Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged lifehacks

One year after quitting Facebook, I still have friends

A year ago to the day, I quit Facebook. At the time I feared I might be committing social suicide. Today, I can happily report that didn’t happen.

Since quitting the popular online hangout, I’ve limited the number of work and out of office distractions I encounter. I no longer feel the desire to “check in” online at every waking hour. It takes me longer to discover new bands. And I don’t have to consciously decide or distinguish friends from colleagues, associates, and nobodies. I just let them happen naturally now; unannounced and evolving.

Continue reading…

Why I love checking my email

psd-mouse-cursor-hand-pointer-iconI can’t for the life of me understand why so many people despise checking email. For me, it’s like getting little packages in the mail several times a day. Of course, that’s not the case if you fail to follow a few sanity rules. Mine are as follows:

  1. Only check your inbox from 9-5pm, M-F. Since quitting my data plan, I only check my inbox during work hours—never at night or on weekends. Since I’m batch processing email now, chances are I’ll come across exciting, fun, or otherwise encouraging emails a lot more than I would fielding menial messages one at a time, 24 hours a day. Admittedly, I’ve had to check email under work emergencies a few times this year. But I never clean my inbox during those times. I only target the time-sensitive message I’m looking for, so it’s not a problem.
  2. Use Gmail. No other email client can rival the auto spam protection of Gmail, which is constantly updated. Additionally, I’ve setup more than 30 custom filters to keep my inbox clean from no-response required emails. If you’re using the right tools and are judicious when giving out your email, spam shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Use it as a sales tool. After “thank you” and “I love you,” “you’ve got a deal,” is the best expression in the English language. To hear it though, you always have to be trying to cut deals with prospect buyers, partners, and shareholders. Much of this should be done in person or over the phone. But when it makes sense, a lot of it can be done via email. Once you start doing that, you’ll quickly learn to love your inbox, as it’ll become an income generator, a money-maker.

Do you love your inbox?

One year after canceling mobile data: 10 things I’ve learned

gp792536-00vliv01Update: As of 2013, data is now included with my cell phone plan. But thanks to my four year break from it, mobile data no longer interrupts my life like it use to. When used sparingly, it actually enhances it.  

A year ago this week, I canceled my data plan. The unexpected catalyst was an awesome trip to Montana. After being tied to my Blackberry for four years, here are 10 observations of “my rebirth” into mobile obscurity:

  1. My quality of life has improved while productivity has remained constant. By that I mean I get as much done as I did before, only now I enjoy a lot more personal time without work interfering. In many cases, that translates into greater productivity upon returning to work the next morning or after the weekend. Believe it or not.
  2. My relationship with my wife and children has improved. I recognize them more. I play with them more. With fewer alerts to interrupt us, it’s a lot more fun now.
  3. Email still waits for me on my computer. Continue reading…

These short-stories are funny. My life is average.

mlia t shirtSince quitting Facebook in May, I periodically visit My Life Is Average for a good chuckle. Here are some of my favorite recent stories:

  • Today, my brownie got detained in airport security. MLIA.
  • Today, I discovered you can reuse calendars every eleven years. Guess who is using their 1999 calendar this year? MLIA.
  • Today, I pushed a door that said pull. It opened. MLIA
  • About a week ago, I went to the optometrist. While the doctor was looking at my eye, he told me to “open wide.” He was talking about my eye, but I automatically opened my mouth as wide as I could. MLIA.
  • Today, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster. Tomorrow, I’m getting a new toaster. MLIA
  • Today I found a book called “How to Read a Book.” MLIA
  • Today I was walking across the park and there were a bunch of teenagers. First kid smoking. Second kid smoking. Third kid smoking. Fourth kid was eating a apple. I think we know who the biggest rebel is. MLIA
  • Tomorrow, my school has a spirit day. The theme is “Gender-Bender,” where boys wear girls clothes and vice versa. My father, knowing nothing of this, comes downstairs to find me in a jean miniskirt, gray tank top, black leggings, trying to put my hair in a suitable girly fashion. We stare at each other awkwardly, and without saying a word, he turns and walks back upstairs, shaking his head. MLIA.
  • Today, I read last year 4,153,237 ppl got married. I don’t want to start any trouble, but shouldn’t that be an even number? MLIA
  • Today, my shoe laces came untied. I tied them back up and carried on. MLIA
  • Four years ago, when i was 18, i noticed at night that my front window is very reflective, so i was pretending to dive in slow motion and shoot, dual pistol style. Suddenly a really hot girl walked past and i was startled and fell over. Embarrassed i waited for a bit and then stood up. As i stoop up i saw her slowly shooting an imaginary rifle from behind a car. We then proceeded to do this for 10 minutes until she did an extremely dramatic death. She wasn’t getting up so i went outside to meet her. Once i got to where she was, there was nothing but a piece of paper with a mobile number on it. Today, we are getting married. MLIA

MLIA.

3 ways to spot when someone is lying

liarVia SmartBlog:

  • Nonverbal tells. Liars don’t rehearse their gestures, just their words. The cognitive load is already huge, so when they tell their story, they freeze their upper body, look down, lower their voice, and slow their breathing and blink rate. And they will exhibit a recognizable moment of relief when the interview is over. Interrogators will often end an interview prematurely just to look for that shift in posture and relaxation.
  • Verbal tells. People who are overly determined in their denial resort to non-contracted rather than relaxed language. “Did not” rather than “didn’t” They will use distancing language as in “ that woman” rather than someone’s name. They will often pepper their story with inappropriate detail as if to prove to you they are telling the truth. They will look you in the eye too much, as if to appear honest, when in fact most people telling the truth only look you in the eye a comfortable 60 % of the time.
  • Stories told in perfect chronological order. Try to get them to tell their story backwards. They can’t do it. Honest people remember stories in the order of emotional prominence. Liars tend to concoct a time-stamped story but they falter when asked to recount it differently.

“Be interesting, don’t be boring,” says Most Interesting Man in the World

ncf_g_goldsmith01_400ESPN this week interviewed Jonathan Goldstein, the man behind The Most Interesting Man in the World. My favorite quote:

“It’s every guy’s fantasy to be like him — including mine,” he said. “I hope our viewers can get a chuckle, but also get good advice. Be interesting, don’t be boring.”

Awesome advice.

Do this and your web browser won’t crash as much

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I despise Flash. It slows down your computer, starts without being asked, and crashes my Internets. So until YouTube finally abandons Flash, as does the rest of the web with media-rich HTML 5, here are two easy plugins I use to grab life by the horns:

Both programs are free and make it so you dictate when a Flash file is played, as opposed to it taking over. Now that’s browsing with power!

Uh—there’s a time and a place for that, Apple, and it’s not your iPhone

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When used properly, I think iPhones are nifty devices. Like all Apple hardware, including my two Macs, they have an impressive interface. Still, iPhones are probably the most overstated status device of the decade. Case in point: Apple’s latest “Did you get my email?” commercial (shown), which attempts to embellish and sell three bad behaviors “without ever leaving a call.” Let me tear ’em down for you, may I? Continue reading…

“Never eat alone” isn’t just a helpful book on networking, it’s a way of life

mad-drinking-comic.jpg

Two years ago, I launched the Smooth Harold Helpdesk and Open Lunch Invitations (see sidebar). In that time I’ve met with more than a dozen individuals I previously didn’t know, fielded upwards of 50 email inquires—ranging from typography design to how to make a pregnant wife happy—and rekindled relationships with countless friends, colleagues, and associates. To say the program has broadened my horizons and created new opportunities would be a gross understatement.

“If you have a specific question you think I might be able to answer (business, web, personal, etc), don’t hesitate to ask via email or in person over lunch,” I wrote at the time. “If I don’t know the answer, chances are I can refer you to someone who does. And no, this isn’t ‘you scratch my back I scratch yours.’ It’s just a genuine attempt to share the little that I’ve learned from talking with people smarter than me, reading good books, and seeing what sticks.”

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@Twitter: Smooth Harold is snubbing you, staying lean, and rolling his own updates. Here’s how in 1-3 easy steps:

Twitter versus FacebookEDIT: I caved.

If you like status updates, but don’t want to invest time managing both a Facebook and Twitter account, here’s an easy way to make Status Updates act like Tweets:

  1. Login to Facebook and grab your Status feed by clicking here, then copy the “My Status” RSS URL, which can be found in the lower right corner of the page. Share the link with others.
  2. Optional: Login to Feedburner (if you haven’t already), enter the URL as a new feed, then activate “Buzz Boost” under the “Publicize” tab of your feed. Adjust settings to your liking.
  3. Optional: Copy your “BuzzBoost” HTML code, repaste on your blog, then share your link and subscription with others.

You could just sign up for a Twitter account and enjoy a few additional networking opportunities, but I don’t know a Tweeter who isn’t also a Facebooker. With 50 million strong, the same cannot be said of Facebookers. As a bonus, rolling your own status updates gives you greater control and lets you keep all your third-party social networking efforts in one consolidated place. Sweet!

Words to live by: Don’t be stupid!

Don’t be stupid

Lindsey and I took the girls and our friends The Andersen’s on Friday to Jumping Jacks, an indoor playhouse with more than 6 dozen connected trampolines. I especially liked the warning sign: “Please jump in control. Don’t be stupid!”

I love taking jumps in life, so long as they’re “in control,” and I hate the consequences associated with being stupid. Definitely words to live by. A cute picture of Lindsey and the girls after the break…

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Get busy living, or get busy dying.

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Randy Pausch, a computer science professor diagnosed with terminal cancer, clearly understands the value of life. His thoughts on carpe diem, achieving your childhood dreams, and materialism are precise, inspired, and honest (no gimmicks here).

At the time of his discourse (Sept. 2007), doctors said Pausch would have “three to six months” to live. As of today, he is still alive. His original full-length lecture at Carnegie Mellon can be found here.

See also: My attempts to be a shoe designer | You have a choice

Study finds that hard work overcomes poverty (sorta)

ABC News published an interesting story this week about a middle-class kid who imposed homelessness upon himself and claimed to never use his degree to upgrade his life over the course of a year. Ten months later, he had an apartment, a car, and $5000 in savings from nothing more than $25 and a gym bag, suggesting that the American Dream is alive and well, and that hard work alone can overcome poverty.

I believe in the last line adamantly, but the experiment fails to consider certain variables that the privileged kid was unable to isolate. First, he’s male and white — that helps. Second, college is more than just a piece of paper, so even if the kid didn’t market his degree, he was capable of greater deductive reasoning, logic, and creativity than most homeless folk. Lastly, he was fortunate enough to carry (though he never used) an emergency credit card.

So was the experiment a success? I think so for the most part, though I’d like to see the result using a motivated individual with no background resources at all. Penny for your thoughts?

The problem with productivity

Seth Mnookin, a freelancer of four years, waxes poetic on the subject of unproductive efficiency in a recent Wired column:

“My campaign to increase productivity had become yet another distraction — and a significant one. Suddenly I needed to time-manage my time management… [so] I forced myself to quit optimizing how I get things done and start actually getting things done.”

Amen to that — and precisely in line with what Timothy Ferriss counsels in The 4-Hour Work Week. Productivity, not efficiency, is paramount. Now if I could only practice what I preach…

You have a choice. Do what you love.

Steve Jobs told a class of Stanford undergraduates in 2005: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” meaning don’t let external factors such as other people’s thinking dictate how you make a livelihood. In short, do what you love.

But doing what you love is just some overused romantic expression that doesn’t really apply outside of über geeks like Jobs, right? Wrong. Despite its being cliché and having been hijacked by get-rich-quick schemes, doing what you love can be achieved by anyone assuming you have the patience to seek it out, have the guts to act on your instincts, and are not easily persuaded by societal pressures when determining your career path.

Continue reading…