World Domination Summit 2016

What do you get when you gather a group of convention-defying, quirky, passionate, intriguing people? A humble gathering that goes by the name of World Domination Summit.

As I remarked when I attended last year, I originally thought that this conference would be full of Dr. Evil wannabes with their Mini-Mes and hairless cats, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The WDS crew is full of gentle, kind-hearted people who want to make a positive impact on the world. Oh, and maybe fill it with light-up balloons and dancing T-rexes as well.


Here are a few moments that stood out to me about WDS 2016.

The Hero’s Journey

On Friday morning, I opted to participate in an event called “The Hero’s Journey.” The first order of business was to choose a name for ourselves—as we went around and introduced ourselves, I shared a little anecdote about a friend who had attended WDS last year and dubbed the attendees “happy nerds.” Everyone liked that, so we became Team Happy Nerds!

Our quest took us all around Portland and presented us with several challenges, including holding doors open for strangers, trying (and failing) to start a spontaneous conga line, and arranging ourselves into a human pyramid.


While it’s fun to run around a city trying to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, it was also HARD! Communication was a real challenge in our group of nine, and as the appointed social media documenter, I didn’t always know where we were going or which challenge we were going to attempt to complete next.  And constantly taking photos, uploading them, and captioning them without missing any of the action (or getting run over by a car) is a lot harder than it looks!

Kindness challenge

Kindness was a definite theme of WDS this year, both in the types of challenges we were asked to complete during the Hero’s Journey, in the main stage presentations, and in some of the other activities as well.

Beginning at the opening night party, there was a large display filled with brightly colored envelopes and a large sign that read”Challenge Center” on top.


People were encouraged to stop by the Challenge Center in pairs (though you could also visit as a singleton if you wanted). We were all given these beautiful coins as part of our welcome box. One side of the coin had the words ” Be Kind” while the other had a picture of  a globe. If you’d gone as a pair, you would flip the coin to determine who could pick out the envelope you’d be using.

I played twice and my challenge buddy won the coin toss both times! What are the odds?? (Kidding! I may not be the best at math, but I do understand the odds of a coin flip.)

The coin toss winner then got to tear open the envelope to reveal the challenges inside. We saw things like “Find someone who’s attending the conference for the first time this year and tell them you’re happy they’re here” or “Leave a positive review for something on Yelp or in the App Store.”

It was such a great reminder that there are so many kind gestures that we can easily build into our everyday life.

The goal was to achieve at least 1,000 kind deeds by the time WDS was over, and I’m pretty sure on the last day I saw that we’d achieved beyond that number.

During her talk, Amy Jo Martin shared how kindness can deliver serotonin not just to the person who performs the kind act, but to anyone who observes it as well. She suggested that we run a little experiment on Facebook to see if we could promote positive feelings among our connections.

Here’s how it works…

On your own Facebook page, create a post covering the main concept of Amy Jo’s on-stage discussion, and add the following action items so that your friends and family can join in on the fun:

1. Like this post (to make the Facebook algorithm happy)
2. Share something you could use help with in the comment section
3. Scan comments to see who can help.

Together we can have a positive impact on social media through empowering others and ourselves. Why not start now?

I just posted my message on Facebook last night and had a few people ask for help. I told Teresa I’d spread the word about her blog and Danielle that if I met any coffee roasters I’d send them her way. I also received a comment from Karen saying how much she liked this idea and she shared the post with her connections. Looking forward to seeing what else comes of this!


There’s no shortage of inspiring people at WDS—whether it’s overcoming adversity, challenging conventions, or being outrageously creative, this crowd does it all.

Jonathan Fields talked about the importance of mindfulness and clarity. If we don’t have those things, we won’t be able to live our fullest lives.

And, of course, there was the quote pictured below: “Before you can be unapologetically joyful, you’ve gotta be unapologetically you.” It sounds simple, but how often do we compromise who we are because we’re afraid of standing out?


Michelle Poler shared how she decided to tackle a pretty intense 100 day project—100 days of trying to overcome her fears. And she had A LOT.


She documented everything from singing karaoke to holding a snake to dressing up as an old woman. And she reminded us that at some stage, we all have a big decision to make: We can either step forward into discomfort or backward into familiarity.


A few fun memories

Here’s just a little assortment of moments I loved throughout the event.

When we came back to the theater in the afternoon, we’d generally slowly fill the seats, and darkness would descend on the room. Then, out of nowhere, a giant plastic bouncy ball would materialize, and then another, and then another.

Suddenly, the room was full of multi-colored bouncy balls soaring through the air, colliding with each other, and causing a lot of laughter and smiling.


I was fortunate to meet a friendly crew of fellow attendees and we had a lot of laughs and good times together. One evening we had dinner together and went around to share what we could offer and what we were hoping to get out of this experience. It’s such a simple thing, but a really useful reminder that articulating your needs is often the first step towards realizing them.


Marli Williams, one of our awesome group members, created these cards that she calls “Stoke Quotes.” These small cards were printed with inspirational quotes, like “Believe in yourself” and “Choose your mood.” Marli had so many creative ways to use the quotes to start conversations and make people feel, well, stoked!

At the opening party and near the theater entrance, she created an interactive installation with a sign that said “Take what you need.” She’d sometimes walk around with a bag full of cards and invite people to pick one. And she’d always leave one for the waiter or waitress who’d been taking care of us during a meal.


Here’s a photo I found of myself in the WDS Flickr stream. It was totally candid—I had no idea it was even being taken. But it pretty perfectly sums up how I felt during the event and how I continue to feel when I reflect on my time there.


I hope that during the next year, I’ll be able to look back on some of the ideas and excitement I discovered during WDS and make some positive changes in my life as a result.

I’m already so excited for WDS 2017!

Photos courtesy of Armosa Studios.

¡Cuba! Part 2

Varadero’s white sandy beaches and clear waters are entertaining, but we also went to Cuba to learn more about the music and dance culture, so we left the beach behind from time to time to explore nearby cultural enclaves.


Let’s get ready to rumba!

In the small town of Cardenas, we had our first introduction to rumba. The local rumba group was composed of one singer and several percussionists and dancers, and they began by giving us an informal performance. Many of the percussionists and dancers would alternate, letting someone take the stage to show off their dance moves.

The main type of rumba they demonstrated was performed by a male/female pair. The man and woman danced alongside each other facing the audience (rather than each other). The woman carried a red piece of cloth that she waved and shook, somewhat like a torero taunting a bull.

And from time to time, the man would make some sort of aggressive motion towards her, whether he was thrusting his hips or kicking his foot in her direction. We later learned that this is a typical type of rumba, where the woman coquettishly entices the male, but when he attempts to get up in her business, she has to deftly block him.

They explained that this was the traditional rumba, but they also wanted us to see what the modern rumba looked like. A young boy (who was probably around 10 or 11) emerged from the percussion section and began his performance. It included a lot of jumping and writhing on the floor, and at one point, he brandished two small knives, and while he lay on the floor, he brought the knives toward his body and began to stab the ground around him in quick succession.

I found this aspect of the performance a little disturbing—I’m not used to seeing children wield knives in that manner—so it would have been interesting to hear what his inspiration had been for his choreography.

Orishas in Matanzas

On another day, we headed to the town of Matanzas for a lesson in Afro-Cuban dance inspired by the Yoruba traditions. Our large group climbed up a few flights of stairs to a tiny, sweaty room, where we could barely all squeeze in.

It was a little intimidating to walk into such a small space, but the instructor and musicians greeted us with wide smiles and class began almost immediately. They introduced us to several deities in the Yoruba tradition and explained how different types of movements are associated with different deities.


Our teacher, a lanky 20-year-old man, switched easily between the male and female roles, simply donning a flowing white skirt when it was time to embody the more feminine deities and mimic the waves of the ocean with the fabric.

After our class concluded, the group gave a performance, where our instructor and other dancers donned colorful costumes and took on the playful qualities of mischief-making deities. They stole people’s hats and water bottles, pulled us up from our seated positions and danced in circles around us, and eventually returned us to our seats and made sure everyone got their items back. It was a fun and playful scene and easy to just get swept up in the moment.

We then had a few minutes to wander around El Callejon de las Tradiciones, an “art alley” covered in murals made from recycled materials (pictured below).



It only took a few hours in Havana for me to decide that I really liked this city. The mid-century modern aesthetic is in full effect, especially in our classy digs, the Hotel Capri.



On our first night, we ventured to La Fábrica de Arte Cubano, also known as La FAC. This arts center offered a little bit of everything—photography, paintings, installations, live music… even reasonably priced mojitos!

You could wander around several floors, each composed of smaller warrens and larger galleries. Some pieces seemed to reflect ambivalence about the impending influx of Americans and American influence, including a video installation of a man building an American flag out of bricks and tearing it down. Another installation featured a melting bicycle and a puddle filled with a video showcasing the leisurely pace of Havana life. It was hard to imagine that this wasn’t created with some trepidation about the future and how that slow pace will be forced to speed up to catch up with the rest of the world.

Tucked away in one of the corners of La FAC was a tiny shop called “Clandestina.” It sold T-shirts, magnets, and posters bearing funny slogans such as “99% diseño cubano” (99% Cuban design) and “actually, I’m in Havana.” The friendly guy working there, Oscar, explained that they had a larger shop in Old Havana, so the next day we went to check it out. It turns out that they take a lot of recycled materials (including souvenir T-shirts from Cozumel!) and print over them with their own designs (hence the 99%  Cuban design).

The world’s cutest taxis

New cars may be scarce, but Havana is full of the adorable “coco taxi.” These scooters have been outfitted with round, shiny yellow shells and a couple of seats in the back. It’s basically the tuk-tuk, Cuban style, but for some reason this is so much more enjoyable! You just have to close your eyes and say a few prayers occasionally when you find yourself inches away from a bus or a behemoth classic American car.


When we arrived at our hotel, there was a bright pink cadillac with a cowboy driver parked outside. Does Havana have the world’s cutest taxis, or what?


La Plaza de la Revolución

For 30 CUCs (roughly $30), we arranged for a tour of the city in a purple convertible with the genial Marín. He took us to several scenic points, including the old fortresses, the statue of Christ, through Chinatown, and to La Plaza de la Revolución. As in most places, Che Guevara was featured prominently.



Our journey ended in the leafy Miramar neighborhood, where we went to see a performance at La Casa de la Música. But before the performance, we had time to grab a quick bite. Directly across the street from the club, we saw an adorable pâtisserie, full of decadent cakes and sweet treats. However, we were hoping for something a little more substantial, so we asked the staff, and they told us there was a paladar (a semi-private dining space) just around the corner.

It turned out that Otramanera was a hidden gem (to us, anyway)! A guard stood in front of the thick metal gate, but when we asked if it was a paladar, he graciously opened the door to reveal a lush garden patio.


We sat outside and enjoyed the evening, quenching our thirst with a mojito frappé (a blended mojito) and filling up with Italian-inspired cuisine. It was definitely my favorite meal during my time in Cuba, both for the setting and the food.

There’s always an urge when you go somewhere to draw connections with other places you’ve been (or at least it’s an urge that I feel, anyway). But in many ways Havana defies comparison.


The architecture reminded me of Spain, and the mid-century interior design aesthetics reminded me of certain elements of Kyoto and Tokyo. Yet in Havana you have a feeling that you’ve truly stepped back in time. The scarcity of Wi-Fi means you don’t see people constantly buried in their phones, which means it’s somewhat easier to engage with the people around you. A recent article in the New York Times on the dating app Grindr’s lack of mass adoption in Cuba summed this up perfectly, quoting “Wild” Calderon: “I’m bisexual, because I prefer the unlimited. Why would anyone — bisexual, gay, whatever — want to be trapped as a photo, as an internet profile in an app? That’s a different kind of closet, a box. So boring.”

Having the world  virtually at our fingertips sometimes means that we neglect the real world around us, and my brief time in Cuba reminded me of that.

As relations with the US continue to “normalize,” it will be interesting to see how life in Cuba changes. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go when I did and catch a glimpse of Cuba at this unparalleled moment in time.

Miss Part 1 of my mini-series on Cuba? Find it here.

¡Cuba! Part 1

In late June/early July 2016, I joined the Sol-Axé dance retreat on the trip of a lifetime: We chartered a plane from Miami to Havana and spent a week dancing through Cuba.

In a nutshell, our trip lasted a week, with four days in the beach town of Varadero and three days in Havana. We took dance classes, saw timba, rumba, and cabaret dance performances, visited an amazing arts center called La Fábrica de Arte Cubano (also known as La FAC), and otherwise had the chance to observe this amazing country at a unique moment in time.

In March 2016, President Obama announced that the US would be lifting some of the strict travel and financial restrictions it had been imposing on Cuba. Just a few months later, when we made the trip in June, we could see that Cuba was on the precipice of change, but not quite there yet.

A tale of two airports

The act of flying to Cuba is a great example. No US airlines were offering direct flights, so we went through a charter company to secure the flight from Miami to Havana. The ratio of complication and waiting to actual time flying was pretty astounding. For a 43-minute flight, we were instructed to arrive at the airport a staggering 4 hours early. When I approached the ticket counter at American Airlines (as my charter voucher instructed me to do), the disgruntled woman behind the counter snorted, “ABC? Never heard of ’em! What are you, going to Cuba or something?” “Yes,” I replied, “That’s what I’m doing.” She gestured to the far end of the airport, “Try over there.”

When I found the counter, there was a single man working there, but he instructed me to come back at 8. (This was around 7:40 or so.) I went and grabbed a seat. As I waited and watched, people began to trickle in, and somehow two lines began to form. One line seemed to have people with their luggage and the other did not, but it was all a little unclear.

I should also point out that there was a little kiosk set up off to the side—not an official part of the airline’s area, but nearby—that was offering to shrink wrap your luggage for $15. It caught my eye and seemed unusual, but I forgot about it until later on in the day, when it became significant.

It turned out that you had to wait in both lines, but it was important to do them in a specific order. In the first line, you handed over your passport and received a piece of paper (that was not your actual boarding pass). In the second line, you checked in your luggage and got your actual boarding pass.

Then you went through security and proceeded to your gate in the terminal as usual. The monitor clearly displayed “Havana, Cuba” would be greeting us with a sunny, 84 degree day.

Boarding began on time and went fairly smoothly, but it had begun to rain heavily in Miami, so we ended up having to wait out the storm before we were allowed to take off, which meant about an extra hour on the plane before we even took off.

The flight, operated by American Airlines (despite the disgruntled agent’s lack of knowledge at Miami airport), was quick and uneventful, but the second our wheels touched the ground in Havana many of the passengers burst into applause.

Going through immigration was pretty quick—the agent reviewed my passport and visa, took my photo, and handed everything back.

I stepped through the door and into the baggage claim area.

I was in Cuba!

Except… there was the small issue of luggage. First, there was a security screening for everything we’d brought as carry-on. We had to put it through a scanner, and then proceed to the conveyor belts to pick up our checked bags.

The baggage claim area was full of people milling around, and the few chairs along the wall were occupied by seemingly off-duty immigration officials and other airport personnel. They lounged and chatted with each other, and the passengers from our flight filtered into the room after clearing immigration.

After about half an hour, it became clear that the bags would not be coming out any time soon. There was a muffled announcement that said something about the rain delaying the bag retrieval process.

Someone from our group later explained that it was actually because they go through every bag individually to ensure you’re not bringing any contraband into the country. This actually made a lot of sense because all the zippers on my bag were slightly open when it finally arrived, and the shrink-wrapped bags were the first ones to come out on the conveyor belt. Now I understood the significance of the kiosk at Miami airport!

All told, it took a little over two hours for our bags to arrive. Our flight, which was scheduled to leave Miami at noon but didn’t leave until after 1, arrived in Havana around 2, and we were getting our bags around 4:30.

And we then had about a 3-hour bus journey to Varadero, so our day of travel was not yet complete!

But I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining—although waiting 2+ hours in an airport (and actually 6+ if you include the time in Miami airport that morning) is not my ideal way to spend a day, it seemed like it was an integral part of the experience, especially at this point in time.

Perhaps in the next few months, it will become more commonplace for there to be direct flights between the US and Cuba, and something will change on the administrative side in Cuba as well. It may end up like any other destination in the world, but for now that is certainly not the case.

Welcome to Cuba! Have a piña colada!

Once our whole group was assembled, we hit the road. Our chariot was not a classic American car but a Chinese-made Yutong bus. However, it was air-conditioned and had seats for everyone, which was great because the drive from Havana to Varadero was about three hours.

Traffic doesn’t seem to be a huge problem—cars are so expensive that few people can afford them, so the roads are relatively clear. There were a lot of people waiting at bus stops and walking along the highway, and throughout the countryside you’ll see large painted murals featuring Che Guevara and different slogans and messages.


About halfway through the journey, we stopped in a lookout point in Matanzas to observe the tallest bridge in Cuba (shown above) and partake of piña coladas (pictured below). The bartenders blended up the beverages and poured them into the pineapple shells and supplied the rum, but you had to pour it yourself.  This reminded me a little of the “all you can drink” establishments in Japan. It seems like you’d have people who take advantage of the system and drink way more than they’re paying for, but somehow it seems to work.

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As we enjoyed the fresh air and the lush scenery, a few stray but clearly socialized cats wandered up to see if they could score any snacks.


Geography lesson

The best way I can come up with describing the aesthetic of our accommodation, the Barcelo Solymar in Varadero, is ’80s Soviet-inspired beach resort. These two photos from TripAdvisor help to illustrate what I’m talking about.

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But one of my favorite aspects of the Solymar was the reception desk. This display is such a good reminder that we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, and the principal cities of the world can really vary depending on where you are. And when you’re in Cuba, they’re not what you think they are.


¡La playa!

The beach in Varadero was quite simply one of the most pleasant I’ve ever seen. White, powdery sand, clear, calm waters, and not overly crowded.


The water was also so warm that it was possible to go in the evening and watch the sun set from the water. Photo proof below.


Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll talk about some of the dance lessons and performances and share some scenes from Havana!

“Born For This” Book Review


Do you ever feel unsure about what you’re  doing with your life? Wake up in the morning and think, “Am I really doing what I’m supposed to be doing?”

Whether it’s where you live, your choice of partner, or your career path, there are many things that can cause a sense of dissatisfaction or restlessness. We all feel these things from time to time—but what we choose to do with these thoughts is what sets us apart.

Some people are dissatisfied, but feel stuck, so they don’t change anything.

Others choose to do something about their discontentment, and they look for ways to change the things that are making them unhappy.

Chris Guillebeau is definitely a man of action. He set a goal to visit every country in the world before he turned 35—and he achieved it! He gathers thousands of people every year in Portland for the not as scary as it sounds World Domination Summit. And he regularly seeks out people who are doing inspiring things and shares their stories through his writing (his other books include The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup).

Born For This is Chris’s newest book, and it’s all about helping readers find the work they were meant to do.

This topic is especially interesting to me since I spent over two years writing about jobs and career paths when I worked at AfterCollege and oversaw the AfterCollege Blog.

If you see someone who loves their work, it’s easy to think that they were just lucky, or as Chris puts it, they “won the career lottery.” And it’s true that some people have an innate sense of their calling and everything just seems to fall into place for them. But that’s only a small percentage of people.

The larger percentage of people have to experiment, trying different jobs and industries before they find something that’s a good fit.

In the past decade or so, there’s also been a shift in the types of jobs that are available. There are now so many more options for people who want to start their own business or freelance.

In Born For This, Chris offers anecdotes and advice for every type of employment, whether it’s a side hustle, firefighting, or DIY rock star. I love the stories and quotes from real people that appear throughout the book. These are further proof that there’s no single way of finding your career path—you can step in gradually by trying out small projects or jump in head first.

The book also features a few suggestions for activities and exercises you can try to help find the answers to some of these big questions if you don’t already know what you should be doing. I took the short quiz online and found the results to be surprisingly accurate and enlightening!

Chris’s writing style is clear and engaging, so Born For This is an easy and enjoyable read.

I think that ultimately, experience is the best way of assessing whether you’d be suited for a particular career, and reading a book won’t give you the same insight that an internship, informational interview, or job shadowing session would. But if you’re at the stage where you don’t even know where to start (or you just want to hear some entertaining and inspiring stories about other people’s quests for career happiness), Born For This is the book for you.

Hello Kitty Saryo (Tea House) in Kyoto


In the winding narrow shopping streets leading to Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, you can find all sorts of traditional Japanese delights. Step into a shop and the vendor will offer you a tray full of samples of yatsuhashi, a typical Kyoto confectionery—thin layers of mochi wrapped around sweet bean paste. Start with the lightly cinnamon-dusted original before sampling all the other flavors—green tea, roasted sweet potato, strawberry, chocolate, and black sesame (to name just a few). Next, wander into a kanzashi (hair ornament) shop, or pay a visit to Yojiya, the famed Japanese cosmetics shop.

Or, if you’d prefer, the streets of Sannenzaka offer another type of traditional Japanese experience. Hello Kitty Saryo (Tea House) is like a lot of typical tea houses in Kyoto… except for the small fact that everything somehow features Kitty-chan (as she’s known in Japanese).

As a lifelong fan of Kitty-chan, I had to investigate Hello Kitty Saryo for myself. And what I found was actually a little surprising.

I think I was expecting something along the lines of a typical Sanrio store: bright colors, lots of pink. But what I found instead was a sophisticated Japanese tea salon… with just a hint of Hello Kitty in every detail.

Here’s the entrance. Note the muted color palette, minimalist design, and traditional noren curtain (featuring Kitty-chan’s signature bow).


I arrived soon after the shop opened for the day, so only one other table was occupied and I had my choice of seats.

The host let me know I could sit wherever I wanted, so I opted to sit at one of the tables closest to the window so I could admire the garden view.


Large plush Kitty-chan dolls sat at a few of the tables. There was one directly across from me, but soon after I sat down, my waitress brought it to sit next to me. She took a Polaroid photo and asked me to write a message that they would later share on their bulletin board. I also asked her to snap a shot of me and my dining companion.


The menu at Hello Kitty Saryo includes Kyoto-style obanzai lunch plates, ochazuke (rice and pickles served with tea), Western-style pasta, and a range of tea and coffee.

There’s an English menu available and there are handy icons to help you identify which dishes contain common allergens.

I opted for matcha (powered green tea) and a traditional Japanese confectionery made from purple sweet potato and shiroan (white bean paste).


And, of course, I had to check out the bathroom. LOVE the sink basin and the wallpaper!!


Once you’re done eating, you can head next door to the shop and stock up on souvenirs. They have everything—wallets, coin purses, yukata (light cotton kimono), ceramics, jewelry… the list goes on and on.

Shop info

Hello Kitty Saryo, 363-22-2 Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0826

Tel: 075.541.1210

Restaurant open: 10:30am–6pm (last order for food at 4:30pm, last order for sweets at 5:30pm)

Shop open: 10:30am–6:30pm

CMWorld 2015: A Very Brief Summary


3,500 people. 50 countries. Hundreds of breakout sessions. My experience at Content Marketing World 2015 (CMWorld 2015) was a whirlwind of activity, conversations, and lessons, and it’s hard to distill all that into bite-sized pieces. But I think it’s an important part of processing everything I experienced, so I’m going to give it a shot!

Are you making content, or are you making a difference?

One of my favorite points came from keynote speaker Jay Baer, who asked us: “Are you making content, or are you making a difference?” Jay asked us to consider a little thought experiment he likes to refer to as “The Mom Test.”

Basically, it boils down to this: On the one hand, your mother loves you unconditionally and will generally be proud of anything you do. But on the other hand, she’s probably one of the few people who feels comfortable being unabashedly critical of you. Jay shared a few anecdotes of his awkward dance moves and hamfisted attempt to fix his broken bicycle. His mom straight-up told him that he wasn’t good at those things. But when he was asked to deliver a eulogy for his brother, his mom saw how speaking and sharing his words with others was “his thing.”

Jay urged us to consider whether we are creating content just to check an item off a list or whether we are actually putting something into the world that will be beneficial to others. And this is the concept of “The Mom Test” as applied to content marketing.

Ask yourself what you can stop doing rather than what you should start doing

This came up during several of the sessions that I attended. Many content marketers fall prey to “shiny object syndrome,” geeking out over the latest trend, whether it’s a new(ish) format like podcasting or a novel social media platform (I heard a lot about Blab this year).

But instead of spreading our efforts and attention to an ever-fractured group of pursuits, perhaps we should just focus on doing one or two things and doing them exceedingly well.

Of course this sounds simple enough, but it can be a real challenge, especially in the fast-paced, trend-chasing world we’re living in.

Creativity requires time and space

This idea came courtesy of keynote speaker John Cleese, who provided us with several examples of the characteristics of creative thinkers. People who are genuinely creative make play a significant part of their practice, and they delay making decisions as long as possible.

Cleese gave the example of art school students who were asked to compose a still life. Some students snatched their items from the table and started sketching or painting right away, while others examined their objects for a long time before making their selection. They also seemed to not just look at their subject matter, but to perceive it through all their senses. This lengthy appraisal process eventually led to work that was significantly better and more creative than work from the students who made the snap judgment.

He also recommended a book called Hare Brain Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton. This book contains further examples of how slow, deliberate thinking facilitates creativity, whereas quick decision-making and analytical thinking is better suited for other types of output.

One of my favorite concepts from Cleese’s talk was the idea of a “tortoise enclosure.” It can be a challenge to do your best slow, deliberate thinking when you’re in an open-plan office, for example. So it’s ideal to have a quiet place where you can go and just be. Allowing yourself a little time in a place like this can do wonders for your creativity. It sounds just dreamy to me!

Customers don’t care about how many followers, likes, etc. you have

This idea came courtesy of keynote speaker Kristina Halvorson. It’s easy to get caught up in these types of numbers, because they’re easy to measure. But when it comes down to whether our content is being truly effective, they have absolutely no bearing on it.

Anyone who is creating content needs to think about how they are helping their customers (or potential customers). A few questions that can help guide you are:

  • What does my customer/potential customer need to do?
  • How can I help?
  • How can I be transparent about how things work in my  company?
  • How can I prioritize my customers over metrics?

So there you have it—just a few of the big ideas that stuck with me during CMWorld 2015. It’s funny because all of these concepts were already familiar to me before I attended the conference. But there’s something about hearing them in a new context, with new examples that makes them seem revelatory and significant.

Did you also attend CMWorld 2015? If so, I’d love to hear some of your key lessons and takeaways.

The Joys of Japanese English (AKA Engrish)

you know…

the door of your heart silently closed…

I, looking at you without a breezing sound…

you know…

my endless wait desiring the door of your heart

would open…

Have I decided to start publishing my poetry on this blog? Nope, not quite. I just thought I’d write a post in honor of Japanese English, or Engrish.

The poem above, which I actually really, really love, came from the front of a photo album I purchased in Japan.

English takes on a life of its own in Japan (and of course this phenomenon is not limited to Japan, but this is where the majority of my experience lies, so I’m sticking to Japanese English for this post). If you’ve never seen it, I’d highly recommend checking out the website for a comprehensive guide to worldwide Engrish.

Before writing too much more, I want to say that my appreciation of Japanese English is not meant to be derogatory or mean-spirited—I genuinely appreciate some of the unexpected humor and beauty that arises when people write in a language that is not their own.

I wanted to share a few examples of Japanese English that I’ve collected throughout the years.


The text on the packaging reads: “Try our ‘Naive Lady’ toilet tissue soft and of good quality. Choosing recycled paper is the first step to keep the earth full of greens for your own children.”


“Please defend following when you make the dog stroll in Yoyogi-koen.

  1. Dog owners – for the consideration of others, please ensure that your dog is on a lead while inside the park grounds.
  2. It bears it in mind sanitary in the park ..use… Moreover, please take home to home without throwing it away to the rest room and the garbage box in the park and dispose of Fn.
  3. The park is a public domain place that everyone can use. Let’s bear it in mind so that the use manners are defended, and the trouble should not hang to the other.
  4. Please follow the instruction of the park ranger etc. in the park.”

I believe that Japanese English falls into a few distinct categories, and this is a great example of text that was probably just put into Google translate (or something similar). I love the redundancies “please take home to home” and unusual turns of phrase such as “trouble should not hang to the other.”


Is it just me, or is there something really funny about an automatic toilet flushing system named “BT-Crab”?

IMG_4066I remember speaking with a fellow English teacher during my first year in Japan and he was wondering if there had been one Japanese/English dictionary that had some bad translations in it, which had then doomed the entire population to make the same mistakes.

One example is the widespread use of the term “woody” where “woodsy” would be more appropriate.

IMG_4075Stay away from the Bigot-mobile!


“Emargency Exit

If anything should occur, 

please destroy the cover doornob and open the door.”

That seems like an awfully severe reaction to anything that should occur! I also wonder how you can open the door after you’ve destroyed the doorknob.


Hmm… for some reason I don’t think I want to pay someone to perform any service provided by a company called “Coopoo”…


First, I have to say that I love the fact that there’s a car called a “Rasheen.”

I’ll end this post with the smaller text on Rasheen’s tire cover:

Listen to the murmuring of a stream.

Run after wild birds. Rest in the bosom of the woods.




The San Francisco J-Pop Summit 2015

When I first heard of the J-Pop Summit, I wasn’t sure if it would be my thing. I’ve never really gotten into the J-Pop genre of music (for whatever reason I find K-Pop to be much more enjoyable—maybe because it’s so similar to American pop).

But it turns out that the J-Pop Summit was about much more than just music. This weekend-long event (which took place August 8 and 9 in San Francisco) celebrated several aspects of Japanese pop culture, including food, fashion, and anime.

The events took place at two main locations: Fort Mason and Union Square. Fort Mason featured a half a dozen food trucks and a large hall with musicians, dance performances, and booths promoting various aspects of Japanese culture.

The main draw at Union Square was a sake tasting area. (Fun fact: In Japanese, “sake” is a general term that means “alcohol.” The specific type of alcohol that we call “sake” in English is actually called “nihonshu” in Japanese.) There were also a handful of vendors selling food and a few vendors whose food and drinks featured matcha (green tea powder).

Here are a few of the highlights from my visit to the Fort Mason event. Many thanks to the talented Eva Vargas for the photos!hello kitty cafe foodtruck

When we arrived at Fort Mason on Saturday afternoon, I was thrilled to see the Hello Kitty Café. This adorable pink food truck sells donuts, cakes, macarons, and other confections that are adorned with Hello Kitty-inspired decorations.

I had tried to visit the Hello Kitty Café when they were stationed at a festival in Japantown a few months ago, but after seeing how many people were waiting in line, I decided to skip it. Luckily the line was short at the J-Pop Summit, so we got our treats right away!

hello kitty donutsA close-up of the Hello Kitty donuts. So kawaii!! 

One of the parts I was really looking forward to was the recreated ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) where we could watch videos about different regions in Japan. It turned out to be a not-so-subtle commercial for each of the ryokan, so it was a little disappointing in that respect.

But they did have yukata (light cotton kimono) that we got to put on—they even had several staff members on hand to make sure we were wearing them properly. Wearing a yukata and going to a matsuri (festival) is a typical summertime activity in Japan, so it was fun to get to experience that here in San Francisco!

eva and melissa in yukata


We also had the opportunity to meet two Japanese pop stars, Yana and Kiku, whose celebrity was unfortunately a little lost on us. They were really cute, though!


Wandering around the large hall in Fort Mason was a bit disorienting. There were all sorts of unusual sights and sounds, like this giant head, a woman in a bathtub with a lot of cash, and various people doing cosplay.




It was a colorful, fun way to spend the day, and I look forward to attending again next year!

Essential Social Media Resources

Here are some super useful resources for learning how to use social media effectively.

Facts & Figures

Tips & Tricks

Useful Tools

  • Storify (for compiling social media from different sources on a common topic)
  • Bitly (for shortening links and tracking clicks)
  • Hootsuite or Buffer (for scheduling posts and monitoring social media activity)

Have any other resources you’d like to add to the list? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments section to let me know!

Content Marketing World vs. HubSpot’s Inbound: A Content Marketer’s Dilemma

I recently found myself embroiled in a HUGE content marketer’s dilemma: Should I go to Content Marketing World or HubSpot’s Inbound conference?

Both events will take place over September 8–11, 2015, and both have an impressive lineup of speakers, presenters, and fun events.

When I realized that both events would take place over the same few days, I decided to put it out there in the Twittersphere to see if anyone else could help me make my decision.

cmworld or inbound tweet

As I expected, the folks at HubSpot responded almost immediately. (They tend to know what they’re doing on social media.)

hubspot response

I have to admit that they tempted me with the offer of both Amy Schumer and the cake.

But of course the folks at CMI didn’t leave me hanging, either.

cmi response

Also, note the fact that the folks at HubSpot favorited this tweet. Very sweet of them!

In a very tiny nutshell, this is how I distinguished between the two events:

Content Marketing World


  • Held in Boston
  • I’ve never been, so I don’t know exactly what to expect (both a plus and minus)
  • Not just content focused, and in fact not even just marketing focused—includes sessions on sales, design, and other topics
  • Some sessions are very HubSpot focused, and I was not using HubSpot at the time
  • Seems to be a really fun, cool event (yes, I totally bought into their marketing materials)

Ultimately, I decided to attend Content Marketing World, even though no one promised me cake if I decided to do so. However, just a few days ago, look what showed up in my Twitter feed:

joe pulizzi

So that confirms it—I must’ve chosen well… right?

Have you attended Content Marketing World and/or Inbound? How would you characterize each one? If you had to choose only one to attend, which one would you choose?

And finally, what’s your favorite flavor of cake? I’m partial to funfetti myself.