Archive for the ‘Influence & Inspiration’ Category

courtesy of oxandoak

What do Robert Plant, Maya Angelou, Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Diane Sawyer have in common…?…Aside from talent, what helps Snoop Dogg sell records and Andy Samberg sell his (sometimes off-kilter) ideas…?…why do we pay far too much money for a pair of jeans or (what may seem like) a simple hair cut…?




This is nothing new: Swagger has been a determining factor for a lot of things. Think back to your time on the playground: the one kiddo that was the captain of the kickball team…it wasn’t because he/she showed up with the ball…it’s because he/she had that little (at the time) indescribable quality that just brought everyone together. I can recall this one kid that just made things a little bit more fun on the playground – it’s like he knew what to say, how to play fair, when to break out the Big League Chew…he just got it.


It’s like he walked to a ‘Billy Bad A**’ song that only he heard…



Don’t underestimate the power of Swagger – it can help move the needle for a company in the right direction. It can bring teams together and unite them for a worthy cause.  It can help create some excitement for a team when the chips are down.  It can help you identify with a product or service. Swagger can help you sell.


The great thing about Swagger is that everyone has it.  Some people come by it like their distributors, while some may not even realize they have it.


But it’s there.


All you have to do is just tap into that a little and you’ll find that extra bit of courage to pitch that story…present that idea to the board…sell that product…write that great American novel…start that business…ask that girl out.


But, how, you may ask, does one ‘tap into’ that Swagger?  Look, I’m no doctor, nor an expert on how the human brain works.  But I can tell you what works for me: (big surprise) music. We’re all emotional people, and the best way to tap into that place of Swagger is to find a song that makes you sway with confidence. A good tune goes a long way.


I recall a time when @ArikHanson, @StoryAssistant, @DMullen and myself were talking over an idea and came to a particular song that could serve as opening music to our entrance. We each have our own strengths and talents (making us sound like Charlie’s Angels), but this song would’ve helped amp up our Swagger.


I’ve been using songs and poems to pump up the swagger for quite some time…



What do you think?  Am I overrating this whole thing?


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Play that funky music

I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna say it again: I’m a bit of a music freak.

Anytime I can take some time away (be it in business or pleasure) to jam out to a good tune or two, I’m a happy camper. It could be Marvin Gaye, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Kid Koala or a studio performance by John Legend & The Roots – I don’t care.

If it’s got a good vibe, I’m there.

There’s a lot you can learn from musicians and their music: they can help express a thought or feeling in 4 minutes or less; the right song can lift your mood on a bad day; and a band has the ability to rally an organization to an important cause with a fitting melody.

They can also help drive home an important point in business.

If you’ve seen Some Kind of Monster, Metallica may not be the first band you think of when you consider “equality,” especially since the film depicts the group in the midst of a huge crisis.

The big thing I get from the film (aside from the drama) is that, like a romantic comedy, the players emerged from that experience much stronger, closer and wiser. And in the case of Metallica, much more democratic.

And even though the funky and powerful Robert Trujillo plays the role of bassist in Metallica, he does not let it define him.

More importantly, the band does not allow Robert to be defined by this role.

As the video shows, James & Kirk didn’t shush him away when Robert started playing a six-stringer. They did quite the opposite: the other members of Metallica not only heard him play, these guys collaborated on how to ‘Metallica-lize’ it for their sound. They threw something heavy n’ hard down together with “the bass player” as partners… kinda like a real band.

Go figure.

Supervisors/Managers/Directors/VPs: we’re still in a bit of a workforce-money pinch. As a result, you’re probably piling on some additional duties to your team; they’re working longer hours and getting paid the same (or less) salary. You’re probably in the same boat: trying to wrangle new business, handle existing clients, mentor, etc. and getting weary just thinking about it. It’s not a great scenario. You know it; I know it.

Consider this: instead of allowing the ‘leader’ role to define you, why not lead with your team?

  • Just because someone works in a different group doesn’t mean that they may not add some value. Chances are, if they are eager, they may actually have something worth exploring. You can’t get fresh ideas from a burnt out team.
  • Those volunteers you’re working with may see something on the street or have a chance conversation with a friend that can shine a light in an area that (for some reason) you and your team have been missing.
  • That “kid” who just graduated from college may blurt out something that could turn the tide for a vital client. I’ve see it happen at various agencies (large and small) way more often than you may think.

Who knows… you may have a flamenco artist in your midst.

When was the last time you were jolted by a fantastic concept from an unusual source? What has been the most “surprising find” in your group?


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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This morning, the ever-smart (and happy) Gini Dietrich Asks If Happiness is the Same As Being Dumb? It’s all based on a recent blog (Are Happy People Dumb?) from the folks at the Harvard Business Review.  And this all got me to thinking: What’s So Bad About Being Happy?!

Don’t get me wrong – I can sort of see where they’re going with this.  It seems to me that far too many people are worried that we don’t brush stuff under the perverbial rug and take things a bit more seriously.  I get that.

But it also feels like far too many people mistake ‘happiness’ for some kind of blank existence where we just focus on what makes us feel good or sing a happy tune tune in our head…kind of like the 80’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ song/mantra from Bobby McFerrin.

Unfortunately, this great song gets associated with the foolhardiness of the decade (i.e. not being responsible with money, health, etc.)…And, it seems to me, that this kind of thinking may have trickled over to this report.  And, like I said, I can see his point:

  • In just About Everyting You do In Life, You’ve Got to Be Responsible
  • Although I Enjoy the Foibles That Homer Simpson Gets Himself Into, You Have to Be Smart
  • You Can’t Just Snuff Off Big Issues Like It’s Someone Else’s Problem


BUT, That Should *Never* Get in the Way of Your Happiness.


Cause at the end of the day, unless you’re saving the world, what you’re doing should never interfere with your happiness.  You should make some room to



Just Shut Up and Dance

And Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously…Having That Kind of ‘Seriousness’ Impedes With your Intelligence – It’s Making You More ‘Dumb’ In My Opinion.

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Waking up at 4:32 in the morning is never something I have planned.  In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find me waking up before 5am – ever.  Unless I’m taking a family member or a good friend to the airport, I’m not doing it.

This past Sunday was an exception.  Not only was I expecting it, I was looking forward to it.  I had a gear bag packed with swimming goggles, a towel, a bike helmet, water bottles and directions to my first triathlon…!…You read that right…

A triathlona real triathlon…no, not an ironman, but a legitimate triathlon sanctioned by the USAT and full of eager spectators, supporters and seasoned athletes.  A triathlon that I was going to participate in as an ‘athlete’ … yep…!

After months of preparation and training, I was both nervous and excited.

Truth be told, the last few weeks before the event, my nervous: excited ratio was about half-n-half.  The last few days, that ratio was closer to 80% nervous, 20% excited. 


What was I thinking?!…I’m in over my head…!…I need to put in more swimming time…!….relax, it’s your race – it’s just you out there…you’re not racing for a specific time…!…I haven’t done nearly enough hills! …I need to hydrate more…!…what am I doing…?!…why…!?…breathe, Nars…just breathe…!

And then, before I knew it… it all began.

That Dark Spot in the Pool (Top Portion) is Me

Endurance had an entirely new level of meaning to me.  This is a freakin’ triathlon! Even though I had drills, regimens and plans that I worked on, it was still quite hard – physically and mentally.

I’ll even go so far as to say that it was a harder ‘mental game’ for me.  Even though I put in some hours with my training, I was overwhelmed with a sensation that I don’t often experience (truly).

I was intimidated.

There were some stellar athletes there with incredible form and countless hours & races they had up on me.  I showed up with a fresh out-of-the-box helmet and a rented (and quite nice) bike.  But I remembered the advice of a good buddy a mine who’s a former marine (although they’d say there’s no such thing) – he said it came from some sort of British saying: “Stay Calm and Carry On.”

And that’s just what I did…

  • as I was killing myself in the pool
  • when I was grinding my way up those hills
  • and even after I saw a 60+ year-old athlete pass me by (this guy was in incredible shape – a true inspiration)

Crossing the Finish Line

I stayed calm and carried on.


I’m glad I did.  Cause even though it wasn’t a ‘pretty’ race for me, I can say three big things:

  1. I finished the race
  2. I fully intend on getting a BETTER time in my next race
  3. I can now say that I am a triathlete – a rookie, but a triathlete nonetheless

Just need to stay calm and carry on.

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Music…Sweet Music.

Whenever I think of chamber music, I think of Haydn, Beethoven or Mozart – beautiful stuff, but something I *really* have to be in the mood for.  Don’t get me wrong – their compositions have everything I look for in music: passion, depth and that element of surprise.  But you’ll be hard-pressed to find me say something like, “Hey, the Dallas Symphony is going to have a chamber music series this year – we should check it out!” It’s just not my vibe.

Nay Nay.

Then I ran across Project Trio.

Three guys from Brooklyn that bill themselves as “passionate, high energy chamber music ensemble.”  Since one of the guys is a Dallas native…AND…since we spent a little over seven years in Cobble Hill (yes, Brooklyn), I thought I’d give em’ a look see.

Aside from the obvious, here’s why I like em’…

  • They’ve taken their music to a whole new type of audience – the kind people that can jam with and appreciate the street musicians in New York City.
  • They’ve introduced chamber music by serving their own brand of jelly to the masses.
  • They look like the blue man group jamming when they play – especially in this video.

Moreover, their music has hit me on a personal level.  And, quite honestly, isn’t that what we want music to do?

Here’s the Thing: Business communications can do just that. Just because you sell supplemental insurance, it doesn’t mean that you have to ‘sell’ supplemental insurance.  Look at what AFLAC has done with that darn duck…what Nike does by just doing it…jeez, looks at what Apple does with……just about everything.

They’ve reached new audiences, introduced new ways of looking at their products and created an identity that is hard to forget…all because they realized that it’s not a product that they’re selling – it’s a brand.  A brand that has a sense of humor, runs, jumps & jives. A brand that represents companies full of humans – not products.

Let’s face it communicators: at the end of the day, we don’t really have to help our clients become an American Idol for the masses.  Our job is to help them deliver a great song for their audiences.

What kind of music are you making today?


This concoction was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy & smart Shonali Burke.

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Project Runway has got to be one of the most fun and watchable shows on television right now. 
Not only because the show puts designers in the throes of creating 1-3 looks within an obscenely short amount of time, but also because the producers have been incredibly smart about highlighting the drama that happens behind the scenes of the competition.  

But beyond that, I love the Project runway show for 3 big reasons:

  1. It gives people a much better appreciation on the amount of work that artisans (yes, artisans) put into creating something from scratch
  2. It can be the best portfolio any artist would want
  3. It can be a designers worst nightmare


It really begins to heat up at the 1:47 mark – it’s like a feeding frenzy of nasty little fish.


For the sake of my title, I’m going to focus on the last point.  Because it truly astounds me how the designers of this season’s show seem to have a total disregard for the cameras right in front of them.  This is not to say that I want the cast members to censor themselves – NAY NAY!  I just think that when you show a level of comfort in your cattiness on-camera, it makes one wonder how very nasty you can be off-camera.  You’ve given me a reason to not trust you – to watch my back and keep my guard up around you.


There’s one ‘designer’ (if you watch the show, you know who this person is) on the show who does nothing but make people uneasy, nervous and anxious.  And, as an artist, you CANNOT be your best when you’re playing defense.  You play it safe and tread water to stay alive. 


You forget that you actually know how to swim.


Just like the design room in Project Runway, any business environment will suffocate with this kind of poison in the mix.  People hate work, avoid teamwork and actively look for other employment.  And if you’re the person polluting the waters, you have to realize that (with or without cameras) word gets out about your behavior.  And you will get jacked!


Like it or lump it, karma has cameras everywhere.  And if you’re part of the problem instead of the solution, those karma cameras will be your worst enemy.


How clean is your karma pool?  When you have some ‘poison’ at work, what do you to survive?

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This past week, I gave a presentation to the Dallas IREM group about the importance of giving the implementation of social networking a second look.  Before I set foot at the place, I knew that the crowd I was going to speak with would be


  • a bit more conservative

  • a bit more skiddish about getting involved with social networking

  • a bit more unaware (than the ‘average bear’) on how this tool can potentially help them

  • a bit older than the average audience I’m used to speaking with

But I knew that they’d be open to hearing me out and taking notes……cautiously. 


So, I did what I knew: I told them that one of the best ways to tap into social media could be done by channeling Jimi Hendrix (you can see a copy of the unanimated version here).


At first glance, you’d think I was crazy for trying to do such a thing for this kind of audience.  Quite frankly, it got me a little nervous presenting this information in that kind of way.  But my experience and instincts told me 3 things:

  1. Music is a great way to help the social networking medicine go down.

  2. Using Jimi Hendrix as an example would get ME revved up.

  3. Using Jimi Hendrix would (hopefully) get THE AUDIENCE revved up.


And it paid off: not only was the audience engaged, but they really began to grasp what I was telling em.’  Go figure. 


So what does this all mean for you?  Whether you’re writing materials for a new client, gearing up for a new business pitch or hammering out some facts for a presentation to your peers…


Know Your Audience: the fact that they were there to hear some dude talk about social media points to the obvious fact that they are at least curious about it; so there’s room for being a little ‘different.’  I also knew that I was going to be part of one of the last presenters for the day, so I had to punch up the presentation.  Given the fact that the audience was a bit older, I bet on the idea that they would not only know who Jimi Hendrix was, but (at the very least, even if they didn’t like his music) that there was a certain amount f respect for what he did.


Know What Works For You: the idea of presenting to an audience about how his music inspired me  to think a little differently in business got me excited – this led to an energy and enthusiasm to ‘get it right’ in a way that naturally seeped into the slides.  I wasn’t going to talk analytics or measurement (Shonali Burke, Chuck Hemann, K.D. Paine or Don Bartholomew would be better suited for that) – I was going to hone in on showing the value of a person using ‘their own swing’ when they go up to bat in social networking.


Know Your Stuff: as you get ready to speak with a client; present an idea to your peers; or talk about why you believe why using something like Foursquare may be just the ticket for an event, you want to have some back-up right?  Because people are going to ask questions.  Why do you think this will benefit us?  How are other organizations using this?  Do you have any stats or research to back this up?


Because at the end of the day, you don’t have to be a rock star like Jimi Hendrix to have that kind of influence – even if it’s on a ‘small’ scale.


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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