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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scott's Sunday Sentences, Issue 008

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I'm constantly scouring and learning and reading and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of "learning in public," I've decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 
"In songwriting, the real trick is to be the spider that doesn’t get caught in its own web," from an interview with Paul Weinfeld.

Culture, Humanity & Society 
"We live in an alpha world, one in which the strong and popular and smart and fast win," from Rob Bell's blog.

Identity, Self & Soul 
"Maturity is always a return to reality about yourself," from Gentle Persuasion.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 
"A woman who died ten years ago, and she can’t stop talking about it," from an interview with Amy Hempel in The Paris Review.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 
"Human beings are notoriously lousy at predicting what will make them happy," from an article in Psychology Today.

Media, Technology & Design 
"Technology doesn’t just do things for us, it does things to us, changing not just what we do, but who we are," from the brilliant Sherry Turkle.

Nature, Health Science 
"Science doesn't want to take god away from people," from a report on NPR.

People, Relationships & Love 
"Giving away little margins of time you never will miss will become riches to someone," from my favorite book, Try Giving Yourself Away.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling
"By the time poor children are three, researchers believe they have heard on average about thirty million fewer words than children the same age from better off families," from an article about poverty's vocabulary.

Success, Life & Career
"Don’t stop believing unless your dream is stupid," from Kid President.

Work, Business Organizations
"I want to hire people with humble ambition," from The Corner Office.

See you next week!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

So Obsessed With Success, I Barely Smile

The other day I was reading a bodybuilding and fitness forum when I stumbled across something that really disturbed me.

It wasn’t so much the picture of the guy with biceps the size of trashcans, but the headline written above him:

I’m so obsessed with success, I barely smile.

That broke my heart a little. Probably because I saw a part of myself in that post. Not so much the muscles, but the mentality.


I live in a city where eight million centers of the universe are scrambling around town, building their personal real estate, froggering their way to the front of the line.

And because of that, I’ve actually discovered a newfound pleasure in reeling it in a bit.

Turns out, there’s more to life than being successful. Turns out, it’s amazing how sublime and quiet and simple and weightless life can feel when you’re not running around making it all the time.

With nothing to fear, nothing to lose, nothing to hide and nothing to prove, you’re finally free to focus on the present. You can just be here, now. You can shake off the cobwebs of the past while the future, which you once perpetually gripped with quiet panic and tight anxious hands, can disafuckingppear from plain sight. And from that place of joyful lucidity, there’s actually room to pursue life’s more existential achievements.

Happiness. Satisfaction. Wholeness. Meaning.

You’re building your existential real estate, not just your biceps.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Keep Your Giving Away Machinery in Good Working Order

Selling is the side effect of giving.

Through reckless generosity and a promiscuous heart, you create so much value in the marketplace, that people have no choice but to pay you what you’re worth.

In short, you give yourself away.

This concept began as an anonymously written article in Forbes magazine nearly a hundred years ago. And due to its popularity and volume of reprint requests, the piece was later expanded into a book. And it became an inspiration to millions.

Especially me. Especially in the world of business.

Truth is, sales was never my thing. I’m not aggressive, I’m not competitive, I’m not motivated by money and I’m not a closer. I’m more of a touchy feely, sensitive artist type who loves creating things and talking to strangers.

But what I lack in selling skills I make up in generosity.

Here’s my philosophy:

Giving yourself away is about being generous with your tangible assets like time, talent, treasure, touch and ties. Are you building a monopoly by becoming a center of connection for your customers?

Giving yourself away is about generous with your intangible assets like thoughtfulness, understanding, appreciation, attention, tolerance, courage and faith. Have you created a system for filling your customers’ emotional tanks?

Giving yourself away is about practicing generosity as loving impulses, not calculated actions. When was the last time you talk yourself out of thoughtfulness?

Giving yourself away is about increasing the acceptability of your gift by the multipliers of friendliness, immediacy and enthusiasm. Are you giving too long after the moment is gone?

The good news is, the reservoir of giving is in the heart, not the wallet.

And it never runs dry.

Are you keeping your giving away machinery in good working order?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The New Entrepreneur’s Dilemma

Now that anyone can turn their passion into a business, anyone will.

And most of them won’t last.


Because we chase passion at the cost of practicality, and we fool ourselves into the false viability of our own ideas.

It’s the new entrepreneur’s dilemma.

We’re deciding what we want our customers to want, instead of uncovering the actual material realities of their every day lives.

We’re asking the marketplace to care that we’re fulfilling our lifelong dream, instead of listening for the problems they’re asking us to solve. 
We’re falling in love with the archetype in our own head, instead of finding something else that’s already in the customer's head and hanging something next to it.

We’re superimposing a prefabricated definition of who our customers should be, instead of focusing on who we are and letting the marketplace fill in the blanks.

We’re trying to persuade people to pay for something they’re not used to paying for, instead of calculating value based on when people think our product is worth more than it costs.

We’re selling something that’s important to us and disguising it as something that’s important to them, instead of asking customers how we can make their lives run smoother.

The lower the barriers to entry, the higher the likelihood of exit.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Attitude Affects Experience, Not Outcome

Optimism doesn’t increase your success.

What it does do is increase your field of vision, which allows you to better notice the opportunities that lead to success.

If you have a bad attitude about your job or your relationship or your battle with depression, odds are, you won’t get better­­ because you won’t do the necessary research on the resources that will make you better. You’ll never find the solution that leads to the solution. These are the physical and procedural manifestation of a bad attitude.

On the other hand, consider the show Law & Order.

Before they solve the big case, the detectives always track down the guy who visited the prostitute who sold drugs to the guy who used to share a prison cell with the former roomate of the killer.

Because each of those people is the solution that leads to the solution.

They’re all part of the expanded field of vision.

It’s not about mind over matter, it’s about using your mind to allow more things to matter so you can eventually bump into the best solution.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Scott's Sunday Sentences, Issue 007

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I'm constantly scouring and learning and reading and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of "learning in public," I've decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 
"Make a character want something, that’s how you begin," from Conversations With Kurt Vonnegut.

Culture, Humanity & Society 
"The diorama was the original virtual reality experience," from the obituary of Fred Scherer.

Identity, Self & Soul 
"Our personal culture is constituted of our point of view, our style, our sense of humor, our unique gifts and drives, our voice and our artist’s sensibility," from Steven Pressfield.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 
"Do we have to live in a world of fictions, falsehoods and figments?" from Why Facts Matter.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 
"Happiness is driven more by experience than things," from designing happier cities.

Media, Technology & Design 
"You comment on things, and that substitutes for doing them," from The Circle.

Nature, Health Science 
"Numbers are as close as we get to the handwriting of god," from Pacific Rim.

People, Relationships & Love 
"He accomplished big things by making himself smaller than the moment," from Thomas Friedman's obituary of Mandela.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling
"Responding to life in a manner that’s free from our conditioning," from Psychology Today.

Success, Life & Career
"People without dirty hands are wrong, doing something makes you right," from The Cult of Done.

Work, Business Organizations
"Any tension sense by anyone anywhere has some place to go to get rapidly and reliably processed into some kind of change," from the genius of Holacracy.

See you next week!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dabble In Magic Early And Often

If you don’t believe in magic on some level, your art is going to suck.

And when I say magic, I’m not referring to supernatural enthusiasms or ancient mythologies or occult practices or bewildering godspeak, rather, those moments of virtuosity and mystery and meaning, those acts of human moral beauty that provoke the kindred and start a conversation with something much larger than yourself.

In short, awe.

That’s what we mean when we say magic.

In the landmark study on awe, researchers defined it as a moral, spiritual and aesthetic emotion. Something has the power to transform people and reorient their lives, goals and values in profound and permanent ways. Making awe one of the fastest and most powerful methods of personal change and growth on the planet.

And that got me thinking.

How do we create moments of awe for our customers? How does the street performer or the landscaping company or the charity foundation embed the experience of awe into their daily work?

According to aforementioned research, awe is the intersection of two moments:

Wow and how.

Wow, meaning you’re in the presence of something sizable and powerful and prestigious, and the sense of vastness overwhelms you. Holy crap. This is amazing. Where’s my camera?

How, meaning you can’t comprehend the mechanics behind that thing, and the desire to accommodate that experience into your worldview overwhelms you. No effing way. How the hell did she do that?

That’s how you create awe. Wow plus how.

It’s not a proven formula. It’s not a predictable construct.

But if you dabble in magic early and often, eventually, it’s going to stick.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

That's My Work, Not My Whole Self

Identity crisis is a group effort.

It may manifest in the individual, but it’s magnified by the collective.

When you realize you’re done doing that which defined you, giving up a self that you have come to identify with and call our own, courageously leaving behind a world you know so well––maybe the only world you’ve ever known and felt home in––the first brand of devastation that manifests is existential.

Imagine an entrepreneur who retires or quits or sells her company after ten years of painstaking work. It’s like she doesn’t know who she is without the business. Nor does she know how to cope with reality in its absence. She’s become a stranger to her own life.

But then comes the other brand of devastation.

When the identity crisis magnifies socially.

And it makes perfect sense.

Humans understand the self in the context of other people. We regulate our emotions and understand the world by connecting with others. And we form our identities based on what we hear ourselves say to people.

Back to our example of the entrepreneur. Without the company attached to her anymore, other people don’t know to relate to her anymore. Because for so many years, that was her chief form of identification. She made the business the most important thing about her. People couldn’t tell where she ended and the company began. And in their eyes, she was always going to be nailed to that cross.

But that’s my work, not my whole self, she says to herself.


Since identity is a social construct, until she changes her attitude about what her role in the world is, nobody will be able to tell the difference between her work and her whole self.

Which means, she needs to reeducate people. To teach them how to treat her and what to call her. And to live her life in a way that proclaims to the world:

I am bigger than my past. I am surrendering my case history. I am outgrowing yesterday’s definition of myself. I am becoming more than what I am known for. I am living larger than my labels.

And with a ton of work, slowly, the new self starts to emerge.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Help People Become What They Are

Leadership isn’t about having power over others.

It’s about giving people the freedom to be themselves.

Inviting them to discover pieces of themselves that were lost or undernurtured, encouraging them to exploit talents they might never exercise anywhere else, allowing them to show off the luminous parts of their identity that exist beyond personality and inspiring them to become who they always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.

That’s the real power.

You say to people:

You no longer have to fight to be who you want to be. I want to see you exactly as you always are.

Which makes people a bit uncomfortable at first.

And they think to themselves:

Should I sand off all the interesting edges? Should I chase away my shadows? Should I remove my soul before I come inside? Should I keep hidden my most secret compartments?

So you say back to them:

Never. Who you are is not up for public comment. I am not here to prove you wrong in how you live your life.

How often you having those conversations with people?

Emerson once said that being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment, but I would argue that person who gives others the freedom to be themselves, is equally as accomplished.

Be someone’s permission slip.

Help people become what they are.