Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Secrets of Success: The Other 8 Words

Over on the always fascinating web site TED (Ideas Worth Spreading), Richard St. John gives a three-minute talk on the "Secrets of Success in 8 Words." He's done his homework - compiling the top factors after 7 years of research and 500 interviews. The 8 words are: Passion, Work, Good, Focus, Push, Serve, Ideas, Persist. Watch the highly entertaining video for the succinct explanation behind each word:

It seems he's preaching to the choir - TED costs a bit to attend, so it's most likely filled with successful people. And the quotes he cites are from a rarified percentage of super-successful people: Rupert Murdoch, Goldie Hahn, Norman Jewison, Norman Lear, Frank Gehry, Bill Gates. He tosses in a couple of non-names too, but it's clear they're in the upper stratosphere as well.

I'm left wondering: what if you asked 500 less-than-successful people (identifiable through poverty level, how they view themselves, the newly bankrupt, etc.) what eight words they would come up with that describe the secrets to success? People who feel they're on the outside, looking in at the affluent and/or achievers might come up with the following, totally un-scientifically-developed list:

Direct access to lots of money (through family or social sphere) makes it easier to be a success because you have a good fall back position.

While we've made enormous strides in reducing prejudice based on race, sex, sexuality, age and looks, I'm sure there are people who feel they've been held back due to factors beyond their control, unfairly judged, and viewed as against prevailing social norms (whether or not they really still exist.)

New York and Los Angeles are the Emerald Cities in many minds - and locations within those cities may even bump up perceptions of success even more. It's probably harder to be a success in the wilds of Wyoming than in Silicon Valley.

Chronic illness and lack of good health care can not only deplete any money you have, it can seriously damage your ability to get ahead.

The Ivy League might still hold sway - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stamford, MIT. Anywhere else, you're on your own, because...

Attending those schools puts you in contact with people who can be of huge help to you in your career.

I'll use an example from my own life, to keep totally clear on what I mean and keep from getting in trouble on this one. I have zero aptitude for math, which has been a problem for me, especially growing up as a "boomer" who hasn't yet been able to take advantage of the new mind thinking exemplified by A Whole New Mind. And I think it has a great deal to do with genetics, just as genetics has kept me from looking like John Cena.

The number-one determinant of whether or not you are a success in life. Many people court it on a daily basis - just look at how many lottery tickets are sold each day.

Of course, it all really depends on what you yourself consider "achieving success" really means. To some it's money, no doubt, especially those who are struggling financially. To paraphrase something a psychologist once told me, "Money becomes the most important thing in life when you aren't getting any."

One thing I feel above all else, however: Web sites like TED, which allow those of us without the current financial means to take advantage of today's top thinkers and doers, are a vast improvement over the past, when this type of information was harder to distribute and access.

Still, you do need a computer and Internet hookup...
Awesome Everest photo from djwphoto's photostream on Flickr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Conversation About Passion, Dreams, and Waking Up

A compelling article in Sunday's New York Times, titled Often a Swan, Rarely a Queen, concerns a little-discussed problem with chasing our passions and our dreams. What happens when we get close to our dreams, but they're never fully realized? The article focuses on life in the rarified and hyper-specialized atmosphere of a world-class ballet company, but it describes an issue that can be universal:

"For the few who survive the grueling competition, relentless discipline and mental pressure to make it into one of the world’s first-rank companies, this tale of recognized talent and continuing achievement frequently ends soon thereafter. The new company member is now just one of a hundred or so other brilliant talents. When the level is that high, the exceptional becomes ordinary, and the dancer discovers that perhaps she will not be on a poster on bedroom walls."

It's a realization I've come to in my own life, as I have come to understand (perhaps too well) that I'll never win the Pulitzer for playwrighting, receive an oscar for best screenplay nomination, or take the stage as a competitive bodybuilder.

Hugh McLeod, in Post Dreaming Reality on Gaping Void, mirrored my thoughts a couple of days ago with this cartoon:

I especially like his words "kill slowly," as well as his succinct appraisal, in the accompanying text, of the stage we all probably get to:

"Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for "One Day" is over. You're either doing it, or you're not. And if you're not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis'."

This reality could be a function of age - I am 50, after all, and I can feel my life adapting to all kinds of realities these days. Unfortunately, there no manual readily available to help us through this time. Something on the order of "How to understand your adolescent," but for the newly-middle-aged, would be beneficial.

It could be a fault in the way our society works. Too many dream careers require huge sacrifices and still leave many without the big fulfillment, perhaps because our vision of success requires huge, powerful, and largely financial outcomes.

I've posted about this before, and I've come to believe this passion thing is way overrated. But if you don't feel the way I do, you can still find plenty of information out there that will tell you how to Take your first step and Achieve Your Dream.

Some are disappointed, though, when their energy wanes in the pursuit. I've been battling the conflict between what I've always thought I've wanted to do, and what I really want to do now (which are two very different things.) Thom Singer may be feeling the conflict too, as McLeod's Post Dreaming Reality "flies in the face of my current quest."

But Brazen Careerist's Penelope Trunk offers us a solution. In Bad career advice: Do what you love, she counsels:

"If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money."

According to Penelope, "We are each multifaceted, multilayered, complicated people..." and "None us loves just one thing." According to me, getting rid of an old dream makes room for a new one. The trick is to recognize the new dream as one of many that may not bear any resemblance to the original.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top Exercise Tips and Tricks - Super Leftovers

When I downloaded all the exercise tips and tricks for my previous post, I did come up with a category of tactics that had more than 17 ideas. There was a slight problem, though - these tactics all specified a specific method of working out, and I found it difficult to include them in a list consisting of ways to start an exercise program and how to keep yourself motivated. There were 29 of these in all:
  • Slow lifting.
  • One set, to failure.
  • Good form.
  • Hills.
  • Circuits.
  • Always Do Weights Before Cardio
  • Clench Your Muscles
  • Do Two Sessions
  • Always Do Weights In front of a Mirror
  • Hard, then easy.
  • Workout first, diet later.
  • Warm up.
  • Close your eyes while exercising.
  • Do a cardio circuit.
  • Start with your hamstrings.
  • Stretch between sets.
  • Lower the weight with one leg.
  • Run the rack.
I wanted to run them anyway, since they're all great advice. The posts I selected these from are listed at the end of my first post on this subject: Top 19 Exercise Tips and Tricks from the Blogosphere.

Now I need to go work out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top Exercise Tips and Tricks - The Leftovers
Tuesday's post on the Top 19 Exercise Tips and Tricks wasn't the whole story. When I categorized the tactics I found online, I had some leftovers - ideas that appeared four or fewer times. My original post was long enough - I didn't want to make anyone scroll and scroll for hours. So, I decided to publish these tips separately:

















...and click here for the original post, which features links to all the bloggers and posts I "stole" these from...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Abandoned All Hope - And Be Happier?

What with the short daylight hours, the dreary DC weather, my uncertain financial situation, no tropical vacation planned, the forced festivity of the holiday season, and winter about to show up for the next three or four months, my mood has been less-than-spectacular lately. So I found this short article - Hope Can Be Worse Than Hopelessness - very interesting and applicable to my situation. Could I be concentrating too much of my energy on wishing these temporary situations and mood-busters (winter, money, etc.) out of my life, instead of focusing more productively on actions (like networking) I can accomplish in the here and now?

If you had asked me, before I read the article, what I thought would make me happier, I would have said "money from blogging and working in Florida."

But that juxtaposition - palm trees/turquoise water vs. grey city streets - is what's doing my mood in. Or so I believe now, after reading:

“If your condition is temporary,” [Dr.] Ubel explains, “you’re thinking, I can’t wait until I get rid of this.” Ubel says thoughts like these keep you from moving on with your life and focusing on the many good things that remain.

Definitely something I need to work on.
Read my previous thoughts on another paradox article from the New York Times Magazine's 7th Annual Year in Ideas: Do Winners (sometimes) Quit?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Top 19 Exercise Tips and Tricks from the Blogosphere

In just a couple of weeks, the holiday food madness will reach New Year's Resolution time, and most of us will lament the calories we've consumed and vow to get into shape. Should be no problem, right? "Life hacking" blogs can help us out. I visited 6 bloggers, 18 posts, and scanned over 200 items to come up with the following most popular tips and tricks that will get us exercising and keep us working out through the rest of winter:

Tactics include: Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Find your best time of day for exercise. Schedule workouts. Do it early in the morning - during lunch - after work.

Be a bit adventurous, try out different exercises. Seek a geographic cure.


In the beginning, it’s best to hold back, and just do a little. Your goal is to set a workout routine that is challenging, but not overwhelming. If you’ve been inactive for years, you can’t run a marathon after two weeks of training.


Go for Yourself, Not to Impress. Focus on the feeling after the session. It’s Time for you/Time for contemplation. Don’t be motivated only by weight loss goals. Living long enough to see your grandkids … and play with them. Remember that your ultimate goal is an active lifestyle. Go for the long haul - Think of exercise as a life-long habit, and your goals will come to you eventually.


How you’re going to look. Fitting into new clothes. Being attractive. How you look in your before picture. The dread of feeling “yuck” from not exercising. The scale. Others commenting on how good you look. An upcoming day at the beach, or a reunion. Calories burned.

Stop making excuses. Think positive. If you fail, get up, brush yourself off, and start again. Commit yourself. Don’t worry if you’re not seeing results right away. Exercise even when you feel tired. Don’t get discouraged when you reach your plateau.

Isolate Your Weakness. What are your priorities? Listen to your Body.

Pick someone who is committed to their health. If you can't afford a trainer or a great instructor, or you don’t think you’re ready for one yet, grab hold of a friend with similar goals. Just make sure you don’t become so dependent on your gym buddy that you forego working out if he can’t make it. Make it a competition. Bet on who will achieve a certain goal first.

Set one easy, specific, measurable goal. Not weight-loss or muscle gain goals, but fitness goals. Think more along the lines of “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to get down to a 15% bodyfat level Post goals where you can see them constantly.

If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. Don’t let it be painful. If you like it you’ll keep at it. Exercise should be fun.

When you reach a goal, whether it is a little one or a big one, reward yourself. The first few days are the most crucial. Reward yourself often during this time. Reward Showing Up, Not Weight Loss.

If you can do exercise at the same time, every single day for a month, you are more likely to make it a habit. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. Make Time. Don’t let a four day holiday interfere with your attempts to get in shape.


Fitness magazines. A cover model picture on your fridge. Read blogs about people who are into running, losing weight. Find success stories
Print motivational quotes or put them on your desktop. Buy strength training books

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Get some friends to exercise together. Sign up for a class. Join an online group.

Incorporate foods high in nutrients and low in fats and empty calories. Get the protein your muscles need to rebuild. If you do intense workouts, you will need carbs, or you won’t have enough energy. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether your getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you. You shouldn’t work out on an empty stomach — but you also shouldn’t eat right before you work out.


Heavier weight. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity. Increment your exercise.

Do it for one month. Exercise Daily. Do a 30-day Challenge.

Do a workout, put up a star. Record the way your body feels after workouts and take body measurements.

Tell people what you’re doing! Make your goal public. Post your results on your blog.
Here are the bloggers who did all the work coming up with the ideas, and the blog posts where you can find them:

13 Tips to Actually Enjoy Exercising -

Bored with your Workout? Let's Mix it Up a little! - Dumb Little Man

31 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise | Zen Habits

16 Tips to Triple Your Workout Effectiveness | Zen Habits

How to Exercise like a Pro – even if you’re Not! at Ririan Project

How to Make Exercise a Permanent Habit In Your Life at Ririan Project

Seven Little Known Tips for Getting in Shape -

Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - How You can find the Perfect Exercise Routine – Dumb Little Man

6 Workout Hacks, Plus 8 Tips for Beginners - Dumb Little Man

Top 42 Exercise Hacks | Zen Habits

18 Ways to Supercharge a Boring Gym Session at Ririan Project

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It) -

10 Ideas to Get You Exercising

4 Simple Steps to Start the Exercise Habit | Zen Habits

Home Gyms And Home Fitness Information: 7 Tips for Starting a New Exercise Routine

Get Healthy and Fit, Part 2 - Exercise Edition | Zen Habits

How to Get Back on the Exercise Train | Zen Habits

10 Benefits of Exercise, and How to Start Doing It at Ririan Project

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do Winners (sometimes) Quit?
Advice we've heard all our lives may be hazardous to our health.

Persistence is the keyword in life. From an early age onward, we're taught to keep at it, whatever the task, and not be swayed into nonaction by a little bit of failure. One of the first questions we're asked as children is "what do you want to be when you grow up?" The question turns into "what's your passion" once we get into our first job after college (when we're probably so far away from our passion that we just don't know it.) We're advised to Pursue Your Dream and Follow Your Bliss, and ignore the naysayers who counsel us "you probably won't succeed writing one act plays in Minnesota."

We're instructed to soldier on, whatever the cost.

As reported in Quitting Can Be Good for You (part of The New York Times Magazine's "7th Annual Year in Ideas" issue), researchers "found that teenage girls who are unable to disengage themselves from trying to attain hard-to-reach goals exhibited increased levels of the inflammatory molecule C-reactive protein (C.R.P.), which in adults is linked with diabetes, heart disease and early aging."

Now whether or not these findings are observable in the population at large is not known. But it tells me that my decisions to give up highly frustrating, little- chance-of-success goals may be a good thing. Even if it goes against everything I've been taught.

I do know that quitting a couple of projects I've spent a number of years on has opened up brainpower and time for me to pursue other goals.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Living in DC: We Regret To Inform You The Future Will Be Postponed

Sign on the front door of my corner mom-and-pop java cafe:

Please note that on weekends, WiFi service will not be available until 3pm.

Probably because the weekend crowd buys more food, and any weekday squatters will just take up "valuable" table space with their 1 mocha latte.

What I would do, if I owned the place: expand into the space vacated last week by the trendy clothing store. More floor space, more window space.

I guess Chris Brogan will have to wait a while longer before he can fully access the Internet in my neighborhood!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Party Refreshments That Just Don't Work

Penelope Trunk's post on Brazen Careerist titled Five things people say about Christmas that drive me nuts inspired me to think deeply about this holiday madness we're facing. Like all those holiday parties scheduled between now and January 1, 2008. I've been to my share in the past, and I've come to believe the following foods and beverages should be banned from all public and private places at this time (indeed, any time) of the year:

Cheese Balls

Always labeled "port wine," these seemingly efficient creations have one basic problem: once the first guest takes a portion from a fresh ball, it immediately looks like leftovers. And have you ever been to a gathering where one of these nut-rolled wonders are devoured down to the last cracker? SOLUTION: Serve cheese by all means. Just not processed.

Spiral Sliced Ham
This actually tastes fine, if you like ham. I can never navigate the proper-sized slice. It's always one continuous ribbon, difficult to maneuver into one of those small, cube-shaped rolls. I feel like I'm going to walk away from the table trailing ham behind me, like toilet paper stuck to my shoe. SOLUTION: Consider the spiral slice a given, and contribute your own slicing before you place it on the table.

Condiments in Ramekins
Closely tied to the Spiral Sliced Ham. Granted, a big jar of Hellman's and a blazing yellow Heinz squirt bottle does irreparable damage to the buffet table aesthetics. But mayonnaise starts to turn colors when exposed to air, and mustard gets all crusty. We won't even mention the food safety issues. SOLUTION: Nix the ham and you don't have to supply the condiments in any container.

Egg Nog
"I just drink it for the alcohol," you've probably heard people say. Any beverage that requires an excuse is subject to deletion in my opinion. And is there any justification for displaying a bowl of thick, whitish-yellow creamlike substance with that most unappetizing name? SOLUTION: Serve mixed drinks, wine and beer. Or soft drinks, if you're so inclined.

Kabobs on a Cabbage
My mom made this for a Christmas Eve party a couple of years ago. Sliced a cabbage in half and spent far too much time sticking it with cold cut-laden toothpicks. It looked hazardous. After guests consumed a significant number of kabobs, we were left with a cabbage full of holes to look at. Happy Holidays! SOLUTION: Don't read housekeeping magazines before the holidays.

Sparkling Cider
A product that is All About The Package. Why else would people buy and serve apple juice with bubbles, if not to approximate champagne. It's just sweet enough to keep it from being served with any meal course. Two glasses of this and I just start feeling sick. SOLUTION: Go to bed at a normal hour that night.

Which holiday party foods/beverages would you like to retire permanently?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

8 Reasons Why Many Networking Events Suck
and how organizers can improve them...

I enter a roomful of people I've never seen before. I write "MIKE" in large block letters on a nametag sticker and attach it to my shirt. I feel marked, but nobody shoots. Nobody even looks. I wander through the throng, trying to find the bar. I can feel the noise. I reach the bar, order a drink and turn to see everyone in small, closed circles. How do I break in? I decide I can't, so I focus on the people outside the groups. Their standing alone, with dead expressions.

And how can I engage a zombie?

I'm pretty good at meeting people for the first time. I don't have a problem striking up and sustaining a conversation. People genuinely like me. So why are so many of the networking events I've recently attended so bad?

1. Nobody's acting as a connector, and people have to sink or swim. You can't tell the organizers from the attendees, and the organizers are most likely perched behind a registration table or inside one of those small, closed groups. It's the organizer's responsibility to make sure that people are connecting, and the shy are included, by searching out the loners, getting them introduced around, even providing icebreakers. Get helpers to move around, meet everyone, be visible. Have them wear funny hats. Jeff Pulver's methods at his recent networking breakfast are ideal for getting strangers engaged with one another. He should be cloned and distributed live.

2. Just when it starts to get decent, the organizers stop everything and start making announcements. Sure, you need to market the event and let people know about what's upcoming. But do you have to do that in the middle of my conversation? You may have cut short a million dollar deal (not likely, but who knows?) Send emails out the next day, create a handout you can pass around unobtrusively while people are talking, highlight your events on your web site. Just don't turn the crowd into a literal audience.

3. The venue is too dark, hot, crowded, noisy (or lacks carpeting). Loud music may require that people stand closer to each other to converse, but it also makes those small circles even smaller. Think about the American Need for Personal Space (read about "Body contact and personal expression") and do a site visit beforehand. You might not be able to remedy all the problems, but at least you can be ready to work around them.

4. Your event is advertised as networking when it's really a presentation (and some of those presentations may be about networking.) Close to #2, although attendees may feel more baited-and-switched. Make sure you haven't set up chairs in the dreaded theater-style. Ban PowerPoints, can the lecturers, and don't focus the group's attention. Provide multiple food/drink stations, and spread handouts on tables around the room - anything to prove we're not back in school.

5. Too much distance between the "old guard" and the "newbies." I went to a playwriting conference at Arena Stage a few years ago - I think I even got an invitation. There were equal numbers of established writers, artistic directors, and struggling playwrights. At lunch, the status quo all sat together, while we huddled at the kids table. Know who will be attending your event. Get clear on the range of people likely involved. If you aren't able facilitate some connections between the old guard and the new, then perhaps you should cancel the event, or at least not hold it again without some real evaluation (and not that checklist you hand out asking us how much we loved you.)

6. The event becomes a figurative fishbowl. Your monthly meetup is a big success. People mark it on their calendars and email you about the next one. Those small, closed circles of participants are really a measure of your success. You wanted people to meet up, and they have. The trouble is, your event has turned into Happy Hour With Friends. Put more time into developing how you want the event to unfold, rather than relying on the "y'all show up" kind of hospitality. Go back to your original reason for getting together. Your original goal is probably light years from "we want to keep the already-acquainted talking only to those they already know."

7. Networking is scheduled for the end of a long day of presentations. This usually happens at conferences. I've been to - and organized - so many meetings jammed full of lectures, slides and handouts, where any networking time longer than a coffee break happens at the end of the day. By 6:00, people are ready for drinks, dinner and conversation, but with their friends. So many attendees have told me they're "burned out" at the end of the day, yet they find the networking to be the best part of their participation. I personally know it's almost impossible to provide for additional mingling time at an annual meeting, where even the lunches are programmed. Someone, someday, will realize this and make the necessary changes. I think.

8. Unclear, or too wide-ranging, event objectives. Sure, I know the main methods of successful networking involves meeting people first, second and third, and then maybe you can get into what you can do for each other. But it's tough to get enthused about a conversation on financial planning when I'm looking to connect on a possible business partnership level. Icebreakers are great to introduce a focused goal - and they don't have to be intricate and minutely planned. I'll bet Jeff Pulver didn't spend much time explaining his goals at the recent breakfast - and you can be reasonably assured the event didn't try to be all things to all people.
What would I have put down for my personal tag line? How about "Mike Ambrose: Making the Personal Universal."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Internet Is For...

A song in Avenue Q tells us "The Internet is for Porn..." That may be the case, but it's also for Lists. And Litemind (the blog for "Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently") has just published a List of Lists, also know as The Lists Group Writing Project. I contributed "Top 23 Motivation Tips, Tricks and Tactics from the Blogosphere" and there are prizes to be had if my list draws enough eyeballs and votes.

But that's now why I've started entering these contests. There are even better outcomes:

1. they guide readers to my blog;
2. they raise my Technorati authority and lower my ranking (towards #1);
3. they introduce me to new blogs that I would probably have never found on my own.

So take a look at the list. My favorites:

17 POWER Tips For StumbleUpon Beginners
...because I need to learn more about this StumbleUpon thing everyone's talking about.

10 Ways To Work Through Your Workout
...because I've tried them and they work!

21 Punching Tips On Social Media Marketing and Social Media Optimization
...because it's a list of articles I can study later.

100 Resources To Improve Your Career, Relationships And Money
...because I'm wildly successful in all three areas (NOT!)

No Cost Business Tools: 37 Free Applications That Make Your Life Easier, Free of Charge
...because the future should continue to be free, or so I believe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Edgy Characteristics
Yet another great Seth Godin post - The caricature of your brand - got me thinking today about the brands I'm familiar with and how they admit (or hide from) their most telling characteristics. These are the things that people talk about, the thoughts that enter the room before they do, the points that our constantly-sorting and redefining mind choose to remember. Here are a few of my thoughts:

Gold's Gym
Gold's has a charicature in its logo - that intensely developed bodybuilder, holding a barbell that bends under its own weight. Gold's was a gym before there were gyms, and tells of its early days on Venice Beach, California. Everything points to the brand being for muscleheads - but they firmly attach themselves to the general gym-going public. In a recent mailing to me, the facility I'm a member of touted its new coat of paint as a customer service benchmark. While the walls look nice, they're not exciting, and certainly not mentionable. What if Gold's went all the way with the bodybuilder image? Not to alienate themselves from their membership (most of whom do not look like bodybuilders at all), but to create a place that people would talk about. Have you ever heard anyone say "I just love going to my gym?" What if Gold's designed its facilities to take advantage of a retro-California-beach image? What if you entered the gym and you suddenly felt like you were inches away from sun, surf and sand?

Think of a dentist and what comes to mind? Little Shop of Horrors? Dentists get a bad rap all the time. They're usually the worse-case scenario in many a conversation: "I wanted to travel to that meeting about as much as I wanted a root canal." Some are fighting back, acknowledging the fear of pain in potential patients by rebranding their offices with spa services and decor. What I wonder is, why doesn't the ADA take this a run with it?

Atlantis vs. RSVP

In the extreme-niche of Gay travel and vacations, Atlantis and RSVP are the two best-known companies. Both offer sea and land excursions. And recently, Atlantis bought RSVP. In their news release, Atlantis stated that they would keep the RSVP brand and continue to offer vacations through that label. But they never said exactly what that brand is. My friends and I have pondered the difference between the two. . RSVP was the first to offer gay vacations. Atlantis came in and... well, offered the same thing. But the caricature of an Atlantis cruise is tons of buff bodies, all night disco parties on the top deck, stunningly gorgeous men and slightly better ships. RSVP? TanDog (who's been on both) put it this way: The difference in eye candy between an RSVP cruise and and Atlantis cruise is the difference between an atom and the Universe.

Everybody who's ever been to a county fair knows the green clovers with the H's on each leaf. 4-H brands itself as the nation's largest out-of-school youth education organization. They know their caricature: Kids, Cows, and Cooking. Still, they've spent years playing down this image, in favor of chasing after more modern visuals and trying to convince the non-familiar that it's sophisticated and cutting-edge. But people love cows, and cooking (not so sure about kids).

Washington, DC
I've written about DC's image problem before - and suggested that the city embrace some of the aspects it's known for...

I can understand why companies and organizations would want to play down their most prominent features. Just look at how many people go for plastic surgery to "fix" what they feel isn't perfect. We all have a huge desire to blend in, not be noticed for what we're ashamed of. But we also want to stand out. Trouble is, we can't have it both ways (although we try and try and try.) Organizations that capitalize on their possibly-unpopular images could do themselves some damage, but could also be branded with a sense of humor.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Top 23 Motivation Tips, Tricks and Tactics from the Blogosphere

Stuck in a rut? Can't get going? Moving backward instead of forward? The blogosphere has just the solution for you. "Personal Hack" blogs list all kinds of tips to kickstart our flagging motivation. But I've been wondering - how much of this information is repeated? Not that there's anything wrong with that - sometimes I need to read something a bunch of times before it sinks in.

Inspired by LiteMind's Lists Group Writing Project, I downloaded motivation tactics from 11 blogs (searched through Google and Technorati), then tried to sort them according to some overall headings I created just to answer my question. And I found a combination of repeated tips and original tricks. It's all below - the headings I created, the number next to the title which tells you how many tactics in all there were for each specific heading, and after the list, the blogs themselves:

Interesting that the most cited tactic is to get away from work and listen to music, do something physical, or just sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes. But it makes a whole lot of sense, especially if you're a "nose-to-the-grindstone" type of person.


The "hard work ethic" phrases we've heard all our lives, including: life is tough, work through the difficult, be patient, stop thinking - just do, stick with it, remember there'll be ups and downs. They work, unless you make a steady diet of them.


I found two categories of tips under this heading: objects you gather which trigger your enthusiasm, and ideas (both conventional, like recognition and power, or "doing it for someone you love.").


Eliminate the non-essential and focus on your mission, vision, and goals.

Because you can't do it all alone, "get a coach, take a class, join a group, get a workout/goal buddy, find others working hard, or create a friendly competition"


Concentrate not on the huge amount of work you have to do, but on the next, small simple step, and build from there.


Why spend all your time on the awful, painful tasks? Find what you like doing, the stuff that fires you up, builds from your creativity, and do that for awhile.

Nuke negativity.

One goal, long term goals, a major goal, unrealistic goals, or no goals at all.

Timelines, deadlines, bite-sized chunks - create a road map that will keep you on course and make sure you don't spend all your energy right of the starting gate.

Read, learn, listen, investigate, and educate yourself self - all on an ongoing basis.

Track, chart, follow, evaluate progress and journal it daily, so you'll know how far you've come and how far you have to go.

Seek internal stimulation.

Reframe problems, deconstruct your fears, keep notes on when your motivation sucks, know when you urge yourself to quit so you can fight back.

Kill repetition and introduce variety into your tasks.


Look for reinforcers of positive thoughts and feelings, good company, positive friends, passionate people of similar interests.

Share, encourage, help and be of service to other people.

Often, after completing a task.

Post your goal, commit publicly, make it big and fully commit.

Start with a To Do list to kickstart your day.

Ask yourself "why am I doing this in the first place," find powerful reasons why and write them down.

It's all about building and maintaining momentum.

Don't use a saw to hammer a nail.
Thanks to the following blogs for writing the posts I was able to analyze for this list:

Lifehack -
8 steps to continuous self-motivation
How to enjoy what you are doing no matter what
Thirteen tricks to motivate yourself
11 ways to motivate yourself to complete any task in the new year

A List Apart
Staying Motivated

Daily PlanIt

What's the Motivation?
Seven Rules of Motivation

Top 20 Motivation Hacks
Get Off Your Butt - 16 Ways To Get Motivated When You're In a Slump

Made for Success
Finding Motivation: What To Do When You Don't Feel Like Doing Anything

Dumb Little Man
5 Simple Steps to Stop Procrastination Today

Freelance Switch
Staying Motivated Without a Boss

Ririan Project
Why you lose your focus and what to do about it

Ten Ways to Defeat Brain Drain

Ian's Messy Desk

8 mental steps to self-motivation

Thursday, November 15, 2007

10 Remedies For "I'm Starting My Own Business And I'm Paralyzed With Fear!"

The past two weeks have been rough! I developed "Total Fear Paralysis At Going Out On My Own" and turned to the drugs I know will best numb the panic for me: McDonald's, television, and getting lost in the Wikipedia. Still, I kept thinking "Who am I kidding? My consulting will never get off the ground and fly!" That is, when I wasn't thinking about the bills coming in, especially the money I owe over the next year for my building's brick repointing project. Yikes!

Instead of moving on to stronger drugs (like jumping out my fourth-floor window), I scanned the Web for blog postings from people in the same dire straights. I tried to find personal stories, along with examples of errors I'm afraid of making and advice stronger than "Buck up, you'll be fine." And these are the people who spoke to me:

1. Sometimes it feels like...
Thanks to this post by Seth Godin, I know that even the most successful can hate their jobs. Although written as the dust settled from the Dot Com Bust, it's still applicable today.

2. Timing is never right
on Go Big Network reminds me that the planets align for very few people, and I'm really lucky since I don't have to worry about quitting my job (since I was partially laid off a few months ago!)

3. Reasons to Quit
from 43 Folders shows me I'm not the only person coming up with too many ideas that might not work, and alleviates my guilt in abandoning some to concentrate on others.

4. My Top 10 Worst Ideas to Make Money
at Shoemoney assures me it's ok to have those ideas, even if they're dumb - and it's better to learn from others before I spend tons of bucks.

5. Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?
at Life Learning Today gives me the pros and cons to going out on my own so I can build my confidence all over again.

6. 10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed
tells me "Hey, if Steve Pavlina can make stupid mistakes, then my stupid mistakes can't be all that bad!"

7. Hate My Job stories
at Startup Nation give me the sense that I'm Not Alone.

8. Why is it so scary to go from corporate drone to entrepreneur?
at Escape from Cubicle Nation not only asks the same question I'm asking, it gives me some answers.

9. Entrepreneurship: What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless
on IttyBiz reveals there aren't just a few people out there like me, there's probably millions.

10. Stop Reading Lifehacks!
at Jack of All Blogs gets me off the computer and Taking Action.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Want To Pump You Up!
Getting Gold's to Stand By Their Brand

Gold's Gym emailed me their newsletter the other day. I think this was the first issue, because all I recall getting from them in the past are messages that their workoutwear and gym bags are 15% off. I was surprised. When I opened it, however, I was disappointed. The first article was about celebrity sightings at their gyms across the country. Bruce Springsteen seen hoisting in New Jersey. Lindsay Lohan seen treadmilling in Utah.

I know what they're trying to do here. I can hear someone saying in the head office: "Celebrity always sells. Let's go with celebrities in our gyms for the first item in the newsletter. That'll get us the eyeballs!"

How can Gold's improve their newsletter?

1. Go core.
Gold's, you're not a Hollywood nightclub, the E! channel or a red-carpet runway. You're a gym. People go to work out. Why else would they go? Certainly not to see stars. Just check out the noontime crowd at the facility I frequent, and tell me any of those guys (and girls) care about Al Pacino and Brad Pitt. If you want to feature celebrities, feature your staff and customers.

3. Go local.
You expect your managers and staff to deliver the monthly and quarterly figures to your bottom line - why not let them deliver the content to the customers? Give them more control over that. And if there's no one at a particular gym with the time or talent to create and maintain the newsletter, then contract with one of your customers to deliver the goods.

2. Get pumped.
Give us the best info you can find, and not the same old stretching, menus and bench-press diagrams that everyone else runs. I scrolled down the newsletter and found stuff I've seen everywhere else. Most gyms just pretend to be about fitness, when they're really selling 5 minute abs and thirty second step classes (all to a disco beat.) You've got a huge reputation, pun intended. Be bold. Be funny. Be obnoxious. Be friendly. Be the terminator. Just don't be Bally's.

And check out this post titled Microsoft repositions to kick ass, from Eric Karjaluoto at Ideas - "a blog that invites dialogue on issues relevant to communication designers and brand strategists." Sure, he's talking about a computer behemoth. But he's also talking about all large companies and organizations as he states "Focus on core competencies and articulate your offering plainly and honestly."

Besides, do you really want to brand yourself so close to Lindsay Lohan?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Living in DC: Full Circle

My first real job out of college (back in the Cretaceous era) was with the small and disadvantaged business office at the Department of the Interior. I hated it for three years, mainly because there was no future in government work. But I learned a ton of stuff. Back then, the office served women-owned and minority businesses looking to bid on "set-aside" contracts, according to percentages and all that boring government stuff.

This past Saturday I attended the LGBT Economic Development Summit. Hosted by a slew of DC offices and organizations, this free (yes, FREE!) day of seminars was an eye-opening experience. I learned that, as a gay-owned and DC-resident operated business, I'm eligible to bid on that percentage of contracts "set aside" for minority businesses. Once I've completed a number of certifications, that is.

I'm a minority, in the DC government's view, even though I look like a white anglo-saxon male.

Yet another reason to stay in DC!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How To Get Motivated, When You've Got No Motivation At All

I had one of those mornings earlier this week. You know the kind - when the list of tasks you made the night before looks as appetizing as grey oatmeal, and a trip to the beach is really all you want. Instead of wallowing in unproductive anxiety, I packed my gym bag and went off to exercise.

On the way to the weights, I came up with these 10 motivation hacks that work for me when I'm horrendously unmotivated:

1. Get Moving!
The gym's a great place to work off that nervous energy that's keeping you from concentrating. I go even when part of me yells "I don't want to go to the gym" like a spoiled toddler. Not that I've ever heard a spoiled toddler yell that particular line.

2. Walk to Nowhere!
This works best when time isn't on your side, and it's disarmingly simple: Go outside, and take a walk. Your destination? Someplace a few blocks away where you turn around and head back. The key is to NOT combine this with anything else, like an errand or a trip to the store - there's no multitasking allowed. I allow my mind to wander while I walk, and I usually come up with a firm plan for tackling work by the time I get back.
different from exercise

3. Send a Gutsy Email/Make a Gutsy Phone Call!
Sometimes fear is what makes us want to run off on holiday. If it's fear about making a (self-perceived) difficult phone call, I find that the best thing to do is Just Make It. Email works fine too. Jot a few (2-3) lines for how you'd like to open the conversation. After the call, I always feel like I've really accomplished something, which gets the flywheel going.

4. Declutter and Clean!
I grew up in a small house with a somewhat large family, so I'm used to turning off outside stimuli. I can deal with a ton of clutter, but I know it can be distracting. Organizing my desk, getting a bunch of papers filed, and putting stuff away can achieve the equivalent of a Zen garden. My secret to getting it done in record time: if I pick something up, I have to do something with it - like put it away.

5. Play Some Awesome Tunes!
I listen to DC's only classical music station, but it's background noise. They don't play much other than the usual Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. They aren't my guys, so when I need to get my brain working, I put on Ravel or Debussy. Something about those two fires synapses in my brain. Look for the kind of of music that does the same for you.

6. Go to Another Room and Accomplish Something Physical!
The main objective here is to get away from the computer for a short time, but not so long that you lose all sense of industry. Since I work at home, I'll go to the kitchen and do some cleaning there. Or take out the garbage.

7. Write Down What Would Motivate You!
If I'm not motivated, that means my brain's lacking. So I ask it "what the heck WOULD motivate you?" I find I'll come up with very expensive options, ones that not only demand a high outlay of money but take some time to plan and achieve. This is a great way to develop a long-term goal list.

8. Plan for Tomorrow!
A "To-Do" list works great for me. It works even better if I've developed it the day before. Timothy Ferris advocates for lists in The Four Hour Work Week. I just have to get motivated to develop the list.

9. Take a Break Every Hour!
This works best as a preventive measure. No matter what I'm doing, if I've slogged at it for an hour, I take a break. Even if I've worked up a bunch of steam on whatever I'm doing.

10. Give Up and Give In!
Take a nap. Watch tv. Feign and headache and go home. Sometimes what works is playing hooky. Especially if, at some point after I've thrown in the towel, I come up with a To-Do list for tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Video Resume - A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come?

I've monitored some blogging chat recently discussing the pros and cons of video resumes...

Dan Schawbel, on his Personal Branding Blog sees them in our future.

While Nick Corcodilos over at Ask the Headhunter finds them wrong on a number of levels.

The ease and relative low cost with which people today can shoot, edit and post video leads many of us to believe that the traditional text, listing our experience and expertise, will soon turn give way to us, in head shots, communicating the same information.

Although, there are some who posit that "Web Video Is Neither Cheap Nor Easy."

And there are others who claim they can produce video while driving their car.

Me? I side with the Headhunter. And I think we're talking about what Seth Godin calls a Meatball Sundae. Although there might be a lucrative business in coaching job seekers to not only look good on camera, but also effectively show how they should be chosen for the job.

Still, it's going to be tough keeping resume reviewers from ejecting the DVD after five seconds of viewing...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

10 Reasons for Why I Stay In Dupont Circle

Sometimes I wonder why I continue to live in this overpriced neighborhood. I've been in my condo 15 years, and in the 'hood for 18, and I'm jonesing for a different lifestyle. Or so I tell myself. I find it tougher and tougher to battle winters here, not because they've gotten worse, but because I've lost my patience with being cold. A post on Brazen Careerist got me jotting down notes on why I stay here, and I've come up with the following 10 reasons:

1. Low mortgage payment. I bought my condo when you could get a great place for under 100K.

2. WalkScore of 97. I don't think there are many other places in this country that can top that. Although it does contribute to the still-high condo prices here.

3. Fast access to great bike trails. And stretches of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park are closed to cars on the weekends.

4. Family nearby.
Close enough to visit without traveling all day, but far enough so that they don't drop in unexpectedly.

5. Escape of urban escape. A few minutes of driving and it looks like you're out of the city altogether.

6. Close to beaches. Rehoboth is only a three-hour drive away.

7. The gay thing. Although I have seen more and more young (straight) couples with strollers (and stroller inhabitants) over the past year, 17th Street is still home to four gay bars in two blocks, and the Dupont Circle area is still known for its acceptance of "alternative lifestyles." Those of us who have been here a long time refer to the hood as the ghetto. I've gotten comfortable here, although we can still experience gay bashing nearby.

8. Close to the Metro. I'm about three blocks (or so) from the subway system.

9. Nearby friends. It's just a quick hike to where we all hang out.

10. Tons of employment possibilities. Tons.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Antarctica, Part 2
(Click here for what I previously wrote on this subject.)

The New York Times kept me in my seat on Sunday when they took advantage of "new media" capabilities with their arts section article "Unraveling the Knots of the 12 Tones."

Author/critic Anthony Tommasini contributed a video in which he performed examples of spiky, unpopular 12-tone music. Although his presentation may not be fully comprehensible by the general public (he uses words like "tonic" without much of an explanation), he is effective at showing us how the revolutionary 12-tone composition method pops up where we least expect it, and convinces us that we don't complain all that much when it does.

This is a great way to provide us readers with a better understanding of the article. However, the Times probably won't go as far as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which actually provides links to YouTube videos supporting articles.

The Milwaukee example shows us that newspapers can add even more interactivity and cross-media resources. In producing their own video, the Times keeps us on their site, but probably runs into time constraints which keeps them from providing even more to readers. (Anthony sits at a piano the entire time you watch the video.) It's quicker and cheaper to research and provide links to a greater number of media sources than it is to produce a video on one's own. For instance, I found this video on YouTube, which is a great companion piece to the Times article.

And I hope no one thinks I'm stalking Chris Brogan when I suggest you see what he has to say and link to on the topic of "finding information."

Of course, there's nothing stopping us from going to YouTube ourselves and doing the research. So, we're going to leave the Times's site anyway. But it makes me wonder when the Times will realize it's more than a newspaper and a media creator?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Improving Public Radio Fundraising at the Local Local Level

I'm listening to WETA-FM's pledge drive - that week of programming public broadcasting inflicts on us in order to stay in business. The station's promised a shorter drive this time, and is playing more music during it than they used to. Every so often they include a story from one of their announcers, reminiscing about how they discovered and grew to love "classical" music. And I wonder:

Why doesn't the station catch and air listener stories?

The idea grew out of Chris Brogan's post on creating microcontent and hyperlocal media. I thought it might be easy for WETA-FM to set up a blog* to encourage listener's stories. During the fund drive they could scan the blog comments for stories, and promise to include some of them on the air. In fact, they could say "If you make a donation at any amount, and you've contributed a story to our blog comment section, we might just read it on the air." They could continue by contacting a few of the best storytellers and have them record their tales for broadcast after the fund drive is completed.

They're not doing that, though. They're not even reading contributor names on the air. Over the past weekend I heard one of the announcers mention "Of course, we can't read names on the air, because that would take too much time."

I tried to analyze exactly why WETA is not using "new media" to improve their fundraising, and I came up with these possible explanations:

they tried it once before, but the return on investment was nil;
they were still discussing it by the start of the fundraising drive;
they haven't thought of doing it;
they thought of it but weren't interested;
they came up with the idea but found too many internal controls to make it work.

I think it has a whole lot to do with the fact that so many people still don't know how to use "new media" and Web 2.0 applications, much less figure out how to make them work the micro, or neighborhood, level. However, I just heard the WETA-FM announcers mention that many people are pledging money online, at the WETA Web site. Now whether or not that's a sales tactic, I don't know.
*or some other Web 2.0 online application.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

There's a phrase I've had trouble understanding for most of my life: Hard Work. I hear it all the time, as in "she worked really hard to get where she is today." And there probably are very few of us who haven't received the exhortation "you're going to have to buckle down and work hard on this."

In its many guises, the term Hard Work always conjures for me the same mental scenes: shoveling dirt out of a ditch, slamming rocks with pickaxes, and human pack mules transporting heavy loads. What's missing from this picture? Any sense of joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and excitement.

But they must be there - otherwise, actors would not wait tables to finance their lives while going on auditions, mathematicians wouldn't continue to solve Fermat's last theorem, college students would stop registering for classes, and I would have never started writing a single play.

It's almost like we use the term Hard Work as a major plot point in a simple story about our lives. That story is really a fairy tale, consisting of the same motifs as Cinderella's resume: cleaned ashes from kitchen fireplace, kept physical order in country cottage, responded to customer's multiple requests (i.e., stepmother and stepsisters). We think that by grunting through life, we'll be assured our own versions of the pumpkin coach, couture gown, and glass shoes, not to mention marriage to the handsome prince.

I mean, Cinderella sure didn't get what she wanted by working. Someone came along and gave it to her, because she was downtrodden. Pretty much the same way that Extreme Home Makeover gives a custom-designed house to a "worthy" family down on its luck.

Truth be told, simple "hard work" is no guarantee of success - not even if you term success in a variety of creative ways, and not just by the barometer of money. I've come to believe that what most of us mean by Hard Work is really Work That Takes A Long Long Time - And Then We Get The Reward.

The tales we've been told are wrong, and it's tough to give them up.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

But I Don't Want To Go To Antarctica

I'm currently wondering why the big newspapers (The Times, The Post) still don't hyperlink within their online articles. My guess is that they don't want people leaving their sites, a last-stand effort to regain what they've lost in having to provide so much of their content online for free. But that's just my guess.

This morning I read a Times music review online - "Musical Mysticism in a Search for God" - and once again I thought "it would help to have a link to somewhere I could hear a snippet of this music, so I could better understand what the writer is talking about." I found some samples of Messiaen's organ music on, and you can download individual pieces to your personal-listening device. Just think of what the Times could do if they recast themselves through the ability to hyperlink and started to guide us to a greater understanding, instead of keeping the doors closed.

I think of hyperlinks as wormholes, a doorways taking us from one Web site (kind of like a planet) to another. Online, newspapers seem to be ignoring these wormhole possiblities, or limiting themselves severely to building a wormhole from the bedroom to the bath. This morning, The Washington Post hyperlinked very oddly in the theater review titled "'I Love You': Out of Tune With the Times." Instead of linking to the theatre's Web site (where the play is onstage) in the text, they make you scroll "below the fold" to the end of the article. What makes it above the fold? A link to articles on Antarctica, which has an extremely tenuous relationship to the review. Check it out and see what I mean.

Maybe a better wormhole would be from The Washington Post to the official Web site of the Off-Broadway production.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How Personal Trainers Can Create the Remarkable
A buzzword currently circulating among marketing gurus on the Web is "remarkable." That is, what is it that you're doing which causes your audience, clients, customers, whoever to talk about you (and not like a dog.) An interesting post over on Remarkable Communication describes two hot dog street vendors, and made me start to look at this whole "remarkability" factor in my environment.

Of course, it's easier to talk about other people's remarkability rather than one's own. So I'll write a bit about an idea I had today: How personal trainers can increase their remarkability.

The idea's blindingly simple. Every so often - at least once a week - email your clients individually. Find something remarkable in their previous workout session and tell them about it. Guide them to an interesting article online. Encourage them to keep up with their diet/nutrition plan. The key is to come up with something encouraging and positive for each client - and not a canned missive that they'll trash without a moment's thought. Tailor the message to the person.

This may seem to be a lot of work, but it can be done with some planning* - and jotting down notes on the client's chart.

I worked out all last year with personal trainers, and none of them were shy, reserved, quiet and self-effacing people. They were fun, energetic, supportive, exciting people. None of them, though, made a point of extending their presence into my thoughts once I left the gym.

My idea would start them down the road to remarkability, since I don't think many trainers do this.

After they get comfortable with this idea, then they can start blogging! (Hot Dog Impresario Biker Jim has a blog - after all, people will talk about anything.)
*Whenever I think of planning, that Monty Python sketch (Episode 4) about "defending yourself against attack from fresh fruit" comes to mind:

Self-Defense Instructor (SDI): Come on, come on you miserable little man. Come at me then...come on, do your worst, you worm.

(third man runs at him; the SDI steps back and pulls a lever; a sixteen-ton weight falls upon the man)

SDI: If anyone ever attacks you with a raspberry, simply pull the lever...and a sixteen-ton weight will drop on his head. I learnt that in Malaya.

Student: Suppose you haven't got a sixteen-ton weight?

SDI: Well that's planning, isn't it?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Post-Cluetrain Rant

I finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto yesterday. It's close to a decade now since it was first written, and I think it still has tons to say about our current and future online and face-to-face communications.

I caused me, also, to go on a rant. Here are my 12 theses in the spirit of Cluetrain's 95. Some of them carry explanations, while others sit there enigmatically. But I'd be please to explain my thinking to anyone who wants to start a conversation! And I will most likely expand on some of them in the days ahead:

Fluorescent lighting has to be the worst lighting in the world, and shouldn't be used anywhere except in hospitals and maybe restaurant kitchens.

CEOs of store chains: Look at your stores. Look at them!!!!

Do customers want to get in and out of stores quickly because they've got something else to do, or because the store's environment sucks?

CEOs of store chains: Look at your employees. Look at them!!!!

Everything, and I mean everything, speaks.

Retail, organization, and government leadership: Why aren't you worried about your the health of your employees and their families?

We have too much stuff. There are people in this country that can't get out of bed because they are so overweight. We have reformulated our plastic trash bags to stretch because we have too much trash to throw away.

Commerce: Surprise me. But not as I'm about to leave the store. And not as I'm walking in. Start with my "snail" mail box.

How dare you tell me I'm not worthy. How dare you.

Whatever you're doing, you're probably beating your head against a brick wall. You can stop. Now.

There's no excuse for dismal government office environments at any scale.

Nobody in the U.S. is more than an hour away from a better, more tranquil, more beautiful environment.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not Just Small, But Tiny

A few days ago I mentioned I haven't gone to the gym for two months. Last night, something dawned on me. No, it wasn't the possibility that I'll turn into a pile of mush if I continue to avoid exercise. What struck me was the fact that my gym doesn't seem to care.

No one working there takes a look at the membership roster to see if any members have been chronically absent. Or if they do, they file the info somewhere in the back of their mind, and take no action.

It's not that I require attention from my gym in order to go back. But I think they're missing an opportunity to market their members. With today's connectivity and the easy use of their database, my gym could send me an email asking about my well-being. We're talking a few minutes of somebody's time here, time that could be used to foster a connection.

If you think about it for a few minutes, you'll find that there are just a few reasons why gym members might miss a month or two of workouts. It could be:

Work demanding more time;
Injury or illness laying a member up;
A job change forcing the member to a new location;
Loss of interest in exercise or that particular gym.

Whatever the reason, my gym is missing out on an opportunity to engage me more fully as a member. Of course, the real reason gyms don't consider this an opportunity because they can't see a direct line from their email message to money in their pocket.

As traditional "mass media" ways of thinking are undercut and forced to evolve through our massive online connectivity options, businesses are being called on the carpet because they continue to think BIG. I see my gym's opportunity, noted above, as a way of acting tiny, rather parallel to the thinking I read this morning in an interesting post at Brand Autopsy titled How Tiffany Saved Michael’s Life. Thanks to John Moore for helping me frame my thinking in this way.

For my gym, and many others, marketing these days really reduces down to small, miniscule, seemingly-unimportant actions that could combine to create huge results.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How Many Marketers Does It Take To...

A movie crew is filming a commercial on my block today. They've got the street blocked off, and although today's a bright, blue-sky kind of day in DC, they've also got fill lights and giant reflectors aimed on the actors. It's a familiar sight to anyone who's ever stumbled upon this kind of setup. But what struck me today as I walked past, was how many people it took just to film an SUV parallel parking in front of a restaurant!

There had to be about 15 crew members (including directors, etc.) wearing headsets, focused on video screens, and holding those puffy boom mics. All for a car.

As I walked past, I heard the director (I'm guessing who that was) say "OK, cue the background!" What he meant were the actors, the performers sitting at the cafe tables. Subservient to the car. Add another 9 people involved in the whole setup.

But I can't forget the crowd of people who stopped and watched. When I found out there wasn't a celebrity involved, I really wondered why anyone would take time out of their day just to watch a camera crew setup a shot over, and over, and over again.

P.S. Hank's Oyster Bar at 17th and Q was the restaurant. I thought it was odd that their Web site hasn't got a single picture of the establishment. Evidently, it's picturesque enough for a boring car commercial, but not enough for the proprietor's site!