Bring Back Our Girls

I’m typically not affected by the news, but the story of the 270 Nigerian girls that were kidnapped on April 15th, 2014, made my heart ache to a great extent. I am sure you’re feeling quite the same. There’s incredible atrocities in this world, things that defy what it means to be human, things that challenge the world community and even your own beliefs. However, the good will prevail because there’s more of it.

 

please visit http://bringbackourgirls.us/

I made this art
bogb

Baudelaire—get drunk

ONE SHOULD always be drunk. That’s the great thing; the only question. Not to feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and bowing you to the earth, you should be drunk without respite.

Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please. But get drunk.

And if sometimes you should happen to awake, on the stairs of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the dreary solitude of your own room, and find that your drunkenness is ebbing or has vanished, ask the wind and the wave, ask star, bird, or clock, ask everything that flies, everything that moans, everything that flows, everything that sings, everything that speaks, ask them the time; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird and the clock will all reply: “It is Time to get drunk! If you are not to be the martyred slaves of Time, be perpetually drunk! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please.”

Let’s paint her pink this October: Breast Cancer Awareness

pink_liberty

Fulfilling the Promise

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen® and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen has invested more than $2.5 billion to fulfill our promise, working to end breast cancer in the U.S. and throughout the world through ground-breaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 30 countries.

Progress in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Since 1982, Komen has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer – transforming how the world talks about and treats this disease and helping to turn millions of breast cancer patients into breast cancer survivors. We are proud of our contribution to some real victories:

  • More early detection and effective treatment– Currently, about 70 percenft of women 40 and older receive regular mammograms, the single most effective screening tool to find breast cancer early.  Since 1990, early detection and effective treatment have resulted in a 34 percent decline in breast cancer mortality in the U.S.
  • More hope –In 1980, the 5-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (cancer confined to the breast) was about 74 percent. Today, that number is 99 percent.
  • More research – The federal government now devotes more than $850 million each year to breast cancer research, treatment and prevention (compared to $30 million in 1982).
  • More survivors – Currently, there are about 3 million breast cancers survivors, the largest group of cancer survivors in the U.S.

 

I transcribed my daughters story

This is a story that I transcribed for my daughter Amelia. This story is about her little brother Abram (a little over a year). Amelia illustrated and conceptualized this story. She is 3 years old.

Abram A Poop

Abram A Poop, by Amelia Gros

page1

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Abram. He was always stinky. He pooped and he wooped and he snooped. (Amelia wanted to point out that the poop in this scene is black)

page2

One day he went to school. Abram pooped at school. Abram was not allowed at school. (Amelia also pointed out here that his pooped was red)

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Abram went to the doctor and wanted to eat crayons. (Amelia commented that Abram was running with crayons from Dr. Spy, who doesn’t exist in real life but judging from his name, is the best doctor ever.)

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Abram goes to dance class. He wants to poop at dance class. (Amelia made it very clear that Abram in the scene is “black as night”. Probably due to some poop trauma.)

 

 

 

 

The Importance of a Unified Marketing Message

When it comes to developing a Marketing and Advertising campaign, it’s easy to do too much, too often. It’s something we’ve witnessed businesses do quite frequently as we make our way through our inboxes sifting through email blasts. Businesses are excited to sell their product and driven to create more demand from the consumer. They launch full-scale multi-level campaigns that integrate diverse messaging that targets extremely small percentages of their customer base or by blanketing all customers. In other words they spam your inbox with many messages. In the end it’s an attempt to be everything to everyone and that’s virtually impossible. By doing this, a business may gain or lose customers. However, at its worst it may cause a multiple personality disorder and they may lose their true identity all together. The voices from the campaigns compete and confuse.

Let’s say your business sells fruits and vegetables, and let’s suggest that 75% of all your business is in apples. Although you are known for your apples, you only possess a portion of the industry. Thus apples account for 75% of your business but your customers don’t purchase 100% of their apples from you. Let’s say you also sell grapes which account for 1% of your business as well as peaches, carrots, corn and 21 other products that equally account for small percentages of sales. Here lies the problem. Often times more than not, a business markets to the product lines that are struggling, rather than what they are good at, what they are known for and more importantly what they are actually profiting from. It’s in our nature to want to fix things.

So you develop a campaign around carrots. This includes print advertising, email blasts, websites, electronic advertising and pay-per click search ads. The message is clear, “we are the place to buy carrots”. This may work in gathering some new carrot customers but meanwhile you may be alienating your existing customers. I mean after all, they want to hear about apples. However you’re incredibly smart, you start targeting your carrot marketing to your carrot customers. This creates another issue as you’re now spending your time, resources and ad dollars promoting something that is only 1% of your sales.

My example may be far too simple but demonstrates why a business really needs to create a “Unified Marketing Message”. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Walmart? Well, besides the people shopping in sweat pants and braziers outside of their shirts. The answer is “Low Prices”. Walmart knows this is what they are good at and everything they do is focused upon sending this message. Given, Walmart probably has a small percentage of customers that feel they are high quality (believe me, they’re out there). It would be a mistake for Walmart to advertise the quality message to this small percentage as their customers expect value and it would be in competition to their “Low Price” message. Another great example is Geico. They have a very diverse feel to their marketing from the Gecko to the Cavemen but they have one unified message and that is saving money.

How do you create a unified marketing message? To begin you really need to discover what you are good at and why you are good at it. What is the thing that sets you apart from your competition? If it isn’t quality, than perhaps price? If it isn’t price, than perhaps it’s customer service? Is it a specific product? Find out whatever it may be and focus your marketing on it. It’s not particularly terrible to market items that are not your top sellers, but know when this may be working against you. Have the courage to drop a product that may not be delivering. Do you have the resources available to remain a top contender in the product line you are great at while marketing in other product lines? Examine your business and listen to your customers, they will tell you exactly why they shop with you.

 

Manufacturers Put Unneeded Parts Into Electronics

I was born and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am a middle-child. I refuse to believe I have any sort of complex about it. I have a younger sister named Shadie and an older brother named Joseph. My brother Joe and I are 15 months apart. Which means my parents were incredibly busy doing damage control. Growing up, my brother and I did some ridiculous things. We painted the neighbor’s pig blue. We motor-oiled a stray cat. Don’t worry both were thoroughly cleaned by the adults. Once we even spray-painted the back of our own house. Our mom couldn’t be too upset because we graffitied the words “I Love Mom” in giant letters. We almost burned down the house on many different occasions. We were typical crazy boys, we had broken bones, got into loads of fights, caused insurmountable damage and somewhere in all of it we were shaping our lives and becoming the men we are today.

I always followed Joe’s lead. My parents famously tell people the differences between mine and my brother’s personalities as we grew up. We often went on fishing and camping trips and they would say, “We always had one eye on Joe for fear he would run out and jump into the lake (again). James on the other hand, well… we just sat him down and placed a circle of rocks around him and he would simply play with rocks and never leave the circle.” So, I was clearly the town buffoon until I started following my brother’s influence.

Joe on the left with a devious smirk sits with me and my half-baked look

I’m not saying Joe was a bad kid, he was just extremely curious about things and electronics interested him the most. I must have been 5 years old as I watched him take apart a VCR to…umm… fix it. Which of course always begged the question, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” But to my older brother, everything needed to be fixed. He took apart that VCR, cleaned the heads, put it back together and ended up with a handful of extra parts from the original dismemberment. It never worked the same again. That’s just the way things were back then, Joe would fix something that was previously unbroken and end up with extra parts. Nothing was out of reach of Joe’s repair shop. He dismantled televisions, radios, bicycles, computers, Nintendos, fans, telephones, toasters and the thing that hit home for me was the repair of my toys. He’d tear them all apart and put them back together and we’d cry and mourn the loss of them. The fact that he did all this at 6-10 years old was pretty darn impressive. Here I was playing with two rocks, sitting within a circle of rocks and my brother is rewiring televisions.

I don’t remember the first time Joe truly and finally fixed something but I do know he hasn’t slowed down since. Now within our family and friends, he is the guy you call when something is broken and really needs to be repaired. He can fix most things from computers to electrical wiring to smart-phones. I’d like to think all the practice growing up really gave him the edge. The creative allowance by our parents certainly contributed. I do know that he always had an aptitude for it. Joe enjoys fixing electrical and mechanical things and he’s damn good at it.

We all have our strong points, our talents, our influences and our passions. Surround  yourself with people that allow your talents to grow. If you’re a parent, don’t be too upset if you walk in the room to find your TV in shambles and your son or daughter with a screw-driver and a clever grin. I learned from my parents to be patient. I learned from my brother that every failure, every broken item is one step closer to success. I also learned that bones don’t bend that way, that paint and oil don’t wash off easily and that manufacturers put unneeded parts into electronics.

 

Amelia portrait: The Most “Best” Person Ever

Tonight’s post, a quick sketch and then thrown into Photoshop for color work with my Wacom pen and tablet. The subject of the sketch is pretty much the most “best” person ever, my daughter Amelia. She’s incredible. Right now i’d certainly say she’s my best friend in the world. We have the same sense of humor. I’m not certain what that says about me as Amelia is only 2 years old.

It’s funny about 2 year-olds, they really know how to enjoy life. It’s all the things we take for granted as we age that serves to blow their little 2 year old minds. For instance, how awesome are dinosaurs? Most adults take them for granted, but not little Amelia. She really takes the time to walk and roar as they do. What about the pure joy of eating a bowl of whipped cream or handfuls of marshmallows? Or the excitement of running in circles chasing a Dachshund with a star wand. It’s all the little things.

If you’re really stressed and the 9 to 5 has got you down, try acting like a two year old for one hour and I guarantee you will feel better, more excited about life. Please do this in the privacy of your home though.

The Good, The Bad, The Jeffs and The Rest

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude and reaction towards it. My friend Jeff Allen is great at controlling his reactions and always has a wonderful attitude. He can be described as a person that always looks on the bright side. A few of us (mutual friends) were sitting around swapping stories about Jeff and agreed that he seemingly has complete control of his reaction to any situation and it’s often positive. If you do not know Jeff, then perhaps you know someone like him. He’s the kind of guy that could be sitting in a restaurant, a bomb could go off bringing the walls crumbling around him and he wouldn’t run, scream or panic. There may be complete chaos. Jeff would simply stand up and say, “woah, this restaurant just blew up… wow that was nuts, glad i’m okay… I guess I should help cleanup!”. There’s not many people out there that have this level of control over their reactions but I am betting you know at least one.

On the other end of the spectrum is where I tend to live. I sweat the small stuff, the medium sized stuff and the big stuff. I live in a constant state of perspiration. If you don’t know me, then perhaps you know someone like me. I’m the kind of guy that catches a cold and starts googling symptoms that inevitably leads me to believe I’m dying of Churg-Strauss syndrome (yes, I research the rare disease database). My bad days always get worse.

An example of this happened about 8 years ago. It was just one of those days that started poorly. One of those mornings where you wake up and your entire body is achy like you spent the night battling dragons. Once my day starts poorly like that, I have a hard time snapping out of it. I woke up sore and grumpy and I began to rush. I couldn’t find my “go to” shoes. Instead of calmly taking the time to find them, I grabbed a pair from the back of the closet that cut into your Achilles tendon as you walk. I arrived at work late with a slight limp.

Sitting at my desk at work, I just kept thinking that this day is really bad, it will only get worse and eventually I would die or get kicked by a mule or something. Frustrated, I decided I needed an early, unhealthy lunch. I barely arrived at work and all I can think about was running out barefoot and stuffing my face with a Wendy’s Baconator. So, I left for lunch and as I drove I kept thinking about what was going happen next in this bad day. I almost expected something bad to happen, and well… it did.

My tire on my truck blew out as I was driving around 65mph on the freeway. I wobbled a bit and pulled over. I wasn’t thankful that I was able to steer to safety. I was frustrated and added “having to change a tire on the side of the freeway” to my list of bad day woes. I got out of the truck, pulled out my tools and spare and I began changing the tire while talking to myself about how miserable I was. Other vehicles on the freeway zoomed by and I could feel the wind of each pass. I kept thinking, “great, I’m going to be hit by a passing Pontiac Aztek and this will be the end of me”. I thought about something bad happening over and over again and then again… it did.

I felt the hit straight across the entire right side of my body. I fell towards my truck where i’d been kneeling to change the tire. It wasn’t incredibly painful but being hit at incredible speed causes more of an intense rush and you don’t think about the pain. I thought it was the end. My eyes were watering as realizing I was still alive, I turned and expected to see an intense car crash. I looked up and thought, “did someone happen to get the license plate of that…ummm…. 50 gallon plastic trashcan that just hit me”. Yes, that’s right. I watched as a big 50 gallon trashcan bounced away from me and along the oncoming traffic, off of car hoods, denting and causing pandemonium.

What in the world just happened you ask? Well, an old pick-up truck was speeding along and his giant plastic trash can flew off the back of his truck at the exact moment he passed me. The trashcan then bounced off of my face and back into the freeway causing chaos. I couldn’t make up what just happened, I’m not that creative. My entire side of my face was red and swollen like someone… well, like someone took a giant piece of plastic and slapped me with it. A city worker pulled over and said he saw the whole thing and asked if I needed help. I felt okay so I declined and finished changing my tire in an angry daze. I got in my truck and peeked in the mirror to see a giant welt along my face. I drove off with a half-red face, forgetting my tools on the side of the road.

That day really didn’t get better for me, although I can say it didn’t get much worse. Looking back at it now though, I must think about my friend Jeff. If I were more like Jeff that day may not have been so bad. Jeff would’ve woken up with the beginnings of a bad day and he would’ve made light of it. He may not have rushed out to lunch, full of rage and who knows, he may not have been hit by a trash can in the face. However, that’s not the point of this post. The point is that bad things happen to everyone. They happen to me and they happen to guys like Jeff. It’s how we handle our emotion and our reaction that is the most important. If what happened to me were to have happened to Jeff… well, I believe he would consider himself to be incredible lucky. What are the odds of that happening? I’d like to think I was the first person to be hit in the face by a trash can that flew off a truck on the freeway. Jeff would certainly believe so and to him, that particular day wouldn’t be so bad.

No matter what happens in life, I urge you all to be more like Jeff. I’m trying. Take in the bad events that unfold and try to muster a smile and move on, no matter how difficult. This will leave you more time to focus on the things that are good.

 

 

Forever is composed of nows

I am a man that forgets things. I am a man that loses things… things like my car keys, my wallet, my eye glasses or my id-badge for work. I forget birthdays. I forget things that others have asked me to accomplish. I am in a constant state of confusion about where things are and what people have asked me to do or remember. I forget where I parked. I forgot what I was doing in that grocery store. What was I supposed to buy? I’ve forgotten to wear socks. I’ve forgotten the password to everything. Did I miss something extremely cute that my daughter said? Did I miss something extremely important in my life?

One day, I asked my two-year old daughter where my glasses were. She promptly found them on the coffee table. How was it my daughter was more aware of my belongings than me?

At dinner one night I realized the answer. My daughter is present. I realized that it’s not because I have a poor memory but rather I rarely live in the moment. I am rarely present. I tell my wife Chelsea this at dinner. I say to her, “You know I have a hard time being in this moment, my mind is wandering on what I need to do later. What website should I program? What idea for a company should I work on? What should I paint or draw? What I need to accomplish in my life. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were an iPhone app that allowed you to find your missing dog or cat using GPS? I could call it FidoFinder”. Sheesh, let my ignorance and lack of consideration be a lesson to all you men out there. You don’t tell your wife over a date-night dinner that you are not enjoying the moment with her but rather thinking about programming a website. I blew it and although I knew that I hurt her feelings, Chelsea is incredible and understanding so she promptly removed my foot from my mouth for me. Chelsea has grace and I apologized.

Emily Dickson wrote, “Forever is composed of nows”. I am missing all the “nows”. I walk into my house after work, throw my keys, wallet and whatever else down in hurried anticipation of some ridiculous thing I want to do later. I am a man that has started hundreds of failed projects and I believe I will fail thousands more. Doing this however isn’t a bad thing, but I needed to find a balance. I believe it’s this balance that allows people to enjoy life and in turn have the energy and creativity to be successful.

Now, I am a man that is a work-in-progress. Since I realized my fault, i’ve been living more in the now while balancing my future aspirations. Although my eye-glasses are missing, I’ve been able to take in more important moments. Last night I sat and watched Chelsea hold our two-week old son Bram and dance with our little girl Amelia. I’ve danced with them before but last night I just watched and breathed it all in. I remember everything about that moment, the music, the lighting, my daughter’s curly hair, my wife’s posture as she cradled and swayed our son. That moment is mine and ours. I will replay it over and over. It was slow motion and I was present. FidoFinder can wait.

 

 

Bootstrapping my life.

Every year since I met my wife Chelsea, has been better than the last. As I type, it’s been just about 5 days since my wife, my daughter and I welcomed a new baby into our lives. A beautiful baby boy we named Abram. This completes a very big goal for me and I am ecstatic.

I’m not writing this post to brag or show off. I’m not writing this post to document something incredible, although incredible it is. I write because I want to share my experiences with my friends, family and anyone that is interested. I write in the hopes that it would bring some optimism to anyone going through a difficult time. That no matter how difficult, that things may change for the positive quickly. All it takes is the realization that you are in control of your present and your future.

I won’t go into much detail but in 2006 I went through what one would call a stormy period in my life. It was a challenging time for me and certainly a very low point. Compared to other tragedies, mine was seemingly a speed bump, a blip on the radar. However at the time, it did affect me greatly and much like others I turned to bad habits to overcome emotional turmoil. I went through a period of drinking heavily, not leaving the house or the opposite of not coming home for days. I remember being simply confused.

There was a night that I spent a few hours sitting in my truck in the parking lot of a local grocery store. The rain was pouring around me. I was sitting and watching the rain as I didn’t want to go home and for some reason I couldn’t muster the ability to go inside the store and find something for dinner. Strange as it might seem, I drove to the store just to sit in a parking lot in the rain. I watched as people and families went on with their shopping. In and out of the store they went, despite the rain. I thought how strange it was that each person may be experiencing joy, pain or otherwise and we are all completely isolated in our abilities to fully comprehend what others may truly be experiencing.

Some people need interventions, but people will tell you they only work when someone actually wants to change. I decided that night that I really wanted something better for myself. It wasn’t something profound that I witnessed to make me realize this, but it was the things I could not comprehend about others. In reality we are alone in our thoughts and emotion. In programming there is a term called “bootstrapping”, this is derived from the story of Baron Munchausen. The story goes that the Baron, trapped in a swamp, pulls himself out by his bootstraps. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek help from others but simply that you have all the power and ability to change things for yourself.

I went home that night and thought about the things that I wanted. What I wanted the most was to be with a wonderful partner, get married and have a family. This was my decision and to achieve it, I had to make changes. The first change was obvious. I had to snap out of the slump I was in. Easier said than done, right? I quickly made a list of things I knew were good habits. Things that would better my ability to find someone I wanted to be with. I worked on controlling my reaction to my emotional state. Everytime I felt sad, I would try to find a positive habit to focus on like reading, writing, playing music or simply watching online tutorials. Before I knew it I had taught myself several different programming languages. Rather than drinking, I began exercising. Rather than hiding away in my house, I got out and socialized more. I also wholeheartedly dropped the walls I’d built up and approached people I would normally shy from.

Because of this, I met my wife Chelsea in 2006 by putting myself “out there”. In normal circumstances, I would have never approached her but I did. I also felt like I was a better person, more willing to commit to things and because of my positive habits, I was more confident. Certainly knowing my goal was to meet a person I wanted to share a life with, I believe I saw her with new eyes. From the moment I spoke with her, I began to appreciate her honesty, kindness, intelligence, humor and pure potential to be an amazing partner and mother. With some discussion and playful teasing from friends, I had asked her out on a date. She accepted and eventually I charmed her enough for second date.

A year later, I asked Chelsea to marry me. Another year later she gave me a beautiful girl we named Amelia and finally our boy Abram. Each year has been better than the last. The beauty of completing a goal is the rewards you can reap. I get to wake up everyday with two beautiful children and an incredible wife. Now all that seems easy right? It wasn’t and it won’t be for you. The most difficult part was accepting my piece in my happiness and deciding I wanted to change things. It was the acceptance that changing things was possible. The great thing about habits is they are just that, habits. Once you begin doing them, they become second nature. Once you begin it all falls into place.

I am telling each and every one of you that if you feel stuck, if you feel like you can’t get away from heartache, that you possess the ability to overcome and make your life better. It all starts with a decision and a little bootstrapping.