Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Business Hipsters

Are the communication agency folks the business world hipsters?

I think I’ve found my niche, my groove, the area where my strengths focused would be used most effectively and constructively used.  That place is in advertising and marketing, yes, I realize that is a super broad umbrella.  What I mean is that based on what I’ve learned and am learning about myself my strengths are best used to connect people with stuff that will help them, specifically help them succeed.  I’m meeting tons of new exciting people and am eager to learn and get into this arena soon.  I was talking with a buddy of mine and he says that recently he met with a client who thanked him for dressing appropriatley.  This is funny because it truly is not what you think, in actuality it is more the inverse.  He was thanked for dressing appropriatley, so what was he wearing, how was he being appropriate?  He was wearing a pair of jeans, some chucks, and a casual button up shirt.  This person met with a guy earlier that showed up in a suit and tie, which is apparently inappropriate.  This is a humorous paradigm shift in the business world.  I think we all have different styles based on our upbringing and personality types.  I’m young and I’m pretty hip, at least the man in the mirror says so.  In spite of this I also enjoy good fashion, GQ and Esquire are my “under bibles” so I’d prefer a nice suite to jeans, a deep-v, and some chucks.  There is nothing wrong with either to me and I wear both at times.  Professionally I was always taught to dress for where you want to be.  That melded together with my sense of style I often find myself at work in suits, vests, ties, and awesomely loud dress socks. 

With all that said, I now find myself in an odd position.  I like dressing up, I like looking nice, but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot when meeting with agency type people.  At the same time, just like I refuse to wear skinny jeans and vans while riding around my fixed-gear bike, I’m not sure I’d ever show up to anything professionally looking the new business hipster style.  Sure, I’ve got a sleeve of tattoos, grow one mean 5 o’clock shadow, love v-necks, rock retro plaid shirts, and all in all have all the essentials to pull off the “appropriate” look.  My dilemma lies in the irony of being appropriate or dressing the part within the agency world.  Advertising/marketing is all about creativity and brand management right?  Is it not more than ironic that there is a homogenous type of appropriate dress then?  I’d like to go on the record here and formally request that we all be a little open and stop stereotyping what is or is not appropriate.  There are my 2 cents on a random thought. 

Occupy What?

We are all creatures of habit, at some capacity.  NPR is the soundtrack for my morning commute.  After numbing my mind a bit by pulling my morning reports at work I find my solace in reading international, national, and local news.  I’ve come accustomed to seeing any and everything Occupy as a headline.  In fact, it has become common practice to capitalize Occupy as it is no longer a verb, but has evolved into proper noun.  Heck, even Miley Cyrus and Occupy made newsrecently!  Being transparent, I must admit that my eyes gloss over a bit every time I see an Occupy story because the media is reporting so much that it is overwhelming.  Frequency breeds inattention in this case for sure.  Rather than allow myself to hold onto any opinions I may have without treading through the vehement seas of the news media I decided to reach out to those actually involved to get there thoughts on a couple questions that I thought would be helpful to me and maybe even others.  I had the good fortune of meeting two ladies involved in different Occupy camps, one Oakland and the other Indianapolis.  Camile Graves is involved in the Occupy Oakland movement and most recently had her pretty picture taken by the media after being arrested.  I was excited to get to hear from her after her brother and my good friend, Ryan Graves gave me her contact info.  Leeza Faziolo was referred to me by a mutual friend (and great musician), Steven Cooley and she is involved in the Occupy Indianapolis camp.  I’ll be posting a question and answer from both these ladies for the next 5 days on my blog in hopes to offer some clarity for those of us fed up with trying to drink water out of a firehouse when it comes to the news coverage of Occupy.  Please feel free to comment and send some additional questions as they have both expressed interest and been kind enough to take on additional questions.  Enjoy!

Question 1 (Occupy Indianapolis/Oakland):

Q&A with Leeza Faziolo (Steven Cooley’s friend)- Occupy Indianapolis
1. What is the ultimate measure of success the Occupy Movement would achieve? If it could achieve everything it wants what would that look like? Is there an ultimate goal? 
First off, I can only speak for myself; I am not a spokesperson. But in my own words I believe this movement is very insightful and we understand we are in our infancy. We’re coming together to say something is terribly wrong in our country. Some have specific suggestions for how it can be made right, but for the most part people are not giving out concrete demands because the truth is were figuring it out, together, which is in essence the true spirit of democracy. I have heard members argue this is not a protest, but rather, a process. The movement is still evolving and when the time comes for the specifics they will be known. To draw a picture of what things will look like is a bit premature. I see the end result as the ceasing of oppression and marginalization of our people. The end result would be a change of the system which favors the hegemonic class. I would like to see corporations pay their fair share of taxes and hold them better accountable, for banks to be better regulated and a drastic change in how lobbying is done in our country. I can’t say what the ultimate measure of success will be, but if the movement were to cease in this instant, it has already been wildly successful. Awareness has been raised into the gross inequality in our country and the disappearing middle class, and citizens have joined together in working groups to set up medical tents, to feed and shelter our homeless, provide legal groups to teach citizens their rights, education groups to keep the public informed etc. That is the success has looked like thus far in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not to mention the social responsibility individuals have taken on with this new found knowledge. 


Q&A with Camile Graves (Ryan Graves sister)- Occupy Oakland
1. You were involved in Occupy Oakland right?
Yup, I've been involved with Occupy Oakland for almost a month now. At first I was skeptical, but I went to the camp out of curiosity and was surprised to find a lot of really friendly, passionate people. I was also really impressed by the voting and consensus process, which is our way of getting everyone's input on planning and organizing events and directions the movement should take.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TV Vampires & a Little Blue Bird

“You hear that swoosh, that was what you just said going right over my head,” a friend of mine laments after I give him a brief summary of twitter and some simple reasons for him to join.  I’m still laughing a little about how our conversation ended though, this was all done via an instant messaging program, after I explained what a hashtag was, “#imallconfusedandshit”

I can sympathize with his plight here.  He is about 8 years older than me so I can understand him not wanting to adjust to the change or even having a hard time if he wanted to.  I was driving a couple of guys I play basketball with downtown yesterday to play at NIFS (facility on campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis).  Side note, it was amazing to play on the old Market Square Arena floor (old NBA Indiana Pacers floor), man are those NBA floors long.  I realize my age when I am surrounded by younger guys, in basketball and in other areas.  Specifically I find myself saying, “Oh yea, I have that CD,” when having conversations about new music.  Truth told I don’t have any CDs, but because that’s my era I think music, I think CD, which causes them to laugh at me.  Adjusting to change, especially as you grow up and mature is difficult, but necessary at some point, if you desire to stay relevant.  Some are ok with fading into irrelevancy, like my grandma (Nana) who doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer, much less use one.  If you’re not looking to be like Nana, then you may want to at least understand the logic of twitter because I believe it will and is changing marketing/advertising all together, which will eventually take over television.

I’m sure I’m not smart enough to be the first person to think of this idea, but in an effort to not extinguish my cognitive juices here I didn’t bother to even look.  The big idea is how the general feel of twitter will be what television looks like soon, in my opinion at least.  I had huge gripes about twitter and rigid views about not joining.  I never wanted to be able to say I was tweeting.  I suppose my standoff with this social media giant had more to do with what I didn’t like more than what I understood, which I suppose is true of most people my age and older.  I don’t care what celebrities are doing or how standing in line at Wal-Mart is annoying to you.  I don’t care that you are eating at McDonalds or that you are wearing a retro pair of Jordan’s.  I don’t care for that kind of tweeting because it seems to add no value to me, which, let’s be honest, we are all looking for things that are of value or add value to ourselves.  That’s human nature and everyone is about themselves (not saying selfishness), so unless you’re a robot or vampire, the truth remains, we are all looking for things relevant to us.

Since we want to see only things relevant to us in times past we simply muted the TV during commercials, walked away, or turned the channel, in spite of the “don’t change that channel!” charge.  With Twitter users are given the capability to control what content is coming their way. I don’t have to read any famous socialite heiress rant about her latest meaningless (to me) ventures or be concerned with what Tommy from Boston likes on his gyro.  I try to tell people my age that Twitter really has been a great tool to filter the information I read, and brag about not ever having to go out and get the news because it comes to me.  I like Twitter now, even in spite of my wife’s slight poking fun at me, it’s been a useful tool for me.  I’ve been able to meet quite a bit of great folks that are relevant to me on many levels.  Again, the logic is pretty simple and understanding that logic has been helpful venturing into the Twitter world.  The logic is that users dictate what content they see.  This same logic can and will or should apply directly to television.

My wife and I record all shows we watch.  We never watch live television.  We don’t want to deal with the commercials so it is easier and more fun to just record and fast forward.  If we don’t record it or are into shows the other may not be into we watch Hulu which limits the interruptions with very short commercials.  I think a merger of the internet, television, and Twitter could change the way anyone experiences shows all together.  If every user had to create an account to watch this said new-fangled television then the commercials could be only applicable to those interests selected with each users’ profile/account.  I’d never have to watch a woman in all white run down a beach to promote a tampon again, of course because my profile would say I am a male and like sports.  Maybe it’d be different if I was watching a show with my wife and it somehow would fuse our profiles together to make a mutually relevant commercial selection, but generally speaking commercials would only be relevant to the user watching.  All in all that is my 2 cents on all this social media and a possible direction of change for a familiar form of entertainment.  Maybe one day you’ll be like me and instead of bragging about your newest CD you bought (which is actually a mp3/4 album downloaded) you’ll talk about changing channels to which your children will scowl and laugh at.  Cheers to progress, at least I hope so, because it’s always nice to say, “I told you so.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

McQueary Milgram and Nazis

"The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act." –Stanley Milgram, 1974

The Penn State controversy has taken off and media coverage is rampant.  Everyone has an opinion, passionate response, and reason why things would be different if it were them involved.  I’m dissatisfied and somewhat troubled at what I read and hear, as I have yet to see a certain perspective discussed.  I’ll go ahead and call this the McQueary Angle. 

Who is Mike McQueary?  Mike McQueary is at the center of this whole Penn State Scandal involving a very sick man, Jerry Sandusky.  By all counts Sandusky is and always will be a pedophile.  Some psychologists hold to the opinion that there is no help or cure for pedophilia because they will continue with the abuse.  Everyone and their mom is covering the story from the pedophilia point of view so if you’re interested in that or more information on it, there are tons of resources out there and plenty of news coverage.  McQueary was identified as the key witness in the ongoing Penn State sex scandal.  Grand jury testimony alleged McQueary reported to head coach Joe Paterno of witnessing Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy in a campus locker room; McQueary first told his father about the incident, then the next day informed Paterno, and then ten days later informed other university officials.  According to investigators, McQueary did what he was legally required to do, and was not implicated in any wrongdoing.  He was criticized for not intervening to protect the boy from Sandusky, as well as for not reporting the incident to police himself. McQueary later said he made sure the observed assault stopped before leaving, and that he discussed the incident with police; Penn State and State College police say they have no record of it.   Days prior, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, who as state attorney general opened the grand jury investigation, said that McQueary "met the minimum obligation in reporting it up, but did not in my opinion meet a moral obligation that all of us would have (Wikipedia).”  

The largest majority of the general populace has critiqued McQueary for not doing enough, understandably so.  My angle here is considering why McQueary did or did not do certain things and my challenge, which will be met with some volatile self-righteous disagreement, is, aren’t we all Mike McQueary?  Stanley Milgram would undoubtedly agree, yes, or at least say we all have the innate capacity to do so.  After much research I would agree with the words of Dr. Greg Sipes, “Any or at least the vast majority of us would have done the same thing as he did if we we're in the culture he was in. There is a lot of self-righteousness in the air right now; especially as it relates to this young man. Maybe the older guys with the power should have spoken up but the younger guys had a lot to lose and were in a culture of authority and power to which they conformed.”  Now, before you go crossing your arms and locking yourself in a self-assured chamber of self-righteousness declaring you would have not cared and done the right thing, listen to the data and dare I say try to empathize a bit.  Empathy does not justify, it simply dilutes self-righteousness.  I do not condone nor support any of Mike McQueary’s actions or inactions, much like I still hold a passionate disdain for the actions of the Nazis.  This experiment done by Milgram simply exposes that people who do awful things sometimes do them under authority even if those actions fly in the face of their own morality.  The experiments began in July 1961. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: "Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?" In other words, "Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?" Milgram's testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs. The experiments have been repeated many times, with consistent results within societies, but different percentages across the globe. The experiments were also controversial, and considered by some scientists to be unethical or psychologically abusive, motivating more thorough review boards for the use of human subjects (Wikipedia).  I watched a TV program several years ago about the Holocaust that focused its attention to the Nazi soldiers and their personal life.  It read through journals, looked at old photographs, and learned that many were family men who valued similar things that their victims did.  It is easy to see these people as monsters; their actions were monstrous, when in actuality they were the majority revealed by Milgram’s experiment.  For more information on Milgram’s Experiment please go to any of the below referenced sites.  Also, here is a video referencing theexperiment.

Allegedly McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a 10 year-old boy in the locker room, but failed morally and ethically to act appropriatley.  This caused great controversy and judgment by the general public. Why though, why did he not act appropriatley?  I asked local behavioral psychologist of Indiana Health Group Dr. GregSipes a couple questions in regards to this idea.

Q: As this Penn State drama unfolds there is a perspective I believe that is being overlooked and not addressed as it should be.  Those who witness the offenses and either do not report it, turn a blind eye, or help in the cover up, how and why do they end up in the positions they are in?
A: It's the culture of power, big money and absolute, unquestioned authority. See Milgram experiments

Q: Why do people not report offenses like the Sandusky deal?
A: In a few words, too much to lose. The culture is to, at all costs, protect the program/culture.

Q: We all tell ourselves we would have done differently, what would be your response to those who say this?
A: It's easy to sit in judgment when you're an outsider. But think about this. This kid,  Mike McQueary, is a big kid, a former starting quarterback at Penn State. Certainly not a wimp. But for some very powerful reason he was unable to confront this obvious atrocity. Of course many German's participated in the killing of 6 million Jews. I think rather than be critical we ought to remember what Milgram taught us in the wake of WWII when the world was up in arms about the compliance of so many Germans. He showed that, with the right social conditions, People will do what they don't believe is right (in their heart) because they apparently believe they have too much to lose. 

This issue is large, too large to fit your arms around in one sitting and something that should be reflected upon regularly.  As we watch these unfortunate circumstances unfold I believe it is most important to be sympathetic to the victims, but also, not to be so quick to judge and sit in self-righteousness of those who did not report what they saw because evidence strongly points to the reality that if put in the same position we’d do the same thing.  Have you ever succumb to the pressure of authority or fear of losing something and done something or not done something that you’d normally do or not do?  If you were McQueary and walked in on Sandusky and were faced with the challenge what would you do?  Lose all you’ve worked for and tarnish a national treasure of college football (at the time at least)?  What makes us any better than empirical data and ugly history?  Given the right set of circumstances aren't we all the McQueary kid?

References
  1. About.com- http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm
  2. Berkeley University- http://cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article35.htm
  3. Wikipedia1- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover-up
  4. Wikipedia2- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_McQueary
  5. Wikipedia3- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
  6. Dr. GregSipes

The Box

What box?!  This was my response, always said with a tone of disdain, to the inevitable charge from others to think outside the box.  What box are they referring to?  Is this box a mystery or myth, why is it so bad, and where are its boundaries?  I don’t like boxes much and have never understood the old adage and prescription to think outside of the box. 

If you are anywhere close to my age you remember the Goth stage many teenagers decided to go through.  Teenage life is all about creating identity so naturally they push against structure.  It makes sense that teenagers do all sorts of things no one else understands as logical all in the effort to form their own identity.  When I was in high school there was this ironic group of young folks who were Goth.  Dressed in all dark colors, pants with enough zippers to cause much intrigue about what’s in all those pockets anyways, heavy eye liner, died black hair, Marilyn Manson and Misfits t-shirts, and maybe even the occasional trench coat.  There is nothing intrinsically inerrant with this group; I have always been enamored by their plight to form a unique identity by homogenous means.  What I mean by homogenous means is that by seeking this identity of being unique and not main stream they created a group that was all the same, everyone looked the same, yet maintained they were unique.  Thinking outside the box is the Goth kid of the intellectual world.

The intent behind thinking outside the box declarations is pure, yet misguided.  The quintessential issue at hand here is creativity.  Creative minds are much like the elusive wascally wabbit Fud always chased around, admittedly, much to our entertainment.  There is a rich back story here involving brain science and psychology that involves right-brain left-brain thinking.  I invite you to investigate this fascinating topic for yourself, but in general right-brain thinkers are the creative types and left-brain thinkers are more of the task oriented types.  Again, that reductive summary is like covering world economics within 30 seconds, a nod to Newt and his war on moderators, so understand that there is much more than what I offer on the subject that should be understood.  I’d suggest A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink as a fascinating read further on the matter.  Right-brainers are the future; creativity and individuality are what will take us into the next tier of innovation locally and globally. 

The box is basically a trend of intellect and, much like clothing trends, changes often. Creative thinkers are constantly confused by this outside the box thinking rhetoric because in their (our) minds there are no boundaries to creativity, thus shapes with 4 symmetrical sides don’t make sense.  When an energetic leader tries to inspire out of the box thinking their effort is often wasted because they are giving this charge to a mixed bag of minds.  Some are naturally creative, others want to be creative, and yet others just lack creativity all together.  This box they request people to think outside of is truly just a reference to the creative trend at the time.  Thinking outside of the box truly means going beyond traditional ideas that have been made into modus operandi which goes against creativity in the first place.  You cannot standardize creativity and to do so quenches its fire and power.  Thinking outside the box beckons mediocrity because you are simply requesting non-creative minds to take a creative idea placed forward by someone else and standardize it.  This new, ground-breaking idea only serves as the next box to be thought outside of.  We are constantly chasing our tales with outside the box challenges being brought to the table.  Instead of urging people to think outside of some box, why not discover who your creative types are, discover the intellectual capacity you have at your disposal, and lead the charge by empowering strengths instead of asking too much of some while frustrating others with foreign thought processes.  This thinking out of the box jazz has to go, while I understand its intent, it’s misguided at best.  It’s more challenging to discover what type of mind you have naturally and even more stimulating to develop your naturally underdeveloped hemisphere (which is possible as a side note, try painting, learning a new language, or journaling). 

Next time you’re told to think outside of the box, appeal for clarity and seek to become creative yourself.  The more creative we become the farther we’ll progress, progress so far that maybe even one day this old charge to think outside of the box will reduced to a silly idiom, like when an elderly person exclaims, “Heavens to Betsy!”

Value


Business is all about ROI (return on investment).  The backbone of anything that calls itself a business is the general principle of investing something and getting a return back on that investment.  That investment could be time, talent, a product, etc, but whatever that investment is if it isn’t returning some kind of value to the investor then it is a bad deal.  In a small business especially, if you are not bringing in money, you need to be moving it around to all the right places.  Ultimately you, as an individual, need to manage the type of value you are within an organization.  The size of that organization has a direct impact on how often you see or feel the influence that value has.  The challenge then becomes your reflection and ownership of your value.

Adding value is important in business.  From a dull and harsh perspective if you don’t add value there is no need for an organization to invest in you, meaning your position.  This creates an uncomfortable fear of keeping your job.  As I’ve talked with people I get the feeling that there is an unspoken group who find themselves in this uncomfortable position of feeling like they don’t add value.  When a bump in the road like this is experienced how does one move forward?  Questions likes these may help get one started:

·         Can you briefly summarize how you add value to your organization?
·         What happens when you find yourself in a position where you cannot justify your value?
·         What happens when you feel you cannot add any value because of boundaries placed on you, something like a budget? 
·         What happens when you feel like you add no value? 
·         What happens when you lose any motivation to add value? 
·         How do you go about adding value (constructively or destructively)?

How one adds or detracts value form a company should be considered often.  Busy people don’t have time to stop and consider such things though, or so they say.  I’d challenge them by asking why they are busy.  Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you are adding value.  I know plenty of busy people that are busy because they don’t manage their work well and turn things that should take 10 minutes into 4 hour affairs.  Efficiency is a concern in adding value as well. 

The self-inventory of what value(s) you bring to the table is very important as an exercise to highlight and/or discover your strengths, on which you should focus your time and energy on.  More than just discovery of your value it is essential to evaluate how you promote your value.  I have found that some people give the illusion of their value by tearing others down.  They basically walk on the backs of others to appear at the top.  Political debates and campaigns typically work this way.  Instead of talking about their value candidates just focus on destroying any sense of value their opponents may be perceived to have.  It’s tough to not look valuable when you have crushed anyone that sets the bar higher.  Your value should be promoted in such a way that is constructive to an organization and those within it.

Now the weight’s on your shoulders to consider your own value.  I’ve found this to be one exciting journey full of opportunities to learn about others and yourself.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesson Learned From a Chili-Cheese Dog

I’m a Southern boy, born and raised in Jacksonville, FL I grew up filling my body with Southern food.  Southern food is synonymous with bad, unhealthy, or heavy.  My roots aren’t those of riches so I grew up poverty stricken I adopted a lot of poor eating habits that over the past several years I’ve watched decease.  All that adds up to lots of fast food and things like chili-cheese dogs.  I always joke with my wife and tell her she saved me from eating Taco Bell four nights a week.  Before I met my wife I did in fact eat at Taco Bell with a buddy of mine at least four times a week.  We had dinner with him and his wife recently and both discussed how Taco Bell isn’t something we can touch now, as it would upset us.  Even though I can’t touch Taco Bell now it is fun to reminisce of those times we had skating the streets of downtown Indy filling our bellies with all sorts of trans fats and other life-shortening ingredients. 

Last night my wife was out for drinks with one of her friends so I was left to my own at the house for quite a while.  Assuming she would eat out I decided to reminisce a bit and get back to my roots. A couple chili-cheese dogs, some macaroni and cheese, and french-fries would do the trick.  Like clockwork as a bachelor I can vividly remember making this exact meal and pouring the left over chili in a small bowl to finish off.  This was a staple meal for me.  This meal was nostalgic.  Michigan is nostalgic for me and my wife.  Nostalgia from my past and present collided last summer which all came crashing down on me last night as I could barely finish my first hotdog and looked at my full plates (yup, it took two plates because there was so much) with disgust. 

Michigan is a special place for my wife and I, we especially love coastal towns that run along Lake Michigan.  My wife’s family spends a great deal of time in Michigan with us, it is a special place for our family.  In a quaint cottage nestled close to the lake we enjoyed each other’s’ company one summer afternoon.  While up there together we do breakfast big and we do dinner big, but lunch, not so much.  But lunch is something I enjoy, it’s important to me.  I decided to make myself a couple chili-cheese dogs that day.  I had to run up to the local convenience store (I endearingly call it the Ugly Duck) and get a can of no-beans Hormel chili.  That’s what I grew up doing so I couldn’t digress at all.  I remember her family poking fun at me and how disgusting that Hormel chili was, how it was like dog food.  I enjoyed my lunch that day; at least I told myself I did. 

Last night the nostalgia of those chili-cheese dog meals of my childhood and bachelor days suddenly lost its glimmer and crashed into reality, leaving me as its victim.  As I threw away everything I had prepared and set on my plate in anticipation of eating I realized that my chili-cheese dog has just taught me a great life lesson.  No, I didn’t hear an audible voice coming from food, that’s just plain bonkers!  I discovered an underlying principle I think most my age or close to my age are currently confronting.  Nostalgia and reality do not always coexist.  Sometimes you believe and hold on to things because you cannot bear the thought of moving on, processing change isn’t desirable in those moments.  When nostalgia and reality contrast reality always wins.  Reality and nostalgia don’t have to battle for your heart, however, and that is the challenge of what growing up and becoming adults is all about.

I’m 28, married, and live in a different region (physically, socio-economically, spiritually, and mentally) from where I grew up.  I’m done with schooling and am in a stable career at a stable company.  It’s tough being this age because you remember high-school like it was yesterday and although you realize you graduated 10 years ago you still feel like a kid.  The reality of you being a grown-up only hits you every once in a while and the more I grow up the more I realize all the grown-ups I remember really weren’t grown-ups at all, just people like me, going through what I’m going through, right now.  There is this tension between the nostalgia of youth and your present that vies for your attention.  Naturally when the nostalgia of your youth is called into question you defend it, sometimes protect it despite reality.  This is the battle of our age, growing up and being stuck between nostalgia and reality.  However, where these two collide we can find peace where so much anxiety and remorse reside.  There are two choices when we come to a point where our denial can no longer sustain our reality, nostalgia contrasts with reality.  This is what happened when I could no longer bear eating the chili-cheese dog that used to shine so brightly. 

This place in life doesn’t have to be as volatile as it can so often be.  We don’t have to be in constant tension or all together denial about growing up.  When you have a moment where your nostalgic loses its appeal when faced with reality you realize you are growing up.  Rather than allowing sadness to wrench at your heart as you throw your beloved chili-cheese dog in the trash, I suggest acceptance and appropriate thankfulness.  I am grateful my stomach cannot handle that kind of mess anymore because I am healthier and happier.  I would never want to be a bachelor again and simply look back on those good times as moments of growth that prepared me to be exactly where I am now.  When once chooses acceptance and gratefulness in the face of this tension where nostalgia and reality collide, we grow and appreciate life, and in that moment grow up just a bit more.  I know others are currently experiencing this crisis of growing up and hope this may help some.  Enjoy the journey as we change, being thankful along the way.

Thumb Horns

Vehicle horns should be on the pillar of the steering wheel rather than the center.  If you’re unfamiliar with what I am recommending thus far, take a look at the picture.  Where the volume controls are, that is where horns should be.  Hondas typically have the horns located here.  I drive a Honda so have become quite acquainted with this option.  Just today at lunch a truck pulled out in front of me, which blocked the view of another vehicle pulling out so I almost got crushed on both sides.  Initial reaction, which is natural and second nature now, was to throw my hand to the center of my steering wheel with disdain.  My wife was with me at the time and politely asks, “Why didn’t you beep?”  I went on to explain how my first reaction is to always slam my hand to the center of the steering wheel.  Because of this truth I have noticed I am not nearly as trigger happy on the horn as I was prior to my beloved little Honda.  I wonder if everyone’s horn was on the steering column if the aggressive usage would decrease.  There is something unspoken that quench the thirst of rage by slamming down on a horn while in traffic, however, if you removed the natural placement of the horn and decreased its accessibility I bet horns wouldn’t blare in traffic as the typically do.  Road rage could be significantly impacted for the positive with a move like this.  I suppose this is my random thought for the day, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Slow Integrity

Shortcuts are convenient, but taking the tough route always pays off.

Pete the Planner made a comment on Twitter this morning in reference to a blog he wrote.  “If I'm a realtor that blogged, I would write blog posts like the one I wrote today about housing. It would earn trust”  He said this in reference to a blog he wrote about 5 signs thatyou bought too much house…and what to do next.  My response to him was, “you'd have a great book of business but a slow ROI initially, but I'd use you.”  As a realtor I am sure your priority one is selling homes, not necessarily assuring the best interest of the buyers.  I’ve dealt with and am sure there are tons of realtors that have their clients best interest in mind, but I bet their road to success was a lot longer and difficult than the mega-sales brokers that had a heavy hand in the mortgage collapse.  To go ahead and give away my main point here, those short cuts people took during the hey-day of getting people into houses they couldn’t really afford cost a lot of people their jobs and careers.  Our realtor said that even though the market is tough now, it is easier because you are working with high character people because that fallout washed out all the shortcut takers.

“Only seeking challenges can we hope to find the best in ourselves.”

My father-in-law, Dr. Greg Sipes, has written several books, and I had the great fortune of helping him with one called, The Bottom Line.  One of the 6 (simple) principles he discusses is doing the hard thing.  He suggest that by choosing to do the tough things in life you will learn more and have much more to gain over taking short cuts.

Being successful through high character and integrity is a longer process and requires patience.  Shortcuts are just that, short cuts, they get you to a goal quicker however, the damage done in taking the path always catches up with you.  High quality requires hard work and is impeded by short cuts.  In life taking the longer roads and avoiding short cuts always leads to better success, although it always takes longer.  Try to imagine a paved path that leads you around a marsh.  Person A and Person B leave the same starting point with the same destination in mind.  A quickly cuts through the marsh, covers himself in mud, upsets the natural environment of animals laying there in peace, and arrives at the destination much faster than B.  B arrives by taking the paved path, the longer path, much later than A, but arrives clean and was able to enjoy the scenery along the way.  B stands there a mess with only the satisfaction that he arrived sooner, not that he arrived.  B is satisfied with arriving and doing so in the right way.  Maybe that is too fluffy and cute of a parallel to draw for you, but I think you can get my point. 

In owning a home I have gotten myself into several projects.  During these projects I am always a bit shocked and disappointed at the lack of quality I find when trying to improve on things, which makes my project and work much harder.  I always shake my head and just think to myself, “If only they would have done it right the first go around.”  Taking short cuts causes self-depreciation and pain on those that come behind you.

There are tons of examples you can draw from every day, however, the underlying principle remains true and timeless, don’t take short cuts, do things right, have integrity and the harvest will always follow through. Doing business with integrity is tough and it’s frustrating to see people taking short cuts flying by you, however, their shortcuts will hurt them in the process and you will stand the test of time.  As one who tries his hardest to live daily and work with integrity, I am challenged and often forget that it’s always right to do so because short cuts are never good.  Hopefully this can serve as a reminder to you as well, be patient and always live a high quality, high character, high integrity life, it will take longer but be better, always.

7 Lessons for Success

Last weekend I attended the Indiana Small Business Expo and was fortunate enough to meet and listen to Susan Baroncini-Moe speak about being a successful entrepreneur, actually a mega-successful entrepreneur.  She prescribed 7 lessons that would aid in the process of being a mega-successful entrepreneur that I found interesting and helpful and decided I share.  Obviously, if you want more information on this you should go to her site or contact her, as she is the expert, not me, I’m just sharing in hopes someone benefits from my experience.

The seven lessons are pretty simple, yet when you take time to explore them reveal greater depth of success. 

  • Lesson of fervor
  • Lesson of expertise
  • Lesson of packaging
  • Lesson of magnetism
  • Lesson of service
  • Lesson of connection
  • Lesson of support

A brief description of each to consider as you may be on the same kind of journey I’m on trying to figure things out for yourself.  Fervor, find out what you are passionate about.  Not the unrealistic adage of doing what you love to do and get paid for it, because sometimes that just unrealistic.  Point and case, I love to play basketball, but I’m 5’10” and 28, so me going pro is probably not going to happen.  Find your thing that you are passionate about, the thing that you are involved in or after you are finished you feel like making a really weird girl squeal that you hope no one heard.  Find what you are passionate about first then continue on to success.  Expertise, find out what you have expertise in or go get expertise in whatever it is you are passionate about.  No one pays people who aren’t experts.  Packaging, you know it’s important, it’s the reason a Tiffany’s box will take your girl’s breathe away quicker than a Wal-Mart ring box containing the same ring.  Magnetism, this is a newer way of putting something that makes a ton of sense.  What’s your draw, why would someone want to use you as a business, what’s the force that attracts the business?  Service, which is based on a book by Bob Burg called The Go Giver.  The principle is basically that your focus needs to be about what you give rather than get to thrive.  What do you give to your clients?  Connection, it’s all about who you know, networking in several different capacities.  Support, how do you support those you connect with and provide a product or service for?  I’m sure Susan has much more to say about all this and it will do you and me good to seek more knowledge from her.

Again, I found these thoughts challenging and helpful as I sift through all this myself and hope you may as well.  Enjoy and thanks to Susan again for her knowledge and fervor for what she does.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grape Kool-Aid

Last night I was in something other than basketball shorts and a hoodie after 6pm, which is quite different for me.  After getting home from work I hurried off to the Indiana Small Business Expo.  For those not familiar with my story I’ll give you a brief taste:

I’ve been in insurance since I was 17 and always been successful and able to promote within easily.  I’ve always felt like I wasn’t doing what I wanted to, but just kept my head down and moved on.  Most recently this restlessness has come to a climax and I could no longer put addressing it aside.  I started meeting with a career counselor (and now close friend, who basically changed my life for the better) and taking all sorts of platform tests, like Meyers-Briggs, Strength Finder 2.0, KOLBE, etc.  We really focused in on finding what my strengths were and what my most natural habits were and how to optimize my strengths in a career.  We boiled it down to several things in which marketing/advertising/consulting seem to carry the most weight.  Having zero experience and zero network within these areas I’ve been committed to networking and meeting the right people.  I’ve met a lot of great people and am learning so much.  This exciting part of my journey is what led me to going to the Indiana Small Business Expo last night.

I am typically the life of the party, the guy most know in a group, able to carry on conversations with perfect strangers, and never afraid of new environments.  Typically is the keyword because last night I walked around feeling as small as a mouse.  I was a mouse among men(and women), which was a very foreign feeling for me.  I got home after the expo and was thinking aloud to my wife about all this and couldn’t quite connect the dots, it still didn’t make sense as to why I felt so uncomfortable in a situation that I typically have no problems with.  A good night’s rest and plenty of awful tasting cold medicine must have done the trick because I woke up this morning thinking of grape Kool-Aid.  If I were to end the blog here it would at least be entertaining and very odd, but I’ll spare you the time it would take you to connect grape Kool-Aid being the resolution to my night and continue. 

Susan Baroncini-Moe (founder and CEO of Business in Blue Jeans) spoke last night about the 7 lessons of being a mega-successful entrepreneur.  I’ll write more about those 7 lessons soon.  Her presentation started with a picture of a little girl at a “lemonade stand.“  I put quotation marks around lemonade stand not because I am one of those people who always do quotation makes when I talk, but actually with a point, it wasn’t an actual lemonade stand at all.  It was a picture of a little girl sitting at a table with an umbrella and pitcher full of grape Kool-Aid.  She went on to explain that she started as an entrepreneur by making her own path and being unique, not just doing lemonade like all the other kids.  She now sees this as part of how she arrived where she is now and her passion for helping other entrepreneurs become successful in their own way.  I realized that all I’ve been doing is looking at everyone doing their “lemonade stands” and trying to figure out a way to do my own “lemonade stand.”  I need to be comfortable that I’m on a journey and I’m young enough to not call it failure that I’m still trying to figure that out.  I’m not sure what my grape Kool-Aid is, but I know I’m on a journey trying to find it.  Maybe this is something others in my generation are experiencing, trying to duplicate others success instead of truly finding what they are going to be about.  The more I speak with and meet new people who are successful at things that interest me the more I learn that I’m doing what they did along their journey to success, exploring, learning, asking questions, and networking.  Making grape Kool-Aid used to be as simple as water, sugar, and a wooden spoon, but thinking about it this way makes life a bit more interesting and working more exciting.  So until I find out what my grape Kool-Aid is, I suppose I’ll meander around uncomfortably, but confident that it is a necessary step in the journey.  Here’s to progress!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ambition

Wale is better than most.  Wale’s album, Ambition, just dropped this morning (11/01/11) with great anticipation from at least 1,248,810 people.  This album is truly a piece of art, honestly, that’s not being dramatic to keep your attention, it truly has artistic depth and character, something that the hip hop game has been lacking for quite some time, at least on the main stream level.  Albums like this only come along once in a great while and Wale has joined a unique group of MCs that won’t ever be too far from the tip of any hip hop fan’s tongue for decades to come.  Is Wale better than most?  I think this statement holds water even if his album was trash, if his content was garbage, but fortunately for us it is far from anything close to even mediocre.  The point here is that Wale is better than most because Wale is not only a musical and lyrical genius, but he embraced and thrived in the social media world.

The very thing that makes social media such a powerful tool, especially within the music industry can be applied, in a somewhat modified fashion, to business for similar results.  Maybe Wale is just naturally intuitive and has a natural gift for knowing how to reach people, but part of me has to believe he has a very smart public relations type guy whispering in his ear.  Wale connects with his audience, he knows what a person who would be into his music likes.  A simple example, sneakers.  Essential to the hip hop culture are nice sneakers, sneak geeks, sneaker heads, call it what you will, but Wale knows the majority of his audience connects with him on that level.  Not only does he promote his brand, but he does so while connecting to his audience with similar interests, sneakers.  Sneaker enthusiast websites have Wale’s fingerprints all over them, he likes and collects sneakers and freely lets his audience know by posting pictures and such.  Wale has 1,248,810 followers on twitter and is very active, so active that he actually replies to them and retweets them.  If you’re not sure what these terms mean, it’s evidence that you need to get into social media.  In our experiences up to recent times has been that celebrities are untouchable by the general public.  Social media has bridged that gap and allows fans to relate and interact with their favorite rap star, Wale as an example.  This creates a draw and anticipation for whatever is going on with that artist.  Wale will at least sell 1,248,810 albums, or should, unless people bootleg it, without any advertising outside of social media (Twitter).  Wale has created himself as a brand with social media, so his products are sold easily. 

There are lessons in all of this that is applicable to your business.  I’m not saying to make a direct application to your business.  There are tons of businesses out there using social media, but not in effective ways, they are more spam than anything else.  Learning how to use social media to reach an audience could greatly boost your business and make your product much anticipated.  Within that there is another challenge, anticipation brings great weight, so deliver quality stuff, but having anticipation for your brand/product is a powerful tool.  Take a rapper from D.C., Wale, as an example.  And if you haven’t already thought about it, you should definitely purchase his newest album, Ambition, and enjoy history in the making.

Wale's twitter name is @Wale if you want to connect with him

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Customer Service and Social Media

I read a very interesting article this morning and thought I would share.  I share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ already, but think this is enough to publish a simple post on my site.  The link is below:


Here’s a brief review of what is said:

7 ways to create a memorable customer experience with social media:
  1. 1.       Give the customer a place to talk
  2. 2.       Integrate social media into your customer service
  3. 3.       Activate your existing customer base
  4. 4.       Be proactive
  5. 5.       Reward influencers
  6. 6.       Create compelling content
  7. 7.       Stand out from the crowd

 Enjoy!