Reflection of Two Thousand Sixteen

December 31, 2016
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It’s that slow and steady haul right before the first of the year where Father Time swoops in and swallows yet another year. His beard a lick longer, his scythe a bit sharper, his hourglass tipping with that final and futile droplet of sand. The old relinquishes its title to the new. And that finishing sun sets its last declining ray…as we all fade against the backdrop of a year less forgotten.

F*@K!! That’s depressing!!

Cheer up, yo! It’s a new dawn and time for my year-end review—Reflection of Two Thousand Sixteen—where I try to capture lessons learned about life, business, tech, and all that goodie good stuff! For the 3rd year running, here is my reflection of this particular year—2016.

Quick Reflection of Twenty-Sixteen

Being somewhat introspective and also extrospective (pretty sure that’s a word), I realize this year didn’t go well for a lot of people. There were definitely some ups-and-downs, rights-and-lefts, holy-shits and WTF’s, goddams and oh-no’s, haha’s, hehe’s and Aha’s. Just a mangled mesh of mashable moments…ya know?

We lost some cool people like Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman. But I think it’s safe to say we probably gained some cool people too. America has a new president, and for all of you who don’t know my political views, I can’t say I’m jumping up and down with excitement about this one. But, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel…then again, there might not. Brexit happened. Yup…that happened. Not much to say there except I feel like this has been year of exclusion and inclusion.

Exclusion. The word by itself is not negative, nor is it positive. But when you couple it with algorithms and social feeds, it can be downright scary. Inclusion. The word by itself doesn’t reflect good or bad. It’s only when you attach another filter or variable to it that these words start to take shape.

Context is Everything

If there’s only one lesson I want you to learn that spans life, business, and tech, it’s this… context shapes everything. Whatever that thing may be.

There’s been a big push in the tech space for context aware design. Mobile phones have had context-aware computing for a few years now. Smartphones can sort of adapt to their environments and act accordingly. Humans have built context-aware computing because we know it’s important.

Context doesn’t only shape everything, it is everything. Without it, we couldn’t communicate with each other, we couldn’t sense things. So be aware of it. It’s not that hard to do. Just listen to yourself, your environment, and those around you…and act accordingly. Please.

Lessons Learned

Breaking from tradition with my prior years’ reflections, I’m lumping both business and life lessons together. Usually I break them out into two separate categories, but I feel this year has been a roller coaster of lessons that can be equally applied to both life and business.

    • I listened to an awesome TED Talk about talking to strangers. Disrupt peoples’ lives (in a positive way) and your life might be disrupted too…again, in a positive way! That cute girl that works at the local pet store – say hi! That old man that you sit next to at the bus stop – give him a high-five. That guy at the gym that smiles as you walk by, ask him what he does for a living. The older we get, the less people we interact with – and that just sucks! So go talk to people you don’t know, and maybe you’ll find your next best friend! Or your next big sale because you just ran into John Doe-see-dough on the train and he’s looking for a solid web guy.
    • I’m not sure how to articulate this, but you know that funny feeling you get sometimes and thentiny buddha you go and do the thing you felt funny about anyway. Yeah, that. Stop doing that. Listen to your gut. I know it’s hard to do because our minds are saying “well, it can’t be that bad” or “no, no this is on the up and up.” Your gut is a wise tiny buddha, and it sits with all the crappy shit you do anyway (e.g. eating gluten, drinking Bulleit Rye) and it still looks out for you. So, respect it and start giving it a little recognition.
    • I’m not going to sit here and give you a big speech about how you should do all the things you want to do because…let’s face it…I don’t do the stuff I want to do. Not all the time, at least. But go do that ONE thing you want to do. Maybe it’s take a trip to the Motherland, or parachute out of a single-engine Cessna, or learn how to speak Japanese fluently. I’ve always wanted to start a podcast. Guess what, I’m doing that one thing! And it feels phenomenal. When you don’t do at least something for yourself, then what have you really got? A life lived for others…and that’s not cool!
    • It’s taken me a while to learn this lesson, but seriously, don’t panic. Maybe a better way to put this is to just stay calm. Things are hard enough already without you pushing the panic button, so when you do it’s like an overloading explosion of franticness. No one wants to be around that. When faced with a tough situation in your personal life or professional one, respond to it, don’t react. When you let things sit, even for just a couple of seconds, you let your mind process things properly. You can see different angles. You also might be able to see the “other-side” that we are always so blind to.
    • What do you think you’ll be thinking about when you’re on your deathbed? Morbid question, right? I know, but I still give this one thought from time to time and this is the reality: all that really matters are the relationships you have, that’s it. No big secret there. If you have people you care about and who care about you, you’re doing pretty well! Sure…work can matter, projects can matter, but not as much as your relationships. Be in them, explore them, be kind to them, hell…scrutinize them, make sure they right for you. Life is so much better with awesome relationships. Be there for your people and don’t forget to say I love you.
    • Going back to what I was talking about earlier, this year has been a year of inclusion and exclusion. I choose to include myself in cool communities like YLC, NIM, and WordPress because they’re filled with good people and we discuss topics I care about. I also choose to exclude myself from being around naysayers, elitists, or pessimistic people. I choose to not live in my social media bubble all the time because I know it feeds me more of “the same” than diversifying content. Choose exclusion or inclusion, just make sure it’s good for you.

In the right context, anyone can shine. And in the wrong context, anyone of us could falter. Choose your groups, your friends, and your relationships wisely. Ask yourself if you want to thrive, be challenged, and feel good about yourself. Or not?

I guess I kinda knew all these things anyway, but for some reason these lessons were amplified this year. Just remember, context is everything. You can help it or you can hurt it. You can neglect it or you can learn from it. You can choose to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. You can choose to run your life, you can choose to feed your relationships. The operative phrase is “you can choose.”

Wrapping up 2016

If this wasn’t your year, then forget about it. Or take the things you want to take and realize that tomorrow is a new day, a new month, and yes…a whole new year.

I’ll leave you as I do every year…with an inspirational quote. I sincerely hope 2017 is your year!

“Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you have always wanted to do but could not find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you do not think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You will look 10 years younger. Do not be afraid to say, I love you. Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.” – Ann Landers

2017 new year

If you’re interested in seeing the progression, feel free to check out my Reflection of 2015 or my Reflection of 2014 posts.

Generation C: The Connected Ones

December 11, 2016
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There has been an emerging class of people over the last 5 years. They come from different generations including Millennials, iGen, Baby Boomers, Yuppies, and maybe even a few Silents. This new generation breaks free from the stereotypical age-constrained limit and fuels a market so connected to it, it’s a hard thing not to write about. Are you a part of Generation C? If so, then you may not need to read this post.

The Land of Connected Things

Whether or not you leverage technology to buy products, connect with your friends, or consume media, it’s here! And it connects us. It connects us to each other as well as entities we wouldn’t normally be connected to. Think superstore execs, or the pizza shop around the corner. There’s a way to interact with these entities that allow us to become intimate with them.

connected things

You can create direct links with a number of different businesses (and people). The Generation C environment is a content-centric computerized connected community. Simply put, we live in the age of connected things.

Generation C behavior

Ubiquity is at the center of Generation C behavior. With the advent of smartphones, we take the world with us wherever we go. We are connected all the time. The considered norm is to always be available. This behavior is known as Always On the Grid.

Digital Information Assimilation is here. Generation C loyalists consume a boat-ton of information. And some of it (okay, okay, a lot of it) is not necessarily accurate. With social media feeds being the “go-to news” outlets, we are seeing an increase in unsubstantiated information.

Which leads into the next behavior of Social Animals 2.0. We hang out online, we are more concerned with our Twitter feeds and hashtags then we are with our real friends. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, and new ones like Ello and Imzy (Imzy is super cool, btw!!) are keeping us more and more connected. We can find communities that we belong to and feel appreciated in.

social animals
Boldomatic Image

iEverywhere is the interconnected world. Now, Apple obviously has a claim to the “iWhatevs” but Generation C is living in a fully interconnected world. A world where personal data including identity, shopping preferences, interests and more all reside in the cloud. Services too! Big data, services, social networks—the “i” is here forever.

Millennials and Generation C

As stated before, Generation C can be any age group. It can mean your father or mother, your child at at 12, your friends from the Womens’ Council. But Millennials are setting the tone. They shape the consumer experience. According to BazaarVoice, it’s estimated that the group will have more spending power than any other generation this upcoming year. They’ll use that power to change the way retailers are thinking about shopping experiences.

Millennials paved the way for OmniChannels. Having a seamless experience across devices and platforms is critical for brands to compete in the Generation C landscape. We want personalized experiences. Being able to take a picture of a pair of pants in a store and then buying it online when we get home is an option we want. We also want to start the buying process on our laptops, but end up paying for it with our smartphones.

Most Millennials are Generation C, but not all Generation C are Millennials.

Mobile: The Medium of Generation C

Smartphones are the devices of Generation C. We use them to do just about everything in our lives. From social networking to sending emails to saving documents to buying products, can you imagine your life without one? Probably not, which is kinda sad, but I get it!

Commerce on smartphones has increased dramatically in the last 5 years. It’s expected to continue rising. I hear all the time “think mobile first” and “mobile-ready” — these terms just emphasize the true nature of Generation C’s connection to mobile. There’s an opportunity for brands to increase their standing by making their mobile experiences shine. Gen C people will bounce from a site that has a bad mobile experience. They’ll even bounce from a site that has a mediocre mobile experience. Brands should be putting time, money, and thought into the mobile side of their business.

The Gen C Direction

Generation C are just as prevalent as Millennials and other living generations, maybe even more so. More and more we are living our lives out through technology. Our circles are our social networks. Our experiences are mobile. We will just continue to see technology consume more of our lives and our interactions. Wait for it, if you’re not fully connected yet….you will be!

Special thanks to…

I’d like to thank Strategy& and PwC for their incredibly insightful PDF on The Rise of Generation C, which I referred to for Gen C behaviors. And BazaarVoice for their insight into retailer trends.

The Xennials: A Micro-Generation of In-Betweeners

November 7, 2015
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So, as I’m sure some of you may have heard, or read, or seen somewhere online, be it social media, or a chain email (if you still get those), the idea of this micro-generation between Generation X and Millennials known as Xennials. I always thought this was Generation Y (my generation!), but I guess I was wrong as people believe that GenY is, in fact, the Millennial Generation. It’s believed that GenY was just an oversight, or under-sight, however you’d like to classify it is fine with me. The reality is there has been quite a bit of controversy around this subject as of late. I’ve been reading more and more articles on what peoples’ opinions are surrounding this non-existent, imagined, and underwhelmed generation. Yet, here I am, and here we are! We stand together, however far a part we may be, those of us born between 1978 and 1984, have got to be recognized. Because it is us GenY-ers, now known as Xennials, that made the transition between Generation X and Millennials possible. We are the Homo naledi that bridged the evolution of big generations together. We are, essentially, the missing piece that allows every other piece to fit nicely together in the puzzle of America’s living generations.

“And these children that spit on you, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations – they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” – David Bowie

Taking a look at the Living Generations…

Let’s start with a quick history lesson of the generations that are still represented in this nation right now. There is usually common ground amongst the “generation and generation gap” experts with the first four representative generations.

They are:

  1. G.I. Generation (1901-1926) – Needless to say, this generation is super old! But there are still a few left, and I would like to tip my hat to these people because, let’s face it, they’re awesome! They are considered the “Great Generation.” They fought the Great War and survived while never speaking a word about what they saw or experienced. They raised their families in the Great Depression and persevered in the face of overwhelmingly hard times.  They built an incredible infrastructure for our nation and never took credit for it. They’re loyal, honest, hard-working people, and I hope we don’t forget this generation. They deserve to be remembered, and remembered well.
  2. The Silents (or The Matures) (1927- 1945) – Considered the nation’s last innocent generation, they were a little quieter than their GI predecessors (hence silents). They didn’t make a huge splash and they didn’t have much to say. They got corporate jobs, they lived normal lives, and their dreams were that of the “true American dream” – getting married, buying a house, having kids, and retiring well. They listened to Big Band music, they read the newspaper every morning, and they were cautious people.

  3. Baby Boomer Social Security CardBaby Boomers 
    (1946-1964) Ahhh, my parents…your parents… all of our parents. The Baby Boomers boomed and, apparently, they did it in two different styles. 1). The love and peace revolutionaries of the 60’s/70’s. 2). The career-climbing Yuppies (young urban professionals) of the 70’s/80’s. I love this generation, there was so much diversity! There were hippies and hard workers. Woodstock, civil rights, and climbing the company ladder. Rock and roll was huge and non-violent protests were popping up all over the country on college campuses. They were the “me” generation and a generation of firsts. The first TV generation, the first divorce generation. They are now considered the Golden generation in the workforce, many of them close to retirement, but most of which will not retire at 65. The differing decades they’ve lived have made them incredibly wise and incredibly important.
  4. Generation X (1965-1980) – Also known as the “latchkey kids,” they were left to fend for themselves. Street smart, but closed off. Partied all night, but still got up in the morning. They were individuals, there was no “greater good,” there was only themselves. They were the forgotten ones, the ones that society left by the wayside. They did drugs in high school, cut class more than any generation and listened to the Sex Pistols, INXS, and Tears for Fears. They abhorred big business, didn’t care for the government, and at times, even hated themselves for being born. The were creative kids that gave way to real jobs, and they’ll have an average of 7 careers in their lifetime.

Now this is where it gets a little confusing…..and interesting!

According to many, the next generation is the Millennial generation, some call it “the first-wave” Millennial generation. Well, I think that’s crap! But for continuity, here are the remaining two generations:

5.  Millennials (1981-2001) – There are so many things we could call this generation – the 9/11 Generation, the Echo Boomers, the Boomerang Generation, some say GenY, others call it the MTV Generation (I disagree with these last two). They lived in an era of fast falling crime rates all over the nation. They had parents who wanted to be present and involved. They prefer to work in teams and collaborate with one another. They keep impeccable schedules, they have an overly optimistic outlook on life in a dim, no-real-prospective-opportunity reality. They get all their information from the internet. Libraries don’t exist. They sexted growing up, they had mobile phones in high school. Britney Spears was their idol, along with the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees (or is it 97 Degrees? Doesn’t matter!) They’re hopeful, they process the world as fast as they can, they’ve been told their uber special and expect something for nothing. They’re spoiled, and they don’t give a shit.

6. Boomlets (born after 2001) – I had never heard of this before, some call this generation Generation Z (cute!) or the Technology Generation. Apparently, they will change the way the American melting pot is viewed in terms of behavior and culture. Most of them will grow up with TV’s in their bedroom. They will have never known a world without computers. They will always be connected. Their status in life will be determined by how many Twitter followers they have and how many Instagram likes they acquire. Apparently, they will also be tired of hearing about “saving the planet” – known as Eco-fatigue, they won’t give a shit about recycling. This is the generation that will no longer have a childhood that’s played outside or played with toys, they won’t explore the woods and neighborhoods close to their homes. They’ll be in front of the computer and their parents will call it “learning.”

Childhood by the Lake

My Childhood:

Time for Adam to add his two cents…or three.

I have fond memories of my childhood. A time without technology and without the worries of everyday life. We played flashlight tag, and “guns & commandos” in the woods next to my house. I was able to pickup the phone and dial my friends’ numbers by rote memorization.

I remember how excited I was when my sister and I discovered we actually got MTV on our television set (and how disappointed my parents were with that discovery). I think the first video I ever watched was Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. We were the MTV Generation, we watched movies like The Breakfast Club and The Goonies 10 years after they were released and fell in love with them. We grew up with one computer, we had to use the phone to connect with the internet (dial-up). We had one TV, and we fought with each other because we all wanted to watch something different. Full-House, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, then as we aged we watched shows like Blossom, My So-Called Life, and Dawson’s Creek. And we ate dinner as a family, but still went outside afterwards.

Talking ’bout my generation:

My generation is different, I assure you that! And we, cannot be lumped into these above buckets. I had angst as a teenager and believed in my individualism, but always knew there was the greater good. When I went to high school, cell phones where used by stock brokers, and they were enormous, I mean, seriously, they were as huge as your face and you could not fit them in your pocket. I remember I bought a beeper and thought I was the coolest kid ever! Man, did those things go outta style quick. I had a walkman, for years! And I used it, for years! I always knew technology was important, but I never really cared about it until much later in life. I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but let’s face it, I probably only keep in touch with 10 people on there. I still read books and consider them timeless gems, they will be the art of our generation and eventually become precious commodities (in fact, I’ve always wanted to write a novel about the dying breed of books, but I’m sure that’s probably been done before!). We grew up as the in-betweeners, and that’s a great place to be. The middle child, not too high, not too low. We weren’t experimented on and we weren’t held too tight. We were in the right spot at the right time and will always be able to adapt and change with the evolving tide.

For those of you who were born in between 1978 and 1984, you are the Xennials, and you will forever have the upper hand in the generational flow because you’ve lived the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds. Stand with me now, and stake your claim, we are here to stay!