Performance Review, or Roast?

Many large companies including Microsoft, are killing off their performance review ends of “stack ranking,” which aims to place the performance of workers on a distribution or otherwise known as a “bell curve” in an attempt to highlight the top performers and weed out the non performers.

It’s great to see positive momentum in bringing humanity back into the ongoing measurement of an employee’s contribution to the organization, but just because a few big and sexy (Ok, I digress…Microsoft is totally not sexy!) tech companies are making the changes, many great companies still continue to risk degrading their engagement levels due to outdated models that force employees to get all “Game of Thrones” on one another.  At the risk of being a bit windy I’ll share my perspective as a person who has been involved in Tech for over 10 years – An industry that is OBSESSED with hard data (and for good reason I may add).  Looking back several years over my own experiences on the job, going to school, being a son/parent/husband, trying to be a good neighbor, etc. most “opportunities lost” come down to failing to hold ourselves accountable to being fully present in the situation that we are responsible for creating positive outcomes in.

So let’s talk about one of the most common excuses that come up around here when things do not get done….”I’m being pulled around in 100 different directions!”…whines the non-producer.  Well, I’m not sorry to say that being pulled in 100 different directions is not an excuse for focusing on the things that matter the most – the PRIORITIES.  And since we are talking about stack–ranking in this thread, it is implied that we are talking about people managers – who’s #1 priority should be the success of the players on their team, so that they can build something great together.

This thread got me thinking more about the review process itself rather than the final ranking.  The review should act as a clear and non surprising reminder of what is working and not working so that as a team player, you can freely construct your personal blueprint for success.  Most modern performance review systems offer a place for a “self review,” or “employee comments,” which only makes the tool more powerful for the purpose of collaborating toward the journey of bringing out the best in people – but just like any tool not used properly, it can be excessively expensive to operate and possibly even more dangerous than the original intent of using the tool to build something great.

There should really be a hard and fast rule to the review process at any organization who values people as their most valuable asset:  No manager should see a quickly approaching review deadline as increased pressure to finally “have that talk,” game the system with supporting “documentation,” or worse…delay the feedback in favor of using the review period as a power base to achieve a “combo loco” of a difficult conversation, documentation, and sign off all in one pass.  If the employee receiving feedback is surprised, the manager has failed to execute properly.  So my question is…”what’s the next step?”

Here’s where I see an opportunity for improvement:  We should consider putting more pressure on having the manager be held accountable for justifying the content of the review to their Senior Leadership Team over the painstaking series of arguments that happen behind the scenes [in organizations using the stack-rank approach] to justify the final ranking and distribution of rankings over the team.  Normalize the data with some context.  Ignoring the content in favor of prioritizing a final ranking decision to create a “normal distribution” curve seems to expose the risk of writing careless content about the player that often times have the biggest impact on the employee.  There’s a choice to make it for better or worse.  This works both ways because the content is what sets expectations for future performance and possibly engagement (or sets the tone for future non-performance and disengagement)

For example – Sometimes a review can have too much “glowing” content and it needs to be toned down to protect the player from the ill effects of overconfidence and of course, there’s the other stinker…the content that speaks negatively of the player much to their surprise or at the expense of all of the great things that they did-for-you-lately that were not mentioned in the review.

I understand there are performance management realities that need to be respected as well, so yes the review should reflect final KPI’s or whatever measurement output needed to back up  actual goal attainment.  But the integrated story (content) within the performance review is an opportunity lost if we are not serving the players on your team with presence and strong leadership that serves as a “6 month ongoing dress rehearsal” up until the actual review itself, which by the time it arrives can be orchestrated in harmony and with “no surprises” in 20 minutes or less between the Player/Manager.

This way of thinking can successfully span across multiple applications, including but not limited to – teaching, parenting, being a good nanny, or coaching basketball.  It’s no question why Gregg Popovich consistently receives accolades for being one of the finest coaches of all time.

PS – GO SPURS!!!!!!

Sean

Posted in Leadership, Love over fear

Authenticity

You are not a hermit my friend.

Nope! – you wake up at some time every day and you go out into the world to do your thing.  And through your day’s journey you encounter and surround yourself with a lot of people with happy, curious, angry, and amazing, carrying fiercely positive and negative emotions with them.  LOTS of human beings all trying to be their best too – conquering themselves and others on a daily basis.  And if you are reading this blog from America, you understand how competitive your world is – whether it is to get the best seat on the bus or plane, the top job, or the last discounted item at the store.  You compete.  Every. Single. Day.  Good for you.

Now let’s talk about perceptions, shall we?  Ask 100 people what it means to “manage perceptions” and you will get dozens of answers.  In fact, I have actually done this during a 3 year run during my career where I was interviewing at least two to three people a week.

Here’s the most common answer to the question:

Me:  “What does it mean to manage perceptions?”

Common (paraphrased) Response:  “You have to make sure that people understand your value.”

I absolutely love interviewing others.  Most of the time, you get to connect with people when they are of their best selves and the above example seems to really back that up because that answer is spot on…  I totally agree!  The best way to manage perceptions is to make sure that people understand your value.  But in my own typical fashion, I’m going to peel back the onion a bit and take things further…

First, I think that in order to make sure that people really understand our value, we need to really focus on relentlessly fighting the cancerous epidemic of labeling others and learn to be comfortable with who we are.  If we are not giving by bringing out the best in others, and if we are not living an authentic life, then who the hell are we?  And how can one who does not work to bring out the best in others or live an authentic life think they are kidding by pretending to add value to any organization?

Allowing ourselves and encouraging others to be their true authentic selves is the expressway to creating and sustaining value.  There is NO LIMIT to what the soul of someone living an authentic life can achieve.

I promise not to bombard you with quotes, ever, but I found this passage from the book, “Falling Into Grace” on point to why labeling others (and allowing others or yourself to label YOU) is destructive to human potential:

You respond to your name, you go to work, you do your job, you call yourself a husband or a wife or a sister or a brother. All of these are names we give to each other. All of these are labels. All of them are fine. There is nothing wrong with any one of them, until you actually believe they’re true. As soon as you believe that a label you’ve put on yourself is true, you’ve limited something that is literally limitless, you’ve limited who you are into nothing more than a thought.

Adyashanti, Falling into Grace, pg. 19, loc. 266-270

Just yesterday…

This Tuesday I had a job interview for a promotion at my current company.  All is going greater than one can imagine during those minutes prior to getting started…Oh Mercy! … The hiring manager and I started off talking about our shared love of fishing, so there was very little to no tension as we eased into the job opportunity discussion.  After several enjoyable minutes of discussion and some questions, the job details were very clear and certainly I was well qualified.  Plus I was also getting very interested, which all push the ball nicely down the field…

Interviewer:  “Sean, I have one last question.  What would you say your brand is in this department right now?”

Stopped in my tracks, my antennae went up.  You see, I had been in this department for a few years now and have always been a high performer – but I have my flaws, and I have taken some risks, that’s for sure.

“…This is a loaded question for sure,” I briefly thought to myself.  “Fair Enough,” I thought out loud.  So I proceeded to respond.  I did not respond to an egoic truth this time (i.e.  perfectly painted picture of myself), but instead I expressed my out of body perception of myself, warts and all.  (Just don’t go over 3-4 minutes of explanation unless asked to…a job interview is not a counseling session! [I'll post some more about that in the future])  I did speak of perceived strengths and street cred/ability along with my successes in the organization, sure why not!  But I also spoke of some of the recent mistakes that I either knew or felt I have possibly made over the past 12 months and affirmed what my low-lights would be if I “asked 100 members in the crowd*.”

In the end I was myself, I was honest, and I was not in any way threatened by my very own existence just because I didn’t go out kissing babies and handing out lollipops with a celebrate me banner backdropping a balloon launch.  I think my heart rate even stayed under 70 BPM during the whole thing – Ok maybe not because I really want the job and it’s ok to feel a bit nervous when you give up a little control to maintain your integrity.  Sometimes you gotta bring the pain, baby!

Did I leave feeling a bit quirky from the experience?  Hell yes I did, I’m human so absolutely!  But what if I completely left out some of the non-rosecolored possible perceptions others could have of me…certainly there are a few out there.  Even the US president has detractors, so why wouldn’t I?  Would omitting negative perceptions from the conversation have made me better qualified for the job if the interviewer bought my bullshit?  No, absolutely not.  It would have made me a higher risk to not living an authentic life, which would make me a higher risk to everyone around me, either due to my lack of self awareness or proclivity to lying to win.  Part of living a full life and being your very best self involves exposing yourself to pressure.  Every diamond starts off as a piece of coal.

They say “perceptions are reality”.    Perceptions are not reality – Perceptions affect how people deal with (or avoid) you while you are on your path.  Luckily for you, course correction is a choice available to everyone – every minute of every day.  Every step you take forward on your path defines your present reality, and one of the most amazingly cool things about being human is our ability to make choices and change one’s own mind.

Therefore, perceptions are an important (but small) piece of your reality and should be respected but not obsessed over.

And that’s the point.  Manage perceptions my living an authentic life and take accountability for your life experiences along the way – both good and bad.  Learn from the signals at hand (aka feedback) on how to make your future choices.  Manage perceptions by having the empathy to see where you may have pissed people off in the past and simply own up to it.  Manage perceptions by having the courage to move on and the humility to not over state your abilities or idolize your wins/trivialize your losses.  Manage perceptions by being yourself.  Manage perceptions by sharing your love with the world.  When the world speaks back, good or bad…all the power to you by listening.

Much love to you,

-Sean

 

*Exercise:  Take 5 minutes of your time to think about what your personal brand or perceptions could be, if they were defined by a random crowd of 100 people that know you.  Then own that.

Posted in Life, Love over fear, Personal Brand

Just ‘effing Relax

I like to poke around in the business books and in the psychology section at my local bookstore (which is either Amazon or the local USED book store) quite often.  I admit that to some of you I am definitely one of those crazy people who dive in deep to all matters that have to do with generational science, social sciences, business stories and various other non-fiction mind/body geek stuff.  When I am at the local bookstore, I run into the craziest characters too…many are “searching for that right book,” – you know, the one book that will “set them free,” and show them how to lead a successful life.

Let’s face it, my own book subject matter preferences often trap me into accidentally buying a borderline self-help book, and then after I throw up in my mouth a little, I add the book to the “dud pile” of my physical heap at home or the ghost town of shitty books in the corner of my Kindle Paperwhite.  Getting to my point – I have noticed a theme in every one of these creepy, pandering pieces of white collar garbage self help books:

-They all want you to follow a system

-Many confuse “networking” with developing true and meaningful social interactions with people who bring out the best in you as a person

-The system starts to robotize you, so your natural rebellion toward the system causes you to fail_every_time and waste your time.

 

Before you buy into anyone’s system …ask yourself if you are truly relaxed.

Relax.  Ok, now make sure you Relax first.

Now you are relaxed.  Now be yourself, and then build a system around that.  Faking it until you’re making it doesn’t work in today’s connected world.

 

Best to you,

Sean

Posted in Love over fear

Through the eyes of a baby…

I was flying home over the weekend on my leg from DC to Chicago, when 30 minutes prior to landing I lock eyes with a baby being walked up and down the row by his Mamma.  Upon making that eye contact, there was an instant connection based on nothing else but love and curiosity initiated by the baby and of course creating reciprocity in this case (who doesn’t smile and feel warm from a baby’s sweet face?).  Of course, I instantly smiled very deeply…almost feeling “giddy” inside.  To the right of me, across the aisle, a young man is sitting next to his visibly declining family elder, repeatedly taking moments to turn and look into his eyes deeply and say a few positive words, and then promply shakes his hands and arms to maintain proper circulation for the frail gentlemen confined to the very tiny space where the seat occupies.  The old man’s glossy eyes glow with warmth and gratitude in his smile for the love and care he receives from his guardian.  Then, there is everyone “in the middle” of this space between baby and old man – with our pride, reservations, and egos.  With our fears, doubts, and prejudice.  But with the same boiling love sitting right under the surface waiting to be released, if only we can be so innocent as the child or wise enough to “unlearn” and let go like the old man.

Sometimes we can stand to slow down and see the world through the baby’s eyes, or from the elderly man who has surrendered his ego for a love flow.  Because our days are precious, but numbered.

Much love -

 

Sean

Posted in Love over fear

How to be a better traveler

There are truly some unspoken beneifts of traveling either alone or with others -

 

  • Gratitude.  Pure, unadulterated Gratitude!  If I am traveling alone, all I need when I get home is a big group hug from my beautiful wife and daughter and belly rub my dog after tossing the ball around in the back yard.

 

  • Meeting real, genuine strangers.  There is a difference between a strange person you don’t know if your own city and a stranger in another city – it’s purely psychological but the implications are powerful.  If you feel truly disconnected because you are in a new city where you truly know “no one,” you are likely to find that being yourself is about as easy as it is when you are at home with your loved ones.  This is important to embrace when traveling alone because the natural feedback mechanisms in place will help you learn how to be a better person, socially in public.

 

  • People watching.  My most favorite places?  The airport and any place where decisions are constantly being made.  Just don’t be creepy.

 

  • Speaking of decision making, families and friends who travel are not only blessed with the impressions and fun of a trip out of town, but you are also making decisions together and sharing the experience and adventure – deepening your relationship.  This is why many business owners sometimes take their best clients on trips and why team outings in an otherwise dull office environment are such wise ideas.

 

  • The lack of a comfort zone.  That’s right, you can’t just go home and turn on your favorite show!  You’re somewhere else and you have to make the best of it.  Necessity is the mother of all invention, as they say.

 

I prefer to stay at personable and humble accommodations if at all possible.  Hotel chains have conveniences and all, but with sites such as vrbo.com and airbnb.com, you can rent out a cool little flat downtown from a local owner that will give you the scoop on all of the right places to eat and play during your stay.  Immerse yourself in the experience, go to the grocery store and shop for the week instead of going to restaurants every time you are hungry.  Reward yourself with that nice dinner out after soaking in the town and getting the best recommendations from random locals you talk with.

 

Also, I have learned a few lessons that I’ll share here:

 

When your board the plane, have your music already playing and stow your phone as soon as you sit down.  It’s likely the air crew will not bother you just because you have headphones in.  They don’t have to know that you’re playing music and trust me – they won’t check because they are too busy and also secretly know that the whole electronics thing on planes is a sham, anyways!

Avoid even looking at Skymall.  The Skymall catalog is full of crap and it will rot your brain and you will feel dumber after reading it.  Don’t do it!

Have ONE (just one) printed book.

Bring some soft chewy candy like tootsie rolls.  Often changes in pressure HURTS the little ears of small children.  No one wants to hear small children cry on the plane, so you can offer these to the parents should you happen to be around kids when ascending/descending.

Fly Southwest Airlines.  Seriously, it rocks!  Why?  Because they are the most HUMAN airline operator in the US.  They just glow, and are compassionate.  I rarely have dealt with a bad egg running the ship on a Southwest flight.  And when I do, it’s easily forgiven.  Anyways – the other perk is no assigned seats.  This is tremendous!  People tend to be so shallow, which means you will often find a window or an aisle seat right up front next to a less attractive person.  Yes, I just said that – and I’m saying that based on my experience of flying over 20 times each way in the last six months on Southwest Airlines.  Even if you are in a B boarding group, there will be a money seat up front, mainly because the person sitting next to the open seat is homely, has weird tattoos, is old, or looks nervous or out of place.  Don’t shoot the messenger – I’ve lived it and besides, superficial people are boring anyways!

When you board the plane, pick the open spot in the overhead compartment closest to the front of the plane as possible, PROVIDING that all of the seats are full below the vacant spot.  Disregard people who think that their little purse is so important to take up an entire space large enough for a duffel.  Just be assertive and move it over, politely, and put your stuff there.  People are sometimes territorial and will look at you funny but don’t mind them (they are just acting out of fear).  But you’re doing this for the love of a quick de-plane experience.  DON’T put your bags anywhere farther down the back of the plane from your seat unless it is your only option.  And if this is the case, BE ASSERTIVE and see if you can find a way to put your bags directly over you or closer to the front.  There is nothing more frustrating both to you and to everyone else than a person who has to push through others to get their bags (somewhere behind where they sat) when it is time to de plane.

Don’t pack too much shit.  Seriously, you don’t need that many clothes.  But don’t forget a good pair of running shoes and flip flops.

Bring a portable battery for your iPhone, Kindle, etc.  I personally use a New Trent battery.  Get the older model too – it’s under $50 and it will pay itself off so fast you’ll wonder how you got by without it.

If you have an aisle seat and your plane lands – it is your responsibility to be alert (get off your damn phone – no one comments on your facebook posts anyways) and GET UP!  Don’t be that simple jackass holding the entire plane up.

 

Did have a flight delay?  Know your rights and know who to contact.

 

Safe Travels,

Sean

 

 

 

Posted in Travel

A non-finance Guru’s advice on money

Growing up as a kid, you always had to answer the same old tired ass question – “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Often the question was sincere, but more often than not the question itself was just as misguided and confusing as the adults that were asking the question.

Unless you were planning on being a Doctor, an Astronaut, a High Ranking Military Officer, a (respectable) Politician – all very respectable choices that require giving up your youth to prepare for, well, I think it’s kind of a dated concept.

The thing is, I really believe that we are always going to be prone to change in all of the superficial layers of our present and future selves, and if we close ourselves off to opportunity and the possibility for newness in our career lives – we may be setting ourselves up for regrets later.

Ok – so what does this have to do with money?  You have to DO something to make money.  You have to work.  The world needs you to go create value somehow and the economy is set up to reward value creation.  I think the #1 mistake that people and even businesses make with money is that they tie it to the self worth that they “feel” in direct relationship to their job title today, the size of their paycheck, or condition of their balance sheet.  In other words, a quick way to the poorhouse or the never ending hamster ball of debt/savings flat lining is taking money personally, and letting money (or the things that money buys) effect your attitude and define your ego.  Money is a superficiality.  It comes and it goes.  It is all bullshit when you think about it.  If you pay close enough attention to Wall Street and the Banking System, you will also learn that money is a game.  You can play it or be played.  But in order to get on the right side of the game, you have to learn one thing – do NOT personalize money.  It’s not personal.

Let’s profile a few people and tell me which one is you, or someone you know…

1)  Ms. “Retail Therapy”:  Meet Christina, she is a mid level manager at a pretty well known software company.  Because of her position on the pay scale, her above average income of $85,000 per year allows her to pay her bills and have extra money every month for spending.  Her paycheck allows her to focus on keeping her “car payment” in a nice range between $500-$600 each month and “buy” a new car every three years because she can “afford” it.  She can get a “lot more car” on the 60 month (5 year) terms due to the smaller payment.  Even though the car is not paid off by the three year period that she trades it in for the new one, there is usually enough equity in the note and trade in value (she always buys a new Mercedes) that the balance that is rolled into the “new” car note is proportionate to her 3-5% annual salary increase so “technically it is not any more expensive to her than the last one.”  Because of the lower payments on the 60 month car note, she enjoys buying a new purse and shoes every other week and is motivated by the positive attention that she receives from others at work.  Christina is feeling great!  When she is not feeling so great, a new outfit pulls her out of her rut.  Christina was made for this life!  One day, Christina receives a notice that her Condo is going through ownership changes and that it will soon be for sale.  She cannot afford to buy the place, and it sells the first week it hits the market.  The new owner is ready to move in once the lease is up in 60 days.  What a bummer!  Christina has been living in this place for 4 years and almost forgot that she has no control over her largest expense and her own “home.”  Christina immediately calls up the guys that pay her so much attention when she is out drinking at the bars after work looking all “fly” in her new shoes and purses.  Surely, her hotness will lend her some help moving since they all have pickup trucks and are her “friends.”  Christina sadly comes to the reality that everyone is “too busy” and has to hire a mover.  She cannot afford the relocation costs of $600 for the mover, $2000 for the deposit on the new place, and she lost her deposit at her current place because she couldn’t be bothered to clean up the pee stains on the carpet from her $1000 dog that often needs boarding while she is out visiting customers.  Christina, is sad, broke, and surrounded by boxes of worthless purses and shoes, that aren’t getting the job done and just don’t seem to be as great as they used to seem.  And oh my god, she is flying to Vegas next week!  “I don’t have time for this!” she says.  Pobrecitas, Christina.  Pobrecitas.

2)  Jason is a sales manager at the same company.  He has been employed there for 4 years, and his first job after leaving his previous company as a cell phone salesman was on the lead generation team making $18 an hour.  Since then, he is now that manager of 5 salespeople who are busy all day receiving contracts.  His salary has skyrocketed from $40k per year to $98,000 annually, plus bonuses.  Even though nobody cares or knows the difference, Jason only wears $150 jeans now and chooses to eat at expensive restaurants as often as possible and always on weekends for sure!  Jason does not know his neighbors because he is too busy running around town on his time off in his Mercedes (notice the trend), shopping, schmoozing girls, and eating $55 steaks.  Jason says, “I’m living the good life!”  Hell, he can afford it.  But just four years ago Jason was having the time of his life with his buddies playing Playstation and drinking bud lights at his brother’s house.  Today Jason does not have time for his “past,” as he is living up to his new “means.”  Luckily, Jason is saving money for retirement, but he is only saving enough each month to cover his credit card bills.  Jason only focuses on the payment and not the balance, because “things are on the up and up from here, baby!”

One day, Jason comes home to find his door kicked down, and his house ransacked.  He starts knocking on many neighbors’ doors (many if not all he is just meeting for the first time) to ask if they see anything.  Well meaning, most of his neighbors did not see anything, and wouldn’t even know what to look for anyways because he always has so many people in and out of his place on a weekly basis because he lives such an inconsistent lifestyle.  Even worse, Jason does not have insurance to cover the cost of his things – most if not won from sales contests, are still carrying a balance for being purchased on his credit card.

Jason has spent the first several years of his success at work personalizing his success, so he always felt great as he was making money, and his money was a symbol of his worth as a person.  Because he was not able to replace his things with insurance proceeds since insurance was for “old people,” he went out and maxed his credit cards to replace them.  “No big,” says Jason.  “I’m on the up and up, baby!” He says.

The next month his top performer came in short on his goals, and the following month was not better.  Quotas were raised, and Jason’s commission checks were too small to cover his expenses.  Because he tied his self worth to his financial condition, he became depressed and began to become disengaged.  Jason’s attitude suffered and he lost his job.  Jason just went bankrupt – about 5 months after he had it all.

 

I’m sure we all know someone like Christina and Jason.  So let’s talk about Warren Buffet, quite possibly the most remarkable story of wealth creation in our lifetime:

Some facts about Warren Buffet and advice for young people from nedhardy.com:

1. He bought his first share at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!

2. He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.

3. He still lives in the same small 3 bedroom house in mid-town Omaha, that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.

4. He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.

5. He never travels by private jet, although he owns the world’s largest private jet company.

6. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each yearto the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis.

7. He has given his CEO’s only two rules. Rule number 1: do not lose any of your share holder’s money. Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.

8. He does not socialize with the high society crowd. His past time after he gets home is to make himself some pop corn and watch television.

His advice to young people:

* Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself.
* Money doesn’t create man it is the man who created the money.
* Live your life as simply as you can.
* Don’t do what others say, listen to them, but then do what you feel is the right thing to do.
* Don’t buy brand names; instead just wear those things in that make you feel comfortable.
* Don’t waste your money on unnecessary things; rather spend it on those who are really in need

 

This is great advice!  I think that the bottom line is to not take money personally.  Think about that, and come up with your own plan.  I recommend reading “The Richest Man in Babylon” to get started.  As you become more financially aware, or if you are on the intellectual side of things, move onto Nassim Taleb’s amazing book, Antifragile:  Things that Gain from Disorder.

 

Live Well,

 

Sean

Posted in Personal Finance

“What does your Texas Drought Look Like?”

Through the month of September,  the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), and the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) are encouraging all Texans to share their photos of the drought, in the “What does your Texas Drought Look Like Campaign?”

Why?  Because we have a serious water problem and the old methods of nagging the townspeople about conservation simply do not work!

Just like the old cliche – A picture really does “say 1000 words.”  Shocking, stunning, and eye-opening, these photos do not need to speak to you or interrupt your thoughts to create a memorable impression of our current state of affairs.   Despite all of the awareness campaigns and calls to action about our drought and the impact on our drinking water, recreation, and agriculture, I feel like this is an extremely effective use of the web with a minimal impact to any budget.  Look through the pictures, it will stir up your senses and perhaps even a few emotions that you may have never felt today.  If 100% successful, you will even invent your own ways to become more mindful of your water use and spread the word.

If you have a photo of “your drought” please go to the following link to get started:  http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/newsmedia/flickr/index.asp

If you are a Flickr user, you can go straight to the group and post your picture.  The moderator will have to approve it first, but in the meantime look at some of the stunning (and sobering!) photos of our Texas drought:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/texasdrought/

 

About my submission:

There is a spring fed “hole” in the Medina river that is my playground and sanctuary that I like to call “the property” or the “family church.”  It’s a place where serenity can truly be found, and is nearly impossible to trespass onto easily if you were just driving around looking for a place to go.  It’s my place, and it’s in danger.  The picture below is only one mile away or so downstream, shortly after the springs have either dried up, or ceased to exist.  Medina lake is about 15-20 miles downstream and is currently “4% full” and dropping.

If your life is being impacted by the drought please share your photos.

Just to add some perspective to the Medina River System and the impact of the drought – In 2006, kayak and canoe enthusiasts from San Antonio, Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country and Neighboring states used to launch here (or even 15 miles upstream near the headwaters) and enjoy a brisk ride all the way to the lake.  Heavy Rains would bring amazing levels of play between the white water, drops, smooth paddling, and coasting down a cool river of spring water, feeding 250,000 acre feet of water in Medina Lake that steadily released water to the farmers west of San Antonio, all the way down to the convergence of the Medina and San Antonio rivers.

Today you would be dragging your boat to a muddy lake where farmers desperately depend on the slow, controlled release of that remaining 4% of water to nurture their crops, all the while praying for rain.  All of this change occurs in only 7 years.

 

Schmidtke Road Crossing in Bandera, TX - August 2013

Schmidtke Road Crossing in Bandera, TX – August 2013

 

On a side note, I like Math and graphs, so this gives me hope that a BIG rain event is coming soon (2014 maybe??) to Texas:

 

USGS River Gauge Graph - Medina River at Bandera, TX

 

Stay cool,

 

Sean

Posted in Texas Hill Country, Uncategorized

“Where do blogs come from?”

“Well, glad you asked.”  Settle in for a minute and remember, what I’m about to tell you is not personal.  It’s just science.  Like the birds and the bees.

I used to keep a wordpress blog about 7 years ago or so and got bored of it after realizing that I was not blogging for myself.  Instead, I was using it as a platform to toy with the internet and experiment with boring posts, mostly business related ones.  *yawn*  So I let it go.  I was surprised to go and find that my domain name from way back then was available….woohoo!

After securing my domain name, seanattwood.com I was really hoping to not have to go to some crappy host, set up a shared server and then remotely install wordpress from scratch like I did back in 2006.  What luck, Rackspace Hosting has automated wordpress deployments, and it’s really easy to set up.

In case you want to know how I set up this blog, here’s what I did:

-Sign up for a Rackspace Account at:  https://cart.rackspace.com/cloud/  (don’t worry, you don’t need to be a business or have a Tax ID, just have a credit card ready)

-Once you are set up in the cloud control control panel, go to “deployments” and choose the “WordPress” Option and your new server will “spin up” in a minute or less.  I think the cost is a few pennies per hour and there’s no contract, so if you do not like the product or the 24 hour service from real people, you can delete your account and go try something else (options, baby!)

-Ok, so your new server is set up and wordpress is already automagically installed.  Be sure to now go back to where ever you purchased your domain name (web address) and change the name servers to the Rackspace name servers.  All of this information can be found in the Rackspace portal or from one of the really kick ass Rackers that answer the phone (in usually less than three rings) to assist you.  Either way, you will have to be a little patient with this step of the process because if you choose to move your domain to Rackspace’s name servers, chances are that it will take 1-2 days for the changes to replicate and be recognized by the all-mysterious “internet.”

-Once your wordpress server is ready, you should be able to just go to your domain name through the internet browser of your choice and log in through the homepage which will be yourdomain.com/login.  Yes, that’s right!  You don’t have to be a tech or a server wiz to administer your WordPress site.  Just log into the front page to make your changes, post, etc. like you would log into Facebook, or god help you if you’re not a musician…Myspace.  Fancy stuff, kids.  When someone makes you think creating a website is complicated stuff and you need to pay them a lot of money, just smile and nod, and then call Rackspace up.  And don’t tell them I sent you, or tell them, whatever…it will just slow down your progress worrying about that because I will get nothing out of the deal except the satisfaction of knowing that one more person is on the web and Facebook had nothing to do with it.  :)

There’s more info about Rackspace Deployments at the Rackspace Blog:  http://www.rackspace.com/blog/automate-your-deployments-quickly-easily-launch-your-app-in-the-rackspace-cloud/

 

So that’s where blogs come from boys, girls, and web crawlers.  I promise not to talk about Rackspace anymore from here in such deliberate fashion.  And remember, this is my blog, there are many more like it, but this one is mine – so my expressions in no way reflect anything other than me as a person.  So if you see something that you don’t like in here – don’t go crying to my employer, ok?  Have a great one!

Shine,

Sean

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cloud Computing