Derek Shanahan

I Wish I Could Write

You wish you could write, sometimes.

Wish you could communicate what’s happening with you, how it’s happening, what it feels like while it’s happening.

But you’re kind of always doing something other than stopping to think about what is happening, how it’s happening, or what it feels like.

Working online steals you away from the greatest kinds of writing. You’re plopped into a rush of ideas and innovations that both distract and delight.

Oh, and by the way, the fact that your lofty view of Vancouver’s West End at the privilege of a ninth floor perch is evidence that a lot of people have their lights and tvs on at 1am every night doesn’t fully justify a 20 hour workday, again. Sometimes you have a to shut down the laptop and pick up a book and read something that someone wrote the old way.

Something deliberate…something that created a movement or an idea or a contribution to the world that meant something.

Because that’s all your work is.

It’s a piece of work to offer the world that you think might make a ripple on the sea of wonderful contributions to the betterments of the human experience that have happened in recent history.

Our best writers, ever, by the way, have painted us a picture of that human experience, and that…that is as righteous and innovative and meaningful (and in not enough cases financially rewarding) as the technologies you see such beauty in.

Shut down the laptop. Pick up a book.

And then read something that Hunter S. Thompson wrote, or Dave Eggers wrote, or fuck…blow your mind…pick up Harlan Ellison. Chew on that for a while.

Realize your vocabulary is like a runway model: starved and deceptively shiny.

Read their stuff, and then remember why you love the online writers you love, why you admire them so much. Why you almost can’t blog half the time because you keep reading their shit.

Then put those next thoughts out of your head.

That thought

that paralyzes you with the realization that Harlan’s Shatterday pierced the air you were breathing and country line-danced around the mindset you thought you were in. Turn off the nightlamp and ignore that thought.

That thought

that the bloggers you read for inspiration, the handful of them, just published such…such…such gorgeous red roses that the bouquet is full and you’re toting around daisies. And the daisies you’re carrying are the beat up daisies that 6 year old girls rip up from the muni soccer pitch during a game. The kind of daisies that distraught, overly competitive fathers watch occupy the attention of their daughters as she sits down while the ball rolls by because ballet is way more fun.

Put those thoughts out of your head.

Because if you don’t…if you can’t push those thoughts off the edge of a skyscraper while they tell you about their kids…

…you’ll end up just wishing you could write.

And wishing you could write is a really tough place to write from…


Show Up Attitude

My buddy Jay’s been the talk of Vancouver lately and I sometimes forget that it’s happening, because when we grab lunch or beers we rarely talk about this stuff. We have talked about this stuff, in extreme detail, largely because a lot of the way we’re tight is related to a similar mindset about the world and experiencing it. This is a great interview in which he does a killer job of commenting on how he approaches his life.

For me, its all about the experience. Vancouver presented me with a fantastic experience, a hopeful experience, and thats the reason Im here. When I was making my decision, I was asking: Whats the culture? Whats the atmosphere like? Whats the club like, from the CEO all the way down to the players? Whats the manager like? Whats soccer like in Canada? All these things come into making a serious decision. I easily could have stayed in Europe and made three times the money and sat on a bench in Germany, but why would I want to do that? I dont have a bone in my body that thinks that would make sense. I was presented with a challenge to come in and play a role that I wanted to play. Whats the point of having six or seven years of great experiences and learning so much to not use it? The way Vancouver sold the club to me, sold the role to me, all played a part. I sit here now and I really believe Ive made the right decision.

via Goal! Jay DeMerit goes around the world in 80 ways.

Radiohead: What Happens When ‘Serious Listening’ Is Your Brand

Hands down the best description of Radiohead I’ve read anywhere.

They don’t have much to complain about in that respect: They’re the one band who can self-release music like this and have people lined up to put down money for it, and that gives them a whole lot of freedom. So can we just take a moment to marvel at how totally unlikely this is? Radiohead have a large, broad, devoted fan base, on a scale most proper pop stars struggle to muster. They have this while making a kind of music that, when it’s coming from anyone else, tends to get dismissed as marginal, obscure, and pretentious, or even a pointless, hookless, self-important snooze. They’re the one act normal rock fans trust to introduce them to sounds and ideas from further afield — from electronic music, experimental music, contemporary classical, wherever. No other band makes so many fans turn quite so studiously patient and open-minded. It’s as if the world has agreed that this is the one flagship group everyone will turn to for that experience — the band people will enjoy taking seriously, approaching slowly, and pondering as art rather than entertainment. The whole concept of “serious listening” has somehow become this one act’s brand. How improbable is that?

The funny part is that they basically trained the world into this, by spending their career moving in the opposite direction from most of their peers. Most bands like this start off as something marginal, then grow into popularity. Radiohead kicked off by proving they were a good big rock band — then started pulling their many fans, some of them kicking and screaming, off into new places. They taught people how to enjoy that. They made music good enough to satisfy their left-field music-geek peers and their everyday fans at the same time. Their main emotional register — which sits somewhere between abject world-weariness and a kind of itching, wriggling-in-your-skin discomfort — has turned out to be more relatable, to more people, than anyone would have guessed. And their election as the arty rock group of consensus means we get to watch something really rare and amazing: A band that can do whatever it wants, and do it really well, and have it matter on a big scale. Maybe it’s a little arbitrary that this band is Radiohead, who are far from the only musicians doing things that are high-minded or sonically inventive — but it’s a very cool thing to have one act like this be “big.”

via Radiohead’s The King of Limbs: What Happens When ‘Serious Listening’ Is Your Brand — Vulture.

Teams Make It Great

I’ve had my head down lately for a few reasons, but the main one was that I’ve been beyond the point of managing the things I’m involved with alone, especially as we grow Foodtree and its community. I spend most of my time on Foodtree lately, and one of the things I wanted to avoid this year was letting 20 Something Bloggers suffer because I needed to focus my time.

This has already been an exciting year for Foodtree. We’ve just released a souped up website, signed a number of new customers, and opened an investment round. Our community of eaters, food producers, organizations and investors are all really excited about what we’re building and the collaborations we have planned are going to mean we can continue pushing forward as the world’s food map and database. Things are getting more and more exciting every day:)

There are some incredible things happening for 20 Something Bloggers. We’ve just announced our latest blogger awards, contested by hundreds of bloggers who were nominated by their peers, and voted on by hundreds more.

I’ve spoken with a lot of the leaders of communities that make the world a better place for young digital adults, including Brazen Careerist, BlogFrog, GenPink, SocialMediaClub, and numerous others which should foster exciting collaborations and continued thought leadership around improving our community. We’ll announce details on an exciting event later this year made by and made for our community members…I am so, so excited.

The thing is…my excitement as of late is mostly about the teams of people who’ve joined me to make all this great stuff work. They are an amazing group of people…everyone involved in both Foodtree and 20 Something Bloggers is involved because they believe in an idea, and they want to be a contributor to the communities we exist for.

I would be completely lost without these people.

My gratitude for everyone involved with these projects is deeper than I might wish to express in a blog post. I hope you all know how righteous I think you are.

The Foodtree Team

Maryam, Jonny and Ida have put in an incredible amount of effort these past few weeks as we executed on our vision and evolved our website. They’ve sprinted development, informed design decisions, and actively engaged our community. Their ownership of the product, company, and community is exciting validation for us founders.

You guys crack me up, put up with my rants on blogging, and always seem to have snacks. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The 20SB Team

I’ve got a five awesome teams working on 20SB. These are them, and why they rock.

The Community Team

These guys have already shown incredible dedication to making new members feel welcome and keeping their eyes and ears open around the community. They’re managing our forums, which see hundreds of posts a day. They’ve demonstrated commitment to our Social Contract and it’s wonderfully clear that they care that 20SB is the best place for bloggers to hang out.

The Events Team

One of my biggest issues in the past was organizing and launching events in our community, and these guys have already taken the reigns from me, planning upcoming events and coordinating some of the great things we do every month, like our Featured Bloggers and Staff Picks. They’ll be an integral part of this year’s offline events too, which will put our previous meetups to shame.

The Social Media Team

In a matter of days these guys had all of our social media outlets organized and got started with reaching out. They’re like a bomb exploded in our social media toolkit, and you can already see the impact. Our engagement metrics are up two-fold and every day they’re surfacing great content and conversations from within the community.  I haven’t seen initiative like this since Charlie Sheen decided he wanted to BE the story.

The Blog Editors

With particular recognition to our new Chief Editor, the blog is now in the hands of a team of insightful editors, with a deliberate mission to make Twenty Twenty, our official blog, a killer resource for young personal bloggers. I’ve always hoped for this, but been unable to get much published beyond important community announcements. Alongside expanding coverage of things like our featured members and events, they’ll be publishing guest posts from community members and resources and tips for bloggers and our wider audience.

The Biz Dev Team

The partnerships and sponsorships we get to do as a community is a testament to how great it is, and these guys make all of that work. Thinking constantly about collaborations and the various opportunities we might bring to members of 20SB is a lot easier than making those things happen, and if I didn’t have these guys working their butts off to push us forward, we’d miss out on most of the great stuff we’re going to do this year.

Founders & the Tech Guru

Special thanks always goes to Tony & Lisa, who are invested in these projects at the founding level. Neither would exist without you, and you both know that.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Nico for his undying tech support across my digital web…to say this stuff wouldn’t exist without you is as simple as saying you’ve save my servers, and as complicated as trying to describe how incredibly selfless you are.


I know this seems a little like a roll call, and it says nothing of the people around these projects who cheer them on and, in many cases, support me personally.  But people give me a lot of credit for various aspects of these projects, and even more often they ask me how I ‘do‘ everything that I ‘do‘ (hint: part of it is that I don’t sleep or eat enough)…but in the end it’s that these people make these awesome things a reality, not me.

If I deserve any credit it’s that I’ve convinced these people to collaborate with me.

The greatness of a project is the greatness of its team.

Thank you all. Sincerely.

Loving Again And Again

We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven’t even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these loveable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman

I love this, despite wholeheartedly disagreeing with Chuck’s conclusion that there’s a winner here. There’s no control forfeited to your template person, and I’m not even sure the person who shapes your perception of love is all that responsible for anything but their (hopefully) admirable qualities…the rest is time, place, and your internal self.

More than once I’ve tried to articulate something like this to someone who’s either never been in love or thinks that real love is only real if it lasts forever and supersedes any other relationship you have in the future…as if falling in love is only proven by its permanence.

It feels to me like a combination of fears, this perspective. Fear that this idea of love allows for the love you have today (or might have tomorrow) to fall short of forever. Fear that your standards for love should be so high that only one experience should ultimately meet them, and the resulting fear that the only way to recognize and defend the one you want to last is to make (and attempt to live by) a cosmic ultimatum.

There’s nothing unromantic about the idea that you have and will love more than one person in your life. It doesn’t undermine your chances at that forever thing…it doesn’t undermine your forever thing if you have it today. Chewing on this also lets you release your past with people, shedding that lingering ‘maybe‘ about exes in favor of you, today.

It’s also helpful, I think…the battle of love is a tough one, and at times it can seem like one of life’s cruelest illusions.

At times it can seem like a drug you can’t quit.

At times it just works, and seems like the fresh air you’re breathing as you navigate your life…an ether of support and happiness blanketing your world. I think the point is that you can trust the good and the bad…breathe deeply at both ends of the spectrum and know it’s all part of the process that doesn’t have to be black or white, one or none…

The people who shape your perception of love are your heart’s teachers. Letting them go is hard. Seeing how important they were shouldn’t be.


What Is Beauty? What Is Success?

This entire article is something you simply must read. This is a wonderful expose on Jake Plummer’s commitment to being as human as he knows how to be. He was a quarterback in the NFL and walked away from a $5M contract because it wasn’t making him happy anymore.

In April 2004 Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Two weeks later, at the funeral, Jake [Plummer] walked to the podium wearing a suit and, in honor of his friend, flip-flops. He had been mulling what to say for weeks, and though at the time he meant the words as a testimonial to his friend, in hindsight they hinted at the path Plummer would choose. “I was in the store the other day and I saw PEOPLE magazine, and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or America, and there was a picture of Pat,” Plummer said. “It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, its not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you youre right or wrong. Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing lifes little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies. Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no facade—what you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”


Today We Celebrate Our Women

Valentine’s Day is always such a trick, right?

For lovers, it’s a good excuse to spend some time turning the words into action.

For those without, it’s a bittersweet reminder that love matters to all of us. It’s got its sharp edges, it has its mystique, and despite our best efforts, it’s not something we can ignore.

Couple make plans. Singles make anti-plans.

Then it falls on a Monday and everyone is kind of annoyed, unless they own a cute restaurant.

For me, Valentine’s Day is celebration of our women.

If nothing else, it seems that today is a day for making women feel special. It’s a chivalrous holiday…which ends up being a good thing because a lot of the guys I know need a kick in the ass when it comes to being sappy and romantic, and let’s face it; there’s nothing more endearing than a guy while he’s being sappy and romantic.

This holiday should always be about the woman in your life. If you have a woman. For the last few years I’ve been single on Valentine’s Day, though, so it’s become a day about the women in my life.

My mother is always first. She’s the source of my emotional fire, and every bit of empathy I experience is her doing…I was never going to be someone who didn’t feel. To say she’s an incredible woman would be to massively understate her role in shaping my family into what it is, and in shaping my perception of what it means to be a human being.

Then, there’s my sisters. They are, without question, two of the most impressive, exciting, and genuine women I’ve ever met.

It’s weird to be a big brother, because you play this brother role for years and years and years and then all of sudden you’re introduced to this Real Person that you’re related to.

You’re introduced to two gorgeous Irish firestarters who are cutting the world up into their own collage, in ways that make so much sense to you that you just can’t help but smile. Two young women carrying around a lot of what makes you you, but all the pieces are weighted differently, and these women seem to totally rock in all the ways you would love to rock but don’t.

They literally become your favorite people on the planet.

Today I wish a wonderful Valentine’s Day to my mother and sisters.

And I wish the same smiles and warmth to all of the women that I am fortunate enough to call my friends.

I grew up with you. I write next to you online. I work with you, collaborate with you, and I watch you follow the paths you’ve chosen.

I…cheer for you.

I learned to love with you. Cried and laughed with you…

You’ve framed the world for me, and your strength and commitment to self has always informed my perception of my moments, decisions, and my challenges.

My optimism for the world, society, and our planet is deeply rooted in the women I know. This world is becoming a better world because of you women…it’s because of your nurture that we’ll survive forever.

It’s not easy to be a women, and I very much hope you women don’t ever doubt that we’re all fortunate that you wake up every day and find your vigor.

Especially today.

Smile today, women.

We treasure you…for all that you are.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Find Me On Ophelia’s Webb Today

I was flattered to be a part of Ophelia’s Webb’s Pas de Deux Series and my post is up today, if you’re interested in another word vomit about love and whatnot. Seriously, this blog is a teacup full of emo lately. It’s like watching the Bachelor, but only the part where they interview him and he’s like “Gosh, love is so hard!”.

Anyway, a slice of the post:

I’m too much of a romantic or something. Maybe I just don’t like being wrong. I guess no one likes being wrong, but when things fell apart recently I think the hardest part for me was that the goodness didn’t win out.

That goodness is always what draws me in. It’s gotta be really special, you know? Special in a way that it seems crazy not to run at the world together, no matter how improbable that seems on paper. A goodness that seems more important than any hiccups or challenges could be, now or tomorrow.

So you take a dive.

Check it out here, and check out the perspectives on Love here.

Unsocial Cultivation


That’s what’s missing. Facebook. Twitter.

Right now everyone is clamoring over the battle today’s major technology companies seem to be fighting over tomorrow’s trends. It’s funny too, because none of them seem to be able to squash innovation, despite their best efforts. They buy Tweetie and Hootsuite just gets better. They buy Divvyshot and Picplz, Path, and Instagram show up.

What I think they forget sometimes is that they are still the sites we use every day.

They still anchor the internet right now. They have our attention.

I want Facebook to make it simple for me to put all my friends into Lists. They gave me Lists and then I presume they think I was going to go through a hundred Facebook records to get that shit in order. The ironic part is that I should be the guy who does that because I actually WANT those people organized, but it just won’t happen. Facebook raised a boatload of cash, and, if I was spending that money, a bunch would have been spent on letting half a billion people organize the platform they’d decided to manage their digital social lives on.

Facebook and Twitter, most notably, but not alone, make it incredibly difficult to cultivate the communities we’ve built on their platforms. They’re focused on growth. They make it easy to add, hard to delete, and even harder to organize whomever’s become a part of our communities.

Go try and organize your 1000+ Facebook friends into Lists. On Twitter, go try and unfollow a couple hundred people that you can’t remember even following in the first place.

I would say I’ll wait while you go try those two things, but you won’t be back for a few hours and you’ll probably throw your laptop through the window so I’m really not all that confident that you’ll be back at all.

Oh, and Google…you’ve finally let me manage my many email accounts out of one login, but I have a few Google profiles that should have been merged, and I still can’t use YouTube because I deleted the account attached to my daily email account and I’m not willing to log out of my email inbox to share or favorite a music video. I usually go find it on Vimeo if I want to share it with my friends. Did you hear that? I actively go find a video I’ve already seen on your competitor’s site because you SUCK.

Give me my Facebook friends by location, and let me blanket categorize them. Give me my Twitter follows, archived by month, or at the very least give me a quick way to trace them from the beginning. Most of my first follows aren’t around any more, and I don’t have two hours to scroll that far. Google, sort out profiles and YouTube, and integrate cultivation features into GMail…let me

For such massive databases to make it so hard to manage your data on them is inexcusable. They’re quite literally encouraging all of us to keep starting over. Unfollow everyone. Unfriend everyone. Start from scratch.

Come ON.