Browsing posts in: Treat Yo Self

Amazon Prime — One of My Best Purchases of 2011 (and beyond)

Amazon Prime

One of my best purchases of 2011 was joining Amazon Prime. At first when they announced it the membership sounded too good to be true, paying just over $70 for a year of free, 2-day shipping on most of what Amazon carried? That would pay for itself in 3-4 purchases! And boy did it. It really changed my behavior and made me become an “Amazon-first” customer, frequently checking prices there before making local purchases. (Yes, I know it’s horrible. But the convenience is too addicting!)

It’s changed the world of shopping for me and now roughly 37% of my purchases are through Amazon (which I use the Smile Always plugin to help fund the EFF’s important work), 38% through Costco, and 25% through local stores.

Over the years, Amazon has continued to add more and more extras to Prime members and kept me year-over-year. Besides the two-day shipping and free returns, the most notable, newer benefits include:

Pro tip: The past few weeks Amazon has been HEAVILY touting “Amazon Prime Day” on July 15, 2015 (this week!) with ‘better deals than Black Friday,’ there’s still time to register if you want to give it a try.

Bonus Prime Pro-Tip: If you have a Prime account, you can share the 2-day shipping benefits with up to 4 friends/members of your household! I’m sure this feature will go away at some point once they get everyone hooked on Prime, but while it’s basically free to share, might as well do it.

Go with the cheap wine — experts, normal people agree you can’t tell the difference based on price

Vox did a great piece comparing statistical research, blind tastings and analysis of wines at different price points and qualities and turned up something I suspected: Basically no one could tell a difference.

What’s even more interesting, in some of their results, the most expensive bottles were often *least* liked. I’ve debated this with some friends who are certified wine sommeliers and even syndicated wine columnists but never had the statistics to back it up since flavor is often a matter of personal preference. So treat your self to some fine boxed wine.

Don’t follow my methods though; I tend to buy based on the artwork and description, which is probably even less of a test for the quality of the wine. :)

Save yourself packing time and prepare a travel ‘go bag’ for quick and easy digital tools on the road

packing for travel

One of the things I’ve been trying to do to focus and execute better in life is to automate and batch everything possible so you don’t have to deal with the cognitive load of making constant small decisions, especially when you have a lot of projects in motion and things to juggle.

If you travel frequently, you probably have a go-t0 toiletries bag pre-packed with all your supplies as needed, but in this digital day and age, it’s now necessary to start packing an electronics ‘Go Bag’ that waits in my suitcase in the closet so I don’t have to scramble to get everything together for each trip and do the packing, unpacking, repacking, planning each time.

On a recent trip to Iceland, I found myself missing a few items I needed (car adapters and chargers for a rental) and I’ve finally committed to buying/setting aside a pool of gear as my dedicated and relatively compact, travel ‘Go Bag.’

Here’s what I’m packin’ in my default digital travel kit:

  • Some sort of compact containment/organizer – A mini-dopp bag of sorts. I have a rectangular soft-side bag from Logitech that came with some sort of accessory I purchased a while ago (I can’t remember what it was) but this works great for me and the amount of gear I need. I’ve heard rave reviews of the Grit-It series of organizers, but I’m a little apprehensive about not having everything fully contained.
  • Gum – For chewing, relaxing, keeping fresh and keeping awake on late night drives. (I know this isn’t tech related but I keep it in this bag for some reason.)
  • Mini tripod (or selfie stick with some sort of tripod/steady option) – I bought a super cheap and easy aluminum one in Japan at an equivalent to a Dollar Tree store and it gets the job done. (This is another item I wish I’d brought to Iceland.)
  • Short USB cable – Compact and easy to pack up.
  • Long USB cable – I charge a lot of USB devices from USB, so I usually have a long cable from a Samsung S-series device but any will do.
  • Apple USB Cable – (Or get a USB combo cable like this to kill a couple of these in one cable — you can’t charge multiple devices at the same time though, which is why I carry the separate cords)
  • USB flash drive – A few GBs, just for quick computer-to-computer file transfers if needed. I just use a promotional giveaway drive from a conference.
  • Mini SD Card with Adapter – Most computers take SD cards and this is a great backup for file transfers, phone transfers (for those that take mini SD) and digital camera film backups.
  • External battery pack – I have an old one about the size of a deck of cards with two usb plugs so you can charge two devices at once from New Trent that is starting to show it’s age, so in the future I might upgrade to something with more space like this 10,000mah (!) Anker dual-usb unit or more compact like this Anker ‘lipstick’ 3200mah charger.
  • Some sort of headphones with microphone – I usually have a spare set of Apple iPhone headphones for Skype/Hangouts/phone calls, and also for sanity in loud places, but I sometimes also bring something with noise-canceling or bluetooth functionality for longer trips.
  • Monster 4 plug extension cable – A good option for compactness, multiple sockets and surge protection. It has this stupid blue light on it that can be annoying in a dark room when you’re trying to sleep but I’ve covered up with electrical tape. Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger is another good option (I prefer the Monster because of the space between the plugs so that you can plug in things with weird bricks that don’t block/collide like they would on the Belkin.)
  • Factory Apple iPad charger – Because it’s 2 amp and the metal plug prongs fold inside to keep it compact.
  • Factory Samsung charger – This doesn’t need to be Samsung specifically, but any 2 amp compact charger will work perfectly.
  • Lens cleaner rag – For cleaning glasses, camera lenses, phone glass, any give-away microcloth will work and should be compact and easy.

Car-involved Trip Add-Ons:

Conference Trip Add-Ons:

More Vacation-ish Trip Add-Ons:

  • Canon S110 Point and Shoot Camera – Great features and control with manual functions and a wide-wide lens. The zoom lacks, but zoom with your feet and you’re ok. I also have a spare battery from a previous Canon camera that uses the same system and chargers
  • Mini SD Card with Adapter – Most computers take SD cards and this is a great backup for file transfers, phone transfers (for those that take mini SD) and digital camera film backups.


Welcome to Kaizen Will

Kai Zen - "Good Change" in Japanese

Kai Zen – “Good Change” in Japanese

Welcome to Kaizen Will, a new site about living a life of continuous improvement.

I have to thank my parents for my curious thirst for knowledge and constantly improving nature; they were both teachers whom with modest means, medium salaries and resources constantly strove for excellence, balancing frugality with finding a high quality of life and sought constant improvement and education to achieve this.

Throughout my life those values have influenced my journey. When I finished my Masters degree at Northwestern University, I made a promise to myself that school was not over; I was just beginning my voyage of continuous, lifelong learning and improvement.

I couldn’t have envisioned how massive, rapid and constant change came (and still comes) to the media and technology industry. But embracing kaizen helps you face that challenge. It translates to “continuous improvement” or “good change.”

This constant thirst for knowledge was channeled into into (one of the early leading online media blogs), more than a decade of attending, speaking, leading and organizing workshops and training for the rapidly evolving media.

This practice also crosses over to my professional life. While at The Palm Beach Post, working as Interactive Projects Editor, a brilliant colleague, W. Mark Hartnett pointed me to the revolutionary business and management book, The Toyota Way, which discusses the practice of kaizen.

As I advanced in my career through project management and leadership positions, this principle continued to become a reoccurring theme in my life. From Jim Collins’ book Good To Great to getting certified as a scrum master building products with Agile processes — the same kaizen concept has been reinforced again and again in different forms and with different names.

This year I decided I wanted to get back on the horse and start creating some content and sharing my experiences and advice with the world. I wrestled with a lot of concepts for how to tackle my focus, but kept coming back to kaizen. How to change and evolve to get better and better and better. To go from having a good life, a good family, a good relationship to a great–the greatest life.

Will synonyms

And since I’m Will Sullivan, “Kaizen Will” seemed to fit perfectly.

The attitude.

The resolve.

The passion.

The discipline to create a life of continuous improvement.

Let’s start the journey and see where it takes us. :)

To start off, I believe I’ll focus on these Kaizen Will categories and topics (subject to change/grow/shrink as the blog evolves):

  • Management & Leadership – Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing mentors and bosses and a couple some terrible bosses — and I’ve learned immensely from both, as well as extensive study on how to develop as a manager and leader in the modern tech and media business and entrepreneurship world. I’ll share best practices, advice, lessons learned and things “I wish someone had told me” so that you can improve yourself.
  • Money & Personal Finance – Being fiscally responsible, frugal and smart about your spending, saving and investing helps give you the resources to enjoy time, stuff and share with people, so I’ll share what I’ve learned to help you get this in line.
  • People & Relationships – People are the most important part of my life. From inspirational mentors, family, friends to speakers, authors or even characters in fiction, our humanity and relationships are what helps humans to survive and thrive. Growing from a socially-awkward, introverted teenage nerd up to a professional executive has had it’s growing pains and plenty of bruises and bumps along the way. I’ll share what I’ve learned to help others on my journey, as well as stories about people who have been inspirational.
  • Travel & Adventures – Travel and finding adventures ‘exploring the infinite abyss’ is a huge part of my life. From finding quirky local secret spots to backpacking across Asia alone, I love exploring new cultures, places and perspectives. I’ll share some of my best practices and pro tips here.
  • Recommended Gear, Books & Stuff – I was raised rather frugally and to appreciate a Spartan, non-consumerist life, relish libraries and shared resources, so this definitely isn’t a shopping blog or anything, but also to appreciate and take care of the things you do purchase.
    • Best Purchases of … – The past few years I’ve really relished a few purchases that have changed or enhanced my life. These might not be indestructible “Buy It For Life” items, but they’ve really been great purchases that have added a lot of value for me.
    • Buy It For Life – Gear that will last your entire life (or close to it) that you can give to your grand kids (largely inspired by the BIFL Sub-Reddit I’m a huge fan of).
    • Treat Yo SelfLike Tom and Donna on Parks and Rec said, sometimes you gotta treat yo self. This is once-in-a-blue-moon stuff to splurge on that I’ve found worthwhile. They might not be ‘buy it for life’ or the best purchases, ever, but they were worth it on special occasions.

Welcome to Kaizen Will.

Let’s all get better together.