Archive for category: General
One example of this was last year. It was sixth grade and a new school. I would get sick at school and wonder why, until one day it hit me. I was anxious about everything: teachers, homework, friends. I was later able to overcome my nerves.
Fast forward to seventh grade.
I no longer had this problem and decided that nobody else should, either. So, with the aid of my parents and school guidance counselor, I formed an organization: Ask Me Anything. It’s a program where middle schoolers who are nervous can meet and ask questions of older students. The dictionary defines persistence as: The steady pursuit of what is undertaken. Dr. King was always persistent. Even when put in jail, he never backed down. I’ve met kids who go home in tears every day because they are nervous about being in a new school. But I know from experience that things do get better if you are persistent, like Dr. King.
I also work to serve others in the nursery at my church. I do this voluntarily as my way of giving back to the community that rallied around me when I needed their encouragement during sixth grade. Dr. King aided his community when he refused to accept the ideas of racism and it changed his community. When Dr. King gave his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, he expressed that you can achieve your goals by taking small steps– first, others around you; then your community; and eventually the world.
Changing the world is a massive challenge. But it did not stop Dr. King. He was persistent with his cause and it paid off. Now the Georgia pastor has become a global icon. When the Civil Rights movement is mentioned, Dr. King is the first name that comes to mind. My goal is that someday, my program will be used nationwide so that kids in other areas can benefit from it.
Dr. King made a great change in the world and has inspired me to work hard and help others. Not just in my community, but everywhere. Dr. King has taught me to never give up, work hard and look to the future with goals. He has inspired me, along with millions, to make my dreams a reality.
Not long ago, I wrote about a memorable moment shared with my 9-year old daughter, Kaelyn, who revealed to me in a wonderfully subtle way, her strong sense of empathy and compassion. I feel that the ability to recognize and share feelings such as sadness or happiness being experienced by others is one of the most important qualities an individual can possess. Consequently, I also believe it’s one of the most important attributes for parents to nurture in our children.
Like all things, given a bit of purposeful attention, compassion has the power to grow and evolve. What begins as a simple feeling inside of a child’s heart can morph into a desire to help others. That desire can turn into an idea. And that idea can blossom into acts that transform lives for the better.
My 12-year old daughter, Kendall, recently provided a great example of how a strong sense of empathy can mature into something greater over time.
Kendall is a sweet, kind, intelligent girl. Like her mom, she’s beautiful with a gorgeous smile and dimples. Everyone who meets her seems naturally drawn to her (Yes– I am a “Doting Dad” and don’t apologize for it! I may ask to be excused for this, but will never say I’m sorry for it!). Although people have always enjoyed engaging with Kendall, she herself has always been relatively shy and quiet, and never one to dominate socially.
Last year, Kendall entered 6th grade and that transition proved challenging for her.
Most parents understand the anxiety a child faces when moving from elementary school to middle school. All of a sudden, our children are no longer being coddled. They’re getting up at the crack of dawn, being thrown together with kids from other schools. Their bodies are changing. They have class schedules and lockers. And for 6th graders, well, they’re at the very bottom of the totem pole and perhaps their greatest wish is simply that no 7th or 8th grader will even notice them at all. They’re just trying not to get run over during the stampede between classes.
As much as Kendall loves school and being with her friends, she struggled against a merciless battle with anxiety last year. She was continually plagued with fits of nausea. She would throw up– often several times a day, moving back and forth from class to the clinic. Often, she would have to come home. She missed parts of over 60 days during the year! Most heart-wrenching, Kendall didn’t even understand what was happening to her. She was excited about 6th grade and desperately desired to be at school with her friends! That excitement was simply morphing into anxiety.
Fortunately, we are blessed to live in an incredible school district with some outstanding administrators and teachers, as well as an awesome community of supportive friends and family. Our local school officials provided us with heartfelt support, helping monitor Kendall and helping her stay current with her classwork. Similarly, our friends reached out to help any way they could.
Eventually, Kendall began to overcome her anxiety. Her bad mornings and clinic visits became more spread out, her self-confidence started to grow and by the third quarter of the year, she seemed to hit her stride and put those anxious feelings behind her.
Kendall’s fierce battle with –and ultimately, victory– over severe anxiety was no secret in our social circles. So it was not surprising when we began to get inquiries from other parents about our experience. Apparently, several other children in our local community were having similar issues and their parents wanted to learn more about how Kendall had overcome her problems. They wondered if she might agree to speak with their children about her own experiences, peer-to-peer. Of course, Kendall understood and happily obliged.
Shortly thereafter, a 5th-grade teacher approached us with a similar request, this time asking if Kendall would speak to her entire class. And once again, she obliged cheerfully.
Finally, after the third request from yet another teacher, Kendall came up with an idea: What if she created a support program for any and all new 6th graders who might be experiencing anxiety over the daunting transition into middle school?
She more than anyone understood these challenges and how to deal with them. And so, “Ask Me Anything” was born. Kendall came up with the idea for the peer-to-peer program and the name. She thought through the mission, goals and structure of the organization, and then created a powerpoint to present her idea for it to her school.
“Ask Me Anything” is beautifully simple and straightforward. If a child is having difficulty with anxiety for any reason, they can call on Kendall or another volunteer peer mentor, boy or girl (Kendall has since recruited some of her friends to assist), to simply reach out to that child– to speak with them, be a friendly face in the hall, help set their expectations, and basically provide encouragement from a friendly, “wise elder”– one who has lived through the experience.
The school has since called upon Kendall to assist three times this year, both with individual students and larger groups. And not just sixth graders but also students transferring in from outside school districts. All the while, true to the universal, reciprocal nature of giving and sharing, Kendall’s own self-confidence has continued to blossom.
I am sharing Kendall’s powerpoint here. It is an easy program to duplicate and apply at any school and doesn’t require that that peer volunteers have to had to suffer from anxiety, themselves. It’s simply about being on-call to provide support and encouragement to anyone who may need it.
Beyond just sharing the program with those who might be interested in it, my greater point in writing about Kendall’s experience is this: Like her 9-year old sister, and many other young, sensitive children, Kendall, from an early age, always seemed blessed with a strong sense of empathy and compassion. Her mother and I recognized it and we always made it a point to nurture those feelings.
Now, at age 12, we’ve watched Kendall’s special qualities give birth to an idea. That idea evolved into action. And that action may well be helping a few people through a very difficult time in their lives.
If this is what compassion can develop into by age 12, what might it become in another 5 years … or 20?
We can’t wait to see.
I’ve just returned home to Ponte Vedra Beach after traveling up to Hartsville, South Carolina (pop. 7,764) to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. This is one of my favorite annual holiday traditions – when I pack up, hit the road and head so far out into farm country that my cell phone is rendered useless. I couldn’t receive one of GAP’s Black Friday mobile coupons (or any retailer’s), even if I wanted one. And if I actually wanted to go shopping (HA!), I would have had to travel countless miles just to try and find a store. For someone whose career has revolved so heavily around marketing and online digital communications, I must admit I’ve always found it remarkably easy to just “unplug” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Rather, I relish this rare and special time on my wife’s grandma’s (Nana’s) 70-year-old farm, trying to shoehorn 20 family members ranging from ages one to 93 into a humble 3-bedroom home, and ultimately around a vintage bench-style kitchen table for a Thanksgiving meal where we slide in close to those we love.
Despite floors that creak, guest beds that dip about 6″ in the center and all the challenges of a home strained by the burden of accommodating five times the number of people it was ever designed for; I still find comforts there that the most modern conveniences could never provide.
And I am so grateful…
Grateful to learn that a mix of honey, lemon and whiskey can vanquish a head cold faster and more effectively than any overpriced, over-the-counter medication ever could.
Grateful to witness my 12-year-old daughter, Kendall, get behind the wheel of a truck for her first driving experience, in a lap around the cornfields with her grandpa.
Grateful to know that my 9-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, who seems to grow taller and more independent with each passing hour, is still not too big to find sanctuary in her daddy’s lap.
Grateful to sit back quietly and just admire how truly beautiful my wife and daughters are, both inside and out.
And shopping, and work are the farthest things from my mind…
Only… How lucky am I?
Interestingly, researchers say that there are enormous benefits resulting from living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Not just spiritual benefits, but physical and emotional ones, as well. In fact, they say it has been scientifically proven that people who live with a “spirit of gratefulness” live longer, and enjoy better overall well-being.
Like most people, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life– a lot of times when I could get down on myself, lose myself in self-pity and ask, “Why me?” But I understand that everything in this world is relative. Somebody’s always going to have it better. Someone’s always going to have it worse. So I never question my circumstances, or why I don’t have this gift or that blessing. I just focus on the things I do have and try to remember to thank God for each and every one of them, every day.
In the “Black Friday” scrambles that so often seem to characterize routine existence, I thank God especially for those too rare occasions when he strips away the superficial extravagances of our everyday lives and allows us to focus on the real gifts standing right beside us.
I am a huge fan of Dominic Wilcox. Dominic is a tremendously talented artist and designer who creates unique and imaginative objects, drawings and installations. His work is always surprising, generally profound and always fun. Visit his blog, Variations on Normal, and you’ll quickly lose yourself in his whimsical world.
I wanted to share some of his most recent work here- his “Moments in Time” watch sculptures. He’s created five of them here- tiny plastic sculptures brought to life by setting them upon the second hands of vintage mechanical timepieces. Included are scenes of love and protest, including a brilliant recreation of the “pepper spray incident” at the UC Davis Occupy protested earlier this year.
Like all great works of art and design, it is the conevyence of human emotion that allows the very best to transcend the ordinary. And Dominic has captured several varying moments in time so beautifully, giving them all eternal life, figuratively and literally.
The results are in.
And we have a (slam-dunk) winner.
After scouring every obscure website and hipster blog in the webishphere, I only had to look down the street to find the coolest Halloween costume– not just this year– but possibly, ever:
Straight from the creative imagination of LeAna Kimball, wife of my good friend Jake, LeAna is this year’s Grand Prize Winner and will recieve the balance of my kids’ Halloween candy that I still haven’t been able to polish off. I think there’s even a few Snickers left!
LeAna is the author of A Small Snippet, a rockin’ Mommy blog. In the course of doing marketing research for past clients, I’ve actually visited quite a few mommy blogs and LeAna’s is one of the best I’ve seen. Whatever you’re looking for- from parenting advice, to photography tips, creative crafting, cooking and costuming– you’ll find it there.
The last time I visited LeAna and Jake’s home, I think she was using one hand to tend to a sick child and another restoring a piece of antique furniture. I believe that if she wasn’t a full-time mom, she’d probably be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company like IDEO. I know she’d give Martha Stewart a good run for her money. And she’s a lot nicer.
Awesome job, LeAna– Congratulations!
P.S. Lest we forget, here is a beautiful video (Jellies – RED EPIC Style) by stillmotion on Vimeo shot at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago showing you the real things! So beautiful. Thank you to Tory Strange and the gang at the Surf Station in St. Augustine for the find. Their blog is always a go-to resource for interesting surf-related content of all kinds.
WOW- he did it!
Local Jax Beach surfer and design professional Kurtis Loftus surfed for 31 hours, 16 minutes and 35 seconds this week, breaking the world record for longest surf session. Kurtis was surfing to raise money for 26.2 With Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, a hugely successful foundation established by beloved local newscaster Donna Deegan, who battled the disease herself.
As I noted in my post a week or so ago, I was fired up to be able to assist Kurtis in his attempt. After a hectic week in which the schedule was moved several times to coordinate with the most favorable weather/surf conditions (hard to do here in late October), the event was launched on Wednesday the 26th at 1:00 pm, ending at about 8:15 pm on Thursday the 27th.
Kurtis needed a minimum of 16 certified witnesses to verify and document his effort, as well as support and encouragement in the water. I was stoked to be able to do both, surfing with Kurtis from 9:00 pm – 1:30 am on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. As Kurtis notes in this article, surfing at night was extremely difficult. There was no moon at all and only minimal lighting that the local Jax Beach Lifeguard Station had set up (Shout-outs to them- those were “lifesavers”!)
I can state that after 4.5 straight hours of surfing, I just don’t know how Kurtis pulled fully 7x that amount. It was superhuman. Check out his knarly “zombie hands” in this post-event celebration when we gave him a champagne bath. I understand he slept for 7 hours afterwards, then was right back at it, alert and smiling at his desk in his office. Incredible.
Surfing during the night was an interesting experience. It was extremely difficult to see and the waves would get right up on you before you knew it. I’m a shortboarder, but brought a longboard to sit up as high as possible out of the water and have a lot of board beneath me in the event of unwelcomed sealife. Gnerally, conditions were very peaceful. The surf was about 1-2 ft., maybe a little bigger than that on sets and the water warm in a fullsuit. During the evening, I saw three good-sized dorsal fins (at various times) in the nearby area, but I believe all of them were dolphins. One was questionable, but I wasn’t going to be the one to disrupt the attempt in any way. There were also 4-5 guys in the water at most times, so I figured my odds were good.
One of the things that I loved about Kurtis’ attempt is that for him, this really wasn’t about a world record, but rather about genuinely trying to raise money for a cause he is truly passionate about. Kurtis loves to help people, loves surfing and very clearly loves challenges. He’s also got a lot of faith in Jesus Christ and I love all those things about him, because I relate to all of them.
Coincidentally, tonight, just one day following Kurtis’ successful finish, my wife, Gretchen and I went to drop off a meal to David and Ann Smith, friends of ours from church. Ann used to oversee our children’s ministry and has been undergoing chemotherapy for several months for breast cancer.
While we were there, we asked her if she had heard about Kurtis and/or Marathonsurfer.com. Of course, they had. She also immediately went on to share how much help Donna Deegan’s foundation had been to her and David, providing significant financial assistance for treatment, that without, might have resulted in financial calamity, or worse. And just that quick, we had a clear affirmation about the tangible importance of Donna’s foundation; why Kurtis did what he did; and why it is important for all of us to look for similar opportunities to use our own passions, imaginations and energies to help others. You may not break a world record, but you can change the world around you and make it a better place for all of us.
Postcript: I think it also important to note the very critical role of Kurtis’ wife, Margaret. In all the various press I’ve seen, I think I saw one article that mentioned her presence. Like Kurtis, Margaret stayed awake for the full 31+ hours. I was out there for the kickoff; checking in and out of my own time slot; and at the end; and I don’t think I ever saw Margaret sitting down one time.
This was possibly even more callenging than being out in the lineup, where you are buoyed by adrenaline and much less succeptible to the temptation to just lie down, or to just go home and take a short nap.
Margaret also spearheaded the pre- and post-event coordination of scheduling and paperwork, of which there was more than you could imagine. I don’t believe that people accomplish feats of these sorts without extraordinary support from those closest to them- the kind of support that comes from relationships like the one Kurtis and Margaret, now well into their second decade of marriage, seem to enjoy. I know I have always blessed with a similar force (my wife, Gretchen) behind me who has always been there for every big and small effort I’ve ever seen fit to pursue, working as hard as she can to lift me up and help me achieve my goals. As I am sure Kurtis will relate, it is almost an unfair advantage. Hopefully Guinness will overlook Margaret, too. ; )
So what’s it like to wind down a company that you founded and invested 15 years of your life in? A lot of people have been asking this question and inquiring “What’s next?” for me, since I decided to close Renaissance Creative two weeks ago.
Let me tackle the first question, first.
It is a physical (logistical) and emotional challenge. My brain hurts. My body hurts. Imagine breaking down an 8,000 square foot office- the furniture; displays; computers; file cabinets; the stuff in the file cabinets; actually paying attention to the stuff in the file cabinets to see if it needed to be saved, tossed or shredded; backing up and storing digital files; listing and selling things on Craigslist; all, while still working with clients transitioning their accounts to those who will be carrying on.
Oh– and saying “goodbye” to good friends.
Great people. People overflowing with talent, intelligence and character who are like family to me, who helped create something meaningful that wasn’t able to survive the crushing weight of its own good fortune and growth, ultimately falling victim to the bursting of the real estate bubble, to which we were so vulnerable based upon our strong focus in the sector prior to 2007.
Needless to say, there were a few tears, but in the end, more laughs and great memories.
Some interesting tidbits about the “final countdown”:
- We began moving over a 2-week period, a little bit each day.
- I worked hands-on in the middle of it, just as I always have in the professional work of our agency.
- I’m guessing I must have literally filled at least (4) large dumpsters with ancient paper records, samples, etc. I was definitely feeling like a tree-killer. Thank God the world continues to go digital.
- We had (5) super-sized boxes filled with nothing but awards. You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you”? I get it now. At the end of the day, what purpose do they serve? I almost tossed them, but considered it thoughtfully and decided that if my Partner and some of our former Team Members can carry on successfully with reduced overhead, they may wish to have them available in the future. Worst case– my daughters open the boxes one day in the future and think, “Damn- Dad was pretty good!”. And, then they can throw them away.
- “Final Friday” was difficult. A lot of work, with a final lunch of pizza, beer and story-telling… and some more hugs and tears.
- The actual move occurred over the weekend- a full 12-hr. Saturday.
- To add insult to injury, that same afternoon amidst the move, Maria Coppola stole my Foursquare Mayorship to the incredibly obscure (but extremely good) Ling’s Alterations in Sawgrass Village! How did she even know it was there, let alone think to check in?!! Hey, thanks Maria! : )
- And the day following the move? Well– now half this $%#’s in my house!
So, I’m slowly getting things organized here at home and beginning to take some time to reflect on what might be next for myself and my family. And I’m starting to get excited about that.
As difficult as this whole thing has been, I can’t repress my own inner desire to get on with something new– to throw my broad experience and passion for marketing into new challenges and see what’s next. I think it was Walt Disney who said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
I’m curious, too.
This is a shot of me and my two daughters, Kendall & Kaelyn, taken by my wife, Gretchen, while on a visit to Playa Avellanas in Costa Rica, in 2007. I’ve used this image as my Twitter background for over two years, but may change it soon to something more corporate. I’ve always loved this image, though. What’s so great about it is simply the emotion/love that’s communicated. I could theoretically fall on every single wave I attempted to ride and my girls would still come running to greet me at the water’s edge like I’m Kelly Slater emerging from a victorious World Championship heat! There’s no greater feeling!
My deepest condolences to Steve Job’s family, friends and colleagues.
He made our work easier, better and more efficient.
He made our play more fun.
It is incredible to consider how influential he was in the areas of technology and design.
It is heartbreaking to imagine where he might have taken us.
A while back, as part of a theological study I was involved in with my church (Blueprint for Life, co-authored by Michael Kendrick and Ben Ortlip), I came across a terrific illustration of the importance of “thinking forward”. The study utilized a short historical essay on the WWII-era Pomeranian Calvary Brigade of the Polish army to highlight the relative value of time when taken in consideration of planning only for “today”, vs. planning for “eternity”.
The story applies beautifully to all of those who become too comfortable with any aspect of life; not anticipating change and innovation, nor planning appropriately for the future.
As a professional marketing strategist and one whose job has always been intimately connected to an evolving landscape of consumer, cultural and technological trends, I have long believed in this principle with great conviction. It’s how I have always tried to encourage people to think about their products and services, and the mindset I’ve urged them to apply to all areas of their businesses. Because failing to do so can have serious consequences, as Kendrick and Orthlip’s history lesson shows:
“Colonel Mastalerz was one of the most prestigious men in all of Europe- a decorated soldier and leader of the Pomeranian Calvary Brigade. As head of the 18th Lancer division, he was in charge of defending the Pomeranian Corridor. Built around the strength of its 84 infantry regiments, the Polish military had reigned supreme for two decades, turning back numerous assaults and defending their borders victoriously.
Tactically, they were superior. Their training and horsemanship were unsurpassed. Their determination and bravery had earned them an international reputation as one of the fiercest fighting units the world over. But on the morning of September 1, 1939, even Col. Mastalerz knew that Poland’s string of victories was about to end.
The horses of the Polish calvary grew skittish and reared up restlessly. A deep rumbling sound shook the earth, growing louder by the minute. In the distance, Mastalerz could hear the sound of trees cracking and falling to the ground. Through the morning mist, the 2nd and 20th Motorized Divisions of the Third Reich made their way toward Masterlerz and the small hamlet of Krojanty. The invasion of Poland had begun.
In the hours that followed, Polish soldiers on horseback fought a war of attrition against a German unit of tanks and armored cars. It was one of history’s great juxtapositions. The unthinkable was happening. It was a contrast equal to the Wright Brothers observing a space shuttle launch, or Alexander Graham Bell witnessing an Internet Videoconference. Residents from two different worlds met in an iconic exchange of ideologies, as one bygone era surrendered indefensibly to the next. Time and technology had marched by unnoticed. And that changed everything.”
Just like the Polish army, we as marketers must continue our push to evolve. Enduring success will be enjoyed not by those looking to leverage the tried and true, nor those satisfied with remaining in lockstep with their peers; but rather, by those willing and committed to thinking forward and considering: What’s next? How can I do this differently? How can it be improved? What changes can I anticipate (cultural, media, technological)? How can I leverage these trends?
Our industry today (integrated marketing, advertising, public relations and brand communications) is characterized by profound change– extreme shifts in technology and fragmentation of media, all occurring at unbelievable speed. Is there really any question that the ways we deliver messages must always continue to evolve?
As the Pomeranian Calvary Brigade proved, if you’re not committed to the process and looking far enough ahead, you’ll one day find yourself at the unwelcome crossroads of time and technology; of the past and the future; of foresight and hindsight. And you’ll have no choice but to surrender to those who eyes were fixed on a point on the horizon, much farther than your own.
As Kendrick and Ortlip so eloquently put it, “the advance of time has a great way of correcting nearsightedness”.
Note: The Blueprint for Life Study from which the story of the Pomeranian Calvary is referenced, is a truly enlightening (and exceptionally well-developed and designed), multi-media resource that takes valuable, secular-styled lessons for intentional living and goal-setting and applies them to Christian principles. I highly recommend this $59 study for groups or individuals. You’ll find many more brilliant illustrations you can apply to every area of your life. www.blueprintforlife.com.
The waves were perfect on September 6th, 2011, courtesy of Hurricane Katia. Clean, coming in well spaced-out sets, barreling with lots of power. I was out with good friend, David Brown, who pulled out a pocket camera to capture this moment. The rainbow stayed there all evening, along with an early-rising moon, shrimp boats with lights-a-twinkling, and just a few other lucky surfers out.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the NFL paid a magnificent tribute to this life-changing event in American History. There were many beautiful rememberances held over the course of the weekend, but it is not surprising that the NFL delivered one of the finest. Almost everything they do is first class, run by some smart folks. As good as the entire ceremony was, I posted this video for one very specific reason: the EPIC performance of our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner by tenor Jim Corneilson.
You have to watch it. You won’t believe it.
What I loved so much about it was:
1) He didn’t just sing it. He sang it the way it SHOULD be sung and he DELIVERED it. (Watch when he sings the words, “Our flag was still there”.)
2) He not only DELIVERED it, he did so with EVERY OUNCE of PASSION and ENERGY he had in his body.
3) And finally, HE ROSE to the occasion under the most extreme pressure.
Consider that this was the opening of the NFL season. Consider that the event was being simulcast from Soldier Field in Chicago to every other stadium in America and hundreds of millions of homes around the world. Consider the miilions of eyes and cameras that were upon him precisely at this most poignant moment, on this most profound day in our history.
I love it when people respond in moments like these.
I challenge you to watch this stirring video and not be moved.
One day, I am going to start a website called www.risetothechallenge.com that features nothing but short clips contributed by anyone, of moments like these (defining moments of great achievement under the greatest of pressures). They are most commonly identified with every variety of sports, but happen in all types of arenas from performing arts to local spelling bees.
They are wonderful moments in life that lift and inspire us; remind us how remarkable the human spirit is; and how miraculously we are made.
A mesmerizing shot of the beautiful, virgin white snow that arrived in Hartsville, South Carolina on Monday, January 10th. The fresh and somewhat rare 6″ of powdery goodness was part of large storm system blanketing parts of the northeast and south.
My mother-in-law, Tracy Chapman sent this while visiting Nana up on the farm.
Good work, Tracy!
Note: Florida was the only state in the nation that did not receive snow from this storm. All 49 other states got in on the action, including Hawaii that had snow fall on Mauna Kea on the Big Island.
You might be tempted to call Meyer’s walking away with a major overhaul in front of him cowardly or irresponsible, or question his heart and character. However, I would suggest that his act was courageous and profound, wholly accountable and without remonstrance.
You see at age 46, with three national championships under his belt, one year removed from serious health issues and with a wife and three children who saw far too little of him, Meyer finally realized that the sacrifices he was having to make to enjoy this level of success were far more significant than another crystal trophy, and their consequences more imperishable.
No he can’t.
And if he didn’t get to see much of them the last four years, what makes you think the six before that were any different? Or the ten before that?
So Urban quit his job as coach for the Florida Gators for the sake of his family to become a better husband and father.
I believe this reveals far more about heart and character than this year’s recruiting haul, any improvement he might have been able to engineer next season or any future championships he might have been able to win.
And if you focused on it at the expense of everything, and everyone else in you life –your wife, your children, your friends, your health– then you could almost guarantee realizing your goals. That’s the way it happens, more often than not.
The question then becomes, “What really constitutes ‘success’ in life?”
To me, that answer is achieving a healthy balance of overall physical and emotional wellness; of being loving, kind and compassionate; responsible to those who depend upon you; and respectful to everyone else.
How often do you see marriages fail, families fractured or children cheated out of having their biggest fans at hand when they take the field, stage or just sitting down for dinner?
I should probably be careful of being too “preachy” because I know I’ve missed my fair share of dinners over many years in business and certainly can’t claim accomplishments on the scale of an Urban Meyer. That’s the battle that all of us whose role it is to provide for their families, face over the course of our careers. And it is always a tricky balancing act.
In a world where success is too often, too narrowly defined as “productivity” in the workplace, it’s easy to overlook the things that provide the most important measures of human performance. The kind of things that don’t fit neatly inside a trophy case.
Safe to say, even if you don’t surf, you know who Kelly Slater is. He’s the world’s greatest surfer. King Kelly. A legendary 10x world champ who even at age 38, in a time when most progressive surfing is regularly performed above the wave, has somehow remained fit enough and good enough to routinely beat surfers years his junior, from all around the planet.
And now the greatest surfer in history wants to build the best wave in the world.
It’s an interesting prospect, only because it comes from someone whose understanding of the ocean and the sport are second only to his determination and will to succeed.
I remember seeing Kelly surf in person on a road trip to Sebastian Inlet back in my early twenties. Kelly was just 14 at the time and already getting national attention. He was there for the ESA Regional Championships. We just happened to arrive in time to catch the Superheat, where the winners of each division compete against each other in a final, decisive high-performance session to see who is the best of the best.
Kelly had already won his division and was surfing against several older, more experienced men. There was a northeaster blowing and the waves at Sebastian were large and sloppy, far from ideal conditions. But let me tell you, when Kelly dropped in, he made every wave look flawless. Not just good. Not just great… but jaw-dropping, “OMG, can you believe that?” otherworldy good. And everyone on the beach that day recognized it.
He surfed fast, fluid and stylish, blasting every sliver of open face, effortlessly connecting beautiful maneuvers while intuitively navigating every tricky section. It was clear, even back then, that he wasn’t just a natural. He was supernatural.
Today, as freakish as 10 world titles sounds, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s just that good. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to follow his career through my own lifetime, because I don’t expect his accomplishments will ever be matched. This is also the reason I won’t summarily dismiss his vision to build the world’s first natural, deep-water world-class wave.
According to a press release, the Kelly Slater Wave Company will use “pioneering wave generation and control technology to create the wave on the outside of a large circular pool, propogating onto an inner island where it breaks endlessly.” Slater suggests that the wave, inside a planned surf park with beaches, restaurants, bars, pools, conference facilities and retail will come close to reproducing the “natural”feeling of one of the world’s best waves.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to surf Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon with just a few friends after the park had closed for the day. The waves there seemed to start with 4’ peaks that quickly receded to 2’ lines that weren’t endless. While reasonably fun and consistent, between the stadium lights; eerie sounds of the hydromechanics; soft, punchless waves and chlorine smell, the experience was far from natural.
Even if Kelly’s engineers have devised a way to double the size and power of the waves, there are some things about surfing that simply can’t be duplicated by men, even supernatural ones.
The inconsistent nature of swells that makes chasing them so exciting, and an integral part of the surfing experience.
The unique characteristics of individual waves that allow us to enjoy a variety of experiences on each and every one we ride.
The subtle risks of dangers like shallow reefs, clean-up sets and sea creatures we can’t always see, that open our adrenal glands to their addictive flow.
The infinite beauty of God’s handiwork, which varies so dramatically from ocean to ocean, beach to beach, break to break, right down to the locals sitting next to us in the lineup.
Of course, I’m sure Kelly already understands all this better than most.
So, I won’t do the easy thing which would be to scoff at his vision; dismiss it as idealistic; unrealistic in this uncertain economy; or opportunistic at the expense of “surfers” from places like Indiana or Ohio, who only understand surfing through movies like Point Break; magazines like SURFER; and the big brand surf tees they buy in their local mega malls. They deserve to experience the thrill and joys of surfing as much as any of us.
Instead, I’ll lay money down that Kelly will leverage his incredible personal and financial resources; visionary imagination; and passion for surfing, including his unyielding desire to advance the sport and share it; to create something that will exceed all of our expectations. Something that will leave us standing slack-jawed, looking at the person next to us and saying, “OMG, can you believe that?”
To learn more about the Kelly Slater Wave Company, visit Slater’s YouTube Channel where he shares more of his vision in a series of videos.
The 2010 Winter Olympics are behind us and I for one am sad to see them go. There were so many compelling moments that defined the Vancouver Games for me, from snowboarder Shaun White’s incredible Double McTwist 1260 in the half-pipe (a trick only he can perform); to Apolo Ohno passing the Chinese team in the anchor lap of the 5000 meter short track relay to become the most decorated American in Winter Olympic history; to the final frantic seconds of regulation and overtime in the US–Canada gold medal hockey game. But nothing brought me to edge of my seat like Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller’s exhilarating performances in the men’s and women’s downhill.
What I love so much about all of our Olympic Athletes and find so well-exemplified in these two in this event, is their absolute understanding and embracement of a simple, but profound principle, one I believe creatives should never forget: That distinguishing achievement often requires more than talent and training; more than skill and desire; more than preparation or luck. It most often requires exceptional courage and a willingness to take extraordinary risks. And that’s not easy or natural for anyone.
Consider that when Vonn raced, in addition to a badly bruised leg, she also faced the pressures of a spectacular run by teammate Julia Mancuso, just moments earlier. Vonn was rattled. But rather than downplay the moment, Lindsey’s husband and coach, Thomas, who had just finished watching Mancuso’s blazing finish from his position at the bottom of the hill, radioed up to his wife, who was nervously fidgeting at the starting gate, specifically to confirm for her that Mancuso had just completed a “special run”; and to relate, “You’re going to have to be perfect to win.”
Vonn would later state that this simple, strategically calculated message from her husband allowed her to “focus on that challenge” and “let go of her fears”. She subsequently took the most aggressive lines all the way down the mountain, coming perilously close to wiping out at nearly every turn. The result: she beat Mancuso’s “sepcial run” by over a full half-second.
Likewise, ignoring treacherous course conditions resulting from warm weather and light snow, Bode Miller attacked the downhill course with reckless abandon to become the first American men’s skier to stand on the podium for that event since Tommy Moe, sixteen years ago. His bronze medal time was 1:54.40, only nine one-hundredths of a second behind gold medalist, Didier Defago, the smallest differential ever between gold and bronze in Olympic history. Said Miller of his and the American team’s performance: “We went after it. We weren’t scared. We were always aggressive.”
Of course, while a willingness to lay it all on the line can pay huge dividends as it did in both of these instances, it never guarantees success, and often sets the stage for spectacular failure. Later, attempting to go 5 for 5 in Olympic events in the slalom –the one event for which he had not won an Olympic medal– on a challenging course of sticky, wet snow that was proving difficult for many of the racers, Miller did not change his approach. The consequence: he ran into trouble almost right out of the gate. Said Miller, “It’s unfortunate to go out so early, but you have to take risks… and I did.”
I believe creatives from designers, to copywriters, to marketing strategists should take the same approach as Miller, Vonn and others and not allow themselves to be constrained by fear. I appreciate creatives who are willing to explore their most conceptual ideas, even if it results in more misses than hits. I know that doing so will give them their best chance to come up with something great, which is the only thing I ever want to present to a client.Great creative work must always take a point of view. It has to have “something to say” to be memorable. Remember that people respond to “different” and “unpredictable”. In this sense, “safe” is risky. The real problems begin when fear- the fear of mistakes, the fear of looking foolish, the fear that someone won’t “get” your idea, prevents you from saying anything at all.
I once heard Jeff Kling, ECD of Euro RSCG put it this way: “Screw-ups are tools of evolution. They help us survive.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Remember also that in the business of marketing and advertising, we’re not looking to connect with the 80% of people who may not “get”, like, or even care about our creative, but rather the 20% who do and are inspired to act upon it.
So the next time you’re faced with a daunting creative challenge (or business challenge, or life challenge), don’t allow yourself to become compromised by fear. Rather, recognize that most of life’s rewards do not come without risk; that we all fall down sometimes; and that even those instances leave us better prepared to make some truly extraordinary runs in the future.
If nothing else, we’ll put people on the edge of their seats. At least for marketers, that’s our job.
Yesterday afternoon, I attended the memorial of friend and business associate, Stephen George William Parker. Stephen lost a year-long battle with cancer last Sunday. He was only 46. A large group of family and friends gathered to celebrate his life under an ocean pavilion at the St. Augustine Pier. When my day comes, I’d like to be remembered exactly as Stephen was– with warm ocean breezes, good food, cold beverages and a live band, along with a low-key slideshow and a few heartfelt remembrances from family and friends.
For those that didn’t know Steve, he was a kind and generous guy– always quick with a smile and a wry remark, often laced with a little self-depreciating humor. He loved traveling, music, the ocean and his family- including his wife, Cindy; their two daughters; and his three brothers, with whom he was very close.
Like many of us here in North Florida, Stephen was a survivor of the real estate market meltdown. He was Vice President of Parker Associates, a real estate development / and marketing consultation firm where he shared duties with his father David, and older brother, Chris. From Florida, to Costa Rica, to Russia, if you wanted to know what to build upon a certain piece of property; how to position it; price it; and market it; then these guys could tell you. Their endurance through the market turmoil is a testament to their expertise and professionalism. With markets still trying to find their way forward and property changing hands, their insights today are more valuable than ever.
As many from Jacksonville (we, who lived “inside” of one of the nation’s largest real estate bubbles), will tell you, the battle back has been long and arduous. And while Steve and his family have overcome incredible challenges that saw so many other real-estate related companies fail over these past 2.5 years, the merciless serial killer that is cancer came along and buggered up the victory celebration for all of us.
Or perhaps I should say, “almost all of us”. Not for Stephen, himself.
You see, what those closest to Stephen reassured us was that he passed away with absolutely no regrets. He never waited for life to “happen” to him, but always “attacked” it with gusto. If there was a place he wanted to visit, but he didn’t have the funds, he’d find a way to get them. When there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for the business at hand, he’d still find a way to get the job done and do so without sacrificing time for his family, friends or even just acquaintances, who he always made feel important. To me, achieving this kind of balance is what defines a “successful” life.
Today more than ever, it is easy to lose sight of the immeasurable value that each day holds and the pricelessness of the people we spend those days with. Our family. Our friends. Our co-workers. Yes, we face a challenging economy and uncertain times. Yes, technological evolution has enabled, and as a result, required us to fit more tasks into fewer hours, often for less money, raising the bars for efficiency and production to ever higher levels.
But at the end of each day, or more appropriately, at the beginning– we owe it to ourselves to pause and reflect on the things that truly matter in this life. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We are not even guaranteed our next breath. So, if you wish to live a life with no regrets, the kind of life that Stephen George William Parker lived, then don’t wait on it to come to you. Go out and grab it. At home. At work. On the beach. And remember to always do it without losing sight of the important people around you. You never know when they’ll be gone. Steve, we will miss you.
Welcome to my new personal blog. It’s actually one of two I write and am attempting to maintain. The other is “Make Belief”. It’s the official blog of Renaissance Creative. Renaissance is an integrated marketing, brand development and public relations firm I founded 15-years ago and serve as President and Co-Creative Director for today.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of help on the RC blog from Ben LaMothe, Online Marketing and Social Media Strategist at RC. Since Ben is holding things down over at Make Belief, I figured I’d go ahead do something I’ve been desiring to do for quite a while, which is to start a separate blog that would allow me to write about more personal interests. While some of the posts I write at RC are representative of my personal interests and may be cross-posted here occasionally, for the most part I try to keep those relevant to businesses, brands and industry peers who (I assume), are primarily interested in things like marketing, design, branding & advertising strategies, consumer trends, social media, etc.
I love what I do for a living, but more than that, I just love living– which also includes surfing, music, art, family, friends, God, politics and traveling, among other things. So, hopefully you’ll find this blog interesting as well. I’m curious to see what shape it takes myself- where the content goes, to see if my personal “voice” is different from my “professional” one. I may begin by reposting a couple of my favorite past entries from the Make Belief blog- the ones that have held more significant meaning to me and not the “10 Best Free or Low Cost Online Marketing Strategies” kind (although lots of people actually wrote to say “Thanks” for writing that one! ; )).
But honestly, those “How to” pieces suck the life out of me. The internet is rife with similar information and at the very least, life’s too short to spend much time churning out more of the same after 6pm.