I’m Taking A Break From Photography

Three loves dominated my 20s: running, reading, and photography. Last month I started my 35th year on Planet Earth 1 and I find myself re-evaluating my life priorities and goals, as I wrote about from a work/job perspective last month. Today, however, I find myself re-evaluating my personal priorities, especially those ones that fill my ever-decreasing free time. That’s why I’m writing here about why I’m taking a break from photography.

Why Take A Break?

My 30s brought tremendous change – good and “less than good” – to my life. A diagnosis of clinical depression. Weight gain and loss of fitness/wellness. A wedding videography side business. Unemployment for my spouse. Two new jobs within 6 months for my spouse. 7 years of marriage. Our first child.

I stubbornly tried to hang onto those major loves from my 20s, all the while trying to keep my head above water while managing all my life changes. The running comes and goes. The reading is fairly steady. However, I’ve found the photography took a back seat to other priorities such as our baby daughter and our wedding videography business.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

It’s funny to me how a physical print can have so much power compared to the same photo shown on a 5” phone screen. As I sat on the couch tonight, admiring a recent print enlargement, a realization occurred. I no longer find myself jealous towards those pursuing their photography dreams. I don’t have a “fear of missing out” when I look upon the fantastic works I see on Instagram and other places.

I asked myself, “Why?” Why am I not jealous? Why do I find myself not missing photographic opportunities as they arise?

It’s an excellent question, and I think the answer lies in the satisfaction and joy I’ve gained and found in other areas of my life. Photography held a place near and dear to my heart for almost two decades. A new child, however, fills up your heart almost entirely on their own, leaving little space for anything else in your life. You are forced to cull your priorities to the ones you hold dearest.

Not The End

Today, I find my joy of photography is filled by the joy of my daughter, personal photography, and my wedding videography business. I am comfortable with these changes in my life priorities because I’m coming to a realization that we live many lifetimes within our single life.

My early adult lifetime was filled with discovery, including the discovery of my love of photography. My 30s are now filled with the discovery of my love of my daughter and growing family. I know priorities change and I know life brings about many changes, however, this is not a good nor a bad change, but merely the evolution of my life.

I am looking forward to seeing where the next changes will come from, and what they will entail. Are you?

Growing Your Email List in 2018

Why growing your email list in 2018 is important, via Only Influencers:

Fast forward to today. Ignoring the need to add new email subscribers to your list is no more an option now than it was before. Your list is either growing or it’s shrinking. Shrinking is not a good strategy for any email marketer. Besides, email is not just for retention. New subscribers have a funny habit of becoming customers.

The above quote from Chris Marriott succinctly positions the email marketing industry in 2018. There are many rules, written and unwritten, that those in email marketing need to follow. The consequences of not following those rules, however, have never been greater than they are today. It’s those consequences that are the reasons why you should be growing your email list in 2018 the right way.

Consequences of buying your email list.

Seven years ago, I started a new position in corporate marketing at GreatAmerica Financial Services. I learned all about email marketing while on the job, and can safely say that I’ve learned how buying or renting an email list is bad news. As Chris Marriott explains in the aforementioned article, many marketers previously found ways to “justify” buying or renting email lists, mostly because the consequences were equivalent to a slap on the wrist.

Attendees at the numerous email marketing conferences began to follow their own version the of the Rules of Fight Club from the 1999 movie of Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton:

  1. The first rule: you do not talk about Email Subscriber Acquisition
  2. The second rule: you DO NOT talk about Email Subscriber Acquisition!

My experience match Mr. Marriott’s, and one not-so-proud-moment in my own personal marketing history follows. I acquired a list of several thousand email addresses via one of those infamous “business research companies.” When we sent out the email blast – remember that term?! – we were immediately inundated with an email bounce rate greater than 30%.

What was our punishment or consequence? Nothing. Not internally, not from our ESP, not from a blacklist, nothing.

Consequences of poor email list hygiene

Fast forward to this year. One email that we sent to a customer list had a bounce rate over 10%. While this certainly isn’t good – nor is it typical of our regular email sends – we quickly received notice from our ESP inquiring about the situation.

  • Was the list created through permission-based practices?
  • Was the list purchased or rented?

And so on. It was clear that our ESP was ensuring that we, their customer, would operate under the guise of permission-based marketing. No longer would the ESP tolerate even a 10% bounce rate, let alone the 30% bounce rate we saw a half-decade ago.

Advances in email list best practices

It took me the better half of a decade, but our company finally came around to what Marriott calls “The New Rules of Email Subscriber Acquisition.”

  1. Don’t jeopardize the inbox.
  2. Quality is in; quantity is out.
  3. Don’t rely on dumb luck.

And just as my personal experiences reflected the “not-best” practices of yesteryear, today my experiences closely mirror the New Rules.

We care about the subscriber.

We’re not blasting every message, to every list member, all the time. No. We ensure that those on our email lists are there because they want to be, because they signed up to be there.

We care about the message.

Is this what the subscriber signed up to read about? Is the email relevant to the recipient? We ask and answer those questions before each email is sent.

We care about the data.

Every number, every subscriber, every open, every click. All of these help tell a story. It’s important to me and my team members that we listen carefully to what story the data is telling.

Growing your email list in 2018 is not sexy.

It’s hard work, and the dividends are difficult to see in the short-term. The consequences of growing your email list the wrong way are too great for email marketers to ignore in 2018. Yes, it’s not sexy. Consumer trust – or a lack of consumer trust – dominates today’s marketplace, and doing the right thing, no matter how little, is worthwhile to keep or gain that trust.

Choosing a Purpose-Filled Career

Finding a purpose-filled career looked a lot easier before college.

My high school calculus teacher pushed me to be an actuary. My high school principal said engineering by way of the Naval Academy would be a keen choice. Another adult suggested radiology because of my interest in physics – and the unbiased fact she was also a radiologist. My early interests certainly leaned towards STEM-oriented fields, but I ended up in the most liberal arts major possible: Communications. How the heck do you find a purpose-filled career in Communications?

What a decade of the “real world” taught me about finding a purpose-filled career.

After graduating with a degree in Communications1, I can safely say that I am nearer to a purpose-filled career than at any point in my 11 post-graduation years. I’ve accomplished this by re-orienting my professional goals to more closely relate to those aforementioned STEM-oriented fields.

Sidebar: I will admit, this post is greatly inspired by two recent reads. The first, “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career” by Leo Babauta, triggered the immediate thoughts of needing to write this post. The second read was an editorial in the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics. And I promise, I will connect Zen Habits to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics before the end.

Zen Habits and “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career”

Babauta begins his post noting three common ways people say to find a career:

  1. Think about what you like to do
  2. Think about what pays enough, that you can do, and that doesn’t sound so bad.
  3. You’re already doing it

Babuata says, however, there might be another way to choose:

Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.

After listing examples of careers people commonly aim for (i.e. doctor, teacher), Babauta advises

The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.

How I Lost Sight of the Purpose-Filled Career.

Early on in my professional career, I did find my career path aligning with a purpose-filled career. I was producing episodes of academic lectures to be aired on Iowa Public Television. My first professional job combined all the things I came to love in college: television and video production, working with teams, creating a quality product, and having access to world-renowned speakers.

My next job — Producer/Director at KSMQ Public Television — is when I began to drift away from a purpose-filled career. I found myself simply trying not to drown, to keep my head above the proverbial waters. While I loved the experience gained, I truly believe those 4-1/2 years as incredibly detrimental to my professional career.

I tried to focus on serving and giving back to the communities I served. Whether through community outreach, community-based programming, or attending community events, I tried to ensure my professional focus was one of service. Looking back, I realize how little I had in terms of professional support and mentorship, and this lack of mentorship contributes greatly to a lack of professional growth and a lack of a purpose-filled career.

Finding a Purpose-Filled Career Today with Marketing Analytics.

Remember at the beginning of this treatise I wrote about being encouraged to enter STEM-oriented fields? If there was ever a student looking for a STEM major in college, it was me. I looked at Big Ten universities with engineering programs. I looked for schools on the cutting-edge of science, computers, and engineering. Then a scholarship came from a liberal arts-focused university. The University of Northern Iowa had everything I wanted, save a world-renowned engineering program. One semester and one Mass Communications course later, I was a declared Communications major.

Was this change one of necessity? Of course. That change, however, has brought many good things in my life, including most importantly my wife, whom I met in my major.

That said, I find myself coming full-circle back towards the fields that inspired my college search over fifteen years ago.

What about the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics?

Over the past few months, I’ve traveled deeper and deeper into the world of SEO, analytics, data management, and marketing automation. This road recently brought me to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics, whereupon reading the editorial in the latest edition I knew that I found my professional home for the next decade – or more.

Data management practices have not evolved as fast as data science and analytics. While the analytics field has attracted experts from various areas, including maths, physics, finance, marketing, computer science and business in general, the data management field has remained primarily dominated by information technology people, with strong technical backgrounds.

I fully understand marketing analytics isn’t the “bees-knees” for everyone. I’ve discovered an entire world of academics and marketing professionals like me. Two pages of editorial is all I needed to know I am on the right track for my career.

What does this mean moving forward?

I envision my professional focus on analytics and data management only increasing in scope and importance. I hope through my writing my professional goals will bring me closer to a purpose-filled career.

Dogs and Guns – A Gun Control Discussion

Why are dogs more important than kids?

I received this email yesterday, and while I saw the news articles about the new WOOFF Act going through Congress, I didn’t think about the connection to gun control as this individual did.

Why are dogs more important than kids?

We’ve improved automobile safety over the last century. We’ve improved safety of human flight over the last century. In fact, last year in 2017, there were no US fatalities from a commercial flight. While most politicians don’t think logically, one can easily make the leap from making flight safe for humans to making flight safe for our animal companions. Just as we’ve seen increased safety for human flight, we should expect to see continued efforts making flight safe for animals and lowered deaths.1

(source: ASN)

On the other hand, here’s the recent deaths by firearms in the United States.

(source: CDC)

How Does Eliminating Goo.gl URL Shortening Help Anyone?

Firebase Software Engineer Michael Hermanto says that the company introduced the URL shortener in 2009, and that since then, the ways in which people share information on the web has changed, while additional URL shorteners have grown in popularity. He notes that Google is refocusing its efforts by replacing it with Firebase Dynamic Links (FDL), which allow users to redirect to specific locations in iOS, Android or web apps.1

Yes, there are alternatives such as Bitly and Ow.ly. FDL, however, does not seem like a direct replacement for Goo.gl.

Why Unilever and ad money can’t clean up Facebook and Google.

According to prepared remarks from Keith Weed, CMO, Unilever will pull its large amount of advertising dollars from Facebook and Google as a result of them failing to improve the online environment of their respective networks.

“As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online. We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain—one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers—which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.” – Keith Weed, Unilever

There are two main reasons why I see this more as a bluff, rather than a threat.

You put your money where the people are

The advertising dollars go to Facebook and Google because that’s where the majority of customers live online today. I cannot imagine Unilever or other companies of the same magnitude saying “We’re going to move our Facebook advertising to Twitter.” Or “We’re not going to use Google Ads. Period.” You just can’t do that because there are no legitimate alternatives to the scale Facebook and Google provide in 2018.

People are not going to leave Facebook (or Google)

While there certainly are concerns from advertisers and investors about people spending less time on Facebook, the overall numbers look good, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The same goes for Google. What other search engine is a verb? People turn first to Google for everything, and the only company that can play catch up is possibly Amazon through Alexa.

Only time will tell

Time will tell how Facebook and Google clean up their networks and decrease how bots affect their ad networks, if at all. If they don’t, there’s certainly the possibility that Unilever’s announcement is only the beginning.

Rising Nuclear Tensions in 2018

For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons. (NYTimes)

I’m extremely concerned about the direction our country is taking, and the seemingly high and rising nuclear tensions. When you’re surrounded by people who think war is inevitable, war becomes inevitable. There seems to be no other part of society where I believe self-fulfilling prophecies are more true than the war posturing and mongering currently occurring in Washington D.C.

First released to the public by The Huffington Post, a new draft policy from the Trump administration states the policy “realigns our nuclear policy with a realistic assessment of the threats we face today and the uncertainties regarding the future security environment.” Naive as I may be when it comes to world politics, I understand there are people who want to harm the United States. I truly believe, however, there are many more people who have their own problems than hating America.

I disagree with the understanding that the world is generally hostile.

We may disagree on how the Obama administration handled (or didn’t) Russia and Syria (among others), overall the United States operated under the worldview that the place of the United States is to improve the quality of life around the world through positive change. Pundits dismiss this viewpoint as naive. The current administration seems to operate thinking everyone is hostile towards the United States until proven innocent (or agrees to build a Trump hotel.)

The new draft policy operates with the idea that we are headed towards conflict, and we need to be prepared to retaliate in-kind. We need to have a proper national defense. We do not, however, need to share the same dark lens with which Trump and his administration currently seem to view the world.

I don’t disagree there are those who aim to hurt us, to inflict pain, suffering, and even death upon the United States. I do disagree with the notion that the only way to respond to those who aim to hurt us is with threats of more violence. You may think I don’t know better, but we can always try to see the good in people and the world.

My Beef with Pardot

Remember, it’s a bad idea to assume that Pardot and Salesforce abide by the same rules, but once you’re aware of the quirks and accept their ways of integrating, then you will be able to run streamlined, impactful, Marketing and Sales funnels.

12 Things Salesforce Admins Should Know About Pardot,” written by Lucy Mazalon over at Salesforce Ben came across my feed the other day. I read with great interest to see what someone else thought my Salesforce Admin should know about Pardot.

First things first, the article should instead be titled, “12 Things About Pardot for A Person Who Knows Nothing About Pardot.”1 I do think that Mazalon approaches the topic from a good perspective, as it is also my experience that professionals with “sound knowledge of the traditional ‘core’ clouds” do hesitate when it comes to Pardot.

Lack of integration between Salesforce and Pardot

Mazalon notes in her introduction that “the Salesforce Pardot team are working very hard to integrate the two technologies into one powerful platform,” I personally have yet to see much fruit from those labors. We’ve been using Pardot at GreatAmerica Financial Services for almost four years and the product we use today is 95% the same as the product we signed up with back in 2013.

As we signed up with Pardot shortly before the Salesforce purchase, the first two years or so of using Pardot we were told (if not promised) that the purchase of Pardot would lead to greater functionality, focus, and investment from Salesforce.

Lack of seemingly coherent long-term strategy for integration

One such area, as Mazalon notes as a difference between SFDC and Pardot, is Salesforce Campaigns and Pardot Campaigns. This was a learning curve for us – albeit, small – that only added to the confusion between how Pardot and Salesforce can and should work together.

While we now know the difference between the two types of campaigns, it’s my professional opinion that users of both Pardot and Salesforce shouldn’t have to know the difference.

There needs to be a clear strategy for how Pardot and Salesforce work together, not as two separate products. I understand this falls more on the Pardot team, rather than Salesforce, due to the scale of the differing products. However, in both talking with Pardot reps at Dreamforce and in reading Salesforce marketing materials, one can easily get the impression that Pardot is truly a part of Salesforce, when that could not be further from the truth.

Lack of reporting options

If you’re looking for reporting other than the standard “How did my email perform?” then you’re out of luck. We ended up running most reports in Excel. Yes, Excel.

Why do we use Excel for reporting? Because there’s truly a lack of robust options within the Pardot platform to parse your lists, contacts, or data of any type.

A note of my own bias

As a Certified Pardot Specialist, I feel that I have a little bit of experience with Pardot. I was also the person at my company who drove the original decision to use Pardot several years ago. So, it pains me to list some of my complaints here publically, but when my team and I encounter the same obstacles repeatedly with little-to-no improvement from Salesforce, the high opinion of Pardot becomes a little stale.

As of October 2017, we are no longer a Pardot house. We used the summer and fall of 2017 to transition our company to HubSpot and we are not looking back.

Quick Notes on Affluenza and Materialism

Several good articles covering affluenza and materialism.

To cure affluenza, we have to be satisfied with the stuff we already own – Richard Denniss

Came across this article via “Becoming Minimalist” and their weekend reads newsletter. Something about reading Mr. Denniss’ article that made me think we can make progress towards curing our societal affluenza and materialism. Certainly, I think my own household is working on that goal. As Richard Denniss points out, however, just because our mass consumption has only come on in the last few decades does not mean solving it will be easy.

If having more no longer satisfies us, perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ – Will Hutton

An older article, but worth the read, especially within the context of our current conversations surrounding the American GOP tax bill. The question I would frame for the GOP is “Does this tax bill help make people happy?” Or taking this thought a step further, “Does this tax bill help make more people happy than the status quo or alternative tax bills?”

When western societies were poorer, it was reasonable for economics to focus on how to produce more stuff – that was what societies wanted. Now, the question is Aristotelian: how to live a happy life – or “humanomics”, as Sedlacek calls it. Aristotle was clear: happiness results from deploying our human intelligence to act creatively on nature. To inquire and successfully to quest for understanding is the root of happiness.

Affluenza: The Psychology of Wealth – Adrian Furnham

The other two articles got me interested in learning more, so Google became my friend and I found this synopsis of two books on Affluenza: “Affluenza” by Oliver James, and “The Golden Ghetto” by Jessie O’Neill. Not so much providing any new insight, the synopsis provides background into the creation and evolution of the term “affluenza,” along with some of the political and psychological underpinnings of the term.

Removing Mental Health Stigma In The Workplace

Why does a mental health stigma exist in our workplaces?

I included the tweet at the beginning of the post because it shows the opposite of mental health stigma in the workplace; it shows how our employers should work with – instead of against – mental illness. There’s a grey area between what you share with your coworkers and what you share publicly. Where do you draw the line between private and public? Where do you draw the line between what you keep to yourself and what you share with others?

How does one navigate the uncharted waters of sharing your personal health?

It’s not easy for me to share with others when I’m mentally having a “tough time.” Even before I was diagnosed with clinical depression, it was easier to keep feelings to myself instead of sharing them with others. As difficult as it is for me to read others’ non-verbal communication signs when directed towards me, I rely heavily on others reading my own non-verbal communication when I’m feeling less than perfect.

It’s the lazy-man’s way of asking for help. It also makes it easier to hide your true mental health, as I found out later.

Defining Mental Health Day

I should be clear that I’m not talking about mental health days where you need to take care of extra chores around the house, or you’re “taking a day for yourself.” No, these are not what I’m talking about.

When you can’t get out of bed in the morning, and not because you don’t want to go to work or because it feels so nice in bed. When you can’t get out of bed because there is absolutely no reason why you should get up. Because the world doesn’t exist outside of your head and the bed that’s holding you. Those are “mental health” days. Those are the days when you sleep the entire day even though you’re not tired. The only thing you want to do is sleep. Not eat. Not drink. Not shower. The world is dead to you.

It’s those days where you send the requisite email or text to the boss, “Not feeling well today. Going to take a sick day.” But is it a sick day? A mental health day? But they’re really one and the same.

A sick day is a mental health day. A mental health day is a sick day. To say otherwise does a disservice to everything we’ve learned about depression and mental illness.

Making public your mental health.

I applaud Madalyn for having the courage to email her team about her mental health. It’s an action not many feel they can take for themselves because of the existing mental health stigma. Even I thought to myself, “Why would you email your team about this? I would never tell them this!” My thoughts on Madalyn’s tweet originally circled around my own personal feelings, thinking about how there would never be a reason why I would tell me coworkers about any mental health issues.

I’m still wrestling with that decision today: Should I or should I not?

It’s not as though I don’t have the need to inform my team. Over the last couple of years, I’ve used up all of my sick days, even ending two of the last three years by using vacation days for mental health days. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that does provide generous leave benefits.

I find it hard to fathom how others at less generous companies would manage any type of mental illness.

Struggling to share.

But as I continued to think about why I struggle to share, the more I realized this is exactly why Madalyn’s email and the resulting media coverage are important. Mental illnesses continue to be relegated to the “lesser” illnesses, those illnesses where you are still expected to show up to work unless you are going to get other people sick (and bring down the world economy.)

Mental illness is not a real illness, in other words.

Is it important, though, to remove the workplace stigma around mental illness? What is important is to remember that everyone’s workplace differs. The experiences I have in my workplace with my coworkers and my leave policies are different from my wife’s, which are different from many others. It’s important to realize and remember this fact because this is the real answer to the question: Is it important to remove the workplace stigma around mental illness?

Yes.

We need to remove the stigma around mental illness in the workplace because of the fact that every workplace is different.

Every boss is different. Every HR policy is different. The implementation of those policies are different. It’s because of these differences that we need to remove our mental health stigma.

Why did this post take me so long to write?

I’ve been working on this post for close to a week, not including my initial thoughts a few months ago when Madalyn’s tweet originally became public. Why did it take so long to write?

I still wrestle with the fact that I have mental illness. I wrestle sharing that information.

Maybe the goal of this post is to really announce, share, my mental illness and remove my own mental health stigma.

While I wanted to write this before this last weekend, it almost takes on more significance after this weekend. It takes on more significance after how I feel like it ruined my family’s Christmas gathering. My wife can work with me, and understand me during “bad days.” But at the same time, even the people who raised you can’t understand nor know how to help in those situations.

If those people closest to you can’t even help you or understand your illness, how can you expect your coworkers or your employer to understand?

Understanding and empathizing.

The simple fact is that no one can truly understand another’s mental illness or lack thereof. The simple fact is that all of us should be empathetic to the problems and illnesses that other people face or encounter on a regular basis. Even if those problems and illnesses arise at the most inopportune times.

We need to remove – or at least, lessen – mental health stigma because not all of us experience mental illness the same way. Some of us will miss work or can’t work – even for long periods of time – while others continue to work each day but aren’t necessarily “present” at work.

We need to remove mental health stigmas because not everyone has the same resources and support systems.

I have generous PTO and health insurance covering my costs, but what about those people who don’t? How do we increase awareness so more companies are empathetic to those with mental health illnesses?

These may be rhetorical questions, but the actions that need to take place because of them are real and exist in the real world. I struggle in the real world. I struggle with the need, desire, to post and share my thoughts on this topic.

But when the end comes, the question remains, would I be happy keeping this illness to myself and suffering alone, or would I be happy in sharing my mental health journey and joining hands with those around me? I would rather help remove mental health stigma instead of letting it fester.