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?

Saying Goodbye to AMC

To start, I should probably take you back about 20 years.

I think I was about 18 years old when I figured out that AMC was based in Kansas City. As a teenager, I couldn’t think of a job that sounded like more fun. Working for a movie theater chain? Sign me up.

It took me about ten years of my career, but in 2010, I finally made it to the company I’d set my sights on so long ago. At the end of this month, I will say goodbye to that company to embark on a brand new adventure. More on that in a bit…

A little reflection

The past five-plus years have been so much fun. I got to work on something I love (movies) for a company I respect (AMC) with a lot of really talented people (too many to list). I got to do fun things like help launch the company’s Twitter presence (which got some national recognition), redesign and rearchitect the company’s website and then got to take on a completely new challenge, leading the loyalty program for the past 2+ years. I got promoted. I got to manage people. I got to help craft the marketing strategy for one of the most respected brands in entertainment.

There are so many things that I’ve loved about my job. Sure, there have been things that have been difficult about it, but that comes with any position. I consider myself really really lucky to have been able to work at AMC for as long as I have.

But it’s time to move on.

Some of you might know that my wife and I have been running a photography business in Kansas City for the past several years. Starting August 1, we will officially be running Shane & Alli Photography as our primary business and sole source of income.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been working hard in corporate America. I’ve seen a lot of success bringing my skills and ideas to other people. Alli and I have had this business on the side that we’ve absolutely adored and wanted to do full time for a while. We’ve decided to take the leap and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Photography? But you’re in marketing.

Photography has been a passion of mine since I first picked up a camera as a kid. I remember a time in my life when I saw myself as an Associated Press photographer. What I’ve learned is that capturing people in real-life moments is so rewarding and affords me such great creativity that I don’t need to travel the world to tell stories with photos. We’ve got plenty right here in our backyard.

Not only that, but I’m planning to take my 15 years of corporate consumer and business marketing experience and applying it to creating new photography offerings that solve needs for businesses in their social media marketing practices.

Most importantly, I get to run a business with my best friend. Alli and I have really enjoyed every moment that we’ve been able to work together on this business. And who knows? Maybe we’ll turn it into even more cool things down the road. For now, we’re going to build out our studio and focus on capturing snapshots of the special moments in our clients’ lives. We think we are pretty good at it.

So here’s my pitch…

What’s that you say?

You need family photos or senior photos or professional portraits or engagement or wedding photos? We do it all. Our website is getting a refresh. You can find us on Facebook or on follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr. Or you can just shoot me an email. We’d be happy to help.

#SFBatkid Saves Gotham (San Francisco)

While it’s true that the internet can be the seedy underbelly of the world sometimes, there are times when it can be the best thing ever. Today, in San Francisco, the Make-A-Wish America foundation has transformed the city into Gotham to fulfill a 5-year-old’s wish to be Batman. Over 10,000 people have volunteered to be a part of the campaign when he will save a damsel in distress and fight both the Riddler and the Penguin. Follow along on Twitter via the hashtag #SFBatKid or check out the Storify below.

And bring tissues.

The Good Old Days

I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve already left them.” — Andy Bernard

Everyone can relate to this feeling — this longing for the good old days that we are sure have passed us by. For some of us, it was high school, where we lived like kings and queens as big fish in small ponds or maybe we didn’t blossom until college where that tinge of awkwardness that kept potential suitors away floated into the ether and we came into our own. Late night parties and staying up until 4 in the morning just to talk because we could.

In my mid-30’s, it’s easy for me to look back on those times and reminisce about that one time we packed 9 people into my green Dodge Avenger (3 in the front, 4 in the back, 2 in the trunk) for the 10-minute drive from our small Iowa college town to the only place that was open that time of night — the truck stop diner that never closed across the state line.

I like to think that I enjoyed those times of my capricious youth to the fullest, but even then I remember the times where I found myself sad and longing for the past or for the future.

What is it about us as humans that keeps us from savoring the moments of our life like we would each morsel of a 9-course meal prepared by a master chef?

When we are in our lives, we’re often sidetracked by just that: life. Life sometimes gets in the way of us finding beauty in ordinary. The one person who I never saw this in was Michael Scott, played so brilliantly for 7 seasons by Steve Carell. Everyone has had a Michael Scott in their life: that bad boss who just doesn’t understand the line between friendship and management. The guy who inevitably says the wrong thing, not out of malice, but out of a desperate attempt to be liked.

(Michael was always the heart and soul of The Office and why they continued the show after he left is beyond me.)

The thing about Carell’s portrayal of Michael that was so damn endearing despite his many peccadilloes was that he was one person who seemed to live in the now…to enjoy his life at every aspect. Sure, he got depressed at times, but his zest for life and the people around him made him such a likable character who, despite his obvious flaws, was just good. He believed he was an amazing basketball player and the World’s Best Boss (according to Spencer Gifts) and he fell head over heels in love with a woman who WAS THE MODEL IN AN OFFICE FURNITURE MAGAZINE.

When the executive producers decided to make Andy the boss after Michael left, I think that they hoped that he would find that same wide-eyed appreciation for his life, but even in his relationship with the adorable Erin Hannon, he couldn’t see past the end of his nose.

In the finale of the show, seeing Andy say this quote resonated with a lot of people. I remember watching the episode live accompanied by Twitter (an irony that is not lost on me) and seeing so many people tweet out that quote over and over and over again. We all have that same longing for understanding what is good about our lives and appreciating it in its time rather than six months or years or decades after the fact.

But what I’ve found in my life is that you just need to make a decision to start enjoying the mundane. Find beauty in the normal. And embrace your life wherever you might find yourself. Sure, it might not be the place you thought you’d be at 36, but it sure hasn’t sucked up to this point either.

“I went to the woods to live deep and suck the marrow out of life.” — Henry David Thoreau, as quoted by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

So live deep and recognize that even at the worst, you are alive in the most amazing time mankind has ever seen.

Here’s to the Good Old Days that are yet to come. May we find ourselves enjoying them.

Never Say You’re Sorry (When You’re Crying)

“I get so emotional, baby” — Whitney Houston

I’ve noticed this thing lately when I’m watching my stories on the TV (read: reality competition shows, usually focused around dance or cooking) that when the inevitable person gets choked up and cries (because they never thought they’d make it this far or they never thought this competition would be this difficult or the host asks a producer-prompted emotionally-charged question) that the first thing that they often do is this:

“I’m sorry.”

An apology is apparently now the most acceptable first response when finding yourself overcome with emotion in a difficult time. Because GOD FORBID that we show some humanness or emotion toward each other in times that try us. Sheesh.

The truth is that we likely apologize because we know what it feels like when someone cries in front of us. It is gut-wrenching and particularly soul-crushing if there is nothing you can do about it.

And so our best assumption when we cry in front of others is that those people are feeling those same feelings of discomfort and so we apologize for putting them out. Never mind if they were the ones who prompted the feelings of sadness or joy or whatever it was that overcame us with emotion.

When we apologize for crying, I feel like we are saying: “PLEASE FORGIVE ME for making you uncomfortable with my human reaction to this situation. I apologize for being unable to control my emotions for five seconds.”

I’ve worked in different companies over the past 13 years of my career and I continue to get a fairly consistent, specific piece of feedback when review time comes up: You can sometimes get TOO passionate and emotional when you care deeply about something.

Wait, what?

How is that a bad thing?

I can’t stand it when people walk through their days lackadaisical about the things happening around them. Care about your life! Be present! If something makes you mad or excited, get mad or excited about it!

Don’t be a damn robot.

And please, for the love of God, don’t apologize when you get overcome by your emotions. They prove that you are alive and I’d much rather hang with someone who has an emotional attachment to this life than someone who is so fearful to show emotions that they hide them under a rock or a bushel or wherever you might hide them.

Mars Hill founding pastor Rob Bell wrote a book called Drops Like Stars as a companion piece to a speaking tour that he did by the same name. Much of what he talked about was the topic of suffering and pain. He said something to the effect of: Suffering is what connects us.

We relate to others through our pain and suffering and find solace in the fact that there is someone else out there who is feeling our pain about this thing that we are experiencing right here, right now.

I hope that the next time you break down in front of someone, you find courage in the fact that they may just understand you and where you are coming from. (I’m hoping that you’re not necessarily a reality TV dancer or chef and you are speaking with a friend.) I hope that in that moment that you won’t apologize, but you will embrace the fact that emotions are a natural part of our human fiber. And I hope that the person you are with says this:

Thank you for sharing your emotions with me.

Originally published on Medium