Little Birds …

For all you little birds … don’t be afraid.

Just spread your wings and fly to the sky. The world needs you.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Who is your community?

Often we equate our community with our geographic neighborhood … the neighbor down the block (whether we really know him or not), the businesses in our town and sometimes our Facebook friends.

I view my community little differently.

Image by L. Sean Key

It’s my Tweeps on Twitter – it’s Jennifer Sertl, it’s Melissa Pardo, it’s Dawna Mclean it’s Jay Dyok, it’s Whitney Johnson, it’s Sarah Hodsdon, it’s Jess Stanton, it’s Cheryl Burgess, it’s Sandy Maxey, it’s Kenny Rose ,it’s Mitvzah Circle and endless other wonderful people around the world who give me love and support. These are the people who tuck me in at night with a hug … and wake me up in the morning with a kiss.

It’s Sean Key – who inspired this post – and even though we’ve only been ‘arms length’ friends for thirty years, we now have just created a bond – a bond which I know will be unbreakable.

It’s Terry Summers and Brian Hankla, old friends of mine, friends who I seldom see but know will be there for me … and hope they know I will be there too.

It’s Shay Kelley – who even though had never been to my home town, Minot, North Dakota – drove hundreds of miles with her husband and dog to put in endless hours of needed help during Minot’s recent devastating flood.  You inspire me. I only wish I could be half the person you are.

It’s the Black Eyed Peas – who with exception of Fergie, also had never been to Minot, but last night selflessly performed an epic flood relief concert raising two millions dollars for the victims. If only there were more people like you four.

It’s my daughter, Alexandria – while a pain at times, who provides me with an endless amount of joy and pride.

It’s my Dad – who daily amazes me with his unrelenting optimism and support.

It’s my local grocery store – who always greets me with smiles and conversation. While not necessarily having the best prices or selection … their service and hospitality more than makes for it. Go local business!

These are just a few members of “my community.” Each provides the bits and pieces to make the whole. And it’s important I recognize that I have to nurture them and help them grow – as they do for me.

A community needs love … to give love.

So go out, give some love … and build your community.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Welcome to my “Perfect World”

Imagine if you could close your eyes, click your heels – and find yourself somewhere else, somewhere where your personal little world was just like you wanted it to be.

About fifteen years ago I started using the phrase, “Road to Your Perfect World.” It was used mainly in the context of my recruiting business. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Thus the “Road” moniker. I told my candidates to view a job as a just step on a bigger journey where they wanted to go. If the job they were considering didn’t do that … then move on.

Well the over the years my idea of the “The Perfect World” has changed. It’s not just about work or getting a job anymore. It’s more encompassing. If you’ve read this blog, you probably already know that. It’s about my ideas to fix everyday life and all that makes it up. So – welcome to my “Perfect World, circa 2011.”

My Perfect World

My Perfect World ... well, kinda
  1. First it’s local. I’m all into the web, and what happens in the world and everything. And I’ve met some outstanding people that have expanded my life in areas I never expected. But when it comes down to it, it’s about where I’m standing, the ground underneath me, the tree over there (with the nest in it) – and the cat walking across the street in front of me. My physical, mental and financial health begins and ends here in my neighborhood. If I’m going make things perfect – I’m might as well start right here.
  2. Second, there’s more to life than just buying things. My value on this earth is a lot more than just the size of my house or the balance in my bank account. And I don’t think I’m alone here either. Helping each other, whoever they may be, and spreading good karma is more valuable to me than any car in my garage. In this day of “slash to the bone” political rhetoric, a lot of people, even some of my neighbors, are falling through cracks. And the safety net has holes in it. So it’s up to us, the members of my community – to power up the sewing machine and fix that net.
  3. Sometimes I do have to buy things though, so I’m going to make every effort to support locally owned businesses. These people are my friends and my neighbors. They are the parents of my daughter’s friends. Walmart’s not my friend, nor is McDonalds, nor is Amazon. I don’t hate these companies. But all I know, is three times more money flows into my community when I buy locally. That’s money for public art, for schools, for soccer leagues, and for cat parks (yes cat parks – imagine that – after all it’s my Perfect World). These things keep my neighborhood healthy, interesting and prospering.
  4. Also, when I buy things, local or not, I want to be treated like an individual. I’m not like my next door neighbor or my daughter, so why am I marketed to the same way. Once I first start shopping at your business, I want you to start building a profile on me. I know some people think that’s creepy, but I’m cool with it. I don’t want to know about deals on diapers. It’s been twenty years since I bought diapers. Just because you’re too lazy to keep track of what I buy doesn’t give you the right bombard me with endless circulars and junk mail. Keep me informed on things that matter to me when I should know about them. Respect my time as well as my money. Business relationships are exactly that … relationships. So I want them treated like that.
  5. And lastly, I want to not only have a say in what happens in my community – I want to actually make it better myself. I’m done sitting around and waiting for the government – local, state, federal, whatever – to make thing better for my neighborhood and for me and my friends. Whatever the level, government has gotten to point it’s nothing but a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats. We are much better served, serving ourselves. My neighbors and I know what needs fixing and who needs help in our own community. So in my “Perfect World,” we are going to deal with things ourselves. And it’s not just about throwing a bunch of cash around either (assuming any of us had a bunch of cash). It’s about helping however you can, with whatever resources you have. If you have a truck with a plow on it – help clear the snow in your neighbors driveway … and she’ll bake you a quiche in return. If you have open space in your office building – let a new nonprofit, volunteer tutoring service use it … for free. We learned in kindergarden to share. It was a good idea then – so why not now.

Well, that’s pretty much my “Perfect World,” at least in my own little corner of the world. And I think if a lot of other corners of the world did the same  – who knows maybe things might just get better … maybe a whole lot better.

In fact that might not be a bad idea. Imagine if we could bottle my “Perfect World” and spread it everywhere, or at least a template for creating your own neighborhood “Perfect World.”  And imagine if all these little local “Perfect Worlds” would talk to each other and share what they’ve learned. That could make their “Perfect Worlds” even more perfect.

My “Perfect World” may not be the same as everyone else’s, and that’s cool. After all, we’re all different. But one thing I know, is if you wait and hope someone else, mainly government and the big box store down the street, to tell you what they think it should be … you’re probably not going to be happy. How’s that been working for you?

I think there’s a lot of people out there that think the same way. And if you’re reading this then you’re probably one of them. We can make things better for a whole lot of people – if we just get back to the fundamentals, where it starts.

And it starts on your block, on your street  – and in your neighborhood.  A lot us have lost touch with our community and our neighbors – I’m no exception. But it’s time to reconnect … our neighborhoods need us to. This is where the real power lies. It’s waiting for you to grab it and run with it.

Don’t disappoint!

Note: The five items I described above may seem random, but they’re not . In a few months you see why. Keep in touch. I’m on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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High unemployment is here to stay … so what are you going to do about it?

I had a discussion yesterday with Sandy Maxey on Twitter about the unemployment issue here in the United States. Up till now, I’ve just had cursory thoughts about it. Everybody seems to have a solution. On one end we have full-scale government job creation intervention. And on the other, some profess in the unabashed free market. Of course the solution probably lies somewhere in between. Here’s my take on it.

First, not all short-term issues need to be “fixed.” Economies, just as the seasons, cycle and repeat. Just as you can’t expect your tulips to bloom year round – the economy isn’t always going to be bullish. There is a limit to prosperity. We don’t live in utopia. And very often our short-term interference does more harm than good.

We have evolved into a pampered society. We expect things to always be rosy. I don’t mean say that there are not people who are hurting … because there is. But for most of us – our plight is greatly overstated. Our individual wellbeing will ultimately be dependent on us ourselves. How we each deal with our up and downs is the determining factor, because our ups and downs will happen.

Second, we are witnessing a profound shift in the employment needs of the marketplace. In years past, we made things and we, along with world bought these things. Today, such is not necessarily the case. Manufacturing jobs, jobs which defined middle class are gone – and probably won’t be back. There is nothing government intervention or lower taxes can do about it. Efforts to nurture declining industries and their corresponding jobs will do more harm than good. It may not seem like that when you’re trying to pay the mortgage – but it is what it is.

Middle management job fair

This doesn’t mean there aren’t employment opportunities out there though. Unfortunately, our education system and most of all our attitudes towards jobs and security haven’t kept pace with reality and the changes in the marketplace. Our education system keeps churning out college graduates with middle management skills – yet the prospects for these jobs are bleak. We educate more and more want to be lawyers, yet technology is making much of the legal field obsolete.

The biggest culprit in this chasm between labor supply and demand are the parents of our youth. “I want my son and daughter to go college.” It doesn’t make any difference whether there’s a job at the end of ten of thousand of dollars of debt – they’re still going to college. It doesn’t even matter what the degree is in – “they’re still getting one.”

Now to my third point. The jobs that will fuel our labor recovery don’t exist … at least not right now. And I can’t tell you what they’re going to be. They’re just going to happen. What we as a country has to do is create a workforce that excels at being able to change … to adapt. We have to get back to being a country of entrepreneurial spirit. This is where the job and the opportunities will be – not with the Fortune 500. Our biggest problem is our reluctance to give up old perseptions and norms. We have a middle-aged unemployed workforce that is searching for jobs that aren’t there. We have college graduates searching for a secured career like their grandparents had.

Who would have guessed that the internet would have become what it has and spawn the opportunities it has. Nobody. Even five years ago, who would have predicted there would be ten of thousands of people creating cell phone applications – from their home. Nobody. There will opportunities that will surface that entrepreneur will take advantage of. But these entrepreneurs may or may not be in this country.

In fact, our insistence in holding on to outdated institutions has actually put us a disadvantage in creative thinking. We want things like they were. Even from a personal standpoint – we whine about gas prices, yet few of us make changes to our lifestyles. “Take a bus a day a week to work – not me.” Rather than take advantage of opportunities that higher gas prices have created – we bitch about it. Inactivity will do nothing but drop you further behind.

Well, things have to change. There’s no going back to the good old days of the past (even though they might not even have been so good). The crucial skill we have to learn and embrace is the ability, and even the mastery of being able to change and adapt. We have to learn to see what’s not there and take the risk to make it there. We may stumble, or even fall down. But if we know how get back up – who cares! We need to nurture our own personal Phoenix (see the post about my daughter’s tattoo and you’ll get my drift).

This new adaptable attitude has to encompass our entire lives including what we put value in. If you’re a parent, quit pushing your kids into a career and lifestyle that makes you feel good and impresses your neighbors. You won’t feel so good when you’re the paying off their college debt while your son or daughter lives in your basement looking for a job – unsuccessfully. And get over the “white picket fence” syndrome. While owning your own home might have been the American Dream for generations past … it’s no longer. In most cases, all it is is a ball and chain mortgage strapped to you that limits your geographic flexibility. You have to be able to go to where the jobs are. And owning a house certainly puts a crimp in that, especially in this market.

We can all sit and listen to politicians talk about what they’re going to do to jump-start the economy and lower the unemployment to pre-recession levels.  But they have no better idea than you do or I do. Only you know what your own personal answer is.  You have to take matters into your own hands. But please, loosen up your criteria. Whatever security you had in the past is probably gone – so deal with it. When you think things are bad … they could be a lot worse. I know. For two years I rotated between living in motels and a tent (with my teenage daughter). And in hindsight, neither one of us is any worse for wear. If anything we’re both a lot stronger and more empathetic.

I know I’ll get comments bagging on my lack of sympathy. And they’ll be right. Sympathy is not my strong suit. But what I do have is empathy. I’ve been there and know what it takes to completely change my frame of reference and really come to grips with what’s important to me.

All I ask from you is develop the skills to adapt and see the opportunities that out there – not the ones you wish were out there. And please help your children do the same. Don’t cement their view of value and the world with yours.

“The mind can make heaven of hell … and hell of heaven.” So get out there create your own heaven.

Please comment. Your views and insight, pro or con, are valuable and make the post.

Also follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg. There’s always good stuff happening there.

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My daughter is getting a tattoo!

My daughter, Alex, texted me on Friday to tell me that she’s getting a tattoo. Alex is twenty-one and can do pretty much whatever she wants. I don’t financially support her, so I have no leverage on her. Alex has a couple of piercings, ears and one in the eyebrow (which I kinda like) – but she doesn’t have any tattoos. I guess I was hoping that she’d make through life like me, without one.

I don’t what it is about tattoos. Maybe it’s the permanency of it. At least with piercings – you can take them out. But with a tattoo … there you are, it’s yours forever. I just have this vision of Alex getting this thing she’ll regret in a week.

Rather than texting her back with the standard parental rant – “No you’re not getting it,” which would have been of no value – I waited to catch my breath. “What’s the tattoo going to be,” was my response four minutes later. “It’s going to be Phoenix on my arm,” replied my daughter. “I saw it and I couldn’t resist getting it.” “It’s me, especially after what I’ve gone through.”

Alex's tattoo scretch

If you’ve read any of my other posts here, you’d know Alex spent a good portion of her high school living in motels and a tent as we went through some rough times. And the year and half with her mother before then was even worse. She didn’t let it get her down, at least outwardly.

In fact she’s used those times to strengthen herself. Heck she got hired by Apple right after she turned eighteen. It’s kind of the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Alex is an embodiment of that. Alex is turning out great – mentally, physically and emotionally. I couldn’t be more pleased. She’s even a contrarian like me 😉

A lot of parents have a hard time communicating with their kids when they’re around this age. You never really know how they’re doing. They may say they’re good – but in reality they’re not. More times than not, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. So if something bad happens – you have no idea it’s coming till it’s too late. It’s the “I had no idea” thing.

Well … my daughter told me an awful lot in that tattoo that she’s getting.

By definition, a Phoenix is the mythical bird that rose from the ashes to become stronger than ever.

What this tattoo tells me is that Alex went through a lot in high school, probably more than I thought. Just because I didn’t mind sleeping in a tent in the Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, doesn’t mean it didn’t take its toll on Alex. More than ever I realize that.

But what I also realize is that now she feels strong, stronger from the experiences she’s had (good and bad). She’s in a very good “place” right now, and if she’s willing to brand herself with that fact … then I couldn’t be happier.

She has the perfect positive totem when times looks bleak and she’s not on her game. All she has to do is look at her arm. After all she’s a Phoenix.

“All’s good in the hood.”

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If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.

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Need financing for your start-up … join the Kernel!

Let’s say you have this great idea. You’re tired of working for the “Man.” You know deep down in you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re willing to put in the long hours and embrace austerity as your best friend. And the last thing you want to do is commit to an office space, spend your creative time in your space bedroom or become such a regular at local coffee shop that the seat in the corner has your imprint on it.

But you, and countless numbers of other fledgling young business owners are all staring at one seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You need funding. Not a lot, just enough to take of things barter or a good “arm twist” of one of your friends can’t take care of.

Banks aren’t going be any help. Banks don’t understand start-ups. They have no idea how value your project if you don’t have collateral backing it up. Banks need something to repossess. Venture capitalists want an investment they can sell off down the road for profit. They’re not interested in operating profit … especially from a $20,000 investment.

Normally, you would go to Uncle Charlie. But Uncle Charlie spent a day too long in Vegas. As they say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” … including Uncle Charlie’s money.

What do you do? You join the Kernel!

The Kernel is essentially a co-working facility. But it’s way more than that. It’s an incubator that grows the future of your community.

Imagine …

  • A place you could go to interact with other entrepreneurs, all in various stages of start-up development. Your project would be independent, but you would be open for collaboration or just general input from your Kernel mates.
  • The Kernel contains all the physical common facilities you would need to launch and operate a small business: reception, common space (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.), digital reproduction equipment (variable data printing), etc.
  • The Kernel would also provide intangible services such as accounting, legal and other needed administrative functions. The HUB could even provide sales through a rep(s) that would do crossover sales for you and your other Kernel mates.
  • Funding for the Kernel would be provided by Seedsmen or investors. The Seedsmen would provide capital to operate the facilities and also any other expenses needed by the Kernel mates. Capital however need not be money, it could services (barter). For example, an attorney could invest in the Kernel via their legal services. The same thing could be for web design, accounting and even basic administrative labor. The goal of the Kernel is resource maximization.
  • The Seedsmen would invest in the Kernel as a whole, not just in one start-up. This way their risk could be spread over several projects – much the way venture capital firms work. Individual start-up Kernel mates can also invest in the HUB through their services provided to other Kernel mates. It would also be in the best interest of the Seedsmen to go out and recruit attractive new start-ups to join their HUB. How much share each “cog” has in the HUB as a whole, as well as how much share the HUB has in each start-up would have to be determined.

There you have it … a new age barter co-op start-up incubator.

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If you like this post please feel free to Tweet away. I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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The “moderation abyss”

One of the first things I do when I get in the morning is comment. I comment on articles and blogs I read.  The blogs have no central theme. I comment on stuff on the Middle East, health care, generations, social media, marketing, economics and just about anything else I feel like. Each comment runs between 100 to 200 words, not just “I agree” type of stuff. And I try to do two or three comments a day.

Commenting is my daily warm up, not unlike warming up before going for a run or a physical workout. Writing is an incredible mental exercise and it helps me build synaptic connections to carry me throughout the day. That and my four mile walk … bring it on!

I try to add something significant to each piece I comment on, my take on it. If my comment spurs additional comment activity, then that’s a good thing for everyone – especially the writer of the post. It follows along with my idea of my personal value. The same goes for comments on my blog – I love’em. They add to the discussion, and isn’t that what a blog’s supposed to be, a discussion? And they give the post legs.

The abyss of moderation

This brings me to my big commenting irritation, the “moderation abyss.” You know what I’m talking about. After you post a comment, a lot of blogs require moderation before actually publishing it (mine included). Normally this takes a few minutes or in some case a couple of hours. That’s cool. Believe or not, some people actually have lives outside of moderating my comments. Hard to believe but it’s true.

Here’s my issue. Writing a blog is not a right, it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to have an audience, no matter how small. People take their time to read your ramblings. The least you can do is treat them with respect. If they not only read your blog, but also put forth the effort and mental energy to actually respond and add to it … then you should sure as hell check your email and moderate their damn comment. To let their creation sit in the “moderation abyss” for days on end because you’re too damn lazy to get off your butt and read it – is unacceptable. And you should be stripped of your blogging privileges. If you aren’t going react to comments, then turn them off. Seth Godin does, and that fine – it’s his choice, plus he probably gets a million of them. That way there’s no expectation that your creation will unveiled to the world. And yes, a thoughtful, well constructed comment is a creation.

A few days ago I commented on piece I liked talking about “story telling, curation and the Long Tale.” I’d never read their blog before, so I didn’t know how they operated. I liked their piece and felt strong that my comment added to their discussion – abet a different twist.

My comment sat in the “moderation abyss” for day and a half before I couldn’t take it anymore. I found the email of what I think was the assistant to head of the company that owned the blog.

Below is my email:

Marisol,

I don’t know if you’re the correct person to contact concerning this issue … but here it goes. From what I’ve read on your site, I like it. Your mission seems to go hand in hand to much of what I stand for. I especially liked “The Long Tail and the Curation Economy.” It provided me a launching point for some great thought. I thank you.

Here’s my issue. I commented on the post, a comment I thought had some merit and added to your discussion. Unfortunately, nobody will be able to read it, nobody will be able to use it as their own launching point. It sits in “the moderation abyss.”

I don’t know if this is intentional or not. Maybe my comment is not up to your literary standards. If this is the case, all I can do is try to improve before my next submission. But if my residency in “the moderation abyss” is due to your laziness … shame on you. Having a blog, a blog that people read is not a right, it’s a privilege, an honor given to you by your audience. It’s also one that can easily be taken back.

How you treat people, prospective clients before they become clients … is a reflection upon how you would treat them afterwards. Something to think about.

In addition – I’m following you on Twitter. You might want to reciprocate. You might just find some interesting stuff.

Thanks,

Clay Forsberg
twitter.com/clayforsberg

It took them about an hour to post my comment. But they’re still not following me on Twitter. Oh well.

Oh, by the way … if you comment to my blog, I promise not to send you to the “moderation abyss.” 😉

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If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.

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