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My New Year’s Reflections

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A new year, another opportunity to reflect and look forward. Admittedly I would have found this kind of task cheesy, cliché and something I simply didn’t want to do only a few years ago. In that short time what I have learned, from reading authors like Seth Godin and Austin Kleon is that goal setting – the hyper-specific, actionable, measurable kind – is extremely important to getting things done and making progress in the world.

My romantic partner of one-and-a-half years (who is now also my business partner) is someone who reflects and sets goals. She is also someone who gets stuff done. When she sent me a list of twelve reflection questions – six for the past year, six for the year to come – I decided to give them their due attention.

Below are the twelve questions and my answers. I submit these below as both encouragement to you to do this yourself and also as a way to keep myself accountable. I encourage you to share your own answers, post lists on your wall for others to talk about, and even direct some questions to me. The more encouraging and accountable we are to each other, the better.

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My Trip to the Kissing Bridge

This summer my partner Andrea Wrobel and I are taking several road trips around Ontario as part of Autoshare’s #discoverON program. For our first trip we went to visit the Kissing Bridge on a suggestion from one of our followers.

We got to see Ontario’s last covered bridge, engage in some PDA, take photos of barns, have a picnic, purchase some Ontario honey and pies, and a whole lot more. It felt great to get out of the city and also to share our whole adventure on social media and Autoshare’s Tumblr.

Also, Montreal clothing company Frank & Oak sent me some new clothes and I decided to try them out on the trip. I figured the Tribeca Patterned Trousers in Navy would look good in the photos. The Quilted Crew Neck in Pavement kept me warm enough to not need a coat when things got a bit cooler. While wearing the pants I noticed how they were light and stretchy, so I could still move around and be active.

We are taking five more trips, so let me know if you have any suggestions.

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Why Rob Ford won the debate, and Toronto lost

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Last night was the first Mayoral Debate for the 2014 City of Toronto election and it was a hot mess. The whole thing came across as a yelling match between the candidates and an embarrassment to the city. It was hard to understand their platforms (if any) and easy to see that all 5 of these potential Mayors are frustrated. I blame the format of the debate above all else. (watch footage here)

City TV, hosts of the televised and live-streamed debate, conducted the whole thing in the following format: 1 minute for each candidate to answer a question, followed by 3 minutes of open-floor where everyone could talk at once, followed by a one-on-one question between two candidates. Each candidate got to ask a total of 1 question to another candidate – leaving most candidates ignored. The candidates had to speak on Transit, Finances, and Leadership before giving their closing remarks. With a format like this, candidates faced little fear of follow-up questions. 3 minutes of open-floor also means we, the audience, will hear little in actual statements and lots in pure noise in chaos. Candidates were essentially able to say whatever they wanted, on 1 of the 3 topics, in their initial one-minute of speaking time, without a lot of direct dialogue or accountability.

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Why we love supercouples

Relation in Time - 1977

Relation in Time – 1977

Recently I’ve been hearing the word “supercouple” more and more. Specifically, in reference to me and my partner Andrea Wrobel. In addition to other things, her and I run a website called One Thousand Dates. There we share the story of our relationship, one date at a time. It’s purpose is to inspire both us and others to create, connect, and explore, always with the goals of self-improvement.

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Sexist, misogynist and pro-rape language is ruining the Internet

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**Originally appeared on the Canadian Women’s Foundation blog – Mar 6, 2014. Trigger warning.**

I’m reading online comments in Broken Pencil’s Deathmatch, a tournament-style short-story competition, and I’m getting fed up with hearing responses like, “he’s gonna mount you like a blow-up doll,” and commenters calling others “sugar-tits.” When my partner, Andrea Wrobel, was the only female writer to make it into the semi-finals I noticed that many of the comments became personal attacks against her and seemed to suggest she was too young and naïve for the competition. When other stories were criticized for sexism, misogyny, or promoting racial stereotypes those commentors were also personally attacked and authors were silent about the attacks and refrained from responding to the initial criticisms.

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Remember Why You’re Doing This

Allan-Gardens-Entrance-Brian-Cauley

I’ve recently being going through a bit of a creative lull. Thinking about my artistic career and the work I’m doing – hosting and producing radio, making installation, writing poetry, taking photos – I easily get caught up in concerns that are very distracting. I’ll ask myself, “How am I going to get paid?” or “What’a a marketable idea or platform?”

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A Simple Description of Making Great Radio

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I teach a course on how to start podcasting. it is one of the most rewarding things I do. I love teaching people and inspiring them to take a risk and try something new. It’s exhilarating. I think anyone who is trying to become exceptional at an activity (radio, podcasting, a physical activity) can appreciate their teachers and coaches who have guided them along the way. One person who i think gets this at a fundamental level is Ira Glass. He is generous with his knowledge and expertise and, as a result, is always inspiring.

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trust your instincts

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i’m about to begin a new podcast series that i hope will last a long time. in order to prepare for this, and in general practice for my professional development, i look to those i admire for guidance and advice. one of my all-time favourite radio journalists is Ira Glass from This American Life. to my advantage, what he and many other greats do is share.

so, to hear from him directly on what he does and how he does it, i began reading this. some of the lessons he mentions were things i’ve developed along my still short career in broadcasting. some were completely new to me. what i realized, however, is as Ira says, “All of us who do creative work…we get into because we have good taste.” it is this taste that makes good and intelligent practices feel like instinctual ones, and bad or sloppy practices feel like something foreign.

instinct is essentially taste + lessons + experience all combining to0 quickly for you to discern each step in the logic path your brain has already taken. it’s like a homogeneous mixture of thought. for me, what has become instinctual because i’ve done it for so long, is asking tough questions. i’m so curious i often forgo the line of “appropriate vs inappropriate questions”.  this is a great skill to work at and something that can eventually become instinctual.

and that is kind of the point, before you start doing things instinctually you still have instinct to tell what lessons you want to start practising and what ones you don’t. as i read through Ira’s article i still feel familiar with the lessons that are completely new to me. for example, in a lesson about scripting he references the piece of audio below to showcase the narrator’s ability to raise the discussion to a higher issue:

[haiku url=”http://transom.org/sounds/2004/guests/200405_glass/frog.mp3″ title=”Frog Intro”]

When he says “as with many such issues,” he steps out of the facts of this particular story and toward a big general point about How Things Work.

– Ira Glass

somehow when i read this i say to myself, “of course! of course that makes sense.” and it is there my instincts are guiding me to the lessons that will help me grow.

so, my advice is to use those instincts as a guide – one to help you absorb the lessons worth absorbing and one to also help you negate the lessons that don’t have value to you. it is always better to try something out to see if it works for you and i don’t recommend letting your instincts get in the way of taking chances on things that may be wrong; but even after taking the chance on the new lesson you thought would go wrong, your instincts will help you determine if that new lesson feels right or not.

and if you don’t have instincts yet, well, as they say, “fake it ’till you make it.” copy someone who has great instincts. copy several and eventually add your own flair to the mix.

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be entertaining

something i’ve fundamentally thought about media ever since i began seriously thinking about media is that it has to be entertaining. no one is going to listen if it is not entertaining.

when writing a Masters Thesis on Audio Production at Ryerson University i focused on the various ways you can engage an audience to deliver a message, but the first rule i learned is that you have to grab the audience in the first 5 seconds and then keep it entertaining to hold them. being informative, thought-provoking, or even inspiring is extra.

I think people when they start in journalistm are understandably sort of shy about seeing their role as anything other than information gatherer. They’ve seen all those movies and tv dramas about the heroic importance of objectivity for journalists. (“I’m sorry Senator, but I only serve one master and it’s called The Truth. And I’m sorry doll, I love you, I do, but there’s only one thing in this world that’s more important to me than you, and that’s getting the story right. And if I ever changed that about myself, even for you sweetheart, than I wouldn’t be the man you fell in love with in the first place, would I?”) But telling a story is also about entertainment. All the decisions about how to structure the information for the listener basically throw you into show business and the manipulating of feelings, like it or not. It’s really one of the most fun parts of the job.

                                                                        – Ira Glass

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