“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…”

— The Beatles, Revolution

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As 2014 draws to a close people start listing resolutions they intend to achieve in 2015. Although well intended, 77% of people who make new year’s resolutions abandon them — many as early as the end of January.

I’ve never been much for making lists of resolutions, though as 2009 started I was inspired by Chris Brogan’s call to list three words that would inspire me and inform my decisions.

Ironically, in the months that followed my life took an unexpected turn that forever changed who I am and how I see the world. My three words were incredibly relevant some of the time, yet totally irrelevant at others. I survived a shock to my system that jarred me out of my comfort zone.

I learned that nothing is certain except the uncertainty of life. Yet, looking back over those five years I also realized something essential to my philosophy of lifelong learning: I evolved. What does that mean?

evolve

If you look at the definition to the left the word that pops out at me is “gradually.” This means change takes time and therefore requires something we all could use more of: patience.

Because most resolutions are transactional they are nearly impossible to achieve unless you precede them with a transformational realignment. If you don’t change how you see yourself and your situation, any short-term goals are doomed to fail because you won’t have an accurate benchmark.

So, with all due respect to The Beatles (see the lyrics to their song Revolution, above), evolution is more realistic than revolution, especially on a personal level.

Am I perfect now? Far from it; I am full of flaws and continuing to evolve as an individual. I suppose that’s the point, right? But I am more aware of myself and more engaged in my life than ever before. I am embracing ambiguity more than before and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The impact has been exceptional, both personally and professionally. Most notably, I relocated 8,000 miles away to Dubai, UAE for a full time teaching position  — just two short weeks after being offered the job(and having never before been to Dubai)!

Although Dubai is westernized in many ways, it has still provided me a wonderful opportunity to experience an entirely different culture than the one with which I was accustomed.

I am endeavoring to become the person who I should be, not who other people want me to be. I refuse to let others define me and decide for me.

I am doing this as much for myself as I am to show my two sons — whom I miss a great deal — that there is a world beyond the boundaries of the city in which they live. I want to inspire them to adventure by my actions. In the spirit of Robin William’s character in Dead Poets Society (John Keating) I embrace a philosophy of “Carpe Diem!”

I understand evolution is a process that happens  — wait for it — gradually. Ask Darwin: evolution is a transformational process that fundamentally changes something over a length of time, not a short period of time.  Just as I will never stop learning, I realize I will never be “done” evolving.

My evolution might have happened naturally as a function of maturity when I turned 40 earlier this year, but the process was was undoubtedly accelerated by the five years before it. While in the midst of the moment I was often overwhelmed with the challenges thrown my way, I now look back with gratitude for having been strengthened as a result.

Certainly you don’t have to go through what I did; you can find inspiration anywhere. If you need a little boost, however, you might enjoy reading the book “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander. You might also find insight by completing the StrengthsFinder analysis; it was fundamental in helping me realize teaching was my perfect profession.

So, will you resolve to evolve in 2015?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth? According to the following statistics from November 2011, video is so popular in online media it is nearly priceless:

  • comScore (October 2011): 184 million US Internet users watched an average of 21.1 hours per viewer and engaged in 42.6 billion video views. A record 20 Billion Content Videos Viewed on Google Sites!
  • NielsenWire (November 16, 2011):  the amount of time spent streaming videos online is growing at a much faster rate than the number of video viewers.
  • eMarketer (November 28, 2011): forecasts the number of the number of US tablet users will reach 89.5 million in 2014 and by 2015 there will be 148.6 million smartphone users, stoking demand for mobile online video.
  • Mashable (November 14, 2011): 71% of US Internet users visit video sharing sites on a typical day.
  • Unbounce (October 31, 2011): reports that using video on a marketing landing page lifted conversion rates by 100%.
  • Futuresource Consulting:  forecasts consumption of legitimate free and paid for online video is on track to exceed 770 billion views across the USA, UK, France and Germany this year.

How to Embed a Facebook Video Into Your WordPress.com Blog
In his blog post, “Why Flickr Images Boost Your Blog,” blogger Ari Herzog illustrates the importance of including images with the words of your post. Given that there are different conditions under which you can use images on Flickr, Herzog’s blog also links to a very helpful blog post titled “A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images.”

Given the above statistics, it stands to reason that including videos in your blog posts is an additionally important way to help people not only find your blog posts, but engage with them as well.

Noted social media consultant Chris Brogan encourages using video in blog posts, and he can’t be wrong, can he? Notably, in a September 1, 2011 Entrepreneur.com article, Chris also shared several helpful strategies you can use to start video blogging.

But not all videos are created equal. Rather I should say that not all videos are equally easy to include in your blog posts — specifically your WordPress.com blog posts.

YouTube and WordPress.com have facilitated the ability to insert videos with short URLs and  a simple code syntax (remove the space after and before the brackets; I needed to include the space here to prevent WordPress.com from actually trying to embed the example YouTube URL):

[ youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=video-id-here ].

However, for certain topics, as in the case of my recent blog post, (I’ve Had) The Time(line) of My Life, I wanted to include a video that was only available on Facebook. Doing so wasn’t nearly as intuitive or easy.

Eventually, after several minutes of serious searching online, I found a website with a solution that worked: How to Add,Show or embed facebook video on your wordpress, joomla, blogger blog or website.

To briefly summarize the three simple steps to follow so you can embed a Facebook video into your WordPress.com blog:

1.)  Locate the URL of the Facebook page in which the source video is embedded. The URL for the video from the (I’ve Had) The Time(line) of My Life post (pictured below) is https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=980256227111.

2.)  identify the number after the “v=” — in the case of the previously mentioned video, the number is 980256227111.

How to Embed Facebook Videos

3.)  Insert the number after the “v=”video into the code follows below. Again, as was the case with the YouTube example, please remove the space after and before the brackets (I needed to include it to prevent WordPress.com from actually trying to embed the example Facebook URL):

[ gigya src=”http://www.facebook.com/v/980256227111
codebase=”http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0″ width=”400″ height=”224″ ]

Please see the actual embedded video below:

And there you have it — you have successfully embedded a Facebook video into your WordPress.com blog!

Are you grateful for the gifts you received this holiday season?

Hopefully, if you wanted an iPhone 4S (affiliate link) and didn’t get it (or got something you didn’t want), you were not devastated like these horribly ungrateful individuals. For more humorous commentary, consider comedian Jim Gaffigan’s thoughts on getting unwanted gifts. If you did receive a gift for which you are not grateful, remember that somebody always wants — or at the very least could use — what you have.

Also consider that, during the “holiday season,” consumers bravely endured pepper spray on Black Friday, delivery drama for items ordered online, travel trauma, and the frenzy of family feudsWhy? To purchase the “perfect” gift for you (just as you might have done for others).

Interestingly, despite the many challenges with which consumers were presented, in addition to the overall economic uncertainty, shoppers came out in force this past holiday season.

According to a December 15, 2011 Associated Press article, “the National Retail Federation…now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion.” The article further elaborates, “the projected gain is still below the 5.2 percent pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, but it’s well above the 2.6 percent average increase over the past 10 years.”

Impressively, despite the odds against it happening, consumers collectively spent nearly one-half trillion dollars buying goods and services that, were it not for the holidays that necessitated the purchases, those items would have most likely never been purchased.

And now, with the holidays fading into the past, everyone is turning their attention to their soon-to-be-forgotten New Year’s resolutions.

When it comes to resolutions, people often list grandiose goals they intend to accomplish and, much like expectations for gifts, often the reality doesn’t match the fantasy. So, how can you start this new year with intention and reflection? My suggestion is to instead make a list of three gratitudes — three people, experiences or things for which you are thankful and:

  • Provide a foundation upon which you can build your life;
  • Whose presence in your life gives you direction;
  • Act as wings that lift you through tough times.

Similarly, Chris Brogan encourages people to “forego the idea of a resolution, and instead, to come up with 3 words that will help you define your goals and experiences for the coming year” with his “My Three Wordsmeme.

So, what are my “three gratitudes?”

  1. My Sons: My boys, Jacob and Max, are my inspiration and motivation. Whenever I am with them, my heart fills with joy and my life is filled with meaning. Both have overcome — and continue to work through — unique obstacles, but they do so with grace and gumption. Their presence fills me with pride, love, and laughter.
  2. My Friends: I have a small core of friends — maybe 5 really strong connections, mostly from my undergraduate years at UCSB, but one or two from more recent years. While small in number they have provided me with unconditional support that has made a large impact.
  3. My Career:  Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying  ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ I interpret this to mean that most people spend their lives pursuing practicality while foregoing their passion. While both are important, I am grateful to have transitioned into teaching, a career that is both challenging and rewarding.

Those are my three gratitudes…what are yours?

Photo Credit: “thank you note for every language” by woodleywonderworks.