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  • feedwordpress 16:54:29 on 2020/12/31 Permalink
    Tags: Life   

    A Year of Personal Disruption 

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    On an evening in March (you know, the night), I knew something had changed significantly but, like many others, couldn't see past the fog of shock. At the time, I was watching in real-time as the NBA canceled games, the government canceled flights, and Tom Hanks canceled our collective Covid bubble—and despite what was unfolding before my very eyes, my life looked relatively stable. I had recently celebrated a decade with the same employer, and I was living comfortably with my fiancé—both my boys were living with their mother, we had wedding plans made and were on track for saving for it. After some transitional touch and go post-divorce years, things were settling in. 

    But what is the saying? Ah yes—man plans... God laughs. 

    In the span of just a few months, I transitioned both of my boys out of their mother's house, moved my younger son in with me, moved my fiancé out, back into her old place, assisted with her renovation in the process, canceled wedding plans and found myself unemployed along with many of the Covid-disrupted workforce. And really, these things were the tip of the Iceberg—there were struggles and traumatic experiences that are only appropriate to share with more intimate social circles—but I suspect it's not all that distinct from the stories that make up our collective trauma that is/was 2020. 

    Disruption can be a good thing. I recall reading about the health benefits of being immersed in bone-chilling water (when done appropriately), but the thing about shocks to the system—it is a blurry mix of benefits and detractors. And blur is a great word for 2020 as every day became Blursday, and some of our defense mechanisms kicked in, especially during those early days. I remember learning about the third least known response to a threat. There's flight, fight, but there's also freeze (playing dead). Many days felt like everything was happening in slow motion, time was frozen, and fatigue was just a part of the everyday new normal, no matter how many walks or meditation breaks one took. 

    Despite all the disruption, I still look back with a grateful spirit. Growing up in a blue-collar town has made me sensitive to the plight of the small business owner. While I spent the summer, like so many others grappling with the sights, sounds, and struggles of social justice playing out—I also could not help but think how these small business owners would ever mount a comeback. I sometimes wonder what "the new world" will look like with fewer small business owners and more big corporate entities who benefitted from the disruption. I think a part of me has been mourning this transition and still is. A decade from now, we are going to be living in a world completely dominated by only the biggest and most resourceful global corporations, with the technology players leading in size, influence, and dominance. The great consolidation has been greatly accelerated. 

    I write this thinking about the past and wondering about the future—overlooking snowy rooftops and a frozen Lake Michigan. Chicago, my adopted home, which allowed me to raise a family and prosper, is unlikely to be my home in the not so distant future, and I am still a bit undecided on where, but it will be warmer and smaller, and I'll be skating to where the puck will be in five years or so (or at least this is the hope). 

    Everyone has their own word for 2020. Professionally I advocated for resilience. Personally, I experienced disruption. Disruption, as positioned by the business evangelists, is a positive thing—it's dynamic and innovative. It's also uncomfortable and stressful. But it can definitely foster personal growth if you permit it. 

    Looking forward, after a year of disruption comes the possibility of rebuilding and resetting and recalibrating for a time in my life where age holds a different meaning. The hustle of my 20s and 30s becomes replaced with purpose and intent—I must know why I will be working so hard, and to what end and to what purpose does it serve? 

    So here's to 2021—from personal and professional disruption to something else that isn't likely to be predictable but hopefully is purposeful. 

  • feedwordpress 17:11:59 on 2020/10/06 Permalink
    Tags: Life   

    An Open Letter To My Younger Self 

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    Hi, it's me. 

    You don't know me, but in time you will. I have the benefit of time and experience on my side and wanted to share some thoughts with you if you're willing to listen. If you receive this, please know that it comes from a good place. 

    Let's talk about that time in high school when you ran with the cool kids for a short while before they rejected you. What they rejected was how hard you were trying to be something that you weren't. You'd think this experience would have taught you not to repeat this mistake, but you'll end up making similar mistakes. The good news is that you'll find your own path, make your lifelong friends, and care less about what others think of you. Please Don't be so hard on yourself because we live and learn. You'll get there, but I know if you could read this—you would have gotten there faster. 

    How about one of the best decisions you made in your youth? One evening you came home from work and told your mother that you knew what you wanted to do. You knew that you had a visual talent and felt compelled to see if it could take you somewhere. You didn't feel good enough for a prestigious design school like Pratt, but you got your mother to agree that if you got accepted, you'd work harder there than you ever did in high school, and this would be the foundation you will build your future on. Never second guess this decision, even when you're up all night working like mad to finish a project that you want your talented classmates to respect. 

    You're going to fall in love young—too young. You won't know any better because you will think "this is as good as it gets", but you were too young to understand how life truly works. On the bright side, this relationship will bear fruit in the form of two boys who you'll love unconditionally and will give you tremendous purpose in life. They will allow you to offer the fatherly guidance you didn't have, and they'll challenge and reward you in ways that force you to grow and mature from a young man into a fully functional adult. And you'll find love again and have the experience and wisdom to know what this word should really mean, as complex and mysterious as it is.

    You're going to take a leap of faith and leave your hometown of NY, where you started your career to land in the midwestern city of Chicago. You'll lose your Long Island accent and get homesick, but you'll grow an appreciation for the more modest and hard-working style of midwesterners. At first, Chicago won't know what to make of your New York ways, but you'll adapt and change your professional and personal style. This adaptation will serve you well in the years to come. 

    As the early days of social media literally change the Web, you will transition from a designer and "creative" to a strategic thinker who knows how to execute. You are going to find yourself in the weird and wonderful position of developing a professional "following," and the attention will make you feel uncomfortable. Don't be. Go with it because it won't last forever, and while you don't know it, you'll actually be positively impacting people's lives as you help yourself. 

    You'll stay working on the "agency side" for too long. You'll take a risk to do something different, and it won't work out—so you'll go back to what feels familiar. However, you will still grow professionally and work with some absolutely top-notch people and clients and you'll learn much in the process as the internet re-shapes the world in some ways you predicted, and in other ways, you didn't.

    You'll experience much in your adult life: from the joys of bringing new lives into the world to the emotional toll that comes with divorce to the appreciation of seeing your parents grow old to the historic moment when the country that your parents immigrated to finds itself grappling with a global pandemic and civil unrest at once. In some ways, the culmination of these experiences, both good and bad will help you stay grounded when the world feels unmoored. You'll be grateful that you've built so many meaningful relationships, so don't ever feel like you aren't "productive" when you're investing in someone else and forging a new connection. 

    As previously stated, you'll make mistakes—some you'll learn from and others less so. Only invest in a business model you understand, only invest in others that respect your time, and only be as hard on yourself as much as it makes you better vs. worse. 

    Don't forget where you came from, what you believe in, know who you are, and find ways to serve others. Time will go fast, so make it count because we only have so much time here. 

    With love and respect
    Older (and wiser) you 

  • feedwordpress 17:57:40 on 2020/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: Life   

    What They Don’t Tell You About Life "In-Between" 

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    It's been just over three months since I've had a place of full-time employment to call home. As I previously mentioned, this has been a first-time experience having gone from one professional opportunity to another without much of a break in between. Like much in life, there always seems to be discrepancies between what you envision vs. how reality plays out. If I am really honest—life in the "in-between," as I like to call it, is a strangely ambiguous mixed bag filled with both blessings and challenges. Here's what I'm learning as I navigate this space, and maybe it could be of help to others who find themselves there now or sometime in the future... 

    Take The Time To Tend To Your Personal Garden
    By "personal garden," I mean your personal life. I don't know if it was fate, coincidence, or divine intervention, but my break came when I had (and still have) many personal challenges that need tending to. With a little bit of time looking into the rearview mirror, I wonder how I could have tended to these critical life challenges with a demanding full-time job at a demanding time in history. While I didn't ask for the break, its come with a silver lining of being able to weed, prune, and save some of the dying plants in my personal garden. I'm grateful that I was able to do this when it was needed most. 

    Reject The Ideals
    Ideals are everywhere—you would think that a pandemic would have the reverse effect. Still, many of us wonder if we're baking enough sourdough bread or learning enough new hobbies or career skills during this time of reduced commutes and remote everything. Imagine being in between jobs as the world exists in a somewhat in-between space—somewhere between normal and abnormal, routine, and chaos. I find myself regularly questioning if I am doing enough of anything—networking, self-improvement, applications, etc. etc. The single most challenging part for me is reminding myself that the ideals out there of how this time should be spent are not custom-tailored for my life. Life in the in-between is a personal experience. There is no right or wrong way and everyone has to find their own path without an instruction manual or tour guide. Rejecting what you perceive is the ideal way to navigate this strange state of being is probably the best gift you can give yourself. 

    Put Your Faith In Karma
    Nobody tells you that you're going to look at so many of your professional peers who are in seemingly secure jobs with companies on your wish list and wonder what you did wrong to end up on the sidelines. It doesn't put you in a natural state to want to help others when you are grappling with helping yourself. And this is exactly the moment when you have to put your faith into something bigger than yourself and think of others while resisting the temptation to only think of yourself. So call it Karma, the universe or a higher power, but living life in the professional in-between means you are going to be networking and that gives you the opportunity to help others even if they are already gainfully employed. Do it if you get the chance—it's healthy and it's putting positive energy into this world which will come back to you in some way, even if it's only knowing that you're trying to make a positive impact somewhere. 

    Exercise Your Body + Mind
    I was fortunate enough to order a Peloton while I was still employed full time and it was delivered during the still early-ish days of my in-between—another signal from the universe. It's been a lifesaver as I've found that getting the heart rate up, breaking a good sweat and the bonus of feeling connected to a community is a perfect life hack for staying regulated during a time that feels highly unregulated. The same goes for the mind—I recently penned a thought piece for a well-known tech company that required dusting off some cobwebs and tapping some memory muscle. I was glad to do it, and it made me realize how important it is to keep the mind and body sharp and ready. 

    Be Open To Multiple Possibilities
    In my first few weeks, a number of really perfect potential opportunities manifested only to disappear as quickly as they came. This experience forced me to adjust my mental construct from trying to shape my next move as the perfect role at the perfect time, to be open to a number of possibilities including opportunities that could eventually lead to something else or building my own thing incrementally or moving into different directions or fields that I had not anticipated. Being open to multiple possibilities is freeing in some ways and complex in others—you have to balance where you could make an impact without opening the aperture too broadly and spinning your wheels in the process. But better to be flexible and pliable than rigid. 

    Life in the in-between can so easily be misinterpreted as something you'd envision as the extended vacation or sabbatical you've always dreamed of. I'm sure some have successfully written books and launched new ventures during this time—necessity is after all the mother of all invention. What I am most curious about is how I look back at this experience a year from now. Will I remember it as a moment of reflection, of reinvention, or something else? That's all TBD as the story is still being written but I thought I'd take a moment to pause as I work through this phase of life. 

  • feedwordpress 14:49:03 on 2020/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: Life   

    This Too Shall Pass 

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    In my younger years, I found myself working at a digital agency during the height of the dotcom bubble burst. This was the early 2000s.

    We closed offices, let people go and grappled with the fact that the economy we helped build in code seemed to crumble before our very eyes. It was humbling, to say the least. During these same years, we also endured 9/11 and on a personal front, we had just brought two new lives into this world—a world in transition and turmoil. The uncertainty was palpable.

    I can remember thinking to myself that I might have to move back home with my parents if things got really bad and if I lost my ability to provide. We were a single income family facing uncertain times in an even more uncertain world.

    Today, things are feeling uncertain once again. Markets are in flux, oil prices are plummeting, and of course, a virus triggering fear and impacting economies...

    But wait. We’ve been here before.

    Maybe not exactly. Every time it’s a little different. But this isn’t the first time. We’ve been through much together. And we’re more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

    This too shall pass...

  • feedwordpress 16:30:03 on 2020/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , Life   

    Investing In The Future Is Investing In Yourself 

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    Recently, I spent an hour with a colleague who is just starting out in his career and wanted to learn more about what I do, how I do it and how he can apply that knowledge to his exploration of a career path.

    If you have the opportunity to have conversations like these—you should take them. First, because if your professional life has been good to you (and mine has) you have an obligation to pay it forward, especially to those who will build the future.

    Secondly, it's not just an investment in someone else's future but it's also an investment in yourself. When you are faced with the energy, passion, and curiosity of someone just starting out, it's a great inspiration and a reminder of why you do what you do.

    In a world where win-wins are becoming less frequent, this is one. So make time for that person just starting out and don't be surprised if you both leave the meeting better than when you started it.

    The investment is mutual.

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