Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Hunt for Thanksgiving

The leaves rustled around my footsteps as I followed the flags marking the path to my stand. The sun had not yet begun its day and the light from my flashlight could barely pierce the early morning’s darkness. The delicate steps that my brain told my feet to make were translated into raucous stomps through the otherwise silent and sleeping forest. Each step was cautious and deliberate but my feet were cold and no longer part of my body. Silently I damned the seemingly defective hand warmers that were tucked into my gloves and boots. Through several layers of clothing a stocking cap and scarf the breeze created by the pace of my walking was beginning to make my cheeks and chest burn and my nose run.

After several minutes of laborious trudging I made my way to the base of the tree where I would spend the next few hours. Some twenty feet above me, lashed to the tree, was a rickety contraption made of wood and metal. I took off my gloves so that I could tie my rifle to the rope that was hanging from the stand. My cold fingers twitched as I fumbled with the rope. The ladder to the stand was made of staggered pegs on either side of the tree. I hate those kinds of ladders. So much room for error. The cold steel burned my palms and fingertips. I gripped each peg tightly; paranoid that my numbed fingers would lose their grip and I’d fall to the ground, no one to hear my cries as I lay there with broken bones. Once I made it to the stand I sat for a moment to catch my breath and say a quick thank you prayer to God for not letting me fall. I cupped my hands and blew into them in the hopes that feeling would return. Hope failed me.

A few moments later I began pulling my rifle up. The thin rope dug into my hands but I couldn’t feel it. I soon had my rifle in my hands and was ready for my last difficult task before I could begin the hunt. The rifle cartridges felt like icicles in my hands. Each one stung my fingertips as I loaded them into the magazine; scrape, click, ouch. Finally I was prepared. My gloves were so warm when I was able to put them back on. The comfort was short lived.

Cold and miserable I sat there in silence. Within minutes the squirrels and birds realized that I was no threat to them and began their day. The sun had begun to crest the treetops and there was light. As the animals foraged I watched. Before the fog lifts there is a completely different light than that of midday. Colors are crisp and it is like seeing life for the first time, every time. The sounds of nature are so calming and therapeutic when they are all that can be heard. Tweets, grunts and the sound of cracking twigs travel great distances and are clearer than can be understood without firsthand experience. There is nothing more beautiful than nature at sunrise. I had forgotten about how cold and miserable I was. My mind was clear and I was thankful for the beauty that God had created and shared with me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

MoreThan 140 Characters

Twitter is a great social media tool and Follow Friday is great for letting people know who you suggest that others follow. The trouble is, there is no way to let folks know why they should follow someone in 140 characters unless you tweet once for each person on your FF list. With that in mind, I decided to make a short list of people for FF and a brief description of why.

I'll start with the first person I followed and then move forward in time:

@ClaytonMorris - Clayton is co-anchor of the Fox and Friends weekend show. He's very into social media and communication. Clayton rarely has a tweet that I doesn't interest me. His tweets usually center around tech. He does a podcast I suggest you follow as well @todayinsocial. It centers on what's going on in social media.

@RickReichmuth - Rick is the chief meteorologist at Fox News and he does the weather for Fox and Friends weekend. He's a good guy and he interacts with his followers well. His tweets usually center around the weather, photos, family and food.

@TapOutRightNow & @MichaelJStanek - Michael is an actor who lives in Chicago. He's genuine and he will let you know what he thinks about stuff. He usually tweets about politics and the Fox News commentary show Red Eye.

@BarbiSetlock - Barbi is a sweet chick. She tweets about all sorts of things but usually focuses on her love of people. She's a lot of fun and cares about what other people think as she's truly open minded.

@DaveSeow - I can't say enough good about this guy and why you should follow him but I'll try. He's a children's book author living in Singapore. He tweets about all kinds of stuff including customs, books and friends.

@ColleenMcD - Colleen lives in California. She knows how to do a lot of stuff including being an interactive tweeter. She will let you know what's up in Southern CA and she often tweets about tasty recipes.

@WavesOfTech @DaveAndFirefly @MikeeUpdate - these guys do a podcast called Waves of Tech. It's a great cast that keeps folks like me up to date on how technology is changing our world. They tweet about everything from what's going on to tech and funny things that they find on the web. Also, I write for their website so, follow them and their podcast please.

@JWSems - Jason is the real thing. He works with Lean management concepts. His tweets are generally focused on his friends and travels but also include food. Let's face it, who doesn't like food.

@LoveAuto - will keep you up to date on what's going on in the world of cars and car related news. Worth a follow.

@SJSTurkie - His tweets are generally about politics and communication. Very interesting topics and he'll discuss with you, in 140 characters or less.

@MMGood1208 - This person will keep you entertained. She tweets about absolutely everything and she's good at it. She will start and keep a conversation going. She loves life and people.

@JPsCranky - Good conversation about just about anything. She loves people, family and cookies. FUN tweeter.

@ValeriaL - Val is a friend of mine in the real world. She's a great person and when she has time she tweets interesting things that relate to social media. She also tweets for her job as @TheBeachFLA.

@MeigaLN - Meiga is another friend from the real world. She doesn't tweet all that much but when she does it is worth reading.

@NickBelardes - is an author. His tweets are random and interesting. He tweets about things he sees...just observations like you would expect an author to tweet. He also tweets about his travels and writings.

@GlitzyOrbit - you won't find a cooler grandmother to tweet with. Her tweets are all over the board from Pearl Jam to her kids and family. Fantastic lady for sure.

@ByteMonkey - lives here in Pensacola. His tweets are often hilarious observations of what's going on in his world. Can anybody say VOLTRON?

I'm sure that I'll add to this list but I doubt that anyone will be deleted. Follow these folks. They've all got something good to say.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Danny Fugate Died

I received word on Thursday that Dad, although his health had been improving, was having trouble breathing again. Over the last three months between visiting a sick father and having a new baby I’d used a good bit of my vacation time and couldn’t leave town until the weekend. It was cold that Saturday morning as we loaded up the car. There was nothing exceptional about that particular morning. The previous week of work had been just as nondescript as any other and I trudged through it knowing that, come the weekend, I would be with my family again. My wife, our newborn son and I were about to make the 200 plus mile drive to Meridian, Mississippi so that we could visit my father in the hospital. It was to be the first time that he would see his new grandson, Jonas. This time, there would be two proud fathers in the room.

About half way between Pensacola and Meridian I called my sister, Debbie, to see how Dad was doing. She told me that she wasn’t in the room but everything was okay. She asked how long we’d be and where we were. The conversation was brief and, in retrospect, a bit awkward. We arrived at the hospital at about 11:45am. Two hundred miles north of where our trip had originated and three and a half hours later it was just as cold as when we’d set out that morning.

My wife and I made our way across the parking lot and into the hospital as quickly as we could; both to get out of the cold and so that we could see Dad and he could meet his new grandson. As the sliding doors opened I noticed my sister, brother in law, nieces and nephews and the rest of my family sitting in the lobby of the hospital. The look in Debbie’s eyes told me everything. I froze, inside and out. Terror ripped through my body and I felt my heart and everything else inside me fall to the floor with a thud. The first word out of my mouth was “No”. My sister hugged me and we both began to cry. Then, as if a levee had broken, the rest of my family began to cry. They had tried to remain strong as my wife and I arrived but now that was impossible.

The four of us, my wife, my sister, my son and I boarded the elevator and headed to the fourth floor where my father’s room was. My legs couldn’t carry me fast enough to his room. I felt like thoroughbred running the downs after a flood.
I opened the door to his room and found him lying in the bed. The words to describe how he looked as he lay there come easily but I cannot force my fingers to type them.

Everyone left me alone with him so that I could absorb the situation. As I sat at this bedside I gripped his already cool hand and kissed it. I laid my head on his chest, just as I’d done a hundred times as a child looking for comfort. Tears began to well again in my eyes, just as they are doing right now. I screamed at God and asked him why he’d taken this great man from me. Voice trembling, I begged my father to wake up. “Wake up, wake up, wake up! Please come back. I need you. Jonas needs you.” Somewhere inside me I thought that this would somehow be possible. For just a second I thought that he would grip my hand back and tell me everything was okay.

A few minutes later my mother came back into the room. This was the first time that I’d seen her since before my father had passed. She stepped across the threshold and fell to the floor. I sprinted to her but couldn’t get there in time to keep her from collapsing. It took all the strength that I had not to fall onto the floor right beside her and give up. I was afraid that God would, in one day, take my mother and father. The nurses rushed in and soon my mother was whisked off to the emergency room for testing and observation.

As calmly as I could, I made my way down the hall to an empty room, walked into the bathroom and latched the door behind me. I stood, staring into the mirror, looking at myself and my father in me. Then, I eased backward to the wall and slid to the floor. I had never cried that openly or deeply before. For several minutes I sat until my wife came in and knocked. I gathered myself as best as I could and opened the door. I regret that she saw me that way; sitting in the floor, weak and torn with tears pouring from my eyes. She was worried and I’d only been concerned with my own grief.

We made our way back downstairs to the emergency area to find my mother. She was hysterical and speaking gibberish. In and amongst the nonsense were words that we all could understand. “I die, I die” she repeated over and over. Every time I heard those words I did die. My heart and insides were still on the floor in the lobby. There wasn’t much else to leave there in the room where my mother was.
The next few days were a blur. Mom was in the hospital until the night before Dad’s funeral. Before the service she saw him, in the casket, and collapsed again. I rushed outside to call 911. The paramedic who arrived was a family friend and stayed with her throughout the remainder of the day. We were all grateful for his strength and presence.

On December 13th, 2008 at 9:46am my father, Dan Fugate, died. It was on that same day that his son, Danny, died as well. I can still feel him with me and see him in my son. Sometimes I catch Jonas looking and smiling at a blank space on the wall or just over my shoulder. I know that if I could see through his eyes there wouldn’t be a blank space. There would be a smiling man looking at his son and grandson. He is happy because he can watch Jonas everyday and he can still teach his son everything he needs to know to be a good father. I know this is true because everything that I need to know to be a good father I learned from him while he was being a good father to me.

When, in life and work, someone has grief over the loss of someone special I know that I can speak truthfully when I tell them “I know how you feel.”

For the funeral, I wrote and delivered the eulogy. It was printed on the memorial programs:

A Million Days

In October nineteen forty three
And the wake of the Second World War
A family in Kentucky
Had a sixth boy at their door

Over the next several years
Danny turned into Dan
He’s who would dry my tears
And teach me to be a man

I learned to golf and hunt and fish
All while at your side
If God would grant me just one wish
You’d still be my guide

I know that you’ll still be around
To watch your grandson grow
And I’ll always turn to you
For everything you know

He’ll learn to golf and hunt and fish
All while at my side
But you’ll be the one to comfort him and
Make everything alright

Great men are both born and raised
I know this much is true
And if I live a million days
I’ll know none greater than you

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Web Based Communication is Changing the Way We Do Business

Millions of years ago dinosaurs ruled the earth. Their giant remains can be found on most all of the continents. That was a different time in history; but, like everything that has come and gone, it is history. Suddenly and unexpectedly a great global disaster brought the reign of the dinosaur to an end. Communication as our parents knew it or perhaps as we knew it when we were children is on the verge of a similar, however not quite as drastic or immediate, moment in time. The days of writing letters with pen and paper are coming to an end. Newspapers and to a certain degree magazines are facing a similar fate. They are being replaced by electronic media and email. Communication is no different from any other aspect of civilization. It lives and evolves; ever changing with the demands of society. Velum and papyrus replaced stone tablets. Hand written books met their fate with the invention of the printing press and now, letters and other hard copy media are fading out in favor of email and websites. This has had a drastic effect on the way that people communicate and learn. Written communication has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Social Media


Our communication evolution has spawned new tools such as social media. The term social media refers to a group of tools used and generated primarily by the end user. They offer a way for people to communicate and share information instantly and easily. By definition, one of the primary requirements for a tool to be considered social media is its ease of use. This new form of media is changing culture and, with it creativity and collaboration. There are three things that must occur in order for culture changing creativity to occur. There must be development of a domain which contains a set of understood rules, people bringing novelty to that domain and a group of experts who recognize the merit and validity of the innovation. Social media has all three of these characteristics.

Social media, however, is a relatively new concept. The internet is a living thing and it is in a constant state of change. Today, in 2009, what we think of as the internet is different than what one would have known ten years ago. This first generation of the web is now referred to as Web 1.0. It was made up of a series of static, content based web sites. There was no two way traffic and there was no sharing of information among users. It served merely as a source for businesses and developers to display content. It would be easy to think of it today as a number of billboards, advertisements and pamphlets connected electronically and displayed remotely. It was a true wonder in its day but as we have become desensitized to the technology on which it is based we have come to expect more from our online experiences.

The Internet


What we know as the internet now is commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Unlike its predecessor, Web 2.0 is populated by and large with user created content and the free sharing of information amongst its users. The internet now is a place where the smallest of voice can speak as loudly as one that belongs to the largest of body. This has caused a drastic change in the way that we communicate with one another as well as how businesses communicate with their consumers. It is through the current version of the internet that many people have found their voice. The younger people of the world are using the internet to register to vote, find philanthropic opportunities, communicate with their friends, and express their views on current topics.

Social Media Society


Younger people are bringing the new forms of communication to the forefront globally. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook along with blogging are the new ways to communicate. There is a new generation of consumers of media known as Generation Y. This group consists of people born between 1985 and 2003. They have had access to communication with people worldwide via the internet throughout most of their lives and for this reason they are referred to as digital natives. With numbers rivaling the baby boomers; they will certainly shape the new world with new thoughts and innovations. There are approximately 73.5 million Generation Yers as compared to the 76.7 million baby boomers. To help put this into perspective there are approximately 49.1 million members of Generation X.

Businesses and Employees


This is not to say that members of Generation X and the baby boomers are unwilling to embrace the new way of communicating. They are just a bit behind the younger generation; which is understandable. The majority of Fortune 500 companies are led by members of the baby boomer generation and operations are generally handled by younger people who are members of Generation X. The size of a company determines its ranking in the Fortune 500. Of the corporations listed with this group only 12.8% have a presence in what is known as the blogosphere, which is another name for the grouping of social media venues. Conversely, the Inc. 500 lists companies based on their growth. An astonishing difference can be observed here. Of these companies 77% are using social media. Among companies who employ the use of social media the use of these tools is second only to email marketing when it comes to web based communications and internet presence. As a testament to the power of social media, about 90% of all organizations, both big and small, have or plan to have a web presence of some sort.

Work Environment


This boost in web friendly companies and work environments is a welcomed change for employees. Fading away are the days of ‘nose to the grind’ work ethic and they are being replaced with a new concern for employee satisfaction and a reduction in attrition, stress and workload. There is a difference between the ways that different generations view this change. A 2008 study revealed that 39% of 18 to 24 year old employees would consider leaving their employer if they weren’t allowed access to social networking sites like Facebook while at work. An additional 21% stated that they would be annoyed by the restriction but it likely would not lead to a search for alternate employment. There is a sharp difference in these numbers when examining the older generation, employees aged 25 to 65. In this group only 16% would consider leaving and an additional 13% would be bothered by their not having access to social media content.

According to Soren Gornhamer, author of Wisdom 2.03 and columnist for technology website Mashable, companies who don’t allow their employees to have a voice in the online community are doing a disservice to their brand. When a business allows its employees to represent the company online or in the real world they are adding value to the company. It is important for businesses to realize that by stifling their employees’ use of the internet and social media they are causing resentment and eventually mutiny among their workers. It doesn’t matter if a company does or doesn’t want to have a web presence in social networking and media. The fact of the matter is that it already does. The employees are using Facebook and Twitter to talk about their jobs and how they feel about the company.

Scope of Social Media


It’s no secret that people are using the internet to communicate. That is perfectly clear to any and everyone who is breathing. Social media outlets are growing exponentially. In a recent Nielson study it was found that Twitter is the fastest growing among them with a monthly growth of 1382% and the total number of Tweets, the term given to the microblogging messages sent via Twitter, approaching 2.5 billion. The same study revealed that social networking site Facebook has more than 200 million active users. That number does not include members who have inactive or stagnant accounts. When one takes a step back it is difficult to imagine the rate of growth demonstrated by social media. A separate study conducted by Telindus, an information and technology company based in Belgium, found by surveying 1000 Canadians found that nearly every single 18 to 34 year old in that country is a registered Facebook user. Another study conducted by the Traveler’s group found that 33% of all adults are actively using Facebook.

Information Gathering


When one considers these numbers it is clear and undeniable that communication, not only for businesses but also for individuals is changing. We no longer rely solely on print media or even television news for our information. Much the way it was before print and television media, word of mouth is the new king of information. The difference is that this time, in its rebirth, word of mouth is more accurately word of hand. People are beginning to turn to their Twitter followers and Facebook friends for the facts more so than other means of acquiring the information. According to an online usage tracker, MarketingVox, and the Nielson company more than 25% of Google searches for information relating to the top 20 worldwide brands is made up of user generated content including blogs, forums, and Tweets. There is still content created by the producers of goods and services but consumers look to blogs and forums to find out about product reliability and common problems.

Customer Service


A few years ago Dell, a computer manufacturing company, was having technical and customer service related problems. Initially they tried to address these issues by means of telephone customer service lines but long waits and difficult procedures to correct issues caused concern and irritation among consumers. They soon realized that people were talking about their products on forums and blogs. This is when they realized that the best way to reach the customers and deal with their customer service issues was to join in the conversation that was already taking place. They were able, through social media outlets, to speak directly with their consumers. It was only after doing this that they were able to truly comprehend the problems that were troubling their customers and, as a result, impacting their brand image.

Advertising


Social media is impacting the world of advertising as well. It is no longer necessary for a company to spend thousands or even millions of dollars on advertising in order to reach a large audience. This is a definite win for organizations in the nonprofit sector of business. One example of a nonprofit agency that has seized the opportunity to use social media to further their cause is the Americans with disabilities. Their website, disability.gov, formerly known as disabilityinfo.gov, has been redesigned to now include social media tools such as a blog and twitter feed. This has helped to encourage feedback and interaction among visitors. They are only one among myriad organizations who are taking advantage the reach and affordability of social media marketing. According to a recent article in The New York Times “…for many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing”.

Education


Not to be forgotten, social media and social media marketing are having an impact on schools and universities. Many universities are actively informing their students and interested parties of events via Twitter, blogs and Facebook fan pages. The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research conducted a study of colleges and found that in 2007 29% of admissions offices had a social network presence and 33% maintained blogs. In 2008 there was a drastic increase in these numbers with 61% utilizing social networking and 41% using blogs to inform students and interested parties. The University of California at Berkeley offers a course on virtual communities and social media and in 2008 published an article which stated “The feeling of a citizen who only passively consumes what’s sold to them by broadcast media is very different from someone who has posted a blog item, or who has posted a YouTube video or who has commented on a newspaper article online...In the 21st century civic education is participatory media-literacy education”. Being able to comment on social issues and reply to newspaper articles gives the reader a sense of ownership and contribution to the betterment of the news organization and to society as a whole.

Conclusion


Drawing from this we can determine that communication is definitely changing and the ways in which we communicate will likely continue to change. Word of mouth has always been key in creating a brand and then in creating value in that brand but business went through an era where advertising was more important than product quality. We also know that the advent of social media and the free sharing of information with millions of people across a broad platform has made strides toward making word of mouth advertising the keystone of product brand and value once again. It is often said that history repeats itself. This is true in entertainment, fashion and, as we have learned, communication. Where will communication go next? Will the next step move forward toward some new form of conversation or will it continue even farther into history and a complete abandonment of written word? Will we come to a point in time where there is no hard copy documentation? Perhaps.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mired in Meterological Media

The rain fell from every direction as residents of the Gulf Coast made their final preparations for the impending storm. People tied down outdoor furniture and installed hurricane shutters over their windows expecting the worst as was reported by many members of the meteorological community. November is technically still within the hurricane season but storms are uncommon and unexpected during this time. Overly cautious families gathered together in their homes and public shelters waiting for the late season doom that was surely lurking out in the gulf.

It is amazing to me how so much of the media over sensationalizes things to improve ratings under the guise of public awareness and safety. Al Roker, The Today Show's Sam Champion and The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore among others all came to Pensacola to report on the potentially catastrophic tropical storm.

Winds were moderate, at best. To give the reader an idea; my wife trimmed some palm fronds from a couple of bushes in our front yard a few days ago and piled them in our fire pit in the back yard. After Ida made her way through, they were still stacked just as neatly as they had been before. Sure, there is flooding in some areas as a result of the rain and tide surge but it is minimal.

The media has a penchant for creating a buzz over the mildest of incident while often overlooking the more serious events. Producers of some news and weather shows send their reporters to wherever news may happen in hopes of seeing the train wreck as it is occurring. I don't hold the reporters at fault. They are merely doing what is requested of them by those in charge. The morning after the "storm" family members from across the country were calling their loved ones on the Gulf Coast to see how they weathered the weather only to find that there was nothing significant to report.

Where are Roker, Cantore and Champion when families are displaced because of tornadoes or when rivers rise above flood level? A few months ago in Milton, a town near Pensacola, several city blocks of historic buildings and offices were destroyed by fire. Where was the media then? Please don't take my point incorrectly here. I'm not suggesting that they should have been here. Not at all. What I am suggesting is that it is not necessary for them to be here now, reporting on a tropical storm that would be more accurately described as a quiet evening of wind and rain.

Is it better spend the time and resources to be first on the scene where a storm may happen or to be the first to arrive after a disaster to report on what has actually happened; unembarrassed and timely? Perhaps we should reconsider our sources for weather info? Find an organization that is more concerned with providing information than having a camera on the scene. Think to yourselves; who are the members of the meteorological community who reported the situation without causing a scare? I can think of a few. Maybe we should listen to them next time.

The rain fell as a mist Tuesday morning as residents of the Gulf Coast removed their hurricane shutters; chagrined that they had heeded the warnings of an overzealous media.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Value of Self Actualization

A little boy was sitting in church one Sunday and he began to act up and get a little loud. Without a word his father pinched him on the arm. This was the only reminder of the lesson that he’d been taught about how to act in public that was necessary for the boy to be quiet and sit still. He did, however, need a reminder every couple of weeks or so. That little boy was me.

We often try to think of the things that we are taught and what values we hold true and sacred. Sometimes it is difficult to nail down exactly how we feel about a certain subject and it is even harder to understand why.

Over the last few months I have been put into a position to look more deeply into myself. This has given me a better understanding of who I am but in doing so I’ve been able to have a better understanding of other people as well. I’ve learned that it’s important to learn as much as I can about myself. At first glance everyone would probably say that they know exactly who they are and why they are that person. This self opinion likely isn’t exactly true. It takes some hard thought and courage to really look behind all of the curtains and cobwebs to find who you really are.

One of the values that I hold most closely to my own identity lies in the belief that, as cliché as it sounds, you get what you give. I have tried to live my life to be a good person. I look to as many sides of an issue as possible and form my opinion based on, not only how I initially feel about a subject, but also how the other person feels. Admittedly another cliché holds true as well; you hurt the ones you love the most. Far too often I take for granted the people that I love and don’t show them the way that I truly feel, rather opting for the assumption that it is understood – even when my actions might say something contrary to my heart and thoughts.

There is nothing more important to me than my friends and family. Most people are blessed with a small handful of close friends but I can truly say that there are at least eight people who are not related to me and another dozen who are that would drop anything to come to my aid if I were in a dire situation. I value these people above even myself. They are the inspiration for my day to day actions and they are the reason that I strive to be a better person. It is in them that I can see little bits of myself and also bits of who I’d like to be. If I were to truly let any one of them down I would lose an important part of who I am. My greatest fear is that I will be a disappointment to any of these people. It is for that reason that I try to disappoint myself first so that I can make changes to who I am before I have a chance to fail them.

Often I make the mistake of placing too much emphasis on making a good impression with the people I meet. Once an acquaintance becomes a friend sometimes I assume that they know enough about who I am and how I feel that I don’t need to spend as much time telling them how much I appreciate them. It is an unforgiveable error but somehow when it happens my loved ones do forgive me. They know that it is not with malicious intent that they sometimes seem to be forgotten. It hurts me to feel that way, like I’ve been forgotten, and I’m sure that the pain is similar for them. I believe that, perhaps, it is because I feel that they are so much a part of me that they don’t need as much care and nurturing. I mentally abuse myself but I shouldn’t let that spill over onto the ones I love. I know this.

It is important to me that I am recognized by others for my accomplishments. I spent so many years cast to the side by others for being different that now, when I receive compliments I bask in them as though they were raindrops cooling me from the heat of the summer. I let each word fall on me and am gratified, humbled and ashamed at once. I enjoy receiving positive feedback and accolades to the point that it makes me feel dirty. For every bit that I am built up by others I am busy tearing myself down on the other side.

These views have brought me to where I am today. I have found that, indeed, often times the nice guy does finish last. My hope is that I can continue to grow as a person and possibly reach a point of self actualization. The problem with the theory of self actualization, as I see it however, is that once it is reached the person will, nay, should have no idea that it has been realized. For that matter, anyone who thinks that they have come to that point is farther away from it than when their journey began.