Momentum


momentum

Momentum can be a powerful ally.

It’s that natural rhythm you build up once you’ve stepped out and started along your path to your goal. Some days, that momentum can be so strong that it seems all you have to do is ride the wave.

I’m reminded of this every time I step onto the treadmill at the gym. Those first few steps can seem so hard (especially at 5 a.m.!), but once I get going, I sometimes feel like I can run forever.

Worse than not getting started is stopping before your reach your destination. Whatever my project is – whether working for a client, saving money for my kids’ college funds, or just getting from one place to another on the subway – I find that the worst thing I can do is stop before I am truly done.

Getting started again can be harder than when I started in the first place. It was just going to be a temporary pause, I told myself at the time. Excuses are rampant and easily justified.

Reminds me of “Standing Still,” which I wrote a couple years back.

Once you get started, don’t stop. You’ll never cross the finish line if you do.

We Need to be EVERYWHERE!!


We Need to be Everywhere

I really don’t like this phrase.

In my experience, it’s usually uttered by people who – despite sometimes being very smart – have a confused impression of how to effectively get their message out to the world.

Savvy PR strategists know that, rather than be “everywhere,” organizations seeking attention need to be where their market is, connecting with the people who will actually act on the information they deliver.

It’s great to grow your following. But reaching new audiences doesn’t reap the same reward as preaching to your choir: those people who come out to support you time and again and want to see you succeed, or have an interest in what you are doing and want to take part. Because when you don’t deliver to that audience, or show up somewhere those people expect you to be, the fallout is far worse, and those fans and supporters can (and likely will) drift away from you.

To steal a phrase, you need to fish where the fish are – where your fish are – not just cast your net wide and hope something shiny and new swims into it.

For me, a couple of core rules always apply:

1. Do your research: Know your audience and prep your message. Make sure there’s a clear actionable and a reward for doing so. Make it easy.

2. Don’t move so fast: Yes, we need to keep pace with the way the world turns, but don’t artificially accelerate your timeline because you’re imagining some deadline. The water’s going to boil when it’s hot, and that’s when you know it’s ready. And since speed exacerbates mistakes, slow down and get it right when you do go public.

3. Make short term sacrifices for long term gains: Do what you have to do now, to make your thing a success later. Everyone soft launches something sometimes, even offering deals for early adopters in order to gain acceptance and a following. Build your audience slowly and with care. The people who recognize your value will be more loyal in the long run and help spread your message. They will also defend you if that day ever comes. And it will.

4. Shut out the noise: Eliminate all distractions. Ban the bugaboos; those things that keep you awake at night because they “might happen.” It’s either gonna happen or it’s not, so visualize your goal, stop worrying and get to it.

Are you everywhere?

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Creativity is King, but Planning is the Queen


LEGO

LEGOs are awesome.

My son has just made the jump from the Duplo sets to what he calls “little LEGOs” and I have been sucked in as well.

With a pile of multicolored bricks of every shape and size strewn across his playroom, we begin shaping creations only limited by our imaginations.

But as the constructs become more complicated, daddy realizes the most amazing builds need to be guided: with a plan.

Same goes in the business world. You can’t possibly accomplish something without thinking it through and devising a plan first.

So here’s what building LEGOs has taught me:

1. Understand what you want to accomplish. What are you trying to create and why? What should the finished product look like and how much room do you want/need to leave for spontaneous creativity? In my world, balancing planning and unforseen opportunities for creativity is a good mix.

2. Have the raw materials and the time you need to do the job. Do you have what you need to make your vision come to life? Can you create what you need to in the time allotted? Do you need to make changes based on either of these criteria, and will the changes negatively affect the final product?

3. Sketch out the final product and the steps needed to get there. Before you put the roof on the house (or the satellite dish on the moon base) you need walls, doors and windows in place first. Those walls need to be strong enough to support what’s being piled on top of it, and they need to stand up straight.

4. Execute with joy. Get to doin’ and make your thing. Keep moving ahead; don’t get stuck on a detail or you will never get to the end. Quality check every step. Have fun as you go, otherwise you will rush to the end and make mistakes along the way.

5. Share and make them happy. There’s nothing more satisfying than giving your creation to your little construction buddy for him to play with. Similarly, deliver the fruits of your labor to your client. Savor the smile.

How do you balance creativity and planning?

(P.S. Why is Planning not the King? Because everyone knows the Queen is the one who is really in charge.)

Back At It


Priorities

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from posting.. things have been quite busy.

I have had so much going on at work that I had not one moment to think about creative writing, much less put something down on paper (or computer!), even though it was on my mind.

And although not posting anything new here is a bit of a failure on my part, it also points out an important lesson about priorities and workload.

I could have easily not completed a work project in order to take time to write something. I could have put this blog – a hobby of mine – ahead of something that affects my clients and my company. I could have sat and mused about writing something fun or insightful, worked the copy until I got it just right, found an interesting image and loaded in links for entertainment, posted it, sat back and felt like I had accomplished something.

But that would have meant putting off things that needed greater attention, that were frankly more important.

It illustrates to me the larger lesson of prioritizing and delaying pleasure in order to achieve a goal.

So much of life is about knowing when and how to prioritize, and when to set aside things that don’t matter.

Pardon me, now.. it’s dinner time with my family and I am turning this thing off. (see.. priorities!)

Overexposed


Overexposed

There’s such a thing as doing too much. And we know it when we see it.

We live in a hectic world, always running somewhere: running to catch a flight, running home to have dinner, running to meet a client or a deadline.

So much of our life can be spent running. Chasing something. Sometimes we don’t even know after what.

We need to slow down.

Not “take a vacation” slow down (although right now on this flight home from San Antonio, a vacation sounds awfully good), I mean slow down in our every day lives.

Moving too fast is an invitation for stupid mistakes. It drains the meaningful out of what we do, and inflates the trivial. It makes mediocrity feel like a win.

We’re not supposed to spend our lives putting out fires and fixing mistakes. We’re supposed to avoid the matches in the first place so we never even have to call the fire department.

Some people, some organizations – especially in the public relations world – seem like they are always out there, all the time, hogging the spotlight and yelling above the din. Lesser people would be tempted to match their frequency in a quest for our own feeling of connection and satisfaction. To do as much as they are. We would be wrong.

Fewer, smarter, better campaigns are always preferable to the run-and-gun school of public relations. The news cycle is what it is. And there’s always another one coming.

You’ll get your turn at bat. Make sure you can see the pitch when it comes.

Eliminate the Noise


Noise

Anything that distracts us from our goals can be defined as noise.

It’s all around us, mostly in the form of messages designed to get us to take action, and usually to spend money. It’s siren song lures us into big box stores with promises of zero-percent financing; into restaurants for two-for-one, bottomless drinks and dinners; and into all manner of other entertainment, experiential and consumption opportunities.

But if those opportunities don’t align with our goals, the are distractions. They sap our attention, energy and resources. By that definition, they must be eliminated.

This is not an anti-marketing message; rather, this is a pro-YOU message.

It’s your job to figure out what is noise, for you, your organization and your goals. You need to filter the noise from the essential. One man’s noise can be another man’s nirvana.

It can be daunting, and perhaps not fun. Asking – actually telling – other people that their best and sincerest efforts are not welcome.

But it’s either them or you. You can’t apologize for doing what you do.

Planning: Only Half of the Battle


planning

I’m a big fan of planning. I’ve written about it here more than once.

Planning makes everything else possible. The only way we achieve our goals is by laying out a clear strategy to get there. When we fail to plan, we – literally – plan to fail.

But planning without execution is just as fatal. In fact, lack of execution makes all the planning pointless. Why go through the exercise of drawing up a winning plan if you’re not going to act on it?

Plenty can get in the way of a good plan, whether accidental or deliberate. And it sometimes takes feats of Herculean strength to overcome those obstacles.

But there’s no reason to not plan, and even fewer reasons to not execute.

How do you plan?

You’re Such A Baby!


Crying baby

My son frequently melts down over the littlest things. Crying, sobbing, wailing and stomping his feet in a performance that is often Oscar-worthy.

Most of these events would be hysterical funny if he weren’t my own offspring, for whom my heart beats on a daily basis. This morning’s episode was because “You put the waffle in the toaster and I wanted to do it.” These are major issues. The kind that Kissinger used to negotiate.

(Footnote: Teens that want to have unprotected sex should be invited into the household of a toddler for a day. It would be a wildly successful, scared-straight program.)

His disappointment expanded when I then informed him that, because of his 15 minute crying-howling-jumping-up-and-down-waffle fit, we were now behind schedule and I would be unable to drive him to school, and that mommy would be doing the chauffeur duty today. Parents reading this know how THAT turned out.

After calming him down, I held his hands, looked into his teary eyes and drew upon my infinite fatherly wisdom, delivering the following line in my most reassuring tone: “Next time remember, ‘I’m not gonna cry, because its just going to mess me up.'”

We repeated it to each other like some kind of toddler 12-step program, until I was relatively sure it had sunk in. I know he’s already forgotten it by now.

Now having a moment to think back on it, I wonder if we’re so far removed from toddlers ourselves.

When we run into obstacles, how do we deal with them? Do we yell and scream, freak out, or pitch the adult equivalent of a screaming, kicking and crying fit? Do we allow our responses – emotional or otherwise – to put ourselves behind schedule, or off the track to our own success?

How do we cope with setbacks or unforseen events? What happens when we get thrown off our game? It makes me also think of this previous post, in which I propose that kids actually have the answer to all our questions.

What do you think?

Where’d I Put That Idea?


Great Idea

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Ever had one of those moments where you have a great idea, but didn’t write it down? And once you had a free moment to act on it, you forgot key details, or even forgot the whole idea in the first place?

Perhaps it’s a great idea with no one to apply it to. It’s just a “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” kind of moment that you hope and pray you will remember the next time you need it.

Or maybe you have a great idea that’s a perfect fit for a client, and you can see the end product and payoff, but your client is reluctant to take the plunge on it.

We’ve all been stuck at one point or another, trying to fit round pegs in square holes, or trying to find a path an an elusive goal.

I don’t have a magic answer as to how to get to that end point. Every path is different. You have to find yours for yourself.

The important lesson is this: don’t give up. No matter what obstacles are thrown before you, no matter how many times you may fall down or get derailed, no matter how long it takes: something worth doing is worth completing. Otherwise you’ve wasted your time and energy and that of the people you work with.

Maybe that’s the real secret: before starting a project, ask yourself if it’s worth finishing. If it is, there’s no reason not to thrown yourself into it completely. If it isn’t worth finishing, don’t start it in the first place.