17 SYLLABLES: by Russell Wortman - May 21, 2013
Feel passion daily ~
Bravely spring forth while stretching
Boundaries ever new
Feel passion daily ~
Bravely spring forth while stretching
Boundaries ever new
One must indeed be brave to let go of something one truly loves.
Be it a giant woodland ape.
Or a future Hollywood star and some buck-toothed nobody.
I too now join the brave company of the Hendersons and E.T., as I have chosen to say goodbye to and let go of one of my great loves. I know its light is too bright for me to keep to myself. Its warm glow should be felt the world over. And though I may wish to hold it close and never let go…I must be brave.
Well, with that, I give to you fine people my greatest accomplishment and deepest joy.
My recipe for Chocolate Chip Battle Cookies:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup organic brown sugar
½ cup organic white cane sugar
1 ½ sticks butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Pour flour into a mixing bowl. Gently whisk in baking soda and sea salt. Set aside.
Melt butter in the microwave for 1 minute. It should be a liquid. Set aside for a bit.
Add sugar to a bowl, or preferably the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
Pour butter in with sugar. Beat on high for 5 minutes. If whisking by hand, go until it hurts and then keep going. Butter/sugar mixture should turn pale in color when it's ready.
Add vanilla extract. Don’t be afraid to be generous.
Add one egg and one additional egg yolk. Mix in the eggs slowly. The faster you go the more air you put in, and the fluffier the cookies get. Fluffy bad. Chewy good.
Gently fold in half of the flour mix. Once incorporated, add the rest.
Gently fold in chocolate chips.
Set batter mixture into the fridge for 20 minutes. This gives all of the ingredients time to get to know one another and gives you time to have a well-deserved cocktail.
Use a ¼ cup measure to scoop out the batter into sizeable clumps. Roll into balls and set onto nonstick baking trays or on trays lined with parchment paper.
Give those balls space. I know...you’ve heard this before.
Now set in oven and bake for 8 minutes. One sheet on the top shelf, the other on the bottom.
Remove from oven, rotate and switch. Bottom goes to the top. Top goes to the bottom.
Bake for 6–8 minutes. Look for a light brown ring around the cookies and small cracks on the top.
After 8 minutes take them out even if you think they’re undercooked. Better safe than burnt.
Immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar from a high height. You just want to dust the top of the cookies with cinnamon. Give them a hint of cinnamon, not a glove slap to the face of cinnamon.
Store overnight in an airtight bag and bring them into work in the morning.
I woke up to my alarm, just like any other Monday. And like I do every day, I calculated how much time I had left in my cozy bed, checked my emails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That’s when a wave of jealously came over me. My family and friends in Boston had this particular Monday off. It was Marathon Monday, more commonly known to the rest of the USA as Patriots’ Day. Almost the entire city of Boston shuts down in celebration of the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is one of the biggest days of the year in Boston. Friends and family weren't checking their emails or getting ready for work, no. They were up, dressed in Boston gear, cheering on the runners or going to the morning Red Sox game at Fenway (there’s one every year on Marathon Monday). As I got ready for work, I envied my friends as they posted pictures and statuses of the day's events.
If you’ve never lived in Boston or visited during the marathon, you can’t quite understand or truly comprehend the feeling in the air during that day and the days leading up to it. It’s impossible to explain. It’s always a beautiful, warm, sunny Spring day. It’s one of those days that is always perfect. Everyone is laughing and smiling. Everyone is happy. There is a sense of pride, camaraderie and inspiration surrounding the city. And that’s why I was jealous. I was missing the most amazing day of the year.
Then 11:50 a.m. PST hit.
Shortly after 11:50 a.m, my cell phone was flooded with calls and texts about what happened. Two bombs had gone off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing and injuring innocent victims. Phone lines were down; it was hard to get through. For hours I waited for family and friends to tell me they were OK. I reloaded my Facebook and Twitter pages every other minute to see if people were communicating that way. And they did. Slowly, but surely, my friends and family were accounted for. Grateful? ABSOLUTELY. But it doesn't take the pain away. I, along with other Bostonians, took these attacks personally. We were scared, confused, frightened, angry, violated and in complete shock. Two bombs went off in OUR home — Boston.
Less than a year ago I left Boston to pursue my career in LA. It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. LA or Boston? Boston or LA? I was born in Boston, grew up in California and went to college in Boston. I walked the streets of Boston every day, smelled the air, ate the food, came into my own. I grew up, met my best friends, fell in love, became who I am today. Boston is and always has been at my core. And even though I was safe and sound that Monday, my core was shaken. But what makes Boston so incredibly special is the small-town feel in a big city. It’s the family-like community. Boston’s innocence was taken on April 15th and that’s something we’ll never get back. We were terrorized that day, but we are strong and united. We’ll come back from this. As President Obama said, “We will finish the race.” We will overcome this tragedy because we are Boston. We are Boston strong and I’ve never been more proud to call myself a Bostonian.
“Can I swab the inside of your cheek for a saliva sample?” Of course, it seemed simple enough, so I said yes. You see, when I was in college, a friend of mine had an uncle diagnosed with leukemia. All possible blood relatives were tested, but did not match. So I showed up to support him at a drive for the National Marrow Donor Program and joined in the cause to search for a suitable marrow donor.
More than a decade later and 1,500 miles from home, I received a phone call. I was a match. I had completely forgotten about that cotton swab in the student union that day. I hadn’t updated my records as a donor. But they found me five states away, four addresses and multiple home and cell phone numbers later. I didn’t know the person’s name. I didn’t know where he was from. Just that he was sick and I was a match.
Sometimes, the decision to be brave is a difficult one. And sometimes it is as easy as just saying, “Yes.” Then you just need to let go and follow your path wherever it may lead.
I anonymously donated my bone marrow through apheresis for the first time in October of 2009. Two years later, “he” — my match — needed more cells. So I donated again. And whether or not he is alive today — I do not feel the need to know. Because if he is not, well, let’s just say, I don’t want to know.
It’s easy to sign up for Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Program, at Marrow.org. It’s just a small, white, simple cotton swab that can put you on the path to save a life. They will even mail it to you. All you have to do is say yes.
Pursuing a dream is possibly the most perilous journey anyone can embark upon. For the priceless reward of self-fulfillment, you're exposed to great risks and struggles demanding tremendous amounts of energy and the courage to stare down an uncertain outcome. Despite this, there is nothing more worthwhile, and photographer Ian Ruhter knows this better than most. Feeling something had been lost with the rush into the new age of digital photography, he longed to get back what he felt was missing, his love for not just creating images, but crafting them with his hands.
Looking out of his large window one day and noticing how it framed the city of Los Angeles, he knew what he had to do. He had been experimenting with a photographic process that dates back to the very beginnings of photography called wet plate collodion. It involves a host of chemicals, including silver nitrate, that have to be brushed onto plates, carefully exposed and quickly developed before the emulsion dries. Now he suddenly had a new idea for how to use this process in a big way. He took the entirety of his life savings and began building the camera of his dreams. He bought an old delivery truck and converted the entire truck into a giant, rolling camera. He could now expose images on an enormous scale. The exposures would result in positive images on aluminum plates, becoming one-of-a-kind, finished works of art. The antique process led him to christen his invention the "Time Machine," a camera so big he could step inside and travel to another era surrounded by the mystical alchemy of image capture. This magnificent creation came with equally great struggles. Converting the truck was expensive and the process itself is tedious and costly, not to mention unpredictable. After a lengthy setup, each exposure costs about $500, and in the beginning, those exposures failed often. Ian questioned the path he had chosen, and every failure lured him closer to quitting, but it wasn't a job. It was a dream and he couldn't let go. Getting help from others was critical. Images he posted online received hundreds of likes and gave him the necessary encouragement to carry on, and even as he continues his journey today, Ian isn't just taking pictures for himself. He's documenting the courageous lives of the fascinating people he meets, helping them tell their own stories. People have been so inspired by the project, they've donated equipment and time to help him pursue it. More and more requests continue to pour in from people across the country asking Ian to come and photograph them with his amazing truck. So Ian and his camera and his silver nitrate have been pressing bravely onward, for more than a year now, to bring the American story to life. Along with his awe-inspiring photographs, Ian has made four videos to document what he calls the "Silver & Light" project. You can follow the links below to see how one man's incredible story of following his dream has unfolded so far.
Beep…beep…beep…beep. I wake up to my phone alarm, switch it off as I stumble out of bed and go right to scanning my email. I have an obsession with deleting all the spam I get first thing in the morning, so when I’m ready to read all the “important stuff” later in the day, the junk mail doesn’t get in the way. Never mind the fact that most of it is rubbish that I’ve subscribed to sometime over the last 15 years of having my email address. Note to self: “unsubscribe” is bogus.
Three minutes later I’m scanning Facebook while I start breakfast and wait for my laptop to start up. Another note to self: delete Facebook app. I flip on the news and with one hand on my coffee and the other navigating the computer, I pay a few bills, scan the top Yahoo! stories, confirm a dinner date with friends and then pop back in the kitchen to flip my eggs. If the snooze button didn’t win that morning, I have a whole fifteen minutes to eat breakfast and soak in the morning news: the Duchess has new bangs, Storm Watch 2012 continues, some lady from Ohio is celebrating her 50th birthday on Good Morning America, a baby was named #Hashtag, and, on a good day, my morning news session will end with something uplifting [insert do-gooder story here]. On those days, my high-octane coffee AND a feel-good story help me jumpstart what is bound to be a long, long day.
After a quick shower, I switch to work mode, turn the Blackberry on and skim my schedule for the day. Thirty minutes later I’m out the door and on my way to the office. I hit my first morning speed-dial, Mom, and today I catch her and we chat about our Sunday plans for brunch; and then my second speed-dial, my BFF, who keeps me company all the way to work. I reach the elevator in the office and by now my head is swirling with weekend memories, a list of to-dos (including a Google search of Kate’s new hairstyle), looming deadlines and more plans to make. I’m finally at my desk with my laptop fired up, my cell phone on one side and my Blackberry on the other, ready to start my workday. Good Lord, am I tired, but I power through the rest of the day like a champion.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And as I carry on in this crazy daily cycle, I’m recharged by evenings with my husband, phone dates with girlfriends and trips home to see my parents and my beautiful Grandma Lily, my most favorite person in the world.
Grandma Lily was like a breath of fresh air. She could take weeks of stress away with a hug and the longer I visited with her, the better I felt. She’d hold my hand during dinner while the rest of the family shared their latest news. She always made my favorite foods and forced me to eat cantaloupe, which I hate but willingly ate for her “because it’s really good for you.” She had a gift for giving advice in such a subtle way that you didn’t even notice, but somehow she’d solved all your woes. She always knew what was going on in my life, and she would remember to ask about the things we had spoken about during my last visit. When I stayed over to keep her company, my cell phone didn’t wake me up, but my grandmother did…doing leg lifts in bed to get in her daily exercise. We didn’t start the day with a crazy routine of cell phones, laptops and TV but instead sat at her old kitchen table, talking over coffee and her homemade persimmon cookies.
Last December my beautiful Grandma Lily passed away. And while I am forever grateful for the moments I had with her, I am also heartbroken that I’ll never get to hold her hand during dinner or get a big hug after a nice long visit. So throughout the year when life is a little too hectic and I need a breath of fresh air, and especially during the holidays, my personal act of bravery is remembering Grandma Lily and her sweetness, strength, faith and wisdom, and pushing forward just as she would have done.
To many people, purchasing a home is an extremely overwhelming, emotional and scary thing to do. My husband and I found the idea to be just that; however, since this wasn’t my first time, the process seemed more exciting and fairly easy to get through. Looking back, I now know why it was a little too easy.
I’ve come to the realization, like most homeowners purchasing in a slow economy, that there are very few trustworthy people in the real estate industry. In real estate, it seems everyone is out for themselves, and is trying to make a buck any way they can, all at the expense of others.
When my husband and I first fell in love with the house and began negotiations, we realized our Realtor was unknowledgeable and spineless. He only did specifically what we asked him to do without ever offering up alternate solutions that could have been proven to be more effective. Our inspector was hard to read. While conducting his inspections, he’d sigh or shake his head in disappointment at everything he saw; however, when you asked him why his reaction was as such he’d say nothing was the matter. Not so surprisingly, the house passed with flying colors. The seller was desperate to close, was not flexible in the purchase price and was not willing to fix what little issues were exposed. The seller’s contractors were disgruntled and downright shady. They had this innate ability to make this 1918 craftsman house look amazingly beautiful on the surface but after living in the house for over a year now, we now know a lot of it was just smoke and mirrors. They were all in it together to make a buck.
Now my husband and I have a long laundry list of projects that we need to do to make our house a safe home. Just last month, we got started by tackling what we thought would be the easiest of them all: refinishing a relatively small deck. I mean, how hard could it be to sand a deck down, seal it and re-stain it? Super simple, right? It should only take us an afternoon, right? Well, we were wrong. Very wrong.
When we had begun prepping the deck my husband realized that one of the boards was rotted. “No problem.” I thought out loud. “We’ll just pull it out and replace the wood before we seal it up again. Easy peasy.” He smiled with relief at my optimism and we carried on. Upon removal of the board his smile immediately turned to disgust as he revealed that the entire support structure of the deck that we had been jumping, sitting, standing and laying on for over a year had been rotted away. It was so rotted you could poke at it with your finger and the wood would just crumbles to pieces.
My first thought immediately regressed to the Inspector’s reaction to the deck on the day of the inspection. I remember he said that it was “OK.” Not great, but OK. If I had only read between the smoke and mirrors!
My husband let out a huge sigh. We both knew that we had no choice but to tear the whole thing down and replace it. It was the right thing to do to ensure the safety of our family and friends and our pets.
Now, most people would stop at this point and hire a professional to do the job. This was our first thought, too. But then, after a couple of beers, we figured we’d take the bull by the horns and face the challenge head on. The only problem was that neither one of us had ever built a deck before. We didn’t know where to begin, so we did what most people do these days. We Googled how to do it.
The next day, we woke up with our brave hats on and were off to the hardware store. In the end, an afternoon project turned into three full weekends of blood, sweat and tears (seriously). But, we now have the most secure deck in all of Long Beach that will last our lifetime and more.
If someone were to ask if you’re brave, I think a good many of us would respond in much the same way: “Me? No. I really haven’t had the opportunity to be brave.”
We tend to think of bravery in terms of grand-scale heroics and displays of unbelievable grit: running into burning buildings, surviving gargantuan avalanches and digging our way to safety — limbs crushed, or standing up to oppressors who can destroy us. You can just hear the epic music score building.
But the truth is, opportunities to be brave are around us — all the time. They have a way of sneaking into our everyday lives. Sure, these opportunities may not be as dramatic or as recognizable as running (or, God forbid, jog-walking) in front of a horde of Spanish bulls or being lowered into an aquarium of agitated scorpions on Fear Factor, but they are opportunities just the same, and important to recognize.
Nearly every time we are confronted with a decision, there’s a chance to be brave — and we either answer the call or turn tail. It may be a tiny act of courage, like putting a new and different idea down on paper, or something life-changing. Whatever it is, the mindset and determination are the same.
At times being brave means having absolute tunnel vision and holding your ground no matter what anyone else says. At other times, it means taking a step back and reassessing your stance on something. What being brave always means, I think, is looking past your nerves, following what your gut tells you — then acting on it. And trusting in it.
Aristotle said, “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. We become…brave by performing brave actions.”
Which brings us back to the question we started with, “Are you brave?” If you still have your doubts, wait a couple of minutes. An opportunity should come along to help you see if you are.
To be brave you don’t have to seize the day with a sword in hand and fight mythical creatures that breathe fire and soar through the sky. It’s about coming face-to-face with your fears and staying true to your own values—it is about doing the right thing.
Day in and day out we are faced with different decisions that test the core of our own being. Adversity is a part of life and no matter how big or miniscule the issues we are faced with may be, when it’s all said and done you want to be able to look back at your own life and say, “I’ve made the right choices. I have lived a brave and honest life.”
I may not come face-to-face with flying mythical creatures (or even be able to kill a spider at home), but to me, to be BRAVE is to live life with honesty, passion and genuine love.
For several years, one of my greatest daily pleasures has been walking my kids to grade school. It is a happy routine to walk, talk and say good morning to the neighborhood kids and parents.
During that time, I have become acutely aware that virtually no children walk to school by themselves. Almost every child is accompanied by an adult. In fact, those few kids who walk to school alone stand out in sharp contrast, and almost seem neglected or abused.
At first I thought this was a big city thing. I grew up in a small town, and everyone I knew walked to grade school by themselves. But after speaking with a lot of adults from places like New York, L.A., Chicago, and Boston, I discovered that they, too, walked or took public transportation to school by themselves. In fact, most of the grade school parents I see on a daily basis also walked to school alone or with friends.
Sometimes, on the way home from school in the morning, I see kids walking alone that are in my son’s class. I say hello to them by name, and tell them they could still make the bell if I think they are running late. They usually give me a general acknowledgement with a slightly fearful look and hustle on without speaking. Those kids are brave to walk by themselves.
What must it be like to walk alone every day, amongst a sea of their classmates who are being prodded along – often smothered with hugs and kisses by overly protective parents. I imagine these lone children have parents whose work schedules don’t allow them to walk their kids to school. Or perhaps their parents are just unreliable. I’ve never had the heart to ask any of them why they walk alone. But they do it bravely, and they seem to be fine.
I started thinking that it might be a good thing to get my son a buddy, and have the two of them walk to and from school alone occasionally to bolster their independence and responsibility. I asked one of the neighbors with a boy the same age.
“You know, I was thinking that maybe one day a week, my son and yours could walk to school together – alone – without parents. What do you think?”
The reply was thoughtful and slightly hesitant. “No. I could never forgive myself if something happened.”
I counter, “At what age do you think they could walk together alone?” We are talking about 5 blocks here. No major streets or intersections. I get the same answer from every parent.
Saddest of all is that the parents in this neighborhood are not exactly worried about their kids getting hit by a car, or even stabbed or shot by some gang banger. Sure, it’s a concern. Their real fear is that their child will get kidnapped by some sadistic pedophile – never to be seen again.
And who is to blame them? You only have to look on the L.A. Times crime map to see where all of the sex offenders live in your own neighborhood. Or watch the nightly news with its terrifying stories that parents share along with other gossip every morning after the second bell sends the kids off to class.
So I continue to walk my boys to school, as I work on my own unwarranted fear. When the time is right, I want them to discover their own independence, responsibility and street smarts. The real question is – will I be ready to give up my greatest daily pleasure?
Be brave parents. At what age would you let your child walk to school alone or with a buddy?
It's the most beautiful place in the world. It's the scariest place. It's the most desolate, quiet place in the world. The Baja 1000 is the longest point-to-point race in the world, starting in Ensenada and finishing in La Paz, Mexico—one thousand miles of beach, desert, mountain and washes.
I thought I knew all about Baja, but that all changed after my first race. My dad always told me, "This race is a marathon, not a sprint." And with a 65% attrition rate, he wasn't kidding.
My section was 470 miles—14 hours in the seat, bent tie-rod, stuck in a mountain stream at 3 a.m., followed by the warm sun in the morning and the best feeling of finishing the most challenging race in the world.
No matter how many wrenches get thrown in your plan, with a little focus, commitment, and determination, you will make the finish. Just remember it's a marathon, not a sprint.
For the first few years of my speaking life, I wasn’t allowed to use contractions when I spoke. It had to be, “I do not want to go,” or, “I would like more mashed potatoes.” This was a mandate from my mother and, if you met my mother, you’d know her mandates are to be obeyed. She said it was because she wanted me to understand the full power of words before society encouraged me to bastardize them and ‘slangify’ my speech.
My next grammatical hand slap came from my English teachers in both elementary and high school, who praised my creativity but left my papers a sea of red pencil. Fragments, no. Dangling participles, no. Widowed words, no. But I’m establishing a voice, I would argue. And to a teacher, they all said the same thing — that you have to know the rules before you break them. All of this boiled down to one thing for me: constraints. Grr. Argh.
When I became a digital producer, it was as though www stood for Wild, Wild West. There were seemingly no rules anywhere. Everyone was blue skying and out of boxing and throwing crap into the digital ether, not caring whether it stuck or landed. It was exhilarating and fun and wildly creative. But like anything without solid structure, it soon collapsed. The Net, it turned out, was not as wide and strong as we’d thought. Before you knew it, twenty somethings who had out-earned their parents in a month were packing up the penthouses and moving back home. Digital producers who had moved across the country for a booming dotcom job that ended abruptly were panicked, wondering how this specialized skill set could be useful in another field. That last one would be me.
What I realized is that the Internet lacked the one thing that had been drummed into my brain for years: constraint.
I realized that the idea doesn’t always have to be big to be successful. All of us young guns thought we were so bold and brave with our huge concepts and, while they were great, it mostly became a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” to quote the bard. Sometimes, it’s better to think small.
The Brooklyn Bridge? Big idea. An airplane? Big idea. But when you boil down to their purpose, it’s very small — getting people from one place to another. Some of my favorite novelists are epic world builders: Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Stephen King. Writers of tomes. But where did they all hone their craft? Writing short stories.
I look at Facebook and it frankly makes me nervous the way they’re gobbling up other properties and constantly changing their modus operandi. While I don’t think it will go the way of its predecessor, Friendster, I do think there’s a reason Friendster failed and part of that was trying to grow bigger than the britches it had on hand.
If you look at the evolution of the digital landscape today, the apps that are most successful are the ones with the simplest, smallest concept. How many calories did I eat today? Where can I hook up with people who have interests like mine? The app itself? Small concept.
The war for creativity is ongoing and all of us who work in this industry or any creative industry are constantly strategizing on how to win that war. But I advise that every now and then we should focus on the smaller battle. The bravest thing to do might be to focus on something you actually can win and sustain and have success with. Sometimes, constraints are not such a bad thing
Ah, Southern California! The place of glitz and glamor and plastic smiles. The place where seemingly endless palm trees are outnumbered only by the amount of beautiful people. The place where the sun is always shining and nothing can make it rain on anyone's parade: Paradise.
Or is it? Although a native to the region, I've always felt a bit out of place. Maybe it was the first time I noticed heads turn when I pulled chopsticks out of my lunch pail. Maybe it was the first time I brought rice paper candies and kimchi for my swim team on a day that I had snack duty.
I may be a little different than most, but hell, it gives me something to revel in. I am physically different, culturally distinct, and yes, a little bit country to everyone else's rock 'n' roll; but it gives me a little more character, right? While most people are dying to be lost in a sea of similarity, I am a lone star shining brightly on my own little island in the sun. I am brave for daring to be no one other than who I can authentically be—Me.
At the age of 25, I had it all. I had just bought my second house, I had just been promoted to Revenue Controller, managing a staff of eight, and I was making a very lucrative salary.
And then I gave it all away…
What was I working so hard for? What was I trying to gain? What is the meaning of life? Some called it a quarter-life crisis, while others called it sheer stupidity, but at the wise age of 25, I realized that all the material things I had didn’t equate to my happiness. So I walked. I quit my job cold turkey, sold all of my belongings and I bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand.
I arrived in New Zealand with only a backpack on my back and a pocket full of cash. The first couple of days were a crash course in the culture – I bought a minivan and named her Betsy, and then we were off. I traveled all over New Zealand, living, driving and sleeping in Betsy. I fished for food or made peanut butter sandwiches, I hiked mountains and glaciers, I became one with nature and, for the first time, I really enjoyed life. I learned how to surf, play guitar, snowboard, and scuba dive. All things that I always wanted to do, but never really had the courage or time to learn. For one full year, I found the purpose of life.
I had to do it. I had to test myself. I had to see what was really driving me. Was it money? Was it success? Was it all the material things in life that you can buy? I didn’t think that I would ever be the type of person who would get wrapped up in that. But I had. So I had to push the envelope, step outside the boundaries of my comfort zone, and immerse myself in a totally different lifestyle.
When I made the decision to leave the confines of my comfortable life to discover the potential of something new and as I sold off my possessions piece by piece, I was surrounded by an immense shroud of fear and panic. What was I doing? What was I thinking? Facing my parents, who used to look at me with that glimmer in their eyes that spewed how proud they were, was probably the toughest. But at some point in your life, you have to look fear in the face and make a conscious decision that it won’t own you. You have to believe in yourself and live the life you have always imagined.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Sometimes people make the conscious choice to be brave; other times, people are thrust into situations where they react bravely, and in this particular case, I inadvertently opted to spend $120 to be brave.
First, a little background: during the first half of the year, I ran in no less than six races, including a number of marathons and the famed XTERRA Trail Run Series. So, in an attempt to mix things up, I opted to sign up for a couple of cycling events, including the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia, hence the $120. What I didn’t realize when I signed up for the race was the fact that the course entailed no less than 8,700 feet of climbing, including 8 category climbs in the mountains above Pasadena.
So there I was on race day, with 800 of my fellow cyclists on a hot and cloudless morning in late July, waiting to tackle the mountains sitting in front of us. As the gun went off, I simply worked on getting into a comfortable pace and taking on fluids, knowing that it could make the difference between success and failure that day. Just before the first major climb of the day, I found myself staring at the turnaround point for those just doing the 25-mile course. It was nicely shaded with an abundance of cold drinks and snacks. I did the math: if I opted for the short course, I could be home well before noon and be spared what loomed in front of me. Then again, what else did I have to do that day? I had already paid my money and I wanted to show those boys with the $9,000 bikes that I, too could play in their hills. So off I went to tackle the first of many climbs that day.
This year I took the nontraditional route for Thanksgiving. I didn't have the turkey, or the stuffing, or the pumpkin pie. I didn't spend it with family either. This year for Thanksgiving, I went to a seafood restaurant and spent it with good friends. It was definitely not the conventional way to spend a holiday, but this is the risk I took when I decided to move to California. When I moved here 2 years ago, I didn't have any family or close friends by my side. Why on earth would I move to California then? I wanted to find myself and I needed to get away to learn about myself, and others. I think I have this in my genes and I got it from my parents. Both of them are from Poland and they left all they knew — the language, family, their life — just to have a new beginning and live the American dream. So I figured, if they could do it, so can I. Like I said, even though I didn't have the traditional dinner, I still found a “family” to spend Thanksgiving with and I was thankful for that.
Following the nontraditional route, after our Thanksgiving meal, we decided to walk over to a local bar down the street to continue our orphan celebration. There was a guy that came over and started talking to us about his life. He then asked about my profession. I said I was in advertising. He says, “Oh, so you’re in marketing?” I say, “No, I’m in advertising, which is a lot different than marketing.” He asks, “So what is the difference between the two?” I say, “Marketing is implementing a mix of business activities for buyers and sellers to mutually adhere to the exchange or transfer of products. Advertising is…just think creative.” He says, “So they really are the same thing then.” I say, “NO, THEY ARE NOT! What is wrong with you?” And that’s when the conversation ended.
Anyway, moving to California was the best choice I made. You have to take big risks to receive a big reward and I am grateful for all that I have now with new friends, my career in advertising, and living in a beautiful city that’s always warm — never bone-chilling cold. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I want to give up on everything and move back to Chicago. Why would I give all of that up? My dad keeps reminding me to be strong and continue to be brave because you only have one chance to mess it all up. Thank you, Dad, for allowing me to see life differently and appreciating all the good that comes with it.
I’m thankful for that. Oh, and I had sea bass. Delicious.
Those of us in creative industries often face jealousy from our peers in less creative ones. “You’re so lucky to do something different every day - I love novelty,” they sigh wistfully as they program their DVR to record Grey’s Anatomy episode number 973, pull on the new Chuck Taylor’s that replaced the identical old Chuck Taylor’s, and head to P.F. Chang’s for “the usual”.
The truth is that novelty is terrifying. We all say we want it, but few of us really do – and certainly not every single day.
In most careers, it’s possible (even desirable) to get into a routine. You learn how to do your job, and the more you do it the better you get. Of course, it’s not as straightforward as that, but experience counts for a lot. In a creative field, however, experience can actually count against you. Practice doesn’t make perfect. In a world where innovation and originality are paramount, repetition and routine create mental grooves that can become creative ruts. When you start relying on formulas to develop ideas, it stands to reason that your work begins to look formulaic.
In his book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for someone to become skilled at something. But personally, I feel that this skill is largely technical. 10,000 hours of practice doesn’t mean that your ideas will be better, just that you’ll execute them more proficiently. At best, experience can help you identify good ideas, but it can’t help you generate them.
In advertising, the amazing idea you came up with yesterday can’t be reused today. Or ever again. Every single day, you press the reset button, return to the start line, begin pushing the boulder from the bottom of the hill. There’s no ‘tried-and-trusted’ to fall back on, no comfort zone, no safety net.
Put another way: when you work in advertising, being brave sometimes just means showing up for work.
We live in a highly stylized and increasingly design-centric world. Whether it’s the newly designed Facebook Timeline or LinkedIn pages, or Missoni and Isaac showing up in Target and on QVC, or the Apple i… well, the Apple everything – the democratization of design has taken the world by storm. Even my 60- something mother in Southern Florida knows what an Eames Chair is and where to get a knock-off at one-third the price. No longer for the rich and highfalutin, high-end design has gone mainstream and so have the expectations that go with it.
So while this evolution in accessible design has not only become noticeable to the lay consumer, it, in my mind, has actually sparked (read: forced) something much greater – A Design Revolution for marketers and advertisers. A revolution in the way brands, agencies, and marketers need to be communicating with each other and with the world.
A few years back it was called Information architecture (IA), then User Interaction (UX), then Interaction Design (IXD). Whatever you call it, the layout, design, and interface of an experience, ad, or piece of collateral is just as important as the product itself and what that product allows consumers to do.
As advertisers we are no longer judged by “oh that looks cool.” The bar has been raised. Clients and consumers expect smart design and intuitive functionality in everything we create. And it is this very expectation that is having a fundamental effect on the way we do business, the way we concept, the way we talk to our clients, and the way we develop and ultimately sell our work. The “Mad Men” days are over; it’s about iterative collaboration between art directors, copywriters, designers, strategists, developers, technologists, and yes, even account people.
And this is all our Goliath.
Great friends don’t come along often. Steve and I met early in high school and immediately our dry sense of humor sparked what would turn into a long friendship. Steve was the kind of guy who would tell you when you were an idiot and didn’t mind reminding you that your shortcomings were noticed by all. He let you know when you looked stupid or said something foolish. And he would try everything. Steve was an awesome skateboarder and would always push us to try harder; or stop being a wuss. He could figure out everything. Making a skate video? He’s on it. Playing music? Let’s do it! Do a flip into the river? Sure! 360 grab off the elementary school roof? F@!$ yeah! I’ll try.
In high school, Steve and I played in a punk band around the Valley and Hollywood and caused as much havoc as dumb high school kids could get into. Steve was fun, brave, and he’d never give up on anything. He was an inspiration. Eventually, as we grew up, I went away to college and he got married and into his career. We stayed as close as we could and the battles continued.
Last year, Steve was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. Spending most of his life in the sun had gotten to him. Now a father of two and having faced challenging drug battles, work struggles and family hardships, he had another challenge ahead. The discovery of his condition occurred in early 2011, when a large softball-sized mass metastasized under his right arm. We all knew that Steve wouldn’t just give up. He fought through multiple grueling surgeries and complications, including staph infection, chemo, and radiation; and finally, an infection in the brain after an earlier surgery in January 2012. He kept going. He would have good days and bad days and every few weeks, he’d have another life-threatening surgery. Month after month, he fought back. They’d say, “This might be his last day” and we'd rush out to say goodbye. Then, he’d come out of surgery, ready to fight another day. Damn he’s tough. "He’s like a bull," I kept thinking. He wanted to see his kids grow up, maybe go to college. He wanted them to be better than him. Stronger. Ha, is that possible?
Finally, this past May, as he continued to face battle after battle, his body began to break down. He had another brain tumor. This time, it didn’t look good. This time, we felt it was time to say goodbye for real. As my buddy and I sat in the hospital, Steve told me how scared he was. It was the first time I'd ever heard him say he was scared. I couldn’t help but cry for my friend. How could his life have taken such a tragic path while I am living a normal life? Why am I so lucky? Knowing how to handle the situation was beyond me. I’d lost friends and family before, but never like this. He went into surgery with hopes that he’d make it to his daughter’s 2nd birthday party. That night, I got a text that he made it through and still wasn’t giving up. He’d lost feeling on one side of his body but he still wasn’t done. Steve stayed with us for a few more weeks and got to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. And he asked his longtime girlfriend, the mother of his daughter, to marry him. Steve passed away on July 16th, 2012, but I will never forget him. He is Brave. He fought, not for himself, but because he wanted to be there for his children and family. He was not scared of death, but scared of how his death would affect others. Being brave is not just being willing to fight, but knowing what you are fighting for.
Thank you, Steve, for making me a better man. Thanks for reminding me that most of us are incredibly lucky. Don't complain about the simple things. Put life into perspective and remember that no matter the challenge, Rise to it.
This Warrior came back from each battle, wounded, bloodied, exhausted, and yet he rises stronger than ever to fight anew...time and time again.
To learn more about Steve or help Steve’s family, please go to these links:
Let me start off by saying that this is my first attempt at actually writing a blog, so to speak. I never thought of myself as someone who has something amazing to say, or even better, something someone else would find interesting to read. But part of being Brave is realizing that you are your own worst critic before you even try. So here goes…I recently lost someone who, throughout my life, was my biggest fan – and my biggest critic. I used to think of her as my enemy, the person who knew how to push “ALL” those insecure buttons and knew exactly the moment to deflate me with just a glance. What I didn’t realize throughout my bitter-filled adolescence was that I too would be a mom one day. Someone who held all the cards to molding and shaping a human being and better yet, a little girl who will one day possibly be a mom herself. The pressure, the expectations, the what ifs?? These could not possibly be the same feelings my mother had. No way. She had to have a different handbook than the one I was handed the day my daughter was born – I was determined to be better, be kinder, be gentler.
What I have come to realize with the passing of my mom was that she was never given that mysterious handbook and, rummaging through all my first-year parenting books, somehow I was not handed one either. As a parent, we do the best we can and our books are written from our memories and experiences. My mother was my book. She used to tell me all the time to be Brave, to stand up for the underdog, to hold my head high – even when all I wanted was to be invisible. When I look back at what I thought were criticisms, they were really just books my mother was writing for me – a way to prepare me in case someday she was not around. We have to remember that we are not perfect. If we were, then we would never need to be Brave, as life would be easy. I can appreciate my mom now for the book she wrote for me before she left this world and only hope that I can do the same for my daughter.
Passion can’t be manufactured. It isn’t available in a 12 oz. can at Trimana, and you won’t find it on Gilt tomorrow morning. Maybe someday, but not now. Bummer, right?
In the meantime, we are responsible for creating an environment that fosters passion, and it starts with each of us taking accountability in our roles as leaders. Are we all really leaders? In one way or another, we’d better be. I’m not talking about giving everyone a big title, but rather using our individual talents to inspire ourselves and those around us.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. Leaders must be high-quality communicators (Note: “quality” is not quantity or volume). With every conversation in the hallway, comment in a meeting, or story told at Thirsty Thursday, we are setting the tone for those around us. Are you helping to move the conversation or project forward? Are you coming to the table with solutions? Are you challenging and inspiring that person?
As a leader, it is also your responsibility to raise your head from your endless projects, absorb the world around you, and share that information to ignite passion and raise our collective IQ. Are you reading the trade pubs and sharing highlights? Are you providing examples of work that can be used for inspiration? Do you know the major differences between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5? (You’d better if you’re on the digital team.)
We all know we should be doing these things, but often we don’t. The day-to-day holds us up, or we overshare frustrations and snuff out the passion of the person we are speaking with. We are each our own Goliath in this respect. We must challenge ourselves to do the little things right, support and lift up our teammates, and create an environment that inspires the D&G family to think and act bravely. Good luck!
I’ve been living in the same place for over five years, yet there’s hardly anything up on my walls. It’d be one thing if I were some Zen-like person who purposely kept her walls plain for meditative purposes, but that’s not it. I’m a designer. I love anything visual–color combos! Type! Imagery! It all makes me dizzy with glee. So I buy and frame a lot of artwork…however, they remain politely propped against the wall on the floor for years, waiting to be hung.
The simple act of choosing a spot and pounding a nail into the pristine white walls just leaves me with commitment anxiety. What if this isn’t the ideal spot for this? What if it’s crooked? What if I change my mind?
“Spackle!” my friends scream, as they roll their eyes in exasperation. Sure. But that’s not the point. My fear is that I won’t get it right at the first decisive blow. I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t like to make arbitrary moves.
I wasn’t always like this–as a teenager, my bedroom walls looked riddled with bullet holes. I had no qualms about haphazardly pounding industrial-grade hardware nails, 3 or 4 at a time, to affix really important stuff, like Siberian Huskies calendars and Nirvana posters. In retrospect, I didn’t even consider tape back then…it was all hardware nails for me, all the time–it felt the most secure and definitive. I don’t know why my mom didn’t kill me for wrecking all the walls.
It seems that as the years went by, I grew exponentially more cautious with everything. Second-guessing became natural, and things started to mean more, which led to uncertainty and indecision.
I miss the days of tearing into a brand new sketchbook with brash bold strokes, erasers be damned; moving to NY, not caring that I didn’t know a soul there; cartwheeling into the pool a thousand times without considering the probability of slipping and cracking my head open. There’s something admirable and appealing about that reckless abandon, that ability to just do something without every consequence and permutation of that consequence paralyzing your every move.
Because, in the end, that’s where I am. A state of non-committal paralysis. I crave a level of perfection in everything I do. But it’s oftentimes held me back from taking any steps—forward or back. And maybe the only thing worse than fumbling or messing up is not having done anything at all.
A trip to the hardware store looms in the near future, to buy a bonafide power drill, and some spackle. And I’ll hang exactly seven pieces of art–three photographs and two skateboard decks–once and for all. The walls won’t be so precious anymore, and I can move on to the other things in my life that need to be framed and hung up.
Tell me everything I need to know in a sentence, but if you can’t, then I’m gone. Be funny, but not offensive. Be different, but relate to me. Show me something I haven’t seen before, but show me before all my friends have seen it. Make it easy for me to share with them. Make it a first, something that’s never been done, but make it easy enough to use so that it’s like I have been using it for years. Make it useful. Make it a tool. Make it so I can’t imagine not having it. Reward me for using it. And make it soon, before I’ve moved on.
The new pitch is 140 characters or less and it’s on my iPhone, it’s a picture on Instagram, it’s a status update, and it makes advertising as exciting and as brave as ever.
Being brave in digital isn’t easy. There is no magic formula for constant success. I can’t guarantee a video will go viral or a promotion will bring thousands of followers to your site. But I will say, I am not afraid to try. I’ve learned that being successful is not only about brave ideas, but brave people. When I see something truly genius in the digital space, I want to know who worked on it and where it came from; because aside from the technological hurdles they must have gone through in production, in order to sell it, the team must consist of some truly brave individuals.
It can’t be done alone. It takes a team – a team of technology-loving, social-media gurus who are not afraid to teach each other and speak up. Individually, it’s about thinking outside of your self and diving into everything new and unknown. It’s about using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr daily. It’s about keeping that Myspace profile (just in case) and secretly not giving up on Google+. It’s about trying out new apps, learning WordPress, checking in on foursquare and streaming music on Pandora. The brave see opportunity everywhere.
I am lucky enough to work at an agency that thrives on brave ideas, where our clients aren’t afraid to try something new. They trust us to see the potential, learn from the past, and to take chances. They trust us to provide their audiences with what they are looking for… even when it’s a YouTube video consisting of 5 hours of Adriana Lima waving a flag, and then upgrading it to 1080p.
We set the date several weeks ago - May 25th of 2013. 10 months feels a long way off, yet there is an undertone of urgency to every task surrounding the planning – a weight tied to everything involving the wedding.
To an extent, the pressure is manufactured. We've dreamt it up because we've convinced ourselves that our parents and friends are counting on us to entertain and dazzle. That it's the most important day of our young lives and it needs to be honored and prepared for and perfect in every way. That it's success or lack-there-of will somehow affect the rest of our lives together.
Yet there is a piece of me that feels a legitimacy to the pressure.
The intent of my proposal, more than anything, was meant to be a symbol of commitment – or at least that was the thought going in after 7 years of dating. That, and my grandmother’s frequent threats to die unfulfilled by the joy of seeing her eldest grandson marry the woman he’s been dating for the better part of a decade was beginning to weigh on my conscience.
When I first proposed, I believed that after my fiancé and I tied the knot little would change in our day-to-day lives. We'd still work long hours, argue about trivial differences and do our best to make the time we have together meaningful. And while I still believe this is all true, I’m beginning to realize that the commitment that we’ve made is more than symbolic. (I get that “no shit” is the appropriate response to this discovery, but it’s a revelation to me nonetheless).
The wedding planning process, and it is a process, is the first true and public act where our success as a couple is tied directly to our success as individuals. And the concept of it being “public” is the most profound difference to me. The casualness of a pre-engagement relationship isn’t defined by the level of commitment to the relationship itself but rather by the expectations of your friends, family and loved ones. When dating, whatever thoughts and hopes people have for you as a couple, they keep to themselves (for the most part).
But with the engagement, things bubble to the surface - immediately and relentlessly. And what was once off-handed remarks by an 85 year old women whose last great joy in life is to get a rise out of people, become serious and thoughtful encounters with parents, friends, co-workers, even strangers who happen to spot an engagement ring. People feel obligated to comment. To define our relationship. To impose their best wishes on us. To envy and to feel sorry for us. To offer guidance, to warn, to bless.
In this respect, the wedding is a coming out. A true coming out. Not just as a married couple, but as public couple. There is a level of privacy, even intimacy, that is lost. Our relationship is no longer just ours. It is public. And the wedding represents validation of our legitimacy as a couple. As if we somehow need to affirm to those around us that our commitment is real through this one grand event. It is important.
None of this is bad. If anything it brings us closer (my fiancé and me). And more importantly, it seems to be the first step in bringing our commitment to something more than just “symbolic.” The preparation for this grand and important event is about more than just shared responsibility through the planning process, but actively bonding as a team with a unified goal – staying off demanding parents, managing expectations, breaking sad news to those who are not in the wedding party or invited at all. Even justifying our relationship to some strange pastor that we’ve never met but who somehow sees himself fit deem us ready for marriage. The process is deliberate and business-like. It requires compromise and management skills, organization and patience. Workflow needs to be determined, resources need to be allocated, schedules built out and budgets managed. People need to be hired, passed on and occasionally let go. And the success or failure of the venture is based on teamwork, communication and work ethic.
It’s a trial of the relationship, a microcosm of the realities of actively managing a life together - not just managing a relationship. So while it’s easy to dismiss the pressure we feel to get it right as self-imposed and made up. And it’s easy to try to define the wedding itself as merely a symbol of commitment. It is not. It is more than that. In a few short months, just the planning of our wedding has helped us grow as a couple and acted as the first step for us towards truly understanding what commitment means. And I can only imagine what the wedding itself will bring for us.
At our old 909 North Sepulveda we have a long stretch of black-framed pictures called the Wall of Goliaths. On my frequent laps to the copy room, the wall beside me reflects the unique personal battles being waged by everyone in this office; fear of sharks, coming to terms with age, murderous clowns, running a marathon—they all watch silently from behind their glass frames. Every day they serve as a reminder—and a challenge—to win whatever individual battle that rages within us. A year ago I hung my frame up on the wall, my fear to be conquered, my Goliath to be toppled. Nestled in the bottom left corner is a candid picture of me in a club. And there, in my glory, I am doing a dance that can only best be described as the disco blowfish.
The lord of the dance never blessed me with his divine boogie powers. From 8th grade dances to prom, I’ve always left an impression on the dance floor. I also left a black eye on the freshman that got too close to my electric slide at homecoming. I had long been under the impression that I wasn’t that bad of a dancer, but the older I became, the more I realized that my dance style lacked a few qualities you normally find in dancing, like beat, rhythm, and not injuring dance partners. Eventually there came a point where I could no longer ignore my dance-floor indiscretions. I had to be stopped. Mustering up courage, I resolved to hit this Goliath right between the eyes—with a belly-dancing class.
Looking around the first day of class, I couldn’t help but notice half of the group was composed of 15-year-old cheerleaders, and the other half was getting the Senior Special at Denny’s. Well, I thought, at least I had the seniors beat. Ienthusiastically began our lesson. Fifteen minutes into class, I was gasping for air and hobbling off to the drinking fountain. In the next class, I managed to get tangled in my own feet and fall over. The class after that, the exasperated instructor resorted to moving my hips and legs for me. As the class went on, I found that even the senior citizens were dancing circles around me, as I struggled to remember left, kick, right, back…something something. Despite my best efforts to mimic the graceful and instinctive movements of my instructor, I increasingly became frustrated, and discouraged. One night after class, I threw my beaded butt shawl (I know there’s a name for that) and tearfully told my best friend that dancing was stupid, and I didn’t need to know how to dance. I could just Macarena till the end of days! But she convinced me to go to the next class. And the next one.
By the time the three-month course had ended, I had gone to every class and danced every dance. And despite all of this, I couldn’t do a damn thing that didn’t look like I was caught in a turbine. While I showed up for every battle, ready to do damage (or in my case, not damage myself or others), it was a personal struggle that was not—and has not—been won. But I do not consider myself defeated, because I’m not walking (waltzing?) away just yet. Sometimes you lose the first battle, no matter how hard you try. But you can never win if you’re not brave enough to strap on your fighting shoes just one more time. We don’t always meet victory in our endeavors, but if we let our fears and failures limit us, then we have lost before we truly even begin. I’ll take another class. I’ll dance every Ke$ha song at the local discothèque. I won’t let my lack of beat beat me. It may take me longer than I thought, but it’s a challenge I’ll continue to face, two-step by two-step. So the battle continues and until then—Goliath, I’ve saved this last dance for you.
As you grow up, you begin to learn more and more about yourself in the face of your Goliaths – what challenges you most, what makes you super duper uncomfortable and, in the end, what you are capable of. There are professional Goliaths and there are personal Goliaths. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes not. Either way, there’s a decision to be made… take it or leave it. In life, I’d like to think I’m pretty darn good about putting my big girl pants on and taking on whatever life brings my way. Don’t get me wrong, not in some uber-serious-grown-up kind of way, but in an open-to-discovering-life kind of way. To paraphrase Cat Deeley, “Be grown-up-ish. Not so much as to be boring, but enough to roast a chicken.”
Little did I expect my ‘grown-up-ish-ness’ and my desire to take on challenges to be tested as much as it was when my mom arrived for a visit, and brought along a suitcase full of my ‘stuff’ that had been collected over the years. My personal memorabilia and a true treasure trove of old ornaments, drawings, love letters from the 7th grade, mixed tapes and the like that had now landed on my doorstep to live in my attic (not hers). We always have a ton of fun getting out these boxes – or suitcases as it were – and having a look at what’s been collected over the years. And this time was no different. Until, upon opening, my high school ‘ballet pink’ ballet shoes were staring me straight in the face.
I hung up my ballet shoes about 15 years ago after dancing for much of my childhood. Once I was in college and no longer dancing with a company (read: someone telling me I had to take ballet as it was the basis of all things dance), I hung up the shoes. And now here they were. Sitting in front of me in an old, blue, hard-sided American Tourister suitcase from Chicago that was easily as old as the days are long. Because I couldn’t just leave them there to rot, I did what any dancer would do… I took them out, turned them over a few times, tested the elastics and then put them in my closet where they sat just waiting to hit the dance floor. Little did they know, they were going nowhere fast. You see, it wasn’t the fear of whether or not I could still dance that was keeping me from class, it was that I had decided that I couldn’t dance as well as I once had, so why bother. The fear of getting those shoes on and getting onto the dance floor had overcome me. As if there were this little dance fairy in my ear shouting, “If you can’t dance somethin’ nice, don’t dance nothin’ at all.”
That fairy stopped her shouting one morning, though, when I tried my pretty little ballet shoes on. There I stood in my closet, by myself, probably in some beautiful combination of sweaty gym attire with my hair pulled on top of my head in total bliss. What was once a fear of not being good enough was, slowly but surely, being righted by the feeling I got when I put those shoes on. It was something in my gut that reminded me that dance is not just a thing I did once upon a time. It’s part of my story and part of who I am. At that moment, there was no amount of fear that was going to get in the way of me and that barre.
So, there I stood. At the barre in the dance studio at 8am on a Saturday morning for the Adult class. Amazingly, getting my shoes on my feet was the easy part. It was the “getting the perfect outfit together so that even if I can’t dance a single step maybe the others around me will still be fooled into thinking I’m a dancer” part that took forever. Like they’d go, “Oh, well, that’s totally a ballet outfit, so she must be a dancer. Maybe she’s just having an off day.” Perfect. I was ready. And it was wonderful.
While I wasn’t the prima ballerina I had hoped I might be on day one – or day seven or seventeen for that matter – I wasn’t terrible. I was, come to find, far from terrible and I actually impressed myself with how quickly it all came back. In fact, when I finally let my guard down and just danced, my tombé pas de bourrée glissade grand jeté combination across the floor was met with a huge smile from my dance teacher. Followed by a “Whoa, where did that come from?” And when she said it, I had to laugh. Those six words, while meant as encouragement for the combination across the floor, were entirely representative of this little journey I found myself on. A journey in which I found the guts to take hold of something I feared, something that made me super duper uncomfortable and, in the end, learned what I was capable of. I made the decision that morning in my closet with my ballet shoes on to take it. Leaving it would have, well, just left me alone in my closet with a terrible outfit on and a huge Goliath still staring me in the face.
The first time I ever ran a marathon was like the first time I ever drank booze…the next morning I was miserable and swore I’d never do it again. But here I am training for my 9th Marathon and I just brewed my first batch of beer
Whenever someone finds out that I run marathons, I always get the same two questions: 1) How far is a marathon? 2) Why in the world would you ever do that? My answers are always the same: 26.2 miles & being able to eat/drink all the food/beer I want without putting on the pounds. But when thinking further about why I enjoy running for an extended period of time, I discovered that there was another valuable reason hidden deep inside.
As I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, an amazing realization came to me. The thing that kept my legs moving to the finish line even when my body said to quit, was the will power to know that if I could conquer this race, there would be no obstacle in my life that could trump the stress I put my body through or scare me away from achieving my goals.
As an Account Executive in advertising, there are stressful situations and demands that I’m faced with every day. The thing that gives me the drive to take on these stressful situations is that I know I can be drained of energy at mile 18, and still have the fight/bravery in me to not give up and bang out 8.2 more miles to the finish line. Compare this to the stress of an ASAP deadline for a print ad, the deadline can’t compare!
There is always a solution (or as I see it, a finish line) to every problem in life. When a difficult situation arises, roll-up your sleeves, be brave enough to just keep your feet moving and you’ll reach the solution you’re searching for!
P.S. If your difficult situation is choosing which of the 88 beers to get on tap at Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach, I highly suggest bourbon barrel aged Allagash Curieux!
“Holy shit!” was the response from most of my friends when news hit of the $1 billion deal for Facebook to acquire Instagram. We’re talking about an app that wasn’t even around in early 2010… an app with functionality that a 7-year-old could have designed… an app with a ZERO-revenue model.
What is a logical reason for such a massive acquisition? Is it a pissing contest between Facebook and their competitors? Does Facebook have some uber-revolutionary plan to turn Instagram into a money-making machine? Who knows. What is interesting is the notion that a simple idea can yield such massive success in a time where financial uncertainty is rampant. We’re talking about a 13-person (Instagram’s employee count at the time of the acquisition) company being scooped up, making all of those people very, very rich.
We’re seeing lots of these successful apps with modest roots being bought out by social-media giants. Acquisitions like Sparrow, Skire and Spool give young and creative minds hope of acquiring great wealth and success. Everyone seems to have a friend with an amazing app idea that’s going to “make millions”… but rarely do they carry it out. It’s time to be digitally brave.
Being in the trenches of digital production and app development, it’s progressively become quite clear that developing a functional app isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Sure, you’ll need to sell the idea to investors like any business venture, unless you know a developer who could crank something out in his mom’s basement for some pizza and beer… but you can always pay them in part ownership of whatever the end product is. Once you get over the hurdle of building the app, submission and approval by iTunes and/or Android Market is a linear process that’s very achievable.
I might be simplifying to avoid getting into the boring technicalities, but it all comes down to the idea and whether it’s relevant for app users. If you have a well-thought-out and planned approach, the sky is the limit. Be brave. I encourage all digital gold diggers (or digital visionaries) to take the first step in making their ideas come to life. After all, if two dudes concepted an app that takes a picture and adds a filter, and made a billion dollars off of it… well, that’s just an encouraging thought for the rest of us.
After a long day of sightseeing, the four of us sat together waiting for the host to call our name. The youngest of us was 13, the oldest 48. We were obviously together. We had entered together, sat in a corner, and occasionally recognized each other’s presence with a few words and laughs. But something happened the moment we sat and began passing the time trying to forget our hunger.
About 20 minutes into our wait I looked up and noticed that we were all busily minding our own smartphones. We texted, Facebooked, read Twitter feeds, Instagramed our pictures from our trip, read the day’s news headlines, checked game scores, and played the latest draw-some-angry-birds-doodle-jumping game app. And at one point, shockingly, one of us actually received a phone call.
To the observer, we probably appeared to be intently staring at our screens trying to avoid each other. Funny thing is, we certainly didn’t feel that way. While our attention was away from each other, we were aware of what each other was thinking, and even seemed to communicate indirectly with each other as we shared with friends and family the details of our trip. We would comment and laugh about a status update one of us had just posted. But the odd thing was that our togetherness was completely mediated by the devices we held in our hands, despite the fact that we were right next to each other.
We were together, but alone.
At first, I was about to brush off the moment as just another quirky characteristic of my family, but then I realized we weren’t the only ones doing this. The odd phenomenon that played out before me was also playing out in several of the other families that sat around us. In fact, several new studies and books suggest that this phenomenon is very real and that it’s happening a lot. Not just when we’re trying to pass the time. Certainly anyone who has stepped into a packed elevator would agree.
In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle, a professor of psychology in the department of Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, describes how as we expect more from our technology the less we expect from each other. She rings the warning bells, writing that as electronic devices become more prevalent in our daily lives the more uncomfortable we become with each other. We’re losing our ability to interact directly with each other. We don’t want to have a conversation because conversations can’t be edited. They’re complicated, messy, and lead to conflict. Why talk when we can put our best self in an email, text, or status update?
As it turns out, technology may be what helps us cope with our intimacy issues. Turkle points out that the hottest topic in robotic design is the area of care and companionship. Essentially, robots are being designed to provide the intimacy we may one day no longer provide for each other.
To be sure, this idea of alone together is not just driven by our devices or by Facebook. In his book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, NYU professor Eric Klinenberg illustrates the dramatic change in cultural values towards and aspirational rise of single life. He points out that in 1950, only 22% of American adults were single. Today, more than 50% of American adults are single, and 31 million—about one out of every seven adults—live alone. This is led by both aging baby boomers who highly value independence, and by Millennials who are going through a second adolescence of sorts—a pre-adulthood period of identity searching and self-discovery. They’re waiting longer to get married, start a family, and are stunted by an economy that has slowed their career advancement.
But that’s all okay, because living alone is becoming a new symbol of success. Today, young people aspire to get that first place on their own, find themselves before they get hitched, move to new and exciting destinations and careers on a whim, all in the quest of self-actualization. Why live together, when our technology allows us to be together alone?
I’m not quite sure what this all means for the future of humanity, or our social lives for that matter. But I do believe that, as marketers, we can help people navigate this brave new mediated world together. We can provide more opportunities for social interaction, help them connect, and reward risk and serendipity.
What does it mean to be “Brave”? Slaying the giant? Facing down the enemy? Running into the burning building to save the baby? No doubt, the idea of being “Brave” feels good. But, at its core, it’s far more nuanced and elusive. Why is Goliath (FEAR) portrayed so HUGE and David (Bravery)small? We seem to have internalized this dynamic so deeply that we’re often shocked and amazed when our inner David wins out over our Goliath.
For this entry, I thought of two examples—one parable and one real life—that represent the juxtaposition of fear and bravery.
The first is a parable by Kafka titled, “Before the Law.”
In the story, a man from the country comes to a gatekeeper seeking access to “the Law.” However, this is no ordinary gatekeeper. He has a thick beard and dark beady eyes. His ominous presence is the barrier preventing the man from his desired destination. Initially, the man from the country pleads for permission to enter through the gates, but is denied. The sentry then tells the man that he may pass through thegate but warns him that he will be confronted with far more menacing watchmen. Rather than confront or bypass the sentry, the man from the country elects to wait to be allowed through the gates.
As the years pass, the man from the country tries everything from small talk to bribery and flattery to convince the gatekeeper to allow him to pass…all to no avail. Finally, as the frail man’s life is winding down to its end, he asks the gatekeeper why he was never allowed entry. Incredulously, the gatekeeper responds, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”
The second example came to me as I sought to articulate what it means to be brave. Initially, I found the search to be abstract, closer to an intellectual pursuit than a feeling in my gut. Luckily, I happened to be reading Steve Jobs’ biography. This was not a man who lacked confidence or was deterred by gatekeepers.
I had watched his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford a couple years ago on YouTube, but time pushed it to the back of my mind. Still, I recalled how moving and heartfelt it was. I read it again in the biography.
In the speech, he spoke of three personal stories that had deeply impacted the direction of his life. The final story was about being diagnosed with cancer and the forced organization of one’s affairs that comes with a terminal illness. As he reflected on the intimate details of his diagnosis, he provided a personal observation on the art and urgency of living.
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
There it is…“Brave” defined.
Every new day reignites our inner David&Goliath battle to live like the man from the country or Steve Jobs… Whether we get past the gate or slay the giant, Bravery is about the daily decisions we make and the way we choose to live our lives.
Be BRAVE:“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
“True bravery consists of hanging on for just a minute longer.” This is an old, old saying – Viking warriors used to repeat it over and over as they went into battle. It’s so easy to think of bravery as grandiose and spectacular – Spider-Man saving a city, something like that. That’s true, but we tend to forget that we are all called upon to have courage at times, to feel the fear but do it anyway, sometimes in little ways that we don’t even realize until later, if at all. I say “called upon” because usually there is a choice to be brave, to hang on for just a minute longer, or not.
And often we don’t even think about it, we just do what needs to be done. Years ago, there was a woman who was in a terrible car accident as she crossed a bridge in the Bay Area. Her car rolled over, and her baby was pinned under the car. This mom crawled out of the car window, lifted the car with one arm, and reached under the car with her other arm, which just happened to have been broken in the accident. She pulled her baby to safety, and to life. The car burst into flames right after that.
Adrenalin rush? Sure. But also measureless courage – she always could have said: “I can’t.”
We all have choices that we can make in our lives, but sometimes we are just doing what needs to be done, right then – the acts of bravery that often only we know about, because it’s nothing to boast about. Christians who risked their lives during the Holocaust to hide Jews in their homes were asked later: Why? Why did you risk your life, and often your family’s life, to do something so dangerous? You could have been killed.
The reply that they all made was: We didn’t do anything special. We knew it was the right thing to do, and so we did it. Many of these people have gone unrecognized for their valor because they never talked about it after the war. They just did what needed to be done – nothing to crow about.
At David&Goliath, we make these choices too and face our greatest challenges. For instance, we had a choice whether to take on the Weingart Center ads for the homeless. We created those ads with courage, compassion, and style. We just did it. It needed to be done. Brave.
Our agency had the privilege to have a private screening of Saving Face, a documentary that won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film is about women of Pakistan who are victims of acid attacks. These types of attacks happen every year. This documentary was filmed during a time when the women of parliament were trying to pass a law for stricter punishments for those found guilty of attacking someone with acid.
This movie was very touching, not just because it shed a light on an emotional topic that many people are unaware of going on in Pakistan, and because it made me take a look at my life and remember how lucky women are in the U.S.
I am fortunate enough to go to a great school, have a job in this tough economy, but even with all of these blessings, I can't help but want more. I'm lucky enough to live in a country where it's possible that one day I could work my way up the corporate ladder to become the President or CEO of a company, have the ability to grace the cover of Fortune Magazine, or even start up my own business. If you asked Pakistani women what they wanted, they would most likely answer that they want to feel safe, that they want to be able to live independently, and that they want to make a difference. The things that I want are unimaginable to them.
Various times during the film, the women are spoken to horribly, as if they are uneducated and their opinions don’t matter. They would describe the “crime of passion” that was committed against them and then proceed to tell us that they were forced to continue to live with this person (normally their husbands or in-laws) because they had nowhere else to turn to. They would describe continued abuse and that people in their towns were convinced that these women were so upset with their lives that they did this to themselves. They're called liars and are seen as outcasts from society.
These women are extremely brave. Part of our BRAVE motto at David&Goliath is that the brave are a “select few who demand more and are prepared to fight for it. The brave take on challenges others might walk away from.” These women have done just that. Some of these women had acid burn so badly that they lost an eye, and due to the severity, were not able to receive plastic surgery to help improve the situation. Their lives have forever been altered. Never again will they be able to go outside and not have people stare at them. Some even refuse to talk to them or acknowledge their presence because their faces have been destroyed and they are unpleasant to look at. These women knew that once the film was made public, their lives and their families’ lives would be in danger for expressing their feelings. After all of this, they still agreed to go on camera and tell their stories. They didn’t just have their interests in heart; they wanted to help change things for everyone who could one day be affected by such a horrible crime. And that is inspiring to me. These women helped get a law passed in Pakistan that increased the sentencing to life in prison for those convicted of carrying out these horrible crimes. Because of their efforts, Pakistan has taken one step closer toward fighting for equality for women, and that is something to celebrate.
I recently had an accident that got me thinking about bravery versus recklessness. Bravery and recklessness both involve making a choice that could have very bad consequences. I suppose the biggest difference is that bravery involves a calculation that the risk is worth the potential reward and that the odds of success justify the risk.
Recklessness is the flip side of the calculation: low odds of success and the reward isn’t worth the risk.
A big part of a producer’s job involves constantly weighing these odds. After all, we have our feet planted in two worlds: the creative world of pure ideas, and the practical world of money and time. Right brain and left brain.
A brave choice might involve working with a promising young director and giving him his first big break. A reckless choice would be to award a giant Super Bowl spot to a recent film-school graduate who has never directed anything but a low-budget student film, and then giving him two weeks to make it all happen.
There’s also more to bravery than just making the choice to be brave. It also means having a plan to tilt the odds in your favor. Custer didn’t do that at Little Big Horn, and history now views him as reckless. One of the other things I’m always trying to do as a producer is to put the creatives in a situation where they can succeed — looking for ways to increase those odds of success so the brave choice pays off.
So maybe we decide to work with the promising young director. But we also make sure he’s backed up by a solid production team and a seasoned cinematographer.
In the end I believe that being brave means making a bold move — the right move — at the right time with a plan to succeed. Recklessness means making a bold move at the wrong time without proper foresight.
Few sites have made me gleefully squeal at every post as much as Texts From Hillary did. In addition to, say, Diet Coke and wine, wit, pop culture and feminism are pretty much my favorite things. And it turns out they’re a lot of other people’s favorite things too (I meant the wit and feminism stuff, not the wine and Diet Coke, though it’s probably safe to say lots of people love those as well).
In a matter of days, the site went from something my sister and I IM’d each other about to something that seemed to consume my newsfeed on Facebook, with more and more friends linking to it. Within days, Hillary herself submitted a picture, via text. (In case you’re curious, Hillary is up there with Oprah and Derek Jeter on my list of people I’d probably die of joy if I got a text from.
But 7 days after the first post, the creators decided to stop posting. “As far as memes go,” they wrote, “it has gone as far as it can go. Is it really possible to top a submission from the Secretary herself? No.” I mean, sure, selfishly I am disappointed (and for the record, I’m still trying to figure out how to create a life-sized version of the Rachel Maddow/Beyonce one), but I also think it’s one of the best displays of self-control and self-awareness I’ve seen from meme creators.
I didn’t bring this topic up just to talk about my love of wine and feminism (OK, maybe I did a little), but because the idea of restraint, of knowing when to stop, when to acknowledge that an idea has run its course, is relevant to what we all do.
We talk a lot about bravery here at D&G — about the different dimensions of it, the different expressions of it — and quitting while you’re ahead, is just as brave as getting ahead. Like an athlete retiring at just the right time before his or her game dwindles, knowing when to stop requires just as much bravery as knowing how to start in the first place.
Bravery has many meanings, perceptions, inconsistencies and many foolish designations. Often, bravery is seen as brash, confident, though slightly blind; there’s a fine line, however, between that definition and ignorance.
Bravery is selfless. Regardless of many misguided definitions of bravery, it is always rooted in what it should be – a selfless need to take upon yourself what you would not have others endure.
On a recent volunteer trip to Honduras, I witnessed this form of bravery first-hand. We worked with multiple orphanages and also within the remote local villages in need of medical support. Honduras is one of the poorest countries sequestered in one of the poorest regions of the world. In Honduras, bravery is knowing what your disadvantages are, but not allowing those around you to suffer from them. It’s shielding the ones you love and protecting them from the realities for which you must take the brunt. It is appreciating everything you have and not harping on what you do not.
But the magic and bravery of this country is in the people – of their unwavering pride, happiness and selflessness in the face of daunting certainties. Everyone who I encountered had a selfless purpose to help those in need. Everyone had an understanding that anything they have they are lucky to have it, and that they should turn their advantage into a way to help others. They had a smile, kind words and an appreciation for the good in the world – and they work so hard to surround these children with this.
There was one little boy who followed me around the medical clinics when we were in Nuevo Esperanza, a village outside of the Nuevo Paraiso orphanage. Josa was about 10 years old, and was fascinated by my camera. Although he had no idea of its worth, it was easily more than his entire family had. His genuine excitement to take pictures and then see what he had taken was amazing to watch. And even with no understanding of the cost of the camera, he took care of it as if it were his own. It was an appreciation for all things provided to them, even if for just moments.
Or Sonia, the woman running the organization we worked with. In my time meeting and filming her for the documentary, she did not want to talk about any of the negative aspects that these kids face in their lives, but rather the successes and improvements they’ve made. Like a mother to these children, she spoke with such pride about each of them and the potential that they not only have, but in many cases have already realized.
Then there were our guides, who were also friends to those who had been to Honduras on previous trips like this. These are men in their 20’s who have endured incredibly difficult lives, but have been fortunate to have found their way to the organization that we worked with. They have been fortunate to have had sponsors who saw their potential and provided funds to attend universities to further their education – an education that they are now using to give back to their country. One of the guides wants to be a teacher so he can be a mentor and an example for children with upbringings like his. One has the goal of making Honduras a self-sufficient energy country, not relying on other countries for natural resources that they can create within their own beautiful country.
But, back to our bullshit lives and the lack of bravery we live with – or worse, the false belief in our own bravery. Is bravery really jumping out of a plane or moving to a new city? Badass, ballsy? Absolutely. Brave? No, not at all.
Challenge yourself to be selfless; to be brave. It’s a challenge that I learned from my time in Honduras and, although difficult to live up to, it is a challenge that makes you better in the effort.
“Welcome to Boys Club.” Okay, that’s not literally what was said to me after I switched departments at David&Goliath. But it certainly was uttered inside of my head. I didn’t start out as a Copywriter—in fact, I wasn’t even a creative. Straight out of undergrad, I landed what many 22-year-old women would consider their dream job in Account Management. I’ll admit, it was an amazing opportunity and I learned a lot from it. But what I mostly learned was that it wasn’t my dream job. Though it was always a part of the plan.
Instead of applying to a creative portfolio school post undergrad, I used that old-fashioned trick of “getting my foot in the door.” And it worked. A year later, and after moonlighting as a copywriter on many pitches, working double hours (and drinking double at happy hours), David&Goliath gave me a shot as a real-life Copywriter.
I have so much respect for women in Creative Advertising. You gotta have some balls (figuratively, of course) to step in and say, “I’m just as funny as you. Hell—I’m going to be funnier than you. And smarter about it too.” I’m not gonna lie—this industry as a whole is still a little behind the times. It’s not exactly like the ad days of Mad Men anymore, but you’d be surprised how few female Creatives there are.
So, boys club. The great news is it’s not an exclusive club. Everyone at David&Goliath has always made me feel welcome and accepted—that’s part of the reason I have so much respect for this Agency. Still, boys will be boys. Advertising is a healthy competitive industry. You always have to stay sharp, and strive to be better. Even in the off hours (which there aren’t any), the guys feel the need to be on their game. I’ve seen many a pissing contest. One-upping, over-sexualizing, shot-for-shot drinking, and the snowballing of impressive stories is the norm. It never ends. And hell, I partake in it too. But sometimes I feel like I’m running a marathon. Can’t we all just act civilized for once? (Spoken like a true woman.)
In this testosterone-fueled industry, women have the ability to make a powerful impact. We see the world a bit differently, and bring something unique to the table that can really produce amazing results. Now, I’m not about to go all girl power on you. And I’m also not going to tell you we need a womanly approach to advertising. I think it’s the balance of thinking from both sexes that makes idea generation 100 times more powerful. At work, my Art Director partner is male. And I wouldn’t change that for the world. Aside from just being two very different creative people, I think being a male-female team with a natural system of checks & balances gives us a creative edge. I give props to David&Goliath for putting us together.
As a female in Advertising, there’s only one way I want to be treated—and that’s like everyone else. We are unique, but we aren’t special. And we aren’t a cliché. Don’t assume we’re gonna nail a campaign about tampons—because I guarantee there’s some guys out there that will come up with some disturbingly good work. And don’t worry about our ability to write a sports-themed headline, or target the male segment. But always make sure we’re there, in your department and in your Agency, offering our point of view. Because if you don’t, well, you’re only representing 50% of the world, aren’t you?
Since day one, I’ve always imagined creating an agency model that was different from anywhere else. One based on a culture and a mindset designed to take on challenges of any size.
In fact, it’s never been about an ad agency per se. We’re in the business of brand building and creating consumer affinity in the most honest and approachable way possible.
To do so, we created a brand called David&Goliath. Our philosophy is about being BRAVE — a filter we use for everything that we do. From the people we hire, the clients we work with, to how we approach life on a daily basis. Now BRAVE isn’t about picking up a sword and swinging blindly into the fray, it’s about being smart, efficient, flexible and entrepreneurial. It’s about giving yourself permission to step outside of your comfort zone, to dare to be better and take on Goliath-like obstacles that most people would run from. We do this because we know, that before you can do anything great, you have to be BRAVE first.
I’m not saying we’re for everyone. There are probably a few people out there who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about bravery. And we’re totally cool with that. In fact, we encourage those people to find the place that’s right for them.
What we are saying, is that in order to build any type of brand affinity, you have to start with you, and ask yourself what you believe in and whether or not you are marching to that beat in the most passionate, confident, and undeniable way possible.
Fact is, we are all brands. The key to being our best is to live our brand in everything we do, not just advertising. For us, it’s all about being BRAVE here and everywhere. Because the more we step outside of our comfort zone on a daily basis, the more we inspire others to do the same.
At David&Goliath, we ask all our employees to frame their worst fear and hang it on the Wall of Goliath. On a daily basis, they are reminded of what they need to overcome. In addition, we have office doors painted with the words, “Do what you fear, watch it disappear.” So every day we’re reminded that fear is the one thing that stands between us and our potential. We’ve lived and breathed it since the beginning. It’s what separates us from everyone else out there.
We believe that before you can ask a client or anyone else to embrace their brand, you need to know who you are first. And when you embrace your truth, it’s the easiest thing to remember.
We are David&Goliath. Welcome to our BRAVE culture.
What do Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, a big cat, and Mr. T all have in common? If you said abnormally fuzzy knuckles, then yes, you would be correct. But more importantly, they’ve all played a starring role in broadcast’s trendy new format, the extended version television ad. Over the past few months we’ve seen spots from Chrysler, Chipotle, Cartier and Old Navy hit the airwaves in grand form, each with a run time of two minutes or longer.
By now we’re all accustomed to lengthy ads being dropped in the time-shifted digital media system. But that’s because consumer engagement in the digital space, for the most part, is optional. The harsh reality is the Interwebs have a rather natural way of dealing with crappy content; ignore it, allow it to quietly die, and fade into the abyss. This reality has challenged brands to think different and focus on creating awesome content – in other words, stuff that compels one to divert attention from Angelina Jolie leg memes, Pinterest, and blurred clips of the KONY 2012 guy’s salacious meltdown.
But what happens when heightened consumer expectations and the natural selection of awesome cross over from the web and into the broadcast world? Well, we adapt. Or face extinction.
It’s safe to say that competition for attention during TV viewing time has reached a critical mass. With record sales of the new iPad 3, Smartphone penetration crossing the majority threshold, and Ultrabooks hitting the market, co-consumption behaviors will surely continue to increase while attention spans continue to dwindle. So while still in its infancy, it seems as if TV advertising’s attempt to evolve and thrive is coming in the form of these extended ads.
What does this all mean to the ad world? Here’s my two cents – the extended spot format signals broadcast advertising’s past-due acceptance of one simple truth: people want awesome content, awesome advertising is simply a byproduct.
In advertising, we’re sometimes asked to convince people that they need something. Lemon-scented detergent. Or a soda that’ll change their life. But a group of us at David&Goliath recently worked on a series of pro-bono projects that promoted the most basic of needs. We partnered with the Weingart Center to help the 50,000 homeless living on the streets of Los Angeles. This was our chance to work on something we truly believe in. Something that was BRAVE. With the Weingart Projects, we set out to create a difference for the homeless.
For the first project, we used chalk to sketch a scene around homeless volunteers on the streets of LA. As pedestrians walked by, they saw a representation of what was possible. Around one homeless woman, we sketched a bedroom in a house. Around a homeless man, a chair in a living room. And around another, a table in a kitchen. The drawings were visible if you simply changed your perspective. A nearby sign gave people a way to respond, as pedestrians were asked to “Text Them Home” and, in the process, make a donation.
For the second project, we considered the number of homeless people who die on the streets every day in LA and brought attention to that. We looked at the material the homeless often sleep on — cardboard boxes. Then we used the cardboard to create coffins. Each coffin was printed with the message: “Every day in LA, one person who sleeps on the street, dies there.” Then we set up the coffins in high-traffic areas in LA, from City Hall to Disney Hall. In each coffin, a homeless volunteer slept. As pedestrians considered the possible outcome of those in the coffins, they were directed to the Weingart Center website, where they too could make a donation.
While we may have set out to create a difference for others, in the process, we too experienced a difference. We better understood what it was like to be ignored on the streets. And what it feels when the human spirit does prevail. We felt the rush of adrenaline as we carried the coffins to the front steps of City Hall. We felt inspired as others living on the street let us know our efforts were appreciated.
And as we returned to the offices of David&Goliath, we felt the pride that comes from knowing that the company we work for was paying our salaries to do work that wasn’t paying bills, but serving a greater purpose. And that’s being BRAVE.
What defines bravery? Is it saving someone’s life? Is it bungee jumping off a bridge in New Zealand? Both are considered acts of bravery (or stupidity for the latter). The true definition of brave, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is having or showing courage. BRAVERY is defined as the quality or state of being brave.
When stopping and thinking about our everyday routines, the majority of us wake up, grab a cup of coffee, get dressed for the day (or help others get ready, like kids), and go on our merry way to work/school/gym. What we don’t realize is that we are brave in many of our everyday actions. It doesn’t take one to become a police officer/fire fighter/paramedic to be considered brave. Bravery starts at a very early age and we continue to tackle it more head-on as we get older.
As a child, we take that first step which displays the first sign of courage to the world.
Starting our first day of kindergarten and meeting new friends gets us out of our comfort zone. It demonstrates that we are ready to grow and be bold with others.
Learning to ride a bicycle for the first time is a frustrating part of many childhood memories. After one too many falls, that one time you get it shows that one was not only courageous, but brave to not give up.
Playing that first sport as a child or performing that first dance recital demonstrates our independence, but also shows us how bold and fearless we can be.
Driving a car for the first time is scary, yet thrilling, as it showcases our fearlessness, and once again, our independence. At that age, we couldn’t be happier to get out of the house.
How about that first date? Nerves and butterflies take over, but it takes guts to overcome our nerves and fears to keep putting ourselves out there.
Finally, how about starting that first job? Entering the world as a professional is risky, especially in such an unstable economy like today, but what we don’t know from that first day is how adventurous it will be and how audacious we will become over time.
All of these life stages that we are forced to overcome and enter can sometimes make us forget – especially as we get older – how to be brave. Ask yourself moving forward, how will I be brave today? What can I do to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone? Don’t forget that those fighting for their lives or the lives of others don’t have a choice but to be as bold, brave and courageous as they can, because their life or the lives of others depend on their action.
Go on….BE BRAVE!
We Plan. We Prepare. But in the end, Perseverance makes Production results great. Imagine, as we did, preparing for the big Kia Soul Shuffle Slam online contest Finale. The band, LMFAO with RedFoo and SkyBlu, and the Quest Crew were all on board to judge and announce the winner of the contest and we would film it at a small, secure, garage location and then take the announcement live November 7th. Easy breezy.
Then on the Tuesday before the October 30th filming, the band happen to see YouTube and LOVED the amazing video of a house in Riverside, CA which decorated for Halloween with a synched music and light show, including LMFAO’s hit song of the Summer “Party Rock Anthem” which is also the unforgettable music track of our Kia “Share Some Soul” TV commercial.
We had also seen the house on You Tube and with great minds thinking alike thought, “what if we filmed the finale at that house?” The Kia client LOVED the idea.
But now we needed move fast and replan for a host of other production challenges including location permitting, crew and truck parking, lights for a night shoot and agreement on how to feature the Kia Soul.So many logistics to work out in only 3 business days; was it possible?
Production company Rockhard Films and director Mickey Finnegan were on board.We proceeded to secure the location. The owner of the house was excited. He had quite a few people starting to show up at the house for the light show each night. Our enthusiasm started to get a bit tempered as over 400 people showed up the following night. Then over 1000 people showed up the next night, just for the light show. We needed to add more security to the agenda if we were going to film with a crowd around us. Then we were concerned the city of Riverside would deny our permit to film in the interest of public safety. What if the word got out that LMFAO and Quest Crew would actually be AT that house Sunday night? It could be chaos and interfere with achieving our ultimate goal. Everyone was ordered to radio silence about the filming. The house owner also posted that the light show was cancelled that Sunday night, hoping the crowds would not show up so we could film in peace.
We zigged and zagged and arranged a miracle. And by “we” I don’t mean “me”. I mean an army of dedicated and brave people from agency, client, production, Interscope, LMFAO and Quest Crew management and a special shout out to our dedicated producer Jenn Mersis who spearheaded this part of the Contest. My involvement was much more supervisory but I was a witness .to the power of perseverance.
We set up production base camp at a school down the street from the house. Two little nine years olds went by on their bikes. I knew what was coming. Within minutes they were on their phones texting and tweeting that the LMFAO Party Rock van was in the neighborhood! That night over 2000 people still showed up at a small neighborhood location and were treated to a live (lip synch of course) performance by LMFAO and the Quest Crew. The crowd was great, hushing while the band spoke to camera, then cheering and screaming in between filming. The guys announced each of the top three finalists as “the winner” so that all the people in the crowd uploading their instant videos to Facebook and You Tube during our event filming wouldn’t unknowingly spill the beans on who was chosen as the actual winner before we announced it on our Kia Soul Shuffle Slam site. And it worked! The true winner was only announced on our site as planned.
It was a tough week, a great night, and a fitting end to a historic and successful contest for our client.
On May 22nd 2011 an EF5 tornado hit my hometown of Joplin, MO. The mile wide storm ripped through the center of the city killing over 160 people and destroying much of the town’s infrastructure including the hospital and high school. I watched the news from Los Angeles in horror—uncertain if my family was safe.
The phones in Joplin were down, so I relied on my Facebook page to get updates from the ground and keep in touch with my friends and family in the disaster zone. Over the next 48 hours I stayed tuned into my social feeds, and I was relieved as one-by-one my family and friends announced that they were safe. My heart sank as posts announcing the tragic deaths of the less fortunate began to appear.
In the days following the storm, Facebook and Youtube became a way for Joplin residents to share their experiences through heartfelt posts, photos and videos. The social media surrounding this event became the definitive account of the storm and its aftermath. Relief efforts and pertinent recovery information was shared throughout the Facebook community as well. People started donation efforts via Facebook, and some families even used the site to raise money to help pay for funeral costs.
As the dust settled and clean up began, people started finding photos that had been scattered during the storm. Some photos were found as far as 70 miles from their places of origin. Abi Almandinger created a Facebook page called “Joplin’s Found Photos” to facilitate the return of these photos to their owners. In many cases those were the only photos families were able to recover. Her inspirational use of Facebook was featured in the LA Times, and Abi’s efforts are the subject of an upcoming documentary.
Seven months after this tragic event, I am still using Facebook as a way to connect with my hometown. It is inspiring to see Joplin as it rebuilds, and I can follow that recovery with the click of my mouse thanks to social networking sites. Just this week I saw a post from a local photographer who is providing Christmas family portraits for free to families who lost their family photos in the storm. Many people try to dismiss the power of social networking, but the reach of these sites is so much grander than I had ever realized. For Joplin, this online community has helped preserve the past, cope with the present, and inspire the future.
My music is great and yours sucks. Which is why I often find it paralyzing to stray from the cozy bubble of my meticulously crafted playlists to spend time exploring the ether of music blogs and sites that run a dime a dozen. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when I unexpectedly came upon a site that captured my rare swayed interests— We Are Hunted.
At the core it’s nothing completely new. Like Spotify, its success lies in making music social, aligning with Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud to allow people to share self-curated playlists. Where it stood out for me was how the music featured on the site is built around top 99 song charts. These charts are created by amassing what people are saying about artists and their music on blogs, social media, message boards and P2P networks. In this way, the music on We Are Hunted changes regularly based on social chatter.
The site filters its charts in various ways, so you can go to “Emerging Chart” to explore newer, more indie artists (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is my new go to) or fulfill your Katy kick at the “Mainstream Chart.” Everything is packaged in a user interface creatives drool over — visually driven, intuitive and simple. In this way, We Are Hunted reinforces the future direction of music consumption — where music lives as a growing body of people’s ever changing tastes at any given moment rather than a stagnant file that sits in your hard drive.
One of the best examples of bravery I have witnessed in my career is in someone I have been fortunate enough to have as a client. I’ve worked with him over the last five years and have seen him take on seemingly insurmountable tasks. His name is Marc Barasch and he is the founder of Greenworld – an environmental organization that regenerates the world’s most degraded regions by planting trees.
Re-greening the planet is a colossal task. The world is now losing 80,000 acres of forest everyday. Where does one person find the inspiration to take on such an overwhelming ‘Goliath’? Part of the answer comes from a book: Marc is not a tree-hugging environmentalist (well, perhaps a bit) or an expert in agro-forestry. He is a best selling author. When he wrote his book, The Compassionate Life, he never dreamed it would compel him to live up to the book’s core message. Perhaps hanging out with homeless shelter workers and kidney donors affected him on a deep level. He realized that before penning another book, he needed to get up from behind his desk and do some good in the world.
Marc had an epiphany he describes as ‘green compassion’. He worked for free, using his kitchen table as his headquarters. He partnered with individuals around the world – including farmers in Ethiopia, villagers in the Philippines and the indigenous Tlahuica community in Mexico, who are standing up to the logging companies that are clear-cutting their ancestral forest.
Soon, Marc had a small army of supporters: a climate change lawyer in London, a former World Bank country director, a geo-spatial expert in Berkeley and yes, an ad agency with the rather appropriate name of David & Goliath.
However, this wasn’t an easy undertaking. When his personal savings were depleted, he began to doubt his sanity. Out of nowhere, a Hollywood director wrote a check to support him for a year. “I like the idea of planting trees,” he told me, “but right now, I'd like to water the tree-planter.”
As new projects were added and those first saplings promised to become living forests, Marc continued to find ways to get the word out. Last March, Marc approached us about creating an Earth Day Times Square ‘takeover’. We had a miniscule budget but I knew Marc well enough to take his idea seriously. We actually pulled off this seemingly impossible stunt in less than 30 days. Several companies donated $2 million in free media. We produced a beautifully animated film in just over a week. The film, broadcast on 10 jumbotrons, encouraged spectators to text in a donation to plant trees. One screen featured a massive real time digital tree that grew with each contribution.
With each success there are endless challenges, yet Marc has stayed unwaveringly committed to his vision. I have rarely witnessed anyone so persistent and, yes, brave. Someone I am lucky enough to also call a client.
After social media helped spread the message of “Let’s burn London down” from smaller towns and villages to key London districts, can we continue to deny the controversial role it plays in spreading massive unrest and in the case of Egypt, revolution? As the harsh sentences come down today in the UK, it will echo around the world that the consequences of social media engagement for the incitement of violence and destruction can have serious and surprising consequences.
Libel cases involving twitter are heating up as well – especially in the entertainment and music communities, with notable cases involving stars Johnny Gill and Courtney Love (including, in Love’s case, a $430,000 settlement!).
Flash mobs, once an innovative way to celebrate the life of Michael Jackson, have taken a dark turn. Flash mobs have been used to instigate a Northern California transit strike, leaving commuters stranded and have been used to organize as many as 28 people to loot a local 7-11 in Maryland.
With all that’s going on out there, how can companies safely engage consumers with their brands? The answer is a simple one: social media is still a powerful tool for positive brand building through messages which seek to build communities, empower entrepreneurs and work for social good and justice. It is a fluid ecosystem which is constantly trying to respond and compete with itself and in that sense, provides the ultimate opportunity for cut through.
As quickly as the Blackberry Smartphone snapped pictures which looters posted to twitter, users turned the tide, commenting on Facebook in an effort to organize community cleanup and communicate information regarding public safety.
Corporations are seeing the benefits of aggregating content by creating Facebook hubs which direct traffic away from brand profiles to measurable hotspots on the interwebs. All this has pushed Facebook to up its game (as we speak) and find ways of providing analytics to marketing professionals (including my phone number, not to be posted in the DNG bathroom wall!). Grassroots brands like Tupperware have taken their parties to a whole new level by moving the “original” social network online and putting additional power into the hands of purveyors to organize. (“Also, Supperware products are ideal for storing leftovers to help stretch your food dollar.” - Airplane)
Mashable honored the best social media campaigns of 2010, bringing awareness to sites like PSGive.org which allows users to participate in online events by nonprofits and win cool prizes like the iPad, while helping a charity of choice. Twitchange.org stands as the web’s first celebrity twitter auction where users can up their twitter credibility by adding a super star tweeter to their followers, while working for social change. All these efforts push the user one step further beyond “Liking” the traditional cause pages on Facebook to actually creating change.
As we follow President Barak Obama on Foursquare (you joined now, didn’t you?) on his re-election campaign (for more hope), and track any updates to Wikipedia that may be required based on presidential stump speeches (Paul RevereDID wake the British accidentally!), its sure to be a brave undertaking to get in and play the game and do it for good.
At David & Goliath, Brave is our motto 24/7. That means even when you’re say, on vacation in Maui, you need to keep that in mind. Last week, I was there celebrating my birthday and decided - why not scuba dive with sharks, without a cage.
For the days leading up to the event, I mentally prepared myself watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel. Of course that wasn’t all. I also caught an assortment of shark related YouTube clips, including one of a jackass who attempted to kiss a Nurse shark, only to have his lips bitten off. Then I figured I was ready.
The morning arrived and I woke up with excitement not fear. But just to be safe, I opted not to shave for fear of cutting myself and getting the sharks excited.
I arrived at the Maui Ocean Center and signed several pages of liability waivers.
Surprisingly the dive was open to any certified diver with “Ball$.” And by “Ball$” I mean anyone with “ball$” of cash to pay for such an opportunity. Then it was time to begin. As I leaned over the dock and dipped my mask into the water to clean the fog I noticed the dorsal fin and striped topside of a Tiger shark pass by. If my memory was correct, that was #2 on Shark Week’s list of the ten most dangerous sharks. The dive master tried to put me at ease telling me it was a 6 foot juvenile Tiger shark they picked up last week off the coast. While the size did seem slightly less intimidating, the fact that this shark had very little human contact made my heart pound just a little faster. I took a deep breath and entered the water.
As I descended, I soon found myself surrounded by more than 20 sharks. White Tips, Black Tips, and several Scalloped Hammerheads. All of which were also on the top ten notorious list.
As if that wasn’t enough, there were half dozen stingrays that were no joke 15 feet in length. As I looked one in the eyes, I couldn’t help but think about how my friend dressed up like Steve Irwin with a stingray barb through stomach for Halloween. And how I laughed hysterically. Could this be karma wielding its ugly barbed tail? Crikey, I hope not. But as I petted its buttery flaps, I discovered this creature had no beef with me.
Then came the fun part. The 11 AM daily shark feeding. Soon foot long dead tuna were being dropped into the tank all around me. The Hammerheads began to circle in a frenzy. “Fins to the left, fins to the right.” Come to think of it, now would be a good time to be sipping on a drink in Margaritaville. Then past the sharks, I noticed the crowd of people pressed against the dry side of the aquarium, waiting for a good show. Like Romans waiting for the lions to feed on the Christians. Even my wife had a somewhat sadistic smile on her face. Was she looking forward to cashing in on that new life insurance policy on me? I would soon find out.
Now since this dive took place in the 750,000-gallon tank that was part of the Maui Ocean Center, I felt pretty confident that nothing was going to go wrong. Then again, these were wild animals, some of which were caught in the last 2 weeks, so you never know. Even one of the Shamus went postal on a trainer at Sea World. And I wasn’t a trainer. I was a stranger in a shark tank. A stranger who just met them and already peed in their house.
Well, even though the hula pie birthday dessert I had the night before probably made my black wetsuit appear more seal-like than usual, these sharks were not nearly as interested in me as I was in them. I was able to appreciate them for the amazing creatures that they were. And I survived with all copywriting fingers still intact.
Now I didn’t do the dive to be Brave. Rather, my desire to experience this was simply greater than my fear. And for me that’s what it means to be Brave. Metaphorically speaking, whenever it is time for me to “sleep with the fishes,” I want to know, there’s not much left in my tank. I don’t want to say, I wish I had done this or that. I want to use everything I’ve got. And as I climbed out of the shark tank with less than 500 PSI of compressed air in my tank, at least I can say on that day, I did.
When marketing is the only real difference between two products and one product sells significantly worse than the other, what do you blame? If you’re Miller Lite, you blame the weather. And while, force majeure may be the easy way out, a more honest assessment may lie in a failure to properly understand cultural nuances and the speed-of-light changes in consumer attitudes.
For instance, shopping at a Walmart in Arkansas may signal American pride, but do the same in LA and you’re liable to get dirty looks. Likewise, when Mr. T beckons British men to “Get Some Nuts” for Snickers, Miller Lite’s similar admonishment to American guys to “Man Up” completely misses the mark.
If culture is the operating system of society, then globalization and technology are allowing culture to transform faster than ever. This means that, if you want to maintain relevance, you got to create more things, more often, with more current meaning. There’s very little margin for error. What was celebrated and embraced yesterday becomes the “Leave Britney Alone” of an hour ago and the “Chocolate Rain” of five minutes ago. And, apparently, American dudes don’t think it’s funny for a beer company to tell them that they’re getting girly. Only Mr. T can do that.
While mash-up music may have reached its apex with Danger Mouse’s Grammy win, a new generation of artists is taking a deeper and more thorough look at blending all kinds of different media. These intrepid innovators are re-thinking the idea of media as a single-use communication tool, and using anything within their means as potential collage elements. Pop-up books meets digital projection? Check. Fashion meets burlesque meets lights show meets hotel rooms? Of course. Harry Potter meets ink meets a public bathroom? Why not? Without boundaries or rules, media blending is transforming society’s idea of storytelling and its possibilities. It makes you wonder whether the word “media” is even still relevant, since anything can now be turned into a piece to be cut, mashed, transformed, and repurposed. And the resulting metamorphosis is often layered with the kind of magic that accompanies true innovation.