So, I am not a singer...at all. Yes, I participated in choir for two years in junior high, but I limit myself to singing alone in the car or my room. That said, I LOVE music. I get really excited about what you can do with a song, the kind of story and community you can build with what you sing.
As songs are poems, I present you my very humble attempt (be gentle) to sign a short verse.
I have seen other blogs who have posted a poem, painting, or other piece of art everyday for a certain duration of time. I thought I would experiment with that concept to understand what that was like and how that influenced the writing. So, my first day of my 100 Days, 100 Poems begins now.
Waves to Mountains
November 24, 2009
Life is only long, When we decide to walk The widest road over and over, The great hills, and golden valleys.
Life is only sad If we find the loneliest place and take a seat. And love appears In our drunken dreams.
Life is only tender In the moments of softness, where crisp and blue waves show the light.
Life only appears, In an open field. Only in the mountains, Can a man find His place.
Those who never Search deep and outside The city lines, Are sure to find a road That never wends.
I just found a new chip company called Food Should Taste Good. I picked up a bag of Sweet Potato chips, which are a tortilla chip made with sweet potatoes. The ingredient list is printed in size 14 font and has 8 ingredients which include thinks like Sea Salt, Corn Bran, and Stoned Ground Corn. The snack is also certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. The chips have 11% of your daily fiber, are trans fat and cholesterol free and not genetically modified.
The company has a pretty neat concept going with their website. In addition to information on their flavor of chips, they also have a list of recipes which are good pairings with the chips. Right now there isn't much of a community component, but I can easily see the recipe section really being something people could get into.
I got thinking myself and whipped up some home-made raspberry/blackberry jam for spreading on the Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip. It was surprising, who puts jam on chips-but a really sweet and salty snack.
Sarah's Rasblackberry Jam
1 small box of blackberries
1 small box of raspberries
2 cups of raw sugar or granulated sugar
1 cup of water
Put everything together in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a very little simmer and cover. Let contents of pot become a thick syrup. Pour into a jar or container and refrigerate for 24 hours.
FOOD! Now I always have been an eater like most, eating three meals a day, buying packages in the grocery store and approaching food in a superficial way.
So, I moved out to the Bay area two years ago and I have started to run into the topic of food frequently. Whether it was the farmers market in Berkeley, the movie festival on food sustainability in Fairfax, or passing the local community garden-it became clear that people approached food way different out here.
Berkeley is known for its talented chef base located in the city's Gourmet Ghetto. Berkeley is the kind of town were showing up to a dinner party with anything but home-made is passe. Its a bunch of foodies and small-time home farmers. Because of their closeness to the process people really treat the whole experience differently.
So I started eating less meat. For about a month I experienced being vegetarian. It really added a new layer onto what food meant and how it could be utilized. Since then I have added back certain types of meat including poultry and fish, but eat them sparingly (3 times a week).
For me, there was a shift in perspective towards food being fuel and the source of all communities, really taking the time to slow down and make different types of decisions.
So, here are a few places to take a look. I think curiosity often brings about unexpected changes...
I recently wrote about the principles of partnership and trust when approaching traditional climbing. As I mentioned, many of those ideas were given to me by a friend and experienced “trad” climber. At the time, being an astute and thoughtful person I could imagine those principles at work and thus had the integrity to write about them…even though I had yet to do a “trad” climb.
A month ago, I followed my first multi-pitch climb. After scaling 800 feet, over beers and grub, my partners and I discussed my principles at work. It wasn’t until that moment I bared even just a glimpse of what it meant to trad climb. There is much still to learn, yet the can I opened that day seems full of realizations.
So, now with a bit more wisdom I revisit the things I wrote about several months ago…
Don’t go tradin’ with anyone you don’t trust. This became glaringly apparent during my six-hour climb. The amount of trust you place on each other-your partner-is immense. Yet, it is important to note on a two person climb-one spends much time alone merely connected by a rope to his or her partner. The intimacy of that relationship transforms the dynamics between people. I would not want to imagine a situation where I was intensely questioning what my partner was doing. Of course, like with all our relationships, there will be healthy moments of questioning. However, if you don’t fundamentally trust their judgment…s$#% can hit the fan.
It is better to be afraid around people who will understand. Like many of our multi-pitch climbs something goes wrong-it’s life, it’s inevitable. We happened to misread the guide and ended up embarking on a four-hour, epic like descent. I believe I experienced every emotion a human has in that one day-and to my interest-I was able to keep composure while rappelling in the dark. Yet, at certain points throughout my day I just wanted to say, “Look guys-I am scared right now.” That release makes things seem doable-just in the face of acknowledging the reality there becomes a certain level of clarity. It is critical to be with people you can express that to and find comfort in their empathy.
Don’t lead jack for a while, just follow. I knew before, but NOW really can see some of the complexity inherent in traditional climbing. The climbing is only part of the story. The knowledge, experience, and attitude related to trad climbing safely takes years to develop. That development never stops refined with each new experience. I plan to follow many more climbs before I seriously consider leading anything. It really becomes a step processes in learning techniques, practices, safety precautions that are related to the adventure. It can feel overwhelming, yet as in all of life taking things one step at a time with confidence gets you to the top.
Learn to be unselfish and manage your expectations. In a world of “me” I think it becomes unconscious how much we think of ourselves. It is also partly a survival thing. But how often do we accurately look outside ourselves and manage our expectations based on those other factors? I would argue, not enough. It isn’t just about just lowering our expectations, but also raising them based on trust and confidence. The important highlight is really in the perception needed to accurately accomplish that. Even our expectations towards the mountain and climb are impacted by this principle.
It is easy to just want to tend to your own project-but it’s always fulfilling to support others in accomplishing theirs. One of my partners and I joke-this was the weekend I truly became his sister. After six hours of climbing, minimal food…we were tired. Many of the rappels were nerve racking and his experience with them was limited. I made the decision to let him go first after our leader. It wasn’t my first choice to be honest-but something perked up in me and said be the big sister. I felt really accomplished and actually thanked him. It was fulfilling to help someone to success.
So, all this talk makes me want to climb another multi-pitch...good thing I am booked for Yosemite this weekend. It does become quite addicting...
The essence of community is relationships. Whether it is a community of friends, co-workers, or between two partners. A community is composed of relationships held together by a glue of common vision and passion. While this concept may seem simple, there is a layer of complexity involved due to the dynamics innate in individuals.
Many of you know I am an avid climber, so with that I continue the theme of wisdom found in climbing, but applicable to life, community, and business. I have to admit this week’s set of wisdom was inspired by a conversation I had with a very talented climber and good friend.
The ultimate climbing experience, argued by many, is that of traditional climbing-which is known for short as “trad climbing”. Trad climbing is the act of climbing a route and leaving that route the same as you found through placing and then removing your own gear. Traditional climbing’s counter part is known as sport climbing, which uses permanent bolts placed in the rock for protection. The beauty and complexity of trad climbing is found in balancing the many components that come into play. You don’t have to worry just about climbing, but also carrying the gear, placing it, your partner’s alertness, and of course, reserving enough energy to finish the route.
My wiser counterpart is an experienced trad climber and in a recent conversation presented me-a newbie-some very philosophical advice. His advice fundamentally hits on the notion of partnerships and teams. Everyday we experience the obstacles that arise when having to work with another to accomplish a common goal. It is often not in the static tasks, but rather the dynamic nature of humans that present the most challenges.
I encourage you to search and find how these principles are applicable to building culture and strength both in an online community and off-line community, like your company’s team. Don’t go tradin’ with anyone you don’t trust. Due to the complexity of trad climbing it is vital to choose a partner you can trust completely. Your life could very well be in their hands depending on what happens during the climb. If you are questioning your trust for them, you end up wasting energy distracted by worry and not on the activity at hand. This kind of trust can be a serious challenge to bring to any kind of team environment. Trust requires some level of risk, but at the end of the day it is this kind of complete trust that can lead climbers to a summit and businesses to legendary success.
It is better to be afraid around people who will understand. This was probably the most transformative statement my friend made about finding a climbing partner. When you are venturing into the unknown or staring at an impossible challenge, it is likely you may experience phases of fear and vulnerability. When you can share that burden and feel comfortable to expose yourself, it allows great relief and inspires confidence. One of the most powerful forces of community is in the notion that you aren’t alone; someone else ‘gets’ it. Gathering with people you can be authentic with presents an opportunity to know yourself in a more complete way. Teams, partners, and businesses experience cycles of good and bad-if you aren’t able to make it through the bad by communication and honesty you have nothing in the end.
Don’t lead jack for a while, just follow. This doesn’t mean to sit and wait, but rather to have humbleness and pay respect to what you do not know. If you are smart climber you seek out experienced individuals who can provide mentorship in the learning process. Trad climbing is just not something you should take lightly, based on the risk—death. By following you are able to explore and understand in a more protected environment. That said, general communities can and need to function in the same way. There are “elders” in all groups and those less experienced need to feel comfortable just following and embrace the idea of apprenticeship and learning. I think often initiative and leadership is solely identified with doing on your own. I think there is an error in this thinking—being a leader starts with learning.
Learn to be unselfish and manage your expectations. Climbing with a partner can become a delicate tight rope walk between what you want and what they want. While you may have a common end vision, it is certain that you could experience a different set of opinions on the ‘how’. This is were learning to act unselfishly and managing your own expectations can help reduce the amount of friction or animosity that might flare up between partners. Communication and maturity can be key players in acting as a unit every step of the way. Having the openness to hear one another and maturity to acknowledge expertise can bring your project to the next level. Often people shut down communication during times of stress or friction-this is the exact time you need it the most.
It is easy to just want to tend to your own project-but it’s always fulfilling to support others in accomplishing theirs. This principle is very much tied to learning to be unselfish. Working within a team setting requires some level of sacrifice. We all have experienced this at one time or another. You want your project to get priority, but know it is better for the company to proceed with another. You want to see a movie, but your spouse has their heart set on an art gallery opening. Become an individual who finds the joy in others happiness and success. This kind of action builds incredible trust and depth to our relationships within any community.
It’s true; I am having a love affair with Matt Ward (people call him M. Ward most times). He swept me off my feet. Yes, I fell straight on my bottom after I met him. It started off slow and sporadic and then he just became a regular in my life. After a bad day he is the only person I want to hear. He holds wisdom and an old soul, which makes him always know what to say. Matt has a way of putting things that send a light bulb off in my head.
The man I speak of is in fact found in the many CDs I own which feature him, most often strumming the guitar and slowly pouring out his voice. He is my favorite musician. Yes, I am in love with my music box’s speakers…
Art is a one of the most powerful drivers of story telling and community. Whether it is photography, music, or painting—the medium captures a human moment, which is often reflective and narrative. Because of this people often find a very personal and emotional connection to it that can inspire communities off and online. Ward now becomes more than an artist, but also a perfect subject matter in exploring the networking of communities across the web.
Subject matters that carry a personal and/or emotional meaning are the same ones, which inspire very passionate fanatics and subject experts (Like me). The kind of people that tell anyone and everyone about what they love. By dissecting part of M.Ward’s web across the Internet I can demonstrate in action what it means to be cross platform and you may start to see how it is in your best interest to leverage mediums that are and aren’t your own.
So, here we go….
Wikipedia If you don’t know about this site, you have a lot of catching up to do. A user generated online encyclopedia with a plethora of “Google Juice”. Find out some basics about my man, M.Ward. Take note that the “External Links” list on Matt’s page range from Facebook group pages to an unofficial fan website to NPR interviews. (Networking across web)
MySpace Okay, so forget the Myspace vs. Facebook debate. The one thing MySpace mastered is artist and music distribution/promotion opportunities. My sister, who works for Columbia Records, still reports that MySpace is a major mix when thinking about artist’s promotion. M.Ward can be embedded in “my” life and this is a real example of community integration. A listing of all his adoring fans can be found directly on his page, which makes my job of connecting with like-minded people easier. (Networking within community)
The Fancy Flash Everyone has there home and same goes for Mr. Ward. His deluxe site is visual candy through fancy flash and artistic flair that embodies M. Be warned these fancy flash sites don’t do well in the SEO world, which is part of the reason I found his through a paid search result. An interesting side note-upon reaching www.mwardmusic.com users have the choice to go to Ward’s “standard” site which is his MySpace page. (Networking between communities)
Google Says There are over 19 thousand results for “M. Ward” which is only the tip of the iceberg when you start thinking about the long tail. It pays to pay attention to your Google ranking, as well as know who the big dogs are when it comes to your product or topic. The search engine, Google, is one huge master connector. It’s the essence of aggregating and then networking people to that information.
You Tube You Tube is a video sharing site and vibrant community. Matt isn’t spared from the action. Videos of him from official to homemade are posted by adoring fans. This Pitchfork exclusive of Ward is posted on YouTube. Pitchfork is a popular music review and information site. (Networking content site to community site)
I could keep listing more and more from Buzznet to the blogosphere to lyric sharing sites to online magazines-but the point is this…a true community strategy would and should recognize a holistic community-that which exists across the Internet. A subject matter or topic lives across the web in many different places allowing individuals to explore deeper into information and conversation. By understanding your landscape you can both compete and leverage relationships to tap into groups of influencers you may have never known existed.
I can now look at Ward in a more complex and dynamic way, discovering new things in more than one place, which makes him more real in my life and in the communities I participate. And to think, this whole post started with a love affair…
I started rock climbing just about two years. Oddly enough, I actually learned in a very unlikely city gym during a bitter Chicago winter. The first time I went-I sucked. While I have always been an active person climbing was a challenge that wasn’t quickly overcome by my natural athletic talent.
Two years later and one move across the country I am now living in Berkeley and have found myself really embracing the climbing lifestyle and philosophy. Climbing is far from just an exercise-if you truly call yourself a “climber” you recognize the mental and spiritual components and the implication of this new perspective and set of values in your everyday life. You in essence become fully entrenched in the climbing way.
A month ago, I packed up my Subaru and headed to Bishop, CA with friends for an epic weekend of bouldering. “Boudlering” is climbing without ropes on large boulders and was introduced by legend John Gill back in the 1960s as training for traditional climbing. It has quickly earned a separate categorization in the sport and has experienced explosive growth. Bishop is a world-class climbing area about seven hours from Berkeley.
Our second day out I found myself standing at the bottom of a 50 foot boulder (what climbers term a “highball”) feeling excited, yet nervous. “Well, are you going to have at it?” my friend asked. I put my climbing shoes on and felt my stomach twist up in a knot. We all decided I could safety climb about twenty feet up and then make a decision to go the distance or jump down to the stack of crashpads and spotters. My dad always used to say “Go or get off the pot.” So, with his simple (and perhaps crude) wisdom echoing in my head-I walked towards the rock and headed up.
As I was climbing each move required total concentration, from bottom to top. The notion of looking up or down more than to find your next hold was silly. I had already spent a good ten minutes examining the direction of the route from the ground. Focusing on the now was necessary for a safe completion.
I got to the twenty-foot mark and kept going. The nerves grew stronger as I got higher. I kept telling myself-just breath, relax, and focus. I had made a mental decision to commit to the rock and failing was not even a thought in my head. The only way was up. As quickly as I started I reached the finish and pulled myself over the top. I walked to the middle of the boulder and looked out on the Sierra Mountains feeling more alive than I ever had before (figuratively and literally).
Okay, okay, so I know you are thinking This is great Sarah, but what the heck does this have to do with building online community or authenticity? My answer: More than you think. I mentioned before climbing is a lifestyle, and I have always been a firm believer that it holds many important life lessons that can be utilized personally and professionally.
So…here it goes:
The Climbing Truths A set of truths found in climbing but applicable to community and business.
• Fully Commit All good climbers know the minute you step on the rock has to be the same minute you commit fully to the climb. The same principles should be at work when you start a community. By fully committing you become 100% vested in the outcome. Therefore you start to take a holistic approach towards how community is integrated into other business processes and practices (i.e. product development, customer service, marketing). Further you become in tune to how community isn’t just an online property, but rather speaks to a larger philosophy around engaging and conversing with your consumers.
• See the Vision, but Focus on the Now Spend the time upfront understanding your goals and creating a vision to get there. In climbing this is called visualization and in business it’s called strategy. Once you have crafted your strategy internalize it (and sell it to everyone involved), so each step of the way it’s embedded in your actions. Once you begin focus on where you are in the community cycle and work to make each move conducive to your environment while simultaneously working towards your end vision. It’s okay to readjust the strategy as you move forward, heck-you need to be flexible, but your high-level goal should remain what roots you in the ground. Don’t waste time by not having truly done the work upfront. • Don’t Be Reckless Be honest with yourself about your limitations and ability. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but do so with caution and confidence. Climbers who act recklessly get hurt. Managers who act recklessly fail. By evaluating your resources, knowledge, and environment you are able to make decisions that work towards creating value for your organization and community. Finding “mentors” who know what you don’t is a smart idea. Leverage your networks to gain the experience you lack. Walk to the starting line with the right gear and honesty to set you up for success.
• Stay in Touch with Your Instinct Don’t underestimate your gut instincts, they can prove to be more valuable and accurate than people tend to think. This doesn’t mean to act on a whim, but rather to stay grounded in order to keep things on track and growing appropriately. This is also about the notion of keeping it simple and not building complexity for the sake of complexity. If you haven’t heard this before people are busy, overworked and bombarded constantly—stick to the point without spin, fluff, or hyper process. Bottom-line, don’t get carried away, keep it real, and plant your feet on the ground with your consumers.
_______________________________________________ Truths in Action....
Commit: Lego is an excellent example of being fully committed to their community of followers by totally involving them in product development and innovation on a regular and visible basis. Listen to a great interview from their social media expert.
Have a Vision: When Armen started ExperienceProject he had a vision to become the encyclopedia and largest archive for human experiences. Three years later there is well over one million life experiences documented. The success came from having a clear vision and executing in a way aligned with that goal.
Find Knowledge: Become an expert and learn from others by visiting resources like the Word of Mouth Marketing Associations’ website.
Stay in Touch: Twitter is an excellent example of a mechanism brands are using to stay in touch with their consumers in a very direct and real way. It allows you to capture the "pulse" of your community.
I went to a workshop at KQED in San Francisco on the topic of Digital Story Telling. My entire career I have worked in the web community space, yet had never heard of this movement and concept. The workshop was split between the creation of digital pieces and the their use in a cause or campaign.
I searched out an explanation of DST and found this on Wikipedia …
"Digital Storytelling" is an emerging term, one that arises from a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own 'true stories' in a compelling and emotionally engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.”
While the term is mostly being talked about in context of non-profits and social movements, I really started to see how applicable it was to the general market. Ask yourself why is social media so interesting? I believe it revolves around the concept of speaking from an authentic place to build relationships one-by-one with your customers, which in tern builds more relationships.
At the workshop they covered topics around using DST in policy campaigns, leveraging web communities, and educating people to use the technology to create pieces. The opening speaker commented on her belief that mobile will change the way people can tell stories (I personally believe mobile will turn Web 2.0 on it’s head but I think that’s a different post).
This is what I think web communities can learn from the Digital Story Telling movement…
• People are CRAVING Authenticity
If I could leave one piece of wisdom with my clients, it is to embrace and embody authenticity-whatever that means to their organization. It is my belief that people have a sixth sense these days for recognizing spin and they physiologically and emotionally shut down when they sense it. What am I getting at? The fact is people want something deeper and real from your brand’s voice. Tell your own story from somewhere deeper than numbers on a spreadsheet or Power Point presentations.
• Stories are a Powerful Force
Storytelling has been around for centuries—the notion of relaying moments to others through a communication mechanism (your mouth, a song, video). We as humans are connected through experiences, therefore sharing a story resonates with people on a human level, and through their relationship to it. That commonality between us can be a very powerful force to spread a message. This is where the essences of “viral” came from.
• Let People Tell Their Own Story
The one thing people hate the most is being told what to do. This is true in many areas of life, and how you talk to your consumers is one of them. Your customers are the reason you build products or provide services. Consumers hold the most powerful messages and information about who you are and who you are in their life. Those stories will inspire your consumer community and the general public. Give them the tools and platform to be creative, experimental, and vocal.
I know examples can help spark your own creative processes, so here are some places to start thinking about what this means to your organization.
Authenticity: The Wisdom Book is a project by Andrew Zuckerman to capture the wisdom of the older generation to be preserved and shared with the younger population. The simplicity and honesty of how the people are depicted makes it a great example of authenticity. The project includes a book, web, and film component.
The Power of Story: The Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” uses the framework of a story to depict the impact of body image and the media. They were able to create several short videos which delivered a punch of a message and therefore, they all went viral. The blend of controversy, yet empowerment was perfect. The campaign is a great example of using the art of story telling to depict a much “bigger” story (in this case about body image). Note: One requirement of content to be “viral worthy” is to be INTERESTING and/or CLEVER.
Let People Tell Their Own Story I met the founder of Dublit, John Yi, at the DST workshop. He runs a site that allows people to post and find auto recordings of short stories. The topical areas run from health to relationships to travel. If users don’t have accesses to recording equipment or devices, he hooks them up with professional voice recorders for a small fee. This is a stellar example of giving people the platform and technology to uniquely share and tell their story.