Joshua Wilner http://joshuawilner.com A Writer Writes Mon, 22 Sep 2014 03:14:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Write Something People Will Read http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/21/write-something-people-will-read/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/21/write-something-people-will-read/#respond Mon, 22 Sep 2014 03:14:13 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3819 “Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage […]

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“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The long time readers here might have noticed the content here is evolving and that the focus has changed a bit.

It is business as usual here but the focus isn’t just business any more.

Once upon a time this place was going to be where I showcased my knowledge and writing skills. It was supposed to give prospective clients and employers a place where they could get a better sense of what I bring to the table.

They’d come here and gain insight that would demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge about a variety of things, social media, P.R., marketing and writing but that is not working for me any more.

And I don’t think it is working for a lot of people either and it is not because I don’t have anything to offer.

The Reason Why Things Had To Change

It is because of the echo chamber and groupthink. It is because of a crowded and cluttered blogosphere combined with 109,878 shiny objects has led to content shock.

People are overwhelmed and bored so they are cutting back on what they read and where they comment and if you click on either of those links you’ll see I have been aware of that for a while.

Ask me why I didn’t adjust sooner and I’ll tell you it is because blogging is a marathon and I wanted to give it time to be certain it made sense to move.

I wanted to see how many people had the guff to stick it out and who had the gumption to make a run for it.

Not to mention I was concerned about whether changing would hurt the brand and image I was trying to build. Those of you who know me also know that I am good at holding firm during a storm but there comes a time when having a grip that would make a gorilla jealous is of little to no benefit so I let go of the branch.

Write Something People Will Read

The goal here is to write something people will read and the method to making that happen will be to open things up a bit and show more of my personality in my writing.

It is tied into why my Facebook posts sometimes include silly stories. Those stories are fun to write and they have served as an easy way to improve engagement on Facebook.

None of this will be much of a surprise to those who have read What Story Should You Tell or What Kind of Writer Are You and it is all tied into why I changed the theme here again.

You can expect some more changes to come soon. I plan on swapping out the stock photos in the background for my shots but I won’t do that until I have decided what those pictures should be.

It is worth mentioning that when I loosened things up and adjusted things traffic began growing. There are more readers, more pageviews and more time spent here than before.

Those are the kinds of metrics that businesses pay attention to and the kind that smart bloggers do too. It doesn’t mean you won’t see more serious posts here or that you won’t see any posts with a business focus because they’ll still show up.

But you’ll see a mix of silly and whimsical too and if I do my job you’ll have a place to visit that will be entertaining and educational. The net result should be good for everyone and if it is not, well I’ll just adjust things again.

That is part of the beauty of blogging, it is dynamic environment and it is not hard to change things.

What do you think?

“You can’t reach old age by another man’s road. My habits protect my life but they would assassinate you.”
– Mark Twain 70th birthday speech, 1905

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What Kind Of Writer Are You? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/18/kind-writer/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/18/kind-writer/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 05:47:40 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3798 The questions come fast and furious: What Kind of Writer Are You? How Would You Describe Yourself? Give Me a List of Your 5 Greatest Strengths & Weaknesses How Many Licks Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Tootsie Pop Would you rather be Gandalf or Luke Skywalker? Ok, I haven’t been […]

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Emerson Trail

The questions come fast and furious:

  1. What Kind of Writer Are You?
  2. How Would You Describe Yourself?
  3. Give Me a List of Your 5 Greatest Strengths & Weaknesses
  4. How Many Licks Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Tootsie Pop
  5. Would you rather be Gandalf or Luke Skywalker?

Ok, I haven’t been asked to answer number four or five but if they did I suppose I could and would come up with an answer. Ask me who has been asking these questions and I’ll point my finger at my daughter and some of her school friends.

I’ll tell you about how I showed up to pick her up and three little girls asked me whose daddy I was and when I answered replied, “oh you are a blogger/writer.”

That led to a follow up question from another who asked what is a blogger/writer to which I replied “a storyteller.”

The Benefits of Life Experience

A thousand years ago when I was a wee lad I never imagined that one day I would grow up to become a professional storyteller but that is probably because I was intent on becoming the left or center fielder for the Dodgers.

Or in the worst case scenario I imagined I could go play for the Angels. I wasn’t a fan of the American league but I figured they were still an LA team more or less and if I was playing for them maybe I might leverage a trade to the Dodgers.

All I needed was a chance to show them what I could do.

Thirty or so years later I am almost ready to concede that it is unlikely I’ll ever play for either team but hope dies eternal so I figure that maybe when I turn 50 I’ll convince one of them that they should sign me to a contract.

Got more than a few years before I turn 50 which means I have time to work on an angle that will do more than just intrigue them.

You can blame that on the joy of having lived a little bit because there is no substitute for life experience and that is what allows me to seriously think about how I might convince a team to sign me.

Some of that can also be attributed to having spent a large chunk of my professional career learning how to tell stories that would make prospective customers decide they needed to become customers of whomever I was working for.

The Advantage Of Being Part of Generation X isn’t just being the bridge generation between past, present and future. It comes from being a child during the Cold War and a college student when the wall fell.

It comes from watching friends go to war during Gulf War I and then graduating college during a recession and being called slackers who wouldn’t amount to much while hearing we wouldn’t be able to retire because there wouldn’t be Social Security.

It comes from being around to see the Dot-Com explosion and implosion. Maybe you were part of a start up that hit gold. Maybe you were part of one that went bust.

Either way you heard stories of contemporaries hitting the jackpot and you got to see the move into the 21st century complete with the digital tsunami that came with it.

The point isn’t to recite the history of the last twenty years or so although if I did it would just further illustrate my point that my generation has lived through the roller coaster we call life and most have come out the other side.

Old Shoulders, Young Heads & Imagination

I kid around about misanthropy being an under appreciated art but I really do find people fascinating. I find it to be interesting to think about our imaginations and whether they change/evolve with age.

Ask a five year-old if they can fly and they might say yes. They might tell you that they can grow wings or build a rocket harness and that will enable them to fly.

Try asking a 35, 45 or 60 year old and they might smile but they’ll probably say no. Ask them in a department meeting and or in front of their peers and there is a good chance they’ll be very careful not to give an answer that will embarrass them or make them look bad.

I get it. I understand because there are moments where I really hate looking stupid. There are moments where I am ridiculously self conscious but I hate that feeling so I tend to work hard to bury it.

Not for the purpose of being reckless but because I prefer to be the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to cross through the brush to leave a trail. Sometimes that leads me with scraped knees and aches and pains that were easier to work with when I was 20 but I can live with that.

Because one of the advantages of being part of Generation X is having learned to problem solve by taking action. But the other difference between now and when I was 25 is I have the benefit of life experience to rely upon. That is an understanding that a momentary pause doesn’t lead to paralysis but helps to avoid jumping out of the pan and into the fire.

What Kind Of Writer Am I?

I am the kind who is constantly looking to improve his craft and searching for more effective tools to do so. It is why there is a new theme here and why during the next week or so you might see more changes to how things look around here.

What kind of writer are you?

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Does Your Blog Need A Logo? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/15/blog-need-logo/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/15/blog-need-logo/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 21:36:26 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3762 Does Your Blog Need A Logo? The answer to the question is yes, your blog needs a logo. It needs some kind of image that helps distinguish it from the others. There is an awful lot of noise out there and if you want to memorable and recognized a logo can go a long way […]

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MISTAKE

Does Your Blog Need A Logo?

The answer to the question is yes, your blog needs a logo. It needs some kind of image that helps distinguish it from the others. There is an awful lot of noise out there and if you want to memorable and recognized a logo can go a long way to making that happen.

But bear in mind that it doesn’t replace the need for good content. Anyone who says otherwise is a damn fool and in need of my size 12 boot in their ass. How is that for a friendly sort of hello.

Ok, it is not very friendly and not particularly endearing unless of course you like grumpy forty something year-old men who blog about anything and everything. Did you know that the social media experts tell you that it is a mistake to do that.

Those exceptionally intelligent men and women think that readers are too stupid to read more than 120 words and that you have the attention span of gnats.

Why Are You Blogging?

If you are blogging for business and can’t answer that question we should probably sit down so that I can knock some sense into you. Why would you spend time doing something for work without knowing what it is you are doing and what you hope to accomplish.

That is just a waste and you should treat yourself better than to throw away your time like that.  This is important so I will type slowly for those who have trouble keeping up.

You need to know why you are blogging and what your objectives are because that is the only way you can determine whether your effort is successful. It is the only way that you can establish metrics that are usable, measurable and valuable.

I am not a social media expert. I am not the world’s greatest businessman. There are people who are smarter, richer, happier and a host of other ‘ers as well.

But we are not here to have a conversation about my strengths or weaknesses. No, we are here in part because I just finished walking three miles in 105 degree weather and I need to cool down before I jump in the shower.

Not to mention I stumbled across a post that repeated the canard that anyone can be successful at blogging because all you need to do is write and people will read.

In the midst of my skimming through that post I saw a line that suggested that it doesn’t matter if your blog looks like or reads like every other blog out there because search engine traffic will find your words and feed them to interested readers who will come and spend their valuable time on your non-descript, looks like everyone else and offers no distinguishing value blog.

I want to say I was reading a parody site but I wasn’t.

Useful Advice

You want a logo because it helps distinguish you from the crowd and is part of the brand/image you want to build. But before you get to that point you should take some time to answer address the first two items below.

Once you have done that you can look into numbers 3 and 4.

  1. Determine why are you are blogging and what you hope to accomplish.
  2. Figure out what metrics you need to determine whether your effort is successful.
  3. Get a cool logo. Yes, I know that I need one. I haven’t done it yet but I have a few things lined up.
  4. Have Fun.

Don’t be afraid to take chances. Be smart and think about what you are doing but don’t let fear prevent you from taking action.

Social media is about people. Some of you will love me. Some of you will hate me. Some of you will be ambivalent. But if I show up on a regular basis and engage in normal conversation with you good things will come from that. And if I do that for an extended period of time more good things will come from that.

Remember the pyramids weren’t built in a day but many were built by my people which reminds me that I am going to submit an invoice to Egypt. Those hieroglyphic painting, slave owning, pyramid building yahoos owe me a chunk of change plus interest.

Wonder if they’ll give me ownership of the Sphinx.

Figure out the answers to those question. Work hard, provide value and keep showing up and you’ll make inroads and good things will happen for you.

photo by: Celestine Chua

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The Advantage Of Being Part of Generation X http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/12/advantage-part-generation-x/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/12/advantage-part-generation-x/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 22:33:54 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3753 I have been a part of several recent discussions about what benefits Generation Y and the Baby Boomers bring to the workplace and the world in general but none them spent much time talking about Generation X. Since I am part of Generation X I found myself wondering why my generation was left out of […]

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Boundaries
Generation X is the bridge between past, present and future.

I have been a part of several recent discussions about what benefits Generation Y and the Baby Boomers bring to the workplace and the world in general but none them spent much time talking about Generation X.

Since I am part of Generation X I found myself wondering why my generation was left out of the discussion. Call me biased but we should be a fundamental part of all of these conversations.

In large part it is because we are the bridge between the past, present and future. We are the people who grew up without the overwhelming influence technology plays today. Many if not most of us entered the workforce during a time when it would not have been unusual to have more typewriters than computers and you carried change in your pocket just in case you needed to use a payphone.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have exposure to computers because we are the generation that saw personal computers start to show up in homes. We were kids when video games made their first foray, Pong, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, Atari and Intellivision are all names we remember.

Talk to Generation X and there is a good chance we’ll tell you about how we started to use computers for school. We might even tell you about first forays into social media with chat rooms we found online. Or maybe you’ll hear about the rich kid who had a pager and a car phone.

If you really start digging into what we did when we went into the workforce we’ll have tales about entering during a rough economy and how we toughed it out. Or maybe you’ll hear about the positions we took that helped to usher in the digital age we live in now.

The Advantage Of Being Part of Generation X

The advantage of being part of Generation X is tied into all of the things I wrote about above. We are the bridge between the past, the present and the future.

If you ask how that is tied into business I’ll tell you it means we remember and understand what life was like when we didn’t carry smartphones, post pictures on Instagram or share witty status updates about what we are doing on Facebook.

It is not hard for us to speak to the older generations but we are also young enough to be involved with all of the aspects of the digital landscape. We don’t get lost when younger people talk about social media and the future of technology.

I like to picture Generation X as offering three global attributes:

  1. We are tech savvy.
  2. We have life experience.
  3. We are still young enough to have many years left before we retire.

That is a very powerful combination.

Generational Strengths and Weaknesses

Business Insider ran a story about the results of a study that EY put together regarding generational attributes. I thought it was worth sharing some of it.

Generation X

PROS: Most of the respondents in the study (70%) believed that Gen X are the most effective managers compared to managers from the Boomer (25%) or Gen Y (5%) generation. Members of Gen X scored the highest when it comes to being a “revenue generator” (58% of respondents agree), possessing traits of “adaptability” (49% of respondents agree), “problem-solving” (57% of respondents agree) and “collaboration” (53% of respondents agree).

CONS: Gen X-ers scored the lowest compared to other generations when it comes to displaying executive presence (28%) and being cost effective (34%).

PERKS: Gen X respondents ranked workplace flexibility as the most important perk (21%) and are more likely to walk away from their current job if flexibility isn’t available (38% versus 33% of Gen Y and 25% of Boomers).

Based upon an informal survey of my friends many feel like the reason we don’t have as much of an executive presence is not because of lack of ability but because Boomers who haven’t retired occupy those roles now.

Don’t have a comment about the cost effective remark so we’ll let that stand for a moment.

Does Any Of This Really Matter?

I was about 22 or 23 the first time I remember hearing some0ne refer to us as Generation X. I never cared for it and thought it was unfair to tar us that way which I suppose is similar to how some of the Millenials must feel when we refer to them in a less than delightful manner.

In concept it is hard for me to get worked up about Generation X not being included in these conversations because I am not defined by them. I don’t think my membership has ever been the reason I was or was not hired for a position so in some ways these sorts of conversations are meaningless.

But it probably doesn’t hurt to think and or talk about it because sometimes that is how you figure out tools, resources and strategies you can use to advance your career.

What do you think?

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How To Improve Engagement On Facebook http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/09/improve-engagement-facebook/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/09/improve-engagement-facebook/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 01:07:14 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3745 More than a few people have spent significant amounts of time trying to figure out the Facebook algorithm so they can improve engagement but not me. That is about as effective as trying to figure out how many plastic pink flamingos are on lawns in Parma and just as interesting. You might as well try […]

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Math & PhysicsMore than a few people have spent significant amounts of time trying to figure out the Facebook algorithm so they can improve engagement but not me.

That is about as effective as trying to figure out how many plastic pink flamingos are on lawns in Parma and just as interesting. You might as well try to determine whether the aforementioned flamingo is more useful than the garden gnomes people place on their lawns.

Here is the solution: STOP BORING PEOPLE.

If all you ever do is use your page as a place to publish press releases in their entirety and or fill it with insomnia curing material you’ll see that sucker bury itself alive.

How Do You Improve Engagement On Facebook

Sometimes I write silly status updates like the one in the block quotes below. Granted not every person or business can do the silly status update.

It is not always appropriate but that doesn’t mean they can’t mix things up a little. It doesn’t mean they can’t do better than to bore people silly because that is really what is happening on some of these pages.

Every time I see a page that is filled with press releases and the like I wonder if anyone at the company has a clue about social media or if they are there strictly because someone told them they had to be.

The other critical component for improving engagement is to monitor and respond to comments. It sounds obvious but sometimes it is the obvious stuff that is overlooked.

About Silly Status Updates

I am sure there are some people who aren’t especially fond of the silly status updates but I can tell you that any time I post one the comments and emails increase tenfold.

One of the nice things about social media is that it is easy to turn on a dime.  So you can test and experiment and adjust. It is simple and smart.

And now here is one of those silly status updates that people respond to.

I am on my way into the grocery store when a man holding a clipboard makes eye contact with me. I start double timing it through the parking lot so that I can make it into the store before he stops to ask me to sign whatever petition he is promoting but the universe is working against me.

Lot traffic forces me to wait a moment providing clipboard man enough to set a course for intercept.

Since football season has resumed I consider yelling hike and then breaking into a dead sprint for the entrance. I figure if he doesn’t move I’ll drop the shoulder and see how well he handles 873 pounds of angry Taurus man.

But then I see two nuns and one of the rabbis from my synagogue walking almost side by side and I stop to look for the camera because this can’t be coincidence. Or maybe it is. Part of me wants to stop and ask the nuns to call their priest and ask him to join.

“Two nuns, a priest and a rabbi walk into a grocery store…”

Sadly my silly reverie has given the clipboard man all the time he needs to plant himself in front of me.

“Sir, can I speak with you about our second amendment rights and the need to protect our families?”

Most of the time when I don’t feel like speaking with these people I tell them I don’t speak English and keep walking. I can’t tell you how many times they give me a quizzical look. Sometimes they ask me if I am certain and I tell them that I am not and I keep going.

Makes for some interesting moments.

Anyhoo, this fella launches into a whole tale about the importance of being to able to carry and why Californians need to be able to protect themselves.

So I tell him I agree and say I have a technique for dealing with all situations. He asks me to explain and I tell him any time I have a situation to deal with I ask myself what would Darth Vader do.

I tell him the answer is always force choke the person or persons who are causing the problem.

“You need to take this seriously. The terrorists are already here. Those ISIS butchers could be in this parking lot right now.

I shake my head at him.

“There are no weapons that can stand against the power of the Dark Side.”

This time he shakes his head at me.

“What kind of nut are you?”

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

Just as I am about to offer to demonstrate my skills clipboard man quickly scurries away and I decide it is better to just walk into the store.

The only question in my mind is whether I should saunter or sashay in. Who knew that a simple trip to the store would be such a grand adventure.

photo by:

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What Story Should You Tell? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/08/story-tell/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/08/story-tell/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 18:03:57 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3730 I am the real reason the devil went down to Georgia. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you that cloven hoofed bastard knew if he decided to mess with me I would expand his understanding of eternal torment and hell on earth in a way he wouldn’t ever forget. Really. I don’t wear a black […]

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He Rode A Blazing Saddle
He Rode A Blazing Saddle…

I am the real reason the devil went down to Georgia. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you that cloven hoofed bastard knew if he decided to mess with me I would expand his understanding of eternal torment and hell on earth in a way he wouldn’t ever forget.

Really.

I don’t wear a black hat just because it goes with anything and I can assure you that supernatural beings don’t enjoy riding the pointy end of one those Texas Longhorns any more than you do.

Talk about the colonoscopy from hell.

The Impact of Social Media On Storytelling

Social media has been very good to and for me. It has expanded my career and provided multiple opportunities professionally for me and been something I enjoy using personally too.

But I am happy I was a grown up when I got into it. I never had to worry about the things that our children do. The bullies I encountered were always people I saw in person and the misunderstandings were usually things that happened in person.

It doesn’t mean I don’t think about what stories I am willing to share online. I don’t mind telling you about the time the ladder broke and I had to jump off of the roof but there are other tales you won’t find online because not everyone needs to know them and because I don’t want to risk professional complications.

You can interpret that to mean I don’t want current or future employment to be damaged because someone was concerned about whether those tales would be problematic.

When my children and I talk about being careful about what they post I always tell them they have to recognize people don’t always understand our sense of humor or recognize sarcasm and that misunderstanding can occur because of this.

They think that is ridiculous.

“Dad, the devil isn’t real and no one believes he is afraid of  you. That is not logical.”

I wink at my son and ask him what makes him so certain. “I had more than thirty years of life before you showed up.”

My daughter never misses an opportunity to help her big brother and offers her own contribution.

“Daddy won’t be really old until he is 50 but he is old enough to done a lot you don’t know about.”

What Story Should You Tell?

The kids are both right but they don’t know how much time I spend thinking about storytelling on a personal and professional level.

Every time I work on my resume I take a hard look at it and try to determine if it is telling the right story. All of my professional work has fallen into this category too.

It is always about trying to figure out if the company is telling the right story or stories. Are those stories resonating with people? Do they generate a positive or negative response? Are we building connections? Are we building relationships?

What do people take away from it?

What Story Are We Telling
Adrian Gonzalez hits a home run.

My family is very fortunate to have been given tickets to a recent Dodgers game. We sat about five rows behind home plate and got the change to participate in the dugout club restaurant.

My son asked me if I have ever had better seats and I didn’t hesitate to say no. In forty years of going to games these were the best seats I have ever had and it was only made better because it was a great game.

“Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs and tied a career high by driving in six runs, and Matt Kemp hit a home run and threw out a runner at the plate.” LA Times

“Dad, I can’t wait to tell my friends”

“No problem. Do your best to be humble about it. We were lucky to get these seats as a gift.”

You can’t see me typing but if you did you’d see a wide grin on my face. I always enjoy going to the game but I can’t remember the last time I went to a game and felt like I was ten years-old again.

It was magical.

Much of that had to do with the expressions on my children’s’ faces, especially after they each got a ball.

And now here I sit thinking about what story I should tell about the game.

Did I ever tell you about why the devil went down to Georgia…

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He Is Too Old To Jump Off The Roof http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/02/old-jump-roof/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/02/old-jump-roof/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:46:07 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3696 One of the great joys of aging is realizing you are questioning participating in activities that never bothered you before because you never worried about getting hurt because if you did you weren’t concerned with recovery times or mysterious aches and pains. The sane is true regarding falling jumping down/off from places. I cannot confirm […]

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jagged-rock
One of the great joys of aging is realizing you are questioning participating in activities that never bothered you before because you never worried about getting hurt because if you did you weren’t concerned with recovery times or mysterious aches and pains.

The sane is true regarding falling jumping down/off from places. I cannot confirm nor deny that I might have jumped from cliffs into lakes or from roofs into swimming pools.

What I can confirm is that when I was 37 I had to jump off of the roof of a house because it was part of my job.

About General Contractors and Project Managers

Some years back I worked as a project manager for a general contractor. One of my responsibilities was to visit prospective customers and talk to them about what kind of work they wanted done on their homes.

During a typical day I drove all over L.A. County and talked to people of all races, colors, creeds and economic backgrounds.  The conversations ranged from bathroom/kitchen remodels to room additions, roofing and concrete work.

At the end of each appointment I would present a written estimate for the work they wanted done and answer any questions they might have. Certain kinds of work were very simple to bid upon. All it required was a few measurements and if ma and pa homeowner didn’t change the scope of the work I could tell them exactly what it would cost.

If everyone was happy I would draw up a contract stating costs, time frame and responsibilities and then serve as the contact between the contractor and the customer.

Most of the time I really enjoyed the work.  Every day was different and I found some of the people to be endlessly fascinating. If you want to learn about people take a job where you come into their home and you find out all sorts of interesting things.

Construction can be a very lucrative business. Good contractors who do good work and fulfill their promises make good money, but so do the bad ones.

Don’t believe me?

Ask around and you’ll hear lots of stories, some of which actually happened. That is only partly tongue-in-cheek. I have seen big mistakes be committed by both customers and contractors.

The customer may always be right but some of them would do better if they understood the best way to protect their investment was not to try and help get work done during their off hours. The DIY shows make some of the  work look much easier for a novice to do than it really is.

I could tell you about customers who wreaked havoc by trying to cut and lay their own tile or those who went nuts when they saw the finished product. I made a point to make sure every one of my customers picked out their own tile/paint/appliances and signed off upon it.

That still didn’t prevent them from screaming because it didn’t look the way they hoped it would.

It pays to have a thick skin in that business because sometimes you make a mistake and you have to pay for it and sometimes they may make a mistake and getting yelled at is how you’ll have to pay for it.

About Broken Ladders & Roofs

Remember when I told you sometimes age makes you rethink your willingness to engage in activities that might lead to injury? Well here is where we tie it all in a nice bow.

One bright and sunny day I was sent out to give some estimates to homeowners who were thinking about replacing their roofs. I didn’t like the roofing calls very much.

Since I didn’t have too many of them I didn’t carry a ladder with me. Most of the time I borrowed one from the prospect or used basic math to determine how many big squares of roofing material would be needed.

It is really not hard to do. If you want to learn how to do it yourself you can read about it here. But for those who don’t want a long explanation you measure the ground dimensions of the house, estimate the pitch and convert square footage to big squares.

The first roofing call of that bright and sunny day takes me out to Santa Clarita.  September in Los Angeles is hot and I can promise you that it is even hotter on the roof.

Ten minutes after I climb up on the roof of the first house I am drenched. It is over a 100 on the ground and I am the guy who has to get closer to the sun. Sweat is pouring down my face and no matter how many times I mop my brow I am soaked seconds later.

I take the measurements hit the truck, wipe my face and grab a swig of water. I take a few more minutes to write up an estimate , knock on the doorbell and present it to the lady of the house.

She invites me in and tells me I have to stand in her kitchen because she doesn’t want me to sweat on her furniture. I smile at her and wonder if she remembers that I was dry and presentable before I climbed onto her roof.

“There is a gas station down the street. I would rather you don’t dirty our towels.”

I smile at her and leave. I understand she might be uncomfortable having a strange man in her home but part of me is irritated about how poorly I have been treated.

******

Twenty minutes later I am at the final call of the day. It is another roofing estimate and I am setting up the ladder I borrowed so that I can take my measurements and get a sense of the condition of the roof.

This place is in poor condition and I take note of two holes in the roof.

I hear kids laughing and look to the side and see teens playing basketball at the church next door. They notice me staring at them and watch me walk across the roof to where I left the ladder.

As I climb over the side and start to lower myself onto the ladder I feel it shift and quickly move back on to the roof.

It is a good thing because that sucker collapses on itself and falls to the ground. The kids see this and start laughing.

“What is he going to do now? He is too old to jump off of the roof.”

I ignore the laughter and ponder options. I am embarrassed and don’t want to call the office or alert the homeowner so I sit down on the roof and try to decide if I can shinny down the drainpipe, lower myself off or jump to the tree next to it.

The tree is about 4.5 feet and I am certain if I take three steps back I’ll make it to the tree but decide against it because I’ll have to take a faceful of branches.

It doesn’t make sense to try to jump on the roof of the house next door. No telling what happens if people are inside and I can’t see any way to get down.

So I decide I have to jump off of the roof, but figure the easiest way is to lower myself.  Tape measure shows it is about 15 feet so if I can find a place to hold onto I can lower myself and almost halve the distance.

It almost worked as I hoped. I found a part that wasn’t covered in tile, threw my clipboard over the side, lowered myself and dropped into a bush that did  a very fine job of camouflaging the thorns it hid inside.

The net result was I managed not to scrape the hell out of my body and didn’t break any bones. Even better than that was I woke up the next day and discovered I didn’t feel any new mystery aches or pains so I call that a win.

Never did see those kids again, but if I had I would have told them I wasn’t too old to jump off of the roof.

 

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Motivate People- 29 Reasons You Shouldn’t Read This Post http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/28/29-reasons-shouldnt-read-post/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/28/29-reasons-shouldnt-read-post/#respond Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:10:39 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3676 Confession: there might not be 29 reasons why you shouldn’t read this listed here but you did help prove a point. More on this below. A colleague asked me to share the most effective way to motivate the unmotivated into reading a blog post. I asked him to describe the blog and what their goals […]

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funny signs (4)

Confession: there might not be 29 reasons why you shouldn’t read this listed here but you did help prove a point. More on this below.

A colleague asked me to share the most effective way to motivate the unmotivated into reading a blog post. I asked him to describe the blog and what their goals for it were and he told me it was about how to find great candidates for cleaning up animal crap at the zoo.

“Josh, you might be surprised to learn not too many people like shoveling up the elephant and rhino left overs.”

I knew he was being facetious but I suggested he consider positioning it differently.

“Stop telling people about how they are going to shovel shit and start telling them about the great workout you’ll have for them. Make it sound like some sort of crossfit exercise or thing that will help them lose weight.”

He rolled his eyes at me and suggested that I was playing games.

“There is no good way to fool people into thinking they are doing anything other than shoveling 50 pounds of crap.”

I nodded my head and told him I disagreed.

“Talk to doctors and trainers and they will tell about the merits of resistance training. When you go to the gym and start pumping iron you are doing so because the exercise is good for you. It doesn’t matter what the source of the weight is. A ton of feathers weighs just as much as a ton of bricks.”

Tell Someone Not To Do Something & They Will Do It

He told me I was crazy and I said he might be right.

“Tell someone not to do something and they’ll try to do it. I’ll write about this and call it 29 reasons you shouldn’t read this post and I promise you more people will click on it because of that ridiculous headline.

He suggested negative motivation wasn’t the best way to encourage people to do something and I agreed.

“We are not talking about using negative motivation here. We’re talking about convincing people that shoveling crap might actually be a pretty damn good job for them. They are going to help the animals stay healthy and get into better shape while doing so.”

I watched him nod his head and smile.

“You really are nuts, but maybe I’ll try it and see how it goes.”

“Look, there is a lot of truth in what that video game character Cave Johnson says.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!” Cave Johnson is a character from the video game Portal 2

How we approach the world and how we spread/share ideas has a direct impact as to how people respond.

What do you think?

photo by:

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Oh Captain, My Captain http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/25/oh-captain-captain/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/25/oh-captain-captain/#respond Mon, 25 Aug 2014 20:18:42 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3658 David and I exchanged our first hello thirty-two years ago and said goodbye sixteen years ago. I suspect he might appreciate the symmetry of the numbers. I imagine we would have had some interesting conversations about whether life is filled with a series of random events and coincidences or if there is any sort of […]

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airport

David and I exchanged our first hello thirty-two years ago and said goodbye sixteen years ago.

I suspect he might appreciate the symmetry of the numbers. I imagine we would have had some interesting conversations about whether life is filled with a series of random events and coincidences or if there is any sort of predestination involved.

When I think about it I wonder how different the conversation would have been at 19 or 20 versus 25. That is because at 19 or 20 life was an endless highway filled with possibility and at 25 we found out that brain tumors sometimes touch our worlds.

I didn’t know much of anything about them and I don’t claim to be any sort of expert now but I can assure you I couldn’t have pictured a time sixteen years later when I wouldn’t get to tease him about not being able to apply science to every aspect of life.

It is hard to believe  my children only know him from pictures or that I never got to try to convince my son who hates roller coasters to let Uncle David fly us around.

O Captain, my Captain.”

Many people associate that line with Robin Williams and rightly so, Dead Poets Society was excellent. I remember it for a variety of reasons but one of them is because I saw it with David.

I am fairly certain it was before he joined the Civil Air Patrol but I really don’t remember. What I do remember is the business card he gave me that identified him as CAP and how I liked to tease him.

“O Captain, my Captain, will you drive us to The Apple Pan we have a hankering for a burger. But before we go I must see you go through your flight check. This mighty Volvo might have bad flaps and the hazy day might require not one but five flashlights.”

It is impossible not to smile thinking about so many of these moments and the silly things we did.

Every time I think about spraying shaving cream into his hand and then using a leaf to tickle his face I start chuckling.  David had an excellent sense of humor and his pranks were rarely as simple as that one.

Man oh man, he was not happy about waking up to discover a face full of foam and when he got me back, he got me good but that was ok. That was part of the joy of camp.

Camp was where we met and where many of the bonds of our friendship were formed but not all. I could tell you many stories about a summer in Israel, youth group activities, using his telescope to see Halley’s comet when we were 17 and so much more.

But I’ll save those for our circle of friends and those people who knew David and can really appreciate them. I’d rather take a few minutes here to share some other thoughts about things I learned.

Teaching Moments

We were 25 when David had his first encounter with this thing he told me was an astrocytoma. I remember him telling me about the days before his surgery and some of the telephone calls with him.

It was summer and he was in LA for a short visit.  Soon he’d go back to Boston for graduate school and I’d go back to work but while he was in town we’d try to hang out.

What I remember the most vividly about those days was his telling the story about what happened. Deep voice, authoritative manner and assorted pieces of medical and scientific fact all thrown in.

I listened and I asked what I thought were smart questions. I asked about the future and he assured me they would keep an eye on him.  I asked him if the treatment would affect his ability to have children and he told me he was prepared for that.

“I am going to make a note to make sure I see you wash your hands before I shake them again.”

He laughed and life went on. He went to back to Boston and I did my thing here in LA. We kept in touch as we always had and I made a point to ask how he was doing.

There were a few incidents along the way but he assured me he wasn’t nervous. As time passed I saw him at all of the expected events, my wedding, the wedding of friends and we’d get together in between those whenever we could.

I never believed there would be a hard end to it all in our twenties because he told me he figured he would make it until at least our fifties or sixties. When I asked him if that bothered him he said no because he was certain science would make some tremendous advances.

What I Learned From David

I don’t know how far medical science has come since we said goodbye to David. I haven’t any benchmarks to use to say whether the growth is significant or not.

What I learned was different.

I learned to pay far more attention to the moments we share with people, especially those we care about. I learned to ask deeper, more probing questions about life.

David might have had a more realistic idea of the outcome. I would have liked to have at least offered to share the load of that weight. It was his choice and his right to do as he wished, but I still feel badly I didn’t get to offer to help in some way.

He helped me recognize the importance of going after what we really want and not waiting for someday because someday might never come.

Every time we go to camp I take my kids to David’s observatory. I tell them a story about David and then tell them I hope they have the kind of friendship that goes the distance and that they should try to be that kind of friend.

When I think of David I see these bright images of us in so many different places. I don’t know what comes next but I have my ideas.

What I am certain of is David is responsible for ensuring I understood the need to do our best to live our life every day and in that he didn’t just impact me, but my family.

David might not be physically here, but he is not gone.

observatory
David’s Observatory November 2013

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How To Convert A Facebook Status Update Into Content http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/24/convert-facebook-status-update-content/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/08/24/convert-facebook-status-update-content/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 02:10:33 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3609 I have a confession to make. I use my personal Facebook status updates as a way to test messaging.  I am not talking about the Facebook page for this blog either, I am referring to the one friends and family use to keep in touch with me. The reason I use my personal space is […]

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words

I have a confession to make. I use my personal Facebook status updates as a way to test messaging.  I am not talking about the Facebook page for this blog either, I am referring to the one friends and family use to keep in touch with me.

The reason I use my personal space is because it tends to provide a much faster response and one that in theory has less professional risk for me. Call it cyberspace R&D.

It is a simple way to try and identify what sorts of topics resonate with a broad group of people as well as a place to practice engagement techniques that I can apply professionally.

And it definitely is a place for me to see who really knows and who doesn’t because I like peppering these Facebook posts with a mix of silly and reasonable behavior.

How To Convert A Facebook Status Update Into Content

It is pretty simple. Take one of your updates and write about it. It helps if it is a topic you feel passionately about but that is applicable to all writing. Passion comes through in your writing and it helps to keep the readers engaged and entertained.

What I tend to do is try to provide a blend of silly and serious and see what happens. The two posts below in blockquotes are a good example.

A while back I was on jury duty and a guy walked into the room and said there were two kinds of people those who are innocent and those who are guilty.

He started wandering around the room striking up conversation with various people and antagonizing those who didn’t agree with him. Several people told him they preferred not to answer but he kept pestering them anyway.

When he asked what I thought I told him that I can’t stand the Sound of Music, never put ketchup on a hotdog and if you give me a fastball waist high I will put it over the fence every time.

I told him real beaches have sand and saltwater and that the DH was an abomination. Furthermore I suggested the ’87-88 Lakers might have been the greatest basketball team and complained I couldn’t find a restaurant that knew how to make a sesame seed bun with no seeds and serve a water medium dry.

I also told him that Keanu Reeves and Kevin Costner gave me hope that one day I could be an actor who had multiple roles just playing myself.

And now my friends you know what I do when my insurance company places me on hold for 25 minutes. Got to keep the mind active, might as well start coming up with stories, I’d share more but it sounds like the hold music might actually be ending.

and

Guy standing in line behind me at the grocery store asks me if he can go ahead because he can tell he is busier than I am. I ask him how and he says it is because I am wearing shorts and a baseball hat.

I ask him how he knows I am not working and he says no one with a real job dresses like that. I nod my head and ask him if he is an attorney and he says no, he is a doctor.

So I look at him and ask him if he is working today and he says his practice is closed on Friday. I nod my head and tell him today is a good day to practice patience.

He starts to get a little ‘chippy’ with me and I tell him I am not impressed by doctors, especially those who don’t work a full week. We go back and forth for a moment and I say I see no point in continuing a conversation with a man who thinks a title is more important than being polite and kind.

Doc expresses his displeasure with my response and then suggests I am the problem because I was rude in my initial response. I suggest he reconsider opening a conversation by telling people he knows he is busier than they are.

He sputters for a moment and then I tell him I am retired and that I made millions when I sold my company during the Dot Com boom. He asks me the name and I say it was called Don’t Be a Putz. dot com.

His eyes narrow and he asks me why he hasn’t heard of it. When I ask him if he would feel better if I told him I played pro ball for five years and blew out my knee he says that is more believable and wants to know where I played.

Since we are both stuck behind a lady who has 298,732 cans of cat food and approximately 872 other items I roll with it and keep talking.

I say in college I was a linebacker at Coventry State, part of the Burning River brigade that terrorized teams in the early 90s. He tells me he never heard of me and I say very few people can name any of the guys who played for the Saints.

He asks me if the NFL is where I got the money for my dot com company and I nod and smile.

“Well since you are retired I am sure you won’t mind if I go ahead of you?”

I look at the water and trail mix in his hand and ask him if he is going golfing today and he says he has a 1:30 tee time.

I say that sounds great and tell him that if he can name one of my teammates from Coventry State I’ll be happy to let him go ahead of me. He says sure, everyone remembers those guys.

And then…

One of the things I like best about these two updates is how they have been repurposed and reused for this post. I consider that an example or working smarter and not harder.

Some people worry about reusing and repurposing content because they fear it will bore the readers. I obviously try to avoid that but I also make a point to try to identify what sort of crossover there is between readers and platforms.

It is not unusual to have people spend the bulk of their time in one place and not another. And even if there is crossover there is still a question about whether people are seeing your messages.

There are lots of conversations and studies about how many times you need to repeat your message before someone remembers it. There is no guarantee the same people will see that same message time and time again and even if they do, you can’t always identify which time will cause them to act.

And this my friends is part of why I use the resources I have to try to test things out to see what works best.

What do you think?

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