Are all these words worth your time?

My wife, Chris, asked me this morning if I thought my blog posts were a little too long. That, of course, was a nice, indirect way of saying, “Your blog posts are too long.”

There was a legendary ad man named Howard Gossage who had a saying, “People read what interests them. And sometimes, it’s an ad.” These days, sometimes, it’s a blog.

So far, with each post, I’ve written what felt right. I go back, read it, then re-read it again and before I hit that publish button, I read it one more time, doing my best to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, grammatical errors (I’m sure my punctuation isn’t always perfect) and that the whole thing flows and makes some sort of sense, at least to me.

Now maybe this post is already too long and I’ve taken up too much of your valuable time. If so, you might want to bail now. If you’re still reading this particular sentence, thanks! Please stick with me for about ten more then I promise I’ll wrap this up. (Funny how all these words get in the way of your message, isn’t it?) I like to think of myself as an aspiring Bill McLellan-to-be. For those who may not know, he’s a columnist for the Post-Dispatch who writes about any and all things and manages to make it all interesting, no matter what story he may be covering. He has a unique point-of-view and a magnificent way with words.

Hopefully, my point-of-view is at least interesting though it may not be unique and my ability to use the English language to make you think or smile or actually inform you of something will be enough to bring you back for more. I sure hope so. But I guess I’ve already said enough. After all, I don’t want to waste your time.

And once again, this post is probably too long.

It’s the most unproductive day of the year to be productive!

We’re about to put a wrap on 2011 and for those of you who will actually be showing up for work tomorrow, this is your big chance.

Odds are good you’re part of a skeleton crew as everyone is using up those final vacation days. So there’s no one there to look over your shoulder, probably no frantic deadlines to meet and even if you meet them, your work may still go unnoticed until Tuesday arrives and the work world resumes.

But look at it this way. With no one hoarding over you, it’s your time to shine. Time to push the envelope a bit, time when you can really, truly, get some quality work done.

Will you do it? Will you set your mind to it while knowing that many of your fellow workers are enjoying the 50-degree plus weather here in St. Louis? Some may even be getting in that December round of golf. And there you sit at your desk, waiting for the powers that be to call an early afternoon dismissal and let’s just start fresh in 2012, right?

Wrong. Attack. Have fun. Make this, the traditional most unproductive day of the year (with the possible exception of the first Thursday of March Madness when billions of dollars of productivity are lost to all the assorted NCAA pools throughout the country), the day that you turn in to your most productive, kick-some-butt and take-no-prisoners day of the year.

Astound yourself. Don’t look at the clock. Turn down the long lunch hour that gets you that much closer to the end of the day and come up with something brilliant or finish off some task that you’ve been waiting to get around to but you’re always just too darned busy to get to it.

You’re probably not going to be that busy tomorrow. So get to work.

And if you’re one of the many who will be enjoying the day off, well, just know that a few of your fellow co-workers just got a jump start on the New Year. Make sure you thank them when you roll in on Monday.

Hyundai for the Holidays? Ho-ho-no.

I’ve got to hand it to Hyundai and whoever their agency is that came up with yet another singing girl dressed in holiday attire to bring me to the point of wanting to throw something really solid at our flat screen just to get her to go away.

Last year, it was some quirky, trendy girl in what seemed to be really tight quarters singing the “Up on the rooftop” song that I always knew was kind of catchy but they managed to really lodge it into my brain by airing it endlessly over about a three-week period.

This year, it’s the same media buy. Heavy, heavy frequency. Seemingly endless rotation with a few roadblocks (where the same commercial runs at the same time on different channels) tossed in just to make sure that we don’t miss this cheery girl in the Christmas cap lip syncing and strumming an oversized white guitar – and maybe I haven’t seen it quite often enough yet – but I think it’s an electric guitar that isn’t plugged in to anything. As if that matters.

She’s singing an original tune this time and has the audacity to rhyme things with Hyundai. The purpose of the commercial is to get you to record your own holiday greetings and post it on Hyundai’s youtube page.

It’s integrated advertising at its best – or possibly, worst – the singer in the spot is Jessica Frech who apparently had a one-hit wonder that generated tons of views so she was snapped up to write and produce her own piece of fabulousness for Hyundai, Sorry, Jessica – you seem bright and cheery but right now, I can hardly wait for the New Year to arrive because I figure the run dates of this particular spot will expire when the year does.

One can only hope. This commercial is so annoyingly memorable it makes me almost like the Lexus commercials where the other half hears that familiar Lexus music in unexpected places which could only mean – we just dropped $40K on a special holiday present. Now that’s thoughtful.

Still, the agencies are only doing their job. I could do “name that tune” on the Lexus commercial music and nail it in probably five notes. As for Hyundai, well, I really can’t remember their theme line or what their last campaign was about. But I do still remember the cheesiness of last year’s holiday spot, equaled only by this year’s version – and they do have me talking about it, now don’t they? The commercials are quirky and off-beat, much like the brand.

Bottom line? Some things make me want to buy. Some things make me want to learn more. Other things just make me long for the commercial break to end.

Final Days! Last call on 2011 words.

As 2011 dwindles down to its final days, I’m going to toss out a few of the more popular words and phrases of the year – some not to be heard from again, others we most certainly will in what is shaping up to be a true hum-dinger of a year in everyone’s projections, including mine.

So if you were looking to Occupy anything other than a restroom, you’ll have to do it soon. The whole Occupy movement – whether it’s Wall Street, St. Louis, San Fran or some European city may soon be nothing more than a blip on the cutural radar. I’ve never quite understood the whole “Occupy” movement in the first place but it has made an impact – Time Magazine named protesters the people of  the year – but I think that’s more in part due to the fact that there really wasn’t anyone noteworthy enough to merit the title on his or her own so they gave it to the protesters. But it wasn’t the Year of the Occupants – that just sounds wrong.

I won’t be talking much about the Royal Wedding, either. Of course, I didn’t talk about it much when it was the talk of the summer or whenever it was – you can tell how in tune I was with the gala event. I do like Kate Middleton, though, and I hope  there isn’t talk of any Royal Divorce in the coming year. They seem like a good couple and I hope they live to a ripe old age together.

Fracking and Fukashima are two more 2011 words that I won’t be tossing around much in 2012. If you haven’t heard of either one, get googling. When used together it sounds like some sort of bizarre sexual ritual but believe me, there is no innuendo involved except perhaps in your mind.

I will bid adieu to Steve Jobs and even with his passing,I believe his name will be around quite a bit in 2012 and his memory will live on long after that. Climate change and Barrack Obama are two other very popular 2011 words and they, too, will receive lots of airplay in the coming year, oftentimes in the same conversation.

Herman Cain vowed in 2011 that he would not go away but somehow, I think he will. And if anyone is still able to decipher his 9-9-9 plan at this time next year, I would be truly amazed.

So those are a few of the more popular words and phrases from 2011. Don’t get too used to the new 4G network, I’m sure a 5G is just around the corner though my droid still seems pretty weak just getting 3Gs. Make sure all your marketing is integrated and remember all your touchpoints as you transcend advertising and move into the experiential mode.

Bring on ’12 and let’s do this thing – oh, wait – that was so yesterday.

The Day After

Christmas has come and gone – at least according to retail stores. Time for the wrath of returns and the search for bargain hunters perusing all the Xmas merchandise that went unsold and now sits in a heap, marked down and waiting to be claimed.

My brother, the Monsignor, reminds me that the Christmas season goes on until January 6 and that everyone who is so eager to take down the tree and disconnect the lights should just chill for a bit, enjoy the season and let the Spirit of Christmas live on in our hearts a little longer.

Of course, today’s media saturated society simply cannot allow that. Sights have already been set on New Year’s Eve and the coming new year. 2012.

Some say we shouldn’t be worried about the future, since civilization as we know it will cease to exist at some point during this calendar year. What the Mayans knew that we don’t know, I’m not quite sure. And if there is an Armageddon on the way, is that going to make people a little more lax with their car and house payments? Will credit debt soar as people figure there’s no reason to worry about paying off long-term debt? Might as well take that vacaction, buy that sports car or move up to that five-bedroom house and do it all now since we’re soon to be toast anyway.

Problem is, that’s probably not going to happen. Just like Y2K was much ado about nothing, 2012 will be similar … in a way. You have the power to make it your own form of remarkable. A lot of determination, forward-thinking and pushing yourself out of your traditional comfort zones can lead to transformational moments in your life. True, many circumstances are beyond your control. But if you take charge and make this coming year the one for your true, breakout moment, great things will happen in 2012.

But that’s a lot for the day after Christmas. For now, maybe you’d be better off just taking a nap.

Give it a rest

So here it is, a Friday night, the eve before Christmas eve and I’m sitting in my new downstairs office, typing away.

How in the world did that ever happen? A Friday night and I’m typing on my blog? My, how times have changed. But I’m not lamenting. Earlier in the day, I gathered with several long-time college buds for a few beers and reminiscing about stories we only tell amongst ourselves. Two guys were in from out of town, another joined us who I haven’t seen in twenty years. Time flies when you’re having fun.

I took the day off today (though I guess right now, I have every day off). But no real work was done. It’s time to move into the Christmas mode, time to be grateful for friends and family and health and the many blessings that have come my way. Not meaning to offend any Jewish readers or atheists out there but Jesus is the reason for the season.

And if He were walking this earth right now, I guess he might be tweeting or posting on a blog or sending his love thy neighbor message to all his facebook followers (press like if you like his page). But there’s a time and a place for everything. And now is not the time or the place to say anything more than, “Merry Christmas!”

I hope you have a great one.

Joy to the work

With it being the holiday season, I thought I’d borrow the “Joy to the World” title and mangle it for my own, personal use. And I’ll ask the simple question, “Are you bringing joy to the work you do?”

Whatever it is, you’ve got to be into it. Doesn’t matter what it is or how long you’ve done it. Somehow, if that job of yours has grown old or stale or it’s so darn routine that you take it for granted, give yourself a whack on the side of the head. Re-discover a new-found appreciation for what you do. You’re good at it, right? Maybe you feel what you do isn’t appreciated the way it should be. Maybe that’s because you haven’t been bringing the joy of work to what you’re doing.

We all have gifts. We all have talents. We need to use them to do good things for others. If you’re not getting joy out of what you do, it’s time you take a look in the mirror and find that inner resolve that jump starts you into attack mode.

Next week is probably the most unproductive week of the year. Many businesses shut down completely and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a good time to re-group, re-assess and when you return for the New Year, bring the joy to what you do on a daily basis. Then build on it.

I love to write. I love to create. I love to do great things for others. Some people may think that right now I don’t have a job. They’re wrong. Though I’m not working full-time, I do have a full-time job – to bring joy to the work. And the people who are working with me now and those that will be working with me in the future will experience the joy and passion for what I do – and we’ll all benefit. Make it the same for you.

I’m failing as fast as I can

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, google him and then, read his blog. Or his books. Or attend one of his seminars. Or webinars. Or whatever other means he has to fill you in on how to not just survive, but thrive in today’s social media dominated world.

One of his key messages is to “Fail forward. Fail fast.”

I’m doing my best, Seth, I really am.

I started this blog less than three weeks ago and it now has 460-something followers and it seems a good number of those are taking the time to occasionally see what I’m saying. Thanks to one and all (you know who you are)!

It’s not easy being a low-tech guy in a high-tech world. I’ve discovered how totally reliant I was on art directors to make the words and ideas I come up with look as good as they should. I’ve learned very quickly that I am not a PC guy and long for the days of my return to a mac but know that even then, I’ve got a lot of self-tutoring to do.

The look of this page is kind of lame – but less so than when I first started since I added a follow button and a few other widgets that have helped improve my numbers, but not my look. It’s a template that I chose and that’s as deep as I’ve gone. I’m waiting for my website to be redesigned so I can then tie the look of that into the blog for a nice seamless transition. Of course, I won’t be able to do that by myself.

The things I have attempted layout-wise have been error-filled. I wanted to create my own facebook business page so I googled facebook business pages and quickly found I was in over my head as far as graphics were concerned. So then yesterday, I created a BloodLines Creative facebook page and at least it’s a beginning. But it needs some design help and a few of the tricks that I’ve read up on regarding building your fan base that I want to initiate, I can’t quite figure out how to do on my own. Plus, now when you go to my facebook page and see my profile and click on BloodLines Creative it takes you to that empty page that I couldn’t follow through on. Great.

I posted some work on a site called Behance and there are all sorts of tools you can use to improve the look of your pages. I tried a few. And failed. Some of you may have noticed that these blog posts show up in my facebook page two or sometimes even three times. Guess whose fault that is?

Still, I’m out there in the big social media world and I’ve quickly learned that it’s okay to fail. You’re still reading this right now, right? That in itself is a success.

I’m plowing ahead and know I’ll have a few more failures along the way. That’s okay. I’m enjoying the journey. Are you?

The problem with email

The U.S. postal system is tanking. People don’t write letters much anymore. They either don’t write or they communicate via texting, facebooking, blogging, twittering and of course, emailing.

When email first came out, it was a true time and money-saver. Now you could instantly communicate with clients, with fellow office workers, friends or potential contacts. Like regular mail, there was junk to contend with. For me, it was suppliers – photographers, production houses, illustrators – a seemingly never-ending parade of people plying their services that in all likelihood I would forget the moment I clicked on delete. There was other junk, too, but fortunately, the spam filters at my places of employment were strong, so the fake-Cialis makers and the relatives of some dear friend who died in Pakistan and left his fortune in a U.S. safe deposit box just waiting to be claimed rarely made their way to me.

My first boss once told me that when his son asked him what he did all day, he replied, “I meet.” Over the last few years, I felt that my answer to that question would be, “I do emails.” For a while, I was averaging more than 100 a day. And how many were pertinent? About five. Yet I would sift my way through, often responding when I didn’t really need to, just for the sake of responding. Sending an email that says, “Thanks” is a complete waste of time – for both the sender and the sendee.

I would receive emails from people who sat 15 feet away from me – there reason being that they didn’t want to disturb me. I was disturbed. Working on one project could generate as much as 20 emails in a day. Back and forth, change this, now change that. The big money-and-time-saver was turning into a big money-and-time-waster.

As a freelancer, I’m trying my hardest to break the email habit, reading and responding to emails only twice a day rather than open my gmail account every 15 minutes, hoping that some magical gem has landed in my in-box. Maybe a potential lead. A new follower to my blog or an insightful comment from one of my readers (and yes, I can now use the plural version of reader!)

The email will still be there later in the day. And if someone really needs to get a hold of me, they can always call. Or text. Or send me a message on linkedin, facebook or just skype me. Aarghh!

The problem with email is the problem with communications in general. Overkill.

Why not send me an email and tell me what you think!

Why Wait?

2012 is now less than two weeks away. Many of us are readying our mental checklists, armed with the usual New Year’s resolutions.

 “This year, I’m going to start exercising more.”

“This year, I’m going to do more of this or less of that, quit this or start that.”

If it’s the same basic list as you had last year and the year before that, then it isn’t the list that’s at fault – it’s the listee. It’s time you resolve to stop waiting for New Year’s Day to make those resolutions. It’s time to start right now (well, give me a few more words before you get busy doing what you need to do.)

And what you need to do is change the way you go about things. If you’re going to exercise more, that’s just not going to magically happen. You have to alter the way you go about your day and something else has got to give. What’s it going to be? If this is the year that you volunteer more of your time or vow to re-connect with friends or family, how are you going to do that?

Make a plan. Write it down. Oh, wait … you’ve done all that before and when February rolls around, those plans are no longer around. The resolutions have been shoved aside. Tatooing it on your forehead isn’t a very good option but it may take something that drastic.

Maybe the key problem is your goals are too big. Set smaller ones, reach them and then set new ones. Little victories are good and when you add all those little victories up, you might find you’ve done something big.

Why wait? Get busy now.