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A brand, a business and a career. From a nametag.

Friday, May 31, 2013

There Is Where We Got Carried Away

"I do not believe in unscrambling scrambled eggs." Every time somebody asks me how I did something, part of me wants to slap them upside the head. I don't know. I never know. That's why it's art. We should never feel obligated to explain our process. First, it cheapens the product. Once you know how the magic trick is done, you lose all of the effect. Second, it corrupts the process. Once you know how to give someone an orgasm, you ruin it by trying too hard every time. Third, it defeats the purpose. Once you bastardize art into a factory, it's no longer art––it's a combination lock.

"This is where we got carried away." One of our technology vendors made that comment during a demo this week. Put a huge grin on my face. Sure enough, the product they demoed was mind blowing. Mind. Blowing. All because they got carried away. They chased a whimsy and let their imaginations run wild. And it took them to places they never thought possible. That's innovation. Inspired by Walmart's augmented reality.

"Individuality resides in the way links are made." When I was in fifth grade, we practiced analogies. We'd compare things that were usually thought to be different from each other, but had similarities, i.e., knife : cut :: ruler : measure. I was smitten. Coolest exercise ever. Little did I know, analogous thinking would become an invaluable skill. The ability to notice patterns, make relationships between disparate subjects and connect unlikely dots is perhaps the most underrated skill on the planet. We just have to ask ourselves, "Did you ever notice that this looks like this?" Inspired by an interview with Anne Carton.

"With fame and reputation, you have to follow your own act." Robert Crumb makes a powerful point––success doesn't breed contempt, it breeds expectation. The audience is waiting to see what your next trick is, and they demand it to be better than the first. And if you don't deliver, they won't be happy. Tough crowd. My thought is, why not just find a new theater?  

"You don’t need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world." My wedding ring is made of meteorite. Fitting, since I've always felt like kind of an alien. But after reading this interview with Andrew Barrett, I'm convinced that the very feeling of alienation is the very fuel that makes great art happen. Thank god our society produces not-of-this-world folk who take ownership of their outsiderness and alchemize it into beauty. Humankind is overrated.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

If You Can Measure It, It’s Probably Not That Interesting

"Why can't people do everything the way I do it?" Comedian Jimmy Pardo summarizes the crux of every therapy session on the planet. Good book title. Isn't that what drives us all mad? Isn't that the baseline of every argument in history? People pleading to each other, "Why can't you be more like me?" A deeper understanding about that fundamental dilema would answer most of our questions about human behavior. Which reminds me. What's the deal with people hyper-focusing on pointless video games on their cell phones on the subway? Doesn't anybody read anymore?

"If you can measure it, it’s probably not that interesting." Yesterday I was fiddling around with sentiment analysis applications, which identify and extract subjective information from published content. For example, the emotional states of tweets using the phrase "home schooled." Well, that got me nowhere. Apparently it's very hard to measure context with those tools. Instead, I started reading message board conversations between parents. Found some pretty interesting patterns. And while that process was more labor intensive, and while I don't mean to universalize any particulars, I agree with Joi Ito that what can't be measured, matters.

"Ruining your day in a quixotic quest for fairness." There's this obsessive, vengeful part of me that loves to prove a point and teach people a lesson they'll never forget. The problem is, it's often more fun to think and plan and talk about it than to actually execute. Plus, anytime I do make example of someone who pisses me off, it usually backfires in my face. And then the joke's on me, not the original offender. God damn it. Thank Seth.

"Heads nodded in the distance, and that’s all I needed." I thrive off of an audience. Performance is in my blood. But it's not the bottomless need it used to be. These days, a little affirmation goes a long way. If I'm playing music in the park, it's not about drawing a crowd or accumulating a guitar case full of tips. A smile here, a peace sign there, a kid singing along with his mommy there, and I'll make a meal out of that. Who knew that would be enough? Turns out, once we come to terms with the ceiling of our narcissistic needs, life becomes a lot more satisfying. Inspired by Amanda Palmer's lecture on dots.

"Men are sold a bill of goods about what they have to be." I never bought into mainstream masculinity. Measuring your worth by how many women you've fucked, beers you've drank or sports you've mastered is a pathetic, outdated equation that deserves to be deleted from human consciousness. That's all I have to say about that. For now. Inspired by an interview with Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Few Have Paid So Dearly For Their Idealism

"The gradual shifting from promotion motivation." Happiness evolves as we do. As we get older, certain activities, pursuits or experiences that held meaning for us five years ago may seem pointless to us today. For example, part of me that wishes I still enjoyed going to movies alone. But most of me knows there are a dozen better ways to spend two hours of my life. Especially when I have someone to share them with. Inspired by an outstanding article on a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately.

"Anything you write can scratch an opening in a scarred up heart." The hardest part about writing isn't pressing the publish button, it's praying that another person in the world will care that you pressed it. Fortunately, the Internet proves that whatever you're experiencing––and whatever you're feeling about that experience––you're not alone. There are a thousand other people on the planet who can relate. Inspired by Amanda Palmer, who never fails to fire inspiration into me. 

"This town is so filled with celebrities that it tricks you into thinking you’re a celebrity." Before relocating to New York, my fiance and I met with a friend of a friend who grew up in Manhattan. Here's the warning she gave us: People will feed you with things that will make you feel bigger than you are. I never forgot that. And hopefully, as long as we live here, I never will. There's nothing more dangerous than an inflated sense of self. Inspired by an interview with Mike Birbiglia.

"Few have paid so dearly for their idealism." Over the years, I've spent time on both sides of the idealism spectrum. As an artist, it was an asset. Idealism got me heard. But as an entrepreneur, it was a liability. Idealism didn't get me paid. Eventually, I learned to compromise. I found a balance between blue skies and green dollars. And I retained just enough idealism to prevent cynicism from busting through. Inspired by Gabby Gifford's commencement address.

"If you cannot delude yourself into thinking your work is signifcant, find another career." You’re told to love what you do. But since there are days, sometimes even weeks, when that just ain't gonna happen, loving what you do is only part of the equation. Meaningful work comes from a combination of loving what you do, but also loving how you do it, why you do it, where you do it, when you do it, whom you do it with and whom you do it for. Inspired by a virtual tour of Edward Wilson's office.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You Will Use Everything You've Ever Learned

"Make the rest of your life happy." What good is an blossoming career if you have nobody to share it with? What good is a ton of money if you're too stressed to spend it? What good is an impressive client list if you don't have a decent friend list? Those are some of the mistakes I made by being too focused on my career. Turns out, happiness doesn't have the same effect when it's not diversified. Thanks for the inspiration, Ron Swanson.

"One of the greatest tools you have as a songwriter is anonymity." Reading this article about Shane McAnally proves there's something beautiful about moving away from the spotlight and working quietly. Cranking out songs, selling them for heaps of cash and watching the rockstars sing them as you sit back and play with your kids? That's the best of both worlds. You retain the beauty of crafting the music without surrendering to the bullshit of hawking it. Sounds like a dream job to me.

"What he lacks in output he makes up in opinions." I'll give Billy Joel a pass on this one. But for any other artist, if all you do is complain, that doesn't count as work. If all you do is use social media to rant about social media, that's not art. You're not being productive, you're being annoying. Go make something. Sheesh.

“Godlessness never goes out of style.” For years, I gorged myself at the buffet of religion. Tried almost everything. But eventually, after about six trips to up the bar, it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t even hungry anymore. So I stopped eating. And the strange thing is, I’ve never felt more satisfied. Interesting. Can God still have a sense of humor if you don’t believe in him? Inspired by an interview with Ira Glass.

"Advertising doesn’t add value, interactions do." The organizations that have the greatest impact are the ones that create an unavoidable, irresistible call to interaction. Not action, interaction. Meaning, real humans connecting with each other in a real way. Asking customers to fill out comment cards isn’t interacting with them, it’s just wasting paper. What is the obvious space for interaction to happen in your industry? Inspired by a heated discussion at POKE.

"You will use everything you’ve ever learned." That was the advice Johnny gave to Conan, twenty years ago. Love this concept. I think of it as compressing your personality. I will make use of everything I am. I will demonstrate all of my skills at once. I will bring all of myself to everything I do. I will take all of my assets and alchemize them. I will create micro moments of individual expression. I will fulfill my whole capacity for living through the firepower of my creative arsenal. Not a bad way to work. Inspired by an interview with the funniest man alive.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Preach The Gospel And Sometimes Use Words

"A mess is a sign of an active mind." As far back as I can remember, my room was always mess. Not in the sense that clothes were scattered everywhere or beer cans were strewn about. But every inch of my walls were covered. Pictures, magazine covers, posters, found objects, neon ceiling stars, random stickers and personal artwork completely engulfed my room like an amoeba of inspiration. Best decision ever. By surrounding myself with a perpetual collage of creative stimuli, it was impossible for my mind to run idle. And I began laying track for an artistic foundation that would still matter decades later. Inspired by an interview about Neil Tyson's desktop.

"Preach the gospel and sometimes use words." Looking back, I don't remember my dad teaching me how to be a man. I don't remember my mom teaching me how to be polite. I don't remember my parents teaching me how to be a conscientious, disciplined worker. Why? Because instead of teaching those things, my parents lived those things. He was a man. She was polite. They were disciplined. So instead of taking notes, I just followed suit. That's what kids do, right? They take cues from behavior, not language. A good reminder that values aren't taught, they're caught. Inspired by an amazing interview with Rob Bell.

"Bad choice that I rationalized as fate." Once we admit to ourselves that it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't god's will and it wasn't the universe's magical plan to conspire against us, we can actually take ownership over our behavior. What a glorious, freeing moment. We realize there's no external force coercing the trajectory of our lives. We finally discover that we are the result of ourselves. From that place, anything is possible. Inspired by Footprints of God.

"Get out of the basement and go play for people." Musicians have a few options. First, there's open mics. You show up late at night, put your name on the list, sit there for an hour pretending to be interested in the other bands, then play two songs through crappy house equipment to a moderately interested audience and hope that somebody comes up after your set and thanks you. Another option is to pick yourself. To find a public place with amazing acoustics, set up your gear and play whatever you want, as loud as you want, for as long as you want, to whomever happens to be walking by, having the time of your life. I've done both, and the second approach is infinitely more meaningful. Inspired by the fancy fingered Doyle Dykes.

"There is creation inside them, but they won’t set it free." When we encounter that thing that sticks inside of us and says now, we have a human obligation to let it out. Not necessarily perfectly. Not necessarily for money. And not necessarily on the web for all to see. But ideas aren't meant to stay that way. Whatever expression is crawling around inside our brains, it doesn't belong there. We need to get it out. If only for the experience of expelling it. Start today. Inspired by the best book I've read all year.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Never Discovered A Fact I Didn’t Love

"Thank you for repairing the chip in my funny bone." Kevin Smith recently received that compliment during the question/answer portion of his podcast. Nearly made me cry. To see that your art helped a humorless person laugh again? That's about as good as it gets. I met a woman like that a few weeks ago. Wouldn't know funny if it swallowed her whole. Even we whipped out our best material, still, crickets. So sad. I wonder if she has teeth.

"We have a wonderful floor for your great shoes." That's what the train conductor said to a disrespectful passenger who stretched his feet out on the seat. Classic. Here's why that moment made me happy. First, she was fundamentally affirmative. Second, she was completely friendly. Third, she was funny enough to diffuse the situation, but stern enough to show she meant business. You could build an entire course on customer service around that one sentence. Respect.

"Make art because when it’s in the world, the world feels better." Fame and fortune can go to hell. Expecting nothing beyond the satisfaction of creating something awesome is enough motivation for me. I think that's the problem with artists. They attach too much entitlement and expectation to their work. Instead of enjoying the adventure of the moment, falling in love with the process and soaking in the stillness of the experience, everything is vehicle. Another opportunity to be a mercenary, always trying to get somewhere, never trying to do something great, only hoping to exit. Wherever people are in the artistic food chain, there’s always somewhere else they need to get. The point is, we don’t always have to be digging for treasure. Sometimes digging is the treasure.

"I never discovered a fact I didn’t love." Even if it scares us. Even if it contradicts our beliefs. Even if it makes us rethink our opinion. Even if it's an inconvenient truth. Even if it's dangerous enough to change us. Even if it's inconsistent with the fairytales used to scare us into good behavior. If all humans reach this level of sheet mental flexibility, there's no problem we can't solve. Inspired by an interview with ecologist Edward Wilson.

"There's more to life than simple euphoria." Irrational exuberance isn't the only form of happiness worth having. Nothing against overwhelming joy, but sometimes when we say we're happy, what we really mean is, we're satisfied. When I drag my saggy bones out of yoga class at seven in the morning, sweat pouring out of me like a carwash, feeling pain in muscles I didn't know I had, happiness isn't the first word that comes to mind. But the satisfaction of doing something meaningful, healthy and challenging––while the rest of the world is still hungover and asleep––now that's the stuff life is made of. Euphoria will be there when I need her.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kicked Fear In The Ass And Lived To Tell The Tale

"What kind of stove did you use?" Nobody ever asks that question to the chef of the restaurant. Because it's not the tool, it's the perspective of the artist using it. If you're a master, you can make do with anything. Amateurs lean on equipment as a crutch to compensate for mediocre abilities. Professionals don't care if they're using a Nikon D3200 or an iPhone. The pictures will still be amazing. Inspired by a conversation with George the photographer.

"Nobody knows shit, so trust your instincts and enjoy the ride." In a book full of advice for young musicians, this passage really stood out for me. That's the problem with advice, people assume their specific past matches your infinite future. Rarely the case. The smarter approach is to just start, make our own mistakes, learn things the hard way and keep our distance from people who are chomping at the bit to say they told us so. Sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring everybody is wildly underrated.

"I got taken for a ride before I was ready to go on one." That's how Chris Rock describes the early days of his comedy career. What's interesting is, it just as easily could have gone the other way. Sometimes we get too successful, too early, too often. And because we realize our dreams long before our maturity is strong enough to contain the experience, we leave behind a trail of missed opportunities, wasted attention and underleveraged exposure. Money loves speed, velocity creates stress, and stress kills people. Careful folks.

"Kicked fear in the ass and lived to tell the tale." Somebody said that to me on Twitter, and I thought it was a great line. But here's the thing. Fear doesn't go away, it just changes shape. When I was running my own business, I feared the empty calendar, the blocked brain, the depleted constitution, the unwanted offering, the jailed expression, the rejected deliverable and the ambient pressure of working straight commission. Now that I have a new gig, the fears are different. It's more about not letting my team down, not creating value for the organization and not wasting resources.

"Curation is not a substitute for achievement." If you’ve interviewed a bunch of successful people on your blog, you might know what it takes to be success, but it doesn’t mean you are, or will be, successful. If you’ve pinned three hundred boards of cool household items on Pinterest, that doesn't make you an interior designer. Reading about pushups doesn’t make you stronger, doing them does. Inspired by Gary Vee.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Looks Great Except Change Everything

"Build a lexicon for what sets your heart on fire." Yesterday I read the most engaging book of the year. It's called The 360 Deal, which brings together short articles by a diverse range of people with a lot of experience in music and the business. As soon as I put the book down, I walked straight into my room, picked up my guitar and started writing a new song. That's precisely the kind of reaction you want from a book. The above passage about amassing a creative inventory especially hit home with me. 

"What you’re hearing is the sound of a squealing dinosaur." Michael Moore made an inspiring point on Bill Maher last week. America isn't as screwed as we think. This next generation of citizens are amazing: They're politically involved, professional proactive, smart as a whip, don't like guns, support gay marriage, don't know what racism means, couldn't care less about religion and couldn't be bullshitted with a ten foot pope. I love these people. They are our future, and for the first time, I'm legitimately convinced that we're going to be okay.

"Looks great except change everything." Yesterday I overheard a conference call in which a client actually made this statement. Priceless. And yet, that's the problem. Nobody judges anymore. We're hyper sensitive, obsessed with being politically correct and terrified of hurting people's feelings, so our feedback lacks enough truth to actually improve anything. Do business with any other country in the world, and they'll tell you straight up that your work is shit. It stings, but ultimately makes the work better in the end. Plus, it speeds up the process. Sugarcoating is the great time suck. 

"Online statistics are a way for nobodies at home to feel glorious." Lefsetz hits the nail right on the digital head. Page views and unique visits are the last refuge of the deluded. When I think back to my days of obsessing over web analytics, it's borderline laughable. Sure, I gloated to my colleagues about getting twenty thousand hits a day, but I also lived in my parents basement and worked a part time job so I could keep my website up and running. 

"Scaring people is good for ratings." That's one of the main reasons I don't watch television. Life is scary enough. There's a surplus of fear, and we don't need any more of it. Sadly, the mantra of the media is, if it bleeds, it leads. There's no such thing as a reality show about people getting along famously. All the more reason to stop participating in other people's drama and start living a lives worth telling stories about. Inspired by another Dr. Drew rant.

"All of the homeruns are usually contested." Wait a minute. You're telling us you want funding to build an online encyclopedia, that's free to all, that anybody can edit, that contains the sum of all human knowledge? I would have given my third testicle to be in the pitch meeting for that startup. Behold, the beauty of innovation. If people don't think you're crazy, you're doing something wrong. Inspired by a fascinating interview with Joi Ito.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Work Is A Primary Expression Of Who We Are

"The forest will provide." I'm in love with the idea of trusting my environment––and the people in it––to nourish and support me. Whether it's borrowing an extra pair of yoga shorts from the lost and found, depending on my improv partner to say the next line or leaning on a teammate during a during an exhausting client presentation, knowing that my back is always had is a beautiful (and new) thing for me. Having operated my existence as a one-man show for so long, the experience of real, constant human support in every area of life is pretty cool. Inspired by the changing seasons.

"Start exercising that muscle." Aspiring is for amateurs. Whatever we want to become, all we have to do is start doing that thing. Not believing in our hearts, not affirming to ourselves in the mirror, not writing down our goals and not telling people our plans. Physically doing. The moment we take action on something, we earn the right to tell people that we are that something. It's a simple, binary equation. Either we are or we aren't. Action doesn't have a preheat setting.

"Selling out means buying in to someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards." You can still take the money. You can still work for clients you don't love. You can still take an advantage of the opportunity. You just have to stay consistent with your beliefs. I've taken plenty of gigs I wasn't super excited about, but none that I was ashamed of talking about. Except the one time I gave a speech at that Nazi rally, but I let it slide because those guys had amazing cupcakes.

"Work is a primary expression of who we are." Regardless of the job we do, regardless of the payment we receive and regardless of the place we do it, anytime we do what needs to be done, we show the world who we are. Work is the great revealer. The old saying that how you do anything is how you do everything, is completely true. Inspired by the sheer pain of volunteer management.

"To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed." The most satisfying part about the wedding planning process is deciding which of the bullshit institutional marriage rituals don't hold any meaning for us. Garter tossing and cake eating are the most awkward, pointless wedding customs on the planet, and everyone knows it. Everyone. For our wedding, we're creating our own customs and not marching in lockstep with a culture that doesn't matter to us. Amen. Inspired by a speech by cartoonist Bill Waterson. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

There’s Too Much Misguided Persistence

"If discomfort is medicated, there's no movement." Love this insight from comedian Doug Benson. Reminds men that I'm eternally grateful for all of life's low points. If we're never sad, we're never aware what happiness feels like. If we're never kicked in the crotch by the golf shoe of reality, we're never angry enough to make the necessary changes. The answer to discomfort isn't popping pills, it's giving thanks. 

"There’s too much misguided persistence." There's a fine line between following up and being a stalker. Whether it's looking for a job, closing a sale or getting a date, if we don't demonstrate a valid reason for our persistence, we're just annoying. Irritating our way into people's inboxes isn't a wise approach for getting attention, earning permission or solidifying trust. Persistence is like tofu, in that it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce it's immersed in. If we fail to pair persistence with value, the flavor ain't right. Inspired a stack of dusty resumes.

"Your lack of privacy is someone else’s wealth." Jaron Lanier argues that our personal information is form of currency traded among the very rich. Interesting point. My thought is, maybe a little less privacy would go a long way. One of the reasons I want everybody to wear nametags all the time everywhere forever, is because nametags eliminate anonymity. They create a social contract that you resign every day. And when you wear a nametag on your chest for all to see, publicly, you're more apt to consider the repercussions of your actions. Yes, there'd be a little less privacy, but there'd also be a lot more civility. I don't think privacy should be eliminated completely, but if we're already living honest lives with little to hide, do we really care if the president of some tech company knows which ex-girlfriends we stalk on Facebook? Instead of burning calories bemoaning a battle that we can't win, maybe we should focus on living lives we're not ashamed to share.

"Please don’t think I care." Sara Silverman's TED talk got me thinking about how people love to go out of their way to remind the world how much they don't like, aren't interested or couldn't care less about certain things. My thought is, if you care so little about it, why did you spend fifteen minutes telling me about it? If you're going to not care, at least learn to do it right. Selective indifference is a fine art. Point being, if you're ever unsure why people act the way they do, when in doubt, blame it on overcompensation. That explains everything.

"I finally feel like a whole person." It's been exactly one year since I retired as an entrepreneur. And as I reflect on how different life is now, the word wholeness comes to mind. It's a combination of many things: Being engaged to the right person. Being employed by the right company. Being motivated by the right reasons. Being connected with the right community. And being focused on the right meaning. Doesn't mean I'm happy every moment of the day, but there's something infinitely satisfying about feeling like a whole person. Jesus Christ. Finally. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Any Solution Other Than Reps

"I don't want that hour back." There's simple way to measure the satisfaction of time spent. When you're done reading a book or listening to a podcast or going to a party, do you wish you had that chunk of time back? If not, what you did was meaningful. For example, suffering through three painful hours of Les Miserables, I wish I had that time back. Going for a walk in the park, listening to my favorite playlist and taking pictures of bizarre found items, I regret nothing. Inspired by Jeff Garlin's delightful interview with Mad Men creator Matthew Winer.

"Any solution other than reps." When I hear the word reps, I think bodybuilding. Muscles. Knocking out sets of curls until you can't lift your arms anymore. But the value of repetition pays off in every part of our lives, not just the gym. Personally, I love practice. I could practice all day. In fact, most days I do. I learned many years ago how meaningful life becomes when you approach everything as practice. Inspired by a fascinating discussion about addiction and recovery with Dr. Drew.

"I've never had a door that wasn't next to someone else's." Beautiful article about neighbors. When I moved to Portland after college, the first person I met was Laszlo, the guy across the hall. He and I became fast friends, made tons of great memories––even helped each other through some storms––and still remain friends to this day. All because our doors were adjacent. Isn't it amazing how proximity affects influence? After meeting Laszlo, and after reading Bowling Alone, I've vowed never to ignore my neighbors again. We don't always have to be best friends, but we do have to acknowledge each other.

"My purpose in writing is to say things, not to sell things." I grew up reading Calvin & Hobbes. Decades later, seeing this transcript from Bill Watterson really hit home with me. I've always been the kind of artist who'd rather be heard than paid, which, as an entrepreneur, was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there was a certain purity to the work, never having to bow down to some corporate master who's looking over my shoulder with a giant red pen. On the other hand, I was only really making enough money to buy more time so I could do more work. Not exactly a sustainable business model.

"There comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offense." Powerful passage from Dan Brown's new book. What's crazy is, no matter how devastating ignorance is, sometimes we choose not to know. About important things, too. The problem is, when ideas don't jive with the identity we've created for ourselves, our beliefs become too convenient to be killed. And we end up hurting ourselves, our neighbors and our planet. But don't worry. I'm sure that whole global warming hoax will pass. Climate change is just another fad like slap bracelets and stonewashed jeans.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clients Are Not Paid To Take Risks

"Like swinging a flyswatter at an incoming asteroid." Every few months, my office shuffles seats. It's a simple system for enabling collaboration, creativity and connection. The only thing is, it's totally random. Which means wherever you end up, you end up. And that got me thinking: Futility is a funny thing. We're such control freaks, and yet, despite our best efforts, most of life's fickle forces treat us like pawns in their cruel game of cosmic chess. But the best moment, though, is when we surrender. When acceptance washes over us like an afternoon shower and we bask in the beauty of our own vulnerability. Unless the guy sitting next to you smells like an ashtray. Inspired by a passage from Dan Brown's new book.

"Clients are not paid to take risks." There's what the client wants. There's what the client wants to want. There's what the client thinks they want. And there's what the client really needs. Our job, as service providers, is to listen loudly to all of those things––do some serious alchemy and jujitsu with our team––and usher the client into the space they should be. The secret is, never let them catch you acting. The art is hiding the art, as Michael Cane used to say. 

"You can't teach integrity." Not to adults, that's for sure. Yes, you can model it. You can inspire it. But our job isn't to teach people how to be good people. That's why we have parents. Our job is to find people who already have integrity, and give them places to put it. If a prospective employee or volunteer shows up without integrity, we can have all the meetings in the world, but we're not going to magically morph them into good workers. Integrity is like virginity, you either have it or you don't. There's no preheat setting. This post inspired by somebody pissing me off.

"The usual vortex of opponent overconfidence." Physically, humans have their limits. But mentally, psychologically, our species is capable of limitless powers. Floyd Mayweather is a rockstar who happens to box three months a year. What I love most about his fighting style is, he gets up in your head. That's why he's undefeated. By the time Floyd's opponents insist he will never get to them, it's already too late.

"What do I already know that will help me solve this?" In the problem solving process, our first instinct is to look for answers externally. Turns out, many of our toughest challenges can be resolved by asking this simple question. Especially if we have a wealth of experience to draw from. We didn't go through all that bullshit for nothing. Everything we've been through is more grist for the mill, more input to scan and more data to bounce of a richer matrix. Inspired by Eric Maisel's new book

Sunday, May 19, 2013

All Have Love But Few Know How To Use It Right

"Everybody is a frustrated something." Not necessarily. It all depends on your relationship with your expectations. For example, I've been writing and performing music for twenty years. Composing, playing and singing my own songs is one of the most satisfying and rapturous experiences of my life. But I'm practical enough to treat it as a passion, not a profession. I'm no rock star. I'm completely okay never making money off my music. And because of that level of expectation, there's no frustration. Ever. Inspired by a conversation between Doug Benson and Dr. Drew.

"Unemployment is so high, we're watching other people work." Brilliant observation by comedian Dov Davidoff. Got me thinking about two statistics. First, eleven million Americans are unemployed. Second, Americans watch thirty-four hours of television a week. It doesn't take an economist to do the math. Here's my idea: What if, for one year, we stopped watching other people make art, create value and earn money, and instead, we got to work ourselves? The repurcussions would be glorious. More tax money would come in. Less junk food would be eaten. Greater morale would be established. Less depression would be reported. All we'd have to do is put down the remote. 

"All have love but few know how to use it right." Contrary to popular conditioning, it's not hard to be single in this town. In fact, it's not hard to be single in any town. Like any worthwhile pursuit, looking for love is only as hard as we make it. If we're willing to do the work, we'll find someone. If we're waiting for love to fall in our lap, we'll remain alone. That's it. When we approach the problem in a simple, honest, binary way, our hearts will thank us forever. Inspired by a greeting card I gave to my fiance.

"I always had the notion that I had a tiny garden to cultivate." Purpose is a word that gets thrown around like a rag doll. And a few years ago, I discovered something. Purpose isn't an activity or a talent or a job or hobby, it's everything. It's the way we live our lives. Most of us have too narrow a definition of purpose, and as a result, we sell ourselves short. Purpose isn't a box to be checked, it's a project to be lived.

"We are amazingly adept at being defensive creatures who can deny almost anything." It's the same old story: Everyone knew she wasn't right for me. Everyone except me, that is. I had no idea my girlfriend was a flaming ball of manipulation and negativity, because I was too busy seeing what I wanted to see. Thankfully, a few brave friends lifted the veil and loved me enough to pull my lovelorn ass out of the mine field before it was too late. That was a close one. Inspired by Eric Maisel's new book, Making Your Creative Mark.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jobs That Are Too Small For Our Spirit

"It was an itch I've been trying to scratch for many years." Love this story about Nigel Clark, a call center employee who spent seven years working out shortcuts to help customers skip through the dozens of menu options. Proving my theory that anger is the ember of initiative, that only pissed off people change the world, and that once we channel our frustration into something useful, all the bullshit we endured becomes worthwhile. Exhale. Nothing beats the exquisite satisfaction of spinning straw into gold.

"I added this app to ensure trust in my loving relationship with my boyfriend." Reviews in the app store are a comedy writer's dream. This particular user installed a family member locator app on her phone that nearly ended her relationship. Allegedly, the push alert inaccurately notified Marcy's boyfriend of her whereabouts. When he found out what club she really went to, the waves of jealousy came crashing down and they ended up getting into an epic fight. Thanks, Life360. The point is, if you need an app to ensure trust in your loving relationship, you shouldn't be in a relationship. Or have a smartphone.

"Budget time so it's not all sucked up by one step of the process." I used to work with a designer named Chu. He was a master at managing his time, and inspiring others to do the same. The best was, if he noticed someone getting bogged down by one particular task, he'd sneak up behind them and whisper, "You're spending too much time on this." That's all it took to get people back on track. In fact, even today, if you hold your ear up to a mousepad and listen closely, you can make out the faint voice of Chu's ghost.  Doooeeeeeit.

"Jobs that are too small for our spirit." Over the years, I've waited tables, sold furniture, parked cars, sold watches on Ebay and refereed youth basketball. But none of those jobs were beneath me. I did what I had to do at the time. The problem is, when you're housing an immense spirit, witholding your best skills and talents and gifts and abilities, it's not only a misuse of professional resources, it's an existential disservice to yourself. You have to pay the bills, but eventually, you have to make the most of everything you are. Inspired by a passage from Working.

"To keep her in love with me shall be my chief object." Timeless marriage advice from a greeting card I picked up the other day. That's what I tell my lady: My goal is to see how many times I can make you laugh before you leave for work. That way, your reservoir of joy is overflowing for the rest of the day. Point being, we all need something to distract us from the complexity of reality. Laughter works pretty darn well.

"I use what remains of my dreams of the night before." I once bought a book on dream interpretation. Total nightmare. Didn't understand a word. But I did steal the suggestion of writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up. And I've been practicing that daily ritual for many years now. Pretty interesting stuff. Learned a lot about myself, picked up a few good song lyrics, even stumbled across a good idea or two. Sure beats reading another dense psychology textbook. Inspired by the infamous interviews with Eugene Ionesco.

Friday, May 17, 2013

She’s My Second Favorite Narcissist In New York

"It's like quitting cocaine by crazy gluing your nostrils together." Snap. That was Bill Maher's take on Chris Christie's stomach stapling. And my thought is, what's the problem with crazy glue? For those of us who lack self-control, people for whom abstinence is cheaper than moderation, sometimes the best way to block a punch is to not be there. In my experience, forcing yourself to live in a more black and white world knocks out excuses, reduces your experience of anxiety, prevents the rationalization of poor choices and enables daily decision making to be a million times easier. Absolutes are highly underrated. Hooray for glue.

"A society of mourned and misplaced creativity."
 I'm eternally grateful to come from a family of artists, musicians and entrepreneurs; an 
upbringing that encouraged, supported and applauded all forms of creativity. Sadly, not every family has such fortune. People grow up, but their expression never bubbles to the surface. Beaten into submission by the sleepwalk of work, their art never finds a home. Thank god for interviews with artists like James Rhodes. He inspires hope that it's never too late for the gates of dammed up dreams to be opened.

"Bad words don't make it into the public sphere." My friend Tony pointed out a fascinating distinction between public space and digital space. Online, selectivity determines discovery. We only engage with content that mirrors our identity. We scroll through feeds, subscribe to blogs, listen to podcasts and press like buttons for people and things and ideas that perfectly reflect our belief systems. And, we do so with anonymity. Offline, proximity determines discovery. We engage with whatever is around us. We have conversations in unexpected places and bump into people who aren't like us and encounter viewpoints that, god forbid, force us to think outside of our outdated beliefs. And, we do so with accountability. Maybe I'll start listening to Glen Beck, just to keep me on my toes.

"Growing wealth as a side effect of living your life creatively and intelligently." Wealth isn't the target, wealth is what we get for hitting the target. It's the incidental consequence of the intentional commitment to make meaning in accordance with our values. Who said anything about money? Five years ago, my income was significantly higher than it is now, but my relationship sucked, my health suffered and my happiness staggered––therefore, my wealth was significantly lower than it is now. Inspired by Jaron Lanier's new book, Who Owns The Future

"I’ve gotten so used to it that doesn’t seem weird anymore." Yesterday I was telling a new coworker the origin story of my nametag. Her immediate response was, "Why would anybody want to read a book about that?" And I replied, "Exactly. They wouldn't. But they did. Repeatedly. For twelve years. And because of that, I built a profitable business, a successful career and an iconic brand. So, who's the joke really on here?" Inspired by a heartbreaking documentary on professional YouTubers.

"She’s my second favorite narcissist in New York." I overheard this comment during a happy hour conversation between two unemployed drunks. Made me think of this. When we decided to move to a New York, the first thing we did was interview friends who lived here. As expected, everyone bemoaned how exhausting, stressful and overwhelming the city was. We considered ourselves warned. Eighteen months later, I'm not sure I agree. Yes, New York is fast, cold, hard and rude. And I'm probably more tired than I used to be. But I'm also more relaxed, more slow paced and more at peace than I used to be. Perhaps overwhelm is a choice to be made, not an inevitability to be feared.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Creating A Secondary Layer Of Worries

"We’ve shattered the myth that demography is destiny." Last week I watched two documentaries about charter schools, Waiting For Superman and The Lottery. Both movies made me cry. The notion that families are pinning their hopes to a bouncing ball, that kids have to get lucky to get an education, and that destiny is determined by a draw, just breaks my heart. Ugh. Still, after visiting one of these charter schools in person, I legitimately believe our educational future is brighter than ever. Have you ever watched a kindergartner deconstruct a poem by E. E. Cummings? Holy shit. These are our future leaders, and I love them.

"Starving people aren't allergic to shit." Thank you. Alonzo Bodden proves that our country is officially out of problems. Look, I don't doubt that peanut allergies are series health concerns for certain people. But the real issue isn't the spreading allergies, it's the spreading of anxiety. In the past twenty years, we've become an overly hygienic, hyper sensitive, uber litigious population––phenomenally busy but radically empty––addicted to our own drama, unable to pause and realize that we're the luckiest goddamn humans on the planet who haven't earned the right to complain about anything. Ever. The end.

"The less you need to spend each month, the easier it is to follow your dreams." Sweet collection of entrepreneurs giving advice to their younger selves. Reminds me of the time my company got audited by the government. Twice. In one year. What a delightful experience that was. However, it was a lesson I badly needed to learn. Changed my entire perspective on financial management. Turns out, you can't always make more, but you can always spend less. It's disgusting how quickly twelve bucks a month adds up.

"Food gives us something to focus on that's not our emotional landscape." I have a habit of eating my feelings. Whether I'm annoyed, stressed or unhappy, there's nothing a bag of chocolate covered pretzels won't fix. But the more Dr. Drew talks about this issue, the more I realize that it isn't about weight management, it's about emotion management. If the feelings are there, we need to deal with them. Head on. Without a culinary coping mechanism. Years ago, I learned how to do this through morning pages. It's my go-to ritual for confronting emotions and metabolizing experiences. The best part is, it's free, it doesn't make my pants fit tighter and it doesn't make me feel guilty when the bag is empty.

"Creating a secondary layer of worries." If delayed gratification is king, strategic indifference is queen. I promise, once we master the fine art of not giving a shit, life is infinitely more enjoyable. Subway running late? Coworkers annoying you? Raining pouring down at lunch? Husband stanking up the bathroom? Teach yourself to not give a shit. Seriously. Save your heart for the moments that matter, care like crazy when it counts, and just let the rest go. Stress is the number one cause of everything bad that happens to us, and we don't need any more of it. This rant sparked by an article about North Korea.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

They’re Karaoke Machines Of Themselves

"You’re tough the way tofu is firm." This joke from my favorite comic strip hits awfully close to home. Tough is a facade. It's external. It's the shell we construct to make sure nobody knows how vulnerable we are. In fact, the word tough means "not easily broken or cut." And that's pretty much the polar opposite of me. I take everything personally and cry all the time. So I'm not tough. Sue me. What matters more than being tough is being brave. Bravery is a character trait. It's internal. It's the willingness to hang your balls out there in the face of complete humiliation. Tough is for wimps.

"They’re karaoke machines of themselves." Jakob Dylan rants about the performance style of aging musicians. They're not singing songs, they're doing impressions. They've become caricatures of themselves, hopelessly inhabiting the younger, thinner, sexier version of a rockstar from days past. The key is to avoiding this, I think, is to surround ourselves with people who don’t remind us how we are no longer what we were. People who have no memory of us when we were any better than we are now. That brand of compassionate support is what enables us to evolve gracefully.

"Navigate the hormonally charged waters." I read a fascinating article about the teenage obsession with virginity (or lack thereof) and it got me thinking. Delayed gratification is wildly underrated. If it's worth pursuing and worth achieving, it's worth waiting for. When I ran my own business, I often booked clients five years after meeting them initially. And not for a lack of value, sometimes our timing was just off. Same goes for relationships. Had I met my fiance a year earlier in life––when my head and heart were stuck in dark places––we might have never clicked. The point is, patience is a muscle that needs its own personal trainer. The earlier we start practicing delayed gratification, the better prepared we'll be for life's inevitable limbos.

"They never limit their vision to serve petty competitiveness." There are two kinds of people: Those who play to win, and those who play to keep the game going. Personally, I'm the latter. Competition was never a mechanism that operated very strongly in me. I was always less interested in winning and more interested in playing. Trouble is, that attitude doesn't sit well with the agressive, alpha personalities of the world. In fact, the only thing that infuriates competitive people more than losing, are people who don't care about winning. Which, ironically, is a sweet victory in itself. Inspired by an article about loving your job.

"The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you." Timeless article about keeping your identity small. Brings to mind one of my favorite phenomena, premature cognitive commitment. That's when we fall in love with our own way of seeing the world, keeping our minds blocked off from any information that isn't consistent with the label we've attached to ourselves. Reaffirming what I've believed for a long time now, that nametags should be first name only. Enough letters to admit that we're human beings, but not so many letters that we brand ourselves into a corner.

"I'd rather be an hour early than five minutes late." Imagine running late for a big meeting. En route, you get sweaty, hurried and anxious. You start preparing the excuse barrage for your client. And you start beating yourself up for acting unprofessionally and disorganized. That's one way to do it. Here's another option. Yesterday when I got off the subway, I realized I was 40 minutes early for my meeting. So, I walked around the neighborhood, bought a snack, listened to a podcast and inhaled a few chapters from Inferno. My commute was completely relaxing, satisfying, even a little productive. And I wasn't sweating through my jacket.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sad Facsimiles Of Happiness Crapped Out By An Uncaring World

"To learn what we couldn't possibly learn if we were stuck in our own orbit." What I love most about space exploration is, it's the prefect metaphor for intellectual curiosity. We may not have uncovered alien civilizations on planet Zoltar, but our country's space program helped advance the fields of communication, solar energy, videography and mechanical engineering, just to name a few. All because we admitted that our planet wasn't the center of the universe and dared to dig for answers outside of our own orbit. There's a huge lesson there about empathy and mental flexibility that most people miss. Fortunately, we have documentaries narrated by William Shatner to help crack open our brains.

"Sad facsimiles of happiness crapped out by an uncaring world." If you want to expose yourself to a smorgasbord of untapped literary genius, spend an hour reading product reviews on the iTunes store. You'll find some of the most insightful, entertaining, witty and lucid product criticisms the likes of which Wired has never seen. Seriously, stumbling across passages like the one above reaffirms my faith in humanity. If we could only find a way to redirect our collective brilliance from ranting about pointless video games to rebuilding our education system. Maybe the government should start recruiting employees from the app store.

"Television is leading someone else’s life for a short period of time." Carolla finally articulated what I've been trying to say about television for years. It's not that I hate the programming, it's that I love life. Excuse me, but there has to be a better way to spend thirty-four hours of our week than watching an entire season of House of Cards. We may as well get second jobs. And yes, there are holes in my argument. First, every television show is amazing. Second, not having a television makes you sound like a douche. And third, when people aren't watching television, the only thing they talk about is watching television. Which means you're the odd man out. Dang it.

"Sustained intimacy with mortality does wonders to replace perception with perspective." A friend of mine runs a funeral home in Cleveland. Third generation family business. Very successful. Several years ago, I stopped by to say hey on my way through town. And maybe it was the smell of phemaldehyde, maybe it was the showroom of coffins, or maybe it was just the ambient presence of death, but after about five minutes, I had to step outside. Ugh. That place made my blood run cold. Justin, being the master of compassion he is, told me that my reaction was quite normal. He also told me that growing up in the funeral business forced him to confront his mortality on a daily basis, and inspired him to live life to the fullest. I wonder how much television he watches. Triggered by an article about author Philip Roth.

"A place where your voice can take flight and travel." Crucial article about the cost of being boring in a job search. Reminds me of a strategy worth adding to the list, possibly the most underrated and underleveraged strategy of all: Showing up in person. I'm shocked more people don't try this approach. It's bold, it's unexpected, it's personable, it's simple, and nobody does it anymore. Nobody. I'd rather invest my unemployed days getting kicked out of offices than sitting at a coffee shop, pressing send and hoping for the best.

"Forever tethered to the unproductive dance." The secret to productivity is building momentum. Installing rituals that ensure our day has a cadence and rhythm that include movement. Typically, I don't leave for work until about nine. So I spend the first few hours of my day practicing meditation, creativity, reflection and relaxation. By the time I get to the office, I already feel energized and accomplished. These rituals set the tone for the day, stoke my work fire and keep the momentum going until I pass out at my desk around three. Inspired by the new Brian Solis book.