Posted by: brandextenders | April 18, 2018

Curiosity and the Cat

Curosity

Apparently, the Mars rover is the guilty party!

On the one hand, we have a cat, dead from curiosity.  And on the other, a box full of all things negative, opened by a curious woman. Pandora’s Box, as you may otherwise know it.

Curiosity is, of course, what these seemingly two unrelated events have in common.  But what’s interesting to me is the fact these are both negative events, despite the fact, almost all agree curiosity is a beneficial trait in humans. Without curiosity, would there have been a Michelangelo, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Galileo, Christopher Columbus, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk…among others? Chances are a population lacking curiosity would still be living in caves without a written language, technology limited to the newest wooden club and eating bats instead of creamy avocado spinach pasta.

In 2016, the Gallup organization surveyed nearly 149,000 people from 142 nations, a sample designed to represent 96 percent of the world’s population. The poll identified two factors with the strongest influence on how much enjoyment a person experienced in a given day and they are, “being able to count on someone for help” and “having learned something yesterday.” In other words, curiosity is a driving force in learning and overall enjoyment of life.

But who has time to be curious you might ask? The truth is, if we are to grow as humans, to enjoy life to the fullest and be successful in whatever way we define success, we need to cultivate our curiosity each and every day. Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” And with that curiosity, he turned the scientific world on its head as he rewrote the laws of nature. You too can harness the power of curiosity to enrich your life using these tips culled from a variety of sources:

  • Ask lots of questions. Children constantly ask “why”, sometimes to the chagrin of their parents. That’s how we learn. But as we grow older, we become less likely to ask and more likely to just accept things as they are. The best journalists are always seeking the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why, and rarely ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. When I meet someone new, I always ask questions to learn about their life, despite the fact the majority of these same people rarely do the same. One never learns by answering questions, but rather by asking the right questions…and pretty much any question is the right question.
  • Question everything. In addition to asking questions, question the answers. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb (Google it!), but took something that was unreliable and made it better. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer, but together with Steve Wozniak, founded a company that made technology easily accessible to the average consumer. By questioning the technology that already existed and asking how to make it easier to use, Jobs and the Woz changed computing forever. Do the same in your life:  question the answers to see what lies beyond that which you accept as the truth.
  • Read, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube Videos: My oldest son has a townhouse and decided to tear out the bathtub and turn it into a shower. Having a father with none of these skills (that’s me), he turned to YouTube and found a plethora of videos on how to remodel a bathroom. His curiosity has given him new skills and similar results can come from reading books and listening to podcasts. Let curiosity help you find hobbies, learn new skills, explore the world, and become versed in something that intrigues you.
  • Step outside your comfort zone. We all tend to hide within the unseen walls of that which is comfortable and keep risk at bay. Being curious though means you must step outside that which is known and foster an intellectual curiosity. Challenge yourself daily with simple things like taking a different route home, doing things you fear (within reason of course), volunteer your time, try new recipes, write a story, use a map instead of Waze or brush your teeth while standing on one leg. Doing things differently sparks the brain to connect in different ways and forever changes how you view the world.
  • Just google itIf all else fails, Google it: Call me an old fart, but growing up we didn’t have the Internet. Hell, there was hardly television… with only three networks and a couple of quirky UHF stations. We had more time to be curious and referred to an Encyclopedia when all else failed, or we had a major report due. But today, if you have a question, you can simply Google It and get 5,432,331 answers. More or less! Don’t be afraid to use the Internet to answer your questions and quench your curiosity.

Leave it to a 12-year old to show us what it means to be curious. In late 2008, NASA sponsored a contest among students to name the spacecraft they would be sending to Mars a few years hence. Clara Ma, a sixth-grade student from Kansas came up with the name Curiosity, chosen from some 9,000 entries, and as a result, she got to write her name on the rover now wandering the Martian landscape.

Ask those questions that have always plagued you. Why is sandwich meat round and bread is square? Why is vanilla ice cream white when vanilla extract is brown? And why are there no ‘B’ batteries? Doing so will expand your mind and increase your curiosity factor tenfold.

According to Mark Twain, “If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” That’s certainly one way to satisfy your curiosity, but I’d suggest that curiosity without claws would be a much wiser choice.

 

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Posted by: brandextenders | March 28, 2018

The Changing Economy

Cody awakens to the sound of revile on his smartphone (old Army habits die hard), climbs out of his Casper bed with the Boll and Branch sheets and jumps into the shower, shaving with his razor from Dollar Shave Club. He dresses in his new attire from Trunk Club, slips on his TOMS (from the shoe company that gives) and orders a Lyft ride on his phone app. While he waits outside, he books a room for the weekend on Airbnb and checks out The Farmer’s Dog, a healthy dog food company his friend turned him on to. In the evening, Cody, and his girlfriend Emma, cook a Blue Apron dinner, watch the Space X Heavy Falcon launch then binge watch their favorite Netflix show.

changing-economyDepending on your age, this story may be your life or it might be totally disconcerting. What you don’t see are brands that have been household names for decades like Serta, Gillette, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Hilton, Purina, NASA or any of the major networks. The world is changing, rapidly, and with it, many of the brands we’ve known our whole lives are disappearing. Disruption is a favorite word of marketers as they seek to keep or make their brands relevant.

In the past, starting a brand from scratch was prohibitively costly and could take years to find an audience using traditional advertising on TV, radio and in newspapers. In 1977, the three TV networks accounted for 93% of all television viewing making TV ads a costly, but sure-fire way to generate sales. Today, there are one billion websites, five million apps, 224 million social media users and 60% of the population watch Internet videos. For the new nimble and savvy brands, social media is their key to finding and growing an audience, not the “boob tube.”

dollar-shave-club-dubin-blades-ad-01Dollar Shave Club, one of those Jack-Be-Nimble brands, launched its subscription razor service in 2012 on YouTube with the now infamous “Our Blades are F****G Great” video. The ad cost $4,500 to produce and garnered 12,000 customers in the first two days. Compare this to an average: 30-second commercial that costs $350,000 per airing and tens of thousands of dollars to produce.

Companies like Casper (beds), Warby Parker (glasses) and Glossier (beauty essentials) learned early on by using social media (which is free) they could build a brand quickly using a combination of blogs, pictures and video that told their story in a fun, irreverent and honest way.

A look at the Fortune 500 shows how starkly the economy has changed with only 12% of companies from 1955 still on the list today. Big brands are being nibbled to death and many have waited too long to adjust and will disappear, replaced by not one or two, but perhaps a half-dozen smaller brands, each gaining a piece of the overall market left behind. Think Blockbuster, Borders, Sports Authority and Radio Shack vs. Netflix, Amazon, Lululemon and Apple.

So how do we stay relevant in a world where the only constant is change? Here are three ways personal brands and businesses achieve success:

Agility – The ability to move quickly and easily is key to staying relevant in a world that moves faster and faster every day. As an individual, what are you doing to stay competitive? Self-education through reading, taking courses or simply watching YouTube videos is imperative for success. As a company, agility means learning to adapt and not being afraid to revise strategies or processes that become outdated. As Brain Tracy said, “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”

Innovation – What if the Wright Brothers, after their first flight in 1903, decided that was the best they could do? Chances are someone else would have picked up where they left off because humans, by nature, are innovative problem-solvers. Failure and innovation go hand-in-hand so as individuals and companies, we must not be afraid to try new things or to risk abject failure to learn what does and doesn’t work. Thomas Edison, who gave us the light bulb after a reported 10,000 attempts, famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” One only needs to look at companies like Blockbuster, Eastman-Kodak or Yahoo to see where a lack of innovation leads.

Speed – Over time, we’ve come to expect almost instant gratification. Snail mail used to take weeks to arrive in the days before mechanization. Now, if a web page doesn’t load within seconds or we can’t get a product we buy online tomorrow, we find a different path. Fads come and go in the blink of an eye (think, fidget spinners) and if you or your company can’t or won’t keep up, your competition will zoom by you at the speed of light. Former race-car driver Mario Andretti summed it up with his comment, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”

To stay relevant to today’s consumers, you must stay a step ahead of your competition. Consumers want their brands to be honest and transparent with content that engages and social initiatives that show you care. Millennials, especially, don’t trust traditional advertising, which means the story of your brand, your content on social media, how you engage and what sets you apart must all be aligned. It’s not enough to say you have great customer service or care about your customers, you have to prove it day-in and day-out.

The good news is, according to research by Facebook, 77% of adults, including the vaunted millennials, return to a favorite brand they’ve forged a relationship with time-and-time again. It takes effort and time to stay relevant, but what’s the alternative? The only constant is change and as Dr. Phil said, “If you’re in the front row of the parade and you stop walking, pretty soon you’re back in the tuba section” Stay in front of your parade for a better view of the path ahead.

Posted by: brandextenders | March 9, 2018

19 Crimes & Augmented Reality

For millions of us, the first time we heard the term AR, or augmented reality, was the summer of 2016 when Pokémon Go launched. People all over the world were chasing Charmanders, Magikarps and Digletts, digital Pokémon creatures that appeared on smartphone screens as though they were real. With over 750 million downloads of the game, 65 million monthly active users and $1.2 billion in revenue to date, Pokémon Go has made AR cool.

So, exactly what is augmented reality? It’s easy to confuse virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) since they both share the word “reality.” VR is an imaginary digital world you insert yourself into, typically through a headset you wear. I wrote a blog about VR you can read here for a better understanding of how it differs from AR. In augmented reality, computer-generated images or content is overlaid onto real-world scenery, such as the creatures from Pokémon Go appearing on streets, using an app loaded on your smartphone or tablet.

Running around the country looking for bizarre creatures to capture on your phone is all well and fine, but what can AR do for us in the real world? First off, if you’ve got a smartphone, you have the major tool needed to consume AR. You don’t need one of those silly-looking (and expensive) headsets that give a lot of user’s vertigo and headaches. Download an app and you’re ready to go. But go where?

GPS AR Screenshot image courtesy of Mishor 3D

An AR heads-up display on your car’s windshield is coming

Applications for AR are growing exponentially and Global Market Insight predicts the AR market will be $165 billion by 2024. In cars, a company called WayRay has created a navigation system where directions can be overlaid on streets as you drive, along with speed, direction and other safety information. In medicine, doctors wearing AR headsets during surgery could track a patient’s vital stats or scan a patient’s body to locate veins, making it easier to insert needles for anesthesia or blood transfusions.

Would you agree the three most stressful words in a parent’s vocabulary are, “some assembly required?” What if you could use an app and augmented reality to show you how to put that toy, bicycle or even furniture together as you’re doing it? Ikea Place, an AR app built on Apple’s ARKit technology, allows you to scan a room in your home then place digital images of Ikea furniture, scaled to the size of the room, to see how they look. Warby Parker, a manufacturer of eyeglasses, is using new iPhone X 3-D sensors to measure your face and then shows you, through augmented reality, what various pairs of glasses will look like when you wear them.

AR in Advertising and Branding

Smart brands are finding ways to use AR in their branding and marketing to stand out and get people chatting about them on social media.

  • To see an eerily cool use of AR, pick up a bottle of the Australian wine, 19 Crimes. The name refers to an infamous set of 19 crimes in 18th century England that, if convicted of, resulted in prisoners being transported to Australia to become colonist once their prison time ended. Each of the labels on 19 Crimes features an old-time picture of one of the criminals and when you scan the label with their free app, the picture comes to life and tells you their story. Has this “gimmick” worked? As of last year, they’ve shipped over a million cases of wine and have grown by 60%. Of course, the wine has to be decent, but the AR experience keeps their spirits flowing and customers returning.

    00_AR_main

    The prisoners tell you their story on 19 Crimes wine

  • Cosmetic maker Charlotte Tilbury uses a “magic mirror” in their stores to showcase their makeup. A customer sits in front of one of these mirrors, the built-in AR app scans their face and shows them what they look like wearing the make-up, without physically putting anything on their face. Perhaps this is the mirror the evil queen in Snow White used when she asked who the fairest in the land was?
  • Carmaker Acura used Facebook Live, Twitter, YouTube and AR to showcase the performance of one of their new cars. Four social media influencers took to a racetrack in California to race one another “virtually” while fans cheered them on and played a role as their pit crew. Half-a-million people tuned in live while another three million watched the event after the streaming had ended.
  • Converse uses AR to let you try before you buy. Their app shows you what a pair of their shoes will look like when you wear them. Pick a shoe on their app, point it at your foot and voila, you see the shoe on your foot and you can buy the pair you like best, all through the app.

These are just a few ways edgy brands are using augmented reality and their product to help you make buying decisions. In a changing world where consumers are loyal to brands they believe in and find engaging, highlighting AR experiences on social media is the golden ticket for brands and chances are, we’re only at the beginning of a trend that will continue to grow.

Now, I need to find a Pokestop, grab some Pokeballs and catch me some Weedles and maybe even a Pikachu so I can get to level 40. Whew, I’m tired already!

Posted by: brandextenders | August 10, 2017

Dreams Do Come True

What is your dream? What is it you seek to achieve above all else? Flying into space as an astronaut, playing a major league sport, writing a book, recording a hit song, finding a cure for cancer or meeting your soul mate?

The dictionary definition of one’s dream is an aspiration, goal or aim and I would add passion to that list. Almost without exception, all of us have a dream of something we want to accomplish in life, but few of us share our dreams with others for fear of having them squashed. We’ve all run into these people before:

You: For years I’ve been dreaming of getting one of the songs I’ve written into the hands of Kenny Chesney. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Them: Kenny Chesney? Do you know how hard it is to get something to a superstar like Kenny Chesney? You need to get real and scale back your aspirations. You’ve got a great job teaching and you should be happy with that.

You: But he gets his songs from somewhere and I wrote something that would be perfect for his voice. What’s the harm in trying?

Them: Well, I can guarantee, you’ll just embarrass yourself and do you really want to be rejected like that? Stick with teaching and let the professionals write the music for Kenny.

What is it that makes people into dream killers? The answer is, as they say, complicated, but at the crux are people’s own fears of failure and perhaps anger at a dream they had squashed.

Willie in the SmithsonianMy passion for close to 20 years has been writing a Broadway play about America’s most iconic clown, Emmett Kelly, Sr. He rose to fame in an era long before computers, the Internet, social media and email, portraying a sad-faced hobo character he named Weary Willie. His most famous routine was sweeping up a spotlight only to be startled by its reappearance, but eventually sweeping it into a smaller and smaller pool and putting it in his pocket or sweeping it under a rug. I’ve shared my vision with friends over the years and am sure most began to think of me as a Don Quixote character, forever tilting my pen at windmills I had no chance of reaching. And there were the dream killers, telling me how impossible it is to get a show produced anywhere, much less on Broadway.

I persevered through it all and met a like-minded soul along the way named Jonathan Cerullo and together we’ve finally completed Willie and Me: The Emmett Kelly Story. We’re holding a reading this fall for a select group of producers and investors and if my dream finally comes to fruition, we’ll see our name in lights on Broadway. We’re also running an IndiGoGo campaign to raise money to fund the reading and while I hate asking people for money, making your dream a reality sometimes means going outside your comfort zone.

Here are five thoughts that helped me overcome adversity and negativity, keeping me on track to reach my goal.

  1. Failure is not the end. In fact, if you haven’t failed at least once, then you probably haven’t really gone for the gold. The list of people who failed, many of them multiple times, before they become successful is amazing. A few you’d know: Colonel Sanders (on social security before he sold his famous chicken recipe), Thomas Edison (failed thousands of times at creating a light bulb before he succeeded), Walt Disney (filed for bankruptcy in his first business venture), Steven Spielberg (rejected by a film school twice) and James Dyson (failed over 5,000 times before perfecting his Dyson Vacuum). Learn from your failures and don’t let them dissuade you.
  2. Have faith, whatever that faith may be. I truly believe there is something more powerful than us running the Universe and I tell myself all the time things happen in God’s time, not mine. Were the reverse true, I would have found success with my play a decade or two ago. Keep the faith your dreams will become reality while taking steps each day to make them into that reality.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. I can’t stress how important it is for you to have a circle of family and friends who support you and urge you onward. Be around those who give you honest feedback on your ideas while maintaining an upbeat attitude You may have to unfriend people on Facebook and in life, but so be it if you are to succeed.
  4. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Our self-talk, the things we think and say to ourselves every day, can make or break us. As Henry Ford is reported to have said, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Believing in yourself and being grateful every day goes a long way toward keeping you in a positive frame of mind.
  5. Exercise, meditate, write, sing, paint or do anything that focuses your mind. It sounds hokey, but see yourself as having already achieved your dream. The mind is amazing and visualizing success will help your brain find ways for you to become successful through inspirations and ironically enough, dreams.

Earl Nightingale, in his, “The Essence of Success” shows how worthless negativity and worrying are:

  • Things we worry about that never happen: 40%
  • Things over and done that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world: 30%
  • Needless worries about our health: 12%
  • Petty, miscellaneous worries: 10%
  • Real, legitimate worries: 8%

In other words, only 8% of your worries are worth concerning yourself about, while 92% are pure fog with no substance at all.

Dreams can come true, but they don’t happen on their own. It takes persistence, focus and determination and a firm belief that no matter what, you will succeed. As Walt Disney said, all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. What about yours?

Posted by: brandextenders | February 20, 2017

Virtual is the New Reality

Imagine standing on one of the world’s tallest peaks, turning 360 degrees to take in the stunning beauty and majesty surrounding you. Or in the driver’s seat of a NASCAR, zooming around Talladega or Daytona at mind-numbing speeds with crowds cheering you on. Then imagine you take off your headset and you’re back in the room where these adventures happened. Welcome to the world of VR or virtual reality.

The history of VR goes back to the 1830’s when Charles Wheatstone discovered our eyes 1939-view-master-adproduce a two-dimensional image the brain then turns into a three-dimensional view. Looking at two side-by-side images in an old-time stereoscope gave the viewer a feeling of depth and the popular View-Master many of us had as kids took this concept to the next level. The first head-mounted display, or HMD, debuted in 1960, but the term “virtual reality” wasn’t coined until 1987. Companies like Sony & Nintendo as well as Hollywood movies took VR to the next levels and today smartphones allow users to turn side-by-side images into an interactive experience in conjunction with a head-mounted display device.

Here are just a few of the industries that have turned VR into everyday reality:

  • Health Care: Surgeons use VR to practice surgery prior to an actual operation and med schools use it to train new doctors. Rehab facilities have found it beneficial in helping patients regain motor and cognitive skills after strokes or brain injury.
  • Automotive: Car manufacturers have been using VR for decades to aid in the design of new vehicles and spot potential problems prior to manufacturing. Auto dealers like Ford, Volvo and Hyundai are also using VR to let potential buyers “test drive” a car from the comfort of their home through an app on a smartphone.
  • Resorts: Watching a video of a hotel or property you’re considering vacationing at is OK, but imagine looking at these properties in an immersive experience to make you feel as though you are actually on-site. This can be done with a VR headset and 360-degree videos that are online or through an app. Cruise lines give potential travelers a tour of their ships that almost rivals actually being onboard.
  • Real Estate: You can walk-through homes for sale from the comfort of your realtor’s office to narrow your choices before you actually step foot into one. Architects and home builders use VR to help design buildings and homes and to ensure the various elements work well together.
  • Courtrooms: Rather than looking at two-dimensional pictures of a crime scene, jurors can see these same scenes in 3D through VR to better understand how people and objects, such as bullets, move through space and interact with one another.
  • Athletics: STriVR Labs creates VR experiences to train athletes in the NFL using real video of their teammates and their playbook before they even step on the field. Or imagine riding in the driver’s seat of a NASCAR to experience the feeling of what it’s like to drive 150 or 200 miles-per-hour.
vr-flying

Fly like Superman or Superwoman

As with most new technologies, there are concerns including VR becoming addictive (wouldn’t you rather be flying effortlessly above a beautiful mountain range than sitting in a dreary apartment or paying bills?) and its effects, if any, on young people is still unknown. Nausea, headaches and eyestrain can be a problem and in a Wall Street Journal article, Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson said his 15 years of research have consistently shown virtual reality can change how a user thinks and behaves, in part because it is so realistic.

Over time, the good and bad will be sorted out, but what is certain is that virtual reality is here to stay. Ben Schachter, an analyst for Macquarie Capital has noted, “Over the short-term, there are challenges. But over the long-term, we think it’s going to change every industry on the planet.” Want to stay ahead of your competition? Virtual Reality could be just the ticket. I’ll be writing more on this in future blogs as the technology gains a foothold in our real and virtual world.

Posted by: brandextenders | January 3, 2017

Hummingbird Don’t Fly Away

Last year, for the first time, I became fascinated with hummingbirds. Of course, they’ve been around every year of my life, but for some reason I started paying attention to them and have become a big fan of these tiny Aves.

These pugnacious and unsociable birds (except for a short time each year when they seek to mate) are amazing in so many ways. Below are just a few fun facts I’ve garnered about these little creatures with such a high-energy lifestyle:

  • There are close to 340 different species of hummingbird found throughout the Americas.
  • Each species of hummingbird makes a different humming sound, determined by the number of wing beats per second.
  • On average, a hummingbird weighs less than a nickel.
  • They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–90 times per second.
  • They’re the only bird that can fly backward
  • Average speeds exceed 33 MPH
  • Their feet are so tiny they can’t walk on the ground and even find it awkward to shuffle along a branch.
  • Hummingbirds need to eat twice their body weight in food every day and visit hundreds of flowers daily.
  • Hummingbirds eat nectar for the most part, but may catch an insect now and then for a protein boost.
  • Despite their tiny size, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a remarkable annual migration of up to 3,000 miles, crossing over 500 miles of the Gulf of Mexico in a single trip on their way to Central America.
  • Their average life span is 3 ½ years.
  • Studies show hummingbirds remember every flower they’ve ever visited, including on migration routes. They can even recognize humans and which ones can be counted on to refill empty hummingbird feeders.

humming-psychThere are some great lessons to be learned from these delicate, yet resilient creatures that can help us on our path towards success.

Persistence: Imagine being a nickel with wings and you’ll understand how miraculous it is these tiny birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico each year to migrate. It’s often our own persistence that determines where we end up in life and how successful we become. Do you seek to overcome obstacles or let them hinder you from achieving your goals?

Memory: These tiny birds have a photographic mind that remembers every flower they’ve ever visited. Ever forget why you went into a room? Yeah, me too, which is why taking good notes and dumping that info in a database of some sort is important. You never know when the smallest detail might make or break a sale.

Versatility: Hummies can fly in every direction, including backward and upside down. Not bad for a bird and given the state of the world today, we too must be versatile and nimble to get ahead. The old saying that the only constant is change has never been truer and what’s hot today could very well be blasé tomorrow. Constantly evaluate your customers, your services and products to ensure you don’t become another Blockbuster Video or Borders Books.

Toughness: Close to 340 species survive and thrive in diverse and often brutal environments; from the Arizona desert to the 15,000-foot-plus snow-line of the Andes. To succeed in any endeavor also takes a certain amount of mental and sometimes physical toughness. It’s that little voice in your head that tells you to keep going, to push on even when you’re ready to quit. From marathoners to those in business, staying focused and keeping the goal in mind will help you stay on track and attain those lofty goals.

Despite their size, these amazing creatures imbue so many qualities we also can use to make our lives that much better. In the case of hummingbirds, size doesn’t matter because they certainly know how to use what God gave them.

Posted by: brandextenders | November 24, 2016

What’s Your Joy?

(I originally wrote this piece 10 years ago and re-publish it each holiday season because of all the requests I receive. It seems a good time of year to look for the joy in our lives and find ways to show it to others on a daily basis. Sadly, our friend’s mom who was the inspiration for this article passed away several years ago, but her passion and memory lives on in my mind.)

Elaine Feder's Smile

Elaine Feder’s Smile

We sat in the dining room of a friend’s home, having just finished a delicious and filling Thanksgiving meal. My wife, our two sons and I had taken a road trip to Florida to visit friends with children the same age as ours, albeit girls. Our friend’s mom, Elaine Feder,  a former dance instructor and now in her late 70s, sat across from me and it was she that asked the question, “What’s your joy?” One by one, we went around the table as she queried each of us, looking for an answer that came from our hearts.

For one of us, it was traveling and being able to help others go to the places she had been. Another told us reading was his passion—and taking naps (one with which I could strong identify!). Yet another loved woodworking and spending time in his shop creating things others would use and enjoy.

When she got to me, I answered, “My joy is my family and the time we spend together as I realize how, before we know it, our children will be grown and gone.” She responded that family should be a joy, but she probed deeper, wanting to know what lit my fire and what was it inside of me that sparked passion? I told her I loved to write and touch people’s hearts with the words I strung together to form the articles, stories and plays I create. I told her I also loved to teach about our industry and help others understand what a diverse and creative medium it is.

What this wise woman was hoping to do was to get me—and all of us around the table—thinking about what brought joy to our lives and how we could tap into it more often.

The sad part is that to survive in the work-a-day world, the majority of us have suppressed those things that make us passionate. Many have so repressed the things that bring them joy they can’t even tell you what really gets them fired up. In each of us though, no matter how deeply we’ve buried it, there is a passion that if brought to light and developed can not only make us happier as individuals but also bring joy to others as well.

Your work may be your passion, but chances are it is not. You may love to paint pictures, play an instrument, work in your garden or cook—and odds are you do this outside of your job. But why does this have to be?

I have a friend who is very good at sketching and has turned this love into a career by drawing people’s homes in pen and ink. She then sells these pictures to homeowners to frame for their walls, put on note cards, holiday cards and other things with the house prominently displayed. She loves what she does and is able to touch people’s hearts with the artistic gifts she’s been given.

So how do you go about finding your joy, your passion? Here are a few steps that may help:

  • During some quiet time in your life, ask yourself what you consider fun? What do you get a kick out of doing? Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, says, “Imagine you’re at a party and you overhear someone talking about a subject that fascinates you, one that makes you want to join in the conversation. Ask yourself, what would that subject be?” Also, think back to your childhood and try to remember what you enjoyed doing back then. Chances are if you were passionate about something as a child, it’s probably something you can be passionate about as an adult as well.
  • Determine your talents. Take a sheet of paper and brainstorm those things you enjoy doing and at which you’re good. We all have things we do that we enjoy and at which are skilled, but if you have trouble listing your gifts, ask those you trust what they think your best skills are. These might include sports, artistic endeavors, working with your hands or being mechanical.
  • Find the significance in your current work. Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, suggests asking yourself three questions:

1. Do I like what I’m doing?

2. Am I good at it?

3. Does the world need it?

If you’re passionate about something, but the world doesn’t need it, chances are you’ll eventually get frustrated. But if you’re really good at something, enjoy doing it and it’s something the world needs, what a chance to make a difference and earn a living at the same time. I truly believe we choose our career paths intuitively. If you can come to understand why you’re on the path you are, you’ll become empowered to make future choices to do the most good for yourself and the world around you.

Let’s face it, you’re going to spend tens of thousands of hours working during the course of your life, so why not spend that time doing something that will leave a positive imprint on those people and things you touch?

One of my passions is continuing education, and I agree with Oprah Winfrey who said, “Education is freedom.” As a result, I take classes on a regular basis to advance myself and had been working with Junior Achievement to teach business skills to 7th and 8th graders. These kids learn about science, math and social studies through a core curriculum, but business skills are something they may not learn until college, if then. I realize these kids won’t take what I teach them and become the next Bill Gates, Ted Turner or Fred Smith (founder of FedEx); but I pray I can reach just one in each class and touch something inside that one to help make a positive difference for the future. The key is I don’t know which of the kids I’ll reach, so I treat them all as though they are the one—and who knows, maybe one day I will reach them all!

What Brings You Joy?

What Brings You Joy?

Finding your joy and a way to share it with others, as your life’s work or a hobby, is an adventure that can bring bountiful rewards. To me, it’s what life is all about, the reason I’m here and why I wake up each day excited about the opportunities I’ll encounter. That’s not to say it’s always an easy adventure, but what in life that’s worthwhile is easy? Katherine Graham, owner and former publisher of the Washington Post, sums it up for me, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

Posted by: brandextenders | June 16, 2016

Never Give Up

Imagine this conversation between a sales manager and his rep:

Sales Manager:  So tell me, what’s the biggest challenge you have when you’re looking for new business?

Rep: (listen for the whine in their voice) No one calls me back. I send emails, I leave messages and all I get is dead air. It’s very frustrating.

SM: How many times do you reach out and how often?

Rep: I’ll usually call once or twice and send an email or two and if I haven’t heard back by then I say screw it. I’ll call or email them every day, sometimes once in the morning and again in the afternoon when I haven’t heard back.

SM: So you try three of four times before you give up?

Rep: Yep. There’s lots of fish in the sea so I move on after a few tries, but ironically the same thing seems to be happening over and over.

Persistence

Many give up just shy of their goal

Imagine that, the same thing keeps happening over and over again.  Ever heard the definition of crazy? Doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Sales is not a walk-in-the-park, no matter what anyone might tell you.  And finding people with the right mindset to be successful isn’t always easy. If you don’t believe me, check out these stats from a conglomeration of sources:

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
  • Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

The question then is what can you do to increase your odds of connecting with prospects long enough to engage them? Here are things I’ve done over the years that helped me get to the right people:

  • Variety is the spice of life so mix up your tactics. Use the phone, email, snail mail and carrier pigeons. If you start with an email, follow up with a call, then perhaps lumpy mail (a bulky envelope or package the recipient feels compelled to open that may have a promotional product and handwritten note inside), another call, reach out on social media, email, rinse and repeat. Always connect the dots by referring to one of your previous calls or the promo product you sent or an email to help them remember who you are.
  • Don’t stalk or harass potential customers and wait at least two to three days between each contact, but no more than a week giving them time to respond since you probably aren’t at the top of their priority list.
  • Don’t whine. Prospects don’t care you have a spouse and three hungry mouths to feed. You’re an interruption in their life and if you can’t solve a problem, don’t expect a return call.
  • Research your prospects. Know enough to be dangerous and show the value you bring to their organization and why they should meet with you. And never, ever, ever talk price on initial contacts. If the only way you can sell is to offer the cheapest prices on your product or service, success will be ever elusive.
  • Use social media. Linkedin is a fantastic way to find people in your network who can offer valuable insight into a prospect. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Periscope all can be used as selling tools to gather information or comment on something posted. And this might be an appropriate time to mention how important it is not to post stupid stuff on the social media accounts you use for business. Political and religious comments are verboten along with pictures that might not be flattering. If you don’t think prospects are researching you as well, you’re delusional.
  • Patience is a virtue and based on the stats above, most sales people have the patience of a gnat. Understand you might get the occasional prospect on the phone the first time, but that will be an anomaly. When you start the process (which should be ongoing by the way) it may take two or three weeks to make an initial contact and perhaps a few more weeks before an actual meeting takes place. So hang in there and know that good things come to those who wait.
  • Most of all be professional. Keep emails and voice mails short and to the point, always check your spelling, say please and thank you, find commonalities and follow-up.

Prospecting is tough and the hardest part might be the persistence it takes to get through to a potential prospect. “Energy and persistence conquer all things” according to Benjamin Franklin while Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” So if you show up and are persistent according to Ben and Woody, you’ll be well on your way to finding new customers who will keep your spouse and three hungry kids well fed and happy.

 

Posted by: brandextenders | March 29, 2016

Losers are Winners?

If You're Not First, You're Last“If you ain’t first, you’re last. You know what I’m talking about? ” Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights

Let’s face it we all want to win, right? That competitive edge is built into each of us whether it’s arm wrestling, making the next big sale, winning the Tour de France or simply getting to the next level in that stupid video game. It’s a DNA fragment within each of us that has pushed our human race to ever greater heights and continues to do so each day. I hate losing as much as I hate people doing 35 in the fast lane, but it happens.

The reality is there are far more losers than winners in any competition and we need to understand we can learn just as much from losing as we can from being the victor. Everyone fails at some point at something and how you react to that failure will determine where you go next. Lincoln, Edison, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs all lost at some point in their quest, but they all came back stronger and went on to win.

  • Be humble. If you’ve lost at something, admit it, congratulate the winner and move on. Don’t beat yourself up and realize you’ve been given a chance to assess your performance and make adjustments as needed.
  • Visualize. Sit down and recall your performance to determine what went wrong. Then, visualize your desired outcome, how you want it to go down next time and see that in your head over and over again. In addition to the other steps you’re taking to improve, take time every day to envision yourself winning and taking home the gold (so to speak).
  • Plan. What did you do right and what did you do wrong? Would more practice help? Make a list of the things you need to change or work on and formulate a plan to make it happen. Losses are temporary setbacks and with work, effort and a plan you can come back even stronger and claim victory next time.
  • Be Passionate. Mediocrity is for losers. Winners are passionate and use this obsession to push themselves even when the going gets tough, and it will. Thomas Edison tried 9,999 times to create a light bulb and failed and had he stopped there…well, thankfully he didn’t. His passion for his work kept him going. Be fanatical if you must and persistently pursue your dream to its realization.
  • Always be Improving. Once you’ve done all the above and are the winner, know you are now everyone else’s target. Don’t let victory make you lazy though; always be looking for ways to improve your performance to keep your lead over the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to win every time because as George Brett, former Kansas City Royals third baseman said, “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.” And that my friend is motivation enough to turn my loss into a win in no time at all.

Toothless granny

Posted by: brandextenders | January 5, 2016

Innovate or Die

Fortune_500The first Fortune 500 list debuted in 1955 and 60 years later, 88% of those companies are gone. See if you can name the companies below that were once common names and are now symbols of what not to do:

  • This company sold 90% of all film and 85% of all cameras as recently as 1976. They invented digital photography, but didn’t pursue it as a business and filed for bankruptcy in 2012
  • This is where you went to rent videos and games at any of their 9,000 locations. They passed on the opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000 for $50 million and shuttered their last locations in 2013 after becoming irrelevant.
  • Once one of the largest booksellers in the U.S., this company chose to outsource their online sales to Amazon rather than do it themselves. When they finally launched their own site in 2008 they still didn’t embrace digital media and closed their doors in 2011.

Businesses must continue to innovate each and every day or they will become irrelevant and ultimately out of business. But so too must we as individuals work to always be evaluating and rethinking the way we do things in our daily lives.

Gen X and the Millennials have changed the way business is being transacted and if you can’t or won’t change the way you are going after these younger buyers, your business will suffer a slow death. My 23 and 19-year-old sons are a prime example of this for me, preferring text and emails over talking on the phone. These younger generations also educate themselves online about the products and services they are pursuing prior to buying and they like to post reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp to let others know about their experience. They also have an aversion to traditional and even online advertising so the traditional ways of reaching these generations doesn’t work anymore.

New generations have always brought with them new ways of doing things however the Internet and social media have created disruptive changes at an ever-increasing pace. That means those of us in sales must continually be looking at the value we bring and how best to present it to these new buyers. It also means we can never rest on our laurels and must always be looking ahead and educating ourselves on the newest trends in selling, marketing and advertising. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but something will and it’s our job to understand what that something is.

Companies like Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders did a phenomenal job of creating businesses that worked, but theirinnovate-or-die leaders weren’t looking ahead far enough ahead to understand how to continue their growth in an ever-changing marketplace. As the New Year kicks off, take a look at what you’re doing to innovate what you do on a daily basis. That means asking the right questions of your customers and yourself to evaluate if what you’re doing is working.

Companies like Apple & Google continue to reinvent themselves through research and innovation. As individuals should we do any less? As Henry Ford, someone who changed the world with his automotive innovations said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

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