Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tampa, Kicks, & Food Trucks


I was in Tampa, FL buying my niece a pair of sneakers.  I’m what they call a sneakerhead, so it brought great joy to my heart when I could provide my niece with some fresh kicks.  A stark contrast to the sense of frustration I felt after purchasing them.  Not because the girl that helped us ring up was rude or I had a bad experience in any way at the local shop, it was because I was in Florida, where I thought I could escape from the MidWest for a moment, specifically the universal stereotyping of a great city I love.  Again, I feel it necessary to reiterate that I was in Tampa, FL.  That is more than 1,000 miles away from here.  I handed the girl my ID as she requested, which was impressive, no one ever checks my ID anymore, which I find dangerous in today’s culture where plastic is king, not cash.  She comments on how nice it must be to be away from all those corn fields in Indiana to which I respond, “Well, I actually live in a cool arts district area just north of Indianapolis called Carmel.”  I could have told her I lived on Purple Space Monkey Mountain in the middle of Timbuktu and for all I knew she wouldn’t have known a difference.  I mean, we’re in Tampa, Fl, why would she know anything about Indiana?  “Oh, you live in Carmel?  Isn’t that where all the rich snobby people live?”   This is what this young lady in Florida hit me with when I mentioned Carmel, Carmel Indiana for god sake.  In moments like this I realize I have a pride for where I live and contempt for stereotypes. 

These feelings were recently stirred again by reading a post from Innovative Carmel.  They posed a couple questions regarding food trucks being allowed in our city.  1. Do food trucks play a role in Carmel’s future?  Why or why not?  2. Do you support regulations on food trucks wishing to do business in Carmel?  If so, explain what type of regulations you would support.

So what do sneakers, Tampa, and food trucks have to do with each other?  Well, you could throw out a bunch of things I suppose, but specifically I’m focusing on one thing and one thing only; a girl in Tampa Florida has a perception of Carmel, IN.  This inerrant stereotype of Carmel has crept its way into a bordering city, that’s understandable, but all the way to Florida is a bit shocking.  Now, I have learned that there is a new Carmel and an old Carmel mentality.  Old Carmel folks harshly disagree with new Carmel folks, and that’s fine, but sometimes it can turn uncivil, it’s my hope that such wouldn’t happen here, as it has on other Carmel forums in the past.  This is an obvious new Carmel mind giving his opinion on a trendy topic, feel free to disagree, but let’s have a discussion and not just cross our arms and choose sides here.  Carmel has an image problem, all can agree.  Folks who don’t live in Carmel all see it as multi-million dollar mansions sitting on beautiful lots in a sprawling  suburb of Indianapolis.  There is no culture in such a place, only rich folks who dislike the poor of Indy.  Seriously, this makes me want to beat my head against a wall, but I know that won’t solve anything, but giving the Carmel Fire Department more work to do.  The only way to fight stereotypes is with education and exposure.

I’ve lived downtown Indianapolis and while I was dating my now wife she lived in BroadRipple.  I’ve experienced what both have to offer and when the idea of moving North came into conversation I will admit I was the first to put the brakes on and spew out stereotypical logic for not moving to old snooty Carmel.  It was boring, I wasn’t ready for the suburbs, it had no culture, we weren’t rich, and on and on went my ignorance.  It wasn’t until we visited the Arts and Design District did I realize that it wasn’t anything like what the stereotypes had told me.  So we decided to try it out, living above the shops on Main St, curious to see what this little district would have to offer.  After a year in an apartment we were sold and bought a house within steps of the Monon and Arts & Design District.  I loved the reality of low property taxes, good school systems, and a progressive Mayor who wanted to put Carmel on the map.  We saw Bill Cosby at the Palladium and he says, “…you know they’ll be saying Indianapolis is that city close to Carmel soon.”  Agreed sir, agreed!  Look folks, I had to be exposed to Carmel to buy into the District and what Carmel offers. 

Food trucks are a national trend.  Food Network has a show based solely on this idea of mobile food.  It truly is a nationwide trend right now and Carmel is missing out.  Should this be part of our future?  Absolutely.  But I don’t want a food truck that doesn’t pay taxes in Carmel making money here and pulling business away from our local businesses.  This is the retort of some in Carmel and I can see that perspective, but only through a hazy and short-sighted view.  Should a food truck plop down in front a business that would be a competitor?  No way, I get that, and that is where the regulations would come in.  Don’t allow a food truck to part within so many feet, yards, meters, or whatever kind of measurement you can contrive in order to end the conversation of local businesses that do pay taxes getting business taken away from them by non-tax-paying businesses.  Other than that let the food trucks roll in as they will bring with them a large audience.  I know people who have Twitter accounts only to follow food trucks.  People follow them.  I leave Carmel all the time to track down my favorite food trucks.  The same would be true of folks surrounding Carmel, they’d leave their respective places to come here, if that’s where the food trucks were.  The food trucks would bring a whole new audience into Carmel who would then see and be perplexed by all of what Carmel, specifically the Arts & Design District and the City Center/Palladium have to offer.  If we can peak some interest and get some to return and explore we win.  Think of the exposure, for free, Carmel would get.  Once others were exposed to and experience what I already know and love I have no doubts Carmel could see some new business and growth. 

Come on Carmel, let down your guards and let in the food trucks.  Not only will we experience unique culture and foods, those who follow the food trucks here will get the unique experience of what we have to offer in Carmel, and trust me, it is more than a stereotype limits us to.  

Abstraction

Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concluded that exceptional individuals have, “A special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses (Dweck,Mindset).”

There is a stark contrast between awareness and arrogance.  Arrogance is taking the perspective that your strengths make you better than others.  Being keenly aware of your strengths can make you exceptional and possibly mad.  This is my take on Gardner’s now famous prescription in Extraordinary Minds.  Can and the possibility of madness are where I find myself existing at times unfortunately.  Dr. Andy Brothers introduced me to the concept Abstraction (of qualities) recently.  His introduction to such a concept was said in passing, but intrigued me enough to consider it beyond a simple concept.  The general concept is characterized by an individual only focusing on, almost obsessing over, the smallest variable in an experience so much that the majority becomes meaningless and intangible.  An example would be the student who received a B on a paper in comparison to the rest of his class and obsesses only on the fact that it is not an A.  They give no credence to the fact that a B is actually an accomplishment and although obviously some errors were made that stopped them from achieving perfection it is still an accomplishment to be proud of.  Another example would be a person who finds a way to disarm any compliments and only focus on his areas of weakness.  This can also be seen in those who only see the bad, only see the negative, and only see areas of discrepancy.  

Again the general idea is that this person is aware of weaknesses, but cannot bring themselves to see the strengths.  The thought and condition that plagues me is how can we move past abstraction into exceptional or becoming extraordinary?  Exceptional individuals with extraordinary minds have the capacity and potential to been aware of weaknesses and strengths.  Only when an individual is able to identify their strengths equally as much as their weakness can they realize their potential.  Our culture is, and unfortunately so, based on weakness focusing or as I like to call it mediocrity.  Most employers have measurements and reviews for employees that focus on areas where they can improve only; giving little focus to the individual unique strengths they may exhibit.  We have been taught that fitting a mold and doing many things average is the goal.  I suppose this is fine in an industrial age where continuity on simple production is required, however, we have moved far beyond that age, but cannot escape its logic.  The industrial age logic still has us working 8-5 hours, it still has performance reviews that focus solely on areas where a person can improve, and still have companies that actually discourage individuality.  These shackles of past logic must be shaken in order to free us to become extraordinary.

In order to become extraordinary and exceptional individuals we need to reject mediocrity and understand that while improvement in areas is always a good thing, focusing on strengths first is more optimal.  It is acceptable to be aware and identify your own strengths.  It is actually key to change your frame of mind in a way that discovering what your strengths are becomes most important.  Once you can identify your strengths you can become aware of how to use them most effectively.  This brings us back to abstraction.  Because we have bought into this old world ideology we have devalued strengths and thus push them away or allow our focus to shift quickly to weaknesses.  We abstract all the good and focus on the minute, finite amount of bad.  We dismiss positives and embrace negatives.  Embracing our strengths will make us exceptional, not running from them.  I will be the first to admit I abstract often and find myself only focusing on improvements and areas that need focus, weaknesses that must develop.  While progress is always a good thing, sometimes, especially in the case of only focusing on progress, so much that you cannot see the good in front of you, is an impediment of the very progress one desires.  Abstraction is the extreme we need to avoid if we are to become more than ordinary and mediocre. 

Do you find yourself abstracting often?  How can you move past this?  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inverse Backbone


I respect someone who takes a stand on a point.  One who is educated enough about something to come to a conclusion and stick to it.  I respect a man with a backbone, as they call it.  Having a backbone is a good quality, if managed properly.  My view on characteristics in general is that all characteristics are good and turn bad when mismanaged.  This logic excludes mental illness obviously.  Having a backbone is good, standing for something is good.

I make sure I try to look at things from angles other than ones I agree with.  For instance, I find it interesting to read FoxNews and CNN.  In political races I watch both sides of the aisle so I can be educated on what I actually support.  Educating myself in order to make an intelligent decision when it comes to voting is of the utmost importance.  There are far too many uneducated voters, folks who simply vote based on emotion.  Politics is the greatest example of mismanagement of good a characteristic. Having that backbone is twisted in an off way and we know more about what candidates dislike or are against rather than what they are for.  I call it having an inverse backbone.  Having a strong stance on something you are against, only being critical. 

I worked with a guy once who had a very simple rule when it came to meetings.  His rule was that if you are going to be critical that you have a solution for the dilemma you bring to the table.  I’m part of a community forum and have noticed a theme of inverse backbones, which has become bothersome and think it’s a subject that needs to be discussed.  Is it acceptable to simply take strong opposing views on things without ever clarifying what it is that you stand for?  Is it acceptable to only be a source of criticism?  Is it acceptable to always be the ringing bell of negativity? 

Most times complex things can be reduced to simple concepts.  In this case we will work with 2 words, destruction and construction.  I look at things as either destructive or constructive.  If you rip a building down to its foundation and build nothing on it what good does it do?  Maybe it could be a killer basketball court or place to play foursquare, but when it comes to inhabitation it serves zero purposes.  When discussing anything you can either destroy or build up.  Destruction alone, like the house analogy, makes the discussion meaningless, outside of games, or debating for sport.  Critiquing something is perfectly acceptable, but why critique without a suggestion?  Why tear down without offering an equal amount of effort to build up?  Shouldn’t we offer balance?   I’m not aware of anyone who is constantly negative and critical who has many fans.  These people are looked down upon and avoided because they are destructive forces who suck the energy out of a room.  People of balance are well liked individuals because they aren’t overbearing on either end, not too high and not too low.

Self-reflection and evaluation are always healthy.  What kind of person are you?  Are you a source of destruction or construction?  Do you only have the inverse backbone?  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jump the f#@k in!


“Can I be honest with you man?” Asks a friend of mine, to which I respond, “Of course.”  I appreciate honesty and genuine communication more than most.  I can take honest feedback and not be offended.  

I’ve discovered through a long journey and much personal searching that I am cut from a different cloth.  I am by nature and entrepreneur and leader.  There’s much debate about this, but I think it is something you are either born with or not. This has led me to great restlessness working in the corporate world for large corporations.  In my attempts to get out and put myself in a position where I can thrive and truly optimize upon my skillset and strengths I’ve met and befriended many other entrepreneurs.  In this particular conversation I was lamenting about how difficult it has been for me to find opportunities to really give myself that one shot.  Every person you speak to who is successful has one moment or opportunity that really spring boarded them and gave them the jump start they needed.  I understand that opportunity is inevitable, it will always come, however unless you are prepared for it you will not recognize or capitalize on it.  This process has been and continues to be about me preparing myself and waiting to pounce on that opportunity.  Within this conversation, along the lines of looking for future opportunities, and discussing an idea I have my friend tells me, “You just need to jump the f#@k in man!”  Before I continue, let me say I don’t question his good intention in saying this or his business savvy at all, it just made me think and therefore I’m writing.

Ultimately the tension I feel when considering this advice is that between responsible and irresponsible business actions, specifically entrepreneurial types.  He wrote an article about how our culture frowns upon failure and because everyone fears failing not many get out of their comfort zone enough to achieve their full potential.  I totally agree with this premise and think failure actually isn’t failure at all, but more learning opportunities*.  Let me explain that asterisk a bit.  Failure isn’t a bad thing when it is based upon responsible risk taking.  Responsibility and risk taking too often are considered acronyms; however, it is my prescription that they must go hand in hand if one is to achieve success.  An example I was given was Donald Trump.  He has filed bankruptcy 7 times and look how successful he is, I was told.  Hold on hold on, let’s rewind before we take this as solid counsel.  Personal and Business bankruptcy are very different.  Trump walked away from business bankruptcy, not personal, and has a ton of cash to blow and risk to lose.  Comparing apples to apples is fair, apples to pomegranate is not.  Don’t look to Trump as a blueprint, it worked for him, but most of us aren’t him, and thank God because that comb over is sick!

Risk is risk for a reason.  Risk is risk because you have a large chance at failing.  I look at it as a frozen lake.  The risk of jumping in is that you’ll die, so before you do so, if you choose to do so, have a plan, be responsible.  Just throwing caution to the wind and jumping in is irresponsibility, not fearless courageousness that a true entrepreneur has.  I think that’s the most difficult thing to balance here.  It’s a mighty thin line to walk being responsible yet willing to take risks, it’s a tricky dance.  So just jumping in and looking at failure as a chance to learn is well-intended, however, failure can be good or bad.  Failure because of lack of preparation is different from failure because of lack of experience or other external, uncontrollable variables that impact and ultimately drive the failure.  Don’t fail because you are irresponsible.  If you fail responsibly then you don’t fail, you learn, and grow.  Don’t just jump the f#@k in, consider everything and plan carefully, then walk that thin line until you have to jump, responsibly of course.

NO CREDIT NO PROBLEM!!!! (the problem is you yelling…)


Bad credit may not be a problem, no credit may not be a problem, no money down may not be a problem, but something within me thinks yelling at consumers may be. 

My family has the distinct ability to take something that is said once and run with it.  Each morning on the way to work I am amused and little bewildered by the car sales commercials I hear on the radio.   My in-laws never answer their home phone (yes, I realize it is 2012, however, they still do have a land line, oh yea and AOL) as a way to screen telemarketers (by the way, can we universally agree to just call them telephone sales people and take the marketing name away…presents a huge identity problem for marketing I think).  So when we call we leave messages, once they realize it is us calling they will answer. Because we think it’s funny that they do this we (which means me) leave ridiculous messages pretending to be telephone sales people.  This process has led me to some rich impersonations including most recently the annoying yelling car salesman on the radio.    We all know the guys I’m referring to right?  The dramatic music with the emphatic BAM sounds behind the guy yelling theatrically, “HOT HOT HOT, THIS SUMMER IS HOT AND SO ARE THESE DEALS, NO CREDIT, BAD CREDIT, NO PROBLEM, WE’LL PAY TEN THOUSAND MORE FOR YOUR OLD CAR, COME IN NOW, KIA HONDA TOYOTA, FORD, WE SELL IT ALL, COME DOWN TODAY!” 

I’ll be the first to admit it; I’m kind of a nerd.  Not nerdy in the lack of style or social skills kind of way because let’s be honest, I’m kind of a cool dude, I’m talking nerdy as in I love to learn and am very curious.  My initial response to these commercials is laughter because they are so confusing to me.  It’s confusing because I wonder about the logic behind them yelling.  I can imagine that this guy was hired for sales on the actual lot and started yelling at customers so management said, “Oh no bro, you got to go, you are scaring people, let’s put him on the radio.”  So now this socially inept cat is on the radio yelling at people he can’t see and thus cannot scare because they can just turn the channel.  I don’t think it is wise or socially healthy for people to act without reason or understanding.  I wonder if these commercials and the yelling have any logic behind them from a marketing standpoint.  Is there a strategy to it?  Does yelling about great sales somehow psychologically alter a person’s perception so much that they are willing to buy?  Is this some sort of Jedi-mind-trick?  How much return are they seeing off these commercials?  Do they see a greater return when their tone is aggressive?  There must be some bean counter in the back of the dealership somewhere that knows how many new sales are generated off these radio spots right?  Or is this about quantity over quality?  There’s a local couple of sisters that have commercials that are very low budget and truly cheesy, but literally they have a new one weekly, which comes with it’s own new theme.  My best example is the Halloween edition, “Scary credit, don’t let that spook you, come on down, etc etc.”  Is the goal to flood the radio waves with your name so much that you are just known? 

There must be some marketing company out there advising these folks or they are simply repeating a pattern of sales and a style of advertising that’s been this way for years without any forethought.  Can we stop all the yelling and maybe explain to me why it is you must scream at me and play such dramatic music on the background?  Let’s be honest, if I go to BestBuy and some dude screams at me about a TV I’m walking out, why is this logic any different when it comes to radio or cars?   I'm all ears folks, and willing to help turn things around for you, let's stop all the yelling.