#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

18 Months and a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.” So that’s going to change.

Pivot - Ross

I love what I do.

I really do. For the past 3 years, I have been doing web things that I am good at for a company I really enjoy working at in an industry that’s fun.

Earlier this year, I got to help launch a project that I’ve been working on for a long time at AMC — a complete redesign of our company’s website.

I hope there are AMC fans out there that have noticed the difference. If you have, you might be wondering, But WHY is he talking about this now? Sorry, but I’ve spent the last couple months exhaling…taking deep breaths and convincing myself that it’s really completed (and squashing bugs).

Coming off of a project that has been pretty much your sole focus for 18 months is a weird thing. I’ve got plenty of other responsibilities at AMC, but none of them was more important to me than improving the user experience to our guests and visitors to AMCTheatres.com.

A year ago, we completed a rewrite of our entire architecture, installing a new content management system and creating a whole bunch of new dynamic services to power a site that gets its information from sources across the United States. That was an accomplishment in itself and provided us with a platform to do what we did.

And then we redesigned it

I had the great pleasure to work with Greg Storey’s team at Happy Cog on the UX part of the project and that was a pleasure in and of itself. I’ve long been a fan of the Cog’s work and I’ve now worked with them on two separate projects at two separate companies. In the past, I didn’t get to see the project through to completion. I was determined not to let that happen.

It’s a strange experience when you become a client of a group of professionals whose work you have admired. Getting mired in the processes and the day-to-day can wear some of that internet shine off a little, but ultimately, I am extremely proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together. We provided AMC with a beautifully responsive web platform and design system that can now be built upon and extended. Thanks to the great concepting by Kevin Sharon and the technical execution by the talented Ryan Irelan and Stephen Caver, AMC now has a modern, functional site that can take us into the next several years.

I’m so proud of this work. After an 18-month engagement, it feels good to have something to finally show for it.

And now, a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I’m at the top of my game, a subject-matter-expert. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and I have a good idea about what’s happening on the web and where it’s headed (#humblebrag). This is bad because I’ve pigeonholed myself into being only about one thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.”

So that’s going to change.

As soon as I have the chance to update my email signature and my LinkedIn profile, it will really be official: effective immediately, I will be AMC’s new Loyalty Marketing Manager.

Not sure what a Loyalty Marketing Manager does? I’m glad you asked. Essentially, I’ll be leading one of AMC’s most important programs – AMC Stubs. I’m extremely excited about the next phase of my career. I’m expanding my worldview to include an important aspect of marketing and I get to work on making an already solid program even better. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be transitioning away from my existing responsibilities and getting up to speed on AMC’s loyalty program and all of its many moving parts.

I’m somewhat sad about putting aside my web life, but I’m so happy to start this new phase of my career. It’s going to make me a more well-rounded marketer and I get to take on yet another huge project.

So there it is. What do you think? (Feel free to share your ideas about AMC Stubs in the comments. I’ll be sure to implement ALL* of them.)

* probably not all of them