Information Anxiety

Have you ever woken up dreading looking at your phone to meet the waves of posts and messages?

It’s something I’ve become familiar with. Information anxiety, they call it. Richard Wurman, author of the book Information Anxiety, says the condition is “produced by the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It is the black hole between data and knowledge, and what happens when information doesn’t tell us what we want or need to know.”

Information anxiety causes a loss in productivity everywhere. People cannot understand the constant influx of information that is presented to them, and are distressed by trying to reconcile numerous sources practically screaming in their ears. We know there is more information out there, and yet, we just cannot absorb it all. It is a perceived shortcoming of being human.

We cannot know everything.

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So why do we expect that of ourselves? With approximately 2.5 exabytes, or 2.5 billion gigabytes, of data in the world, we cannot hope to take it all in. People are under the impression that everyone else is in the loop, and that they themselves are the only ones who do not understand.

This pursuit is killing meaningful conversation and connection. With a world of facts, people have disregarded the importance of thoughts. Simple ideas and unfounded theories have gone by the wayside, and facts reign supreme in a society pursuing the synthetic ideal.

There are many who feel this way. I myself have struggled with even breaking into social media, let alone big data. And the benefits that these tools reap are too great to do away with them. I am no psychologist, but I will offer my tips, the tricks I found that helped me overcome my crippling fear of technology and information, and how baffling the entire charade is.

  1. Set a Technology Bedtime: It’s widely known that looking at a screen late into the night is bad for your health, but absorbing more information and trying to synthesize it in a meaningful way is even more stressful, especially when you’re tired. Pick a time to unplug.
  2. Don’t Bring it When You Go Out: Unless you’re out on business, allow yourself some breathing room.
  3. Set Meetings in Person: Talking to a screen is unsettling. If you’re conversing with someone, set up a meeting in person. You’ll make a better impression, and you can communicate in a more fluid way.

Like I said, these are just some tips that have helped me. If you have more questions regarding information anxiety, I urge you to read this article from Richard Wurman.

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The Artistic Takeover of Marco’s Pizza

It was April 21st, 2016. A beautiful Thursday afternoon. The sun was setting over a little local pizzeria, where four college students, myself included, were undertaking their first major fundraising event.

We called it the Artistic Takeover of Marco’s Pizza. Art from local students and young adults adorned the walls, depicting flowing rivers, glorious mountains, and a businessman with a sheep’s head. The proceeds were going to the South End Art and Business Association, or SEABA. After a project process filled with stress and strife, it was finally coming together.

Marco's Pizza
https://www.facebook.com/MarcosPizzaVT/

Now, Murphy’s Law is a powerful, driving force in the universe. For those unfamiliar, it is a simple concept:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

I was tingling with anticipation. A group member had sealed a musician to perform and kick off the event. A beardy man began setting up his amps and guitars. I approached him and asked how he’d like to be introduced.

“Well, the name’s John, but my project name is Callous.”

My heart sank. It didn’t take a lot of insight to know that he was obviously a heavy metal performer. At a family pizza shop. With children. And a baby.

My life flashed before my eyes as he began screaming, “I am the power,” into the microphone (note: I believe this is what he said. I am still unsure.) There is a time and a place for everything, and Callous was an incredibly talented performer. But as people began to get up and leave, and the staff started yelling into their phones to communicate with customers, I realized we had made a mistake.

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But the art was great!

Our group was wrought with turbulence. We had argued over trivial things and our communication was weak. Not a single one of us had known about the performer, and the group member who invited him hadn’t really researched his musical methodology.

Eventually, we opened up the microphone for an open mic session, which was much more appropriate for the venue. And while it came to be a success, with a raffle that included tickets to the Spirit of Ethan Allen, I learned an important lesson.

You may not always like the people you work with, but at the end of the day, you have to actually work together. Otherwise, you end up with a heavy metal artists screaming in a baby’s ear. And that’s just horrible.

 

Marketing as Art: A Reflection on Ken Millman

This week, I got to meet Ken Millman, owner and sole employee of Burlington’s Spike Advertising. Ken, who has taught marketing at the college level, returned to Champlain College for a nice meet-and-greet.

“Be different or don’t bother.”

This is Ken’s motto, and one that embraces the reality of modern advertising. With the abundance of branding we see in everyday life, it takes something truly exceptional, something truly insightful, to grab our attention. Even the widely-lampooned launch of the first iPhone had a magical spark. Whether it was the now-dated Coldplay track, the personal face that Steve Jobs brought to the presentation, or the feeling of tingling excitement as he build up the features until unveiling the product, there is a striking originality to the charade.

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This is Ken, taken from spikeadvertising.com

Ken defines the exceptionality that Spike Advertising offers by saying that “the difference between a horse and a unicorn is the spike.” But this passion, this spark, is not something that is manufactured.

Ken shared that he had once reached a point where he was tired of his work. At the time, Spike had a handful of employees, and numerous local projects in the works. Ken owned and operated the whole company, trying to balance logistical management with the creative whimsy. Still, he found himself exhausted emotionally. Where had the passion gone? What happened to the dream?

Questions like this take a lot of introspection, and come with no easy answers. After tracking his work schedule, he found out that the operations of a business were taking away all of the time for his projects. Even the ones that he had time to work on weren’t those he was interested in; they were a means to keep the business going. After all the work to establish a functioning marketing firm, he had forgotten the key component: inspiration. And with that, Spike had become a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself.

Following this revelation, Ken overhauled the business. He turned it back into a one-man-show, scaling it down so that he could be in charge of the clients he took and take point on their cases. Spike Advertising is now more successful than ever, and the work shows the passion that Ken pours into it. He takes what interests him, and makes it his own while listening to the clients. A big part of his company policy, actually, is listening. This is very much in line with Inbound marketing, and most modern schools of thought. It’s about asking what the client needs and providing the tools, not about telling the client what they need.

In many respects, it’s clear that Ken is an artist moreso than a businessperson. I put myself in the same boat. Marketing is a passion, a passion for understanding people and expressing a brand’s personality. A lack of this passion is apparent in a marketer’s work; this is why it is an industry not well suited for those who are only in it for the money.

I’ve been struggling with how to proceed myself. I enjoy earning money, yes, but only to be able to do the things that matter to me. I want to create art, both for a company, and for myself. I want to make music, images, ideas, and friendships. I was never keen on entering the rat race, and I had wondered, after seeing my classmates go off to big cities for impressive companies, if I had a place in marketing.

Talking with Ken assured me that there is a place for me. In many regards, passion for marketing itself, and not the perceived success it can bring, is the key. After all, advertising is an art.

I’ve decided to pursue these thoughts further, and will be getting to talk with Ken one-on-one later this week. I feel like he may have some guidance to offer me on my journey.

“Letters”

This weekend, I had the pleasure of assisting with an art exhibit, hosted by talented artist and spectacular girlfriend, Ciera Lazarus.

This event consisted of a series of donated relationship stories paired with photographs that reflected them. Wonderfully, the exhibit sparked discussion on difficult and tabooed relationship subjects – cheating, anxiety, suicide, abuse, and the way that our love lives intersect with other facets of life.

Ciera was concerned about the turnout, given that it was Easter weekend – however, it turned out to be a true success. Discussions were spurred, minds provoked, and, naturally, food was consumed.

I served as unofficial social media coordinator, and photos will soon follow on this site. The event will still run until 5 today, so if you’re at Champlain, swing by the Morgan Room. Following the exhibits, you will be able to view the pieces on Ciera Lazarus’ blog, which I will also be linking to shortly.

Let us know what you think, and thanks for supporting this event!

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The Thing About Florida…

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a wedding in breezy, beautiful Florida. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the warm, humid air and the mellow personalities of the locals. Being in Vermont for so long, it’s been a while since I’ve encountered either of these things, and even longer since they’ve been the norm.

The warm, happy attitude calls to mind an episode of 30 Rock entitled “Unwindulax”, a portmanteau of unwind and relax. While this is an exaggeration on the type of people one would find in Florida, it’s not entirely unfounded. A study from myregion.org (which can be found here) details the psychographics of Central Florida.

They found that retirees seek out cultural events, recreation, and nightlife the most in Florida, indicating a desire to stay active. Only 48% of people of working age “work for a feeling of real accomplishment,” while two-thirds of workers surveyed “aren’t motivated to drive their employer’s business goals.”

Along with the “erosion of the work ethic” reported by over half of top Floridian executives surveyed, it highlights a really interesting mindset. People view Florida as an escape, a warm, dreamlike paradise where the problems melt away.

This, in part, is what unsettled me so much. Granted, I was already put off by the ridiculous palm trees and the bizarrely flat landscape, but the happiness of the people was so foreign and bizarre. It wasn’t until I was at a tiki bar listening to soft rock covers on saxophone, indulging in a bit of “unwindulaxing” myself (pictured below), that I realized why it was so peculiar.

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Vermont, in my experience, is not about being happy all the time. Life comes with happiness, but it also comes with sadness, anger, and nervousness.

This is just my personal take, so take it with a grain of salt, but I believe that all emotions should be celebrated. Even when one feels horrible, those emotions are real, and are necessary. Anger has a place, sorrow has a place, and it makes for a more vibrant culture. Punk rock and Picasso’s Blue Period were born from these feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jimmy Buffet, but even after a few days in Florida, I felt emotionally smothered.

Florida is a beautiful place for those looking for an escape from negativity, and that’s wonderful, but I revel in the spectrum of emotions that life has to offer. As a parting thought, I’d love to leave you with a speech from my idol, Bob Ross.

What’s your take? Are you an unwindulaxer? What role do negative emotions play in your life?

Dr. Spontaneous or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vermont

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This week, I decided to budget time for randomness. Specifically, or, more dangerously, on Valentine’s Day. My girlfriend, Ciera, and I had vague plans for the day, but truth be told, I’m exhausted by constant structure and planning.

My week looks horrible on paper.

Monday is work from nine to five, followed by homework.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I sleep in, do more homework, then go to class at noon and work until nine.

Thursday is classes front-to-back. I don’t like to talk about that one.

Friday is one class at noon, followed by managing financials, sending resumés and calling apartments.

The weekends used to be a time of relaxation, but now, I work and work and catch up on all the homework I may have overlooked.

This is a very transitional time in life, and to alleviate fears I have about my future, I must meticulously schedule and save. Having a few days free until noon is nice, but I’m a night person, despite my best efforts to fight it.

Anyway, Valentine’s day was planned. I had the flowers, chocolates, a lovely necklace, a restaurant picked out and midday plans. At the last minute, I scrapped schedule. Crazy as it may seem, life and love are about making decisions in the moment, and I don’t want to lose sight of that. I did the gifts, cooked breakfast, and simply asked, “What do you want to do now?”

The spontaneity took us to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, vastly different from the upscale one I had selected. I had mac and cheese for dinner for the first time in years. I had a lavender cocktail that tasted like potpourri. I felt connected with Ciera. It was one of the best days I had ever had, and it was exactly nothing like I had pictured it.

Sometimes, planning is beneficial. Getting set up for the future, travel plans, and meeting times – all great examples. But life isn’t a plan. I’m not into the nine to five ’til sixty thing. I want to experience things I never would have if I hadn’t gone with the flow rather than damming up all of the water.

I let life take the leash and I had a great time. I felt free from responsibility, if only for a short while, and hadn’t a care in the world. The point is, control over your life limits its potential. You have to relinquish that control, let go at the right times and see where it takes you. It made me feel like I can trust the world, that I can trust life to be good to me when I don’t throttle it. How will it make you feel?

Also, it was -10° outside, and I thought I was going to die.