Conference Breakdown – Sunday Afternoon Edition

October 2011 General ConferenceAnd now, the thrilling conclusion to the 2011 Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!!

Elder Russell M. Nelson-

Interestingly enough, Elder Nelson started off with an example of a faithful Russian couple who had converted to the Church and then been called to serve as mission presidents. After they had served, President (can’t remember his name…sorry!) suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I am currently at the home of a friend and her mother has just been worrying about the fact that her husband is on a plane right now and many of the Church leaders seem to be losing their companions!! She hopes not to lose hers, and says that if her husband did pass away she would have to exercise a LOT of faith in God.

Elder Nelson affirms that eternal life is the absolute greatest of God’s gifts. Take a moment to think about that; Eternal life is an indescribably more benevolent gift than financial security, freedom from sickness, freedom from pain, a beautiful home, or any other worthy temporal gift that we may receive. What a sublime truth, which would surely change our perspective were we to only focus on it.

Elder Dallin H. Oakes-

“I speak to the believers, but others also.” (This should be interesting)

It sounds like Elder Oakes will be the second speaker today who will speak about the Divinity of Christ, and the ridiculous claim that “He’s an inspired teacher, but not divine.”

“What think ye of Christ?” I’m on a thought streak.

Elder Matthew Richardson-

So I’m sitting here and the mom that I’m here with INSTANTLY says, “Is his last name Richardson?? AAAHHHH!!!! I went to school with him!! Matt Richardson is in the Primary General Presidency!??” This session just keeps getting better and better :)

Don’t teach in front of the Spirit, or behind the Spirit. Teach by the Spirit! “We may need to change our way of teaching, to emulate the way the Holy Ghost teaches.” That’s good!

He gave a story about hiking a big mountain with his son and daughter. His poor little daughter kept slipping, so he invited her to grab onto his back pockets and place her feet directly in his footprints. After “what seemed like an eternity” they reached the top, because she had carefully walked “after the manner” that he had. So should we follow the guidance of the Spirit, and the example of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita-

He is a beautiful speaker, and a convert to the Church. He shared a very touching story about a missionary who came to his door wearing a very faded coat which had once belonged to his father. That coat had been worn by his father during his mission, also in Japan. To this, the “mom” said, “I just gave (her son’s) coat to the DI. It was like $300! There will never be a story at Conference about (her son’s) coat.” She needs a good nickname. (like The Pioneer Woman‘s “Marlboro Man.”)

Elder Randall K. Bennett-

(I’m not sure whether I’ve been so spiritually fed already that I’m now full, the recent talks aren’t striking a chord with me, or whether I’m just off my game. I just haven’t been able to tune into this talk! Sorry Elder Bennett! It’s a great talk, I promise.)

“We all face adversity, we all face temptations, we all make mistakes. It is never too hard or too late to make correct choices.”

“The Savior’s arms of mercy are always extended to each of us.” “Have I chosen to be so busy or apathetic that I don’t take time to study the words of Christ, ponder them, and speak to my Heavenly Father.” “Your eternal destiny will not be the result of chance, but choice.”

“Elder J. Devn Cornish-

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the child and the will of the Father come into correspondence with one another.”

Elder Cornish shared a very fun experience of riding his bike home from the Hospital at which he was a Doctor, wanting a piece of chicken from a nearby restaurant which was selling them for only 29¢. He unfortunately only had a nickel in his pocket. He prayed to find a quarter on the way, if the Lord was willing. Sure enough, as soon as he pulled up he saw a quarter on the street directly across from the shop.

For us to think that we are too unworthy to ask the Lord for help is like thinking we are too sick to see the doctor (it just doesn’t make sense!)

Elder Quentin L. Cook-

Good news is that the missionaries who were about to go on the Titanic didn’t do it!! There was, however, a young LDS wife and mother who was aboard the Titanic, returning from England where she was taking a course as a midwife. It is assumed that she did not make it because she was helping other passengers. The moral of the story is that doing the right thing will not always allow you to avoid unwanted consequences (like death.) But it is always the right thing to do!

“Regardless of the trials we face in this life, the Savior’s Atonement provides enough lifeboats for all of us.”

President Thomas S. Monson-

The Lord is mindful of the trials we face today. The Gospel provides answers. It gives meaning and purpose and hope to our lives.

The Prophet loves us and prays for us, and asks that we would remember him and all the General Authorities in our prayers. “We are one with you.”

(This was a fun time and a great experience!! I had a lot of fun sharing my thoughts, aside notes, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it all!! Please give me your feedback whether you loved it or not, and see you in another six months!)

-Jimmy A. Winskowski
Faithful and committed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

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Conference Breakdown – Sunday Morning Edition

Sunday morning!! Hi-ya! Priesthood session last night was just peachy :) Admittedly, I did fall asleep for just a little bit! But now I’m back blogging and ready to stay awake and share the love!

Presenting: Conference Breakdown – Sunday Morning Edition!

President Henry B. Eyring-

President Eyring began by speaking of the baptismal covenants given in Mosiah 18:8-10: “8- …as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9- Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10- Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a ccovenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

This he summed up by saying that our duties as members of the Church is to “Be charitable, be witnesses, and endure.”

(It took him about five minutes and 36 seconds to start to get emotional during this talk. This time, it was while he was telling a story of giving an address for which he was sternly told that he would not be able to bear his witness of Christ. It turned out well, though he had some trepidation while remembering the experience of Abinadi. He said that because of the power of the Book of Mormon, he had the strength to bear witness, even when it seemed hard.)

“The Book of Mormon is a precious witness.”

Elder Robert D. Hales-

(My first thought: What happened to Elder Hales??? His face looks severely larger than usual. He’s seated in a chair and not looking especially healthy or radiant. I’m not exactly sure what is wrong with Elder Hales’s health, I have read the he was spotted around the time of the April 2011 Conference wearing a leg brace, perhaps tied to a recent surgery. One of my friends also speculated that he’s on steroid treatments, leading to the “cherub-like” face. Rhumatory arthritis may be the answer to Elder Hales’s health issues. I have been unable to gather more details than that, other than a pair of heart attacks that he suffered in 1994. I’m sure these have not been good for his long-term health, but still. He does not look so great.)

He’s speaking of the comfort that comes from “waiting upon the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“Too often we pray to have patience, but we want it right now.”

“Let us not give up on the Lord, His blessings are eternal, not temporary.”

This is a beautiful, peaceful, and comforting message from a servant of the Lord who is clearly tender in heart, experiencing his own trials right now, yet filled with love, care and concern for those to whom he is speaking.

(As a related side note, I’m watching this session with about a dozen or so 20-somethings, about five of whom have begun to fall asleep into a peaceful slumber. No doubt the comforting and very sublime, peaceful nature of Elder Hales’s message has carried them off to dozing.)

Elder Tad R. Callister-

His great-great grandfather, upon reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, said that the book was either the work of God or the work of the devil, and he was determined to find out which. “That is the beauty of the Book of Mormon, there is no middle ground.”

“I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great mortal teacher, but not the Son of God.” Elder Callister refers to that as “nonsense!”

(I like this Elder already!! He’s killing it right now!)

Elder Callister shares scriptures from the Book of Mormon (each of which witness and exhort of the Savior with clarity) and asks the question, “could this come from the evil one?”

Why do we need the Book of Mormon if we already have the Bible?? Have you ever wondered why there are so many Churches, when they are all based on the same Bible?

He gives kind of a neat example, where he talks about the Bible being a single reference point. He asks how many different straight lines you can draw through a single point? The answer is: an infinite number. But what if there was a second point (The Book of Mormon?) There would be only one straight line that could pass between the two. (And what about a line that had to pass through 4 points? These are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the D&C, and the living Prophets and Apostles! That’s one solid line!!)

Sister Elaine Dalton-

(Disclaimer: I was listening to this talk while making the “Dots” picture above, so it’s now a half hour later that I’m actually writing this.)

She gave wonderful memories of growing up with a father who loved her and always showed by his actions how important she was to him. She always felt that her worth was great, and that she should never “settle,” because she deserved the best!!

ONe interesting comment she made was this: “Only after Nephi had built a Temple did he say that his people lived ‘after the manner of happiness.'”

She said that the best way to raise a righteous daughter was to love her mother. :)

Elder M. Russell Ballard-

Elder Ballar, who is the head of the Church’s missionary council (I believe) spoke about the need for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use well the full revealed name of the Church whenever possible. It is important that people know that we are not members of Mormon’s church. (After all, Mormon doesn’t even have a church!) He commented that it can be appropriate to describe members of the Church as “Mormons,” as it is a name of familiarity, but it is not appropriate to refer to the Church itself as “Mormon.”

This was a very cool talk and very poignant considering all of the recent press the Church has been receiving! (See: Mitt Romney, John Huntsman, The Book of Mormon on Broadway, “The Jimmer,” Brandon Davies scandal, etc.)

President Thomas S. Monson-

President Monson is on a roll lately! A prolific storyteller, he has been much more tongue-in-cheek during this General Conference and has received many laughs.

A lengthy and detailed story about a $5 bill that he had sent through the laundry turned into a short testimony about prayer coming true. Perfect :)

“Elder Hawkes, who was known to drive rather rapidly” (another phrase that drew many laughs.)

(It is amazing, after all this time, that President Monson is still able to tell stories that so perfectly teach a gospel principle, and yet I haven’t heard it yet! In this case, President Monson made the subtle comment that he feels humble and grateful each time he receives personal revelation from our Heavenly Father. This was a lead-in to an experience he shared that FLAWLESSLY exemplified the words of Nephi, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things I should do.” It was quite amazing.)

The end!!

(P.S. I published this article about an hour ago, even though it was only half finished, because I knew people would have questions about Elder Hales’s health. Turns out I was right, as I’ve definitely received search traffic on it already!! Wish I had more answers!)

See you in a few hours for the thrilling conclusion!

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Conference Breakdown – Saturday Afternoon Edition

Round 2 is upon us! Excited to see that President Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf is going to conduct the session. Ready to do some serious sustaining.

(Hymns for this session being sung by a children’s choir from North Ogden I think…putting me to sleep!! This is the exact reason I’m blogging; I’m trying to stay awake! I need food. Popcorn. Snacks!!)

Elder Bednar-

(Still fading…badly.)

Elijah was a heck of a guy!

(Need food…going to pop some popcorn and pour some chocolate milk!)

I missed most of this, but I bet it was really good!!

Elder Neal Anderson-

(Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to write during this talk, as I was eating popcorn and my hands were plenty messy, but I listened to it!)

This was a subject that needed to be covered. He spoke of the commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth, a commandment that I know many my age have placed on the backburner during other pursuits. Some of these people, in fact, are Latter-day Saints whom I know to be faithful and revere greatly.

On numerous occasions, he said that the timing of the children and the number of children that a family welcomes are personal matters between husband, wife, and the Lord. I know this to be a true principle.

He also coupled a message of understanding for those who have had difficulty having children with a story of a couple who eventually adopted (after 25 year of marriage.) I may have some acquaintances who may be in that situation at some point, as well. Who knows, perhaps I will!

Elder Ian S. Ardern-

A very poignant message about the use of time correctly and not being drawn away by things which are NOT needful in our lives and do not allow us to keep a proper balance which includes the Lord.

(I missed much of this, went for more chocolate milk and got a measuring cup to help me eat my popcorn.)

Elder Carl B. Cook-

Another wonderful and sweet message. He started with an anecdotal story about running into President Monson. While feeling very burdened and heavy with the weight of a newly received calling, Elder Cook descended in an elevator, staring at the floor. President Monson then entered the elevator and, after an introduction and conversation, reminded Elder Cook that it is better to look “up” than down. What a beautiful way to remember the example oft-given in the scriptures to look and live. Look to God and he will lighten your burdens!!

LeGrand R. Curtis, Jr.-

Jesus is known by many names, one of them being “Savior.”

I have many thoughts on the subject of Christ, redemption, forgiveness, and the enabling power of the Atonement. It is such an interesting and wonderful thing that Jesus would willingly go through the highs and lows of mortality, suffer the full– and let me re-emphasize, FULL- weight of all of the sins of every man and woman who had ever and would ever live on this (and other?) world(s,) and experience the full measure of grief that any and all of us would ever know. And all this that HE could be the one to coach us, befriend us, walk beside us, judge us, defend us, and enable us to, in whatever way we are able, follow His example and set our gaze on exaltation. Magnanimous, marvelous, and surpassing all understanding. And yet, I feel confident that to Him it was the only thing to do. What an infinitely and wonderfully sublime act. I love Jesus Christ and wish to follow Him!!

Elder D. Todd Christofferson-

Repentence and forgiveness are a turning of the heart, a returning to a path that one has determined to walk. “True repentence is not superficial.”

Repenting can sometimes be accompanied by an agonizing pain…but the pain of repentence pales in comparison to the suffering which accompanies paying the price of committed sins. Whatever the cost of repentence, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness!

“I invite all to repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Elder L. Tom Perry-

The Church and its members are being talked about all the time! Bloggers, Media members, and those who have never written for a major publication in their lives. “While the Church is becoming more visible, there are many who still don’t understand it.”

It is a sad but true fact that some will willingly disregard what the Church of Jesus Christ as Latter-day Saints stands for, believes in, and looks like in terms of day-to-day membership, simply because they are misinformed and unwilling to discover the truth. So how do we fix this?

Be bold in our declaration of Jesus Christ!

Speak up about the Church! When others inquire into your faith, be open with them! Share your beliefs, and engage them in a two-way conversation about theirs.

Don’t be afraid to lend your voice to the conversations happening in social media. (Check!)

Perfect love casteth out fear.

(I was a little distracted during this session, between making and eating popcorn, making chocolate milk, and discovering the fact that my Saturday Morning Conference Breakdown has been getting really good traffic today, including some search engine love (Google “President Packer Crow Poem”!) This excitement has caused this afternoon post to be shorter, less detailed, and- I’m sure- of a poorer quality than this morning’s, nevertheless I accomplished my goal of not falling asleep!! Enjoy the rest of Conference, and may I add a GO UTES!!)

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Conference Breakdown – Saturday Morning Edition

As they say, “My momma didn’t raise no fool!” And since I am well aware of my propensity for an unplanned Conference snooze, I decided to blog while I listen to Conference!

And so I present: Conference Breakdown – Saturday Morning Edition!

Elder Scott-

A tender, emotional, and vastly intellectual man. He states that ALL of the scriptures should be used to gather truth, and that some of the most fundamental doctrinal beliefs he has are rooted in Old Testament teachings.

The New Testament is also a source of “diamond truths.” How true a statement, as much of the New Testament is dedicated to a chronicle of the Savior’s mortal ministry and the record of his apostles trying to bring the Gospel to the world and follow Him. What a great example.

Elder Scott then submits that the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrines of the Gospel with unique clarity.

(awkward wiping of nose)

He shares scriptures from the BOM, and then shares his memory of recording an audio version of the Book for his family, and the powerful witness which he felt of its divine nature. Beautiful. A sensitive and gentle man, if there ever was one. He has been known to remain for a full hour or two after meetings at which he is the keynote, in order to allow ALL members of the congregation to meet him, shake hands, or embrace. I know from first-hand experience.

Sister Barbara Thompson-

Divine guidance and personal revelation is a beautiful and true thing. She shares a personal experience from her youth, and recounts the experience of Nephi in juxtaposition to his brothers who stated, “we have not prayed, for the Lord maketh no such thing unto us.” (paraphrase)

She teaches that inspiration will often NOT come in any audible fashion, rather from a burning in the bosom.

In difficult times, you do not simply “keep” your testimony. Instead, your testimony will keep you during those times!

The Lord desires to bless us with guidance and wisdom, and to pour out his Spirit upon us. We must be willing to seek out and receive his guidance, and we will receive it.

L. Whitney Clayton-

As a young missionary, Elder Clayton imagined being inside the palace in Lima, Peru. Years later, as an adult servant of the Lord, he was graciously received into that palace.

Daniel was received by King Nebuchadnezzar when he needed answers. Joseph Smith was told by Moroni that his name would be had for good and evil throughout the world! How silly must that have sounded to those who knew him. And now, only 181 years after the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Clayton lays down bold and clear testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints IS led by a living and true prophet, and that the Church IS that stone cut out of a mountain without hands, and that it is filling the whole Earth.

(Congregational Hymn: Redeemer of Israel. Sing it if you know it!)

President Thomas Monson

“Hello!” President Monson starts out with a very “Mayberry” greeting. President Monson has been an apostle for 48 YEARS!! I can’t imagine doing anything for 48 consecutive years, other than probably living or (Heaven willing) being sealed! Happy thoughts.

The work of Temples has gone on uninterrupted. Umm…Provo is about to have a second Temple!!!! What the what?? The former Tabernacle will be converted to a Temple.

There will be a new Temple in the Dem. Republic of the Congo! Wow. There will also be one in Star Valley, Wyoming. “I think I’ll dedicate that one, there’s good fishing up there.” Literally made me burst into laughter!!

(It appears that talk times have gone from a 20 min/person average, to 10 mins/non-Apostle, and only like 15 mins/Apostle. Social media/ADD generation loves it.)

Jose L. Alonso-

EVERYone has the opportunity to give service and to share their love. Those who have been touched by the Master’s hand will have a desire to serve.

I really like this Elder. I wonder how his conversational English is. I can’t imagine the pressure of speaking to millions in a language that I had not mastered or at least felt very comfortable in. My heart constantly goes out to the Church leaders who speak in Conference in their non-native language, and I joy in their success in doing so!

“There may be many who for some reason are lost from our sight but do not know that they are lost.”

He recounts the record of the Savior showing compassion to the people in the Americas, healing them and blessing them when they no longer had the capacity to understand the words which he was speaking to them. This is one of my favorite single moments in the scriptures. I used to read it each week during the Sacrament.

Again, clear and bold testimony is born regarding the singularity of truthfulness of the restored Gospel, the Church, and Joseph Smith as a true prophet. Beautiful.

President Boyd K. Packer-

Before giving words which he has identified as being directed at the youth of the Church, President Boyd K. Packer relates the following poem:

ABOUT CROWS
by John Ciardi

The old crow is getting slow;
the young crow is not.
Of what the young crow does not know,
the old crow knows a lot.

At knowing things, the old crow is still
the young crow’s master.
What does the old crow not know?
How to go faster.

The young crow flies above, below, and rings
around the slow old crow.
What does the fast young crow not know?
WHERE TO GO.

Being only 27, I have already learned how true these words are. There is SO much that I didn’t know as a teenager, which I now know. I have been blessed through coaching gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, and dance to be able to interact with many teenagers, and have been able to pass some of that wisdom on. I hope and pray that all the young people hearing President Packer’s words.

“The voice of the Spirit is a feeling more than a voice.” Be careful to feel that voice which you can’t hear. If you have been involved in receiving spiritual communication, you will know that it is much more of a feeling than anything else.

“It is not expected that you go through your life without making mistakes, but you will not make a serious mistake in your life without first being warned by the Holy Ghost.” Read that one twice!!

Navigating the perils of the teenage years (spiritual perils, if not emotional) are so simple. Modesty in dress, clean language, building a testimony, following the counsel of the prophets.

This talk is feeling long, definitely breaking the pattern I laid out earlier. Or am I just really hungry? (I am) Or both?

You may be tempted to think, as President Packer did decades ago, that the world was going to end before you were able to experience all of the things you hoped to in your life. Don’t worry about that he says. You will live to see your children, grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren. (Interesting…)

(Desperate need of sugar right now. Please bless.)

(Thank you leftover lemon blueberry bundt cake from company party on Tuesday!! Saved.)

President Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf-

President Uchtdorf points out the recent observance by scientists that the number of stars may be 10x greater than all the individual grains of sand on all of the beaches and deserts on all the Earth coincides with the scriptural observance that all the particles in all the earth would not begin to compare with the number of God’s creations.

“Compared to God, man is nothing. But to God, man is everything.”

Even though all the money and wealth in the world could not even buy a loaf of bread in the eternities, the Lord never overlooks us.

While in advanced flight training in Big Spring, Texas, President Uchtdorf sometimes felt that he was a tiny person in a tiny place and that there was no way that the Lord could find him there. “The Lord does not care if we work in marble halls or stable stalls.” Though at times we may feel unimportant, insignificant, or unforgotten, we MATTER to God.

1. God loves the humble and meek
2. The Lord has chosen for the weak and simple to preach His Gospel
3. No matter where you live or how humble your circumstances, you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father.
4. What you see and experience now is not what forever will be. God will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to him.

President Uchtdorf was born as a leader. The type of man you would follow into a fire, knowing that somehow he would lead you through it. A man full of passion and perspective.

(Definitely a 20 min. talk, but whether it was the cake, the speaker, or the subject, I was able to make it through much more easily!)

Closing hymn is being sung, so I will sign out for now!

I hope you’ve found worth in this post, if you’re reading this. If you have no idea what this post is about, go to the LDS website to find out more!

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The Social Sales Dilemma

It seems like celebrities just can’t catch a break. At least not on Facebook.

Sure, they may have lavish homes, fleets of luxury automobiles, high-paying endorsement deals, personal assistants, perks wherever they go, the ability to conjure money out of thin air due to their status, adoring fans, yachts, and one or two other minor comforts that most of us don’t, but when it comes to things like social media, they just can’t do a darn thing right!

The latest celebrity to be flagged for misuse of social media is tennis player Maria Sharapova. Her crime, “Giving (fans) the chance to directly buy products she endorses” on her Facebook page (Source: CNN). While this caution may seem laughable, it raises a serious question to be asked by small businesses and large corporations alike:

Is it ok to use social media as a sales tool?

Many believe that the answer is “absolutely not,” including Ilana Fox of British news outlet New Media Source. She recently wrote, “Facebook shops are a flash-in-the-pan trend that won’t increase revenues for retailers. They’re a social commerce quick-win that’s as effective as any other pared-down, (poor) version of an etail site.” And it seems she is not alone in her stance.

Sport Industry Group‘s Drew Barrand agreed in a recent interview with CNN, adding “It remains to be seen whether social media can be harnessed as a separate revenue source. It’s in its infancy so no-one has really worked out how to use it from a sponsorship point of view. In terms of gathering support and exposure, it’s clearly a very valuable tool. But how do you use that for commercial purposes?”

The truth is some companies have been utilizing their Facebook page to sell their products for months now, and I’m not just talking about pasting a link on the page wall.

Back in October of last year, Social Media Examiner reported that many companies were already making great use of the ability to showcase their online catalogues to Facebook “fans” using custom apps. They even pointed out two examples (1-800-Flowers and Delta) of online brands that were allowing for sales to be made inside of the Facebook browser (Delta’s is especially impressive,) allowing fans to shop and purchase without ever leaving the page. Since that time, Facebook has adopted new, agressive changes to make it easier for companies large and small to sell within their fan pages. This tells me that selling through social media is hardly “in its infancy” and is much more than a “flash-in-the-pan trend.” It is here to stay.

So what does this mean for the consumer?

As a social media marketer myself, I have seen overwhelmingly positive reactions. Most recently, I gave a simple reminder to our Facebook fans that we were approaching the end of a 20% off sale on all of our online and in-store products. I was met with responses like, “Thanks for the reminder,” and “Just placed my order.” Other fans chimed in with the names of the products that they were most excited to buy. None of them seemed perturbed in the least that we were leveraging our social media for sales.

This is, in part, because they know us. They like us (and I don’t just mean “like,” I mean like-like.) They talk to us, and we talk to them. They share the experiences they are having with our products, and the questions that they have about what we do. And we respond. Social media exists for the consumer and the company to interact with one another. That’s why people follow you on Twitter or “like” your page on Facebook. That’s why you pay someone to manage your social media strategies; because you want people to know you and love you.

And if you’ve done all of that right, your fan base will be thrilled when you announce your next sale.

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LeBreakdown

11 short months ago, Lebron James uttered the most infamous words in NBA history:

“In this Fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”

Tonight, he probably regrets that Decision more than ever.

A year ago, Lebron had it all: The adoration of a city, a state, even a country. Millions loved him. They bought his jerseys, flocked to his games, celebrated his victories, and mourned his losses. He was a hero. He was the “Chosen One.”

Reporters loved him. Fans loved him. Heck, I loved him. He was the Anti-Kobe, an unselfish team player who was going to bring a championship to Cleveland, Ohio. He was the local boy, the hometown hero.

And now, a year later, he’s Public Enemy #1. And it’s beginning to wear on him.

Much has been said in the past few days about Lebron’s sudden inability to impact games in the 4th Quarter, and rightly so. During the first five games of the 2011 NBA Finals Lebron James has scored only 11 4th-quarter points. Dirk Nowitzki, in contrast, has scored almost five times that in the final quarter of games 1-5.

In fact, James scored fewer points in Tuesday’s Game 4 than in any of his 90 previous NBA Playoff games. And why?

ESPN analysts and sports writers nationwide are baffled. But I know the answer.

I know why Lebron James is struggling now more than he ever has, despite having everything he’s ever asked for.

It’s because he left Cleveland.

And I don’t mean that karma has come to get him, or that he’s been cursed by Dan Gilbert. No, it’s not about any of those things. Rather, it’s about family. It’s about friends. It’s about support. It’s about love.

And that is one thing Miami can never give him.

Sure, Miami’s fashionably late fan base may cheer for him at games. Bandwagoners nationwide may buy his jerseys and his shoes and his sweats. But none of that can ever amount to what he had in Cleveland.

You see, to Lebron James the idea of family has always been important. He grew up with a single mother, who forewent no sacrifice to make sure that Lebron was cared for. He wears her name on his right shoulder. Recalling his childhood basketball teammates, he says “I wanted to finally have some brothers that I could be loyal to…we all kind of shared that bond.”

That is what Cleveland was to Lebron. He was their brother. He was their son. He was their savior.

And he left.

Now, a year later and with another team’s banner across his chest, is it any wonder that Lebron looks as though he’s been swallowing Kryptonite by the fistful? Or that he’s powerless to explain the sudden slump?

At the moment, the Miami Heat are one game away from elimination at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. Whether they are able to come back and win the series or not, Lebron James has already revealed that something is missing from his game and from his psyche.

And while the national media continues to search for an answer they’ll never find, I offer one short piece of advice to Lebron:

Home is where the heart is.

Article first published as LeBreakdown on Technorati.

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The Crossover Effect

A decade ago Allen Iverson was a force in the NBA.

Known for his lethal crossover dribble, Iverson received acclamation as the 2001 scoring champion and League MVP, leading his team to face the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. His star shone brighter than perhaps any other player’s in basketball.

10 years later, though his NBA star power has disappeared, Iverson’s influence has never been felt more strongly.

If you’ve been watching the NBA over the past season, you know what I mean. You’ve no doubt witnessed dazzling scoring performances by players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, and others.

In the upcoming NBA Draft, many will be introduced to players like Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmer Fredette, themselves no strangers to astonishing on-court feats.

What do all of these players have in common?

Each of these players has established himself as a prolific scorer. And each of them plays the same position: Point Guard.

For those who are unfamiliar with basketball, the Point Guard is the facilitator. He is like a Quarterback; all plays go through him. He is responsible for protecting the ball and leading his team. He is not, traditionally, the team’s first scoring option. The prototypical Point Guard creates opportunities for his team’s “big men” and shooters, not himself.

Why, then, are so many of today’s collegiate and professional point guards looking to score first instead of passing?

Enter Allen Iverson.

Today’s NBA young guns were mere preteens when the Mighty Mouse-like “A.I.” lit up the L.A. Lakers for 48 points in the opening game of the 2001 Finals. They were entering Middle or High School in 2005 when he led the League in scoring for the fourth time in seven seasons, winning the NBA All-Star MVP trophy and averaging over 31 points per game in the Playoffs. And they were just starting their NCAA or NBA careers when he was voted to his 11th consecutive All-Star Game in 2010.

Years ago he was an anomaly. Now, quick-footed, sharp-shooting Point Guards are becoming more and more prevalent across the League.

A great example of this is young Chicago Bulls Point Guard Derrick Rose. Rose was the runaway winner of this year’s NBA MVP Award, and led his team to the League’s best record at 62-20. He also led his team in scoring at 25 point per game, averaging 7.7 assists, a good deal lower than more traditional pass-first PG’s Rajon Rondo (11.2 apg,) Deron Williams (10.2 apg,) and Chris Paul (9.8 apg.) His determination, scoring, and heart were Iversonesque.

And yet Rose will be watching this season’s NBA Finals from his home, just like you and I. Which leaves me with the question, “As so many young Point Guards embrace Iverson’s shoot-first mentality, are they destined to suffer his same fate?”

After all the trophies an all the records, there was one accomplishment Iverson never obtained: An NBA Championship.

Now, as Iverson dwindles in obscurity in Turkey, he will have to watch along with us to find out if his generation of disciples can reach the plateau he never could.

It seems we will all have to wait a little longer for the Answer.

*Article first published as The Crossover Effect on Technorati.*

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The Impossible Case Against Derrick Rose

For the past few months a debate has raged among columnists, players, and fans over who should be selected as the 2011 NBA MVP. Last night, that debate was put to an end.

Derrick Rose is now officially the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

For most NBA fans, though, he has been the MVP since well before the All-Star Break. Since that time, only Dwight Howard has stood between Rose and complete domination of the public opinion. And while Howard’s list of supporters has been shorter than Rose’s, this group (including ESPN stat wizard John Hollinger) has been no less passionate in its belief that Dwight is truly the player who adds the most value to his team.

A month ago, I felt the same way. In fact, if I was writing this post on April 3rd, I probably would have named it “The Case for Dwight Howard.” But now, on May 3rd, I am left utterly unable to argue Rose’s MVP selection. Why the complete reversal on my part? Easy.

Derrick Rose does more and means more for his team than any other player in the league. Plain and simple.

You’re probably familiar with the stats by now, but for those who aren’t, let me compare the two side by side: Rose averaged 25 ppg, 7.7 apg, and 4.1 rpg for Chicago while Howard gave the Magic 22.9 ppg, 14.1rpg, 2.4 bpg. Each player turned the ball over about 3.5 times per game. One of the most telling stats may be that of personal fouls, with Howard sending opposing players to the line almost twice as frequently, recording 3.5 fouls per game to Rose’s 1.7. This small difference means that Howard gave the opposing team a chance at scoring 3.5 points more each game than Rose. This alone still does not give Rose a clear advantage in the MVP voting.

The real difference between the two players is not what they add to the stat sheet, but what they add to their <em>team</em>. Rose electrified his home crowd consistently to help the Bulls capture the league’s best home record at 36-5. He also led his team to the NBA’s best record in only his third season, and with two of his team’s most crucial players (Boozer and Noah) out for a combined 57 games. He was pure magic.

Howard, in contrast, was a little too bullish. His career-high 18 technical fouls (plus one flagrant foul for good measure) consistently hurt his team’s ability to put a run together, and gave the opposing team extra opportunities for possession and points. He also fouled out of four games, and was responsible for more turnovers than any other player on his team. Did I mention that he and his teammates are no longer participating in this year’s playoffs?

While Dwight’s effort was valiant, and his battle hard-fought, in the end Derrick Rose simply did too much more to help his team win. For this I can wholeheartedly congratulate him as the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player.

Now who wants to write the comparison piece on Dirk?

Article first published as The Impossible Case Against Derrick Rose on Technorati.

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The NFL Lockout: Three Key Components

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

After performing enough research to feel like I know more than the average fan, I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the three main components of the NFL lockout:

1. Greed (owners)
2. Greed (players)
3. Lack of Transparency (owners and players)

The truth is, I’ve been trying for a half hour now to figure out how to put “greed” into that list a third time.

If you’re a stranger to the NFL’s lockout particulars, there are a few details that you ought to know before you jump to any conclusions about who is right and who is wrong in the NFL labor dispute. First, the league wants to lower the salary cap, limiting the amount of money that NFL players can make. Second, the players began preparing a year ago for the process of decertification, giving them the ability to take legal action against the NFL in an antitrust suit. Third, both the owners and the players are making more than enough money to continue playing football in 2011-2012 with absolutely no need for a lockout.

Let me break down each of these points in a little more detail.

The Owner Dilemma

The owners claim to be facing the exact same problem as many American football fans; Their revenue has steadily decreased as a result of the economic recession. Is that a believable scenario? You bet. Their solution to the issue is to negotiate a contract with the NFL Players Association that will lower the amount of money each team pays out to its players. In business, this is referred to as “cutting costs,” or “lowering your overhead.” In theory, this could allow NFL teams to maintain profits without having to rely on raised ticket prices, concession costs, etc. This could be a good thing for Joe Fan in Buffalo. It is not a good thing, however, for the players.

The Player Dilemma

The players are clinging to the most glaring benefit of playing in the NFL: The money. And for good reason. After all, the average NFL career lasts only four years, and studies continue to reveal that the detrimental effects of playing professional football can include brain damage, prescription drug dependency, and other serious mental and physical issues. On top of all that, the players are what we refer to as “the talent.” They are the reason that there is an NFL. Without the player there is no team, and without the team there is no league. Without the league, there is no money.

The Real Problem

The real problem is that the owners and players are unsatisfied making millions of dollars per year on average, and doing so in what has proven to be a very sustainable business model. Think of the number of businesses that have closed their doors in the 41 years since the NFL merger. And yet the NFL continues to be a money-making juggernaut. While the owners and players continue to struggle over the dollars, NFL fans are interested in only one thing: sense.

If the owners are truly interested in a quick end to this dispute, they need to open their books to the players and show exactly how much profit they have lost – or gained – over the past few seasons. To date, only the Packers have done so. Until the rest of the league follows suit, this lockout will remain a matter for the courts. And that is not good news for either side.

One issue that will become more of a factor should the lockout continue is the $4.4 billion dollars of TV money the League will receive during the 2011 season with or without football (figures courtesy Scout.com.) Getting a piece of that money will be a huge life preserver for the Players Union, and will remove one of the biggest chips the owners are holding.

My hope is that the fans will not have their excitement crushed by the weight of this ugly lockout, and that the owners and players can reach an agreement sooner rather than later. After all, I’ve got a season to watch.

And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

*Article first published as The NFL Lockout: Three Key Components on Technorati.

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The Changing of the Guard: A New Era Dawns in the NBA

About once a decade or so the reigning superstars of the NBA fade away, giving way to the next generation of younger, more gifted, and more self-assured athletes. This change comes as surely as the rising of tides or the setting of the sun.

In the 90’s we watched as Bird, Magic, and Isaiah gave way to Jordan, Charles, Patrick and Karl. As the 2000’s began, those players found the spotlight shifting to Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, and Garnett.

As we witness in awe the spectacular moments of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, we are once again watching the curtain fall on this generation’s wave of NBA stars.

Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images

A decade ago, Shaq and Kobe teamed up to win a championship for L.A.. Tim Duncan helped the Spurs to the league’s best record with 61 wins. Garnett led an otherwise unspectacular Minnesota team to the West’s 8th seed. Dirk Nowitzki helped the Mavericks upset the veteran Utah Jazz, and Allen Iverson was breathing life into the long-sleeping 76ers (stats courtesy Wikipedia.) The rise of the new NBA superstar was in full swing.

Now, ten years later, many of these players are still in the playoff mix, and they seem unaware that the same pattern is inevitably occurring, just as it did for Stockton, Malone, Robinson, Barkley, and even Jordan before them. Yet the signs are all around.

Iverson is enjoying the 2011 postseason in Turkey, Shaq just spent his team’s first round matchup in a suit, and Duncan returned home early for the start to his golf season. Kobe is hanging tough, still productive but nowhere near his dominance of half a decade ago, while Garnett leads the battle-weary Celtics into a clash with South Beach’s resident superstars, and Dirk – though sickeningly productive – can only hope to make the next few games close before bowing out once again earlier than he’d like. The sun is setting on these illustrious careers.

Meanwhile, the tide is already rising for NBA superstars like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudamire, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, and others. With these players not only entering their prime but also teaming up, the door is quickly closing for veterans to take home their last pieces of hardware. Soon, the curtain will touch the stage and their chance will be gone.

My advice to these players is simple: Leave now. Retire while you still have something left in the tank. Go out on top, or as close to the top as you can. Why?

When a star player is reaching the end, finishing that last max contract, slowly fading from glory, what does his team do? Trade him? Cut him loose unceremoniously? Of course not! They keep him as long as they can, because they know that he is impossible to replace. And so the responsibility falls to the player to protect his legacy before it’s too late.

With change as inevitable as the setting sun, I hope to see more players willing to say, “enough” before it gets ugly. Before the inexperienced 8 seed knocks them out of the first round. Before they lose the glory they worked so hard to attain.

And if Kobe Bryant ends up being the first to say goodbye, I won’t complain :) Go Jazz.

*Article first published as The Changing of the Guard in the NBA on Technorati.

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