Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.



Yep, I just made up a word. Thoughtcatchers. One of the reasons creating content for this blog has been so easy is that I have leveraged a variety of tools I consider thoughtcatchers. Utilities that are almost always available to me to capture and contain ideas, observations, and epiphanies before the fly away.  If you are like me, your brilliant thoughts come in batches. I have “idea bursts.”  Most of the time these happen during a run, a swim, a long walk, or an inspiring moment. I’ve learned to be ready, and you can leverage these tools as well.

Here are my favorite tools and tricks:




I could not live without Evernote. If you’re  not familiar with it, it is an app that you can run on your desktop, your smartphone, your iPad, and even on any web browser that allows you to collect notes, thoughts, voice recordings, photos, and more.  Mine is setup in folders with a default folder that catches anything not able to be categorized.  The most common use for me is from my iPhone on a run when I have to stop and type some thoughts on a blog post, a to do list, or someone I need to contact to share/explore an idea with. I also use it extensively at conferences and in meetings to take notes, create action items and more. It’s become the third most used app for me, just behind Outlook and Chrome.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation

Living in the burbs, or what Atlantans not-so-fondly refer to as OTP (outside-the-perimeter), I get the pleasure of spending a good bit of time in the car. Sometimes I may sneak out Evernote and jot down an idea when I’m stopped at the stop light (Your Honor). But occasionally, the idea is too long to try and type quickly, so I pull up Dragon. Its amazing voice recognition software just types out what I say. Very nifty way to grab thoughts, especially when you want them worded a specific way.

WordPress Publish Scheduling
Wordpress Schedule Posts I hope I’m not bursting any bubbles here, but I’m actually not disciplined enough to regularly create blog content each week.  I’ve learned about myself that I must accept that my creativity (and time availability) will come and go in bursts. I have to figure out how to leverage the bursts. I was delighted to be explained in the very beginning of my blogging endeavor that I can schedule posts to go out whenever I want. So I usually try and batch out 3-5 posts at a time and make sure I stay a week or so ahead of the clock. Of course I move things around when something pressing comes up that I can write about, but it’s a very energy efficient way to appear disciplined. :)

I leave pretty long voicemails. It’s because when I set aside time to make a phone call to someone, my mind is engaged on the topic to discuss. I don’t want to let that go by leaving a “Hey call me back” voicemail. When they call back, I will certainly be bursting on another topic, idea, or project and probably won’t have a clue what it was I wanted to share. Because of this, I like to leave as much content as I can in the voicemail, again, this is because I know my mind is in a burst, and it may not be later. This may go against all the best practices of voicemail and phone etiquette but it’s just the way I am.

Something Called Paper
Yes, I even keep a paper notebook. Yes, I even use it all the time. Boring. Enough about that nonsense.

One more point, and this isn’t a tool, it’s a tip. Once you learn to capture all your “brilliant” ideas in the moment. You’ll find that {gasp!} sometimes when you come out of the moment: {deep breath} – they aren’t quite as brilliant as they seemed at the time. Sometimes they may be the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard and you are embarrassed that you even took the time to capture that thought. That’s ok!! You won’t have a chance to leverage that moment of creativity if it slips away. It’s better to write it down and trash it than let it slip away.

Hope you learned something useful here.

What else do you do to capture your thoughts? Tips? Tricks?

Tools? I’m always willing to try new things if you have suggestions.


Living up to my Posts


EO Atlanta 2012/13 Board

EO Atlanta 2012/13 Board

One of the most awesome aspects of blogging is the requirement that now comes with living up to my posts.  Even though I won’t call them “advice,” they may occasionally come across that way… which means I better be eating the mess I’m peddling! If ever there is a post that I would consider advice, it would be the one on giving. Give, give, give! Well, I’m now in an awesome situation where I have the opportunity to live up to that post by participating on the Board of EO Atlanta.

You see, my problem with volunteer positions is that I have too many ideas. When you have too many ideas in a volunteer role, and you make the mistake of sharing those ideas, guess what happens… yep, everyone agrees with your idea and then you have a room full of people waiting in dead silence for you to say “And I would be happy to head that up myself…”

So here are some of the reasons I am admittedly excited about this opportunity:

  1. Putting more on my plate will require me to work even hard to manage my time efficiently. I will be forced to constantly prioritize, question my goals, my values, reward-to-time payoffs, and more. Not just in the EO demands, but in everything. I can’t let EO suffer from neglect or cause other areas of life to suffer from EO.
  2. I will be forced to learn better delegation. I have to admit- I suck at delegation. Things are so much easier to do myself than to explain to someone how I want them done. Yet in this role, engaging other members isn’t only helpful to more GSD (getting s*uff done), but it allows them the opportunity to be rewarded from giving as well.
  3. I don’t know what I don’t know. This will be a huge learning experience for me, and I can’t wait. I believe in lifelong learning. Just like keeping up this blog has been a learning experience, so will living up to the honor of the Board position.

I guess if I am to believe my own writings, then I am pretty much guaranteed an amazing and rewarding experience in this role.. why? Because I know I am going to be putting in a lot of time and energy… and few sayings hold as much truth as:  “You get out what you put in.” 

Have you volunteered for anything yet? What are you waiting for?


Energy from Less


One weekend we were gearing up to get the kids dressed, fed, and armed for soccer games. In our house, with 2 young boys who aren’t yet able to fully dress themselves, feed themselves, or spend 10 minutes without getting into a cage-match level fight… plus a baby — getting the entire outfit in motion is an impressive feat that usually ends up with lots of yelling, crying, and stomping. I think of it like moving an army.   It has to happen on time and in a very short period of time. Surprises happen, and oh yeah, it’s complicated by the fact none of the troops actually want to go in the direction you are trying to make them go! It’s insanity.

A few weekends ago I knew the storm was coming. It always comes. No amount of preparation can avoid it.  I had a great workout early in the morning and had some good reading time to myself, so this caused me to be uncharacterstically intentional about my emotions that day. I decided before I came downstairs that I was goign to force myself to use less is more.  And I did!

That morning, when dealing with the boys:  I didn’t repeat myself. I didn’t raise my voice. The more “the enemy” provoked me, the quieter I would get. The more they yelled, the less I would talk. The slower they moved the fewer and more deliberate my words became. Low and behold, it actually worked. Now I’m not saying we got to the soccer fields on time, or that everyone had their shorts on the right way, or that everyone was even wearing underwear, but we were all a little bit calmer and better equipped to deal with the challenges that we faced.   There was a little more smiling going on, and the energy level felt a little more positive to be in the Cook family that one glorious day.

I didn’t actually think it would work, honestly. Even more, I didn’t think I could keep the patience to follow through. But I’m glad I did. So far I haven’t been able to do it again, but it’s a goal to have more days where I use the “less is more” approach and we’ll see what happens.

I’ll spare you the lengthy extension and applications of the lessons here, but I have to share the top areas where I want to apply “less is more” to my life:

  • web site content – fewer words
  • e-mails – fewer words
  • meetings – less small talk
  • conversations – less content, more experience
  • bulleted lists at the end of a blog post
  • concluding paragraphs in blog posts

Use less. Bye.




Fun Friday: What Entrepreneurs Wear


Entrepreneur Dress ThoughtsI’ve been avoiding starting a “fun Friday” pattern for one big reason. I know I can be disciplined enough to come up with some content 3-4 times per week, but committing to coming up with funny content: no way!   So don’t expect this to be a regular thing.

{ ///end reader expectation management }

So there I was in Vancouver, BC attending my first Global event with the Entrepreneurs Organization. After a long day of airports and taxis I was finally at the hotel. When you arrive at conference hotels, go through check in, and find your room, there is always that moment where you’re looking around for a familiar face. Looking around nervously to make sure you came to the right hotel… or the right city… on the right date.

After I checked in, I went straight for the elevator, the door opened and there stood 4 guys. Every single one was dressed in jeans, black dress shoes, dress shirt (no tie), and a sport coat.   Ah-HA! I had arrived! That is the unmistakable entrepreneur’s uniform!   We all had a laugh and I was right.  It’s not surprising to share that my suitcase in two had 3 pair of jeans, 2 sport coats, and 3 dress shirts.  So yep.

So I think I’ll start keeping notes on my observations of entrepreneur dress habits. Here we go:

Observations on jean-based concoctions…

  • Nice jeans are the assumed leg coverings when something says business casual. Screw khakis as “business casual.” Those are for people who work for the man!
  • Dress shirt untucked + jeans is ok if you run a technology company.  It’s also ok if you are friends with someone running a tech company. Or if you own a Mac.
  • If you are really high-tech savvy, mandatory t-shirt with your company logo under a sport coat.
  • If you are also the head coder/engineer and the CEO, you can do an untucked T-shirt and jeans. You are really kicking ass if that’s you.   Nobody expects you to dress nicely, you’ve been up writing code and eating pizza all night then running finance and board meetings all day. You are really busy! (Just make sure you wear the thickest rimmed glasses you can find to complete the ensemble. Even if you don’t need them.)

Briefly on ties…

  • A CEO friend of mine says: “I only wear a tie if someone died or we are talking about someone else’s money.”  That seems to work for me.   It’s also why my money manager and lawyer friends have to tie up daily. Constantly dealing with OPM.
  • Ties suck.

Completely random, possibly useless observations…

  • It’s ok to wear a polo.
  • Polo under a sport coat is like superman showing off his “S” by leaving his top button unbuttoned. It tells everyone that the coat is just there to get you through this boring event, and soon after that thing will be thrown in the back seat as you drive to the golf course in your comfy polo.
  • If you want to show off how you’ve lost weight because you are a rockstar and working out: tuck in your shirt to your jeans and pull your belt tight. You are successful AND healthy!  (This serves the secondary purpose of keeping your pants up since they probably don’t fit since you’ve lost weight.)
  • Black polos are as good as suits. They mean respect but you want to be comfortable. So it’s really ok to leave a black polo untucked.
  • To demonstrate that you are living the dream (whatever dream it is), wear shorts and a polo to a breakfast meeting. It shows that you are playing golf later that day, even if you don’t own golf clubs.
  • If you run a creative company, you should look as sloppy as possible. A well-dressed creative person is just out to get my money. I want to hire the creative who looks like he hasn’t showered in 3 days.

I could go on, but this feels a lot like wasted time. More to come later as I continue to observe the strange dress habits of entrepreneurs.

Note, I’m not proclaiming that any of this is “code” or rules” … purely observational.



Peace in the Chaos


Hurricane and Peace in the ChaosOne of the most influential people in my life was my friend and youth pastor at Covington First United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. Royeese Stowe. Royeese is now an ordained minister and the Sr. Pastor of Chamblee UMC in Atlanta. I have Royeese to thank about helping me understand the idea of having Peace among the Chaos.

This concept has helped me through life and I feel it is absolutely mandatory part of having the fuel and perpetual intrinsic inspiration, that is needed to be an effective entrepreneur, dad, or person.   It’s the principal behind my number one personal core value: Self Aware and At Peace.  

Do you consider yourself at peace?

To put it another way: a friend was telling me about how his wife who is a school teacher of middle school aged children. She describes the concept by saying she can tell which kids “have a quiet mind.”

Do you have a quiet mind?

I’ll admit that I can’t describe the concept with accuracy. It’s too big to describe with words. I can only tell you places that I see it and feel it, and how it has helped me.

One way I like to think about it is in a musical context. I love when a song has a lot going on. Multiple melodies that musicians call “counter-melodies;” or when pop music overlays a traditional song with their own interpretation. You get words overlapping, tunes contradicting each other, and you can tell that this is not a song the way we expect songs to be. It’s too much!    Yet somehow it all fits together. It creates music from multiple melodies that you can’t whistle. You can’t sing it by yourself. You can hear all that is going on and maybe pick out one part of the song and hum along, but you can’t really create the feeling of the whole experience fitting together.  This to me is peace in the chaos.

I think having a healthy spirit in general is the sign of being at peace. It’s usually obvious of the people you know, who is at peace and who is perhaps struggling with who they are. It’s not confidence, but it looks similar. It’s not shyness, but it can be quiet.   It’s not holier-than-thou, but it’s humility.  If you can spot it, you will usually find yourself being impressed with the person and wanting to spend more time with them. I am always attracted to these people because they show incredible emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I want to learn from these people and be inspired by these people, and you should too.

Now go find some peace.   You won’t believe the energy that comes from being at peace.




The Feeling not the Content (a video bonus day)


At a conference recently, I attended a session called “The Power of Your Voice”  that was presented from one of the awesome instructors at Speakeasy.  If you ever have the chance to attend something by them, do not pass it up. It was phenomenal. A lot of it you have heard before, but I think that kind of content, you can’t hear often enough.   There were tricks on breathing right, using the “Pause” correctly, opening your mouth, body language (leaning in vs. out, etc), and remembering that less is more.

The biggest takeaway from me is to remember that when people talk to you, 80% of their takeaway comes from their FEELING ABOUT the conversation, not the CONTENT of the conversation.  This is one more great way to say that the experience matters more than the content.   Watch this video to see what I mean:

Are you inspired right now? Why in the world are you inspired? Because “they will not take, our indepdence day?”   Because of the muppets saying “shaaaaamme.”   No way! It was all about the experience created. From a “content” perspective, this video is a joke. But I bet you aren’t thinking about it like that right now, are you?   The words added to the experience, sure… but not more than the music did… or the camera angles… or the familiarity of some of the scenes and memories they triggered… or the inflection, fire, and passion in the voices of the actors… all of these things added up to create an experience that gave you feelings of inspiration.

Think about the user experience you are providing…

  • on your corporate web site… images? or text? where are you spending your time and efforts?
  • in your office, building, store, or church… are you spending your time planning the content of the signage, the words and ignoring the experience and the feelings being created?
  • in your home when you entertain… are you thinking about the food you are serving for dinner or the way the house smells and sounds when people first arrive?
  • in your conferences… are you putting all your eggs in a big keynote basket, but allowing the check-in process to be a logistics nightmare? how well are you communicating about the where’s and when’s to your users?   A great keynote is no good if attendees had to ask 3 people which room it’s in and what time it starts.
  • in your web apps and SaaSy platforms… is there a product personality? what feeling does it create to use the product?
  • in your employee culture… does the experience and feeling of being a employee match the written “core values,” vision, and mission? Or is there a disconnect between content and experience?

I hope you find this perspective a little bit freeing, as I do. It’s actually much easier to focus on the experience and feelings of the user… because I am a user of things. I know how I like to feel, and it’s not terribly difficult to point to the causes and triggers of those feelings.  Content can be a lot more work to create!


A Common Trait of Entrepreneurs – Maybe a new Definition


Self and WorkI got into a deep discussion with a friend recently about “What is an entrepreneur?”   He challenged me that my definition was too narrow… but really, he was just manipulating me to give a definition that he could fit into.  Darren, I kid, I kid.

That conversation however, has sparked chats with others on the same topic, and one common thread or idea has started to surface the more I think about it.  There are a lot of people I know who work in large companies, or in organizations considered far from a “startup,” but I still consider them entrepreneurs because of their ability to demonstrate entrepreneurial energy and abilities.  What is it about these people that impresses me enough to label them as entrepreneurs.  I believe it is this:

True entrepreneurs cannot separate work from self.

Perhaps this is why entrepreneurs have so much energy. When they think about their existence, they think about their business and money-making endeavors, their families, their spirits all together. It’s all connected in an personal energy ecosystem from which comes our legacy: our mark on the world.

I met someone recently who, after I got to know him, would admit that he is not an entrepreneur… it’s funny and not surprising to hear it, because his first question to me when we met was “How do you keep yourself busy Monday through Friday?”  I have never asked anyone that question!! Even though I know he was just using a witty conversation starter, I still know that “many a truth are said in jest.” The premise of the question drives me nuts! Is that how people see their lives? As keeping busy during 71% of the week? Unfathomable to me, and I suspect to most people who consider themselves entrepreneurial at their core.

I think this is the true differentiator of the people I love to be around and the people I am around because they are there. I also believe these are the people for whom I write this blog. These are the people, like me, that need to keep the self fueled.  These are the people who are most effective at so-called work (I HATE that word!!).. because they are most in tune with themselves, the world around them, their families. They know that their energy, family, physical and spiritual health are what gives them success in everything.

I hope you consider yourself an entrepreneur. If so, I hope you can embrace the idea that fueling your self will continue to fuel everything else you do.




Freedom through Acceptance… A Daring Post!


(Deep breath). I’m about to say something you won’t hear very often. I certainly don’t hear it very often, but I can say it with confidence:   I have the coolest mother-in-law on the block.

Yep, no doubt that’s not something you hear every day, huh!? It’s pretty cool to be able to say that. Now that I’ve just added a few more brownie points with her, let’s see how many I lose as I try to explain this.

You see my mother-in-law is a very, ahem, intense individual. She is the smartest person on the planet for one, and she has the ability to focus and give more energy to a task than anyone I know (although her offspring, my wife and her sisters both are moving in the right direction).  Once she sets her mind on accomplishing something or figuring something out, she is ALL IN.

The output is the most dedicated volunteer any organization has ever seen. The most energetic party host. The most engaged “Mimi” when it comes to fun for the grandkids, and a heck of a scrabble player. Oh yeah, did I mention she runs more miles every week than many “serious” 21 year old runners I know?  Oh yeah, and did I mention she is an FAA Instrument Rated Pilot with ratings for high-performance aircraft and a nice little logbook of flying airplanes around?!  She was the motivator for me to learn to fly. When Margaret and I were still dating, she suggested that I go take a lesson over Christmas holiday from school. When I asked her if she was kidding, she said “Johnson, there are two things we don’t joke about in this family: flying and spearfishing.”  She then literally drove my butt to the airport and plopped me down with Irv Nesmith for my first flying lesson. Obviously, I never looked back and can thank her for that motivation.

So I hope I’ve painted an accurate picture of her and added a few more brownie points.   Now it’s time to blow them.     (deep breath)…

You see, there are the occasions where this intensity and focus on a task can be focused in a direction or on a task, that.. well, let’s say, is a different direction than where others might go… or on a different task than others might choose to focus.  I will give myself some chance of surviving this post and leave out examples.  BUT HERE’s THE POINT (finally!)… one time I was having an “open and direct” opinion sharing session (we’ll call it that) with her about how I felt about the task she was currently focused on.   Her response is the lesson learned here. She said:

Johnson, you don’t get the good parts of me without the rest of me. So just keep that in mind when you get frustrated with me.

What a powerful statement! She was right! You don’t get exceptional awesomeness from anything without some downsides to serious intensity. You don’t get a driven, successful entreprenuer without some personality quirks. You can’t raise a kid who will push himself, his boundaries, and his abilities without dealing with him pushing his behavior boundaries, and teacher patience at school.  As I’ve learned to take this wisdom into my daily living, it helps me keep the long game, the big picture, in mind. When a personality trait or quirky relationship issue bothers me, I simply slow down and ask myself is it worth the down side to get the good side?  It almost always is.

Now, if you ever meet another blogger brave enough to write about his mother-in-law, I’d like to meet the crazy SOB. :-)


Analysis of an Inspiring Moment

Beach SunriseOne morning during our recent vacation to my favorite spot on planet earth (Dog Island, FL), I had the pleasure of taking a chair and a cup of coffee down to the beach to enjoy the 30 minutes leading up to and the 30 minutes after the sunrise with my feet in the water. What a joy! Simply indescribable!

… Or is it!?

Once the caffeine started kicking in, my entrepreneurial brain kicked in to ask a question I ask a lot: “What about this experience is so awesome? WHY is this so wonderful?” Is it the colors of the sky? Then why do I not have the same feeling when I see these colors on my Mac?  Is it the sounds of the waves… hmmm… well the kids have a white noise maker in their room to help them sleep with the same sounds, but it certainly isn’t an inspirational sound machine?    Perhaps it’s the wildlife… the birds feeding, the fish jumping, the dolphins cruising the surf…?

Or maybe it’s something bigger and more philosophical maybe it’s the idea of an ocean (or really the Gulf of Mexico) meeting the land? Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of tiny microscopic things happening in the sand around my feet and in the water as I sit an enjoy the enormity of our planet?

Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m sitting still, with no kids whining, no phone, no computer… just me and my butt sitting still. (Didn’t even have a fishing rod in my hand!)

What a fun question and… perhaps a fun challenge. If we could figure out the ingredients and mechanics of an inspirational experience like that, couldn’t we do better at everything we do by incorporating it into our lives, our marketing programs, our relationships, our speaking engagements, our products, and on and on? Wouldn’t life be better if every day had a little more “beach sunrise” in it?

Hmmmm… maybe there is something to this.

Why I Love Startups


butterflyIt’s no secret that I’m addicted to meeting with and being around entrepreneurs in the startup phase of their business. I love hearing about new ideas, both good and bad. I love evaluating the idea and finding some way that even the most goofy idea can be turned into a better idea to actually generate wealth. I just love it!  I actually have a written goal each week that I will meet with 3 entrepreneurs that have something in the startup phase. (This, admittedly, has been tough some weeks!)

So in my nature of geeky overanalysis, I recently started wondering why do I like startups so much? Aren’t massive corporations like Home Depot, Coke, UPS, Apple, PGi, Microsoft, just as interesting? Aren’t there plenty of cool ideas happening within and around these companies?  They certainly have figured out the sustainable wealth building part of corporate growth, so why am I not attracted to them?

I think it comes down to this: change.

What I’m really addicted to is change. I can’t stand routine that lasts longer than a few weeks. I regularly change around my morning schedule just because it’s new and different.  I love to rearrange the furniture in our house more often than any person should.  I love to mow my lawn because I love that one minute it’s tall, and 20 minutes later, it’s short. Visible change is even better! (Maybe I’m disclosing a little too much here… starting to sound a little OCD to myself…) But I digress…

The point is that startups exist to make change. They change routines, ideas, systems, established products and processes… startups = change!  Not only that, but, just like mowing the lawn, their progress and the contrast between “was” and “is” can be seen without difficulty.

Startups are also a good place for team members who like change. In my companies, those folks who were around the longest usually ended up wearing many hats, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes switching rolls monthly. Never a dull moment when you are learning and growing a scrappy company. I’m sure my HR friends have some neat tricks for interview questions and methods to determine a candidates tolerance for constant change.

So if you’re considering being involved in a startup, my advice (even though you didn’t ask for it) is to question your tolerance for change. It’s not for everybody.




Selfish Generosity


Receiving the Gift of MP3 Player

Joy: the Rewards of Giving

I wrestled with the title of this post because I wanted something more unique than “you get out what you put in.” I participate in  organizations and groups where people talk about “the value” they receive from XYZ just isn’t there. When you hear this, the first question to ask is, “How much are you putting in?”

This is so frustrating to me because it’s so obvious in so many areas of life, and I wish that the really smart people I know would just understand this very simple fact: give more, get more.  But only if you give without expecting to get!

Here are some areas where I wish I would see people giving more freely.  Maybe some of these areas you haven’t thought about.

Professional Relationships
You have a lot of connections. You may not think you do, but you do. Your neighbor: do you know what they do for a living? Your in-laws? The guy you were paired up with on the golf course last weekend?  We all have a network that holds tremendous value. All we have to do to unlock this value is offer it to others.  It’s painfully simple: connect the dots. Make a constant and vigilant effort to offer introductions. GIVE your network to others and it will come back to you tenfold.  For one example, if you think there is someone I would like to know, please introduce them to me today! I throw up a little in my mouth when someone says to me “I don’t really like networking.”  Dude, to network is to be human. To network is to have relationships. To network is to share relationships. It’s not selling, it’s not taking, it’s giving. Give, give, give.

Take Leadership Roles
The most valuable and beneficial organizations to me are the ones I have given the most time and energy to. I don’t give because I receive value. I receive value because I give. What’s the easiest way to give time and energy: volunteer for a leadership position. Especially if you are in a startup or growth company mode. The more you put yourself out there for others, the bigger, faster, and better the rewards will be for you, your team, and your vision.  Give, give, give. Give time, give ideas, give money, give connections.  Give and ye shall receive.

Friends are fun, but have you ever tried to make a regular effort to go out of your way to do nice things for your friends. Offer to babysit kids so friends can have a date night,  offer to sit down over a beer and work through a business challenge, offer to pay for dinner once in a while just because, offer to throw a party and make the goal a relaxing time for everyone.  Having friends is the most rewarding blessing for many of us, and it becomes even more rewarding when you embrace that a friend is an opportunity for you to give to someone in a meaningful way. Give, give, give.

Say what, JC?!  I paid a ton of money to attend that conference, it’s not my job to give anything… it’s the job of the organizers to give me a great experience.   Bzrrrzzzzzz! WRONGO!  Think about what a conference is: it’s a gathering of professionals who share something in common. It’s a gathering of people. The energy and value from the gathering is decided directly by the participants. Forget the organizers, they just got you all in the same place. I plan to write some full length posts on this, but quickly some ways to give at conferences: Sit in the front of the room at sessions to support the speakers. Ask questions in sessions.  Go to happy hours and receptions and don’t spend all your time in a huddle with your friends. Reach out to those traveling alone and make them feel welcome.  Offer yourself to the conference organizer. They always can use more volunteers. Simply participate. Show up! Give, give, give.. and ye conference value shall be returned!

This one is big to me. The more attention I give my body to keep it healthy, the more it rewards me with clear thinking, happy energy, and the ability to get out of bed every morning. I’m not just talking about being healthy to live longer, I’m talking about being healthy to LIVE ALL DAY LONG.  My best days are the ones after my hardest workouts.  The days when I skip are the days I get grumpy. Give it up for your body. Until my Human Clone Startup is funded enough to reach massive scale, it’s the only body you have.

Social Media
This was an epiphany for me courtesy of Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog at an ACLEA conference several years ago.   Kevin explained that the secret first-step to creating meaningful content for blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc, is to just listen. Conversations are happening online all around us. If we listen to them, we will start to participate. We will share our opinions. We will share what we learn with others. The more we start sharing, the more listening we will do. The more we listen, the more we have to give. The more time and attention we give to these conversations, the more value we receive. We make ourselves better by listening and giving to these conversations every day.

Family Intensity
This one is a no-brainer. To those unavoidable rough patches in marriage, those stressful days with the kids… think about the root cause of almost every single problem in family: someone hasn’t given enough something. Usually that something is attentive, engaged time.  I’m sad to admit that I can tell a slight increase in the kids’ bad behavior when I’m pulled away mentally or physically to other things.  The same goes for my wife.  The same goes for me. The answer, as hard as it is to implement, is clear: give more. Don’t demand more. Don’t complain that you don’t get enough. Give more. Just give. Give, give, give.

Now take ye this post and find something you can give today.  Even if it’s just paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru, just do it.  You never know what will come back around to you… but I do know what will come around to you: good things. That’s my 100% Johnson Cook Guarantee.



A Short Summary of “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”


I love this little book. Since is only a 20-minute read, I’ve been reading it over and over! The book is “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” by Anna Quindlen.

It’s not long enough for a summary, but I’d love to share some of my favorite quotes and nuggets.

  • Don’t ever confuse your life and your work. The second is only a part of the first. “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office.” … “If you win the rat race, you are still a rat.” … “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
  • Thousands of other people can claim to do what you do, but you are the only one who is you. You have sole custody of your experiences, your relationships, your heart, your soul.
  • Your soul is important. Pay attention to it and nurture it.
  • I love that when Anna described her “real life resume,” she kept using the phrase “I show up.” This struck me because it emphasizes how important simply showing up is to your friends, your family, your church, your real life. Just show up.
  • You never know when your life will change dramatically. When you get the phone call from a parent who now has cancer, or you yourself are diagnosed with something bad, or your spouse, or a child.  The book reminds you not to live in fear of these moments, but to appreciate that today you have a life that could slip from your hands faster than you ever thought possible.  I’ve seen it happen to my friends around me, and I am ashamed at how easily I forget.
  • “We have an embarrassment of riches”  … yet we can never make enough money or get to that next level. Slow down, and live life all out.

That’s my short list of nuggets from a short book. I encourage you to buy a hardback copy and read it regularly.