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.

My Latest Collaboration with Microsoft

Last year I was asked by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals to share my best practices in using Microsoft Teams to effectively collaborate with other sellers to win business and respond to customers more quickly. Here’s the video that they produced:

A Year Without Blogging

2017 was an incredible year for me. During this time, earned an incredible promotion, bought my first home, partnered with Microsoft for my first commercial, and finally graduated with a degree in Marketing Management.

While I spent this time focused on so many other things, I really missed the opportunity to share through long-formed posts. Now that I’ve accomplished many of the goals that I set out to achieve, I hope I can find time to come back here and share some of those stories in the hope that they might inspire others.

A Few Videos and Films about ‘Home’

In anticipation of building our first home, I’ve been quite interested in some of others’ interpretations of what home means. To me, moving pictures mixed with the right sound always seem to have the ability to move me. One day, while watching HGTV, a commercial for Home Goods came on that made me smile.

I later learned that the soundtrack was “Home” by Dan Croll and since then, I haven’t been able to shake the tune from my head or my playlist.

The pleasure I get from watching these old television clips and hearing the wall of sound brought me to search for other stories of home. I found a few while enjoying a cup of coffee this morning and I hope you’ll find to enjoy them too.

This is My Home is a film I found on Vimeo that reminded me a lot of the sense of curiosity I had when exploring my grandparents house. While we, as a society, may be trending towards valuing experiences and minimalism, I think it is important that we keep a space for these artifacts of our past as they have the ability to help us enjoy memories and have a window into our past. I’m not sure if this gentleman is still around, but if he is, I would love to go and see his home in Manhattan.

Continuing on the theme of curiosity, I found another home that reflected another one of my passions: airplanes. Here’s a man that decided to make a retired passenger aircraft his home. In the middle of the woods.

Now, here’s another. The home itself isn’t particularly remarkable. Maybe curious to some by its small size, but what is remarkable to me is the number of people that found this so interesting. Why would over 90,000 people want to watch a man put together his home in a time lapse video? Are we looking to learn the most efficient way to unpack and set things up, or are we all just curious what home means and looks like to others?

What does home mean to you?

What is a hashtag, and how do I follow one?

You may have seen your local news crew or a national television show encourage you to use a particular “hashtag” when tweeting or posting about their stories or shows. Usually they look something like this: #IAMUP which is the hashtag for my favorite local news team here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

The word hashtag simply means a tag (metadata) applied to a hash symbol (we call # pound, or the number symbol, but the rest of the world calls it the hash symbol). Metadata is information used to help the organization of information. So the hash tells the database the following information is to help others find this post. The tag is the string of text and numbers you use to help find that information. If everyone uses the same hashtag for a topic, then it is very easy to search for those posts using the “search” feature of your social network or special software such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

If you’re just getting started with social media and using hashtags, give it a try on Twitter. To use a hashtag on Twitter, simply compose your tweet, append the # symbol followed immediately by the tag text, like #IAMUP. Once you post your tweet, it’s searchable for anyone else interested in the #IAMUP hashtag.

Now composing those tweets and posts are only part of the fun. The real fun is seeing what others have to say! Using the search feature on Twitter, simply type in the hashtag you wish to search for such as #IAMUP. The results will give you a timeline of all of the other Twitter users talking about the same thing!

Capture

To keep the conversation going in real time, you might want to check out a program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that will allow you to create real-time columns dedicated to seeing those tweets as they happen.

Capture

So there you have it, a simple primer on hashtags, how to join the conversation and how to see what’s going on!


*This blog is not affiliated with WFAA or Tegna Media.The use of the #IAMUP hashtag for this post is for demonstration purposes only and is not an endorsement of WFAA, or an endorsement of this blog by WFAA.

11 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years with Marriott International

Today marks my ten year anniversary with Marriott International. On this day, in 2006, I started as a Loss Prevention Officer at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, under the direction of my first leader and mentor, Hank Dees. Since then, I’ve grown—both personally and in terms of my career—more than I could have ever imagined.

In my several roles with the company, I’ve been challenged, I’ve failed, I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Despite these setbacks, I’ve always tried to take what I’ve learned and move forward, so today, I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned on this decade-long journey.

1. Don’t take things for granted.
Nothing in this world is guaranteed. Not your salary, not your pay check, not the number of hours you can work, not the wonderful people you get to work with. Tragedy can strike, the markets can fall, businesses can change and you can find yourself in a very different situation very quickly. Take stock in the things around you that you enjoy and be grateful for them. Be thankful for what you have while you have it, and you’ll appreciate it even more.

2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Sometimes you can learn a lot more from “why did you do that?” than from “you shouldn’t do that.” Experience isn’t gained from success nearly as much as it is earned through failure. When you make a mistake, it’s usually because you were trying something new. As long as you are acting with integrity, learn quickly and make the situation right, there’s a lot of good that can come out of doing something wrong.

3. If it hasn’t been done before, be the first to try.
I’ve noticed that the most successful people in this and other organizations are the people that are willing to go out of the box, try new things and risk failure (playing on the last thing I learned). When I start a new role, or a new project or a new assignment, I always look to see how it’s been done, and see if there is a better way to do it. Embracing this has helped me innovate with the way I do things, bringing more efficiency, happier teams, happier customers and a happier me.

4. Always be flexible.
Some of the best opportunities came from the willingness to be flexible. Whether it was a task force assignment in another city, the acceptance of another project, or more responsibility by working another shift, being flexible opens doors and introduces you to new people. Working second shift? You’re limited to the people you interact with during your time there. Get offered to work firsts or the dreaded thirds? Jump at it while you can, those opportunities will introduce you to new people and help you grow your personal brand.

5. Learn to listen.
As someone full of ideas, listening is something I struggle with. I hope I’m not being too hard on myself, but I also want to be honest so I know I have room to improve. By actively listening, you’re showing people you care. And when listening, always know that there is more than one side of the story, so be sure to listen to as many perspective as you can, you never know what you might learn.

6. Use the golden rule.
If you want people to treat you with respect, you have to be willing to respect them. We all have differences and things we disagree upon, but learning to keep those to yourself and not give into the office chatter is something that makes great leaders great. It’s something that I’m always working on.

7. Travel more.
The irony of working in the travel business is that many of us spend 10 hours a day speaking with and greeting travelers from all around the world, but don’t get the opportunity to travel ourselves. Companies give us personal time off so we can spend them exploring the world and spending time with people we love and care about. If you get 14 days off in a year, you can invest them on a nice long excursion to a foreign place, or break them into 3 or 4 day weekends and explore a dozen different cities each year. Whatever you do, get out and see the world. One of the worst things you can waste is your time.

8. Make work fun.
You don’t get paid because you have fun, you get paid because you’re there to do a job. But, that doesn’t mean that doing your job doesn’t have to be fun. No matter how monotonous your task (folding sheets, checking people in, patrolling the parking lot, or entering information into a database) there’s always an opportunity to make it fun. Sing a song in your head, make a game out of it, challenge yourself with incremental goals, or reward yourself with mini luxuries for your success.

9. Never say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
One of the easiest traps to fall into is the trap of accepting the status quo. “Well, we’ve always done it this way,” is an easy way for someone to ignore the possibilities of improvement and to focus on other things. Always take an opportunity to learn why things are the way they are, and to see if there’s a better way of doing them. You could help the company save money, better serve its customers, or make its associates happier—all of which are big wins!

10. Ask people about their passion.
Many of us work to support our families and our lifestyles. We use the money we make and our time away from work in many different ways, and I think it’s so fascinating to learn about the interests and passions of others. You might be sitting next to a classical guitar virtuoso, across from a landscape oil painter or down the row from a budding entrepreneur. These talents and passions are what make us so unique in our lives away from the office, so why not be curious and celebrate them when we’re together in the office? It will give you something to talk about and show people that you care. You’ll be surprised what you learn, and surprised by how few people even bother to ask, “What’s your passion?”

11. Share what you know.
If you think hogging information will help you keep your job, good for you. Me? I like to share. Whether it’s the faster way to do something, a keyboard shortcut I learned, intelligence about an account, or exciting news about a fellow associate, I always take the opportunity to share. Through this, you’re demonstrating that you care about the people you share with, you’re helping to make their day/task/job easier and you’re helping to bring the organization further. As my Director of IT just reminded me yesterday, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Looking back.
I’m so lucky to have had the support of my family, my wife and so many talented leaders and co-workers that trusted me, took a chance and let me “do my thing.” There’s no way I could mention them all without forgetting a few, so I won’t even try. But to all of those that have helped me grow as a person, a friend, and an associate: thank you. Your investment of time, patience, advice and opportunities is what has helped me continue to move forward.

How a TV Chef Changed My Entire Saturday

Saturday morning, I woke up early.

My wife had to tend to a client at her office and I knew I had a lot of office work and school work to complete along with a long to do list of chores. My plan for the morning was to shower, grab some breakfast somewhere and crank out some work on my laptop. However, as I was getting ready to leave the house, the morning news caught my attention.

There was a morning show chef, Stacy Fawcett, who was cooking up a breakfast that caught my attention: Italian baked eggs. As she lined up the ingredients, I realized that I had almost everything the recipe called for, all of which was nearing its expiration: the last of the week’s spinach, a few eggs, a can of crushed tomatoes nearing its expiration and a stray pair of cheese slices.

From the television, I darted into the kitchen where I donned a robe, took to the stove and emulated Chef Fawcett’s dish to the best of my ability. The results were amazing, but I didn’t stop there.

20160116_085233

So full of energy, creativity and inspiration, I wanted to share with the world of social media how awesome the dish was, how easy it was to make and how a local morning television show could really shape up the rest of my day. But, knowing me, a still image wouldn’t do the trick, I needed something more.

Over the last few weeks, my wife keeps showing me these animated GIF recipes which show how easy it is to make the referenced dish. I always wondered how difficult it would be to make one of these, so as I was cooking this morning, I paused to photograph each step with my phone’s camera. The images weren’t the best, but the idea was there.

Now how would I stitch all of these together? Well, that’s something I din’t know. So, I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do, and I took to Google. It’s amazing how many people have created content teaching others how to do things, just out of the kindness of their heart (or to make ad revenue from the page impressions…but either way, it’s out there).

After finding an article on how to make an animated GIF in Photoshop, I downloaded my images from Google Photos, stitched them together with some text and created the instructions below. It’s not something you’ll likely see on Food & Wine anytime soon, but it was fun putting it together. I learned something new, I exercised my creative passion and I feel energized to attack the rest of the weekend knowing that I created something that I couldn’t create before.

There’s something to be said about learning a skill or technique, applying it and sharing the results with the world in real time that is so satisfying.

By day, we’re bound by the things we do to make a living. In my observations, it isn’t feasible for all of us to profit from our passions and maintain our current lifestyles. I caution you about being defined by what you do for a living, and instead live for what you’re passionate about. We all need a vocation of some sort to let us enjoy the things we are passionate about, but makes those passions your life and let people see you for who you are and what you love doing.

ItalianEggsAnimation

So, with that, I saved the money on eating breakfast out. I was able to use a few things in my cupboard before throwing them away. I was able to burn some creative calories. I cleaned the kitchen, did all of the dishes and gave myself the inertia I need to plow through the rest of the day.

Inspiration is a powerful thing.

How Creating Stuff Makes You Grow

 

Motivation is driven by purpose and we find purpose in the things that bring us joy. One of the things that gives us great joy is the pursuit of mastery. Many of us (hopefully all of us) spend some portion of our lives trying to improve our abilities. Whether its to become the best chef, crank out a novel or learn to play that Eddie Van Halen Eruption guitar solo, we all have something or some things that we are constantly working to become better at.

Each time you seek to improve whatever it is you’re mastering, you learn something new. That knowledge gives you confidence and that confidence gives you the boost you need to take your talent to the next level.

When you leave your comfort zone of doing what you’ve always done and seek out to do something just a bit new or something you’ve never tried before, you broaden your horizons, face new challenges and learn new ways to overcome them.

My passion for electronic media started in my teenage years and for the last 15 years I have been gradually increasing my knowledge and understanding by creating stuff. Whether a holiday podcast, a few tutorial videos on YouTube, a new blog or a live interview show, I’m always trying to find new projects that challenge me to do things in new ways that I haven’t tried before. Each one of these attempts, despite its success or failure always widens my horizon, opens a new door and renews my sense of adventure, curiosity and yearning to become better.

Now, I’m probably not the next Stephen Spielberg, but you can bet your ass I’m going to take my camera out every couple of weekends and try to do something I’ve never done before. It may not be new to everyone, but it’s new to me, and my discovery of those techniques help me to become a better photographer, videographer and creator.

You don’t need a million YouTube followers to make a video. You don’t need 10,000 blog subscribers to write a post and you don’t need an art gallery to share your photography. As you become better, those things will come, if that’s what you truly want to happen. Until then, make stuff, share it with the world and watch yourself grow.