Why Even Conservatives Want to Save the Celery Fields

Why Even Conservatives Want to Save the Celery Fields in Sarasota

The past seven or eight months have been quite a learning experience for me.

We hadn’t made it far into 2017 when I first heard of the plan to construct what amounts to a dump at the Celery Fields in Sarasota.

Now I am not what you would call an “activist.” Prior to 2017, you could count one hand the number of times you’d have spotted me holding a sign in a crowd. Some people enjoy it and would find a reason to do it every week if they could. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

Nor am I what you would call an “environmentalist.” This issue has become one of the growing number of issues for which I consider both sides of the argument to be less than honest and certainly not aboveboard.

Nor am I someone who believes in giving government even more control over our private lives. I regard the increasing incursion of the State into our individual liberties as a dangerous menace—one that was foreseen by the Founders and Framers, whose counsel on the issue we ignore to our own peril.

In other words, I’m not what you would call a “liberal,” at least not according to any modern definition of the word.

And yet, in 2017, I’ve signed petitions, gone to rallies, attended public hearings, and spoken out in a number of ways to ask Sarasota County to deny petitions to build on Celery Fields lands.

Knowing this, many casual observers might assume that they could accurately guess my political leanings.

And yet, over the last number of months, I’ve worked alongside card-carrying members of both of the major political parties, and many others who are harder to classify, politically speaking. Lifelong Republicans, tree-hugging environmentalist Democrats, frustrated independents, and members of other parties have aligned themselves to oppose these projects, most notably the one proposed by local developer turned public official, James Gabbert.

And this is how I have learned so much this year. Never before have I seen so many people willing to lay aside their cherished ideologies and work together with people who, in other circumstances, they’d probably vehemently oppose.

There’s an old saying about nothing being stronger than the heart of a volunteer, and that is what I’ve observed—and been humbled by—throughout this process.

I’ve watched people give up hundreds of hours of their time, sacrifice business opportunities, and risk embarrassment (or worse) to protect the Celery Fields. Business owners, former journalists, retirees, birders and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages, and—yes—people whose interest in activism has risen to levels deserving of the word, “professional,” have linked up with one another in a shocking display of heart.

Why?

It can only be because they care.

They care about beauty. They care about nature. They care about what sort of society we are creating. They care about what we do with Publicly-owned land. They care about our water supply and the health of estuaries and aquatic wildlife. They care about the birds and the beautiful habitat that’s been created over the last twenty-plus years, by accident or not. They care about preserving the peaceful serenity of the Palmer corridor, which only looks “industrial” on maps created during the Reagan Administration. They care about the two thousand homes—soon to exceed 2,600 with new developments going in—and the neighborhoods that have grown up around them. They care about Tatum Ridge Elementary School and the 700 students, not to mention the hardworking faculty and staff, just down the street.

And it’s been my honor to work alongside such caring people. Maybe in other circumstances and on other questions, the things we care about would find us disagreeing.

But after months of working alongside people of this quality, I must say I’m more inclined than ever to really listen and to try to understand where they’re coming from and to see if perhaps there aren’t better ways to solve our problems than the bitter public thrashings that seem to be the order of the day.

In other words, I care too—about the Celery Fields, sure—but more importantly, about the people I’ve come to know through this unique experience.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear from the County Commissioners. That means today we’re all busy making our final preparations. Regardless of the outcome, I want all of you to know how much I have grown to deeply respect and appreciate you. Thank you for the honor of working with you.

Congratulations to Jo Hagan, CPA

A huge congratulations to our longtime accountant, CPA, and all-around business adviser, Jo Hagan, on the rebranding of her accounting practice from Hagan CPA, Inc to Barefoot Accounting, PA.

In the process of re-branding, Jo recently launched an all new Barefoot Accounting website.

Jo and I met at a networking event in 2001, not long after 9/11. I had just gone full-time in my business, and she had decided she wanted to sacrifice some of the security and stability of a corporate job in favor of working from home and being there for her two young daughters.

One of the benefits of working from home, of course, is that you can go barefoot if you’d like! Today, Jo’s daughters are off in college, and Jo is taking advantage of the opportunity to help others like her who might be Moms or would otherwise prefer to work from home.

Jo’s new brand represents a fantastic new direction as she helps other CPAs and bookkeepers develop a stable livelihood while simultaneously refocusing her own efforts on providing top-shelf business advisory services that go way beyond filing taxes and producing reports. We couldn’t be happier for Jo!

How to Communicate with Me

How to Communicate with Me

TL;DR: Email me.

This post has been on my mind for a very long time. I’ve formulated 20 or 30 different versions of it in my head, but I’ve never made the commitment to just go ahead and write one of them.

Mostly, I think I’ve avoided it because I haven’t imagined a scenario in which what I have to say here doesn’t come across as obnoxious, rude, or otherwise disagreeable.

However, reality is reality.

If you’re a client of our digital marketing agency, you’ve no doubt already had a moment where you said, “that guy is hard to reach.” (OK… you might have used stronger language. But you know what I mean.)

And so… the time has come to just spell it out.

Unscheduled Contact

I used to tell people right up front that I’m unable to take unscheduled phone calls. For a while, I even used a nearly rude voicemail greeting that instructed callers to please not leave a voicemail and just email me instead.

But in 2017, it seems that most people don’t default to the phone call anyway these days. Instead, it’s the text message.

And unfortunately, you don’t get my voicemail when you send me a text. So I don’t have a good context to have you hear my cheery “radio voice” explain that in order to get the fastest response, your best bet is to email me.

And let’s face it. Auto-replies to SMS messages are terrible. Even if I came up with polite wording, unless you know for certain that it’s an autoresponder, you get the impression that I took the time to write you a response that said, “I can’t respond right now,” instead of actually responding.

Why Unscheduled Contact Doesn’t Work

The nature of the work that I personally do revolves around two things:

  1. Lengthy (paid) consulting sessions.
  2. Creative work that requires long uninterrupted periods of focus.

If you’ve ever been in a meeting with me, you know that I don’t look at my phone when we’re meeting. This is a habit that I developed long ago. Being paid for your time trains you in unusual ways to think about clients’ expectations and how to be effective.

But it’s more than just time that gets sucked away by the phone when you’re in the middle of something.

Imagine paying your attorney $500/hour to discuss a complex legal issue and having her take a phone call every 5 or 6 minutes.

The first time it happens, you may think, “Wow, that must be important for her to interrupt our $500/hour meeting to take a call.”

And you’d probably think nothing of it, dismissing it as an unusual occurrence.

The second time it happened, you’d start wondering, “Am I going to get billed for the time she spends on these calls?”

The third time, you’d note the start and end time of the call just to compare it to your bill later and make darn sure you aren’t paying $8.33/minute for her to talk to someone else!

But there’s something else you’d notice. Each time your conversation with your attorney was interrupted, you’d find that it takes a moment or two to settle back in to the conversation. Maybe the train of thought got lost. Perhaps a complex chain of reasoning had lost a link or two and needed to be rebuilt from the beginning.

In other words, it’s not just the time that gets sacrificed by an interruption, it’s the attention.

Some years ago, when I first read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, I was struck by a concept he laid out in the midst of all of his productivity hacks. Put simply:

Attention is more important than time.

I won’t elaborate too much on this concept here, but this blog post does a fantastic job of concisely explaining the thinking behind Tim’s statement.

Here’s what it boils down to in practical terms for me: in order for me to do my part in delivering the results to our clients that we deliver, I have to engage in attention management more than time management.

This means that the way my schedule works forces me to schedule phone calls and meetings so that I can be effective—not just in those meetings, but in the blocks of time when I’m not in meetings and am working insead.

The Tyranny of the Follow-Up

The other side of this coin, then, is that inbound communications are especially difficult. We are all bombarded by incoming notifications, these days. I am certainly not alone in this. You have too many emails to read, too many text messages, Skype calls, Facebook Messenger contacts, WhatsApp notifications, Snaps, Twitter DMs, and any number of other little “pings and dings” demanding your attention as well.

But if you try to handle them in a more or less “real-time” fashion, as I imagine most people try to do, then you know what it is to have an attention deficit. It doesn’t have to be a disorder, it’s a lifestyle for most of us these days.

My phone is no different from yours… often, when I leave a meeting and have a moment to see what’s going on, my notifications list is endless.

And therein lies the rub.

Maybe other people have found a way to do this, but for me, follow-up from notifications on my phone is not possible.

What is manageable—or at the very least usually possible—is email follow-up.

Maybe it’s because email, of all these seemingly endless inboxes, is the one that’s been around the longest, and so I’ve had the most time and experience to develop a system for at least attempting to follow-up on it.

Or maybe I’m just backwards.

Either way, it’s what I do.

In other words, if you email me, I’m much more likely to follow up with you. Even if it’s not immediately (which it almost never will be).

Your text message? I might see it. I might even see it soon after you send it. But it will quickly get lost in the sea of other notifications that came in on my phone, and it will never be seen again.

This Will Only Take a Second!

Maybe it’s the technical nature of what we do… maybe it’s because I have a knack for finding a long answer to a short question.

In other words, I’m sure it’s me, not you.

But most of the inbound communications I receive that are business related are impossible to answer quickly. Perhaps they require investigation or research. Perhaps that involves logging in to 3 or 4 systems to dig up the answer. Or maybe you’re not going to understand the short answer that I might give to one of my team, and out of politeness to you, I’ll spend the extra 10 minutes explaining whatever it is.

But, in my experience, the “this will only take a second” questions are often the ones that take the longest.

I’m Sure This is Frustrating

The practitioner of customer service in me—the one that drives me to think about every interaction we develop for our clients that either creates or nurtures relationships that lead to sales for them—is a constant voice in my head that screams, “you must communicate with people in the way they prefer to be communicated with.”

And somewhere there’s an idealist in me that is working on this in the background. A little hamster on a wheel that one day will come up with a magical solution to the whole problem that makes everyone happy.

In the meantime, let me just say that if you’re working with me, I apologize for any inconvenience or frustration that this creates.

Perhaps someday I’ll hire someone to help me with this. A person is probably the right answer.

But of course that means that I’ll have to increase our fees.

This may happen at some point. In the meantime, you’re welcome to let me know if you’d pay more to have a better experience.

In the meantime, I’ve made a commitment that I will do my darndest to respond to your email within one business day.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s a quick summary for how to communicate with me:

Need a quick answer? Email me.

Need to talk on the phone? Email me some possible times that work well for you.

Need some training? Email me to schedule a session.

Need to change the scope of a project? Email me.

Have something you’d like to text me? Email me instead.

Need something done in a hurry? Mention that in your email.

You haven’t gotten an answer to your email? Please accept my apologies, and email me.

Learn How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond

Learn How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond

UPDATE (5/17/2017): FDOT has announced that the new traffic pattern will be implemented this Sunday, May 21, 2017. This does not mean the end of construction at the interchange, but we will begin using the “Diverging Diamond” pattern at that time.

 UPDATE (4/5/2017): FDOT has made the slides from the public workshop available for anyone to review who couldn’t make it in person. (Did you go? How was it? Let us know in the comments below!)

Late spring or early summer. That’s when we’ll all start using the new “diverging diamond” interchange at University Parkway & I-75.

But since a lot of people are still wondering how to drive through a diverging diamond, the Florida Department of Transportation has scheduled a couple of workshops for Tuesday, April 4th to explain how it works.

When: Tuesday, April 4 at either 2pm or 5pm

What: 90-minute workshop: “Navigating the Diverging Diamond Interchange”

Where: Everglades University, 6001 Lake Osprey Drive (map)

Why: To show us all how to drive through a diverging diamond.

File this under “mildly alarming,” but I’ve got a nagging question:

Why the Heck Will it Take 90 Minutes to Teach Us How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond?

OK OK… the flyer says that first the first half hour, everyone will have a chance to review some exhibits and speak with FDOT staff (you’ve been itching to do that, haven’t you?!). Then there will be an “informative presentation,” followed by a Q&A session, which in my imagination will be filled with elderly people who don’t know how to use roundabouts asking the same question over and over in different ways.

So… maybe it won’t take that long to actually explain it.

After all, this nifty video does it in just under 8 minutes:

Hopefully it won’t take 8 minutes to get through this darned interchange once the construction finally ends!

But I’m not holding my breath…

Testing Out Collaborative Editing in Google Docs for WordPress

WordPress - Google Docs Integration

OK it’s not every day that I get super excited about new WordPress features. But today, Matt announced something that made me jump out of my chair and yell for joy.

What is it?

Google Docs integration for WordPress

The idea is that you create your content in Google Docs, using all of the lovely collaborative features like multiple (even simultaneous!) authors, commenting, great editing tools, cloud-based storage, and so forth.

Then… once it’s ready to go, push a button and voila! — the content shows up in your WordPress site.

The magic happens thanks to Jetpack, which we users of the WordPress software use to connect up our self-hosted sites to Automattic’s WordPress.com infrastructure.

So… you need to have the Jetpack plugin enabled and your site connected.

Then you need to use the WordPress.com for Google Docs add-in (that link goes to the Google Web Store page for the add-in, but you can also get it by going to “Add-ons” inside a Google Doc).

As much as I love the WordPress editor, this is a game changer. I live in Google Docs, especially since I acquired my first Chromebook about a year ago.

There’s one more hiccup. The authentication passes through multiple layers (after all, you wouldn’t want just anyone editing a Google Doc to be able to push content to your website, would you?):

  1. Your Google Account (make sure you’re signed in to the one you want)
  2. Your WordPress.com account — meaning the account that you used to connect your self-hosted WordPress site up to the Jetpack/WordPress.com infrastructure. (Here again: make you’re signed in to the right one!)
  3. Your local WordPress account (meaning the account that you sign in to your actual WordPress site with)

It was at that last authentication step that I hit a snag:

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I had never activated the Jetpack JSON API on this site. So… I had to go through the Authorization process one more time after fixing that.

But hey! Needing to screenshot an error message gave me a chance to see how images work in this whole process. I’ll let you know once this content gets pushed to my WordPress site!

Update

After hitting the “Save Draft” button, my content got magically pushed to this site. (If you hadn’t figured it out, I wrote the first draft of this in Google Docs!)

The image came along with it!

But…. my cropping didn’t. The image above is the full screenshot. In Google Docs, I had cropped it to get rid of the 37 Chrome tabs and so forth (hyperbole, I know, but that’s only one of my 3 current Chrome windows!).

All in all, this is a fantastic experience. There’s even a button in Google Docs to “Preview” the post on the live site, and of course a way to update the draft from Google Docs.

I’m guessing you’ll have to manage your own workflow for which version is the latest. I assume if I make changes on my site, but then hit the “Update Draft” button in Google Docs, that version will overwrite whatever is on the site. But this is to be expected. (And I haven’t tested it yet, so… who knows?)

Way to go, team WordPress!!

Sarasota: The Best Place to Live in Florida

US News & World Report ranked Sarasota #21 on its list of the Best Places to Live in the United States. Citing our climate, beaches, and culture, the index placed Sarasota higher than the other Florida cities on the top 100 list, with Tampa coming in at 35 and Orlando at 40.

While it’s great to see publications recognize our “little big city” in this way, maybe it would be better to keep us a secret? Already, our “net migration” is at a 10. We’re feeling it in the traffic!

Help Preserve Sarasota’s Celery Fields

Sarasota’s Celery Fields are truly a local treasure—for nature lovers, bird watchers, fitness junkies, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. But they are being threatened with dangerous industrial development that could destroy the natural habitat for local wildlife, not to mention the peace and tranquility of the area that we’ve all come to know and love.

I plan to participate in the protest this Saturday to help spread the word about the proposed development projects that could destroy the Celery Fields. I hope you’ll join me as well.

Join me at WordCamp Miami 2017

Now that it’s been officially announced, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a discussion about “Getting Real Business Results from Your Content Marketing Efforts” at WordCamp Miami!

The event runs March 24-26 (Friday through Sunday) at Florida International University in Miami. The Miami gathering is one of the longest-running and most well-respected events in the WordCamp series, and it’s an honor to be invited to participate.

Last year, the weekend was outstanding, and my lovely wife, Jill, and I are truly looking forward to another spectacular time in South Florida!

Hawkins Road Festival 2017

My family & I are definitely looking forward to the first-ever Hawkins Road Festival on Saturday, February 18th!

This looks like a truly unique community celebration for Sarasota, featuring music, art, spirituality, and social awareness. Oh… and food trucks. And stuff for kids.

Should be fun!

Congrats to Florida Fence!

Congratulations to Kevin and Theresa Dermody and the entire team at Florida Fence on joining the Grow The Dream family! We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to serve such a fantastic company.

Earlier today, the first piece of content our team produced for Kevin & Theresa went live on their website. It’s a piece that explains what an easement is and how it might affect the new fence you want to install.

I know our entire team is excited to be working with them and we’re looking to great results in the days ahead!