Elephants in the Room

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I had the pleasure and honor to shoot a part in Elephants in the Room a few months back. The trailer is above.

I’ll let you check out the trailer to learn more, but the subject matter is so timely and relevant. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to check out the full length when it hits full release.

My Top Ten Finds in 2015

The following are my top ten finds in 2015, so far:

  1. Personality differences between entrepreneurs and employees –http://read.bi/1vOZdQ6
  2. The stability trap – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stability-trap-carmen-medina
  3. Why telemedicine’s time has finally come – http://onforb.es/17EawVP
  4. World’s most romantic cities – http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/worlds-most-romantic-cities/25
  5. Building the chest through exercise – http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/anarchy-chest-workout
  6. Risks leading to reward – http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243061
  7. Jazz vs. Symphony – http://on.bcg.com/1hi5LVj
  8. Will Uber make your job obsolete – http://cnn.it/1FumHQf
  9. Academic economics, strengths and weaknesses – http://bit.ly/1HOwfGS
  10. Lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s – http://bit.ly/1CVmdUh

 

5 Questions with Jim Mitchem, Author of Minor King

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This is the first time I’ve interviewed a novelist. It’s a special treat for me because I’ve been influenced and encouraged by Jim Mitchem’s writing for some time. Minor King is his first novel and its a fine read. Enjoy!

 

Was there an “a-ha” moment when you decided you had to write Minor King?

Like the main character in the book, I’d been mulling a novel for a while. But over the last decade my life had become pretty busy, and I couldn’t focus long enough for clean, contiguous thought. Over the years I’d started a lot of long-form stories, and had files full of ideas, but nothing grabbed my interest enough to commit to the sacrifice necessary to finish a novel. That is, until the ending of Minor King occurred to me. When that happened, I knew that I had a special story. So essentially, I wrote Minor King in reverse.

The main character, Jim, experienced a lot of pain and tough roads. Why’d you shape him this way?

Minor King is written in the roman à clef style. Which means that it’s loosely based on my own life. Many of the struggles that the protagonist, Jim Christianson, faces are actually part of my own personal story. As a result, and because I’ve written about some of these personal trials on my blog, some of my friends have had a hard time separating reality from fiction.

I felt that it was necessary to include a deep backstory to reinforce a few important ideas. First, America is the land of opportunity. Most of us believe that all you have to do is work hard, pay your dues, and keep your nose clean and you can go as far as you want here. Or so, that’s what they tell us. By establishing the rags-to-riches backstory, or rather in Christianson’s case, rags-to-middle-class, the reader is able to attach empathy to the plight of the protagonist because we’re all in the same boat. I also wanted to give the reader a deep reference point to how far the character came to get to where he is in life so that the ending comes as a surprise. Finally, I used his painful past as a way to reinforce the idea of Christianson’s faith. God pulls him from the clutches of suicide, after all.

The dynamic between Jim and his partner/boss is pretty intense. Was this type of relationship one you could relate to?

Absolutely. A few years ago I decided to throw myself into a startup with the same kinds of goals that Christianson had with his own endeavor. Every character in the book but one is based on real life relationships I’ve had. Including the relationship between Christianson and his boss, Matthew LeCure. Granted, this is where the fiction really takes hold. My business partner in real life was not nearly the selfish person that LeCure is. Creating a hatable antagonist was a fun exercise, and important to keeping the reader interested.

Were there any underlying influences in writing the novel? 

I was a Literature major in college. From Dickinson to Faulkner, and Chopin to Márquez, we spent a lot of time deconstructing the classics. Even the Bible. As a result, I learned how great writers spoke to the reader on different levels. First, there’s the obvious storyline. But just below the surface were clues to other concepts. Secrets, really, that affect your subconscious. In Minor King I employed this technique, albeit on a more rudimentary level, throughout the story. For example, all the times referenced in the book directly correlate to verses from a specific book in the bible. A book which one of the main characters is named.

I also felt like the overall feel of King was something like a tragic, modern American story. Having studied The Great Gatsby in school, because it’s the prototypical tragic American novel, I modeled one of the characters in Minor King after an icon from Gatsby. Think yellow-rimmed glasses. And for the record, I hated The Great Gatsby.

What’s one big take-away you’d like readers to get from reading Minor King?

It’s been really interesting to see how people have interpreted Minor King. Some people have gravitated to the idea of the oppressive machine that we all seem to be a part of in America. For others, the gross inequity of wealth distribution has resonated. Still others have latched onto the concept of our dreams passing us by. And while all of those themes are important, I wrote this story around the idea of faith. Faith to do that which doesn’t seem possible. Faith in a power greater than ourselves. Faith in our dreams. Though with how the story ends, it could be interpreted that faith is the final phase of madness.

 

jmitchem

Jim Mitchem is a copywriter who found his way into advertising via a dirt path on the outskirts of society. Born with no obvious talent, Jim began writing at a young age as a way to lasso the stories that ran circles in his mind. Dismissed as folly when he shared them, he gave up writing for drinking at the age of 17. After a stint in the USAF, and armed only with a pen and looseleaf paper bound by elastic, Jim meandered through the US until he awoke in a gutter in New York City in 1991. His life and his writing have improved significantly since giving up booze. And while he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence, he does consider it damn ironic.

Minor King is his debut novel.

 

You Are the Disruption

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, disruption is the groovy thing to be in. VCs dream of it (the success part anyway), designers and developers are pushing to make it happen. I have a little different take.

You are the disruption.

I’m really sick of hearing about the latest and greatest gadget that will revolutionize life as we know it. Disruption and advancement are great, but if we don’t see a change in human behavior, it will be a complete and utter waste of time.

Humans are moving backwards, technology is moving forward = not sustainable.

What is being left in the dust are the choices of life. I really wish the schools would require courses in life management. Imagine what an impact that would be! No judgements here, but we suck at making good-to-great choices. I think average would describe our best day.

Ok, I’m ranting! Now, let me give you a concrete example:

Diabetes is near epidemic in the U.S., Type 2 most applicable here. The diagnosis of the disease is typically related to obesity. The main causes are rooted in diet choices and lifestyle (sedentary behavior) choices. These choices are cannot be separated from the outcomes (heart disease, stroke, cancer, and amputations). Ironically, we refuse to turn around.

I sat in a meeting with the head of diabetes research for a large university a few weeks back. In that meeting, the development of a pill to combat the accumulation of visceral fat was described. If you didn’t know it, visceral fat is the killer fat because it accumulates around our organs. In so many ways, the research is focused on developing a pill to fix what we refuse to do for ourselves. We’ve seen the enemy.

So here’s a real disruption; join me in making choices that shake up ourselves. No more blaming the President, the tea party, our parents, our employer, you get what I mean. You might even start a ripple.

This is a big deal, friends.

 

Adam Scott Goldberg

Giving a big shout out to Adam Scott Goldberg. Adam has graciously granted me access to his wonderful photography talents. Many of the photos I’ve used in last few months are courtesy of him.

You can find his work here.

New Book Excerpt

I’ve been hard at work on the next book and waned to share an excerpt. Enjoy!

Day 2

 Began this day rushing out to make a 7:00 AM meeting. I made two major errors in that process. The first, was not checking my blood sugar before heading out. Damn! The second was playing a subtle game of chicken on the ride into downtown. The driver in the left lane was traveling at a mind numbingly slow pace. I entered the right lane to pass and the driver decided to accelerate, knowing I had a car in front of me. My speed did what was needed. Stupid on my part, for sure.

As I make my way down the road, I regret. Going over it in my mind again and again, I realize what I could have lost. As I get closer to the appointment, I reset with 3 deep breaths and move to what my client will need.

 We begin our session and the energy comes. I wonder if John knows what I take away from our sessions. As his coach, I give him what he needs. I’m struck by the learning and inspiration I gain.

Our conversation closes on the subject of mindfulness. This is an area we’ve placed a lot of focus on. I tell him about a friend of mind, who happens to be named John, who exclaimed that we have to turn the volume down in our heads, in order to hear God’s voice. He offers an analogy (one that helps him) around a group of divers in the Atlantic. These divers were on a mission to find a sunken German U-Boat. In the area they were in, visibility was lacking, and made worse if you stirred up something 200 feet below. If the latter happened, it was vital to be still. Did you get that, be still. Being still allowed the elements to settle and allow visibility to return. We both agreed that’s what mindfulness does for us, if we let it. As we walk back to our cars, I am energized.

Back at my home office, I begin the follow up communications relating to my dual entrepreneur life. This day, I’m not super happy about that. I pray for remembrance of the things I read in my bible earlier. Real life, real living, epic living, and above all thankfulness.

 Preparing for lunch, I’m pleased that I was able to find organic blueberries. Glad we’re heading into spring and summer. Availably goes with this reality. My yogurt, blueberry, raw nut lunch is complete.

 Later in the afternoon I get an email from a participant in a talk who wants to meet and learn more. She seems like an interesting person, so I’ll book something for next week. I also hear from someone that I don’t trust. This individual reminds me of how much harm can be done by those who wear the coat of goodness. I take the high road and don’t burn the bridge.

The mad rush to get my son fed before basketball practice begins. I’m not feeling good about the food choices. I remind myself not to get on a soapbox. The beauty of all of this is having a sit down dinner with Eileen. Unexpected and good for my soul. We spend 45 minutes together and it feels like hours. I am blessed.

A Survey

As I work diligently on adding more ways for you to engage with Epic Living, and even provide e-commerce options to the Epic Living experience, I could use your help. Go here to take a new Epic Living survey on wellbeing. It’s brief and the survey won’t take more than 5 minutes to complete.

Your opinion matters to me and it will help shape future experiences inside the Epic Living community. Thanks for taking time to give me your feedback.

 

 

5 Questions with Dirk Knemeyer of Facio

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Dirk Knemeyer, founder of Facio. Always love the conversations I have with Dirk. So happy to finally share one of those with you. Enjoy!

 

What trends are you seeing in how organizations and employees are engaging via mobile and desktop technology?

The shift from “company phones” to allowing employees to use their personal phones for company business has been a big one. That was largely driven by the iPhone, where executives sort of strong-armed IT into allowing it and has trickled down through companies in the years since. Also, the rapid adoption of iPads and other tablets has been a bit of a surprise. The result of both these things is a surprisingly rapid shift toward major enterprise apps behaving with mobiles and tablets either in a truly native way or with experiences that are “as-if” native. This opens up rich possibilities for people to work differently. So many of us, for decades now, have sat behind a desk at a computer. Now that it is no longer structurally necessary we are also learning about how bad sitting all day is on our bodies, especially our hearts. So this is a moment where technology enables companies to re-think how knowledge workers actually work at a time where the physical damage our work does to us is being scientifically understood. So I think the workplace proliferation of alternative computing technologies will accelerate a trend toward non-traditional work environments such as from home and shared spaces. It should be fun to see.

 Can an individual, inside or outside of work, use your technology to measure and track their personal growth?

Yes. We designed Facio for both personal and professional use. On the personal side, each day you can record your happiness, effectiveness, and how well you are getting on with others. It is like a “quantified self for behavior”. Professionally, we have a wider range of 360 tools where both yourself and those you work with can report on your behaviors, skills and natural preferences. Viewing your data over time is an important part of the story, to help you understand yourself and those important to you. It is all web-based so, unlike other similar tools you may have taken now-and-then, this lets you and anyone you give permission to view really nice graphics showing a slice of who you are.

 What’s the biggest obstacle in using technology to improve performance in life and work?

Commitment. Using software to improve performance shares a lot psychologically in common with things such as a workout regiment or diet. If it becomes a habit and you are committed to that it is fantastic. But it is easy for people to forget, or miss some time, and just not get back fully into it. For those that do, though, the impact on their lives is profound.

What inspired you to start Facio?

I’ve never fit in. I was a high school drop out, sent to reform school. I became an entrepreneur because after a couple of years at a company I simply didn’t fit any more, quitting or getting fired out of restlessness, essentially. I was married at 18 and divorced at 25. All of this happened because I didn’t understand who I was. The culture, the education system…forget that it is not designed for someone like me. It did not even give me knowledge as to who I was, why I didn’t fit in, and where perhaps I could fit.

I’m an extreme example, but look at the work world. More than 70% of people are not engaged in their jobs. That is real research, from Gallup. Engaged employees work harder, work better, and are generally happier in their personal lives as well. The fact that less than 30% of us are engaged is literally a tragedy. It is lives that could and should be happier. It is companies that are getting far less from the people they are paying. This is not rocket science; it is solvable. I want to solve it.

You’re an entrepreneur who has succeeded on more than one venture, what’s been your greatest lesson learned?

“Greatest” is always a hard one. I think it is the importance and value of business partners. I’ve had at least one co-founder in every venture I’ve ever done. The ones that have been least successful are those where one of the principals is less involved. The times I’ve had my greatest success is when it is two or three people who are “all in” and working together as a team toward the shared goal. For me, at least, it is simply essential.

 

Beginning with his university training and culminating in 18 months of extensive research building up to the launch Facio, founder Dirk Knemeyer is certified in the MBTI®, Hogan Assessments®, Everything DiSC® and the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument®, and has made understanding the human condition his personal passion. In addition, Dirk has worked at the vanguard of the software industry. He is the co-founder of Involution Studios, which has carved out a reputation as a best-of-breed choice for companies who aspire to offer the best apps in the world.