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Why We Love Twitter

Twitter.

Not long after I started my first blog in 2007, I saw other bloggers using something called Twitter. I didn’t get it at all.

I could’t figure out why people were writing to each other (or to no one in particular) in one-sentence bursts.

But then I got sucked in.

I created an account, learned how to follow people and send @replies and was hooked.

Everyone has their own favorite social network, and I’ll tell you up front, Twitter is my favorite.

What’s so great about Twitter?

I asked a few friends to share what they like about Twitter. Here are the top responses:

Laughs. Twitter is loaded with funny people and it lets you see the funny side of your friends and connections. It also lets you show your sense of humor to your followers.

Information. A lot of people hear about news on Twitter before they see it on a website or on TV. In some cases, you can know about a story before the news media even gets hold of it – or – you can be the person to break the story to the media.

Potential. Twitter isn’t an organism, it’s a tool. It can be very powerful and have incredible value or it can be totally useless. Twitter is a fantastic way to quickly gather people around a common concern and move those people to action.

All of those are wonderful things. But do you know what the #1 answer I got when I asked what the best thing about Twitter is?

Connection.

By a mile, connection with other people is the #1 thing people said they love about Twitter.

Connection is part of the DNA of Twitter.

Twitter allows you to connect with friends, family, authors, athletes, CEOs and singers. If there’s an actor you love, you can peek inside her life and career by following her on Twitter. The same is true for your favorite writers, golfers and TV chefs.

Knowing what I know now – and especially knowing the people I know now – I can’t believe I hesitated to create a Twitter account.

Laughs. Information. Potential. Connection.

What’s YOUR favorite thing about Twitter?

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The Only Thing I Know About Marriage

I can’t believe the amount of stuff for sale at Target.

Eleven different kinds of lip balm. Six flavors of M&Ms. Black iPad minis. White iPad minis.

Three kinds of fedoras. Does anyone wear those fedoras?

I wish I was the kind of guy who could grab a fedora off the rack at Target and boldly wear it all weekend with some beat up jeans and canvas shoes.

Or whatever goes with a fedora. I don’t even know.

Target is a magical place. Like I said, I can’t believe the amount of stuff they have for sale.

Fresh popcorn and People magazine. Apartment furniture and sunscreen.

It’s nuts.

I could never keep up with all of that.

I mean really – how do you keep up with all of that?

If you’re the lady in charge of The Target, how do you remind yourself to re-stock the purple earbuds and the Britax Roundabouts and the tennis balls?

It seems very complicated. Certainly more than I can handle.

I read somewhere that the simplest recipe for success in business in to ask people what they want and give it to them.

That makes a lot of sense. Target does that, just on a very big scale.

They find all the things people want and put it all under one roof.

It seems to work. Every time we go in there, $100 leaves our pockets.

That same simple recipe – ask people what they want and give it to them – is the only thing I know about marriage.

Mary Craig likes to spend time together. It fills her tank for us to be in the same space.

When we’re together, she feels like everything is right with the world. She feels loved.

So I spend time with her.

It’s pretty simple.

To a lesser degree, she also feels loved when I do things to help her. Fold clothes. Make the bed. Buy the groceries.

Her big thing is time together.

None of it is rocket surgery.

Simple. What does she want? Give it to her.

That’s the simplest recipe I know for success in marriage.

I don’t know what happens if both people don’t play along. It’s harder that way, I’d say.

But this works for me.

Today we’ve been married for 14 years. I want to be married for a lot more years.

Whatever she wants, I want to try to give it to her.

She’s worth the effort.

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One Surprising Fact About Tackling Hard Things As a Couple

I have a lucrative business idea if anyone is up for making stacks upon stacks of cash.

What’s the big idea?

Airplane baby sitter.

Simply a guy or gal who’s in charge of a kid or kids on a flight while mom and dad do their thing in a separate part of the plane.

This airplane baby sitter would have come in handy recently when we brought our son home from the other side of the world. Keeping a toddler entertained on an airplane for 30 hours is, well…I don’t know what it is. But I know I don’t ever want to do it again.

That trip – I mean the planes, trains and automobiles part of it – was very, very tough. We’d been up since 6 a.m. We caught an 11:30 p.m. redeye flight. Then a 9:15 a.m. flight. Then a 3:15 p.m. flight.

Throw in a few stinky diapers, a handful of all-out fits and lots of trips through TSA-style security and you know what kind of experience it was.

I guess I probably don’t need to tell you that if you could have plotted our stress levels on a chart, the chart would have looked like a roller coaster. Mary Craig and I were up and down all day.

It would have been so much less stressful to hand the child and a roll of $100s to the airplane baby sitter at the start of the trip and say, “See you in the States!” and then slip on some noise-cancelling headphones.

I read something interesting about couples who do exciting and challenging things together. You’d think that with all that stress, we’d want to murder each other at the end of the trip.

But what really happens when couples do things that are new and challenging together is that they feel higher levels of commitment and satisfaction.

Not bad.

Now, would I have wished a 30-hour wiggle-and-scream fest upon us just for the sake of having extra feelings of commitment and satisfaction between me and MC? No.

But what it tells me is that I shouldn’t shy away from doing hard things and bold things and exciting things and things we’ve never done before with my wife. Because stress and anxiety and doubt might not beat us down.

It might just knit us tighter together.

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What we think when someone isn’t busy

In the realm of small talk, “I’m busy” is the new “I’m fine.”

In fact, it’s not quite socially okay to not be busy, right?

Here what we think when someone isn’t busy. The person is:

  • out of work
  • sitting on fat stacks (that’s Breaking Bad lingo meaning “in possession of a lot of money”)
  • deranged
  • a stoner
  • in the middle of a midlife crisis
  • not even trying any more

Our packed schedule is a point of pride. It’s shows that we’re in the race and that we’re not getting left behind.

I’m quick to answer with, “Busy!” when people ask how I’ve been. It’s the default answer. It’s a bad conversational habit.

But the truth is, I’ve spent about two years trying to make myself less busy. I’ve been seeing through commitments to their end. I’ve been saying no to things. I’ve been quitting things.

I’d love to see the day when I can say, “I’m so good. Everything is just right.” I’ve just got to train my tongue to drop the “I’m busy” because I’m closer to things being the way I want them to be.

I hope that’s true for you, too.

What got me thinking about all of this? I stumbled across a great article called, “Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are.” The writer says that all of our talk about being busy is goofing up the way we communicate, connect and interact. I get it.

The bonus is that she recommends a few ways to get out from under the busyness if we really are so busy.

I have one trick which has helped gain control over my peace of mind and my schedule more than anything else. I’ll share it with you in the next post.

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Ditch all your money books and copy this index card

I’m in the personal finance business.

The personal finance business – for whatever reason – is unnecessarily complex.

Perhaps it’s because our finances so often involve taxes. Or math. Who knows?

It’s very easy to get wrapped around the axle when we start thinking about how to make smart choices with money.

That’s why I fight so hard to make things simple for people. And that’s why when I saw this post I’m going to link to, I was in love.

Sometimes, less really is more.

In this case, I think less advice ends up being the more robust, more actionable solution for the reader.

Here’s the link: All the Financial Advice You’re Ever Going to Need is Written on This Index Card

Tell me what you think.

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Some advice for Ten Years Ago Leighton

If I could go back in a time machine and give Ten Years Ago Leighton some advice it would be this:

  • Sleep whenever the heck you want while you still have the chance. The day is coming when you’ll have kids and that party will be over.
  • Buy a ton of Apple stock. Leverage everything and buy tons.

With a lot more sleep and a lot more Apple stock, life would look much different today.

Oops, I forgot one thing I would tell Ten Years Ago Leighton. I’d tell him that the default answer when asked to serve on boards, committees, join civic groups, etc. ought to be “no” instead of “yes”.

I’m not saying don’t do that stuff, just that the default answer ought to be “no.”

For years, I said “yes” to a lot of stuff thinking it would help me be visible in the community or build my personal brand as a financial professional in my town. Whether I accomplished those things or not, I can’t say. I don’t necessarily feel like I have. I can say I’ve been very busy.

I have a vision of our family leading a relatively simple family life. I picture us being the weirdos because we’re not overloaded with activities. I imagine us dialing down the pace of family life by creating margin with the schedule.

We’re not there yet by a long shot. But that’s the picture I have in my mind.

A simple family life is one that is edited, or strategic, in terms of extracurricular commitments. What I’ve discovered is that it’s much, much easier to edit those commitments on the front end by saying “no” than by patiently seeing those commitments through or quitting midstream.

More than anything, I’d tell Ten Years Ago Leighton this:

When someone asks you to serve on ________, you’re going to discover that it’s easy to say yes. It’s easy to say yes because you’re a nice person and you don’t want to disappoint the person who is asking for your help.

If you’re giving up after-work hours for this commitment, you need to choose carefully. Your heart is at home.

Here’s the deal. The Rotary Club gets a new president every year. Board members serve a three  year term for a nonprofit and then they roll off. A steady, ever-replenishing supply of great people steps up to do the good work of the community.

In other words, they don’t need me. They just need someone good.

It’s different at home. Mary Craig has one husband. My kids have one dad.

MC and the kids need me.

I think it’s probably best for now to give them everything I can and leave as many of the other extracurriculars as possible to other folks.

I’m picturing a lot more trips for ice cream and fewer budget spreadsheets this way. More tee-ball games in the yard and fewer fundraising campaigns.

And since I missed the first one, maybe I’ll have time to sit and figure out what the next Apple is.

How about you? What would you tell the Ten Years Ago version of yourself?

 

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Five things

It’s been a little quiet around here, so I thought I’d just post a little list of some things we’ve been doing.

1. We went to the beach

Have you ever been to the beach? It’s marvelous.

We went for the kids’ Spring Break back in March and being there made me want to sell everything I own and move there.

This year, as part of our quest to find the perfect South Carolina beach, we hit Isle of Palms. And ladies and gentleman, I think the search might be over. Our stay on Isle of Palms in the middle of March was fantastic.

For all I know, the place could be 10x worse than the Jersey Shore during the thick of the summer, but it was the perfect family getaway while we were there.

2. Tool time with Tim Taylor

Home improvement has been the name of the game for the past few weeks as we’ve been knocking out projects around the house.

Having lived most recently in a house built in 1930, we’re accustomed to having someone around almost all the time fixing old house stuff. The strange thing about being in the new house is that we really haven’t had anyone here to fix anything in the year we’ve been here.

Until a few weeks ago. That’s when we broke the seal on repairs and maintenance. The compressor died on the A/C that cools the upstairs, so we replaced the whole unit with a dual fuel deal that ought to save us a few bucks in efficiency over the long-term.

Since then, we’ve rebuilt our front porch, changed a few exterior light fixtures, and looked at how to landscape a few spots in the yard. And I’ve cut the grass a bajillion times already.

3. We paid our taxes

I guess it would be more accurate to say we filed our return, because the taxes were paid during the year.

When everything shook out, the return showed we’re due for a pretty nice refund.

I set a goal this year of having everything in to my CPA by March 15. I delivered my stuff to his office this year on April 9.

There’s always next year.

4. Someone told me I say “Um” a lot when I speak

… which I have found incredibly helpful to know, but now it is also making me crazy.

5. Facebook is buying Instagram

Okay, this doesn’t really fit on a list of things we’ve been doing, but this is my blog, so I can steer this ship in any direction. Pardon me while I digress for a moment…

Instagram has just about moved into the top spot as my favorite app on my phone. It’s quick, it’s not spammy, it’s just un-anything the other things are.

Plus, it’s fun. It’s not like people Instagram buckets full of dead rats or “Hey, I found this old crab salad sandwich in my trunk. It stinks!” People post pics of sweet things or fun things or good food or cool things they’re doing.

And for now, at least, it works.The following, the liking, the privacy … it all works.

I don’t want to see the Facebook style of following, liking, and privacy applied to Instagram. It’ll jack it all up.

___________________

I said this post would have Five Things, but here’s an important freebie that I didn’t want to miss. I was on a  Twitter sabbatical when this happened, so I didn’t get to mark the occasion:

6. @bluthquotes hits 100K followers

My brother has a couple of Twitter accounts. He has his personal account, and then he has another one.

With the second one, all he does is tweet quotes from the brilliant but short-lived TV show Arrested Development.

A few weeks ago, that account – @bluthquotes – earned its 100,000th follower.

Watching that account grow has been fascinating and hilarious. And the feed is really funny. Congrats, Brian!

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Good at a few things

Leave the TV on long enough and it’s easy to see all the stuff in life that’s going on without you.

People are hunting for houses internationally. They’re cooking things with bizarre ingredients. They’re making moonshine in the hills of Appalachia. They’re on stage showing off their x-factors.

And those are the shows. The commercials are a different animal. Commercials are designed to show you that your life is empty and that the thing that will fill the void is the product being flogged.

Social media takes it to an entirely new level. Your Facebook feed is a constant stream of polished highlights from the lives of other people showing you the awesome craft they just made, the incredible trip they just took, their kid’s straight-A report card, and the shiny new car they just bought with a fat bonus check from work.

It’s rare for someone to post on Facebook that they bounced a check, backed the car into their own mailbox, or got passed over for a promotion at the office.

Much of what we see on TV and social media shows us a life that we’re missing, that somehow we’re not fully participating in. It creates an unrealistic pressure to be good at everything.

I’m here to tell you that it’s impossible to be good at everything and unnecessary to strive to be good at everything. But there are a few things worth being good at. Here they are:

1) Work

Know how to do a job, art, or profession and do it well. Work done well gives a sense purpose, and it puts money in the bank account, which ain’t bad either.

2) Family

Family is such a blessing. Bring energy and attention to the people you share life with most closely.

3) Relationships

Be good at creating and maintaining relationships. Give more to your friendships and professional connections than you take.

These three things – work, family and relationships – are all growth areas for me, by the way.

So on a list of things worth being good at, why did I pick these three? Why didn’t I pick eye surgery, foreign languages and rollerblading?

I picked work, family and relationships because these three will be with you for a long, long time. And each one, in a way, contributes to the benefit of the other.

Let’s be good at a few things and forget the pressure to strive to be good at everything. Sound like a deal?

Do Facebook updates ever feel comically over-the-top to you?

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If blogging is one of your resolutions, this might help

If you’re flirting with the idea if starting your own blog in 2012, let me say this:

Do it. For many reasons, it’s time well spent.

For some practical and philosophical help on how to get started, here’s a series I put together at the beginning of 2011 that you might find useful.

2007 was my year, is 2011 yours?

Getting started: I don’t have anything to say

Getting started: Create your blog

Getting started: But I can’t write

Getting started: Publicize your blog

If you take the leap, will you let me know? I’d love to be one of your readers!

 

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Five things I know about being a husband: Listening

I wonder what Mary Craig’s response would be if you asked her:

“What kind of listener is Leighton?”

I’d rank myself a 7 out of 10. It’s not so much that I’m not a great listener as it is that I’m not a great retainer.

How good are you at listening?

I said, HOW GOOD ARE YOU AT LISTENING?!?!?!

One thing I know about being a husband is that there are benefits to having an active and disciplined ear. Here’s what I’ve learned:

I gain wisdom when I listen to my wife. Mary Craig and I view a lot of big life stuff similarly, but she consistently speaks works into our home about work, family, money, God – you name it – that help me see things I didn’t see.

I tell my wife I love her by listening to her. Here’s what I mean. You subtly (or maybe not-so-subtly) communicate your estimation of value to someone when you listen, don’t listen or half-listen to them. When I can drop all the distractions and engage with Mary Craig, I show her that she’s fully valued.

I can be a better dad by listening to her. Kids get really confused by inconsistency. If I’m not tuned in to what Mary Craig has already done during the day, we run the risk of being inconsistent when I’m around. Right now, when our kids are relatively young, inconsistency is just confusing to them. But as they get older, inconsistency will come back around and bite us as the kids learn to exploit it against us.

I get ideas for gifts by listening to her. I hate getting to a birthday, anniversary or Christmas and just hearing {…duuuhhhh…} when I try to think of something to get for Mary Craig. At some point, I figured out that I could look for clues about what she would like by simply listening to her. In everyday conversation, it’s common for us to talk about products we use that we like. Or things around the house that we’d like to replace. Or to daydream and look at stuff for the house online. I try to make mental notes of those things so that when it’s gift-buying time, I’m getting something she really wants.

I can lead my family better when I listen to her. Mary Craig’s entire day is about us. She really never gets away from us. I, on the other hand, am with the kids for about three hours a day. So while I’m called to lead our family, it would be absolutely pointless to try to lead our family without esteeming Mary Craig’s perspective as the person most heavily invested in our family life. She is in a better position to give insight about the pace of life, the needs of the family as a whole, and the needs of the individuals. I am a better leader – meaning I am better able to serve – when I give my wife my ear.

What did I miss? What other benefits – philosophical or practical – build up when there’s good listening happening in a relationship?

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