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Archive for September, 2009

App for that?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Dear Apple:

First off, let me say that I LOVE my iPhone!  My life would be frenetic, oppressively computer tied, and downright managed out on paper without it…so I HEART you for inventing such a stellar product!

According to your latest commercial, you have over 75,000 apps for your iPhone.  However, after looking, you don’t have apps of the following, which I would humbly suggest to you and your programmers to think about providing.  Ready?  Here goes!

1.  App for law school cases – plug in the case and blam!  Get the brief.  Bare bones, salient points, and cut the rest of the mess out.  Ditto on test question practice (and I realize that the Law in Flash app exists, but dang, it is expensive!)

2.  App for groceries, pharmacy, and any other stuff that I have to go to a store and get at the touch of a button.  Target app?  Walgreens app?  RETAIL app!  So, after the touch of a button, my stuff is at home waiting for me at the front door.  Never have to shop again? Now THERE’S an app!!!

3.  The ‘grade papers’ app – run the papers through this app and get all grammar and spelling checked out prior to grading for content.  If the app can’t read the paper, it automatically sends a message to the student that the paper needs another review.

4.  The super cool neato ideas generating app – throw 5 random things or problems you’re trying to solve at work and presto!  At least 25 different solutions to that problem, along with suggestions on where to start for each solution.

5.  The suggestion app – anytime, anywhere, someone has a suggestion on how to improve ANYTHING, they can press a button, type in their suggestion, and this app would fire it off to the appropriate parties. Just think about all the vast improvement we could manage with this one!

Again, Apple, we heart you…but if you can develop these 5 apps…you’ll be a ROCK STAR company!!!

The Big Picture

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Tonight, I was reminded of why I dig profs who can not only get into the dirty details of whatever they are teaching, but they can also pause, jump back, and look at the big picture, and how the topic du jour fits into the big picture.

If you’ve ever had a dirty details type of class (like anything science-y, math-y, or really detailed in terms of writing or literature) you can appreciate what I’m talking about.  Some teachers get so wrapped up in minutae that they forget the forest…they’re too busy focusing on the bark of one square inch of only one of the trees in the forest, and don’t remember to pull back and give an overview.

I have a new found appreciation for people who can shift from the details (that inch of that single tree) all the way back to the forest and explaining how that one inch is relevant to the entire forest.  If we lose site of the big picture, we can get lost you-know-where, pretty darn fast!

Silver & Gold, Paper, and Whuffie

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

This weekend, I needed, desperately, to recharge my batteries.  So, yesterday I cranked a lot of work-work in order to take today as its traditional day of rest, and to plug back in…so after my nap today, I started in on my big stack of library books.  Reading, for me, is my respite.  My recharge.  (Sans law books…that to me right now is work.)  So, on to the books!

When I read, I tend to read 3 or 4 or 5 books at a time.  I’ll read a chapter or two of one, set it down, go grab a scooby snack, and then rip into another for a chapter or so.  Ironically, I usually find common themes when I’m reading 3-5 books at one time, this weekend was no exception to that rule.  I’ve managed to finish The Gospel According to Coco Chanel, Exploiting Chaos by Gutsche (The Trendhunter dude), The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt (finally came in) and most of End the Fed by none other than Dr. Ron Paul.

Here is the major common theme I learned while reading all these books: ready?  It is this: the way we are commoditizing value in the world is changing, right in front of our eyes.  Paul is talking about how the Fed is dangerous for the US economy, and that paper money is essentially losing its value because the Fed controls printing of it.  Going away from silver and gold coins was also another big mistake.  Gold has held its value better than other currencies.

On the flip side, Hunt in her book talks about an entirely newly termed, but older and now more than ever present concept of “whuffie”, or social capital.  Social capital really can’t be bought (with paper money or gold for that matter) and when companies try and buy it, it usually backfires.  Authenticity is a major factor in building whuffie. Furthermore, while one can’t directly turn social capital into money or traditional currency, she argues that you can’t really live well without whuffie anymore either.  My favorite part of Hunt’s book is the deposit/withdrawal of whuffie section, and the table in it that delineates both–which is something I’ve been trying to better articulate to my mentees and students when I talk about building social capital.  Thus far, I got to the analogy of a bank account, but I couldn’t clearly articulate what a deposit and a withdrawal really look like.  Now I can!  The table is the beginning to the Miss Manners of Whuffie, or rules of social capitalism, which is very different from money and traditional capitalism in many ways.

Value in the Trendhunting realm looks whuffian in many ways too according to Gutsche’s book…along with a dash of crazy, being eccentric, traveling to other cultures, and being aware of your surroundings.  I particularly enjoyed the “failure” and “pissing people off” sections of the book.  AND, while on the topic of failure and pissing people off, that leads me to Karbo’s book about Coco Chanel.  She used in her designs the “red-headed stepchild” of fabrics–Jersey–to make her creations.  Most of all, she really didn’t seem to give much of a damn if people thought she was eccentric or not…she did what she thought was right, in her own way, usually on her own terms.  Hooray for marching to the beat of your own drummer!

Anyway, as a writer, I am thankful to be able to have the chance to READ other people’s writings, as it helps me in so many ways go about the world and slay my own dragons, create my own universe, and live better. To all the authors above, thank you for your contributions.  Not only did they help me recharge, but they are helping so many others better navigate our world during these crazy times.

Finalism v. Draft

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

A lot of people who I think could write a GREAT whatever (article, story or book) often get caught in the trap of “FINALISM” as I like to call it. Finalism occurs when you have a (near) perfectionist who has a really hard time with “drafts”.  They want their writing to come out on paper as “perfect” the first time.  Instead of struggling through the (sometimes crappy) draft stages, they’d rather write nothing at all if it can’t be perfect.

Here’s how I try to get around getting caught in the trap of finalism:  always work in a draft format! NOTHING is ever final (except maybe death, taxes, and answers on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) so just deal with a perpetual draft, rather than thinking about a the ‘final’ version of whatever you happen to be working on at the time.  Besides, is ANYTHING ever really perfect?  (And if it is, please email me to let me know, so I can better understand what PERFECT looks like!)

Everything is in draft. This blog post is a draft!  Our lives are in draft format right now…otherwise, we wouldn’t be here, right?

So, if you’ve been stuck in the finalism trap, consider going to draft mode, get out of that trap, and get to writing – the world is waiting for your thoughts on paper – even if they are nowhere near perfect “drafts” only!

“Remove one accessory”, SVP

Friday, September 25th, 2009

All you mavens of fashion, you pirates of class and style, to whom am I referring with the penned title of this blog entry?


That’s right – I can only read so much Property and Con Law in one week (no offense to the profs, but this girls needs a break) so I’m reading The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo.  And yes, Coco’s famous statement goes through my head every morning before I leave the house….as I tend to get a little too accessory happy at times.   Not to mention, I am eagerly awaiting the movie about her life this fall.

The more I read about Coco, the more I dig her.  Here’s some more of her wisdom:

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

“All you have to do is subtract.”

And the most eyebrow raising quote, “One ought to be a bit of a fetishist.” (I’ll leave you with your own imagination on that one…)  I interpret it as Ms. Karbo does – that having a little quirk or eccentricity (be it red shoes, Eiffel tower jewelry, or mixing brown and black) is OK. In fact, better than OK – it is unique.

Coco taught us that it is a good thing to march to the beat of our own fashion drummer, and that is why we love her so.  That, and of course, to weed out too many accessories!

The Good Friday

Friday, September 25th, 2009

I have yet to meet a Friday that wasn’t good.  Here’s a way to make your Friday even better:

1. Grab some lovely music (my favorite for this little trick right now is track 1 on Moby’s latest album, Wait For Me, called Division).

2.  Play the music.

3.  Think about the most beautiful thing ever in your mind.  For Peyton Manning, that’s probably his best play being executed.  For the romantics, maybe it is a significant other running through a field.  If you’re an artist, maybe it is painting your version of the Mona Lisa.  Whatever that is, just think about how that process makes you feel.

4.  Revel in the feeling.

5.  Let the feeling go.  Then ask yourself: how can I get more of this feeling into the OTHER days of the week?

6.  ENJOY your weekend!


Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I’m now going to talk about not Starbucks, the noun, but Starbucked, the verb.

Starbucks is a place where you go to buy coffee.  Starbucked is a way of getting business done.

Said another way, I wonder how many “bucks” transpired (via business meetings) at Starbucks across the country….as it is probably one of the major venues in which people now meet in a third space to conduct business…?  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Starbucks not only provides coffee and other fun sugary and caffeinated confections, but they are also providing a very valuable service – a venue by which people can meet, conduct business, make things happen, and get things done.

Don’t get me wrong, the “Starbucking” can happen at any lunch or coffee venue, not just Starbucks, the original store brand.  But I’m beginning to wonder what the sea change is around business being conducted in “traditional” (ie office) setting versus business being conducted in third spaces (ie Starbucks).  Has anyone stopped to wonder as I have: how much business is contributing to our GDP in transactions formed at our Starbucks across the nation?  I’m guessing the percentage is higher than we all would initially believe.

Last but not least, are there particular Starbucks in particular cities that actually generate more business in terms of volume or dollars than others?  Furthermore, what if Starbucks could use this information as a marketing piece: “Come to the Starbucks at streets X and Y, because our store transacted over $1M inside our business and over $2M in other people’s businesses last year…” (I just made those numbers up, BTW.)

Next time you hit Starbucks, or your favorite place to buy legal stimulants…ponder this.  It is an intriguing question to be answered….

100% Steinway

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I saw a piece this weekend on TV about a music school at U of Cincy that decided to go “100% Steinway”. (For those of you non-musical, Steinway is the bling bling, the Rolls Royce, the top shelf hand-crafted piano brand.) They had a lot of older pianos (165 to replace), and the price tag for brand new Steinways? $4.1 million. This was no small feat.

Best part?

They did it!

Here’s my other favorite thing about the story (and I’m sure I butchered some of the numbers, but the heart of the story is still here)…this school wasn’t afraid to think big.  Really big.  And now, their enrollments and admissions are up, and students want to go to a 100% Steinway school….who wouldn’t?

Now, for a musician, a good instrument is important…but what is your personal “100% Steinway” factor in your own life? I don’t want you to consider putting limits on it, either.  The bigger you go, the better here. It is a big question…but take your time and try not to limit yourself.

Who knows?

You just might do it!

Ode to the Monday

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I’ve learned to love Mondays,
here’s why.
They sometimes go so fast–
they fly right by!

Despite the fact
they make us grumpy,
and the path to the rest of our week
may look bumpy,

the Monday
makes us appreciate
the beauty of the Friday
that much more!

May you find the beauty of your Friday
in an upcoming Monday,
or any and ALL other days of the week.

Building Whuffie, Life Hacking, and Rock Star Anthropology

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

I was at a training meeting yesterday, in the audience, watching my friend Kathleen (owner of this company, Career Investments, and a rock star) talk about networking. Some may call it “building whuffie”, “life hacking”, or other generalized superhero skills. I call it being a “rock star anthropologist” – I love to study others and find out what makes them excited and passionate about their work and lives…as when we are in our professional passion zone, we are ALL rock stars!  Tomato, tomahhto.

Shockingly, Kathleen called me out as a person who was a woman with a plan around this skill. (News to me.)  A co-learner in the audience later then asked–”So, Erin, what’s the plan?”

I replied the famous Daniel Pink quote: “There is no plan.”

I just don’t see it is a plan/no plan kind of thing.  Maybe it is to be thought instead more like Emerson’s quote, which is the following:

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

The more I think about it, building whuffie, life hacking, social networking, rock star anthropology, etc. (whatever you choose to call it) really doesn’t have much to do with a plan, but should instead be thought of as a path.  Let me relate this back to my books (something I’ve thought more about).  As I’ve discussed before, all my book genesis came from the following thought process:

1.  “Hey, I’m trying this idea” then to
2.  “Cool! Let’s learn more about that!” to
3.  “Uh oh, there’s really no book on that idea” to
4.  “Damn, guess that means I need to write it!”

This very path could be THE path that also drives my social networking:

1.  “Hey, super cool idea” to
2.  “Awesome!  Let’s meet some rock stars in this area” to
3.  “Wow!  Met X, he led me to Y, Z and A” to
4.  “Y, Z and A lead me to B, C and D, E, F, and G, H, I, J…”
5.  “Oh yeah – I FINALLY got some info on that cool idea!”  BUT WAIT – that’s not all!
6.  “Oops – guess I just built me a network of rock stars! Yay!”

Maybe THAT is the best way to explain it. . .?  Not sure, but it feels better in my head thought of in this path.

So, if you’re out there trying to force yourself to build the whuffie, hack the life, etc. I would recommend that you NOT kill yourself by going to a crush of random networking events in order to reach some kind of quota.  Instead, think more and focus on what it is that interests you, and let that energy create the path.

Pink said, “there is no plan”.  I think I’ll conclude by saying, that when it comes to rock star anthropology, “there is no N”.