Looking on the Brightside.

Over 13 years ago, I left a permanent job to take a 3-month contract doing digital project management and marketing at Vancity. It probably wasn’t the “responsible” thing to do, especially seeing that my wife and I had an eleven-month old at home. Yet, it was the totally responsible thing to do – responsible to a higher purpose.

I had realized some time earlier that I needed to live a life that reflected my values. My work had been a major disconnect from my values. I had spent several years working in digital marketing in Seattle, Los Angeles and Vancouver, and I was feeling more and more weary of helping to sell more shoes, motorcycles or movie tickets to truly terrible movies (and a couple of really truly amazing ones too). This wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life.

I feel incredibly grateful to Vancity for giving me a job where purpose and productivity are so easily married. I have received many opportunities within the organization – I mean where else could a digital marketing manager be promoted and shift roles and shimmy around and end up in charge of business banking and community investment? Amazing!

But all good things must come to an end.

In mid-June I will start a new adventure as CEO of Brightside Community Homes Foundation, one of the province’s largest not-for-profit affordable housing providers. Brightside is dedicated to making housing accessible for those who struggle to meet the demands of market housing in Vancouver, one of the most unaffordable cities on the planet

After many years of working in community investment, I am extremely excited to move from an important enabling role, providing financial support to local businesses and organizations, to delivering services and helping tackle the affordable housing crisis in my home city.

The people at Vancity I want to thank and recognize are just too numerous to mention. Leaving the people is always the hardest part, and the people at Vancity – as well as those I’ve met in the wider Credit Union movement over the last decade – are magnificent. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them.

I am thrilled to join the team at Brightside to help play a larger and direct role in ensuring our neighbours and community members have safe, stable and appropriate housing. I am excited about the work ahead and to help create meaningful impact in our community.

An update on my book.

Back in September, I wrote a post about a book I had been wanting to write for quite some time, but had been making no progress on. It was called Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned From Filmmaking. I focused on stories interweaving those lessons from early in my career making low-budget independent films to my lessons today as a credit union executive.

I declared back in September that I wanted to have a first draft done by the end of 2018. I put this on my blog because I wanted people to know my intentions and to hold me accountable for meeting my objective of finishing that first draft.

I want to thank a bunch of you for doing that. There are people who read that post who, when I saw them, would ask how the book was going and whether I met my deadline. For some of them it may well have felt awkward to ask me about my self-imposed deadline, but I truly appreciate them. It was their kind prodding that kept me going.

In fact, I got through not just a basic first draft but a decent second draft by New Year’s Eve. I was at a point where I could show it to others.

Posting about the book on my blog opened up an invite from a friend who works in Communications, asking if she could edit that early draft. Yesterday we met, along with my wife who is an excellent copy-editor and discussed where my book has strengths, where it really works, and where it falls short. I am very appreciative of her time and perspective and excellent feedback.

She and my wife helped me see the forest for the trees, and know where I need to go with my next draft. They helped me understand what was working and what wasn’t coming across on the page as well as what I had imagined.

So today I start my third draft, based on all their feedback and wisdom. My new goal, the new note I am putting my the digital fridge, is the end of March. By then, I will have that third draft done and will be ready to do a final shape-up to start approaching publishers.

Wish me luck, and I appreciate all your encouragement!

Putting a note on the digital fridge.

Back in October of 2012 I gave a talk at the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Nashville about the leadership lessons I draw on daily that I learned from my dozen years as an independent filmmaker.

I was really psyched about this presentation and when I came home from Nashville the ideas kept swirling around in my head. Between that October and the end of 2012 I started writing those ideas into a book I named after my talk: Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned From Filmmaking. I put down the concepts I explored in my talk, plus a bunch more. I had a couple of incredibly productive writing months.

For some reason, as 2012 drew to a close I stopped adding to the book, and it sat abandoned. It’s not like I didn’t think about the book, quite the opposite I thought about it a lot, figured I’d get back to it some day, but that day was never today.

Since 2012 my career has progressed quite a bit and my leadership muscles have been stressed and tested and strengthened, and I think about those filmmaking lessons all the time. Recently, I began to feel that I need to revisit that book. Not at some vague time in the future “when I have more time,” but now, immediately.

I brought the book up on my computer a couple of weeks ago, the first time in an embarrassingly long time, and re-watched the talk (above) and found myself making time in my schedule to expand on where I started. I put energy into the book for the first time in several years. It felt very very good.

There is a concept I spoke about in my talk about putting a note on the fridge. When I used to make films there came a point where I knew I could continue to just talk about making a film, but if it was going to actually get made I needed to get serious. At that point, I would write a date on a note and stick it to the fridge. That date was the date when I would begin principal photography – when I would begin shooting my movie. And everything worked back from that date. I had to look at it every day, I would tell people the date – I couldn’t escape it. I used my embarrassment of public failure and letting down those who believed in me as a way to get shit done.

So, here I am using my blog as an electronic fridge and publicly declaring that by the end of the year, I will have a first draft of my book done. More drafts will be needed, more notes on the fridge will be required for future milestones, and a whole lot of work lies in front of me, but I need an initial deadline to get a first draft completed. I am using you, anyone who is reading to hold me accountable for completing that first draft.

Thanks, I’ll let you know how it goes…

Two types of thinking.

My son makes albums. That’s not news. Today he simultaneously released his ninth and tenth album under his musical name, Spectra.

Album cover for Oh Hi, Gemini by Uncle Eric D.

Why release two albums on the same day? One thing I love about the way my son Ivan makes albums is that he always has a spark of inspiration as to why he wants to make an album.

In this case, he realized that sometimes he has a seed of an idea and wants to get the music out quickly, in an improvisatory way. And sometimes he wants to form something with thought and planning and revisions and be more mindful of what he’s producing. Sometimes he wants to move quickly and sometimes he wants to plan.

Album cover for Giant Furry Animals by Uncle Eric D.

So he made two companion EPs simultaneously. When he had a rough idea and wanted to throw the song down and move on, he put it on an album called Oh Hi, Gemini. When he wanted to work on a song, get it right, write and re-write lyrics ahead of time, he put it on album called Giant Furry Animals.

It was super fun to help him make these albums. I learned a lot in the process about creating containers for different kinds of work. There’s fast and dirty and done-is-better-than-perfect work. And there’s planned, know-it-has-to-be-right, pre-meditated work. Both are good and important, and it’s helpful to be clear on what method we want to use at any given time and why.

So enjoy these two albums. You can pay any price you want to for them, including nothing at all. They were super fun for him to make.

What I’ve learned from home-swapping.

For the last few years, when my family takes vacations we have been swapping homes with people in the cities we visit. We did our first home swap a few years ago in San Francisco, last year we swapped with a couple in Paris, and this summer we’re swapping with families in Hamburg and Bergen, Norway.

It’s an amazing way to travel. Free accommodations mean that we can stay in expensive cities for longer. Being in a home means more space for us to enjoy than a hotel room affords, and we enjoy neighborhoods in cities we would not otherwise spend time in. We feel more like locals when we’re far from home.

Home-swapping makes me think of my early enthusiasm for the Sharing Economy. I still love the idea of sharing the idle capacity of things you own with other people, and owning things collectively through a co-op-like structure. This form of sharing creates reciprocal relationships and community, and reduces the need for so much stuff to be produced and consumed.

In the early days of the Sharing Economy, I was a major proponent of what this could mean for communities, for greater equity and environmental sustainability. I was surprised by how quickly the sharing economy gave way to value-extracting businesses like Uber and AirBnB.

I spend a lot of my working hours trying to ensure that we have a more equitable and sustainable local economy. I think about the velocity of money within a local economy so money recirculates and has a multiplier effect, creating more equitable distribution. Companies like Uber do provide work, but it is contract work, lacking the benefits that allow people a higher quality of life. In addition, profits are extracted out of local economies and into maximizing shareholder of people well outside where the work takes place.

I don’t use AirBnB anymore because I see the devastating effect it has on cities like Vancouver which have a housing crunch and near zero rental vacancy rates. I see in my own neighbourhood of Strathcona in Vancouver the rental units that used to provide stable, long-term rental to individuals and families get permanently taken off the market and turned into more profitable AirBnB accommodation. This isn’t having a healthy effect on the livability and viability of our city. (Vancouver has a vacancy rate near zero and 6.2% average annual rental rate increases.) That isn’t a form of sharing I recognize as ethical or desirable.

I sit on the board of Modo Co-operative, which allows 20,000 drivers to share over 600 cars. As a co-operative, there is no private ownership, those cars are a community asset. If Modo were to dissolve, the assets would be bequeathed to another community-owned organization like a not-for-profit. I work for Vancity, where half a million member-owners pool their money for local reinvestment. It is now a $26.4 Billion pool owned by the community, not private ownership. No one profits inequitably from those community resources. That is more in line with what I originally loved about the sharing economy.

So we have discovered home-swapping as a way of truly living out the early (and unfortunately false) promise of the sharing economy. No money changes hands, trust is required and reciprocity is created. I recommend it highly if you need your faith in humanity restored.