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.



    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.


    Rob Samuels
    Chief Operating Officer,

    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.


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


    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.


    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.



    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:




    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.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Other Cool Stuff..., Project Thank You

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    Today I was given an AMAZING opportunity to talk with our talent management group in HR.  I was originally asked to come talk about the “Thank You Thursday” program but decided to find a common link between that and the recent Hack-a-Thon that my team won here at Sprint.

    As I was preparing for this presentation I did the usual….

    1. Establish a working outline around the narrative
    2. Build a skeletal presentation with the content I needed to tell a complete story
    3. Practice….Practice….Practice
    4. Remove almost ALL of the words and insert pretty pictures


    Step 3 is crucial.  Where I originally relied heavily on the words within the page, the practice in a private spot allowed me to grow comfortable with that content.  By the 3rd run through I was able to utilize the pictures on the page as a visual cue, turning my presentation into a supporting actor and not a distraction.

    While those 4 steps helped me, I did find that there was one final key….the live presentation.  As I walked toward the conference room I reminded myself to punch up the energy, look people in the eyes, don’t dance around in one spot and watch the “um’s.”

    Because I KNEW MY CONTENT so well, I could focus on these minor details making the presentation far more entertaining to the audience, ensuring they weren’t distracted by any of those things.

    What are your presentation secrets?  Anything I’m missing