With a few friends we've started the EGG Movement, Energizing Gratitude Globally. The idea is simple: appreciate what's around you, small and large. Take that feeling, the tiny endorphin rush you get when something small goes right, and feed it. Cultivate the art of appreciation. Encourage it in yourself and others. Learn more at the EGG Movement website, better yet join the challenge.
In 1992 I moved to a town of about 500 people, nestled in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains. In the preceding few years I had moved a lot — Boston, New York City, Chicago, Aspen, Rockport, Maine — I thought I’d only be here for a a season. I was always up for the next challenge and that year I decided staying in the same place would be my challenge. 25 years later I’m still here. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. Some thrive, most can’t hack it. The economy is tough, there aren’t enough people to support most businesses, everything’s closed by 8, it’s a 30 minute drive to the grocery store; and yet I stay.
Life in a small town teaches you surprising lessons: tolerance, humility, self reliance, and to be yourself.
This comes as a surprise to most people. Small towns look pretty homogeneous from the outside. And in many ways they are. But when I lived in big culturally diverse cities like New York and Boston, I chose who I surrounded myself with. I spent almost all of my time with people that shared my interests and thought like me.
When I first moved here I used to joke “I only have 7 friends, and I don’t even like any of them.” What did I mean? I meant that in the outside world I wouldn’t have chosen any of those people to hang out with.
In a small town you become friends with the people around you, even if they’re different from you. That opens your eyes. And then there are the people you don’t like. You may not like them, but you nod good morning when they hold the door for you, and you thank them the first time they pull your car out of a ditch, or find your runaway dog, and you come to see their humanity.
You may feel superior, but you’re not. A small town will teach you that.
I remember the time we called the police and they told us there had been a big crash on the highway and the State Troopers wouldn’t be able to come for a few hours. That was a wake up call. But it’s more than that. It’s a culture of doing for yourself and your neighbors, not waiting for the proper authorities.
I’ve written a lot about our town’s experience in Hurricane Irene (www.floodbound.com,) during that storm 10 homes in a town of 500 people were destroyed and the town was completely cut off from the outside world. The height of the storm found neighbors cutting and clearing downed trees to try to save the bridge, and others cooking and setting up hot food to support them. It wasn’t anyone’s job, it was just something that needed to be done. The town had no school, police or hospital but had acting sheriffs, a school on the green, and a medical center in our one room library staffed by doctors, nurses, PAs and even ski patrollers.
The power company said it would be weeks before they reached us, what they didn’t know was that we would reach them. Our residents stepped up and started fixing roads.
It’s a simple concept. If you see something that needs to be done, and you have the ability, you do it.
In bigger towns I had my work self, my home self, my school self, and probably some others. Remember the Seinfeld episode where “worlds collide?” In a small town there is only room for one version of you. There’s no use pretending. It’s freeing. If they like you, they like you. You as you are. They’ve already seen your mistakes.
Will I stay here another 25 years? I don’t know, it might be time for another change. But whatever I decide, this place has made and indelible imprint on me for the better.
**originally published in Medium**
Abigail Sera is a true Spartan. A friend talked her into trying her first Spartan Race in Killington, she signed up in the open category but ended up with a better time than most of the pros. That didn't change anything for her, she went back to work patrolling Vermont by snowmobile in winter and by boat in summer. Last winter I traveled to her family farm in Vermont to meet and interview her. Now you'll see her in this season's NBC coverage of the Spartan Race series and Spartan's latest lifestyle commercials.
Next time you see me ask me to tell you the rabbit story...
The Spartan Up podcast has been an amazing journey, both professionally and personally. I've had the opportunity to work with great partners to build an interview series from the ground up, as Dean Graziosi said "make it up, then make it happen." In the process I've been able to learn lessons from every one of our guests, and quite a few from our hosts as well. Here's our latst trailer:
You can find all 137 episodes on our YouTube channel, iTunes, or wherever you catch podcasts by searching for Spartan Up.
Over a 10 month period this year, I consulted for a gubernatorial campaign on their digital goals, social media training, social media tactics, and managing their paid social media. Here are some of the lessons I took away.
Sometimes You Don't Have the Data You Want
Data is important, but it's not everything. If you're selling a product it's pretty straightforward, you can measure the success of every move you make against the sales of that product. In the online universe, success can be a matter of testing and interpreting the data to hone in on the audience and message that will generate the most sales at the lowest cost. In an election ultimately there's only one measurement that matters … votes. As we've seen in national elections, polling data is not reliable, the only solid data is election results - that information comes too late.
You Still Need Goals
Even though you have uncertainty you still you need to set goals and measure progress to be effective. We learned to set multiple goals and change them throughout the campaign.
Numbers Can Be Deceiving - Look Beyond the Numbers
If your goal is engagement and you see a spike, before you celebrate take a closer look to see if it's generated by positive or negative comments. A high relevance score and a low cost per engagement from Facebook might be misleading. Be sure you understand what's behind the numbers. If you set a Facebook campaign optimized for an action, take a closer look at how often that ad is being delivered to voters. How many voters are you turning off on the way to generating that click? This is why a hands on human approach is so important to paid social.
The Only Constant is Change
Be ready to make changes at any time. Humans just aren't as predictable as we like to tell ourselves. Take your research and make your best guess at what will work, test it and adjust. Then do it again... and again. Once you have it all figured out, expect everything to change as news events develop. Even if you've got the perfect system, if it runs more than a few months there's a good chance your social media platforms will change (for example Facebook added new audience targeting options and lead ads during our run.)
People Love to See themselves
Some of our must popular shares were photos from events our candidate attended. They say all politics is local, that means lots of visiting. The best way to win votes – meet voters. On social media, you can amplify the power of these visits by sharing photos of the candidate visiting neighborhood landmarks and leaders.
We had a fantastic team, and we needed it. Keep a cache of engaging posts at the ready for slow days, there won't be many of them. The rest of the time be ready to react quickly. Responding to voter comments not only allowed us to set the record straight, it gave a good sense of what was important to our audience and made them feel heard.
Sometimes the Audience is Too Small
Common advice about paid advertising on Facebook pretty much boils down to finding the audience that allows for the lowest cost of customer acquisition. Our case was different. There's a finite set of people that are likely to vote. That's the target audience, like it or not. Even a statewide election, in Vermont anything we did to segment that audience by issue, demographics or location usually created an audience so small it became ineffective for Facebook campaigns. If you do define micro audience segments be sure to keep advertising budgets small, it's very easy to over saturate.
So how does all this apply to your next client? Every client is like a puzzle. You start with your gut instinct (informed by the client's research and experience) and then you start testing. It's the process we went through to understand how to effectively manage social media for this political campaign that is the takeaway.
It has been more than a year now since I started working with the founder and CEO of Spartan Race Joe De Sena developing and producing the "Spartan Up!" podcast. We've traveled the world exploring what drives successful athletes, entrepreneurs, CEOs, adventurers, professors authors, thought leaders .. even monks, trying to discover and share what we can learn from them. I think I've shot about 300 interviews, and Joe's done another 20 or so without me. So what have we learned? Joe has a series of articles published in Entrepreneur, Inc and here on Linkedin breaking down many of the lessons. I'll try to sum up my thoughts from behind the camera here.
This week we published the 100th episode in which our panel of hosts each talk about their favorite interviews so far. Doctor Johnny chose a few of the authors, Col Nye chose National Geographic Explorer Shannon Galpin, Dr. Delle chose the world's greatest living explorer Sir Ran Fiennes, Sefra chose Sealfit's Mark Divine and Joe chose one of my all time favorites Karim Jaude.
So what if I had been asked to choose? Impossible. BUT among my favories are Nate Carr and his amazing positivity, Tony The Fridge and his intensity, Jay Jackson who reminded us to say we "get to" no we "have to,"Levison Wood who had JUST returned from walking the entire Nile,Nicole DeBoom who brought out Joe's "sassy" side, Mimi Anderson who is unstoppable, of course Angela Duckworth THE expert on GRIT, Risa Mish and her concrete tips on critical thinking, Richard Branson who reminded us to see the best in everyone, Amit Kumar who learned experiences are better than possessions, Dan Edwardes who understands the links between fear and physical movement, Zach Even - Esh who talked about the failures and struggles on the way to success and lives it with sheer enthusiasm for life, Dick Costolo who made the connection between stand up comedy and business success, Juliet Starrett and her hippo escape story, Frank Grippe who understands the value of sheer force of will, Jennifer Gilbert who one day decided not to deviate from her life's plan,Mark Webb who was amazing already and just kept it up after losing a foot ... I hate to start this list knowing I'm missing so many - I can honestly say there has not been one interview that has not taught me something.
If I had to sum it up -
1. Sometimes it's just sheer force of will that gets you there.
2. Optimism is KEY, without it you will never persevere.
3. The mind lives in the body, you can't take care of one but not the other.
4. Every thing you do is a privilege, never take it for granted.
And from the panel - when you have a good team around you, hard work becomes a pleasure.
Here's the 100th episode:
Spartan Race has created a new endurance event and we were there to shoot it's beta test - Spartan Agoge 000. Here's the video we created to promote it.