A quick note on deviance

devianceThe Ramones are quite possibly the greatest punk band to ever assail the eardrums of the New York Pink Scene of the ’70s. The Ramones, know three chords. The Ramones are dirty, smelly rock junkies who live in vans and drink copious amounts of alcohol while corrupting the impressionable youth.

Perhaps all three of these things are true. Perhaps not. One thing is for certain though, these guys were passionate about what it is they were doing. Their passion was the fuel that sustained them through the good the bad and the ugly.

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What’s in a Personal Brand Anyway?

brandingHave you heard about this “personal brand” thing that is catching on? No, what the hell is it? Why do I care? Just what  are you getting at here Jason?

I’m glad you asked!

I’ve worked for a long time to build a reputation among the people I work with whether they are clients, co-workers, organizations, or audiences. This reputation is what gets me noticed, it affords me a certain ability to connect at a higher/deeper (whichever way you look at the glass) level. This reputation has become my brand.

When you think of Nike, you might think of sports apparel or running shoes, or Tiger Woods… wait, no… we don’t think of Tiger Woods. When you think of  Coca-Cola, you might think of refreshment, summer, polar bears… I don’t know what goes on in your head! Just like these brands, a personal brand is simply the culmination of all the things people think of when they think of you.

Bottom line is this, you already have a personal brand. What is it?

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Open or Closed Networks: How well do we play with others?

no-appleA colleague wanted to share some pictures with me yesterday. She sent me a link to her photostream. Simple enough, I clicked the link and found that it didn’t work with the browser I was using (google chrome for android). Okay, I’ll just install the software for PC… Nope, can’t do that either. I cannot access these pictures unless I buy an apple product or install OS10 or higher on a virtual server on my local machine… not gonna do that.

The Ipod. The Iphone. The Ipad. Yes, they were and are heralded as the super-awesome-things-that-will-change-your-life. But are they really? I mean c’mon, Siri is cool and all, but there are only so many times you can ask here absurd questions just to hear her silly responses before it’s time to move on to some other topic du jour.

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Don’t Save the Best for Last

Don't Save The Best For LastI’ve been working on a lot of different projects over the last few years. It has been quite a whirlwind adventure. I have got to do a lot of work-related travel, venturing to more than 20 cities all over the country. I’ve been invited to speak before some pretty amazing groups. I’ve even been able to meet some of the people I look up to as role models like Fr. Greg Boyle from Homeboy Industries.

All of this has been really exciting but it is time to move on to the next adventure.

I read this quote somewhere.

IF YOU’RE NOT WORKING ON YOUR BEST IDEA, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME

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The Lean Startup – a New Philosophy for Non-Profits

The Lean StartupI’ve been following up on my new year’s resolution to read more books, and began reading The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries. I could add all sorts of glowing recommendations to the long list of accolades from all over the globe, and I will. This book has the power to transform business as usual for the non-profit sector. Beginning with Ries’ definition of a start up:

A human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The book constructs a full-on assault on business as usual; on the old theories of “build it and they will come.” This book does for entrepreneurial thinking and startup culture what Deming did for manufacturing.

Under this definition, any human institution – this includes non-profits looking for volunteers and donors, case-managers looking for new ways to engage constituents, even ex-offenders looking for employment – is a startup of sorts. There are only two conditions to meet in order to belong to the startup sector first, is that you are creating a new product or service and second, that there are conditions of extreme uncertainty. Who isn’t living under these conditions?  Continue reading “The Lean Startup – a New Philosophy for Non-Profits”

Learning Empathy – The Art of Listening

“Yeah, I heard you”, he said with a look that would peel paint from a car door. “You may have heard me, but were you listening”, she replied. “I said I heard you what more do you want!”

We’ve all heard this scenario play out before… hell, I think I’ve been on both sides of that conversation at least a few times in my life. The problem isn’t in whether or not I have the capacity to hear sounds travelling through the air at 340 m/s (the speed of sound for the uninitiated or scientifically challenged). The question is, can I truly hear what is being conveyed in those sounds; can I connect with the emotional content and context within the subtleties of the persons tone, body language, emphasis, and word choice. Can I truly listen?

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Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012

It’s been a while. No, seriously, it has really been a while since I’v written here. Its not that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of change to journal. There has been plenty! It isn’t that my mind has just been languishing on the sidelines of existence and not creating any new juice. It has been creating tons of juice! No, none of those. It’s that I’ve been so freaking busy that I haven’t made time to document and reflect. My involvement with Bridgeway Behavioral Health and Juniper Communities has consumed by everything in a way that is not unlike a raging inferno consuming all that lies in its path.

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Of Magic and Music Snobbery

“I don’t ever want to understand the science that makes those work,” she said with that sly, half cocked grin of a child dazed by the wonders of the universe. “I want them to remain just as they are right now, magic.” This comment was of course in reference to the fireworks crackling overhead just a few days ago on the fourth of July. This really doesn’t have anything to do with anything except that it was sheer poetry that infected my brain like a nasty summer cold that just won’t let go. —

I’m a music snob. There, I said it. In 12-step circles, they say that admission of a problem is the first step in recovery. If that is so, I guess I’m on my way to recovering from my musical snobbery.

Just what is a music snob you ask? Well, a music snob is that person who always has a song playing that no one has ever heard of, from an album no one will ever buy, by a band that no one will ever go see, because they don’t ever play out, because they have no money for a tour bus, because no one (except me) has ever bought their album. That may be a bit extreme, but it should give you a rough approximation of the condition.

Oh sure, I have the obligatory Led Zeppelin, Beck, Coldplay and even some Katy Perry on my ipod. (Obviously for my teenage daughter… obviously) That’s where it ends though because after that, the average scanner of the artists in my ipod will be confounded with the sheer volume of stuff no one has ever heard of. Take for instance Breathe Owl Breathe or Dan Deacon. No one except the waiter at Saturn Cafe in Berkeley knows who they are.

Really though, I’m not here to tell you all about my weird music fetish, I’m here to talk about magic. Specifically the magic that occurs when you take a dozen or so addicts and alcoholics, the people who live in the margins of our society, and put them in a sweaty van with no air conditioning.

These people have lived their lives right into the ground and when they want to make a change, they come to see me. I love this role. I love these frequently unlovable people. By the time people make it to my van, they have all but drained themselves of every last ounce of self-respect and it is my job to help restore that …aaaand drive them around.

So anyway, in my van the person sitting shotgun controls the radio. There is frequent contention over what song gets played when and why the person controlling the radio hasn’t switched the channel from the inevitable commercial, but every so often the magic happens. It’s that thing that occurs when everyone in the van agrees with what is on the radio. This moment is pure delight. Everyone in the van puts on their best singing voice and belts out the lyrics as best they can. The voices range from sort of talented to not talented at all and everything in between, but there is a joyousness, a camaraderie and release that is absolutely magical.

One such afternoon, our good friend Eminem comes on with his anthem for the downtrodden, Lose Yourself. Everyone in the van takes a very serious tone with this piece of music. As I watch the faces and listen to the passion in these kids’ voices, I realize that this is their song. Most of them have lived the life this guy is rapping about. This silly little white kid from Detroit is giving them a voice; a voice they didn’t know they had, and it is beautiful. I find myself singing along to the refrain after a while and the transformation has become complete, we are one.

The music did this. The music is magic.

Later, Otis Redding comes on with his anthem for the lonely, Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay. Once again, the connection is made and these people who would normally not mix are singing along like a scene from one of my top five all-time favorite movies Almost Famous (pay attention at about 2:08 — poof, you are home). A connection is made, a connection so simple, so human. A connection missing for so long from these men’s lives. This connection is the essence of recovery, recovery from any disease, cancer, addiction, music snobbery.

It is this connection that write about today. It is this connection that transforms us all from what we believe we are into what we truly are: one. It is this oneness, this unity, which empowers us to reach for places we can only dream about. It is this connection that brings us to our rightful place, one among many, a brother in a family. For at least a few moments of every day, each person in that van can feel a bit of what heaven must feel like.

This connection is magic, and frankly, I don’t ever want to understand the science behind this connection, I want it to remain just as it is right now, magic.

A Little Inspiration Please…

A friend of mine sent this to me a while back. I love the message. I try to live by it daily.

I stumbled across it again today and thought it apropos as we celebrate the sacrifice of so many young men and women in our armed forces by taking a day off from jobs we (well, not me, but many of us) hate.

If you don’t like something change it.

Life is short, live your dream.

….aaaand eat bar-b-que while remembering the dead.

In which I will discuss TLC, Bill and Ted, and the Rapture, together in one semi-coherent thought.

Jesus was probably a time traveler, and never really meant to become an idol worshiped by half the human race. This statement really has nothing to do with anything but if you’re going to say something inflammatory, you might as well say it first.

I like the stories about the guy and I think the words he spoke were most excellent (because I said I would bring Bill and Ted into this). Really though, I have a hard time with the whole rapture thing. I mean seriously, the same guy who says we’re supposed to love everyone regardless of their past, and calls people to serve their neighbors (as long as they eventually come to worship the guy’s father) is really the son of another guy who is going to punish the entirety of the human race with fire and brimstone just because they didn’t worship him? Weird. Sounds like this guy has some repressed anger issues that could really be tackled with some intensive work with a good therapist.

Again, the previous paragraph has nothing to do with anything… I’m just thinking about my week and this was one of the subjects that floated to the top. Continue reading “In which I will discuss TLC, Bill and Ted, and the Rapture, together in one semi-coherent thought.”