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Opinion Editorials

Blog Action Day- a story of personal redemption

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Since its inception in 2007, AgentGenius.com has participated in Blog Action Day, an annual event that “unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day” in an effort to heighten awareness on global issues. This year, the topic is water:

We asked people to submit creative pieces describing what it would be like if they woke up tomorrow and all of the drinking water in America was toxic? You think you have time to conserve and that a Brita filter will fix everything, but given that 40% of American waterways are already too polluted to fish or even swim, do you really have time? Our world is so arrogant with water use that we don’t even bat an eye that it takes 400 gallons of water to produce a single cotton shirt. How can we justify this to our grandchildren when there is no more safe drinking water in our midst?

Below is Indianapolis Realtor, Ryan Crozier’s creative entry. We invite you to add your thoughts to the comments as to how YOU would react if you woke up to toxic water nation wide?


Dear Diary,

The last 21 hours have been a living hell. My wife Andrea & I woke up @ 6:45am to the sound of our neighbor Elizabeth banging on our kitchen window. She was screaming hysterically about water. Still groggily from sleep and in my pajamas I thought her house was on fire the way she was screaming about WATER!!! I opened the sliding door and began pouring water into a bucket when Elizabeth finally made a complete sentence and told me “The water is toxic… it’s all over the news… the water is toxic!” My first thought was that this was just another one of those “investigative reports” our local news station does to uncover some “major issue” wrong in our community.

Andrea quickly flipped on the TV to discover this was much more than a few bad water samples from the water treatment facility. This was a national issue. The United States water supply had been contaminated with toxins. Elizabeth ran to the next house to alert the rest of our neighbors. I’m so thankful she woke us up this morning before we sat down to our daily bagels & cups of coffee made with the contaminated water!

The news told us not to panic; that things would be alright. Well, the entire day was filled with nothing but panic. Everywhere I went people were in a state of absolute emergency. I’ve never seen so many people angry and fighting. It was crazy because just the day before today everyone was fine. In fact, I remember on my drive home from work seeing a number of homes in our neighborhood with the sprinkler on. Today, that same water is the source of so much hurt & pain.

Luckily, Andrea & I were able to fill our bath tubs, air mattresses, rubber-maid containers, & buckets with water before it was turned off by the city around 8:15am. We plan on boiling the water over the coming days & weeks to purify it from the toxins so we can use it for drinking water. I am telling absolutely no one because of the immediate threat of robbers breaking in and stealing our water. After the water was turned off I decided to head out and see if any local stores still had any water available. Andrea stayed home to protect the little water we do have. Leaving the house was a huge mistake. The stores were overrun by people. It reminds me of the news footage from Hurricane Katrina… just mass chaos. (It’s ironic that Hurricane Katrina was caused by water and this was caused by a lack of water.) People were standing out in the parking lot trying to sell gallons of water for anywhere from $200-$500. It was a scene out of a movie.

After leaving the store, I drove by the small church on Main Street. (The church that always has that goofy sign “C H _ _ C H – What’s missing? U R!”) Well, today they had handwritten “Free Water & Free Prayer”. I couldn’t believe it. This church actually had large bottles of water and was giving each person 1 bottle for FREE!!!! I struck up a conversation with a little old lady named Jeanne. As she handed me my free bottle of water she took my hand and said “God Loves You… He always has & always will” I asked her how she could be so calm & peaceful during a time like this? She leaned in and whispered in my ear “I trust in the Lord”.
I looked up and saw that she had a tear in her eye. She took out a pen and with her hand shaking she wrote…. “Jeremiah 17:5-8” in the palm of my hand. She gave me a big hug and told me to go home and look it up in my Bible as she started to serve other people their free bottle of water. Little does she know that I haven’t touched a Bible in over 20 years.

By this time it was around 2:30pm. All the stores were shut down and lots of people were leaving town. I’m really not sure where they were going. Somebody told me they were headed to Lake Michigan to see if more water was available there. Something inside me told me to stay put. The best thing I could do is protect & provide for my family. I headed back home to find Andrea had already called through our address book to see how family & friends were doing. My mom was already on her way down to stay with us for a while. Luckily, she too was smart enough to collect about 30 gallons of water and she was bringing it to our house.

When she arrived around 7:30pm we carried in all her stuff and placed her water supply in the basement next to ours. We sat down at the dinner table and she told us about her day. The drive from my mom’s house normally takes two hours. But because of all the traffic it took her six hours today. She said she saw a number of people trying to climbing water towers on her drive down. I guess they thought they could just open them up and get a drink?

Usually, I give my wife a hard time for the time she spends on Facebook & Twitter, but today is came in real handy. We were able to get updates from friends and discover that the water is drinkable as long as it is boiled for 5 minutes. People were posting on Twitter that rain was in the forecast. I guess, too many people found out about the the “water tweets” because not too long after that the twitter “Fail Whale” was all we could see no matter how many times we reload the page.

It’s now almost 4:00am… Andrea is asleep in bed. My mom is sleeping in the guest room and I’m in my office. I never in a million years thought this would happen. Of course, I’ve seen on the news how there is water shortage in Africa, but I never even dreamed this for the United States. I went down into the basement and dug up that old Bible my grandma gave me when I turned 13. It took me a few minutes but I finally found the book of Jeremiah (who knew the Bible had so many books) and found the verses Jeanne wrote on my hand…

Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
—Jeremiah 17:5-8

I think I just heard rain drops on the window. Yep! It’s raining! Thank You God It’s rain!

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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Opinion Editorials

Freelance is the Future? I call bull malarky

(EDITORIAL) Some have predicted that due to company needs and employees’ desire for flexibility, and even COVID, freelance is the future of work. But I have reservations.

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Freelance desk

Long gone are the days of punching a clock in Corporate America to be in your seat at your desk for an exact period of 8 hours on a day x 5 = 40 hours per week. If you work in an office setting now, usually you are expected to manage your time and finish your projects but companies have adjusted their strict butt in seat polices so that you can come in late after a doctor appointment or even leave a little early for Susie’s soccer tournament.

The truth is, with the advancement of technology and connected devices, many of us can work from anywhere (as long as there’s Wi-Fi or we have our hotspot). So, as long as your work gets done, there’s a little bit of room for “flexibility”.

When a company pitches this as flexibility, it’s really just a way of re-wording that you will work a lot so they will cut you some slack here and there considering most of us work well over our 40 hours a week. We can check email first thing in the morning, forward documents from the plane and even be on conference calls while in a line or in an Uber. You may work late on a Tuesday due to Wednesday deliverables which allows you to take off on Friday at 3pm when usually your projects are in a good place. There are also times where you will work on the weekend.

The opportunity to work anywhere has led to some considering that freelance is the future? I just don’t buy it. And this might be an unpopular opinion. I think that’s like turning the Titanic around. People rely on companies to offer a feeling of stability (or so we think) so that you know there’s a paycheck coming in every other week and you definitely have your fair share of projects (oh yeah, plus healthcare benefits).

If we all moved in to freelancing, we’d have a wide variety of clients, customers, teammates and paychecks that could be difficult to keep up with. We’d be forced to be the CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, CFOs, oh, forget it, the entire C-suite of our own careers. It’s really difficult to generate new clients in the future while you’re working on a current project.

However, it’s equally difficult to have a lull so you have to be constantly engaged and pitching business (at the same time you have your current work). You have to be on your A-game at all times and out pitching yourself and your brand. You have to be creating content on all the social channels and be invited to participate in fancy conferences and meetings. This unfortunately is the life of freelance.

Does it seem like more people will do freelance? Yes. There’s lots of opportunity now thanks to the world wide web. But I predict they will do this in addition to their regular jobs. Is it possible that we may move to a gig economy? We are already there. You’ve heard of Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Fiverr and Upwork…It seems like that most people that have 2-3 gigs to make them whole are typically looking for full-time opportunities or would love to find something that can replace the others with more consistent work and not all the hustle. Are Small Businesses on the rise? Absolutely.

It seems that it depends on your desire for either slightly more predictable work and paychecks or if you’re a throw caution to the wind person and live that freelancer life. Also, if your skill sets are the ones employers are looking for on an ad hoc basis. No doubt many people live a freelancer life and love it. But I just don’t see it being the masses – I think it takes a special kind of dedication to rely on freelance and/or starting your own business. Plus, you’re off your parents’ healthcare at age 26. That’s when real the “real job” starts to sound really appealing.

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.

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quarantine

Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.

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Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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