Mirror, Mirror in the Cloud

It’s been a while since something dramatically altered the way I think about social media, so I figured this insight warranted a post:

During the launch of the #domosocial experiment, Josh (our undeniably brilliant CEO) made a pretty big deal of an ex post facto pardon for an employee who’d challenged one of his tweets.

And it bothered me.

My colleagues tried to explain that Twitter simply wasn’t the right forum for a challenge like that, which just irked me more because for me, social media is the perfect forum for “spirited debate.”

Then suddenly, I got it!

When you interact with people on social platforms, you do it on their terms.

Listen for a while. Try to understand the value they’re looking for from social media. And then try to give it to them.

It’s not pandering. You don’t have to become some sort of social chameleon. This is really just another example of the subtle mirroring that makes so many aspects of life easier (and more successful).

So, by all means, challenge and debate with the theorists. Send personal messages to the socialites. Pass interesting news to the information sponges. Sincerely compliment the promoters. Respond to the conversationalists. And don’t call out the brand-conscious CEOs.

Count Me In.

Like (I imagine) most employees here with a more-or-less established social media presence, to describe my initial reaction to yesterday’s presentation as “reserved” would be generous. If I’m honest, the internal monologue went something like this:

“Um. No. My social networks are my space. And I use them the way I want to. They’re not a part of me you’re entitled to benefit from as an employer. I’ve cultivated what little influence I have carefully—and I have it at least partly because I don’t use it to market stuff. And the fact that I just know you’re going to ask me to (even though you say you’re not) just proves that you really don’t ‘get’ social media…”

Well, I’ve taken some time to process some of that rather self-righteous paranoia, and while some of those reactions expose really interesting questions I hope we’ll explore as we build this case, I’ve ended up pretty excited about the whole thing.

Here’s why:

1. This is a real-time case. “HBR cases are so 1999,” Josh quipped in the launch meeting. And he’s right. The technology to invite a community to observe and analyze business process in action has been around for several years now. Domo (and Josh) might just have the balls to actually do it.

2. In contrast to nearly every other corporate social media initiative I’m aware of, #domosocial is not just social for social’s sake. It’s not even social for brand’s sake. One of the hypotheses the experiment sets out to test is that increased exposure to and engagement with social media on the part of strategists, engineers, designers, developers, even sales people, will make the product better. And that’s an audacious goal I can get behind.

3. The #domosocial experiment acknowledges (while throwing a punch at) the truism that “geography is destiny.” Lindon, UT is most emphatically not Silicon Valley (heck, I opt for a 40-min commute because it is so not Silicon Valley.) But the idea here is that effort and engagement can offset distance—that you don’t have to carpool to soccer practice with employee #2 of the next big thing to get, and stay, on the cutting edge of what’s possible. It just takes a little more work.

So, yeah. Count me in for the experiment.

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too busy to blog

Too Busy to Blog

Lately, whenever I think to myself, “I really need to start blogging again,” the mental response has been instant and consistent: I’m too busy.

The revelation here is that while I do lead a full (borderline overflowing) life, it’s not actually scheduling that makes me “too busy” to do some of the things I’d really like to do. In fact, for me, “busy-ness” doesn’t have much to do with time at all.

Busy, for me, is a mind game. Come to think of it, last time I had this revelation I think I called it “cognitive white space.” (yes, I am apparently an exceptionally slow learner)

Feeling “too busy to blog” is less about the time to sit at the computer and write and more about the mental state to come up with something worth writing. When I feel “too busy,” what I’m really experiencing is a mind too cluttered, too frantic to process my life. When mentally too busy, I can’t step back and take in the big picture, make connections and weave meaning out of my somewhat schizophrenic interests and engagements. The peculiar corollary is that with a “free” (that’s the opposite of “busy,” right?) mind, I seem to develop an astonishing capacity to take what we typically think of as “busy-ness” (the calendar variety) in stride.

And just like the kind of busy-ness that has to do with blocks of time on the calendar, this kind of “busy” is entirely up to me.

Shaun Conroy

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Pondering in My Heart

…or Gospel-Centered Meditation in the Real World

I used to think, somewhat less than consciously perhaps, that my body was really just holding my mind and spirit back, that “I” would be better off when I didn’t have to worry about “it” anymore. It’s never been particularly healthy—and it’s certainly never looked like I thought it should. It really didn’t seem to be contributing much to the equation. I mostly just endured having one.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

Likewise, some of us feel trapped by emotions we can’t seem to get out from under and betrayed by destructive thought processes we try and try but fail to conquer. In one way or another, many of us are in conflict with some part of ourselves.We fight with, indulge, punish, or ignore those parts we don’t get along with so well.

And it weakens us.  Makes us less than whole.

Meditation has helped me start to bridge that gap. It has provided a structure and practice around gospel principles that has made some of the doctrine about pondering a real part of my life.

Much like prayer, Meditation is work.

Fundamentally, that work is about creating space on multiple levels…

Physically, we find a space and make time to sit—to be in our bodies, with our thoughts and feelings and to invite the Spirit into that space. Even the literal physical space we create while we meditate (lengthening the spine, deepening the breath) makes a difference in how we feel.

Mentally and Emotionally the space we create in meditation is about engaging agency. I have a friend who told me a while back that he felt his main function as a parent was helping his kids learn to perceive space for choices. The 4-yr-old hits the 6-yr-old. When asked why, replies “she called me stupid.” To the child the violent reaction to insult was a logical IF:THEN proposition; almost a law of the universe. My friend had quite a task convincing his little one that between the two were actually a number of different options, and space to make a choice.

I’ve realized that even as adults we have a hard time seeing those spaces sometimes. But meditation has helped me tease apart stimulus and response and find the space for agency—studying and understanding why feelings come, giving them permission to be there and then deciding what to do in response.

The Spiritual work of meditation for me is mostly about being in a place to invite the Spirit in. In the scriptures meditation and pondering almost always show up hand in hand with some other covenant-keeping activity: prayer, scripture study, temple worship, the sacrament, service and even work. So it’s less about making space as I meditate and more about trying to always save a spot for that companion.

So what does all that work get you?

There is a Sanskrit word that ancient teachers used to describe what you might call the benefits of meditation.  The closest English translation is the word “savor” …which I find quite sweet in itself.

Embodiment

The first savor of meditation is EMBODIMENT. Elder Bednar has said, “Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate.” And whatever shape it is or isn’t, whatever might hurt or not work right, that intensity of experience is a blessing. Do we endure living in a world of crashing waves, towering canyons, and perfect blue forget-me-nots? Meditation has helped me see living as a physical being with some of the same gratitude and awe with which I see the rest of Creation.

Presence

The savor of PRESENCE is about mental focus and emotional availability. It’s about how we show up in the world–for the people we love, and people we don’t even know. There’s a beautiful concept in many meditative traditions called the “Return to the Marketplace.”  It holds that all the time on the mountaintop—and all the enlightenment you achieve there—are useless, wasted even, until they’re brought back down into the bustling marketplace of life. Meditation was never designed to be a consuming practice. It’s all about how these little concentrated periods of time where we focus on wholeness within ourselves and unity with God can change how we show up in the rest of our daily lives.  Can we really put all our focus on listening to a child’s playground story? Can we remain emotionally available through a hurtful exchange with a spouse? How are we showing up?

Equanimity

The third key savor of meditation is EQUANIMITY. Now, equanimity is a bit difficult to define…and really easy to misconstrue. When I first started trying to describe it to people it ended up coming across as; “whatever happens, whatever state things are in, it’s O.K. Be okay with it.” Super passive and over-simplified, right?

But that’s not what equanimity really is. That’s not what it tastes like.

It finally came to me this week—as I meditated, actually. Equanimity, for me, is the rooted feeling expressed so beautifully by Nephi “…nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” Equanimity means I can ask this sister in for a visit even though I haven’t showered today and there are dirty dishes piled up in the sink. It means I can grieve when someone I love passes from this life knowing that in no way reflects some kind of weakness in my testimony of the resurrection. Equanimity means over and over my heart is somehow filled with sincere joy as my sisters and friends receive blessings I want with all my heart but don’t seem to be coming.

Because over and under and through all the little “nows” that make up this life is the truth that I KNOW in whom I have trusted. And meditation connects me to that.

Mayday! Mayday!

OK, so the title of this post may be a bit melodramatic, but the experience has been intense (and insightful) so I figured I’d share.

TippingBucket is in what’s known in aviation as a departure stall.

A departure stall happens when a small, but usually heavily-laden, plane takes off down the runway–even lifts off–but simply can’t get the airspeed to climb. Now, this would be no problem if it weren’t for the 100-year-old oaks…or skyscrapers…or mountains that lie between the plane and it’s destination. But a plane attempting anything more than a 5k hop across a flat, uninhabited desert simply has to climb.

But here’s the key: the problem of a departure stall can’t be solved with a longer runway. Since about June, when the financial engine started sputtering, my primary focus has been extending the runway; scrambling every month to get the bare necessities covered for that month and losing sleep at night over where the funds would come from for those bare necessities next month. Miraculously, that runway has extended under us a month, sometimes a day, at a time for the past 6 months.

But the plane still isn’t climbing. And the only way out of a departure stall is more airspeed. Back off the angle of attack. Lighten the plane. Take another shot at takeoff.

So, we’ve touched down for a bit, tightened processes, focused in on our core mission, and are gearing up for another shot at getting TippingBucket not only off the ground, but 35,000 ft high doing acrobatics at the forefront of the crowdfunding movement where it belongs.

Work the Edge

On my last trip to Portland, a group of fellow social entrepreneurs and mentors enjoyed lunch. Predictably, some of us had victories to celebrate while others it seemed were nearing the end of their metaphorical rope. A string of evaporating deals, missed deadlines, and ‘complicated’ international relations had left one colleague emotionally dangling from a knot at the end of said rope.

As the rest of us commiserated, one of our mentors leaned forward and simply said; “you just keep working the edge.”

Lunch ended, but the phrase kept coming back to me. It’s been months now, and I don’t think the full meaning has crystallized yet, but this much I know:

Whether we’re tucking into a massive slab of steak, turning a misshapen hunk of granite into our generation’s David, or trying to vanquish diarrheal disease in the Central African Republic, the best approach (sometimes the only one with any hope of success) is to consistently work the edge.

Attack whatever bit of the problem is most accessible. Nip away at it where it’s thinnest for now and some day (probably sooner than you think) the impenetrable, dark, tangled heart of the thing will (miraculously, but also reliably) have become “edge.”

On Revelation: “Continuous” Revelation

The LDS Bible Dictionary contains this nugget; “continuous revelation from god to his saints… makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete salvation in the celestial kingdom.”

When we hear “continuous” we often think on-going, unbroken from start to finish. We expect “continuous” revelation to be uninterrupted—a course laid out before us like the yellow brick road—and we believe we’ve done something wrong, fallen short in some way, if it doesn’t happen that way.

But the first definition of “continuous” (in my favorite massive dictionary) is not “unbroken.” The first definition is “recurring in steady and rapid succession, repeated at intervals with brief, often regular intermissions.” The breaks, the intermissions, are an integral part of what it means to be continuous. Incidentally, we also have to remember that the “brief” and “regular” aspects of these intermissions is on God’s terms, not ours.

Hymn #195 assures us that Christ “marked the path and lead the way, and every point defines to life and light and endless day where God’s full presence shines.” Sounds a lot like a yellow-brick road, right? The interesting thing is that in mathematics, architecture, and design, “points” only need to be defined when a line changes direction or trajectory.

Some of the most beautiful, amazing places I have visited—mountaintops, secluded lakes, and sun-drenched canyons—you can’t get to by following a yellow-brick road. The way to these places is often marked by small stacks of stones called cairns.  Cairns are placed at important places along the trail—to help hikers avoid danger, to protect vulnerable parts of the landscape, and to mark the proper path in areas where others have gone so many different ways that the true trail is hard to distinguish. Where the trail is clear and safe, there simply are no cairns. “Continuous” personal revelation works in much the same way. We’re given direction and continue along that path until danger, distraction or a crucial decision necessitate more guidance. Significantly, on these hikes, you can seldom see more than one cairn at a time.

Peter illustrates this principle as he responds to the intermission he and the other disciples experienced after Christ had appeared to them following the resurrection. Peter’s response seems remarkably simple; “I go a fishing.” But it was as he went forward doing what he had been doing up to that point that the further revelation, the great commission that sent him off to proclaim the gospel and lead Christ’s church for the rest of his life, came.

Following “continuous” revelation means faithfully continuing along the path the Lord has indicated until directed otherwise—even if those intermissions seem anything but brief to us.

The Irresistible Offer

Pearls of Wisdom from Liz Straus on how to build a value proposition that is truly irresistible.

Connect with their Intellect : It has to make sense. “I know the fiber and whole grain in Frosted Mini Wheats is good for me”

Satisfy their Emotions : It’s got to feel good. “The hint of sugar on Frosted Mini Wheats makes me feel like a kid again–makes something that’s good for me enjoyable.”

Fit Effortlessly into their Lives : It has to be easy. “Neither the fiber nor the frosting will get me to eat Frosted Mini Wheats if I don’t eat breakfast.” [But, convince me that it’s a great snack for when I’m stuck in traffic, or that my three-year-old will love them and you might have a chance.]

*Note: don’t confuse attractiveness with irresistibility. Attractiveness grabs, Irresistibility retains. One is about you, the other is about them.