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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Falling leaves and the opportunity of change

Yesterday was  not the best day I’ve had recently.  It wasn’t terrible, just not productive.  One of those “take one step forward, two steps back” times … only without the one step forward.

A lot of this has to deal with the fact we are embarking upon another holiday this weekend.  I have this love hate relationship with holidays.  Living the proactive life I have right now, launching my new company, is in direct conflict with holidays.  If you need to talk to somebody, anybody – you can’t.  If they’re not gone physically, they’re gone mentally.  And this is a fact I have to come to realize.  Switch gears and focus on internal productivity.

Fall in Minnesota

For me Labor Day is a time of thought.  The summer’s done … a season I’m not particularly fond of.  And fall is here … a season I am.  I love autumn’s weather, no matter where I’m at.  And being in Montana, the first time I’ve been outside of California for the fall in twenty years, I something I’m looking forward to.

Labor Day represents change, probably more than any other time.  Leaves are changing, school’s starting and the summer’s lack of focus excuses have expired.  I know everybody’s all into the New Years and its resolutions.  But how much do things really change from December to January … well, except for changing the year when writing checks.  But who writes checks anymore.

When was planning out my next day, which I do the night before, I decided to embrace Labor Day what it means for me, contemplation … looking at back at the last three months and looking forward at what’s possible in the next three.

I look forward to the new arrivals of a few select bloggers.  One was in my inbox this morning when I got up. It was a post by from Life Literacy Labs and my buddy C.A. Kobu.  It was titled “Do you know how to be like Janus?” It was like I channeled her last night when I was “agendazing.”  Read it.  It’ll get you thinking.  All of C.A.’s work does.

As you get ready for the long weekend, anguish the end of summer and relish the fact that the kids are back to school … think of Janus and look a the changing leaves.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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The Baby Boomer, Gen Y communications gap and social media … the solution or the problem?

I got up this morning at 4:30am – and as I do every morning, I attacked my “1st thing To Do in the morning task.”  Today it was clean out the people I follow on Twitter.  I was getting to the point where I couldn’t even delve into the links because there was too much stuff – stuff I had no room in my brain for.

One thing I found myself doing today was taking a look at the age demographics of the people I followed.  I’m a generational analysis freak, so I got off on this.  Out of the 100 or so people I follow, I found that they were pretty much equally distributed after taking out my industry related stuff.  I have about the same amount of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y tweeters.  As a reference point:  I’m fifty-one, on the cusp of the Boomers and Gen X.

This got me thinking:  Is this a normal distribution?  After looking into who the people who I followed, I looked to who they followed.  I surmised that I wasn’t the norm.  Humans have a tendency to gravitate towards comfort.  And comfort normally lies with those of similar age.  My observations backed this up.

Now this bring us to this post.

As we all know, the mechanics of communication and socialization have changed greatly with the advent of social media.  God, Facebook has 500 million members, Twitter has almost 100 million and LinkedIn has 80 million.  Countless people all over the world spend countless hours tweeting, following, connecting and friending.

The generation gap

Social media has been touted as bringing the world together – connecting people from disparate cultures and enabling them to get to know each other.  But how much “bringing together” is actually actually going on.  From a geographic sense, sure.  But other than that … is social media bridging a communication gap – or is it creating one.

As I mentioned above, according to my informal research, people are spending more time with others in their own age group due to the time they spend on social media sites.  In “the old days,” we made contact with people of all ages because … well, because we just physically ran into them.  When we were teenagers, if we went to our friends’ houses – we saw and talked to their parents.  With no social media, any contact we would have would have to be either on the phone (normally limited because of only having one house phone) or in person.  If you didn’t get out in the real world, you didn’t socialize.  Remember the term “homebody?”

Seldom do the younger people have contact with the people my age, and vice versa.  On the surface this might not seem like a big deal.  There’s always been generation gaps.  But never has there been an opportunity like this with the ubiquity of social media and the connection and communication possibilities it brings.

And not only are we not taking advantage of it … we’re using it to our disadvantage.

The young need mentoring.  They need to hear stories about what happens if they do stupid things.  The need to know that life is not a straight line, but rather a series of ups and downs and cycles.  And the Baby Boomers like me need the nieve optimism that we once had but has now been replaced by risk aversion.  We need the energy.  We need to know that we may be 50 or 60, but we sure as hell don’t have to feel and act like that.  Satchel Paige once posed the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

I participate in four social media venues:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Brazen Careerists and Twitter.  Let me tell you how I see these four shaking out from a generational perspective.

  1. LinkedIn: As my twenty year old daughter says – LinkedIn is Facebook for old people.  That kind says it all.  Since it’s broken down primarily by professions, I associate with those within profession, digital printing and database marketing.  I would guess the average age is just about my age or maybe a year or two older, within little age diversity.  I also belong to a social media group.  Average here is about fifteen to twenty years younger – and again with little generational crossover.  In summary … I talk to people may age.
  2. Facebook: I don’t really spend much time here.  My only contacts are mainly those people I went to high school with – my age.  And because of the requirement to approve any “friends,” you circle is probably pretty closed and limited to your real world friends.   Any chance meeting with somebody of another age group is small.
  3. Brazen Careerists: This is a site populated mainly by Gen Yers.  Most of them are go getters and I joined to get the “younger” perspective on things.  A lot of the conversation centers around careers (thus the name) and how to move ahead.  My question is, how can a bunch of twenty somethings give career advice when they’re in the middle of the process themselves.  There’s a resume forum which drives me crazy.  “Employers don’t hire resumes … they hire people.”  I know this may sound trite but the focus should be on making contact with those people in the hiring positions (not human resources).  And these people are my age, 50+, or at the least Gen Xers in their late 30s and 40s.
  4. Twitter: This is my favorite – and until this morning I really didn’t know why.  Now I do.  I can follow and listen to whoever I want to.  And anybody can follow me and listen to what I say.  There are blocking features, but who actually uses them.  As I said at the beginning of this post, my Twittering is “equal opportunity across all age groups.”  I like this.

As you can see, with the exception of Twitter, social media (at least the ones I use) restricts intellectual diversity as much if not more than they accommodate it.

OK, enough of the problem.  Let’s fix the game. Together we can all find a phone booth and put on our capes.  Here’s my solution on using social media to bridge the gap.

First for us old people.

  1. Get on Twitter.  Forage around and open your mind to things that you wouldn’t normally.  Follow young people.  Especially for motivation.  Start with @marsdorian and @jennifer_good.  If you can’t make it happen after reading their stuff – go back to bed and start over.  If you find somebody you like, see who they’re following and get their inspiration from.  Try to follow people across the age spectrum equally.
  2. For all you LinkedIn and Facebook people and followers of other permission based sites:  Find people in the real world and on Twitter and invite them to be your friend and /or connection.  Now I’m talking about people of other generations.  Because of the viral nature of social media, people you bring into your circle will automatically be exposed to your existing group and your existing group to them – and your efforts will be leveraged.
  3. This isn’t really a social media thing but I’m including it anyway.  Listen to music outside your comfort zone, i.e. the stuff the kids are listening too.  “It’s the best way to bridge the communication chasm.”

Now to all you Gen Yers, yes Alexandria – you too … you’re not off the hook.  You have to meet us half way.

  1. Join LinkedIn.  Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  Maybe if you expose some “parent types” to your rambling  machinations, you’ll clean things up a bit.  Just maybe. The more the “old people” (the people who will make your career) are exposed to you the more opportunities you will have.
  2. Get on Twitter.  Again Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  See above for my reasons.
  3. And finally … phones still work.  You can still text your friends till your fingers fall off, but don’t let your vocal skill set totally petrify.  Us “old people” still use the phone.  And at last notice, I don’t think texting has evolved into an mainstream interview tool.

I don’t know much protection these suggestions are going to have against the kryptonite of the social media segregation … but it’s better than just continuing down the road of the status quo.

Enough of my ramblings … I have to get back to Eminem.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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10,000 hours … or is it 10,000 tweets?

I guess this is Malcolm Gladwell day.  My post this morning was on his 120 Rule.  Now this one references the key point in his book, “The Outliers.”

Malcom Gradwell

For those of you who haven’t read “Outliers,” which is probably not many of you, a central premise of the book was that to be an expert at something you had to put 10,000 hours into something.  He cited Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and others.

But how does that equate to social media and specifically Twitter.  As we all know, Twitter is just a bunch of text messages, 140 characters at most, organized and available to who wishes to expose themselves to that litany of literary overwhelm.

Aside from the character restriction, Twitter is pretty much an open content platform.  You can say whatever you want.  That could be announcing a blog post, announcing your breakfast of choice, retweeting one of your follower’s breakfast of choice … and so on.  Some people even use it as a “not so private” communication vehicle.

I’ve followed, unfollowed and re-followed various tweeters over the past few months.  I feel pretty good about what’s coming my way right now.  Maybe there’s some stuff I can live without, and some stuff I like to know about, but haven’t been exposed to yet.  That”ll come.

Tweeting is a skill … an art.  It’s one thing to write down what you want to say in 500 words and get your point across.  It’s something completely else to do it in 140 character bursts interrupted by any one of your several hundred followers at the time when you’re just making your point.  And no I’m not this person. I don’t have several hundred followers.  Even the new math of the ’80s won’t stretch my sixty-five that much.

This brings us to Malcolm and Ben.  Ben is my daughter, Alex’s roommate and my friend.  He’s a video game aficionado, and in fact works for a gaming company and is currently developing his own game.

Ben tweets probably twenty times a day.  Normally, there’s no way I’d follow somebody that tweet prolific.  But Ben is different.  He has a Twitter Tribe of 300 to 400 followers.  Many, if not most, follow everything thing he says, whether it’s gaming or his fragmented and enlightening discourse on current events.

For the most part, his tweets are a sequential interactive dialogue on various topics.  This dialogue may continue on for an entire day or even more;  for example, the Mosque on the 911 site (or two blocks down to be exact) is still going on days into it.  His commentary is witty and thought-provoking.  Seldom does he retweet, and when he does, often it reinforces his point on the original topic.  Ben has refined his Twitter technique through practice and lots of it.

Now, I’m going to add an amendment to the Gladwell “10,000 hour constitution.”  I’ll call it the Twitter Amendment.  If one tweets 10,000 times … they are an expert!

Ben, congratulations on your 10,000th tweet.  You are an expert!

P.S.  Ben is @MarcianTobay on Twitter.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Gladwell’s 150 rule … how does it apply to social media?

In his 2000 book, “The Tipping Point,” renown author, Malcolm Gladwell, cited the example of a manufacturing firm on the East Coast and its adherence to relationship building and numbers.  This firm determined that having more than a certain amount of people in one building or facility would actually prove detrimental to building teamwork and camaraderie.  In other words … the employees wouldn’t get to know everybody and they would form cliques instead.

The magic Tipping Point number

Their magic number was 150.  Up to this point everybody, more or less, would exist like a large extended “work family.”  Any more contacts than that was beyond the normal person’s ability to maintain let alone nurture.  Once they got to 150 in one building (due to expansion), they would split that facility’s workforce and build another building.  They had done this several times and Gladwell was amazed at the teamwork throughout the company.

Further research by Gladwell found that this wasn’t an isolated example.  It was a sociological phenomenon across many disciplines.

I noticed the same situation when I was recruiting.  I may have had a database of over 6000 candidates … but really only communicated regularly with only about 100 to 150 of them.  I actually flagged these as “preferred.”  This was in the nineties well before the “Tipping Point.”  Some faded away over time, but others took their place in the regular call rotation.  However, the number of my core group stayed about the same, 100 to 150.  When I tried expand the number – my rapport with the core suffered.

Now, this brings us to social media.  If you look at the numbers;  Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers – you’ll see numbers well into the hundreds if not thousands for some people.  The question is, “Is having this number so high beneficial or detrimental?”  Social media is not like working in a company or having real life contacts though.  The difference is how many of these people are active in your life.  How many make comments, tweet your stuff, receive your replies, etc.  And how many are wallflowers – just out there to unilaterally receive whatever you choose to send them.

I suppose a person’s social media “group” is pretty much like my recruiting candidate database.  A certain amount will be your “core group,” those that will be a regular part of your life.  And the rest will be … well, just will be there – being just a number.

What can we learn from this.  Everybody’s situation is different … but is it really?  We use social media to make and further relationships (for the most part).  These relationship are professional, personal or in some cases just conduits for information.  But they are still relationships that involve time and attention.

Maybe we should look at our social media strategy first in terms of numbers.  And maybe that number is 150.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Who’s batting third in your line-up?

I’ve been staying down at my daughter, Alexandria’s, in Los Angeles for a few days before I move to Montana next week.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know some of her close friends.  Yesterday we were talking about them and how they figure into her life.

She made the analogy of where everybody fits into her “personal batting line-up” (you think she’s a baseball fan).  The rational behind this comparison is that this way she doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of anybody.  Everybody is who they are and each have their strengths.  Just like players in a batting order.

Batting third ...

I’m not going get into everybody and breakdown the whole line-up … but I thought I’d lay out  a couple of the roles.  These are her descriptions, not mine.

Leading off, batting 1st: Ben.  He’s always there.  He’ll get on base, the consummate team player.  He’ll wear down the opposition, take pitches so everybody else sees what’s coming up.  He’ll won’t hit home runs very often – but he’ll be on base for meat of the line-up.

The anchor, batting 3rd: Jason.  He’s my daughter’s coach on the field, her side-kick.  Or as she calls him, he’s Alfred (in Batman lore).  He’s the glue, not only hit for average but will knock you in as well.

Clean-up, batting 4th: Angie.  She’s not always there, not a 300 hitter, but when she shows up … it’s a home run.  She lights up the room.  Oh, and that smile!

Too often we expect things from our friends that … well, they’re not equipped to do, instead on focusing on their strengths and what they can provide to the relationship.

Life is not easy.  Whatever tools we can use, we should.  God only know there has been a million books written on relationships.  If we try to digest all the advice out there – our heads will explode and won’t be any better off.

Maybe all we need to do is accept those close to us for what they are … not what they aren’t and nurture their strengths rather than focus on their weaknesses.

Fill out your line-up card, and go play ball.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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