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“Is my life coming together, or coming apart?” Great question. …Activity vs. Achievement.

March 28th, 2012 No comments

Dare to Dream: a T_Haus self-portrait.

Hi, Creative Beasts. This question is one that a friend of mine posted on facebook, recently–a Creative Beast, living in New York. I ask myself this question often, it seems, now, and it feels a bit like what I imagine log-rolling to be. We are living in tenuous times, my friends, that is one thing for sure. Even so, we must have faith, that indeed, it is coming together. We can make it happen, but we must believe that this is so–and make it so.

So then… the big question is:

How do we make it so?

Yes… so… how do we turn our wantem-so-bad-we-tastem-dreams into realities? I’ve been thinking long and hard on this one, and maybe–just maybe–herein lies the rub. What I mean by that is that maybe at times, we over-think things–which can then, put us into a tailspin, or worse yet–paralyze us. We get so overwhelmed by the possibilities before us, that instead of making a choice and acting–we do… NOTHING. Ugh. That said, I’m guessing most of us have something that we’re trying to realize… something that is challenging us in terms of gaining traction and momentum. So what are the steps, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re mission is something akin to spinning straw into gold? (And the truth is that once we really set our minds to it, the mission will ideally become more real, more manageable, and achieveable).

…Do you ever think that you give other people some pretty darned-good advice, now and then? Do you ever wish you could just give yourself the same quality of advice–and then follow it? Could it be, that we need to be better consultants to ourselves?

Over-thinking = activity. NOT achievement. Stop agonizing over things that are out of your control.

Here’s the deal:

I don’t think I’m the only Creative Beast who has gotten herself stuck in the hamster wheel of life. That said, how do we get out? We need to jump, right? You have to make a move, other than the uphill climb on the exercise bike to Nowhere. Because here’s the deal, again: you’re working like hell and getting worn to nothing–FOR nothing.

Figure out your options. 86 the ones that won’t help you. Employ the ones that will. But then, again, how do we choose??

Okay… so this may be the tough part.

Making the right choice.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What kinds of choices are there? There are practical/realistic choices, there are gambles, and then there are some choices that include elements of each. The old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Now, while this has been proven over and over, we have also seen examples of fools who put all their eggs into one basket, only to see the basket wind up on the ground–eggs destroyed. Even still, to not make a decision, is probably–the worst decision.

Can we balance it out?

I think we must. Find something that works for you that will keep you going… keep you afloat… a lifeboat, if you will. Dream careers don’t always start out that way. Look at the creative people around you. Some of the successful ones make it look easy. Usually, this is due to long hours–in most cases, years–of hard work–and plenty of mistakes along the way–that most of us never see. But if you ask them, they will tell you their stories. Most truly great people have battle scars. It’s part of what has made them great. So, that said, we must choose wisely, but not too cautiously. Remember, if we risk nothing, we gain nothing.

So what’s in a lifeboat?

And how long can it sustain us? A lifeboat will have what you need to survive, but not indefinitely. It’s a short term solution. You need it to get you to a larger vessel–or to land. A “lifeboat” could be an interim or temporary job, or a series of gigs… it’s a step to help you along. Just don’t get too comfortable, because that’s when you will suddenly find yourself up Shit Creek with–you guessed it–no paddle.

Distractions

Mostly try to avoid them. I say “mostly,” because sometimes they can’t be avoided. Stay on track. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize. Occasionally (and this is probably more appropriate when you’re feeling a bit more… caught up or ahead, shall we say), they are a good thing, but be sage about this.

The Bigger Picture

This would be your dream–and the vessel to the other side. I think the key is, here, that you want to have some idea as to where you’re going. Again, choices will present themselves, and like my old friend Bob Seger said in his song, Beautiful Loser, you need to “Realize that you just can’t have it all.” Figure out which dream you want most, and stick to it like there’s no tomorrow because, guess what? There might not be a tomorrow. But as long as you’re on the road, you can change your path, any time you choose. Right?

Break it down. Then build it up.

Every story is the sum of its parts. What are the parts? What parts are doable right now? As you begin to check things from your list, you will begin to see things take shape.

The Thing With Dreams…

They keep changing. So be flexible. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue to go after what you want, but if you’re too rigid, it can hold you back. Few things in life are black and white. Be open to the changes and possibilities, eh?

So what’s my dream? Mostly to have the chance to live a creative life. More specifically, though, I have a huge desire to tell the stories of other creative people around the world, and that’s really where I want www.CreativeBeasts.com to go. So what’s been holding me back? I could say time, money and lack of resources, but I wonder if that’s really true. All the issues I’ve mentioned are ones that I’m trying to solve. I’ve been told that every problem contains its own solution. I like this concept.

What’s your dream?

Sharing your story takes courage and faith. Here’s one from my friend @MarkFairbanks about his creative journey that I think you’ll enjoy:

http://www.translatordigitalcafe.com/2011/11/getting-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable/

Also, be sure to check out Hugh MacLeod’s (@gapingvoid) book, Evil Plans.

Tools and Techniques

Mind mapping

Listmaking

Meditation

Sleep

Exercise

Bravery

So. What do you think? Share your ideas. Let’s help each other out. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Peace and love, Creative Beasts. And of course–SEIZE THE PREY.

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Grab Yourself a Soapbox.

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

Madison Ave

In days of old in the world of advertising–many refer to it as “The Golden Age”–when major accounts were lost, heads rolled and the blood flowed down the glorious street known as “Madison Avenue.” Creatives and AEs alike commiserated over martinis that in weeks prior, would have served as lunch with the client. Oh, how the times have changed… Or have they?

Certain financial collapses in recent history knocked the wind out of many of the industry’s best and brightest, and that’s putting it mildly. But when the chips fell and after the dust settled, the light changed. Something was different… Or was it? Folks everywhere, from CEOs to CSRs and from CDs to JADs were talking. But it wasn’t over the phone or over lunch, or even via email. (O.K., well, yes; some of these things still do take place, thank god.) It was online via channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Texts. Tweets. Yelps. Etcetera. Communication changed. Mass communication–has changed. An aside, to many who may read this: it will seem akin to a brand new culinary student talking to Alain Ducasse about frying eggs. Hmmm. I am not a social media wizard by any stretch of the imagination. However, and as a writer, I do notice things from time to time.

That said, some things that haven’t changed in our world: creatives still bemoan their misfortune when they find themselves out of work… “But I DROVE that campaign. It was MY idea, MY design and/or MY COPY.” Or, “I’ve been kicked to the curb for some f***ing kid that designs hypertext links. He wouldn’t know a concept if it bit him in the f***ing ass. Do you know how many One Show Pencils I’ve won? I can tell you how many he’s won. That’s right. ZERO.” (See recent post at http://TalentZoo.com entitled, Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye.)

Um… maybe it’s just me. Or maybe some of us have forgotten what it’s like to be hungry. It can hurt. A lot. But something else good can happen if you’re aware enough, scrappy enough, and once you’ve quit hanging your head between your knees. You get your edge back. Now, the truth for me is that I’m not where I’d like to be… just yet. On the other hand, I think there will always be a part of me that isn’t satisfied unless I’m dissatisfied. That is to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever be “Where I want to be.” I’ve heard some say that once you get to that place… the place that–before you got there–seemed so great–your perspective changes, and it wasn’t at all what you’d thought. Now, you want something else. Something better. I’ve also heard it said that getting fired makes you stronger. Tougher. If it doesn’t first drive you crazy… I wonder what Nirvana is like. I wonder if once you get there, you think, “Ehn,” …anyway.

This is the deal (and the part where I tell Chef Ducasse all about frying eggs):

Chef Ducasse

The landscape has changed. The world has changed. We are in a new era. Right now, the buzzwords are “social media…” “new media.” Oooh. Ahhh. Tomorrow they will be something newer. One thing that hasn’t changed? People. People still want to be wowed and excited and drawn in. They still want to be driven to ecstasy–and then held. In fact, maybe now, more than ever before. Frankly, so much (and I think many of you will agree, Creatives) in our world that lauds itself as “creative”–sucks. Maybe that’s why people are so bored and tired and are quite content in their own magical mini light-box worlds that fit in the palms of their hands. Maybe as a society and on the whole, we have become one great bunch of fat, lazy sods. Maybe I’m harsh. *sigh* Oh, well. But–my dear, sweet, lovely Creatives–and I mean this with all my heart–I know your pain. But I truly believe the answer does not lie in whacking the hypertext kid. Because The Man is, in effect, a junkie. He will find another hypertext kid. The trick, it would seem, is not even to try and figure out how to win back The Man. The trick is to figure out how to cut The Man out of the picture entirely. We’re talking Frank Lucas-style, Baby.

Frank Lucas, CEO Extraordinaire (a.k.a. American Gangster)

(O.K., well, maybe not quite that cold, and uh… illegal. But you get my meaning.) The trick, it would seem, is to become what some (Seth Godin) would call, a Linchpin. Relearn how to Fascinate (by Sally Hogshead). Or, as Hugh MacLeod would say, “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally f***ing amazing is job one.”

So, kids… Creative Beasts… have at it. Find a way. SEIZE THE PREY.

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So You Wanna Be Fascinating?

March 20th, 2010 4 comments

A guide to help us discover how and why we fascinate, and how we may increase our own levels of fascination.

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.

This book is quite a read, and, indeed; a fascinating one. You’ll want to chew and digest these words slowly, Creative Beasts, and perhaps finish with a taste of fine Cognac (which, by the way, would be appealing to the lust trigger–and trust, because we know it will provide comfort). In her book, Sally Hogshead takes us on the fascinating journey of fascination using a style that succinctly and playfully pulls every trigger as we go along. It boils down to this: The seven triggers of fascination are simply the tools we use to communicate and respond to one another, but by learning about how they work–and becoming aware of their nuances–we may adjust our methods and levels of use accordingly in order to better persuade and captivate our audience. You can almost think of it as learning the ways of the force.

Okay, well. Not exactly, perhaps. But perhaps not so disimilar either. “The Force” didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere when Obi Wan introduced Luke to its ways. It was always there. Likewise; lust, mystique, power, alarm, prestige, trust and vice are all there being used by each of us in the ebb and flow of the tides in which we tweet, grin, wink, flash, flirt, yell, coo and/or whisper–with, to or at one another.

As it turns out, most of us want to be fascinating in some shape or form, according to the research–about sixty to seventy percent, depending on which group you’re looking at. Furthermore, each of us in our own unique way has something about us that is fascinating. Still, most of us would prefer our lives to be more fascinating than at present. Surprise, surprise. Ms. Hogshead describes the reasoning behind this current wave of mentality as one that streams from the A.D.D. world in which we live. We are constantly inundated with messages coming at us from multiple angles… messages that we find boring, either because there are too many, or perhaps simply because the messages, themselves, are lackluster and trite. We crave experiences that are genuine, alluring and comforting, but also thrilling, intoxicating and at times, even frightening. (Bungee jumping, anyone? That would be the alarm trigger.)

Who or what fascinates you and why?

In what ways would you like to be more fascinating?

In general, I, myself, am fascinated by creative people of all kinds–artists, writers, scientists, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, designers, architects, chefs and the list goes on.

One of my key groups of particular intrigue happens to be great journalists. They are often in the spotlight, yet their jobs entail and require aiming the focus at someone else… people like Charlie Rose, Terry Gross, Mike Wallace, Gwen Eiffel, Ira Glass and the late Peter Jennings, to name a few. The core values of journalism are based on trust.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on:

Journalism Ethics and Standards

While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.[3][4][5][6]

(And here’s the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards)

Codes aside; to be a righteous player in this field requires high emotional intelligence, a deft approach to interaction on multiple levels, and one must walk some very fine lines. It seems that good journalists may just be some of the most adept at using more of the seven triggers than the rest. They need to be charming, but not overly so. They need to keep their subjects at a proper distance yet seduce them at the same time to gain the necessary level of intimacy, so we have all kinds of things going on here. There’s a certain amount of lust at stake. Notice how in many interviews a very carefully balanced level of flirting takes place. This brings the subject closer and helps in developing a rapport. Here’s 60 Minutes’ well-seasoned Bob Simon interviewing Bollywood’s lovely princess, Aishwarya Rai back in 2004. She at once gains the upper hand when she catches him blushing:

That brings us to another point, which is the power balance. The best in journalism get to interview the most fascinating people because they, themselves are forces to be reckoned with, and people of power are typically fascinated by other people of power (and they often seem to enjoy the opportunity to disseminate their messages to the masses). Here is another game that takes place, which is a challenge of wits, intelligence and at times; superiority. You’ll find interesting battles of wills when you listen to Terry Gross‘ recent interview with Karl Rove on NPR’s Fresh Air, regarding his latest memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124597241

And finally, we have the queen bee of fascinating people, Ms. Barbara Walters. She uses her lust and mystique triggers very well. She displays her sweetness as she walks arm in arm with her subjects, but make no mistake; she is also a major lady of power who is well known for making even some of the toughest nuts to crack–cry. Could it be that some of us actually want to cry with Barbara Walters? Could this be a vice trigger? Hmm. Here she is interviewing Lady Gaga. She did not cry.

At times, the role of the journalist is similar to that of the psychologist. Boundaries and levels of comfort get tested and gently nudged to achieve desired objectives. Remember The Sixth Sense? In one of my favorite scenes, we see Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) and Cole (Haley Joel Osment) getting acquainted. “Wanna play a game?” Dr. Crowe asks Cole. “It’s a mind-reading game. Here’s how it works. I read your mind. If what I say is right, you take one step towards the chair. If what I say is wrong, you take one step back… towards the doorway. If you reach the chair, you sit down. If you reach the door, you can go. Wanna play?”

Dr. Crowe talks to Cole in the film, The Sixth Sense.

Perhaps if we’re each able to view our lives as more of a game with one of the goals being that we create rules as we go, we may find that our day to day exchanges will become more fascinating. By being aware of cues and making notes as well as recognizing our own signals, we may find that there is a fascinating Jedi as well as a “force” in us all.

By the way, have you taken the F-Score test yet? It’s quick, fun and enlightening. I dare you to do it!

Until next time, Creative Beasts… SEIZE THE PREY.

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Just Another Deluded Entrepreneur.

March 4th, 2010 3 comments

You sure know how to say it, Hugh.

It’s kind of like, “I am an entrepreneur. I am an entrepreneur. I am, I am, I am, I AM an entrepreneur!”

Check out this latest post of Hugh MacLeod’s: http://tinyurl.com/ycmzgw8

He offers great insight (so wise). I’m grateful for these thoughts because if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that when you make the decision to take the plunge, you have all of these feelings. Feelings like, “I’m an idiot.” Or, “I’m crazy.” Or, “I’m crazy and I’m an idiot.” You’re leaping out into The Great Unknown. There’s no one there holding your hand. You’re swimming solo. And you’ve never done this before. It feels scary and it feels lonely. And it’s one of the best feelings, ever.

Hugh’s book, by the way, is wonderful and it is one of a few that has had a hand in changing my life. Check it out: http://gapingvoid.com/books/

And if you like that one (and by the way, my guess is that you wouldn’t be on this page if you didn’t share in these hopes and dreams), here’s a few more for you to check out:

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead http://sallyhogshead.com/category/fascinate/

Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead http://www.radicalcareering.com/

Linchpin by Seth Godin http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith http://www.chrisbrogan.com/where-to-buy-trust-agents/

Why Now is the Time to CRUSH IT! Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk http://crushitbook.com/

If you’re as geeky as I am, you will find parts of these books that will make you cry as you read. So, even if you never truly become your own boss, at least you will have had a good cry or two.

Here are some of Hugh MacLeod’s thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, followed by my comments (for whatever they’re worth):

1. Everything takes three times longer than it should. Especially the money part.

Thank God I’m not the only one who feels this way. And please, God, would you send me a bit more money, a decent video camera or two, a new Mac, fully loaded with Adobe CS4, Final Cut Pro, etc, etc, an art director, a video crew, an editor, a producer, some advertisers, a SEO expert, an affiliate manager… hmm, what else? Oh, yeah, an accountant… and maybe an extra writer or two. Oh, and about a million or so followers? …Thanks!

12. It’s easier to turn an ally into a customer than vice versa.

This one made me think of something one of my best customers once said to me when I sold software. I’ll never forget it. I made a mistake, and that was that I over-promised and under-delivered. The great rule of sales and service is just the opposite. What he said was, “Trish, I’m going to teach you something: there’s an old saying that goes like this: ‘It takes years to win a customer and seconds to lose one.’” Original thought or no, he was right. I felt awful, and that I had not only lost a customer, but a friend. I sent him a most sincere letter of apology, not expecting to regain his business. But guess what? A couple weeks later he called me again, and it was as though nothing had gone wrong. “Wow!” I thought. “I must be doing something right.” The funny thing was that when I told my boss about losing him, his response was more or less, “Oh, well.” He was the one that had instructed me to make the promise and take the order; i.e., the money. Never again, will I take an order from a client without being able to personally guarantee 100 percent that I can deliver on the product. I like having customers that like me, but more importantly, I need my customers to trust me. Whatever it is that you’re selling, your customer needs to feel satisfied with your product and the experience at the end of the day, if he is to return. And if he walks away delighted, he might just tell someone else. On the flip side, if he walks away angry, you can be sure he’ll tell someone else. It all boils down to earning trust. That is how you sell your product and that is how you win and keep customers. To hell with dog and pony shows. And thanks, Josh.

25. Bill Gates may have a million times more money than me, but he isn’t going to live a million times longer than me, watch a million times more sunsets than me, make love to a million times more women than me, drink a million times more fine wines than me, listen to a million times more Beethoven String Quartets than me, nor sire a million times more children than me. Human beings don’t scale.

Find a way to love what you do. Love your friends and loved ones well, and try to appreciate what you have. Life is short, and it’s easy to miss the little joys and wonderful moments that sometimes fall before us. One of my Russian friends once said to me, “There is a Russian saying: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.’” I told another friend who said, “That sounds like a Russian saying.” Maybe so, but I like it. Not that I would turn away a hundred dollars.

For the rest of Hugh’s sublime thoughts and witticisms check out his post. Again, here’s the link:
http://tinyurl.com/ycmzgw8

And on that note, Creative Beasts, I bid you adieu. Keep dreaming, keep building on your dreams and as always, Seize The Prey. Here’s Barenaked Ladies with If I had a Million Dollars. Bein’ geeky and keepin’ it real.

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I Have Not Yet Begun to Crush It.

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

The meek may inherit the Earth, but meanwhile, "The Determined" are gonna get theirs.

Pigeons… gotta love ‘em. The cooing, the nesting, the foraging… and of course, the “bombing.” My Norwegian (step) grandmother said that when a pigeon poops on you, it’s good luck (she stated this after my mom had just been hit with a love-bomb from a feathered friend from above). I haven’t yet been able to confirm whether this is a Norwegian belief or one from somewhere else. If anyone can help me out with this, give a shout. I was once struck on the head by a pigeon-bomb, in the middle of downtown Milwaukee. It was a dove, actually. I was on the phone with a friend. It was a warm, sunny, early evening and I was standing beneath a tiny tree–newly planted, in fact. I had paused to chat–apparently under this little tree–and splat! Right on top of my head. I was surprised, of course, and of course, I reached up to find out what had hit me. I yelled out in disgust, and then I believe I started to cry a little. “Ahhhnnnnn! Come get me!” (it was my boyfriend) I exclaimed into the phone, looking up into the little tree. “A dove just shat on me!” He laughed, but then fortunately, he did come to get me. And the dove? It sat in the tree, a couple feet above me, cooing softly. “Jerk!” I thought. That was a few years ago. I’m still hoping for that good luck to come, but in the meantime, I aim to “Crush It!”

Just finished Gary Vaynerchuck’s book Why Now is the time to CRUSH IT! Cash In On Your Passion.

It took me a little longer than I thought it would, but hey, interruptions happen. Anyway. Great book, I really enjoyed it. Gary Vee is not just entertaining, as it turns out, nor is he simply driven. He’s an inspiring, thoughtful businessman and marketing strategist who looks well into the future to anticipate trends; all the while, keeping his eye on the ball. So what is Gary’s #1 strategy? CARE. That’s right. Care. Care about what you do, be authentic, be passionate, and let these things be your guiding lights. Here’s a rather recent appearance Gary made on CNBC:

If you pay a visit to Gary @ http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ you’ll see that quite a few folks giggle and scoff at old anchor-dude Dennis Kneale, who calls Gary “corny.” I get why the fans giggle and scoff, and I’m pretty sure I get why Dennis Kneale called him “corny.” The fans… well, it’s a couple reasons: A) just because they’re fans, they will always stick up for their guy and B) If they really know where Gary is coming from, then they truly know that he means what he says, but also that he’s right. Now, why did Kneale call Gary Vaynerchuk “a little corny?” I think it’s because he must be thinking, “Oh, now isn’t this cute and clever. Here’s Mr. 35-year old millionaire entrepreneur, telling everybody that all they need to do is care.” Obviously, he hadn’t yet read the book, because if he had, I don’t think he would have made a silly comment like that. Here’s the deal: Gary can explain in his book, exactly what he means by “caring,” and the thing is that it really isn’t any different from the approach taken by good old-fashioned great brands, all over the world. It is one thing to say that you care, but it is an altogether different thing to actually live it. What are some of the great caring brands of our times? How about Nordstrom? How about McDonalds? How about Starbucks? He says it boils down to the quality of the communication, and he’s right. “It’s about listening.” You listen, you give it your all, and you make adjustments when you need to. In his book, he recounts a retail story of a woman–a customer in New York–who called to complain that she didn’t get her wine shipment on time. It was December 22nd, and it was an older lady who was not a regular customer, a major buyer–or anything else major. What made her special was that she was a customer, plain and simple, and Gary knew that if he let her down… if her holiday got spoiled because it was too late to make a promise from FedEx… he would be letting himself down–and his team. So what did he do? He grabbed her case of White Zinfandel, threw it in his car, and drove it through a blizzard for three hours to her doorstep in Westchester, New York. Crazy? Maybe. Awesome customer service? You bet. He set the tone for his company that day, and that’s what leaders do. That’s how good brands get built. Really smart people understand this. I don’t know if it is still this way, simply because I don’t have the chance to visit Nordstrom much anymore (we don’t have them here), but the way I remember it, their service is legendary. If you needed something tailored and their tailor was out, the associate would run it to the next local tailor to have it done–and have it ready for the customer in the same day. OK, I’m kind of making that up, but stuff like that. No kidding.

Here’s a quick brand comparison story: And first, let me just say that I have for the most part, really gotten away from fast food. But one day at work a couple of years ago, I ran out for a burger. I thought to myself, “Hmm. Flame-broiled Whopper, Jr…” It had been a while since I had patronized a Burger King, but I was in the mood and I was pressed for time, so… fast food. I pulled up to the drive, and a girl answered, “Uhhhh, just a minute…”

I thought, “OK. Well, that’s weird because I’m the only one here.” But I waited a couple of minutes. Then I thought, “Hell with this,” and I pulled around and parked and went inside. What I found was a young manager yelling at several employees sitting at a table, telling them it was time to get back to work because they had already had breaks. There was one girl at the counter. I approached the counter, and waited for someone to say hello. No one did. Finally, I said, “Can someone here take my order?”

The girl at the counter said, “Just a second.”

I lost it. “You people are pathetic,” I said. “I went to the drive-thru and no one could help me. Now I’m inside and no one can help me. And there’s NOBODY f***ing here!” Yes, I said “f***ing.” Sorry I was foul-mouthed, but I was really amazed. They just stood there with their mouths open. I left, and went to McDonalds.

At the drive-thru speaker, the first thing the girl said was, “Thank you for waiting, can I take your order?” I was already thrilled. I ordered, and a couple of minutes later I was at the window receiving my meal. “Sorry about the wait!” She said with a smile.

“What wait?” I smiled back and thanked her and drove away. Fast and friendly service, napkins, ketchup, a sandwich, fries and a beverage with a straw–all the right temperatures and freshness… the birds were singing and weaving a happy little bird-dance around my car (just kidding)… I was a happy lass.

Looking back, I might have chosen a kinder way of addressing things with the folks at Burger King–I work at not getting upset these days, but anyway, it sure was an interesting juxtaposition of brands… To me, employees that give great customer service appear to be happy because they are happy. Generally, I look at this as a sign that they are treated well, but additionally, they are following good examples. They are taking ownership. These are all signs of a business that is being run properly and smartly.

Incidentally, I have worked at different companies throughout the years. I have worked at places who understand that good brands start from the top, but then are built from the bottom up (Starbucks is one of them), and then I’ve worked at companies that have had a different approach. The different approach was one that was unfortunately centered around money and the making of it. There was nothing wrong with the initial idea: sell a commodity–something everybody needs. (Heck, that’s what Starbucks does–well, OK, so we don’t actually need coffee, but you understand.) The problems began when corners got cut, and to what extent and how often. I am here to say that that is no way to run a business. If all you care about is money, I can just about guarantee that no matter how much you have, you will never be happy… Did I mention I watched it grow from a three person company to a 40 million-dollar operation in about six years? In Crush It, Gary refers to something he calls “reactionary business.” What he’s talking about is having the ability to anticipate change and adapt. I’m not sure I would call that “reactionary.” I would call that “being proactive.” To me, “reactionary” was watching the flames get higher when things started to smoke and burn because the only solution “leadership” had was to throw on more coals. That was due to a couple of things 1) a president who didn’t want to listen to his employees and 2) a sheer lack of anticipating change and lack of planning for it. But there was another attitude problem that inevitably led to the company’s demise… arrogance. The owner had it in his head that if a customer was lost, there was always another one around the “virtual” corner. I think he ultimately felt that it didn’t matter if customers left unhappy because it was an online business. Wrong. There are only so many chances to reinvent yourself, and it’s much harder now than it was then. Those company doors closed in 2007, and Twitter was only a year old. If you want to start a business, have it be something that you want your name on. Be proud of it. That’s another thing Gary Vaynerchuk talks about: legacy. By the way, if you ever work somewhere at which the owner of the business isn’t willing to publicly admit ownership, let that be a warning to you. That is not a good sign.

OK. So. Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It!: I say buy it if you’re just starting a business, and buy it if you’re a six-or-more-figure salaried CEO. Gary’s messages are pretty simple and straight forward: Care. Work your butt off. Listen. Adapt. Anticipate. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Build your personal brand. Care. He breaks it down much further, but I don’t need to repeat the entire book, as short and sweet as it is. His messages are in many ways, not new, and in fact, in some ways they are old-fashioned. So what? They work. My concern that I mentioned in my earlier post before I read the book was that it might be too schmaltzy. Too much of a “just believe in yourself”-type book. While there is some of that, he explains why he believes it is actually possible to follow your dreams at this point in time. Gary is a good coach. He doesn’t tell you how to do everything, but he gives recommendations on tools to use, strategies and approaches. He also talks about DNA and how it plays a part. I tend to think that many immigrants in general, have a much better idea about how to succeed than (non-immigrant) Americans. They tend not to take things for granted and they really know how to hustle. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization, but just look around you and see for yourself. I’ll be bold and make another sweeping generalization: Gary is from Belarus, and I don’t care who says what, but many of the folks from that part of the world are great mathematicians, some of the world’s greatest composers and musicians, scientists… and chess players. Gary is an excellent strategist. Just sayin’. Until next time, Creative Beasts… Seize the Prey! Or, as Gary says, “Crush it!”

Another link to check out: http://vaynermedia.com/

And to send you off, here’s one of my favorite songs ever (definitely a T-Haus theme song) as well as a bit o’ CreativeBeasts.com inspiration–Hot Chocolate’s Every 1′s a Winner (and a random fan viddy):

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Finding Your Marketing and Branding Angle. And Crushing It.

January 5th, 2010 1 comment

Mission-style dining table... at ByAmish.com

Can an Amish guy sell furniture online? Sure. Why not? But then the questions become, “How will anyone find his shop? And even if they do… why this Amish guy?” And since the Amish have a reputation for being… well, rather “shy” in terms of connecting with people outside of their community, they need all the help they can get when it comes to spreading the word about what they do. So the guy making the furniture should basically stay busy doing what he does best–making furniture. But his distributor doesn’t have to be quite so shy about things. He can attest to the fact that every square inch of any piece–whether it’s a dining room table or an armoire–is lovingly hand-crafted by Elias and Friends. Work like this cannot be replicated because it comes from knowledge and traditions passed on from generation to generation–and is entirely custom crafted. So, what do we know about Amish furniture? In general, the consensus is that it is extremely well made, and there is, indeed, something very special about beautiful things made entirely by hand. When you own a piece of furniture by Elias, you will not simply enjoy using it; you will enjoy using it with the knowledge that your children will own it some day, and then perhaps your grandchildren. And with each generation, it will take on a new beauty. That’s the thing about quality: it retains its value, and gains in value.

“Why, oh why, are you now writing about Amish furniture, T-Haus?” You ask. Well, I’ll tell you. 1) It’s my site, and I’ll write about what I damn-well feel like (sorry, Amish people for saying “damn,” but you won’t read the blog anyway, and so what you don’t know won’t hurt you). 2) I think it’s a very interesting marketing/branding question: “How does an Amish furniture maker promote himself?” Maybe he’ll get lucky and CreativeBeasts.com will do a little plug (Can anyone get more lucky than that? Dear god, I hope so.). “…I know of this guy named Elias who makes damn-good furniture (and no, we are not related).” 3) I think it has a lot to do with the quest of CreativeBeasts: helping creative people from all walks of life to get a little closer to their goals… and discovering how the ones making it happen are getting it done. There’s the whole Field of Dreams notion… “Build it and they will come.” And if you build the best furniture in the world, a light will shine down upon your shop from the heavens; showing appreciators of artisanal work the way forth, right? Not exactly. If no one knows about it, no one can buy it… and no one will come. Sad, but true. Sooo–the word must be spread!

On a slightly different note (but not totally), I picked up Gary Vaynerchuk‘s new book Crush It! –Cash In On Your Passion, today.

I should be able to read it tonight (it’s not War and Peace). I’m excited, and I’m hoping it will offer some juicy secrets that I can apply towards getting my own show on the road. Stay tuned, for there will be comments. I’m seriously hoping it’s not just another “You-can-do-it-if-you-just-believe-in-yourself-hard-enough!” book. And I’m not at all knocking the “belief” end of things. You knows I’m alls about the faith. But Gary doesn’t seem like the bullshit type. We shall check it out. …I think I like you, Gary Vee, but I haven’t entirely made up my mind about you yet. I do like your passion. And now, speaking of Crushing It, I think I’m ready to go pick up a little vino, myself, and cook up some coq au vin tonight… maybe throw in some dried morels (that I picked myself), in my beloved

5 Quart Le Creuset French Oven... in Cobalt

Le Creuset Dutch oven (Oops–I mean “French…” the Le Creuset peeps call it a “French” oven–how very French of them), which I purchased from one of my all-time favorite stores, Williams-Sonoma. If you love to cook, but do not yet own a Le Creuset French oven, you should seriously consider making it a priority. Seriously. You will be so glad that you did.

And then… I’m gonna get reading (Crush It!).

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They Call It Understanding.

December 12th, 2009 2 comments
Snow geese in flight.
Snow geese in flight.

The past is history. The future is a mystery, and this moment is called a gift. That is why this moment is called ‘the present.’

From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

Now I get it. Or at least maybe I’m getting closer.

Some things aren’t meant to be, or perhaps just not meant to happen at the exact moment that we would have them occur. Once this is understood, things can get easier. Deepak Chopra refers to this concept as The Law of Least Effort. He says that (and I’m paraphrasing) nature always follows the path of least resistance.

Grass doesn’t try to grow. It grows. Birds don’t try to fly. They fly.

The first time I heard that, it sent shivers down my spine (in a good way).

Here is a quote from Jesus (Matthew 6:28) which I believe is the same idea (this one’s for you, Liza):

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

I think this notion has a lot to do with success–in fact, almost everything. Talent and smarts are great, but faith, timing–and understanding timing–make a world of difference. Think of a baseball pitcher. Now, let’s say that this pitcher throws an amazing curve ball, and maybe he really likes throwing curve balls. But maybe the curve ball isn’t always the solution he needs to achieve his goal, which is to strike out the batters. In order to apply the best approach to any given situation, one must apply understanding which comes from awareness. Very successful people don’t waste time tarrying about and carrying on. They are often quick to measure how well their energies are being received, and from there they determine what the appropriate next step should be. This is how some of the greatest systems have come to be.

Here’s Bob Seger with Understanding.

Have you ever been driving on the freeway at a moment at which all the drivers seem to be moving in sync? Traffic just flows and it seems like a well orchestrated symphony. Then other times, not so much. Life can be similar. On one day your movements and actions might match or compliment those around you, and might be very well received. You are happy and those with whom you interact are happy. Other days, nothing seems to work as you might have expected or hoped for. This is where creativity comes in. You are aware of your situation, and so you make notes, and then adjustments.

I’m a writer. Words matter to me and I know that words can change the world. Not everyone agrees. Some people don’t think words hold much value or maybe they simply don’t remember how words may have impacted them. They might have sung New Years Day at the top of their lungs at a U2 concert once upon a time. They might have worn a Nike T-shirt bearing the slogan, Just Do It. And they probably felt something at the time… something like connectedness. Somewhere else at that time, someone else was listening to something else, and someone else was wearing a different shirt. My point is that we aren’t all on the same page at the same time, and that is OK, and in fact; it is just as it should be. But when we are on the same page–even if it’s just two people–it can be great… magical, even. And great and magical things can happen.

A great deal of time and energy can be wasted in an attempt to gain things like acceptance, attention, praise and even love, but such things can never be forced if they are to remain genuine. The best situational outcomes occur when things happen genuinely… naturally… and when the timing is right.

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Vampires. We Love the Way They Suck.

October 14th, 2009 1 comment
The king of bad boys, Count Dracula.

The king of bad boys, Count Dracula.

Ah, yes. ‘Tis a love that never dies. What is it about these mesmerizing, terrifying, brilliant, horrible, irresistible, loathsome, disgusting, delicious, god-forsaken, sexy creatures of the night that holds our attention? I’ll be damned if I know, but I DARE you to Google them (vampires)… You will get about 60,400,000 results! Can you believe that “hairstyles” only has 7,140,000? I am in the wrong business. Time to start sucking some blood–whoa–! I just realized the horrifying truth about the forces of Wall Street… and goodness only knows who else…

So really. What is it about vampires? Is it the notion that they play to our darkest fantasies, and maybe–just maybe… the idea that MAYBE… if they were real… that if one of us were to be bitten… that we wouldn’t die; but rather, would be chosen to join this stunning clan of ferocious fiends–and we, too, could live forever, have super-human strength, fly around–and taste the forbidden liquid of life? GRR-ross! …Or is it, “Mmm-magnificent!” …?

Whatever it is, it is without a doubt; a multi-billion dollar business when one includes movies, TV shows, books, and costumes. November 24, 2008, The L.A. Times reported that Twilight took in $70.6 million, and a later report by the Wall Street Journal stated the film grossed $382 million, worldwide. The same report claims that the Twilight books have thus far sold over 53 million copies, which still doesn’t beat Harry Potter, but maybe they just need a bit of time–and Harry does have more time in, incidentally. The next movie, Twilight – New Moon premieres in L.A. on November 16th, and nationwide on November 20th.

Of course, the world’s obsession with vampires hardly begins and ends with the Twilight series. On the contrary; these tales and legends go back thousands of years and are prevalent in nearly every culture in our world. Here’s an interesting little blog that seems to attempt to turn every vampire stone that ever was: http://vampiresaz.webs.com/. Another contemporary and popular story worth noting is HBO’s True Blood, based on the series, The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, first published in 2001. Interestingly enough, both story lines (True Blood and Twilight) offer chronicles of good and evil vampires. It’s interesting because that seems to be something of a recent trend–good (or at least good enough to allow a nibble) vampires, that is. From NBC’s short-lived Dark Shadows (12 episodes in ’91, which was a rehashing of the 1966 show) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Moonlight, to the current cinematic blood buffet, there seems to be a sort of poetic need to reach out to these otherwise, murderous and soulless beings. THAT–is a girl thing. I guarantee it. “Oh, but I can save him…” Nope. You can’t. “Oh, but together, we can take on the bad ones, and save the world!” Hmm. Nope. Wrong, again. But… that is why there is fiction, in which one can make up whatever one wants. And as for female vampires looking to seduce an unwitting male victim… well, let’s just say these gals really don’t need much in terms of salvation. As long as she has the right parts, she can get the job done, and it doesn’t even matter if she smiles and shows off her fangs. The guy will probably think, “Gee, she’s got some long sharp teeth, all right,” and then she’ll “kiss” him… on the neck… and that will be that. He will die because he is too dumb to be turned into a vampire. Who wants to haul that dude around ’til the end of time? Only seriously cool and sharp people get to be vampires.

Here are a few scenes from some of my favorite fang-filled flicks…

From The Hunger:

From Fright Night:

Dracula, featuring the one and only Bela Lugosi:

Nosferatu:

…And here are some other entertaining posts about vampires:

http://scifiwire.com/2009/10/16-sexy-movie-and-tv-vamp.php

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20071014/ai_n21049073/

http://www.angelfire.com/biz4/vampyreresearch/faq.html#answer%20fourteen

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