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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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Sleepwalking In Racine.

August 19th, 2009 No comments
View from the driver's seat... looking forward.

View from the driver's seat... looking forward.

View from the rear.

View from the rear.

The Glamour of Being a P.A. and Salvation Via Hugh MacLeod.

The truth is, I didn’t sleep. Not one wink. I was a very good P.A. My ultra-cool and glamorous job was to section off street parking spaces on Main Street in Racine, Wisconsin at 3rd and Main, and then see to it that no one parked in them. Now. Before we go further, let it be said that Any. Idiot. Can. Do. This. Job. But it takes a very special kind of idiot to want to do this job. That would be me.

My shift began at midnight last week, Thursday; August 13th. “P.A.,” for those of you who are unfamiliar, stands for “Production Assistant.” In the caste system of the film world, “P.A.” is the equivalent to “Untouchable.” No one who is above you wants to be you. And “Parking P.A.” is below “P.A.” When you work as a regular P.A., you generally and at least get to see a little action. You may even get to bring water to someone “important.” Such is not the case when you are a parking P.A. You get to set up and guard parking spots. That’s it.

When I got the phone call at 11:30 a.m. for P.A. work, I said, “Yes!” Almost instantly. Then Mindy told me what my job for the night would be.

“Are you okay with that? I mean, are you comfortable with telling people they can’t park in our spots?”

“Sure,” I said. “…Wait… am I going to be the only one there?”

“Um, yeah.” She replied.

“Because you know, this is Racine.” I added.

“Yeah, I don’t really know the area.”

“Oh, well. Yeah, sure. I can do it.”

“Great!” She then gave me the information and asked me to meet her and the production crew at 10 p.m. at the Radisson in Racine. I left Milwaukee at 9 p.m., without having slept at all during the day. Having packed a bag that included toiletries, saline solution, a contact lens case, extra clothes, my Coleman lantern/flashlight and some reading material, I felt prepared and up to the task. I stopped at Walgreens for a couple of Starbucks Doubleshots and some beef jerky for my long night ahead.

When I got into Racine just before ten o’clock, I overshot my turn and went over the bridge on Main Street, which evidently serves as a bit of a borderline between “good” Racine, and “not-so-good” Racine. Seems like nearly every town has these unspoken borders, but in the Midwest they are often–and unfortunately–fairly noticeable.

After crossing the bridge, I stopped across the street from a bar where I saw a group of college boys about to enter. As I got out of my car, a blue van buzzed by the group of boys, and suddenly, there was a “POP-POP-POP-POP!” sound, hysterical laughter, and a heart-stopping yell that only comes of injury. The van sped away, leaving the boys with bewildered, scared and angry faces; varying in color from red to ghostly-white. One of the boys had been shot in the thigh with a paint ball gun. After a moment’s pause, I swallowed and followed them into the bar.

I asked the boy who had been shot if he was okay, to which he proudly responded, “Yeah, I’m fine! I’m f***ing pissed, but I’m fine.”

“You need to call the police.”

“What are they gonna do?”

“I don’t know, but they need to know that someone is driving around town shooting people with a paint ball gun.”

“That’s true,” he said.

I then turned to one of the uninjured boys, and explained that I had missed my turn, and was looking for the Radisson Hotel. He told me to go back over the bridge and take a left at the stop light. He added that our current location was, “Not a place you want to be.” I smiled and thanked him, and made my way back to my car. Welcome to Racine.

When I got to the hotel, I entered the room to find a pretty typical-looking production camp that included several young guys and two women, and the Production Supervisor. They all had the cool and hip film crew renegade look; the supervisor being the hippest of all; complete with shaved head–save the pointy dart sideburns and soul patch–muscles, grey jeans, t-shirt, olive skin, and khaki converse all-stars with the shoelaces removed for easy access. He reminded me a little of Nero in Star Trek, except not as tall. Everyone was busy at either a laptop or a cell phone or both, except for the three P.A. guys. They were completing odd tasks such as making signs… and awaiting more instructions. I shook hands with everyone, and sat down to await my own instructions. I talked with one of the other P.A.s–a nice guy who was also from Milwaukee, but originally from Racine. He’s also in a band. After sitting around for about twenty minutes, Nero asked me to follow him and Nice Guy out to the van. “So it’s an interesting job, eh?” Nero said to me in the elevator. He spoke with what seemed to be an Eastern European accent… I couldn’t quite place it.

“Yeah? What’s interesting about it?” I asked. I thought he was referring to the project. I should have known it was strictly small talk.

“Well, you’re the parking P.A.”

“Oh.” I chuckled. “You mean my task. Well, it has to get done, right?” That was more or less the end of that conversation.

We rode several blocks to 3rd and Main, where I would be working. Nero pointed out where on Main Street he wanted the crew, as well as a small section of 3rd Street. He assured me that if I ran into any trouble, I could call them and they would come to help. I figured what that really meant was, “If you’re being held at gunpoint, call us after you dial 9-1-1.” He added, “The police station is right around the corner.”

Nice Guy and I dropped Nero back at the hotel, and then to where I was parked to transfer the cones from the van to my little Subaru Impreza Sport, which was soon chock full of cones. We walked back to the hotel together, to find a stack of full pizza boxes in the room when we reentered. I reluctantly had two pieces, only because I felt like it was the polite thing to do. I had already eaten dinner and was not much in the mood for mozz and sausage, and anyway, it was about 11 p.m.

I hung out for about another half hour, and since I wasn’t feeling too useful there, I announced that I was heading out to set up my own camp.

“Okay,” the assistant supervisor (I will call her ‘Joanne’) said. “You sure you don’t want some more pizza? Take it with you for later?”

“No, really. Thanks,” I said with a smile. “I’m all set with my Starbucks Doubleshots.”

“Good call. Okay, well, we’ll call you later to check in and see how you’re doing.”

“Thanks,” I said, and headed off to begin my adventure.

I parked in the middle of Main Street across from a place called Evelyn’s Club Main. The street seemed busy for a Wednesday night, but then I guess I don’t really know what a busy night in Racine looks like. Maybe it just seemed noisier than I thought it would be. A group of drunk kids–guys and girls–walked down the street yelling things to each other. I couldn’t really figure out what, nor did I care. At one point, two of the scantily clad girls plopped themselves down in the middle of the sidewalk and just yelled a blue streak. I think they were upset at the bartender at Evelyn’s. I think he kicked them out. Could you blame him? I was glad they were on the other side of the street. It was early for me to start setting up, but I was antsy, so I figured I would start with spots that were empty and then wait until more people cleared out. Evelyn’s was jumpin’. It sounded like screamo was their music of choice, and I say “sounded” like, because I don’t really know that much about screamo, except that I think it’s the kind of “music” in which people pretty much just scream the entire time. I have to think that somewhere along the line, it stops being cathartic for the screamer… if catharsis was ever even a goal… It’s difficult to say. Personally, I think I’d rather listen to dreamo music. Stuff that will lull me to sleep and provide me with sweet dreams. Stuff like Enya. The weird side of that, though, is that even Enya can drive people to want to hurt themselves after a while. That’s why you can never go wrong with Lynyrd Skynyrd. But I digress.

As I was setting up my cones (notice how they are now my cones), a bartender from Evelyn’s asked me what I was doing, and if it was okay for people to stay in their spots. I explained that everyone was just fine, and the spots were needed for the morning. The goal was to not upset the townies. I went about my business of setting up cones where I could, and then returning to my car to read my book. I was about eighty pages into it. It’s a short, quick read called, Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity. It may have saved my life that night–or if not mine; somebody else’s. The book was a gift from my friend, Anthony (thanks, Anthony–truly–great book. You rock). Hugh MacLeod is a copywriter, but moreover, he is a CreativeBeast. Let me just say that if you dig my blog at all, and you get what it is that I’m after (the answers to life’s deepest mysteries… such as the alchemy used in the making of the world’s most perfect chocolates), then you will completely and utterly adore Hugh MacLeod. Have you ever met someone (or come across someone) who had such a way of saying things, that it made you say,”I wish I could have said it like that.” That’s how I feel about Hugh MacLeod. I once heard Bruce Springstein speak wistfully about how he wished that he could sing like Roy Orbison. I get that. Hugh, for the most part, says what I feel, and he says it with such style and grace, wit and grit. He’s highly original, and I’d like to think that part of that comes from being Scottish… Anyway, chapter 11 is called, The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props. It’s a couple of pages long, but really, the title says it all. And Chapter 9 is called, Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity… that’s what I was getting at with my previous post, called, So you don’t fit in. Good (thanks for the affirmation, Hugh!). This guy makes you think. He makes you ask yourself, “What is it that you really want out of your creativity?” His book will crack you up, but it will really get you thinking, too. Read it. I finished it before daylight. And check out his website: http:www.gapingvoid.com.

Outside of reading my book, I waited for the remaining Ghoulies to drag–I mean drive–themselves off of Main Street, so I could put up the rest of the cones, and hopefully spend what remained of my watch, peacefully. At around 2 a.m., the last Ghoulies stumbled out of Evelyn’s and other places (Ivanhoe’s, maybe?), and back to their cars. One group of drunk’ins made up of a couple of guys and several girls saw that there were cones around their car when they got to it, which upset them, evidently. I don’t know why; it wasn’t as though anyone was blocked in… Anyway, one of the guys picked up a cone and hurled it across the street. I got out of my car, and stomped over to them. “Hey!” I said. “Did you just throw that cone across the street?” They said nothing and the girl behind the wheel simply drove off. “Yeah, you better get out of here!” I yelled after them as I picked up the cone from the other side of the road and carried it back to its proper spot. Then about half an hour later, another guy from across the street decided to just remove four of my cones and take them to the other side of the street. “Hey, what are you doing?” I barked.

“I’m moving cones. What are you doing?” He answered.

“Put those down right now!” I chased after him, and he just casually dropped them on the sidewalk and went up to his apartment. I grabbed the cones and put them back where they belonged, and flipped off the window on the second floor. Fuming, I got back into my car and returned to my book. I made sure all the windows were down slightly, so I could hear if someone was coming. With the recent activity, I was wide awake and feeling rather like a target. I tried to read with one eye, while keeping the other on the street. The clock ticked away, and not much later, I heard footsteps coming from behind on the sidewalk next to my car. It was a woman carrying some bags. She seemed pretty harmless. Then I heard a “crunch” sound, like something had been tossed and hit the ground. She walked on by like nothing happened, so I figured that nothing did. After a while when the street had finally become silent, I got out and walked around to help myself stay awake. Then I noticed it. Next to my car on the driver’s side was a splattered egg. Some of it had reached my tire, but I didn’t spot any on the actual body of my car, which was good. I heard that raw eggs can take the paint right off, so if you do get bombed, you have to get your car washed immediately. I got back in once again, and this time I laughed out loud. “Unreal,” I thought. “This is the lowest I have felt on any job–maybe ever.” I recounted the chain of events in my head. I pictured myself chasing after young men roughly twice my size, and yelling at them about cones, and wondered if they didn’t argue with me simply out of not wanting to have to deal with a crazy lady. I pictured a rotten little prick-college twerp heaving an egg at my car from his apartment window. “There are better ways to get ahead,” I thought. Just then, a strange, bedraggled, very tall man with long hair and a knit cap walked past me on the sidewalk. “Please don’t notice me. Please don’t notice me,” I silently prayed. He noticed me. He stopped in his tracks, and stared at me. I stared back like a deer in the headlights. He just smiled, and gently waved the “wax-on” wave to me. I waved back with a half-smile… “wax-off.” He smiled again, and walked on by, and I sighed in relief. I think he was the most normal person I encountered the entire night… er, morning.

At about 3:30 a.m. I drank my second Doubleshot, and finished my book within the hour. Just before the first signs of daybreak, a huge, noisy truck drove up behind me–and–you guessed it–rolled right over my cones. It was a water truck, coming to give the city’s flowers that hung from the lamp posts their morning drink with a giant sprayer that was rigged to the back to match the height of the posts. I jumped out of my car and waved up at the driver with both arms. “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he replied. “I need to water the flowers,” he said with a friendly smile.

“Okay, no problem. Let me just get the cones out of your way.”

“I’ll help you,” he said.

“Thanks!” I raced up the street and made room for him to move through without destroying my setup. Just as quickly as he watered the plants, he set most of the cones back in place before I could even get to them. He was like Santa Claus. And before I could say “Jack Robinson,” he was on down the lane, and I watched him fade into the distance; a happy truck for happy flowers. In a couple of hours, the sun would be up. Joggers were starting to surface. That was weird. Joggers in and of themselves are not so strange. Joggers at 4:30 and 5 a.m. are very strange. “Yeah, there’s nothing I would rather do at 4:30 a.m., than get up and jog!” Nothing except maybe sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it was starting to hit me. I walked up and down Main Street to avoid the sandman. I peeked into the shop windows, and snap a few photos. “What a cute street,” I thought. “What cute shops.” If I didn’t know better, I would think that the cutest, smartest people lived right in Racine, from the look of Main Street during daylight hours. I wondered if I would actually get to see any of them. It occurred to me that downtown Racine might be a good setting for a horror movie: Swellsville by day, Hellsville by night.

Cute-looking Italian restaurant.

Cute-looking Italian restaurant.

Cute hair weave shop.

Cute hair weave shop.

Jo-Jo's Toy Shop: cute, cute, cute.

Jo-Jo's Toy Shop: cute, cute, cute.

As the day became brighter, traffic picked up considerably. Then Mindy called. “How’s everything going?” She asked.

“Oh, fine,” I said, feeling rather drunk from lack of sleep. “I could use a bathroom break, though.”

“Oh. I didn’t even think of that,” She said. “Well, why don’t you just shoot over to the hotel for a few minutes? Do things seem pretty secure?”

“Yep. I’ll do that.”

“Okay. Joanne said she thinks I can relieve you at about 8:30. Is that cool?”

“Sounds good.”

After my potty break, I decided I could probably use another caffeinated beverage. There was a fake Starbucks in the hotel lobby, and I ordered a grande mocha from the boy barista. He didn’t know what it was, and explained that he had only started three days ago. “Do I use the white chocolate or the dark chocolate?”

“How cruel,” I thought to myself. I explained to the kid what a mocha was, and that I was once in his shoes (except I left out the part that I had been consuming espresso since he was a spark in his dad’s eye, and that he at least ought to try it to get an idea of how it should taste). I gave him a couple of quick tips on the fine art of barista-ing, since it was evident he had only been given the two minute crash course, and crash, he would. Oh, well. Not everything is meant to be.

After about seven minutes he handed me a cup. “Well, here you go. I hope it tastes like it should.”

“I’m sure it’ll be great,” I said, smiling. It tasted like Swiss Miss instant cocoa. I hustled back to my car, and back to my post. Everything was fine. No ghoulies.

EXT. 3rd AND MAIN - DAY

EXT. 3rd AND MAIN - EARLY MORNING

Suddenly, Nero called, and he was yelling–telling me do something. “I’m thinking we’ll need more parking spaces… like another block’s worth,” Was what I could make out. The traffic was terrible and very loud, so that combined with his accent… and then there was the fact that I hadn’t slept in twenty four hours… “I want you to block off more spaces on the north side of Main Street.”

“The north side of Main Street…” I looked around. There was an east and west side of Main, but there was definitely not a north side.

“Hon-ey, Hon-ey,” that was what he called me. “Do you know where Milwaukee is?”

“Yes. Look, it’s very difficult to hear. Traffic is bad.” I was getting a little irked. First he calls me ‘Honey,’ and then he insults me. And we’re not even sleeping together.

“Okay, so NORTH of where we set up on Main–north of 3rd Street, on the west side of Main.” Now he was making sense.

“Okay.”

“Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Thank you, Honey.” He hung up.

“Oh no, thank YOU, Honey,” I thought, as I hung up.

I set up my new row of cones, sans problems.

The Main Street General Store. So cute I almost puked.

The Main Street General Store. So cute I almost puked.

Then Mindy called. “Hey, I’m running about twenty minutes late. I have to run an errand, so I’ll see you around 9:30, okay? If you see a cafe or something, feel free to grab yourself something to eat.”

“Okay.” What else could I say? But I was hitting my wall. Sleep was coming whether or not I wanted it to. I sat on a bench and pretended to read my copy of The New Yorker. Who was I kidding?

I felt like crap. I needed a shower. I spotted a Dunn’s Coffee across from my new row of cones. I went in and got a Pom Wonderful and a pre-made breakfast sandwich from their cooler. I took my warmed up sandwich and juice, and went back to my car to eat. I don’t even remember what kind of sandwich it was. A bacon-egg-with-cheese paste ball, I think. I could barely swallow it. Yuck. I got out and sat on the bench again. I did my best to keep my head up. Then I spotted Mindy walking towards me from across the street. She looked like a tall angel wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sunglasses–the sun shrouding her like a halo. “Hey!” She said, smiling. “How’d it go?”

“Great!” I said. I gave her the 30 second version of my graveyard shift, and the receipt from my meal at Dunn’s, which she traded me cash for.

She said, “Well, I know you probably want to get some sleep.”

“Yes,” was all I could say with a weak smile.

“Drive safely.”

“Thanks. Let’s keep in touch.”

It was hot and perfectly sunny as I drove back to Milwaukee, and I made it all the way home without crashing into anyone. Or anything.

I’ll sign off with a quote from Hugh MacLeod… Chapter 38: Meaning scales, people don’t.

“Anything worth doing takes a lot practice. Adventures included.” — H.M.

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So you don’t fit in. Good.

June 2nd, 2009 6 comments
If only I were short and brownish-grey.

"If only I were short and brownish-grey."

Hooray for coffee. I know I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last. But still… yay.

Hooray for Starbucks as well. It’s clean, friendly, smoke-free and comfortable. And I don’t care what anybody says; I even like the coffee. And they play good tunes. I like writing at the cafe sometimes. It helps to get out of the house, and have a change of scenery. You could say that it’s office away from office–home office, that is.

That said, let’s talk about environments for a moment, shall we? More specifically, work environments. How many times in your life has someone said to you, “Have you seen Office Space?” I think it’s been about a hundred times for me. And yes, I’ve seen it. It isn’t my favorite movie, or even in my top 20, but I appreciate and thoroughly understand why this flick is loved and revered by so many. Offices and corporate life can really suck, and when I say “suck,” I mean they can really and truly suck the life right out of you, and especially if you happen to be a Creative Beast. The makers of the film got that–big-time. They saluted the office stereo-types, and said “Up yours,” to the corporate assholes (and may it be noted here, that I do not feel that all corporate people are assholes. There are assholes everywhere you go, and corporate outfits are no exception. There just may be a higher percentage of them in “the office.” It seems to be par for the course. At this point you might be saying, “It takes one to know one.” And you might be right). The movie became a cult classic and a big release for everyone who has had to work in such an environment. Here’s a clip:

Now. That said, drudgerous corporate hell is not a necessity. Yeah, that’s right; it doesn’t have to be so. There are workplaces that nurture and foster creativity, and–surprise, surprise–very often, these places are considered to be the best places to work, according to surveys taken. So my question is, why don’t more companies work on creating better environments for their employees? Do all the HR text book studies really indicate that putting people in cubes with ugly brown-grey walls makes workers more productive? Because here’s the thing: Fast food restaurants have a history of using the same ugly colors in their restaurants–so that people will eat quickly and get the hell out.

I believe most companies aren’t really looking for people that think for themselves too much, and most companies do not care about the spirit of the individual. But what about the ones that do? What if more places really cared to learn about the people that they hire, and find ways to put their greatest skills and talents to use? What if more places offered work environments that encouraged individual growth in addition to the growth of the bottom line? What if more schools and educational programs were designed in the same way? I think companies with real vision do function thusly. I think the ones that prefer drab cubes and don’t want to invest in creativity are really rather old-school and backwards, and eventually, they will lose out. Basically, here’s the deal: everybody has dreams of something greater… something better… something more inspiring. That’s why shows like American Idol are wildly successful, and movies like Office Space make people LTAO, and think things like “Hell, yeah!” with fires in their bellies. Life is not about the 9-5 grind, the twenty minutes on the treadmill or the mowing of the lawn. Not that these things are evil or wrong in any way–it’s just that there is so much more to look forward to, and when people fail to recognize that, it’s sad. It makes me think that “The American Dream” in some cases has mutated into “The American Nightmare,” and that’s a shame.

Creative Beasts need each other, and they need creativity. They feed off of one another. They are wired to be inspired. They make each other laugh, and they brighten each others’ lives. They are wild, passionate, beautiful creatures that aren’t afraid to believe in things that aren’t in front of their noses. Magical things like airplanes and spaceships; aliens and Santa Claus–or Jesus, if you prefer. The point is that to be creative takes faith. More on that later. Creative Beasts are sometimes reckless, sometimes crazy and sometimes they make each other crazy–and everybody else, for that matter. But they need each other, and everybody else needs them. So if you’re a Creative Beast, and you feel like you’re somewhere that you don’t belong, chances are, you don’t. Take heart, hold your head high and keep on doin’ what you’re doin’. And ask yourself… what would the world be like without people like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Leonardo daVinci or the Wright Brothers? Beethoven, Mozart, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane or The Beatles? Madame Curie or Gertrude Ederle? Jane Austen, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, and Gilda Radner? Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Ellen DeGeneres or David Letterman? Oprah? Julia Child and Jacques Pepin? Alice Waters, Lydia Bastianich, Charlie Trotter, David Chang and Michel Bras? Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, and David Lynch? You get the idea. I could fill a book with names of people that without whose light, the world would not be nearly so bright a place. Think about it… And then give this a listen:

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