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Opinion Editorials

Tragedy Begets Hope – Meet Kennedy



People all the time make silly comments about what they’re grateful for, and I’m the first to admit that I too have engaged in silly dismissals of what the Thanksgiving holiday means. I guess looking back to childhood and learning of the holiday and where it comes from, it’s easy to detach yourself from it until things happen in your life that really put into perspective what matters most.

This week, Lani and I celebrate our three year old’s birthday; his name is Kennedy. I don’t speak of Kennedy very often, not even with Lani, mostly because he died the very day he was born and it’s a very hard subject to bring up- I mean, when is there a good time for such a tragic conversation, especially considering that just a short while later, Lani’s 23 year old brother Aaron was killed in a car accident? It never seems like a great time to bring up sorrowful things, but this Thanksgiving is very different.

I’ve been talking to Lani a lot more lately about our son and our brother Aaron, and in those conversations the grief seems to lift. It seems suddenly that tragedy can lead to conversations of hope, love, and yes, laughter at memories that happened, or ones that we imagine through hopes and dreams that never had a chance to materialize- it seems that Lani had a lot to say too that she’s felt awkward to mention. Again, it just never seems to be the time or the place.

This Thanksgiving, our conversations, thoughts, and hopes are more about the things we’ve been unable to see because of so many things unsaid. This Thanksgiving is about how wonderful life is even in the face of tragedy, how grateful we are to have one another, and a few years later, all of you- our dear friends, and yes, even those of you who are not so friendly.

It is in the face of tragedy that we’ve come to be in your company, graced every day with your lives, your hopes, dreams, laughter, smiles, frowns, newborns, and those not-so-newborn anymore.

This Thanksgiving we wanted to share something very personal with all of you that means so much to us, to help illustrate just how thankful we really are for all of you- our friends and colleagues. This is the first time that I’ve spoken publicly about our son and I rarely talk about my personal life, especially on Agent Genius, but I wanted to share some of us with you.

To many, the online community seems without a soul, but sometimes, if you really want to, you can see the person on the other side- people just like you, with problems, tragedy, and struggles, just like us- human to the core.

God Bless, and may you all have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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  1. Robert Luna

    November 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    You both are wonderful and beautiful people and I am very lucky to have friends like you, have a great Thanksgiving you two.

  2. Steve Simon

    November 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Thinking good thoughts for you and yours this season:)

  3. Jay Thompson

    November 26, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Benn – thanks for sharing. We’ve had our own tragedy this past week, and it truly does make one thankful for friends and family and the little things we often take for granted.

    You and Lani are fabulous people, and I’m honored to know you.

    Wishing all those out there a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

  4. The Harriman Team

    November 26, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    We can totally relate, Benn. After 2 miscarriages, our son and his wife’s first child, Colin, was born prematurely 3 years ago on Nov. 11th, and survived only 45 short, precious minutes. The pain is dulled, but still there, and not a day goes by that we don’t think of him and give thanks for our own lives. Though we’ve never met, we feel an affinity with you that goes beyond the world of social media. Thank you for sharing such a painful, intimate part of yourselves with us, and may God bless you and Lani this holiday season.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    November 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Benn – It goes without saying that I am fond of you two (but I seem to say it all the time). Reading this and knowing you two, makes me feel a little more connected to you, shows a side we don’t always get to see and is much appreciated in terms of being more than just “the two that run AgentGenius” but more our friends, mentors, and biggest cheerleaders. I hope we all return the favor to you everyday.

    Your last paragraph really sums up what I learned about real estate thanks to social media. I thought all agents would be closed and not be willing to share with me (business and personal), but I was well wrong. I have met some great people who I might not even recognize their real face if it was in front of me (but if they were holding up an avatar I’d know in a second), but if they needed something, I’d be there for them in a heartbeat.

    My thoughts are with you and I’m glad to hear that you and Lani are talking about it. I suck at talking sometimes, but I know what a difference it can make.

  6. Russell Shaw

    November 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Very beautiful.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Brad Nix

    November 27, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for sharing. And reminding me of the pain and sadness that comes with losing a child. It makes us even more THANKFUL today as we have our 6 month old with us on his first Thanksgiving.

    Blessings Abound.

  8. Paula Henry

    November 27, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Benn and Lani – I’m thankful to know both of you. I love your total transparency and honesty.

    I first learned about you through the tragic loss of Lani’s brother. While I have never lost a sibling, I share the pain of the child you never had a chance to love and hold. Seven years ago, I watched as my daughter gave birth to a little girl who we knew would not live. Anele will not be here for Thanksgiving as her sisters will – but she will never be forgotten. In her short time, she left an indelible mark on our lives forever.

    Wishing you peace and love of family and friends this Thanksgiving as you remember those who will not be here to celebrate with you.

  9. Monika

    November 27, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Benn and Lani,
    Thank you for sharing such a painful part of your lives with us. It’s amazing how time gives one the gift of being able to remember such sad times and smile at the same time. The gift of healing…I think you’ll have an extra special Thanksgiving this year.

  10. Kris Berg

    November 27, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Happy Thanksgiving, Benn and Lani, and thank you for the opportunity to hang my hat here on occasion. It’s an honor. Have a wonderful day with family and each other.

  11. Dave Smith

    November 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Ben and Lani,

    Thank you for sharing and God’s blessing for you both.


    This is the best post I’ve read on Agent Genius. It went beyond our minds and hearts. Your words reach to the center of our being. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Thank you.

  12. Bob

    November 27, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Benn and Lani.

  13. Missy Caulk

    November 27, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Wow, I had no clue, and I am sorry to hear about Kennedy. Always good to clear the air, and let those walls come down.

    You inviting me to participate in AG was the highlight of my year and I am blessed to have you in my life.

  14. Mack

    November 28, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Sharing is Caring. Thanks for sharing and may you have the truly blessed holiday season that you deserve.

  15. Benn Rosales

    November 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Wow, this was one of those posts you write that you really expect little reaction if any at all. I can tell all of you that your comments were read one by one since the post was made live, and each one touched us both- we indeed had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and hope you did as well.

    Here’s to the future… God Bless.

  16. Irina Netchaev

    November 29, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Dear Benn & Lani,
    I just read this beautiful post and my heart goes out to you. It is impossible to imagine losing a child and a brother within a week.
    You are both strong and wonderful people and add joy to so many lives on a daily basis through this community.
    My belated Thanksgiving wishes to both.
    Many hugs!

  17. Bill Lublin

    November 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Benn & Lani;
    Nothing to add to what you already know about how I feel about you guys, glad you have each other to share with as well as your extended family

  18. Vicki Moore

    November 30, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I can only imagine the thought that went into this post, especially just before you hit publish. It can be tremendously difficult to reveal something so private and painful. But pain is something we all feel and share. I share yours. And I thank you for being my friends.

  19. Lisa Sanderson

    November 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    That you’ve been able to find something positive in the worst that anyone can be expected to bear speaks volumes about your characters and spirits. There is nothing else to say except thank you for sharing this personal part of your story, and for being our friends.

  20. Poppy Dinsey

    December 1, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I’m gradually catching up with my feedreader so I know this is late but I couldn’t read such a beautiful and heartfelt post and not leave a comment 🙂

    You are both truly super and I think it’s really inspiring that you shared your story, it’s so easy for us to forget that we’re all humans and we all go through pain and sadness in our lives. Social media has given us all this massive support network that we always know is there like a giant cuddle.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you both, even if it does just feel like a distant calorific memory now!

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Opinion Editorials

Online dating is evolving and maybe networking will too

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has the online dating industry been disrupted during the pandemic? And can we apply a few pointers from this evolved model to networking?



Woman networking through Zoom video call with two other women.

We are often reminded that hindsight is 20/20 – a proverb that means “it is easy to understand something after it has already happened”, and how ironic that is since we are in the year 2020 and not sure we can fully comprehend all we are learning and what hindsight this will bring.

Reflecting back to six months ago, there were many of us that didn’t have much of a clue about what the rest of 2020 would look like and how we would have to adjust to a more virtual world. We’ve updated our ways of working, connecting with colleagues, socializing with friends, networking with those in our industry, or looking for a new job.

Microsoft suggested that we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in about five months. For example: MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet have become the new way to host networking sessions, work meetings, and “chats” with colleagues; Tele-med appointments became the norm for routine or non-911 emergency doctor appointments; curbside pickup at grocery stores and food to-go orders via online ordering became the new normal (they existed before but saw tremendous growth in number of users).

We also had to learn how to create engaging and interactive ways to connect solely through a screen. We are already Zoom fatigued and wondering how online meetings have zapped our energy so differently than in person. It turns out, looking at ourselves and trying to talk to a group is a lot for our brains to process.

The Atlantic shares a great article about why the Zoom social life might feel so draining, saying that “Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey”. No offense to vegetarians, of course.

You could argue though, that we’ve all been interacting via screens for years with the dominance of social media channels – whether it was posting our thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter, or sharing photos and videos of our artisanal sandwiches/cute kid/pet pictures on Facebook. But this seems different. Times are different and we will not be going back soon.

In this interim, many people are trying to make the best of the situation and are figuring out ways to connect. We will always need human connection (and without the germs, even better).

What about our single friends? If they don’t have anyone in the house to already drive them crazy, then where can they go to meet new people and/or possibly love interests?

While many experts are trying to predict the outcomes of this global shift, it may be hard to know what will change permanently. We know many industries are experiencing major disruptions – online dating apps being one of them.

According to Digital Trends, Tinder still ranks as one of the top dating apps. However, now that people are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, there’s a new app taking over as a way to “meet” someone a little faster, while also allowing you to stay behind the screen, sans mask.

Slide is a video dating app that changes your first-date frustrations into real connections and instant chemistry. Explore video profiles, go on first dates via Video Calls at your fingertips, and find that chemistry before dating IRL.”

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video.

Slide recognized the massive success of short-form video platforms like TikTok, and have translated it to dating. They focus on features like:

  • “Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching with someone to see if there’s chemistry. This will save you from long or misinterpreted text conversations and money you may have spent on that first date.
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles so you can pass if they aren’t really who they say they are.
  • AI-assisted creation of “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches and spare you extra swipes. If Netflix can find similar suggestions…

As of August 2020, the Department of Labor and Statistics estimates about 13.6 million people are currently unemployed and searching for a new j-o-b. Is it possible that some of these newer ways of connecting online could be included in how we network for a new job/career opportunity?

For example, instead of sending a connection or networking request on LinkedIn, what if we could send a quick video about our story, or what we’d love to learn from that person, or how we’d like to connect?

Would that create a faster, better, possibly more genuine connection?

This would seem worth exploring as many job connections are created by in-person networking or reaching real people vs. solely online applications, behind a screen. Some other formats that have seen increased use are Marco Polo for video chats (you don’t have to both be available at the same time) and FaceTime group calls.

It might be worth exploring how short-form video platforms could assist job seekers in networking, outreach, and connecting with others. These are just some ideas as we continue to watch this digital transformation unfold.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.



Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.



Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’ – “Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’. I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example: You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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