Tag Archives: marketing

Can We Adapt Before Change Happens?

If a lifelong attraction to fortune tellers has taught me anything, it’s that the future never turns out according to plan. And a planner I’ve always been.

So I was fascinated when Dr. Liz Alexander posed the question:  Can we adapt predictively?  That is, can we read trends wisely enough to see what will be required for a future that’s still around the corner?

Liz, who among other things, guides thought leaders through the process of articulating and packaging their theories, pointed out that if:

  • The past is a predictor of the future
  • Corporate shelf life continues to drop (it’s now in the low double digits)
  • We remain flexible professionally, accepting that each of us will have multiple professions during our working life
  • Then, if we pay attention to mega trends, we can determine where our professional strengths can best be applied

So much depends on seeing opportunity when it presents itself.  I pulled myself away from watching the Democratic National Convention to write this. Al Franken, former comedian, current U.S. senator spoke, and I was struck by Gail Collins’ oped piece pointing out that Hillary Clinton is running for president at a time when most women are thinking about gardening, grandchildren and the occasional cruise.

These are remarkable people, obviously, but they are also tips of an iceberg of change, reminding us to stay flexible, pay attention and don’t be afraid of opportunity.  Maybe that in itself is predictive adaptation.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Fear Be Your Excuse

I had lunch recently with my friends Jane and Larry Graham. Their granddaughter Caroline Richards died in January from osteocarcenoma, a rare form of bone cancer.  She was 12 years old. Caroline was a sunny day kind of child: She favored dancing over walking and singing over whispering.  She had over 30,000 followers on Twitter. She embraced her disease by giving people presents, making them laugh, and celebrating her favorite pop band One Direction. Caroline refused to forfeit her time to fear, self-pity or regret.

Caroline Richards faced a rare form of cancer by refusing to let fear and pain rob her of joy.

Caroline Richards faced a rare form of cancer by refusing to let fear and pain rob her of joy.

I’ve thought of Caroline many times since the Saturday afternoon I squeezed into her funeral, a standing-room only affair packed with people of all ages and walks of life, many of whom had big bows in their hair like the kind Caroline wore – when she had hair. There was dancing in the aisles and a great deal of singing to honor Caroline’s philosophy: If life throws you a bum rap, put a bow on it and throw a party.

Easier said than done, we say. Some of us are tragedians; we tend to look at the quieter, sad aspect of life. But the lesson Caroline leaves us is to not be undone by mere predisposition. No indeed. Do not let fear be the excuse.

Most of us are blessed. We don’t face major life-and-death situations.  But fear is an insidious life-stealer.  Ever since I can remember I’ve suffered from paralyzing stage fright. I have a vivid memory of standing in front of my eighth grade speech class and leaning on a chair because my knees were shaking so hard. Stints in community theater and Toastmasters have alleviated it, but I’m still terrified when I face an audience. My task is to prepare, open my mouth and say my piece. Telephone calls have always had the same effect on me, an odd twist for someone in my profession.

Caroline's Brave Bunny Foundation awards a children who show exceptional courage with this bunny.

Caroline’s Brave Bunny Foundation recognizes children who show courage.

Caroline’s mother, Lauren, gets it. Caroline didn’t live to do what she’d wanted to do, help raise money as an ambassador for research to help save other children from the cancer that caused her so much suffering.  So her mom has taken the bull by the horns in Caroline’s honor. Lauren is starting the Caroline’s Brave Bunny Foundation that, among other things, awards a (stuffed) bunny to children who show their own particular brand of courage.

The award — a bunny with “Brave” embroidered on one ear and the child’s name on the other — recognizes courage, not winning. The victory lies in moving through the fear, be it finishing school, or mastering a particular skill. Whatever it may be. Fear is a very personal crippler.

So remember Caroline and the Brave Bunny next time you pick up the phone to make that cold call. Or take a job you don’t think you can do. Scale your guts, and think about the time you have on this planet. Let’s not let fear be our excuse.

Who Put Brussel Sprouts in Every Shopping Basket?

What I want to know is this:  Who engineered the comeback of brussel sprouts?  Did I miss the tweets?  Because the humble vegetable of my childhood, grey and waterlogged, has morphed into a supply side challenge.

Can farmers keep up?

               Can farmers keep up?

Was it Mark Bittman and those classy NYT spreads?  Some trendy chef in upper New York state, or even here in what was once a comfortably populist ATX (Tex Mex or a steak, anyone?)?

There’s been no humiliating name change (bruss?), as prunes have had to endure (dried plums?).  They look the same:  little cabbages, hard and round.  No labor-saving innovations;  still a somewhat tedious process that requires a colander, trimming, cutting, and unless you’re a roaster, a two-step cooking process.

They still, sauces and marinades aside, taste (and smell) like cabbages.

Was there a blog?  A reality show (an island, 20-somethings, a case of brussel sprouts and lots of conflict?)  Opeds?

Did Dr. Oz endorse them for their digestive qualities?  Was it the source-agnostic but ever-purist French?

Where is the marketing team?  I want to meet them.

Delete that photo!

A  friend whose opinion I respect forwarded me a photo taken when I did not — shall we say — look my best. It got me thinking:  Does this require action?  Should I tighten up my reputation management?  Get a makeover?  What do geezer rockers do about this sort of thing?  Does Robert Plant worry about his hair?  Closed eyes?

Can it get any worse?  Add wrinkles!

Can it get any worse? Always!

We are well on our way in an era of visual communication.  Some people are blessed with telegenic looks and would shine climbing out of a dumpster. Does the way Nigella Lawson looks sell cookbooks?  Of course.  For the rest of us, it’s luck of the draw (or click).  Forget command and control.  I once worked with a top-ranking executive who, confronted with an unflattering photo, dispatched his minions to buy up every available copy of the trade mag in which it appeared, a feat that can never be repeated.  As for prep, the jury’s out. I recently caught myself  reaching over to sort out a no-nonsense entrepreneur’s hair (female).  She’d probably been up since 4 that morning. Working.  Personally, I think candid photography before 9 a.m. is cruel and unusual punishment.

What does our appearance say about us?  My mother, raised a Texas girl, never poured her coffee or opened a newspaper until her lipstick and hair were in place.  I can’t remember a time when she didn’t look beautiful.  Then again, I remember Hillary Clinton’s eulogy at Gov. Ann Richards’ funeral less for what she said (although it was memorable: she touched on just this subject) than that she looked exhausted — like she’d worked all night and still cared enough to show up and honor someone who’d been important to her.

As for me, I’m leaning in the direction of a well-developed sense of humor. That may be the point.

I don’t wanna …

A colleague mentioned that he couldn’t wait until February when everyone’s New Year’s resolutions pooped out, so he could get in and out of the gym faster.  I had a sudden vivid memory of waiting in line for a swim lane at the YMCA at 5:30 a.m. in January, shivering my skimpy Speedo and as the minutes ticked by, calculating how long it would take for a slot to open up.

So what happens in February?  “I don’t wanna” outweighs “I’m gonna.”

I don’t think I’ve ever done anything worth talking about that didn’t start with “I don’t wanna  …”  So many excuses, so little time:  I’m afraid I’ll fail; it takes too much time and energy; the traffic is bad; I didn’t know anybody there(!).

It's 9 a.m. and you're still in bed?

It’s 9 a.m. and you’re still in bed?

There are people who are smart, gutsy, competent and land in just the right place at just the right time — taking a job just as a company starts its climb back to the top, starting a company just before the market takes off.

But if I dig a bit, those people are disciplined and driven. They have a goal, and they’re committed to achieving it.  They are not whiners. They make choices and act. Sometimes they fail.  Can anyone imagine anyone more prolific than Seth Godin and his spare wisdom?   Or locally, Maura Thomas‘ disciplined hashmarks, Marc Miller’s prolific Career Pivot posts, and Pike Powers’ iconic pike-o-grams?

So, I’m raising one last glass to 2013 and (slightly) revising the iconic Nike slogan:  “If it gets you  closer to your goal, just do it.”

Get on with it!

If you want a lesson in professionalism, go hear some (Texas) music

I never got to see the new exhibit at the Bob Bullock museum.  The music was so good: I had to stay and listen.  On opening night, Marcia Ball and The Texas Guitar Women gave me a lesson in pure  professionalism.  They showed us their art — and their hearts — and of course, I loved it.

Texas Guitar Women

It was a tough gig: a huge, cold granite space that made fleas out of all of us humans. The audience ranged from what looked like about eight to 80-plus, all scattered about behind pillars and giant stars.  But those women filled up the space — and kept going without letting up.  It was as if they lit a bonfire in the middle of that massive cave, and we all gathered round and warmed our hands.

Every so often I need a role model to remind me that being really, really good takes a lot of work. Those women knew what we expected and over-delivered on every count.

Oh, just in case you don’t know who’s in the Texas Guitar Women, it’s Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King, Sarah Brown, Lisa Pankratz and Cindy Cashdollar (who wasn’t there that night).   All showcased by the inimitable Marcia Ball.

So, go hear some Texas music and wander into Waterloo to buy those CDs.  It’ll loosen up your brain (and heart).  Besides, It’s gift-giving time.

Taking a fresh look at the problem

Friend, writer and blues musician Susan Rita Ruel tells me that learning to stand-up paddle has made her more effective in business meetings.  Rita lives in Manhattan and paddled half-way across the Hudson on her first try.  The “eureka” she got from her SUP success gave her a new perspective on work.

Stand up paddlers in Manhattan

Stand up paddlers in Manhattan.

That’s why I find learning new skills and meeting people so rejuvenating.  It’s all about getting unstuck enough to solve the problem at hand. Then, if the product is late, focus on the organization; if that’s in transition; focus on the leadership; if the leadership has nothing to say, forge new partnerships. Each tactical stab is a new insight into the bigger challenge.