The Universe Winked at Me

We all have different beliefs about coincidences, divine messages, friendly spirits, simulation theory, and other ways to rationalize the coincidences that happen in our lives. But, despite the rationalizations, sometimes you’re forced to smile when they continue to pile on.

In my last blog post, I wrote about a sample that appeared in a song from one of my favorite albums, Kids by The Midnight. A sample from a an interview young computer enthusiast is featured in the opening song, and the source video of that sample recently appeared in my YouTube queue. Pretty cool, right?

Well, it went a step further yesterday. For some reason, I had delayed watching Street Light Stories: Chapter II, based on characters from the “Pittsburgh Dad” show written and produced by Chris Preksta & Curt Wootton. In the Pittsburgh Dad series, Curt plays an all-too-familiar and relatable blue collar father from Pittsburgh.

Street Light Stories, which was originally released in July of 2019 pulled at my heart strings. It was set in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood in the summer of 1987. The film included a stunning soundtrack, opening with Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday by Stevie Wonder whilst neighborhood kids were playing “ocka bocka soda poppa” and running around having fun.

The first film goes into the “Pittsburgh Dad” household and gives you an all-too-familiar glimpse of their home and family dynamic, filled with lots of “Pittsburghisms” and Pittsburghese that will resound with anyone from Western Pennsylvania.

In the end of the film, the kids are in the yard catching fireflies as the closing number, Just the Way You Are, by Billy Joel fades in. It really pulled at my heart strings as I remembered my childhood growing up in Pittsburgh.

Fast forward more than two later, and I finally decide to watch Chapter II, which also fast forwards to the summer of 1989 where Pittsburgh Dad’s kids host their first sleepovers. This episode took all of the funny nostalgia of the first short film and merged it with heartwarming portraits of adolescence from the perspectives of a young boy, his teenage sister, and two parents learning to adapt to their growing kids.

As if the episode wasn’t great enough, it ended a perfectly wistful, but uplifting and aptly named anthem, Memories, by who else, but The Midnight from their 2016 album (also appropriately named), Endless Summer.

Just maybe, as the song says, “All of this was planned when the world was started.”

When is the last time the universe winked at you in a big or little way?

Connecting the Dots

One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to help you discover connections between seemingly desperate things. This morning I was aimlessly scrolling through YouTube, looking for inspiration on a new project I’m starting. Along the way, I encountered this video interviewing a child talented with computers in 1979:

Elements of the interview seemed familiar and I quickly realized that this was the source of samples for the opening track, Youth, on the album Kids, by The Midnight:

It’s always fun to discover how computers can help humans connect the dots.

As we navigate this unprecedented moment in history, some of us have been given the opportunity to pause our lives and look deeply into what it is that brings us happiness and success. For me, at least 2-3 months away from my career will give me the chance to evaluate what I have been doing to determine if it is what I want to continue doing.

What are my strengths? What am I naturally inclined at doing that I should pursue more seriously? What are the things that I enjoy doing that I could profit from?

Maybe connecting those dots will lead us all to something new and exciting.

The project that I’m working on is a podcast for hospitality and travel workers to share their stories and help others learn to grow their careers. While the industry takes a pause through the pandemic, this will enable professionals to stay connected through stories of others and hopefully give them hope for the future of their careers and the future of travel.

The project will allow me to connect a few of my favorite dots: producing multimedia content, being creative, sharing stories, and connecting people with others of mutual value.

What dots are you hoping to connect?

You’re about to get a check. How you spend it could save our country and your neighbor.

Friday was a tough day. Many of my friends and colleagues were dealt a hard blow as their careers and livelihoods were put on pause through layoffs, furloughs, and reduced work schedules. A large number of these talented leaders have industry-specific jobs that will be difficult to transfer into other industries, especially in a saturated labor market.

Word on the street is that Uncle Sam is going to help by sending some of you a check in the mail. Deciding what to do with that money could be overwhelming. Stocks are on sale, and you could probably use the extra money to invest in your future. You could use the money to pay off a bill. You could save the money for Christmas, or a rainy day.

Don’t.

Restaurant workers, hoteliers, retail, and the aviation industry are counting on you spending this money to save their jobs and keep their doors open.

If you receive a check from the government and don’t need the extra cash, please think of your friends and neighbors filing for unemployment or your corner sandwich shop struggling to pay its rent.

Book that trip at the fancy hotel. Order from your local restaurant. DM your small town store advertising on Instagram to see if they’ll ship your purchase.

Whatever you do, when you receive this check, please, spend it or share it with those in need so we can all feed our families and get back to what we love doing best, taking care of you as you explore the world.

Life’s a little messy right now. And that’s okay.

It’s the second day of working from home with our handsome, brilliant, and energetic one year-old. After days of talks of the COVID-19 impact on the airline industry, news reports finally hit home for many hospitality workers. Restaurants and bars are closing around the country, and hotels are experiencing record low occupancies. Retail stores are now shuttering until it’s safe to re-open. It’s too early to tell how long the damage will last, but millions of people in the travel and hospitality industry will soon be (at least temporarily) without jobs.

Collateral damage is likely. Suppliers, intermediaries, service providers, contractors, and supportive infrastructure will all soon feel the effects.

For those of us on the fringe, still hanging on, life isn’t easy. Guilt of watching housekeepers, restaurant servers, store clerks and bartenders lose their hours while we struggle through difficult projects and conversations is overwhelming. Added to that: the prospect of furloughs, financial uncertainty and no telling when this will all get better. And even more: many of us are finding what it is like to work at home in isolation from our friends, extended family, co-workers and neighbors as we take on the new roles of caretaker and homeschooler.

“If something happens, how will we pay the bills?” “What if he screams during a conference call?” “Do we have enough in savings?” “Should we refinance the house?” “When will we ever do the dishes?” are common questions.

It’s a lot.

We’ve just entered a period of uncertainty, discomfort, and unrest all while trying to stay six feet apart from everyone else in the world.

So what can we do about it? Here are three ideas to start:

  1. Enjoy time with your family. There will never be another opportunity like this in your life to spend so much time together.
  2. Take the news in daily doses, not a constant drip. There won’t be much good news, so why not consume something you enjoy?
  3. Use social media as your balcony. Sing, play music, share a funny (but not misleading) meme. Interact with your friends and neighbors and remind everyone that we’re all going to be okay.

This isn’t going to be easy, but neither was 3rd shift, back-to-backs, opening after you closed, managing a tight turn in the ballroom or at the front desk, or covering that extra shift when you needed to be somewhere else.

Together, as an industry, we’ve been through some crazy things, too. There was 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, Avian Flu, and countless hurricanes just to name a few. Despite all of these setbacks, we always emerged further ahead. Hotels are chicer. Retail is more luxurious. Restaurant food is better than ever. Craft cocktails raised the bar. Planes are greener. Technology is converging, and career paths are more promising.

What’s different about the service culture is that we do everything in service of others, and that spirit is what will carry us through.

Many people in the world outside of the hospitality industry don’t know the lengths that workers will go, or sacrifices that workers will make to ensure their guests feel safe, welcome, and well-taken care of. And that’s exactly what we’ll do for each other right now.

Hospitality exists when you believe that the other person is on your side.

Danny Meyer

5 Ways for Couples to Cope While Working at Home with Small Children

If you’re reading this, you’re either one of my three e-mail subscribers or have found yourself working at home amidst a pandemic while your little one(s) have been sent home from school for two or more weeks. In searching for solutions, you’ve probably found plenty of examples of couples where one parent works from home and the other keeps the house or cases where a nanny or Au Pair are present. If you’re reading this, it’s probably just you, your partner, and your little one(s) and you’re looking for things you can do to survive the next several weeks. 

Continue reading 5 Ways for Couples to Cope While Working at Home with Small Children

A Day in the Life of a Remote Worker

In 2020, it’s quite common to work from home occasionally, but working remotely is a world all of its own. There are three main work arrangements that workers may find themselves in:

  1. Working in an office with other co-workers at all times.
  2. Working in an office some days, but from home on others.
  3. Working away from the office at all times.

Beyond the three personal working arrangements, there are three different scenarios for which teams can be deployed:

  1. Working together in centrilozed co-located work environments.
  2. Working independently with no central location or common office.
  3. A hybrid of mostly co-located workers with some remote workers.

Based on my experience over the last three years, I will argue that while it carries many advantages, working remotely on a team of co-located individuals is the most difficult scenario of all. While there are many personal liberties in working remotely, there are many things that are missed by remote workers: spontaneous coffee chats, shared meals, ad hoc meetings, happy hours, and most importantly, bagels in the break room.

“working remotely on a team of co-located individuals is the most difficult scenario of all…”

Being remote among a team of co-located colleagues means suffering through the latency and technical challenges of video calls from giant conference rooms, and never really knowing how your ideas are being received while delivering presentations from 1,000’s of miles away. Being remote when everyone else is together means that you have to trust others and have confidence in yourself every time you connect and communicate. Being remote takes courage and resolve. But those things aside, it also has its perks.

As a remote worker, you can show proof through the results of my work and not just the hours spent in the office. As a remote worker, how you structure your day is completely up to you. Whether that means Tuesdays in coffee shops, or Wednesday lunch by the pool, as long as the work gets done, the flexibility keeps work interesting.

While today’s current events may offer you a first chance at working from home, I thought you may enjoy taking a look at a day in the life of a remote worker to see if it’s all you thought it was cracked up to be. So, without further adieu, here’s a typical day from my home office:

(All Times below are Central Time, my team is based in Eastern Time)

5:37 AM – Wake up, groggy, reaching for cellphone to check the time. Get out of bed and head into the kitchen where I grind coffee beans and fill the coffeemaker with water.

5:45 AM – Open laptop and read e-mail, prioritizing anything urgent for the day. Scroll through LinkedIn and industry news.

6:00 AM – Shower and get ready for the day

6:20 AM – Continue reviewing e-mail and news. Identify Most Important Task (MIT) for the day in Bullet Journal

6:45 AM – Wake up one year-old, play and read books, and get him ready for school

7:30 AM – Help mommy and son to car to depart for school and work

7:45 AM – Timebox the day in Outlook and get working

8:00 AM – Check in with a few colleagues on Teams to just say “hi”

8:07 AM – Tackle Bullet Journal tasks

9:00 AM – Attend first conference call, fully focused on deciphering cross-talk, identifying faint voices from the back of the room and trying to smile remembering I’m on camera the whole time, with my face likely plastered on a 60″ LCD screen.

9:14 AM – Engage mute button while dog barks incessantly as a neighbor dog walks down the sidewalk in front of the house.

10:00 AM – Select Flow State playlist and dig into deep work.

10:02 AM – Doorbell rings. Dog barks excitedly.

10:03 AM – Explain to the visitor at the door that I’m not interested in switching lawn care providers at this time.

10:04 AM – Replace noise cancelling headphones and get back to deep work.

1:37 PM – Realize I have been working non-stop for 3.5 hours and that 1) I need to pee and 2) I am starving

1:44 PM – Reheat last night’s leftovers in the microwave for 90 seconds and enjoy my quiet lunch break

1:53 PM – Return to my office after a long break to get back to work.

2:00 PM – Join Teams video call with smaller group, which is nice because I can actively participate in the conversation.

3:01 PM – Send memes about how it’s only Wednesday to select colleague or two to mimic some sort of social interaction.

3:07 PM – Tackle another chunk of deep work

3:45 PM – Submit the day’s MIT (Most Important Task) work to leader for review

3:48 PM – Review next day’s schedule and update Bullet Journal accordingly

4:15 PM – Leave house to pick up the little one at school

5:00 PM – Return home and entertain the little guy until dinner with mommy

6:00 PM – Dinnertime

6:20 PM – Video call with Grammy + Pappy, followed by lots of LEGO Duplo play

7:30 PM – Bathtime

7:45 PM – Read books and continue playing with little one

8:30 PM – Bedtime for the little one

9:00 PM – Catch up on late afternoon/evening email/Teams messages, if necessary

9:30 PM – Lights out

Keep in mind, not every day is the same. That’s the great thing about working remotely. With the opportunity to work somewhere new each day, or venture out for lunch or to sneak in an errand, you have the full control to make your day work so you can do your best work.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone. To be successful, you really need to have the drive, self-direction, and energy to propel yourself each day.

Do you work remotely, or from home occasionally? What does your day look like? What are your secrets to success?

What is your career purpose?

Yesterday, at the beginning of a call with my leaders, our VP surprised me with a remarkable question, “what is your career purpose?”

Reflexively, I answered something to the effect of, “to find ways to use existing investments to make work easier, improve customer experiences, and help achieve organizational goals.” I admitted that this was simply an expansion of my previous mission statement to “find ways to use existing technology investments to make work easier so workers can better serve customers.”

Unfortunately, my offer was dismissed.

“That’s not a purpose, that’s an objective,” I was told warmly. My VP went on to share about his last three days of discovery of his career purpose, and that led me to start thinking seriously about my career purpose, well beyond the bounds that I have thought of it previously.

This introspective inquiry has led me down a rabbit hole of self-discovery and research. I have literally been up since the middle of the night thinking about his question. Obsessive? Perhaps. Bothered? Not at all. Inspired? Markedly.

To determine my career purpose, beyond what I thought it to be, I knew I would have to look far and wide, and deep into my soul. So, I turned to the first place that anyone else in this predicament would go: YouTube.

It was there that I found a wonderful story from Oprah Winfrey about her discovery of her own purpose through the journey of her career:

“Your real job in life is to figure out what it is you are called to do and you use a job until you can figure out what the calling is because a job is necessary to survive…” 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah’s early career development seemed so familiar to me. Sure, I haven’t worked as a news anchor and I, a straight white male, have no idea how difficult it must be as a black woman in broadcast journalism. However, I have experienced and know what it is like to try a job that you later realize isn’t the perfect fit. It’s these experiences that have helped me to learn, grow, and pursue other things more suited for my strengths and desires.

They say you know you’ve found your purpose when you find the thing that, even as Oprah says, “you would do for nothing.” But will we all find that thing?

It turns out that what we are supposed to do, and our purpose can be two entirely different things. What you’re supposed to do, that, according to Merriam-Webster, is simply something you lay down tentatively as a hypothesis. Your purpose though, that is defined as “an end to be obtained.”

Until you find your purpose, you’re left with nothing but what you suppose you should do. The only dilemma then is you have no end to march towards. So, how are we supposed to find our purpose?

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, shares his perspective from the TEDx stage:

It turns out, according to Sinek, inspiring action all starts with sharing your vision and beliefs. So is finding your purpose just as simple as articulating your beliefs?

What is your career purpose? How did you discover it?

Leave a comment below.

Buying the Best Tools for Remote Workers

Shifting from working in a co-located office to working from home is a liberating and alienating experience. You quickly learn that limitations of the traditional office are non-existent and then much later that you’re the office manager, IT support, caterer, and receptionist.

As a technology enthusiast, one of the first changes that I embraced was the ability to choose which tools I wanted to work with. However, this comes with a catch: the upgrades would come out of my own pocket.

Not wanting to be constrained to a laptop display and a boring mediocre external display, I sought out the most capable, well designed, and high fidelity monitor I could find. For my keyboard and mouse, nothing less than ideal would suffice, so there too, I sought out the best of the best.

“The best investment is in the tools of ones own trade.”

Benjamin Franklin

While these tools may be seen merely as objects, and my pursuit of them as unnecessary consumerism, I instead saw them as a reflection of the value of my work and myself. I believe we are all worth more than a $20 keyboard and mouse combo. I believe we should have a monitor with enough real-estate and pixel density to help us do our work fluidly. I believe we should have a listening experience that helps us tune out the distractions and achieve flow. I believe we’re worth the investment of premium technology to do wonderful work.

Because of those beliefs, I invested in myself and I’m so glad I did. Now when I sit (or stand) at my beautiful desk in my ergonomic chair, or my thoughtfully chosen area rug, my hands flow across a beautifully designed and delightful to use keyboard built for creators. My right hand drapes over a precise and ergonomically designed powerful mouse. My eyes soak in pixels saturated with color from a curved display. My ears are enveloped in rich bass and my desk is clear of clutter due to the built in USB-C dock and port replicator in my monitor.

I’m not wealthy and my work didn’t reimburse me, but these were investments that have empowered me to do my best work and feel more value and confidence each day that I tackle a new project or stakeholder. I saw value in myself and my work, and knew that I also needed to assign value to the tools that help me do that.

Just as a chef needs a sharp knife, an artist the finest paints, a knowledge worker should value the tools and technology that will lead them to their best work.

What tools do you use in your office on the goal that help you to be successful? Leave a comment below.

Here’s what I bought:

HP ENVY 34 34-inch Monitor

$899

Logitech Craft Keyboard

$199

Logitech MX Master Mouse

$99

QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II

$249

Pottery Barn Pittsburgh Crank Standing Desk

$799

Steelcase Think Chair

Gift

Microsoft Lifecam Studio

$59

How to be productive while you’re sick.

There’s nothing fun about having a cold, and certainly nothing funny about the flu. But sometimes these things happen while you’re in the middle of a busy time at work. Despite your best planning, nature can hand you an unsuspected surprise at what seems to be the worst time.

Toward the end of last week, I started feeling low on energy as I went through the day. I wasn’t sleeping well and woke up feeling fatigued. It was hard to concentrate during meetings and impossible to find energy, motivation, or focus to dig into complicated projects. I was getting sick.

On Saturday morning I woke up optimistic that a trip to grocery store would start the day right. It felt great getting showered and heading out the door, but by the time I returned home an hour later, I was completely devoid of energy.

For the remainder of that day and all day Sunday I stayed in bed. No laptop, no work e-mail, just rest. Each morning, I awoke feeling a little bit better. By Monday, I was able to stomach some breakfast, attend a few calls, catch up on e-mail and update some pressing files, but I wasn’t able to be much more proactive, and didn’t try. That night I hit the hay as early as I could.

The next day I woke up refreshed, clear-minded, and mostly recovered from my debilitating weekend. Total recovery time? 4-5 days.

Sure, I could have “plowed through” and sniffled and groaned through a few more slides or notes. I could have stayed up later, woken up earlier, but to what end? My recovery time could have easily doubled.

So, how do I stay productive when I’m not feeling well? I don’t.

When I’m sick and out of energy, my body is telling me it needs the time to do what it only it can do: recover. That’s not something that can be sped up, hacked, or improved. It’s just a process that takes time, and the sooner I yield to it, and the more time I allow for it to happen, the sooner everything comes back to 100%. Then, and only then, can I come back and be 100% me and 100% productive.

Reaching New Heights

I didn’t plan on climbing the wall at at The St. James during our recent team off-site meeting in Northern Virginia. However, after many of our team members had climbed up and down several times, my Vice President yelled out, “Hey Peter, you’re up!”

Now, a hardworking new father in my mid-thirties, physical fitness had not been my primary focus for 2019. Alas, I had been challenged in front of a group of peers to do something that others had jumped the at the chance to do, some more successful than others.

My hands quickly sweat, my heart raced, and the apprehension of failure pumped adrenaline through my veins. My fight or flight had been activated, and I had nowhere to go but up.

It had been 20 years since the last time I climbed a wall, and the only advice I remembered from that boy scout retreat was “use your legs, not your hands.” Armed with only that advice and 30 of my closest leaders and colleagues standing behind me, I strapped into my harness and took my first step. I glanced up and down, quickly finding my next foot and hand hold. With each move forward, I analyzed which foothold would give me the most upside, worrying not where I’d hold my hand next, but how I would allow my legs to propel me up the wall.

In less than a few minutes, I had ascended to the top of the 40 foot wall with nowhere to go but down. From here, it was a leap of faith and a lot of slamming into the wall as I awkwardly twisted and repelled down like a flopping fish tired after a long fight with a talented fisherman.

According to Newton’s law of universal gravitation, every mass attracts every other mass in the universe. Therefore, if my fears weren’t strong enough to pull me down, there must be something much greater that I’m reaching for.