I’m finally going to redesign this site with some help from my buddy Virtual Monk. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks, I’ll be altering the layout, probably keeping a similar logo, but getting back good formatting for pictures and maybe nixing the navigation (i.e. building a one page site). Here’s a rudimentary alteration of colors:
September 1, 2009
Hugh’s story reads a lot like a web 2.0 fairytale. He started writing cartoons on the back of business cards a long time ago. All of a sudden, today, he’s a huge blogger and has a lot of followers. And by “all of a sudden” I mean that it took about ten years. Anyway, he has an eclectic array of vocational pieces in his tool belt. He now is an author of a big seller, he does more “traditional” art and sells it online, he does marketing consulting, he’s worked for Microsoft as such, he’s still working on a Stormhoek wine project, etc. My guess is he has a lot more of “etc.” (in fact, using “etc.” erroneously is a large writing idiosyncrasy of his I’ve picked up on.)
Anyhoo, the reason I bought and read his book (used on Amazon for $7) is because I like his blog. I like his voice and his loosely structured, sporadic writing. It translates well to his book.
Creativity is a really volatile and misunderstood thing. By misunderstood, I mean that no one truly understands it, not that there is a good explanation people just aren’t yet clued into. Everybody ticks differently and so what makes me creative and you creative aren’t necessarily one and the same. But creativity is very important. It’s why Redmarketer exists. I still get a lot of shit about branding a website and creating a logo from people. Yet, it’s a creative outlet. An outlet for me to vent thoughts and ideas and anything I’m digging at that particular point in time. This site was built because of inspiration from people like Hugh that understand the value in slowly building something over the long haul. And, yes, marketing yourself.
Back to the book. Hugh points out, candidly, some very refreshing points on creativity, life in the advertising business as well as life in the cube. With a bunch of funny cartoons intermingled. One such point (and probably the most important) is that a good idea is going to be rejected by almost everyone. Your ideas, good and bad (but especially good) have the potential to really change things in a social construct; i.e. your boss, peers and friends. They may well not like your idea, but they also are likely to subconsciously avoid the potential change your idea represents. It’s not that they want to, it’s just human nature.
You could read this book in less than two hours. It’s EXTREMELY light, but it’s also very enjoyable and would be a good refresher from your typical business fare. Recommended.
August 26, 2009
In my estimation, there are two ways to be really good at something, learning about a subject in a formalized setting or just going out and doing it.
The latter trumps the former in most situations. The issue is that any shmuck off the street can’t necessarily just jump in and do a lot of things. Surgically operating on a human being, psychological advice, flying a plane, using a chainsaw to cut down a forest, etc, all fall into this category. The last one is debatable, but you get the point.
Certain practices and subject matters are reserved for experts. They have to be, for the good of society. They take time, sometimes years and in special instances, decades, to perform at a professional level.
Other things, on that hand, are actually better suited for doers, people that would rather experiment and work at it on the fly. Riding a bike, planting a garden, writing a resume, creating a lemonade stand or writing a book are all these kinds of things. The same goes for starting a business, I think. It’s better to just dive right in and work around the rough edges as they come. Many activities people aspire to often remain aspirations for fear of incompetence initially. Writing a blog is a good example. It really isn’t all that difficult if you commit to it. There are SOOOOO many things people can learn on their own, without a formalized classroom setting or guidance, if they just go for it.
“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.“ — Teddy Rosevelt
Words of wisdom from a guy that gave us national parks, carried a pistol with him in the white house, knew karate and had a sweet mustache. Gangsterized.
Regardless of what you want to do, there is a big distinction between kinds of tasks. As such, it’s important for you to understand what you want to do and where that thing(s) fall in the knowledge spectrum. I like the things I can just jump into more so than the formalized. But the formalized are more typical of vocational exercise.
Anyway, figure out what you want to do. Then figure out where it falls. Then get smart.
August 20, 2009
There aren’t a lot of people who blog. That sounds odd, because there are actually millions and millions of blogs now. But there aren’t a lot of people that blog. How many do you know personally? I can count on one hand the number of people who I know personally that write on an ongoing basis, and I work in marketing. That says something.
I know a few people that want to write for marketing reasons. They want to have an established presence online, and they should! They run into problems though.
The biggest issue is that they won’t put anything out there unless it’s perfect. And that’s a problem because nothing is perfect. People want to have a perfect online brand, something that shouts from the rooftop how excellent they are and what they bring to the table. The height of professionalism. My opinion is that the web is imperfect and that writing is even imperfecter, especially online. Volume trumps perfection online. My opinion is that online you should strive even more to be human, to be genuine. To point out your own mistakes and speak as though you are in a one to one conversation. And lastly, to keep writing! Keep thinking and putting out ideas, even if some of them look bad in a few weeks.
It’s the process; the journey, not the destination.
August 8, 2009
There is a huge (HUGE) difference between being wily and daffy. Eccentric people are often viewed as the latter when they may well be the former. I think it stems from the fact that many can’t actually understand eccentricity. So they view eccentric people as “out there.” They will label them as insipid or even crazy. Yet some of the most misunderstood people are the truly gifted.
The reason this is coming up is the importance of personalities within businesses and life in general. I’ve met a lot of people in work and in school, and the majority are pretty darn smart. They know what they are doing and bring a lot to the table. Their personality is the sticking point. If ability is table stakes, then personality and likability are the true differentiators. They’re a wild card, because different situations and teams merit different personality traits. The key is adaptability, can you blend into the crowd when needed? Can you stand out from the crowd as necessary? Can avoid the crowd completely if that’s the best option?
Really interesting people, to me, are often “out there.” I’m very much out there, and it’s fun. Life inside the lines is pretty boring, and it can be really poor marketing. This isn’t to say everything you do should be avant garde or blatantly deter from a beaten path. It shouldn’t. Yet something there is to the person who isn’t afraid to do things differently. To be something completely new and remarkable, even in the little things. Those people are cited as daffy by some, when in all truth, they may well be wily after all. You’d be well put to investigate people fully before appraising their worth.
June 30, 2009
Cortez did it. You should too. Some of my sage (or saggy?) advice to many people over the last year has been to not give up, to persevere despite how difficult the economy and apparent lack of interest for students there is. The reason is that if you are truly committed to working in the career you aspire to, if you continue to progress and hold steadfast resolve toward achieving your goals, over the long term you can’t fail. You simply won’t let it happen.
It’s easy advice to dole out. It’s not always easy to follow. Everyone on the planet experiences the feelings of inadequacy and cognitive dissonance that accompany uncertain outcomes. It’s part of being human. Just as being confident and appreciative of your own skills is. The people that can embrace the latter fore the former are bound good things.
When there is more on the line, you don’t think about it. When you have children or fall in love, there aren’t any easy ways out. You stop looking for them. You start looking at realistic alternatives in order to build and keep what you originally planned on, despite adversity, despite it all. The levity of those situations far outweighs that of finding or keeping a job, starting a business or learning a new skill such as language or music. For some people, the approach changes with those things. They realize that there is an easy way out, just quit. Turn around, get back on the boats and head back home.
Burn the ships. Leave no recourse.
April 16, 2009
Speaking itself isn’t much of a problem for me, public speaking is a little more difficult. I’m “hosting” the first MILISA case competition tonight and as such have to give a formal address. It’s completely understandable how people fret over this. It’s definitely not a fun thing to do, but it’s an honor nonetheless.
The ability to speak in front of audiences, to describe the ideas and actions and inform is very important. Regardless if it’s a formal event or merely speaking over a cup of coffee, the ability to communicate effectively is paramount to a great deal of jobs. Perfect practice makes perfect, so when opportunities arise in which you can develop this skill, you should jump on them. Even if it is a little disconcerting initially. The highest positions within companies, government or other areas are highly contingent on networking with extremely diversified personas and often on addressing large groups of people in many settings. These skills translate into leadership in the long term. Not everyone wants to be a leader of that magnitude, but everyone should be able to stand up and say something at their relatives wedding or another important event. For those of you out there looking for practice, Toastmasters is a good start.
April 5, 2009
One of my many bosses (I’m up to at least three now) wrote a good post today called “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?”
This is probably the most valuable lesson I’m continuing to learn throughout business school. As a callow youth, I believe my personality (and many, many others’) was geared toward being a devils advocate, a contrarian. This is sad in a few ways, for one thing looking to argue for the sake of winning is akin to fighting the tide, in time you’re left exhausted and wondering why you set out as such in the first place. Secondly, if you’re position is merely to be right regardless of position you aren’t really going anywhere. I can’t recall if it was Mark Twain who said that taking the opposite side of any argument is easy excersize, paraphrased, anyone can be a critic. Anyone can argue for no good reason. I’m certainly not proud of this trait in my earlier lives, regardless if it stemmed from a need for mental exercise or not.
It warrants mention that as you move up the so called corporate ladder, there are only smarter and smarter people. These people all want to do well, they all work very hard. There is a natural tenacity of the private sector, a healthy tenacity. When working with others at a high level within a corporation it’s important to remain neutral and unbiased, keeping the best interests of the company in mind. It’s easy to get caught up in politics, in competition or some other form of objective dilution.
The way you treat others means the world. The stance you take on proactively assessing and completing projects with people who you hold absolutely no leverage over (or those you do!) is indicative of your ability to transcend the small stuff. I’ve already had a few instances where misspeaking has proven a detriment to relationships here, nothing that I couldn’t fix, but unnecessary nonetheless. Maintaining a rational perspective regarding interpersonal relations may prove the most difficult task for a manager. It starts small. It always starts small. The words you choose to address others, the way you converse regarding topics and issues, if you really listen to others and value their input is transparent to the outside world, whether you like it or not.
Words are weapons, wield with wisdom.
March 17, 2009
A person with a trade or business skill set often faces a decision when entering a new industry or opportunity. When to rely on skill and when to rely on experience of others. It’s not an easy decision.
Most professionals have accrued their own experience and ability over the years. They understand and trust those things to the extent that they are not afraid to apply them to new situations (at least the good ones, poor ones may be cursed with uncertainty all their careers).
When entering a new situation, these people must figure out where to apply their skill. Now, anyone foolish enough to not attempt to learn from the people who have already been in a situation will ultimately risk alienation and failure based on hubris. EVERYONE has something to teach you, one way or another. But sometimes people have things to teach you that might not be as valuable as the skills you’ve built over the years. It’s your responsibility to be intrinsically critical of what other people are admonishing for the betterment of the situation as a whole.
For instance, lets say you are a designer and someone comes to you with a critique of how you’ve placed a logo within the firm you work for. Despite the fact that this person has good intentions, it’s obvious that they don’t understand an overarching theme toward branding that you do. In this situation you would certainly have to say thank you for the suggestion and politely refrain from making alterations or explain to them why the proof must stay the way you originally designed it. That’s an obvious situation. For marketers, it can often be more difficult to fully grasp the ramifications of suggestions from others. Some people may not fully understand what they are suggesting and its impact. Everyone on the planet understands marketing to an extent, we’re all consumers. But it’s important to understand others and their skill sets too. Have they ever really had to do copy writing? Have they designed anything? Have they ever really sold something to someone? EVERYONE will have suggestions from you for these types of things, because everyone has preferences for the way they’re marketed to.
The fact that someone has been in an industry a long time doesn’t mean that they’ve necessarily done the work necessary to complete YOUR job. That’s what you are there for after all.
This is difficult subject matter. Because you can learn from anyone in any industry, but there are times when people will give you advice that isn’t as strong as the experience you’ve built. Figuring out when those instances arise is extremely hard. But you have to figure them out, for the betterment of your campaign, company and career. As always, focus on the first two as much as possible and the latter follows.
All that said, it’s critically important to learn from people who HAVE done your job. Put dollars to donuts they are better at it than you are.
March 16, 2009
Much like my Times post the other day, this will sound a little silly. Energy doesn’t get a lot of attention from people in most instances. In sports it’s definitely important, but in other places like business and school it isn’t necessarily talked about a lot. It’s an intangible trait that most people don’t exude and those that do often find themselves in good places.
Sports are a great metaphor for businesses. They are often team based and generally follow a bureaucratic hierarchy. Normally an owner will have first right to the team (Common Stock Equity) with a President of Operations (board of directors) and then a general manager and coach (C-level and managers). The tactical operations of a firm or team are highly contingent on the people or players who carry out initiatives. Teams often thrive when certain players are in leadership roles, with auxiliary members there to assist and carry out other functions. These people are absolutely critical to a team, teams are not just the sum of their leadership. They are very much in need of other skill sets. There are a great deal of different needs for teams; strategic vision, emotional intelligence, a sense of calm and experience, etc. One of the most important in my opinion is energy. Many players in professional sports have made careers out of being energetic and working harder than others. In the NBA, for instance, there are hustle guys like Mark Madsen. In the MLB there are the Ecksteins who aren’t nearly so physically talented as others but simply work harder and build a better ability over time. In the NFL, there are a great deal of players on special teams that get there on effort, but also great players such as John Randle who exude so much raw energy it overcomes the opposition on sheer force of will.
Energy is necessary on any project. It’s necessary in doing good work day to day. We all get burned out, but some people have a special knack for giving that extra effort, showing up 15 minutes early to help set up, write up the formal executive summary, take the extra few hours to research a client before presenting and thousands of other examples. You can see who does these things when you work with them. Certain individuals are there to be a great help and they make teams from mediocre into juggernauts.
There are a few select few who are vastly talented. Those people are very important to have in large companies or to work on projects as their insight can offer a big advantage over the competition. Then there are the people who are maybe average (or better than average depending on what level you are at, if you’re in the big leagues, you’ve got a prerequisite level of natural talent though you may not be an all star) but exude energy to a point that it gives them an edge. I’d rather work with the energetic. Energetic people will learn anything they need to in order to be successful. Extremely talented people often suffer from boredom, when things are so simple for them it’s easy to tire of what may seem trivial. This doesn’t happen with everyone, but Calvin Coolidge hits it pretty hard on the head with the quote below:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” –Calvin Coolidge
Persistence is essentially energy. In my estimates, maybe on in ten people exude the energetic prowess that gives them a leg up. There are many monikers for such a trait: enthusiasm, gusto, stick-to-it-ive-ness, commitment, work ethic and the list goes on. There are so few of these people that it becomes necessary to have one or two on your team. The true superstars are the ones with the wildly rare combination of both a transcendant talent and a remarkable energy. Sports figures such as Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Michael Jordan, Bill Russel, Barry Sanders, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and more all land on this list. There is a reason they are seen as some of the best to ever play their respective games. I’d argue that the majority of people at the top of corporate pyramids likely exuded both the intelligence and energy necessary to rise within the intellectual shark pool.