Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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Tagged reruns

What 10,000 miles from home feels like

Courtesy Shutterstock

On Earth, 12,450 miles is the farthest anyone can get from home. Take one more step in any direction, and you will have started your return journey from the halfway point.

Until I visit one of these places (aka 45° meridian east), I came as close to that point as I ever have last month. The distance from my home in Provo to Durban is over 10,000 miles, where I began a life-changing journey through the motherland.

I should have grasped this impressive separation sooner than I did. Upon booking airfare, total flight time read over 22 hours across three flights. “That’s a long haul,” I passingly noted, before moving to other travel arrangements.  Continue reading…

8 people you should be extra kind to

Deal_with_it_dog_gifI was jogging last week and ran past a parked patrol car. A cop was in it.

I make it a habit to wave to everyone I encounter, so I cut the air with my hand and smiled. He waved back and flashed a big grin, as if I had just made his day—as if he rarely gets acknowledged by civilians.

Surprised by the effect it had, I started thinking of other people that might benefit from extra kindness. This is what I came up with: Continue reading…

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…

The problem with academic writing: “The teacher must seize the student’s attention”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

I don’t like academic writing. It’s mostly nonsense.

A few years ago, I said as much to my father who works in academia. Despite my insensitivity and lack of tact, I stand by my belief. Not because I’m incapable of admitting when I’m wrong. But because academic writing’s verbose language, impersonal tone, and dispassionate delivery ultimately fail to engage readers.

In other words, “Academics are really good at writing books that only academics will read, but they’re not very good at making anyone outside of academia care,” says Jared Bauer, co-creator of Thug Notes, in an interview with Huffington Post. “Teaching isn’t easy, so I’m not trying to shame teachers for not trying more radical approaches to literature education,” he adds. “But at the very least, I hope (our) show makes teachers realize that a student won’t volunteer their attention. The teacher must seize it.”

As I debated with my father that day, for writing to succeed, it must capture the reader’s attention. If it doesn’t, the writing won’t get shared, influence can’t happen, and the opportunity to learn is squandered, even among scholars. There’s no point to that kind of writing other than to serve as a reminder of how not to write.  Continue reading…

Why are humans gullible? Thinking Fast and Slow helps avoid mistakes in life

thinkingfastandslowWhy are suckers born every minute? How can we explain “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is“? Why are humans encouraged to “think twice” before doing things? And why do we judge “books” by their covers?

The answers to those questions and many more can be found in Daniel Kahneman’s eye-opening book, Thinking Fast and Slow. It’s a fascinating, enlightening, and scientifically accessible read.

After decades of research, Kahneman discovered that the brain makes decisions in two ways. The first is system 1 thinking—the fast, almost involuntary, and largely gut-based decision-making required to operate. It quickly processes tasks like “eat this, pick up that, move out of the way,” and even, “stay alive.” System 1 makes hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions each day and is the “hero of the book,” says Kahneman. System 1 gets things done.

System 2, on the other hand, is slow to engage, deliberate, and lazy. It deals with doubt, uncertainty, statistics, and heavy cognitive loads like writing, performing surgery, solving advanced math—anything that requires intense focus, really. System 2 is not emotional. It’s the part of your brain that questions the source, asks for hard numbers to back up claims, and is innately critical. It deems things guilty until proven innocent.  Continue reading…

5 reasons sad stories are good for you

Courtesy Amazon Studios

My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.

Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”

With the help of the internet, this is what I learned:  Continue reading…

What do 50 year-olds know that 20 year-olds often don’t?

creative commons

creative commons

Craig Weiler has the answer:

You have one set of teeth, one set of knees, one set of lungs and one back. If you don’t take care of them, you can’t re-boot. You can get knee replacement surgery and you can get your teeth capped and wear dentures, or get new lungs, but it’s not the same as your originals. The back is much more tricky and if you damage it enough you’re never coming back from it.

You have one set of hands and feet. They are irreplaceable as is your brain. So if you damage them you’re never coming back from it.

Your body, in other words, is a one-off. You will never have another one as long as you live. If you start taking good care of it and you’re mindful in your 20’s, you’ll be far healthier and happier in your 50’s and beyond.”

How to make better decisions: Focus on important, non-urgent tasks

Eisenhower_Matrix

Where should you spend most of your time? For maximum enjoyment, biggest impact, and lifelong fulfillment, the magic happens in the urgent/not important quadrant of President Eisenhower’s popular Decision Matrix.

Take nurturing a child or business, for example. Both are critical but rarely demand your immediate attention. In other words, quality time is never urgent. Fostering future sales is easy to put off, especially when current income is steady.

Obviously Eisenhower’s matrix isn’t the end-all, be-all of decision making. But I believe the most successful people in life—both personally and professionally—are the ones that ignore non-critical/non-urgent distractions the most. They don’t check or even react to their “inbox” as much as others, opting instead to focus on forward-thinking but non-urgent tasks.

And they delegate or otherwise prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks better than most.

The rerun first published to blakesnow.com in 2016

The meaning of life: 13 things I learned from the world’s greatest thinkers

I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.

Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.

Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).

At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”

His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:

MGM Studios

MGM Studios

At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the classThe Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!

Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.

Here’s what I learned:  Continue reading…

“I’m average, but average people make it!”

My wife and I at the summit of Olympus (courtesy Steven Smith)

I firmly believe that all humans are remarkable and average at the same time. As my father used to say, “We are all statistically average in most things, above average in a few things, and below average in many things.” Even Da Vinci, Einstein, and Mozart were average to mediocre in many areas of their lives.

The vast majority of us, however, are neither geniuses nor special. We must accept that, on the whole, we are average. That shouldn’t keep us from dreaming big and trying to be remarkable in a handful of special ways. But acceptance of our averageness can be a powerful motivator in the proper context.

Recently I summited Mount Olympus, an eight mile roundtrip hike that climbs (then drops) 1000 feet every mile. While approaching the difficult push to the top, my brother-in-law Steven blurted out, “I’m average—but average people make it!”

We all laughed out loud and immediately appreciated what he was reinforcing. That is, life is hard sometimes, but the average life overcomes hardship—at least on average.

It’s reassuring to know that over tens of thousands of years (and millions if you consider our ancestors), average humans have survived incredibly difficult things, over and over again. Pandemics. Floods. Pestilence. Earthquakes. Racism. Wars. Famine. Poverty.

We survive despite our averageness. And that makes us remarkable. 💪

This story first published to blakesnow.com in 2020

What would a world without internet be like?

Not long ago, browsing the Internet, I happened to stumble on a list titled, “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, According to the Internet.” Like most lists of its kind, it was subjective and far from definitive, but still, it represented an interesting challenge. As someone who reads for pleasure as much as for job security, I decided to finish as many of the titles as I could handle.

After completing over a dozen (and taking in many of the film adaptations) the following occurred to me: Not one of these acclaimed futuristic stories—at least none of the many I was exposed to—took place in a world with any version of the Internet. All instances of published media, daily communication, romance—all offline.

In part, this has to do with the constraints of narrative writing, explains the technology writer Clive Thompson. “A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” he says. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”

And inaudible conversations are the bread and butter of the world wide web. As Jon Stewart once put it, the Internet today “is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”

But my experience led me to an interesting thought experiment: How might we live without the world’s largest note exchange? Or, in other words, what would the world be like today if the Internet ceased to exist? Continue reading…

Why travel “comes easy” to some but harder for others

Wild elephants walking a road in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park (Khunkay/Wikimedia)

(ENTREPRENEUR)—Is it easier for extroverts to travel than it is for introverts? Can travel be learned? If so, what does it take to overcome the fear, anxiety, and logistical challenges often associated with long-distance travel?

In search of answers, I asked several seasoned tourists and travel converts for their stories and advice. This is what I found.

First, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. People that travel as children are far more likely to travel as a adults. “Thanks to my parents, I started traveling when I was young,” says Avery Blank, an avid international traveler and strategy consultant from Philadelphia. “That made it relatively easy for me now to adapt to new cultures, surroundings, ways of doing things.”

Obviously if you were raised by homebodies, you’re at an immediate disadvantage. But so are risk-averse individuals who are particularly scared of the unknown, of which there are substantial amounts of when traveling to a new place with new customs and sometimes new languages.

“Much of the anxiety arising from travel revolves around being infantilized,” says Sheridan Becker, an American art director living in Belgium. “For example, not knowing how to do anything in a foreign language, asking for a bathroom, what to do if you lose your wallet, where your next meal will come from (and will you be able to stomach it), or how to handle medical emergencies.”

These are all disorienting questions, the fear of which keeps many people away. So extroverts don’t necessarily have an easier time traveling than less outgoing individuals. Rather, it’s more about how you were raised coupled with a willingness to try unexpected things that determine your propensity for travel.

The good news is wanderlust can be learned. Here are six ways to do just that.  Continue reading…

I should have been a Daft Punk

blake-snow-daft-punk

Hac Tran

While working onsite with a client last week, I met an Englishman that shared my love of music. At some point we diverged into a discussion on the merits of Daft Punk — his favorite band — and where their latest album went wrong. We both agreed that Random Access Memories was better produced than it was written; Discovery was “bloody brilliant;” and their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy was their second best work to date.

As I was about to leave, my new friend excitedly announced, “I have something to show you!” He left the room, then returned with a custom, LED-lit Thomas Bangalter mask. “May I?” said I, giddy at the prospect. “Of course,” he replied. I put it on, struck a pose, then took several snapshots for posterity’s sake before bidding him farewell.

What’s funny is this Englishman had just traveled 6,000 miles from his office in Munich for weeklong meetings with “corporate” in Los Angeles. While most people scramble for chargers and underwear the night before travel, I laughed at the thought of this kindly bloke deciding to bring his shiny keepsake along for the journey. “Ah, yes! Mustn’t forget my smashing mask.”

That’s a fan. Thanks for the memories, Daft Punk.

First published on November 6, 2013

13 things I learned in France

2012-paris-montage

The story first published to blakesnow.com in the fall of 2012

With the help of two babysitting grandmas, a good job, and lots of decisiveness, Lindsey and I vacationed in Paris this year for her birthday. It was our first time to Yurp. (And I thought Boston was old!)

Travel bragging aside, I learned several things on the trip, including a few reoccurring generalizations. They are as follows: Continue reading…

The secret to life is working to death, experts say

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.

“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.

Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.

“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…

Want better relationships? Avoid these 6 common “love busters”

Knowing the 5 love languages has greatly improved my marriage and other relationships. Since first being introduced to it many years ago, my wife and I have significantly enhanced our communication.

I didn’t learn about the 6 love busters until last night, however, while attending a local charity meeting. They are as follows: Continue reading…

Don’t aim for success. If you persist, it will find you.

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Nina Matthews

If you insist on setting 5, 10, or 30 year goals in life, you’re gonna have a bad time.

The reason: Long-terms goals are mostly arbitrary and futile. Since life is full of surprise, setting specific expectations for it largely results in a feeling of failure.

In other words, “Don’t aim at success,” writes Viktor Frankl in his seminal Man’s Search For Meaning. “The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.”

This has certainly been the case in my life. Continue reading…

Why NOW is the most important time

Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This issue of the Offline Newsletter is brought to you by Leo Tolstoy.

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

Several learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently (e.g. advance planning, multi-tasking, mentoring, high-ranking people, science, warfare, religion).

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.  Continue reading…

My proven guide to dumping and avoiding fake friends

Real friends

Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.

This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. This saddened me. Time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.

With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…

Went skydiving today. Didn’t die.

It only took me a few minutes to fall 10,000 feet, but I didn’t really come down for another couple of hours. That’s the best way to describe my first time skydiving. That and recognizing it as one of the greatest physiological sensations I’ve ever endeavored.

On a royal blue morning recently, I drove forty minutes south of my home to Skydive the Wasatch in Nephi, Utah. I was greeted by Andrew the drop manager, Jordan my instructor (or more accurately the person I’d strap my life to), and Joel the pilot.

Free snacks, a row of leather sofas, and caffeinated drinks lined the open hanger in an effort to ease or at least distract the nerves of would-be jumpers. Just outside, an old Cessna plane came to life to take a woman in her forties and her friend in her twenties on their first and second respective dives. While waiting for their quick return, I signed and initialed the longest waiver I’ve ever seen without reading a single line of legalese.

“Are you ready?” Jordan asked with a friendly smile. I honestly answered in the affirmative, and then he explained the safety and protocol procedures. “The whole experience takes about 25 minutes,” he said. “Twenty minutes to climb, around half of minute to free-fall, and three or four more to parachute down.” Continue reading…

How I got to where I am today

Until I get around to writing a condensed, more interesting story, here’s a chronology of mostly personal events:

bskids.jpg

1979. Born in Moscow, Idaho to goodly parents named Brent and Cathy Snow as the fourth child of six and second son in the family. Moved to Oklahoma one month later.

1985. Started my formal education at Westwood Elementary School in Stillwater, Oklahoma while my father taught psychology at Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!). Said formal schooling would last me 17 consecutive years (gulp) across three state programs.

1986. Exposed to my first home computer and modern video game console after my mother bought a colored IBM PCjr and some neighborhood friends scored a Nintendo Entertainment System. The love affair with technology, personal computers, and video games had begun.

Continue reading…

How my daughter inspired me to plank for 5 minutes

My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”

Or so I told myself.

Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.

“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere.  Continue reading…

How to travel a seemingly divided world

This story first appeared in Paste Magazine after the heated election of President Trump

I just returned from an extraordinary hike through Patagonia’s great outdoors (review here). When I left, the world was collectively bracing itself for a politically incorrect and hugely unpredictable man to assume America’s highest office. Two weeks later, I returned to a world that was deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s hasty, religiously-profiled, and arbitrary American hold on accepting immigrants and visitors from seven Middle East countries.

Seemingly overnight, the world had become a more isolated and divided place. In uncertain times like this, it’s best to batten down the hatches, stay inside and keep to our own, right? At most, whirl a few zingers on social media from the comforts of home maybe?

While I can’t do anything for the millions affected by the travel ban and am hesitant to recommend visiting unwelcoming or otherwise hostile places, my answer is an emphatic “NO!” Continue reading…

How this movie scene changed my life

Courtesy Disney/Pixar

Many years ago, Disney released a Pixar film that had a profound impact on the course of my professional life.

At the time I was a full-time video game critic for several online magazines. I had a knack for raking mediocre games and announcements over the coals. I gained a reputation for publishing smart but scathing copy. Back then, I felt it was my job, if not duty, to critique everything I touched as if the orbit of the Earth depended on it.  Continue reading…

How “rocking too hard” can sometimes be a good thing

Courtesy Michael Buckner/Getty

Prior to graduating from college, I played drums in a trio band. We mostly played Killers, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Led Zeppelin covers in our bassist’s basement. We maybe played once a week for a month or so and didn’t even have a proper name. But we still wanted to rock.

Anxious to play a live set, we caught wind of an “Acoustic Battle of the Bands” to be played at BYU’s 22,000 seat capacity Marriott Center. I remember thinking, “Who says we can’t rock that? It says ‘acoustic,’ not low energy or slow tempo.” So we traded our electric guitar for an acoustic/electric and proceeded to tryouts that were being held in some small theater room in the English building.

Upon arrival, we were clearly out of place. As we lugged our full drum kit, half stack bass rig, and guitar amp down the hall, dozens of Dave Mathew wannabes practiced three chord love songs in squeaky voices to admiring girlfriends. My opinion of humanity worsened a little that day. But I digress. Our name was called, we entered the room and setup stage.

Continue reading…

See the movies at 5 famous film destinations

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

You are bound to encounter a noticeable number of people in life who don’t watch TV, avoid books, or ignore performance art and sports altogether. But you’ll probably never encounter someone who doesn’t watch movies—they’re that universal.

Because of this, film tourism (or “location vacations”) are a big deal. Indeed, an untold number of scenic or otherwise interesting places might not have entered our collective radars had some movie director chose to shoot somewhere else.

Of those immortalized backdrops, few trips are more iconic or deserving than to one of these. Continue reading…

How money often prevents us from seeing the big picture

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston

A businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one humble fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.

The businessman complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The onlooker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s needs. “What do you do with the rest of your time?” the man pressed.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll the village each evening, sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos,” the fisherman replied. “I live a full life, señor.” Continue reading…

What’s in a name? What I learned staying in Trump’s #1 rated hotel

Before taking office, the vast majority of U.S. presidents were lawyers. President Trump, on the other hand, was a real estate developer, TV star, and hotelier of 14 properties—some of which by name-only.

One of those properties is Trump Waikiki. On a recent trip to Oahu I stayed there because at the time of booking and during my stay, Trump Waikiki was the number one rated hotel out of 84 in Honolulu, according to TripAdvisor.

That alone piqued my interest, as did the political novelty. But the real reason is because I was being hosted by the hotel in the hopes that I would write about it. And here we are. Not because I was contractually obligated to. In my capacity as a travel writer, I never guarantee coverage, meaning if I feel something doesn’t deserve your attention—even shiny freebies—I don’t write about it.

Why am writing about this shiny freebie then? Continue reading…

5 things I learned after visiting New Zealand

There’s solemn appreciation whenever I tell someone I’m headed to New Zealand. “Oh, wow!” they say. “My [insert relation] has traveled the world and that’s their favorite place.”

That reputation isn’t lost on me. But I wanted to know for myself—what’s so special about this two-island nation near the bottom of the world?

For one thing, it’s a long way away. Up to 10,000 miles for most people. In my case, it was 14 hours one way by jet. But after visiting both islands this month, I’d travel twice that number to visit New Zealand again. Here’s why. Continue reading…

The time I hiked Patagonia with National Geographic

It took the world a long time to discover Patagonia, the trendy adventure area shared by both southern Chile and Argentina. While other mountaineers had been hiking and climbing the Alps and Rockies for over a century, Patagonia wasn’t explored much until the 1980s. In fact, the recreational area didn’t become mainstream until the 21st century, when more accessible transportation, lodging and tourist amenities were finally added.

What’s all the fuss about? In between knife-like mountains, this is arguably the best place in the world to see moving glaciers. It is also a great place to meet gentle but playful people.

Last month I had the chance to examine this hauntingly majestic land up close on a guided tour with National Geographic Expeditions, the society’s official tour operator. Spoiler alert: it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what I witnessed hiking to what some call South America’s greatest “national park.” Continue reading…

Backed by science: 14 ways to boost your productivity

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of productivity myths. For instance, early birds are more productive, structure kills creativity, adding resources increases output, and more. Although well intentioned, these are all wrong.

So what works? What productivity hypotheses have been tested and proven by science? After sifting through dozens of top search results, reports, and studies, this is what I found. The most convincing, substantiated, and established productivity strategies:  Continue reading…

Why my bad diction didn’t stop me from becoming a writer

inconceivable

“The Princess Bride” 20th Century Fox

As a writer, I sometimes get reader mail.

Most of it relates to typos. Some of it relates to disagreement or additional viewpoints. On occasion, I even get fan mail—how lovely.

As for typo-related mail, most of that is really nice. “Hey, Blake. Enjoyed your story on [insert popular story here]. Noticed a typo, however, and thought I’d share.”

Some of it gives me the benefit of the doubt. “Hi, Blake. Perhaps your spellcheck mistakenly changed ‘espoused’ to ‘expelled’?”

“No, kind reader,” I’ll reply. “My bad diction stuck again. Thanks for keeping me honest.”

Still, some of the mail I receive is unforgiving. As if my mistakes should disbar me from contributing to mainstream media. As if I should master English before using it to articulate a point, tell a story, answer a question, or inspire change.  Continue reading…

Open letter to the underdressed lady from Gallup, New Mexico

While on vacation this summer, my family stayed at a Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico.

At breakfast the following day, my five year old daughter couldn’t stop gawking at an under-clothed woman seated at the table next to us. “Why is that lady showing her belly?” she loudly inquired. A little embarrassed, Lindsey and I told her to stop starring and eat her breakfast.

Admittedly, I think everyone in the room was a little uncomfortable and probably judgmental. But for the most part, everyone carried on and we had an enjoyable breakfast.

As we were finishing up, the lady approached our table. Looking at Lindsey and I with a gentle smile, she said, “You have a beautiful family.” She then turned and offered the same smile to each of our four children. It was the nicest compliment and gesture anyone has paid to me all summer, if not all year.

So thank you lady from the Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico. Thank you for your unexpected example of kindness, friendship, and reminding my family never to judge a book by its cover.

Originally published on October 26, 2012

Fascinating research on correcting dishonesty

Via Business Insider:

How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%? Would they do it in order to be 4% legal? It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.

This is where confession and amnesty can come into play. What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely. This is the bad news. The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.

First published November 5, 2012

How to stay focused in a 24/7 world

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

Humans are more distracted now than ever before, at least since we’ve started keeping records. Over the last decade, the average attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2014, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. The kicker: our eight second attention spans are one second shorter than a goldfish’s. No joke.

Who or what’s to blame for such abhorrent focus? “External stimulation,” says the Library of Medicine. That’s code for mobile internet, apps that vie for our attention, push email, social media alerts, work from anywhere, persistent connectivity, and our enthusiastic adoption of “the internet of things.” In other words, the only person we can blame is ourselves.

What’s a working professional to do then? You have three options, according to popular thinking: fall off the grid, stick with default technology settings for substandard productivity, or my personal favorite, set usage boundaries to upgrade concentration, contributions, and welfare levels.

For those interested in options one or two, this article won’t be any help. But for for those interested in the latter, there’s quite a lot you can do to stay focused in a 24/7 world. After extensive online research, here is the most celebrated and pragmatic advice for doing just that:  Continue reading…

Top 10 ways to fix content marketing

Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.

Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.

That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…

Hey, who spilled bad acting on my soccer?

img2For the next month, soccer fans watching the World Cup will see more fake injuries than any amount of magic spray could possibly cure. And by fake I mean diving, flopping, conniving—temporarily feigning injury in an effort to draw an advantageous ruling on the field.

Although seen in international soccer with regularity, diving during the World Cup happens in greater frequency because the stakes are higher. (This is the world championship, after all, held once every four years.) And when the stakes are higher, cowardice teams will employ anything they can for an edge.

“In the British game, it is often seen as an import from foreign players,” says psychologist Paul Morris, who studies diving at the University of Portsmouth. “Many people argue that it has been common in Italian football for decades.” Continue reading…

Eight stories I wish you would read

true-love

A client recently asked for links to some of my favorite personal writings. This is what I sent him:

Photo credit: Sara Snow

You’re never too busy for people

Courtesy Shutterstock

I have found, as many before me, that with age comes added responsibility and a much larger to-do list. I’m arguably busier than I’ve ever been in my life with managing a marriage, a new baby, a company, and working on several other projects. Opportunity surrounds us, and I want to take it all in. I hope to learn, experience, and do as much as I can (or even can’t sometimes) throughout my life. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and finding other ways of applying the little that I know.

While pondering all of this on my way to Salt Lake City this morning and after catching myself saying “I’m so busy,” to those around me, I couldn’t help but think how this claim might sound to the receiver. Does that phrase add any value to the person listening? Does that make them feel important? If it doesn’t, then do away with it. Continue reading…

Chief “what” officer? Corporate titles explained

What do all those silly corporate titles really mean? Let’s find out.

According to Wikipedia, the Chairman (of the board) is pretty much the top dog. He elects the CEO and President who then elect the rest of the down line. The Chairman and the rest of the board are more concerned with governance while the CEO and President are more concerned with management. The distinction between governance and management allows for clear lines of authority with the aim being to prevent a conflict of interest and too much power being concentrated in the hands of one person.

The President can also be known as COO or chief operating officer, taking care of the day-to-day operations of the company while the CEO is more concerned with strategic management. The President or COO report directly to the CEO, and the CEO to the board.

These titles are generally used for large, public corporations, while partners (chair persons) and directors (managers) are typically used for smaller, private firms. There you have it.

Originally published Oct 21, 2005