Happy Birthday, Alli

You entered the world 40 years ago and my life permanently almost 20 years ago. Everyday, I am enamored by your beauty, uplifted by your smile, buoyed by your laughter, enthralled by your conversation, connected by your friendship, and fulfilled by your love. Your existence on this planet makes mine worthwhile.

I love you. More than anything. More than everything.

Even more than the pecan torte we had tonight.

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Above All, Do What You Love

A few weeks ago, I announced that I was leaving AMC. That was a hard decision and not one that I came to lightly. But I felt good about it because I was leaving on my own terms to do something that I loved and start/continue a photography business with my wife at Shane & Alli Photography.

There’s a tiny wrinkle.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always kept a very short list in my head of the companies that I really dreamed about working for; you know, the ones that you think the world of, the ones that you truly advocate for and that you envision working at for your career. My list is very short and anyone who knows me well knows that there is probably one company above all the others on my list:

Chipotle.

Steve Ells’ Denver-based company is one that I’ve thought extremely fondly of for many years. When I first set foot in the Corporate Woods location off of College Boulevard in Overland Park, I could tell it was a special place. Ever since then, my love for the company has only grown, both as a fan and professionally.

When I joined AMC in 2010, I managed to connect with some of the members of Chipotle’s social team. (OK, I may have stalked them sought them out.) At my first SXSW conference, I got to meet two guys in particular who have become close friends over the past few years — Joe and Rusty. If you have ever tweeted at @ChipotleTweets, I’m sure those names sound familiar.

We’ve stayed in touch over the past several years and we actually got to spend some time together when they were in town for the Chipotle Cultivate Festival here in Kansas City. In fact, I even moderated a panel with them, joined by Myra and Candice, for the Social Media Club of Kansas City. It was a pretty great moment for me. These were people that I have been able to develop friendships with over the years through social and I got to sit with them as they shared their expertise with a room full of social media and marketing professionals.

As I heard them talk, I got more and more inspired by the work that they do and the company that they work for. Chipotle’s approach to not only their food, but their people, is something that I was blown away by. The fact that they put on three free Cultivate Festivals every single year in order to better educate their customers about why they do things — that was a pretty neat realization.

Another thing I found out was that their team had an open position.

A position that I will start in September as a Community Engagement Strategist for Chipotle Mexican Grill.

FAQs

In order to cut off a few questions at the pass, I have created this handy-dandy little FAQ section:

So what are you going to be doing?
My main job will be responding day-to-day to loyal Chipotle customers (just like me) on Chipotle’s various social channels, mostly Facebook and Twitter. I’ll get to interact with Chipotle fans and people who have good and bad experiences (though those are pretty rare, I assume), and be one of the voices of customer care for the company. I had gotten pretty far away from this at AMC and I’m really excited to get in the trenches again.

But Chipotle is in Denver! Are you moving?
I am not moving. It’s true that Chipotle is based in Denver, but I will be working from the comfy IKEA chair in my office. One of the great things about the digital age is that I can do that and still feel connected to the team. Sure I’ll have to travel to Denver (where my boss, the aforementioned Joe, is based) and NYC (where the digital director is based), but the majority of my work will be done behind one of those fancy computer thingies.

Can I have a free burrito?
I haven’t even started yet and you already have your hand out? Jeez.

And the most important question:

So what does this mean for Shane & Alli Photography?

The answer is: very little changes. One of the great benefits that I listed above is that I’ll be working out of the home. That will still allow me enough flexibility to continue to grow our photography business. We plan to still open an in-home studio and we plan to continue taking photography jobs fast and furiously. (Seriously, if you’re looking for a photographer, give us a shout.)

Photography will always be our love. I love working with my wife and best friend. I love capturing the special moments of life for our clients, our families and our friends. Those images are special and important and I love that work.

This tiny wrinkle allows us a bit more breathing room to continue to grow our business in a more measured way. And it also gives me the opportunity to work for a company I love, doing something that I’m good at, working alongside people that I really like a lot. I wouldn’t be able to do this if not for the amazing support I get from Alli and our families. Our business is going to continue to grow and this gives us a bit of leeway to do a little bit more with it than before.

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a renaissance man. I’m interested in a myriad of things. And I never said that anyone should limit themselves to just one passion in their life. I love a lot of things and some more than others. Obviously, I love my wife above all. I love our dogs, Buzz and Woody. I love photography and capturing the moments that life brings alongside my best friend and partner. I love music and movies and food and especially burritos. In this new world, I get to spend time on all the things I love.

After all, isn’t that how we should spend our lives?

Cities as Living Things

I saw this video from Mindrelic (via Cameron) and I just fell in love with it.

Last week, Alli and I saw Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, and I adored it. It was one of those movies that just makes you smile the whole time. During the movie, there is a conversation between two of the characters where they talk about the life of a city that is independent of its inhabitants — that a city lives and breathes like an organism does.

Now, I’m no fan of Woody Allen’s, but this idea was something that I really remembered from the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the film (by far my favorite of Allen’s 586 films he’s made) and if I took anything away from it, it was this idea that we much like the blood cells of the living organism that is the place that we inhabit…we have a structure and life all our own, but we contribute to the life of something larger.

The Pizza Shack

I went to college in a small Iowa town called Lamoni (pronounced LUH-MOAN-EYE).

In that town are maybe 6 places to eat, but everyone in the town knows of the Pizza Shack.

Pizza-Shack

Named the Best Pizza in Iowa (in 1981), the Shack, as it is affectionately known has been owned and run by the same family, the Hamptons, for a few decades now. The Shack was there when my parents were at Graceland in the late ’60s and it is still there now, ten years after I graduated.

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I worked there during my freshman, sophomore and junior years at Graceland and during those lunch shifts, I met and got to know the woman who would become my wife. I was a cook and she worked the front of the house. We got to spend a lot of time laughing and talking as we would get ready for lunch service.

I lived next door to the Shack for a year too. That was the year that Alli and I started dating. Coincidence? Probably. I remember how I used to come back from work smelling of pizza. I never tired of that smell of dough and sauce and pepperoni. The old oven, the linoleum floor, the stop light and jukebox and the old decorations all are a part of the wonderful experience and make the memory all that much richer.

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If you’re ever on I-35, headed from Kansas City through Des Moines, be sure to stop in Lamoni. Just watch out for the Amish people.