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A New Year. A New Wave.

January 2nd, 2011 2 comments

Katsushika Hokusai - The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

I’ve never been very big on New Year’s Eve celebrations–that’s not to say that there haven’t been ones that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. My 2010 New Year’s Eve was quiet, reflective, and very low key. I spent the evening with a friend that I’ve known casually for a while–someone who until recently, I would have considered merely a friendly acquaintance. Recently, however, we’ve become close, and I have come to value our friendship. I call this friend, “Smiley.”

To provide a bit of backstory, 2010 has been a mixed bag for this Creative Beast, with some decent highs, and others that were… perhaps neither good nor bad. There were times that felt pretty bad, in all honesty, and they did set me back. Yet in hindsight, the simple knowledge that I was able to make it through these trials–some of which I wasn’t sure how I would get through–has led me to a better place. I surprised myself in more than one instance with my resourcefulness, my tenacity and my will–and when I managed to accomplish certain things on both a personal and a professional level simultaneously–I felt pretty good… albeit tired. My point in mentioning this, is not so much to toot my own horn, but to simply say that waves do come. Sometimes they can take us up, and other times, they can crush us. The best we can do is to prepare if possible, and then paddle like hell. Those who are able to maintain higher ground may consider themselves “fortunate,” or “blessed,” or whatever they want to call it. As for fishermen and Creative Beasts… ’tis a seafaring life–which sometimes resembles a monster, and other times, something extraordinarily glorious… which brings us back to the reasons that we do the things we do.

Smiley and I reconnected a couple of months ago by pure chance, at a hotel, of all places. I was coming out of a networking meeting, and he was working on a story in the lounge. I didn’t expect it, but we ended up chatting for a while. He was keen to bounce thoughts off of another writer, and I was pleasantly refreshed after an hour of interesting-but-standard shop talk. The script aside, he seemed to have a lot of fires going, which intrigued me. Everybody likes hot burners, and particularly during cold weather. Looking back, I think what was most compelling about Smiley, was the fire in his eyes. As we talked, we agreed that perhaps there would be an opportunity to collaborate on some ideas.

Time went on, and the more ground we covered, the more we realized our stories were rather aligned. We had each had our share of waves, both friendly and fierce. We agreed that it was good to have dreams and vision. All of these things brought us closer together, and at the same time, kept us somewhat reticent in ways. Still, I was inspired by our conversations.

New Year’s Eve, though quiet, reflective and low key, was also pensive, heavy and occasionally dark. And I was feeling funky to begin with. Somehow, roads were taken that led us off the gleeful, celebratory path–not that we were really on it in the first place. From setbacks to friends who had committed suicide, and from dislikes to disorders, we covered just about every cheery subject we could think of. By midnight, we were totally out of steam and in no mood for noisemakers or confetti; let alone, champagne. If ever there was a non-roll, we were on it. Smiley went on to say how much he couldn’t wait to move back east. I had very little left to say, except that if that was what he wanted, then he ought to make it so. Mostly, I was just tired, and thinking about having to go in to work the next day. We finished our nightcaps in what was ironically, yet another downtown hotel lounge. We parted ways with half smiles and a short good-bye, each of us somewhat apologetic about our moods.

So at this point, you might be wondering the reason for this post. Ha. The post is about waves, and how they keep coming. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. A wave is going to take you somewhere, and that place can, indeed, be good… even great.

When I got home I was emotionally spent. One of the things I’ve never liked about the occasion–the anticlimax–had hit me in the face. “To hell with New Year’s Eve,” I thought.

In the morning, when I got up to take a shower, I looked up at the reflection of my Hokusai poster in the bathroom mirror. Yes, the image has become ubiquitous. So what? It’s powerful. Suddenly, it hit me, and suddenly, I was inspired again. “Fight harder. Ride the wave. Come back better.” That’s what it’s about. Pretty simple.

Smiley, my friend… this post is for you, and I’m glad we’re friends. Keep at it, and keep smiling. One way or another, we’ll get there.

Happy New Year, Creative Beasts, and by all means, SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. It feels appropriate to add the lyrics, here. Feel free to sing along… Slainte.

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/w/waterboys/fishermans+blues_20145298.html

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Could Your Company Use a Brand Makeover?

November 17th, 2010 4 comments

Hendrik Goltzius - "Icarus"

To err is human, to forgive, divine. –Alexander Pope

But on the other hand, so is perfection, which is why we seek it.

Mistakes. We all make them. And yet, when it comes to business transactions, it seems fair to say that there are very few of us who have either the time or patience to forgive them more than a time or two. Nearly everywhere you look, there is a fierce competitor chasing at the heels of any given brand. We live in a world in which Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter is usually king. That said, there are still plenty of people who settle for “pretty good,” a good deal of the time, or who will put up with something unpleasant in exchange for something desirable; e.g., lousy service for killer product. Nevertheless, the same rule applies (and I’ll throw in another word): Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter-Nicer beats Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter. Dig it?

Think of it this way: Joe sells coffee drinks. So does Steve. Both Steve and Joe brew good coffee. They both brew it in a timely fashion. But sometimes Joe forgets what kind of milk you asked for. Sometimes he uses the sugar-free vanilla (and you hate that stuff). And sometimes (and this is the killer) he only gives you one shot of espresso. You need two (you would have gone back for another, but heck, you’re already on the freeway). You like Joe, but in the end, you gotta go with Steve. He pretty much gets your drink right every time. And hey, if he messes up once in a blue moon, you can forgive him… plus, he’s a good guy.

Great service starts with the way customers are greeted when they enter the door, or call on the phone… or order via the catalog. A company’s brand amounts to the perception the consumer takes away from each and every interaction he or she has with your company.

SIGNS YOUR BRAND COULD BE DUE FOR A TUNE UP

Your company’s teams/departments are disconnected.

The left hand is moving, but the brain didn’t tell it to, and the right hand is in another world, entirely. Something is fishy, here. Everyone needs to be on the same page. What does this mean? Two words: “Tight Ship.” You have a crew and a mission. Everyone on your crew has a particular responsibility, and each member knows what that responsibility is and why it needs to be done. At the same time, each crew member is marching to the tune of the mission, because each one understands that he or she will benefit from the greater goal. Does this mean that individual strengths and talents should be dismissed? No. On the contrary, great teams are great because of individual strengths; not despite them.

No one in the company knows what the mission is.

How can this result in anything but certain death? If no one in the company knows what your company’s mission is, then that is as good as not having one. Furthermore, making a profit is not a mission; rather, it is what happens when the group works to achieve something more meaningful to all who participate. Great companies attract great people because they essentially wear their mission like an armband. Potential employees know the mission before they are brought on board. Team members are fiercely proud of it because they helped build it, and it rocks. It doesn’t sorta rock. It doesn’t kinda roll. It brings the house down every time. And the team then says, “That’s how we roll.” That is the essence of what makes a great brand, and when you have a great brand, you have a great company.

The company has a mission (sort of), but isn’t really sticking to its plan, and team members are not engaged.

You have goals. You have plans. But if you were to ask your team members what the plan is, aside from moving pile A from tray 1 to tray 2… would they know? In other words, do they know why they are doing what they are doing, and how it will help to improve things? If the answer is no, then you may have a problem, Houston. Still, you might be thinking, “Every company needs cogs, and lots of cogs don’t mind being cogs.” Well… maybe… but… did you ever ask them? Because here’s the thing: statistics vary, but reports indicate that the percentage of employees who are disengaged is anywhere from 54 to 75%. While you may or may not find such numbers to be shocking, you can bet your bottom dollar that disengagement costs employers plenty. If your troops on the front line ( the people who are the first point of contact with your customers) are thinking about how much they don’t want to be there, then you could be sitting on a house of cards. Communication is key.

The Tell-Tale Sign of the Health of Your Business: How Healthy Is your Customer Service Team?

Your CSRs are working harder than all other teams in the company. Their work is never done, and the bulk of it is issuing credits and processing returns. Why are there so many returns? Perhaps it’s a quality control issue. Maybe your company designs coveted handbags. One of the inside zippers is broken on approximately 50% of them, but you don’t know this yet. You won’t know it until they reach your customers, and then they call customer service to complain. If your CSR is able to save the sale, you will likely keep your customer. That’s the good news. Complainers are loyal, so long as you solve the problem. According to most reports, approximately 90% do not bother to complain. They simply don’t return. So is good quality control part of good service? Of course it is. When things are going smoothly, Customer Service can be used to up-sell to your customers, and to provide you with crucial feedback. On the flip side, when Customer Service is swimming in a sea of mistakes that need to be fixed, they are functioning as a bandage on a wound (reactive vs. proactive).

Less Stress = Better Health = More Time/Space to Be Creative.
Think of it. Things are busy, but the work is manageable, and your teams are happy and engaged. Ideas are flowing. This is what it feels like to be healthy.

So, to all you Harder-Better-Faster-Stronger CreativeBeasts, “Have a nice day.” And of course, SEIZE THE PREY.

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Interview With Adrienne Pierluissi: A Multilayered Artist and Complex Creative Beast.

August 4th, 2010 3 comments

Hello, Creative Beasts. How are you? It has been a busy summer here at the T_Haus. “Crazy-busy,” one might say. I’m sure you know what I mean. That aside, “We,” here, at Creative Beasts have been working on some exciting, new and wonderful things.

“What things, T_Haus?” You say?

Interviews, my dears. I said they would be coming. You were warned.

Recently, I had the distinct privilege to speak with the fair Adrienne Pierluissi; painter, singer-songwriter, entrepreneur, mother, wife, gardener–and the list goes on. She is intensely passionate and focused in nearly everything she does, and it shows. Occasionally, you will even find her tending bar at either Palm Tavern or The Sugar Maple (establishments she owns with her husband and partner, Bruno Johnson–well known for their incredible selections of Belgian and American craft beers; not to mention fine scotches, bourbons and many more) located in beautiful Bayview, Wisconsin. But rather than me telling you about her, here she is, in our conversation–without further ado.

We’ll be talking more with Adrienne in the future. Look for her band, Assex (cool, smoky, jibaro-style jazz–with a bit of old-school punk mixed in), to be playing Saturday, August 21st at 9:p.m. at the Sugar Maple. She will be singing. I’m confident you will be moved. They are outstanding, and the space–like the music–is intimate. Normally, at this point in the post, there would be a sample of the music–and we’re working on that. For now, you’ll just have to trust me that it’s a show you won’t want to miss.

Finally, as you know, it wouldn’t be CreativeBeasts.com without a song. Adrienne, since we don’t have one of yours yet, this one’s for you. Here’s Nina Simone with Feeling Good. And I hope you are!

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Why Be Extraordinary?

May 28th, 2010 11 comments

Who knows what lurks at the dark edges of The Great Unknown?

Indeed, “Why be at all?” One might ask, as so many have. What is the point? What is the purpose? What makes an artist an artist, or an explorer an explorer, and why should anyone care? There are plenty who try to make the leap, but fail. They will never see an inkling of what they would perceive to be a valid level of success. An aside: the term, “artist,” for the purposes of this post, means “One who creates or envisions at a quintessential level.”

Does culture reflect art or does art reflect culture? This question was posed last week in my group at the Creativity Works event in Milwaukee. I think it’s both. How is culture developed? Try this on for size: There are people who unwittingly (and sometimes wittingly) stomp on the spirits of those trying to make something great out of nothing. Or, they laugh or jeer. Anything to eschew whatever comes across as different, strange–and extraordinary. It could be dangerous, after all… or risky. Yet, invariably, they are the same folks who will celebrate the accomplishments of those that they had formerly dismissed or ridiculed–as if it had been their idea, all along.

Here are the definitions from http://thefreedictionary.com/

cul·ture (klchr)

n.

1.

a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.

3.

a. Development of the intellect through training or education.
b. Enlightenment resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.
5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors.
6. The cultivation of soil; tillage.
7. The breeding of animals or growing of plants, especially to produce improved stock.

8. Biology

a. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.
b. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.

tr.v. cul·tured, cul·tur·ing, cul·tures

1. To cultivate.

“Culture” is something nearly everyone wants to participate in, yet it is also something that only a few wish to work at or develop. Some cultures are random and shapeless, while others are hewn, forged and carefully defined.

Artists and entrepreneurs are often one in the same. Inventors and scientists–I believe, are, in many respects–artists on whole different level. They are pioneers and visionaries… and many times, they are outcasts and “crazy fools…” until they hit on something, and when that happens, so does culture, in a manner of speaking. It’s not an easy calling. To be an artist and to have a dream or a vision takes a commitment. Many sign up for film, music or art school–or medical school–only to find that it wasn’t the life that they had had in mind. There are no guarantees. The investment is costly, and the outlook on the ROI can appear very bleak. Because many times, it is. This is not something they tell you upon entering school. Afterward, many will teach or work in some related area while continuing to work on creative goals. Sometimes this works out well, and other times, not. We all need to find ways to survive, but finding the balance between work and creativity can be trying, frustrating, humbling and even crushing. Very few manage to obtain the opportunity to work solely as an artist–or to conduct research and experiments to their hearts’ content. Many will give up entirely and find something else that is easier. Fitting into a groove that someone else has already created is typically far easier than creating your own. Someone else has already taken the risks, the falls, etc. It’s not scary, and often, it’s pretty safe. Comfortable. For some, however, this prefabbed groove is not comfortable for some reason. It just never seems to fit quite right. We may even struggle and keep trying to fit into it, to finally come to the realization that it isn’t going to happen. It’s never going to fit. That is O.K. And that is the time at which we realize that to stand out–to rise to a higher plain–takes another kind of desire, attitude and level of commitment. The ones who push themselves to figure out how to cut an extra two or three hours out of each day–the ones who are willing to search and hunt and dig to find it–and who then take the extra effort it takes to put that extra pressure on that ugly little rock–are simply put–the ones who get the diamonds.

So why be extraordinary? Maybe the real question is, “Why not?” We get one shot at our time, here. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s dangerous. And no, you don’t know how it will work out. Maybe the world is flat, and you’ll go sailing off the edge. And maybe you won’t. Who knows? The thing is… if not taking that chance to find out what could be–is killing you… then you already are extraordinary. The desire or even the need to put yourself out there, and to take risks–for everyone to see… your thoughts, your work, emotions and opinions–is not normal. Who gets up on a stage with no clothes on and says, “Hey, everybody! Look at me! What do you think??” Artists–entrepreneurs–Creative Beasts do. Regularly. It’s crazy. It’s brave. And it’s extraordinary.

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Grab yourself a soapbox V2.0. And burn it up at Ungeeked.

May 10th, 2010 No comments

"Burn, Baby, Burn."

Hello, Creative Beasts! Anybody else out there burning a little midnight oil? Because let me tell y’all, there’s a disco inferno going on up in here (“burn the mutha down”). In my previous post, I addressed a recent article posted on Talent Zoo, again; entitled, Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye. Indeed, an incendiary title, to say the least. As Mark Fairbanks of Translator puts it, “The eye-popping title of the post led to a flurry of emotionally-charged user comments.” His poignant post, On Death and Dying: The five stages of post digital grief, in turn; finely illustrates the reality of the situation from the perspective of a creative leader who has walked through the fire and come out the other side… a transformation, you might say. Like many others, he has moved into the realm of digital creative.

I decided to do a second “Soapbox” post, because there is simply so much more that can be said about all of this. However. I promise to not go on ad nauseam, ad infinitum. My intention, for what it’s worth, is to further explore the subject of creativity and where and how it lives in our current culture, and to ask those who are creatively driven, what it is they seek from their careers. For example, what makes a copywriter want to be a copywriter, and what makes an art director want to be an art director? I think this is an interesting question that could be taken a step further by asking how many copywriters and/or art directors have a screenplay in the works, or are in a band? Is there a safety appeal in that these are jobs that allow artists to be artists, and yet they (sometimes) offer comfort and/or security in the form of a steady paycheck, insurance and hopefully a somewhat comfortable chair and a desk? For the artist, this can almost feel like a fun, sly, but legal way in which we get to pull one over on the corporate world. “Yeah, I’ve got a desk in a cube, but in my cube, I’m a rogue. I’m a rebel. Which is why you love me.” Uh, huh. Dreams aside, I think there are plenty who really love the problem of a concept and the building of a brand–and there are some who live for it. And you? How do you feel about the current winds of the industry? How have you been affected by digital/new/social media? What would you do differently if you were calling the shots? Or, if you are calling the shots, what steps have you taken to adapt to the new ways in which target groups are being reached? What’s your angle?

At any rate, Creativity is not on her death bed. In fact, she’s just getting started. Please join her.

“Get Up! And dance to the music!”

Embrace the new, and find a way to make it your own. Learn, grow and expand. Have fun. And heck, if it isn’t fun for you anymore, why die trying to fit your square self into that round hole? Keep those edges! Maybe you’ve always wanted to open a collector’s toy shop or become a beekeeper. Maybe now is the time to finish that screenplay. Speaking of learning, though, and in regards to all that’s happening in the worlds of digital and social media and should you want to learn more about it, Ye Olde Milwaukee is hosting a rather significant event designed for not only ad and marcomm geeks, but for entrepreneurs and CEOs of all sizes. The conference that is on its way to making history is Ungeeked Elite, brought to you by SOHO Biztube.

Happening this week from May 13th-15th, this will be one truly interactive event. The keynote speakers including New York Times bestsellers Sally Hogshead and Chris Brogan as well as Jason Falls, Olivier Blanchard, Scott Stratten, Phil Gerbyshak, Dan Schawbel, Visible Technologies and Hubspot will be offering a dialog-driven format, creating a talk-with-you-not-at-you environment. This will allow the experts to learn about followers’ needs as much as it will help newbies to get their feet wet. If you aren’t familiar with the above names, get to know them. Even if you become a beekeeper, you’ll be glad you did.

All right, Creative Beasts. That’s all she wrote for now, as this one needs its beauty sleep (truly). Go on and get yours. And until we meet again, SEIZE THE PREY. I leave you with the Trammps:

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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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No Reservations – Hudson Valley: So Kick-Ass, I Watched It Twice.

February 10th, 2010 No comments

Yep. Watched the same show twice in a row. It was that good. Is “twice in a row” correct usage? Something tells me that in order to make a row, you need three. Aw, heck. Anyway, this No Reservations trip along The Hudson really did it for me. Aside from all the beautiful food, Bill Murray, Michael Ruhlman, the Pardus family, Chef Peter X. Kelly–and Tony Bourdain–there was just something really special about the photography and the storytelling. This is a really good show.

Tony takes us from a crab boil with locals to a brief CIA refresher course with pal, Michael Ruhlman, followed by a meal of Asian pork belly at Chef Michael Pardus‘ home, complimented by the refreshing insights of Pardus’ delightful 10-year-old daughter (“Your job is real tough,” she says to Tony. “You stuff your mouth with food.”), this episode not only shares a good story/travelogue; it takes us on a scenic culinary journey through an exquisite part of New York (that I, for one, was not familiar with) and gives viewers a little taste of adventure, to boot. It isn’t just good TV. It’s good reality TV in the sense that it’s real people doing real stuff–and doing it really well. It’s well detailed, brightly produced and intimately shot. And that is hard to come by.

Topping things off, Tony shares an amazing meal and scintillating conversation with guest, Bill Murray at Peter Kelly’s restaurant X2O in Yonkers. Mr. Murray sums things up perfectly: “You’re within visual distance of your home. I’m within visual distance of where I’ve lived for 30 years. What’s the meaning of being here in this place? And I know you’ll find the answer to that, because you always seem to find it in your programming–what the meaning of it is. What’s the meaning of finding a meal in a great place served by people that care… in a place that Henry Hudson came to 400 years ago?”

Neil Young once said, “When I get big, I’m gonna get an electric guitar. When I get real big.” He was pretty big then… nevertheless… words to live by. I’ve always loved his style.

Anyway. Hats off to Neil Young, hats off to Bill Murray and hats off to Tony Bourdain and the crew of No Reservations. And to all Creative Beasts everywhere, Long May You Run.

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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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2010: Wishes and Ambitions For the New Year.

December 28th, 2009 7 comments

Hey there, Creative Beasts–happy holidays! Can you believe 2010 is almost here? I don’t know about you, but for me it seemed like 2009 blazed by like a comet… or at least like a wild horse. Which brings me to why I chose this image. There’s an old saying: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Try this on for size: Do what you gotta, but get that horse. Me? I’m going after ‘im, and I’m gonna catch ‘im. And then I’m gonna ride. Where we will go is yet to be determined, but I can say one thing… it will be an adventure.

I’ve been invited to stay in Italy this coming spring. I’m not sure yet if I can make it happen. I need to come up with the ticket… and the time. I want to go. A lot. That reminds me of another saying: “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” Can I will myself there? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

So. This post, I’m asking all you CBs out there… What do you want out of 2010?

Personally, I’ve had it with resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are sooo 2009. 2010 is all about The Manifest-Wish-List. It’s about how we will turn our dreams into reality. Really, that’s the whole reason I started CreativeBeasts.com. I want the best and the most for creative folks everywhere and from all walks of life–the only caveat is that the creativity–has to be good. What does that mean? Humor me briefly: You don’t have to follow a special religion–but faith is important. Whether it’s a belief in something greater, or a belief in yourself, it is imperative. Creativity should serve a meaningful purpose. That could mean a lot of things; true. And since the general goal is to embrace and to expand the circle rather than to exclude or alienate, I’ll simply add this: Whether you write software apps or novels, whether you make films or medicine, whether you sing, run, play the drums or play basketball, sculpt, paint, act or teach–your creativity radiates from you. It takes on different colors, shapes, hues and tones. It moves people to act, it evokes, transforms, energizes and inspires. How will yours manifest?

Here are just a few things on my Manifest-Wish-List:

1. Make CreativeBeasts.com into a show that is for Creative Beasts, about Creative Beasts and the creative process.

2. Go to Italy.

3. Better organization.

4. Hit the morel Mother lode.

So. Got any ideas? Got a list?

Please share.

Here’s Spiritualized with Soul On Fire (Great band. See them live if you get the chance):

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