Coming this September 2014

I’m a digital marketer. And now I’m going to be a father!

That can only mean one thing….I only have 6 more months to raise awareness of the new Fall product line of Felfoldis with an ad campaign.

The “Felfoldi’s Little Apple” Campaign

Everyone loves Apple; they are revolutionary. And everyone should have an apple a day as they are tasty. And a baby is the size of an apple around week 15. Such was the inspiration of the the “Felfoldi’s Little Apple” social media campaign.

We took the simplicity of Apple ads, combined them with the tastiness of food, and sprinkled in a few zesty puns.

Now it is your turn to help; here’s how:

Vote up the most deliciously amusing announcements with “LIKES” on Facebook and you’ll inspire our next creative creation. Vote as often as you’d like!

How To Master Your Email Inbox

Boomerrang Gmail

Inbox zero is a fantastical goal; a mythical mirage that is desired by many but acheived by few. After nearly two decades of battling, and losing, to my inbox I almost admitted defeat. I simply allowed the “unread” number to creep up into double digits while the “read” emails stored in inbox soared into triple digits.

But then two years ago I found Boomerrang, which has become my secret to inbox victory.

Email As Water Metaphor

I’m the type of person that is easily persuaded to check my email constantly throughout the day. Responding to an email makes me feel productive, when in reality it was the busywork of moving some (virtual) pieces of paper around. In my quest to avoid the stressful feelings associated with an overflowing inbox, I invested hours every day trying to keep my inbox clean and tidy. Many times, this would overflow into the night while I lay in bed. I would even start my days responding to emails, often while still in bed, trying to “get ahead” of the mid-morning email surge.

That’s when I realized that email behaves like water. When you make space, more will flow in. Some books on email management state you should respond to emails ASAP but this is terrible advice! The faster you respond to emails, the faster people will respond to your emails, often resulting in a type of ping-pong instant chat via email. And the more you process emails, the more emails you will receive as others realize this is the most effective way to get your attention.

But if you invest all your time doing the busywork of responding to and processing emails, when do you have time to focus on actual productive work?

My Email Secret Weapon: Boomerrang

How do you stop an inbox flooding with emails? Simple: you block the flow of emails.

  • Start your day first attending to productive tasks instead of the busywork of answering emails. Consider this a type of “pay yourself first” philsophy; invest first in your needs & committments before you attend to the new needs of others.
  • Instead of answering emails immediately upon arrival, only reply to emails during specific, time-limited sessions. Sure, this means you won’t get through all your emails, but email etiquette allows for at least 24 hours for a reply. If this lack of instant response causes you stress, send a quick reply that you have received the email and when you expect to be able to reply.
  • Control the flow into your inbox. Use Boomerrang’s Inbox Pause add-on module to control how often emails are allowed into your inbox. Personally, I only allow my inbox to receive emails at 10am and 3pm. The morning check is so that I can first attend to my day’s top priority; the afternoon check to allow me some time to process any remaining emails before I go home for the day.
  • Pace my reply. Boomerrang enables me to schedule my emails to go out early the next morning or another time I specify. Because of the delay in response, emails don’t devolve into ping-pong email chats. Also, the scheduled delivery ensures my emails aren’t time-stamped with my sometimes odd hours of reply.
  • Automatic email reminders. Boomerrang allows me to email myself reminders. Rather than trying to remember to follow-up with a prospect or client in 1 week, I can have the email added back to my inbox. What’s more, I can limit the “boomerrang” emails to occur only when the recipient doesn’t reply.
  • Schedule important emails in advance. With Boomerrang scheduling birthday emails in batches just got that much easier!

I can’t recommend Boomerrang for email management enough for both Gmail and Outlook. There is a free version, which includes up to 10 boomerrangs/month. If you want more, the current listed prices are $5/mo for personal Gmail, $15/mo for Google Apps (gApps), and $30/one-time for Outlook.

MARTA during Atlanta’s Snowjam2014

Atlanta's Snow Jam 2014

This is what Atlanta’s roads have looked like for the past 16+ hours. Thousands are still stuck in their cars after spending the night in sub-20 degree weather. Many have abandoned their cars on the side of roads, either out of gas or out of patience, and headed to schools, gas stations, and retail stores to sleep on the floor. SnowedOutAtlanta, an open group on Facebook, surged past 40,000 members as people tried to share their cold stories or offer warm assistance for those that could get to it.

All this makes me wonder: Where was MARTA during Atlanta’s #snowjam2014?

Well, Atlanta’s meager light rail system was just fine and dandy! In fact, it was perhaps a silver lining in the cold clouds that hung over Atlanta Wednesday and into Thursday.

Understandably, MARTA bus service was cancelled as the streets were a standstill, but rail service was operational albeit slightly delayed by 20 or so minutes. If someone could get their car parked within 1 or 2 miles of any MARTA station, they could have relied on the system to get them to any other MARTA station. They could have stayed at a hotel near a station, which there are many. They could have had a friend pick them up from a station that was accessible by car or walked home from that station.

This is exactly what several of my friends did. They ditched their cars and instead of spending hours in them through the freezing night, they walked to a MARTA station and had a family member pick them up.

Atlanta, we have to get over our obsession with commuting by car. A snowstorm shouldn’t make Atlanta look like a panic-stricken scene from the Georgia-based TV show The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead SnowJam Atlanta

Atlanta can only grow so big if we are tethered to the roads our cars can travel upon. Commuting by car everywhere and everytime is not a viable option for our city’s sustainable economic growth. Traffic jams cost every Atlanta driver over 44 hours and $1,000 annually and we aren’t even the worst congested city!

Atlanta traffic jam ranking infographic

Atlanta already has many commuting options; we just need to embrace them and make them part of our daily behavior.

I will not lie, it may be less convenient in the short-term. Being able to jump in a temperature-controlled car and be a few miles away in 15 minutes on a whim with no advanced planning or thought is a nice benefit. But is this really the case? Does it really only take 15 minutes to go a few miles when everyone else is doing the same thing? Do we really avoid advanced planning with our daily commute or do we already plan our commute around traffic jams and congestion? And is it really more convenient to sit idly in a car on a hot, humid highway when we could be sitting on an air-conditioned train reading a book, texting, talking on the phone, or watching your favorite TV show on your mobile device while speeding along to our destination?

Ultimately, Atlantans need to invest in Atlanta and make our city more connected. Below is a dream MARTA map. Imagine if this was an option for us in the next inevitable #SnowJam.

Future MARTA map

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the eyes of the world are on you.

(Don’t) Do What You Love

Do What You Love

Do you consider the Jobsian phrase “do what you love” to be sage career advice? Would you give it to another stranger? Would you give it to your own child?

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

At first glance, I thought this advice from Steve Jobs in a commencement address at Stanford University in 2005 was sound, albeit inspiring. I would repeat it often when younger minds asked me for my advice on their careers. I calculated that since so much of my own life would be spent working, that that time should be as enjoyable, and fulfilling, as possible. What I didn’t really consider at that time, however, was that at the root of that decision were the numerous options before. I had so many blessings in life in addition to natural gifts to call upon that I forgot it was privilege to have so many options from which to select. Rather than my risk in choice being one that left me hungry and homeless, my risk was picking one that was not as fulfilling as as the other. That’s a pretty nice problem to have!

But when did work become something that needed to be fulfilling? When did the value of work change from a way to earn a living, to a way to earn fulfillment?

This discusson arose in the open Facebook group called the Coffee House, which is “dedicated to sharing ideas as we once did in coffee houses”. One of the recent posts was an article in Slate: “In The Name of Love”, which asks if the “do what you love” mantra of the creative class devalues work and hurts workers.

DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Ok, so I didn’t see that coming when I repeated the bumper-sticker worthy phrase “do what you want, the money will follow”. I never meant to offend! When this new perspective was introduced to me, I begin to realize how “do what you want” is probably some of the worst career advice I could give.

And from an entrepreneurial perspective, doing something you love doesn’t mean you are good at it. And if you aren’t good at it, the market may not be willing to pay for it. And if the market isn’t willing to pay for it, then you might not be able to sustain a living wage from it. When viewed from this perspective, “do what you love” may be terrible advice! The Onion’s “Ridiculous Small-Business Plan Encouraged By Friends” further captures the phrase it full, satirical glory:

In the past three weeks, Sabin has given out nearly 60 dog biscuits and sold almost twice that many, all to friends. By conservative estimates, unless she experiences a 4,000 percent increase in sales, Sabin will be forced out of business before the end of the year.

But she is doing what she loves, right? Perhaps, but she is also doing something that isn’t marketable or scalable. Doing what you love won’t feed, shelter, or cloth you, no matter how much passion you burn for it.

And the darker truth is this: “do what you love” may be repeated be entrepreneurs because it is a way to pay their workers less for a lot more effort and risk.

DWYL reinforces exploitation even within the so-called lovable professions, where off-the-clock, underpaid, or unpaid labor is the new norm: reporters required to do the work of their laid-off photographers, publicists expected to pin and tweet on weekends, the 46 percent of the workforce expected to check their work email on sick days. Nothing makes exploitation go down easier than convincing workers that they are doing what they love.

Many entrepreneurs I know state they are fueled off the passion for their work; that it is revolutionary and meaningful. That makes a lot of sense for them perhaps but what about their workers? You know, the people that are executing the dreams and passion of the business owner? The reality is that even in an insanely country like the U.S only 38% of American workers report being fulfilled by their work. Ouch.

Do American Value Their Jobs?

According to Salary.com’s survey, in 2012, about 48 percent of employees said they work extra hours just for sheer enjoyment—but that number fell to 19.5 percent this year.

What do you think? Is “do what you love” sound career advice for anyone or the ill-considered mantra of privileged elitism?

What the SNAP?

SNAP in GA

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the U.S. It is formerly known as the Food Stamp program. It is the largest food safety net program in the US costing $76.4 billion in 2013 to provide 47.6 million Americans an average of $133/month of food assistance.

Take that monthly benefit, divide by 4, and you have about $33.98/week. That’s why I only get $33.98 this week to eat – I’m walking in the shoes of what 47,600,000 other fellow Americans face every day.

Who SNAPS?

“SNAP recipients are lazy, fraudulent welfare queens”

Living in the conservative South I have heard similar lines like that before. Whenever I hear the subject of food stamps come up it is usually to disparage the recipient’s work ethic, honesty, or character. Rarely, however, have they ever met an actual food stamp recipient. Or, if they have it is a story about fraud. When I press to ask if they approached and shamed the person for their fraudulent behavior, it has always been revealed that the story was through a friend of a friend (of a friend). What kind of friends are they keeping?!

What I rarely hear, unfortunately, are the far more likely successes of SNAP. Whether those shameful stories are fact or myth, what is reality is that there are millions of daily successes.

The 47,600,000 characters of all these stories rely daily on the assistance offered by SNAP to help them meet basic nutritional needs.

Snapshot of a SNAP recipient

What does a SNAP recipient of $4.50/day, or $1.50/meal, really look like?

  • 83% percent of SNAP households have incomes at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013). These households receive 91% of all SNAP benefits.
  • 83% of SNAP benefits include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person.
  • The average SNAP household has about 2 people, with a gross monthly income of $744 and countable assets of just $331.
  • Participants must also meet work and citizenship requirements.
  • 90 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of the benefit period – meaning most SNAP benefits are not enough to last recipients all month.

To bring it to a more local level, what does a SNAP recipient in Georgia look like??

  • 87% of households receiving SNAP have income below the poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four in 2012), and 46% of households are in deep poverty, with income below 50% of the poverty line.
  • Nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, and nearly 1/4 are adults living with children.

The reality is that in a few days my grumbling stomach will be fed well. I won’t be hurt from years of malnutrition. I won’t have to feel shameful about needing some help. The reality is that in a country as wealthy as the U.S, no one should.