Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gospel or Guts?

Imagine attending a race where there is nobody to cheer for.

Nobody willing to pour their guts out in an effort to cross the finish line.

Nobody ready to lay it ALL out .. and then some.

That's what the recent provincial election in New Brunswick felt like as neither party or its leaders had much to say in the way of substance or soul during a lacklustre, uninspired campaign.

Cliche-ridden political spin and childish back-and-forth insults have long since fallen on deaf ears. However, neither of the mainstream parties seem to realize how irrelevant, hackneyed, soundbite sermons are coming across these days to an increasingly intelligent, sophisticated and cynical electorate.

More and more voters are feeling like Sam Phillips of Sun Records the day Johnny Cash walked in for an audition and sang the same old gospel shit everyone else was singing. What voters of the 21st century really want is someone who will start to speak and take action with intestinal fortitude, willing to admit that this culture of political correctness and platitude's is stifling imagination and ultimately crippling the democratic process.

If you're in Canada, forget being red or blue for a minute.

If you're in the U.S., forget being a Republican or a Democrat.

How many voters would be willing to believe in a politician - or any boss for that matter - who could learn from the "Man in Black" and sing a song he or she actually believes in?

Many people I talk to are fed up with being subjected to same-old, same old political campaigns, pie-in-the-sky bullshit company mission statements, or dealing with corporate ass-kissers who possess the courage of a church mouse. It's become increasingly difficult to digest biz-speak bromides, that reek with the mouldy cheese of the "protect-my-turf" mindset of the status quo.
It's enough to make someone scream ... CUT THE CRAP ALREADY!

The person you most want to reach - on-line or off - is dying to hear someone say or do something real. Something that matters.

Your choice is clear.

Keep humming oh-so quaint gospel tunes that have long since been tuned out.

Or start singing with some gravel in your guts.

And some spit in your eye.

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else" JUDY GARLAND

P.S. ... When it comes to "being real", Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams is one of the few in political power who actually "gets it". But then again, Danny is also one of the few politicians who actually accomplished something in the real world before giving public service a try.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goal of the Century

Three events that helped shape a nation.

The Canadian Corps storming German trenches at Vimy Ridge, 1917.

Canadian troops piercing Hitler's Atlantik Wall at Juno Beach, 1944.

And 38 years ago today, Team Canada rallying from a 3-game deficit to beat the Soviet National Team in Moscow, 1972.

These events, perhaps more than any other, helped define what it meant to be Canadian in the 20th century. Memorable, turning point battles from the 1st and 2nd World Wars and a pivotal hockey game played on September 28, 1972 at the Luzhniki Ice Palace during the height of the Cold War.

He had no way of knowing it back then, but his goal with 34 seconds left in Game Eight, would forever change the way Paul Henderson lived life. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of adulation, Paul and his wife Eleanor became active in Christian ministries and Henderson took to the speaking circuit to share his insights inspired by the "Goal of the Century".

Earlier this summer, Henderson's legendary 1972 hockey sweater fetched over $1 million dollars, the most ever paid at auction for a piece of hockey memorabilia.

The winning bid of $1,067,538 US, was submitted by Mitchell Goldhar, the owner of a private real-estate development company based in Vaughan, Ont. He plans to make arrangements for the jersey to be displayed across Canada at locations such as museums, including the Hockey Hall of Fame, to ensure as many Canadians as possible can see it.

After the ‘72 series, Henderson gave the jersey to Team Canada's trainer Joe Sgro as a gift, and Sgro later sold it. It most recently belonged to an unidentified private American collector. The sweater's previous owner is a cancer survivor and plans to donate some of the proceeds of the sale to charity.

"Henderson makes a wild stab for it and fell..." ..."Here's another shot..."
"Right in front..."... "Henderson has scored for Canada!!!"

FOSTER HEWITT, September 28, 1972

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Touchdown for Life

CFL history will be made Sunday in Moncton, NB when the Toronto Argonauts and the Edmonton Eskimos square off in the first regular-season game ever played east of Montreal. The game, otherwise known as "Touchdown Atlantic" has been sold out for months and the city is ready to welcome thousands of visitors from across the country for a weekend full of organized tailgating.

Matt LeBlanc, however, will score a touchdown of a different kind this weekend.

The Dieppe-based abstract artist has put major points on the board in his quest to raise $25,000 and honor the sister he never knew. Madeleine LeBlanc was only 5 years old when she succumbed to cancer, but 38 years later, her brother decided to create 200 paintings in 6 months and has already exceeded his goal prior to Friday's "Art for Life" gala. No Canadian artist has ever produced this much work in such a short window of time with all the proceeds donated to a worthy cause.

Call it painting from the heart.

If you want to know more about the "Art For Life" event and how you can help Matt run up the score, check out the Facebook event here:!/event.php?eid=148084805226211

And as someone who used to live across the street from McMahon Stadium in Calgary decades ago, there is no possible way I could ever cheer for the hapless Eskimos on Sunday.

Go Argos!

“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein”

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seamless Branding's "Golden Secret"

Simon has uncovered the "golden secret" when it comes to seamless branding.

But, let's begin with defining how a "seamless" brand operates in the first place:

"To make and keep a promise that matters".

Drill down into this definition and you will discover the "make" implies everything your brand does with respect to sales, marketing and spreading the message. The "keep" implies everything your business does to ensure support and delivery of that promise. The "promise that matters" is what sets your brand apart from your competitors. Once you digest this definition and align your external marketing message with internal culture and operations, you'll have this "seamless" thing nailed.

It's simple really.

Once you understand it the way Simon Sinek does.

Could Simon be bang on about this "Golden Circle" stuff?

Is it possible that inspiring leaders and organizations think, act and communicate exactly same way in a manner that is the complete opposite of everyone else? Could there be a commonality of thinking from transcends personal brands like Martin Luther King to companies like Apple, regardless of their size or industry?

Simon Sinek is a renowned leadership expert who teaches leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of the book "Start With Why", and from the Pentagon, to the United Nations, to Hollywood. Simon works with the military, politicians, government, corporations like Microsoft, non-profits, entrepreneurs and people who are serious about learning the secret to building seamless brands.

But you don't need impeccable credentials and a lofty resume to understand how simple some of this stuff really is. When it comes to building a "seamless brand" by design, starting with "Why?" brings unusual clarity to the process before any strategy, message or tactics are decided upon.

Strategy and creativity without clarity is pointless.

And now you know the "golden secret".

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do"

P.S... If you wish to explore the secret a little further and skip, saunter or stroll down a path that leads to a free, 90-minute Seamless Brand Starter Session, be prepared to be challenged by one of the very best in the business. Darren Sears of Fredericton, NB has emerged as the invisible force behind some compelling brands that are kicking serious ass in categories that range from automotive to aquaculture. But this freebie comes marked with a warning: Darren is not the kind of guy who will waste your precious time (or his) with a bunch of marketing happy talk and make you feel better about your business dreams no matter how misguided they may be. Instead, his well-crafted and "seamless" uncovery process will help you see a much bigger picture that begins with "Why". In other words, you will experience a level of clarity about your business and your brand you never felt before.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three Signs of Misery

Patrick is one of the best in the business.

When it comes to articulating thoughts on the world of work and how it can be performed at a higher level, Patrick has few peers. As a distinguished speaker/author he has more than earned the respect directed his way through his contributions such as "Five Dysfunctions of a Team".

Patrick Lencioni's newest book has me thinking though.

What if you replaced the word "job" with the words "marriage", "relationship" or "friendship"?

Would his theory still apply and have relevance?

See for yourself.

Recently, a friend of mine was confiding in me about some deeply personal and most troubling issues at home. Despite being a professional success, this person was feeling some of the things that Patrick talked about in the above video. But, at the end of the day, this individual - just like you and I - has only three choices when it comes to any career or relationship crossroads.

1. Stay - and fight for what you believe in; knowing it may require an inordinate amount of blood, sweat, tears, turmoil and tough love.

2. Stay - and sell out; knowing deep down your dreams have been placed on a fear-based altar of self-sacrifice, self-loathing, self-pity or whatever victimized blanket you choose to wrap yourself up in.

3. Leave - and pursue new possibilities with whatever the world sends your way.

Those are the only three options anyone of us ever have when considering some of the tougher career and life decisions we have to deal with.

Your life and the job/career/relationships you enjoy (or not) represent the sum total of all your choices.

And you always have a choice.

"Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant"

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eat, Pray, Learn

Walking into the Empire movie theatre on a recent Friday night, I can't help but notice the obvious.

About 200 people in attendance.

I am but one of the 5 or 6 men in the crowd.

"Why am I not surprised?"

I am told these demographics are typical of the audiences being attracted to "Eat, Pray, Love". Less than 5% will be men, seeking to learn more about a year-long soul-searching journey that took best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert through Italy, India and Indonesia.

As you might suspect, many men will not look up long enough from their NASCAR races, Bowflex machines or internet porn to give this film or Elizabeth's book a chance. Regrettably, the chest-thumping, cro-magnon types have already decided this is a touchy-feely "chick flick", unworthy of their time or attention.

That's unfortunate since "Eat, Pray,Love" is less about a woman's recovery from break-up and divorce and more about a fear-confronting, gut-wrenching, very human journey of self-discovery. Strictly from a man's point of view, there is a lot to learn from Elizabeth with respect to the way women really think and feel and what she discovered while in search of her self. Rarely, have I met a man who doesn't wonder why women think the way they do, and while "Eat, Pray, Love" may not have all the answers, at least its a start for those men sincerely interested in acquiring a deeper level of understanding.

My own experience with the book revealed an unexpected surprise when I researched in an effort to learn more about Liz and what makes her tick as a writer. What I discovered on her website was a most interesting piece on the subject of “Writing”. Interesting because I could instantly see the common patterns enjoyed by writers, artists, musicians … and "entrepreneurs". In other words, scan this excerpt – replace the words “writer”, “filmmaker” or “artist” with "entrepreneur" - and see if you can detect the pattern.

“I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself, “Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling is -- of COURSE the information is contradictory. Because, frankly, nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

In the end, I love this work. I have always loved this work. My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. Please try, also, not to go totally freaking insane in the process. Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”


As far as the men who are reading this post are concerned, I can assure you that reading or watching "Eat, Pray, Love" does not make you any less of a man. In fact, you may surprise yourself in ways you don't expect.

After all, what have you got to lose?

And what have you got to learn?

"True love doesn't come to you it has to be inside you"

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Turning Back

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase"

You are standing on the edge of a serious life cliff.

Like, real serious.

Trying to decide whether you should leave a marriage or a career; buy a house, start a new business, have children, or whatever else that involves taking a bigger risk than deciding on which movie to rent tonight after entering your fast-food drive-through of choice.

Whether you leap from that cliff on your own or get pushed off, the feeling is still the same as you hurtle towards the jagged rocks that lie on the angry shores below. But this terrifying, soul-searing experience is precisely what needs to happen in order for any substantial growth to occur. In order for you to become more than who you are right now, this descent into emotional hell and how you survive it, is what separates you from those who merely wish for something better.

Logically you know that life's greatest rewards are only handed to those who can stomach great risk, but the value you place in logic, facts and reason melts away faster than a politicians promise when this shit is actually going down and its happening to you.

If you or I were sailing off that cliff today only one thing would see us through. Although usage of this particular "F-word" is often thought of in a religious context, my experience shows that faith is much less about what you find in a church and more about what you find in yourself. In matters of faith, there will always be enough answers for those who truly believe in themselves and enough doubts for those who don't.

When there is no turning back from that cliff, the level of faith in yourself will be tested like never before.

And that's how we find out what we're truly made of.

P.S.... Out of the hundreds of books I have digested over the past decade or so, few have shed as much wisdom on this subject than Paulo Coelho's masterpiece, "The Alchemist".

P.P.S. ... I would be very interested to know what words of wisdom you have for anyone who is diving off that cliff today.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tunnel Vision

"If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But... if it's real, you'll feel it"

The alarm clock reads 5:47 a.m.

Summer is so over.

Time to go back to work.

But, differently this time.

Since launching the TSB blog in late July of 2008, there have been 496 postings, mostly original material in a Monday-to-Friday format. The last two summers (July and August) have been used to re-post from the archives to give this author and you the reader, a break from the daily grind. Regular readers will also recognize a familiar pattern within the postings themselves. Ambiguous headline that together with a photo, video and closing quote helped to package a (hopefully) well-crafted story about a remarkable person, group of people or brand.

All that comes to an end today.

Would you believe that being on the trip of a lifetime can sometimes make you see things differently?

Funny things can happen when you and a friend are stuck for 3-plus hours in Italian autostrada gridlock; trapped in a mountain tunnel near Genova with only each other to depend on.Frustration can quickly turn to anger if not outrage, unless you happen to be with a friend that you really enjoy spending those 180-plus minutes with. The kind of friend you can have a spirited dialogue with and find answers to stuff that has been on your mind.

Such as this blog.

I admit then that I am getting tired of the "same-old, same-old" blog format and not sure if the Monday-to-Friday format works for either the reader or myself. I explain that the "story" format might need to change also,, that maybe it's time to take this blog in a different direction, but I am not sure where.

As the hours passed, and the conversation deepened, the answer became abundantly clear.

"Why don't I just start writing fucking real"?

"What do you mean, she asks?"

"Instead of polishing, crafting and refining other people's stories, why not write from in a more personal way? Why not write from the soul and be willing to be vulnerable to the point where you may not have all the answers, but at least you have the balls to admit it"? Do you think readers would be interested in a blog like that one, because I think I am good and ready to write it".

Starting today.

And every Tuesday and Thursday.

You OK with that?

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Friday, September 3, 2010

God, Guns & a Grande

"Last night I heard this politician, talking 'bout his brand new mission. I Liked his plans, but they came undone when he got around to God and Guns"

Ever get a song in your head you just can't rid of?

The latest Lynyrd Skynyrd CD has a track that refuses to quit with a redneck battle cry that would make the late Ronnie Van Zant proud.

The title track to "God & Guns" refers to a comment Barack Obama made about small town Americans who "cling to guns or religion." Lyrically, the song is dead set against all forms of gun control, contradicting the stance of original Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant, who urged all handguns be dumped to the bottom of the sea in "Saturday Night Special".

But, no matter how catchy the number, what happens when this story plays itself it out in real life?

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations"

“To me, there's nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don't know, that's what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird"
RONNIE VAN ZANT (1948-1977)

Originally posted May 28, 2010

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Branding from A to V

What is the life cycle of a successful business today?

"Successful",defined by staying on the S&P 500, is 18 years. That's less than two decades to launch, nurture and grow a company, a far cry compared to a lifespan of 30years in 1983 and 57 years in 1958.

Those sobering stats come from Mark W. Johnson, whose new book is called "Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal." Given that harsh reality, Johnson spells out why he believes the name of the game today is building a brand capable of riding the waves of change that come with doing business in the Digital Economy.

Johnson believes Amazon is one of the best models of a modern brand.

Named after the largest river in the world, and growing from a trickle (books) to a tsunami of items and services, Amazon's initial goal was to include a product for every letter in the alphabet. Since launching with a splash in 1995, Amazon has grown to the largest online retailer in the world. From its roots as a Web-based bookstore, Amazon’s product line now includes movies, music, books (all digital or hard copies), plus computer software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys and a mind-boggling "much more." It operates standalone websites serving Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, and China.

Right from the beginning, Amazon's ability to transform and anticipate shifting trends was embedded in the company's DNA. "If you want to continuously revitalize the service you offer to your customers, you cannot stop at what you are good at," states Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO and founder. "You have to ask what your customers need and want, and then, no matter how hard it is, you better get good at those things."

Someone who shares and uses that philosophy to extend the lifespan of his business is Richard Branson. His Virgin brand has a customer franchise that is so strong, it can be applied to a vast range of businesses.

The Virgin brand has been slapped on radio stations, record companies, retailers, airlines (such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Blue), mobile phone companies, broadband ISPs (Virgin Media), train services, motor vehicle sales, credit cards, loans, life insurance, car and pet insurance, home insurance, mortgages, pensions, savings and investments, music festivals, recreational experiences (such as using a sheep dog to herd a flock of sheep, and now space travel), network marketing businesses (e.g. Virgin Cosmetics), and much more.

And like Amazon, the Virgin brand is focused on delivering value pricing, great customer service, and innovation, and being authentic, people-oriented, hip, and associated with Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and his personal reputation.

History shows many of the most successful brands were personally driven by a single person. Steve Jobs was both the inspiration and driving force behind Apple. Phil Knight lifted Nike, Howard Schultz spread the gospel according to Starbucks, Jeff Bezos has been navigsting and Sir Richard Branson took Virgin to the skies.

Bezos, Branson and brand-builders like them understand and apply a fundamental truth in making sure they extend the lifespan of their companies. It begins with how a company is defined in the first place.

Do you define your business by the products/serves you sell or by the customers you serve?

Choose the latter, develop a brand with which to communicate that message and there is no telling how long a business can last.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well. What's dangerous is not to evolve”

Originally posted April 22, 2010

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