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I love a good comeback story. Whether it’s an athlete battling back from a career-ending injury, a friend from a life-threatening disease or a business from an unexpected economic condition–I am cheering them on. And while disasters and misfortune and pain are a significant part of our reality and we hate to see anyone dealing with difficulty, you have to admit, comebacks are sublime. My favorite children’s stories, movies, news events and even cartoons always seem to involve someone or some place overcoming obstacles.

Comebacks came to mind 312187_416858315078290_430805569_nthis past week while attending a BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Conference in Buffalo, NY. Having never been to Buffalo, I was thrilled when my cab driver gave me an impromptu history lesson about Buffalo’s rise from the economic disaster after Great Lakes shipping was rerouted and the steel mills relocated. That evening while attending the conference opening reception, I got another history lesson in the recovery of Buffalo’s cultural vibrancy after the decline of the grain-milling industry from another local resident. In both conversations, the pride with which these life-long residents recounted the slow, but significant recovery their city had effected was palpable. They LOVED telling me the comeback tale.

Having been through a personal comeback of my own this past few years (and still climbing), my experience in Buffalo reminded me of how comebacks not only define us as human beings, but as organisms within a greater system of similar tenacity.  Nature comes back in the face of extinction (Nature’s Top 10 Greatest Comebacks of the 20th Century.) Small towns rebound from economic down turns (America’s Best Small Town Comebacks–my hometown of DeLand, FL made the top ten!). Cities devastated by natural disaster come back with more ingenuity and community spirit than ever (7 U.S. Cities that Rallied after Natural Disaster).

And while stability and prosperity are preferred states of being, the reality of the world we live in is a reflection of the planet we inhabit. There is flux and destruction and loss. But there is also glorious tenacity, perseverance and resiliency. So instead of focusing on what’s terribly wrong in today’s world, on the ecological, economic and social problems with us and looming on the horizon, the community leaders at the BALLE conference championed creative comebacks. Realistic about the challenges, they highlighted the tenacity and resolve of communities all over North America making a real difference. And when see the comebacks all around us, we can feel confident and yes, hopeful that no matter what, we have what it takes to rise again and again. Famed football coach Vince Lombardi Jr. summed it up: “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.” Amen Coach. Amen.

To start off the new business year, I’m going to repeat what I tell my clients over and over. YOUR story matters in the marketing of your business and your creative work. This demonstration from Landor Unleash aptly shows why stories are such an important part of marketing.

AND to follow up a recent post on my dislike for jargon and take this mantra into 2013, I’m going to use some doublespeak I just discovered that nonetheless describes something I am passionate about–transmedia storytelling. Coined by media experts in the early 1990’s and currently being advanced in popular media by Dr. Pamela Rutledge of the Media Psychology Institute, all transmedia storytelling means is using the whole of technology to tell whatever story you have to tell, whether it’s for business or cultural or personal or entertainment purposes. By engaging the audience with multiple platforms, be it written, spoken, visual, gaming, cinematic or social media applications, not only are the characters more compelling, but the consumer becomes an interactive player in the story. Says Rutledge:

“Stories are the brain’s way of organizing information – in other words, how we rise above the noise. Stories package information for rapid comprehension by engaging the brain at all levels: intuitive, emotional, rational, and somatic.”

So even though I hate mumbo jumbo, I am convinced that the marriage of the ancient art of storytelling with modern methods of information delivery is critical to our ability to bridge the old with the new and make our messages heard. Because our brains are wired to understand stories, I believe “transmedia storytelling” is how we will begin to sort through the proliferation of technology and quiet the static of our modern lives.

story-telling

modern storytelling

I have a couple New Year’s Day rituals that have served me well the past few years, but one that consistently hits the mark is pulling one card from a deck of Native American animal medicine cards. The pasts few years have turned up the spider, dolphin and antelope. In retrospect, all quite appropriate for what the years brought to me.

Today, Jan. 1, 2013, I pulled the Badger. Well la-de-da. The meanest, baddest little animal around. I read the history, the symbolism, the lessons to be learned and tried to see how this might fit into the life situations facing me in the new year. badger24

Badger Symbolism and Power (excerpted from purespirit.com and whats-your-sign.com)

  • The white stripe is symbolic of how open it is, providing knowledge and enlightenment to other animals and the earth.
  • The strong jaws tie the badger to the mysteries of the “word” – in particular the magic of storytelling. Badger reminds us to remember stories and give them away to people when they are needed.
  • The remarkable digger hints at the ability to see beneath the surface of all things and people. Also, the closeness to herbs and roots make badger dynamic healers.
  • Loners and solitary, badgers teach us to be self-reliant and comfortable with ourselves.
  • Bold and ferocious when cornered, badger reminds us to never surrender.
  • Connected to the earth, so a grounding totem.
  • The symbolism of the badger also includes individuality. The badger is a unique creature, well equipped to meet all the challenges it faces. It lives its life quite effectively. And although its methods might seem unorthodox, the badger doesn’t care what the rest of the animal kingdom thinks about them. This is perhaps the greatest lesson the badger imparts to us. In short, the badger tell us to “walk your own path at your own pace.” Nevermind what others may say. Have faith in your own abilities and know that you are well-equipped to take on whatever challenge faces you.

And then the irreverent (don’t watch if you are easily offended) “Honey Badger” viral video came to mind. Is 2013 my “Honey Badger Don’t Care” year? You never can tell.  There’s something to be said for boldly going for it. Mixed with a healthy dose of compassionate action,  the badger attitude might just make 2013 a break-out year.

Buzzwords and marketing jargon piss me off. Big surprise that I find myself working in field full of double-speak, but also a worthy challenge for a writer bent on getting to the real language below the lingo. I believe consumers want authentic and personal, not hype.

So of course, as ironies go, here I am in a partnership attempting to develop a down-to-earth, small town version of a trendy virtual office business that is rift with yada yada. I’m cringing each time I try to write the elevator pitch. “Co-create” “co-working” “collaborative rather than cutthroat” “community-based commerce” “micro business incubator” “entrepreneurial hub”…the list goes on. My skill as a wordsmith is woefully failing me at the moment. Or maybe the current wave of marketing messages are just too hip for my aging preferences.

In a modern world that often relies on making up words to fit new–or more precisely, recycled concepts–I still want real language. Pithy deserves it. And I’ll take any real language suggestions for my elevator pitch you’ve got.

Pithy-Poster-5 Civilization

Pithy Posters from Lambda Literary

 

I admit it and my friends and family will attest: I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays. The obligation, the commercialism, the hype annoys me to no end. But this past weekend while working the soft opening of a new business venture and observing community events geared towards the holidays, I gleefully noticed an  ever-so-slow shift in thinking that is beginning to build among us.  Instead of just paying lip-service to the new economy and finding a different way of measuring success, we are beginning to DO it. We are beginning to measure success in relationships, community and shared experiences rather than dollars. I heard it in conversations at meetings, in  interactions with local merchants. I saw it in the plans people were making together beyond the holiday hype.

I observed all this while hanging out at Virtually Sisters, a project/community development collaboration now housed at 16 West Beverley St. in Staunton, Virginia. The partners in the venture (me being one) dream of a collaborative space that is the container and springboard for micro business ideas in the Staunton area. Some people would call it an incubator. I disagree. It’s not a place to “hatch” something. It’s a place to showcase, and most of all, DO what we are passionate about. 16 West is a light socket, an electrical outlet, a generator plug, a stage, a virtual audience, hands to shield the wind while a spark bursts to flame.

Virtually Sisters has hosted two business/retail activities in the space so far–the launch of the new (h)Economy time bank, and a series of Holiday Pop-Up retail days for home/internet based businesses. In the coming weeks 16 West will  be made available as inexpensive downtown work space, as a networking hub and as a showcase spot where micro businesses can be discovered and accessed in new ways– both through brick-and-mortar and virtual means. With so many cool things going on just below the surface of Staunton’s enormously creative community, 16 West will be a window to everything new and innovative happening right here.

 

So what shift in consciousness did I observe during these beginning events? People came together to share things they truly CARE about–families, friends, gardening/farming, crafts, technology, homesteading, art, music, photography, sewing, books–and began to build partnerships to help make their passions a bigger part of their lives. It was business mixed equally with the human need for relationship and joy. Sure, we all need to survive and earning money is part of the survival equation. But what if we measure our success by the ways we build partnerships and share ideas and help each other grow them? What if people equity  and relationships return as our primary source of business and community satisfaction rather than purely economic measures? Seeing that happen makes this Grinch very happy.

 

Is cutting through the facade of FINE the key to getting what you really want? A little tough love and common sense from Mel Robbins. My favorite line of this remarkable video? “If you’re in your head, you’re behind enemy lines.” Mel Robbins rocking the complacency of FINE. Definitely a TED talk worth 20 minutes of your time.

This morning I realized I picked a ridiculous time to launch a business and publish a book that’s taken five years to write. Election year. Uncertain economy. Mayan calendar, blah, blah, blah. At a time when everyone seems to be waiting to “see what happens,” I’m sitting here tapping my fingers wondering what this waiting is all about.

My mornings usually start with industriously putting potentiality in motion and then waiting for responses….waiting for clients to provide input, waiting for proposals to be accepted (or rejected), waiting for the people I’ve sent advance copies of my book to say SOMETHING, ANYTHING, ANYBODY OUT THERE? But in that space this morning between creating and waiting, there was a odd moment where Samuel Beckett and his strange dark humor stepped in.  And then a Sesame Street parody. And suddenly all the waiting became a twist of perception, tolerable, necessary, even hilarious. Business (and life) according to Beckett (and Cookie Monster.) What the heck are we waiting for anyway? We’re already there.

“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.”  ~Beckett, Waiting for Godot

“That’s deep, deep stuff. Oh well, now for something that makes a lot more sense…ahhaha COOKIES!” ~Cookie Monster