This Week’s Miles

Since my GPS on my phone gets a little wonky in downtown New Orleans, I figured I’d keep a running total here.

Here’s how the week started out:

Sunday

Father’s Day included a nice, long ride that was definitely the furthest I’ve done in a while.

Father's Day Ride

Total: 28 miles


Monday

I rode my bike to the bus stop and from the bus stop to work. Distance: 2 miles

Total: 2 miles


Grand Total: 30

Musings

Welcome, dear reader, to what will certainly be a self-indulgent span of writing online. I write with a great deal of intent on sites like P3Inbound.com, MichaelWRoberts.com, and more to come, but this site… this site will not have an agenda.

Bail out now to avoid random musings.


While I’m certainly fond of social media, I approach with too much of a strategic mindset. I’m in marketing, after all, so it’s my job to look for ways to make the most of these platforms.

It becomes a bit exhausting after a while to consume and create media / messaging that always have a strict purpose: whether it’s getting someone to your business, getting someone to buy something, pay attention to something, or whatever else the goal may be.

Sometimes, it’s nice to just talk.


When I’m actually in a conversation with someone (face to face, I mean), I run out of things to say fairly quickly. It’s not that I’m trying to be rude. I just don’t have anything else to put into the conversation at the moment.

Later on, of course, I’ll think of a slew of topics that would have been quite relevant.

This works out well enough if the other person is a talker. I’m content with listening — especially since I ran out of things to say. And I do enjoy learning about other people.


New Orleans is a fabulous city for people watching. You certainly can’t look at it as an accurate representation of all of humanity or even all of the United States. It doesn’t even represent all of Louisiana. Baton Rouge would probably be a closer example.

New Orleans is a character all on its own — for better or for worse.

NOLA the Beautiful

Talking about your hometown is a funny thing. People will complain about various aspects of the city here but go online or talk about it anywhere else and have nothing but positive things to say about it. I suppose that’s true of a lot of places, but it’s humorous how much people love this city (when they’re not here).

They love it here, too, of course. But there’s this need to present ourselves to the rest of the world in a way that shows how the city has recovered since Katrina. I wasn’t here during the storm, so I can’t lay claim to veteran status the way others can. But still, there’s a real sense of community, of really belonging to a place here that’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been. (I’ve not been to New York, so I can’t make the comparison.)

Just Keep Your Business Site Updated, Please!

As a way to make sure that I continue to work on larger posts, I will occasionally use this blog to test out segments of new content. Yeah, it’s kind of a cheat, but at least I’m still writing!

small town business
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When looking at all of the ways that a small business owner could invest her time in trying to market a new business, it can quickly become overwhelming. Where should she start? For today, let’s keep it simple.

Keep Your Dates and Your Address Current Online

Depending on how your website is set up, you may or may not have access to update the content or the code yourself.

If you’re of the DIY mindset, it might be worth your time and finances to get the site moved over to a content management system (CMS) to allow the freedom of updating your content whenever you’d like. If you’d much rather not mess with coding or content creation yourself, then you’ll want to have someone on hand who can help with the basics. Minor updates require much less skill than customized programming.

However you’re able to maintain your website, the first thing you’ll need to do is check your content. Of course, if you see any grammar errors, please correct them. The main thing we’re looking for right now is that your content is current. Outdated content on your website reeks of neglect for both your business practices and your customers’ needs. The perception of disinterest only gets worse depending on how outdated your content is. If you forgot to pull yesterday’s event down, then we understand. If you still have last year’s holiday sale info up, then we’re going to know that you checked out some time ago.

But dates aren’t the only thing that the savvy small-business-owner is looking for.

What about your business address? Your phone number? Are those current?

If you’ve moved your business in the last year, you may have missed this info. Even if you haven’t moved in a while, you still need to check to make sure your listing is correct. How heartbreaking it would be to have your phone number off by a single digit and miss all of those opportunities for connecting with your customers?

Are all of your locations listed? If you have only one, this is a pretty simple question. But, you may have a handful of locations in town, and they may not all be represented on your site. Don’t miss out on these easy opportunities to send new business to your locations.

The above suggestions may sound completely obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people get this primary step wrong. People are just busy, and we tend to ignore problems that aren’t obvious and in our faces.

I can’t say it enough. Getting your name, address, and phone number (your “NAP,” as local SEOs call it) correct on your website is of utmost importance for your success both online and off.

Spread Too Thin

Boy, I struggle with this one.

The quantity over quality argument seems to have lost in the business world in so many ways, yet I keep wanting to start another project. If we can just keep as many juggling balls up in the air at once, then we’ll be fine. Right?

toy cars
Photo Credit: @Doug88888 via Compfight cc

If you’re a Walmart or Amazon or some large company, then this might work. There are plenty of companies that can thrive on this mentality, but smaller companies cannot. It’s a battle that the little guy (or lady) is designed not to win. There simply aren’t enough resources to cast at the competition in order to keep up, much less win.

The small company, the solo entrepreneur, the underfunded nonprofit… whichever of these titles apply, these folks have to go in-depth in the field that they can truly excel. It’s not enough to put out something equivalent to the competition. It has to be better. More personal. More customized. Bigger. Smaller. Whatever advantage David has against Goliath, he has to use to his fullest advantage. (Worked out pretty well the first time around!)

How will you excel against the giants?

Saying Goodbye

The closing of this year has brought on more goodbyes than previous years. People moving. People dealing with job transitions.

Life is changing for several people.

Life is not over. We still have the opportunity to connect, online or in person depending on the circumstances. All is not lost, but it is different.

In this time, it’s a perfect moment for gratitude for the relationships that provide us strength. Spend a little extra time with these people (whether they are here or afar). Tell them how much you appreciate them. Celebrate their impact.

Now is the time.

hold hands
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For Every Action…

How often do you find your plans completely changed in response to something else that has happened? I’m not talking about something as simple as taking the state highway home instead of the interstate because of an accident. I’m talking about a major financial decision or an entirely new direction for your career or the amount of time you’ll choose to spend with your family and friends.

Are you choosing your course, or are you reacting to your course?

We all know that there are some events in life that require that we react. You can’t just ignore what’s going on around you.

pushing a vehicle

Photo Credit: __MaRiNa__ via Compfight cc

But there are other times when we jump to something new because the old way was getting too hard or that one circumstance became the proverbial straw that had it out for camels’ spines.

The real trick of it all is discerning when to stay the course and when to jump ship. The “fail fast” mantra has picked up quite a bit of steam over the years (Facebook’s Zuckerberg is a notable proponent), and I like the intent behind it. Go hard at a new idea and see if it’s worth keeping. If it falls apart, that’s okay. Better to have explored it fully and move on than simply let something languish.

The other side of this mantra is the idea that is working. It may not have paid dividends yet. The ROI may not look good on your reports yet, but there’s something there — something worth the fight.

And then the hardships come. (Remember, life’s more like serialized storytelling than a movie.) Something will come along to knock you on your backside, and you have to make the decision whether to keep going or not.

No one can tell you whether or not you should continue on your way. Sure, plenty will try, but you’re the one that has to make the decision as to whether or not this idea is worth all the trouble.

You act, or you react. Whichever is most appropriate.

You decide.

The point of all this is that you are responsible for what happens next. You have the power to choose. You may not have chosen what came before, or it all may have gone to plan perfectly. In this moment of decision, none of that matters. You have to decide what’s next.

It’s the type of moment that you see in ancient scriptures. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

It’s the choice to fight for freedom like Nelson Mandela.

It’s not an easy decision, but it’s yours to make.

Life’s Not Like the Movies

Big surprise, right?

I’m investing my consuming time in serialized storytelling again after reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. Towards the end, he talks about the artist doesn’t just create that one piece that makes her famous forever. The artist keeps on, day after day.

journey
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It’s the journey. I’m a part of a community that has already been trying to get that into my head, but I was ready to hear it (again) this time.

I’ve been a bigger fan of movies in the past for the exact reason that they have a tidy ending. They conclude. They might confound you or frustrate you or leave you satisfied, but there’s always a spot where the story comes to a close. (Sequels notwithstanding…)

But TV, comic books, serialized novels… these stories just keep going and going. For years, artists continue to contribute engaging characters and fascinating settings. We plug in to these things again and again to the point where they almost become real.

And they don’t have a tidy ending. Just when the characters finally seem settled at the end of the season, something has to go terribly wrong to get us anxiously waiting for the next season.

There’s conflict that continues. Even if one issue has been settled, the next one is just around the corner.

Kinda like… real life.

Watching too many stories with nice, tidy finales can cause you to expect life to turn out the same way. If only this or that issue would finally settle down, then we could be happy. Right?

But no, that’s not life. That’s not serialized storytelling. That’s not the ongoing journey that we are living.

I’m not swearing off movies forever, but I’m ready to re-align my perceptions a bit more.

Starting a New Year

The funny thing about starting a new year is how many new habits sound attractive. They all seem like such a great ideas. “I could be such a great [fill in your blank here] in 2014!”

There Is No Progress If You Don't Start And then time comes to get the project done, and something else is already in the way. Maybe not on January 1st or even January 17th… but on the 18th, ooh boy. Those excuses start sounding really good.

I’m going to write. Probably more about small businesses since that’s where my work’s been over the past couple of years.

What about you? What sounds good for 2014?

Image courtesy of workisnotajob.

Evergreen: Content, Ideas, and Ways of Living that Continue to Appeal

In content marketing, website owners decide to communicate with their audiences a few different ways, but “evergreen” content and the news are two especially popular methods.

You’re already quite familiar with the news, of course. Each industry, genre, niche, and group has its own set of news that keeps its participants occupied, and rightfully so. The world is changing at astonishing speed these days, and you can’t afford to not pay attention. (Yes, I realize that’s a double negative. That’s how important it is to keep up.) Whether you’re keeping up with world news or your industry news, you need to be aware.

The other side of the coin is evergreen content. It’s the type of material that will continue to be relevant even after the latest Google development or celebrity divorce or whatever else is incredibly important has blown over. This is the stuff like “the beginner’s guides to deep-frying pizza,” or slightly more relevant versions to your particular niche. If you read it today or three weeks from now, it will still matter.

evergreen
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For the evergreen content that performs well in terms of pageviews, site owners will continue to drop in updates over the coming months to make the material continually relevant.

Both types of content are hard. Evergreen requires a significant amount of research upfront and ongoing maintenance.

But, the news is expensive. Consider the beat reporter who’s getting ready to go out for the night when a major story breaks. If he wants to keep his job, he’ll get on it right away and forget any socializing. Or perhaps, consider the cost of keeping up with all of the product reviews that need to be completed. Even if a reporter knows she’ll be reimbursed, that could be a lot of cost upfront.

It’s not that evergreen content is free. Time and money have to go in to researching the subject matter, but – when done right – the longterm benefits pay off for new sources of business and accompanying clout in the industry.

The news has value, but it’s continually on the line. News venues can drop from grace at any moment.

Now, Expand the Concept to the Rest of Life

This is the Christmas season, after all, and shopping is in full effect at the moment. What should our money go to? The newest, shiniest item on the shelf? The item with the highest average review score? Or, is the item that we already have at home the evergreen that does not require further investment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve already spent money this holiday season – both on gifts and on some deals for myself that were too good to pass up. But this thought has been on my mind a lot the last few days. Am I just spending because I can, or am I picking up something of lasting value?

I get that true lasting value doesn’t come from stuff. I really do. I also know that I’ve been caught up in good deals to the point that I ended up with junk I didn’t want to keep for a moment longer than I had to in order to save face.

This really isn’t a rant on commercialism because the idea goes beyond stuff. It filters down to relationships, too. Are we building value in our friendships or just doing enough to keep our Facebook count high? Sometimes building longterm value means having hard conversations and challenging the status quo in order to get to a healthier place further down the road. Are we willing to take those risks? I’m not always willing. I want to be a good enough friend, but sometimes it’s just so easy to play it safe.

Evergreen. It takes work. It’s not a set it and forget it kind of life, but the investments are worth it.

What do you think?

The Opposite of Keeping Your Head Down

What would the opposite of keeping your head down be? Keeping your head up? Seems to have a different connotation.

Keeping your head down is what you do when you want to hide from whatever consequences may be lurking out there. In a professional environment, that means making sure that the boss doesn’t notice you too much – enough to know that you’re getting stuff done but not enough to see that you might think differently than others in your company. Having original ideas only leads to more work or perhaps even having to defend your position!

Depending on your work environment, the idea of hiding may be more or less appealing, but the responsibility does not rest solely on the environment. You have the choice where you’re at to stand out with a new idea. Surely you have an idea of how something could be better at your job.

The real question is whether or not it’s worth the cost of standing up. Are you willing to take a chance to contribute your ideas?

We Need the Real YouPhoto Credit: Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/ via Compfight cc

Picking the Right Fight

It’s not enough to be contrarian. People get tired of someone who disagrees simply for kicks. Instead of just saying that something won’t work, you have to be ready with a possible solution.

And, of course, there’s a way to go about disagreeing and suggesting that will make your audience much more receptive, but that’s a topic for another day.

No Going Back

Here’s the tricky part of standing up for something. People don’t forget that you tried something new. You might sometimes hope that a bad idea will fade from the team’s collective memory, but people will remember that you volunteered new information. You’ll be an “ideas” person.

What if someone disagrees with you idea? Then you’ll have to stand by your suggestion.

The discourse may help to reveal ways that your idea can be improved. Or, maybe the discussion will only serve as a test to strengthen your mettle.

But it’s worth it. The risks. The disagreements. They’re worth the opportunity to stand up and make yourself heard. Because you have ideas that will help those around you, you should be a part of the discussion. You should offer that piece of insight that only you possess.

We need you.

The Big Picture and the Immediate Workload

man looking forwardI’m a big-picture kind of guy. I love looking for ways to make a more a coherent whole out of unrelated ideas and plans, but sometimes…

Sometimes the work starts piling up too high for strategy to come back in.
Sometimes the stuff that pays the bills just needs to get out the door for more strategy at another time.
Sometimes the workload starts to clutter up too much to allow room for holistic thinking.

It’s a really delicate balance, and I definitely err on the side of wanting to spend more time dreaming and planning. But if the essentials aren’t complete, those plans begin to fall apart pretty quickly.

Cover the bases. Get the essential done.

THEN

Shoot for the stars.

Getting Back to Trust

High reliability means you do what you say you will do, often. If that doesn’t seem rare to you, you clearly have never worked on the Internet.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book The Impact Equation has been a good read, but that short passage above stopped me in my tracks. I realized I’m not reliable… not reliable enough. Sure, I mostly do what I say I’ll do. I don’t leave people hanging if there’s a meeting or if I was supposed to send you something.

lack of trust
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But in my blogging… in my “online presence”, it’s been a series of bold proclamations of how I would claim the internet for God and country. And then, I drift off. Again.

Keeping up with an idea when people don’t immediately rally around it, or when you don’t get paid buckets of money for it, can be very difficult. It takes real commitment – not just to some goal set forth in a series of proclamations, but a commitment to the community you serve.

I don’t have a steady community that I serve. I’ve been too on-again off-again for that to work.

All of that to say, it’s time to change that.

And no, not with a series of bold proclamations. (I learned this time.)

This time, it’s with a simple list. A list that I can maintain here on this website that will be a present view of what I’m doing and I’m working on. It may not interest you, and that’s okay. It’s only kinda for you.

It’s really just a way of keeping myself honest. Making myself more trustworthy once again.

Trustworthy by taking time to consider each commitment. Taking time to decide when to stop something – not just because I’m tired but because the idea just doesn’t work anymore.

That’s what I’m shooting for.

If you have any thoughts on trust, I’d love to hear about ‘em in the comments below.

A Mess and a Playlist

I’ve done a lot of work recently in shifting around some blog content between sites in order to create a more streamlined experience. An old science fiction blog I had is gone, and I’ve pulled over a lot of writing about creativity and a whole host of odd topics onto this domain.

And this is sort of what it feels like:

messy room
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A big mess.

But, what I’ve always liked about this particular domain is that I created it with the intention of having a playground or a sandbox or whatever you choose to call it where I could just test things. If I wanted to try a new bit of code I learned from another blog, then this was the place to go. And there are random subdomains and subdirectories lurking in the digital shadows of this site where different ideas have come and gone.

The biggest advantage of this site at the moment is that it provides a wonderful study for some Analytics data. Since I have no major goals for this particular piece of web real estate, I can show off the numbers without embarrassment. Of course there isn’t tons and tons of traffic to this site. It’s just a testing ground.

Anyway, I do plan to post some (hopefully) interesting odds and ends through the next several months — if for no other reason than to have new Analytics data.

The Playlist

I’ve shown you the mess, and now I’ll end with the playlist. I listen to music all day. It helps me focus in a couple of ways. One, it can help reduce the background noise of the office. Two, it helps focus my mind down to one task at a time.

With that need for focus, songs with lots of lyrics don’t help me. I love listening to all kinds of music, but lyrics are increasingly distracting. So, I’m trying more instrumental music. The trick is finding stuff that won’t put me to sleep. I enjoy Max Richter’s work, but his stuff can relax me to the point of drifting off.

Nowadays, I’m listening to bands like Joy Wants Eternity, God Is an Astronaut, and So I Watch You from Afar. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think. (If the embed doesn’t show up, listen on Grooveshark.)

Writing by Michael Roberts on Grooveshark

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity

Every once in a while, you come across a book that’s just disruptive. You can’t skim through that particular book and walk away unchanged. That’s how More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger was for me.

More or Less by Jeff ShinabargerIt’s the type of book that challenges your presumptions about what it means to have “enough.” In fact, the word “enough” becomes a major focus of the book. What is enough money, enough time, enough stuff… enough, enough enough.

There are plenty of sobering facts in the book. Take, for example, the fact that my family is in the top 3 percent of the richest people in the world. “That can’t be right,” I think. “I drive a minivan, not a Ferrari.”

But, I have a vehicle to drive. That’s how far off my perception is. Just having a vehicle makes me incredibly wealthy in terms of the world’s population. Having a job makes me wealthy. A place to live. And on and on.

It’s Not About Feeling Guilty

This book isn’t a guilt trip, though. It’s about recognizing what we have so that we can feel free in our giving. I have stuff just sitting around my house that I’m not even using, and I could give it away. It may be unimportant to me, but it would matter to someone else.

There’s the whole saying about one man’s junk and another’s treasure, but Shinabarger and a number of other creative individuals have found a way to make that statement even truer. GiftCardGiver is a charity that runs on the donation of gift cards. We’re not talking about brand new gift cards with $50 or $100 on them. We’re talking about cards that have been used and still have a little bit of cash on them.

I mean, really, who’s going to use that last $5.48 on an Applebee’s card or $7 on a Home Depot card? By donating those cards to the website, the organization can put that money to use.

And the examples go on and on. There’s an organization that uses discarded billboard signs (the vinyl signs) and re-purposes the material to make it into bags and wallets. Another organization uses discarded soap from hotel rooms, melts them down, and reforms them for citizens in Africa who do not have regular access to proper sanitation.

These ideas are great on a big, global scale, but we have the opportunity to make a difference on a personal level in our own communities, as well.

I’m excited about using the excess in my life to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Making a Difference: More Rules or More Inspiration?

Rules or Inspiration

In the wake of terrible tragedies, the United States is faced with difficult decisions in the rules that it makes. The government must balance the personal freedoms of its people with the desperate need for safety.

To say it’s a heated conversation is vastly understating the issue.

And why wouldn’t it be heated? We’re all very interested in the rules we have to abide by. There are consequences to breaking those rules, after all.

I’m not against government or against the need for rules, but our rules are in place so that we can overcome the worst parts of ourselves. Inherently, there’s a very negative focus to statements like “don’t kill” and “don’t steal.” The rules are forced to admit that humanity has a terrible tendency to take things, whether goods or life itself, from our neighbors.

Rules are necessary.

Inspiration

On the other end of the spectrum is inspiration. Inspiration is what helps us to achieve the best of what humanity can be. We can reach the moon. We can end wars. We can create beautiful art. We can find peace within ourselves and with one another.

Inspiration also provides us another opportunity. You can have a say in the world, a chance to influence how people behave, by creating inspiration. Not all of us want to become elected officials. We don’t want to be the rulemakers or the rule-enforcers. We’re glad the structures exist (even if we’d like to see them change to one degree or another), but our toolkit differs highly from that of a politician’s.

We use art. We use motivational writing. We use spirituality. There are lots of ways that we can press towards finding the best in what we can offer the world.

We, as a species, are better fed and wealthier than we’ve ever been. Our quality of life on the whole is statistically better than it’s been in any point in history, yet people are struggling for purpose. They are desperate for meaning in this life. They are desperate for hope.

Rules are necessary, but they are only a part of the human experience.

It’s Possible to Be a Rule-Maker and an Inspirer

But it’s tough. I think we can look back at history and find people that were courageous enough to change the rules in order to do what’s right. These people fought the wars and the personal battles to effect change, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

The good news is that we don’t have to be martyrs in order to make the world a better place.

We Can Choose to be Sources of Inspiration Daily

Being a source of light in the world is a much simpler (though it’s not always easy) decision. We can be the optimists in rooms full of pessimists. We can be the artists when others would default to blander options. We can be the ones who stop to talk in a society full of people who are too busy.

We have the choice. We have the chance.

APE by Guy Kawasaki: An Exahustive Self-Publishing Guide

APE by Guy KawasakiIf you’re interested in self-publishing, or if you have a book on Amazon or any of the other ebook retailers that you’re not quite happy with, then you need to check out APE: How to Publish a Book (affiliate link) by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. It’s easily the most info-packed book on self-publishing I’ve ever read. (Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book.)

What’s with the “APE” bit of the title? APE stands for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, and self-publishers really need to be able to be all three parts of the equation. If they can’t? Well, Kawasaki and Welch took that into account, as well, and provided a ton of resources that hopeful APEs can use.

Kawasaki’s Journey

First off, let me say that I have immense respect for Guy Kawasaki. I started reading his posts on Google+, found his book What the Plus!, and recently read Enchantment (a modern-day version of How to Win Friends and Influence People). I’ve found Kawasaki’s work to be incredibly useful when it comes to understanding marketing in the era of social media. The author understands the delicate balance between creating community and drawing a return on the investment.

Guy KawasakiAPE came about because of Kawasaki’s journey through self-publishing with What the Plus!. Kawasaki had already authored several books by the time that his book on Google+ came out, but he had never self-published before. The process was much more difficult than he expected.

Fiction Vs. Non-fiction

In terms of building audience support and taking the time to create quality material, fiction and non-fiction are similar in degrees of difficulty. In translating those manuscripts into finished ebooks, the difference is far more pronounced. With fiction, you can pretty well use a Microsoft Word document and just export it into a Kindle format without much loss of formatting.

Shawn WelchBut with non-fiction, you have numbered lists, charts, and images. You have elements that need to be left- or right-aligned on a page in order for the content to work. You can set up that information inside Word, but you cannot easily export it into ebook format.

This is where APE comes in handy. Co-author Shawn Welch has a ton of experience in working with formatting ebooks, and the author team has a very thorough guide on how to set up an Adobe InDesign file to properly format an imported Word document. While Adobe products are quite costly, the authors also provide info about Adobe’s new monthly program where you can download just the product you need for a monthly fee and discontinue the option when you no longer need it.

Author / Publisher / Entrepreneur

I suspect that different parts of the audience for this book will find certain sections the most useful. For me, someone who has played around in the self-publishing field, the “Publisher” portion of the book was extremely helpful. In fact, this was one of the few books that I’ve read recently where I actually had a pen and paper with me so that I could take notes.

I’ve read quite a few books on writing, so the “Author” portion of the book was fairly in terms of tips. Kawasaki’s method of soliciting feedback is especially interesting (a sort of open-source system combined with employing traditional editors), and the author team listed online resources I had not heard of before or made much use of. (I think I’ll be posting content to Wattpad this week to see what the community is like there.)

The “Entrepreneur” section was also fairly familiar, but only because I’ve read so much of Kawasaki’s work recently.

In the intro to the book, Kawasaki states that he wants this book to be as useful to self-publishers as The Chicago Manual of Style is for writers everywhere. I, for one, will certainly keep this book handy as I work on new self-publishing efforts.

Pacific Rim: Don’t You Just Love Viral Marketing Campaigns?

I love that marketing has changed in the past decade. Specifically, I love the way that a few movies choose to promote themselves in ways that entice viewers to uncover more instead of just blasting audiences with the same TV ad again and again.

The latest example? Pacific Rim, the next movie from director Guillermo del Toro.

Take a look.

As of right now, I don’t know a whole lot about the movie, but I’m definitely interested in knowing more. (The synopsis on IMDB reads, “When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.”)

Viral Marketing Campaigns form the Past

While The Blair Witch Project is probably the most famous example of viral marketing for movies, Cloverfield, The Dark Knight Rises, and District 9 all had some pretty impressive campaigns, as well. What makes it so fun is that viewers get the opportunity to start enjoying the world of the story right away.

The other aspect that rocks is that this form of marketing doesn’t require gargantuan Hollywood budgets to make it work. While Pacific Rim and The Dark Knight Rises both have / had some pretty impressive dollars behind the project, the other examples I mentioned had very small budgets in movie-making terms. It will probably be nearly impossible to re-capture the full effectiveness that The Blair Witch campaign had (kind of a War of the Worlds moment there), but viewers really enjoy the opportunity to hunt down clues and learn more about the story.

Can you think of any other viral campaigns that were really outstanding?

Writing: Any Time, Any Place

Composition book

I’m a tech junkie through and through. Practically half of my Christmas wish list this year is either shiny new gadgets or accessories for my current devices.

Travel is always an interesting chance to reflect on how much we actually need all of our devices. Shuffling through airports and sitting on planes seem like the perfect testing ground for all of this stuff since we’re constantly stowing, turning off, and lugging it all around. I found myself with my devices close at hand but unable to turn them back on as we waited for takeoff or landing, so I had to occupy my time with something else.

And in those in-between moments where tech is unavailable or inappropriate, it’s interesting to see which old school tools rise to the occasion.

For me? A notebook.

My Ideal Writing Space

I have this ideal scenario where I’m either sitting in a coffeeshop or in my office with a nice hot cup of coffee and music playing in the background. There’s nothing but my coffee and my concentration on the story taking shape in front of me on the computer screen.

Reality rarely delivers that ideal space. Whether it’s the noises of people around me or it’s simply a lack of coffee, there are countless barriers that stand in the way of reaching that exactly right moment. And, let’s face it, that’s life. If we can only create in our definition of a perfect environment, then we’ll never accomplish anything.

Sitting on a plane, with loads of other people nearby (and not a drop of coffee!), I hacked away at a piece of fiction in my little composition book. It wasn’t my best writing ever. Heck, it was barely legible at times, but it was progress.

I’m all for creating polished pieces of art that we can share with the world, but the first draft is not the place to be perfect, anyway. Creating is messy business that’s highly inefficient. We have to throw out everything that doesn’t work, so we might as well go all out with our efforts.

As we begin this week, I urge you to find a way to create. Old school or high tech, it doesn’t matter. Just do it. Don’t wait for the perfect moment but go for the one you have available right now.

Meet the Sound Taxi

Sound Taxi

For a bit of creativity on display, let’s take a look at the Sound Taxi from designer Yuri Suzuki. The Sound Taxi, a promotional piece from AIAIAI for new headphones, is a traditional London taxi with 67 speakers installed into the body of the car. So, you could probably say it’s a bit less traditional once the creative team made the upgrades.

The Sound Taxi Schematics

The speakers are only a part of the story. It’s the microphone sitting atop the car that gives the speaker system the music to play. The sound system makes use of existing city sounds by dividing it up into 25 frequency bands. The bands are then fed into Ableton Live where they are used to cue up various tracks. On the official site for “Make the City Better,” the system is described as follows.

“For example a low rumble starts a bass line or loud hiss would trigger some hi hats, with the loudness of that noise controlling the loudness of the music. The music generated matches the dynamics of the street, the sounds will change and evolve as you drive in different parts of the city.”

Take a look at the video below to see the sound taxi in action.

AIAIAI Presents the Sound Taxi from AIAIAI on Vimeo.

10 Top Quotes on The Value of Innovation

Innovation Quotes

Merriam-Webster defines the word “innovation” in two ways.

  1. the introduction of something new
  2. a new idea, method, or device

The word can either refer to the process of coming up with something new, or it can refer specifically to the final product. It is creation, or it is completion.

I like the idea of innovation referring to a completed process. It implies the intersection of creativity and the hard work necessary to see an idea through to the end. Sometimes, only a small portion of the creative process is in the idea-generation phase. It’s the building of the idea, the “figuring out” how to actually create what came at a moment of inspiration that truly defines the value of the completed item.

With the definition in mind, let’s take a look at ten top quotes on innovation.


“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

– William Pollard

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

– Steve Jobs

“I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

– Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

– Theodore Levitt

“Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn’t work, and it takes confidence to say we haven’t failed yet.”

– Clayton Christensen

“From 30,000 feet, creating looks like art. From ground level, it’s a to-do list.”

-– Ben Arment

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

– Ray Bradbury

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”

– Bill Gates

“The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

– Thomas Watson, (IBM founder)

“Innovation— any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

– Warren Bennis


If you liked these quotes, be sure to check out 10 quotes on Freedom and Creativity.

Feature Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk