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Category: life (page 2 of 2)

Why You Can’t Get It Done – A Poem

When there’s a small thing
That’s been weighing on you

A task that you know
That you simply must do

One task in The Past
Perhaps you’d not embrace

But still needed to do
In your great Career Race

Yes a small and dull part
Of All that you do

When the much Larger part
Was to your own heart True

Back then you could do it;
‘Twas quick; you were done

And Free once again
To Pursue what was Fun

But now once-tiny thing
That with Ease could complete

Seems an out-of-reach Deadline
You cannot quite meet

A small taunting thing
With intent to Elude

You as if slippery,
Or does oil exude

You see now Time has passed
And that Unwanted task

Seems to be, more and more,
From you All that they ask

That ‘So-Not-You’ thing
That now smothers your day

Qualify to yourself:
‘It’s a Price I Must Pay’

And that hopeful career
That once brought you to life

Deep inside, loathe admit,
Brings just Wither and Strife

You Deny and say
‘Well I’m sure things will get better’

But over time sense
To Wrong Path, you’re now Fettered

No you no longer Leap
From your bed every day

But now Will yourself up
And go Just for The Pay

And though Dark it may seem
Hopeless Fear-Frantic Rut

I offer you Hope
In the form of a But

But maybe consider
The thing that they ask

That ‘just-not-you’ thing
(And now Primary Task)

May hold critical clue
Why upsets you so Deep

And may just Reveal
From Yourself secrets Keep!

See, if after some Time
Daily Smile’s mere Mask

And Heart never In-Step
With those things that They ask

Know if that is the case,
Well All parties do lose

And Clear Signal to You
That New Path you Must Choose

For the worst thing to do,
Once Inside you Do know

Is to let Fear Of Change
Force you same line to tow

Yes that pesky Task-Battle
That just can’t be won?

Could be  great flashing sign
That’s it’s YOU who are Done!

You say NO! You React!
‘No this simply can’t Be!’

But your pushback is Futile;
Truth Cannot One Unsee.

Yes this Race you’ve run well,
But now cannot be won

It’s Okay, Walk Away
Leave Old Shade, Find New Sun

Yes, now Gather your things,
And Bid All Kind Adieu,

Know that Everything Changes,
And Know That Includes YOU.

The Key to Sustainable Peace and Fulfillment, or How to Become So Much Less in 2020

How did you get to where you are? If you’re in a good place, and generally happy, you probably don’t think about this sort of thing, and good for you!

But if you’re somewhere on the spectrum between blandly-existing-and-not-too-happy-about-it and holy-crap-if-I-don’t-do-something-about-my-miserable-existence-I’m-going-to-explode, well, this post is for you.

I’ve been working on my own life quite a bit lately (and to be honest, like most of us,  for years in some way or another), and somewhere between existential navel-gazing and more focused journaling to figure out my next steps, I think I’ve found at least one key that will unlock maybe one lock on the path to – or even better, path of –  fulfillment and peace.  And no, I didn’t say happiness; in my experience, the state of being happy, though welcome, is an ephemeral sort of thing, and maybe simply a by-product of being fulfilled and at peace, regardless of circumstance.

That latter part – fulfillment and peace – is what I’m shooting for. And what I’m hoping that, by sharing, I can help some other folks find their way to as well.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve learned that might help you: as we go through life, over time we kind of accumulate lots of things.  When we’re young and start out fresh, we run mostly on instinct and curiosity – and that’s a great thing.  We keep it simple and naturally pursue only those things that interest us and, maybe more importantly, energize us.  We’re pretty lean and unencumbered, in-motion and fueled by the energy of momentum and genuine interest in the world around us. We’re restless with ‘what-if’, and grow fidgety when we have to slow down or stop. When we’re young, we are simple and basic and true.

Having lived through childhood, some of that is rose-colored glasses stuff; it certainly wasn’t easy, just easy to see it that way from a later, more experienced perspective.  But there is truth to the power and fulfillment of the ‘lean’ approach – the not overthinking, trust-your-gut and just do it choices of your youth, because they worked.

Problem is, over time, life gets in the way.

In my case, it’s always been the saying yes to things that’s gotten me in the most trouble.  My motivation is typically either because someone asked me, and I’m wired to tilt at windmills, or — especially more recently over the past decade or so, and with the growing demands of caring for a family and employees and running a small business — our of FEAR.  Take the money as long as you’re doing no harm. Bills to pay, mouths to feed…it’s an easy justification.

But when you do this, you are doing harm.  To yourself.  But unlike a useful and immediate pain response – like take your hand off the hot stove, dummy – this type of harm is considerably more insidious.  The damage happens over time, and by the time you finally figure it out (journaling helps with that, btw), you’ve got a real and complicated problem on your hands.

When you keep taking things on that aren’t aligned with your genuine interests, talents, or passions, you are growing bigger and slower and more encumbered. You’re like a snowball that keeps rolling along, picking up twigs and stones and rocks and garbage until you reach a point where you no longer resemble snow at all – just a rough and immobile pile of unrecognizable things, most of which are not you at all.

At a certain point, you become too big to move. There is no energy to you. And the real you is buried inside.

The good news is that last bit: you’re still in there.  But you have to unbury.  You need to unearth that genuine and entombed bit of you that, when you consult your own inner voice — you know, the one that you ignore, but that’s ALWAYS right and that you’re generally too chickenshit to act on – tells you the exact thing you must do, and the path that you must take.  The one that is natural to you, and aligned with your interests and talents and just feels right.

You know that path, that one you don’t overthink – or even consider, but just ‘do’. And when you do, time disappears. THat’s the one you have to dig out.  And muster up the courage to walk.

Yes, reality is reality. You’re not going to return to childhood, and probably really don’t want to.  You have responsibilities and they’re quite real.  I get that – I have them too.

But you ALSO owe it to yourself and your family and the world to be the best version of yourself, and this is how you start: you chip away.

That mass of everything you’ve said yes to over the long haul – that thing that is big and immobile and sedentary and sad and that can’t even bear its own weight anymore – that thing needs to get smaller.  And it gets smaller by willfully discarding all of those things that are not you, and by saying no to even the seemingly best opportunities and possibilities that are not aligned with those few simple things that you really are. It is like a sculptor chipping away at a block and removing all of those things that are not the exact thing they want to realize. When successful only the Art remains, nothing else.

This is not easy. It requires mindfulness, courage, skill and spine. It is a daily practice, but like a sensible diet should not be an extreme or overwhelming one. More of a lifestyle change that reveals its benefits over time.

Yesterday I was offered a new and lucrative opportunity. But I am busy and, more importantly, yearning toward the new, not the more of the same. And as this new opportunity has nothing to do with writing, creativity, brand communications, strategy, helping others or, as Neil Gaiman so aptly put it, will allow me to “Make Good Art“, I will pass.  Someone else is a better fit for this. And yes, I could use the money.

But I will say no, politely, to this one.  Because I already have too many rocks and sticks on my snowball.

And I really want to see just the snow again 😉

 

 

 

 

 

How to Start Being Happy Forever (or Who Cares If It’s Supposed To Rain Today?)

Many of us are miserable. Exhausted, unsatisfied, longing and unhealthy. A quick walk through your local Target 2 days before Christmas is pretty much all the proof you need of this.  Haunted faraway looks, frenzied actions, stress-pallored and with an almost robotic demeanor.  Even the Santa with the Kettle outside had one hand on the cell while ringing the bell.

We’re no longer where we are, but always somewhere else.

Ho, ho…no, this is not my holiday message. But it does seem to be the unfortunate truth of our supposedly gilded – or maybe that’s just veneered – age.

Maybe we’ve lost that in the age where value and worth are solely determined by quantifiable and commercial factors, but maybe, just maybe, we can push back and be reminded that there is another way. Maybe that’s why I’m blogging again, at least in part – to remind us that we are all so much more more than this, more than just consumption machines playing our role in the economy. And that maybe by yearning for less, perhaps we will find ourselves and that quicksilver of happiness that we continually seek by pursuing the more.

I’m beginning to suspect that we ourselves are quite enough, and less is a worthy pursuit. As a brand communications strategist, I realize that is marketing blasphemy.  But because I take a long term view of everything, I also do not care.

“Hey,I just want to be Happy Forever.  That’s why I read this far…and what’s this Rain business?” 

I learned a long time ago that everything I need to learn my kids already know.  Now I realize that maybe what I need to really do is unlearn.

Here’s an example: I was sitting outside on my deck the other morning doing my usual bit of journaling to see what was in my head.  It was warmish and greyish and niceish – the day, not my head –  and not too cold for December.

My youngest daughter, Gabriella, was running and jumping.  She’s always running and jumping. In fact, for the past 11 years, that’s pretty much been what she does.  Sometimes on a horse, but no horse, no worries. She gets bored in front of screens.

I’m so grateful for that.

Anyway, there I was, trying to figure out my life I suppose or appreciate it more. Sketching away, jotting down ideas, doing some freeflow,  Getting things on paper is how I make sense of things, so I’m humming along and hearing Gab’s footfalls and at one point I happen to glance up and see some clouds rolling in.

Jump Jump. Over to my left.  Jump Jump.

“Hey,” I call over to her, “Supposed to Rain today?”

And. just as I say it, I pull away from the moment, no longer see anything of the wonder right in front of me as my head hits turbo:

She’s going to a friend’s house today. Rain.  If I knew about rain, would she have to change her outfit?  What would they do? Should I approach the day differently?  Will they be inside?  Will That shorten the day?  Will I have to pick her up earlier than I’d planned?  How will that affect my day?  Will My schedule change?  Will My wife pick her up after work?  How much rain will we get?  Will That gutter that was a problem during the last storm hold?  Is the basement going to leak again?  Did I leave my guitars near the wall down there where it leaked last time…

“I dunno” she chirped with a happy shrug.  She didn’t lose pace or break stride.  She said nothing more.  She didn’t care one bit, because it didn’t matter one bit.  Not to her.

Jump jump.  Run Run. Breathe breathe. Smile Smile.

It didn’t matter at all.  Not one bit.

I sat there and let the powerful simplicity of that moment sink in.  “Girl’s a genius”, I thought and told her as much.  She looked at me, made a goofy face.  And kept running and jumping and playing.

I watched her, always taking it as it comes.  Light as a feather.  Happy and untethered.

I was envious. Her instinctive simplicity is genius; my learned complexity is stupid.

Only one of us is truly happy, alive and engaged most of the time.

Guess which one.

We live in an attention economy.  Not a consumer economy – that’s become secondary –  an attention economy, first and foremost.  And beyond the economy, we live an attention existence.  Our friends are not in the room, not often, but instead on a screen.  It requires attention to seek them out.   Attention to decide how to present ourselves before we see them.  Attention to determine in advance every single moment of every single day just how to present ourselves to a world that really is not a world at all, at least not in the sense of that which the fabric of actual reality is made. Attention to respond to the constant and smothering stream of pokes and prods and information that is constantly hurled at us.

There is no such thing as multitasking, only micro-tasking. We can only put our effort in one place at one time.  Only be in one place at one time.  And what we’re thinking about – where our attention is invested –  is where we are.  And someone is always pulling at your attention.  Think about it: we are constantly being baited to think about certain things. This is how money is made – at the expense of our attention and self.  And money has somehow been insidiously placed at top of the altar of all that is deemed important and worthy of pursuit.

Yes, I’m a marketing blasphemist.  Or an unapologetic humanist. I’m okay with either.

When was the last time you carved out even 5 minutes of silence?  No phone, no internet. Alone with your thoughts?

Five minutes.  Stop now and try it and realize just how long five minutes is when you are only focusing on them.  It’s a comparable eternity.  Comparable to what?  Spend five minutes on YouTube, and I’ll see you in an hour when you get back.

My point is this: when faced with a question about something that may or may not happen, but which will demand your attention, take my daughter’s advice. Shrug and keep doing whatever you were doing.  You’ll find that whatever seemed so important was not – not to you anyway.  And that your world will not only not end, but will actually be richer and more interesting.  Just be here. And Now.  Not There, or then – even if it’s only in your head.

Remember, this is a process of mindfully choosing Less. Of ironically, being aware and choosing not to engage.  Maybe it’s sort of like meditating: see the ‘must must must’ but choose to let it go.  Over time, this will become not an exercise, but simply the way you are.  This is not a quick fix, but a gradual one.  This is the difference between taking on a crazy unsustainable diet or gradually changing your eating habits toward something healthier over the long term.

Only one lasts over time and makes you healthy inside AND out.

Disconnect. Start a silent rebellion against the perceived inevitability of a questionable future. Shrug and be happy.

You owe the world nothing except the best version of you — which is also what you owe yourself.

And this is a good way to start.

My 2 Cents – and a Happy New Year to All.

Are You Doomed by Definition?

Yesterday morning I was reading “The Ten Best Books of 2019” in The New York Times‘ Book Review to see if I was on it (spoiler alert: nope). Anyway, the article contained a brief synopsis of each the NYT’s top 10 picks, one of which was The Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. I was drinking my coffee and skimming along and Mr. Barry’s book sounded pretty interesting – until I got to the last line of the review, which reads as follows:

“Their banter is a shield against the dark, a witty new take on “Waiting for Godot.”

And with that, I was done. No longer as interested as I had been. Maybe I’d pick it up, maybe I wouldn’t.

Why?

Because, I realized, while I’m not familiar with Mr. Barry’s work, I am very familiar with Samuel Beckett’s – especially on the Godot side.

As a writer, reader and former English major, I know that play.  A lot of people know that play – even if they haven’t read it, or seen it performed, they pretty much get the gist of it.  And, I’ll wager, a lot of Book Review readers are also familiar with Godot.

And because of this familiarity I immediately – and probably pretty unfairly – filed The Night Boat to Tangier away in the ‘this is like Waiting for Godot’ section of my brain.  Sure, I know they’re not the same work, but in an instant that brief description defined the entirety of the book for me from now on out.

And pretty much killed my chances of reading it because, well, I already know Godot.

Yes, I know that I am a shortsighted, impulsive, largely uninformed idiot to take this position,  and I know that I’m missing out on something here, but it doesn’t matter. You see, right or wrong, because I now have such a short and resonant snapshot of Mr. Barry’s work in my mind  I probably won’t pick it up — at least ahead of other choices of which I know less.

In my brain, the equation now reads as follows: Night Boat To Tangier = Waiting for Godot lite.

It’s a stupid position to take, but maybe I have no choice. And neither do you.

In my defense, this quick-take approach is simply a result of the way we humans are wired: our brains are designed to keep things neat and efficient, and intentionally only focus on specific things at the expense of others. It’s a survival mechanism, because if we didn’t do this we’d be overwhelmed by all of the sensory data that’s constantly bombarding us.  So when we get an idea of what something’s about, we immediately decide whether it’s relevant and then quickly package it and tuck it away on whatever mental shelf it belongs. In the Night Boat’s case, because of that easy framing, it’ll get filed on my mental shelf under ‘I already know what this is about, so no further exploration needed’.

And that’s not only a shame, but also the risk we all run when deciding how to present ourselves to the world.

Sure, I recognize Mr. Barry’s work is almost undoubtedly so much more than this simple connection I’ve made via a brief definition (it is ‘Top 10’ after all) and that I’ll definitely be missing out on a great opportunity that is likely far richer and even, perhaps, better than the work with which it is pithily coupled.

But there it is: the danger of the short definition.

It’s the kind of thing that kills opportunities, careers, brands and relationships.

So why did this idea of definition all jump out at me?  And why, right now?

We live in a world that is frantic.  We are all running and don’t seem to have time for anything.  We are all constantly taking it all in, making myriad decisions based on scant information, and somehow have convinced ourselves – or perhaps been conditioned to think –  that having the time to explore something in greater depth is a luxury.

And while I think this is (or perhaps leads to) insanity, there is a truth to it.

In my case, it’s something I’ve struggled with for years. Professionally, I identify as a Writer and Brand Strategist. But I am also an Author, Father, Husband, Copywriter, Photographer, Poet, Artist, Communications Expert, Gamer, Business Strategist, Surf Caster, Pumpkin Grower, lover of all things Halloween, Principal at LGM Creative,  Storyteller, creator of the Brandphilic method, Hater of Soulless Consumerism, and nascent Screenwriter and Videographer.

And that’s not even a complete list.

Like so many of you, for years I too have wrestled with the “how do I present myself” question. And it has been paralyzing.

On the one hand, I get it: on the professional side, efficiency can be helpful – especially if you’re a business or recruiter looking to fill a job. So maybe on Linked In you make it clean and lean: For your convenience, I am these, and only these, specific things, these are my specific keyworded skills and here’s a tidy summary of my proactive,  results-driven (retch) existence. Please pick me.

Yes, I get the convenience of quick Definition.

My business card – at least the unedited version (see pic) only says Writer and Brand Strategist.

But, I’ll argue, because it can’t say everything, maybe it should say nothing.

Perhaps this is something specific to creatives – I don’t know – but all of those things that we are beyond the quick definition with which we are tagged are those very things that inform our work.  They are the creative well from which we draw to do our thing.  And while it would be easy to suggest that if I were, say, a programmer, a tight list of all of the programming languages I knew would be all that matters, I think that that too is untrue.

Every profession needs to create and evolve and contribute and – until we’re replaced by our AI-driven robot overlords – that very messiness of definition is where our true value lies, not in the sanitized and short and concise one.

As I mentioned, I’ve been paralyzed: do I set up two sites – one as a brand communications writer strategist, and the other as a fiction writer, creative and all the rest of me?

Seriously, it’s tricky. You don’t want to be perceived as either an unfocused flake or a very basic cog or robot. And the same holds true for your business, or your brand. You don’t want to confuse people, but you also don’t want to present yourself as a parity provider either, because the latter is far more dangerous over the long haul.

If you decide to present yourself too tightly and for the perceived convenience of others, you are running a very real risk of making this two-dimensional version of yourself easily dismissed. Worse, if you do succeed in, say, attracting what you want as a result of this thin and tight definition, you may be perceived as only that, and will likely find yourself struggling for something more rewarding, fulfilling and true to yourself in a very short time.

So for me, I’m going all in and hopefully, the people and projects I want to work with will find me. Sure, I’m busy as Hell, but as of late I find myself restless and looking for new creative challenges and partnerships, and it doesn’t make sense for me to try and pigeonhole myself while looking to broaden my horizons.  If nothing pans out, that’s fine, but if it does, I want to make sure the ‘me’  I’m putting out there attracts what I actually want.

And the same holds true for how you present yourself, your offerings or your business. Quite frankly, I think that’s why branding interests me so much because, for me, your brand is simply the way people think about you. How you shape and manage that is critical, because if you present yourself in a manner that will definitely produce higher ‘engagement’, but is in some manner false to what you really are, you’re going to attract clients that may not actually value what you really offer, and the resulting relationship with be brief and likely painful. Same holds true for humans. Like I said, it’s a tricky business.

I guess my counterculture advice would be this: present yourself as big and messy hopefully also as interesting and curious and passionate as you really are, and without apology. Be clear and professional, but maybe don’t be too easily digested; instead, be interesting.  Pique curiosity. Be human.  And be true to you, and others.

If not, you may wind up being thought of as just another commodity, a one-trick pony to be used or quickly dismissed.

And that does us all a disservice.

Is putting it all out there a safe approach? No. And Yes. The safe route says work passively in the system, hold on and don’t make waves, but that doesn’t feel much like living, does it? Plus any system that values that approach does not value you, so just how ‘safe’ is it, anyway?  For me at least, if I put myself out there as thoughtfully and honestly as possible, then wherever I do land, and whatever new paths open up as result have a much better chance of being the just the right paths for me.  ALL of me, and that’s pretty cool.

Y’know, I may just read Mr. Barry’s book after all.

 

 

How To Be Young Again

Some people say getting old is a choice. I used to think that was big, fat happy load of…ahhh… self-deceit. Now, I don’t.

Yes, you can be young again.  Young with a spark in your eye and spring in your step. Young in the way you remember feeling as a kid. Really. You just need to know what to do.

If you’re at a point in your life when this idea seems foreign – impossible even — I get that. And you may not even be what is, chronologically anyway, considered to be ‘old’. In fact, a lot of people seem to be ‘old’ when they’re in, say, their mid-thirties, while other people seem to be ‘young’ when they’re in their mid-eighties.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

When you’re a kid, everything’s new. Everything. It’s the nature of being a kid, and new to the world. Which is why you can spend hours looking at, and playing with, the simplest toy. Because it’s new to you. Completely.

Which means you don’t know what it can do.  And that means it can maybe do anything.

And, when you’re a kid, you move on. Quickly. Without thought or consideration. To explore the next thing you’ve never ever seen before.

And the wonder begins anew.

Again. and again. And again.

Never ending, always exploring. Time falling away and lost in joyful discovery without assessment. Until…

One day you circle back to something you’ve already seen. Explored. Become familiar with. Even loved.

But because it’s no longer fully and completely ‘new’, when you come back to it this time, you bring experience too, and with that just the slightest knowledge of its limitations.

This thing, let’s say it’s a red-and-silver shiny rocket ship, is no longer unlimited as it once was.  Maybe you’ve learned something that it can’t do – just one thing is enough to create a corral for the possibilities. Maybe it’s still a huge space where your imagination is free to roam, but now it’s walled in just a little bit.  This is inevitable; neither good nor bad it is simply the natural order of things and the progression of learning.

But the net result of this progression is that your imagination has become limited —  just a little — by experience.

How? Well, when you first came to it, you came to it not knowing anything, and in not knowing anything, that rocket ship could do absolutely everything. So you became lost in the possibility and the joy of exploration without even realizing it.

And that is where you were most young, and in the best way.

But with experience, you lose just a little bit of wonder.  It’s okay, and it’s natural for this to happen.  But each time, with even more experience with the same thing – and that part’s important – your initial blissful unthinking wonder ebbs away a little more. Now you’re more familiar, maybe more comfortable, likely less excited but soon you may find that yourself getting pulled into a routine.

And you can’t spell routine without ‘rut’.

The first time you grabbed that rocket ship without thinking or knowing you let out a whoosh and in your mind you were going to Mars and there’d be aliens and lasers and things and maybe your carpet was the Earth, and you discovered that your rumpled blanket and pillows were the perfect Martian landscape, and who knew what creatures lived in the cracks?

But when you go back, maybe not the first time, but over time, now you start out with your pillows and blanket as the default Martian landscape. You now set up based on what you already know, rather than create anew each time from the now. Sure you play, but you’re playing within parameters now, even if you don’t realize it.

Repetition may be the mother of learning, but if that’s all you do it becomes the father of aging, too.

While that seems sad it is not. It is Life. And it is not a perpetual downward slope because in understanding how it works, there is actually Hope.

And that is quite wonderful.

Fast Forward to Today.

What Fully and Completely New Thing have you Experienced for the First Time Today?

For many of us, the answer is Nothing. In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves and take stock, our Today is pretty much our Yesterday. And the day before that. And our Year, possibly, the same as the Year before that. Ad Nauseum.

Think about it: it’s Sunday as I write this, and if I look ahead to my week, I pretty much know how it’s going to go.  I know what clients I need to take care of, largely what I’ll eat, when I’ll work out, what shows I’ll watch, what time I’ll go to bed and so on.

Could you imagine doing that as a kid?

Of course not! In fact, for a kid that’s the worst possible thing about being an adult.

It’s soooo Boring!

It’s the cliche of an adult’s life from a kid’s perspective. And they’re right.

The adult usually defends this choice of non-existence by saying, ‘Well, that’s the way it is. I’ve got bills to pay and responsibilities and yada yada yada” knowing even as they say it that it’s a lie. But the most effective lies are based on partial truths, which makes this particular one especially dangerous. 

The reality is that, as we get chronologically older, I think most of us yearn not to have better indestructible limbs and joints and the smaller waistlines of our youth, but instead for the unbridled, unthinking joy of possibilities without limitation. Of exploring and having hope and being driven by that energy toward the new so that time falls away and we don’t know in advance what’s coming later, or tomorrow. Or next week or next year.

That’s what being young is. And you can be young again starting right now.

Here’s how you do it:

Fear is going to be your biggest enemy. It always is. Fear will try to drive you back to the comfort of the routine, so you need to solve the fear equation first.

The fear-driven stories you make up in your head in the middle of the night are never accurate. Fear, as always, is something you create. Why? Because Fear is simply an anticipation of the worst case scenario that which has not happened.

Fear is paralyzing, but it is unnecessary pain in advance. And it is a lie. Every time.

Because in reality, if that wholly unlikely scenario — that imagined worst result of whatever change you need to make that you’ve painstakingly created in your head — actually does begin to happen, then something you haven’t anticipated will also happen:  you’ll immediately begin responding to the situation. You become lost in the moment, not thinking, just doing.  And because of this, not only will it not turn out the way you fear, but you’ll likely be so focused in that adrenaline-pumped state of survival that fear will cease to exist because the moment is here, and that is what we do automatically. It is our hard-wired survival instinct.

When we take action, fear — imagined or otherwise – immediately dissolves in the face of reality. Every time.

So, first, put Fear right out of your head. It ain’t gonna happen the way you think. It never does,

And second, start small. Baby steps.

Take a chance. Do something – one thing – different. One thing outside of your routine.

Take a different road to work. Go see a movie you know nothing about. Order something different off the menu. Miss your usual train, or get on an earlier one.

Say yes to the next opportunity you’d normally say no to.

Go talk to someone you’ve never met. Join a pickup game. Ask that question, or speak up and say you disagree, instead of nodding and thinking about what else is on your plate after the mid-afternoon meeting.

Or skip the soul-sucking meeting entirely. And don’t tell anyone. Leave your phone behind and go for a walk instead.

The world will not end if you do any of these things. And you’ll begin to see things for the first time. Again.

You need to find that child’s sense of Wonder again. And Wonder comes from experiencing something entirely new. Wonder is the fuel of childhood.

Your day-to-day environment is key. When you go home, throw some crap out. You’ve got too much stuff just accumulating like barnacles on the ship of your life, and it’s slowing you down.

PIck something. If you haven’t used it in 6-months, toss it. Just pick one thing.

Maybe that’ll get you going. Momentum makes everything easier. The thing is, you’ve got to make it a practice, not a one-off.

If your rut is more serious, you’re feeling ancient and dead inside and you’re dying to feel alive again, try this:

Set aside an entire day and do NOTHING you’ve ever done before.  Get up and go and retrace none of your usual steps.

Get in the car and drive somewhere completely new and unscripted. Pick a direction – don’t go to Google maps first – and drive for 2 hours. That leaves you plenty of time to get back, and it’s far enough away to be unfamiliar. Stop whenever you see something that looks interesting. Find a place far enough away where you can be anonymous, so that you can decide how you want to present yourself and what you want to do based on your immediate impulse without fear of judgment. Order the exact opposite of what you’d normally order or, better yet, order something that you have no idea what it is. If someone catches your eye, go talk to them, because who knows?

And that’s the point. Entirely.

As soon as you lose track of time, you’ll know you’re on the right path. You’ll be so immersed in the moment that you’ll start seeing things with new eyes. Perhaps finding new directions. Hopefully walking new paths.

Stop living the rerun and start living the new.

And before you know it, blog posts like this won’t attract your attention anymore.

And wouldn’t that be the Best Thing? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

How To Fix Everything

Ever interrogate a 4-year old? If you’re a parent, you probably have — and usually after something has mysteriously become broken while you weren’t there.  The routine is always the same: there’s a little watery-eyed shrug (which almost always effectively turns your heart into a puddle), and then the magic words:

“It just happened.”

The thing is, that wasn’t true then, and it’s equally never true for adults.

Which is to say, there’s a cause behind every effect, but we spend too much time reacting to the effect than we do unraveling the actual cause.

For example, let’s say I come up with a new tagline for a client’s brand.  Now, I don’t just reach into my magic bucket of words and crank these things out, hoping something will stick. Nope, instead coming up with a tagline is mid-stream in the process; I’ve already spent lots of time unearthing their USP, developing a strategy and we’ve worked through the process to come to an agreement on direction and how best to present their brand over the long term.  The tagline needs to capture and convey all of that, so once the initial legwork’s done, it’s my job to do just that.

So when, on those rare occasions, a client comes back post-presentation and says it doesn’t work for them, well, the 4-year old in my wants to stamp my foot and say ‘No! You’re wrong! I’m right! And I’m taking my toys and going home!”.

As a strategist, I’ll let you in on a little secret: That’s NOT a good strategy.

But as an experienced adult, I also know that it’s time for me to respond, rather than react. And also to recognize that this didn’t ‘just happen’. There was, somewhere during the process, a miscommunication, or misinterpretation, where something didn’t quite click.

In short, there’s a cause for the effect.

I know this seems like common sense but, again, often times we seem to try and fix the effect, rather than the cause.

If your car stalls, it didn’t just happen. 9/11 didn’t just happen. If the stock market tanks, it didn’t just happen. If you’re significant other packs up and leaves you nothing more than a hastily written note, it didn’t just happen.

The good thing is, if we can just remember to just take a single breath when whatever happens happens, and remember that we have a breadcrumb trail back to the source, we can fix pretty much everything.  Which makes life less scary and hopeless.

And one final thought: good things don’t just happen either, so try and unravel what’s going right, understand that cause, multiply as needed, and enjoy the effect.

 

Why Peas + Potatoes = Progress

When I was a kid, I hated peas. Absolutely hated them.  But when I was a kid, it was maybe a different time – at least in our household.  There was no “Well, what would little num num like instead?”.  Nope. If it was on your plate, you ate it. Period.

Which, for a pea-hater, was tricky.  Eventually, in order to actually leave the dinner table and get on with my life, I learned a trick: mix the dreaded peas into the mashed potatoes (which I happened to like), and maybe throw in a drop of ketchup on the tough days.

That way I could get my peas down without evening realizing it, because I liked what was around them. Plus I got to get up from my table, and my parents were, well, reasonably happy.

Everyone’s got both peas and potatoes in their life. For example, I don’t like the tedium of doing media plans for clients, but if I want to get their message in front of the right people, it’s a necessary evil. My peas, if you will.

But I do like strategy, and I love to write.  Those are my potatoes.

When I do a media plan, I do both, but focus on the parts I like more than the ones I don’t.  That way, the work gets done, my clients are happy and, in the long run, I get to choose what I want to eat.

Which is still, typically, not peas.

But they’re growing on me 😉

Ever Want to Start Over?

Sure you do.  Most people do — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when done for the right reasons, it can be a sign of growth.  Here’s the thing: if you think you’ve reached your limit in the old, and want to move on to the new, to that place where you can be the next best version of yourself, then starting over doesn’t always mean starting from scratch.  Sometimes it just means recognizing that you need to be a ruthless editor — of your life.  And editing starts with getting rid of some things so you can make room for better ones.  And maybe in the process, you also discover that some of those things you were holding on to so tightly were also holding on to you.

Maybe holding you back.  From the new. And the better.

All of which is to say if you’ve arrived here expecting to see my old blog, well, I dumped it.  All of it (though I did back it up – you know, just in case).

And if you’re seeing this message, know this: it’s temporary.  Like everything else, really. Change is always happening, but when you step back and take a look and realize it and then embrace it, well, that can be liberating.

Long story short-ish, I’m restarting the whole thing. Building out a new blog about 3 topics: Branding, Creativity and Life.

For me, that’s enough categories and pretty much capture everything I do as a writer, brand communications strategist, author, creative, human, husband and father.

Much of what I do is driven by a desire to help people.  These days, most of the work I do is by referral and usually involves figuring out what’s broken and finding ways to fix it.  I unearth brands and shape the way people understand and think about businesses. I write about things that matter and do my best to make a difference whether it’s profitable or not because, in the long run, people count a whole lot more than profit.

Which means if there’s something you need help with, feel free to reach out to me directly and I’ll do my best to help, because we need more of that these days.

About the blog? It’ll be a work in progress, pretty much like life. It’ll mostly stick to those three categories, and hopefully will provide you with some value and a little entertainment along the way.

And thanks for playing along 😉