MARKETING BRILLIANCE

  • THE CHOICE BETWEEN COMFORT AND DISCONTENT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    You have a decision to make in every aspect of your life….become comfortable with a situation or use the power of discontent to change things.

    While it’s easy to be discontent with many aspects of life, we are all bogged down by the scarcity of resources:  money, time, attention, skill/ability, etc… and can only change so much about any given circumstance.  Truly successful people wield discontent as a weapon against big, meaningful obstacles in the way of their purpose while finding ways to grow comfortable with the aspects that have little to do with the impact of that goal.

    Steve Jobs was discontent with the complexity of the personal computer and created the Apple computer (and later his discontent with the music industry, the wireless phone industry and the mobile computing industry was responsible for the creation of product lines enjoyed by millions).

    He learned to become comfortable in his physical appearance, famously wearing the same black mock turtle neck, Levi’s 501 blue jeans and New Balance tennis shoes because (like Albert Einstein) he “didn’t want to waste brain power” on getting dressed every day.

    So what’s the proper balance between a “state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint” and “dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances”?

    Too much discontent

    Too Much Discontent:

    Discontent is a powerful tool but applying it to too many things in your life is dangerous.  As noted earlier, you have finite resources and those resources are necessary in tackling discontent.  We all have fell victim to tackling too many projects at once, your situation in life is the same.  A focus on everything will change nothing.

    Beside that…people who are overly discontent are cynical and no fun to be around.

     

    Too Much Comfort


    Too Much Comfort…No Discontent:

    Being comfortable with a situation is an amazing skill.  I know a lot of people who are completely satisfied with aspects of life and they’re fun to be around.  People with no discontent may come off as lethargic or lazy.  There is a bigger threat to becoming overly comfortable with a situation, especially in a rapidly changing environment.

    People who are overly comfortable are susceptible to change and won’t be able to adapt.

    comfort fig 3

    Focused Discontent, Comfort in what you can’t control:

    Ideally you want to focus those precious resources of time, attention, money, skill, etc…  Find BIG, meaningful problems in the way of your purpose in life and apply your ability to be discontent to those.  The fewer things in life that earn your discontent will make them relatively more painful and much easier to find a solution.

    Learn to be comfortable with the things you can’t control.  Accepting that for now will be liberating (until you have the power….and resources to fix them).

     

    I wrestle with this spectrum daily….should I be discontent with my current “small” home or can I be comfortable here for a few more years while investing resources into a risky business venture?  Should I continue to grow comfortable in my current field so I can settle down to focus on a family?  Should I be discontent with the fact that I don’t know how to write code and be comfortable with my family situation for now?

    There is not a secret formula and the trade-offs aren’t always clear.  However, you do have a choice to make in the balancing act between comfort and discontent.

     

  • GOING BACK ON YOUR WORD…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    …is ok as long as you recognize that you were wrong and you intend to make things right.

    Last Saturday I received a strange note from Rob Samuels (the COO of Maker’s Mark and grandson of the founder) stating that they were going to reduce the ABV in their bourbon to meet a shortage in supply and a frenzy ensued.  I posted my opinions on this blog…in summary, bone-headed move that cheapened the brand and pandered to price sensitive non-customers at the sacrifice of the brand advocates.

    This weekend I received a very heartfelt apology from the same man.  It was honest and clear:

    Dear Ambassador,
     
    Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

    You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

    So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

    The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we’ll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

    Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

    We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

    As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.

    Sincerely,

    Rob Samuels
    Chief Operating Officer,
    Ambassador-in-Chief

    Admitting you were wrong is always the hardest part…taking action to correct it is even more difficult.  The politicians have even come up with a word for it, calling people who have the gall to change their position “Flip-Floppers.”

    When you’re wrong and you know it; bite the bullet, take action and hope everyone forgives you.  If you’ve created a fan base of ambassadors like Maker’s Mark…chances are they will.

    Contrast the responses on a Maker’s Mark Facebook post last Saturday vs. their Facebook Post 1 week later (after the apology).

    While this entire mess could have been easily avoided I toast you Mr. Samuels for coming around to your senses.  Thanks for listening.

  • SHORT-TERM SOLUTION OR LONG-TERM PROMISE?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    My brother sent me a slightly panicked text message tonight around the time I got home from work this evening:

    “Maker’s Mark news = crazy”

    Being a big supporter of the brand and a “Maker’s Mark Ambassador” I had to respond…because I hadn’t heard anything.

    “What?”

    Ryan proceeded to tell me that they were reducing the alcohol content by 6.6% (literally watering their Bourbon down to 84 proof from 90) to meet a shortage in supply/increase in demand (something that’s hard to forecast given the average Bourbon sits in an oak barrel for 5-6 years before hitting the shelves)

    In all honesty, “watering down” Bourbon isn’t that big of a deal….in fact, Maker’s Mark comes out of the barrels after a 5-6 year slumber at around 110-130 proof and is immediately cut with water to get to that drinkable 90 proof mark.

    The average Bourbon drinker won’t notice the change…moving from 90 to 84 proof probably won’t affect the taste in a material manner and at 42% alcohol by volume, it’s still going to get the job done.  Jack Daniels lowered their proof back in 2004 to 80 for almost the same reason so there’s already a precedent for it.  I would even wager to guess that if it wasn’t for the press coverage Maker’s Mark is receiving, you probably wouldn’t have ever known the difference.

    So why is it such a big deal?

    Maker’s Mark made a promise to consumers over the last 6 decades of distilling Bourbon…in fact, it’s written on the side of their barrel:

    “Maker’s Mark is America’s only handmade Bourbon whisky – never mass produced.  Each individual batch is less than 19 barrels and this small quantity means we can be choosy about everything we use and everything we do to craft our whisky.  That’s why we use the old-style sour-mash method.  We start each new batch fermentation by using a little of the last, resulting in a more consistent product.  We’re proud of our unique and full flavored handmade Bourbon, and so we add our Maker’s Mark “S IV” to each bottle.  Enjoy.”

    Pay close attention to the last line “We’re proud of our unique and full flavored handmade Bourbon.”

    Everything they do has been in the name of that pride…from the hand dipped bottles, the amazing copper pot stills, a double distillation process (not because it’s easier, but because it’s better), the awesome ambassador program, the beautiful historical landmark distillery and the fact that Bill Samuels (the now retired son of the founder and father of the current CEO) takes time to shake visitor’s hands and sign bottles for people who make the trek to the distillery.

    Pride in their product.

    Maker’s Mark had a choice to make in light of this impending shortage:

    1. Raise prices…curb demand with a price increase
    2. Compromise your product…open barrels that aren’t fully matured, blend with other Bourbons or….stretch your current run with water

     

    There’s probably not a good solution to this problem…it just sucks.  But of all the choices they could make, they went with the one which had the most potential to alienate their strongest asset.  The not-so-average Maker’s Mark enthusiast.

    In picking #1 you lose the short term battle for acquisition on the grocery store shelves over price.  The battle for the customers you DON’T HAVE  YET.

    In picking #2 you lose the long term battle for advocacy, personal endorsement and standing up for what your brand has believed now going on 60 years.  You lose the battle for the customers who already believed in you and were fighting in the trenches daily to bring more people to your side.

    As a Maker’s Mark ambassador, Bourbon enthusiast and marketer, this is a tough pill to swallow.  Fortunately, I have one remaining bottle of the current run…I’ll do my best to enjoy it but most likely be in the market for a new favorite Bourbon.  It’s an unfortunate move…but one consumers are becoming ever more used to with public shareholders and wall street investors putting more and more short term pressure on the companies and brands we love.

     

  • EXECUTION WINS OVER IDEATION

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Other Cool Stuff...

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    I had breakfast today with a really (REALLY) insightful friend.  He shared many pieces of wisdom, but there was one interesting theory that stuck with me.

    This friend had a lot of experience working for startups (before it was cool) and was involved in a lot of the day to day business decisions.  Years back, a venture capitalist told him about the 25-5-1 rule while talking about the viability of his great new idea:

    25 people already had your idea in Silicon Valley, 5 came up with it in Austin and 1 had the same idea right here in Kansas City.  What makes you any different from them?

    It was a validating moment, I too believe ideas are cheap commodities.  In fact, I think that’s why I connected so well to the GoDaddy.co commercial during the Superbowl:

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE6ugHoIB_Q

     

    Yes, you’re unique….you’re an amazing individual…your mom thinks you’re hilarious…but your next great idea has been dreamt up by a number of other people.  Facebook wasn’t the first social network, Google wasn’t the first search engine, Southwest wasn’t the first airline, Henry Ford didn’t make the first automobile.

    All of these companies had the novel idea but also found a way to get it done in a manner that their competitors couldn’t touch.  They built ideas that spread virally, they unlocked sustainable/revolutionary business models, they found ways to compete with non-traditional competitors, they developed a more efficient production system.  Most importantly……..they EXECUTED.

    Don’t be the guys on the couch, and more importantly don’t fool yourself into believing simply registering a web domain will get you to the finish line.  Build a unique and sustainable vision, EXECUTE where others are afraid to….earn that Sky Waitress.

  • 5 REASONS YOU [YES, YOU] SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN A HACKATHON

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech, Other Cool Stuff...

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    This past Thursday/Friday I had the honor of joining a team in a company hosted hackathon.

    Quick vocabulary check (because many have asked)…I would define a hackathon as a set amount of time where a group of people work together to solve a problem with the goal of bringing a viable solution together before the end of the contest.  

    While the term hackathon could include any contest where you are hacking a solution together, most focus on software design (Facebook’s “Like” button was the product of an internal hackathon, the super secret algorithm that decides what Netflix movie you should watch next was a during an open hackathon and one of my favorite success stories, “GroupMe” was created at Techcruch Disrupt – and later acquired by Skype/Microsoft for more than $40M).

    The rules for Sprint’s hackathon were fairly simple:  1 – It had to be a mobile app, 2 – it had to be related to Sprint, 3 – it had to be marketable and make money.

    I had always heard about hackathons and was excited that Sprint was going to host one internally…  I never thought anyone would see value in bringing a marketer into the group, but to my surprise I was asked to join a team!  On Wednesday, the four of us (two developers, one designer/UX expert and me, a marketer) sat down for 30 minutes and brainstormed.  We left there with a good idea of each other’s capabilities and I went to work on what I believed to be some important pre-work…. defining the problem statement and the current marketplace.

    The contest started Thursday afternoon at 2pm and the sound of keyboard clicking filled the room.  We huddled as a team to quickly review some of my research and came to a consensus on the problem statement, the target customer, the current solutions for that problem in the market, and what we believed to be some blue ocean/white space to exploit.

    Our pre-work paid off, we were extremely focused and full of purpose.  Everyone knew their role (mine at times was simply filling cups of coffee), we communicated well and executed on the shared vision.  24 hours later (after a 4-5 hour nap back at our respective homes) we had a solution that looked a lot like what we set out to create.  As a cherry on the top of our beautifully executed plan, we also won the contest with an app that looked/worked great, had a realistic business model and most importantly, solved a real problem.

    So, what did I learn?  Aside from the fact that I probably only utilize about 1% of my Mac Book’s computing power…I witnessed a few things about the hackathon concept that can be applied to any problem solving situation in ANY functional organization:

    1)  Solve real problems – This is the most important component of them all.  If you’re not working on something that matters then find something that does.  We picked a problem that we were all passionate about and would be meaningful to Sprint.  By 2:15am, we were all ready for bed.  We took off from the campus and went home for some shut-eye.  By 6:30am, I was tossing and turning in my bed, obsessing over our project.  I jumped out of bed, hit the shower and headed back to work.  I wasn’t too surprised to find that my whole team was already there, back to work on our solution…they were personally invested and believed in the cause.

    2)  Make friends with people who can do stuff you can’t – I was flat-out, blown-away by the skills of my teammates.  We were well balanced and everyone learned something from someone else on the team.  There are people in your company right now with some amazing talents (you’re one of them).  Some are creative, some have analytical skills, some are fantastic communicators, some can write strings of code that turn into apps.  Until you get them out of their individual corners (or in my case…gigantic organizational structures), onto a diverse team, they’re not really working for you…

    3)  Set a deadline – The pressure of a 24 hour contest was palpable…with 6 minutes to go, our two developers were merging the final code together (the designer and I exchanged nervous glances behind their backs).  With total exhaustion setting in, they were both dead set on delivering their piece of the puzzle…they were not going to let the team down.  With a short period of time, everyone is forced to put everything they have into the problem…and if they’re not, maybe they don’t have your best interests at heart when the pressure is on during normal business hours.

    4)  Learn to Prioritize – Because of the deadline, we were forced to leave some components on the cutting room floor…and probably for the best.  Through the normal course of business, we’re all tempted to analyze the data one more time, add a couple more slides, slide in one more disclaimer, pour over the details to the point where nothing makes sense any more.  The short deadline forces you to trim the fat and dump the details that aren’t critical to success….what you may find is the solution didn’t need any of that stuff to ship in the first place.

    5)  Celebrate Progress – About 9 hours into the contest, we had our first look at the app running on a phone.  The user interface hadn’t been added yet, the buttons were boxy and the text wasn’t in the right spot….but it worked!!!  We all stood up from our huddled position around the phone and celebrated with high-fives and cheers [as though we just landed a man on the moon].  We can get beat down from time to time about the status of a project or how things aren’t going the way we want.  Find a way to celebrate what’s working.  Start evaluating what’s not.  You might be fretting over one of those details that should be left on the cutting room floor.

     We took something from concept to a working reality in less than 24 hours.  With a few more hours worth of work, we can put our app into the Google Play store and get some real-time feedback from actual users.  Had we set out to tackle this same problem through the normal process it would have taken months and most likely never launched.

    I’m a believer that the hackathon framework should be re-purposed for all kinds of problem solving exercises.  Is your business looking for new market opportunities?  Want some ideas on brand strategies?  Looking for innovative programs to build a better corporate culture?  Putting a well-rounded team of individuals on a hilariously short deadline to solve a real business problem could be the answer to what is keeping you up at night.

  • ARE YOU RELYING ON A LAUGH TRACK?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    Tonight, my wife and I were cooking dinner and the TV was on in the background.  It was tuned to some corny CBS show and without even hearing the punchline, the laugh track rang out above the rest of the ambient noise.  With my back toward the TV, the laughs sounded incredibly fake….watching the show for a few seconds they were timed perfectly, telling me when something was “funny” and abruptly ending so the actor could launch into the next contrived punchline.

    This practice dates back to the 50’s and 60’s with network executives at the time claiming that the absence of the canned laughter would mean that viewers “wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not the show was a comedy,” rendering shows without laugh tracks a failure.

    Flash forward to modern day TV and shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchords, The Office, 30 Rock, Always Sunny, The League, East Bound & Down and Modern Family have forced comedy to stand on its own….allowing viewers to enjoy punchlines as they flow naturally through the show.  In fact, over the last 5 years, only 3 shows with laugh tracks have been nominated for an Emmy in the  “Outstanding Comedy Series” category….none of them won.

    The trend in comedy TV has clearly shifted…the shows have to be funny.  Viewers are savvy, laugh tracks are insulting.

    The same thing goes for your company…you need to solve a real problem and deliver a rock solid solution.  If you’re not, simply promoting it more won’t get you anywhere.  Customer’s can’t be tricked by fancy advertisements, empty promises or shoddy products.

    Marketing ≠ Advertising

  • I HAVE SOME READING TO DO…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing Brilliance

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    For those of you who know me, you know that I’m a Seth Godin disciple….  Purple Cow is literally my favorite book I’ve ever read and I can credit almost all of my ideology in the art of marketing to his books, daily blog posts and hundreds of other authors and/or small business owners who he’s introduced.

    Earlier this year he announced that he was writing a new book called the Icarus Deception and it was coming to market in a unique way….as a Kickstarter project.  Being a part of the Seth Godin “Tribe”, it was a no brainer to make a contribution.  He promised something remarkable….LITERALLY the largest book ever printed….and he delivered.  Because I’m a nerd, I did a really crude “un-boxing video.”  You’ll hear me grunting as I pick this book up….because it is SERIOUSLY heavy.

    Coming from a man of such concise thoughts, I knew this book would be packed full of wisdom and had no issues putting down the cash to be one of the few, proud owners.  Stand by for the full reviews, but as a loyal reader of his blog since about 2004, I’ll vouch for the content inside of the big book….there’s too much marketing genius in here for on mortal soul to pump out in a life time, I don’t know how he does it.

    If you didn’t make the initial Kickstarter campaign, I would highly recommend picking up the bundle of his 3 newest books in an easy to purchase bundle…if you don’t want to spend money, go start reading his blog……NOW!

  • EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LEADERSHIP….I LEARNED FROM THE WORLDS OF FUN GAMES DEPARTMENT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Leadership, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Other Cool Stuff...

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    I was coming home from Omaha on a Sunday evening a few months ago, jamming to NPR.  This American Life was about to start and Ira Glass hopped on the mic with a preview of the evening’s story.  He mentioned that this episode would be about Amusement Parks; to my delight his first stop was Worlds of Fun in Kansas City to talk with the Manager of Games, Cole Lindbergh.

    I won’t do the story justice in writing….so you should go listen to it when you have 30 minutes free.  Don’t have time right now?  I’ll do my best to sum it up:

    Cole Lindbergh is a 26 year old who started in the games department when he was 14 (you know…ring toss, pop a shot, guess your height, weight, age, win amazing plush prizes….games).  Since that time, he’s worked his way up the ladder to manager of the entire games department, responsible for more than 120 teenagers every summer.  He’s energetic (some would say silly), he loves what he does, he accomplishes large goals and most importantly he gets the teenagers around him to do the same thing.

    Needless to say, the story really got to me, producing one of those infamous “driveway moments” that NPR is known for.  I sat in my car listening to Ira and Cole discuss empowerment, motivation and the challenge of leading millennials.  Ira at one point noted that “it’s rare to witness anyone so happily great at any job.”

    The story ended and I shut off my car, closed the garage door and went straight for my computer.  I found the Worlds of Fun Games department Facebook page and sent a message about how proud I was of Cole and how well he represented Kansas City.  It took a few months, but I jumped at the chance to connect with him one on one (I offered to buy him some tacos….he should have charged me WAY more).

    Through a conversation that lasted well over 90 minutes, I learned a lot…a better investment than some of the business books I’ve read.  For most of us, Leadership is a trait you have to practice and hone over time.  Leadership is part of Cole’s fiber, deeply embedded from the days of helping his father unload cargo from airplanes when he was only 12 yrs old (2 years from officially entering the workforce himself).  He has a drive and work ethic you don’t see often….and it’s viral, he even put a spring in my step as I headed back to the office.

    During our conversation, I heard 3 common themes that I would attribute to his success:

    1) Set a Mission/Vision/Objectives

      • This sounds simple in nature, but it’s often overlooked.  Providing your crew with a North Star (not necessarily an instruction manual) is critical to success.  Empower your team members to do the same…there should never be a question as to the mission (team or individual).

     

    2) Invert the Org Chart

      • Fight for your team, not with them.  If things aren’t going in the right direction, it’s because you failed on #1, not that they have bad ideas.
      • Cole walks the park every day, takes an interest in every single one of his employees (120+ of them…), surely you can do the same.  Innovation is happening on the front line and Cole had an example where an idea from a 16 yr old working the ring toss came to him with an idea that DOUBLED the revenue for the game she was working on.

     

    3) Attitude is Infectious

      • Cole has drive and exudes work ethic, enthusiasm and passion…he even mentioned that he “would never work for someone who doesn’t want to have fun.”  It’s no wonder his employees emulate his attitude, take part in zany training videos and come back year after year to work with him.
      • Because of the seasonal nature of amusement parks, he has to rehire all 120+ people each year.  He boasts a retention rate better than 75% year over year (meaning he only has to fill and train a fraction of new employees each year…most of them coming through referrals)
      • His current lead team has an average tenure of 4-6 years (ridiculous when you consider the fact that these supervisors are just over 20 years old).  There’s something about Worlds of Fun they like….I’ll give you one guess.

     

    I have no idea what the future holds for Cole, but I can guarantee you this….he’s going to continue to be successful (and hopefully keep in touch with me as he enjoys that success).  His next challenge will be to take a step back and realize that he’s a lot more than a games manager at Worlds of Fun, his skill set transcends what he’s doing today.

    My advice to his current employer, find a place for this kid….he’s got the right stuff.  Put him in a place where his leadership skills can be of most value to you.  If you wait a few more years….you wont be able to afford him because someone else will.

    Keep it up Cole!

    Follow him on Twitter:  @colelindbergh 

  • MORNING HAPPY HOUR

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing Brilliance

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    My friend Mark is like Oprah (if Oprah were tall with a red faux-hawk and beard)….he’s always on top of the latest trends and helps those around him discover things they would like.  He has what the Japanese (and Seth Godin) refer to as Otaku.  His Otaku has shifted over the years of our friendship from music, to beer, at one time fine dining and cocktails….  Lately, he’s been into marketing theory, tapping experts like Simon Sinek, Gary Vaynerchuk, Steve Jobs and more.  Like the obsessions that came before, he’s jumped in head first.

    A couple months ago he came to me with an idea.  It wasn’t just a process improvement or a cool new app that he had discovered….he wanted to share this Otaku with his circle of influence (people he’s responsible for leading but don’t report to him).  Like any corporation, we have no shortage of meetings where we shove people in a room and attempt to make decisions.  He saw a need to get people together in a casual manner to simply share ideas, enjoy each-other’s company and potentially learn something from experts in our trade.

    Out of this concept, he created a “bizarro happy hour” where we drink coffee instead of beer, eat doughnuts instead of hot wings and trade inspirational ideas rather than war stories from the week.  He calls it the “Morning Happy Hour”

    What you need for your own Morning Happy Hour:

    • One Hour (we prefer Monday morning…everyone’s really fresh from the weekend and the momentum carries through the week)
    • A gathering space (we use a room with a projector and a decent sound system so we can easily watch a quick video)
    • A short, inspirational video (TED is a fantastic place to start….thousands of inspirational stories in under 16 minutes)
    • Your circle of influence (Try to limit the size…it’s best when everyone has a chance to talk.  When the room gets crowded, encourage others to start their own happy hour!)
    • Coffee and breakfast items (always a good draw)

     

    Today’s session was fantastic…we heard from GE’s CMO, Beth Comstock, about innovation and instigation.  She had three tips for bringing innovative ideas to the foreground in a large company (GE has 45K engineers and 5K marketers….I’m sure these same 3 steps will apply in companies of all sizes):

    1. Tell a good story
    2. Come with a little insight/research
    3. Passion always wins

     

    I immediately posted these three rules in our shared workspace and it’s been fun to hear the discussion around the office today.  Are you simply managing your day to day tasks or is there something you can do to inspire your circle of influence on a regular basis?

  • IS TECHNOLOGY GIVING YOU MORE FREE TIME OR JUST CONSUMING IT?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech

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    I’m shocked at how fortunate I am….  I have a great family, an amazing place to live, a wife who loves me (almost as much as her cat) and a wonderful job.  Over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to sit in the suites at Arrowhead, hang out in the pits at the NASCAR track, enjoy the view from the Crown Seats at Kauffman Stadium and even enjoy one of 9 sold out Garth Brooks shows at the Sprint Center.

    Tonight it was all topped by having the opportunity to grab a highly sought after ticket to the TEDx Kansas City Event at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center (a CRAZY AWESOME venue…but I don’t have time to get into that right now).  How sought after?  There were about 1,300 seats available for this event and over 30K requests for tickets…..on the first day they were available.

    All that hype was definitely for good reason.  There were a total of 8 speakers and many of them made an impression on me tonight:

    • Samuel Arbesman discussed the “Half-Life of Facts” noting multiple examples of how quickly facts change…things we once took as truth (i.e. the world is flat) are disproven over time (it’s round) and eventually refined (well…it’s not actually round, it’s an oblate spheroid).  The message….we need to be flexible with what we “know” to be a fact today because things are going to change and we should embrace that (red wine is still healthy for you right?)
    • KC’s own John Jantsch talked about making work worth it.  In his interactions with entrepreneurs, he finds about 50% are completely fulfilled, the other half feeling like they’re still not satisfied.  The big difference?  Whether or not they are a part of something bigger and making a difference in the world.  He animated the point through the company Jancoa, a janitorial service that is more of a launching platform for the dreams of the people they employ (because they found out that people don’t dream of janitorial labor).
    • John Gerzema gave a summary of his global study on leadership where he characterized leadership traits into feminine and masculine categories.  From there he asked a similar sample which traits were more desirable and concluded that the feminine traits are the “Operating System” for 21st century leaders.  His SlideShare on “The Athena Doctrine” is worth a look and it sounds like a book is in the works.
    • Janine Shepherd gave a chilling recap of a tragic accident that left her paralyzed as she was training for the Olympics.  She was headed to represent her country when she was literally run over by a utility truck that hit her on her bicycle.  This accident was an opportunity to start over and found a new passion for flying, going from eager student wearing a body cast to flight instructor in 18 months.

     

    But for me…the final speaker of the evening, Max Strom really struck a chord.  Max spent time talking about the tech explosion that we live in, yet overall happiness has been on an inverse trajectory.  He identified that 90% of human communication relies on non-verbal cues (facial expression, emotion, etc…), yet we communicate more and more with technologies that only allow us to utilize the other 10% (the words).  I talked about this in a former post about the shift from synchronous to asynchronous communication and identified some of the same challenges we face.

    The whole thing really hit home for me as he pleaded with the audience to be sensitive to the kind of technologies we adopt.  Are you simply adopting technologies to consume more content or are you bringing technology into your life that gives you more time back to do the things that matter?  As I looked at my life, I have some questions about that….  My XBOX, the iPad, our DVR…..  Technology isn’t inherently bad, but it does have the ability to consume our lives (how much TV did you watch tonight?)

    Before closing, he brought 3 imperatives up that I think are worth sharing:

    1. Self awareness – define happiness in your life, what really makes you get up in the morning
    2. Think about your lifespan and the time you spend with technology – demand your technology give you more free time, not eat up more of it
    3. Learn and practice a regime that heals & empowers you – meditation, working out, bike rides…..and he was all about breathing exercises to help reduce stress

     

    It was refreshing to spend 3 hours of my Tuesday night listening to these incredibly intelligent people and feverishly jot down notes for my own use.  I know these short descriptions don’t do the seminar justice so PLEASE click on some of the links in my post here and spend some time with anything that may interest you or shoot me a line in the comments below!

     

    P.S.  It’s also worth noting that TEDxKC had booked some PHENOMENAL performances by some very talented musicians.  There was Earth Harp (a crazy string instrument that filled the music hall), Dave Eggar (a WICKED cellist that could play it with a bow, stand up or just pick it like a guitar), and Amber Rubarth (a soulful singer with a bit of a twang to her stellar voice), all amazing in their own realm.