You’ve Got NO MAIL

no-mail

I woke up this morning to this. What?!?!

It’s been a long time since I had a clear inbox, so why the sudden purge? There’s a logical answer…today’s my last day at Downstream.

After 3 1/2 years of satisfying and fantastic work for the Portland, OR based experiential design firm that hired me to take over their sports group and gave me the opportunity lead a fantastic team of designers, developers, and project managers through some of the most fun projects of my career, I’m moving on. It was a blast and I have had fantastic clients and wonderful colleagues. So why leave?

I’m leaving to pursue an entrepreneurial project with what I believe is huge upside with another group of people that I have worked with before, enjoy, and respect. My new career will put me at the lead of Campus Initiatives for Adams Outdoor here in Charlotte, NC. I’ll be working with college and university campuses around the country to design, develop, implement, and sell out of home advertising networks and assets to help generate new revenue to support their university projects and missions. I am very excited about this venture and proud to be working for a company that is willing to innovate when they see opportunity.

So, that’s an announcement. But it isn’t really what was on my mind this morning when I saw that I had NO MAIL. The first thing that occurred to me is how have we as a business culture become so addicted to email? I work REALLY hard to be mindful of having meaningful personal interactions and engaging with real people, so why do I feel anxious when I see an empty inbox? For that matter, why am I looking at my email within 2 minutes of opening my eyes? And what is going to happen to me over the next week while I have NO EMAIL until I start at Adams on November 28?

I’m not sure I have answer to all of these questions. I feel like this new position gives me the opportunity to reset my own personal behaviors and expectations, so I want to spend some of this next week being THANKFUL for the respite and thinking about how to move forward in a healthy manner.

It isn’t realistic to say I’m just going to quit email in the new job. Email has become a vital form of communication in all manners of business today. Ignoring it would lead to missed opportunities and a failure to communicate with the very people I want to do business with in my new role. However, I do think it is realistic to reset my own standards and therefore create a set of new standards for my new clients and colleagues.

On this, my final day at Downstream, I am reflecting about my time in this role. As I do this, I look back on this blog, which began in my early days in this job as a way to reflect on my travels and express the ideas and emotions that flowed out of me. As I look through them with the lens of learning from the past, one jumps out – SMALL THINGS – which I wrote after I’d been on the job a little over a year and had been pushing hard to make my mark. You should go read it. As I re-read it, what stood out to me was that I had consciously decided to put things like exercise, reflection, meditation, and focus at the forefront of my mornings and emphasize staying in the moment with people and eliminating distractions. So what happened? That post was in September of 2014 and when I look at my business in Q4 of 2014 it is astonishing how much work got done! During that season when I was intentionally preventing email from controlling my life, we closed 3 of the 4 biggest deals I completed during my time at Downstream. Reducing the importance of email in my life, led to getting things done.

At this point, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking…”then do it again.” Ok, time to re-commit. As I walk away from the addiction of work email for a week, I commit to start the new job with a renewed focus on the things that centered me in a way that made me a great leader and salesman – start the day in quiet meditation, make health and exercise a priority for each day, stay in the moment in each conversation and eliminate distractions (a buzzing phone) that might reduce that, and choose to talk on the phone over email and face to face over on the phone when possible. As I start this new adventure with old friends, it seems like a good time to return to habits that led to success! I hope you’ll choose to start fresh today too.

Writing Helps

edward-abbey

It was an unlikely place to learn one of the most valuable lessons in life. You’d expect an ‘a-ha’ moment for a teenage writer to come from an inspiring English teacher or from reading a book of Emerson poetry for the first time, or something like that. And, while I had some great clinicians for English teachers (Neuleib and Kelly), it was in my AP U.S. History class that Ms. Scott taught me that writing helps. She forced me to write about history in a way that EXPLAINED it, not just recounted it, and in those exercises I learned the value of using writing to explain things. You see, when you write to explain your thoughts and feelings, your mind is forced to process and organize those thoughts and feelings into understandable sentences. The result is that writing helps us understand ourselves, process our feelings, and express those feelings to others in ways that speaking cannot because of the filter of our hands on the pen or fingers on the keyboard.

So, I return to the task that Ms. Scott often assigned now as an adult, particularly when I’ve got something swirling around in my mind that needs some translation to make any sense. While I still love to read about Sherman’s March to the Sea and Roosevelt’s New Deal, those topics don’t find their way into my creative writing these days. However, when I was writing about those things I was forced to study the facts, examine the commentary, and develop my own thoughts about the how and why of some of history’s most important moments. I try to apply the same exercise to my writing now – I am usually stirred by facts (something I read, hear, or discuss with a friend usually), I examine the commentary (often inside my own head), and I try to develop my own thoughts about the implications of what is going on.

You see, I’ve been in a bit of a ‘funk’ lately. Nothing serious, just not the best me, not the me I want to be. Unlike my writing hero, Edward Abbey (pictured above), I’m not intending to set off to blow up a dam out of angst; although if you are thinking about that you should watch Damnation on Netflix and you’ll definitely want to. I digress…

So, I review the facts: I’ve had 3 straight weeks of heavy travel (like multiple flights, coast to coast, red-eye heavy travel), I’ve been out of my consistent running pattern (only 1-2 days a week the last few weeks), I’m eating like crap (on my last business trip I had back to back nights of 10p wings and beer at the hotel bar because of that crappy travel schedule), and I haven’t written anything since October 30. I examine the commentary in my head – “Wow, looks like you’re putting on some weight this morning in the mirror,” “Gee, I’m awfully tired this morning, I think I’ll sleep another 45 minutes since my client meeting isn’t until 10a today,” “It’s been a long trip, you deserve some ‘comfort food’ before bed tonight.”

Now it’s time to develop my own thoughts into something meaningful on this page. Travel is a natural part of my job, it us unavoidable, so there is no sense in taking a negative view of the necessity of some tough trips. The real thing that is going to get me out of this ‘funk’ isn’t less travel, it is a change in discipline and attitude. If I look at times I’ve felt great about myself and the world, I was actually traveling quite a bit then. Travel inspires and energizes me, it is fun for me to explore new places and meet new people. The difference is my approach to that travel and how I spend my hours on the road needs a re-start. When I leave enough room in my travel schedule to enjoy a city, sit down for a decent meal at a decent hour, and make it a priority to get out of bed for my morning run, my whole attitude and experience changes.

In my old high school ‘blue books’ where Ms. Scott made us write our history essays, she always made us leave margins so that we had room for notes and additions if we needed them. I think the same applies here – I need to get back to leaving some margins in my days; time to think, time to read, time to explore, and time to write. Because writing helps.