This site has been moved to http://www.thesojo.net/blog/
Please update your bookmarks, you will be redirected momentarily.

 
Picture
_It’s official: SoJo is now live and open to the world! Yesterday we launched our public Beta (http://theSoJo.net), and we are thrilled to make our tool available to support young people in their journeys of realizing social change. SoJo is still very much a work in progress, but with over a year of development behind us, I felt the time was right to move onto the next step.

Launching a new product is always a huge milestone, and we launched ours in a big way: SoJo strategically partnered with SociaLIGHT to make our tool a take-away resource for all of the conference’s participants. Known as Canada's ultimate entrepreneurship and leadership event, SociaLIGHT (Leaders Impacting Global Humanity Today) hosted speakers like Richard Branson, Seth Godin and Robin Sharma, and attracted 1000 young, bright, and ambitious delegates for a day of inspiration.
We’re excited to help those who attended the conference to channel this inspiration into tangible action.

We had the opportunity to interact with many of the conference’s participants, most of whom have an idea or are in the process of building a venture. We demonstrated the site in realtime, allowing our future users to better understand the product and get excited to use it as a resource in their endeavours. The feedback we received was phenomenal.

Up until the day before the launch, I had been so immersed building and fine-tuning the actual product that I was only able to see its shortcomings and limitations. Yesterday was the first time that I was able to take a step back and appreciate the product that our team created for what it is. Flaws and limitations included, we launched an incredible product with great potential. I'm still basking in the feeling of gratification and pride that was felt yesterday. I couldn't have even dreamed of a better way to launch this vision that I've been nurturing and developing for so long.

A product will never be perfect, nor will it ever be entirely ready either. Having the humility to accept that is one thing; having the courage to step outside of our safe community and expose ourselves to the world is something else entirely. It is our hope that the participants at SociaLIGHT and our users take inspiration from our choice to launch SoJo in its half-developed state.

It is time for young social entrepreneurs to come out of their basements. We need to embrace the risk that comes with sharing our ideas and half-baked products with the world, because it is the only way to bring our ideas to life.

We are excited to have our users co-create this site with us. We’ve laid the foundation, but this is only the first step of a much larger project. The momentum we received from yesterday alone is overwhelming and will carry us forward as we embark on the daunting task of realizing our vision.

We invite you to join us as we make the world a better place for those who venture to make the world a better place.

PS: We most definitely had some real victory dances on the dance floor at the afterparty!

 
 
As I type this post it is the early hours of Saturday, November 26; I am excited by knowing that today is our big launch date! Today SoJo will be made public to the world. It would have been safe and easy to keep SoJo in closed Beta until we felt it was perfect, but we've opted instead to share our vision with the world, and in turn invite our users to help us co-create and realize this vision. We soft-launched the site on Thursday, however have been in a mad rush to get it upto par and in a presentable shape. Our team is still diligently working on the backend of the site in preparation for the official launch in only a few hours! Earlier this afternoon we sent a special invitation to all of our Beta testers and early supporters to preview the site. To share such an important milestone with the individuals who believed and supported us in our journey thus far was an incredibly proud and rewarding feeling. I'm excited to know that those feelings will only intensify over the course of the next 24 hours!

SoJo has been a work-in-progress for over a year now, and its been an intense 6 months getting our product to where it is today. Acknowledging all of the effort expended over the past few months, the intensity of this lead-up period has been quite the experience. Email exchanges at 2am have become quite a normal occurrence over the past week. Hairs were pulled trying to fix fundamental technical problems. Frustrations were experienced when work had to be duplicated. Compromises were made. Yet in spite of all that, we made it!

I can comfortably say that the nerves have been replaced by excitement. My apologies for the lack of coherence in this post. I am much too eager to sleep so that I can wake up in a few hours to rock this launch! Future posts will detail the past 48 hours and the immense amount of learning that occurred.

Even if you can't physically join us for launch, we still hope that celebrate with us! We are excited for the start of this new journey. You're invited to join us [again] for an exceptionally exciting ride.
 
 
_This morning Theresa Laurico and I had a great conversation about life, values, faith, meaning, purpose, courage and being true to yourself. Theresa is the co-chair to the SociaLIGHT Conference, the venue where SoJo will be publicly launched. With less than 48 hours to both of our respective launches, those are not the topics of discussion one would normally expect.

SociaLIGHT is a manifestation of a dream that Theresa has been cultivating for the past 10 years (you will be able to follow Theresa's story on our platform). She faced her fears just a few months ago by committing herself entirely to pursing this dream that has been inside of her many years. Earlier this week Theresa lost a beloved family member. Her emotional rollercoaster is at an all-time high, with the excitement of seeing the much anticipated SociaLIGHT come to fruition and with the grieving of a close supporter and friend.

With less than 48 hours to SoJo's launch our nerves are definitely starting to kick-in, yet I remain calm and surprisingly collected. My conversation with Theresa invigorated and inspired me in a whole new way. Her courage and tenacity has given me a renewed strength.

We must remember that we are all human, emotions will hit us when we least expect them and life will take its course. On that same token, it is those emotions that allow us to follow our passions, dedicate our lives to building something truly meaningful and gives us a reason to live.

I am in admiration and in awe of Theresa's courage. The courage to let go of her fears and pursue a dream that she's been holding onto for so long, and more importantly the courage to accept her journey will be influenced by variables entirely out of her control. Thank you for inspiring us to dream big, but also for leading by example and remaining entirely grounded.
 
 
Picture
Buffer [buhf-er] noun: a person or thing that shields and protects against annoyance, harm, hostile forces, etc., or that lessens the impact of a shock or reversal.

It is just past midnight. November 20th was set as our internal deadline to have the open Beta ready. Although we are launching on the 26th I was deliberate to set a buffer. Based on the minimal resources we are working with, a 5 day buffer felt very generous.

With the unpredictability of technology and working with a team of part-time volunteers, I could not treat this product launch like an essay and expect to pull an all-nighter the night before the launch and assume that everything will go smoothly. Organization and planning was key.

In addition to having a buffer [to avoid catastrophy in the event that the Beta is not complete on time or that there is a major problem to troubleshoot]; a week between product completion and launch was planned to give us ample time to test and refine the product, and also send a preview to our valued Beta testers and partners. Reflecting back on my expectations, I created a "plan" that intended to use the buffer for other things.

As I am writing this post, I can confidently confirm that our internal deadline was not met- and that our product is still very much under development. To my surprise though, I am not the least bit disappointed. With all hands-on-deck over the entire weekend, we made tremendous progress and I am so incredibly proud of our team. Today [for the first time] our product is starting to look like a unified product. Of course, according to the "plan" we should have been at this state much sooner. There was no Plan B, in case buffer time was actually needed as a buffer.

I could have been extra ambitious and pushed our team just a little harder to meet this deadline, but that would have actually accomplished little good for us. Our launch is just the beginning, and everyone onboard needs to be happy and healthy in order to endure the journey ahead of us. The needs of our team takes precedence above all else.
 
I've learned to appreciate what we do have, rather than what we should have had in an ideal situation. We literally have 100 different balls in the air right now. The workplan only increases with time [not because new requirements are added, but rather delays and core, fundamental components were never accounted for].
Buffers exist for a reason and I am thankful to have had the foresight to create one.

In a perfect world it would have been great to have everything go according to our "plan" - however we live in the real world and this new plan tells me we have 5 days to get a stellar site together.

 
 
Picture
_ The countdown is looming on us. With less than a week to go before our first public product launch - the nerves are starting to kick-in. A lot of pressure lies on the outcomes of this launch as it may give us the resources needed to make our vision a reality.
 
I'd like to believe that it is a myth that you need to struggle in order to achieve success. Sure, our team is working ridiculously hard to meet a deadline (which is needed), but do we have to lose ourselves in this process?

It seems quite counter-intuitive to endeavour to make the world a better place, at the expense of your own sanity and wellbeing, no? Let us not forget that we are also part of this world. Somehow though, I get the impression that I'll be respected that much more and that my efforts will be more worthwhile if I demonstrate that achieving this milestone was a struggle which consisted of tremendous sacrifices. Hardly a journey to celebrate if you're busy deteriorating yourself emotionally, psychologically and physically.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to channel all of my skills, talents, energy and passion into something that is truly meaningful to me. Despite the hard work and lack of stability, I start most of my days feeling as though I'm the luckiest person in the world -- why would I spoil it with struggle and negative energy?

Struggle and success should not be synonymous. Creating a new venture will inevitably be difficult, but instead of focusing on the hardship - we need to equally focus on our emotional needs and attitude in order to successfully make it through the journey.

Earlier today I found myself at a crossroad: either I manage expectations and stay focused achieving our goals without losing myself, or opt to go over the edge in pursuit of achieving those same goals. The former sounds obvious, but sadly it is the latter which often takes over.

A respected advisor told me:
"There is a certain elegance in achieving the most [success] with the least [amount of hardship]"

SoJo wants to be a role model for you as you embark on your journey. We're going to get through this launch and all subsequent launches with grace and elegance. Time to let go of perfectionism and embrace what it means to be human. Struggle leads us to work harder, when we should strive to find ways to work smarter.

I encourage you to join me. Find healthy ways to release the negative energy which may cause you to "struggle" much more than what is necessary. Let us celebrate the privilege of being able to work on something that is meaningful to us, not the struggle.

 
 
_ A trusted friend and supporter of SoJo, Drew from Nuance Leadership sent me the following note in response to my blog post on the importance of taking care of yourself (and not only when you're sick):
_ The problem, as we both know, is that passion tends not to “take a number” and wait patiently until we’re ready to deal with it.  Sometimes an idea kicks us into overdrive and there’s no denying it.

A former colleague once told me that “real leadership is being willing to step up and block a bad idea before it hits someone.”  Just before I left, she told me that the reason I wouldn’t succeed in higher-education was because I wasn’t willing to recognize bad ideas and “protect” students from them.

I told her that the fundamental difference between the two of us is that she believed leadership was blocking a bad idea before it hit someone.  I believe leadership is equipping people to tell the difference themselves between a bad idea and a good idea.  It’s not our job to block, it’s our job to teach people to know when to duck on their own.  And to believe that they’re going to do just that.

That story came back to me when I was reading your blog, because your last post reminded me of something: there’s this perception out there that bad ideas are dangerous…

But, as I write this at 4 a.m., exhausted and going on nothing but the adrenaline generated by an idea I believe in, reading about your exhausting adventures in pursuit of your dream, I’m reminded…

So are good ones.

Here’s to dangerously good ideas, and to having the strength and wisdom necessary to make sure we take care of ourselves so we can see them through.

All the best,
Drew


_ Although I will argue in a future blog post that bad ideas are not all dangerous, it is important to recognize the danger found when we immerse ourselves in a world fuelled by passion, and often neglect for one's own well being. Let us not only celebrate dangerously good ideas, but also have the strength and wisdom to take care of ourselves so we can see them through. Thanks for the reminder Drew.
 
 
Picture
_ Friday morning I woke up feeling under the weather. I had "symptoms" for a few days prior, but conveniently decided to ignore them. Knowing that I could not afford to get sick; a visit to the doctor Friday morning had in-fact confirmed that my body was in the process of fighting off a virus. He did not know if my body's immune system would be strong enough to fight it off, or if I may find myself in bed the following week. I did receive three pieces of advice to help strengthen my body's immune system:

1. Stay hydrated
2. Take plenty of rest
3. Keep the stress levels down

Terrified of the idea of being bed-ridden while our entire team hustles to get the open Beta ready in time for our launch, I followed the doctor's advice. I overdosed on vitamins and tea; unplugged from work for the past three days; took care of my body and myself. For the rest of the week I intend on working at a more relaxed pace. This does feel like a setback in the short-term, but I know that it will be more beneficial to SoJo in the long-run.

Amazing how its only when your body is about to crash that you're motivated to take better care of it. They say entrepreneurship is a marathon. Working on overdrive to get the site ready in time for the launch feels quite destructive, as we have much greater goals to accomplish beyond the November 26th launch date. For that reason alone we should never neglect ourselves, the individuals behind the ideas, as an idea is only so good as its ability to be transformed into reality. It is the individuals who turn ideas into reality Our product will be ready in time for the launch. It won't be perfect. That's ok.

There is absolutely no reason to stress either. SoJo's team and I are creating something we truly believe in, we're working really hard and trying our best to make this launch as successful as it can be. At the end of the day, we are human, there are only 24 hours in a day and everyone needs to take care of themselves in order to do greatness in this world.

I challenge you to make a conscience decision to take care of yourself as you embark on your journeys of making the world a better place.

 
 
Picture
Exactly one month ago I had the opportunity to meet with the Leader to Leader Institute in New York. This organization was founded Peter Drucker (perhaps the world's foremost pioneer of management theory) and Frances Hesselbein (former CEO of Girl Scouts USA and current President of the Institute). Upon beginning the meeting, I was handed a book called The Five Most Important Questions.
I skimmed through this book earlier, however this morning read the entire book: front to back.

SoJo's focus right now is ensuring our product is ready for Nov.26, however the launch of our open Beta is also connected to the public launch of SoJo as an organization. And thus, I found this book a timely read to help articulate answers to some of the big organizational questions that I've been thinking about for a while.

The book lays out 5 relatively straightforward questions; however it clearly states the importance of flexibility and re-evaluation of all these questions throughout the development of an organization. As it stands, here are my thoughts on some of these big questions.

What is our mission?
To be the starting point and/or critical support in the journeys of youth as they build projects to address unmet social needs and environmental challenges (social ventures).

Who is our customer?
A customer (defined as one who values your service, wants what you offer and feels it's important to them), in SoJo's case are youth who need support in channelling their good intentions, passion and ideas into action.
In Phase 1, our customers are the users of the tool we are creating.

What do our customers (users) value?
SoJo is being co-created by its users. With nearly 300 closed Beta testers and our plan to open a half-complete Beta to all of our users, we are inviting our customers to tell us directly what they value and what they want.

From preliminary research, SoJo can say with confidence that our users will value a website that aggregates relevant information and resources in one place. Our Phase 2 product will be determined directly by the users themselves.

What are our Results?
The book makes a distinction between short-term accomplishments and long-term change, as well as the importance of measuring objectives. We are currently creating mechanisms to measure our goals, which are:

1) To increase the number of youth-initiated social ventures
2) To increase the probability of success of youth-initiated social ventures.

Our long-term change is intrinsically linked with our vision, which is to create a world and associated supports that enable individuals to embody socially entrepreneurial characteristics in everyday activities. This is very abstract, similar to our world-shaking vision and will get further articulated with time as, the more shorter-term accomplishments materialize

What is your Plan?
"Steadfast in Direction, Flexible in Execution" was used to describe how to approach the plan. With a clear mission and concrete goals, SoJo has a fairly good idea of what direction its headed. It is possible that our users tell us to change direction, or abandon the project all together, however until they tell us otherwise, we will be focused on building an online learning tool that will accomplish our mission. The How is constantly changing, however our Why will remain constant.

I will write an update to these questions in a few months, informed by the feedback provided by our users.

 
 
Picture
Earlier this week a team member noticed a missing document. We were entertaining the option of it being moved or accidentally deleted so I didn't think too much into it. Yesterday however, I noticed a very important internal document was missing. Upon further investigation it's as though these documents disappeared and there was no trace of them ever existing. We've been using a cloud-based tool to share and store our working files virtually.

Storing documents virtually, as opposed to on everyone's individual computers, facilitates better collaboration and document sharing. Instead of having to circulate attachments via email, we were able to effectively have many individuals work off the same document. Being a virtual team, this functionality aided us tremendously. Further, I thought it was more secure to work virtually; if someone's personal computer was attacked by a virus or hard-drive crashed, none of our documents would have been damaged, thus ensuring continuity and minimal disruption.

Ironically enough, the "cloud" is often used to back-up files and serves as a safety-net. I was complacent and did not have the foresight to back-up files stored in a "safety-net" in another location.

I've contacted this company, and we have no idea if our account was compromised, if their system has a problem, or if it was human error on our part syncing the shared files. All I know is that we are missing a very important file that was not backed up.

Key lesson learned: Back-up your files regularly and in different locations.

Last night I experienced the same feeling that most students experience when they realize the document containing that research essay which took the entire semester to write cannot be retrieved because it was attacked by a malicious virus. I'm no longer in school and the stakes feel a bit higher in the real world.

Needless to say, to avoid myself from going completely insane and damaging my body with undue stress, I deliberately found ways to distract myself from the problem at hand. At this point there is really nothing I can do to recover those missing files, so stressing about the situation seems counterproductive. Remaining calm in stressful situations is not easy. Wasting valuable energy over a problem in which I have no control over is essentially giving this unfortunate situation more credit than it deserves... and for that reason, I am trying to embrace a forward-looking attitude to learn from this setback and accept that it is part of our journey.

 
 
Picture
Its Official: SoJo will launch its open Beta site to the public on November 26, 2011 in collaboration with the SociaLIGHT Conference!
This is a huge milestone for SoJo and we're thrilled to be telling you - our readers - first!

After a couple of months in closed Beta and nearly 300 beta testers who have provided us with invaluable feedback - we're now ready to take our site to the next level. I can say with confidence that the open Beta (version 2 site) will not reflect the true vision of SoJo, but it is one step closer to our true vision.

Since Day 1, SoJo has been created with our users needs in mind, which is why we are comfortable releasing an early version of the site to a larger audience as we want more people to co-create SoJo with us.

Not only are we releasing a work-in-progress product to the public, we are launching it in a big way! The SociaLIGHT Conference will have over 1000 smart, passionate, ambitious [and even critical] participants, in addition to a stellar line-up of speakers.

This is huge and we are excited to set a precedent: Taking ideas into action should be celebrated!
Don't be shy to share your passion, ideas and vision with the world around you, as its only by putting yourself out there will those ingredients translate into action.

With less than 3 weeks to go and an ambitious workplan ahead of us, we will try our best to make the open Beta as good as it can be. Buckle-up, it's going to be an intense ride!

If you're looking to be inspired and spend a day mingling with bright minds, as a "SoJo-er" you can receive 50% off the registration price at the SociaLIGHT Conference.

Email us for more details.