There’s probably over 3,000 or so photography apps in the iPhone store, not all of them created equal. Focal Lab is a nice one created by Nexvio, a company that specializes in innovative photo and video applications for mobile platforms. Think of Focal Lab as a kind of a Photoshop Lite. It allows you to utilize selective focus in your shots. Unlike other soft focus / blur apps, Focal Lab allows you to create graduated blurs surrounding an in-focus area. You can select (and move) the area you want to keep in focus, while blurring everything around it. Here’s an image of my daughter Kaelyn that I created in about 15 seconds (originally shot on my iPhone). For only .99 in the iPhone Apps store, you can go from a hack to a pro with just a few slides of your thumb. Nexvio also has some pretty cool looking video apps, including 8mm effects and a time lapse video creator that works by stringing together stills on an iPhone 3G and 3GS!
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.
I’m guessing that somewhere out there, perhaps on Facebook or maybe inside the Apple Apps store, there has to be a music application that allows you to list all of the concerts you’ve ever attended.
Maybe it does something fancy like allowing you to pull corresponding album covers or band logos into your list, along with the date of the events; concert venues; friends you went with; and the opportunity to upload photos or videos from the shows, and perhaps some notes.
If such an app doesn’t exist, then someone should promptly develop it (I’ll take a 15% cut on revenue for the concept, and the rest is yours). Or, perhaps if I have time one day, I’ll investigate it further and if I can’t find anything similar, we’ll develop it ourselves at Renaissance Creative.
Regardless of whether such an app currently exists, I’ve always wanted to create one of these lists for myself.
I’m a huge music fan and I’ve seen a pretty fair number of concerts in my time ranging in genre from Rock, to Rap, to Country, to Punk, To Pop, to Reggae, to Christian and so on. In addition, I’ve been fortunate in my time, for my age, to see some truly iconic acts, such as Elvis Presley and The Clash, to name two.
So, I’m going to go low-tech here and just make a list.
There’s no way I could ever recall exact dates, nor the names of the specific venues (though I could probably recollect all the cities), so I won’t even try. I will try to list them chronologically, generally– as best my memory serves. I’ll also include notes on interesting facts about shows that merited it. I have a feeling I’ll be updating this post from time to time, as I recall additional shows. I’ve already been writing it for two days.
Elvis Presley – 1977, just a few months before he died. My first concert (with my parents and grandmother), at age 13. I was so embarrassed to be there… until he sang. He had an incredibly strong voice and I was pretty blown away. I went on to become a big fan. Still am.
Kenny Rogers – 2x with parents
John Denver – 2x with parents. Still a big fan.
Styx – My first concert with friends, if I recall correctly
The Cars – 2x
Van Halen – David Lee Roth got so drunk drinking Jack Daniels from a bottle that he forgot the words to the songs and had to stop (singing, not drinking).
U2 – Touring behind their second album, War.
The Clash – So thankful I got to see this band at an outdoor venue in Daytona Beach before they broke up. They were incredible!
SAGA (not to be confused with GAGA)
The Police – 2x
David Bowie – So awesome. Another cherished claim.
Hoodoo Gurus – I did not miss the rare opportunity to see this iconic Australian surf band right here in Jax.
Michael Jackson / The Jacksons – 1984. He / they played 3 consecutive shows in the old Gator Bowl (now Everbank Field), with 136,000 tickets sold at the peak of his career. I went for the sheer spectacle.
Tommy Tutone – The former bassist lives down the road in St. Augustine and work at The Surf Station. I saw them at Grad Night in Disney World.
Joe Jackson – Front row center in Miami. My friend Danny knew someone.
Flock of Seagulls
Oingo Boingo – 3x
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The The – 2x One of my all-time favorite bands. I plan to write a separate post for this still undiscovered and underrated group (Actually solo performer, Matt Johnson).
New Order – Disappointing live.
UB40 – Also disappointing live.
INXS – Brilliant when Hutchence was alive. I would love to see where they would have gone with him.
Beastie Boys – 2x
Run DMC – Hung with Run at the bar after the show! (OK, sat next to him, anyway)
Thrill Kill Cult
Social Distortion – 2x, Loudest Concert I ever heard. My ears were just ringing. I know I lost hearing there, but they were fantastic.
Gene Loves Jezebel
Love and Rockets
REM – 3x
The Cure – 2x
Gin Blossoms – 2x
Jane’s Addicition – 2x
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Nine Inch Nails – 3x. I met Trent Reznor personally, who actually dated and lived with my ex-girlfriend, Beth Narducci, for a couple of years in New Orleans. Nice guy. Humble and unassuming. I’ll write a separate post on that sometime.
Ministry – Saw them in an industrial warehouse, a perfect setting. Exhausted, I tried to climb out of the mosh pit, but was thrown back in by some punk grrrrls. Thought I was going to suffocate.
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Adam Ant – Another performer I’m so glad I got to see. The “Bad Boy” Brit rocked a little bar in Orlando. Two drummers. Played all his hits. It was great.
Sublime / Long Beach Dub All-stars – One of my all time favorites, but I missed the opportunity to see them with Bradley Nowell (Was invited and urged to go by a friend).
I hate to see such gifted souls lose themselves to drugs and other demons like that.
Chris Issak – Great performer. Talented musician and fuuny. Love all his stuff.
The Cult – House of Blues. Small venue, great concert.
Elvis Costello – He’s a hero of mine. Intelligent. Original. Diverse. Passionate. Saw him at the Hard Rock Café in Orlando.
Jimmy Buffet – 3x I love Buffet. His concerts are getting older and “grayer”, but he is pure “escapism”, which I respond well to.
Eagles – Great band. So many songs.
Beach Boys – Older, but what amazing voices and tunes.
Elton John – 2x
Toots and the Maytals
Lloyd Cole – Perhaps you’ve never heard of him. If not, you should learn more. I did a blog post on him, here. I can’t believe I was able to see him live in a small Jacksonville bar, just a few feet from him. An incredible show!
Wiggles – Umm… parents will know who they are.
Third Day – I went from Ministry to Third Day!
Big wave surfing at Shipstern’s Bluff. I’ve traveled to a lot of places for waves, but have never made it to Australia or Tasmania, an Australian island and state, where this wave is located. It’s hard to believe people paddle out here and live to tell about it. It does look fun though, in a very sadistic sort of way.
These are Chris Martin’s notes to himself and his bandmates, one of many such items posted on the walls, a whiteboard and even Martin’s studio piano (he scribbles on it in green marker).
How many new ideas or profound realizations arrive for many of us at unexpected moments? Insights that you just can’t afford to forget? What do you do? Grab a pencil and jot ‘em down, of course! Most designers I know keep idea/sketch books handy and I’ve got plenty of notebooks and post-it notes full of marketing, design, business and leadership lessons that I’ve either come to realize myself, or have picked up from others much wiser than me.
“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth”…
“Always have a point of view”…
“Make an emotional connection”…
“Don’t be afraid that a concept will go over your customers heads. If you assume they’re dumb, they may be smarter than you”…
“Safe is risky”…
“Advertising can’t create product advantages, only convey them”…
The “Mysteries” of Coldplay, revealed:
1. Albums must be no longer than 42 minutes, or 9 tracks.
2. Production must be amazing, rich, but with space, not overlayered, less tracks, more quality, groove and swing. Drums/rhythm are the most crucial thing to concentrate on; difference between “Bittersweet” and “Science of silence.” (A reference to The Verve and Richard Ashcroft solo)
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.