Define a Transparent Dream

This is my first post in 2,096 days. That’s 50,304 hours, or 5.7 years without a single post. But as they say, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

What took so long? You could call it laziness, or lack of time. You could call it the easy allure of short-burst thoughts posted to Social Media. Call it whatever you want. Truth is, it’s probably all of those things. And while I’m not particualrly proud that I haven’t worked out this muscle in a long time, consider the leaf turned over. I’m coming to back to longer(ish) posts and freshening up this dusty area. I’m doing this for myself, mostly – I just miss writing.

Simple solution: do it more. So I will.

This morning I was reading The Atlantic’s recent series of articles about dreams. Dreams have always fascinated me. In “How to Change Your Mind,” Michael Pollan’s captivating book about psychedelic drugs, he writes that our dreams are literally as close as we get to “drug trips” without actually ingesting the illegal substances. So whether we remember it or not, we’re all tripping every night. Right on! And somehow, “it’s Freedom Rock, man!” just popped into my head.

Back to The Atlantic. Of the handful of articles posted about dreams, the one that resonated with me the most was the one about recurring dreams, particualrly school-related dreams. The one that seems most common (and is referred to in the article) is about forgetting you signed up for a class, only to be reminded of it just before the final, dooming your planned graduation. I don’t recall ever having that one. But I do have two recurring dreams:

  1. The first one is actually school related: I can’t for the life of me ever remember my class schedule – and I find myself not knowing what class to go to next and subsequently not knowing what to do. Every day .It results in me just missing classes, never knowing my schedule and panicking.
  2. This one is hockey-related. I have somehow “made it” to the NHL and I’m in the locker room before the game, when I realize there’s a skate missing. Or perhaps some other piece of equipment that won’t allow me to play. I desperately look around for it and grow more and more despondent with each passing minute. I miss the warm-up. I hear the National Anthem from the locker room. I hear the roar of the crowd as my sadness in the locker room grows. The game begins. But I never get to experience it.

So the question I’ve always asked myself is “why these dreams?” The Atlantic, as they do, investigated this with Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard University and author of two books tied to sleep and dreams (I guess she has a dream job! Cue dad joke here).

“…these dreams tend to pop up when the dreamer is anxious in waking life, particularly about being evaluated by an authority figure.”

Kelly CONABOY (The atlantic, 9/22/22)

Well there you have it. Even at the age of 51, I’m still thrilled to learn and will definitely try to be more cognizent of what is going on in my life when these dreams appear.

In addition to encouraging us to connect the dots between our dreams and meaningful things in real life, the article also surmises that school-related panic presents in our sub-conscious and dreams so often because it is such a foundational part of our lives and where (arguably) a huge amount of life skills were instilled. This makes sense to me, though at this point school years (let’s call it 17) make up just 33% of my waking life, so I believe it to be more than that.

So what recurring dreams do you have? Leave a comment!

Anyway….happy tripping, er, dreaming.

Hiring People Over 45

Hiring People Over 45

Between all the noise out there about the election, people walking off cliffs playing Pokemon GO, terrorism and whose lives matter, I came across this article this weekend about the lack of hiring of people over the age of 45. The article also mentions how the suicide rate and drug/alcohol abuse rates have spiked for the 45-54 year olds.

I consider myself blessed that my recent job search only took 10 weeks. I think the hallmark moment for me, as I look back at it, was how many roles I was qualified for (maybe even over-qualified) that went to younger, less experienced people.

Obviously, I cannot say why that occurred. The logical explanation would be that they’ll work for far less money, but I’m also not vain enough to rule out that personality matches, nepotism and of course age may have been factors.

I’m hearing this “ageism” thing more and more, though and know people my age in the job market right now who are experiencing the same thing.

One example. I began an interview process during the first week of January with a very well-known company based here in Massachusetts. Similar to my previous role, they had multiple storefronts around the country, an online business and a need for someone to handle digital marketing and social, among a few other things.

Right up my alley. I walked into the interview with the hiring manager and he spent the first 5 minutes telling me how perfect my experience was for what he was looking for. He even called me a “unicorn,” which in this case meant a “rarity.” Kind of ridiculous, really, and a term that is thrown around a little too much these days.

Anyway, two interviews went very well. But I didn’t get the gig. It’s rare to receive any kind of feedback about why you didn’t land a role, but lo and behold, this fella gave me one! He said the person who got the offer had significantly more experience.

The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can find out more. The person who got the role graduated from college less than 8 years ago and had exactly 2 years worth of experience in the particular business they were hired for. Was I bitter? Not really. I had other irons in the fire, but it sure felt a bit like age may have played a role there. Or maybe the guy was simply a liar. I’ll never know for sure.

Couple this with another emerging trend called “the gig economy” and I don’t expect things are going to get any easier for my age set. The gig economy is defined as the growing percentage of people who aren’t beholden to one company, but perform a multitude of jobs for different companies. In a word, freelancers. The article quotes an Intuit study that says 40% of all U.S. workers will fall into this category by the year 2020.

hiring people over 45

Corporations would love for this number to get to 40%. Or more. They get their ticket virtually punched to a) a cheaper workforce, because there’s always someone willing to do it for less and b) they won’t have to pay workers any full-time benefits.

The world is changing. All the time, in every way. There’s hardships no matter how old you are. We can look with envy to the younger, darker-haired workforce (the millennials!) being able to land jobs easier because of their age and/or willingness to work for less, but many of them are dealing with a crushing amount of debt and a social landscape akin to a verbal wasteland. The true effects on the economy as a whole because of that growing debt has yet to materialize, but it’s not a reach to say it’s not going to be good.

These millennials are also the first generation where nobody is looking anyone in the eyes. It’s all head down, digital 1’s and 0’s. The sociological and even physiological effects of this are years away.

I’m lucky I have a job with benefits at a great company, because so many don’t – and a lot have simply given up. In the last year, I’ve also quickly recognized that it could easily be me, anytime. Terrifying.

Debt, the gig economy, unstable global markets, terrorism, the millions and millions of people migrating – literally walking – away from unstable economies. The list goes on. And on. Scary.

And no matter how much I educate myself further or try to learn new things, it may not even matter. Frightening.

Bad Facebook Ads

I’ve mentioned bad targeting and bad Facebook ads before. It’s pretty gross (and wasteful) business. It also provides a horrendous user experience. Whether Facebook likes it or not, when an advertiser doesn’t do audience targeting correctly, it casts a dark light on Facebook, because not everyone is totally aware of what is and isn’t an advertisement. That is both the beauty and drawback of native advertising.

In some ways, it’s even worse then a Google search. At least Google puts that little orange-ish box that says “AD” in the results now. With Facebook, it’s mixed in with your newsfeed and the 4 point “Sponsored” font is hardly noticed.
bad facebook ads
Last week I was doing a sort-of consulting gig with a local company (story for another time), but I saw this image above for Boise State Lacrosse Apparel come across my Facebook feed. This is an example of what I consider poor targeting. Why?

Well, I do have lacrosse in my Facebook profile, because it’s a part of my past work history and I follow several lacrosse-related Facebook pages. Which reminds me, I need to stop following those. So that’s why I’m seeing the ad. Checkmark for the advertiser.

However, I feel like they got it wrong on several levels. One is that I didn’t attend Boise State. Am I saying that the advertiser should have ONLY targeted Boise State students and alum? No. But it still doesn’t feel right. Two, I live and grew up 2,000+ miles from Boise.

So while the advertiser got the lacrosse part right when targeting me, they probably could have saved some money and optimized their spend by doing a little bit deeper targeting on things like geographical location. Tighten that up, folks.

Another thing – the image in the ad is an absolute atrocity. This advertiser should be shamed in public for not using high-quality pictures of actual Boise State Lacrosse apparel! Especially with all the image options (like multi-image carousels) that Facebook gives advertisers now. What the hell?!

I mean, look at that ad! Would you click an ad from Ralph Lauren advertising apparel if it was just the Ralph Lauren logo? The big huge B does nothing to entice the user. This provides further evidence to me that this advertiser needs a lesson in engaging and effective advertising.

All that said, maybe this was a campaign where the advertiser was only paying for clicks and if that’s the case, it’s probably a little more acceptable to spray it all around, targeting be damned. Or maybe the advertiser simply had a ton of budget (but no camera, hahah). The ad overall is pretty inexcusable and the ad is terribly ineffective.

Back to my original point, too – it’s not totally relevant to my feed and it makes the user experience, for me, unpleasant. Now I’m off to change my profile so I don’t get any more lacrosse ads.

Open Your Eyes

I had an interesting and slightly odd experience a couple of weeks back which made me open by eyes a little (literally) – and it involves customer service.

When given the choice, I normally will try to push my money to local businesses in the town I live in, which is Maynard, MA. That said, we are lucky to have an optical shop right here in town which can do standard exams and provide you with frames or contacts. I never really need to go anywhere else other than Look Optical.

Here’s what I like about it. First, I can walk there. As someone who has been in the retail business, convenience of location is huge with a capital H – we saw it in every customer survey we did. Look Optical also has a good selection of frames and they actually make their own frames, too. Also good. Convenience and selection – two major hot points.

Alex Thayer - Look Optical

Alex Thayer – Look Optical

But here’s where the hammer nails it in – service. The owner is a guy named Alex and he’s one of those people who has that talent where he can remember people’s names and he cheerfully says “Hey Jeff!” every time I walk in and he’ll remember I like music and ask what I’m listening to these days.

What’s more, he has the ability to remember what frames I used to wear and on more than one occasion, he remembers what frames I have previously tried on and not purchased. There is the magic. I will likely never shop anywhere else for optical needs.

I went in a few weeks back to order some new contact lenses and get a quick exam. I’m in the room and we finish up and Alex turns off the bright-as-the-sun light that was shining in my eyes and I can see he turns serious and then he asks me “what do you think is the most dangerous thing about contact lenses?”

Of course, I have no idea and I say so.

The answer: you can lose your eye. WHAT? He then proceeds to tell me that he had a patient who developed some kind of bacteria issue and ended up in the city in surgery – and lost an eye.

See the FDA’s page on the dangers of contacts here.

I’d never seen him so serious and it was clear that he took it hard. So we talked about ways to minimize the risks, including washing your hands when you put them in and take ’em out (which I do every time, all the time, anyway) and also not swimming or showering in them, because water carries bacteria.

Now this I hadn’t heard before. Almost every Sunday, I shower with my contacts in after my Sunday night hockey league games. And I must confess I swim in my contacts because a) I’m blind as a bat and don’t like blurry vision in the water, but more importantly, b) I’m usually swimming with my children nearby and I’m damn well going to make sure I have clear sight of them.

Of course, Alex understood the latter and discouraged the former, but wanted to let me know there is some risk in showering and swimming with contacts and he wanted me to know about it. I’m glad I don’t live in Flint.

Bottom line – customer service is king. I will take my contacts out when I shower from now on.

devotionIn this case, my devotion to Look Optical IS about convenience and location, but truth be told, if Alex moved to Acton or Sudbury, I’d drive there. Because he knows my name.

This applies to online marketing and customer service. The better you know your customers and the better you cater to their wants and needs, the better off your business will be. This is basic marketing 101 type stuff, but I continue to see it muffed by companies big and small.

Sure, there’s software – GOOD software – that can automate this for you in some facets and it can be quite effective. But responding in REAL-TIME in human ways AS SOON AS POSSIBLE is where people start seeing you like I see Alex.

For example, my goals in Social Media at my last job were to try and respond to any and all mentions of our brand within 1-5 minutes.  That was a lofty goal because I always had a lot of other stuff going on, but I’m proud to say that more often than not, I did it.

open your eyes
You wouldn’t believe how happy it made people. Does it show up in Google Analytics? Nope. Does it show up as a trackable ROI event? Nope. But I can promise you it shows up in people’s hearts and minds and that means one word, which maybe trumps them all: Devotion. I know this was effective because I saw repeat orders from certain people after I engaged with them.

So don’t swim or shower in your contacts, get to know your customers and be obsessed about making them smile. Open your eyes. Be human.

I’m Ready for the Laughing Gas

I recently got back from a family trip to Hawaii.

(Editors note: Back when I wrote on this page more regularly, my next sentence in this post would have been “but that’s a blog post for another time” or something like that. But let’s face it – at my current pace of roughly two posts per decade, there’s little chance you’ll get a Hawaii post out of me).

Anyway, while I was in Hawaii, I still tried to keep up with news back home on my IPad via my Boston Globe subscription. To give you an indication of a) just how much less attention I pay to music than before and b) how much U2 has fallen off my map in the last 5-7 years, I had NO idea that U2 booked four nights at the TD Garden, with all four performances occurring while I was gone. I am not entirely sure I would have gotten tickets, but I thought it a little strange that I hadn’t even heard of the shows.

By my best recollection, the last time I saw U2 would have been around 1992. It’s safe to say that back then, they were IT for me and many others. I think I may have seen them 4-5 times on the Achtung Baby tour alone and can clearly remember shows in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Foxborough and New York City. I love SetList.FM!

Anyway, it got me thinking about U2 again and while rock radio ruined them for me by pounding all their Top 10 songs all over the radio for years, there’s still so many very very good songs that the radio doesn’t play. So I had an idea to construct a Spotify playlist of all my favorite U2 songs that did NOT chart above #50 in the US Billboard Charts. What I found was that there are 17 songs that I can go back to again and again and probably never get sick of. These are songs that you will likely never hear on the radio, either. Bonus!

I can split the playlist into era’s for myself, because that is fun to do if you’re a music nerd. So I’m gonna do it. It won’t be that painful for you and if you know me well enough, your name might even be in here.

The Middle School Era (1982-1985):

As a middle school boy, I hadn’t really cemented myself as a deep music fan, but the foundation was there. I had a deep appreciation for Led Zeppelin – and not just the hits that everyone else knew. I also liked deep Def Leppard cuts, AC/DC and upon looking through my 6th grade notebook recently, discovered that I also liked The Firm and Journey quite a bit.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Like A Song – oh, the urgency and liberation of being young and untouchable.
  • Seconds – one of my favorite U2 songs ever, I think about nuclear weapons. Takes a second to say goodbye!
  • 40 – they got it from the Bible. Really. A mellow, lovely tune.
  • Surrender – another of my all time U2 faves. Vaguely referencing suicide, prostitution and attempting normalcy.
  • A Sort of Homecoming – a warmer vibe here, but that moment in the song when he sings “…and we live by the side of the road, on a side of a hill… the valley explodes!” — you just know that this band is a beast. Emotional, brilliant, beautiful. So much going on in this song.
  • The Unforgettable Fire – another rich, emotional beauty of a song. Listen closely for Larry Mullen’s “shit” near the beginning as he struggles to get in time. Love it.
  • Wire – could be my favorite U2 song of all time. I think it’s about drug use, but I can’t be sure. That’s how I interpret it, anyway. A frantic, dark, rock and roll song that stays with you. Ends with “I’m no dope, I give you hope, here’s the rope, here’s the rope, now…swing away…..” This is KILLER!

But I didn’t know ANY of these songs back then! All I really remember about U2 back then was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” their first real radio breakthrough from the War album. I sure liked the song, but they were pretty new and I wasn’t going deep with them.  I also have a very specific memory of sitting in my room one day, being afraid of Hurricane Gloria in 1982 and listening to their song “Gloria” repeatedly. Why does that stick in my head?

The Unforgettable Fire came next, in 1984 and that was another step forward in terms of my exposure. Like many other people, I gained a huge amount of respect for them after Live Aid’s killer performances from that record. I still wasn’t ALL in on U2 then, but “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Bad” were two songs I really liked. It wouldn’t come to me until much later how strong this album was from front-to-back. Dear Lord, it’s a near-masterpiece. I didn’t really get it, though, until the early ’90s.

The High School Years (1985-1989)

OK, this is when U2 went totally bananas. Everyone LOVED them! My specific memories during high school are of three people who were always pushing me to listen more. Thank you Josh Harmon, Karen Skinner and my high school girlfriend Paula. Karen sat behind me, I think it was Spanish II class. She was a year ahead of me and I remember her really pushing me hard to listen to more than just the hits. Truth is I’ve never, ever liked “With or Without You” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” But the rest of that album is on the money, honey. Big time. Karen was right. Josh was just a U2 fanatic and also had an influence.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Exit –  a man plunges into darkness. Maybe their most depressing song ever. But compelling as hell.
  • Running to Stand Still –  another story about the ravages of drug addiction, but beautiful nonetheless.
  • Red Hill Mining Town – likely my 2nd favorite U2 song ever. Crazy highs and low lows. They’ve never really performed this live because they discovered that Bono couldn’t hit those high notes quite enough. This makes me so sad, because if I saw it live it would probably make me cry. It’s about miners and the effect of their job on their families. The moment when Bono screams “Hanging on! You’re all that left to hold on to” is maybe my favorite moment in the bands whole catalog.
  • Van Dieman’s Land – So many people were turned off by Rattle & Hum, but there’s a lot to like here and this is one of them. A dark, simple song sung by The Edge. Always has stuck with me.
  • Hawkmoon 269 – Another one of those quiet tunes that hits some frantic highs.
  • God Part II – Most certainly not their strongest work, but I’m still a sucker for a memorable song with good rock guitar and lyrics that reference other famous musicians.

The College Years (1989-1993)

This is where it peaks for me. Achtung Baby came out and I about went berzerk for U2. Lots of people didn’t appreciate (or maybe understand) U2’s change in direction, but I LOVED it. I didn’t mind the serious U2 of the ’80s, but I LOVED the whole approach in the ’90s of the band spitting irony of the mass media and creating characters to mock it (the whole FLY thing). But that was just the sideshow. The MUSIC on Achtung Baby, to me, was their peak. Adventurous, a little more rocking, richer and a little less preachy……and catchy as hell. This is also the last album by them that I loved. Really, my admiration was over the top, probably.

A year or two later, they unleashed Zooropa and that had a few gems, but it was the beginning of the end of my adulation for U2. Ever since then, it’s been 10% hit and 90% miss. But that sweet spot from 1982-1992 is one I don’t think any band will ever accomplish again.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Zoo Station – if only for the distorted, rocking guitar intro. It was the opener on the Achtung Baby tour for all those shows I saw. And it’s awesome.
  • So Cruel – maybe one of their most beautiful songs to listen to.
  • Zooropa – the last song I really loved by this band. An atmospheric rock song that would have (and should have) fit perfectly on Achtung Baby and it’s a song that I have never gotten tired of, even after 20 years. Super cool chorus, awesome vocals, great mix and just a  beauty. If you haven’t given this song a chance in a while, you really should.
  • Wild Honey – From the “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album. I liked this album. But it didn’t destroy me like Achtung Baby did. This song is a nice, acoustic-based rock song with a great hook.

So there you have it. When I post to the blog, I go big. I’d love to say it won’t take me three years to post again, but who knows. Playlist below. This is basically the set list I would hand them for a live show if it were up to me. Gosh, I would pay a LOT to see them do this set:

In Through The Out Door

I’ve been reading a book about parenting lately that explores, among other things, how to embrace and engage your “spirited child.” We have one of those. A delightful little kid who has TONS of spirit. So we’re trying to figure out how to utilize that spirit in the most positive way we can. You see, my in-laws both spent their entire careers trying to better the lives of children. Not their own, though they did a damn good job at that, too.  So when they speak about and give guidance on what to provide children with at young age, I listen. Intently. The recurring theme is this: focus on their strengths and use those strengths to overcome or minimize any weaknesses. It’s not a very complicated theme, but some of the stories I hear from about their work seems to indicate that many parents  weren’t able to embrace that simple theme.

Once again, I’m getting sidetracked. This book I’m reading goes into fairly specific detail about introverts and extroverts. I began thinking about my own personality traits as I really explored the two supposed opposites. What I found was that I have most definitely lean towards introvert, but I do have some extrovert tendencies.

Let’s go to Wikipedia for some more detail. My responses below are in bold:

Introverts often:

  • Gain energy when they are alone – hell yes
  • Derive energy from the inner world, ie, feelings, ideas, impressions – yep
  • Are good listeners – nope, but I’m trying
  • Think before you do or say – most of the time
  • Maintain more eye contact while listening to someone than when you speak to him – big time yes
  • Have little interest, but any interest is very immersed – nope
  • Only deep relationships with others is called “friendship” – yes
  • Prefer to talk face to face than in the group – oh lord yes
  • Speak slowly, with pauses –  no
  • That they need silence to concentrate, do not like it when they interrupt the work or any other activities (eg, ringing phone) – pretty much
  • Benefit from long-term memory, which often have the feeling of “lightheadedness” and may have trouble finding the right words during a conversation. yes
  • Better than extroverts to cope with tasks requiring attention – perhaps, but I’m not convinced
  • Easier to learn than by reading a conversation with others – yes
  • Prefer to reveal their inadequacy wit and mismatch – yes bigtime
  • Work the same regardless of whether they are praised or not, – nope, love praise
  • May have difficulty remembering faces and names – big yes, but can remember almost ANY phone number

So you can see that I have a lot introverted features. I am generally very uncomfortable talking and participating in large groups and prefer smaller groups or one-on-one. It’s not like I start to shake and pee myself in large groups, it’s just not my preference. I try my best. I absolutely LOVE spending time with myself. Which isn’t to say I ALWAYS need to be alone, but having time to myself does get me re-energized and always has. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, so perhaps I got used to it and embraced it.

Now, an extrovert, according to Wikipedia:

is the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self. Extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and are generally enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious in social situations. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings such as: parties, community activities, public demonstrations, business, and political groups. Politics, teaching, sales, managing and brokering are fields that favor extroversion. An extroverted person enjoys and becomes energized by larger groups of people while time alone is less enjoyable and boring to them.

This is not me. For the most part. I believe very much that I have some extroverted tendencies. I do enjoy human interaction very much. In small groups. There are times when I am very talkative, though you have to know me quite well. Other than that, nothing in that description fits me very well. It’s all very interesting stuff. More from Wikipedia – and this pretty much nails it on the head for me:

Although extroverts and introverts have real personality and behavior differences, it is important to avoid pigeonholing or stereotyping by personality. Humans are complex and unique, and because extroversion varies along a continuum, they may have a mixture of both orientations. A person who acts introverted in one scenario may act extroverted in another, and people can learn to act “against type” in certain situations. Jung’s theory states that when someone’s primary function is extroverted, his secondary function is always introverted (and vice versa).

So I see facets of both traits in my own children. I will, in observance and the experience of what my in-laws have told me, do my best to have my children embrace their strengths and whether they are introverts or extroverts doesn’t really matter because one isn’t better than the other. But it’s fun to delve into this stuff again (I studied and minored in Sociology in college). Yes, by the way, I have taken the Myers-Briggs test. I came out as an INFP, but was extremely close to ENFP. So there you have it. Your complete reading of my personality. Fascinating, I know. Or not.