Monday, July 14, 2014

Lessons Learned From My Last 5,000 Days Wearing A Nametag

The word project comes from the word proiectum.

It means “something thrown forth.”

This is the core of what it means to be prolific. Throwing things forth. Melting the glaciers within you. Finding a productive obsession that galvanizes you and serves your meaning making efforts. Brainstorming and creating and organizing and executing ideas and enlisting smart people to help you fulfill your vision. Not to mention, discovering the ecstasy within the process of the work itself and experiencing sublime joy of seeing things come together to produce an artistic whole.

That’s a project.

The best part is, we respect ourselves when we do something we said we wanted to do. After all, one of our goals in life is to make ourselves proud. And we do that through endeavors that define our time on earth.

In celebration of my five thousandth day of wearing a nametag, I wanted to share a collection of the projects I’ve worked on in the past sixteen years. 

More importantly, I wanted to share the stories behind them, the lessons attached to them, and the questions you might ask yourself because of them.

Hope they inspire you to throw something forth:

1998 – Spare No Heaven: Recorded my first album in our basement on an eight track digital audio tape recorder. Enlisted my dad to engineer audio production for the master. Found the only guy with a compact disc burner on his computer and paid him five bucks per copy. Sold the product to my friends and family. The songs weren’t great, but they were mine.

What if there were bigger creative fish to fry than quality?

2001 – The Comfort of Discomfort: This album had significantly more production value and instrumentation. I did all the audio engineering myself, this time on a sixteen track digital recorder. Paid my graphic designer buddy two hundred bucks to design the album cover and linear notes. Snuck into the design department computer lab to print out a hundred booklets in full color. Irritated a few teachers, impressed few girls.

What are the exceptions to the rules that helped you succeed?

2002 – HELLO, my name is Scott: Written during my senior year of college. Edited by my friends. Cover photo shot at the family portrait studio at the mall. I ambitiously printed three thousand copies on the first printing. Hand glued two free nametags on the back inside cover of every book. Gave almost every copy away for free. Totally worth it. Because my first book wasn’t a book, it was a brand. It went viral before viral was viral.

Are you worrying about being the finest, or being the first?

2004 – The Power of Approachability: Got the idea for this book while sitting on an inner tube in the lazy river. Researched my face off. Fell in love with the production team I still use to this date, including my art director, cover designer, editor and printer. Learned just how obsessive compulsive I truly am, and that the occasional book typo is actually a great marketing strategy to connect with readers.

Have you learned how to live with imperfection?

2005 – Rent Scott’s Brain: Nobody really knows what coaches and consultants do. Because of low barriers to entry, minimal training requirements and mass market saturation, these are poorly defined service offerings. I launched this program as a radically honest, contrarian answer to that problem. Highly profitable. Plus, it allowed me to set a boundary to keep the bloodsuckers and timewasters away.

How explicitly are your service offerings defined?

2006 – How to be That Guy. My best selling book to date, and yet, the most polarizing title. Interesting. Either way, this book was an early turning point in my writing style. I started to feel like the me I always wanted to be. What’s more, I learned which corners in the book production and marketing process were worth cutting: Most of them.

Are you willing to polarize to monetize?

2006 – NametagTV: Back when I thought online training was the future of corporate learning and development, I invested massive amounts of time, money and energy building my own production studio and proprietary video platform. Never made a dime. Barely broke even. Officially a failure. Then again, did build something I was proud of and that I can point to. So not a total loss.

Have you accepted that failure is what makes life a story?

2007 – Make a Name for Yourself: Only full color book I’ve ever written. Weighs twice as much as the black and white books because of paper and ink weight. Expensive as hell, but it’s a gorgeous product. Always been one of my favorites. On a side note, I stole the cover idea from an early edition of one of my favorite books, Velvet Elvis.

How much energy are you investing in being a beautiful organism?

2007 – Sun Sessions: After taking a tour of the legendary Sun Studios, I had no choice but to record my next album there. The nostalgic energy in the room was palpable. The spirit of the blues was alive. And the barbecue afterwards was delicious. It was a rite of passage and one of the great creative experiences in my life.

What happens to someone like you at your spiritual best?

2008 – The Approachable Series: The sole purpose of this book trilogy was to create a licensing and certification program. My vision was to scale my brand without the need to physically be in the room. Unfortunately, that process required way more legal, organizational and managerial wherewithal than I could muster. So while the books ended up selling pretty well, but the bigger idea died on the vine. Oh well.

What are the key capabilities and resources required to execute your strategy?

2009 – Live Your Name: I wrote this book because I was angry, needed to blow off some emotional steam and wanted give myself permission to be radically honest. More of an therapeutic exercise than a project, but it sure felt good to get all that darkness out of my system.

Are you willing to selfishly create?

2009 – Search Scott’s Brain: In an effort to create a destination, not a website, I hired a development team to create a custom search engine for my entire body of work, including all my writings, videos and other media. I was never more excited about a feature of a website in my life. Turns out, I was the only one who was excited. Nobody cared. God damn it.

What happens if you build it and they never come?

2009 – Stick Yourself Out There. Not a book, a symphony. Structured with movements, codas, interludes and the like. So much fun to write. Two books in one. Engaging cover in an innovative flip flop style that several other authors subsequently stole from. Absolutely drove my design team crazy. Total pain in the ass to produce. Then again, it’s hard cover, and it feels super fancy and credible.

Are you creating something you would put in your coffin?

2010 – Able. Another concept book. Most people didn’t get it. But composing the chapter titles at my weekly sushi club with my two friends made it worth the price of admission. Funniest table of contents of all time. No regrets.

Are you focused on the creative process, not what the creating produces?

2010 – Ideas Are Free, Execution Is Priceless. I wrote this book because I was tired of hearing people complain about how they had ideas, but never did anything with them. It became the first of many daily devotionals, which became my trademark book style. Strong content. My dad gave me the idea for the title.

What emotion is the ember of your initiative?

2010 – The Approachable Leader: This was a book about yoga disguised as a corporate leadership text. At the time, I had just begun practicing yoga, but it had already changed my life in myriad ways. And so, I took the principles of breathing and flexibility and vulnerability and applied them to the business world. My spirit animal made the cover.

Are you keeping all your passions in play?

2011 – Brandtag: One of the most exciting and risky projects I’d attempted thus far. Much of my inspiration for this project can be attributed to Hugh Macleod’s cube grenade. Learned how to infect people with a vision. Learned how to diversify my service offerings as a business. Learned how to contain an idea before it was ready to hatch.

How much longer will you allow feedback to bounce you around like a pinball?

2011 – Heartbreakthrough: Every songwriter does a breakup album. It’s in the job description. The process was painful and bloody and liberating and confusing. And although I can’t bring myself to listen to or play any of those songs again, I got it out of my system and moved on. Good riddance.

Do you have a creative gasket to purge everything?

2011 – The Nametag Manifesto: I heard an interview with an award winning novelist who said American writers were afraid of imagination. That really bothered me, so I write my manifesto, which reads like utopian narrative. More difficult and fun that I expected. I plan to use it as the foundation for a novel and/or screenplay in the future.

Are you starting projects that can kick open creative doors to other artistic worlds?

2011 – The Nametag Principle: I only carry one book in my briefcase when I travel, and this is it. Perfect design. Perfect content. Favorite book I’ve written. Problem is, I’m scared that I may never top it. Woops.

Are you always on the lookout for flaws to be improved on?

2011 – Watch Scott Write. People often ask me about my writing process, but instead of trying to explain it, I thought I’d just show it. I hacked a video screen shot software and created this series of time lapse videos of my daily writing process. Didn’t make any money, didn’t get any attention, but it’s really, really cool.

How could you make the invisible inescapable?

2012 – Let the City Crumble: My dad, once again, gets the credit for title of this record. The cover photo is especially meaningful to me, as it’s a picture of the two lovebirds my wife and I encountered while on vacation in Mexico. They’ve become a symbol of our relationship ever since.

What is worth blowing up for love?

2012 – Sentence Junkie: I’ve been categorizing and indexing the record of everything I’ve done for the past twelve years. The problem is, I feel unarmed without it. And so, I created this online database and search engine to give myself access to my creative inventory when I’m away from my primary writing environment.

What’s your intellectual inventory system?

2012 – Thinkmaps: During my fifteen month stint at a digital agency, I invented an accelerated strategic framework called thinkmapping. It’s where research, narrative, strategy and insight collide. I wore an orange jumpsuit and looked like an escape convict.

How are you enlarging your concept of work?

2012 – Adventures in Nametagging: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cartoonist. Ironically enough, I ended up becoming the character of the cartoon, not the creawtor. Funny how life works out sometimes.

Are you living a life worth writing about?

2012 – The Kindle Series: I released eight digital books in one day. The goal was to flip the digital bird to the mainstream publishing industry. Unfortunately, nobody paid any attention. Or money. Which really upset me. Interestingly, on the walk over to the chicken wing bar to eat my feelings on the day of their release, I bumped into one of my readers. She thanked me and said she downloaded every one of my new books.

How many audience members do you need to feel okay with yourself?

2013 – Let Me Suggest This: I’m really proud of this book. Didn’t sell very many copies, but it marks a new level of maturity and insightfulness in my writing, and that’s all you can really ask for.

Are you playing in a manner that creates growth, no matter what the score is?

2013 – Zen and the Art of Wearing Nametags: Before writing this book, I spent about six months researching the hero’s journey, mythology, narrative structure, screenwriting and the like. Then I sat down and hashed out my nametag story from a cinematic perspective. The process was challenging, fun and inspiring. Be ready for the movie.

What are you doing research on?

2014 – TEDx: A career highlight, no doubt. Spoke in my hometown to all my friends and family in my favorite local venue. Turns out, it’s surprisingly hard to prepare an eighteen minute speech. Especially when the countdown clock of death is staring back at you the whole time.

When was the last time you introduced constraints into the creative process?

2014 – Moments of Conception: I heard an interview with an actor who mashed up three bad movies into one great movie. That inspired me to being deconstructing moments of conception from my favorite films, along with a series of creativity lessons we can learn from the characters. It’s like reliving my childhood.

What was your creative moment of conception?

2014 – The Prolific Framework. This project originated as a course curriculum for the continuing education program at a local university, but later evolved into an intellectual property development system. What I love most about this project is, it’s highly research driven and very left brain. That was hard for me.

Are you elevating, or just executing?

2014 – Tunnel of Love. We officially started production for my documentary this past weekend with a live concert. I’m the writer, producer, director and star of the film. It’s the most ambitious and expensive and expressive art project I’ve ever undertaken. Premiering this fall.

Once you find a home for all your talents, what will be possible?

Five thousand days. Those are the projects I’ve thrown forth.

What’s your list?