It’s been a long time since I last wrote a word on this blog, so I figure now is as good a time as any to start writing again. I’m going to re-start cautiously with a reblog of a post that my friend Courtney just recently published. I met Courtney when I was having a hard time last winter. I guess you could say that we were both going through transitional periods in our lives. For a short period of time, we were able to enjoy each other’s companionship in Boston and discuss the mutual shared love we had for blogging, movies, social media and of course Boston. The weeks and months that followed found us heading in different directions – socially and geographically. After Courtney spent time in DC and I in New York City, we both found ourselves back in the Boston area. I hadn’t seen Courtney in quite a long time, a year or so in fact, but I was excited when I received a text message from her just about six weeks ago. She was thrown a nasty curve ball (to put it heinously lightly) by life just a few weeks later, diagnosed with leukemia. Although I’ve only known Courtney for a short-time, I know that she is a person that has the strength and resilience to not only beat this beast but come out better on the other side. She couldn’t have put it any better when she wrote, “I have a long road ahead of me filled with unknowns, but just like any job I’ve had before, I’m going to go in 100% and rock it.” I can’t relate to what Courtney is going through physically; I can only admire the strength and vulnerability that she exudes when she writes. Once I get the creative juices flowing a bit more, I will more articulately share why this post in particular resonates with me, but for now I’ll leave you with this – she encouraged me to pick up writing again those six weeks ago and now I’m finally having the courage to do so. New blog formatting to follow.
If you’re a person (like me) who always says they’re busy, you probably can relate to this article: The ‘Busy’ Trap – NYTimes.com http://ow.ly/jIMyZ
Tonight is GRAMMY night, which means it’s one of my favorite nights of the year. As an avid and passionate follower of the music industry, I’m excited to see what surprises the show will have in store. The great thing about the GRAMMYs is that, over the years, the academy has smartly trimmed down the sluggish award-giving routine in favor of adding more live music performances. The performance line-up this year is impressive, as we’ll be treated to performances by many of the night’s most prolific nominees (e.g Mumford & Sons, Fun., Jack Black, Frank Ocean, Gotye), a comeback return to the stage from Justin Timberlake, and interesting pairings like that of Ed Sheeran and Elton John.
As far as the awards go, unlike last year when Adele predictably (albeit deservedly) swept the night’s biggest categories, tonight’s show promises to offer at least a few unexpected moments when it comes to handing out the awards. The nominees for the night’s biggest categories as well as my picks for who should and will win. To listen to song from all of the 2013 Grammy nominated artists, subscribe to my playlist on Spotify.
Record of the Year
Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
We Are Young – Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe
Thinkin Bout You – Frank Ocean
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
Album of the Year
El Camino – The Black Keys
Some Nights – Fun.
Babel – Mumford & Sons
Channel Orange – Frank Ocean
Blunderbuss – Jack White
Song of the Year
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson)
We Are Young
Best New Artist
This will be the first in a series of posts that chronicle my relationship with a new way of thinking I’m studying called ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is a concept based on six core principles that promote “psychological flexibility” – the ability to adapt to thoughts with awareness and openness – and, in the long run, hypothetically allows one to handle painful thoughts with greater efficacy and, in turn, live a more meaningful and rich life. While the theory sounds promising, I am still in the very early phases of learning this technique and am interested to see how effective it is. If you’re interested in joining me on this journey, be sure to pick up The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris, who writes on this ACT methodology in great detail. The following were the key points from Chapters 4 and 5 of his book that resonated with me the most.
Although I’m still early on in my reading, I have started putting into practice the technique’s first core principle: thought defusion. Simply put, thought defusion is “relating to your thoughts in a new way, so they have much less impact and influence over you.” In ACT, the main goal is not to debate whether or not your thoughts are true or false, but whether they are helpful. With thought defusion, then, the aim is to not get rid of or battle your thoughts, but to simply see them for what they are – a string of words.
This useful approach forces you to ask the questions “Is this thought helpful? Does it help me take action to create the life I want?” If the thoughts are helpful, they should be held onto, but if they aren’t, they should be defused. To figure out whether a thought is helpful, you should ask yourself:
- Does this thought help me to be the person I want to be?
- Does it help me to build the sort of relationships I’d like?
- Does it help me to connect with what I truly value?
- Does it help me, in the long term, to create a rich, full, and meaningful life?
By answering yes or no to these questions, you can determine how useful the thought is to hold onto. These thoughts, of course, are just stories, subjective narratives in our minds that are contextualized by current life situations – whether they be job, relationship, or health-related. To know which stories to believe, you should:
- Be wary of holding onto any belief too tightly, as these beliefs change over time
- Remember to use thoughts that help create a rich full and meaningful life
- Pay careful attention to what is actually happening, rather than just automatically believing what your mind says.
In close, the more tuned in you are to your direct experience in life (rather than your mind’s running commentary), the more empowered you are to take your life in the direction you truly want. By freeing ourselves from the oppression of our thoughts, we can invest our time, energy and attention in more meaningful activities. This, of course, is easy to say and hard to achieve, and will be the challenge I tackle over the days and weeks ahead.
Ever since I recommitted to my blogging efforts in late 2011, one of my most reliable posts was the recurring Songs Spinning on My iPod series. Each of these monthly posts featured a fairly diverse set of new or soon-to-be-released recordings from various current pop, R&B and country artists. While the lists varied in length and sometimes featured a specific seasonal or remembrance theme, they consistently were representative of music that was “of the moment.”
With the dawn of a new a year, I have decided to change up the format slightly of this monthly blog feature. While the spirit of the playlists will remain the same – including current mainstream song selections being serviced to pop, rhythmic, urban and country radio outlets – I will be relying solely on Spotify for sharing my choices.
If you have yet to join the Spotify community, I highly suggest that you do, as the music streaming application has become my exclusive means for music consumption, even dethroning the reign of my iTunes library downloads. Even though some are deterred by the platform’s limitations – the free version features fairly disruptive advertisements, a premium subscription will cost you $9.99/month, and either one will require a reliable WiFi or data connection – it truly is the best social streaming service available on the market.
This month’s Songs Spinning post features around 75 songs that are currently going for radio station ads or are rapidly ascending the mainstream charts. Some of the artists featured on the list include:
- Top 40/Mainstream: AWOLNATION, Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cher Lloyd, Christina Aguilera, David Guetta, Far East Movement, Fun., Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Olly Murs, One Direction, OneRepublic, Phillip Phillips, Rihanna, Swedish House Mafia, will.i.am
- Top 40/Rhythmic: ASAP Rocky, B. Smyth, Drake, Emeli Sandi, Future, Jermaine Paul, Krewella, Lupe Fiasco, Nelly, Pitbull, Skylar Grey, The Weeknd, Trey Songz, Zedd
- Urban/Urban Adult Contemporary: Kelly Rowland, Keyshia Cole, Lil Wayne, Miguel, Tamar Braxton, The Game, T.I., Trinidad James, Tyga, Watch the Duck
- Country: The Band Perry, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, Lee Brice Little Big Town, Taylor Swift, Thompson Square, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith
At the start of this year, I promised myself that I would re-commit myself to posting more on the blog. I distinctly remember that this time last year I was able to rediscover myself through this publishing process after going through a fairly difficult period. While I’m going to steer clear of asserting grandiose resolve to post on a daily (or even weekly basis), I am going to acknowledge that it’s time to stime my writing procrastination and just give it a go.
With that said, I’m going to take things slow with this first post of 2013 and play a bit of catch up by clearing out the archives. Below are a few guest blog posts that I published for Revinate, the amazing social media and online reputation management company that I am truly lucky to continue working for. I will save my Revinate love-affair monologue for another day, but I will affirm here that – through these last few difficult months – continuing to work for such a stellar group of people has kept my spirits buoyed and my motivation in tact.
My recent contributions to the Revinate Blog:
- What Hotels & Restaurants Should Know About Facebook Nearby Upgrade
- #WebWednesday Must-Reads, 2012 Year-End Edition
- Review Assistant: Improve Your Hotel or Restaurant Review Responses
- Best Days for Hospitality Industry to Post on Facebook
- A Lego Lesson in Customer Service for Hoteliers
- Reputation 101: Which review sites allow management responses?
- #WebWednesday Must-Reads: Social Marketing Strategies
- New TripAdvisor Tool Allows Hoteliers to Report Blackmail
- Social Media 101 Recap: Finding Your Social Media Value
- Success Story: Denihan Hospitality Group
I’m going to make this post brief as I am about to head to the gym for the – gulp – second day in a row after a significant period of inactivity. While it’s not worth it to go into the details as to why I wasn’t able to commit to gym time over the last string of weeks, I will say that deciding to go for a second straight day is indicative of the small steps forward I have taken on the road back to recovery. Each day has brought its own set of challenges – many of which I may have brought on myself – but starting to take care of myself and setting some small goals for the hours that pass by are helping me, moments at a time, gain some much needed perspective on how fortunate I am to have all that I have in my life right now – the supportive family members, friends and part-time co-workers.
The gym also sounds like a great idea at this very moment as I have just signed up less than five minutes ago for my very first marathon – the WIPRO San Francisco marathon in fact – that will take place June 16 next year. While that sounds like ages away, it is certainly an event I am not going to take lightly and represents a much needed, concrete goal to start working towards in the days and weeks ahead of me. Although it has taken me nearly a month to follow-up on my previous blog post, I plan on sharing a lot more in the coming days and weeks as I continue to take strides forward, reminding myself of who I am and who I want to be.
There has been a sticky phrase circulating around in my headspace for several days now: “time to change the narrative ” is what reoccurs to me, almost as if its a mantra or meditative chant that resurfaces every now and again. It’s an obvious statement that seems, on the surface at least, to reflect an immediate self-help, call-to-action. The phrase I imagine is most often used in a personal context, whether it references more literally altering the direction of a storyline or, more cerebrally, changing how one interprets a certain situation or circumstance. In my situation, I’m using the phrase interchangeably, as I want both to happen.
Today marks the first time in quite a long while that I have felt ready to share on the blog some of what has been going on in my life. It has now been almost a month since I left San Francisco and moved back home in Dedham temporarily with my family to figure out what my next steps are. These next steps specifically relate to managing a nagging, recurring health condition that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. The precise details of my current situation I would rather not discuss at length, as they are personal in nature and relate to a still unclear health diagnosis that has frustratingly required me to slow down a bit professionally for the time being. Nevertheless, the short version of my story is that I’m in a place in my life right now where I need to start taking some positive proactive measures to improve my current state of physical, mental and emotional health. It is for sure an easier said than done process that is not circuitously accomplished overnight, but I am confident that I will be able to overcome this temporary lapse – with the support of my family, friends and professional network that I so tremendously value and cherish.
As part of my rehabilitation path to recovery, in addition to freelancing and seeking out some side projects, I will be re-committing myself to publishing on the blog as often as I humanly can – as a way to re-engage my passions for travel, social media, digital marketing and music. Moreover, after several weeks of isolation, I look forward to reconnecting with many of those in my personal and professional networks once again up and down the East Coast. A singular, isolated blog post does not immediately improve my current health condition, nor does it ease the uphill challenges that I face ahead, but it’s a starting point in time. A time to change the narrative.
For years, hospitality revenue managers have been clamoring to reclaim the direct hotel booking from the online travel agency (OTA). As Revinate recently addressed in the How to Drive Direct Bookings webinar, the cost of direct bookings ($2 to $6) vs. OTA bookings ($40 to $120) can have a major impact on hotel profitability. With high commissions to pay and a diminished ability to build brand loyalty with the customer, hoteliers have come to a universal understanding that, in an ideal scenario, a customer booking direct is preferable.
Given this industry norm, TripAdvisor has just opened up, for the first time, the ability for any hotel property to participate in its “Show Prices” cost-per-click (CPC) advertising program. Until this point, this powerful hotel rate tool – which Hospitality eBusiness Solutions (HeBS) reports generated over one billion clicks last year alone – was only available for OTAs and large hotel chains that could support the significant required advertising spend. Now, any hotel property – whether you are brand affiliated or independent – can participate at a far less cost-prohibitive starting point of $500/month.
What kind of impact can this kind of advertising model make? According to HebS’s recent case study, independent hotels, casinos and resorts that took advantage of TripAdvisor’s CPC program averaged between 1000% – 1500% return on average spend. By participating in the program, each property was able to directly send traffic to its respective booking engine and website, thereby leveling the OTA playing field and offering site visitors a direct booking option. The program championed by HeBS includes a mix of “Show Prices” CPC, property CPC (which appear on the right-hand column of the property page), and amenities and images (AIM) CPC functionality.
In close, this exciting new functionality, coupled with TripAdvisor’s massive user base of 54 million monthly visitors and over 75 million reviews, represents a significant marketing opportunity, catering to a travel-searching audience with purchase intent on the mind. As you prepare your 2013 hotel marketing budgets, mark this opportunity for worthwhile consideration.