A Few Videos and Films about ‘Home’

In anticipation of building our first home, I’ve been quite interested in some of others’ interpretations of what home means. To me, moving pictures mixed with the right sound always seem to have the ability to move me. One day, while watching HGTV, a commercial for Home Goods came on that made me smile.

I later learned that the soundtrack was “Home” by Dan Croll and since then, I haven’t been able to shake the tune from my head or my playlist.

The pleasure I get from watching these old television clips and hearing the wall of sound brought me to search for other stories of home. I found a few while enjoying a cup of coffee this morning and I hope you’ll find to enjoy them too.

This is My Home is a film I found on Vimeo that reminded me a lot of the sense of curiosity I had when exploring my grandparents house. While we, as a society, may be trending towards valuing experiences and minimalism, I think it is important that we keep a space for these artifacts of our past as they have the ability to help us enjoy memories and have a window into our past. I’m not sure if this gentleman is still around, but if he is, I would love to go and see his home in Manhattan.

Continuing on the theme of curiosity, I found another home that reflected another one of my passions: airplanes. Here’s a man that decided to make a retired passenger aircraft his home. In the middle of the woods.

Now, here’s another. The home itself isn’t particularly remarkable. Maybe curious to some by its small size, but what is remarkable to me is the number of people that found this so interesting. Why would over 90,000 people want to watch a man put together his home in a time lapse video? Are we looking to learn the most efficient way to unpack and set things up, or are we all just curious what home means and looks like to others?

What does home mean to you?

Making the Most of Mushy Bananas

As we were cleaning the house this weekend, I felt guilty that organic bananas filling my fruit bowl had gone forgotten. Of the bunch, I probably enjoyed only one or two, leaving behind four perfectly good, but way too ripe to eat alone bananas.

To make use of these, I decided to take to the web to find the best banana bread recipe there was. Unlike cookbooks of the previous century, online recipes give us the added benefit of social vetting. While Food & Wine may declare their recipe as the “best ever” commenters might argue. Finding a recipe with over 500 reviews and a 5-star rating made me feel comfortable that this first time attempt will become a success.

As the house fills with the aroma of banana, caramelized sugar and vanilla, my mouth waters in anticipation.

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What is a hashtag, and how do I follow one?

You may have seen your local news crew or a national television show encourage you to use a particular “hashtag” when tweeting or posting about their stories or shows. Usually they look something like this: #IAMUP which is the hashtag for my favorite local news team here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

The word hashtag simply means a tag (metadata) applied to a hash symbol (we call # pound, or the number symbol, but the rest of the world calls it the hash symbol). Metadata is information used to help the organization of information. So the hash tells the database the following information is to help others find this post. The tag is the string of text and numbers you use to help find that information. If everyone uses the same hashtag for a topic, then it is very easy to search for those posts using the “search” feature of your social network or special software such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

If you’re just getting started with social media and using hashtags, give it a try on Twitter. To use a hashtag on Twitter, simply compose your tweet, append the # symbol followed immediately by the tag text, like #IAMUP. Once you post your tweet, it’s searchable for anyone else interested in the #IAMUP hashtag.

Now composing those tweets and posts are only part of the fun. The real fun is seeing what others have to say! Using the search feature on Twitter, simply type in the hashtag you wish to search for such as #IAMUP. The results will give you a timeline of all of the other Twitter users talking about the same thing!

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To keep the conversation going in real time, you might want to check out a program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that will allow you to create real-time columns dedicated to seeing those tweets as they happen.

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So there you have it, a simple primer on hashtags, how to join the conversation and how to see what’s going on!


*This blog is not affiliated with WFAA or Tegna Media.The use of the #IAMUP hashtag for this post is for demonstration purposes only and is not an endorsement of WFAA, or an endorsement of this blog by WFAA.

11 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years with Marriott International

Today marks my ten year anniversary with Marriott International. On this day, in 2006, I started as a Loss Prevention Officer at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, under the direction of my first leader and mentor, Hank Dees. Since then, I’ve grown—both personally and in terms of my career—more than I could have ever imagined.

In my several roles with the company, I’ve been challenged, I’ve failed, I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Despite these setbacks, I’ve always tried to take what I’ve learned and move forward, so today, I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned on this decade-long journey.

1. Don’t take things for granted.
Nothing in this world is guaranteed. Not your salary, not your pay check, not the number of hours you can work, not the wonderful people you get to work with. Tragedy can strike, the markets can fall, businesses can change and you can find yourself in a very different situation very quickly. Take stock in the things around you that you enjoy and be grateful for them. Be thankful for what you have while you have it, and you’ll appreciate it even more.

2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Sometimes you can learn a lot more from “why did you do that?” than from “you shouldn’t do that.” Experience isn’t gained from success nearly as much as it is earned through failure. When you make a mistake, it’s usually because you were trying something new. As long as you are acting with integrity, learn quickly and make the situation right, there’s a lot of good that can come out of doing something wrong.

3. If it hasn’t been done before, be the first to try.
I’ve noticed that the most successful people in this and other organizations are the people that are willing to go out of the box, try new things and risk failure (playing on the last thing I learned). When I start a new role, or a new project or a new assignment, I always look to see how it’s been done, and see if there is a better way to do it. Embracing this has helped me innovate with the way I do things, bringing more efficiency, happier teams, happier customers and a happier me.

4. Always be flexible.
Some of the best opportunities came from the willingness to be flexible. Whether it was a task force assignment in another city, the acceptance of another project, or more responsibility by working another shift, being flexible opens doors and introduces you to new people. Working second shift? You’re limited to the people you interact with during your time there. Get offered to work firsts or the dreaded thirds? Jump at it while you can, those opportunities will introduce you to new people and help you grow your personal brand.

5. Learn to listen.
As someone full of ideas, listening is something I struggle with. I hope I’m not being too hard on myself, but I also want to be honest so I know I have room to improve. By actively listening, you’re showing people you care. And when listening, always know that there is more than one side of the story, so be sure to listen to as many perspective as you can, you never know what you might learn.

6. Use the golden rule.
If you want people to treat you with respect, you have to be willing to respect them. We all have differences and things we disagree upon, but learning to keep those to yourself and not give into the office chatter is something that makes great leaders great. It’s something that I’m always working on.

7. Travel more.
The irony of working in the travel business is that many of us spend 10 hours a day speaking with and greeting travelers from all around the world, but don’t get the opportunity to travel ourselves. Companies give us personal time off so we can spend them exploring the world and spending time with people we love and care about. If you get 14 days off in a year, you can invest them on a nice long excursion to a foreign place, or break them into 3 or 4 day weekends and explore a dozen different cities each year. Whatever you do, get out and see the world. One of the worst things you can waste is your time.

8. Make work fun.
You don’t get paid because you have fun, you get paid because you’re there to do a job. But, that doesn’t mean that doing your job doesn’t have to be fun. No matter how monotonous your task (folding sheets, checking people in, patrolling the parking lot, or entering information into a database) there’s always an opportunity to make it fun. Sing a song in your head, make a game out of it, challenge yourself with incremental goals, or reward yourself with mini luxuries for your success.

9. Never say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
One of the easiest traps to fall into is the trap of accepting the status quo. “Well, we’ve always done it this way,” is an easy way for someone to ignore the possibilities of improvement and to focus on other things. Always take an opportunity to learn why things are the way they are, and to see if there’s a better way of doing them. You could help the company save money, better serve its customers, or make its associates happier—all of which are big wins!

10. Ask people about their passion.
Many of us work to support our families and our lifestyles. We use the money we make and our time away from work in many different ways, and I think it’s so fascinating to learn about the interests and passions of others. You might be sitting next to a classical guitar virtuoso, across from a landscape oil painter or down the row from a budding entrepreneur. These talents and passions are what make us so unique in our lives away from the office, so why not be curious and celebrate them when we’re together in the office? It will give you something to talk about and show people that you care. You’ll be surprised what you learn, and surprised by how few people even bother to ask, “What’s your passion?”

11. Share what you know.
If you think hogging information will help you keep your job, good for you. Me? I like to share. Whether it’s the faster way to do something, a keyboard shortcut I learned, intelligence about an account, or exciting news about a fellow associate, I always take the opportunity to share. Through this, you’re demonstrating that you care about the people you share with, you’re helping to make their day/task/job easier and you’re helping to bring the organization further. As my Director of IT just reminded me yesterday, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Looking back.
I’m so lucky to have had the support of my family, my wife and so many talented leaders and co-workers that trusted me, took a chance and let me “do my thing.” There’s no way I could mention them all without forgetting a few, so I won’t even try. But to all of those that have helped me grow as a person, a friend, and an associate: thank you. Your investment of time, patience, advice and opportunities is what has helped me continue to move forward.

How a TV Chef Changed My Entire Saturday

Saturday morning, I woke up early.

My wife had to tend to a client at her office and I knew I had a lot of office work and school work to complete along with a long to do list of chores. My plan for the morning was to shower, grab some breakfast somewhere and crank out some work on my laptop. However, as I was getting ready to leave the house, the morning news caught my attention.

There was a morning show chef, Stacy Fawcett, who was cooking up a breakfast that caught my attention: Italian baked eggs. As she lined up the ingredients, I realized that I had almost everything the recipe called for, all of which was nearing its expiration: the last of the week’s spinach, a few eggs, a can of crushed tomatoes nearing its expiration and a stray pair of cheese slices.

From the television, I darted into the kitchen where I donned a robe, took to the stove and emulated Chef Fawcett’s dish to the best of my ability. The results were amazing, but I didn’t stop there.

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So full of energy, creativity and inspiration, I wanted to share with the world of social media how awesome the dish was, how easy it was to make and how a local morning television show could really shape up the rest of my day. But, knowing me, a still image wouldn’t do the trick, I needed something more.

Over the last few weeks, my wife keeps showing me these animated GIF recipes which show how easy it is to make the referenced dish. I always wondered how difficult it would be to make one of these, so as I was cooking this morning, I paused to photograph each step with my phone’s camera. The images weren’t the best, but the idea was there.

Now how would I stitch all of these together? Well, that’s something I din’t know. So, I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do, and I took to Google. It’s amazing how many people have created content teaching others how to do things, just out of the kindness of their heart (or to make ad revenue from the page impressions…but either way, it’s out there).

After finding an article on how to make an animated GIF in Photoshop, I downloaded my images from Google Photos, stitched them together with some text and created the instructions below. It’s not something you’ll likely see on Food & Wine anytime soon, but it was fun putting it together. I learned something new, I exercised my creative passion and I feel energized to attack the rest of the weekend knowing that I created something that I couldn’t create before.

There’s something to be said about learning a skill or technique, applying it and sharing the results with the world in real time that is so satisfying.

By day, we’re bound by the things we do to make a living. In my observations, it isn’t feasible for all of us to profit from our passions and maintain our current lifestyles. I caution you about being defined by what you do for a living, and instead live for what you’re passionate about. We all need a vocation of some sort to let us enjoy the things we are passionate about, but makes those passions your life and let people see you for who you are and what you love doing.

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So, with that, I saved the money on eating breakfast out. I was able to use a few things in my cupboard before throwing them away. I was able to burn some creative calories. I cleaned the kitchen, did all of the dishes and gave myself the inertia I need to plow through the rest of the day.

Inspiration is a powerful thing.

Christmas on Main Street

Last night I ventured into downtown Grapevine to grab a bite to eat. As I ventured down to the restaurant, I found that all of the bars and tables were filled. But much to my delight, when I arrived there was also photo walk in progress. Because the restaurants were so packed with tourists, I just returned to my car, grabbed my camera and walked around snapping photos for an hour. It was such a relaxing evening.

How Creating Stuff Makes You Grow

 

Motivation is driven by purpose and we find purpose in the things that bring us joy. One of the things that gives us great joy is the pursuit of mastery. Many of us (hopefully all of us) spend some portion of our lives trying to improve our abilities. Whether its to become the best chef, crank out a novel or learn to play that Eddie Van Halen Eruption guitar solo, we all have something or some things that we are constantly working to become better at.

Each time you seek to improve whatever it is you’re mastering, you learn something new. That knowledge gives you confidence and that confidence gives you the boost you need to take your talent to the next level.

When you leave your comfort zone of doing what you’ve always done and seek out to do something just a bit new or something you’ve never tried before, you broaden your horizons, face new challenges and learn new ways to overcome them.

My passion for electronic media started in my teenage years and for the last 15 years I have been gradually increasing my knowledge and understanding by creating stuff. Whether a holiday podcast, a few tutorial videos on YouTube, a new blog or a live interview show, I’m always trying to find new projects that challenge me to do things in new ways that I haven’t tried before. Each one of these attempts, despite its success or failure always widens my horizon, opens a new door and renews my sense of adventure, curiosity and yearning to become better.

Now, I’m probably not the next Stephen Spielberg, but you can bet your ass I’m going to take my camera out every couple of weekends and try to do something I’ve never done before. It may not be new to everyone, but it’s new to me, and my discovery of those techniques help me to become a better photographer, videographer and creator.

You don’t need a million YouTube followers to make a video. You don’t need 10,000 blog subscribers to write a post and you don’t need an art gallery to share your photography. As you become better, those things will come, if that’s what you truly want to happen. Until then, make stuff, share it with the world and watch yourself grow.

 

A Veterans Day Tribute

Once a year, we get the very unique opportunity to salute those that serve our country. When we think of veterans, we might think of those that fought in wars many decades ago, or those who recently returned from deployment. Sometimes we fail to realize how many people around us have served our country honorably. These individuals may be humble, unassuming and even hesitant to consider themselves veterans, but they have selflessly served our country, and for that we should be grateful.

Today, as a special treat to my co-workers, I have been asked to share the stories of two people that work closely with everyone in our office. Here are the stories of Sandra Campbell and Angela Lockhart, adapted for audio:

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Photographs courtesy of Sandra Campbell and Angela Lockhart.

Back to School

Over the holidays, after a serious discussion with my wife, I decided it was time to go back to school. After finishing high school, I went to The University of Tennessee at Knoxville to study Journalism and Electronic Media. At the time, there were so many things going on with our economy, the Internet and the evolution of citizen journalism that the media industry was headed for big change.

When I was in high school and college, I had a love for technology (which I still do today) and I focused on starting a career with a now-defunct cable television network called TechTV (originally ZDTV). The network married exactly what I loved doing: exploring new technology, sharing stories and broadcasting information.

In middle school and high school, I was quite a geek. At home I had an “office” outfitted with multiple computers, a television, a big VHS-camcorder, a “Hi 8” camcorder and containers of random cables, components and connectors. I loved every aspect of what I was doing. I loved the technical part involving switchers and sound boards and cables and VCRs. I loved the idea of creating scripts which I read through my homemade teleprompter. I even loved editing the footage to include realistic “lower third” graphics and background music.

Looking back, the whole theatre of producing was more important than the content I was creating. Sure, very few people would see the videos later uploaded to YouTube, and it was unlikely anyone would find my VHS collection of computer “how to videos,” but with each new project I completed, I was another step closer towards imitating what I was seeing on the television. This education of trial and error brought me joy and at sometimes frustration.

Through my endeavors, I found myself appearing on ZDTV/TechTV to ask questions about hard drives and CD-ROMs. During this evolution of webcams and how they were used by cable television, I even made a few appearances on MSNBC. One of the most memorable was when I was 13 and speaking about the antitrust suit against Microsoft when Jon Gibson ended my segment by saying, “I’m reminded of Art Linkletter who said, ‘kids say the darnedest things.'”

Those are memories that I will have forever and part of the reason that I became so interested in journalism, television and digital media.

So why didn’t I stick with it? It came down to one thing: money.

I watched several upperclassmen graduate and start their careers as journalists. They would publish stories above the fold in city papers and investigate some truly interesting topics and stories, but at the end of the day their paycheck just didn’t seem like enough to me.

Call me materialistic, call me focused on the wrong thing, but what I wanted out of my career wasn’t strictly to follow my passion or to find a way to keep up with the Joneses, I wanted something that I could do that would provide financial security, upward mobility and the opportunity to work in different places.

Ultimately, and serendipitously, I found this with my first “real” job: working in a hotel for one of the greatest hotel companies in the world.

Looking back on my decision to quit journalism school, I am very grateful. If I had gone down that road, I would have very likely disappointed myself. The network that I had my sights on has since closed up shop. The number of positions available at many of the other places were limited and the pay was not what I could sustain a comfortable living with.

On the other hand, my career in hotels has provided me the opportunity to meet a multitude of people (including my wife), travel around the country and work in very unique roles that I never would have considered when I was in college. The industry that I fell into provides so many unique and interesting opportunities, that I sometimes suffer from choice overload and can’t seem to figure out what to do next.

Now that I am enjoying a comfortable living, I am ready to move my career forward. However, in order to do that, I need to get a piece of paper that tells the world I committed to something, satisfied all of the requirements and proved my ability and knowledge. Luckily, I am in a time and place where I can now appreciate the process of learning, the information I’m gaining and the trajectory it will put me on when I am complete.

As someone that took classes in a traditional brick and mortar institution that carried a lot of history, I can tell you that learning online through a university like the one that I have chosen is absolutely unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I have the ability to study when I want, to read what I want, to find a multitude of resources outside of those provided (thanks to the Internet) and most importantly, the ability to set my own pace and learn whatever way I want. This freedom has made the experience not an obligation, but an opportunity.

When you look at something as an opportunity, your entire perspective changes. Instead of worrying, “what class am I going to have to take next?” I’m thinking, “wow, I could really use this if I ever want to become a ________,” or “I wonder how I can use this to help me _____.” Knowledge is power and I’m glad I’m finally wise enough to take the time to absorb as much of it as I can.

Looking back on this post, I realize it has been more of a stream of consciousness than a focused article or summary. However, this is the story (well some very small parts) of what led me away from my passion to what I’m doing now. Some of you reading this might wonder, “why did you throw away your passion and do something you weren’t passionate about?” Don’t worry, I didn’t throw my passion away. In fact, as you can see from some of the posts on this blog, it is more alive than it has ever been.

I believe in something I call the 80/20 rule. I believe 80% of your energy should be invested in your career, and that your career (unless you are extremely lucky) may not always align with your passion. 20% of your energy should be reserved for what you are passionate about, and it doesn’t have to be one thing. For example, I’m passionate about cooking, cocktails, technology, writing, photography, creating videos and sharing stories. Although my primary job doesn’t exploit most of these talents and skills, by exercising them with 20% of my energy, I can always pursue mastery and look forward to them. My job may cause stress, difficult decisions and a lot of hard work, but my passion will always remain something that I can look forward to at the end of the day as something that brings me pleasure, purpose and fulfillment.

With a full time job, which takes up 80% of my time, I had to make the decision to make my education part of my passion, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my life. When getting better at something brings you excitement, the work that it takes to get better becomes exciting itself. Telling myself that my education is not just a “step I need to take,” but rather an opportunity to move forward and master something makes it so much more valuable than a piece of paper on the wall.

Like cooking, flying drones, wearing a silly head-mounted computer for a year and traveling, learning is just another one of those things that I can call a passion. Sure, it would have been nice to be passionate about it before. Regardless if I wasn’t then, I am now and that’s all that matters.

Flying My First Drone

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For my 30th birthday, my parents decided to tap into the joy of childhood by purchasing me something that has been nothing but pure fun: my first drone.

This Chinese quadcopter packs a ton of technology into an incredibly small package at an alarmingly reasonable price. This Hubsan x4 Quadcopter includes a 480p digital video camera, 6-axis control and enough battery power for approximately 7 minutes of flight on each charge. The included wireless controller offers a “Playstation-esque” feel but offers superb control of the aircraft.

It is absolutely amazing to me that this aircraft, which weighs 0.98 oz (28g), can pack a payload of 16GB of memory. The pace in which technology has improved in my short lifetime is unbelievable. When I was 10 years old, it would take a shoulder-mounted VHS camcorder and a stack of VHS tapes to record this much video.

Today, while my wife and her friend took our dog to the park, I decided to take to the skies for my first outdoor flight session. Living in Dallas, wind is always an issue, so today my focus was on controlling the aircraft under steady winds, and I must say that it takes an incredible amount of focus just to keep the drone aloft.

With about 45 minutes of flying time under some moderate wind conditions I’m definitely glad that I am starting with such a small and inexpensive aircraft. This drone has taken a beating. Falling from 100 ft in the sky to the ground with not even a bent prop, this drone is prefect for the curious or novice pilot (like me).

If you’re curious about the world of unmanned aircraft and want to try your hand at piloting a drone, definitely start small, but with a high quality aircraft. Get used to adjusting the trim, calibrating the gimbals and keeping the aircraft oriented with your controls. Try to practice “hovering” and keeping the aircraft as steady as possible before you learn to zip it across the sky.

As you learn, you will undoubtedly “over-control” as you panic when the aircraft does the opposite of what you intend. These over corrections will likely cause for an abrupt crash landing making you glad you decided to start the hobby with an inexpensive aircraft.

After a few more months of mastering this quadcopter, I think I might be interested in investing in a more sturdy aircraft that will be less affected by the wind with a sharper camera and more precise controls. Until then, I’m going to work on getting my unmanned wings and snagging some great grainy video in the process.

Next time you’re bored, go fly a kite drone. It’s great to feel like a kid again.