Archive for the ‘Letting What We Love Be What We Do’ Category

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.


modern storytelling


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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.

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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.


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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.

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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

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Attention.  Uhhumm. Attention everyone. Hey! Listen up!  What’s wrong with you people? I’ve got something that you might just want to hear!  Why is it so difficult to get anyone’s attention these days?

I have asked myself this question quite a bit, not only when trying to learn new ways to get attention for my clients, but in figuring out how to make the topics I love to write about more marketable in an over-saturated, over-worked, overly rushed marketplace.  What does it take to stand out these days?  And I’m not talking about having the next best-seller, platinum record, or prestigious show at the Metropolitan.  I’m talking about garnering enough attention to make a living wage off what you love to do.

I haven’t figured it out yet, I’m still counting my pennies at the end of the month, but what I have done is begin to make peace with the effort.  When a friend began raving about a 2007 by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called The Black SwanI became intrigued by the psychology of, in relation to marketing the creative arts, something he writes in the beginning of Part 1:

“Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.”

Ok, so not the best marketing slogan for someone wanting to sell books.  And if you carry it a little farther, you could say “Heard music is far less valuable than unheard music” or “Seen art is far less valuable than unseen art.”  But here’s Taleb’s point.

“We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended.  It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order…we take what we know a little too seriously.”

Taleb goes on at length to explain the phenomenon of “black swan” occurrences, or highly improbable events with three basic characteristics:  1) they could not have been predicted 2) they had massive impact and 3) we try to explain (and, I might add, figure out how to repeat the financially lucrative events) afterwards.  He cites 911 and the meteoric rise of Google as prominent black swans, but believes that black swan events are the norm rather than the exception.  Taleb contends that being wired to believe that we can understand, explain and predict anything in the world is a basic human pathology that keeps us enslaved to what we know rather than open to the relevancy of what we don’t know.  Hence, we don’t like to even acknowledge the existence of black swans. Accepting unpredictability doesn’t reinforce our ego’s delusion that we can figure out anything and everything if we just put our minds to the task.  It’s damn near impossible for most of us to grasp that stepping into the uncertainty of our existence is the first step to truly being free.

Alright, so what does this have to do with marketing, particularly marketing creative material?  My guess is that it’s critical in the increasingly massive information age where we now exist.  We are going to have to change our thinking, to accept at a very deep level that there are more books than can possibly be read, more music than can ever be heard and more art than can ever be seen.  Nothing that worked the first time will work again in the same way.  No amount of hard work and perserverence will make a dent in the sheer volume of material available. There is too much to pay attention to, with very few useful ways to sort it out.  What ends up rising to the top of the barrel is completely random.

I’m not saying that we should throw out everything we know about delivering books, music and art to the widest audience possible.  We still have to do what we know how to do.  What I am suggesting however, is that when we understand that nothing we do to predict success is valid, we give POSITIVE black swans more space to arise from our creativity.  Once we let go of what we know about successful writers, musicians and artists–once we stop trying to explain the successes of popular creative icons–once we refuse to accept our brain’s propensity for rewarding what we already know with even more attention rather than encouraging a healthy curiosity about what we don’t know–we can begin to benefit from the “successful” black swans rather than try to emulate, envy or curse their luck.    And how do we do that, you ask?

Always keep more books we haven’t read in the library than we’ve read. Don’t waste precious energy analyzing what’s already been done, why it worked and how to make it happen again.   Let the inherent unpredictability of life free our creative spirit.  And most of all, awaken to the black swans everywhere.   They have a whole lot to teach us about what we don’t know.  And maybe, just maybe, giving our full attention to what we love will get some attention in return.

But I’m not betting on it.  I’m just doing it and seeing what happens.

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Photo courtesy irishviews.com

If you’re a dog lover like me, you can appreciate the unbridled enthusiasm and energy they exhibit when they are doing what they are born to do.  It’s equally fascinating to think about the trouble dogs forced to exist in an environment unsuited for their nature can get into.

I had a border collie once that got so bored with being cooped up in the house he decided to redecorate by stripping the wallpaper from the walls.  When I impressed upon him that such behavior was unacceptable, he became so lethargic and uninterested in life that I thought he might be sick.  But the minute he could cut loose to roam a nearby  pasture looking for a domesticated animal to herd, he was like a new dog, jumping and running with the energy and enthusiasm of a young pup.

I dare say, keeping what we were meant to do always in mind in our creative endeavors has to have a similar effect.  I know that the biggest hurdle I often struggle to overcome in my writing is to stop thinking about what I can sell and just write what I care deeply about.  I’ve watched writers, musicians and artists wrestling with the same thing.  It doesn’t take long for the lethargy to set in.  And before you know it, you’re wondering what you saw in this whole “art” thing anyway.

Author and speaker Og Mandino said:  “Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.”

Ah, and doesn’t enthusiasm beget energy and imagination and genius?  Trust what you love and pour your enthusiasm into it.  The rest will follow.  Could all the dogs in the world be wrong?

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