LinkedIn message saying he has recently joined some company called Kapost, and that he was "on the hunt for someone to join as a manager of community and content. Primarily, this person would oversee building out our social media strategy, our influencer relations, and the community we plan to grow in a new online content academy. So the person needs to be badass."

Coate Badass

We talked on the phone probably an hour after that email, and just over two weeks later I had an offer from Kapost in my hand. I joined the company as their very first Community & Content Manager (employee #19 I think?) on November 11th, 2013.

That original phone conversation is forever stuck in my head. It was a career AND life-defining conversation. I was comfortable at my current job, but hearing Jesse passionately talk about the company, their plans, and the plans for the position, comfort suddenly didn't have much appeal any more. He described the chance for me to accomplish some great things, and I realized I had an opportunity to turn long dormant (and/or stymied) ambitions into reality. Not to mention, Jesse Noyes was a person whose career (and beard) I had admired for some time. I was honored he'd think of me.

Jesse Noyes

Just under a year later, I have no complaints about my decision to jump to Kapost, and I'd like to think Jesse doesn't have any either. I have risen to all the exciting challenges working at a startup brings with it, and far exceeded all the goals I set out to meet in less time than planned, and I just received a promotion that comes with a whole new set of exciting challenges.

I've never been more proud of who I work for, work with, and the work I'm doing alongside them.

Today's a great day in my history.

The Worst Day

I hate September 20th. It's a day that taunts me for months and turns my stomach inside out. It's the day Bud & Wendy died. That day, 10 years ago, changed my life and the lives of so many others. I know September 20th is just a date on a calendar, but it's one my mind and heart have decided to circle, to focus on, to never move past with ease. It's a hard day. I fear sounding selfish in saying that. Bud & Wendy were survived by children, by older siblings, by closer-by-blood family members than I, and I can only imagine the weight this date carries for them, considering the crushing feeling it gives me every year.

Bud & Wendy
Bud & Wendy

They say it gets easier. My father lost his, my mother lost a sister tragically. They've told me you never move past it, you just move on. I've had to try to figure out how to move on more than than one should. Death & loss have been predominant themes in my life, and predominant factors in who I am. Those themes define why I work so hard, maintain so much focus, keep so many people at a distance.

But death and loss aren't just mine to bear. They linger around us all, haunt each and every one of us. We've all experienced death, or at least the loss of something we wish we hadn't lost. They are universal themes. So while today I mourn, I also take comfort in knowing many mourn with me.

But you know what? Screw mourning. This day has already taken way too much from me, from us. The Bud & Wendy I knew stood tall in the face of adversity. So while it's unrealistic to pretend I'm fine, it's not unrealistic to find joy from pain. Jon Foreman said it poignantly when he sang, "every lament is a love song..."

I loved Bud & Wendy. They built me up when I felt no one else could. They gave me reason to smile when all I felt was bitter and dark. I celebrate them for that. I joke about being a jerk these days, but I used to be a real one. Bud & Wendy are why I'm not. They put me on a path to releasing bitterness, to opening myself to a life I wouldn't despise any longer. I have more to say about that, but I've chosen to write a private letter for them.

Publicly, I'll add that the Coate the world knows now was heavily influenced by the love and care I felt from these two, long ago. My life is less because of their loss, but so much more because I knew them at all.

So today, I cry. I hurt. I hang my head. But I celebrate too. I celebrate my life being touched by theirs in a profound way. If you knew Bud & Wendy, share a story about them below. If you didn't, share a story about someone who you loved, then lost.

We hurt. We heal.

The Secret Skills of a Community Manager

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

What, really, is a community manager and just what the hell does that person do all day?

Here, I’ll answer some FAQs:

Q: “You manage online communities? What’s that like?” A: Herding cats.

Q: “Do you just tweet all day?” A: Pretty much.

Q: (after explaining the job) “I still have no idea what it is you do, exactly.” Don’t worry. Neither do I.

In all seriousness, I get asked often what being a community manager is all about, and not just by people outside of marketing. It’s actually pretty common to get an email or LinkedIn note from people who have community manager in their title. I won’t bother answering the “what’s a community manager?” question here though.

Jenn Pedde already did that in "What A Community Manager is Not" and Kapost in their "Content Marketing Hiring Handbook”.

The characteristics of great community managers have already been covered in depth by DDN Corp’s Erika Heald in “7 Traits to Screen For When Hiring a Community Manager” and Tim Nickles in “How to Hire a Community Manager.

What I will do in this post is let you in on some lesser known (or at least lesser mentioned) humorous traits of community managing talent.

We. See. EVERYTHING. If the question starts “Did you see the…”, yes we did, and have already queued it up in our social tools. It’ll go live shortly. “But what about the -“ Yep, saw that too and responded already. Load us up with networks and notifications. We got this.

The secret here? Sometimes nifty tools that pull multiple streams into one place, but the more likely answer is a microchip implanted in the brains of all community managers.

We know every pop culture reference ever. Community managers have the uncanny ability to cite pop culture references that span far beyond what would be a normal realm of knowledge. Case in point to the left.

I responded to Ann Handley from the Kapost account with a timely and appropriate Kojak reference. I have no idea how or why I know who Kojak is, nor how or why I recognized Ann’s original reference. But I did. And I nailed the reply.

The secret here? Being really good at Google.

We’re really good at Google. Community managers excel at finding things on the internet and that’s in large part because of Google. Really, you can find anything on Google. Seriously. I just Googled “Unicorns in Florida” and look what came up:

When we have to find valuable information quickly - like a person’s contact information or a GIF for the brilliant pop culture reference we’re about to do - we often turn to Google. We know the productivity tips and tricks to search efficiently and effectively.

IF you need help looking something up, turn to a community manager. But be warned, if it’s a dumb question your response may come in Let Me Google That For You form.

The secret here? Well, let me Google that for you

We have a meme and/or GIF ready for all scenarios. Some community managers keep a folder or database handy for snappy, visual responses to online interactions or internal emails. I prefer the improv method, allowing inspiration to strike me on the spot. I frequently get asked where I come up with the responses I send. The answer lies in a mix of an over active imagination and a great set of GIF websites I totally won’t tell you about.

The secret here?

We’re awesome. Finally, we’re awesome. Check that. We’re hashtag awesome. As anyone who has ever worked with a community manager knows, the awesomeness is hard to contain, really. It just radiates off us at all times.

With being always online comes the necessity to be always “on”. That means we always have to be monitoring activity within communities, looking for opportunities to engage, and then always engaging with timely and appropriate responses. That level of “on”-ness takes awesomeness and even hashtag awesomeness.

The secret here? You’re given your awesomeness when you get hired. It’s kind of like how cops get a standard issue badge, gun and mustache.

Okay, if you made it this far, you’re a champ. While I jest throughout this post, the traits here are founded in reality. Community managers are on the go at all times, and seem to be everywhere at once. It’s stretching, but it’s what comes with the position. We’re a special breed of person, and I personally love the sometimes madness involved in being a community manager.

My next post will feature a more realistic look behind the scenes of community management. Thanks for reading.

What I’ve Learned After Four Months at a Startup

This is the second post in a periodical series chronicling my ups and downs transitioning from the corporate world to a fast past startup. In my first similarly-themed post a few months ago, I shared what I felt were some essential lessons I’d learned after just a month’s time working at a fast-paced marketing technology startup in Boulder, Colorado. Rereading that post, all four of the lessons I learned still hold true - now four months in - while additional lessons have cropped in.

I value every hour of my time spent working for Kapost (which covers a lot of hours), and what I include here are things that have made my time worthwhile. While it might go without saying, it’s worth noting these thoughts are entirely my own and do not reflect the viewpoints of my employer or coworkers, though the latter part might not be as big of an issue because…

We’re All In It Together

In a recent coffee shop conversation with our Sr. Director of Content Marketing Jesse Noyes, I described how challenging my time at Kapost has already been. While I tend to thrive when I’m stretched thin, this job is certainly testing my upper limits, primarily because I’m doing a lot of things I have never done before. I have brand new responsibilities and brand new accountability in a lot of areas where no precedent exits, neither in my career nor at the company.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

While I’m thoroughly enjoying my work, there’s certainly a great deal of unique stress that goes with being a trailblazer. But that’s the thing. I’m a trailblazer on a team of trailblazers. Jesse noted how he feels our marketing team is clicking so well with each other because we’re all stretched in ways we’ve never been before. Each and every one of us is facing new pressures and new stresses.

On the flip side, we’re all experiencing new triumphs as well. The point is there’s a common understanding of the intensity of our situation and we all share in the highs and lows together - high-fiving and disco ball dancing when it’s good, and drinking together when it’s tough. Which brings me to my next point.

There’s Drinking

When stress levels are elevated, there are a variety of healthy ways to relieve tension, especially when you work and live in a super active place like Boulder, Colorado - as most of us at Kapost do. We all have a variety of stress relievers including healthy exercise like running, hiking, biking, yoga, rock climbing, as well as other tension tamers like hourly walks around the block for fresh air, soothing tea and, well, booze.

These guys have life figured out.

Kapost is not one of those fancy startups with a built-in kegerator, but our CEO Toby does do a great job of making sure our fridge is at least partially stocked with Colorado craft brews and PBRs. He’s also great about walking around on Friday afternoons making sure those who could use a brew have one in hand. The company sponsors a monthly all-company happy hour as well.

Content Fuel

When I mention these facts to my friends with more traditional jobs (especially my schoolteacher fiancée), they tend to think we’re this super relaxed, anything goes workplace. It’s actual quite the opposite. The beer and drinking exists to help us slow down after fast paced days and weeks. It also contributes to the camaraderie referenced above.

Teetotalers and casual imbibers are not immune to this section. Whether you drink or not, you have to acknowledge the gesture behind offering a drink up. It’s a sign of acknowledgment. Beer, wine and liquor have long been used as tools for “cheers”, and offering to buy a drink for someone or providing a group of people who work very hard with some cold beverages to enjoy shows appreciation and a tip of the cap. It says, “You’ve worked hard. Drink up.”

Many startups offer booze as merely a recruiting tool, but for the most part I choose to believe it’s symbolic of a greater trust in and admiration for the work ethic of the team you’ve hired. However...

Even in a Company with “No Jerks” Some Jerk Will Steal Your Beer

This sticky note used to live on a beer. Now it doesn't.

…or your trail mix, or your half-and-half, or your leftover pizza. I once put a pastry in the fridge which I meant to bring to Jill later on. It was wrapped up so you couldn’t see what it was, but I wrote very clearly on it “Dead Dove. Do Not Eat.” Even that disappeared. It doesn’t matter where you work. If there’s a community fridge, at some point, someone is going to take your stuff. Fact.

You Can’t Fear Change

In my last post about life at a startup I said, “change happens at breakneck speed at a startup” and mentioned that if you were not equipped to do what REO Speedwagon preached, you might not be cut out for startup life. Change is a certain constant at Kapost. Since that post, even more members have joined our team (I think we’re pushing 50 or so employees now) and a few have left.

In mid-February our marketing team had our plan completely disrupted, scrambling us to put all hands on deck toward launching something that had previously been planned for later on. None of us were ready for that call to action, but all of us bonded together - as did all other departments of Kapost from product to engineering to customer success to sales - to successfully launch. We still met each of our original marketing goals on top of that as well.

we fear change

We did this because despite a potential wrench in our plans, none of us got bent out of shape or even flinched about the change. We said “ok” and rocked that initiative with the same gusto we would have given other prior plans. Change happened, but we adapted to it.

Even the stupid cubicle walls I notoriously complained about in my last post saw change. As I predicted, the growth of the company forced us to rearrange our office layout yet again, which meant tearing down part of the offending wall. It would have been silly for me to get caught up on something long term, because in startup-land any and everything is subject to change, and you have to move right along with it.

Cubicle destroyed

These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned 4 months in, and just as I felt a month in, I wouldn’t trade my current experiences for anything. The stressors I’m putting up with are already reaping vast rewards, and I’m having so much fun working on really cool stuff with really cool people.

I’ll continue to chronicle bits and pieces of my life and lessons at Kapost, intermittent with other ramblings and writing for the Content Marketeer and Kapost Academy. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

In Awe of Content Creators

A loyal follower of my blog (the only loyal follower of my blog?) sent me an IM the other day and noted how I haven’t written very much lately, following that up with a classic “what gives?” While I haven’t given this blog much love, I’ve actually been writing like crazy lately. At Kapost, I’m a member of our content team, which cranks out daily doses of awesomeness in word-and-picture form on them interwebs. I’m personally responsible for at least one blog post a week for the Content Marketeer, but have also written 14 full-length research articles, and some blog and email content to support some larger projects. As Kapost’s Community & Content Manager I write a few hundred unique social media posts a week, spanning Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, & even Pinterest - not to mention hundreds of responses to folks who interact with those posts.

Brilliant Social Media Interaction

I moderate the Content Marketing Academy LinkedIn group, which means jumping into 10-20 discussions per week - often multiple, thought out comments per discussion with other marketers. I’ve also written countless email and LinkedIn exchanges, responded to questions, networking & starting conversations on behalf of Kapost. I’ve been writing an internal social media guide that might actually turn into something larger & public if it’s any good. Finally, I’ve ghost written some social media & blog posts for some folks pro-bono because, charity and stuff.

All of that to say that I’ve written more since the November 11th, 2013 than I probably have in the past year and half prior. My coworker Ben describes me a “always heads down, silent with my headphones on.” While the coworkers who sit next to me might beg to differ on the silent part, the full truth is I spend almost my entire day, from dawn to dusk communicating. Im always talking to someone, even if it’s over chat or email or LinkedIn or the tweeter machine. It’s exhausting and a bit intimidating to be honest.

More Social Media Brilliance.

A lot hangs on the words I choose, whether they be witty quips on twitter, or a longer form piece on choosing the correct marketing content for various stages of the buying cycle. My job is to drive web traffic, and eventually revenue through things I say to people. That’s not to mention creating a wider brand awareness, positive sentiment & hopefully loyalty through things I say as well. This all seems like a daunting task, and admittedly can feel a bit crushing in those weak moments in the wee hours of the night when you haven’t slept and you’re in the no-mans land of “drank too much wine” and “didn’t drink enough wine”.

But this post isn’t to whine about my workload, because if you know anything about me, you know that I most fulfilled when I’m being challenged, and I’m at my best when I’m stretched super thin. No, this post is to tell you that I’m in awe of the others around me who I see daily thrive in the areas I feel weakest. I work with a special team of people right now and constantly get the feeling that I’m a member of something great and memorable to come.

I’m a die-hard White Sox baseball fan and I remember watching the 2005 World Series champion team come together. A variety of complimentary pieces were added and everything just seemed to gel just right. The team had great talent, but more importantly, great balance. They were built to consistently produce winning results that season, and they didn’t do it with the highest payroll or the biggest names either.

Answer: It's Willie Harris

I know sports analogies are cliché but I really don’t care. I want to believe I’m in the starting rotation of a World Series contender right now.

Kapost Content Team

I’m in awe of our Sr. Managing Editor Anne Murphy. She was the content team prior to October, and her ability to write and edit as much as she does, at the high quality she does, and the rapid speed she does, makes my head spin.  We couldn’t have a better center piece to build a content team around. She’s led by example in her production, process and demeanor at Kapost. Amidst an often stressful job, she knows how to laugh and make it fun to work around.

Our fearless leader, Sr. Director of Content Marketing Jesse Noyes comes next. He manages to be our GM, Manager, batting coach, pitching coach as well as hitting cleanup in the batting order & playing Gold Glove defense at third base as well. I love his knack for strategy and releasing the next big thing. I admired his early career from afar, so when he called me personally to work for him, it was an exciting honor. I trust his leadership, because I’ve seen his production in roles similar to the team he now leads. He does a great job of keeping us focused, while encouraging a supportive environment for all of us. Also, he didn’t fire me for photoshopping him into a bunch of stuff or turning him into a video game character called Jetpack Jesse.

Mini Jesse

After snagging me, Jesse went right to work hiring a pair of high energy Content Marketing Managers in Jean Spencer & Liz O’Neill. These two made their impact felt from their first days on the job, picking up some pieces from Anne, Jesse & I while also adding their own creative ideas to the mix. Like Anne, Jean & Liz have a remarkable ability to churn out multiple blog posts in the time I agonize over a few paragraphs. Posts like Jean’s A Look at Hiring: What’s the Best College Degree for Content Marketing? & Liz’s 5 Principles of Highly Effective Content were well received by the intended audiences. They’re writing great stuff like that while I’m writing posts called How to Market to Humans. Brilliant stuff, I know. Aside from the content they churn out, these two add a great deal of energy and fun to our group and were quick to fit in and add to our culture and vibe.

Our new videographer Jacob Collins similarly has stepped right in and contributed. He brings a bit calmer demeanor to the group which really helps balance the energy in our area. Though he’s still brand new as I write this, we are all excited to add his talents to the mix. I mean, look at the dude’s film reel.

Finally, I call out Mark Peck, our stud designer. Mark’s been my favorite to work with so far, because he has the reMARKable (get it?) ability to bring our ideas to life in design-form. This predates my Kapost tenure, but the Kapost50 webpage is spectacular, and his recent collaboration with Jesse on a project called “Masters of Slideshare” has been lauded far and wide by the marketing world and received almost 8,000 views on Slideshare in just 3 days, which is 5x the amount of views our most popular Slideshare prior received.

[slideshare id=30350834&doc=mastersofslidesharedeck-140123100234-phpapp01]

Mark and I work very in sync with each other, better than any designer I’ve ever worked with, which is high praise because I’m fortunate to know a lot of design talent. In our second week of knowing each other we managed to take a funny joke and turn it into a funnier one in the form of Jetpack Jesse mentioned above. Mark did all the heavy lifting and through working with him on a joke project we learned how to work together on real projects. He learned how I thought and how to make things I thought be things you can look at.

Recently, he turned the random scribbles you see from my notebook into the infographic below. It’s exactly as I envisioned it and better. This is typical of Mark. He’s wowed us all with the things he’s created. Also, he puts up with the fact that I pick on him like a little brother, and to date has not yet brawled with me. So, there’s that too.

All of this saying nice things about people is important to me, because writing it out here makes me realize I’m in a fortunate place and inspires me to keep up and continually better the content I create. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go write a post called “How to Market to Gorillas” and respond to some tweets with pictures of cats high fiving or something.

Coate Notebook

[slideshare id=30581561&doc=cmalinkedininfographic-140129093426-phpapp01]

A Night Reunited

The people I profile today (Philip Toscano, Model Stranger, Pete Falknor) are formative characters in my life. I’ve spent many hours with these folks, and in the case of Model Stranger, many hours in tight quarters. These are creative people, and together we created many things from films to music albums, to live events. I got to see them all a few weeks ago in a single night that began with a show at The Hideout in Chicago. They’re all still creating amazing things, and it was incredible to catch up with them all, and to introduce Jill to people who spent a lot of time with past versions of Coate.

Philip Toscano

Philip is a person I’ve known most of my life but didn’t really get to know until our junior year of high school, when I walked up to him in the cafeteria one day and said “wanna make a film together?” We ended up scribbling down some ideas for a film we eventually called Pill Poppin’ & Train Hoppin’. While the final film was nowhere close to the original concept, it was still an ambitious attempt for a pair of high schoolers working with a bunch of other high schoolers, none with any training in what to do of any kind.

From that point on, Philip and I realized we shared many creative interests and inspirations. We hung out a lot over the final years of high school, dabbling with other (often weird like below) film, photography, music & other art projects, and forming a lifelong friendship. Philip is among the more multi-talented people I know and these days has turned a larger focus toward music. He has a band called The Bribes, which packed The Hideout the night we were there. You see a lot of potential in his tunes, and I’ll be excited to watch the continued growth of Philip as an artist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjfZf6ROMhE

Model Stranger

Shortly into Philip’s set at The Hideout, I got a tap on the shoulder, and was excited to see a familiar, goofy, mustache-clad face belonging to Stephen Francis of Model Stranger - a band I used to manage. I had been texting Stephen’s bandmate Kevin James earlier in the day but wasn’t sure they’d end up making it to the show. They did, and brought a few friends with them, which was no surprise to me.

The Model Stranger guys (including drummer Vincent Joseph) are among Chicago local music’s most avid supporters. These guys know the meaning of hustle. On top of working full time jobs and finding time to book and promote their own shows, they constantly attend concerts - both of local and national touring acts. They understand you can’t really call yourself part of a “scene” if you’re not giving as much as you take from it. They know the more live music they absorb, the more conversations about music they have, the better they’ll become.

While they haven’t had that “big break” yet, it’s not for lack of effort. Model Stranger is probably the hardest working band in Chicago. I may be biased, having witnessed their work ethic and focus up close and personal over 2009-2011, but I doubt I’m the only one with that opinion. Of the craziest stories I have to tell, quite a few involve being on the road with Model Stranger It was good to catch up with these guys a bit, and hear about some of the new things they have going on - including some upcoming tours in support of their newest EP The Changing Score.

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/14324383" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

Pete Falknor

Just prior to leaving the Hideout and calling it a night, I received a text from my great friend Pete Falknor, a man who makes the busiest person seem lazy with ease. Pete’s a man of many, many hats. For a living he’s the Production Manager at an amazing music venue in Chicago called the Empty Bottle. He’s also a member of the bands Martin van Ruin and Planetsexploder, while formerly playing with The Innocent, Bare Mutants, Derek Nelson and more.

More recently, he helped restore a turn-of-the century building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and turn it into multi-level restaurant/lounge/music hall called Dusek’s Board & Beer/Punch House/Thalia Hall. We met Pete there to tour the recently opened venue and catch up on his ever-in-motion life.

http://vimeo.com/73058353

The place is INCREDIBLE, and I’m not surprised Pete’s a big part of it. Since our days at Columbia College Chicago together, Pete and I connected over large ambitions to do something head-turning in Chicago. He’s done that a few times over already and I’m proud of him. Visit Pete at the Empty Bottle or Dusek’s or check out the new album from Martin van Ruin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x7az1llrcY

The Right Kind of Hurt

I've always been a somewhat casual sports fan, except when it comes to the Chicago White Sox. That team/ballpark meant more to me than just being a sports team I rooted for. As Sarge worked security at Sox games growing up, he'd bring me with to many of them, often I'm sure to keep me out of trouble and to give my mom a breather from my high energy antics. The ballpark took on a special meaning to me, and the team did as well, as its always been a symbol of the people who root for it. The Sox will never have the Yankees payroll, and never the (inexplicable) fan base the Cubs/Bears are gifted with even after years upon years of mediocrity. The Sox represent the working class, diverse, "get what you went and got" mentality of the South Side, the mentality I was raised with.

I'm proud to say I got to watch and aggressively root for The Big Hurt Frank Thomas growing up - a man whose physical size dwarfed many of his competitors, and accomplishments dwarfed many of his steroid abusing peers in hindsight.

Now he's a Hall of Famer, which helps put a stamp on the specialness of those times we watched him. I don't care if you don't care about sports. You have to admit it's inspiring to see people recognized for being really good at what they set out to be really good at in the first place.

Go Big Frank.


How Yesterday Tried to Kill Us

So remember my whole “the years are short, but the days are long” thing from yesterday morning’s blog post? Yeah. Yesterday was long. As I mentioned in that post, I spent the past two days trekking back across the frozen, snowy “heartland" of America with Jill, after a visit to our families in Chicago. The risk of driving across the midwest this time of year is the weather, and yesterday it played a factor in our adventures. We knew when we left Chicago we’d have less than an ideal drive home, but little did we know the type of day the universe had in store for us.

America's heart is made up of cows and boredom.
America's heart is made up of cows and boredom.

The day began around 430am CST, with Jill tossing and turning with a stomach ache and me now wide away with a splitting headache. Unlike a good percentage of the rest of the world, we were not experiencing the side effects of too much partying and champagne. Our New Year’s Eve was uneventful, spent in a crappy hotel off I-80 in Lincoln, NE - the halfway point for our trip.

Deciding we were up and there was no point in waiting any longer we ended up hitting the road around 6am CST. The drive was tense from the start as my headache was not dying down, despite taking something for it. Jill fell asleep almost instantly which left me using all my energy trying to ignore the pain and focus on the road. The further west we got, icier and ickier the conditions became. We were driving through the heart of the storm and I was relying fully on my safe driving instincts and 4-Wheel Drive (thanks, Subaru). Once the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer no longer kept me company enough I woke Jill up around 9 to help me stay alert.

The headache never went away and the weather never got better but we had made it to about 150 miles outside of Denver without incident. Then, I changed lanes to move around someone up ahead aways who I could tell was going far too slow for the highway, even in the conditions. I thought it better to get over now than to continue to gain on them and have to make a move closer to their vehicle. This ended up being a good move, because about 10 seconds after moving over a lane, we hit a patch of black ice and my wheels lost grip of the road.

Bad day in progress
Bad day in progress

We spun 3-4 times, crossing over to the right lane and eventually the ditch on the side of the road. Lucky for us, no one else was anywhere near us on the road which gave me time to calmly regain control as best I could and to the best to limit how far into the ditch we spun. When the dust settled we were fine. Absolutely fine. No injuries, no damage to the car. Just higher blood pressure. We were able to drive right back up from the ditch and re-emerge on the road and drive the rest of the way home without issue.

Jill and I talked about being blessed as we had driven by 4-5 other accidents that day, all looking much worse that ours, and car accidents are always fresh on my mind as I’ve lost 5 friends and 3 family members to car crashes, and also had an aunt and another group of friends banged up pretty bad in car accidents as well. I drove away unscathed from what could have been much, much worse. Close call.

Then we got home.

While we were gone, Jill’s house in Denver was robbed, and she and her two roommates had quite a bit stolen, although Jill didn’t know the extent until we arrived to her house today. It’s a creepy feeling to sit in your room looking at rustled furniture and blank walls where jewelry used to hang. I could tell Jill was a bit unnerved by the idea that some jerk had rifled through her belongings and taken what he wanted. Among the things missing was a spare key to her car. We went to check on it, only to find the back windshield busted up.

20140102-212037.jpg
20140102-212037.jpg

The concern for Jill now became what order was she supposed to do things and how was she supposed to do them. She had to talk to two insurance companies (renter’s, car), a glass company, and also call the detective who was handling the break in. Of course its New Year’s Day so no one was in, and the various customer service teams she did reach were unhelpful at best. We sat in her living room and I could see this all boiling up to overwhelm her, as it would most people. This day had become one thing after another, one frustration after another, on thing wrong after another. Then she looks at me with a face of defeat and says abruptly and in a monotone voice, “Andrew. It’s hailing.”

It was f****ing hailing.

I run out to her car to to the best I could to cover the back windshield to stop the elements from coming in. At this point Jill had become extremely concerned about the idea of a thief with the key to her car and easy access, so I ran to the hardware store to get a better solution for the window as well as a club lock for her steering wheel and a few other items I thought would help the girls out. Like wine.

The hail decided to become harder as I covered up her window and specifically seemed to be targeting my head, which I should mention at this point has now actually started to feel worse after 10 hours of constant pain.

Finally I got the window sealed up from the elements, the car as thief-proof as it needed to be save for removing the battery or a wheel for the night, So how’s that for an entrance into 2014 folks? “Some bullshit right there.” as my roommate described it. Yes, yesterday was quite the day.

But here’s the thing, I’m alive. I’m achy and feel like I just spent a day like a tennis ball bouncing around in the dryer, but I’m alive. Jill’s alive. And I’ll be honest, yesterday made us stronger - to reference the cliché. We had some great conversation in the car, we never ended up at each others’ throats, and we managed to sort through the mess and have a plan for getting everything fixed, reported, amended and so on today. I got to step up and be a problems solver (something I like) and to show Jill fully and completely that I’m here to care for her. So yesterday may have tried to kill us, but it didn’t. It just made us appreciate getting to wake up the day after that much more.

Yesterday is behind us.
Yesterday is behind us.

So after all of that I was ready to go back inside and warm up with some tea and start planning my escape from this day into tomorrow.

Or, I could wipe out on the cement steps to the front porch where black ice had formed. Yeah. I did that.

The Years Were Short but the Days Were Long

As I write this, Jill and I are cutting across the frigid, barren midwest part of the country in search of higher ground (consider that a reference to geographical features as well as a legalized marijuana joke).

South Park Towelie

After ten days in Chicagoland it came time for us to leave family, pizza, and disappointing Chicago Bears football (surprise, surprise, people) behind in order to take a deeper breath, albeit in a place with a bit less oxygen. As I wrote in my last blog post, where we just left is no longer home, but where we are headed is starting to feel more like it all the time, so I can’t get back there soon enough.

The Road sun

Now, this trip back to where I’m from turned out to be quite different than others past. I went to Chicago as a fiancé - which is far, far away from what I was when I arrived in Chicago last December. When you visit a place you’re from with someone you’re with, there tends to be a lot of focus on past versions of yourself. Both sets of parents shared stories about younger Andrew and younger Jill - often with pictures or videos to accompany. You tend to eat places you always liked eating, and each meal has a story that starts with “we used to go here when…” or “I used to eat this after…” or “that place has great…”.

Then you share stories about other places as you drive by them like “I went there once when I broke my arm…” or “that’s where I played soccer…” or, often, “I used to drink there.” Sometimes you introduce your significant other (bravely) to friends you’ve left behind. This is when you have to listen to said friends tell stories about you while you cringe hoping they leave “that one part” out. They don’t. 

After many of these scenarios, you find yourself or someone else saying “wow, time flies.” I prefer  “…the years were short, but the days were long”. That phrase may have other origins, but for me it's from the Shins song Pink Bullets, and it's perfect. It’s quite easy to look back on the years past as if they’ve whipped by, only to forget what a battle it often was to get through the days that make up those years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XBabozrPGA

This idea was startlingly apparent to me a few times during the trip. One of my best friends Corey shared one of those incriminating stories I referenced above from a time when we felt like we were owning life, only to have Sarge remind us how quickly and forcefully life turned on us. He recalled a conversation shortly before we met the end of our ropes, where we described “being on E”. Corey and I then told Jill how we weren’t even sure where our next meals were coming from, let alone how to pay bills or be a functioning adult. A quick glance at that era brought positive sentiment, but a look at the days that made that up that era reminded us how rough they actually were.

So yeah, the years are short, and the days can be really [censored for my mom] long. The best part about those long days, though, is they’re behind us. So while we reminisce on them, we can feel renewed as well.

Happy New Year. I hope this year's days are not too long for you.

Home

It's an interesting thing being back somewhere you used to be. At the beginning you're reminded of all the things you miss. That eventually gives way to all the things you don't. The overall sentiment you have to that place is tied to which category has more experiences than the other. I'm back in a place I don't particularly care to be.

This place isn't home to me. My parents' current house and neighborhood are not the ones I grew up in, and both pretty devoid of reminders of the house and neighborhood I did, aside from a few boxed up memories collecting dust in the basement. I have no attachment to these places, beyond wanting to spend time with my parents. In fact, the memories and sentiment I do have tied to this place are either sad, frustrating, or indifferent. I lived in this house and neighborhood for a few years when the bottom seemed to fall out on my life. These places symbolize an unfulfilled and anxious time, and recall a constant feeling of defeat.

Dr. Who rain

But I have no attachment to the house and neighborhood I'm from, either. I grew up with a definition of "home" as "somewhere else" or "out there" or "away". Prior to my second relocation to Boulder, CO in November 2011, the most at home I ever felt was on the road, touring with bands or traveling for work. Then, "home" was "wherever I am today and wherever I'll be tomorrow". Home meant not having to stay. I had no loyalty to physical locations.

This was always a challenge to my relationships - romantic, family or otherwise. I felt I would always be this wanderlusting journeyman. I never found reason to stick with anyone or anything very long. The people I stayed close with, aside from a few blood relatives, were also angst-driven adventurers like myself. Quite honestly, returning to the southwest side of Chicago has done nothing but remind me strongly that I am definitely from here, but I definitely do not belong here.

Pizza is life
Pizza is life

What's saved me on this trip is not where I am, but who I'm with. It's a strange thing to bring a person who makes you happy to a place that doesn't. I won't go so far as to agree with the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros song and say "home is wherever I'm with you", but being here with Jill certainly makes things different.

It makes it much easier to go through the all the emotions tied to this place. Especially so, since she's from here too, and is going through a similar roller coaster. I can't speak for her entirely, but I do know there are reminders of good times and lesser times all around her too. Each of us has given each other some strength when needed on this trip and we've agreed it's better to have each other.

I guess that's my point. Whatever weird, annoying mix of emotions I'm going through right now, I'm glad to have someone by my side. Someone who can work through it all with me. Someone who knows where I'm from and why I'm no longer there. Someone with whom I can create a home.

Andrew J. Coate & Jilliann Marie
Andrew J. Coate & Jilliann Marie

What I've Learned After One Month at a Startup

Just over a month ago I began working at Kapost, an industry-leading content marketing software company based in Boulder, Colorado - a well established and renowned hotspot for tech startups and entrepreneurship in general. I left a group of phenomenal coworkers and relatively comfortable marketing career path at a large data company behind for the lure of the startup. I was given the chance to build something in months that it would have taken years to build (if at all) at my former company, and also given the opportunity to have a large hand in regularly creating content (blog posts, videos, eBooks, infographics, social campaigns) - something I love. I would get to work with a ridiculous amount of creative talent and people I already knew about and respected. The timing was right professionally and personally, so I jumped at it.

Challenge

I had worked with many small businesses before and even been self employed for a while in the past, so there were some parts of going from "big" to "small" I was prepped for, but this would be my first official experience at a genuine startup. Here are some lessons I've learned in the short time I've been there.

You Can’t Fear Change

Kapost is at the hyper-growth startup stage. I’ve been around 4 weeks, and already 10-12 new people have come on after me. I don’t know the exact number because hiring is happening so quickly in every department. That said, every day the company looks a little bit different - both in personnel and also physical layout as we shift people around trying to find the right fit. I’m already in my 3rd different seating arrangement. If you struggle to adapt to being in constant motion, startups are not for you. Each day we’re working on new processes in every area. In the time I’ve been there we have a new meeting scheduling system, new conference call process (and new phones), new coffee/tea area, new HR benefits, new positions that never existed before, a new orientation process that never existed before, countless new processes between teams, and a new physical layout.

Dwight Schrute False

That last one is where I really have had to remind myself of this lesson. When I started, Kapost was a very open office layout, which reflected the very open, everybody-works-together culture its founders cultivate. I felt very much a part of a team, of “we’re all in this together”, which was amplified by all company meetings for product updates or lunches where we could all sit together and see each other comfortably. It was a far cry from being shoved away in cubicles, forced to used IM and email to foster work relationships.

Then, a few days ago, some construction was done that ended up knocking down a wall to make more space, but in turn, grey cubicle walls were put up that sliced our main room in half, dividing marketing from sales and actually hiding marketing away from the rest of the office pretty much. I went from looking out onto a busy room full of energy to staring at the same bland, lifeless cubicle walls I thought I had left behind for good when I left the corporate world.

Cubicle Farm

I HATE the new setup. Hate it. It really sucks life out of the room and makes a few of us on my side feel pretty claustrophobic and antsy. Just when I was enjoying how together I felt with our sales team a literal wall was put up between us. It really sucks. But here’s my point - aside from whining about it in this post, I’m not throwing much of a fit, because I know this too will change.

If we continue to grow as rapidly as we have been - and as rapidly as the company is planning to - we literally will not be able to fit everyone in the office space we’re in now. There will be another move, and maybe we’ll return to an open, lively, & energetic workspace. The point is, change happens at breakneck speed at a startup and if venting in a blog post like I just did isn’t enough to help you keep moving, you’ll struggle to catch up.

It’s For The Brave

With constant change comes constant uncertainty. Even though Kapost’s future looks very, very bright - it’s not set in stone. There are risks with any business, especially with businesses like this. Even success can bring uncertainty, as a potential acquisition could change the way everything works. I left behind a company that has a booming stock, solid benefits, office stability, a well defined culture, etc, and so on. It was a risk coming to Kapost - an educated risk, but still. Also, with so few people involved still, each and every person’s role is extremely vital. Everyone’s work is noticed and exposed, no one is just plugging along somewhere hiding in the shadows.

When you work for a startup, your work is very public-facing and open to scrutiny, especially so in the digital age. It’s a brave move to do something like that, and it’s a brave move for everyone in our company from our CEO down to our office manager to be a part of something like this. The brave tend to be the most adventurous, however, and as such get to go on the best adventures. I already feel invigorated by the great adventure Kapost is on, and I’m so fortunate I get to ride along and contribute heavily to what our path might look like.

Games of Thrones quote

You Must Trust

With how much energy needs to be spent building and doing, there just isn’t time for mistrust. That’s not to say there’s no room for doubt or discontent views - as those things are what help make the company that much greater when they’re used productively. No, I mean you have to trust that you were hired for a reason and every single other person was too.

Trust me.

Toby, our CEO talked at a recent meeting about how every person in the room was an All-Star and how they basically refused to hire anyone that wasn’t. That wasn’t just motivational fluff, either. I’m daily in awe of the sheer talent housed at Kapost HQ right now. It’s like how professional sports teams are made up of the best players from each college or minor league team. With each new hire, our talent pool grows greater, and with so little time to fully adjust to working with new people, you have to trust they’re here because they’re awesome at what they do, and you must trust management’s choice in bringing them in.

I trust and respect my fellow marketers. I still don’t know their entire histories but in such a short time I’ve seen how good they are at what they do. Our designers and developers are phenomenal. I trust they’ll continue to improve our product, and continue to help us create amazing content to market with. If you don’t have this attitude, you can’t last long.

It’s Safe to Be A Tech Nerd

I love apps. In a post later this week, I’ll be detailing some of my must-haves such as IFTTT, Tempo, Pocket, & Evernote, but in the meantime I’ll tell you I’ve found myself in good company when nerding out about apps and tech that make our professional and personal lives easier at Kapost.

Technology

It’s been fun to work with a group of tech-forward people and to watch a vast array of apps and tools that have been used in prior work lives make their way into the Kapost process. Tools like Salesforce, Eloqua, Trello, Meldium, Wordpress, Jive, Skype, Moz, Sprout Social, Nimble, & the Google Suite (from Gmail to gCal to Hangouts to Docs) make their way into daily lives at Kapost, and even better - many of them sync with our software platform as well. It’s amazing to actually be able to use Kapost the software - which we all do - to be ultimately productive as well. I’ve struggled in the past with companies being afraid to take on new tech, whereas at Kapost we’re always trying new tools to help us figure out what gives us the best mix of production and measurement.

I’ve learned many other lessons from my month at Kapost, and will share more as time goes on I’m sure. For now, those 4 lessons stood out to me. It’s been a thrilling, exhausting experience already but I wake up invigorated for what’s next each day. Check out Kapost the product at Kapost.com and read a variety of marketing insights from Kaposters (myself included) on the Content Marketeer blog.

How to Stay Productive While Living Life at 100 mph (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about how my productivity is fueled by a quote I once heard that goes “If it is important, you find a way. If it is not, you find an excuse.” Since hearing it, I’ve lived that quote - finding time, money, energy & effort for the things that matter to me, while spending far less time, money, energy & effort on those that don’t. As I wrote that post I realized it was a bit misleading to just say that I’m productive because I’m inspired or something like that. Reaching - and more importantly maintaining - a state of high productivity takes a great amount of focus and dedication. It can be overwhelming at times. In fact, it very often is. So in this post I’ll share some of the philosophies I use to make productivity more routine, and tomorrow I’ll wrap up with the tools/resources and specific processes I use to get things done.

Start the day before…well, starting the day

I’m a morning person. I’m up early every morning. I know some of you are grumbling to yourselves “I hate getting up early, I hate mornings and I hate you Coate!” Whoa there. Calm down. Deep breaths. Coffee. Repeat.

Coffee

I’m not advocating everyone start keeping Amish hours all of the sudden, but I am advocating giving yourself time to wake up and adjust to the day, or you know, get ready to think thoughts. I find that easing into the morning by reading articles I’ve meant to catch up on, or handle emails or social posts that have simple responses makes me feel so much better. I often run in the mornings as well. Regardless of what I do, I make sure I clean out my inbox and look over my calendar every morning so that when I set foot in the door of my office, I’m ready to go. I go into the work day knowing exactly what I need to tackle and already being alert rather than half-awake and needing to calm down from rushing to get ready on time. Morning solitude is one of the greatest things you can ever do for yourself. Trust me.

Work without anyone else around

I love my coworkers and really enjoy the various office atmospheres and cultures I’ve worked in. But while the interactions I have with them are great, sometimes I need to focus on a task without any distraction, which can be a challenge. Proponents for working-from-home often cite being alone as a major productivity booster. I don’t want to work from home every day, but I do want some time where I don’t have to worry. I accomplish this by either being one of the first people in the office or the last to leave. That time I get alone, but still in an office environment without domestic distractions, is usually when I do my best work. I shift my schedule throughout the week to accommodate these times. I may come in at 9:30am, but I’ll stay until 8 or 9pm or later, with a few hours to myself before heading home.

Office alone

Other mornings I’ll get that many hours in the office before everyone arrives. For me it depends on my running schedule. I tend to do longer runs in the AM because its cooler then during the summer and warmer/lighter out then in the winter. Which brings me to my next point...

Exercise

A while back I became addicted to running. I regularly put a lot of miles in and would put even more in if I didn’t have bad knees already. The physical health benefits for me are secondary. Though running helped me drop 60 lbs over 2010-2011, it’s the mental benefits I get that keep me running. It’s become a central activity in my life, and among the most important things I do. So much of who I’ve become and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the past two years has been through the help of running.

Unicorn run

During long runs or furiously paced runs have come my greatest moments of clarity. You can read more about what this running has meant to me in my post “What a Strange Love: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Run.” I know running’s not for everyone, and while exercise is important for a bajillion reasons, some people struggle to see benefits from it, let along like doing it. So that’s where #4 comes in.

Do something that refreshes you

I’m very fortunate to live in a beautiful place like Boulder, CO. I love my city and state, and I love the life I get to lead here. On occasion I get to do this: I get to get “away”. I’m not yet a “mountains every weekend” person but I do make time every few months or so to go for a long drive or to get away for the weekend from Boulder/Denver. It never fails - these adventures clear me up in a way nothing can. Maybe it’s the scenery along the drive, maybe it’s the fresh smells, maybe it’s the thin air making me loopy, or maybe it’s the history that takes me away from reality for a little bit. The point here, is find something that refreshes you. Dinner with good friends, seeing a thrilling movie in the theaters, copious amounts of wine followed by a lawn dart competition…. whatever it is, set aside mandatory time every few weeks if you can to do that activity and reset. Taking your mind off work or “what ails ya” as my Uncle Liam would say, gives you an opportunity to return to it with new vigor and typically new insights as well. This is how I prevent burnouts. I go "up."

Mountains

Develop some “knowns” (master your flip turn)

You’ll rarely if ever see me scrambling around the house looking for something. That’s because I tend to know where things are. I learned from Sarge (my father) that everything has its place. If you put your keys, wallet, bag, etc in the same place every day, or you have the same routine for coming/going from your house or getting in and out of your car - you’ll exert far less energy being worried about “where did I put that?” or “what did I do just now?”. Having some set, regimented processes - things that become known - help you have a base or foundation for dealing with the unknown, which frankly is most of what we deal with. Since I know that I always do thing A, B or C I have some structure that I came come back to in order to feel secure when dealing with otherwise uncertainty. I call this idea “the flip turn”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrn_NvlO9Cw

I swam competitively in high school. At some point I realized that if I did one thing particularly well and I always did that well, it would help my race strategy immensely. So I became really good at flip turns. Like, best in the Conference/Sectionals area good. My main race was the 100 freestyle which involved three of these turns. Through great coaching and so much repetition and tweaking of technique I came to rely on these turns in my races. So no matter how the rest of the race went I knew I could stay competitive because of my flip turns (which was good because I typically had an awful start). I frequently chased down and beat bigger, stronger swimmers because even if they got a good jump on me or I wasn’t feeling strong that heat or whatever the case was, I knew I had a good shot at making up ground (or water) on the turns. I look at my life this way now. I have a couple things that are metaphorically my flip turns, so no matter how the rest of the race goes, I still have a chance to compete because I have something steady to rely on.

In Part 3 tomorrow I’ll go from philosophy to practicality and tell you about the apps/tools as well as some actual methods I use (some of them flip turns) to keep going strong.

What about you? What are some things you do/think about to stay on task or to be most productive?

How to Stay Productive While Living Life at 100 mph (Part 1)

I was having a conversation with a friend recently who asked me how I managed to “do so much”. She noted, as many people in my life have, that it seems I never slow down. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of me. The quote “I’d rather die of exhaustion than boredom” about sums me up and would be my life motto, if my life motto wasn’t already “Nudity Brings Unity” (I’m gonna need a follow up post to explain that one, aren’t I?). The truth is, I prefer to have a lot going on. I’ve written before about how I like to be stretched thin, always forced to overcome some challenge. The friend I was speaking to is well aware of all of this, and was questioning how I manage to keep the wheels from falling off. Hovercrafts are so awesome.

It’s not because I don’t sleep (although I don’t). It’s also not because I have some secret methodology. I do subscribe wholeheartedly to the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy and use a variety of “life hacks” and helpful apps like Evernote to stay extremely organized, but I don’t have the type of job nor do I live the type of life where I’m able to unwaveringly stick to a process of any kind. I do have some set routines, and in Part 2 of this post I’ll share a few processes & tools that I’ve used in order to help when energy and dedication are not enough, but the real secret to my ability to handle so much responsibility is this quote:

If it's important, you find a way.

When I first heard that quote, it rattled me. It forced me - as good inspirational quotes or ideas do - to re-evaluate the decisions I was making, and to analyze whether the things I valued were truly displayed by my actions and what I spent my time doing. In many cases, they were not. In other cases I had some of what I valued revealed to me for the first time, as I realized I had certain habits. These things I did regularly and effortlessly I obviously valued.

I’ve always been a person who fights for things, and I firmly believe “to get, you gotta go get” so those parts of me coupled with the mindset of the quote above have been stirred into the perfect cocktail of productivity for me. Plus, I’m like, totally super good at Googling things…like, online and stuff.

Google All The Things

I do live by that quote, though. Last night, instead of watching the Bears on Monday Night Football (I KNOW. DITKA.), I stayed at work really late writing & brainstorming content for social campaigns. I needed groceries so I went to a late night supermarket and got them. I’m up well past midnight writing this, and I’ll be up early to plan my day and make up for the run I missed. Last week I ran on a normal schedule despite temperatures regularly below zero. Each weekend, I clear my calendar of any work obligations and most social obligations so I can spend the most time with my fiancé Jill as possible since we live in separate towns & don’t see each other during the week. I meet up with friends for beers somewhat regularly, have phone conversations with the ones I can’t see in person, volunteer for a variety of events on top of everything. I do all of this because I care. I value all these things. My weeks are packed tight, but I find the time.

My aforementioned fiancé hears me say “we’ll find a way” a lot. With her, I’m typically talking about having a quality wedding while paying our own way or figuring out our eventual living situation while we both currently have different ideas of what it might be. I repeat those words because I know that we’re the kind of people who are driven to pursue what we want. We’re not afraid to make certain sacrifices to achieve an end goal, and we both have plenty of examples of people who find a way to get things done. Jill’s a schoolteacher in a poorer school and neighborhood. She deals with so many examples of broken homes and broken people. She’s told me about a single mother who is not only raising multiple children of her own, but her sister’s children as well. This woman, despite circumstances clearly not in her favor, finds a way.

History is littered with examples of people who found a way. History is also littered with examples of people who found an excuse.

What will you do? Will you make excuses? Or will you find a way?