Checking into Facebook

A few weeks ago I was invited to visit Facebook’s office in Austin, Texas. As a user and a generally curious person, I was immediately intrigued to visit the place behind the social network.

I’ve spent a pretty good amount of time working on Facebook as a small business owner, contract storyteller and consultant. My focus has been building an online presence and working to develop a captive audience that enjoys their experience. Oddly enough I had not put much thought into how Facebook operates or what their end and systems look like.

My visit was outstanding.

It was such a pleasant surprise to find that they are doing the exact same thing that I am. Their focus is on the user and shipping them the best possible experience—reaching beyond what they can hope for and making that readily available.

Bullshit Writing - Johnathan Haynes

Encouragements, motivational quotes and support line the walls of the building and shine throughout just about every employee I encountered. Every aspect of the building has been thought out, curated and purpose driven. People that work there are placed in an environment that is meant for them to thrive in. Getting a real-life look at Facebook’s Austin office changed my perspective of Facebook as a whole. I appreciate what is being done and the opportunity the company provides in a new light. Facebook has indirectly given me a place to showcase my abilities and communicate a variety of ways. I can’t help but be grateful and excited to continue this unspoken partnership in business.

Thanks Facebook.

Arriving in London

It’s been a week or two since I recently traveled to London,England. It was probably one of the best things I’ve done for myself. During the trip, I wrote. Here is a slice of the first day:

I landed in Heathrow airport early Wednesday morning. It was my fifth time at the airport but the first time to leave it.

Landing in London - Travel Adventures

Hello London. It’s so nice to finally meet you.

There is a certain thrill that comes with visiting another country. It’s difficult to capture, communicate or recreate in any other activity. Exploring is something that has been instilled in me since I was small. After organizing my excitement, I grabbed my bag off the carousel and went to look for my ride into town. Most of the time—when I travel in America— I prefer to be spontaneous and plan my transportation as a I go. But when traveling outside the U.S., I’ve quickly learned that I need to have all ducks in a row with backup ducks ready to go.

I pre-scheduled a ride from the airport to my hotel. I actually had one of those suited gentlemen waiting for me with my name on a sign—always wanted to be one of those people. He was from Kosovo, very professional and insisted upon snatching my bags from upon figuring out I was his fare. I felt official.

Car Ride - London

Mr. Driver led me to the car and opened the door for me on the left side of the vehicle. I thought it was odd that he wanted me to sit behind the drivers seat … wait, the wheel is on the right side of the vehicle … oh yeah, I am in the UK. For some reason, I only thought that was a thing in Australia. In school, geography and history were the subjects I paid the most attention to—but apparently not enough attention. Simple things, that I should know as an adult, continue to escape slash baffle and thrill me on my adventures.

Arrived at my hotel in Hyde Park

London Hotel 3 - Johnathan Haynes

I was immediately captivated by the architecture and atmosphere. It’s engrained into the identity of this country. Being in a new place heightens my curiosity . Everything become more noticeable and worth a closer look. Often times, I find myself looking at things I would normally cruise by and finding those things were worth the trouble.

The hotel room was simple, a place to keep my stuff. I settled my bags and rushed to get back outside and explore. Hyde Park was my first target. Normally I have pretty solid bearings and can navigate well, but it took me a minute to find my way around. Signs and just about everything else is slightly different in London, not difficult, just different. I got lost and ended up walking down a road with the Russian and Israeli embassies on it. Seeing guards with semi-automatic weapons is not a norm for me. I wanted to stare, but how long can you stare at someone whose holding a gun? No plans to find out.

Kensington Palace London 1

Hyde Park is huge! Everything about it was breathtaking. It took me a while to make way through the park grounds because I was too fully engaged in kid mode—trying to looking at  and capture everything. Even the squirrels look slightly different—in fact all of the animals, birds, dogs and everything in between looked familiar with a touch of foreign to me. The park was well manicured and vast. Sidebar: Actually, everything in the city—that I saw—was well taken care of … So many street sweepers, everywhere.  . I came across a house with a large gate with bronze finishings and a statue of William III. Immediately I searched for sign to read and find that this is the Kensington Palace. Official home of the Royal family. Cool.

Queen Vicotoria - London small

I kept walking and found Queen Vicotoria’s statute. At that point, it officially felt like I was walking through a history book at this time and I love that. I went by The Round Pond (which is more squarish than round) and head to the other end of the park. Walking up on the photo that’s featured on this blog was surreal. Subtly stunned. A massive monument in honor of Albert—Queen Victoria’s main man obviously.

The affect of 9+ hours of flying started to sink in and it was time for ime to trek back to food and the hotel. But my appetite to explore had only begun. I immediately planned to make Thursday the day I took the city. No true plans, maps or guides; just pack a bag and go. I had only been in London one day and the trip was already worth it.

Birds - London - Hyde Park JH

Enjoy the adventure.

 

Thanks for reading, if you enjoy my stories leave a thought, comment or continue to follow along. Subscribing to my blog on the right-hand side gets you my stories (and only my stories) as soon as they publish. 

Fittest Games Experience

 

At the beginning of a project I seldom think about the ending—even though endings are natural occurrences in most things. I have been a part of the Fittest Games since 2012, serving as a creative and media director for this local competition that is held in Austin, Texas for the last eight-ish years. Throughout the years  I have grown and learned alongside this event, but as 2014 comes to a close, so does my time with the Fittest Games.

 

The 2013 Fittest Games

 

I can’t help but look back at what a spectacular ride it is has been. I showed up a few years ago with a lot of ideas, ambition and determination but little experience. Jeremy Thiel and Nicole Hughes took a leap of faith and handed me the keys to a precious platform. Back then, social media wasn’t that huge of a thing but we all saw its value and soon, so would everyone else. As true with many, I have so many emotions tied to this event that I don’t even know where to begin. Special isn’t a strong enough to describe this local gathering of incredible people.

 

The 2014 Fittest Games Brian Sullivan

 

It’s not about the elite athletes. They are—no doubt—a signature part of the event but the real story is found within the heart of the community. The first-time competitors, everyday CrossFitter and those who just want to have fun are the people who continually captivated me throughout the year. These people may be labeled as average but watching them compete makes it clear that they are anything but. Watching the joy on peoples’ faces after PR’ing, learning a new skill or simply surviving a workout is the most filling feeling. I have had the pleasure of telling their story and celebrating with them. In a sense, I have shared in their trumps as a proud super fan. Many hours of sweat, stress and strategy went into the making of the Fittest Games and it certainly wasn’t possible all on my own.

 

Media Room at the 2014 Fittest Games

 

I have had the pleasure of working with incredibly talented photographers, videographers and all-around creative folks. Outside of the media realm—I also collaborated with phenomenal event coordinators and logistics magicians. Ingrid Kantola, Laurie Pospisil-Gotcher and Michael Winchester are three outstanding individuals that have helped orchestrate a beautiful event that plays out like a sweet symphony—building to a crescendo on the final day.

It is a beautiful thing to be able to communicate and idea and have others buy in and help bring it to life. Brian Sullivan, Michael Bing, Dean Zu, Hance Taplin, Keir Simon, Elliot and Lindsey Schrock, Caleb Kerr, the assassin that is Walter Stokes, Bentura Flores, Heather Olsen, Chad Hamilton, Scott Wallace, Matt Block, Brian Flannery, Tim Bougie, my partner in crime Nicole Hughes and countless others have all contributed a wonderful creative verse in this great story. I am both proud and honored to have had the opportunity to interact with them. I am a better artist and individual because of them.

 

2013 Fittest Games Media

 

Above is the 2013 Media Team and below is two brilliant videographers I am honored to have worked with them.

 

Elliot and Lindsay Schrock

 

There are many who work behind the scenes and volunteer there time to make (and continue to make)  this dream possible. The care and craftsmanship they bring to the table adds a flare to events like this that help bring the social experience to life. You may not have noticed them, but then again you weren’t supposed to. Your job was to enjoy the event, celebrate with your friends and then sit back to re-live the story we captured for you.

 

Caleb Kerr Fittest Games

 

I’ve learned so many valuable lessons and it would take more than just one blog to fully appreciate the past three years. I hope your experiences and memories from the Fittest Games are as fulfilling and heart-warming as mine.

From The Yard to Limitless and finishing with the Kingdom, my journey with the Fittest Games is one that I will treasure forever.

 

The 2014 Fittest Games

 

I did not create the Fittest Games, I do not own it, it was never something that was mine but I love this event like it was my own and poured everything I had into it. I look forward to seeing it continue. Thank you to everyone who is involved with this event in any capacity. The 2015 season will no doubt be special.

 

 

Downtown LA

A few weeks ago, one of my childhood friends got married in a beautiful Catholic Cathedral in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, California.  I have been traveling for the good majority of this year and it has been full of fantastic and special experiences. Coming home to witness someone I’ve known for so long take that next big step in life was a treasure that I hope to never forget. The concentration of joy, laughter and fun was perfect.

Exploring

As a result of bouncing around this year I have picked up a habit of looking for new experiences in common places. After the wedding I returned to downtown LA to visit a friend and see how the heart of the city has changed—since I was a child. There are a lot of perceptions about the area, some true and some exaggerated. For the most part it is a city that leads a double life. On one hand you have the hustle and glam that drives surface expectations of the City of Angels. The other hand is hard at work to renew the culture and vibe of the inner city. In any either case—if you look close of enough—there is something really neat brewing in the heart of the city.

Creating the Most

I Uber’d my  way downtown to visit the friend I mentioned earlier. We have been close for quite some time and I was excited to see what she has created with her given space. She is overwhelmingly talented and a wonderful artistic mind. I can try and describe . I walked into her apartment and experienced this:

 

Downtown Los Angelos Loft

You’re looking  at a living space with work spaces on the bottom and sleeping quarters on the top. My friend and her two roommates  thought-up, created and assembled it from scratch.  One of the cooler adult space usages I’ve seen. Here is a closer look at her work space:

Downtown Los Angelos Workspace

 

I absolutely love it. It opened my mind to different ways that I could create the most with what I have available to me.

Keeper of Stories

After checking out the apartment we decided to stroll the veins of the city at night. We ended up at the Last Bookstore. Upon walking in, this place became an instant favorite .  I grew up in Pasadena, California and spent a good amount of time at the library (nerd alert). I love the smell and experiences that are associated with a room full history, sayings, tales and thoughts. This place took me back to special moments in my childhood.

The Last Bookstore

This place was very unique to say the least. Let me just show you.

The Last Bookstore DTLA

Clever book arrangements are kind of their thing.

Last Bookstore -DTLAThey also had interesting artwork .

Interesting Paper illustration - last book store

There was also this thing created by an artist who labeled himself a “thing maker.”  Fitting.

Thing Makers Art The last bookstore

I don’t know what this was all about but I kind of liked the dinosaur and music combo

The last bookstore Art

As you can see, the place has a lot of character. Seeing these sights was a good expansion of my perspective of the city. There is so much to see, if you are willing to look and pay attention to the details. I had a limited amount of time to observe all of the aspects of what was going on, but what I did see encouraged me.  A new wave of artists and innovators are slowly putting their touches on the city. I am curious to see how DTLA continues to evolve.

The photo below is one of my favorites of the night

Checkout at the Last Bookstore

Enjoy the Adventure.

 

X Games Austin Scavenger Hunt

Last Wednesday I received an email calling for sign-ups to participate in the X Games Austin scavenger hunt. Without even thinking about it, I hit the sign up button and begin to register three of my friends and myself (I text them afterwards to inquire what they were doing on Sunday.) It’s funny because none of us really knew what to expect, we just decided to show up ready to have a good time.

Around 1:45 p.m. Team Bow Jacked arrived at Mohawk ready to play.

XGames Austin Scavenger Hunt - Chelsea Mckinney - Jeff Mckinney - Alyson Boyd - Mohawk Austin

 

We (Chelsea, Jeff and Alyson—from right to left) received a task list with 98 objectives to complete in about two and a half hours. The four of us pilled into the car and headed towards our tasks. It all began at the State Capitol. (Task numbers are in reference to where they were on the list)

Task 30:  Take a picture in front of the Captiol building with our clothes on backwards.

Johnathan Haynes XGames Scavenger Hunt - Chelsea - Alyson - Jeff

Easy points for team Bow Jacked

Task 33: Tell a stranger about XGames Austin

 Task 64: Take a photo in front of a Ford vehicle

XGames Austin Ford Vehicle - Team Bow Jacked

 

Task 63: Form a human pyramid (Oh we did, and in style) Photo cred to the silver fox in the next task

Task: Slow dance with a senior citizen (this one was hard, Chelsea got turned down two or three times before this guy.)

Task 53: Create your own trick … Naturally, the ladies crushed this

Task 66: Jump into the air holding hands with strangers … The ladies rocked this one too.  (Thanks to the randoms for being so cool) XGames Scavenger Hunt - Jump with randoms

Task 24: Order a coffee/tea under the name Kanye West @joscoffee. I’ve got this

XGames Scavenger hunt Order like Kanye West

Task 55: Chicken Dance in a crosswalk (Big thanks to the one car for entertaining our little “show”) 

 

Task 68: team members wearing Oakleys … we kicked it up a notch

XGames Scavenger hunt

Task 95: Do Parkour on something random … Let’s Go

Task 13: #Selfie with a stranger

Selfie with a Stranger

Task 67: Daily Juice employee doing a cartwheel #KeepAustinWeird

Task 41: everyone sipping a Dr. Pepper

Everyon Sipping a Dr Pepper

 Task 88: rotating X  (for XGames) cartwheel

Task 7, 78 and 79: Jeff Mckinney kicked it into overdrive for this one. Shoutout to Ken Block

Task 45: Walk a Strangers Dog

Walk a strangers dog

Task 97: Create an XGames themed post card and give it to a stranger

XGames Post Card to a stranger

 

Tasks 81: Tricks over traffic cones. Cue Jeff Mckinney

 Task 48: Team Photo on a reflective surface … Check

XGames Austin

Task 58: Pedicab ride … Easy Money

XGames Austin Scavenger Hunt PediCab

Task 79: Take a picture with a statue … Of course we had to find Willie

XGames Austin Scavenger Hunt

Task 11: Take a picture in the bathroom of the opposite sex … thanks for taking one for team ladies. The Ladies room is way to scary.

Xgames Austin Scavenger hunt bathroom

 

Haha and Finally Task 71: Do your best Ken Block Gymkhana impersonation. On the way back to the start/finish, Jeff took the wheel on this one. You have to watch a Ken Block video to get it. Here is our rendition

 

Haha, that about sums up our little adventure. My Instagram account has most of the tasks we completed on Sunday, sorry if I blew up your news feed—it was for a fun cause.

In the end we came up about 150 points shy of winning tickets to this year’s X Games Austin,  but we all had a great time (a couple teams got X Games tattoos in order to win tickets … That’s true dedication.) It’s been a while since I did a scavenger hunt and it was a fun and exciting way to enjoy our Sunday. Special thanks to everyone who had a hand in getting us all outside of our comfort zone and creating a fun afternoon.

Enjoy the Adventure.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt