Reflecting on 2014 #thinkkit

I’ll be honest, 2014 was a mixed year in many ways. I’ll start with the good stuff.

It was a great year for the spaces I lived and worked in. My home had major renovations- our kitchen was completely transformed as well as several other areas of the house. We also added a tree fort to the back yard. My business, SmallBox, was able to purchase our building- the old Broad Ripple library- and it is a wonderful place to work.

It was also a great year for travel. Between business and family/pleasure I was all over the country in 2014. Nashville, Siesta Key, Tampa, Chicago, St Louis, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, Phoenix, Redlands (CA), Bloomington (IN), Yosemite, Tahoe, Cleveland…I’m sure I’m missing one or two. I really love traveling and going to new places. It shakes up my thinking.

All this travel made it a great year for vinyl digging. I brought back gems from most of my trips. This provided great fodder for my annual “Very Vinyl Xmas” mixes. If you want this CD set (2014 releases and vintage finds) hit me up. I’ll post the liner notes for both CDs on this blog in the near future. 

It was a great year for my family and marriage. We took a 2 week trip out west in late July that really bonded us in new ways. My marriage feels very rock solid right now and I am grateful every day for my wife and 3 girls. Each of my girls is growing in unique ways and I get so much joy from them. 

On to some of the challenging stuff. 

SmallBox had a challenging year. After a strong 2013 we came out of the gate expecting strong growth in 2014. But for most of the year it was elusive. It wasn’t until the past few months that sales really kicked in. We have gone from famine to feast and it is a real head scratcher- what did we do wrong , what are we doing right? One factor at play was that our competition- local and national- raised its game over the last year or so and we found ourselves losing projects we most likely would have won before. It was a good kick in the ass but it hurt. I won’t forget the week we lost 3 major projects in a row. That was rough. One of our core values is Persistence. We have been tested in that area this year. I’m really proud of how the SmallBox team has come together and faced this challenge. In 2015 we will face the challenge of capacity. A different but more welcome challenge. Lesson learned, and to quote my biz buddy Angel Morales- “sales before scale”.  We should have hired a business development person a year earlier than we did.

I struggled with some health issues this year. Over the summer, while traveling to multiple business events, I had a really bad flare up of a chronic digestive issue. I won’t get too specific but you can Google “diverticulitis” if you are curious. I soldered on for a couple months with pretty intense pain (especially at night) until I opted for the antibiotics that always take care of it. I just hate taking antibiotics. I want my body to gain the strength to fight things off. But in this case I should have gone to them sooner. It was a rough couple months.

Many of my close friends and business associates had a tough year. Stress was high and money was tight. I saw this over and over again. As an entrepreneur it really saddened me to see so many people struggling this year. Although there were some real highs to the year with this group I was reminded how hard it is to start and run a business. It is a very stressful experience and not for everyone. I'm really proud of all of y'all- you know who you are.

I was overcommitted this year and it showed. I really saw how I had spread myself too thin, saying yes to too many things. This stunted growth across some of the organizations I am involved with. I am now re-auditing what I spend time on and going towards what feeds me and away from what drains me. Also, I have come to see alignment between what feeds me and where I provide real value. 

Looking forward to 2015. 

I’m excited about next year. I see strong growth for SmallBox and my other endeavors. I see many of my friends that have struggled this year having a much better 2015. I am looking forward to taking off the month of July for a mini-sabbatical to reflect on my life, work, past and future. I look forward to writing more. I look forward to playing more music. I look forward to being healthy. I look forward to being with my family.

You know, 2014 was a good year on the whole but I want to look back on 2015 and think “2014 was something of a dress rehearsal for what came next.” 

I sincerely wish all of you- friend, family, acquaintance, stranger- an amazing 2015.


this post is part of the SmallBox December blogging project Think Kit. Inspired by today's prompt below. More info at Join anytime in December! Follow on Twitter and/or on .

Just Can't Wait. The calendar still says 2014, but let's push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you're counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it's the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you. 

My First (and best) Scar #thinkkit

Public Service Announcement: this is a warm-up post for SmallBox's annual Think Kit project every December where anyone who wants to blog can sign up for a daily prompt and write as many or as few posts as they want during the month. You can join now or anytime via!

Here is my first scar from when I was 5 or 6 years old:

Isn't skin weird? Anyway, here's how I got that little beauty. I was doing normal kid stuff, collecting bugs and spiders, and decided I needed a home for them to live. So I found a glass jar with a metal lid. I knew enough to know that my new pets would need some air to live so I grabbed a steak knife and proceeded to begin punching holes in the metal lid- something I had done before so I didn't think much of it. I got a few holes in...

...and then I missed, the knife went into my hand and I pulled out the knife and ran out of the kitchen screaming and crying. You can see from the depth of the cut that the knife went pretty far in. My mother was outside working in the garden and quickly stopped the bleeding and got me patched up. I was moving the lawn by the afternoon so I guess I wasn't too traumatized.

This first scar remains my favorite because it reminds me of my happy, free range childhood- something I have tried to preserve and bring to my children. 

Confessions Of A Reluctant Father

I kinda fell into fatherhood. Everything was backwards- baby, house then marriage. Our first was a surprise. We weren’t even engaged at the time. When I found out I proposed but my future wife wisely punted- let’s just focus on one thing at a time. It was the right call. When we did get married a couple years later it was the right time. It was also great fun to have our daughter as a flower girl. 

I know some people just click with parenthood right away. Birth is a transformative moment for them- everything is reset around the child. But that wasn’t my experience. I was more in shock and it took years to really embrace being a dad- which is much different than being a father. This wasn’t because I didn’t have a great role model growing up- my father was warm, loving, playful and very present- but I just wasn’t ready. Or something. I just didn't feel it.

To be honest, it wasn’t until we had all three of our girls did it start to really click for me. I began to truly fall in love in with each of them and appreciate their distinct personalities. I became fascinated by them. I became truly invested.  I imagine the feelings I have for my girls now are much like some fathers have on day one. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen that way for me.

That’s why I’m writing this. I know I’m not alone. This topic is weirdly taboo, no-one says at a dinner party “ah man, my life sucks, I don’t know what I was thinking having a kid!" There is so much pressure to paint a picture of bliss to the outside world. 

But the reality is that the first year of having a child is often really, really hard. And so can be the second or third as well. It can be truly disruptive and traumatizing. Heck, pregnancy alone can be rough on a relationship! Although I now see how much joy and fun those years had, I can’t lie and say I didn’t often feel a little trapped. My freedom replaced with dirty diapers.

Now I enjoy the parent role. I’ve discovered and embraced my nurturing side. All the stuff going on out there in the world without me doesn’t echo so loud anymore. I am well on the other side. But I remember how hard and long I struggled to really own being a dad. So if you are going through this I hope you don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t feel intense joy the first time you see your child, don’t worry, it’ll come in time if you put in the time. 

Brain Zappers, Phantom Texting & The Death of Empathy

"The future looks like a screen"- Nada Surf "The Future"

I've never had a new idea while looking at a screen. Have you? It's like screens are brain zappers. They seem to dampen not induce the creative spark. My experience has been more like:

Take a walk, get an idea, flesh it out then go to a screen- research, write, etc. 

How do we co-habitat with all of these screens? They drain our attention like water in a tub. We forget why we even went to them in the first place- a knee jerk reaction to open a browser, turn on the TV or pull our phone out of our pockets. Then we are gone, our reason for opening the screen lost and our minds feeding on whatever looks most 

We are simply not wired for screens. To our animal minds they are bright shiny objects in a cave. And let's be honest, we are still mostly ruled by our animal minds. 

I was having breakfast with some business friends recently including George Evans from Brandwidth. He told us about interviewing 3 recent college grads. When he asked them questions their thumbs began to make texting movement. Phantom texting! Their communication pathways had been rewired through their hands. Yikes! 

Some people think the next generation will, essentially, be a different species from the ones that came before. They will be wired early on to interact via screens and devices not people and faces. This is very concerning. I'm concerned we are losing our ability to feel empathy for each other.

Current and future generations may really struggle with empathy.  They will have spent most of their lives staring at screens more than faces. We already see this, kids that rarely look up from their screens.

Adults, that's the rest of us, aren't setting a very good example. We should know better since we grew up in the (mostly) analog world and know its joys- a beautiful Fall day, leaves crunching underfoot, being completely immersed in a conversation with a close friend, no technology to be found. 

Technology has become a third wheel in our lives. It has a valid and important role but increasingly it's just getting in the way. It's interrupting meetings, conversations, dinner and even sex. It is a threat to human intimacy. 

Empathy is, in many ways, what sets us apart from other animals. As we lose our ability to empathize the suffering of others will feel more and more remote. Even those in our lives our "loved ones". This is how really bad things happen. When people stop caring about other people. 

What's the solution? I'm not entirely sure. But I think we need to create limits on technology in our lives. This is hard to do, in part, because so much basic communication (texts, emails and calls) flows through our phones.

So here's an idea: what about an app or setting for phones that turns them into...phones. Just phones, nothing else. Like airplane mode, "phone-only" mode. Surely this is possible. But I've searched and can't find it.

And getting back to where we started- that "phone-only" idea actually came to me walking to and from the bathroom while writing this post. Damn brain zapping screens!