Does failure have an expiration date?

Ever tried to do something and failed? Did you try again? How about again? Did you finally give up, knowing that you tried your best but just couldn't do it? Me, too. But, it turns out failure sometimes has an expiration date.

This morning I was driving in the car and "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People came on the radio. There's a section in the song where the chorus is done in whistling. When that part came on, I broke out in a beautifully lyrical whistle. But, the thing is...I can't whistle.

When I was a kid, I tried to learn how to whistle countless times. I couldn't blow out and make any sound. Throughout my adolescence, I'd try and fail. Whistling was something out of my reach.

As an adult, I suppose I forgot about whistling. It's something I'm never around. But, when that chorus kicked in on the radio, I instinctively whistled my little heart out. And as soon as I was about five second in, the shock set in. Amber...can...whistle!

Are there things you've tried in your life and failed at? Starting a business. Balancing a budget. Writing a book. We all have things we've tried to do which ended in failure. Most of us have even tried multiple times before we decided to give up. But, it's never too late to try again.

Who cares if a year has passed. Or five or ten. Maybe that break is just what you needed. Perhaps the life experience you've obtained during that time, your environment, your mindset, or some other circumstance has changed just enough to turn that former failure into a raging success.

So, today, I invite you to revisit something which you previously failed at during your life. A big thing or a small one. It doesn't matter. Just give it another try. Who knows. Maybe your failure has an expiration date just like mine did.

* Disclaimer: I never really knew the words to "Pumped Up Kicks" until I wrote this post. Click here for the lyrics and an interesting debate on the meaning behind the song, some defending it saying it's about bullying and others upset that it's about school shootings.

How to organize a tweetup

Forming online relationships can be a rewarding experience. However, the icing on the cake is when you can actually meet those cyber connections in person. Don’t know how? How about hosting a tweetup

Tweetups are informal get-togethers that are promoted via tweets. The good news is you don’t have to be a professional event planner to host a gathering; it’s actually really easy. Remember, in it's purest form, a tweetup is an open invitation to anyone in your Twitter stream who would like to attend. You never know who might RSVP, so embrace your inner adventurer! 

If you’re new to the world of hosting tweetups, here are some tips to get you started: 

Start with the basics
Pick the day and time for your tweetup. Be sure to give careful thought as to what would work best for your attendees (e.g. early evening, weekend, etc.)
Identify a location
If you choose a restaurant, call in advance to be sure it can accommodate a large group and ask if it can do separate checks for your guests (lots of people at tweetups prefer to pay individually). Be sure the location you choose isn’t too loud. You’ll want everyone to be able to talk with one another. Also ask about parking options and associated costs. Most importantly, ask if the location has WiFi. If people can’t tweet during the event, you’re doomed. * To go the extra mile, actually visit the venue. Anytime you’re hosting an event, you should know as much as possible about the environment.
Create an online invitation
One of the best resources to do this is Twtvite. It’s easy and it’s free. Be sure to include information that people will want to know. Are credit cards accepted? Will they need to bring cash? Does the restaurant allow for separate checks? Is there a parking lot and is validation offered? Remember, you want your guests to know all the important details that will help them arrive to your event with smiles on their faces!
Tweet out the word
Twtvite will give you a link that will go to your own personal tweetup page with all the details. Tweet out the link to people in your Twitter stream and be sure to create a hashtag for your event! 

Be an early bird
If you’re the host, you’ll want to be there at least 15 minutes prior to the start time to welcome people, direct them, and answer questions.
Collect names
Send around an attendance sheet and ask people to write down their first and last names, along with their Twitter handles. Yeah, this is old school, but not everyone has their Twitter handle on their business card.* To go the extra mile, provide your guests with name tags. It’s amazing how many people won’t recognize someone by their “real” name, yet will squeal with delight with they hear that person’s Twitter handle! 
Connect your guests
Tweet out the names of those who are in attendance. This will allow your guests to see everyone else’s handles, check out their profiles or websites, and follow those whom they aren't connected with yet (remember to use your hashtag so everyone can easily see all the tweets!). * To go the extra mile, start a Twitter list and add all your attendees to it. Then tweet the list to everyone!
Document your event
Take photos, tweet them, and let everyone else know how much fun they’re missing!

Get feedback
Tweet your guests to invite their feedback. Was the restaurant too expensive? Was the time too early? Would they be interested in getting together regularly? Be sure to solicit opinions so you can iron out any kinks before your next tweetup!
Plan, plan again
If your first event went well, why not host another? The great thing about organizing a monthly tweetup is that you get a wonderful variety of repeat guests and newbies. 
Tweetups don’t have to be complicated. Don’t worry about inviting speakers or having an agenda. To be successful, all you need to do is provide a fun activity during which people can get to know one another. It can be dinner, an afternoon picnic, a trip to the local amusement park, a beach clean-up, an ultimate Frisbee game, whatever!

So, let’s take score.

Who’s been to a tweetup? How about hosted one? What did you think of the experience? Or are you a tweetup virgin? If so, what better time than now to jump in feet first and plan one!  Are you game?

The dangers of saying thank you

I'm big on saying please and thank you. However, Emily Post never warned us about the dangers of good etiquette.

You see it all the time on awards show. Actors and directors win an Oscar or an Emmy and when they give their acceptance speeches, they wrack their brains trying to remember everyone to thank. Hilary Swank became the butt of lots of jokes in 2000 when she forgot the thank her hubby Chad Lowe when she won for "Boys Don't Cry".

Most of us don't have to worry about Golden Globe Awards or Oscars, but plenty of us work on cross-departmental teams at work or with groups of people on special projects. When the work goes well, it's important to thank those who made it happen. But, how do you make sure you don't pull a Hilary Swank?  

First and foremost, keep a running list of everyone you work with. Need someone to compile some important data for you? When they deliver, add them to the list and note what they did. Have to bring in someone to help you with code or design? When they submit their deliverables, add them to your list. In short, when someone gives you the materials, assistance, or guidance you need, add them and make note of their contribution. But, only when they they give you what you need (and not just when you ask).

When your project is complete and it's time to acknowledge the people who made it happen, go back to your list. It's easier to omit people that you listed than it is to try to remember the many people who helped you over the weeks, months, or sometimes years that it took to reach your goal. 

Omitting someone from a thank you email, speech, or other form of acknowledgment is downright embarrassing. It makes you look bad and hurts the feelings of the person (or people) that you forgot. Don't let it happen to you.

Sure, thanking people can be dangerous. However, if you're diligent in noting contributors and contributions as you go, you can make yourself a thank you pro!

Gotcha: The captcha meets advertising

You never know where advertising or product placement will rear its ugly head these days. Sometimes It’s benign and other times it’s slap you in the face with a handful of linguini obvious. Today, I’ve got a linguini story.

I hate captchas, but I hate spam more. So, I begrudgingly put the squiggly letters and numbers into the box when I’m asked to do so. Imagine my surprise when Mapquest used the captcha to advertise Verizon FiOS (see below).

It’s one thing to make me see an ad for FiOS, but it’s totally another thing to make me have a prolonged relationship with the ad. As a consumer, I see the advertiser name, I commit it to memory, and then I type it. That’s three times the product infiltrates my mind.  Sure, it’s a little over the top. However, I think it’s pretty brilliant.

I’m frequently the first to complain when advertising or product placement goes too far. But, utilizing the captcha is too darn clever for me to ignore. As users, we’d have to jump through the captcha hurdle anyway. So, if Mapquest can find a way to monetize it, more power to ‘em!

What do you think? Are you more inclined to remember a product if you’re forced to interact with it in this way?

The one thing you can do to improve your life

I'm not one for new year's resolutions. The only one I've probably ever kept was when I decided to become a vegetarian. However, this year I'm making one huge resolution that will spare me unnecessary aggravation, save time, and reduce clutter.

I'm throwing out pens that don't work.

Ok, sure, this may seem like the stupidest resolution ever, but think about it. How many times do you grab a pen to write something and discover that it doesn't work? You swirl it around on a piece of paper to activate the ink. And, if it doesn't work, you mindlessly put it back in the pen cup. You put it back! Crazy, right? Yet, so many of us do it.

If it doesn't work, ditch it! Ok, this could be said about a lot of things, but let's just focus on the pen for now.

I'm taking a vow this year and I ask you to join me. Throw away all the pens in your life that don't work (this includes dried up markers!). Leave the aggravation in the gutter! Don't waste your time trying to loosen ink that dried up in the 20th century! Decrease the clutter in your life by discarding the things that serve no purpose.

2012 is the year to say buh-bye to the duds in the pen jar. It's a small thing that can make your life better and soothe your senses with a warm feeling of calm and clarity. It's easy, achievable, and tangible.

Won't you join me on this life-changing journey?
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