Live for Eulogy, not Resume

For about the last year, I’ve been receiving a weekly reflection from Holstee. Holstee was started a few years back by two brothers who wanted to build tools for inspiration and living fully.

This morning’s email from Dave was titled: “My eulogy.”

That’s pretty deep for a Monday morning, but after my morning workout, I read the email which brought me to this TED Talk from David Brooks of the New York Times:

In the talk, Brooks talks about the conflict between our “resumé self” and our “eulogy self.”

It’s a fascinating insight into the conflict between our desire for accomplishments that make us more attractive to employers — those things that advance our career — and our desire to be good humans so that our lives leave a legacy of goodness — so our eulogy is worthwhile.

In this time off, I’m kicking myself for not spending more time focusing on my eulogy but it’s difficult when you’re job searching. You’re focusing on those resumé accomplishments because they’re what matter to potential employers.

Dave bravely shared a journal entry in which he shared his own eulogy. I’m going to attempt a draft at mine.

Shane loved life fiercely. More than anything, he loved living it side-by-side with his wife and best friend, Alli. Together, they captured life’s moments for others as photographers, they traveled the world and experienced other cultures, they made each other and others laugh, and they prioritized spending time with the people they loved over all. 

During his life, Shane’s vocation rarely defined him, mostly because he wouldn’t let it. In his work, he made those around him better by expecting excellence and delivering it whenever he could. He was a communicator and a connector and he loved telling stories.

He liked eating food with friends and family, sometimes too much. He read books when he could, though not as much as he should. His dad passed along an obsession with gadgets and music. He always wanted to learn to play guitar like his dad, but struggled to find the diligence to do so.

More than anything, he loved Alli. They loved traveling, going to the movies and spending time with their dogs at home in front of the fireplace. They rarely spent more than a few days at a time apart and they never seemed to get sick of each other. Even to the end, when they Thelma & Louise’d it over the cliff at the age of 100. 

So that’s my first draft of my eulogy. What would yours say?

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.

Working with professional idols

The first years of my career came right around the burst of the dot-com bubble. I started working at Perceptive Software as a Marketing Communications Specialist, a writer tasked with serving also as a marketing generalist for a growing software company (during the 6 1/2 years I worked there, the company grew from 18 employees to over 300).

It was obvious at that time that the web was a big deal, but people still didn’t know really what to do with it. I certainly didn’t have a clue what I was doing. While I was in school, the web was still relatively new and while I tested it out (using such scourged softwares as Microsoft FrontPage), I had no idea that I would end up focusing solely on the web as my profession. I was a writer.

My marketing position expanded and contracted several times over the course of my employment at Perceptive Software, but I realized that whenever I spent time building things on the web that I had a lot of fun. I also was beginning to love graphic design, another discipline that intrigued me, but I knew nothing about.

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It was during this time that I discovered my mentor group in the form of the good folks from Happy Cog Studios. Founder Jeffrey Zeldman wrote one of the most important books about the web ever, Designing With Web Standards, which I am holding in the picture above.

Zeldman’s treatise on the adoption of web standards is such an important book that anytime someone asks me how to start “learning web stuff”, Z’s book is where I send them. If you can’t get through his excellently scribed why and how of web standards, you may not want to really “learn web stuff.” Zeldman started as a copywriter, but quickly realized that the web was where it was at.

From Zeldman, I moved onto Cederholm and Meyer and the other important authors who helped to shape the web standards movement of the 2000’s. I read their blogs. I read the blogs they linked to, which exposed me to Santa Maria, Storey, Marcotte, Davidson, Shea and so many others that it became difficult to keep up. But I kept up.

These were the people out there making things happen on the web. Davidson’s redesign of the ESPN website to a standards-based layout saved the company a gajillion dollars in bandwidth expenses (or something like that). Doug Bowman helped Google pick out a color of blue (or not pick one) and now is the creative director at Twitter. These were (and still are) the heavy hitters. Talented designers, thought-leaders and great writers, all of them. I wanted to be like them.

I’m not.

But that’s OK. I’ve spent over a decade working for brands now and those brands need websites. When I worked at Cerner, the company decided to enter into its first major redesign effort in over 5 years and I was a part of it. I remember sitting in the office with my boss and her boss, the Director of Marketing, who asked, “Who should we reach out to for our web project?”

I said, “I don’t know if they’ll do it, but I’d like to reach out to Happy Cog.”

The funny thing about people who don’t know the web all that well…they don’t really know Zeldman and they certainly don’t know Happy Cog. So I had to explain all the stuff I’ve already laid out for you in this long diatribe of a post. Their importance to the industry. How they literally wrote the book on web standards. And so on…

It is a rare occurrence to have the opportunity to work with the people who helped shape your career, especially when those people were internet denizens — people who I looked to and read and studied and who helped form me into the online professional that I am today. But I got that opportunity for a short while at Cerner, working with Greg Storey and his fantastic team out at Happy Cog West. While my time with the team was brief (a few months into the project, the AMC opportunity opened up for me), I learned a lot about what it is to work with your professional idols. It’s an amazing learning experience, but also one where you see that there’s actual hard work behind the scenes to those amazing finished products I had seen and studied over the years. And it isn’t all puppy dogs and cupcakes. Sometimes there are missteps and hardships and crazy things you can’t predict.

But as with any experience, you learn and you move on. I was fortunate enough to make friends with Greg and others from the team and we still keep in touch. We got to hang out at SXSW. We might even work together again if the opportunity arises.

One thing is certain: I would not be in the position that I’m in now without Jeffrey Zeldman and his merry band of Happy Coggers. Their leadership on the web has inspired me and continues to encourage me over the years. They contribute a great deal to the community that is the web and not just because it serves their own interests or sells books (although it certainly does that); they do it because it is good for the web. They push it forward and they make it better.

Whether any of them will actually read this post is uncertain. It doesn’t matter to me. My hope is that some kid who is looking into where to start when it comes to “learning web stuff” will stumble upon my site and take my recommendation to start with Zeldman. (Although, if he’s younger than me, there’s no way that the kid makes it this far in the post.)

And kid, if you did make it all the way through this post and you’re looking for where to go from there, let me know, I’ve got more suggestions.

Closing a Door

Today, February 19th marks my final day of employment at Cerner Corporation. I’ve spent just under a year here as a member of the Online Marketing team. Like I blogged previously, I am leaving the company to take what is in many ways a dream job for me: Community Manager at AMC. I’ve received an outpouring of support from my wife, my family, close friends, my church, the readers of this blog, my followers on Twitter and my friends on Facebook. Even the people that I work with at Cerner have been amazingly supportive (despite now having a rather large awesomeness void to fill) and they know how well-suited I am for this position and how much I’m looking forward to it.

All told, I’m really overwhelmed by the support that people have given me.

And as easy of a decision it may have seemed from the outside, you should know that I struggled at times. See, despite what everyone says, Cerner is a really good place to work. I wasn’t really actively searching for this position. In a lot of ways, it found me. But when your dream job comes knocking, you open the freaking door.

Unfortunately, that meant that I had to close a door at Cerner. During a time of uncertainty last year, I was given an amazing opportunity to join a great team at an industry-leading company that is poised to have a huge next several years. And not only that, but I got to do work that I was proud of, that I was good at, and that I enjoyed:

  • I worked on the team that launched uCern, Cerner’s collaboration platform for its clients and partners.
  • I led the social media efforts for the company during their annual health conference last October.
  • I helped write the best practices for all Cerner associates as they get engaged in new social, collaborative platforms and channels.
  • And most recently, I’ve been able to work on another large web initiative with some of my professional design and development idols, Happy Cog Studios.

It was that work that made my experience different than the one that had been described by all the friends I worked with at Perceptive Software that had left Cerner with a sour taste in their mouths. My experience was very positive. I worked with smart people on great projects and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s true that Cerner expects the best out of its associates, but that’s one of the keys to their success. Having an open mind when I was hired gave me the right expectation.

To all my Cerner friends, I salute you. You made going to work enjoyable and rewarding. To the Online Marketing team — Sara, Jake, David, Lance and Jason — keep crushing it. You guys have been a blast to work with. If it were any other position at any other company, I would not be leaving.

But as they say…”it is what it is…”