Going Old-School

On our recent flight to FL, I watched the film All the President’s Men. Released in 1976, it’s a fascinating look at Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigative research while uncovering the Watergate break-ins.

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Their work included no Google, no cell phones, no Internet.  Their tools were personal connections, rotary phones, typewriters, phone booths, hard-copy library check out cards, stacks of paper in offices, suits and ties for 2 am meetings, lunchtime Thermos drinks, Rolodex, smoking in offices-elevators-apartments- everywhere, searching through phone books of many cities to find a single phone number.

I thought of the contrast of the long-winded, connect-the-dots research and subterfuge with today’s always online, tuned-in access that we have available.  I truly believe that while all my screen time helps me in so many ways from research to work to finding a recipe, I think it also results in a loss of collaboration and personal connections.

While on our spring break cruise with five high school girl and moms, the cell phones and iPads were locked in the safe.IMGP0014 After our initial electronic withdrawal phase, the girls said they didn’t miss them. Going “old school”, they were able to spend time turning other teens into friends, make advance plans where to meet them after meals, have focused time with each other and us without scrolling through social site pictures of their classmates’ scattered vacations.

The majority of our group consciously stayed off-the-grid while on our trip. The time was spent connecting those around us, not watching on social media what others were doing, comparing experiences, or working.

That focused offline time is something I shall try to incorporate into my life going forward. I will try to turn off the online access for periods of the workday to remove distractions. Go old-school to forge ahead.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Photo credits.  From movie, my.xfinifty.com.  Safe, from my photo archives, 2012.

Jesse Eisenberg and the Creative Process

How do you prefer to write? In longhand, on paper? Or on the computer? Me, I prefer the computer. As a Southpaw, I find I type far faster than I can write as my brain spews out ideas. One downside is that I feel sometimes like I might edit too quickly, losing initial thoughts.

In a recent interview and book signing with actor and first time author Jesse Eisenberg, he said he finds writing on the computer more distracting than all the outdoors. I agree that it is so easy to get lost in that internet rabbit hole, jumping from one link to another.

Eisenberg, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Bill Gates in The Social Network, was in person funny, clever, fast, and felt like he was in constant motion, even when sitting. He was engaging during his interview with Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune, and during his post-talk book signings chatted and joked with everyone.

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He did a hilarious, spot-on reading from his new book Bream Gives me The Hiccups.  Once Eisenberg creates a character, he lets him or her take over the writing.  He learned from acting that “there are no paint by numbers in theater”. He also said that all characters are dealing with an internal issue.

Though I often have to write for business—copy, blog posts, presentations, sometimes I find it difficult to find the time or inspiration for my personal creative endeavors. I find it intriguing to hear about others’ writing process: where they get their ideas, how they manage their projects and creativity.

Eisenberg said to write about what you are interested in, even if it might be obscure. And Caro agreed, saying that when you are trying to write for the reader alone, you will feel it in the product.

As for his transformation from actor to author (he has written plays before), Eisenberg said “I found I was fortuitous finding my path, being rejected from following someone else’s path.” A lesson for us all, I think.

A hope that we can all find our creativity in 2016—whether in writing, photography, art, music, business, decorating, or sports.

The journey continues.

C

Heath Ceramics Factory to My Table

My sister and I spent a recent Saturday morning visiting Heath Ceramics in Sausalito,CA. Made in the US since Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948, I was fascinated to learn the history of the lovely, timeless ceramics created here.

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During a factory tour, I was impressed with the obvious passion our tour guide had for the products. She carefully handled cups and vases mid-production as she explained the next manufacturing step. Some of the builders, creators,and glazers have worked there since the 1970’s, a sure sign of loyalty for Heath Ceramics.

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As a business owner, I appreciate how the vision of the founder Edith Heath lives on in the current business. Even with an ownership change in 2003, Heath Ceramics has products at the Smithsonian and other museums, classic styles. They recently took control of their product distribution, after being sold at a high- end retailers like Gump’s.

What lessons for success can a small consulting firm learn from factory tour of a ceramics firm? Many, it turns out–

  • Enduring aesthetics/ design while remaining contemporary
  • Product line transformation and expansion
  • Attention to detail
  • Loyal client base
  • Listening to the customer
  • Willingness to change
  • Staying true to your products/services
  • Changing distribution methods as needed
  • Ongoing quest for improve knowledge and practices

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I purchased a simple white serving bowl for myself (and a couple gifts for friends).  Timeless, useful, and a reminder to always strive for more in my business.

The journey continues.

C

What’s Hidden Behind Your Walls?

My house is trashed.There are currently 3 floors of construction–all due from water leaking near the chimney and running silently down inside the walls over the last year. Walls are bare to the cement, ceilings removed, insulation and carpets ripped out.

This unseen problem reminds me of the issues that can happen to your unwatched database. Looking only at the top-line counts, signs of growth  can be positive.  But, someone needs to monitor the lists added, the aging of files, ensure that demographics are properly applied, watch how lists are selected and used, review response rates, and monitor the general health of the database.

Without this vigilance, your data can become corroded. And you might not even know for awhile. For example, if you append data incorrectly, you may start marketing your car wash cleaning supplies to beauty parlors. Or send invitations for an exclusive executive retreat to lower level personnel who do not have the experience or travel budgets to attend. Wasteful and expensive, and you will likely not reach your target numbers and your budget.

Or you add a poor quality email list and start using it without permission, cleaning or testing. Then you might end up on some blacklists on top of low response rates.

A bad list and incorrect data upgrades are just a couple examples of hidden problems that can impact your database viability. Avoid those leaks that can quickly and silently spread throughout your database. And if you or someone spots a potential problem, be sure to investigate it. Unchecked,that trickle can run throughout your database.

Don’t let any hidden leaks require you to break down your database.  Hopefully ongoing monitoring will help keep your database healthy.  And strong.  And a valuable asset to your organization.

The journey continues.

C

The Creative Spark

I am sitting in our incredible five-star-award-winning ELA library writing. Looking around, there are 10,000’s of books, 100’s of magazines, DVD’s Blu rays, CD’s, computers, puzzles. No matter what your interests are from knights to nights, stars to traveling afar, football to decorating walls, baking to mentally escaping, you will find something to help you achieve your goals.

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When I am writing, or taking photographs, I often wonder if all the words have been written before, a frame shot just so. Looking at the myriad of items I can borrow from my library, I realize that while all the words may have been used– It has not been in the same order, with the same feeling and goals, as my writing. Or yours.

I write often for work. When I am struggling, sometimes with deadlines I know I have to keep typing until it is complete, other times I can pause (maybe walk the dogs) and this brief respite frees up those creative thoughts buried in my brain.

I keep an online folder of marketing emails I have received that look effective and a folder of direct mail pieces with response-driven copy I like. I skim through magazines—on topics I might only be marginally interested in– to see what other publications are doing to entice new readers and promote brand extensions. I read a variety of type of books, see films old and new.

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So that library time–or book store time for some of you–is not time wasted.   Or procrastination. Not always, anyways. It is “research”, filling that wellspring of imagination of ideas for some future marketing collateral, a report, a novel, a poem, a blog post.

The ELA librarian told me that they have 1,000,000+ annual checkouts.  So others are using the library for their release as well.

The journey continues.

C

Holding the Almighty Pen Aloft

I am a marketer. I am a writer. I am a photographer.   Every single day of my business life and during my personal time, I express my beliefs, my viewpoints. I share in social media, on my blog, in my photos.

Our Freedom of Speech, my freedom of expression, is one of the rights I most value today.   And I am astounded at the terroristic cowardice that took place in Paris this week, the killing of journalists and police officers and innocent people at Charlie Hebdo and the streets of Paris. I am disgusted at the number of journalists who have been captured and murdered in the Middle East in the past year.

I cannot stand in Paris this weekend with others, holding my pens up stating en masse that this right of expression should never be subdued. If anything, it should be widened. Read on the Amnesty International website how Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger, was sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years behind bars for articles he posted on his website “Saudi Arabian Liberals.” Appalling. What are governments and individuals so afraid of?

But, I stand in solidarity with those honoring the victims.  I share with you a photo of my pens and my well-used camera, demonstrating agreement with maintaining and expanding worldwide our freedom of speech. I encourage you to do the same.

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This is NOT what I was going to write about today. But I cannot stop thinking about those murdered in Paris this week.  My prayers are with you and your families.

The journey continues.

C

Update: According to Amnesty International, today (1/9/15) Raif Badawi sadly received 50 lashings today. Sickeningly, he will get 950 move over the next months. You can send an email to try and stop him from getting more–visit the Amnesty International site.

Changing up the View

How do you stay inspired in your daily work environment? We are all busy. Too busy. It is so easy to focus solely on our our day-to-day tasks; sometimes we need step back and see at how what we do impacts the entire organization.

Sometimes I think it’s beneficial to change where/how/when we work, even for a couple of hours or a day. An unexpected view can trigger our synapses in unexpected ways. Being fortunate to often work from home, if I am stuck on a problem or have writers’ block, answers often come to me when I step away from the computer, begin working out or walking the dogs. I will voice record my thoughts, so they don’t vanish before returning to my desk.

I can be extremely productive working on my deck, surrounded by beauty–with no distractions. Can you hold a meeting on an outside location, no cost? Did you ever have a teacher who took class outside–I loved the freedom, and there was no clock watching on those days.

Occasionally I meet with clients on neutral territory–a library, a coffee shop, so that I can train someone or work on a list of projects with virtually no interference. Sometimes we clear items off our to-do list trying to reach out by phone or email on open issues, and sometimes we add to our list.

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The photo here is from the inspiring views I had while writing for several hours, just a few weeks ago. On a lovely Friday afternoon, my friend Patti invited us to work on her boat, where we were amazingly quiet and productive.

Yes, there are times for meetings and conference calls and cleaning out that in-box, but occasional time away from you regular workspace can be enlightening, inspiring, and productive.  Note that it will be awhile until I get to work here from a boat again, as autumn in in full gorgeous color.

The journey continues.

C