Cuba: A Visual Treasure

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Just one day remains for folks to pre-order my first photography book, a joint effort called Cuba: Seven in 10 (currently on Kickstarter). We successfully passed our fundraising goal so the the book is on!

Each photographer gets to present 10 photos. To be honest with you I have no idea how I am going to whittle down my choices to such a limited amount of pics. Cuba is a visual paradise with incredible photographic opportunities! I already have dozens of worthy pics and still have one third of my pics to edit. I know the other six photographers in the project — Charles Butler of Union 206 Studios, Nana Gyesie, Dwight Jefferson, Joe Newman of DC Focused, Pablo Raw, and Jon Sterling — were also amazed by Havana.

I have included a few pics below to give you an idea of what I am talking about. From stunning street shots and incredible people to beautiful cars to amazing architecture, Cuba has it all. 27760624312_9f68c1cd7d_h

The shot immediately above epitomizes all that is good with Cuba and all that troubles it. The people have a great warm spirit to them, and the architecture and colors are beautiful. At the same time the passage is poorly lit with the exception of the area where the table is, and you can see corrosion, a result of neglect in the post Soviet era.  The warmth overpowers the negatives here, and that is my sense of Cuba. Hard times may be upon the people, but they will persevere and thrive.

Please find a few more pics below. You can also view my public galleries on 500 Pixels, Facebook, or Flickr.

I hope you decide to pre-order the book today! My offer to give folks a complimentary license from my photography portfolio after the Kickstarter ends still stands. Regardless, thank you for being an interested friend.

Smokin!

A portrait of a young woman in Havana.

Central Havana 2016A shocking scene on a Saturday night in Central Havana. This is the side of Cuba most don’t see.

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And then there is the beauty of Havana.

Forced Narratives

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Maria Popova celebrated nine years of her fantastic blog Brain Pickings last October. In her celebratory post, she listed several really important life lessons. One really resonated with me: “When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.” These moments — forced narratives if you would — are very dangerous because they test your own vision.

I read the post shortly after someone dressed me down and told me what they thought I was all about. There was nothing kind about it, and frankly it was a pretty disappointing experience. This person may have spent a total of 2 hours of time with me, and knew nothing about me.

If I embraced this person’s views as truth — as I would have 20 years ago when I was first starting my career — then I would have been crushed. Instead, I was able to see the forced narrative for what it was, anger and a last attempt at control.

In her post Popova stated, “assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.” It’s not for me to judge the other person, but the moment offered a powerful reminder to stay grounded in my own belief system.

It’s a Long Road

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I am at the halfway mark on my career lifespan if you were to assume that 65 is the assumed age of retirement. Frankly, I don’t think I ever want to completely retire, but the point is that one’s working life lasts a long time.

There are some people who walk the entire journey with you, but they are rare and often hard to recognize. I assumed some very like-minded people would be great colleagues my whole life and we pursued different paths. Other people who you didn’t think would be periodic players over a period of decades become just that, people who watch you and you watch them.

One thing you learn about people is that rarely are they one dimensional. Can you imaging if people said Leonardo Da Vinci was only a great painter, that he couldn’t do anything else? And Da Vinci believed them? How many inventions would have been lost to this world? His art would have been all the world had seen. Of course, just having the Mona Lisa wouldn’t be too bad ;).

When you watch a person over time you see their many sides. They are not just a writer, but also someone who can teach other people to write, and lead them to accomplish great things, a manager of sorts. As time progresses, they have a family and they become better able to administrate or become more tolerant of politics.

The point is you see many dimensions to a person. Not all of them are good either, but at the same time every person has strengths and weaknesses. The best come to terms with their weaknesses or at least come to understand them well enough to play against them. You learn to appreciate others for their respective skills, paths, and evolutions.

And when someone simply pushes a person you know into a label, a sense of disappointment rises. They don’t know Joanne (or Joe, if you prefer). And they don’t because they haven’t walked that long road with them like you have.

The Power of Introspection

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It took me a long time to publish this post, four months really. It took that long for me to understand the full power of that moment, that dressing down, and how I carried it with me.

Over the past few months I have been journaling pretty regularly, three or four times a week. It’s a fruitful exercise that helps me stay grounded on business, work through scenarios, and understand some of the emotions I experience as I move out of the agency entrepreneurial part of my life and into this next phase.

One of the biggest challenges I worked through was a sense of failure. But I have to tell you the biggest failure I experienced was not the loss of individual opportunities or even the painful end to Tenacity5. The biggest failure was my lost sense of qualification. That is what came

I used to look at opportunities in depth and really qualify them, not just to see if they would come in, but also to see if they were a match from a culture and offering standpoint. Really, this is sales 101. Anyone who is experienced in sales knows this, and I knew it, too.

Somewhere along the Tenacity5 journey I stopped doing that. And along that journey work became a grind. We took on projects we hated, and worked with companies that maybe we shouldn’t have. Unfortunately, that behavior continued after it ended, for a couple of months at least.

See, here’s where that dressing down comes in. If I listened to my gut, then I would not have entered into that relationship. I sensed trouble before it happened. There was a major cultural and ethos mismatch, and the warning signs were crystal clear.

When I think of that moment and the person in question, I don’t think about their forced narrative. This person has not walked that mile in my shoes, and cannot possibly understand my perspective. At least not yet.

Instead, I consider their roasting as a gift, for it reminded me to stay true to myself and qualify my opportunities well so that I select work opportunities that I truly care about, and with the people whom I can help the most. In the past two months, I have walked away from several business opportunities — including a full-time job offer. They were not matches. I believe the lesson has been learned.

What do you think about forced narratives?

Yellow Stars, Pink Triangles, and Blue Crescents

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As part of their systematic program of dehumanizing people in concentration camps, the Nazis made Jews and gays wear yellow star and pink triangle badges, respectively. In the case of the Jews, this eventually led the Nazis trying to kill them off in the world’s most reviled case of genocide. They were also made to wear yellow stars in public, too. Gays were subjected to execution, bizarre medical experiments, castration, and jail sentences.

I bring these horrific atrocities up for a reason. The United States is in danger of succumbing to a dark fear that the country will consistently victimized by Islamic State terrorists, radicalized criminals who state Islam as their cause.

Bigotry waged against Muslims is reaching an all time high in this country, perhaps worse than the period of time immediately following 9-11. Hate crimes are increasing.

To be clear, the acts of radicalized terrorists are those of extreme fundamentalists, nor do they speak for the vast majority of 2.6 million Americans who state they are Muslim. Angst against American Muslims is fueled by the United States’ own radical conservatives, the Christian right and extreme Republicans.

The worst of the worst, presidential hopeful Donald Trump wants to close the borders to the Islamic peoples of the world, all one billion of them. In prior statements (since deflected as taken out of context), the demagogue Trump said he is willing to create a database — the modern registered list — of Muslims.

These rhetorical statements and the actions they imply are dangerously close to taking yet another dark step, requiring all Islamic people to wear blue crescent badges. Fortunately, all of these “solutions” are unconstitutional in our Democracy.

The Inexcusable Rhetoric of Racism

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Image by Padraig Rooney.

Trump’s defense is to have minions state that this is no different than when the United States put Japanese citizens in internment camps during World War II. This was one of the most cruel and embarrassing moments in U.S. history. Forty years later, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed a law apologizing for racism and paying reparations to those Japanese citizens.

Don’t think Donald Trump is alone in his fear-mongering demagoguery. Another leading Republican Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has stated the United States should only accept Christian refugees from Syria because they won’t commit acts of terror.

Christian right leader Jerry Fallwell Jr. suggests that all Americans should carry guns to shoot Muslim terrorists. Because guns are the answer, right? We don’t have enough armed American psychopaths going on mass murder rages. Now let’s arm more people and encourage them to shoot threatening Muslim Americans.

The real issue is ignorance and fear. Ignorant American citizens who don’t understand others, and are now reacting to fear. These people are preyed upon by their so-called political leaders. The end result of this rhetoric? Inexcusable wide-spread racism and bigotry.

This groundswell of hate supports the Islamic State’s rhetoric that Americans hate Muslims. Further, the angst meets the terrorist group’s goal of inspiring fear.

A Time to Be Active

We need to look at the moral fiber of this country. Do we truly believe in the principles outlined in our Constitution, the principles of tolerance and freedom? Or will we succumb to fear and hate-mongering.

If you think it can’t happen, that we won’t force Muslim Americans to wear blue crescent badges or register at the police station in every town they visit, then just consider what happened to Jews, gays and others in Nazi Europe; yellow stars, pink triangles, and horrors beyond the imagination. That Western “civilized” country succumbed to the fear and war mongering of Adolf Hitler.

Informed Americans need to be active in politics right now. It is a time to participate in debates, and make sure your voice is heard. More than anything, this is a time to fight racism and make sure that every American — regardless of race or religion — is welcome as part of our community.

It’s also a time for people to start taking Donald Trump seriously. The GOP has been forced to acknowledge Trump may actually win the Republican ticket. Like the Huffington Post, the rest of us, too, must come to grips with Donald Trump’s demagoguery and damaging statements.

We cannot allow the Donald Trumps and Ted Cruzes of the world destroy all of the great freedoms protected by the United States’ Constitution. To quote one of our founding fathers John Dickenson, “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

#xPotomac14: Israel and Corbett Take on the Internet of Things

iStrategyLabs and DC Tech Titan Peter Corbett is presenting at xPotomac this February 28th with a discussion on The Internet of Things.  Shel Israel‘s co author Robert Scoble is keynoting about their book Age of Context (Shel was coming but had a family emergency). Peter and Shel took some time to answer some of my questions about how Internet enabled devices are changing marketing and media

Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with Peter and Robert, and some of the technology industry’s best minds live, including Age of Context Authors Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Register today, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

GL: You are doing some great work with the Internet of Things, or sensors. Why is it so important for marketers to consider the use of this kind of data in their work with customers?

PC: A funny thing is happening. People are more interested in connecting with the real world than they are with the digital one – and the physical world is no being infused with technology in ways we’ve never seen. With that in mind, marketers – who’s job it is to connect meaningfully with customers – are being drawn into Internet of Things related campaigns because is simply what people want to interact with.

If you’re a marketer and you’re not at least familiar with the space, you’re at a dramatic disadvantage. If you’re an agency who can build internet connected devices you’re probably so business your just can’t keep up.

SI: Sensors are becoming ubiquitous, and with the release of Beacon Low Energy Blue-tooth, they will soon be installed every few yards of many stores. They will talk to shopper’s iPhones as they walk by. This will allow retailers to know who is in the store, that person’s buying history, the route they are taking through the store and for loyal, repeat customers, probably sensors will allow the store to under stand the shopper’s intent.

This changes a great deal for marketers. Marketers will be able to make offers that are highly personalized to each shopper, and not bother other people in the location who have different intents. The data will also allow retailers to position items on display with much great effectiveness. What, I am thrilled to say, will disappear is the need for marketers to try to push crap to every person that comes within range.

Robert Scoble and I have a name for this new, extremely precise approach. We call it Pinpoint Marketing.

GL: How far do you think we can take the Internet of Things?

SI: How far it is taken Geoff is beyond the control of you and me at this point. Sensors are growing exponentially, they are getting smaller and less expensive. Retail applications that I just mention are just one world-changing applications.

Sensors on Pills, will allow doctors to see what’s going inside our bodies with out intrusive procedures that we now must abide. I for one will not miss the joy of a colonoscopy. Sensors will be attached to traffic lights and talk to sports stadiums, so that the lights will be recalibrated when a big event gets out.

In Orlando, there are sensors in smart parking lots. They can tell motorists where spaces are open, so that they won’t be driving around and polluting. You ay for the space on a mobile app where your credit card is on file. If you don’t pay, you’ll get an automatic fine. I could write a book about the different ways sensors will change work and life. In fact, just did.

PC: I don’t really see a limit. Our world will be very different 10 years from now. In 50 it may be unrecognizable. It’s not clear if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet – humans will have relationships with objects unlike we ever have before. Would you rather have a girlfriend or your iPhone? Some people would already choose the iPhone.

GL: What’s the utimate application you have seen so far?

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SI: Every time there is an ultimate application, there is one that is even more ultimate that pops up before I get a chance to write about it. We are in a period of rapid innovation and disruption. There is abundant competition that is fomenting fast and faster change. Today some people may be made uncomfortable by digital eyewear such as Google Glass.

In a few years, that digital eyewear may be a piece of nanotechnology inserted into the optical nerve where it will communicate directly with the brain. Robert Scoble and I have seen augmented reality binoculars, that allow you to see precisely what’s around you–except that a sign, a map, pr a person is inserted into the scenario that is not really there.

In the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe,” Martha tells her husband, “Truth and Illusion, George, you don’t know the difference.”

Soon that may be the case for the rest of us as well. Holographic technologies, eye control technologies and nanotechnologies are going to eliminate screens for viewing entertainment, the web or anything else. Simulaneously windshields,and closet mirrors are become screens for data and entertainment.

PC: You mean besides our GE Social Fridge? I have to say Points is a big deal. Or August. Both of those products should be big successes from what I can tell. Homegrown hero SmartThings in DC is way out ahead with regard to platform development for home automation. I think they’re going to kill.

GL: Is social media an established and at the same time tired practice now?

PC: Absolutely. Social media is a boring commodity. It’s easy. Hardware engineering isn’t. Physical + digital interaction that excites and delights people is much more difficult to design for than a simple click on a social app. The bar has be raise really high with this one, and the social shops are going to get eaten alive people people that can span digital and physical.

SI:Social media is now a mature platform. No surviving company has a go-forward strategy that does not include social media. In less than a decade, it has moved from a disruptive intrusion to a core component of life and work. There is nothing tired about the technology. What got tiring is talking about social media. Now we just use it.

Businesses have come to understand that it is not just about push, but is an amazing place for gathering real time sentiment and data. The traditional media that has survive the tumolt of the last year, now see the people of the world as sources of credible news and the platforms as faster, better, cheaper ways to distribute it. I only wish the slow-moving institutions, particularly government and education would embrace the social media more strategically.

GL: If you could coach today’s students on one area to focus on, what would it be?

PC: I’d encourage them to focus on product design – digital and physical product design. There’s so much work to be done, and not enough talent. I was a programmer/designer who went to business school and studied marketing and management. I wish I had studied mechanical engineering or industrial design. Those are such important worlds to grok.

SI: I would counsel them not to focus on any one area unless they have to. I’d also advise them to learn to program, and that they will most likely learn far more on devices than they will in classrooms–despite what their teachers may tell them.

GL: What’s next for iStrategyLabs?

PC: We’re building a new product – it’s a real-time analytics platform for employees. We want to see if we can help teams be happier and more productive. That’s a very much digital product (and iOS app). At that same time we’re working on more physical internet connected device prototypes for internal purposes and for our clients. We hope the we discover a blockbuster internet connected device we can build 1000s of over the next couple years.

GL: What’s next for Shel Israel?

SI: I’m researching a book with Shel Holtz on how technology is giving more people and business in more places a better shot at economic viability. You’ve heard about lots of slivers of this new, open economy: shared, sharing collaborative, consumptive, mesh, ad nauseum.

Shel and I want to show how it is all part of a new global economy, one that is enabled by the technologies that are forming the Age of Context, an economy where the government plays a reduced role even on recognizing and defining currency, and designers with new ideas can print products on home devices.

Don’t forget.  Register today for this Friday’s xPotomac conference, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

Do You Dream Still?

Living with a young child reminds you of the incredible power of dreams. More and more of my childhood dreams fall to the wayside as I age. But I still dare to dream. Soleil reminds me of the power of dreamms, that there is still hope.

When Soleil wakes up and we have breakfast, I like to ask her now and then if she dreamed. She always says yes, and then when asked, she tells me that she dreams about ponies or horses.

When I dig deeper, she doesn’t talk to them and they aren’t having their own adventures. Everytime she is riding them, often in the mountains.

It always touches my heart. At the same time, I fear for my wallet (LOL)! Let’s hope the periodic pony ride cuts the mustard. Still, it’s really sweet, and as her dreams evolve, I hope she feels empowered to go and make them happen.

My dreams today revolve around family life, travel, books and movie scripts, of helping people make a difference in their lives and careers, and building a decent company. I still have my bucket list (which needs a healthy refresh), too. And maybe, just maybe I can take Soleil on a mule ride across the Grand Canyon, too.

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At the same time, I don’t kid myself anymore about becoming the top blogger in the sector or running a Fortune 500 company or becoming president of the United States. No, the dreams of today are grounded in the missteps of the past as much as they are in the fantasies of my imagination. Some of these are simply character, I was not to fill these roles. Others, well, I made mistakes.

Yet, I do dream. I can’t help it. It’s hard not to. And when you see the exuberance of a child’s innocent, yet powerful dream, a sense of excitement wells up inside of you.

Do you dream still?

Easy Is Difficult

Methods behind decent products or services tend to be complicated. Expertise, innovation and development create new processes and approaches worth buying.

That doesn’t mean that communications about a product or service should be difficult to understand. A marketer’s job is to make it easy for people to understand products and services. In fact, the value of x should be obvious.

Yet, when we consider complex offerings created by ourselves and our companies, we struggle to find that simplicity. In fact, we are insulted by simplistic descriptions, as if they devalue the weeks, months and years invested into creating our effort.

Don’t fool youself.

In the attention economy no one has time for you to explain things. People cannot afford to invest weeks, days or even an hour learning about your effort. Outreach must be obvious and factual, clearly communicating the outcome that people will receive.

Easy extends beyond the marketing. An easy message coupled with a difficult product or services equals a dissapointed customer.

Ideally, the product is easy to use. One thing I love about Fuelband is how a technology that involves several complex elements is so easy to use. It’s well explained. Fuelband is obvious to me, and doesn’t waste my time with why the technology works. I really don’t care. It just does. That makes it easy.

How many things do you buy that are hard to understand?

Easy to understand, easy to use may seem trite and obvious. Yet, so few companies and communicators achieve this goal. Easy is difficult.

What do you think?

Image by Brettm8.