The Funny Thing About Eye Contact

eye contact, looking, communicating, communication, attention

The funny thing about eye contact is that it remains so critical in communication, yet few put in the effort and interest required to achieve it.

In the neighbourhood where I grew up in West Hamilton, there was a charismatic kid a few years older than me named Steve Lewis. I feel safe in using his surname because I have only positive recollections of him. He was a popular guy who was fortunate to have perfect hair for the times: it was longish and straight and was feathered perfectly in the middle.

The one thing that Steve could do better than any kid we knew was talk to parents. He didn’t talk down to them; he actually carried on conversations with them. I don’t recall the contents of these conversations but because of them, parents liked him and trusted him. My mom knew that if we – my brother Rob and I – were at Steve’s house (where all the neighbourhood kids congregated) everything would be okay. It always was.

I don’t know what became of Steve. He’s not on Facebook, as far as I can see. What I remember about him specifically was his knack for making direct eye contact with everyone he met. He had no airs about him so eye contact came easily to him. He followed it up with talk that was relaxed, casual, polite and positive. Unlike a lot of the other kids, Steve rarely swore. Continue reading

“Eat It,” in Baseball & Social Media

baseball, eat it, social media, posting, facebook, twitter, instagram, linkedin

Before posting on social media, think of baseball

When you hear the expression “eat it” you might reflect on several things: a command from your mom when you were young and refused to devour what she put on your plate; years ago, your friends daring you to taste something revolting (i.e. goldfish, in the olden days); or a parody of Michael Jackson’s 1982 classic “Beat It” by Weird Al Jankovic.

“Eat it” is also an expression often heard on the baseball diamond. It’s used when a fielder is about to make an ill-advised throw of a “live” ball: a ball that has just been hit and is in play. The fielder wants to make an out because that’s the name of the game on defence: to get outs. The throw may be considered ill-advised when the hitter or other base runner is likely going to beat the throw. The other fielders see that throwing the ball likely won’t result in an out, any may mean the ball is thrown away and the runners advance. So, they yell out “eat it” in an attempt to get the fielder to hold on to the ball and minimize the offensive damage.

In this case, “eat it” is a command to devour it yourself: don’t give it away, surrender its effects, or push it on someone else. It means that you, the one holding the ball, needs to take the most advisable action: NOTHING. Continue reading

Generosity, a la Subban & Myers

giving, generosity, donation

Picasso had the right idea.

I want to take a short while here and break from my usual talk about words and how to use them. I turn instead to the notion of generosity and the reasons I’m contemplating it.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted an article about a grandiose donation made by Montreal Canadiens hockey player P.K. Subban. He gave 10 million dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

When you consider that P.K.’s seven million dollar US annual salary, his long term contract and all the extra money he earns from endorsements, this may not seem like a huge deal. Certainly it’s not as stunning as a retired plumber giving 25 million dollars to Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital. Continue reading

Humanizing Content Marketing

humanizing content marketing, content, marketing, people, numbers

The numbers matter, but people matter much more.

Today I visited a local marketing firm, to speak with the CEO about collaborating on a project. When I walked in the front door, a beautiful mid-size dog walked quietly from the back into the reception area to greet me. She was followed by a larger but equally quiet and friendly male dog. I crouched down to meet them both.

Later, as I was considering what might be the topic of my new blog article, I thought of the dogs. The CEO told me they were rescues that she received after promising that they would not be left alone at home, even together, each day as she and her husband went to work. Now, they are a fixture at her office.

Being a content marketer, this is an interesting tidbit that I would definitely want to tell her clients and potential clients. I know a lot of dog lovers who would appreciate the value of doing business with someone who has proven empathy towards animals. Continue reading

How To Ramp Up For September

ramping up for September, summer is over

Sadly, summer does end.

The other day we bought our daughter a new backpack, lunch bag and gym bag. She’s entering high school in a few weeks and needs cool-looking new gear, to help her both fit in and stick out, and easily transport her belongings. She was glad to buy these items while there were choices available (you don’t want your backpack to be a colour that you hate) but she wanted us to hide them in the house. Looking at them meant thinking about them, and that meant realizing that summer is nearly over and September is almost upon us.

We discussed how adult life is different. We (most adults) don’t get more than a couple of weeks off during the summer, yet we all like to go into summertime mode. We eagerly jump at a chance to be on the beach, on a patio, in our backyard, in a swimming pool, at a barbecue, near an ocean or mountains … take your pick.

Sure, work still gets done. Often a lot of work gets done. When I was toiling in a newsroom and later in television post production, work simply never stopped. Yet I – and everyone else around me – pounced on any opportunity to leave as quickly as possible at the end of the day. We flipped a mental switch. Somehow it always seemed easier to do this in summer. Continue reading

bayfield ontario sunset

Sunset in Bayfield, Ontario; overlooking Lake Huron from Pioneer Park.

For many people in Southwestern Ontario, the epitome of beauty in summertime can be found in a Lake Huron sunset. The Huron Coast is long, spanning 325 kilometres from the Town of Tobermory in the north to the City of Sarnia in the south. This photo is from the idyllic village of Bayfield, located along the central-south section of the coast, just south of the historic town of Goderich. We had the pleasure of visiting on August 12 and 13, 2015. On the evening of the 12th, with our stomachs full from a good meal at the Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro, and fresh frozen yogurt from across the street, we ventured down the road to Pioneer Park, where flat land meets cliff side and a rocky beach below. As the sun disappeared slowly to the west, a small group of weekday visitors looked on in amazement. The Lake Huron sunset happens every day along this coast, and it never gets old.

The Explosive Personality Effect

explosive personality, workplace, anger, quick-tempered

An explosive personality makes things hard on everyone.

The baseball diamond is not the workplace, that’s clear. There’s plenty of room out there to be yourself, act a little goofy and let off some steam – ideally by hitting the ball hard and running quickly around the bases.

In my softball league, we understand that some guys come to the game a little grumpy from time to time, because of issues they’re having at work or problems they’re experiencing at home. Or, they’re sore and playing through injuries. No one is asking for ear-to-ear smiles all the time.

The league’s manta is “fun and fellowship,” which ideally means that winning comes second to having a good time. The onus is typically on teamwork and sportsmanship. Most players follow this ideal closely and it’s why they like playing. They’re not here to be superstars and get rich. The days where that seemed possible are long gone.

The “fun and fellowship” mantra was blown out of the water yesterday by our opposing team’s pitcher. Our team had jumped out to a big lead by hitting everything that he was throwing. I was on second base when he snapped at one of his players. Continue reading

The LinkedIn Invitation Mistake

linkedin, invitation, social media, connection, contact, media, LinkedIn, professional, website, work, career

Write something personal and show that you care.

Do I know you?

That’s my first question when I check my LinkedIn Invitations tab, to see who’s trying to connect with me.

Typically, it would be someone from my professional past, long before LinkedIn existed. It could be a friend. It might also be someone I’ve recently met at a networking event.

Far too often it’s someone I’ve never met or heard of. I don’t know why they want to connect with me because they don’t tell me. They use the LinkedIn invitation template, which says “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” They could have replaced that with up to 300 characters of text that actually means something to me. Continue reading

My Prolonged Career Transition

job search, maze, employment, unemployment, work, job, career, search, recruitment

The job search is a maze. It can take crazy directions and detours, it might be endlessly frustrating and perplexing, and the advice of others may not get you to your answer.

My name is Erich and I’m in career transition

I have been in career transition for 29 months. Don’t call me unemployed because I’ve worked far too hard in these 126 weeks-and-counting to be called anything other than ‘in transition.’ From intensive job searching and networking to freelance writing, researching, interviewing, social media navigation, and ceaseless searching for a better future for myself and my family, I’ve been hard at it from day one.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that the industry in which I made my living – media and broadcasting – is in increasingly dire circumstances and there are less and less jobs to be had. People are holding tightly to their positions while management is constantly cutting spending and searching for ways to cut more. In response to this, I have had to search deeply within myself for what I want to do for the rest of my working days, with the understanding that it likely doesn’t involve working in media. Essentially, I have had to re-invent myself.

I’ve wanted to write frankly and compassionately about my difficult situation for some time, but I’ve kept putting it off. I’ve wondered what might happen if I shared my story and many people read it. What will they think of me? Will they think that I’m not employable and that I must be doing something wrong in my job search? After all, it’s been over two years since I left the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in January 2013 as the result of a job redundancy. I left voluntarily. (I’ll share more about this shortly.) Continue reading