DOVE E-Promises – Crowdsourced Community of Therapy-by-Chocolate

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This past week—post-Valentines Day weekend—a (married) coworker discreetly deposited two chocolate wrappers into my trashcan when visiting my cube.  While most reasonable people would ball up the foil before flicking it up, these two happened to be left unwrapped.  I was intrigued, seeing messages on the inside:

DOVE E-Promise 1DOVE E-Promise 2

I was curious what the source of the messages were.  Was this Maya Angelou?  E. L. James?  Shakespeare?  Of what source might other intellectual treasures behold the seeker of such wisdom?

After a quick search, I happened to stumble across what was the source data for Dove’s website, that was linked to the main interactive page for all of the Dove E-Promises messages displayed their wrappers.  What was fun about this discovery was that included in this data sheet was also a shortened name, as well as the city that the contributors had apparently submitted these messages from.  Armed with user data, I was excited to see what I could learn from this chocolate community.

Fast-Facts of DOVE E-Promises Campaign

1) 213 chocolate lovers responded to their call.

I have yet to find the original plea for responses by Dove, as there weren’t any relevant messages on either of Dove’s Facebook pages as far back as November 2014, as of mid-August their dedicated Dove Pinterest board already contained these messages, and while I didn’t find anything on their Twitter account either, I couldn’t imagine that a tweet would get that kind of response.

2) 28 states were represented.

While this state count is of unique users, one particular woman in Detroit contributed one full third of responses, a total of 78 messages!  I take it that she is a fan.

3) The top categories of messages were Inspiration, Indulgence, and Attitude.

DOVE E-Promise Contributor Themes

No surprise, chocolate lovers seek inspiration and a moment of indulgence.

There is no surprise that these chocolate lovers would reinforce their supportive community with sought-out inspiration and justified indulgence.  Still, what intrigues me the most is pairing the categories and messages to the regions from where they originated.  Do New Yorkers have different methods of chocolate therapy than their South Carolina cohorts?

What inferences can you deduce about women who love chocolate?  Play with the map, then leave a comment below with any thoughts you have.

Does America Know What We Want?

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Since summer of 2013, Google has been working on an ambitious goal, called Project Loon: to provide balloon-powered internet for everyone.  Of a couple of worthwhile benefits identified:

  • Farmers: the better weather forecast producers have access to, the more food supply available.
  • Small businesses: by putting businesses online, more opportunities would be made available
  • Ad revenue: the more people online, the more opportunity there is to charge for eyeballs on ads (ideally, for the servicing of needs through effective ads)

I stumbled across a promotional video by Project Loon, showing how they are bringing opportunity through connectivity in a rural area in Brazil:

“This is the only way they’re going to grow, not only as students, but as human beings with the ability to contribute knowledge to their community.”

It struck me: sure, perhaps this is just an idealistic teacher of a small community out in the brush somewhere… but she has vision for her students, and perhaps they have more initiative and hope than we do here in the United States. How dull and uninspired are the majority of Americans? We have so much access to amazing technologies and resulting opportunities, but what are we doing? Do we have an imagination left of what we could contribute?

At least from what I can gather, it seems like our society revolves around immersive entertainment.  I would like to trace how many of my weekly activities are either entertainment, or are me laboring to product some form of entertainment.  But ultimately, what is there at the end of the day other than seeing or learning the way someone else views the world?  Whether through our natural world of the outdoors, pigments to illustrate environments, or through our built world of music or things of the internet, these are all activities of experiencing what is already around us.

Where is the line between experiencing what is already around us and entertainment?  Passiveness.  Does the experience:

  1. Help us pass time
  2. Illuminate our minds
  3. Provide inspiration for our own creativity

May we have more of the last two than the first.

From being surrounded and saturated with tools and methods to contribute to our society, it can be really easy to deflate their value.  But for someone who has never had the experience, we can only imagine the energy around new horizons of possibility.

A Use of the Oculus Rift: Journalism

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Harvest of Change

This past September, The Des Moines Register developed a news feature on a farming family in Iowa, on how the industry is changing.  Recorded with 360-degree video, it is an innovative and excellent use of the Oculus Rift and the promise of virtual reality.

Unlike in traditional video, while the family head makes remarks VR allows a glance at the rest of the family's joyful reactions.

Unlike in traditional video, while focus is on the family head making remarks, VR allows a glance at the rest of the family’s joyful expressions.

What is beneficial about the medium is because it is immersive, the experience brings out a very personal view of the subjects, and the “news story” carries a lot of empathy. I don’t think that it feels this way simply because it is different from our regular 2D video experiences, but I suspect it is because the ability to look around demands that you must physically direct your attention. In addition to that, being able to look around for additional context can be very enriching as well.

It’s intended to be used with the Oculus Rift, but you can still view the feature on their website with a browser plugin from Unity, or download a package and view it WASD/mouse game-style on a computer.

Lol, where is Johnny off to?

Lol, where is Johnny off to?

Coke Names: For Those Who Drink Young?

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Earlier this summer, Coca Cola has implemented a recent campaign with 250 names on the labels of their 20-oz bottles. According to their website, the Coca Cola company claims “The campaign, which concludes Aug. 30, features 250 of the most popular names among teens and Millennials on 20-oz. bottles.” In using their name finding tool, my nickname “Jay” was not included in the list, which made sense since I had recently learned on www.BabyNameWizard.com that my name had apparently peaked in usage around the 1960s (though I’m not 50 years old… my legal name John is included, however). This aroused my curiosity, in wondering just how exclusive their name choice was to Millennials, or if their targeting had other intent.

Coke names johnPerhaps for intuitive reasons, the names that Coke chose didn’t include Thelma nor Louise (both peaked usage in the 1910s, would be around 100 years old), however as a Millennial myself I didn’t grow up knowing a Bobby, and I don’t know of any young girls running around with the name Cathy, both of which they did include in their list. How much inclusiveness did Coke decide to have in choosing names for their selective list? Are they only looking for hip young consumers (no bias), or do they actually include something for everyone?

After doing a bit of plugging-and-chugging on this baby name website, I extracted the peak decades for each of the 250 names that Coke included in their list. I added up the frequency of use, and here are the ages that Coke targeted:

coke names age frequency So even though Coke claims to have included popular Millennial names, it seems they have also been inclusive enough to include names of nearly everyone to some degree. Perhaps more specifically, I think that this curve is what I would expect of the ages of people who would drink Coca Cola. However I don’t think that 10% of Coke drinkers are infants, but my hypothesis is that they included some newly-popular name for parents who would want to have a historical collectable for their kids, having their love of Coca Cola forever sealed on a shelf somewhere in their basement or in dad’s man cave.

What would be even more fun to investigate, if possible, would be use of ethnicities in the names chosen, or by demographics in specific North American cities. Apparently this campaign was first launched in Australia in 2011, was in Europe last summer, and I wonder to what degree consumption by age is different in other regions of the world.

Did your name make the list? And are you older or younger than most others with your name? I have included all 250 names here linked with the page on BabyNameWizard.com that I used to extract the most commonly used decade. Check out your name’s usage through the years, and see if you may come to a different conclusion than I. Enjoy! And enjoy Coca Cola.

1. Aaron Male 1980
2. Abby Female 2005
3. Adam Male 1980
4. Alejandra Female 1990
5. Alejandro Male 2005
6. Alex Male 1990
7. Ali Female 1970
8. Alicia Female 1980
9. Alisha Female 1980
10. Allie Female 2010
11. Alyssa Female 1990
12. Amanda Female 1980
13. Amber Female 1980
14. Amir Male 2010
15. Amy Female 1970
16. Ana Female 1990
17. Andrea Female 1980
18. Andres Male 2010
19. Andrew Male 1980
20. Angel Female 1970
21. Angela Female 1970
22. Anna Female 2000
23. April Female 1970
24. Ashley Female 1980
25. Asia Female 1990
26. Austin Male 1990
27. Becca Female never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
28. Ben Male 1880
29. Beth Female 1960
30. Blake Male 1990
31. Bobby Male 1930
32. Brad Male 1970
33. Brandon Male 1990
34. Brandy Female 1970
35. Bree Female 1960
36. Brett Male 1980
37. Brian Male 1970
38. Brittany Female 1990
39. Brittney Female 1990
40. Brooke Female 1990
41. Bryan Male 1980
42. Caitlin Female 1990
43. Cameron Male 2010
44. Carlos Male 2010
45. Caroline Female 1990
46. Carrie Female 1970
47. Casey Female 1980
48. Cassandra Female 1990
49. Cathy Female 1950
50. Chad Male 1970
51. Charles Male 1930
52. Chase Male 2010
53. Chelsea Female 1990
54. Chris Male 1960
55. Cierra Female 1990
56. Claudia Female 1990
57. Cody Male 1990
58. Connor Male 2010
59. Corey Male 1980
60. Cory Male 1980
61. Courtney Female 1990
62. Cristina Female 1980
63. Crystal Female 1980
64. Cynthia Female 1950
65. Dana Female 1970
66. Daniel Male 1980
67. Danielle Female 1980
68. Darius Male 1990
69. David Male 1950
70. Deb Female 1950
71. Derek Male 1980
72. Devin Male 1990
73. Dominique Female 1990
74. Dustin Male 1980
75. Dylan Male 2010
76. Edgar Male 1990
77. Eduardo Male 2010
78. Edward Male 1880
79. Emily Female 1990
80. Emma Female 1990
81. Eric Male 1970
82. Erica Female 1980
83. Erika Female 1980
84. Erin Female 1980
85. Ethan Male 2010
86. Evan Male 2010
87. Francisco Male 1990
88. Gabe Male 1880
89. Gabriela Female 2010
90. Garrett Male 1990
91. George Male 1880
92. Greg Male 1960
93. Haley Female 1990
94. Hannah Female 1990
95. Hassan Male 2010
96. Heather Female 1970
97. Hector Male 2010
98. Holly Female 1970
99. Hunter Male 2010
100. Ian Male 2010
101. Ibrahim Male 2010
102. Jack Male 1920
103. Jackie Female 1960
104. Jacob Male 1990
105. Jake Male 2000
106. Jamal Male 1990
107. James Male 1940
108. Jamie Female 1980
109. Janelle Female 1980
110. Jared Male 1980
111. Jasmine Female 1990
112. Jason Male 1970
113. Javier Male 2010
114. Jeff Male 1960
115. Jenna Female 2000
116. Jennifer Female 1970
117. Jeremy Male 1970
118. Jess Female never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
119. Jesse Male 1980
120. Jill Female 1960
121. Joe Male 1930
122. Joel Male 1980
123. John Male 1940
124. Jon Male 1960
125. Jordan Female 1990
126. Jorge Male 2000
127. Jose Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
128. Josh Male 1980
129. JR Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
130. Juan Male 2000
131. Julia Female 2000
132. Julie Female 1960
133. Justin Male 1980
134. Kara Female 1980
135. Karen Female 1950
136. Karina Female 1990
137. Kate Female 1990
138. Kathy Female 1950
139. Katie Female 1980
140. Kayla Female 1990
141. Keisha Female 1970
142. Keith Male 1960
143. Kelly Male 1960
144. Kelsey Female 1990
145. Ken Male 1960
146. Kendra Female 1980
147. Kevin Male 1960
148. Kim Female 1960
149. Kris Male 1970
150. Kyle Male 1990
151. Latasha Female 1980
152. Latoya Female 1980
153. Laura Female 1960
154. Lauren Female 1980
155. Leah Female 2000
156. Lee Male 1930
157. Leslie Female 1960
158. Linda Female 1940
159. Linds Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
160. Lisa Female 1960
161. Liz Female 1960
162. Logan Male 2010
163. Luis Male 2010
164. Luke Male 2010
165. Maddy Female never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
166. Makayla Female 2000
167. Malcolm Male 1920
168. Manuel Male 1920
169. Marcus Male 1980
170. Maria Female 1960
171. Mariam Female 2000
172. Marissa Female 1990
173. Mark Male 1960
174. Mary Female 1920
175. Matt Male 1960
176. Maurice Male 1910
177. Mayra Female 1980
178. Meg Female 1960
179. Mel Male 1940
180. Michael Male 1960
181. Michelle Female 1970
182. Miguel Male 2000
183. Mike Male 1960
184. Miranda Female 1990
185. Mitch Male 1960
186. Monica Female 1970
187. Morgan Male 1990
188. Nadia Female 2000
189. Natalie Female 2000
190. Natasha Female 1980
191. Nate Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
192. Nick Male 1910
193. Nicole Female 1980
194. Noor Male 2000
195. Olivia Female 2010
196. Omar Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
197. Oscar Male 1890
198. Paige Female 1990
199. Pat Female 1930
200. Paul Male 1960
201. Peter Male 1950
202. Phil Male 1940
203. Rachel Female 1980
204. Ray Male 1920
205. Rebecca Female 1970
206. Ricardo Male 1990
207. Rick Male 1950
208. Rob Male 1960
209. Rosa Female 1930
210. Ryan Male 1980
211. Sam Female never a top-1000 name (you’re special)
212. Sandy Female 1960
213. Sara Female 1980
214. Sarah Female 1970
215. Scott Male 1960
216. Sean Male 1980
217. Seth Male 2000
218. Shane Male 1970
219. Shannon Female 1970
220. Shawn Male 1970
221. Shawna Female 1970
222. Shayla Female 2010
223. Shelby Female 1990
224. Spencer Male 1990
225. Stacy Female 1970
226. Stephanie Female 1980
227. Steve Male 1960
228. Sue Female 1940
229. Sydney Female 2000
230. Syed Female 1970
231. Tamika Female 1970
232. Tara Female 1990
233. Taylor Female 1990
234. Tiara Female 1990
235. Tiffany Female 1980
236. Tim Male 1960
237. Tom Male 1940
238. Tony Male 1960
239. Travis Male 1980
240. Trevor Male 1990
241. Trey Male 2000
242. Tyler Male 1990
243. Vanessa Female 1980
244. Veronica Female 1970
245. Vic Male 1960
246. Wes Male 1960
247. Whitney Female 1980
248. Will Male 1920
249. Yesenia Female 1990
250. Zach Male never a top-1000 name (you’re special)

I am in no way endorsed by the Coca Cola company. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ideation Occurs In-Person, Make It Your Mission

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Living a couple blocks away from a downtown, I have begun making strides to take advantage of the surrounding amenities of professional talks, restaurants, and other cultural events that are now all within walking distance. I had a great evening at a Meetup event, where we helped each other move some projects along, and with two other guys we brainstormed and chiseled away at an idea until we conceived not only the concept for an application but the monetization strategy as well!  This back-and-forth ideation is an experience that I’ve grown to cherish, realizing that such high-level discussions fully utilizing college-educated knowledge and sensibilities are not possible in just any arena.

The other of the two guys was an intern from the University of Waterloo, who as a first-generation Indian immigrant.  As we began discussing a team for this new app idea, this ‘director’ from Chicago revealed that he was a one-man shop.  For most of his work, he simply does the design and outsources the rest, as he justifies that it is virtually equivalent work.  The student–of course perhaps being biased, studying computer science–disagreed, responding “I think that the top talent will always be here in the United States.”  “Yeah, maybe the top .001% of talent is here, but for half the price I can get someone in Asia to do it that is still 90% as good.”  What seemed most telling to me however, was that nonetheless he admitted that the concept that we had realized in that 45 minute discussion was better than what he could come up with in four months on his own.

Weird Al Mission Statement synergy ideationPerhaps our great bard of modernity is really onto something, as sarcastic as he is in his new video on company mission statements.  As we are all social creatures, the beauty of being able to seek out others that are working in similar circumstances is that we can shed light on what they don’t know, and in some case we can work together.  Networking soon will bring seamless integration.  We’ll leverage our core competency in order to holistically administrate exceptional… synergy.  (oh just go watch the video, it’s great.)

Another Thought on In-Person Ideation: The Importance of Place

A little while ago, I finished Richard Florida’s book “Who’s Your City?” as a follow-up to his previous book on the emerging ‘creative class.’ His ideas have been bouncing around in my head, as in the past year I have had the opportunity to visit some of the best cities he has highlighted of Omaha, Des Moines, Denver, Boulder, San Francisco, and my current city of Ann Arbor, MI. And seeing a good handful of satellite cities and suburbs in-between, I have had an interesting journey talking with different people and experiencing their different lifestyles, which has been both inspiring yet startling how wide of a spread there is between the cultural engagement of different cities. Over the past year, this passage has become more and more visceral to me:

“To be sure, globalization is powerful.  Places that never had a chance to participate in the world economy are seeing some action.  But not all of them are able to participate and benefit equally. Innovation and economic resources remain highly concentrated.  As a result, the really significant locations in the world economy remain limited in number.

FIG_2.4_Star_Scientists_in_a_Spiky_World-ideation

In one analysis, plotted on the y axis is the locations of the most-sited scientists in research.

The reality is that global-ization has two sides.  The first and more obvious one is the geographic spread of routine economic functions such as simple manufacturing or service work (for example, making or answering telephone calls).  The second, less obvious side to globalization is the tendency for higher-level economic activities such as innovation, design, finance, and media to cluster in a relatively small number of locations.”

These two book on the role of place in our new economy have had a profound impact on me, and I am very grateful as it turns out to have selected a university that is in a city near one of these clusters, these “creative centers.”  Unburdened by any other concern, we were able to all experience a bit of self-actualization that night in an exercise of dreaming up what could be.

And as I continue to learn the value of these interactions, I am more and more motivated to carry out my own personal mission statement that I had devised for NYE 2013: To encourage individual and institutional adoption of technologies and processes to minimize barriers of collaboration.

Great Climate for UX in Cincinnati

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I have been ready to graduate for some time, but I must say that these last couple semesters in undergrad have been a great experience for me to begin setting my sights on what I want to shoot for in the future.  After visiting a UX job market panel at UpTech in greater Cincinnati, I have received one more inspiration towards integrating my skills together into a value-creating profession.

Why UX in the Midwest?

This panel discussed what UX is, how people usually define it, and then finally what the UX market is like in the region.  The four panelists had a wide variety of backgrounds, from startups to corporations, from designers to financiers.  Their experience supporting their claims showed that they clearly got around, from working in The Valley to Boston to Chicago, they ultimately had ended up in Cincinnati and love the environment it provides.

  1. The coasts are looking to the Midwest for reasonably priced services.  An affect of minute specialization is higher cost.  As skills become more and more niche, premiums on that experience jump to astronomical proportions, and for many companies these rates are simply unrealistic (one panelist quoted $70/hr).
  2. Midwest UX professionals are well rounded.  Once you start heading to bigger cities, specialization occurs to the nth degree, and while that may lead to greater efficiencies, it doesn’t make for a better team player.  The panelists agreed that most professionals fall to either the engineering-heavy side, or the design-heavy side of the skill spectrum, and that this dichotomy is difficult to make a great UX professional.  UX requires prudence and diplomacy between performance requirements and realistic technical constraints, and these qualities are much more likely to be found among those with wide experiences.
  3. The Midwest favors meritocracy (in a practical way).  One of the more encouraging statements made that evening was from a panelist of an agency: “We’re not looking for the graduate two years out, but five or more years out.  We want to see the mistakes they’ve made, and what they’ve learned from their experience.”  This theme found itself played out in a general demand they all shared for professionals who can take charge in bridging the design/engineering gap.  “There’s no one approaching it as a product manager.”  Only with years of experience in various industries will this blend of knowledge be able to synthesize into something new and original.

Why is Cincinnati Well-Suited For UX?Cincinnatus

On a personal note, I also had a pleasant chortle upon seeing a parallel between the required traits of UX and the symbolic character of Cincinnati.  From a history course (hooray for liberal arts education), I remembered learning about Roman virtues being exemplified through the nearly mythological tale of Cincinnatus, who performed his high duties of office without any assumptions of power or privilege beyond his minimal service.  For a little bonus history lesson, here are 7 Roman Values (mirroring the 7 hills of both Rome and Cincinnati):

  1. Auctoritas: possessing authority, and being able to lead
  2. Dignitas: having prestige and charisma
  3. Gravitas: not being flippant, but having an intentional focus
  4. Hospitium: being welcoming of new people [and new ideas]
  5. Otium: understanding the power of leisure, and pursuit of personal interests
  6. Pietas: being rooted in religiosity
  7. Virtus: having boldness and valor

With the exception for some recent irreverent marketing campaigns for felines, you don’t have to look farther than what you can see from the Carew Tower to find examples of these values: from a world-class museum, to a refreshing Eden Park, historic (and active) Catholic parishes, and a well-programmed Fountain Square, Cincinnati has all of the necessary elements to support a culture of UX.

Open-Sourcing Big Data is Rebuilding Detroit

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Last week, I attended Ann Arbor New Tech‘s monthly gathering, where five presenters shared the projects they were working on (in the form of startups for three of the groups).  As a sociology minor, I was particularly struck by one group called WhyDontWeOwnThis who partnered with the City of Detroit to crowdsource mapping out all vacant or abandoned property parcels in the city.  For each property, WDWOT has meticulously imported countless CSVs of tax records and registered owner information–all of which is already available to the public–and has created filters and navigation for venturers to the city to peruse.

At first glance, my gut reaction was of disgust that this may be just yet another iteration of ruin porn in Detroit.  But then with some time (and demoing of the site, with its various functionality) I realized that while the greatest value provided may be for flippers, with all the negative connotations it has for me, I came around to the idea that this site ultimately assists the regrowth of the city.  The best realization that this was also a synergistic solution, like I had seen in a previous prediction concerning big data: that the city had all of this data available previously but it was stored away in electronic public records, and giving companies like WDWOT an opportunity to have easier access to it has allowed this data to be transformed into something productive and useful.

From the description of the founders, it sounded like this was unfortunately much more of a manual process than ideal.  However, they have begun this same process with many other cities in the United States, and are well on their way to helping transform these cities as well.

WhyDontWeOwnThis is rebuilding Detroit and other cities

In choosing to go to a university in Metro Detroit during the Great Recession and auto bailouts, I wondered what the ending would look like for the once-great post industrial giant city that is Detroit.  But I am glad to say that piece by piece, ingenuity and innovation is still rebuilding Detroit, and is even being exported from Detroit.

Problem Solving Model: A Tool

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In my Management Skills class today, we went over problem solving. As basic as it sounds, it was amazing how easily we get off topic from solving the problem effectively, but are stuck in old habits of approaching things or are stuck using the lenses that we are most recently familiar with (i.e. Availability Bias, Self-Serving Bias, Escalation of Commitment, etc.).

When it comes down to it, solving a problem deals with changing behaviors leading to different outcomes. This model is a very robust way to plow through all the smoke screens that our own creativity can put up sometimes:

1) Identify Problem
2) Determine Source
3) Establish Criteria
4) Implement
5) Evaluate on Criteria

Being involved in several student organizations, I firmly believe that steps 3 and 5 are critical to creating any kind of lasting effect, and have been the downfall for many well-intentioned efforts put forth on my campus. With many sources of opposition to actually getting productive work accomplished, I hope this is a firm support to helping push great ideas through the crowded pipeline.

Sample of my TEDxEMU talk

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I submitted an application to speak at TEDxEMU 2013. Pending my acceptance to speak, here’s a preview of my talk “What I Learned About Fulfillment in Large Organizations”:

As an out-of-state student, the unionized, entitled, myopic mentality of a large portion of the Detroit metro area hit me in an uneasy way. I am continually learning what changed to devastate a once-booming industry, from a micro perspective in individual companies.

I attended a recent conference with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that refreshed my view of my Christian tradition, in light of how our invitation is not only to love, but to work. Amongst 20,000 other students from all over the world, as well as alumni from as far back as 1948, I felt in good company, and that there was a real legitimacy to the efforts by an institution established 2,000 years ago by a man called Jesus Christ.

What I realized is that daily, Christians pledge to the work of furthering a kingdom, and the frame of existence is in the greater mission, no matter where the individual is in the social strata. I realized a difference between this religious paradigm and a corporate wage earner is where the focus is while working. One is on the goal, the other is simply on the wage and benefits.

Personally, I’ve found an enormous amount of joy in partnering not only with God’s mission, but in my new relationship with my boss and her objectives and even with family. And if our human desire of fulfillment is to be fully utilized, this principle of submission to a higher mission–while perhaps old-fashioned–could be a refreshing, new way to approach our roles in daunting organizations.

My Modest Attempt At The Meaning of Life

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This past week, I attended a conference for my Christian student organization with over 16,000 fellow members.  With 21 pages of notes and over 30 original summary Tweets (not including retweets or conversations with others) in 4 days, “I learned a lot” is an understatement.  While there were a lot of nuanced ideas I captured, they all shaped a new paradigm for me that I believe captures the meaning of life: find your niche and help complete our world as it was intended.  God designed our world with excellence to be enjoyed, which has since been messed up by sin, and is now restored through Jesus Christ.  I won’t summarize everything I’ve learned, but pulling from three experiences in business school, academic research, and music performance, I have paralleled those experiences to what I’ve recently learned:

To survive in business, you must provide a good or service of value that a consumer is willing to pay you for.  Competition dictates that not everyone can produce the same goods and services, so differentiation is required.  What is often described within industries is that there exist unreached pockets of the market, or “niches” that still have needs unaddressed, and this creates a market opportunity.  In my “Business Changing the World Track,” the themes between seminars can be summarized as “God has given us entrepreneurs a lens to look around the world and see what is missing.  We may then go about our means of business plans and finance to bring it into being, with profit being the indicator of growth and the measure of sustainability.”  The first characteristic we know of God is that He is a creative God (Genesis 1:1), and extends that characteristic to us in His image.

In the world of academia, learning leads to research, which serves the purpose to “contribute to the existing body of knowledge.”  If we already know a good deal about how the water cycle works, someone investigates it in terms of how it is affected by pollution.  I need not go into how many topics we do not yet fully understand, such as diseases, behavior, zooming in to cellular structures and zooming out to explore economics.  Knowledge impacts decisions of use and affect, and is ultimately for better use of resources, or to better serve and interact in others in relationship.  God intended us to not only enjoy the world, but to understand it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15).

Music is richest with different layers, twists, and sounds contributing to it. While the emphasis is on lyrics and melody, percussion establish rhythmic structure, bass establishes the melodic structure, guitars and pianos dance around the melody to complement it and embellish it, and strings or synths fill the space in between.  One of the things musicians (and event organizers) can’t stand are repetitive roles, such as multiple guitarists playing the same strumming pattern or drummers unable to work with the complexities of world percussion (i.e. Latin), because every instrument has its place, and to be effective is to be different.  Christians are not conforming robots, far from it… in heaven diversity is valued, and “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Revelation 21:24).  We should all celebrate differences, and use them and share them with others.

Yes, “God loves you,” as we’ve perhaps even been beaten over the head with by Christians in our past, but I’m happy to report that I’ve discovered this aspect is only the first part.  We’re designed to collaborate with a King, who urges us to desire that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  I’m convinced this is the root of our ambitions, our dreams, and our desires to both enjoy our world along with others in it, so I’ve committed myself to seeing my corner of this kingdom restored.  And if you’d like to experience this, I’d urge you to join, because I’ve only had my first real taste and I’m excited about it more than anything in the world.