Paleo Challenge Day 31

Today marks a full month into the challenge. I’m feeling so good at this point. I wake up between 6:00-6:30 every morning including weekends, and I have enough energy to work or play all day. People everywhere have been asking me how the “paleo thing” is going, and I love it!  That’s exactly what I was hoping for by blogging my way through the challenge. I know how the power of a community can change you and keep you accountable everywhere you go.  So thank you to everyone who has been reading and asking me about it!

For the most part, I’m not missing many of the old foods I used to eat, except for all of the delicious cold summer treats like ice cream. But I think I have to give more credit to the community I’m part of than my own will power. Not only has social media & the blogosphere helped keep me motivated, but the community at CrossFit Ktown is unlike any other. Every time I step into the gym, I’m greeted with happy, smiling faces and encouraging words. I workout with coaches who not only teach this lifestyle, but live it themselves. I’m taking advice on how to eat better paleo meals from someone (rather, a group) who is eating that way too.  It doesn’t feel weird inside the walls of CFKT like it does sometimes when I get that lovely “you’re crazy” look quickly followed by, “What?? You don’t eat any bread?”

I think I’ve heard the phrases, “Oh, I could never do that,” or “There’s no way I could give up bread, cheese, or sugar,” about 100 times. Then today I hopped on over to Mark’s Daily Apple blog. The post is about “The Blame Game” and how easily we opt ourselves out of changing because it’d be too hard. The post starts with an insightful quote,

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Albert Ellis, psychologist

I found this post particularly inspiring today because I’ve used every excuse in the book to talk my way out of making a real change at different points in my life.  I’m sure I’ve missed out on many really good things because the cost of changing was too high. But I realize now that when you’ve got a community of people behind you who care about you, it makes a world of difference. It doesn’t seem so difficult anymore.

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WUOT 91.9FM – Why I’m a loyal public radio listener

The first time I ever heard the University of Tennessee public radio station WUOT on 91.9FM, was as a college undergrad. College was an endless sea of paper writing.   I imagine that every student has his or her own routine for studying or writing a paper. I quickly found out that the only way I could focus was to have the classical music playing in the background.  I don’t know what it is about classical music. I think studies show it increases brain function or something – don’t quote me on that.  Frustrated from wearing out “The Pianist” soundtrack (and boy did I wear that album out), I began trolling radio stations.  To my surprise, I stumbled upon WUOT which had the most beautiful classical music piece emitting from the speakers. I stood there amazed as my frustration lifted, and I was overcome with desperate determination to finish this 20 billion page paper. It was like magic or something. I immediately had brilliant thoughts that I began typing furiously on my enormous Dell laptop. Yes, it weighed about a hundred pounds. You remember the ones I’m talking about.  Well, turns out I was listening to Afternoon Concert. After that, WUOT became my “study station.” I quickly found many other programs that I fell in love with: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Improvisations, and of course, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.  Becoming a regular listener took no effort on my part because I was just drawn to the stories, the humor, and of course, the magical music that helped me study.  Still to this day, I have the station lightly playing in the background in my office all day.

So this year marks the 60th anniversary of the radio station and boy do they have it packed with some amazing great events – many are FREE.  Already, Carl Kasell, longtime NPR news anchor and currently on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,  and Senator Howard Baker have stopped by the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy for a wonderful evening. They talked about public radio as a true service to communities, a place to hear about real issues and real people, and give back to the listeners.  I was squirming in my seat toward the end of the evening.  I just wanted to have my picture taken with Carl as I’ve been a long time listener of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Luckily, I was granted that wish!

Carl Kasell and I

I got to help out a little at this year’s Spring Fund Drive.  WUOT is a listener supported station with no paid advertisements.  So I got to help out manning the phones for taking listeners’ pledges.  Everyone kept telling me how much fun it was to volunteer, but I kept thinking, “Uh, you’re just manning a phone. How fun can it be?”  Well, I was wrong because I ended up having a blast!  My 3 hour time slot went by in what seemed like 30 minutes.  In between phone calls we got to chat with each other and nibble on some rockin food from Tomato Head and Nama.  During our chat one guy was telling us he had just moved to Knoxville from Dallas, Texas a little over a week prior to the Spring Fund Drive. He was listening one day decided to volunteer when he heard the call on WUOT. Our jaws dropped when we heard this realizing he had been in Knoxville about 10 days and was already volunteering for the station.  The loyalty of public radio listeners really runs deep.

One wall of the vinyl jazz collection at the station

So back to the party. There are some amazing events scheduled for this anniversary year including a FREE concert with David Northington at the Clayton Center for the Arts – Monday, May 24th at 8:00pm and even more surprises to come which I can’t share just yet. Wink, wink. I encourage you to check back on the WUOT website as it is updated regularly with sponsored events.  You can even listen to the station from your iPhone or iPod with the new application on the App Store. I actually tested this out today when I took my lunch down to Sequoyah Hills Park.  I was listening to the interview with journalists Lisa Ling and Laura Ling about Laura’s capture in North Korea when I arrived to my destination. Rather than just sitting in the car, I took my phone with me and listened while having my lunch by the water. Couldn’t have been more perfect. You’ll really enjoy this app the next time you find yourself sitting in your car in the driveway to finish listening to an interview or news story (admit it, we’ve all done it). Now you can take it with you!

Old poster up in the station

So if you’re a WUOT listener, what’s your favorite program?

Privacy on Facebook – Let’s talk about it

The hot button issue right now is certainly the discussion of privacy on Facebook, the most popular social network.  With over 400 million users, Facebook owns personal data on a group that equals the size of the third largest country in the world.  Facebook has become a regular part of many of our lives. I use Facebook and many other social networks on a daily basis as this is often my primary connection to many business partners.  My very large family that is spread all over the United States keeps up with each other by posting photos of family events, holidays, graduations, engagements, weddings, you name it, on a regular basis. We don’t get to see each other much throughout the year, and this has become a way for us to not feel so distant.  And there are countless other stories just like this where Facebook has become a fantastic tool at bringing us closer together.  Now it seems as though it’s dividing us on a very important issue: privacy.

Privacy is by far one of the most important privileges we own the individual right to.  Our entire governmental system is founded on the basis of individual rights of human beings, and one that we cling to is the right to privacy.  We reserve the right to protect ourselves and our families from harmful situations by dishing out personal information.  But how far are we willing to go when we get something back – like a great networking tool – by giving up a little of that privacy? Furthermore, are we really giving up a lot of personal information to use these sites? An email address and birth date is requested by Facebook to sign up, but do you really have to divulge any other personal info? It’s certainly not required.

The divide on this debate seems to fall along the age line. A new report by YouGov BrandIndexex shows consumer perception of Facebook over the last 4 months broken down into two age groups: Adults 18-34 and Adults 35+. The question was posed, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand [Facebook] in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?” The accompanying graph shows a distinct positive trend for the 18-34 group and distinct negative for the 35+ group.  I recently had a discussion with a group of people of varying genders and ages on this exact topic.  I myself as a member of the 18-34 group view Facebook very positively. I’ve had a Facebook profile since I was a freshman in college, and many of my original friends were from high school.  I’ve been keeping up with them for years now. I couldn’t survive college group work without Facebook.  It quickly became a way of life.  However, another person in the group voiced how surreal it is when you get on Facebook for the first time 20 years removed from high school, and all of a sudden you start getting friend requests from people you don’t even remember.  Instantly you feel a bit of your privacy has been sacrificed.  Furthermore, the media stresses the downfalls of social media on the lives of very young people by constantly covering stories on sexting, cyberbullying, and students not thinking of the consequences before posting something online.

I’m curious to know what you think. Do you think age has a lot to do with the privacy issues with Facebook? Do you feel as though your privacy is at stake by using social networking sites? Let me know in the comments section below.

Introduction Knoxville: Not just for those new to the area

For the past six Thursdays, I have had the privilege of joining an excellent group of Knoxville’s finest on a different adventure around our great city through Introduction Knoxville. From the Tennessee Theater, to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Fulton High School, we explored some fabulous Knoxville destinations learning about a new aspect of our area’s culture along the way. Each week features a theme for the evening such as: the political and economic community, the educational community, innovations and cooperation, the healthy and caring community, and the arts and cultural community with the first night dedicated to a bus tour around K-town. As a Knoxville native, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed the bus tour. My first thought was, “Really, a bus tour of Knoxville?” Let me just say that I learned more about our history during that bus tour than I have my whole life here in Knoxville. I think it’s great to know where you came from especially your own city.

The list of places we visited is worth noting because of just how great each one is. Here is a list of each one of those places: Tennessee Theater East Tennessee History Center Scripps Networks Headquarters Fulton High School Knoxville Convention Center Oak Ridge National Laboratory Beck Cultural Exchange Center The Emporium.

The Political and Economic Community session stood out to me for the fact that we really got down to the nitty gritty of Knoxville politics and economics. Speaker Frank Cagle, Columnist and Political Analyst for MetroPulse, talked about the history of politics in the area, the move of development to West Knoxville and its effect on the city, and what would need to happen in order for Knoxville to move to metro government. I really wish that some of these topics would be discussed in Knoxville schools. I feel behind for the fact that I’ve lived here for as long as I have and really knew none of this. It gives you such a different perspective on the area and your role in the community. More importantly, how your role in the community really is integral to the success of our region.

Fulton High School Gospel Choir....A-mazing!

Fulton High School was an eye-opening experience. Their new class structure to include schools of learning much like a college or university seems like a huge step in the right direction. This is only the second year of this new program, but they have seen around a 10% increase in graduation rates from before implementation to after one year of the new program. That’s an amazing jump! I value education as a priority number one for all individuals. I think it is amazing how an educational setting can change you as a person from day one to final exams for a single class. As a product of Knox County public education, I really want to see our schools succeed and want to be apart any way that I can. Some great community outreach ideas were proposed to the group, and I hope to get involved even more in the educational community of Knoxville.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory was an absolute treat to be able to explore. Seeing the world’s fastest computer, the Jaguar, up close was amazing in itself. What I’ve always known Oak Ridge for is Big Ed’s pizza. From childhood, this was a place we would visit as a family, especially for birthdays and during the summer when we would stop by Oak Ridge pool or one of the nearby parks. I always remember hearing about ORNL as a child, and when I would hear people talk about it, there was always a sense of mystery around the place. I was so excited to see the place for myself, tour the facilities, and hear about the rich history of the lab and what it has meant for our nation. It blows my mind that we have such an amazing, innovative place right in our backyard!

My favorite night by far was the Arts and Cultural Community at The Emporium. This was definitely a celebratory night with great food and great performances. We were so blessed to see performances by the following groups: Keith Brown Jazz Trio, Knoxville String Band, African Drum and Dance, Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble, Carpetbag Theatre, Knoxville Opera, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Spoken Word by Stephen “Seed” Heathcock, and The Black Lillies. I loved all of the performances, but my heart is certainly with The Black Lillies. I saw them perform last year at Tennessee Shines at the Bijou Theater. As a bluegrass, Americana, folk music lover myself, I was in awe getting to see them perform again. They are a very special band, and they exemplify the true talent in our great city.

We visited some great places and got to see amazing things. However, the coolest, and long lasting aspect of Introduction Knoxville is the people you meet and the friends you make. I know for certain that I have made some friends for life out of this group. Everyone is so smart, ambitious, with huge hearts for the Knoxville community. I look forward to working with many of them in our area giving back to a city that has given so much to us. I highly recommend Introduction Knoxville, and suggest you check it out. If anyone from the class is reading this, what was your favorite night or aspect of the class? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

The Real Truth, Community, and “The Tonight Show”

What is the saying – you know you love someone when you keep seeing their face everywhere? Well, I think you can also say that when you love an idea you see examples of it everywhere.  During the Social Fresh Nashville Conference which I wrote about in my last post, the word that stuck with me was “community.”  While that is still with me, the word that is now in the forefront of my mind is “truth.”  They seem to go hand in hand, right?  It’s all well and good to join in a community or even start one yourself, but in the end what does that get you if you aren’t truthful while you are there?  Furthermore, what is real truth?  Is it just talking about things that are true?  We all can do that by just spouting off facts about ourselves that are true especially the good ones like, “I give back to the community” or “Look at all this stuff I’ve accomplished.”  I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone and some of their first conversation pieces toot their own horn, I immediately bow out of the situation.  Humility is pure genius in conversation.  Think about a fight you’ve had with someone.  Doesn’t it make you angrier when the other won’t admit their own mistake or keep blaming it on someone else?  Then think about what happens to your mood when the other acts calmly, taking up the shrouds of humility accepting blame.  You become calm.  You stop questioning the other or the motives behind their actions.  You seem to care less because you’re not angry anymore.

Couldn’t we say the same is true with online communities?  It seems the more we think about how we interact with others on a daily basis, the better understanding we have on how businesses should interact with their customers.  We’ve all heard the “cocktail example” highlighting that you don’t just walk up to a conversation and start talking.  Well, let’s take that a step further.  What about when you should talk about something?  Let’s say you’ve been standing there a few minutes, and it naturally falls to you to say something.  If you know the group and the conversation, you’re going to know what they are waiting on you to say.  If there’s a particular topic at hand, don’t you usually just join into that topic?  If you really want to be open, honest, and truthful with them, do you skirt around the topic and try to change the subject?  If you do that, then chances are over time or even instantly, they will become seriously bored with you. 

It seems that public figures who are catching on to this truthful concept the best lately are late night talk show hosts.  David Letterman immediately came out with an apology and rendering of his side of the extramarital affair story when it broke the headlines.  So then everybody stopped talking about it.  Or if they did talk, they usually say, “Eh, all in a day. At least he admitted it.”  Tiger Woods on the other hand took forever to finally say something, and when he did he did it in writing, not a more personal venue like video.  We all were still just sitting saying, “Um, so like, what happened with the Cadillac?”  I would say most probably didn’t care that he had an affair, we just wanted to know what happened with the Cadillac during the first few days. Why was it so secret?  Our imaginations always make things so much worse.  Seriously, does anyone know what really happened with the crash that night? 

Now let’s take the recent “Tonight Show” situation.  It seems like NBC is screwing around with both Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.  Rather than skirt around the ugly situation, both have come out with exactly what they’re thinking, and they’re doing it in a funny way by poking fun at NBC.  Click here for Jay’s recent dignified, yet funny comment on the situation. If you’ve been watching Conan lately, you would start thinking to yourself or out loud, “So why in the world is NBC letting Conan bash them like he is?  Poke fun at them?”  To me as “truth” hangs around in my mind, I can’t help but think that NBC has caught on to something here or at least the hosts.  We all expect for NBC to totally think about our beloved programming in the form of dollars and cents – well ratings for that matter.  If our favorite show isn’t bringing in the money, it’s gone. So when a situation arises that points to a business trying to make money, like NBC moving everyone around to help the ratings, why not poke fun at it?  We’re all going to do it anyway, why not host the fun poking?  Then people are like, “Well that’s not so bad. I mean everybody’s gotta make a dollar, right?”  Let people talk about you, poke fun at you.  Laughing is much better than angry shouting. I think Jay and Conan understand the importance of “truth” with their audiences.

 So what about you? What instances of public truth have you seen lately – even when it may have been a bit messy? Did the situation get better?

Social Fresh, Community, and “Avatar” – How they are related

On Monday, I attended the Social Fresh Nashville conference.  Driving to Nashville and back on the same day was enough to make anyone tired, but the Social Fresh experience was definitely worth the drive and lack of sleep (thank you 4am alarm clock).  About 150 people packed the meeting space at the Millennium Maxwell Hotel each with a unique background and perspective on social media for marketing.  With regards to social media, we’re all in different stages, hopefully always willing to remain a life long student no matter how “expert” we get, or think we get.  I’m sure every person at this event left with something different.  Our intentions are all different.  Our focus is different.  Our goals are different. 

 The biggest takeaway for me was the simple word “community.”  Today ee hear more about Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter numbers and less about cultivating a thriving, energetic community.  About a month ago I picked up the book Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.  I just cracked open the cover a few days ago after watching a short video interview with the author by Jason Falls.  In the interview, Mitch is talking about when clients come to him saying, “We need to get on Facebook and Twitter!”  Mitch’s response is, “Ok, why do you need to be there?”  You have to start with the why’s for the things you do before deploying the tools.  Seems like such a simple concept that we’ve probably all heard many times, but when you think about in terms of a community, it seems to make much more sense – at least it does for me. You can keep casting your net out there with the old marketing mindset just using new tools, and you’ll probably end up at a dead end pretty soon.  At the conference, Jason Falls touched on “intent” being your most important aspect of engaging online as a marketer.  Your audience can easily see your intent.  Do you want to be just another marketer trying to sell products, spamming the kind people who have so graciously offered to be part of your club?  Or do you want to be part of the community, part of the give and take of a real relationship.

I can’t help but think about the movie “Avatar” in this respect.  The  lead male character, Jake, goes into the new world, Pandora, trying to look like the Na’vi people, act like them, and even does a good job at pulling that off.  However, at some point his original intent comes through, his hidden agenda, causing destruction and a complete breakdown of trust with his new community of friends.  He has to then make life-threatening decisions to gain that trust back.  Let’s certainly not be like Jake in this case.  (By the way, I totally loved this movie and am only using this as one small example as it relates the aspect of community and real truth.  If you haven’t seen it, let me officially offer my recommendation for you to pay the almost 10 bucks it costs these days to see a movie – or 12 if you see it in 3D.  For the visual imagery alone, it’s worth the money.)

 During each session throughout the conference, I kept coming back to community, back to being real and honest.  For a company, I see why that concept is scary – but isn’t it where we are all headed?  If we come at this ‘brave new world’ of social media with anything other than becoming part of the community, talking like them, thinking like them, then we have it all wrong.  The big, impressive numbers of networking sites are enough to insight attention, but they aren’t the real value of engagement.  The more we think in terms of reality and being real, the better we will fare in life and in social media.

If you attended the Social Fresh Nashville conference (or any of the others), what was your big takeaway?