Marketing | Environment | Culture

Software Evangelist and Bus Driver: A Perfect First Job

Sometimes it’s easy to say “yes.”

When my long-time friend and mentor Lori Cook introduced me to Christine Feuerstein, the Microsoft sales rep putting together a unique project, committing to earn a commercial driver’s license, drive a converted 70-seat school bus thousands of miles, and travel as a software evangelist to more than 20 cities earned an easy, affirmative response.

My undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan was just a year young. I was running shipping and receiving at a faltering business that leased, sold, and serviced copiers and other business machines. I was ready for a first “real” job and for some adventure, something missing in my day-to-day. This assignment was one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time.

I’m glad I shot photos along the way with my 35mm point-and-shoot camera. More than 20 years later, I finally got around to scanning the photos I could find (I know there are many more than you’ll see here; I wish I could find them) and thought I’d write this up.

Drop a comment at the end with any feedback or questions about the trip – or about a great job you’ve enjoyed!

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier
Navy Pier, Chicago

Preparing To Be a Software Evangelist and Bus Driver

For four or five months, I ramped up for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by teaching elementary-school-aged children basic programming and software use in one of those learning centers you’d find in an upscale strip mall. Like today’s Kumon, but specifically computer-oriented. The year was 1996, so computing was viewed as the “plastics” of The Graduate and a parent would be happy to sign her or his child up for such things.

While I was learning patience and developing teaching skills, I was also building such skills as parallel parking a 35-foot-long school bus. I don’t remember the driving tests or licensing process, but it all worked out.

Meanwhile, a clever team was ripping seats out of a school bus, installing a 10-station computer lab that ran off servers in the back, installing an amazing sound system with a marine, multi-disc CD changer, and wrapping the exterior with custom artwork. Many people told me the look reminded them of the Partridge family bus, a reference I didn’t understand but accepted as fair. In hindsight, the Microsoft Discovery Bus looked better than theirs.

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Word Is Bond: “Whatever You Do, Just Make the Brand Stronger”

My experience with Brooks running shoes started a few years ago in a specialty shop, Runners Roost in downtown Colorado Springs (locally owned since 1977). I tested shoes from classics like Saucony and New Balance, the gorilla Nike, and newcomers On and Altra. Brooks fit and felt the best, so I left with a pair of their neutral, lightweight Ghost 7s for $120.

Years later, I’ve since run through several pairs. Years from now, I’ll almost certainly still be running in Brooks. I rarely pay full retail for products with such fast product cycles; you can always pick up a version one or two models back at a serious discount. And yet I’ve bought two Ghosts at full retail.

Here in this post, hear a customer service story about what Brooks did to make their brand stronger in the place it matters most – a customer’s heart and mind.

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Pay Attention to Yourself First for More Creative Thought

Pay attention.

In a noisy, distracting world, you often give your attention away. Sometimes it’s taken away. Either way, you’re paying.

Consistent with a financial fundamental, pay yourself first. Invest more of your attention into yourself. You’ll appreciate the benefits.

Per science (easy read, better read), spending more time in the absence of noise and distraction will:

  • Grow new brain cells that become functioning neurons
  • Increase self-reflective thought that’s deeper and more creative
  • Reduce overall stress and tension
  • Improve cognitive performance (reading attention, memory, problem solving)

But competition for your attention is high.
Especially when your awareness or will is low.

Here in this post: one new trend that further increases that competition, a fundamental concept behind creative thought, and a caution to be intentional about silence and reflection.

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Organizational Behavior: The Purist and The Pragmatist

“Both are necessary. Both are important.”

You need people who can hold the line. And you need people who can get things done.

John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, gave me specific language for a common dynamic in organizational behavior.

In words he shared on Rich Roll’s podcast, the purist and the pragmatist are at the heart of a valuable tension in businesses, organizations, and movements.

I expect you’ll recognize it.

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5 Ways Our VW Jetta Wagon Beats Our Subaru Forester

I’m not a car guy. The closest I get is a twinge of excitement upon receipt of the release of Consumer Reports‘ annual car issue (it’s pretty good).

This means I’ve not jammed this “car” post full of specs like backseat headroom, cargo space, or acceleration. Instead, it’s based on years of ownership experience – and the experience demanded this be organized and published.

We’ve not had a car payment in years. We’re driving a 2003 Volkwagen Jetta wagon and a 2008 Subaru Forester. We paid the same price for each, but there are 5 ways the former beats the latter for an average driver.

Here are quick acquisition stories – and some unanticipated woes of owning the Subaru Forester. #5 is when it gets expensive.

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Update: Education Levels of the Richest People in America

Back in January 2012, I wrote this piece about the education levels of the members of the Forbes 400 – the richest people in America.

I won’t tread back through the trope that formal and higher education is a waste of time – an idea supported by the isolation and celebration of stories of high school and college dropouts amassing huge hoards of money (again, click here for that).

I just reviewed the 2017 Forbes 400 and have updated information about the education levels of the people who made this year’s list (“Doctorate, Degree, or Dropout“).

Minimum net worth to make the list this year: $2,000,000,000.
Average net worth of the group: $6,700,000,000.

Take a look at how they compare to the US population overall and how the numbers compare to my roundup from nearly 6 years ago.

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