Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exclusivity


I have eaten three McRib sandwiches in the last month.  My liver probably wants to die and I’m positive I’ve shaved 5 years off my life by consuming these delicious enigmas of the fast food world.  There is a commercial on TV right now for the McRib, it’s this newlywed couple on their way to their honeymoon when the rookie husband has a revelation that the McRib is back and laments on missing it.  My wife recently went out of town so I was left to myself for an entire weekend, which I can assure you was full of me being lost and realizing how much I like being married and having my wife around.  So, what’s a young man to do when his wife is out of town?  Party, drink like a fish, spend quiet time reading, catch up on Tosh.0?  None, of these happened, as I was lost, however, the one beckon of hope that gave me some direction was the McRib.  I met with a friend on a Friday night and we went to McDonalds and hung out talking and devouring McRibs.  After I placed my order the girl who rang me up inquires, “Are those really good (Yes, I was just as shocked that an employee of McDonalds had never tried one of their products)?”  I had to wipe the boyish smirk off my face caused by the anticipation of my reunion with an old friend, McRib, but mustered up an answer that fascinated myself and anyone else within an earshot.  “Well, they are probably not as good as I think, they really just taste like the “rib” sandwiches you got in elementary school, but I guess because it only comes around every so often it’s a lot better in my head.”

That is a fascinating retort, especially coming out of a mouth salivating with anticipation for the very product it was moderating.  A good question to consider for myself was why do I crave this little sandwich that I know is going to make me feel horrible for the rest of the night and probably the next three days?  Is it because of the high quality meat or luscious roll it’s served on?  Does it really taste that good?  If the McRib was always on the menu would I eat at McDonalds and endure the pain it causes me every week?  The resounding answer is no.  But why is it no?  Humans value feeling important at some level, whether they acknowledge it or not.  We all desire to feel or to be made to feel important.  It is a large driving force in decisions we make.  When there is a club that only certain people can get into or a special product that is limited to the number of consumers it is available to, we want that.  We want to feel important by being included in things that are limited.  Does the McRib magically turn you important?  Absolutely not, that’s an absurd thought.  The principle behind its success is the principle of exclusivity.  Facebook started as a very inclusive social networking community.  You could only join if you were enrolled at an approved college, which was confirmed by your email address.  Unfortunately Google+ didn’t see as much success following this pattern, they used invites.  Companies that are successful use this principle in some way.  Starbucks has its seasonal lattes, which in truth can be made year round since they have the syrups, but only push them as seasonal.  McDonald’s has its McRib.  Candy companies only release their candy canes around the holidays.  The examples could go on for quite some time, but the underlying truth is that making something exclusive boosts people’s interest naturally.  Is the MsRib as spectacular as I like to tell myself?  Probably not, however, limiting me to something makes me look forward to its return.  Where do you see this principle in the works?  Is your company using exclusivity as a clever marketing ploy?  I am enamored each year at the amount of attention the McRib gets because of this principle.  Exclusivity summons the very essence of our being by tempting us with limitations.  Exclusivity is a powerful tool that can be used for much good if managed appropriately and applied conservatively.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burning Ring of Fire


The tongue is a mighty tool that can be used for construction or destruction.  The technological advances we are and have been experiencing in social media are allowing a lot more voices on pedestals to be heard unlike any other time in our history, thus far.  Is it possible that the medium for all these new voices could be damaging?  It really depends on how you view these pedestals all together and how cautious you are of the true power that little muscle in your mouth has.

In the news recently some quack released all his exotic animals in Ohio, lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!  Heiresses stuff their purses with little dogs.  There are now dog bakeries and doggie hotels (kennels).  As a child I thought the circus was kind of gross, however, my fascination of the large and powerful animals doing tricks and jumping through rings of fire kept me going year after year.  It’s amazing how man can tame animals.  But, of all the things man can tame, the tongue remains wild.  Ancient wisdom compares the tongue to many small yet mighty things, a rudder on a ship, a spark that sets a forest ablaze, a bit in a horse’s mouth, and a gushing spring to name a few.  The idea here is that the tongue welds great power, which can do great damage or great good, depending on how it’s managed.  Humanity is endowed with gifts and the world spins on how we manage them, appropriately or inappropriately.  Natural consequences are played out daily as effects of the tongue’s usage build and destroy.  The challenge is whether you chose or even realize the course of action your tongue is taking.

Why are quotes so powerful?  Why is it that there is an entire industry that makes framed “art” that uses wise words of the past?  Words hold great power and can inspire many.  The civil rights movement alone was spearheaded by the great words of Dr. King.  Nelson Mandela’s words lead to great things. Jesus had many words that inspired people.  Many men and women of the past are immortalized by words, products of the tongue that have led to great things.  Contritely though many words have led to demoralization and destruction.  Many drag heavy baggage and bear deep wounds caused by words misused and abused.  A father’s belittling words to a young boy cause many grown men to walk with their heads down.  Many women still bear the burdens of words spoken to girls of their history.  The point here is that words spoken can be harmful as much as they can be inspiring.  Some other ancient wisdom says words are like choice morsels, they go down to a person’s inmost part.  Words spoken even decades ago can sit so firmly wedged into a person’s being that they become immobile.  Words are powerful, the tongue is a great beast, but this brute force and great power can produce beauty if used in the right way.

It’s ironic to have this writing posted on my personal website/blog to begin with.  I am all about personal liberties and think everyone has the right to be heard.  I think the benefit of the new mediums of communication is that there are so many different opinions out there.  I think this creates a better intellectual atmosphere and challenges the status-quot cognitive structure all together.  The concern I have, however, is that words, as powerful as they can be, are also being thrown around like live grenades.  I like the discussions that are created by so many different points of view and relish in the idea of broadened communication.  As much good is done by these comprehensive communications, my apprehension remains that opinions and words are being shared with no forethought or at least no consideration of their power to do both good and bad.  As I peruse the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ my hope is that we will all become more aware of the power of words and use them for construction.  The challenge in all this is; are your words used constructively or destructively?  This doesn’t mean you cannot disagree or offer other opinions; it just challenges us to do so in a constructive way.  This is the way everyone wins.  This is a humbling and sobering thought for me to process, and my hope is you join me in these considerations.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Suit up!


My favorite show of all time is How I Met Your Mother.  My favorite character of all time is Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris).  He is this over the top womanizing ridiculous sociopath that demands your laughter.  He also is a fashion genius, so much so, that when I was getting married I actually said to my then fiancée, “I want to look like Barney on my wedding day and suit up!”  Barney Stinson is all about dressing in nice suits, wearing fashionable ties, and always looking top notch.  This TV character and real life meet in my closet.  That may sound a bit kidnapperish; however, what I mean is that I am into fashion as well.  GQ, Esquire, and Complex are all regular readings for me.  I enjoy fashion and looking nice.  For me how I look on the outside is a direct reflection of how I feel on the inside. 

The professional marketplace is deluded with khakis and polos.  We are a very “business-casual” marketplace these days.  The company I work for often has initiatives connected with their corporate giving to large non-profit organizations that allow its employees to wear jeans and be casual for some donation.  Every Friday is casual Friday, and by casual I mean a t-shirt and jeans.  This is a great benefit and is really nice especially in the winter.  This is the context I am working within.  This morning as I put the finishing touches on my look I found myself with a little extra pep in my step.  The reflection deserved a compliment, dressed in nicely pressed slacks (flat front of course), fitted dress shirt (no pockets on the front, ever), tie, and dress vest nicely covering it all.  I show up to work and get plenty of smart-assed comments but I see past them, I know they are compliments in disguise.  When a guy ribs you for looking GQ he is really saying, “You look very nice today.”  When you are asked if you have an interview, they are really complimenting how well put together you are.  When you are asked, “Who are you trying to impress?” they mean you look dapper.  I decided a while back that I am going to dress above par even though I have the option to be casual.  I’ve found that when I am dressed to the nines I feel like I’m floating around the office.  I have an extra skip in my bounce when I look like I have an interview or am trying to impress someone.

I’ve always heard, “Don’t dress for where you are, but where you want to be.”  Sure it is a little cheesy, but I think it has a grain of truth in it.  When you dress and look like everyone else you are just like them.  If you decided to step your game up a bit and not fall into the homogenous pool of business-casual  you stand out, in a good way.  No one is ever going to look down on you because you are dressed too nice.   Is there a too nice anyways?  I am proposing that if you dress the part you will feel the part.  If you have a job that you do not like or feel like you add no value to I bet there is a difference in how you feel about it all when wearing a suit over some jeans and a graphic tee.  I’m not sure if there have been any case studies done in this area, but I’d be willing to invest some cash in guaranteeing that the results turn out as I’ve prescribed.  In this flooded market any edge you can have over others is a good edge to have.  I’m not talking slimy or sleazy edges, nothing that is destructive or hurtful to others.  If you can make yourself more than a resume and more than a professional clone then you have a greater chance to get to where you want to go faster than others.  Dressing for where you want to be instead of where you are is not only good for how others perceive you, but probably even better for your own psyche.

So gentlemen: Suit up, look good, feel good, be well!

Wise Cookie


Good advice should be appreciated; however, the source of this advice often times is eaten alive, well, maybe not alive because it is only a cookie.  I’m talking about fortune cookies here folks, those delicious treasures I always find myself taking handfuls of after I leave my favorite little Chinese place here in Carmel.  After devouring this tasty little treat recently I found the most interesting “fortune” that is now taped to my desk as a daily reminder. 

“Everyone is fun, you just have to find their fun side.”

This goes back to the ideology of perspective and being in control of how you interact with the environment around you.  I wrote about this similarly in August but the general premise is that it is up to you how you perceive the world around you.  More specifically this “fortune” is about people and how we chose to perceive them.  Yes, certainly, we have all dealt with “difficult” people and sometimes people are just down right problematic.  Each day I have to answer this hotline at work that is kind of a help line for a product we support and use as a data analyzing tool.  There are plenty of dumb questions and mean people if I so chose to see them that way.  I’ve decided to buy into this ancient wisdom buried beneath a stale cookie though.  Everyone is fun, everyone means well, everyone wants to do well and succeed, I just have to find that part of them.  Someone who calls me yelling about not being able to schedule something sooner than the tool allows is not impatient, they are probably really good at customer service and want things done promptly.

Every human being, unless mentally ill, has the capacity to feel joy and love, thus have fun, and it is our responsibility as individuals to trust that truth and spend time looking beneath the person we see or experience.  Deciding to discover their fun side can have huge impacts and cause us to see the world and people as good and thus experience life in a much more palatable way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Change Leafs a Mess!


My favorite season is fall.  I am constantly reminded of change and most recently have seen that as beautiful as change is, sometimes it can make quite the mess that must be cleaned up, which is hard work. 

I’m from Florida, born and raised there 22 years of my life.  My family likes to call me and get weather updates during the winter, as to throw it in my face that it is 2 here and 70 there.  I miss Florida in the winter a lot, but not so much, actually not at all, during the fall.  The fall is beautiful!  The tress changing colors and nice temperatures make me love being in Indiana!  As much as I enjoy the canopy of gorgeous colors driving into my neighborhood, I’ve learned that all that pretty becomes quite ugly and messy when it hits your yard and driveway.  I’m very meticulous when it comes to my yard and driveway/porch.  This is our first house which makes it my first time ever having to deal with the beauty of fall in my yard.  I like my driveway and porch clear of any dirt or leaves and edged really nicely.  I like perfect lines in my yard.  Again, I am meticulous about my yard and driveway/porch.  Because of this not being able to see my driveway or yard due to leaves is quite troubling.  Being me, I decided to fix it after work one day and I got way in over my head and learned a valuable lesson.  I took my leaf blower and blew everything to the center of my yard, then raked them into nice piles, 6 in all.  Then I realized I was in over my head.  Within the first 30 seconds I had filled three bags and was running out of room in my trash can, so I decided to change tactics.  I broke out my mulching lawnmower and attacked the piles ferociously.  After about 3 hours I was a sweaty mess, but I was able to look at a clean canvas, just in time for more leaves to fall on it.  Lesson learned: Change is a beautiful aspect of life, but it takes hard work to clean up the mess it leaves or leafs (get it, nice word play).

As life changes the way we accept or deal with these changes can leave behind little messes.  It is our personal responsibility to resolve these messes that are caused by the changes.  It is hard work to deal with these things.  As life changes sometimes we deny or even fantasize that change happens.  That leaves a mess; it may hurt others or even isolate you and cause pain to yourself.  If I did not clean up the fallen leafs from my yard or driveway it would be an unsightly home.  The same is true of the results or consequences of change.  We must deal with change; we must commit to the difficult task and know that in the end the reason why fall is so pretty is because of the changes.  Different colors make a beautiful canvas for us to enjoy.  In the same way life’s changes make life beautiful.  Even though change is difficult it is well worth the hard work it takes to go through it and resolve it.  Even though raking is frustrating and makes my lower back hurt I’d take it just to see the beauty of fall.  Shouldn’t we feel the same about life and changes we encounter?

Insecure Fortress


Arrogance is the best defense insecurity has.

I was working at an insurance agency early in my professional career, well; it was more of a brokerage firm.  We took referrals from companies that could not write risks and found coverage through different companies by working with underwriting and such.  I was working on quoting coverage for one home in particular that still baffles me.  It was about the most secure building probably ever built, but because of how it was built and what it was we could not place it with a company.  It was a mobile home in Florida, which typically is automatically difficult to write, but the owner of the home must have known this in advance.  The homeowner built a double concrete block wall around the entire home and then had it connected with heavy duty brackets to the mobile home, thus making it a fortress.  At its core the home was a very unstable mobile home, but the homeowner had built up these ridiculous walls around it that no one or nothing would be able to get through.  I am still enamored by this scenario, but most recently it was brought to mind as a physical representation of a principle I’ve been working through and noticing.  People, me being the best example, are much like this home. 

Many people have been hurt by my own arrogance, including myself.  Many are shocked to learn or hear me say that I am really insecure and thus build up this rough exterior to seem like I cannot get hurt, when truth be told, I am hurt easily.  I wonder if this isn’t the same for many people that we experience throughout our days and lives.  Could viewing harsh or hardened people in this way change how we interact as well?  If we see angry, arrogant, harsh people as hurt people maybe we would handle them differently and maybe they would impact us in a different way as well.  Next time the rude cashier snaps at you maybe you will see she is in pain.  Next time the boss is rude to you and demeaning maybe you’ll see him in angst.  Maybe all the jerks will become people in pain; maybe the hard will be seen as soft.  This change in perspective could not only benefit the persons we interact with, but mostly it will impact how we are affected by them, granting freedom from bitterness. 

The fortress you see may only be a weak structure covered in harsh defense mechanisms.  I find this to be a challenging attitude to take when walking through my own environment and hope it may be to you as well.  Be well, live well, love well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Luck


There is no such thing as luck, in the mainstream sense of the definition.

I am a Big Brother through a mentoring program.  I’ve had my little brother, Tank, since he was 7.  He is about to turn 12 and I’m already seeing the opportunities the ‘tween and teen stages will bring.  The case managers at the mentoring agency have yearly surveys they send out and quarterly calls they make to discuss the match with you.  The questions range from, “How are things going?” to, “What area would you like to see him grow in over the next year.”  I’ve always found these questions challenging because I got him at such a young age that it really has been all about creating a relationship.  I am now seeing that this relationship will pay off because it will and is allowing me to speak into areas of his life as they come about.

Most recently I had the opportunity to discuss work ethic with Tank while walking around downtown Indianapolis.  He was expressing his dream to be a professional athlete and said he just needs to get lucky.  Insert Adam’s relationship paying off in a way of being able to give him advice and it be taken well.  I begin to tell Tank he can do it if he sets his mind to it and works hard.  I told him luck was simply the intersection of preparedness and opportunity.  He looked at me like I was crazy, but I began to explain. 

The best definition of luck I have ever heard is that it is where opportunity and preparedness intersect.  Here are some wise words from my father-in-law and behavioral health psychologist, Dr. Greg Sipes, along the same lines “Opportunity will inevitably come. If you focus on preparing yourself opportunity will inevitably come! Opportunity is all around you all of the time but you only recognize it and you only see the opportunity that is best for you when you are prepared.” That “lucky” fade away three point shot Lebron James makes or ridiculous half-court shot Jason Kidd made several years back aren’t random acts of the heavens opening up all the good fortune upon that one shot.  These shots are not luck in the sense that most take luck to be defined as, some random result or act of good fortune they receive.  The reality is that luck isn’t random at all.  The truth is you can find Lebron James, Jason Kidd, or any other professional athlete that we see at the end of ridiculous two or three point shots in the gym preparing.  Preparation and an extreme work ethic are what makes these guys professionals.  They prepare almost at an obsessive frequency for moments like the ones we see on top 10 countdowns.  They prepare because they know at some moment the opportunity will present itself to them and when it does they want to be ready.  The intersection of their preparedness and opportunity makes the general public think it was luck, but they know, after all the sweat, long days of workouts, and countless hours spent in the gym, they know it is not luck at all.

I have been caught on the sidelines of life at times in my own walk.  I have watched successful people my age and thought that they just got lucky or for some reason the universe favored them.  I have been guilty of betting luck on others success and burning with jealousy and bitterness because I was not randomly chosen to receive this good luck.  I hear folks all the time pensively considering others good fortune and wonder, “Why not me?”  They expend this great amount of energy trying to decipher some code or figure out how they can get lucky when what they truly need is simple and just a change of definition and perspective.  There is no such thing as luck according to the definition I’m using as my base-line of thought.  There is no randomness. Opportunities present themselves based on the preparation you put in. Opportunities are inevitable and they will come, but only those prepared will seize them and succeed or progress where they desire.  If my generation spent more time preparing for the inevitable truth that opportunity will pass them by I can guarantee we would be full of success and fulfillment.  When our eyes open each morning we have the choice to prepare ourselves for what will come, even if we don’t know just what that opportunity will be.  If we prepare enough we will see opportunities and ultimately see opportunities that we are prepared for.

Again, there is no such thing as luck, only preparedness and opportunity clashing.  The truth of the matter is that you make your own luck.  Lebron James has the satisfaction of knowing after seeing and hearing all the naysayers that he is where he is because of his hard work and preparation.  It is my desire to see more and more of us, you and me, have this same sense of satisfaction at the end of the day, the satisfaction that we aren’t lucky, but prepared.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Relationship Marketing


Most recently I attended a meeting for marketing professionals.  I myself am not a marketing professional yet and see this as a networking opportunity, so attended anyways.  During this informative new member orientation meeting something was said that peaked my interest and got my mind rolling.  The speaker was talking about someone interested in the group that had a major concern in joining.  His concern, you ask, well, it was that by joining a group of marketing professionals that his “trade secrets” may be stolen.  His concern was that possible competitors would use this meeting as an arena to gain some sort of edge on him.  My initial reaction upon hearing this was that there is obvious paranoia going on.  Next, I tried to empathize with his plight and try seeing things from his perspective.  Empathy is a characteristic I’ve learned will get you far in life and something I daily try to remind myself of.  Sometimes in being empathetic you realize that the other person may just be wrong though.  Another lesson I am learning is that there is no good in telling someone they are wrong, rather, help them see a different perception. 

Fear is the opposite of love, which encompasses things along the lines of confidence, trust, etc.  In life you have the choice to live out of fear or love, your choice dictates your trajectory.  There is nothing new under the sun and right now all the technology and tools out are available to anyone.  There may be a learning curve or even economic advantage some hold over others, but the resources are readily available aside from economics and work ethic.  Life is all about relationships, thus so is business.  As a marketing professional, most specifically an account manager, one should feel confident enough in relationships that meeting with other professionals would not be seen as competition, but collaborative effort.  By this I simply mean the relationships you have built and maintain should be strong enough that a new guy or gal with a shiny toy would not distract your client.  Loyalty is a valued commodity.  This valuable asset is something that can only be attained through relationships.  We seek interpersonal connections, we want to feel a part of something, and we hunt out the values we hold dear.  Creating a loyalty with your client will far overshadow and outperform any intuitive ideology or sly sales.

My wife and I use a local butcher shop for all our meat.  Sure we could go to a large chain store and get meat for cheaper, but we’d sacrifice quality and relationships.  Chain stores can offer things at cheap prices, but can never compete in the market of relationship sustainability.  If a new butcher were to come into town and have super neat signs and social media plans I would be hard pressed to vacate my loyalty to my butcher.  He knows my name, asks about my wife, gives me recipe ideas, and most of all makes me feel valued as a customer.  He has bonded a relationship that gives him a competitive advantage over others.  Sharing information with other marketing professionals isn’t a problem if you are confident in the relationship you have with your clients.  One should be so sure in his established client relationships that they’d be as bold to challenge another person to take their client.  Again, this goes back to the value of creating and maintaining relationships in your business.  If we have solid relationships then we can be confident that there is not a competition, only partners who have different relationships.  If we are open to learning from others and confident in our client relationships, then associations of professionals in the same business we are in is no longer something to be feared, but something to be embraced.  
The challenge in all this is looking past the shiny toys and clever products or services and assessing our relationships. Relationships are key to business and vital to living and working out of love, not fear.  Are you confident enough in your client relationships, have you built your business on a solid foundation?  These are the tough questions that will propel us into the next tier of success.  May you have this success through relationships and work and live well.