I’m Grateful the United States Let Us In

November is time for gratitude in the United States. Yet after the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, the United States of America is divided about whether or not to let suffering war-torn Syrian refugees into the country. Some Americans fear refugees are hidden agents of ISIS or Daesh as the terrorist group is coming to be known.

The whole conversation sickens me, in large part because the very nature of it goes against the very fiber of this country. So let me proclaim my gratitude this month for the Americans who let my Jewish relatives into the country, refugees of antisemitism in the 19th century and war-torn Nazi Germany.

Most of my ancestors came from Germany and Russia in the 19th century to escape anti-semitism. While conditions were better, they met milder forms of anti-semitism in the United States. My father’s ancestors changed their names from Lowenstein to Livingston to mitigate some of the bigotry they experienced.

One relative decided to fight back. Sigmund Livingston formed the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which now is simply the Anti-Defamation League, a cause that fights for tolerance of all races and religions.

Later, the last group of my lineage left Switzerland at the feet of the Nazi army, which was granted access to cross the Alps and invade Italy. Though Switzerland was neutral, officials could not guarantee my ancestors’ safety. My grandfather and his brother and sister — the Bigars — were told to flee Lausanne and they did, barely escaping Venice on a boat hours before the Nazis arrived. They made their way to New York with nothing, and started their lives anew.

Freedom Starts at Home

Iwo Jima Blog Version

When you consider the ancestry of most Americans, they, too, were refugees. Whether rebels or slaves, by choice or by force, they ended up here. Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, their descendants have an open opportunity to build better lives here, the so-called American Dream.

Watching politicians engage in every activity possible to deny access to Syrian refugees makes me question that dream. This great prejudice, bigotry if you would, is perhaps one of the greatest exercises in hypocrisy Americans could engage in. For while “Je suis Paris” may be true, so is “We are Syrians.” Almost all of us are descendants of refugees of some sort.

Consider Daesh’s primary proaganda in fighting Western powers is to combat the western enslavement and abuse of Islamic peoples. Daesh, while an acronymn that literally translates ISIS in the Arabic tongue, is a word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others.’ So now we have American conservative bigots supporting the Deash bigots’ logic and their justification to enact atrocious acts of terror.

Perhaps Thanksgiving 2015 is a time to consider what this country still believes in. I hope it remains freedom and tolerance. If so, this outbreak of fear-driven racism should pass. We should embrace Syrian refugees and help them stand up and find a path to a more prosperous life in the United States.

After all, freedom begins at home. If we can’t practice the principles we espouse to the world in the United States, then being “American” stands for nothing but hypocrisy. Our brand of freedom should not be a condition of race, creed, or belief. And for that reason alone we should allow screened Syrian refugees to relocate here in America.

Thank you to all of our ancestors, those that left their homes for a better life in America and those that embraced the refugees of yesteryear, helping them find their way. I am grateful for what you built. I hope this generation continues those principles.

Saying Goodbye Sucks Sometimes

Sometimes you have to cut ties and say good-bye to people. Relationships change, decisions are made, matters becomes intolerable with no hope for improvement. This can happen in your personal or professional life.

And sometimes it really sucks. It hurts to tell someone that you can’t be around them anymore, especially when you care about the relationship.

I had one of these conversations this week with a relationship that spanned decades, and it was extremely painful.

When It’s Time to Leave

Lisa Gerber wrote an insightful post on this topic a while back. It was a great post. She discussed when people undermine you and don’t live up to their promises that you have to make the break.

I’d add that when someone you know attacks, steals, or just becomes so downright mean to you (or someone you love) over an extended period of time that you may want to sever ties. There may be little choice. At that point it becomes a question of self-respect and welfare.

Sometimes people do things that are so obviously egregious you don’t have to say a thing. Instead you just walk away. It pays to say as little as possible. Volatile situations are never made better by harsh words.

One time, some people I know stole some ideas from me, and then used them. A close friend helped. Shame on me for opening my mouth and trusting these folks. Shame on them for violating that trust. All of them are no longer a part of my life, but perhaps everyone is better for it. Two of them got the ideas, and I learned the loose lips lesson.

In this case, I severed relationships by simply ending communications and social network ties. I could not see investing in the relationships again anytime in the forseeable future.

But when I really care, I communicate. Today, I try to do so in a factual manner, as gently as I can and with love, always focusing on the positive memories. Perhaps I express a little regret.

There have been many times when I let my emotions get the best of me, and expressed anger, but today I do my best to avoid outrage. Expressing as little anger as possible with the offending party leaves the door open.

Reunions and Forgiveness

This week also held a reunion with a prior friend, a business contact that I had a falling out with before I became an entrepreneur. It was good, we talked about it with the pain of yesterday behind us as a distant memory. There was an apology. When you walk away with as little bloodshed as possible, you leave open the chance that such moments can happen.

The reunion reminded me of Ben Affleck’s Argo acceptance speech. In it Affleck said, “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”

As I walked away from this reunion, I left pondering forgiveness and what it means. And I felt a need to embellish in a little gratitude.

More next week about these topics. What do you think about cutting ties?

Image by Vito Santoro.

Thank You for the Civilination Help

Before people gamed every post for “Content Marketing” optimization, people used blogs to converse, including expressions of gratitude. I guess I am old school, so forget Google. It’s time to thank folks for their help last week with the Punish Geoff Fundraiser for Civilination.

In all we raised almost $3,000 together for online civility.  Though we came short of the $5,000 goal, but did some commendable work to change the online conversation for the better.

Unfortunately a $2,000+ shortfall does mean that we will not be “Punishing Geoff” by making me dress in drag for a full day of work.  A couple of private comments did come in that suggested this punishment may be uncivil in the eyes of GLBT community, so perhaps it’s for the best.

Civilination founder Andrea Weckerle has raised more than $1,000 independently.  You can still donate here, as Andrea’s larger efforts will continue for another two weeks.  Before I thank folks individually, I did ask Andrea to say a few words:

“Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and contributed to Geoff’s CiviliNation’s Indiegogo campaign fundraising last week! It was wonderful to see people tweet messages, leave comments discussing the importance of creating the Academy for Online Conflict Management, and making financial donations to the campaign. Thank you so much!”

Shout Outs

So many of you donated to the fundraiser, and I greatly appreciate that. In that old school way, I’d like to offer a little link love. In alphabetical order here are our donors. Those of you that did donate $100 or more are noted with an asterisk, and will receive an autographed copy of Exodus when it is released.

David Alston*
Jay Baer*
Randy Bowden
Leslie Bradshaw*
Heather Coleman
Shaun Dakin
Kaarina Dillabough
Ric Dragon*
Paul Duning
Lisa Gerber
Kerry O’Shea Gorgone
Jason Konopinski*
Ananda Leeke
Andre Mirkine
Allison Mittlestadt*
Debbi Morello
Rogier Noort
Jess Ostroff
Ellis Pines
Tammy Portnoy*
Patrick Riccards*
Mayra Ruiz-McPherson*
Lauren Vargas*
Andrew Waber
Zena Weist*

In last Wednesday’s blog post The Waste Bin of Mindfulness I promised five commenters a copy of Andrea’s book. She has agreed to autograph and send them to the recipients. They are Joe Abusamra, Gloria Bell, Michelle Spear, Brian Vickery, and Marc Zazeela. Congratulations!

There are so many people to thank for spreading the word publicly, as well as private back channel encouragement, it’s impossible to thank them all. Needless to say, you all stood up and made a difference, and I appreciate it.

I want to thank two that shared in particular, Brian Solis and Chris Brogan. Not because they are A-Listers, but because they have been on the receiving end of so many uncivil remarks, including some from me. They deserve better. Thank you for your support, gentlemen.

And Chris, if you read this, I did want to reaffirm what I said on Twitter last week. You received a ton of grief about Google+ from me and others. Like so many early adopters, you received hell for making a bold statement, and in the end, the proof was in the pudding. Today Google+ a force to be reckoned with and a must for any content marketer, even if only for search purposes. You were right. My hat is off to you.

Thanks again to everyone who helped Civilination last week! Cheers.

Just Say Thank You!

What happened to the lost art of thank you?

Returning to basic relationship principles is a constant theme in marketing conversation. If you want to build on relationships, then say thank you.

Yet, in this fast age of Internet business and new millennium expectations, people say thanks less frequently.

Consider the receipt or post transaction communication most people get from companies, either online or in real person. You get hit up with coupons and requests to buy more. Personally, one of the best parts about buying the old fashioned way in a store are the smart clerks who invariably thank you and shake your hand. Go Nordstroms!

Continue reading

Fertility Issues and Gratitude

Soleil Blows out the Cake

On October 29, my beautiful girl Soleil turned two years old.

People that know me understand how much I love my daughter, something I’ve written about before on this blog. But many of you don’t know why I am so grateful.

Of course, normal parental love factors into it. There’s also the very desperate reality I faced about infertility and not being able to father a child.

Rarely do you hear male fertility discussed, and that’s probably because from a guy’s perspective it’s akin to or even worse than erectile dysfunction.
Continue reading

In Gratitude, with Love

Us with Soleil in the Pumpkin Patch

It’s been an amazing year. It has had big ups and big downs. In short, life was in session.

In hindsight, there is so much to be grateful for as we roll into the holiday season. With Thanksgiving upon us, I’d like to express my gratitude for many things over the past year.

First of all this was the magical year of Soleil, my one year old daughter who has blessed our lives. From watching her first open her eyes regularly to the first time she said “Dada” to her first steps, becoming a father has literally been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am so very grateful that Caitlin and I are together with this wonderful addition to our now three person family.

Releasing my second book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate, was a good experience, in large part because of you. Thank you to all the friends and punks who helped make the book a success, whether it was allowing me to guest post, offering me an opportunity to speak, sharing your reviews, or simply being supportive. Book marketing is hard!

Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was an incredible experience. I am still processing it, but it certainly was profound, a pinnacle moment both professionally and spiritually. To be able to give back to my hometown for the past 20 years, and raise $2 million to help 1200 nonprofits all in one day (though it took six months of planning and work), well, it’s really humbling. Truly, something to be grateful about.

So many people worked to make this happen, but in particular I’d like to offer special thanks to all of my clients and friends at Razoo, Kathy Whelpley at the Community Foundation, and Kerry Morgan, Karyn Gruenberg, Stacia Klim and Elliot Gruber at the United Way. Thanks to all of our partners who helped get the word out. And thank you to the Washington nonprofit community — causes and donors alike — for coming together in a collective day of action.

Beth Kanter and Kami Huyse let me out of Zoetica early to attend to my house, a result of the above linked flood. Thank you.

In that same vein, Gini Dietrich carried my writing load over the past two months as I grappled with the flood and kept Give to the Max work moving forward. It’s so refreshing to work with an author who plays team ball and helped a partner that could not execute, literally putting the project on her back. Now it is my turn to write extensively, but Gini deserves a big thank you for helping me.

All of my friends (Dennis, Jimmy, David, Pernilla) and family in my personal life, people who don’t dig or just simply use social media in a normal fashion, deserve a special shout out. Whether it was direct help, friendly words, or an arm around the shoulder you helped me make it through a depressing time.

My online friends and readers, you, too reached out to me during the flood and ensuing recovery. I thank you so much for this. Every ounce of support helped me through a dark time.

Speaking of dark times, a year ago my friend George Giammittorio passed away due to depression. Earlier this year we as a community lost Trey Pennington. No matter how despairing the times may be — and for some the holidays are the darkest of times — there is always hope and love. If you are suffering and there is only darkness, please consider calling the National Hopeline.

2011 is not over. A trip to Austin is in order, there is a commencement speech for the Virginia Commonwealth University Mass Communications graduation to write and deliver, and the holiday giving season — a crucial time for causes — is upon us. And yes, it is time to catch up on book writing, and thus, I am taking the next week off from the social web and will return on the 28th for the final stretch.

Though we are not done with the year, one can never be too early in expressing gratitude. So thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.