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Obama: Hope, Hype, Or Hero, He’s Only Human January 21, 2009

Posted by velocity321 in Politics.
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Societies like scapegoats because when everything goes wrong it’s that guy’s fault.  We love heroes because when we can’t fix the problem ourselves, at the last minute Superman will fly in to save the day.  Sounds like great material for a movie script.

We blame or depend on others because it’s easy and makes us feel good.  Doing the right thing is usually not easy nor does it make us feel good. Doing the right thing requires self-discipline, a characteristic that my high school calculus teacher Mr. Prins defined as, “Doing what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, even if you don’t want to.” He often reminded us of that as he called on us individually to solve problems on the chalkboard in front of the entire class…

With so much hype hovering overhead – the presidential pomp and circumstance enveloping Obama’s inauguration – people easily forget about self-discipline amidst a “feel good” frenzy.  In times of crisis, people hope and pray that things will get better.  With a new hometown hero in charge, people believe that things will magically improve.

Our problems, however, cannot be solved with the reliance on one human.  Fortunately, that same human recognizes both the importance of self-discipline and the power individuals working together with common, yet often forgotten, values.

But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

Believe the hope, enjoy the hype, honor the hero.  But the real question remains, what have you done to make America, and the world, a better place today?

Re-Gifted: Tips, Tools, & Thoughts for Two Thousand +9 January 14, 2009

Posted by velocity321 in Communication & Marketing, Life in the (Metro) D.
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The holiday season came and went, but there’s always time to re-gift!  And that’s exactly the point of this post, my re-gift to you of online information sources, online tools I discovered, and some things I recently learned. Please comment on whether or not you find this information valuable and, of course, re-gift your own treasures to the rest of us!

Draw a 2009 plan/road map for yourself AND your business.

This is a simple exercise to do, yet I’m usually guilty of never doing it, at least not for myself.  My rationalized excuse is that I have it all figured out in my head so I don’t need to write it out. However, just as you’d have difficulty navigating through a foreign city without a map, your personal future is just as foreign to you until that future becomes the past. Plus, as I publicly make this suggestion for you to follow, I simultaneously hold myself accountable. Like me, you’ve probably heard and read this suggestion countless times. For me, two sources stand out in my mind which have motivated me to actually write out my 2009 plan and also explain why a written plan is critical for success.

A couple years ago, some co-workers and I ran in the Detroit Free Press Marathon Relay.  To prepare, I searched the web for training information and found an e-book that profoundly changed my fitness and nutrition habits. In Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, Tom Venuto provides a no-nonsense, straightforward strategy for achieving a healthy, lean body.  After reading his book, I made some changes to my diet by focusing on the quality and frequency of meals.  Although many of his suggestions are neither groundbreaking or new, he presents the information comprehensively and holistically, with a strong emphasis on realistic goal setting that can be applied to any area of life.

More recently, I stumbled across Chris Guillebeau’s manifesto, A Brief Guide To World Domination on his blog, The Art Of Nonconformity, linked to from the Lifehacker site.  A writer and world traveler, Mr. Guillebeau’s posts appeal to those who are not satisfied with the status quo – those who want to be better than average and also make a difference in the world.  He proposes that you ask yourself what he calls, the “two most important questions in the universe”, and rather than spoil the surprise, read them for yourself here.   Currently, I’m trying to answer those questions, which are key to determining my personal plan for 2009 and beyond.

The other day, my business partner Henry and I sat down to create a 2009 plan for our internet marketing and web design firm called  DotSign.  This year’s theme is “Adapt Strategically to the Change” and that’s exactly what we want to help our clients deal with.   As suggested in my last blog post, Time For A (Another) Change?, change is continuous, change is not permanent, and change is inherently neutral.  Today, our world faces enormous changes politically, socially, and economically.  Are you and/or your business prepared to mange the coming changes? Do you know where you want to go and take your business?  Pause ever so briefly to think about these questions, but make a plan soon before your future turns into the past.

Commit time for continuous learning in a field completely unfamiliar to you.

Many of you already plan to take some kind of professional or vocational training this year.  However, I challenge you to learn something completely outside of your field and exercise the other side of your brain.  So, if you make your living in the arts, take a class at a science center or enroll in a small business workshop. Conversely, if you earn a living by keeping the books, sign up for a cooking class or take guitar lessons.  Not only are these activities usually enjoyable and fun, the participation will stimulate your mind to work in balance as a complete unit, both artistically and analytically.  This ability can help you perceive things differently and perhaps solve problems faster and more creatively than before.

In the rest of this post, I list some of the sites and tools I found in the last year or so that you may find helpful to use.  Check them out and post your feedback here.

Blogs I monitor

Seth Godin – A marketing guru with fantastic advice on how businesses and individuals become remarkable. I just read a book he edited, The Big Moo: Stop Trying To Be Perfect And Start Being Remarkable, an anthology of anecdotes from 33 leading minds in business and marketing.

The Art Of Nonconformity – Chris Guillebeau’s site documenting his travels and philosophy; great inspiration to see the world and to become remarkable – notice a trend here?

Lifehacker –  A good repository of tips and tools to make life easier.

Prosperous Artists –  The antithesis of starving artists!

New Media Photographer – This is a digital photography blog by Rosh Sillars.

Six Pixels of Separation – Another New Media blog with good content.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Like the name implies, this blog contains good advice on CEO (Cutting costs, Earning more, and Optimizing spending).

Metro Detroit region specific blogs I monitor

Model D – Refreshing online magazine about good things happening in the city.

Motor City Connect – A large, vibrant business networking community in Metro Detroit.

Online Tools

Kayak – This great search engine allows you to search over 140 travel provider websites at once.

Mint – Here, you can track and view all of your personal finances on a single online site.

LastPass – Securely generate and store your online passwords on one site.

Time for a (Another) Change? November 20, 2008

Posted by velocity321 in Communication & Marketing.
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This is a re-post of something I wrote on DotSign Directives, a DotSign blog with tips and techniques on marketing and leadership for small businesses and entrepreneurs.


“The only certainty is uncertainty; the only thing that remains the same is the inevitable guarantee of change.”

The current global economic crisis has taken many by surprise, yet look around most of the USA and you can find evidence that the wheel of progress keeps turning. While “going out of business” sales and home foreclosure signs litter the landscape, there are also grand openings, infrastructure development, and new construction. The key point to note is that both progression and regression are results of change. How have you and your company managed change? Companies which constantly innovate and transform themselves to adapt to a changing marketplace are the ones best positioned for long term success. To that end, let’s examine a few points:

1. Change is continuous and never stops.

A popular saying in the great state of Michigan is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes!” While the ability to predict the future or to be completely ready for every possible situation is clearly impossible, try employing the “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.” mindset (Ziglar). At first, this might seem counterintuitive or contradictory, but this approach forces you to A) focus on where you are going and B) develop contingency plans to deal with the temporary setbacks and stumbling blocks along the way. Also, the human invention of time allows us to divide change into more manageable chunks. Find the appropriate measure of time to either implement a change you want or to deal with a change that is beyond your control. Are you ready for what is bound to happen in the next 15 minutes?

2. Change is not permanent – because things are always changing!

This concept is perhaps most evident in the world of consumer electronics. Phonograph, radio, 8-track, stereo cassette, CD, MP3…what’s next? Whether your business makes a product or provides a service, you must realize that this product or service will only be relevant for a finite amount of time. History shows that companies which either continuously improve their products and services or innovate by creating new products and services are the companies that stick around. For all the erroneous claims that General Motors is an “old economy dinosaur”, check out some of these innovations that came from the company over its 100 year history. Another example is IBM, which started making punch card machines at the beginning of the 20th century and transformed itself into a leading IT services company today.

3. Change is not inherently good or bad.

Just like the weather, change just happens. Therefore, you can choose to love it, loathe it, or leverage it! People usually associate change with risk, and since most people are risk averse, it’s no surprise why most people fear change. However, rainy days are the umbrella maker’s best friends…

Time to check your watch – because your 15 minutes are up!

The Enormity of the Task That Lies Ahead… November 5, 2008

Posted by velocity321 in Politics.
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They claim that change happened today.  They report that Barack Obama and the American citizens made history today.  To the contrary, change happens continuously with each passing second, or whichever division of time you choose to measure with.  We continually write our own history, however we choose to only recognize or remember specific snapshots in time.  Celebrate or sulk in this historic occasion as you wish, but only for a moment, since we must prepare ourselves to tackle “the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

An outstanding orator, Barack Obama delivered a very “presidential” acceptance speech this evening. However, I hope that these eight words forming this quotation did not fall on deaf ears – those elated with victory, those overwhelmed by defeat, or those simply not listening.  In today’s world, marketing makes or breaks a political campaign, and the Obama camp orchestrated the cult of personality to its success by preaching the gospel of change.  Right or wrong, let us combine the energy, optimism, and passion of that campaign with sensibility, civility, and most importantly, critical thinking.  Only then can we as a nation effectively work through our collective problems which make up the enormous task in front of us.

(Semi-)Professional Photography Progression April 29, 2008

Posted by velocity321 in Uncategorized.
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A couple of my photographs from my Flickr site are now featured on the Schmap East Coast Guide, here and here.

Get to the point! March 27, 2008

Posted by velocity321 in Communication & Marketing.
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Seth Godin wrote a recent post about unnecessary words such as “just” and “sort of” and “probably” and “basically”. I think people tend to use these words mostly out of insecurity, or by trying to avoid conflict from appearing too harsh, or by trying to appear overtly educated by using extra words, or simply because they sound better.

The ubiquitous “Just do it” slogan rings true with a certain poetic quality. However, to truly reap the essence of Nike‘s message, while simultaneously cutting 66% of waste, one can transform the slogan to simply this:


I think you get the point: Yoda was right all along. (Right Yoda was.)

Prinicples & Purity February 23, 2008

Posted by velocity321 in Life in the (Metro) D.
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I am currently in the process of a MySpace transformation, hence I will no longer succumb to the basic design layout handed to me by my friend Tom. So, I am now learning all about CSS that I will incorporate in my page and naturally all the information I need is on the Web. In my travels on the information superhighway looking for better MySpace designs, I stumbled across a profound post penned (well, typed) by Eston Bond called Pluralists, pioneers and poseurs.

I readily admit I need to re-read the post a few more times for a deeper understanding, but while thinking about what he wrote I offer you a glimpse of my own night-on-the-town experiences in Metro Detroit:

Exhibit A

The other night I visited a certain cigar and martini lounge in a certain cosmopolitan suburb and realized that this lounge certainly failed to provide me a sensory experience of a proper cigar and martini lounge. My expectation is a throwback to yesteryear of simpler times, devoid of electronic communication devices on every person or a DJ playing the latest hip-hop meets Top 40 mashup. My idea of a pleasant evening does not include getting bumped by a multitude of people crowding the bar to order Coronas, despite their compelling ads, and I should never, ever, be greeted by ice in my martini.

Instead, my mental image of a true cigar and martini lounge is one of relaxed restraint, a comfortable yet cozy venue where men act like gentlemen and women are sophisticated. Voices of The Rat Pack and the like float through the air, intertwining with the heady wisps of smoke from the occasional lit cigar. On other nights, a live jazz trio could cook up some sassy sounds.

To their credit, this unnamed lounge has offered me some degree of this pure experience from time to time, more often during weekday nights when things are slower. The weekends usually draw a larger and livelier crowd resulting in an unfortunate commercialized “dumbing down”. Purity goes out the window in pursuit of profit. In principle, the owners could remain true to the cigar and martini lounge concept, but fail to do so in an attempt to generate a broader appeal. What started as a pure idea to cater to a niche market ends up watered down for mass consumption.

By now some of you are wondering which lounge I am writing about, while those keen with the scene already know. Well, would you look at the time! Say Goodnite, Gracie.

Exhibit B

In the same city, I recently visited a newly opened Chinese tea café and to my delight, I was welcomed to a scene remarkably different than the Starbucks and Caribou Coffee houses of the world. Inside, the decor was warm but bright, featuring Chinese paintings on the walls and a variety of authentic, hand-made Chinese furniture that the owners Jim and Janice Girling personally selected from their stays in the Middle Kingdom. As a tea novice, I was first schooled in the variety of Chinese teas they served, ranging from softer whites to bolder blacks, all in loose leaf form. They use three separate hot water taps to ensure that specific teas are brewed at the correct respective temperature for the appropriate amount of time. As first time entrepreneurs, this husband and wife team still faces many hurdles, having only been open for a few weeks. However, I observed a genuine desire to strike the delicate balance of preserving the authentic Chinese tea experience with achieving commercial success, as applied in the relevancy of a 21st American suburb. The smells, sights, sounds and touch all combine into an ethereal experience, in which they want people to relax and enjoy while taking their time. Goldfish Tea will indeed refine and develop itself over time, but in my opinion the Girlings are, in principle, walking the path towards purity.


Does this imply that I will never again drink at Goodnite Gracie? Certainly not. On the contrary, I go there with some regularity and even recommend it to friends. Twice have I guest bartended there for charity events, and it remains one of the last local bastions for those wanting to smoke a fine cigar. My disappointment is only with the lack of consistency of experience from one visit to another. Note that I do not expect merely replication or reproduction, rather a reach for purity.