Three years ago at a major annual networking event in a coastal location to increase ticket sales, Sarah Meyers took the stage. At the time she was the Vice President of Client Relations for Sunny and Stormy, an advertising agency based in New York, with offices in fifteen major cities around the world.
While giving a talk on the future of corporate social responsibility, she famously said, “Gay is out, mental illness is in.”
The line hit industry Twitter, and drew criticism for its soundbite stance. But when Sarah says something, industry insiders listen. In her rapid ascension of a career thus far, she proved time after time that she was always Mostly Correct.
At the time of her presentation, gay pride flags flew atop close to 80% of corporate headquarters and social media profiles where the financial analysis had proved most consumers were at best in full support of such a display and at worst ambivalent. But because of the eventual wide application, the social bonus received for supporting the Cause had diminished to the point where it was news to be proactively against the Cause. Hobby stores, cake shops, etc.
Corporations were now looking for something new to support and to get there early enough to receive a Social Bonus. Sarah had done her homework.
One large coffee company, who remains under NDA with Sunny and Stormy, hired Sarah and her team to draft up a plan to promote mental health awareness.
Meyers built a pitch for the large coffee brand that spread the word on mental illness, creating a Mental Health Month and a specially-designed compostable cup with statistics about various mental illnesses. The large coffee company made a five-cent donation for every coffee ordered during this month to build what is now known as Greater Good, making sure access to mental health care was readily available to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Dozens of other major consumer companies jumped on board as part of the campaign, offering mental health sponsorship in exchange for impressions and brand association with a worthy cause. Millions upon millions of dollars were raised every year.
This charity fund mashed together with the ever-increasing popularity of crowdfunded healthcare meant someone with a little creativity and a big social circle could get pretty solid health coverage when needed if they were willing to beg.
The campaign won major awards for Sarah and her agency. She was eventually recruited away to work in-house as Chief Marketing Officer at a major consumer goods company not in competition with any of her past clients due to the enforced non-compete signed earlier in her career. The campaign drove notable growth for the large coffee company, improving stock performance that led to several marketing executives that green-lit the project being promoted, and if third party non-government-funded-but-supposedly-unbiased research is to be believed, saved an estimated 3,700 lives a year from suicide.
Many in the mental health medical community were critical of the campaign, especially the professionals working on less-fashionable mental illness, the ones not listed on cups, the ones that brands didn’t want to associate with. The minimal outrage was muted by the PR machine churning its own narrative. This was a successful campaign, even in its shortcomings, and no psychologist was going to get in the way of that.
What started as an idea has quickly become quite useful to a lot of people. The site championtraveler.com launched a map that shows anyone traveling when it’s the best time to visit anywhere in the world, check the map out here. As someone who loves travel, this will certainly come in handy when trying to decide on an upcoming vacation.
You can take a look here at this helpful article from Business Insider to help find your next adventure, and then cross reference it with the city pages on Champion Traveler’s website.
For example, if you want to visit Napa, but want to know the best time to travel there, this handy page gives you just about all the info you could possibly ever want about the weather, popularity during each month, and more.
As a lot of destinations can feel crowded during peak seasons, tools like this are helpful to allow travelers a way to determine what the crowds will be like at any given location.
A few other helpful links include this guide that US News put out to 30 places that we should all visit. While a lot of them are pretty obvious, they’re obvious for a reason, right? Rome, Paris, New York City, etc. But they definitely included several other more exotic locations for the US traveler looking to find some adventure.
Travel is great for the soul, but it can certainly be stressful trying to get all your ducks in a row before the trip, hence the reason that tool is so helpful in narrowing down choices based on parameters. Hopefully you enjoy it!
For Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to open up about my OCD. This is something I’m extremely uncomfortable doing, hence the reason I’m doing it.
“The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with, you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation and look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong?” You say it in a concerned way. He’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is it?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “How did you know?” He doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. He doesn’t know everybody’s always going around all the time with something wrong and believing they’re exerting great willpower and control to keep other people, for whom they think nothing’s ever wrong, from seeing it.”
― David Foster Wallace,
Have you ever thought something really weird or inappropriate? Just a passing jolt of lightning that hits your consciousness, you think to yourself, “where the heck did that come from?” It might be accompanied by a little bit of anxiety, but this likely fades pretty quick, and you go about your day.
In psychology, these are known as intrusive thoughts, and they are extremely common. A survey of over 700 healthy adults suggests that 94% of people have intrusive thoughts (and I’m guessing 6% of people are lying). These commonly include inappropriate violent, sexual, or blasphemous themes, but can span a spectrum as wide as the human imagination. They come at seemingly the worst possible times, and can attach themselves to the things we hold most dear. But most people are able to let them come and go without paying them much mind, simply shrugging them off with, “that was weird.”
But not me, nor the 2.3% of adults who suffer with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Most people probably have no idea that I struggle with OCD. I didn’t even really know that I struggled with it until recently. I don’t have to wash my hands repeatedly, or check the oven dozens of times to make sure it’s off, so it wasn’t easy for me (or others) to recognize less obvious symptoms. It’s common for OCD to go undiagnosed upwards of 17 years for most sufferers (PDF). It is also a very misunderstood disorder, perpetuated by the public’s belief that it’s about repetitive hand-washing or keeping things more organized than normal. But for a better understanding, check out the Wikipedia article on obsessions and compulsions to get an idea of what it’s really about. It has far more to do with the inability of an OCD sufferer to handle an unwanted thought than it does with organization or cleanliness.
To put it simply, OCD is mostly about intrusive thoughts (obsessions) causing anxiety, followed by a series of compulsions to try and make the anxiety go away. These compulsions get lengthier over time as their effectiveness fades, resulting in the anxiety worsening; a vicious cycle for sufferers. They can take many forms, from physical rituals to mental rumination.
For me personally, if something triggers an “obsession,” I deal with a seemingly overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread (known as spikes) that I can’t seem to kick unless I go to battle with my own mind. I try to figure out if the thoughts mean anything about me while I search for 100% certainty that they don’t (an OCD trap). After these grueling sessions, likely out of sheer mental exhaustion, I am able to go about my day. In the past, I kept these mental compulsions very private, embarrassed of how I couldn’t magically control my own thoughts. I wondered if I was slowly going crazy.
Instead of being able to shrug an intrusive thought off, here’s how my brain works:
So what am I doing to work on this excessive brain activity? While there’s no “cure” for OCD, I’m currently working with a therapist who is trained in Exposure-Response Prevention (ERP), one of the most proven methods for helping lower the symptoms of OCD. It’s an exercise in facing these scary thoughts head-on and resisting the urge to go through compulsive loops to neutralize the associated anxiety. Long story short, it’s retraining my brain to understand that thoughts are just thoughts, anxiety is temporary, and no amount of compulsions are going to help the anxiety go away faster.
Some days are better than others, but overall, things are definitely improving in this process. If you’re worried about your own thoughts, I encourage you to talk to your doctor. I waited way too long to do so myself.
Every year in Seattle, as the sun starts to come out for a few moments each week, and temperatures begin to trickle upwards slowly enough to just not notice it, everyone starts to get really excited about the baseball season. This is the year The Mariners are *totally* going to make the playoffs, right? I mean, they have to at this point?
Until the 2013 Seahawks won the Super Bowl in superb fashion, Seattle sports ranked as one of the most depressing cities in the world. Don’t worry, the following year, our NFL season fell right back into form. At least it’s easier than ever to stream NFL games online, right?
This upcoming Mariners season has been the first I’ve seen in the past few years where no everyone is predicting that we’re a shoe-in for the World Series.
Regardless, I think we’re all holding out for some positive signs this year. Last season was close, certainly, and it seems likely we’ll make a good run this year, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is holding their breath. Watch your favorite MLB team online here.
I felt physically sick.
Getting out of the house for a walk with my dog, I just had to turn off the TV. There was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that, despite my complete inability to even process the possibility, this was going to happen.
The whole walk had my mind racing, and no matter what I tried to distract myself with, I just could not let what I was witnessing go. I have been practicing mindfulness the past few months, and my ability to control racing thoughts has drastically improved, but not tonight. There was nothing I could do to avoid the fear, resentment, anger, hopelessness, and sheer confusion I was feeling. This cocktail of emotion was far too much for even the most meditative practices.
It was a beautiful night, and I tried to enjoy the moon shining bright in the sky, but even with these brief moments of peace, I just felt so anxious. It was unrelenting.
When I got back to the house, I peeked at the TV like a child might uncover their face ever so slightly during a scary movie only to quickly close their eyes again to avoid the fear. It was clear that, despite a flickering of hope that maybe, just maybe, I had been imagining things the hour previous, this disaster was in fact reality.
As I sat that evening, my mind tried to remain empathetic. We’re all fighting our own battles, and this strong support for the new president is coming from somewhere. These dark corners exist as a reminder that people are hurt, feel left behind, ignored, disenfranchised, and want drastic change.
We could argue about how supporting this candidate is not the answer, that he’s fraudulent, xenophobic, a misogynist, etc., but this might be wasted thought.
Instead perhaps, maybe there’s potential progress with the opportunities at hand, even if the roadblock seems impassable.
I prayed for peace and understanding last night, and after a few restless hours of sleep, I woke up this morning with a glimmer of hope and a strange sense of motivation. Perhaps this drastic shake up *is* what we need, if only to help create more support for the underserved and unrepresented. It’s a strange mix of emotion, but I feel incentivized by this situation as an opportunity. If things had gone another way, it would have been easier to remain complacent; perhaps a sense of “oh, someone else is on top of it, I can kick back and mind my own business.”
But that’s just clearly not the case today. We need to work even harder to represent those who feel so desperate and left behind. There hasn’t been a more important time in our country to check in on this, and we should all feel an extra sense of urgency to do so. We’re going to have to work so hard to prevent a slide backwards; we’ve come too far as a country in so many ways to let that happen.
It’s easy to get cynical about these things, there’s a part of me that tries really hard to protect myself with this defense mechanism. But instead I want to turn to hope, finding the opportunity here. It’s a big one.
I hear it a lot, that the world doesn’t need another food delivery service or ride sharing app.
But despite this general stance being commonplace, these businesses keep popping up, and VC money keeps finding its way into the bank accounts of these seemingly doomed ideas.
The cynicism is not without merit, certainly. Most of these companies will probably fail after they struggle to find profits. Some of the biggest names in the industry continue to bleed money, even at scale.
But maybe it’s best to think of this from a different perspective.
The other day, a friend said to me, with a hint of sarcasm, “what a world we live in, where I can order pie on my phone and it’s delivered in under an hour.” The thought suddenly hit me, that maybe it’s best to just enjoy this VC-subsidized services economy while it lasts instead of being so cynical about it.
We’re living in a time where it’s possible to get dinner delivered to your door for FREE, a world where the two major ride sharing services offer discount codes for rides at a cost just a bit more than bus fare, and we can get just about anything, including alcohol, a doctor, laundry delivery, etc, at our front door in under an hour.
While it’s certainly easy to step back and think, “this definitely won’t last for long!” maybe that shouldn’t be our concern. Instead, let’s just enjoy the good times!
That coupon code for a free meal delivery? Take it!
The discount on a local massage parlor or yoga studio? Take it!
The free month of access to some new streaming service? Take it!
Let the chips fall where they may as these businesses figure out how to make money, that’s not our job as consumers.
TL;DR – launching a new project: exstreamist.com
For those of you who know me, you’re probably well aware that I enjoy a sarcastic comment or two, a good battle of wits, and perhaps that I have the slightest addiction to the internet. My many exploits come in random explosions of output, and for every “successful” (using the term loosely) side project, there are probably at least a half dozen left dead in its wake.
One of my most fun projects to date has been my Netflix blog that was my first major push into a targeted blog about a specific topic. I recently started to feel limited by the hyper-optimized domain name (so I have SEO roots, sue me), and while having many (at least a dozen) back and forth conversations with my buddy Jacob Klein, I have talked myself into a bit of a reboot.
I want to cover the entire “SVOD” landscape as I believe we’re staring at the future of television, a topic I find extremely fascinating. With Nielsen’s recent report that 40% of households are now subscribed to a SVOD, I can’t wait to dig in deeper on this topic as a whole, covering the entire landscape of these streaming services, from iTunes to Hulu to Amazon Instant Video, I believe the future is going to be far more modular than one monthly subscription to a major cable provider. Consumers are going to be choosing 3-5 services of specific content distributors that suit their needs and will subscribe/unsubscribe as other content offerings improve/decrease in relevance. It’s going to be an extremely competitive few years fighting for market share for these brands.
This new industry is going to be a technological revolution in the entertainment industry, and I can’t wait to cover it in its entirety. Alongside this news reporting, there will be several stealth projects on the side that will hopefully come to fruition in the coming months. More on those later.
Looking forward to this new project, hopefully you enjoy my constant spamming…. err I mean healthy promotion through social. If ever you have any direct feedback, I would absolutely love to hear it.
Random Wikipedia adventures often lead to some of the greatest, and rather pointless, informational revelations.
As an extremely curious person, I often can’t help myself from researching and discovering as much potential information about any given *thing* as possible; a tidbit of information about some random historical event, a factoid about a piece of pop culture such as a movie or song, a minor detail about something I see every day. The more information the better; I’m really annoying at parties, which I rarely attend.
For an example, just this evening I ended up on the Columbia Center’s Wikipedia page, the tallest building in Seattle that stands slightly below 1000 feet, with 76 functioning stories, and was a potential target of the attacks on 9/11, pretty well-known facts.
But what I didn’t know was that the original architect of the tower was planning to make the building over 1000 feet tall had he not run into permitting issues with the FAA. Turns out with its close proximity to Sea-Tac airport, the tower was not permitted to be taller than 50 stories.
But where there’s a roadblock, there is almost always an alternative wheel to grease.
Just for a clear picture, the Columbia Center sits between 4th and 5th avenue, one of the highest vertical differences between any two streets in downtown Seattle. As someone terrified of driving his wife’s manual transmission car, I absolutely 100% avoid driving in this area, as I am certain if ever challenged with an attempt to get said car into first gear on these hills, I will roll straight back down the hill for several blocks until I either hit something or end up in the water.
There was (perhaps still is?) a strange land use loophole that if a building includes retail access on the first floor, the architect is granted extra height in the building, allowing it to extend several floors beyond the maximum 50. So with the grade of the city offering THREE street access points on separate floors, developer Martin Selig managed to apply three individual bonuses to the Columbia Center, thus lowering the odds that anyone would be able to make a taller building in Seattle.
So I got curious.
What other real estate loopholes exist? There are quite a few.
Robert Scarano is particularly famous in, ahem, unique designs. Such as adding space for a second bedroom hidden behind a thin layer of drywall in order to conceal square footage for a variety of unsavory reasons.
Or how about in Alabama, where if you build a nuclear fallout shelter you’re given a $1000 tax deduction on your property.
Want to become an expert in navigating permitting loopholes and exemptions? Here’s an entire book dedicated to loopholes when building that exists. It almost comes across as an art form in the architectural community to attempt breaking these rules.