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Opinion Editorials

What Are You So Scared of?



So today is Day 2 (or is it really Day 1?) of my RSS Blackout. So far, so good. Although I’ve gone a few days without checking the reader before (as on vacation), so not a big deal. I figure things should get interesting after a week or two.

At any rate, not dipping into my RSS reader hasn’t meant I have been completely out of touch. In fact, I have been tracking the comments on the RSS Blackout post via co.mments. I’m glad I did.

Jay Thompson, also known as the Phoenix Real Estate Guy, and someone who I consider a friend (not just a colleague), left a comment that really struck at the core of this whole RSS Blackout adventure of mine. From his comment (emphasis is mine):

But I don’t want to miss anything! I’ve learned so much reading other blogs I’m afraid I might.


That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Fear is a very simple and basic emotion; yet it is perhaps one of the most powerful. Fear can make you do some things, and stop you from doing others. Fear can be good, and fear can be very, very bad.

The thing about fear is that we all possess it. At one point or another, we are all afraid of something. Those who deny that are probably doing so out of a fear of being perceived as weak (funny how fear works like that sometimes).

The interesting thing is that the vast majority of the fear that we feel is a learned reaction. It is not, as you might think, entirely instinctual. We are explicitly taught to fear certain things, and we learn to fear other things. The issue is that some of this teaching and learning is false, or at least based on false understandings.

I am certainly not immune to fear. In fact, I encounter it fairly regularly on the basketball court as a referee, in one form or another. Any referee who tells you that he or she wasn’t nervous or a bit fearful that first time out on the court is a liar. In fact, the officiating community even has a little maxim that we learn very early: “if you are afraid of what is going to happen when you blow your whistle, then you might as well just put it in your pocket.” Eventually, the fear of failure, the fear of being yelled at or berated, the fear of making a mistake, gets smaller and smaller and you progress and work more games and gain more experience. At some point, all those things you feared in the beginning are no longer scary, and you begin to officiate from a place of security and confidence.

That is what I hope will happen to me during the RSS Blackout. I completely agree with Jay’s comment. I, too, have been afraid that I would miss something important, or that someone else would benefit from knowledge I could have had first.

It’s garbage.

That’s just the ugly side of the voice inside my head trying to mess things up (I can’t always control him). Turning off my RSS reader isn’t going to put me out of business. The sun will still come up tomorrow (and if it doesn’t, then we all have bigger problems). In fact, I’m hoping that turning off the RSS reader will actually help me see things that I might have overlooked before.

That’s my story. But what about you? What are you going to do when that ugly little voice inside your head starts planting fearful little seeds?

Perhaps you should do what I did. Ask yourself this:

What are you so scared of?

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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  1. Benjamin Bach

    February 14, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Everyone…

    Daniel left one thing out – don’t stop checking your feeds!!!

  2. Andy Kaufman

    February 14, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    That reminds me, AG needs a comments feed.

    Benn, make it so.



  3. Jonathan Dalton

    February 14, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I’m not afraid of anything but I’m not inclined to shut off my RSS reader. I ignore it selectively depending on how busy I am at any given time.

    Writing is a personal venture. There are certain blogs I won’t read before I write a post, not because I’m afraid of the influence but because reading Kris Berg then trying to be witty is demoralizing. Same goes for Teresa. Read them and there’s no reason to even try that day. Or week.

    I’m not trying to write an entire album or a novel. When I was writing my novel, I cut down on what I was reading fiction-wise because I didn’t want to be overly influenced. So I can see the value of the decision.

    I just don’t see what I find in the RSS as a threat to my own voice. Been writing professionally for too long.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.




It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.



better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?



culture remotely

New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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