Posted in Business, SocialMedia

Socially Speaking – #UsGuys Connections

Lois Creamer
Lois Creamer

This last Tuesday evening, I had the privilege of a telephone discussion with a dear friend I’ve only known from an online interaction over the last couple of years.  We are both part of an online community called #UsGuys on Twitter and Facebook!  If you see the #UsGuys hashtag in your Twitter stream rest assured you are seeing the digital exhaust of some extremely social savvy people.

Each night around 10:00pm there’s a ritual known as #Nightshift #CheckIn.  I haven’t been as consistent in my check-ins due to the pace of life, but I know that any evening where time permits; I can jump into the stream and connect with other socially interested professionals.  My friend and I both discovered that we loved the old show, Walton’s Mountain that used to be a weekly television show in the 80’s.  So, I would bid her goodnight by saying good night Mary Ellen….she would respond by saying “good night John Boy!”  Its amazing how many incredible people I have met over the last couple of years in this group!

So, let me introduce to you my Mary Ellen ~ Lois Creamer is a professional speaker!  She’s quite the accidental entrepreneur!  She decided when she became a mother that her focus was her child.  Her time would be dedicated to pouring her passion and love into being a parent.  When her child entered school and she had some free time during the day, someone informed a gentleman who had a professional speaking business that Lois would make a great assistant.  He called her and asked her to come speak to him.  Although he was looking for full-time help, he finally relented to her firm offer of part time hours that would still allow her to be there for her child before and after school.

She was a quick study and after several years decided there was an opportunity for her to develop a business of her own on the speaking circuit.  15 years later, Lois Creamer is an invaluable resource consulting professionals and business teams from all over!  She traveled much of her early career but lately has been able to bring more clients to her town of St Louis, Missouri.  If you’ve never visited that part of the country you’re missing out.

I shared with her my future aspirations about the entrepreneurial  life and she encouraged me to consider talks in different venues.  “One of the best ways to spread the word about your business is to find opportunities to speak about it!”  She encouraged me, as she does others, to join my local Toastmaster‘s group to gain experience.  Because I’m a huge TED Talk fan, Toastmasters sounds like a great boot camp for the TED Talk big-time! 😉  Anyway, our phone conversation was our first connection beyond the electrons emanating from our screens I’ve had with Lois.  I’m forever stunned at how true to the personality I’ve come to know via our electronic connection is reflected in the real life connections.  I mentioned this fact to her about my Tweetup experience in the Twin Cities and how amazing that was.  If you or your business have not taken the social media plunge you’re missing out on some valuable connections you may otherwise never make.

So, for the readers out there, be encouraged if you too are considering your hand at an entrepreneurial endeavor.  Follow Lois on Twitter….and Lois’ blog at BookMoreBusiness for expert advice and practical assistance on how to achieve your dreams.

Posted in Relationships, SocialMedia

“Social” Media ~ A Review of the #USGUYS TwinCities TweetUp

Get out your reading glasses, a box of tissues and prepare to ponder!

A little background first:  I’ve been tweeting with #usguys folks since the group formed.  Many have come and gone, but there are some regulars.  I have found “family” … a sense of “coming home” in my online connection with those who are regular participants of the nightly #Nightshift Checkin.  This process is usually led by @StephenCaggiano around 10pm nightly.  Between Libby Baker Sweiger ( @libbytalks ) and @ImMarkBernhardt, a Tweetup was planned in the Twin Cities for April 20th.  I had just finished reading @GabeBerman‘s book “Live Like a Fruit Fly” {click on the title and read my book review}  His perspectives and reminders about the preciousness of life sent me on a journey of self-examination.  Questions like am I happy?  Am I really doing what I want to be doing?  How appreciative am I of the things I have?  Do I show well to others gratitude for their participation in the liturgy (dance routine) of my existence?

My mind was made up!  I was going to drive the six hours North to meet IRL <– In Real Life, these wonderful people who Indications of Economic Improvementtweeted with persistence during our last storm that brought four dozen tornadoes through Nebraska.  They weren’t going to go to bed until they knew me and my family were “out of the woods!”  Where do you find friends like this who are not related to you?  I didn’t until #usguys.

So anyway, I scheduled a day off from work just to attend, booked a room, and made arrangements for care of our parrot (named DJ), and our adorable cat Clara!  We packed up and headed to Minneapolis / St Paul!  I was overwhelmed with the amount of trucker traffic!  If 18-wheeler activity is any indication of economic health, then good ole U.S. of A. has nothing to worry about!  The other noticeable thing about Iowa that impressed me while driving through was their message about being a leader in clean renewable energy!  We passed at least two huge wind farms on the East side of the highway on our way up North.  Our journey was without stress or vehicle troubles and we arrived at our Country Inn and Suites lodging in Woodbury, Minnesota a half hour before we were due to meet at Lakes Tavern and Grill!

Upon arriving at the Tavern with my wife and three children, we were shown to the area where the rest of #usguys were waiting to be seated.  Right away I recognized Libby, she looks exactly like her picture and her personality translates well in real life.  Stephen Caggiano was the same–genuine, sincere in an unassuming way.  Mark Bernhardt took me a little while to connect the dots because in his previous Twitter pic sported a cowboy hat!  Mimi Baker ( @MimiBakerMN ) was recognizable and her wittiness on Twitter translates into real life as well–great gal!  Sumner Musolf ( @SumnerMusolf ) took me a while to resolve because his Twitter pic didn’t show facial hair–the man has a beard! @MaryJTraviski was there long enough for introductions and had to leave–but I’m sure I’ll get to know her better on Twitter.

So, here’s what everyone looked like, sorry for the lighting in the group picture.  An elderly guy watching all these adults sitting around a table with other people, but their eyes focused on the phones in there hands offered help take a group photo when we began taking pictures of each other.  My son, Josh and his comic drawings were a hit with the crowd–everyone was gracious and Josh felt proud to receive accolades from people outside of the family.

So, keep in mind, I had just come off a two day affair…meeting with the whole group the night of the 20th at the Tavern.  The next day, my family and I met Mark Bernhardt at the Mall of America (which is an incredible, but noisy place) for lunch, and that evening we met Stephen Caggiano and Libby Baker Sweiger at Perkins Restaurant for dinner.

My faith in the goodness of mankind, was reaffirmed by the fact that the real life experience with these #usguys was just as rich as what I have experienced online.  Stephen is well connected in his social network, but extremely generous with his connections, experiences and advice.  Libby is sweet and a very deep feeling individual–a good listener (even though her Twitter handle is @libbytalks!)  Mimi Baker, a single mother of two boys, is bubbly and spontaneous!  Mark Bernhardt and Sumner were somehow familiar, very comfortable to be around….it really felt like a 20 year high school reunion.

Now, here’s the part where you may need a tissue! 

Earlier this week a dear friend in the #usguys family underwent surgery for cancer.  As you can imagine, the twitter stream was turbulent with tweets of concern, prayers, thoughts, and words of encouragement.  I find myself frequently throughout the day thinking about those who I regularly tweet with–ALL of them!

So two days ago, I was standing at the kitchen sink washing, listening to music on the radio and my mind drifted to — #usguys.  I became aware of the level of emotional energy I feel pouring through me when I tweet encouraging words to others, cheer colleagues and friends in their professional pursuits, inquire to others about how their day is going, etc!

That’s when it hit me, the realization that I don’t feel the same level of energy in my day-to-day relationships!  My biological family that I was born into, the family that my wife and I created, my friends, my colleagues….they are “here”….just like the pictures that hang on your walls, the nick nacks, the stacks of magazines you walk past everyday but no longer notice (value) because they’ve become part of the fabric or skin of your life.  We don’t pay attention to the fact we have skin until it dries out, itches, cracks, gets cut or banged!  Our minds are always searching for something new and exciting…it stops “seeing” what we already have (the known factor) that has become part of the periphery.  Perhaps that is what is so rewarding about social media…just like the words in a well written book, it carries you away from your three-dimensional existence that requires effort, time, energy beyond your own skin?  Whether it be a “New Interaction” on Twitter, or a new status update from someone on Facebook…these tools always keep something new & fresh in front of our eyes!

So, feeling NOT okay with these realizations, I decided to make a concerted effort to reexamine those in the here and now with the same curiosity, interest, value, and preciousness that I do with “new and effortless” connections with those in social media.  Perhaps its narcissism that makes social media relationships “easier?”  We find communications/communities of interest that echo our own passions, personality types and discover a mirror that affirms the “who & what” we think of ourselves.

I don’t like to think of myself as someone who takes others for granted or makes assumptions about others!  But if I look at my own behavior, I have to say I’m guilty, just as probably many of you are for how we manage relationships.  I’ve said for years that love is a verb…so determined to practice what I preach, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home last night from class to buy my wife a bouquet of flowers and a card to express my gratitude.  I am purposely choosing to look for the “new & exciting” in the “everyday” routines of life.   New and exciting is there ~ every day — dust doesn’t collect on things that get used (paid attention to) frequently–but it requires a conscious effort on our part to “see [to actively look]” it!

Sorry for the long post, but these thoughts cannot be confined to the “standard 300-500 word entry”  To all reading this post, if this message resonates with you, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Peace out!