On Getting Coffee with Colleagues

Back in January, before I started my new (old) job at Airfoil Group, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to grab a coffee outside of the office walls with as many colleagues as possible before I got bogged down by client demands.

So, taking a cue from Megan Gebhart (and her quest to get one cup of coffee with a different person every week for a year) I scheduled coffee, with new and old colleagues, alike, within the first week of returning to the agency.

(Pro tip: If you are really serious about grabbing a coffee (or just setting time aside to talk) with someone, block time on their calendar. I joke that you could send me a meeting notice in Outlook to jump off the top of the building at 1 p.m. on Friday and I’d probably do it because it’s in my calendar, but it’s not far from the truth.)

Even if you work in a relatively small agency, you are amazed, as I am, at how easy it can be to stay heads down and not get to know those who you spend so much time with each work week, even if you work in close proximity to each other. I’m not saying you have to be best friends, but it helps to understand their goals and motivations, even if they don’t report directly to you.

Here’s what I learned after drinking a lot of coffee with my colleagues.

  1. I Was More Productive – I’ve never been an early riser. But, like I said above, if I have something on my calendar for work, I am going to treat it seriously. Not only did I get into work earlier to meet for coffee, but I became more productive. A jolt of caffeine does that to you.
  2. I Learned To Listen – The whole idea of meeting for coffee was to get to know my new colleagues. I wanted to learn what motivates and inspires them. You can’t accomplish that goal if you talk the whole time. Every time you think you are going to say something, maybe take a drink of that coffee to let them keep talking. If you are the inviter, let the invitee drive the conversation.
  3. Everyone Has a Different Set of Skills – Not everyone follows the same path in this line of work. The beauty of public relations is that you don’t have to be traditionally trained to be successful. If you can write, tell a good story, and understand how to translate that to the media, that’s a great start. I found that quite a few of my colleagues didn’t graduate with a communications degree and immediately go into PR. Some of us found our way into this industry after meandering around for a bit. That’s okay. We’re just glad you’re here.

You can learn a lot about someone in an hour just by offering to buy them a coffee. Not only does it give you a chance to escape from the office, but it also helps establish aconnection, which is very important when you work at a small agency. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment that can be shared with everyone, and personal relationshipsgo a long way in helping others feel inspired.

And who doesn’t like coffee?

Put Yourself Out There

It seems like everyone is divided these days.

No matter which side of the aisle you sit, I think we can all agree that the outlook is not ideal. And if we don’t learn how to agree, it will only get worse.

This fulcrum of history upon which we sit is eventually going to tip one way or another, and if we’re not careful, I fear it won’t tip in our favor, and we’ll spend years trying to right the ship.

Yes, I am alluding to politics.

And, yes, I realize this is a platform that should remain politics-free, so I appreciate you letting me indulge for one minute.

With everything in disarray and no one really knowing what the future holds, now is the best time to put yourself out there and focus on your best work.

Some of the most creative endeavors have been born out of adversity. It can take a shock to the system for us to realize fully what we believe in. But when we come to that realization? So freeing.

Take my personal blog, for instance.

I had let it languish for the better part of a year, but I kept paying the $45 fee to keep it up and running because I thought (hoped?) I would one day get the motivation to start blogging on a regular basis again.

Surprisingly, that motivation never arrived until I stopped being comfortable with exterior events, and I really started to think about what I wanted to say and I wanted to be perceived.

I’ve started to jot down my thoughts on current events, regardless of whether or not they conform to what others are saying, and I feel better, more at ease, with our current situation.

If anything, the existence of the blog has given me an opportunity to examine my beliefs through writing, and the daily practice of writing has given me comfort.

I’m sure there’s something that give you comfort, as well, but perhaps you are avoiding doing that thing because you are worried it might not pan out, or it’s not a good use of your time right now.

To that I say: hogwash.

There’s never been a better time to put yourself out there.

Start a blog.

Record a podcast.

Start a personal newsletter.

Join a committee.

Do something. Anything.

Put yourself out there.

If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that life is never going to fully cooperate with you, so you have to take life by the horns and take matters into your own hands.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

You might actually like what happens.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fight For The Truth

Politically speaking, if you want to see how the extreme other end of the spectrum lives, go spend five minutes on the Reddit subreddit dedicated to president Donald Trump.

Here’s the link: https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/

Go ahead. I’ll just wait here.

Done? Need to bleach your eyes? I can’t blame you. It’s really, really hard to read content you know is false that is being passed off as truth, while, at the same time, you watch an entire community of people radicalize around untruths. These same people log off from their computers and then go interact with those around them in the same communities in which you and I live.

It’s not a stretch to think they try to impart their fake beliefs on other, weak-minded individuals they encounter in their day-to-day lives. And, no matter how ludicrous these beliefs are, all it takes is one person to believe to continue a false narrative.

That’s why fighting for the truth is so important.

I used to think I was a jerk for calling out friends and family members for sharing fake news that could easily be debunked with a simple search on Snopes.com.

No one ever thanked me for showing them the error of their ways. If anything, they secretly despised me for the public shaming and doubled-down on their path toward ignorance.

But in my mind, I was doing what I thought was right.

Put it this way: If your child’s math teacher constantly taught your son or daughter that 2+2 = 5, to the point where they believed it, I think you would take issue with the legitimacy of the teacher.

So why are we not showing the same outrage when ideas and stories that are clearly false are spread rampantly?

Just like being taught the wrong answer to math problems, there are real consequences when an internet subculture tries to brainwash others into believing in the lies.

If anything, we need to be skeptical of everything we see and hear, all the while giving a slight edge to those institutions that have earned the right to be trusted.

So, I give you permission to fight for the truth, even if you think nobody listens.

Read it. Share it. Flout it.

One day we might look back and wonder when we lost this privilege.

Do your part.

Chris Cornell Showed Me How To Live

The first time my brain broke was in the summer of 1994.

My cousin had just gotten his hands on a new album called Superunknown by a band we had never heard of called Soundgarden.

Up until that moment, my musical tastes sucked. I was living on a diet of M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice because I knew all of the lyrics to the songs and they were popular. I had no idea there existed this completely separate universe of music that was, quite frankly, fucking awesome.

When I heard the first chords to Let Me Drown emanate from a Sony CD player in Steve’s backyard, my entire worldview changed.

My eyes were opened to new possibilities. My ears embraced the sound and the fury.

I experienced, for lack of a better term, a musical nirvana.

From that day forward, I devoured anything I could get my hands on that could be traced back to the Soundgarden family tree.

It seemed like every day came with its own musical awakening. I liken it to falling in love with a book and realizing the author wrote 35 other books that are just as good, if not better, leaving you with a lifetime of works to discover and enjoy.

As the years went by, and I struggled with the usual things that most adolescent boys struggle with, I always found peace when I listened to that album. It reminded me that, no matter how bad things seemed, there was always a possibility you would uncover something amazing that would renew your spirit and give you focus.

All of us (I hope) own the records and remember the music that transports us back to days when everything seemed new and possible.

For me, that album is Superunknown.

I never got to see them perform in concert, nor did I go out of my way to listen to Chris Cornell’s solo stuff. But I always had that first album; the “gateway drug” to the music that truly defined me later on in life.

Bob Marley once said about music: When it hits you, you feel no pain.

I don’t think there is a better way to put it. I hope Mr. Cornell has been freed from his.

RIP Chris Cornell


No, I Will Not Stop Paying Attention

I get asked this question quite often, when it comes to discussing the current state of our country: “Why don’t you just stop paying attention for, like, a week?”

It’s usually posed by people with whom I disagree, as if not paying attention to the fallout from the most divisive election in my lifetime is going to make things better. If they can be comfortable in their decisions, that’s great. I can’t.

Speaking from the point-of-view of someone who has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, my brain does not allow me to stop paying attention. If anything, I need to pay more attention so I can convince myself there is nothing I need to worry about.

That, my friends, has been a challenge.

So instead of hiding away from it, I’ve embraced the challenge of staying smart on current topics, if only to be well-informed when the need arises.

This need to stay informed is why I recently subscribed to the digital versions of the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Both publications are fair and balanced. And, they are not in the business of theatrics when it comes to reporting news like certain news establishments that lean heavily to one side or another.

Not many people will argue with your take if you cite one of these two institutions, unlike what would happen if you used Huffington Post or Fox News to back up a point.

The way I see, you can continue to stay ignorant, or you can stay informed and try to use your knowledge to change the world.

So to answer the question: No, I will not stop paying attention.

And neither should you.