Mega dreams

The Mega Millions jackpot is now supposedly around $640 million. People across the county in 42 different states are plunking down $1, $5, $20 and more on the chance to strike it beyond merely rich.

I heard someone in New York bought $500,000 worth of tickets. That’s going to take a while to weed through all those tickets to see if he or she has the winning entry. Factory workers and office workers are pooling their money, hoping that someone can connect.

I’m not sure if astrologers or Chinese takeout has seen any increase in business – astrologers are famous for telling you your lucky numbers and probably about as adept as the Chinese fortune cookies that contain your lucky numbers. I recently had some takeout but neglected to save my lucky numbers. Dang!

Some people select the numbers of their favorite players. The number 5 has seen a significant drop here in St. Louis and I’m not sure what number has taken its place. I know Tebow’s jersey number is pulling in its share but I’m not even sure what number Tim is – or will be for his new team. You could go with your birthdate. Or maybe the birth dates of your children or spouse.

Whatever your method, odds are extremely good that your money will be wasted – even the smart individual in New York who is shelling out all that money on the hopes he or she strikes it rich. And if you have $500,000 to dump into something like this lottery, you’re probably already quite rich to begin with and I certainly hope that if there is a winner tonight, it’s not this person.

Actually, I hope no one wins tonight. I would love the jackpot to grow to be more than a billion. That would be fun. Instant billionaire.

With that much money, it’s truly impossible to even imagine what you would do with it all. I would certainly donate a very large sum to charity but which charity, I’m not quite sure. I would spread the wealth around as well and I know there would be something golf-related in my future as well as a new space where I could resume large format painting. And I mean really large. I could go on and on but what’s the point?

Dream all you want. When you wake up tomorrow, it’ll be back to reality.

 

How to become more creative #2. Change contexts

This is the second of nine posts from my recent “Unleash Your Inner Artist” presentation where I showcased a few thought-starters on how everyone can become more creative.

So you’re stuck. You’ve been trying to come up with the big idea for your next campaign or your next project and you keep running into a brick wall. You’ve thought about your product or your presentation over and over and you just can’t find that breakthrough idea that’s going to get noticed, remembered and acted upon.

You need to change contexts. You need to look at your problem or your assignment or whatever it is from a completely different viewpoint. Imagine it from the point-of-view of your competition. How would they perceive it? How would they sell against it? Is there an idea there? What would someone who has never heard of what you’re selling think about what you’re selling? Would it make sense to them? Have you simplified it down enough?

Sometimes, what you need to do is look at your problem/opportunity in a completely different context. What if you tried to find a whole new use or a whole new market for what you’re selling? Could you?

Imagine for a second the person who came up with the Pet Rock. Back in the 1970s, some ad man named Gary Dahl was sitting around a bar and his friends were complaining about their pets and what a nuisance they sometimes were to take care of. ¬†That gave him the idea of the perfect pet – a rock. It wouldn’t do anything. Wouldn’t cause any trouble. You wouldn’t have to worry about leaving it for long periods of time yet it would be there, waiting for your return. It was a such a silly, stupid idea that it went on to make him a multi-millionaire. Suddenly, a mere rock had a personality. It came packaged in a box and you could give it a name.

That is an ultimate example of changing contexts.

There are ideas out there waiting to happen. Someone looked at a bunch of petrochemical goop and called it “Silly Putty”. Someone thought of adding sand to paint and called it “Fleckstone”. Some genius thought of putting a sticky surface on the back of a piece of paper and Post-it Notes were born.

What’s your big idea? Change contexts and see what develops.

Michael takes the mound

Tonight, Michael Blood made his first start for St. Louis U High’s junior varsity baseball team. It wasn’t what I would call his best outing but in the end, SLUH won the game 5-2.

Michael went three innings and gave up one run but his pitch count was up around 60, so for the first time out, his coach went with some other pitchers.

It’s such a strange feeling when your son is out there on the mound.

Michael’s been pitching since third grade and has always done really well at it. He’s got mound presence. Though he doesn’t possess a blazing fastball, he generally has really good control, has developed a wicked curve and is a very crafty pitcher, knowing how to get hitters to go after pitches that are out of the zone. And he’s always had a strange knack for getting out of jams. Tonight was no exception. I wasn’t there in time to see the first at bat but I think he walked the guy. Next one up hits one right back to Michael and he wheeled to get a double play but the shortstop wasn’t there in time so he stopped his throw and then short-armed one to second and the runner was safe. Two on, nobody out. He walks the next guy after having him 0 and 2.

So it’s bases loaded, nobody out and up comes the clean up ¬†hitter who strikes out swinging. The number five guy then leans his head into a curve ball (literally) and lets it plunk off his helmet – thing was, he leaned in so much, his head was in the strike zone and he gets called out by the umpire, followed by a pop up to second. Inning over.

Next inning, he gets saved my a major league double play with a diving stop by the shortstop who flips to the second baseman covering who then throws a short hop to the first baseman who stretches out to grab it right before the runner crosses.

Now, does any of this matter in the least? No. But it’s fun and it was a great day to sit outside and watch a little baseball, played by kids who aren’t being paid a dime but who put everything they’ve got into it. Now that I’m freelancing, I should be able to make a lot of games (at least in theory) so I’m looking forward to more sunshine, more baseball and more sitting back and enjoying the moment. Your kids only play sports for so many years and once grade school is done, there’s no guarantee that they’ll keep on playing.

I can still remember tossing balls underhanded while kneeling to a bunch of kindergarten boys ready to smack the ball but not quite sure if they should take off running down the first base line, third base line or just make a bee line to center field. Those boys are all sophomores in high school now.

Live in the moment and enjoy each day. Before you know it, you’ll be looking back and wondering, where did the time go?

How to become more creative #1. Add something to it

This is the first of nine posts from my recent “Unleash Your Inner Artist” presentation where I showcased a few thought-starters on how everyone can become more creative.

There are 26 letters in the alphabet. By themselves, they are mere phonetic sounds. Yet when combined together, they have the power to make you think, laugh or cry. They can make you angry. They can astound you. It’s all a matter of what you do with them.

That’s a simple key to creativity. You’ve got to add something to the equation. Do something to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Draw a line with a circle above it and what is it? It’s a line with a circle above it. But add a little yellow to the inside of that circle and suddenly, it’s a sun over a horizon.

But how do you take something that is oh-so-ordinary and make it extraordinary? It certainly helps when the little extra you add is the unexpected. You can’t add blah to blah and expect to turn it into something other than blah. Search for the unexpected. Create the startling visual. In the words of George Lois, “If you have what you consider a fantastic concept, you must drive it to the precipice. If you don’t take it to the edge, you’ve chickened out. And if you want to do great advertising, you’ll push your thought to the very rim of insanity.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sometimes, adding something to it is the exact opposite – it’s subtracting. Leave something out of the equation so that your viewer has to make the connection. Your job is to change the pattern, look at things in different ways and experiment with various approaches.

If something isn’t working, add something to it and see what develops. You just might surprise yourself.

Congrats, KU

In an earlier post, I dumped all over the city of Lawrence and was less than kind to Kansas City as well.

Call it hoops envy.

I am not a huge fan of KU basketball and that’s simply because I’ve been a loyal Tiger fan since 1980. I have seen all too many a defeat at the hands of the Jayhawks on the hardcourt and I simply don’t take those losses very well.

But KU came into St. Louis with something to prove and they definitely proved it. They were tougher than UNC and though it pains me to say it, Bill Self coached a terrific game and his players stepped up on the national stage.

Now I’m going to go so far as to say that I hope KU wins it all. I know the Tigers are departing the Big 12, but still, if the Big 12 can get a national championship, I’m all for it. I don’t want Louisville to win because I hate the Big East bruising style of basketball. I am definitely not a fan of The Ohio State. A Kentucky – KU matchup would be fine by me and I will salute the Jayhawks if they can bring it all home.

Rock chalk Jayhawk. I’m okay with that. Especially now that I know what it means.

I also want to apologize for the elitist attitude that I professed concerning St. Louis versus Kansas City. My diss on the city of Kansas City was out-of-line. KC is a city that is re-inventing itself and I really like how they have revitalized many portions of their downtown area. And having never actually been to Lawrence, I have no right to dump on it.

So that previous blog post from Friday morning all went back to my strong dislike of the Jayhawks and their continued dominance of the Tigers. It’s a shame that rivalry has been eliminated. Even though we’re going to be in different conferences, there should still be an annual bragging rights game. MU-Illinois is now a thing of the past. The Tigers refuse to play the Billikens. And now the oldest basketball rivalry west of the Mississippi is nothing but a memory.

Bring it back. And yes, I’ll say it – Go KU!

Contrary to everything a true Tiger fan should say, I hope you cut down the nets in New Orleans.

 

Invasion from Kansas

They’re coming. In fact, many of them are already here. Some already live among us. They are KU fans.

Rock chalk Jayhalk – whatever that means.

I can’t say I’m happy about it, particularly when Mizzou so abruptly exited the tournament in the first round. That was painful and made even more so on Sunday when mighty Norfolk State got crushed like a bug.

All those 3’s that were falling against the Tigers were boinking and doinking and clanging off the rims. Their colossal center who manhandled the offensive and defensive boards was easily stifled. Later that night, my hopes had risen slightly as Purdue was taking it to the Jayhawks and an upset was in the air. But it wasn’t meant to be. Somehow, the Jayhawks came back and for that, I give them credit. They are a good team. Bill Self is a great coach.

But to me, KU are the Yankees of college basketball. You could say the same about Duke, of course and you’d be equally correct. But since KU is our near neighbor and since I know so many Jayhawk fans both in St. Louis and Kansas City, the animosity just seems that much greater to me.

I’m not trying to offend anyone in Kansas City but I’ve always felt as if they have a big chip on their shoulder and a personal grudge against St. Louis and a natural distaste for Mizzou. I’ve sensed it in meetings before. The 240 miles that separates the two largest cities in Missouri is a bigger gap than many of us realize. It’s true, St. Louisans have a superiority thing going with Kansas City and likewise, I think Kansas City has a certain inferiority complex with St. Louis. KC certainly has a lot going for it – but please don’t ask me to name more than five things because I’ll quickly run out.

As for all those who are a little bit more westward in the lovely town of Lawrence – okay, how good of a town can you be to start with if your name is Lawrence? I know KU is a good school. I think they produce a lot of architects. And a lot of good basketball players go there – not so much with football. Their fans are fiercely loyal. They travel well. They support their team.

Now, they’re here in St. Louis. I hope you enjoy your stay. And I hope it’s a short one.

A review of my speaking engagement

There were no reporters present last night at The Old Spaghetti Factory to cover my “Unleash Your Inner Artist” presentation to a small, but appreciative FaceNet gathering.

So, going back to my News 101 days from Journalism School, I’ll let you know what you missed – but not by following the traditional five Ws of Who, What, When, Where and Why with a little How tossed in for good measure. I like to digress way too much for that.

First off, I need to remind myself that it is Spring Break and many families are away on vacation. Second, the idea of driving out Highway 40 during rush hour after a first day back in the office after what was a brutal weekend that combined St. Pat’s merriment with disheartening losses by both Mizzou and SLU to drop out of the NCAA tournament and leave St. Louisans with no real home team to root for – well, let’s just say when 5 pm rolled around, most people were probably ready to call the day a wrap. In other words, attendance was not exactly reaching capacity and as far as the free poster I gave away to every attendee – I brought quite a few of them home with me.

Too bad. Those in attendance were engaged. They took notes. They asked questions. If I were to rate my presentation, I’d say at least four stars on a five scale basis and the biggest disappointment of the evening was that I couldn’t have shared my thoughts with more people because we could all use a little jumpstart with our creative thinking process.

The main point of my talk was that we all are creative in whatever job capacity we have and that creativity goes beyond the job as well – there can be great creativity in coaching your kid’s baseball or softball or soccer or basketball league. The same goes for decorating around the house or landscaping or pursuing whatever hobby you may have. All those endeavors could use a little added dose of creativity and my talk centered around providing ways to improve your idea generating process. The more ideas you have, the better your chances that the true gem will emerge.

So I covered nine different idea generating techniques, borrowed from Roger von Oech, author of “A Kick in the Seat of the Pants” – that’s his follow-up book to “A Whack in the Side of the Head”. I don’t know if these books are still in print but if they are, I highly recommend them. I also borrowed a bit from Seth Godin and one of his recent books, “Linchpin – Making Yourself Indispensable At Work” which I unfortunately finished reading right after I had been downsized. Talk about bad timing.

Anyway, these nine techniques are all very simple to employ. I use them all regularly to jump start my own creative thinking and they do indeed work. Many of the attendees said they’d be putting them to use starting today, unleashing new creative ideas both at work and at home. So what are these techniques?

I’d be happy to share them, just like I shared them last night.

But first, I’m going to see if anyone is actually interested enough to request that I do.

If I can get more people to say, “Please share” than attended last night, I will devote two or three posts to these keys to unlocking more creativity. You won’t even have to drive anywhere to learn them, either.

Let me know by commenting, “Please share”.

 

 

Free gift for attending (suitable for framing)

Well, here it is a little after 3 pm and my big speech, “Unleash Your Inner Artist” takes place in a few hours as a part of this week’s FaceNet Meeting being held at The Old Spaghetti Factory located in the Chesterfield Commons West at 17384 Chesterfield Airport Road.

I’ve been reviewing my presentation (nothing overly fancy – there was an ad man back in the 60’s named Stavros Cosmoupolous who had a saying, “Keep the layouts rough and the ideas fancy.”) and I’m hoping I can inspire a few people to fire up their own levels of creativity with some simple tips and techniques that I’ve used for a number of years to try and generate ideas.

To lure perhaps one or two more attendees this afternoon – (this is true last minute marketing) – I have decided to give away a poster I had created for one of my art shows from many years ago. I like it – I have a framed one sitting in my office as a matter of fact. Several of my friends and acquaintances have their own framed copies of this poster. You’ll get one, too if you attend this evening.

(I’m bringing a total of 30 posters tonight and I hope to give them all away.)

So if you have nothing planned for early this evening, come out and hear me speak and see if I can’t entertain and inform you for a bit and get yourself a free poster in the process.

Thanks and I hope to see you in a few hours!

 

I’ll have some spam with that post, please.

I hate being spammed.

Recently, I have been inundated with comments commending me on the excellent quality of my posts. After several days in a row, I became somewhat suspicious. I know what I’m writing here isn’t all that earth-shattering and I know I’m no Hemingway when it comes to blogging. So when people from Alaska and San Diego and Portland began telling me what excellent information I’m conveying and that they’re really learning a lot from what I’m posting, it was time to dig a little deeper.

I looked into some of the email addresses that were attached to the comments and lo and behold, many are coming from the same address but with different types of businesses in the overall name.

These people aren’t reading my posts. I’m not even sure they’re people. I’ve heard there are ‘spambots’ that find things and then automatically reply or send out emails. I know when I was at Summit that the spam filter was set at high but still a number of spams for discount pharmaceuticals from Canada got through those filters and when they did, it was an awful onslaught. Fortunately, those spambots haven’t latched onto this blog yet, but I am getting awfully tired of deleting anywhere from 20-40 comments a day from people telling me what a great post I had, four to six weeks after it was posted.

I’m not sure what I can do about it. I’ve sent an email to WordPress but they haven’t responded and I guess this is what happens when you throw something out into cyberspace.

Anyone and anything can latch onto it.

I would be thrilled if I were getting 20-40 comments a day from people I know or at least that I could track via LinkedIn or Facebook and I would certainly welcome comments from anyone I don’t know if I could tell that they were actually responding to something I wrote.

Like this, for instance.

Your comments are welcome. And spammers, please crawl back in your cans. You are not welcome here!

 

Shall we dance?

The NCAA Tournament kicks into high gear tomorrow at 11 am central and the productivity of our nation’s work force will take an immediate hit as attention spans will be short and online activity to the CBS website will receive gargantuan numbers.

I am no specialist when it comes to picking teams. I have been lucky in the past, winning about three or four office pools but that’s with multiple entries over a long, long period of time. So actually, not so lucky.

I truly love March Madness. I love how these college players are not high-salaried prima donnas, expecting great things to just be given to them. I love it when the underdog wins. That’s what’s truly great about this tournament – the underdog winning. It doesn’t happen often enough. Most times, the basketball elites end up exactly that way – making their way into the Final Four as if they deserved to be there all along. The Kentuckys, Dukes and North Carolinas of the world feel as if it’s their rightful place – and often, it is, for they are all truly great basketball factories.

There is no mistaking the fact that major money rules the NCAA and that the major programs have the recruiting dollars, the reputations and the skilled coaches to keep the best players knocking on their doors year in and year out. But boy is it ever fun when the little guy wins, even if it does destroy your bracket.

I will be the first to tell you that I thoroughly enjoy it whenever Kansas bows out – and the earlier, the better. I have nothing against KU – well, I’ll take that back. I do. Their arrogance in basketball has always bugged this Mizzou alumnus in a big way. Nothing pleases me more than seeing Bill Self screaming at the top of his lungs as his star-studded recruits foul out or make the inadvertent turnover. Bring on Belmont, baby!

This year, KU seems to have a nice pathway that will lead them to a showdown against North Carolina to determine who travels to New Orleans. I can only hope that Detroit knocks them out in the first round but in reality, that is highly unlikely. Belmont is in their bracket though and don’t think that’s by accident. The NCAA committee would love to see a little re-match and so would I except for the fact that I wish KU would be knocked out before that even happened.

As for Mizzou? I am cautiously optimistic. I will assume they get by their first round match. But then I think they’ll be taking on Brad Beal and the rest of his fellow Florida teammates. It’s a shame Brad didn’t decide to play for Mizzou coming from Chaminade but you can’t argue with the success of the Florida program and an NBA star named David Lee took the same Chaminade to Florida to the NBA route and is doing quite well. Still, in a tournament where guard play is often the key factor, consider the fact that Mizzou has four standout guards. You’ve got to like that even though they do lack a big tree in the middle.

The only prediction I will make is that I will not get any of the various brackets that I have filled out on ESPN, CBS, KFNS, StL Today and maybe one or two more before this night is through correct. I say that with 100% confidence.

Other than Mizzou and any team that plays Kansas, it’s tough to say who I’ll be rooting for each round. I have picked such a wide variety of outcomes in my various brackets that probably in any given game, I will have a win on my side – and a loss as well.

And in the end, nothing to show for it.

But that’s okay. Bring it on. Let the dance begin.