Passing Time

It’s interesting to me the difference exposures my wife and I have had to funerals. While she’s only ever been to a couple, I feel like my childhood was full of them. I suppose growing up in a small town, and intrinsically caring for neighbors and classmates as family led me to more funerals than I can begin to remember.

Today we experienced another. A dark sky set a fitting somber mood, and we collected to send off Grandpa Orange Slice. And as I experienced the day, I was reminded of a few things about funerals.

People in rural Iowa respect funeral processions. As we slalomed through the city of Ottumwa and Iowa back roads, people not only yielded, but came to a complete stop to pay respect to a man they didn’t know. Put simply, it’s not something you experience in the city. 

I can make it to the sixth note of taps without tearing up. The sadness of the day compounds it, but there’s so much historical weight that accompanies the notes that it’s overpowers me. Every. Single. Time.

Funerals unequivocally force contemplation of mortality and all that accompanies it. And while I’m comfortable with my own eventual demise (having a parent die when you’re young cements this for you in a way I haven’t seen elsewhere), I’m not immune to that physchilogical law, and thus I think about my own funeral. Rather morbidly I guess, I’ve kept a playlist since high school of songs I want played at my own service. That’s probably weird, but like I said, as a kid, trying to pick the perfect song for your dads funeral does things to you.

Finally, above all, another unexpected loss serves as the foreboding reminder that death can come quickly. Without regard for plans or final words, it steals from us the breathe of life that’s impossible to restore. So for now, and hopefully for some time before my fickle human brain moves on and I need to be reminded again, I’ll be mindful of my interactions and always intend to leave friends and strangers alike with good “bye”s.

Crashing Hangouts

This morning I stumbled my way into a Google Hangout with none other than Joseph Jaffe. You know, the author of two of the best marketing books you’ll find, host of the Across the Sound Podcast, and founder of Evol8tion LLC. I noticed a tweet from him this morning inviting folks to join his Madison to Mountain View hangout. Madison to Mountain View is an Evlo8tion project to bridge the creativity of Mad Men and hyper technosphere of Mountain View California.

I joined the call late, due to a couple hiccups getting the link from twitter to work (it kept taking me to the app store to download Hangouts, which I already had downloaded), and not having setup hangouts on my new phone yet. Once I joined, I found a handful of other participants who were talking about tech innovation and how marketers perceive Millennials. The most poignant thought in the couple minutes of conversation I heard was that we tend to forever see Millenials as they were when they were defined as Millenials. Even as they grow up, marketers tend to first think of them first as college kids before we can accurately reimagine them as leaders of households with kids and pets and discretionary spending. It’s definitely something to be cognizant of the next time you picture Boomers as empty-nesting globe-trotters… they’re older than you imagine them too.

After the Hangout, Jaffe was cool enough to hang around for a minute and explained that they were in the early phases of developing this live water cooler approach where they convened weekly on Tuesday mornings. He said that they were going to start taking it more public in the future, which makes sense in a content saturated world where we all need to find new ways to connect more intimately with others. So, if you’re into marketing and technology, and want to listen to smart folks conversation, watch for Jaffe’s Twitter feed next Tuesday morning for the link.

My 2015 Personal Balanced Scorecard

Every year I try to assess my lifestyle, and determine the specific actions I want to take to improve certain elements of my life. Those assessments lead to my annual personal balanced scorecard. This is my third year completing a personal balanced scorecard, and I feel like each year I design something a little better. And each year, I hold myself to my goals a little more tightly.

I’m hoping this year I’ll be able to actually reach the health goals I’ve been working towards for too long now. Weigh is a piece of that, but not the entire focus.

Alright, here goes:

– read – 1 book per month :: (can coincide with prof/relationships)
– blogs – write 2x monthly personally :: #
– meditate – for 15 min daily :: #
– Rss – marketing gold cleared out daily

– weight – 2/1:275, 4/1:250, 6/1:235
– fitness – 30 min active p/ day #
– fitness – 10k steps p/ day
– therapy – stretch/exercise back 20 min p/ day #

– prayer – morning and night
– meditation – 15 min daily ::
– fun – video games or movie once a week

– wife – dedicate 15 min to talking every night
– son – play with for 15 min every night
– son – email monthly update
– daughter – read with/talk to for 20 min every night
– daughter – email monthly update
– empathy – read 1 non-fiction book quarterly ::

1 – pay off cc debt
2 – emergency fund reach $15k
3 – save $3k for Disney trip

– blog – write 2x professional monthly :: #
– read – marketing gold blog roll daily ::
– read – 1 business book per quarter ::
– vlog – record 2 blogs per month #
– gamecast (video game podcast) – record 4 gamecasts per month #

:: same action covers multiple facets
# action can be scheduled for habit/tracking

I’ll likely edit these through the year based on changes in my environment, and potential other factors that could limit or open up opportunities. I’ll be checking in monthly to determine how I’m tracking related to these goals as well. This year I plan to hold myself publicly accountable on here as well, posting my progress along the way. Hoping that turns into a motivator for me.

So that’s what’s new. Do you do anything like this? What of my list do you like or dislike? Let me know in the comments!

Goings On

Hey friends! I was just taking inventory of some of the stuff I’ve been working on over the last few months, and decided to capture it all here, with links and stuff!

I’ve been all over the place, but I’ll try to give a little context as to what I’ve been spending time on, and how I ended up spending time there.

More Videos
First of all, as you probably know by now, I’ve been enamored by the vlogbrothers for the last few months, and in subscribing to and viewing many of their different channels, I felt like that was a model that I could copy. (I do not expect similar results.)

Historically, I’ve published all videos to my standard Seth M. Sparks profile channel, but I’ve now added two new channels for host the most common two types of videos I’ll be sharing…

1) vlogwithseth – A channel dedicated to my video blogs, mostly me talking about something going on in my life, whether it be work related or just something I found genuinely educational and wanted to share.

2) gamewithseth – A channel dedicated to me playing video games. Because I know you want to watch me play video games. Right now the only one of my systems that uploads to YouTube however is Wii, but as soon as PS4 enables this I’ll be using it more frequently. As an interim fix for sharing PS4 gaming (and a permanent solution for live game sharing), I’ve created a ustream channel too, under the username sethgames (which ill likely change to match the youtube channel too).

I usually go live with the Ustream channel around 9pm Central, and although I’ve not had viewers, I’d be willing to answer questions, let you pick the plays I run, or give my impression on a topic of your choosing. Just trying to find a way to make it interactive.

Marketing Side Project
Outside of playing around with video channels, I’ve also been making slow progress on my other site, A page here, and blog post there. One of these days it will be completed enough that I’ll start sharing it for others to actually use. I’d love your thoughts on what I’ve built so far.

Hometown Festival Volunteering
In August/September I again helped out my old hometown with communicating the details around our town festival via Facebook. But this year, I decided to take it up a notch and secured as another outlet for sharing the details of the event. The content was fairly sparse this year, as the communications lines aren’t as tidy around digital as they are elsewhere, but next year should be cleaner. Give it a look.

A Novel Approach
I’ve also started to layout the storyline(s) for some type of book I think I might write. Not exactly sure what the opportunity is here, but once I have the plot figured out I’ll decide how I want to do it. Stay tuned on that.

And finally, in all of my geekdom, had still never watched Dr. Who. That was a terrible mistake. I’m working my way though the new seasons on Netflix, and am a few episodes into the eleventh doctor. I’ll say two things about this, 1) the show is really great and I hate that I’ve waited so long to watch, and 2) so many memes make sense now! I won’t go into thoughts about characters/plot/etc., because as Doctor Pond would say, “No spoilers!”

And that’s all folks. I haven’t been terrible busy, but I’ve managed to make progress on some things that really interest me. What about you? What have you all been working on?

My Submission to the FCC on Net Neutrality


Text Entry:

Thank you for accepting my opinion. I would like to urge the FCC to reclassify all access to the internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, and to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) accordingly. While the center of the debate is about delivering content to users without speed influence from ISPs, most of the focus has been on entertainment. A more pressing concern for me is based on the original creation of the internet.

Access to information, and the ability of the internet to bring it to me without bias, is what’s at stake. We’ve become a society, especially younger Americans, that aren’t scared to try to learn new things, just by reading a few articles and watching a few YouTube videos. Our willingness to learn, coupled with unbiased access to sites that deliver education, is something we should have fair access to. Regardless whether that information be from someone’s personal blog, a non-profit, a start-up, or a major conglomerate. Access to that information shouldn’t be allowed to be influenced in any way by a highest bidder or paying a premium for faster distribution (see Comcast/Netflix speed changes 2013 vs 2014 after paying their fee). Even more, in many cases, the highest bidder will likely spend money on winning distribution priority and less on providing valuable content.

As a customer of ISPs, I pay for access to THE internet (at higher costs and slower speeds here in the U.S. compared to so many other countries [Where’s all that innovation and infrastructure ISPs keep talking about building?]), not for my ISPs version of it.

I understand this is a complex issue around one of the biggest economic forces our planet has seen, but we need to leave the economics to the businesses on the street, where true competition resides, and not allow the street to littered with road-blocks and fast lanes to junkyards.

Thank you for your time.


If YOU want to leave a note for the FCC on Net Neutrality (even if it’s different than mine), do so by going to

2014 Personal Balanced Scorecard

– books – read 1 per month ::
– blogs – write 2x monthly ::
– meditate – for 15 min daily ::

– weight – 5/1:280, 7/1:270, 9/1:260
– fitness – 30 min active p/ day
– fitness – 10k steps p/ day
– therapy – stretch/exercise back 20 min p/ day

– prayer – morning and night
– meditation – 15 min daily ::
– fun – video games or movie once a week

– wife – dedicate 15 min to talking every night
– son – play on the floor for 15 min every night
– son – email weekly update
– daughter – read with/to for 20 min every night
– daughter – email weekly update

1 – pay off cc debt
2 – pay off rav4
3 – emergency fund reach $15k

– blog – write 2x monthly ::
– network – 4 irl events
– read – marketing gold blog roll daily
– read – 1 book per month ::

Productive Business is All (Nothing) About Geography

The future of the productive and engaged business will be focused on finding right fit employees based on skills and values without geographic boundaries.

Today most companies hire talent under geographic limitations, such as the applicant curently living near, or being willing to reloacted to, the businesses office. This limitation in the candidate pool is often unnoticed, because businesses believe they can find the talent they need within those geographic limitations. However, the ever important business topics of fit, engagement, and happiness are often not included in the assessment of applications. This second axis of evaluation doesn’t exist for most oganizations. Inversely, applicants rarely assess how engaged and happy they might be in that new position as well. This creates an enviroment where candidates who can do the job are hired and paid, but that second axis of fit/happiness/engagement is overlooked. This often leads to excess turnover, time off, lost productivity, and lack of innovation.

When addressing the second axis (looking beyond a candidates skills and drive), I think Avinash Kaushik’s recent manifesto is spot on. He asserts that the fulfilled worker needs alignment across three pillars of their work life (accompanied by my descriptions);

  1. What I Do – The work I do on a daily basis is that which I am capable of
  2. What I’m Passionate About – I’m not only good at the work I do, but working on it is neither physically nor mentally draining, it energizes me
  3. What My Company Values – The work that I do and am passionate about, supports my and my companies mission and values

Avinash lays these pillars out as zones in a Venn Diagram and as they begin to overlap, the engagement and happiness of the individual is amplified. When all three zones completely overlap, he calls it Nirvana. I’ll admit, that Nirvana may not be possible, but getting as close as possible is the key to engagement and happiness.

Studies are constantly proving that engaged and happy employees have significant benefits over the alternative. In a NetBalance article called Happiness at Work, a number of stats around engagement are cited:

  • 33% higher profitability (Gallup)
  • 43% more productivity (Hay Group)
  • 37% higher sales (Shawn Achor)
  • 300% more innovation (HBR)
  • 51% lower turnover (Gallup)
  • 50% less safety incidents (Babcock Marine Clyde)
  • 66% decrease in sick leave (Forbes)
  • 125% less burnout (HBR)

Similarly, Shawn Achor, TedX speaker and author of The Happiness Advantage, posits in his work that “25% of job success by predicted by IQ, 75% is predicted by optimism, social support, and your ability to see stress as an challenge instead of a threat”. Shawn also shares the benefits of his “Happiness Advantage” theory:

  • Better secure jobs
  • Better keeping jobs
  • Superior productivity
  • More resilient
  • Less burnout
  • Less turnover
  • Greater sales

With all of the research obviously pointing towards the happiness imperative, it’s difficult to dispute. Returning to the hiring conundrum I began with (the neglect of the second axis that speaks to happiness and engagement), it becomes paramount for businesses to begin finding skilled candidates that have a passion for the work and the company. Finding these candidates however becomes much more difficult. As Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) might say, post-filters have an impressive ability to narrow down search. In my example on hiring, the dual axis post-filter would likely reduce the volume of results and create a very narrow candidate list. Potentially too narrow.

This is where the geographical barriers need broken down. The tools for successful workshifting/teleworking/etc. are all there. We have phones, teleconferences, video conferences, collaboration software, project software, and social software. Remotely, we can sign contracts, design product or creative, and share everything. We’ve even got an aviation transit system that can get anyone, anywhere, in a single day, if they really need to meet in person.

All of the tools are there for this to happen, so why hasn’t it? One could surmise that people don’t want it. But a Global Workplace Analytics study says that 79% of US Workers say they would like to work from home at least part of the time. Stretching that out a little bit, theoretically it would appear that people have no issues working remotely.

Maybe it’s because the jobs people have aren’t conducive to working remotely? Nope. Again, Global Workplace Analytics comes to the rescue stating that 50% of the US Workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least part-time telework. And if a job is built for part-time telework, it can easily be adjusted to allow for full-time telework.

So now, we’re left to guess why businesses haven’t adopted. I think there are a number of reasons we aren’t commonly seeing this.

  1. Leaders are companies are ignorant about technology and its ability to maintain relationships compared to the “good ol’ days”, and are scared to adopt new technologies as their ignorance will be visible
  2. Companies don’t trust employees to have the freedom to work outside the office for fear of lost productivity (I would argue this is a hiring problem, more than a governance problem)
  3. Companies fear that remote associates won’t live the company culture that everyone else does (I can say that more often than not, the company culture of politics and chest puffing outweigh the support and innovation a culture is supposed to promote)
  4. Not enough businesses are engaging in the practice, so outliers haven’t been observed and caused an environmental change of course (AKA, the tide hasn’t lifted all boats yet)
  5. A big fear for many business is that they don’t stand for something altruistic enough to attract passionate job seekers, making the second axis irrelevant and their jobs a commodity where they are taxed by higher salaries to keep people in seats

There are more reasons why businesses are reluctant to move on to this. But the only real factor that will speed up the business environment is #4. As more businesses begin to adopt the practice, see the results, and continue to adapt the technology, thier business success will trumpet the opportunity. As that success continues, the business environment will become one in which you either change, or you die. It’s just like with every other technological and cultural adaptation business have had to adjust to in the last 20 years. And as usual, there will be many businesses that will get left behind.

As a worker though, the prospects of bringing my talent to a role that aligns with my Zone of Genius, for a company that is creating a “world” that I believe in… Nirvana indeed.

(And I didn’t even mention the $11,000 savings per employee for telecommuting a business would gain.)