By December 31, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

6 personal milestones of 2012

I shared some of my digital public affairs and communications highlights of 2012 in a post I published last week (see 2012 in digital public affairs and communication: a rear-view). Today, I’d like to share six of my personal milestones of the year to which we say tonight “Thank you and farewell.”

6) INTERSECTION OF THE AGES

This one borders on the professional. Still, the experience has personal meaning so it squeaks into this list.

I never figured I’d be back at Fort Edmonton Park and especially not at the Selkirk Hotel. We’d been there as a family at the end of a nine-day epic through southern Alberta we jokingly called “extreme vacationing.”  It ended at Fort Edmonton Park and an overnight stay at the hotel. The park was great. The hotel, not so much.

This particular experience is not about the hotel, though. It’s about one of the many amazing stories in the park. I learned about Frank Oliver, the man behind the Edmonton Bulletin. He apparently launched it in the same way many of us, today, start our own blogs, run our own Facebook pages, tweet, etc. He wanted to share his point of view. In Mr. Oliver’s case, it was to launch (successfully so) a political career.

I have no political aspirations. But, it was one of those a-ha moments we have so often when our own activities map with someone else’s from 140 years ago. I told Mr. Oliver’s story to start my talk the next day, and I often think about Mr. Oliver and what he did. I also wonder what he might think about the way things are today. He became one of those people, living or dead, I’d like to have lunch with. It’s turning out to be a big table.

Read more: Modern life 1886 meets digital communication 2012

5) A KNOCKOUT CONCERT EXPERIENCE

I don’t attend as many concerts now as I used to. It used to be a big deal. Today, the costs naturally force you to be selective.

Colin Hay was in Ottawa in May. He performed at a downtown church to what turned out to be about 500 people. Andrea and I went with Bob Ledrew and his partner Cathy. We had dinner together a few blocks from the church, grabbed a great coffee and walked the final few blocks to the church in a downpour. We managed some great seats near the front of the room.

Colin walked out to the stage to the sounds of a children’s choir performing a song he wrote. It seemed a bit of a self-puffery which made us all a bit uncomfortable. Then he explained why he loved that version so much. And that led from one story to another. And some jokes about not being a church-going man.

In fact, Colin Hay changed so much for me that night. He changed the way I understand storytelling, performance and connecting with a large group of people. He didn’t project his voice. He projected his experiences. Plus, he’s a brilliant songwriter, guitar player and his voice is as strong now as it ever was.

Read more: Colin Hay: a unique concert experience

4) A PONY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

NenshiPonyTweetI spend a lot of time analyzing the role digital plays in politics and public affairs. So, I spend a lot of professional and personal time studying how key figures use social media. I don’t often interact with political players partly because I don’t need to and partly because when I have in the past, no matter who I send a message to, someone online has suggested that my political leanings skew a certain way.

It’s important to me to maintain my neutrality. I often joke that I’m an equal-opportunity critic — if I criticize an MP from one party, I make sure there’s enough criticism to go around to MPs in other parties. The same is true of praise.

I’ve decided it’s time to relax that and start getting the views of the players mixed in to my analysis (look for me giving that a go in 2013). I started with a tweet to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi during a recent trip of his to Ottawa. I picked Mayor Nenshi because he’s one of the capable digitally-connected politicians in Canada. As my iPhone’s autocorrect feature changed the word pint to pony, my outreach effort assured one thing: if Mayor Nenshi didn’t know me before, he does now.

Read more: Can I buy you a pony? #DamnYouAutocorrect

3) THREE WEEKS OF TRANSFORMATION

Andrea went away for three weeks of yoga teacher training in September. It was the first time we’d been apart for more than a week at a time since I spent 33 days in South America for work in 1998. While I wasn’t looking forward to being away from my partner and soul-mate for an extended period of time, I did appreciate that I would be forced to adjust my own work routine to make more time to spend with our daughters.

I had great plans of dinners together, chilling out in the evenings, becoming closer friends and a tighter team. It didn’t quite work out that way. And I didn’t take too well to their relaxed approach to life and household upkeep. I tried a variety of approaches to get over the rough patches. None of it worked. Psychology, reverse-psychology, angry tirades… It’s not a time of parenting I’m remember with particular pride.

Still, we survived as a trio. I learned a few things about myself and having more patience — lessons I couldn’t have learned simply by being told. Andrea thrived in her training and has since begun teaching yoga. And, we’re enjoying a great holiday season together.

2) THE SUN SETS ON PAB

PAB2012-ExactlyI was co-founder and co-organizer of an annual conference; an amazing conference if I do say so myself. It was founded in 2006 in one of those “why not” moments I’ve had over my life. It started out as Podcasters Across Borders, a conference about podcasting for podcasters, would-be podcasters and podcast listeners. Eventually it became PAB, a conference for creatives.

Some of the PAB alumn talk about high-profile speakers we had over the years, some about the boat cruises and some open mics, and others about late night hotel room chats involving brown liquor. Everyone talks about the people, and exchanges and inspiration they had. In fact, so much has been said about the conference since we turned the lights off for the last time this past June — an overwhelming amount of positive and humbling feedback.

It was a tough decision to pull the plug on PAB. It’s been such a part of my life, demanding hundreds of hours of organizing energy for each of the seven conferences; though I always got back a lot of energy from the community and creative inspiration from the speakers.

As much as PAB was because of and about the community of participants, it was also about the partnership of Bob Goyetche and me — the lead co-organizers and co-hosts of the event. I’ll miss PAB in 2013. However, after the 2012 I had, I need the change of pace.

Read more: See “Saying Goodbye”, below…

1) SAYING GOODBYE

The first six months of 2012 were particularly tough for me. Richard Pitt, my first ever workplace mentor, died on April 14. He was diagnosed with cancer just six months earlier. I wasn’t able to attend his funeral or his living wake the month earlier. On July 1 we buried our friend Orit Fruchtman, It was a particularly tough funeral for several reasons, not the least of which was watching her three young children throw folded pieces of paper with messages of love into the grave as friends and family took turns filling it with dirt.

The hardest experience I had was saying goodbye to my amazing uncle, Kenneth Ain. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on November 15 and finished his journey on April 26. As an aside, my mentors Richard and Ken had similar trajectories through their cancers — diagnosed in November 2011, dead in April 2012.

My Uncle Ken was my first ever mentor and one of my great supporters and advocates. While we drifted apart a bit over the last 10 years, we always remained important to each other; never far from mind. So, when my uncle was diagnosed, I threw myself into his support network.

Along the way, Ken and I had the kinds of conversations you can only have when two people are daring enough to face themselves. I learned a lot about myself during those six months, and continue to learn from that time. I still spend a lot of time (mentally) in his hospice room, sitting by his bed, holding his hand and watching the dance of the sun and moon through the window on the opposite side of the room.

The last time my uncle spoke to me was on Monday, April 23. He’d had a hard time clearing his throat that day. The nurse brought in expectorant and I took over helping him through his panic when the nurse had to leave. He was rail-thin at the time and my fingers connected with his body in an extraordinary way. We worked together as a team and, after a while, Ken was able to clear his throat and the two of us finally able to relax. I set my uncle back on his pillow and I returned to a chair next to the bed. My legs were rubbery from the experience when my uncle looked at me.

“Thank you.”

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.