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To the Young Writer Seeking the Star Position

December 18th, 2012 No comments
young writer seeking star job

If you’re trying to land that special post, then get to hoppin’.

Thanks and kudos to Karen for reaching out. She recently sent me a note on LinkedIn, explaining that she is a recent college grad, trying to get a foot in at a particular publication.
I find that the best way to make the connections you’re after is by making your presence known. I’ll bet you’re thinking, “Well, right. That’s what I’m trying to do. But how?” It seems you’re off to a good start.
My answer is twofold. 1) The truth is that you need to start somewhere, so roll up those sleeves and get ready to work. I’m guessing that you’ve realized this by now, but most writers who are fresh out of college are not snatched up by The New Yorker. Look at your favorite publications, and then the number of people who are writing for them. These are highly coveted positions. That said, perhaps you are one of the very talented and lucky few who can break into the place you wish to be, and if this is truly your dream, then absolutely, you should go for it. Also, take note of the writing styles of your favorite writers as well as the audience. Some readers are more sophisticated and have high vocabularies, for example, while others–perhaps not so much. Additionally, think about language and jargon. Are you talking to a specific industry or enthusiast? For instance, foodies expect you to not simply know food, they expect you to be the authority–and they expect you to speak their language. That’s why they come to you. So, should you emulate someone else’s style? Nope. Not if you want to stand out and make a name for yourself. We all have our influences. Use them wisely. This takes us to part deux.
2) It’s an old adage. It helps to know people. So how do you get to know people? You network. And by the way, there are all kinds of networking groups; just search good ol’ Google. Try one. Try three. Not all of them will be a good fit, but keep trying. Find groups that not only interest you, but that actually help you. Make friends with like-minded people, and people who are doing what you want to be doing–or working where you want to work. Be patient with people, and with yourself. Be friendly, kind, polite, and focused (a.k.a. “professional”). Keep your eyes on the prize, and be mindful of who you’re spending time with. In other words, while Darren might be cute and fun to talk to, he might just be interested in taking you out on a date. Maybe dating Darren is what you want, but if you’re more concerned with getting the job you’re after–Darren can wait. You’re probably better off talking to Joan, who happens to be the creative director at your favorite publication. Getting the picture? So… what do you say to Joan? Good question. Do you know what makes her tick? Hey, maybe she’s a writer, too. Maybe she’s written a book or has given an interview. Start with a question about something that interests her–a subject she has written on, perhaps. It’s been said that we work with people that we know, like, and trust. In the end, it’s all you, Baby. Get them to know you, like you, and trust you. And don’t hesitate to reach out to your top dog. If you want to talk to David Remnick, ask him if he’s got twenty minutes for you. You might be pleasantly surprised. Have your questions ready.
Last but not least, I will add that it’s good to be flexible and open-minded. You may have your heart set on a particular desk right now, but keep in mind that things change, and sometimes this includes our dreams and goals. I’ll leave you with the words of John Lennon:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Good luck, Karen, and thanks for the note–and by all means–SEIZE THE PREY.

 

Here’s the song for today’s post (kinda cheesy, I know; but on the other hand, I am always and forever a HUGE Paul Newman fan. ;)):

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Sticking It To You: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

January 14th, 2011 1 comment

If you haven’t seen the film, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a must-see for every Creative Beast. Seriously–it’s your homework. What a mind-blowing story, and how well told it is. It’s got me spinning on several notions: 1) Anything is possible (especially with a bit of work and muscle behind it) and 2) to complain about the things that stand in one’s way as a creative person is an absolute and utter waste of time; especially when there’s so much work to be done and 3) might of most kinds–is mightier than money.

Mr. Brainwash

What makes great art great? Is it partly great marketing? Is great marketing simply great art? This is a film about a shopkeeper cum filmmaker cum artist. From this portrayal of the life of Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. “Mr. Brainwash,” I would surmise that it’s all of the above. Based on his works as a painter/street artist, the idea that he has come up with something earthshaking is questionable. On the other hand, it can be argued that the act of successful reinvention is alchemy at its finest, and indeed, a fine work of art. When MBW is viewed from this perspective, he tends to turn the art world on its ear. The film tells a few different stories; one being the life of Thierry Guetta, two being the emergence of the street art movement, and three being the life that art has all on its own, and how human beings respond to it. Perhaps what is most fascinating is the movement–or rather the motion of the artist, himself. What is it about art–and particularly, what is referred to as “High Art”–that makes it valuable and so deeply coveted? Is it the idea that it generally deals with things that are intangible or unattainable? Is it that it holds something that is thought to be magical and otherworldly? If so, then of course, it makes complete sense that by virtue of owning a piece of such magic, one is thereby and in effect, made magical as well.

Banksy

Creative Beasts are, without question, splendid and magical creatures. Or are they? Through Guetta’s lens, the film takes us on the journeys of several great street artists from different parts of the globe. We are shown that part of what makes their work revered by so many, is the sheer fact that they are a bunch of wild outlaws using public and private property for their canvases and materials, which automatically makes for instant intrigue, along with imagery that often challenges the status quo at its core. Guetta, for the greater part of the film, is shown as an observer–recording the images and scenes of his world, and those of the street artists he follows, especially that of the great Banksy of London (director of Exit Through the Gift Shop). In the end, the story almost plays like a sting, orchestrated by MBW, himself. We are then left with the question, “Was it intentional on his part? Or is he truly a fool among fools who somehow manages to get the last laugh as he innocently steals the bag of tricks from the artists/magicians he is surrounded by, and then uses them to take the art world and greedy collectors by storm, thereby making a farce of the entire scene. In the end, he ingeniously confounds one and all. That, my dear Creative Beasts, is beauty to behold. Smile and get on with it. The rest is simple: SEIZE THE PREY.

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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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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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