The Past Always Seems Better…….But Was It?

Chris Guillebeau struck a chord with his blog today ,“ The Past Wasn’t Better. Choose the Present Instead”, .  He relayed a story about a time his friends got together for a “gaming session”. They had ordered an emulator, which allowed them to play the games of their youth on the modern gaming console of the time.  They realized after a couple of hours of playing the “old games” that the games weren’t as fun as what they remembered.  They were very simplistic and hard – dying over and over again and not advancing to the next level wasn’t fun – it was frustrating.

Chris made the point that it’s easy to look back with fondness on the good ole days, but our memories get distorted as time passes and sometimes what we looked back on with fondness, never happened.

I had an interesting and somewhat similar experience this past weekend.  I had been invited to speak and coach at the 2013 Syracuse University Fall Workshops, which ASMP had contributed to as a sponsor.tumblr_muyzapUjbp1qe6iepo1_500  It was an intensely creative 3-day workshop where journalism students from the Newhouse School, came together with some of the best editors, designers, photographers and multimedia producers working in journalism. It was a hands-on workshop, where students worked with their coaches, to produce their projects (stories), under a tight 3-day deadline. What stood out to me this weekend, was that the “learning” wasn’t a one-way experience.  I learned as much as I shared – from the other coaches, as well as from the students. I’m sure I’m not the only coach, who picked up some tips from their students this weekend. I was also inspired and amazed at what is possible now, in terms of new ways to tell a story.

Sure, there are days when I’m simply overwhelmed by technology and the continued learning curve that comes with it.  And sometimes, I look back and fantasize how much better it was in the past.  At the workshop, one of my students had more than her share of technology mishaps.  At one point after losing hours of work, due to a software glitch along with not being able to access her audio files, somewhere in “the cloud”, she remarked with exasperation “ I wish things were like they used to be”.  She meant when things were tangible and analog. I quickly replied, “No you don’t because this 3 day workshop would have taken 3 months”. It was a moment when we both had the same realization that Chris Guillebeau had – our memories and perceptions of the old days are sometimes blurred and over glorified.

As much as we remember and long for the old days, the fact is we have it pretty good now.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remind myself of that.  I choose to focus on what I am able to do in the present rather than look back at what was. If we choose to stay in the past and remember things being better then they are now, we’ll miss out on a whole lot of possibilities. As Chris beautifully sums it up: “Let go of the glory days.  Live in the present and build for the future.”


Rejection Therapy

©Mike Rode
©Mike Rohde

A few weeks ago, I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR.  Any time I‘ve mentioned this conference to my friends, their eyes get wide and they all want to know more about it.  Essentially, WDS is a worldwide gathering of creative, unconventional people who want to live a remarkable life in a conventional world.

This was my second time attending WDS and I was inspired, enlightened, invigorated and awed by the speakers like Jonathan Fields, Nancy Duarte, Tess Vigeland, Chase Jarvis and many others.  There was one speaker Jia Jiang that really resonated with me.  He talked about his 100-day “rejection therapy” project. You can watch Jia’s talk online. He must have struck a chord with a lot of other people as well, because he brought the house down.

I’m certainly not a stranger to knowing what rejection feels like.  The last two years of my life I have been rejected more times than I have probably in my entire life.  It’s not that I’ve been seeking ways to get rejected.  It’s because I’ve pushed myself into new and foreign territories – I mean that both literally and figuratively.  For example, I challenged myself in my career by producing a big film project that literally took me around the world.  But when I think about the “journey” part and the production of that film, it pales compared to the hard work, time, blood, sweat and plenty of tears on getting the film seen. I got scads of rejection letters and emails from film festivals, distributors and agents but most outsiders see only my successes.

When I heard Jia talk about his rejections that led to his “rejection therapy”, I understood exactly how he felt.  In a way, I’ve lived my life like Jia’s rejection therapy. But, it wasn’t because I set out to heal myself from some missteps and misses that didn’t work out for me.  As I look back at some of the things that I’ve done in my life, I realize now that I was simply naively bold enough to do them.

I can’t really say that I have ever gotten used to rejection.  It continues to hit me hard at times.  But when that happens, I stop and I think about all the wonderful and crazy things that I’ve done in my life that never would have happened if I had let my past rejections stop me. I suppose I’m like one of those blow up punching bags that keeps popping back up.

Building an Audience and Why It’s More Important Than SEO

If my sole goal in writing my blog were to attract as many hits as I could, I’d focus my concentration on using all the “right” SEO keywords throughout the context of my writings.  I don’t want to write like that though, with my thoughts focused on using certain key words, in order to get the most eyeballs.  I would rather write with my focus on what I have to share with my audience and what they want and value from me. That may yield a smaller audience, but it will be the right audience.

It’s nice when something I write goes viral, but I’m more interested in building an audience that is also a community of people who are interested in what I have to say, share or sell. I’m also interested in building a community who understand that by interacting with one another, they make each other stronger.  Ultimately, by finding that niche of people who are interested in, and value what I and other members of this “community” have to offer, I am building a sustainable audience. It takes a lot longer to build this type of audience, but in the long run, the returns are longer lasting.

Chris Guillebeau, is a guy who understands how to build an audience.  He writes a blog called The Art of Non-Conformity,

Yesterday he wrote:

“I used to run several little businesses that produced a good income, but they were completely dependent on external factors such as Google rankings or the lack of competition in my space. It was fun while it lasted, but when efficiency entered the marketplace, I had to move on. Looking back, I can now see that I didn’t really have a business; I was merely taking advantage of an opportunity. And most critically of all, I didn’t have an audience. “

He goes on to say:

“When you devote your attention to cultivating and enriching an audience over time, you have much more security. You aren’t dependent on the whims of Apple, the fluctuations of Google rankings, or whether a publisher will return your calls. Listen closely and the audience will tell you what they want. Even if you don’t always get it right, well, keep caring and you’ll get another chance. “

I’m a big fan of Guillebeau because he does listen to his audience. I know that I will always get something of value from his writings.  He gives me a reason to come back, whether it is to read his blog or buy another book or attend one of his World Domination Summits.

I try to apply this type of thinking in how I promote my photography and video business as well in promoting my film.  With my film, I have been able to get a very clear sense of who my audience is, through my FB fan page interactions, the film’s blog and recently by physically meeting people at various film festivals over the last couple of months.  I was able to interact with my audiences and to find out, what they liked about the film through their comments and questions.  I could see how I made them feel through the film how that prompted them to action.  Sometimes the action was to buy a DVD or ten DVD’s for friends and family. And sometimes, I find out later that I had motivated somebody who had watched the film to take some positive action.

I know that if I want to build a sustainable audience I need to do more than to just someone into a theater or to buy a DVD, I need to continue to create and share what I do best, and I will be giving the audience what they want at the same time.

It really all comes down to knowing what your audience wants or needs and being the one who has the desire and the skills to fulfill that need. To really build an audience you need to identify two things that will work together in making that happen:

What you are good at?


What your audience (client)  is looking for?

When those two things are in sync with one another, you’ll be building the right audience, which is far better than attracting lots of eyeballs but not giving them what they’re looking for.

Forcing Accountability

Yesterday was one of those days that I had a hundred things to do and only a few hours to do them.  I had to give final approval of an ePub I was wrapping up, package and send out exhibition Blurays and posters to film festivals that I have been invited to and finish a video job I was editing, all before heading into NYC to moderate a panel discussion on video for the NYC chapter of ASMP.  My mom used to say, “If you want something done – ask a busy person”.  I never did understand that when I was younger but I know now, that the busier I am – the better I am with utilizing my time.

I was also fine-tuning the presentation that I was going to be giving to the students at Brooks Institute next week. As an alumna of Brooks,

Gail Mooney as a student at Brooks Institute
© Chad Weckler

I was honored when I was asked to speak. I was also taking this responsibility seriously and I was getting a bit stressed over it, which is uncharacteristic for me.  I’m usually very comfortable with public speaking.  I knew I wanted to talk about the value of “community” and how being part of the ASMP has played into that, but I didn’t want to sound “canned”.  I knew that I needed to personalize that message and really boil it down to what that has meant to me.  But I also knew I needed to come off as someone who is still relevant and not be perceived by the students as just someone whose their mother’s age. I needed to show my spirit inside that hasn’t aged at all since graduating from Brooks all those years ago.  I knew I needed to put myself in their shoes and see through their eyes in order to really connect with them. I started thinking in terms of what I know now and what I wished I had known back when I was a student at Brooks.

So, as I headed into NYC, I had a lot going through my mind.  The ASMP event was great.  It was a packed room with an engaged audience and terrific panelists.  But the best part of the evening was the networking after the event.  That’s where the real sharing of information happens and a sense of community is felt.  It’s easy to get disconnected these days from the human connection because we all spend so much (too much) time online.  That human connection will never be replaced by technology. That was one thing I wanted to point out to the students when I talked to them next week – to physically get “out there”.

I got home late and woke up early and needed a good jolt of coffee while I checked my emails.  One email jumped out at me. It was a newsletter from Jonathan Fields who I started subscribing to after hearing Jonathan speak at the World Domination Summit this summer.   The newsletter had a link to a video of Jonathan interviewing, Chris Guillebeau the founder of the World Domination Summit.  Chris writes a blog that I follow, called the Art of Non-Conformity.  As I listened to the interview, it became clearer as far as what I wanted to say to the students in my presentation next week. Chris said one thing that was right on target.  He was talking about pursuing an idea and he said that by putting your idea out to the world – by telling someone about it – you were in fact “forcing accountability”.

I thought back to when I first had the crazy notion of traveling around the world with the purpose of creating a feature documentary about individuals on six continents who were making a positive difference in our world.  The idea had been tossing around in my head for months before I told anyone.  Then one evening as I was walking back from dinner with fellow ASMP board member, Blake Discher, I decided to put the idea “out there”.  It was something I did on impulse, but as I look back on it now, Blake was probably the right one to “test run” this crazy idea on.  He responded with an affirming, “thumbs up”, but not overly exuberant, which was exactly what I needed. Blake is a very grounded person, so for someone like him to not look at me and tell me that I was out of my mind, was the nudge I needed.  So, it was that short, impulsive, casual conversation that forced me to be accountable with my idea.

I went on to make the movie that I set out to make and even better, I got to share the experience with my daughter Erin.  It has changed both of our lives for the better.  That’s not to say that everything has worked out in ways that I may have wanted or thought I wanted.  But it has been a journey that I was meant to take. I have met people that I never would have met in the process and that in turn has led to so many more incredible experiences and adventures that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I started thinking about my life’s journey and all the things I have learned since my days as a student at Brooks.  And then I thought,  “what if I knew then what I know now? “  The thing is, if I had already known all those things back when I was a student, I never would have had the journey that I’ve had.  Everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  And that’s what life’s all about – the journey along the way and that only happens when we leave room for the unexpected.

Living a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World

Have you ever had an experience that you just don’t want to end?  I have.  I have just returned from

Photo WDS by Chris Guillebeau

The World Domination Summit in Portland, OR and I want the experience to linger on – I don’t want the thoughts and feelings inside to end.

It has been hard and amusing when I try to explain to someone what this conference was all about with a name like The World Domination Summit.  It sparked impromptu conversations with people I met in elevators, in restaurants, or on the street, when they spotted my tag.  I told them that it is a gathering of people – 1000 people – who wanted to live a remarkable life in the conventional world we live in. Unlike other conferences, where attendees come from similar professions – this conference was attended by people of all ages, from college kids to 70 year olds and from all walks off life.  But, everyone had one thing in common – they wanted to live a rewarding life – a life of hope, happiness and possibility.

When I signed up last January, I knew it was bound to be an interesting weekend. I had no idea who the speakers were going to be, but the first WDS that Chris Guillebeau and his team organized last year, was quickly sold out and I didn’t want miss out on this year’s event.  When the tickets were put on sale for this year’s conference – they sold out in 10 minutes.  1000 tickets were sold – 5000 people were waitlisted.  I was one of the fortunate ones.

I should point out another unique thing about this conference – it is entirely done with volunteers.  Even the amazing speakers volunteer  – speakers like Brene Brown, Scott Harrison, Scott Belsky, and Chris Brogan.  There were informative and quirky workshops like “ The Right-Brain Business Plan: Turn Passion into Profit” to “Mondo Beyondo Meetup: What are your Superpowers” and there were plenty of other meetups around town, one could find out about on the twitter page.

I met the most interesting people, from all over the world and it was easy to pick up on other people’s enthusiasm and energy. 1000 people who thought a little bit different from the status quo. – people who looked at the whole notion of “business” differently.  They understood the importance of both serendipity and strategy, the power of mentoring and leading by service and soul.

After the final keynote speaker, Chris Guillebeau announced that he had a surprise.  He stood on the stage with an empty chair beside him and talked about the conference itself.  How it had doubled in size from the first year to the next and how he capped it at 1000 people, even though he had another 5000 people on the waiting list.  He talked about the fact that the conference had no sponsors and that nothing was promoted – there was a table where one could buy some of the speakers’ books but they were never promoted. Chris said he decided not to have sponsors because he didn’t want to devote time to sponsor announcements. And then he said that an anonymous donor came forward and made a sizable donation.  Chris and his team talked a lot about what they would do with this money and they decided to give it back to all of the attendees.  And then he told us that when we left the theater we would be handed an envelope with a note and a $100 bill!  Chris and his team of volunteers would be handing out $100,000.

As I left the theater I received an envelope with a crisp new $100 in it wrapped around a note that said:

The $100 Investment

Thanks for making the #WDS2012 a fantastic experience.  We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use.  Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different – it’s up to you.

The World Domination Summit

Incidentally, when we first checked in for the summit, we were handed our credentials, a t-shirt, and a backpack.  Inside the backpack was a stainless steel water bottle and Chris’s new book “The $100 Startup“.

I don’t think there will be one person who received that envelope that day who won’t think twice about spending that $100.  And think about the power in that – think about the possible outcomes.  That’s a refreshing way to look at “business”.  If that type of philosophy has a chance of dominating the world – I’m all for it.

“Unused creativity is not benign. It turns into grief judgment and shame.”Brene Brown – speaker at WDS 2012

Some Useful Information for Workflow

I made a few new discoveries this past week.  Forgive me if these items aren’t new but they’re new to me.

One item I discovered was Drop Box and the timing was perfect.  Drop Box is a sharing and storage site.  I can upload files and documents to their server and share those files with anyone who has Drop Box installed on their computer. For instance, I am able to share project files and updates with the editor that I am working with on Opening Our Eyes.  This past week, I was working on a new trailer for my film and I was able to share that updated project file with him, along with the RF music that I licensed for it.

The other thing that I love about Drop Box is that I can share files and info with the various computers that I work on.  No more emailing docs or copying media to a DVD so that I can transfer files over to my laptop.  With Drop Box installed, I can share files, media and calendars with any and all of my computers.  As a bonus, Drop Box acts as an off site storage solution as well.

My other discovery was a royalty free music site called Neosounds. I’ve been searching through hundreds of royalty free music libraries over the years and Neosounds is definitely the best source for high quality music that I’ve found.  It stands out amongst the rest because their music doesn’t sound like royalty free music.  Recently, I needed  music for a new trailer that I was making for OOE and I was googling around for some cinematic sounds. I found the perfect background music for my film’s trailer.  I’m still tweaking the trailer a bit, but you can listen to a clip of music from Neosounds that I used in a short video I made that appeared on a recent blog post.

One last item that I’ll mention is a great source for travel guides – the unconventional type. They are called Unconventional Guides and are brought to you by Chris Guillebeau. Since discovering Chris Guillebeau’s blog The Art of Non-Conformity, I’ve become a huge fan of Chris and his writings.  If you haven’t discovered Chris’s blog , then do so. He has an amazing outlook on life and he articulates his thoughts  so beautifully in his blog.  His global view of the world and how to live life is truly an inspiration to me.  He’s definitely, a kindred spirit.

Back to tweaking.  Stay tuned for my next blog with links to some new samples.

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