Reflecting without rose-coloured glasses

Be more painfully aware.

I started blogging in 2006* right after I finished college (though I didn’t launch this particular blog until a year and a half later). Today, many students are blogging while they are still in school, and almost every student is posting publicly on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. It’s a very different environment to grow up in when key moments, fumbles, mistakes and downright fails are posted publicly for the world to see.

I have been reading this extremely enlightening–and perhaps slightly depressing–book based on the blog You Are Not So Smart. The book is all about self-delusion, how our brains trick us into thinking we are smarter and better than we actually are. I am enjoying the book because knowing exactly what is going on in your brain is probably the smartest thing anyone can do, which is further reinforced by the themes in the book.

Anyway, remember when building your career, how everything was rosy and when things did go badly there was a grandiose life-defining lesson that you are very proud of? Remember how you essentially made every right decision? How you were smarter and more composed than ‘kids today’? How you wouldn’t change a thing because it made you how you are today?

That’s probably how you remember it at least. That’s how I remember it to. Thanks brain, you’re nice. However, that’s probably not the way it was. The book has taught me is that we have very little control over our own minds–the only control we really do have is to make up a shiny happy narrative to justify or rationalize the decisions and paths we’ve taken.

Are you bummed out yet?  Or you’re angry. Or you’re trying to come up with a witty comment to dispute what I’m saying. Don’t worry though, there is hope! I am going somewhere with this.

When we chronicle our lives publicly, there’s a virtual database of information we can access and assess.  That data can help you better understand who you are today (you can’t change who you are and you can’t deny what you’ve done if it’s publicly available). It’s also really interesting.

I was inspired to write this by two recent events: first, the fact that Topsy.com now archives every single tweet ever. The first thing I did was search my user name and see what I posted about in 2007 when I joined. It was definitely enlightening. I was much more of a blogger back then. I was more community oriented. It reminded me that I should take the time to proactively reach out, survey and interact a little more than I have been lately.

The second inspiration was a blog post by Mark Schaeffer, a blog I’ve been reading since it apparently sucked. (You really need to click through to understand why I’d say that.. In truth, I find it very informative and insightful, and always have). He shuffles through thousands of blog posts and reflects on mistakes he used to made and commits to learning from them. He will (continue) to be a better blogger for it, I can assure you.

A few takeaways here:

  1. Take the time to reflect on and learn from what you’ve done in the past, and don’t just trust your brain to supply the data.
  2. Remember, when posting anything online, that future-you may be reading it. Hi future Kelly! Hope all is well! 


*So I went to the WayBack Machine to find the first blog post I ever wrote on the cardcommunications blog. I find it hilariously awesome that it was about short concise writing–no wonder I would eventually become such a Twitter junkie. See that fun insight?

Photo Credit: Hauptillusionator via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Hauptillusionator via Compfight cc

Be better by being less busy

Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc

The past year and a bit has been a blur. This period started out a few months leading up to my wedding where I was working crazy hours and trying to plan a wedding, all the while balancing out copious volunteer commitments and whatever bit of a social life I could squeeze out of it.

Then I got married and things just got crazier. I made a snap decision to quit my job two weeks before the wedding  to move to another agency that was similar but just a better fit personally. Right after my honeymoon I started my new job, and then two weeks after that I became the president of IABC Ottawa. While I had trimmed down some of my volunteer commitments, I still hung on to a few others, I still took on speaking opportunities (more than ever, in fact), I still felt guilty about not writing my blog regularly… And did I mention that agency work is naturally demanding?

A real addiction

The truth is I got addicted to busy. I had to be busy. If I wasn’t on the verge of a mental breakdown I just wasn’t getting enough done! It’s a rush and when things work out you feel exhilarated and a great sense of accomplishment.

At what cost though? Attention to detail (something I used to pride myself on!), organization skills, falling behind on trends, relationships (fortunately my husband is the same way, but definitely was straining on friendships and family)… The list goes on. However, more than anything else, it hinders your ability to have great ideas.

I didn’t realize in the thick of it (too busy, obviously), but without taking time to free your mind and de-clutter your life, it becomes really difficult to have good ideas and impossible to have great ideas. Also when you’re suffering from acute busy-ness, it becomes very difficult to see the forest from the trees and you lose an important sense of strategic oversight.

What is the cure?

I realized the error in my ways due to a crippling injury. After dislocating my knee at the CHEO BBQ this past June, I had no choice but to relax. I slowed down because of the physical limitation, but also because my mood was down. I hate feeling useless and dependent and so I shut down and started operating on a bare minimum basis. I watched a lot of TV and slept a lot. I still worked but had to rely on others to drive me to work which means I worked a normal 9-5 day. I missed events, re-scheduled any off-site meetings and spent my evenings at home.

And what happened next?

Because it was already non-refundable booked, I went to the IABC World Conference in New York three weeks after my injury. I took the time to read all the session description in advance and planned on attending the ones I was really interested. I studied the attendee list to determine anyone I really wanted to make a point to meet or see. The outcome was a really amazing conference experience that left me inspired and brimming with ideas. I even stayed up until 2 am one night drafting pieces of blog posts for future use. While I’ve been to numerous conference the last few years, it’s been a long time since I felt that way coming out of one.

And in virtually every other area of my life I had a similar epiphany. Taking the time to think through what you are doing means you will inevitably do a better job of it. Although I’m doing less I’m feeling generally more productive and assured that when I start something I’m committed to finishing it with an appropriate amount of effort.

Am I cured? It’s hard to say at this point. My challenge the next few months will be saying ‘no’ to new opportunities that I may want to participate in but that will take up too much of my time. Are you drowning in busy? What’s your best tip for coping?

Living the long weekend in a new Ford

We decided to buy a new car. While I love my Avenger, it’s a big honkin’ thing and not the most practical for ‘booting around’ downtown as we often use it for. Case in point, the various bumps and scratches that mostly resulted from me trying to back out of our narrow lane way sans coffee. Oops.

So we want something small, but stylish. Practical but fun. We’re both geeks so of course we want some cool technology built in too…

Having previously worked with Ford Canada through Thornley Fallis, a Ford was our first choice. I’m a big fan of the My Ford Touch system, as well as lot of the cool bells and whistles (many that come standard!) in a new Ford.

My first car buying experience was a bad one. They got me in and excited about this “great deal” (which it was to start…) and then loaded me up with all these hidden extras that amounted to me paying way more than I had realized. I had strolled in to test drive a car with no intention of buying that day. I ended up paying almost double what I thought I was paying… I must have had “sucker” written across my forehead. (Lesson learned: do lots of research BEFORE you ever step foot in a dealership. Knowledge is power, friends!)

So I definitely have my back up this time. We went in and looked at some cars and one that really intrigued us was the new CMAX–this is Ford’s new Hybrid that’s compact and affordable. The CMAX is new to North America, but is already popular in the UK–a great blend of ‘tried and true’ mixed with the excitement of something new:

Image provided by Ford Canada
Image provided by Ford Canada

Despite the sales guy leading with “it’s a great family car” (Ya, no thanks, we’re not there yet!) We really liked this car. And thanks to Thornley Fallis–we got to take it out for the long weekend and really give it a spin.

It also came in handy because following the IABC Ottawa Excel Awards, two board members (Simon Chen and Carolyn Miyazaki) and I drove around town to deliver “LUNCH baskets:” to some of our sponsors–courtesy of LUNCH.

We also drove it up to Sharbot Lake for the annual Seed to Sausage ‘Day of the Pig’ party. Between that, driving around town, and to the cottage and back, we didn’t even go through a full tank of gas (very impressive considering our current gas guzzler).

My favourite feature is the bumper sensing system that beeps when you are close to something, and the rearview camera. Contrary to what my husband might say, I am actually a very good driver but I am wary about space directly around the car and getting in and out of tight spots. Can you blame me really? I’ve been in a big car with terrible blind spots the last few years!

We loved the CMAX so much that when we dropped it off at the dealership–I was quite sure we were going to walk out of there as proud new owners. While it was certainly a better experience than my prior one–the cost proved to be just too much out of our price range.

So we haven’t bought a new car yet. I hope we can swing a great deal on a CMAX but in the meantime we’re going to look at some other options. I was hoping for a happier ending to this blog post but I’ll still say the CMAX is a great car, for a great price (especially for a Hybrid!)

My Ford Touch - with built in nav system
My Ford Touch – with built in nav system
Decent trunk space


How to be a good listener (a work in progress)

The Sound of the Ocean
Photo Credit: believer9 via Compfight cc

I’m not writing this post because I happen to be an expert on the subject. I do know and believe listening is the most important skill anyone can and should have, but I’ve also found myself falling into bad habits that hinder my ability to be a good listener.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself and also as a commitment to do better. Perhaps you could use a friendly reminder as well…

1. Look at who is speaking to you

This seems obvious, but it’s really easy to not look at someone. Sometimes you want to look down at your smart phone, computer screen, even an old-fashioned note pad, or even over the person’s shoulder (I’m guilty of this with my easily distracted nature!), but you absorb what someone’s saying so much better when you look directly at them because you’re not just hearing words, but facial expressions and body language which can help you recall the conversation later.

2. Put your device away

Further to number 1, please just go ahead and put your device away. If you’re looking right at the person who is speaking to you and and it’s just innocently sitting on the table in front of you, you may not think it’s distracting, but you’re probably looking down at it every few seconds–and of course, if something happens with it, whether you check immediately or not, your mind has wandered away from the task at hand.

Put your device on silence and put it away. (I admit, I struggle with this point the most!)

3. Take notes

Personally I have not mastered this tip yet. With a computer in front of me (since I type upwards of 120 words per minute), I am pretty good with taking notes, but when I’m using the good old pen and paper I tend to just write down random words that later are entirely out of context. The reason I haven’t mastered this tip is I used to have an amazing memory (would you believe before a couple years ago, I never entered a single phone number in my phone, I just remembered them all). Even if you do (still) remember everything, it’s a sign of respect and politeness to take notes when someone is speaking to you.

4. Ask questions

You will have a much easier time remembering something if you really understand what was said. A great way to ensure you understand a conversation is to ask questions back to the person. While you are taking notes, also make note of any questions to ask when the person is finished speaking. Asking questions makes you look smart, interested and engaged in a conversation.

5. Review your notes

Take some time following your conversation to review your notes. If you did write them out by hand then perhaps type them up to file away electronically. Again this is something I need to work on–it’s so easy to let general busy-ness get the better of you!

That’s what I’ve got, but I’d love to hear your tips for being a good listener too. And any advice for treating the shakes after I put my phone away is appreciated too!

I don’t need to write this, I want to write it.

I miss writing.

An odd thing to say, since I’m almost always writing something: A proposal, a report, an email, a tweet… I love the written word and it’s always been my personal favourite form of communications to output… The issue is feeling like I’m always writing out of obligation, not inspiration. Even with this blog*; it’s reached a point where I am trying to force creative words and ideas out for the sake of publishing so this space isn’t completely deserted. I long for the days when my brain felt like it was swelling with an idea and I couldn’t wait to get in front of a keyboard to let it escape.

Life and work have become so busy that I’ve lost sight of my craft. I even find myself making silly mistakes that I’ve sworn in the past I would never do. In this new insta-publish world, the art of carefully crafted prose is diminishing in favour of speed and at the expense of accuracy. This is obviously something I’ve embraced, and many times it’s truly a fair compromise, but grant me the opportunity to reminisce a little sometimes.

* While it may look like  I’ve been ignoring the blog, I assure you I’ve written plenty of incomplete drafts fated to never see the light of day!

Building a career in the public eye

Confession: as a student in public relations, I always thought I’d be a behind-the-scenes practitioner. I didn’t really like shining the spotlight on myself and thought my strength would always be hiding in the shadows shining a spotlight on the company or cause I was working for.

Now… Five years since I’ve graduated, I’ve gone in a completely different direction. My first realization was at my first job, where I had tied all my social media accounts to the company I was working for, I was also blogging strictly on our company blog. It felt rewarding and seemed right at the time. However, a year after I started there, the company was acquired and suddenly it felt like all the work I had done was suddenly irrelevant! In fact up until yesterday even my LinkedIn URL was tied to that first job.

Even though I had been operating as a corporate account, I had also been learning the personal advantages to participating in social media. After launching our company blog, I spent a lot of time commenting on other related blogs, because 1. I was generally interested in learning more about the industry and the people involved in it and 2. I wanted our company blog to be a success and it seemed like a good way to drive quality traffic. Well I was tickled a few months later when a prominent blogger emailed me and told me he was writing a book and wanted contributions from other industry bloggers. Wow, if only he knew I was 22 years old and less than six months out of college! I obviously accepted the offer and was very proud of this personal accomplishment that I never expected or even purposely pursued!

Also I have to note here how lucky I was to have a great role model and nurturing boss. She had built a great network of contacts which was really the foundation of her successful business. Also while many junior PR people start their careers ghost writing for executives or superiors at work, my boss encourages me to get my own name out there as much as possible and she was always eager to give me credit for the work I had done.

So that’s how I started to build up my own name in social media–I was further motivated when I started looking for my next career move and found that tying myself so closely to the business had also created the impression that I was an email marketing specialist and not a more general communications practitioner, which is how I saw myself. I knew I was passionate and excited about social media –which I had been using at work for two years by that point, and on a personal level for many years prior, so I started this blog with a focus on social media as a tool for communicators. It’s obviously gone through more than a few transitions over the years and currently I’m at a cross road about exactly what I want it to be but I’m hoping to commit more time to writing it and connecting with my readers.

Anyway, the biggest lesson I’ve learned since graduating is learning doesn’t end when you graduate–it’s really just the beginning. And building your career out in the open… in a public forum (such as through a blog and/or on Twitter or other social media) is tough work. The smart, influential and established people you look up are often reluctant to connect with someone they don’t already know. This is something I used to take personally, but have since learned to understand there are SO many people out there vying for attention, asking for favours, and trying to be noticed, that the more you build up your own profile the more you have to be choosy about who you interact with, because on the most basic level, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to interact with every interesting person out there!

Secondly as you learn, you make mistakes. In fact making mistakes, acknowledging them and learning from them is definitely the best and fastest way to learn. Of course when you publicly make a mistake people don’t see it that way. They may call you out on it–or worse just think less of you without telling you. Personally I think I’ve gotten better at dealing with public mistakes, and more importantly, I am more forgiving and sympathetic to others who make mistakes (and acknowledge them).

Another struggle is to not let success go to your head. Fortunately for me, it seems like the point when my head starts to inflate happens to correlate with me making a stupid mistake so it usually evens out pretty quickly.

What I love about social media (or generally being well connected) is if you look, you can always find someone out there who is smarter and more successful and that can give you a new goal to strive for.

On that note, you also don’t always need to be looking up to continue learning. I love meeting and talking with current students and recent graduates because they have such a fresh perspective on the working world. While I continue to learn so much, I also realize that I tend to forget important things I learned in school. Also when we get really good at something, we tend to get complacent and then we stop learning. Working with students or junior professionals is a great way to realize your own complacency and put a stop to it.

I’ve learned so much over the past five years, but I need to remind myself I’m still early in my career and have a long way to go. The frightening part is that every step along the way is documented online and forever findable on Google. I hope this will be to my advantage–so far I’m proud of everything I’ve done–including the mistakes I’ve made. The ability to look back at what I’ve done hopefully will just help me even more in the future.

Have your say at the Canadian Internet Forum on Feb. 25 in Ottawa

Please note: CIRA is a client of Thornley Fallis, and while  I do not make a habit of using my personal blog to promote work initiatives, in this case, I’m certain this free event will benefit my online enthusiast readers.

On February 25, 2011, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) will host a unique and important event about the future of the Internet in Canada. The Internet has become an integral part of the economic, political and social lives of Canadians, and the Canadian Internet Forum (CIF) will provide a space for Canadians to discuss its future.

Working with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Media Awareness Network, CIRA has been consulting with Canadians for the past four months on privacy, how social media is driving the future of the Internet, and access to and the cost of broadband in Canada, among others.

At the CIF, attendees will be engaged to provide their feedback and opinions about the results of the consultations. There will be opportunity to ask questions, debate and have their opinion heard about the direction the Internet should take in Canada. A panel of Canadian experts will discuss and debate the future of the Internet, including:

  • Jacob Glick, Canada Policy Counsel, Google
  • Dr. Gerri Sinclair, Executive Director, Masters of Digital Media Program at Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media
  • Marc Blanchet, Network Engineer, Viagénie
  • Jim Roche, President and CEO, CANARIE

Canadian technology visionary Leonard Brody will give the keynote address.

Registration is free, lunch and coffee will be served, and there will be a networking reception at the end of the day.  For those unable to attend in person, the event will be webcast.

Register now…

Time to mix it up!!

I assume it’s pretty quiet over the holidays… which makes it ideal timing to switch up my blog! Just an FYI that over the next few days I’ll be switching my domain from web2dotwhat.com (old and dated name!) to kellyrusk.com (my name will never get old!!) I’ll come up with a new name for the blog, but it won’t be tied to the domain anymore so I can change it a little more easily.

When I started this blog in 2007–the name was tongue-in-cheek… Web 2.0 wasn’t the over-used buzz word it is today, and while I’ll probably continue to write about interesting new communications tools, I’d like the freedom to broaden my scope a little.

Now-almost four years later, the meaning has changed and my interests have changed too. I’m not sure exactly *what* I want to do with it, but I’m looking for new inspiration so I can write a little more regularly.

Hope to see you in 2011 and hope you’ll continue reading (whatever ends up happening!)

Goodbyes are sad but new adventures are calling…

It’s never easy to leave a job (and I should know, I have left a few…) but sometimes you get an opportunity that just seems right.

This Thursday (Dec. 2) is my last day at MediaMiser–after a really fantastic year and a half of great experiences, a super fun office and one awesome team. I’m thankful for the opportunity and will fondly remember my time here.

However, I’m also really excited to announce I’ll be joining another great team here in Ottawa (and Toronto): the Thornley Fallis/76design team!

Although I love what I do, one itch I haven’t really been able to scratch lately is my love of working directly with clients. I did at my first job (that I LOVED more than anything) cardcommunications and I’ve missed it, so the opportunity to work with clients at an agency on the bleeding edge of social media and digital PR was an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass up.

As a consultant, I’m looking forward to working with an already impressive client list on social media/digital communications strategies. I also look forward to dipping my toes in business development and hopefully landing equally impressive clients and projects.

I start next Monday, Dec. 6, I’ll still be blogging here and on Twitter. Oh and if you’re looking for an agency for social media, marketing and/or PR, talk to me!

Giveaway! Experience the all new UltraAVX movie experience at Coliseum Ottawa

I love giving away free stuff!

I also love going to the movies, so this one is particularly exciting. The Cineplex Coliseum (Bayshore) is unveiling the latest in big screen tech and awesome effects (paraphrased!) called UltraAVX and I want to make sure you get there! I have 3 sets of tickets to go away. The tickets are good for up to one year, but I strongly urge you to go and be the first to experience what was described to me as:

One of the most immersive entertainment experiences possible. UltraAVX features wall-to-wall screens that are significantly larger on average than traditional screens. A superb digital surround sound system utilizes the latest in Dolby digital sound technology. Special projectors provide stunning, crystal clear images. And to top the experience off, reserved seating options and extra wide high back, luxurious rocker seats.

Yay! Just drop a comment and tell me what movie you’d love to go see (the passes are good for any movie playing on the UltraAVX, I’m just looking for ideas). Tomorrow at noon I will use Random.org to choose 3 winners.

Oh big thanks to, and please consider following @CineplexMovies!

UPDATE: Winners!
By the magic of Random.Org our winners are:
Sarah Houlihan
Dana Cooper

Can you email me at kellyrusk@gmail.com to claim your prize and we can figure out how to best get them to you..