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When one door closes, it’s good to have the master key to the rest of the house.

January 24, 2011

I had something happen to me for the first time in my life. I was given my walking papers due to re-structuring and re-focusing at work on November 30th. For more than twelve years in the ad agency business, I was always on the other side and learned early about survivor’s guilt, making myself marketable, and staying grounded, driven, and positive.

And yet this time it got me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. I am not embarrassed or ashamed I was let go. I’d like to think my ego hasn’t grown so much that I can’t admit the truth. I simply didn’t have a specific PR foundation and background to warrant keeping a tenured advertising guy on staff. Kudos to my former boss for recognizing he and his agency needed to change and get back to their roots. I also appreciate the way in which I was let go. They did some things for me they didn’t have to and that took the stress out of these past seven weeks, especially over the holidays.

And in there lies the one thing they didn’t intend to give me, that was the greatest gift.

I spent more than six weeks at home with my two kids, my wife when she wasn’t at work, and friends and family, all over the holiday season.

I danced with my daughter in her room to songs we didn’t know, I was there to ride through the sleepless nights as my son got his first two teeth, I was able to help be Santa with my wife, and I grew an even deeper appreciation for the countless friends and family who reached out to me with support.

And now I am happily part of the team at The Momentum Group, a small, very cool shop in Broad Ripple doing some amazing things in the branding, digital, social, and traditional advertising space. I have certainly found a home.

So as I look back on my career already, one thing always rides true. No matter what, under any circumstances, sell yourself short by changing who you are, how you conduct yourself, and not treating others with respect. Because as I have just found out, sometimes the unexpected can turn into the greatest gift.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson


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Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

December 8, 2010

I finally saw Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall documentary last night after it sat unloved in DVR-land. I am an admitted football freak, but there was some great commentary from old coaches and players about life and striving to always reach the dream you had as a child.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was John Madden talking about making sure that you still find the fun in what you do. Once you have lost the joy in what we are doing, you lose the passion, fire, and desire to chase your dreams and goals.

I agree completely. Too often we get caught up in the stress and wear and tear of the daily grind to find the fun in what we do. I am not implying that every day should include uncontrolled laughter and high fives, but we should get enjoyment out of our work.

It also makes me realize how the culture of your work environment can either support and embrace an individual’s goals or completely demoralize and paralyze a person’s path to reach those same goals.

I am personally tired of a culture that simply looks for someone to blame, is blind with arrogance and self-indulgence, and limits other’s ambition by being complacent with their own situation.

I like this quote from James Dean. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

No one is going to stop me from continuing to reach toward my life’s goals and nothing other than myself will impact that drive. I’d rather die trying than lie dying wishing I would have done more.

 

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How about a little customer service?

November 30, 2010

Working in the communications field for more than a decade, there are a couple of questions we always get asked. Can you make the logo bigger? What is my ROI? I don’t have a budget, how much will it cost? Is this going to work? And the list goes on and on.

All of those questions are legitimate (ok the logo one is a bit tiresome) but no matter what the answer is, it all comes back to what kind of experience your customers are having that makes them want to buy more.

You could make the best tacos on the planet but when you treat your customers like an irritation, you might as well be spitting in their guacamole.

All the time, effort, money, and strategies put into market research, development, and product launches means nothing when your customers feel slighted. I am a big fan of Nordstrom. I like their store offerings but more importantly I like the way I am treated when I am there. People actually look and then act like they want to help. I’ll even take it a step farther and say that they want to work with people. Wow, what a concept.

It always makes me laugh (after I have cursed like an Irish Hurling Captain – great sport by the way) when people working registers, serving tables, or in an actual “customer service department” roll their eyes in disgust when a paying customer, with a lot of choices, comes into their sacred territory. Here is an idea, work the stockroom, wash dishes, or stay at home typing online ads for money. You are not only saying a lot about yourself, but also ruining the culture of those around you and the integrity of your company’s brand.

So as we shop, eat, and drink our way through another holiday season, take a look around and start to really see who gets it. I already have a couple of places that I won’t be visiting again.

What good or bad customer experiences have you already had this holiday season?

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This Thanksgiving give thanks by acknowledging another human being.

November 23, 2010

I was running early Saturday morning and as I headed down a foggy road past some of the remaining farms in Fishers an elderly man hobbled his way towards the road and gave me a big smile. As a matter of fact, he patiently waited until I smiled back. I yelled “Good morning, how are you?” To which he gave me a bigger smile and said, “Great thank you. I just wish I could do that!” Well, I wish more people would do more of what he just did.

He smiled, he acknowledged, and then he made me smile. He passed on what makes us all human, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and the need to feel appreciated.

I’m sure this is reflective of the greatest generation. People who gave all they had to fight against oppression, hatred, and intolerance so we all have something to smile about. They fought so we all, as human beings, could have what we so desperately want and need. The right to be our own individuals in a world of masses, to speak when we feel so moved to do so, and to live without fearing for our freedoms.

One of my fraternity brothers, Jeremy Gray, recently posted his pet peeve of people that don’t say hello when you look them in the eye and say it to them. Chris Jackson, another brother who posted an oddly similar frustration when he told someone to have a nice day and they replied, “I will.” It is a sad state of humanity when simply acknowledging another human being has become either an afterthought or no thought at all.

How great could this country be if we all showed a little compassion, understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for those around us? And why stop there. The world could use a giant dose of selflessness.

My dad says it well, “You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, you just have to learn how to get along with everyone.” I agree completely and I am thankful for those of us out there who get it.

What are you thankful for this year?

 

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5 things I never thought I’d see musically

November 15, 2010

I am a huge fan of music. However lately some of the music that is on the radio makes me wonder how these “artists” got contracts. For someone who can’t sing it gives me hope. And then my iPod dies in the middle of “Hey Ya” by Outkast and no, I mean no, studio post work could help my falsetto.

However it did get me thinking about five things in music I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.

Straight Outta Compton and Straight Into Carmel
Ice Cube is in kid’s movies, Dr. Dre is in Dr. Pepper commercials, and Ice-T is in TV dramas. I wonder how may parents who watched “Are we there yet” actually know who O’Shea Jackson is. The truth in this was my mom cheering for Lil Kim on Dancing with the Stars. I guess “It’s All About the Benjamins.” What.

Someone sampled a Lionel Richie song and it wasn’t “Dancing on the Ceiling
I am not a fan of Enrique Iglesias, although I did go as him for Halloween several years ago. I had a sock hat, tight sweater, fake mole, and a nametag that said, “Hello, Let me be your hero.” He sampled “All Night Long” for “I Like It”. I didn’t. I guess I am glad he didn’t sample “Hello” and have to remake a video where he stalks a blind woman who used modeling clay to create a giant horse-head replica of Enrique. Freaky.

Michael Jackson died
I mean no disrespect with this since he left children behind, but if anyone was going to live forever it was MJ. He slept in a hyberbaric chamber, had all the money in the world, and had his plastic surgeon on speed dial (actually I think it was the woman above with the modeling clay.) So much for the “We are the World” 100 year anniversary special in 2085 with Mike there live.

Paperboy didn’t have another hit after “Ditty
Oh no wait, yes he did, he just changed his name to Nelly. Seriously they do sound eerily similar.

This guy never made it big in the US, Mr. Trololo Guy, Eduard Khil
I’m not even sure if this is a real person. He looks like an automated death machine from one of the late 70s James Bond movies. And the high notes he hits in the middle are not human. Yet his stage presence is captivating, engaging, and can’t turn away good.

Is there anything you have seen that surprises you?

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Facebook is not your therapist

November 11, 2010

I think like a lot of us who use social media professionally or personally are growing tired of the mass of people who aren’t putting a unique thought out there. Their thought is the last thought they just read. But what really amazes me are the people using Facebook for therapy sessions. Therapy sessions for one.

I don’t mean to be insensitive here. Some people use these channels as a way to easily and efficiently reach out to friends, family, and colleagues when a true issue arises. This honestly is the power behind social media. And one I see great value in. I am talking more about the one-off, random, sad, depressed, and “woe is me” people who really don’t need your prayers, thoughts, or “sending you a hug” icon. Really? Here, I am sending you a “forearm shiver” right back.

This is what I am talking about, “Today is the day I do it. Be with me.” Ok, for what? Are you putting down the dog? Is the dog not even sick? Is it not your dog? Ok, that’s newsworthy and worth sharing. Or how about, “I wish I could turn back time.” I think Cher sang a song about that. Is that what you are referencing? Or maybe you didn’t see my post about the mayonnaise recall? And last but not least the motivational saying person. “If you focus on what you want, you can have it. If you focus on what you have, you can want it.” What the…did you READ your post? And sure enough someone clicks “like.”

Is anyone else tired of this? If so, please let me know. I have this terrible pain…

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A simple thank you can go a long way.

November 3, 2010

I was left a voicemail message the other day from a close friend and fraternity brother, Brett Benson, thanking me for something that I did.  And what I did was not groundbreaking, world changing, or even difficult, but you would never know it by the thank you I received.

Brett is someone I personally and professionally admire. He is every bit as passionate about life as he is quick to crack a joke. He lives to serve and his life’s goals are fixed on giving and sharing to others rather than receiving or focusing inward on selfish wants.

I have seen him get so worked up discussing his desire to help and those outcomes of when he has, that he verges on that laugh/cry mix that is nothing but pure emotion. It is raw, it is real, it is Benson.

That is one big reason why his message left such an impression with me I decided to write about it. And the other reason was what and how he said it. In an age and a generation where it is easy to text, email, or adjust our writing to 140 characters or less, he took time out of his day to reach out. To let me know he didn’t just appreciate what I did, but that he appreciated me as a person. He didn’t thank me for one event, but for things that cumulated over time. And he reminded on how sometime taking the time to say a heartfelt thank you, has become a rarity. And not only from a personal side, but in business as well.

Brett, you are the one we should all thank for your dedication, generosity, thoughtfulness, and daily impact you have on the people around you.

I sometimes end these with a quote and here is one I learned from you: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough,” Meister Eckhart.

Thank you.